Interviewee: Elta Busby
Interviewer: Jennifer Garrett
Date: October 19, 2004
G: It's October 19, 2004. I'm interviewing Elta Busby about her time at Flavet. Just
to start out, where are you from?
B: I'm from Eustis, Florida.
G: Can you briefly describe how your life changed at the onset of World War II?
B: I was in school in Tallahassee. I went three years and then I transferred to a city
hospital in Akron, Ohio, for medical technology.
G: You were there during the war?
B: No, I stayed there just one year. That would have been until June, 1943. We had
married in January, so then when I finished school, we lived in Memphis,
G: At that time, when you lived in Memphis, what was your daily life like?
B: We were just in one little room. We shared a house with a bedroom and a
bathroom. It was over 100 [degrees] every day, so the pilot's wife [a neighbor]
said, Elta, I can get you a job at the hospital. I said, okay, so I went to work in the
hospital in Memphis. He [her husband] had agreed to purchase a house, so we
were waiting for the house to be finished. When it was finished, we rode over
there. Of course, [I] didn't work long, because he was soon sent overseas. Then
I moved back home with Mother and Dad.
G: What year were you married?
B: 1943. [Yes,] that's right, before I finished school.
G: How did your husband's service impact your life?
B: We wouldn't have been married that soon because he made enough money to
get married then. We had no idea when we became engaged that we'd be able
to be married until the war was over and he finished school. Since he was
making good money in the army, we were able to get married.
G: When did he return?
B: He returned in the last of November 1945.
G: Was there any question about, when your husband returned whether or not he
would go back to school?
B: No question whatsoever. I had saved enough money [for him to go back] even if
it weren't for the G.I. Bill.
G: Did you want to go back to school or had you already finished?
B: No, I didn't really want to go back because I wanted to raise the children.
G: Did you go back to Gainesville because that's where he had gone, to UF, before?
G: I have a quote here from a university cheerleader from that time that says, they,
meaning the veterans, have no school spirit. All these people are interested in is
getting an education.
B: No, they had school spirit, but they didn't take time to go to the football games.
They all gathered in the court with the radio and listened to the games. At least
there where we lived, they didn't go to the games. They still had plenty of school
spirit, oh yes, and do to this day.
G: What did you expect university life to be like when you moved to Flavet?
B: Of course, I had already been to Tallahassee to school. My thoughts were just on
getting him through school and me raising the boys. That was it. I didn't worry
about anything else.
G: Did you know going in how long it would take him to graduate?
B: We had a good idea, yes.
G: Did you have any concerns about coming to UF?
G: Were you worried about finding housing or anything like that?
B: Oh yes, of course. In fact, the first place we lived, I couldn't even bring the older
boy. I had to leave him home with Mother and Dad and I came with the baby
because we just shared a bath and had very primitive bedding. [We] couldn't
bring the older boy.
G: Once you were able to get into Flavet that spring of 1946 ...
B: It was still winter, I think. I don't think it was spring yet; it was still winter.
G: Once you were able to move in there, can you describe a typical day there for
you while you were living there?
B: [I focused on] feeding [my] family, of course.
G: What time did you wake up?
B: I don't know. We've always been early risers, that was no problem. We never
had an alarm. We were always early risers. At first, I had to wash clothes by
hand. Of course, I had two in diapers-I don't know, maybe I didn't-anyways, you
had to wash by hand. But having the money saved up that we did, we went
downtown to this furniture store and put our name in for a refrigerator and a
washing machine. The people were very kind to veterans and so we soon had a
washing machine and a refrigerator.
G: Were you unusual among the people in Flavet that you were able to get those
B: [Yes.] We were always communicating, becausee we were out there watching
our children in the backyard. They weren't by themselves, we were out there
watching them. They [the kids] were all about the same age in our building. The
ones in the better apartment there only had small children. It was just the four of
them in our building that they played with. They usually played right there in our
backyard. There were oak trees and there was shade. I don't remember Jim [her
son] ever going to other houses to play; they always played right there because I
was there watching them, probably.
G: Can you describe the interior of your apartment a little bit, like the number of
bedrooms and baths?
B: The baths had a shower, of course. There was a closet in the hall and a closet in
each of the bedrooms. We had a small bed for the little one and we put it in the
closet in their room. I bought inexpensive bedspreads downtown. I had them
covering up those windows to keep out the cold and also as closings for the two
closets. That's what we had. We had, of course, our furniture because we'd had
the furniture in Memphis and it had been stored.
