Interviewee: Jane Emerson
Interviewer: Jennifer Garrett
Date: November 20, 2004
G: Today is November 20, 2004, and I'm interviewing Jane Emerson about her
experience at Flavets. Jane, where are you from?
E: St. Petersburg, Florida.
G: Can you briefly describe what your life was like during World War II?
E: During what?
G: World War I1?
E: It was not bad. What I like to think of, it was a good war because we knew what
we were fighting for. People opened up their homes to the soldiers and their
wives, something that's never happened before or since. We all were in it
together. I don't think there's ever been a war like it.
G: Where were you living at that time?
E: In St. Petersburg. I was born in St. Petersburg.
G: What year were you married?
G: How did you meet your husband?
E: When we were in high school. I did not date him. People asked me if I dated
him in high school since we've been married sixty years. I said, well, he was
valedictorian and I was head cheerleader. Do you really think I would have
dated him? I was looking at the football players at that time. He was on the
stage and doing speeches and what have you, and I thought of him as a
bookworm, so I really was not that interested.
G: How did your husband's military experience impact your life?
E: He was a Marine pilot. There weren't very many of them. There were just a few
squadrons of Marine pilots. They flew B-25s, bombers. There again, it was like
a family. I lost a lot of friends. Lots and lots of friends, but it was a way of life.
We didn't know anything different. We accepted it and we could remember
those people all through these years. It was not an unhappy time. I think
anybody that you talk to that's my age, you don't remember this as an unhappy
time unless you lost somebody in the family, which we did not.
G: What year did he return, your husband?
E: 1945 or 1946.
G: Were you involved in the decision for your husband to go to school at the
University of Florida?
G: He did that on his own? Were you looking forward to moving there?
E: We weren't married. I went just before he did. I went the summer before he
started in the fall. We both went to St. Petersburg Junior College. I only went for
a year, he went for two. I went on to Georgia. I think I was there in the
summertime, and he came in September.
G: What year was that?
E: I have no idea. 1941.
G: In 1941, you were both at the University of Florida?
E: Yes, but not together.
G: You were married in 1944, but was he already in the service?
G: Then he came back in 1946?
E: We were stationed in Edenton, North Carolina.
G: How did you make it to the Flavets?
E: When he came back, it was Christmastime of 1945. He came back from
Okinawa, the only man in the squadron that got to come home [at that time]. We
had a baby that he had never seen. He got here just before Christmas. He
started working at the bank, which he said was dull as dishwater. That lasted a
very short time. He had graduated in the business school and he wanted to be a
CPA. It didn't materialize, there were too many fellows coming home to look for
jobs. Thousands. There really weren't enough jobs of what you wanted to do at
that time. At the end, he went to the bank. All of a sudden he read a little clip in
the St. Petersburg Times about Merrill Lynch, putting the executives through their
school in New York. Some of the men that joined Merrill Lynch then had to come
in uniform. They didn't have a suit to wear. They paid, I can't remember exactly
how much it was. This was after. I'm confused.
G: I'm just trying to get to why you went to Flavet.
E: When he came back he still had, I don't know whether it was a half a year or a
year to finish. When the war was declared, he went right down to I think the post
office in Gainesville. He was in school at the time. He and his best friend
wanted to get right in the service. They said, go back and finish your education.
He did go in before he was finished and went to a naval pre-flight school, then on
into the Marine Corps. When they got their wings, they took supposedly, he
laughs at this, ten percent. The upper ten percent got a choice, and he took the
Marine Air Corps because it was rather unique. When he came back, we saw
this, another little clip in the paper, about Flavet Village.
G: You were living in St. Petersburg?
E: In St. Pete. He came back here. You had to be a veteran, and you had to have
at least one child. He wrote up there and called up there and we got the first
house. There were three units in just a rectangle. They consisted of a fairly
good-sized living room and a kitchen and one bedroom.
G: Were you involved in the decision? How did you feel about going to Flavet?
E: I would have rather he stayed in service. That was very nice. I enjoyed it. He
was a pilot and he was making a lot more money than he would make coming
out and finishing college. We had to live on the G.I. Bill. That was $80 a month.
I'm going back, and as I say, I'm using an old brain. These were not elaborate
by a long shot. The one nice thing about it, they were down in sort of a circle.
