Interviewee: Helen Graham Andersen
Interviewer: Connie Lazenby Bieber
Date: February 26, 1991
B: Good evening. This is Connie Lazenby Bieber interviewing Helen Graham
Andersen. Today is February 26, 1991, and we are at Helen's home in
Gainesville. Good evening, Helen.
A: Good evening.
B: I would like to start today by getting some biographical information from you.
First, where were you born?
A: In Gainesville, Florida.
B: What year was that?
A: [In] 1942.
B: Your parents' names?
A: Bill and Helen Graham.
B: Where were they from, Helen?
A: My father was born in Gainesville, and my mother was born in Hattiesburg,
B: How did she come to live in Gainesville?
A: Her parents moved to Gulf Hammock and then from there to Gainesville when
she was a youth.
B: Did you live in Gainesville during your growing-up years?
A: Yes. [I have lived] all of my life in Gainesville.
B: Where did you go to school?
A: I went to J. J. Finley [Elementary School] and then to the junior high school,
which was Buchholz, the old Gainesville High School [GHS]. Then I went to
Gainesville High School, which was the one that was built more recently out near
the [Gainesville] mall on [NW] 13th Street.
B: When you started school, was the first grade you went to the first grade or
B: So kindergarten was part of public school at that time?
A: Well, I went to P. K. Yonge [Lab School] first, as a matter of fact.
B: So you went to kindergarten at P. K.
A: At P. K. kindergarten, first, and second. Then I went to third grade at J. J.
B: Thinking back into your childhood, what is the very earliest thing that you can
A: My goodness. I remember living at my grandmother's house. I guess that is
probably [my earliest memory]. I guess I was about three or four then.
B: Where did your grandmother live?
A: As a matter of fact, I even remember something before that. I remember living in
Bangor, Maine, during the war. My father was stationed there. I remember
having a snowsuit and being out in the snow and playing with the dog. I would
not leave its food alone, and I think I got nipped [laughter].
B: I wonder where he found a spot to bite you if you were wearing a snowsuit.
A: Right on the cheek, I think [laughter].
B: So what was your dad doing in the war?
A: He was in the air force. He was part of training troops.
B: This is the Second World War?
B: OK. Tell me a little bit about the memory that you were talking about earlier
when you referred to living at your grandmother's.
A: After the war we came back to Gainesville and lived with my grandmother while
my father went to law school, so we lived in her house for a couple of years. I
have a lot of fond memories of living there.
B: I am sure you do. Where was the house located?
A: Well, then it was called Palmetto Street. It is the same street that Mark Barrow
has his office on now. I do not know what the number would be.
B: Is that East University?
A: It is off of East University, about one block over from Kirby-Smith. [Dr. Barrow's
office is at 810 E. University Avenue.]
B: One block east?
A: Yes, one block east of Kirby-Smith.
B: On the north side of University.
B: So your dad was in law school.
B: Well, tell me a little bit about what Gainesville was like when you were growing
A: Well, it was quite small. The University pretty much was the center of it. The
boundaries when I was in high school was pretty much Gainesville High School
down on 13th Street, the University Inn going south, east would probably be
downtown Gainesville--the courthouse and the northeast section of town--and I
guess going west would be the old Gainesville Golf and Country Club, which is
now the University golf course [on SW 2nd Avenue]. That sort of were the
B: Are you saying that is as far out as buildings were developed?
A: Pretty much so, yes.
B: Were the roads paved to those places?
A: Yes, and they were paved farther out. But there were not the subdivisions or the
businesses. It was pretty much out in the woods, just a scattering of houses.
B: Gainesville has spread a lot since then, has it not. So you finished school at
GHS. What did you do after high school.
A: I went to the University of Florida here in Gainesville.
B: And you studied?
A: I studied English, journalism, [and] speech. It was a liberal arts education.
B: Did you finish here in Gainesville?
A: I graduated in 1964. Then I taught at Gainesville High School, my alma mater,
for about three years.
B: What did you teach?
A: I taught English and speech. Then I went back to school and got a master's
degree in speech pathology.
B: OK. And that was also here at the University of Florida?
B: You have a family. Can you tell me a little bit about them?
A: I have two daughters. Currently one is at Clemson [University] in [Clemson,]
South Carolina. She is nineteen. Her name is Karen. Kathleen is fourteen and
goes to Oak Hall [School in Gainesville]. She is in the eighth grade.
B: OK. And you are married to?
A: I am married to Torsten Andersen, and he is a pediatrician in private practice in
B: Is he a Gainesville native also?
A: No. He really is a native of Denmark. At age ten he emigrated with his parents
to the Boston area where his father was an anesthesiologist at Massachusetts
General Hospital. Then in 1959 when the University of Florida opened its
medical center, his father came down and was on the original staff of the medical
center here. Then he followed them after his senior year in high school and then
went to the University of Florida.
B: So you met in college?
A: We met in college. Right.
