Interviewee: Elizabeth Pound Alsobrook
Interviewer: Connie Lazenby Bieber
Date: February 12, 1991
B: This is Connie Lazenby Bieber interviewing Elizabeth Pound Alsobrook. Today
is February 12, 1991. We are at her home in Gainesville talking about the
history of the Junior Welfare League in Gainesville. Good evening, Betty.
A: Good evening.
B: I would like to start today by getting some biographical information from you.
First, where were you born?
A: I was born in Lexington, Kentucky.
B: In what year were you born?
A: I was born October 14, 1942.
B: Your parents' names were?
A: Anne Richardson Pound and Addison Pound, Jr.
B: Where were they from, Betty?
A: My mother was from Kentucky, and my father from Gainesville, Florida.
B: How did they happen to be in Lexington, Kentucky?
A: My father was in the navy, stationed in Pensacola [Florida] at that time, and I
was supposed to be born in Pensacola. Mother's doctor passed away, and she
returned to her home in Lexington just prior to my birth. So she, in essence,
went home for my birth.
B: Right. In order for you to be born.
A: Right. And I lived the first six weeks of my life in Lexington.
B: And then?
A: Then we returned to Pensacola, Florida, where my father was stationed. Then
when my father went overseas, Mother and I lived in Atlanta for a couple of
years. Then we returned to Gainesville when I was about three years old.
B: Now, was this at the end of the war?
A: I think so.
B: So your father was coming home to you.
A: Yes, he was returning to Gainesville, his home.
B: So have you lived in Gainesville since then?
A: I have lived in Gainesville ever since.
B: Where did you go to school in Gainesville for grammar school?
A: I went to grammar school at J. J. Finley [Elementary] School from kindergarten
through sixth grade, I believe it had a sixth grade at that time, or maybe it was
through fifth grade. Then I went to junior high school at what was then known as
Buchholz Junior High School on University Avenue. Then I went to Gainesville
High School for my freshman and sophomore years, and then I went away to a
boarding school for my junior and senior years in high school, Stuart Hall in
B: I see. Going back to your early childhood, what is the earliest thing you can
A: I really do not know.
B: Well, take a minute. Think back. What is something that stands out in your
memory vividly when you were small?
A: I remember being in Atlanta with my mother. I do not really have any memories
of Pensacola, but I remember living in a little house in Atlanta. We had a
wonderful cocker spaniel dog that I grew up with and [that] lived until I was fifteen
years old. I think Mother and Daddy got him shortly after I was born, so I truly
grew up with him. I remember my grandmother, my father's mother, coming to
visit Mother and me there in Atlanta. She had a wonderful blue-velvet bathrobe
that I thought was wonderful.
B: And that must have been before you were three, you say?
B: That is pretty early. You do have a good memory. Tell me a little bit about what
you remember about Gainesville [when you were] growing up. I am interested in
lots of different things, like what size the town was [and] what it was like to go to
school in Gainesville.
A: Well, at that time J. J. Finley was a neighborhood school. I lived on Northwest
7th Lane and walked to school every morning. At the time there was a sort of
little alley, I would call [it], behind some houses that a number of us walked down
to get to J. J. There happened to be a vacant lot on the corner of 22nd Street
and 7th Lane, and we used to play every afternoon in that vacant lot. There
were probably ten or twelve of us, some boys and girls of all ages that lived sort
of along 22nd Street and 7th Lane and 6th Place. We were all just good friends,
and that is how we spent every afternoon. It was very different than it is today. I
was probably involved in some activities. I used to ride horseback; I took
dancing as a little child; I played the piano for a number of years. But it was not
this constant being taken one place and another for one activity after another. I
was in Brownies for a while. But I do not remember being organized every
As we grew older, I do not remember a lot of activities for teenagers, although
we all did go to the recreation center.
B: Where was the recreation center? [It is today known as the Senior Citizens
A: On Northeast Boulevard, which is still there. That is where we had teen dances.
It looks very much like it did then. [laughter] We went to the movies. The
Florida Theater on University Avenue was where we went most of the time.
There was another theater on South Main Street, the old Lyric Theater, but it was
not a nice place to go, and nice people did not go there.
B: How far down on South Main [was the Lyric Theater]? I do not know where that
A: I am trying to think. Maybe it was not on Main Street. Maybe it was up from
where the post office was, which is where the Hippodrome Theater is. In that
area. I did not go there very much. [laughter]
B: Well, it sounds like you are describing Gainesville as a smaller [town than it is
A: It was much smaller, and you had the feeling that you knew a lot of people. It
certainly was a much smaller town than it is now. I mean, it was a town, not a
city. There was very little interaction between the university community and
Gainesville at that time, although my family certainly had friends in the University
community and with the presidents of the University at different times. Some of
them are still our best friends, going back to the [John J.] Tigert family and the J.
Hillis Miller family.
B: In talking about the separation of town and gown, which I think is what you are
describing in Gainesville at that time, can you pinpoint any reasons for that?
A: Any reasons I would give would be reasons from a very different perspective
than at the time. I really cannot.
B: But would you say, then, that you feel that the University and the town have a
closer relationship now than they did then?
A: Oh, much more.
B: Could you tell me when you first had the sense that it was becoming more
integrated, or looking back, can you pinpoint?
