Title: Christian Simons LaRoche ( FBL 29 )
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00093276/00001
 Material Information
Title: Christian Simons LaRoche ( FBL 29 )
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Interviewer: Alan Bliss
Publication Date: August 14-15, 2003
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00093276
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.


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FBL 29
Interviewee: Christian Simons LaRoche
Interviewer: Alan Bliss
Date of Interview: August 14-15, 2003

B: The date is August 14, 2003. My name is Alan Bliss. I am in Niceville, Florida, at
the home of Christian Simons LaRoche where I am conducting an oral history
interview with her. Ms. LaRoche, would you please tell us your full name?

L: Christian Jane Simons LaRoche

B: Where and when were you born, please?

L: I was born in Jacksonville, Florida, on January 6, 1922.

B: Who were your parents?

L: My mother was Marion Grace Guest Simons. My father was George W. Simons,

B: What were their occupations?

L: Mother was a housewife and Dad was a civil engineer. That was the occupation
that I put on all the forms that I had to fill out when I went to college and had to
put down Father's occupation. Dad said, put down civil engineer. That covers a
lot of other things because he was doing so many different things and that kind of
covered it all.

B: That does cover a lot of territory. Did you have siblings?

L: I had a brother, and his name was George Guest Simons.

B: When was he born?

L: He was born in 1924 in Jacksonville.

B: Where in Jacksonville did you live as a child?

L: When I was born, Mother and Dad lived on College Street in Jacksonville in a
little duplex which was right across the street from where they later built John
Gorrie Junior High School. It was just a little place that they rented for a few
years. They had lived before that out on Nineteenth Street on the north side of
Jacksonville, just off Main Street. It was out in the country at that time. They sort
of moved into the city. It was while they were on Nineteenth Street that they built
the house on Avondale Avenue.

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B: That's where you moved?

L: That's where we moved when I was actually about a year old, when we moved
out to Avondale Avenue.

B: So that house is where you have your earliest memories.

L: That's really where I grew up. That is what I consider home.

B: Your earliest memories come from there, right?

L: Yes, I don't remember the College Street house at all.

B: What is your earliest memory?

L: I don't know. Of course, Mother and Dad have told me things that happened. I
see the pictures of when I was just a little girl playing on the front porch and on
the front steps of the house in Avondale, but I don't really remember any of that.
I'm not sure, one of my earliest memories as I told you was going with my father
down to the old Florida State Board of Health building. I remember that very
well; walking down the hall, holding his hand, and the old wood floors and this
wide corridor, and going into his room that had big windows and tables. He had a
desk in there. I don't remember what else, but I do remember that. That would
have been probably about 1925 [or] 1926, I was probably four or five years old.

B: His biographical sketch suggests that he worked for the state [of Florida] until

L: So it would have been about the time that he left, it was not long before he left.

B: You went to visit his place of work?

L: Yes, he took me in to see his office. That may have been because he was
leaving it. I don't know, I don't remember that. I just remember the feeling of
walking down that hall. To me it was a huge, wide hall with this wood floor. I
haven't been back so I don't know whether it's a narrow, little hall or not.

B: Is that building still there, do you think?

L: Yes, it is.

B: What is the building used for now?

L: It has gone through several different lives recently, but I understand it is being

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restored by somebody, I don't know who. I've been trying for about five years to
find out about it and who's in charge because I have some things that I think they
might be interested in having. [I have] photographs and other records that they
might like if they have a museum or a library where they can keep these things.
So far, I have not been able to get in touch with anybody over there who can
answer my correspondence. They had a dedication of the building back, I guess
it was, last summer. It must have been about a year ago. I received an invitation
to the dedication. It is named the Sowder Building for the last health officer who
was there the longest. He was in service the longest with the Florida State Board
of Health. I was not able to go. It was in the summer because I had met a girl
when we were closing down the house. In fact, she was head of Springfield
Historical Society. Her husband is president, or was at that time, of the
Jacksonville Historical Society. They took my mother's piano from the house for
their museum out in Springfield. I had told her this story about trying to get in
touch with somebody at the State Board of Health building or somewhere. She
didn't know anything about it except that it was in Springfield, sort of within her
territory, but she didn't know anything about it. So when she heard they were
having this dedication, she told them about me and told them to invite me to the
dedication, but I was not able to go. I was anxious to go but I was already on my
way to Washington at that time, so I just couldn't go. It would have been a
chance to maybe meet somebody who might have told me something about it.

B: Where is that building located?

L: It's just off North Main. There's a Confederate Park and the old stream that goes
through they've channeled it and they have walks and bannisters and fixed it up
like a park. It's near the old water works where Big Jim is. Big Jim was a whistle
that blew at seven o'clock in the morning and I don't know just when else, but it
was a whistle on the smoke stack of the waterworks. It blew for years and I
understand that, for some period, it stopped blowing but now it's blowing again,
so they have restored the Big Jim whistle. It's right near that waterworks building
and Confederate Park. That was where dad worked when he first went to
Jacksonville. [On October 26, 2001, the copper steam whistle known as Big Jim
was moved to its original home at 1st and Main, which is now the Waterworks

B: We are able to establish up until about 1925. What is the earliest education that
you remember? Where did you go to school, from the beginning?

L: I started school at West Riverside Elementary School, which is on the west side
of town. At that time, it was a fairly new building. I think it was built in the early
1920s. I went there when I was six years old. I went through sixth grade there.

B: Then where did you go to school?

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L: Then, I went to John Gorrie Junior High, which is what it was called then, for
three years, and then I went to Robert E. Lee High School, which was near
where I lived. It was just within walking distance.

B: What were your pastimes as a child growing up in Jacksonville, do you recall?

L: I don't know. I was always busy and I was always having a good time. I never
got bored and I started collections and scrapbooks like my mother. I collected
things and I helped mother in the garden. She was a gardener and I helped her
out in the garden and I really enjoyed that. When I was kind of little, I was
chubby. Mother thought that I should take dancing lessons; it might slim me
down a little. So I took ballet for about four years or so, maybe longer than that.
I started just before I started elementary school. So I did dancing. Mother tried
to make me into a pianist. So I took piano lessons for a while and that didn't take
either. I don't know that the ballet trimmed me down, but I guess it did. I don't
remember that part, but the piano didn't take. I took lessons for maybe five or
more years and I never got beyond one to three, one to three, one to three. It
was a rather miserable experience. I took from a woman who lived out in
Springfield who came out to the house to teach. She taught me, Aurelia Jones
Baker. She was my teacher and she also accompanied my brother. He took
cello lessons. He started, I guess, when he was probably about ten years old,
and Mrs. Baker was his accompanist. She had a firm touch that drowned out the
cello. I did paper dolls. I liked paper dolls. I was not much of a doll person. I
had dolls, but I didn't play dolls, particularly. Some of the neighbor girls around in
the neighborhood, we'd get together and play games and play with our paper
dolls. We'd play with dolls, but I don't remember doing that as a real activity. I
was into crafts a lot. Mother was great for teaching me how to embroider and I
did a lot of embroidery and needlework and that sort of thing.

B: Those were pastimes important to your mother, I guess.

L: They were important to her and they were a time when we could be together and
do girl- talk things. I enjoyed it because it did give me an understanding of
needlework, the craft of needlework, and how to handle the needle and sewing
machine and that sort of thing. I didn't ever do anything that was remarkable, but
it was fun to do and I spent a lot of time doing just ordinary cross stitch. I did a
sampler one time. So I enjoyed things like that. I did a lot with papier-mache
and making things out of paper. We always printed our own Christmas cards.
Mother printed her own Christmas cards. [She] designed them, and many times
she printed them. She had a silk-screen press and she printed her own
Christmas cards for years. In fact, she designed her own Christmas cards until
the year that she died. She got both my brother and me involved in designing
and printing our own Christmas cards. Of course, that takes time. You start in
November and it takes a long time to make just a few.

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B: Do you still do that?

L: Yes, I do. I still design my Christmas cards although I print them now either on
the computer or take them to a printer. I haven't tried printing my own, though I
did some silk screening, too, at one time. I did print my own. Last year I made
my own with an ojo de dios [eye of God] mounted on a card. (It is a little cross
thing with yarn that is a symbol out west.) I like doing things like that. She taught
me how to tat, so I started tatting at that time, which I'm still doing. She taught
me, as I say, embroidery and all kinds of craft things.

B: Were there other relatives in your life as a child growing up, members of your
family from your mother or father's side that were around frequently, regularly,

L: No, not really. Mother and Dad were both only children so they had no siblings.
So I have no first cousins.

B: Nor do you have any aunts or uncles.

L: No, so the closest kinfolks I have really are my mother's cousins. She had three

B: They were second cousins to you then.

L: So they would be my second cousins. I do keep in touch with two of them, a
brother and sister, up in Illinois. I keep in touch with them, but they are really my
closest relatives. Dad had no cousins, of course, either, no first cousins. He had
second cousins and I do keep in touch with a couple of them.

B: Are they in Illinois also?

L: No, one of them is out in Arizona, I think it is, and the other one is in California.

B: Did you know your grandparents?

L: Yes, I knew mother's parents. I did not ever know my father's parents because
his mother died when he was young, he was about three, I think. So, of course, I
never knew her. His father married twice again. Dad's father came to visit us
one time, which mother was very unhappy about. She really didn't want him to
come. She didn't like him and I gather he didn't think much of her either. I just
don't remember him except this man coming up the front walk with a big black
overcoat on, and I assume it was winter time. Mother's parents, I knew them well
because we'd visit them in Illinois. We'd go up and Mother took us. She started
taking me up there when I was just a baby. In fact, I have a picture of me with

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my mother, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother; four generations. I was
just a baby sitting on my grandmother's lap or on mother's lap. I don't remember
my great-grandmother. I was named for her and I don't remember her at all. I
was just the baby because she died soon after we were up there and took the

B: Your mother was an only child. You knew her parents. What were their

L: My grandfather had a shoe store and he was a gentleman farmer. He owned a
farm and he used to go out and help on the farm, [but] he never lived on the
farm. He didn't actually do much farming, but he'd go out and hoe weeds and
help out sometimes. I don't know whether he was not well a lot of the time. He
had a stroke and was partially paralyzed for many years. So I don't know
whether he was really not well enough to be an active farmer or not, but they had
tenants on the farm who did the work and that was up in Illinois near Rochelle,
Illinois. It was just west of Rochelle about three miles out of town, on the west
side. There was the homestead that was Guest property. Of course my
grandfather was a Guest, and his father bought the homestead. He had a lot of
other land, of other farmland up there. I don't know whether all of his sons had to
buy their farm or not, but my father did. He had to buy his farm from his father. I
think there was a little feeling there, because I think he may have given the farms
to the other children.

B: Was your grandfather the youngest?

L: I don't remember. He had some brothers and two sisters, Mariah and Elsie. I
think [he had] three brothers. Mariah never married and she died young. Elsie
never had any children either. The others had children but they were not real
close to Mother at all. She kept in touch with them and my Mother kept in touch
with different branches of the family. They didn't visit back and forth, at least after
I was born. I think when they were younger, before I was born, and maybe
before Mother was married, I think they used to go out. One of the brothers lived
in Iowa and I think they would go out to visit him. Those brothers were always
trying to get money from my grandfather and they always said that they needed a
little money here and a little money there. [They would say] we've got doctor bills
and we have to pay this and we have to pay that, and they were always after my
grandfather to send them money. Of course, that didn't make a very good
impression on Mother. She didn't like that. Her father was being imposed upon
by his brothers. He was a gentle, sweet soul who did anything anybody wanted.

B: So he would be inclined to help.

L: He was inclined to help.

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B: Which inclined them to write again.

L: Right. [laugh]

B: Your grandfather also had a shoe store.

L: He had a shoe store.

B: Was that in Rochelle?

L: That was in Rochelle. They lived right in town.

B: Did they come to Jacksonville very often?

L: They used to come down, I guess they started back around 1920 soon after
Mother moved. They may have come before that. They had a Franklin
automobile and they drove from Illinois down to Florida in a Franklin automobile.
The roads were probably not paved, but [this was] before there were any road
markers or anything. I used to have, and I don't know what happened to it, a
map that they had. It was you go to this store and turn and then you go to the
tree with the twin branches and turn. It was sites along the road, that was how
they got from Illinois to Florida. I have some pictures of them with their Franklin
automobile standing on the beach at Jacksonville Beach. My grandmother [was
in] her great big, huge, black hat with feathers and all of that, and a long coat and
her high top shoes, and my grandad in a very dapper business suit. They started
driving down then. They drove down, I don't know whether it was every year or
not, but they came down frequently.

B: They came down in the winter probably.

L: Would they stay in your family's home?

B: No, they had an apartment or took an apartment there near Mother and Dad. I
don't remember that they really stayed with us much, but after my grandfather
had a stroke, I think then they did stay with us more often. My grandmother, she
was an impatient soul. She had no patience with this dear sweet man who was
trying so hard to use his hands and to speak and she couldn't understand him
and she was impatient with him using his hands and feeding himself and doing
things for himself. She was kind of mean. That impressed me as a child. I was
not ever fond of my grandmother and it goes back to that time. She was so
critical of him, and even as a child I'd see this. He can't help himself, help him,
be kind to this man. It affected me and my attitude toward her that lasted until
she died actually.

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B: When did she die?

L: I can't remember when she died. It was winter time because they couldn't take
her up to Illinois to bury her, so they had to store her in Jacksonville until the
ground thawed. At that time they had to wait until the ground thawed to dig the
grave, and then we went up. Gosh, I can't remember when it was.

B: Had your grandfather died previously?

L: Yes. It must have been in the 1940s [when Grandmother died]. I can't

B: Your father was George W. Simons, Jr.

L: Yes.

B: What was the W for?

L: Washington, but he rarely used Washington unless he had to. For legal
purposes he had to use the Washington, but normally he did not. He was
George W., and he kept the junior until he died.

B: That's interesting. His father then was George W. Simons. What did that
George W. Simons do for a living? Do you know?

L: He was an engineer also. I'm not sure just what all he did, but, as I've been told,
he built bridges. He was in Portland, Oregon, building one of the bridges out
there. I have just found some clippings that I have not been able to go into to
find out if there is something about him in those clippings, of what he was doing
out there. From what Mother told me, and she was kind of prejudiced, of course,
in her estimation, but he was building bridges. That's why Dad was born in
Portland because his father was working out there. When his mother died, his
mother's mother, Grandma Meyers, came out to Portland and took my father and
took him back to Rochelle because she lived there. She really raised him, but
she took him out to Oregon nearly every summer to see his father. [She] took
him on the train. Dad, from the time he was about five, six, or seven, he handled
all the arrangements for the travel on the train out to Oregon. So he learned how
to ride a train and what to do at a very early age.

B: He apparently was engaged in this business of going to visit his father.

L: Oh, yes.

B: Do you have any idea where the grandfather, George W. Simons I, was

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L: I don't know. Dad was never interested in his family history, so all of that is very
vague. Sometime I need to try to access some of the records now that I have a
computer, when I learn how to do that, to find out more about his father. I'm sure
somewhere there would be records that I could access to find out about his
father, where he was born, what his education was. He was living at one time in
Dayton, Ohio. Where he was born, I do not know.

B: His first wife, your grandmother, was apparently a native of Rochelle, Illinois?

L: [She was] from a little town near there. She was from Paw Paw.

B: What about Simons, Sr., your grandfather?

L: I don't know where he was born. I just don't know.

B: You've mentioned that there was apparently a bit of a cool breeze between your
mother and your dad's father, her father-in-law. Did your father share that

L: Yes, I don't know that they were really estranged, but when his father married
again, and especially with the third wife because they had a son. That did not go
over well with Dad at all, not at all. He did not ever accept his half-brother.
Mother tried to keep in touch with the half-brother, and especially after he got
married. She was in correspondence with his wife. But when Mother died, I tried
to keep in touch with them and there was no response at all.

B: Did your father ever make any remarks about his father, in terms of the influence
that the man had on his own career choice, or his educational choices or
anything like that?

L: He rarely talked about his father. In his later years when I tried to get Dad to talk
about his family, where they came from, he said they came over from
Switzerland. [That's] where he thought they were from. I was trying to find out
from him anything he knew. These sisters that his father had, I tried to find out
from them one time. They were still alive when mother and I went up to close my
grandmother's house in 1950. I tried to find out from them some records,
something, talk to them about the family history. I was never able to pin them
down to anything. They really never much wanted to talk about it.

B: What sort of trips do you remember making with your family as a youngster
growing up? Do you remember much travel?

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L: [In the] summers we always went somewhere.

B: Such as where [did you go]?

L: We went up to Gatlinburg a couple of years. Before they built the road over into
the Smoky Mountains and we had to down from Marysville into Gatlinburg. We
always stayed at the Mountain View Hotel because they had a good dining room.
The next year we went up and they were building a road into Smoky Mountain
Park and then to Gatlinburg.

B: When you made trips like that did you travel by automobile or train?

L: We always drove. Occasionally, we drove up to Illinois. We drove up there to
visit the farms and Mother's family when they were still alive and living up there.
Dad's main travel and his main interest was Civitan Club. He always went to
Civitan Club national conventions. He hardly missed one from the late 1920s
until he was too decrepit to go.

B: Did the family accompany him?

L: Sometimes we did [accompany him]. Brother and I went with him to Atlanta
when he was elected president of the International Civitan [Club]. We were
there. We frequently went with him to some of the other conventions. Even after
I was married, we went to some of the Civitan Conventions. I know we went out
to Hot Springs, the whole family went out to Hot Springs. I guess we drove out
there. I don't think we rode the train.

B: I notice from your father's brief resume he comments that in 1930/1931 he was
president of Civitan International. Did he travel overseas as part of that office?

L: No, they didn't have many overseas clubs at that time. It was mostly within the
U. S. He did visit a tremendous number of clubs while he was president. I think
[he visited] practically every one [of them] in Florida. There are references, as
you've discovered, where he spoke to the Civitan Club about zoning, to get their
endorsement for what he was trying to do in these various towns.

B: When George W. Simons the municipal consultant came to speak at the Civitan
Club, he came wearing two hats.

L: Civitan was one of his passions.

B: Why do you suppose that was true? What was it about Civitan that engaged him
particularly, do you think?

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L: I think partly, their mission and doing for other people but mainly, it was the
friendships that he made and seeing old friends at these conventions, the same
old duffers always went. They'd get together and it was just a big brotherhood. It
was a real experience for Dad to go to these conventions and see all these old
friends, and the same [was true] with all these clubs in Florida. He knew
everybody in all these clubs. He remembered who they were. He could
recognize somebody thirty years after he had met them. Before my senior year
in high school, he took me out to the Civitan Convention in Hollywood, California.
That was the main reason for the trip, but also to go up to visit his old auntie up
in Portland [Oregon] and a cousin in Seattle [Washington]. We had to make this
a family affair, but Civitan was the main reason that took us to the West Coast.
So we did some sightseeing and we were in the lodge there at Yosemite. [We
were] checking in and Dad looked across the lobby and [said] I'll be darned,
there is old, and he called this man by name. He was somebody he had known
in college back when he was at Beloit, back in the early 1900s. [Beloit College is
a private university in Wisconsin.] Dad recognized him and knew his name.

B: That's amazing.

L: They went over and [said] oh, good old Joe. [laughing] Well, old Joe knew Dad,
too. He was probably a Phi Si from Beloit, because Dad liked being with people
and he liked the social type of organization. He was a Phi Si at Beloit. It was a
closed organization. They were close friends, and they stayed close friends for
life. Civitan sort of was like that with him.

B: Your dad was an only child, you mentioned earlier. He was raised by his
maternal grandmother in Rochelle, Illinois. Were there other family members his
age around when he grew up in Grandmother's home?

L: No, none.

B: So, he effectively was raised by himself.

L: He was raised by her and he went to school. Mother told the story one time that
they used to make calls. You know that was the thing to do.

B: It was a social call, yes.

L: They'd make a call, and unannounced. They made no appointment and, say I'm
coming over for tea this afternoon or may I come to visit at three o'clock or
something, they just appeared on the door step.

B: This would be routine on a Sunday, perhaps?

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L: [They could come by] anytime, any day I think. Mother told the story that one
day she looked down the street and here came Grandma Meyers with little
Georgie. She said I've got to hide my dolls because little Georgie will break my
dolls, so Mother hid all of her toys while they were walking down the street
because she didn't want little Georgie to break all her dolls. [laughing]

B: Was this speculative fear on her part?

L: I don't know. It could have been that she had some experience with little Georgie
and maybe he twisted the arm off one of her dolls or something so she was being
protective. Of course, in a small town everybody knew everybody. They all did
this visiting around, so Grandma Meyers knew Mother's parents, too. Since
Mother and little Georgie were the same age, I guess Grandma Meyers thought
little Georgie can play with little Marion. [laughing] They continued to play
together through high school. I guess you'd call them high school sweethearts,
now. I don't think they considered themselves that, but they may have. When
Dad was at Beloit, he invited Mother up for dances. He was a year ahead of
Mother in school because Grandma Meyers wanted to put him in school sooner
than age six. So she was able to get him into school when he was five years old,
so he was a year ahead of Mother in school. He went off to Beloit when Mother
was still in high school. But after she went to college, Dad would go down to
Western. She attended Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio. Dad used
to go down to visit her and he'd arrange for her to come up to dances at Beloit, fill
out her dance program for her with the people that he thought it was safe for her
to dance with. [Laughing]

B: Where is Beloit?

L: It's in Beloit, Wisconsin. It's just in southern Wisconsin, fairly close to the Illinois
border. Dad and Mother's cousin, Art Guest, were classmates through school,
and Art also went up to Beloit with Dad.

B: Why Beloit, do you know?

L: I don't know why they wound up there.

B: Do you know what his major study was at Beloit?

L: I don't think they had engineering or anything, but it was probably something
scientific. I don't know what the degree would be. It would be just a regular
Bachelors, I think, is what he got. Whether they really specialized much or
whether it was more just a general liberal arts school, I'm kind of inclined to think
that's what it was.

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B: Was your father's college education sponsored by his grandmother or by his
father or both? Do you know?

L: [It] was probably both. I have a feeling that his father contributed to his education
and made it possible because his grandmother, as far as I know, had no income.
They didn't have Social Security.

