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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Interviewee: Mrs. Mabel Dorsey
Interviewer: Joel Buchanan
October 8, 1984
B: Good afternoon, Mrs. Dorsey.
D: Good afternoon, Joel.
B: How are you today?
B: Thank you for having me here. Mrs. Dorsey, tell me where Mabel Strong
Dorsey was born and reared.
D: I was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, but I was reared in Rochelle,
Florida near Gainesville.
B: Where is Rochelle from Gainesville?
D: Rochelle is between Hawthorne and Gainesville.
B: So that is east of here?
B: How long were you in Rochelle?
D: We lived in Rochelle until I finished junior high school, and then my
parents moved to Gainesville so we could attend Lincoln High School. At
that time, there was no bus transportation so you had to move in where you
could walk to school. And that is why we moved to Gainesville.
B: Now, you started your first year of school in Rochelle?
B: Tell me something about that experience being in school in Rochelle.
D: It was a typical old-fashioned school with three classrooms. There were
three school teachers and you had one teacher possibly teaching three
grades in one classroom. In fact, you might have fourth, fifth and sixth
in one classroom and then first, second and third in another classroom and
then seventh, eighth and ninth in another classroom. Of course, you had a
principal, and then you had teachers who worked under the principal. So
we stayed in this setting until we finished junior high school. This is
why we moved into Gainesville so we could attend the black school, Lincoln
B: Can you recall your first day at that school in Rochelle?
D: No, I cannot.
B: Do you recall very much about the school?
D: Yes, very much.
B: Is it still there?
D: No, the school has been torn down, and I think the school was sold to a
family, and then the family took the old school and turned it into a
B: You said you had three teachers.
D: I can remember Mrs. Parker, Dr. Parker's wife.
B: You said Dr. Parker. Was that a doctor here in Gainesville?
D: Yes, the only black doctor we had here in Gainesville. His wife, Mrs.
Parker is Dr. Joyce Cosby's grandmother.
B: Oh, she was your teacher.
B: Was the principal stationed at this school in Rochelle?
D: No, they all came into Gainesville by car every day, and they never lived
out there, but they drove in each day to the school.
B: Was this an every day affair or...?
D: Every day you went to school and we had to walk, I would say, on an
average of eight miles round-trip for a day to school. And some mornings
it would be so very cold your feet would be so frozen you could not warm
them by the little wood stove that we had until you sat a while. It would
feel numb and you would have to wait a while before you would really warm
your feet, because the only heat they had was the wood stove and the kids
would gather around the wood stove.
B: What caused you to walk these eight miles?
D: Because my mother believed in education and she always said that she
wanted us to go to school and receive more education than she had. So, it
was one of these things that it was a must in her household, that you had
to go to school and we loved going to school. So, it was no problem for
us to get up and walk to school. We always got certificates for perfect
B: So you enjoyed school.
D: I enjoyed it very much.
B: Is there any event that is prominent in your mind that happened during
those first four or five years at Rochelle?
D: The one thing that I remember most was the unity that existed between the
parents and the teachers. The teachers were very interested in the
children and they worked very closely with the parents and there were
times when the teacher would spend nights in our home. Rather than going
back to Gainesville, she would come out and have dinner and just stay all
night. When there were activities at the school, I can remember those
family type activities, where all the parents and the children would come
together and have an evening of fun. And I can remember that you had to
get your lesson, the teachers did not play with you. In other words, you
had to have that lesson. And if you did something wrong in school they
told your mother. You got a whipping at school and then you got a
whipping when you got home, because the teacher and the parent worked
together as a team rather than a separate entity. They worked together as
a team to accomplish what they had set out to accomplish.
B: Was the schoolhouse red?
D: No, it was white.
B: And what was the name of the school?
D: Rochelle Elementary School.
B: Let's go back to before you moved to Gainesville for the schooling. Tell
me something about your parents.
D: My parents both were very interested in our achieving in school and
achieving an education, and I can remember the most prominent thing in my
mind was the family unity that we had, and especially the family
relationship that existed between mother, father and children. They were
all concerned about having a very happy family life. We planned
entertainments together, and there were times when we would even have
programs together at night where someone would take part. My sister and I
would sing a duet and maybe the boys would recite. There were times when
my father and I would get up around four o'clock in the morning and go
down into the canal, and by the time we would catch the fish, then mother
and the other children would come down with the frying pan and the lard
and all the other goodies that would go along to make a good fish dinner.
And we would cook the fish right down there on the lake and just have a
good time. This was the type of outing for the entire family because we
had no car and there was not T.V. and radio during those times, so you had
to make your own fun. And another thing we used to do was race, sometimes
a half a mile. Momma, Dad and all the children just raced to a certain
point and then raced back to see who could be the winner. And we played
games at night with Mom and Dad always getting into the fun. They did not
separate themselves from us. We all did it together. We went to church
together and whatever we did, we did it together. And there was a
togetherness that I can remember. And I think it went kind of hard with
my brothers even after they left home. They felt they could create that
same kind of family life within their own homes and they were not able to
do that. And it made them very unhappy because they felt that they could
have the same type of home life that my mom had created in her home and
they were trying to find a wife just like my mom and they were not
B: Tell me your mother's name.
D: My mother's name is Elverine Strong.
B: And where was she from?
D: Columbus, Georgia.
B: And your father?
D: My father was Walter Strong and of course he came from Rochelle. That is
why we were in Rochelle. He met my mother in Atlanta, Georgia. He was in
the service at that time, and of course they married and he brought her
back to Rochelle, Florida. And that is why she got out of Georgia down
here in Florida.
B: How many brothers and sisters are in your family?
D: I have two brothers and one sister.
B: What number are you in the family?
D: I am the second.
B: How did you stand out among your brothers and sisters? Was there anything
unique about you? What was unique about Mabel that made her stick out
when she was with her brothers and sisters in the household?
D: I was considered the little leader. I could always organize and get
things together and get it going.
B: And did you do that?
D: I did. Even as a little girl I organized clubs and get those things going
and was always the little leader among the group.
B: Could you take me back to the buildings or the place where the school was?
D: Yes, I could.
B: Are these still persons that were in school with you that are still in
Rochelle that you are aware of?
D: Yes, still in Rochelle.
B: Now, tell me something about the moving to Gainesville.
D: Well, it was hard to get Dad to leave Rochelle. He loved Rochelle, but
my mother was determined to come to Gainesville so we could go to school.
So, she just got up one morning and told him we were going to Gainesville
and to find a house so that we can move. He was determined not to leave
his home. So, Momma came over here and it took them all day long, but
when she came back she said I found a house and in the morning we are
leaving Rochelle and we are going to Gainesville. And that is how it was
B: You left Rochelle because of educational reasons.
D: That was the main reason that my mother left, so we could get to high
B: For all the children that lived in Rochelle, the highest grade for them to
go was what?
