Citation
Interview with Robert M. Swanson, June 29, 1973

Material Information

Title:
Interview with Robert M. Swanson, June 29, 1973
Creator:
Swanson, Robert M. ( Interviewee )
Publication Date:
Language:
English

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
University of Florida Campus (General) Oral History Collection ( local )

Notes

Funding:
This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.

Record Information

Source Institution:
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location:
This interview is part of the 'University of Florida' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management:
Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.
Resource Identifier:
UF 14 ( SPOHP IDENTIFIER )

Downloads

This item has the following downloads:


Full Text



COPYRIGHT NOTICE


This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of
Florida.

Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.

This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
107) which allows limited use of copyrighted
materials under certain conditions.
Fair use limts the amount of material that may be
used.

For all other permissions and requests, contact the
SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida












I: We're taping an interview this afternoon here in Decatur,

Georgia. I'm taping an interview with a former student of

the University of Florida. This is going into our

University personalities file. This is Friday, June 29.

Bob, would you give us your full name?

S: My full name is Robert Marquis Swanson.

I: Where did that come from?

S: It was told to me that I had an elderly uncle at one time

that lived in Alabama by that name, and I was named after

him as far as my middle name is concerned.

I: Bob, where are we located here?

S: At this moment we're in the South DeKalb Shopping Center in

the southern part of DeKalb County, Georgia. We're sitting

in my theater office, which is the main office to the South

DeKalb Twin Cinema. We have two theaters here, and we are

now in my office which directs the policy of the Twin

Cinemas.

I: Bob, where were you born?

S: In Kissimmee, Florida. Probably most people know that

location now by Disney World located down in Kissimmee,

Florida.

I: When?

S: January 29, 1900. )

I: Did you spend your childhood in Kissimmee?




1










S: Only maybe two or three years, and then mother with my two

older brothers moved to Lake City. She became a matron

there at what was called at that time the old Florida

Agricultural College.

I: What brought her to Lake City?

S: She had to support three boys, of which I was the youngest.

I: What were your two brothers' name?

S: Known as Joe and Frank--T.J. Swanson and Frank Marion

Swanson respectively.

I: So you moved to Lake City when you were really just a very

young child. You don't remember Lake City, do you at all?

S: Vaguely--just the general appearance, maybe, of some of the

buildings that were there.

I: As you know if from what your mother has told you, what were

her responsibilities on the Florida Agricultural College

campus?

S: Don't forget I was a baby. I presume that she was a matron

there--either housekeeper or in charge or maybe the dining

hall, something like that if they had one. I'm not sure

about that. And then she moved with the college when it

came to Gainesville after the Buckman Act was Passed.

I: The Buckman Bill was passed in 1905, and move was made the

following year.

S: We went to Gainesville to live in 1905. Mother had been

appointed matron of the dining hall officially for the




2










University of Florida in Gainesville at that time, and she

continued there for twenty years in that capacity.

I: What role did she play in the move itself?

S: I don't believe I quite understand.

I: Well, did she help with the move? Did she go over with the

wagons?

S: No, we just went as private citizens and she took up her

work after arriving over there.

I: There was a lot of opposition in Lake City to the move to

Gainesville.

S: I'm not familiar with that.

I: Yes. People in Lake City were not very happy about the

college. There's great resentment against Gainesville, and

they tried to stop the movement in some ways. I thought

maybe your mother was involved in making sure everything got

through all right.

S: Well, I hadn't heard about that.

I: You got to Gainesville. Let's see--you would have been

about five or six years old?

S: That's right.

I: So these should have been kind of early memories for you.

S: Very early. I started to school when I was five, just

before becoming six in the early part of 1906. I went to

grade school there, and to the Gainesville High, where I

graduated in 1916.

I: That was the building down on University Avenue?


3










S: Yes, East University Avenue.

I: East University Avenue--that's what is now Kirby Smith

School.

S: I believe so, yes.

I: Now, where did you live in Gainesville?

S: We lived first in the end of Thomas Hall. There were only

two buildings there. Thomas Hall was just about completed,

but Buckman Hall had not been completed 100 percent so they

let us stay in the end next to University Avenue there until

Buckman Hall became completed. Then we moved into...let's

call it an apartment, because we fixed it up for Mother and

her three boys. We lived on the end next to what was later

the commons, and we stayed there all of the time we were at

the University of Florida.

I: So you actually lived on the campus?

S: Right in Buckman Hall.

I: So the first residence when you came over as a child from

Lake City was moving on to the campus into Thomas Hall, and

then into Buckman Hall.d Can you remember your first memory

of the campus itself?

S: Quite a bit. I remember two buildings there. There were

only the two: Thomas Hall, named after, I think, one of the

prominent citizens of Gainesville; and Buckman Hall, named

after...I believe it was Senator Buckman [Henry Holland

Buckman]?d

I: From Jacksonville.


4










S: From Jacksonville...and those two buildings were the only

ones there at the time, and so it dosen't tax my memory very

much. I was around them all the time playing, you know, as

a child.

I: You watched the workmen finish up Buckman Hall, didn't you?d

S: That's right.

I: What kind of an apartment did you have--first in Thomas, and

then in Buckman?

S: Well, we stayed in Thomas just such a very short time that

it was just a matter of two or three months at that one.

Then when we moved over to Buckman, E Section, the one

towards the commons. Why, they gave us the entire first

floor! And of Coursed made private baths for us and

accommodations of that nature. We occupied the lower floor,

of E Section, Buckman Hall.

I: How did you get to school?

S: I walked, which I believe was a good mile and a half, until

I became a little bit ambitious and won a Saturday Evening

Post contest and won a bicycle. And so I pedaled my bicycle

for a long time over to East Gainesville, over to the school

there, and back to the University.

I: How much of University Avenue was paved in those days?

S: I remember when it was flint rock to start with...I don't

believe any of it till you got downtown. Downtown--I'm

speaking of what was known as "the square" in those days--d




5










but out University, as I recall, was just flint rock worn

down.

I: Kind of a country road sort of thing?

S: That's right.

I: Were any houses out at that area at all?

S: There were very few, as I remember. I couldn't tell you

exactly where the locations were, but I remember it was

sparsely settled at that time.

I: Was this farm land, or was this just open wood property?

S: It was some of both. Some farm land, mostly west of the

University in that direction, but a whole lot of woods

surrounded the building and right close up. I used to go

bird hunting, and when I grew up a little bit I'd say about

300 yards from Buckman Hall. That's how close the woods

were in the city.

I: What was your mother's full name?

S: Sally Joseph Swanson. Her maiden name was Hand.

I: Where was your mother from?

S: She was born in Tuskegee, Alabama.

I: How about your dad?

S: Born in Covington, Georgia, just about thirty-five miles

from Atlanta.

I: He died, obviously, when you were a child.

S: My father, unfortunately, died just before I was born.s

I: So you didn't know your father?

S: That is right.


6










I: This left your mother, then, having to take care of the

family.

S: That's right, yes.

