SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida
INTERVIEWEE: Dr. Myron L. Ashmore
INTERVIEWER: Don Pullease and Barbara Mann
DATE: May 12, 1969
In this interview, Dr. Myron L. Ashmore, former princi-
pal and superintendent of Broward county schools recounts
his impressions of the first Seminole entrance to their
public schools in 1948-49. He discusses Indian behavior,
adjustment, acceptance by other students, parental contact
and academic success. He mentions the efforts of Mrs. Ivy
Stranahan and the Friends of the Seminoles to further Indian
Education (Indians in Broward County schools)
acceptance by white students, 3, 5
behavior, 2, 6
parental contact, 3-4
number in attendance, 4-5
Friends of the Seminoles, 1, 5
Stranahan, Mrs. Ivy, 1
I: This is May 12th, 1969. We are interviewing Dr. Myron L.
Ashmore in Broward County. Dr. Ashmore, you were principal
at the Dania school what years?
A: Well, I was principal at the Dania Elementary School in the
years 1947-48 and '48-49.
I: Um hmm. And then you moved to where?
A: Well, in the '49-50 school year, they started a new junior-
senior high school at South Broward. So I moved with the
junior-senior high school departments to South Broward, and
a new principal took over at Dania Elementary.
I: And you were at the South Broward school for how many years?
A: I was at South Broward High School for eight years, and
after that, I think in the year 1955, I moved to Fort Lauder-
dale, to the county level as an assistant superintendent.
I: And then you became superintendent when?
A: I became superintendent in 1961 and remained superintendent
until June 30, 1968, when I resigned.
I: Now, any recollections of how the Indians came to school?
To what would you attribute their coming to school at that
time? And what date?
A: Well, as best I can remember, the first Indians in Broward
County to attend a public school, was in the year 1948-49.
And as I recall it, they came as the result of the work of
a group of interested people who were known as the Friends
of the Seminoles. And Mrs. Ivy Stranahan, who was the first
public school teacher in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was one
of the leaders in this movement. In reality, I had very
little to do with their attending school. They dealt with
the superintendent, and I was asked if I objected to taking
any of the Seminoles into the public school system, and I
said, no, I'd be most happy to have them. So we have to
give credit really to this organization.
I: How did the Indians react to the other students and to
education? Do you remember?
A: Yes, I can remember very well how the Indians reacted. I
think we'd be putting it mildly if we said that they were
still a little wild. They were a little bit clannish, and
they were not used to being restricted by the four walls
of a classroom, and they had very little knowledge of or
use of the rest room facilities, and things of this sort.
So we had some rough moments in the beginning.
I: How did you handle these problems? Did they take the
A: Well, we tried not to discipline them in the very beginning,
for the simple reason that we did not want to discourage the
Indians. And I think it was through patience of the teachers
really, that they started to adjust in the classrooms and to
make proper use of the rest room facilities and things of
this sort. I think one of the things that we were most con-
scious of at that particular time was the fact that, if we
were going to make them feel welcome in the school, we
couldn't do it by punishing them for things that were really
no fault of their own. They were not used to these things
on the reservations, and they had to learn to use them while
they were attending school.
I: Could they speak English fairly well?
A: Most of them could speak English. You really didn't know
how much they could speak, they could understand a lot more
than they'd let you know that they could understand. But
they could communicate well enough to get along in school.
The problem was to get them to talk. They were very shy,
and I think we run into the same problems in integration
these days. You'll find the little Indians back then,.
would be three or four paired off together, and they'd talk
with each other without any hesitation. But when they were
around, or a part of a group of youngsters of other nation-
alities, why, they found it a little difficult to communicate.
I: Did they participate in any of the activities?
A: No. They were quite good in the physical education activities.
They were great runners and jumpers, if I recall right. And
it was in this area that they seemed to adjust best.
I: Did the students accept them? The other students?
A: Yes. The students accepted them quite well. I think you'll
find in elementary grades that this is never any problem.
The youngsters seem to accept each other just for what he is,
and that's all there is to it. And so this was true there.
As far as I was concerned, I don't believe they really knew
there was much difference.
I: Dr. Ashmore, did you have any contact with their parents?
A: Yes, I had a few contacts with the parents, more so by neces-
sity than anything else. For instance, I had one little
boy that pulled my leg, so to speak, for two or three trips
out to the Indian reservation. He missed the bus on purpose,
two or three occasion, and it took me awhile to find out
what was wrong. And then by pure accident, I found out that
after I had carried him to the reservation in my automobile,
that he'd get out, then he'd brag to the other little Indian
boys and girls about how that principal brought him home in
that big automobile. So after I brought him in and threatened
him, that if he ever missed his bus again I was going to tan
his hide, why, we put a stop to his....
I: Did the parents come to see you at all, ever?
A: In the first year, I don't recall any of the parents coming
in. Now, later on, the parents came to school, just like
any other parents would, but not, I would say, as freely as
other parents would come.
