Citation
Interview with Ida Aaron Wells

Material Information

Title:
Interview with Ida Aaron Wells
Creator:
Cofrin, Mary Ann ( Interviewer )
Marston, Ruth C.
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
Publisher:
Matheson Historical Museum
Publication Date:
Language:
English

Record Information

Source Institution:
Matheson History Museum
Holding Location:
Matheson History Museum
Rights Management:
All rights reserved. Alachua County Historic Trust: Matheson History Museum

Downloads

This item has the following downloads:


Full Text











MATHESON MUSEUM, INC.

ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM


Interviewee: Interviewer: Transcriber:


Ida Aaron Wells Mary Ann Cofrin Ruth C. Marston


April 2, 2002






Interview with Ida Aaron Wells I
April 2, 2002


C: My name is Mary Ann Coffin, and I am interviewing Ida Aaron Wells at her
home at 1207 N.W. 7 th Avenue in Gainesville, Florida, on April 2, 2002, for the Matheson Historical Center. Would you please state your full name and birth date
for the tape.

W: Ida Aaron Wells. My birth date is October 24, 1913. C: You were bom where?

W: Worthington Springs, Florida.

C: When did you move to Gainesville? W: My parents moved to Gainesville when I had been to part of one school term. In
those days they had what they called primer, and I had been through primer. We moved to Gainesville where I went through first grade, second grade. We were at
the old Union Academy.

C: Tbat's the school you went to.

W: Yes, ma'am. Here in Gainesville it was the black school. I can remember that it
was two terns that I went there - first grade and second grade. By that time, they built Lincoln High School here, down near where the Police Department was.
That old Union Academy School.

C: I see, on 6 th Street then, where the Police Department is today. W: That vacant spot over there near Pleasant Street. C: Then you went from those two grades to Lincoln High School. Why did you
move to Lincoln High School?

W: Because they built this school for all the black people. In those days we were not
integrated, you know. They built Gainesville High, down there where Alachua
General is now.

C: Right, the 720 Building now.

W: Yes.

C: Before that, they had Kirby-Smith School over on the east side of town. W: Yes. That one was beyond my memory, but I remember when it was there. They
built one for the whites and one for the blacks. So far as a black girl growing up here in Gainesville, we always got along fine. We never had any problems or






Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 2
April 2, 2002

incidents. My family was a God-fearing family, and we were independent. We believed in earning what you get. Back in those days, they didn't have welfare or all that stuff. My father kept a garden growing out here, right out in that vacant lot. He used to rent some land from the Childs family. We had sweet potatoes to meet sweet potatoes. Do you know what I mean when I say that? Do you know what a potato bank is? Where you make like an Indian tepees. They take straw and sticks and make a little house and put the pine straw in there and put your sweet potatoes in there. That's like a storage shed. They would not rot. They would stay there just as nice and sweet. People used the term sweet potatoes to
meet sweet potatoes. That meant we still had potatoes from last year.

C: When it was time to fill it again. How wonderful! So you were never hungry.

W: No. We kept greens and onions and lettuce. At that time, he was cooking at the
White House Hotel. Then he went to the Thomas Hotel, and he cooked at two
fraternity houses.

C: Ida gave a little talk down at the Matheson Center in February of 2001, and she
told a little bit about her father, whom she called Papa Daddy.

W: Do you know how that name came?

C: No, I would like to know that.

W: I was married at an early age through some of the ladies dipping into my family
affairs. It caused me to elope with a young man that I found out was nothing.
The only thing I got out of that marriage was one child. Then he was about his business - gone - but my parents let him stay here for a while. My father was a man who believed in going to bed at 10 o'clock and you get up at the crack of dawn and you get yourself some kind of work to do, to earn some food and some money. So it didn't work out very well with us, and he deserted that child and
me.

C: What was his name?

W: Norman Jackson. Back in those days, they didn't have welfare for mothers that
fathers had walked off and left the children, so my parents, right here in this same house, said to me, "We allowed him to stay here." My father told him, "You don't need to come back unless you're going to do better." So he didn't come back. My parents got J.C. Adkins. Col. Adkins was a lawyer. Do you remember
him?


C: Yes.






Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 3
April 2, 2002

W: They were friends of our family. The old black lady that was their cook,
nursemaid, and everything else, raised their two children, Margaret and Jimmy.
Did you know them?

C: Sure. I knew Margaret.

W: How old were they when you knew them?

C: Well, Margaret's a few years older than I am. I never played with Margaret as a
teenager because she was maybe five or six years older than I was. I knew her
when she was grown and I was still in high school.

W: They lived where the 720 Building is, over in that area. Later, Col. Adkins built a
house out in the Duck Pond.

C: That's the one I remember.

W: This old black lady that was a godmother of mine, and lived in Starke, had a
husband. She would come and stay on the premises and do their work and then they would take her home ever so often. Taxi drivers charged twenty-five cents then. Joe Johnson and different guys drove taxi for the black people, and they would bring her out here to visit with us, and once in a while she could spend the night and go back there the next day. Miss Brown got too old to work, and they called her Nanny. They loved her because she was dependable. Mrs. Adkins wasn't home much, and Mrs. Brown raised the children, kept the house, and did the washing. Col. Adkins was a lawyer and then later became Attomey General, I believe. Anyway, after she got too old to work, they took her back to her place in Starke. At one time we had lived there ourselves, right across the road from her, and they would go over to see about taking care of Mrs. Brown until finally she passed away. Margaret and Jimmy were grown by that time. I had left
Gainesville.

C: Now we've got a little off track. Let's go back here. We got you married and
through school. Then you stayed here with your family. You were going to tell
me how your daddy got that name.

W: Oh yes. After I was maffied and had this little girl, Gloria Jackson, we were
sitting in this same dining room, which was affanged differently then. My baby would sometimes call him Papa. Sometimes she would say Daddy and sometimes Papa. One day he was sitting in his chair and got up to go to the kitchen and she was sitting near him and she wanted to tell him something. She was confused and she said, "Papa," and then she would say, "Daddy," so I said, "Well, baby, he's your Papa and your Daddy. You call him Papa Daddy." That's how he got that
name.


C: How long did you stay in Gainesville?






Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 4
April 2, 2002


W: I stayed here until Gloria was about seven years old. I was doing domestic work,
which I'm not ashamed of All my life I've made a nice, decent, honest living and amounted to something, much more than some of them who had professional jobs. It's not what you make; it's how you manage what you make. Anyway, my mother said to me, "Ida, if you want to go somewhere and get you a better job, we'll keep the baby." My father had a brother and his wife who lived in Jacksonville, and I said, "Let me go to Aunt May." Now, my father was a cook and a chef, and his brother was a baker. He ran on the Clyde and Mallory Lines from Jacksonville to New York, and he was a baker. So I went over to stay with Aunt May, and while I was there, I got me a good job. I was making $3 a week here and I got $6 a week over there. You could do more with it than you do now,
couldn't you?

C: Absolutely. That was good. What year would that have been?

W: About 1935 or '36.

C: You said she was six years old. Was she only four years old? So you stayed in
Jacksonville with this job.

W: Yes. For a length of time.

C: What kind ofjob was it?

W: I was a maid in a dress shop, Marks Sample Shop. Exclusive back in those days.
They had a lady that worked there. She was a foreign lady, a white lady, that did the alterations. I would help her unravel things, take out pins, like somebody would buy a dress that they wanted altered and I would press it and I would
unpack stock and hang it. That's the kind of job I had.

C: That was a goodjob. So you stayed therefor several years?

W: Yes, ma'am. Then I came back home and I met this young man that I grew up
with here in Gainesville, but I didn't know him too well. He was my brother's classmate. My sister said to me, "Ida, this is Christmas, and I would like to have a little get-together and call in some friends." There was a girl named Dorothy, who was her close friend. She had a boy friend and my sister had a boy friend.
My sister said to me, "Who am I going to invite for you?" I said it didn't make any difference. I was kind of out with men then, you know, after I had been disappointed. It didn't make any difference to me. So she said to me, "Oh, I know, do you remember Lorenzo Wells that used to go to school?" I said, "Yes.
What happened to him?" She said, "He's still around. I think I'll invite him to come eat with you." Sure enough she did. She had three couples of us eating
dinner right here in this dining room, with Momma's fumiture and what not.






Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 5
April 2, 2002

After we had dinner that night, the six of us went in Lorenzo's car to Jacksonville, so I could be there to go to work the next day. Then they came back. We began dating and seeing each other. We hung on for a pretty good length of time, but I found out some things, like men will do. I heard that he had some other girl pregnant. He came over here to go to Ocala to a church meeting. I told him, "I've got something I want to tell you. We've been good friends for a long time, but I heard that you were going with this lady and she's pregnant. For that reason, I am going on about my business. Good bye." That ended it for 49 years, but I
married the same guy 49 years later.

C: I want to know how did you get to Miami?

W: Oh, I had some friends that lived in Dania, and they had said to me, "If you ever
want to come down, you could make some more money."

C: So you were going to leave Jacksonville.

W: I had left Jacksonville and was here.

C: Oh, you had come back home. What were you doing here?

W: I had a little job with some people - the Hammonds. He was a University of
Florida professor. I worked for them. After I had that little run-in and decided I didn't want to marry Lorenzo because I had been bitten one time and said, "I ain't going through that any more," I went down where these friends were. They got me a job and three of us young ladies slept in one bed because they had a bedroom, until we could find a little room for me. They got me a job and a room,
and that's where I stayed.

C: What was the job?

W: Oh, a maid job.

C: But you got better pay down there.

W: In Hollywood. $25 a week!

C: What year was that?

W: That would have been 1938 or 39, somewhere in there.

C: Well, you didn't stay in Jacksonville too long.

W: No. After I came back here and I found out that Lorenzo was having an affair, I
said I was not going through that again.






Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 6
April 2, 2002

C: Now, your mother and father had three children and you were the oldest, and Carl
and Ruth were the others. We know all about what your Momma did, because that's in this paper, which will be included with our interview. We're going to go backwards a little bit. Tell me about your childhood. You said it was a wonderful
childhood and you had good friends. What did the kids do after school?

W: Well, we didn't do anything but go home because our mother did not allow us to
stay on the campus.

C: But you had some playmates in the neighborhood? W: Well, I was different. My sister was the one that loved playmates. I was always a
house person.

C: So you came home to help mother maybe? W: Yes, and I liked to sew and embroider. I learned to crochet. C: Who taught you all this?

W: My momma taught me some about sewing. I think some of it was instilled in me,
because I could just work with things and stayed up all hours of the night alone.
Everybody had gone to bed, and I would stay up working with things until I
learned to crochet. I have several pieces that I made back then. I made this.

C: Oh, that's pretty. This is a tablecloth, and she sewed a beautiful edge on it. Did
you do the cross-stitching?

W: Yes.

C: Ida is very talented. Did you have outside activities? W: No. Back in those days, the only thing we went to was Sunday School or BYPU. C: What church did you go to?

W: That was Friendship Baptist Church, over here near downtown, 6 th Street? C: 6 th Street is the one with the Police Station on it now. W: Yes. It was the same street that Mt. Pleasant Church is on. It was down two or
three blocks further.

C: Okay. And they had some activities after school?






Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 7
April 2, 2002

W: No. If they did, I don't remember. We came home after school and I had to wash
the lampshades.

C: Whatever your mother wanted you to do. Did you see a lot of prejudice against
blacks?

W: No. We never did. My father was a man who always said, "Stay in your place
and do what's right." We never had any trouble. Back in those days you didn't have all that kind of stuff. You respected white people. We had some nice white friends. They would bring things to us, and we worked for them. They would
give us things. We didn't have problems like they had years after I left here.

C: You said your mother taught school?

W: Yes. She taught school before she married my father. That was in Providence.

C: But then she stayed home after her children were born?

W: Yes. Then her precious bundles came along. I was the first one to come. I was a
long time coming because they maffied in August, 1912, and I wasn't bom until
October, 1913. Some girls get pregnant and miss their first period, and that's all!

C: Anyway, your childhood was a happy one and your parents were good to you.