Very close to [where] the Reitz Union [is now]. They were wooded and these
barrack type things all-around in a circle. A dirt road. We were all in the same
boat. None of us had very much. Bill had put himself through college. His
parents were not able to help.
G: When you found out that you were going to be able to move to Flavet, what did
you expect it to be like? You'd been to the University of Florida before, but now
you were married and had a child. Did you know what the housing was even
going to look like?
E: No. I had no idea. They said they were living facilities, and it's what we could
afford. It's awfully difficult to go from an officer, he was a captain in the Marine
Corps, and he had flight pay aside from his regular salary, and had survived the
war. It was not a bad life at all. To go from that to this was, I don't remember
being unhappy with it. We fixed it up. My parents were very good about bringing
something to decorate with. We fixed it up very fine. I thought it was just darling.
G: Did it have furniture when you moved in?
E: No. Nothing. The refrigerator was an icebox. You had to have ice delivered,
which was just wonderful. As I say, we kind of took care of each other. None of
us could afford a sitter, and the boys [husbands] were all in school. They tried to
get jobs. In fact, Bill got a job building part of the business school to make a little
extra money. We were just all about in the same money bracket. If somebody
needed a sitter, you asked your next door neighbor. They'd take care of yours
while you did something. We all together had an awful good time.
G: Can we go back? I know you were concerned about money when you moved
there. Were there any other concerns when you moved there like raising a child
E: No. Maybe I didn't have sense enough to think about it.
G: Were you interested in taking classes again?
E: Oh, I couldn't at that time, because we didn't have the money for me to go back
to school and I had a child to take care of. He's fifty-nine now. It was a delightful
little village, it really was. We had a big picture window, quite large in the living
room. My mother brought up some end tables with pretty lamps and white criss-
cross curtains. They were very popular then. Ruffled. I hung them over this
picture window. One day, this guy drives up in front and three men get out. Two
of them in uniform. Of course, my heart stopped. All you can think of is
somebody's been killed in service. We lived that way. I think it was Tigert
[university president], came up to the door and the window was what got him to
stop. He said, your little house is so attractive. I have General So-And-So and
General So-And-So, and they are thinking about having more Flavet veteran's
housing. I think this was the first in the United States. Of course, we had the
first house. He wanted to go through my house. Well, a little year-old baby, and
not a lot of furniture, I was very flattered. I could hardly wait for Bill to come
home to tell him I had celebrities in our little Village.
G: Was the house clean and ready?
E: It wasn't bad. It could have been better, but I was thankful that as I remember, it
wasn't too bad. The only bad part about it was he decided to do it to every
visiting fireman who came from then on in.
G: So yours was the tour home?
E: That's right. I was washing diapers at twelve o' clock at night to try and have my
house clean in case he drove up with someone. It really got to be kind of hard. I
was flattered to begin with, and then I thought, I'd wish he'd find somebody else.
It was nice. It wasn't bad a bit.
G: If we could backtrack just a little bit. Was the transition to the university difficult?
You mentioned that you were coming from a very different lifestyle.
E: I don't remember it being difficult. It was not the same. Your life changes so
much. When we were in school, it was a very carefree life, even though it was
war time. We didn't have responsibilities. When we went back, you think about
going to the fraternity house and having a good time and football games going
on. There was none of that. The war took all of that away. We were used to an
entirely different life. We enjoyed it. I think it was also the fact that your
neighbor really didn't have anything more than you did.
G: Can you describe a typical day for you while you were living in Flavet? What
time did you wake up, what were your responsibilities? You mentioned you
sometimes had to stay up late.
E: Just because I was always afraid that he [Tigert] would come back. My house
probably was cleaner then than it's ever been since. Most of us used playpens
and we would set them right out the front door. They were wooden and they
were sturdy. You would see playpens all the way around the circle.
G: In the outside?
E: In the outside. Where we could see them. Kids in every playpen all the way
G: Mosquitos weren't that bad with the kids?
E: It wasn't an area [with] a lot of oak trees. It was very pretty. Some of the kids
were older and would play in the circle around there. The little ones would be in
playpens and laughing and watching. We had very little traffic except the people
that lived there, and of course, they were very cautious. We had a very
interesting mail man that we all just dearly loved. His name was George. This
huge police dog didn't belong to him, but went on his whole tour.