I: Now, your mother had the full responsibility for the

commons. Why was it called the Commons?

S: That I did not know. I never did learn that.

I: How was the food served there?

S: Mostly by student waiters, and they had trouble in those

days because colored in the kitchen for the most part. But

the serving was handled by students themselves who wanted to

pay the expenses of going through the school.

I: Did you and the family eat in the commons?

S: Right in the dining hall.

I: You took your meals there?

S: Usually, since Mother would be very busy while the students

were being served, we would wait until maybe a little while

until after that, then would eat at our own little table in

the Commons room.

I: How long did your mother hold that place?

S: From 1905 to 1925--twenty years.

I: Klein Graham was her boss, her supervisor?

S: That's right.d

I: Did any of the faculty eat in the Commons?

S: Not as a regular thing so far as I know.

I: There's no faculty table then as you remember?

S: As I recall, there was not in the early days.d


7










I: What happened to your two brothers?

S: They are both deceased now.

I: They were graduates of the University?

S: Yes, my oldest brother Joe was a graduated in law college.

I might mention that he and ex-governor, Senator Spessard

Holland, Comprised the John Marshall Debating Team that

represented the university for a while. Frank Swanson was a

graduate of the civil engineering department, and they are

both deceased now.

I: Who was in charged then, DeWitt Brown?

S: No, George Durrell "Pug" Hamilton. We always called him

"Pug". "Pug" Hamilton was the leader of the first

University of Florida band, and I believe it was 1913. I

have a picture in a band book at home somewhere I am playing

or sitting with this band when they had their picture taken,

but I was just a sophomore in Gainesville High School at

that time in 1913.

I: You were in the band, and you weren't quite yet in the

University?

S: That's right. I was on my way.

I: Did you have a uniform?

S: Yes, i had the regular University of Florida cadet uniform.

I: Tell me about me about "Pug" Hamilton.

S: "Pug" was a clarinet player and he loved music. He directed

the band for two or three years if I recall correctly. And

later, after he finished at Florida, I missed him for a long


8










time, but I heard that he had become a major in the Marines,

and was stationed in Haiti. Later, I heard of his death.

It seems to me that he had become a colonel in the meantime.

But George Durrell "Pug" Hamilton was a very dear friend of

mine in those days.]

I: Was he a student when he organized he band?

S: He was a student, yes.

I: "Pug" Hamilton was a student, and he became band director as

a student?

S: His assistant leader, who later became the leader of the

band, was Lucien Dyrenforth of Jacksonville after he left

Florida...originally from Chicago, Oak Park. And "Dearie",

as we nicknamed him, married a local girl in Gainesville,s

Louise Fleming, and later moved to Jacksonville, and then

back to Gainesville. Frank Holland, who was the younger

brother of Spessard Holland, also played in the band. Frank

was the trombone player. Jay Herin...I've forgotten; I

believe Jay was from Tampa. Frank was from Bartow. Jay

Herin was on drums. Frank Spain was the bass drummer. I'd

forgotten who the other drummer was, the snare drummer. I'm

afraid that's about all I can think of right now, until

later on after I entered Florida myself.

I: How much university support did this 1915 band have?

S: Very little>

I: Who brought the uniforms?




9










S: I don't recall at this moment, unless you were supposed to

furnish your own uniforms in those days. I just don't know

at this time.

I: Dr. Murphree [Albert A. Murphree] was president already of

the university.

S: Dr. Murphree, I believe, followed Dr. Andrew Sledd.

I: In 1909.

S: Well, I didn't know the year.

I: Dr. Sledd was president. Murphree was still up at

Tallahassee, and then he became president in Gainesville in

1909.

S: Yes, I had quite a few conversations off and on with Dr. A.

Murphree.

I: So you played in the band, and you went bird shooting, bird

hunting...?

S: Had my own orchestra. We did mention that I worked at

school. Well, I paid some of my expenses by having my own

little dance band, which was after I returned from World War

I in 1919. I called it "Bobby Swanson's Floridians,"s

"Famous for Pep." We spoke of Klein Graham a moment ago.

Part of the time klein Graham's younger brother, Paul

Graham, was my drummer.

I: How much did you get paid for an evening?

S: On a four-hour dance, we'd try to get $8.00. If we could

get $10.00 a piece, why, we considered ourselves very lucky.

Even though I was the leader, I split it six ways. We had a


10










six-piece orchestra there. I might mention an interesting

part of my orchestra--my saxophone and clarinet player was

the famous singer, James Melton. As you recall, James

Melton at one time sang on the Coca-Cola time [a radio

program broadcast in the 1940s] and it started beginning

with Jimmy, as we called him. Jimmy lived in Ocala,

Florida, came to School, and asked me if he could plays in

my orchestra. I said, "Jimmy, you can't read music." He

said, "Well, I know, but I've got a good ear." I knew Jimmy

had a fine tenor voice. Jimmy showed me he could play very

well by ear, and I took him in the orchestra. We organized

a singing trio which was composed of Jimmy and Bob Danison

of St. Petersburg, a banjo player at that time, and Bob

Swanson, a trumpet player. We played together three years,

and not only did we play for fraternity dances and other

dances in Gainesville, like women's clubs and other

organizations, we branched out and played as far down as

Cocoa and Melbourne and Orlando, and out west to Tallahassee

and Quincy and towns like that. So we became good enough to

be wanted in several counties in Florida, both in the

northwest and southern part too.

I: How about some of the early university songs? Were you

involved in any of those like "We Are the Boys"?

S: "We Are the Boys from Old Florida"? There has been a little

misunderstanding thus far about who wrote "We Are the Boys

form Old Florida." Now, I'm going to tell you who really


11










wrote it. I did. And I'll tell you where it happened. It

was in the Pi Kappa Alpha room over the old Lyric Theater.

Had a player piano up there, and we used to have dances with

the player piano, but in between times I would....

I: Just for the sake of the record, let's locate the Lyric

Theater, down on Southwest First Street.

S: Well, it was on the way down to the post office, the old

post office.

I: On the right-hand side.

S: The white building with the columns that you would run right

into, but it was on the right-hand side just before you got

to it.

I: That's now Southeast First Street, old South Main Street.

S: Well, I wrote that song and I got the idea from a quartet

that I was a member of in the army after the armistice was

signed in World War I. We traveled about two months in

France entertaining troops. We were part of the show. I

got the idea from this quarter, and I wrote this song in

1919 in the old Pi Kappa Alpha rooms over the old Lyric

Theater in Gainesville, Florida. I'm sorry the only witness

I had to my actually composing this is dead. Bill Tiller

was his name, from Kissimmee, Florida.

I: What were the circumstances which motivated you to write

that song?

S: One of these things where I loved music, and knew the

University of Florida did not have what was officially


12










called a school song. So I said, "I'm going to write one."

So I came forth with "We Are the Boys from Old Florida," and

they used it for a number of years.

I: but they're still using it.