A: It would be difficult for me to say when. I think I remember, and I am trying to
think whether it was in the late 1950s and the early 1960s when some professors
began to run for public office. There were some trying times at that time, and
the 1960s were not easy.
B: In what ways are you referring?
A: Well, both as students [and as faculty]--and I happened to be a student at the
University during the first half of that decade. Of course, we were dealing with
the Vietnam War at that time. I was a student in the early 1960s, so I did not feel
like I was a part of student unrest.
B: But you are saying that student unrest did exist.
A: It definitely was [there]. After I graduated from the University I worked with
students in one capacity or another, and one of them happened to be as an
advisor to a sorority on campus. So the latter part of that decade, the 1960s,
and into the early 1970s, I was working with students in that way. It was a very
difficult time. [There was] a lack of respect [and] little seeming purpose on many
students' parts, and yet [there was] a desire to be in school, for whatever reason,
I am not sure.
B: Did you feel that the student unrest spilled into the community?
A: I do not have an opinion on that at this point.
B: So you were telling me that when you finished high school you went to college
here in Gainesville, at the University of Florida.
A: I first attended Hollins College in Roanoke, Virginia, a women's college, for my
freshman and sophomore years. I returned to the University [of Florida] for my
junior and senior years.
B: What did you finish school in?
A: My degree is in political science.
B: Have you used your degree?
A: Not actively.
B: When you finished college, then, what did you do?
A: I was hired by the Florida Development Commission and went to New York City
and worked at the World's Fair as a representative of the state of Florida in the
Florida pavilion area.
B: That sounds interesting.
A: I worked in New York until about mid-October, and I returned home and was
married at the end of December.
B: And you are married to?
A: Al Alsobrook.
B: Is he from Gainesville?
A: No, he is from Jacksonville. He was born in Jacksonville.
B: Tell me a little about your family with Al.
A: We were married in 1964 and have lived in Gainesville ever since. We have two
sons. John was born in 1969, and our younger son, Cannon, was born in 1972.
They are both in college at this point.
B: That is good. Tell me when you were invited to join the Junior Welfare League
A: I was invited to join, I believe, in January of 1966.
B: Since you had grown up in Gainesville, were you already aware of the existence
of this organization before your invitation to join?
A: Yes, I was.
B: How would you say the League was perceived in the community at that time?
A: Are you asking from the standpoint of other people, non-league members?
B: The community as a whole. How did they view this organization?
A: It would be difficult for me to speak for people that were not in the Junior League.
Other women probably wondered how one became a member of the League if
they were interested in it, because at that time the Junior Welfare League had a
secret admission system. The Junior Welfare League was active in the
community. It was probably best known to community members for its Follies
which are held every four years, involving non-league members, but not to the
extent that we do now. I would say some people in Gainesville had to have
known about the good things the Junior Welfare League did, but certainly not to
the extent that they are aware of now.
B: So it sounds to me like you are saying that the knowledge of the works of the
organization was maybe not very well-spread.
A: The knowledge of the works of the organization was not very widely-known
throughout the entire community. Certainly different segments of the community
had to have been very aware of the league, both the public school system,
because the Junior Welfare League had always been involved with school
children in different ways, and certainly the health providers of the community,
because the Junior Welfare League was involved in various projects, beginning
with the well-baby clinic. So there were a number of health providers--doctors,
nurses, hospitals--that were aware of those aspects.
B: Would you say, though, that it might be a reflection of the policy of the league
toward their "good" works that the community was not any better informed about
what they had done? How would you respond to that statement?
A: I would think that the Junior Welfare League probably was not concerned,
necessarily, in tooting its own horn in the early stages. It was mainly interested
in training young women and providing services through different projects. Its
main goal was not to make itself known necessarily. I do not think it was trying to
hide itself, but it was not trying to publicize itself, so it did not.
B: All right. Of what was known in the community about the Junior Welfare League,
would you say that it was viewed as a social organization or a civic organization?
What [did] people see its thrust as being?
A: Probably early on it was perceived by non-members as being more social,
perhaps. I would think that early members--from the League's inception--knew
they were very civic- minded, because they worked very hard. I believe from the
League's inception that members viewed it as a service and training organization
for young women.
B: You are talking about those women that served hot lunches for eight years.
A: Right, hot lunches for eight years and a myriad of other things, because they
worked very hard for long hours. Of course, most women at that time were not
professional women, so they were at home. I remember hearing many stories.
One lady had an appointment at some project and she did not have anybody to
take care of her children. League members took care of each other's children,
and it was a very supportive group to be sure that the league's work was
B: You mentioned that the league operated under a secret admission system in the
1960s and earlier. Could you tell me about that?
A: The Junior Welfare League had an admissions committee that was elected by
the Junior Welfare League members. It was the committee's job to meet
prospective Junior Welfare League members to assess their availability and
ability to fit into the Junior Welfare League program. They would then vote
prospective members into membership.
B: By the fact that it was secret, you mean that the people that were being
considered did not know that they were being considered?
