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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
INTERVIEWEE: Louise Perry Haile
INTERVIEWER: Joel Buchanan
DATE: March 3, 1983
B: Good evening, Mrs. Haile. How are you this evening?
H: Fine, and you?
B: Fine, thank you. Mrs. Haile, where were you born?
H: I was born in Jonesville, Florida, a community about twelve miles from
Gainesville. This community was well-settled with plenty of people. The
majority of the people in that community were black. They owned their own
homes. They worked hard and they tried to send their children to school.
This was in the twenties, a long time ago.
B: Is Jonesville east, west, or north of Gainesville?
H: Jonesville is west of Gainesville.
B: Is that community still there today?
H: The community is still there but it doesn't seem the same. Not too many of
the black people own their homes because they moved away after the boll weevil
came and the Depression.
B: Now when was the boll weevil time?
H: This was during the twenties. They had two kinds of cotton, long staple and
short staple. My father was a cotton planter. He planted cotton and corn.
B: What did the boll weevil do? Did it destroy the crop?
H: During the boll weevil time, they would bore a hole in the cotton and this
cotton would die. The people couldn't raise cotton so they had stopped and
raised something else or left the farm.
B: When you said it was a settled community, was there a post office, a store,
or a school there?
H: No, I don't remember the post office, but my parents said there was a post
office and a large department store there at the time.
B: Your parents, their names please?
H: My mother's name was Fanny Taylor Perry. Her maiden name was Taylor. My
father's name was Alex Perry.
B: Where were they from?
H: They were born in Jonesville. Their older sisters and brothers were born in
Jonesville. My father's people came from South Carolina and my mother's people
came from Virginia by way of South Carolina. They came here with the Hailes
and the Chestnuts.
B: Can you tell me something about your parents?
H: My parents weren't educated, but they weren't ignorant. They believed in an
education. They were religious people. They joined the church as young people
and they worked in the church at Jonesville. It's now called Pleasant Plain
United Methodist Church. They worked there until they died. They were good
church members. My father died in his eighties and my mother died in her
B: How many children were in the family?
H: Well, I only knew seven of the children. My mother and father were parents
of ten children, but three died as babies and we knew nothing about them.
Two were older and one I can't remember.
B: I see. What number were you in the family?
H: I was the eighth child.
B: Can you tell me something about your childhood?
H: I must say I had a beautiful childhood. My people tried the best to have us
enjoy life. I was reared on a good-sized farm. I guess you would call it a
farm at that time.
B: How many acres, do you recall?
H: Once, he had 40 acres. Later on, he possessed 120. He sold the 40 and we:
still Jive on the 120.
B: What did you do on the farm?
H: I worked very little on the farm. In fact, my brothers and sisters did the
hard work because I was one of the younger ones. My father had sharecroppers
who would work for their share and they carried on the farm. My father and
mother, as far as I can remember, had a grocery store and a grist mill.
People would come from Jonesville to Archer. They had one in Alachua, I was
told. He [father] was owner of this grist mill. He was so busy with this
grist mill and he kept some of the children so busy, that I had to do other
types of work like washing dishes, sweeping the yard, or doing something that
the older children didn't have time to do.
B: Can you tell me something about the grist mill?
H: Yes, the grist mill was an electric affair, although we didn't have electricity.
It ran on a battery. They had a battery and something else I can't remember,
but it ran by electricity. The people would bring their corn to the mill and
if they brought a bushel of corn, my father took a peck for his share and
ground the meal for free. That's how he got paid, by taking his share. He
would sell this corn to people who had cattle or carrots. Anyway, he would
get rid of this corn and this is the way he got his money.
B: What kind of store was it?
H: Well, you could call it a department store because they had a little of
everything. They had groceries, nails, everything that a person would use
on a farm. They had hoes, rakes and brooms for sale. It was a little
department store. It wasn't as large as these stores but it was very
useful because it was the only store in that community for many, many years.
B: Is the mill and the store still standing?
H: Oh, no. He sold the acre of land he was staying on at that time and moved
over to the 120 acres we were still on.
B: Could you go to that space now if you had to?
H: Yes. We still have the house on this spot.
H: Yes. The house is where I was reared, not where I was born. Just two of
us were reared in this house. The others were reared in a house about three
or four acres from the spot that he sold. It was just one acre. He sold that
in order to move on to the larger share we had.
B: Can you tell me something about school?
H: Ever since I can remember, I was in school. My mother was the type of person
who tried to teach everybody's children in the neighborhood. They had to go
to work and she had to take care of the store, they would dump all of their
children on her. Put them in her care and she did it for nothing, just to
help the community. In fact, my mother wanted to be a missionary.
H: Since there wasn't any mission schools in the United States, I imagine, who
would take black people, so she just did the best she could. She married,
had children, and worked in the mission field. Today, there are people
living who remember her taking baskets every second or third Sunday to the
needy. I would go with her.
B: You said she would teach. You remember, then, being in school while very
H: I was in a "yard-school." My mother would have all the little children (to
keep from worrying her) together in the yard. We made stick alphabets and
this is the way we learned our alphabet. Or, we would take sticks on the
hard surface, make our alphabet, and do our writing. By the time I was four
years old, I was reading and writing my alphabets, doing all those things.
For that reason, I could walk right in the school room. They had no age
limits. The teacher would take me as long as she felt it was all right.
She babysat all of us.
B: I see. What was the name of the school you went to?