B: Had she been widowed?

L: She was a widow and I doubt if she inherited much from her husband. They
lived in a little apartment, upstairs, downtown over a store. That was where they

B: Did she work?

L: I don't know whether she did or not. She must have, but I don't know.

B: Do you think she received financial assistance from George, your dad's father,
your grandfather?

L: I would imagine she did. My guess is that his father provided the means for him
to go to Beloit, but that's really kind of a supposition. I think probably he did.

B: Civitan was important in your father's adult experience and we've heard that he
was active in his college fraternity and maintained close relationships with the
people that he became friendly with there. What other organizations or
institutions do you think were important in your Dad's life?

L: Well, to some extent I think his MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology]
friends that he made there continued on through his lifetime, too. [They were] not
as close because they were all professional. He was in sanitary engineering. He
got, not a Masters, but I think another Bachelors degree in sanitary engineering
at MIT. He had a close relationship with the men there because they'd go out on
summer camps up in Maine and learned how to do their surveying and all of that.
Dad kept in touch with the MIT friends all of his life.

B: That was not so much a fraternity as just a less formal association of classmates.

L: And [it was also] a professional relationship because they were all engineers.

B: Was he a member of the Society of American Engineers?

L: He was a member of everything. He was a joiner. He joined everything, but he
wasn't just a joiner, he was also a worker. He was always elected president or

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secretary or something.

B: He held an office with some of them.

L: He always had an office. He was always active, so whatever organization he
joined, it was not just a nominal thing with him at all. He entered into any of
these relationships and, again, as I have looked back, it was the relationships
with the people on these committees, the zoning board, the planning board, all of
these things. He enjoyed his relationship with all of those people and he had a
close relationship with all of them. Like Mrs. Trout and all of these other people,
he had a close relationship with the people. It was not just business with him.
Friendships that he made, we would call networking, now. He did a lot of
networking. He was a good networker. [Laughing]

B: I shouldn't put words in your mouth, but I would say that when I hear people talk
about networking, I impute to that a conscious motive to develop contacts that
they can exploit for business purposes. Do you think that motivated your dad?

L: He did that to some extent. I think he did that if it would help him in some way in
achieving his goal, with the city for instance, to get a zoning plan adopted or
something. He did a lot of groundwork, a lot of footwork.

B: There was some overlap there.

L: [There was] a lot of overlap.

B: But you testify, too, then, that these were genuine friendships that he maintained.

L: Yeah, they were. They were all good friends. He considered them friends. I
don't think he considered ever that he was using anybody to help him attain his

B: He also didn't consider, perhaps, that they might be using him to attain their

L: I don't think he ever had that feeling at all. I never got that feeling. He had one
instance where I think he was kind of taken advantage of, and that was with an
engineer who was also on the faculty over at Gainesville [the University of
Florida]. [He] left Dad's employment to go off and teach and didn't tell him until
the very last minute, until he was over there in Gainesville teaching. Then, he let
Dad know that he was not going to be working for him anymore. Mother didn't
ever like that, either. That really grabbed Mother more than Dad.

B: What was it that was offensive to her way of thinking?

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L: [It was] the way he handled it, the way he took advantage of my Dad and left him
in the lurch.

B: Did he exploit your father's recommendation to get the teaching position?

L: No, I don't know that Dad knew anything about it.

B: He just worked for him and then went off.

L: Then, [he] wrote him a letter [saying] I've left.

B: When was all of this, any idea?

L: I can't remember. The letter is downstairs; it is in one of the files. You'll know
the name. It's Alexander Brest who was a great benefactor of Jacksonville
University [and Alexander Brest Planetarium at Jacksonville Museum of Science
and History].

[End side A1]

L: I was not aware of all of that.

B: This is the discussion of Alexander Brest.

L: I never knew him. He was not anybody I ever knew.

B: But he was certainly persona non grata in the Simons household after that.

L: [Yes] at least as far as Mother was concerned. Dad somehow didn't seem to
take things like that, all that personally and seriously. If it affected him at all, he
never would let on. He never let anybody know that it had affected him.

B: Was he a personality inclined to restrain all of his emotions?

L: Yes, very much, he kept his emotions pretty much to himself. It wasn't that he
was not demonstrative, but he wasn't. He was outgoing and friendly with his
friends, but as far as his relationship with his family he left all that outside the
front door of the house.

B: He was a sociable person, then, and gregarious?

L: [He was] gregarious, very. You can tell from all the stuff that he joined.

B: What else did he join? We talked about Civitan, the fraternity, the colleagues

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from MIT.

L: All of these engineering planning associations, whatever came up, he was a part
of it. In the late 1920s he joined the Little Theater as an actor. He acted in plays
for the Little Theater over there.

B: Now, for a person with a bent toward engineering, that's not typical behavior.

L: No, but he had a wonderful time. I remember him getting dressed up at home
and putting on this makeup, the grease paint. I saw him in a couple plays, but I
was real little. I was not even ten years old.

B: What did your Mother think of all of that?

L: Oh, she thoroughly enjoyed it. Anything George wanted to do, George could do.
[laughing] He was going to do it anyway, and he didn't have to include her. She
was not all that interested in all these social things that Dad got into. She went to
the plays but she never did much enter into it. Mother was not real well, she had
thyroid problems from the time she was in college. She was really, at some
times, quite ill during those years, in bed. She was under a doctor's care,
constantly. They were treating her with radium, which was all they could do at
that time, and they burned her neck badly under one of the treatments and she
had a big scar there for years. She finally had plastic surgery to close it up, but
she was really not well during the years that I was growing up. When I was
taking the dancing lessons I must have been in about the second grade. We had
a ballet performance down at the Florida Theater. I had my costume and
everything and Mother was too ill to go. So, her best friends took me down.
Dad, for some reason, was not around. I don't know whether he went or not.
Mother had a very close friend, Maybeth Peek. She taught ninth grade at John
Gorrie Junior High School. She and Mother were very close friends. They spent
hours on the telephone if they couldn't get together. As a child, frequently on
Sunday afternoon, we went over to the Peeks. They lived near John Gorrie
Junior High School on Myra Street. We'd go over to spend the afternoon with the
Peeks. Maybeth was married to a guy who taught shop at Gorrie Junior High
School. They had no children, and so, they kind of adopted me and my brother.
Although, I don't remember ever that brother was along when we went over to
the Peeks. They gave me the Sunday paper and a box of crayons and I'd get
down on the floor and color all the illustrations in the ads. That was how I spent
the time while the grownups talked, gossiped, and carried on.

B: Did your Dad participate in this friendship?

L: Oh yes, he didn't have that much in common with the Peeks but he always went
along and he was close friends. So, when Mother couldn't go to my ballet debut,

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the Peeks took me to the ballet. They were foster parents, almost. At that time,
when Mother was so ill, they helped her a lot in being sure that I was taken care
of and that I got to where I was supposed to go in my lessons and classes and

B: Did they remain lifelong friends of your Mother's and, I guess, you, as well?

L: Yes, I was in her English class in the ninth grade and it wasn't too long after that
she came down with cancer. While I was in college, I think it was my first year in
college, Maybeth died. Mother went over every day to help take care of her.
They didn't have public nurses who came in to bathe people and dress them and
that sort of thing, so, Mother went over. I was in college at that time, so I was not
aware other than the fact that Mother wrote me about going over to see Maybeth.
It was a real blow for her when Maybeth died. They had been very close. I don't
know how they met, how they got acquainted, but they were really close friends
for a good many years.

B: We've mentioned Civitan and other groups that your father joined, and he was
not apparently just a member but really engaged and participated in them. What
about church? Was church an important part to your family?

L: Church was very important. It was a very important part of Dad's life. He did not
bring it home. He was not a religious person, outwardly religious. He never used
Bible talk or anything. He never thee'd and thou'd or anything like that, no "Bible
talk." We never had prayer at home. We never even had a blessing before our
meal, that was not a part of Dad's religion. [It was] not what he thought was
important, it was what was in your heart. But he saw to it that we were in Sunday
school from the time we could walk. He took us to Sunday school, and that was
during the time when Mother was not well. So, Dad always saw to it that we
were dressed and took us to Sunday school.

B: Where was this?

L: That was Riverside Presbyterian Church. They built the little brown church in the
early 1920s, so as soon as moved out to Avondale I think he started attending
that church. I think the little brown church was built in 1924, as I remember. I
vaguely remember going up the steps in the little brown church. There was a little
frame building and it was painted brown. I have a vague memory of walking up
the side steps there from Post Street into the little brown church, but that's all I

B: Is that church still there?

L: Yes, of course the little brown church has been rebuilt by a great big brick edifice

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with stained glass windows.

B: It's still called Riverside?

L: [It's called] Riverside Presbyterian Church. It's expanded now to include a big
religious Sunday school building and another day school. They have a day
school and I don't know what else they have there. Dad taught the men's Bible
class for twenty-five years. Every Saturday afternoon he was home writing out
his sermons--well, he called them his lessons. It was like a sermon and it was
based on the international course in Bible study. He adapted it to everyday life.
He would use examples from the Bible to show how people should use that
knowledge and that background in their everyday lives. He adapted it to the lives
of the people in his class. He normally would have fifty men or more in that
class. They were all men. I think once a year they would meet with the ladies'
class, but most of the time, it was just the men. Before class and after class they
always stood out on the sidewalk being good old boys, talking and gossiping and
whatever. That was not part of their religious experience except that it brought
the men together in a friendly sort of way. They were bonding out on the

B: Fellowship in most Christian denominations is an important part of the faith
experience, right? You reinforce your own faith from sharing with others, and
build the bonds that sort of maintain the discipline of worship and prayer and faith
and that sort of thing. Was the fellowship the critical component of church for
your father?

L: I think so. I think it was. He was anxious to share what he knew from his reading
of the Bible and interpretations. He had a huge library of reference Bibles and
religious reference books that he referred to. He read those during the week,
and then Saturday afternoon, he sat at his desk and just wrote out his little lesson
[in] longhand, in his tiny, tiny little writing. I don't know how he could read it when
he got up in front of the class, but, of course, he knew what he was going to say
because he had written it. It meant so much to him. It was a major part of his
life, his church experience. He was always good friends with the pastor, [on a]
first name-basis. It was not like in the Episcopal church where he is Father
somebody. Mr. McCastlen was Bob and Albert Kissling was Albert. They always
had a close relationship, particularly with Dr. Kissling. He was there the longest
that I remember, and he and Dad had a very close relationship. They would
have lunch together and they worked together on all these various projects. If
they wanted to raise money for the day school, for instance, Dad was called on to
be the chairman of the committee to raise money for the day school. They'd get
together and arrange all of that. He was an usher, that's how you started out, on
the lowest level. Then, you get to be a deacon. He was a deacon for several
years. They were on a term-basis, of course, and then he had to not be a

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deacon, anymore. Then, he got to be on the session [Session of Elders], but that
was for a limited term, also. Then, he got to be a trustee. That, again, was on a
limited time. He had these other committees that he worked on, usually for Dr.

B: Had he been raised a Presbyterian by his grandmother?

L: I think so. I think they were all Presbyterians. Mother was, I know.

B: So you think that influenced his affinity for the church?

L: I think his grandmother had a strong influence that way on him.

B: His grandmother must have been a powerful influence on him, in general.

L: I think she was. I think she held a firm hand on him. She kept little Georgie in

B: Refresh my memory, you did or did not meet her?

L: I never met her.

B: She was no longer living when you came along?

L: Now, she was there when I was a baby. In fact, she was in one of the pictures
that they took when I was just about six months old. Mother took me up to see
my great- grandmother that I was named for, but I have no memory for that, at

B: Have you anecdotal impressions in your mind of what kind of personality she

L: No, I don't. Of course, I was raised Presbyterian, and Jim was Episcopalian. So,
to try to keep the family in one church, it seemed more feasible for me to join the
Episcopal church. I liked the ritual, the order of service, the music and all of that,
and the prayers. That appealed to me. Riverside, by that time, also had become
more high-church. It was much more Episcopal than it was Presbyterian. It was
an easy transition for me to join the Episcopal church, and then we could all be a
family in the same church without having Mama go to one church or not go. It
just worked out better. When I wrote Mother that I was going through the class to
become an Episcopalian, Mother hit the ceiling. She was livid. She wrote me
the nastiest letter about deserting my faith and how I just had deserted my faith
and I was going to have to learn the prayers over. [She said] you'll have to learn
how to say the Lord's Prayer because it's different, and you'll have to learn this

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different, and this will be different. She was absolutely furious with me. She just
never would accept it. Last summer after we moved all the old, old books from
Jacksonville over here, I was going through the old books and I found Episcopal
prayer books, several with my great-grandmother's name. She was an

B: This never came up in discussion?

L: It never came up and I did not know it or I could have thrown that back at my
mother and gotten even with her. [laughing] She evidently had forgotten that her
antecedents were Episcopalians.

B: Or I wonder if there was some estrangement from the Episcopal church.

L: I don't know, but my grandmother had several prayer books and hymn books and
Bibles, leather-bound Bibles, and her ancestors did. They were all

B: Now apparently the church wasn't just your father's bailiwick. The Presbyterian
church and the experience of worship and faith were important to your Mother as
well, would you say?

L: To some extent. She never joined the women's Bible class. She was in what
they called Church Circle, where the ladies met to do good deeds and have tea.
She was in a circle. Everybody had to be in a circle.

B: Do you think her health impeded her participation?

L: I think so, I think that was one reason she did not participate that much.

B: An oral history interviewer should never put words in his subject's mouth, but I'm
wondering if you think that maybe she just less inclined to be the joiner, perhaps,
that your father was.

L: She wasn't a joiner. She liked more small groups. The little woman's circle that
she was in was a small group, maybe twenty or twenty-five people. She enjoyed
being with them. She joined the Garden Club. She was a charter member of the
Jacksonville Garden Club, and she joined the Avondale Garden Circle. That was
important to her. She enjoyed the garden club. She enjoyed the women who
were in it. She always went to Garden Club meetings; she never missed a
Garden Club meeting.

B: Were your parents acquainted with the notable figure from the Garden Club who
we discussed earlier, Mrs. Trout?

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L: Oh yeah [they knew] Mrs. Trout.

B: Your Mother and Mrs. Trout were acquainted with one another.

L: Oh yes, Mother knew her. We went out to Mrs. Trout's estate out on the river.
Mother, of course, went along and knew Mrs. Trout and knew who she was.

B: Although, your father apparently knew her through different connections.

L: [He knew her] through different connections, yes, not through the Garden Club.
Mother was a charter member of the Jacksonville Garden Club [and] she was a
charter member of the Jacksonville Women's Club. She was a charter member
of the Jacksonville branch of AAUW [American Association of University
Women]. In a sense she was a joiner also, but she also was a worker. She was
secretary for the AAUW for years. [She] was very active in that. In the Women's
Club she didn't go a lot to their meetings, but she was a member and kept her
dues paid. I found the receipts that she had kept from her dues from the time
she joined, and she had added up how much her membership with the Women's
Club had cost her over the years. [laughing] Not many people would do that.

B: It's just as though she were pondering whether she'd gotten full value.

L: Yeah, had she'd gotten her money's worth? [laughing] Mother had a kind of
sense of humor like that.

B: Can you think of any other organizations or institutions that were important to
your father?

L: Let's see, he joined the Torch Club when it was organized, which was a men's
fellowship thing that had dinners once a year that included the ladies. When he
was at Beloit he joined the Shriners. He kept up a membership while he was at
Beloit, whether he did at MIT I don't know. I don't remember that [but] I don't
think he did. He did not join the Shriners in Jacksonville when he first went
down there, but he did later in life. When he was probably in his fifties or sixties,
he joined the Morocco Temple. He became quite active in the Shriners. He rode
in a car in their parade when they paraded. He couldn't walk the way the rest of
them [did], he was too old to do that by that time. He joined the Fellowship of
Constantine or something like that. It's a Shriners-related thing and he was in
that. He was in some other Shriners organization and he went to their meetings
and was quite active. Again, it was the guys who were there. He was there
because he knew a lot of them in other ways. He was very active in Shriners.

B: Did he become involved in the leadership as he had with Civitan?

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L: No, not as much; he was a little too old by that time. By the time he got active
again, he was just one of the guys.

B: He was a leader, though, in some of the organizations that he joined. It sounds
like those would be predominantly Civitan and the church. Can you think of
anything else where he emerged as somebody who didn't simply join?

L: He was president of Civic Music Association for about seven years until they
found out that the term was only to be for four. [laughing] They had to get rid of
him. They had not even known that he overstayed his welcome, so to speak.

B: That's in Jacksonville?

L: [That's] in Jacksonville.

B: What does that organization do?

L: It was a membership-type organization and the membership dues pay to bring
known artists and musician-type artists to Jacksonville to play. They brought
everybody: Isaac Stern, Fritz Kreisler [both famous violinists], and name any of
the old opera singers. These people, they all came to Jacksonville.

B: What about Marion Anderson.[famous African-American opera singer]

L: Yes, she was there.

B: Really?

L: She came to Jacksonville.

B: When was that, do you think?

L: I don't remember but she was there. She wore a long gray dress, not very
becoming. It was just a long, straight, sack-looking thing. It was very plain. The
stage was very plain. They didn't go in for a lot of decor at that time, but I think
there was a bouquet over on one side by the piano or something. Of course, she
was in voice and that's what people came to hear.

B: Did you hear her?

L: Oh yeah, we had to attend all of those concerts. There must have been two or
three a year, and maybe more than that, and you had to dress up. You had to
wear a formal dress. I had to dress up in a long dress and Mother did. We all
had to dress up in long dresses and traipse down to the armory where they had

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their concerts on an awful bare stage with horrible hard seats for us to sit in. The
Don Cosets came, the Trapp Family Singers, [Jarmila Novotna], Luboshutz and
Nemenoff, Fritz Kreisler, Isaac Stern. All of the major performing artists came.

B: Did your father have a particular affinity for music that led him to be engaged in

L: He liked music, yes he did.

B: We've heard that your Mother did.

L: Yes, Mother played the piano. In fact, the piano that we grew up with was
Mother's. She didn't ever play much that I remember. When Dad was in high
school one of the ways he made a little money for himself and his grandmother
[was to] play the piano at the silent movies in the movie house. He played the
villain music and the hero and heroine music and all of that for the silent movies.
He was a really good ricky-tick piano player. He could have been a musician.

B: What a multi-faceted personality.

L: He was, he was a man of many talents. I don't remember him playing much
except as a child he sometimes played nursery rhymes for us on the piano. He
could sing. He had a nice voice. I did not. From the time I was born, I could not
sing. In fact, when I was in I guess maybe around the first grade, a teacher
came to Jacksonville, Miss Driver. [She] was one of these with the large bosom
and the beads that flowed out over the bosom. She was very short. She was as
wide as she was high. She had short hair, black, cropped close to her head.
Mother took me down for Miss Driver to hear me sing to see if I could take
lessons, if she could help me learn how to sing. My teachers in elementary
school had complained because I was a distraction to the rest of the class. We
had to do class singing. We had the Golden Book of Songs, and we had to sing
all these old-timey songs and I could not carry a tune, so the teachers had
complained to Mother about my voice. So, Mother took me to Miss Driver and
Miss Driver heard me sing. She said the best advice that I can give you is to
keep your [mouth] shut.

B: [Laughing.] That's not very charitable.

L: That's what I have been doing. When other people sing, I close my mouth and I
don't sing. [laughing] I think that must have showed up early, because I don't
ever remember singing the nursery rhymes that my Dad played. He did play the
piano a lot when we were very young, but then he got into other things and he
didn't play much. He was very interested in music. The Civic Music
[Association] for him was also an outlet for his musical interests. As president of

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the association he had to meet these people, see that they were housed and
their hotel accommodations were adequate, and sometimes we took them out to
dinner. Usually, they stayed at the Roosevelt Hotel and we took them down to
the dining room.

B: Would you go along for that?

L: When I was in high school and sometimes in junior high, we went to dinner, so I
remember having dinner with all these famous people. I have photographs.
They all autographed their photograph or their programs.

B: That's remarkable.

L: It was an interesting experience that I remember very pleasantly, not just the
association with famous people, but the experience of growing up. Mother and
Dad thought it was important that my brother and I be exposed to good music;
that was to be a part of our lives. They saw to it that we had that background in
good music, not just trying to play the piano and the play the cello ourselves, but
we had to enjoy what other people did and appreciate good music.

B: Has that persisted in your life?

L: Yes, the symphony means a great deal, even our little symphony up here [the
Niceville, Florida area]. I endured the conductor we had for one year and then I
had to drop out because he chatted, he talked on too long, he was an egoist if
there ever was one. He talked longer than the orchestra played. The next year
that he was here I did not have a membership, but we have a new conductor now
and I like him. He just stands up and waves his baton and the orchestra plays.
He has very little to say. I have tickets again this year. I really enjoy it. When I
was in college we were at Oxford [Ohio], which was just a bus ride down to
Cincinnati. One of my roommates played the viola and had played the viola in
California, she grew up in California. In high school out there she had played
sometimes with the Los Angeles Symphony as just a kid in the orchestra, so the
music meant a lot to her. One of her teachers was a violist with the Cincinnati
Symphony, so through him we were able to get tickets to the Cincinnati
Symphony. So for about three years every Saturday night we rode the bus down
to Cincinnati, enjoyed the symphony, and then rode the bus back home up to
Oxford. There were about six of us, I think, who did that. The college let us do
that. They gave us permission to go down. We had seats usually in the first or
second row because that was about all we could afford, so we saw the shoes of
all the front row, the cellists and the violinists, but we could also hear. We saw
Eugene Ormandy and Eugene Goosens. We stood right at Goosens' feet for
three years of time we were there. That was just enthralling. Goodsens was
symphony conductor there for many, many years and a very imposing conductor.

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B: Did you ever get up to Cleveland when you were up to Oxford?

L: No, I never got up there. We went down to Cincinnati a lot. I went over to Dayton
a few times, but that was wartime and we didn't go very many places.

B: What year did you graduate from college?

L: [I graduated in] 1944. I went up there in 1940. That was one of the best things
my parents did for me, putting me on the train and [saying] goodbye. I had to
grow up fast.

B: Were you adverse to the idea at first?