B: As you know, what I am really trying to learn about in interviewing you tonight is
something about the Junior Welfare League, which started in Gainesville in the
1930s and has since that time become that time become a part of the
association of Junior Leagues. When were you invited to join the Junior
A: It was about 1965.
B: At that time it was still the Junior Welfare League, correct?
B: How were you invited to join? Can you tell me a little about that process?
A: It was very mysterious. You attended a social function I believe it was a
luncheon with some people you knew and a lot of people you did not know. It
was just sort of a social engagement. Then you just received an invitation in the
mail. So you did not know you were being sponsored, and you really were not
aware of [what was happening]. You were just invited, and you either accepted
or rejected it.
B: So you did not know you were going to be put up for membership?
A: No. At that point I guess you could say it was a secret admission system.
B: Is it still handled that way today?
A: No. There has been a tremendous change over the last twenty-odd years. It is
an open system at this point. The members know that they are being
sponsored. In fact, they are even asked if this is something they would be
interested in doing. Are they really interested in volunteerism and spending their
discretionary time in this manner? They are told very precisely what the
responsibilities and the objectives [of the Junior League are]. So they go into it
with clear knowledge of the organization they are joining and what demands will
be made on them and what they will get from it, too. So I think it is more of a
partnership now in joining than it was earlier.
B: How do you feel about the change in the way they do this?
A: I think it is much better. We have changed so much, just the woman's role and
what they do with their discretionary time. In fact, there is not much of that
discretionary time anymore. In the early years, in the late 1960s, there were
maybe a handful of us, ten or twelve who worked. The rest were non-working
members. Consequently the meetings were held in the daytime. They had what
they called the professional group, and the ten or so of us that were working met
at night. So we had two separate groups. Eventually more and more people
were working, and then I think they tried to combine. They had a few at night.
Finally it evolved where all the meetings were held at night because so many of
the members were working.
B: It sounds like you are saying that you have seen quite a change, not only in the
admission system, but in the membership as a whole since you joined in the
A: Yes. Well, there are just many more professional women working. [New
members are] choosing it not necessarily because they have to do it. [They are]
choosing it as a way that they want to spend their time. So to sandwich
volunteerism in a working schedule, they have had to be a great deal more
selective in how they do it. It has to be meaningful. I always enjoyed
membership, even though I was working from the very beginning and have most
of the time, because if you are very busy quite often you do not have the
opportunity set up. It gives you the opportunity to do something worthwhile and
socialize at the same time on a schedule that you do not have to set up. It sort
of maximizes your time. So it was always very appealing to me from that
B: How would you evaluate the way this organization has addressed the changing
needs of women that you are alluding to during this period of time?
A: I think this is when we joined the national association and became a Junior
League rather than a Junior Welfare League. I think joining the national
association was very helpful because the opportunities [to attend] conferences
and just the networking with other areas just made the transition, I think, easier.
I think the options were clear. I am not sure I am just guessing but I think the
southern leagues tend to have maybe not as high of a proportion of women
working as maybe some of the Northeast leagues and some of the other areas
that were much more career oriented earlier than our area. So I think they kind
of showed the way in a number of instances.
B: Would you say that one of the purposes of this organization was a women's
A: I think so. I do not think that was a specifically stated intent. I do not believe that
was in the organization's statement of purpose. It was more to develop
volunteerism and to develop the individual's skills.
B: But it sounds like that is what you are saying.
A: Well, anytime we had a questionnaire that was trying to tap "What is it that you
like about the Junior League? Why are you doing this? What is your motivation
for becoming a member?" generally number one on the list was they really
enjoyed the contacts they made with other women. They enjoyed the kinds of
women they met, and they enjoyed just getting to know people. So social
interaction was always very high on the motivation list. At the same time, they
enjoyed developing their potential and also serving their community. But
definitely socialization was a high motivation.
B: Moving back to when you received your invitation to join the Junior League, the
Junior Welfare League at that time, I am assuming that you knew something of
the organization. I understand your mother is a past president of this group,
also, so you must have grown up in a "league" home.
A: Well, I do not think I was really that aware. I just vaguely remember playing
around in what I later came to understand was the Thrift Shop in those days. I
remember a tin garage in back of Louise McMullen's house, and I remember just
kind of playing around in the dirt while they were selling all these clothes in this
enclosed tin shed. So that was probably about the only memory I have
specifically of it.
B: But as a growing-up young woman and young adult, you did know the existence
of the organization in town already. Is that true?
A: I guess I probably did, but I was not [really aware of the league's activities]. In
those days I do not know when it changed; I guess it changed when we
became a member of the national association you remained a member until
age forty. Prior to that your stint of service was seven years. So if you joined at
a relatively young age, like twenty-five, you were out by thirty-two, which is quite
a bit different. We tend to have a much older membership. Quite often you are
not coming in until about thirty-two and [are] staying until forty or forty-two. Some
even choose to stay till forty-five. So I think when my mother was involved in it I
was very young, and she was young, so by the time she had put in her seven
years, there was not really that much involvement that I recall after that. It was
not spread over a long period of time like it is now.
