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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Interviewee: Mrs. Janie F. Roberts
Interviewer: Joel Buchanan
FIFTH AVEUNE BLACKS, ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
INTERVIEWER: JOEL BUCHANAN
PLACE OF INTERVIEW: GAINESVILLE
DATE OF INTERVIEW: July 10, 1984
Mrs. Janie Roberts was born in 1915, one of fifteen children. While
growing up she helped her mother bring in extra income by washing and
ironing clothes for university students. She went to Lincoln High School
through the eighth grade.
Shortly thereafter, in 1934, Mrs. Roberts married Dave Roberts, her husband
of forty-eight years. She had ten children, eight of whom survived
In the interview Mrs. Roberts discusses the "old-fashion" methods of doing
things. She has always cooked from scratch, breast-fed her children, and
raised them to be obedient.
B: Good evening, Mrs. Roberts.
R: Good evening.
B: How are you today?
R: Fine, thank you. Mrs. Roberts, tell me something about your beginning.
Were you born here in Gainesville?
R: No, I was born in Newberry, Florida, in 1915.
B: What was your mother's name?
R: Ella Elizabeth. She was a Williams and married a Hughs.
B: And your father's?
R: Lexlie Hughs.
B: Where were they from?
R: My mother, as far as I know, was from Hague, Florida. My daddy was born
across the bridge as you are going into Alachua, Florida.
B: Tell me something about your parents.
R: My daddy was a sharecropper. My mother was a midwife. I used to go out
with her and help "catch" or deliver babies.
B: Did you?
R: Oh, yes, I sure did.
B: You said she was a midwife. That means she delivered babies?
R: Oh, yes. She delivered the babies, and I helped her hold the lamp as the
babies were born.
B: Did she only deliver black babies?
R: No, she used to deliver white babies, too, when they wanted her.
B: How did they get in touch with your mother to do this?
R: Through other folk.
B: As a child, what did you do with her on these jobs?
R: Well, sometimes she had so many babies to catch (deliver), she did not
have a chance to go back. I would have to go and change the mother's bed,
bathe the baby, and give the mother water to bathe herself.
B: When your mother went to deliver a baby, or you use the term, "catch a
baby", did she just go one time, or did she have to go back after the baby
R: Oh, yes. She had to go back until the cord was dropped.
B: And usually how long did that take?
R: A week.
B: Did you learn the practice?
R: Oh, ues. I learned it, but I did not like it.
B: You don't? Why?
R: Just cause I didn't like it.
B: How did your mother get around?
R: Well, most of the people had cars, or a horse and wagon, or a horse and
buggy, and they would come to get her. She took me with her. Or we would
walk when it was close.
B: In the process of going with your mother, was there ever a time when she
lost a child?
R: No, she never did lose one. Far as I know, she never did lose one. One
time she lost a mother by being hardheaded.
B: Now what do you mean by that?
R: Well, they told her not to eat cabbage greens. She got up after my mother
left, and went into the kitchen, cooked herself some cabbage greens and
fish, and she took sick and died. She drank too much water.
B: Is there anybody in your family that took the art of midwifery that your
mother was doing?
R: No, nobody but me would go around.
B: How many brothers and sisters do you have?
R: Well, there were ten boys and five girls; now it's just two boys and four
girls, including myself.
B: Now where were you in the family, which number child?
R: Well, there were mostly boys older than me. My older sister was the
oldest girl in the family for seven years, and then I came up. Then
came a baby brother and a baby sister. Two sisters came after me, but one
died. One is living now, and my baby sister and my baby brother.
B: Was being a midwife a very important position then?
R: Oh, yes. She had to go to Tallahassee to school.
B: What did they call her?
R: Midwife Elizabeth, or Mrs. Hughs. Either one. But, most of the time they
said, "I want Granny."
B: Do you recall how much people paid her?
R: Between $5.00 and $20.00.
B: Who decided how much she was paid?
R: In those days, the people didn't have much money. Sometimes they gave her
a bushel of corn or some meat out of the smoke house. They just didn't
pay the midwives money.
B: And she was on call all.the time.
R: Oh, yes. All the time.
B: As a child what did you think about that?
R: I didn't like it because I had to get up and put her shoes on because she
was so large.
B: Why do you think you were the one that had to do this?
R: I could wake up quicker than any of the rest of them. She wanted me to
take after her and go out and catch babies, but I didn't like the
job because the people didn't.
B: Do you know people today that she delivered, who are now adults?
R: Oh, yes. Mabel Harris, and Ladanya Cunningham, and all of my five
B: All of them?
R: She caught all my children.
B: Do you recall anything about your grandparents?
R: Oh, yes. My grandmother was a midwife. She caught babies, but I don't
know whose babies she caught. She caught different babies.
B: Now what was her name?
R: Her name was Sabranie Williams.
B: That was your mother's mother.
R: That's right.
B: Now, was she from here in Gainesville, too?
R: Well, she was born in Hague, Florida, and then she moved to Gainesville.
B: So you had a mother and grandmother who were midwives.
B: Are any of your brothers and sisters in the field now?
R: Nope. I had two aunts who were midwives. I had an aunt named Lily
Mitchel, and one in Miami, whose name was Virginia Lawrence.
B: So, there should be some nurses in your family now.
R: Oh, plenty of nurses. My baby's a nurse.
B: Mrs. Roberts, what do you recall about your childhood besides going with
your mother to deliver babies?
R: Going out to the university, picking up clothes, carrying them home to be
washed, and taking them back.
B: Now, when you said going to the university, you went to pick up laundry?
R: That's right.
B: How did you get it and how did you get it back home?
R: I had to walk and tote those clothes and wash them. We had to wash them
and iron them after dried, and then take them back out to the university
to those boys.
B: And what were you paid? Approximately how much?
R: They paid so many much a shirt and the underclothes. Sometimes we had a
bundle for $1.50, sometimes $2.50, and sometimes $3.00.
B: Let me ask you this question. You say you took them home and washed them.
You did not have machines then?
R: No, we washed on the rub board, then tied them on the line.
B: And how did you iron them? You did not have an iron either.
R: We had an old fashioned iron that sat on the coal pot.
B: Well, now did you fold the shirts, or did you hang them?
R: Oh, yes, I had to fold them up.
B: And then walk back there with them?
R: That's right.
B: And approximately how many of those could you do in a week?
R: Sometimes we had six or seven bundles of clothes to wash and iron and then
go to school.
B: Now did you do this before you went to school or after?
R: We had to carry clothes before we went to school. We would come home, and
pump water after we came back from carrying clothes. Then we went to
school, came back home, and most of the time the clothes were dry. Well,
we had to iron them so we can have them ready for the next morning. That
was rough, too.
B: It was rough, wasn't it?
