Interviewee: Elise C. Jones
Interviewer: Connie Llewellyn
Date: January 28, 1988
L: This is Connie Llewellyn interviewing Elise Jones at her home in Gainesville,
Florida on January 28, 1988 on the founding and early years of the Junior
League of Gainesville, founded as the Junior Welfare League of Gainesville.
Good afternoon, Mrs. Jones.
J: Good afternoon, Connie.
L: I would like to start by getting some biographical information from you. First,
what is your full name?
J: Elise Cecil Jones. Cecil is C-E-C-I-L which was my father's middle name and in
later years my mother added an "E" onto it to make it feminine but according to
the records it is Cecil.
L: Elise Cecil Jones, that is very pretty.
J: Thank you.
L: Where were you born?
J: I was born in Starke which is just about thirty miles north of Gainesville.
L: And when were you born?
J: February 6, 1910.
L: How did you come to Gainesville?
J: Well, my father had several businesses and he, for some reason, decided he
would open a business in Gainesville. He used to come over, of course, a lot
and the family decided well, maybe they would like to live in Gainesville. My
brother, I think he was in eighth grade. So they came over and he went to
Gainesville. Well, he did not go to Gainesville High School, he went to Riverside
Military Academy then he went to the University of Florida. So they liked
Gainesville, my mother liked Gainesville so they decided to move here.
L: How old were you when they moved here?
J: I was a sophomore in college at the time.
L: So you really grew up in Starke.
J: Yes, I did. I graduated from high school there.
L: You were not in school in Gainesville, in college?
J: No. I went to Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, right out of Atlanta.
L: A lovely place.
J: My mother went there and I had an aunt who went there for a year; my mother
went for two years. She had a music scholarship. But I did not. I never had a
scholarship of any kind.
L: What did you study? I majored in math and psychology. It was interesting.
L: I bet.
J: They happened to be easy subjects for me so I am sure that is one reason I
L: Because you were good at them, I am sure. What did you do when you finished
at Agnes Scott?
J: I cannot quite remember the sequence of events, but I did work in Montgomery,
Alabama with what was called the Resettlement Administration.
L: What was that?
J: That was about the time of one of the depressions and the Resettlement
Administration was established to help people have some work to do and they
went into areas where they were being sure that people had homes and work. I
happened to be in the administration and was in charge of the payroll office so I
really did not have much to do with the actual working outside other than just in
the administration. But it was interesting and I enjoyed Montgomery. I had
college friends there which made it nice. And then, I think the office was moved,
or at least the district office was moved to Jacksonville and I went there and
stayed a while. Then I went down to Welaka on the St. Johns, I think it is St.
Johns, and I was there for a short time too with the Resettlement Administration.
L: Well, how did you come to Gainesville to live?
J: Well, as I say, my parents moved over here.
L: So eventually you moved to Gainesville.
L: Were you still working with the Resettlement Administration at that time?
J: Well, actually, I moved here with my family when I was a sophomore in college
except I really was not here. Of course I really was not here in the summertime
because we had a summer home on Kingsley Lake about seven miles from
Starke and we used to spend our summers there so I was in Gainesville very
little until after I graduated from college and really came back from Montgomery,
Alabama. I have been here, sort of off and on. I went to Japan right after the
Second World War, to Hawaii and Japan. I was with what they called the
Special Services Division and I was in the recreation department and again I was
in administration. We supervised what they called the service clubs. They
were clubs set up for the enlisted men where they could go and play games and
pool and have some entertainment in the evening.
L: Well now, were you actually employed by the military? Were you in the military?
J: Special Services was attached to the military but it was not a permanent part of
the military and it never became a permanent part. I do not know what has
happened in later years. But then, after the war and after the no need for that
type of thing, as I understand it, it was just stocked, but it had had that kind of
L: Well that sounds like a fascinating opportunity to go to the east like that--to Japan
and Hawaii. How did you like it?
J: Oh, I loved it. It was very different, of course, particularly in Japan. Of course I
thought Hawaii was just beautiful and I enjoyed that. Life in Japan was just so
completely different from life in the United States that it was quite fascinating.
L: Was this after the Second World War, you said now, when you were in Japan?
Did you see any of the destruction from the war?
J: Yes. Of course that was not very pleasant knowing that we were responsible.