L: No, I really wasn't. I wasn't sure were I wanted to go to college. One of my best
friends was going to Vassar. She wanted me to go up with her to Vassar, but
somehow that just didn't appeal to me. It would have been nice to have been
with Doris, but some how Vassar just didn't have the appeal. Mother had
graduated from Western. When I was still in high school we went up to Western
and saw the college. We were introduced to the different rooms and some of the
people who were there in the summer, the staff people. Mother didn't really urge
me to go. I don't think she would have been terribly disappointed if I had said
that I wanted to go to Vassar or some other place. I got catalogues from millions
of schools. I did not want to go to school in Florida. Most of my friends, of
course, were going over to Florida State College for Women [now Florida State
University], and I did not want to go there. It was an easy choice to go up to
Oxford. I packed my big red leather trunk, a big square thing that's downstairs,
that Dad had taken to Beloit and to MIT with his stuff. They gave it to me to pack
my stuff and I packed up everything and checked it on with my ticket and Dad
arranged for my ticket. The day that I was to leave [I wore] my hat and gloves
and my high-heeled shoes and my best bib and tucker, which you had to wear to
go on the train in those days. They took me down to the train station and Dad
tipped the porter and said look after her. I think he probably gave him a quarter.
[He said] look after her until she gets to Cincinnati and be sure she gets off there.
The first time I went up, he arranged for a colleague who had helped him in
Cincinnati when he was doing bond refinancing. Bill Zieverinck was one of his
associates in Cincinnati. He arranged for Bill to meet me at the train station and
to drive me out to Oxford.

B: What a great thing.

L: I had met Bill. I knew Bill. He had visited us in Jacksonville, so I knew him. So
Bill met me and drove me out to Oxford. He, of course, had to go to work, so he
left me in my room. I found my room with the little saggy cot. I was sitting on this
cot, and my roommate did not arrive. All of a sudden later in the morning, by

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then I guess I was beginning to look kind of forlorn, I heard all of this clatter and
clutter coming up the stairs and coming into the room next door to me. So, I
went over to see what was going on and here was this girl coming in. Her
parents had brought her down from Indianapolis. They had brought all of her
luggage and they hadn't packed anything, it was just in boxes or on coat hangers
or whatever, so there were a million trips up and down the stairs. So, I pitched
in. I had nothing better to do, so I pitched in and helped Miriam move in. Miriam
was really the first person I met, the first student, when I went up there. We
became friends until she died about two years ago.

B: She died two years ago?

L: Yes.

B: What was her last name?

L: Miller, well, she was Miriam Fatout then. Miriam and I were as close as sisters.
She was the only sister I ever had.

B: She came in with a clatter.

L: She came in with a clatter. Her folks became my parents away from home.

B: Really?

L: Of course, I couldn't go home, it was too far. The only time I went home was at
Christmas. I went up [for] Thanksgiving, [and] I'd go home with Miriam. She had
an older brother who was at Purdue. That was nice. He had friends, too, and, of
course, Miriam had high school friends. So, we partied all the time when we were
up there. It was delightful, and it was a family that I never had. It was a family
that all they wanted to do was have fun. They took me ice skating. We just did
all kinds of things with the Fatout family besides eat and have a good time. They
had a big house with a screened porch across the back upstairs. It had cots the
whole length. There must have been about four or five cots, and that's where all
the guys slept. Bud would bring his college friends home and they'd sleep out
there and we'd slept downstairs. The Fatouts, any time that I couldn't go home I
went up to their house. Miriam was really a sister to me.

B: Did the roommate eventually show up?

L: The roommate eventually showed up, but we were not compatible at all. She was
from Cincinnati and she had worked in a drugstore during the summer to earn a
little college money. She had all these cutouts of movie stars holding Lux soap
and that sort of thing you used to have in drugstores. She brought in, I guess,

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about a half a dozen of these cardboard standers, full size.

B: You had to live with these.

L: I had to live with [them]. Mary Lynn Gertees and I were not compatible, so we
were together only about maybe a few weeks. Miriam and her roommate were
not all that compatible, though they did get along pretty well. One of the other
girls, Marge Walters from California, and I just hit it off the way Miriam and I did.
Marge and I arranged a room together, and so we roomed together then for
about two years. Marion and her roommate, who was from around Gary
[Indiana], she and her roommate and Marge and I sort of organized a foursome.
We were very close all through college. We had a good time. We partied and
did all the things that kids do in college.

B: Were your folks ever able to get up there to visit with you at all at school?

L: Well, I don't know. They never came to parents' weekend or anything. When I
was in I think my sophomore year I went to a football game. I think it was
probably an Indiana/Purdue game. Of course, we had to root for Purdue because
Miriam's father and her brother both were Purdue people. Going home, it was
evidently down in Bloomington, and driving back [to Indianapolis]; it was snowing
and cold. The heater in the car did not work. The windshield wipers did not work
and the guy who was driving had to drive with the door open and his head out the
window. We drove all the way from Bloomington up to Indianapolis. Of course,
the car was cold as ice and I contracted pneumonia. I was very ill and they had
to put me in a little hospital over in Hamilton, Ohio, because Oxford had no
hospital to take care of me.

B: So you came back to school before you really came down seriously ill.

L: Yeah, I was back at Western and, all of a sudden, I started running a high
temperature and fainted in the bathroom. Everybody got excited and scurried
around and they took me down to the college infirmary and [my temperature] was
sky high. They didn't know what to do with me because they didn't have people
who were really sick in the infirmary. They sent me over to Hamilton to the
hospital there and Mother's mother was with us [in Jacksonville] by then. She
was evidently not well and mother couldn't leave her, so I suffered through this
two weeks in the hospital in Hamilton by myself with just some of the girls. Some
of the faculty would bring them over to visit me. Of course, they didn't have good
doctors. They didn't have medication for pneumonia at that time. They took my
x-rays and I had no lungs, it was all white. The only drug they had was sulfa.
Penicillin hadn't been invented then, so they gave these sulfa drugs and
whatever else they could to think they were going to cut the fever.

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B: Did they know enough to keep turning you over and moving you around?

L: No, they didn't do anything. I couldn't breathe very well. [I was given] no oxygen,
no nothing. I could very well have died back then.

B: That was a close call.

L: It was a close call. It took me months to recover. I still have a scar from it. It
took me a long time. Mother and Dad, I think, they came up when school was
out to pick me up, as I remember, that year. But they did not come up any of the
time that I was sick. I think Dad came up once to see how I was getting along. I
have a vague memory of that, but I was kind of spaced out most of the time. I
had to drop a couple courses and so I was taking only one or two courses and
barely able to keep up with those. I would come back to the room just
exhausted. If it hadn't have been for my roommates, I wouldn't have been able
to pull through it. They took care of me really. The maiden faculty at that time
lived in the dorm with us. One of the women, Miss Hall, she taught math, I think.
She had taught my Mother. She lived across the hall from us. So, you can tell
she was kind of old, and she was still teaching. She took care of me. She had a
private bath and she, instead of my using the bath down the hall that all the other
students used, she insisted that I come in and take a bath in her tub. Her tub
was about half as wide as a normal tub and twice as long. [laughing] It was the
strangest bathtub I ever saw, but it was an experience to take a bath in Miss
Hall's bathtub. They took as good care of me as [anyone else]. The only doctor
that they had on the staff at Hamilton who could see me was, I think, from Austria
or Germany or somewhere over there. He didn't speak English. He just spoke
German, I guess it was. He would tell these nurses what to do for me and they
didn't understand what he was talking about. He'd have to go where they kept
their medicines and stuff and [say] give her this or give her that.

B: It must have been awkward for him, especially during wartime. [World War II]

L: Yeah, it must have been. He was very concerned about me, of course, because
here he had a patient that couldn't understand what he said. During the war, with
being German or Nordic [or] whatever he was [must have been uncomfortable].
We all thought he was German, but nobody knew for sure. He could have been
Swedish or something, because we were not aware of accents as much then.
But he was my doctor.

B: What was your academic major at Western? [Western College for Women]

L: Art and painting and drawing and art history [were my areas of study].

B: What had your Mother studied there?

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L: [She studied] art. She was a very talented artist, very talented. She didn't do
much painting. She did a lot of drawing.

[End side A2]

B: This is tape B of Alan Bliss's interview with Christian Simons LaRoche. The date
is August 15, 2003. I am, again, at her home in Niceville, Florida, and we are
resuming our discussion of yesterday's date. Ms. LaRoche, I would like to ask if
you can talk to me about your recollections of the experience of the decade of
the late 1920s and the 1930s. Talk about your experience during the time that
Florida experienced the aftereffects of the real estate crash and then, particularly,
the stock market crash and the years of the Great Depression. It may not have
seemed like a great depression right away, but, now, historians consider it to be
a pretty significant passage in American history. Does that stand out in your
memory in any way? Did you connect it, as someone experiencing those years
as a youth, as a hard time?

L: I don't remember it as a particularly hard time. Personally, we never seemed to
want for anything, even money. Dad, I'm sure, was not making a lot of money,
but he was making enough for us to keep us in meat and potatoes. He was busy
all of the time. He was never without a job. Most of my friends, their fathers
were still working people; they all had jobs, they didn't lose their jobs.

B: Now, during those years your father was self-employed with his own consulting
business. Is that right?

L: Yes, and he was developing Venetia during that time. Of course, that real estate,
that changed. The Venetia sort of came to an end. They were developing it, and
then when the crash came, Venetia, kind of, was put on the side line and didn't
really continue its development until later, until the war years.

B: When you say the crash and Venetia came to an end, are you referring to the
stock market crash in 1929?

L: [I'm referring to] the stock market crash, yeah.

B: So, through the later part of the 1920s, the subdivision development Venetia that
you referred to continued.

L: That continued to some extent, yeah.

B: So, Jacksonville, it sounds like, really didn't suffer much from the real estate
crash of 1926 [end of Florida land boom] as nearly as you can recall.

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L: No [it didn't suffer], not that I recall. It was a busy port. There was a lot of
shipping and shipbuilding, so there were jobs for people. I don't remember that
Jacksonville really suffered that much. I don't remember that there were soup
kitchens, and there probably were. We heard about hoboes and transients. We
were always told to watch out for any transients or people that we might find
suspicious in our neighborhood. I don't remember that as hard times really.

B: Do you recall seeing any evidence of any big employment projects that would
have been the sorts of things that we now think of as being part of the WPA; the
Civilian Conservation Corps; the Public Works Administration; any projects like
road building, bridge building, big public works that were there to put people to
work during the 1930s?

L: I suppose there were some but I was not aware of it.

B: You didn't see gangs of men out working on the side of the road or things like

L: There may have been, but I just don't remember that was important. It wasn't a
part of my life; I don't remember.

B: Did your father continue to travel extensively during those years?

L: Yes, he did. He was traveling a lot during the 1930s.

B: His business was predominately, you think, consulting for cities?

L: Yes.

B: Now, you have mentioned that he had a lot to do with refinancing bonds for
cities. Was that an important part of his work then?

L: The Simons Sheldrick Corporation, that was their primary activity, was
refinancing. He worked with people in Cincinnati and in Atlanta to do that,
refinancing for city bonds. I don't really know that much about it. I found some
papers of his related to that, but [there's] not much information. I guess he just
didn't keep that much about that particular period.

B: When he started into practice after leaving Consolidated Development, and went
off on his own for the city municipal consulting business, did he go into business
with the man Mr. Ray Sheldrick I believe his name is?

L: [He was] Ray Sheldrick, yes.

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B: So the company was known as Simons Sheldrick Company right from the

L: Yes.

B: Who was Ray Sheldrick?

L: I don't know where Dad found him or who he was or anything about him. He was
a real nice man, but I don't know anything about him.

B: You remember meeting the man?

L: Oh yeah, I knew him. I went to his house frequently. I knew him and his wife
very well. Socially, we saw each other a lot. Who he was really, and what his
background was, why he fit in with Dad in this company; I just do not know.

B: Was he about the same age as your Dad?

L: He was a little younger, I think, but basically about the same age.

B: They were close friends?

L: They were close friends.

B: How long did they stay in business together?

L: I don't remember. I think [they were in business together] until Ray volunteered
in the Navy; it must have been about 1942.

B: It was during the war?

L: [It was] during the war.

B: He left to go in the Navy?

L: Yes, and I don't know what he did after that. Whether he stayed in the Navy or
whether he ever came back to Jacksonville, I do not know. I think he came back
to Jacksonville, but what he did I do not know. I have a vague memory that he
came to Dad's funeral, but that's all kind of hazy.

B: Your remarked, as you're put it, that during the Depression years your father
continued to work as before and made enough money to keep you in meat and
potatoes. Do you remember any impact on your household life at all from the
depression years?

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L: No, not really, I was evidently sheltered from it all or it had no impact on us as a

B: You lived in the same house, kept an automobile and I guess your Mother
engaged a helper?

L: Yes, we had a maid and household help all those years, every day.

B: It was the same person who had been working for you before and the same

L: The same person, yes.

B: Tell me about that person. Who was that?

L: Her name was Eula Wiggins and she was a black lady. She was a widow of
some kind. I really knew her well because I would frequently dry dishes when
she was washing dishes, and we'd talk. She talked about her children. She had
a son and a daughter. She talked about them, but she didn't talk that much
about really personal things. She was from Georgia, I know that, as many of the
household helpers had moved to Jacksonville. She lived in one of the little
shacks, houses that were rental units out on the north side of town. We
frequently took her home, especially in bad weather [or] rainy weather, but she
rode the bus most of the time. She had to make a transfer in town to get from
her home out to ours. She wasn't paid very much. I think Dad some of the time
paid her $10 a week, which was more than most. [Most] of the maids were
getting $6 or $8.

B: Do you remember when she came to work for your family?

L: I don't remember that.

B: Do you remember how long she worked for your family?

L: No, I don't, because she worked until the early war years. She worked there as
long as 1942 because that's when my brother died and she was still with Mother
at that time, and she left not long after that. She could get a job at a hotel as a
maid and make more money, and it was easier transportation for her, she didn't
have to change buses. The son, I can't remember whether he went in the Army
or not, whether he was that old, but he may have been. Then my brother's death
affected her and she decided she just had to leave.

B: Would you say she was close to you and your brother in terms of participating in
your upbringing and your day-to-day experiences?

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L: Yes.

B: So you had a fond memory of her.

L: [I have] a very fond memory of Eula. I remember her very fondly. She was
certainly a faithful person. She looked after my brother and me. When Mother
went off to Garden Club or something she never had to worry because Eula was
there. When we came home from school, Eula was there. She usually fixed
supper. She was a good cook. She did family cooking, nothing fancy. [She
would make] boiled potatoes and everything was boiled, and it was boiled until
the life almost was out of it. [laughing] She made wonderful cakes, and she made
a cake every week and good desserts. We always had dessert. Mother had an
arrangement with one of the little grocery stores, a mom and pop type store.
They didn't have supermarkets much then. It was out on Edison Avenue, and
Mother called in her order every morning or whenever she needed, maybe two or
three times a week, and then they delivered it to the house. I can remember she
would specify a beef roast, say five pounds, and if Dad didn't like it, they would
send it back. [laughing] They would get a replacement. Sometimes Mother and
Dad, on Saturdays, would drive out or drive over to the store and pick up the
groceries, but usually the groceries were delivered on the day that Mother called
it in.

B: So Eula did most of the cooking.

L: She did all of the cooking. Mother was not a cook. She never was a cook. After
Eula left us, Mother had to cook our meals [and they] deteriorated. [laughing]

B: She would come early enough in the morning to take care of breakfast, coffee,
that sort of thing?

L: No, usually Dad started the coffee when he got up in the morning. He had an old
perc [percolator] pot, and he made the coffee. Usually Eula, as I remember,
didn't get there until maybe nine or ten o'clock. It was after breakfast, because
we had our cereal and we got that or took care of that ourselves.

B: What time did your Dad ordinarily go off to work in the morning?

L: [He would go] usually about nine.

B: Would he drive himself to the office?

L: No, usually he took the bus. We were about almost a block from a bus stop, and
he took the bus. He always took the same bus and usually the same people
were riding the bus. Of course, he knew the bus driver and the bus driver knew

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all the regular customers. There was a bench in the little park there at the bus
stop, and all the people around there who rode the bus would gather there to ride
the bus to work. It was just part of Dad's routine. Sometimes, Mother would
drive in and pick him up in the afternoon and bring him home if they had
something to do on the way home, some errands or something. But usually he
rode the bus home.

B: What if the weather was bad?

L: He had an umbrella.

B: Your family kept a car, but apparently that was available for your Mother to use.

L: That was Mother's, Mother's car. Their first car was a Ford.

B: Was it a T?

L: Well, like a model T? Yeah. I remember one time driving down to St. Augustine.
I was pretty little then. I'm digressing again.

B: That's all right.

L: In the Model T, we drove down to St. Augustine. You know they built roads with
a kind of hump so the water would run off on the sides.

B: Right, sometimes the hump was __

L: You rode the top of the hump and if you met a car, you had to take a chance of
getting down on the side safely and then getting back up on the road.
Sometimes we would drive back. We did that several times, I think. Mother and
Dad had very good friends, the Underwoods, who lived in the oldest house
[historic "Oldest House" in St. Augustine, Florida]. They were caretakers for the
oldest house at that time. They were good friends of Dad's. I think he met Dr.
Underwood through the State Board of Health. I think he had been one of the
State Board of Health people, but what he did I do not know. We would drive
down and spend time with the Underwoods and then drive back to Jacksonville.
Of course, that was a day's trip to go down there and spend some time with them
and come back. Once in a while we would drive back on the beach. Of course,
you had to select where you drove. You had to drive on the hard surface
because if you got onto the dry sand, you got stuck. You had to gauge it so the
tide was right so there was enough of that hard surface when the tide was out.
Then if the tide starting coming in, you had to find an exit off real fast. Dad
tended to get real nervous sometimes. [I remember one time] the tide started
coming in, and he wasn't sure we could make it to the next exit to get up onto the

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A1A, but we did. We didn't get stranded down there. [laughing] That was an

B: What would make you decide to take the beach instead of the highway?

L: I don't know. Dad just wanted to drive on the beach, and people did that all the
time then. It was very common.

B: So you could get on the beach say on the north side of the St. Augustine Inlet,
and then how far would you go before you would get back onto the highway.

L: Probably it was almost to where Ponte Vedra Beach is now.

B: Then you would drive back across?

L: Then we would drive back.

B: Your home was on the other side of the river though.

L: Yeah, and we'd drive up on A1A and then cross the river [St. Johns River] to go

B: What bridge did you use to cross the river?

L: [We'd probably use] the old Acosta Bridge because the Main Street Bridge
wasn't there then, and none of the bridges were [there]. Acosta was the only

B: Did you ever take the train, the Florida East Coast Railway, down to St.
Augustine for those trips?

L: No, we never did that I remember.

B: Did you ride the Florida East Coast Railway up and down?

L: Dad did ride it, of course, on his business, but I don't ever remember riding the
train anywhere.

B: You didn't ride except when you went to college.

L: Yeah.

[break in recording]

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L: The next car Mother and Dad had was an Essex which kept getting drowned-out
whenever Mother went through a puddle. It would drown out, and then she'd
have to go to the side of the road and wait for it to dry out and then start the car
again and then on we'd go, so they didn't keep the Essex very long because it
was a problem getting drowned out. The least little puddle drowned out the
Essex. Then they bought a Chrysler, which was one of these great big huge
boxy cars from the 1930s. That's what Mother mainly used during the 1930s to
take us to school and pick us up and pick up Dad or take him to work if he
needed a ride down. We used that old Chrysler.

B: You had one car, there weren't two?

L: One car, no.

B: You remarked before that when your dad traveled away from Jacksonville on
business to other cities, which he did evidently quite a bit, it was always by train.

L: It was always by train.

B: He would typically leave in the morning, or at the end of the day and take a
sleeper car?

L: Usually [he would leave] at the end of the day depending on where he went.
Usually it was an overnight trip. He would leave on the late afternoon or evening
train and then sleep on the train and then be at his destination for the meetings in
the morning.

B: So if he traveled to Tampa, for example, that would be how he went.

L: [He would make it] an overnight trip.

B: Did you travel down to Tampa during the 1930s to visit your friends, the Venters?

L: I think we probably did, and we drove then. If the family went, then we went by

B: Your father would do the driving then?

L: Oh yes, on the road Dad always drove.

B: Although, apparently your Mother was not intimidated by driving.

L: No, she drove in town. Of course, traffic wasn't what it is now, but Mother had to
be a very careful driver, but she was a good driver. [She was] very cautious.

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B: Do you think of her as a liberated woman, in retrospect, for her time?

L: I think yes. I think she was because she was very independent. Dad let her do
whatever she wanted to do. He did not have any strings attached. As far as I
know, there were no limitations on what she could do. At that time, of course,
women were not aggressive in maintaining a status or anything, but she was a
very active woman and all of her friends were.

B: You've mentioned that she had some means of her own.

L: Yes.

B: She had some financial resources from her family.

L: Yes, so she had some small income of her own, but I don't think it was ever
tremendous. It wasn't much, but it was enough that she could manage
independently. She wasn't completely financially dependent on Dad.

B: She could make an impulsive decision to buy something and not worry about
having to confer with your Dad.

L: None of us were ever on an allowance. I never had an allowance, my brother
didn't [either]. If we wanted or needed money for lunch money or something,
well, we didn't need lunch money because we carried our lunch in a paper sack
or a little lunch pail. We didn't need much money. But if I wanted to go to the
movies, I would just ask Dad for a quarter. In the 1930s, I had a friend who lived
in Ortega. She would take the bus from Ortega, and I would get on the same bus
when it got up near Avondale, and then we'd ride the bus down to Five Points
where another friend got on the bus. Then, we'd go in town on Saturday and
that's how we spent our Saturdays. We'd go to Walgreen's or Woolworth's or
one of those places with lunch counters and have grilled cheese sandwiches and
a dope.

B: A dope?

