Title: Hal C. Batey
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00024315/00001
 Material Information
Title: Hal C. Batey
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Batey, Hal C. ( Interviewee )
Miller, Joyce ( Interviewer )
Publisher: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: February 23, 1977
Copyright Date: 1977
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00024315
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

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Full Text


This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of

Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
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AL 36A Side One
bd Page 1

M: This is February 23rd, 1977. I'm in the home of Mr.

and Mrs. Wise, the child and son-in-law of Mr. Hal

Batey, and I'm interviewing Mr. Hal Batey at 4:10 in

the afternoon. This /s Joyce Miller. And I'd like

to start by asking Mr. Bateyr,.0fy how the family came

to Gainesville in the first place. Where did he start

and, li; by what route did they come to Gainesville,

for what purpose.

B: Well, we moved to Jacksonville from Tennessee in 1912

and opened a wholesale grocery business, Bately-Flemming

Company. We did quite well and in 1921 we decided we

wanted to have a branch out of Jacksonville, and we come

to Gainesville and opened a wholesale grocery ourselves,

1921. And we had four children that were born in Jacksonville,

and #4 they all went to school here in Gainesville. And,

f(rt, we did right well here in the wholesale grocery business,

too. We sold out in 1932 to the Central Grocery Company,

and 4y since then I've been almost retired, but j the

boys have been in some kind of business, and I've been

helping them a little bit.

M: Okay, what made the, xii5i Gainesville have an appeal. Why
/ I
would, i a wholesale grocer want to come to Gainesville.

B: We thought we'd like to raise our children in a smaller town

AL 36A Side One
bd Page 2

than Jacksonville. And we thought Gainesville was

a small town. At that time Gainesville was a small town.

But it grew as fast as the children, or faster.

M: So you were already married at that time and had the


B: Oh, yeah, I married in Jacksonville in 1910. And 41

four in our family married that same year. And -1, my

brother and his wife had their sixty-sixth wedding anniver-

sary last year, and they're still living in Jacksonville.

M: And what year were you born?

B: I was born in 1883.

M: 1883.

B: 1883, March the 12th, in Mur$Wsborod&, Tennessee.

And I came to Gainesville...

M: In MIurphtr.sborogKi, Tennessee?

B: Uh huh.

M: Oh, I know where that is, I've been there.

B: And jinj in 1905, I came to Jacksonville, and just on a

visit, I didn't expect to stay. But 1, I did stay and

ti, went to work for a wholesale grocery house there.

C. W. Company, who were from, Gainesville
citizens. And I stayed with them till we went in business

in 1912.

AL 36A Side One
bd Page 3

M: Now when your storeL/fSt one of the branch, did you

maintain the Jacksonville store when the branch moved

here at the same time?

B: Yes, yes, we maintained it. It was __ac- as the

main office. And we opened also another place at Ocala.

We had three places. And t1) in 1932 we sold out every-

thing to the Central Grocery Company.

M: Okay, when you came here and located in the 220s, where

was the business at that time? Where was it located?

B: .F'Y we built a warehouse on what was then Masonic
z. A-
Street, SW 2nd Avenue now, a~t the T & J railroad crossing.

We built a warehouse there, it's still there now. And

5l' then we built a cremery building there, and a cold
storage plant there. And we had quite a complex of build-

ings there. But we sold all that too. And.4< the Cox

Furniture Company now still owns, they rent that building.

M: They rent. Now wasj/"l; Mr. Stringfellow in that same

business when you were in the business?

B: Yes, he was Thorton Stringfellow, Hart Stringfellow's


M: Uh hum.

B: Yeah he was. Well his business was a little different from

mine, but not much. It was about the same.

AL 36A Side One
bd Page 4

M: What differences would you note in the businesses?

B: Well I was more in the grocery business and he was

more in thegl / in the feed business and the building

materials business. They always leaned a little bit

to material, paint, and stuff like that. And I didn't

I stayed with the groceries.

M: Strictly groceries. Then you would sell groceries then

to the retail stores in town.

B: Yes, at that time there were many retail, independent

retail stores all over the country. And 4 there wasn't

any supermarkets at that time. And a we had lots of

customers here in Gainesville and in surrounding territories

in Alachua County and in Levy County, too.

M: So in other words, you wouldn't just sell into Gainesville,

but you would sell to the surrounding area also.

B: Yeah, oh yeah. We had three salesmen that worked out of

Gainesville and ,gq one of them worked in the city all

the time and two worked around Gainesville, as far as

Cedar Key, as far as l[ cU on the south, and Hawthorne,

and Waldo and Starke, and Vk ..

M: Okay, in 1929, when the d)c erwell in '26 things were already

getting bad in Florida with the land bust going so bad, did

that and the 1929 depression have an effect on your business?

AL 36A Side One
bd Page 5

B: Well it did, it certainly did. But we were able to

weather the storm, but /iT; we lost a good deal of money.

And 6j when we, we come out, we paid everybody off.

We didn't fail, but we sold out and quit.

M: Is the reason you sold out in '32 because of that?

B: Because we were still losing money and that's the only

way we knew how to stop it was to sell out and quit.

So we did, we did just that.

M: Was there a great personal effect on your family? Was

your family ever not able to eat?