D: Ninth grade. You graduated from eighth grade and going into ninth grade
you had to attend Lincoln High School and there were kids out there who
were able to come into town and room with people. For instance, I know
you are familiar with the Halls in Rochelle. Well, they came into town
and roomed so they could go. Their families were steadfast and they did
not move into Gainesville. So, they would come in and room and attend the
Lincoln High School. But my parents were not able to pay the room and
board, so she thought it was cheaper to just move to Gainesville. So this
is why she moved so that we could attend high school. Because if we had
to stay there, our education would have been at the eighth grade level.
B: Were you allowed to teach with the eighth grade education at that time?
D: At that time, people were substituting. They were not eighth grade
level not the teachers, but I think they were allowed to substitute in the
classroom with an eighth or ninth grade education.
B: After getting in Gainesville, what interested Mabel Dorsey about the move?
D: Well, the thing that excited me the most was a large high school with a
lot of classrooms and different teachers where you did not have to stay in
one room all day long. You know where you would move from class to class
and you had different teachers, not just one school teacher all day.
Because in Rochelle, you were taught all subjects by one teacher whether
they were certified or not, that teacher taught across the board. She
taught everything. But here you moved to mathematics, you had English,
you had history, you had different teachers teaching different subjects.
And that was exciting to me to be able to move around and to have more
extra-curricular activities, teachers, football and those types of things
were exciting. Because we just did not have these things at a little
country elementary school.
B: Where did you all move to when you moved to Gainesville?
D: We lived at 1206 Northwest Church Street.
B: Now, Church Street, what is that street now?
D: I cannot remember, but I will tell you it was right behind that water tank
on Fifth Avenue. In fact, the new apartments are sitting right in the
back yard where I was reared. I have been down there just to look at it.
B: There was a street back in there that is no longer there.
D: In fact, I was reared in an integrated neighborhood. There were only
three black families down there. That was my family, the Hughes family
and the Blount family. But our neighbors were white neighbors, so I was
really living in an integrated neighborhood long before integration came
about. But even today, I know most of them. I met one young guy that was
reared with me at a trustee board meeting and stock about three months
ago. And he kept looking at me and I kept looking at him. Finally, he
said, "Aren't you Mabel Strong?" And I said, "Aren't you Jimmy?" But we
were reared together back then.
B: You spoke about your family life and the unity that you had there.
How did that carry over in the school after you transferred here to
Lincoln? Did you find the same kind of commitment by teachers that was in
Rochelle here at Gainesville when you transferred?
D: The same type of commitment. Those teachers if you did not do right or
you did not get your lessons, that relationship between teacher and parent
still existed. In fact, it was a requirement that the teacher had to
visit the child's home and every teacher visited your home to meet your
parents, to see where you lived. A report was constantly going home about
your behavior, about how you were doing in classes. That same type of
interest existed. And I think this is why when I became a teacher, I
followed suit because it was that type of thing that helped me to become
what I was.
B: What did you mother do, Mrs. Dorsey?
D: My mother was a maid. She worked for one lady for twenty-five years, a
B: Do you think that helped you get where you are today?
D: I think so. In fact, I know it did, because she did not want me to do
what she was doing. In fact, the one thing she always said. "I do not
want you to do the type of work that I am doing." They were underpaid,
the hours were long, and I sit now and wonder sometimes how did she make it
with what she was receiving. Yet, she did it. But things were different.
They were not as expensive as they are now, but she did it for twenty-five
years. And I think her pay was something like twenty-five dollars a
month. Twenty-five or thirty dollars a month. And she worked. She did
the cooking, the cleaning, everything. But she enjoyed it because the
lady was a very good lady and she had an interest in us. Anything that
Mom wanted, she could get it. If she needed to borrow money to help us in
school, she would loan her money. She had a very deep interest in her
family, and I think that is the one reason why she stayed so long because
it went beyond just a maid.
B: What else was important in your life besides school?
D: You want me to be frank with you?
D: During that time, the source of entertainment, the source of activity, the
source of everything about a black child's life was centered around the
school and the church. Because you had no other activity outside of this.
And I would say the 4-H club. I was a member of the 4-H club at that
time. And in Lincoln High School there were clubs that you could belong
to and one thing that really stands out in my mind is the fact that I
could sing and during those years in high school we had a quartet, the
Lincoln High School Quartet. It was composed of myself, my sister,
Pauline Holmes and Marjorie Stanley and we would sing throughout this
county. From my being able to sing, through 4-H club, I received a
scholarship to attend Bethune-Cookman College and Mrs. MacKenzie, who was
the home demonstration agent at that time took a genuine interest in my
sister and I. We became members of the 4-H club and we would go to camp,
from camp we would go to short courses in Tallahassee, which afforded us
many opportunities that we could not have had if we had not become a
member of the 4-H club. So, my whole life was centered around church
activities because in church I was a member of the choir. I was secretary
of the DYPU, and we would go to the little conference and meetings that
the churches would hold throughout the county. So, really my whole life
was centered around the church and the school, which afforded me some very
B: Now, were the leaders of the church involved in the school activities in
D: Yes, they were always a part of the PTA. You see at that time you had a
strong PTA and they were the church leaders and the ministers, everybody
was a part of the PTA. The church and the school working together to
achieve whatever was set about to achieve.
B: You read now in many textbooks about black schools not having the
involvement of the parents and the problems of getting children to go to
school or stay in school. Can you recall, where children eager to go to
school then or did they have to go?
D: They were eager to go to school. You must remember I said that the school
was the only thing we had. The football games, the basketball games, the
plays, the dances, the school afforded everything for the community.
D: And they were big balls.
B: Were they?
B: So, Fifth Avenue was a hopping place then?
D: Oh yes, it was the center of black entertainment.
B: Did it have the same connotation it has today.
D: Not as bad, but you had to be careful. Because when soldiers would come
into town they would congregate down of Fifth Avenue and parents were a
little leary about their daughters going down Fifth Avenue. But we never
ran into any trouble. So, it was not nearly as bad as it is now.
B: In shopping as a girl with your mother, can you recall going downtown to
shop with them and not being able to go into stores?
D: Yes, you could always go into stores, but you could not try the clothes
on. Not in the white fitting rooms. But if you were allowed to try on
clothes, they gave you some little dark hole or something in which to try
your clothes on. Some stores did not allow you to try on hats. I can
remember at Wilson's, if you tried on a hat, you had to cover your head
with a piece of white tissue and then put the hat on. And many times, I
never tried on one. I just said I can wear it. And even today, I think I
still think like that. I do not try on a hat. I know what kind of hat I
can wear. I just pick up the hat and come right out and come home.
B: As a young lady coming up, that did not worry you because it was separate?
D: Yes, it worried me a lot. I think this is why I got involved in the NAACP
and the Human Relations Council, and that kind of thing because I really
wanted to see a change. I really did not want to see my child come
through what I had lived through.
B: Have you seen a change?
D: Yes. I have seen a great change, but not the changes I would like to see.
I think we came to a certain latitude in changes and I think we, as black
people, thought that we really had reached what we wanted and we relaxed.
And when we relaxed, they took what we had, what we had accepted. And I
think that we have become a little bit too relaxed and we still cannot
relax. We still have got to be in there fighting to achieve what we
really would like to see our children enjoy and when I say this, I am
talking about the job market. Because I think we have been accepted in
hotels and that kind of thing, because if we have the money to pay for it
now we can go to these things. But, I think the price of some of the
places keep a lot of us out. It is not that we cannot go, but we just
cannot afford it. And I think when we can get the jobs that pay us what
we deserve then we can afford some of the nicer things in life. But right
now, we just cannot afford it.