L: That's a Coke. Coke was dope. We'd have a plain dope or sometimes a cherry
dope, and then we'd go to the movies and sit through probably about twice. So
all I needed was about ten cents for a lunch and the dope. Dopes were five
cents and a sandwich was maybe a nickel or a dime. A quarter was expensive.
Matinees were ten cents. It was air conditioned, of course. [It would say] ice-air,
cooled, at the movies. So, we'd go and spend the afternoon and see the movie
twice maybe. They had all kinds of extra things other than the feature. At the
Florida Theater they had Jimmy Knight at the Mighty Wurlitzer [organ]. He
played sing-a-longs. The words flashed up on the screen and we all sang along

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with Jimmy Knight at the Mighty Wurlitzer. They'd have, of course, half a dozen
cartoons; the newsreel (that's how we knew what was going on in the world, was
the news reel), and then two movies and we had spent the day. Then, we all
took the bus home and each of us got off at our stops along the way. Peggy was
the last one in Ortega. We did that nearly every week, nearly every Saturday.
That was just a kind of routine through our high school days.

B: Did you have air conditioning in your home?

L: No.

B: Did you have ceiling fans?

L: No, we had an electric fan on a pedestal and a lot of little floor fans, but that was
all. Nobody had air conditioning. It hadn't been invented I guess.

B: Was it oppressive in the summertime living in Jacksonville?

L: Oh sure, yeah. We found all kinds of ways to keep cool. We'd lie down on the
floor a lot. It's cooler on the floor. Mother always rolled up the rugs in the
summer. We had orientals [rigs] on the floor and she'd roll those up or turn them
over so we could walk the sand out. We drank a lot of lemonade and sat out in
the back yard. There was usually a breeze. Back in those days, as I remember,
there was nearly always a late afternoon shower. [It was] not ever very long as a
rule, but it cooled it off for the evening and then it was cool through the night and
usually there was a breeze.

B: Were bugs much of a problem?

L: Well, we were not particularly aware of them. There were probably mosquitos,
but Dad had done pretty good I guess on the mosquito control because it wasn't
a problem the way it has been here sometimes.

B: Do you think that the fact that your Mother had some financial resources of her
own and the fact that she was a woman inclined and comfortable to get out and
about on her own with her car, did that serve to liberate your father to some
extent? He was a man who traveled extensively on business. Apparently he felt
comfortable with going off for a few days at a time and secure in the knowledge
that your family was going to be okay, everything was going to function normally
and there would be no problem.

L: I think so. He never had any, as far as I know, feeling that there was any
problem if he left. Both my brother and I were raised to be independent also, to
do our own thing and to do what we wanted to do. I could go to the movies. I

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just told Mother what I was doing, and, of course, she knew the girls I was with.
Then, when I was in high school, I edited our high school newspaper. It was
printed way down on Bay Street near the docks and the shipyards. At that time,
in the late 1930s, Navy boats were coming in to Jacksonville and tying up at
those docks along the water. There were usually a lot of sailors around down by
the docks, the dock workers. I usually had to go down to the printer to check
galleys and layouts and that sort of thing after school. So I would take the bus
down and then walk from the bus stop down to where the print shop was.
Sometimes it was dark when I had to go back home, but I never had any fear of
being out alone down there with all of these sailors and shipyard workers and
whatever. I wouldn't do it now, but at that time I had absolutely no fear that
anything would ever happen to me.

B: Did it strike you as being exceptional [that you were] at liberty to do that sort of
thing on your own?

L: No, all my friends [had] pretty much the same type of independence. One time
our newspaper staff had a dinner at one of the restaurants downtown, and then
we wandered as a group all over town. [We were] 'cutting the fool', looking in the
store windows and just having a ball. Everybody thought we were crazy, I know,
but we thought nothing of it. I think after that time we walked home from
downtown out to Avondale, down Park Street. There was a whole group of us,
so we had no fear at all.

B: Was the bus running or you just chose to walk?

L: We just chose to walk. We just decided that was going to be a fun thing to do, so
we just walked home. I wouldn't do that again either.

B: Did your father speak at all, to your memory, about the politics of those years,
those decades? Did ever express an opinion, for example, about Franklin D.

L: Oh, yes.

B: What was that opinion?

L: It wasn't good. He was a Republican even at that time. My grandparents were
Republicans and Mother and Dad were.

B: That's your Mother's parents?

L: My Mother's parents, yeah, they were Republicans and always had been.
Mother and Dad always had been Republicans. They had nothing good to say

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about Mr. Roosevelt.

B: Were they registered Republicans?

L: [Yes]

B: So they didn't vote in the Democratic primary even.

L: No, they couldn't vote in the Democratic primaries.

B: In Florida that puts a person at a bit of a disadvantage does it not?

L: [It was a] disadvantage, yes.

B: But apparently they had, as you recall, deep convictions in their Republican
politics that they would forgo the primary.

L: They were adamant. As far as I know they did. I think they must have been
registered Republicans because they were very strong and outspoken, Dad
particularly, about Mr. Roosevelt. Mr. Roosevelt could do nothing that was good.

B: What did he say? Do you recall any specifics?

L: I don't recall, but I know it was not complimentary.

B: He didn't approve of the New Deal?

L: No.

B: He didn't approve of the Public Works?

L: [He didn't approve of] the Public Works, none of that.

B: Really? Would he speak approvingly of Herbert Hoover, for example? Do you

L: Yes, he did. I think he felt that Hoover was [okay]. I don't remember that they
discussed politics very much, but since Hoover was Republican he was all right.

B: When Roosevelt was opposed for the presidency in 1936, his Republican
opponent then was Alf Landon. Did your father support Landon, [Alfred "Alf" M.
Landon, governor of Kansas, 1933-1937] then? Do you recall?

L: I don't remember that he did, but he may have. He may have worn a sunflower.

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[Kansas's nickname is the Sunflower state]. I don't remember.

B: Do you remember him speaking of Wendell Wilkie [Republican presidential
candidate against Franklin Roosevelt in 1940]?

L: We all were strong Wilkie fans. I was a strong Wilkie [fan]. We went down to
Wilkie headquarters and got posters and posted them all over the house. When I
went up to college, I took enough Wilkie stuff to plaster the room in my dorm with
Wilkie stuff. Of course, we followed Wilkie. We were strong for Wilkie. I think
Mother and Dad were also, but my brother and I particularly. Brother would go
down to the headquarters and help put out posters and things like that. Wilkie
really seemed to touch the excitement, as teenagers, that we felt. I think Dad let
us go on and do that. Dad may have worn a Wilkie button, I don't know.

B: Did that make your parents and your brother and you exceptional, do you think,
in Jacksonville for being enthusiastic Wilkie supporters?

L: I don't think so. I think most people that I knew were Wilkie supporters. I don't
know how my friends felt and how their parents [felt], whether they were
Democrats or not. Probably they were; nearly everybody was a Democrat, of
course, at that time.

B: You don't remember any discussions or talking about that?

L: I don't remember any discussions with my friends or with their Mother's or Dad's
friends. If the Withers came over and spent the evening and they all sat around
talking, gossiping, and reminiscing and stuff, I don't remember that politics really
was an issue except it was anti-Roosevelt. Many of their friends were also of
Republican sympathy whether they were registered Republicans or not.

B: Do you remember Eula ever making any remarks to you about her sympathies as
far as politics or Mr. Roosevelt?

L: I don't remember any of that.

B: Can you remember anything about why it was that Wilkie energized you and your
brother? You were teenagers apparently and very youthful politically.

L: I don't know. We listened to the radio a lot, and, of course, we heard all of these
speeches and he was a dynamic speaker. I don't know, he just sort of appealed
to us.

B: Did your father make any remarks to you or that you heard that suggested he
found people in other cities where he did business either sympathetic or opposed

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to his political views?

L: I imagine he did but I don't remember anything specific.

B: He didn't express any frustration or irritation or annoyance with those Democrats
in Miami, or Tampa, or someplace like that?

L: Not particularly at that period, it wasn't until later, soon before he ended his
practice, that he became very frustrated with all of the government red tape that
he had to go through. That was one contributing factor to his giving up his
planning and zoning practice because of the government red tape.

B: That would have been in the 1960s?

L: That would have been in the 1960s. That is the only time I remember him
expressing real frustration.

B: Sometimes your father or your Mother perhaps would give Eula a ride home you
said if the weather was inclement or for special circumstances like that. Did you
go along on those rides?

L: Usually we all went along.

B: Did you ever visit Eula's home?

L: Yes, we went in and visited her. [She lived in] just a plain little wood shack, plain
as could be. She tried to make it look comfortable, but it was a miserable
existence for her, I know.

B: Was there a name for the neighborhood?

L: [No] not that I remember. There probably was, but I don't remember. I don't
remember enough where she lived.

B: She lived north of downtown?

L: I think it was north but fairly close in town, but I don't remember since these
streets were a whole block of these little wood shanties.

B: Were the streets paved?

L: Yes.

B: Did they have electricity?

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L: Yes.

B: Did your father ever talk about that neighborhood and express any ideas for its

L: Later on he did when he got into the housing authority, when he was working
with the Jacksonville Housing Authority. He deplored the conditions under which
these people had lived. Ray Sheldrick's wife owned several of those little rent
houses. I think that Dad was critical of that, that she took money from these
people. She really didn't do anything for them. She didn't keep their houses up
or anything. Nobody did, the owners did nothing.

B: So it was his idea that it was unfair to the tenants in those situations that their
landlords charged too much or just didn't reinvest enough in them?

L: Well, [they] just didn't keep the property up. I think that was probably the
beginning of his awareness, of course, and his concern, and why he wanted to
do something to clear out some of those slums.

B: What was his solution when you say that he started expressing ideas when he
was on the housing authority? Did he have some argument in favor of a
particular program or course of action?

L: Of course, that was all government. The government told them what they could
do, what they could build. It was all government housing. The government
replaced the slums and built what were brick slums, [they] became that.

B: Was that something that your father found an improvement?

L: Yes, he felt that was an improvement. I remember that one of the problems that
they had was to educate the people how to take care of these improvements,
how to take care of the bathtub and the indoor plumbing, keep it clean and keep
it working instead of using the tub to keep their coal in for the coal stove.

B: Did your Dad seem to object to the government's role in stimulating that change?

L: No, I think he felt that was the only solution. At that time, I think that was the only
solution. Private enterprise, as far as I know, did not enter into it.

B: I guess we're referring now here specifically to African-American neighborhoods
in Jacksonville where Eula, for example, lived. That was predominately a black

L: It was all black, yes.

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B: Did he seem to attribute any characteristics to the people who lived in that area
of black Jacksonville residents that he thought helped give rise to those
circumstances in that neighborhood? You said that he was interested in
educating the blacks to be more responsible homeowners, did he seem to
attribute characteristics to them that led to these circumstances?

L: I don't remember that that was an issue. Mother, I remember her speaking out
about it. She felt that what they needed was education, that the blacks all
needed education in order to improve their lot. Through AAUW, she did not
actually work with education for blacks, but I think that she thought that education
[was important]. A lot of the black people at that time couldn't take baths maybe,
and there was an odor. She felt that if they could be educated for cleanliness
that people would accept them more if they had no odor and if they dressed
better. She was more outspoken about that than Dad was. She felt that if they
could be educated, if they had more schools [they would do better]. Of course
the adults were past the age where they could go to the schools, and many of
them had never been in school. So, she felt that education would help solve
many of the problems that were in those black areas.

B: You didn't encounter blacks in your day-to-day life other than Eula or people who
worked for the families of your friends I guess, and certainly not in school?

L: No, other than riding the bus, because they didn't patronize the same stores we
did and not the same restaurants, of course.

B: I assume seating on the bus was segregated?

L: [It was] segregated, yes. They were always at the back of the bus.

B: So, Jacksonville was a typical Southern city at the time.

L: Yes.

B: Do you remember any other citizens in Jacksonville who were members of what
we would now call I guess a minority group, like ethnic minorities such as
Hispanics, Italians, Asians?

L: I don't remember that were ever any there unless they were in the Chinese
restaurants. I think most of them were Chinese. Well, there were Jewish kids in
our school. I grew up with several Jewish kids in my class. We always kind of
envied them because they could speak Hebrew and they went to Hebrew school
after public school and some of us used to think that was pretty neat to be able to
learn and have what we thought was a foreign language course, but they were
just like everybody else. They were just like the rest of us, only some of them

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were smarter. They were smart kids.

B: They went to Gorrie and Lee?

L: [Yes, and] there were some in my elementary school. Billy Lazarus was in my
first grade. We went through school from first grade to twelfth altogether. The
whole class pretty much stayed together all through the twelve years of school.

B: Did Jewish families live in any particular neighborhood or were they pretty
diffused through the community?

L: They were pretty well scattered through. A rabbi lived behind us, and Mrs.
Kaplan and Mother were very close friends. They were both in AAUW and they
were very close friends. We used to go over to the Kaplan's house. We could
go through the backyards. The Kaplans had a wonderful sycamore tree in their
backyard that I used to climb, and they never put any restrictions on our coming
over in the yard and climbing their trees. Mrs. Kaplan used to bring cookies and
things over for us. Sometimes Dr. Kaplan would bring Dad a bottle of bourbon.
We had a very friendly relationship with them. They had a daughter but she was
older than I, so we didn't have much relationship with her. I remember when Dad
died that Dr. Kaplan was at my side the whole time during the service at the
cemetery. He was just one of those sweet, thoughtful people who saw where he
could be useful and be needed. They were good neighbors, they sort of were
neighborly-type people. Well, the whole neighborhood was that way, but they
were the ones we knew the best. There were several Jewish families as I was
growing up, and I think they all lived scattered around, intermingled. There were
a few Syrians. One of my good friends from the first grade all through was a
Syrian girl. Her family had a little store, and from the time that Clara could count
money she worked in the store. I thought that was wonderful, and in high school
she was always the treasurer because she could count the money real good.
There were a good many Syrian families in Jacksonville.

B: I wonder why that was. Do you have any idea?

L: I don't know, but Clara was a good friend and several of the others were. The
Davids lived down the street from us,
and they were close friends.
Everybody, they just happened to be
Syrians. Nobody made anything of it,
no exceptions, they were treated just
like everybody.

[End side B3]

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L: Of course, this is my point of view, this is the way I saw it. Other people would
see it differently.

B: Do you think that other people that you knew growing up in Jacksonville, can you
project their point of view? Can you think of other people who would have had a
different perspective on, say, for example, the relationship between white Anglo-
Saxon Protestants and Jewish people in Jacksonville? Was there ever any hint
to your knowledge, not in your circles apparently, but among others as far as
tension between people?

L: There probably was some tension, but I was not ever aware of it. As far as my
friends and I were concerned, the Jewish kids and the Syrian kids were just like
us. There was no difference. The same with gays, there were some that we
knew were a little different. We didn't call them gay, but we just kind of knew.

B: Really? This was in the 1930s?

L: I had one very good friend who worked with me on the newspaper, and he was a
close friend.

B: This was in high school?

L: [This was] in high school. He'd come over when we were working on the
newspaper around the dining room table, around this table in fact, and we would
work around the table. Bob's family didn't have transportation, so sometimes we
would have to take him home, and he lived out in Murray Hill. If we were working
extra late and for some reason he had no way to get home and Mother and Dad
didn't want to take or for some reason couldn't, he spent the night. He'd sleep
upstairs with my brother. Years later there was a raid in one of those houses,
somewhere down there, and some of the guys leaped out the window and some
of them were caught. Bob Crowell was one of them that was caught and when
Mother found out he was gay, she about had a fit because he used to sleep with

B: Did you have any awareness then?

L: No, we didn't. He was just like us. We didn't know. We thought he kind of
walked a little more ladylike, but we didn't pay any attention to things like that; he
was just a kid just like us. In fact, they all were, and I think most of my friends felt
that way. We were all friends and we took each other pretty much at face value.
We would trust and [had] understanding because we were friends; there was sort
of an affectionate bond between kids at that time, at least in my group.

B: I think that from everything I understand that your parents represented a highly

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educated minority of Americans for the time, the 1930s. For example, I think the
census statistics from the 1930s census show that really less than 20 percent of
American adult men at that point had completed high school. In your family both
of your parents were college educated and had college degrees.

L: [Yes] and their friends were, they were all college-educated people.

B: So you lived in a circle of people who were equipped with very strong credentials
as far as education is concerned. Did you notice that? Did it seem noticeable to
you, or did you have a sense of occupying a position of perhaps having more
gifts in terms of education, or a family that had an education, more than others?

L: I don't know that it did because most of my friends' parents were also educated
people and professional people. Their fathers were lawyers and most of them
lawyers or business people, and they were all well-educated people. [That was]
the group that I was in. Some of my friends, I'm sure their parents were not
educated but that didn't matter; it didn't become an issue at all. I never
discussed with Louise [the education of] her parents [or ask] well, did your
parents go to college. I'm not sure that they did, but that didn't ever come up and
it didn't seem to ever be an issue. Louise was just one of the gang.

B: You have no recollection of any other ethnic minorities in Jacksonville that stood
out, Greek or Italian?

L: Not that I knew [but] there were Greeks there and there were Italians, but I don't
know that there were many in our particular area and in my friends.

B: Do you ever recall hearing your parents expressing ...

L: Oh, there were some Greeks, yes, the Pouloses in high school. There were
probably some other Greek families, too, but Teddy Poulos was in my class. He
had a brother Theodore who was older and who was active in sports.

B: That was Teddy, as opposed to Theodore?

L: Well, there was Teddy and Theodore because their names are different in Greek.

B: I see.

L: At least, that's what we were told. There probably were others, in high school
particularly because the high school group drew from other middle schools or
junior highs and elementary schools. Our little group that started in West
Riverside and went to John Gorrie and then to Lee all stayed together, but when

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we went to John Gorrie, we had kids who had been out at Fishweir Elementary,
for instance. Anyway, they came to the middle school, and then in high school
we had even more diversity. By that time, people were moving into the area. I
know one of the guys in my high school class, his father was in the Coast Guard
and they had just moved to Jacksonville because his father was stationed there.
They came in. So there were people moving to Jacksonville with different
vocations, different backgrounds, and high schools. So, our group became a
little more diverse in high school.

B: Do you remember your parents expressing any opinions about members of
groups such as Greeks or Italians?

L: No.

B: When your father traveled to Tampa, did he make any observations about his
experience of the people there? I ask that in particular because Tampa had an
unusual ethnic mixture to its population: its Latin quarter, the Ybor City area, had
an Italian component to its population. I wonder if he seemed to express any
feeling that it was somehow more exotic than Jacksonville.

L: He may have felt that but I don't remember him ever expressing that in so many
words. He had good friends in all those different groups, particularly in the
Cuban community [in] Ybor city. He enjoyed the friends he made down there
and he enjoyed the atmosphere. He found that different from Jacksonville and
he enjoyed that aspect of going into a town where the atmosphere was different.
He was aware of that, but I don't know that he ever [said anything about it]. He
probably talked about it, but I just don't remember that.

B: As near as you recall, he found it attractive to go down there and visit.

L: Yes.

B: Do you remember the names of any people that he formed particular friendships
with in Tampa?

L: No, there was Frank Adams, but he was not in one of those groups. He and
Frank Adams were very close friends and they kept up contact for years. I don't
remember the names of many of them.

B: Does the name Henry Gonzalez ring a bell at all?

L: That's sort of back there somewhere.

B: You've said that your Dad particularly enjoyed dining at some of the restaurants

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in Tampa?

L: Yes, [he enjoyed] Las Novedades particularly. That was his favorite.
B: Are there any others that you recall him mentioning?

L: I don't remember any others. Las Novedades was where he always wanted to

B: Where did he stay when he went down to Tampa?

L: Oh, [he stayed at] one of the hotels down there. Tampa Terrace, was that a

B: Yeah, that was one.

L: I think that's where he usually stayed, but he always stayed in a hotel. How he
got around down there [was] probably [by] taxis or people picked him up or
whatever while he was there.

B: Were there cities that were favorites of his to go do business in or visit for his
civic purposes?

L: Well, Tampa was a favorite. He like Orlando. He liked Griffin, Georgia. He liked
the people up there. And [he liked] Spartanburg, South Carolina. He enjoyed
those towns. I think he had a fondness for Jackson and Laurel, Mississippi.

B: Did he do professional work in all those places?

L: Yes.

[interruption in recording]

B: We were talking about your father's attraction to various cities and to Tampa.
Apparently Tampa was one of the places that stood out as a favorite for him.
You have mentioned that he was a cigar smoker.

L: Yes.

B: Did he buy cigars particularly on trips to Tampa?

L: Oh yes, he'd bring back a box of cigars and also he got guava paste down there.
He would bring back guava paste to Mother.

B: To use for what?

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L: Well, she used it for a dessert. It's solid like a bar. She'd slice off maybe an inch
of it and serve it with usually cream cheese and some fruit, a fig or a prune or
apricot, and that was a dessert.

B: Were there any favorite dishes that your Dad experienced in Tampa?

L: Oh [he like] black beans, black bean soup, black beans; anything that they
served at Las Novedades he liked. He liked food. He had a hearty appetite and
he enjoyed food. He really enjoyed eating.

B: What kind of cigars did he smoke?

L: [He smoked] King Edward particularly, but he had a variety of Coronas and I
don't know what all they were. He would bring the boxes, and of, course, they
were cedar boxes at that time. We found a whole collection of them in the garage
in Jacksonville that I think George took. I have a few of them, but I think George
took the large collection. My brother used them for everything. He made little
drawers out of them. He made a cabinet for his screws and nails and all of that
out of cigar boxes. He put a thread spool, which was wood at that time, and
nailed that to the front of the cigar box and he made this box to hold all the little
drawers that were made out of cigar boxes. I made doll beds out of cigar boxes,
sewing kits out of cigar boxes; they were very useful.

B: Well, it's a good thing your father had that habit then.

L: Yes.

B: Was he a lifelong cigar smoker as near as you recall?

L: He was in the early years and he stopped, it must have been in the late 1930s
[or] maybe early 1940s. Mother didn't like it at all. She always was fussing at
him about it. He didn't smoke much at home. He did, I remember as a child,
smoke at home in the house. Mother really objected to that because the curtains
held the smoke and the odor and everything. Then he mainly started smoking
just at the office or out at dinner when he was out with some of his old friends
because most of them were cigar smokers not cigarette smokers. He never did
smoke cigarettes.

