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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewee: Mary Guiteras de Jacunski
Interviewer: Sherry Johnson
Date: March 26, 2002
SJ: Today is March 26, 2002. We are in St. Augustine, Florida. I am professor
Sherry Johnson with Florida International University and I am doing this interview
for the Samuel Proctor Oral History project for the University of Florida. I am
interviewing Mary Guiteras de Jacunski who will be speaking about her life in the
University of Florida and Key West and anything that she chooses to speak with
us about. [Mrs. Jacunski's son, Colonel George Jacunski, is also joining us.]
Good morning Mrs. Jacunski.
MJ: Good morning.
SJ: Where and when were you born?
MJ: I was born in Key West, Florida on March 13, 1915.
SJ: Tell me something about your family please.
MJ: My parents were Gregory M. Guiteras and Hortensia Aranguren de Guiteras.
SJ: Were they born in Key West also?
MJ: No, in Cuba. They met in Key West during the Spanish American War. My
mother's brother had been killed in the insurrection and the family fled Cuba.
His name was Nestor Aranguren. There's a street in Havana named for him. He
was quite a hero and that was the reason they had to leave Cuba. Mother's
family left Cuba for Key West because of his death.
SJ: That was during the ninety-five insurrection?
GJ: Yes. He died in the Plaza de Armas in Havana.
SJ: As part of the insurrectionists. So the family left Havana and they went to Key
MJ: My father was in charge of the Marine Hospital in Key West. He was a public
health service officer. They met there and were married in 1887.
SJ: Did they remain in Key West?
MJ: No they didn't. As a matter of fact, they were married quickly because he was
sent to New Orleans because of the yellow fever epidemic that was raging there.
So they spent the first six months of their married life in New Orleans. They
stayed at the St. Charles Hotel where mother learned to cook all the French
cooking they had in New Orleans, my mother was a great cook. They
subsequently were reassigned to Key West and their first child was born in Key
West, my brother Nestor.
SJ: Tell us anything you would like to tell us.
MJ: Nestor was the first child born in Key West and later during the American
intervention in Cuba, dad was sent to Cuba on a military assignment to be the
public health officer for the island of Cuba. They remained there for four or five
years. Two brothers and a sister were born in Matanzas, Cuba. Nestor was
born in 1898, Blanche was born in 1899, Johnny was born in 1900, and Hortense
was born in 1901.
SJ: Then they came back to Key West, is that correct? When did they return to the
U.S. They were in Havana, in Matanzas, when did they return to the U.S.
roughly, we don't have to have an exact date.
MJ: In 1905, they returned to the United States. My father was usually stationed in
the South because of his expertise with yellow fever.
SJ: Your father, your mother and your family were stationed in the South.
MJ: The first place they were was Vicksburg, Mississippi. At any rate, they returned
to Key West years later and were there when I was born in 1915, and we lived
there for about six years. I grew up in Key West until the age of eight. We were
then stationed in Galveston, Texas, and at that time my father was ready to
retire. He wanted to go to Cuba because although he'd been born there and
visited Cuba, he never actually lived there other than during the intervention.
The Guiteras family had a home in Matanzas and so he decided to go there and
SJ: Can we go back a little bit to your early years in Key West? Do you remember
anything about your childhood there in Key West?
MJ: Until age eight? Very little except that I went to the kindergarten at the
Immaculate Conception Convent School, and my eldest sister was my
kindergarten teacher. We walked from our house to the school everyday. My
parents had a horse and carriage.
SJ: Do you remember where you lived? Your house? Was it on the base?
MJ: It was right next to the hospital in what is now known as the Truman annex, and it
was built for my father to live in and it was the first poured concrete structure in
the city of Key West. That's where I was born. I have recollections of friends
during that time. The little girl next door, her father was the weather bureau
person, and the weather bureau complex was right next to the hospital and our
house. Her name was Rosalind Grooms and we had a wonderful time together.