B: You mentioned that in the quartet I think that you received a scholarship
to go to Bethune-Cookman College.
D: Yes, two years at Bethune-Cookman.
B: And before you went there, did you graduate from Lincoln High School here?
B: Was there a junior/senior prom?
D: Yes. Junior/senior prom. Very much so.
B: And who was the principal of the school at the time?
D: Professor A. Quinn Jones.
B: What was it like being a student under Professor Jones?
D: You walked a tight rope under Professor Jones. He was a stern principal.
And he was the type of principal that did not have to open his mouth, just
his presence meant business. And I can remember, all he had to do was
just walk the hall and fold his arms and look down the hall. And if you
came down the hall and you were not supposed to be in that hall, you got
out of that hall in a hurry.
B: I guess you might be biased here in this answer, but do you feel that the
quality of education that you received there was excellent?
D: It was excellent, with what the teachers had to work with. We did not
know what a new textbook looked like. We got all the old textbooks that
came from the Gainesville High School. Lincoln High School was the
dumping ground. And I think the teachers did a superb job with what they
had to work with. With no funds, no new materials, it was excellent.
B: Why do people accept things like that?
D: I guess it was a must. No one complained. I guess, no one stood up and
put up a fight. They just accepted it. Until Martin Luther King decided
that this is it. Someone should have decided this a long time ago, but I
guess no one had the nerve with so many lynchings and killings and you
were dared to speak up. So, I guess it was just fear in people that this
was just something that we have got to accept. And we made the best of
B: While you were at Lincoln, did you all take field trips to other parts of
D: No, because in the early part of my schooling, I can remember, there were
no buses. Everybody walked in or the parents brought them in. Then later
on, maybe there were some trips. Until I started to teach and
transportation was available and then we began to take kids you know on
field trips. But in the early years, I cannot remember because we had to
furnish money for everything. If you can remember the Miss Terrier
Contest, and the Miss Lincoln Contest, that is how we raised the money to
fund some of these things that we enjoyed. It was one of these things
that you did every year, even so that T.B. McPherson could have an
athletic program or the Miss Terrier's money went to sponsor the athletic
program and all the other money sponsored some of these other things that
we would like to have.
B: Some of these social things generate funds for the school?
D: Yes, that is right. We had to generate our own funds. You did not have X
number of dollars coming in from the county for this or for that. During
the early years there was no lunchroom. You brought your lunch or kids
lived nearby could walk home for lunch. I can remember the first
lunchroom that we had. They took a classroom downstairs and made it into
a lunchroom and Maggie Roberts, at that time, was our first cafeteria
manager. And that was the happiest day of our lives. But I think it was
Thornton Roberts that made a big difference at Lincoln High. It was
through Thornton that we got a lot of things, like vocational education,
the lunchroom all of the additions that Lincoln finally received was
through Thornton Roberts.
B: Now, when you went there, was Lincoln just the main building?
D: Just one main building. That huge building. The additions and all came
later when things began to get better. But when I first attended there,
the elementary school, high school, everything was in that one building.
Downstairs was all elementary, upstairs was high school.
B: Was there separate principals?
D: Yes, Mrs. Thelma Jordan was the principal of the elementary school.
B: When you were there?
B: Can you recall some of the names of your teachers at Lincoln when you were
D: Yes. Daphne Williams, T.B. McPherson, Noah Bennett.
B: Now is he still in Gainesville?
D: I heard he was dead, but he taught math. William Robinson.
B: Now what did William Robinson teach?
D: Math. Benjamin Childs, I think he is dead. Lula-Mae.
B: Now, was she related to you?
D: No, she spelled her name Strachan. Franklin Jones.
B: Now was this the J. Franklin Jones?
D: Yes. Daphne taught mathematics. She was director of the chorus and
finally she moved as an administrator across the office.
B: What did T.B. McPherson teach?
D: He taught history and he coached.
B: And J. Franklin Jones?
B: And F.M. Jones?
B: Let's describe your graduation that day. How were you dressed? Where was
D: Our graduation exercises were always held in the main auditorium.
B: You had an auditorium?
D: Oh yes, the big auditorium was still there. That is why it just hurts me
now to see how they have done it. Because it was such a grand place for
an assembly program and that kind of thing. But the baccalaureate sermon
was held in the auditorium and the commencement was in the auditorium.
B: What did you wear?
D: We wore blue caps and gowns. My class changed the tradition. The class
that I sponsored wore blue robes and caps. And we had class night. We
had all the things that kids have now.
B: You had it then?
D: We had it then. I finished high school in June of 1939.
B: And the scholarship that you got to go to Bethune-Cookman came from the
D: Yes. You do not remember this, but during President Roosevelt's
time, there was something called the NYA, which was the Negro Youth Act,
where it provided scholarship funds for black kids who needed money to go
to school. But you also had to work to receive that type of scholarship.
So, when I went to Bethune-Cookman, my first job was in the dormitory and
then I was transferred from the dormitory to the kitchen. In other words,
I was a home economics major. And I worked in the kitchen on Saturdays
and my sister worked in the music office. Now, when I say I worked in the
kitchen, let me explain what kind of work I did. At Bethune-Cookman,
there were a lot of very rich people who lived on the beach and they were
always sent over the Bethune-Cookman to get food for their teas and the
type of entertainment they were going to have. So, the three of us in
home economics classes would prepare hors-d'oeuvres and cookies and this
kind of thing for the elaborate teas that they would have over there.
Something like a catering service. And I can remember sometimes we stood
flat-footed all day long. You know fixing hors-d'oeuvres and then
sometimes I would help with the doughnuts. Bethune-Cookman would have
what we call a community service every Sunday afternoon and these people
would come to the campus to see our line march and hear the chorus sing
and to browse around and buy things that we had made on the campus, like
ties and shirts and to buy cookies and things that we had made in the home
economics department. So, that was my job doing that kind of thing with
these other two girls, getting things ready to sell after the community
service on Sunday.
B: Now, you mentioned they came over to see a line march. What is that?
D: At Bethune-Cookman every Sunday, every other student had to dress in a
navy blue suit with a white blouse and black shoes and you had to march
into the auditorium. In fact, I did this at Florida A&M, too. And you
had to march just like a soldier into that auditorium, fully dressed in
uniform. In fact, when you left the campus, you had to be wearing your
uniform. If you went to town, you had to wear that blue and white, so
wherever you went, you were identified as a Bethune-Cookman College
student. You could not wear anything else to town and you could not wear
anything else to community service. Oh, it was a beautiful thing to see
and people came from miles just to see that line of those students
marching fully dressed.
B: At this community service, what did you all do?
