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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Interviewee: Marie Jackson Allen
Interviewer: Joel Buchanan
February 12, 1986
MARIE JACKSON ALLEN
FIFTH AVENUE BLACKS, ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
INTERVIEWER: JOEL BUCHANAN
PLACE OF INTERVIEW: GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA
DATE OF INTERVIEW: FEBRUARY 12, 1986
Mrs. Marie Jackson Allen was born in Wadley, Georgia, on July 4, 1913.
When she was about four years old, her family moved to St. Augustine, where
she received her education. She attended Florida Memorial College, where she
received her teaching certification. She obtained her master's degree from
Columbia University in New York City.
This interview presents a vivid picture of life in the country schools in
the 1930s and of her later teaching years at Micanopy, Lincoln, Prairie View,
and Littlewood schools. Mrs. Allen was also active in the Alachua County
Teachers' Association, the Association for Childhood Education International,
and the Alachua County Coordinated Child Care Center, and she discusses her
activities in these organizations and in various service organizations in the
community. The interview also relates the changes that occurred in the Fifth
Avenue community during the time that Mrs. Jackson was a resident.
B: Mrs. Allen has been a school teacher in Alachua County for forty-one
years. Good morning, Mrs. Allen.
A: Good morning.
B: How are you this morning?
A: Just fine, thank you.
B: Mrs. Allen, tell me when and where you were born, and something about your
A: I was born in a place called Wadley, Georgia, and my family lived there
for about four years, then they moved to St. Augustine, Florida. Of
course, I do not know very much about Wadley, Georgia. I call St.
Augustine my home because that is the only home that I knew. My mother
and father were laborers. My mother was a cook in a small hotel, and my
father worked for the city on a dump truck. When I was in the sixth
grade, my mother had a stroke, and she was not able to work anymore. So,
for that whole time, until I was in the tenth grade, my mother was not
able to do much of anything. But later she took in washing and ironing.
Of course, that made it kind of a meager living for a family of four
B: There were four children?
A: Yes. There were two girls and two boys. I was the oldest of the four and
my sister was the baby. I had an uninterrupted school life all the way
through the twelfth grade. After I finished the twelfth grade in 1933, I
was not able to go away to college, but I attended Florida Memorial
College. At that time it was Florida Normal, because it was only a two-
year college right there in St. Augustine about four or five miles from
where I was living. When I finished Florida Memorial in 1935, I got a job
in Alachua County out in the area between, I cannot think of the place,
between Jonesville and Mt. Nebo. This settlement was called Greens and it
was a one-teacher school. Of course I was very proud to be able to go out
on my own. This was the first time that I had ever lived outside of my
parents' home. I never had to stay in a boarding school, so to be out on
your own is a kind of a funny feeling. Of course, at my age, you know out
there, I was the boss of this school, and I thought it was just marvelous
and I went out there with a really good attitude. I wanted to be a help
to people and I taught the people. I visited their homes. I would walk
home with the kids, three or four miles in the afternoons, and then I
would have dinner with them and they would bring me back home. I really
cherished those times out there. As a matter of fact, I still have some
very good friends out there now. They always come by, or call me, or
bring me something, and it means a lot to be like that. Among those
people out there that I used to visit and be around with were the Duncans.
B: Now who are the Duncans that you are speaking about?
A: Carlos and Le Joseph Duncan. My little school used to play their little
school in baseball. We would travel. We did not have buses or things to
do like children nowadays, but we would tavel to these places and play
baseball. We would exchange and that was our main school to exchange with
from Liberty Hill to Greens, and during that time, Carlos Duncan was
playing with the team. So, you see those people are some of my friends
right now, including the Browns from Rutledge. They are all my good
friends that I made during those times. And during that time, being out
there I wanted to do everything that they were doing. I remember once I
went hunting with them one night. They said something about we had to
wait until ten o'clock when the moon came up. I did not know a thing
about that, but anyway we went hunting around ten o'clock and we came back
about four o'clock the next morning. I had a lovely time. They had a
whole lot of doves you know, and there were about four women and about six
or eight men. We just had a good time. That was really an experience.
B: How many years did you teach at Greens?
A: Only three years at Greens.
B: Was the school called Greens?
A: Yes. It was an elementary school.
B: Is that school still there today?
A: No, see, all of those one-teacher schools are gone.
B: Now you said one-teacher schools. What do you mean by that?
A: That means the teacher had to teach all of the grades, one through six.
And I had two students that were not able to go on into Gainesville to the
high school, so therefore I also taught a seventh grade the third year
that I was out there. So, I taught grades one through seven. That means
that there are one or two children in this grade, three or four in the
other grade, and so forth like that. I think I had about twenty-five or
B: Now were they all in the same.
A: In the same room.
B: Well, now how did you do the teaching?
A: Well, you would group them in first grade and second, whatever, and you
would start with the little ones first. You would start with something
usually in the morning for everybody like an opening exercise, you prayed
and what not. Then it was not so difficult about religion in schools, and
that is where most children got a lot of their good manners, because the
teacher taught them about God as well. They just did not have a lesson on
it, but you had those good ideals when you sang together and you prayed
together. Some of the larger children learned Bible verses to say. That
was our biblical part of it by reading the Bible. Instead of reading the
Bible you would say a Bible verse. And some of them went so far to even
tell you where it was found. And of course you encouraged the child; you
did not slack off on that. It was a good thing, because then when you
went to church or Sunday School to see those students they.would ask you
if you were going to church or what church you were going to next Sunday.
Out in the country they did not have services each Sunday in every church.
You would go this time to the Methodist, next time to the Baptist or
whatever. It was just a good feeling. So, we would have devotions first
thing in the morning. Then I would talk about something that happened or
somebody would bring in some news and what not. That helped us to know
more about our own community where we were. And then if somebody had
something that they read, they would tell us and make a report on it, and
then I wold give them whatever news that I might have. Things like that
just really broadened us. So, after going through with all of that and
those things that came up, then I would start with maybe the first grade
and give them something to do or write something on the board. While they
were doing that, you go on to the next one. You go around from one grade
to the next one, and by that time you come back to the little ones to see
how they are doing. With them all being in the same room you could just
look over and see if the child is playing or doing what he wants to do.
But, really it was an advantage with those children from the fourth grade
up, because if they did not get something when you went over it, you would
go to the next grade and it might be something that they could learn, that
they could pick up and help them to study. It was an advantage,
especially if you did not have so many children. Now if you had a lot of
children, you could not very well do that. You could not give them
individual attention. But I was able to give them individual attention
because of the fact they were few in number in each of the grades, and
although you had all of these children, you give them enough to do over
there and then you go back and see if they are working on it and go back
over to another one. See, children will learn from others if they are
paying attention, and it was an advantage that way. Afterwards, the
little ones would have time out, and when they were out, I would have a
larger child watch over them while they are outside, while I am going on
with the more complex lessons with the other children, and it went along
fine. All of us were out at 12:00 for our noon hour, and we really used
the noon hour. We were out from about 11:30 until about 12:30, and we
played. Even the teacher played along with the children. I can remember
very well one day when... There was this person called the jeans teacher
for Alachua County. And I imagine he went to all of the counties because
he was from Tallahassee. We had a regular jeans teacher just for Alachua
County who was a lady whose name was Ruth Lang. The Langs were a very
prominent family in Gainesville and she was the jeans teacher. She went
all over the county to all of the schools checking to see how you were
doing, and to look at your lesson plans. The times that she would come,
you never exactly knew when she was coming. I guess that was a good
thing because a lot of them would not properly get work done. This
particular day she was riding with Mr. Williams from Tallahassee, and when
they came up this hill we were out for our recess period. It was not
uncommon for strange cars to come into the yard because people were
looking for the Warren's Cave and the Devils Millhopper.
B: So Greens was near that?
A: Well, it was in between. I guess Devils Millhopper was about two and a
half miles from there. So, they would get lost coming through there, and
we would show them the way to get to Devils Millhopper, and when they got
to Devils Millhopper they were right on the road to Warren's Cave.
