Interviewee: Alice R. Blake
Interviewer: Everett W. Caudle
Date: February 28, 1989
C: This is Everett Caudle. Today is February 28, 1989. I am at the home of Mrs.
Alice Blake at 2540 N.W. 31st Avenue, Gainesville, Florida, doing an interview
for the University of Florida's Oral History Project. Mrs. Blake is a near-lifelong
resident of Gainesville and Alachua County.
What we are going to do is start out by asking you a little bit about yourself and
your family background. If you would, just tell me what your full name is.
B: Alice R. Blake.
C: What does the R stand for?
C: Rosena is a unique name. Do you know where that name came from?
B: From the old family. There is one member of the family with that name--Irene
C: Who was the Greg?
B: Greg was my uncle; he was Irene Greg's husband. He came over here from
C: He was on your mother's side?
C: When were you born?
B: July 19, 1911, in Charleston, South Carolina.
C: How long did you live in Charleston?
B: We lived in Charleston for a while, and then we moved to Jacksonville, Florida.
But the first thing I remember is moving here to Gainesville. I must have been
seven or eight years old, but I remember the move to Gainesville.
C: So if you moved to Gainesville when you were about seven, that would have
been around 1918 or 1919.
C: Let me ask you a little bit about your mother. What was her maiden name?
B: She was a Joyner. My mother's name was Sarah Joyner. Her father's name
was Timothy T. Joyner.
C: Do you know anything about her parents? Where were they from?
B: Not really. They came here in the summer and went back up to Carolina in the
winter. They had two homes--one here and one in Charleston. My mother's
mother died when she was nine years old, so I do not know much about them. I
do not even know where they are buried.
C: Were they born in the United States?
B: Yes, all except the Scotsman--Aunt Irene's husband--and my father, George
Orton, who was born in Newcastle on Tyne in England.
C: Do you know why he came to the United States?
B: He was working aboard a ship, and when he came over to the United States, he
came into Charleston. I do not know whether that was when he met my mother
or not, but that is where she met him, in Charleston.
C: His name was George Orton, and he was married to Sarah Joyner?
B: That is right. Her daddy was a railroad man--Timothy T. Joyner.
C: He was a railroad man in Charleston?
B: Between Charleston and down here. He went back and forth, and my mother
could ride the train anytime she wanted to for free.
C: Do you know what railroad he worked for?
B: The Atlantic Coastline Railroad. It used to come right through the middle of
C: How did you get to Gainesville and to Florida? You said you came first to
Jacksonville, and you do not remember that, but I suppose you came to Florida
for a reason.
B: The only thing I can remember was we came in a horse and buggy or wagon (I
do not remember which) when we came to Gainesville. We were children, and
this old aunt, Elizabeth Seabrook Conradson, was real sick. I remember her
dying in Gainesville.
C: But what brought you to Gainesville?
B: Her illness.
C: Did the aunt have property here?
B: She owned this property where I now live and property in town. She owned
nearly 400 acres here, and I do not know how many acres in town.
C: And your mother acquired that property?
B: My mother and her brother were the only two heirs to it. They acquired all of the
C: Did she die shortly after the family came to Gainesville?
B: Yes. I remember her dying, and I remember the undertaker coming in and taking
her out. She died in Gainesville, and my mother and her brother inherited all the
property, all the cows, the crops, and everything. The farm was beautiful with
fruit trees. There were plenty of turkeys, chickens, and cows all on the place.
C: So upon her death, you moved to the farm itself?
B: My mother decided that she would rather have the farm, and she had to sell her
part of the property in town to buy out her brother. He did not want his share
because he did not want to stay in Florida. He wanted to live in Georgia.
C: Where was the property that she owned in town?
B: It was on old Grove Street, north of where the ice plant used to be. I do not
know what the name for Grove Street is now. [N.W. 2nd Street. Ed.] If you
come about half way down the block going north, they owned the property all on
the west side clear down to where the school is. I think that they have retarded
children in that school now.
C: That is Sidney Lanier, and it is a school for retarded children. I think it is
connected with Sunland Training Center, although I do not believe they call it
that anymore. But it is the state's facility.
B: We owned all of that property, and she, in turn, sold her part of it so she could
pay her brother for his part of the farm.
C: Do you remember how much she got for the property?
B: No, I have no idea.
C: Did she sell it all to one person?
B: I do not know that either.
C: Was the property in town just a home?
B: Yes, a home with a great big grape arbor. In there where all of those houses are
now, there was not a single house there--all the way north to the school. The
only house that I know of was right across the street from it on the corner of old
Grove Street. The school is there now, and the house was on the corner. It was
owned by a lady named Graves. She used to run a nursery.
C: Is that where the gas company is now?
B: No, the house is still there. Ms. Graves is still in it, and I have a tree in the yard
that I gave her five dollars for when it was not as high as my knee. Further on
down, the Connelys lived across the street from us, but I do not remember who
owned all of those homes in. Mr. Herlihy used to live in there. He used to be a
plumber here in Gainesville. He and his wife have been here for years. There
was a McCormick that was a florist. There was somebody who lived right across
the street from them, but I cannot remember all of their names. Further down
the street, on the west side way down the street, was R. T. Schaffer's Bakery.
To my knowledge, that was the only bakery in town at that time. He had a little
pickup truck. He owned the bakery there and a house. The blocks from the
oven are still there, and the home is up for sale.
C: That would be catty-cornered to the old ice plant.
B: That is right. My mother said--and I can just barely remember--that we used to
have chickens, that I would take the eggs in a bucket down to him, and I would
always come back with cookies or something that he had given us.
C: So your mother sold eggs to Mr. Schaffer?
C: You said that she had chickens at the place there in town, so it was not really a
farm, but she had a kitchen garden.
B: That is right.
C: The regular farm was out here in what is now the northwest part of town?
B: Yes. When I moved out here myself about 1930 or 1931, there was no one out
here but me. Way down there about a mile where the school is [Glen Springs
Elementary] was the only other house.
C: Is that when your mother sold the property in town? Was it as late as 1930?
B: No, she sold it way before then.
C: Would that have been shortly after you moved here, maybe the early 1920s?
B: Yes, about that time.
C: She did not move out directly on the farm right away?
B: We stayed in town a little while. It did not seem like we stayed very long, but we
stayed in there a while because they had to settle things up among themselves.
She and her brother were the only heirs.
C: So after she sold her property in town and they settled things up, then you
moved to the farm out here in the northwest part of town. How many acres was
B: About four hundred acres.
C: Tell me a little bit about the farm and how it was when you first remember it.
What sort of crops did they grow?
B: Everything. They were trying to plant cotton, sugar cane, peanuts, corn,
everything that you could think of. You could not see the house for the fruit trees
around it. The house is not there anymore.
C: Did they sell the fruit as well as the other crops?
B: They swapped it for first one thing and another. If you had potatoes and I had
fruit, or vice versa, I would give you fruit and you would give me potatoes.
C: The fruit and that sort of thing was more for keeping up the household rather
than making a profit?
B: That is right. They also had banana trees on the place, but there is not one of
those trees left now. The cold killed them all.
C: But you raised other types of vegetables. Did they sell other things?
B: Vegetables and turkeys. My mother used to go to town in a horse and wagon
every so often with watermelons, greens, eggs, buttermilk--anything that came
off the farm. We would go through the streets of town, and at that time the
people would come out with their container if they wanted milk, and you poured
the milk in the container. You did not sell the milk in the container that you had it
C: The milk was held in a large milk can?
B: Yes. If you wanted buttermilk, she would give you buttermilk, or butter, or eggs,
or chickens, or watermelons--whatever happened to be in season. The only way
to get to town was to go straight from her house back there--not from
here--through the woods, and you came out on 6th Street. Then you turned
south and went into town.
C: What is now 6th Street was the main road into town, and then another road
came out here.
B: The other road came out to the farm through the woods, and there used to be a
creek down there. We had to come through the creek, and my mother would tell
us every day we came through there with the wagon or buggy that we had to
stop and make sure the wheels got wet.
C: Why was that?
B: So the spokes would swell up in the wheels and would not come out.
C: They were held in there by pressure.
B: The road went by the house back through the woods. There is a subdivision
over there now, but the only people who lived over there then was a family
named Cellon. He started a dairy. Right where the big water plant is [on N.W.
34th Street] was Strickland's home. It was a big two-story house--a beautiful
home. They owned all of that property in there.
C: So Mr. Cellon had a dairy?
C: Mr. Strickland was the other man who lived over there.
B: He was a farmer.
C: Was that Cellon any relation to Ralph Cellon that was on the county
B: I do not know, but I do not think he was.
C: When you first came to the farm, then, there was a little bit of everything?
B: Guineas, turkeys, chickens. It was open range, and there was cow after cow on
the place. You did not have to fence your cows up then.
C: Did they sell those cows to people in town?
B: They had a great big wooden pen in the yard in front of the farmhouse. When
they got ready to sell a cow, they would drive them in there. The butchers would
sit on the fence and shoot the cows in the pen, dress them out right there, and
carry the meat with them. Hogs were done the same way. If somebody wanted
to buy a hog, they would hunt the hogs up. They would be in the woods because
it was all open range then. It did not become closed range until Governor Fuller
Warren [Florida governor, 1949-1953] made the law.