D: The chorus sang, it was more of a musical thing. And the attraction was
Mary McLeod Bethune. People came from everywhere just to see her, to see
Mrs. Bethune, especially when she was on the campus. Now, she was an
attraction like Michael Jackson. If they hit Daytona, they had to come to
that campus to see Mrs. Bethune. She was something to hear and something
to see. She was a grand lady. She walked with a cane and she demanded
respect from the way she walked, the way she moved and when she opened her
mouth, she demanded respect.
B: I wish I could have seen her, because when people talk about her, they
speak about the way she carried herself, and just her speech was
D: And when she opened her mouth, you knew to respect Mrs. Bethune. She
demanded respect that kind of thing. And she would let them know when
they case there. I never will forget, one day someone asked one of the
ushers for the reserve seats and she did not whisper, she stood up and she
said, "I want you to know when you come to Bethune-Cookman College there
are no reserve seats. You sit anywhere you can find a seat."
B: That is the way she talked to people?
D: That is the way she talked. There are no reserve seats at Bethune-Cookman
College. You sit anywhere you can find a seat. In other words, you know
what you can do. No one came to Bethune-Cookman College looking for
reserve seats for white folks.
B: I see. Was this a service where she talked to you or...?
D: She talked just like a mother would talk to her children. She loved us
students. And she would always say at the end, "Oh, how my heart goes out
to my black boys and girls." And I mean she meant that. Anything that
she could do for students she did. If we had problems, we called her
Main. You wait until Main gets here.
B: Oh, that is how you all referred to her?
D: That is right. You wait until Main gets here.
B: And could you always...?
D: Oh yes, open door policy. And if it was anything that she could
straighten out, she would straighten it out, because, you see, a lot of
times she would be in Washington, because she and Mrs. Roosevelt were very
good friends. But, whenever she hit that campus, the students, if they
had something to tell her, there was an open door policy. At home and her
office. If she was on the campus, you could stop her and she was never to
busy to stop, I do not care who she was with, if a student approached her,
the student went first.
B: Did you ever have the privilege to be in her presence with her...?
D: Yes, I lived with her, when we went to Washington. We went there on a
tour, and we sang in Washington at the Metropolitan, I believe, Baptist
Church, one of the churches. And my sister and I roomed with her in her
apartment. And that was a great honor. Somehow, she just took to my
sister and I.
B: Really? What was her apartment like?
D: Have you ever been to her home?
B: The one in Daytona?
D: Nothing very elaborate, just very comfortable quarters.
B: Does she have servants?
D: I am sure she did have somebody to help around the house. In fact, I am
almost sure she did.
B: Where were you when she passed?
D: I was teaching, I am sure. And, I must have been here, because most of my
teaching years were here in Lincoln High School. I spent one year in Levy
County. But I am sure I was here right in Gainesville when she passed.
B: Did you go to the service?
B: That was a real sad time on campus.
D: Yes, very sad, because she was a lady that would never die in the hearts
of anyone who knew her.
B: I have read about her past, where do you think she got this quality of
such forcefulness and the respect that people gave her?
D: I think it was an innate quality, something she inherited. And I think,
if you have come through trials and tribulations, even in childhood, like
most of us have, it is something about the experiences that harden your
insides yet mellow on the outside. But it comes through when the time is
right. Because even with me, I know when I must be demanding. I know
when I must let this drop aside, that mellow that you see. And let you
know that I demand respect at this time. And, it seems to really
accomplish a little bit more for me. And I think this is what happened to
to her. Seeing her people, coming up from the cotton fields and seeing
her people suffer, that it just was something in her that came through and
she knew that she had to demand a certain type of respect with her voice.
B: On campus you mentioned that the wealthy whites were there. Do you ever
recall or can you recall any of the prominent blacks being on campus
speaking to you all?
D: Yes, always. I can remember the president of Morehouse that just died not
too long ago?
B: Benjamin Mayes?
D: Yes, I can remember him coming and conducting prayer service and you had
all of the meetings, music people and the movie world, from everywhere
they came. Just to Bethune-Cookman. And you could just sit there and see
all kinds of notables. Because Mary McLeod Bethune attracted them there.
B: And that should have indefinitely had some impact on the students.
D: Oh, it did on me. And the transition from Bethune-Cookman to A&M was like
going from Europe to the ghetto.
B: Tell me about it.
D: Because we had to use manners. You did not dress any kind of way at
Bethune-Cookman. When you went to the dining room you had to sit and eat
with one hand and you did not act like something out of the woods
somewhere. You had to display good manners. And at Bethune-Cookman, you
were ladies. And men were gentlemen. You had to display a certain type
of dignity. And when I went to Florida A&M, I just could not get ready
for what existed there. I never will forget when I went to the dining
room and I had my one hand in my lap sitting at this table with these A&M
students and trying to eat proper, like we had done at Bethune-Cookman.
And there was a football player at this table. He looked at me and said,
"Hey, you don't have but one hand." And I said, "No, I have two." "Why
don't you use it? Why are you sitting up there Miss Prim?" And I mean I
just could not get ready for this. I said what in the world was this.
And for two or three days they shut me out. They were training me. I did
not get anything to eat. For about three days and I said well I better
put Bethune-Cookman behind and get into this act and so I can get
something to eat. But they were two different settings.
B: The first school was a private school and Florida A&M was a state school.
D: Well, it was not private. Anybody could go to Bethune-Cookman. I know
what you mean, private from funding.
B: Now, why did you just spend two years there?
D: She only had two years at that time. It was not a four-year school. So,
then you had to transfer to A&M to get four years.
B: You were in Home Economics for two years.
D: But, it was the most thorough training, because it was almost one to one.
Only three people in my class, so you had to get your lesson. There was
no such thing as they will not call on me today. You were called on every
day and it was thorough training. And I can always remember my teacher,
Miss Hunt, was my nutrition teacher, and she was very thorough. And I
really learned a whole lot there. In fact, even cultural events. It was
just there the times when you had just organ recitals in the chapel where
you could just walk in and sit and listen to organ music. There were
elaborate dances where you dressed formal. They had two clubs at the time
on the campus. The CC's, which was the Cavaliers and the Cavalettes. The
Cavalettes were the girls and the Cavaliers were they boys. And then you
had the Mummies and Zenith. There were no fraternities and sororities,
but you had to go through the same process to get in these clubs as you do
to get into a sorority and they would have fabulous dances every year on
B: How could the students afford these?
D: Well, we would raise money for these big dances, because you always had a
big band. You did not have a jukebox. And every year every girl got a
long flowing red gown. Everybody wore red and white for these balls. And
all of the former Cavaliers and Cavalettes would come back on campus and I
saw a newsletter, not so long ago, that they were proposing a reunion of
these clubs and I really hope they do, because that would be something to
have all of them come back on the campus. Because that was an annual
event for everybody to go back to the Cavaliers and Cavalettes dance and
the Mummies and Zenith. It was just something that you looked forward to.
D: But it was a small campus and it was a big happy family. Just a family of
loving people and you learned, and you learned. You had to learn. So,
when I went to Florida A&M, I had a very good background in home
economics. So, even in clothing, you made your own cloth. They had these
B: You made your own cloth?