A: The people that were being considered did not know that they were being
considered, and the whole membership of the Junior Welfare League did not
necessarily know every other person that was being proposed in any one
particular year. They might have known some of them because they might have
been involved in the proposal, but prospective Junior Welfare League members
were "introduced," as it were, to the admissions committee normally through
social means, whether it be dinner parties or coffees or luncheons. After the
fact, [after I was invited to join] I remember going to [a social event]. I believe it
was a luncheon at an older sustaining member's home--she happened to have
been a close friend of my mother--and there were probably two or three of us
there that day who were being proposed. There were a number of other active
league members who were also that much older than I was, so it was not a
group that I was normally with at that time. I did not really know what was going
on at the time, but after the fact I realize what was going on. [laughter] I looked
back and I realized.
B: So you said you were invited to join in either 1965 or 1966. What happened at
that time? You accepted your invitation, I take it.
A: Yes. We had a provisional course, and I think there were probably seven or
eight in our provisional class, maybe eleven or twelve. I cannot remember. We
went to regular provisional meetings. There was a provisional chairman and an
assistant provisional chairman. Cissy Donigan was my provisional chairman,
and Sue Duncan Wise was the assistant provisional chairman. We were
expected to do certain things, which we did. Then we were league members a
B: So at that time you entered regular active membership status in the league.
B: Now, when you became a member of the league, did they operate under the
seven-year active plan?
A: It is hard for me to remember. It was never available to me because I was active
for twenty-two years. [laughter] I think it had ceased or had ended before I was
asked to join, but maybe there were some league members that were
grandfathered in, so to speak, that were able to become sustainers after seven
years. It was close enough that there were certainly a number of league people
that operated under that seven-year plan.
B: And the seven-year plan is that you would go in and be active for seven years,
and then you automatically became a sustainer, no matter what your
B: It no longer operates like that.
A: No, it does not.
B: Did they have meetings during the day or in the evening?
A: Meetings were both in the daytime and in the evening. General membership
meetings, you are referring to?
A: Both daytime and evening.
B: And you could choose which one to go to?
A: I do not believe so. We went at the time the meetings were scheduled. I
remember some night meetings in the room above what was then known as
Guaranty Federal Savings and Loan; there was a meeting room upstairs.
B: That was for the general membership?
A: Yes. It is now Florida Federal [Savings Bank, 220 N. Main Street]. Those were
in the evening, I believe.
B: Did they have separate evening meetings for those people who worked?
A: Yes, there were separate evening meetings for working members, and they were
usually in other members' homes. Sometimes in the early years they had a
covered-dish supper prior to "professional" meetings. At that time I would think
there were probably sometimes ten to fifteen women attending those meetings.
B: How does that relate to the active membership of the league as a whole?
A: At that time?
B: Ten or fifteen out of... What was the active membership?
A: Probably close to 100.
B: So you are saying 10 to 15 percent of the people who were members of the
league were working.
A: Approximately. The league membership was probably a little bit smaller than
that at some times.
B: I am trying to get some idea of how the proportion of women who worked in the
league has grown over the period of time. As you and I both know, since then it
has grown significantly.
A: I would say it is probably closer to 75 percent professional now.
B: I would agree with that. What projects was the league involved in at the time
when you were invited to become a member?
A: Well, we still had the well-baby clinic at Alachua General Hospital.
B: What was that like?
A: Two or three league members helped man the clinic clerically; they kept records.
They did not do any nursing per se, but they helped keep records of mothers
bringing their infants in and worked with the doctors. I think the clinic might have
been open three days a week to begin with.
B: I believe that is correct. It was later moved to five days.
A: Right. The Thrift Shop was the other main project, which I worked on a number
of years. I feel quite certain we had the children's theater going at that time, and
shortly after that we instituted a suitcase museum. But the main projects were
the well-baby clinic and the Thrift Shop.
B: Tell me a little about the Thrift Shop.
A: Well, I thought it was a wonderful way to meet league members. At that time we
did not have any paid staff, so the shop was manned totally by Junior Welfare
League members. There were at least two or three there each day. In fact, I
believe it was the main way that I truly got to know so many older gals in the
league. I was one of the youngest people in the league, and I worked very
closely with a lot of older gals at that time and felt like I became very close
friends with them.
B: What is the purpose of the Thrift Shop?
A: The purpose of the Thrift Shop has always been to help raise funds to fund other
projects of the Junior Welfare League in the community. And it also has always
provided salable household goods and clothing to citizens of the community who
perhaps cannot afford to shop at other stores.
B: So there is a two-pronged purpose to the shop.
A: Absolutely. As far as I can remember, the Junior Welfare League and the Thrift
Shop have always also provided clothing, either through churches or other
organizations, at no cost to different people who have had crises in their lives.
When someone has had a fire and has been burned out, [we would provide
them with clothing and household items]. I remember [in] the early days perhaps
the health department or somebody would send a family over, and we would give
them clothes or whatever. That has been done [for] a long time, and it is still
B: OK. You also mentioned the suitcase museum. I saw where the suitcase
museum was a project, and the medical museum was a project. Are those two
B: Can you tell me about each of them?
A: The suitcase museum was before the medical museum. In the early stages it
was manned mainly by our professional members, because it was the kind of
project that they could work on during the summertime and in the evening. The
suitcase museum was an attempt to gather artifacts and information on a
subject, at first usually on countries, for instance, England. In that suitcase
would be articles that represented England or had been brought back from
England, from stamps to postcards to coins to other things that were English.