G: It was a dog?
E: Yes. What would you call them? My daddy raised them. I can't remember what
they were called. Senior moment. He walked around with him. This mailman
knew everybody in Flavet Village. Every child's name, every adult's name. The
day that the checks were due from the government, the G.I. Bill checks, if they
weren't in on that day, because everybody was living for that day, he would very
quietly come through the Village and slip your mail in and never whistle, and get
out of there as fast as he could. He didn't want to talk and tell us our check was
not there that day. A lot of them were living until that check arrived. It was tough
G: When you woke up in the morning, did you do anything to help your husband get
ready to go off to school?
E: Well, I fixed breakfast.
G: Speaking of that, what did the kitchen come equipped with besides the icebox?
G: You had to bring all your own pots and pans and things like that?
E: No dishwasher, no disposal, nothing.
G: Where did you wash the diapers and clothes?
E: I found a little washing machine. I think I payed $20 for it. It was a round white
enamel tub about like this and about that high. It sat up on the counter. The lid
was very heavy and had a long electric cord and had an agitator in the lid. You'd
put your clothes in, your water in, and stuck this thing up on the top and turn it
on. It didn't wring them very well. That's what I had.
G: Then did you have clothes lines for them to dry on?
E: Yes. We had plenty of the oak trees, and we just strung a clothesline outside.
That was a while back.
G: Is that what you had been used to before you lived in Flavet?
G: Was it difficult keeping up with the laundry, especially with the child?
E: Oh yeah. And they had no such thing as laundromats. If they did, I never saw
G: I've heard that it was sometimes hard to get soap and laundry soap. Did you
have any problems with that?
E: I don't remember that. Things during the war and that time sort of all blend in
together. There was so much we couldn't get during the war, you just learned to
live with it. You couldn't get gasoline, you couldn't get sugar. Bacon was one
thing I remember you couldn't get. You had to use coupons. When your
coupons were gone, no matter how much money you had, you still couldn't get
G: Did you still have to use coupons when you were living in Flavet?
E: No, because the war was over with by that time.
G: Where did you do most of your shopping when you lived in Flavet?
E: I can't remember. A grocery store. I can't remember where I went to shop.
G: I know at one time there was a commissary at Flavet, but I'm assuming it wasn't
there when you were.
E: Not in the first one. No, there was no commissary. The second one was entirely
different, and the third one was no connection at all. They were just not very
G: What kind of floor did they have?
E: Just a wooden floor. It was like the pre-fab [pre-fabricated construction]. It was
just a rectangle and three units across, almost a flat room. I was looking at some
pictures; I found some out in the garage, [but none] show the village. They
weren't unattractive, but they certainly were far [from luxurious]. And there was
G: Were you allowed to put in landscaping?
G: Did you?
E: We put in a few things, but we really couldn't afford much. We were just tickled
to death getting an education and finish that. The minute we got finished, we
G: You had your own bathroom in your unit?
E: Yes, we had one bathroom.
G: How many bedrooms?
G: Just one, although you did have a child.
E: He slept in the living room. I had a screen. It was long and narrow, because it's
supposed to be a dining room, the end of it. It was a little long. We had plenty
of furniture because our parents saw to that. The child that I had, to this day,
can fall asleep anyplace [no matter] how much noise or anything. We'd entertain
and put a little screen in front of it, and he'd just snooze away. If you train them
that way, that's the way they're going to be.
G: Were there any optional amenities when you moved in that you could pay extra
for? Like a fan or anything like that?
G: Was electricity included?
E: I don't think so. I think we paid the electricity and phone.
G: So you did have a phone?
E: I think we did. You'll have to check with Bill. I've got to talk to him about that.
G: What were the issues with sound and being able to hear your neighbors, or was
G: Was that a problem?
E: I don't remember it being a problem. It really was hard for all of us. In looking
back, it really was one of the happiest times of our lives. I don't know exactly
why. I don't look back on the war as an unhappy time. I think in a way we are
the ["greatest] generation." I think we really had more than anybody else has
had since. We didn't realize it at the time. We look back, and we did so many
things growing up that none of you all do now.
G: Like what?
