Interviewee: Glenna Brashear
Interviewer: Connie Llewellyn
Date: June 3, 1988
Glenna Brashear is a former member of the Gainesville Junior Welfare League.
This interview is part of a series of interviews by Connie Llewellyn on the Junior Welfare
League in Gainesville.
Glenna Brashear was born in Harlan County, Kentucky, in 1927. She earned a
bachelor's degree from Eastern Kentucky University in 1948 and a master's degree in
health, physical education, and recreation from Indiana University. While teaching in
Louisville, Kentucky, she met her future husband, a medical student, and they moved to
Gainesville in 1954 for the milder climate.
Brashear was asked to join the Junior Welfare League in 1962. She considered
not accepting the invitation, since she was already president of the Junior Women's
Club and the Medical Auxiliary. Nevertheless, she did accept. She even served a
year as president of the league, from 1968 to 1969. She recalls that the public
perceived the league as an elitist, "can-do" service organization.
Brashear describes many of the projects in which the league was involved. She
spent most of her service time in the well-baby clinic at Alachua General Hospital. Her
husband was a doctor, and he volunteered time to the clinic. There was also the tumor
clinic. Fund raisers discussed include the Thrift Shop and the Follies. All money
raised went into community programs, such as the Children's Theater, the Florida
Museum of Natural History, the Cultural Enrichment Program, the Boys' Club, and the
Suitcase and Medical museums. Brashear also recalls the founder of the league, "Aunt
Carrie" (Caroline LaFontisee McCollum Parker), and the state meeting that was held in
Gainesville. She outlines the rules concerning age limits and year requirements for
active members, as well as the procedures that the group undertook when they applied
for membership in the national organization, the American Welfare League.
L: [My name is Connie Llewellyn, and I am] interviewing Glenna Brashear at her
home in Gainesville, Florida, on June 3, 1988. Today we are going to be talking
about the history of the Junior Welfare League in Gainesville. Good morning,
B: Good morning.
L: First, I need to get your address.
B: 1520 NW 25th Terrace.
L: I would like to start today by getting some biographical information from you.
Where were you born?
B: I was born in Kentucky and moved to Gainesville in 1954.
L: What year were you born, Glenna?
L: Would you give me your parents' full names?
B: Mr. and Mrs. D. G. Frisby.
L: And your mother's maiden name?
B: Myrtle Williams.
L: You grew up in Kentucky?
B: I grew up in Kentucky, and I moved to Florida when I was in college.
L: Did you come to Florida to college?
B: No, I stayed in Kentucky in college, but my parents moved to Florida when I was
between my sophomore and junior year. I used to be a Kentuckian, but now I
am a Floridian.
L: What part of Kentucky were you from?
B: I was from the mountains in Harlan County.
L: Tell me, what is the earliest thing that you can remember?
B: In my entire life?
L: That is right.
B: Oh, I think the earliest thing I can remember my daughter and I were talking
about this not too long ago is catching frogs out in my backyard. My father
had made me a little pen, a little wire frog cage, and I was taking them into the
playhouse that he had built for us, which made my sister squeal. I can
remember that. I could not have been more than three at the time.
L: Oh, you have a good memory.
B: I do not know if I really remember it or if I was told about it so much that I
remember it, but I feel that I can remember that.
L: Where did you go to high school?
B: I went to high school in Evarts, Kentucky.
L: Did you live at home and go to high school?
L: When you finished high school, what did you do?
B: I went to Eastern Kentucky University and got my degree, and then I got my
master's from Indiana University.
L: In what field?
B: Health, physical education and recreation.
L: What did you do when you finished your master's? Did you do that immediately
B: I started teaching in the Jefferson County (Louisville) system. That was such a
long time ago. I graduated in 1948 and got married in the summer of 1948. Bill
was in medical school, so I started teaching in Jefferson County. That fall I
started working on my master's at the branch in Jeffersontown, Indiana. Then I
would go on the [Bloomington] campus in the summer.
L: I see. So you were living in Louisville at that time, then?
L: And that is where your husband was in medical school.
L: I think you just answered my next question, which is how you came to
B: Well, we moved from Louisville to Virginia. Bill decided he wanted to move to
where it was warmer, so we picked out Gainesville, not knowing a soul here, and
just moved here. We just moved. Who has that kind of nerve? We just
decided we liked Gainesville, so we moved down here. You cannot find very
many people who do that!
L: You are right! That is interesting. What made you decide on Gainesville?