There was also Junior Brown whose father was in charge of Fort Taylor. Junior
Brown would come over and play with us. That's my early recollection. Mostly
my memory is about the school, It was a wonderful school. It was built around
the 1800s. What a thing it was when they had occasion for grand gatherings or
anything, the school was able to open its doors between one classroom and the
other, and you could see from one end of the school to the other. It was
beautiful. None of this running around like today, it had huge doors that opened
up between the classrooms. It was wonderful.
SJ: The typical Caribbean architecture, yes.
MJ: Open on both sides.
SJ: Do you remember anything about your curriculum? What you were taught?
MJ: I remember I did very well.
SJ: One would expect that.
MJ: No, not really. My father was a great educator, and he was a wonderful help and
if I didn't know anything he knew it so I didn't have to look up anything. I'd just
say dad, what? And he would tell me, it was wonderful.
SJ: Let's say your family has a tradition of being great educators. You went to
Galveston and then you came back to Key West.
MJ: Yes, then Dad retired from Key West and went to Cuba, to Matanzas. My sisters
were all married by then and my brothers were gone so it was my eldest sister,
Blanche, mother, dad, and I who went to Cuba. I went one year to the school in
Matanzas. It was run by the Sisters of Charity. I was there for a year, and then
they sent me to Havana to the Sacred Heart Convent as a boarder.
SJ: How old were you then?
MJ: I guess I was about 14.
SJ: What were you taught there?
MJ: I learned French. But it was all in Spanish now, and I had to struggle along.
Although I spoke Spanish, some things were difficult. I don't remember any big
problems or anything. The nuns were very helpful and my schoolmates were
great. Anyway, the main thing was that I would go back to Matanzas for
weekends, and then there were many parties and mother and dad had to
chaperone me to everything. Dad, after all, was quite elderly by then and he
wasn't very happy about that. Mother loved it, I loved it, I had a wonderful time.
In those days, the party for the quince aios and the sixteen years, it was just
wonderful. Anyway, dad didn't take to chaperoning very much, so after about
three years, he decided that he had to do something about this. My brother
George, the youngest, was graduating from medical school at the University of
Pennsylvania, and dad said we all had to go up and see George graduate. And
so we did. My father had lived in Philadelphia during his early years, and he
decided he'd stay, and so he bought a house. In those days model houses were
just coming out on the market with everything in them, and dad bought one. So
we stayed there until he died.
SJ: In Philadelphia?
MJ: Yes, he died in 1934.
SJ: You graduated from high school in Philadelphia.
MJ: That's right.
SJ: Tell them about the trip, from Key West to Philadelphia. Who drove?
MJ: I did.
SJ: You did?
MJ: My father and mother did not drive. While we were in Key West, he had a
chauffeur, but when we came from Cuba there was no chauffeur, so I drove at
the age of, I guess I was fifteen. I had no driver's license.
SJ: From Key West to Philadelphia! Did you have a car?
MJ: Yes, we had a car -
SJ: In Cuba.
MJ: It came over on the boat. I was the principal driver, mother and dad never drove.
SJ: Did you learn to drive in Cuba?
MJ: No, I learned to drive in Key West when my eldest sister was learning to drive,
and I would ride with them. I could see what they were doing. When I was about
nine, I guess, I drove the car out of the garage and father and mother stood on
the porch. So I was driving more or less, not right then, but by the time I was
SJ: It was a just a normal day's drive.
MJ: We drove right up US-1.
SJ: All the way to Philadelphia.
MJ: We stopped at St. Augustine, see the beach. Every time we could get near the
water I'd want to stop and go out to the beach. It was wonderful. Anyway, we
got to Philadelphia.
GJ: There's a parenthesis at this point. Tell her what happened to your house in Key
GJ: It was the summer White House, wasn't it?
MJ: Oh yes.
SJ: It wound up being the summer White House. Truman's?
MJ: It wasn't Truman, it was Eisenhower. Eisenhower stayed in our house where I
was born every time he went to Key West. It's on the postcards that Dwight D.
Eisenhower lived here.
SJ: So it's where you enter the base there?
MJ: It's next door to the base. The Truman house was on the navy base, then there
was the weather station, and then our house right on the water.
SJ: Let's go back to after you graduated from high school in Philadelphia. What did
you do then?