B: You mentioned that your neighbor, Dr. Kaplan, would send him a bottle of
bourbon from time to time. Was that his favorite libation or did he have other

L: He hardly ever drank any spirits at all; it was a special occasion. Sometimes

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people would give him rum, but he never drank at home. He never had highballs
or cocktails. Mother did not approve of alcohol.

B: She abstained?

L: She abstained, and partly because I think of her thyroid condition she could not
enjoy it herself; she couldn't drink. She did not like alcohol. When I came home
from college and put beer in the refrigerator, that was a no-no. I had to
overcome some real opposition there.

B: What was the beverage of choice in the house: ice tea, lemonade, Coke?

L: [We drank] milk and coffee. Dad always drank coffee and Mother drank milk.
She raised my brother and me to drink a glass of milk with every meal, not with
the meal because that would wash the food down. We had to wait until after we
had eaten our meal and then we drank the milk. I grew up with milk always on
the table and still do. I still drink a lot of milk.

B: Did your Dad ever express an affinity for Cuban coffee?

L: Oh yes, he liked Cuban coffee; he liked that. Anything that he ate in Tampa was
good food.

B: Well, I'm with him on that. I'm sympathetic not only to his cigar habit but to his
Tampa dining habit. I love all the Cuban restaurants and Spanish restaurants
there myself. I've heard you remark on his critical opinion of FDR and his
enthusiasm for candidates who opposed FDR, I guess on the federal level. Do
you remember any other people in politics that seemed to attract him? How
about any governors of Florida or mayors of Jacksonville?

L: Well, of course, he knew them all. He knew all of the mayors and was on a first
name basis with all of them. He had, as far as I know, a good working
relationship with them as long as they did not oppose what he wanted to do, I
guess zoning or whatever. Usually, he was able to present it in such a way that
the mayors all went along with him. They were all, as I remember, good friends.
Haydon Burns, I know was a good friend. I don't know in the later years whether
he had much working relationship with any of the mayors that came along later.
The mayors in the different towns he knew of course. He knew all the governors.
I know one time, I can't remember which governor it was, Governor Cone
[Florida governor, 1037-1941] I think, we were in Tallahassee and went into his
office to ask if he would [see us]. Dad wanted to see him and had no
appointment, of course, and [they said] oh yes, go right in, and he went right in. I
happened to be with him on that trip. He knew all of the governors.

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B: Did he speak particularly fondly or critically of any of them, David Scholtz [Florida
governor, 1933-1937] for example?

L: Well, he knew David Scholtz and [Dan] McCarty [Florida governor, 1953, nine
months; died in office] he knew very well because one of the McCarty boys, a
brother of Dan McCarty, worked for Dad for a while on one of his traffic studies or

B: This is in Jacksonville.

L: [This is in] Jacksonville, so he knew the McCarty family very well.

B: Was he approving of them?

L: Oh, yeah.

B: Dan McCarty's governorship was unfortunately brief.

L: It was much too short. He [Dad] liked Dan and approved of what he was doing.
[He] felt, as you do, that it was much too brief a time. As far as I know, he knew
Sidney Catts [Florida governor, 1017-1921]. One time when he was going on the
train out to West Florida inspecting privies on one of his trips, I guess that's what
he was doing, it was when he was with the State Board of Health, he was told
that [Catts] was running for governor and he was riding the train also. Whenever
they passed a house or anything the train kind of slowed up and Governor Catts
threw flyers off the train over into the yard. Of course the houses were built up
fairly close the rail line at that time. Whenever they stopped at a little town or
crossroads, the train stopped a lot for Governor Catts, he'd welcome all the
people and glad-hand and all of that. Dad, I remember him commenting on that.
It was during Catts' campaign when he was running for governor.

B: Did he seem to approve of Sidney Catts?

L: Oh yeah, of course, I was not around then, so I didn't hear him say it. This was a
story that he told later, but I think he considered Catts sort of a character, which
he was.

B: Yes, he was that. Did he mention Cary Hardee [Florida governor, 1921-1925]?

L: I don't remember.

B: How about Spessard Holland [Florida governor, 1941-1949]?

L: I think he knew Spessard Holland and I think he probably liked him.

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B: Millard Caldwell [Florida Governor, 1945-1949]?

L: Yeah, I think he knew them all.

B: What did he think of LeRoy Collins [Florida governor, 1955-1961]?

L: I don't know. By that time, he knew him I'm sure, but I don't know that he was
that active in following his career and not as politically oriented as he was in his
earlier years.

B: Did he have much involvement with the Chamber of Commerce in Jacksonville?

L: Yes.

B: Was he a member?

L: He was a member. I think he was president of the chamber for sometime for a
good many years. I think it says in one of those articles that I gave you how long
he was president of the chamber. I wasn't aware that he was president that long,
but he was an active chamber member.

B: As far as the chamber goes, he was faithful to his pattern in his other
involvements, not just a dues paying member but somebody who actually got his
hands on the machinery.

L: He did, he was usually an officer or had some active part. I know he went to a lot
of chamber meetings. Of course, with meeting the other chamber members and
working with them was always very helpful for Dad.

B: I would think it would be valuable for his work. You mentioned, and I've
observed in the product of his professional work, that he took a lot of

L: Yes.

B: Was he an amateur photographer, an enthusiast of that?

L: He was; he took photographs from the time he was, I think, a child. I have seen
some photographs. I don't think I have any of them. [There were] pictures that
he took out west of Mt. Hood [in Oregon] and some of the mountains out there
that probably were taken about the time that he was as a child going out to
Portland to visit his father. He started taking photographs early and he took a lot
of photographs in Rochelle as a high school kid. In Beloit, he took quantities of

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photographs. The guys sitting in their rooms and all of that, The Phi Psi doing
things. He always had a camera. When we went on trips he took quantities of
pictures of brother and me standing in front of the monument, standing in front of
this building, standing in front of a mountain. We had to stand very still because
the shutter wasn't all that fast. He used various cameras. For most of the
pictures that I think he took for those city plans he used the Graflex. It was an
unusually good camera, but he had other cameras, too. I'm not sure just what all
they were. He finally got down to a little Canon and Pentax and that type of
camera. He may have used that in his later years for some of the photography
that he did, but he always had a good camera. That was one of the things that
he was interested in particularly. That was probably his only hobby, taking
pictures and putting them in albums or using them, as he did for the planning, for
a particular purpose to show what he wanted to illustrate. He was a good
photographer and he always had good cameras.

B: When he took for family mementos or just for his own satisfaction, he catalogued
them, put them in albums.

L: He put them in albums.

B: Did he label them?

L: Mostly they were identified. Either he or Mother identified them, where we were
and who the people were in the photographs. Dad was very good about that
about the old, old pictures, the old family pictures. [For] a lot of them he identified
the people, who they were, which has been very helpful. They weren't always
dated, and usually not dated, but he did tell who the people were.

B: Did he process his own photographs?

L: No, he never did that.

B: How did he get that done?

L: Well, he had a funny little German guy who did most of his developing. He made
the enlargements. If Dad wanted an enlargement, he was able to do that. Then,
in some of them though, for family pictures and all, he usually had them
developed commercially. He'd leave the films, as we do now, at the drugstore
and then pick them up a day later. They had faster service then than they do
now. Of course, it was all black and white. He didn't have anything in color.
They didn't have color film then.

B: Did he ever experiment with movie-making, with movie films?

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L: We did I think one or two reels. They brought an old funny little projector at one
time that I think George [Christian LaRoche's late son, George LaRoche] had,
and one or two reels that he took, but I don't know what happened to those
unless George has them. That's one of the things I wanted to alert Edith [George
LaRoche's wife] to, to sort of watch out for things like that.

B: And she should watch for that Graflex.

L: Yes, and the Graflex.

B: Did he enjoy train travel?

L: Oh, yes, he liked that.

B: He never complained about that?

L: No, he never complained. He liked train travel. He liked train food. Of course, it
was very inexpensive then, very. He enjoyed travel on the train.

B: How about flying as commercial aviation became more common?

L: It never entered into the picture for him at all. He never flew. I don't think he was
ever in an airplane.

B: Really? Even in the 1950s or so?

L: No, I don't think he ever flew.

B: He'd find a way to take the train.

L: He always took the train.

B: You said that he and your Mother both were in the stock market. Did they seem
to have a lot of interests and pay a lot of attention to the stock market or was it
something that they just sort of invested and let it sit and didn't worry about it too

L: Well, they always wanted something they didn't have. I found out, though, going
through some of Mother's records, that she was kind of a trader. In her later
years particularly, she did a lot of trading. They always had a broker friend who
handled their business for them. Dad used to follow the market. He'd watch the
market. He didn't trade as much; he bought stocks that he bought to hold.
Mother bought some to hold, but I was surprised at how much trading she did in
the 1960s and 1970s particularly. Particularly in the 1970s, she had a broker

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who evidently was encouraging her to do that. She bought and sold on his
advice, of course, and he watched the market. She had no way to watch the
market at that time. They didn't have TV with market reports. She depended on
him for advice. I was really surprised at how much trading she did. She enjoyed
it. She had enjoyed keeping the records and she always had deposited her own
dividend checks and took care of all of her own books. [She was a] meticulous

B: Do you remember much about the development of the war, WW II, as it became
more engrossing in Europe. It didn't really reach the U. S. population as we
know until December of 1941, but did you hear your parents talk much about
developments in Europe with Nazi Germany or Japanese expansion in the
Pacific? Did they express much concern?

L: I suppose they did. I'm sure they were concerned and they were listening to the
radio to get all the news and, of course, in the newspapers. Dad at that time was
taking the New York Times daily, so he was well aware of the events in the world,
of what was going on. I'm sure they discussed it in great length at the dinner
table, but I don't remember any of that really.

B: You don't remember them expressing any opinion pro or con with respect to the
U. S. being involved?

L: No, and after we were in the war, of course, they had to do the rationing and all
of that everybody had to do. Mother did a lot of knitting for the Red Cross. She
did a lot of knitting. She knitted helmets and stump socks [socks worn over the
stumps of amputated arms and legs under a prosthetic devices] by the hundreds.
They supplied the yarn, beautiful wool, and she did a lot of white helmets with
just an eye slot for the troops in Iceland or in the northern part, for our troops in
north Europe. She knit a lot of those. She knit mittens and socks, and she was a
great knitter. She was always knitting. We grew up with knit socks and mittens
which we really didn't need in Florida, but she was a great knitter, and she knit
intricate patterns not just straight roll knitting. She did a lot of the Red Cross
knitting. People in the Red Cross, they had, of course, a lot of people working
and knitting for them, and if it didn't come up to specifications or wasn't the right
size or was knit too tight or something, they would give them to Mother to redo.
So she did a lot of that. She'd rip out and stretch the yarn, smooth it out, and
then re-knit. She did a lot of that for the Red Cross for years. She and I, we both
rolled bandages during the war. Red Cross, [had] ladies [who] would come
together. When I was home on summers, I rolled bandages for the Red Cross.

B: Did most of your friends do similar things?

L: Yeah, most of them were doing something like that. Of course, by that time,

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most of us, we were all working summers, too. I worked at the Jacksonville
Journal every summer. Well, not every summer, it must have started about 1942
and every year I worked at the Jacksonville Journal as sort of a reporter. I mainly
was assigned the obituaries, calling the families of men who had been killed
overseas to get a picture and to get some obituary information for the newspaper
and then wrote up the obituaries. I did some interviewing of local people, but I
didn't have a beat. I just sort kind of filled in where they needed someone to hunt
and peck.

B: Was that an outgrowth of your work on the school paper in high school?

L: Yes, and I did the same thing in college, I edited the college paper.

B: When you were doing the obituaries for servicemen, did you have to visit the
homes of the families to get photographs?

L: No, they usually brought them to the office or mailed them in to us. They could
give me the information on the telephone most of what I needed: their life, where
they were born, when, and that sort of thing. I really enjoyed it. It was the
beginning of women in the newsroom because up until that time, the time of the
war, the only women who were employed at the newspaper were the society
editors. They were women, of course, and of great influence in the society of the
town because if somebody wanted a lengthy article about their daughter's
engagement, why they had to give the society editor hose and perfume and all
kinds of little goodies to get on her good side. Of course, those people all
continued on into the war years, but one other woman and I were the only ones
in the newsroom during those summers that I worked there.

B: Were you pleased by newspaper work?

L: Oh yeah, I enjoyed it.

B: Were you tempted to think that you'd like to pursue it after college?

L: I did, I strongly was tempted. I really enjoyed it.

B: Did you have an opportunity to do that after college?

L: No, after college I kind of got into other things and it just didn't seem to work out.
While I was at the museum, I did a lot of writing for the newspapers the publicity
for the museum. I don't know why I kind of drifted away from it, but I did.

B: During the war, do you remember your father expressing any thoughts about
what was going to come at the end of the war in terms of changes in the way

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people lived or the way people worked, the way cities operated, any concerns,
expectations, or hopes, or dreams, or ideas?

L: I don't remember anything like that. I'm sure he thought about the future and
what would happen after the war, but as far as any kind of unemployment and re-
employment of the servicemen coming back, I'm sure he was concerned about
that but I don't remember any expression of his.

B: Did he have an opinion about the use of the atomic bomb in the Pacific to end
the war?

L: I'm sure he deplored the use of it.

B: Really?

L: I haven't read many of his lessons, but he referred to that in one of the lessons
that I was reading over in Jacksonville that I disposed of. He had two big boxes
of his lessons, all written in his little tiny handwriting. I read a couple of them and
it was so hard to read, I knew I would never read all those boxes of lessons, so I
just threw them all out. That was one of them. I know I threw out a lot of valuable
thoughts, but I couldn't imagine anybody sitting down and reading all of that tiny
little writing. If it had been typed that would have been different, but they were all
in his handwriting in pencil. It would have been an ordeal for anybody. They
would have read two or three, as I did, and just thrown up their hands in despair.
I'm sure he had some thoughts about that.

B: Was he a pacifist?

L: Not particularly, he could not serve in the Army in VWVV I because of his leg. He
could not march. At that time he was limping evidently a little bit more than he
did later on, so he could not be drafted. I think he would have served if he could
have. He would not have been a conscientious objector or anything like that, but
he served in other ways. Through the Public Health Service he was able to
contribute in some way to a little sanitation at some of the camps and that sort of

B: Did he strike you as somebody who had strongly patriotic feelings or attitudes?

L: Yes, he did that. He was gung-ho America. He was very patriotic. He always
felt that whatever was good for the country [was right]. He was very optimistic,
really, about everything. [He thought] even [with] Roosevelt, we will endure and
we'll come out ahead; I mean this is a passing fancy, and we'll still win

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B: In spite of Roosevelt, we'll win.

L: In spite of Roosevelt. I think that optimism was the only thing that could carry
him through some of these negotiations that he had to go through with some of
the cities and pushing through his zoning plans and that sort of thing. He had to
be an optimist to do that. I went with him one time, I think it was to Green Cove
Springs. It was one of the last plans that he did, and I'm not sure that he even
was able to finish it, but I went with him to a hearing before the city council and
their planning board or whatever. They just ripped him and his plan to pieces,
and he would try to speak to defend his plan and why it was good, and they were
rude. Now, I don't know whether this was typical of his negotiations with other
cities. I can't believe that he had to endure that at every single city and every
plan that he presented, but they were just plain rude to him. If he did have to
endure that sort of criticism, he had to have a very optimistic point of view in
order to accept that and endure that.

B: Was he a cheerful personality?

L: Yes, on the whole he was.

B: He had a good sense of humor?

L: [He had] a good sense of humor.

B: What kind of jokes appealed to him?

L: He knew a lot of dirty jokes that he'd pick up from the guys on the street of

B: Not that you ever heard them.

L: Oh no, he never told those at home. [laughing] He did have a good sense of
humor. He enjoyed a joke. He laughed a lot. He was a fun person to be with. He
was fun to travel with when he took me out west the summer before my senior
year in high school. We had a good time. He was just a joy to be with. I
remember it fondly, and that was one reason, since I had had that opportunity to
be with my Dad, just the two of us, that when Jim [ChristianLaRoche's late
husband, James LaRoche] wanted to go to England I insisted that he take one of
the boys. The four of us went one time, but Jim went back and I insisted that he
took George on one trip and Fred {Christian LaRoche's son, Fred] on another,
just the two of them together so they would each have that memory of doing
something very special with their Dad, because it had meant so much to me to
do that with my Dad. They both did have that kind of experience. George went
to Scotland with Jim and Fred toured England. The only thing Fred didn't like

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about it was he never was able to get to a soccer match. [laughing] He's been
back over there for more soccer, so he's been making up for lost time. Each
one of them had that relationship of traveling along with their Dad, and I was glad
they could do that.

B: How did your Dad respond to that evening episode, I assume it was an evening
meeting because a lot of planning and zoning board public hearings are at Green
Cove Springs where he met with such belligerent resistance from the people
there? Did that seem to bug him or get him down? Did he discuss it with you

L: It really didn't upset him as much as it upset me. It just kind of rolled off his back,
it was part of the game. He was, I wouldn't say lighthearted about it, but he
accepted it as just one of the things that you have to endure. I'm not sure he
finished that plan actually. I think the government regulations and stipulations
and all the government forms and stuff he had to fill out were beginning to get to
him by that time. I think that was his last plan, and I'm not sure he finished it

B: What did he say about the government requirements that were imposed upon

L: He just fought it, but there was nothing he could do. He just had to fill out the
forms and do what they said that he had to do, but he didn't like it at all.

B: Did he blame anybody in particular for that?

L: Not that I remember. The government in general was responsible I think, and, of
course, he was against the government in general.

B: We're resuming the August 15 interview with Christian Simons LaRoche. I was
wondering if it did not seem ironic at all, or if it doesn't seem ironic now looking
back on it, that a man such as your father who spent his life in the service of
improving cities and life for people through the processes of planning, if it doesn't
seem ironic that he was at the same time opposed to the practices and
processes of government which he became critical of, I guess more so in later
years? It seems as though one of the reasons people don't like planning is
because it suggests government.

L: [It suggests] government, government regulations. This is strange. It's
something I've never really understood with Dad. He depended on the cities and
he depended on government for his jobs, but I guess it was kind of living day by
day. Year by year, job by job, it depended on the towns that he was working with
and the governments he was working with. I think it was not the regulations and

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the difficulties with government, of course, he always had difficulties with zoning
particularly because nobody wants to be told what they can do with their
property. So he had that, but he knew that, of course, from the beginning when
he first went into this business. He knew that would be a problem and that
people are very protective of their ownership of their land, their businesses. He
knew that or he wouldn't have gone into it. I think his relationship with
government was better when he was younger and just starting out, and for most
of it. It was not until the later years when the federal government became more
intrusive with what he considered not necessary restrictions. He could
understand people who wanted to protect their property. He could understand a
city's reluctance to tear down a slum and put in a park. He knew how to attack
those problems, but when the government puts down what he thought were
regulations that were intrusive and not necessary that's when he began to sort of
fight the system. He felt that many of the government regulations and restrictions
that they were placing were not necessary, it was making busywork for those
bureaucrats up in Washington. He didn't have the defenses to fight that sort of
thing. With a city, the opposition that he might encounter, he could overcome
that to a certain extent because of his conviction that his plan was doing
something that was positive and good. There might be opposition, but he could
override that; he could win them over.

B: Did he?

L: He usually did. They didn't ever follow the plans. I've been sort of curious about
some of them as I've looked at a few of the plans to go back and see what he did
recommend and what, if anything, they ever implemented.

B: That's the sad fate of a lot of municipal plans, they get adopted in a sort of a spirit
of satisfaction and sort of optimism to do these things or see these things happen
and a lot of times they end up gathering dust on the shelf some place.

L: They usually do, but then once in a while somebody will pull one off the shelf. In
Jacksonville there was an article, I think there was a copy of it that I gave you,
that speaks about how Dad, back in the 1920s, was saying that Jacksonville
should think ahead to improving their street arteries so that people who were out
in the suburbs could drive easily into town. He was recommending streets that
needed to be widened, that the city needed to think of transportation by
automobile as the coming thing and they needed to start planning for that, and
they needed to start thinking about these major arteries to bring people into town
and then take them back out to their homes. This article quotes that he was so
far ahead of his time. It's unbelievable that he could see [that] back in those
days, when the automobile was just a new thing and they were just beginning
even to pave the street. People were depending more on streetcars than they
were on automobiles or later the bus. But in the early days all they had was the

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streetcar. When we moved out to Avondale, all they had was the streetcar, no
buses. It was a great event to have the bus start and we could ride the bus in
town without the noisy little streetcar that bobbled around. As children we always
rode the streetcar into town.

B: Your Dad must have taken that to work?

L: He took the streetcar to work too at that time.

B: Then later he took the bus.

L: Then later, [he took] the bus.

B: Did he, in later years after the war, say in the 1950s and 1960s, did he tend to
start driving himself around for appointments and business and meetings?

L: Not much.

B: He still tried to find mass transit?

L: He did some. He used the bus and he walked a lot because so many of the
meetings were downtown. The Library Trustee meetings were always at the
library, and that was in walking distance for him, of his office. Most of the
meetings of the Civitan Club usually met at a place in town or near town. The
other businesses or clubs that he was in, for the most part, met downtown. So, it
was within easy walking distance for him. I think in later years he did drive more
if he had to go to a meeting. If he had to, say, speak to the Civitan Club over in
South Jacksonville, he arranged with Mother to have the car that day. I know
they had a parking lot downtown and he had a monthly reservation in a little slot
in that parking lot for a while. I know he did drive more probably in the 1960s and
1970s. Through his later years he did drive more.

B: Did he complain about traffic or seat belts?

L: Oh yeah, everybody complains about traffic, but he did, too. By that time, they
had put in one-way streets in Jacksonville which kind of helped to move the
traffic through the town a little better.

B: That may have been his idea.

L: I think it probably was, and there were more bridges across the river. [There was]
the Main Street Bridge and the Hart Bridge, and then later the Mathews [Bridge]
and the Fuller Warren was a major artery through town. All of that helped to kind
of ease the traffic downtown. As more businesses were moving out of the

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downtown area, the traffic wasn't as severe right downtown either.

B: Did he seem to approve of the growth of the city out into the suburbs and the
diffusion of the city, or did he argue in favor of trying to contain the commercial
center in a downtown quarter?

L: He was very much for moving out to the suburbs.