G: I saw in the pictures that they had wood floors. Did it have wood floors
B: At one layer, because you could see light through the floors. They were just one
G: You said the walls were masonite?
B: [Yes, they were] masonite; you could hear through them.
G: Was that a big problem?
B: If it had been a cold winter it would have been very much a problem. It was really
a mild time we spent there, thank goodness. We were right at the northwest
corner, and it was open underneath. It was mild.
G: Were all the apartments the same on the interior as far as the layout? I know you
said some of them were three bedroom and two bedroom and one bedroom.
B: The one bedrooms had a big walk-in closet just as you went in the door. These
friends of ours, that was the room for their little boy. That's where they had his
baby bed. They lived on that $90 a month. He was a sailor and didn't save
money, couldn't save money. Their picture was in the paper one day because
Billie kept track of every penny she spent and they wanted to know how in the
world did you get by on that? She had it all listed, what she had spent. Of
course, we used cloth diapers because we didn't have paper ones.
G: You washed them before you got your washing machine. You just washed them
out back and hung them out?
B: No, you washed them in your sink. You had to wash them in your kitchen sink.
G: What did the kitchen come equipped with?
B: In terms of gas, a full-burn gas stove and a gas hot water heater. That was it.
The ice box. A hole drilled in the floor for the well to drip out.
G: Were there any optional amenities that you could pay extra for?
G: I've read one of the lease agreements for the Flavets, and it may be one later
than yours, I'm not sure, But it says that electricity was provided in the rent;
however, if you have certain appliances, such as an electric ice box, a washing
machine, waffle iron ...
B: They didn't charge us for them.
G: They didn't charge you any?
B: Of course, nobody had dryers in those days.
G: Your husband told me that you did not have a telephone. Did you ever need to
make telephone calls, and [if so], where did you go?
B: I don't know. We did have to call the doctor a couple of times, but I don't know
how we got in touch [with them]. The doctors came to the house. I only went one
time, I think it was.
G: You mentioned that you took some of the bedspreads and put them over the
B: Not the children, but the big ones.
G: The ones in the front?
B: [The ones] in the living room. Of course, the dining room was an L-shaped room
and [the] dining room was right there by the kitchen. There were those three big
windows there. I suppose we had them in the bedroom, but I don't remember.
G: Is there anything else that you did to your apartment to make it more liveable and
B: The only thing that was different, I think, was he had bought a wool rug home
G: I saw that in one of the pictures you showed me.
B: The only trouble is I made the mistake of putting it in the washing machine, and,
of course, it all came undone. It wasn't woven, it was just mesh.
G: When you were talking about the really thin walls, was it a big problem that you
could hear your neighbors through the walls?
B: It wasn't for us, but those in the one-bedroom apartments, our friends, it was.
Our bedroom was backed up to their living room. Of course, they studied, __,
and their children went to bed early and so did ours, so there was no problem.
G: Did the residents aid in the maintenance as the building, such as paying them or
anything like that?
B: There wasn't anything, you know, we were there so short a time. There was no
shrubbery or anything. They did put in the sidewalks and the streets, but other
than that, I don't think we ever had grass.
G: Were the residents allowed to have pets?
B: I don't think so. I never saw a pet, so I don't know.
G: Can you talk a little bit about the social life in Flavet Village for you?
B: Most of all, someone could come play bridge, but not that often. We did have one
couple in particular that we played bridge with. Of course, they came to the
house because of our children.
G: Were there any clubs or anything for women, or did the women get together for
B: Not that I know of.
G: Did you know anyone in the Village before you moved in?
B: Yes, we knew the Swansons.
G: Did you socialize with them while you were there?
B: We just didn't socialize. We didn't. We maybe went to see them once or twice,
but that's all. They were not that far from us, but there wasn't time. I typed for his
studies. One professor, you had to do class notes, your parallel reading, and
your lab reports, and they preferred them typed. So I typed [for him]. Another
professor, I typed things and I misspelled a word, because I wasn't an expert
typist at all, and that counted against Joe. It wasn't Joe's fault; it was my fault.
G: Did residents celebrate holidays together if they weren't able to go home or go to
B: Some of them celebrated when there was a football game. We were not beer
drinkers or anything like that, so we did not celebrate with anybody.