R: Oh, yes. We had to put socks on our hands for gloves--my sister and I.
B: How did you get that job?
R: Well, by different people. My uncle, Albert Washington, God bless the
dead, was working at a fraternity house and he told Mama that the boys
wanted somebody to do laundry. We did the laundry in that house.
B: Well, let me ask you this. Wasn't it difficult doing those shirts? Did
you have to starch them?
R: Oh, yes. I had to starch them, but it wasn't difficult. I could do
them now if I had an old fashioned iron. Put them on the coal pot, or on
the stove, or on the fireplace.
B: Would they hold the heat long?
R: Oh, yes. Sometimes you iron a shirt with just two hot irons.
B: What do you do for heat? You had to put something around it didn't you?
R: I had to hold it with a rag, a thick rag on the handle, to keep from
burning your hand.
B: Were you paid by the piece, or by the bundle?
R: By the bundle.
B: Were they very responsible in paying the money to you?
R: Some of them would and some of them wouldn't. Most of the time they gave
it to my uncle and he'd bring the money. Some of them beat it; they did
not want to pay and they moved. So, by the time we would get back there
in the afternoon, they'd moved out. They just did not want to pay.
B: Were you a child doing this?
R: Oh, yes. I was a child.
B: Now you said that you did all of this before you went to school. Where
R: Lincoln High School. A Quinn Jones, now.
B: Do you recall any of your school teachers by name?
R: Franklin Jones. He's dead.
B: J. Franklin Jones taught you?
R: Yes, and Reverend Puller. He's dead. B.F. Childs. He's dead. Most of my
teachers are dead.
B: What do you recall about your school days that were interesting. Some
event or some thing that happened in school which sticks in your mind.
R: Well, when I was going to school, I wanted to learn how to cook and I
learned how to do a lot of cooking in school. Arithmetic was all right,
and I learned how to figure and write. I learned that nobody had to write
for me, and my principal was A. Quinn Jones.
B: Was the school day a long day, or was it a half day?
R: We'd be to school at eight and out at three o'clock.
B: What did you do for lunch?
R: Oh, they had lunches. We didn't take our lunch. We had a cafeteria.
B: Was it important for you to go to school then?
R: Oh, yes. We had to go.
R: That was the law. We had to go.
B: How a far did you go at Lincoln?
R: Eighth grade. I stopped in the eighth grade.
R: There were five of us going to school and it was just too hard on my mama.
She wasn't making that much money. My daddy was sharecropping and he
wasn't making much. And I got tired borrowing the other two children's
S: So, what did you do?
R: Quit school.
B: And did what?.
R: Stayed home and washed and ironed for people. I worked for a Jewish lady
and she wasn't paying nothing, $1.50 per week.
B: And how often did you go?
R: From Monday until Saturday. And on Friday I had to get up early because
she didn't like me to light on a Friday. That was her Saturday.
B: When you say light, what do you mean?
R: I had to scratch a match and turn on the gas stove.
B: Now did you work for her every day?
R: I got tired and quit.
B: And after you quit, what else did you do?
R: I just stayed home and kept house for my mama.
B: Now where was home for you then?
R: 1154 Northwest Church Street, between Seventh Street and Eighth Street, but
it's Tenth Street and Twelfth Street now. It is in a little alley.
B: So that's where you lived then with your mother.
R: That's right.
B: Now, how young were you when you moved from Hague to Gainesville?
R: Oh, I might have been about nine or ten.
B: What was the Fifth Avenue area like then when you lived on Church Street?
What was that community like?
R: It was nice and quiet. They called it Old Seminary Street back in those
B: What do you remember about the street? Is there anything standing now,
that was there then? What was the street like then?
R: Well, the big house one the corner of Tenth Street and Fifth Avenue was
there. Reverend White's big house, and the Glove and Gidd shop, and Mr.
B: All right. Now, let's back up. You said the Glove and Gill what?
R: The hauling store, when we were coming up.
B: They had a store there?
R: Yes, downstairs, and they danced upstairs.
B: Now, Haines was where?
R: On the corner of Fifth Avenue and old Sixth Street, but it's Eighth Street
B: What was that? Was it like a little supermarket?
R: Big. Sold groceries on one side and meat on the other.
B: How did people buy groceries then when they had very little money?
R: Mr. Haines was a reasonable man. He was white, but he was a reasonable
man. You could take, I'll say $1.00, and come back with more than you do
now with $10.00.
B: In talking to one of the other ladies, they said that you could go in
there sometimes and could buy a nickle's worth of this...
R: That's right. Take a quarter and get a nickle's worth of rice, dime's
worth of pan sausage, and a loaf of bread. And when you would come out
you had more than you have now when you go to the stores. Sometimes you
go to the stores. Sometimes you go to the store now and spend $40.00 and
don't see nothing you bought.
B: That is right. Are there any other places on Fifth Avenue, called then
Old Seminary Lane, that you remember?
R: Yes, the Rock Front Store, right where Mom's Kitchen is now. Right in
that little place in there was Mrs. Gillis's store. She ran the fish
market. You could take $1.00 and get just as much fish as you wanted to
eat for $1.00.
B: Now you said the Rock Front Store. Was that a supermarket?
R: That was a supermarket.
B: Where was the theatre located then?
R: The theatre was down there near the barber shop and taxi cab stand. It
was back over in there. Then they moved that down across the railroad
tracks; they were called the T and J Railroad tracks.
B: What did children do for entertainment? How did you entertain yourselves?
R: We would go from Grandma's house, back to my house and to my aunt's
B: Now where did your grandmother live?
R: She lived on Fifth Avenue where Little Seminary Street was.
B: So you had your mama and your grandmama.
R: All I had to do was go right across the field to Grandma's house.
B: Where did your aunt live?
R: Well, she lived off of Thirteenth Street. It was Twelfth Street then.
Her name was Daisy Williams.
B: She was my grandmother.
R: That's right.
B: When did Janie Hugh--your family name was Hugh--become a Roberts?
R: I married Dave Roberts back in 1934.
B: Tell me something about your wedding.
R: I just had a common little old wedding. I was supposed to marry in the
parsonage, but they wouldn't let me, so I married in the church. I stayed
with him for forty-eight years and mothered ten children, raised eight.
B: Now you got married in a church. Do you remember the day?
R: Yes. My goodness.
B: Tell me something about it, what you wore, who was there.
R: I had on all white, the church was full, and I married March 18, 1934. It
was on a Sunday afternoon.
B: You had a wedding.
R: Yes, a little cheap wedding, but it wasn't supposed to have been in the
B: Who gave you away?
R: My mother.
B: Was there a honeymoon?
R: No honeymoon. I had my honeymoon after I was married about twenty-five
B: When you got married on the 18th of March on a Sunday, what time was it?
R: Six o'clock.