What was it about Gainesville?
B: We liked the fact that there was a university here. We liked the fact that there
were 13,000 people in town.
L: That was in the early 1950s?
B: Yes. We felt that it was the kind of community we wanted to live in. It just
appealed to us. We came down to look for office space and a house. We
stayed at the Thomas Hotel, which was very neat at that time. We did not find a
house that week we were down here, but one of the realtors called us and said
they thought they had what we wanted, so we bought it on the phone. When we
came down we really were in a hurry to see what we had bought.
L: I can imagine. Well, that is very interesting. So you have been here over thirty
L: Was Gainesville growing much at that time?
B: Yes, I think it really started to grow, as I recall, in the early 1960s. The roads
were being built. The house that we live in now was on a two-lane road. A
house that we started to rent [when we were looking for a house] was from Mary
Ann Cofrin's mother (she has since died). She lived on about the 1900 block or
so on 8th Avenue, and that was a dirt road [in 1954]. When we came back to
live about six months later they had made a street out of it, and we could not find
her house. It took us a long time to find her house. So they were building
streets, and Gainesville was beginning to grow.
L: Tell me about being invited to join the Junior Welfare League of Gainesville.
When did you become a member?
B: In 1962, I believe. What they usually did was have parties for women being put
up for membership. A prospective member would be invited to someone's
house for coffee or for something on that order to meet the members. All of a
sudden I got an invitation, and I had not been invited to a party, so it was a real
surprise when I got an invitation to join. Everybody knew about the parties, but I
had not had a party.
L: So you mean it was general information that you were being invited to the parties
for that reason?
B: No, it was very secretive, but it did not take prospective members long to realize
what was happening. When I became a member I asked a friend why there was
no party for me, and she said, "Well, we did not feel like there was any need."
There were about four or five of us taken in the year I was taken in, and evidently
they decided to take in some old ladies. We were older than the ones who they
generally invited to join. Elsa Fox was one of them, and I do not think they had
any parties for Elsa, either. When my letter came it was a complete surprise. I
really thought they had made a mistake because of the age.
L: How was that perceived in the community, this secret admissions system?
B: It was accepted readily because that was the custom.
L: Is that the way most social service organizations did their membership?
B: I think so. Up until the women's lib [movement] and this sort of thing the welfare
leagues and the junior leagues were for people who represented the "social"
element. When I say social element, I mean the people who did not have to
work, who did a lot of playing not here, but in general. If you will look at the
people who were in the New York League in the early times you will find the
Roosevelts and others like them. It was a place where people who did not have
to work and who could spend their time the way they wanted [could find
something constructive to do]. It gave them something to do for communities,
and that is the way it was here. It was people who had the time to give that is
the best word that I can think of. It gave them a directive in life. It gave some
service to the community that the community would not have had, and [many of]
the girls would not have given their time had it not been this sort of organization,
which goes back to being secretive and making it a real honor to be invited.
L: It was rather exclusive.
B: Absolutely. I think that it was something that was all right [at that time]. It was
something that was needed. The girls needed it, the community needed it, and
there was nothing wrong with that sort of thing. But times are different now.
L: What sort of reputation, as a group, did the league have in the community?
B: Well, it had a reputation of being an elitist organization; it was an organization
that you wanted to belong to because it was elitist. It had a ["can-do"]
reputation. When they said they would do something, it was done, and if there
was something that needed to be done, if they gave it to the league, it would get
done. They had the time and the connections, I suppose, to get things done.
L: So it was viewed as a service organization as well as a social organization.
[Today it is viewed primarily as a service organization. It was not a party group].
B: Absolutely. There was no doubt in anybody's mind that it was a service
organization. The reason that I say elitist I want to make this clear because I
may not be communicating what I mean is because I feel that there were a lot
of members who would never have given service to the community had it not
been an elitist sort of organization.
L: So there was peer pressure from within the group?
B: There was peer pressure from within the group. Also, there was the simple fact
that the organization itself was a service organization, and some of these girls
would have spent their time playing rather than doing service except for the fact
that they could belong to an elitist organization and that is what you had to do
to belong. Does that make sense?
L: Yes, I think I see what you are saying.
B: Which makes it okay all the way around.
L: It served a purpose to serve.
B: Absolutely. And it certainly did a lot of good things for the town.
L: Tell me what happened. Did you accept your invitation?
B: I accepted my invitation. I considered not accepting it, because at that time I
was going to be president of two organizations that year, so I decided that I
would not accept it. But I ended up accepting it anyway.