H: Now, Jonesville is the center of Methodistism in Alachua County. Liberty Hall
was also. Out of Jonesville, this is something that maybe you didn't know,
they have sent more teachers, preachers and lay people who went out into
the world than any community you can name at that time. Up through the
thirties and forties. You can name hundreds of people who left Jonesville
for different mission fields, not in Africa or that type of mission field,
but for preaching and teaching.
B: You went to Jonesville?
H: It was called Union Academy when I was a little girl. They had two Union
Academies. One was in Gainesville and one was in Jonesville. I remember
it was a five-room school at that time. Of course, in Gainesville, they
didn't have too many more rooms because later on, we came to Union Academy
B: What grades did you go through at Union Academy?
H: In Jonesville?
H: I was in the fifth grade. They didn't have a regular school. People had to
get a tutor or teacher from the community who had finished high school. Her
name was Miss Leola Herst, now Leola Coyne, and she would tutor us in the
summertime. My mother and father didn't like that idea so the last three
girls, Hannah, Trina and myself, came over here to Gainesville to go to school.
That left my baby brother there with them.
B: You went to school from the first to the fifth grade in Jonesville?
H: [In] Jonesville, and fromthe fifth grade to the seventh in Gainesville.
B: Can you tell me anything about your first five years at Union Academy in
H: The schoolrooms were quite crowded. The teacher had the rote method of teaching.
We'd spell out loud, and sing our alphabets and our lessons. It was wonderful
the way the teachers really got around to teach us.
B: Did the teacher teach everything to you or did you change classrooms?
H: About the time I got to be a good-sized girl to go to school, they only had
two teachers. They used to have five. Then it dwindled down to two teachers.
One took kindergarten or nursery school. She would work from the nursery school
to the fifth grade, and the other teacher would take from the sixth, seventh and
eighth grades. It was unique the way the kids came to school. Children would
come there from a little settlement we called Pinesville up there near Newberry.
Everybody came to this one little school.
B: How'd they get there?
H: They walked for miles and miles. I guess there were two or three hundred
children in that school.
B: How many months out of the year did you go to school?
H: At that time, we went four months out of the year. By the time I was in
the fifth grade it had dropped to two months in a year.
B: If you went to school for four months out of the year, did you stay in that
class those four months? How did they move you?
H: Some children stayed in one class many years, until the teacher saw that
they could move. These were children whose parents didn't have the motiva-
tion to help them. My mother and my father were anxious for us to get an
education. She would teach us at night and have the older children teach
the younger children. I went so fast that I caught my two sisters.
B: Did you?
H: One was three years older than I was, and one was seven years older.
B: You caught them?
H: Well, after they got to the eighth grade, they didn't want to leave the
schoolroom. They would go back to the eighth grade just to go to school.
They had to because there were no other alternatives.
B: How did you get to school? Was there someone who made you go to school?
H: It wasn't that they made us, we wanted to go. We had so many nice games out
there to play. Everybody played baseball, jumped rope, skipped, and hopped.
We played all types of games. One of the teachers, as I remember, would
always have these drills. She had plays and we learned to sing. She would
take her organ to school. At closing time, all these people brought baskets
out there to feed the children and the community. She'd play these songs
and we'd sing and act for the people. It was really something. Today, if
we had even half of those kids, we would be good songsters.
B: Was this a church school or a government school?
H: It was a county school.
B: Do you remember your principal?
H: The first one I remember was Mr. Jones. I can't think of his first name
and I don't know too much about him. He was so big that we were afraid of
him. The principal that I remember was Mrs. Nita Herst. She was the lady
who played the organ and taught all the children in the community how to
play music. Those who had dimes and nickels could pay her.
B: What did you use for materials?
H: Some of the children had tablets and all the smaller children had slates.
We would carry a bottle of water, with a little soap on it, and another
bottle on the side, which was clear, with a sponge in it. This is where
we would wash our slate. Those people who were very careful would make
sure and wash their slates that way. We could write anything on this slate
and erase it. Therefore, we could make a lot of mistakes and correct them
ourselves. The teacher was very happy for us to have these slates.
B: Report cards. Did you have report cards?
H: Oh no! We didn't know what report cards were. All we knew, you were
promoted. Of course, at the last day of school she'd line us up and
all the children who were promoted she'd call out their names. Everybody
would applaud. This was your promotion.
B: What did you involve yourself in after you left school?
H: We worked around the house. The older children, when they got out of school,
had to go in the field and help my father and the other people do the general
work. The smaller children would go to the potato hack, I remember, get
potatoes, wash them, and put them on for supper.
B: What was the potato hack?
H: That was a little house built out back. They had what they called the smoke-
house where they cured and ground their meat and sausages. I remember smoking
the meat with hickory smoke.
B: Excuse me, how do you mean cure the meat?
H: They would kill these hogs and put this meat down with a lot of salt over it
for a few days. He would take these hogs and put them in hot water and take
the hair off of them. He'd hang them up and cut them open, just like a doctor.
For that reason, I knew all the parts of people. I learned about their liver,
their small intestine, large intestine and their kidney. I learned everything
about a person by looking at those hogs.
Then they'd put this meat in the water to get the salt and pepper off. After
it was washed we went out and got a strong cord to hang this meat up and smoke
it for a number of days. It tasted delicious. I wish I had some now! He made
his own potatoes, ground his own meal, and made his own grits. He bought very
little produce, such as flour. He planted rice and I remember he had a mortar
and pestle. They took a stump and cut it out. We took a big blunt wood instru-
ment and beat the husk off the rice with this when we were ready to cook the
B: Those were some of the things you had to do in the evening after you got school
H: Yes. All the children who didn't work in the field had to do this type of work.
And we didn't go running around and playing until on a Saturday. That was a day
we could go to each other's house to play. On Sunday you found us in church
school with our catechism.