E: Well, I don't know. It's a good life. We're all Depression children. I think we
learned to do without, without even knowing. So when you say, did you miss this
or did we do without that, maybe we did, but we didn't realize it.
G: Do you think your experiences in the Depression and then in the war helped you
live in the Flavet?
E: Yes. To this day, I'd survive. I don't know as successful as my children are
and my grandchildren and great grandchildren, I don't think they'd survive. I love
them, and they're nice people, but I just don't think they'd survive. If today, I lost
everything, I'd survive. That's what it teaches you without you even knowing that
you're learning that. I can do without. I might not like it, but I can do without.
G: Did the residents in Flavet aid in the maintenance of the structures at all, such as
painting or anything like that?
E: I don't remember. They offered you the house, and you were lucky to get it.
That was it.
G: Were you able to paint the interior?
E: I think you could have. I don't remember us doing it. They were all white walls,
and we left them that way. We really didn't have enough money to do lots of
things, but we didn't hurt, either. It was a way of life. I look back on it as being
lots of fun. I was trying to think of our next-door neighbors that we liked so
much. He was in forestry. At the time, I thought, what a funny thing for anybody
to be in. We heard from him years later, we've lost track of him now, but they
had three sons, and all were into forestry. It took them all over the world. I
thought, I never thought about forestry taking you all over the world. They were
very cosmopolitan. They were right out [off the farm] when they were in Florida.
G: Speaking of your friends there, can you describe the social life at Flavet Village?
E: I don't exactly know what you want in that.
G: How did you interact with the other residents there? You said that you all put
your playpens out together during the day?
E: The majority of them all got along exceptionally well. There were always the few,
maybe it's because they had a little bit more money, but there was one couple in
particular that had more than anybody else, and they were very arrogant.
People you wouldn't have liked them whether they had money or not. That type
of person. But there was only one couple that I remember.
G: Did you know everyone when you lived there?
E: Yes. Everybody in the Village.
G: About how many households were there living there?
E: Gosh, I don't know. I would say at least twenty units. Twenty apartments. I
could be wrong. I'm trying to think just how big that semi-circle was.
G: Did you ever get together formally or informally as a group for a holiday or a
E: You mean afterwards?
G: No. While you lived at Flavet.
E: About as much entertainment as we ever had was a show now and then. A
movie. Once in a while we would get together, very rarely and have a little
picnic. We were very sociable among ourselves, but we wouldn't go anywhere.
G: Would you go over to other people's apartments?
E: Yes. In the circle, so very few cars were there, and the kids could ride their
tricycles and push their go-carts. It's like you had fifty babysitters, because we
all interacted with each other. If a child was in trouble, you took care of it. You
saw that each child was taken care of. I don't think any of the rest of the Flavets,
they were built so different. This was like a little community.
G: Do you think that the fact that it was built in a circle like that helped?
E: I think that's it. We looked across at our neighbors. Anybody coming out the
front door you could see in this circle. It was a big circle. These big picture
windows. It was the only really elegant thing about it. The picture windows were
all the thing, you know. You could see the whole circle.
G: Were there any other buildings besides the apartment building at that time?
E: Not a one. It's like they just set it down in the middle of a forest. We could walk
up. I remember, it was a dirt road. Pushing baby carriages was a little tough,
but you'd walk up and I think I went to the right about a block, and there was the
infirmary. I think it's still there, isn't it?
G: Yes. Were you allowed to use the infirmary?
E: Oh, yes. And students. Bill was in there with pneumonia.
G: If your child was sick could you take him to the infirmary?
E: I don't remember that. But my child was never sick.
G: How did residents celebrate holidays?
E: Most of them went back home, because most of them were all from Florida.
G: Did you go home?
G: When you said that you went to movies, did they ever show movies at Flavet?
E: No. It was just the housing and that was it. There was nothing else.
G: Do you keep up with any of the friends that you met at Flavet?
G: Why do you think that is?
E: I don't know. I really don't know why. We did for a while, but they went their
way. I think if they ever came back, they would contact us, so I don't really think
many of them came back. Maybe none of them lived as long as we did, either. I
don't think any of them were as active as we have become at Florida.
G: Did everyone that lived at Flavet at that time have at least one child at that time?
E: You had to have at least one or you weren't eligible.
