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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
INTERVIEWEE: Johnnie Brasington
INTERVIEWER: Joyce Miller
DATE: December 3, 1976
M: Johnnie Brasington at his Cadillac-Oldsmobile dealership in Gainesville
on NW 13th Street on December 2, 1976, at 4:00 pm in the afternoon. I'd
like to start out by asking you how your family came to Gainesville.
B: Joyce, I was raised in South Carolina, and we had a farm, but the farm
business didn't do too good. My daddy was a machinist. He moved to
Gainesville about a year before we moved, and he went to work for the
Cadillac dealer in Gainesville, which used to be J. R. Fowler. So
after he was down here about a year, we moved to Gainesville on about
March 20, 1926. So we've been here ever since then.
M: How old were you at the time of the move?
B: The reason I remember it was March 20 was because I was fourteen years
old on March 21. So I've been here roughly fifty years.
M: What school did you go to when you came down here? Did you go to the
Gainesville High that was the old Buchholz or now Santa Fe?
B: Right. It was Gainesville High School.
M: What were your classes like there? You were there from, I guess, '26
to '30, is that right?
B: I was there from about the seventh through the twelfth grade, and I
think all the school teachers are about gone that taught me.
M: Do you recall any of their names?
B: Mr. Buchholz used to be our professor and he ran the school. Of course,
it was named after him later on, and he used to live out on Payne's
Prairie. But I had a teacher named Miss Mizell--I think she's still
living-and a Miss Blacklock, and I used to have a teacher named Miss
She used to treat me real easy. She let me go fishing the last
period of every day if I wanted to.
M: What did she teach?
B: I think she was a history teacher. The best I remember, our classroom was
number nine. I think I was president off and on of one class or another
through twelfth grade. I used to live right in back of the College Inn
and I used to walk from Gainesville High School to College Inn and back
for lunch. That was before they had a cafeteria.
M: Is that when the Hammonds owned the College Inn?
B: Uh huh, about two blocks back of the College Inn.
M: What was your recollection of Mr. Buchholz? Do you remember him personally?
B: Oh, sure. He licked me two or three times. I knew him real well. I
used to go to his house because the people that lived right next to him
were the Cannons. I was in his house a whole lot, and I knew his father
M: Dr. Buchholz, professor at the university?
B: Uh huh.
M: Would that be the Cannons that are related to Cannon-Treweek today?
The family of E. E. Cannon?
B: I don't know, but Mrs. C. A. Pound is a Cannon.
M: Then it's the same Cannon family, yes.
B: Uh huh.
M: Did you have brothers and sisters at that time?
B: Sure, I had four brothers and one sister. About 1932 my brother got
killed in an airplane wreck in Gainesville, and he must have been in
about...but the rest of us are all still around.
M: In Gainesville or in Florida?
B: In Gainesville, except my sister. She lives a little this side of Palatka.
M: Your brother was killed in an air crash in '32 in Gainesville. This is
before the building of the airport.
B: At that time they had an airport and they called it Java Airport, and it
used to be over there in Highland Heights. They had an airfield over
there; it was about a mile long.
M: Would it be very small planes that would land there?
B: Uh huh.
M: Was there any airplane service between Gainesville and other cities, or
was it mostly private planes at that time?
B: It was mostly private airplanes. Carl Stengel owned the airport when
my brother and a Bill Fowler, who my daddy worked for, got killed in the
plane. Mrs. Tassinari's brother was in the plane with them, and he didn't
get killed. Then Mr. Stengel closed up that airport and moved out on
M: That's since become Butler Plaza now, that area?
B: Uh huh.
M: Mr. Fowler was the owner of this place, then?
B: He was a Cadillac dealer and he was downtown in a garage where Poole Gable
is now. And that building used to be a two-story building. He was also the
mayor of the city of Gainesville.
M: Do you recall when he was the city mayor?
B: I'm sure it was in '28; '27 or '28.
M: Did your father own this business before you did?
B: About 1933 my father quit Mr. Fowler, and he went in business for himself.
And about 1936 or '37 a Mr. Givens came in the business with us, and at
that time he obtained the Cadillac and Oldsmobile franchise.
M: Now when your father went in a separate business, was this also a Cadillac...?
B: No, he just went into the automobile business, he didn't have a dealership.
M: I see, so he was selling mostly used cars or....
B: No, mostly he worked on cars, mostly people who had a wreck or anything. A
long time ago we used to have the only wrecker in Gainesville, and he
liked to work wrecks. When I got through with school, then we started
selling cars and we've been selling them ever since.
M: Where was his place located?
B: We went in business downtown where the Western Auto Store used to be, right
next to the Commercial Hotel. And then we moved out of there in about
1948, and we built the building around there which the city took down the
other day where the Datsun place was.