Warren's Cave was about two and a half miles from us, and then Devils
Millhopper was about two or three miles from there. But that would be
over on the other road then. And so this car came on up into the school
ground and they parked. I was at bat, and I stayed there and batted my
ball. I batted a home run and I ran around all of the bases, and I got
back to home plate. Some of the children had already gone over to tell
them because they figured these people wanted to know where to go. I
noticed they did not leave, and at that time the man was opening the door
and getting out. So after I made my home run, I went over to see what it
was all about. To my surprise it was the state jeans teacher. I was so
shocked. I though that I had done something wrong. You know how you can
feel, when you do not know, and this was my first year, so I did not know
what was happening. I had heard about the jeans teacher from Tallahassee,
but I did not know that was who it was. After he and Miss Lang go out, I
knew that it was something pertaining to the school. She introduced me to
him, and of course he wanted to go inside. He said the kids can play
right on outside, we will just go in here. We went in the classroom, and
my class was always orderly, and he liked the pictures and posters that I
had put up and the children's work. He just walked around and marked a
few little things on the paper, and I was feeling so uneasy because I did
not know what was happening. Finally he walked around the building and he
came back. I said, "Well, it is about time for the kids to come in," and
Miss Lang said, "Oh, that is all right. They can stay out a little
longer." He was looking around, and when he got through looking around he
came back. Then I rang the bell and the kids all lined up and went in so
orderly. He was just standing there. They went in and opened their books
and started studying. He walked back in to look at them, to see what they
were doing, I guess. Then he said, "Well, it is very nice. Everything is
very nice here." And of course that made me feel real good. Well, the
next year at the beginning of the school term, they wanted to move me to
another school. I said, "Do I have to go? I really like it out here."
They said, "Well, no. You do not have to go, but we have an opening at
Hawthorne if you would like to go there." And I said, "I would rather
stay where I am." Because I really had learned about the people and we
were getting along so well, and so they did not move me. They let me
stay there. I stayed there those two years, then the third year, the
county was so large that it was broken up. At that time we had Miss Lang
and Miss Bradley was with her. Miss Bradley is now the preacher's wife,
Ida Bradley Weeks. She was the jeans teacher in my area and of course she
was very enthused over the work that I was doing. I started off taking
home economics. I could do a lot of things with my hands, and we used the
pine needles to make shoes. You just put the print of your foot down on a
piece of pasteboard and you draw around it. Then you use pine needles all
they way around it and build up a shoe. We used pine needles, and we
would draw whatever design that we wanted to make a tray, and then build
it up with pine needles and thread that you use for rafting. We did not
have rafting out there, so we used pine needles instead of rafter. The
jeans teacher and the state man came back again and saw all of these
things, and some of the kids gave him some of the things that they had
made. And that particular year I had this promotion to go to Lincoln High
School in the elementary department. Well, of course that was
complementary to be aked to leave this little school and come into a city
school. So, I came in and I really did not know exactly how I was going
to get there. I just knew something was supposed to be different that
next year, but I did not know until I came to the regular teachers'
meeting at the beginning of the school term in September. When I got
there, that is what I was told, I would be at Lincoln. Lincoln opened two
weeks later than the schools out in the country. So for those two weeks,
I did not go back home. I stayed and went around with Miss Lang to the
different schools, and just did some visiting while this was going on. In
other words, I figured it would give me some more ideas because I had just
been in a one-teacher school, and I had not had any opportunity to visit
anybody else to see how things worked. Of course, that was interesting,
and she wanted to go because it was company for her. I spent two weeks
going around with her, helping and giving people books and different
things like that. Then when school opened at Lincoln, I went there. That
was in 1938.
B: Now what did you teach at Lincoln?
A: I taught the fourth grade.
B: So, Lincoln was both elementary and junior and senior high school?
A: Elementary, yes. In those days we did not have junior highs; they just
had elementary and senior high. If you had a high school, everything was
there. Elementary, junior high, and everything else at that time. I was
there for two years. Then it became kind of tough for teachers, and they
told me that I would have to give up my job to somebody else, because a
lot of girls were coming out, and this was their home and they needed
jobs. And of course, this was not my home, and my people were not paying
taxes here or anything, so I just started looking for another job. I
started writing other places. Of course, I went home that summer, and I
was not able to go to New Jersey and work that summer. I got sick pretty
soon after I got there. By being around home and writing these letters, I
received two or three responses. Some were saying that we are filled up
now, and to try again and different things like that. It was not
discouraging, but I did not have a job. So, I was just planning on maybe
going back to New Jersey that winter. I would go up there, because I had
two brothers living there. If I did not get a job, I would just go up
there and get a good job. But, just before school opened, no, school had
opened, I received a telegram from the superintendent to report to school
that Monday morning at Williams Elementary School. This telegram came
Saturday. I really had not been out since I had had that spell of
sickness, and you know how it can make you feel. Aunt Martha said, "Do
you think that you are able to go?" And I said, "Oh, yes, I will be
able." Maybe this job made me well. So, then I had to get busy to try to
get over this. I sent a telegram to Mrs. McPherson's mother because that
is where I was living before I left.
B: And the Mrs. McPherson you are talking about is?
A: T. B. McPherson's wife, Lottie McPherson.
B: And her mother's name was what?
A: It was Marie Irving, and she lived on Seminole Lane at that time, which is
now Fifth Avenue. And I sent here a telegram to tell her son to meet me
that Sunday night on the train. And of course you had to go to
Jacksonville and change and come to Gainesville. I got a train to St.
Augustine but you go to Jacksonville, you change and come to Gainesville,
and that train would not be getting here until midnight that Sunday night.
So, I left and I got here that night and he met me. And so that morning I
thought it better to first go by the superintendent's office before going
on over there to be sure. So, I went by his office, and while I was there
Miss Lang came in and he told her to take me to Williams Elementary and
tell the principal to show me the room and to give me my books.
B: Who was the superintendent at this time?
A: Horace Zetrye was the superintendent.
B: And who was the principal of Williams Elementary?
A: Gaston Cook. And when I got there she told me to go on in, and he met me
at the door. I told him what the superintendent had said, and it seemed
to be a surprise to him, like he was not expecting that. So he said,
"Well, I will show you to the room, I have not given out registers yet."
And so, we went to the room, and his wife at that time, Altamese, was in
the classroom, and she came out. When she came to the door she said,
"Well children, I presume this is going to be your new teacher." And I
said, "Yes." So she introduced me to the class. Then she came outside
and said she was going home. I just walked on in the classroom. No one
had said anything else, and I just walked into the classroom, and I spoke
to the children. I asked them what they were doing then, and they told
me, and then I just started working. Several times he came back by the
door, I guess to see how I was doing, and we were doing just fine. In
that class was Joe Hendrix and his brother, the older brother. Joe
Hendrix is still teaching in this county now. That is why I am mentioning
that. And we just had a fine time that year, and everything went on fine,
but you know how you can feel at times that maybe you are not just getting
along so well. And you are always on pins, and I do not like to work
where I am on pins. I had a lovely time with my class, but the other
things did not seem so kosher. So, I asked if I could be sent to another
place. Near the end I told the jeans teacher just how I felt about
things, and the late Mr. Charles Chestnut evidently knew something was
going on all along. Whenever there was a program or anything at night at
my school, he would always be on the scene and be sure that I had a way to
get back home. And that is why I felt that something was wrong too. So,
then about two months before the time for school to close I was called, at
that time we had a place called the book room. And so I went down there
and the jeans teacher introduced me to Britt from Jacksonville, K. B.