B: Did you have a reception?
R: That Monday.
B: Where did you have that?
R: At my mother's house.
B: Do you remember what you served?
R: It was cake and ice cream and chicken.
B: Then where did you live?
R: I lived on Church Street. I can't remember the number now. But mother
shared. God bless the dead. That's where I stayed for about three
months. Then I moved from her house and moved to Grove Lane. I don't
remember that number either. From there I moved to Pleasant Street, in
1936, but its Second Street now. Then I moved from there to Sixth Avenue.
I cannot remember that number. Then I stayed there until I moved to 837
B: Where is Columbus Street today?
R: That's Seventh Avenue.
B: And you were there until you moved here?
B: What did your husband do?
R: He was a janitor and a plumber.
B: Did he stay busy?
R: Oh, yes. Night and day.
B: And what did you do?
R: I was a housewife.
B: Which means what?
R: Staying home, tending to the children.
B: You said that when you were in school that you wanted to learn to cook.
Did you learn to cook?
R: Oh, yes. I knew how to cook.
B: Give me two or three basic recipes that you call favorite things that you
can cook well in the old fashioned style.
R: From scratch?
B: Scratch. That's what I want to call it. From scratch, from nothing.
R: I can bake cakes from scratch and cookies from scratch.
B: I read somewhere where people used to use molasses and syrup for...
R: Oh, yes. Molasses and sugar makes good old-fashioned cookies. You mix
that together and you shorten it. You mix it up just like you're making
up biscuits and then you roll them out and cut them.
B: Do you prefer to cook with electricity over wood?
R: I love my wood stove, still cook on it.
B: You mean you cook on one today?
R: Oh, yes.
B: What's good about it? What do you like about it?
R: It don't cook too fast. It cooks slow, and the food tastes better.
B: But now how do you control the heat from getting too hot?
R: Well, you don't put too much wood in it, and when you put your fire in
there if you're going to bake, you have a damper, you push it a
certain way and you bake under the bottom and top.
B: So you actually still cook on a wood stove today.
R: That's right.
B: Can you cook everything on that stove?
R: Anything I want to fix, I can fix on that wood stove. People say they
don't see how I do it, but I can. When you get used to cooking on a wood
stove, tell you the truth, it tastes better than they way food cooks with
gas or electricity.
B: Doesn't it take longer?
R: No longer. All you got to do is to have good wood to put in there.
B: To keep it going?
R: That's right.
B: That also kept your house warm in the winter months.
R: That's right. I just like a wood stove. When you put that fire in that
wood stove, if you are going to cook rice or greens, or going to bake
bread, when the stove gets hot you can put it all in the oven, put all
that on. Don't have to keep lighting caps, and the food will stay warmer.
If you go off, it'll stay warmer. I can put maybe two pieces of oak wood
and put some boiled food on there. I can go to the store uptown and come
back and that food will still be cooking and it wouldn't be burnt. That's
why I loved the wood stove.
B: Because I guess it's regulated.
R: For it will burn, but it'll go out. (laughter)
B: That is true. It will go out. So you're safe on that. What have you
seen change that you feel has been for the better? Do you think it's
been delightful that you've seen something change?
R: Well, the bathroom inside the house and electricity, and catching the
buses going different places. Now you don't have to go way in the back,
you can sit anywhere on the bus. You can go in these cafes. You walk in
and order just like the other man orders.
B: Well, did you have a problem doing that years ago?
R: Oh, yes. Sometimes you stand up there so long and you still didn't get
B: How did you, as a housewife, handle so many children? With eight children
did you find it difficult, or were you able to feel that you had a
R: Oh, yes. I had a comfortable life because I had my children trained.
The big ones could tend to the little ones, and if I went anywhere, I
carried every one of them with me, walking.
B: All of them?
R: Every one of them. I didn't leave one home, unless their daddy was home.
People used to call me Pharaoh's army, but I said, "Yes, but I won't get
B: So you took children everywhere you went?
R: That's right.
B: Now why did you do that?
R: Well, our mama always said, "If you have your children with you, you don't
have to hurry back." So, I decided I'd carry mine with me. If anything
happened, they'd be right with me. I wouldn't have to be wondering if
B: Give me the children's names and where they are, if you don't mind.
R: Joseph Roberts is in Camden, New Jersey; Jerry Roberts is in Pensacola,
Florida; David L. Roberts is in Camden, New Jersey; James E. Roberts, is
in Asheville, North Carolina; Carl Roberts, is in Gainesville; Edna
Roberts, is in Pensacola, Florida; Bobby Jean Roberts is in Gainesville;
and Arthur Leroy Roberts is in Gainesville.
B: Do you have any grandchildren?
R: Oh, I have about thirty.
B: Any great-grand children?
B: What about this area right here. Have you seen a great deal of change?
R: Well, in here and across the street there wasn't nothing but a swamp, when
I moved here. There wasn't nothing across there. So now it's nice, but
still they want to buy all of this along in here, but I am not ready to
R: Because I'm like my husband. I want to enjoy it a little while longer.
B: And you've been in this house how long?
R: Since 1954.
B: Did your husband build this house?
R: Yes, he did.
B: He built it for you and you raised all the children here?
R: I raised all of them here, until they were grown and didn't want to mind,
so they went out and daddy paid for a room for them to stay in.
B: Mrs. Roberts, it's known that the average black person has a very strong
belief in Christ. Were you very much involved in the church?
R: Oh, yes. I just loved going to church.
B: Tell me something about your religious background.
R: First, my daddy could go to Mount Pleasant Church, but my mother couldn't
because she was too dark.
B: Say that again.
R: My father could go to Mount Pleasant Church because he was light, but my
mother couldn't go to Mount Pleasant Church because she was too dark.
B: Now explain that to me. Where was the church?
R: Where it is now. On Pleasant Street, Second Street now.
B: That was a church for the high-complected?
R: Oh, yes. So finally they got it where black and mulatto peoples could go.
And we would go to Sunday School there. Raised up in there going to
Sunday School. But after my mother got saved, she started going to the
B: Now where was that church locatated?
R: On Eighth Street. After that, well, Elder Henry William came and he put
up a tent on Fifth Avenue, and we all got in there and stayed. My mother
was there till she died. My father was there till he died and then Bishop
Williams moved from Fifth Avenue to Seventh--to Old Columbus Street--on
the corner of Sixth Street. Right where Bethel church is now. Put up a
tent there until they built the church we are in now.
B: And the church you're in now is what church?
R: Church of God and Christ. William's Temple, Church of God and Christ.
R: He would go there, but he did not belong to it.
B: You said he was light-complected. Was he mixed?
R: Yes. He was Indian, half-Indian and half-yankee. His daddy was a yankee
and his mother was a full-blooded Indian.
B: Did you ever see his mother?