B: No, there wasn't, we had, we hadql;(j, we had something

left, we weren't just entirely broke. And ui, as children

were still active in school. And l, we had a lot of fun

with our children. And I did, and my wife did too, I

think. And they, they always helped everywhere. The boys,

I had three boys and a girl. And r^ they were men right

from the start, they were little men. And they could take c-

hand and help. They could drive trucks and drive cows,

and look after cows in ie pasture. They were, they were

very helpful, very helpful. And while we didn't have quite

as much money to spend at that timeI Xhy, they, they knew

it and they accepted it. There wasn't nobody griping at all.

We was all just getting along doing the best we could.

AL 36A Side One
bd Page 6

M: Would they be actually paid employees at your business?


M: Vi they actually work in you business and get paid for

working in your business before it closed in '32?

B: Yes, yes, well they didn't, they didn't exactly get paid

a certain salary, but they got money all the time. Some

money, the7didn't, .0% they wasn't,-~y they weren't

shorted. They had, they had ponies, and goats and horses

later on, and automobiles a little later on too. And

they, AQ they lived pretty good.

M: Well at the time of the depression, did some of your retail

stores find that they could not afford pay you for some of

the products?

B: Yeah, plenty, plenty of them couldn't pay, they couldn't

pay,,they didn't have anything to pay with. And A-s they,
they were honest people, but Abl they just, the banks was

closing up and some of them lost money in the banks, and

we lost some too. And #Lt4 but t1&*1 we managed to get along

and ~l we were pretty good collectors, and 44 we showed

people sometimes how they could pay us when they didn't

know how they could pay us.

M: How would you do that?

B: Well we'd do that for a {UL.L4r a man, maybe down there

AL 36A Side One
bd Page 7

running a rock mine, says I can't sell my rock, and

I can't sell my rock, then I can't pay, cause I can't

sell it. And I said "well, if I can sell the rock, how

about letting me, charge the rock to me{' They *Vbe glad

to do it. Glad to just give us enough to pay for getting

it out of the hole!' Well we had some success like that

cause we sold some of those rock, limerock dealers. And

they were good honest people, but they just, then everyone

couldn't pay, but they paid us that way. And then I

remember one, it was in the,/ 4 it was in the, 4 they

run a nursery. And \vpwMr. .: r', sr S ,we just haven't

got any money," said we just can't pay y. And i, I said

\ well, you got any orange trees" And he said,"yeah, we got

plenty orange trees. And I said well suppose I.can sell

some orange trees, and you charge them to me and let me

collect from the man,' and says yessir, yessir, go right

ahead.t And he put a price on the orange trees and we sold

the orange trees and we got the money that way. Well,.it

happened that way several in places over the country.

Some times for cattle and sometimes for land, sometimes,

just, we were pretty good collectors, pretty good collectors,

and we was dealing with honest people, too. They wanted

to pay, but couldn't.

AL 36A Side One
bd Page 8

M: Now you mentioned some of the townspeople losing money

and your own loss of some money. Were you, did you keep

your money in the+ir-er Bank?

B: We had some in the R1fieffrY Bank when they closed up yes.

But we got most of that ba fk, I think we got it all back,

eventually. But we also started out in the Gainesville

Bank and Trust Company that failed too. I don't know

now whether we lost money in that or not, but I'm sure

we must have lost some. Then we've been with the First

National Bank every since then.

M: And Lee Graham was still there when you got involved in

First National.

B: Yeah, Lee Graham was still there, and he was a very fine,

shrewd banker, hard as nails, and 0A he knew how to run

the bank, he knew how to run the bank.

M: The banking company that you just mentioned, Gainesville

Bank and Trust Company, you just mentioned that...

B: That was Morgan Finnel, Morgan Finnel, they called it his

bank, but 4 it might, it might not have been his bank,

I don't reckon it was, but anyhow, he was the president

of it, Morgan Finnel and Holly Robinson run the bank.

M: And did that one, 4f6 that one closed...

B: That one closed up...

AL 36A Side One Page 9

M: Did it never reopen?

B: ...before any of them, that one closed before any of them

closed up. That closed...

M: Oh I see.

B: ...same time that one closed up, they closed up the Trenton

and Alacua, and pt and maybe Micanopy, too. I don't

remember whether that, we had a bank in Micanopy at that

time, V\ And I think, I think they all closed

at that time. And, -uj',. Bill Pepper and ii; Ed Turner.,ohvb

worked those, they were trustees for those banks, and they

finally closed them all out and, and I don't remember whether

we lost any money or not, but I expect we did. We

might have lost some indirectly, you know. Have _rco__S on

somebody, they couldn't pay it.

M: Right. Now how did you go from being involved in,-ha, a

food wholesale business to getd involved in politics?

B: In politics? Well I really wasn't in politics. I was,ce,

this commission form of government; 1i0Tf commenced in 1927.

M: Um hum.

B: And I was doing a nice driving business down there and SA,

had a reputation of being a good business man, a~
I reckon. I think I did. And Xfl/; some of the,; fi'(uh' city

fathers came down to see me and said'now we want you to

AL 36A Side One
bd Page 10

run for city commission And I said no, I said I'm just

a boy. You get some grown man. I felt like a boy, I was

a pretty old man, though, I was 47 or something like that.

And I don't know nothing about city business, As politics.

They said,\well you don't have to know nothing about politics.

We'll elect you, we'll run the election./ Which they did,

and they elected me, and I stayed on there, the city commis-

sion for ten years, through 1937.

M: Um hum. How, what was it like, 3,iM the debate between

changing governmental systems and going to the commission

system. Was that a big change for Gainesville?

B: It was a big change, it was a big change for everybody.