D: All the cloth. They would weave the cloth on these big looms and this is
what people would come to buy. These hand-made ties made out of the hand-
woven material. And Mrs. Barnes was the teacher at that time and she did
an excellent job of doing this and getting all these things ready for
sale. And with that money, we generated funds for Bethune-Cookman College
and people knew that. So, they did not mind paying at that time
twenty-five or fifty dollars for a tie. They did not mind that at all,
because it was hand-woven.
B: Do you have any old items that you might have kept from Bethune-Cookman
when you were there?
D: I probably have all the things over at my mother's house. I said one day
I was just going sit down and gather all these things.
B: I would like for you to find them because we could probably use them in an
exhibit we would like to do, but I am quite sure that they are historical,
because who thought to keep those different things?
D: That is right. I hope I have them because one regret I have now that I
did not keep all my stuff from Lincoln. All those years I taught, I did
not keep the things that I should have kept. Now, I did all my plays, I
did all my assembly programs, I wrote them. They were original
productions and Professor Jones used to tell me all the time, "Mrs.
Dorsey, you need to keep this stuff. What are you doing with it?" I
said, "I get through with it, I dump it." He said, "You should save it
and put it in a book one day and sell it." Well, I did not think anything
of it and that is one thing I regret. It was a part of me and I have seen
some things that my kids have produced at Lincoln that would be unmatched
when it came to T.V. productions. All we needed was the props and the
things to do it with, but they were out of this world.
B: And now, in your clubs, organizations, you very seldom find any of the
black children doing anything.
D: Nothing. And what they call graduation now, I could cry. When I go to
these high school graduations here and these class nights, I could just
cry. The quality that we had and just look at what they are doing now.
B: You all had quality here.
D: I often tell my son, that I just wish he could have finished at Lincoln
High School. I said I wish you could have seen the quality because it had
to be perfect or not at all. I used to tell my kids when I was producing
my eleventh and twelfth grade plays. I said, "Learn your parts. If you do
not learn it, I will walk out on that stage and hand you a book in front
of all the people." They said, "I believe you would," and I said, "Try me."
B: Would you have?
D: Yes, I would have. And they learned those plays. And sometimes we would
practice on Sundays, Saturdays, at nights, and they came.
B: What made you have that kind of commitment?
D: You had to excel. Now, that is what we preached. Maybe the other people
do not know this, but we preached that and you always had to outdo that
class last year. You always got to be better. And the kids wanted that,
they wanted to excel. They wanted to be better than the class last year.
B: Well, just seeing it in your eyes, I can see it was there.
D: Yes, it was there, we had to excel. And if you forgot the lines, you
better make up some lines and they knew how to make them up. And
sometimes it would tickle me.
B: Did they realize it?
D: But they made up the lines. And somebody would forget their part, the
next man would take it up and go right on and say their part for them.
But that is just how they knew that play. I never will forget one
afternoon, one year, the eleventh grade play, this is the day before the
play is to be presented. One of the main characters disappeared. Nobody
knew where he was. He did not show up for rehearsals, he did not show up
period. Now, the play is being presented tonight. So, I said, "What are
we going to do?" And someone said, "Don't worry about it, Mrs. Dorsey, I
know his part." All I want you to do is put a book somewhere on that
stage so in case I forget I can go just walk up to the book. And so I put
the play in the Reader's Digest because it was about the size of the
Reader's Digest. I laid it out there in the little living room where we
were presenting the play. That boy did two parts his part and that part,
and he did not have to use that book one time.
B: That means he did know the part.
D: That is why I know black kids can learn. Everybody tells me about kids
cannot learn. He did two parts and it was a three-act play. A royalty
play because I did not present anything but royalty plays.
B: Now, see what you are saying to me is totally unheard of. You mean to
tell me black children in black schools with very little supplies were
doing royalty plays?
D: Yes. We had to pay their fees before we could produce that play. And I
wish you could have seen him. Cox Furniture at that time was very
helpful. I could go down there and get anything they had at that store
and we had some beautiful set-ups. I would pick the most expensive thing
they had. And they were just as nice in bringing it out. They said,
"Come on down here, Mrs. Dorsey, and just pick what you want." And it was
not trash. They said, "Go on down here on Main Street to the warehouse."
You came in the store and picked their finest. All you had to do was
advertise and say it was courtesy of Cox Furniture Company.
B: And they let you use it for your props?
D: That is right.
B: You went to Florida A&M for two years and you graduated from there and you
graduated in home economics?
D: That is right.
B: And did you come back here to teach?
D: Yes, my first year of teaching was in Levy County in a little junior high
school named Royal Junior High School. And before I completed the first
year, Professor Jones wanted me to come to Lincoln, but I asked him to let
me complete my one year here and then I came on over to Lincoln High
School and I was there until I decided to quit teaching. I did not retire
from teaching, I decided to quit teaching in 1968.
B: And you taught home economics.
D: That is right.
B: And was this just a course for girls?
D: At the old Lincoln, yes. But, we went over to the new Lincoln, I wrote a
course of study that I called Modern Family Living which included boys.
So, then I was able to teach boys and girls which I imagine you would
understand as Marriage and Family. So, I taught that for boys. Always
had more boys than I could take in that class. And even today they come
back and tell me how much it helped them with their marriage and their
B: I think the reason I can do some things at home now is because of some
things I learned in your class. Coming back to teach at Lincoln, what was
your first class and where was it? What would you teach the first year?
D: Home economics.
B: Did you have a classroom, a laboratory?
D: I had a classroom upstairs on the second floor, the second room on the
right. And in that classroom we had about six tables, two apartment size
gas stoves and two sets of kitchen cabinets. In other words, I would have
two kitchens, the wall type kitchens. That is all we had and a few pots
and pans. No funds to operate.
B: Now, how did you do your work in your class and get all the supplies you
D: When it came to lab classes, we would make out our plans and then we would
ask the kids to bring certain things to do. I will just use a sample
example, like a cake. I would say who would bring the eggs, who will
bring the flour, who will bring the milk, who will bring the flavor and
that kind of thing. And of course, if we were going to do the cake the
next day, some of the kids would show up and some would stay home, because
when they got home and told mother they had to bring six eggs, well they
would stay home rather than say they did not have the eggs. So, then I
would go in my pocketbook and go to the store and buy what we needed to do
the lab lesson. If you were doing a menu, like a lunch menu and if we
were doing fried chicken, let's say, and some broccoli and some type of
potatoes, whatever, who will bring the meat, who will bring the broccoli,
who will bring this? We had no funds and you may not believe this, we did
not get any until the new Lincoln High School was built and finally the
county gave us a budget and said we could go to a store and charge these
things because they were doing it at the white school. But his is how I
had to teach home economics. And in order for my kids to keep up with the
modern things, I bought my own new textbooks and mimeographed material.
So that my kids could be exposed to the new text rather than the old
B: Now you knew that it was different across the street.
D: Yes, I knew that.
B: And could not do anything about it.
D: I knew that, too. But they simply did not give us any funds to operate,
but I would not let that stop me from teaching home economics like it was
supposed to be taught in order for my kids to see crystal, to see silver,
I brought my things from home. So, they could feel it and they could
touch it and they could see it. If they did not have it there, I provided
it, even if I had to borrow some things from people.
