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Interview with E. Covington Johnston

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Title:
Interview with E. Covington Johnston
Creator:
Cofrin, Mary Ann
Marston, Ruth C. ( Transcriber )
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
Publisher:
Matheson Historical Center
Publication Date:
Language:
English

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Subjects / Keywords:
Oral history -- Florida ( LCTGM )
Spatial Coverage:
North America -- United States of America -- Florida -- Alachua

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Source Institution:
Matheson History Museum
Holding Location:
Matheson History Museum
Rights Management:
Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.

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MATHESON MUSEUM HISTORIC TRUST

ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM


Interviewee:

Interviewer:

Transcriber:


E. Covington Johnston

Mary Ann Cofrin

Ruth C. Marston


January 31, 2001






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 2
January 31, 2001


C: My name is Mary Ann Cofrin. I am interviewing E. Covington Johnston at 8015
N.W. 28th Place, in The Village, Gainesville, Florida, on January 31, 2001, for the
Matheson Museum Historic Trust. Would you please state your full name and
birth date for the tape, please?

J: E. Covington Johnston. Birth date: March 10, 1916.

C: What does the E stand for?

J: It's Edmund.

C: Where were you born?

J: I was born in Liberty, South Carolina, close to Liberty on a farm.

C: Tell me a little bit about your parents.

J: My father was living in South Carolina on the family farm. He had a house on the
farm or close to it. My brother and I were both born there in South Carolina. My
brother is two years older than I am. We lived there until I was about three years
old, when we moved to Florida.

C: Tell me about your mother.

J: My mother was from Rockingham, North Carolina, and taught school. I don't
know exactly how they met or what she was doing in South Carolina. I often
wish that I had talked more to her about it, but those are the kinds of things you
don't do until it is too late.

C: What was her maiden name?

J: Mary Leake Covington.

C: Did you know any of your grandparents?

J: My grandmother Covington I knew, but my grandfather Covington died before I
was born. Actually, Covington is a family name. I knew my grandfather
Johnston, but my grandmother Johnston died when I was very young.

C: Where did they come from?

J: The Covington family came from North Carolina, around Rockingham.


C: Were they natives of North Carolina as far as you know?






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 3
January 31, 2001

J: I'm sure they were because my mother used to tell me that my grandfather had
something to do with the beginning of the University of North Carolina. I don't
know when it was actually founded but he had something to do with it in the early
years. He was in the Civil War from North Carolina, so he was from North
Carolina.

My father's family was from South Carolina, around Liberty, but I don't know
too much about them either. I wish that I had found out more. His family all
lived in that area, around Greenville. He had a brother in Greenville and had a
sister who still lived on the family farm until her death. He had one brother that
died when he was a fairly young man.

C: Your father's name was?

J: William Edward Johnston, Sr. My brother was William Edward Johnston, Jr.

C: You don't have any early memories of North Carolina probably, do you?

J: No. Neither North Carolina nor South Carolina. My father left the farm and went
into traveling. They called them drummers in those days. He was a clothing
salesman. They did most of their travel by train because there were very few cars
then, and very few good roads. His territory was Florida and Georgia, and the
company that he was working for told him that he could pick out wherever he
wanted as his headquarters, and he chose Gainesville because of the University
here. He said that he did that because he wanted to be sure that my brother and I
would be able to have a college education, which turned out to be wise because he
died when I was fourteen and my brother was sixteen. If we had not been in
Gainesville, whether we would have gotten to go to a university I don't know
because it was right during the middle of the Depression when I started in 1933.

C: So you came to Gainesville in 1919?

J: The best I can figure around 1919.

C: Where did you live when you first came to Gainesville?

J: The first place we lived in Gainesville was the corner of University Avenue and
what was then Roper Street. I don't know what it is now. It runs on the east side
of Kirby-Smith School. There's a house right on the corner that was called the
Doig House, and old Mrs. Doig was still living there. As I understand, her
husband or her brother and some of the family were actually some of the pioneers
of Gainesville. All that area is known as the Doig addition to Gainesville. We
had an apartment in that house for a while. Then we moved how long we stayed
there I am not sure but we moved south on Roper Street to a house that we
referred to as the Baird House. I think that it is the same one that is today a bed
and board house.






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 4
January 31, 2001


C: The one that is named Magnolia Inn?

J: I think that's the one. I'm not real sure. Right next door to us was the Hal Beatty
home. His family was another pioneer family here in Gainesville. I remember
him.

C: Old Miss Baird lived there, I think. Patty Baird lived there. I remember that
house.

J: We lived there until I was five years old, and then we moved to the area that was
later developed into a subdivision known as Highlands. It was a house that was
on Virginia Avenue, which today I believe is 2nd Street. It was at the corner of 2nd
Street and what is now 9th Avenue.

C: That wasn't Tuscawilla, was it?

J: No, that was back further in the Highlands, I believe. What is now 8th Avenue in
those days was Boundary Street. I think maybe that was the original boundary of
Gainesville. Anyway, that house faced to the west. It was a big 3-story, wooden
house. We lived there until I was a senior in high school, and then we moved out
near the University. That house later was bought and remodeled by someone else
-- before it was bought by Shands. They turned it to face to the north and
completely remodeled it.

C: Did they brick it over?

J: Yes, they bricked it over. It was originally a weatherboard type house.

C: You lived there the longest, really, during your childhood days. I want to go back
again. When your dad came to Gainesville, he wasn't in the clothing business
then, was he?

J: He was traveling, right.

C: Did he go into real estate eventually?

J: He did later. When the real estate boom came along in the 20's, I guess it was, he
like so many others quit doing what they were doing and went into real estate.

C: I have a copy of his obituary, and it tells that that is what he did. If he came here
in 1919, he wasn't in the clothing business for very long.

J: Not long, because I don't remember a whole lot about it. I was five years old
when we moved into that house. We called it the Livingston House. The house,
as I understood, was built by a Mr. Steckert, and there was a sawmill that he






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 5
January 31, 2001

owned right diagonally across from it. They said that he selected the wood out of
that sawmill heart pine and it was so hard that you couldn't drive a nail into it.
It was like concrete. I imagine that the house still has that same frame because
the wood is so good. Anyway, Mr. Steckert, I guess it was Steckert, built the
house, and that's where he lived. In later years, Mr. R. B. Livingston, who was
another pioneer of Gainesville, bought it and lived in it. One of his daughters was
a Bynum. I notice you had Bynum on your list of people. I guess that's one of
the grandsons, but Mr. Livingston had a daughter who married Johnny Bynum,
who was a plumber here. I think Mr. Livingston had three or four daughters. I
believe we bought the house from him.

C: Tell me about your earliest childhood memories when you were living in that
area.

J: It seemed that I lived there for all of my life practically because in those days and
at that age, that was a long period of time. We played all over that area.
Highlands was a big cow pasture when we moved there. The road that is now
about 9th Avenue was a dirt road, and east on that dirt road were one or two
houses way back in what is now Highlands. There was an airfield called Jarvis
Field, which I believe was about where the city park is now.

C: I think you're right.

J: We played all back in there. There were a lot of woods in that area and it was
ideal for young boys. We would build lean-tos and play like we were Indians or
whatever. We also played all around the Thomas Hotel. I can't remember
exactly whether Major Thomas and his family were living in the house or not in
those years, but I do remember Margaret Thomas was just a girl a few years older
than I was, and I remember seeing her there, so they must have been living there
at that time.

C: I think they lived there until she was just about grown. When I interviewed her,
there was something about her father sending her abroad because he told her he
was going to sell the house.

J: When I knew her, she was probably in high school or along in that age group.
Then I can remember looking in the window and seeing all the furniture covered
with dust cloths. I also remember we went in the house I don't remember
whether we went in often or not but there were little whistles on the wall. For
instance, in the kitchen there would be a tube that would run to the bedroom and
if Mrs. Thomas wanted to talk with the cook, she would push a little lever and
blow in a whistle and it would blow down in the kitchen or whatever room she
wanted, and then she could talk into the tube to the person listening on the other
end. We were so fascinated by that.


C: An early intercom.






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 6
January 31, 2001


J: You're right. That really fascinated us. I remember that just as plain. To the
north of the Thomas Hotel, there was a huge building that we always understand
was a dairy at one time, or a coach barn they called it, I guess back when they had
only horses and buggies and carriages. In my memory the American Railway
Express consisted of horse-drawn wagons that would go to the depot and pick up
the baggage and trunks and things off of the train and carry them to wherever.
The old fellow who had charge of those horses, at the end of the day would bring
them to that coach barn and bed them down. That was their stable. We would
catch a ride with him and sometimes he would let us drive the horses. That was
great fun.

Sometime along in those years, I remember seeing them saw that big building into
halves. One half of it they made a real pretty home. They turned it and it faced to
the east on Boulevard, and we called it the Farr House. As I remember, Dr. Farr
was perhaps an interim president at the University, but at one time he was
president of the University. The other half was made into a house the Pepper
family lived in. That was where Calvert and Bill Pepper grew up. Bill Pepper
married the Tucker daughter. I think the Tucker family lived close by there.
Anyway, the barn became homes. They made two beautiful homes.

Another interesting thing. There was a small building on one side of that big
building. I guess that was the dairy. They moved it all the way across Highlands,
way over right close to where Jarvis Field was, which was a good long way in
those days because they moved it by logs. They had a whole bunch of logs and
the horses would pull the building, which would roll on the logs, and when it got
to the end of the logs, they would run around and pick up the logs and carry them
around to the front. I don't remember how they got across Sweetwater Branch
because in those days it was just an open branch. Today it's rock, but in those
days it was just a creek. How they got across that I don't remember, but we rode
in it most of the trip. We watched it all the way. I don't remember how long it
took, but it took a good long time. They made a house out of it. I think it's still
there, close to where the city recreation park is.

C: It was a small building?

J: It was small compared to the big house, but it would probably have been a three-
bedroom house.

C: It was one story, wasn't it?

J: Yes.

C: It would be interesting to find out what house it is and whether it is still there.
You talk about all these friends over there. Who are they?






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 7
January 31, 2001

J: The Parrish boys. I don't remember when the Parrish family came to Gainesville,
but they first lived out on the west side of town near the University and then in
later years moved to what later became Highlands. As a matter of fact, Mr.
Parrish, as I recall, developed Highlands.

C: I think he did.

J: They started building a house that later, I think, Dr. Maines lived in. They built a
lot of houses out there. In later years they built a house right across the street
from where we lived. In those days it was on the side of the house, but today it
faces that house.

C: Your house that you were talking about over there on Virginia Avenue was not
considered Highlands? I feel like it was on the edge of it.

J: I think it was called Sunkist, I believe. Maybe Major Thomas developed it, but
I'm not sure.

C: The part that was Highlands was a little bit east and north.

J: There were both Highlands and Highland Heights. There was a Larkin Carter
who lived out there, who died as a young boy. We often said that if he had been
living today, it probably wouldn't have been serious. He had some kind of a bug
that knocked him out. His father was a city judge. Then there was Jimmy
Adkins, H.H. and M.M. Parrish, Wade Hampton and Seldon Waldo, Frank
McCraw, Cramer Swords, Jimmy Goodson, and Henry Graham. We played all
over that place. In fact, we almost had a self-contained unit that we could do
anything. We had a football team. We called it the Highland Hyenas, and we had
enough to play each other. We had a baseball team. In fact, we worked really
hard building a baseball diamond. Judge Long moved to Gainesville from Starke
or Palatka I think he was appointed Circuit Judge here just before he was
appointed Federal Judge and built a house right in the middle of our baseball
diamond, so we were all upset about that.

All of the streets were dirt streets in those days, and when they developed
Highlands, they paved them, which was hard on us because we all went barefoot
all the time. We had a peach tree in the back yard, and we would beg my father to
let us pull our shoes off and go barefoot. He said that whenever that peach tree
bloomed, then I could pull my shoes off. I don't think any of the boys put a pair
of shoes on the whole summer, except maybe to go to Sunday School.

C: That was the date!

J: That was the date.


C: Now you're talking about grade school probably, all those years.






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 8
January 31, 2001


J: Yes, that was grade school. Then later Jimmy Adkins' family built a house two
lots in back of us, facing the Boulevard.

C: That house is still there.

J: Yes. In later years Fred Cone bought it and I don't know who bought it after
Fred. It was just east of where we lived. There was our house, and we had a
vacant lot where my father used to plant corn and vegetables, and in later years
Annabelle Butler's husband, Jim Butler, built a house there. There was a street
and the next lot was where Adkins built. It faced the Boulevard. On that block
there was a sidewalk that went all the way around the block that we used for
skating. All the boys would gather at the Adkins house.

The McCraw's lived right by us. Their house faced Virginia Avenue and was on
the corner of Virginia and what is today 8th Avenue. That was the house of Mary
Parker McCraw and Virginia McCraw and that family J.C. McCraw and Frank.
They're all gone now. We grew up all together there.

C: You went to Kirby-Smith to school? It was called Eastside School.

J: Yes. That was the only school in Gainesville. Then sometime in the 20's, about
1922 maybe, they built the high school out on University Avenue, which now is
the parking lot for the Ayers Medical Building. The school was kindergarten
through high school. I remember playing football on the field right back of the
school where the Ayers Medical Building now is located. After the 6th grade, we
transferred to the new school.

C: They called the new school Westside School at first, didn't they?

J: I guess they did. We just called it G.H.S. It might have been Westside. As I say,
it was kindergarten through high school. Kirby-Smith remained first grade
through sixth. There were two buildings there a red building and a white
building. The white building originally was the high school. I started school
there with M.M. Parrish, Mary Buchholz and Lucille Cairns in the first grade.
Miss Annie McKinstry was our teacher. At the end of the first grade, she married
Col. Tatum and they moved to the Panama Canal Zone. She was one of the
McKinstry family, which was another pioneer family.

C: Do you remember who the principal was? That was not Buchholz, was it?

J: No. Prof Buchholz was over at the west side school. I don't remember when he
came, but he was there when I was there. I don't remember who was principal. I
remember some of the teachers: Miss Annie McKinstry and Miss Martha Taylor,
who was my 2nd and 3rd grade teacher. Miss Kirkland was 4th grade. I get lost
along in there! I get mixed up with the teachers in the other school.






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 9
January 31, 2001


C: Miss Metcalf was there by the time I came along in 1928.

J: She was there, I'm sure. Miss Ruth Peeler taught my brother, so she was there at
the same time because my brother was two years older than I was. I lived over in
Highlands and we walked to school and had a lot of fun. We would play on the
way.