L: Yes, I am sure that was difficult.
J: But it is an interesting country.
L: I would like to talk to you some more about that some other time, too. Sounds
like a lot of interesting things there. In the 1930s, in the Depression--were you in
Gainesville in the 1930s? You were, am I right?
J: Well, yes. Part of the time I was here. I was in Jacksonville part of the time.
L: Throughout Florida, during the Depression, were there bread lines where you
J: Yes, I am sure there were.
L: I am just interested in knowing how much the Depression affected people's lives
where you were living at that time.
J: Well, up close we did not have much money to operate on and certainly not to do
a lot of traveling, a lot of buying. But everybody was in the same boat. It was
not as though you were trying to keep up with somebody else or wishing that you
could do what they were doing, at least I did not have that feeling. I did not
seem to realize that I was deprived of many things. I seemed to have what I
needed. Enough certainly to keep me busy and occupied, enough activity. The
money was scarce but I seemed to managed to enjoy life.
L: I want to talk to you this afternoon about the forming of the Junior Welfare
League in Gainesville and about the early years and your part in it.
J: Well, the organization, I think it became a part of the Women's Club in the
beginning and then we met on Ann Carrie McCullum's porch and we organized
what was called the Junior Welfare League. Then, before the charter was
devised and signed, I left Gainesville and went to Hawaii and went to areas
where I could not participate in this. So I think I am right on the dates.
Someone signed my name to the charter for me and then, of course, when I
came back, I came back as an active member. So I really was not in on the
organization too much except just as a name on the list.
L: Just sort of. And Mrs. McCullum was your sponsor?
L: How was she selected or did she select you all?
J: I think maybe she selected us. She had two nieces here, Kitty Kincaid Fiever
and Louise Kincaid. We were all friends and it was just sort of a group that got
L: Were there age stipulations?
J: There must have been but I do not recall. I think you could not go in if you were
over a certain age. There was a certain limit and I cannot remember whether it
was thirty. Right in the beginning I think we served only seven years as active
members. I am not sure what the situation is now, whether you go in and just go
out at a certain age or what.
L: Were there certain things that you had to do during that seven year membership?
J: I think we had to work so many hours a year on the projects and so on. Of
course people who worked during the daytime had a little difficulty working on the
daytime projects so there were other duties we were given and some of the
things that we could do either after five o'clock or in the evenings.
L: What sorts of things were those?
J: Well, I am just trying to think what I did do. Well, of course on Saturdays, I could
work at what we used to call the Salvage Shop. I think now they call it the Thrift
Shop. Then, of course, I could help collect things for the Salvage Shop. I
seemed to manage to be able to make my time on my off hours.
L: Did many of the young women work during the day.
J: Well, I do not know that many of them did. Of course they had families. During
the Depression, I do not know that help was quite as prolific as it was in earlier
years. It was not quite as available. That is a little bit misty in my mind right
L: Well, I want to ask you about something that you mentioned a minute ago, the
Salvage Shop. Was this one of your projects?
L: Tell me a little bit about this.
J: We collected clothes and most anything we could that people were discarding
that we thought other people could use and we made them available to the low
income group at a very small cost. It was not only a way of making money for
the League, but principally it was really to help people obtain things that they
needed at a low cost.
L: I see. Where was it located?
J: At one time it was located--let me see, the Presbyterian Church was torn down, it
was right across the street from the Presbyterian Church. It was something like
Second or Third Street and it was on the south side of University Avenue. It was
behind, I think, a clothing store right back in there but it has all been torn down
L: What was that first little shop like?
J: It had a space on the south side where you could come in and park. It was just
the sand; it was not paved. We had sort of a back door to the shop where you
could go in and take your things. Then, of course, we had a front entrance for
customers to come in from the street side. I believe there was one room where
the customers came in then I think we had a room in the back where we took
things and prepared them for putting them up for sale and tagging them and
getting them in good order.
L: Who did this?
J: The members.
L: The members volunteered to do this?
L: How did that work?
J: As I say, we had to spend so many hours working. I think we chose our projects
as to what we would work on. Eventually we did hire a person to be in the shop
and sort of be the salesperson, then she would have help from the League
members. But it was a little difficult to program the League members for each
hour during the day so we did have a hired helper.
L: What hours were the shop open? Was it open every day?