W: Yes, it was. We were accustomed to a regular schedule, get up in the coming,
not like some of the children today, you make up your bed, you hang up your nightgown and like that. With some of the children today, you can't get into their
bedroom!

C: I know.

W: I couldn't with my grandchildren. You have to step over their clothing.

C: Was it hard on you to leave your daughter here with your parents?

W: No, because I knew my parents were going to take care of her. After she got to be
12 years old, I got her. She grew up in Miami.

C: So you brought her to Miami when she was 12. She was bom in 1932, so by the
time she was 12, that would have been 1944, and she was down in Miami with
you.

W: She finished elementary and high school there and then she got a scholarship for
FAMU. She went there. Of course, I had to pay some. She met this young man there that was an instructor there in drama. That was the field she was in. She
liked to act.






Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 8
April 2, 2002


C: Now FAMU is Florida A&M University, up in Tallahassee. W: Back in those days. Then they later said University. C: Now you weren't married all the time you were in Miami? W: Oh yes. I had gotten married. C: Well, you didn't tell us who you married. When did you get married? I thought
you went to Miami because those friends of yours told you to come down. W: I did, but I met somebody. C: What was his name?

W: Isaiah Matthews. I married him. We didn't stay together very long. C: When you married Isaiah Matthews, was Gloria down there with you then? W: No. I had married him before I got her down there. C: And then you got her down there. Did you continue to work after you were
married?

W: Yes. Gloria finished high school there. C: And then you said she went to college. Where were you working down there? W: Hotel work and things like that. C: What did your husband do? W: He was a truck driver for a furniture company. C: Did you stay down there even after you were divorced? W: Two or three years after divorcing Matthews, I married Percy Woodside in
Miami, and we stayed married until he died in 1985. 1 came back and forth here to see my parents during that time. My father died first, in 1979, and when I was here for the funeral, this young man that lived across town came to visit with us.
We had been friends. This is the same one I was telling you about before. He had gotten married, and I had gotten married, but we were just friends. I didn't have
any other relations with him. He came and visited with us most of that day. C: He was still married?






Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 9
April 2, 2002


W: No. His wife was dead. Let me see, six years later my husband died and then my
mother died.

C: Your husband died?

W: Yes, this second husband that I was maffied to in Miami. Anyway, my mother
was here living with my brother across town. This house was closed up. Nobody lived in it. My desire was when my father passed away that my mother would be able to live in the house with one of us children, spending at least a month with her, then another stay a month with her, so she could stay in her own house. But
it didn't work out that way.

C: She lived long after your dad?

W: Yes. I think about six years.

C: I see.

W: My father died first. For that reason, she was with my sister in Tallahassee for a
while, and all of a sudden, my sister's son called me one morning and said to me, "Aunt Ida, Momma says she's tired and she can't take care of Granny any longer." So I said, "What are we going to do, Rodney?" I called my daughter and said, "Gloria, Rodney just called me and said my sister can't take care of Granny any more. What are we going to do?" Rodney had told me he had gotten a place in Gainesville - a nursing home - and that he was planning on taking her there. I called Gloria back and she was crying. She said, "Some woman needs to be with Granny while Rodney is taking her." She said, "If they can find a lady to ride along with Rodney, I'll give them $100." Sure enough, Rodney said he had somebody, but it was altogether different when I got it unraveled and found out what really happened. He was on his way to North Carolina - he and his wife and he was going to drop Momma off here. We sent the $100 and it never reached the person that we thought it would. There was a lot behind this, you
know.

Anyway, she was in a nursing home. I came up here twice from Miami to visit with her and to see if she was all right. Momma had to have surgery and she died.

C: What year did she die?

W: 1985.

C: I didn't want to completely neglect your dad, although we know a lot about your
father, and you've told us what he did. He started carving when he was over
eighty?






Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 10
April 2, 2002

W: Eighty-six or eighty-seven.

C: Stewart Purser has written a book about your father. It is down at the Matheson
Center, and the name of it is "Jesse J. Aaron, Sculptor." If anybody reads this interview and wants to know about Jesse, you should get the book off the shelf.
One of the things that I thought was interesting, when I read the book, was that Stewart Purser said that his art developed through his attempt to relate as an individual to the world in which he lived, that he never wasted time, energy, or money, or anything else, for that matter, that he found the material first and then the image developed. He sort of made the image after he found the material.
Maybe you can tell me a little more about this story - but Stewart said, "What could he do to help him?" and Jesse said something about business cards with a
picture and his name and profession and his address.

W: Do you have one of those?

C: No.

W: I've got one.

C: We'll get one and attach it to the interview. Anyway, that's a little bit about him.
When you were in Miami and he started carving, you came back and forth to
Gainesville a lot to help him.

W: I did not know that he was carving. I came up here on a regular basis to check on
them. I was the oldest, and after they began getting on in years, I'm going to tell just because you're a lady, on one visit I made here I walked in the front door and I could smell urine. Momma was not able to take care of herself. After I noticed that she did not know she could buy pads and she was using just rags and would rinse them out in the bathroom and spread them around in her bedroom, and when they dried, you could still smell it. She wasn't able to sterilize them and rinse them out that good. So I knew she needed somebody. I was working in a big Baptist church, and I went to the pastor and told him that I had been to visit my parents and could see that my mother needed me and asked his permission to go up and spend two or three weeks out of a month with them and then come back
and do what I could, and he gave me permission to do that.

C: Wonderful!

W: God was in that, you know. I would come up here and stay two or three weeks
and keep house and clean up the house and get Momma straight and go back and
work for a week and see about my house and then come back.

C: That was quite a sacrifice for you.


W: I know, but I wanted to do it.






Interview with Ida Aaron Wells I I
April 2, 2002


C: And you were driving back and forth?

W: Yes, ma'am. I drove every inch of the way. I couldn't tell you how many trips I
made from Miami to here. Some of them I drove alone. My father was getting on in years and it was a little bit too much for him to cook. They didn't like Meals on Wheels, you know. On top of smelling Momma's urine, I had been here many times and had to put my Daddy in the bathtub and bathe him. I feel good about
the things that I've done in my lifetime.

C: You took good care of them. At the time, though, your Dad was still working
some?

W: A little bit. I was telling you that I had a dream. In the dream his hair was jet
black - and that was not true - and his face was nice and round. That was not
true. I had that dream, and I told my husband, "I'm going to Gainesville."

We came up here on a Sunday aftemoon, and when I drove in this yard, I got out and came in the back door, and he was laying there on a chaise lounge in that first little room that you come through, where the refrigerator and all that stuff is. I walked in the door and he said to me, "We're getting along all right. Why did you come back so soon?" He knew I had just left here. I said, "I just wanted to see you all." I didn't tell him about the dream. That was a Sunday aftemoon, and it was Tuesday coming he was gone. I was up around with him at night. I couldn't get him to eat anything. Not even coffee - and coffee was his main
thing. I've got his coffee cup there in that china closet now!

C: When he started carving, he had quit work, hadn't he?

W: He never stopped working. What he was doing was growing flowers around here.
He wasn't cooking back in those days.

C: So you came back and forth to Gainesville and you helped your father. He started
carving when he was 87.

W: All I did was to go with him to the shows and cook and wash and do like that
around here.

C: Your mother was not able to take care of things and was getting quite elderly.
Your dad died in 1979?

W: Momma died in 1985, the same year my husband Percy died.

C: Then you maffied Lorenzo Wells. Do you know what year that was?


W: November 14, 1987. My parents were both gone.






Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 12
April 2, 2002


C: Okay. We'll go back a little bit. When you grew up, when you first moved to
Gainesville, you didn't live in this house. You lived somewhere else. W: No. A rented house.

C: It was later on that your dad built this house and moved your family into this
house.

W: It wasn't finished, but enough for us to get in here. C: You were about how old? W: Nine years old.

C: So most of your life you've lived right here. So after your parents died, then you
came back to Gainesville to live after you married Lorenzo. You got together again. You had been friends many, many years ago. Had you moved back to
Gainesville or were you just visiting when he came to call?

W: He came to visit when my father passed away. My brother and some other men
were here.

C: Tbat's right.

W: I was still maffied and my husband talked with Lorenzo after my father's funeral.
Lorenzo and my brother and a lot of men were out there on the porch, and we were just friends. My mother and I were in the house, and the men were out there. I made a pitcher of lemonade and took it and some cookies out there for
them.

C: Then your husband died in 1985.

th
W: July 4 . My Momma died the same year. C: So when did you move back to Gainesville? W: Not until I got maffied to Lorenzo. C: He knew you had lost your husband. W: Yes. When I came up here for my Momma's funeral, then is when Lorenzo asked
me out to dinner two times and then asked if he could see me, and different
things, and that's how we got started again.


C: Did he come to see you in Miami?






Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 13
April 2, 2002


W: Yes. He came down to Miami two times after we began dating again.

C: No one was living in this house then.

W: No. I didn't move back to Gainesville until after I married Lorenzo. We were
staying in his house across town. We were paying taxes on this house - the three of us - and one day Lorenzo and I came over here to rake up the yard so it wouldn't look deserted. I had not thought about it before because I had my house in Miami to take care of and I was living in his house with him here, and when we drove in this gate out here and got out of the car by that pecan tree, I had never thought of it before, but I said, "Ren, would you mind staying in this old house?"
We had been looking for us a house here and had never found one that we wanted or could afford. We paid down on one and I said we were too old to get into that kind of debt, so we got our money back. So when we drove into this yard and I asked him about staying in this old house if we paid Mary and Ruth for their shares, he agreed. They sold us their shares, and that's how he and I became in possession of this house. We got a lawyer and everything went through the right
procedure.

C: Then you moved in here.

W: Not then. We had to do a lot of work on it first.

C: What year did you move in?

W: About 1990 or 1991.

C: How long were you and Lorenzo married?

W: Until he died in 1996.

C: Tell me a little bit about Lorenzo. You had a happy life.

W: Oh yes. He was a devout, decent, respectable man. Everybody who knew
Lorenzo gave him the same name. He worked for the Elletts for many, many
years.

C: And before that, her aunts, Fanida and Laura Baker.

W: He also knew Mrs. Alvin Alsobrook. That's how I got that job with her. They
knew him many, many years. I think Lorenzo said he used to go and scrub somebody's floor on a Saturday morning for a quarter. Back in those days, you know. Somebody's kitchen floor. But he was a fine person. Anybody that knew him or heard anything about him would give you the same answer about him.






Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 14
April 2, 2002

Like I said, when I found out in those days that he had another girl friend, I went
on and he married this lady.

C: That was decent.

W: Then they had some children. She died and he was single a long, long time. Then
my brother was talking with him, and he told him that Ida's husband died and that
was all he needed.

C: He had a place for you in his heart all along. W: That's what he said.

C: He was sorry about the way he had acted early on. Well, it sounds like you had a
good life with him. Did you continue to work when you came back to
Gainesville?

W: Oh yes. He's the one that started me doing a little work for Mrs. John Ellett and
then later for Mrs. Alsobrook.

C: That's wonderful. Well, you seem to be in pretty good health. W: I am grateful. I am blessed, more than blessed. There are a lot of people my age,
some even younger, who aren't. I am not walking with a cane. I'm not aching and all bent over, but I know that I don't have the strength I once had. I'm 88 years old this year. I don't get around as fast as I once did, but I eat good. I eat
three meals a day and in between. I eat breakfast in the coming - a ritual.

C: Ida has a nice home here on 7 1h Avenue. It's her parents' home that she lived in
as a young girl, but she's got a lot of things relating to her father. She has a lot of
memorabilia.

W: Did you see in his shop?

C: I did last time, but I wanted to tell about the shop. Your idea is to restore it. W: To some degree. I don't want it to look too modem. C: You want it to look like .

W: Kind of like him. I want you to look at it again before you go. C: I will look again.


W: You can go right in that door.






Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 15
April 2, 2002

C: I remember. I went in it the other day. The men were here doing some work for
you in the yard. Anyway, she has a nice home and a lot of nice pictures and a lot of things about Jesse that maybe she will let us copy them to put down here with the interview. Your father really was a remarkable man to start his carving at his age. I understand that at age 88 he got a grant from the NEA that sent him to New
York City.

