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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
INTERVIEWEE: Mrs. George Fox
INTERVIEWER: Mrs. Emily Ring
DATE: November 29, 1977
R: My name is Emily Ring. Today is November 29, 1977. I'm in
the Ford Library in the Florida State Museum. I'm interviewing
Mrs. George Fox for the University of Florida Oral History
program. Bee, can you tell us something about your birthplace?
F: My birthplace was Charleston, West Virginia, and I was born on
March 2, 1900. My husband was born on March 2, 1898.
R: What was your full name?
F: My full name was Helen Dana Smith. The reason I'm called Bee is
because my brother was born two years earlier on exactly the
same day. So I was called Bis, meaning twice in France. He was
born on March 2, 1898, just like my husband. I was called Bis,
and then it got to be Bissie, Bee and heaven knows what all. I
am now Bee Fox, and nobody knows where the Helen came in.
R: And who was your mother?
F: My mother was Katharine Dana Bowne of Old Monmouth. They came
from Monmouth, New Jersey. My grandmother was a Dana, and they
came from Richfield Springs, New York. They are partly Dutch--
Van Rensallers--and they had a lot of children. My great-grand-
mother had eleven children--eleven miscarriages--and they spread
all over. She came down to visit her cousin and met my father.
My father was Harrison B. Smith. His grandfather was in the
Virginia legislature way back there in 1830, when Charleston
didn't have the name of Charleston. His letters are addressed
to Kanawha Courthouse when he was writing back as a senator from
Richmond to his wife, whose name was Roxalana. He was a Union
man and my grandfather, my father's father, was fighting in the
Confederate Army. They disapproved of having the old gentleman
be a Union man, and they were going to lynch him. They were up
near White Sulphur, and my grandfather had to run behind the
mountains, catch my great-grandfather, and hide him.
R: So you lived in a border state where there were people on both sides.
F: Yes, and people on both sides in my family. My grandmother couldn't
play anything on the piano except "Dixie." Her father-in-law was
trying to separate West Virginia from Virginia.
R: How big a town was Charleston at the time you grew up in it?
F: About 12,000. I had Jim Dickey to lunch, and he said, "Charleston,
West Virginia, why that's the shittiest town in the United States."
I said, "Well, when I was born, it looked a lot like Florence," as
indeed it did. It had a better river and worse architecture.
R: It looked like Florence, Italy?
F: Yes, exactly. It had hills, large trees, and a clean river.
We had very few sewers. My Uncle Ike used to put the cutting
board down on the floor, and he'd dance a jig on it and say,
"One foot up and one foot down, we're going to have a water-
works in this town." Everybody had an outhouse.
R: Now your father was a lawyer?
F: He was a lawyer, and he was one of six boys and one girl--a very
large family. They had a perfectly wonderful time. They hadn't
any money, because my grandfather had been in the Civil War and
had been a major. He had been a lawyer, and he couldn't sign the
Test Act, so he was just a clerk of some kind and made about $3,000
a year. They had three tennis courts that they built themselves,
but no tennis balls to speak of. They had to cherish each tennis
ball for years, because they cost money.
R: Did your mother do anything especially, or did she just raise a
F: Well, she had been the best amateur piano player I ever heard.
She had had a very hard musical life in New York, but she came
down to visit her cousin, a Dana, who had married Eugene Dana,
my grandmother's brother. And she fell in love with my father.
She never fitted in much with the rest of the family. It was an
enormous family. Everyone in the town was my cousin Lucy practi-
cally. There was this sense of one's duty to the family, one's
duty to the church, one's duty to the community.
R: Which church was it?
F: The Presbyterian church, and I'm still a Presbyterian following
in the tradition.
R: Were your mother and father both Presbyterians?
F: Oh, yes.
R: They didn't have a conflict there.
F: No, my grandmother thought that Roman Catholics had horns. I
don't think she felt quite that badly about Episcopalians.
R: How many children did your mother have?
F: I had two brothers.
R: Are either one of them still living?
F: No, they're both dead, but I've got about 1,000,000 cousins.
They're dying off, because you see with these six boys and one
girl, my grandmother had an awful lot of grandchildren. We'd
have Thanksgiving dinner together at different houses all the
time. My father was a composer, but he couldn't afford to take
music lessons, so he composed all the time on his own. He
taught himself the organ and the cello. He played the organ
in the Presbyterian church from the time he was twelve until he
R: So both of your parents were musical.
R: Naturally you were musical too.
F: Oh, we had a quartet going in the house all the time. I got up
in the middle of the night once, when I was about three, and
they were playing the Debussy quartet. I had never heard music
like that before. I came downstairs and said, "I haven't got
enough whiskey." They all laughed heartily. I don't know what
this has to do with Debussy, but I said, "I haven't even got
enough to wet my hairbrush."
R: Did your father read music?
F: He composed it, read it, and played it very slowly, but when he
heard mother playing it right, he was overwhelmed. He'd play a
Beethoven slow movement at really a terribly slow pace, but
mother would go bouncing along. He composed an opera, "Snow White,"
in which I was Snow White. I remember being delighted, because
I said I was a picked on little girl and told my nurse that I
didn't have to take a bath, because Snow White was a waif. Bouge,
my brother, was head of the dwarves. He had to take a bath in
order to be head of the dwarves. I can still sing a lot
of that "Snow White,"
The William Wordsworth part of my life was not going
to school. Then I roamed around. We had two houses, one in
the town and one over on the hill. I would roam around by
myself. We had a swimming pool, a tennis court, about fifty-
two acres of land, and a river with a canoe on it. We made
a boat called the Honest Scrap. The Honest Scrap was a fine
boat. It was a coal barge, and we stole, I'm ashamed to say,
the wood, covered it, and made a floor out of it. Then we
put four outboard motors on each corner. The Great Kanawha was
a wide river. We built a shack on it and made a flag, patchwork
quilts, and all kinds of things for this shack, and we would
go on long trips. Now the Honest Scrap would only do about three
miles an hour going against the current. If you wanted to turn
around, you'd just turn off two of the outboards and make a wide
sweep. Later on, we'd put a phonograph on it and dance.
R: Sounds to me as though you had a delightful childhood.
F: Oh, I had a wonderful childhood.
R: Did you go to school, too?
F: No, I didn't go to school. My brother was supposed to be sick
or rather frail, and he had a tutor who walked up the hill,
tutored him, went swimming and then walked down the hill again.
He had a music teacher who did the same thing--Mr. Beckenstein.
I could listen in on him if I wanted. And I guess I must have
R: But who taught you to read and write?
F: Oh, I could already read and write. I read my first book, which
was Dottie Dimple at School, when I was four. We had a lot of
books around, and I read and wrote. You can tell by my writing
that I didn't learn writing very well. I learned reading fine.
I had to practice on the piano a half-hour a day and I had to go
to Sunday school, and that was it.
R: When did you learn to play the fiddle?
F: I learned to play the fiddle from Eddie Priador at about forty-
five. I'd been playing chamber music all my life, in Princeton,
Evanston, here, and also in Charleston. I decided that quartets
were prettier than trios, and I would learn the fiddle. I
started that here, but immediately after that we went to Rome.
Eddie Priador is the best teacher I ever had in anything. He
had me in the orchestra. When George resigned his job in
Rome, people would say, "What are you doing going back to
Gainesville, Florida?" I said, "Gainesville, Florida is the
only place that has an orchestra lousy enough for me to play
second fiddle in."
