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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Mr. Howard Bishop
Mrs. Howard Bishop
Joyce R. Miller
December 13, 1976
M: I'd like to begin by asking Mr. Bishop when he was born and where he was
H: In October 20, 1905, Alachua, Florida, and moved to Gainesville in 1910.
M: Wereyour family a long-time residents of the county?
H: Yes, my father was a physician and there were nine children in the family.
Consequently, when the first ones got old enough to try to go to college,
he had to determine to move from Alachua. He chose Gainesville in prefer-
ence to Jacksonville because of the closeness to the University.
M: Where did you move when you moved to Gainesville?
H: We lived near the city park. My father donated the land behind our house
for a city water tank.
M: How long did you live there?
H: We were there until I got married in 1932.
M: Did you get married here?
M: Where was the marriage ceremony performed?
H: Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.
M: Do you recall any of the things involving the wedding, such as who was
the minister at the time?
H: Francis Wakefield was the preacher.
M: Do you recall anything about the ceremony specifically or the reception?
R: There was no reception. It was in the deep Depression in 1932. We had a
rehearsal party the evening before. We were married at high noon.
M: Mrs. Bishop, what was your maiden name and when and where were you born?
R: My name was Rodney Layton and I was born in Gainesville, August 10, 1908.
My father was an attorney here. He was the lawyer for the school board.
He was trustee on the school board; he was on the library board, he was mayor
and a city commissioner.
H: And a colonel in the Army.
R: The armory was named for him.
M: How did you meet?
R: We lived just two blocks apart and his younger sister was a very good friend
M: So you knew each other for many years?
H: All of our lives.
M: Did you both go to the same schools?
R: You were four years ahead of me?
H: No, two or three.
R: We both went to Gainesville High School, then I went to FSU and he went
to the University of Florida.
H: I went to the University from 1923 to 1929 and then several years there-
after, too. I graduated in law in 1929 and went back and graduated with a
B.S. in health and physical education a few years later about 1932. Then,
in the '50s, I got my masters degree at the University. When I was defeated
as the superintendent of schools I got my masters degree and went as a princi-
pal down at Clewiston, Florida for five years.
M: In 1929 you graduated from law school. This was before Barton Douglas was
into law school. You didn't know him on campus, did you?
H: No, but I knew him.
R: Barton Douglas was in my class in school. We graduated from high school
together. We just had our class fiftieth reunion this past week.
M: Then you went to Jacksonville to practice?
H: Practiced over there a year. That was right during the deep Depression.
When I came back to Gainesville I wanted to get married. I didn't have
any money and as a consequence went back to school and took a coaching job
at Gainesville High School. They paid me 1,325 dollars a year. For that
1,325 dollars a year I taught three classes of general science, one class
of physics, and coached all four sports. I opened up the high school at
8:00 in the morning and I closed it at 9:30 every night for the wage of
1,325 dollars to start with. But this was good money in those days. In
other words, this was right at the bottom of the deep Depression. Now
Rodney can tell you that you started out teaching for how much, Rodney?
R: I started at ninety dollars a month for eight months. That's 720 dollars.
And I worked about seven years and finally got back up to ninety dollars a
M: When did you start teaching?
R: I finished college in 1930. I had finished high school in '26. I finished
college in '30 and started working.
M: Was that teaching in this county?
M: At which school?
R: At the elementary school. We had eight months.
H: Kirby-Smith it was called.
R: It was the only elementary school at the time. I made eighty-one dollars
a month for eight months. One year, either '30 or '31, they could not give
the children eight months. Mr. [F.W.] Buchholz, our supervising principal,
had to take up a collection. The parents gave whatever they could for the
last month to give them eight months instead of just seven months of school.
We taught for ten dollars a week. The teachers did this just so that the
children could get that eighth month. Mr. Buchholz said, "If you want to
stop, I can replace you. I have twelve applicants for each job. If any of
you want to stop and just walk out, I can replace you tomorrow with any
number of them."
M: So somebody would've worked if you didn't for the ten dollars a week?
R: That's what he said. Now we did not call his hand on this. We stayed in
there with the children and gave them eight months.
M: Did you teach at Kirby-Smith after you were married also?
R: Yes. I taught the sixth grade.
H: Had to make a living.
R: Both of us.
