Interviewee: F.E. Welch
Interviewer: Gus Washington, Jr.
Date: June 17, 2005
Wa: You say your name is F.E. Welch, right?
Wa: I'm having you do this as the principal. You were a principal at Ogden, right?
We: Yeah, Ogden.
Wa: How were you hired out there?
We: Yeah, through Howard Bishop.
Wa: Through Howard Bishop?
We: Howard Bishop who was superintendent.
Wa: He was the superintendent at the time?
We: Howard Bishop was the superintendent at the time.
Wa: Did he ever bill you?
Wa: He did?
We: Yeah, he did. He was the all-principal and sometime teacher.
Wa: When did you know that you were hired, that they accepted you?
We: I was hired as a teaching principal.
Wa: As a teaching principal at that time?
We: At that school.
Wa: A teaching principal.
We: You were there with three people. That was F.E. Welch and two other women.
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Wa: Okay. Did they give you a good, clear job description. Did they tell you what
was expected of you?
We: Oh, yeah.
Wa: How long was the school term? When did it start?
We: School started in August during that time.
Wa: It closed when?
We: School, I think, ended in April.
Wa: April. You think it started in August and closed in April?
We: People were digging potatoes and picking weeds and all that stuff, and they
needed those kids.
Wa: You've answered the next question. That was a farming area?
We: That's a farming area.
Wa: Did the farming take precedent over the school?
We: Over the school, that's right. School had to be closed so that those kids could
work on the farm.
Wa: How did the parents out there view our education?
We: Very well. The parents supported me [and the] Teacher's Association. Arthur
Jones, Lee Washington, and Jackson. They all supported the school. That
school was interested in those children getting an education, learning to read and
write. Some of those kids had to finish their high school year at other schools,
some of them went to college.
Wa: Do you remember what your starting salary was approximately?
We: It was fifty-five dollars.
Wa: Per month?
We: Per month.
Wa: How did your salary compare with what other people were making around you in
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Wa: No, not teachers. Non-teachers. Did your salary compare with non-teachers?
We: With what those farmers were making?
We: I'm afraid I can't answer that.
Wa: You didn't know what the farmers were making?
We: I didn't know what they were making.
[Interruption in tape]
Wa: We are going to continue on. Mr. Welch, the next question, did the Negroes in
the community and the whites in the community respect you in your position?
We: Oh, yeah.
Wa: They did?
We: They lived right across from the school. The old lady's dead now.
Wa: A white lady?
Wa: The Emersons.
We: Emersons. Those people had a whole lot of respect for me. I recall, I was
practicing with my kid's basketball. I went up to retrieve the ball and came down
and sprained my ankle. I believe it was his wife. She came over with some first
aid stuff over to the school and fixed my ankle up. I had a good relationship with
white and black.
Wa: What were some of your major discipline problems?
We: No, I didn't have any discipline problems. I had the support of the parents.
Whatever I said, they accepted. I never let those people see me do anything
wrong like drinking, and I went to church out there. They used to meet me on
Monday afternoon with chicken, pigs, and pie.
Wa: Did you ever know a school out there before Ogden?
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We: Yeah. They had one out there. That little settlement up
Wa: Sugar Hill?
We: Sugar Hill. Yeah, they had a school up in Sugar Hill. I was told it was there.
Wa: But you never worked up there?
We: No, I never worked up there. I always worked at Ogden.
Wa: You don't know who started this school, do you?
We: No, not exactly. I know Lem Jones.
Wa: You already said you don't know what year it began?
We: No, I don't.
Wa: But you were there in 19-when?
We: I was there in 1939.
Wa: 1939. You don't know who the teachers were when you went there?
We: When I was there?
Wa: Yeah, when you went there.
We: She was Louise Haves. I tried to think of that lady's name. She's from
Jacksonville. She's a brown-skinned lady. She lived with Lem Jones.
Okay. Louise Hayes and some other lady.
Of course, you were the principal at that time?
At that time. I was the teaching principal.
Approximately how many students do you think were out at Ogden?
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We: Seventy-five. That was a lot of students then. I think we had sixty or
seventy-five. I believe. Wait a minute. At that time, a teacher had thirty or
Wa: There were different teachers for the different classes.
We: Yeah. Different classes. I thought you were going to ask something about the
structure that we had.
Wa: I may get to that. What were the highest grades?