R: You didn't go to public school?
F: Well, I began going to school when I was a sophomore in high
school. I went two years then. If you got A's, you didn't
have to take the exam. The result was that I arrived at Dana
Hall and didn't know any Latin grammar.
R: Well, now tell us where Dana Hall is.
F: Dana Hall is in Wellesley, Massachusetts. It's still there,
and it's a very good school, but I hated it.
R: Girls' school?
F: Oh, yes. It has Pine Manor attached to it. It's just a regular
old-fashioned girls' school, but it's good at teaching.
R: How old were you went you went there?
F: Seventeen. I graduated, passed my board exams, and was all
ready for college, and my parents thought I was too young to
go to college. So I spent one year in Dana Hall living there
and taking music lessons in Boston.
R: Altogether, you were there how long?
F: I was there two years--one year study--one year taking music
lessons in Boston.
R: About what date would that have been?
F: That's 1917 to 1918. I had a fine time the second year at Dana
Hall, because I was going to Boston. I didn't have to wear the
uniform; I didn't have to get up with the bell. I would go to
tea dances with friends of mine who were in the Naval Aviation
and stationed in Boston. I would look at the museums, and I
heard the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which was the first time
I'd ever heard a decent orchestra. I gave a recital at Boston,
and Miss Stowall, who was a pupil of Clara Schumann's, wanted
me not to go to college and to keep on with music. But I'm
glad I did go because I never would have been good enough.
R: So your education at Dana Hall was very largely also in Boston.
F: No, my first year, I spent the whole time studying Latin grammar,
because here I was reading Virgil and not knowing beans about it.
[I had] no preparation in high school in Latin grammar, I just
didn't know anything. I had a very tough and very good Latin
R: Did you wear uniforms at Dana Hall?
R: Describe the uniforms to me.
F: Oh, Peter Thompson, you know. [It was] a sailor suit in dark
blue serge with a bow. When you did your athletics, you put on
bloomers, a middy blouse, long black stockings, and sneakers--very,
very bouffant bloomers--very modest and quite comfortable, as a
matter of fact. But I didn't get a chance to do that much because
I had to do gym. I just went home and dug into the old Collar
and Daniel all year.
R: Well, I know you played tennis all your life, and you evidently
started playing tennis at home on your own family tennis courts.
F: Oh yes, I started about twelve. I still play tennis; I played
tennis yesterday. My brother was on the tennis team at Princeton.
My father got up tennis in Charleston. He's the person who started
the country club, got up the golf course, and all that sort of thing.
My father was a terrific tennis player because when Bouge was on the
tennis team at Princeton, my father could still beat him.
R: Now who was Bouge?
F: My brother. Bouge practically killed himself, but father would
drop one right down on his backhand corner, and I never saw anything
like it. It used to cheer me up--Bouge just running around like mad.
Father couldn't run very fast, but he could place them.
R: Did both of your brothers become lawyers?
F: No, my younger brother went into the bank. My father was a lawyer,
but in those days you could be a lawyer and start a lot of things.
I think you still can. He had two banks and an insurance company.
He wanted the insurance company for Bouge and one of the banks for
Ark. Ark's name was Alexander. We all had a lot of nicknames. My
cousin Smut, for instance, is the one who got up the Honest Scrap,
because he lived right on the river.
R: I'm interested in the name of that boat. Is it scrap or crap?
F: Honest Scrap. It's the tobacco. It's a brand of chewing tobacco.
I think it was written on one of the boards we stole to pave this
R: So this part of the country raised a lot of chewing tobacco.
F: No, this part of the country was coal, oil, and gas. But it wasn't
industrial in my childhood.
R: But the coal miners chewed the tobacco.
F: Yes, they can't smoke in mines, so they chew the tobacco. But
we had only one factory, which was the Kelly Axe Factory. It just
made axe handles; it didn't make the steel part.
R: Were you in any way knowledgeable about the coal mining industry?
F: No, not at all. In fact, the coal miners went on strike, and
everybody in Charleston was supporting the coal owners.
R: Because you came from the class of people who were professionals
F: Yes, they thought it was perfectly awful for these miners to go on
strike, and I never heard of such a thing as black lung, or nobody
paid any attention to that sort of thing.
R: What college did you go to?
F: Smith. I had a fine time at Smith. I loved it. I still see my
Smith College roommate every year. I've been to a couple of re-
unions with her, but our class is getting on in life, and they're
dying off rather rapidly. But we had a perfectly wonderful time.
We were very strict; we went to bed at ten; we got up at
seven by the bell. We had about three weekends off, and that
didn't count just going over to Amherst for a dance. We had
no sororities, but we had something called invitation houses.
The invitation house was just a little frame house with a lot
of people in it, I was supposed to pick out the girls for ours.
We had an invitation house for the even classes and one for the
odd classes, and we were thirteen people to a bathroom. Our
treasurer would say, "What would you rather have, a fire every
night in the fireplace or lobster salad for Sunday night supper?"
And we'd decide. I always voted for the fire. The Amherst boys
would be sitting on the front porch all the time, and they sort
of didn't count. But it was a big thing if you went down to a
Princeton house party.
R: Did you wear uniforms in those days?
F: Not in Smith, no. It practically turned out to be that. We wore
what were called Bramley dresses. You bought them yourself. You
didn't have to wear them, but they were sweaters, little turn-over
collars, and sort of a skirt. We all wore the same thing--the saddle
strap shoes and galoshes. We put on a $4,000,000 fund the first
year I was there, 1917 to 1918. We put on a musical comedy in the
Plaza in New York, and I had to coach the chorus. I had this dance
in which you flipped back and forth with these unbuckled galoshes,
and then you had to good, swift kick. My roommate, Eleanor Chilton,
and I used to always have to write the stunts.
R: What was your course of study?
F: Well, I was going to major in music, but I failed to take music
appreciation, because I thought I already appreciated music. When
it got to junior year, I had majored in English instead, but I got
music honors. Kate says you can't get music honors if you're not
majoring in music now, but I could then.
R: And what year did you graduate?
R: After you graduated from Smith, what did you do next?
F: Well, I don't know. That was one of the things that bothered me.
I didn't want to get married; I didn't want to get tied down.
George had proposed to me first when I was eighteen.
R: Where did you meet George?
F: George was my brother's roommate in Princeton. He came down every
single summer and got a job somewhere. He had to have a job,
because [he] was a Methodist minister's son. He was very poor
and very restricted in his activities, because he'd been brought
up by his father. I only met him once, but he was a lovely man,
who loved Shakespeare and read Shakespeare out loud. But he gave
away half his salary, and he wouldn't let them dance, play cards,
or go to the movies. They played some kind of a game called
Authors, or go to the theater, or do practically anything--play
football. As I said, they were just terribly restricted, and
Grandma Fox was a wonderful cook and very economical. She used
to come when she lived in Trenton, and we lived in Princeton and
cook Thanksgiving dinner for us. She was terribly relieved to
have me for a daughter-in-law, because Uncle Arthur, George's
older brother, had been in the army and had married a Russian
countess or a Russian something or other.
R: Bee, tell me the names of your husband George Fox's parents.
F: Well, Grandma Fox's name was Anna Kopp, and she came from Pennsyl-
vania. She was Pennsylvania Dutch.
R: Was the family supposed to be descended from the founder of the
Presbyterian faith? Wasn't there a George Fox back there?