H: Well, at that time I believe we had a much better living than we had all the
rest of our lives. We had a full-time maid.
R: Well, that's because I wasn't home.
H: We had a full-time maid, Martha, and paid her three dollars a week. She
came and prepared all the meals, she bought all the groceries for us if
we wanted her to. When Mrs. Bishop was having her babies, Martha would come
and just take the house over and run the house.
R: She really did very well. We did not live well. We didn't have a nice home.
H: I thought we did. When you can get a full time maid, seven days a week, for
three dollars--I thought it was pretty good. We've never had a full-time
M: When you say, "Maybe it wasn't so well" are you comparing to now or are you
comparing to other people in the Depression?
R: The two of us worked and we did fairly well in the Depression. I taught for
five years after we were married, then had my children.
M: Did you find it necessary to have other family members come and stay with
you that were not as financially successful as you all?
R: No. There was no need.
H: We were probably on the low side of the financial deal because we were
teaching school and the rest of them were in other professions.
M: Where was the rest of your family at that time?
H: All of them were here in the '3Os, with the possible exception of some
of my sisters. One of my sisters had been married off. But we were
probably on the low end of the bracket because we were school teachers.
M: What professions were your brothers in?
H: One was in insurance, one was in real estate and the other one was in
buying and selling.
R: His younger brother was not in real estate at that time. He has been
very successful in real estate since then.
H: It was rough because one of the banks here closed.
M: The Phifer Bank?
H: Yes, and it never did open back up. I don't think.
R: No, but it did pay off, though.
H: It paid off some, but not too much. The First National Bank was very sound.
think the Florida Bank, which was on the corner, had closed up a long time
before. Florida Bank was down where the ten cent store is now, Woolworth's,
on the corner.
M: Dutton Bank might have been the original name?
H: Dutton Bank was on down two blocks from the Florida Bank.
M: Oh, I see.
H: My father purchased the building the Florida Bank was in. When they
put the property up for sale he bid on it and purchased it.
M: Where was the rest of your family in the '30s?
R: My sister is three years older than I am. She taught one year at Hawthorne
and then she got married. They were in Miami and all of her savings and all
of his savings were really caught in the bank's closing of the early '30s
there. The payments they made on the house or the car or something got
caught in the bank there. But they were able to get along all right.
M: Who was the principal at Kirby-Smith when you were there?
R: Mrs. Metcalfe. She was great. We had a little boy that was later a county
commissioner, G.M. Davis, who recently came off the commission. G.M. and
his little brother sold peanuts around town. One time. G.M. was not in
school, and the teacher sent him to Mrs. Metcalfe. Mrs. Metcalfe said,
"G.M.,why were you absent yesterday?" G.M. said, "Mrs. Metcalfe, I had to
sell peanuts yesterday." She said, "Well, G.M., I think I should give you
a spanking for skipping school, but I don't think it would be proper for me
to spank a businessman. Next time, you arrange to sell your peanuts after
school,please." She was very understanding. You know G.M., don't you?
H: I coached him three years in high school. Rodney taught him two years
in elementary school and I taught him in high school.
R: Do you know Mrs. Grand? Do you know Winifred Metcalfe?
R: She taught English at Gainesville High School. She retired just a few
years ago, the only child of Mrs. Metcalfe. Metcalfe [Elementary] School
is named for Mrs. Metcalfe. When we were dedicating it, Mrs. Metcalfe must
have been in her'70s. An insurance man and one of the speakers, Finley
Cannon, said, "Just to show you Mrs. Metcalfe's attitude and expectations
here, she had just taken out a twenty-five year mortgage on the house that
she's buying." She was seventy-something.
M: Well, what do you remember about fellow teachers that were at Kirby? Do
you remember any in particular?
R: Yes, I remember quite a few.
H: Of course she does. Just like I remember the ones in high school.
R: At that time you did not have to take education courses in college to
teach. You had to have so many hours of psychology and education. It
could be just three hours of education and the rest in psychology.
M: Did you need a bachelor's degree to teach at the elementary level?