W: Mr. Purser took him. My mother was sick and he couldn't go and work. He
wanted to stay here and keep his yard and fix meals for her, and one morning a voice woke him up and told him, "Jesse, go carve." Have you seen that
anywhere?

C: I think Mr. Purser maybe tells it in his book, but that's very interesting. So he
started carving.

W: That morning he went out there and started doing something. When I would
come up here to visit him, I am going to be frank with you, I didn't tell him but I thought that was the ugliest stuff. But you know what? At first you can not reach out and accept it, but the more you look at it, the more you're around it, the more
you can see in it.

C: Well, it's sort of primitive. Isn't that the word?

W: Yes.

C: It has been very popular, and a lot of people I know own pieces of it. I see that
you're a reader. You have a lot of books around here.

W: Yes. The day that President Kennedy was killed, I was reading that day. I was in
Miami, taking care of my grandchild, my little grandson, who was a baby. I was going out to the line to hang up some diapers. My daughter was a teacher and so was her husband. Just as I started out the door to the clothesline, a bulletin came on the radio saying that Kennedy had been shot. I didn't hang up those diapers
until God knows when. I stopped right there and stayed inside to look at it.

These are my things here. I have a lot of stuff that I have not even unpacked and put out here because I don't have space for them here in this house. I don't want it to look too junky and too crowded. It has taken me a long time to get it
assembled, to make it look halfway passable.

C: It looks fine to me. Your daughter still lives in Gainesville?

W: My daughter died. My only child.


C: When did she die? I didn't know about that.






Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 16
April 2, 2002

W: Gloria died about five years ago now. She lived in Miami.

C: Oh, she moved to Miami.

W: Oh yes. She grew up and finished high school in Miami, went to FAMU and met
this teacher there. They fell in love and wanted to marry, and he made a trip to Miami to visit me, to meet me to ask me for her hand in marriage. I can show you the wedding dress I made her. I made everything. She had her wedding right
there at my sister's.

They lived in Springfield, Missouri, when they first got married because he had a job as a drama teacher there. She was in the field of drama, also. They went to Missouri. She graduated from college in Tallahassee. He was an instructor there.
I went to Tallahassee, made the wedding gown, and they had the wedding right there at my sister's house. They left that afternoon because he had the job in Springfield, Missouri. When they left there, he got another job at Prairie View, Texas, teaching drama. Then he got tired of that and they came to Miami and
they stayed there.

C: So you don't get to see your grandchildren very often if they still live in Miami.

W: Two of them. They're grown. My youngest grandchild is 45 years old.

C: Oh, I guess so, and they're all in Miami? I don't want to forget anything. Have
we skipped anything we need to talk about? Can you think of anything that we
have to talk about?

W: No, I began telling you about that dream about my father, when I dreamed that his
hair was jet black. I didn't finish it.

C: I thought you did finish it. You said you came home and found out he wasn't that
young man that you were dreaming about.

W: That was on a Sunday afternoon. Monday he didn't eat anything. I got him to eat
a little piece of cantaloupe Monday night. Tuesday morning I was up real bright and early and that's the day he left us. He didn't make a sound. I thought he was asleep because he slept with his mouth open anyway. I looked in there I don't know how many times, thinking that he was asleep. Finally I took a closer look,
and he was gone.

C: Did your daughter have a serious illness when she died? She was very young.

W: My daughter was over 60 years old. She had diabetes real bad. She was on
dialysis. I have diabetes, too, but mine is controlled. My mother had diabetes.


C: Yes, it does run in families. It certainly does.






Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 17
April 2, 2002


W: She had it real, real bad, so she was on dialysis. She has been gone more than two
years, and he has remarried. I know the lady that he maffied. We're all members of the same church, and he needed somebody because he was a man that has had hip replacements and has to walk with two sticks a lot of times. I gave him my blessing and he seemed a little bit chilly. I guess Jim thought that I wouldn't
approve. But I knew the lady a long time.

C: You were glad for him to find somebody.

W: Yes. Then my grandson moved in the house with him because some mornings
somebody would have to help get him out of bed.

C: How many children did they have?

W: Three. Two girls and a boy. The oldest girl lives in Tampa. She has been
teaching school in Tampa 25 years. Never been married; has her own house. The next girl lives in Miami, and she's a schoolteacher. She got married since her mother passed on. The boy is a drama instructor, and he's never been married.
He's 45 years old.

C: So you've got a nice family. You have a wonderful heritage, and I think what
you're trying to do for your father, Jesse, is a fine thing and I hope someday that
works out. He will be well remembered.

W: I got it finished inside. I plan to go out there and take a damp cloth and wipe off
those dirty walls and spray just a little girlish pink. I want it to look old-fashioned
looking.

C: Ida is very industrious, as you can see. She still works for the Elletts and the
Alsobrooks. Anyway, we've very pleased that we've had this chance to talk with you, and I thank you so much for giving us your time. I'll give you a copy of this.
We'll both edit it and make it readable. That's the main thing because nobody is going to listen to this tape, but they will read it. They're all down at the Matheson
Center. We'll give as many copies as you want.

W: Thank you. Do you know Joel Buchanan?

C: Oh yes. He's the one that interviewed your mother.

W: Yes.

C: I don't know who interviewed your father, and I don't know why that interview is
not available, but they don't have it.






Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 18
April 2, 2002

W: I don't know, but Mr. Purser died the same day that my Momma died. I had come
back here. Momma was in a nursing home and they put her in the hospital. Then I went to see Mrs. Purser and she was dead. A little while after he died. It looked like my world was falling apart. All those people that I knew. Mr. Purser has been in this dining room and eaten many a day with us. He brought my father to Miami - he and Mrs. Purser - and I had a nice meal fixed for them and they enjoyed it so much. We went on Miami Beach and all over there. We were real
close friends.

C: That book will certainly tell you that he admired your father very much.

W: Did it tell how he met my father? A student was passing through here and noticed
those carvings out there. He had pieces outside the house. That's why he fenced it in out there because he couldn't leave his pieces out there because somebody might pick them up. So I had the fence open and was putting a few things out there. This student went back and told Mr. Purser about the place where a man had some carvings, so Mr. Purser came out here and they met, and they became like father and son. They were so close. They really were. It was some blow to
me to find out that Mr. Purser had gone.

C: He really helped your father promote his work and helped him show it at different
places in the state.

W: And it all happened so suddenly. Mrs. Purser didn't go very far behind after him
either. Did you know her?

C: No, I didn't know either one of them. I knew the name. They were pretty young
when they died? They were younger than your father, of course, a lot younger.

W: They had a son and a daughter. I mentioned that to Joel one time to see if he
could get an address or something for his daughter and his son.

C: They don't live in Gainesville?

W: I don't think so. But time goes by, and you have so many blows in your own
family. I am telling you when I lost my parents, Momma was 97 or 98, but I knew they had a long life, but when I lost my daughter and my husband, those
were the biggest blows that I had.

C: Right. Your husband was getting up in years, though, but you still miss him. I'm
sure you do.

W: He loved this place. Different people would come here to see him, and I can
remember one of the questions he would ask the people. He was so proud and I changed this house right. He would ask the people, "Did you ever see a bedroom with five doors to it?" It does have five doors. One to come into the dining room.






Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 19
April 2, 2002

This was the door here but it was further down. I had him move this door so my
furniture would fit in right.

C: Well, you've done a lot with this house.

W: I just haven't finished painting it. Why they put this closet door here is because it
saves space.

C: Sure it does. They are bifold doors that she is talking about, that slide out of the
way when you have the doors open.

W: They don't take up so much space. I had the kitchen done over after he was gone,
because he hadn't gotten to the kitchen. I have many, many memories here, and I would not trade this place for five or ten like I had in Miami. I have memories
here from the time that I was nine years old up until now.

C: That's wonderful. We're delighted to have all this on tape. We'll get back with
you soon. Thank you so much.


W: You are welcome.




Full Text
xml record header identifier oai:www.uflib.ufl.edu.ufdc:MH0000256800001datestamp 2009-02-11setSpec [UFDC_OAI_SET]metadata oai_dc:dc xmlns:oai_dc http:www.openarchives.orgOAI2.0oai_dc xmlns:dc http:purl.orgdcelements1.1 xmlns:xsi http:www.w3.org2001XMLSchema-instance xsi:schemaLocation http:www.openarchives.orgOAI2.0oai_dc.xsd dc:title Interview with Ida Aaron Wellsdc:creator Cofrin, Mary Ann ( Interviewer )Marston, Ruth C.dc:publisher Matheson Historical Museumdc:date April 2, 2002dc:type Archivaldc:identifier http://www.uflib.ufl.edu/ufdc/?b=MH00002568&v=00001dc:source Alachua County Historic Trust: Matheson Museum, Inc.dc:language English



PAGE 1

MATHESON MUSEUM, INC. ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM Interviewee: Ida Aaron Wells Interviewer: Mary Ann Cofrin Transcriber: Ruth C. Marston April 2, 2002

PAGE 2

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells April 2, 2002 1 C: My name is Mary Ann Cofrin, and I am interviewing Ida Aaron Wells at her home at 1207 N.W. 7th Avenue in Gainesville, Florida, on April 2, 2002, for the Matheson Historical Center. Would you please state your full name and birth date for the tape. W: Ida Aaron Wells. My bi rth date is October 24, 1913. C: You were born where? W: Worthington Springs, Florida. C: When did you move to Gainesville? W: My parents moved to Gainesville when I had been to part of one school term. In those days they had what they called pr imer, and I had been through primer. We moved to Gainesville where I went through fi rst grade, second grade. We were at the old Union Academy. C: That’s the school you went to. W: Yes, ma’am. Here in Gainesville it wa s the black school. I can remember that it was two terms that I went there – first grad e and second grade. By that time, they built Lincoln High School here, down near where the Police Department was. That old Union Academy School. C: I see, on 6th Street then, where the Po lice Department is today. W: That vacant spot over th ere near Pleasant Street. C: Then you went from those two grades to Lincoln High School. Why did you move to Lincoln High School? W: Because they built this school for all the black people. In those days we were not integrated, you know. They built Gaines ville High, down there where Alachua General is now. C: Right, the 720 Building now. W: Yes. C: Before that, they had Kirby-Smith School over on the east side of town. W: Yes. That one was beyond my memory, but I remember when it was there. They built one for the whites and one for the blac ks. So far as a black girl growing up here in Gainesville, we always got along fine. We never had any problems or

PAGE 3

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells April 2, 2002 2 incidents. My family was a God-fearing family, and we were independent. We believed in earning what you get. Back in those days, they didn’t have welfare or all that stuff. My father kept a garden growing out here, right out in that vacant lot. He used to rent some land from th e Childs family. We had sweet potatoes to meet sweet potatoes. Do you know what I mean when I say that? Do you know what a potato bank is? Where you make lik e an Indian tepees. They take straw and sticks and make a little house and put the pine straw in there and put your sweet potatoes in there. That’s like a st orage shed. They w ould not rot. They would stay there just as nice and sweet. People used the term sweet potatoes to meet sweet potatoes. That meant we still had potatoes from last year. C: When it was time to fill it again. How wonderful! So you were never hungry. W: No. We kept greens and onions and lettuce. At that time, he was cooking at the White House Hotel. Then he went to the Thomas Hotel, and he cooked at two fraternity houses. C: Ida gave a little talk down at the Matheson Center in February of 2001, and she told a little bit abou t her father, whom she called Papa Daddy. W: Do you know how that name came? C: No, I would like to know that. W: I was married at an early age through so me of the ladies dipping into my family affairs. It caused me to elope with a young man that I found out was nothing. The only thing I got out of that marriage was one child. Then he was about his business – gone – but my parents let him st ay here for a while. My father was a man who believed in going to bed at 10 o’clock and you get up at the crack of dawn and you get yourself some kind of work to do, to earn some food and some money. So it didn’t work out very well w ith us, and he deserted that child and me. C: What was his name? W: Norman Jackson. Back in those days, th ey didn’t have welfare for mothers that fathers had walked off and left the children, so my parents, right here in this same house, said to me, “We allowed him to stay here.” My father told him, “You don’t need to come back unless you’re going to do better.” So he didn’t come back. My parents got J.C. Adkins. Col. Adkins was a lawyer. Do you remember him? C: Yes.