C: He was known for getting the fence law. Was he popular because of that?
B: Well, he was pretty popular. Everybody liked him, especially his mother. His
mother was a county home demonstrator. The Warrens were well known among
the people. There were not too many people around Gainesville anyway.
C: But you do not remember his being unpopular because he got the fence law
B: No. It put a lot of hardship on people because it made them fasten up their
cows, and we had hundreds of cows out in the woods. When we were going to
school over at Pine Grove intersection [N.W. 39th Avenue and N.W. 43d
Street]--that is where I started to school--we walked through the woods to get
there. My mother, so we would not get lost on the way back, carried cane
skinnings (from where they had ground cane in the mill) and dropped them along
the way when we were going. When we got ready to come home, there was not
a cane skinning in the woods because the cows had eaten them all.
C: So you could not find your way home. And there was no road?
B: No. We walked across the creek down there where the big church is right now
[First Assembly of God Church, 2925 N.W. 39th Avenue], through the woods,
and over there to school. It was a little one-room schoolhouse.
C: Was that the elementary school that you attended?
B: We went to all of it--all the way up to about ninth grade. I forget how old we
were, but my father got busy and got them to put a bus out to come pick up the
children so it could take the children into town to attend school.
C: I think we talked about your mother's parents and Charleston and that sort of
thing, but I did not ask you specifically about your mother and father. You said
that your mother did not work when she came to Florida.
B: No. She did not believe in women working out of the home.
C: Did she work on the farm?
B: They had a couple of black families living in houses on the place. They came
every day and attended the farm. She saw to what they were doing, but as far
as her working out, she never did.
C: Were they hired help? Were they paid for working?
B: Yes, they were hired.
C: Were they paid a share of the crop?
B: They took part of the crop and part in money.
C: What did your father do for a living?
B: Well, my father was not a farmer. He came over from England. He was a man
that believed in being dressed up all of the time. I have seen him in the field
plowing with a collar and tie on. But he could not be a farmer. He tried to farm,
and when time came to gather the crops, he would gather them with our help.
He would take the load of crops to town, and that was the last you would see of
him until night.
C: What would he do in town?
B: There was a grocery store where he stayed and helped out.
C: Was he paid for helping out?
B: Well, I imagine he was paid there, and he sold his produce through the store.
C: But he was not a farmer?
B: He was not a farming person. I have a picture of him in Charleston when he was
on the police force. He believed in that kind of thing. He loved anything
pertaining to law. He loved police law or anything like that.
C: Did he hold any offices here in town?
B: No, he did not. He ran a couple of times, but he lost.
C: It was just his personality to be a public person.
B: Yes. He was a public man. He believed in it, and he was real sociable. He
never met a stranger. He knew everybody that he came in contact with, and if
he did not, it would not be long before he knew them.
C: Did he run the business part of the farm, or did your mother do that?
B: They ran it together more or less. I think that is the reason it finally went down.
At one time they tried to have a dairy. They had a dairy for a long time, and he
used to deliver the milk. Eventually, they quit doing that.
C: So your father would take his stuff to town, and your mother would see after
things on the farm?
B: Yes, and when the black man would come to work, she would send him up
where the horses were, and they would come to the field. The field was right
along here where I am sitting now. The gate used to be right there.
C: Your house is on what is now N.W. 31st Avenue, and the property originally
straddled 31st Avenue.
B: It included 31st Avenue. There was not any paved road out there at all; it stayed
a dirt road for years. When they first surfaced it [with asphalt]--and I do not
remember what year they surfaced it--they only surfaced down to the corner.
We were without electric for a long time. Your mother [Irene B. Caudle, b. 1930]
was a year old. She stood there in that window and watched them put the light
post up on her first birthday. That is how long we stayed here without electric
and running water. We toted water from the farmhouse.
C: So this was pretty much woods back then?
B: This was all woods. This whole part was woods, and there is a huge ditch in that
section down where those houses are, if you notice. There was a pond down
there where the cows used to get their water, but they drained all of that. Way
over on N.W. 39th Avenue was the only house that I knew of. It is an old brown
house right now; they have redone it in brown stone. The Bays lived there. The
next house from the Bay's [to the southeast] was the old Mainus home. The City
of Gainesville just burned it down. The city owns the property now.
C: Was he any kin to Dr. Manus?
B: They were related, but I do not know how. They burned the old house down. It
was a straight up-and-down old home.
One day my mother sent me across what is now 39th Avenue to the Hartman's.
Mr. Hartman had died, and we made him a cross out of some bridal wreath that
we had in the yard. Mama asked, "Can you go over there?" and I said, "Yes, I
can take them to him." She said, "You take them and then come back." I took
them over there, but I could not find my way back. It was just before dark when I
happened to come up on the old Manus house. Then I recognized where I was.
C: You were completely lost?
B: I was completely lost all afternoon. My mother could have called; I could have
heard her over there if she had called, but she did not realize that I was lost.
She just thought I had gotten involved over there on account of the funeral. My
mother could call you for a mile, and you would hear her. And you would
answer, too! She would be at home up there at the house, and she would call
you back down here in the field, and you would hear her.
C: And you had better hear her, too!
B: And you better get going! She would say, "Don't answer me. Come!"
C: She did not want you to answer her. [Laughter] She wanted you to come see
what she wanted.
B: She said, "You come see what I want." They had two great big barns on the
place. There was a log barn on this side of the house. All they kept in it was
corn. On the other side of the yard was the other barn where they kept the
wagons and buggies, horses, and cows. They would haul the corn from this
barn over to that one when they wanted to feed up.
C: Why did they keep the boards between the corn? To keep it dry?
B: It was a log barn, and it was open, so it kept air in the corn so bugs would not eat
it. They got in it anyway, but not as bad as they would have. Up in the loft there
In front of the old house was another huge, two-story barn, and it was always
kept full of hay. The place was well-to-do when we first moved in. Neither my
mother nor my father were farmers, so they just did not know how to handle it.
C: The aunt who owned it before evidently knew what she was doing.
B: Yes, she did. She owned this place and the place in town. She was very much
a businesswoman. She kept both places going.
C: Let me ask you a little bit about your childhood. Do you remember going to
school? You told me you went to school over where Pine Grove Baptist Church
is located. Do you remember what school was like over there?
B: It was a one-room schoolhouse; they had grades in there from one to nine. I
think we were about six or seven years old before we could go to school. When
summer came and the crops were being gathered, they usually let school out so
the children could help their parents. We would go to school, carry our lunches,
and stay all day. There were many times the teacher would take the whole
school over to the Devil's Millhopper. We would sit there and eat our lunches.
C: What do you remember the Millhopper being like at that time?
B: It was a huge, deep hole with springs coming out of it on the sides. There was
water in the bottom of it. Now I do not think there is any water in the bottom; I
think it drained out. But there used to be a pond-like down in the bottom, and we
would sit on those rocks and eat. Many a time we pitched in chewing gum
papers or any little papers in there to see it go around.
C: The water moved in the bottom?
C: Do you think that the movement of the water had anything to do with the way it is
B: I have no idea. As far as I know it has always been Devil's Millhopper. The
University of Florida has it now. I do not know who they eventually got it from.
The University is taking care of it.
C: You do not know who originally owned it?
C: Was that a popular spot?
B: At that time it was the most popular spot around town. You would go down there
and people were picnicking. It was a beautiful place. Every kind of fern that you
could think of grew in there and hung around on the rocks on the side of it.
C: How far was this from the school?
B: Oh, I do not know. You know where it is, and you know where the church is. We
cut through the woods. We did not go the roads you go now; we walked through
the woods on a path.
C: I am just trying to locate the school. It would be northwest of Pine Grove Baptist
Church, which is now on the corner of N.W. 43rd Street and 39th Avenue.
B: That is where the church is now. The school was on 39th Avenue and 43rd
C: Were there many students in the school?
B: Not so many. It was just a little one-room schoolhouse, and we did not stay very
long. As I said, my father got busy and got them to get a bus to come out and
pick us up. The bus had three seats--one on each side and one right down
through the middle. There was a row of curtains on the side. It went from house
to house. It did not make any difference where you lived--that bus would come
pick you up. It picked us up and went north. It came out where Hogtown Creek
is now. The road was not a hard surface when you went up the hill where the
sandwich store is [McDonald's]. It was all clay. We bigger children would get out
and hold the bus back so the driver could not get up the hill.
C: Right there where McDonald's is now?
B: Yes. The road went straight across where 13th Street is through the cemetery.
The cemetery is still there. It went straight through and came out on 6th Street.
C: The children who rode the bus would get off and hold it back?
B: We would get off and hold it to aggravate the bus driver.
C: Did that make him mad?
B: Shoot, it would made him so mad. He whipped a couple of the boys many a
time for misbehaving on the bus.
C: He whipped them?
B: Yes, sir, he sure would.
C: What did their mom and dad think about that?
B: They thought nothing of it. Back then your mom and dad whipped you. If they
did not, the teacher did.
C: They probably approved of it.
B: They approved of it. The road came out over on 6th Street where Jack Parrish's
grist mill was. The house is still there.
C: Is he related to M. M. Parrish?