C: It must have been a mile or so.

J: There was nothing in between our house and that school except dwelling houses,
and nobody worried about anything happening to us. We would walk home after
school. My mother might have been hiding behind a tree watching me, I don't
know, but I don't remember anybody ever coming to pick me up. When we got
older, we had bicycles and we rode all over Gainesville. We would ride out to the
University and anywhere we pleased. Nobody ever worried a bit about us.

There was a West Main Street and an East Main Street. West Main is now Main,
and East Main is now 1st Street. There was an East Main North and an East Main
South and West Main North and a West Main South, which is confusing. West
Main was brick, and the railroad track ran right down the middle of it. East Main
was cobblestones, and they had the islands in the middle of it even back then.
They had palms. I don't think there were any azaleas. I think those were planted
later, but I remember the cobblestones, which was rough driving. There were still
a lot of wagons.

Mrs. Highsmith I remember had a horse drawn dairy wagon. The horse knew the
route, and would walk up to a house and stop. People would come out and buy
butter milk and butter and eggs. Mrs. Highsmith had a hand bell she would ring
to announce her arrival.

Then the iceman would come by, and his horse knew the route. He would go to a
house and stop. While the iceman was delivering ice to one house, the horse
would walk to the next house and wait. Everybody had an icebox. There was no
such thing as an electric refrigerator. You would hang a little card out on the
house and tell him how much you wanted 12 lbs. or 25 or 100. The ice was in
100 lb. cakes, and the iceman would chip it with a pick and break off whatever
amount you wanted. In the summertime, we would run along behind the ice
wagon and get the ice chips. In fact, we would ride in it a lot and eat the chips.

C: Those were the good old days. If nobody was home, it didn't make a bit of
difference. Your back door would be wide open. The iceman would come in and
put the ice in the icebox and leave.

J: I'm sure everybody's was the same way. Our refrigerator was in a back room.
There was a porch and then a room, and the refrigerator was in that room. On top






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 10
January 31, 2001

of the refrigerator we kept a coupon book. and the iceman would tear off the
coupon for whatever amount of ice you bought.

The grocer was the same way. People ordered their groceries by telephone, I
guess because there weren't many automobiles. I remember George Dell had a
grocery store and people would order their groceries and the grocery man would
come by and the back door would be open and he would have a box with the
groceries in it. He would set it on the kitchen table. I guess it was charged and
we paid by the month.

C: Yes. Everybody was pretty honest.

J: I recall one time there was a fellow who was arrested for something. I don't
know what he pulled, but maybe he robbed somebody. That was a big deal in
town. Everybody was all excited over it. We probably didn't have more than one
or two policeman. We had a sheriff and maybe one deputy. I remember Mr.
Wash Fennell was the sheriff in the early years. He was Seldon Waldo's
grandfather. I think Dr. Charlie Pinkoson's daddy was either the police chief or
the sheriff later. I recall one day a cow got loose in town and Mr. Fennell rode his
horse and chased that cow all over town. We ran along behind him and had more
fun chasing that cow.

C: Do you remember when your folks first got a car? Do you remember ever riding
in a buggy?

J: No, we never had a buggy. We walked, but my father got an automobile to travel
in. He traveled and would be home about once a week, and we would have the
car on the weekend.

C: So he probably had a car pretty early on?

J: He did. The first one we had was a touring car. It was a two-seater car and was
all open. It had isinglass curtains that we would put up when it rained. Most of
them would turn yellow so you couldn't see through it. The windshield wiper
was by hand. You had to do it by hand. It was not electric.

My father died in 1930, so it was prior to 1930, I recall, when they built the fill
road across the Prairie. Once when riding across this fill, there was a real
rainstorm and I had to do the windshield wiper by hand while my father drove.

C: That was after it was no longer a lake. For a while there was a lake out there.

J: I never do remember it being a lake. As I understand, the Alachua Sink was like a
plug in a bathtub and they used to say every seven or however many years that the
old dead limbs and timber would plug the sink and the lake would fill up and then
it would open up and all the water would run out of it. According to old history






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 11
January 31, 2001

books, it was a lake and there were steamboats that would carry oranges from the
Micanopy area over to Gainesville. When they built the road across the Prairie,
the road to Tampa was dirt from Gainesville. It might have been paved in some
parts of it, but it was paved on the north side of Gainesville. We called it the
Dixie Highway, which is now 441. It came into Gainesville and down 6th Street
and then turned and went east down 8th to Main Street. Then it went down Main
Street to University Avenue and out University to 13th, which in those days was
9th. Then it turned left at 9th and went to Archer Road, then west to what is now
34th Street and turned north. That road went around the Prairie. I can't remember
where the pavement ended, but it seems like it was dirt or rock or something. It
went around the Prairie and came out on the south side of the Prairie before you
got to Micanopy.

C: Did you go swimming in the summertime?

J: Yes, we did. We went to Pinkoson Springs and Glen Springs was opened up
along about that time. It was really not a spring, just a creek. Dr. Charlie
Pinkoson's daddy built Pinkoson Springs where Turkey Creek is now, and we
would go out there. Before that time, we would swim in Freezers Pond. The
University students used it to swim in. There was no pool at the University.
There was a pond out in the fairgrounds we called it the fairgrounds, which is
now where the county health unit is. That was the Alachua County Fairgrounds,
and there was a pond out there that was much closer to where we lived. We
would go out there and swim in that little pond.

C: I didn't even know there was a pond out there.

J: It's probably gone by now, or they may have fenced it in and made it into a catch
basin for storm water! I couldn't go to it to save my life now, but I remember
there was a baseball field there. They called it Harris Field.

C: It was on the corer of 8th Avenue and Waldo Road.

J: Then there was a big grandstand and a racetrack. I remember my father used to
take me to the horse races out there. He was from the farm and loved horses, and
he drove a buggy when he was a young man. He used to say that they all said he
had the finest horses in the county. Anyway, he loved horses and we would go to
all the horse races. Just to one side of that racetrack is where the pond was.
There was a little bit of woods around it.

C: This was further east than Harris Field?

J: It was north. There was Harris Field and then there was a bunch of old buildings
that they had exhibits in. Then they had the big stand and bleachers like they
have at the horse races, and then there was an oval horse racetrack going north
from Harris Field.






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 12
January 31, 2001


C: Did you swim at Magnesia Springs, or did that come later?

J: I can't really remember whether I went to Magnesia when I was young. I can't
remember when that came into being but it was a good ways out there, so we
probably didn't go there. We went to Glen after they opened Glen Springs. It
wasn't much of a springs, just a big wide part of the creek. And we would go to
Pinkoson Springs.

C: Eventually they did make it bigger.

J: They had a nice place there, but we went to Pinkoson's mostly. I learned to
swim there. I must not have been more than about six or seven years old.

C: You had to go there in a car. You had to go to Glen in a car, too.

J: Yes. It was too far to walk. We would ride our bicycles to Devil's Millhopper, so
we could have ridden our bikes, but I don't believe I was big enough. I don't
know whether I was riding my bicycle when we went to Glen or not. It would be
interesting to know when they first built Glen. I may have my stories mixed up,
but I do remember Pinkoson Springs. Dr. Charlie Pinkoson was a little boy and
couldn't swim. I remember going there and he would stick his head under water
and paddle out. His sister Bessie and Margaret would help him. We had old
automobile inner tubes that we would use. We finally learned to swim just on our
own. It was in Pinkoson Springs where we learned.

We would go down 441, which was paved in those days, and turn and go down a
dirt road for a ways to the Springs. It was about where Turkey Creek is now.

C: Now it was a springs but it wasn't concreted or made into any kind of a pool, was
it?

J: They did. There was the spring and they had a nice pool. It was rocked in with
concrete and rocks. It was a big round pool. They had a dance hall there and they
had all kinds of festivities. On one side they had the bathhouses. It would cost a
quarter or ten cents and you would get a little elastic ring with a key on it that you
would put on your leg. You would put your clothes in the basket and leave it at
the office and they would lock it up and you would have to have the key to get it
out.

C: Well, we've covered your younger days, but tell me a little bit about your
activities in high school.

J: We stayed in the house there in Highlands until I was about a junior or senior in
high school. We lost that house in the Depression years. My father died. The
house caught on fire, I remember. They had a big tarpaulin stretched over the






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 13
January 31, 2001

roof. The houses were wood and they really burned. It caught from the chimney.
It didn't really destroy it, but it did a lot of damage. We lost the house eventually,
and my mother rented a house out by the University which was a rooming house.
She was working at the University as a housekeeper in one of the dormitories.
They had housekeepers in each dormitory. She had a crew of black ladies who
would clean and make up the beds. That was a daily thing. I remember they had
four stories and no elevators, and my mother used to walk up and down those
steps. It had sections, maybe six sections in the building, so she would go up four
stories and down in each of the sections. Her friends used to wonder how she did
it, but she said that was the way she kept thin and kept her health. Good exercise
climbing those steps.

C: Where was the rooming house that she rented?

J: The first one was on Lafayette Street (about 15th St. N.W. now).

C: So it would be west of 13th Street.

J: You know where the Methodist Students Center is. About three blocks west of
that, then about four blocks north of that. I remember Osee Harper, who married
Sunny Dell. His mother had a rooming house there. In fact, that was quite the
thing. There was one lady from North Carolina who moved to Gainesville and
had four sons. She had a rooming house and educated her boys. My mother did
the same thing. A lot of them furnished meals, but we just had the rooms because
she was working in the dormitory. My brother and I were pretty much on our
own. We worked at various jobs.

C: Now you were in high school?

J: When we first moved out there, I was a senior in high school. When I graduated
from high school, I started at the University as a freshman in 1933 and I worked
in the summer on the campus. I remember we worked in the cafeteria that burned
down they called it The Commons, I believe and we would paint and clean
and all that kind of thing. We earned twenty-five cents an hour. Twenty-five
cents was worth a meal in the wintertime. Instead of getting money when we
worked at the University, we would get a ticket for a meal. I would earn enough
to eat my noon meals for the whole year. Of course, breakfast I would eat at
home and supper we would eat at home, but I would get my noon meal at the
University. I also worked at waiting tables some. I had various jobs. They
would give you meals for waiting tables.

C: Did you ever work at the Primrose Grill?

J: No, I never did work there. I worked at one time for Mrs. Anderson, whose son
Frank Anderson had a photographer's shop. She had a rooming house and a
boarding house. It was well known. Right next-door to her was Mrs. Stripling, I






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 14
January 31, 2001

believe, who had a boarding house. Mrs. John Kelly (John, Jr., was the city
power superintendent) had one right next door. There were three of them right on
University Avenue. Ma Ramsey was down the street. I think everybody
remembers her.

C: Now they had dormitories at the University, but they didn't have room for all of
them?

J: No, they didn't have room for all of them. A lot of the boys wanted to live off
campus. I don't know. Maybe they had more freedom, but I think it was a matter
of room because there was a demand for dormitory rooms. They kept it full all
the time. When I first started back in those days, there was Thomas Hall and
Buckman Hall, two dormitories. Then they built what I believe was later called
Murphree, but we called it "the new dormitory" for years! That was the one that
my mother worked in. There were three dormitories, and there were three or four
thousand students, I guess, in those days, so the dormitories just didn't hold them
all.

C: We sort of skipped over your high school. Was there anything special you want
to tell about those days?

J: I can't think of anything. High school was really kind of a blank. I went out for
basketball in about my junior year and football my senior year. The other years I
don't really remember that I did. I was too little, really. There was not very much
in high school that I can remember. I remember working as a "curb hop" at
Touchton's Drug Store and at the grocery store in the high school days.

C: Did they have boy/girl dances and things like that?

J: Very few. I can't remember that we had clubs or anything. The girls had clubs
and the boys had clubs, but they eventually outlawed the clubs. That was about
the only social activity. We did have dances, I remember, but they were all held
across the street. The 20th Century Club was there in those days. Every now and
then there would be a function there. I recall when I was a senior we had a
graduation dance there. That was it. They didn't have proms like they do now.

C: The school didn't sponsor dances or anything. Did you have any activities at the
Legion Hall? What about Chautauqua?

J: Every year the Chautauqua would come to town. It was a tent show that would be
on a week or longer. They would have shows in the afternoon and at night. They
had some real good shows. They had to get a permit from the city and Frank
McCraw's sister, Mary Parker, worked for the city manager. Through her we
would get a job distributing the advance publicity pamphlets. By doing that we
would get a free ticket pass to all of the shows, so we would attend every one of
them.






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 15
January 31, 2001


C: That was located east of the Legion Hall near the public library?

J: It was east of the little public library, right where the Legion Hall is. That was
built later. It seems like there was some other place it was located when it came
to Gainesville, but I can't remember where it was, what location. It was
somewhere close to downtown. Pretty much everything was downtown. The
whole town was around the square.

C: Sure. They used to have Bank Night. I remember hearing about that.

J: Yes. That was at the theater, the Lyric Theater. When the Florida Theater was
built, they had some kind of a Bank Night out in the street. It would be blocked
off with everybody standing in the street.

After the football games, they would give a midnight show and let the students in
free. All of us young fellows would just rush in like a herd of cattle. We would
get right in the middle of it and attend every one of those shows. We would also
get into the Florida football games the same way. In those days football was
played on the field called Fleming Field, I believe, which is about where the buses
used to park north of the stadium between the north end of the stadium and
University Avenue before the north end of the stadium was renovated.

C: Didn't we call that Polo Field? Well, in my day we did.

J: I think Polo Field was where the parking lot is today by the O Dome. The
football field had wooden bleachers on one side and had a few box seats made out
of concrete on the other side, and the track was just adjoining that field. The
entire freshman class would form out there in a group. Each one of them had an
activities card. The officials would open the gate and the students would hold up
that card and rush in and here again we would get right in the middle of them and
would run in. I never missed a football game.

C: You got in for free.

J: Yes. We never did pay for anything. We didn't have any money to pay for those
things. That was during the Depression years.

C: But you all survived.

J: We were just little kids then. Maybe high school, I can't remember.


C: Probably high school before you got really interested in sports.






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 16
January 31, 2001

J: They built the stadium and moved from that field to the stadium; I think about
1930, somewhere along in there. I graduated from high school in June 1933 and
started to college that year. I was in the class of '37 and the law class of '39.

C: So you were in high school when the new stadium was built.