Britt. He was principal at Archer and she told me that I would be going
to Archer next year. I said fine, and I became acquainted with Mr. Britt
during that time, and of course, both of us checked in books near the end
of the school term. Teachers had to bring books in and check them in,
especially from the one-teacher schools. They had to be checked in. And
so I would work some evenings down there checking in books, so I met my
principal and his wife before school closed. So, as the day the school
was closing, when we would get our last checks, the principal eveidently
knew that I was not going to be there, but he did not say anything. When
we went to go out he said, "Well, you will be hearing from me. I will see
you all next year." And two of us were not going to be there. Both of us
knew where we were going. The other person was Katura Nelson. Her home
was Hawthorne. So, I went to Archer, and Katura Nelson went to a one-
teacher school right out of Archer, St. Peter something. I think that it
was called St. Pete School. I stayed at Archer from 1940 to 1945. I got
married in 1941. I was working at Archer, I had started in 1940, and I
married in December of 1941, at Archer. Anyway, I stayed there until
1945. In the middle of the school term of 1944 or 1945, we had changed
principals. That was C. W. Norton's first year there, and being his first
year, quite naturally he wanted to make a good impression, for which I
could not blame him. We always had ball games in December. We had a
basketball game as a way of making some extra money. We used it for
buying gifts and different things like that, and we always had a big
crowd. So at this basketball game there was a young man there on furlough
from somewhere out in the community. I do not remember his name, but he
was about drunk. I was in the building, because we were making hot
chocolate and getting weenies ready to serve the little team. He came in
and he was just hitting on the piano, just as hard, all the way across,
just banging on it. And so I asked him, I said, "Please refrain from
hitting on the piano like that. We are trying to keep it in tune, because
our children are going to be in a contest, and we really want it in tune."
And so he looked at me and said, "You see this hand?" And I said, "Yes."
"I am going to bang on it all I want," and he just went on banging. So, I
said, "We would appreciate it if you would not do that," and I just turned
and left him, because I could see that he was drinking. So, when I turned
and left him, I guess he took it that I was going to get somebody or
something, I do not know, but he took out a knife and started running
after me. I ran until I got to the middle of this door, and I fell, and
when I fell, I just knew that he was on me. He just came up and looked at
me and went on about his business. And of course, I was so nervous and
upset. The teachers down there heard it, and the other group was cooking
the weenies, and they came out and immediately called Mr. Norton. I said,
"I want to have him arrested." Well, when I left they could not find him,
but they knew who he was, and so they did not arrest him. Then Mr. Norton
did not push it, I do not know why, but I think he was trying to work it
over. My husband was out there and he wanted to do something about it.
They tried to keep him quiet, and nothing was done. That Monday he went
back out there, and they still did not arrest him, so he said he was going
to Camp Blanding Marshall. So, then they did something about it
immediately. He said, "No, we are not going to let her suffer for this.
We are taking her out of Archer to Hawthorne." And so they got together,
Miss Lang was not the jeans teacher, it was Harold Jones, and Harold,
Britt, and Norton all of them got together and Britt swapped another one of
his teachers. He sent her to Archer, and I went to Hawthorne and finished
that school term out. When I finished that school term out, then I was
prepared again to go back to school and finish. I was almost through with
a BS. I was thinking that I was going to take the spring session and the
summer in order to get it, but instead I got it in just the spring
session. I am a little ahead of my story. When school ended that year, I
asked Britt to release me and let me get a one-teacher school. I talked
with him and Harold Jones, and I said it would not interrupt classes if I
have a one-teacher school, but I think that it will be better than being
in your school. So, he said, "Well, okay, if you think that way."
Because I felt like he could change his mind and not give me a leave, and
I was looking ahead. And so then I was sent to a school between Waldo and
Hawthorne, I cannot think of the name of the little school out there, but
it was one out there. I went to this one-teacher school, and I worked
through January. The second semester started in February or the last of
January, something like that. And I worked until then, that made me have
about five months, so that was considered as a year of experience in the
area. And then I went back to school, and I took a kind of heavy load. I
did not even know that I was graduating until about the Thursday before.
They had me come in and said, "Let's check up on your record, I think you
have enough credits." And I said, "No, I think I need to come this
summer." I knew things that I needed to get, because I was in home
economics, and I knew the things that the regular teachers took. These
things I did not take, and so I was taking those alone. I think I took
one or two extension courses. They were having them here during that time
and you could take some here. They went back and checked all of that, and
they said they were sure that I would be able to graduate. This was a
Friday when the lady called me back in; I was so excited. She told me
that I could march, too. Then the dean came in and he said, "Yes, you
will be able to march." So, that Friday afternoon I sent a letter to my
husband by Reverend J. R. Roberts. He was attending school down there
during that time.
B: Now where were you attending school that summer?
A: This is winter.
B: Excuse me, where were you in school that winter?
A: At Florida Memorial College.
B: So, all your training was done at that school?
A: Well, except for some extension work or something. It was all, until I
got the BS, and then I got the MA from Columbia University in New York
City. So, I sent a letter to my husband saying that I would be able to
graduate, and that I would need some more money to pay for different
things that I needed. And of course I sent this letter without thinking
about calling. Then I called him that night, and he had not even gotten
the letter. Anyway they told me that I did not have to worry about
anything. I said, "Well now, the county will not know that I am
graduating because my name will not be on the roster." They said, "Yes,
because they are pinning those things in there now, and your name is on
the roster." That was what I was interested in after I got a promise of a
leave of absence from the schools. But that did not work, because when
time came for me to retire, I found myself lacking of about one-third of
the year, and I could not pay it up on my retirement because they did not
see anything that I got a leave of absence. They had down there that I
resigned, and I did not resign, but they say that is all that they saw in
the books down there, that I resigned. So, if you resign you cannot pay
for the rest of that year. So I could not pay up the rest of that
retirement money, because they had it down there that I resigned. I guess
they just did not keep good records and things. But, by then the man that
was the jeans teacher was dead, Jones, so he could not go in and say he
gave me a leave of absence. So, I had not way of getting that part paid
up. But, anyway, I graduated, I marched that Sunday and I marched on that
Tuesday when we graduated.
B: So, there were two marching ceremonies?
A: Yes, because you have a baccalaureate and then the graduating exercises.
B: And you were graduated from what school please?
A: Florida Memorial College.
B: And that was still in St. Augustine?
A: Yes. The college moved from St. Augustine to Miami in 1968, I think.
B: Now, let us go back for a moment. During the years of your teaching, you
finished with a two-year degree?
B: Were you going to Florida Memorial in the summer?
A: Yes, a different summer. One summer I went to Tuskeegee Institute, but
most of it was done at Florida Memorial.
B: Now were you being paid by the state, or was this your own money?
A: My own money, even when I went to Tuskeegee and even when I was getting my
master's, that was all of my money.
B: Well, now, it was said that black teachers were being paid to go away to
be educated by the state. You mean that you did not...
A: I did not get one penny. I did not, but someone mentioned that, I think
this is the last year that we were there. And so, we tried to get it, and
they said we could get it in the state. I guess they were talking about
Sanford University, because that was in the state. I did not think about
trying to push it. Anyway, I just went on. I was interested in getting
and education, and so I did it. I have had to pay for all of my
B: Now what was your specialty subject in college?
A: Elementary education, but when I was getting a master's I geared my work
toward early childhood, because that was becoming important during that
time. We did not used to have kindergarten, just first grade through
twelfth, but then day care was coming into being and all of that. So, I
geared the other part toward early childhood, and when I got my master's,
it was in early childhood.
B: The statement of the little red schoolhouse? What color was you little
one-room schoolhouse in Green?
A: It was white.
B: And this was controlled by the county?
A: Yes, I guess the county owned the ground. I think that people a long time
ago, in order to have a school there, they gave the property to have a
school in a lot of cases. I do not know if that happened there or not. I
never really thought about it.
B: You mentioned that you went to several different places.
A: Yes, from Archer to Hawthorne and then to another school. I do not
remember the name of it.
B: Now how did you travel to get back and forth to these places?
A: Oh, you used your own transportation.
B: Was it encouraged for teachers to live in the community that they worked
A: Yes, it was encouraged, and I did that when I was single, but then after I
got married then I traveled from Gainesville to my place of work. But
when I was single, I lived in Greens all of the time and I started living
B: Did salary cover travel expenses for those persons who had to travel to
A: They salary did not have anything to do with it. You got the salary
whether you stayed or you traveled. It was just the same.