J: I do not quite remember. I do not recall. It seems to me at one time they were
open only on Saturday. And then I am not sure whether they opened several
days a week or whether they were open all the days of the week. I just do not
recall. As I say, I was in and out of town so much of the time, I just do not recall.
L: Where did you get the salvage to put in the shop?
J: From friends, from our own homes, things that we were giving up, clothes that
had gone sort of out of style or our children had out-grown. Some of us got fat!
L: Was this one of your earliest projects?
J: As I recall, yes. This "Events by the Year" says in 1935 that the League was
formally organized. I guess one of the first projects was to serve hot lunches at
the school. Up until that time, I do not think that they had any lunches or
lunchrooms. I think we established that. Then, as I say, we established the
Salvage Shop. We avidly sponsored the University of Florida Symphony
Orchestra and also helped sponsor a dental clinic. I do not know whether we
really started that or whether we just assisted in that. I do not quite recall.
Then for raising money we had dances and silver teas.
L: What is a silver tea?
J: I do not know why we called it a silver tea unless it is because of the silver
teapot. I do not know.
L: I had seen that written and I was curious why it had that name.
J: I do not know why it was called the silver tea.
L: I think you did a lot of social kind of things to raise money.
J: Yes, we did.
L: The community must have responded generously or you would not have
continued doing it. They must have been profitable.
J: Well, apparently it was.
L: I was interested in that. I saw where you gave New Year's Eve balls and the
costume ball and then the silver tea as you said.
J: I would say bridge parties.
L: I read about one bridge cruise they called it where one of the prizes was a trip to
J: Is that right?
L: I figured they must have made a lot of money to have somebody donate a prize
J: Well, I said that a costume in 1937, costume ball, tea dances and bridge parties
to support kids free lunch program.
L: I wanted to ask you more about that free lunch program, too. Where was that
J: It was in the school. I think the school has been torn down now and I think it
was called the Metcalf School.
L: Over on the east side?
J: Yes, over on the east side.
L: I was wondering how your group found out or decided that was a need to be
J: Well, of course that was sort of during the Depression years and I am not sure
just how that project--I do not know whether we discovered it or whether the
school board asked us to investigate or the principal asked us to investigate. I
do not recall. The daughter of the principal of the school was a member of the
L: Who was that.
J: Winifred Metcalf. She is Mrs. Tom Brand and she has moved from Gainesville.
She does not live here now. She is off in California.
L: She was a member of the League in that period.
J: In fact, I think she was a charter member.
L: What can you tell me about how a lunchroom program operated? Were you
ever involved in that?
J: No, I really was not because I was working.
L: That would be difficult.
J: So it would have been difficult for me.
L: Who do you remember who was involved in it?
J: Let us see.
L: That is a hard question. They had so many committee chairmen.
J: I just do not recall.
L: I was interested in knowing how they would decide, I do not know how many
children they fed or how they decided who would be eligible.
J: I do not know whether they depended on the welfare department to determine
the eligibility of the children or whether the League itself but I rather suspect the
League itself did not determine but I am not sure of this.
L: I cannot help but wonder from where you are telling me the school is located,
did is serve primarily black children?
L: It did not. It served only white children?
J: Yes, I guess it did serve only white children then. Because the west side of
Gainesville is comparatively new. The west side of Gainesville is comparatively
new. The city moved from east to west. You see the far east side of
Gainesville was the Negro area but the northeast was one of the main residential
areas. In fact, my family lived there for years and our old home is still there.
And people have sort of gone back to the northeast now, buying up the homes.
L: I think that is nice. I noticed in the newspaper, some of the columns mentioned
that it was the Eastside School and I think I must have got that confused in my
mind with the current Eastside school. You also mentioned the clinics, you said
something about a dental clinic.
J: Yes, and I know very little about the dental clinic because I was not able to
participate in that and I just do not remember.
L: Later on did the League establish a clinic for babies?
J: I believe they did have a well-baby clinic, yes.
L: And a prenatal clinic to go along with that to check for the pregnant mothers.
L: I was also interested in your term as president. I think you served as president
of the League from 1939 to 1940.
J: I guess maybe I did. I had forgotten about that.