PAGE 4

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells April 2, 2002 3 W: They were friends of our family. The old black lady that was their cook, nursemaid, and everything else, raised their two children, Marg aret and Jimmy. Did you know them? C: Sure. I knew Margaret. W: How old were they when you knew them? C: Well, Margaret’s a few years older than I am. I never played with Margaret as a teenager because she was maybe five or six years older than I was. I knew her when she was grown and I was still in high school. W: They lived where the 720 Building is, over in that area. Later, Col. Adkins built a house out in the Duck Pond. C: That’s the one I remember. W: This old black lady that was a godmother of mine, and lived in Starke, had a husband. She would come and stay on the premises and do their work and then they would take her home ever so often. Taxi drivers charged twenty-five cents then. Joe Johnson and different guys drove taxi for the black people, and they would bring her out here to visit with us , and once in a while she could spend the night and go back there the next day. Miss Brown got too old to work, and they called her Nanny. They loved her because she was dependable. Mrs. Adkins wasn’t home much, and Mrs. Brown raised the children, kept the house, and did the washing. Col. Adkins was a lawyer a nd then later became Attorney General, I believe. Anyway, after she got too old to work, they took her back to her place in Starke. At one time we had lived there ourselve s, right across the road from her, and they would go over to see about taking care of Mrs. Brow n until finally she passed away. Margaret and Jimmy were grown by that time. I had left Gainesville. C: Now we’ve got a little off track. Let’s go back here. We got you married and through school. Then you stayed here with your family. You were going to tell me how your daddy got that name. W: Oh yes. After I was married and had th is little girl, Gloria Jackson, we were sitting in this same dining room, which was arranged differently then. My baby would sometimes call him Papa. Sometimes she would say Daddy and sometimes Papa. One day he was sitting in his chair and got up to go to the kitchen and she was sitting near him and she wanted to tell him something. She was confused and she said, “Papa,” and then she would sa y, “Daddy,” so I said, “Well, baby, he’s your Papa and your Daddy. You call him Pa pa Daddy.” That’s how he got that name. C: How long did you stay in Gainesville?

PAGE 5

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells April 2, 2002 4 W: I stayed here until Gloria was about se ven years old. I was doing domestic work, which I’m not ashamed of. All my life I’ve made a nice, decent, honest living and amounted to something, much more th an some of them who had professional jobs. It’s not wh at you make; it’s how you manage what you make. Anyway, my mother said to me, “Ida, if you want to go somewhere and get you a better job, we’ll keep the baby.” My father had a brother and his wife who lived in Jacksonville, and I said, “Let me go to A unt May.” Now, my father was a cook and a chef, and his brother was a baker. He ran on th e Clyde and Mallory Lines from Jacksonville to New York, and he was a baker. So I went over to stay with Aunt May, and while I was there, I got me a good job. I was making $3 a week here and I got $6 a week over there. Y ou could do more with it than you do now, couldn’t you? C: Absolutely. That was good. Wh at year would that have been? W: About 1935 or . C: You said she was six years old. Was sh e only four years old? So you stayed in Jacksonville with this job. W: Yes. For a length of time. C: What kind of job was it? W: I was a maid in a dress shop, Marks Sample Shop. Exclusive back in those days. They had a lady that worked there. Sh e was a foreign lady, a white lady, that did the alterations. I would he lp her unravel th ings, take out pins, like somebody would buy a dress that they wanted altered and I would pr ess it and I would unpack stock and hang it. That’s the kind of job I had. C: That was a good job. So you st ayed there for several years? W: Yes, ma’am. Then I came back home and I met this young man that I grew up with here in Gainesville, but I didn’t know him too well. He was my brother’s classmate. My sister said to me, “Ida, this is Christmas, and I would like to have a little get-together and call in some fr iends.” There was a girl named Dorothy, who was her close friend. She had a boy fr iend and my sister had a boy friend. My sister said to me, “Who am I going to invite for you?” I said it didn’t make any difference. I was kind of out with men then, you know, after I had been disappointed. It didn’t make any difference to me. So she said to me, “Oh, I know, do you remember Lorenzo Wells that us ed to go to school?” I said, “Yes. What happened to him?” She said, “He’s still around. I think I’ll invite him to come eat with you.” Sure enough she did. She had three couples of us eating dinner right here in this dining room, with Momma’ s furniture and what not.

PAGE 6

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells April 2, 2002 5 After we had dinner that night, the six of us went in Lorenzo’s car to Jacksonville, so I could be there to go to work the ne xt day. Then they ca me back. We began dating and seeing each other. We hung on for a pretty good length of time, but I found out some things, like men will do. I heard that he had some other girl pregnant. He came over here to go to Ocala to a church meeting. I told him, “I’ve got something I want to tell you. We’ve been good friends for a long time, but I heard that you were going with this lady and she’s pregnant. For that reason, I am going on about my business. Good bye.” That ended it for 49 years, but I married the same guy 49 years later. C: I want to know how did you get to Miami? W: Oh, I had some friends that lived in Dania, and they had said to me, “If you ever want to come down, you could make some more money.” C: So you were going to leave Jacksonville. W: I had left Jacksonville and was here. C: Oh, you had come back home. What were you doing here? W: I had a little job with some people – the Hammonds. He was a University of Florida professor. I worked for them. Af ter I had that little run-in and decided I didn’t want to marry Lorenzo because I ha d been bitten one time and said, “I ain’t going through that any more,” I went dow n where these friends were. They got me a job and three of us young ladies slept in one bed because they had a bedroom, until we could find a little room fo r me. They got me a job and a room, and that’s where I stayed. C: What was the job? W: Oh, a maid job. C: But you got better pay down there. W: In Hollywood. $25 a week! C: What year was that? W: That would have been 1 938 or 39, somewhere in there. C: Well, you didn’t stay in Jacksonville too long. W: No. After I came back here and I found out that Lorenzo was having an affair, I said I was not going through that again.

PAGE 7

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells April 2, 2002 6 C: Now, your mother and father had three children and you were the oldest, and Carl and Ruth were the others. We know a ll about what your Momma did, because that’s in this paper, which will be incl uded with our interview. We’re going to go backwards a little bit. Tell me about your childhood. You said it was a wonderful childhood and you had good friends. What did the kids do after school? W: Well, we didn’t do anything but go home because our mother did not allow us to stay on the campus. C: But you had some playmates in the neighborhood? W: Well, I was different. My sister was the one that loved playmates. I was always a house person. C: So you came home to help mother maybe? W: Yes, and I liked to sew and em broider. I learned to crochet. C: Who taught you all this? W: My momma taught me some about sewing. I think some of it wa s instilled in me, because I could just work with things a nd stayed up all hours of the night alone. Everybody had gone to bed, and I would st ay up working with things until I learned to crochet. I have several pieces that I made back then. I made this. C: Oh, that’s pretty. This is a tableclot h, and she sewed a beautiful edge on it. Did you do the cross-stitching? W: Yes. C: Ida is very talented. Did you have outside activities? W: No. Back in those days, the only thin g we went to was Sunday School or BYPU. C: What church did you go to? W: That was Friendship Baptist C hurch, over here near downtown, 6th Street? C: 6th Street is the one with the Police Station on it now. W: Yes. It was the same street that Mt. Pleasant Church is on. It was down two or three blocks further. C: Okay. And they had so me activities after school?

PAGE 8

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells April 2, 2002 7 W: No. If they did, I don’t remember. We came home after school and I had to wash the lampshades. C: Whatever your mother wanted you to do. Did you see a lot of prejudice against blacks? W: No. We never did. My father was a man who always said, “Stay in your place and do what’s right.” We never had any trouble. Back in those days you didn’t have all that kind of stuff. You respected white people. We had some nice white friends. They would bring things to us , and we worked for them. They would give us things. We didn’t have problem s like they had years after I left here. C: You said your mother taught school? W: Yes. She taught school before she marri ed my father. That was in Providence. C: But then she stayed home after her children were born? W: Yes. Then her precious bundles came along. I was the first one to come. I was a long time coming because they married in August, 1912, and I wasn’t born until October, 1913. Some girls get pregnant a nd miss their first period, and that’s all! C: Anyway, your childhood was a happy one and your parents were good to you. W: Yes, it was. We were accustomed to a regular schedule, get up in the morning, not like some of the children toda y, you make up your bed, you hang up your nightgown and like that. With some of th e children today, you can’t get into their bedroom! C: I know. W: I couldn’t with my grandchildren. You have to step over their clothing. C: Was it hard on you to leave your daughter here with your parents? W: No, because I knew my parents were going to take care of her. After she got to be 12 years old, I got her. She grew up in Miami. C: So you brought her to Miami when sh e was 12. She was born in 1932, so by the time she was 12, that would have been 1944, and she was down in Miami with you. W: She finished elementary and high school there and then she got a scholarship for FAMU. She went there. Of course, I had to pay some. She met this young man there that was an instructor there in dram a. That was the field she was in. She liked to act.

PAGE 9

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells April 2, 2002 8 C: Now FAMU is Florida A&M University, up in Tallahassee. W: Back in those days. Then they later said University. C: Now you weren’t married all the time you were in Miami? W: Oh yes. I had gotten married. C: Well, you didn’t tell us who you married . When did you ge t married? I thought you went to Miami because those friends of yours told you to come down. W: I did, but I met somebody. C: What was his name? W: Isaiah Matthews. I married him. We didn’t stay together very long. C: When you married Isaiah Matthews, was Gloria down there with you then? W: No. I had married him before I got her down there. C: And then you got her down there. Di d you continue to work after you were married? W: Yes. Gloria finish ed high school there. C: And then you said she went to college. Where were you working down there? W: Hotel work and things like that. C: What did your husband do? W: He was a truck driver for a furniture company. C: Did you stay down there even after you were divorced? W: Two or three years after divorcing Matthews, I married Percy Woodside in Miami, and we stayed married until he died in 1985. I came back and forth here to see my parents during that time. My father died first, in 1979, and when I was here for the funeral, this young man that li ved across town came to visit with us. We had been friends. This is the same one I was telling you about before. He had gotten married, and I had gotten married, but we were just friends. I didn’t have any other relations with him. He came and visited with us most of that day. C: He was still married?

PAGE 10

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells April 2, 2002 9 W: No. His wife was dead. Let me see, six years later my husband died and then my mother died. C: Your husband died? W: Yes, this second husband that I was marri ed to in Miami. Anyway, my mother was here living with my brother across town. This house was closed up. Nobody lived in it. My desire was when my fath er passed away that my mother would be able to live in the house with one of us children, spending at least a month with her, then another stay a m onth with her, so she could stay in her own house. But it didn’t work out that way. C: She lived long after your dad? W: Yes. I think about six years. C: I see. W: My father died first. For that reason, she was with my sister in Tallahassee for a while, and all of a sudden, my sister’s s on called me one morning and said to me, “Aunt Ida, Momma says she’s tired and she can’t take care of Granny any longer.” So I said, “What are we going to do, Rodney?” I called my daughter and said, “Gloria, Rodney just ca lled me and said my sister can’t take care of Granny any more. What are we going to do?” R odney had told me he had gotten a place in Gainesville – a nursing home – and that he was planning on taking her there. I called Gloria back and she was crying. Sh e said, “Some woman needs to be with Granny while Rodney is taking her.” She said, “If they can find a lady to ride along with Rodney, I’ll give them $100.” Sure enough, Rodney said he had somebody, but it was altogether different when I got it unraveled and found out what really happened. He was on his way to North Carolina – he and his wife – and he was going to drop Momma off he re. We sent the $100 and it never reached the person that we thought it w ould. There was a lot behind this, you know. Anyway, she was in a nursing home. I came up here twice from Miami to visit with her and to see if she was all right. Momma had to have surgery and she died. C: What year did she die? W: 1985. C: I didn’t want to completely neglect your dad, although we know a lot about your father, and you’ve told us what he did. He started carving when he was over eighty?

