Interviewee: Sara Ratcliffe Beard
Interviewer: Connie Llewellyn
Date: March 2, 1988
L: This is Connie Llewellyn. I am interviewing Sara Ratcliffe Beard at her home in
Gainesville, Florida, on the Junior Welfare League of Gainesville. Today is
March 2, 1988. Good morning, Sara.
B: Good morning, Connie.
L: I would like to start today by getting some biographical information about you.
Where were you born?
B: Monroeville, Alabama.
L: In what year?
L: Who were your parents?
B: Lula and David Ratcliffe.
L: What was your mother's maiden name?
B: Lula Yarbroug.
L: Did you grow up Monroeville?
L: Tell me, what is the earliest thing that you can remember about your life?
B: Well, I guess playing dolls with Charles Crook. His sister Helen was one of my
very dearest friends. Charles and I seemed to enjoy the way we liked to play
dolls. I guess that is the thing that I remember. I also remember my
grandmother's house, which was right in front of us, and the days that I spent
L: About how old would you say you were?
B: About five or six.
L: Where did you go to school?
B: Monroeville County High School, and then Huntingdon College in Montgomery.
When I went there it was called Woman's College.
L: It was not named Huntingdon at that time?
B: No, it was Woman's College.
L: I did not know that. When did it change?
B: I really do not know.
L: About how large a school was it when you were there?
B: Oh, it was very small. There were about 450 boarding students. Of course,
this was during the Depression, so there were quite a few local Montgomery
students. Of course, they became very friendly with us. They were wonderful
to us. They had us to their homes over the weekend and for Sunday dinner, so
it was very pleasant.
L: What did you do after you finished school?
B: I did not finish school. I went two years to Huntingdon and then married.
L: I see. Who did you marry?
B: Percy Beard.
L: Where was he living at the time?
B: In Auburn. He was teaching in the engineering department at Auburn University.
L: What did you do after you were married?
B: Well, the first five months, we boarded with his brother, Jeff Beard and [his wife]
Maiben. Maiben was also from Monroeville, Alabama. She was Maiben Hixon.
After school was out, Percy and I went on our honeymoon. We did not have any
honeymoon when we married in January because he was too busy teaching.
He was still running the high hurdles for the New York Athletic Club, and we had
a marvelous summer. We were in Princeton [New Jersey] for three weeks, and
he was running track. Then we were in New York for three weeks, and that is
what he was doing, running the high hurdles. Then we were in Lincoln,
Nebraska, for three weeks for the nationals. The last race that he ever ran he
equaled his own world record. That was very thrilling.
We won a trip to Europe--Norway and Sweden--or Japan, but we were very
anxious to get back and set up our little house. We had rented a house right
next to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, and we were anxious to go back to
Auburn, Alabama. He had planned to go to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin that
summer, and he thought, of course, that that would take care of our European
trip. But our oldest son Pat Beard interfered, and Percy hung up his track shoes
that spring before our son was born.
L: So you were married in 1935?
B: Yes, and Pat was born March 31, 1936, in Opelika, Alabama. Auburn did not
have a hospital, so we had to go to Opelika, which is only seven miles away.
L: This is interesting. I did not know that Percy had been planning to run in the
Olympics. It was in Berlin that year, is that right?
B: Right. At the time we married, he held five world records in the hurdles. Of
course, there were different distances. But I did not know a thing at all about
track. My father had been keeping up with his career and was so thrilled,
because he loved sports so. I did not know anything about track at all when we
first married, but it did not take me long to find out, and I came to love it, too.
The teachers were getting paid so little at Auburn University, and we had a baby,
so when he was offered the track coaching job at the University of Florida, it was
an offer he could not turn down.
L: But he had been in engineering at Auburn?
B: Yes, he taught in civil engineering. In fact, he wrote several books, and they are
still using two of them at Auburn, but under different names.
L: But then he transferred from engineering into coaching.
B: Well, he was an assistant track coach at Auburn. His track coach at Auburn
University was Coach Hutsel, and Percy was his assistant, in addition to
L: So you moved to Gainesville to come to the University?
L: What year was that?
B: That was September 1936.
L: That was right in the middle of the Depression.
B: It certainly was. But we were so in love, so it really did not worry us very much.
We managed. Of course, I had never lived outside of Monroeville, Alabama, all
my life, so coming to a strange place and not knowing anyone was difficult at
first. In Auburn it was just like a big house party. All of his fraternity brothers
would come by, and my friends from Huntingdon would come up and spend the
weekend, so I just was so heartbroken when we had to leave. We went back to
Auburn in November because I was so homesick, but I found that Auburn went
right on without me. The people did not miss me half as much as I thought they
would. From then on I was happy in Gainesville, and have been ever since. It
has been a wonderful life. We have both loved Gainesville. Pat was born in
Opelika, Alabama, but Dave and Tommy were born in Gainesville, and we have
all just loved it.
L: What size town was Gainesville when you came in 1936?
B: Oh, my goodness. There were about 3,300 students. I have no idea. It was
probably around 15,000 to 20,000. I may be wrong because I am not very good
with figures, but it was a small town. We knew practically everybody on the
faculty and most town people. There were around 3,300 to 3,500 students, so it
was a very close-knit University. Of course, it was not coeducational then.
Many of Percy's track boys were about my age. Of course, we were very
congenial, and they would come out to see us practically every Sunday
afternoon; a certain little group that we became very close to would come out.
They would run around after Pat, our son, in the yard. We have some wonderful
L: When were you invited to join the Gainesville Junior Welfare League?
B: I think it was in 1940. Yes, October 6, 1940.
L: The war was coming then. What was it like in Gainesville? What did the
people in Gainesville think about the world situation?