M: Were your brothers in the business with you and your father, or what was
B: It turned out to be a family deal but it didn't start out that way Echuckle].
During the war, you see, everybody was in the service but me. So I ran the
business till they all got back. My brother, Lawrence, the one next to me,
he and I own the business now.
M: Do you rememberthe other dealerships in the '30s such as your competitors,
B: I knew Warren's daddy real well. Mr. Ogletree just died in the last year.
He used to sell Willises and Hudsons and Teroplanes and his place was
right near the First National Bank.
M: The present First National Bank?
B: Uh huh.
M: Shaw-Keeter; was that located where it was until very recently on University?
B: No, Shaw and Keeter used to be right in front of the old post office.
M: I see.
B: Do you know where the Hope Building is?
M: Uh huh.
B: Well, Shaw and Keeter used to be right across the street from there. And a
long time ago there used to be, before the Ford people got it, before Shaw
and Keeter got here, there was a fellow named Alderman that used to be the
Ford dealer. His place was right across from this restaurant downtown
called East Fifth. There used to be a fellow in that garage that was named
Eddie Gipson, and he used to run a garage there and the Chevrolet place used
to be in the door right next to there.
M: And who owned the Chevrolet place?
B: Sim Gardner and a fellow named Chadwick, Chevrolet dealer here. His son
is still living in Gainesville, and his name is Chadwick and he lives over
in the east side of Gainesville.
M: So there was a Cadillac dealership, a Ford dealership, Chevrolet dealership,
the Ogletree...were there any others, or were those the four major dealer-
B: Oh, no. There were more or less automobiles represented in Gainesville.
They were different brands from what they are now. Like Melton Motor
Company's people had been the Buick dealer two or three years ago. I
think they sold Graham Pages before they got the Buick dealership. Brooking
Motor Company, which is the Poole Gable now, they used to be right next to
the old Gainesville High School, in that building where the bowling alley is.
M: Uh huh.
B: But there were Dodge, Ford, Chevrolet, and Buick. Of course there used to
be Hudsons and Studebakers. Mr. Fowler, the guy that my daddy used to
work for, he sold Studebakers, Buicks, Chryslers, Cadillacs, and Pontiacs.
M: Now you mentioned when you finished school you went into the business.
Was that high school that you were referring to?
B: Uh huh.
M: So you didn't spend any time at the university campus then?
B: No, ma'am.
M: You went right into work. How did the Depression affect your father's
business in town? In '29 he was already in business and then especially
in the thirties when he got into a full dealership.
B: Back there in 1932 and '33, as far as I know, there didn't anybody go
hungry, but there didn't anybody have a whole lot of money. All the banks
in Gainesville closed up except the First National Bank, and I don't re-
member when that was. It must have been about the time Roosevelt got
M: About '33.
B: About '33. And a lot of people lost a lot of money, but really I don't
think anybody went hungry, and I don't think anybody really worried or
what not; they just had to postpone a few things.
M: Did it personally affect your family any?
B: Well, as far as I know, we didn't miss any meals or anything. I don't
think it kept my daddy from going fishing about twice a week.
M: He did that no matter what. Well, how about the election of Roosevelt...
when he was elected, did you feel that the people, as your father, who
were in business, were they excited about it also?
B: Well, Roosevelt came along, and he had the NRA [National Recovery Admini-
stration] and he put relief on everybody's business that would sign up.
Basically, lots of people had probably lost faith in what was coming about,
but when he came along and he opened up all these CC camps [Civilian Con-
servation Corps] and he built a lot of roads with what we call PWA--
Public Works Administration--he put a lot of people to work so everybody
felt better about it. I think that was probably the reason he got re-
elected every time, because everybody thought he understood the problem.
M: Did any of the projects noticeably affect your business? Your father's
B: Well, basically, a lot of people went out of business, but we never did
get down to where we didn't look forward to tomorrow being a better day.
We didn't give up anything. I think there was always an opportunity for
somebody that wanted to work and could keep it going.
M: Now you obviously know quite a few people politically. How did you get
involved in that? I hope you don't mind.
B: No, I don't mind. Well, honey, really, it's easy to meet people in the
automobile business. Like [Governor] Fuller Warren E1905-1973]--I knew
him when he was going to the University of Florida because I knew his
mother, sister, and his brother. The way I got to know the vice-president
was when he came to Gainesville, they wanted him to ride in a convertible
coupe and I was the guy that had it.
M: What year was that?
B: That was in '49. And he had the ring in his pocket he was going to give
the lady he married in Kentucky when he was here then. When I took him
back to the airport and he got in that Army B-17, he was going to Kentucky
to propose to her then.
M: And Claude Pepper C1900- ]--did you know him when he was senator in the
B: Oh, sure.