Usually there was a written narrative provided with it. The suitcase museum was
"housed," I believe, at least sometimes, at the Alachua County School Board
office, and different teachers in the public school system could go check out a
suitcase and take it to their classroom and use it in the classroom.
B: So it was an enrichment aid for the classroom.
B: OK. Now the medical museum.
A: It was started after that, in 1968, and was sort of on the same idea except I
believe league members actually went with different parts of the medical
museum to the classrooms.
B: So it was more specifically oriented as to subject matter.
A: Yes. [For instance,] part of the medical museum might have been the study of
the eye. But I believe that league members went with those . they were not
quite like suitcases, but whatever they carried their things in to the classroom.
B: So they traveled.
A: Yes. The medical museum traveled to Alachua County classrooms.
B: OK. Where did the Junior Welfare League get the funding for these projects,
A: Funding in the early stages came from the Thrift Shop and the Junior Welfare
League Follies, which were held every four years.
B: For the record, can you define what the Follies are?
A: The Follies have been a continuing entertainment cabaret. As long as I can
remember, we have contracted with a company in New York City, Cargill, that
has provided us with directors and costumes and some management know-how.
The Follies have usually been held either one or two nights every four years,
and the profits have been used by the league for its community projects.
B: So the league sold ticket to the Follies and made money that way.
A: And the league also sold advertising for its program, and usually the advertising
raised more money than tickets. As long as I can remember, there have been
different forms of advertising, but early on it was advertising in the program.
Tickets were sold on a general admission basis or to patrons. Patrons' tickets
have varied in cost through the years.
B: The community generally supports the organization by placing ads in the
program and buying these other forms of advertisements and tickets.
B: Has the community done this just on the good name of the league with a free
hand to do with the money what they will, or has it been a situation where the
community has wanted to know what they were contributing their money for?
A: I think early on there was no attempt by the community to know what the money
was necessarily being spent on. I think in more recent years the league itself
has wanted to have a goal in mind, thinking that it would attract more people in
the community to giving to the league through the Follies if they knew how the
Follies money was being spent. So perhaps in the last two Follies such a
commitment has been made. I may be wrong on that. I do not believe the
league attempted to say that all the profits would go to a specific project prior to
the last two Follies.
B: We talked a little bit about the projects that were underway when you became a
member, and then we talked about the fund raising through the Follies and the
Thrift Shop. Moving on into the 1970s, can you tell me about some of the other
projects that the league took on during this time when you were actively
involved? I am especially interested in learning about how the league became
involved with the Historic Gainesville, Inc., (HGI), and the Thomas Center.
A: Well, I remember when I was vice-president [1973-1974] walking with Carolyn
Fouts, who was then the president, around the old Thomas Center Hotel and
being aghast, [and wondering if] we could ever do anything with it. Just previous
to that time, I believe the Thomas Hotel had been used by Santa Fe Community
College for students. Door knobs were off; windows were broken; it certainly
was not being well-maintained. There truly was a coordinated effort between the
league and other members of the community. The University was involved, the
school of architecture was involved, and an awful lot of work was done to bring it
to its present status.
B: So it was not being used for anything at that time? It was just sort of
A: My recollection is that is the case, but I do not think it had been sitting too long
that way. I really am not sure.
B: Can you tell me a little bit about what happened in terms of how it got restored to
its present state? At the time that you were making the tour, had the city
purchased it yet?
A: I really cannot remember. Probably so.
B: And you were there as a representative of the league, and the league was
interested in the project at that time, and the league did make a commitment to
the Thomas Hotel restoration. Were you involved in the two period rooms that
the league decided to restore and donate?
A: Not directly, because that was the same period of time that we were going
through the process of joining the Association of Junior Leagues, and I was more
heavily involved in administration at that time.
B: Well, that is another topic that I am very interesting in learning something about
tonight, so let us talk about that now. I understand that the Junior Welfare
League had approached the association in the 1960s about membership, and at
that time they were not invited to join. It is my understanding that that was
because this particular league did not have a large enough membership and was
in a community that did not have a large enough population. Is that your
A: That is correct. I was involved at a committee level at that point. I believe that
Betty Riker was one of the early chairmen of one of the first committees
attempting to join the association. At that time the [Association of] Junior
Leagues wanted each Junior League to have an active membership of 100 and
wanted the community in which a league was located to be considered a
standard metropolitan area, which needed, I believe, 150,000 population.
Maybe it was 100,000. I am not sure. We did not qualify in the 1960s, so we
moved toward increasing the size of our membership. We had to wait for the
1970 census to not only be completed, but to be published, to prove that we
were a standard metropolitan area. So that took a year or two. It is not always
ready on [the first of the year, such as] January 1, 1970, so it took several years
for that to be published. Then we proceeded to apply to the Association of
Junior Leagues for membership.
B: And you were involved in this?
A: Yes, I was.
B: Starting at the beginning, what can you tell me about it?
A: The applying process was lengthy. It required two or three or four years. The
initial step was to complete an application in which we had to answer numerous
questions about our league, about our membership, [and] about the city of
Gainesville. We had to give a list of all our members, where they were educated,
[and] their ages. We had to answer numerous questions about Gainesville, the
kind of community [it was], its economic base, [and] its relationship with the
University of Florida. All of this was typed up in booklet form as professionally as
we knew how to do it at the time, and submitted to the Association of Junior
Leagues. We waited probably for several months and then received word that
our application had been accepted; the questionnaire had been accepted.