B: It was very upsetting for us because we did not know what to do. Percy wanted
to apply for a program so he could go in as a junior officer, but the navy wanted
to keep him and Spurgeon Cherry, another one of our very good friends who is
gone, here to train. There was an NROTC [Naval Reserve Officers Training
Corps] program, and they wanted to keep them at the University to train people
for physical fitness programs.
Everybody was so keyed up. Many of our friends' husbands were in the Pacific
or in Europe, and it was really very upsetting in Europe. Many of our boys were
in the service, and we wrote I do not know how many every other week. I would
write to practically all these boys that we were so close to. But everybody
pitched in and did their part. It was a very tense time, but everybody was very
aware of the war and did everything they could to help. I rolled bandages about
twice a week. We had some room upstairs over old Rutherford's, and we went
there once or twice a week to roll bandages. Everybody pitched in. We had
bicycles. Percy and I both had a bicycle, and we used those because of the gas
rationing. It would be very helpful if I could still ride it [laughter].
L: Now, was gas rationing in effect in the 1940s, even before Pearl Harbor?
L: It came afterwards. In the late 1930s and into the 1940s, did people in
Gainesville see that war was coming, or did they still feel that there was some
way that the United States could stay out of it? Were they in favor of the United
B: Well, it is hard for me to remember, but, as I said, when it did come, we all
pitched in and wanted to do our part. Nobody resented any sacrifice they had to
L: What sort of organization was the Junior League at the time you were invited to
B: It was a very small and close-knit organization. I worry sometimes when
wonderful organizations like that grow, because you lose some of the closeness
and the feelings that we had. We were very wrapped up in what we did. Some
of the members of my provisional class are still some of my dearest friends, like
Esse Nell Blalock, Jo Conner, and Louise Kincaid. I cannot remember the
others, but they still are some of my closest, dearest friends. So many
friendships that I made during those years have lasted.
I have always attributed my hay fever to the little Salvage Shop that we operated.
It was on Union Street, and I went every Saturday morning. Everything was so
dusty and all, and I started sneezing. It did not let up, so I transferred to the
prenatal clinic at Alachua General Hospital, and I loved it. I was very wrapped
up in that. It was a wonderful program.
L: Where was Union Street? The streets are numbered now, and I do not know
where you are talking about.
B: It was across from where Smith, Deck & Storm Furniture Store used to be.
L: I do not know where that is.
B: Maybe it is 1st Avenue.
L: Which section of town? Northwest? Southeast?
B: Do you know where Wise Drug Store is, on  West University Avenue?
B: You would come up a block past the street that ran on the east side of Wise's,
and it ran dead into the street where the bakery used to be. Do you remember
where the bakery used to be, on that little street?
B: Union Street ran into that.
L: Union Street ran into that little street there?
B: Yes. Do you know where Rice Hardware is [15 SW 1st Avenue]?
L: Yes, I do.
B: Well, it is right down the street on that same side of the street as Rice Hardware.
L: I believe there is a parking lot there now.
L: Yes, I think it is a city parking lot.
B: Well, for goodness sakes.
L: I would like to go back and ask you some more about both the Salvage Shop and
the prenatal clinic in a little bit, but first I want to ask you some more about the
League as an organization. How was it perceived in the community? What sort
of reputation did this group have?
B: A fine reputation. Aunt Carrie McCollum was the inspiration and the founder,
more or less. She was such an outstanding character, and she just inspired us
L: What sorts of things was it known for? Was it known as a social club?
B: No, for welfare work. Of course, we had a lot of social activities going on. We
had a lot of dances at the old American Legion Hall, and they were wonderful.
Of course, we had to raise money, so we sold tickets and all. That was a way of
making money. I remember we had what they now call the Follies. I do not
know what we called it, but I think we called it a musical. Anyway, that was fun.
We had the old Gainesville High School down on the First Avenue. But the
Junior Welfare League was primarily for welfare, and our main interest was doing
things for the community. We had such a wonderful time together.
L: Now, when you were invited to join the League, how were you invited? Tell me
a little bit about how this was handled.
B: Well, it is hard to remember. I was sent a letter, and I was just thrilled to death,
because so many women in Gainesville that I had met were so active in the
league. I do not know how long the provisional class or whatever you would say
lasted, but Elizabeth Chase was in charge of the provisional members, and she
was very thorough and a wonderful teacher.
L: She was in charge of your provisional class. Did "provisional" mean that you
were just being brought in?
L: About how many people were in your class?
L: Did you know you were going to be invited?
B: No, I did not.
L: So it was a surprise or a secret.
L: How did the people in the League learn of you to invite you?
B: Well, I supported all of their benefits. There was a group that was active in the
League, and we became friends. I played bridge with them and things like that.
That is how they knew me.
L: You basically already knew them, then.
L: How did the community view this way of selecting members?
B: Well, I really do not know. I cannot answer that because I just do not know. It
was quite an honor. At least I thought it was quite an honor, and I think
everyone who was asked to join thought it was a great honor.
L: Had it always been done this way, then?
B: I do not know how they do it now, but in the past that is how they did it. I think it
is much more complicated now, from what I hear, since they are the Junior
League. I really do not know, but I think you have to be asked now if you are
interested. Is that right?
L: I believe that is correct.
B: Of course, back then you knew nothing about whether you were being
considered or not.
L: After you were invited to join, you joined a provisional class, and you said
Elizabeth Chase directed it.
L: Now, at the end of your classes, did you have an examination of any sort?
B: Yes, we did.
L: Was it written or oral?
B: It was written.
L: What was it like?
B: Well, she was very thorough. You had to know; you just could not guess. So it
was just like an exam at the University. She was a wonderful teacher.
L: What did you learn during the course? What were they trying to expose you to?
B: Everything, for whatever you would like to do. It was to determine if you liked
the Salvage Shop, the prenatal clinic, or whatever project (I have forgotten some
of the other projects they sponsored), or what committee you would like to be on.
L: So you were learning something about what the Welfare League was doing,
B: Oh, yes.