M: Tell me some of the teachers that were here, and then I'm going to ask
Mr. Bishop to tell me about Fritz Buchholz and some of the teachers at
R: Lucretia Thomson taught for many years and was superior-very good with
art, very good with creative work with the children. Mattie Lou Pinnell,
her husband,was the postmaster here, Paige Pinnell's wife was excellent
with the children. Howard's sister, Shirley, taught a year or so,stopped,
and got married. Jeannette Shaw taught a year or two. You could teach
three years and get a life certificate at that time, but Jeannette wouldn't
even make it three years. She was teaching in the sixth grade when I was.
She was going into the high school. She moved up to be Howards' supervisor.
She was a principal in Pinellas County and has since retired. She's been
very successful in the educational field. Some of them just taught a year
or so and stopped.
H: Over at the high school we had a-fabulous group in the '30s.' We had';
Mr. Robinson, who, as the chemistry teacher, was quite effective. Roxie
Baker who taught English. We had Thelma Boltin, who taught speech. Thelma
could do anything. We had Ruth White, who's probably one of the best
English teachers that's been around, and Marjorie, her sister. Dorothy
Phipps was in mathematics. She lives in Tennessee now. They're both living,
Dr. Phipps, who taught at the University, and Dorothy. Dorothy was a terrific
mathematics teacher, just great. We had Ruby Wallace Waits. Have you heard
of Ruby since you have been here? Ruby was a social studies teacher and she
had charge of the student council. I was the coach and the physics and
science teacher. Later on,I became the director of guidance without getting
any relief from my teaching responsibility. I know I'm missing some of
the good teachers, but we did have a great staff at Gainesville High
School. Somewhere in the vicinity of forty to forty-five teachers.
M: How many students were there?
H: We went grades seven through twelve and there were a little more than a
M: How about Professor Fritz Buchholz, your principal? Can you relate some
of the things about him?
H: Fritz was a man of principle, and you don't find many people in the education
field that will set a policy and stick by it. When Mr. Buchholz set a policy,
he meant it, and if the policy was broken, or the rule was broken, he would
enforce it. He backed his teachers. He was quite a rigid disciplinarian in
connection with the situation, but the main thing about him was that he would
not adhere to undue pressures. He was one of the finest educators that I've
ever seen. He had great control of the English language. On many occasions,
I didn't agree with his philosophy, but as I have grown older I can understand
some of the things that he did that I probably didn't agree with at the time.
I can see now his reasoning for it and so forth. I think he ran one of the
best schools in the country.
He was a colorful character, and many stories developed about him, often
embellished as time went on. There was a story of the disciplining of a
pupil that resulted in an altercation between the father and Professor
Buchholz. Later, I asked Professor what really happened. He said, "The
father called me up and when I answered one of his questions he said, 'You
wouldn't say that if you were here'." Professor Buchholz said, "I'll be
right over there." He walked up to the front door and then walked up and
down until the father came out. He was wearing brass knuckles. He hit
Mr. Buchholz in the mouth and knocked out some teeth. Fritz, who was very
strong though not very heavy, got the father down on the sidewalk. The
wife came out with a pistol which she held on Mr. Buchholz, forcing him to
M: Were you a teacher at that time?
H: No, I was in the fourth grade.
R: I really think that it was not Mr. Buchholz's disciplining the child. I
think he was backing up a teacher that had disciplined the child.
M: Well, you mentioned G.M. Davisas being one of your students. Can you
recall any other outstanding students, whether they be football players
or academic students, who are still names that we would know in Gainesville?
H: Oh yes. I just ran into one of my students--General G.C. Fogel. The two
Fogel boys, and John Henry, were both basketball players, and G.C. got a
football scholarship. He played football under me and got one at the Univer-
sity. From there he went into the military, got involved in World War II,
and went up to be a general. He's now retired and living over on the east
R: We both taught Dr. Glen Summerlin, Dr. Donald Morrison, Jr., and Joe Jenkins,
a lawyer here.
H: Tell you a good story on Rodney. When Rodney taught Dr. Summerlin, she also
had Tubby Morrison, that's the dentist. And Tubby was Tubby the Terrible
and Glen was Glen the Redhand, and he's turned out to have a redhand; he's
a surgeon.. I taught Finley Cannon. I had Finley as one of my football mana-
gers. I coached Buster Bishop and Buster made second team.
R: I taught Leonard Emmel.
H: I taught Dr. Emmel. I don't think I had Henry Graham. Henry's dead, of
R: Henry wasn't but five years younger than I am.
M: You mentioned Glen Summerlin; is Winston younger or older?