PAGE 11

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells April 2, 2002 10 W: Eighty-six or eighty-seven. C: Stewart Purser has written a book about your father. It is down at the Matheson Center, and the name of it is “Jesse J. Aaron, Sculptor.” If anybody reads this interview and wants to know about Jesse, you should get the book off the shelf. One of the things that I thought was inte resting, when I read the book, was that Stewart Purser said that his art developed through his attempt to relate as an individual to the world in which he lived, that he never wasted time, energy, or money, or anything else, for that matter, th at he found the material first and then the image developed. He sort of made the image after he found the material. Maybe you can tell me a little more about this story – but Stewart said, “What could he do to help him?” and Jesse said something about business cards with a picture and his name and profession and his address. W: Do you have one of those? C: No. W: I’ve got one. C: We’ll get one and attach it to the intervie w. Anyway, that’s a little bit about him. When you were in Miami and he started carving, you came back and forth to Gainesville a lot to help him. W: I did not know that he was carving. I came up here on a regular basis to check on them. I was the oldest, and after they began getting on in years, I’m going to tell just because you’re a lady, on one visit I made here I walked in the front door and I could smell urine. Momma was not able to take care of herself. After I noticed that she did not know she could buy pads and she was us ing just rags and would rinse them out in the bathroom and spread them around in her bedroom, and when they dried, you could still smell it. She wasn’t able to sterilize them and rinse them out that good. So I knew she needed somebody. I was working in a big Baptist church, and I went to the pastor a nd told him that I had been to visit my parents and could see that my mother needed me and asked his permission to go up and spend two or three w eeks out of a month with th em and then come back and do what I could, and he ga ve me permission to do that. C: Wonderful! W: God was in that, you know. I would co me up here and stay two or three weeks and keep house and clean up the house a nd get Momma straight and go back and work for a week and see about my house and then come back. C: That was quite a sacrifice for you. W: I know, but I wanted to do it.

PAGE 12

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells April 2, 2002 11 C: And you were driving back and forth? W: Yes, ma’am. I drove every inch of the way. I couldn’t tell you how many trips I made from Miami to here. Some of them I drove alone. My father was getting on in years and it was a little bit too much for him to cook. They didn’t like Meals on Wheels, you know. On top of smelling Momma’s urine, I had been here many times and had to put my Daddy in the bath tub and bathe him. I feel good about the things that I’ve done in my lifetime. C: You took good care of them. At th e time, though, your Dad was still working some? W: A little bit. I was telling you that I had a dream. In the dream his hair was jet black – and that was not true – and his face was nice and round. That was not true. I had that dream, and I told my husband, “I’m going to Gainesville.” We came up here on a Sunday afternoon, and when I drove in th is yard, I got out and came in the back door, and he was laying there on a chaise l ounge in that first little room that you come th rough, where the refrigerator and all that stuff is. I walked in the door and he said to me, “We’re getting along all right. Why did you come back so soon?” He knew I had just left here. I said, “I just wanted to see you all.” I didn’t tell him about the dream. That was a Sunday afternoon, and it was Tuesday morning he was gone. I was up around with him at night. I couldn’t get him to eat anything. Not even coffee – and coffee was his main thing. I’ve got his coffee cup th ere in that china closet now! C: When he started carving, he had quit work, hadn’t he? W: He never stopped working. What he wa s doing was growing flowers around here. He wasn’t cooking back in those days. C: So you came back and forth to Gainesville and you helped your father. He started carving when he was 87. W: All I did was to go with him to the shows and cook and wash and do like that around here. C: Your mother was not able to take care of things and was gett ing quite elderly. Your dad died in 1979? W: Momma died in 1985, the same year my husband Percy died. C: Then you married Lorenzo Wells. Do you know what year that was? W: November 14, 1987. My parents were both gone.

PAGE 13

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells April 2, 2002 12 C: Okay. We’ll go back a little bit. When you grew up, when you first moved to Gainesville, you didn’t live in this house. You lived somewhere else. W: No. A rented house. C: It was later on that your dad built th is house and moved your family into this house. W: It wasn’t finished, but enough for us to get in here. C: You were about how old? W: Nine years old. C: So most of your life you’ve lived right here. So af ter your parents died, then you came back to Gainesville to live after you married Lorenzo. You got together again. You had been friends many, many years ago. Had you moved back to Gainesville or were you just vi siting when he came to call? W: He came to visit when my father passe d away. My brother and some other men were here. C: That’s right. W: I was still married and my husband talked with Lorenzo after my father’s funeral. Lorenzo and my brother and a lot of me n were out there on the porch, and we were just friends. My mo ther and I were in the hous e, and the men were out there. I made a pitcher of lemonade a nd took it and some c ookies out there for them. C: Then your husband died in 1985. W: July 4th. My Momma died the same year. C: So when did you move back to Gainesville? W: Not until I got married to Lorenzo. C: He knew you had lost your husband. W: Yes. When I came up here for my Momma ’s funeral, then is when Lorenzo asked me out to dinner two times and then as ked if he could see me, and different things, and that’s how we got started again. C: Did he come to see you in Miami?

PAGE 14

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells April 2, 2002 13 W: Yes. He came down to Miami two times after we began dating again. C: No one was living in this house then. W: No. I didn’t move back to Gainesville until after I married Lorenzo. We were staying in his house across town. We we re paying taxes on this house – the three of us – and one day Lorenzo and I came over here to rake up the yard so it wouldn’t look deserted. I had not thought about it before because I had my house in Miami to take care of and I was living in his house with him here, and when we drove in this gate out here and got out of the car by that pecan tree, I had never thought of it before, but I said, “Ren, would you mind staying in this old house?” We had been looking for us a house here and had never found one that we wanted or could afford. We paid down on one and I said we were too old to get into that kind of debt, so we got our money back. So when we drove into this yard and I asked him about staying in this old house if we paid Mary and Ruth for their shares, he agreed. They sold us their shares, and that’s how he and I became in possession of this house. We got a lawy er and everything went through the right procedure. C: Then you moved in here. W: Not then. We had to do a lot of work on it first. C: What year did you move in? W: About 1990 or 1991. C: How long were you and Lorenzo married? W: Until he died in 1996. C: Tell me a little bit about Lore nzo. You had a happy life. W: Oh yes. He was a devout, decent, respectable man. Everybody who knew Lorenzo gave him the same name. He worked for the Elletts for many, many years. C: And before that, her aunt s, Fanida and Laura Baker. W: He also knew Mrs. Alvin Alsobrook. That ’s how I got that job with her. They knew him many, many years. I think Lore nzo said he used to go and scrub somebody’s floor on a Saturday morning fo r a quarter. Back in those days, you know. Somebody’s kitchen floor. But he was a fine person. Anybody that knew him or heard anything about him would gi ve you the same answer about him.

PAGE 15

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells April 2, 2002 14 Like I said, when I found out in those days that he had another girl friend, I went on and he married this lady. C: That was decent. W: Then they had some children. She died and he was single a long, long time. Then my brother was talking with him, and he told him that Ida’s husband died and that was all he needed. C: He had a place for you in his heart all along. W: That’s what he said. C: He was sorry about the way he had act ed early on. Well, it sounds like you had a good life with him. Did you continue to work when you came back to Gainesville? W: Oh yes. He’s the one that started me doing a little work for Mrs. John Ellett and then later for Mrs. Alsobrook. C: That’s wonderful. Well, you seem to be in pretty good health. W: I am grateful. I am blessed, more than blessed. There are a lot of people my age, some even younger, who aren’t. I am not walking with a cane. I’m not aching and all bent over, but I know that I don’t have the strength I once had. I’m 88 years old this year. I don’t get around as fast as I once did, but I eat good. I eat three meals a day and in between. I ea t breakfast in the morning – a ritual. C: Ida has a nice home here on 7th Avenue. It’s her parents’ home that she lived in as a young girl, but she’s got a lot of things relating to her father. She has a lot of memorabilia. W: Did you see in his shop? C: I did last time, but I wanted to tell ab out the shop. Your id ea is to restore it. W: To some degree. I don’t want it to look too modern. C: You want it to look like . . . W: Kind of like him. I want you to look at it again before you go. C: I will look again. W: You can go right in that door.

PAGE 16

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells April 2, 2002 15 C: I remember. I went in it the other da y. The men were here doing some work for you in the yard. Anyway, sh e has a nice home and a lot of nice pictures and a lot of things about Jesse that maybe she will let us copy th em to put down here with the interview. Your father really was a remarkable man to start his carving at his age. I understand that at age 88 he got a grant from the NEA that sent him to New York City. W: Mr. Purser took him. My mother was sick and he couldn’t go and work. He wanted to stay here and keep his yard and fix meals for her, and one morning a voice woke him up and told him, “Jesse , go carve.” Have you seen that anywhere? C: I think Mr. Purser maybe te lls it in his book, but that’s very intere sting. So he started carving. W: That morning he went out there and started doing something. When I would come up here to visit him, I am going to be frank with you, I didn’t tell him but I thought that was the ugliest stuff. But you know what? At first you can not reach out and accept it, but the more you look at it, the more you’re around it, the more you can see in it. C: Well, it’s sort of prim itive. Isn’t that the word? W: Yes. C: It has been very popular, and a lot of people I know own pieces of it. I see that you’re a reader. You have a lot of books around here. W: Yes. The day that President Kennedy was killed, I was reading that day. I was in Miami, taking care of my grandchild, my little grandson, who was a baby. I was going out to the line to hang up some diapers. My daughter was a teacher and so was her husband. Just as I started out the door to the clothesline, a bulletin came on the radio saying that Kennedy had been shot. I didn’t hang up those diapers until God knows when. I stopped right ther e and stayed inside to look at it. These are my things here. I have a lot of stuff that I have not even unpacked and put out here because I don’t have space for them here in this house. I don’t want it to look too junky and too crowded. It has taken me a long time to get it assembled, to make it look halfway passable. C: It looks fine to me. Your da ughter still lives in Gainesville? W: My daughter died. My only child. C: When did she die? I didn’t know about that.

PAGE 17

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells April 2, 2002 16 W: Gloria died about five years ago now. She lived in Miami. C: Oh, she moved to Miami. W: Oh yes. She grew up and finished hi gh school in Miami, went to FAMU and met this teacher there. They fell in love a nd wanted to marry, and he made a trip to Miami to visit me, to meet me to ask me for her hand in marriage. I can show you the wedding dress I made her. I made everything. She had her wedding right there at my sister’s. They lived in Springfield, Missouri, when they first got married because he had a job as a drama teacher there. She was in the field of drama, also. They went to Missouri. She graduated from college in Tall ahassee. He was an instructor there. I went to Tallahassee, made the wedding gown, and they had the wedding right there at my sister’s house. They left that afternoon becaus e he had the job in Springfield, Missouri. When they left th ere, he got another job at Prairie View, Texas, teaching drama. Then he got tired of that and they came to Miami and they stayed there. C: So you don’t get to see your grandchildren very often if they still live in Miami. W: Two of them. They’re grown. My youngest grandchild is 45 years old. C: Oh, I guess so, and they’re a ll in Miami? I don’t want to forget anything. Have we skipped anything we need to talk about? Can you think of anything that we have to talk about? W: No, I began telling you about that dream about my father, when I dreamed that his hair was jet black. I didn’t finish it. C: I thought you did finish it. You said you came home and found out he wasn’t that young man that you were dreaming about. W: That was on a Sunday afternoon. Monday he didn’t eat anything. I got him to eat a little piece of cantaloupe Monday night. Tuesday morning I was up real bright and early and that’s the day he left us. He didn’t make a sound. I thought he was asleep because he slept with his mout h open anyway. I looked in there I don’t know how many times, thinking that he was asleep. Finally I took a closer look, and he was gone. C: Did your daughter have a serious illn ess when she died? She was very young. W: My daughter was over 60 years old. She had diabetes real bad. She was on dialysis. I have diabetes, too, but mine is controlled. My mother had diabetes. C: Yes, it does run in families. It certainly does.