B: How was this group perceived in the community at that time? What sort of
reputation did it have? How did the community view it?
A: It had a wonderful reputation. I think they felt that if the Junior League was going
to take it on that it was something that was well thought out and needed and the
job would be done well. Probably all you had to say was, "This is something the
Junior Welfare [League] wanted to do," and it just opened doors, more or less.
B: How do you think it was perceived by the community in terms of its being a social
B: I think it probably did have more of the "white gloves" perception. I do not think
that is an accurate perception, because I think especially in those early projects,
the volunteers really enjoyed hands-on kinds of opportunities.
B: Now, what years are you talking about now?
A: I think of the very early years, of which I was not a member then, [in which the
league worked on projects like] the pediatric clinic [at Alachua General Hospital]
and some of those early projects that were very much hands-on kinds of
[activities. I think there was even a school lunch program at one time. I think
that was one of the earliest projects.
B: The pediatric clinic project probably continued into the 1950s.
A: Right, and those were very hands-on kinds of things, hardly white glove. I would
have to say now we have become more cerebral [laughter]. In fact, there was a
period of time that we were developing so much of our ability to plan and to
organize and to implement that we became very cerebral in our approach to
projects. There was one point, I remember, there was a loud cry to get back to
the hands-on, person-to-person contact, rather than the big project planning that
B: Can you tell me what period of time you are talking about when you refer to this
time when we were not doing direct projects, direct volunteerism on a one-to-one
A: Let's see. Gosh. I am trying to think. [It was] during the period of time [when we
worked] with the Santa Fe Community Art Gallery. What year would that have
B: The docent program was established in 1979 for the Santa Fe Community Art
A: OK. Then [came] the Morningside park and later the Cracker Farm that is what
I am thinking of. That came after Morningside Nature Center, when they were
trying to create a cracker farm.
B: Would you say this coincided with the period of time when the group was really
behind the idea of advocacy and making changes in the system as opposed to
direct one-on-one [contact]? Would you address that a little bit?
A: Right. That was probably more mid 1970s to late 1970s. I think, again, that was
very much an influence of the national organization and the training, because
they were very much into systems change. Most of the conferences were
[focused on that type of activity, and our local chapter was] very much into
developing the community research aspect.
Also, education [was very important to us]. I would have to go back and look
because dates are not coming to mind, but along about 1975, I guess, when we
joined [the national organization] and the late 1970s [we turned more to
education and training our members]. Part of the training when we joined the
national association was the Association Management Process, which was a
process by which the organization established its goals, objectives, and
strategies. It was a planning process. That was first introduced to our league
[when we joined the national organization]. So between 1975 could that be
right? Did we join in 1975?
B: Nineteen seventy-five is when we joined.
A: Because that year is when Betty Alsobrook was president. That would only have
been six years, from 1975 to 1981. I was trying to think. I had never really
thought what a brief period of time [that was that since we joined the national
group], because it seemed, when I was president in 1981, that we had been a
member of the association forever. [laughter] When I think back on it and
subtract, that is only six years. In a brief period of six years, we went from pretty
much [a group where] somebody would see a need or an idea would arrive, and
we would sort of implement a project and they were good, well thought-out,
and planned projects, but more on the local level [to a group with a much wider
When we joined the [national] association, they really brought in heavy training
over the next six years. As you say, in terms of management management by
objectives, advocacy techniques, writing position statements and taking
positions, heavy into community research and how to do a needs assessment in
the community. We Carolyn Mahan and JoElla Harris did a huge children's
needs assessment during that period of time. That was part of the national
organization. So it was a great time for developing skills. I would say our league
members developed skills on a volunteer basis or in their volunteer career that
were equal to any that you would get specifically studying management in a
Not only did we have the opportunity to think through the process, [but] then we
had the opportunity to go the next step and implement it all and then to evaluate
the process afterwards and establish the new goals. I think so often when you
study from an educational perspective how to create a project, how to do your
research and then establish needs from the research, etcetera with a project it
all is theoretical. I think the one great thing about the league was a real
advantage to those of us learning it [was] not only did we theoretically go through
it, but then we got to apply it and really implement and then evaluate. So that, in
terms of project development, from my perspective, was just an incredible
experience. Most people college-trained business people have really not
had in-depth experience with project development.
B: What size was the Junior Welfare League when you joined? About what size a
group was it?
A: I do not really remember. I am just kind of visualize the meeting room. [There
may have been] maybe fifty or sixty.
B: How large was the class when you were invited to join, the [provisional class]?
A: There were about twenty-five of us.
B: That many. Now, there were the people that had received an invitation to join,
and then their next step was -
A: There was a provisional course. Then, too, there was a provisional ball, and that
was a very formal affair.
B: A ball?