And, AP4 we had a charter that/, '~ didn't allow any salary

for thefiiy commissions. It was all, free job. And d-,

they had a city manager, in this charter it was outlined

that we had a city manager. And the city manager should

run the city but he's answerable to the commission. The

commission .J of five people. I forgot who those

five were now, but Lee G aham was one, and Rod Laden was

one. And 617~ and Bill Shands was one, and j4...

M: I can't think off had either. But...

B: I don't know who the other one was now, but it wasn't, 4f

it wasn't Fred Winston. But later on Fred Winston was on

AL 36A Side One
bd Page 11


M: So it was much later then that commissioners got paid?

They did not get paid at the beginning?

B: No, they didn't get paid for a long time after that, long

time after that. I don't know the did in, they've been

on the payroll now for several years, I don't know how

many, but A...

M: Why would people be against changing to that kind of system

to the commission system.

B: Well I don't think there was much opposition to it. I don't

think there was. We didn't have much trouble. We have to

have a bill pass through legislature to change it. Change

the charter. And (IG we had some very activeC4thqr citizens

here at that time, and we still have. But Norman Pash and

Major Thomas, and xr) Norman, whole family of Pash's were

very active in, A4; civic affairs. And . Baxter

was very active too, and Adison Powell, and Bill Shands,

and ,t they all were far-sighted, and Lhi, this first

commission they appointed was made principal, Lee Grimm

made commissioners out of all of us. He had been a, on

the board of control or something like that for the city.

before that. And (tf he was familiar with the city. And

he knew a lot about finances, i we didn't, many of us know

AL 36A Side One
bd Page 12

much about, except we knew we had money or we didn't.

And tAh we had a, and our main aim was that lSh Lee

h'i, Lee Graham was his fault, his cause of it I think

was to get out of debt. We owed a little money, I don't

how much now, it was very little compared to what we owe

now. And uh, we were trying to get that paid off and

trying to get the taxes down. And we had a very paying

electric plant, utilities was very profitable and just

about run the city, and they have a lot to do with it now.

M: Um hum. Well when you were a commissioner in '31, ug

I guess Rodney Laten was the mayor at that time, but then

by '34 you had been chosen as mayor. Was it...

B: I was, I was mayor in 1929, 30, and '31.

M: In 1929, 30, and '31?

B: Uh huh.

M: And then did you...

B: Three consecutive years.

M: ...and did you serve again in '34 as mayor?

B: Oh I served, but not as mayor. But the mayor was not

elected as mayor. He was elected as a commissioner, and

then the commissioners appointed a chairman, elected a

chairman, and he carried that name as mayor. And tW,

AL 36A Side One
bd Page 13

-aS ai-t he didn't run as mayor, he run as a commissioner.

They still do that now.
M: Right. And how long would a person be elected for office.

How long...

B: They had it, they had it spotted, one year and two years,

and three years. And a I don't know how mine run, but

anyway,4 Mj I had some of all of that diag' them ten years.

So it wouldn't be, it wouldn't change the whole slate.

M: Um hum.

B: They'd change one or two every year.

M: But just to, okay, so that there would be some consistency

then, it wouldn't change all at one time.

B: Yeah, that's right.

M: And then your fellow commissioners would go ahead and

select a mayor, and he would just be one of those commissioners.

B: That's right.

M: Okay, 41 now they used to have political rallies down on

the courthouse square both for state office and, well
0- ,p x I
especially state office of tUe state personA coming in, but

even for local office. What was it like at a political

rally at the courthouse?

B: Well I didn't attend much. I didn't do much polititing

myself. wff my friends, xf4 elected me nearly every time,

Al 36A Side One
bd Page 14

and V* I never, I don't know that I ever spent any, any

time, -& soliciting votes. I let everybody know I'd

be glad to serve if I was elected, but if the other man

looked better to them, well go ahead and vote for him.

And XX there, it was very active. Some of them was just

as hot as, hot as fire, you know. And, 41y but I didn't,

I didn't get that hot.

M: Well did you ever go down to listen to the state candidates

when they came through town?

B: Oh yes, yes, yes I went down and listened to~-em.

M: But was it a big social event, or was it social and political?

B: Oh it wasn't social at all. It was business, it was getting

votes. That's what they wanted, votes. That's what they

wanted, votes.

M: What about the power of the democrats in the '30s in the

state, with Gov. Shdltz being in office and Franklin

Roosevelt. Was there a strong push for democrats?

B: Yes, they were all democrats, all the time. There's

more republicans now than there's ever been before.

M: Um hum.

B: All democrats.

M: Which faction were you in, were you in the wool hat or the

silk hat faction?

AL 36A Side One
bd Page 15

B: What?

M: Do you recall the wool hat faction under Tench and the

silk hat faction under Lee Graham and Pound?

B: I think I must have been called under the wool hat

I imagine. I don't know, I don't think was, I wasn't

high hatted. (Chuckle).

M: What was the difference between the wool hats and the

silk hats? What did they want different in town?

B: Well I'll tell ya, I believe the silk hats had something

th9 we couldn't appreciate. They wanted to have improve-

ments thatAyi we didn't thing were necessary. For

instance when, TI1'r. in 1932, or, 4t; when Roosevelt was

trying to get the country back on their feet7 /hey were

putting in airports all around over the country. If

you furnish the land the government would put the airport

down for you practically. And our, ra~ t 4- o

commission, we didn't think we needed an airport, and 4114

Lee Graham said we might need one in fifty years, and

di4 Gainvesville's just like it was fifty years ago. Of

course it wasn't, but he, he felt like it was, he'd been

there all the time. So finally, Itg we decided well, if

they're going to do that well we'll buy a piece of land

out here and make good form out of it after they get

through playing with it for a airport. And .f.y of course

the airport grew, grew and grew and grew. It never did

AL 36A Side One
bd Page 16

slack up. We As.&at-the airport before we go it. But

we wasn't far-sighted enough to see it. But the silk

hats could see a little further than that they was, they

were smarter.