B: Tell me about the church school.
H: That was a wonderful time because all the kids could meet there. There were
so many children in that community that Jonesville was divided into sections
as far as the church was concerned. This was the only church in that community,
Pleasant Plain. They had Fort Clark further down the highway, and later on,
there was another little prayer room built. They had two prayer rooms. One was
built on the south and one was on the north. We would go to the south prayer
room because there was so many children going to the north church. We all
belonged to the same church. The only time we met was when we would go to
Easter and all these different days that children took part in.
Our church school had superintendents. I never will forget Uncle Morgan
Herse and Mr. Flinny Labson. They were our superintendents. They divided us
into classes like they do in school today. They didn't call it elementary,
junior high and so forth. They just went by sizes. We had a grand time
answering questions. We did more answering than asking.
J: These questions were related to what?
H: Oh, they were related to the Bible. Today, there's very little I don't know
about the Bible from these catechisms. They'd ask all these questions, like
who made you? They said God made you. The catechism asked every kind of
question and we learned the beatitudes and all this from the catechism.
J: Was this an all day event or a morning event?
H: It was just like church school is today. We would go out there for about two
hours. The parent would take you to the church to get in the surrey. They
had what they called surreys or hacks, two-seated buggies drawn by two horses,
or one buggy drawn by one horse. They had these seats across them and they'd
get in there and go to church.
J: What was the difference between a surrey and a hack?
H: The surrey and the hack were practically the same thing only the surrey had
tassles hanging around it. The hack was just a plain two-seated buggy.
J: Since you were raised in Jonesville, how did you get communication from one
H: My parents were one of three families who had cars out there. My father owned
a Model-T Ford. He had a buggy and a wagon. The others were Reverend Harry
Trapp and Reverend Arthur, we called him New. When the circus or anything was
going on in town, my father would load us up in the wagon or the buggy, hack,
or surrey. We were between Gainesville and Newberry, but he did most of his
trading in Gainesville. We would come over to Gainesville to do these shows
and everything. In fact, everybody in the community would bring their children
to these shows. At the end of the year, the farmers would bring their produce
and they would have judging to see who raised the finest cattle. This wasn't
just blacks, but was blacks and whites.
J: It was?
H: That's right. They'd bring the children along to see who had the finest cow,
the finest horse, or the finest stalk of cane. They had ferris wheels and
these amusements that the children could ride and have a good time. When he
would bring us, he would hire a taxi from Gainesville to come up there and pick
his children up, bring us to town so we could see everything. We weren't
J: You weren't ignorant. Your family was one of the prominent families of
H: Well, they had a lot of prominent families. I can name several. My mother
was reared with Mr. and Mrs. Buchanan. [There were] the Chiles, the Herses,
the Trapps, the Perrys, the Rochelles and the Camerons. I can name hundreds
and hundreds of people in that community at that time.
J: Is that church still very active now?
H: Very much so. Your grandmother goes there now, at Pleasant Plain. [Laughter]
J: Are there many families still in that area?
H: There's a good many out there but not like there used to be. Now, it's inte-
grated, I guess. They didn't have too many white people in that community.
I only remember the Holts, the Hodges and Mr. Dixie Jones. There were a few.
J: Jonesville was predominantly a black community?
H: It's a black community. Everybody owns land. Blacks own land from the
Stringfellow farm to Alachua, to a settlement called Pinesville.
J: Can you recall some of the names of the communities that were out there?
H: Yes. [There was] Pinesville, Jonesville, St. Peter, Mount Nebo and Arredando.
I don't know the name of the community between Newberry and Jonesville. They
still call it Jonesville. And Whittacker, Beniton, all those little communities.
J: That was between Gainesville and Newberry.
H: LibertyHill Church was the Beniton people and some of the Rutledge people.
Liberty Hill is the oldest Methodist Church that I know of in that section
then came Jonesville. Jonesville was over a hundred years old.
J: Were there any clubs or organizations that you remember being a part of as a
child? Or your parents?
H: At the time, they had the Knights of Pythians. Some of my people joined that
because they were Odd Fellows. Finally, those societies just moved away.
The only organization that really stood was the Female Protection.
J: Was is that?
H: The Female Protection is a little organization started by my husband's mother.
Her name was Matilda Haile. Her husband was a minister. She was a midwife and
she felt that some of the people were very, very poor. Everybody couldn't take
care of their own, just like today. She had gone to South Carolina with some
of her people and they were having organizations up there. When she came back,
she began thinking of those people who couldn't pay me. Those who pay me pay
me with syrup or chicken. She decided that she would ask the neighborhood to
come together, the ladies, and give their dimes and nickels so when these people
got sick, they could pay somebody to go in and help them. They could help them
by giving them money to help themselves or pay for these children being
delivered. She said five ladies answered her call. They met at her house.
They had a little building in the yard and they met in this little building.
They organized this society called the Female Protection.
J: Do you know what year that was?
H: I don't want to tell a story. It was before my husband was born.
J: Nineteen hundred and three or four?
H: It was three or four.
J: Can you recall who those five ladies were? Did she tell you?
H: Yes. There was Cecilie Haile, her sister, Mrs. Alice Nuckle, Miss Luphelia
Louis, and, I believe, Miss Julia Johnson.
J: Is that organization still in existence?
H: Yes, about three to four hundred people now have this organization. They
built their temple out on Thirty-ninth Avenue. [Laughter]
J: Can you tell me something about the organization or the structure of the society?
H: Well, when it was organized, it wasn't long before the sisters came in and joined.
J: Was this just for ladies?