F: George Fox was a Quaker. No, they were Methodist and George's
father's family came from Yorkshire. In Princeton George and I
went to the Episcopal church when we went at all. The first year
we were in Princeton, we didn't go to church.
R: Now what year were you married to George?
F: I was married in 1925.
R: Was he already teaching at Princeton?
F: Oh, yes, he'd been through Princeton, through graduate school, and
had taught five years-when we were finally married. When he was in
graduate school, I was in New York studying music some more, because
I didn't want to stay at home and not do anything. My family were
opposed to my marrying George, because George was what my grandson
would call a smart-ass kid. He would say to my father that he didn't
like Brahms or something like that, or he would say Goneril
and Regan were absolutely right not to want 100 knights roaming
around the house. This would just blow my father up, who was
used to being the big boss. He was a very gentle man, but by
this time, he'd been the big boss of two banks, an insurance
company and a lawyer, and he didn't like being contradicted very
vigorously. George was very proud and still, and this accounts
for a lot of the things that have happened to us. He didn't want
to take any money from them if they didn't want me to marry him.
So I taught school in Charleston.
R: Elementary school?
F: No, second year high school. Mr. Patch was very sore at me for
teaching elementary high school. I had taken Chaucer from him
in Smith, and he thought I ought to be shot for just teaching
elementary school. But it was very fascinating. I had these
little kids whose parents were mining operators and would leave
the money on the hall table and go off to the mines. This little
Hennigan, a little Irish kid, just was determined to go to the
dogs. He used to bring a bottle, a flask, and slap it and go,
"Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle," you know in recess.
R: Drink whiskey at recess?
F: It wasn't whiskey, you see, he was fooling the principal. Charles
E. Kinney, our principal, said he was going to call Hennigan up
before the assembled faculty. So he called, and I told him, "For
heaven's sakes, don't do that." And then he called Hennigan up and
said, "Hennigan, what is that you have in your pocket?" And
Hennigan said, "There's no rule against drinking cold tea, is there?"
I knew Hennigan would fool him; he's much smarter than Charles E.
Kinney. He did this all the time.
R: Then you taught school for one year?
F: Not quite one year, because my mother wanted to go abroad.
R: Now this was before you married George?
F: Oh yes. This was to demonstrate to my family that I could live on
a professor's salary.
R: Where were you married?
F: We were married in Charleston--regular, old big fancy wedding with
red carpet and everything in the Presbyterian church.
R: And how old were you then?
F: Twenty-five. I waited quite a while.
R: And George was a little older?
F: He was twenty-seven. He's just two years older, exactly; he has
the same birth date as I did. He'd been teaching in Princeton
for about five years.
R: Teaching in philosophy?
F: No, in English. We went to Princeton, and he was just an
instructor. We had a very fancy time. Father'd been to Princeton
for a long time and practically everybody entertained us. They put
on white gloves and came to ask us which side we were on, Wilson
or Dean West.
R: This was a campus feud?
F: You know the big fight about 1912; the big fight about the graduate
school [over]whether they should have a big handsome building, or
whether they should concentrate on distinguished faculty.
R: Well, which side were you on?
F: I was on Wilson's side--the distinguished faculty. But Andrew
West managed to get Proctor and Gamble to contribute a lot of
dough for a big stylish building. They got that instead, but they
had a very good faculty anyway. I've never seen a faculty touch it.
R: How did it come about that you decided to leave Princeton?
F: Well, George was the first or the only one of a whole lot of
instructors who got promoted to be assistant professor. All the
rest were just dropped. Now Rens Lee, one of the most distin-
guished people in this country, decided to switch from English
into art history. He had three degrees, one in classics, one in
English, and one in art history. He shifted and has been head of
the art department. But Sam Monck, who wrote the standard book on
the sublime, for instance, was dropped. George was the only one
promoted; he got the proud sum of $3,000 a year. I was perfectly
willing to stay in Princeton and live on that, but he was offered
a job in the stock market.
R: What year was that?
F: It was just a little before the crash. I forget exactly. He
tried living in Princeton and hold down two jobs, and he couldn't.
It was really too hard. Kate had been born then, and it was really
quite a struggle. We moved to New York, and that was terrible. I
hated going to New York. It's very hard to raise a family in New
York. Then John was born, and I spent all my time working. John,
luckily, was a very easy baby to take care of. He only cried when
it rained on him.
R: Where did you live in New York?
F: We lived right on the park--it was at 114th Street up by Columbia.
I had two babies. And that's why I wanted to be near the park.
It was a life work--you had to get them outdoors somehow or other.
Then the stock market crash came, and George kept on with this
stock market job for as long as his company existed. But it went
completely out of existence, whereupon he went up to Northwestern
University. The trouble with Northwestern was it was too infernally
cold. We had a house right on the lake, and it was perfectly
lovely--something Lake Street. But it leaked. It was an old house,
and it had an enormous living room, a playroom for the children,
and then two maids' rooms. I had a perfectly terrible time, because
all of the children got sick, and George coughed. They got hooping
cough, measles, chicken pox. Kate, for instance, had extra trouble
from her measles. If you don't watch your measles, you get more
trouble. Then George had this bronchial pneumonia for which he was
put in the hospital. CHe3 left the hospital in a huff, because they
put his bed out in the hall. The window wouldn't shut, and he had
a draft on him. So I got him back in our house, but our house leaked
too. It really was terrible. I had a real time. We didn't get
the beds made from October until May.
R: Did you have any household help?
F: Well, I had a maid, but she quit, naturally enough. She thought it
was too hard a job. And then I didn't have anybody. After a long
time my mother sent me an old nurse who was a friend of hers, and
she took care of the baby. That was Helen.
R: So you began to look for a warmer climate.
F: We looked for a warmer climate. George had to be shot with codeine
to get any sleep at all--pills wouldn't work. I'd get up, boil up
the needle, and shoot George about three times a night. Then along
about four o'clock, Helen would get in bed with me and say, "May I
put my foots on your wegs?" CShe'd] put these little lumps of ice
on my legs, and then talk up a storm from five o'clock on.
In May everybody got well, and I broke out all over in psoriasis.
George arranged to get a sabbatical leave. We could have a full
year on half pay or a half year on full pay. We took full year
on half pay and went to Delray Beach. At that time Delray had
about 400 people in its off season. It was perfectly wonderful.
George got well five minutes after he got there. He had said to
the doctors that all that was wrong with him was the climate.
R: What about your psoriasis--did it heal?
F: I cured it immediately. I went out and lay down in the dunes. I
remember I lay stark, staring naked and these great turkey buzzards
would come around, and come around, and come around, and look at
me. It was like...
R: Trying to decide whether you were...
F: Whether I was dead or not, yes. And it was just like Uncle Remus.
"Br'er Fox look like he dead, but he don't act like he's dead.
Dead folks raises up their hind legs and hollers, Wahoo'" So I
would raise up my hind legs and holler, "Wahoo'," and they would
go away. But I cured my psoriasis, and I've never had any more
R: How did you happen to come to this university?
F: Well, George wanted some place in the South. He was offered a
job in Hawaii. We decided that that would be too far away for
the children when they went to college. We'd be scared of that.
Then we went and looked at the University of Miami. At that
time the University of Miami had a good football team, but no
library to speak of. It was about as big as this room. We didn't
think much of the size of the library. Somebody came up to him
and said, "Excuse me, sir, but do you remember who wrote Dear Brutus?"