G: Were there any groups of people that tended to socialize together, such as
maybe based on how old their children were or where they lived in the circle?
E: I don't think so, I didn't see any of that. You had all types and from all
backgrounds. The one thing they had in common was that they were all in the
same boat[ similar situation]. They were all on the G.I. Bill for one reason or
another. Living there with not a great deal of money. Getting that education,
that was the main thing. All of them wanted to get the education and get going.
It was not your college experience. It's not like you think of college. Maybe you
thought it was hard at the time, but it's one of the nicest times in your life. We
didn't have that. When we went back, I thought, where has all that gone? This
was strictly business. Get through and get gone.
G: Were there ever any church services held in Flavet?
G: What kinds of things did you do for recreation? I realize you were on a limited
budget at that time.
E: Very little. We had a lot of friends from here. Really most of them weren't
married, but they were coming back to school or they were coming up for a
football game or something. We did have an awful lot from here [hometown of
St. Petersburg, FL]. We'd both been raised here. At that time, we knew
everybody in town. We had a lot of company from here. That was about all.
We had a lot of them come up. Some of their families had a lot more money
than we did, and did not live in Flavet. They would buy a home. Their families
would buy it for them. We socialized that way. They always liked to come to our
house. My child didn't wake up, so we could have some nice parties. It was just
a good time.
G: Did you ever go out to eat at that time?
E: Oh Lord, no. I think one time we did. I can't remember the name of that. Ask
him [her husband]. He took me there. He said, I used to once in a while eat
here when I was in college. It was down in downtown.
G: Someone's mentioned Primrose [Grill Gainesville restaurant].
E: That's it.
G: Is it?
G: I was wondering if you ever went to the pool on campus.
E: No. I didn't even know there was one. Probably there wasn't one at that time.
G: I can't remember when Florida Pool was built. I think it was just before 1950, so
it may not have been or they were just building it.
E: This goes back farther than that. It wasn't co-ed.
G: Oh, I hadn't thought about that.
E: A lot of people say, it's always been co-ed. And I say, oh no it hasn't.
G: The pool wouldn't have been co-ed, either. It would have been just for women.
E: The gardens of the horticulture school, we used to walk down there, because the
flowers were so pretty and the plants. I would push my baby down that way and
go in there. As far as entertainment, we did very, very little.
G: Were you ever able to get any of the fruits or vegetables from the horticulture
G: Were you active in any groups or clubs in the city?
E: We really didn't have time. He had to study, and he was trying to pack a whole
year into [eight] months. The main aim at that time, the war was over with, we
had to get out and start making a living.
G: When did you arrive? What was the [eight] months you were there? Was it fall
of 1946? Spring? It must have been spring of 1946.
E: He graduated and went straight to Highlands, North Carolina, so it must have
been the beginning of the summer when he graduated. My child was still quite
small. I'm not sure which year it was. You'll have to ask him.
G: Did you ever get sick while you were at Flavet? You mentioned that your child
never got sick.
E: I don't remember getting sick. He did. He caught pneumonia.
G: He was able to use the infirmary?
G: Was there any kind of Flavet newsletter?
E: No. This was so new. It was really, as I look back, on a trial basis. No other
school had done this. That's the reason why the president kept bringing people
from other universities that wanted to see what this was and to help the veterans.
That was the thing to do. As I said, this was a good war. I don't think people
have ever really let their differences drop and joined hands and said, we're in this
together. People that would have never opened up their homes to strangers
during the war opened up their home if they had an extra bedroom and a couple
needed a place. We've lived in many people's homes. [If] we couldn't find a
place. You could only stay in a hotel five days during the war. Then you had to
get out whether you wanted to get out or not, or whether you could afford to pay,
you were out. It was just a whole different kind [of world] that we grew up in. We
got used to things that would destroy you. It was just a way of life. There was
absolutely nothing at Flavet Village except happiness and being around young
people and babies and all being in the same boat. I don't think we were offered
any kind of recreation or availability. We never went anyplace. We were both
there as students, and we knew that life, but that life was gone.
G: Looking back, compared to what we live like today, what do you think would be
viewed as the most difficult part? Even though at the time it didn't seem difficult,
but now looking back, it was something that would be viewed from today's eyes
as being very difficult?