A: A ball. I think that one other big change I have seen over the years of bringing
the provisional members into formal membership [in the] social occasion. It has
not been as formal as it was back in the early 1960s. There were always a lot of
sustainers attending the function. I do not if that is probably as true today.
B: Can you describe it for me a little bit more?
A: Well, I remember it was at the Gainesville Gold and Country Club, and it was
long dresses and tuxes and white leather gloves up to the elbow. [laughter]
B: It sounds kind of like a cotillion.
A: A cotillion it was, yes.
B: Or a debutante ball.
A: It was very much. I guess it was Gainesville's closest thing to a debutante
presentation, and you were presented. Halfway through the evening everybody
would line up with their escorts and they would call your name out and you would
parade across the ballroom. I believe we had the first dance, too [laughter].
B: Well, tell me a little bit about this group of women at this time, in the 1960s.
Were they a very homogeneous group? What were they like?
A: Yes, they were very homogeneous, I think. It was definitely all white, educated
(pretty much) women.
B: Was it mostly people who had grown up in Gainesville?
A: There were [those who] either grew up in Gainesville themselves or they married
someone whose family lived here, so they were the wife of someone who grew
up in Gainesville. [It was] probably 50 percent. I am just guessing. If I saw the
list I could check them off and let you know. But I do get that feeling.
B: Gainesville was a very different then.
A: Oh, it was very small then.
B: In the 1960s. How would you say it had changed by the 1960s from the time you
were describing earlier, when you were growing up, about what Gainesville was
A: There really was not a huge change. That would have been right after I
graduated from college, and I just do not remember the community's growing.
Oh, it did a little bit, but it pretty much was very similar.
B: Would you say the University was still in the same position, vis-a-vis the
community, as you described earlier?
A: Yes. I do not remember exactly when it happened, but I do remember that there
was tremendous segregation between the community and the University. I do
not remember exactly when University personnel were allowed to run for public
office, like the city commission and county commission, but I do remember that's
being quite a controversial issue, and for those natives who had lived in
Gainesville a long time the old "town and gown" was very evident. I just do not
remember exactly when that changed, but I do remember its being quite an
B: Now, you said you became a member in 1965, I think.
B: In the late 1960s there was a good bit of student unrest throughout the country.
Did this occur in Gainesville in conjunction with student protests in general and in
conjunction with the Vietnamese War?
A: Yes, I think the University of Florida campus was very much following the trend
of the nation. I also remember the attitude, because I was involved with one of
the sororities on the UF campus in the late 1960s. I had gotten involved again
ten or twelve years later, and there was a real difference in the attitude of the
students. During the late 1960s if you were perceived at all as any sense of
authority figure they really resented your trying to tell them what to do or to be
directive at all. It was sort of "this is my life and my group." They were not very
amenable to suggestions. It was a very difficult time for people who had any
responsibility at all in terms of advising or trying to guide that young generation at
that time. I will not say everyone, but you really did not look forward a lot of
times to going over there if you had to be directive.
B: What group were you affiliated with on the campus?
A: Chi Omega sorority. But that was not just typical of them. I think it was just
typical in general of the real strive for independence and that "I am the boss"
kind of attitude. Now I an involved again going over, and it is just such a striking
difference. They are anxious for you to come over; in fact, they ask you to, and
when you do they are extremely polite. They thank you. They even ask your
opinion and in fact seem to be interested in what you have to say [laughter]. I do
not think it totally out of obligation. I think they genuinely do try to absorb
opinions and information. So it is just a wonderful time to be interacting with
what I call young people in their late teens and early twenties. [It is] very much
B: I see what you are saying. I can see that you have had some very up-close
experience because of your experiences as an advisor on the campus. Did you
find that the student unrest or the student positions intrude into the community,
or were they limited to the campus? Did they affect people out in the
A: Probably. I cannot really remember specifically, but I would say probably so,
because when you have such a large student population you can hardly go
anywhere in Gainesville that you are not interacting with students, whether in a
store or their positions as waitresses or waiters or sales personnel. I would say
the attitude was felt, probably, by the community.
B: That was a time of unrest for a lot of people for a lot of reasons. Getting back
more specifically of the organization of the league now, what projects was the
league involved in when you began as a member in the 1960s? What sorts of
things were they doing in the community?
A: This is where my memory gets a little fuzzy. I would have to refer back to the
history where they list the projects, because, as I said, I was a professional, and
unfortunately not only did the membership meet during the day, but all their
projects were projects that were manned during the day. So if you worked, you
really did not have the opportunity on any of those projects. The only thing that
we were able to participate in because of our working schedule was Saturday
Thrift Shop. So I would have to say for the first five years of my life in the league
I worked at the Thrift Shop on Saturdays, so I had very limited experience with
B: Well, tell me a little about the Thrift Shop. You mentioned earlier when you were
a child that the Thrift Shop was in somebody's garage. Was it still there when
you became a member?
A: No. By the time that I was an active member it had moved to behind J. C.