MJ: Mother insisted on going back to Cuba. As a matter of fact, mother, my sister
Blanche, and I returned to Cuba to set up housekeeping there, and then from
there we kept coming up to Washington and West Point because I had sisters
who lived there and mother had to come up and visit them. So we spent our time
mostly traveling back and forth between Cuba and the United States. My brother
graduated from West Point in 1920 and my sister married a classmate of his,
Charlie West. He graduated in 1920 as well and married my sister-
SJ: So I think we're leading up to how you met your husband.
MJ: That's right. I was visiting my sister whose husband was by then a professor of
law at West Point, and I met many in the class of 1938, but I finally married Jack
Jacunski, class of 1938.
GJ: Where did you stay during the week?
MJ: I would go down to New York to Governor's Island and Bedloe's Island. My
brother George who graduated from Pennsylvania was now stationed at
Governor's Island, but lived at Bedloe's Island which is the Statue of Liberty
Island. I would go down there during the week and enjoyed going around New
SJ: Was your brother in the public health service in Bedloe's Island?
MJ: No, he was military, Army Medical Corps. It was a wonderful life I must say.
GJ: I want to say one thing here that needs to be remembered is that the first
anniversary of the Statue of Liberty, we just had one relatively recently during the
Reagan administration, but fifty years before that they had a celebration and
Roosevelt as part of the celebration came to Bedloe's Island to visit the Statue of
Liberty. He, of course, was incapacitated, but in preparation for his visit, they
painted one side of all the houses at Bedloe's Island, which was the side that he
would see as he went from the dock to the Statue of Liberty. My aunt recounted
that story where they all had to paint -
SJ: One side of their houses. Back in the days when those who were given base
quarters had to paint their own houses?
MJ: No, they were painted for them, but they didn't paint the whole house, they just
painted the front of the house that was going to be seen. That was very
GJ: You used to row around in New York harbor, right?
MJ: I used to rowboat in New York Harbor from Bedloe's, get out there and row, and I
was a great sun lover and I would lay down in the boat and once I was out there I
heard this boo-ooh [fog horn noise], big fog horn, and it was a ship that was right
there and I was in its way. It was lots of fun really, I enjoyed it. I did the same
thing in Panama Canal.
SJ: Tell me about meeting and marrying your husband, Jack Jacunski.
MJ: I actually met him on the train going from New York to West Point after one of the
games. I knew who he was because he was art editor of the Pointer magazine. I
thought he was very interesting, and so I got up conversation going. I told him I
was interested in doing something for the Fems Pointer [an issue done by
cadets' female dates], they had a Fems Pointer once a year. He said he'd help
me and do that. From there on, it just went and that was in the Fall, and we were
married the following June, two days after graduation.
SJ: June of 19-?
MJ: -38. We were married at the Catholic Chapel there. He had three months leave
before having to report to his first station, and he insisted he wanted to work and
make some money because of course in those days, second lieutenants didn't
make a lot of money. I said no, no, we can't do that. We have to go to Cuba.
We went down all the way to Key West.
SJ: Did you drive this time?
MJ: I was driving as a matter of fact. Just as we got into Florida and in Callahan, we
got stopped for speeding. We got a ticket that required that we had to come
back in two or three weeks [for the] ticket. I said, "Oh my God, what am I going
to do." So then, I said, "I'm going to call dad's friend in Jacksonville." So I called
Mr. Saunders who was the president of the P & O line, that went from Key West
and Miami to Cuba. He said that's alright little girl, don't worry about it. I've got
two tickets for you down there in Key West, you'll be ready to go. I'll send my
lawyer's son to the hearing so that you don't have to be there. So we went to
Cuba and we spent about a month and had a grand time in mother's house.
Mother was not there, she had been at the wedding and hadn't come back yet.
My voice is petering out.
SJ: We want to put this in University collection so we want to know about your life.
MJ: I'll stop before that. Then we'll do it again. After being in Cuba, we drove out to
San Antonio, Texas where Jack was to be flight student there and that was in
September. The following April as a test pilot, he crashed and was in the
hospital for two and a half years, he almost lost both legs but he didn't. That was
a terrible time, but we weathered through it. They said he'd never walk again
and I said he would. I just about made him walk.
