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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA PERSONALITIES
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
INTERVIEWEE: Henry Philip Constans
INTERVIEWER: Samuel Proctor
DATE: April 21, 1970
This is an Oral History interview with Professor Henry Philip
Constans, conducted by Samuel Proctor on Tuesday, April 21,
P: You arrived here in September, 1929. [What were] the impressions
you had of the campus, perhaps in comparison with the ones you
C: Well, of course, the campuses at North Dakota and Wyoming had
a great many trees, buy only in the summer were there any
flowers or flowering shrubs. I was struck by the fact that
there are larger trees here, more of them, and some shrubs
were in blossom even at that time. I'm not sure just what
they were. It seems to me plumbago or something like that.
There was, I believe, a wall, went along on University Avenue.
Anderson Hall was then called Language Hall. And that was, in
a s-ense, the main hall, or we would call it an administrative
unit with many, many other things in it. The president's
office [and] the business office were there. And Dean Anderson,
of the College of Arts and Sciences was there, his office.
P: Now was Dean Anderson the Dean of Arts and Sciences? He
was not yet dean of the graduate school?
C: No, not yet. He was the dean of Arts and Sciences. He was
the man who employed me.
P: Where was [the] Arts and Sciences office in Anderson Hall?
C: Well, it was at the east end on that first floor--you go up
that short flight.
P: Which later became the graduate office. I remember Dean Simpson
was in that office.
C: If my memory serves me right, that is correct. That was the
office. The registrar was on the first floor, and as I say,
the business office, Mr. Graham's office was on the first
floor. A cashier's cage sort of thing was on the first floor.
I don't recall what other things--there was a classroom or two.
The English department was there, and the foreign language
department--if not that, certainly the classical languages.
P: Now, the library was already here, or course, the first unit.
C: Oh yes, the first unit of the library was here. Well, I was
favorably impressed with the building. It's true, with some
exceptions, they were of a sort of an architectural pattern or
style that we can see now. I couldn't quite understand the
auditorium. It was obviously unfinished with that--it's
still there--with that wooden step going up. I didn't quite
understand that, but we didn't have so many students but
that you couldn't seat those who wanted to come to meetings.
Streets were paved on campus to some extent. There was
a sort of a walkway that came in from the corner of Thirteenth
[Street] and University Avenue. Sort of a...wasn't a straight
walkway, but sort of a circular, semi-circular sort of walkway.
I liked the campus, because I like trees and I like grass, flowers,
and things of that kind. So I was favorably impressed.
I was not overawed by the athletic situation. It was the
field where they now play soccer. There were some concrete
box seats along the west end of it. They must have had some
bleachers. I'm a little vague on that. I went to a game or
two, but soon thereafter, you see, we got the Florida Field.
P: Were they still using that two-story brick gymnasium that the
women use now?
C: Oh yes. Wyoming had a very fine gymnasium, and it struck
me as being a bit small, at first, out of date. And they
had one they called--that was the "old" gym. And then they had
one they called the "new old" gym later, which was the wooden
structure where the music department is now. That was here.
They were playing basketball there. But I don't believe the
swimming pool was here at that time. I think that had been
built with student funds. The old Florida Union was not here.
That had to be built with student funds primarily. One or
two of the agricultural buildings were here, or course.
P: Were there still just the two dormitories, Thomas and Buckman?
C: Thomas and Buckman, yes, because later they dedicated three,
Murphree, Fletcher, and Sledd.
P: Now, they were built after you arrived?
C: Oh, yes.
P: Were classes still being held in both Thomas and Buckman
Halls when you first came to the campus?
C: Well, they could have been, but I taught either in Anderson or
over in Peabody. That's where I had my office. I'm not sure....
There were two more buildings, Peabody Hall and Benton Engineering,
now that I think of it.
P: And of course, Norman Hall, the old P.K. Yonge, was not yet...
C: No, not yet.
P: Now the edge of the campus was about where Little Hall is now,
C: Yes, because to the south of that was an orange grove. And
there was a dairy barn--and then an old barn which was a kind of
a mule barn, and a place where they had agricultural engineering,
with some forges like blacksmiths would have. I know this well,
because later I got the second floor of that old place for the
Florida Players to build the scenery.
P: Let me ask you about the little building that the news bureau
now uses, across from the auditorium, which of course later
became the Post Office. Do you recall what that was being
utilized for when you came?
C: No. Are you sure that was built?
P: Yes, that was here. That actually precedes Buckman and Thomas,
and I think by then it was being used as sort of a chemistry
laboratory of one sort or another. It had not yet been taken
over for the Post Office. Do you recall where the campus Post
Office.and bookstore was when you came? I know the museum was
on the second floor of Flint.
C: You had to go over to the bookstore so they got the books in
for your classes. Yes, I recall doing that, and putting in
the order, that sort of thing. I didn't receive mail at the
Campus Post office. They always delivered it to my home or it
came over to Peabody.
P: Did they have a campus mail system at that time, intra-campus?
C: I believe they did. I believe they carried it to buildings.
I know I'm right, because I know going into Peabody Hall, going
into a little outer area where Dean Norman had his office--he
had a good-sized office--in an outer area were boxes, faculty
boxes. We got mail there. I'm sure of that.
P: That faculty mail box is still in existence. It's up on the
second floor now in the history office. It was moved off the
first floor and that's exactly where it is.
C: Well, then, that verifies what I'm saying. You know that it
moved, and I recall it being on the first floor.
P: Dr. Leake had his office down at that end.
C: Yes, he did.
P: Now, you told me that your first office was on the first floor
of Peabody. I think you said [it was] at the south end of
C: Yes, southwest end. Go through the psychology laboratory to
get to it. I think it's still there.
P: Where was your first classroom?
C: My first classroom--well, some of the classes were in that
psychology recitation room right there, and I believe [some were]
on the second floor. I may have had a class or two, I'm certain
I had them a little later, in that auditorium that was on the
second floor--still is.
P: 205. Now, as I recall, when I came here you had an office in
what is now Anderson Hall. Is that right?
C: No. I had an office....
P: Well, from Peabody tell me, where did you go from there?
C: Well, we just moved down into the basement at the south
end. Then we went up on the second floor of Peabody, again
at the south end. By this time the staff was enlarged, of
course. Some of them were down toward the north end of the
second floor of Peabody. At one time I know Professor Payne
of History had an office with at least Professor Hopkins, and
maybe a couple of other of my men. I remember that distinctly
because he was housed down there. I was housed next to Dr.
Enwall, who was on the second floor. He taught in the classroom
right to his right as he came out of his office. I taught
in the classroom on my left on the second floor.
P: Now tell me about your first classes. What subjects did you
C: Well, I taught a course that probably was called public speaking;
I'm not sure. We did not teach freshmen. They had completed
the freshman English course. That was a pre-requisite. I'm
not dead sure of that title, but I do think it was public
speaking. I taught a course in argumentation. I taught a
course in oral interpretation of literature. Now, that would
be about it, because I may well have had two sections of that
first course. I'm sure I had three preparations.
P: What was the average teaching load, as you recall?
C: I believe I taught twelve hours, and my rank was associate pro-
fessor. You see, as extracurricular activities I directed
the debating the first year.
P: And the Florida Players.
C: Well, yes, I started it under a little different name. Called
it, I believe, the Florida Dramatic Society or Club. But
you had to get it started, of course.
P: Didn't I understand that there was already a Speech Department
here before you arrived, which had gone through some kind of
change? Can you tell me what the history of this was before
you arrived on campus?
C: I learned that because of some dissatisfaction with the work of
my predecessor, in order to relieve the university of his ser-
vices, the department was abolished. Well, then there was no
P: This was a separate department in Arts and Sciences; it was
not a part of the English?
C: No, it was not. And then shortly thereafter--I wouldn't be
sure of the dates, of course, but this must take place during
the summer of '29, becuase I was hired as head of a department--
then it was recreated, and now I'm head of this newly created
P: Was the dissatisfaction with the individual and not as a
result of a lack of student interest in speech courses and
that kind of thing?
C: I think it was the individual. He put in, I learned, con-
siderable time with the Little Theatre of Gainesville, which
must have taken a great deal of time, of course, but did not
put on any plays here. I don't know why. I believe his name
was Buchanen. I never saw him. He was preceded by a Dr.
Chapman, who did private teaching, coaching of speaking,
recitation of poems and things of that sort. I don't know
whether the university paid him or not, Chapman. I don't
think it was a lack of student interest. I was surprised
when I looked at the enrollment to discover in a course like
the oral interpretation of literature, in which you have to have
a rather keen interest or you won't take it in the first place,
that the second semester the enrollment was larger than the
first semester. Remember, I was a fairly young man at
this time--I quickly drew the conclusion which may have been
erroneous, that either the teacher was a tremendous teacher, or
the course must be rather easy. And I learned the second was
the answer to that one. So I thought.... "Well, my first task
here is to make the courses in speech respectable. This has
got to be a respectable department, in the eyes not only of the
students, but of the faculty." That you have to do.
I was used to making rather substantial assignments and
seeing that they were prepared and that we had quizzes at the
appropriate times--not too many--to see whether they had the
material, whether they knew it; secondly, whether they could
do it, whether they could apply it. It's a practical art, of
course, there are two sides to it. That was my goal. Well, that's
an overall kind of departmental goal. My goal, of course, was to
teach students, obviously.
P: But you wanted to maintain as high a standard for your department
as you could achieve.
C: Oh yes, I thought that was essential.
P: Tell me about the expansion of the department now. Did that
begin pretty immediately in the early thirties?
C: Oh yes, it did. In fact it began the next year. This is a
perfectly obvious statement: People were watching me and the
work. Then I learned from one or two, one dean in particular,
Dean Matherly, that I better prepare to bring in a man,
I talked in those terms to Dean Anderson to see if he was
willing, because Dean Matherly was going to encourage the
students in the College of Business Administration to take a
course or two. Therefore I would need more help. I would
need help, let's put it that way. And so Dean Anderson--let
me pause to say this, this is very important--Dean Anderson was
one of the most understanding men I ever talked to. And he
helped me in every possible way. I could give illustrations.
He encouraged this kind of development. I can't recall him
saying, "We don't have money." Nothing of the kind. He se-
cured it somehow. How, I don't know, but he did!
P: Because this was already a depression period, wasn't it, for
Florida? The boom bubble had burst.
C: Yes, this is 1930 now.
P: And times were hard.
C: Yes, this is 1930, 1931, when we brought in Professor Hopkins,
Arthur A. Hopkins. He came from the head of the department at
Illinois Wesleyan. I'd known Professor Hopkins in graduate school,
and of the people in the graduate school, he became a good friend
of mine. I said to myself at that time, "If the situation
arises where I can acquire another person--and I'm speaking
now of Wyoming, where I was--this is the man that I'll try
to get." And I did. I wrote him. I don't recall writing
any other. He accepted the position, which in terms of rank
I'm sure must have been a lower rank. He was head of the
department, and he was the head professor. I'm not at all sure
that maybe he didn't take even a cut in salary. I offered him
all I could but...he came. He came. I knew he was a great
coach of debate. I thought I was good. I probably thought I
was better than he was, but I knew he was a good one. I
knew he was a good one. So I secured him, and that was the
P: How did you divide up the curriculum then? What did you teach
and what did he teach?
C: Well, I think he probably taught the argumentation and the de-
bating. I suspect he did. I worked a little still with de-
bating, helping a bit with the coaching, but I put him in the
key position there. Some of the debaters were a little
disturbed. They said, "Well, you aren't going to cease to
help with this, are you?"
I said, "Well, certainly not." Because you have
to kind of ease into these things. Here's a new man, they've
got to learn to know him. And we all do things differently. I
recall distinctly sitting in the office and knowing there was
a practice debate going 6n in 205, as you call the number in
Peabody auditorium. I could hear them. They were pretty vig-
orous, and speaking rather loudly. I thought, I believe I'll
go down there and just sit down and listen to them for a while."
And you recall that there were two steps up there at the rear of
the hall. I put my foot on the first step, and stopped. And I
said, "Don't go in there. He didn't ask you to come in and
listen. Don't upset this thing." I turned around and went
back to my office, which I think was a good thing to do. He
did ask me at times to come, of course, as we had critics come
in. And I would take a debating team on tour. That was the
way we did it then, or soon thereafter, we toured, going
P: I want to ask you about Professor Hopkin's background. Where
did he get his education?
C: He was educated at Brown, and I believe he went to Penn State.
He and I were in graduate school at Iowa. That's where I
got to know him. And he was teaching at--I believe I'm correct--
Oklahoma Baptist University. That's when I knew him, or knew
of him; that's where I got to know him. That's his educational
background. He stayed here until his death.
I don't know whether you wonder about it--people wonder
because his voice was not particularly good, but they didn't
know. I knew that he had been gassed during World War I.
That affected it to some extent. I knew he could teach. He
didn't have to go out and make public speeches. He could teach.
He could coach debating. He always gave a good accounting of
himself. I never told that to anyone, I don't believe, except
Dick Johnson, the registrar. I said, "Dick, you don't know
the background of this man. That's the reason that he has
trouble with his voice." It was a matter of gas in the first
That was the first faculty. Then I believe I had somebody
teach part-time, and that probably was a student. That
might well have been John Prunty teaching a class. He's a
judge down in Miami. John Prunty was a debater and a Player,
drama. Then, and I man have this out of order, then I got--
well, he's now Dean, he's Vice-President Hale, Lester L. Hale.
He had just graduated--I think I'm right--with a master's
degree from Louisiana State University, and I got him to come
over here as an instructor. And you see, now I can ease a
little of the drama over to him, directing the plays. And
then, I'm not sure whether I had him part time or full time,
Charles McGlon. He graduated, I believe, from Stetson University
and then was here at the University and did some graduate
work. I don't know the sequence now. If the war is over,
now it is Wayne Eubanks who came here. Wayne got his Ph.D.
from Louisiana State University. In the meantime, Dr. Hale
had secured his Ph.D. from Louisiana State University.
P: Now drama and debate are still part of the speech program.
C: Oh yes, that's right. But Dr. Hale at that time--this was
before he got the Ph.D.--was primarily interested in dramatics,
so he and I were doing the plays. Hopkins is still on the staff.
When Hopkins died Eubanks comes in, and Eubanks is primarily
a debater, on the side a debating coach. Of course, these
men can all teach speech. I'm sure you understand that. But
this is extra-curricular activities that they took under their
wings. Let's see, after Eubanks--well, I'm sorry, I've lost
this man's name. He taught part-time for me and went to
law shcool. Somewhere in here we have to have Mr. Geisenhof,
who taught for me only for a year or two, Paul Geisenhof.
P: And there's one person there that we will have to add in here,
the other man whose name escapes you for the moment?
C: Yes- I know about him, I know where he came from and he
only stayed here, I believe, one year. Now, let's see, the
staff. Well, I've got to get Dr. Dusenberry here. And then a
fellow named Charles Ingram. And along about...these others
didn't all stay on, they came and left. Lowell Matson was
here for a year or two. And then we have Dr.--it escapes me.
I know his name was Robert. I just can't get his last name
at the moment. [Dierlam is his name.]
P: Now throughout this period, certainly up until World War II,
your offices were in Peabody Hall on the second floor?
C: Yes. Here I've omitted a man who's been on the staff longer
than these, and that's Dr. Roy Tew. He went to Stetson
University, but completed his bachelor's degree here. He
completed a master's degree at Columbia University and a doctorate
at Ohio State University.
P: Now, what about the curriculum? Tell me how it broadened itself
with the additional faculty.
C: Well, it broadened itself in three ways: It broadened it-t
self in the area we call public address, rhetoric and
public address, which is the public speaking aspect of it
all. It broadened itself in a second way in terms of oral
interpretation of literature and theatre. We were teaching
courses in theatre: acting, dramatic production, directing,
things of that kind, history of the theatre. And over here
we're teaching some courses in public address and rhetoric,
something about the history of rhetoric itself, of course,
ancient rhetoric, modern rhetoric. We teach some oratory.
Why this is unbelievable. I forgot to say Dr. Dickey.
Dr. Dickey's speciality was southern oratory and southern
speakers, as you well know, [he was] trained in rhetoric and
in history. So we had that course in rhetoric. I came along
myself, my teaching was primarily public speaking, advanced
public speaking and persuasion.
P: Now, did they offer a bachelor's degree in public speaking
when you arrived, or in speech?
C: Yes, yes, in speech. Well, in Arts and Sciences, you mean.
Yes, you could do that. It was not an adjunct. There weren't
enough courses at that time, but there soon were. There
was no restriction against it.
P: Now, in talking about the broadening of your curriculum, at
the same time you began to advance on to the graduate program?
C: Oh yes. Well, I need a third area. Now it would be called
communicative disorders.or something, but then it was speech
pathology and audiology. And that was the third area. Now
tied in frequently with that, as a background of understanding
for it is phonetics. That's basic. So we taught phonetics,
of course, and then the speech correction, as it was called,
and then audiology and speech pathology.
P: How [did] you move toward the graduate program?
C: Well, I can identify this because shortly after World War
II, before the present administration building was built,
Building E, the temporary building came on, and we were housed
in Building E. At that time we had Eubanks, Tew, Hale, and
myself and Dr. Dickey. Dr. Dickey wanted to know when we
were going to get on with a graduate program, before he came.
And I said, "Well, we're started with it now." That was a
master's degree program. We had several take:master's
degrees. And then I strengthened the staff. You see, this
personnel was rather well-known, certainly in the region, and
the department was reasonably well-known. We took a very
active part in the convention of the Southern Speech Association.
So I thought soon thereafter--this would be somewhere around
1948. We're now over in the Administration Building, if
that is completed--1948, 1949, somewhere along in there.
I thought we had staff of sufficient academic stature and
productivity in its publications, its recognition by the pro-
fession itself--to some extent nationally, certainly regionally.
I thought we were strong enough to try to introduce a doctoral
And so of course, as we all do when we get ready for that
sort of thing, we prepared at great length and considerable
detail not only biographical material, but developmental mat-
erial and comparative material; and you provide all of that.
With help, of course, tremendous help by the staff. Our
staff, I should say. I prepared this material. It maybe still
is on file. I would hope they would keep that. That was an
achievement, in a sense. Now, Dean Simpson is dean of the
graduate school. He appointed a committee of three, as is
customary, and I presented the material to them, as you do.
That is the way you do these things. There's a regular form
or procedure. And that was approved by them, and they recommended
approval to the senate, and the senate approved it.
We could not offer the degree, you know, until a certain
date to forestall the idea you have people here on the ground,
and now you go right ahead and they get a degree here. And of
course, there was some extra something. I think that was one of
the provisions. I had not the slightest objection to that.
We offered it in the areas that I've just mentioned, where
I felt we had our greatest strength: rhetoric and public
speaking, and the theatre, and in speech correction and audio-
logy. So that's how it was done. We had a pretty good compar-
ative record, too.
P: What happened to your department during World War II? There
were no students, to speak of.
C: Very few, very few. Well, we had some students that came
in here. I taught some over in the University College, as
I did from its inception. I always taught one section of
freshman English, and I suspect I taught at least one-then.
And I'm sure I taught some of the military. Let's see...no,
that isn't right. Whatever those units.... Some units were
assigned here, training units, and I taught some of that.
I had some English, as we think of English, some speaking,
I taught some of that.
P: Some of your staff went off into the military.
C: Yes. Dr. Tew was in the Navy. I think Dr. Hale went
over and ran the Union. They had some recreational program
in connection with some of the military assigned here. We
didn't have very many classes. Before long, however, we had
some fellows discharged for disability. I remember distinctly
teaching one class where every man in it was a disability dis-
charge except one man who couldn't pass the physical, you
know,had a physical handicap, and the wife of a man who
was in the military. I remember one woman in that class.
There might have been ten or so in the class.
P: You said that when you came your first goal was to build up
the status of the courses and the department. What were your
C: This sounds egotistical, but even then, maybe not right then
but soon thereafter, I wanted to have one of the best departments
in the college, could be in the university, in a sense. I'm
a liberal arts man, so I was thinking in terms of liberal arts,
Arts and Sciences. Then I extended the goal. It was to build
within the department each of these three areas to a position
of strength. And then this was really my goal: to have the
best department,certainly,in the South. I was after that, the
most outstanding department of speech in the South.
P: To what degree do you think you were thwarted in achieving
these goals? I'm asking this negatively rather than positively.
Maybe you weren't?
C: Well, not altogether. I'm an impatient man, and this takesvtime.
I had to learn to accept setbacks and bide the time. Setbacks
in terms of other departments, I'm sure, not sufficient
funds to hire sufficient staff. You have to wait and post-
pone. I think to a considerable degree [we had] if not the best,
one of the best. I think I can stand on that. One of the best.
We had, without a doubt, the strongest segment here in rhetoric
and public address.
One of my policies, insofar as I could, was to bring in some
man who was short of retirement or had retired [with a] national
reputation,-that might have two or three years that he could teach
before he had to retire because of age. I was successful in doing
that. I started on that some years before it could take place.
I brought in Dr. Lou Sarett. No question about his having
a national reputation, outstanding man in the department at
Northwestern University. I succeeded in getting him to retire
before he had to. He came down here, and he spent a year just
getting the feel of things, and then he taught. At that time
I had Dr. Ehninger, Dr. Dickey, and Dr. Sarett, and all the men
are recognized in the country. There's no question about it.
And I had chosen some students, graduate students, of course.
And I thought maybe I had some reputation myself. There was
great strength there.