PAGE 18

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells April 2, 2002 17 W: She had it real, real bad, so she was on dialysis. She has been gone more than two years, and he has remarried. I know the lady that he married. We’re all members of the same church, and he needed so mebody because he was a man that has had hip replacements and has to walk with two sticks a lot of times. I gave him my blessing and he seemed a little bit ch illy. I guess Jim th ought that I wouldn’t approve. But I knew the lady a long time. C: You were glad for him to find somebody. W: Yes. Then my grandson moved in the house with him because some mornings somebody would have to help get him out of bed. C: How many children did they have? W: Three. Two girls and a boy. The oldest girl lives in Tampa. She has been teaching school in Tampa 25 years. Neve r been married; has her own house. The next girl lives in Miami, and she’s a schoolteacher. She got married since her mother passed on. The boy is a drama inst ructor, and he’s ne ver been married. He’s 45 years old. C: So you’ve got a nice family. You have a wonderful heritage, and I think what you’re trying to do for your father, Jesse, is a fine thing and I hope someday that works out. He will be well remembered. W: I got it finished inside. I plan to go out there and take a damp cloth and wipe off those dirty walls and spray just a little girlish pink. I want it to look old-fashioned looking. C: Ida is very industrious, as you can see. She still works fo r the Elletts and the Alsobrooks. Anyway, we’ve very pleased th at we’ve had this ch ance to talk with you, and I thank you so much for giving us your time. I’ll give you a copy of this. We’ll both edit it and make it readable. That’s the main thing because nobody is going to listen to this tape, but they will read it. They’re all down at the Matheson Center. We’ll give as ma ny copies as you want. W: Thank you. Do you know Joel Buchanan? C: Oh yes. He’s the one that interviewed your mother. W: Yes. C: I don’t know who interviewed your father , and I don’t know why that interview is not available, but th ey don’t have it.

PAGE 19

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells April 2, 2002 18 W: I don’t know, but Mr. Purser died the sa me day that my Momma died. I had come back here. Momma was in a nursing home and they put her in the hospital. Then I went to see Mrs. Purser and she was dead. A little while after he died. It looked like my world was falling apart. All thos e people that I knew. Mr. Purser has been in this dining room a nd eaten many a day with us. He brought my father to Miami – he and Mrs. Purser – and I had a nice meal fixed for them and they enjoyed it so much. We went on Miami Beach and all over there. We were real close friends. C: That book will certainly tell you that he admired your father very much. W: Did it tell how he met my father? A student was passing thro ugh here and noticed those carvings out there. He had pieces outside the house. That’s why he fenced it in out there because he couldn’t leav e his pieces out there because somebody might pick them up. So I had the fence open and was putting a few things out there. This student went back and told Mr. Purser about the place where a man had some carvings, so Mr. Purser came out here and they met, and they became like father and son. They were so close. They really were. It was some blow to me to find out that Mr. Purser had gone. C: He really helped your fath er promote his work and helped him show it at different places in the state. W: And it all happened so suddenly. Mrs. Purser didn’t go very far behind after him either. Did you know her? C: No, I didn’t know either one of them. I knew the name. They were pretty young when they died? They were younger than your father, of c ourse, a lot younger. W: They had a son and a daughter. I menti oned that to Joel one time to see if he could get an address or someth ing for his daughter and his son. C: They don’t live in Gainesville? W: I don’t think so. But time goes by, and you have so many blows in your own family. I am telling you when I lost my parents, Momma was 97 or 98, but I knew they had a long life, but when I lost my daughter and my husband, those were the biggest blows that I had. C: Right. Your husband was getting up in y ears, though, but you still miss him. I’m sure you do. W: He loved this place. Different people would come here to see him, and I can remember one of the questions he would ask the people. He was so proud and I changed this house right. He would ask the people, “Did you ever see a bedroom with five doors to it ?” It does have five doors. One to come into the dining room.

PAGE 20

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells April 2, 2002 19 This was the door here but it was further down. I had him move this door so my furniture would fit in right. C: Well, you’ve done a lot with this house. W: I just haven’t finished painting it. Why th ey put this closet door here is because it saves space. C: Sure it does. They are bifold doors that she is talking about, that slide out of the way when you have the doors open. W: They don’t take up so much space. I had the kitchen done over after he was gone, because he hadn’t gotten to the kitchen. I have many, many memories here, and I would not trade this place fo r five or ten like I had in Miami. I have memories here from the time that I was nine years old up until now. C: That’s wonderful. We’re delighted to have all this on tape. We’ll get back with you soon. Thank you so much. W: You are welcome.












MATHESON MUSEUM, INC.

ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM


Interviewee: Interviewer: Transcriber:


Ida Aaron Wells Mary Ann Cofrin Ruth C. Marston


April 2, 2002




Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 1
April 2, 2002


C: My name is Mary Ann Cofrin, and I am interviewing Ida Aaron Wells at her
home at 1207 N.W. 7 Avenue in Gainesville, Florida, on April 2, 2002, for the Matheson Historical Center. Would you please state your full name and birth date
for the tape.

W: Ida Aaron Wells. My birth date is October 24, 1913. C: You were born where?

W: Worthington Springs, Florida.

C: When did you move to Gainesville? W: My parents moved to Gainesville when I had been to part of one school term. In
those days they had what they called primer, and I had been through primer. We moved to Gainesville where I went through first grade, second grade. We were at
the old Union Academy.

C: That's the school you went to.

W: Yes, ma'am. Here in Gainesville it was the black school. I can remember that it
was two terms that I went there - first grade and second grade. By that time, they built Lincoln High School here, down near where the Police Department was.
That old Union Academy School.

C: I see, on 6 Street then, where the Police Department is today. W: That vacant spot over there near Pleasant Street. C: Then you went from those two grades to Lincoln High School. Why did you
move to Lincoln High School?

W: Because they built this school for all the black people. In those days we were not
integrated, you know. They built Gainesville High, down there where Alachua
General is now.

C: Right, the 720 Building now.

W: Yes.

C: Before that, they had Kirby-Smith School over on the east side of town. W: Yes. That one was beyond my memory, but I remember when it was there. They
built one for the whites and one for the blacks. So far as a black girl growing up here in Gainesville, we always got along fine. We never had any problems or




Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 2
April 2, 2002

incidents. My family was a God-fearing family, and we were independent. We believed in earning what you get. Back in those days, they didn't have welfare or all that stuff. My father kept a garden growing out here, right out in that vacant lot. He used to rent some land from the Childs family. We had sweet potatoes to meet sweet potatoes. Do you know what I mean when I say that? Do you know what a potato bank is? Where you make like an Indian tepees. They take straw and sticks and make a little house and put the pine straw in there and put your sweet potatoes in there. That's like a storage shed. They would not rot. They would stay there just as nice and sweet. People used the term sweet potatoes to
meet sweet potatoes. That meant we still had potatoes from last year.

C: When it was time to fill it again. How wonderful! So you were never hungry.

W: No. We kept greens and onions and lettuce. At that time, he was cooking at the
White House Hotel. Then he went to the Thomas Hotel, and he cooked at two
fraternity houses.

C: Ida gave a little talk down at the Matheson Center in February of 2001, and she
told a little bit about her father, whom she called Papa Daddy.

W: Do you know how that name came?

C: No, I would like to know that.

W: I was married at an early age through some of the ladies dipping into my family
affairs. It caused me to elope with a young man that I found out was nothing.
The only thing I got out of that marriage was one child. Then he was about his business - gone - but my parents let him stay here for a while. My father was a man who believed in going to bed at 10 o'clock and you get up at the crack of dawn and you get yourself some kind of work to do, to earn some food and some money. So it didn't work out very well with us, and he deserted that child and
me.

C: What was his name?

W: Norman Jackson. Back in those days, they didn't have welfare for mothers that
fathers had walked off and left the children, so my parents, right here in this same house, said to me, "We allowed him to stay here." My father told him, "You don't need to come back unless you're going to do better." So he didn't come back. My parents got J.C. Adkins. Col. Adkins was a lawyer. Do you remember
him?


C: Yes.




Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 3
April 2, 2002

W: They were friends of our family. The old black lady that was their cook,
nursemaid, and everything else, raised their two children, Margaret and Jimmy.
Did you know them?

C: Sure. I knew Margaret.

W: How old were they when you knew them?

C: Well, Margaret's a few years older than I am. I never played with Margaret as a
teenager because she was maybe five or six years older than I was. I knew her
when she was grown and I was still in high school.

W: They lived where the 720 Building is, over in that area. Later, Col. Adkins built a
house out in the Duck Pond.

C: That's the one I remember.

W: This old black lady that was a godmother of mine, and lived in Starke, had a
husband. She would come and stay on the premises and do their work and then they would take her home ever so often. Taxi drivers charged twenty-five cents then. Joe Johnson and different guys drove taxi for the black people, and they would bring her out here to visit with us, and once in a while she could spend the night and go back there the next day. Miss Brown got too old to work, and they called her Nanny. They loved her because she was dependable. Mrs. Adkins wasn't home much, and Mrs. Brown raised the children, kept the house, and did the washing. Col. Adkins was a lawyer and then later became Attorney General, I believe. Anyway, after she got too old to work, they took her back to her place in Starke. At one time we had lived there ourselves, right across the road from her, and they would go over to see about taking care of Mrs. Brown until finally she passed away. Margaret and Jimmy were grown by that time. I had left
Gainesville.

C: Now we've got a little off track. Let's go back here. We got you married and
through school. Then you stayed here with your family. You were going to tell
me how your daddy got that name.

W: Oh yes. After I was married and had this little girl, Gloria Jackson, we were
sitting in this same dining room, which was arranged differently then. My baby would sometimes call him Papa. Sometimes she would say Daddy and sometimes Papa. One day he was sitting in his chair and got up to go to the kitchen and she was sitting near him and she wanted to tell him something. She was confused and she said, "Papa," and then she would say, "Daddy," so I said, "Well, baby, he's your Papa and your Daddy. You call him Papa Daddy." That's how he got that
name.


C: How long did you stay in Gainesville?




Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 4
April 2, 2002


W: I stayed here until Gloria was about seven years old. I was doing domestic work,
which I'm not ashamed of. All my life I've made a nice, decent, honest living and amounted to something, much more than some of them who had professional jobs. It's not what you make; it's how you manage what you make. Anyway, my mother said to me, "Ida, if you want to go somewhere and get you a better job, we'll keep the baby." My father had a brother and his wife who lived in Jacksonville, and I said, "Let me go to Aunt May." Now, my father was a cook and a chef, and his brother was a baker. He ran on the Clyde and Mallory Lines from Jacksonville to New York, and he was a baker. So I went over to stay with Aunt May, and while I was there, I got me a good job. I was making $3 a week here and I got $6 a week over there. You could do more with it than you do now,
couldn't you?

C: Absolutely. That was good. What year would that have been?

W: About 1935 or '36.

C: You said she was six years old. Was she only four years old? So you stayed in
Jacksonville with this job.

W: Yes. For a length of time.

C: What kind ofjob was it?

W: I was a maid in a dress shop, Marks Sample Shop. Exclusive back in those days.
They had a lady that worked there. She was a foreign lady, a white lady, that did the alterations. I would help her unravel things, take out pins, like somebody would buy a dress that they wanted altered and I would press it and I would
unpack stock and hang it. That's the kind of job I had.

C: That was a good job. So you stayed there for several years?

W: Yes, ma'am. Then I came back home and I met this young man that I grew up
with here in Gainesville, but I didn't know him too well. He was my brother's classmate. My sister said to me, "Ida, this is Christmas, and I would like to have a little get-together and call in some friends." There was a girl named Dorothy, who was her close friend. She had a boy friend and my sister had a boy friend.
My sister said to me, "Who am I going to invite for you?" I said it didn't make any difference. I was kind of out with men then, you know, after I had been disappointed. It didn't make any difference to me. So she said to me, "Oh, I know, do you remember Lorenzo Wells that used to go to school?" I said, "Yes.
What happened to him?" She said, "He's still around. I think I'll invite him to come eat with you." Sure enough she did. She had three couples of us eating
dinner right here in this dining room, with Momma's furniture and what not.




Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 5
April 2, 2002

After we had dinner that night, the six of us went in Lorenzo's car to Jacksonville, so I could be there to go to work the next day. Then they came back. We began dating and seeing each other. We hung on for a pretty good length of time, but I found out some things, like men will do. I heard that he had some other girl pregnant. He came over here to go to Ocala to a church meeting. I told him, "I've got something I want to tell you. We've been good friends for a long time, but I heard that you were going with this lady and she's pregnant. For that reason, I am going on about my business. Good bye." That ended it for 49 years, but I
married the same guy 49 years later.

C: I want to know how did you get to Miami?

W: Oh, I had some friends that lived in Dania, and they had said to me, "If you ever
want to come down, you could make some more money."

C: So you were going to leave Jacksonville.

W: I had left Jacksonville and was here.

C: Oh, you had come back home. What were you doing here?

W: I had a little job with some people - the Hammonds. He was a University of
Florida professor. I worked for them. After I had that little run-in and decided I didn't want to marry Lorenzo because I had been bitten one time and said, "I ain't going through that any more," I went down where these friends were. They got me a job and three of us young ladies slept in one bed because they had a bedroom, until we could find a little room for me. They got me a job and a room,
and that's where I stayed.

C: What was the job?

W: Oh, a maid job.

C: But you got better pay down there.

W: In Hollywood. $25 a week!

C: What year was that?

W: That would have been 1938 or 39, somewhere in there.

C: Well, you didn't stay in Jacksonville too long.

W: No. After I came back here and I found out that Lorenzo was having an affair, I
said I was not going through that again.




Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 6
April 2, 2002

C: Now, your mother and father had three children and you were the oldest, and Carl
and Ruth were the others. We know all about what your Momma did, because that's in this paper, which will be included with our interview. We're going to go backwards a little bit. Tell me about your childhood. You said it was a wonderful
childhood and you had good friends. What did the kids do after school?

W: Well, we didn't do anything but go home because our mother did not allow us to
stay on the campus.

C: But you had some playmates in the neighborhood? W: Well, I was different. My sister was the one that loved playmates. I was always a
house person.

C: So you came home to help mother maybe? W: Yes, and I liked to sew and embroider. I learned to crochet. C: Who taught you all this?

W: My momma taught me some about sewing. I think some of it was instilled in me,
because I could just work with things and stayed up all hours of the night alone.
Everybody had gone to bed, and I would stay up working with things until I
learned to crochet. I have several pieces that I made back then. I made this.

C: Oh, that's pretty. This is a tablecloth, and she sewed a beautiful edge on it. Did
you do the cross-stitching?

W: Yes.

C: Ida is very talented. Did you have outside activities? W: No. Back in those days, the only thing we went to was Sunday School or BYPU. C: What church did you go to?

W: That was Friendship Baptist Church, over here near downtown, 6" Street? C: 6 th Street is the one with the Police Station on it now. W: Yes. It was the same street that Mt. Pleasant Church is on. It was down two or
three blocks further.

C: Okay. And they had some activities after school?




Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 7
April 2, 2002

W: No. If they did, I don't remember. We came home after school and I had to wash
the lampshades.

C: Whatever your mother wanted you to do. Did you see a lot of prejudice against
blacks?

W: No. We never did. My father was a man who always said, "Stay in your place
and do what's right." We never had any trouble. Back in those days you didn't have all that kind of stuff. You respected white people. We had some nice white friends. They would bring things to us, and we worked for them. They would
give us things. We didn't have problems like they had years after I left here.

C: You said your mother taught school?

W: Yes. She taught school before she married my father. That was in Providence.

C: But then she stayed home after her children were born?

W: Yes. Then her precious bundles came along. I was the first one to come. I was a
long time coming because they married in August, 1912, and I wasn't born until
October, 1913. Some girls get pregnant and miss their first period, and that's all!

C: Anyway, your childhood was a happy one and your parents were good to you.

W: Yes, it was. We were accustomed to a regular schedule, get up in the morning,
not like some of the children today, you make up your bed, you hang up your nightgown and like that. With some of the children today, you can't get into their
bedroom!

C: I know.

W: I couldn't with my grandchildren. You have to step over their clothing.

C: Was it hard on you to leave your daughter here with your parents?

W: No, because I knew my parents were going to take care of her. After she got to be
12 years old, I got her. She grew up in Miami.

C: So you brought her to Miami when she was 12. She was born in 1932, so by the
time she was 12, that would have been 1944, and she was down in Miami with
you.

W: She finished elementary and high school there and then she got a scholarship for
FAMU. She went there. Of course, I had to pay some. She met this young man there that was an instructor there in drama. That was the field she was in. She
liked to act.




Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 8
April 2, 2002


C: Now FAMU is Florida A&M University, up in Tallahassee. W: Back in those days. Then they later said University. C: Now you weren't married all the time you were in Miami? W: Oh yes. I had gotten married. C: Well, you didn't tell us who you married. When did you get married? I thought
you went to Miami because those friends of yours told you to come down. W: I did, but I met somebody. C: What was his name?

W: Isaiah Matthews. I married him. We didn't stay together very long. C: When you married Isaiah Matthews, was Gloria down there with you then? W: No. I had married him before I got her down there. C: And then you got her down there. Did you continue to work after you were
married?

W: Yes. Gloria finished high school there. C: And then you said she went to college. Where were you working down there? W: Hotel work and things like that. C: What did your husband do? W: He was a truck driver for a furniture company. C: Did you stay down there even after you were divorced? W: Two or three years after divorcing Matthews, I married Percy Woodside in
Miami, and we stayed married until he died in 1985. I came back and forth here to see my parents during that time. My father died first, in 1979, and when I was here for the funeral, this young man that lived across town came to visit with us.
We had been friends. This is the same one I was telling you about before. He had gotten married, and I had gotten married, but we were just friends. I didn't have
any other relations with him. He came and visited with us most of that day. C: He was still married?




Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 9
April 2, 2002


W: No. His wife was dead. Let me see, six years later my husband died and then my
mother died.

C: Your husband died?

W: Yes, this second husband that I was married to in Miami. Anyway, my mother
was here living with my brother across town. This house was closed up. Nobody lived in it. My desire was when my father passed away that my mother would be able to live in the house with one of us children, spending at least a month with her, then another stay a month with her, so she could stay in her own house. But
it didn't work out that way.

C: She lived long after your dad?

W: Yes. I think about six years.

C: I see.

W: My father died first. For that reason, she was with my sister in Tallahassee for a
while, and all of a sudden, my sister's son called me one morning and said to me, "Aunt Ida, Momma says she's tired and she can't take care of Granny any longer." So I said, "What are we going to do, Rodney?" I called my daughter and said, "Gloria, Rodney just called me and said my sister can't take care of Granny any more. What are we going to do?" Rodney had told me he had gotten a place in Gainesville - a nursing home - and that he was planning on taking her there. I called Gloria back and she was crying. She said, "Some woman needs to be with Granny while Rodney is taking her." She said, "If they can find a lady to ride along with Rodney, I'll give them $100." Sure enough, Rodney said he had somebody, but it was altogether different when I got it unraveled and found out what really happened. He was on his way to North Carolina - he and his wife and he was going to drop Momma off here. We sent the $100 and it never reached the person that we thought it would. There was a lot behind this, you
know.

Anyway, she was in a nursing home. I came up here twice from Miami to visit with her and to see if she was all right. Momma had to have surgery and she died.

C: What year did she die?

W: 1985.

C: I didn't want to completely neglect your dad, although we know a lot about your
father, and you've told us what he did. He started carving when he was over
eighty?




Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 10
April 2, 2002

W: Eighty-six or eighty-seven.

C: Stewart Purser has written a book about your father. It is down at the Matheson
Center, and the name of it is "Jesse J. Aaron, Sculptor." If anybody reads this interview and wants to know about Jesse, you should get the book off the shelf.
One of the things that I thought was interesting, when I read the book, was that Stewart Purser said that his art developed through his attempt to relate as an individual to the world in which he lived, that he never wasted time, energy, or money, or anything else, for that matter, that he found the material first and then the image developed. He sort of made the image after he found the material.
Maybe you can tell me a little more about this story - but Stewart said, "What could he do to help him?" and Jesse said something about business cards with a
picture and his name and profession and his address.

W: Do you have one of those?

C: No.

W: I've got one.

C: We'll get one and attach it to the interview. Anyway, that's a little bit about him.
When you were in Miami and he started carving, you came back and forth to
Gainesville a lot to help him.

W: I did not know that he was carving. I came up here on a regular basis to check on
them. I was the oldest, and after they began getting on in years, I'm going to tell just because you're a lady, on one visit I made here I walked in the front door and I could smell urine. Momma was not able to take care of herself. After I noticed that she did not know she could buy pads and she was using just rags and would rinse them out in the bathroom and spread them around in her bedroom, and when they dried, you could still smell it. She wasn't able to sterilize them and rinse them out that good. So I knew she needed somebody. I was working in a big Baptist church, and I went to the pastor and told him that I had been to visit my parents and could see that my mother needed me and asked his permission to go up and spend two or three weeks out of a month with them and then come back
and do what I could, and he gave me permission to do that.

C: Wonderful!

W: God was in that, you know. I would come up here and stay two or three weeks
and keep house and clean up the house and get Momma straight and go back and
work for a week and see about my house and then come back.

C: That was quite a sacrifice for you.


W: I know, but I wanted to do it.




Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 11
April 2, 2002


C: And you were driving back and forth?

W: Yes, ma'am. I drove every inch of the way. I couldn't tell you how many trips I
made from Miami to here. Some of them I drove alone. My father was getting on in years and it was a little bit too much for him to cook. They didn't like Meals on Wheels, you know. On top of smelling Momma's urine, I had been here many times and had to put my Daddy in the bathtub and bathe him. I feel good about
the things that I've done in my lifetime.

C: You took good care of them. At the time, though, your Dad was still working
some?

W: A little bit. I was telling you that I had a dream. In the dream his hair was jet
black - and that was not true - and his face was nice and round. That was not
true. I had that dream, and I told my husband, "I'm going to Gainesville."

We came up here on a Sunday afternoon, and when I drove in this yard, I got out and came in the back door, and he was laying there on a chaise lounge in that first little room that you come through, where the refrigerator and all that stuff is. I walked in the door and he said to me, "We're getting along all right. Why did you come back so soon?" He knew I had just left here. I said, "I just wanted to see you all." I didn't tell him about the dream. That was a Sunday afternoon, and it was Tuesday morning he was gone. I was up around with him at night. I couldn't get him to eat anything. Not even coffee - and coffee was his main
thing. I've got his coffee cup there in that china closet now!

C: When he started carving, he had quit work, hadn't he?

W: He never stopped working. What he was doing was growing flowers around here.
He wasn't cooking back in those days.

C: So you came back and forth to Gainesville and you helped your father. He started
carving when he was 87.

W: All I did was to go with him to the shows and cook and wash and do like that
around here.

C: Your mother was not able to take care of things and was getting quite elderly.
Your dad died in 1979?

W: Momma died in 1985, the same year my husband Percy died.

C: Then you married Lorenzo Wells. Do you know what year that was?


W: November 14, 1987. My parents were both gone.




Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 12
April 2, 2002


C: Okay. We'll go back a little bit. When you grew up, when you first moved to
Gainesville, you didn't live in this house. You lived somewhere else. W: No. A rented house.

C: It was later on that your dad built this house and moved your family into this
house.

W: It wasn't finished, but enough for us to get in here. C: You were about how old? W: Nine years old.

C: So most of your life you've lived right here. So after your parents died, then you
came back to Gainesville to live after you married Lorenzo. You got together again. You had been friends many, many years ago. Had you moved back to
Gainesville or were you just visiting when he came to call?