The next step was that we were to receive a visit by some board members of the
association. The year was 1972. I believe [they were] members of their
admissions committee, which were board members. As any board, they had
subcommittees, and board members served on the subcommittee. So we dealt
with their admissions committee.
The next step was that we received a second visit from the association and we
presented Education '73. We were to design an educational course that was to
benefit our members--active, sustaining, provisional, and non-resident--and to be
open to any member of the community, which meant that we had to design the
course and to hold the different sections of it in places in Gainesville that could
hold not only league membership but other people as well. So under the
association's guidance, we developed an educational program and had six
sessions. It was spread out through a Junior League year, which was, I believe,
during the 1973-1974 league year. I am not sure. Every member of the Junior
League had to attend the actual educational session or they had to make up the
session, which certainly was a strain on everyone. I am not sure it could be
B: What were the sessions like? What did they deal with?
A: The sessions dealt with a variety of topics. We had brought in the Oslo State
Theater troupe as an enrichment area of the arts. The Oslo State Theater is
located in Sarasota, and the troupe came to Gainesville to do a production.
One of the sessions was on economics of the future. Dr. [Robert] Lanzillotti
[professor of economics, dean emeritus, College of Business Administration]
from the University of Florida did that one. Another was on the changing role of
women, I believe, and Dean Betty Siegel [Academic Affairs for Continuing
Education] did that. Another was on child welfare. Another was on the
environment, and I remember Dr. Julian Conrad Jergensmeyer, an
environmental attorney, I believe, [taught that session]. As it turned out, his wife
had gone to school with me at Stuart Hall in Virginia. I did not even know they
were here, somehow it ended up that he was doing the program for us.
B: It is a small world.
A: It is a very small world.
B: Well, that is a broad spectrum of topics. Why did the Junior Welfare League
want to join the Association of Junior Leagues?
A: I think the Junior Welfare League wanted to join for a number of reasons. One,
because they felt that the association had a lot of know-how and expertise that
would help us better train our members for community service. There was
certainly the aspect that the Association of Junior Leagues provided a national
scope for us, and heretofore we had been locally involved only. It also provided
transferability of membership. Members could transfer from one Junior League
to another Junior League without going through an application or invitation
process. This was billed, certainly to our sustaining members, as an important
reason for joining. That appealed to a lot of sustaining members as our society
became more mobile and as our sustaining members watched their daughters
and daughters-in-law move to other communities. They wanted them to have
the same kind of volunteer training experience, and this ensured that they might
be able to do that. The Junior League offered education and training
opportunities for our members to travel to conferences in different parts of the
country, which we had not done. Then our members who did attend these
conferences were able to bring back new ideas, new projects, new ways of doing
B: So you held this education forum in 1973.
A: I think it was through the 1973-1974 year.
B: And this was to the satisfaction of the association, I assume.
A: At the conclusion of that, we had to submit a report outlining everything we had
done and verifying that every member of our Junior Welfare League who wanted
to join the association had attended every session or had made up every
session. We also had to provide a non-resident course, sort of like a
correspondence course, for every member of the Junior Welfare League who did
not live in Gainesville, whether she was active or sustaining. If they wanted to
join the Junior League, they had to take our correspondence course. The topics
were similar to the topics that we were exploring in live fashion, so to speak.
B: That sounds like a rigorous setup.
A: It was rigorous, it was extensive, [and] it was something that we probably could
not ever do again.
B: Did the association choose the topics, or did you all choose those?
A: No, we chose the topics, and I imagine we probably at the time told them what
we were doing. We were instructed that they should be broad and of interest to
a Junior League and to the community, because we were also inviting anybody
in the community to come to these sessions, also.
B: So from what you are saying, I take it that even the sustaining members of the
Junior Welfare League had to attend every session if they wanted their
membership transferred to be a sustainer of the association.
A: At that time we also went back and asked if there were members that had
resigned from the Junior Welfare League who wanted to be reinstated and
become a member of the Junior League, [because] they would have to go
through this training session. In fact, that was the only way they could be a
sustaining member of the Junior League.
B: So they could rejoin.
A: They could rejoin the Junior Welfare League and take the education course and
become a sustaining member of the Junior League when we were accepted in
the [Association of] Junior Leagues.
B: So you were accepted into membership of the association.
A: Yes, in March of 1975. We had another visit in February. After our report was
sent in on the educational year, we received another visit from several members
of the association. We had several sessions learning about the association
management process. It was to help us better plan our activities and [plan them]
in a cycle that we could handle.
B: Is this the program that is sometimes referred to AMP?
A: Yes, Association Management Process. We also had been given [a list of] some
things that the association wanted us to change in our bylaws and in our rules
and procedures, and when they came back for that visit, we were sort of in a
position to let them know where we were on these various things.
After this visit, the ladies that had visited us from the association went back to
New York and attended another board meeting, and it was at that time that they
reported to the board our accomplishments. At that time we were accepted into
membership, and they notified us by telegram.