Then I thought, "Well, let's transfer this thing along
in the theatre, interpretation." Well, I did. This is in
later years. I got Dr. Parrish to retire from the University of
Illinois. Dr. Parrish had been head of the department at
Pittsburg before he went over to Illinois. Dr. Parrish is
recognized in the field of oral interpretation as one of the
outstanding authors and one of the great teachers. So I pre-
vailed upon him to come down here. Those men, you see, would
teach a part load. They'd teach two courses a semester.
Well, people's eyes would open up. They'd say, "Look, how'd
he get Parrish down here? How'd he get Sarett down?'" Sarett
had died in the meantime. I brought in Miss Lowrey one summer.
Miss Lowrey is one of the leading women in the field of
P: Wasn't it difficult to do some of these things, though,
without real money?
C: Yes, yes. You drive me to another point. Lou Sarett was a
very good friend of mine. And I'd spoken to him years back of
this, see, when we would meet at conventions. We'd sit down
together. And this isn't trying to drop any name thing at
I said, "Lou, I want you to come teach for me."
He said, "I'll do it."
I said, "Now, don't stay up there too long--and come on
down, come on down."
Then, when it was getting kind of close, he said, "Remember
I'm going to teach for you."
I said, "I know that. I understand that, certainly."
Dr. Parrish was a friend of mine. Not a close friend like
Sarett, but I talked with him. I said, "Get out of this
climate. Come on down. I'm not trying to sell Florida,
the climate of Florida. You just come on down."
I believe his wife had a sister who lived over somewhere
near Panama City, a retired teacher. That kind of helped,
so I said, "Come on down. You can grow garden things down here
Lou Sarett was an ardent, almost a professional grower of
dahlias and things like that.
And then I said to C.K. Thomas, who had come by here--
C.K. Thomas was at Cornell. Thomas was one of the outstanding
phoneticians. I think I daresay that the man's reputation
was greater than that. I can say that. One of four or five in
Dr. Reitz said to me, "How'd you ever get that fellow
away from the Ivy League?"
"Well," I said, "I got him a little because I've known
him for twenty years."
He'd come through here and do some phonetic work. I'd
get students, native Floridians. He'd get them over and have
them pronounce "orange" and "off" and "on" and things like that.
"Orange"was one. I've forgotten the others. "Florida"--
that'd be another word.
And he said, C.K. told me, "Well, when are you going to
get a position for me down there?"
I said, "Well, I'm working on it."
Well, you don't take a full professor from Cornell and
have him come down as an instructor! That'd be the position
I'd get--or I'd get money for an assistant professor.
I said, "Well, I haven't got a position. I wouldn't
You see whati:frustrated me, the money wasn't there. And
then maybe it would turn, or I could maybe consolidate it some-
how. So I got C.K. Thomas to come down. These men have to
come down as visiting professor, you know, or an interim pro-
fessor. Some kind of name that entitles you to.... Couldn't
get tenure or any of that business.
This is a terrible long way around, you see. I'm working
though, to get this reputation. These men, in addition to
the staff I had, helped make it. They helped get it.
They say to you, "How do you get C.K. Thomas?"
I said, "I've known him for twenty years!"
"How'd you get Sarett?"
I say, "I've known him all these years!: He's a friend."
And I get him down there, we just got to work a little
friendship. And we talked about Florida, and talked about the
graduate program, and talked about the university. See, these
are, all going, and these people come on down. They weren't
all here at the same time. Possibly Parrish was here with
Thomas--yes, he was. But that's all. Money frustrated me, yes.
P: You have been here now for more than forty years. How would you
evaluate the speech department now?
C: It'd strong. It's strong in a different way. It's come up very...
It's very strong in what they call communication sciences.
What we used to call way back there speech correction and
audiology. It has great strength there and is doing, I think,
outstanding research. It does not have comparable strength in
rhetoric and public address. They have some good men. Well, we
had men with national reputation, two of them. Dickey had it.
Oh, he had it--editor, writer, publisher, critic. [And there
was Ehninger.] I would say they are, I believe, as strong, or
maybe a little stronger in theatre. But they have no headliners
like a Parrish in interpretation, which is closely related.
Good men. No stars, good men, real good men. Good men in
rhetoric and public address, but no stars. No headliners,
let's put it that way. They've got a headliner in communication
science, Dr. Moore. He's a national headliner. I wouldn't
be surprised if he's international. I once had a national
reputation, but not international! So I would say it's a shift.
You see, the grant money is in research. It's in communication
science. So I'm not talking it down. That's a fact of life.
I'd say it's very strong.
P: It's a fact of life for the entire university system.
C: I would think so. I'd.say the department is strong, but the
emphasis, the major emphasis, has shifted.
P: You started out with Dean Anderson as the dean of Arts and
Sciences. Can you tell me a little bit about him and how
you worked with him?
G: Well, he was favorably disposed toward the work, and, I guess,
toward me. Well, I know he was really. I went to him with
requests, and within reason, they were granted. Little things,
like I asked him, "Can't we have some screens on those offices
in the basement of Peabody Hall?" Why, he thought that was
reasonable. He thought it ought to be screened. So he found
I said to him when I got up on the second floor, "I'm used
to offices that are painted. I don't like that bare plaster wall
with those cracks."
And he said, "I believe we'll get that painted."
I went to Mr. Graham, I'm sure with Dean Anderson's per-
mission, and I said, "Can't we paint that auditorium in Peabody?
Can't we have some paint around here?"
Well, he found the money somewhere. He got it painted, yes
I went to Dean Anderson, this was going to be the formation
of what became the Southern Speech Association in Birmingham
in the spring of 1930. I said to him, "I would like to go to
that initial meeting. This is where things are going to be
He said to me that--well, he frequently called me 'young
man' and I was--he said, "Young man, if you kind of have your
heart set on it, I guess it would be all right." He found the
There wasn't much money, and I didn't have departmental
funds. I remember the assistant dean--I believe Wilson was
the assistant dean. Whether he was or not, he drove me to
Wilcox, so I could catch the train to go up to Birmingham.
That, of course, stays in my memory.
P: As an educationist, how would you classify Dean Anderson?
C: Well, traditionally classical. I don't think he had any par-
ticular appreciation for the work of the theatre, because he
told me--this is the first year, well, I must have told him
I was planning on seeing if I could put on some plays, some
one-acts, he said, "Well, the boys kind of like to dress up
in women's clothes and put on a show."
Well, I didn't answer him or say anything. But of course,
I said to myself, "The boys won't dress up in women's clothes
and play for me! I'll find women to play those women's parts."
And I managed to find three one-act plays that had just
men in it. But he was sympathetic, see? He didn't laugh at
it, didn't turn it down. He said they would probably enjoy
P: So your relations with Dean Anderson were completely amicable.
C: Oh yes, yes. I went over one time with a proposal which I
never presented. I was going to propose to the College of Arts
and Sciences that they place a requirement in of one semester
of speech, you see. I've forgotten where, in the sophomore
year, and probably under the arts and A.B. degree, something
of that sort. That was the general nature of it. But of course
I went to him first. I remember so well what he said to me.
"Now," he says, "young man, you know what they'll do with
it don't you?"
"Well," I said, "I'm afraid I do."
He says, "They'll turn it down."
I said, "Yes, sir, I'm afraid they will."
He said, "I don't believe I'd present it, if I were you."
I said, "I don't believe I will."
So I went back to my office and put it in the pigeon-hole,
and I never took it out. That isn't true. I'd take it out
maybe a year or so later and look at it and say, "No chance"
and put it back down. But I never brought it up, never tried
Oh yes, he was very helpful, one of the finest men I
ever worked for. Well, he came from the University College.
And I was, as you undoubtedly know, teaching English there and
some speaking. And I was on a committee in the English department
with Wise and Morris and Ed Moore and myself and maybe Mr.
Skaggs, I've forgotten. There were five of us, drawing up
the initial program in freshman English or whatever we called
it, C-3, comprehensive course three. When we met before that
committee, which was Dean Matherly, Dr. Black and Dean Little,
I thought that: the people teaching speaking ought to have some
training in speaking. I took a very strong position, in which
I was totally unsuccessful. But Dean Anderson, who either sat
in or had talked to me before, he said, "Well, professor, I
understand your point of view. I know how you feel about that.
But you better give a little on that, you better give a little."
And I knew that--better to have some than none. Better to
have taught it after a fashion than not at all, see? Better
not be too rigid. I would have been adamant, I suppose, a few
days before. So I sat and jawed about it.... But you see,
he was helpful; he was exceedingly helpful.
P: He was succeeded by Thomas R. Leigh. How did you and Dean
Leigh get along?
C: We got along fine. In part, you see, I had a little background
there to go on. Dean Leigh had once taught at Carleton College--
not for long there, but he had. And he had great respect for
that school. And he knew I was a graduate of Carleton College.
Soda,little of it spilled over, and we got along fine.
Once or twice I disagreed very strongly with him, but we
were very friendly about it. When I disagree orally with some-
body, I get very loud. And I got terribly loud a time or
two. He was suggesting to me that instead of an addition to
the staff, I see if I couldn't find somebody to help out.
I named a couple of names, "Surely you aren't suggesting
so-and-so? You aren't suggesting, are you, that I go:to Dr.
Lyons, and say, 'Cliff, how about helping me teach a little
speech?' You don't mean that, do you?"
"Well, no, now wait a minute, wait a minute," he said,
"now calm down."
But we were very friendly. I disagreed with him in terms
P: Of course, he was a scientist, and I wondered whether his
philosophy might have been somewhat less inclined to support
a speech program.
C: I don't think so, because once again, it went back. Debating
was very important at Carleton College. And you see, debating
was associated here with the department. And this is a little
sidelight--his wife was keenly interested in speaking pieces,
as they called it, reciting things.
P: I was going to ask you how you got along with Mrs. Leigh.
C: We got along all right. I didn't recite pieces. I tried to
bring about a change on campus so that they thought of speech
as something other than getting up and speaking a poem or
music or something or other.
I even...occasionally I would say, "I'll come over,rayes,
I'll give you a reading provided you'll let me come back and
tell you what I think speech is all about in terms of the
And they did, so I did. We got along fine.
P: Even after the Harvest Moon Suppers? [The Harvest Moon Suppers
were annual outdoor covered dish suppers given each fall by
Mrs. Leigh for the Arts and Sciences Faculty.]
C: Oh yes, indeed. We didn't have the.... But we wouldn't do
it anyhow. My wife refused to sell tickets. I wouldn't sell
tickets. I took the staff. I should say, we took the staff
as our guests. I wouldn't do it any other way.
I said, "When we can't afford to take them, then we quit
Oh, I didn't agree on the Harvest Moon Supper one lick, as
you know, not one bit at all! I disagreed, as I said, on
budgetary matters. I remember almost my words.
He said, "Now professor, the time is not right. I've
been here some years."
And I said, almost in.these words, I said, "Dean Leigh,
the time is never right. There has never been a right time
around this university. I will not accept that. If it
is cut, you cut it. I won't. I will not!!"
I'm afraid I didn't prevail. But we were good friends
right on. I was secretary of the faculty.
P: You succeeded Dr. Crow?
C: Yes. There were times Dean Leigh called me over and wanted to
ask me about some matter connected with the college; he'd con-
fide in me. He sought my advice a time or two. I was on the
equity committee, which he thought was exceedingly important
in terms of salary and budgets and things like that. I believe
I served on that some years. I know I did. I know I served
P: Did you have any relationship with Dr. Farr?
C: Yes. You're really putting me back now. I've got to go back.
He was head of the English department, of course.
P: Yes, before Cliff Lyons. [He was] also vice-president of the
university, so there were two hats that he wore, that you might
have come in contact with.
C: Yes, that is right. Not as vice-president, I did-not have that.
As head of the department, yes. But I told him that I thought
the requirements for certification for high school teachers
should be changed. At that time it was so many hours of English
and I believe you could come in then with some kind of a minor
thing like six hours of journalism or six hours of speech, they
called it that, something of a foreign language.
I said, "I just don't see what we're doing in there with
a foreign language, with journalism. I don't object to some
English classes, you know that perfectly well. I wouldn't object
at all. I wouldn't object at all. But I don't see that kind of
tying in there together. I don't like that."
He agreed with me. And he said this, "When it comes to
English and speech, I believe in a separation of Church and
State, absolute separation."
I said, "Those are my sentiments." So you see we got along
P: Professionally, you got along fine. Was there any relationship
outside of that? Were you socially on any sort of a...? You
didn't play bridge?
C: Well, if I did, I didn't play bridge with Dr. Farr. We did not
play bridge. I don't recall any occasion other than maybe
the President's reception.
P: Who were you friends during the 1930s, when you first came as a
fresh young professor?
C: Let me see. Out friends were the Williamsons in Physics. He
came the succeeding year. You really make me go way back there.
I wonder if Gene Mounts was teaching then. He was interested in
drama. And he and I would talk about drama. We didn't socially
however, and you said socially. Professor Caldwell, not socially
P: I remember him being an outstanding instructor.
C: Yes, I had a very high regard for him. He and I would bandy
things back and forth. I remember Professor Caldwell.... When
I took a theme written by a student in freshman English, this is
C-3 now, I thought it %.was mighty near professional. I
thought maybe-my judgement was warped in this thing, but the
ending didn't come off, so I took it to Professor Caldwell.
I said, "Read it." I guess I called him Henry. "Read it,
He said, "Yes, I know. Shall we send it to Harper's or the
I said, "Read it, Henry."
He did. A day or two later, he said to me, "That's mighty
near professional writing."
I said, "I thought so, too. This fellow has it. This
fellow has it. It doesn't come off quite right." This was
a short story. This was no two or three pages. I said, "He
doesn't quite bring it off at the end, but I don't know what
to tell him. I don't know what to do. Can you help him?"
He said he would offer some suggestions. I don't know,
I'm afraid the young man never wrote it definitely. I don't
know what became of it. So we had a good professional relation-
ship. I liked it very much. I liked Professor Morris. Morris
was kind of interested in ballads, and ballads are...I know they
aren't drama, I know that, but they're language.
P: Tell me about Dr. Tigert. He was already president of the univer-
sity when you arrived.
C: Yes. Dr. Tigert looked with favor upon the work of the depart-
ment, and that's important. Dr. Tigert was keenly interested
in debating and he even, at times when we would win a victory
over another school or something special, he might even write
me a letter of congratulations. I might have one or two. I
think he wrote one when our negative and affirmative teams de-
bated each other for the championship of the tournament, which
is almost unheard of, of course. I think he wrote me a letter
He would laugh and say, "What are you going to do now? How
can you improve on that record? You won this and that and the
I told him Professor Hopkins was doing most of the work,
but he didn't believe that. He thought I was. I taught those
men, maybe not debating, but I taught them in class. I taught
many of those who made outstanding records--in the law particularly,
and as judges, many of them. So he was well disposed.
He enjoyed the plays. I don't think he understood much
about it. He would be more interested--and this always upset
Dr. Hale--he came up to sbeehow we got an effect in the
show "Lightning" of snow on windows, snow on glass. And he didn't
know..."How in the world did you do it? How did you get that
to look like snow?"
Well, we paint it on. He didn't say a thing about the
play, but, "How'd you get that snow effect?"
His daughter played in a play or two for me. I went over
there and borrowed things from the Tigerts. I really did. Mrs.
Tigert gave us a Spanish shawl that is maybe in the prop room
still. And she gave us her fire screen. I don't know whether
I got a full dress suit of his; I did from Dean Benton. I
got some clothes that belonged to Dr. Crow, but you asked me
about Dr. Tigert. I say he was well disposed, and that's im-
portant. We've been very fortunate in that. They looked [on this]
with favor. I don't think he knew too much about theatre,
but that didn't make any difference. It didn't interfere.
"He supported us; He liked to have the backing of a committee.
He liked to have the recommendation of a committee on things.
He was a man who was very interested in detail, and I'm not
very good at detail.
P: When you came, there were still a few of the old-timers around,
Dr. Crow for instance. What about Dr. Crow?
C: Well, I didn't really have any particular contact with Dr. Crow
except at faculty meetings. We had those not infrequently.
We had faculty meetings now and then. I had no departmental
contact with him. I did with Dr. Enwall, oh yes, because I
had an office near him up there. Dr. Enwall, by training, was
trained in theology, had been a preacher, and was very interested
in speaking. He was interested in what we were doing. And we
talked a little about it.
Dr. Kokomoor was here then. Dr. Kokomoor had studied at
Michigan under Fulton and Trueblood, who go way, way back. And
he asked me about some of the things, you know, what did we do,
did we teach in a certain way, or did we ever do thus and so.
We weren't having them do some of those things, because they
had gone out of the picture. Fulton and Trueblood--I'm talking
about before the turn of the century, those fellows.
Dr. Leake, who was a good friend of mine. We were on
good friendly relations. That was due somewhat to the fact
that we both belonged to the Kiwanis Club. I believe I joined
it in 1934, about there, which is rather early. Dr. Simpson,
yes, on good terms...
P: You and Dr. Simpson must have worked very closely together be-
cause he became dean of the graduate school.
C: He did. That's right, yes. And we belonged to the same church.
He was an elder when I was a deacon, and later I was an elder
when he was an elder, which is the governing body. Dr. Simpson
belonged to the Kiwanis Club. Dr. Simpson had a feel for language,
and wrote poetry. He had a feel for language, and of course,
I must have some of that. So we were good friends.
P: I had not known too much about his poetry writing. Was it
C: Pretty good. He's terrific at doggerel,stuff like that. He
could write skits and that sort of thing, the sort of thing
that kind of holds up to gentle ridicule...that sort of thing.
He would write a lot of stuff for the Ladies' Night at the
Well, with Professor Robertson, we were on good terms,
P: I want to talk to you a little bit about the setting up of
the General College. What role did you play there? I know
that you were involved in the program after it got going, but
what about the planning of it?
C: No, except the C-3. Now, I may have been involved in it a
little bit before, in terms of whether there should be some
speaking. Yes, I guess I was.
P: What about the general philosophy of the General College, or, as
it's now known, the University College. Did you support that?
C: Yes, I did. Yes, it's a philosophy, in one sense, certainly a
liberal arts philosophy. Of course, I was raised in that tra-
dition,, as I've told you previously. Yes, I did support that.
I'm in a sense a humanist, and I thought that ought to be there.
I thought they ought to have some of that. I didn't like to see
a narrow specialization. I'm against that, and this was
against that. So I believed in it, and I accepted it. I talked
for it, I voted for it. Then my staff was in that same sort
of thing. I told you Hopkins was from Brown University. So
I believed in it. And then when it came and I was on the
course committee, well, of course, I not only participated in
the whole thing, but I suspect I wrote'the--I'm sure I did--
wrote those projects and that part of it that had to do with
speaking per se. I'm sure I was very involved in the lecture
system that we had then and what materials should be tried in
lecture and the follow-up in the discussion. I was involved
in all of that. I remember they talked with me in terms of...
Dr. Glunt came up to me and talked in terms of drama, seeing
another area in the history and things like that. I don't
recall just why. They normally talked with me in terms of
literature, as they had problems-to do with the style of it.
P: The college has been under attack off and on over all the years
since it was set up in the thirties. Has your attitude toward
general education changed? Would you still support it today?
G: I would support it today, yes. I think it's unfortunate if a
person--of course this is the old line--if a person gets out
of here without learning something about--you can call it
American Institutions or what you want. I think you ought to
know something about government. I think you ought to know
something about philosophy. And I'm going to make a quick
shift--I think you ought to know something about literature.
I think you ought to know something about the arts, whether
you're an artist or not. About music, I guess you can do that
a little easier than some of the others. I just feel you can
live a better life. Maybe I'm dead wrong on it, of course,
but I subscribe to it.
P: Why do you think this college [University College] has probably
been the most vulnerable one at the university?
C: Oh, I think because it delays the specialization. I think
the upper division wants to get hold of it right now.
P: Do you think this is a dangerous thing today in education,
C: Well, it's the trend.
P: Even those who come out of a humanist background seem to support
this philosophy today.
C: Yes, yes. The word they use is relevant, I think, or pragmatic.
It's the pragmatic approach. "What does this do? How can I
use this?" You can't use some of it. That's part of it. I
support it; I supported it with our daughters. That's the kind
of education they had, even the younger one at Emory. I said,
"I believe it, I believe it." This is a silly thing, maybe,
isn't it--you can be a better wife. I think you can do better
with the children. I don't mean raising them, but an under-
standing of it. You expose them to something a little other
than making your daily bread. But of course, it's so obvious
that I'm a traditionalist. I just think it's better.
And by a little friendly persuasion, I got our son to get
into things like that. He wasn't going to do it. He wanted
physical education, and that's all right. But if you look back
on his records you'll see he was in history and he was in phil-
osophy,:sociology, psychology, and he was in speech. These
things had to come along. They didn't come too well on the
undergraduate, because he came out of the service and took
examinations, and passed almost a year, I think. He got thirty
credits, something like that. But he later got into those things.
P: When you first came, I remember you thought that the library
situation here, as far as your speciality was concerned, was
pretty poor. Tell me about it.
C: Well, the holdings were so small, and they didn't have things
that I thought would be basic, certain texts. So..I.was lcon-
cerned about it.
And I told you, I believe, I asked Miss Miltmore, "Who's
chairman of the Library Committee?"
She explained to me how it was done. She said, "Dr. Leake."
Well, he was right in the same building with me, of course.
And so I went to him and I said, "I'd like to be in a
position where we could order some books for the library." And
he explained to me that there had been--this is a kind of a
laughable sum, I realize, we were on a biennium at that time--
$125 annually, I believe it was. I believe that's the figure.
But the money had not been spent for two years, so they turned
it to some other purpose. And so I assured him if he would
restore it, I would spend it. And I said, "I think I can
spend it almost immediately. You give me a day. I can come
up with enough titles that should be there."