R: Winston's younger.
M: Was he through school while you were teaching?
R: He was not; I never had him in my classroom.
H: See, in the '30s P.K. Yonge school opened and a lot of our children moved
into P.K. Yonge and we didn't have them as students.
R: When I first started teaching, I taught sixth grade. It was departmentalized
at that time and the greatest load I had in my homeroom was forty-three sixth
M: You had forty-three students you were teaching?
R: I had forty-three students in one class.
M: And what was the size of the high school classes?
H: Well, we had another science teacher there and the problem was distributing
them. My classes would end up forty, forty-four, thirty-five, forty, about
like that. In other words, I had four classes and I had a laboratory and
my first year I taught all of the physical education. But I would run a pupil
load of about 155 when you total all the pupils.
R: I think if you'll look into the standing of Gainesville High School back
then, they'll be rated very high academically in the state. It was due
chiefly to Mr. Buchholz and how he ran his school and the White sisters in
the English department. Some of the other teachers were excellent. Of course,
we were fortunate in Gainesville in having University professors around.
H: That's one reason we always had reasonably good faculty. I don't know what's
going on now.
M: What was the relationship of townspeople such as yourself with the University?
R: Very nice. I can't understand all this gown and town discussion. We've
always had friends in both groups.
H: No problems at all that I can remember.
R: The University, the gowns, may feel it more, but I don't think the townspeople
M: So you would perhaps socialize at some of the same events?
M: And did you go to some of the University activities such as football games?
H: Well, I played football at the University for four years and swam on the
swimming team and ran on the track team. We never had any problem.
R: Our church vestry had University men as well as townsmen. I just don't
think the feelings now that you hear about gown and townsmen existed then.
Maybe the gowns feel it now.
M: Generally, I don't think the kind of antagonism that existed, say in the
'60s when I came here, existed at all in the '30s because the University
was small and there was a very close interaction. Many of the University
professors lived at the same area that dentists or doctors or teachers or
anybody else would live and I don't find that there was antagonism.
H: We didn't, in those days, have any of the pressures of the organized groups
and the pressures of salaries or any of this. Everybody took what they got
and were glad to get it. Of course, after they got tired long enough, they
rose up and organized. There was no conflict largely between administration
and teachers as there is now. There's a tremendous amount of conflict now
between administration and teachers, and the teachers organize and they want
R: There were university friends that we had way back in the '20s and '30s that
carried right on through the '60s and '70s. Most of them are retired now,
as we are.
H: They're just retiring now.
R: We don't know very many on the faculty now.
H: But we had none of that in the '30s. That began to develop in the '50s. In
the '30s, everybody was glad to have a job. Everything's gone up since then.
You start in the '30s and every item that you can think of has gone up. In
'31 you could buy the best tenderloin and the best sirloin steaks for fifteen
and twenty cents a pound. Since the '30s though, everything has gone up, and
anybody investing in anything knows that.
R: I don't think we had it as bad in the '30s as some. We had a friend whose
wife was a Gainesville girl. His career corresponded to ours: He was a
coach, a county superintendent, and so forth. They were in south Florida,
I think, in the '30s. Where were Tommy and Virginia in the '30s?
H: At Robert E. Lee High School.
R: No, not then. Anyway, one thing Virginia said was that they'd make a pot of
soup and that would have to last them a week. And they paid some of them in
scrip in some places, but we didn't ever have to.
M: You got paid in cash?
R: Uh huh.
M: Did you find though that your diet was different because of finances?
You ate say more potatoes or macaroni, or was there no change in that
R: His family lived here and my family lived here. We did not hurt for food
at all, for well-balanced diets or anything.
H: No, but we had to get married withoutany money. In fact, she put up the
400 dollars that we bought the car with.
R: We didn't buy clothes. We didn't buy much of anything. You didn't spend
money that way.
M: Let me ask you about when you were a coach.
H: We were playing in the Big Ten. The Big Ten consisted of Gainesville,
Hillsborough High School, Andrew Jackson, Robert E. Lee, Orlando High School,
Miami High, West Palm Beach, etc.. One year we had fourteen players, but that
was one of the best teams we had because everybody on the team could play
every position. Some years we had as many as thirty, thirty-five players.