H: Just for ladies, like today. They made the organization up on the contention
they'd help each other when they needed it. We would feed and help the sick
and bury the dead. In that day and time, they didn't have undertaker parlors,
or emablmers. They might have had them in the white section but black people
didn't have an undertaker business so they had to get the casket the best way
they knew how.
The people would make them. They would buy a little lumber. The men would
get together and make the casket for different people when they died, especially
for the poor people. Those people who were able would buy their caskets from
some of these department stores. There were a lot who weren't able. They had
to make them. They'd buy their cloth, and cover it. It was really a helpful
J: The society was to help one another?
H: To help one another, and today this is what they are supposed to do. Today,
they have money in the bank and they have built their temple out on Thirty-ninth
Avenue, one of the biggest buildings, I imagine, for worshipping in the county.
They're doing well, I should say.
J: Do they have a president? Vice president?
J: What do they call them?
H: They called my mother-in-law the Chief until she died in 1951. From 1903 or
four, to 1951, she was the Chief, the president.
J: I see.
H: Then, they have the vice-president, secretary and treasurer. They have some-
body open up the lodge and do all the reading of the scriptures. What would
you call them now?
J: A devotion leader. Did they have a uniform?
H: Yes, they wore white on Sundays and Thursdays. Now, they wear white all the
time. Those were white dresses. They didn't have particular uniforms. They
just had white dresses and now they have uniforms.
H: They had badges with their names on it. The first society was in Beniton.
Later on, they organized one- in Whittacker and another in Mount Nebo. The
fourth was in Jonesville. They organized these units to copy the Methodist
ministers. A good many of those ladies in there had husbands who were preachers.
They would get their little suitcases and go to their conferences. They had a
good time. They'd come back and tell their wives what a good time they had at a
conference where all the preachers met and got their churches. They wanted to do
like the preachers. But they didn't stay over night particularly. They decided
they'd go and have a three-day meeting and call it a conference.
J: Mrs. Haile, what year were you born, please?
H: You don't want to get into my age. [Laughter] But I'll say this, I'm over
seventy, and I'm proud of it.
J: Well, excellent. We've talked about the society that you were in and where
you went to school in Jonesville. Where did you leave from there to go to
H: When I left Jonesville, our people decided that they didn't want their children
going to a two-month school and they were tired of the four-month school. Over
here in Gainesville, they had an eight-month school so they got us a place, the
three of us, to live over here with different people they thought were nice.
We had to room there, and go to school here.
J: And what was the name of the school you came to here?
H: I joined the old Union Academy. They they built Lincoln High School. The year
they built Lincoln High School, my sister had moved to Daytona. One of my sisters
lived in Orlando, and my brother had scattered to West Palm Beach. This is the
way they moved out. My baby brother was home and the three of us came over here.
The year they built Lincoln High School, I didn't go because my two sisters were
much older than I was. One got married. She'd gone as high as I guess you could
go at Cedar Heights. They only went to the tenth grade. The other one said,
"I'm not going to go to no other school because there's no other school to go to,"
but maybe some of the Bethune-Cookman is known as Daytona Normal. We had heard
about Edward Waters and we didn't have much interest because there weren't
too many people going over that way. We knew about the school in Tallahassee.
I wanted to go on so my people let me go to Daytona Beach, Florida. With my
sister, I went to the public school about half a year. I didn't like it
because it only went to the eighth grade at.that time. My sister in Orlando
sent for me and I went over there because they were going through the tenth
and eleventh grades. I stayed over there until I finished that year. The
next year, I went to what is known as Bethune-Cookman.
J: What year was that? You went to Bethune-Cookman, or what was it called?
H: When I went there, it was called Cookman. Daytona Normal Cookman, something
like that. Because they moved the school from Jacksonville, old Cookman, and
joined it with Daytona Normal Industrial School in Daytona Beach.
J: What grade were you in at this time?
H: I was in the seventh grade. They had what was known as the Kiser Practice
School. The school only went to the twelfth grade.
J: What is that?
H: That was a school for teachers to practice, just like you have people now
interning. They had to go from town to town. Her teachers would practice on
the children right there in the Kiser Practice School. It was a lab school,
that's what it really was.
J: And you said her. Who is she?
H: Mary McCloud Bethune. I knew her well. From there, I went to the twelfth
grade. While I was out that summer, I taught for about three months.
J: You were qualified to teach after you finished twelfth grade?
H: No. To tell the truth, they had black people teaching from all over Alachua
County, from the eighth grade and the ninth grade, maybe a little lower. I said,
"I finished the twelfth grade." I was seventeen years old and they have it down
now in the courthouse. As the man said when I retired, "You are the only one
who has kept that age of seventeen to where you are now." [Laughter]
J: Excellent. And you started teaching then?
H: I just taught that summer. I started teaching when I was in Hawthorne, Florida.
J: I see. Can you tell me something about Mrs. Bethune?
H: She was a dynamic person. She was kind, generous, and made children feel they
would belong. Everybody was the same. She had no picks. If she did, no one
knew it. We had to wear this uniform, you know.
J: What was it?
H: It was a blue skirt and a white blouse everyday.
H: Black shoes and black stockings.
J: Mrs. Haile, you said that you went to Cookman Institute or normal school. Can
you tell me something about campus life?'
H: Well, they had what they called day students. Those were students who went to
school in the day there, unless they had something at night they wanted to go
to. We paid very little money, something like a dollar and a half a week. I
can't exactly remember the amount we paid but I think it was a dollar and a
half a week. I don't know what the students who stayed on the campus paid at
that time. Later on, I was campus-bound. When I got into twelfth grade, I
had to live on the campus. I remember what we paid then.