M: And did you know him through the same way, through lending cars for parades,
B: Well, I just knew him through a few friends. The other night I was out
at the country club and my gosh, I didn't even know he was there, and he
came over to see me. In the car business you meet a lot of people, and
you can never tell who comes driving in the door.
M: Right. Now you mentioned the Gainesville Country Club--did you belong
to it as early as the thirties?
B: No, ma'am, honey, I didn't have the kind of money it took to join then.
M: Because I guess originally it was at Palm Point and then it got moved from
there to where the university is and then from there out to where it is
B: That's right. My brother and I used to swim across Newnan's Lake. We
used to swim from Prairie Creek to Palm Point to go swimming.
M: Did you swim at Glen Springs later on in the thirties?
B: Sure, my brother kept it cleaned out so he could swim for free.
M: This is the brother that's located in the next office?
B: No, that's the one that got killed in the plane. I usually could jump
the fence and get in without a bit of trouble; he worked for his swimming.
M: Where else would you go to swim besides those places?
B: Well, we could go to Sunnyside, Magnesia Springs, Kingsley Lake, Santa
Fe Lake, Earlton, Silver Springs, or Blue Run. Blue Run is Rainbow
Springs-have you ever been there?
M: No, and unfortunately it's closed now.
B: Yeah, well, it's real pretty. We used to go down there fishing every Sat-
urday afternoon. I caught a lot of pretty bass down there, and I have a
lot of colored pictures and everything that we'd taken.
M: Did you hunt also?
B: Oh, sure.
M: Where would you hunt?
B: Well, basically, I used to hunt out around Cross Creek. Have you ever
been to The Yearling?
M: Yeah, uh huh.
B: Well, just before you get to The Yearling and make that curve, you'll
notice a lot of woods on the right-hand side. That used to belong to a
fellow named George Fairbanks, and he used to let me go squirrel hunting
in there. But I've been hunting all over the South.
M: Okay, you fished, hunted, and you went swimming-did you ever do it on
Sunday or was Sunday a day to stay with the family?
B: Well, being a Baptist, you know, Cwe] went to church on Sunday. You didn't
fish too much on Sundays. I have been fishing on Sunday, but I never been
hunting on Sunday.
M: Primarily then, it was a time to stay home with the family.
B: Uh huh.
M: Well, because you lent cars in parades, perhaps you remember, say, the
tung oil festivals?
B: Sure, we used to have floats in it.
M: Do you recall any other impressions of it? How would you compare that to,
say, the homecoming parade today?
B: Well, the tung oil floats, I believe, were more a local activity than the
homecoming parade. You know, they have homecoming parade floats from
Tampa, and Ocala, and Miami and a whole lot of people spend a whole lot
of money, but the tung oil floats and everything were basically made up
by people around here. I knew Mr. Bennett, the gentleman that originated
the tung oil company, and his foreman, a Mr. Miller, real well. And I
know Mrs. Bennett, the lady out there now, and you know, she's young
M: No, I didn't know that.
B: Uh huh. She comes from up that road. Yeah.
M: I see. How many years did they have the tung oil festival?
B: They had it till cold weather killed the tung oil trees.
M: Till then that was it. That and the cost of labor, which was so high.
B: Yeah, it must have been from about 1930 to about 1933, someplace along
M: Do you recall that they picked a queen?
B: Sure, and I tell you what, there's a guy in town named Hewlett Anderson.
You may call Hewlett and he can tell you a little bit more about it than
M: His name is Hewlett Anderson.
B: Uh huh, and he owns the tung oil paint company out about the Evergreen
M: Okay, is that still in operation? I used to see the sign out there but
I haven't seen it recently.
B: I think it still is.
M: How about homecoming? When did they start having parades? The university,
do you recall that?
B: I don't know how long they had the parades, but for a long time ago they
used to have, I know they had parades like in '26, '27, and '28, but they
called them shirttail parades, and you know all the freshmen and every-
body at the university used to line up and they would march them all
the way downtown to thecourthouse square.
M: Would that be the same thing as a pajama parade or was it a little dif-
B: Sure, well, they were in their shirttails.
M: Shirttails, uh huh.
B: I used to parade with them, it wasn't no problem.
M: Did you have a lot of friends at the university?
B: I knew Dr. Murphree, who used to be president of the university, and I
knew Dr. Tigert real well, and Iused to go through all their offices and
the whole place over there, and I used to have a real good friend over
there that used to take me on all the field trips and everything, and
his name was T. V. Jackson, and his wife lives over there by the duck
pond. And about 1925 or '26, he took a bunch of us down to Silver Springs
on a 4-H Club trip.
M: And what was he in at the university; how was he connected to the university?
B: Well, he was in agriculture but I don't remember exactly what his title is.
And now there's a Dr. CGulie H.] Blackmon [Horticulturist and Head of
Department, Agricultural Experiment Station] that used to be at the univer-
sity and he's like eighty-six years old, and he lives over there by the
Hotel Thomas, and he can tell you a whole lot about this university.