S: Some other people laid claim to it. A person, which I will

not call his name, said that another quartet originated the

song, but they did not. I can even tell you who sang in the

quartet that I had, and we were ones that started singing

it. They were Charles "Pinkey" Kingman from Titusville, who

sand tenor; Carl Alderman, who sang second tenor, from

Palatka, Florida; I sang baritone, from Gainesville; and

Bill Tiller, the boy I mentioned a while ago, sang bass.

And d anybody in those days who remembers that quartet,

remembers that Bill Tiller had the deepest bass voice I've

ever heard in my life.

I: What was the name of the quartet?

S: We acquired a nickname when we participated in one of the

University of Florida's Greater Ministrel show. They dubbed

us the "Prickly Heat Quartet." I think that it stuck for a

while.



Thinking back again to right after World War I, I had become

assistant director of the 124th Infantry band in the

service. When I got out, being interested in show business,

the spring of 1920 rolled around, I directed the University

of Florida Ministrels first half of the show from the


13










orchestra pit...about twelve or thirteen-piece orchestra,

and then my quartet participated in the olio of the second

half in the second part. Then the students decided they

wanted to have some kind of club--dramatic club, or musical

club of some description--so we all went together and we all

went together and we formed a club called "The

Masqueraders." The following year, which was 1921, they

re-elected me to the same position and I served as director

of "The Masqueraders" club two years, and the student

director of shows that they put on those two years.

I: Do you remember Father Connolly [John Connolly]?

S: Father Connolly was the person who directed... gave it al

professional touch, and I studied under Father Connolly what

little I knew about on a show.

I: What kind of a fellow was he?

S: Very fine gentleman.s He was down-to-earth. He listen to

you regardless of what type of conversations you wanted to

discuss with him. He listened to your troubles. He would

enjoy the good things with you and he was just a fine fellow

all the way. I loved Father Connolly very much.

I: There was a lot of controversy about Father Connolly, I

know, at the time.

S: Well, he really helped us from the show-biz angle, and at

the same time, he was a friend of the boys personally too.

I: Have you lost contact with him?

S: Yes.


14










I: I think he's living up in the state of Maine.

S: I haven't heard anything about Father Connolly in a long

time.

I: Tell me about Jimmy Melton.

S: Jimmy left the University of Florida after three years, and

he went to the University of Georgia. And there he got his

degree at Georgia, right over here in Athens. Why he made

the change, I don't know exactly. From that point on, Jimmy

wanted to follow music but he knew he couldn't read music.

So he went to Vanderbilt, to Nashville, and studied music

along with something else. I've forgotten what it was. But

Jimmy wanted to read music.



I was in New York City two years later. I met a friend of

mine who also knew Jimmy Melton, and he told me Jimmy had

just recently at that time been singing at the Roxy Theater

in New York. At the time, held a two month's contract,

which I believe was the longest run of any star performer in

those times. Jimmy had the longest contract for about two

months with the Roxy Theater, New York City.

I: I heard a story about Dr. Murphree played discovering Jimmy

Melton singing in a choir on campus. You ever heard that

story?

S: No, I never did.

1: I wondered what role Dr. Murphree played in furthering

Melton's career?


15










S: I don't know. He could have had quite a bit to do with it,

but it never came to my attention.

I: Was he the star of the Masqueraders?

S: No, he was not. We had two or three boys that took leading

parts, and Jimmy just participated as one of the cast. He

was no outstanding star in our University of Florida shows.

I: Now who was responsible for casting the Masqueraders,

selecting the material, and really...?

S: Father Connolly did that. He selected the costumes. I

mean, he decided what we needed. Of course, he would

usually get our own costumes made in the course of his

instruction. For example, we had one show, an oriental

show, called "Out of the East", which I was some rich

merchant, and I had following orange robes with golden

turbans and what not. Boy, I was really dressed up. I

mean, that's and idea Father Connolly would do in designing

these costumes, and we would have them made according to his

instructions.

I: When did you get out of high school?

S: I finished Gainesville High School in 1916. In the fall of

1916 I became a freshman at Florida. April 28, 1917 the

University of Florida band enlisted as a body in what was

then the second Florida regiment of the Florida National

Guard. They just returned from Laredo, Texas. We enlisted

in and became this nucleus for a fifty piece band, and later




16










on was called out in service and became 124th Infantry in

the 31st Dixie Division.

I: Where did you enlist?

S: In Gainesville. Headquarters Company from Gainesville,

Florida.

I: Was it a ceremony down on the courthouse square?

S: August 5, 1917...there was quite a bit going on when they

called us out, and we camped on the high school grounds for

a while. We would hold formations over there, and would of

course be downtown around the square, too, in formation

sometimes.

I: And from Gainesville, where'd you go?

S: Camp Wheeler, Macon, Georgia. We spent exactly one year and

one day in Camp Wheeler. Well, we were fortunate enough--

some people would say no--we stayed in Camp Wheeler a long

time, but after we'd been there about five or six months, we

were slated to go overseas as the first division from the

United States Army. But either spinal meningitis or flu

epidemic cleaned us out. We lost several hundred right in

out own regiment of 1,200. Secretary of War Newton Baker

had even come down to Camp Wheeler there at Macon, and had

reviewed the division, which was customary, I understand,

before they were sent overseas. But before the wheels began

to turn, they cancelled our sailing orders. The same thing

happened a few months later, and I might add that in place

of sending the 31st Division over as one of the first, they


17










got together the Rainbow Division, the 42nd, commanded by

General Douglas MacArthur, and sent the Rainbow Division

over instead of our division, the 31st. We didn't get over

until the latter part of 1918. So weren't over there too

long during the fighting.

I: Where did you land?

S: We sailed from New York. It might be interesting to note

that the ship we sailed on was the Olympic that was a sister

ship to the Titanic of the 1912 disaster. We were the

sister ship. There were seven decks below the water line,

and we had 7,5000 troops aboard. I was fortunate enough to

rate a state room with three other fellows on a "A" deck

overlooking the bow.

I: You sounded like a big shot.

S: We were out three days and three nights. We got orders top

shut up all port holes--don't let any light escape. We

found out very quickly that there were some subs around

lurking in our vicinity, and about the fourth morning when I

went up on deck in daylight, we had some subchasers

crisscrossing our bow, running alongside of us, and criss-

crossing the rear. We landed after seven days in

Southampton, England. We only stayed there twenty-four

hours, and then another ship took us across the channel to

LeHavre, France. From LeHavre they used our outfit as

replacements, and broke us up.




18










After spending about thirty days in LeHavre, France, I was

sent clean across the other side of France to join another

outfit along wait a couple of other fellows that were in the

same outfit with me.

I: So you didn't join a band then?

S: Yes, I was attached to what was the 320th Infantry band.

The 320th Infantry was from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. From

the 124th Infantry I went to the 320th Infantry band in my

same capacity, which was, at that time, assistant band

leader. So I was assistant band leader with the 320th

Infantry band, attached.

I: When were you released from the service?