W: He came to visit when my father passed away. My brother and some other men
were here.

C: That's right.

W: I was still married and my husband talked with Lorenzo after my father's funeral.
Lorenzo and my brother and a lot of men were out there on the porch, and we were just friends. My mother and I were in the house, and the men were out there. I made a pitcher of lemonade and took it and some cookies out there for
them.

C: Then your husband died in 1985.

th
W: July 4 . My Momma died the same year. C: So when did you move back to Gainesville? W: Not until I got married to Lorenzo. C: He knew you had lost your husband. W: Yes. When I came up here for my Momma's funeral, then is when Lorenzo asked
me out to dinner two times and then asked if he could see me, and different
things, and that's how we got started again.


C: Did he come to see you in Miami?




Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 13
April 2, 2002


W: Yes. He came down to Miami two times after we began dating again.

C: No one was living in this house then.

W: No. I didn't move back to Gainesville until after I married Lorenzo. We were
staying in his house across town. We were paying taxes on this house - the three of us - and one day Lorenzo and I came over here to rake up the yard so it wouldn't look deserted. I had not thought about it before because I had my house in Miami to take care of and I was living in his house with him here, and when we drove in this gate out here and got out of the car by that pecan tree, I had never thought of it before, but I said, "Ren, would you mind staying in this old house?"
We had been looking for us a house here and had never found one that we wanted or could afford. We paid down on one and I said we were too old to get into that kind of debt, so we got our money back. So when we drove into this yard and I asked him about staying in this old house if we paid Mary and Ruth for their shares, he agreed. They sold us their shares, and that's how he and I became in possession of this house. We got a lawyer and everything went through the right
procedure.

C: Then you moved in here.

W: Not then. We had to do a lot of work on it first.

C: What year did you move in?

W: About 1990 or 1991.

C: How long were you and Lorenzo married?

W: Until he died in 1996.

C: Tell me a little bit about Lorenzo. You had a happy life.

W: Oh yes. He was a devout, decent, respectable man. Everybody who knew
Lorenzo gave him the same name. He worked for the Elletts for many, many
years.

C: And before that, her aunts, Fanida and Laura Baker.

W: He also knew Mrs. Alvin Alsobrook. That's how I got that job with her. They
knew him many, many years. I think Lorenzo said he used to go and scrub somebody's floor on a Saturday morning for a quarter. Back in those days, you know. Somebody's kitchen floor. But he was a fine person. Anybody that knew him or heard anything about him would give you the same answer about him.




Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 14
April 2, 2002

Like I said, when I found out in those days that he had another girl friend, I went
on and he married this lady.

C: That was decent.

W: Then they had some children. She died and he was single a long, long time. Then
my brother was talking with him, and he told him that Ida's husband died and that
was all he needed.

C: He had a place for you in his heart all along. W: That's what he said.

C: He was sorry about the way he had acted early on. Well, it sounds like you had a
good life with him. Did you continue to work when you came back to
Gainesville?

W: Oh yes. He's the one that started me doing a little work for Mrs. John Ellett and
then later for Mrs. Alsobrook.

C: That's wonderful. Well, you seem to be in pretty good health. W: I am grateful. I am blessed, more than blessed. There are a lot of people my age,
some even younger, who aren't. I am not walking with a cane. I'm not aching and all bent over, but I know that I don't have the strength I once had. I'm 88 years old this year. I don't get around as fast as I once did, but I eat good. I eat
three meals a day and in between. I eat breakfast in the morning - a ritual.

C: Ida has a nice home here on 7th Avenue. It's her parents' home that she lived in
as a young girl, but she's got a lot of things relating to her father. She has a lot of
memorabilia.

W: Did you see in his shop?

C: I did last time, but I wanted to tell about the shop. Your idea is to restore it. W: To some degree. I don't want it to look too modern. C: You want it to look like.

W: Kind of like him. I want you to look at it again before you go. C: I will look again.


W: You can go right in that door.




Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 15
April 2, 2002

C: I remember. I went in it the other day. The men were here doing some work for
you in the yard. Anyway, she has a nice home and a lot of nice pictures and a lot of things about Jesse that maybe she will let us copy them to put down here with the interview. Your father really was a remarkable man to start his carving at his age. I understand that at age 88 he got a grant from the NEA that sent him to New
York City.

W: Mr. Purser took him. My mother was sick and he couldn't go and work. He
wanted to stay here and keep his yard and fix meals for her, and one morning a voice woke him up and told him, "Jesse, go carve." Have you seen that
anywhere?

C: I think Mr. Purser maybe tells it in his book, but that's very interesting. So he
started carving.

W: That morning he went out there and started doing something. When I would
come up here to visit him, I am going to be frank with you, I didn't tell him but I thought that was the ugliest stuff. But you know what? At first you can not reach out and accept it, but the more you look at it, the more you're around it, the more
you can see in it.

C: Well, it's sort of primitive. Isn't that the word?

W: Yes.

C: It has been very popular, and a lot of people I know own pieces of it. I see that
you're a reader. You have a lot of books around here.

W: Yes. The day that President Kennedy was killed, I was reading that day. I was in
Miami, taking care of my grandchild, my little grandson, who was a baby. I was going out to the line to hang up some diapers. My daughter was a teacher and so was her husband. Just as I started out the door to the clothesline, a bulletin came on the radio saying that Kennedy had been shot. I didn't hang up those diapers
until God knows when. I stopped right there and stayed inside to look at it.

These are my things here. I have a lot of stuff that I have not even unpacked and put out here because I don't have space for them here in this house. I don't want it to look too junky and too crowded. It has taken me a long time to get it
assembled, to make it look halfway passable.

C: It looks fine to me. Your daughter still lives in Gainesville?

W: My daughter died. My only child.


C: When did she die? I didn't know about that.




Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 16
April 2, 2002

W: Gloria died about five years ago now. She lived in Miami.

C: Oh, she moved to Miami.

W: Oh yes. She grew up and finished high school in Miami, went to FAMU and met
this teacher there. They fell in love and wanted to marry, and he made a trip to Miami to visit me, to meet me to ask me for her hand in marriage. I can show you the wedding dress I made her. I made everything. She had her wedding right
there at my sister's.

They lived in Springfield, Missouri, when they first got married because he had a job as a drama teacher there. She was in the field of drama, also. They went to Missouri. She graduated from college in Tallahassee. He was an instructor there.
I went to Tallahassee, made the wedding gown, and they had the wedding right there at my sister's house. They left that afternoon because he had the job in Springfield, Missouri. When they left there, he got another job at Prairie View, Texas, teaching drama. Then he got tired of that and they came to Miami and
they stayed there.

C: So you don't get to see your grandchildren very often if they still live in Miami.

W: Two of them. They're grown. My youngest grandchild is 45 years old.

C: Oh, I guess so, and they're all in Miami? I don't want to forget anything. Have
we skipped anything we need to talk about? Can you think of anything that we
have to talk about?

W: No, I began telling you about that dream about my father, when I dreamed that his
hair was jet black. I didn't finish it.

C: I thought you did finish it. You said you came home and found out he wasn't that
young man that you were dreaming about.

W: That was on a Sunday afternoon. Monday he didn't eat anything. I got him to eat
a little piece of cantaloupe Monday night. Tuesday morning I was up real bright and early and that's the day he left us. He didn't make a sound. I thought he was asleep because he slept with his mouth open anyway. I looked in there I don't know how many times, thinking that he was asleep. Finally I took a closer look,
and he was gone.

C: Did your daughter have a serious illness when she died? She was very young.

W: My daughter was over 60 years old. She had diabetes real bad. She was on
dialysis. I have diabetes, too, but mine is controlled. My mother had diabetes.


C: Yes, it does run in families. It certainly does.




Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 17
April 2, 2002


W: She had it real, real bad, so she was on dialysis. She has been gone more than two
years, and he has remarried. I know the lady that he married. We're all members of the same church, and he needed somebody because he was a man that has had hip replacements and has to walk with two sticks a lot of times. I gave him my blessing and he seemed a little bit chilly. I guess Jim thought that I wouldn't
approve. But I knew the lady a long time.

C: You were glad for him to find somebody.

W: Yes. Then my grandson moved in the house with him because some mornings
somebody would have to help get him out of bed.

C: How many children did they have?

W: Three. Two girls and a boy. The oldest girl lives in Tampa. She has been
teaching school in Tampa 25 years. Never been married; has her own house. The next girl lives in Miami, and she's a schoolteacher. She got married since her mother passed on. The boy is a drama instructor, and he's never been married.
He's 45 years old.

C: So you've got a nice family. You have a wonderful heritage, and I think what
you're trying to do for your father, Jesse, is a fine thing and I hope someday that
works out. He will be well remembered.

W: I got it finished inside. I plan to go out there and take a damp cloth and wipe off
those dirty walls and spray just a little girlish pink. I want it to look old-fashioned
looking.

C: Ida is very industrious, as you can see. She still works for the Elletts and the
Alsobrooks. Anyway, we've very pleased that we've had this chance to talk with you, and I thank you so much for giving us your time. I'll give you a copy of this.
We'll both edit it and make it readable. That's the main thing because nobody is going to listen to this tape, but they will read it. They're all down at the Matheson
Center. We'll give as many copies as you want.

W: Thank you. Do you know Joel Buchanan?

C: Oh yes. He's the one that interviewed your mother.

W: Yes.

C: I don't know who interviewed your father, and I don't know why that interview is
not available, but they don't have it.




Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 18
April 2, 2002

W: I don't know, but Mr. Purser died the same day that my Momma died. I had come
back here. Momma was in a nursing home and they put her in the hospital. Then I went to see Mrs. Purser and she was dead. A little while after he died. It looked like my world was falling apart. All those people that I knew. Mr. Purser has been in this dining room and eaten many a day with us. He brought my father to Miami - he and Mrs. Purser - and I had a nice meal fixed for them and they enjoyed it so much. We went on Miami Beach and all over there. We were real
close friends.

C: That book will certainly tell you that he admired your father very much.

W: Did it tell how he met my father? A student was passing through here and noticed
those carvings out there. He had pieces outside the house. That's why he fenced it in out there because he couldn't leave his pieces out there because somebody might pick them up. So I had the fence open and was putting a few things out there. This student went back and told Mr. Purser about the place where a man had some carvings, so Mr. Purser came out here and they met, and they became like father and son. They were so close. They really were. It was some blow to
me to find out that Mr. Purser had gone.

C: He really helped your father promote his work and helped him show it at different
places in the state.

W: And it all happened so suddenly. Mrs. Purser didn't go very far behind after him
either. Did you know her?

C: No, I didn't know either one of them. I knew the name. They were pretty young
when they died? They were younger than your father, of course, a lot younger.

W: They had a son and a daughter. I mentioned that to Joel one time to see if he
could get an address or something for his daughter and his son.

C: They don't live in Gainesville?

W: I don't think so. But time goes by, and you have so many blows in your own
family. I am telling you when I lost my parents, Momma was 97 or 98, but I knew they had a long life, but when I lost my daughter and my husband, those
were the biggest blows that I had.

C: Right. Your husband was getting up in years, though, but you still miss him. I'm
sure you do.

W: He loved this place. Different people would come here to see him, and I can
remember one of the questions he would ask the people. He was so proud and I changed this house right. He would ask the people, "Did you ever see a bedroom with five doors to it?" It does have five doors. One to come into the dining room.




Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 19
April 2, 2002

This was the door here but it was further down. I had him move this door so my
furniture would fit in right.

C: Well, you've done a lot with this house.

W: I just haven't finished painting it. Why they put this closet door here is because it
saves space.

C: Sure it does. They are bifold doors that she is talking about, that slide out of the
way when you have the doors open.

W: They don't take up so much space. I had the kitchen done over after he was gone,
because he hadn't gotten to the kitchen. I have many, many memories here, and I would not trade this place for five or ten like I had in Miami. I have memories
here from the time that I was nine years old up until now.

C: That's wonderful. We're delighted to have all this on tape. We'll get back with
you soon. Thank you so much.


W: You are welcome.