M: Okay. One thing I forgot to ask you about the floats--that you say
they were mostly homemade. Do you recall at all what the cost of building
a float in the early thirties would have been?
B: No, honey, I think most everything was donated. I mean, you know, the
flowers and all that stuff. But a float in 1930 cost $250, would probably
cost $4000 to build now.
M: That much of a difference.
B: Yes, yes, because most everything was free and everything now you more
or less buy.
M: Right. I was surprised this year to see how close the merchants did work
with the university, because there were quite a few floats that said the
name of, say, a company in town as well as the fraternity or sorority.
That's always good.
B: The university's always missed a good bit by not working with the town
folks a little bit.
M: Well, what was the relationship between the town and the university, or
what they say the "gown and the town" in the thirties?
B: Well, it used to be at one time, I think, everybody in town knew every-
body at the university. But you know like in 1930 they must have not
had more than 2200 students. And a lot of them stayed with people in town.
It used to be where Thirteenth CStreet] and University Avenue is, that
used to be the gate to the university right there. There used to be a
road that curved all the way around the university and came out about the
M: What was your impression of Dr. Tigert?
B: To me, he was a smart man. He's probably what really started the university
growing. He has a son that works for Pan American Oil Company and when
he comes through this section, he always come to see me.
M: I guess his wife is still alive too and living in Miami, I believe.
B: Someplace down there.
B: His son went from Gainesville to Miami and worked for Pan American there,
but they moved him to New York, and as far as I know, he's in charge of
Pan American's engine overhaul department in New York, all the jet motors
and everything-goes through a school or a service department, he's
head of it, to see that everything turns out the way they're supposed to.
M: Did you bnly have [Ca social relationship with Dr. Tigert or did you
know him through business also? Like, did he ever buy a car from you?
B: Oh, sure.
M: What kind of bargain person was he? I mean, as far as the customer?
B: Yeah, we sold him a Cadillac and I think the alumni give him one when
he graduated. But he was a nice fellow. He used to tell me during the
war I'd be amazed at what all theywereworking on out there, but he
never did tell me what it was. And I think they came up with this fuse
that changed the war. They had a fuse on a bomb that would go off by
a set time and everything, and I think they, the university, developed
M: I didn't know that.
B: They've done a whole lot of secret work.
M: Now you mentioned one of the eating places, the C-I. What was it like
eating in the C-I? What was the cost and how was the food?
B: Well, honey, a long time ago you could eat in most anyplace for thirty-
M: That would be a full meal?
B: Oh, that's be fried chicken and iced tea or Coca-Cola and stuff like
[that]. There's a restaurant in town, or a hamburger stand, maybe you
ought to go down there and talk to Louie. Have you been down there?
M: I have, I've talked to Mr. Pennisi.
B: Yeah, yeah. You used to could go in there and get a chocolate malted
milk and two hamburgers, I think, for forty cents. His hamburgers still
taste like they used to.
M: He says that he uses the same amount of meat and....
B: Same amount of bread.
M: Unfortunately it's gone up to fifty-five cents and it started in the
late twenties at ten cents, I think, and then fifteen, and now it's
B: I go by there every now and then and just check to see if it still
tastes like it used to.
M: Did you ever eat at the Black Cat?
B: Well, the Black Cat used to be owned by Mr. Hammond before he got the
College Inn. His wife used to fix me some good chocolate malted milk.
M: I have a feeling that's what your favorite is.
B: Oh, well, whenever you can get it. There's a guy that lives just this
side of the College Inn named Paul Smizer and if you've got time to
talk to him, he might tell you a little bit about the university, be-
cause he went to the university like in 1924 or '25, and he may still
own the place where the Florida Bookstore is, and I used to mow the
grass and he'd give me fifty cents.
M: For mowing the grass?
B: Yeah, and it was bigger than it is now, because I think that building
that's on the east side was grass.
M: Okay, what were some of the places you shopped in in the thirties?
Grocery stores, and other kinds of stores--clothing stores?
B: Well, in 1930, all the grocery stores were around the square. The A & P
Store was downtown, and there used to be a store right in front of the
post office called the White Star. I used to work in there for $1.75
from Saturday morning to about two o'clock Saturday night.
M: It'sa grocery store?
B: Uh huh.
M: And people would come in that late and shop?
B: Uh huh. But all the stores were downtown around the square. Chitty
and Company was over on the southwest corner of the square. But we had
a fire about 1937, you know, and it burned up Thomas Hardware and a few
places like that.
M: Were you there for the fire?
B: Sure, I seen it.
M: What was it like?
B: Well, they thought the whole town was going to burn up Echuckle]. In
fact, I think I've got some pictures of it someplace.