E: I think the insecurity of not knowing what we would do, and having one child.
G: You mean, not knowing what you would do ... ?
E: Not knowing what type of work you would get into. What our life would be. We
had gone from a lot of security ..
[End of side A1]
G: You were talking about how you'd given up the security that you'd had before.
E: Military life is a very nice life. Particularly that a captain makes a fair amount of
money. He has all the privileges, it pays for your home, it pays your salary, you
get flight time. You have the Officer's Club. You had so many advantages. All
of a sudden, say, I don't want to do that anymore, I want to go back and study
and have nothing, is a big decision. That is a good life, and you've gotten used
G: Do you think that your husband would have gone back to school without the G.I.
E: I don't think he could have, to tell you the truth. His parents were not able to
help, they were completely wiped out during the Depression. They were very
loving people, but they could not afford to help him. He put himself through
college, which was tough. When he was there before we were married, he had
two jobs just trying to stay in college, which is admirable, but not much fun. Of
course, when we went back, I couldn't work. I had gone from a very lucrative job
into taking care of a baby.
G: What was your job before?
E: I was with the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey doing aerial maps. It
was a very nice job and I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed the art part of it. I thought I
was winning the war all by myself. I thought it couldn't go on without me.
G: Back to the Flavets, did you feel like there was a sense of community in the
E: Very much so. Not organized at all. I had the feeling that we all learned
something during the war. We learned to stick together and not let the little
things be important. We didn't know we were learning it. I went to St. Pete High,
and we're getting ready to have our sixty-fifth reunion. Last time we had 230
people there, which is pretty good. I walked in and said, who invited all these old
people to this? We relate now like no other class. We called our last one, the
greatest generation. We're entirely different from the classes nowadays. I have
two children that graduated from St. Pete High. They have reunions, but they
don't have the war experience. That's what we had at Flavet Village. Whether
that would work today, I doubt if it would. I think the young people can't imagine
what we did. Not that it's a feather in our cap. We didn't know anything
different. We didn't know to demand anything more. We were just thankful that
we got the first house. We were happy there. It was tough, but we survived, and
we learned something from it. I'm so glad they did it. I don't know that it was
successful any other place. I've never heard. I do know a lot of people visited
our little house and thought it was a wonderful idea. It's the only way we could
have done it. It worked. He's [my husband] a very successful man.
G: Dean of Students R.C. Beatty was quoted as saying that there was a low divorce
rate in the Flavets. Beatty's explanation for this was that the veterans of this era
have something in the way of character. What was this character and what kept
these families together?
E: I don't know exactly what would keep you together. We think differently than the
generations that have followed us. How often I hear, and I'm no prude, but how
often I hear, well, if it doesn't work, get married to somebody else. We didn't go
into marriage that way. It no more entered my mind to divorce my husband than
fly to the moon. That just wasn't in our thinking. We had a lot of hard times, and
we certainly don't think alike. We're as different as night and day. For two
people who have absolutely nothing in common, we have an uncommonly good
marriage. We couldn't afford to think that way. We had to make it work. I don't
know what taught us that. Maybe Depression. Maybe the war. Maybe a
combination. But the majority that come to our reunions are celebrating fifty-five,
sixty year marriages, unless their husband was killed during the war. Then they
remarried. There are very, very few divorces. If there was, oh, it was the talk. It
was very popular.
G: What kind of rules that were in place for living in Flavet? Were there any rules
when you moved there?
E: I don't remember there being very many rules. We had one fire hydrant right
smack in the middle of the thing. I remember my husband started a fire. He
came running with the hose, but it wasn't connected, so it didn't work. There
was some kind of rare animal living in this tree. At the base of this tree, there
was an opening. Kids were all yelling that it was a dragon or something like that.
He lit some newspaper. Well, the tree was hollow. The whole thing started on
fire. He came running with the hose, but it wasn't hooked up with the hydrant.
G: Did it put itself out?
E: No. We had to call the fire department. We were not real popular for a week or
G: It just burned some of the trees? It didn't get to the houses?
E: It worked like a fireplace. Just the draft pulled it right up. It was roaring up there,
too. We never did find the dragon or whatever it was. I think there were some
fire rules after that.
G: Were you worried about fire being in a temporary building like that?