B: He wanted to spread it out.

L: [He wanted to] spread it out. I wish he could see how it has spread because one
time I remember when I was there Butler Boulevard was just being paved or put
in or something and Dad wanted to see Butler Boulevard. Of course, it was way
out in the country, just cow pastures around it. He thought it was a good idea to
have that road, but he said it's way out here, I wonder if the city will ever come
out to here. Of course, now Butler Boulevard's right downtown practically.

B: Yeah, it's a huge thoroughfare.

L: He would be surprised at how it has grown, but how some of those major arteries
have made it easier for people to get around. They wouldn't be able to if it hadn't
been for those major arteries, and he was all for that. He was all for more of
these through streets and to anything that would move the traffic from one place
to another quicker and more easily. He was for that, but he would be surprised
at how it has developed out there around Butler Boulevard.

B: It's amazing. Do you remember the effects of the hurricane that came ashore in
the Keys in the mid 1930s, the Labor Day hurricane [September 2, 1935] that
destroyed the East Coast Railroad through the Keys?

L: I don't remember that one particularly. What year was that?

B: That was 1935.

L: I don't think that hurricane affected us, but we did have a hurricane in the early
1930s. I think the year that I started elementary school either a hurricane had
just passed over or was on its way because I remember Dad dropping Mother
and me off on Park Street to go in the door. Mother had to go to school with me
and check me in. They didn't have pre-registration and all that stuff in those
days. Mothers checked their kids in on the first day of school, and I remember
pulling our raincoats around us, and as we got out of the car and had to walk up
to the school, the wind was blowing and we couldn't use an umbrella because the
wind was blowing so hard. I think that was a hurricane. Mother went out in the
backyard, I know at one time, to prop up a persimmon tree that she said the wind

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had blown over. She put on my Dad's old hip boots that he used to wear when
he went out surveying. She put on these hip boots and his heavy raincoat and
went out and propped up this tree as it was blowing. She was blowing around
and we stood in the window and watched hoping that Mother would not blow
away, too. We went through some of the hurricanes, but somehow they never
seemed to bother us that much. It's something nature brings us. We never had
any damage, fortunately, from any of them. It's just like here, when a hurricane
comes I just sit it out. I'm not going to evacuate or do anything.

B: You've got a good elevation here, and you're removed from the coast far enough
to be away from the worst of it.

L: Some of the trees I kind of watch. During Opal [October 4, 1996] I was
downstairs, spent most of my time downstairs, and I came upstairs to go
outdoors and look around and see what was going on and here a great big pine
tree was covering this whole window. It had blown down from over there and my
neighbors next door said they watched it. Mary Agnes evacuated, but Ted and
their son stayed and he said they stood out on their porch and they watched that
tree go down. He said it would blow down just a little ways and then stop and
then blow a little more and blow a little more. They knew it was headed right for
my house, and, of course, there was nothing they could do. They just watched it,
and it just sort of slid down the side of the house. It was kind of a shock to come
up and see it there.

B: I should think so. I've asked you about Ray Sheldrick. I've got a few other
names that I've run across in some of the correspondence or the documents I've
looked at. Jacob Crane, does that name ring a bell?

L: That name doesn't mean anything.

B: Austin Brown?

L: No.

B: Estelle Bradford?

L: No.

B: This is a name that I got from you in our earlier conversation, Roger Babson.
Roger Babson Reports is a name of the publication.

L: He was a financier. Dad met him I think during his bond refinancing days.

B: That would have been in the 1930s?

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L: Yes, I think so.

B: Where was he from?

L: I don't know, New York maybe.

B: He and your father became friends?

L: Yes.

B: He visited you at your home?

L: He visited us one time.

B: Only once or more than once?

L: Only once that I know about. He may have visited Dad other times, but he did
not stay with us except that one time when he scratched the floor.

B: What about the woman that we talked about who I have run across in the
Jacksonville plan, Mrs. Trout. What can you tell me about her background and
her role in your family's life?

L: I don't know much about her. I don't know whether she was old family or her
husband was old family there, probably both. At that time everybody was old
family. Her husband must have been a man of some influence and they had a
beautiful estate out on the St. Johns River south of town. Unless you had lots of
money or influence or whatever, you didn't have big estates on the river. She
was a very active Women's Club person. It was through her that the zoning
board, I think that's when the Garden Club got behind it that the city plan and the
zoning plan kind of became acceptable.

B: So, she became acquainted with your father through that process.

L: I don't know whether they had known each other in any other way or not.

B: She and your Mother knew each other through the Garden Club. She was
someone that you would say your father found sympathetic to his goals, his
objectives, and his ideas?

L: Oh yes, very much so.

B: He used to visit them I guess.

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L: She was always, I don't remember too much about it because I was a little too
young at that time to pay much attention, instrumental in making contacts for Dad
and trying to influence the right people. She must have had an entree to the right
people, but I don't know that much about her.

B: If she would call and say you should talk to this Mr. Simons, people would talk to

L: Yeah, she was a lady that people would listen to and pay attention to.

B: Do you think that it's possible that she was decisive in helping influence people to
accept the municipal plan?

L: I think so, yes, I would imagine she was.

B: I've heard you talk about your experience at Western College in Ohio. You
graduated from high school in what year?

L: 1940

B: Then graduated from college in 1944. Your brother, whose name was George,
how much younger was he than you?

L: [He was] about two years [younger].

B: Did he graduate from high school in 1942?

L: Yes

B: What came next for him?

L: Then he went down to Rollins College [in Winter Park, Floirda]. He drowned
during his freshman year.

B: He drown very shortly after getting there.

L: Very soon after, it was in February after. It was soon after, he was not there very

B: You ascribed his death to a hazing accident at Rollins involving the student
activities there.

L: Yes.

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B: That must have been a hard blow for your parents.

L: It was for Mother; she never recovered from that. It was the paramount thing in
her life from then on. It wasn't until her later years that she was able to even not
talk about it all the time. At first that's all she wanted to talk about. She brought
it up in every conversation. Her sorrow was a very large black weight on her
shoulders. It was something that she continually revived. She couldn't put it
behind her in any way. That must have been extremely difficult for my Dad. He,
of course, felt it, but he had other things, his work, that would help him get
through it. It must have been very difficult for him to come home and have that
pall of gloom all the time. She was very, very gloomy about it.

B: Was she embittered, do you think?

L: Yes, she was very bitter, but they would not do anything. They were approached
by various attorneys to sue the college and they would not do it. They rejected
any of that. It just was not a thought for them. Their point was that it wouldn't
bring George back and it would not do anything to ease their pain and their
sorrow. They didn't want any money for it. They felt that would not be right to
accept any money because of his death. It was very hard. When the
Presbyterian church was putting stained glass windows in the church, they put
one in brother's memory. That sort of revived her anger. It made her feel good
that something was being done to memorialize her son, but it also brought some
of the old heartache back. She had a hard time with that. She always sat in
church at the back where she could look up at the window, then she'd look up
and then she'd cry. [There were] things like that just made it hard for everybody
around her, too. She used to write letters to me in college, practically every day
she wrote a letter. That's one of the main themes that she kept reviving and kept
repeating was her loss and how unfair it was. It was very much a part of her life.
She didn't do that as much; she didn't refer to him in her later years. She finally
did get over to the point where she didn't accept it but she didn't wear her sorrow
on her sleeve as she did in the early days.

B: She and your father were of like-mind about not trying to litigate with Rollins or
pursue any kind of compensation or anything like that?

L: Yes. His cello teacher, in fact, I just found a letter from him that he wrote to
Mother, after George's death. They were having a faculty meeting and Mr. Kuam
who was his teacher at Rollins stood up at the meeting and read a denunciation
of the administration because they had allowed this to take place. He thought
they should have had more supervision over the fraternities, that they should
have had more control and that there should have been better reporting if
somebody didn't show up on time; that they should have investigated sooner. I

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haven't seen what he read, but he was evidently very, very critical. He soon lost
his job at Rollins, and he felt that that was a contributing factor, but by that time
he didn't want to stay there either. I don't know whatever has happened to him,
but he left.

B: What fraternity was your brother connected with?

L: Kappa Alpha.

B: That's not the same fraternity that your father was a part of?

L: No, they didn't have Phi Psi in the South, just up there.

B: That's another distinction.

L: No, I don't know. They might have it in some of the southern schools now, but
they didn't at that time.

B: There's been a little bit more migration of cultures I guess in more recent years.
Had your parents been concerned that your brother might wind up having to go
into the service? That was during the war years.

L: Yes, they were concerned. In fact, right after his death he got a draft notice in
order to report for his physical at a certain time. I think it came maybe the week
after or two weeks after his death. He would have gone into service.

B: Anything could have happened, then.

L: Anything could have happened. Some of his friends didn't come back, and
George might not have either.

B: Your father was not embittered particularly, or at least not as demonstrably as
your Mother, by that episode.

L: That's right. I know it hurt him deeply. I know it hurt him, but he was not as
demonstrative as Mother. He tried to be sympathetic with her, but it must have
been very, very difficult for him.

B: Do you think they found themselves calling more on their religious faith during
that passage, during those years?

L: I think Dad did. Mother never was a very religious person at all.

B: Even though she chastised you for abandoning your faith when you became

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L: Yes. She went to church but that was about the extent of it, and to the circle
meetings which were more social than religious. She was not an active person.
Her religion was not an active part of her life. I don't know that she read the Bible
for comfort. She read a lot of these comfort magazines and that sort of stuff that
are supposed to help you through a crisis. She kind of went in for some of that.
She had a friend who taught a Bible class, I think at the Methodist church, that
Mother attended regularly, every week when this woman had these classes. She
was kind of a confidant of Mother's. They talked about Mother's sorrow a lot. I
can't remember the woman's name, but I think, when the woman was not in
Jacksonville [because] she went up north during the summertime, she and
Mother carried on a very active correspondence. Most of it was about faith and
inspiration and that sort of thing. Mother read a lot of those inspirational
pamphlets and that sort of stuff. I don't know whether it ever gave her any
comfort or not, but she did read that sort of stuff.

B: You were away at college when this happened.

L: Yes.

B: Did you come back?

L: Yes.

B: Then you returned to college for the balance of that semester.

L: I was home for maybe a week or so. It was February, so one of the faculty
members took me [to the train]. I remember I took the train down from Oxford
down to Cincinnati and then Dad was able to get a ticket for me or I got a ticket
somehow. I had no money handy, so as I remember that faculty member loaned
me enough money so I could travel. I think probably he loaned me the money for
the ticket. Yeah, I took the train down, and I was home for about a week or so
and then [I] went back.

B: How did that experience affect you? Do you recall much about your reactions

L: It hurt. It took a lot of time for me to kind of get back into doing what I had to do.
But, like Dad, I had things I had to do and I couldn't just sit around and moan.
My work went on.

B: What came next for you after college? You had been flirting with a newspaper
career off and on during your summers in Jacksonville, but you apparently turned

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aside from that.

L: I turned from that. My senior year in college I got into working with theater there.
I was teaching [and] doing some stage design and costume design for some of
the little plays we had. So the director asked me to stay on as kind of an
assistant for him, and I was there two years designing the sets for the plays,
constructing the sets for the plays. I happen to be a good carpenter, and [I was]
an electrician. [I was] making the costumes and teaching some stagecraft and
that sort of thing. They had a good department. For a small college, this man
had built up a nice little department of theater and they put on good plays. It was
fun to do, but after two years I decided that was not what I ought to do either; I
should not stay there any longer. I went home, and about that time I became
engaged to a young English flyer that I had met in Jacksonville. He was one of
the English group that had been sent over for training at the Naval Air Station. A
friend of mine and I, you know how you used to take the guys home after church
for lunch and sort of entertain them, well Nancy's parents were great for taking
the guys home for lunch. One day they asked me to come over and have lunch
with these guys. It was a rainy, rainy Sunday. We had a good time, and as long
as they were there Nancy and the guy she was dating and the one that I finally
started dating, we used to date a lot, and then while they were there. He drifted
on, but we kept in touch. He asked me to marry him which I thought might be
kind of nice. I liked the guy.

B: Was this after he left Jacksonville?

L: [This is] after he left Jacksonville, yeah. Then, I went over to visit his family in
England. That was in 1946, after the war, but they were still sort of suffering from
the war. They were still rationing. I did a lot of sightseeing. I learned my way
just sightseeing around because the young man was in college. I stayed with his
parents and I went over for three weeks, and I got stranded because I couldn't
get a flight home.

B: Did you fly across?

L: I flew across, yeah.

B: Oh, that was a little unusual.

L: Yeah, [there were] four propellers on the plane.

B: Where in England were they?

L: They were near London. So, I enjoyed my time over there, and then finally Dad
was able to pull enough strings to get me on a Cunard liner coming back, so I

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came back by ship.

B: Do you remember what ship?
L: [It was] the [RMS] Franconia. Of course, they were transporting women from over
there and war brides.

B: You were a prospective war bride-in reverse.

L: I was reverse, and by that time I had decided that I was coming home to stay. I
was not going to stay over there.

B: You had decided to end your engagement to the Englishman?

L: Yes. The women were in cabins and the men were in cabins. One of the women
in my cabin, her husband was in the men's cabin. They'd have to meet up on
deck to sort of do their smooching or whatever, and then Kathleen would come
back. Well, Kathleen and I got to be very good friends on that trip. It was a
rough, rough trip and it was November. It was a round season (unclear). We
had to spend a lot of time inside. Kathleen and I became very good friends. In
fact, we still keep in touch. She and her husband settled in DeKalb, Illinois, right
near Rochelle. We corresponded and then whenever I used to go up to Rochelle,
I always tried to get over to DeKalb and see Kathleen and Leroy. Leroy died
about a year ago, but Kathleen is still there. She decided to stay on in DeKalb
because that's where her family is. She, by now, is not too well. She decided to
stay over here rather than go back to England because her doctors and all were
here and she had friends here, so she has stayed on. I have not seen her in
about two years, but we keep in touch with Christmas cards and letters and that
sort of thing. Then I came home from that trip and Dad needed some help with
maps and lettering and that sort of thing, so I started helping him at his office. He
set up a drawing board for me at home and I could work there. I did some
drafting and just sort of filling in where I could help him. I did a few renderings for
him. Then, I decided it was time to move on and I applied to various graduate
schools and was finally accepted up at Indiana for my Masters in Fine Arts.

B: You went to IU?

L: [It was] IU in Bloomington. So, I went up there. I knew a friend up there from
Western who was in the art department up there.

B: Not Miriam?

L: No, not Miriam, another friend from Western. She liked it up there and there
weren't many schools at that time offering a Masters of Fine Arts. You could get
a Masters, but it had to be in some education or something like that. I wanted

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just a general Masters in Fine Arts, particularly with painting and art history. So
Indiana did offer that and so that's why I picked it. I went up there and I was
there for two years. It took me a couple years to get my degree.
B: How were you able to finance your graduate degree?

L: My Mother and Dad did; they just chipped right in. They were very generous to
me. Anything I wanted to do, they would help me. They chipped right in. I had a
little bit that I had earned working with the newspaper during the summers, but
that wasn't enough to keep me going. They didn't want me to work. I thought if I
got a part-time job or an assistantship or something like that, that might help.
They said no, you just pay attention to your studies, make good grades and do
what you're supposed to do and get out of there. [They said] then you can start
earning a living. They were very generous to me all during my lifetime. So I was
there for a couple of years and then I came home. I was kind of at loose ends. I
was teaching privately at the little art center that we had there in Jacksonville.
The Art Club had a building, they bought the old Fleming House and set up a
museum. So, I helped out as a volunteer at the museum, and that was my first
museum experience actually. I started there as a volunteer and teaching. They
needed somebody to teach kids drawing and painting at the museum, so I
volunteered to do that. I did that for about a year. Then, I met my husband on a
blind date in Jacksonville. He was in the Air Force. He'd been recalled for
Korea. He'd been in service but then he was out for a few years, got his
Masters. He was kind of between jobs [when they said], wouldn't you like to
come back to the Air Force, we need you. Korea is on and we need some help,
[they said] that sort of thing. So he rejoined and one of his good friends was from

B: Who was that.

L: Ted Mawhinney. He and Ted were good friends. Jim was up there all by himself
and kind of lonesome. Ted used to drive down from Warner Robbins [Warner
Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia] to Jacksonville most weekends. So one
weekend he asked Jim, wouldn't you like to drive down with me. He said I'll call
my wife and have her find a date for you and we'll go out to the Naval Officer's
Club and it would be something different from staying around here in the
barracks. Of course Warner Robbins offered absolutely nothing, it was just
there, a bunch of barracks and that was all. So Jim leaped at the chance to drive
down with Ted. Tish, his wife, she told me later, I didn't know any girls to ask as
a date for this man they didn't know. Ted couldn't tell me anything about him
except he was a nice guy. So, she called a friend of hers who was in AAUW
[American Association of University Women]. They were both from Cincinnati.
She called Mabel and said, do you know any girls in AAUW that might be
available or willing to have a blind date [with a man] that we don't know anything
about. Mabel said, well, let me think, I think maybe Chrissie Simons might be

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interested; she's not doing anything right now. So Tish called me and I didn't
know Tish then at that time either. She said this strange man is coming. We
don't know a thing about him, but if you're willing to take a chance, we'll pick you
up and then we'll all go out to the Officer's Club for dinner. I said well that's fine.
I was dating weird people and I thought what's to lose with this. I thought he's
just one more guy and he's up there in Warner Robbins, and I'll probably never
see him again anyway. [I figured] I'll have a good dinner. So, we went out to the
Officers Club.

B: Were you living at home then?

L: I was at home, yeah. So, they picked me up and we all went out to the Officers
Club for dinner. We all ordered filet mignons or something like that. Anyway,
Jim ordered rare and I wanted medium or something, and that was before I
learned about rare meat. Instead of passing the plates back, he decided to pass
his meat to my plate. But it didn't go on my plate, it went on my lap. [laughing]
We laughed about it for years. That was what brought us together. He dropped
his dinner in my lap and I didn't fuss at him, I just laughed. But then he started
coming down. They started coming down two or three other weekends. We
started seeing each other more on those weekends. Then, [on] New Year's Eve,
he asked me to marry him. That was November when we met and so New
Year's Eve [we were engaged] and we were married in March.

B: What year was this?

L: 1952.

B: So, the Korean War was still going on?

L: Yes, the Korean War was still going on. We went up to Warner Robbins and we
rented a little house, one of the little Ficklin Walker houses up there, a rental unit
that they had there. We were there from March until the following April.

B: Where were you married?

L: [We were married] in Jacksonville at Riverside Presbyterian.

B: Where was Jim from?

L: He was born in Atlanta, but he grew up in Texas. His parents were divorced
about the time he was in Texas, when he was a teenager. His grandmother paid
for his tuition to go to a private military school in Texas. I can't remember the
name of it. So, he finished high school in this military school. Then he went to
Sewanee [University of the South, Tennessee]. He was there just two years, and

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his grandmother again paid his tuition there. Then she could no longer afford to
pay tuition, so he dropped out after two years. He got a job and he was working
through the 1930s. Then when war was declared, he enlisted in the Army and
went into the Army.

B: But it was the Air Corps?

L: It wasn't Army Air Corps, he just went into the Army. He went into the Air Corps
later, but then he was in South Pacific during the war. Then after the war, he
finished his degree at Trinity and his Masters. Then, he was recalled to Korea.

B: Trinity is where?

L: Trinity University in San Antonio.

B: What was his degree in?

L: English

B: What was his Masters?

L: English Masters, and his Masters thesis was George Eliot. He was beginning to
teach when Korea came on.

B: Where was he teaching?

L: [He was teaching] at Trinity. He just stayed on and was teaching there, and then
he was recalled. We were at Warner Robbins until April 1953, I guess it would
be, and then he was sent to Korea. The war was basically over by then. He had
a desk job anyway, he was an adjutant. He spent a year in Korea and I went
home to Jacksonville with my cat, which Mother didn't much want to have.

B: You had not had a cat?

L: We had not had a cat. I never had pets, any pets ever; we never had pets. So
when I came home with a cat, Mother looked askance at the cat, but the cat soon
was Mother's cat. When Jim came home and we were to report in at Baton
Rouge, Mother kept the cat. He was in Korea for a year and I was in
Jacksonville. While I was in Jacksonville that year, I volunteered to help in the
office at the symphony. I had a friend of Mother's and a neighbor who needed
some help. She was in charge of reservations for the symphony.

B: When we stopped the previous side of this tape, you were talking about what
happened after you moved back to Jacksonville. Jim was in Korea for a year,

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you were living at home, and you became involved in the symphony through the
good offices of a neighbor and friend, apparently who was active with the
symphony and needed help. Did you work for the symphony or were you

L: I was a volunteer in their reservations office.

B: What happened next? This would have been 1953, I guess, during the year after
you and Jim first married?

L: Yeah, [it was] soon after that. Yeah, [it was] about that time.

B: How long did you live in Jacksonville then?

L: [I lived there] just about a year, then when Jim came back, he was assigned to
Baton Rouge to teach ROTC at LSU.

B: What subjects was he teaching?

L: I don't know, whatever they teach the cadets, military procedures or something.
Of course, it would be fairly elementary, but it was for the ROTC cadets there.
We were there for two and a half years. It was during that time that George was
born. Then, [Jim] was transferred to Montgomery to the ROTC headquarters.
They had an opening there.

B: This is the University of Alabama?

L: No, to the ROTC headquarters at Maxwell Field. He was out of the teaching
then. At Maxwell, he was there for about seven years and then he was assigned
to Turkey, to NATO at Izmir. He was there for a year, but we could not go. I
think we could have gone if we had really known what the situation was there,
but we had been told that it was very dusty and for anybody who had any
allergies it was not the place to go. It was hard for families because there were
no living accommodations. The picture was painted just very dreary, so Jim went
off by himself on an isolated tour. We stayed in Montgomery.

B: Had Fred been born by then?

L: Fred had been born just before that, just before he left for Turkey.

B: When was George born?

L: July 1, 1955

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B: He was born in Baton Rouge?

L: [Yes] in Baton Rouge.
B: When and where was Fred born?

L: Fred was born in Montgomery, March 15, 1958.

B: It was shortly after that that Jim went to Turkey?