J: Yes, I think I was. In fact, they used to have a bonfire out there in the middle of
the track, and every freshman had to bring his weight in wood to the bonfire.
They would light it and have a big pep rally around the bonfire the night before
home games. After they built the stadium, the pep rally would be held in the
north end of it. That was the beginning of Gator Growl. They would have a stage
in the north end. There would be just a few people sitting in the north end. It was
a horseshoe shape and the south end was open. I'm not really sure, but I think it
was about 1930.

C: Were the boys having their pajama parades in those days?

J: Yes. They'd start out on the campus someplace. It was the freshmen that had to
do it in their pajamas. In fact, they would go through the dormitory and clear
them out and make them get on their pajamas. The others could just stand and
watch. They had paddles and would paddle the freshmen. They had a band and
they would march from the campus. The cheerleaders would get up on top of the
two small buildings on the north side of the courthouse square.

C: That's way downtown really.

J: Yes. Across the street was Glass's Drug Store it was Miller's years ago and
then later Glass's. Everybody would gather in between those little buildings and
the drug store, and they would have a pep rally.

The team traveled by train, and the depot was where the First Union Bank is now.
The train would stop at the station, and they would have another pajama parade
down to the train and see the team off

C: Did the visiting teams come by train?

J: I can't remember how they arrived, but I'm sure they did. They made no to-do
over it. The only one I can remember that they really had a to-do over was when
we played UCLA and Joe E. Brown, the movie actor, came. When he would
open his mouth up really wide, and he would say "Bruins." They had a big
program of entertainment right around Christmas. That's the only one I
remember there was a whole lot of to-do over.

C: That would have been something. The freshmen always wore those orange rat
caps.






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 17
January 31, 2001

J: Yes, I wore one of those. We would wear it until Christmas and then we could
take it off. We used them after that for a ticket to catch a ride. We would catch
rides to Jacksonville to the football games and anywhere else we wanted to go.
The cap was our ticket, and the auto drivers would pick us up.

C: To remind everybody who is reading this, it was all boys in those days. The
cheerleaders were all male and everything on campus was for fellows.

J: The coeds came in about 1946, right after World War II, after I got back from the
Army.

C: Well, we got you through high school. I guess you had some of the same friends,
didn't you, from grade school on?

J: Yes. We all finished in about the same class. As a matter of fact, M.M. Parrish
and I and two or three others were a year behind in age. Most of our friends were
a year older. We went to summer school over in the old Kirby-Smith between the
4th and 6th grades. We skipped the 5th grade.

C: I think Lucille Cairns George was in your same group, and she told me that story.

J: Yes. We all finished in the same class.

C: So you got out of high school and college pretty much together then.

J: Yes.

C: Did you belong to a fraternity?

J: I did not. I worked and didn't have any money. A lot of my friends were, and of
course, through them we participated in just about everything that went on. I
remember Seldon Waldo was, and Frank McCraw was, and Wade Hampton, and
M.M. Parrish. Through them we were pretty active.

C: Then you went right into law school when you graduated?

J: In those days it was a combined degree. Today you have to get your degree in
pre-law and then go into law school, but it was a combined course then. It was a
six-year course. You took three years of pre-law and the first year of law classes
counted as electives in the pre-law so you took all of your required subjects your
first three years in pre-law and then you would use your freshman law courses as
electives in pre-law. At the end of six years, you would get two degrees, your
Bachelor's and then your Law degree. You were eligible to receive your
Bachelors' degree at the end of four years. The Law degree in those days was
L.L.B. and in later years it changed into a J.D. The J.D. degree, when I was
graduated, was an honorary degree for good grades.






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 18
January 31, 2001


C: What does J.D. stand for?

J: Doctor of Jurisprudence.

C: What did L.L.B. stand for?

J: Bachelor of Laws. They always did it backwards for some reason.

C: I wonder why there were two "Ls".

J: I guess for the plural "laws."

C: So you went straight from high school into college?

J: Yes. I finished high school in June of '33 and went into my freshman year in
September '33. I finished law school in '39 and practiced until January of '42 and
went into the Army. I was in the Army for four and a half years and got back in
May of '46. I opened up an office by myself. That lasted one month and then I
went in with Clayton & Arnow.

C: Before you went into service were you practicing by yourself?

J: No, I was in the office with Sigsbee Scruggs. Sigsbee would take in every stray
cat that came along. He was the most big-hearted fellow that I ever knew and
would do anything in the world to help a young lawyer. He had room in his
office. In fact, when I was in there, there was a Spence boy that later went to
Miami and practiced law. There were two of us in there. We practiced with him
and used his library and his secretary. We helped him if he wanted it, but we
were also on our own. I kept busy for the year and a half. Mildred and I were
married in April of '41 while I was still with Sigsbee. Then I went into the Army
in '42 and went to school in Fort Benning for three months and she was able to
stay with me. We had an apartment in Columbus, Georgia.

I took R.O.T.C. in college, so I had my commission already. I was in the reserves
and when I was inducted into the Army, I went to Benning and had been
promoted to First Lieutenant. Here I was a First Lieutenant and green as grass. I
didn't know the first thing, so I was thankful for the three months officers' course
that I went to. After I graduated from that, I stayed with the school on the faculty
of the Infantry School at Fort Benning. I stayed there for a year and Mildred was
with me all that time. We had an apartment right in Columbus.

C: Tell me how you met Mildred and give her maiden name.

J: Right after I graduated from law school, Frank McCraw, who was one of my best
friends, was going with a girl in Alachua, where Mildred lived. I had an old






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 19
January 31, 2001

Model A Ford, and he wanted to double date when he would go to see his girl, so
he made a blind date for me with Mildred. It was on a Sunday and she often says
that she almost got cold feet and started to go to church and walk out because she
was scared and didn't like blind dates. Anyway, she waited and I went with her
from then on.

C: What was her maiden name?

J: Gillis. That was in 1939, around Labor Day, and we went together until April
1941 when we were married in Alachua. I moved her into Gainesville because I
was practicing law over here.

C: Where was your first home?

J: We lived in an apartment house that Mr. Charlie Scarritt owned. I don't know
whether you remember the Scarritt family. That's another one of the old pioneer
families around here. It was on Virginia Avenue, just south of the Milam Funeral
Home. It was in that neighborhood. I don't think the house is still there. It was
about two or three blocks east of the funeral home. That's about 3rd Avenue and
1st Street, and we had an apartment there. We moved to Gainesville in April, then
I went into the Army in January 1942. When we were married, Mildred was
working at the First National Bank of Alachua. After we were married, she
worked for Uncle Gus Phifer at the Phifer State Bank. J.B. Carmichael was there,
and some of the old timers. She worked there until I went into the Army and then
went with me to Fort Benning. When I left Fort Benning, they were forming a
new division at Camp Blanding. My commanding officer knew that I was from
Gainesville so he assigned me as a cadre to that division. Jane, my daughter, was
on the way, so it worked out just fine. Mildred came home and I went to
Blanding. While I was at Blanding, Jane was born in '43. Her full name is Jane
Carol Johnston.

C: Did she stay in Blanding?

J: Mildred stayed with her mother in Alachua. We could come home on Wednesday
and the weekend. People all over this county were working for the Army. There
were just hundreds of people every day going from Gainesville and surrounding
towns to Blanding. It was easy to catch a ride from Blanding to home and back.
In that way, I could leave the car for Mildred to use. We would get up real early
on Thursday and Monday mornings and get to Blanding in time to report for duty.
Part of that time I was a General's aide, which gave me a little bit of freedom.
The general let me leave when I could.

C: Now you would get a ride from Blanding to Alachua?

J: Many people worked in Blanding and when they would go home, we would catch
a ride back to Alachua. There were a bunch of them who were civilians who






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 20
January 31, 2001

worked in Blanding and lived in Alachua. I often laughed. They had a fence
around where the automobiles parked. We would go down there and be waiting
on them to come out so we could catch our ride. At four o'clock, the gate would
open and the cars would immediately come flying out. They would leave their
jobs about three-thirty o'clock and come out and crank up the engine and have the
motor going and be sitting on ready, and the minute the gates opened at four, they
would come flying out.

I stayed there until Jane was about three or four weeks old and our division was
moved to Little Rock, Arkansas. I went to Arkansas on a troop train.

C: Did Mildred go with you?

J: No, Mildred stayed at her mother's. Another officer and I rented a house in Little
Rock. I got leave and came home and picked up Mildred and Jane. I think Jane
was about six weeks old. We drove all the way to Little Rock. When we stopped
to spend the night in Thomasville, Georgia, I remember that Jane cried all night.
We had everything we owned in the car. Her cedar chest had everything in it, and
we managed to get it in the back seat and had all of our earthly belongings in it.
As long as we were riding, Jane would sleep, so we drove all the way to Little
Rock without stopping after Thomasville.

The division moved back to what is now Fort Rucker, Alabama.

C: How long were you Arkansas?

J: Probably less than a year. I was sent back to school in Fort Benning for three
months. Mildred could go with me, so that was nice. That was almost like a
vacation. While I was at Benning at school, the division moved to Fort Rucker,
Alabama, and I didn't have to get in on that at all. When I finished at Benning,
we drove to Fort Rucker. I got an apartment for her in a little town named
Newton, Alabama, about three miles from the fort.

C: When you were at Benning for that three months school, did she live on the base?

J: No, we lived in Columbus. I could come home every night. The Army was good
to us. They had what we called "cattle trucks". They were big trucks with trailers
that had rows of benches in the trailer, and they would pick us up at certain spots
and let us off at certain spots in town. Then I would walk two or three blocks to
where we lived. It was great.

C: It sounds like you had a good Army experience.

J: I said that I wished I could have done that at the end of the war instead of at the
beginning. That was all at the beginning. In '44, I guess, our division was
shipped overseas so Mildred went home. We left from New York. It was






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 21
January 31, 2001

supposed to be a secret move. It was right in the middle of the war and there was
a lot of submarine warfare and all that. Everything was real hush-hush. They
moved us to Camp Shanks in New Jersey. We went into town and there was a
Hotel Taft in New York City and just about every wife in the regiment that I was
in was in that hotel. They had all gotten word and gone to New York and rented a
room. Mildred went by herself on the train. She left the baby with her mother
and sister and went by herself. Today I would be scared to death. As soon as we
could get away from camp, we went into town to the hotel. We laughed about
having to crawl though a hole in the fence to get out of the camp. We had to
stand aside to let the Colonels crawl under first and then we Captains. We were
there about a week, I guess, staging for overseas, so we got in just about every
night to see them.

I shipped overseas to the European theater, and my brother-in-law, Mildred's
brother, Bobby, came and she went home with him. I was overseas a year and a
half.

C: What branch were you in?

J: I was in the infantry. I was a company commander. I had my law degree, and I
tried to transfer to the Adjutant General's Corps, the Legal Division. They said
that lawyers were a dime a dozen in the Army. They needed Infantry officers. I
had my commission in the Infantry. That was what I fell into automatically at the
University. Whatever college you were in you were either Infantry or Artillery. I
was a Rifle Company commander and later a Heavy Weapons Company
commander.

C: Where did you land?

J: We landed in Southampton, England, and then we shipped across the Channel.
The Battle of the Bulge, the breakthrough, was going on so the Germans stepped
up the submarine warfare to prevent reinforcements from coming across. We
were on two ships. Half of our division was on the ship right by us and was sunk.
It was hit with a torpedo. I said the good Lord was looking after me because I
was standing on the deck and heard this loud noise and could see boards and
smoke and stuff flying from the other ship. Our ship was not hit. The ship went
down and we lost about half of our division. Our ship went on in to Cherbourg
harbor, and we were untouched. When General Patton went through France, he
went so fast that instead of stopping and capturing the Germans, he bottled them
off. They retreated to the ports so they could try to get out, so he put a ring
around the port and just held them captive and that way they didn't have to feed
them and furnish medical aid and all that. They weren't prisoners of war. They
were just bottled up. He ringed off every port in France with our troops. Our
division was so messed up that they put us guarding two of those pockets, so I
spent the rest of the war guarding them.






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 22
January 31, 2001

C: You didn't have to go in on D-Day?

J: No, I didn't have that. I was fortunate. I was in the States when D-Day came.
Also, it was tough on the other ship. The one I was on we were lucky.

C: The ship sunk and you say they lost half of their men?

J: Just about everybody that was on it was lost. It was a British ship and the soldiers
were just jammed down in the hold of the ship. They had hammocks. When the
torpedo hit, the water rushed in and just knocked the steps and everything out, and
those men all drowned.

C: It wasn't a matter of rescuing some of them?

J: No. A few of them were rescued. Some of them jumped. It was Christmas Eve
night and it was real rough. This ship they were on was high, and the ship they
were jumping to was low, and a lot of them missed it and fell in the water. Some
of them hit the deck. A few of them were saved, but not very many. It knocked
out just about half of our division. We said we had kind of a little private war
going on. We were fighting with the Germans in these pockets. They would get
supplies from submarines that would come in. As a matter of fact, when the
breakthrough came, the plan was for all of these pockets to all break out at the
same time and the bulge would break through and cut off the Americans that were
still in France and Germany, but it didn't work. They tried to get out but the war
ended before they were able to do anything. I was there when DE Day was
declared. There were a lot of troops in Germany that were shipped to Japan
because the war was still going on.

We were stationed at Marseille, France. I had some real interesting experiences at
Marseille in a big tent camp. The trucks would come out of Germany with our
troops, and we would reequip them. We had supplies and everything there. We
had a kitchen set up and would feed them. We reequipped them with uniforms
and weapons, then put them on a truck and ship them down to the harbor in
Marseilles and put them on a liberty ship to go to the Pacific. So there again, I
was fortunate in that I spent several months from June 1945 until VJ Day along
in November 1945 at Marseille. The war ended and it took about three or four
months to get us home. They called it high points. So many points for the battles
you were in, whether you were wounded, or this or that. The high points came
first. I don't remember where I fell in but I finally got out of there about May of
'46. When we landed in New York, it was snowing. There was snow on the
ground about a foot deep. We stayed there three or four days to be deprocessed,
then got on the train and headed for Blanding, where I was discharged. When we
crossed the Florida line, the sun was shining and I still had on my winter uniform
and I was so hot I could have died. We got to Blanding, and it was summertime
practically. So that takes care of the Army.






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 23
January 31, 2001

C: So you came back and Mildred was waiting for you.

J: Yes, she was, and Jane was three years old, I believe. Mildred and Jane met me at
Blanding and brought me to Gainesville. We rented a house in Gainesville
because I started practicing just a few days after I got back. We rented a house in
Highlands, which was fun. I grew up over there and that was home. We stayed
there for six months maybe and then we bought a house in Hibiscus Park. Did
you live in Hibiscus?