We: Eighth. Eighth grade was the highest grade.
Wa: How many grades were in one room?
We: There were two grades in each room.
We: About two grades.
Wa: Therefore, with one student teacher, one teacher would teach more than one
We: One teacher taught reading, mathematics, English, [and] history. One teacher
would teach all of that in that particular classroom.
Wa: Do you remember anything like a PTA? You know we had a PTA later? Parent
We: Parent Teacher Association. I had one everywhere I went.
Wa: Okay. So there was a Parent Teacher [Association]. Did you all call it that?
We: What did we call it? We didn't call it Parent Teacher Association.
Wa: You didn't?
We: No. Parent Teacher, as far as I remember.
Wa: My next question; can you think of any one thing that stands out, anything
happen like that that stands out as a principal?
We: While I was out there, that school was a big one-room school. Howard Bishop
said to me, of course, I started complaining about it being a one-room school and
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we had three teachers out there. He said to me, if I could turn it around so it
wasn't facing the highway and road, cause I complained to him about that. He
said, if you have it turned around and partitioned, he would pay for it. I got Lem
Jones, Arthur Jones, Jackson, and we did.
I told them what the superintendent told me. If I could turn that building
around and get some partitions up, the county would pay for it. Lem Jones and
Arthur Jones told me they would turn it around. They wouldn't say that they
could partition it off. I would have to get a carpenter. I had a carpenter.
Wa: You got the carpenter.
We: I had a carpenter come out there and partition that little room into three rooms.
Wa: They had three rooms?
We: Yes sir. We partitioned it off. That was a big deal.
Wa: On the textbooks, you had pretty good textbooks?
We: We had used books. We had the books that we used, were the books that the
white children had already used, and then they let us have them. I'm glad you
asked that. The blacks used second-hand books. The books we used came
from the books the white children used after they had gotten new books. The
whites got new books and the blacks got the second-hand books.
Wa: They wanted to know if you had any labs, too.
We: Yeah, we had lamps. Kerosene lamps.
Wa: No, not lamps. Labs. Like lab classes. Like you go to the university and you
have a lab class and you go and experiment.
We: Oh, no.
Wa: They didn't do that, did they?
Wa: But you had kerosene lamps?
We: Yeah. We had kerosene lamps out there for a while. It's an old thing I had
done before. As I said, I had to partition off the class. After it was partitioned I
had it wired for lights. We used to have entertainment with the school plays.
My older sister wanted to know when we were having our school play. She
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would come up.
Wa: Evaluate the quality of the students.
We: I can recall that Odessa's sister.
Wa: Odessa White.
We: Odessa White's sister.
Wa: That was my aunt. Odessa White was my aunt at one time. She was married
to my uncle.
We: She went to school out there.
We: I remember her. Let me tell you about these students.
Wa: Vivilori and Lois.
We: Vivilori. I'm trying to pull out some of those kids I actually taught. They were
exceptional. They were C+ or B average students.
Wa: So you had pretty good students?
Wa: What extracurricular activities did you have? Did they have other extracurricular
activities going on out there like P.E. and things like that?
We: We had P.E. We didn't have any night classes.
Wa: No night classes?
We: No night classes and nothing else was going on.
Wa: Did they have a class period like one class lasted so many hours or so many
minutes or something?
We: No. We had to take-in at eight o' clock. We had a recess at ten or ten-thirty.
We had lunch at twelve. Then they were out of school at three o' clock.
Wa: Okay. If you had students that fell behind, did you have any type of remedial
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Wa: Special help during the day?
We: Yep, during the day.
Wa: For those that fell behind.
We: Those students who fell behind.
Wa: No summer school or nothing like that?
We: No. I don't think they had too much summer schools during that time anyplace.
Wa: No, they didn't. Of the students that you know that you taught at those schools
that they went to high school, did you notice that they did okay in high school?
We: All of them. Let me see, they were average.
Wa: You would say they were pretty well prepared when they left?
We: That's right. Some of those kids, they finished high school and they went to
college. About three of them got into the teaching profession.
Wa: In your opinion, why did those schools like that close?
We: I would say it was finance I think. They [were not] getting the finances from the
state or from the college, those rural schools. Therefore, they closed a number
of those rural schools.
Wa: So you think it was money?
We: I think it was finance, yeah, money.
Wa: Okay. This next question is what is your reaction to the closing?