And there was no way he could find out. The library wasn't very
good, I'm sure. And then he went up to Rollins in Winter Park.
The president of Rollins was a great friend of my Uncle Merrill.
But George and he disagreed on peace. There wasn't any Viet Nam,
but he disagreed on that sort of thing. Then he came up and just
took a terrific fancy to Cliff Lyons CHead of the English Depart-
ment]. He just got along with Cliff. He'd been writing a book
about Wordsworth on the-prologue. He showed it to Cliff, and Cliff
took a great fancy to him. We decided that although it was pretty
cold in Gainesville, we could get along. As a matter of fact, he
did get along.
R: It wasn't cold after Northwestern, though, was it?
F: No. But it was cold after Delray.
R: Cliff Lyons later went to Chapel Hill, didn't he?
R: Is he still there?
F: Yes, but he's retired.
R: Now it's very important that we know what you thought of Gainesville
when you first came.
F: Oh, we were crazy about it. It had very few people then--it had
only 3000 students.
R: What year was that, that you came?
F: 1940. We lived out here on the Newberry Road where the Milans
live now. That was where the Tigerts had formerly lived. George
make a Phi Beta Kappa speech, and Dr. Tigert fell in love with
it and had it printed, and published. The Newberry Road had a
whole lot of great big water oaks--it had an avenue of those.
R: On the way to Golfview?
F: On the way to the golf course. There was nobody there but Norma
Borland and two other houses. It was called University Place.
R: Is your house still there?
F: Yes, it's still there, but it's not the way it used to be. It was
supposed to be sort of stylish at the time. It had a great big
sun porch in front, and four bedrooms and two baths. It cost us
$75.00 rent. We didn't know that we were going to stay here by any
means, so we just rented it. Then Dr. Tigert took this great shine
to George and had him make the commencement address. George made
the commencement address about 1942 or 1943. It was the middle of
the year commencement address, not June.
F: Yes. It was called "Losing the War." Archie Carr is a great fan
of this commencement address, but it shocked Dr. Tigert, poor man.
He said, "Dr. Fox is a very fine man, but he doesn't know about
war." George made his speech about how at this point, he
thought the war was being lost.
R: So it didn't sound very patriotic.
F: Well, yes.
R: Dr. Tigert didn't like it?
F: Dr. Tigert didn't like it, but he was crazy about George. He
really was darling to George. And he said, "Oh, don't pay any
attention to Dr. Fox...he's just madly enthusiastic," or words
to that effect. Anyway, then George got out of that. I didn't
want him to go to war; but he had been in World War I, for
heaven's sake, and that's enough for any man. He must have been
pushing forty-five by this time.
R: So he decided to go?
F: He decided to go into World War II, and he did. He went over, was
in military government, and was absolutely horrified at the United
States Army and what it did. It sold our gasoline to the Nazis.
You've never tried being in military government. They put him in
military government, because he knew so many languages. He knew
German, French, and Italian, and he learned Spanish later--and
Latin and Greek just in case you need them. But, anyway, he had
a bum time in the Army. Limburg was one of his headquarters.
People in Limburg were crazy about him because he protected them
from the Army. He remembers one place where he had charge of
part of Belgium. He was trying to get coal for these Belgians
to heat the houses. They were having a terrible time. He said
an absolutely ridiculous little major came in and was saying to
this family, "Don't you all realize there's a war on?" And this
is in the Battle of the Bulge. The Belgians had had World War I
and the German Army had come across and gone back. Then, they'd
had World War II, and they'd come across and gone back. And here
they'd come across again. If anybody knew that there was a war
on, it was those Belgians. It was simply absurd--this little major
was all dressed up with a kind of riding crop under his arm striding
back and forth. I wanted to do a cartoon of that for the New Yorker.
But this next case was very important. This was after the war was
over really. This Russian came in to a German watchmaker's office,
and said he wanted such and such a watch. And the little German
said, "Well, I don't own this watch--I've just repaired it."
Whereupon the Russian shot him and took the watch. George had to
try this case, and this was very strenuous, because everybody was
assuming that every German was guilty of everything. And George
was in favor of justice, no matter what. He came back kind of
depressed from that.
R: In the meantime, you were in full charge of the three children.
F: I was in charge of the three children. John had gone to Lawrence-
ville, and Kate had gone to Smith. Helen and I were living here
on $35.00 a month.
R: By this time had you changed to the other house?
F: Yes, I bought that little house for $7,000--the one I'm living
in now. I said, "If George is going God knows where, I'm not
going to follow him around." So I thought the best thing for me
to do was to buy a little house. It's in Palm Terrace. Buck
always called me the Palm Terrace pantheist. I had my own religion;
I wasn't a Presbyterian; I was a Palm Terrace pantheist.
R: But you were going all the time to the First Presbyterian Church?
F: I've been going to the Presbyterian church, right. I'm very fond
of Preacher (Gordon). Now George was a creature who was deeply
interested in religion. When the preacher first came to see us,
George said, "You know, if Hitler came to see you, you'd talk about
paperhanging." He had talked with George about war bravery. George
meant that I had talked with the preacher about religion. Preacher
was just being cozy and calling on the district. But I thought
Preacher knew a lot about religion.
R: We're now talking about the minister of the First Presbyterian Church,
who died recently--Dr. Ulysses S. Gordon.
F: We are indeed. I think he was the most beloved minister in Gainesville
ever. But at any rate, I said to him, "Preacher, couldn't we have
some non-waltz time hymns--some 4/4 time hymns like "A Mighty Fortress"
or something like that--none of these one, two, three, one, two, three,
hymns." Preacher said, "Sister Fox, I know more about hymns than you
ever will." That's characteristic.
R: He probably knew most of them by heart, didn't he?
F: Oh, he knew all of them by heart--and lots of waltz time ones which
my father used, too. He had played in church from the time he was
twelve till he was seventy-two at which point he had said he was a
retired Christian. He'd been head elder and pushed the chairs
around. You see, our church in Charleston only had our family
in it. Everybody else was sore at my great-grandfather's position
on the Civil War, so they all went off to another church.
R: So you had your own family church?
F: It was the first church that had been in Charleston. They called
theirs the first church and started right after the Civil War in
about 1863 or 1864.
R: And your family had to support the minister?
F: We had to support the whole thing. It was rough. Aunt Elsie
played to Sunday school; everybody taught. I am seventy-seven.
I was back there, and I saw Miss Lucie Barber, who is a distant
relative, who taught me Sunday school; taught my children Sunday
school; taught my grandchildren Sunday school; and she still
teaches Sunday school.
R: She's still living?
F: She's not only living...she's teaching Sunday school. She's maybe
over 100, I don't know. But she's very lively, and she said
to me, "Bee, you know what you said to me when you first came to
Sunday school? You said, 'Miss Lucie, did Jesus ever step on a
bug?'" And she said, "I've never discovered the answer to that."
R: Well, getting back to the University of Florida. When did George
come back after the war?
F: That's when Dr. Tigert wanted him to be head of the philosophy
department. The man who was head of the philosophy department
had been in Harvard or in Boston at the time when all the great
philosophers had been there--Santayana, James, Royce, and God knows
who all. He taught the works of my great-uncle, Borden Bowne. I
didn't know anything much about Borden Bowne, except that my grand-
mother didn't like him. But he had the complete works of Borden Bowne
which he offered me, and I wasn't much interested in Borden Bowne.
R: Well, how big was the philosophy department?