Well, naturally a dean's a man in a profession. He said,
"Well, if you're interested in doing this kort of thing, I'll
see what I can do."
And he was, with the committee, able to--I believe he
got a little more. He might have gotten $150, or something like
that. But it was a start.
And so I spent that, and then I suppose I went to Dean
Anderson and said, "Can you help me?" Just that thing, see?
Same thing I did later when we had many,many times $150. I'd
go to Dean Little of the University College, and I'd say, "I'm
out of money." Or I'd go to the English department, and say,
"Can you help me?" I would go anywhere where they had money,
where they'd help. And with Dean Little I didn't make any
University College plea. When they find out that you're in-
terested in developing this, you know, they say, "Well, maybe
we can help."
P: About the time that you came here, 1928-1929, there had been an
attempt made by two men, Tatum and Pritchard, to purge the
library. They had a number of things moved off of the open
shelves, and had them put into a relatively inaccessible area.
Were you here at this time, or had this preceded you?
C: This had preceded.
B: But you were acquainted with the Tatum-Pritchard efforts, the
Shaw plays and.... How did you react to that?
C: Yes, I knew about them moving them off the open shelves. It
was ridiculous. Why should George Bernard Shaw...? I've
read all his plays. I believe I have anyhow. I know they stayed
away. I know they did, [or were] kept away. The faculty had
access. I remember that. I don't know...I wasn't appalled. I
thought it was ridiculous.
P: It didn't give you second thoughts about having to come to the
University of Florida?
C: No, no. You see I had to work extremely hard the first year
or two. I had to work hard longer than that really, of course.
I had so many things I had to do: worry about plays and playing
in that auditorium, that abominable place. That was it; that
was the only place. I thought, "I'll take care of that in one
No, Mrs. Constans said the first year when she saw it all,
"I'm afraid we made a mistake." She didn't say you. She
said we. She's a very thoughtful lady. I know she offered no
criticism of anything the first year. I didn't know for
several years how kind of down she really was about it all.
John De Bruyn said to me, "There isn't any place to go
but up!" That's what he said to me the first year. He said,
"You can't go down, boy." He said, "The only way to go is up.
You're rock bottom here. They haven't put on any plays for a
couple of years, three or four. The last time they did it was
a minstrel or something like that, masqueraders."
I wasn't carried away with that, of course, that idea!
He said, "there's no place to go but up. If you do anything,
just do something, it will be more than your predecessor."
Well, that's pretty encouraging in one way. Of course,
in another way it is depressing with a vengeance. But I told
her, "Now, it'll come, it'll come."
Ye gods, it's all to be done. That's the way it kind of
hits you. Can you do it? The office is no good. The classrooms
aren't much. There's no decent place to play plays. There's no
equipment; there wasn't one piece of scenery over there except
the homemade floodlights; footlights that shone the wrong way.
Well, can you go with it? I was young, remember, and I was a
fighter and I was very aggressive. So it was a challenge, if
you want to call it that.
Then the Depression was on, and I had no funds, no
departmental funds. Mr. Graham introduced me to an auditor,
someone from Tallahassee that came down, you know. And he
says, "I want you to meet Professor Constans." He meant this
nicely, really he did. He said, "he's the head of the speech
department." I guess Hopkins and I got to be on the ground
floor then. We had another fellow, I know. He says, "He
operates that department without any funds."
You know what that fellow from Tallahassee says? "Now
we're beginning to economize."
I said, "Oh ye gods!" Can you imagine me going to Dean
Anderson so you can--and this is literally true--so you can
buy a dozen pencils? He had the money. He had some money.
Oh, he got them for me, don't misunderstand me. He did but...
"Now we're beginning to economize." I won't repeat, no, I
won't. But I thought to myself about that fellow....
P: [Can] you give us some of your own personal history?
C: Well, I should begin at the University of Wyoming. I told you
previously what I'd done in drama in college, and a little bit
at the Northwest School. When I was at the University of Wyoming,
the first summerI was there, I was invited to participate
as a player in a summer show that the university was doing,
and I did participate. Not the hero lead, believe me. I was
one of the two leads, but we weren't heroic characters at
all. But that got people acquainted to a degree with the fact
that I at least knew something about playing in a show. Then
I taught in branch summer school, as I believe I mentioned
to you, and the director of those schools asked me if I
would present a play at this branch summer school, which I
did at least three of the four summers that I taught there.
Occasionally we'd be a little slow or low on talent, and I
would play a part in the play in addition to directing. Then
I began to participate in a group which was similar to a
little theater, with one difference. The members were all
men, and we did compete for parts and we produced the play.
Now, we did not play the women's rolds; we invited ladies to
participate from the community. It was a joint venture, really,
in terms of the personnel. Many townspeople and many univer-
P: But there was already a Little Theatre Association in America,
C: Oh yes, oh yes. And there were plays being presented
at the university. See, this is the regular school term, not
the summer, and I directed occasionally for them, played
occasionally. And then at least one year I was hired and paid
to direct all the shows. We didn't do many; I believe we
probably did about two, one each semester, that last year.
So that I'd had some experience, not only as a player on the
collegiate level, but also as a director, and I had studied.
I should have mentioned this, maybe I did. I studied
drama, some of the aspects of it, when I was in graduate school
at the University of Iowa. Then I came to the University of
Florida. I mentioned previously that a young man at registration
time wanted to know when we were going to put on plays. I
told him we would have try-outs. I found out in the meantime
that plays had not been presented for at least a period of
two years. However, about the time I got ready to try to
have a presentation, I figured one-acts would be the best
way to begin, and one-acts written for men only. We would
do a bill of three one-act plays. I had to get information
about the people who knew something about the history of pro-
ductions here. John Wilson, who still lives in Gainesville,
at that time was working in .connection with the electrical
maintenance department. He later became a professor in elec-
trical engineering. John Wilson told me to get in touch
with Klein Graham, the business manager. He said, "Klein
Graham is interested in dramatics."
So I went over to see Mr. Graham. Yes, he was interested
in dramatics. He told me about the Masqueraders, which was a
type of minstrel show, to a degree, and had gone on tour
occasionally. He told me he would like to have me assume the
obligations, the unpaid bills, of the Masqueraders. Well,
I did not respond favorable to that idea, obviously, but at
least I'd found someone of the campus who was interested in
production of some kind. He had participated, as I had in
college. I had participated in minstrels, town minstrels.
P: I think there had been some minstrels produced on the campus
as early as 1915, and around 1920, 1921, they assumed the title
of Masqueraders. I think Klein not only could sing, but I
believe Klein could play an instrument.
P: And composed some songs.
C: Some songs; that is correct. Well,:the place that we had to
play was the University Auditorium. And I said there was no
scenery. There were two homemade floodlights and footlights
'that shined in the eyes of the audience. To prevent that,
some funnels had been cut in two vertically and then placed
over the bulbs so that it would shield the light from the eyes
of the audience.
All right, now we're ready to have a call for talent. Of
course, no restriction, anybody interested. We had an Orange
and Blue bulletin that came out several times a week. And that
call went out through the bulletin.
P: Had you already selected a play?
C: Oh yes, I'd selected three one-act plays, all male characters.
I proceeded--I'd say we had a pretty good turnout--and I
proceeded to cast the shows. Oh, let's see, the shows are not
important. I did one by O'Neill, I think, which is rather
straight drama. I did another, maybe lighter, like a comedy
or a mystery piece. The third, I know, was slapstick farce.
Well, of course, a royalty had to be paid, and, taking no par-
ticular credit, I paid the royalty out of my own pocket, and
hoped that enough people would come university students
primarily, of course. I believe we charged twenty-five cents
each, to take care of the royalty. And, if my memory serves
me right, until I ceased to have anything to do with it we
never were in the hole from that time forward. I was very
careful about that.
Now, we have to get some scenery. If you're going to
play anything of any moment at all, you just can't play bare
stage with curtains. You have to have some scenery. So I
got to know a young man by the name of Harry Green. I believe
Harry was in law school at the time, possibly a freshman. I
believe he later went to New York or possibly he was from
New York. Harry Green had worked for the Florida Theater,
and Claude Lee was the manager. Harry suggested that I
get down and see Mr. Lee and see if I could borrow some
scenery. It was over in the old Baird Opera House, the
upstairs of the present Cox's Furniture Company.
So I went to see Mr. Lee, and he saidyes, we could
borrow some. And he said, "You can use it until we ask
for it to be returned."
I asked if we could paint it, and he said, "Yes, be
quite all right."
I think the scenery I borrowed in the first round was
an indoor kitchen scene, something like in a cabin. I had
little use for that, so we had to paint it. We got that scenery,
and then later he lent us some more of the grand interior palace
kind of scenery, very high. And I used that. I also borrowed
what we called tormentors, which narrows the opening, the
stage opening, to bring it in a bit. Well, that was a great
blessing, of course.
The university had a truck. I didn't pay for that. The
university had a truck, and somehow--I don't know whether I
did this or someone else did, I kind of suspect that I did
it--I got the Gainesville Sun to print the program free, just
the one sheet, of course. I believe all we said was "Compliments
of the Pepper Printing Company." Then Miss Sophie Burkham,
who wrote for the Gainesville Sun, particularly society events,
things of that kind. [She was the] society editor. She was
interested in playing in them, but she came out and saw a
dress rehearsal and wrote up the plays in glowing terms. She
seemed to be amazed that they knew their lines. Well, I thought
actors were supposed to know their lines, but she commented
on the smoothness of the presentation and the speed with which
P: What about costumes? Where did they come from?
C: Well, costumes...not that first year. We just had to find
those. We didn't do costume plays. We could get by with
modern things pretty much.
P: So everybody furnished his own costume or wore his own
C: Pretty much, that is pretty much the case. Now, at this stage,
where we had practically nothing on which to go, I had to be
exceedingly observant of people. I mean this just the way
I'm saying, especially women, because I had to have women
play in these parts. Not those first ones, of course.
I was going to do a three-act show, with women. So I
made a point to get to know those who worked in the library,
the secretaries in some of the offices, and--this is a bit of
a giveaway--I actually kept a three-by-five card. I didn't
make it out while I was there, of course, but after I'd leave
I gave a description, which is what you do when you cast a show.
You have a description of the individual because you may for-
get his name. And I hdd down that this was a brunette, she was
about five foot five inches tall, she weighed 120 pounds, something
like that. I was observant:of their walk. If she walks well,
if she can carry herself, well, that's kind of a crude term,
but...well, it's a reputable term, she has a good carriage,
she knows how to walk. And of course, I had whether her voice
was good or not. So that I was on speaking terms with a goodly
number of secretaries around the university. I also knew
some wives of faculty, of course. I knew some teachers
in the town. If we were to look back over the programs, I
could say, "Well, this woman was a teacher at this time. This
was a faculty wife. This woman was a secretary. This one
worked in the general extension division. This one worked in
the library." My memory would serve me rather well, for a time
Well, now we have to have a little more scenery. We're
still at rather slim fare when it came to setting plays. I
saw some of the young men who were officers in student
government. I remember particularly George Colder. I asked
George, and undoubtedly others, if there was some way that
I could get some funds to buy some scenery or buy the materials
so we could make the scenery. Get some money, to put it bluntly.
He suggested that I make a pitch to put a play on under the
auspices of the Lyceum Council so that we could be paid, and we
did that. If my memory serves me right, they paid us two
hundred and fifty dollars. I may have bought a set of scenery
I didn't have too much help, you see. It all has to be
right here on campus. But I had help--I'm still in the first
two or three years--because I had help from the department of
architecture. A professor would come over. I wasn't skillful
with a paint brush. Oh, I could...I'd studied it, yes.
I'd painted, but I'm not a painter, so I remember in particular
Mr. Mitchell came over, and he did the trim around the doors
and around the window to dress it up. He was a man that would
make you a bit nervous, as he walked off the set at five minutes
of eight, when the curtain went up at eight o'clock, but he
assured me that he'd be through before it was eight o'clock,
and I was very careful to tell the cast, "Don't anybody put
a hand alongside of the door, or your hand will come off with
wet paint." But, my, he was a tremendous help. This was so
hard to do all alone. And the students were so enthusiastic.
I left out Clyde Booth. Clyde Booth worked with John
Wilson, and they did what lights we had. Of course, now I've
got to get started getting some lights. To do something we
have to have something other than those horrible floodlights.
Then I used a device which was--nothing original about it,
I was familiar with it--what we called a "prop party." You
asked about costumes. So I gathered the group together. I'd
already formed a Florida Dramatic Club, I guess maybe it
was called the first year, and within a year or two we were
the Florida Players. I thought of it in terms of...well,
you see, I'd taught at the University of North Dakota and they
had the Dakota Playmakers or Players. I thought that was a
good name, and the men liked it. So I formed a club, and I
think we drew up some kind of constitution or bylaws. I
was very insistent that the only way to get in the club
was to qualify by participation. You could not be elected in.
We had one honorary member, Mr. Graham. I must get back to
Mr. Graham in just a moment, which I will. I said this group
would gather together. We had meetings occasionally. Maybe
we'd read a play, we'd talk about a play, we'd discuss what we
were going to do next, that sort of thing;. And I said, "We
want to have a prop party."
And they said, "Well, what's a prop party?"
"Well," I said, "you're going home at Christmas. Look
around the attic. Go out in the garage. See if there isn't
an old suit of clothes, maybe, of the vintage of 1900 or even
before. Shoes possibly. Maybe a suitcase, a valise, or whatever
it was called. Or a hat, maybe a top hat. A derby.
Or women's clothes. Maybe your mother will remember some
things that she had or her mother had." I said, "Let's
everybody bring something back, something back, and we'll
have this party." The idea of the party--really we had smokers--
the idea of the party is to bring something in and we'll sit
around and laugh about what we've found and they'll tell about
I raised the question, rhetorical, where did we place
the costumes? Upstairs on either side of the stage, usually
on the west side. We got some cabinets. We made some, we
found some old ones. But this is where Mr. Graham was of great
help, the honorary member. I asked him...I always liked to see
about offices, I like to see them painted. So I asked Mr.
Graham, "Can't you get some paint and fix that upstairs?
We'll have a kind of a Florida Players meeting place, a club
room if you want to call it that. And he succeeded. Well,
helalmost always succeeded if he got interested in it,
because funds were available somewhere. Well, he had it painted.
We would meet up there and we had the properties there. We
had some curtains--I mean stage curtains--too. Then, either
on that side ot the other side, which we- also used as a dressing
room, we started to acquire electrical equipment. We got a
couple of spotlights.
P: Just things that were being thrown away around campus?
C: No, no, we had to buy them. They had two spotlights. Goodness
gracious, they were old. Huge old arc type of spotlights, in-
stead of electric. Well, they did work after a fashion, but
they weren't much good. So while this was going on, all the
time we were trying to accumulate equipment to use in plays.
Now, of course, we have more interest on the part of the
students. I will hark back to the first three-act play. I
should say that women on the campus were a rarity. When you
would go to a concert or a performance of some sort and women
would enter with or without escorts, the students would make
a characteristic sound which was unfamiliar to me. The first
time I heard it, I thought, "What in the world is that? What's
this about?" And even when they brought a play here as part
of a Lyceum course, as soon as a woman would enter on the stage,
or if she was on .the stage, revealed when the curtain opened,
they made this characteristic sound. Well, it didn't take too
long before I recognized it. They also did it over at the
basketball games. It didn't take too long before I recog-
nized this, and I said to myself, "Well, if they're not used to
going to plays on the campus, I'm going to have to dress this up.
P: Of course those poor farm boys coming in from the back country
weren't used to going to plays.
C: That's right, they had not seen them. There were a lot of
them here who had never seen one. So I thought,"Well, I
will dress this up." So I got Professor Brown. Now, at this
stage, you see, he deserves credit. I asked him if he could
get an orchestra, not a large one, but a pit orchestra. There
was a pit over in that old auditorium then. Oh, ten or twelve
pieces. He was very cooperative.
He said, "Yes."
I said, "Can you dress them up just a little so they'll
look like they're dressed? I want them to look like they're
He says, "Yes, they can put on a dark blue coat or may-
be they have a tuxedo jacket and put on a black bow tie. And
down in that pit they'll look like they're...I'll put on a
tuxedo and it'll look like we have this orchestra dressed
for an occasion."
Then I invited some of the young ladies to act as ushers,
and I asked them to come in evening gowns. Then I watched a
bit as the students came up those wooden steps that are still
there, in shirtsleeves rolled up, no tie, no coat. They'd come
to the head of the stairs and they'd see these young ladies all
dressed in evening gowns, and many and many of them stopped and
rolled down their sleeves and buttoned their cuffs. They
buttoned their shirt at the collar to make it look like they
were dressed up a little better. I was determined to give a
sense of this as an occasion, this as an occasion that you
attend dressed for an occasion. Though I never told Mrs.
Tigert, if this had not done it...and it did it, it set the
atmosphere for the plays. They didn't make that noise when
the women came on the stage. If this had not worked, I was
going to ask Mrs. Tigert if she would stand at the head of the
stairs--I would tell her why, of course--and I'll wager she
would have done it. But that was not necessary. With the
dressed up orchestra, the dressed up usherettes, if you want
to call them that, pretty soon you see they started coming and
they would wear a coat and a tie. They would come in a joyous
mood; that's quite all right. You want that sort of thing. But
it was no problem. The audience was no problem.
I remember one of the one-act plays, the first one, had a
rowdy that did a little cat-calling. It was part of the show,
of course. And the members of the cast said, "Well, you better
not have that. You better not have that."
I said, "Well, suppose I put him in the balcony?"
Well, they still thought the students would respond
and help him as soon as he called down to the stage.
I said, "If I put him on the program, "a rowdy in the balcony"
and I don't let anybody else sit in the balcony?"
I said, "I'll dress him so he looks like a rowdy." I
remember he had a turtleneck sweater with stripes and I
said, "I'll put a hat on him, I'll put a derby on him, and
he'll wear that. And we'll put a light on him when the show
starts and they'll say, 'Why, he's all alone up there. He's
part of this play.'"
Well, they didn't know.
I said, "Oh, wait a minute, surely we can do that." And
we did. He got a big kick out of it himself, and the students
accepted it and didn't try to join him. No, they were a good
audience. They really were a good audience. They liked the plays;
they wanted them. They came in rather large numbers, really, in
rather large numbers. Well, so it goes. Then you see it kind of
grew. We got on the student activity fee. I spoke to some of
the student leaders, you know, and then we had some who had
some position around the campus who were playing in the show.
P: Then of course you moved to Norman Hall when that building came
C: Yes, oh yes. Now, you see, Norman Hall, now there was a great
opportunity. Now when you come to Norman Hall--and this ties
in very positively and decisively with this--here was an area.
They did not design it for a theatre. This is an auditorium.
But Dean Norman said to me that he knew nothing about stages and
plays, which was correct. He got Claude Lee, who was a friend
of his and mine, manager of the Florida Theatre, to come out.
We looked over the specifications, just the big, rough specifications
of that auditorium and stage. They were going to have that,
of course. Then together we drew up specifications in terms of
what we call a grid from which you fly the lines that connect
to the scenery, the backdrops and borders, see? It's a gridiron
overhead. The gridiron, the front curtain, the borders, the
lights;: footlights, floodlights, spotlights, overhead borders,
all of those things. We drew that. We drew up the specifications.
Then we sat in when the bids were let and told them what, in
our judgement, was the best bid. Claude Lee was an old player
himself. He was a member of the American Legion, that's where
I got to know him. He and I helped put on the carnivals down there.
So I was dealing with a person who had been in the theatre.
He wanted to help, and he did help. Oh, so many people helped.
I got students to help from architecture, not just the professor.
Mrs. Matherly played in a show with me. We played in Our Town
the first time we played it, about 1941 or somewhere along there.
P: I remember. I saw that. But I had seen her earlier, in the late
thirties. Was it Lightning?
C: Well, we did play Lightning.
P: I remember that, but I don't know whether she was in it or not.
C: I'm not sure. I'd have to look at the program. So now we had
pretty good facilities, really. There isn't much offstage space,
if you can visualize it. We had some dressing rooms. We didn't
have much storage space. That was one of the big problems,
but you couldn't get it, because the building is set by the
original plan. Of course, you can't put things over there
permanently, because it's a school, P.K. Yonge. They had to
move everything over. We would build in the auditorium or under-
neath it. Now, we've gone underground; we're down in the basement,
under the auditorium. So we would build and then move it over
and then set it and rehearse for a few days over there in that
setting. That was a marvelous place to play compared to what
the auditorium was. The auditorium was so difficult. Nothing
advantageous, now that I think of it, nothing really, except
it held a lot of people. That's all I can recall. It held a lot
Now, P.K. Yonge is where we played for all these years
until very recently. When they talked about a new Florida Union
building, I was in on some of the planning in connection with
some of the facilities but primarily, of course, it had to
do with theithe theatre. Then later, Dr. Zimmerman came into
the picture. He was there during the recent planning that led
to the completion of the theatre over there. That, of course,
is a marvelous place in which to play.
P: Ithas adequate facilities in the back for storage and dressing
C: Oh yes, everything! We have height; we have offstage space;
we have storage space. Storage not just for scenery--for
lights, for props, for costumes, 'A costume room where you
can make them, a paint and dye room where you can dye the
fabrics; another place where you can paint.
P: That's a long way away from your barn, isn't it?
C: Oh, I forgot the barn! Oh my yes, the barn! The barn was a
great improvement over the basement of the auditorium because it
had height and space where we could build. A little sidelight
on that, kind of interesting, I wanted to get some stairs out-
side so that we could make an outside entrance and could also
move the scenery in and out. That takes a good-sized door,
of course. I wrote a request that a stairway be built, to
authorize that we could do it. I remember very well Mr. Chandler
somehow was in charge of things that summer. He wrote me
back saying that the project wasn't feasible. Well, that
was his downfall, that word "feasible."