I: But they did take an interest in it then?
A: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Some of them did, and some didn't. You
know, they're like all other races of people. You've got
those who are really set with the old customs and traditions,
and what was good enough for them was good enough for their
children or their grandchildren, and these people would have
nothing to do with the modern school, so to speak. But then
you would have the concerned parents, the next generation,
who were interested in [the] welfare of their students, and
they began coming into school, yes.
I: On their own?
A: They'd come on their own, um hmm. Took a long time, though.
This didn't happen over night. It took them quite a while,
but they started coming in. And then, as I understand it,
they come in the junior and senior high schools too, occa-
sionally, to check on the welfare of the students.
I: Were there a lot of students, or a lot of school age young-
sters at that time, who were Seminoles who were just not
going to school?
A: I have no way of knowing that, but my general impression is
that we had the minority coming into the public school. I
think there were others. Oh, I don't think we had more than
six or eight to start with.
I: Then they weren't, obviously, none of them were going to
school, most of them weren't?
I: What were the grades, the average grades of the Indian stu-
dents? Were they graded differently, or...?
A: Well, I think the teachers had to take into consideration
the fact that this was their first experience in a public
school with students other than of their own race. And I'm
sure that their grading had to be very lenient, and I can
recall that we worked with them in small groups; sometimes
we'd try to improve their speech and things of this sort.
But I would not say that they were really good students in
the first few years.
I: Do you know if most of those students did go on to high
A: No, I really couldn't say that most of them went on to high
school. I know that some did, because since I was at South
Broward for eight years after I left there, why, we had a
few Indians; not very many, but I'd say six to eight or
twelve, to come through South Broward High School. And a
few of these were the same ones who started up at Dania.
But then some of our Indian students in high school, I be-
lieve, transferred from the Cherokee, up in the Carolinas,
if I'm not mistaken. And I think some of ours went up there
to go to school.
I: I see. I see. I was wondering, when you were at South
Broward, how many Indians you had there?
A: Well, we never did have too many at South Broward, nothing
like what we have in school now. Although we don't have a
preponderance of Indians in schools, I'm sure that down at
MacArthur and Driftwood, they have quite a few in the junior-
senior high school.
I: I see. I think there's some in Hollywood Hills, too. I'm
A: Possibly some in Hollywood Hills, yes. Yes, I'm sure there
are, because when we created Hollywood Hills we had to change
the boundaries and they absorbed part of the Indian reserva-
I: Do you know if any of the students were ever threatened by
other Indians for going to school? We've encountered this
in the earlier Indian educations. So....
A: No, not to my knowledge. None of the Indians were threatened
by other Indians that I knew about. However, I'm the first
to say that the white man knows very little about what hap-
pened on the reservation. I do know that they were not
threatened by white students.
I: What was their attire like? What did they, did they wear the
Indian clothes to school?
A: No. No, they wore mostly clothing that were worn by the
white students. I think the Friends of the Seminoles pretty
well equipped them in clothing so that they could come to
school. In fact, about the only Indian garb I've ever seen
was an Indian jacket that the Friends of the Seminoles gave
me years later.
I: Oh, they gave it to you?
A: Years later, I had one of those fancy jackets that the Indians
I: Was that for your work with the Indians?
A: Yes. That was in appreciation of getting them started in
the public schools.
I: I see. And you said that they came in around 1948 for the
A: I believe that the first year was '48-49. It could have
been '47-48, but I believe it was the latter year.
I: I see. Do you have any private recollections of your deal-
ings with the Indians? Anything in particular that is of
A: No. I just remember those two incidents that I've already
related, about the non-use of the bathrooms, you know. They
were great ones for behind doors.
I: How did you solve that?
A: Well, it was a long, slow process of education. In reality,
they didn't know what a rest room was. They had no concept
of what a commode was.
I: Oh, I'm sure they didn't.
A: And so, it took some education on the part of the other young-
sters and teachers to break this habit. But the one I remem-
ber most vividly is the little Indian who pulled my leg into
taking him home after school three or four times, so that he
could brag about it.
I: You said they were restless in class?
A: No. No, I don't think they were any more restless than any-
one else in class. You know, they have a rather solemn
approach to life anyway, sometimes. They can sit very still
and quiet, and really without giving much facial expression.
I: You don't know if you're getting through to them, but they're
A: No. They're quiet. I can't recall that there were disci-
pline problems, in the true sense of discipline. This is
deliberately creating confusion within a classroom. I can't
recall that they ever did this. I do recall that the stu-
dents I had in the junior and senior high school later on
were much better students I think, per se, than were those
who started in the elementary years. But this may have been
a consequence of having gone to public school for several
I: Yeah, at least seven years, yeah. Well, thank you very
much, Dr. Ashmore.
A: You're quite welcome. I wish that I could recall more.
I: Oh, it's wonderful. Thank you very much.