Penney's and across from Rex's Bakery. I cannot remember the street number
there, but it was right off of Main Street.
B: Just south of West University, almost one block south of Lewis watch company
A: Right, directly behind J. C. Penney's.
B: And I think I noticed just this year that that building has sold.
A: Oh, did it?
B: Yes. The league no longer owns it. But that was where the Thrift Shop was
located when you worked there?
A: Right. In those days we did all of the work. We marked the salvage, we sold the
B: Would you define "salvage" for me?
A: OK. Salvage would be donated goods: clothing, small household articles (not
furniture or large appliances), maybe small appliances, books. But mainly
clothes. People in the community would donate salvage, and each member had
a quota that they had to meet. I do not recall exactly what it was; it was probably
$100 of salvage that you had to bring in during the year. Then, of course, the
sustaining membership, those who were no longer actives but were sustaining
members, contributed a great deal to the salvage. So when the salvage would
come in we would mark it and put it out on the shelves and the racks and were
responsible for selling it. Then at the end of the day we would count up the
money and deposit it in the bank. I do not remember exactly when we started
paying workers to do all that, but at that time we did all of it. There was no such
thing as a paid worker.
B: So the Thrift Shop was in the business of selling second-hand items to people in
the community who frequented the Thrift Shop.
B: Was it a fund raiser for the league?
A: Yes. In fact, the majority of the money that they turned back into the community
in the form of projects was made in the Thrift Shop. It was really their way to
generate their funds for project development. It is kind of an interesting thing,
because when I think back on the clientele, they were relatively indigent people,
and just the other day I was saying something about taking some salvage to the
Thrift Shop, and my housekeeper said, "I went in the other day, and I cannot
afford that anymore. They have really upgraded right out of my price range."
B: Where are they located now?
A: They are now located on Main Street. You are better at the directions than I am.
It is on North Main Street about three or four blocks [from University Avenue].
B: It is right across from the Sun Bank building, is it not?
A: Right. That seems like the right block.
B: So they are selling a better grade of [clothing]?
A: It seems to me. I have not been in that much since they moved to their new
location, and I have noticed in the newsletter they are really striving to upgrade
their merchandise. But it seems from what this individual is reporting, not only
have they upgraded their merchandise but also their prices. So perhaps they are
attracting a more affluent clientele than we were serving back in the early 1960s.
B: That is interesting. So the first five years or so that you were a member of the
league your project duties were always the same, being the Thrift Shop.
B: At what time during this period did you go back to school?
A: Probably the last two years.
B: And then when you finished school were you still limited to the Thrift Shop, or
were your opportunities wider?
A: I moved away from Gainesville for about two years. Then when I came back I
was in graduate school. Again, my time was more flexible, so I was able to
participate in more of the projects. But somehow I really have been more
involved in the administration of the league than I really have in the projects,
because I remember going from there to chairing the admissions committee and
then secretary. So it has been more of the internal operations of the league that
I specifically been involved in than the projects.
B: And then, of course, you went on to sit on the executive committee and then
A: Then I became president. It really was not until after I was president and
[became a sustainer] that [I got involved in] probably one of my most involved
community projects, the Family Resource Center. That was the most demanding
project I have worked on.
B: I am really interested in learning about the Family Resource Center from the idea
and the inception on. What can you tell me about it? How did it come about?
A: Well, I think it was probably one of the finest jobs the league did in following the
[Association Management] Process. It took about three to four years.
B: What do you mean, "follow the process"?
A: Well, the first step of the process was to assess the community needs. Ann
Rials was just a very able community research chairman; [she] brought a great
deal of talent and skill to that job. They had a series I think there were three -
of round-table discussions, inviting professionals and a broad range of people.
First of all we did an internal assessment of the league, asking them what areas
they would be interested in working in. There was a long list to choose from, and
always there was the "other" category that people could insert their specific
interest area if it had not been listed. From the internal appraisal, basically what
the membership wanted was to work with families with children. The other thing
they wanted was a project that would have a high impact on the community. So
those were the two basic directives or guidelines from the membership.
Then Community Research Committee brought together three separate
community round tables. I guess there were maybe ten to twelve people at each
one, so after it was all said and done there were probably thirty to thirty-six
individuals in the community from all sectors that had any information or had any
connection to children and families. We asked them, "What are the needs in this
community that relate to children and families?"
From that there was a real concern that the family unit itself was in jeopardy of
surviving and how the family does, in fact, meet the needs of children. [In many
cases] they were not being met because the family was under a great deal of
stress. Basically, the outgrowth was that you could not meet the needs of
children without meeting the needs of the family. That is why it grew from, "What
is a project that we can do that will address children?" to the more global issue,
where we really needed to address the whole concept of the family.