M: Were they, *f the richer people in town, or did it not

make a difference into which group you got in?

B: I don't know that that money had anything to do with

it. I think it justcivic pride, and people in the know-

how that could see, people could see further than their

nose, you know. There's, 4% we had some mighty good

businessmen in town that wasn't on the commission, but

they were very active, and I' and they had suggested to

make it as good, \-1 Stringfellow was one. He was

very smart, that's Hart Stringfellow's faddy.

M: Um hum.

B: And hg Major Thomas was a very active and helpful citizen,

one of the best businessmen Gainesville ever had, I think.

And Bill Shands was outstanding all the time. And e,

of course all of them did pretty well for themselves, but

they, while they were helping others, they had to help

themselves, beca e they owned o~?.The city. They owned

a lot of Gainesville.

AL 36A SideOne
bd Page 17

M: What about in terms of chain stores, was there a difference

in the two factions in reference to chain stores, and

trying to keep chain stores from coming into town?

B: Well there was at one time, iT'; something like that, a

state law that, ui,''Qh- that prohibited, made a penalty

for a man, for a place to have two or three stores.

M: Um hum.

B: I don't remember just how that law was, but,19- it

was more tax. And fh-, that was fighting, really fighting

the chain stores then, ",\ which was a mistake. We

ought not to fought4lem when that's a, it's a logical

way to dispense food stuff now.is a chain store. Make

it much more sanitary than it used to be.

M: So then you weren't~.4fi,- at all upset when a chain store
like Piggly Wiggly came to Gainesville.

B: No, no, I sold Piggly Wiggly some of the stuff that they

bought when they first come in.

M: Um hum.

B: Fred Bolin was the manager and somebody else was helping

him out of Jacksonville. I don't know, I forgot who it

was now. But he made, he made a very 1_____ success

out of that Piggly Wiggly store. And Fred is still here.

M: What other '\i, chain stores were there in town?

AL 36A Side One
bd Page 18

B: Well then, &0, the first one came was Winn Dixie; what

they called the /r- crT) iY> was right up there in

front of the Episcopal Church now oneith,, 1st Street.

And 4,p$ they did a big business there. And then A&P

was down there across from the old post office on the

corner where the Chevrolet company was for a long time.

And L., of course they were a chain, the A&P, but a mighty

good store. And then after that, why Margaret Ann moved

out here and changed the name to Winn Dixie.

M: Um hum. Do you know which group, which group was for the

bkf chain stores? Was that the Lee Graham group, or was

Judge Tench'group?

B: No, they were, they were, some of them were just hands off.

There wasn't anybody fighting the chain stores except the

wholesale grocers, they were trying to fight for their life.

M: Um hum.

B: But we didn't do us any good cause there were, they were
frc-e-Ae %rj-cJ.-4
foaaiwt. The chain stores were fe al.

M: What kind of interaction did you have with Benjamin Tench,
as he was acting... ,

B: Benjamin Tench?

M: Um hum.

B: Well Benjamin he was hard of hear as I am now, only worse

AL 36A Side One
bd Page 19

I think. And Ben would, ^,he had, he was smart. He

knew a lot about city affairs, and state affairs, and

a good deal about politics. And so did Jim Dale, Dr.

Jim Dale. And then, -vhhe was on the commission while

I was there. And oncee in a while he'd get all hot,

jump up and pull off his coat and he wouldn't let nobody

insult him. And I'd say well Ben nobody didn't say a

word about youq he thought somebody had said something

critical about him, Icause he couldn't here. But nobody

said a word about, about you." "I thought he said something'

n nolI said,1he didn't say nothing about you at all Ben.

He'd put his coat back on. (Chuckle). But he was a very

active citizen. He was,- 1f probably helpful in many ways.

M: Do you recall something called the 4 tie'd~ry .. square

deal club?

B: What?

M: Sqvre Deal Club?

B: Square Deal Club, I don't remember that.

M: Okaypback in the130s, ft, there were some articles written

about you and...

B: I've done forgot where we were.

M: Okay, well we were talking about an organization called

square deal club.
i::r- Z7-

AL 36A Side One
bd Page 20

B: Yeah, I didn't remember about that.

M: Okay, I read some advertisements that this organization

said that you and Mr. Fred Winston favored utilities

too much. And they implied that perhaps you were getting

something back from the utility company. So what was

your involvement in terms of the utilities companies?

B: None whatever. None whatever, we didn't, we didn't have

any more to do with it than the city manager who was

handling utilities.

M: But what was the argument? Were they saying that, uh,...

B: Well they tried to always, it was always somebody trying

to think about,.:-u', the city trying to sell out to the

Florida Power Company.

M: Um hum.

B: Because they offered us, the Florida Power Company offered

us a lot of money for our plans, offered to take it all

over. And O( but there were some smart people in there

that didn't want to do that. And it wasn't the commissioners

that was trying to please the people, and didn't feel like

taking the business out their hands all together. And so

we didn't, we didn't do it, and didn't intend to do it.