C: It was after I had left home when they built a house there and lived there about a
year. It was at the end of the war and they said that they didn't want to build a
house until they could get all the new products, which were very hard to get.
They lived there about a year.

J: We had a small house. M.M. Parrish and his brother, H.H., were in the building
business then. They built six small houses in Hisbiscus Park. Those were some
of the happiest days that we ever spent because everybody out there was just out
of the Army. Right across the street was Merton Hartmann and his wife, Ina.
They all had children the same age.

C: Were you near the little pond?

J: We were about two blocks from the pond. I think it was Lantana Street. That
doesn't mean anything now. From where your dad's house was, there was a street
and then the next street was two blocks out there, and then we went down about
three or four blocks west. There were six small houses on that block, and we all
became real close. All around us were people our age and children the same age.
We stayed there -- let's see, Covey, Jr., was born there and Vance was born
there. We stayed there until about 1957. We moved there in 1947, the year
Covey, Jr., was born, so we must have stayed in the Highland for a year and then
came there in 1947. We stayed there for about ten years.

C: Okay, let's go back to your practice. You were practicing solo. You didn't go
back in with Sigsbee Scruggs again?

J: No. I practiced for a month by myself. Then Bo Arnow, who became federal
judge later, came to me and wanted me to join him and Erwin Clayton it was
Baxter & Clayton. Mr. E.G. Baxter died during the war and Bo Arnow came
home in January 1946 from the Army and joined the firm. So it was Clayton &
Arnow and then Harry Duncan came home and joined the firm in 1946, and it was
Clayton, Arnow & Duncan. Then I joined them, and it became Clayton, Arnow,
Duncan & Johnston.


C: Did they give you full partnership right from the beginning?






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 24
January 31, 2001

J: No. I was not a partner for some months. I don't remember how long it was
before I became a partner. It was sometime in 1946, I believe. Clara Gehan
(Clara Floyd) was with Erwin during the war. She got married to Freddy Gehan
and left. Freddy went into the Army like everybody else did, so they left, and
Clayton was by himself. Dr. Alfred Crandall from the University came and
helped him. The law school, of course, didn't have much to do because there
weren't many students during the war, and he had spare time. He was there until
after the war ended and we all started to come back. He left before I got there.
After I was in the firm, Clara came back to town and came back with us for a
while. I don't remember how long she stayed, but she pulled out and practiced by
herself from then on until she died. We didn't want her to go because Clara was
one of the best lawyers in Gainesville. I thought the world of Clara.

C: Did she graduate from the University of Florida?

J: Yes. Clara was teaching Latin when I was a senior in high school. She had just
graduated from Florida State in about 1933 and she was our Latin teacher. How
long she taught I don't know, but I think she was going to law school at that time.

C: Did she go before Lucille George?

J: Yes, I think so. Lucille was in my class.

C: She was one of the early women, but Clara was earlier than that.

J: Yes. Clara started practicing sometime prior to the time I went into the Army in
'42. As I remember, there was a Stella B. Fisher, who was a lawyer here prior to
my time. The next female lawyer that I remember was Clara. There might have
been some more in there somewhere, but I think she was the next one.

C: What type of practice did you have?

J: When I started off, I did a little bit of everything. I did some criminal law, and I
did just general practice, but after I got with the firm, I got interested in real
estate, probate, and wills. We called it estate planning. It really wasn't. Estate
planning is a field in itself that involves a lot of tax law and this kind of thing that
I was not qualified for, but it was wills and probate and real estate. I did a little
bit of everything except I didn't do any more criminal law after a few years. If I
had a client that got into trouble for some reason, I would help him out. Of
course, an associate or one of the other lawyers in the firm would take care of it if
it were something that we didn't handle.

C: What was Bo Arnow's real name?

J: Winston E. Arnow. I don't know where the Bo came from. I always knew him as
Bo.






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 25
January 31, 2001


C: Harry Duncan, of course, we knew. Harry was local, I guess.

J: Harry came from Tavares. His daddy was on the old State Board of Control. He
was a lawyer in Tavares. Harry also had an uncle who was a lawyer in Tavares.

C: He came to Gainesville because he married Mary Baird, I guess.

J: I guess that probably was his reason. Harry was the same age as S.T. Dell. They
were about four years older than I and about a year or two younger than Bo
Arnow.

C: Mr. Clayton was a good deal older than all of you.

J: I guess he must have graduated in '26 or somewhere along in there. He was 19
years older than I.

C: Do you have any interesting stories about your law practice or any of those old-
time lawyers or even Sigsbee Scruggs?

J: Yes. Sigsbee was a character. When I first finished law school, I ran for Justice
of the Peace in order to become better known as a lawyer. Back in those days, it
was considered unethical to advertise. The ethics were very strict, which was
good in my opinion because as a result of advertising, the lawyers' prestige
dropped. They kind of brought it on themselves with the advertising, I think.
Anyway, anything we could do legitimately, like running for office, was
permitted. I met many people in Alachua County. I really enjoyed it because I
made a lot of friends and some became clients.

C: So you did become Justice of the Peace?

J: Yes, I won. There were three of us running, and I beat the other two in the first
primary. I was really proud of that. I had a lot of good help. I'll always thank
Mary Parker McCraw and her friends. She knew practically everybody in
Gainesville. I never knew anybody as well known as she was. I was able to get
enough votes in the first primary to win it. I issued warrants and one of my jobs
was to act as coroner. When a dead body was found, an inquest would be held to
determine the cause of death. A jury of six persons was called to take what
evidence was available and decide how the person died and whether it was foul
play or not. The case would then be turned over to the state attorney to do
whatever he thought was necessary.

I met many people in Alachua County. We had political rallies all over the
county. They were a lot of fun. All of the candidates would attend the rally and
speak. After the election, I continued to practice law. This didn't interfere with
my law practice. I had that on the side. I got paid so much for performing






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 26
January 31, 2001

marriages. Every time you affixed your seal, that was half a dollar and every time
you signed your name, that was so much. I made about $50.00 a month out of it,
as I remember. The Justice of the Peace had an executive officer, a peace officer,
who was a constable. He was in direct competition with the sheriff, which never
did make sense. If anything happened, the constable and deputies would rush to
see who could get there first and arrest the person. If the constable got him, he
would bring him before me and I would take his plea. Then I would have to bind
him over to whatever court had jurisdiction of his case, because I had no trial
jurisdiction. I did have civil trial jurisdiction up to, I think, $100.00. It was the
small claims court of that day.

Incidentally, the Justice of the Peace position was done away with after the war.
The legislature finally realized that the need for it had passed with the horse and
buggy days. It came into being because back in the old days, people traveled by
horse and buggy. If you lived in High Springs and had to get a warrant for some
reason, it would take all day or two days to get to Gainesville. Travel was a
problem so there was a Justice of the Peace in each town generally. They were
able to dispense justice without having to go all the way to the county seat.

C: You said that the jury was always men. Were women even called to jury duty?

J: I don't remember ever having any women jurors. Even in circuit court, we had
very few women jurors.

C: There was a long time that women were discriminated against.

J: Absolutely.

C: You've had an interesting career.

J: One thing that stands out happened when I was Justice of the Peace. One night I
got a call that the sheriff had arrested a taxi driver from St. Petersburg. This taxi
driver said that he had buried a woman's body in Alachua County. The sheriff
called me and I called Dewitt Jones, who was the forerunner of the Milam Funeral
Home. Harvey Hord I don't know if you remember Harvey was a funeral
director for Dewitt Jones and drove the ambulance. I called Harvey, and the
sheriff summoned a jury. It turned out that the fellow said she was buried on the
road that runs from Micanopy to the Hawthorne Road. It's paved now but it was
a dirt road then. Pine trees grew right close to that road. It was midnight, black
as anything, a real ghost story. I rode with Harvey in the ambulance out onto the
dirt road. The taxi driver took us to where he said it was and they started digging,
and sure enough, they hit the body. It was not robbery because she still had her
diamond rings on. It turned out that she was a very wealthy woman from St.
Petersburg, and I think she was pregnant. I can't remember, because it was so
long ago, whether she was killed because of that or what the deal was. It was






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 27
January 31, 2001

thought that someone paid the taxi driver to haul her body somewhere and get rid
of her.

C: After he did, was that when the sheriff caught him?

J: Well, they were suspicious of the St. Petersburg taxi driver. In those days, a St.
Petersburg taxicab driving in Gainesville around midnight was highly suspicious.
That scared him to death. I guess he was afraid he was going to get pinned with
the murder. I can't remember whether we ever pinned it on him or not. We had a
formal inquest. We had a lot of publicity. I used to have some newspaper
clippings because it made the papers up north.

C: I didn't find a thing about that in my papers.

J: I think it's in the Gainesville Sun and the St. Petersburg paper.

C: They don't have anything catalogued. It probably is. If I knew the date, I could
probably find it. What year do you think that was?

J: It was before I went into the Army. It was before I was married and was probably
in 1941. When I got back from the Army, the Governor appointed some fellow
named Thompson as Justice of the Peace. When I got back, he resigned and the
Governor reappointed me because I had been off in the service. They they did
away with the job, but this was before.

C: You were Justice of the Peace right out of law school then?

J: 1940. About one year out. I got out of law school in June '39 and then ran for
Justice of the Peace whenever the election was in 1940 or 1941.

Anyway, this was quite an experience. Here I was a greenhorn. I was
inexperienced. The name Nichols sticks in my mind. I don't know whether she
could have been named Nichols, but she was from St. Petersburg and was buried
on that dirt road. The trial would have been in Pinellas County. They might have
found the taxi driver guilty of murder, but that was the end of it as far as I
remember. I know I stayed up all night and when I got home, the family was
eating breakfast. I went to work that morning. It didn't bother me. I was young
and full of energy. I worked all day. It didn't bother me a bit.

C: All right. Let's get back to the end of the story when you were practicing in your
law firm. Have we got all your children born? We have Jane.

J: Jane was born in 1943. E. Covington, Jr. "Covey" was born in 1947.


C: That was after you were back.






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 28
January 31, 2001

J: Yes. Vance was born in 1951. Vance Cole Johnston was his full name. There's
four years' difference between each one. They were all born in Gainesville.

C: That's when you were out in Hibiscus Park area.

J: Yes. Covey and Vance were both born while we were living in Hibiscus Park.
Jane was born during the war and Mildred was living in Alachua with her mother.
We lived in Hibiscus Park until about '57 and then we built a house on the corner
of 22nd Street and 16th Avenue. We lived there until 1967 and then we built a
house at the Gainesville Golf and Country Club and lived there until 1997, when
we built in Turkey Creek to be near my daughter, Jane. I retired about that time
so we just built a small house out there. In May 2000, we moved to The Village.

C: Were you and Mildred both big golfers when you lived out at the country club?

J: We were golfers, but I wouldn't say "big golfers." Mildred was better than I was.
She made a hole in one. She was a natural golfer. She never had played golf until
we moved out there. She had lessons. Chuck Brasington was the pro then. There
was a bunch of beginners taken lessons. Chuck told Mildred that she was just a
natural. He put her down on one end so she could hit it. She was left-handed,
which was a big help. I never did get where I was much good, but I played at it. I
started playing when I got back from the Army. We joined the country club when
I first joined the firm in '46. It was out at the old golf club on Newberry Road.

C: Mildred didn't have as much time then?

J: No, she didn't. The children were all young. That's right. She was busy with the
children.

C: By the time you got to the country club, your kids were about grown.

J: That's right. I believe Covey was married, maybe. Jane got married right after
we moved out there. Vance was in high school. He was about a junior. In fact,
he was the only one at home when we moved out there. We built the house with
four bedrooms and we had Jane's room and Covey's room and Vance's room, but
Jane and Covey never lived there. They would come back to visit, but they didn't
all live there.

C: Now, Jane lives in Alachua. Where do your boys live?

J: Covey is practicing law in Franklin, Tennessee, which is a suburb of Nashville.
Vance is an assistant principal and assistant football coach at Clewiston, Florida.
He loves footfall and coaching.


C: Are they both married?






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 29
January 31, 2001

J: They're both married. Vance has three children, two daughters and a son. Covey
has a daughter and a son. The son died of cystic fibrosis at 29 in 2000. Jane has
two children, a daughter and a son.

C: So you have six grandchildren.

J: I had seven, counting Scott. All of a sudden we have three great-grandchildren.
Laurie, Covey Jr.'s daughter, had twins in May 1999 a boy and a girl. Then
Mary, Jane's daughter, had a little boy about nine days after Laurie's twins were
born, so within nine days we had three great-grandchildren.

C: How exciting! It sounds like you've had a pretty full, active life, both of you.

J: I gave up golf when we moved to Turkey Creek. We lived on the golf course at
Turkey Creek, but I didn't play any more after we got out there and Mildred
didn't play any more. I developed a heart condition so I had to quit. She hurt her
back and never has gotten over that.

C: You've given us lots of interesting information. I can't think of anything else, but
if you think of anything you want to add, you can just write it out and we'll add it.

J: Actually, there is one thing I might mention that always seemed interesting to me.
When I was young and growing up here in Gainesville, Republican was a bad
name. Everybody was a Democrat. I remember there was one very active
Republican in town. I can't remember his name. I think it was Kyle. We were
just young fellows, and we looked on him as if there was something strange and
odd about him. He was a rarity.

C: Do you think that was carried over from the Civil War days?

J: I think it probably was. It was bound to have been because that wasn't too many
years after the Civil War.

C: They were carpetbaggers.

J: Right. There was still a lot of feeling. I recall that the black folks had to go to the
back door. When we lived on Virginia Avenue, now 1st Street, there was a family
that worked for us. They were very close to us, the whole family. They were in
the house and were one of the family, but they would come around to the back
door.

C: You're right.

J: We used to try to get Aunt Rhoda to sit down at the table in the kitchen and eat
with us, but she wouldn't do it. She would go to another table in the kitchen and
eat. It was still very segregated. On Saturday night, the whole town was open.






Interview with E. Covington Johnston 30
January 31, 2001

All the stores were open until midnight on Saturday night. Cars were parked up
and down the street and people were walking on the sidewalk, and the black folks
would walk in the street instead of on the sidewalk. Charlie Chestnut, Sr. was the
spokesman for the black race. Everybody knew and loved him. He was a really
fine man. I don't know if you remember him or not.

C: A little bit.