J: What did you pay then?
H: We paid eighteen dollars a month.
J: What did that include?
H: That included eating, sleeping, and daily recitations. Everything. You see,
people seemed to love her and the school and they had so many people who would
give to the school. I remember Rockefeller. He would come out and pay a hun-
dred dollars for a chicken. That was some money at that time. She would have
these big bazaars. March eighth was our bazaar day. So many of those white
people who loved the school would come out to us and bring something to sell.
This was the lab school where we learned to cook, make candies and cakes, and
all these things to bake. They'd be set aside. The quartet would sing and
people would come out there. We would guide them around and they'd give us
dimes and so forth for doing that. Rockefeller, a fellow from a soap company,
and a lot of other people would give the school money. This was where the
school really got its substance. This little eighteen dollars and a half
that we gave was.small but they would put it to use one way or another and
everybody got educated.
J: What was Mrs. Bethune's role at that time on campus?
H: She was the president until she retired and gave it over to another person to
J: Did you have a chance to have very many encounters with her.
H: All of my birthday parties were given in her yard. She used to let me give
my birthday parties on her lawn. She likedme very much. I think it was because
I was a little dynamic, too! [Laughter]
J: Oh were you? What was the day like on campus? Did you just have schooling
or was church involved any? Did she come out and do any talking to the group or
H: Sunday was the big day. That auditorium was packed with people, I mean literally
busting with people. That was the day the choir would sing, different children
would give orations, and just everything, and a great person would give a
lecture. They called it a community service. Anyway, this is where we'd go
to have our big time on Sunday. She'd let us have picture shows in the school
and we went to the picture shows on a Wednesday night, I believe. We had a
prayer group who met on Tuesday night and I still go to that prayer group on
J: Do you?
H: I loved church life. I got a group of girls and boys to go to a hospital, and
I would take them over to sing to the sick. They thought it was grand to see
a person. I joined YWCA and all these little groups like that who really
worked up a Christian life.
J: Did Mrs. Bethune ever come to you and talk to you as a group?
H: Oh! Mrs.Bethune talked everyday. We would meet everyday in the chapel about
eleven o'clock. She would always give us a lot of little lectures and do many
things that were educational. I wish I could just tell you the rich life she
gave these children. I think that's why a good many made good.
J: Were your school days very long?
H: Yes. We would go to school about eight o'clock and get out around four.
Everybody went to school the same hour. Then we'd go in the auditorium and
stay in there. This really caused the day to be long, with the different
lectures and speeches. Kids that wanted to get up and make a talk of their
own could do it. If they wanted to sing and didn't care how it sounded she
never let the children laugh at each other.
H: You just took your chance and did anything you thought you could do. Do your
best. She was a wonderful character.
J: How did you get there? Who made the decision if you were accepted or not?
H: My sister lived in Daytona. We went up and registered, just like you register
for school. You didn't have to come from certain families and all this. I
hardly knew how I got there but I knew I went there! They got me in and I
never did get out until I finished a full year of college.
J: What year was that?
H: In 1945 I finished the four years. But see, I finished the two-year program.
We got a certificate but it didn't give us a chance to teach on this certificate.
I came out and they took me in at Hawthorne. I started working at Hawthorne.
There were many people in the county still working in high school. I saw where
it didn't look right for me to just finish just two years and I wanted a life.
So, I went back to school a half a year. They added this on to my certificate.
They called them lifetime certificates. I worked on that one or two years. I
didn't want to stop there. I went back to school and got my other two years.
That made me come out a little later than if I had gone to FAMU or some of those
J: How many years did you teach?
H: I taught forty-one years, some in the rural districts. The first school was
Hawthorne. It was called Hawthorne, it wasn't Shell at that time. That's the
year I went back to school. When I got out I went to Mebane, Alachua Training
School. I worked there a year. I wanted to get married. [Laughter] This was
the marrying time. I decided if I got married, I wasn't making enough money
for the two of us to stay apart like that. So, I took the job at Libery Hill
so I could be near my husband. I could go everyday and go back home at night
J: What year did you get married?
H: I got married in 1936.
J: Who did you marry?
H: I married Cornell Haile.
J: Was-he from Jonesville?
H: It was part of the Jonesville community, but they called it Beniton.
J: Now, how far was that from where you lived?
H: About three or four miles, but we didn't know each other until we were big
children. We didn't do like children today. We couldn't go anywhere we wanted.
Our parents were very skeptical of girls going everywhere. We would go where
they would take us, to different churches and so forth. I didn't get a chance
to know him until the first day I saw him and we started courting. I was about
fifteen years old when I met him.
My people didn't allow me to take company. This is what they called it. But
you know how children slip in to see each other and meet each other at church
affairs and picnics. Eighteen years old was the year. Then, fathers and mothers
wanted their girls to start courting. They didn't want them to start courting
before then. Well, I had to go to school by that time. I went to school, so
later on we.married. I taught in the rural district. I had a B.S. degree and
there wasn't but about fifteen or sixteen B.S. degrees in Alachua county. I
taught in a rural school while so many high school teachers taught at Lincoln
High School. We didn't have transportation. At that time, they wanted you to
stay on your job.
J: What do you mean by that?
H: If you taught in Alachua, you lived in Alachua. If you taught in Gainesville,
you lived in Gainesville. If you taught in Newberry, you lived in Newberry.
If you taught in these rural schools, they didn't make you live there.
J: Well, what was your salary when you first started teaching?
H: I got one of the highest salaries, about forty dollars a month. Wasn't that
J: What did you teach back in those days?