Didn't try to do it. But there was a few people that said

it's more economical to buy it than it is to make it. But

AL 36A Side One
bd Page 21

Thorton Stringfellow said if it cost two dollars to make

it and you can buy it for a dollar, go ahead and pay

them the two dollars. Thorton, he was smart, he said

keep that utility plant. lCause it was the main, it was

the heartstrings of the city, you see.

M: Okay so the whatever profit came from the utility company

could be used for city projects.

B: Yeah, it was, it was, and it kept our taxes down. And

everybody run our business with the revenue from the


M: Well what year did Gainesville begin its own utility plant?

B: Oh I, they started way back there, they never did buy

it I don't think. We buy,.rf, we bought, .40, stand-by

se vice from Florida Power Company, but d~kx I think they've

been making there all the time, I reckon they have, ever

since I've been here.

M: So before you, before you ever came here then, they were

already, they already had the plant going here.

B: Yeah, they had the plant, they had the plant there. But

of course now it's a tremendous thing now you know, but

it wasn't so big then.

M: And what was, }ih\ the name John Kelly, how did he get

involved in utilities?

AL 36A Side One
bd Page 22

B: Well John Kelly was an electrical engineer and he was

a real good one, and pl, he was,tlk, he run that plant

and just practically, i.f run the utilities for a long

time, and very profitable, too. He was a very good

engineer and he knew what he was doing, and he was honest,

and d ...

M: Did he run it as early as the 130s, or was this later that

he began to run it?

B: Oh he, he run it up until about, I think John's been

off now maybe seven or eight years. He run it for a long

time. He retired from the city. He stayed there that


M: Um hum. But did he start as early as thel30s running

that plant?

B: Oh, yeah. I think so, I think, I don't know just exactly,

but I. (Chuckle) Hey there Misty.

M: Oh I guess he saw, is this the one that's been barking?

Hi, I'm going to turn this over.


AL 36A Side Two
bd Page 23

M: What kind of relationship did the town commission have

with the university? Was the university just something

separate that they never considered, or was there...

B: It was very, very friendly, and we got along fine with
them. But the university, a d one time,fih:r, in I don't

know how many years, they bought power from the power

company, Florida Power Company instead of the city of

Gainesville. And the city of Gainesville was giving them

water all the time. We felt like we ought to have the

electrical business. And uLh' but we had, they had to buy

it competitively and, Wk they out bid us, and(4tJ they

bought from Florida Power Company. I don't know what,

who uses, whether they use ours now or not. But they

probably do. I hope they do.

M: Is this the only kind of interaction they had with the

university, or...

B: That's all, they used, that was the only squabble we

had at all was about that free water, and the fdhb, original

agreement way back yonder when Major Thomas wasi\Uh-, one

of the men that give a lot of land out there were the

university is.

M: Um hum.

B: And \\I, they agreed the city would furnish the water. And
*, W

AL 36A Side Two
bd Page 24

and _41_- grew up to be a big city, you know,
and it takes a heap of water. But since then, they've

put in wells of their own, and %\ they use ours too,

but 4 they use a lot of water that's not ours, too.

They pump a lot of water.

M: But the, 1A~, there were no* university professors, or

university people, sitting on the commission at that


B: No, no.

M: The commission was city people.

B: No, I don't we had, we had a few# A& visitors that came \-

and -1isiae to these meetings from the university they

had je, had a proposition, different things they, projects

they thought ought to be done. And we appreciated what

they had to say, and sometimes we did what they wanted,

and sometimes we couldn't. But x4t, we had always tried

to work with the university. In fact, we knew the university

was a big asset to Gainesville, and fig we appreciated.

At the same time, we A, we had an idea, we felt like they

ought to pay for the water, they ought to buy the electric

LO r from us, which they did most of the time.- c 0

M: Did you know John Tigert yourself?

B: Very well.

Al 36A Side Two
bd Page 25

M: And what kind of interaction was there with Tigert?

B: Tigert was, he was alight, he was a good friend of

mine, and v I knew his 0^ predecessor, 4p, the

man ahead of him.

M: Murphree?

B: Ew Murphree2 M5e'

M: Um hum.

B: He was a fine man too. John Tigert he come from, dS

I think he come from Tennessee or Kentucky. I come from

Tennessee so we... John and I felt, and we knew some

people that, *4 that we had both known when we was

younger. In fact my first cousin and John went to school

at Bellbuckle, Bonnie Webb run her school, IKA Bellbuckle

was a, for'Lw i l, boys. I mean he broke 'em. He

whipped 'em after they got to be great big men. (Chuckle)

And they, and John ____y i they went

there to school. And they both went and graduated through

and went to Vanderbilt university, Nashville.

M: Um hum.

B: And up John was a, he was a part-time, he was a football

player and part of the time he was a football coach. And

I thought, I thought was a very good president of the

University of Florida. He lacked a little bit of serving

twenty years, I think.

AL 36A Side Two
bd Page 26

M: Um hum.

B: But )l I think he did pretty well. He was a good politician


M: What about, 6 the meetings of the commission? How

often did they meet, the commission?

B: I think we met once a month. Seemed like to me it was

once a month.

M: And that would be at the courthouse?

B: Unless we called a special meeting.

M: At the courthouse?

B: No, at the city hall.

M: At the city hall.

B: We had a city building then it was on the corner of, well

it was right there in front of the church. Right across

the street from the Episcopal Church on 1st Street now.

M: Um hum.

B: And nice building. They pushed it down to build

something there recently. But 4jlq it was a fine building,

it was a good building.