M: Well, it must have seemed like the whole town, a whole side of the square
B: Well, they had fire trucks from Ocala and Lake City and everything and
we were in business in the next block, so we got everything all piled
up on the floor to move out in case the fire came that way, but it
didn't get to us.
M: Never got down that far?
B: No, no.
M: Did you actually see it when it happened or did you hear about it through
the fire alarms?
B: Oh, I didn't see it because it must've happened about ten o'clock in the
nighttime and by that time I'm always trying to be asleep. But I went
uptown and it must've been in April when the fire was.
M: April, right, April 23, I think, '38.
B: Uh huh.
M: I was wondering if you ever ate at the Primrose Grill?
B: Yes, ma'am.
M: As early as the thirties?
B: Yes, ma'am.
M: And how did that rate in terms of, say, the others?
B: Well, the Primrose Grill was supposed to be the best restaurant in town.
M: What did you think?
B: Well, that we had another restaurant named the Royal Restaurant; the
Primrose Grill has always been a good place to get food. There used to
be a restaurant in Jacksonville about that time called Jeff's. It was
real fancy. I had a real fancy meal Monday. A fellow invited me to
Jacksonville to the River Club up in the new Independent Life Building
in Jacksonville. They got a fancy restaurant, a fancy view there.
M: Nice to go up to Jacksonville just for a meal.
B: Oh, well, I been further than that.
M: Where was the Royal Restaurant located?
B: Well, John Dakus ran the Royal Restaurant and it was right there on
the corner. The Royal Restaurant later on was run by the fellow that
owns these Captain Louie places around here, and he's still alive if
you want to talk to him. You can find him.
M: On which corner was this located?
B: It was On the corner of University Avenue and Northeast Main Street, I'd say.
It was in the place where Hatcher's...
M: Jewelry was?
B: ...Jewelry is now, uh huh.
M: Across from the Woolworth's then?
B: Uh huh.
M: You mentioned that you belonged to the Baptist church for many years;
what other organizations did you belong to in the thirties?
B: Well, the thirties have gone back a long way. Really, the First Bap-
tist Church probably and the Elks Club.
M: Okay, where was the Baptist church located?
B: Right where it is now. They moved to that place about 1924 or '25,
something like that.
M: And what kind of activities would the church have, was it more than
just services and Sunday school? Did they have charitable drives and
things like that?
B: I really don't know if they did or not. They used to have, when I was
a kid and went there. They had picnics a whole lot, but I didn't get
in on any of the drives or anything.
M: What about the Elks-where were they located in the thirties?
B: Well, they used to be up there right across the street from where the
Florida Bank is now. About the time I joined them, they moved and
they were right where the telephone company's place is on University
M: About what year was that, do you recall?
B: I don't know, I think it was probably '32 or '33, someplace along in
M: And do you recall any of the activities they did?
B: Oh, yeah. They always had a big barbeque at least once a year back of
their place and they donated money to the Harry-Anna Crippled Children's Hospi-
tal they sponsor--it's in Umatilla or someplace in south Florida. All
their money they take, they send it to this home.
M: Do you recall at one time the Lions Club brought Helen Keller here. Do
you recall that at all?
B: No, no. I did belong to the Lions Club at one time, but I don't remem-
M: Did you ever visit the White House Hotel or the Thomas Hotel in the
B: Sure. More times than once.
M: Which did you prefer?
B: Honey, I used to sell newspapers and I'd go into the Hotel Thomas and
the White House selling papers. The hotel, the White House Hotel, was
more or less a commercial hotel. I mean, the train used to stop right
'side the door and people would get off the train and go in there and eat,
but the Hotel Thomas was mostly a tourist home--people up north that
had a room at the Hotel Thomas would come down and spend the winter,
and then they would go back north. The Hotel Thomas brought a lot of
wealthy people to Gainesville for the winter. The Hotel Thomas and the
White House were kinda--one of them was more or less a commercial hotel
and the other one was a real fancy hotel for retired people.
M: And would you eat there, say...would your family go there just for special
occasions to eat?
B: Well, they always had a real good Thanksgiving dinner there, but basically
when we would eat and hit the Hotel Thomas it would be some function or
something that somebody would have going on that they would invite you
M: What year did you sell newspapers?
B: Oh, I did a little bit of everything-probably in 1931, '32.
M: Was there just one newspaper at that time, because earlier there'd been....
B: No, ma'am, no, ma'am, there were two.
M: There was the evening paper still as well as....
B: McCraer used to print it. He used to live...that's his old house that
they moved up East University Avenue. He lived up near Lake Alto,
which is out near Santa Fe Lake. The fellow that used to print the
paper for him--I don't recall what his name is--but I saw him the other
day. But I didn't ever sell any of those, I only sold the Gainesville
M: What year did they drop the other paper--do you recall?
B: I'm going to make a guess at it and I would say it was about 1931 or '32.