L: Jim went to Turkey that fall. Well no, it must have been a year after that
because Fred was not just a baby then; he was up and about. It must have been
a year or so after Fred was born that he went to Turkey.

B: That was about the time of the Gary Powers incident [Francis Gary Powers
(military pilot) flew a U-2 spy plane over Russia and was shot down on May 1,
1960; he was convicted of espionage].

L: Yeah, I think it was just after that or just about that time.

B: Was there any tension in the air for service people in Europe then?

L: Not particularly, not then, not as much as there is now, of course. He was able to
get accommodations easily. He was in a penthouse in a tall building in Izmir,
right downtown within walking distance of his office. He made friends with a lot
of the Turkish people who worked in the office, of course. There were some
Greeks when he went over there. There were a few Greeks, which was most
unusual. They were not getting along with the Turks, so the Greeks went home.
He met a lot of the Turkish people that he really enjoyed knowing. One of the
American sergeants there had a boat, and so they'd go out on his boat and Jim
took up snorkeling.

B: Is this on the Black Sea or on the Caspian Sea?

L: [This was on] the Caspian Sea. He did a lot of sightseeing. The military has
tours planned, so he took advantage of any tour that was going out to any ruins
and he visited all the seven cities and took lots of photographs.

B: I was about to ask if he was an avid photographer, too.

L: He was, but he took slides.

B: That's hard work for the audience, isn't it?

L: So what do you do with them? I've got boxes and boxes of slides of Turkey

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there. When he first came back, he did several talks to various church groups
about the seven cities. After everybody heard that, what do you do with them?
I've got a million pictures of slides there that it's hard to see them.
B: You can convert selected ones to prints. It's not a cheap process.

L: It's expensive. It is expensive.

B: But for the stuff you want to save and make it easy for people to take a look at it's
good. I've done some of that, but I thankfully didn't go down that road too far. I
experimented with transparencies and realized that it was not very user-friendly.

L: Yeah, it's not, and you have to have a projector. Our projector broke. I was
using it up at the museum because the two projectors we had there that took the
carousels, they broke and couldn't be repaired. So, I took mine over and the first
time we turned it on it blew up, well exploded. It can't be fixed. I have another
one. He had one that was one of those things you put a block of them in and
they slide back and forth this way and that. I haven't even tried that. We went
through [some] one time, not too long after Dad died. Dad took a lot of slides,
too. He took mainly prints, but in his later years why slides were the thing, of
course. You have to do the thing, so he started taking some slides too. We went
through his collection and threw out half of them because they were up here and
down there and out of focus. After he takes ten pictures of Mother's red rose,
why you don't need but one.

B: You got the idea.

L: And you don't really need one. [laughing] So we tossed out most of Dad's. I
have some that were slides of some of their friends because whenever they
would get together for dinner or somewhere after church on Sunday, Dad would
take a picture of everybody lined up in front of the restaurant, still as a bar, or at
the table in the dining room. He took a lot of pictures at Civitan Conventions of
people. [He took] snapshots and whatever. Most of those were prints, but I have
a few that were slides. Dixie's [Christian LaRoche's friend Dixie Nicholson, of Ft.
Walton Beach] been going through hers and tossing out a lot of them because
her husband did slides, too.

B: I recall that. Well, let's see, Jim went to Turkey for one year.

L: He was there just a year.

B: You and George and Fred stayed in Montgomery. When he finished his tour in
Turkey, he came back to Montgomery?

L: He came back just briefly and then he was transferred down to Hurlburt Field

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[just west of Fort Walton Beach, Florida; home of Air Force Special Operations.].

B: Oh okay, that's down here.
L: That's what brought us here.

B: In what year would that have been about, do you think, 1961 or 1962 perhaps?

L: [It was] probably about that time, 1962 or 1963, somewhere along in the early

B: A good landmark in memory for many American who were alive at the time was
the Kennedy assassination [November 22, 1963]. Where were you when you
heard about that?

L: We were in Montgomery for that. Jim was gone then, he was overseas at that
time I think. Anyway, we were in Montgomery. Of course, they were playing
funeral music all day and George got quite caught up in it. At one point in the
afternoon after we'd been hearing all this music and stuff all day, George came
out of his room and into the living room with his little wagon and his funeral

B: No kidding.

L: I decided we had seen enough of that funeral. That was enough. I didn't think
George needed any more of that. Fred was out playing in the sandbox or
something, he didn't pay that much attention, or kicking a ball or something.
George, he dramatized things.

B: When you moved down here to Hurlburt [Air Force Base], Dixie said that she met
Jim first. I guess her husband Lynn [Nicholson] and Jim had known each other.

L: No, they worked together out at Hurlburt, so the two men knew each other. Jim
had to report in. I think it was in the middle of the year, and George and Fred
were in school by then. Their teachers felt they ought to finish the year up there
rather than take them out of school and put them in school here in the middle of
the middle of the term. So we stayed up there and we had to sell the house up
there, too. So I stayed up there to sell the house and get them through school.
Jim came down here and we came down one weekend and looked for a lot and
met a person who was building down there in Colony Estates where Dixie lived.
We contracted with them, we bought the lot, we selected a plan, and they started
building. The builder was a man from Pensacola and he was building a lot of
those houses in that area. We selected the plan we wanted and the change in
the stock plan and the exterior and painting and how we wanted the interior

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finished and that sort of thing. Then we came down. George and Fred, I picked
them up when school was out on Friday afternoon and we drove down here and
[would] get down here to have dinner usually. We stayed at a little motel down
on Highway 98 near Hurlburt. There was not much down there at that time and
we stayed in one of those little motels for the weekend. Then we selected things
like the lighting fixtures. We had to go to Pensacola. There was no place in Fort
Walton to buy lighting fixtures, so we had to go to Pensacola to pick our lighting
fixtures and whatever we wanted for flooring. All of the plumbing fixtures we
selected out of a catalogue. But we came down every weekend for about three
months until school was out. Then by that time, the house was finished. Jim
lived in the barracks at Hurlburt while the house was built until it got to the point
where he could stay in it, then he started staying in the house. As we came
down, we'd bring our station wagon full of stuff for the house and things we
couldn't ship like house paint and things like that. We moved down that way until
we sold the house in Montgomery, and then we all moved down as soon as
school was out.

B: George and Fred started local school here in Okaloosa County?

L: They started there at Wright Elementary which is near Colony Estates. It's still
there, still operating.

B: How long did you live there? Was it there that you lived until you moved into
your present home?

L: Yes, and we were there for almost fifteen years, until Jim retired.

B: What year did he retire?

L: Gosh, I don't remember. My memory for dates is lousy.

B: Was he working for the federal government or for a private contractor?

L: No, he was military as long as he was at Hurlburt, and then he retired from active
duty. He took a summer off after he retired. He retired in the spring.

B: Maybe a way to back into this is to ask what was his age when he retired, do you

L: I don't remember that.

B: It wasn't a milestone year like sixty or sixty-five?

L: No, it was just a year. I thought he was going to stay retired forever and be

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around the house for lunch, dinner, supper, breakfast, and forever. He just
wanted to take some time off and relax and not do anything, which he did. He
did a lot of reading and started some writing. Then, he decided he wanted teach
again, so that summer we spent some time going around to interview at different
junior colleges. We went over to Madison, Lake City, Pensacola, Jacksonville,
JU [Jacksonville University] as well as the junior college there [Florida
Community College]; and he had already had interviews here at the community
college [Okaloosa-Walton Community College] which was still at that time in Valp
[Valparaiso, Florida]. We moved out here I think it was in 1967 or 1968. We
interviewed at all these other schools, looked them over. Even though they had
started the campus out here, started construction, and we knew that was
temporary down in Valp, but Jim liked the president, Dr. McCracken. They
seemed to get along real well and they offered him the best deal of any of the
schools, and we wouldn't have to move.

B: That's an attractive point.

L: The boys wouldn't have to change schools again and all of that, so he just kind of
liked to stay here and take the job here at OW [Okaloosa-Walton Community
College], which he did and he taught there for fifteen years. Then he retired from
that. He enjoyed his teaching. He really liked it. The students didn't like him.
He was mean. He red-penciled everything. He taught English, grammar, some
literature because you have to teach certain miscellaneous things that you don't
really want to teach in a community college. He taught nights sometimes down
at Eglin [Air Force Base]. That had a campus at Eglin and he taught there and
sometimes out here at the college. He didn't mind the night teaching and I didn't
either. He let me do what I wanted to do, so I let him do what he wanted to do.
He really enjoyed his teaching. He enjoyed the faculty, his contacts there, he
enjoyed worked with the students. There's a lot of military or active duty military
who take these elementary type classes at OW. He enjoyed them because the
men were more motivated than the kids just out of high school. He enjoyed
those classes and most of the night classes, of course, were older students. He
had a few students who came in, they'd bring them in on a bus, from the prison
out at Eglin. He enjoyed them. They had a different point of view. It was a good
crew and he liked them. He enjoyed his teaching very much, but finally it reached
the point where he thought it was time to end that career and so he retired from

B: So he taught well past the time when I guess after George and Fred graduated
from high school and went off.

L: Yes.

B: Did they go to OW?

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L: They went to OW and Fred went there. I think it took him about three years to
get his AA because he played around too much, especially soccer. George took
his senior year in high school at OW on advanced placement. He got unhappy at
the high school. He'd been very active in student affairs and worked on the
yearbook and took photographs for the yearbook and he was in several of the
student clubs, but he was in the band. He told me last April when I was up there,
we were talking about this, why he was so insistent on taking his advanced
placement at OW and not staying with his class through the senior year. He did
graduate with his class, but he didn't have that senior year in high school. He
had told me at one time he kind of wished he hadn't done that because when he
went to Sewanee [University of the South] he went in as a sophomore, so he was
kind of an oddball, he didn't really fit in. This took him awhile to adjust. He told
me in April when I was there, and we were talking about this again and he said
the band director had come-on to him. He said I just could not stay in the school
another day. So he just had to leave. He said he couldn't stay not just in the
band but not in the school. I didn't know that. I had never heard this story at all.
George did well out here at OW. He finished his freshman year of college, his
senior year of high school, and then he went up to Sewanee and he was there
three years. He was very happy at Sewanee. Once he got acclimated into the
atmosphere and living away from home because it was his first experience really
living away from home and on his own and making all knew friends, he didn't
know a soul up there; once he had adjusted, he really loved Sewanee. It
became a large part of his life, and he always felt very kindly about it. In fact, if
the cancer had not come on when it did, he was seriously considering going back
to teaching. He was going to see if he could get on the faculty at Sewanee.

B: Wouldn't that be a beautiful place to teach.

L: [He would teach] ethics or something like that, pre-law, which he could teach
very well. He would have loved being there. Of course, by that time he was with
Edith and I'm not sure Edith would have been able to manage up there, but
George would have enjoyed it.

B: So when he was at Sewanee; Fred was at OW?

L: No, Fred was in high school because Fred graduated from high school the same
year, 1976, the year that George graduated from Sewanee. Then Fred came out
here and was here for about three years. Then Fred got a soccer scholarship at
University of Alabama at Birmingham. He went up there, which didn't really fit
very well. He didn't like it. He had to live in an apartment with four other guys
who were slobs. Fred isn't the neatest person in the world, [but] he's not a slob.
He keeps the dinner dishes washed in the sink and these other guys didn't. They
left food around. It was awful and he was very unhappy. He left there and

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transferred. I guess he went over and followed Frank Kohlenstein over to
Spartanburg about that time. He transferred over there from OW.

B: It was a guy he knew from OW.
L: He's from here and his wife was from here. I knew them both. I knew his wife,
she was in AAUW, so I had known her. He was at Spartanburg and he
graduated from there. [He got] his Bachelors at Spartanburg.

B: He got his Bachelors in what?

L: [His degree was in] one of these miscellaneous subjects, kind of a catch-all thing,
academic studies or something, no particular subject. It was not the way that I
used to know it, and it wasn't in athletics or in anything like that. I don't know
what they call it.

B: What was going on in your career now during these years? When you settled
here in Okaloosa County, did you work at all during the years that Fred and
George were in high school?

L: No, I didn't work any then. I volunteered, I did a lot of church work. I edited the
church paper.

B: What church?

L: St. Simons on the Sound.

B: Episcopal?

L: Episcopal. I edited the church paper and I was in the women's group down
there. I taught Sunday school for third grade for about twelve years I think down
there. I got into AAUW. We organized an AAUW branch down here. There was
none when we came here. When we moved down from Montgomery not long
after we moved here one of my friends from the Montgomery branch was a
librarian. She had been a librarian up in Maxwell. She came down here to be the
librarian at the community library on Eglin. So, we picked up our friendship, of
course, there. Another friend from Montgomery who had been a military editor,
edited military documents in Montgomery, had a chance to come down to Eglin.
So she was a military document editor at some outfit at Eglin. So, with the three
of us here that were AAUW [we formed a branch]. Before Yvette moved down,
Eileen and I went over to Pensacola to the branch meeting down there, which we
enjoyed because they ate at different restaurants every month and we learned
our way around Pensacola and learned where to eat and where not to eat, the
good places over there. When Yvette came over, though, we decided to
organize our own branch. So we organized that and started it. I was their

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organizing president. Eileen was vice president in charge of membership and
Yvette was secretary or something like that. That was sort of the beginning of
our branch. We kept up a good friendship there. Many of the charter members
of that branch are still members of AAUW. We're still close friends. Of course, a
lot of people come and go around here. It's very transient, but a lot of them are
still here and I still see them every month at their meetings.

B: When did you get involved with the museum [the Heritage Museum]?

L: Well, it was around the time I stopped being president. My term as president of
AAUWwas about over. The county commission, there was a statute on the state
books at that time. I think it's still there but it's been rewritten when they wrote
the constitution, they changed it and weakened it considerably, but at that time
there was a provision in the state constitution for a county, a sort of mandatory
type thing, that a county should protect and preserve the history of that county.
So a group of men who were out at the college, they heard about this provision in
the constitution and they said we should start preserving Okaloosa history. They
had a meeting for anybody who was interested in Okaloosa County history to go.
Just before the meeting one of them called me and asked if AAUW would
support this, starting a program to preserve Okaloosa County history. So I took it
to the branch and the branch said, sure we'll do something like that if all we have
to say is yeah it's a good idea and don't have to work, we'll say yes. About a
dozen of us or so went to this meeting, and they publicized it in the paper and
had the meeting out at OW. We all went to the meeting and they started talking
about Okaloosa history and they had all decided since they were all working as
professors or staff people at OW that they didn't have time to go out there and
collect the history and do all the stuff that ought to be done. So, [they asked] if
AAUW would do it. I said I can't speak for the branch, so they appointed a
committee of three of us to investigate this possibility of starting an organization,
a historical society that would be responsible for collecting the history for the
county commission and this historical commission. I was on that committee, and
we met and decided how to go about organizing a historical society. I didn't have
the vaguest idea of what a historical society was or how it worked or anything
about it. I'd never been a member of one at that time. I didn't know a thing about
it, and I knew that they had a very active one over in Pensacola. Jim and I drove
over one day, in fact, I spent most of that summer [there]. The organizational
meeting and all was in the spring and I spent most of that summer researching
historical societies, what historical societies do and how they're organized. I
went over to Pensacola to start there and Norman Simons, who was the director
at their little museum was absolutely marvelous.

B: There's no relation?

L: There's no relation but they're spelled the same way. I always told him he was

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such a nice person, I would like to claim him as a relative. [I said] if we could ever
get together and find a common relative way back I would just think that was
wonderful. Norman was just the most generous person I have ever known. He
was very professional though he was not a trained historian. He had a history
degree, but he had never done any practical work in history. His was sort of on-
the-job training. He was most generous. He gave me all kinds of leads on what
to do and how to go about it and gave me copies of information and put me in
touch with organizations that could help us like the Association for State and
Local History and American Museum Association and all those things that I didn't
have the vaguest notion about. We were going up to Illinois that summer, and so
while we were in Illinois I got in touch with the director of the little county museum
up there in Rochelle. He was very helpful. He gave me all kinds of clues and
help on what to do, and what not to do, and how to get it organized. He gave me
copies of their newsletters and their letterheads and the type of publications they
were putting out and their activities and that sort of thing. He was a good help.
Somewhere along the way I met a woman from Ft. Lauderdale who was active in
the historical society down there. I think I met her in Jacksonville at some
meeting. I went over to Jacksonville and talked to the people over there. When I
came back in the fall, I knew exactly what we were going to do. We wrote our bi-
laws and presented them to a meeting and elected officers, and we were off and

B: Did you become an officer?

L: Yeah, I was president.

B: How long did you hold that office?

L: [I was president] just two years. It seems longer, but I think it was just two.
During my term as president, one of the members who was on the faculty at OW
heard about these empty buildings down there in old Valp [Valparaiso]. The
college by that time had moved out here, and those buildings were all deserted.
So she heard about those and said let's try to get one and have a museum. I
said but we're not ready for a museum, we've just organized, we've barely been
an organization for two years. We don't know what we're doing, we're not ready
yet for the obligation of running a museum and taking on the responsibility for a
building. [She said] that doesn't matter, we'll just get lots of help from the college
and the city. Well, it never really was forthcoming, but Rosa Nelle Hilton was a
wonderful help. She was "old family" up in Crestview. She and her husband
were people of stature up in Crestview. She was on the English faculty, so she
knew Jim. She was one of the officers. I think she was vice-president of
programs for the society. We started with nothing. By that time the historical
commission had begun to basically disintegrate. Most of their members did not
even join the historical society. They left us high and dry. They organized but

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then [gave the impression] don't call us for help, but they did intervene with the
county commission to get us some supplies. They got us an old rickety desk, an
old rickety file cabinet, and old rickety chairs.

B: Who did you have to negotiate to get the space down there in Valparaiso?

L: [We talked with] the president of the college.

B: Oh, they still held title to it.

L: They held title to it, in fact, they still owned it.

B: To this day?

L: I don't think so. That's all kind of hazy. Who does own it? The historical
museum owns it now, but I think we took it over for $1 or something like that back
some years ago. I'm kind of hazy about that. We had a presentation ceremony
and we had a band play. We got a flatbed from Eglin and had a podium. All the
dignitaries from all the cities and counties and whatever came and we had quite
a ceremony of passing the keys of Dr. McCracken to me, a big bundle of keys.
Then, the building was ours, and the time between when the college moved out
and when we took possession of the building it had been badly vandalized. It
had acoustical tile ceilings and the roof leaked badly and the tiles were saturated.
Sometimes they would flop to the floor when they got wet enough. The place
stank to high heaven, and we were beset with all kinds of problems because the
Okaloosa County Mental Health outfit took over the old bank building that was
right next door to ours. They had taken possession before we did and they built
a room inside our building with access only to their building. So you'd walk into
the front room of our building and then go into the back room and here was this
wall around and room built inside of the room. In order to get to the offices on
the side you had to sidle around this other room that was built inside. Well, for
insurance reasons, we could not have someone have access to a room inside
our building, and so we had to appeal to the Mental Health Association to remove
their contents of that building because we were going to demolish the room and
close the door. Oh my goodness, we had a fight about that.

That was our first really big battle, that was just one of many. There were
problems that you would not believe that came up about that building. It is a
story within itself, what we did and how we did it. It's just amazing the problems.
When we first took possession of the building and took pictures all around of the
stained ceiling and the ceiling tiles that were missing and the floors with the
ceiling tiles, the walls, all of this gory mess that was there. The lighting fixtures
that somebody had just pulled off the wall, they had two lighting fixtures and they
had pulled those off the wall. They had pulled wiring out. It was a real mess.

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George took pictures of all that which is a part of our history. Nobody believes
me what we went through to condition that building to what we were able to get.
I needed somebody who could supervise this construction inside the building, or
to convert this shambles into a museum. So I looked down the roster at people
who had joined the historical society. We had I guess thirty or forty members. I
looked down on the list and most of them were women. I knew most of them,
they couldn't take on a project like that. There was one guy name Bert Sellers. I
didn't know Bert. I knew where he lived and I had met him at meetings, but I
went to see him one day and I said, Bert, I have a problem. He had a little stamp
shop. He dealt in postage and stamps, and he made stamps for people. I went
in one day and I said, Bert, and I told him what my problem was. I needed
somebody who could supervise converting this shambles of a building into a
museum, and I thought he might be able to help me. I said we don't have any
promise of help other than maybe some high school kids, but I need somebody
who can give them some guidance, who knows a little bit about construction,
enough about construction. I didn't know if he knew anything about it, but he was
a man and men are supposed to know how to use a hammer and a saw, so I
figured he'd know. He said, why in the world did you come to me? I said, well,
Bert, I think the good Lord just led me to your door. I said, I have no other
reason to believe there's any other reason why I'm here, the good Lord just
brought me here and I was hoping that you would say yes. He did. We
established a very firm friendship at that point. He was wonderful help. He was
not local. He was from New Jersey and he had come down here to work at
Eglin. He was limited in what he could do because when he was ten or twelve
years old he had been in a mine shaft cave-in. He was with a group of about
almost a dozen high school boys playing in this mine and it collapsed and they
were all trapped. Bert was one of two that came out alive, but he had a broken

A beam had fallen on his leg, and before they could get them out, of course, I
mean this was a big ordeal, when they finally got him out they had to amputate
the leg. He was limited to what he could do, but he was on a contract with some
contractor out at Eglin and was doing some sort of work out there. He had
retired by the time I knew him, so he took on the project. About that time we
organized a group down at Choctawhatchee High School and Pryor Middle
School now, of kids who were interested in history. They had a history club down
there and a couple of the faculty members were the advisors, and they had their
own club, they had their own programs, and the high school kids got really
interested in the museum. George was one of the them, and a couple of his
friends. They started coming out every Saturday. I would bring a station wagon
load of kids from Ft. Walton out and we met Bert, and they were the ones who
did all the work on tearing out that room that had been built inside a room. We
salvaged all the material because we couldn't afford to buy paneling. That room
had paneling on both sides, so we had a lot of awful looking brown paneling. We

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salvaged the 2x4 that were the studs. We salvaged the nails. They won't
believe us now, these new modern people who work down at the museum, when
we tell them that we went out on the sidewalk and straightened them with a
hammer so we could use them again. [They say] oh, you didn't do that, why
didn't you go down to Ace Hardware and buy some. I said with what? We had no
money. The dues was $5 a member and half of them didn't pay their dues
anyway. We didn't have any money, and what we used it for was essential
things like paper that we couldn't salvage. There were other things we had to
have and we bought some tools with it, but we had to straighten the nails on the

B: You did this with amateur high school volunteer labor.