J: He was the grandfather of young Charles. He's Charles Chestnut III. I don't
know whether he was grandfather or great-grandfather. He lived on 8th Avenue. I
remember the house was pink, right there in the shadow of that high rise. I think
his widow just recently died.

C: You felt the closeness to the blacks and yet there was a real separation.

J: That's right. In fact, I played with Charles III's daddy. We were good friends.

C: The block behind the president of the University's house, Tigert House, around
the corner, that whole street back in there was black. Actually, on the same block
facing different streets. But they never walked down the sidewalk. We never saw
a black walk down the sidewalk in front of our house, and you probably never did
either.

J: That was one of the strange things.

C: That was strange. Times have changed in lots of ways for the better.

J: That's the truth. The last 70 years have seen considerable improvement.

C: The Matheson Historical Museum will enjoy this, I know, and we'll get it back to
you for editing. Thank you.




Full Text

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MATHESON MUSEUM HISTORIC TRUST ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM Interviewee: E. Covington Johnston Interviewer: Mary Ann Cofrin Transcriber: Ruth C. Marston January 31, 2001

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 2 C: My name is Mary Ann Cofrin. I am interviewing E. Covington Johnston at 8015 N.W. 28th Place, in The Village, Gainesville, Florida, on January 31, 2001, for the Matheson Museum Historic Trust. W ould you please state your full name and birth date for the tape, please? J: E. Covington Johnston. Birth date: March 10, 1916. C: What does the E stand for? J: It’s Edmund. C: Where were you born? J: I was born in Liberty, South Caro lina, close to Liberty on a farm. C: Tell me a little bit about your parents. J: My father was living in South Carolina on the family farm. He had a house on the farm or close to it. My br other and I were both born th ere in South Carolina. My brother is two years older than I am. We lived there until I was about three years old, when we moved to Florida. C: Tell me about your mother. J: My mother was from Rockingham, No rth Carolina, and taught school. I don’t know exactly how they met or what she was doing in South Carolina. I often wish that I had talked more to her about it, but those are the kinds of things you don’t do until it is too late. C: What was her maiden name? J: Mary Leake Covington. C: Did you know any of your grandparents? J: My grandmother Covington I knew, but my grandfather Covington died before I was born. Actually, Covington is a fam ily name. I knew my grandfather Johnston, but my grandmother Johns ton died when I was very young. C: Where did they come from? J: The Covington family came from North Carolina, around Rockingham. C: Were they natives of Nort h Carolina as far as you know?

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 3 J: I’m sure they were because my mother used to tell me that my grandfather had something to do with the beginning of the University of North Carolina. I don’t know when it was actually founded but he had something to do with it in the early years. He was in the Civil War from North Carolina, so he was from North Carolina. My father’s family was from South Carolina, around Liberty, but I don’t know too much about them either. I wish th at I had found out more . His family all lived in that area, around Greenville. He had a brothe r in Greenville and had a sister who still lived on the family farm until her death. He had one brother that died when he was a fairly young man. C: Your father’s name was? J: William Edward Johnston, Sr. My br other was William Edward Johnston, Jr. C: You don’t have any early memories of North Carolina probably, do you? J: No. Neither North Carolina nor South Caro lina. My father left the farm and went into traveling. They called them drumme rs in those days. He was a clothing salesman. They did most of their travel by train because there were very few cars then, and very few good roads. His territory was Florida and Georgia, and the company that he was working for told hi m that he could pick out wherever he wanted as his headquarters, and he chose Gainesville because of the University here. He said that he did that because he wanted to be sure that my brother and I would be able to have a college education, which turned out to be wise because he died when I was fourteen and my brothe r was sixteen. If we had not been in Gainesville, whether we would have gotte n to go to a university I don’t know because it was right during the middle of the Depression when I started in 1933. C: So you came to Gainesville in 1919? J: The best I can figure around 1919. C: Where did you live when you first came to Gainesville? J: The first place we lived in Gainesville was the corner of University Avenue and what was then Roper Street. I don’t know what it is now. It runs on the east side of Kirby-Smith School. There’s a house ri ght on the corner that was called the Doig House, and old Mrs. Doig was still living there. As I understand, her husband or her brother and some of the fa mily were actually some of the pioneers of Gainesville. All that area is known as the Doig addition to Gainesville. We had an apartment in that house for a while . Then we moved – how long we stayed there I am not sure – but we moved sout h on Roper Street to a house that we referred to as the Baird House. I think that it is the same one that is today a bed and board house.

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 4 C: The one that is named Magnolia Inn? J: I think that’s the one. I’m not real sure . Right next door to us was the Hal Beatty home. His family was another pioneer fam ily here in Gainesville. I remember him. C: Old Miss Baird lived there, I think. Patty Baird lived there. I remember that house. J: We lived there until I was five years ol d, and then we moved to the area that was later developed into a subdi vision known as Highlands. It was a house that was on Virginia Avenue, which today I believe is 2nd Street. It was at the corner of 2nd Street and what is now 9th Avenue. C: That wasn’t Tuscawilla, was it? J: No, that was back further in the Highlands, I believe. What is now 8th Avenue in those days was Boundary Street. I think maybe that was the original boundary of Gainesville. Anyway, that house faced to the west. It was a big 3-story, wooden house. We lived there until I was a senior in high school, and then we moved out near the University. That house later was bought and remodeled by someone else -before it was bought by Shands. They turned it to face to the north and completely remodeled it. C: Did they brick it over? J: Yes, they bricked it over. It wa s originally a weatherboard type house. C: You lived there the longest, really, du ring your childhood days. I want to go back again. When your dad came to Gainesvill e, he wasn’t in the clothing business then, was he? J: He was traveling, right. C: Did he go into real estate eventually? J: He did later. When the real estate bo om came along in the 20’s, I guess it was, he like so many others quit doing what they we re doing and went into real estate. C: I have a copy of his obituary, and it tells th at that is what he did. If he came here in 1919, he wasn’t in the cl othing business for very long. J: Not long, because I don’t remember a w hole lot about it. I was five years old when we moved into that house. We called it the Li vingston House. The house, as I understood, was built by a Mr. Steckert, and there was a sawmill that he

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 5 owned right diagonally across from it. They said that he selected the wood out of that sawmill – heart pine – and it was so ha rd that you couldn’t driv e a nail into it. It was like concrete. I imagine that th e house still has that same frame because the wood is so good. Anyway, Mr. Steckert, I guess it was Steckert, built the house, and that’s where he lived. In la ter years, Mr. R. B. Livingston, who was another pioneer of Gainesvill e, bought it and lived in it. One of his daughters was a Bynum. I notice you had Bynum on your li st of people. I guess that’s one of the grandsons, but Mr. Livingston had a daughter who married Johnny Bynum, who was a plumber here. I think Mr. Livi ngston had three or four daughters. I believe we bought the house from him. C: Tell me about your earlie st childhood memories when you were living in that area. J: It seemed that I lived there for all of my life practically because in those days and at that age, that was a l ong period of time. We played all over that area. Highlands was a big cow past ure when we moved there. The road that is now about 9th Avenue was a dirt road , and east on that dirt road were one or two houses way back in what is now Highlands. There was an airfie ld called Jarvis Field, which I believe was about wh ere the city park is now. C: I think you’re right. J: We played all back in there. There we re a lot of woods in that area and it was ideal for young boys. We would build lean-t os and play like we were Indians or whatever. We also played all around th e Thomas Hotel. I can’t remember exactly whether Major Thomas and his fam ily were living in the house or not in those years, but I do remember Margaret T homas was just a girl a few years older than I was, and I remember seeing her ther e, so they must have been living there at that time. C: I think they lived there until she was ju st about grown. When I interviewed her, there was something about her father send ing her abroad because he told her he was going to sell the house. J: When I knew her, she was probably in high school or along in that age group. Then I can remember looking in the window and seeing all the furniture covered with dust cloths. I also remember we went in the house – I don’t remember whether we went in often or not – but there were little whistles on the wall. For instance, in the kitchen there would be a tube that would run to the bedroom and if Mrs. Thomas wanted to talk with the cook, she would push a little lever and blow in a whistle and it would blow dow n in the kitchen or whatever room she wanted, and then she could talk into the tube to the person listening on the other end. We were so fascinated by that. C: An early intercom.

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 6 J: You’re right. That really fascinated us . I remember that just as plain. To the north of the Thomas Hotel, there was a huge building that we always understand was a dairy at one time, or a coach barn th ey called it, I guess back when they had only horses and buggies and carriages. In my memory the American Railway Express consisted of horse-drawn wagons th at would go to the depot and pick up the baggage and trunks and things off of th e train and carry them to wherever. The old fellow who had charge of those hor ses, at the end of the day would bring them to that coach barn and bed them down. That was their stable. We would catch a ride with him and sometimes he w ould let us drive the horses. That was great fun. Sometime along in those years, I remember seeing them saw that big building into halves. One half of it they made a real pr etty home. They turned it and it faced to the east on Boulevard, and we called it the Farr House. As I remember, Dr. Farr was perhaps an interim president at the University, but at one time he was president of the University. The othe r half was made into a house the Pepper family lived in. That was where Calvert and Bill Pepper grew up. Bill Pepper married the Tucker daughter. I think the Tucker family lived close by there. Anyway, the barn became homes. They made two beautiful homes. Another interesting thing. There was a small building on one side of that big building. I guess that was th e dairy. They moved it all the way across Highlands, way over right close to wh ere Jarvis Field was, which was a good long way in those days because they moved it by logs . They had a whole bunch of logs and the horses would pull the building, which would roll on the logs, and when it got to the end of the logs, they would run around and pick up the logs and carry them around to the front. I don’t remember how they got across Sweetwater Branch because in those days it was just an open branch. Today it’s rock, but in those days it was just a creek. How they got across that I don’t remember, but we rode in it most of the trip. We watched it all the way. I don’t remember how long it took, but it took a good long time. They made a house out of it. I think it’s still there, close to where the city recreation park is. C: It was a small building? J: It was small compared to the big house, but it would probably have been a threebedroom house. C: It was one story, wasn’t it? J: Yes. C: It would be interesting to find out what house it is a nd whether it is still there. You talk about all these friends over there. Who are they?

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 7 J: The Parrish boys. I don’t remember when the Parrish family came to Gainesville, but they first lived out on the west side of town near the University and then in later years moved to what later became Highlands. As a matter of fact, Mr. Parrish, as I recall, de veloped Highlands. C: I think he did. J: They started building a house that later, I think, Dr. Maines live d in. They built a lot of houses out there. In later year s they built a house right across the street from where we lived. In those days it was on the side of the house, but today it faces that house. C: Your house that you were talking about over there on Virginia Avenue was not considered Highlands? I feel like it was on the edge of it. J: I think it was called Sunkist, I believe. Maybe Major Thomas developed it, but I’m not sure. C: The part that was Highlands was a little bit east and north. J: There were both Highlands and Highland Heights. There was a Larkin Carter who lived out there, who died as a young boy. We often said that if he had been living today, it probably wouldn’t have b een serious. He had some kind of a bug that knocked him out. His father was a city judge. Then there was Jimmy Adkins, H.H. and M.M. Parrish, Wa de Hampton and Seldon Waldo, Frank McCraw, Cramer Swords, Jimmy Goodson, and Henry Graham. We played all over that place. In fact, we almost had a self-contained unit that we could do anything. We had a football team. We called it the Highland Hyenas, and we had enough to play each other. We had a base ball team. In fact, we worked really hard building a baseball diamond. Judge L ong moved to Gainesville from Starke or Palatka – I think he was appointed Ci rcuit Judge here just before he was appointed Federal Judge – and built a house right in the middle of our baseball diamond, so we were all upset about that. All of the streets were dirt streets in those days, and when they developed Highlands, they paved them, which was hard on us because we all went barefoot all the time. We had a peach tree in the back yard, and we would beg my father to let us pull our shoes off and go barefoot. He said that whenever that peach tree bloomed, then I could pull my shoes off. I don’t think any of the boys put a pair of shoes on the whole summer, except maybe to go to Sunday School. C: That was the date! J: That was the date. C: Now you’re talking about grade school probably, all those years.

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 8 J: Yes, that was grade school. Then la ter Jimmy Adkins’ family built a house two lots in back of us, facing the Boulevard. C: That house is still there. J: Yes. In later years Fred Cone bou ght it and I don’t know who bought it after Fred. It was just east of where we lived. There was our house, and we had a vacant lot where my father used to plant corn and vegetables, and in later years Annabelle Butler’s husband, Jim Butler, bui lt a house there. There was a street and the next lot was where Adkins built. It faced the Boulevard. On that block there was a sidewalk that went all the way around the block that we used for skating. All the boys would gather at the Adkins house. The McCraw’s lived right by us. Their house faced Virginia Avenue and was on the corner of Virginia and what is today 8th Avenue. That was the house of Mary Parker McCraw and Virginia McCraw and th at family – J.C. McCraw and Frank. They’re all gone now. We gr ew up all together there. C: You went to Kirby-Smith to sc hool? It was called Eastside School. J: Yes. That was the only school in Gain esville. Then sometime in the 20’s, about 1922 maybe, they built the high school out on University Avenue, which now is the parking lot for the Ayers Medical Building. The school was kindergarten through high school. I rememb er playing football on the field right back of the school where the Ayers Medical Buil ding now is located. After the 6th grade, we transferred to the new school. C: They called the new school West side School at first, didn’t they? J: I guess they did. We just called it G.H.S. It might have been Westside. As I say, it was kindergarten through high school. Kirby-Smith remained first grade through sixth. There were two buildings there – a red building and a white building. The white building originally was the high school. I started school there with M.M. Parrish, Ma ry Buchholz and Lucille Cair ns in the first grade. Miss Annie McKinstry was our teacher. At the end of the first grade, she married Col. Tatum and they moved to the Panama Canal Zone. She was one of the McKinstry family, which was another pioneer family. C: Do you remember who the principal wa s? That was not Buchholz, was it? J: No. Prof Buchholz was over at the west side school. I don’t remember when he came, but he was there when I was there. I don’t remember who was principal. I remember some of the teachers: Miss Annie McKinstry and Miss Martha Taylor, who was my 2nd and 3rd grade teacher. Miss Kirkland was 4th grade. I get lost along in there! I get mixed up with the teachers in the other school.

