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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
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ABSTRACT A4C S 9
This is a "B" quality interview. Both the interviewee and the
interviewer were quite literate. However the interviewer,
Mr. on han, was a novice and he did not know how to draw
forth more information from M Donaldson.
From the tape, it is evident that both Mr. Donaldson and Mr.
Conahan were on friendly terms. The potential for an excellent
interview was prglentt. The cooperation of Mr. Donaldson was
evident, but Mr. Conahan failed to pose questions of dept.
There was some evidence of timidity on the part of Mr. Conahan
to delve deeper into many areas.
If the interviewer has been a professional talk show master
of ceremonies, this could have been an outstanding tape. The
facts concerning the life of a person reared in Florida,
who could have given us a very deep insight about life in
Gainesville over the past thirty five years would have been
This tape could have depicted life in Gainesville from 1946,
through desegregation, up to May of 1981. Mr. Donaldson was
here and could have told more about his life as a teacher
and band director at Gainesville High School.
Table of contents
I Birth and early life in Chicago. Divorce of parents.
II Origin of Mother. Mr. Donaldson's start on his musical
III Graduation from Stetson Iniversity. His start on a
wartime naval career.
IV Why no B.A. degree. Also length of naval service.
V Boot camp at Norfolk. Assignment to carrier USS Essex.
VI Duties aboard ship. His marriage. How Mrs. Donaldson
spent her war years.
VII Children and grandschild. Both children played for
VIII Length of service at Gainesville High School. His
short stay at Chipley, Florida.
IX -Mr. Ardwid Brown gets Mr. Donaldson to come to Gaines-
ville. Mr. Donaldson's early life in Gainesville.
X Minor exploration of segregation in Gainesveill.
This is William Conahan. Bardwell Donaldson has agreed to share
a partial history of his life with. We are at his home in Gaines-
ville, Florida. The date is Thursday, May 14, 1981.
C Thank you for your cooperation Bard.
C Would you start by telling what you remember of your early
D Well Bill, I was born in Chicago and I lived the first
ten years of my life in Chicago Heights, which is a -ah-
suburb of Ghicago proper. Ah- I can remember my father was a
doctor and my mother was a nurse, -but ah- her health was not
too good. And I can remember some of the things that I used to
do, when I was young. I was very much interested in -ah-
tobogganing, skating, in ice skating and things like that
-and ah- most of- I can't remember too much of any things
of any interest to anybody, until I really moved to Florida
C When of how did you come from Chicago,/for what reason?
D Well -ah- my mother and father separated. They got a divorce
-and ah- my mother had been down here to Florida before. So
in 1930 -ah- I had a brother and a sister, so the.three child-
ren, my mother moved to Florida -and ah- I spent my younger
years in Daytone Beach. My mother had some friends there, and
got started there and eventually bought some property there.
C You say your father was a doctor and your mother was a
D Yes -oh ah-
C Where did your father come from? Chicago proper itself?
D I'm not really sure whether where my father came from.
I really don't remember too much about him.
C You mean you lost contact MithLfamily?
D I kind of lost contact, because I, after we moved here I
didn't see him more than two (2) or three (3) times before his
his death, ah, oh some fifteen (15) or twenty (20) years ago.
C (mumble) And where did you mother originate, or from what
place did she come from?
D She was from Gothenburg, Nebraska.
C That sound like a good solid German name.
D Yeah, Swedish.
D- Yes, Swedish. Here maiden name was Anderson.
C Your mother supported you and yourbrother and sister
did you say?
C In Daytona, she worked as -ah- nurse?
D And I imagine, I am not sure, the same old story, you are
supposed to get, support from your father, but it seemed like
it was short, we never got too much, we were pretty close to
-ah- biting the bullet so to speak.
C Is your brother and your sister or both still living?
D No -ah- both my brother and sister -ah- died some years
C Why, or what, or how, what first interested you in music?
How did you get started in music?
D Well, when I was about -ah- sixteen (16) or seventeen (17)
we, my brother got into it really first. He started taking
trumpet lessons, I.guess, either trumpet or sax. I can't remem-
ber. Anyway the teacher used to come to our house to give my
brother lesson on his instrument. I thought well that is a
pretty nice thing to do. So a few months later I got interest-
ed in it. I was about a Junior in High School before I really
took to it, or got started on it. I got a saxophone and start-
ed taking lessons on it, from the the teacher that we knew
quite well. And from then on it was go-go-go.
C Evidently you had more than just a high school education.
D Oh, yeah.
C Where did you go to school?
D Well I graduated from high school in 1937. From Sea Breeze
High School in Daytona Beach. And then I went to Stetson
University which is in Deland. I got my bachelor of music
degree at Stetson University in 1941. And of course when,
like most everybody at that age, when you are young, twenty (20)
twenty one (21) years of age you don't know exactly what you
are going to do when you do graduate from college, but came the
time that I was going to have to find out how to direct my life,
I decide that I was going to become a band director and teach,
so that was what it was.
C Where was your first teaching job?