L: What else were you involved in at that time?
B: I was president of the Junior Women's Club and the Medical Auxiliary.
L: You were a busy lady.
B: Yes, and I just felt like that was not the thing to do. It sounds like I am, but I
really am not a joiner. I do not join anything that I cannot give my time to and do
what needs to be done, which is why I decided not to do that. But some friends
of mine said I needed to.
L: They convinced you?
L: After you did accept your invitation, what happened within the group? What did
you do within the group?
B: Well, I spent most of my service time in the well-baby clinic down at Alachua
General Hospital. That was a real education. We kept it open every morning.
L: So it was running five days a week at that time?
B: Yes, if I remember correctly. I think it was, and I think that is one of the reasons
why we needed to give it up: it took so many man-hours. There were at least
two league members down there one to take histories and one to help the
doctor. It was in the old section of Alachua General [which has been torn down],
and the clinic saw a tremendous number of people. Of course, they were
indigent, so it was a real needed service.
L: Was it staffed by doctors who contributed their time?
L: How did you decide who was eligible to receive care in these clinics?
B: It was a monetary thing. I do not remember the details, but it was based on
need, on the amount of money made and the number in the family. I recall,
many times when we talked about things like this, a lady's coming in there whose
husband was out of work [because of sickness], and they had ten children.
They had never asked for any money from anybody. They made too much
money to be eligible I do not remember the whole thing but she did not
qualify. Here was a lady who needed help right now, and next month she
probably would not. One of her children was sick, and she would not go [to a
doctor because she could not pay him]. She said, "You have to see him. I do
not know where else to go." I have thought about that so many times, because
she was destitute just while her husband was sick. Anyway, my husband was
working at the clinic that day, and we saw her.
L: I was going to ask you what happened.
B: He was on that day, and we saw her after hours, so there was no conflict.
L: Who set up the requirements for the income level, and did the league women do
the investigating to determine who was eligible?
B: I am not sure who set up the primary objectives, but it came through the welfare
department some way. They were the ones that were responsible to set the
guidelines, as best I can remember. They set the guidelines as to who was
indigent and who was not indigent. But you can be very poor one month and not
be very poor the next month, I suppose, if you use up your income each month.
The guidelines were set up by them, and we had a file. Once the guideline was
set up and you were eligible, then periodically you were screened. We had
some people there every week. We saw lots of children there every week.
Sometimes they were not sure what the [last] names were, but that is another
whole field of study.
L: Was the league still helping to operate the tumor clinic at this time?
B: Yes, the tumor clinic was still going on when I went in, but I think that was only
once a week or so.
L: That was a totally separate activity.
B: Yes. I cannot remember how many days it was open because I never worked
with the tumor clinic. We had the tumor clinic, the well-baby clinic, and the Thrift
L: Tell me a little bit about the Thrift Shop.
B: The Thrift Shop was some people's love. It did not happen to be mine. During
the years that I was in the league we added on to the Thrift Shop. It grew, and it
was the biggest money maker that we had besides the Follies. It started really
making a lot of money, so they added onto the building. I do not remember
which years, but it has been added to, as I recall, twice.
L: So it was already in its permanent location?
B: It was in its permanent location when I went in. While I was active was when
they added on that big back room. We talked about it, but we did not hire help
until it started growing so much.
L: So up until this time it had been totally staffed by volunteers?
B: Yes. [It was discussed two or three years before we hired some help. That
kind of change comes slowly.]
B: But it had grown enough that it came up a lot that we really did need somebody
down there full-time.
L: As far as money-making projects went, in addition to the Thrift Shop, which was
an ongoing fund raiser? Were they doing the horse shows when you became a
L: They had already stopped doing that?
L: But they were still doing Follies?
B: Oh, yes, they were still doing Follies.
L: Were you in one of the Follies?
B: I was in two Follies. I was make-up chairman one year, so that is three Follies.
Maybe I was in three Follies. I guess I was in three Follies.
L: Maybe we should stop and say exactly what the Follies were, and are.
B: The Cargill Company from New York would send a director, costumes, the format
(I have never been in a Follies that they have not changed it, but they do send
the script, and they make it to fit the town), and in a two-week period of
rehearsals morning, noon, and night they put on a show which is made up of
anybody they can get. It is not just league people but people in the community.