H: I taught the sixth grade.
J: Were you teaching all subjects?
H: All subjects. You had a room and you taught all subjects.
J: So everybody was in one room?
H: One room.
J: How did you go from one subject to the other?
H: You didn't go. You just stayed in that room and taught those kids until
they changed. They didn't have people moving. They didn't have departmental
work at that time.
J: Did you decide you wanted to teach English for ten or twenty minutes, and
then you went to math?
H: Well, that was the thing of it. I didn't try to teach every subject everyday.
That was one thing to my advantage. To teach like somebody say could stay a
really long time with math or something like that. Maybe, I'd teach math,
english and social studies today. Tomorrow, I'll teach math, reading, writing
and spelling. I would alternate.
J: What did you do for supplies?
H: Oh gosh, we had no supplies. I made my own supplies, especially in the one-
room school. In those schools, we did have a few books. That was our supplies.
We had a piece of chalk every once in a while. But I'd rather tell you about
the one-teacher school.
J: Tell me about it, please.
H: I went to this one-teacher school. We didn't have a chalk board, books, maps
or a globe. I had sixty-eight children without anything to work with. Well,
I was a person who always wanted to improvise. If they found a calendar or
something like that they'd bring it to school and we'd make our arithmetic
books. I'd put those calendars together because nobody could print but me.
The kids couldn't. I'd let the children help make their own books.
J: Where was this?
H: That was in Liberty Hill, and thank God out of that school came some of the
finest children in America. They got all kinds of positions. I could name
the Duncan brothers who own the Duncan Brothers Funeral Home. The great preacher
down in Fort Lauderdale came out of that situation. I stayed there eight years.
We made practically everything. They gave us these worn out books that somebody
had used. I never could stand all those filthy looking books that they handed
us to teach with.
J: Who are you talking about?
H: The county. I didn't know of any black school that had new books. They were
glad to get those discarded books.
J: What did you do for things like maps and globes?
H: I had different people come out to the school and make me a chalkboard by
painting the side of the house gray. They let me paint the side of the house.
I measured off and made me a chalkboard. Later on, the parents got so inter-
ested that they came out and made me a chalkboard.
The children and I sat on the floor and made our own maps. We'd make our
rivers. Some of them were clay maps. We would take clay and make our rivers
and our ponds. The kids learned from that too. If I said, "Let's make the
Mississippi River," they never forgot it. I always could draw a little, and
I'd have them put in the first set of states of the United States. I'd say,
"We're going to name these New England States. Write them in on a piece of
paper and place them on Maine,New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and
Connecticut. Alright, we're going to learn the eastern section." Then we'd
join the middle Atlantic states New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland,
Virginia and West Virginia. Then we'd find the southern states.
J: That's how you taught them?
J: What did you do, did you do the same thing for your science and history?
H: Well, I was afraid of insects but those kids would get insects and we would
talk about them. I never could teach that type of science.
We had all the greenery we could want. We had all the plants and rocks that
you kids know today from talking about them. My sister lived on this shell
island. I'd run over there and get a lot of the shells so we could learn
J: Did they learn quality?
H: Quality? There was one girl who was really retarded. Nobody expected her to
learn. I tried to help her to tie her shoes. That was enough for me to see
her doing that. Yet, I tried to teach her a little math. I tried to teach
her a little reading, reading for protection. Words that she had to come in
contact everyday, like poison. She only read for protection, that type of
child. But I never sent a child out who couldn't read and write. That's
maybe why they called me a hard teacher. I can't understand how a kid can
not read and write today, because in that one-teacher school, they sent out
Mr. Jones and Ms. Lang to give them a test. They were testing all of Alachua
J: Now who is Mr. Jones and Ms. Lang?
H: Mr. Jones was the person over the school at that time. Miss Lang was the
Jean supervisor. She came by to give these children a test. My kids passed
everything on that test and I was so happy I didn't know what to do. They
only gave it to the fourth, fifth and sixth grades. They had to learn to
spell. Through spelling, you learned to read. When you start reading, you
learned how to read math.
J: That's right.
H: Those kids learned the words of math. In order to really work those problems
they had to learn math words like plusses, minuses, and equals. Then, they
had to learn social study words.
They were very good at Bethune-Cookman, I must say. We would take the math
class and come over to the social study class. We had a beautiful time out
there and the kids really learned so I stayed out there about two years.
I asked the people in the community to take the seventh and eighth grades out
of that school. I wasn't going to work with them because school was supposed
to go to the sixth grade. But these few seventh and eighth graders stuck
around there. Those people took their kids, as I say, and sent them over
here to Gainesville. Many others from that side came over here and I had
many of the teachers ask me, "How did you teach those kids to read? Our
children can't read and your children read." I said ,--It takes a little time.
If you see a pine tree, you know it's a pine tree. What is that tree? How do
you spell tree? Get them acquainted with these things and they'll pick these
things up when they go home. Those people in that community worked with their
children like mad. I would reward them at the end of the year by having a
ball game. We learned to play baseball and we would play another little
school near us. The people would bring these big baskets. We would spell,
read and sing for them.
That night, we'd have a big concert. At that time, I was playing the organ
and I'd play the organ and the children would sing. Then we would have plays
and let the children make their own plays. We didn't star in actual plays, we
made them ourselves. One boy said, "I'll be the preacher in this play," and
this boy turned out to be one of the greatest preachers we have in the Methodist
church. [I asked him] "What sermon are you going to preach? Don't go in the
Bible because I don't play with the Bible. But you can preach some little verses
that you know." He'd preach. Girls would say, "I'm going to be a secretary in
J: So they made the things up?