G: Did the stove and the heat and everything run on gas?
E: I think it was gas. I don't remember heat. I don't know how we heated.
G: Do you remember it being very cold?
E: Yes. They weren't the most comfortable. They weren't insulated. I don't know if
they were some sort of temporary barracks. They had something to do with
service, the first one. The second and the third were built, but these were
G: I've read that they were brought in from Panama City.
E: They were like double-wides [double-wide mobile homes], almost, but they
weren't double. They were single. Just very plain. The only elaborate thing they
had was the picture window. They were very, very plain. As you said, you don't
remember the day-to-day things that maybe bothered you or weren't just what
you wanted them to be. As you look back, it wasn't bad a bit. It looked like a
college and you say, boy, that was a good time. There were some times it wasn't
all that great.
G: Was there ever any need for disciplinary action against anyone that lived in
E: I don't remember any at all.
G: How many residents owned a vehicle at that time?
E: Every house was full, and it at least had three people in it, sometimes two
children. Rarely three. So I don't know, about twenty units.
G: So only three people had cars?
E: Cars? I'm sorry. I don't hear real well. I think most all of them.
G: Did you have a car?
E: Yes. We had a second-hand car. A 1940 business coupe Plymouth.
G: Were there any kind of unwritten rules or codes that residents lived by?
E: I don't remember any of that. If you paid your rent, that was it.
G: When you lived there, had they established a mayor or anything like that? Was
it large enough to need one?
E: No, I don't remember that, either.
G: What were the most controversial local issues among residents at that time? I
know you mentioned that if anyone got a divorce, that would be a big topic of
conversation. Was there anything else related to the university or the city or
anything that really got residents riled up?
E: I can't think of anything. I think maybe the thing I would say is survival. That
was the feeling we all had. We had to survive. We had to get the education,
because this was it. This was the only time it would be offered. If you stubbed
your toe, that was the end. None of us could afford to do that.
G: You were all very careful?
E: We were all very cautious and very conscientious. It was just was not the
happiest life in the world, and yet none of us were unhappy. As I remember it
was a happy, happy village. I don't remember any dissension. Except this one
couple, and I don't think I would have liked them today.
G: That was the couple that had a little bit more [money] than others?
E: Yes. They were not the kind of people that I would even like today. I can
remember a few things they did, and if to this day were doing it, I wouldn't like it.
G: What kind of things would they do?
E: They were snoopy neighbors. They were always looking for something wrong.
They were from up North. Somebody said, you don't have a southern accent,
you were born in St. Pete? I said, I was raised among Yankees. Why should I
have a southern accent? In my class, I think there were two people who were
born in St. Pete. They all came down when they were young. Not that I have
anything against Yankees, but they lived differently than I do. Their values aren't
the same. It definitely was her, I didn't see enough of him, he was in class. She
was definitely just not a person I would like today. That's the only one. I thought
the whole village, we made our own rules and we lived by them. It was a time in
life where we were together very shortly. Most of them were finishing college the
war had interrupted.
G: When you said you made your own rules, was there anything specific that you
agreed on as a community?
E: Not that I know of. We had no president, no vice-president, or anything like that.
G: You've talked about this a little bit, but I was wondering if you could expand on
how much of a concern money was to you while you were living in Flavet?
E: Very much so. He dropped in salary. This doesn't sound like a lot to you, but
this was sixty years ago. I forget how much. He was making $600 to $700 a
month, and flying and all the perks that go along with service life. To go to $81
G.I. Bill, it wasn't much more than that. That was tough. If we hadn't had help
from our families...even the used furniture was given to you. We had to buy
books. It was a big issue to all of us. We couldn't afford to go to the movies.
You said, what did you do for entertainment? Very little.
G: Were you in charge of the household finances?
G: How much did it cost to live in Flavet when you moved in?
E: I can't remember. It took a big chunk out of our [money].
G: Out of your $80?
E: Yeah. That's the reason why he tried to get extra work. He helped build. It was
either the business school, it wasn't another Flavet Village because that wasn't
until after we left. How long they kept that first one, I don't know. We tried to
pinpoint it on campus, but he says it's one place, and I say it's another place. It's
close to the Reitz Union.