F: There was hardly anybody in it. So George got into the philosophy
department and built it up like crazy.
R: And that would have been 1946 or 1945?
F: No, it was after 1945. He stayed with English until, about
1947. Yeah, that would be about right.
R: Then George began to build up the philosophy department?
F: He built up the philosophy department just fine. It was going
great guns. They had James Willard Oliver. He was wonderful.
He was a logical positivist. It had Fred Connor. Fred Connor
was teaching mostly Santayana. He was crazy about Santayana.
And it had several other people. George taught sort of basic
Aristotle-Plato kind of things. The department doubled in size,
and they came along like a breeze. They were all pleased with
the philosophy department; Maybe it was, 1945, because George
decided that he would like to go abroad for a winter. We wanted
to go to Italy, and so we had leave to go to Italy for a while.
John by that time was in Princeton. We were going to take John
and Helen. Now Kate was married to Buck.
R: Kate's husband's full name was what?
F: Bernard Hanson. We were just going, the four of us, for a trip.
George had hired a new guy who had his degree from Harvard, and
who had quit his job, sold his house, and had a family and every-
thing. Then J. Hillis Miller came as president of the university.
He wanted George to get somebody like Bertrand Russell who would
make a stir; I mean, "Where is Bertrand Russell? Why he's teaching
at the University of Florida."
R: So Dr. Miller had hopes of getting Bertrand Russell here.
F: Not permanently, but just for a year. George didn't want to even
try that, because he didn't want to fire this guy who had gone
to all this trouble. Also he didn't think that Bertrand Russell
would build up the philosophy department. So he said, "Well, rather
than turn this poor man off, I will resign." And they all said,
"Oh, Dr. Fox, oh, Dr. Fox." But it was his word against the new
president's. They had to go by the new president's; so he resigned,
and we went ahead to Italy. We went in the summer and went around
England and Ireland. Then we went to Italy and spent a winter in
Florence. Then George got this job with the embassy.
R: Who was ambassador to Italy then?
F: Ellsworth Bunker. I don't know whether Ellsworth was a Democrat or
a Republican, but anyway he was a charming man--perfectly charming.
R: A career man in the state department?
F: Oh yes, he'd been there forever--you hear about him all the time.
He was extremely good, and we liked him very much indeed. We
also liked Mrs. Bunker. We got a house there which was a beautiful
medieval house, and Linda came down from Florence. Linda was the
cook we had in Florence. She took a great fancy to us, because I
wouldn't wear a bunch of keys and dole out the flour, sugar, butter,
and so forth that she was to cook with that day. The days she got
off, Mary Forrest Zabriski and Helen washed the dishes. We had
Mary Forrest to play with Helen while we were in Florence.
R: Was she an American child?
F: Oh, yes. Her father used to be Dean of the Episcopal Seminary up
here in Alexandria, Virginia. They lived next door to us in Maine.
R: How long have you had your Maine house?
F: Well, we were renting the house at first. After my parents died,
they sold Bourgios, which was fifty-two acres of land and just
a terrific house--the kind of house you can lose yourself in. This
is the family home in Charleston. So I couldn't go back there for
the summer. Jean Trowbridge, my roommate in college, told me that
there was a house for rent next door, because this was during the war.
The people who owned it, young men, were in the war. In fact, they
were in Gainesville. They were rooming with Fanida and Laura Becker.
We rented this house in Maine for about three years, and then when
George came back, we bought a house. We're up across Frenchman's
Bay from Bar Harbor--Hancock Point. The house was called Treetops,
because it's upside down. It's a pain in the neck, I may say. I've
been struggling with it ever since we bought it.
R: So the little girl who played with Kate in Rome had come from Hancock
Point, is that right?
F: She wasn't in Rome; she was in Florence. We spent our first winter
in Florence, and then George got this job with the State Department.
R: And he was cultural attache?
F: Yes, and that's the best job. The others have cocktail parties for
each other and we got to know lots and lots of Italians. I would be
put between the Mayor of Sorrento and the District Chief of Police
of Palermo, and I just had to talk to them. And so I did. My dentist
told me, "Don't take Italian lessons; go to the movies." So I went
to the movies and got to be very fluent although ungrammatical.
They'd say about me, "Se fa cahire" (She makes herself understood).
I can still do that. The only trouble is, it's ruined my French.
I've got a lot of French cousins, and they say I keep putting
Italian into my French. They're so much alike. It's the same
way in Spain.
R: Altogether, you were how long in Rome?
F: Well, in Italy altogether about four years, if you count the free
R: Who followed Ellsworth Bunker as the ambassador?
F: Claire Booth Luce followed Ellsworth Bunker, and George disagreed
with her politically. Now he liked old Henry Luce, and I did too.
George was in charge of all the Fulbrights, and we would have a
party every five minutes. Mrs. Luce was always looking over the
shoulder of somebody to find herself a cardinal to talk to.
R: She was a very devout Catholic?
F: Yes. And she thought I would be a very good proselyte. She thought
I was deeply religious and shouldn't be a Presbyterian.
R: Did she try to convert you?
F: She tried to convert me all the time. We'd go on trips, and she'd
have me sitting next to her. She told very good stories, and I
would cry. She and George differed on Vietnam kind of things and
politics in general. This was right in the middle of the McCarthy
bit. Mrs. Luce was very much opposed to tommies in the United States,
and after a while George decided to retire. But while we were there,
we entertained practically everybody. There was a lady who ran an
international magazine and everybody wanted to write in it. It was
called the Bottegha Oscura. She was an American; her name was the
R: And the name of her magazine again was?
F: Was the Bottegha Oscura (The Dark Shop). It was named after the
street that the Palazzo Cattani was on. She had a place called
Nympha, and it was about twenty miles south of Rome. It was a
little village that the Principe had. It was part of his family.
It had been destroyed by the Ghibellines fighting over it, and the
Principessa had made a garden out of it. There were these old
medieval chapels and things sort of halfway down, and she'd grown
roses all over them. She had little streams running through,
and she had the only two dogwood trees--one pink and one white--
that I ever saw in Italy, which shows they can grow there. How
beautiful they would be up against those cypresses--utterly
Anyway, she would have these luncheon parties with people
like Faulkner, Allen Tate, and literary guests who wanted to
appear. And the Principe Caetani was very bored with all these
luncheons. He found I was interested in music and showed me
his music. And do you know what? He studied with Liszt. He
was a very old customer. He showed me corrections on his music
in Liszt's handwriting that he was to go slower here, and he was
to make a crescendo here. He mostly studied Liszt, so he must
have been pretty good. He played the piano for me, and he was
fine. I guess he must have been in his nineties, because I think
Liszt was born about 1810. But we used to take all these people,
including Faulkner, down to Nympha. You could smell Nympha for
miles away. You could smell the roses. It was just lovely.
R: Now tell me about the time that you were having a party and
F: I've had lots of parties for Faulkner. Faulkner came, and he
began to act more and more like an old Mississippi farmer. I'd
have to have somebody to help tell me who was a contessa, who was
a principessa, who had been somebody else's mistress--you wouldn't
want to get them together--and even who was a doctoressa. They
had to be introduced not as just Mrs. Jones, but as a doctoressa,
and everybody had to have his title. This was very difficult for
me, but George had people in his office who would show me what to
do. They'd stand behind me and whisper. Anyway, Faulkner would
say, "Well, how're you. I'm not a literary man. I'm just an old
Mississippi farmer," and that kind of thing. And then he would
hold up his glass to me and show me how he wasn't drunk. He'd only
gone that far down with his glass.