SJ: Doctor's daughter.
MJ: It was really something. So then, that was April 1939. In 1940, he was able to
get up on crutches and what have you, and was ordered back to West Point to
teach engineering. He still was on crutches and he'd go to class on crutches and
put the crutches behind the door so the cadets wouldn't see them. So he taught
for four years there. Then, when we finally parted with West Point, we went to
Gainesville, Florida. First to St. Augustine and then to Gainesville.
SJ: That was what year?
GJ: 1947. We left after WWII. My father was medically retired after the war. We
moved to St. Augustine two blocks away from here on Tremerton Street
MJ: And we lived in St. Augustine right here on Tremerton Street, one block away
from the hospital.
[End side Al]
SJ: Today is Tuesday, April 2. I am professor Sherry Johnson of Florida
International University. I am in St. Augustine, Florida and I am conducting an
interview with Dora Maria Guiteras de Jacunski in her home on Marine Street.
Also, present is her son Colonel George Jacunski who will be answering
questions also. We would like to pick up where we left off the other day, the
previous Tuesday, and Dora Maria will be speaking about her family and some
of her relatives from the old timers, as she says, from Cuba. Dora Maria?
MJ: We'll start with my great grandfather who was born in 1775 and came to Cuba as
a young man and evolved into a very good businessman and established himself
in Matanzas, Cuba.
SJ: What was his name?
MJ: His name was Ram6n Guiteras. After he was established in Matanzas, his main
business was growing coffee and had other interests as well, he went back to
Canete de Mar, his birth place, where he married his fiancee [Gertrudis Font],
and they then returned to Cuba and made a permanent home in Matanzas,
Cuba. They had seven children: the eldest was Ramon; the next one was Juan,
who died at birth; Pedro Jose, very able-
SJ: Anyone who knows Cuban history will recognize the name Pedro Jose Guiteras.
MJ: Right. Then there was Antonio; Gertrudes was the only girl, so they had six boys
and one girl; and my grandfather, Eusebio, who was the youngest of the seven
was born in 1823. They grew up and they were all well-educated there in
Matanzas. When they reached the ages of about eighteen to twenty, the older
Ramon sent Eusebio and Antonio on a trip to become educated about the world
and to bring back information so that they could educate other people in Cuba.
They went on this trip in 1843 from Matanzas, not Havana, they went out of
Matanzas in a sailing ship and passed along the coast of the United States and
to New York City where he began his diary of everything that they did on these
long worldwide trips. [Eusebio, my grandfather] describes the streets of New
York, the cobblestones, everything. He also describes going up the Hudson
River, past West Point to Canada. They went to Canada, they came back, went
to Boston and spent time there, and then went on to Europe, Spain first. Then
they both went to the Sorbonne for a few courses before going on to their trips to
Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt and so forth. He describes everything in minute
detail and these are the books that we are interested in, that we are donating to
UF and trying to get them copied or published My grandfather had seven
children. The youngest was my father and you know his story. So there you are.
Do I have to say more?
SJ: No ma'am. Whatever you feel is best.
MJ: Oh, well, let me say one thing. My grandfather, when he came back, he and his
brother founded a school called La Empresa in Matanzas at which many of the
famous people in Cuba studied. He also founded the Liceo, which is a literary
club in Matanzas. And he of course wrote many books and wrote the reading
books for the children of Cuba, which they used in South America as well.
Matanzas, by the way, is known as the "Athens of Cuba."
SJ: The equivalent of the first grade primers.
MJ: There were four of them, they went by grades, four, six, I forget which. Anyway,
in 1861, he was given a gold medal for his "Romance Cubano" which was one of
his many poems. That's what I wanted to show you as a matter of fact, this is the
gold medal he won in 1861. Doesn't it say primer premio?
SJ: De Matanzas. It says on the back.
MJ: And they didn't put his name on the back.
SJ: Juegos Forales del anfo del 1861. It says primer premio. And this is solid gold.