B: Could you tell me what your salary was your first year of teaching.
A: Sure, my salary my first year of teaching was forty dollars per month, and
my board was eight dollars for sleeping, eating, and everything. The
amount was small, but things were cheap. And forty dollars was a good
salary then compared to what the people were already getting. The one-
teacher schools out there were getting twenty-five and thirty and thirty-
five dollars. Forty dollars was high. Well, I had a little degree they
called it, so I got forty dollars. And then the next year I got fifty.
So, I went from forty to fifty out there, because I did not move the year
they wanted me to move. I said I enjoyed it, so I got fifty dollars that
year. But when I came to Lincoln, they were paying the elementary
teachers, I guess all of them, sixty dollars. That was big, sixty dollars
a month. That was big at that time. See, we were not paid what the white
teachers were paid.
B: You were not?
A: No, we were paid whatever Mr. Zetrye wanted to pay us.
B: Whatever he wanted to pay you?
A: That is the way that I understood it, so I did not go into it. I was
trying to make a living. That is what I understood.
B: Let me ask you a question. When you were paid at the end of the month or
during the month, was the check or the money delivered to the principal,
or did you have to go to the school to get it?
A: Well, no, the principals would get the checks and then pass them out to
you. But when you were at a one-teacher school, you came into the office
and got your check, the superintendent's office.
B: How did you know that you were not getting the same pay that white
teachers were getting?
A: Well, that was just a rumor. I did not try to go into it. You know, you
do not make waves when you do not have ways of finding things out and
knowing to back you up. So, you just go on.
B: What made you want to go to college to be a teacher?
A: Well, I just always wanted to be the best at whatever I was doing. I felt
comfortable in teaching, so I really wanted to get out of it all that I
could, so I could then teach the children. I guess I was a stern teacher.
I was just frank. I did not dilly-dally around, and I tried to treat all
of the children alike. I tried not to have "pets." There are some
children that really kind of get under your skin and you would dislike
quite a bit. But you do not show that. You treat them all alike.
B: When you were in college did you have the desire to do something else
A: Not when I was in college. When I was in high school, I said that I
wanted to be a nurse. But, my friend's brother got very, very sick
and it seemed that there was nothing that you could do to help him, and it
seemed to bother me. That was the first time that I had been around
somebody real, real sick. It came to me how can I be nurse when I am
afraid and feel this way about sick people. Then I started thinking that
I am afraid of dead people. And those things just kind of got into my
mind, and I just thought it out myself. I said there is no point in
trying to be a nurse when I am afraid, and I cannot help people and it
worries me. Even now, it seems when I go around somebody that I really
like, that seems to be in pain or something is wrong that I cannot help,
my stomach seems to churn, kind of turn over. I am very uncomfortable,
and I cannot stay there very long. And I do not like to be around those
kind of people. I do not tell them that is what is happening, but that is
it. I really cannot be around somebody that I like or know quite well if
they are in pain or if something is wrong. It disturbs me.
B: And that is the reason that you did not become a nurse?
B: What was the name of the high school that you attended?
A: Excelcia High School, and it went from first grade through twelfth grade.
B: And did you go there from first through twelfth?
B: Is there anything about your early education that stands out in your mind?
An event, teacher, or something?
A: In my early education...
B: Elementary or high school?
A: In elementary school it seemed that the teacher did not like me very well.
You know, when I would explain she would cut me off or let someone else
cut in. That was my idea, now that may not be true. But, you know how
children build things up. During that time I was having trouble with my
eyes, but see, she did not tell my mother until after school closed, and
her excuse about me not passing was that when I was sitting there I would
be crying. She would tell me what to read and I would be crying. But it
was my eyes. She should have told my parents before what was happening.
And of course, she did not bother, and I felt that she did not like me or
something. You know some children can feel these things. And I vowed
that I would never have that happen to me when I started teaching. But,
anyway, I had to repeat fourth grade because I could not read. My mother
took me to the doctor that summer after my teacher said that and I needed
glasses. I started wearing glasses when I was in the fourth grade. And I
wore them as soom as I got up in the morning until I got ready to go to
bed at night. They were about the last things that I would pull off,
until I was in tenth grade. And then I got to the place that I was not
dependent upon them, because my glasses had to be changed every year,
growing up. I went ot the doctor every year, and they would change until
I was in the tenth grade. Then the next year he did not change them; he
just checked them again. So, he did not change them that year. But, in
eleventh gade he changed them and he said, "Your eyes have really come up.
You may not have to be a slave to them, but you really should use them
when you read." And so that is what happened. And I did not have to have
them changed every year. I just kept growing, and I got to the place that
I did not even wear them. And I have always hated glasses, because when I
first started wearing them there were very few little children wearing
glasses. And the children used to call me four eyes and that business.
B: The teacher that you had in fourth grade that did not tell your parents
about your eyes, was she your same teacher that you had the next time in
the fourth grade?
A: No, I was in another fourth grade.
B: So, your problem was actually an eye problem, and she did not see it.
A: That is what I feel it was. Maybe I did not get the lesson, or she did
not feel that I was answering right or something. Maybe I did not study
enough. I do not know, but I put the blame on the teacher. You see,
because I think that the teacher should have said, "Do you see this? Are
you able to read? Why are you crying?" I think she could have tried to
find out, but she did not, so I put it on the teacher. It could have
not been the teacher. It could have been that I really did not know it,
and I did study.
B: Now, was Florida Memorial School a boarding school?
A: Yes, it was. But day students could attend. We were called day students.
B: Now did you have to wear uniforms?
A: No, no uniforms. Nobody wore uniforms.
B: Were you allowed to work at the school to pay your tuition? How was that
A: Well, it was only five dollars a month for day students to go. You had to
pay about thirty or thirty-five dollars to register, and then only five
dollars a month after that. I do not remember how much over all, but I
know it was something like that. But, I made my own five dollars a month
because when I got out of school I had a nice little job, I was taking
home economics there and I got a job working for a teacher, just for her
and her husband, helping her with supper at night. She found out I was
taking home economics, so I just ran her kitchen. I could order anything
I wanted to and fix anything I wanted to. She might have something, she
might have a plan or something she wanted for dinner, but if I ever came
up with anything that I wanted to do, I could do it. And she really
B: And what were their names?
A: Mr. and Mrs. Sapp. Now, I do not remember their first names to tell you
the truth. He worked at Florida Power and Light in St. Augustine, and she
taught in elementary school there at Orange Street School at that time.
So, I worked in the afternoon there, and I had enough money to keep my
stockings and things up, and have my lunch and pay my board. Five dollars
a month was not much, but that really was hard money a long time ago.
B: Was it?
A: Sure. Back in the 1920s, 1929, 1934, or 1935. Now you know it was hard
times, child. You have heard about it.
B: Do you mind telling me when you were born, please?
A: July 4, 1913.
B: Now you mentioned while talking that you married in the year 1941 in
A: December 13.
B: And whom did you marry please?
A: Collie L. Allen.
B: Where was he from? His family?
A: His family lived, oh, it was this little place. He was raised in
Weirsdale, because his mother died when he was very small, and his father
moved the family to La Crosse, Florida just outside of Gainesville. He
was working at, they called it the TEP house, the Jewish fraternity. He
was not the bellboy but was the one that did the cleaning and what not.
They had cooks and people to clean up and so he was the man that was in
charge of the cleaning up there. He had an apartment in the back. They
had a garage apartment in the back of this Jewish fraternity and he lived
there, and when we got married, that is where we lived.
B: Oh, did you?
B: Now, where was this fraternity house located?
A: It was on University Avenue. I do not remember the address exactly. I
thihk it was 1122, or something like that but I am not quite sure.
B: Now how long did you live there?
A: Oh, we lived there until he went into the army in 1943.