B: I do not know. He has a granddaughter who I recently saw; she is a beautician.
She is much older than I am. You went straight down and turned south at
Parrish's mill. Do you know where the old north Gainesville Hall is?
C: I do not know exactly where that is. I probably do, but I probably know it by
something different than what you are thinking of.
B: That hall used to belong to the Cosmos Club, of which I was a member. All of
the old heads began to die off, so they and gave the hall to the City of
Gainesville. The city later sold it for little to nothing. There is a drapery shop in it
C: That would be 6th Street. I think I know where you are talking about.
B: Right down 6th Street was the McMillan's house. It burned not very long ago. It
was on the right side of the street further down. You went around to where the
Seminole Feed and Seed store is on 8th Avenue. That was the last watering
place you could water your horse if you were leaving town. It was the first
watering place if you were coming into town.
Right where that [United] Rent-All is now was a huge two-story white house.
Some colored people lived there. I think their name was Ayers.
C: Were they wealthy?
B: Yes, they were. Then the Chestnut's lived along there. Some of the Chestnut's
still live along there.
C: Do they own a funeral home?
B: Yes. Across the street from where that rent-all place is was all colored people.
They were all related. One of them was the postman. He used to carry mail for
years. I have forgotten what his name was. To my knowledge, that was the only
place that you could get in to town. You would go down to what is now Main
Street and turn south to get to town. When you got down to where the court
house was, there were stores around the square. Just before you got to the
court house where Chestnut's office supply is, there used to be a Dutton's bank.
Later on it became a dime store. Further west on the corner was an A & P
grocery [Atlantic and Pacific].
C: What time was this? Was this the 1930s?
B: Oh, I do not know. That was way before I was married, so I was still young. The
Dutton's Bank was before I was married. I remember when the dime store was
C: In what year did you get married?
B: In 1930.
C: So that would have been the 1920s, then.
B: At least.
C: So Dutton's Bank was there, and so was the A & P.
B: The A & P was on the next corner going west. There was another grocery store
right across the street in front of the A & P. That is the one my daddy used to
hang out at all the time. Then you turned and came east, and there used to be
an old shoe store--Bob's Shoe Store. It was there for years.
C: I think it just recently went out of business.
B: Yes, it did. It was run by some of his children; it was handed down to them. I
have forgotten what was on that corner from Bob's going east. If you turned and
went south down Main Street, Thomas's Hardware Store was on the right. As
the years went by, Belk-Lindsey's got in there.
C: On Main Street?
B: On Main Street; you are still on Main Street on the west side of the court house.
Right on the far corner of it on south Main Street was Matthew's Dry Goods
C: I think later there was a hotel put up there.
C: No, the Commercial Hotel was further down one block. It was in front of Blake's
Welding shop. I have forgotten now who was in that building before you get to
that hotel, but there is a barber shop there now.
C: And before that was the dry goods store?
B: The hotel was on the south corner. Back north used to be Union Street. Then
on the north corner was the dry goods store. Right across from it, southeast,
over here was Matthew's Men's Clothing Store. There was nothing in there but
C: That would be on the side of Main Street that the court house is on now.
B: It is on the same side. The court house sat in the middle, and the businesses
were sitting all around it. Where Cox Furniture is now used to be J. W.
McCollum's Drug Store. Do you know where Cox Furniture Company is?
B: That used to be McCollum's Drug Store. Just east of McCullum's was Phifer's
Bank. That is where the woman who wrote Cross Creek banked. I have been to
the bank with her many times.
C: Mrs. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings?
B: Mrs. Rawlings. When I worked in the grocery store, I used to do the banking.
We would go down there together.
C: What kind of a woman was she?
B: She was rough as a cob, I tell you. Just like when you read about her, that is just
the way she was. She was just as mannish as she could be. I have been out to
her house at Cross Creek many a time.
C: Do you know any of the people that she wrote about in her book?
B: Yes. Zelma Cason was one. She was out at our house many times. We used
to have an old family down there [on our property] that was on welfare, and she
would come out to the house to ask to us if we thought they needed welfare. My
mother said, "Yes, they needed it."
C: Mrs. Cason was a social worker?
B: Mrs. Cason was a worker that went around to see if someone needed welfare.
Mrs. Rawlings got in contact with her somehow. It is in her book.
C: Mrs. Cason is the one who sued Mrs. Rawlings.
B: She sure did.
C: Do you remember the trial? That was a big event.
B: I remember the trial. I did not go to it, because back then women did not go to
things like that. But I remember the trial. Those other people who were out
there, Barnie Bass and family (do you remember them?), were in the book. I
knew all of them.
C: They had a fish camp.
B: They still own the property out there. That is out at Cross Creek.
C: The trial, if I remember correctly, was a big to-do in Gainesville.
B: That is right. Everybody went to it that could go.
C: Do you remember if people were generally on Mrs. Rawlings's side, or were they
on Mrs. Cason's side?
B: They were on Mrs. Rawlings's side. She was just as common and coarse as she
could be, and she was well liked by everybody who knew her. I did not know
anybody that did not like her. There might have been some, but I sure did not
know any. Old lady Cason, now, she was something else. She was a case
worker, and she did welfare work. She came out, and if she had had her way,
she would not have given that family a mouthful. My mother said, "Yes, they
need it. They need anything you have got down there." We have been in the
place where they had the groceries stacked on the shelves, and they would not
give them to those people. Grits, lard, butter, cheese, and other grocery items.
C: Was this Mrs. Cason just mean to them, or was she just being hard?
B: That was just her natural way.
C: Did she work for the county or for the state?
B: She worked for the county. If you applied for welfare, she went around to see if
you needed it. She drove a big old car. Cason would go out there to Cross
Creek. Of course, she tried to get in with Mrs. Rawlings. It is all in the Cross
Creek book. It is exactly like it is in that book, too.
C: So she was telling the truth.
B: Yes, she was. I think she was telling the truth about it.
C: So at the trial, most people were on Mrs. Rawlings's side.
B: Especially all of those Basses there at the fish camp--they were all on her side.
Their heirs will tell you right now. Theresa Bass is still out there. Her husband is
dead. She may be a little younger than I am; we are about the same age.
Those Basses thought well of Mrs. Rawlings. My goodness, they would do
anything for her. Yet Mrs. Rawlings hired mostly black people. Her
housekeepers and all were black people.
C: She paid them to keep house for her?
B: Yes, she paid them to keep the house for her. I have been in her house many a
time, way back before they made it into a museum, and it was wonderful. Now I
think they charge to go in there.
C: Was it clean?
B: It was just spotless.
C: Was it a nice house by the standards of the time?
B: It was just like a barn. It was halfway dilapidated. She sat out on the front porch
to do her writing. The front room was here, and on each side of the mantel piece
she had a place where she kept her liquor hid.
C: She drank?
B: You better believe she drank.
C: Was it common for a woman to drink during that time?
B: I do not know whether it was common or not, but she did. She had it in there,
C: Did she get publicly drunk?
B: I never saw her drunk. I never heard her cussing out people like the book says
she did. I never saw her do that, but the book says she did.
C: She wrote that about herself?
C: But you never knew that she did that?
B: I never knew her to do that. She used to trade in the store where I was working.
I think city hall is on the property now. It used to be a Margaret Ann [grocery
store]. Mrs. Rawlings used to come in there to trade. If she heard that I was
going to the bank she said, "Come on. I am going, too." I would take the money
from the store to the bank to deposit. We would jabber back and forth. Many
times we walked down the street together to the bank.
C: Did she have a car?
B: She had a car, yes, but often times she would leave the car parked right there,
and we walked to put the money in the bank. I would have to bring money back
for change for the store.
C: You were telling me a little bit about the downtown, and we had gotten as far
around as to the bank. How was the rest of downtown?
B: Down where the bank was, north on the east side of the court house was the
Phifer Bank on the corner and a dime store. I do not know whether it was
Woolsworth's or McCollum's dime store--whichever store is uptown here. What
store is out there at the mall? Do you know what that one is?
B: Then Baird Hardware was on the corner.
C: Baird would have been on the corner of--I am trying to picture it in my mind.
B: University Avenue and 2nd Street.
C: So it would have been across from where the new court house is now.
B: Yes. The original court house was sitting right out there in the middle, with all
the stores around it. You came on down, and Baird Hardware was on the
corner. It was there for years; I never knew anything being there except that
hardware store. Across the street from it to the north was Vidal's Drug Store.
When we were children going to school we had to buy our own books, and that
was the only place in town that you could get those books.
C: Vidal's is where the Wilson building was.
B: No, it was across [west] from it. The clock tower is now one block south of
where it was. And right down that street were huge, big old oak trees. I
remember the men used to ride those great big old high-wheel bicycles, and they
would park them right there under the oak trees and go in there to shop at Vidal's
drug store. It was the only place you could buy books, but they got so expensive
that eventually the schools started furnishing the books for the children. Right
behind Vidal's Drug Store was Parrish's Radio Shop.
C: A radio shop? He sold radios?
B: He sold radios. That is all he did was sell radios and make repairs.
C: Would that be on Main Street now?
B: No, that is not Main Street. That is the second street over.
C: Okay. I know where you are talking about now. I am still thinking about Main
Street, and you are one block over.