B: That was quite an undertaking for you all to have set out to become a member of
A: It was a very long process and a very involved process. [It was] a growing
experience for all of us. Some of us definitely spent several years focusing on
the process of joining the association and being sure that our bylaws and
standing rules were approved by the association. All of that took time.
B: Did you have to make substantive changes in your bylaws as an organization in
order to be part of the national group?
A: Yes, we did have to make some substantive changes, some of them having to
do with our admissions system. This was a gradual process; it did not occur all
at once. But there were a number of changes that we moved to. One of them
with the admissions system was moving toward a more open admissions system.
It was not accomplished all at once; it was accomplished in steps.
B: Did you make changes to the goals or the missions of the group in order to
become part of this [national organization]?
A: Our purpose did change; the wording changed.
B: Was that a substantive change, also?
A: I do not think anybody viewed it as terribly substantive. The verbiage changed.
B: If you had to make two sentences, one of which described the purpose of the
Junior Welfare League and the second to describe the purpose of the Junior
League of Gainesville, how would you characterize those two?
A: It would be difficult for me to do it at this point.
B: OK. Do you see that process and that interaction--I can see that you did spend
several years working on this--as a positive experience?
A: Very much so.
B: Do you think that the majority of the league members have that view?
A: During the process I am sure some league members--and probably there were
maybe many--felt burdened by the process. But the goal had been to join the
association, and we were prepared to work through what we needed to do in
order to join the association.
B: Was there opposition by your membership to joining the association?
A: Not much. Not enough that I can remember. There was certainly opposition by
some older sustaining members to the thought of changing the admissions
system, and there were some people that felt, at the point of joining, that they did
not want to necessarily be told what to do. But there were many positive things
about joining, and during the process we were more focused on those aspects
that we felt were positive than we certainly were on anything that might be
construed as negative.
It was not "fun" for members to have to make up an education program. It did
not make any difference whether you were sick or out of town or your child was
dying; you had to make up those sessions, and I know that was difficult for some
people. There were older women who had walkers and canes. One of our
sessions was in the Center Theater, as I recall.
B: So you do feel that your independent club did give up some of its autonomy in
order to join this international association?
A: Oh, very much so, because ever since, every time the association meets, there
are certain things that you must change in your bylaws that you do not vote on.
B: What percentage of that autonomy do you feel the club lost?
A: It would be difficult for me to put a percentage on it. It would vary. If you
happened to be a league that is very much in sync with everything the
association is doing, you would not feel like you gave up anything. If there are
times when you are not in sync, you would feel like you gave up much more. I
think that has fluctuated.
B: Over the course of time.
A: Yes. Right after joining I would say we were very, very enthusiastic. The
opportunity to send members to the national conventions, to the various focus-
area conventions--from child advocacy to career development--all of these things
[were exciting]. We trained members, brought them back, and spread their
knowledge throughout our membership, and it was a very positive thing for many
members, I felt.
B: Do you see much of a difference in the day-to-day working with the community,
or maybe I should say the year-to-year working with the community, in our
community, of this organization as a result of membership in the association?
A: Very much so, because one of the focuses of joining the association is to
develop projects and to maintain them for two or three years and to turn them
over to the community. The Junior Welfare League had not done that, and that
was one of the big changes for us. We had held on to things like the well-baby
clinic and children's theater for many years. As a matter of fact, we still have the
children's theater, I believe. [laughter] We were urged to turn some of these
over, to let someone else do them, and I think in some cases we have been very
successful in turning over projects and letting another group maintain those
projects. In some cases it has not been easy to do. That, I believe, is one of the
main reasons the association, at the time we joined, insisted that the community
be of standard metropolitan size so that the community was large and had a
diverse enough base, both economic and educational, to receive and to be
interested in receiving Junior League projects so that the Junior League did not
hang onto projects indefinitely.
B: What is the rationale of the association for that?
A: I think part of the rationale is to enable league members to train and be trained in
a variety of areas, and that the Junior League should have a leadership role and
a managing role, and that we should not do it indefinitely, and that we need to
move onto other areas.
B: So are you saying that the project serves that purpose to the membership in
providing leadership training in addition to what good it is doing in the
B: What has been the success of the group in finding another group to take over
A: It has not always been easy. In fact, at a certain point in the early years, as we
developed new projects, right from the outset, we as a new Junior League were
supposed to be planning with other people or have an idea of a group or people
that could maintain it or take it over right from the beginning. Now, I would
believe that some of this we probably are not as locked in quite as much now,
because it is very different. Many times we do not have as many hands-on
opportunities now. We went through a period of being sure that we had many
league members on community boards, which certainly was not the case before
we joined the association. This linked many league members with non-league
volunteer opportunities in the community.
B: Did that take place about the same time that the shift to a role as an advocate
occurred in the Junior League?
A: Probably. For a long time the Junior League did not want to give money to a
particular board or another volunteer effort unless we had some connection,
usually through a board member or volunteers working on it. We spent many
years saying, "If we have volunteers, we will give money," or "We will give money
with our volunteers, but we are not just a United Way where we dole out money."
I do believe the league at this point, and for a number of years, has gotten into
giving money through what we call mini-grants. In many cases we do not have a
link with these groups, but we are asked by many, many groups in the
community for specific funds to help other community groups in volunteer areas.