So I seized on that, and I told him that I could under-
stand if he said he didn't have funds, they weren't available,
or he wouldn't allow those of our staff with the help of students,
to do it. I said, "Feasible! It's one of the most feasible
things I know of." I said, "You give me one jack-legged
carpenter, and I'll build those stairs myself. That's how
feasible it is, and I'm not much of a carpenter."
Well, it kind of tickled him somehow, and he wrote back
and said, "Oh, go ahead and build the thing!" So that was in
the barn. We had a huge sign on the back of it--"Florida Players
Workshop" or something like "Scene Shop", I guess. That was
another move, but it was a gain right on. You see, I'd get
part of the barn, then I'd ask for more of the barn. I think
I ended up with about all of the barn.
P: Sort of like the camel getting his nose....
C: Exactly that technique. Exactly that technique. But you
see, those in the administrative positions...Dr. Tigert, he
was sympathetic. I didn't do it because she was his daughter,
but his daughter did play for me.
P: Obviously the student body was receptive to drama.
C: Oh yes. They had passed it to have us get on the student
fee, you see, and they came. We played many nights, and the
reception was enthusiastic. Then some of the townspeople
that I'd know would say, "Could you use a tuxedeo?" or
"Here's an old time full dress suit of Dean Benton's,"
I said, "Certainly, Mrs. Benton."
She said, "He had a top hat too."
I said, "Yes ma'am. Top hats are hard to come by."
So the word got around, and said, here is this organization
that brings people in from the town and has them participate
and so forth and so on.
P: When did Little Theatre come to Gainesville?
C: Well, the Little Theatre came early, about the first year
we were here. If not 1929, it must have started about 1930,
because I remember the then president of the Little Theatre
asking me to participate in something to a degree, and I told
him that I couldn't. My goodness, I had my hands more than
full. I couldn't consider anything like that. I was on the
board a year or two later for two or three years.
P: But the Players and the Little Theatre have always complemented
C: That is correct. Our primary concern was university students.
Theirs was town and gown.
P: But not students, really?
C: No, not students. Occasionally a student would play. I
believe once or twice they had a student director or something,
but not primarily students, no. That's why we're in business.
If this isn't for students, why are we doing it? Oh, you
can say culture and things like that, but I was interested
in students having an opportunity for this kind of experience
if they wanted it and had the talent. And they did, some had
P: Talking about talent, what stars did Florida Players produce?
C: Well, this is a rather hard question. However, these men have
played in movies, not in lead roles. One is Dan Riss, another
is Orville Anderson. Orville Anderson is in California. The
last I knew, he didn't live in Hollywood. He lived at one
of the beaches near there. Dan lives in Hollywood itself.
Robert Anderson lives in that same area. I saw these men
"a few years ago. I say a few, goodness I'm afraid it was
"a long time ago now--1954, 1955. I saw them then. I believe
I saw Bob Anderson and Al Flannigan; Flannigan has been in
radio and television. But he was then there; he's now in
Denver. Well, when we went out to play football a few years
ago, I believe I remember that I saw them there. Now, these
men played in movies. Bob Anderson played in...what's that
show? A navy show where the man who is the commander of
P: The Caine Mutiny?
C: The court martial, of course. Well, Bob Anderson played in the
stage show that toured. I saw them in rehearsal with Laughton
directing. It was very interesting to see that.
P: And then the Florida Players have producedFaye Dunaway.
C: Right. And before that, Liz Otto, Elizabeth Otto. I don't
know what she's done lately. She was playing in nightclubs
on the west coast around San Francisco a few years ago. Of
course, our prime person is Pat O'Neal from Ocala. Patrick
O'Neal. He's played on Broadway in some good shows. He's
played also in television, but he played Broadway. Well,
here's another figure who made it to the top in radio--I don't
know whether television put him out of business--and that's
George Gunn. George was the president of the Florida Players.
I saw George working in radio, a good many years ago now,
in New York City. Of course, that's the center of it, it
was then at least.
P: Do you remember when Buddy Ebsen was on the campus?
C: No, no. I didn't know him if he was here.
P: He was here, and I think he played in Florida Players for a
while. He's a Florida man. He's been here at the university.
C: Yes, I know he is. I know he is. No, he never played. I was
about to say Red Barber, but if Red played, it was before I
came here. If he was here. I mean, he may have done something
before that. But these are the names that come to me. The
last few years there may be others that I don't know about.
P: What about the drama department? That grew out of the Florida
Player's program in a way.
C: Well, a little bit. You almost need a course in play pro-
duction as a feeder for people who are going to build scenery
and paint scenery and light scenery, things like that. There
was nothing of that kind. Well, we needed that. If you're going
to develop it, you need a course in acting or something of that
kind because there's a technique to this. And directing
requires certain skills along with knowledge.
Then I wanted the students on the campus to have a broader
exposure to drama. At that time, no modern drama, as such,
was being taught. So I introduced a course in modern drama.
Modern drama, when I introduced it, would start with 1900,
something like that. See, I'd carry them up to 1935 or
something of this sort. Get them acquainted with the Pulitzer
Prize plays, for instance. Let them know what O'Neill had
done, and get some familiarity with playwrights as such. We
had some good ones, here and abroad. We played plays gen-
erally by good writers, good writers.
Now we had to vary the bill. You can't play three
tragedies in an academic year. You don't want to play three
comedies either, but a variety for the bill. I frequently
would do a comedy, I'd direct a comedy. Not slapstick, ordinarily,
a light comedy. It used to be called high comedy, sometimes
British. Dr. Hale liked the more...he leaned a little more
to the tragic, or maybe a little melodramatic. He was par-
ticularly good at that; he was an emotional type of fellow.
We did some very good plays. So you see, that did develop
as part of it, yes, but I never required that a student be
in a course in order to be in a play or to work with the
Players. I just don't believe in that. The Florida Players
is open to every student. Our stage manager was a chemical
engineer. Some of our better scene designers and painters
were architects. Oh, yes. Oh, they came from everywhere:
business administration. They might come in and act as
advertising manager, you see, house manager, things like
that. So that's the way it grew. Of course, the staff...
I developed the staff as we came along. That's natural. So
you develop the courses as you come along, as more interest
is shown. They grow almost of themselves as part of this
whole picture. but you see, I had been raised in colle-
giate terms, had gone to school, and they always had plays.
I just couldn't conceive of a university that didn't have
available to students the acted drama, not just that you
read in a book.
P: Then you were challenged by that student at your first re-
C: Oh, yes, I was. Yes, I had to get ready to call for talent.
He did, and he wrote an original that we played. He wasn't
much of a player. I don't know what became of him. He
wrote some sketches for some pretty good shows on Broadway.
The blackout type of thing, it's called. He did some of those.
I used to hear from him at intervals. When he was going
good I would hear. He must not have gone good for years now.
I don't know what became of him.
P: I want to ask you about another area that interests me and
that I'd like to get your reflections and memories about.
You came to Gainesville right on the beginning of the Depression.
What was Gainesville like physically, what was it like in
C: Well, it was slow-moving in terms of people and activity.
Quiet. I would say the only time that it was not quiet
would be when students became very active, we'll say, around
a football game. They would have a pajama parade down to
the Florida Theatre and go in there and through the building,
and maybe stop to see the show. It was quiet.
Most of the streets--at least it seemed to me, maybe
this is not accurate--were not paved, or a great many of
them were not. That surprised me. Many, many sections, and
I mean near town, near the center of town, there were no
sidewalks. That surprised me. Great trees, many cut down
now, but then trees overarching the streets. A train coming
down the main street was certainly something I'd never seen
P: Of course, that's how you arrived in Gainesville.
C: Of course it is. Yes, indeed. The people, I thought, were
friendly. I've always thought that, friendly people. Maybe
in part because we sought to identify ourselves. I won't
get on a tangent there except very briefly. You would ride
horses out here on weekends. They had a horse-drawn artillery
and the faculty could ride horses--and I mean the ladies and
men. Mrs. Constans rode horseback. She used to ride. And
she got to know a good many of the wives, especially of the
military, that way. I rode horseback, also, at some other
time. I don't think we ever rode together, now that I think
Then I became active in the\American Legion, and that,
you see, widened my sphere of acquaintances. I not only knew
faculty, I knew carpenters, electricians, plumbers, merchants,
clerks, businessmen, bankers, doctors, and lawyers, literally.
I knew them. So I got that feeling of friendliness.
P: And then you were in Kiwanis too, weren't you?
C: Very soon after coming, the first few years. There was
another contact. Of course, the third I might have men-
tioned is the church. We affiliated ourselves a month or so
after we came here. So, I say I thought the people were
friendly. There was a distinction between the town and
gown. They talked about the highbrows out here at the uni-
versity and the lowbrows in town. But I was never one to
draw that kind of distinction. Merchants were friendly,
and, of course, that's before any of this supermarket
business. We knew the merchants; we knew the clerks. My
wife knew the clerks. Wilson's was the store. I knew them
in Thomas Hardware and Baird's. We knew them in Cox's
Furniture; we knew the people in Piggly Wiggly, which was
right on the square; and George Dell ran a grocery, and
Harrold ran a grocery. Well, you just knew them. You knew
the druggist and so on.
P: It was a typical small southern town.
C: I would think so. That would be my impression, if that would
be typical, what I'm describing here.
P: How did the Depression affect you personally?
C: Well, apart from the fact that they cut your salary...I believe
the first one was a blanket cut. I didn't like that. I
didn't think it was fair to those...I wasn't drawing so
much, but I was doing a little better than some. Then
the next time, it was a prorated thing, if I recall correctly.
The townspeople were nice, the university was a little slow
paying somewhere along in there. They told me, "Now, don't
worry about it at all." You charged then. There was no
need to have charge cards, you just charged. You could pay
cash, of course, but we charged a good bit. I remember the
grocery said, "Don't worry about it. We know you'll get
paid." Didn't seem concerned, particularly. I lived then in
a rented house. The rent wasn't high, I don't believe.
P: Did you feel any sense of insecurity?
C: No, no. Remember, I was a young man.
P: But with a family.
C: Oh yes, oh yes, I had a family. Two children then. Barbara
would be along about this time. She's about five now, or
six or so. Phil is two. But I had such confidence in myself
somehow. I don't mean this the wrong way. Mrs. Constans is
a good manager in terms of household.
P: Of course, the people on set salaries weren't hurt as badly
during the Depression, I guess, as others.
C: That's right. You see, it went a while before we caught it.
P: Prices were going down.
C: That's right. Now, when you get down, then that's where
you catch it. You won't get back up. You're going to be
slow. And it was. I'm sure Mrs. Constans could speak on
P: Was there such a thing as tenure then?
C: I can't answer you that. I don't know. I don't know. I
could look back in the record. I was promoted to professor.
I don't know just when that took place. I came as an as-
sociate professor. I know I was promoted, but I don't know
P: I was wondering how job security was affected by hard times.
C: No. You see, there were sufficient students all along,
somehow. Some of the students I know were very hard-pressed.
You see, the ones that worked for me would be on that NYA
[National Youth Administration], if those are the correct
P: This would be about 1935, 1936.
C: Somewhere along in there, yes. Yes, they worked for me or
maybe in the department. See, they were on that, and that's
the help they had. No, I don't recall any sense of insecurity.
P: What did you do for fun in those earlier years.
C: [I asked] Mrs. Constans, "Who were the people we ran around
with the first year or two?" And she immediately called
off four families.
And I said, "Oh, how would I forget that?" I said,
"I was struggling around and said Williamsons."
She said, "Yes, but we weren't particularly close friends
of Williamsons. We were most Christiansons."
I said, "Well, of course. I forgot!" The Christiansons
have been gone so long. He was in Pharmacy; or he might have
been the dean.
Anyhow, I believe that whatever the position was, the
Christianson's children were somewhere around the age of ours.
Then the Ames of General Extension Division. The Phipps of
the mathematics department. The Fultons--he was the architect
of the Florida Control. Guy Fulton. And the Tribolets.
Tribolet was...I believe I'm correct. Weren't history and
political science together along in there?
P: Yes, they stayed together until 1949.
C: Well, that's what I thought. There was a joint department.
He was in political science, I believe, under Dr. Leake.
Well, these were our close friends.
P: You played bridge?
C: Occasionally. We picnicked. We did quite a little picnicking.
Or we would go swimming. Now strangely enough, of these families
I've called, they had no children. We were the only ones
with kids. Well, the Christiansons, yes; the Williamsons,
yes. But of the last four I've mentioned--the Ames, the
Phipps, the Fultons, the Tribolets--no children. But
we went swimming. We'd go to Keystone, Lake Geneva. We
went to Santa Fe, Irving Beach. Went down to Silver Springs.
Not to the Springs itself, but across there somewhere there's
another springs. And I must not omit, because these people
had children all within a half year of the age of ours--
two children--Reverend Bill Stoney and his wife, who lived
just two doors from us. We went many, many places with them.
I didn't start fishing then. No, that was a little bit
later. That's when Captain Ring came. I'd fished with him
in Wyoming. When he was stationed here then I started
fishing. We were very close friends of the Rings after they
got here, as we were in Wyoming. I think we danced occasionally.
In those days you could without being exhausted. We used to
dance a great deal when we were young.
P: The day of the cocktail party had not yet arrived for the
academic community, had it?
C: No, no it hadn't. Oh, we had the Faculty Club started back
in there. I think this is the fourth or fifth time now they're
trying to revive a Faculty Club. We belonged way back there
when the thing was on University Avenue. There was a stone
house where the Presbyterian University Center is. Right
on that corner was a stone house, and there was a Faculty
Club there. You don't have any, do you? Then they had the
one on the campus. I joined three or four times. We used
to go out and have dinner, you know. The Faculty Club
did some things. I don't recall specifically.
P: Were you a sportsman at all? Did you play golf?
C: Yes. No, no I played golf before I came here. I found out
what it cost to play golf, and so I removed temptation by
giving my clubs away. Mrs. Constans kept her clubs but she
did not play here. I played football. I got hurt in college
so I couldn't play anymore. They didn't quite know what
to do. I had a bad knee. I played basketball in high school;
I couldn't play well enough for college. I ran on the track
team. I wasn't too good a runner, but I did run some. I
was on the gymnastic team; I did some tumbling.
P: How about politics? Were you interested?
C: Oh yes, I've always been interested in politics. Politics was
an important part of our lives where we were raised, because
in that small town of 2,500 people or whatever it was, my
father and mother and a goodly handful of Irish were Democrats,
and !the rest of them were Republicans. So we heard a great
deal of political talk, not only around our house, but
uptown where they would gather at the drugstore, these men, of
an evening, and they would discuss politics a great deal.
So we kind of had it around us, you see. Politics was kind
of an indoor sport then. I was interested in politics,
although I was not active in any real sense, when I was
in Wyoming. Other than voting, yes.
This is a ridiculous sidelight. I said to a man there,
"Why shouldn't I be the city clerk?"
And he took me seriously. He was a man of some political
influence in that town. And a month later he said, "Do you
really want to be that city clerk on the side?"
I said, "Oh, Lord no!"
"Well," he said, "I can get it for you."
I said, "No sir, no. I was fooling."
He said, "I can get it for you."
P: Did you resent the fact that when you were here you couldn't
have been city clerk even if you had wanted to? How did you
react to the restrictions on the individual on the campus then?
C: I had never seen that. That we did not have at other places
I have taught. We not only did not have it, but one of my law
professors was Speaker of the House of Representatives of the
Wyoming legislature. He was a Republican, but we were in
a bridge club together. And the mayor of the town was
Thurmond Arnold, who was a Democrat. Thurmond was the only
Democrat in the legislature. No, they ran for city office.
More than that, you can see that.
Now I said, Mr. McCullough was a part-time law teacher,
you see. I've forgotten how many hours he taught. Of course,
he practiced law on the side. No, I didn't know that. Well,
to be perfectly frank I thought they were supersensitive to
political pressure. I was not used to that, either. I had
known one or two people who were members of the Board of
Control, we called them. Yes, see, you knew these folks.
They did not exert political pressure on the university, not
to the degree at anything approaching this. It was strange
to me, and yes, I'll be frank with you, I resentedit.1 didn't
think it was right. But I didn't lead any crusades on it.
Of course, you couldn't run for anything, you know that.
Your activity was restricted to going down and attending
the rallies, pretty much, at the courthouse, of course. I
went there, of course, because I was interested, plus it was
speaking. And here's public speaking in actuality. I would
go down, of course, and hear them and get a lesson.
P: Were you involved with any of the student publications on
P: There were several .exercises of censorship during the thirties.
Were you conscious of this kind of restriction?
C: Well, if I were aware of it, I suspect I would have been
sympathetic toward some .restriction, because they'd had
some anonymous publications at the University of Wyoming
attacking the administration. The president became so sen-
sitive to that he called a meeting of the entire faculty.
He called for what amounted to a vote of confidence by roll
call. Well, I was so opposed to the underground idea of the
publication and the anonymity. I think maybe that hurt me
more than anything else. I thought they should sign, they
should say, "We know who we are." One of the faculty
members was very active in sponsoring that, and I thought
that was wrong. I thought that wasn't the way to do it.
So maybe I was a little bent over the other way because of
that experience. That was a very painful experience.
P: But you didn't feel that there was any pressure on you
here, for instance, during the 1930's, to toe the line in
any sort of a moral way? Nobody interfered with your classes?
C: No, no. Nobody interfered with my classes. I had two
restrictions, and only two, that I would tell the class in
public speaking. This is where it would come out, of course.
I said just two, "You must not use this class to launch a per-
sonal attack on an individual unless you invite him to be
present," because there was a tendency for that to take
place. I learned that the hard way. So I said, "You must
invite him over and give him an opportunity to respond."
And the second thing, "You must observe ordinary rules of
common decency and not reel off profanity and things like
that. This is place of some culture and education, this is
a university." These were the two restrictions. But I
must defend free speech, freedom of speech, of course, which
P: And your students, other than those restrictions, had full
freedom in the classroom?
C: Oh yes, yes indeed. I might disagree with what they're
saying. Not infrequently students disagreed with a point
of view or the values that they were proposing or ignoring,
whatever it might be. Oh yes, you have to stand on that.
I personally stand on that. I felt no restriction on
myself, never. I don't recall a single instance. I remember
when the secretary said to me, the first grades I put in--
I don't know where you posted them, somewhere, but you did--
and I had to fail one or two students because the work was
failing. And she said, "Can you afford to fail two students
with a class of twenty?" That's pretty high,I know that.
Well, I said, "I can't afford to do otherwise.
Don't you draw a line somewhere? These people are
failing." I was very indignant, of course, at that
Years later a fellow asked if I remembered him. He
said, "I was probably the worst student you ever had."
Well, I tempered it. I said, "Oh, you couldn't have
He says, "I must have been mighty near it."
I said, "Well, I'm sure there must have been others."
But he was mighty, near it! I did remember. He called
on me along with the president of the fraternity. I wasn't
used to that. I do not respond at all well to pressure,
and I feel you have to take a position on some of those
P: Were you in a fraternity here? Did you work with a fraternity?
C: Yes, I did. It just happened to be the one Mr. Graham belonged
to, the Betas--Beta Theta Pi--when they became a national or-
ganization. I worked with them some then. He and I, this was
joint, kept the thing financially afloat.during those war
years. We got the lists and we wrote letters to boys who
owed money and we managed to somehow meet the payments. I
don't recall how we did it, but we did.
P: He's always been an enthusiastic Beta.
C: Oh, Mr. Graham, yes. I don't know how long he belonged,
P: Almost I think he's the oldest living member.
C: Oh, I wouldn't be at all surprised, not at all surprised.
Mr. Graham and I, you see, used to sing in a quartet.
This was a seranading quartet, with Joe Wilson, who used
to teach in the Business Administration, and Frank Wright,
who was alumni secretary. Well, Frank's a pretty good
lead singer, and Joe was a good top tenor, and Klein has
a pretty powerful bass, and I growled around a little bit
around the baritone, you see. Oh, we had great times to-
gether, singing. He and I occasionally would get together
over at the fraternity, you know, on the charter night, or
things like that. We'd get over there and kind of lean
on each other and growl a little bass for some of the
songs that we still remember. Yes, they were real nice to
me when this theatre was named for me. They invited us
over, and they had a big banner out there; "Welcome
Brother Constans" and so on and so forth, and the number,
my badge number, and so on. But the years go by, and other
things intervene, of course.
P: Let's talk about the debating. Maybe we ought to talk about
what happened before you arrived, and then in detail after
you got here.
C: Well, I had no information on the debating at the University
of Florida until I arrived. I learned that they had a de-
bating squad, and debaters. We could check on this. I
beleive that the first intercollegiate debate was in 1916,
and I believe that Spessard Holland and Gordon B. Knowles, Sr.
were the debaters for the University of Florida when they
debated Tulane, but that could be ascertained.
P: Spessard Holland [is a former] United States Senator
C: That is correct. Of course, I made inquiries when I arrived
because I was interested in debating. I discovered that they
had debating teams and that the debating was governed, I be-
lieve would be the word, by the literary societies. I use
that word "literary" even though they weren't,some of them,
too concerned with literary matters. For instance, one
was Farr Literary Society; the Peabody Club was the one in
Education. I believe they had a commerce club; I know we
had Benton Engineering Society.
P: I believe there was an international relations club?
C: Yes, but I don't think they were in operation. I believe
there was one in agriculture and I believe in pharmacy.