When the town was small, they tried very, very hard to get the outstanding
individuals in town to do the silliest things, which really made people come out if
you knew that the mayor was going to stand on his head and that sort of thing. I
do not remember a mayor ever standing on their head, but [they may well have
done those kinds of things]. Because the town is so large now there are many
outstanding people who are not so well known.
But it was a good money maker. Everybody in the league had a big job.
They would have a party about six weeks before the Follies and invite everybody
that might be interested in being in the Follies and show them acts from some of
the past Follies to show them what to expect. Then they would sign the guests
for skits or songs or whatever, and then there would be two weeks of intensified
practice. Sometimes the skits were (and are) really good; sometimes they are
really funny. The overall show is good.
L: So it is a variety entertainment show.
B: A variety entertainment show. Absolutely!
L: What does the money go for?
B: For community projects. All the money from the Follies has to go back to the
community. When the girls go out to sell their ads and their tickets, this is a
selling point, that this money goes back into the community. Now the money
goes back in their mini-grants, I guess, but when I was in we voted for the
different things that we would give to. But every penny has to go to the
community. It does not have to be used that year, but it eventually has to go
back. It cannot be used for administration.
L: The Follies are not done every year, are they?
B: Every four years.
L: That is probably as much as the members in the community can stand!
B: Well, you cannot [do the Follies more often than that] because you ask an awful
lot from the community during a Follies year. When the town was small [most]
everybody was involved one way or the other. That is not true now, but you
cannot ask the people [who are willing to participate to do so] year after year
after year. About every four years is about as good as you can do. And you
would not make as much money if you did it every year.
L: That is true. Now, was the league sponsoring the Children's Theater as this
L: And this was a yearly project except for Follies years?
B: Yes. The Children's Theater went to all the schools, and a lot of the same girls
stayed on that committee [year after year]. I know, even now, there are
sustainers who have been on that committee for thirty years, they love it so.
L: It sounds like a lot of fun.
L: I was looking through some of the old records, and I saw that the group voted in
1967 to give one month's revenue of the Thrift Shop to the building fund for the
Florida state museum [Florida Museum of Natural History]. That must be about
the time that the present building was being capitalized.
L: I also noticed that they contributed $1,000 for musical instruments to the Cultural
Enrichment Center. What is the Cultural Enrichment Center?
B: It is not the same now as it was then. The Cultural Enrichment Center is now (if
I am right I am not certain of this) down at the Thomas Center, [and students
can participate after school]. At that time it was through the county board of
education, and it was located at the old post office. Teachers could ask for help
with projects, and the center also organized projects. I am trying to pull this out
of my head, because I have not thought about that in years. They needed
money to give deprived children the opportunity to do some things that they
would not be able to do otherwise. I am trying to recall who was in charge of
that. It was at the old post office, what is now the Hippodrome State Theater.
L: I believe the woman's name was Helen Wallace, the fine arts coordinator,
because she wrote a letter thanking the league for the money and saying that
they would be able to accept it only if the federal government granted them funds
to operate for the next year.
B: That is right. It was for disadvantaged children who would otherwise have no
opportunity to do some of the things that the Cultural Enrichment Program let
them do. Somebody came and talked about a number of things that we could
do for them, and the money for the musical instrument was chosen by the
league. This project appealed to the league. The center had to get a grant for
the salaries and the administration.
L: I see. Tell me a little bit about your year as president. You were president in
1968, is that right? I think it was 1968 to 1969.
B: The thing that stands out in my mind is choosing a uniform. It seemed that
everybody felt that there ought to be some way to distinguish a league member
from other people when we were out doing any kind of service-affiliated work.
They felt that there were a number of things that the league did with other
groups, and they wanted people to know that the league members were there.
So instead of putting a sign on your back saying "I am a member of the league,"
they felt that a uniform would serve the purpose. This probably started the
greatest controversy of the world.
L: Oh, really?
B: I do not remember exactly, but it seems to me there were at that time fifty or sixty
members, and when you try to get a dress that fifty or sixty different women want
to wear, well, you can understand the controversy! Up until that time, we had
worn green-and-white-striped pinafores, without the ruffle, and white shirts.
They felt that we looked more like candy-stripers. A committee was formed [to
try to find a new design]. I do not recall who was on it, but they brought bolts of
fabric to the meetings, and if we had not kept a sense of humor, we would have
had a war!
L: Sounds like it was lively!