S: June 8, 1919 in what was then called Camp Jackson--Columbia,

South Carolina--Fort Jackson if it's still intact.

I: After Armistice what did you do?

S: After Armistice, before we sailed back home, I became a

member of a ten-piece dance band that played for the

commanding general's private entertainment. Major General

Ed Cronkite--who commanded the 80th Division, to which I had

been assigned--entertainment quite a bit, and we played for

his functions at different spots over France. That lasted

for about a couple or three months before we got our sailing

orders.

I: And then you came back to the United States, and you went

right to South Carolina?




19










S: We landed in Newport News, Virginia, and thought we were

going to be discharged there, but we found out we had to go

to the camp nearest our home. So I had to come down from

Virginia to South Carolina. I was discharged June 8, 1919.

I: So you came back to Gainesville in the summer of 1919?

S: Yes. I met another boy I believed was discharged from the

service. I happened to run across another boy from

Gainesville, at Camp Jackson and his name was Ed MacDonald.

Ed and I had known each other for a few years, had grown up

together. So Ed and I buddied together and boarded the

train heading for Gainesville, Florida from Columbia, South

Carolina. We both sent wires to our folks that we would be

in about 1:20 a.m. on that old Atlantic Coast Line--right in

the big street, you know. So to make a long story short,

what I'm going to say, when we got right into the city

limits of Gainesville that particular night, after riding

all afternoon, why; we got down on the step of the coach and

were looking ahead down towards the station to get a glimpse

of our family, and lo and behold, there must have been

seventy-five to one-hundred people to meet us at 1:30 in the

morning. Among those were my mother, Ed's mother, and about

a dozen fraternity brothers had gotten word and they stayed

up and welcomed us home. Well, it was quite a big thing in

our eyes. They were mighty glad to see us.

I: Down from the Whitehouse Hotel?

S: That's right, yes.


20










I: They have their number on red station there.

S: Yes, Yes.

I: So you got back. The flu epidemic was over, wasn't it?

S: Yes, I don't recall the flu epidemic after I returned>

I: The great flu epidemic of 1918. I was going to ask you if

your mother played any role nursing the students or anything

that you know of.

S: No, I never heard anything of that nature.

I: Wasn't your aunt also working on campus?

S: Yes, Aunt Margaret Peeler. My Aunt Margaret was

housekeeper, and she joined my mother shortly after mother

became matron at the University.

I: Is this you mother's sister?

S: Yes. Aunt Margaret became a housekeeper, and she was in

charge of seeing that the dormitories were cleaned up

properly. She had a crew of cleaners that worked underneath

her.

I: Where did she live?

S: They provided a spot there in Buckman Hall for her, too.

I: She had a family?

S: No, by that time, we three boys had moved out, and she lived

with mother.

I: Did she have a family?

S: Not at that time, no. Just by herself.

I: So your mother worked on campus, and your aunt worked on

campus. How long did Mrs. Peeler stay in Gainesville?


21










S: If i recall correctly, she stayed twenty years herself, even

though she came after mother did. I think she left in 1925,

1930 maybe. I've forgotten.

I: When you left to go into service, you were in your sophomore

year?

S: No, I was just finishing my freshman year. That was in the

spring of 1917. See, I entered Florida in the fall of 1916,

so in the spring of 1917 was when I left it, and I was out

until the fall of 1919?

I: You re-entered in the fall of 1919?

S: That's right. And a great lover of football, and managed to

make my letter three years in running--1919, '20, and '21.

I: Bob, we're talking about your career as a gator football

player. You said you started in 1919, the fall that you

came back to school.

S: Yes, I resumed my education at Florida. Being a lover of

football, I went out for the team and made it, and what was

called in those days left end.

I: Left end?

S: Left end in those days, and then in this day and times they

might call it tight end. Our coach at that time was known

as Major James Fleet. To those who followed the Korean

War, this was the same James Van Fleet who was in command of

the United States forces in Korea. Well Major James Van

Fleet was a commandant at Florida back in 1919, if my date

is correct, and I believe it is. He was certainly a good


22










football coach, and he had a way about him that he could get

things out of the boys, and they really played for him.

They'd played hard. Then later on came Coach Buser, I

believe, and then Coach Klein. I've forgotten which one

came first, it's been so long ago.

I: We can get those names.

S: But I played three years and made my letter at what was

called, in that day, left end.

I: Now, where was the football field?

S: It was west of Thomas Hall, or even better still, in those

days the tennis courts were west of Thomas Hall, and the

football field just west of the tennis courts. They had an

old clay field that they played on in those days. I wonder

if anyone ever heard how the name of Gators was given to the

University of Florida football team?

I: Let's put it on the tape. Tell us.

S: One time we were playing Mercer University from Macon,

Georgia, and it was raining "cats and dogs" during the game,

and this old red clay field. every time you would hit

the dirt, so to speak, why you would slide ten feet, and you

were covered with mud. The water was standing on the field

in puddles, and we looked like 'gators. It didn't make much

difference--they played good footballs right on. So

somebody dubbed them as the Florida Fighting Gators. And

that, to my knowledge, is the way the name was acquired.

I: Now how does football differ from the way it is played now?


23










S: Well, back in those days that I played, you played both

offensive and defensive most of the time. Whereas later on

as you probably know, the platoon system came into effect,

and you played at which you were the better, the defense or

the offense. But we fellows back in those days played most

of the game on both offense and defense.

I: Pretty near the whole game too.

S: Right. Just about sixty minutes if you could hold up.

I: Was the scoring system different?

S: Practically the same. A touchdown was six, and a point

after the touchdown made it seven, and three points a field

goal, and in those days a drop kick through the uprights was

good for three points. We had one drop kicker on our team

around 1920 by the name of Art Newton who was instrumental

in beating Alabama with his drop kicks one time when we were

playing Alabama at Tuscaloosa. We beat them nine to three.

All drop kicks--we got nine.

S: You played some pretty strong teams, nationally known teams,

in those years, didn't you?

I: Well, I played against Alabama, Georgia, both North and

South Carloina, Tennessee, Mississippi, Tulane, to name a

few. Almost all in the Southeast.

I: How was the traveling in those days when you went with the

team? You didn't have your own private jet, did you?

S: We traveled by train, of course. If it was an overnight

jump, why we put up in a Pullman berth. If you were a


24










rookie on the team, you got the upper berth, and if you were

an old veteran, you rated the lower berth. Everything was

by train, nothing by plane.

I: Life wasn't quite as luxurious in those days as it is now.

S: That's right. In other words, when we played Tulane in New

Orleans, to jump from Gainesville to New Orleans was quite a

long distance in those times, so naturally we had to have

Pullmans.

I: What was your fraternity?

S: I'm a Pi Kappa Alpha, known as IIKa or a "Pike."

I: And the fraternity house in those days was the rooms

downtown?

S: Yes, we had these rooms over the old Lyric theater there,

and we later moved out to the house right beside Mrs.