L: What happened next, after your provisional course?
B: Well, like I told you, I started at the Salvage Shop--and sneezed every Saturday.
Then I went to the prenatal clinic, and I stayed there for seven years.
L: The Salvage Shop was open only on Saturdays at that time?
B: Yes, Saturday mornings.
L: What clientele did the Salvage Shop serve?
B: Mostly the very poor and the black.
L: Where did they get their salvage to sell?
B: All of the members. Also, stores would donate things. Our goods came from
the members and different stores, and sometimes towns would donate things.
L: Was there a certain amount that each member had to donate? Did they have a
L: Do you remember what it was?
B: I sure do not, but it was very low. It was around ten to twenty dollars a year.
L: So you basically served that disadvantaged section of the community, then.
B: That is right.
L: How did they mark the goods?
B: Well, we would have to go down and do that at another time during the week.
Every Saturday we sold out. We had a terrific business.
L: Do you remember the price range of the items? How much did they cost?
B: Most of the items were very cheap, about twenty-five cents to fifty cents or a
dollar. They were very cheap.
L: I guess that is about what most people could afford.
B: That is right.
L: So you moved to the prenatal clinic, then.
B: Yes, and I loved it. Of course, we had to keep records and to get the patient
ready for the doctor to see. It was a wonderful thing. Most of the patients were
black. I cannot remember who the doctors were then, but they were so
cooperative. Each doctor would, I think, take a different week. Just last night I
was trying to think of some of the doctors who helped, but I cannot remember
any of their names. We had a marvelous nurse. Her name was Rosa (I cannot
remember her last name), and she was just marvelous. She was black, and she
helped us a great deal.
L: I believe the League paid the salary of this woman. Is that right?
L: Does she also visit families?
L: You visited the families that came to the clinic?
B: Yes, that is all.
L: And the doctors donated their time?
L: So the women in the League went down to do the clerical work and run the
L: How often was the clinic open?
B: If I remember correctly, it was open one morning a week. It was either
Wednesday or Thursday morning.
L: About how many people would be served in a day?
B: Oh, my goodness. Sometimes there would be twenty to twenty-five. Some
would just come for their blood tests, like getting a hemoglobin count, and some
would have a thorough examination. But there would be twenty to twenty-five.
We were busy every minute. I think it was open from about 9:00 to 2:00.
L: Were white women served in that clinic, also?
B: Occasionally, but not often. They were able to come, but the majority were
L: Was Rose the only nurse who was there?
B: Yes, she is the only one that I remember.
L: Was the League operating another clinic at that time, in addition to the prenatal
B: I do not remember.
L: They also had a well-baby clinic, but I do not know how that was connected.
B: I only knew about the prenatal.
L: I believe the well-baby clinic operated separately. It might be that by that time
the well-baby clinic had been turned over to the University teaching hospital.
B: That is probably true. The only thing that I really know about is the prenatal
L: So the League had projects like the Salvage Shop to make money.
B: And they would have a dance, usually on New Year's Eve, bridge parties, and a
Follies, as you call them now. They were the ways that I remember we made
L: And the prenatal clinic was a service project?
B: Yes. That was in Alachua General Hospital, down in the basement.
L: Was it called Alachua General then, or was it still Alachua County?
B: I think it was Alachua County.
L: You talked about doing bandages. Was that the surgical dressing project?
B: Yes, for the Red Cross. That was upstairs over old Rutherford's on University
L: Did that go on for the duration of the war?
L: In reading through the minutes, I saw that there were several other projects that
seem to me to be directly related to the war. For instance, in 1942 there was an
airplane spotting station.
B: I did that, too. It was right on the top of the old Seagle Building. There was a
little wall around the very top. I did that once a week.
L: What did you do?
B: Well, we just watched for planes and would report any planes that came over.
L: What did you do when a plane came over?
B: We made a record of it.
L: Did you telephone anybody about that?
B: No, we just made a record.
L: Was this during the day?
L: Was somebody there all the time, or was it just a specific time of day or the
B: No, somebody was there all during the day. If they did it at night, I do not
remember that, but I did it in the afternoon.
L: Was the League the only organization that contributed time to that?
B: I do not know that.
L: I also read about an emergency kitchen that was set up at Kirby Smith [School]
to feed people in case of an emergency.
B: I do not know about that.
L: I want to ask you something that is related to that. It was in the lunchroom of
Kirby Smith, which is where the emergency kitchen was set up, where the
League was also serving lunches.
B: That was before my time. They did a wonderful job with that, but I was not
involved with that. That was before I became a member, I think. I know several
of my friends, like Sara Pepper, were very involved. That was one of their
projects, but I do not know if they did that after I was a member.
L: I believe I read that in 1941, the WPA [Work Projects Administration] offered to
take over a good portion of the labor, and then later on they took over a larger
portion, even of the expense.
B: Well, I was so involved with what I was doing that I do not remember very much
L: I have one other question about the lunchroom project that I want to ask you.
You might remember, even though it might have been before you joined. I read
that it was first set up in an eastside school, and then I read that it was at Kirby
Smith. Are those two different schools?
B: I think it was one school. [Kirby Smith was the eastsidee" school at that time.
Eastside High School was not built until 1972. Ed.]
L: And they started out serving lunches to the children whose family situations were
such that they probably were not going to have any lunch, and they gave them
free. Then they expanded it to serving free lunches and paid lunches, but I think
that that was close to the time when the WPA took over. I guess that was the
beginning of serving hot lunches in public schools in Alachua County.
B: I am sorry I do not know more about that. I was so involved with my little
projects that I just do not remember.
L: You had mentioned about the New Year's Eve dance. I also read they had such
a good response and it was so overcrowded that they were going to take some
action to limit the reservations.