R: He was just putting on an act?
F: Yes, he was putting on an act. And then he'd say, "Mr. Tate, he
ain't feeling so well. He's just going in there to lay down for
a bit," meaning Mr. Tate has had far too much to drink. All our
parties, however, were very sober except for one. We had been down
to Sicily for a meeting on Sicilian narrative. We went to Palermo,
and we took a slow train at Palermo to Messina. At Messina every-
body was exhausted, ard the man who ran the museum in Messina was
all excited about all these foreigners coming. He had got the
museum all fixed up to show them around, but they were too
sleepy to stay. So they all went back and took baths and a
nap. I stayed, and he gave me a terra cotta statue of Demeter
looking for Proserpina. It had been done 300 years before Christ.
Demeter was supposed to have lost Proserpina somewhere around Aetna,
R: Now Demeter was what?
F: Goddess of the earth. Persephone is a child. This was a statue
of Demeter on a horse, riding around looking for her daughter.
She was very sad. Persephone's the one who ate the pomegranate,
see, so that's why half the year she has to go back underground,
and then we have winter. We had all the Fulbrights, and we were
going to have about seventy-five people, and we got about 125.
Linda and Otello were about to go off their rocker. Otello
was passing martinis on a great big tray. One of these Princeton
Fulbrights was the worst. He would just take them and pour them
in a tumbler and have about eight of them at a time. Anyhow,
they got soused as coots. They did something to the electricity,
so it blew a fuse. We tried to get a man to gix it, and "oggi e
festa", (Today is a holiday), and we couldn't get it. But Otello
finally fixed it.
R: Otello was your manservant?
F: He was Linda's husband. He was a porter up there at the Pitti
Palace, but he came down to help with parties. The statue had
been made 300 years before Christ and in two weeks in my house
gets busted. I've been trying to think of a way to get it fixed.
I've still get all these remains, but they're little tiny pieces
of terra cotta.
R: But you had some interesting experiences in Rome when George was
F: Yes. George got to fighting with Mrs. Luce. Mrs. Luce would get
him to write a speech, and then she would turn it around and make
it mean just the opposite.
R: They just didn't agree politically, right?
F: Yes. This was the McCarthy era. After George had decided to
retire, there was a party given by Mrs. Luce for Thomas Mann.
Thomas Mann said that he had lived through the Nazi period in
Germany;he'd seen it coming; he'd written to the papers against
it. I remember my father in the '30s, sitting around reading
New York Times, and saying, "These Germans are not going to pay
any attention to Hitler. Look at this by Thomas Mann." Well,
anyway, Thomas Mann pulled out his napkin, put it on his lap,
and said to me, "Where are you going to go?" And I said, "Well,
we're going back to Gainesville. That's where we came from."
And Thomas Mann said, "Oh, you can't do that. I've lived through
the period of Nazism coming to pass in Germany. I know it when
I see it, and that's what's happening to you in your country."
R: He said that this country in the '50s was going through a pre-
F: Yes, exactly. I said, "Oh, go on. We're not like that." And
Thomas Mann said, "I know. I've moved my whole family over to
the United States." In the meantime Frau Mann was sitting next
to George, who was hanging on Thomas' words. But Frau Mann all
she could say was things like "Ja," and "Nicht." She still couldn't
speak English. George speaks German very well, so he could get
along with her. They lived in the United States, and then decided
that they were getting another Nazi world here, so they went and
lived in Switzerland.
R: They were disillusioned with the United States?
F: Yes. They were on their way to Switzerland.
R: I guess they came to this country in the wrong era.
F: Well, yes. I don't think we're an awful lot better now, but maybe
we are a little bit better.
R: Now, while you were in Italy you got very much interested in the
poverty stricken people of the southern provinces of Italy, did you not?
F: Calabria, yes. That's why I started Friends of Italy; I made speeches
all over the place.
R: And what were you trying to do?
F: We're trying to get money for the Unione Nacionali Per La Lotte
(The National Union for the Struggle Against Illiteracy).
R: They were all illiterate?
F: No, not all. They were about fifty-three percent illiterate, and
they were so intelligent. They [were] descended from Greeks, mostly,
and just full of intellectual curiosity. But they have been
beaten by everybody under the shining sun. I had gone down there
just as a tourist to see the southern part of Italy, and I was
absolutely sold on it, because they loved it so. The towns where
they had the centrie di cultura (the centers of culture), they'd
open up the windows and say, "Take a picture of me, take a picture
of me and my girl." But in the windows where they didn't have a
cento di cultura they would be peeking out behind the shutters.
They didn't know any arithmetic, so they couldn't figure out
about taxes; they didn't know how to sell their goods. Some of
them had never seen the ocean. I had a movie that I showed along
with my speech. I made a speech at Chapel Hill, here, Maine,
Charleston, West Virginia, Princeton--every place I could stick my
nose in and get anybody to invite me. I'd get money, James
Willard Oliver was our treasurer, and Buck thought up the programs.
George translated a play, and we put it on with Steve in the lead.
Francis Byers did "Leonardo's Anatomy", and Buck did the backgrounds
R: Now this is Buck who?
F: Buck Hanson, Kate's ex-husband.
R: He taught in what department?
F: He was art history. We sent it through the Friends Service
Committee, because they could get it tax-free. James Willard
Oliver would get the money. And you know Mandel Barken, how funny
he was. There was just the three of us--we had no secretary or
treasurer. I did the cooking, and we had expresso and some kind of
Italian dish every evening. We only had $3.00 dues, and they got
an awful lot for their money, because I spent more than that on food.
R: This would have been about what years, now?
F: It's sort of the middle '50s. We got back in 1954, and it was after
that. I started it while George was making a series of speeches
out in the Pacific Coast. He made a lot of speeches out there about
Italy and the political situation.
R: So you were both concerned about the conditions in Italy?
F: Yes. This southern part of Italy was on the wrong side in the
Punic Wars. Rome beat them up an awful lot and cut down all
their trees to make boats to fight Carthage. They were great
old bandits; they were wild people; they assisted Garibaldi
R: Do they have these family feuds as they do in Sicily?
F: I've seen a procession with their Madonna going down the road,
meeting another procession with their Madonna; they throw the
Madonna down to one side of the road and fight like crazy about
who's got the best and the real Madonna. I also found out what
it meant about this Biblical thing about bricks without straw.
They have a town, San Giorgio, and they don't have any electricity;
they don't have any running water; they have kids running up the
hill to carry water. The houses are all on hills to get away from
the mosquitoes, because there's malaria down below. They keep
their pigpens down below, because they think that the pigs can't
get malaria. The mosquitoes can't get through their hide, and
they won't suffer from malaria. And the pigpens are just like the
R: After the war did the American government try to do something about
the conditions in Italy?
F: I don't think so.
R: Have you been back to Italy in more recent years?
F: Oh, yes.
R: Do you consider the conditions there much improved?
F: No, I think it's much worse. It's awful. Italy's in terrible shape
now. When we were there, they had a thing in the government, Per il
Mezzo Giorno. The Mezzo Giorno is the south. The trouble was they
had these people plant trees, which was very good--prevented erosion.