MJ: Anyway, that's that. Of course the books, if you ever get to read them or go
through them you will see here about his whole....
SJ: About Eusebio. The diaries especially mention when he is in upstate New York
how he's noticing the system of education and how he was impressed by that
and then came back of course to Cuba and founded the Empresa.
GJ: This place still exists, the Liceo. We were there a few years ago.
SJ: It's very famous, yes. Your grandfather was exiled, was he not?
MJ: Actually, he was in prison in the Morro castle for about two years because of his
liberal ideas, and he wasn't actually exiled, but he did leave Cuba.
SJ: He chose to leave, in the 1860s wasn't it?
MJ: Right, and he went to Philadelphia to live.
SJ; That's what I believed. He and many of his peers, compadres, were part of the
group that chose to leave. It was right after the liberalization, the early 1860s
MJ: No, I think it was after the 1860s. He won that medal in 1860, it must have been
SJ: Exactly. What did he do in Philadelphia the second time?
MJ: He was a man of wealth and letters. He translated the Bible for one thing ... and
the Iliad. He kept in touch, he wrote articles. He didn't have a job as such.
SJ: Once an intellectual, always an intellectual.
GJ: Was Varela in New York at that time? [Father Felix Varela, Catholic priest, exiled
in 1823 for his liberal, anti-Spanish, anti-colonial stance. A renowned writer and
educator among the pantheon of Cuban national heroes, he is often referred to
as "the man who taught Cubans to think." He is also honored in Cuba, the United
States and elsewhere for his liberal social thinking.]
GJ: So he and Varela were friends?
MJ: Oh yes. As a matter of fact, he took his eldest daughter to New York for Varela
to baptize. I have the baptismal certificate written by Varela.
SJ: Can you tell us anything more about that? That's very interesting.
MJ: It's handwritten by Felix Varela and it is certified by the counselor of Spain as
SJ: That was the Spanish consul in New York?
GJ: Where was Marti at this time? [Jose Marti, writer, journalist, exile and foremost
proponent of Cuban independence. In 1892 founded the Cuban Revolutionary
Party in Key West, dedicated to freeing Cuba from Spanish rule.]
SJ: He wasn't born until 1853?
MJ: He was born later than Eusebio and also Varela. I think Varela, he was a great
influence on Marti.
SJ: Marti was born the same year that Padre Varela died here in St. Augustine. I
think Padre Varela died. Jose Marti was born in January [of] 1853, but he died
May 20. So Marti would not have known Varela, but he knew, of course of his
writings. He was very prolific.
SJ: What we'd like are your impressions, anything you want to tell us about your
family or about your grandfather more than you told us?
MJ: What year was he born?
GJ: 1863, so he wasn't in Philly very long.
MJ: That was it, he must have moved to Philadelphia after dad was born. Dad grew
up in Philadelphia, he was a baby when he went there.
SJ: That would make sense because the early 1860s were a time of very liberal
politics and yet all of a sudden after 1866, there was a coup in Spain and that
meant that a conservative regime took over and of course it made things in Cuba
very difficult for liberals, uncomfortable, dangerous. When he was in
Philadelphia, any time during this period, obviously he was in touch with Varela.
Were there a group of intellectuals who maintained contact through this time?
MJ: Oh yes. My grandfather was a great friend of Longfellow's and all the other
GJ: He wrote everybody, all his contemporaries who were famous, to determine what
was the most accurate biography or autobiography of their lives so he could
utilize this in the school system down in Cuba. So he started letter writing
between all these people and some of the letters were quite amusing.
SJ: Where are these letters, do you have them? [GJ nods in affirmation.]
GJ: It's like Horace Greeley writes back and says there isn't any book written about
me, nobody would want them. Some of them would write back and say the most
accurate book is X, which I think would be very valuable to academicians to know
which Longfellow felt that this was the most accurate.
MJ: Anyway, we had letters of Longfellow's inviting my grandfather and my
grandmother to tea in Boston.
SJ: Would it be accurate to say that Cuban intellectuals were not only in contact, but
were very good friends and colleagues with North American intellectuals and vice
versa? They maintained a literary circle or an intellectual circle.