B: That is true. They were the most fun parties I think we ever went to. When I
was a provisional, we had to serve. Of course, we only served soft drinks, and
we would have to take an hour off to serve. It was really a wonderful, fun
evening. Everyone I can remember was just wonderful. The music was good,
and everyone loved to dance. I think it was just the provisional members--now, I
may be mistaken--that had to take an hour off to serve.
L: And the way they made money was by charging admission.
B: Yes. When you brought the scrapbook over last night, I did not have as much
time as I would like to have spent, but I did get very amused at the prices. I
think a couple was charged a dollar to go, and a single person was charged
twenty-five cents to go to the dance. Of course, they had to pay for their own
soft drinks. But I thought that was fairly amusing.
L: But they must have served a lot of people at the parties, because I saw one
report where they made $300 at one of them. That is a lot of money for back
B: Oh, yes. It was terrific. You were busy every minute when you were working.
You did not get to breathe. You were so busy serving those Coca-Colas or
whatever. But, like I said, they were all soft drinks.
L: I also read that the League went out and worked for the war bond drives during
the war years. Do you remember anything about selling the war bonds?
B: No. I am sure if we were supposed to do it, I did it, because I was very wrapped
up in the League. But I cannot say that I can remember that.
L: It has been a long time ago.
B: We will not say how long [laughter].
L: But it was interesting to note in the minutes that there were war bond drives
several different years. Then there was a drive for the Red Cross, and I am sure
that was partly connected with the surgical dressings or bandages you were
L: I also have read that during that time there was a Phi Delta Theta/Sigma Nu
football game that Welfare League sponsored. Do you remember that?
B: No. What year was that?
L: I think it started in 1947, which was the year after your presidency.
B: No, I cannot remember that.
L: They did it for about seven years, and it seemed to be a good money-making
project, from the records I read. I also read a reference to Shantytown as a
project in 1945 that the League was asked to chaperon. The League was not
able to take on that project, but I could not find out what Shantytown was.
B: I do not know about that.
L: I got the impression from the context in which it was stated that they were not
talking about an area of town, but it was something else.
B: I cannot remember that.
L: Another item I saw in the minutes was on several different occasions each year
they said they were going to have a Coca-Cola party for the new members.
What kind of party is that?
B: Oh, everybody would just get together like at a tea or something like that and sell
Coca-Colas and cookies or something of that nature.
L: I see, just to welcome the new members.
B: Yes, that is right.
L: One woman said that they would have expected twenty-five cents from
everybody for the Coca-Cola parties. I see you were president of the Welfare
League in 1945 and 1946.
B: Well, I was vice-president in 1945 and president in 1946.
L: Tell me something about your year as president.
B: Well, it was wonderful. Everybody was very cooperative and made it very easy,
and it was a wonderful year for me. Everybody seemed to back me 100
percent, which made it very easy. We had a very active group and a group that
was very interested in the League. We thought it was the most important thing
that was going on in Gainesville, and the girls were so generous about giving
their time. Of course, all of us had babies and had problems about baby-sitting
and so forth, but they all pitched in.
L: That was the year that there was no building for the Salvage Shop, is that right?
B: I do not remember that.
L: I believe that is right. There was a period of time when the Salvage Shop did
not have a place.
B: I noticed in the scrapbook the opening of a new Salvage Shop, after the location
off of Union Street, that little hole in the wall. I do remember that and that they
did find a new place. The Salvage Shop was a great money-making project. It
did very well.
L: From what I was reading, evidently whoever was either giving or renting the
space for the Salvage Shop needed that building, so there was no place for it to
be housed for awhile and it had to be closed down. Then the McMullens offered
B: Louise and Whitey McMullen. Whitey was one of our dearest friends, and
Louise still is. He was the sports writer for the Gainesville Sun, so we had a lot
in common in that respect. We would meet every Saturday night--the
McMullens and all the Beard clan--down at Sara and Calvert Pepper's home, with
their two girls, Nancy and Priscilla, and we would eat supper. We became very
close. Those are such happy memories. It would be just like them to offer their
garage. I was not involved with that and do not remember very much about that,
but I know they did do that.
L: I just thought that was very curious that they set it up in somebody's garage.
B: Well, that was just how close everybody was in the League. They would just do
anything to help with whatever was going on until they could find a place. They
realized it was a good money-making project.
L: I also saw that there was united clothing drive. I do not think it was associated
with the Salvage Shop, but it was for the countries that were devastated by the
war. The Junior Welfare League participated in getting out clothes for that.
B: Yes, they did. We were called on for so many things and always came through.
I am sure they are where they are today because of the cooperation, devotion,
and everything that they displayed. I think they worked so hard to go national,
and I am sure all those things helped. They were so cooperative and had been
such a fine Junior Welfare League. I know how hard Betty Riker worked to go
national, and so many just went all out to be passed and approved.
L: You mean at this time the Junior Welfare League was a local organization and
was not affiliated with the national group?
B: Yes, that is right. There were several welfare leagues throughout the state.
L: So it was affiliated at the state level, then?
B: Yes. There were several other welfare leagues, but I do not know how many
have gone national.
L: I think I read about the welfare council at the state level. It had become inactive
during the war because it was difficult to get together for the meetings. Were
they still inactive when you were president, or by that time had they reactivated
the state level with the yearly convention?
B: I do not know for certain if they had because I think I would have gone, since I
was a president, so it probably was not.
L: There was also some reference to the work that the Welfare League did for the
Alachua County Tuberculosis Association.
B: Oh, dear. I cannot remember that. I am trying to remember my years in the
League. Laura Tucker was so helpful.
L: Who was Laura Tucker?
B: She was a nurse, and I think she worked with us, if I am not mistaken. She was
the overseer, I think, of Rosa, our wonderful nurse. I was thinking last night, and
I can remember Laura Tucker. We became good friends. She was a wonderful
person, and I think she directed Rosa in her work in the clinic. She oversaw the
care of the patients in the home and all. I do remember Laura Tucker, and I am
sure it was wrapped up with that.