M: Where was the Gainesville Sun office located?
B: The Gainesville Sun office used to be, you know where Tony and Mike's
place is now...do you know where Tony's Bookstore is downtown?
M: Uh huh.
B: I believe that used to be the Gainesville Sun office right in there. And
right across the street used to be the Evening News, or right about in
that building that belongs to Barney Colson; he's got the fancy doors
along in the front.
M: I know some people recall that during sports events before the time of
the radio, used to sit out there....
B: You could go down there and holler out the window. Yeah, yeah.
M: Did you go down there?
B: Well, that's the only way you knew how boxing and everything came out.
But that was when the Sun place was right where it is now. You used to
go sit on the old post office lawn and they'd open one of those windows
upstairs, and somebody would have a microphone and they would take it
off the teletype and tell you about it.
M: That was fun. Do you recall your impression of the Seagle Building?
B: Well, a fellow named Lawton Hill used to live where the Seagle Building
is, and they originally were going to build a hotel there, and they
called it a Kelley Hotel. And I remember standing up there and seeing
them dig the dirt out of the ground. When they got it built and the
money ran out, they gave everybody their money back, more or less.
Then Mrs. Seagle bought it and gave it to the university. I used to
climb up the steps and go up to the top all the time before they ever
M: Before they ever finished it?
B: Sure. That would be one place kids could run up and down the steps.
M: Was that like a dare to go up there on a partially finished building?
B: No, I don't think so.
M: It was just a fun thing to do?
B: Yeah, well, there wasn't nothing else to do.
M: Do you remember a market being underneath the building at any time?
B: No, they had it boarded up from time to time. They might have had a
market in there, but if they did, I didn't go in there and purchase any-
thing from them.
M: What about the theaters? Did you ever go to the Lyric or the Florida
B: Sure. The Lyric Theater used to be down in front of the post office, and
if you'll look up on the marquis, if it's not gone now, it said Pickett
and Fowler, 1912. The fellow my daddy worked for was named Fowler, and
his wife was Pickett, and she came from Newberry, so they built that
building. And I used to go to the theater there and then they used to
have a theater across the street from there. And of course the Florida
Theater was built by Dr. Strange down in McIntosh. He and his stepfather
built that building and it must have opened about 1931 or '32.
M: Did you ever go on bank night?
B: Oh, sure, but I never won anything.
M: Never won?
B: No, no.
M: Everybody I've asked about have they gone, they've all said they never
won. I wonder who ever won? What did they give out, do you recall the
sum of money?
B: Well, I recall a friend of mine's name was called out for $1,000 and he
wasn't there-it upset him.
M: You had to be there to receive it?
B: Oh, yeah.
M: What would they do? You would buy a ticket and put half the stub in or
they would just call out a person, or how did they do that?
B: Well, to the best of my recall, they had a big fancy container that you,
another when you went in you put your name in there, and they would draw
your name out. And if you were in the crowd.....They used to fill the
street full of people.
M: On that night.
M: And that one night your friend wasn't there?
B: No, no.
M: Well what about the cost of things in Gainesville in the thirties as
compared to today? For instance, what did your dad sell a car for in
'36 and could you compare that to a car today?
B: Well, honey, in 1942 we sold a Cadillac Fleetwood with everything on
it for like $2,600. Now that same automobile today will run about
M: Quite a difference Cchuckle].
B: Yeah. Back there in 1931 or something like that, you could buy a Ford
or Cherolet for $800. And now, in 1941, you could buy a Cadillac Coupe
for $1,345 and that car now is about $11,800.
M: What about groceries? Can you recall any particular item and the price
then as compared to the price today?
B: No, but my mother used to let me do all the shopping for everything in
the family and like for seven or eight dollars I could get all the gro-
ceries that it took for us to live a week on.
M: Your whole family?
B: Whole family, and you see, there were eight of us.
M: And today, what would that cost?
B: Well, I went to get a loaf of bread the other day and my wife said
you can pay the bill and it was thirty-nine dollars. I think we stopped
at a restaurant so we could get something to eat on the way home.
M: Right. Did you have a doctor and a dentist in town and if so, who
B: Oh yeah, they had a lot of doctors and a lot of dentists in town.
M: Who was yours?
B: Well, Dr. Thomas Snow was our doctor. In fact he didn't charge me any-
thing for our children. But I was a trustee at Alachua General Hospital
for a number of years so more or less I know all the doctors in town.
M: Well, where was his office located?
B: His office was above the City Drugstore. You know where the City Drug-
store is? You know where the courthouse is downtown?
M: Uh huh.
B: Well, you know where Wilson Company is?
M: Uh huh.
B: Well, maybe they call it Vidal's Drugstore now.
M: Uh huh, yes.
B: If you'll look right there, by Vidal's, there's a set of steps that
goes upstairs. Dr. Snow was up there, but it used to be there was Dr.