B: Yes. Here is the court house right here in the middle like this. Another thing that
was east behind Blake's welding shop, was University Chevrolet.
C: Mike's Book Store is on the other corner.
B: It is on the east corner, and Blake's welding shop was on the other corner
coming west. Between Blake's welding shop and Mike's Book Store was
University Chevrolet. There is a big night club in there now.
B: No, not Lillian's. Lillian's is on the other street. The big night club is between
where Blake's welding shop was and Mike's Book Store.
C: Twelve East. Well, it is the Sovereign [restaurant] now.
B: That is it.
C: I do not recall the old name for it, but it is the Sovereign now.
B: The Chevrolet company used to be in there. That brings you back to Blake's
welding shop, the Chevrolet company, and Mike's Book Store. Now, you know
where you are? All right. Turn north.
B: The court house is to the left in the middle.
C: Right. Now go to the north up to the next corner, and there was Vidal's Drug
B: Yes. In the same block going on further up was Parrish's Radio Shop.
C: That street now is First Street. A little bit further up is a big church.
B: Yes. The old [First United] Methodist church has been there for years.
C: The Methodist church is further down, but is there an Episcopal church in there?
B: Holy Trinity Episcopal is almost west across from Parrish's Radio Shop. Coming
up north Main Street is the First Seventh-Day Advent Christian Church. When
you get up on First Street, almost to the end of it there used to be a Catholic
church and the parrish house.
C: What was the name of that Catholic church? They have torn it down.
B: St. Patrick's.
C: It was moved. That brings up something that we are going to get a little off the
subject with, but your mother was Catholic.
B: My mother was Catholic, and her mother was Catholic.
C: What about your father?
B: My father was Methodist, but he went to the Catholic church as long as I knew
him. He never would be baptized or anything, but he would go to Mass every
Sunday when we went.
C: Was it a big congregation?
B: It gradually built up. We had plenty of room, but eventually the church could not
even hold them.
C: I know from history that Catholicism generally has not been a popular religion in
the South. Do you remember whether they suffered any sort of hostility?
B: I do not think they did. If they did we did not know of it.
C: So no one ever bothered you because you were Catholic.
B: No. The priests and all were so good. The priests would come out and stay all
day long at our house. Father Nolan, who is dead now, would come and stay.
We did not have a car then, but he did. He would bring his sister and their
children out there. They loved the horses.
C: He would come and stay at the farm?
B: Yes. He loved the farm.
C: Your mother was a devout Catholic?
C: She went to Mass regularly?
B: If she did not go to Mass on Sunday, she did not go anywhere else.
C: Did they work on Sunday?
B: No, sir, they did not work on Sunday. A lot of times they did not even cook on
Sunday. They cooked the day before, but they would not cook on Sunday. They
would serve the meal and all, but they would not cook it on Sunday.
C: She raised the whole family as Catholics?
B: The whole family was raised Catholic. A lot of my brother's children were
married in the Catholic church. I was married in the Catholic church. My
husband, your granddaddy, was a Methodist. He went to that big Methodist
C: First [United] Methodist Church?
B: That is right. The man who used to be the president of the First National Bank
was Lee Graham. The house right across the street is where he lived.
C: Did you work for the Grahams?
B: Yes. I was a governess for their oldest daughter.
C: How old were you when you worked for them?
B: Oh, I must have been about sixteen or seventeen years old. I was just out of
C: What did you do?
B: All I did was tend to that child. I had my own room, my own living quarters, and
everything. When they went to the beach, I went to the beach. They went
everywhere, and everywhere that the child went, I went. The child used to sleep
in the room with me. I used to feed it, dress it, everything. The only thing that
Mrs. Graham did with that child was have it. She did not do anything else. She
was Mrs. Graham! She was from Massachusetts, and she was well liked in
Gainesville. People loved her.
C: Her being from the North did not bother them at all?
C: You said that you lived in there with her, so by that time you had moved out from
B: Well, I had left home because I was out of school. I went to get a job, and Mrs.
May Cox, who used to be May Right, was the one who got me the job. She had
a job with a Mrs. Brown doing the same thing, and she heard that Mrs. Graham
wanted a governess. I do not know how she got the job at the Brown's, but she
had the job. They furnished her a car just like me. I was furnished a car and
everything. I did not have a thing to do but help her. I had maid service, I had
my own room, and everything. I had to keep the baby's clothes. May Cox had
the same arrangement.
C: How long did you do that?
B: Oh, I do not know. I had to come home one night from the beach. I was coming
home for a visit or something, and it was in town. I knew your grandaddy's
brother well and his wife really well. I called her and asked, "I am in town, and I
do not have any way to get home. Are you going out to Mama's?" She said, "I
do not know whether we are or not." Then she said, "Wait a minute. I will see if
Luther is here." That was the one I married. She said, "Luther is here. We will
take you out there." I asked if they would go with me, because I did know who
Luther was. She said yes, they would go with me. That is how I met your
C: So that was the first time you ever met him?
C: He was from Gainesville?
B: He was born and raised in Gainesville.
C: How about his parents?
B: His parents were born in Georgia. One of them was. I do not know where the
old man was from. His mother was from Georgia.
C: His father was from Gainesville.
B: I think his father was from Gainesville. He was an engineer or something like
that. I forget.
C: Was he a machinist?
B: That is what he was--he was a machinist.
C: What was your husband Luther doing at the time?
B: He was a welder and was running Blake's welding shop.
C: He owned his own shop?
B: About that time he was buying it. Vernon Schaffer was the only employee he
had. He was the son of old man Schaffer who ran the bakery down there. He
was an old, old man. They are both dead now. They used to live right down
here. He was working for Luther, and when times got bad, Luther had to let him
go. He never hired anybody after that.
C: So he ran the shop by himself.
B: Yes. Old Vernon Schaffer came out here and started raising chickens.
C: Did he not work in that shop before he eventually bought it?
B: When he was a young boy he worked in that shop.
C: That shop is in what they now call the Tench Building.
B: Yes. There has not been a soul in there since they moved out of it.
C: I think they rented it a couple of times for just temporary periods.
B: For maybe a week or so. I see somebody has broken a window out of it.
C: He owned and operated that shop for how many years?
B: Lord have mercy. He had it for I do not know how many years before we were
married, and we were married for thirty years.
C: You were married for more than thirty years!
B: Fifty-two years. We celebrated our fiftieth anniversary, and it was another two
years before he died.
C: He died in 1982.
B: I have a picture of him when he was a little fellow working in that shop. That is
when they had to charge your batteries regularly. They put them on a line, and
you had to go there every so often to put water in them. He used to do all of
C: So not only was it a welding shop, but they also did car work.
B: They did batteries.
C: Were there many people who owned cars in the 1930s?
B: The first car I ever had was an old Model T Ford.
C: Who owned that? Was it your family?
B: Luther bought that for twenty-five dollars. It was a good car, I am telling you. He
had his car, and I had mine. It was an old Model T Ford. It did not have room
for but two passengers; there were only two seats in it. That was the first time
his mother had ever been in his shop. As soon as I got the car, I said, "That is
the first thing I am going to do. I am going to go get your mama and take her to
your shop." That is the first time she had ever been in Blake's Welding Shop.
C: He was born and raised in Gainesville, but wasn't it just a little way down Main
B: It was one street back. It is on the same street as Benmont Tench's family lives
on. Luther was born and raised in that house. It was a great big old house.
There is an old car garage there now--they tore the house down. We finally sold
the property. Do you know where Cox furniture company is down there on the
end of Main Street?
B: Come back this way on the end of that block back west and you can see the cars
all up in his yard. The old pecan tree is still there where we used to get pecans.
C: Near Depot Avenue.
B: Yes. All of that is built up since then. It was not built up like that when he was
there. I do not know who all there was. The Kennedys lived down there. I know
the Tenches did not live very far. I know the woman who used to be the post
mistress in Gainesville. I cannot think of her name right now. She used to paint
pictures. I got a picture of the American flag that she painted for me. She lived
on that same street.
C: What did she do? She was with the post office?
B: She was a bigwig in the post office for years and years. You know where the
post office was.
C: Right. That is the Hippodrome State Theater now.
B: I forgot to tell you: on the west side--the old post office sat in the middle of the
street at the south end--was the Lyric Theater. Coming on north, the fire
department used to be right next to it.
C: Right. I have seen pictures of that street with the fire engines sitting right in the
B: Further north of the fire department was Mike's Book Store.
C: Do you remember going to the Lyric Theater?
B: I have been in there many times. Once I won a prize, and do you know what it
was? It was a lady's hat. The man said, "Would you put it on?" and I said, "Yes,
I will put it on." I put it on and walked all over the stage with it.
C: Did he make you get up on the stage?
B: Yes! We used to go in the theater with the children. I sat down one time and the
seat broke off. I never will forget that. One night that brother of mine, William J.
Orton, took it on himself that he was going to go there. He got his mama's heavy
coat and put it on and went dressed as a woman.
C: Did he do that just as a joke?
B: Yes, he was always doing something like that. He was as devilish as he could
C: How many brothers and sisters did you have?
B: I had four brothers and two sisters.
C: What were their names?