L: Somebody else I talked to about the clinic remembered Laura Tucker.
B: She was wonderful.
L: The work that the Welfare League did with the TB Association had to do with
getting chest x-rays on all the people in the county, I think. It also mentioning
selling TB bangles. What were TB bangles?
B: I cannot remember that. When was that?
L: Well, they did that over a period of maybe ten or fifteen years. It was a
money-making operation for the tuberculosis society. I wondered what the
B: I cannot remember. I wish I knew.
L: I think the year that you were president they started working on the cancer
campaign, also. In fact, I think I read that the Junior Welfare League collected
over $1,000 in the cancer campaign that year.
B: Yes, they did.
L: What was it like at the end of the war? The war was over by the time you were
B: Of course, everybody was so thrilled that the war was over and that their
husbands and brothers were coming back home. We were so thrilled for our
friends who had to give up their loved ones. So many were coming home. I
cannot remember anything except just how wonderful it was that it was over. I
do not think it had anything to do with our work in the League. I know it was just
a wonderful, relaxed feeling that things were normal again.
L: During the war years, did your membership in the League decrease?
B: I am sure it must have, but I do not remember that it decreased. I am sure some
of the members took a leave of absence until their husbands went overseas, but I
do not remember losing any members.
L: So you were able as an organization to keep up the level of activity in the
B: Oh, yes.
L: With the end of the war, was that the end of rationing?
B: Yes, if I remember correctly.
L: More consumer goods, I guess, became available.
B: Yes. As I said, everybody was so cooperative. I do not remember being upset
over giving up sugar and gas and things like that. I do not remember that it
affected us at all. I guess everybody was so wrapped up in doing their part that
they just were not concerned with what they were sacrificing.
L: You mentioned that Aunt Carrie McCollum was the sponsor for the League. Tell
me a little bit about her.
B: Oh, she was the most marvelous lady in the world. When we first came to
Gainesville, her husband had a drug store, and she worked in it. Everybody
loved Aunt Carrie McCollum. She would have the loveliest parties. I wish I
could remember her cook's name, because she was the most wonderful cook in
the world. We would go to her home, and she would have all the tables set up
and have the most delicious food. Her home was open all the time to her friends
and the League. She had a great sense of humor. She was a very devout
Catholic and had a beautiful faith. I would say we were very fortunate to have
Aunt Carrie, because she had that spark and that light touch. Everybody loved
her. She could entertain anybody. She was full of stories and was just an
inspiration to all of us.
L: Is she still sponsor for the Welfare League at this time?
B: Oh, yes. She was until she died.
L: What did she do as sponsor?
B: She would just support anything that we were interested in. As I said, she
organized it, and she was always there if we needed her for advice or whatever.
L: Did she come to the meetings regularly?
L: Then she was not actively involved on a monthly basis?
B: No. I think the first meeting of the League was held on her front porch. I was
not even in Gainesville at the time.
L: I have heard that, too.
B: She was quite a character and a very beloved person of Gainesville.
L: What was the size of the Welfare League in the 1940s?
B: I am trying to remember. I guess we had about forty or fifty members. We
would have very interesting meetings. Of course, there was a lot of discussion.
We would bring up a subject, and it would be discussed. They were very
interesting meetings. Everybody would express their opinion. Conducting a
meeting was quite challenging because everybody was so full of ideas and
wanted to express themselves. We had very lively meetings, which made it fun
L: I would like to talk about the women who were in the Welfare League. What
was the age range?
B: Let me see. I was thirty-one when I became president. I came here when I
was twenty, and I was asked to join four years later, so I was about twenty-four
when I was asked to join.
L: Were most of the women in their twenties?
B: Some were in their later twenties.
L: When they were asked to join?
L: Were there upper age limits for membership?
B: Yes, there was a certain age in the thirties you could not be over, but I cannot
remember the exact age. You had to live in Gainesville for three years before
you were asked to join, and you could not be over a certain age, which I think
was in the early thirties. And you served seven years.
L: Your period of active membership was seven years, no matter what age you
L: What happened at the end of the seven years?
B: You became a sustainer.
L: What was involved in being a sustainer?
B: Well, anything or nothing--just paying your dues.
L: Oh, I see.
B: You could go to anything. You could go to the June meeting, and you could
participate in anything. You had to pay your dues, but that is all you were
expected to do. Many people did volunteer work. All of the work was volunteer;
that was misleading. What I mean is they offered to help whether they had to
put in a number of hours or not. All of it was volunteer work, but they offered to
help on projects and things like that.
L: You mentioned the June meeting that they could come to. What was different
about the June meeting?
B: It was the last meeting of the year. We introduced the new president and the
new officers, and each chairman had to give their report.
L: I see.
B: I guess it is that way now. I imagine it is very much like they have the June
L: I believe it is. You also mentioned that sustainers could volunteer to do work
even though it was not required of them.
B: That is exactly right.
L: Requirements were made only of the active members?
B: They had to put in so many hours of work a month for projects that they had
selected. You had to put in so many hours a month.
L: Do you remember the number of hours that was required?
B: No. I worked once a week at the prenatal clinic from about nine to two, so that
would be about five hours a week. That would be about twenty or twenty-five
hours a month, I would imagine.
L: That is a lot of hours to be giving.
B: Well, we really worked. I would hear so much about the lunchroom committee
at Kirby Smith after I became a member. The girls would go over there and
cook the lunches, and they really did work to serve those lunches. But I was not
in the League at that time.
L: I read in one place that there were hours required to be made by the year, which
was an accumulation of the hours by the month you are talking about. There
were regular hours and potential hours. I wonder what potential hours were.
B: I do not know. I knew nothing except you had to put in your regular hours.
L: I thought that was an interesting term, and I would like to find out what that is.