You must realize that P.K. Yonge had opened up, and we had a seven through
twelve high school which meant that in the 1,000 students that we had at the
school, there weren't many of them in grades nine, ten, eleven and twelve,
which is the playing age.
M: What about finances for the team? Did you have to feed the team out of your
own personal money or did the school give you some?
H: Nobody ever fed a football team in those days. We traveled in automobiles,
and since the University of Florida was becoming prominent in their athletic
program, there was very little support or interest in the Gainesville team.
So one year we played all of our games away from Gainesville. We played
them all on contract, and the contracts were real slim contracts. A 200
dollar contract was a pretty big contract. We traveled in private automo-
biles, five or six automobiles, and we'd go and come. It's a wonder we
didn't have more accidents than we did. We didn't have any.
M: How far would you go to play one of those games?
H: One year we went to Orlando once, Tampa twice, Miami, West Palm Beach
and Jacksonville twice. In other words, we traveled several thousand miles.
Most years we traveled considerable distances because we always played either
Palm Beach or Miami, and we always played them down there.
M: What about the money for the uniforms? Would the school board pay for that?
H: We charged them at Baird Hardware and no, the school board didn't pay anything.
We charged them at Baird Hardware and tried to keep even with them. They were
very considerate with regards to it.
M: Did you get donations, or how did you finance it?
H: We financed it just by contracts and what little gate receipts we would have.
Normally we wouldn't do very well when we would play a team here. Sometimes
we'd lose money on account of having to pay them. You must remember
that admissions were way down, fifty cents for adults and twenty-five
cents for students and the problem of getting a 300 dollar gate receipt
M: Where would you play those games?
H: We played ours at what they call Harris Field, which is out east of
Gainesville at the old fair grounds. You know where the stadium is, out...
M: Citizens Field?
H: Yes. We played out there but we didn't have the stands. Sometimes we
played at the University of Florida on one of their fields, but most of
the time we played away from home.
M: Do you remember Mr. McPherson?
R: They were on programs together last year.
H: I was particularly interested in Mr. McPhenson because I knew him while he
was coaching at Lincoln and I also knew him as superintendent. He was still
coaching at Lincoln when I was superintendent of schools here for twelve years.
I know Mac real well.
M: Do you recall a telegram he sent you once wishing you luck for a going away
H: No, I don't recall any particular telegram.
M: Did the black team and the white team ever play or was it completely
H: No, it was the biggest show in the world to go out to Harris Field and
watch the Negro teams play and watch the cheerleaders. It was a terrific
show. In the '30s there was absolutely no mixing in the situation. Although,
when I went down to Clewiston as principal in 1952, my first year down there
they wouldn't allow the Negroes to come over and even look at the football
games. So I called the Negro school and told them I was putting a stand out
there for them and the chief of police down there called me and said, "If you
put that stand up there I'll take no responsibility for order in the game."
This was as late as 1952, so you can imagine the racial differences that
existed in the '30s.
One time, while I was superintendent, a young lady came in and applied for
a position and my secretary had interviewed her previously. She was a math
teacher and she was just as white as snow, and my secretary put a little
note on my desk and said she is a Negro. She was, and we hired her as a
math teacher at Lincoln High School. I had all kinds of repercussions coming
in to me with regards to hiring a white girl to each in the Negro schools and
you can just imagine what it was. I had several instances of racial pressure.
I think one of the greatest Negroes that's ever lived in Florida was the
sister of the president of Bethune-Cookman College.
M: Mary Bethune.
H: Yes Mary. She was scheduled to speak in the city, a piece of city property
either at the rec center or somewhere and the Daughters of the American
Revolution objected. They put so much pressure on the city that they said
Mrs. Bethune couldn't speak on the property.
M: Did she?
H: No, and three or four Negroes came to me and asked me if she could speak in
Lincoln High School. I said, "Hell yes, she can speak at Lincoln High School."
And she made a great speech. She was a great woman. The delegation called on
me then. They didn't prevail at all. This gives you some indication of how
this was in the '40s and the '30s were worse than the '40s and the '20s were
worse than the '30s and the teens were worse than that. And I've seen them all.
M: Well, you mentioned that you became superintendent in 1940. Was that through
M: So at that time the superintendent was elected.
H: He was elected, and we had two elections here on trying to make him appointed.