B: It was lively, and it was fun. I think what we came up with was, for the time,
something that everybody could wear. It was a gathered skirt, slightly gathered
on elastic, of a medium green, and a light green top. They were a
cotton/polyester fabric. The neck was bound in material like the skirt, and we
had initials on it saying Junior Welfare League. Considering our problems, I
think it really worked. Our deadline to have the uniform was before the state
convention, which we were in charge of that year. There were Junior Welfare
Leagues all over the state, and the state meeting was in Gainesville. We
wanted our uniforms for that, so the lady who was making them really worked
very hard at the end trying to get all our uniforms finished for us. Silverman's, as
I recall, did the monogramming, and they really were monogramming until late at
night. But we made it!
L: Tell me a little bit about the state meeting held in Gainesville.
B: It was held at the old Ramada Inn, which is now the Holiday Inn [at the corner of
W. University and 13th Street]. We had a cocktail party at Mrs. Davis's house;
she lives off of 34th Street. As I recall, it was a luau--our weekend theme was
Polynesian The sustainers hosted a very nice cocktail party for us. We had a
breakfast, a luncheon where Aunt Carrie [Caroline Julia LaFontisee McCollum
Parker, Gainesville Junior Welfare League founder] spoke. I am sure you have
mentioned Aunt Carrie before.
L: I would like you to identify her, though, by her full name.
B: Aunt Carrie was the real founder of the Junior Welfare League in Gainesville. It
was started on her front porch with a number of ladies of her choosing. That
was the beginning. Aunt Carrie was an outstanding lady. She had been
president of the Twentieth Century Club in 1913 [later the Gainesville Woman's
Club]. She had been state president of the Federation of Women's Clubs in
1919 and national president of the National Council of Catholic Women. She
was not only outstanding here, but she was outstanding nationally. She was
very well known. She was one of those people who did good for everybody.
Aunt Carrie, as founder of the Junior Welfare League, was asked to come and
talk to the other chapters in the state about our early league days.
We had our workshops, and we had a dinner in the evening. It was all at the
Ramada Inn. The girls who were chairmen, Dorothy Bullard and Peggy
Gresham, did an outstanding job, and everybody worked hard. It ran smoothly,
and we felt that it was a success. The critiques proved us right.
L: What sorts of topics were discussed at meetings like that? This was the
meeting of service and welfare leagues throughout Florida?
B: Right. Usually there were money-raising workshops where people shared their
projects, their successes and failures. There would an "expert in the field" to be
a facilitator. We had a parliamentary procedure workshop, with a registered
parliamentarian in charge. We had a number of workshops going at the same
time. We also had workshops for presidents, secretaries, and treasurers.
Whoever was planning the meeting set up what they felt was needed. Each
year there are subjects repeated and new ones added. Fortunately, in
Gainesville we had specialists in every field whom we could get to help.
L: That is true.
B: We felt like our workshop was fantastic.
L: I am sure it was. Talking about Aunt Carrie, I understand, too, that you all
established a scholarship and loan in her name in this period of time, but I never
have not been able to find out just exactly what that went to. It was $300, and I
got the impression it was going to be on a yearly basis.
B: I remember, but I get my scholarships mixed up; I have been involved in so
many. I would be afraid to say what that was for. I want to say it was nursing,
but I do not think it was. I really do not remember what the requirements were to
get that scholarship.
L: Was Aunt Carrie still an active sponsor of the league at this time?
B: She was invited to all of the luncheons and dinners, and, of course, she could
come to any meetings she wanted. She did come to the dinner meetings and
any special thing that we had, but that is all.
L: So she was not really guiding the league at this time?
B: No, not at all. As a matter of fact, she has not been for years.
L: Was the league still working with the Boys' Club project at this point?
L: What did your group do?
B: We gave money. For a while we had people that checked the boys in at night.
L: I see. Was the Boys' Club just getting started?
B: The Boys' Club was not very old at the time, but they were really selling the Boys'
Club. They were really working very hard, and the league gave money to it. Of
course, a lot of the league members worked in it because their sons were
L: I see.
B: We did take credit for every time anybody went anywhere, but actually what we
did was give money.
L: All right. I also read about a medical forum that the Welfare League sponsored
in coordination with the Alachua County Medical Society. Were you active in
B: No, I was not.
L: Do you remember anything about it that you want to share?
B: Well, I just remember they did have it, and it was considered very good, but I was
not active in that.
L: I read about two projects, both of which have the name "museum" on them.
One was called the Suitcase Museum, and the other was called the Medical
Museum. Can you tell me anything about these two?