L: That was right about the time of the coming of the war and I was wondering, did
the people in Gainesville, really think war was coming then, you know, when
Poland was invaded, and England and France declared war. Think back to that
J: I do not know that I thought too much about it except that at that time, as I recall,
Camp Blanding was established or somewhere in that era and, of course, we had
soldiers coming in there to be trained and not knowing where they were going or
what was going to happen. On Saturday nights we organized dances and things
like that for the soldiers to come in from Camp Blanding and take part.
L: This was in the town now?
J: Just in the town, I do not know that the League did that. I had forgotten now just
how that came about.
L: So there was some military activity that was building up.
J: Yes, and then of course the University of Florida had an officer's candidate
school at that time. That meant that there were a lot of military out on the
campus also and they sort of participated in the town activities that we planned
for them, soldiers.
L: I was just wondering, if this community was becoming aware of the fact that war
was near or about to happen, how that would affect the community and your daily
life and maybe even the needs of the community?
J: Well, I can only think maybe from my father's point of view, he had a Coca Cola
plant in Starke, and of course Blanding was built about seven miles out of Starke
and of course his Coca Cola business just mushroomed. I started working for
him and we just had to do a lot to meet the needs. But of course, then when
Camp Blanding closed down, then that need was over. But I went back and
forth to Starke and worked quite a bit of the time during that era.
L: Goodness, that is a long drive.
J: Well, it was kind of long.
L: How did you come to be the president of the League?
J: Well, Ruth Atwood had been elected president and served during the summer
until, I think, the end of September and then her husband was at the University of
Florida on the faculty and I guess he accepted another position elsewhere so
they moved in September and--I was just looking at some notes. I did not know
whether I was vice president and took over but I noticed I was nominated for
president to take her place so that was the reason for my being president when
L: So you served from September of 1939 through June 4th of 1940.
L: What do you remember about your year? What stands out most in your mind?
J: Well, it was a busy year. I was living at home with my parents and every time
the phone rang, my mother just would not bother to answer it. If I were home, I
answered the phone because it was usually something that involved the League.
So it was almost a full-time job.
L: I bet it was. Now that was the year that you had the first follies, was it not?
J: Yes, I believe it was.
L: What was that all about?
J: Well, I remember the first night of the follies, the first night it was put on, it was at
the old Gainesville High School which, as I say, has been torn down. I went out
and stood by the hedge out near the front and was just as sick as I could be. It
really got to me. But it went off well. I remember, I did sort of poke my head in
every once in a while when I felt up to it, and one of the things I remember seeing
was, Jeanette Shaw Harp who lives here in the villa, she and two other persons,
and I do not remember whether they were boys or whether they were other
members of the League, but after every scene, they were dressed as this little
rag tags, and after every scene they would sort of slump across the stage in front
of the curtain and go out. Well, of course it was hilarious just to watch them
cross the stage. And that happened after every scene. They were cute.
L: Explain to me what a "follies" is.
J: Well, it was various types--some of it was dancing, some was singing. I think
there may have been a few little skits incorporated into the program but in
various scenes, various activities. It was not like a continuous play or anything
like that. It was an evening of live entertainment then.
L: And you used that as a fundraiser.
L: What did you do to make money off of it.
J: Well, of course we sold tickets. I will tell you, ordinarily, someone came in, and
they usually sent a director, one person in, and they helped us organize the
follies. So that was the main way it was put on.
L: And then your group supplied the talent?
J: We supplied the talent. We, of course, under the director's direction, we did the
program, we got the talent, we got the place, obtained the place to have it. Of
course, the main thing the director did was to determine what kind of little scene
we will have here. And, of course, a lot of that depended on the talent we were
able to draw.
L: Did you get talent exclusively from inside your group or did you ask the
J: Oh, no, the community helped.
L: Did you get a very wide acceptance?
J: Yes, we really did.
L: I bet that was a lot of fun.
J: It was. It was lots and lots of fun.
L: So you mainly made money off the sales of tickets then?
J: Yes. And then of course we had programs where people advertised and we
made money off of that. In fact, I thought I had one of the programs--maybe not.
L: I think there was one in that scrapbook. I guess that is where I saw it, yes.
J: I saw in looking at the minutes of your meetings that you all went to a meeting in
Deland. You went and I believe Marjorie Hussy went. It was a meeting of the
Junior Welfare Leagues of Florida. Yes, we did and we belonged to that
organization. We went down for a Florida meeting. I think it was just the
L: What was the purpose of that?