They were always having floods. They planted the trees, and when the
overseers' back was turned, they'd dig them all up again. The reason
they did that was so they'd have a job next year. That just breaks
my heart. They all come out and stand around the piazza at five
o'clock in the morning, the owner of the property lives way up north
somewhere in Milano. But the overseer comes up and says, "I'll take
you and you and you." And then the rest of them would all go home
and have a workless day and no money.
R: Would you call it a system of peonage?
F: I don't know what peonage is. There's what they had in Ireland--
R: And the peasants sort of go with the land.
F: Yes, they go with the land. This Mezzo Giorno deal would give
them land and a house. They are used to going down hill and doing
their land very early in the morning and then coming back. They
like to sit around the wine house in the evening or around the
piazza and talk. They're very sociable. They don't want to live
in a little pink house about 100 hectares away from the next
little blue house. [The live in] close communion. Also they
think they'll get malaria, and they probably will if they're down
there. There was a force going around pulling up water; then the
kids ran down, and they got a shoulder thing and buckets hanging
down and ran up the hill with the water.
R: Bee, were the people here in Gainesville very much interested in
your efforts to help the people?
F: They were darling, perfectly darling. The trouble is, both Buck
and James Willard Oliver left, and I couldn't do it all by myself.
Anyway we had very good attendance and I think we had Eddie Priader
playing Italian music, and Muriel Williamson giving a Scarlatti
R: Now George was happy in his work here. What was he doing?
F: George came back, and he worked for Jake Wise. Jake Wise was doing
C-3 which is just freshman English. Sue Wise was with me, and you
were too in my anti-Vietnam campaign--the old peace ladies campaign.
R: Yes, we were the peace-niks, and you'll remember we marched down
F: Yes, I certainly do.
R: I remember you gave us all those white plastic doves to put on
the aerials of our cars. You know somebody stole my peace dove
in a parking lot. I depended on it to find my car. Can you
imagine stealing a peace dove?
F: Well, yes, I certainly can. These days it's terrible.
R: We used to write letters to the congressmen.
F: Yes, and Sue Wise wrote letters to Mrs. Kruschev. They had a
R: I would write letters to Mrs. Johnson. It didn't do a bit of good.
F: [It] didn't do a bit of good--I know. I think Sue maybe should
have sold it to the papers. The New York Times and our local
papers asked for her correspondence with Madame Kruschev. She
had several letters. We all wrote--I did, and several other
people wrote. Madame Kruschev paid no attention to us. But
there was something about Sue's letter that got her. Sue wanted
me to say a prayer at the beginning of every meeting. I would
write these prayers and then give them to Sue to see if they got
by, because the Wise family had been to Russia. They'd gone to
the Baptist church which was crowded.
R: I've been to that big Baptist church in Moscow myself--one of the
biggest churches I ever saw. People were out in the streets with
loudspeakers. There were so many people there.
F: I thought that was very interesting. Reading my nineteenth century
Russian, I feel that Russians are very deeply religious.
R: I went over with Dr. Jerome Davis, and he took a bunch of Bibles
printed in Russian to that church. He would do that every year.
F: In the meantime George was teaching for Jake. George and Jake
just got along like a breeze. George had had trouble with Mrs.
Luce, he'd had trouble with various people in his day, but with
Jake he just was right. Jake thought the same ting he did polit-
ically and otherwise, and it was just fine. About 1963 he re-
tired. That would make him sixty-five. When he retired, we went
R: Why did he retire so early?
F: Well, by that time my family had died, we had enough money, and
we could go to Spain. He was sort of bored with grading freshman
R: Had you lost your daughter Helen by this time?
F: No, it was in 1963 that I lost her--on Christmas day.
R: And how did that happen?
F: It's just like the Bridge of San Luis Rey. Helen had had a
great success in England, but the union insisted that she
become an English citizen. She'd gone to the Royal School of
Dramatic Art. She had been there with Albert Finney; a whole
lot of famous actors were in her class. She made a big hit
in England, and she was doing fine. But she refused for patriotic
reasons to change her nationality. She went to New York, struggled
and worked, and moiled and toiled, and had a terrible time. Her
friends would say to me, "Oh, Helen, my goodness, you musn't worry
about her. She's been in two Broadway plays in one year." But
what she had to say in these Broadway plays was, "Oh, tea." I've
never even said it right. When she first got over to the school,
she said she couldn't even say her own name right. It was Helen
Fox. She lived with my cousin Helen Howard for a long time, and
then she lived with her friends in the Royal Academy of Dramatic
Art. She had a good time over there, but she had to come home
and struggle in this Broadway bit. Then she worked for the
Shakespeare in the Park group. That's where she met Stuart, and
after a good many years, she married Stuart.
R: Now what was his last name?
F: Stuart Vaughn. He was directing and she was acting. They had a
little apartment in New York, and they practically just saw each
other on the stairs. Then they went out to Seattle, and he was
director of the repertory theater and they had a house on an island
off Seattle. Helen was just crazy about it. She said the people
in Seattle regarded this repertory theater as something like Mt.
F: So they invited her to garden parties, and she'd put on a big straw
hat and have a bunch of red roses. She also did records of poetry
for the radio in Seattle and she did television programs for cook-
ing. She was a marvelous cook. She also acted in various plays,
and was going to be in "The Seagull," as the lead and the study
for that, when she died. She was killed in a motor accident. I
always like to warn people about this because she had a tiny little
red Volkswagon. She was carrying a great big enormous load of
wood, much too big for that car. She just stopped behind a truck.
It was an icy day, and she bumped into the truck, just barely
skidding, couldn't have been going more than twenty-five miles per
hour. They'd called us because the truck driver hadn't even noticed
it. A log came forward and hit her in the back of the head.
R: How terrible.
F: This was before they had those things sticking up in the back of the
front seats of cars. So I always try to remind people of things like
that, not to overload the back of your car.
R: Right. Tell us about your other two children, Kate and John.
F: Well, John became a physicist. He graduated from Princeton. He was
in the navy for four years, and then he went to graduate school out
in Washington University, which at that time was very good in physics.
He then went to Brookhaven in Long Island. Then went to Paris. Then
went to Hamburg. He got tired of living in Germany and wanted to come
back to this country, although the lab at Hamburg he liked very much.
He did a lot of what he considered very important research that got
published. But he didn't know German very well and preferred to be
in the United States. He came back here at a very bad time because
there were very few high-paying, specializing physics jobs left. So
he took a job with Columbia at their lab up on the Hudson. And their
lab is, I think now, about to fold. He is doing another experiment
that he admires very much, but if they can't get any more money, they
are not going to have a lab for Columbia, and he will be out of a
job along with about thirty other people.
Kate has just got her doctorate at Harvard. She has three grown
children. Bridget graduated from Yale, her oldest child, and then
went to Tufts [University] Medical School. She graduates from Tufts
Medical School on the twenty-first of this month, and she becomes an
M.D. She is coming down here to Shands CTeaching Hospital, University
of Florida] as an intern. She was down here about a week ago, and we
looked around and looked around for houses right away. For some reason
she doesn't want to be in an apartment. She wants to be in a house
about as far away from the hospital as possible. So we got one and
she is now going to pack up her clothes and come down and settle in.
Kate is coming down also this month, but Kate's is just a
social visit. She is teaching rather silly stuff, considering Kate's
brain. Something about punctuation, what is the meaning of the colon
or the comma, things like that, and teaching it to freshman and soph-
omores in Tufts. But at any rate, it's a job, and it gives her some
money to spend. John Burnett went to Northeastern, which is...