B: Both of them [were in conjunction] with the county [school] board. The Suitcase
Museum was actually a museum in a suitcase. The Suitcase Museum would be
about a country or a particular field of endeavor. The teachers could check out
the suitcase, and when they opened the suitcase in their room at school they
would have a little museum about that particular subject. If it happened to be a
country, it would have maps, history notes, and things that people had brought
from that country. It would just be a little museum about a particular subject or a
country. If you felt like you had adequate knowledge about a particular subject,
you might want to get a committee together and develop a museum, and you
would put it in a suitcase. Of course, not just any suitcase; they bought special
suitcases for it. But that is how it got its name. As I recall, Margaret Manson
was very active in that for a long time.
L: They were stored at the county school board office.
B: Right, out at the county school board, and you would go there and check them
L: I see. And what the league members did was to fund it and put them together,
but they did not actually take them into the classrooms and display them.
B: That is right. They just made them available.
L: Were they widely utilized?
B: Yes, they were, much to the surprise of some the league members. Some of
them said they would never be used. When the students would be talking about
Mexico (to use that as an example), the teacher would check out the Suitcase
Museum on Mexico. Any added feature that the teacher could get was an
added feature that the teacher could get!
L: It sounds like a very interesting idea.
B: Well, it is a good idea, and it was an idea that was not expensive. It was time
consuming for that committee, but it was very interesting, and they really enjoyed
doing it. If somebody would say they were going someplace, they would say,
"We need so-and-so for the museum," so it was a fun kind of thing that was not
L: What about the Medical Museum?
B: It was the same type thing, except it pertained to medical topics.
L: Did they actually have specimens of organs or whatever?
B: Yes, there were some, but most of it was stethoscopes and all sorts of
equipment. There were bones and different things. The subject came up of
organs, and I am trying to think what kind of organs they had. I do know they
had a lot of models. It seems to me that they had some real ones, like pieces of
lungs of smokers. Some of them were slides.
L: How long did you continue to be in the league after your year as president?
B: That was my last year.
L: So you resigned the next year? I mean, you went sustaining the following year.
B: Sustaining, yes. As I said, I was quite old [for the league].
L: What does it mean when you say you go sustaining?
B: When you end your active years in the league you may join a group [of former
active members]. This group is known as sustainers. The term "going
sustaining" if that is good English or not came into being when the sustainers
L: I see. What did you have to do in order to be eligible to go sustaining?
B: If you finished your active years in good standing, you were eligible.
L: There was an age at which you automatically moved into the sustainers group?
B: Yes. When I first went into the league you were active for seven years. During
the time I was in the league the rule was changed so that a member was active
until she was forty. Is that right?
L: Age forty.
B: I think it is forty. That happened while I was in the league, so I did not stay in
the league for seven years.
L: So you were in the league less than seven years?
B: Yes, I was in the league six years. Had I not been president I probably would
have been in only five years.
L: When they made the changeover, the people who had started under the
seven-year plan were still able to go sustaining after their seventh year? What if
there had been somebody who had served six of their seven years when they
made the changeover? Would they have to stay in until they were forty?
B: They were grandfathered.
L: So everybody who was already a part of the group [would be all right].
B: Well, now, I take that back. This was discussed at great length. I think they
were grandfathered. We had some awfully young members. I am not really
sure how that [turned out], but it seems to me that they had a choice. They
could take a leave, they could be grandfathered and take their seven, or they
could take a leave and come back and work until they were forty. These were
all things that came up in discussion. It would have made the girls who had
come in at age twenty or twenty-one work for twenty years, and that is not what
they came in to do. They came to work seven years.
L: They were not expecting that.
B: Right. So as I recall, if they requested to be grandfathered into their seven
years they could, but I also remember that some of them took a leave and came
L: I see.
B: When we joined the national [organization] some of them had to come back. I
do not recall exactly why, but maybe the league membership numbers needed to
L: Now, you say when they joined national, that is when they became an affiliate of
the Association of Junior Leagues.
L: That was in the 1970s.
B: We have all of these little terms. "Going national" was one of them. Somebody
asked, "What in the world does that mean, going national?" But that was the
term that was used. It means nothing.
L: Except to those who are using it.
L: I want to ask you if the league was already involved, at least in the discussion
stage, with the Morningside Park venture when you were in the league.
B: Yes, it was just in the discussion stage. I am trying to remember when
Morningside came into being. You do not happen to know what year?