H: Johnell Cook and all this set of boys were going there. He can tell you,
they made their own plays.
J: You worked from nothing. How many months during the year was your school in
H: We had, at that time, as many months as anybody else. I never will forget
one day. I'd gotten so disgusted, I didn't have any books. I walked in the
bookroom. I said, "Mr. Deck, I hope you'll hear me because I want me some
new books." There weren't any new books in any of the black schools. I
said, "I want some books that haven't been used and I see some good books
in here that I'd like to take." He just looked at me and then he said,
"Go get the books. Just take them off the shelf." He gave me two boxes
of books. I told everybody, "I have new books." "How did you get em?"
I said, "I just walked up there and asked for them. They gave them to me."
J: You didn't say anything about the black-white situation. What was it like
H: Well, the blacks went their way and the whites went their way. I don't want
to get into that.
J: Please tell me a little bit about it because things have changed now.
H: Yes. Well, the blacks at that time walked miles to school and carried their
food in a little tin bucket or box. The white kids, at that time, were riding.
They were transporting them from all over the country section into Gainesville.
That had all these little black schools sitting around for the blacks to go to.
Right there, it was unequal. They had two white schools and one or two Catholic
schools. The majority just did away with schools in the community.
I went to Wittacker and taught. One lady said to me, "I get so jealous of you,
I don't know what to do." This was a white lady. She said, "I look at your
children and how you treat those children. I notice you carry those children
with you if:you are riding or if you walk down to the road. You take them by
their hand." She picked me up in her truck and said, "I'm going to ride you
and your children. I sometimes wish I could bring my children out here to
school where I could see the teacher handling those children like you handle
J: What was it like coming from Jonesville to Gainesville to shop when it was
H: We never had no trouble but some people did. The only time we had trouble
was when my mother and I, in a buggy, we had to stop the horse to let it
drink in Hogtown Creek. This was where the horses drank if they couldn't
get a sip of water in Gainesville. When we got in this water, the horse was
drinking. There were three little white boys and after a while they hollered
out, "nigger, nigger." My mother didn't look like a Negro. She had blue eyes
and candy-colored hair. [Laughter]
J: So, she was fair-skinned then?
H: Yes. As a child, I was real fair but you could tell the difference. I
looked and I was very spiritual at that time. As a child, I had the spirit.
I let nobody take advantage of me, especially when they called my mother
names. I was getting out of that buggy in Hogtown Creek to tackle those
three boys by myself. I said, "I'm coming for you." They ran and my mother
said, "Sit down and hush your mouth." I said, "I'm going to get em." She
said, "No you're not. You sit here." And those boys ran. She talked about
it after, saying, "I'm glad they did because they would have drown you in
H: This was the only thing I remember as a child. Other people had little
encounters, throwing rocks and things like that.
J: Let me ask you this question. You were aware there was a white society
but you just went your way and did your thing?
H: Did your thing, that's it. My mother and father got on well with the white
people. I never have forgot Mr. and Dr. Thomas. This young Dr.
Thomas ran the hotel. The people at the bank used to come out and get their
turkeys from momma. She raised turkeys and chickens. Many of those people
would have her reserve these turkeys from them. The Thomases were so nice
to my people. He was the cause of my father buying this 120 acres.
J: Was he?
H: He really was the cause. He had forty acres one place and forty another.
He said, "You need to get those kids and put them in a nice home on a big
plot of ground I'll tell you what I want you to do. Come along to the
lumber company. Go to all the houses that people have moved out of and give
them to different people if you want." They had no use for em. And that's
what my poppa did for them. He'd go out and see about the land and all this
type of thing. They were in turn very nice to him. They did lovely things
for him. My people had a lot of spirit, too. They didn't want anybody just
to give, give, give. I'll do for you and you give me.
J: In coming to Gainesville as a young girl and being here, were you allowed
H: Yes, we could go downtown if they don't push us off the streets sometimes.
I had one encounter with a big white girl. We were walking down the street
with the reverend, my two sisters and I. I was a baby, very small. I guess
I was about ten or twelve years old. We were walking and they just spread
out. One girl said something like, "Don't do that." My sister jumped off
the sidewalk and let them have it. I said, "Well, I'm going to give it to
them part of it but I'm not going to give them all of it." This girl she
shoved me but my sister grabbed me because I balled up my little fists
because I was ready for her. She looked like a woman shoving me off the
J: So you're saying to me you knew what you could and could not do.
H: Yea. My momma and poppa always told us not to fuss with people and momma
said, "Sticks and stones will break your bones but words will never hurt you."
J: That's true.
H: She would keep us in mind of that. Now, I tell you when they used to have
these University games, we couldn't go downtown because those drunk people
would kill you. They would bust you up. I don't mean the children. The
grown people were afraid to go downtown. When they had those games. People
used to go downtown at night. The stores would stay open until ten or eleven
o'clock at night, sometimes twelve.
J: You would go shopping at night?
H: Yes. But when they had those games, you shopped in the daytime and got
in the house at night off of that street.
J: Isn't that amazing?
H: Well, it happened. Everybody knew it happened.
J: Let me ask you this question. After you married your husband, did you live
H: Yes, he was a farmer. He had left the farm once when his father died.
His mother was there with him. I said, "Well, we could stay here." If
they could stay with me, I could stay with them. We stayed there until we
were burned out. I think the house accidently caught on fire. Her house
was burned on the eighth day of May, and on the Fourth of July our house
burned. Everybody was discouraged and I decided that I wasn't going to do
anymore rural teaching. I had a degree. They were moving the school and
trying to carry it to the city. I thought they should have let those schools
stay there until they built a school which was big enough to take the children.