Ramsey's boarding house, which was probably opposite the

administration building where Klein Graham had his office.

I: In those days they called it Language Hall.

S: Language Hall is what I'm trying to say.

I: Now it's Andersons Hall>

S: Is that right?

I: Named for Dean Anderson [James N. Anderson, former dean of

the University of Florida graduate school.

S: Oh, yes. I recall Dean Anderson very well.

I: The building's still there. It was that two-story, brown

painted buildings, I think, next to the corner.




25










S: Right across the street from Language Hall, there. Mrs.

Ramsey had a boarding house, and we were next door. The

houses were quite similar--almost twins to look at. That

was our house, and then laster after I left, why they built

at the corner of University Avenues and Ninth Street.

I: It was Ninth then; it's now Thirteenth, and the Flagler Inn

is on that corner today.

S: Right. Well our building that we erected at that corner was

torn down, and now I believe they're opposite the stadium.

They call it Florida Field?

I: Florida Field, yes.

S: And I believe they're out there now.

I: Tell me about the rooms downtown over the Lyric Theater.

S: Well, you would have to enter a door right off the street,

go up a long stairway, and then that would bring you out to

the hallway. You go down the hall a few feet, and to your

right was a dance hall, and across that hall there were

rooms where we had our ceremonies and all events of

fraternity life. We had a nice little dance hall up there,

and a player piano, so I hopped many a time.

I: I'll bet you'll be pleased to know that that building is

still standing, and those rooms are still up there. They've

been turned into lawyer's offices now, but they're still

right up there.

S: Well, that's where ou Pi Kappa Alpha meetings were held

then. I mentioned a member of the band...after "Pug"


26










Hamilton, Lucien Dyrenforth became director of the band.

Lucien was a 11, and was instrumental in my joining the Pi

Kappa Alpha Fraternity.

I: I was going to ask you how you got into the Pi Kappa Alpha

fraternity.

S: Oddly enough, in those days before a rule went into effect

that you had to matriculate at the University of Florida,

and make reasonably good grades before you could be taken in

the fraternity, I was pledged into Pi Kappa when I was in

Gainesville High School, in 1916. I was pledged to the Pi

Kappa Alpha fraternity at the university, although I had not

graduated from Gainesvielle High at this time, but when I

entered the University of Florida the next fall, I

immediately was initiated in December. But I was pledged by

Pi Kappa Alpha before I finished Gainesville High School.

I: Have you played a role in the fraternity over the years?

S: No,d it's kinda gotten away from me. I have not been active

at all.

I: Were you active in the fraternity when you were on campus?

S: Yes, I was. I became one of the officers one time. And of

course, you only have that for one term.

I: What did you study?

S: Well, I studied more music than I did anything else. I

started our and thought I was going to become my true love

was music. I did everything I could to have something to do

with music, like own orchestra, and the shows that the


27










school put on, and anything like that. I'm afraid I paid

more attention to those kinds of things than I did my

studies sometimes. But I started out studying engineering,

changed over to the law college, and did not complete either

one.

I: So you did not graduate?

S: No, I do not hold a degree.

I: But did try engineering, and you then tried law.

S: Tried law, yes. I studied criminal law under Judge Cockrell

[Alston Cockrell].

I: And you studied engineering under Dean Benton [John Robert

Benton].

S: My physics class was under Dean Benton.

I: Mrs. Benton is still living, and I've done an interview with

her. She lives in Gainesville. So how long were you at the

university, Bob?

S: I stayed through 1922, and the reason for that was I

maintained my school orchestra. Although I was not in

school, I was still the leader of the school orchestra. We

made a fairly nice little living in those days, because we

had been playing together for three years and were

established. And I stayed through 1922, and in 1923 I went

to Miami, Florida. I lived in Miami from 1923 until 1928.

Then I entered the business I am now in--theater business!

I: What were you doing in Miami?




28










S: I was playing professionally in dance bands for various

dancers here and there.

I: So you were there doing the Boom?

S: Yes, I did not play music during the Boom. I quit long

enough to sell a few lots near the beach. In 1926 was a

salesman for a real estate firm on Miami Beach, Lummus and

Young.

I: You worked for the Lummus brothers?

S: I worked for Newton Lummus, who is the son of the first

mayor of Miami Beach, and Horace Young, who was a very close

friend of Mr. Lummus from Washington, D.C. They formed a

real estate firm and I was the first salesman hired when

they opened up.

I: Where did you work at the Beach?

S: On Fifth Street, between Washington and Collins Avenues, on

the southside.

I: What was the Miami Beach like in those days?

S: It wasn't built up anywhere like it is today. Collins

Avenue has become the gold coast, so to speak, all along in

that area. All that came later. But of course in D I would

say the building started, all this started. But the Boom

burst; then we had to look for something else to do.

I: I want to ask you more about the Boom in just a moment, but

I want to get back to your life on campus for just a little

bit and ask you about the Masqueraders. Did you continue




29










with that after the first two years when you served as

president?

S: No, After the second year as president of the masqueraders,

why it was just about that time I left the school. It might

have been I stayed around there until 1922, but in as much

as I was not a student in 1922...I wasn't eligible, in other

words, to participate in the masqueraders.

I: Did you play in the University band when you came back to

school?

S: Oh, yes.

I: So you were both a football player and a band man?

S: That's right, and we have been on many trips, one of which I

will always remember. We used to go down to Fort Myers to

the...we'd called it the "Sun Dance Festival," or something

like that. Every year we would go down there and play, and

then we'd play sometimes in Tampa and other places where

they would have celebrations of that nature. The University

of Florida Band was quite in demand at one time.

I: How was the director of the band after the first World War?

S: I believe DeWitt Brown was the director when I came back in

1919. I'm quite sure..or was it Lew Marx? Lew was a little

Italian man; a very fine musician. Then after Marx left,

why DeWitt Brown came in as conductor.

I: How well did you know Mr. Brown?

S: Not too well--just one of the boys that played in the band.

I: Did you have any friends among the faculty?


30










S: At that time, you mean? Well, I knew Dr. Murphree, the

president; I knew Dr. Benton over in the Engineering

Department. I knew Dr. Farr [James M. Farr] of the English

Department; Dr. Leigh [Townes R. Leigh] I became acquainted

with after coming back to school in the Chemistry

Department. There might be others, but I don't recall.

I: You didn't have any special friends among the faculty?

S: No.

I: No man that you were particularly close to?

S: No, I wasn't close to anyone I ever knew of.

I: What did students do for fun in those years?

S: Well, in my case, my time was so taken up trying to play

football, playing in the band, had my own orchestra...

I: Stay in school.

S: ...and participate in the school shows, and try to keep my

studies up that that's about the extent of it.

I: Was there much social life among the students?

S: Not too much. No, not at that time. Fraternity dances were

the main things, and which we really enjoyed so much. That,

for my part, was the greatest enjoyment I had, although I

played for most of them.

I: I remember we used to have ribbon societies on campus.

S: Serpent ribbons and Theta ribbon societies...