R: No. She died at the age of thirty-five. Had eight children when she
died. But I remember my granddaddy on my father's side. You couldn't
tell him from a white man.
B: What was his name?
R: His name was George Hughs and he died at Wades, Florida.
B: Where's Wades, Florida?
R: Between Newberry and High Spring, a little town.
B: You said he was also mixed?
R: He was a yankee. I say he's a white man. His original home was up in
Asheville, North Carolina. That's where he came from. He stole a squaw
and came to Florida.
B: Stole him a what?
R: A squaw. That's what they call a little young Indian girl.
B: He came here and that's how the family got to this part?
B: I find that interesting. Do you have photographs of your father?
R: I did. Yes. I have one.
B: Do you have any of the grandparents?
R: Papa's picture.
B: During the early years is there any event that happened that sticks in
your mind that was unpleasant or pleasant concerning the blacks and the
whites? I mean you hear about things, you read about the problems blacks
had years ago--was there anything you came into contact with that was not
R: Well, where we were living at, white folks lived right in front of us. The
first lady was a very nice lady, and the next lady stayed in the house.
She had a little boy and he was a bad little rascal. I could be scrubbing
the front porch and he'd come out of his yard and throw sand on
the porch. Now I didn't make it better or worse. I just took and
stuck the broom in the water and just rinsed my porch off, just like I
didn't see him till he started hollering and Mama called him. There was
another set of white folks that stayed across from us.
B: Now when you say across, this is on Church Street?
R: On Church Street. This man was the ice man. He was so mean that he
didn't want you to go to his truck and get a little piece of ice to cool
off with, but still we were buying ice from him. One day I never will
forget it, his wife called my mother. His daughter was dying. When Mama
got there, he ran her out of his house, and Mama said, "All right. I'll
go, but you better be glad for me to be here with your daughter." She had
washed her head when her period was on, and she had turned dark. After
my mama returned home, well his wife called her and wanted her to come
back. Mama said, "No, I won't come back." Then he had to come and beg my
mother to come back, and she put her in some good hot water and started her
monthly periods back on. She come back to herself because she was dying.
B: So there were times that your mother would go to people's houses but they
didn't want her there.
R: The lady was nice, but that man wasn't.
B: When she went to deliver, when she went to see about sick children or to
young ladies, did she walk in the front door, or did she go in the back?
How was she treated?
R: No. She had to go in the back door. We lived right behind them, and Mama
would just go right on in the back door. I went with her too, and I was
looking at all that myself.
B: Were you?
R: Yes, I sure was. I told her. "Come on Mama, let's go home. That man
don't want you in his house. If his daughter dies, it's his fault."
B: Was there ever a time that she went to someone's house to "catch a baby,"
but they didn't treat her right, and she would leave?
R: No, everybody wanted her to catch their babies. They were nice to her.
There was a lady out on Eunice Lake. Somebody told her about my mother.
She was a white lady. The doctor said she had a tumor, but she told him,
well, I'll try somebody else. She wouldn't go back to the doctor. She
came and got my mother. In nine months time, her husband came and got my
mother. She had an eight-pound daughter. That was a pretty baby.
B: Did any of your experience with your mother help you with your children?
R: Oh, yes.
R: I didn't have to take one child to the hospital for nothing. I knew how
to do for my babies.
B: Tell me some of the remedies that you use now for medication or to help
R: Well, my old Doctor Laskus--he's dead now--was a white doctor. He always
taught me to give a little child with a cold cod liver oil and orange
juice, and grease their little chests with granny salve or mentholated
salve and that's what I did for my eight children. They never had to go
to the hospital. The only time they went to a doctor is when they got
hurt, like a cut. No more than that, they didn't go to no doctor.
B: What other kind of remedies did you use.
R: Well, I'll use honey and a little lemon juice, that's good for a cold.
And I'll use, not sassafras, but rabbit tobacco. That's something you
cannot get now.
B: What is it called?
R: Most people call it rabbit tobacco. Now and then you find it since they
burned the woods off.
B: You mean there was a place you could pull it up?
R: Yes, and let it dry.
B: What was that good for?
R: For a cold.
B: Now what did you do for ladies that had female problems or high blood
R: Well, I don't know about pressure, but you could use Ractor's lemonade or
take about half a teaspoon full of vinegar. For female troubles,
sometimes you could just fix some cinnamon tea and let it get cold and
just drink a tablespoon full. That's all I did when I was coming up and
having my babies. And they had danger tea to save your babies if you
wanted them. You'd have to count so many leaves, from one to eight, and
the ninth leaf, you drop in some good boiling water and let it get cold
and drink it. And you can hold our babies.
B: What do you mean "hold your babies"?
R: Like if you're losing them, they won't come out of bed. They'll stay
there. Have I done that? Yes. I have sent it from Camden, New Jersey,
to Tallahassee to Jacksonville.
B: Now explain that to me. What do you mean about you sent it away. People
have asked you for it?
R: My son, Jerry, his wife was threatening to lose their baby and he said
Mama, send me some of that stuff good to hold the baby. And I sent him
some. Another friend of mine asked me. I had to send my sister some.
The old midwife told her say, if you can get you some tanger tea and do
what they tell you to do, you'll hold your baby. Well, I had to get some
and sent to my sister.
B: Where do you find this leaf?
R: Well, I used to grow a lot of it. I had a friend that had a lot of it,
and so that's where I get it from. A girl in Jacksoville, her mother
came, God bless the dead, Sister Bryant, she came to save her daughter,
Naomi's, first child. I had to get some of that same tanger, tell her how
to fix it, and she has her daughter now.
B: Now how do you say you did that?
R: You count from one to eight and that ninth leaf, you don't count. Just
drop it in the pot of hot water, boiling water, and let it boil. Drain it
off, put in the refrigerator and just drink a spoonful and lay down.
B: That'll keep the baby.
B: That's if your friends are losing babies. What about those persons who
are having problems with miscarriages? Did you find a lot ladies then
were having problems with miscarriages?
R: Oh, yes. Plenty of them. But some of them didn't want them anyhow. The
midwife used to rub the baby up, put a band on them, and time you turn
your back, the band off them and they in the streets. So they didn't want
B: When your mother delivered a child, and after the cord broke or dropped,
that meant the child was okay and everything was fine.
R: That's right.
B: But now if she delivered a child and a child was ill, what did she do with
it? Go to the doctor or what?
R: Sent her to a doctor.
B: She referred it to a doctor?
R: But all of her babies born were healthy babies. They were born healthy.
Then if something happened to them after she was done, after a month's
time, oh, I say about two weeks' time, she is going to have nothing to do
with the babies. That's the mother's job then.
B: Now did these ladies engage your mother when they got pregnant, or just
before they had the baby?