B: So, you had been married almost three years before he went into the
A: About two years and something, yes.
B: After you got to Lincoln High School, you immediately started teaching
B: And how long did you teach fourth grade?
A: I was there for two years that time, and then I went to Williams
Elementary for one year, and then to Archer for about five years. When I
got my BS degree in 1947, I came back to the county, but of course you did
not go right back where you were. You went wherever you could get a job.
I got a job at Micanopy with Vernon Trapp, the principal, and I taught
there one year in 1947-1948. I went back to Lincoln in September 1948,
ten years from the time that I first went. I went in 1938, and then I
went back in 1948, and I stayed there until Lincoln closed, in 1956 or
1957, something like that. It closed out, but Jones remained open until
B: So, A. Quinn Jones was closed in 1969?
A: Yes. In 1969, I went to Littlewood. That was the 1970s when they did
this flip flop. They closed down the schools and they sent blacks into
all schools. They had put a few in before because in 1969 three of us
went to Littlewood, that was Marie Allen, Flossie McLendon, and Mabel
Hall. But, when they closed down in 1970, the prinicpal called me and
said, "Marie we are going to have to get some more blacks in the school.
How do you think we should put them?" And I said, "That means there will
be six of us." And she said, "Yes. There will be seven total." I said,
"Put one in every grade level." She said, "Oh, I think that would be
B: Who was the principal that you were talking to?
A: This was Margeret Rosenberg. See, when I went out there, there was
nothing but white teachers. They had no blacks. When I said I was going
to Littlewood, they said, "I would rather you than me." So much was said
about it that one time I almost started to go and ask to go to a school
closer to me than going way out there. But, I said no. I know I can
teach, and it does not matter where I am doing it, so I did not bother
anybody. And when I went out there, I just started doing whatever was
supposed to be done. And the lady liked me because I was just
straightforward. A lot of times she would come and say, "You know, I ask
you things because I can just pitch them out to you, and I can get some
good ideas from you." And I said, "Thank you. I did not know that I
could do that." And so it stayed like that all of the time. And when
they closed down and checked others in, then she put me in charge of her
kindergarten department. I stayed chairman of the kindergarten department
out there, and when she was moved to Prairie View, I think this was 1973,
she asked me to go with her. And I said, "Sure." I figured, why stay
there? I did not know who was going to come anyway, so if she wanted me
to go, it was all right with me. And then of course, she threw it open to
anybody that wanted to come. But she asked me if I would go with her.
She said, "If I go to Prairie View, will you go with me?" I said, "Sure."
B: And how long were you there in Prairie View?
A: Until I retired in 1976.
B: And so you remained the chairman of kindergarten?
A: I still was chairman of kindergarten.
B: Were you chairman of the white teachers as well as the blacks?
A: Yes, oh yes. I was the only black in kindergarten.
B: Now before they closed A. Quinn Jones in 1956, you had a new building that
was Lincoln High School correct?
B: And the old Lincoln became...?
A: Jones Elementary. It was named after the principal that had been there so
long, A. Quinn Jones.
B: And so that became an elementary school?
B: Prior to that time, Lincoln was both high school and elementary, correct?
B: In 1969, when they closed A. Quinn Jones, were you teachers given that
knowledge several months before?
A: Oh, yes, We knew. We knew maybe two months before they really closed.
The superintendent came out to a faculty meeting that we had. We were all
in there, and he told different ones where you would be going. It
reminded me of a long time ago when I used to go to the Methodist
conference, and this reminded me of that. He stood up, as the Bishop
would stand up, and said you go here and you go there. That is what
happened that day.
B: Were a lot of people unhappy?
A: Well, they might have been surprised like I was surprised about where I
was going. You went in there, you knew that you were going to go
someplace because school was closing, but you really did not know what to
expect. They just sent us to different places.
B: Did A. Quinn Jones have any white teachers prior to this time?
A: Not classroom teachers, but we had different area people that worked for
reading and for different things like that. I think they put them around
in all of the schools. They interacted with the classroom teachers. They
would be in there with the class and some things they were doing, but
there were no white classroom teachers as such. We had about three or
four white students in there already, but they were walk-in students.
B: When you say walk-in, what do you mean?
A: Well, I mean, you know, not transported. Because you know, the city was
transporting children too during that time. Children were being
transported to Jones Elementary School.
B: From where?
A: From Rutledge and Arrendondo. They were being bused here.
B: So, you had children that were being bused into Lincoln.
B: From the outlying areas?
B: Well, were they being bused from any other section in Gainesville, or were
there other black schools there, negro schools?
A: Yes, there were others. Williams Elementary had children being bused
there, and that was a black school, an all black school. Children from
Lake Forest, outlying areas close around, were bused in there. I think
the children from what is the name of that town, that little place out
there, Coplin, were bused to Lake Forest. No, they were not at Lake
Forest, they were at Williams you see, the black school. And I know
children from Rutledge out there on Archer Road were being bused to
B: Approximately what was the population of Jones Elementary?
A: I do not have the least idea.
B: About how many students did you have in a class at a time?
A: Oh, we had let me see. I had from around thirty to thirty-six, so I guess
there were quite a few. Let me see there were seven classes in that
school, you know.
B: Did you have first to seventh grade?
A: You mean at this school?
A: No, just the sixth grade. We only had kindergarten through sixth grade.
B: Of your years teaching, which were the most enjoyable ones for you?
A: The most enjoyable, let me see. I cannot forget those first years with
nothing coming in. You had to buy everything you used in the classroom,
but I enjoyed it.
B: What do you mean by that?
A: When I said buy everything you need in the classroom?
A: We had to buy everything but the books. Crayons, pencils, anything you
used. If you had to draw anything, you had to have long construction
paper, the teacher would buy all of this stuff. That money came out of
her pocket. Any extras that you wanted to go along with the books, that
you wanted to use, the teacher bought it. Everything was paid for by the
B: You bought that?
A: The teacher bought that. Anything to enhance her class, she bought it.
B: So, that meant that you were doing more than working just for the pay.
A: That is right. If you wanted your work to go on, that is how you enhanced
your work. You would get all of these extra things to do and you would
get the drawing paper and boards, to make poster boards and all of that.
You bought it so you could get your things across.
B: Because you were in a place like Greens, were the students required to
come to school or was it by choice that they came there? How did you know
what made them come?
A: Well, it was required. It has always been required in Alachua County, I
guess from school age through sixteen, that you attend school. And there
was a pride I guess, in keeping them in. It was the parents' interest to
keep their children in school, because they stayed in school much longer
than they do now.
B: They did.
A: Oh, yes they did. Children would come to school. You did not have
children playing hookey and staying out of school just for the fun of it.
They came to school. They would sometimes come late because they had
chores to do and they had to walk a long way, but they came to school.
B: But, now when that happened, if Johnny came to school late, it was
A: That is right, it was. And you gave Johnny something to pull up. If
something had gone on in class before he got there, you saw to it that
Johnny got that too, because that was an honor to me for a child to come
to school under those conditions, and you see, we went around to see
these children. We went to their homes. We knew where they lived. You
have an idea where a child lives, and when you talk with that parent you
ask about what Johnny does in the morning before he comes to school, and
what Johnny had to do when he came home from school. Well, you knew what
Johnny had to do, and if Johnny had to work until sundown that night
before eating and all of that, you tried to help Johnny to be sure he
understood what he was supposed to do for the next day. And they did not
have many studies at home anyway, because of the lamp light. They did not
have a lot of electricity back then. I knew what it was like with my eyes
being bad. I knew that lamp light was not the best light for them to see
by, because I was not used to that darkness out there or lamp light
myself. I was raised with electricity, but I though of these kind of
things, these situations. And so the time that you were not working in
your class, you give these some children some work to be done at school.
You can go back and check on it while they are doing it, and then they do
not have to have so much homework to be brought in. You did it right
there and because the teacher was not with you all of the time, you could
be doing your work.