L: [We had] high school students doing it and Bert Sellers supervised.

B: Did any of the other members show up for any of these projects?

L: No, none of them ever helped. In the main part of the building there, the front
part of the building, it's really two stories. The upper story, where it was open,
the main part of the bank was like a two-story area. The tiles, of course, on the
ceiling are way up there, so for the kids to reach that it was way up there. We
built a scaffolding with some of these salvaged 2x4 and salvaged nails. We built
a scaffold that was about six feet long and about three feet wide and with a
railing on two sides. The kids could go up there then and reach the ceiling and
take down the tiles or replace the tiles or repaint the tiles, whatever we were
going to do. At one end we just nailed boards across to make a ladder they
could climb up. Boy, OSHA [the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health
Administration] would have had a fit if they had come in there and seen us. We
would have been closed down and I would have been put in jail. Bert and I
would have got off to __ We didn't think anything of it and the kids didn't
mind; they were having a ball.

B: It was a great thing for them to be able to have to do a project like that.

L: It was really a good project. One of the boys, Alan Ganshorn, he went over after
he graduated from high school he went over to [University of] West Florida and
got his Bachelors in history and he worked with the preservation board over there
for a while. Then he went off, and the last I heard Alan was in law school. One of
the other boys, James Campbell, went over to Mississippi to college and also
majored in history and became a college professor. He came back to visit
occasionally because his family was still here, and once in a while he could come
in to see me. He said you gave me my start in history, it's because of my work
here that I went into history.

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B: Where is he now?

L: I don't know where he is, I haven't seen him in years.

[End side C6]

B: We resume on the beginning of the fourth tape. I'm Alan Bliss. This is my August
15, 2003 interview with Christian Simons LaRoche in Niceville, Florida. We were
discussing the progress of the museum. Tell us please the name of the museum
as you called it then. This is at the time in the early years when you were the

L: I wasn't the first director, but a volunteer was the first director and then she left
and I took it over. It was called the Historical Society Museum at that time.

B: Was it the Historical Society of Okaloosa County?

L: No, [it was called] just the Historical Society Museum. The historical society was
the Historical Society of Okaloosa and Walton Counties. Since the college had
been instrumental in organizing it and it's for both counties we kept the name.
Also, there's been a historical society over in DeFuniak Springs that had gone
defunct but had a little money in the bank, so we invited all their members to join
us and they gave us their little pittance of money that was left over in the bank. A
lot of their members, at one time we had about half the membership from Walton
County, mainly DeFuniak Springs but some down from Santa Rosa Beach and
down on the coast.

B: Does that historical society continue to exist under its name?

L: No.

B: Does it exist at all?

L: It doesn't really exist at all. It sort of went out of existence when the museum
became paramount. Then we changed the name of the museum. The Historical
Society Museum didn't really grab anybody, it doesn't say anything, so then we
changed it to Heritage Museum. It was [after I retired] that this new person came
in. At one of the state meetings she said we have to have Florida in the name of
the museum. I don't know where she got that idea, but then they changed the
name to the Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida, which is its present name.

B: You started as the director of the museum as a volunteer or was that a paid

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L: No, it was volunteer for about ten years.

B: Was that when you were still the president of the Historical Society?

L: No, other people had taken over the society and I concentrated then on the

B: So, for the first ten years of your thirty-year tenure at the museum you were a

L: Yes, at least ten years, it may have been longer than that.

B: What led to it being created as a paid position?

L: Well, I kind of put my foot down. I said if you ever intend to hire anybody to
replace me you're going to have to pay them something. Of course, we had to
go to all kinds of hearings with the county commission and present our case and
all of that, which we did. All the non-profits have a day when they appear, at that
time, before the county commission. We pleaded our case and were given
something, whatever we asked for. We started out with about $20,000 from the
county commission.

B: That's a respectable appropriation.

L: [That] was good, and that paid me a small salary. I think I got about $10,000,
maybe not quite that much, but it was a beginning, the toe was in the door. Then
they started cutting back on our appropriation, of course, because they were
always running short on funds, so I think they got it down to, I think, about
$12,000 to $15,000. Most of that then was my salary until about the time that I
left, then one of the board members decided that it should be increased. I said it
should be. If you're going to advertise and hire a professional person, which is
what you need here, you're going to pay them more than $10,000. You've got to
pay them a respectable amount. I had no benefits, and I said you're going to
have to guarantee benefits for people; nobody's going to come here and work for

B: Isn't that the truth.

L: I did, but nobody else is as dumb as I was. So they did appeal to the county
commission at that point and were able to get a decent appropriation. I don't
know what her salary was, but I imagine it's about $30,000 but I don't know, plus
all the county benefits. She gets insurance and all the other benefits on the
county list.

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B: These days health insurance has become more and more crucial.

L: It has.

B: So the first substantial outside support you got was that $20,000 from the county
commission after about ten years or so of operation. Up until then, had you been
funding yourself entirely out of member dues?

L: All from membership, yes.

B: You were creating exhibits out of whatever resources you had, and with
volunteer help.

L: [We created exhibits from] whatever we could scrounge. A lot of people were
generous in giving us stuff. We were given a lot of donations all through the
1970s. We got quantities of artifacts, and since we didn't have anything I
accepted nearly everything that came in the door. If it was not something
especially related to the history of Okaloosa County per se, I could see it, I guess
it was mainly through my stagecraft staging thinking of exhibits. Many of the
things we took in I could see as part of an exhibit, something that we could build
an exhibit around, a starting point of an exhibit. So, I took a lot of stuff that I
might not have taken otherwise. The current directors, they don't visualize
exhibits at all. They have no concept visualizing exhibits and how to use artifacts
to create an exhibit. We did a lot of that.

B: What's the alternative approach to public history interpretation if you don't use
exhibits? How else do you do public interpretation?

L: Well, they have exhibits, but they're very static. They have some of the artifacts
in the exhibits. We used to depend on verbal interpretation too with docents.
When I was able to afford an assistant, she was part-time but she practically
worked half-time all the time because she enjoyed being there. She was
wonderful about being [there]. When people came into the museum, I felt they
should see somebody there. People are reluctant to go into a public building or
museum if it's empty, if there's nobody there. So, I always insisted that either
Fran or I were at the front desk to meet people when they came in, invite them to
sign the guest register, and [ask], are you a member. If not, [say] here is a
membership application. Tell them a little bit about the museum, what we were
collecting, what they would see. If they were interested in more detailed
interpretation of each exhibit, we went around and interpreted each exhibit. Fran
was wonderful about that and she enjoyed it. She liked talking to people and she
was really very good. Now they don't do that at all. When you walk into the
museum there's nobody there and you don't see anyone. Dixie tells me this.
Dixie is my spy. I only know what Dixie and Wanda tell me, and mainly Dixie

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because Wanda is a little more reticent about it. But there's nobody there.
They've moved the entrance from where I used to have it down to the other end
and there's nobody there. Dixie says when she walks in and starts walking up
the ramp to the other building, it's a wood ramp and it makes noise when you
walk on it, then somebody appears from somewhere. They have a bell that rings
and somebody comes out and says, oh it's you, go to work, and that sort of thing.
Other people that I know have told me that they are working there to welcome
the visitors. I say, well, what do you do? [They will say], well, I just sit there, and
when the visitors come in, I welcome them. None of them know a thing about the
exhibits, they couldn't interpret a flea if they had to. So, it's changed, the whole
concept has changed. I saw it as a simple little country-style museum,
unpretentious, with artifacts and displays that told the history of Okaloosa County
from the early Paleolithic Indians through the pioneer life; the industries that
developed the area like turpentine, and we had a beautiful turpentine exhibit; the
farming tools and cotton gin, and then we were able to salvage a lot of counters
and that sort of thing from the depot up in Crestview when they tore down the
depot. We set that up in the museum. We had a little old-fashioned, one-room
school. I just felt it ought to be something that people not necessarily can do
hands-on, but where they can relate to it and see it and tell them what those
turpentine tools were for and what these marks on the trees mean, just a general
interpretation of the history.

B: In addition to the funding that you were able to attract from county government,
were you able to get any kind of an endowment started with any contributions?

L: No, we didn't get enough in the way of contributions. All we had was the dues,
and I think the dues are still only $10 a year for members. I'm a life member. I
don't know whether Dixie is still paying dues or not. She did kind of off and on.
Wanda's been off and on on paying dues, too. Janelle who was one of our
faithful volunteers said that if she was putting in time, she wasn't going to pay
them money, especially the way they treated us because they didn't respect the

B: This reminds me, I need to pay my dues to the local history museum down in St.
Pete Beach. I think they sent me a notice about a month and a half ago and I
haven't sent them a check yet, so I better get to it.

L: It was a struggle, but I enjoyed every bit of it. Like Dad, I enjoyed working with
the people who were there. I enjoyed having the school classes come on tours
and sharing with people what we knew about the history of the area. I enjoyed
the people we worked with there. We had a good all-volunteer staff. I enjoyed
working with them; it was a very close family group. I wouldn't have stayed with
it so long if I hadn't enjoyed it and if I hadn't felt that it was worth doing.

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B: You also became engaged then with the Florida Historical Society. How about
any other historical organizations?

L: Oh, I'm a member of a good many. Like over in Pensacola, I'm a member there,
of the Florida Historical Society. I've dropped a lot of my memberships because
I'm no longer in the profession, so there's not that much reason to.

B: You were on the board of the FHS for how long?

L: I think those terms were two years, and they didn't ask me and I didn't volunteer
to continue another term. By that time it was just getting too hard to get to

B: How did you come to join the FHS board? Did someone approach you?

L: Somebody called me and asked me. What was his name from West Palm
Beach? I can't think of his name; he was very active. He was on the nominating
committee or something. He called me and twisted my arm.

B: So you made trips to the FHS meetings, the annual meeting and the board
meeting. Evidently, you also became familiar with the hallways of the state
government in Tallahassee, right?

L: Yes, we'd apply for a grant from Tallahassee so we had to go over and defend
our applications. At one time the Florida Historical Society organized what they
called the confederation which was a sort of working group, not intellectual
papers, it was a hands-on working group. I was very involved with that. There
was a girl from Tallahassee or from somewhere down that way. I can't
remember her name. She kind of organized it and I worked with her, and I was
on their board for a couple of years. In fact, at the St. Augustine Historical
Society meeting, they were having a confederation meeting and I was in
Jacksonville. I had driven over to Jacksonville a couple days before and stayed
with Mother and Dad. I drove down to St. Augustine that morning expecting to
get to the meeting around ten o'clock when things were normally scheduled to
start and I did get there a little bit early. It was near nine and I must have made
good time, so it was about nine o'clock. They had it at the Ponce De Leon Hotel
[now, Flagler College], so I walked in to the Ponce De Leon Hotel. [They said] oh
she's here, she's here, hallelujah, welcome. I didn't know what was going on. I'd
never received such an enthusiastic welcome anywhere. They said you have to
preside at the meeting. The person who's presiding can't come, so you have to
preside, so here are your notes [and] there's the podium.

B: Here's the agenda, how about that.

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L: So, I kind of fell into some of those jobs that I hadn't anticipated. I really enjoyed
the confederation because [of] Orback, was her name, I think. I can't remember
her first name. She worked with the State Parks Department doing displays for
the visitor centers in the state parks. She knew everybody, of course, in
Tallahassee and at all the labs. We went over there and we had a couple
workshops behind the scenes and at the R.A. Gray Building. It was a marvelous
experience. We went into the ferrous metal lab and saw all of the tanks where
they have the canon that they brought up from the bottom of the ocean and the
artifacts that they had restored and whole table full of stuff. We met all the
people and talked to Mr. Bone who was head of it. We went into the paper
preservation area and see how they de-acidify paper and how they let it dry and
then what they do with it and how they encapsulate it. It was fascinating. It was
very helpful for me; I learned an awful lot in those trips. Then, we usually went
down to the place near Carrabelle for dinner, or else to Wakulla Lodge.

B: Did you go down to Posey's [oyster bar in St. Marks, Florida]?

L: We went to a place I can't remember, it was a fish house down near Carrabelle
on the water.

B: There are a lot of good spots down there.

L: Everybody from Tallahassee goes down there. I learned a lot. We had those
workshops in various places. One time we had one at Largo at the Heritage
Park. That was interesting because they had just moved the church in and it was
there, and they were just putting it together, and they told us how they had had to
saw it apart to move it. That was interesting. Of course, at all these places we
met all the people who worked there, which was very helpful for me when I
wanted more information, more help, I knew who to go back to. At that time I
could always remember their names, which I can't remember now. That was
really a very interesting experience. I learned an awful lot at those workshops. I
enjoyed that more than I did actually the academic meetings. Some of them got
kind of tiresome for me.

B: I know what you mean.

L: But some of them are interesting, and a lot of them I have referred to as I've
been teaching Okaloosa County history. A lot of the things that I've picked up,
especially over in Pensacola, I remember from publications and all. It was an
interesting experience and I'm grateful to Jim for letting me do this. Of course, I
had to go off and leave him. He went to a couple Florida Historical Society
meetings with me. He went to one, I think it was in Orlando, and we happened to
sit at the same table with Eugene Lyons and his wife from St. Augustine.

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B: He's from Flagler College.

L: [We also sat with] three other people that are big and doing things in the state.
Jim thoroughly enjoyed that.
B: Eugene Lyons has a fascinating personality.

L: One time I went down to Orlando and I came back raving about all this food that
we had been eating, and I think it was right after that that Jim decided he better
go with me to a meeting and find out who I was eating with and where we got all
this good food. He went with me to a couple of the Florida Historical Society
meetings, especially when he could enjoy good company like Eugene Lyons and
his wife. I had met them over in Pensacola. They had what was called the Gulf
Coast Conference; I think they still have it. Every year they bring in the historians
to read papers about the history of the Gulf Coast.

B: It's the Gulf South Historical Association.

L: It goes all around the Gulf Coast.

B: I presented a paper at their Galveston conference last fall.

L: Well, if they had it in Pensacola, I went over for that.

B: It's going to be in Pensacola or Mobile, I think it's Mobile, this year in October.

L: That's not too far.

B: That's within striking distance.

L: I enjoyed those meetings because it was little more down-to home. So many of
the papers that the Florida Historical Society meeting was presenting were a little
more contemporary; they were dealing with a little bit more contemporary issues.
I guess it's all right; that's part of our history, too, but I found it wasn't as
interesting to me as the old history, I mean real history.

B: What are you referring to by old?

L: I'm speaking of the early days around here or the early days or Spanish Indian.
Many of them were dealing with contemporary issues like housing and that sort
of thing, which really at that time didn't interest me. [They addressed] more
recent politics. I mean if it was early politics in the state of Florida, but when it
got up to more recent times [I wasn't as interested]. It was kind of like when
you're in England and you look at all these old buildings and churches and
whatever, if it's not pre-Saxon it's too new to pay attention to.

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B: It's all relative.

L: Yeah, it's all relative, but I found that most of it became a little too contemporary
and I didn't find that as interesting.

B: Well, what else happened during those years. Jim is no longer living, when did
he die?

L: Mother died in 1984 and Jim must have died about 1987. It was very close.

B: Your Mother had moved to this house.

L: She had moved here, yes.

B: How long did she live here with you all?

L: She was here for about three years. Jim was retired, so he was able to drive her
around. If he was going to the store he took Mother along, and she liked getting
out. Of course, I was working, so my hours were a little bit more limited that I
could spend with her, which I deeply regret now. I wish I had taken more time off
to be with her. Jim was wonderful with her. His own Mother had died some
years before and he missed her, so in a way he felt a kinship with my Mother that
he had missed. In many ways, he spent more time in the later years with my
Mother than he did his own. His Mother lived in Dallas, and we went out to visit
them for maybe a week or two weeks, but it was never a very good visit. Francis,
she was a nice and hospitable person, but there was not great warmth with her.

B: Had he maintained contact with his father?

L: Yes. His father died awhile back. He lived down on Merritt Island and he had
remarried. We went down there to visit occasionally, but mosquitoes were
always so bad I kind of hated to visit them. They lived in a ramshackle old
wooden house that leaked and had ants inside that got into my makeup case and
bit in bed. I just didn't ever feel very comfortable about it, being there. His father,
I think, had drifted into an early kind of senility. I think at one time he might have
been an interesting and a rather dynamic person to know, but by the time I knew
him he was not. He just was there. He was interested in the little tiny orange
grove he had and the price of oranges, and that was just about the extent of it.
Jim was born in Atlanta, but his Dad wanted one of the boys, his next son, [to be]
born on Merritt Island. So he insisted that he took Francis down to Merritt Island
so one of the sons could be born there, and there was no doctor on Merritt
Island. The doctor had to come by boat from Cocoa, and there was no bridge.
Jim's Mother's experience in that birth was horrendous to hear her tell about it.

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She hated Merritt Island. She had nothing good to say about it, and she had
nothing good to say about Jim wanting to go down there to visit his father. I think
that probably was the beginning of their breakup. It was years later before they
did finally divorce, but Jim's Mother never did like Merritt Island and what he
made her do.

B: Well, we have brought this account down pretty close to the contemporary

L: We really digressed from what you wanted to talk about.

B: Well, I wanted to get the rest of your experience and your work in history on the
record as well. Is there anything that you would care to add to this account
before we bring it in for a landing?

L: No, not particularly. I enjoyed my research in local history. It was so different
from anything I knew, so different from history of Giotto and Botticelli and all
those guys over in Italy and art history. I really enjoyed it and I enjoyed the
people, the contacts I met. The native people, not Indian type, but the people
who had lived here for ever, I enjoyed meeting them and talking to them. That's
when we started our oral history project. These people were all older and the
history of this county, in many ways, was in their minds and memories In order
to conserve that we started an oral history program.

B: How many interviews are in that collection now do you suppose?

L: Oh there must be close to 100 in it now.

B: Wow, that's a good-size collection. Did you do most of them?

L: [I did] most of them. The college has a few oral history interviews, but I've heard
some of them and they are not very good. The transcription is not good, the
questions were not good, and the subjects .. .well, Hosmer Robinson did one for
instance of Aunt Francis Prior who was bedfast when he did it and she was
elderly and he didn't have the technique on how to ask a question or how to get
information from Aunt Francis, and her speaking ability was limited at that time.
That interview is practically worthless. So the college has a few that Hosmer did.
The ones that I did, they weren't perfect by any means because I was learning
what to do and how to go about it. I read Bauer's book and talked to Sam
Proctor [founded University of Florida Oral History Project in 1967] and had taken
some of his seminars, but I was nowhere near an expert in asking the right

B: Dr. Proctor is the guru.

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L: I enjoyed meeting some of these old timers. A lot of them I knew anyway, but it
was an interesting experience. I regret in some ways that I spent as much time
as I did at the museum, but I gave so much of my time and myself and my
energy to that activity instead of my family. I should have been home with Jim
more, I should have spent more time with Mother. I could have spent more time
in Jacksonville with my Dad before he died. You can't look back. I remember
working at the museum as a very pleasant experience in spite of all the corks
and crannies and whatever we had that were real problems and were in many
ways heartbreaking. I felt it was worth doing.

B: The people of this area are lucky that you felt that way.

L: Well, I hope they are. People tell me that if it hadn't been for me and my hanging
in there and dogging with it that there would be no museum, and I think they're

B: It sounds like it.

L: If I had walked out years ago there would be no museum at all. Someone would
have come in and bulldozed that building and all of its contents.

B: Well, you've given it a launch that there's no turning back from it now.

L: Well, I don't know [about] these new people, I'm not sure what they're going to do
about it. I still am continuing my interest in local history. The day after I get back
from Denver, I have to speak down to the Senior Friends at the hospital in Ft.
Walton Beach. [They'll say], well, tell us all about early days in Okaloosa County,
well in an hour how do you do that? Another friend called me the other day and
said I know you have spoken to the Sound Side Kiwanis Club so many times, but
could you speak to us one more time.

B: This is your father's legacy sneaking up on you.

L: I have to go down and speak to the Sound Side Kiwanis Club and I still teach my
course for the University of West Florida at the Center for Lifelong Learning,
which is an Elderhostel program sponsored by the University of West Florida.
I've been teaching that for about eight years.

B: What's the name of that course.

L: [It's called] Overview History of Northwest Florida. It concentrates on Okaloosa
County. I'll teach it one more term. I'll tell them I will teach this fall, but then I'm
going to say no. I've been threatening to quit for years. The drive to Ft. Walton

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is getting harder and harder. The traffic is getting worse, especially coming
home at five o'clock in the afternoon, even three o'clock. Since George died, my
heart is not in it as enthusiastically as it was. Some things have just kind of
faded away in the last couple weeks. The college [OWCC] has what they called
Prime Time out here on the campus. It is basically the same sort of thing that
appeals to older citizens. It's shorter term, they don't have eight weeks, it's not
an eight-week term, and I think you can arrange for four or six weeks. This
would be a little more manageable for me, and it's just two and half miles up
there, it's a straight shot, so I'm going to see if they're interested in my teaching
in Prime Time.

B: You're still active in the American Association of University Women?

L: Yes, I'm still active in that.

B: You're active in this chapter which you helped found.

L: Yes, and not so much in that one now as I am in the one that we have out here in
Niceville-Valparaiso. I moved out here when I was working and the Ft. Walton
Beach Branch met at noon on Saturday. Since I worked Saturday, that was not a
convenient time. They had organized here that met at night for dinner, and so
I've joined it and I've stayed with that. I'm still a member down in Ft. Walton, and
I still attend meetings when I can down there.

B: I think I see your father's legacy at work in you. Well with that, I think it's
probably appropriate to say thank you, Christian Simons LaRoche.

L: Thank you, this has been a real pleasure to talk to you.

B: It has a pleasure for me and I think a productive effort on both parts, but
especially your work at recall and contributing to this.

L: I hope that I have given you some information that you can use, and something
along what you really came here for.

B: There's no doubt about it.

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