I: I belonged to Theta...ribbon society.






31










S: Theta ribbon society had a red band they wore across their

dress shirts. And the serpent ribbon society wore a green

ribbon across.

I: Now what was the purpose of these organizations?

S: No more than social; just a social.

I: Did they compete with each other?

S: Oh, in a way, yes. There's one fraternity that would try to

compete against another fraternity, try to out do them.

I: I hear they used to have some sort of competition; ribbon

pulling, this kind of thing. Do you remember that?

S: No, I don't. I don't recall anything about that.

I: Were you in one of the groups?

S: I was in the Theta ribbon society, but I wasn't very active.

I was just a member. I had so many other activities, why, I

didn't devote much time to the Theta ribbon society.

I: There was no music program on campus, was there? No music

course for which you could get credit?

S: No, there was not, because if there had been, I probably

would have taken it. It was more to my liking than a

surveying instrument, for example.

I: Bob, so you remember the campus around 1920? Think back

what did it look like?

S: Well, there was Buckman Hall, Thomas Hall, and I believe

they built Sledd Hall between the two. The commons was just

off both Buckman and Thomas. Then over a little bit, there




32










was the agriculture building, I always call it, the

administration building where the pipe organ was.

I: What did you say? The administration building was where the

organ was?

S: Yes.

I: The administration building was Language [Language Hall]. I

guess the organ was in the auditorium.

S: That's right. I'm a little bit confused, probably. The

administration building was way down the other way on Ninth

Street at that time. Yeah but they had, of course, the law

building and Language Hall and Science Hall, and ...

I: Were there sidewalks, or were there just paths through the

trees?

S: Paths through the trees. A sidewalk now and then, but

scarce. But mostly we would follow a beaten path through

the trees.

I: How well did the students know Dr. Murphree? Was he a

visible person on the campus a great deal?

S: Well, Dr. Murphree as I recall, his office was open any time

to anybody that wanted to come in and talk with him as long

as he was not tied up in another matter. He seemed to be

very friendly form that standpoint. If a boy came by and he

wanted to discuss personal problems with him, why, he would

be glad to do so. In fact, I remember one time James Melton

and I went in to see him. We were offered a very tempting

offer in those days to go on Keith Vaudeville in a musical


33










act. James was singing and saxophone-playing, and me with

my cornet, and I was doing a little bit of singing myself.

And we went to Dr. Murphree to tell him about this offer.

He persuaded us, or left it up to us, but he pointed our the

advantages and disadvantages of going in show business from

a vaudeville standpoint, and we declined the offer, both of

us, and kept in school. But that is an example how Dr.

Murphree functioned with the students.

I: What kind of a church man were you as a student?

S: I wasn't a very good church man, I'm afraid. My mother was

a Baptist, and a pretty good one. I attended the Baptist

church now and then, but so far as being a staunch church

member, I'm afraid I wasn't that.

I: Were there chapel services on campus?

S: Yes, yes.

I: All students had to go to them.

S: That was required, I think, by the underclassmen--freshmen

and sophomores. Optional for Juniors and Seniors.

I: Can you remember any amusing things that occurred between

the fraternities?

S: I can remember and amusing thing that happened in the band

one time. As I mentioned previously, we went down to Fort

Myers to play for this Sun Dance Festival, and when we got

off the train in Fort Myers it was dark. We lined up, and

we were headed down a certain street. My good friend in

those days, Frank Spain, now deceased, was the bass drummer,


34










and he occupied number one spot one of the file. It was

dark when we got there, but the committee asked us to start

of playing right from the depot. Well, little did we know

that when we got down one block we were suppose to turn the

right. Our drum managed to get part of us around, but the

bass drummer, particularly couldn't see over the top as he

went down the street, beating the bass drum all by himself.

And I remember I had to run after him and say, "Hey! Get

back in line!" That was one amusing thing, but I can't

recall any other outstanding thing right now.

I: What kind of a community was Gainesville like in those days?

S: Small town of about 10,000 or 15,000 people, and inasmuch as

I was raised there, I could walk in any store around town

and say hello to the proprietor of the store. Gus Cox's

furniture store, and then of course there was Bodiford's

with Louise LaFontissee, a great friend of mine.

I: What was Bodiford's?

S: A drugstore over on the corner that lead you down to the

post office, down that way. It was the corner right on the

square there.

I: Across from Baker's?

S: A block towards the Post Office, across the street from

there, Baird Hardware. I can see it. Yes, I knew quite a

few people in those days simply because I lived there about

twenty years.

I: Where did the girls come for the dances?


35










S: Oh, besides the local girls, why the boys would import the

girls from Tallahassee, quite often their favorite

girlfriend, and bring them over for the dances, arrange some

places for them to stay. It's something I used to look

forward to back in my school days. Being the leader of the

orchestra to play for the dances most of the time, I used to

look forward to these girls coming in from Tallahassee--

coming up to the band stand and saying hello. When they did

that for two or three or four years, why begin to know a few

of them, so it was something I looked forward to. But that

is where a lot to the girls would come from, from

Tallahassee. You see, University of Florida then, in those

days, was not co-ed.

I: What took you down to Miami?

S: Miami, the magic city. Well, I thought there was a good

place, a live town to try to make a living, and I was

playing professionally, and so I went down and tried my luck

at it and did very well for five years, 1923-1928. That

time, as I said entered the theater business. Would you

care to hear how I?...

I: Well, I want to hear that, but I want to talk a little bit

more about your Miami years. Now, you come into Miami and

you operated your dance band down there for awhile.

S: Well, I played most of the time with other leaders in those

days, after I left Florida.

I: It was a jumping town in 1923 already, wasn't it?


36










S: It certainly was. Even then it was 30,000 population in

Miami proper itself. It was on the up trend then. Carl

Fisher from Indianapolis was the leading developer of Miami

Beach, and he did a whole lot for Miami Beach in those days,

yes. He was a great developer.

I: And George Merrick out in Coral Gables?

S: And George Merrick--that's all we heard. Carl Fisher on

the Beach, and George Merrick in Coral Gables.

I: How did you get tied up with the real estate firm that you

worked for?

S: Well, I had played around Miami from 1923 on up to 1926; I

played on further than that. I met this fellow Mr. Lummus,

who was the son of the first mayor of Miami Beach. We

became very good friends, and then he had his buddy down

from Washington, D.C., Horace Young. When they formed the

real estate firm, I asked if they'd be interested in a

salesman. They said yes, and that's the way I got in,

because I knew Mr. Lummus.

I: What kind of a salesman were who? You went out and met the

customers?

S: Well, I had the front desk in this office, and people would

come to us.

I: You didn't meet the trains?

S: No, no, nothing like that. Coral Gables went in for that,

where they would meet the trains and have the buses drive

the prospects back to Coral Gables proper, and then treat


37










them to a lunch or something, and then try to sell them

property.

I: You weren't what they called one of Binder Boys, were you?