G: So they were allowed to drink alcohol? You were able to drink there?
B: I guess they did, they were allowed to, because they did. I don't know if Joe told
you, but one man had quail. He shot quail out his back door. It's where [McCarty]
Hall is now where his place backed up to. We had squirrel one time because the
squirrel jumped in the trees above us and fell and broke his back. So we had
B: This one professor was a bachelor, and he didn't like having girls in his class.
Joe may have told you. He came by one day-he was an avid fisherman in
Orange Lake-and he had a wash tub full of huge bass [and] gave us three. You
couldn't find meat [at the time]. [The] A&P [grocery store] was downtown and
they would save some things under the counter for us, like soap and such.
G: He mentioned coffee.
B: Yes, soap and coffee. He didn't drink coffee then. They did. They were so good
for us. When the commissary opened, the first flyer we got said, Vel [a
dishwashing detergent that is no longer sold in stores] something or other,
because in those days you had Drift and you had Vel that were dishwashing
detergents. You couldn't buy them unless you bought them under the counter.
That was our introduction to the commissary. It was something you could get
there that you couldn't get anywhere else.
G: When did that open up?
B: It must have been in the summer of 1946. I think the man that instigated getting it
all was the one that lived on the other end of our building. He later became a
lawyer. He played semi-professional baseball on the Gainesville team.
G: What was his name?
B: Let's see, his last name was Eaton, Joe Eaton. His boy was Joel. I think he's
from Lakeland. He was the one that instigated it. In fact, he may have been one
of the ones that instigated us getting Flavet in the first place. I think he was one
of the ringleaders. That's probably why he had the three-bedroom house with
G: I read in the archives that they occasionally showed movies at some of the
Flavets. Did they show movies where you were at the time?
B: They did what?
G: Show any movies or anything?
G: Did you feel like you were close to your neighbor?
B: Sure. Oh yes. I still am, with one couple.
G: What's their name?
G: Is there anyone else that you still keep up with?
B: Yes, the Swansons. I did with the Kings, they were in Flavet, too. They live in
Arizona, so that's too far. I don't know if they're both living still.
G: Were there any churches or any kind of groups such as that, people that would
meet to go to church?
B: We should have gone to church, but we didn't. The people next to us, they
attended regularly. They were Church of Christ, so they attended regularly.
G: They would just go to the Gainesville one? They wouldn't have any special
B: Not that I know of. These friends that played bridge with us, they were [part of
the] First Presbyterian Church. They would [have] like[d] for us to have come, but
we just didn't.
G: Was there much diversity in the residents of Flavet?
B: Much what?
G: Diversity in the residents?
G: Did most of the women have the same background as you?
B: I have no idea.
G: Were there any minorities living in Flavet?
G: There was an incident that was cited later on by the Board of Commissioners of
Flavet concerning someone that lived there, their maid coming in. Did you know
anyone in the Flavets that had a maid?
B: There was one you saw in a picture, but I don't know where she came from. She
walked across there. She happened to be in one of those pictures. I don't know
who she worked for or anything else. I have no idea. Joe had his vegetable
garden and they got to bring home the vegetables, so that was a great help to us,
too. In fact, we gave one of our friends in Flavet some yellow squash one time,
and Charlotte said, I've never seen these. She came from the same town we
did. She said, do you have to peel them? We did share. It was things like that.
G: Was there any kind of space at Flavet, like if you wanted to have your own
G: There was nothing like that, so he just brought that home because he was in
B: He had one course in vegetable gardening. That garden was where that steel
fountain is. You know where the steel fountain is? That's where the garden was.
G: On 13th [Street]?
B: Of course, I would walk the boys down to the dairy to see the cows, which was
just down the street. That was something.
G: Was that at Building 120, the Dairy Science Building?
B: That was where the girl's dormitory is and the tennis courts. That was the dairy.
Where that music building is, there was a little citrus grove. Of course, he took a
course in citrus, too. That was right there. The cows were right across from
where Flavet Two was put in on 13th Street.
G: Were there any single veterans living in Flavet?
B: No, except the one that was the prisoner of war that lived with his brother.
G: What happened when you or someone in your family got sick? Were you able to
go to the infirmary like your husband was?