Anyhow, however many there were--well, say maybe seven--they
had some funds provided by the student body, and they did
a little debating among themselves. They did have that com-
petition. But, as I mentioned previously, they governed
the university debating. I don't believe anyone was in
charge to help the students. At least my memory says no one
Of course, I made inquiries. I learned that Miss
Miltmore, who was the librarian at that time, was very much
interested in assisting these young men in preparing to
debate. She had a bibliography drawn up by some member of
the library staff. The books and journals and other pub-
lications that bore on the question that was being debated
that year were placed on a separate shelf to which these
men had access. Well, of course, that was a tremendous help.
I was used to that sort of thing, and I was delighted to
learn that she was interested and would take the time, and
have her people take the time, to do that. I inherited,
I believe, two intercollegiate debates. We had triangular
debates then where I believe the negative team would travel
and the affirmative team would stay at home. There were either
two or three members on a team.
P: Now what do you mean by triangular debates?
C: I mean I recall taking a team up to the University of South
Carolina, and I think they sent one to Tennessee, and Tennessee
sent one here. Then you debated on the same night. I don't
recall particularly the outcome, but it would be somewhere in
the records. I think the other triangular debate was, I
believe, with Tulane, and L.S.U.. It seems to me that was
about right. Possibly Alabama.
Well, I was used to a little more active program than
that. I met with the young men who represented these societies.
They elected their officers and so on and so forth. They
had a debate manager. He was one of the officers, the debate
manager. And he carried on the correspondence for these
so-called trips we were going on. Well, I thought we needed
a little more guidance from the speech department in this
matter, because the students were inexperienced. This young
man would be elected, and he probably knew little or nothing
about it. He could know nothing about it.
P: He became a debater because of his position in the organization?
C: Oh yes, that was it. That was the sole reason. And they
politicked about it. They got four of them together to
decide who would vote for each, and then the four would carry
the four offices. That's what I remember now, seven. The
other three were left out.
I was present at one election, or maybe two of them. I
gradually assumed a little more responsibility, I guess you
would say, and certainly guided that thing with a much
stronger hand, if I didn't actually direct it. The
debaters my first year here were Harold Wahl and Dixie
Beggs. Harold Wahl is a lawyer in Jacksonville now, and
Dixie Beggs, I believe, is a judge in Pensacola.
P: They were undergraduates at that time?
C: Oh yes, undergraduates.
P: And they came to you from one of these organizations?
C: Well, they just could come. I did broaden that. I
let anybody come. But they had some experience, you see.
The other two experienced men were Ed Miller and Campbell
Thornall. Ed Miller is dead. Campbell Thornal, of course,
is a member of the Supreme Court. These were the four ex-
perienced debaters, the first year. I encouraged some others
to come out, and I believe somehow or other I did manage
to get some others interested and maybe they had a little
experience. I recall distinctly having these practice de-
bates, as I'm sure they still do, and then you deliver a
critique or a criticism. You invite other faculty members
or people with experience in debating to come in and listen
and make suggestions, getting help where you can. I did
that, of course. But I remember in talking with the men be-
fore we were going to South Carolina or somewhere, I told
them in very plain terms that they were not very well pre-
pared. I said, "You don't know enough about the question.
You don't know nearly enough about it."
One of the young men I don't know which one now, said
to me, "Well, we're lots better prepared than we were last
I said, "Not in my book, you're not prepared. I never
had a team so poorly prepared. You must work much harder."
They worked some harder. Gradually, you see, you have
to build up a tradition of these things, that you work hard
and you know the question. I used to set the goal for them,
I said, "You should know the question better than your op-
ponent. So when you hear him present an argument you could
present it even better than he can, and know wherein it's
fallacious or the weakness in it. Well, then that first
spring, which would be 1930, marked the beginning of the
Southern Speech Association. I went to Birmingham. Now,
the next year they started speaking contests. They would
have extemporaneous speaking, original oratory, they would
have oral interpretation, maybe poetry or dramatic material,
and they had debating.
P: You used the pronoun "they."
C: I should say "the Association sponsored." "We", I guess,
is how I should say it. This program of contests of com-
petitions went along at the same time as the convention.
Now, that made it very disturbing, of course, and extremely
upsetting because you'd leave some meeting and go over and
judge a debate or something of that sort. Of course, you
didn't judge your own team, but we took competitors up there.
That would be 1931. Professor Hopkins was now on the
staff, the speech staff. He and I went and we took...I'm
sure we took them in our cars, if we had cars. We had some
automobiles. That's how we went, anyhow. Well, you see, in
a period there of two or three days, they would compete may-
be four or five times. That was a great gain in terms of
experience. And then you see we might have some other
debates, also, so now we could get more experience for
I wanted to broaden that base. I didn't want four
or even six men doing the debating. That's fine, but my
goal would be much nearer twelve. Therefore, it's impor-
tant that you have either some tours to go on or tournaments
to go to. We did travel. We would send the men by train up
the east coast. We'd send them into the Midwest. We might
drive through the South, or we might take a trip through
Florida. You see, we would debate maybe St. Petersburg
Junior College; we would debate the University of Miami;
we'd debate Rollins, Stetson, Florida Southern. Those were
the schools, and that makes a good tour, you know, three
or four days. You can do it kind of on a weekend so they
didn't miss much school.
Then we had another goal. Professor Hopkins and I
agreed on what we should seek to accomplish. Not only
that the men be well trained--know the material and present
it well is another way of saying it--but that they would be
able to compete on an equal footing with some of the better
institutions in the country, within reason--I'm not talking
about the west coast or the Rocky Mountains. Therefore, we
tried to arrange debates with Harvard. We did arrange de-
bates with Harvard, Boston, Princeton, and Northwestern.
P: I guess there already was established a tradition between
the Ivy League schools and the big schools of the south to
debate, wasn't there?
C: Yes, yes. So we were reasonably successful. The men gave a
good account of themselves. In terms of winning, we won oftener
than we lost. That I'm sure of. We would occasionally have
an interesting type of decision. We would let the audience
vote, and maybe have two other judges from somewhere away.
I remember [an incident] that took place at the University
of Mississippi, where one of our debaters--well, specifically
if was Bill McRae, a judge over in Jacksonville--Bill McRae
got up and said that the proceeding speaker had presented an
argument: that was so weak, and he used words like childish,
that he wouldn't even bother to take time to offer a re-
I pretty near fell out of my seat. I thought, "Well, we're
dead. Here we've got an audience voting and we can't pull
this one. We maybe can get two judges." But those were his
words. He was at least that strong. It was terrible, really.
I told him, "Don't do that,man. You've got an audience.
don't go out of your way to antagonize them. Just say you
don't believe you'd bother to answer it and let it go at
that. But be gentle with them." He was a very vigorous
debater, a very powerful man physically, a powerful voice.
We had a debate with the University of Alabama, here
in Gainesville. I tried to take them occasionally off cam-
pus, so we went out to Gainesville High School at an assembly
period. Shortened the length of the speeches so they could
do it in whatever the period was, forty minutes or so. One
of the young men from Alabama interrupted one of our speakers
in the course of his talk, which really isn't supposed to be
done. He has a refutation, he's supposed to wait. It just
isn't done. It just isn't done. But he did it, and we got
some sort of decision from the presiding officer. Well, that
made our men--see, some of them were down there listening, in
addition to those competing--it made them very angry.
So we were at the University of Alabama, and Bill
McRae said to me, "I just hope one of them interrupts me.
If he interrupts me, I'll tell him that we have manners at
the University of Florida, and we thought we were debating
against gentlemen, but evidently not."
I said, "Oh Bill, don't do that. Don't do that." Well,
they didn't interrupt fortunately.
P: He was spoiling for a fight.
C: He would make an argument, and then he would turn and look
at them as much as to say, "I challenge you to get up and
say something now." Well, he was, as you know, he's bril-
liant--a fine mind, a fine speaker, and he was a splendid
debater, but he was a little bit hard to control, in terms
of expressing his opinions very bluntly and very decisively.
We had an interesting experience when we went out west.
I say west in terms of Texas; that's as far as we went. I
don't recall...undoubtedly we debated L.S.U. on the way,
maybe Tulane on the way or coming back. I do recall we de-
bated at the University of Texas. While we were there we
went to the state library--it was located there. We got
some material that had come in only a day or two before,
important material that had an important bearing on the de-
bate. The men representing the University of Florida pre-
sented that material on their home ground in Austin. That
was a tremendous eye-opener, and it helped us swing the
debate in terms of the decision. Oh, they got great, great
pleasure out of that.
Then we debated at Baylor and we debated, I believe, at
Denton, and then I remember at San Antonio. I thought...of
course, I was always biased, I was always prejudiced. I not
only helped direct these men in debating, but I knew them
personally, worked with them. We had a basis of friend-
ship. But I did think we presented a superior argument.
I don't recall the team, the other side. But we did not
win the decision, and I remember a man came up to me who
had lived some time in Florida and was there to hear the
debate. He was a military man, I recall that, an officer.
He said, "Now, Mr. Constans," or however he addressed me,
"You really didn't expect to come down here in Texas and
get this decision, did you?"
I said, "Yes, I really did."
"Well," he said, "you know now you didn't get it and
you can't get it. Now, your debaters were better. They
were superior. They really won, but you won't get the
decision, not here."
I said, "Well, I've learned that. Yes, I've learned
The man was disappointed, and I was disappointed. It's
very hard to get them to accept that. I said,"You did better.
You really did."
They said, "Wherein did we fall down? Didn't we meet
You know you question. I've been through this business
myself when I was in college and I'd think, "What did I
fail to do? Didn't I present it well enough? Did I fail
to bring enough evidence? Or wasn't the reasoning clear?"
You think there must have been something there in a way
that I was at fault.
And I told them, but then you can always find something,
I'd say, "Well, that wasn't as strong as you should have
made it, or maybe you should have caught hold of that point."
That seemed to have some weight with them. I guess it did.
So you try to get them off of being disgruntled and say,
"Well, let's think ahead now. Tomorrow we'll be at Waco
or wherever we're going to be, and we'll work on that.
Yes, yes, we'll work on that in the meantime."
And they do; they discuss these things. There's
a good bit of it. Of course, we'd talk about all kinds of
other things too, but they do talk about that and they'll
work. They'll work on the case while we go along.
P: They had to come, however, pretty fully prepared, because
you didn't have the time or the resources to gather data.
C: Oh no, you couldn't gather it. That was just because we had
a day. Somehow there was an extra day or part of a day.
That's the only instance I can think of where we actually
had time to go do that. Most cases, you see, your travel
gets you there and you go wherever they place you, to your
room, and you eat, and you get yourselves ready. No, you
can't do much other than that.
P: And I guess those young boys wanted to do a little sightseeing.
C: Oh, they did. Of course they did. We went out to the
Alamo, for instance, in San Antonio. Of course, we went
around the University of Texas. We looked at the theatre
at Baylor, if my memory serves me right. Yes, they got
around a bit, of course.
We were fortunate, when I say "we" I mean the department,
in the activity of debating. President Tigert was very keen
on debating. Oh, he got so tickled, especially in Washington,
if we would debate and win the decision, we'll say, against
George Washington or Catholic University, or Georgetown, or
whichever one we happened to debate. We might debate two of
them. We usually tried to do that so they have a little more
time in Washington, a chance to see things, of course. Then
President Miller was in favor of it, because he'd done some
orating, I believe, when he was a college student. President
Reitz was very enthusiastic because he'd been a college
speaker. I don't know whether he was a debater; I know he
was an orator because I was one of the judges when he com-
peted for what was then Colorado Aggies. It's now Colorado
State University at Fort Collins. He was a very good
speaker, so he was interested. We had a series, all the
time I was here, a series of presidents who were interested
in this activity, who supported it. The money came from
the student activity fee. And it was a substantial portion
of it, in terms of many places. The amount I don't recall,
but it enabled us to make these trips, to send some of
P: How did you arrange the debates with the foreign universities?
I remember Oxford and Cambridge.
C: Yes, yes, we did. That's correct. Well, you see, there is
sort of a clearing house, I've forgotten the name of it. It's
associated in some way with the Speech Association of America,
which is our professional organization. They make arrangements
through some international office for teams to come. We'll
say a team from Ireland, maybe they'll tour the midwest. A
team from England will come through the south, or maybe the
west. We had a team from Oxford come to Wyoming, for instance.
We had, I believe, one from the London School of Economics
here one time. I'm not sure whether we had the University
of Dublin or not. As a member of the profession, I know
they're coming. I would write and say, "We'd be interested.
Can we get on theitinerary?" And you pay them some; it's
not a large sum. You put them up, of course, and entertain
them, but you pay them some money to help carry the trans-
portation costs. That's the way it's done.
P: The university never sends its own team abroad?
C: No, never. Now, sometimes they select a team--but usually
it's not from one institution--to go abroad. We never
had one selected. We never had one of our men selected.
I don't quite know how that selection took place. I must
have known at one time, but no, we never had anyone selected.
Their style, as you know, is quite different--highly entertaining,
delightfully satiric, and you have to be very quickwitted
and be able to turn these things with a touch of wit, if
possible, rather than a straightforward kind of hammer and
tongs type of presentation. That style just doesn't meet
them at all, not at all.
P: They're more subtle and sophisticated?
C: Oh yes, they're older. They're always older, even older than...
I've know instances where they'd be older than one of our
fellows at the Law School. They'd still be older and more
experienced, a breadth of experience. So that's the way
the debating went on. You see, we would get additional help.
We would have more than eight or ten or twelve debaters, as
you probably know. We would have sixteen, possible twenty.
I used to tell the men, the freshmen particularly, "We will
hold a tournament here and we will invite these junior
colleges or freshmen. If you will come and stay out and
work at this, I'll see you get an opportunity." Enough
teams would come in, you see, that we would have eight or
ten teams debating here on a weekend.
P: What was the relationship between the debating team and the
college? Did they get college credit for this in any way?
C: No, no, this was like the Florida Players, no college credit,
extra-curricular. I suppose that's because I was raised in
that tradition, that it be extra-curricular, so I believe
I always worked under that type of system, extra-curricular.
P: You didn't make them take speech courses to get them ready
for this, and you didn't insist that they be history majors
or political science or sociology majors?
C: Oh no, no indeed. That was from your question, you see, so
many times the question for debate would be political with
historical background, it might be sociological [or] legal.
That's the way it was when I was in college. It was that
same sort of a background. I actually had read the text and
two others in labor problems before I took a course in
labor problems, for background for the debate in which I
P: Was any effort made here at any time to record any of these
debates? Were any tapes made?
C: I'm not sure. I have a feeling that some might have been re-
corded. I know we recorded some lecturers. I know I had
a hand in that, though with characteristic failure of mem-
ory, I don't know what became of the tapes. Possibly they're
somewhere in the department of speech now.
P: What about the popularity of debate the last several years
and today? Has it declined on this campus?
C: I'm sure it has.
P: How do you account for that?
C: Well, you see, in your memory you say, "Well, we had inter-
national debaters come here." Now, we know that's a drawing
card. We know that. I would try to get them, then we would
advertise it, not just on campus but throughout the town, too.
They will come to hear the accent, almost, or the dialect,
I should say. They'll come to hear the British, they'll
come to hear the Irish or some other. I believed in giving
it widespread publicity. You can do that in part, you see,
by...as you know, you should know someone on the local paper.
That helps a great deal, of course. Not as a favor to you,
but you should know someone so that you can say, "This activity
is going on. It'll be of interest to the public at large and
not just the university students." That was one way we did
it. A second thing, I used to try to get, at least occasionally,
a debate put on before a class. You cut the time of it,
of course. I discovered some of those students, might
even be a majority, had never heard a debate before, never
heard a college debate or any debate! I would prepare
them for it, of course, and say, "This is the sort of thing
that will go on, and this is the subject, and this is
the time they'll have and so on. Then when they get through
you bring in, the next time the class meets, a critique,
as far as you see it. Not necessarily who won, [or] which
you think was the better, but a critique of how it was done
and was it interesting, that sort of thing." That helps.
Occasionally a subject lends itself to particular interest,
we'll say from the field of political science, something of
that kind. I would let that be known. I say a lot of this
"I, I, I." It wasn't really so much "I" doing it. I
don't believe I really did do it, but maybe the man who was
directing the debating.
P: It seems to me that the debating groups on this campus and
elsewhere were once much more prestige organizations,
status organizations, status organizations, than they
are today. Debating hasn't just declined in popularity
here. Hasn't this really sort of been an American phenomenon?
C: I couldn't speak with authority on that. It's declined here.
It's declined to the extent I believe they're no longer on
the student activity fee, because one of the administration
told me and said, "What do you think about it?"
I said, "Well, I didn't know it."
He said, "Well, that was one of the things we pointed
to with pride, because we would meet schools of prestige and
I said, "Yes, that's true." So, it has declined.
P: It brought a lot of--not notoriety in the bad sense, but
it did bring a lot of publicity to the university in past
years. I was just wondering if there was something now
in the students makeup which made debate seem "old hat"
C: Well, I don't know. It could be. We've adapted to some
degree the style and the format or form. It used to be
an old style, and then we had a cross-questioning style,
which is very interesting. I've forgotten...they have a
term for it. But that's essentially cross-questioning,
as in law. Cross examination, I mean, cross-questioning.
Then we've taken where they might have a, oh, we'll say
a ten or twelve minute presentation. And that's the whole
case, on each side. Then you turn to the rebuttal and the
questioning, which is the more interesting part of it, of
course. So they've tried some of those innovations. It
still carries considerable weight in the Southern Speech
Association. We don't have the direction. I don't mean
the particular person directing, I don't mean that. But
you see, we had graduate students at one time. The man
who coached debate at South Carolina, the man who coached
debate at Wake Forest, were here as graduate students working
on doctorates, and they assisted us. Well, you can imagine
the power that we had with our own director of debating and
probably an assistant. Why, we had thirty or forty men who
would be participating in that sort of thing. There is some
decline. Now, they want a good bit of confrontation and
somebody running up and grabbing a microphone, you know, they
don't want the old...
P: i'Debate is to slow and too...
C: Yes, it's too orderly.
P: ...too establishment.
C: Yes, that's right, too establishment. This is a genteel
way of doing it, you see. Debating is non-existent at
the college I attended. And it was, as you say, prestige,
it stood very, very high.
P: Do you think it will be revived on the American college campus,
or has it seen its day?
C: Well, I don't know that it will be revived. It continues
in high school. As you know, there are oral competitions.
They hold these tournaments, they call them.
P: Those aren't so much debate as they are oratory.
C: Well, they have a good bit of that, too. That is correct.
It is speaking, a good bit of speaking, original speaking,
that sort of thing.
P: Training them to be after-dinner speakers.
C: Yes, yes, some of that. Extemporaneous speaking, impromptu
sometimes, which is a cursed thing. But I shouldn't be
surprised but what it has pretty much seen its day. It's
grand training in terms of forcing the individual to be
able to bear, at the moment, the knowledge that he has, or
to see the importance of what he knows, or to seize on
something from a different angle than he'd been thinking.
It sharpens, it sharpens.
P: Who were some of your star debaters over the years?
C: Well, I mentioned those first four. Then I would take,
well, certainly George Smathers. George was a great debater,
powerful orator, too. George Young, he happened to be
another judge, was an effective debater. Louis Snetman was
very effective when he debated. He teamed with Seldon Waldo,
who is deceased, but was a lawyer here. Charlie Bennett was
a pretty good debater. Bill Lantaff was a pretty good de-
bater. Terrel Sessums and Dick Pettigrew, as I think
of them now. Ah, here's a good one, and that's Paul Rogers.
Paul was a good orator, too.Judge John Crews here in Gainesville
was a good debater. Winston Arnold on the Supreme Court,
good debaters. Judge John Prunty down in Miami, a good de-
bater. Judge Ben Krentzman, there's another good debater.
P: How about Justice Carswell?
C: No, he never debated, not here. Harry Fromine was another.
Harry was a pretty good debater. He's over in Jacksonville.
Phil Selver was a pretty good debater. I believe Phil--
I don't know whether Phil's in Jacksonville?
P: He's in Jacksonville.
C: Is he? Davison Dunlap--there's a pretty good...Dunlap
over in Jacksonville, a pretty good debater. Ed Rudd,
Bill Grimes, down the coast here, down the Gulf. Oh,
and Willard Ayers and J.B. Patterson--there was a power-
ful team. Willard Ayers of Ocala and J.B. Patterson,
Fort Lauderdale. An interesting little sidelight on that.
This was an audience decision in Milwaukee. I was not
present, but it was Ayers and Patterson, a pretty good con-
trast there in style and made a good team. They had an
audience decision. And Willard Ayers said he put a rhetor-
ical question to the audience, something of this kind:"Now,
you don't want that to happen, do you?" And he said
several people said, "No!" He said it took him so aback
he stopped and he said, "That's right--no!" That's the
only instance I can recall where they answered out of the
audience a rhetorical question.
P: How about the debate coaches here? Can you trace those?
C: Well, as I said, Hopkins. And then the next one would be
some student, or maybe...yes, some student help. The
next one coaching would be Wayne Eubank. Eubank is the
head of the department at the University of New Mexico.
Eubank was a good coach. Then we had Ehninger. Dr.
Ehninger, now at the University of Iowa. Excellent coach.
P: Both of these men were here as graduate students, while they
were doing their debating?
C: No, no. Staff members. Ehninger had the assistance of
men, as I mentioned, like Christopherson from South Carolina
and Frank Shirley from Wake Forest. Tremendous help.
Ehninger and Dr. Dickey. Why, we had great power then.
Both excellent coaches with fine assistants. My goodness!