L: It was in 1969 that the league paid $3,000 to the National Audubon Society for a
study plan for Morningside, so it had to be after that date. But I thought perhaps
there was a good bit of discussion before the group actually got involved.
B: The county talked about Morningside for a number of years, but talk was all it
L: Did the county approach the welfare league about sponsoring it, or was it the
other way around?
B: I do not recall. Usually when those things came up other people approached the
league. Since the league would go out into the community to get money, like at
Follies--as I say, everybody was involved in Follies--the community would know
that the league was interested [in such projects], and they would approach the
organization. They knew that we made all this money in the Follies, so the
league would be the first one they would think of if they needed money or if they
needed manpower or politicking for things because they knew they were
interested. It was a viable group of women to get things done.
L: Tell me a little bit about the women who were in the welfare league.
B: They were made up of a number of different types. We had people who were
very active in a lot of organizations, and had they not been in the league they
would have given service to the community [through some other organization]. I
am going to say half or maybe third of them I am making these numbers up
myself would have spent their time in the community one way or another had
there not been a welfare league. A third of them would have never done
anything had the league not been an elitist organization, and, therefore, about a
third of them gave time to the community because they were in the league. It
was a real social thing to be in. The last third of them would [get involved] if
somebody really pushed them, whether the league was here or not; either way
they would have had to be pushed. So there were a lot of different kinds of
people in there.
The league was interesting in that there were enough people in there who would
have I always hate to say a type of recreation, but I will played golf or bridge.
At that time tennis was not very big; I think one other girl and I were the only
ones in town who played tennis. Most of them would have spent all their time
playing golf or bridge had the league not been there, so the league fulfilled a
good purpose. Some of these girls found out they really did like it, and even
after they got out of the league they went on to became great service people.
They would not have had the opportunity to find out had it not been for an
organization like the league.
L: That is true.
B: As I say, there was about a third of them who would have been active anyway.
It is like all other organizations: it has all kinds of people. At that time, you could
not have a full-time job and be in the league.
L: You mean the time commitment for the welfare league was so heavy?
B: It was very heavy. There were some who tried it. League meetings were at
night because of that, and they did try [to keep their day jobs], but [that meant]
they would have to work at the Thrift Shop on Saturday morning, and it really was
L: About how many in that classification let us call them professionals would you
say there were? About how many out of, say, a group of sixty or seventy
B: Oh, I would say no more than ten or twelve. You had to find something for them
to do that they could work on after hours. This is where the Suitcase committee
came in, and this is where the Saturday Thrift Shop came in. There was nothing
that they could do outside at that time. They were all good members, and we
needed them, [so they served in such areas as the] Suitcase committee, and
they did a fantastic job.
L: We talked a little bit earlier about age when we said that the upper age was forty.
Tell me a little bit about the age range of people who were in the group when
you were there.
B: Actually, when I was in there, I would say most of the women were in their late
twenties and thirties.
L: Was it a pretty homogenous group?
B: Yes, it really was. When you are invited to join a group that is by invitation only,
where you cannot apply to join, you have people who are friends of people,
because friends invite friends; they invite who they know. It limits the group to
pretty much a specific kind of individual just by nature of the way the invitation
comes. You still see this in men's groups and women's groups. In any group
people pick their friends; they want their friends with them. It would have been
very difficult to get into the league if you came to town and did not know anybody.
It would be a very difficult thing to do.
L: Would you say the league was made up mostly of Gainesville women, then, who
had lived in Gainesville a long time?
B: I think it started out being a group of what they used to call "old Gainesville,"
when Gainesville was a very small town. The people that Aunt Carrie asked to
come to her front porch were people who had known each other all their lives
and had lived in Gainesville all their lives, which set the tone. The fact that this
is a "town and gown" town much more then, I think, than it is now because it
was smaller the league tended to be a town organization. That was not
entirely true, because there were people connected with the University who had
lived in Gainesville all their lives. There was some carry over, but most of the
people in the league were people who had been born and raised here or were
friends of people who had been born and raised here. It was that sort of
organization because it was by invitation only. Not only was it by invitation only,
but you had to have sponsors, and you had to entertain so everybody in the
league would know the people that were being put up. It was just friends inviting
L: Now, Gainesville was beginning to grow by this time, though. This is the mid to
the late 1960s. I am sure it was considerably larger than 13,000.
B: That is right.
L: Did you get people transferring in to membership who had been in a welfare
league in another place?