S: In a way, yes, I suppose so. I have taken binders on

several pieces of property as I remember back in those days.

I remember I sold one lot to a man for $60,000, a double

corner on Meridian Avenue on Miami Beach, maybe about Ninth

Street, somewhere along in there--I'd forgotten the exact

street. And when the deal was closed, I asked the owner,

who sold it for $60,000, I said, "How much did you pay for

this lot?"



He said, "A man owed me $500 a few years ago, and gave me

that lot to cancel the debt. So I sold it for $60,000."

I: I wonder what it went for when the bubble burst?

S: He turned right around and sold if for $70,000 to another

real estate firm. Well, that's the way things were going in

those days.

I: Where were you during the hurricane?

S: I had a house in Shenandoah. You go out southwest 8th

Street (Tamiami Trail) to about Seventeenth Avenue, and the

one block into a subdivision called Shenandoah. I was

living there. My living room was at least a half foot deep

in water before the hurricane finished.

I: Try to remember the hurricane for me.




38










S: I was still in the music business at that time. I had gone

back into the music business, and had been playing in a

nightclub in Hialeah, and I came in from Hialeah about 3:00

a.m. I take it back--that's when I would usually get in,

but I got in a little earlier on account of the blow. I

came in about 1:00 a.m., and it was blowing very strongly,

and some of the trees and telephone poles were blown down.

We stayed up the rest of the night.

I: Had you had warnings that a storm was coming?

S: Not too much, because the weather bureau in those days was

not equipped to predict hurricanes like they do now, you

know. It hit up in full force. We did get twenty-four hour

notices, I remember, and we tried to board up the best way

we could. It did the damage, if I recall correctly, to

Miami of approximately about $100 million. The house I was

living in was damaged quite a bit from the water, and

windows blowing in.



The hurricane, now...along about daylight that morning, the

wind stopped. Everything was just as calm as could be, and

maybe inside of another hour or two, it started up again,

and the came from the other direction. That was because we

passed through the center of the hurricane, and of course

when the first time it came to us, the wind was blowing in

one direction, and when the other part of the circle hit us,




39










why it came from the other direction. It is was powerful

then, the second time, as it was the first time.



I went up and looked down Tamiami Trail, which is Southwest

Eight Street, and I could see apartment buildings that

looked like, in some cases, hidden knife had just cut them

off like you slice a piece of bread---you know, a cross

section. You could see a bedroom, a bathroom, living room,

just like you sliced a big piece of bread and cut the

apartment in half. And a lot of them had been blown down.

I: So Miami was pretty devastated. But you stayed on in Miami

for a little while then didn't you?

S: Yes, I entered the theater business, which...

I: In Miami?

S: I was assigned to West Palm Beach to start with, but I had

requested Miami originally, and they sent me down after a

short stay in West Palm Beach to managed a theater in Miami.

I: And this is a movie theater?

S: Movie theater, yes. And I worked nine years as manager of

movie theaters in Miami and Miami Beach.

I: Who were you working for?

S: It was in those days Publix Theater's Corporation, which

later became Paramount Publix Corporation. Later on E.J.

Sparks took over the management of these houses for five

years, and then they reverted back to Paramount Publix

again.


40










I: Now you were a theater manager?

S: That's right, yes. I was the manager of thirteen different

theaters here in the area back in those days.

I: And what did you do as manager--everything?

S: See that the show got on the screen.

I: Sometimes this meant actually being up in the projection

room?

S: Oh, not as a projectionist, but you had supervision of all

that went on, and it was your responsibility that you saw

that got your show on the film, and it was projected

properly on the screen, advertised before that, properly.

Of course, there's lots of other angles connected-- news--

paper advertising. There's all kinds of advertising, for

that matter, that you had to deal with, and you had to have

supplies to run the theater, and all that came under the

managers jurisdiction and supervision.

I: You were coming into the movie business, then, just about

the time that silents were going out. They were replaced by

the talking pictures.

S: That's right. I entered just as The Jazz Singer came along.

I: You and Al Jolson.

S: Al Jolson made The Jazz Singer, and I had just become a

theater manager at this time. I ran The Jazz Singer in

Miami...I had forgotten just how long, but it would have

been for six months now. In those days, two weeks was a

long time.


41










I: There wasn't very much nudity in the movies in those days.

S: There was none. The dresses were long, and to see even

chorus, says up to the knee, was kind of risky in those

days.

I: My, things have indeed changed, haven't they?

S: They certainly have.

I: Although with the Supreme Court ruling, we may be going back

just a little bit.

S: I hope so.

I: The movie business has been good to you over the years,

hasn't it?

S: It certainly has, yes. I was fortunate enough to be

appointed manger-director of this Twin Theatre, and we are

now in our fourth year here. I opened this Twin Theater

complex here three years ago in summer.

I: Tell me what's happened to your mother.

S: Mother left the University of Florida and went to live with

my oldest brother and his wife in Perry, Florida. And she

stayed there until she died.

I: She had just grown old in service, and she retired from the

University?

S: And went over there to spend the rest of her days. She

became a very active church member in Perry. Mother died in

Perry. Later on, Aunt Margaret, when she left, also joined

mother in Perry where they both lived until they died.




42










I: They were two stalwarts, though of the early history of the

University, weren't they?

S: Yes, I would say so.

I: Now which of your two brothers was Marion Wottenbargar's

father?

S: Frank Swanson. Frank passed away in 1956...Frank and I were

thrown together quite a bit more than Joe and myself,

because Joe was out in Perry, Florida in the Western part of

the state. Frank was in Palm Beach and I was in Miami, so

Frank and I would see more of each other than Joe and I.

I: Did you play any role in the University alumnae or anything

after you left in 1922?

S: No.

I: You pretty well cut you ties, then, didn't you?

S: That's right.

I: And you still come back to football games occasionally?

S: I haven't in a long time. I haven't been in position to,

and at the same time I don't get around as well now as I

used to back in those days.

I: Well, you still look pretty active to me.

S: Well, thank you. I feel pretty good, but I believe I

mentioned the date of my birth earlier in this...

I: I know, but I recall didn't take that fact. I think you

were just exaggerating a little bit, Bob. So you remember

the university days as being happy days.

S: Very happy, happiest days in my life. It certainly was.


43










I: Have you kept in touch with some of the people that you were

friendly with back in those days?

S: No, not to any great extent. I just lost track of them.

I've gone my way. I moved to Georgia, and first of all, I

lived in Ohio ten years before I came to Atlanta. I went

from Florida out to New Orleans, and then from New Orleans I

went up to Ohio, spent ten years in the theaters up there.

And I came back down to Atlanta after being in Ohio for

seventeen years.

I: Bob, who's your life?

S: My wife is a Miami girl, Evelyn Foster. Evelyn's daddy, you

might be interested in knowing, was the contractor for the

first major construction.

I: What was his name?

S: Irwin Bell Foster, and he and his wife Mary settled in

Miami, and he worked as a contractor all his life until

retirement.