MJ: They were always writing. They wrote copious letters. I think that was his main
thing during that time in Philadelphia was getting in touch with all these people.
SJ: Because you know, we know absolutely nothing about the earlier exile
communities. Cubans who leave before 1868, everybody always says prior to
the Ten Years War, there were very few Cubans who left the island, but that's not
true. There were Cubans in Key West as early as 1851 and protesting Narciso
Lopez's execution. Reconstructing all of that would be very, very important.
MJ: Of course he wrote to many Cubans in Cuba. He kept in touch with all that was
GJ: You know Key West at one point was the second largest city in America so I'm
sure there were a lot of Cubans there at that time for economic reasons if no
SJ: What else could you or would like to tell me about Philadelphia, about after your
grandfather [arrived there]? Do you remember where they lived?
MJ: In West Philadelphia. I know the address, but I don't have it in my memory.
There was a lot of family there because Antonio, his brother, had thirteen
children and they all lived in Philadelphia. Antonio absconded and never came
back so those thirteen children were raised by Eusebio, my grandfather, as well
as his own seven, although out of the seven, only three lived.
SJ: He obviously maintained contact. Was he able to earn income from the family
lands in Matanzas?
MJ: No. His father had made such money that his children had unlimited funds. As
Gertrudes Guiteras in her book that she had produced for her brother, she said
her father had unlimited funds, so he was able to sustain himself as a gentleman
in all his pursuits.
GJ: Her brother, interestingly enough, at least according to the Internet, was one of
only two people who beat John L. Sullivan in boxing.
SJ: Which brother was that?
GJ: That was another Ramon Guiteras.
M.J. That was Ram6n Guiteras.
MJ: The son of Ramon and Gertrudes Wardwell.
GJ: And he went to Harvard and became a doctor and the big prize in urology is
named after him. He and another guy back in that period, canoeing was
supposed to be a big health thing and so there's a series of papers written by this
fellow with him and Dr. Guiteras canoeing down the Delaware, canoeing down
the various rivers and promoting the -
MJ: He went to Africa with Teddy Roosevelt on a Safari.
MJ: That was Eusebio's nephew.
SJ: I ask because as I said, we don't know anything about the early exiles. We know
a very little bit about Key West with the Centro de San Carlos and there is
correspondence about that.
MJ: I tell you, if you ever saw these letters, they would tell you all that you want to
know because he has letters from I mean I kind of recognize the names
because I've heard them in Cuba and so forth, but anybody like you would
recognize these names.
SJ: We'll finish this project, we'll start working on the diary, and then you can show
me if you'd like the letters. Because I will be writing the background chapter, I
will be writing the chapter on your family. So that's why this is so important.
MJ: Name some of those people of that time and then I could tell you.
SJ: For example, there was the Del Monte group who were all Varela's students
when Varela was exiled. Domingo del Monte, Miguel Aldama, Jose Antonio
MJ: Saco. Yes he was one of the ones that is in that group and I just can't say the
names because I've forgotten them all. I'm not that up with Cuban history to be
able to name them like that.
SJ: After I start writing the background chapter, if you don't mind to let me look at
them I would like to very much. How is your voice feeling?
MJ: I'm okay, let's go on.
SJ: Would you like to continue talking about your family or would you like to talk
about maybe where we left off talking about your husband and teaching at West
Point, and you never did tell us how you came to come to Gainesville.
MJ: After we left West Point, we lived briefly in St. Augustine. Later my husband
received a graduate degree from the University of Florida, and he was given a
position there teaching engineering in the engineering department. During that
time, it was just after the war when all of the G. .s were coming back and it was
quite something. After he had been at West Point with the cadets all spit and
polish, and he now had boys coming into his classes barefooted and with their
GJ: Where did you go after West Point?
MJ: We came to St. Augustine.
GJ: You came to St. Augustine, that's important, that's interesting. He went to
Gainesville to go to the university and get a graduate degree in engineering and
he taught art while he was going to school in the art department because he was
an amateur artist.