Oh, what strength we had! And it showed. I mean, we de-
bated the best there was, as far as we knew, and we could
hold our own. Dr. Dickey died; Dr. Ehninger went to the
University of Iowa. And then we had a young man from Arkansas,
Wilkerson, but he had little if any experience. I don't
know whether he ever actually was a debater. It was really
kind of unfair to place this upon him. And then we had a
young man--I can't recall his name. He came about the
time I retired, and he did a pretty good job. He had to
pick it up once again. See, it goes down very quickly.
This is a tradition that is short-lived in terms [of] it
won't survive more than a couple of years, for instance,
because of a lack of success or prestige, that sort of thing.
P: Where are all the debate organization's trophies?
C: I once had them on display. When we were over in the
Administration building they had some display cases there.
Well, they should be in the department of speech, somewhere.
You'llknow if you've ever glanced at them, we won many
tournaments, and important ones, against pretty stiff com-
petition, yes. I had the Charlie Bennet trophy that used
to go to intramurals, interfraternity debating that used
to take place.
P: I think that's stopped now.
C: I suspect so. I see nothing about it. But of course, I
was raised in the tradition. I thought it was great ex-
P: It was a grand old tradition, but it seems to have fallen
by the wayside.
C: Yes, gone, it seems. That's right. And you see these names
I called, these were people of prestige and importance.
P: Drama survived here, and in fact got larger and more impor-
tant and more prestigious, at the very moment that debate
enthusiasm was declining.
C: That is correct. But you've got to have someone who's
enthusiastic about it and knows how to operate it and
P: You, in fact, created a vacuum which was not filled. Or
at least your retirement created a vacuum.
C: Yes, I guess. I believe you must seek someone who can
carry prestige and weight and who has stature. You see,
we have trained the men who are important in debating. I
mentioned South Carolina; I mentioned Wake Forest. I'll
put Duke University in the picture. I can put some others
in the picture, in the south, important people in terms of
debating. They know whether you have somebody that really
knows this business and can bring it on. Yes, it declined.
Probably a lack of interest on the campus, maybe the depart-
ment has changed. And I don't know what the men would say,
I have never asked them, you know, to make a statement
about debating, anything of the sort. I never have asked
anybody to make a statement, I guess, about the work.
P: I wanted you to evaluate the role you played in developing
the graduate program in speech.
C: Well, of course this sounds egotistical, I guess it has to
be. I had to play the key role as chairman. Why, if the
chairman doesn't take the lead, I suspect it would be
long in bringing to fruition. I took the lead, of course,
but you see, as I believe I mentioned, I had the strong
support of Dr. Dickey, who was used to graduate work on
the doctorate level at L.S.U. I had the support of Dr.
Ehninger, who, where he had gone to school had had the gra-
duate work and all that sort of thing. I conferred, I'm
one to confer with people, of course. Dr. Hale would be
another one. Dr. Tew would be another one, that are
still.... Those two are still here. And then there was
Dr. Dusenberry, prior to Dr. Zimmerman. And Dr. Dearlam,
whose name I couldn't remember the other day. Those were
the men that I got together, and we drew up a plan or
a procedure, of course, you know, for it. But you must
remember that prior to this time--and it goes back to
when I told you about that library--I started to build the
Speech Department's holding in this library from the first
time I was here, when I was first here at the university.
We built that up until we had good holdings. We can stand
and hold our head pretty high in terms of the library
facilities that we and other institutions have. I know
we're superior in some respects. So we had to have that.
We had that. We had to have the staff, and then we had
to have the courses. All of these things we built as we
came along. You can't do it all at once, of course. But
stone on stone. Then we decide we are ready, we believe we
are in a position where we can do this. We won't try it
in phonetics. We couldn't do it there; we knew that. But
we can do it in three areas, and that's where we made the pick,
so to speak.
Well, we were successful, and then, as I told you,
I brought Sarett in. There's no staff in the south, and
you'd have to hunt pretty hard to find a staff that could
stand up against the prestige we had in that area, rhetoric
and public address. This brings students, of course, be-
cause they want to study under people of that stature. You
know the story, of course. We all know it.
P: Big names draw students.
C: They do. That's why I went to Iowa graduate school. I knew
the work in theatre there. I knew A. Craig Baird was there,
and there's a name to stand by when you pick somebody in
the field, you see. There's a great man, E.C. Malie. There's
a great producer and maybe he's a great name. He is, or
was, one of the most eccentric men that ever walked the
earth and a man whose courses you must be careful to avoid.
But he built that theatre work there. I didn't have to
work under Malie. I could work under some of the others
and leave him alone. Yes, the name draws. Northwestern
had some names. So that was one of them that draws.
Cornell drew then with Drummond and Witchelns and C.K.
Thomas. Thomas I got down here.
P: You were trying to do the same thing for this establishment?
C: Oh, exactly, yes, exactly that sort of thing. Well, that's
the way it came about. I thought we were ready and we
could do it.
P: Has time proved your feelings?
C: Yes, oh yes. We've turned out some good men and women.
A few outstanding, several heads of departments--not that
that's a criterion; but they got some recognition even though
their productivity is pretty near at an end when that takes
place, as we all know. But the head of the department at
Memphis State, he was here. And two or three of our men
are over there in two different fields--I mean different
aspects of the field of speech, theatre and public address.
Two of our people are down here at Florida Atlantic--that's
Bill Dorne and Mrs. Smith. We've got two people down at
the University of Miami--he's now resigned as head of the
department--that's Bill Shea, and Jack Benson. And on and on.
P: I remember when we were talking about setting up the University
College, that you were involved with the planning for what
was then the C-3, Comprehensive Three, the freshman English
program. Did you remain associated with that?
C: Yes, I not only remained, I taught in it. I continued to teach
in it, I believe, almost, if not until, I retired. I believe
I did until I retired. Now, you may recall I used to lecture
quite a bit. In fact I guess I did all, or almost all, lectures
in the speaking side of it. But as time went on, I told them,
"!oubetter get somebody else ready because I'm going to re-
tire as of this date."
So gradually they would move somebody else in and I would
do less--maybe two a semester and then one a semester. But
I remained in it, yes. I taught in it all the time, and
continued on the main course committee. I continued on that.
P: At least the part that you were involved with, did you find
that the course was an evolutionary thing, it changed with
C: Yes, yes it did.
P: It's recently been under attack as being static and inflexible,
and I wondered how you felt about the situation as somebody
who was long associated with it.
C: Well, we changed. Dr. Wise, who was in charge of it all
those years, he was willing to change. He was not a static
individual. Opposition would arise or suggestions would
come up and he'd appoint a committee. They'd make an ex-
amination of it or study of it, and recommend changes,
and certain things were changed. The lecture system would
come under attack. Well, if you looked at who did the
lecturing--I shouldn't put it quite that way--the lecturers
were changed rather often. A few did certain lectures,
but other lectures were changed frequently, somehow seeking
to get either the individual or the point of view. The
lecture is supposed to open up the material for the dis-
cussion. And sometimes....
[A gap in the interview occurs here while the tape was changed.]
C: By going pretty well, I mean get the students responding or
raising questions about it. Sometimes that takes place and
other times it doesn't, as we all know. The essays are
sometimes rather difficult just plain difficult, and it's
hard to get a class...even though the level of achievement
prior to coming in the University of Florida has risen,
nevertheless, you still get some in there that can't seem
to get hold of what it's all about.
P: From your long experience here at the university, how would
you classify our students?
C: I think by and large the students are good. I think they're
good stud-ents. And generally, with very few exceptions,
a very good attitude. By that I mean their willingness to
accept suggestions. As others, I have failed with some.
You may get an individual in a class that'll make the whole
class difficult to move along because he's opposed--I say he,
it could be she--is opposed to you personally, to me per-
sonally. I thought I'd caught hold of this fellow at a
place where I could get him to go forward. He'd made a
talk about--this was in a speech class--he'd made a talk
about Clarence Darrow. He knew quite a little about Clarence
Darrow, I knew a great deal more. And I said, "That's a good
talk. You have considerable material there. Would you like
to know more about Clarence Darrow? I just happen to know
a couple of things that have been written that might give you
even additional information, a greater insight into his
philosophy." He didn't know much about the philosophy of
the man. And I said, "Now, if you would, I'd be glad to
suggest these to you." And Imentioned a couple of things
but it got nowhere. He'd had enough. I don't know what he
wanted to do, maybe he thought I didn't know about Clarence
Darrow or something of that sort.
P: Maybe he was just tired of Clarence Darrow.
C: He might have been. I just don't know what it was. But
I got nowhere with him. Once in a while, I recall this
letter I got from a student. That's rare. Student says,
"You'll remember me. I was a thorn in the flesh to you all
during that class. Every suggestion that you made I rebuffed.
I would object even when I knew you were right. You surely
must remember me after that trying ordeal with me." I
did remember him. I didn't remember that he was that bad.
He said, "The trouble with me was all the time I knew you
were right, I refused to admit it even though I knew it.
I'm writing you now to thank you for putting up with me."
I wrote him, and I said, "You weren't as bad as you
make out. You really weren't. I remember you weren't
amenable to suggestions. You didn't rush to do what I
P: Just slightly a pain in the rear end.
C: Just slightly, that's right.
The students were good. And let me put in another thing.
As I mentioned, I got Dr. Parrish to come here from Illinois.
Now, here's a man, at that time, of greater experience than
I had. He had experience in different institutions than
the kind I had, and he was schooled in a different insti-
tution. He was at Cornell, but he taught at Pittsburgh,
and he taught at the University of Illinois. He came down
and taught an advanced course in oral interpretation.
He said to me, "These students here are the best, I
believe, I've ever had."
I said, "Well, you don't mean it."
He said, "Yes! Of course I was amazed. I thought we
had the best at Illinois, nobody could have any better. But
here, they're better. All I have are good, they're good
students." He taught two or three subjects.
I said, "I'm delighted to hear it. I think they're good.
I think these students are good." Well, you get one now and
then, but by and large they're good. I had one fellow who
came under the influence of the Clarence Darrow make a
speech. He did miserably in that class because he thought
it was fun to see if he could make it difficult for me. I'd
sluff him off or occasionally I'd give a quick one with a
dagger point in the short ribs, just a real sharp one, fast.
Well, I don't know, I think they both passed. But he wanted
to come in the advanced course. He said, "I know, I was
wrong. I tried to make it tough for you. I'd like
to come in this course. Can you, in spite of what I've
done, can you give me a fair shake?"
I said, "You bet your life I'll give you a fair shake.
You come in. You come in, I won't hold that thing against
you." I didn't need to. He did well! Shoot, he'd had a
change of attitude. Now, he was trying to learn. He realized
maybe he can learn. So as I said, the students were good
P: As you look back on your years here at the university, are
C: Well, you always wish you could have done better. I think,
maybe, here is a student that somehow I feel maybe I could
have sparked, if he didn't have a native curiosity, sparked
some kind of curiosity. Or, as one of them said to me,
"This young man is brilliant. This young man is brilliant,"
at the end of a course that he entered because he wanted a
He said, "I don't believe I learned a thing.
I said, "I don't think you did either." That took him
a little aback. I said, "No, I don't think you learned anything.
You could have learned something, but you didn't want to learn
anything. I made suggestions to you, but you wouldn't
accept them. I told you how you could improve, but no, you
wouldn't do that. So you didn't learn anything."
Then he came aroung about examination time and was
practically begging that he could get a "D" out of the
whole thing. But that's unusual. But I got to him in a
different way. He was going to try out for plays, then
he decided that he was going to be a debater, and he's
smart. He was a smart young man. I got to him one time.
I said, "Come in the office. Come here. I want to talk
to you for a minute. I've watched you. And you were going
to debate, but you came a time or two, and then you're
through. You're going to be in a play. Maybe you try
out, or you want to know when they're going to try out and
what the lead part is. You ask me questions like that.
But you don't try out. You don't do anything backstage
where you could learn something, too. Have you ever fin-
ished anything you started?" And, oh, I got to him. Oh,
I shook him all over.
He said, "I certainly have."
I said, "Tell me. Tell me one time. I've watched you,
and I can't put my finger on one instance."
But then he started to tell me how he'd helped build
something at home, or had worked on some building of a house
or a shed or something or other.
I said, "That's good. That's good. Have you got an-
other? Can you find two in your whole lifetime?"
"Yes, I can find another."
"Tell me. Tell me," I said. "You don't look like a
finisher to me."
Along about the time he graduated, he said, "You really
shook me that time."
I said, "I meant to. Oh, yes, I meant to."
But with others I failed. You like to think of when
you succeed, but you fail so often, and I think maybe I could
have done it. Or a student comes in. He didn't come in for
counseling in the sense of asking me about his family or a
girlfriend, any stuff like that. He's asking me a question
about maybe, "Here I'm a junior. I've finished the junior
year." This kind of question. "And I'm in engineering.
My uncle is providing the money, and he thinks I'm going
to be an electrical engineer. I don't believe I want to
be one. What should I do?"
Well, that's a terrible question, which I couldn't
answer. I'm not a good counselor. I couldn't answer it.
They came to me because in a speech class they talk and they
feel you know them, and you do. I guess maybe he thought
I'd give him a friendly ear, which I tried to do.
P: How do you want the university to remember you? What kind
of mark do you feel you've made here? You've given it
forty years of your life.
C: Yes, I have, pretty near forty. Well, I'd like them to think
I developed a good department. Of course, the theatre,
but as some fellow says, "They can change names on buildings,
you know. There used to be a Language Hall, now it's Anderson."
I said, "Yes, I know. You can take them off." I said,
"I hope maybe the name will stay on in the theatre, for the
work I did there in developing it." I'd like to think that
I made an impression on the lives of the students. I know
this is maybe a vain thought. More than that I taught
them speech or enabled them to be better speakers or better
actors or directors of whatnot, I like to think that maybe
I taught some values, but I'm afraid maybe not. I think
I did sometimes, and then I'm so disillusioned when I see
an instance in here--I must not become specific where I said
"Yes, I know I taught that fellow to speak better. I
showed him some things and ways of doing things and so on
and so forth. But I thought I taught more than that."
Or Mrs. Constans, who is a gentle, kindly woman, said
to me a time or two, "Maybe you've taught him the wrong
And I said, "Oh, God, I don't believe so."
And she says.another thing, "You didn't teach him well
enough, did you?"
And I'd say, "You've got me." Well, you hate that. You
like to think that you contributed something to the lives of
students: maybe, maybe not.
P: Do you think you were successful with your own children?
C: They're wonderful children. Of course, I'm so biased.
They've done so well. They've raised good children. How
do you measure success?
P: But you feel that your own kids, and the students here in
the final analysis didn't let you down?
C: Oh no, they didn't let me down, especially the children.
I'll put in one thing. I asked our son, I said to him,
"Now tell me how you look upon teaching." I used to teach
a course on the teaching of speech in college to graduate
students. Early in that course, I said, "Teaching is a
profession." And then we went into,What is a profession?
What distinguishes a profession from a trade or a business
or a so on and so forth? I said, "Tell me about it. What
is it? Is it a profession?" He'd done a doctoral dissertation
of a code of ethics for the teaching profession. I surprised
him--I read it. And I said, "What is it? Is it a profession?"
And he said, "Yes, it's a profession. I defined a
profession." And he says, "It's more than that, more than
Then I said, "The trouble is that I'm telling you what
I think it is."
"Well," he says, "I agree with you. If I didn't, you
know I'd tell you." And he would! He's terribly dedicated
and devoted to teaching, in spite of all that may have trans-
pired. His uppermost thought is the teacher and the student.
He said to me, "No, it's more than a profession. I think
it takes on another characteristic of a calling, and that's
religious in nature."
And I said, "Well, maybe, maybe. I'll go with a pro-
fession. We can get them there." So all of our children
and our grandchildren are a great joy to us. Yes, a great
P: Let's talk about the beginnings of the Constans family in
America: where they came from and why they happened to
settle in the particular area of the Middle West that they
C: My grandfather's name was Henry Philip Constans. He came
from France by boat to New Orleans, and then up the
P: Do you remember the date? Do you have that in your family?
C: I won't miss it by more than a year if I say 1856. Before
the Civil War. It might have been a little before that
even. [He went] up to St. Paul, and then he came down
just a short distance to a little place called Shakopee and
stayed there for perhaps a period of a year. I believe it's
an Indian name, by the way. Many names in Minnesota are
Indian in origin.
There, on a winter's evening, as they recite this in
Keister's History of Faribault County, which is where these
four men went, on a winter evening, they talked, the four
of them; and decided to go south a distance of a hundred
and some miles seeking land, a new place to live, somewhat
in the spirit of adventure. And they stopped at Blue
Earth, Minnesota. That's from an Indian name, although of
course "Blue Earth" are not Indian words. Actually the
earth is not blue, but a very deep, slightly off-black, and
exceedingly rich. It's still that appearance to this day.
So these four men settled there. My grandfather said that
he would set up a log tavern. Now, tavern didn't mean then
what it means now. It was a stopping place, more of an
inn. Later, stagecoaches would stop there. [It had] over-
night accommodations, rather substantial. We have a picture
of it, or course, the family of this log tavern.
P: I presume that they did not neglect, however, food and
C: Oh no, they didn't neglect it. They did not indeed.
As they recite it, these three other men said, "Well,
where are you going to get someone to help you with this
hotel or tavern?"
He said he would take care of that. And what he
meant, he proceeded to do, namely to go up and ask my grand-
mother to marry him. She consented, and they were married.
Now they were the first...now, when I say white, there were
Indians in this territory down there. She was the first
white bride that came into this area. She was from Switzerland
and lived a little ways from Shakopee. I don't know just
when her family came. An interesting name, her name was
Habeisen, Barbara Habeisen. Well, they continued to live
P: Let me go back just a minute and ask you about your grandmother.
How did they happen to meet? Was he a schoolteacher?
C: No, I said this town...she was from Chaska, which is just
a few miles from Shakopee. I never did ask just how they
P: Was this a farm family?
C: No, they lived in town. My grandfather lived in town. They
were not farmers. None of our people were farmers. Grandmother
Constans--no, there were no farmers. I believe he was a store-
keeper, now that I think of it. It was some sort of mer-
cantile business. They lived their lives in Blue Earth,
Minnesota, and they had four sons. My father was the third,
and he was named George Faribault (which is also the name
of that county) Constans.
Now, I think I should tell of my mother a bit at this
point. My grandfather Quayle, he was named Thomas George
Quayle. His family came from the Isle of Man, just off the
west coast of England, famous, by the way, for the Manx cat.
He lived in New York State for a time, and then later came
to Minnesota. Later than that, after the Civil War, he was
a miller. He was in the Civil War for pretty near four years,
three and a half years, rather severely wounded; and resigned
a commission because he could not get around. It was a leg
wound. Now, on my Grandmother Quayle'sside, that family
was Northrup and they were from England. They lived for
a time in New York State, and then moved to the Middle West.
My grandmother was Lucy Northrup prior to her marriage to
Thomas Quayle. There were four children born of that marriage.
My mother was the third from the oldest: two sons, two daughters.
My mother's name was Eva Zaletta Quayle. A most unusual
name. I never asked her where in the world they got it.
My father was born in...I'm a little off, I'm afraid in
that marriage date. My father was born in 1860, I know that
date, and he died in 1937. He was 77 years old. I believe
I'm correct when I say my mother was six years younger. I
think that is correct.
P: That would place her 1868 .
C: Yes, and she died in 1948. I'm not sure I'm correct on that.
How old would that be?
C: That's about right. My father did not live that long,
obviously. She lived a long life. She taught school. She
went to what was then called a Normal Teacher's School, or some
such title as that, at Mankato. You would go two years,
and you got some sort of certificate. She taught school for
a few years prior to her marriage. She did not teach school
after the marriage. They lived in Blue Earth, my father and
mother. Except for a period prior to his marriage, six
months when he worked on the Canadian Pacific Railroad, they
lived their lives in Blue Earth. There were five sons
born to them; one daughter who died in infancy. And the
sons--of course my oldest brother, George M. Constans, who
now is a retired surgeon, an eye surgeon, lives in California
at Santa Barbara. The next was Willard A. Constans, who
is deceased. He lived in California at the time of his
death. He was in the lumber business and was a sales manager
for [Smith Lumber Company.] I thought it was a very large
lumber mill; he said it wasn't, it was about medium-sized.
But he was in the lumber business all his life. I should
say we three older ones were in the military during World
War I. I came right in the middle, because there are two
younger. And my name, I'm named for my grandfather Henry
P: But you always went by your middle name?
C: I always went by my middle name. He always went by his first
name. He was called Henry; well, that's obvious. The only
ones who called me Henry Philip were my grandfather and my
grandmother. My folks called me Philip. My next younger
brother was Carl E. Constans, who was in the retail lumber
business. He was never a yard manager, I mean a yard in
a local sense of a local retail yard. But he did assist
some. He is dead. My youngest brother was Robert Q. Now,
the "Q" is for Quayle. Robert Q. Constans, and he too
was in the lumber business. He was mainly a salesman and
an assistant sales manager for one rather large lumber
company. He is deceased.
P: So you and your older brother survived.
C: That's right. I was raised, as we all were, in Blue Earth.
That's obvious. I said my parents lived there.
P: Now, give us your birthdate.
C: December 23, 1898, and I was raised in this small town.
I believe then maybe it had 2,500 people, or something
like that. We lived in town. My father was what they
called a superintendent of a line of retail lumber yards.
Now, a line meant a number of them, and at one time there
were twelve lumber yards in the towns not far from Blue
Earth. That was the home office, they called it. That's
what he did for a living. We lived in town. And it was
not primitive. We had electric lights; we had a telephone
in our home; we had indoor plumbing. We had sidewalks, and
later the streets were paved, though that was quite a bit
later, actually. I grew up like most of them around there.
P: What do you remember about your childhood?