Snow, Dr. DePasse, Dr. Elmore, Dr. Mainers, Dr. Andrews and....
M: How about Dr. Thomas?
B: Yeah, there was Dr. W. C. Thomas. He came from almost the same town in
South Carolina my daddy did and....
M: Dr. Tillman, I guess, would have been that time also?
B: He bought that $2,600 Cadillac that we sold just before the war had
M: This is Dr. Thomas or Tillman?
B: No, Dr. Tillman. Dr. Thomas'sbrother sells Fords in Kingstree, South
Carolina, so he'd be a little hard to sell a car to [laughter].
M: Do you recall the price to go to a doctor?
B: He and I went hunting together and everything and well, bills didn't run
anything like they do nowadays, anyway. Dr. Maxie Dell's father was
here too and then Dr. Maxie Dell took over from his father. Now that's
an old Gainesville family and he used to be a city commissioner.
M: One of the Dell's was mayor also in the early thirties, '34 I believe.
B: That was his father. That was Maxie.
M: What about your dentist?
B: Ah, it seemed like to me that Dr. Emmel was my dentist and later on I
switched over to Dr. Robertson and I've been messing with him ever
M: You say you were on the Board of Directors. Is that of the hospital or
M: What year did the hospital get built? I know at one time it was just
wooden, and then somewhere in the thirties it became the structure.
B: Well, a long time ago a Mrs. Williams used to run more or less the only
hospital in Gainesville, and her house was up there on the other side of
Kirby Smith School and this hospital must have been built about 1924, and
that's the old part downtown. And then later on they built the nursing
home over on the other side, and then they built an addition on the back,
and then they built the new hospital here; but I was trustee at the
hospital. I don't know if it's on the record down there but I must
have served all during the war and a few years after the war. But they
used to pay an orderly down there like $18 a week and a cook like $19, and
they used to pay the supervisor $180, and the supervisor worked like
seven days a week from like seven to seven.
M: That's $180 per what?
M: Per week.
B: No, I'm sure that was per month.
M: Yeah, probably per month. I understand that even though Gainesville went
through Prohibition like the rest of the country, that moonshine was
fairly easy in town. Did you ever have any occasion to know where that
was being sold?
B: Well, I usually knew who had the cars that had hauled it and everything.
M: Where was it sold in town?
B: Well, I never bought any, I never drank any, and I still don't take a
drink; really anything I would say about that would be hearsay, but I
know people that wanted it could go get it in just a minute or two and
they didn't have to go too far.
M: Do you recall slot machines being in town in the mid-thirties?
B: Oh, sure. There used to be a slot machine or two within a block of
downtown, because I played them. You know where Chitty's store used
to be downtown?
M: Uh huh.
B: That place right in back of that used to be a pool hall and might still
be a pool hall. They had slot machines in there.
M: What would it be-nickel or dime machines?
B: Oh, they had them up to a silver dollar.
M: Up to a silver dollar?
B: Uh huh.
M: Would the payoffs be pretty good?
B: I never hit 'em Cchuckle].
M: Never hit that either. And then of course they didn't stay very long
because I know soon after that the legislature met again and decided to
pull them out.
B: Well, they must have had slot machines for two or three years.
M: Do you recall any bands or activities around the courthouse on weekends?
B: Well, they used to have a bandstand out in front of the courthouse and
they used to play there. A long time ago the courthouse used to have
a bandstand, and they took it down and they built two little buildings out
in front of the old courthouse. The Chamber of Commerce has one, and
the tag office has the other one. But originally, on the south side
of the courthouse, you drove by there, and farmers were bringing wagon-
loads of oranges and you could buy all the oranges you wanted for a penny
M: And that was true, say, for most of the thirties and probably forties
also before they....
B: No, no. Most everybody got rid of their wagons by then. I'd say that's
in '28 and '29. Fuller Warren on this picture right here....That's the
old courthouse right there and they set up a stand for him to talk on,
but, you know, it's a shame they tore that old courthouse down.
M: I agree. The building they replaced it with is so plain.
B: I went over there to see them when they decided to knock it down.
They had this great big, what you call a medicine ball, and a swinging
crane, and they talked about how that building was. Well, that thing
had to hit it about seven or eight times there to get it broke loose,
and I think that base on that place was seventeen feet across.
M: Who ever made the decision? Was it the commission who decided to knock
B: Well, there were a lot of studies made on it. I don't know if you could
find any of them or not, but there were a lot of studies because I
was on one or two of them. The committee that I was on, I think there
were twenty-four of us, and we recommended that the courthouse, if they
were going to take it down, you turn that place into a park and build a
new courthouse down where the old jail used to be. But, two or three
friends didn't see it that way.
M: Now they're doing the same thing on campus. The Gainesville Sun printed
an article Sunday--they're going to knock down....