B: My oldest brother is Timothy T. Orton. Then there was George, William, and
Patrick Orton. Then Elizabeth and Olive were sisters. Olive was next to me.
She is dead now.
C: So you are the oldest.
B: I am the oldest, and Olive is next to me.
C: Then Timothy.
B: Timothy is the third one. I could not tell you who is the fourth. It might be
William, because he is over sixty-something. He just had a stroke. Then there
was George; he is dead.
C: So everybody is still living except one sister and one brother.
B: That is right. George died of a heart attack, and Olive died of cancer.
C: They all lived right here on the original place, and the ones who are still living still
B: The only pieces of property sold were William's, Olive's, and George's. But they
kept their homes and a few acres.
C: Your mother sold some of the property earlier, did she not?
B: She sold a piece down here, about twenty or twenty-five acres, right there in
front of Lewis Hunt's. There was twenty acres there. Her property, at that time,
went back on the tax books, and she sold that piece of property to gain money to
buy her property back. That is how she lost that twenty-some acres.
C: So she had to sell the property?
B: She had to sell it. She sold it to pay the taxes on the rest of the property. She
had been getting money all along and giving it to her husband, and she thought
he was paying the taxes. Then she found out the property was up for sale, so
she sold that piece of property to the Schaffers. They bought it and built their
house on the south end of it. The Schaffers's son Vernon's house was just
moved out so they could build a church.
C: Was that the one that worked for your husband?
B: Vernon Schaffer? Yes, he worked for my husband. When I first knew my
husband, he was working for him. As times got hard and he was not doing
anything, my husband let him go.
C: He could not afford to keep him on.
B: He could not afford to keep him on, and Vernon went into the chicken business.
C: So your mother sold part of her property to keep the rest of it. You said that she
was giving money to your daddy?
B: Yes, she was one of these that believed that the husband got everything, like
they did back then. But all this time he was taking the money and using it for
politics. He was a big politician. She happened to find out her property was up
for sale for taxes, and right away she had to sell some property. The Schaffers
bought it. Of course, she got little to nothing for it. I do not know what it was
C: But it was enough to save the rest of the place.
B: It was twenty-some acres. It took selling twenty acres to save the rest of it. It is
on the abstract of the land I have.
C: I expect they had problems over that.
B: I know they had plenty of problems.
C: Did she have problems with him going to town and staying gone all day?
B: We would get up and be down in the field early in the morning, by the time
daylight came. We would gather cucumbers, wash them, pack them, and load
them, and that would be the last you would see him until night time.
C: How did she keep him from going to town?
B: One day she did. That day he said he was going to go to town, and she told him
he was not. I can see it now just as plain as day. She said, "I will cut every tire
you have," and she took the ax and cut his two front tires. All he said was, "Why,
C: That is all he said?
B: That is all he said! He could not believe it himself. He did not go that day
because he could not.
C: Was that a new car?
B: That was his Ford, yes. He had bought a brand new Model T Ford, the first car
they had. I am telling you, they had plenty when they inherited this property and
that property in town, but they just went through it like crazy.
C: Just poor management.
B: Poor management is all it was. They had hired hands on the place, and colored
people that lived on the property. They had houses down there where the
colored people lived. Right down there where that church is across from your
Uncle Luther's, Mama owned that property there. Where the church is, she
owned twenty-some acres.
C: That is on the north side of 39th Avenue now.
B: That is right. She owned that property next to where the school is [Odessey
Learning Center]. She owned all of that.
C: You had said earlier a little bit about times getting hard during the Depression.
Do you remember the Depression?
B: Yes. I remember when the bank up there closed and froze what little dab of
money you had in it. You could not get your money out. I am not sure whether it
was Phifer's Bank then or not, but I remember it closing and grown people
bawling because they could not get their money. Right after that, [President
Franklin D.] Roosevelt got elected. He closed all the banks until he got things
squared away, and then he opened the bank up and let people get their money.
But I have seen that place up there with people standing all out in the streets
waiting to get into the bank. They found out their money was frozen and the
bank was locked up, and there was not a soul that could get their money. My
mother and father lost some.
C: They never got that money?
B: No, they never got it. That was it; it was gone.
C: And times got hard after that.
C: You had a farm, so you could manage?
B: I remember going to school wearing my mother's dress shoes. She would go
barefoot all day long until I came back home from school. Then I had to pull her
shoes off and give them to her. I have done that many times.
C: You went all the way through school?
B: Till eleventh grade. When I went to school, the school was way over there on
the other side of town. That was the only school that was in town.
C: It is Kirby Smith now.
B: That was the only school in town.
C: Is that where you went once your father got the bus?
B: Yes. That bus went from house to house; it would not just ride down the street,
and children would meet the bus. It went from house to house and picked up
C: Did a lot of businesses in town close during the Depression?
B: I do not know about that. I guess they did. Luther Blake's business did not
C: He did not close his shop?
B: No. If you know when Roosevelt was president, that is when it was.
C: I remember the talk about Roosevelt and his programs to get the country back
on its feet.
B: That is right. He closed all the banks and got the country back on its feet again.
What money you or anybody else had was gone. That is why they say never to
put all of your money in one place. If you have money, put some of it in this
bank and some in that bank, but do not put it all in one place.
C: Did your family adopt that practice?
B: Darn right, they did.
C: Did they keep money in the bank?
B: They kept money in the bank, and they kept some at home. But they did not
trust the bank after the Depression.
C: Do you remember the beginning of the Second World War? Do you remember
C: What were you doing?
B: I was sitting on the front porch rocking, and your Uncle Timmy came by in the car
and asked if I knew Pearl Harbor had been bombed. I said no. He had a car,
and he heard it on his car radio. We did not hear it until he came by and said
they had bombed Pearl Harbor.
C: At that time this was the 1940s, so you had already had children.
B: Your mother was born in 1931. I was married in 1930, and one year later your
mother was born. A year after that Luther, Jr., was born. So by 1933 I had both
C: So you remember the war pretty well?
B: I remember the war beginning, yes. During that war we gathered up everything
that we could get with a sign of metal in it and made a complete circle around the
court house. The government got it and made ammunition out of it.
C: Everybody in the community did that?
C: Did you have any of your family serve in the war?
B: The only one that I had was my brother, William. He was on a minesweeper.
C: He was in the navy?
B: Yes, he was in the navy. He will not talk too much about it, but he was in the
navy. I do not know what year it was, but do you know that tree out there I was
telling you about getting from old lady Graves? I have got a picture of him in his
uniform, and the tree is only up to his knees. Now it is above the house.
C: He served in the navy during the war, then.
C: Do you remember when the war ended?
B: Yes. When the war ended everybody went uptown and celebrated--hollered and
hooted and carried on. I remember that much of it. I do not remember where I
was when they said the war was over, but everybody went uptown and
The first man killed was Orian Wells's son. Do you know where the grocery store
is up here and the filling station over here on the corner? It is on 16th Avenue. It
was Orian Wells and his son who were living there. He ran a nursery. That liked
to have killed the old man. He closed up his nursery. Now they have got that
Thirteenth Street Pharmacy there. That all was his property.
C: That is at the corner of N.W. 16th Avenue and 13th Street.
B: Right. That was his property. He had a beautiful yard. Some of the camellia
bushes are still there. The old magnolia tree that was in the front yard is still
there. We used to go by there after they finally cut a road through there in a
horse and buggy. I have stopped many a time to pick magnolias--when I could
C: That was a new road there?
B: That was an old dirt road.
C: But, I mean, it was not the original road to town.
B: No. The original road was way over on 6th Street.
C: So Mr. Wells closed his business when his son got killed.
B: That is right. Everybody closed their shops when they found out that he had
died. They had a big memorial service at the Baptist church uptown. I have a
picture of me and a girl who used to work with me at the store, and it is the
horriblest-looking thing you have ever seen. I had on socks. We were coming
out of the church, and somebody took the picture of us and gave it to us.
C: So the town was small enough at that time, then, that when his son died
everybody knew about it and closed their places of business.
B: Yes, they sure did. When I finished high school we were going to a school that
used to be down on University Avenue.
C: So you did not finish at Kirby Smith, then.
B: We went to this school over there.
C: That is old Buchholz High School.
B: It used to be on University Avenue. It has been torn down. Alachua General
Hospital has a parking lot there now.
C: Actually, that would be west of Main Street.
B: Vern Schaffer used to drive the bus. He was the best school bus driver they
ever had. When your mother went to school, I would not let her go. They did not
have a kindergarten. They would not put her in kindergarten on account of her
birthday. Her birthday is in November, and she had to be a certain age by
September. I put her in a private school, and that bus would come right by here
and pick her up and drop her off on the corner of the street down there, which
would be behind Vidal's Drug Store. Then she would walk down to the next
C: Even though she was in a private school, the bus would pick her up?
B: Right. You cannot get the busses to go to the corner for the school children now.
C: She went to a private school when she was in her first year. Where did she go to
school from there?