C: Well, by and large I would say it was a very happy one.
We were subject to, well, I guess the only word is strict
discipline, that's for sure. We had to obey; we had to.
Or be punished, take your choice. When we were told to
do something, we were supposed to do it.
P: Pretty quickly.
C: Oh yes, I was reading a book one time when my mother called
to me. I suppose I was twelve, maybe fourteen or so. She
asked me to go down in the cellar, I believe, to get her
a hod or scuttle of coal for the kitchen range. And I
said, "Yes, ma'am," but I didn't move. A matter of a few
minutes went by, and she called to me again. I said, "Yes,
ma'am," again, but I didn't move. I can still see what
happened. My father, who was seated opposite me, in the
chair he always sat in, lowered his newspaper, and said to
me "Young man..." At that point I was out of the chair.
I never heard the finish of it. I heard, "When your mother
speaks to you..." By that time I was down the stairs. You
knew when he said "young man" that was dire. No question
about that. But they were very good to us. We had to
work. You were supposed to work chores around, always
did that. If we could we got some kind of job in summer,
just spending money is what it was all about. My father
was a man of some means and my mother always had help.
We called them then "hired girls." Now I guess you'd
call them a maid.
P: They were white?
C: Yes, oh yes, they were white. Usually they were young women
from the farms around there. Yes, she had help as long as
I can remember.
P: How about a car?
C: Well, we didn't have the first automobile, but we had an auto-
mobile. I don't remember when, not the first at all. I
don't know just when we got an automobile. It was a Ford
and we always had automobiles from then on. He [my father]
never learned to drive, so we had to drive the car and drive
him around to these yards. So we were raised in this small
P: How about your schooling?
C: Well, the school was a good school, a public school. It
was a good substantial brick building. We had lights and all
that sort of thing, of course. The teachers were educated.
I'm sure the high school teachers had graduated from college.
I know that they had, because they might incidentally men-
tion the school they had attended. I know they were grad-
uated from college.
The people took considerable pride in the school. They
wanted a good school. Some people, you see, they would get
them to go to the school board, people that had taken
an interest in it. People, I guess we would say, you know,
in a sense of some leadership in the town. So the schooling
was, I think, reasonably good, reasonably good. I graduated--
or we used to say "was graduated", that was the correct
form at that time--in 1916. Now, I stayed on--I got the
diploma all right--an additional year, because my next
older brother had just finished graduating from college
in 1916, and my oldest brother was just about to enter his
senior year in medical college, so the drain had been rather
heavy for the preceding four years on my parents. So they
asked me to continue in high school for another year there.
I did, and took, by that time, most every subject they offered
except bookkeeping or something like that. You asked me
did I make good grades? Well, yes, I did. I was the
valedictorian. I believe we had a graduating class of
fifty [actually forty-eight].
P: Before you go on, you haven't mentioned the fun you had
in growing up.
C: Well, it was all unorganized; we had nobody supervising.
We had a rather large lot on which our house was located,
and adjacent to it was an exceedingly wide street. Only
about one track could go down it, because it turned off
there at the distance of about one hundred yards, and
beyond that was a much wider space. So we had an area, and
across the street was an almost a block--not quite two-thirds
of a city block--which was an open area with some orchards
in it. So we had playgrounds, if you want to call them that.
We played baseball; we played football; we even tried to
play a little tennis, and wove the nets, I guess is the way
you'd put it. In the wintertime, of course, we skied. We
were not at all good at it, but there was a hill very close,
a river, and a bayou or a pond, a mill pond. We played what
we called shinny, which is somewhat comparable to hockey.
We did those things.
There were enough boys, you see, not too far apart in
age in our own family, and naturally they attracted others,
so really right near our house was a rather active playground.
We had what you called horizontal bars, we called them turning
poles then. [We] played horizontal bar, and we learned some
gymnastic things. My mother could play the piano, and I
learned to play the piano. We all took a hand at singing.
My father's voice was mainly loud, but he didn't sing very
much anyhow. That was what we would do of a Sunday evening
pretty much. Pop popcorn. Oh, we always had apples, down in:the
basement, barrels and barrels of apples! Then my mother
would play and we would all sing, except my oldest brother.
He couldn't sing a note, now that I think of it. We were
congenial, you might wonder about that. Oh, we had disagree-
ments, my goodness, of course. We were intensely compet-
itive. You disliked, of course, taking a younger brother
along, much less the youngest. That was punishment, almost.
You would protest, of course, to have to lug that kid along,
but lug him along you did. There was no appeal from that
decision. We used to run a good bit, and could run rather
well for small town boys. We would run at County Fair time,
or the Fourth of July. They would have foot races. My
oldest brother was laughing about it, and asked me if I
remembered the County Fair where between the three of us,
I believe we made thirty-two dollars. Because I could
run under a certain age limit, like eighteen, and they could
run over that. Then we could run a relay race with the
help of one outsider. I said we were competitive; we were.
We wrestled a good bit. My father, when he was a younger
man, could wrestle rather well. I saw my next older bro-
ther throw him, and he never wrestled after that. That was
the end of it. He could run rather well, and I, at about
twelve years of age, thought I could run pretty good. He
caught me before I got to the next house. That taught me
a quick lesson, real quick.
I said we all worked, and then I did what was called
common labor. Well, what else could you get a job? Jobs
were difficult to come by even at that time. So I worked
on a paving crew. I worked on a curb-and-gutter gang.
P: Did you work for your father in the lumber yard?
C: No, only when somebody would go on vacation. The yard man,
what they call a yard man, or the second man, or the bookkeeper.
Then I would fill in, but I didn't like it. I could do it,
but no, I didn't like it. My:oldest brother didn't work
there either, because the yard man--the local agent's, I
should say--son was of the same age, so he got the job.
So my brother went and worked on a farm. I worked on
these jobs. But these were regular jobs; that lumber yard
was fill-in stuff. You know, maybe two weeks while they
were on vacation, maybe two more weeks. Then I worked
on a power line crew digging pole holes. Nothing commoner
than that. And I worked in a grocery store and so on and
P: So you went one year beyond high school, and then?
C: Then I went to college. I went to Carleton College at
Northfield, Minnesota. I'd been preceded there by my two
older brothers. I'd visited them a time or two. They liked
it and I liked it. It was a liberal arts college, still is.
I majored...well, really it was a double major. I had a
major in biology, because my oldest brother suggested that
I might like to go into medicine. The other major was in
speech, although it was called public speaking then. You
had to have--I've forgotten whether it was two or three
minors. I had a minor in mathematics and a minor in eco-
nomics. I believe that's it.
P: What propelled the public speaking interest?
C: In high school when you were a sophomore, you had to recite
publicly at the assembly period. You spoke something, poetry
or prose. I spoke some prose, if I recall. I don't know
just what it was anymore. I think they were called sophomore
rhetoricals. Then we had something of that nature when
I was a junior, when you spoke before the high school as-
sembly. This is for a four year high school. Then that
same year I recall I was in a debate. I recall it because
my colleague was a senior and I was a junior. I don't
know what the subject was. I don't know how we came out.
I remember he wouldn't work on it. I don't know,
I guess we were assigned this. Then you thought the thing
to do was to write your speech and learn it. I recall
distinctly I wrote his speech. I didn't learn it, but
I wrote his speech because, well, I was disturbed. I had
some sense of pride, and I wanted us to do well. Of course,
I wanted to do well. So that started it a little bit.
Then I was in two or three plays. Oh yes, that's
right, I failed to mention that. I believe I was in three
or four, actually, now that I think about it.
P: Then drama and public speaking were interests that went
all the way back to high school.
C: Yes, they were. All the way back to high school. Then they
had sort of a variety night, and I remember I'd participated
in that. I don't know just what we did, or what I did.
In college, in that college, Carleton, we had literary
societies. They were very important. They were important
because they emphasized not so much literary production as
they emphasized speaking. You had to prepare an extem-
poraneous talk. You had to, if you were selected, be on
a debating team that would compete with other literary societies.
You might have to give an impromptu talk; you might, if
you qualified, deliver an oration. You see, it was this
sort of thing. So that speaking competition was fostered
by these societies. I was on the society debating team,
I guess a couple of years. Then I was on the college
debating team when I was a junior and when I was a senior.
I did some other speaking, too, around the college. Yes,
as a matter of fact, now that I think of it, I was the...
we had what they called a class day when you were seniors.
I didn't deliver an oration, but they called it the senior
orator. It wasn't an oration; I made a talk, representing
the class, on that occasion. Before I forget it, I was in
at least one, I believe I was in two plays when I was in
college, so this same interest is continuing. Oh, I was
keenly interested in the debating. I enjoyed it tremendously.
The only time when I had to speak that I had stage fright
was when I was debating at the college and my mother came
up to hear me speak. In the course of that presentation of
the main argument that each one presented, I suddenly became
aware of her presence. My mouth went dry on me and I had
a terrible time there for a while.
I once had stage fright when I was in a play. The cir-
cumstances explain that. I opened the show. Not really.
There was a butler on stage doing something or other at a
mantle. I rapped on the door, and he came to the door and
invited me in. I had the first line after he said, "Come
in" or something like that. The reason that I was hit by
stage fright there, which continued for two or three speeches
is [that] we were playing this as guests before the young
men's state reform school. I just didn't know what that
reception would be. They received us very well indeed. There
was no reason for being nervous, but I was just as nervous
and tense. Then after I did three or four lines, it eased
off. So that's what I did.
I had other interests in college. I played football when
I was a freshman, but I had injured a knee when I was in
high school, and I hurt it rather badly again. Then when I
was a sophomore, I was in the military, in the infantry, and
then I returned to college the second semester. Well, that
knee never got very good. I used to be on the track team.
I could run some.
P: Your family never exerted any particular pressure on you to
stay in medicine?
C: Oh, none at all. I didn't care for chemistry. I did all right
in it, but after the second course...I don't know how it
is now, but then it was qualitative analysis. I think I'm
right on that. I didn't care for that at all. I didn't
even like the physics. I took a year or two of it, but
I didn't care for it. I liked the biology. Oh, I enjoyed
that thoroughly. No, no pressure. So you could do what
you wanted to do. Really,when I graduated... Oh, you asked
me a question about this too. Yes, I graduated cum laude.
After I was graduated I really didn't know what I wanted
to do. I knew some things I did not want to do. I was very
positive of what I did not want to do. Almost by chance
I came into the teaching profession.
P: Let's back up for just a moment to the military, the SATC
[Student's Army Training Corps] I think they called it in
World War I, didn't they?
C: Well, that's what was going on in colleges, but I was for-
tunate. It sounds, I know, a little egotistical, but the
college authorities selected eight of us: three who had
completed the junior year, three who had completed the
sophomore year, and two of us who had completed the fresh-
man year. I was one of these two. We went to Fort Sheridan.
This is not the SATC. It was in July. I went as an en-
listed man. The training was to train you to be an officer,
but we were all in infantry. All had completed some college.
That was one of the requirements. You had an opportunity,
as the camp went on, to transfer to the field artillery.
I remember when that came up. I remember I asked the company
commander and he, who was in the infantry, said what you
would expect him to say: "The line comes first." I suppose
that thin line that gets shot, you know. I never had shooting
except on the rifle range. So at the end of that camp, which
was shorter--usually it was ninety days, this was sixty days,
but this was 1918, the was had been going for over a year.
Then I believe they must have lowered the age for com-
missioning. I was nineteen at this time, nineteen years
old, a bit young. But something transpired so that I was
eligible for a commission, and I was commissioned as a
second lieutenant. I was assinged to the University of
Kansas at Lawrence, Kansas, where I was an officer drilling
the university students who were in the SATC. I stayed
there until January 16, when I was discharged. Then I went
back to minnesota, and in a couple of weeks the second
semester of college was beginning, right around the first
of February. So I returned to college. I got a bonus
from the state of Minnesota, two hundred and some dollars
that applied to the tuition of the college. That paid off
in another way. I was exempt from graduate fees when I went
to graduate school in Iowa, because I'd been in the military.
I don't think they had somebody from Minnesota in mind, but
they wrote it so I qualified. Then this job teaching at the
North West School of Agriculture came up. It's a branch school
of the College of Agriculture, the University of Minnesota,
at Crookston, Crookston, Minnesota. I hadn't enough credits
in education--I'd had some--to qualify to teach in the high
schools--this is an ironic thing--but I could teach in the
branch school in the University. That's true. The super-
intendent at the school.... My father said he thought I would
be interested, and then he told me he'd answered the letter
and said, "If you are interested, then correspond with the
man." I did, and he held an interview. I secured this
position at the North West School, at Crookston. I was
employed to teach speech.
P: Which was your major.
C: Oh yes, public speaking and argumentation. The super-
intendent thought that all the students should have some
training in speaking. There weren't so many; we didn't
have 200, but close to 200. I taught mathematics, which,
of course, was rather easy for me. I had to write the text-
book in speaking, because you kind of had to get it and
adjust it for some pretty large sections. Now, believe me,
I mean large: 45 students, something like that. So I
coached the debating. He was very much interested in that.
I coached the basketball team. I also did the physical
education and was a preceptor, one of the two at the senior
hall. I was all-around. But all of us did something like
that. You lived on campus.
P: And your salary?
C: Mrs. Constans corrected me on this. I was a shade high, but
I wasn't too far: $2,300, she said; $2,400 the next year.
I got $2,300, but my goodness, I got the board--I don't
mean that, I don't mean that--the room in the dormitory.
Course, I guess I earned it, I was preceptor there. Mrs.
Constans, I had met her before in her home town, but hadn't
seen her for several years. She was the school nurse, and
she taught the young ladies,oh, health, you know, personal
hygiene, things like that. The year which was 1922...September
30th we were married. That year I got $2,400. At the
end...I should tell you that that school when I got, when I
say...I beg your pardon, I didn't mean $2,400, did I say that?
No, $1,300 and $1,400. $200 a month, we worked seven months.
I thought then that during that second year there that I would
like to study law. Well, if you're going to study law, you
have to go where there's a law school. I secured a position
at the University of North Dakota, which is just a few miles
to the west at Grand Forks. I'd been over there some two
or maybe three times, as one of the judges of their debates.
I spoke directly with the president about the possibility
of getting a position there. He gave me some encouragement.
My father was, of course, just aghast that I didn't
accept that position again at North West School. He said,
"You have no position. What in the world will you do?"
I said, "I'll have to get one, of course."
Then I got a part time job that year, I mean after the
school was out, for the summer months. So I secured
this position at North Dakota. It was a position taking
the place of a man who was on leave for a year. He was going
to do some graduate work somewhere. So I went over there--
we are now married, we went over there. I got $750, which
means seventy-five dollars a month for ten months. I taught
six hours and coached the debating teams and the college
orator for that magnificent sum. But there were men there
with doctor's degrees who were just out of graduate school
who were drawing $1800 full time. So I started going to
law school. I took a full load of law courses.
P: And you taught a full load.
C: Well, not really full load, you see I taught six hours and
coached the debating and the orator, which is not too far
away now from a full load, believe me. I was young and very
vigorous. So I did that. I was a bit...
P: Now we're in 1923, I believe.
C: 1923, that is correct. I was one of the two in the fresh-
man law class who were married, one of two men. There were
one or two women in the class. In criminal law, when we got
one of those mean cases--there was one girl in the class--
either myself or this other man would have to always recite
on these rape cases. Sexual mutiliation, we were the
ones who had to stand up and recite the case. Well, we didn't
get just that kind.
P: You were pretty sophisticated.
C: Well, we were. We were older.
P: I was going to say you were almost twenty-five years old.
C: Yes. You see, I'd been seven, eight years out of high school
or whatever the years are. This is interesting--I did well
in the courses by the way--but this professor, I've for-
gotten the case. You'd think it would be indelibly written
on my memory. He called on two or three members of the class
to recite on a certain case, and each would recite, giving
what they thought was the point of the case, with a little
variance. There'd be variance. And I can still remember
he said, "Now, Mr. Constans, will you tell us the point of
I thought it had been given. I couldn't think of any-
thing much different. So I backed and filled and started
out on a main track, and then I went off on a spur somewhere.
I never forget what he said to me, "Mr. Constans, do;
you think they would have assembled some of the leading
jurists in England to decide the point that you just re-
I said, "Professor Atkinson, I do not."
And he said, "Nor do I." And all that saved me, no-
body got it, nobody got it! He was a very good friend. I
was on the teaching faculty at the same time. He was a very
good friend, actually proposed me for membership in an hon-
orary law fraternity, which I joined and to which I still
Now, that year is over at North Dakota, and during the
summer our oldest daughter, our first child was born. She
was named Barbara Ann; that's after my Grandmother Constans,
Barbara Ann Constans. In the meantime, I'd secured a full-
time position at the University of Wyoming, because I was
on a temporary, one-year...
P: This was also in public speaking at Wyoming?
C: Yes, it was. That's right. You see, the college I graduated
from had a fine reputation in debating, very successful at
coaching, our director was. That was an important point
when I would apply, seemingly, that I'd had experience, not
only as a debator but also as a director, and had been
reasonably successful. So I went to the University of
Tragic note comes in here. On the train, I got on
the train at home and opened the paper, the Minneapolis or
St. Paul paper--this was about noon time--my eye happened
to light on a headline, not on the front page, or course...
"University professor commits suicide." And the man whose
place I had taken had taken his life by leaping into the
Niagara River and going over the Falls. He'd left his
papers of identification and all on the bank. It was
very tragic, of course. I knew him.
Well, now, to get to Wyoming. Mrs. Constans followed
me there about the latter part of September, when our daughter
was two-and-a-half months. I'd secured a place, of course,
to live. Had to do that. I'd found this place, it was good,
comparatively speaking. It was the downstairs apartment; the
people who owned it lived above. But they had no children,
and she was very reluctant, even though this daughter was
two-and-one half months old.
Well, she didn't know, that was a stumbling block, so
she said, "You look elsewhere."
And I said, "No. No ma'am, I'm not going to look any
more. This is the place."
Well, she said, "Let me think about it. You go look
at some others."
I said, "Well, of course you may think about it, but now
I'll go down to the hotel, and I'll just wait."
Then she said, "Come back in the evening."
And I said, "I'll be back in the evening."
So she said, "Did you look for any other place?"
And I said, "No, ma'am. This is the place where we want
Oh, she couldn't make up her mind. She says, "Come
back in the morning."
I said, "It's quite all right, I'll go back to the hotel
and I'll come back in the morning," whatever the hour was.
And then she said, "Well now, let's see, this child
is only two-and-one-half months old."
I said, "That's right."
She said, "I just believe I'm going to let you have it."
I said, "I just kind of felt you would."
Now an interesting aftermath. We moved in two-and-one
half years, or maybe it was just two years...it doesn't
make any difference. We're going to move anyhow, I'm
going to graduate school. I'm through with the law school
now, and I'm going to graduate school. So of course, we gave
up this place. There was a handmark that our daughter had
placed on the wallpaper, the paint, whichever it was, a
greasy hand. And when this woman had this re-painted, she
had them leave the handmark of the child. Oh she became
so attached to the child. But this was no go. We had to
get another place because when we came back from graduate school
our son was born. And we have two children now. Well, when
I graduated from law school.... I did that in 1927. I
graduated with high honors from this law school, I was
elected to Pi Kappa Phi in the law school. I had to make
a decision, because if you're going on now you have to
get some kind of advanced degree, you've got to do it.
You have to do it in law if you want to teach law, or
do it in speech if you want to teach that.
P: You had made up your mind you wanted to go into college
C: Yes. I wanted to remain in it, yes.
P: You were not going to practice law.
C: No, because some of the law I did not like, really. I
did it, yes, because you start and finish. I did not
like it. It didn't appeal to me. Oh, the speaking
would, the courtroom would, that would appeal. I did
not like tracing an abstract, title, no, I'm afraid that
P: So public speaking was your first love.
C: That's right. That is correct. So I decided to go to
the University of Iowa to pick up a master's degree,
for two reasons, as I mentioned later. Because it's
a school of good standing and secondly it had a strong
department with some strong people in it. I had been
offered a fellowship, I believe they were by two or
three of the better-known, shall we say, law schools,
but I decided no to them too. You've got to make a
decision somewhere in this business, and so I made that
decision. I went back to the University of Wyoming,
under great disappointment because the president had
gone back on his word to me. He had made me a certain
commitment, a money commitment, before I had left to
go to graduate school, and he reneged on it.
Mrs. Constans said later, "You should have gotten
it in writing. You should have gotten it in writing."
I answered, "If a man's word isn't good, his writing isn't
any good." You can't hold him to it. This word came
to me along about the first of June; that was about the
time when he informed me about this account. I hadn't
gotten this master's degree yet. You had to wait till
June 15 or whatever the date was. I was very angry; dis-
appointed, yes, but very angry. But Mrs. Constans got
me to wait, I think a day or two, and then I wrote him.
I wrote him I was disappointed and this was not my under-
standing and so on and so forth. But I was, well you
can understand that. What alternative did I have?
The hiring's pretty well over with at that time. I
never dreamed this would arise. So I went back to
Wyoming and taught there that one year, 1928 to 1929.
P: 1927 you left law school and went for your master's.
C: That's right. I stayed down at the graduate school
during the summer as long as I was there, part of the
summer. I had a job teaching at a ranch school that
picked up about the middle of summer, so that I'd get
back on the payroll. Still, I had to leave my family
in Minnesota, with my folks. She was some with my folks,
my wife and children, and some with her folks until I
could find a place, get back to normal. I don't do well
at that. I enjoy the family. So, now we're back in
Wyoming. During that year, as I relate later, I wrote
Dean Anderson a second time.
P: Now, you said a second time. Maybe we ought to get the
first contact with Dean Anderson.