R: No, while they were pregnant. She had to take them to the clinic every
month or every other month. I was right along there with them, going for
B: She sort of worked along with them up through the ninth month of their
R: That's right. They had to go to the doctor, and if they didn't go to the
doctor, she couldn't wait on them.
B: Oh, really.
R: No, if you didn't go to no doctor, you didn't get waited on, unless you
went to the doctor for the doctor to catch the baby.
B: Now why was that?
R: It started being against the law. They was so much a syphilis then and
they didn' want midwives to catch that. So, if girls or ladies didn't go
to the doctor, the midwife couldn't wait on them.
B: What an interesting experience. In traveling around, you mention about
taking your children with you. Did you drive?
R: No. Walk. Sometimes I had a stroller and sometimes I didn't. I go to
the grocery store and carried everyone of them with me. Each one tote a
package coming back home. All but the knee baby and the arm baby. The
little baby in my arm and the knee baby holding on to my dress tail.
B: Now where was the store from here? Where did you go to shop?
R: I would go to Haines' store and Winn Dixie.
B: You mentioned just awhile ago about the refrigerator. You said that you
used a wood stove. Do you use a refrigerator or an icebox?
R: No, refrigerator.
B: Why did you change. Why do you have a wood stove and a refrigerator?
R: It was hard to get ice. Had to run that ice so I decided I'd get me a
refrigerator. But it wasn't hard to get wood because my husband did a lot
of carpentry and I would have all that wood.
B: Did the iceman delver ice to the house, or did you have to go to the ice
R: No, he delivered.
B: What did it cost? Do you recall?
R: I think it was twenty-five or thirty cents for twenty-five pounds, and
fifty or sixty cents for fifty pounds.
B: And about how long would that last?
R: I'll say that night and the day if you didn't wrap it with newspaper.
B: You had to buy it that often?
R: Every day. Just order fifty pounds a day. You come back the next
morning, I had to get twenty-five more pounds. You couldn't just say keep
no good fresh meat. So I told my husband, you just have to go one and get
a refrigerator because I got tired. I have to wait till you go to the
store and come back home and cook.
B: Back to the role of the midwife, and I find that part very interesting,
what was being used for feeding the babies?
R: Breasts. titty.
B: They didn't use much bottled milk?
R: No. Long in then you didn't see baby bottles. Most of the time you give
the baby water out of a spoon, and then they had nipples that could fit
over a soda water bottle. But I nursed my babies.
B: Did your mother encourage that among the young ladies?
R: That's right.
B: I've heard or read about a lot of things that ladies could not do after
they gave birth. You had to walk around the house so many tiems or you
couldn't get out of the bed.
R: Couldn't get out of the bed for a week and then when that week was up, you
put on a hat and according to how the weather was, go around the house and
come back in. Then you can go out and hang up your baby, but you couldn't
lift nothing heavier than your baby. You wasn't allowed to sweep under
your bed. Didn't let nobody sweep under the bed, just sweep around it,
till that baby is a month old, or you'll suffer with your back. And when
the babies are born, bind the babies up and bind you up. But now they
don't bind them up.
B: Now you say bind them up, what do you mean by that?
R: Piece of cloth or big piece of sheet to put around the mother, and we had
to make little binds to put around the baby, but they don't do that no
B: What were they doing that for?
R: Make the baby's back strong and hold that new cord up so it'll be fixed.
So when the baby pee, it would rot that cord off. Well, girl babies
stayed on longer than a boy because a boy don't set up, he just wet and
rot it off. Then you couldn't let that cord hit the floor. If you did,
that baby would pee the bed, so they say.
B: What about eating? Did you have certain things that the girls couldn't
R: Well, you couldn't eat nothing inside of nothing, like liver. You
couldn't eat nothing that come out of inside anything, like liver or
chitlins. You couldn't eat onions, and wasn't supposed to eat no cabbage.
You could eat greens after a week's time, and they didn't allow you to eat
fish until about two week's time because you'll drink too much water. By
eating fish, that fish wants to swim, and you'll just drink more water
than you are supposed to drink.
B: My goodness. Did people really follow these rules?
R: I followed them. I don't know about the other people now. But I followed
them. After my mother died, I had five more children. Mrs. Alice Lindsey
caught those and I done just what she say. Her rules were just like
Mama's. But a lot of people didn't follow them up. That's the reason
they can't hardly get around today.
B: So they told you those things. They came to deliver those babies and it
was up to you to follow them.
R: That's right. Then when they put that bind on you, they'll come back if
you didn't have nobody to make your bed up. Give you warm water if
somebody wasn't there to give it to you to take your sponge off. Then you
get back in your bed. Then they'll mash your stomach some more and put
another clean bind on you.
B: The midwife did that?
R: That's right.
B: And approximately how long did they continue to do these processes?
R: Well, about one weeks' time.
B: What was the purpose of walking around the house?
R: Well, you walk yourself around the house after the baby is a week old.
B: Why did they make you do that?
R: I don't know. So when they hit the air, it won't worry you. Go around
the house and come back. Then you can go outdoors, you could wash the
baby's little clothes by your hand if you didn't have somebody else to do
it, but no big washing.
B: Did you see ladies carrying their babies out a lot then like you do now?
R: No. Babies going out now soon as they are a week old. The mama out
with her baby that is only two weeks old. I tell 'em quick. My grandma
said, "Child, get in the house."
B: How long did they make you stay in before you went out of the house?
R: A month. I didn't leave my yard until a month's time with all eight of my
babies. Those that were living and dead, I done the same thing. See I had
a miscarriage and then I had a stillborn, so I'm the mother of ten, but I
raised eight, and I stayed in just like they told me.
B: A month?
R: A month. That's when you are supposed to go out, at the end of six weeks
time. The doctors won't let you come to their office until six weeks
B: Well, that's most interesting. With your children and your husband being
out working, did you ever have to go to work with him or do things with
R: Sometimes at night, the people call him to come stop water after the
children left home.
B: Now what do you mean when you say "stop water."
R: The water had busted loose and you have to go cut the water off and he
say, "I won't go unless you go." I would have to put on a heavy coat and
go out with him at night.
B: Now were people fair in paying him for his skills?
R: Sometimes they wouldn't.
B: And when those people didn't pay, what did you do about that?
R: Didn't bother with them no more. Didn't care how much they holler, he
B: What advice would you give a young lady who is going to get married about
staying with a husband and having a family? What advice would you give
her, you being the lady that you were and having lived with your husband so
many years? How many years were you married?
B: Forty-eight years, and been right here. Tell me some things that you will
say to her that you feel is important, or some things that your mother
told you that you followed.