J: I really do not know why we organized except maybe to determine what each
one was doing in the way of projects and just profiting from other people's
L: Was it a good meeting?
J: As I recall, it was, but I cannot tell you any of the details. I also saw where you
were appointed to a position on the board of the Alachua County Health and
Welfare Council in 1940. You all must have been working with them.
J: Yes, I think we were.
L: You were just mentioning the follies program. Is that what you have there?
J: Yes. Because I see that I wrote an open letter from the president. I was
president at the time and I do not know whether this has any date on it or not. I
do not see any date on this but I am sure this was the first follies.
L: What was the name of the review?
J: Rollin' Rhythm, 1940.
J: Rollin', and it was without the "g".
L: I see. And you were showing me a newspaper clipping that you had.
L: What is it?
J: Well, under the picture itself, it says, "Junior Welfare League group," and it
names the officers and directors and then I think it gives just the officers and
directors of the Junior Welfare League are shown above. They are back row,
left to right: Mrs. Sidney Robertson, social chairman; Mrs. D.K. Stanley,
membership chairman; Mrs. Claude F. Lee, ways and means chairman, Mrs.
Wilma Bishop, vice president; Mrs. John Maynas, treasurer; Mrs. F.A. Canova,
service chairman; Mrs. E.H. Andrews, investigation chairman; Mrs. Elias Jones,
corresponding secretary. Then front row, left to right: Miss Winifred Metcalf,
publicity chairman; Miss Jeanette Shaw, newly elected president; Mrs. J. Max
Dell, Jr., retiring president, Miss Patricia O'Neal, historian. Some of these I
could not recognize until I saw the names and sort of counted back.
L: I am sure the hair styles and fashions were very different.
J: Now that I have looked at it several times, I recognize the people quite well, but
not having seen it for some time, I was a little puzzled.
L: I heard that the Welfare League wrote a cookbook, too.
J: Right, they did.
L: Tell me about that.
J: Well, we solicited people all over town to submit their favorite recipes and we
published a cook book. I do not know, I think maybe I have the cook book.
Then I think that we, after it was given out, we had to publish it a second time.
L: Well, that is good.
J: Would you like me to see if I have it? It is right in the kitchen.
L: I think the name of that first cook book was called Culinary Crinkles.
J: It could have been. That sounds familiar.
L: So that was one of two cook books that the League has published?
J: Well, apparently the Gator Cook Book, I did not see any date in the book as to
when it was published but I know of two and I do not know whether there have
been any more or not or whether the last one was just revised.
L: I see. The year that you were president, I noticed that the League, in addition to
doing the projects that you have told me about, like the lunch room and the
salvage shop, that you helped with other projects that were going on in town.
J: Yes, we did. I do not recall but we did if someone else organized something or if
a group of people, we may have been part of the group, organized some type of
activity, of course we took part. I do not recall exactly.
L: I remember reading that you worked for tuberculosis seals that you collected for
J: Yes, I am sure that was one of them.
L: And something called the Empty Stocking Fund. What was that?
J: Well, at that time there were a lot of people in Gainesville who did not have
enough money to celebrate Christmas. So we attempted to find toys and all
kinds of things and fix up Christmas stockings that could be given to indigent
L: Was this a project of the Welfare League or did go all around.
J: I do not think it was a project of just the Welfare League, I think we participated.
It was more of a community project and I cannot remember what other
participated clubs but I do not think it was our project. Now, I could be wrong on
L: I also saw where you worked with the Gainesville Civic Music Association.
J: Yes, I think we helped them sell tickets in that way or sponsored them in some
L: I was interested to find out that the Junior Welfare League also worked in public
affairs in that period to try to get the petitions to get an election called for bond
issues. Do you remember working on that?
J: Yes, yes. We did go around and try to get signatures in order to get the bond
issue. I think it was for schools, was that not what it was for?
L: The first one was for schools, yes.
J: I think one of our projects was to help get enough signatures so it would be voted
L: Later I think they did the same thing for the hospital bond issue.
J: Probably. Yes, I think we did.
L: Were you still an active member when they began to work in the hospital
assistance program at Alachua County Hospital?
J: I do not believe I was. I remember the program.
L: What do you remember about it?