B: Tearing the old buildings down that I used to run through.
M: I already mailed my letter to Bill Andrews, a copy to the Gainesville
Sun, and a copy to EDr. Robert Q.] Marston CPresident of the University
of Florida] in my opinion about them knocking down those buildings
because every person I've interviewed has mentioned Language Hall, Science
Building, and these are some of the buildings they're going to tear down.
B: Yeah, progress; they seem to tear up everything as it goes.
M: Did you ever go to the county fairs in the thirties?
B: Oh, sure.
M: What was that like and where.....Did they have them on what we call Citizen's
B: Uh huh.
M: And what was it like going to the fair?
B: About ten times better than the one that we just had.
M: It was better.
M: Why? What kinds of things did they have?
B: Well, they had a whole lot more stuff on display. I mean the dresses
or the agriculture products and all the things that they give the blue
ribbons and everything.
M: Uh huh. Was it really a county project? I mean, did everybody really
want to display things at the fair?
B: I think so. Well, you know, almost every class in school would make
some particular project and would take it out and have it on display.
If some farmer had some special corn or some pecans or some particular
thing, he'd have it on display. It looks a whole lot more commercial
now than it did then, but that was just my opinion of being a little
fellow and looking at maybe a different way now.
M: Did you have to pay at that time to get into the fair?
B: Yes, but I don't think it was but a dime.
M: What did they charge last month at the one, do you recall?
B: A dollar and a half or two dollars, something like that.
M: In the thirties when you were working and your father had the business,
how long was a working day? Would it be much longer than it is today?
Now you mentioned that when you worked in a store, you'd work till
2:00 a.m. What about the car agency? Would you say it was shorter
hours than today, longer, harder, easier? What was your impression?
B: Well, ordinarily you'd open up at seven o'clock and you would probably
close at nine o'clock. Saturday was the biggest day, and they stayed
at it till two or three o'clock.then, see?
M: How does that compare today, the working seven to nine and being busy on
B: Well, honey, everybody's under the Wage and Hour Law now, and you can't
hardly work anybody over forty hours. We try to run a forty-hour busi-
ness, but I make the shop give me a list and our overtime for last week
amounts to $1,690. So you can't hardly operate a business over forty
hours. But the owner can work all night and all day if he has the ability.
M: Are you still open till nine o'clock?
B: No, no. Everybody's gone at five-thirty except you and I. You still got
a few minutes, and everybody ought to be gone.
M: And are you still open on Saturday and is that still your busiest day?
B: No, no, we close up on Friday. I may come down on Saturday, but we
don't have a whole lot of help on Saturday.
M: So you do most of your sales, then, during the day, five days a week.
B: Uh huh.
M: Do you recall any interaction with city government in the thirties? Did
you know the mayors?
B: Uh huh. Yeah, I always knew who was mayor or the commissioners and whatnot.
M: Did they pass any rules that affected you at all that you:recall?
B: None that I know of.
M: What about law enforcement? Did you have any trouble with crime then, as
B: Well, of course, they've always had a jail, a court, and a lot of
policemen. Basically we have cars stolen and broke in and we have
M: As early as the thirties you'd have cars broken in?
B: Well, we had a car stolen like in 1936. And the policemen caught it in
Palatka like in forty-five minutes.
M: Was that a car from the shop?
B: Uh huh. But we've had dozens of cars stolen out here and they never find
anybody. We had one stolen the other day and they found it in Detroit.
M: That far.
B: Well, you see, a person who steals a car, he drives all night and all day,
he can be a long ways down the road the next day.
M: Well, do you think that lawenforcement is as efficient now as it was then?
B: Oh, I'm sure with all the new equipment and everything they are much
more efficient. They just have a whole lot more people to look after.
M: Well, is there anything you'd like to tell me about the thirties that I
perhaps did not bring up? Any experiences you remember, or people that
are unforgettable from the thirties?
B: Oh, well, I really can't think of a whole lot. If you want to go back you
might say a long time ago, like in the 1930's, the Seaboard Railroad used
to come in down on Depot Street and the Coastline train used to come in
downtown. Gainesville's been real lucky--we've had a whole lot of nice
people that come into Gainesville. And of course the university has
brought a lot of people into Gainesville. But basically I don't think any-
thing real fast that I could say to help you, but I know a lot of
people around town if you run out of something....
B: Have you seen Jess Davis?
M: No, I haven't, but Jess is getting old a little, and he's been ill.
B: Have you seen Fred Harris?
M: I just wrote Fred Harris a letter, so he's got notice that I'd like to
talk to him, yes.
B: S. T. Dell is a real nice fellow. His wife's daddy used to be Senator
Shands and he was an old-time fellow around here.
M: William Shands, uh huh.
B: But, Gainesville's made out of a whole lot of nice people.