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 9 C: Miss Metcalf was there by the time I came along in 1928. J: She was there, I’m sure. Miss Ruth Peel er taught my brother, so she was there at the same time because my brother was two years older than I was. I lived over in Highlands and we walked to school and ha d a lot of fun. We would play on the way. C: It must have been a mile or so. J: There was nothing in between our hous e and that school except dwelling houses, and nobody worried about anythi ng happening to us. We would walk home after school. My mother might have been hiding behind a tree watching me, I don’t know, but I don’t remember anybody ever co ming to pick me up. When we got older, we had bicycles and we rode all over Gainesville. We would ride out to the University and anywhere we pleased. Nobody ever worried a bit about us. There was a West Main Stre et and an East Main Street . West Main is now Main, and East Main is now 1st Street. There was an East Main North and an East Main South and West Main North and a West Main South, which is confusing. West Main was brick, and the railro ad track ran right down the middle of it. East Main was cobblestones, and they had the islands in the middle of it even back then. They had palms. I don’t think there were any azaleas. I think those were planted later, but I remember the cobblestones, which was rough driving. There were still a lot of wagons. Mrs. Highsmith I remember had a horse drawn dairy wagon. The horse knew the route, and would walk up to a house a nd stop. People would come out and buy butter milk and butter and eggs. Mrs. Highsmith had a hand bell she would ring to announce her arrival. Then the iceman would come by, and his ho rse knew the route. He would go to a house and stop. While the iceman was de livering ice to one house, the horse would walk to the next house and wait. Everybody had an icebox. There was no such thing as an electric refrigerator . You would hang a little card out on the house and tell him how much you wanted – 12 lbs. or 25 or 100. The ice was in 100 lb. cakes, and the iceman would chip it with a pick and break off whatever amount you wanted. In the summertime , we would run along behind the ice wagon and get the ice chips. In fact, we woul d ride in it a lot and eat the chips. C: Those were the good old days. If nobody was home, it didn’t make a bit of difference. Your back door would be wi de open. The iceman would come in and put the ice in the icebox and leave. J: I’m sure everybody’s was the same way. Our refrigerator was in a back room. There was a porch and then a room, and the refrigerator was in that room. On top

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 10 of the refrigerator we kept a coupon book. and the iceman would tear off the coupon for whatever amount of ice you bought. The grocer was the same way. Peopl e ordered their groceries by telephone, I guess because there weren’t many automobiles. I remember George Dell had a grocery store and people would order thei r groceries and the grocery man would come by and the back door would be open and he would have a box with the groceries in it. He would set it on the kitchen table. I guess it was charged and we paid by the month. C: Yes. Everybody was pretty honest. J: I recall one time there wa s a fellow who was arrested for something. I don’t know what he pulled, but maybe he robbe d somebody. That was a big deal in town. Everybody was all excited over it. We probably didn’t have more than one or two policeman. We had a sheriff a nd maybe one deputy. I remember Mr. Wash Fennell was the sheriff in the ear ly years. He was Seldon Waldo’s grandfather. I think Dr. Charlie Pinkoson’ s daddy was either th e police chief or the sheriff later. I recall one day a cow got loose in town and Mr. Fennell rode his horse and chased that cow all over town. We ran along behind him and had more fun chasing that cow. C: Do you remember when your folks first got a car? Do you remember ever riding in a buggy? J: No, we never had a buggy. We walked, but my father got an automobile to travel in. He traveled and would be home a bout once a week, and we would have the car on the weekend. C: So he probably had a car pretty early on? J: He did. The first one we had was a tour ing car. It was a two-seater car and was all open. It had isinglass curtains that we would put up when it rained. Most of them would turn yellow so you couldn’t see through it. The windshield wiper was by hand. You had to do it by hand. It was not electric. My father died in 1930, so it was prior to 1930, I recall, when they built the fill road across the Prairie. Once when riding across this fill, there was a real rainstorm and I had to do the windshiel d wiper by hand while my father drove. C: That was after it was no longer a lake. For a while there was a lake out there. J: I never do remember it being a lake. As I understand, the Alachua Sink was like a plug in a bathtub and they used to say ev ery seven or however many years that the old dead limbs and timber would plug the sink and the lake would fill up and then it would open up and all the water would run out of it. According to old history

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 11 books, it was a lake and there were steamboa ts that would carry oranges from the Micanopy area over to Gainesville. When they built the road ac ross the Prairie, the road to Tampa was dirt from Gainesvill e. It might have been paved in some parts of it, but it was pave d on the north side of Gaines ville. We called it the Dixie Highway, which is now 441. It came into Gainesville and down 6th Street and then turned and went east down 8th to Main Street. Then it went down Main Street to University Avenue and out University to 13th, which in those days was 9th. Then it turned left at 9th and went to Archer Road, then west to what is now 34th Street and turned north. That road went around th e Prairie. I can’t remember where the pavement ended, but it seems like it was dirt or rock or something. It went around the Prairie and came out on th e south side of the Prairie before you got to Micanopy. C: Did you go swimming in the summertime? J: Yes, we did. We went to Pinkoson Springs and Glen Springs was opened up along about that time. It was really not a spring, just a creek. Dr. Charlie Pinkoson’s daddy built Pinkoson Springs where Turkey Creek is now, and we would go out there. Before that time, we would swim in Freezers Pond. The University students used it to swim in. There was no pool at the University. There was a pond out in the fairgrounds – we called it the fairgrounds, which is now where the county health unit is. That was the Alachua County Fairgrounds, and there was a pond out there that was mu ch closer to where we lived. We would go out there and swim in that little pond. C: I didn’t even know there was a pond out there. J: It’s probably gone by now, or they may ha ve fenced it in and made it into a catch basin for storm water! I couldn’t go to it to save my life now, but I remember there was a baseball field there. They called it Harris Field. C: It was on the corner of 8th Avenue and Waldo Road. J: Then there was a big grandstand and a r acetrack. I remember my father used to take me to the horse races out there. He was from the farm and loved horses, and he drove a buggy when he was a young man. He used to say that they all said he had the finest horses in the county. Anyw ay, he loved horses and we would go to all the horse races. Just to one side of that racetrack is where the pond was. There was a little b it of woods around it. C: This was further east than Harris Field? J: It was north. There was Harris Field and then there was a bunch of old buildings that they had exhibits in. Then they had the big stand and bleachers like they have at the horse races, and then there was an oval horse racetrack going north from Harris Field.

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 12 C: Did you swim at Magnesia Spring s, or did that come later? J: I can’t really remember whether I we nt to Magnesia when I was young. I can’t remember when that came into being but it was a good ways out there, so we probably didn’t go there. We went to Gl en after they opened Glen Springs. It wasn’t much of a springs, just a big wide part of the creek. And we would go to Pinkoson Springs. C: Eventually they did make it bigger. J: They had a nice place there, but we we nt to Pinkoson’s mostly. I learned to swim there. I must not have been mo re than about six or seven years old. C: You had to go there in a car. Y ou had to go to Glen in a car, too. J: Yes. It was too far to walk. We woul d ride our bicycles to Devil’s Millhopper, so we could have ridden our bikes, but I don’t believe I wa s big enough. I don’t know whether I was riding my bicycle when we went to Glen or not. It would be interesting to know when they first built Glen. I may have my stories mixed up, but I do remember Pinkoson Springs. Dr. Charlie Pinkoson was a little boy and couldn’t swim. I remember going there a nd he would stick his head under water and paddle out. His sister Bessie and Margaret would help him. We had old automobile inner tubes that we would use. We finally learned to swim just on our own. It was in Pinkoson Springs where we learned. We would go down 441, which was paved in those days, and turn and go down a dirt road for a ways to the Springs. It was about where Turkey Creek is now. C: Now it was a springs but it wasn’t concre ted or made into any kind of a pool, was it? J: They did. There was the spring and they had a nice pool. It was rocked in with concrete and rocks. It was a big round pool . They had a dance hall there and they had all kinds of festivities. On one side they had the ba thhouses. It would cost a quarter or ten cents and you w ould get a little elastic ri ng with a key on it that you would put on your leg. You would put your clothes in the basket and leave it at the office and they would lo ck it up and you would have to have the key to get it out. C: Well, we’ve covered your younger days, but tell me a little bit about your activities in high school. J: We stayed in the house there in Highlands until I was about a ju nior or senior in high school. We lost that house in the De pression years. My father died. The house caught on fire, I remember. They had a big tarpaulin stretched over the

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 13 roof. The houses were wood and they really burned. It caught from the chimney. It didn’t really destroy it, but it did a lot of damage. We lost the house eventually, and my mother rented a house out by the University which was a rooming house. She was working at the University as a housekeeper in one of the dormitories. They had housekeepers in each dormitory. She had a crew of black ladies who would clean and make up the beds. That was a daily thing. I remember they had four stories and no elevators, and my mother used to walk up and down those steps. It had sections, maybe six sections in the building, so she would go up four stories and down in each of the sections . Her friends used to wonder how she did it, but she said that was the way she kept thin and kept her health. Good exercise climbing those steps. C: Where was the rooming house that she rented? J: The first one was on Lafayette Street (about 15th St. N.W. now). C: So it would be west of 13th Street. J: You know where the Methodi st Students Center is. Ab out three blocks west of that, then about four blocks north of th at. I remember Osee Harper, who married Sunny Dell. His mother had a rooming house there. In fact, that was quite the thing. There was one lady from North Ca rolina who moved to Gainesville and had four sons. She had a rooming house and educated her boys. My mother did the same thing. A lot of them furnished meals, but we just had the rooms because she was working in the dormitory. My brother and I were pretty much on our own. We worked at various jobs. C: Now you were in high school? J: When we first moved out there, I was a senior in high school. When I graduated from high school, I started at the Univers ity as a freshman in 1933 and I worked in the summer on the campus. I remember we worked in the cafeteria that burned down – they called it The Commons, I be lieve – and we would paint and clean and all that kind of thing. We earned twenty-five cents an hour. Twenty-five cents was worth a meal in the wintertime. Instead of getting money when we worked at the University, we would get a ticket for a meal. I would earn enough to eat my noon meals for the whole year. Of course, breakfast I would eat at home and supper we would eat at home , but I would get my noon meal at the University. I also worked at waiting ta bles some. I had various jobs. They would give you meals for waiting tables. C: Did you ever work at the Primrose Grill? J: No, I never did wo rk there. I worked at one time for Mr s. Anderson, whose son Frank Anderson had a photographer’s s hop. She had a rooming house and a boarding house. It was well known. Right next-door to her wa s Mrs. Stripling, I

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 14 believe, who had a boarding house. Mr s. John Kelly (John, Jr., was the city power superintendent) had one right next door. There were three of them right on University Avenue. Ma Ramsey wa s down the street. I think everybody remembers her. C: Now they had dormitories at the Univers ity, but they didn’t have room for all of them? J: No, they didn’t have room for all of them. A lot of the boys wanted to live off campus. I don’t know. Maybe they had more freedom, but I think it was a matter of room because there was a demand for dor mitory rooms. They kept it full all the time. When I first started back in those days, there was Thomas Hall and Buckman Hall, two dormitories. Then they built what I believe was later called Murphree, but we called it “the new dormito ry” for years! That was the one that my mother worked in. There were three dormitories, and there were three or four thousand students, I guess, in those days, so the dormitories just didn’t hold them all. C: We sort of skipped over your high sc hool. Was there anything special you want to tell about those days? J: I can’t think of anything. High school wa s really kind of a blank. I went out for basketball in about my junior year and football my senior year. The other years I don’t really remember that I did. I was too little, really. Ther e was not very much in high school that I can remember. I remember working as a “curb hop” at Touchton’s Drug Store and at the grocer y store in the high school days. C: Did they have boy/girl da nces and things like that? J: Very few. I can’t remember that we had clubs or anything. The girls had clubs and the boys had clubs, but they eventual ly outlawed the clubs. That was about the only social activity. We did have dan ces, I remember, but they were all held across the street. The 20th Century Club was there in those days. Every now and then there would be a function there. I recall when I was a senior we had a graduation dance there. That was it. They didn’t have proms like they do now. C: The school didn’t sponsor dances or a nything. Did you have any activities at the Legion Hall? What about Chautauqua? J: Every year the Chautauqua would come to town. It was a tent show that would be on a week or longer. They would have show s in the afternoon and at night. They had some real good shows. They had to get a permit from the city and Frank McCraw’s sister, Mary Parker, worked for the city manager. Through her we would get a job distributing the advance publicity pamphlets. By doing that we would get a free ticket pass to all of the shows, so we would attend every one of them.

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 15 C: That was located east of the Legion Hall near the public library? J: It was east of the little public library, right where the Legion Hall is. That was built later. It seems like there was some other place it was located when it came to Gainesville, but I can’t remember where it was, what location. It was somewhere close to downtown. Pretty much everything was downtown. The whole town was around the square. C: Sure. They used to have Bank Night. I remember hearing about that. J: Yes. That was at the theater, the Lyri c Theater. When the Florida Theater was built, they had some kind of a Bank Night out in the street. It would be blocked off with everybody standing in the street. After the football games, they would gi ve a midnight show and let the students in free. All of us young fellows would just ru sh in like a he rd of cattle. We would get right in the middle of it and attend ever y one of those shows. We would also get into the Florida football games the same way. In those days football was played on the field called Fl eming Field, I believe, whic h is about where the buses used to park north of the stadium be tween the north end of the stadium and University Avenue before the nort h end of the stadium was renovated. C: Didn’t we call that Polo Fiel d? Well, in my day we did. J: I think Polo Field was where the park ing lot is today by the O Dome. The football field had wooden bleachers on one side and had a few box seats made out of concrete on the other side, and the tr ack was just adjoining that field. The entire freshman class would form out there in a group. Each one of them had an activities card. The offici als would open the gate and the students would hold up that card and rush in and here again we would get right in th e middle of them and would run in. I never missed a football game. C: You got in for free. J: Yes. We never did pay for anything. We didn’t have any money to pay for those things. That was during the Depression years. C: But you all survived. J: We were just little kids the n. Maybe high school, I can’t remember. C: Probably high school before you got really interested in sports.