Then in the process of the networking and the round table [discussions], what
they were realizing was there was a tremendous amount of resource out there,
but there was not a great deal of integration and interfacing. So the other thing
[we decided was] we do not need to reinvent the wheel. We do not need to
invent another project. What we need to do is to get all of these agencies and
groups and private organizations that are already addressing some facet of the
needs of the family to work together and to network and to integrate and to more
effectively deliver their services. So that is why they decided to make it more a
family resource center and not a specific project. I was more of an idea than it
was a specific thing you were going to do to a specific group.
So when we decided how we were going to implement it, a lot of ideas arose. I
think a number of attempts had been made in the community to get sort of an
umbrella groups getting all of these various factions of the community working
together and coordinating better. The decision was that if we did it ourselves by
ourselves that it would not be effective.
About this time information was being distributed by national about how to
develop a collaboration with the community. It was a very involved process, and
it would take a long time to explain it to you, but we decided to use a
collaborative process, inviting the community to be partners with us in developing
this, because a lot of it was ideas. We were trying to establish a mechanism that
could be viable, that could change with the needs, but had an ongoing way of
establishing what the needs were, of assessing the needs, keeping the pulse on
the community of what were the needs of family and children, and then trying to
pull together the resources there and saying: "This is a real need. What are you
doing?" If any need was not being met, then not necessarily the Family
Resource Center [would] develop the service but [would] say, "Would any of you
like to [handle this]? Can you expand in any way?" So it was really more of a
B: Would you say it was like a clearinghouse?
A: To some extent, but it was not just an in-and-out clearinghouse. It was really to
generate ideas. The first thing that the Family Resource Center did and it was
really a monumental task [was a telephone survey] in cooperation with the
College of Nursing. I think I added up the figures at one point, and I think we
got, in terms of research and donation of time by some members of HRS and the
College of Nursing, about $30,000 worth of services to do a really massive -
B: In kind.
A: In kind telephone survey of the community, asking them specifically what they
saw the needs were. The process was (1) we asked the membership what are
they wanted to work in, then (2) we asked professionals in the area that the
league wanted to work in what they saw the needs were, and after that we went
to the community and asked them what they saw their needs were. So it really
was quite a massive endeavor to pull together the information to find out what
was needed and how we could develop a viable organization that could continue
to assess and bring together people in a cooperative effort to meet those needs.
It was never designed to specifically pick out a need and meet it. And if no one
else wanted to do it and it was something that fell within the possibility of the
Family Resource Center, then they would create a particular resource.
B: OK. So what happened next?
A: Well, it was a great idea, and I think probably one of the real difficulties the
league and this whole I need to back up a minute. When the league did their
internal evaluation or assessment of the area they wanted to work in, they had
also decided they wanted to have a significant impact on the community. In
order to do that, a Follies was coming up in a couple, or maybe it was the next
year, and they decided they were going to earmark all proceeds from that Follies
to this project.
B: Can you stop just a minute and tell me what a Follies is and how that fits into the
scheme of money-making projects?
A: OK. Every four years the Junior League sponsored an evening of entertainment.
They usually contracted with Cargill, which was an entertainment-production
company, and they would come in and bring in all the costumes, all the acts, all
the songs, all the dances. What we had to do was just have people to fit into the
various slots. So it was an evening of entertainment with not just league
members, but community members who were invited to participate.
B: By invitation, you mean?
A: Well, no. In fact, I do not know if it was ever specifically advertised in the
papers, saying, "Anyone who wants to come, come," but I think people just listed
anyone they thought might be interested. It was just whomever you could
possibly think of that might be interested in doing it, so a lot of good friends were
made. In fact, a lot of the league members are community people who were
interested in participating in the Follies and got to know league members, and
pretty soon they were involved as league members themselves, were invited to
membership. But every four years the league would put this on and generate a
rather significant amount of money. So the Follies and the Thrift Shop were the
primary money-raising [activities].
B: So that is how they funded the different projects.
A: Then at one point they had a cookbook that generated some money.
B: What was the name of that?
A: Gator Country Cooks. I am not sure what year that was.
B: I am sorry to have interrupted your train of thought. You were talking about after
we got the conception of the idea for the Family Resource Center, then you were
going to explain that we were earmarking funds.
A: Right. One of the things they really wanted was a significant impact on the
community, and they said they felt by earmarking all of the funds from the Follies
that would also make it easier to go out [and sell advertising]. One of the ways
that the money raised from Follies was not just selling tickets to the performance
but from selling advertising to individuals in the community [for the program].
They felt it would also be easier when they made their contacts for selling space
in the Follies program to tell them, "This is specifically what we are going to do
with the money," instead of "We do great things. Won't you contribute?"
B: Did you feel that you had a better response in terms of the amount of advertising
spent and donated dollars when you did that?
A: We made more that year. I do not know if it was totally related to the fact that
they earmarked it, but one might think it could have been.
So the funding for the Family Resource Center was pretty close to $50,000,
which the profits [covered], and in-kind services from like Alachua General
Hospital and Santa Fe Healthcare System. They [Alachua General] donated the
office space and renovated it for us.
B: Now, where was that located?