On the last one, I think I was responsible for him becoming appointed in that
I debated Mr. Sigsbee Scruggs about twelve times during the election and then
I went on television and then I went on radio. I think I was responsible for
its becoming appointed. I think it ought to be appointed. It's silly not to
appoint him because you...
M: More of a professional then, and less political pressure on the person.
H: Well, I think the main thing is that most people won't go into politics. That
is, the desirable people will not go into politics. They're just not interested
in it and our principal can make nearly as much money as the superintendent so
why in the hell should he put his neck out on the line? But now they can hire
him from anywhere. This boy we've got now is a good one. I don't think there's
any question about it. I think he has some problems with the relationships with
his professional personnel. I don't know whether he recognizes it or not, but
from all I hear, I think that he does have a few problems. Don't you think so?
You're not going to say, huh?
M: Where did you do your grocery shopping or clothing shopping in the '30s? Do you
recall Piggly Wiggly or Robinson's Grocery?
R: Not Robinson's very much. We did a little there. Piggly Wiggly, yes, Wilson's.
H: George Dell was still running his grocery store.
R: George Dell delivered.
H: For the first part of the '30s anyway. Harold's Meat Market is where most
of our meats were purchased.
R: Well, '30s is when we were married, Howard.
H: That's right, but I was eating at your house before and after.
R: Cole's was the main jewelry store.
M: Where was Cole's located?
R: Cole's was located on the north side of the square, right back where Ruddy's
is, a little bit to this side of it.
H: Cole's was in there. Harold's was down in the next block. Miller's Drug
Store, which is now the City pharmacy, was right in the middle, right where
it is now. Wilson's is still on the corner. Vidal's was right across the
street. "A.J. Vidal Prescriptions and Stationery", that's what was on the
side of the wall there for 1,000 years. And Baird Hardware,of course, but
most of the shopping I would say, I don't know where most of it'd be.
R: I guess Ruddy's was across the square, Cox's was the main furniture store
H: But it was on this side. Cox's was over on the west side in the '30s.
M: Do you recall the 1938 fire when one side of the square burned down?
H: That was Cox's that burned down.
M: Did you see the fire yourself?
R: Our oldest child was born in '37.
H: Cox's and Thomas Hardware Company.
R: I'd give her a bottle and give her to the maid and run down, go see what
was burning, and run back.
M: How did you know there was a fire? Did you hear bells ringing or did you
hear it on the radio or how did you know?
H: I didn't know.
R: Oh, I did. You did. Jimmy's Market burned there, Thomas Hardware, Canova's
Drug, the whole block.
H: Canova's didn't burn.
R: Canova's used to be up there on the corner before they moved it down there.
H: I know it was on the corner, but it didn't burn.
R: I don't know how we got it word of mouth maybe. Well, of course, I guess
we could hear it, because the town clock would strike the number for like
thirty-two, go bang, bang, bang. And we knew where the fire district was.
H: We knew all the numbers and where to go when it rang.
R: You could tell right where the fire was. Which section of town.
M: The town clock would ring in such a way that you knew what area of town a
fire was at?
H: That's right.
R: It'd strike. My father was a volunteer fire department member and we had
one in our house.
H: He volunteered, that's right. There was a fire box a block from my house,
and the number of that fire box was thirty-six. If there was a fire in
that area we'd run over and break the glass and open it up and pull the
lever and the town clock would bong, bong, bong, and ring thirty-six.
We knew where thirty-six was and...
M: Was this still in the '30s?
R: I don't know whether this was still in the '30s or not.
* I know we had the little box to ring, to break the glass and turn in the
alarm right there, because we came home from a football game when we had
company and the house was enveloped in smoke and I turned it in. There
wasn't any fire, it was just heavy atmosphere or something held the
H: It's difficult to distinguish in time when you get as old as we are.
Things that happened in the teens and the '20s, '30s, '40s, !50s, '60s
and the '70s and it is fifty or sixty years in there and it's hard to
separate events after thirty years.
J: I know.
R: Well, Rodney was born in '37.
M: What about the Whitehouse Hotel or the Thomas Hotel? Did you ever go to
eat in either place?
R: You mean back in the '30s?
J: In the '30s.
H: We were very close to the Thomas Hotel and everybody that worked there. We
were in out of the Thomas Hotel. The Whitehouse Hotel, I don't remember
when it ceased to exist. Do you remember when it quit?