C: Oh, the first time was when I was at Iowa. He said
there was no position available.
P: You wrote to him?
C: I wrote to him, a letter of inquiry, really.
P: What brought Florida on to the scene?
C: Well, this man had roomed with me. We'd been friends.
He lived in a town not too far from where I was raised.
We were at the same college. He was older than I. In
the meantime, after I had finished college and all the
rest, these things transpired. But I hear from him every
Christmas, a Christmas card. Now he's graduated from
Harvard Law School and is a practicing attorney in
Tampa. In the Christmas card he said, "Why don't you
come to the University of Florida?" He said, "It's a
growing institution," and either said, "They're getting
a new president," or words to that effect. And so I
P: This would have been the replacement for Dr. Murphree.
C: Yes, that's correct. So I wrote Dean Anderson. Of
course, he would be the one to correspond with in the
Arts and Sciences. And he said no, there was no position.
Then a year later, I suppose triggered once again by the
Christmas card, I thought, "Well, I wonder if anything's
changed in Florida at the university." So along, I don't
know when, we'll say March, somewhere along in there,
I sent a letter of inquiry, and he said there's no posi-
P: You weren't particularly unhappy, though, with Wyoming,
C: No. Well, I was unhappy with what that president had
done to me, yes I was. I was unhappy because of an
element of professional jealousy that entered in. You
see the public speaking was in the English department
there. And while socially the head of the department and
I got along fine, professionally we didn't do quite so
well. He didn't like one of the men that worked for me,
and I defended this younger man. So it was rather un-
pleasant, really. A matter of friction. Not so much
with me, but poor judgement, I believe.
P: So you had both the departmental situation and the uni-
C: Yes I did, yes I did. Oh, I liked the country. I liked
our friends. We had wonderful times there! But I was
up against a kind of a no-growth, in terms I couldn't
start a department. You see they had me stopped on the
promotion in rank, which he promised me also and didn't
deliver, the president. And so now, along we'll say
along about June, maybe a little before that.... Then
out of a clear sky, I got this letter from Dean Anderson.
P: This is June of 1928.
C: No this is June of 1929. He said if I were interested,
to apply, submit the credentials and supply the recom-
P: He had had the vacancy here?
C: Yes, he said a vacancy had arisen, that's right.
P: You later found out this vacancy came about as a result
C: Well, it came about as a result of abolishing the de-
partment in order to get rid of the services of my
predecessor. His name was Buchannan.
P: So there actually was a speech department before you
C: Yes, there was. In the College of Arts and Sciences.
That, you see, is the reason for my writing Dean Anderson.
So I submitted the papers, and before very long he made
me an offer, which was some less than I was receiving
in money, something like $2500. I believe he asked me...
no, I think I wrote him. I don't think there was a tele-
gram on this one. But I wrote him and told him I could
not do that, of course, because it was less than I
was drawing, and there was no promotion involved in
it. So that letter got back to him, and then he sent
me a telegram this time. He put it up to me, and asked
me what I would come for. So I said a figure, I wish
I could remember, I set a figure, maybe it was $2900,
maybe it was $3100, somewhere along there--Mrs. Constans
would know this again--and an associate professorship.
I told her, "Well, that takes care of that position."
P: You had priced yourself out of range.
C: I figured I had, yes indeed. But after all, I'm 2500
miles away. I admit I was greatly surprised when the
next day in the morning hour a telegram was delivered
to me in which he met the money and the rank and said,
"Wire your acceptance."
Well, I wired that right away. So I told the head
of the English Department, I didn't tell him, I suggested.
I said, "I have been offered a position with an increase
in salary and rank to an associate professor." I said,
"How do I proceed?"
And he said, "You submit a letter of resignation."
He didn't offer any words of deep regret, though
we still were good friends outside the university. So
I did that, of course. When this letter of resignation
came to the board--I believe they call it trustees, it
doesn't make any difference, the governing board--I
had two good friends on that board. A woman I had taught,
and another one who was the brother of a close friend,
the neighbor of us in Laramie. I'd also taught at least
one course to the secretary of the board. So they raised
some questions as to why I was resigning, and asked the
president if he would see if I would remain on.
So he called me in and said I'd signed a contract with
I said I was aware of that, but I was resigning the
He said, "You haven't been released."
I said, "Nevertheless, I'm going to Florida."
And he said, "Well, I might be able to meet the money."
And I had been told by the secretary that they told him
to meet the money, but he said he couldn't speak for the
promotion in rank. This is too bad, I sound kind of bitter;
I was. He might get the faculty approval, I knew he already
had it. He had the okay of most of them. I had friends on
the board. The secretary was a good friend of mine.
And I said, "Well, no. No. Because, you see, they
have a separate department there, and I want to go see what
I can do. And our relationship isn't good, you know that."
He said, "You're asking me to fire this man."
I said, "No, I'm not asking you to do anything, you
don't have to do it. I've resigned."
And then he said--I must put this in--"I'm sorry about
that misunderstanding we had."
I said, "There was no misunderstanding, President Crane.
I understood perfectly, but you had me in a position where
I couldn't do anything. But now you don't have me there. I'm
going to Florida." And so I came by train. It was so dif-
ficult for Mrs. Constans, because once again in order to get
some additional funds, I was teaching at one of these branch
summer schools, and she had to get somebody to come and
sell some of the furniture and box up. She can't do this,
it's going to be sent by frieght. Box up some of the fur-
niture and things, and ship it. Now, I arrived back in Laramie,
I think two days before we left. They had a slight snow storm,
which isn't unusual in September in Laramie. They also have
them in May, then there's that long day in summer that it's
really warm. So we got on the train. I had a top coat and
she had a winter coat, and the two children. We went to Kansas
city, and you got off the train to change trains, and I
remember we got a hotel. I don't know whether we stayed
overnight, but we rested there and I remember there's a
ceiling fan, it was so terribly hot. But we came to Gainesville
on the train that stopped at the station just practically
opposite the White House Hotel, the pullman part of it. I
remember the look of astonishment on the--I guess he would
be the porter for the White House Hotel--when I got off
with a top coat over my arm and my rather warm wool suit
with a vest, and Mrs. Constans with, maybe I had her coat
too, because she had one of the children, and I had the other
one by the hand. Anyhow, that's how we disembarked.
No, you asked me if anyone met us, no one met us.
After the train pulled out, we went across the street to the
White House Hotel, where we stayed. It was pretty nice. They
had a ceiling fan, I do believe, in the dining room. It did
have a very nice dining room. It was an old, kind of trad-
itionally built place. I remember promising the children
that I would get them--you see, the boy's a year and a half
old now, a little more than that, and my daughter's just
past four-- I said I would get them some oranges when we
got to Florida. I couldn't get any in Jacksonville when
we got there. I think they had an alligator there in
some kind of tank, you know, with a fence. We looked at the
alligator, saw some palm trees, then came on over the next
morning or whenever it was. The White House is practically
in down-town. I walked down to buy some oranges, and they
informed me there was a fruit fly eradication campaign on
and there were no oranges.
P: The blight of the Mediterranean Fruit Fly?
C: Yes, right. That took some explaining to do to the children.
They said, "But you said there were oranges."
I said, "I thought there were, I thought I could do it.
But I can't."
Well, within a day or two, probably took a couple of days,
we look at what housing was available, not too much, really.
But we got a place that was fairly close to town on Old
P: And that would be today?
C: Let's see. The Presbyterian Church is Second, Third Avenue.
[The number] is one, two, three...it's either Third or
Fourth Avenue. Within a block or so of the Jewish Synagogue,
right in that area. I could walk. Remember, I'm fairly young,
I could walk to the university. I walked home at noon to eat
lunch. I was always one who wanted to get away from the job.
But then I walked back again at night, because we had the
debating, or the play. You see, with the plays I had to do
the coaching in the evening because the young ladies that I
had generally were working. Ocassionally I'd have a townswoman
who wasn't working.
You couldn't heat the house. We arrived in sweltering
heat of September 12th, I believe, or something like that,
dripping wet. I didn't learn in those summer rains, at
that time, when it starts up move real fast. I got caught,
running as fast as I could. The next time I got caught
half a block. It couldn't catch me after that, I could
outrun it. But I didn't loiter.
Dripping wet with sweat, some university professor
went by, introduced himself. He said, "I take it you're
a professor at the university."
I guess the public school had started, this was a little
later. And I said, "Yes, I am."
He said, "Well, I saw your books here in your bookcase,
and I figured, he must be a teacher, anybody who has all those
books." Well, I didn't have so many, but some.
P: You said you had trouble heating your first house here?
C: Oh my goodness, it was apalling. The man from whom I rented
said, "Well, the cold weather doesn't amount to anything. It
only lasts a day or two." He lied by the clock! It lasts
a week straight, or two weeks. We had a fireplace. I
soon bought one of those sheet iron heaters, that sort of
thing, put it in the bedroom in order to keep the children
warm. And we kept, after a fashion, warm. I couldn't
heat...there was a dining room, but we couldn't heat it.
So when it got cold, we didn't eat in the dining room; we
ate in the bedroom, of all things!
But Christmas Day, I was determined we would eat dinner
in the dining room. I got up about six o'clock, I guess.
Probably the children were up anyhow. I started a fire in
that fireplace. I thought I'd burn that place down, I stoked
it so hard. And opened the french doors, you know, into
the...it was a very nice-looking dining room. Well, at 12:30
we gave up. I said it can't be done, it just can't. We can't
eat in there. So we brought the...moved the dining room table
into the living room. And that's where we ate.
P: You obviously didn't stay in that place too long.
C: Oh, no, indeed not. I told him if he'd permit me to cut a
flue through into a chimney that was there, I said, "I'll
put up a heater or something so we can live. I will not
live there again."
He couldn't possibly do that. His sister, I believe,
owned that house. They'd inherited it, and he inherited some
houses. He couldn't sell them, but he could rent them, so
he got the rent. [He said], "So if you're going to move any-
how, let me show you one of my houses." Yes, he did.
So we moved up to Union Street, just east of the Kappa
Sigma house. Yes, that's right, the Kappa Sigma house.
There was a big open space in there, then this house.
P: So now you're only a half-block from campus.
C: Oh yes, very close. Very convenient, of course. Then
a year or two must go by and I think in 1932 we bought an
automobile so we could drive back to the Middle West, be-
cause Mrs. Constans' father died about that time.
Anyhow, I said, "We must go back." Not every year,
but every two or three years. And this would be the way
we could do it, least expensive, assuming I could pay for
the automiblie, which I was able to do.
P: I know about your son, where are your daughters now? All
your children are married?
C: The children are married. Barbara is Mrs. Parker. Her
husband is a graduate of the University of Florida School
of Forestry. He has worked now for a good many years for
International Paper Company, and they live just south of
the Alabama line, on a farm of 160 acres. They don't farm,
they just live on a farm, just south of Florala, just three
or four miles. They have some cattle raised on the farm that
they live on. He works for International Paper Company.
Our son teaches at Western Kentucky University; that's
at Bowling Green, Kentucky. He's married to...she was Evelyn
Simmons, that's Dean Ballard Simmons' and his wife's daughter.
They have four daughters.
I forgot to tell you, Barbara and Mitchell have a son
and a daughter. Phil and Evelyn have four daughters.
Younger daughter Catherine is Mrs. Mitchell. She lives
in Palmyra, which is just east of Rochester, New York. Her
husband is a research engineer with Garlock Manufacturing
Company. They have three children, two sons and a daughter.
Oh yes, the oldest grandson, who has graduated from
Auburn, got married last December, and they now have a son.
We are great-grandparents, and the son's middle name is
Philip, as is mine. Of course, we were quite pleased with
P: When did you retire?
C: I retired in 1965. I guess June 30th.
P: You haven't really retired though, have you, the last five
C: Oh, you mean, am I active? Yes, oh yes. I'm extremely
P: Tell me, what do you do? I have not asked a retired professor
what he did in his retiring years. I'm just curious.
C: Yes. Well, first of all, I had planned on retiring at that
time. So, you see, I resigned as head of the department to
get out of the administrative work. Oh, I don't know when
I did that. It seems to me it was 1961, some such date.
Now I'm free from the administrative work, and can devote
my time to teaching. Then I eased out of the lecturing in
C-3, because that's very hard work. They were enormous
sections, as maybe you know, several hundreds. Maybe 600,
maybe 700. They're very hard. And I was doing a termendous
amount of physical activity along with the lecturing. So
I eased out of that. I had this date in mind. Well, I've
always fished a great bit, a good bit. I don't do so much
fishing. I'm choosy now. I don't get up at 4:00 and 5:00
in the morning. I won't do it. If the weather's cold,
I don't go, and when I get tired I quit. I can go any day,
and so I don't...
P: You're your own fishing boss.
C: Oh yes, oh yes indeed. I usually can find someone else who's
retired, who'd like to go fishing on about the same sort of
schedule. Then for recreation, physical activity in a way--
this sounds ridiculous, I know--I play shuffleboard. Two
afternoons a week, and all of us are retired with the excep-
tion of one person. There's six or eight of us that gather
together just when you feel like it, I mean you come or not.
One man has a shuffleboard court, Fred Borland, and we as-
semble there. We play an hour, play an hour and a half, quit
when you feel like it, keep on. We get a lot of fun out
of it. We're pretty well matched, which makes it nice.
But the important and interesting things are the comments.
We do not play by the rule that says keep quiet. There is a
running fire of comments going on during the game. So we
enjoy that. We enjoy just the companionship and the conver-
sations as much as anything, I guess.
P: Certainly you enjoy the Borland's garden.
C: Oh yes. Beautiful. A couple of them also grow camellias,
on kind of an intensive scale. I have some, but I don't
study them. I have a lot of azaleas. For me, it's a lot,
fifty or so bushes. But my technique with growing azaleas,
when one starts to die I give it some water. Then maybe
I'll try some fertilizer. If it persists in dying I dig
it up and throw it away and plant another. Let it go. I'm
not going to be a slave to this gardening. I don't grow
anything edible. Not a thing. I don't have a citrus tree
on the place. I've got one palm that's been struggling for
twenty-five years, I guess, and stands almost eight feet
high. I'm not going to bother it, but I'm not going to
encourage it. Not going to work at it. I do like flowers.
I do plant plants out there. I like to see them blossom.
I do like that, I enjoy it. I like to work in the yard. I'm
one of the few people who likes to mow the lawn. I like to
dig; I like to hoe. I enjoy it all. I like to do the
menial kind of work. I can repair screens, I don't mind it
at all. I can wash windows. I kind of enjoy it, as a matter
of face, if I can get them well done, if I can do it well.
I used to paint. I used to be able--when my son was around,
he used to paint the higher parts and I would paint from there
down. I can't climb anymore to any height, so I get a man
to paint down to the top of the windows, and that isn't over
seven feet high, or eight. I can manage that. So I enjoy
painting. I used to be able to paint inside too.
P: It'.s obvious you've become a handyman in your retirement.
C: Well, I am. I'm not too good at it, but I got by for three
or four years. My wife didn't know I could do a thing until
she started to put up a shelf when my mother was visiting.
She said, "What are you going to do, put it up yourself?
Why are you doing a thing like that for?" She said, "Philip
can do that." That's when she used Philip.
And my wife says, "Your mother says you can put up a
I said, "Yes, I can put up a shelf." From then on, I
She said, "He can do all kinds of things like that, don't
you raise a hand." I was through at that stage of the game.
I do something. I'm not too active in one of the
civic clubs, but I go regularly, because I enjoy it. It
gives me a contact with the townspeople and the university,
too. Of course, I read--that's obvious, anybody in the
teaching profession--I read a good bit. I work rather actively
with the church. It sounds pretty impressive, I'm clerk of
the session. It isn't really a very impressive job; it's
a job. I do that. I visit some people. Not necessarily
in the church, some people who have an ailment, we'll say,
like partial paralysis, that sort of thing. And they vary
in what they did when they were active. One was a barber.
I used to call on him rather regularly, but he's in a nursing
home that's up at Starke, and we just don't get up there. I
did stop once, I think, on our way to Jacksonville. I
will if we go that way. One is a former university pro-
fessor, and one...he's not physically incapable. He's deaf,
and I holler at him. He used to teach for me, Max Parrish.
I'd go out and yell at him. But he doesn't think it's his
ailment that prevents his hearing. Of course, he can't hear
the doorbell, doesn't hear the telephone bell. He doesn't
hear me pound on his door, didn't hear me holler at him the
other day until I went around and got right outside the screen
where he was sitting on the porch and yelled at him. I go to
see him and holler. It exhausts me in about thirty minutes,
and sometimes he doesn't understand.
He says, "They don't teach them to speak out anymore."
My goodness, speak out, and I'm sitting in front of you
and bellowing. So he doesn't go to lectures 'cause he
can't hear. So I'd take him to concerts, but he can't hear.
He says, "They play so softly," or, "the singer has no
voice, it doesn't carry" and the fellow's reaching the back
P: What about your interest in drama? Isn't that a continuing
C: Oh yes, sure. I even read plays occasionally. Oh, I used
to read voraciously. Especially when I was in graduate school,
because you see, I was doing nothing pretty much, but studying,
naturally, and Mrs. Constans...our son was born while I was
in graduate school. And Mrs. Constans didn't tell me at the
time, told me a year or two later, "You know what books you
brought to me when I was in the hospital?" They stayed longer
than they do now.
I said, "No, I don't recall."
She said, "Every book you brought was a play."
I said, "No, I didn't."
And she said, "Oh yes you did."
I said, "Well, wouldn't you think I would have thought
She said, "No, I wouldn't think anything of the kind.
You were reading plays, you thought everybody else would
read plays." Of course I would. And of course she had to
be...it would have been awful if she hadn't been interested
in drama, and she is interested in it.
P: I'm surprised the Little Theatre hasn't finagled you into...
C: Oh no, I can't take that. It's too hard work. I played,
the last time I played was in 1953, somewhere along there.
The children have seen me play, and that's enough. It brought
tears to the older daughter's eyes, when she saw her father
play in Our Town.
P: Well, it seems to me that you're not retired.
C: I'm not, in that I don't sit around. And I don't follow
a set schedule. That seemed to surprise Dean Page. He
was worried about it when he was going to retire.
He said, "You don't say when you're going to do this or
I said, "Good gracious man, no!" No. I kind of think
ahead and say, "Well, let's see. I'll go out and do so and
so in the yard tomorrow, if the weather's nice." And if it's
not, I'll sit inside and read a little something, smoke a
P: Does the State of Florida and the University of Florida treat
its retired people well?
C: Well, yes, those who have retired in the recent years. Prior
to that I.... I'm under a program, see, where.... I was
concerned with Mrs. Constans in case of my death that she
would have sufficient funds. Well, we've owned the house
for so many years. I just don't know how many we've owned
it. So I got that, I wanted that kind of option. Then I
went back and picked up some back time. I have always
taught for a public institution. I had seven years to
put with what I had here; that gave me forty-three years.
It isn't as good as it was when I retired, because inflation
has caught me, sure. Even such things as Medicare and Blue
Shield and Blue Cross, they've all gone up. And yes, my
accident insurance says at your age you can't get more than
$1,000 in case of accidental death. But even so...
P: Is the university receptive to its retired faculty? Are
you welcome here? Are there any particular privileges that
C: I think I have some, but I haven't inquired. Mr. Elmore
noticed I didn't have a decal, you know, on the car. I
brought him from downtown one day. I said, "Well, I can
go in here, but I'll have to get a card."
He said, "No, no, I'll walk." Well, he said they
changed it, but I didn't ask him what it was. I think
they're good to us, yes I do. I come in here, true, they
know me still. Some of them do anyhow. They called me by
name the other day, a couple of them did, but they've been
around here some time too. And they'll find things for
you. Very,very agreeable, very accommodating. They're
wonderful over at the Union. You can imagine how many re-
latives have come by, you know. They come to spend a few
days or tour a little of Florida. You can imagine, can't
you, the number. We have a goodly number. Mrs. Constans
has four sisters who are alive. They come.... So you
look on the picture and go through the plants over there,
and they open the place up and sometimes the young man who
is in the Florida Players takes them all around. They're real
nice about it. So I would say they're friendly, they're
P: So these are not unhappy years....
C: Oh no. The children are well, the grandchildren are coming
along doing well. Physically I have to reckon with the fact
that I am not immune anymore from these ailments that reach
in and catch hold of you. But nothing too serious really.
I'm on a diet now. I can live with it; it's a bit of a
nuisance. But physically I can be active, that's the thing.
Arthritis, but it's not in the legs, it's in my hands.
I can put up with that. Mrs. Constans' health is reasonably
good. So we get along real well. Every once in a while what
I think is likely to be a good movie, we'll go to that.
We're very selective, I'll grant you that. We'll read the
story, True Grit and then we'll go see it. We went to see
the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and To Sir With Love. We
went to see that, and The Lilies of the Field, and Oliver,
and some others. Maybe something that we've read or know.
We watched the Forsythe Saga, because we read part of it.
I guess she's read all of it. I don't think I ever got
past the first triology myself. And then we have a group.
There's no organization to it. Just retired people, that's
all you have to be. And some of these names, the Ames,
the Fultons, the Constans...
P: The same people you started with.
C: That's right, and then some others who have come a little
later. And we gather together, Dean Beaty and Mrs. Beaty.
We gather down at the Primrose Grill. And there'd be a
dozen of us, or maybe fourteen or sixteen. And we have
no organization. There's nothing to it. You just come,
everybody pays his own. We just visit. It's bedlam. Oh,
the confusion was terrible last time. The only time we had
quiet was when I bellowed at them to stop while I told
them about one of the visitors that was there. It was Bob
Beaty's sister. And the other time was when I brought
P: Thank you.