R: My mother told me if I didn't have but one dress, wash it. Stay in the
house 'till it gets dry. Put it on. And everything I got, be sure I got
it on. Don't be around here with these other ladies' boyfriends or the
other ladies' husbands. Stick with your own husband. Stay with him. And
one thing about the young folks now, when they marry, they are just
marrying to get away from home. But if they do what they are supposed to
do--cook that mans food, keep his clothes clean--they could stay together
just like I could.
B: You really think so?
R: I know they would. And some of them marry, they don't want no children.
Then if they have the children, they just throw them here and yonder. But
when you have babies, you are supposed to let them know that you are their
mother. They won't know you are their mother if somebody else is keeping
it all the time. All of mine knew I was their mama because they nursed my
B: For how long?
R: I had them nurse until they got just about all their teeth.
B: Every last one of them?
R: Every one of them.
B: Now, something you just said, then I want to get back to the point. Is it
unusual that you had eight children and didn't let your mother or your
grandmother take them and keep them for you?
B: Why not?
R: Because they weren't their responsibility. It was mine. My children
didn't spend a night in my mam's house. They stayed with me. I was their
friend. So when I wake up, I go in there to look and see them all in bed.
B: So you feel that if the lady does her role at home, we will have better
R: That's right. We really would have better marriages.
B: Do you give this advice?
R: Oh, yes.
B: Do they listen to you?
R: Like I told a friend of mine, I said now you are married. I said, "Honey,
you got to cook that man's food, and you got to do your best work. You
got to keep him clean, and now when he gets to fussing, you don't say
nothing, because he can't fuss by himself."
B: Well now, you were very fortunate. You stayed home and took care of the
children. What about these ladies who are out working and having to come
R: They don't want to stay home, that's all. They make like the man don't
bring enough money home. But let me tell you, when I married, my husband
worked just about a week, sometimes he made $5.00, sometimes he wouldn't.
Sometimes we lived off $1.50.
B: How did you do it with eight children?
R: Well, he was making a little more after we had eight. But then we had two
and if I had to buy a can of milk for them to drink, I don't guess we
could have made it. But you see I was nursing my babies.
B: And that saved them. I've read about "sugar tit."
R: Yes, they say give them that when they are first born because your milk
don't come down until three days time.
B: Oh, really? So what do you do with those first three days?
R: Just have to eat different things and drink plenty of hot tea and things.
B: Well, what do you do about the baby?
R: Well, the baby gets water out of a spoon.
B: On the first day or two, did you ever use the sugar tits method?
R: One of them, the oldest boy, my mother gave him one because he hollered so
B: Now what was that? What is a sugar tit?
R: A little butter with sugar mixed in with it and put in a cloth for him
to suck on. I said nothing.
B: Did your mother ever have to nurse babies?
B: Have you read about black women nursing other people's children?
R: I had the opportunity to do that, but I wouldn't do it.
B: How do you mean?
R: Mr. Coates, when his wife had her little baby, they wanted me to nurse her
baby. Another white friend of hers came and asked me, back in 1937, would
I, because I got so much milk. Will you nurse this little baby for me? I
said, "No ma'am, I can't give you my milk."
B: Now how was she to know you had so much milk?
R: Because she knew me. She came to visit me. That was when Roy was a baby
sometimes I had so much milk, I had to milk it out and throw it out in the
hot sun, so you could save it and give it to her. I said no. I didn't
give her milk.
B: Now were people doing that at that time?
R: Yes. My mama nursed my brother Marion and George Williams together. He
get to Mama, if my brother Marion was sucking titty, mama said, "Marion,
get down and let him suck the titty." Uncle Bubba George, he nursed Mama,
but I ain't never let nobody else's baby nurse me. Nobody but mine.
B: Do you think we'd have healthier children today if they were nursed with
their mothers milk?
R: Yes, they would because there were all kinds of vitamins. Everything that
mother eats, that baby will get it through their milk, but when they are
sucking that old bottle, they ain't getting nothing but that one thing.
That's that milk. That's why babies have such a hard time cutting their
B: Now what did you use when babies were teething?
R: Well, back when I was having mine, we used teething powder. But now they
are using something else. It's something they call Anbesol. But I used
just a regular teething powder, and their bowels, when they start running
off like that baby was doing today, that's all I did with him. Bought
some teething powder.
B: Now because your mother was a midwife and you went with her, were people
ever contacting you to be a babysitter, or to take care of their children
R: No, because I had my own babies. They would come and ask me advice about
babies, and who to get to wait on them, and I could send them to different
people. Why don't you do it? And I said no, you used to go around with
your mama. I said yes, but I don't have a license.
B: Do you remember what a license cost? Would she have to pay for a license?
R: I really don't know. I know it was $25.00 or $50.00, but I know she went
to Tallahassee to school.
B: For how long?
R: I don't know.
B: Was that before she had all of you?
R: No. We were home. She would leave us home with grandma or home with my
daddy and my oldest sister and go to Tallahassee.
B: Does anybody in the family have her tools or her supplies now?
R: No. I think my baby sister gave them to Aunt Lily. I think she gave them
to her because she had the bag, the scissors and everything. I could
have, but I didn't like the job.
B: You didn't like the job. Why did you not like it?
R: Because a lot of young girls act like monkeys. You have to tie them down.
One girl they had to tie her down, she was jumping out the window. I
couldn't be bothered with that.
B: Tell me something about this area. It is said this is the ghetto now, the
low income, bad area. Has that always been true?
R: No. When I first moved here you could sit down on your porch and put
things down and come back. It would be right where you left it at. But
you can't do that now.
B: What you think has brought about that change?
R: Hardheaded children. Parents are not raising their children right.
B: How do you mean?
R: They let them go out and do what they want to do.
B: Is that something that you didn't tolerate?
R: Like now, I have a fig tree. The children steal all the figs off the
tree. I don't ever get one. If the parents are like they were when I was
coming up, teaching the children like my mother taught me, the children
wouldn't do things like that.
D: Do you feel that yours had more respect than they do now?
R: They did. These children got no respect for grown people. They'll
cuss you out in a minute.
B: Why do you think children had respect for grown people then?
R: If an old lady saw you doing something and she would tell you to stop, if
you didn't stop she would come out and whip your tail, then tell you to
go home. And you went home because she came right behind you. You would
go home ahead of her, and then she'd tell your mama what happened, and your
mama give you another one. But now you better not do that. These mothers
would want to kill you.
B: So it's a matter of home raising.
R: That's what it is. Little children like that will cuss you out in a
minute. "You don't tell me what to do. You aren't my mama."
B: And that didn't happen when you were growing up?
R: No, now. Just like when my Mama would go off. She'd leave my oldest
sister in charge. If we didn't do right, she'd tell her to whip us. If
you can't whip them, carry them over to Mama. She would carry us on to
Grandma's house. Grandma would say all right, young ladies, you all come
on in here. I am not going to whip you.