M: Well, '63 1 think they started to tear it down. I think it had stopped
before then but they started to tear it down around that time.
H: The train used to come in and go up to the station and stop and then back
up to the Whitehouse Hotel and wait for them to eat and so forth. I used
to have a race when I was a boy from the Seaboard depot, which was down at
the bottom of the hill, with all the news boys trying to get to the White-
house Hotel with those papers, which was about a mile.
M: Did Barton Douglas sell newspapers the same time?
H: No, Barton was too young. Barton was Rodney's age.
R: When did the Hotel Thomas become a hotel? Do you know that?
M: Not offhand I can't.
R: I lived right catty-corner from the hotel. I grew up at the time it was
the Thomas's home.
H: She lived right by the Thomas Hotel and I lived one block off from it.
M: I know the Thomas Hotel opened as a hotel in 1928, I believe.
H: The old house was shingled all over the outside, brown shingles. It was
quite a deal, the old house was.
M: One thing I forgot to ask you about the school system, Was there a school
board and if so, how many people were on it? Was it elected also?
H: It was elected and there were three members on it when I first went in
R: But they had districts and trustees.
H: Yes, but we had a three member board all through the '30s and when I went
into office in the '40s I met with a three member board which consisted of
Dr. [Simon] Hussey, [A.] Leo Johnson, and Dr. J.A. Goode from Alachua.
That was the three member board.
M: Dr. Hussey's the one that Gainesville High School now has a sign on the
teaching auditorium dedicated to him.
H: Yes, I dedicated it. I made the speech in behalf of him when it was dedicated.
But in the '30s I'm trying to think how many school districts there were.
The school districts ran somewhere between twenty and thirty in Alachua
County, and each district had three trustees, and some school districts
didn't have a school in them. In making the budget you'd have to go
around and have the three trustees approve the budget for, say, thirty-three
school districts and so forth. As soon as I got in office in the '40s, I
consolidated them down to eleven and when the Citizen's Committee Bill
passed in '48, the county became the one school district and there were no
longer any trustees and the school board served in both capacities. But
we were dealing with thirty-some-odd people with reference to little old
schools. Right in the '30s there were twenty-seven one-teacher schools in
Alachua County, most of them Negro, some of them white, though. They had
pot bellied stoves to heat the rooms. The children sat on benches, they
had no books, very few books and one of the first things I did was got
rid of those twenty-seven schools. That was painful, really painful, from
the standpoint of the reaction of the people in the area there.
M: To close the small schools?
H: Yes, really painful.
M: What did you do for recreation after you were married in the '30s? Did you
ever attend the theatres in town, or did you go mostly to swimming area, or
just visiting people or church activities? What kinds of things for recreation?
H: Well, we had social clubs that we met with reasonably often.
R: Which one are you talking about?
H: I'm talking about Go Get 'Em Gators.
R: Oh, that social dinner club that we had.
H: Yes, we had a little club.
M: Tell me about that, I don't know anything about it.
H: Well, it was just a small group. There were about fifteen or twenty of us.
We'd meet and do a lot of drinking, and have a lot of fun.
J: Before the games?
H: No, it had no relationship with the games.
R: Just dinner.
H: We'd have dinner, and had all kinds of games that we'd play.
M: Who was in that group? Do you recall?
H: Well, one of the Thomas girls, who's married a Hawkins. What was his name?
R: Sam. Margaret was the little Thomas girl, the one I'm thinking of.
H: Margaret Thomas was in it, my sister.
R: We had the University people just as well as townspeople.
H: Georgia Beisler and her husband, Lance Loczonby and my sister, Shirley,
who is his wife.
R: Peggy and Cecil Gracy, John A. and Edith Murphree. John A. was a Circuit
H: Just more or less a sort of close knit group.
R: When were the Skippers organized? We belonged to that.
H: We had a shack on Long Pond that we now have. We'd go to the lake, and we
used the lake a great deal fishing and swimming and we'd spend time out
there in the summer. My mother just loved that lake. What else did we do,
R: You played golf some. I never played golf.
M: Where did you play golf back then?
H: Gainesville Golf, the present University Club.
M: Did you belong to the country club at that time?
H: I guess I did, I don't know.