B: That is true. So, you were very conscious of the living arrangements
because you had visited the students. Did the community that you worked
in appreciate the teacher?
A: Yes, very much so. You could tell when people meet you and talk with you,
and they would always be looking up to you. You know, I have been in
places where people kind of turn their head...
B: Now Greens School was located where?
A: I would say it was kind of between, kind of in a triangle I would say. In
fact you could go to it from Jonesville. You come from Jonesville, I
would say about five miles up to there, and then from there you could go
to Mt. Nebo about three or four miles, and then you could come up the
other triangle up to Rutledge about three or four miles.
B: Now, you mentioned Bennington?
A: Yes, Bennington, that is the name. The school was Greens, but the
settlement was Bennington. I imagine the school was named, I am thinking,
from Reverend Green's family that lived out there. His grandson has a
A: The English Greens people. I am thinking that they took the name from
that. You know most times schools take these names from things like that.
I never bothered about going into it, but I am thinking that is where it
B: You mentioned in talking earlier that Mr. Chestnut was at the school in
the evening time and brought you home. What was Mr. Chestnut's link to
A: Well, I think he was just, I do not know. Maybe he was a trustee or
something, but he was just a friend. He knew me from St. Augustine. His
relatives and our family were friends. Although when I came here, I did
not try to get in touch with him, but he knew of the family, and I guess
he wanted to be sure that I was taken care of. That is the only way I can
B: Were there any children in your family?
A: No, we never had any children of our own. He had a daughter by a previous
marriage, and we adopted a second cousin of mine in 1956. We adopted a
girl, Betty Jean Allen. We adopted her. She is my cousin already, but
since I did not ever have any children of my own, we adopted her. She was
in second grade when I got her, and her first teacher was Mrs. Jossie
B: And what is Betty Jean doing now?
A: She was working at some institution. She got married to a fellow by the
name of Granison Jenkins in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The first year she
did not work, but the next year she had a job at Southern University. It
was a special course that she was teaching that pertained to all of the
students who had to take it. It pertained to taking the examination, whatever
it was. I do not know what it is called then, but since then she went
back to school, and she got her master's on December 20, last year. She
got her master's degree. Her husband was a foreman at a sodium plant
there and they started laying off these workers a year ago or more. He
was laid off his job, and of course he had been trying to find a pretty
good job since then, but they are thinking about coming back to Florida.
B: Back with their mother? Back with you?
A: Well, I do not know what they are planning, I kind of think they are
thinking about, she likes it down in St. Petersburg. She was down there
before she got married, and I think they like the St. Petersburg or Tampa
area. They are supposed to be prospecting right now over there.
B: Were you involved in any activities outside of the school?
A: Oh, yes. In the school system?
A: I was the person, the contact person, for our county from 1970 through
1976. That would be the delegate who went to the state teachers'
association most often. I worked on the bargaining committee for the
Alachua County Teachers' Association for two years, and in 1972, I was
chosen as the president of Association for Childhood Education
International. That was an early childhood group that met for all of the
teachers all over the county. When I was the president, we had a big
affair when I was installed out at the University of Florida, so the other
chapters could see us. And the picture went in the paper and all of that
saying that I was president.
B: Were you the first black?
A: The first black president that they had for that concern in the county at
B: Now prior to integration, was there ever meetings, like state teacher
meetings, just for negro teachers?
A: Just the negro teachers, and when that was being done, I was... Well, at
first we did not have early childhood in the Florida Department of
Education, and I was one of those people chosen to attend the teachers'
association at Tampa that particular year to form a group for the early
childhood in the negro section. I was chosen as treasurer, and I remained
treasurer until I retired. Then after integration, we decided then we did
not particularly need this for ourselves. It was nice to meet, and
sometimes we wanted to, but we figured it was not productive and a lot of
teachers were retiring anyway, especially those that were in this part.
So we gave the money that we had over in the treasury to Tallahassee to
the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University archives. And before
we were integrated I was, when we started the early childhood, I was the
chairman for the county black early childhood teacher group. I suggested
to them that it would be a nice idea, because it was new to all of us and
everybody was trying to get ideas from someplace or someone else. I
thought it would be a nice idea to meet each month at a different school,
and meet in this room so we can see how the other person has been doing,
you know. And you could get ideas from them. If you are in a different
school in a different part of the county, nobody would probably ever know
that you got ideas from somebody else, but then there would be something
to show that you are improving. And that really worked well. And since I
have retired, I have been on the board of ACCCC. When I was vice-
president, Mr. Williams was president. Mr. Williams is a teacher at the
University of Florida. I suggested to him that it would be a nice idea if
we sometimes held our meetings at these different centers. He thought it
was a nice idea also and so we voted on it and approved it. We visited
Alachua pre-school, and we went to Newberry, and by that time Mr. Williams
left. Then we had a new board almost, all over again, and I was chosen
president of that board. They started having so many negative things
being said there, and they started fighting among themselves in a way. It
seemed that they were against the person that was really, not in charge of
the board, but the person that was head of ACCCC. And so with so much
going on, I though it best not to continue until they could get some
things straightened out. But, of course they did get a new person over
ACCCC and it seemed to run a different way. I tried to completely leave
the board, because my time was up, but they would not seem to let that be.
So I am still the vice-president, because I did not want to be president.
B: Now what does ACCCC stand for?
A: Alachua County Coordinated Child Care Centers.
B: And how many centers do you oversee now?
A: We have, I think, eighteen that we really do business with. There are
plenty of others around, bt they are not under ACCCC.
B: By being under the umbrella of ACCCC, do they get certain funds that other
places do not get?
A: Yes, they do. They get funds, we get them help through HRS, and there is
a program whereby children can come to day care centers. It depends upon
how much money the parents make, or how much money goes into that home, or
how many are in the family. It is kind of like being on welfare in a way.
You know it goes by the number of the family, and how much goes in as to
how much you will get, and whether people use food stamps. So, those
people are really protected that way. Otherwise if you went to these
other centers that are not under that, you would have to pay the amount
for the child each day.
B: At least you are subsidzing.
A: Subsidize, yes, that is what they get, subsidized funds.
B: If you had to re-live the forty-one years that you were a teacher, would
you still be a school teacher?
A: Well, I think that I would. I just like children. I think I would
because I really have not stopped being with them, with being chairman of
Kennedy Day Care Board ever since 1976 and being on the board of Palmer
King Day Care Center, I really think I would.
B: So, you are still involved with children?
A: Yes, about every day, I am around them. Sometimes I teach them a lesson,
something that I want to do, or sometimes I tell them a story. It just
all depends, and then sometimes I just look in.
B: And you said the Kennedy Day Care Center, now where is that located
A: That is located in the project, Kennedy Homes.
B: Now about how many children do you all have there?
A: We have about sixty-eight.
B: Now is this a negro center?
A: Yes, negro. Most of the workers there are negros, but we have one white
grandparent and she is very good. She is a person that we are trying to
get something for her, since Kennedy is supposed to be under Volunteers of
America. They have meetings, and although we are under ACCCC we are in
their building, and so we attend meetings and things that they have. The
director and myself are supposed to be attending a meeting in New Orleans
in May, and we are trying to get some aid from them to bringing this
person so she can receive an award. This white lady has had both of her
legs amputated and she gets around quite well. She is there more so than
some of the other grandparents. She is on this grandparent program and we
think it just means something for somebody to not have any legs. She had
peg legs, and to get around like she does and she is always cheerful with
the children. And I just thought it meant something to try to get her
there, so that is why we are interceding, so that Volunteers of America
could furnish something toward it. Mrs. Miller and I plan to take her to
B: Now what are you going to do in New Orleans, Mrs. Allen?