B: How did you relate to the black-white world the way it was when you were a
girl, or when you were raising your children?
R: Well, I always dealt with some nice white folks. Right now if something
goes wrong, all I do is call Mr. Ed Roberts.
B: Youd did have a relationships with whites?
R: That's right.
B: Were you able to go downtown to do your shopping?
R: I could go downtown and do my shopping. They didn't bother me because
when I went downtown to shop, I had all those little children. They were
so glad to play with the little children. They'd say who braid their
hair? I would say, I did. It looked so pretty.
B: So really ou were able to do what you wanted to do providing you just
R: I behaved myself, and I made my children behave themselves. So I didn't
ever have any trouble raising my children. I never did have any trouble
with white children, because I would tell them to stay in this yard and
they stayed in here. They had a quite a few white friends come to see
B: Was that a very difficult time for blacks to live?
R: Amongst the white or with the white?
B: With the white, or just living.
R: Not so bad. Not when I was raising my children. It was not as bad as
when I was coming up, because we couldn't even leave from my Mama's house
and go to the store there on Fifth Avenue. A bunch of men would get at us
in a car, an old model-T Ford. They didn't think nobody stayed in the
B: But now you said you had white neighbors.
R: Now one of them was mean, and the other one was very nice until she moved.
She was nice. She was in my room when my first child was born. A little
before he was born, she had to run home and time she got home, he was
born. She heard him crying, she came back. Some other people who had some
children moved in. They just would come and throw sand on the porch,
especially when we were scrubbin' and this little boy told mama. Mama
said, "If you put some more sand on my porch, I'm going to whip you." He
said, "yes, and I'll mess your hair up." She just had come from the beauty
B: Oh, really? What did you use for scrubbing the floor?
R: Mama made potash soap.
B: How did she make that?
R: Out of grease or tallow. Out of tallow. Fry the fat off of cow meat.
My daddy was working out at the univeristy, agriculture-like, and he
would bring home a lot of beef and stuff and all that old fat. They would
give it to him, and she would fry it out and then make soap.
B: Now you say, fry it out. What do you mean by that?
R: Put it on the stove and cook it.
B: Cook it.
R: Until it turned to grease.
B: And then she cooked the grease and the potash together?
R: Mix potash and the grease together, and put it in the big old iron pot and
B: And that would clean?
R: Clean your clothes and your floors, too. I washed my hair with it. I
sure did. I remember many days, my sister, Gussie, would go, because she
had good hair, and buy shampoo. I'd go out there and heat my water,
I'd go in there and wash my hair and she came and said, "you could have
used some of my shampoo." I said, "Child, I already washed my hair." "What
did you wash your head in?" I said, "Potash soap."
B: Potash soap?
B: So you used to make your own soap?
R: That is right. And when it came down to farming, my daddy raised
everything we ate when we lived out there in Hague settlement. He raised
his coffee, he raised his rice, and they had all different kinds of cane.
We had goats, sheep, a cow, a mule, horses, something you call a guinea
chicken, had a Red Island, Rhode Island Red, had the white one and had the
Dominecker. We raised that, my daddy raised everything that we ate.
B: On the farm?
R: On the farm. Yes, he did, raised everything but white sugar. He made his
own brown sugar.
B: Now how did he make that? I never heard of that before.
R: Out of syrup. He would cook that syrup until it turned to sugar. That's
right. We would have those great big old lard cans. You've seen them big
old lard cans. If you stuffed your meat in the link sausages and you did
not have enough to stuff the other, you fried them balls and dropped them
in the can and pour that grease in there. When you get ready to make a
pan sausage, go out there in the smoke house and get a pan, some pan
sausage, take a spoon, dip it out and leave the grease in there. And you
cook with the grease.
B: And food kept?
R: He would smoke his own meat, my daddy did.
B: You just mentioned about the smoke house, now did they actually put a fire
in the house?
R: You know, they'd light the fire, different kinds of old dry barks and
things, then they let it go down, just like you would barbeque. Let it
go down and just let that smoke. Hang that meat up on long poles, and just
let that meat stay in there and smoke it up.
B: Now is that the same thing as cured meat? When do they use salt on a
R: Well, he would take and get some pine, just green pine tops, and lay that
meat down and put a lot of salt on it. He wouldn't use this regular salt.
He used just rock-like salt, and he put so much on the meat, and then
later he put another pine thing on there. Then he put some more meat, and
you had to separate it. Then later on he'd take all that rock salt off
and put the regular salt on it.
R: We had white bacon, and we had cured meat. Boy, Mama wouldn't let me,
and daddy told her, don't never let me go in the smoke house.
R: Cause I eat the sausage. Just take them and throw them over that pole,
and let them smoke and you could just eat them.
B: Just like that. Did you have problems with animals getting in there?
R: No. It was made out of log. Haven't you ever seen a log cabin?
B: Log cabin?
R: The smoke house was made out of logs, and he had it fixed where nothing
could get in it.
B: If I took you in my car tomorrow, could I take you back to where you were
raised in Hague? Would you remember?
R: All that has been torn down now. I used to know how to get there, to
Hainesberry. Uncle John was staying back over that way, but I would not
know how to go there now.
B: Was the house that you all lived in a large house?
R: Yes. Mama had it padded so we would stay on this side of the highway.
I call it the highway, but it was in the country.
B: Now what do you mean? The house was on one side of the street and she
cooked on across the street?
R: If the house caught fire, we would be safe in the house. That's right.
Now grandma had a big house out there at Hague. I believe it's still
there. I am not sure. It's on the old road. All of them are buried back
over in there, and you had to ask the white man if you could go in there to
B: Did you?
R: Oh, yes. You go in and ask him, and if he said yes, all right. You
go on down, shut the gate back, and then when you get to the right place
you got to hurry. You got to hand them over the fence, and then go back
down out of there.
B: You mean you had to go over the fence to bury the person?
R That's right.
B: Well, let me ask this. I've read where some blacks had funerals, and
they used to have a band, like a marching band at the funeral.
R: Well, they had one for Grandma.
B: Did they?
R: Back there in 1940.
B: Did the band play?
R: Yes, did they play! They played out their little hearts, "When the Saints
Go Marching In." Some was on that side of Sixth Street, and some was on
this side, and we went between them to bury Grandma. Grandma is buried
right up there, up there on the hill.
B: When you say the band, were they there to play music after the funeral was
R: And there by the time we got long in there with her, on Sixth Street but
that was Bonder Street then. But see, in here would be Bonder, but
they named it Eighth Avenue, because Bonder Street didn't come no farther
than that corner with the filling station.
B: That's the corner of Sixth Street and...
R: Old Bonder Street.
B: Eighth Avenue, that was Bonder Street.