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 16 J: They built the stadium and moved from that field to the stadium; I think about 1930, somewhere along in there. I gra duated from high school in June 1933 and started to college that year. I was in the class of and the law class of . C: So you were in high school when the new stadium was built. J: Yes, I think I was. In fact, they used to have a bonfire out there in the middle of the track, and every freshman had to bri ng his weight in w ood to the bonfire. They would light it and have a big pep rally around the bonfire the night before home games. After they built the stadiu m, the pep rally would be held in the north end of it. That was the beginning of Gator Growl. They would have a stage in the north end. There would be just a few people sittin g in the north end. It was a horseshoe shape and the south end was ope n. I’m not really sure, but I think it was about 1930. C: Were the boys having their pajama parades in those days? J: Yes. They’d start out on the campus so meplace. It was the freshmen that had to do it in their pajamas. In fact, they would go through the dormitory and clear them out and make them get on their paja mas. The others could just stand and watch. They had paddles and would paddl e the freshmen. They had a band and they would march from the campus. The cheerleaders would get up on top of the two small buildings on the north side of the courthouse square. C: That’s way downtown really. J: Yes. Across the street was Glass’s Drug Store – it was Mill er’s years ago and then later Glass’s. Everybody would gather in between those l ittle buildings and the drug store, and they w ould have a pep rally. The team traveled by train, and the depot was where the First Union Bank is now. The train would stop at the station, and they would have another pajama parade down to the train and see the team off. C: Did the visiting teams come by train? J: I can’t remember how they arrived, but I’m sure they did. They made no to-do over it. The only one I can remember that they really had a to-do over was when we played UCLA and Joe E. Brown, th e movie actor, came. When he would open his mouth up really wide, and he would say “Bruins.” They had a big program of entertainment right around Ch ristmas. That’s the only one I remember there was a whole lot of to-do over. C: That would have been so mething. The freshmen alwa ys wore those orange rat caps.

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 17 J: Yes, I wore one of those. We woul d wear it until Christmas and then we could take it off. We used them after that fo r a ticket to catch a ride. We would catch rides to Jacksonville to the football game s and anywhere else we wanted to go. The cap was our ticket, and the au to drivers would pick us up. C: To remind everybody who is reading this , it was all boys in those days. The cheerleaders were all male and ever ything on campus was for fellows. J: The coeds came in about 1946, right after World War II, after I got back from the Army. C: Well, we got you through high school. I guess you had some of the same friends, didn’t you, from grade school on? J: Yes. We all finished in about the same class. As a matter of fact, M.M. Parrish and I and two or three others were a year behind in age. Most of our friends were a year older. We went to summer school over in the old Kirby-Smith between the 4th and 6th grades. We skipped the 5th grade. C: I think Lucille Cairns George was in your same group, and she told me that story. J: Yes. We all finished in the same class. C: So you got out of high school and coll ege pretty much together then. J: Yes. C: Did you belong to a fraternity? J: I did not. I worked and didn’t have any money. A lot of my friends were, and of course, through them we participated in just about everything that went on. I remember Seldon Waldo was, and Frank McCraw was, and Wade Hampton, and M.M. Parrish. Through them we were pretty active. C: Then you went right into law school when you graduated? J: In those days it was a combined degr ee. Today you have to get your degree in pre-law and then go into law school, but it was a combined course then. It was a six-year course. You took three years of pre-law and the first year of law classes counted as electives in the pre-law so you took all of your required subjects your first three years in pre-la w and then you would use your freshman law courses as electives in pre-law. At the end of si x years, you would get two degrees, your Bachelor’s and then your Law degree. You were eligible to receive your Bachelors’ degree at the e nd of four years. The Law degree in those days was L.L.B. and in later years it changed into a J.D. The J.D. degree, when I was graduated, was an honorary degree for good grades.

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 18 C: What does J.D. stand for? J: Doctor of Jurisprudence. C: What did L.L.B. stand for? J: Bachelor of Laws. They always did it backwards for some reason. C: I wonder why there were two “Ls”. J: I guess for the plural “laws.” C: So you went straight from high school into college? J: Yes. I finished high school in June of and went into my freshman year in September . I finished law school in ’ 39 and practiced until January of and went into the Army. I was in the Army fo r four and a half years and got back in May of . I opened up an office by myse lf. That lasted one month and then I went in with Clayton & Arnow. C: Before you went into servi ce were you practicing by yourself? J: No, I was in the office with Sigsbee Sc ruggs. Sigsbee would take in every stray cat that came along. He was the most bi g-hearted fellow that I ever knew and would do anything in the world to help a young lawyer. He had room in his office. In fact, when I was in there, there was a Spence boy that later went to Miami and practiced law. There were two of us in there. We practiced with him and used his library and his secretary. We helped him if he wanted it, but we were also on our own. I kept busy for th e year and a half. Mildred and I were married in April of while I was still wi th Sigsbee. Then I went into the Army in and went to school in Fort Benning for three months and she was able to stay with me. We had an apartment in Columbus, Georgia. I took R.O.T.C. in college, so I had my co mmission already. I was in the reserves and when I was inducted into the Ar my, I went to Benning and had been promoted to First Lieutenant. Here I was a First Lieutenant and green as grass. I didn’t know the first thing, so I was thankful for the three months officers’ course that I went to. After I graduated from th at, I stayed with the school on the faculty of the Infantry School at Fort Benning. I stayed there for a year and Mildred was with me all that time. We had an apartment right in Columbus. C: Tell me how you met Mildred and give her maiden name. J: Right after I graduated from law school , Frank McCraw, who wa s one of my best friends, was going with a girl in Alachua, where Mildred lived. I had an old

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 19 Model A Ford, and he wanted to double date when he would go to see his girl, so he made a blind date for me with Mildre d. It was on a Sunday and she often says that she almost got cold feet and started to go to church and walk out because she was scared and didn’t like blind dates. Anyway, she waited a nd I went with her from then on. C: What was her maiden name? J: Gillis. That was in 1939, around Labor Day, and we went together until April 1941 when we were married in Alachua. I moved her into Gainesville because I was practicing law over here. C: Where was your first home? J: We lived in an apartment house that Mr. Charlie Scarritt owned. I don’t know whether you remember the Scarritt family. That’s another one of the old pioneer families around here. It was on Virginia Avenue, just south of the Milam Funeral Home. It was in that neighborhood. I don’t think the house is still there. It was about two or three bloc ks east of the funeral home. That’s about 3rd Avenue and 1st Street, and we had an apartment there. We moved to Gainesville in April, then I went into the Army in January 1942. When we were married, Mildred was working at the First National Bank of Alachua. After we were married, she worked for Uncle Gus Phifer at the Phifer State Bank. J.B. Ca rmichael was there, and some of the old timers. She worked there until I went into the Army and then went with me to Fort Benning. When I left Fort Benning, they were forming a new division at Camp Blanding. My commanding officer knew that I was from Gainesville so he assigned me as a cadre to that division. Ja ne, my daughter, was on the way, so it worked out just fine. Mildred came home and I went to Blanding. While I was at Blan ding, Jane was born in . Her full name is Jane Carol Johnston. C: Did she stay in Blanding? J: Mildred stayed with her mother in Alachua. We could come home on Wednesday and the weekend. People all over this county were working for the Army. There were just hundreds of people every day going from Gainesville and surrounding towns to Blanding. It was easy to catch a ride from Blanding to home and back. In that way, I could leave the car for Mild red to use. We wo uld get up real early on Thursday and Monday mornings and get to Blanding in time to report for duty. Part of that time I was a General’s aide, which gave me a little bit of freedom. The general let me leave when I could. C: Now you would get a ride from Blanding to Alachua? J: Many people worked in Blanding and wh en they would go home, we would catch a ride back to Alachua. There were a bunch of them who were civilians who

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 20 worked in Blanding and lived in Alachua . I often laughed. They had a fence around where the automobiles parked. We would go down there and be waiting on them to come out so we could catch our ride. At four o’clock, the gate would open and the cars would immediately come flying out. They would leave their jobs about three-thirty o’clock and come out and crank up the engine and have the motor going and be sitting on ready, and the minute the gates opened at four, they would come flying out. I stayed there until Jane was about three or four weeks old and our division was moved to Little Rock, Arkansas. I went to Arkansas on a troop train. C: Did Mildred go with you? J: No, Mildred stayed at her mother’s. A nother officer and I rented a house in Little Rock. I got leave and came home and pick ed up Mildred and Jane. I think Jane was about six weeks old. We drove all th e way to Little Rock. When we stopped to spend the night in Thomasville, Georgia, I remember that Jane cried all night. We had everything we owned in the car. He r cedar chest had everything in it, and we managed to get it in the back seat and had all of our earthly belongings in it. As long as we were riding, Jane would sl eep, so we drove all the way to Little Rock without stopping after Thomasville. The division moved back to what is now Fort Rucker, Alabama. C: How long were you Arkansas? J: Probably less than a year . I was sent back to school in Fort Benning for three months. Mildred could go with me, so th at was nice. That was almost like a vacation. While I was at Be nning at school, the division moved to Fort Rucker, Alabama, and I didn’t have to get in on that at all. When I finished at Benning, we drove to Fort Rucker. I got an ap artment for her in a little town named Newton, Alabama, about three miles from the fort. C: When you were at Benning for that thr ee months school, did she live on the base? J: No, we lived in Columbus. I could co me home every night. The Army was good to us. They had what we called “cattle truc ks”. They were big trucks with trailers that had rows of benches in the trailer, and they would pick us up at certain spots and let us off at certain spots in town. Then I would walk two or three blocks to where we lived. It was great. C: It sounds like you had a good Army experience. J: I said that I wished I coul d have done that at the end of the war instead of at the beginning. That was all at the beginni ng. In , I guess, our division was shipped overseas so Mildre d went home. We left from New York. It was

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 21 supposed to be a secret move . It was right in the middl e of the war and there was a lot of submarine warfare and all that. Everything was real hush-hush. They moved us to Camp Shanks in New Jerse y. We went into town and there was a Hotel Taft in New York City and just abou t every wife in the regiment that I was in was in that hotel. They had all gotten word and gone to New York and rented a room. Mildred went by hers elf on the train. She left the baby with her mother and sister and went by herself. Today I w ould be scared to death. As soon as we could get away from camp, we went into town to the hotel. We laughed about having to crawl though a hole in the fence to get out of the camp. We had to stand aside to let the Colonels crawl under first and then we Captains. We were there about a week, I guess, staging for ove rseas, so we got in just about every night to see them. I shipped overseas to the European th eater, and my brother-in-law, Mildred’s brother, Bobby, came and she went home w ith him. I was overseas a year and a half. C: What branch were you in? J: I was in the infantry. I was a compa ny commander. I had my law degree, and I tried to transfer to the Ad jutant General’s Corps, the Legal Division. They said that lawyers were a dime a dozen in the Ar my. They needed Infantry officers. I had my commission in the Infantry. That was what I fell into automatically at the University. Whatever college you were in you were either Infantry or Artillery. I was a Rifle Company commander a nd later a Heavy Weapons Company commander. C: Where did you land? J: We landed in Southampton, England, and then we shipped across the Channel. The Battle of the Bulge, the breakthr ough, was going on so the Germans stepped up the submarine warfare to prevent reinforcements from coming across. We were on two ships. Half of our division wa s on the ship right by us and was sunk. It was hit with a torpedo. I said the good Lord was looking after me because I was standing on the deck and heard this loud noise and could see boards and smoke and stuff flying from the other ship. Our ship was not hit. The ship went down and we lost about half of our divi sion. Our ship went on in to Cherbourg harbor, and we were untouched. When General Patton went through France, he went so fast that instead of stopping and capturing the Germans, he bottled them off. They retreated to the ports so they could try to get out, so he put a ring around the port and just held them captive a nd that way they didn’t have to feed them and furnish medical aid and all that. They weren’t prisoners of war. They were just bottled up. He ringed off ever y port in France with our troops. Our division was so messed up that they put us guarding two of those pockets, so I spent the rest of th e war guarding them.

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 22 C: You didn’t have to go in on D-Day? J: No, I didn’t have that. I was fortunate. I was in the States when D-Day came. Also, it was tough on the other ship. The one I was on we were lucky. C: The ship sunk and you say they lost half of their men? J: Just about everybody that was on it was lost. It was a British ship and the soldiers were just jammed down in the hold of the ship. They had hammocks. When the torpedo hit, the wate r rushed in and just knocked th e steps and everything out, and those men all drowned. C: It wasn’t a matter of rescuing some of them? J: No. A few of them were rescued. Some of them ju mped. It was Christmas Eve night and it was real rough. This ship th ey were on was high, and the ship they were jumping to was low, and a lot of them missed it and fell in the water. Some of them hit the deck. A few of them we re saved, but not very many. It knocked out just about half of our division. We said we had kind of a little private war going on. We were fighting with the Germans in these pockets. They would get supplies from submarines that would come in. As a matter of fact, when the breakthrough came, the plan was for all of these pockets to all break out at the same time and the bulge would break thr ough and cut off the Americans that were still in France and Germany, but it didn’t wo rk. They tried to get out but the war ended before they were able to do anything. I was there when DE Day was declared. There were a lot of troops in Germany that were shipped to Japan because the war was still going on. We were stationed at Marsei lle, France. I had some real interesting experiences at Marseille in a big tent camp. The truc ks would come out of Germany with our troops, and we would reequip them. We had supplies and everything there. We had a kitchen set up and would feed them. We reequipped th em with uniforms and weapons, then put them on a truck a nd ship them down to the harbor in Marseilles and put them on a liberty ship to go to the Pacific. So there again, I was fortunate in that I spent several m onths – from June 1945 until VJ Day along in November 1945 at Marseille. The war ended and it took about three or four months to get us home. They called it high points. So many points for the battles you were in, whether you were wounded, or this or that. The high points came first. I don’t remember where I fell in but I finally got out of there about May of . When we landed in New York, it was snowing. There was snow on the ground about a foot deep. We stayed there three or four days to be deprocessed, then got on the train and headed for Bla nding, where I was discharged. When we crossed the Florida line, the sun was shinin g and I still had on my winter uniform and I was so hot I could have died. We got to Blanding, and it was summertime practically. So that takes care of the Army.