M: Now what about the interaction between the commission and

the state legislature. Did you have a lot of influence

on the state legislature?

B: Well, we had one controversy when the, when the state road

AL 36A Side Two
bd Page 27

department wanted to build a, wanted to pave 9th Street,

which is 13th Street now. And all the merchants on the

square though they were going to run all the trade around

Gainesville instead of letting them come downtown. At

that time Alabama Street, which is 6th Street now came

right in from High Springs and Alachua right on to the

square. And 4L and they could, figured that, wellI

open road back there, west of that, all our traffic would

get away from us that we'd been getting. And 4t they

fought that thing for two years before they got finally

lost, the people that were fighting it. I wasn't one

of the fighting kind on that. I wasn't, I never did think

we could have too much road. But the merchants uptown

was the ones that were really pushing, and Major Thomas

too, he was against it too. ICause he had, at that time

he had the Whitehouse Hotel which was on the railroad tracks.

The railroad used to run right up through the middle of

town, right on the square. And the train stopped there

at noon for dinner at the hotel. And it was profitable

to Major I reckon. And tI1 but they finally got, they

lost -1- So:' after, I think it took about two years

squabbling about that thing. But we r, have all appreciated
13th Street since then, and now we've gone way out
13th Street since then, and now we've gone way out theei 56th.

AL 36A Side Two
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M: What about, dYf4 at that time Billy Mathews was one of

the state legislatures from this area.

B: Billy Mathews, it was Billy Mathews wasn't it?

M: Yeah, right. And also...

B: Hawthorne.

M: Right from Hawthorne.

B: Yeah.

M: And also, uh, Mr. Bucholz.

B: Fritz Bucholz.
A (
M: Right was a legislatde for a while.

B: yes.

M: Did you, were they good representatives of what the

commission wanted?

B: Yes, they were, they were honest. They were honest repre-

sentatives. They did the best they could, the best the


M: And what kinds of things would they push for for the city?

B: Well I, I don't remember now particularly what they pushed,

but they were, they were very active and honest and

thought they were doing the right thing.

M: Um hum.

B: Was Fritz on the, was Fritz on the legislature?

M: Just for a short while.

AL 36A Side Two
bd Page 29

B: He was?

M: Um hum, both, both he and Mathews served one term.

B: Well I never, I never, Billy was on that.

M: This is the state legislature in Tallhassee.

B: Yeah, I know what you're talking about.

M: Uh huh.

B: But I forgot about Fritz being on that, welllI knew

him mighty well too, and his daddy too.

M: What about blacks? Were there blacks like Mr. Chesnut

that would, I%* be active in city government? Maybe not

in an elected position, but in a non-elected position?

B: Who?

M: Blacks, blacks in the community.

B: LucAs Black?

M: No, black people in the community.

B: Black people in the community, didn't have...

M: Like Charles Chesnut, Sr.

B: Yeah, well Charles Chesnut, Sr. was a, he was a representative

public man, and always was, respected by all the white

people. And most the niggers I thought was treated right.

But, Jf theywasn't treated quite as good as they ought +o

have been treated. They didn't, they didn't have as much

privilegeSas the white people. And 46, I think it's been a

AL 36A Side Two
bd Page 30

good, good change. I think it's been a good change.

There's,,4%3 I don't know how long it will take us

to,4^ti to get settled on this integration question.

But Ai it's better than it was, it's a lot better

than it was. Of course we got, ,l black people now

living in houses with running water, hot water and cold

water and bath tubs, and they've never had that before.

And it's a big change for them. And then another thing

there's more money in circulation now then there ever has

been in my life time. And they're able to keep these

places up pretty well. They're doing a good job at I

think. There was a few black politicians, t1, and Charlie

Chesnut was one, and I don't know what, I can't think of

that old boy's name that was a policeman at one time here.

And he was active too in the politics. But the$ wasn't

many black voters, they didn't vote much. There was a

few, but none. But the never, I don't think we ever refused

to let them register. I don't remember they ever, ever

refused to let them register.

M: But they just didn't come out to vote.

B: No, they just, they didn't know how to be, how to be interested

probably. Didn't know what the issues were or didn't

understand them or...

AL 36A Side Two
bd Page 31

M: Um hum. What, did the city own property during the

(dsdEs, and what property did the city own?

B: Well, they owned, they owned a whole lot of property. They

didn't own as much as they own now. But I" they come

in possession of some property by taxes and things like

that. And \ they owned, ., they kept on spreading out

down there at the light plant, the utilities place. Broaden-

ing out and buying land all the time. And they bought

some land on the edge of town. Of course they had a lot

to do with the land we bought out there for the airport.

And *Ib, wasn't nothing like the property that they own now.

The city owns lots of property now.

M: Like it was easy when Whitworth's building...

B: We felt like, we felt like it was better to have it on the

taxablest than it was for the city to own it. And 4 there

was always kind of controversy in there about4,-rt taxes

being exempt on properties that belonged to religious organ-

izations, and fraternities. We didn't, we didn't think it

was always right, we didn't think it was right Because

we felt sure that some of those people, that some of those

places were rented out for money. And hjv they were supposed

to be exempted, supposed to be used for church property,

church purposes. But we never did get anywhere with any,

AL 36A Side Two
bd Page 32

getting any, getting it changed, it's ill like that


M: Um hum.

B: But lots of property on the books now, that l0 I think

ought to be assessed with taxes that are not. ButJ*

maybe I'm wrong.