G: I have some maps and aerial photographs that I can share with you to get that
E: I just remember where I walked with my child, I think of it a little differently than
he does, because he was in class so much of the time.
G: Did you ever consider going to work during that time?
E: No. I wanted the money, but I couldn't afford the sitter. Back then, women just
didn't leave their children. If you could manage at all, so I never went back to
work, ever. I had five children.
G: Did any of the wives work in Flavet at that time?
E: I don't remember any of them. There might have been one that was a secretary.
I don't remember what she did with her child. I don't remember any of them.
Usually the mothers were there. There were one or two that went back to
college, although that was not co-ed. They took some courses.
G: I wonder how they were able to afford that.
E: Maybe they were both in service. They could get two G.I. Bills then. The college
did an awful lot for veterans, just a tremendous amount. So many got an
education that never would have. Some of them would just start again. Some of
them had gone into service with no college, so they had four years to go through.
Maybe it changed. Maybe you didn't have to have children. That first one, you
had to have at least one child or you couldn't get in.
G: Did you expect that your financial situation would change after he graduated?
E: I hoped it would, yes. Yes, I never worried about that, because I knew he had
the ability, which proves he did.
G: Did living in Flavet influence your life in any way? The life that you had after you
E: I learned how to live very closely with a lot of people. It's not like having a home
here where if you want to see your neighbor, you do. There, your neighbor was
right there. You heard most of what went on. You just learned to live with
G: Overall, would you assess your experience at Flavet as a positive or negative
E: Positive for us.
G: Were there any other negative aspects of living there that we haven't already
E: I don't think so, except just doing without was a little tough. We had learned to
do without. It wasn't any great change. We wanted things, but we weren't going
to die over not having them. It made you a lot stronger, I think. A stronger
individual. I'm sure everyone that came out of that first Flavet Village, I would
bet money that they're all successful for having gone through that period. Some
had a lot more education to get than you'll ever see. We were there not quite a
year, see. Maybe it was a year. I don't remember how much he had. He
wanted to go in right away, and he had to work.
G: Is there anyone else that you can suggest that I should interview for this study
that lived in Flavet?
E: I don't remember. We have no contact with anybody. No one has ever said in
the college, as active as we've been, no one has ever asked. Some will say, oh,
we lived at Flavet Village. I'll say, the first one? They said, oh, no. We weren't
there in the first one. We have no contact with those people. I don't know what
the college does for that.
G: Have you heard of Elta and Joe Busby? They may have been there at the same
time as you.
E: I can't say that, because we have a Busby here in town. There was no one from
St. Pete there but us. The name sounds familiar, but whether it's somebody
here in town, because we did have Busby's here. I don't remember. We've had
very little contact except those first few years afterward, we did have a lot. Some
of them came to visit within I would say five years after. After that, it just slowly
died a natural death. No more Christmas cards, no more contacts.
G: Is there anything else that I haven't asked you about that you feel like I need to
know about Flavet?
E: It's just going back so far, I can't remember. It wasn't a dynamic time, so it's kind
of hard to think of something that would be earthshaking for you. I think it helped
making both of us successful in our lives. It taught us a good lesson. It was a
good thing, and it was a fun thing. I think for the University of Florida to be the
first ones in the United States to do it. To see the need. There was so many of
them that would never have gotten a college education or never finished. Things
weren't as important after the war along those lines as they were before hand.
G: Was your experience at Flavet one of the contributing factors to you staying so
active at the University of Florida as alumni?
E: We weren't active at Florida for a long time. I hate to even say it, but there was
a reason. All of a sudden, Wayne Reitz [university president] got us back. We
got very, very interested then and still are. We love it. And love it so much that
we gave the Emerson Alumni Hall, which is to us one of the nicest things we ever
did, and the happiest thing we ever did. Flavet Village put out a good one. We
remember that time with a lot of love and happiness. We did without, but it didn't
hurt us. It gave us something. It was a fine thing for the university to have. It
was a good memory for us, and we love the university. We didn't have any
children that went there. They all went to very good colleges, and each was right
for them. Now they've come around. Now we've got grandchildren, and three
graduates, two in graduate school. If we live long enough, we'll have great
G: Thanks so much for your interview.
E: Sorry I wasn't more interesting.
G: No, it was perfect.
[End of the interview.]