B: If you have an assignment, like you were supposed to be at the prenatal clinic,
and you woke up and your child was sick, you had to get a replacement. If you
possibly could, you were required to get a replacement for the time that you were
to be there.
L: Were the club's meetings held during the day or at night?
B: At night.
L: So people who worked could also attend.
L: What sorts of projects did the people who worked do if they worked during the
regular week, like when the clinic was open?
B: I guess they would work on Saturdays at the Salvage Shop.
L: Oh, that is right. Were the members of the Welfare League mostly Gainesville
women? Now, I realize you are not a Gainesville woman, that you come from
out of town. Was the membership mostly made up of people who were from
B: Well, there were several transfers. One of my best friends, Mary Creighton, was
a member of the Junior League in Boston, and she transferred here. Nelva
White and Jo Conner were not Gainesville girls. No, it was not made up of
mostly Gainesville people. So many of them moved in because their husbands
were going to teach at the University. I am trying to think who the natives were.
L: So it really was not an inside/outside type relationship?
L: Did you find that most of the women who were members of the League had
similar backgrounds? Was it a homogeneous group, or were the members from
B: No, they were very congenial. All of us had about the same background. I
guess that is why we were all so close and so congenial. So many of our
husbands were working at the University of Florida. It was just a very congenial
group. Then, too, the husbands were lawyers or doctors in the community.
L: So the group was largely professional people?
B: That is right.
L: I also wanted to ask you about the cookbook that the League put out. I think
that they put a cookbook out in 1941 called "Culinary Crinkles." Were they still
selling that when you were active in the League?
B: Yes. That was a very good cookbook. Very few have their copies, but I am
very fortunate. Mine is very used and worn, but I still have mine, and I still say it
was a marvelous cookbook. I know my Aunt Emma Yarbrough from Monroeville
was a wonderful cook. She sent several recipes that were in the book. My
husband, who was a marvelous cook, sent some of his recipes. It was just a lot
of fun. Of course, it still is, too. "The Gator Cookbook" is the same. So many
people have worn out their books, and they miss some of the recipes that were in
the old book.
L: "The Gator Cookbook" is currently being sold.
B: That is the new book.
L: Tell me how "Culinary Crinkles" was made up. It sounds like you are saying that
different people sent in their recipes.
B: Yes, they did.
L: It was not limited to members of the Welfare League?
B: No. As I said, my aunt sent two recipes from Monroeville. Different members
would write their aunts and mothers, and they would send recipes.
L: Do you remember who was in charge of collecting the recipes and making up the
B: No, I do not.
L: Was it a money-making project?
B: Oh, yes. It went over very well, too, because it really was a wonderful
L: It must have been, because I saw where they had decided to reprint it. They
had sold all their copies and ordered some more. They also mentioned that they
were going to put ads in the reprinted cookbook, and they were going to sell it at
Miss Terry's Gift Shop.
B: That is exactly right.
L: Where was Miss Terry's Gift Shop?
B: Well, do you know where Lewis Jewelry Company is, on the corner of [W.]
University Avenue [and 2nd Street]? It was in a little teeny hole-in-the-wall right
up from Lewis Jewelry.
L: In the next block, you mean?
B: No, right in that same block of Lewis Jewelry, going toward the University.
Lewis was on the corner, and on down the way was Miss Terry's.
L: Where is that in relation to the Primrose Inn?
B: Right in that section.
L: Who was Miss Terry?
B: Oh, she was a darling little lady. She sold books. She was very prim and
proper, and a very positive person. She either liked you or did not like you, and
if you could not get on the good side of Miss Terry, you should just as well walk
out of her shop because she did not want even to have your business if she did
not like you. But I loved her, and she was good to me. She had a decided
personality and was certainly a character in this community. She loved her little
books that she sold. She had quite a following.
L: That is interesting. How long was her shop there?
B: Oh, I cannot remember. It was there when we came to Gainesville, and I think it
had been there for many years. I think she had to retire and give up her shop
before she died, if I remember correctly. I did my best to stay on the good side
of Miss Terry. I loved to read, and she would always save me her new books
that would come in. As I said, she was certainly a part of Gainesville when I first
L: I saw in the minutes of the year when you were president that the Welfare
League set aside funds up to but not to exceed $300 a year for needy cases to
be used by the Central Welfare Committee.
B: That is true.
L: I also saw that through the years there was a real close liaison between the
Welfare League and the Central Welfare Committee.
B: That is true.
L: Just exactly what was the Central Welfare Committee, and how did it operate?
B: Well, I cannot answer that question very well. I know they had people employed
who had to decide who the needy were, and they would have to decide where
the funds would go.
L: I also saw that you [the Junior Welfare League] gave $25 a month to the Alachua
County Child Welfare League.
L: I am assuming that is a separate unit from the Central Welfare Committee.
B: It was.
L: After the war, did you find that Gainesville began to grow?
B: Oh, yes, especially when the University became coeducational. I do not
remember exactly when that happened. Our dear young friends, Mary
Katherine and Mickey Milam, gave my husband [a copy of Dr. Sam Proctor's
book] Gator History for his eightieth birthday. I have not had a chance to look at
it because he will holler at anybody who picks it up, he loves it so. But I know
when I do get to read it I will find what year the University went coeducational.
L: I believe it was in 1947.
B: Was that it? That is when Gainesville just took off. There was more housing
needed, the faculty grew, and the student body doubled or tripled, so it just
became a whole new world. Before you could walk down the street and would
know everybody, but then you could walk down the street and not know anybody.
It really was a terrific change.
L: I can imagine. I noticed that in some of the board meetings the members would
bring up the traffic problems in Gainesville. In fact, at one time it states in the
minutes that the Welfare League was considering hiring a safety engineer to
study the traffic problems and see if they could be straightened out.
B: That is true.