GJ: When he graduated from the University of Florida then he went right into
SJ: That happened quite frequently. When a university, especially a southern
university and a land grant university like UF, found somebody who was talented,
they never let them go. They kept them and made sure that they stayed.
MJ: We came to Gainesville in 1947.
SJ: What was it like?
MJ: Gainesville was a small town. The highlight of the week was walking around the
Courthouse Square. Jan, my youngest daughter, was a baby. She was born in
November, and so I was very busy. We stayed at the Arlington hotel until we
found a place to stay, which wasn't easy because there were no rentals in
Gainesville at the time. Finally the university took over what was called Stengel
field (then an outfield, now Butler Plaza), and they rented these houses to the
university faculty. That's where I met all the other people from the university who
were not engineers, they were in all other pursuits.
SJ: What was your house like?
MJ: At Stengel field? It was a three bedroom, cinder block, no heating. We had to
use space heaters. The place was awash with mud. No yards or anything, just
mud. So much so that we would keep a bucket of water at the front door so you
could wash your feet before coming into the house. Our next door neighbor
Malcolm McCloud, he was a professor in the English department, very precise
young person, and he would come out every morning from his house with a load
of newspapers over his arm and put down the newspapers so he could step on
them and not get his feet muddy to get to his car.
SJ: Were there activities for the faculty?
MJ: Oh yes, they started right away. The engineering department had a group and I
remember especially the military had itself a military ball and we went.
SJ: Your husband was the ROTC, was he not the ROTC?
MJ: No, but as retired military we were invited to the military ball. They said all
people who have been in the military should wear their uniforms.
SJ: Should or must?
MJ: They were asked to wear them, not must. Jack didn't want to wear his, he
thought he would wear a tux, but when we got the tux out it had been eaten by
moths and it was not ready to wear, but his uniform was. So he was very
reluctant and as we sat there with the president and his wife -
SJ: Who was president at the time?
MJ: President Tigert. Anyway, we were sitting there and I was telling her this story. I
pointed to my husband, who was in his formal blue uniform, and she looked at
him and said, "Oh, that must be the Polish army uniform." She remembered the
name being Jacunski, said that must be the Polish army uniform because she
had never seen blues before in her life, and I just about cracked up. That was a
funny story. She was so elegant and so precise in everything. And I said, "No,
it's the United States uniform blues."
SJ: That's funny.
MJ: Anyway, we made great friends with so many people. The Strikers were there
and he was in the English department, David Striker. The artist Bob Carson, the
Carsons were there at Stengel field. Helen and John Young.
GJ: The Proctors.
SJ: Sam and Bessie?
GJ: Carlos Proctor.
MJ: He wasn't at the university. The Proctor that you know [Samuel], he was there.
He wasn't at Stengel field but I think he was at the university.
SJ: Exactly. His situation was similar to your husband in that he was completing his
degree as he was teaching at the same time. That's why I mentioned that when
they found a good person they kept them. What about putting your children in
MJ: That was very easy. George went to kindergarten. Jan was born in 1946, so Jan
was three and you just started kindergarten.
GJ: We moved from Stengel field to Newberry Road.
MJ: Yes, that was the first time we were able to get a house.
GJ: We were the last house in Gainesville.
MJ: The last house on Newberry Road in Gainesville. Then there was a country club
and George went to kindergarten there [at] JJ Finley.
SJ: Were you horrified with the school system or did you find it interesting?
MJ: No I thought it was wonderful. He had the best kindergarten teacher, he loved
her, and she was very good. JJ Finley was a very good school at the time.
GJ: On my dad: during the Korean War, they called up replacements to teach at
MJ: My husband was one of those called back.
GJ: So he came back and he took his entire department with him up from Florida to
West Point. So we were at West Point for three years with all these people from
the University of Florida, some of whom stayed in the army after the war. My
father returned to Gainesville. I took his course at the University of Florida, but
when we left West Point, we went through and he took copies of every exam
that he gave at West Point, and he took them down to Florida. So I took the
course at Florida, and I think I got an A in it, but when I went to West Point I took
it again and all the exams were exactly the same so I finished number one in the
class. When we moved to New York, they wanted to put me back a grade
because the schools weren't as good down in Florida as they were in New York.