M: What was the relationship between the county commission

and the city commission?

B: Very amicable, very amicable. At night, I don't know

what the date was, but jyS back when theea Seagle

Building was a skeleton and ..yg John Seagle died and his

sister had the, had that property, the made the city

commission a proposition and the county commission too,

that if they would, jOg give her $20,000 and go ahead and

finish that building called it the Seagle Building, she

would qh(, shr would give a deed to it. And so they, we

did. We paid $10,000 and the county paid $10,000, and then

we give to the University of Florida, and A the state

finished it up. \Course that was before your time. But...

M: Right, uh hum. But it was,\1,, that was all done in the

t swent+es was when it stopped...

B: I think it was.

M: ...and then in the -ie-ses, in the t4tams is when they

AL 36A Side Two
bd Page 33

finally got it done.

B: Yeah.

M: Um hum. What were some of the problems in government.

Was there a problem, hEl with zoning as early as the

B: Well, it was a little problem cause it was new, we didn't

start that zoning till a long time after the commission

was formed. I don't think we did. And wg, it was really

so new that some of us never did understand it exactly.

But A we began to get enlightened as it worked out, -s~irkr

..al.j\g,":and we think nowt it's very essential. Zoning d
very essential. But there were certain people that o-A,

that wanted zoning, certain stuff zoned a certain way,'cause

it effected them. And ) we couldn't do it because it

wasn't, it wasn't, we didn't see it was right to do it. We

had to squabble a little bit about that, but it got along.

M: What about supplying services? Like medical care and police

service? Was that a problem for a city to do?

B: Well, we it always, it always was a problem to have enough

policemen, we didn't have many when we started out. And

i we didn't have a city jail and they used to put the

prisoners in the county jail. The sheriff charged us so

much for keeping them for us, and k4 there was somebody

AL 36A Side Two
bd Page 34

always on the commission that wanted to build a jail

for the city and, affV % somebody was wanting to not

build one because we thought it'd be cheaper to let the

county, use the county facilities, but it got so big

the had to change it.

M: Where was the county jail?

B: The county jail was on the corner of, # I think Magnolia

Street and 4k which is the street runs right in from of

the post office now, is that 3rd Avenue?

M: Uh huh.

B: I think that's where it was. And , maybe about, maybe

about 5th Street north and south, \ east and west street.

M: And when, when did the city finally build its jail? Much


B: They built this jail, I think they built that jail after

I got off the commission, they built that jail down on

6th Street. And then they built a jail out there, county

jail, you know, out there on 4th Street, south Fuller Street

we used to call it.

M: Okay. l- were there other governmental problems that

the city, JJ;y had to face in the t-h1ieeos? What about

in terms of the depression? Did that have an effect on

the city government?

AL 36A Side Two
bd Page 35

B: Well we had a heap of delinquent 'g facilities, utilities

bills, but a, we finally worked them out somehow and got

along with it. But there was, some people had a terrible

time paying their utilities. They had a terrible time

paying everything. It was hard, money was tight. There

wasn't any money, much.

M: Did you have to rent part of city hall to the national

government for WPA offices and stuff to keep the city hall


B: I don't know whether we, I don't know whether we rented to

them or not, but we give, they was in there. I forgot, --'2 \

George Carnes was the, was the city manager at that time.

And .wy{they it,) Estis Baxter was very active in having

the WPA and offices here, and and got some of them here.

We had a good many of them here. But rr there were some

things that some of us couldn't stand, and that was *0,,

girls like you having a black boss. t, we couldn't, we

couldn't, we couldn't take that, 2.4 we just couldn't take

that. It wasn't, it wasn't in the book for us at all. And

agf we had a little squabble about that, but we got by.

And, )% we got the black men moved and white men put in,

and we got some black girls maybe to work for them. But

of course it wasn't, it wasn't that bad, but we thought it

AL 36A Side Two
bd Page 36

was awful bad, we thought it was terrible.

M: Did the city have to set up any kind of charities for

people who couldn't afford to eat?

B: Well we started, started way back there when, Ai first

I remember about it, Miss Sally Walker, that is Thornton

Stringfellow's sister was very active in trying to help

the n )u people that needed help. Andfrr we

had about, A4q six or eight, 4,i people on our list that

we had to furnish groceries to every month, or something

like that. Well that kept growing and kept growing and

kept growing. They kept wanting more money all the time

for that. And/Z< of coursessome of us old moss backs,

why we, k~h thought they ought to get out and work. And

jiS> Sally was very, she was very vigilent looking after

those. And Vt they started to milk, the milk place down

there were they give them milk every day, and the city paid

for that milk. And then -41, Miss, .d, my goodness my, what

is that girl name? Old man <7 D-\
Lottie Shaffer, she got to be the social worker, the head

of the social department, and to, she really pushed it up

and got to be big. Got to be big. And maybe it ought have

been. We didn't, we didn't think so, but maybe it ought

have been.

M: Now you used the term moss back, is that a cracker term?

AL 36A Side Two
bd Page 37

B: Well that moss back means an old fqggy, an old fog~g.


M: Oh, okay, & do you see that there's been a big change

in the commission between when you were on it and what

it's like now, and if so what's been that change?

B: Well, they, l the big change is it's a whole lot bigger

than it used to be, and there's a lot of financing to be

figured out, and it takes somebody on, there that knows

something about financing to make a good commissioner.