We have committees that study those and make recommendations to the
membership. I think in the budget each year we set aside a certain amount of
money for these mini-grants, and once we have given that money or allocated
that money, they do not keep going back to the board asking for more money.
B: I see. So it is a one-time deal generally.
A: Maybe one time this year. I assume that we have helped groups perhaps a
B: But it is a one-time commitment?
B: We have been talking a little bit about what changes and differences you found
as a result of the Junior Welfare League becoming a part of the Association of
Junior Leagues. What other changes or differences have you seen that have
resulted from our becoming a member of this international organization?
A: Certainly our members are better trained. The Junior League of Gainesville is a
much more professional organization. I would say there were changes both
internal and external. Many changes are the result of the changing role of
women, not just because the Junior League has changed. But I do believe that
the Junior League--on a national level and on a local level--has adapted and has
been willing to change itself as the role of women has changed. So I believe the
Junior League has maintained its relevance, whereas sometimes other national
organizations maybe have not maintained their relevance.
B: Can you give me some examples of what you are alluding to?
A: Career development is one that came along certainly before 50 or 60 percent of
our members were working. Career development, I believe, has been a real
help, certainly to women all over the country, and it certainly was in Gainesville. I
know many women in Gainesville who participated in the training, and it gave
them the background and the help, from resume writing to "Yes, you can go out
and secure a meaningful job." Many times it is your volunteer experience that
will be the basis of your resume.
B: So it sounds like you are saying it goes along with the general raising of the
awareness of women about women's changing role in society, and it is a service
that the group has provided for its membership.
A: That is accurate.
B: How would you say that these changes within the organization--which may not all
be as a result of joining the association, but we are assuming tonight that many
of them are--were perceived by the community?
A: Oh, I would think the community has been very, very positive and very receptive
to the Gainesville Junior League. I believe that we are considered at the
forefront of many things. Our members are used, and I say that not derogatorily
at all. Our members have taken leadership roles in many aspect of the
community. A number of our members are now involved in public office in one
way or another. They have served as the president of many other organizations.
They have begun other volunteer organizations. I believe it is the foremost
volunteer training organization certainly in Gainesville, and probably in many
communities across the country.
B: I am interested in talking just a little bit about the changes in the membership
profile of this league. Let us not just start with where this welfare league became
a part of the association. Let us go back to where your experience with the
welfare league began. You told me a little bit about the membership at that time.
Let us talk for a minute about how that membership profile has changed, say
since the mid-1960s.
A: When you say profile, do you mean the types of members?
B: Yes. I am interested in things like the age range, were they largely people who
had grown up in Gainesville?
A: When I first joined the Junior Welfare League, because membership was a
selective and using a secret selection process, most of those who were being
asked to join were either daughters, daughters-in-law, or friends of people in the
league. There was not an attempt to reach out to people that one did not know.
Certainly that whole profile changed with the joining of the association, [which
required] the change in our admission system. There is an attempt every year to
reach out to women in the community in many cases whom most of the
membership does not even know. Membership now does not require that a
prospective member know a great many of the members. It is quite easy for a
person to join, although there still is a process that one goes through. But it is an
informed process, and I think it is important that young women know everything
they can about an organization before they join it.
B: When you say an informed process, could you tell us what you mean?
A: When I say informed, it would be knowing what the Junior League does, what its
purpose is, what its goals are, how it operates, what its rules are, the projects
that one might be involved with, how one might impact on the Junior League,
what one as an individual might gain from the league, because it is a two-way
process. I perceive that most of our members today not only have a lot to learn
but also have a lot to give to the Junior League and, through the Junior League,
B: So I believe you are saying the group is no longer as homogenous as it was.
A: Very much so. The group is not homogenous. Since I am no longer an active
member, it is hard for me to relate to that. I imagine that in the early days when I
joined that I had many more close friends within the Junior Welfare League at
that time than some of the new members do right now because we worked
together. We were mainly non-professional women at the time, and we spent a
lot of time together working on projects and working on committees. That is not
quite the case now. I think you give up some things to gain others, and our lives
are very different now. I am grateful for the experiences I had as a new young
B: You said you are no longer an active member. What is your membership status
at this time?
A: I am a sustainer. I was eligible to become a sustainer when I was forty years
old. I believe at that time the national rules had altered so that a Junior League
member could extend her membership by two years at that time to age forty-two
if she so desired. Because I had been an active member of the league since my
early twenties--I think I was twenty-two when I joined--I felt like it was time for me
to become a sustainer, and I chose sustainer status the June after my fortieth
B: As a sustaining member, what is your role in the league?
A: My role, as I view it, is to support the active membership. As a sustainer, I have
served on boards in the community. I have been a liaison between the active
membership and the sustaining membership. I am currently on the sustaining
board of directors and will be chairman of the sustaining group next year. I have
in recent years, for instance, worked as a liaison between the active membership
and the Friends of the Library, through which the Junior League is securing its
new headquarters. So there have been ways to continue to be associated with
the active membership, and there are certainly many more ways. Sustainers
work rotation appointments at the thrift shop regularly and can be involved in any
volunteer experience that the actives are involved in. They just do not have to. I
still contribute things to the thrift shop regularly. That is another way that most
sustainers still participate.