B: We enrolled her at P. K. Yonge, but she was in the third grade before she got
into P. K. Y. She first went to school over here in the regular county school. She
was in the third grade, and the teacher was so nasty when I wrote a notice that
said I was taking her out. They were still holding her back. They wanted me to
put her in the second grade, but I said I would not do it. She was in the third
grade. They finally put her in the third grade. I went up there to the school board
and talked with them, and I finally got her in. Luther, Jr., was registered, too, just
like I did her, and he got in. It cost me, I think, sixty dollars for him to go to
kindergarten. Sixty dollars back then was a heck of a lot of money.
C: That was at the private school?
B: That was at P. K. Yonge. They charged. I do not know when they quit charging
money to go to school there, but they finally quit. I heard the other day they were
fixing to close it up.
C: I have heard that, too. I think they have said that several times, but they have
not done it yet. So you tried to convince the school board to put her in the third
grade, and they would not?
B: They did not want to, but eventually they did.
C: After that, she got into P. K. Yonge.
B: She was in the third grade going to school, and school had already started. I
took her out of there and put her in P. K. Yonge.
C: You said the teacher was nasty about it?
B: The county's teacher was real nasty. She told me I would be sorry.
C: Was P. K. Yonge a good school?
B: Yes, I think it was. I did not have any trouble with P. K. Yonge.
C: Both of your children went to P. K. Yonge?
B: Both of them graduated from P. K. Yonge. I think most all of my grandchildren
also graduated from there--all but one.
C: When your son got out of school, did he join the navy?
B: Yes, he went into the navy. He joined the navy.
C: Do you know why?
B: He was called up in the draft.
C: But rather than go into the army, he went into the navy.
B: Well, he had enrolled in this naval training thing out here. As long as he was
taking that, he was all right. But after school they began calling all of them up.
C: Why was this?
B: I do not know.
C: What year was this?
B: I would have to look it up. He was going to the naval reserve right out here. He
would go out there every so often at night, and they would have their meetings.
When he went in the navy, it was as a radio operator. Instead of letting him
operate a radio, they made him do that Morse Code thing.
C: How long was he in the navy?
B: I do not remember.
C: Were you involved in some club work or something to do with the navy?
B: I was real active in the Navy Mothers and the Cosmos Club.
C: What was the Cosmos Club?
B: The Cosmos Club was a welfare club. It started one time, I think, when a
family's house burned. They lost all of their clothes and everything, and a bunch
of women got together and took all of their sewing machines and said, "Would
you like to come to my house?" I had them come to my house many times with
their machines. They would come to my house and sew and make clothes for
this family. "You bring a piece of cloth, I will bring a piece, you bring a piece,
everybody bring a piece," and they would sit down and make clothes for that
family that was burned out. From then, it was one family and then another.
Eventually, it became a club; they called it the Cosmos Club. I have forgotten
just what it means, but I am still a member of it.
C: It was a ladies club?
B: It was all ladies. I also belonged to the McCain-Miller Navy Mothers Club when it
C: McCain-Miller. Was that one of the women here in town?
B: They were the first two local navy boys who got killed.
C: Oh, I see. One's name was McCain.
B: And the other's name was Miller.
C: So they named a chapter after them.
C: What kinds of activities did that club do?
B: That was another welfare club. All of the clubs I ever belonged to were welfare.
It was just if you ever heard of a family that needed something, you went right to
them right then. You carried them clothes, food, anything. Each member would
bring something and carry it. Maybe we would have a committee to see if it was
really true what they were saying about them. People did not try to beat you out
of stuff back then.
C: Do you think that that kind of system worked better then than it does today?
B: I think it worked. Right now they do not want you to give that neighbor anything.
If that neighbor needs it, I must turn that neighbor's name in to some
organization, and they will take care of them. By that time, the guy has starved
to death. We never did do that. We had a fund in the Navy Mothers club and in
the Cosmos Club. Everyone contributed so much a month. A lot of times it was
only ten cents a month, but it kept building up and building up. We would find a
family that was destitute, and we would take that money and go buy her a supply
of groceries. I would have a dress, somebody else would have shoes, and we
would clothe the family.
C: How old were you when you first got involved in the Cosmos Club?
B: My children were little. I would take my children in a basket right up there to the
North Gainesville Hall. Our sewing machines were already up there. Do you
remember when the fruit fly was raging in Florida? We made every uniform the
Florida boys wore. They had to have a special uniform, and we made them. I
took the kids--Luther, Jr., and Irene--put them in a basket, and set them up there
in the Hall. They would lay down and sleep, and we would sew. We did that in
the North Gainesville Hall.
Somehow some of the older heads gave the Hall to the city, and the city turned
around and sold it. It is the big old yellow building on N.W. 6th Street.
C: I know where you are talking about.
B: If you notice when you get to the Hall, there is a big empty field. An old grist mill
was there. There were only two in town: Parrish's, further north, and Kendrick's
(I think his name was). Some of his family still live in the little yellow house. It
was yellow and white then, and it is still yellow and white.
C: They had a grist mill?
B: Yes. They ground meal, flour, and everything.
C: This was in the 1930s?
B: No, this was when I was a young'un, so it was long before that. We drove up
there many a time with a horse and wagon. We would take two bags of corn,
give them one, and have them grind the other bag into whatever we
wanted--meal or grits. Even if you wanted part of it grits or part of it meal, they
always took half of whatever they did.
C: What would they do? Sell it?
B: They sold it to other people who did not have any corn.
C: So they kind of made a bargain out of it.
B: Yes. And they would have eggs at the same place.
C: So you were involved in this club work, then, later on?
B: Well, that was when I was raising my children, raising your mother. I would take
them with me. Everybody did it. Other women had children, too; I was not the
only one. But we would take them up there to the North Gainesville Hall. Many
a time I would take my machine up there, and they stayed there--especially when
we were making those uniforms for the guys who were spraying those flies. We
would take our babies up there, and maybe have a wash basket or anything you
could put them in that they could stay in. Another outfit of the same organization
prepared dinner and brought it to us. We did the sewing, and they did the
cooking. They would bring us something to eat right there.
C: So other organizations worked with them?
C: No, I am talking about other members of the Cosmos Club. While we would be
sewing, maybe those two over there would go home and fix our dinner. A lot of
times they could fix it right there in the place because they could use the kitchen.
They had a stove and everything right there, and they could use it.
C: You were active in this all through that time. Did the club just slowly die out?
B: It has just recently died out. On that same street, north a little bit from the hall,
was where one of the women that was really active in that club lived, Ina Griffith.
There are apartment houses there now, the Brown Apartment Houses. She
owned that property in there. As soon as her husband died, you could go in
there and get anything you wanted in Ina's house, except the china closet, I think
it was, that she kept. Anything you wanted in that house you could go in there
and get. She took what money she got out of the property, which was very little,
and went over here to where Grove Park Church is and built herself a one-room
shack. It was not very long ago that she died--she was eighty-seven years old.
C: How old was she when her husband died?
B: Oh, she was a young women. She was about my age, I guess. I say young; I
feel like I am young. I do not remember how many children she had, but they
were all girls. When their father died, they divided up the property. The children
got most of the property, and the widow got just a part of one of the children's.
B: They sold theirs and gave every bit of the money to their mother.
C: Then she took the money and bought herself a house.
B: No, all she had to do was build a house. When she was through with her house,
it was left to the church. I saw in the paper that she died; she was in her
eighties. Ina Griffith was one of the biggest club workers we ever had. She
would not throw away anything--fat on the chickens or anything. She would take
that fat and cook it out. That is what she made her pies and cookies with.
C: She made pies out of chicken fat?
B: Pie crust.
C: She used the lard out of it?
B: Yes. She did not throw a thing away. She crocheted continuously. She would
be sitting down like you and I are talking and either be crocheting or
embroidering. She could do it and talk to you.
C: She did all of that for charity?
B: Yes, most of it. She did not give her crocheting, but she did that cooking and all
for charity. She has been out to this house many a time, and I have been to her
house many a time.
C: So later on, your son was in the navy, and you are a member of the Navy
Mothers Club and the Cosmos Club.
B: Yes, and the Thomas Center Association. It costs about twelve or fifteen dollars
a year. All I do is pay my dues; they are paid up through 1990.
Did you know that the city dump used to be up where Belk-Lindsey is? That
whole section used to be the city dump, and they cleaned it all out. They found
motorcycles--I do not know what all they found buried down in the mud and the
dirt down in there where it used to be a dump. We used to go through there in a
horse and wagon coming from church. When Mass was over we would cut right
through there. You know where Belk-Lindsey is now, on Main Street?
C: Yes, near Publix.
B: That was the city dump. Everybody in town dumped in there in a big, old, wide
place. I forgot when it was filled in, but they even found old safes--from when
somebody would rob a store. They took the whole safe, and it was in the dump.
Do you know where the vacuum cleaner place is on 6th Street, west of Koppers?
C: Yes, on N.W. 6th Street and 23rd Avenue.
B: Did you know that right in there I have seen them catch fish?
C: There was a pond there?
B: There was a pond there, and I have seen fish come out of there as big as my
hand. They filled it all in.
C: I think there is a big produce place right behind it.
B: The vacuum cleaner place is on the corner of 6th Street and 23rd Avenue, and
the next thing is Norman's [Country Market]. It all used to be a pond right in
C: That is across from where Cabot Koppers is.
C: Was Cabot a big employer in town?