R: We resigned when we left here, and then we started to join' back and
you weren't able to play.
H: Yes, that's right.
M: Did you belong when it was at Palm Point?
R: That was way back. I was just a child.
H: You are really way back then.
R: That's where we used to go swimming on Newnan's Lake.
H: Where'd you hear about Palm Point?
M: I guess the first place was Mrs. Parrish mentioned Palm Point.
R: Mr. [C. Addison] Point probably owned it then.
H: It was the social center of Gainesville at one time. Palm Point was built
up on these high shores.
R: Which Mrs. Parrish did you meet?
M: Alice Parrish.
R: Alice Willoughby.
H: Yes. But at the time they were out there, there were more alligators in
the lake than you could shake a stick at. So they built this wire fence
around the pavilion and the pavilion, of course, was the dance club and
H: Well, Palm Point had this wire fence around...
R: But back then we were children.
H: That is right. This is way back in the 'eens. And a narrow platform out
there and a springboard, and the water would be about this deep where the
fence was. People'd be swimming all over in here, and outside you could
see twenty gators out there and some of them with their noses that long.
M: Later on, by the '30s, the club had already moved to where the University
Club is now?
R: It wasn't a golf club.
H: It wasn't a golf club at all. It was just a social club.
R: It was just a swimming club. They had dances. That was really our parents
more that used that for dancing and such. We just went swimming.
H: They had a bicycle club that used it a great deal.
M: So when did it start with golf?
H: The golf club was started largely by Dr. Tison.
R: And the dentists.
H: And the dentists here.
R: And the Hamptons. Wade and Fred and all the Hamptons on that golf course.
H: I have his mark in my mouth.
R: Oh, Howard.
H: All my teeth he filled.
M: Who was your doctor at that time, and your dentist, in the '30s?
R: His father was a very fine doctor.
H: My father was my doctor and my dentist at that time was either Dr. Tench
or Dr. Mixson. When I was in my twenties, Doc Tison was my dentist.
Greatest dentist in the world and one of the finest people you ever
knew, most sensitive. He died about eight years ago.
M: And your father was the doctor in town in the '30s?
H: Well, he was my doctor all my life.
R: When did your father die?
H: My father died in 1925.
R: Just before Howard finished college.
H: Just as I entered college.
M: So, who was your doctor after your father died?
R: W.C. Thomas; his father brought him here.
H: He was our second daddy.
R: Billy Thomas is his son.
H: He was the greatest.
R: He took over the practice when Dr. Bishop died because Dr. Bishop brought
H: He was terrific, but I haven't had any good service since then.
R: You did with Henry Graham, didn't you?
H: Oh yes, I loved Henry. He was my doctor until he died.
M: Well, is there anything else that you'd like to tell me? Maybe there's
some events that you recall specifically in the '30s that you'd like to
R: Mrs. Blacklock was a great teacher. Her husband was at the University and
she taught in the schools.
H: Yes, and Kate Webber taught in the schools. I see Dr. Webber died yesterday
or the day before. Kate Webber was home economics and she was great.
R: Mrs. Leake taught in the schools and her husband taught history.
M: Dr. [James Miller] Leake [Head professor of history and political science]
R: Yes. Mrs. Leake taught math in the schools.
H: Dr. Leake taught me history at the University and he was one of the greatest
characters you ever saw. One of the greatest teachers I had at the University.
R: How'd you get to know Barton Douglas?
H: Dr. [James Marion] Farr [Professor of English,language and literature] was
a great teacher. But Dr. Leake, one year he had a student named Yawn in
his classes. When he called on Mr. Yawn, he said, "Yawn, what do I do the
first thing I get up in the morning? Yawn. I.can remember your name, Mr.
:Yawn." And he says, "Well, Dr. Leake, I can remember yours too for the
M: The only story I heard about Dr. Leake was his car.
H: That story actually happened.
M: That he never bought a new car. For years upon years he used the same car.
H: Well, he had a T-model Ford that he ran right up until he died.
J: That's what I heard.
R: Dr. [Albert Alexander] Murphree, that was president of the University, lived
one block from Howard's family, right down the street there.
R: That's John A. Murphree's daddy. He teaches English at the University and
was in my class in school. I just don't see how they could say the town
vs. gown animosity amounted to anything.
M: It's obviously not accurate for the '30s.