I: So he lived a long life, had a strong connection with Miami

history too, didn't he?

S: That's right. They settled on some property, some acreage,

in 1909, and they still had it up to 1958.

I: You met your wife then when you were working down there?

S: Well, it was in the early 1930's.

I: Do you have a family?

S: No, just we two.




44










I: About what else should we say about the University of

Florida?

S: I believe you've covered everything I could think of.

I: Did you think of everything--nothing else you want for

posterity? Bob, before we finish this interview I want to;

ask you again about your role in composing one of the

traditional songs of the University, "We Are the Boys from

Old Florida" so that we are assured that we would get it in

our record. Now, you tell me this was an idea that you

brought back from service with you.

S: Yes. To repeat some of the things I've said, I was a member

of a quartet that traveled around with a show in France

after the World War I Armistice, and I got the idea from

them. I came back to Florida in 1919, entered school, and

inasmuch as Florida did not have a school song at that time,

I thought I would try and write one. I came up with this

"We Are the Boys from Old Florida". I did the detail work

in the old Pi Kappa Alpha rooms over what was then the Lyric

Theater, down near the old post office there. The only

witness that I had to that is now deceased--Bill Tiller, who

came from Kissimmee, the town where I was born.

I: How did you advertising the song, so to speak?

S: In any function that we were called upon to participate,

why, this quartet, we always make that our opening number.

And possibly our closing number too.

I: Was this the Prickly Heat quartet?


45










S: Well, they dubbed us that in the minstrel show, but we

didn't have really a name until we sang in the minstrel

show.

I: But really, "We Are the Boys from Old Florida" became your

theme song? It was your song, then you turned it into a

theme song with your group?

S: That's right.

I: Was it associated with you in those days?

S: Yes, by those who knew me.

I: It was known as Bob Swanson's song?

S: Yes, in those days it certainly was, but there were others

who came along later that claimed it.

I: Without any validity?

S: That's correct. Now here's another angle. Somebody said

why that song came from University of Nebraska's song.

Well, the University of Nebraska came out with what

resembled my song in 1924.

I: After your song.

S: Mine, I came out with it in 1919.

I: So somebody might have said the University of Nebraska's

song sounds like University of Florida's song?

S: Probably right. Done quite a bit, certainly was.

I: What about the Alma Mater which they sing now? Not, "We Are

the Boys from Old Florida", but "Florida", our Alma Mater?

S: I'm not familiar with it, since I hadn't had it before, any

contact with "Florida."


46










I: I think that was also composed sometime in the 1920's, but

after your day and time. Was "We Are the Boys from Old

Florida" played at football games?

S: Yes, certainly was.

I: So this is recognized as Florida's fight song?

S: That's right, one of them anyhow. 'Course, "Cheer for the

Orange and Blue" was another song that was used a whole

lot.

I: Now, they don't play that very much, but they do sing "We

Are the Boys from Old Florida" every football game. What

about the swaying, you know, they use when they sing it?

The people in the stands sway back and forth.

S: That's something that came along after my time.

I: After prohibition.

S: I have seen incidents where the student body was singing and

swaying, but I had nothing to do with part.

I: You didn't know about that?

S: No.

I: Were you there when homecoming first started?

S: Yes, I attended several homecomings way back when. And

usually with one of my three brothers, Frank, who resided in

Palm Beach at that time. We used to make almost every

homecoming for several years.

I: And you enjoyed it?

S: Oh, very much. Frank also made two letters in football in

the position of center, and once in awhile Joe would come


47










over--my oldest brother from perry, Florida--and the three

of us would get together and have a good time. Joe Swanson

made letters in every sport there, eighteen in all--a

record, I believe.

I: Did you play in other sports--baseball, basketball...?

S: No, not for the school. I would play baseball in the

summertime for maybe some church league or the city of

Gainesville, but when it was baseball season in school, it

was minstrel time or Masqueraders time for me, and I loved

my music more than I did anything.

I: Where did the students go swimming in those days?

S: There was a swimming pool in a wooden gymnasium, and this

structure was close to the infirmary...just a short

distance, a hundred or so yards.

I: It's still there.

S: It was close to the infirmary and the commons. Not too far

from the commons.

I: It's all still sitting right there. There's a two-story

brick gymnasium, too, with an auditorium upstairs.

S: The brick gymnasium was not constructed when I was there,

but we had a wooden building and a swimming pool right on

the outside, and there were those who dared to get on top of

the ledge of the wooden building and dive down into a seven-

foot pool. I was on who did.

I: You didn't go swimming in the sink holes out in the woods?




48










S: I learned to swim in a sink hole. I couldn't spot exactly

the one, but is was part of the Agriculture Department. It

would be on the way to Ocala, and you'd be going down what

you say thirteenth street going towards Ocala. I'd

forgotten which one it was...not too far from Engineering

Hall, I believe.

I: It's right there.

S: An old tree was bent down over it.

I: The tree is still sitting there. Frankly, you need to walk

around campus. Well, there was a pond out near where my

house is now called Frieze's Pond which the swimming team

practiced in.

S: The name rings a bell, but I can't place Frieze's Pond.

I: Frieze's Pond--it's about a block and a half from where I

live now.

S: Well, I've heard that name before.

I: I'm not going to ask you about any of your contacts with the

faculty, because you've already indicated you weren't that

much of a student.

S: No, I knew them from having lived right in the school, and

of course they all knew mother. But I was merely an average

student in those days.

I: You didn't spend much time in the library?

S: No, I'd be thinking of a new idea for a show. And you can

readily understand, because I'm in show business now.

I: Did you compose any of the music?


49










S: No, that was the only effort.

I: That's a lasting monument to you.

S: That's the only thing I ever did.

I: Swanson's "We Are the Boys from Old Florid." We are going

to establish you now as the composer of that song.

S: Well, I could certainly stand up and face anybody who wants

to say someone else did it. I would be very happy to face

him, because I did it. And you can't get away from that.

I: In your own personal records, did you keep scrap books or

clippings or pictures of those days on campus?

S: I have nothing to show for it, no.

I: What about pictures of your mother and your aunt?

S: Well, most of that kind of thing is in Perry with my oldest

brother's wife, who is still living--Joe Swanson's wife. I

don't recall having a picture handy right now of my mother,

because all of that was sent over there to Perry, Florida.

I: Bob, I think this will pretty well draw our interview to a

close, and I want to thank you very much for taking time

from your own schedule. Just as soon as we get this

transcribed, I will send you a copy of it to check. I will

send you of the cassette tape so you can have it, and you

understand now that we want to use this material after it's

been checked for scholarly and research purposes, don't you?

And you have no objections to that, do you?






50










S: None whatever. Anything you care to use, why go right

ahead. You have my permission, and in fact, I would just be

glad for you to do so if fulfills any good purpose.

I: Well, it will fit into the program very well, and it's just

exactly the kind of inter view that I hoped we would be able

to get. I want to thank you.

S: Well, it's a pleasure being interviewed by you.







































51