B: What why was that commitment so great within you to do such a quality type
D: Because I wanted my students to be able to measure up to any white student
in home economics. And it was not going to be my fault and I was not
going to sit there and say I do not have. I make my own way to have it.
I will provide somethings for them. In other words, I can remember when
we were teaching how to order foods in a restaurant. My kids did not have
a restaurant to go to. We did not have nowhere we could go sit down. But
I wanted to teach them one day if they did have a chance to go into a
restaurant, they would know how to order food from a written menu. So,
what we would practice like this is Primrose Grill, students. And here is
your waiter or your waitress. And then I would have them sit down and
somebody would role play like they were really ordering food.
B: It would have been delightful if the children could have had the
experience to go there.
D: That is right, but they could not, so they had to pretend like they were
out and they were ordering their food. And I did this for checking in
hotels, motels, how to make reservations for planes they may want to ride,
and sometimes someone would ask me, "Mrs. Dorsey, why are you teaching us
all this? We cannot do that." And I said "You will one day," and they
would look at me like I was crazy. I said, "Right out here at Lincoln
High School, you will have white teachers one day. Then if you are ever
exposed to these things you will know what to do and how to do it."
B: And that came to pass.
D: It came to pass. But why be ignorant because you do not do it?
B: That is a good point.
D: You may do it one day. At least you ought to know how to do it, even if
you do not do it. So, I did not teach for a black world. I taught for
the world that they lived in because I knew what they would need even in
travel. Someday, they would go outside of Gainesville I am sure. You are
not going to stay in Gainesville all your life I hope. So, why cripple a
child and say they would not need this and flip over it. They will. You
do not know what they will need.
B: That is true. Being a teacher for twenty-five years, you have seen the
change. Was teaching when you first started a good experience?
D: It was a beautiful experience. I could not wait for September to come. I
would be tired in June, but as soon as I would get home and rest for about
two weeks, I was lonely, I missed the kids, I missed the companionship of
my fellow teachers, I wanted to go back and I was as happy as I could be
when August came so we could go back to pre-planning and get back into
that classroom. It was a beautiful experience. I would not trade those
twenty-five years for nothing in the world. It was twenty-five beautiful
years. The students were beautiful. They were cooperative, they were
eager to learn, they wanted to do it and I know those out here in the
world today, they are the same way. I mean, it was just a beautiful
experience. And I wish all teachers could re-live and enjoy these things.
The proms were a big event for us. We got ready for the proms like the
children. When we got our dresses and we hopped from prom to prom along
with the kids. That was a social season. I have gone as far as Ocala all
they way down to Wildwood, all over everywhere, catching these high school
proms. But teachers got into it. And it did not mean it was just
wonderful for the teachers to be on the floor dancing with the students.
And some of the students danced with the teachers.
B: Now you cannot plan an event unless you have security, you have all the
problems, you did not have that?
D: Oh, no, we did not have that. What kind of security? We told those kids
how they must act. Now, we trained them. If anything was coming up, they
were trained by every teacher in that school. Let me give you an example.
Let's suppose Jesse Jackson was coming to Lincoln High School auditorium.
Every teacher had trained those kids before Jesse Jackson got there. How
they must act, how they must dress, everything. It was protocol when
Jesse Jackson got on that campus. You might have acted like a Simple
Simon yesterday, but this is Lincoln High School and when Jesse Jackson
leaves here we want him to have a good impression of Lincoln High School.
And we do not want him to go back talking about what he saw in
B: Mrs. Dorsey, you were saying that you prepare the students for how to
behave at certain functions.
D: That is right.
B: On campus, at the old Lincoln and the new Lincoln, did you have problems,
I know you had some behavior problems, was it their major problem with
children going to class, being obedient and following directions?
D: We had problems, we had some outstanding problems. Then it was up to you
to find out a way to change that child's behavior. You had to deal with
it. I had some hard cases that I had to deal with. If I had to leave my
classroom, I said, "Johnson, I am leaving you in charge of this class.
You are the teacher while I am gone. When I come back I hope you will not
have anything to tell me about what went wrong in this class. Students,
you must respect Johnson, because he is your teacher at this time."
B: You picked the problem to be the leader.
D: Yes. And I would walk out. And it was unbelievable. You could not
believe it when I came back you could hear a pin drop on that floor. He
had that class under control. And that changed his entire behavior in my
class. And finally you could hear teachers saying, "I do not know what
came over him." But sometimes these kids need something to do. I do not
know whether you read that article about the little boy down here in Levy
County. They gave him the leadership, the patrols, and it changed his
whole life. That is a good recipe. Give them responsibility. Because a
lot of times they feel unloved, rejected and many times they cannot do
anything. They cannot read as well as Johnny, they cannot sing, they
cannot play football, but find something that they can do. Sometimes even
when I was producing plays, I have got to give him something because he
cannot learn his part. Well, I could make him manager, stage manager, but
give him something so that they can feel important and that they belong
and that they are a part of the whole. And it makes a whole difference in
their lives. Now some, you cannot change. And this is where maybe you
have a referral system to call somebody from the outside, a psychologist
or something to work with that child. Because sometimes it is so
ingrained in them, they end up in prison or something because it is just
going to far.
B: Now did you have the facility that you could call outside resources at
D: Yes, at that time we had the school psychologist and we could refer to
outside help. That is when things began to change and we began to see a
brighter side of life in the new Lincoln High School, when funds started
coming in, materials and more books, but still not the best. But it was a
change with the new building. We began to see a brighter side.
B: Not remembering very much about the Lincoln spirit, I was told that when
Lincoln High School closed, they almost erased a part of the Gainesville
D: They did. And Lincoln still lives in the hearts of every child that
graduated from Lincoln High School and I know that you have been reading
about the reunion. I think I attended three this summer. There must have
been about five reunions and these kids come back still with that love for
Lincoln High School. I think it was one of the worst things that could
have happened to this community. When they took the Lincoln High School
out of this community. Because Lincoln was, I do not know, there was
something about it I cannot describe. There was just a love there, but
these kids know what that school meant to them, where it brought some of
them from and what it gave them. And certainly it was not so bad because
we have graduated judges, you name them, we had them. And their training
came from Lincoln High School. So really it was a sad day in this
community when they closed Lincoln High School because it was a good
school. It was an excellent high school. Since I have been out here and
visiting, and since I have been around, I look back, we had a good program
at Lincoln. And they thing that really struck me was that I am on the
advisory board at P.K. Yonge Lab School, and last year in one of their
advisory board meetings, they were going to do something that we had done
at Lincoln years ago.
D: And I could not believe it. They were going to have homerooms. They were
proposing homeroom periods. Where the children could go to that homeroom
teacher and get instructions for the day and a little follow-up on things.