We: So far, my reaction to the closing is I thought that a school in those outlying
areas, it was more profitable for those kids and their parents to keep those kids in
school in that area rather than try to support transporting them [into] high
schools. Some of those kids walked. That was one of my gripes. I didn't think
they should have those kids walking from three to four miles to any school.
[Those kids used to walk from Lake Walk into Benson]. They used to walk from
there [to] old ACTC [Alachua County Training school]. You said you walked
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Wa: I walked about three miles.
We: About three miles. See, that was my gripe. I thought that they should have
financed those schools. I thought they should have partitioned those schools,
somehow partition the building so those kids could remain out there. To me, it
was a disadvantage to the parent and the student.
Wa: Did you have any relationship with the school board at the time? Any clout, any
We: Any pull?
We: I [would talk with] the superintendent about the school.
Wa: You would?
We: I have done that. I did it. I talked to the superintendent.
Wa: Do you think Ogden school was any different from any of the other outlying area
Wa: Just a typical outlying school?
We: An outlying school. I can say that with a fact because I worked at Stanley,
LaCrosse, [and] Newberry. Newberry was the town. I wouldn't say, but Stanley
[and] LaCrosse [are] typical outlying schoolss.
Wa: Any information you want to give on that, I'm sure they'd welcome it.
We: You had these rural schools out in Stanley, LaCrosse, Jonesville, Monteocha.
We had those outlying schools. We had one or two teachers. The problem
was giving kids the proper instruction because of the teacher load. That's why,
after a low year, that's why they started taking a look at more students in a class.
No students in a class in a normal school with normal students in the school.
At OACT, that school went through the tenth grade. Those students that went
beyond tenth grade went into Lincoln High School. I was one of them. I
finished tenth grade at OACT and then my pa sent me [to] Lincoln High School.
Wa: You, as an educator, can you give us a statement about how you view your role
as an educator?
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We: I would say teachers that I recommended] to the superintendent, I think I got
good support. In fact, knowing my situation, the teachers I would recommend
would fit best in my situation.
Wa: You saw yourself as a liaison between the school board and superintendent?
We: Between superintendent and school board. I didn't have to go to the school
board too much. I always went to the superintendent. I had support from
people on the school board.
Wa: You would deal regularly with the superintendent?
We: I dealt with the superintendent. I would go to Howard Bishop.
Wa: Howard Bishop was the superintendent?
We: Howard Bishop was the superintendent during my time. Doing it out there.
After I went into LaCrosse, Peterson was the superintendent.
Wa: We really don't have to know that. I was just wondering.
We: I had a good relationship with my superintendent.
Wa: Good. I'm sure you did.
We: I think they thought that I actually knew what I was recommending because of the
fact that they thought I knew enough about the situation to give a pretty good
evaluation about the type of people that I wanted to work with.
Wa: During your teaching period, what were two of your goals in teaching your
We: I wanted a kid to actually be able to read well and do math.
Wa: And do math. Two of the R's. Your students, everybody was exposed to
segregation. Everybody was segregated back then. Did you have any
problems with segregation that you had to work with the students on? Or did
they just accept it?
We: I can't recall any problems.
Wa: It was established so well.
We: They just went along with it. There wasn't anything you could do during that
time. Now it's different.
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Wa: I think that's about it Mr. Welch. Anything else you want to share with us?
We've still got room on the tape. Anything I missed?
We: I told you about the instructors out there in the schools. I appreciated them. I
think about them and appreciate the relationship that I had. We had some of the
same type of activities the others had. I had a basketball team, I had a softball
team in some of those schools.
Wa: Who was the coach?
We: I was the coach. Those kids, when they were out there playing, some of those
kids got to come into Alachua and shoot basketball and football. I took the
initiative to organize basketball and softball. My girls team was better than the
[Interruption in tape]
Wa: From 1937 to 1939?
We: I was in the Army two and a half years. If I hadn't gone in the Army I would have
been in the school system forty years like my wife was. I would have been in
there as long as she was. But see, I was out in the Army.
Wa: Around thirty-nine years in the system?
We: About thirty-nine years in the system. I retired in 1979. No, wait a minute. I
retired in, yeah, 1979.
Wa: Yeah, that's been about twenty-six years ago.
We: Yeah. I've been out of the system twenty-six years.
Wa: That's right. Everything changed.
[End of Interview]