A: That was located near the hospital, about one block from Alachua General
Hospital. [It was] one of the buildings they owned. I believe we stayed there two
to three years rent free.
So we tried to develop a grassroots membership, and they wrote some grants. I
guess the real difficult problem was establishing a good, permanent, acceptable
funding base. I guess it was about four years later, we do not like to say we
terminated the project. It just went through a metamorphosis. As a matter of
fact, it is interesting, because they keep talking [about it]. Somebody recently
said, "The idea has been resurrected. What we still need is -" I guess funding
might have been easier to generate on a more permanent basis if you were
doing something to someone or to a group. It was very difficult to get people to
fund an idea. It really was not an idea, but a networking, coordinating, [and]
collaborating process. That they never really could understand. In fact, I
remember when I was addressing Altrusa their organization asked me to come
and talk to them about the Family Resource Center I took great pains to
explain very clearly what the Family Resource Center was and this networking,
collaborating, coordinating role of the center. I thought I had done a relatively
coherent job, and at the end a good friend of mine and said: "Oh, that was a
wonderful talk. Tell me, now, exactly what are they going to do?" [laughter] So I
realized that as hard as I tried, it was just something that was very difficult [to
comprehend]. Anyone who worked in the area of human services for families
knew exactly what was needed, but it was a concept that was very complicated
to convey to the general public. They understood if you had a parenting class or
they understood if you had a workshop on this or if you did counseling. Direct
service they understood. They just never quite understood [the Family Resource
B: So this was an attempt to collaborate with government agencies and private
organizations that were working of families and their needs.
B: Well, I certainly hope that it will get resurrected again.
A: Oh, people are talking about the same thing that is needed, how it will evolve a
second time around.
B: When I am doing research in what is happening in this organization during this
period of time, particularly the early 1980s, I keep running into things that the
league seems to be doing that they had not been doing before, like contributing
mini-grants to community groups and funding positions or paying for services
that are provided by some other group. Could you address that and tell me if
that is a change from the way it was done before, and, if so, give me a little of
A: It very much is a change. I remember specifically and this again would have
been mid to late 1970s that when we raised funds we did have requests from
various organizations for $500 here or $100 there, and occasionally, if it was
really seed money, sometimes we would consider it. But the real thrust was that
when we generated this money it was up to the league to then develop projects
that we did not fund-raise for other organizations to fund them. When we would
fund-raise it would be for our organization for development of the projects that
we thought were important.
It really is interesting. I guess I was so ingrained with that that I have a real
difficult time every time I see that we are [awarding] these mini-grants, and there
are more and more of them and the sums are getting larger and larger. I keep
wondering why there was such a change. I guess perhaps that it is because so
many of the members worked that there just really is not the time [to maintain a
project of any substance on our own]. It takes an inordinate amount of time to
take a project from its original thought to its implementation, and that kind of time
is just not available, perhaps, in the membership, now that so many of them are
working. Although they have money for projects, they just do not have the time
to expend developing the projects themselves for which they would use their
money for funding. So it is easier to give it away than it is to [use it for our own
projects. We just do not have time to keep them going.]
B: I see.
A: I do not know that that is what it is, but it is just I wonder why that change has
taken place, because it certainly is 180 degrees from what it was.
B: In other words, are you saying that there used to be a policy that you did not put
your money where you did not also place your members?
B: But that seems to be changing now.
B: You mentioned one program just briefly a little while ago when we were talking
about something else, and I would like to go back and ask you a little bit about it
now. That is the parenting project, or the Parent Education project. That is
something that this group was involved in or started?
A: Well, it was not a part of the Family [Resource Center]. There was a parenting
project in the Family Resource Center, but that had been established quite a few
years before that in conjunction with Santa Fe Community College. Bebe
Fernside was very instrumental in getting that project off the ground.
B: Can you tell me a little bit about what was involved?
A: I cannot remember exactly the detail of the funding. I know it came through
Santa Fe Community College, some of the funding units there, to pay for the
parenting instructors. I think the league provided volunteers to help also some
money to establish a toy-lending library and other aspects of the project. So we
did not fully fund the project, but we were in coordination with Santa Fe.
B: I read at one point in some newspaper articles where the league picked up the
salary for one of the teachers in the middle of the year, but I have the impression
that that was because the school board was unable to follow through with a
A: That might have been.
B: I was just wondered if that was the same project. It was in the late 1970s.
A: Well, this went on for five or six years. In fact, it expanded. I know Bebe was
particularly interested in getting parenting classes going over in the Palmer King-
Woodland Park area.
B: I do not know where that is.
A: That is right off Waldo Road near the Evergreen Cemetery. Really, [her main
interest was in] getting parenting courses into the low-income areas.
B: Was that successful?
A: No. I think we were a great deal more successful providing classes for the upper
middle class or middle class [laughter]. They just were more into doing
everything they could to make sure they got their babies off to a great start.
B: So you offered it to the community as a whole, but you are saying those are the
people who responded.