B: Yes. My brother-in-law worked there for a while. Eventually he moved to west
Florida because he had a farm up there. He loves to farm, and he still farms.
But he has moved back here now, and he went to work for Sunland Training
C: What did he do for Sunland?
B: When he was drafted in the army, they taught him to weld, so he went to work at
Sunland as a welder.
C: What did they do at the retort plant?
B: That is where they treated poles with chemicals. They would put the wood in it,
and you could smell it for miles. To me, it smelled so clean.
C: What did they do at Cabot Koppers?
B: I do not know. I think they do the same as before.
C: Did Cabot buy the retort, or were they two separate businesses?
B: I do not know. I think they were two separate businesses. The other owners left.
I think they went to Massachusetts.
C: I know there is a big problem now with that land there because it is
B: Yes. They are still fighting that guy who is there. They are still arguing with
Cabot's and trying to get them out. They are trying to get rid of Norman's, too.
C: Why do you think they are doing that?
B: I do not know why they are doing it.
B: I say it is politics. Some of these bigger stores are fighting Norman's. Norman's
is a little old place. My gosh, I could put him in this house. They used to sell
everything in there, but they quit selling a lot of it now.
C: Do you remember the Cuban missile crisis? That was when Castro put the
missiles in Cuba, and then a lot of people got pretty excited about that around
B: I remember that, but not too much about it. I remember [President John F.]
Kennedy hauled some boats or something in there.
C: Do you remember anything special that happened in and around Gainesville in
that time? I was just wondering if you remembered people building fallout
B: We have a big hole in the back yard dug for a fallout shelter. There is farm
house right over there next to where you live, and they have a cellar; you can
see it down there. We had a hole; your daddy helped us dig that. That hole is
as big as this house. We keep putting trash in it to fill it up. That was going to
be a fallout shelter.
C: Why was it never completed?
B: Because the war was over. It was over, and we decided that we did not need it,
so we never finished it.
C: Do you remember if other people dug shelters?
B: Most everybody did. A lot of people did not, but a lot of people did. We were
building one big enough to hold your family and my family. It was a big place.
This house would go in it. We have been filling up that hole for years and years.
We just put trash in it and dirt, and put some more trash and more dirt.
C: How was it dug?
B: By hand.
C: With a shovel?
B: With a shovel. You could take one of these scoop things and put a tractor to it
and scoop it out and pull the dirt out of it. Everybody and his brother worked on
it. As far as I knew, we were the only ones in this vicinity who had one. But that
one over there is finished. You can go down in it. I would not want to go down in
it, but you can.
C: It is just a hole in the ground?
B: A hole, my foot! Just a hole! You go look out, and it is as big as this room right
C: What did they have in there?
B: Nothing but junk. Baskets and things, some weird-looking things. Just baskets
of things where they put trash. It has just got a thing over the hole to keep you
from falling in. You could go down inside it if you wanted to. Weeds, trees, and
everything else have grown up over it, and you could not tell it was there if you
did not see it.
C: People were scared during the missile crisis?
B: Yes, they were, but it got over with before we got our shelter built. But we sure
had the hole out there.
C: I guess the military was active during that time.
B: Yes, it sure was.
C: Do you remember anybody around here joining up with the army at that time for
any reason, or any of the family?
B: No one from this family. Lord, they wanted nothing to do with the army.
C: They did not want anything to do with it. So they did not have that same spirit
that there was back in World War II.
B: No. Those that were in the service were drafted in it. They would not go in there
willingly. Your Uncle Timmy [Timothy T. Orton] was in there; he was drafted. He
was working at a C. C. camp [Civilian Conservation Corps]. When Roosevelt
came in, he started C. C. camps for the boys. Then they drafted Timmy, but he
did not go very far. He never left the States. But to my knowledge, he was the
only one of the bunch. Now, your Uncle William [J. Orton] saw a lot of active
C: But he was also drafted.
B: No, I do not think he was. William was not drafted; he voluntarily joined. I think
his mother signed, but his father would not sign for him. The parents had to sign
C: He was not over eighteen?
B: He must not have been, because they had to sign, and I know that she signed
for him. He has been all over this world. That guy has been everywhere. He will
tell you about things when you can get him to talk; he does not talk very much
C: He was in the Second World War?
B: Yes, he was.
C: But after that nobody went willingly.
B: Nobody in our family but him ever went. I know Timmy would not go. George
could not go because he was 4F.
C: Right. He had lost a leg because of a childhood accident.
B: They called on your papa, but the war was over before he actually went on duty.
C: Your husband?
B: Yes. That was the First World War. That was when he was young. He was
seventeen, so that would have been 1918.
C: Do you remember anything else about the 1960s? Do you remember when they
had the big protest uptown and at the university during the Vietnam war?
B: I do not think so.
C: What do you remember about the University, and where the University is now. I
know in the early days the University was a pretty good distance from town.
B: It was. It was right up here to the end intersection, at 13th Street and University
Avenue. It was back in the woods there. I remember the boys walking up there
many a time down University Avenue, parading. This would be like homecoming
or something like that, and it all used to be free. That Gator Growl thing at night
and all that used to be free.
C: Did people in town participate in that?
B: Well, they did to a certain extent. They mostly left that up to the young folks. At
that time there were not as many older people at the University as there are now.
It was mostly young folks.
C: Even the faculty?
B: The faculty did not get involved in it too much.
C: Do you remember if the students came to town, say in the 1930s and 1940s,
when you were going downtown for business and things like that?
B: They were not nearly as bad then as they were a while back. They are not bad
now because they are older students now, I think, than when they first started. It
used to be all young men; there was nothing but men there. Do you remember
when that was an all-male school?
C: I remember reading about when it was all male.
B: It was an all-man school. They would parade down University Avenue, like at
homecoming. They did not seem to be too rough to my notion.
C: Did they patronize the businesses downtown?
B: They patronized businesses all around the square. That whole square was full
of businesses. That shopping center out yonder is not very old.
C: Which shopping center?
B: The one that is out where Sears-Roebuck and all the others are now [Oaks Mall].
It is not that old. Those stores used to be uptown. Sears-Roebuck used to be
uptown. Rutherford's Jewelry used to be uptown. Rutherford's Jewelry was right
across where I told you Vidal's Drug Store was. Ruddy's store used to be
C: And the students went uptown to do their trading?
B: The students went up there to do their trading. The only theater I knew of in
town then was the Lyric Theater. It was down there near the post office.
C: Did the students patronize it?
B: Dear Lord, yes. It was a small place, and it was just swamped when it was time
to go in. I used to take my children, which would be your mama and her brother.
It got so crowded that mother said, "Let me stay here and mind the children
while you all go to the show." She was not interested in the show, and we did
that a lot of times. That is when I won the hat. They asked me if I would wear it,
and I said, "Yes, I will wear it." I put it on and walked all up and down the stage
like a Jack-matiz. [laughter]
C: Did they give prizes away to promote the business?
B: That is what it was. It was probably some old hat that somebody could not sell
or something. I probably never wore it after that.
C: But the students did patronize the theater, and you remember going to the shows
and things there.
B: I sure did. I remember William going in there with our mother's coat on.
C: Were they rowdy at all?
B: I do not think they were. I do not think the students were bad.
C: Do you remember when they brought women students in?
B: Yes, I remember that, too.
C: Was that a big deal?
B: Oh, they did not do too much about that. The male students just sat back and
laughed at them. They let them come on in; it did not bother them. Now that
they have been out there they do not think anything of it.
C: Now both the women and the men go, and they have both women and men
dorms on campus and all of that. I did not know whether that was a big thing
here in the community when the women came.
B: I do not think it was. I do not remember it being so bad. A lot of people liked to
think the students were bad, but I do not really think they were that bad.
C: The town certainly has profited from their being here.
B: Oh, my. The town tried to get rid of them when they first went in there. That
University used to be at Lake City, and these forefathers--or whoever it was--told
them that if they would put the University here they would furnish them free
electric and all that mess.
C: Free water, I think.
B: Something like that. Anyway, they tried their best to get out of it, but so far the
University has held them to it, and I sure hope they keep holding them to it.
C: And the town profited from the University.
B: You let that University close up during the summer and the students go home,
and you see a lot of these places close up.
b: I remember another thing I did not tell you about, and that is the old White House
Hotel that used to be uptown. The train would come in through the center of
town and stop right there where the First National Bank is now. That used to be
a railroad depot. A little further up the road, further north, there was the White
House. It was a big boarding house, and it was white. That is where the people
who wanted to stay overnight used to go.
C: They would come in on the train and stay there?
B: They would get off the train and get over to the White House to stay.
C: Did they serve meals there, also?
C: So travelers could eat.
C: This was during the 1930s and 1940s when the train came?
B: Oh, I imagine.
C: Can you remember how the train came into town?
B: It came in from South Main Street. It came right up South Main straight through
town, and it went on north. The track is still there out where it went out of town,
but they took up the tracks that were in town.
C: How did they come down the street?
B: They came right down the street.
C: In the center of the street?
B: Yes. Many times the people would go by there to sit and watch the train go by.