And 4, the taxes and the, and getting that balanced, budget

balanced, and getting the budget in the right shape. And

uh, it takes a good deal of time, and it takes somebody

with some brains, *\ it's a big business now. It's a big

business, I don't know how big it is, but it's big.

M: What was the budget like when you were a commissioner, ttF

in terms of...

B: Well I can't...

M: ...how much money?

B: ...I can't remember what it was, but it was so, it was just,

it was so little you couldn't hardly mention it now compared

to the budget we have now. Seemed like to me it was something

like \ $200,000 or something like that, a year.

M: About $200,000?

AL 36A Side Two
bd Page 38

B: Seemed like that, but that's a guess now.

M: Yeah, right.

B: It's been a long time.

M: Um hum.

B: But j 4,but it's been growing, and i when I come to

Gainesville in '21 I think we had about,. ,' seems like

we had about 78,000 people here. Maybe not quite that

many. And very few paved streets. And they got a lot

of streets paved, and they got, improvements kept coming


M: Do you think the people were more interested in government

then or now?

B: Well I believe the percentage would be just about the same.

Because there's more people now, and -l and of course

there ,.'ro. there'd be some each side, some don't care and

some say well they're gonna do what ever they want to do

anyhow, so I'll just let them do it. And I'll just try

to change it to the way they think it ought to be. I

think the competition is necessary. I think it's good

to have ideas, different ideas. All of us thought just

alike it wouldn't be good.

M: Where did you live when you were here in the th4istle-

Where was your home?

UF 36A Side Two
bd Page 39

B: 335 S. Roper Avenue at that time, which is now 7th Street.

M: Um hum. Did you live there all during the -~caRis?

B: Yes, we lived there till all the children got married

and moved off. (Chuckle).

M: And you Atg' got out of, when you sold your grocery business,

you stayed out of business and just did the commission...

B: But the boys was in business.

M: Uh huh.

B: I had, my son was in the, he was a pontiac dealer here for

several years. Did quite well with it, and f...

M: Which, now which son is this?

B: That is the one that is deceased, Hal Batey, Jr.

M: And he was the pontiac dealer?

B: Yeah, he was the pontiac dealer. And then he put the

boys up in the, t4V farm equipment business, and 2g, and

then World War II come on and Bob had to go, he was the

only one that had to go. And -d. I helped around at, -ci,

the business. And then, ..iF, following World War II there

was a lot of, uTh, army surplus stuff that was sold and

some of it was sold in bad shape, and 0 Hal was very active

and -A, did quite well buying a lot of that surplus stuff.

Except at that time he couldn't hardly get a new automobile,

4 a new tractor, it was hard to get. But,.-:, we could

UF 36A Side Two
bd Page 40

buy this stuff from the army and we sold it, and we

got a few cars and a few tractors. And 4h1,, we was
doing pretty good.

M: Um hum. And your other, is the rest of your family,

your other son that you mentioned, Bob, I guess, /s

he still...

B: Bob is still here in town. Lives here, works for Ivan?

Black out there. And 4'h1 Bill Batey, my other boy lives

in Archer and he's a farmer, has a nice ranch there, and

cattle and hogs, and...and then Margaret, this is my daughter

right here JoC\A she's in the drug business, and

they've done quite well in the drug business.

M: What year did Wise, Wise pharmacy was already here as early

as the twenties and th-rtiees, is that right?

B: I don't know when Joe started in business for himself. He

and Margaret's been married about, t1, I think,* '-Gi over

forty years. I believe they have. Uhti, and he was working

first, when they married, he was working for, he was working

for or Jim McCullum, one or the other.

M: Um hum.

B: But he and,..!uJR and. uh1 Ogl4by got in business, and then later

on he bought f,-5Tl out.

M: Og, this is .y?

AL 36A Side Two
bd Page 41

B: Ray, Ray -gl'b.y, yeah. He bought Ray out, and they started

the Wise drug company right there where it is now, by

the Florida Theatre at that time.

M: Is that the original Wise? The one that's under the

Florida Theatre?

B: Um hum, that's right. Then he, they had four nice boys,

still have them, and A, three of them are pharmacists.

And ARy they d, they got several drug stores in town here.

M: Okay, well let me ask you one other quick question, and

that is, because we've talked about the airport, that went

out on Waldo Roadj /rior to that they used the field

the, where Butler Plaza is, Stingle Field.

B: Yeah, Stingle Field.

M: But prior to that, do you remember a little airport named

Java airport which was somewhere in this vicinity?

B: Yeah, yeah, I remember itwas right there close to where

the ball park is now. Close to 8th Avenue and Waldo Road.

But set back a little bit north and west of it. Java field

was big clear field in there and a pasture.

M: Why'd they close that?

B: Well it wasn't big enough.. It wasn't, i it wasn't big

enough, and Am', they buil a little air, air, 4j they built

a little place there, they don't call it a garage, what they

AL 36A Side Two
bd Page 42

call a hanger. They built a hanger out there, but

they, they didn't stay there long. Of course it wasn't,

it wasn't And they used that Chamber's

farm out there which is Stingle field. And it had plenty

room on it we thought. But it got too little mighty quick

too. And soon as we got this modern facility out here/

why, of course they do it on That one over,

that Stingle field was the old Chamber's farm.

M: Now is there something that you would like to add, perhaps

that I didn't ask you about in reference to your own business,

or government in the J~4.Lees, something that I forgot to

ask perhaps?

B: No, I don't know of anything.

M: Okay, is it okay if I use this material in what I'm writing?

B: Yes. (Chuckle).

M: Okay.


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