R: They stood right on that, so many on that side of the street, so many on
this side. They played their little hearts out. I remember I told them,
"When I die boys, I want you to come and play for me." They said, "We
sure will, Aunt Janie."
B: I want to get something about your family. I haven't discussed that we
are relatives, and we are cousins. My mother and your mother are first
R: Wait a minute, your mother and I are first cousins. My mama's brother
married her mama.
B: So it's my grandaddy and your mama who are sisters and brothers.
R: That's right.
B: Your daddy's name is what?
R: Lexlie Hughs.
B: And your mother?
R: Ella Elisabeth.
B: What was she before she married?
B: A William. All right. And what is your complete name?
R: I sign my name Janie Roberts. Janie H. Roberts.
B: Now what was it when you were born?
R: They say Annie Mary Jane, but I don't know nothing about that. I just use
B: Janie Roberts.
R: I used my initial as my middle name. It stands for Hughes.
B: Hughes. Now your grandmother on your daddy's side?
R: Her name was Jane.
R: I don't know her name before she married grandpa. His name was George
B: Now your grandparents on your mother's side?
R: Ed Williams.
B: Ed Williams, and his wife?
R: Sobranie Williams. I think grandma was a Douglas. I think she was a
Douglas before she married grandpa.
B: Do you know anything about your great-grandparents?
R: Well, I know a little about Grandma Jennie.
B: Now whose mother was that?
B: Did you know her?
R: I remember when she went across that branch, fell in the water, and they
said she was dead.
B: What branch was this?
R: Out there in Hague.
B: And that was your Grandma Jennie?
R: Yes, she was going up to John's house and she said, "Ahhhhhh John." "What
Ma?" "I dead. Didn't you hear me fall in the water, and why you didn't
come see about me?" He said, "Ma, you ain't dead." "Yes, I is too. I
fell in that water. I wooped." Looking back on those days they are
B: Anymore members of your family you remember, any of your other great-
R: No, because I didn't know anything about Grandma's daddy, nor her mama.
B: You live about one block from the police station, do you recall when it
was built, when it moved there, or was it there when you came here?
R: That police station was built back in 1938 or 1939.
B: Right where it is now?
B: Now where was it before then?
R: On the streets where the old police, old post office, back down in there.
It was there then. They moved it and put it across near the water tank
over, what is it on the southeast side.
B: Where was the black hospital or the black clinic when your mother was a
R: All around.
B: Oh, they had several?
R: We all went to the same clinic, white and black.
B: Did you?
R: To the same clinic, but we had a hospital. Miss Jenny Rowe was running
B: Where was that?
R: It's on, it was then old Coat Street, but it's on Third Avenue.
B: And that was a hospital?
R: Yes, that was a hospital. You know where Francis lives?
R: That was the hospital.
B: For blacks?
R: That's right.
B: Now was the lady that you call Jenny Rowe, was she black?
R: That's right. That's where Professor Jones' wife died.
B: Was that the only place blacks could go to? Did you have Alachua General
B: So that's where you all went?
R: I didn't have to go.
B: But that's where it was.
R: The blacks could go in Alachua General Hospital, but see they added on.
Where they added on, that was the tourist camp. People go there
traveling, go there and stay.
B: Where the add-on part is?
R: And that's the house, right back there was an office. This house sitting
right here behind me. Cleo Cunningham bought it and brought it down
Thirteenth Street. He brought it on around and put it back there.
B: This house behind you was what now?
R: It was a tourist camp house. When people stayed in it, they sold candy
and different stuff. We used to go down in Porter's side, and we would get
hot, we'd stop there, and get us a cold drink or run in there and get cold
air. We'd run back out and go on where we were going over in Porter's.
People don't believe it but it is true. If you go in that house, you can
tell it, because up top there they got them little old windows. And
if you go in the store, I guess she had it where she could hear the sound
back in the bedroom, because it's a two-bedroom, living room. Cleo had it
made as a living room and a dining room and a little kitchen and a bath in
there. We used to, they used to let us use the bathroom.
B: Did they?
R: That's right.
B: If you had to leave a statement that you would like to be here for the
next hundred years, what would you have to say to the young people that
would listen to this?
R: Be obedient. Don't bother with that which doesn't belong to them. And
trust in the Lord.
B: Why would you say those two things?
R: That's right. If they would be obedient, they won't have to be in any
trouble at all. And if they trust in the Lord, the Lord will always see
them through, because I know for my own self. If I hadn't been obedient,
I could have been dead today.
B: And you said don't bother what does not belong to them.
R: Because if you bother something that don't belong to you, somebody might
B: Well, I have enjoyed talking with you this evening. Is there anything
else you'd like to share with me that we have not discussed?
R: I don't think so unless you asked me something else I could tell you.
B: Well let me ask you this. Being here, born in Hague, moving to
Gainesville very young, and being here all your life, have you enjoyed
living in Gainesville?
R: No place like here. I call this my home, and if I tell the people where I
was born, they don't know. I say I was born in Newberry.
B: In Newberry? But you like Gainesville?
R: I love it. Don't care where I go, I'm ready to come back when the time
B: Have you had a chance to do a lot of traveling?
R: Oh, yes. I been all up in Camden, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore,
Maryland; Asheville, North Carolina, and Miami, Pensacola, St. Petersburg,
and Orlando. I have been to a lot of places, but there is no place like
home. Because our streets are better than any street I've been on yet,
don't care where I have been.
B: Really, how do you mean that?
R: For walking, the blocks are too long. But these blocks are not so long.
Now, I was right up there in Washington, and if you wore heels like that,
if you didn't watch it and step over, your heel would get stuck in there
between the bricks, and you would be falling. I said now this is a big
city, and those are the worst streets I've ever seen.
B: So you feel that the streets in Gainesville are good.
R: Our streets are nice and smooth. But Washington, if they gave me a home
up there, I wouldn't stay.
R: No, I wouldn't stay in Washington. I don't care. If they can give me a
home anywhere, give me Gainesville.
B: You like Gainesville?
R: Oh, yes.
B: Why do you feel that you have such good roots here? Why do you want to
R: Because I just love Gainesville, and I was raised here. I enjoy it here
better than I do anywhere else I go.
B: Do you think your children eventually will come back here?
R: I don't think so, but some of them well, one day when they get old.
B: Well, Calitha, I referred to you all evening as Mrs. Roberts, but all my
life I've known you as Calitha. I've enjoyed talking to you this evening
and thank you for allowing me to have this interview. You have a good
evening, and I hope you have a pleasant summer. Do you plan on making a
trip this summer?
R: I have been to Washington.
B: You've been to D.C.?
R: I just came back a week ago Monday.
B: Well, how delightful.
R: I might go to Miami, if my boy goes to Miami when his convention
starts next month. If he comes by here and gets me, I might ride with him.
B: Well, you have a good evening.