They brought them all over here and carried em out there to Lincoln High School.
That's where I taught. The kids had to go to school from eight o'clock until
ten. They'd go out and line up beside the wall and let the ten o'clock group
go in there and have a lesson. That's why the kids are back today. Lincoln
High School was a very good school before then. Those kids didn't go any-
where, repeating grades or flunking college. They would have taken those
tests and passes.
Then they cut the room in two and put one teacher in this room and one in
that room. With just one window. It was pathetic. I told Mr. Jones, I
said, "You should let these kids stay in the rural district until you can
build a school and put them in it." But they didn't build a school until
this new Lincoln High School. By that time, the work had been done.
J: So you had half-sessions?
H: Yes. That was before your time. A lot of these older kids will let you
know that. I couldn't do the teaching. How could I do the teaching when
half the time the teacher had to stand out there to mind the children.
J: Those children who went in the morning from eight to ten, did they go home?
H: No, they stood around the building until it was time to go home. Somebody had
to stay out there and nurse them. Really, I'd been out so long until I was
ready for fighting instead of learning. At that time, in '52, I was a
J: What do you mean by a visiting teacher?
H: They don't have them today. I had to do everything that had to be done.
I had to visit the school to see if the children were coming, if they had
any absentees, this type of thing. I did more than what they asked me to
do. As Mr. Eugene Mack used to say, "You alone did more than some of those
people who came out there with one job. They didn't get those children in
school. But you got them all in school." This was my job, trying to get
them in school. If the teachers would give me their work, I'd go to their
home and work with those little things. There's a teacher out here in Duval
that I did that for and you know her. She was home and couldn't go to Lincoln
J: Was it because of illness? Is that the reason they couldn't go to school?
H: Yes. She had something wrong with her legs, this Williams girl. And the
little Shell boy from Hawthorne. I would ride over there. You remember
H: The Walkerman's cousin. I was the person who taught him. I taught him for
five years right in his house. I would go to him three days a week. Let me
tell you, they didn't even pay me for my gas. They paid me for mileage but
I didn't charge them. I felt so sorry for him. And his mother said, "He'll
never finish." I said, "He'll finish." He came over here to Lincoln High
School, don't you remember? Then he went to the University of Florida and
finished. I kept that invitation. Let me tell you I cried. And I couldn't
go to his graduation, but I sent him some money. On it it said, "If it wasn't
for you, where would I have been?"'
J: Now these are children that couldn't go to school because of handicaps, but
you taught them?
H: I taught them at their house. I went into every school and got those absen-
tees and worked with them. I sent boys to Brewster's Hospital, like the
Duncan brothers. Then I went to the school board and they were nice. They
J: Where was Brewster's hospital?
H: It was in Jacksonville.
J: Why did you go to Jacksonville?
H: Because we had no hospital here and we don't have a hospital here today for
crippled children. Brewster's for crippled children. That was a Methodist
hospital, not the school hospital. They dealt with crippled children. I
know many kids we sent over there.
J: Let me ask you this question before I close for this evening. What was this
H: You know, it hasn't changed too much. The house got dilapidated. The people
moved out and left it for renters.
J: Was this a very prominent area?
H: It was a nice area. The people had nice flower gardens. The Neeley's stayed
next to the school. Mr. Jones is right in front of the school. All those
teachers stayed pretty close to the school. This area was a nice area.
J: Fifth Avenue has not always been the...
H: No. They call it the ghetto. Prominent people lived out here. Like Dr.
Ayres and Dr. Banks. Dr. Banks lived in Queen-bell Staffer's place.
Orrie Nells left and he took the situation over. This was a prominent
community. The people loved church, football and baseball. Lincoln High
School was really the king of the crop when it came to football.
J: Was it?
H: Thay had everything going their way. They wouldn't have had to depend on
the other race if they would have just give them separate and equal
[facilities]. If they had just had that. Because I think integration
has done our children a lot of harm.
J: How do you see it?
H: Black kids don't get the same training in a way. They are going to always
fix a way where they can't get the college courses. Now, my little
he's done more or less above average on the Metropolitan Achievement Test,
but yet in school they'll take a child and put him back in the fifth grade
J: You're saying our children don't get the quality?
H: I don't think they really get what belongs to them. I don't know. The
teacher might think our teachers are just as much at fault. They're afraid
of their job. I got along beautifully in the school. I came out of Buchholz.
Whatever I asked, they more or less let me have it.
J: So you taught at Buchholz too?
H: I retired from Buchholz. Those parents were kind to me. You talking about
white people being nice to a teacher, they were nice to me.
J: Yes, what were you teaching?
H: Well, I started out teaching language arts, and I taught that until I saw
those special education children. It really hurt my heart, because there
weren't too many whites in the class, mostly blacks. They weren't getting
anything, just running around like a set of wild apes, doing nothing but
hollering, "bugga, bugga." It was pitiful.
J: Was it?
H: Yes. When I saw those kids and I went to Mr. Temple. He was a very fine
man. I said, "Could I take the special education class?" I went into that
class, beautiful room. Everything in there a special education person could
want. Yet they were still behaving terrible. I took those kids and said,
"You're going to learn to read and write because you all are not special
education children. You're not mentally retarded. You're educably retarded.
All you need is some training. You'll work out from it."
J: Did they?
H: Yes they did. In Lincoln High School, the same thing happened. I asked
them to go into the special education class. And Mr. Herd told me, "More
of my boys went to professional football out of your special education
class than the whole school."
J: So you have something to be proud of.