My father refused to allow them to do that and I muddled through, but when we
went back down to Gainesville, they wanted me to skip ahead a grade because I
was so far ahead having gone to school in New York for three years. Again, he
refused so I finished up right on time.
SJ: That's interesting. A similar thing was my experience when my parents moved
so I sympathize, wanting to put me back a grade. They didn't either. So you
were here, obviously you were in Gainesville for a very long time. It's changed
quite a bit.
MJ: It certainly has. Very much so as you know. It's grown. When we moved there
in 1947 to Newberry Road there was no 34th Street and nothing beyond and now
it's 75th [Street] and beyond, so that's how it's grown. We had 14,000 students
when we went there, now how many are there?
SJ: 36,000 undergraduates and about [8,000] or 9,000 graduate students.
MJ: The university too has grown. I think now haven't they said they're going to put a
cap on the number of freshman coming?
SJ: That's what I heard also. That they're going to let the satellite universities take
the lower division.
GJ: Mother would go riding across the street from our house.
MJ: Oh yes.
SJ: So you could keep a horse [in town] then?
MJ: I didn't keep a horse. I rode the horse of the family across the street.
GJ: It was a farm across the street.
MJ: It was a family that had the barn, what was his name -
MJ: The Black family owned a lot of property there and they had a barn. So as long
as we fed the horses we could ride them, and we had a wonderful time. Then of
course the golf course was right there. My husband and I played golf and taught
all the kids to play and we all would go out on a Sunday, five of us and the dog,
which wouldn't be allowed of course today. I must say it was a wonderful life.
GJ: Down where I'd say about 30th Street is today and where it crosses University
Avenue was an old dirt track where used to go where there would be quarter
horse racing, and everybody would go and bet. Also across the street down in
the woods was a cock fighting ring.
SJ: And all the kids knew about it?
GJ: My daddy took me then.
MJ: I don't know about that.
GJ: This was right across the street from where the university golf course is.
MJ: I think more interesting than that is where you used to go to the movies. Where
did you children go to the movies.
GJ: The State Theater?
MJ: No, the little black theater.
GJ: Oh, the Rose Theater. A friend of ours owned [it] Mr. "Rabbit" Robins?. We
would go down to the theater because we could go for free and they had a little
section in the center with a little cord around it for the family and their guests to
sit in the theater and watch the movie, because of course the movie theaters
were segregated in those days.
SJ: Do you remember much about the years of desegregation? Did any of that touch
you or do you remember anything about the late 1950s, early 1960s?
MJ: Just what I read in the papers.
SJ: The protests or anythingg?
MJ: No, I can't say that I do. Maybe I've forgotten about it, but I really don't
remember anything about that.
SJ: Do you have any other raising a family or -
MJ: I used to go to Cuba every summer. I'd take the kids, my husband didn't go. We
would spend two or three months in the summer in Matanzas.
SJ: How would you get there?
MJ: By boat. From Miami usually. The boats stopped going from Key West.
SJ: So you'd get from Gainesville to Miami by driving? Did you drive?
MJ: Yes. So those summers were very nice and we always had manejadora. She
took care of the children.
GJ: We'd come to St. Augustine.
MJ: Oh yes we did. We'd come to St. Augustine to the beach all the time, when we
weren't in Cuba. I'm running out of thoughts.
SJ: That's fine. Are you feeling okay? We can stop right there. We've been going a
long time today.
MJ: I would like to mention some of our neighbors there in Golf View, we lived in Golf
View in three different houses. Judge Murphree, John A. Murphree lived two
doors down and our other very good friends were the editor of the Gainesville
Sun, Bill Pepper and Katherine Pepper was a good friend and she and I played
golf together. There were so many people.
GJ: The Edelsteins.
MJ: The Edelsteins lived in Golf View too. Of course they always kept changing. It's
too many years to remember it all. I'm sure there are things that I will remember
that I wish I had said.
SJ: Thank you very much Dora Maria and we're going to end the tape right now and
express our very sincere thanks to you and to your son Colonel George
[End of the interview]