A: This is for Volunteers of America Program. They like for somebody from
each center, that is each concerned, I do not know how many other day care
centers they might have, but I know ours is one, and they have pictures of
things being done at our day care center and all of that. Last year at
Christmas time we went to the children's ward out at Shands Teaching
Hospital. We brought gifts for the kids, and we put on a play. We had
some parents with us, just the parents, and the other workers, the
volunteer workers. We went there, and put on a little program for the
children. We had photographers there, we had the Gainesville Sun people
there, and Channel 20 was there. They took pictures and all of that, and
we thought it was really nice. This lady helped prepare some of these
things that we carried, and helped to wrap, but she had a certain time
that they pick her up, so we could not take her. We would have liked to
bring her, but we could not.
B: Now what are the different boards, and what are the different concerns
that you do? I know that you do a lot of volunteer work.
A: Well, I work at the church. I help out there sometimes. I help the
secretary in the office because I am chairman of finance, so I help her
B: Now, what church is this?
A: This is Mt. Carmel Baptist Church out on Twenty-fifth Street and Eighth
B: Have you been affiliated with this church for years?
A: Oh yes. Since about 1938.
B: While you were a teacher you were somewhat in a different bracket than
most of the blacks in Gainesville. Did you ever encounter any segregated
situations in shopping or traveling, in your early years?
A: Yes, somewhat. But, you know sometimes you cannot emphasize things like
that. You can kind of ignore some things. I have gone into stores and
you would be there first, the person will see you there, and when a white
walked in they would turn from you to go to them. Sometimes they did not
want anything or just asked a question. Then they would finally come back
to you and see what you want but you just treat them nice. You do not
have to go into, you know, you can find good things in every situation.
You go and ask nice, and just go ahead because it only makes bad matters
worse to try to push something. I have never been that type. If a person
tried to ignore me or what not, I would just go on my way like I am doing
and not pay much attention to it. Even when we went into the schools
where they were all white, you could see they way that people acted. You
could kind of tell that they were not too particular about you being
there, but you just act like nothing is happening. You just walk right in
and sit right down, or go right where you were. You just go in and sit
down, find a seat and you know. By talking friendly and being nice, you
know those people are changed. You can even see the change in them. You
can see it. Although I came from St. Augustine, when all of this stuff
went on, segregation, it really hurt me because I had always had white
B: Did you?
A: Always, all of my life, I had always had white neighbors and they were
friendly. They were nice. People never even acted like that. You knew
that you were black, and they knew that they were white, but we would walk
to school with the children. We would go along to school together,
playing and what not. They would stop off at their school and we would
keep on to ours and what not. It just did not look that way. You would
go into a store. They just were, just a thing you know. But it seems, I
asked some people even in January I was over there for my sick aunt, and I
attended some of those meetings. I heard ex-Governor Collins speak. I
went to that breakfast. I went to that luncheon when Governor Graham
spoke. I was there, and I asked some of these people just what happened,
because this hurt me when I heard all of this. They said St. Augustine
was run practically by backwoods people that came in. They had grown up
and come in, and then that is what happened. That is what they said. So,
the place was being governed by that type of people.
B: Oh, were they?
A: That is what they are saying. They were not the people that were St.
Augustine folk. That is what they told me because really it just shocked
B: Did it?
A: Honestly it did because I just did not think those things would go on. In
other words we knew where we were going. There is no point in asking for
water or wanting to eat at the place if you had not been doing it. We
just did not bother, that is all. We just did not do it. If you wanted
anything you got it, so what.
B: Did it ever worry you that as a black teacher that you were not allowed to
take advantage of the white materials and be equal to the white teacher?
A: Well, it worried me about not being equal. But then when people I would
talk with asked did I associate with whether something was black or white,
we just talked and we just did as though nothing was there. In other
words, we did not have that animosity, you know, because I was friends
with white teachers here. I was friendly with white teachers here, and
these meetings when we were integrated, you know, when you came in and
started talking. You had one or two setbacks, I guess some of us were
saying that about them. But you do not go in looking for something bad if
you want to get the good part out of things. You do not go looking for
B: Did you ever want to go to the University of Florida?
A: No, I did not. I really did not want to go there. I felt like if they
did not want me there I did not need to be there. I could get what I
wanted anyway someplace else so why worry. It never worried me about the
B: That was your attitude?
A: Yes. It never worried me.
B: The interview has ended, but I realized I have not asked you a question.
Where did you live when you were here in Gainesville?
A: I lived with Mrs. Marie Ervin, on what was Seminary Street at that time.
B: And as you were transferred to the other schools, did you end up moving to
those cities to live?
A: When I was teaching in Bennington-Greens School, I lived with the person
called the supervisor out there, Palmer Welch. Another year I lived with
Cornell Haile's mother and his wife.
B: You mentioned that you lived with the supervisor. Of what?
A: They are called a supervisor at the center. At these different schools, I
understand that they had these different supervisors. They were just
supposed to tell what was needed out there, whether they needed wood or
whatever it was in the schools. That is what I interpreted this man
doing. He would always check on the wood and see if everything was doing
all right. I guess he had to report to a superintendent. Just to see if
you got to school on time. That is my impression.
B: And you lived with this man?
A: Yes. I lived with him and his wife.
B: And after you married, where did you live here in Gainesville?
A: My husband and I lived on University Avenue. As I said, it is just a
place where he worked. And then he went into the service when he came
back out of the service we brought a home on Northwest Seventh Avenue.
B: What was it then?
A: It was Columbus Street, and I do not know the other, but it was facing
B: Now that is the area known as Seventh Avenue and Fifth Avenue. Was that a
pleasant place to live at that time?
A: It was. It was a beautiful area over there.
B: You have been hearing some negative things about that area being a ghetto
with a lot of crime and a lot of problems. Is that true?
A: It was not true then. Now I have moved out of that area because we wanted
a better place so we built a home out on Northeast Eighth Avenue. But it
was always a nice place to live while I was over there. Just recently it
has gone down. Even since the school has gone.
B: Is it always true that black teachers used to live around the school?
A: I do not know if that was true always. Because I did not always live
around it. It was just in the later years.
B: At the area that we are in right now, when you moved over here or built
your home, was subdivision being built then?
A: Yes, it was.
B: Now what was the area called at that time?
A: The end that I lived in was called Duval Heights. Well, Duval does not
reach as far as my house. My area was called Florida Gardens, but now
people call it all of it Duval Heights but it is not. It is different
B: And you all have built a large and beautiful place of the Mt. Carmel
Baptist Church. How is it that the community received such a structure in
A: Well, you see, I think most of them say it is a nice church. Really it is
the nicest church in town. But they got kind of a hangover from it, you
know some people wondering why they do not know the whole facts. They are
just wondering does it have any bearing on us coming out here. But in the
beginning it was a good move for everybody. But then about four or five
decided to stay on the other side. They have been calling it a split, but
it could not be a split because most everybody came out here. And still
our property is over there and they are calling themselves Mt. Carmel too.
B: Do you think it was worth it, putting such a large group in this part of
town and not in downtown Gainesville?
A: Sure I think it enhances this neighborhood. I really do. And you know
when you do something you enjoy it? And the children are learning.
B: There is so much publicity about children not being able to read and that
black children are behind. What do you feel is the cause of that?
A: I think a lot of that comes back to the parents. Because you have a child
you want that child to succeed, you ought to see what that child is
getting. And see that that child is really putting an effort about what
is being brought to the house. But a lot of these children do not even
pick up a book. They do not do anything but go home to play, or do the
little chores the parent might have. The parent might not even go to the
school. She does not even try to see. If the grades or comments are not
good, why not go and check on it and see what can be done and ask what can
I do to help this child...
B: But parents are working people.
A: All are not working. A lot of them are on welfare, and they certainly can
do something. If you are not working, you are home with the little ones,
and when the children come home you certainly can help. My parents worked
too, but they saw to me getting my lesson. And they looked in to see what
you were doing, and by the time I was in the sixth grade, I was above my
mother and father. My father was a third grade student, but he could
write better than me. My mother had finished the sixth grade. When I got
in the sixth grade I had not one to help me at home, but my parents saw to
it I got my lesson. Whether they knew what I was doing or not I studied.