B: You mentioned a little bit earlier the Association Management Process that the
organization became introduced to as a part of joining the association. Can you
tell me a little bit about this: (1) its purpose, and (2) a little bit about how it works?
A: Yes. I did not think I would ever forget. The Association Management Process
was mainly a process of setting goals and working towards the achievement of
those goals, and then being able to assess at each step along the way where
you are in the process. It is also cyclical in that we began to forecast. The
Association Management Process was to work through every committee in the
league. As we got into using in, say, the financial area, we began to forecast
future budgets and look two or three or four years into the future and not just be
dealing with the present. I really cannot remember each step along the way right
B: So it was a business management tool.
A: Absolutely, and it made our league much more business-like from the outset.
When I was president of the Junior League--I had served both as the last
president of the Junior Welfare League and a few months as president of the
first Junior League--we did not have an office, [and] we did not have a secretary.
I did have an extra phone line that the Junior League put in my home, which I
think I was not the first but one of the first few to have, which did enable us to not
tie up our own personal lines quite so much. I spent a lot of time on the
telephone, and a lot of time at night talking on the telephone to other league
members. We waited until our babies were in bed. But we did not have a
secretary, [and] we did not have computers. I did a lot of typing of reports on my
own typewriter at home. We are a much more professional organization than
that now. [laughter] I had file cabinets at home that belonged to the Junior
League that I operated out of. The office was in my home.
B: So the office sort of migrated from one person to another.
A: And we used to laugh, because we wondered under whose guest-room bed the
suitcase museum files were. [laughter] It was very difficult. We always kept
reports, and we have always passed them on to the next chairman. I think the
Junior Welfare League was very good at that, and we have certainly become
more professional. But it is easier to work in and out of an office. We probably
do not lose as much.
B: And the organization does have an office now, I take it you are saying?
A: Yes, in our new 430 Building on North Main Street.
B: I understand that you share that with the Friends of the Library.
B: There are two other projects that I want to ask you about. One is the Gator
Country Cookbook. I understand that was undertaken in the 1970s.
A: Yes. We used that as a fund-raiser, or its goal was to be a fund-raiser. We had
two sustaining members, Gretchen Brill and Kitty Kitchens, who headed it up and
helped to secure and test recipes. We had actives working with them. I think we
were very successful. I think we probably reprinted two or three times. I am not
sure when, but it has been in the last three or four years that we decided not to
reprint it. It became increasingly difficult to market the book. There are many
Junior League cookbooks all over the country that we all run into. We thought
ours was great, and it has been good, and I am sure many of us still use it. But
we found that it was difficult to maintain committees to continue to market and
sell it. There just was not that large a market. I do not think we ever achieved
the national base for it that a few other Junior League cookbook have achieved.
B: The other project I wanted to ask you about is the children's book fair. I think it
was called the Festival of Books. There seem to be so many outlets for children
to buy books today. I am just speculating, but it must have been more difficult at
that time [to purchase children's books]?
A: Yes. As I recall, the Festival of Books was held in the schools.
B: I thought it was at the [Gainesville] Women's Club, and part of the time it was co-
sponsored by Goering's Book Store.
A: I was going to say Goering's was involved. Now the book stores have gone into
the schools, so each school has a book fair. This was probably a forerunner to
those times. It was not used as a fund-raiser by us at all. It was a matter of
trying to get books into the hands of young people as cheaply as possible.
B: Did you know Aunt Carrie, and by Aunt Carrie I mean Mrs. J. H. Palmer [Caroline
Julia La Fontisee McCollum Palmer], who started our Junior Welfare League?
A: Yes, I did know her, but I would not say I knew her well. I met her on several
B: Was she still active in this organization when you were a member?
A: I would not say active. I would say we called on her to come, perhaps, to what
were then June dinner meetings. I do not even remember what year she passed
B: Is there anything that you would like to tell me about either the Junior Welfare
League or the Junior League of Gainesville that we have not already talked
about tonight? We have kind of popped around and touched on a lot of different
subjects, but is there something that I have missed that you would like to add or
to make a comment about?
A: I think the Junior League continues to be a very viable organization for women.
Its role has changed somewhat. Our active members in many cases do not put
in the time, the sheer number of hours, that we used to put in, and that is
probably self-limiting just mainly because so many women are working these
days. I believe that many older members of the Junior League that worked
seven years felt that they worked those seven years almost full time, and they
looked forward to their sustaining status after those seven years of active
service. I believe that we are still viewed as an organization that accomplishes
what it sets out to accomplish and always completes the task in a very efficient
manner, and that has been something that has been important to the Junior
Welfare League and the Junior League.
I think there have been different times where it may be difficult to continue some
projects just because women either change what they are interested in [or the
body of members changes]. Membership has a high turnover. We have a
number of women who transfer into the league and who also leave our Junior
League by transfer, so our membership changes more quickly than it used to,
and I think we have attempted to stay on top of what our membership wants to
do, because if they do not want to do something it will not be successful.
[laughter] But I think it is not always easy for women to spend as much time as
we used to, both on league committees and on projects. Many members,
because of their lifestyles today, want to do volunteer work, but at many times it
may not be on a large committee. It may be within a smaller group.
B: Thank you very much, Betty.
A: Thank you.