I had to tell them, "I do not believe this. We had homerooms at Lincoln
years ago. That is how we were able to get over that Jesse Jackson is
coming here tomorrow and every teacher had her homeroom. And that is why
kids call me Momma today, because I was their homeroom teacher." They
came to me for problems. I gave them directions and things that they
could not follow, they brought to their homeroom teacher. And I was able
to tell them, now remember Jesse Jackson is coming here tomorrow. Now,
you do not embarrass me. And if I know Joel Buchanan had to go to the
President's office tomorrow, I called you, "Joel, what are you planning to
wear tomorrow?" "I just plan to wear a little old shirt and a pair of
pants." I said, "No you do not. You are going to wear a tie. You are a
student officer, you do not go around like that." And sometimes they
would come to you, how must I dress tomorrow, what should I wear? And you
would tell them that.
B: So, the teachers were more than a teacher. They did counseling.
D: Every teacher was a counselor. We had no counselors. They would come to
you and say what do you think I ought to take next year? And I would say,
what are you planning to do in life? And then I would instruct them as to
what they should have. Or they would say, "I do not want to go to Ruby
Washington's English class, I heard she was tough." I would say, "That is
the one you are going to. You are not going to take off. One day you
will call her blessed." And they went.
B: She was something else though. I will tell you what, I could write a
D: And the very teacher that they dodge, that is the teachers I say you are
going to. If you want to learn something. But we were that. And I had
so many problems. They were crying on my shoulder, some days they were
hungry, you would give them money to eat. If it was a prom coming up and
they did not have a dress to wear, I would say I will buy you a new dress.
B: You mean you got into doing those kinds of things, too?
D: Certainly. I will find you a dress, I think I have just the dress that
you can use.
B: Was it that the teachers at that time were more dedicated or were they a
different breed of people or what was it?
D: I think they were more dedicated. The salary was not the thing of the
job. Because when I started teaching, I got ninty dollars a month. And
really to tell you the truth, I never worried about what I got. And I
worked long hours. I have left home at eight o'clock in the morning and
gone to bed at two in the morning. And I enjoyed every minute of it.
Because see, I had to prepare the meals for the football team. We had no
cafeteria. With two stoves I had to feed them soup in the afternoon when
they got here and I had to give them a hot meal when they left the field.
So you see why I had to stay there until two in the morning. On a Friday
night, I left my kitchen clean. My kitchen was never left dirty. We had
to stay there to clean the stove, wash all those dishes, pots and pans and
then come home. When they came off the football field at ten o'clock at
night, they had to take a bath and then come eat. So, you see, it was two
in the morning before I left.
B: You mean you did the teacher part for the team.
D: Feed the visiting football team, basketball team, whatever. I did not
open cans. I baked hams, I made candied sweet potatoes, I washed collard
greens, we made cornbread, we made the food. And I would stay right there
in that kitchen until game time. Because when everything was out there,
we would try to get things ready. From there, I would run to the game and
I would leave before the game was up so I could get back and get that food
warmed up and have it ready to serve those boys when they came in.
B: You know, I never thought about that until you said it. They had to eat
D: Well, the home economics teacher had to feed them. I had to go buy the
food, T.B. McPherson would give me a check to buy the food, we had to
prepare it, serve it and clean up, in addition to teaching five classes
B: And you did not even discuss being paid for it?
D: No, did not even open my mouth. I did not think about it because I
enjoyed it. And you know who would always hang around to help me? We
called him Big Bad Papa. Remember the man who died not so long ago?
D: He hung around there all evening with me. Anything I wanted him to do he
B: I never thought about it. And when you say changes, you all have the
shower facilities there for them to take baths?
D: Where did the boys change? I guess in the bathroom. I doubt if they took
a bath. They did not have any showers then.
B: Now, they did not spend the night in Gainesville, did they?
D: They had no place to stay. They had to hit the road.
B: And where was the game played?
D: At Citizen's Field. That was the field at that time. That is where they
played football games.
B: I heard you all had a team that was unbeatable.
D: Oh, unbelievable. The Mighty Red Terriers of Lincoln High School. We
followed them all across the turf. Wherever the Terriers went,
Gainesville would be behind.
B: I know that years ago they used to say homecoming was compared to the
D: It was compared to the University of Florida's parade and homecoming. We
got outfits. We had the big chrysanthemum corsages with the read and
white streamers. Homecoming was something, and kids would come from miles
around. Every class had a float, even when I was in school. I often look
at the place now where we would decorate our float. Ms. Lula-Mae Strachan
was my sponsor. We would decorate our float on a big oak tree round over
there near Ms. Brinney hitching, where the old Cheeseburg home is, back
over in that community. Well, you would hide your float. Take it away
from the campus so nobody would see it. The name of the game was to
excel, to be the winner.
B: Right. And everybody tried to outdo the other.
D: You had to be the winner and when you lost you saw tears. Kids would
actually cry when they were not the winner.
B: I guess, in that kind of environment, you develop a very closeness among
D: Very much so.
B: And I guess you have established some friendships that are there for life
because of the settings you were in.
D: That is right.
B: Did you have any super achievers that you got out of your mind?
D: One of them was Leon Hicks. Leon Hicks now teaches art at Webster College
in St. Louis, Missouri, and he was here not too long ago and started a
scholarship fund at the last reunion we had. He has started a scholarship
fund in the name of A. Quinn Jones. And what he does, he had art sales.
He does beautiful paintings and what not. And wherever he has an art
sale, he had one here, and he contributed from the art sale a hundred
dollars and he is going to do that continuously.
B: How delightful.
D: But he is one of them and an outstanding young man.
B: You talked to so many students.
D: Just so many kids and right here in Gainesville there is Janie Williams
and Vivian Tyler, who is the nurse at Sante Fe.
B: You taught Vivian?
D: That was my class. Vivian Tyler, Janie Williams, Odessa Linoy out in
Micanopy. Ernest Owdel, he called me Mom. I was Mom to him. Momma
Dorsey, that is what he always called me. What's his name, the judge?
B: Judge Stephan Mickle.
D: Judge Mickle.
B: You taught Mickle?
D: Yes, and Lamoyan Sanders.
B: How do you feel when you see your students, this being home for you, that
you have taught and that you have been part of something in their lives?
D: Well, I still feel like I am your momma, almost and they would do what I
would tell them to do. The other day, Wilford drove me to the funeral and
I said sit down, and Wilford sat down. Before I realized that I was
talking to grown man, I said sit down.
B: He did not think he was just sort of did a reflex.
D: That is right. When he sat down, I said, "Wilford, I am thinking I am
still your teacher." But you see what I did, don't you?
B: Of course.
D: He said, "I do not have time, but I sat down."
B: It is that quality they teach.
B: Why do you think it is not there now in the students? That is respect and
D: I do not think that the commitment was ever there with the teacher,
because if the commitment is there with the teacher, it never leaves the
student and that love and concern that they know that that teacher has.
B: Well, I felt when I was teaching that the legal ramifications, certain
things you could not do.
D: Yes, that is what destroyed it.
B: That you could never do certain things.
D: Yes, and you cannot do any of the things there I could. I can say in a
minute, "Sit down, boy. You do not sit down, I will knock your head off
your body." But I knew I was not going to know that boy's head off. But
it was just that manner of letting him know I am not playing and he
respected that. And he had a back-up from parents. There is no such
thing as child abuse and all this thing you hear now. The kids hear all
this, and the teachers cannot do anything with this. They are afraid.