L: But then they reported at the next meeting that the city had hired an engineer
and that the League would wait and see if they would take action. If they did
not, then the League would have to. But I gathered from that that there must
have been a great deal of congestion.
B: There certainly was. It was just a whole new world when the University grew like
it did. My husband worked in a little wooden building called the New Gym.
They had one secretary for the football coach, who was also the athletic director,
and my husband, who was track coach and business manager at the time. This
one secretary was Adelaide Yon, and we all just loved her to death. She was
the only secretary that was there, and she helped everybody. Of course, my
husband had ticket sellers who helped with the tickets, too.
Then they built a brick building and moved into that, and now they are in the
facilities they are in now. But that sort of gives you an idea of the growth. Now
every coach and assistant coach has a secretary. I mean, it is just a whole new
L: I guess a lot of those people coming to school at the end of the war were
B: Yes, they were. So many people who had been stationed at Camp Blanding
loved Gainesville, so they came back here to live after the war.
L: And they brought their families.
B: That is right.
L: I guess that really started a population explosion in this area.
B: Oh, yes. The home that we are sitting in now was the only house in this whole
neighborhood. Our sons would fish at the little creek at the bottom of the hill and
would go hunting. We had a little dirt road, and 22nd Street was a little dirt road.
You can see now the changes that have taken place just in this neighborhood.
L: Was 8th Avenue dirt at that time, also?
B: Oh, yes, it was just a little hill. Margie and Carlos Proctor--he is gone, but she is
still such a dear friend of ours--built down the hill after we built here. They built a
log house down the hill. To get down there, there was a little hill that was very
difficult. You can see it now. But it was just a little dirt hill. Of course, when
we would have bad rains and all, it was difficult to get down that hill. But those
were the only two houses out here for years.
L: How far out of town were the streets paved at that time?
B: Up to the beginning of 22nd. University [Avenue] and 22nd [Street] were not
L: But University Avenue was paved out that far?
B: Yes, up to where 22nd runs into University.
L: The town has certainly grown.
B: Oh, you just cannot imagine. The Lazenbys, Shirley and Lance, lived just about
three blocks down from us. My oldest son Pat and their son Lance were very
close, and they would walk back and forth down the little dirt road to play
together. So there was the Lazenby house and our house. Then Mrs. Broom's
house was on the corner where the McCraws live now. Our first home was on
NW 7th Lane. Then we sold it and bought this piece of property and built. My
husband designed this house, and Mr. McLane built it for us in 1942. Do you
know NW 7th Lane, where Fanida and Laura Baker used to live? Well, it was
right next to their house; that was our first home. It was called Broom Street
then, but it is NW 7th Lane now. Of course, there was no paving at all,
anywhere. They were about the only houses in this whole section that you see
is completely filled with houses now.
L: What year did you go sustaining from the Welfare League?
B: I think 1948.
L: How did you find the League to be different when you left active membership
than it was when you joined?
B: It was larger, and we did not argue and have as lively meetings, I guess mainly
because it was larger. It did not change a great deal, but it was larger and was
getting more sophisticated, I guess. That is about all I can remember about it.
L: That is interesting to me that you say you did not argue as much. I would like to
know what some of the things were that were argued about.
B: We argued about what we should do with our money, what we should do to raise
money, what projects we should do, and where the money should go. That is
what the arguments were about. And it was fun; it really was. It was very
interesting. I would just hate to miss a meeting. I would have to be practically
on my deathbed to miss a meeting because it was so interesting to see what they
would say and what their ideas were. I do not know how the meetings are now,
but they were very lively.
L: That is probably a very good sign of a vital and interested group.
B: That is right. It certainly was. They were fine members all of the years. As I
said, some of my dearest friends now went through the League together with me.
It really was a very close-knit group, and everybody was so active.
Another thing that was very popular was a fashion show at the Hotel Thomas. I
know when our son Pat, who is our oldest son (I will not say how old) was just a
little boy, about two or three years old, they would have fashion shows at the
front of the Hotel Thomas. It was really a fun thing to go to and see. Peggy
Thomas had the Nancy & Elizabeth Shop for children, which had some of the
loveliest clothes for children that I have ever seen. I have never seen anything
in Gainesville to equal the clothes that she had. Of course, it was named for her
two daughters. I remember Billy Bolton, Bill Bolton's son, modeled some of the
darling suits for little boys. I will never forget a little lavender pique suit with a
little white vest that I had to have for Pat. I would spend most of my grocery
money trying to get Pat some of these darling little suits, so we really went into
hock when we had the fashion show. Those are some of the things I remember
so well. They did model some beautiful children's clothes, and that was quite
the thing in the spring.
L: Was the fashion show limited to children's clothes?
B: No. In fact, I was so interested last night in looking through the scrapbook to
see that Marian Morris, whom I have not seen for years and was one of the most
beautiful girls in Gainesville when I moved here, and Steve O'Connell, who was
the president of the University [1968-1974], were modelling wedding clothes.
They had a complete wedding with the bridesmaids--Steve was the groom, and
Marian was the bride.
L: This is another fashion show you are talking about?
B: No. I just wanted you to know they had children and grown people in the
fashion shows. Our son Dave, who lives in Gainesville, did not read anything
about the fashion show, but he said, "I did not know, Mama, that Steve had ever
been married before. I did not know he had ever married anyone but Rita
[McTigue]." Of course, I got quite a kick out of that. I said, "You had better
read there that it was our fashion show that we put on, and they played the part
of the groom and the bride."
L: So that fashion show was held while O'Connell was president of the student body
at the University? [O'Connell graduated from the University of Florida in 1937.]
B: That is right. It is in our scrapbook. There is a picture of him that is very
interesting. Then Francis Carney, who was one of our favorite track boys--he
was killed during the war--was in the musicals. His name was mentioned as
being in so many of the musicals.