And I did not come home with any bad grades. See children came home with
a C or a D and they would say do better next time. To tell them to do
better and then do not see that they do it is no good. You got to stay in
behind these children. Children have so much now, but you know, they do
not have a lot of men and women to look up to like they used to. They
used to hold themselves up. But you know, they do not have a lot of men
and women to look up to like they used to. They used to hold themselves
up. But nowadays the people just go. They just drift... I really do not
think they know how they are drifting until it is too late. I really do.
B: When you say people, children have nobody to look to. What do you mean by
A: Well, they had black principals. Now we do not seem to have any or not
too many. They had people, a deacon, in churches that held themselves up.
You know, when you go to church there was a deacon. He did not do all
these things in front of him. And the principals were there and we had
more of them. Now we do not have many of them, but we do have some that
have high places in the schools. Those are good signs for children to
really look up to and do. You know see somebody outstanding, you know
that person doing something and people are talking about them be like so
and so. I tried to live up to somebody and I guess that is how I went on
to be a teacher. I wanted to be somebody. I wanted to do something to
help somebody. But if you have your mind to just play these records, and
some of them are so degrading, and so loud. I told my granddaughter,
sometimes I come in and the radio is up so high I say, "Hey, how can you
learn?" "What do you mean, how can I learn." "No, you cannot even hear
what the teacher says because you are playing this so loud, when you get
back to school she is not going to talk as loud so you are not going to
hear everything she says." And I kept after her about that because I will
not have that in my house. They say Mrs. Allie must not be home because I
sure would not turn it up where you can hear it. But people outside do
not have to hear it.
B: Were you considered a stern teacher?
A: Yes. Very much. People who did not come in my class would say, "That is
a mean teacher." I have often heard, "She is a mean teacher." But
children who came in my class, they could attest, they could say, "No, she
is not mean unless someone did not like her." You know you do not get
everybody to like you. But the majority of the kids I can say truthfully,
white or black, enjoyed my class.
B: When did they start having kindergarten classes in the black school?
A: About 1957, I believe. The same year the new Lincoln High School was
built. That same year was the first year that we put in the school. And
then it was only first put in Gainesville Center, Jones Elementary, Duval,
B: So you have actually seen the school system go from the humble, one-room
classroom to bringing in the kindergarten to the grade shifts? Of that,
which is your favorite?
A: My favorite was kindergarten. I always liked early childhood, the early
grades. When I began teaching in schools other than the one-teacher
schools, it was always first, second, third, or fourth grade. Most of my
teaching before kindergarten was in the first and second grade.
B: Why do you like the early years?
A: I do not know. I liked it and then it seems that I had one principal,
Mrs. Gordon, tell me that I like you in these grades. And it seems that
that must have been because maybe I got to the children better or
something. I was nice to the children. You know everybody cannot be
right down with little children. So maybe that was it. Maybe people saw
that, but that is where I was put.
B: The later part of your career was spent teaching kindergarten?
A: Yes. Fron 1957 or 1958 to 1976.
B: Now was anyone allowed to bring their children to kindergarten at Lincoln?
Could any child go or were there age limits or what?
A: Yes, there was an age limit. You were supposed to be five years old or
close to five. Anyway you would be five that year, but for going to first
grade, you were supposed to be six years old by the first of January, so
in kindergarten you had to be five years old. That started with it that
way. I do not know if it is different now. I think they were talking
about lowering the age level. No, not lowering it, raising the age level
because children did not seem to mature fast enough. They started talking
about before we got kindergarten. About raising the age for children
coming to the first grade. They were saying they did not grow up or
B: I think it should be lowered. By the time the child is six he should pass
to the first grade.
A: You see, what I think they were doing, when they said that they were
looking out for these day care centers. That what I am thinking they were
doing then. But you know they are saying that children really start to
write using these small pencils before they are six years old. Because
of the finer muscles in their fingers, they should start out in the first
grade with these big pencils and not try to hold these little pencils.
B: Are you a member of any social activities? Clubs?
A: Yes, I belong to a civic and community group. We have done so many things
for it. We got the first incubator in Alachua General Hospital. We have
been organized since 1940.
B: Is this with the ladies?
B: How often do you meet?
A: Once a month. And in our group we have a lawyer, a nurse, and teachers.
So far that is what we have.
B: And how large is your organization?
A: We have fourteen members. See we meet in homes, so we do not need to get
it too large. And when we meet the hostess serves us dinner, or whatever
she likes to serve. It could be light or heavy.
B: Is this every month on a certain date?
A: Every month. Usually on whatever the third Saturday is. Somewhere around
that time unless the hostess cannot have it at that time, and then she
will give you time that she could have it.
B: How do you decided when you go to someone's house?
A: We go alphabetically.
B: Have you had it this year?
A: No I have not. I may not get it this year, because now it is at F.
Fursions. She had it last month, and Gladfer has it this month.
B: By having so many, you may not get it.
B: Are there any other clubs that you are a member of?
A: Not clubs, no.
B: What is your role in your church? I know the church plays a very large
part in the community.
A: Well, I am a member of the trustee board, chairman of the finance
department, member of choir number one, called our chancellor choir, and a
member of the missionary society. I attend training units Sunday
afternoon, I attend Sunday school and I belong to a Bible class. We call
it the layman's class on Monday night. All that is in the church.
B: Has the church been a forceful influence in the community?
A: Yes, it has.
B: How has it?
A: Well, you know, when the people come to church, I think their coming
together and association is important, and then the minister comes and he
is an outgoing person. He brings up some things that have happened in the
county or the community. He talks about these things to the members, and
I think that when you have an outgoing minister it can let you see what is
happening and what can be done. When he enlightens you on these things
that brings you knowledge of some things that are happening that you did
not know. So I think the church is a good influence on people. Well,
there are some, you know it does not do anything to them just like water
on the duck's back, but then there are others that it does.
B: I have an interesting question I need to ask you. You have been a member
of the Mt. Carmel Church since 1938, and your minister Reverend Thomas
Wright, who I just interviewed the other day, is very active in the NAACP
as president. And there was a lot of activity with Reverend Wright when he
was involved. As a member, how did the members feel about him taking on
the role as leader to get things done in the community considering the
A: Well, I think they were really on his side when he was president. A
number of times some other laymen or somebody would say something about
what is happening. I think the majority of the members were really with
him. Yes they supported him.
B: They did not mind the church being used for the meeting facilities?
A: If so I never heard anything being spoken about it. This brings to mind
also somethings you do not hear depending on where you are. I never heard
anything about it. Now I am not saying that it wasn't. Because one time
in particular, something was said, somebody else said it, and it went in
the newspaper. They said Wright said it. Well at Lincoln High School at
that time, the Lincoln High School, two or three of the teachers over
there were downright mad at Reverend Wright about it. And he did not even
say it. Somebody else said it, but they had said something that Wright
said. You do not say stop it there, you just kept on with the others as
though Wright said it. And so he was shocked when he heard, when we told
him that it was in the paper. He went back to reading the paper. He was
shocked because he said he would not have said a thing like that. But
they were pretty mad at him. And I think that some of that still stands
out with one or two of them. That was over there at that time. They are
not teaching. They are in the profession but are not teaching now. And I
kind of think that some of that stayed with them.
B: Well, we have had a good talk this morning. I really appreciate it. If
you had to have a statement to tell the young people about education or
being fulfilled as a person, I assume you had a fulfilled life, what would
Marie Jackson Allen say?
A: To the children? I would say gain all the knowledge you can, and try to
put it to good use. Do the things, change the things that you can and
accept those that you cannot.
B: Do you believe that?
A: I do. If you cannot change it there is nothing you can do but accept it.
I do what I can to change in my small way by going around and talking. I
never tried to hurt anybody, I always tried to lift them up. And if a
person has a bad attitude I try to help change it. If I cannot, I do not
worry about it.
B: Thank you for talking with us today. I have ended the interview with Mrs.
Marie Jackson Allen, at 805 Northeast Twenty-fourth Terrace. Thank you
A: You are welcome.