J: I just remember that it existed and that the members did go and work and did all
kinds of things to help but I do not recall that I was a part of that program unless I
just helped now and then. I think they took books around to the patients but I
could be confused with another organization.
L: It sounds like the hospital auxiliary today. Maybe a forerunner. So then after
you had served four years as an active member, what happened to you?
J: Well, you were inactive. I think you could still volunteer your service if you
wanted to. The thing is, active people had to work so many hours so we could
not interfere with their getting their time in. So if we did anything, it had to be
over and above what they were going to do or could do and at times when they
could not work.
L: About what size group was the League when you were a member? About how
many women were in it?
J: I just do not recall.
L: Were they mostly people who had grown up in Gainesville or somebody like you
who had moved there after you had become an adult?
J: Well, there certainly were a lot of native people in it. And then some who had
moved here some time during the year. I remember Ella Mae Long Canova was
one of the active members and she had lived in Starke, had been born in Starke.
Her father was a judge, Judge Long, and I think they moved over here. He
became a judge of the district and they moved over here. So there were quite a
few of Starke people who moved to Gainesville for one reason or another.
L: Well, when the League started out, you were talking about forming on Aunt
Carrie's porch and coming into being as a wing of the Women's Club, what was
the purpose of the organization? What were the women trying to get together to
J: I think it had welfare as its objective and as I say, I left town at this town at this
L: I understand that you were kind of in and out.
J: So this is sort of remote in my memory. I do not think I actually participated in
much of the activity that was going on at the time or the organizational efforts and
objectives that were being devised at the time.
L: Just from a general understanding of the feeling that you got about wanting to be
a part of the club and being active in it for six or seven years, did you feel that
you were able to do what you wanted to do as a member and did you feel that
the club was achieving the purpose.
J: Yes, I feel it was. As I said in the beginning, it was called the Junior Welfare
League, so, of course, we were active in welfare activities in the community and
yes, I felt that we helped. Of course there was so much to be done. I do not
know how much we helped but at least we added something. At that time much
was needed and of course we could not fulfill every need at all by any manner or
means. But I think what we did was helpful.
L: Did you think that it turned out to be a different organization from the one you
envisioned at the beginning.
J: I think it has always had, well now, I do not know that now, but I think certainly
the time I was active and even a large time that I was inactive but still connected
that our objective was the welfare of the community. I think now they have other
objectives added to that.
L: Do you continue to be a sustaining member of this club?
J: I am a sustaining member, yes.
L: Have you been pleased with the way the club has grown or changed from the
beginning or were there some things you would like to have seen be different.
J: Well, now I tell you, I really have not kept up that well with it because as I say, I
have been in and out of Gainesville. I think they have certainly filled a need here
whether or not their objectives have changed to the point that I would disagree, I
am not real sure. I have not been that active to really keep up.
L: I can understand that.
J: I just am not sure. It seems to me at one time I was a little disappointed in some
of the activities they were sponsoring yet it was not that I did not think the
activities were worthwhile but I felt like maybe there were some other things that
might have been more important to do. I was not real sure but I do not even
recall the activities. I was not sure whether the members were really interested
more in educational projects from the point of view of, not that I object to that, but
I felt like with the University of Florida here and other people doing somewhat the
same thing, that maybe we could branch out and do some things that were
better, were more needed. But I do not remember why I took that attitude or
what caused me to feel that way and I do not think I felt that way for very long.
But I do think the objective of the Junior League is not quite what we started out
with as the Junior Welfare League.
L: Well, it has been over a period of more than fifty years so I guess maybe you
would think it...
J: Right, bound to change. And I am sure that the objectives they have and the
projects they have are needed. I am not criticizing at all, but I think it has just
slightly changed in its objective. I do not know that I should even make such a
comment since I am not that well informed on the current organization.
L: Well, I thank you for talking with me this afternoon. I have really enjoyed this
chance to get to know a little bit more about what the Junior Welfare League was
like in the early years.
J: I do not know that I have been too informative.
L: Well, I think you have been very helpful.
J: As I say, I was out of town so much of the time but I certainly have enjoyed being
a member of the League and I feel that we have filled some needs in the
community which might not have been filled otherwise.
L: I know that is a good feeling. Thank you again.
J: Well, thank you for an interesting conversation with you.
L: I have enjoyed it too.