A: Yes. I think Bebe really was hoping to get more of the lower [income population],
the people who really needed the parenting skills. Although if anyone comes,
whoever comes it certainly is worthwhile. If they see the need, then certainly it is
worthwhile for them to come and you feel like you have provided a service. But I
do not think it touched the population that needed it most as significantly as they
had hoped it would in the beginning. But you cannot necessarily make people
come. It just was not something they were particularly attracted to.
B: I see. Tell me, did you know Mrs. [Carolyn Julia La Fontissee McCollum]
Palmer, who is affectionately known as Aunt Carrie in this group?
A: Right. No, only by reputation.
B: We have jumped around a lot tonight. We have talked about a lot of different
things that have happened in the Junior Welfare and the league after it became
a part of the Association of Junior Leagues, the Junior League of Gainesville. Is
there something that you would like to point out that we have not talked about
tonight in terms of how the organization has changed or its purpose or its
projects or its people have changed or anything else you would like to add?
A: I think we [have covered most of it]. I have not been that involved with the
organization over the last eight years, so I do not have a real feel for it, not as
closely as I did up until about 1981. I think one thing we were really concerned
about from an administrative perspective was that being president of the league
probably was about a twenty- to thirty-hour work week. It was the kind of
position that you could work all day if you wanted to. You really just had to stop
when you just could not afford to devote any more time to it. It could be a forty-
hour week if you let it be. So there was real concern that because so many of
the people were employed that we would not be able to accommodate the
leadership positions or to tailor them such that people who were working could in
fact consider the leadership position. That is when we went into the council kind
of organizational structure, trying to diversify the decision-making, getting it
farther down and not having everything have to be decided at the top. That is
the one thing I have noticed of our last couple of presidents. One was a lawyer.
The one who was president and left has a full-time job, so it appears that they
have been able to make the position such that one could do that and hold a full-
time job, too.
B: You mentioned earlier that when you joined the league, about 50 percent of the
people were wither Gainesville people or were married to Gainesville people.
Would you say that is probably still true today?
A: Oh, I think it is very diversified, just because the community is more diversified
than it used to be. I would think the Junior League probably in those earlier days
were more community people, community meaning those that were not related to
the University, but I think more and more women connected to the University
have joined the league, which adds to diversity. Then there was a real push in
the organization starting about 1978 for racial diversity, and that has also been
accomplished in the league.
B: Now, did that take place before you ended your active membership?
A: No, it took place afterwards.
B: What can you tell me about that?
A: Well, all I can say is that the national organization lent a great deal of expertise
in (1) demonstrating the advantage to diversity and (2) assisting leagues in how
to accomplish diversity, especially in areas where it might be more resisted. I
think had it not been for the national thrust that it would not have happened in
Gainesville as soon as it did.
B: Did you feel that it was resisted here?
A: I do not think it was resisted as much by the active membership, [but] the active
membership was concerned how it would affect sustainers and earlier
generations that might be more resistant to diversity. It turned out not to be a
problem at all. But any time there is change you always wonder who will it affect
and in what way. Obviously it has been a very positive influence on the
And [it is] working in the community, too, because I felt one of the real difficulties
was not being very visible in the community. It really was not until about the late
1970s or early 1980s that there was a real thrust in the league to become more
visible in the community. It was always sort of a low profile, because until we
had an admission policy that was open and not secret most people felt very
uncomfortable about being too visible in the community outside of the league
circles because they were afraid one of the first questions [would be], "Well, that
is such a great organization. How do you join?" It was such a ticklish situation
nobody wanted to have to deal with it. So you sort of kept a low profile. Once
we opened the admission so it was much more open, that became easier to deal
with. Then the other aspect [was] because most of the community groups we
were working with were diversified and racially integrated that it was difficult to
operate in a community without representation from all sectors of the population.
B: You indicated that you have seen diversification of membership to include the
University segment of the community as well as the town.
B: And also to include racial diversity. Have you seen other types?
A: And ethnic groups.
B: Can you expound on that a little bit?
A: Well, I think just as our community has become more ethnically diversified in
terms of people from other [walks of life, such as] the Latin American sector and
the Jewish sector, it has evolved from a pretty much white Anglo-Saxon
[organization] back in the early 1960s to a very diversified, vibrant group of
people. I do not think there is any consideration given to [a member's race or
ethnic background]. I think the major consideration now for membership is, "Do
you believe in volunteerism?" and "Are you willing to be developed as a
volunteer and participate in the community?" That is probably the primary
criteria for membership.
B: So you no longer feel that you have a particularly homogeneous membership.
A: Absolutely not. No. I would say [it is] homogeneous in the sense that it is still a
well-educated group. They are homogeneous in their values, that they believe in
giving to their community. I think they are homogeneous in that they enjoy the
challenge, and they are an intellectually stimulating group.
B: OK. Well, Helen, is there anything else you would like to add that I have
neglected to ask you about?
B: Thank you very much for talking with me tonight.