L: So when you had the Follies, the musicals, and fund raisers, students from the
University also participated?
B: Yes, individuals or groups. And they danced.
L: Did members from the Welfare League participate in those, too?
B: Oh, yes. We had some of the best stars we ever had. We would practice every
night. Percy and I both were in several of the musicals, so I remember those
L: Did people from town who were not members of the League also join in?
B: Yes. We would have talent shows, and you would be selected. You would
have to try out for a part, so they would be selected from talent shows.
L: The Welfare League would hold a talent show and invite people from town to
B: Yes. I saw also in the scrapbook that Ellen Andrews, who was very active in the
League and did such wonderful things for the League, had a party for the cast of
one of the musicals, and I was listed as being one to serve, along with Essenell
and Louis Blacock. I did get a kick out of reading that. We served the cast
after one of the musicals, which is what we called them then, I think. Many of
the University boys would participate, too.
L: Where were the musical performances held?
B: Old Gainesville High School on University Avenue. It is not there anymore.
L: In the auditorium there?
B: Yes. We would have large crowds. And we had a lot of fun; we really did.
L: It sounds like it was an exciting, fun-filled, and very full seven years of active
B: Oh, it was great. It really was a wonderful time. It was very much a part of my
life, and my family life, too, because I was always asking Percy to stay with the
little boys. We had Dave and Pat then. We did not have our baby, who is
thirty-nine now; we had Tom nine years later. So I was always asking, "Honey,
will you stay with the boys tonight? I have to do this for the League." I would
have to go to a meeting or something, and he was always so cooperative. It
was very much a part of our lives as well as the community's.
L: I guess it got to be part of your boys' lives, too.
B: It did. I was scared to death when it would be my turn to work at the clinic that
they would wake up with a sore throat or something. That is something that we
were always blessed with: we did have good help. Our help was very
cooperative with me, too. If the children just had a sore throat or something,
they would say, "Mrs. Beard, you go on. I will take care of Pat or Dave." I took
it very seriously. I would go to the clinic, and they would call and give me a
report about their condition. But we were very blessed with good help, so I had
more free time than I would normally have had, which so many of the young girls
now are not blessed with. I am sure it is very difficult to get help now. At that
time, the wages were nothing compared with what we have to pay for help now.
So I did have help every day of the week and, believe it or not, every other
Sunday. That is when Preacher Gordon [pastor, First Presbyterian Church]
would eat with us. So you can see how things have changed.
L: This is the minister of your church?
B: Preacher Gordon. He has passed away, but he was one of our dearest friends.
Tommy, our baby, is named for Preacher Gordon and Dr. Thomas. We flipped a
coin to see if it would be Thomas Gordon or Gordon Thomas, and Thomas
Gordon came out on top. They were two of the dearest, most wonderful people
in our lives, and both men had quite an influence on us and our children.
L: Tell me who Dr. Thomas was.
B: Dr. Thomas was as beloved a doctor as we have ever had in Gainesville. In
Auburn, believe it or not, the doctor who delivered Pat was Dr. Thomas.
Maiben, my sister-in-law, loved him so much, so of course I had to go to Dr.
Thomas when I was pregnant with Pat. I fell in love with him, too. When we
came here, we knew we would have to have a doctor, so I called Nell Stanley in
the Athletic Department and asked her who to go to, and she said, "I am sure our
doctor, Dr. W. C. Thomas, will take you." He nursed me through malaria and
pneumonia, and he was just everything to us. My husband would always say he
would rather have Dr. Thomas look at him from his toe to his head than anybody
in the world. He was one of the finest diagnosticians (is that the right word?)
who has ever been in Gainesville. He became one of our dearest friends. He
was our doctor, and he delivered Dave and Tommy. So those two men had a
great influence on our lives.
My husband had a number of offers several years after we were here, about ten
or twelve or fifteen years. They were very tempting offers with much more than
we were making here at the University. But our roots were so deep in
Gainesville, and I would always say I could not leave Dr. Thomas or Preacher.
Preacher Gordon was the Presbyterian minister here for so long. I am so sorry
that my young friends now are not able to know either one of them. I am so
sorry to know what they missed. Everybody loved both men very much. There
is a wonderful picture of Dr. Thomas in the lobby at Alachua General Hospital.
My husband was the secretary to raise the funds for that, and Mr. [William]
Shands [Florida senator] and Jimmy Anderson, a friend of ours, were on that
committee with my husband. Dr. Thomas was so supportive of the Junior
Welfare League, and so was Preacher Gordon. He was always the first to buy a
ticket--or several tickets. His portrait is in our church, where we have dinner
meetings. They certainly were a great influence on this community and were
always so supportive of any work that the League did.
L: I am glad you clarified who those two people were. I wanted to be sure about
B: I cannot say enough about either one of them because they were so dear to us.
As I said, they certainly had a lot to do with our lives. If we were not so happy
and did not have such deep roots and had not known them, maybe we would not
be in Gainesville today. They had a great deal to do with our staying in
Gainesville. My husband has never been sorry we stayed. He loved his work,
and if he was happy at what he was doing. Money was not very important to
Percy. Other things came first, like the happiness of his family. As much as I
love to spend money, he was not at all ambitious in the way of making money.
He thought that other things came first.
L: It sounds like you have had a long, satisfying period of residence in Gainesville.
B: We certainly have, Connie. I certainly hope you will, you and your husband.
We hear such nice things about you. I am so interested, because we do have
that tie of being from the same little town and are sort of family connected.
L: That is true. I want to thank you for talking with me this morning about the
Junior Welfare League and its development in Gainesville.
B: Well, I loved it. It has brought back many memories. I was so flattered that you
wanted to talk to me. I hope I have helped you and have given you the
information that you needed. I have certainly enjoyed it.
L: I am sure this will be a good contribution to our project. Thank you very much.
B: Well, thank you.