It was an old smoky-stack thing, and when it started out, it just covered
everybody with smoke. It just ruined your clothes. People that lived in
Gainesville did not like it. I have been on the train many times from here to
Jacksonville when I was a child. It was called the Atlantic Coastline Railroad. If
the tracks would be wet or anything and the train would be heavy, you could hear
the train--it could not pull it. There was many a time they would have to send
back for another engine to push the train. Mostly it would be coming uphill, and
they would have to push the train uphill.
C: I remember the older people telling about putting sand on the tracks.
B: To make the train pull? They did that, too, but I am saying they had to go get
another train engine to help push the train up Main Street.
C: Where would they get the train engine?
B: Well, there was a train track down below Gainesville right down here.
C: Like a roundhouse?
B: Yes. That is what they did--they sent to get another train. What would be funny
to me was they would never have but one track coming right through town. But
they would get that other train, and it would either pull it or push it. There was
many a time I know of when they had to get the second engine come pull that
C: Did it haul freight or passengers?
B: Mostly passengers, but both. Freight trains ran at night, but there were
passenger trains on there then. I rode it two or three times from there to
Jacksonville and back.
C: Was it cheap to ride the train?
B: Oh, it was cheap. When my children were little I took them and rode on the train.
You used to pick up the train at the depot where it is now. It was not there on
Main Street, it has moved. Do you know where the old depot is, off University
Avenue on 6th Street?
B: When my children were little, we would get on that train right here. We would
ride it to Ocala, and we would get out and shop in Ocala around the station as
near as we could. Then we would wait for the next train and catch it back to
Gainesville. I just did that to let the children ride the train.
C: It ran that often?
B: It ran often enough that we could do that. I parked the car right up there at the
old train depot.
C: Trains are not popular anymore.
B: No, they are not.
C: I guess at the time there were enough trains running that they could keep the
rates cheap, and people patronized them.
B: Well, people used to ride the train. I am telling you, I have seen people lined up
waiting for the train to unload so they could get on. I have been on the train, and
it would be packed. They would not take more than they had seats for, but it
would be full. It would be going from here to Jacksonville. That is mostly what I
remember about going on it. In fact, I remember riding the train to Jacksonville.
I do not remember what I went there for, but I remember going there, and I
remember coming back. We would get out there right where the First National
Bank is now--that was the depot. That bank used to be right across the street. It
was a little old building. It was First National. That is not what they call it now.
C: No, it is something else. Somebody else has bought it out. But the train
eventually lost popularity, and people in Gainesville quit riding it. I do not even
think there is a regular freight train now.
B: I think you have to go up to Waldo.
C: That is the closest place you can catch a passenger train now, and I do not know
if it even runs on a regular schedule.
B: I think that most of what they have is when these children go off on a trip. They
take a bunch of young ones to Washington, DC. That is mostly who rides them,
C: Yes, I know there are a lot of times when school groups go.
B: Way back then there was nobody out here. The house that I am in right now
was nothing but a shell. There was not the first window in it. There were only
two doors--one in the back and one in the front. There were no partitions in it.
C: And the building was converted into a home?
B: We kept building on it and building on it. The night your mother was born, Dr. W.
C. Thomas spent the night with me. I put up a single bed right along in there,
and I sat right along here. Our bed was right here, and W. C. Thomas's was
right along there. It was all in one room--the kitchen, dining room. Everything
was in one room.
C: That was old Dr. Thomas for whom part of the hospital is named.
B: Yes, his picture is hanging in the lobby of the hospital. He came out for both of
the children, your mother and your Uncle Luther.
C: He made house calls?
B: Yes, sir, he made house calls. He came out when you got sick. At that time they
would not let you get up and put your feet on the floor for nothing until your baby
was a week old. By that time, you were so darned weak you could not stand up.
C: Now they make them get up the next day.
B: They get you up within in hour or so. But you could not get up when I had your
mother. If they had let me alone, I could have gotten up and walked out of there
as soon as one of them was born. But they would not let you put your feet on
the floor, and when they finally told me I could get up, I could not stand up. They
had made me stay in the bed so long--a solid week--when your mother was born,
and when your Uncle Luther was born, too.
C: Medicine has changed a lot.
B: Do you know they did not charge but fifty dollars to deliver your mother? About
that much with your Uncle Luther, too. They would laugh at that today. Gosh,
they would not talk to you for fifty dollars.
C: Plus they made house calls for that.
B: That is right. He would come out here and ask, "What do you have to drink?"
Do you know what he told your papa? Dr. Thomas said, "Do you think anything
of this baby I have here?" (That is your mama, now, that he is talking about.)
Luther said, "Yes, I do." He said, "Well, you put some screens on these windows
and get some windows in this place."
C: Did he do it?
B: Yes, he did. Do you know what he did? He put screens half-way; he would not
put screens all the way up. He just managed to get half a screen up on the
C: Was he tight with a dollar?
B: No, he did not have a dollar. He pretended like he did not have a dollar, anyhow.
But he counted them any way he could. He counted every dollar he had. I
never will forget when your mother was a year old on her birthday, she and I
stood at the kitchen window, like that window right there where the dining room
is. I was sitting in the chair, and I let her watch the men put the light pole up.
They told us that it would give us lights if we had as much as three lights to burn.
So I had a drop light (the old cord came down here in the front of the main part
of the house), we had one in the middle, and one in the kitchen.
C: That was all the lights you had?
B: That was all the lights we had when they put the electric in. Then Papa, your
grandfather, began to mess around and got an electric pump to pump the water,
and we dug the well out there. Now the house is over the well. Before that we
toted water all the way from the old house, which was about a block away.
C: Out of an old-style well?
B: No, with a pitcher pump. My mother did not have an old-style well on her place.
There was one on the place in front of her. But in that old field up there that your
daddy farmed, there was a well up in there, and it finally filled in. It would be no
trouble to get a well up in there today.
C: But they had a regular pipe in the ground with a pitcher pump?
C: Things have changed in the last twenty years.
B: I guess they have changed. You would not believe that they were like that. You
just would not believe it. Can you believe living in a house and not having any
water and no lights, and two cups and two pots?
C: It seems strange now because we have all the modern conveniences.
B: We have all the modern conveniences and still complain, don't we?
C: Well, that is just the nature of the beast.
B: They still complain even though they have all of those modern conveniences. I
declare, the relatives and the neighbors were so good to me. When your mother
was born, Lucretia Whitehurst, from the family that runs the road-building thing,
told my mother, "You tend to the kitchen, and do not fix Alice anything to eat. I
am feeding her from now to the time she gets up and feeds herself." The
Whitehursts lived right up here where Glen Springs Elementary is. She would
cook every day and come up here and bring me something to eat. They would
not let me up.
C: People do not do that sort of thing anymore.
B: No, they do not. They do not let you stay in the bed that long, anyway.
C: I mean just the whole idea of neighbors helping out.
B: They sure do not do it anymore. They used to do that. She would come in and
say, "Sarah, don't you dare feed her. I will bring her dinner tomorrow."
C: That was your mother she was talking to.
B: That was my mother who Lucretia was talking to. We used to walk through there
to her house. My God, we were crazy about her. She used to be Lucretia
C: And she married into the Whitehurst family.
B: Yes. Her mother and father eventually moved down here to the Schaffer place.
Do you know where the Schaffer house is down there now? Her mother and
father moved there. When she moved out here, her father was the one who got
the lights for us. He kept on until we got the lights. They came out clear to the
house down there just below him, where the school is. One of his brothers lived
there, and he got the lights to go that far. That is as far as it got. The road only
went that far for a long time. After that, you would run off into the woods, just
C: Then it was eventually paved.
B: I do not know when it was paved. I have a picture of my brother Patrick when he
was sitting on the back of a truck right out there on the highway, and it was dirt
then. Patrick is over sixty. It has not been too long paved. Mr. Whitehurst put
the road through there.
C: Did your family give them the property to put in the road?
B: We gave him the right-of-way. Everybody along here gave property.
C: Now they have to buy it.
B: Yes, I think they do.
C: I guess that is another sign of the times. Back then people were glad to get the
B: Yes, we were just begging them for a road through here. On top of that, any
fence that they moved, they did not take that old fence and put it back--they
bought you a brand new fence. The road cut the property in half. They put the
road right through here, and that put half of the property on the north side of the
road and half on the south side. That doubled our taxes right then because you
could claim Homestead exemption only on what the house was on. That really
hurt my mother in a way. After we were grown, she divided all the property
among her children.
C: What year did she die?
B: She died in January 1952 and is buried in Evergreen Cementery. She gave
property to every one of us. Her children that had children were the ones that
got the most money and the most property. That is why my brother Timothy and
I got fifty acres apiece, because we had children and the others did not.
C: She was really looking out for her grandchildren.
B: Man, if you did not have children, forget it. She did not want anything to do with
you. My brothers William and Patrick got about forty or fifty acres, I think.
C: They farmed theirs until just recently.
B: They sold it just recently.
C: Now everybody is pretty much out of the farming business.
B: Yes. About three times a week I get a letter from people wanting to buy my
property. But I do not know. It is water under the bridge, I guess.
C: Well, I guess we have about exhausted all the information.
B: I do not know whether I have told you what you want to know or not.
C: I think that we got most of the early history, and that was the main thing I was
interested in. We can get some of the younger people for a lot of the other stuff
in about twenty or thirty years.
[End of the interview]