Kids slashing their tires and coming home and breaking your windows. We
did not have this. And the parents backed us up. Parents brought them
back to school and said now whip him. I came to see that you whip him.
Or they come out there and take him in the office and whip him themselves.
Walk him back out there. But, see you do not have that any more.
B: Comparing Lincoln when you started and the new Lincoln and then the
integration. What was it like?
D: I quit in 1968.
B: You mean you just stopped?
D: Yes. I just decided one day, I do not know whether I was burned out or
what, but I was not going into this. I just decided I had had enough of
teaching. That is when I went into extension work. And it was just a
spur of the moment thing. I had not even thought about it. Because
Reverend White came to me to find an extension agent and when he left I
said to myself, you qualify for that job, and I ran and caught him. I
said I am the agent. And I went and told Mr. Dukes and he said, "Mrs.
Dorsey, do not leave us." And I said, "No, I had better leave."
B: You stopped working at teaching.
D: I stopped, just stopped teaching.
B: And went into extension work.
B: And you said Reverend White?
D: D.E. White. He is dead now.
B: And what was the extension job?
D: I supervised the expanded nutrition program for the county and that was
about twenty women under my supervision. I was the first black
administrative person the extension for black fold and it was a job that
was not intended, but there was no way for them to get around. I started
off as just the main agent and they had a head agent Mrs. Davis, and at
that time that is when the brought this expanded nutrition program into
the county and gave her all twenty women. Being the type of woman that
she was, she called me in the office one day and just told me that she
needed help and she said, "Mabel, I am going to give you ten and I will
take ten. Do you mind helping me?" I told her I did not mind it. So, I
worked with her until they transferred her from there to Dade County. And
then when they transferred her to Dade County, they wanted to put the
woman who had not been involved in the program as head of the program.
And she did not know what to do. She did not know which direction to go.
So, then they called me from the university, this was a university
program, because I was considered on the faculty of the University of
Florida. They called me from the Institute of Food and Agricultural
Sciences and told me that they were going to put Mrs. Romano in my job and
would I help her? And I said, "You hired her, you let her find her own
way. No I will not help her."
B: Did you really?
D: Yes, I did. I said I would not help her. And I meant that and after they
saw what I meant, then they put me in the position. That is how I got it.
They were going to put a white woman in. They asked me would I assist her
and would I help train her? I told them no, I would not. I had too much
to do. Now that you hired her, you let her find her own way.
B: Was that selfish?
D: No. But, now you will want me to train her and I know know to do the
B: That does not make sense.
D: I know how to do the job. So they gave me the job and I kept it for five
years until I left.
B: And what does that entail?
D: We had to train homemakers in the field of nutrition and I had to train
the twenty workers to go out into the community and go into the homes of
low-income homemakers to introduce them to a way of life through better
nutrition. And they had to do food calls on these homemakers and the
teach them how to take the foods that they had and make nutritious dishes
in order to get the basic food that they needed to have better health.
And then I always had a lot of paperwork because it is a government job.
And we had a reporting system to do and I had to train these aides and
they came ot me very Wednesday to train them. I had to do on-site
visitations all through the county.
B: Where was your office building?
D: The Seagle Building.
B: And after you finished doing that, what did you do?
D: I came home and that was the end of my working full-time jobs. I started
working with my husband and now I do on-site visitations to three day-care
centers and I was also nutrition consultant for the Headstart Program in
Alachua County up until this year. I am not that this year. As long as
Cora was the director, I did the on-site visitation training for parents
in the Headstart program.
B: Cora who?
D: Cora Robeson was the director.
B: Now, when did you become Mrs. Dorsey?
B: And who did you marry?
D: Arnold P. Dorsey.
B: Is he from Gainesville?
D: No, he is from Tallahassee.
B: What does he do?
D: He is a mortician.
B: Any children to the family?
D: Yes, one. Rodney Dorsey.
B: What does Rodney do?
D: Rodney is a sophomore majoring in music at Florida State University.
B: This has been delightful talking to you and there are some points that we
have not even begun to touch, but you said something about the education
system. How have you seen the area, and I want to dwell on this, because
you lived in this area once and you went to school here. How has the
Fifth Avenue area changed or has it changed? What I am asking is that we
read so much that this is the black ghetto, this crime, poor neighborhood.
Has this always been true?
D: No. Because I was reared in that neighborhood. And you have some very
outstanding blacks that came from that neighborhood that lived there. I
know you know Mr. Parker, who is in music at Eastside.
B: Richard Park.
D: Richard Park and then there is the other young Parker that was teaching
down in Brooksville, but I think he is retired now and is working at the
Sun Bank. And then you have the Dills. Both of them were teachers that
came off Fifth Avenue. Gwendolyn White was reared and she is in the
school system down in Avon Park. There was the Green girls. I think one
of them now is a secretary at the University of Florida. And Mrs. Lula-
Mae Strachan, who was my sponsor, lived there. Mr. J. Franklin Jones
lived on Fifth Avenue too.
D: Both of his sons were reared there.
B: So all of these persons were...
D: Oh, yes, and I forgot to mention the Wingate boys. You know, Hubert
Wingate and Furman Wingate. Hubert was a doctor and Freddie Weaver came
off Fifth Avenue, who is a psychologist. But all these people came off
Fifth Avenue. Nancy Green, who is a teacher down in Ocala, came from
B: So, it was not the problems you are facing now?
D: No. We had nice visitors down there. Reverend Cato's sundry and Mrs.
McKnight's shop. In fact, it was something like a little restaurant. And
the shoe shop was there on the corner. I do not know whether you remember
it was a grocery store down there, Hane's Grocery Store. We had the
theater down there.
B: Now you said the Rose Theater?
D: Yes. It was right where Mr. Green's Barber Shop is now. Right along in
back. Right there. In fact, the man who owned the Rose Theater, works or
owns Burton's Clothing Store. I saw him the other day, he remembered me.
B: That man used to own the Rose Theater?
D: Yes. And I cannot think of his name now, but that is how he remembered me
when I went. He said, "I remember you. Don't you remember me?"
B: And were there many homes around the Lincoln High School at that time?
B: Was that the better place for people to live?
D: Most blacks lived in the northwest section. The southeast section grew up
when Lincoln moved out here. That is when this neighborhood started to
bloom and grow. But, where I am living that was nothing but woods and
sand and where my mother lives now, that was the first little houses built
out in this area other than the few that was already out here. But all
out in this area. When Lincoln moved out here, that meant growth.
B: So, that is the way the growth went.
B: The blacks go with the school.
D: That is right. They followed the school. But the northwest section is
where most of the blacks were, and then you have the old families, like
the Morrows and the Days and the Metzes, Daphne Williams, Duval at that
time, all of these people were old homestead people.
B: I have enjoyed talking to you and I am aware that you are now on the Board
of Directors for Santa Fe Community College and you are very, very
involved with the NAACP being established here in Gaineville, so I assume
that you were involved in integration.
D: Oh, yes.
B: May I come back and talk with you again?
D: Yes, I would be glad for you to.
B: Thank you. I have enjoyed talking with you.
D: I have enjoyed talking with you too.