B: No. Joe went, but we never did. He came down with malaria after the atabrine
wore off. He came down with malaria and he did go to the infirmary for that.
G: If one of your children got sick, what did you do?
B: We called the doctor in town.
G: Would he come to you?
B: He came to the house. One time I remember seeing him wash his hands with
alcohol before and after he came in the house.
G: Your husband mentioned that you listened to the UF radio station a lot. I've heard
that at one time they broadcast from Flavet. It might have been in the later
B: No, I don't think so.
G: Your family did have a radio?
B: I'm trying to think. I had one in college, but I don't know. We may have had one, I
G: You didn't listen to the radio a lot while you were there?
G: Did you feel safe living in Flavet?
B: Certainly, no problem.
G: There was never any problem with crime or anything like that?
G: Did you feel like there was a sense of community living in there?
G: Why do you think that was?
B: Well, I guess because our children were all the same age and our husbands all
had the same thing in mind, get through school and get out. The Swansons, he
was a sophomore when he came in and he stayed on through his master's
degree. Joe decided he wanted to get out and go to work He came back much
later for his degrees.
G: What kinds of rules were in place for living in Flavet? Were there any rules that
you can recall?
B: Not any that I know of. I don't know of any.
G: Was there ever any kind of disciplinary action taken against any families?
B: Not that I know of.
G: He mentioned that you had a car, or maybe your husband told me that. Did
many residents own vehicles?
B: Oh, no.
G: Where would you park the car?
B: On the street. Except one night he left it at the library.
G: He told me about that.
B: I don't know why he drove it to the library that night, but he did.
G: Were there any kind of unwritten rules or codes that residents abided by?
B: Everyone was just interested in school. That was it.
G: How much of a concern was a money to you when you were living in Flavet?
B: We were careful with it, but we had a good savings account.
G: This was because you had been able to save so much before?
G: Do you remember how much it cost to live in Flavet?
B: No, I don't. It was $20-something dollars, I thought. Joe wrote the checks, I'm
G: Can you give me an idea of what expenses made up your budget at that time?
B: I didn't keep that. I had to keep it once we moved out ,because then I had three
children and wages were low when he got out for the university people.
G: Did you work while you were in Flavet?
B: I never worked after we left Memphis.
G: Did many of the wives in Flavet work?
G: None of them?
B: No. I don't know of any that did.
G: Did you ever need any child-care for any reason while you were there?
G: You never got a babysitter or anything like that? Did you have any concerns
about raising your children at Flavet?
B: No, it was wonderful.
G: You talked about this just a little bit. Did you expect that your financial situation
would change after your husband graduated, such as you might have more
money or you might be living differently?
B: No. The wages were so small.
G: You knew that ahead of time?
B: You had housing and everything else to take care of then that was more
expensive. No, we didn't worry about leaving or anything else.
G: How did your experience living in Flavet influence the rest of your life?
B: I don't know. I don't know if it did. I really don't know.
G: Would you assess your experience living in Flavet as a positive experience?
B: Oh, yes.
G: What were the best parts about it that you remember?
B: He was close to where he could to school. Our boys had somebody to play with.
We had nice neighbors. It was just a good place to live and good people around
G: Were there any negative aspects of living in Flavet that we haven't talked about?
B: Just when it was too cold to cook in the morning and such as that. Other than
that, it was so much better than some of the places we lived during the war that
we felt very blessed.
G: They didn't have any kind of heating in the Flavets?
B: I don't know whether it was kerosene or whether we had gas. It must have been
more gas. I don't know whether there was something besides the kitchen stove.
G: You might have only had the kitchen stove to heat?
B: I don't know, I have no idea. It wasn't kerosene. If it was anything, it had to be
G: I think I read in the archives that, at one time later on, they were trying to get
kerosene heat into the Flavets because it was going to be cheaper or something
like that. Is there anything else I haven't asked you about that I need to know?
B: I don't think so. We were there such a short time.
G: He graduated in the fall?
B: No, winter, in January.
G: Because you all were in quarters then.
B: The man wanted him to go to work. He was offered a job that was paid more, but
he didn't want that one. He wanted to be with the university, even though it was a
lot less money with the university.
G: Did you stay in Gainesville?
B: No, we went to Manatee County with an extension service.
G: Thank you very much.
B: I enjoyed your visit. I don't know whether you need any pictures or not, I don't
[End of the interview.]