B: Yes, we had people come in who had been in a league in other places. We did
not have to take them, of course, but, generally, if they wanted to join they would
make the contact, and somebody would get acquainted with them and put them
up [for membership] because they would be people who would be interested in
doing the kind of service projects that the league did and would want to affiliate
with them. So if somebody came into town who had been a league member
elsewhere, they would make a contact. This happened two or three times. I
am not saying 100 percent, but they would make a contact and let it be known
that they really would like to join, and before long they would be taken in. It was
not that people were trying to keep people out it is just that you invited who you
L: That is right. That sounds natural.
B: They did not want it to be really big, but Gainesville started growing, and all of the
feelings the women's libs, women doing their own things everything changed.
Of course, the pattern of the league membership changed.
L: Did you begin to see this before you went national?
B: Yes, we could see it coming. When I was president we were discussing going
national, affiliating with the national junior leagues, and we did send in an
application. We were not accepted because our town was too small, but here,
again, I am going to pick my own numbers I would say it was not quite half, but
there was a number of our members who really did not want us to affiliate with
national because they wanted to stay the way we were. I think this is true of
anytime there is growth. Some people really do not want change. I think none
of us want change. We like what we know.
L: It is comfortable.
B: Yes, and there was a lot of talk about whether or not we should even send in an
application. Finally we did, but the first application was not accepted. The
second one was. There was a little less than half of the membership that did
not want to change. Then we had some on the other end who definitely wanted
it. They came from other junior leagues, and they knew what being affiliated
with the national had to offer. They would not have had the problem of getting
into our welfare service organization had we belonged to a national, so they
understood some of the problems of not being affiliated. We had a lot of
discussion, and it was interesting. The reason I say it was a little more than half
that were for it is because the application was made. I do not have to remember
the numbers, but the fact that application was made says the majority wanted it.
L: Right. That tells you right there. Then in the 1970s the Junior Welfare League
did affiliate with the A.J.L.
B: That is right. That was the second application.
L: I want to ask you one more thing. I noticed in scanning the newspapers of the
period that the Junior Welfare League got excellent coverage. I was really
surprised at of how much space was devoted. They must have had very good
B: Well, as I say, the people in the league had connections. Also, the paper was
L: That makes a difference.
B: That makes a tremendous difference. The Peppers owned the paper. I do not
know if you ever knew the Peppers or not, but they owned the paper, so it was
locally owned. And Polly was in the league. I must say the Junior Women's
Club got good coverage, the Medical Auxiliary got good coverage, and everybody
got good coverage. It was a community paper, and we cried when the Peppers
sold. When a [Florida] paper's owners are in New York, the feeling is different
down at the office.
L: You are right.
B: There is no way you can get around that. The Peppers lived here. All their
folks were here, and this paper was for Gainesville, so we did get excellent
coverage. We would have the front page of the social section at least once a
year, sometimes even more. There was never any question.
L: I saw a lot of times where you got front page paper coverage, not just the social
B: That is right. But I mean we would have the whole [social section].
L: I know what you are saying.
B: The difference is the fact that it was a hometown paper, and they did not have to
go to board meetings in New York. They could cover what they pleased, and
what they pleased to cover was Gainesville. Not that they did not have national
news or international news. They did, but their primary concern was Gainesville,
which I like.
L: Right. I know what you are saying. I think that is all the questions I wanted to
ask you, but I would like to leave you with an opportunity to tell me anything I
might have missed asking you. Is there something you would like to add that I
have not touched on?
B: I cannot think of anything. This is really going back to talk about the league in
the 1960s, and I do not remember very well. I have trouble with yesterday. I do
think that it would be good to have on tape that this is an organization that has
really done a tremendous amount for Gainesville. It was made up of women
who wanted to do things for Gainesville, and it had the good of Gainesville at
heart. Even though it was by invitation only, it was not a social organization.
There were few parties. They had one party a year for their new members, and
that was it. It was not a social organization at all. Because of the way you
became a member it looked as if it were a social organization, but it was not. It
was a 100 percent service organization.
L: A real working group.
B: It was a real working group, and I think this bears repeating over and over again
that it really and truly was from the beginning and still is a real working group.
Because of the people who were in it at that time, particularly the 1950s and the
1960s, sometimes until you knew [otherwise] you might think that it was a social
organization, but it was not. That is about it. There were a lot of things that
happened, but it is very hard to go back.
L: I can appreciate that. Thank you for sharing your remembrances and your time
with me today.
[End of the interview]