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 23 C: So you came back and Mildred was waiting for you. J: Yes, she was, and Jane was three years ol d, I believe. Mildred and Jane met me at Blanding and brought me to Gainesville. We rented a house in Gainesville because I started practicing just a few days after I got back. We rented a house in Highlands, which was fun. I grew up over there and that was home. We stayed there for six months maybe and then we bought a house in Hibiscus Park. Did you live in Hibiscus? C: It was after I had left home when they built a house there and lived there about a year. It was at the end of the war and th ey said that they didn’t want to build a house until they could get all the new produc ts, which were very hard to get. They lived there about a year. J: We had a small house. M.M. Parrish a nd his brother, H.H., were in the building business then. They built six small houses in Hisbiscu s Park. Those were some of the happiest days that we ever spen t because everybody out there was just out of the Army. Right across the street was Merton Hartma nn and his wife, Ina. They all had children the same age. C: Were you near the little pond? J: We were about two blocks from the pond. I think it was Lantana Street. That doesn’t mean anything now. From where your dad’s house was, there was a street and then the next street was two blocks out there, and then we went down about three or four blocks west. There were six small houses on that block, and we all became real close. All around us were people our age and children the same age. We stayed there -let’s see, Cove y, Jr., was born ther e and Vance was born there. We stayed there until abou t 1957. We moved there in 1947, the year Covey, Jr., was born, so we must have stayed in the Highland for a year and then came there in 1947. We stayed there for about ten years. C: Okay, let’s go back to your practice. You were practicing solo. You didn’t go back in with Sigsbee Scruggs again? J: No. I practiced for a month by myse lf. Then Bo Arnow, who became federal judge later, came to me and wanted me to join him and Erwin Clayton – it was Baxter & Clayton. Mr. E.G. Baxter di ed during the war and Bo Arnow came home in January 1946 from the Army and joined the firm. So it was Clayton & Arnow and then Harry Duncan came home and joined the firm in 1946, and it was Clayton, Arnow & Duncan. Then I join ed them, and it became Clayton, Arnow, Duncan & Johnston. C: Did they give you full partne rship right from the beginning?

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 24 J: No. I was not a partner for some m onths. I don’t remember how long it was before I became a partner. It was so metime in 1946, I believe. Clara Gehan (Clara Floyd) was with Erwin during the war. She got married to Freddy Gehan and left. Freddy went into the Army like everybody else did, so they left, and Clayton was by himself. Dr. Alfred Crandall from the University came and helped him. The law school, of course, didn’t have much to do because there weren’t many students during the war, and he had spare time. He was there until after the war ended and we all started to co me back. He left before I got there. After I was in the firm, Clara came back to town and came back with us for a while. I don’t remember how long she st ayed, but she pulled out and practiced by herself from then on until she died. We didn’t want her to go because Clara was one of the best lawyers in Gainesvi lle. I thought the world of Clara. C: Did she graduate from the University of Florida? J: Yes. Clara was teaching Latin when I was a senior in high school. She had just graduated from Florida State in about 1933 and she was our Latin teacher. How long she taught I don’t know, but I think she was going to law school at that time. C: Did she go before Lucille George? J: Yes, I think so. Lucille was in my class. C: She was one of the early women, but Clara was earlier than that. J: Yes. Clara started practicing sometime prior to the time I went into the Army in . As I remember, there was a Stella B. Fisher, who was a la wyer here prior to my time. The next female lawyer that I remember was Clara. There might have been some more in there somewhere, but I think she was the next one. C: What type of practice did you have? J: When I started off, I did a little bit of everything. I did some criminal law, and I did just general practice, but after I got with the firm, I got interested in real estate, probate, and wills. We called it estate planning. It really wasn’t. Estate planning is a field in itself that involves a lot of tax la w and this kind of thing that I was not qualified for, but it was wills a nd probate and real estate. I did a little bit of everything except I didn’ t do any more criminal law after a few years. If I had a client that got into trouble for some reason, I would help him out. Of course, an associate or one of the other lawy ers in the firm would take care of it if it were something that we didn’t handle. C: What was Bo Arnow’s real name? J: Winston E. Arnow. I don’t know where th e Bo came from. I always knew him as Bo.

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 25 C: Harry Duncan, of course, we knew. Harry was local, I guess. J: Harry came from Tavares. His daddy was on the old State Board of Control. He was a lawyer in Tavares. Harry also ha d an uncle who was a lawyer in Tavares. C: He came to Gainesville because he married Mary Baird, I guess. J: I guess that probably was hi s reason. Harry was the same age as S.T. Dell. They were about four years older than I a nd about a year or two younger than Bo Arnow. C: Mr. Clayton was a good deal older than all of you. J: I guess he must have gra duated in or somewhere al ong in there. He was 19 years older than I. C: Do you have any interesting stories a bout your law practice or any of those oldtime lawyers or even Sigsbee Scruggs? J: Yes. Sigsbee was a character. When I first finished law school, I ran for Justice of the Peace in order to b ecome better known as a lawyer. Back in those days, it was considered unethical to advertise. The ethics were very strict, which was good in my opinion because as a result of advertising, the la wyers’ prestige dropped. They kind of brought it on themse lves with the advert ising, I think. Anyway, anything we could do legitim ately, like running for office, was permitted. I met many people in Alachua C ounty. I really enj oyed it because I made a lot of friends and some became clients. C: So you did become Justice of the Peace? J: Yes, I won. There were three of us r unning, and I beat the other two in the first primary. I was really proud of that. I had a lot of good help. I’ll always thank Mary Parker McCraw and her friends . She knew practically everybody in Gainesville. I never knew a nybody as well known as she wa s. I was able to get enough votes in the first primar y to win it. I issued warr ants and one of my jobs was to act as coroner. When a dead body was found, an inquest would be held to determine the cause of death. A jury of six persons was cal led to take what evidence was available and decide how th e person died and whether it was foul play or not. The case would then be tu rned over to the state attorney to do whatever he thought was necessary. I met many people in Alachua County. We had political rallies all over the county. They were a lot of fun. All of the candidates would attend the rally and speak. After the election, I continued to practice law. This didn’t interfere with my law practice. I had that on the side . I got paid so much for performing

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 26 marriages. Every time you affixed your seal , that was half a dollar and every time you signed your name, that was so much. I made about $50.00 a month out of it, as I remember. The Justice of the Peace had an executive officer, a peace officer, who was a constable. He was in direct competition with the sheriff, which never did make sense. If anything happened, the constable and deputies would rush to see who could get there first and arrest th e person. If the constable got him, he would bring him before me a nd I would take his plea. Then I would have to bind him over to whatever court had jurisdic tion of his case, be cause I had no trial jurisdiction. I did have ci vil trial jurisdiction up to, I think, $100.00. It was the small claims court of that day. Incidentally, the Justice of the Peace position was done away with after the war. The legislature finally reali zed that the need for it ha d passed with the horse and buggy days. It came into being because back in the old days, people traveled by horse and buggy. If you lived in High Springs and had to get a warrant for some reason, it would take all day or two days to get to Gainesvill e. Travel was a problem so there was a Justice of the P eace in each town generally. They were able to dispense justice without havi ng to go all the way to the county seat. C: You said that the jury was always me n. Were women even called to jury duty? J: I don’t remember ever having any women ju rors. Even in circuit court, we had very few women jurors. C: There was a long time that wome n were discriminated against. J: Absolutely. C: You’ve had an interesting career. J: One thing that stands out happened when I was Justice of th e Peace. One night I got a call that the sheriff had arrested a taxi driver from St. Petersburg. This taxi driver said that he had buried a woma n’s body in Alachua County. The sheriff called me and I called Dewitt Jones, who was the forer unner of the M ilam Funeral Home. Harvey Hord – I don’t know if you remember Harvey – was a funeral director for Dewitt Jones and drove the ambulance. I called Harvey, and the sheriff summoned a jury. It turned out that the fellow said she was buried on the road that runs from Micanopy to the Hawthorne Road. It’s paved now but it was a dirt road then. Pine trees grew right close to that road. It was midnight, black as anything, a real ghost stor y. I rode with Harvey in the ambulance out onto the dirt road. The taxi driver took us to wh ere he said it was and they started digging, and sure enough, they hit the body. It was not robbery because she still had her diamond rings on. It turned out that sh e was a very wealthy woman from St. Petersburg, and I think she was pregnant. I can’t remember, because it was so long ago, whether she was killed because of that or what the deal was. It was

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 27 thought that someone paid the taxi driver to haul her body somewhere and get rid of her. C: After he did, was that when the sheriff caught him? J: Well, they were suspicious of the St. Pe tersburg taxi driver. In those days, a St. Petersburg taxicab driving in Gainesvill e around midnight was highly suspicious. That scared him to death. I guess he was afraid he was going to get pinned with the murder. I can’t remember whether we ever pinned it on him or not. We had a formal inquest. We had a lot of public ity. I used to have some newspaper clippings because it made the papers up north. C: I didn’t find a thing about that in my papers. J: I think it’s in the Gainesville Sun and the St. Petersburg paper. C: They don’t have anything cat alogued. It probably is. If I knew the date, I could probably find it. What year do you think that was? J: It was before I went into the Army. It was before I was married and was probably in 1941. When I got back from the Arm y, the Governor appointed some fellow named Thompson as Justice of the Peace. When I got back, he resigned and the Governor reappointed me because I had been off in the service. They they did away with the job, but this was before. C: You were Justice of the P eace right out of law school then? J: 1940. About one year out. I got out of law sc hool in June and then ran for Justice of the Peace whenever the election was in 1940 – or 1941. Anyway, this was quite an experien ce. Here I was a greenhorn. I was inexperienced. The name Nichols sticks in my mind. I don’t know whether she could have been named Nichols, but sh e was from St. Petersburg and was buried on that dirt road. The trial would have b een in Pinellas County. They might have found the taxi driver guilty of murder, but that was the end of it as far as I remember. I know I stayed up all night and when I got home, the family was eating breakfast. I went to work that morning. It didn’t bother me. I was young and full of energy. I worked all day. It didn’t bother me a bit. C: All right. Let’s get back to the end of the story when you were practicing in your law firm. Have we got all your children born? We have Jane. J: Jane was born in 1943. E. C ovington, Jr. “Covey” was born in 1947. C: That was after you were back.

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 28 J: Yes. Vance was born in 1951. Vance Cole Johnston was his full name. There’s four years’ difference between each one. They were all born in Gainesville. C: That’s when you were out in Hibiscus Park area. J: Yes. Covey and Vance were both born wh ile we were living in Hibiscus Park. Jane was born during the war and Mildred was living in Alachua with her mother. We lived in Hibiscus Park until about ’ 57 and then we built a house on the corner of 22nd Street and 16th Avenue. We lived there until 1967 and then we built a house at the Gainesville Golf and Country Club and lived there until 1997, when we built in Turkey Creek to be near my daughter, Jane. I retired about that time so we just built a small house out there. In May 2000, we moved to The Village. C: Were you and Mildred both big golfers when you lived out at the country club? J: We were golfers, but I wouldn’t say “big golfers.” Mildred was better than I was. She made a hole in one. She was a natural golfer. She never had played golf until we moved out there. She had lessons. Chuck Brasington was the pro then. There was a bunch of beginners taken lessons. C huck told Mildred that she was just a natural. He put her down on one end so she could hit it. She was left-handed, which was a big help. I never did get wher e I was much good, but I played at it. I started playing when I got back from the Army. We joined the country club when I first joined the firm in . It was out at the old golf cl ub on Newberry Road. C: Mildred didn’t have as much time then? J: No, she didn’t. The children were all young. That’s right. She was busy with the children. C: By the time you got to the country club, your kids were about grown. J: That’s right. I believe Covey was marri ed, maybe. Jane got married right after we moved out there. Vance was in high school. He was about a junior. In fact, he was the only one at home when we m oved out there. We built the house with four bedrooms and we had Jane’s room and Covey’s r oom and Vance’s room, but Jane and Covey never lived there. They w ould come back to vi sit, but they didn’t all live there. C: Now, Jane lives in Alachua. Where do your boys live? J: Covey is practicing law in Franklin, Te nnessee, which is a suburb of Nashville. Vance is an assistant principal and assistan t football coach at Cl ewiston, Florida. He loves footfall and coaching. C: Are they both married?

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 29 J: They’re both married. Vance has thr ee children, two daughters and a son. Covey has a daughter and a son. The son died of cystic fibrosis at 29 in 2000. Jane has two children, a daughter and a son. C: So you have six grandchildren. J: I had seven, counting Scott. All of a s udden we have three great-grandchildren. Laurie, Covey Jr.’s daughter, had twin s in May 1999 – a boy and a girl. Then Mary, Jane’s daughter, had a little boy about nine days after Laurie’s twins were born, so within nine days we ha d three great-grandchildren. C: How exciting! It sounds like you’ve had a pretty full, active life, both of you. J: I gave up golf when we moved to Turk ey Creek. We lived on the golf course at Turkey Creek, but I didn’t play any more after we got out there and Mildred didn’t play any more. I deve loped a heart condition so I had to quit. She hurt her back and never has gotten over that. C: You’ve given us lots of interesting information. I can’t think of anything else, but if you think of anything you wa nt to add, you can just writ e it out and we’ll add it. J: Actually, there is one thi ng I might mention that always seemed interesting to me. When I was young and growing up here in Gainesville, Republican was a bad name. Everybody was a Democrat. I remember there was one very active Republican in town. I can’t remember his name. I think it was Kyle. We were just young fellows, and we looked on him as if there was something strange and odd about him. He was a rarity. C: Do you think that was carried over from the Civil War days? J: I think it probably was. It was bound to have been because that wasn’t too many years after the Civil War. C: They were carpetbaggers. J: Right. There was still a lo t of feeling. I recall that th e black folks had to go to the back door. When we lived on Virginia Avenue, now 1st Street, there was a family that worked for us. They were very clos e to us, the whole family. They were in the house and were one of the family, but they would come around to the back door. C: You’re right. J: We used to try to get A unt Rhoda to sit down at the table in the kitchen and eat with us, but she wouldn’t do it. She woul d go to another table in the kitchen and eat. It was still very segregated. On Saturday night, the whole town was open.

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Interview with E. Covington Johnston January 31, 2001 30 All the stores were open until midnight on Saturday night. Cars were parked up and down the street and peopl e were walking on the side walk, and the black folks would walk in the street instead of on th e sidewalk. Charlie Chestnut, Sr. was the spokesman for the black race. Everybody knew and loved him. He was a really fine man. I don’t know if you remember him or not. C: A little bit. J: He was the grandfather of young Charles. He’s Charles Chestnut III. I don’t know whether he was grandfather or great-grandfather. He lived on 8th Avenue. I remember the house was pink, right there in the shadow of that high rise. I think his widow just recently died. C: You felt the closeness to the blacks and yet there was a real separation. J: That’s right. In fact, I played with Charles III’s daddy. We were good friends. C: The block behind the president of the University’s house, Tigert House, around the corner, that whole street back in th ere was black. Actually, on the same block facing different streets. But they never walked down the sidewalk. We never saw a black walk down the sidewalk in front of our house, and you probably never did either. J: That was one of the strange things. C: That was strange. Times have changed in lots of ways for the better. J: That’s the truth. The last 70 year s have seen considerable improvement. C: The Matheson Historical Museum will enj oy this, I know, and we’ll get it back to you for editing. Thank you.


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