D My first teaching job was in Titusville, Florida, which is
just forty five (45) miles south of Daytona Beach. And I stayed
there a year, one school year, and then I stayed there two (2)
months of the following school year. In September of 1942, and
then I began to wave the flag. Of course, Pearl Harbor happened
during my first year of teaching, so come the following October
almost a year later. the draft was breathing down my neck, so I
decided to enlist, so I enlisted in the Navy. I went into the
Navy in November 1942.
C As an enlisted man or as a commissioned officer?
D -No, I went in as an enlisted man.
C Well, shouldn't you have recieved a commission or didn't
you apply for it.
D Well, I will tell you. When I got my degree in 1941, I did
not get my degree for the simple reason,,I lacked about ten (10)
hours of applied piano. In other words I had everything toward
my degree, except some courses in piano. When you go to Stetson
University and major in music, you are supposed to have about
three (3) years of piano before you even get there. Well I
never had any piano, so I just, there were about a year or so
of piano that I couldn't pass. So I had every thing taken care
of except the piano credits. Which I eventually got in 1946.
In 1946 we came back and the dean of the School of Music allowed,
there were about three (3) or four (4) of us all in the same
boat, and he allowed us to take applied music in instruments,
and I got my piano credits in trombone and baritone horn, and
got my degree. But I got a temporary certificate in 1941, from
the State Department of Education to -ah- teach, when I graduated
C ybu were teaching music?
C That bring you up to, you said you enlisted?
C In what branch of service?
D United States Navy.
C How long were you in?
D I was in three (3) years.
C -Do you want to sort of elaborate on that. Did you win any
medals for heroism or anything like that?
D We were (mumbles) After I finished boot camp at Norfolk
Navy Yard, I was assigned to a brand new aircraft carrier,
USS Essex. Now I had a friend of mine, who was a band director,
a navy band director at Portsmouth Navy Yard, and he tried to get
me transferredwhen I finished boot camp. Tried to get me trans-
ferred to the band at Portsmouth Navy Yard. Well they heard
about it at Norfolk. And instead of honoring the transfer, I
was placed in a band on the carrier Essex. And we went aboard
I guess in December, 1942, well right after the first of the
year in January, or February. The carrier had been just commiss-
ioned at that time. It was brand new, the crew was brand new,
the band was new. All the members of the band, were about in
the same boat I was. All raw recruits so to speak.
C On your life aboard ship, I mean did you just play music
or did you have other duties.?
D Well we spent about two and a half (2) years) years, two/
two and half (2-2) years out in the Pacific theatre. And -ah-
there were about twenty five/thirty (25/30) men in the band. If
we were not in a battle area, we were in a battle area practical-
ly all the time, but if we were not, in the exact battle area,
we would play with the concert band, we would play about a
thirty (30) minute concert, at noon on the hangar deck. Then if
we had movies in the evening, -ah- battle conditions permitting,
they would show movies on the hangar deck in the evening, the
dance band would play for thirty-forty (30/40) minutes before
the showing of the movie. So-ah, we also had other duties when
we were in the battle area and so forth. I was in damage control.
So that was my prime thing when, and of course the band, gener-
ally the band had pretty good treatment. We never had to stand
any watches. Which was good, if you are familiar with navy
life. If you are out on a ship, you are on watch four (4) hours
and off eight (8). Well the band was very lucky, although we
did get assigned to some work parties, which were not alto-
C Did you see much action when you are aboard ship.
D Ah yes, yes. We steamed over a million miles. I don't
know how many planes w6 were credited with. The ship recieved
the Presidential Unit Citation. I don't remember when, I guess
along about 1944, but at one time we stayed at sea for one whole
year, without anchoring or tieing up. We took on all supplies
from destroyers at sea, and it was quite a grind, but being young
it didn't bother me too much at the time.
C One question that arises in my mind is were you married at this
time, before you went into service?
D Yes I was married. Ah, I was married a year. At the end of
my first teaching year at Titusville. I met my wife down there
in Titusville. She just graduated from high school, and of
course I wasnot but about twenty-one (21) or twenty-two (22).
I met my wife there and we got married after school was out,
at the end of my first year of teaching down there.
C What did she do all the time you were gone?
D Ah, she went to Norfolk and while I was overseas she worked.
She lived in a rooming house. She had a job at the Norfolk
Shipbuilding & Drydock Company. Doing office work. Filing and
stuff like that.
C Did you have any children then or did the children come
D No, the children came later.
C How many children do you have?
D I have two. I have a boy and a girl.
C Do you have any grandchildren?
D Yes, I have one (1)grandchild. We have a granddaughter
from our son and his wife. And he is in the army and he lives,
he is stationed at, he is also a musician, he is stationed
with the band at Fort Hood, Texas. First (1st) Cav. Band. First
(1st) Cavalry Band.
C Did you daughter ever pursue any music?
D Oh yeah. My daughter played flute in my band, my ]igh
school band here in Gainesville ah- all through juniorLand
all through high school. But she never (mumble) I think she did
it just because I was in music. $Se enjoyed it, she enjoyed
the social aspect of the, you know, playing an instrument in the
group we had in the band. SheLnever, I don't think, really
gungho about pursuing it any, because the day she graduated she
sold her flute.
C You son, was he in one of your bands?
D Oh yeah, my son was in one of my, my band program at the
high school for about five or six years (5/6).
C Was he treated, ah say, like with favoritism, did you lean
overover backwards for him or the other way around?
D No. I didn't favor, I don't think either my daughter or my
son. In other words, I treated them just like I would any other
tkhd 6 f
kid in the band. And I think my daughter resented that imperson-
al attitude that I had towards her, when she did play in my band.
Now my son, being a boyZdidn't seem to mind.
C Well that would to me that would be the ideal way to do the
thing, and you don't have any resentment from the rest of the
D Well that's right. I don't think that anybody could have,
that anybody in the band could accuse me of showing favoritism.
But I think, being a yound lady, my daughter expected a more,
D -Personal, not lenient, but more personal, you know, from her
C How long did you teach at Gainesville?
D I taught for thirty (30) years at Gainesville High School.
I started in the fall of 1946 and retired in June 1976.
C Maybe I should have asked this question, I know I should
have asked it sooner. How did you4get to Gainesville. The
last time we were talking, you were in service. Where did you
D When I got,when I got dischared from the navy in 1945,
I called my principal, who was my boss in Titusville. He was
up in Northwest Florida at the time. I called from Washington,
where I was discharged from. I was at the Navy School of 7usic.
And ah I asked him were there any jobs open? I found out,
he let me knowthere was a job open in Northwest Florida in a
small town named Chipley. Chipley Florida. So I was discharged
on October 1, 1945 in Washington, went to Daytona, and made the
conversion to civilian, and reported on the job one week later
on October 8, 1945. Well I wasn't particully happy or gungho
about living in Northwest Florida. It was a small town which
I wasn't used to. The people were rather clannish. Oh I had
a few friends there, but anybody coming in to a small town
- you know you are not on the in. And when I was at a meeting
in Tallahassee, at a musical clinic or something like that,I met
Mr. Ardwid Brown, who. was band director of the University of
Florida at the time. And he asked me if I would be interested
in coming to Gainesville. Gainesville High School. Well it
never had a real band program at Gainesville High School before
I came, and I accepted the job and I went to work there in
C Were you happy all the time you were here at Gainesville
or was this like a job?
D What do you mean? Here on the this job? Oh, I enjoyed it.
I enjoyed my teaching.
C Was this like a vocation, musically?
D Yeah, oh yeah. I enjoyed teaching, a lot of excitement.
C I would like to ask you a question, that is a little bit
C Your finances. Say like in those years wasn't the teacher's
pay rather on the low side?
D Oh yeah. In fact my first ah salary, of course, the
cost of living in 1946 wasn't near what it is now. But, my
first contract at Gainesville High School was $2,500 for the
yearfor nine (9) or ten (10) months work, I can't remember, but
at the same time, we had what we called our eight (8) week
summer band program. And I got money for that, plus the fact
that I was a professional musician. I had a combo, and I used to
job week-ends. Ah duringmy younger years when I first came to
Gainesville, in fact all the way up into the mid 50's, when
the advent of rock and roll came along. But we used to work
all the night clubs, we worked the fraternity houses and stuff
like that, in my younger years here.
C Did you ever have any desire to teach over at the Univer-
D No, not particularly. I was happy where I was. I liked
my principals, and administrators and the county superinten-
dents, we had here in Alachua County. I was perfectly happy
and I had no, I owned property here and I had no desire to
move and take another job. Also I always figured this,tttat
teaching at the University, I would rather be a big pond or
C A big fish in a little pond
D a big fish in a little pool than a little fish in a big
pool. I don't know, I just liked it. I helped draw the, the
music building plans for the new Gainesville High School. The
present building they are in. I worked with the architect on
the music building plans. So, you know, I found a home so to
C If you started to teach in 1946 in Gainesville, that was in
the years of segregation?
D Oh, yes.
C What happened to the negro children?
D All the black children, see there weren't but, let me see,
there was Gainesville High School and P. K. Yonge Labratory
School and Lincoln High School. Now Lincoln High School, at
that time, see Lincoln High School was built at just about the
timethat the new Gainesville High School was built in the early
1950's. The first graduating class we had in the new build-
ing was in 1956. Well Lincoln was built, all the black child-
ren went to Lincoln and all the white kids went to Gainesville
High School or P. K. Yonge.
C Did they have the same deucational opportunities? Did
they have the band?
D Yes, they had the band there. Jerry Miller was there for a
good number of years. In fact Jerry was the black band director.
In fact was Jerry was a/good friend of mine. He died, here a
year of two ago. And before his death he was band director
at Howard Bishop Middle School When they closed Lincoln,
that is they made it a middle school or what ever over there,
that building, they transferred him to Howard Bishop Middle School.