R: Which is your eldest grandson?
F: Grandson. And John Burnett went to Northeastern, but he's quit North-
eastern and is now working as a mechanic, I guess, in a garage.
Benjamin Barnett is in his third year now at Brown University. We
all go up to Maine in the summer where we have a house.
R: I see. So Kate has two sons.
F: Two sons and one daughter.
R: And one daughter. How old is the daughter?
F: Oh, Bridget's twenty-six.
R: Now, John, I believe, John is not married--your son.
F: John is not married. I'd like to get him married, but I don't see
any way to do it, since he's sort of now in a limbo. John's trouble
is that he is a particle physicist, and he has to have an accelerator
and it costs a fortiu-'e.- The machinery in Hamburg was excellent. And
he would stay there if only he liked it in Germany, but he doesn't.
R: I guess he's married to his profession.
F: Well, but that's rather hard if your profession is too expensive to
R: Right. Now let's go back to your coming to Gainesville and all the
different things you did for this community, because we haven't fully
covered that yet. I would like to hear something about those one-room
schools that you used to visit long ago.
F: Well, in 1940, when I first came here, there were a lot of one-room
schools in Alachua County. They taught from the first through the
eighth grade. I was particularly interested because my grandmother,
the grandmother who graduated from the first class that ever graduated
from Vassar, had taught in one-room schools when she was a girl. She
taught in order to pay her way through Vassar. But these were, there
was one in Waldo, which I'd particularly admired,and there was elec-
tricity. I would drive up with my car full of machinery and when
there was electricity we could have a movie about "Little Mr. Germ"
to cheer the children on to go into Gainesville to the Courthouse
Square and get shots for their lungs for TB. So the boys would help
me put up the machinery and we'd have a movie on "Little Mr. Germ"
and how he would climb into you when you didn't eat enough when you
were little and then he would go and hide in the spleen when you got
healthy and then he would break out again when you got to be nineteen.
R: Now I believe this was before days when we had a county health department.
F: Yes, it was. It was before that. After that I worked with the health
department and the League of Women Voters. But this one school in
Waldo I remember particularly, because there were pigs rooting around
the school. It had one picture over this teacher's desk and it said
underneath it, "Our President," and it was a picture of Jefferson
Davis. Well, after that, I worked for the league, and when the league
first started, I was on the speaker's bureau. I was the only person on
the speaker's bureau. I had to go and make a small five-minute speech
to every organization in town, including all the veteran's organizations
and everything, and they were...
R: With the men's clubs.
F: And the men's clubs, oh yes, and the Kiwanis and the Rotary, so forth
and so on. We started the league, and Eve didn't know very many people.
Of course, she hadn't been in town very long.
R: Eve Davidson.
F: Eve Davidson. And so she got me to get people in, and we met with a lady
from Washington, who came down to see if we could be a genuine League
of Women Voters. She said, "This sounds more like a social register
than a league. You want people from the carpenter's union and the elec-
trician's union and so forth." And I said, "Well, I've made speeches
to the ladies of the carpenter's union and the electrician's union,
and they hadn't joined up, nothing much to do." Then I said, "How
about my making some speeches to the black people and see what they
will do?" And your remember Bert Florida?
R: Yes, I remember Bert Florida.
F: And Bert Florida said, "Bee Fox, did I hear what you said?"
R: That was for voting.
F: That was for voting, but I said, "This is not a social organization.
This is to show people how to vote, and it's much better for them to
know what they're voting about than just to go out and vote because
somebody gives them a dollar.
R: Of course, very few of them voted, very few black people voted in
those days, but some did.
F: Yes, some did. And they might as well study up on it before they
voted. But at any rate, several people agreed with me and Bert
Florida was even more upset. But we didn't have any black people,
I think, in the early league.
R: Oh no, indeed no. Don't have many now.
F: Don't we? I didn't know that. I, well after that, we got a health
department here, and I was the local resource chairman, and as the
local resource chairman I worked on rats and mosquitoes and restaurants.
R: Rats, mosquitoes, and restaurants?
F: Yeah, that's local resources. I never did finish with rats. Rats
are very hard. I got those, these machines that go around and squirt
mosquitoes, because Dr. Thomas said that if we spent the same amount
of money getting rid of mosquitoes and the malaria bugs that cause
these diseases that we would spend about half as much as we've spent
every year on malaria. So we probably did get rid of the mosquitoes,
because at another time when I went to the local health department,
there hadn't been a case of malaria in Alachua County for a long time.
R: Oh yes. When we first came in 1938, malaria was quite frequent here.
F: Well, they said everyone had malaria in childhood. You couldn't let
the children out of doors after dusk. Then the restaurants. Dr.
Hall showed me the restaurant law. It sounded like a splendid law to
me. It said what you had to do, but the point was, according to Dr.
Hall, that you had to prove it. In short, you had to go in and take
a picture of the waitresses not washing their hands and that's kind of
a hard thing to do. So he wanted a new law passed in which you could
go in and find a hole in the screen, or dirty dishes, or cockroaches, or
something wrong, and simply after three offenses you could pull down
the restaurant's license. I am not positive whether we ever got that
passed or not, but I think we did. Dr. Hall got a man down from Wash-
ington, and our grade was forty-nine out of a possible 100. That rather
scared people and I may say that the only two restaurants that passed--
one was the, what's this very old restaurant down on University Avenue?
R: The Primrose Inn?
F: Primrose Inn and the White House Hotel. The Thomas Hotel was absolutely
way down on the list.
R: My goodness. Well, that was a very bad score, but good for you for
finding it out.
F: Then I got to work on rats, and rats still, I have no doubt, eat up the
most stupendous amount of money. Nobody can get very ambitious about
rats, but rats ought to be easy, because in Baltimore you could clean
out one block and get all the rats out of that block, and they won't
move to another block. They have very careful laws about which block
they belong in. This may be more than a blockbut which is their area.
And if a rat that is born between Twenty-First and Twenty-Second Street
goes over to Twenty-Third Street, they kill it immediately. The rats
R: Well, we used to have a good many rats inour neighborhood over near
Finley School, and we had them in our house occasionally, but we
haven't had any for a good many years, so they must be doing something
about the rats now, I expect.
F: I think they must be, because I haven't heard much about them. Well,
then I went to Rome about that time and didn't finish up with the rats.
F: But I was resource chairman before that, before I went to Rome. And
then afterwards, when George went in the Second World War, I was sort
of opposed to his going into the Second World War because he'd been
in the First World War and I thought he was old enough to take it easy.
But he went in anyway. And so I bought this $7,000.00 house I am living
R: When was it you did the Girl Scout work?
F: Well, that was then, while George was away. I did Girl Scouts and
Cubs and Brownies. George was here part of the time when we did the
Cubs. George was very good at being at a den dad. Alton Morris was
R: Akela, oh yeahthe Indians.
F: They named him after the Jungle Books, you know. Akela will lead them
on, and they were ridiculous songs, but John enjoyed the Cubs very
much. And I enjoyed the Brownies. The Girl Scouts I didn't enjoy
nearly so much because they were getting to the age where they wanted
to be out with the boys, but the Brownies were very enthusiastic. We
had a fat salvage program and we won the prize. There were only
three Brownie troops in town. The butcher George--what was his name--
George Linzmayer, kept score for us and we would collect fat from
restaurants and from our own kitchens and so forth. There was a tub
marked "Troop 1," "Troop 2," "Troop 3," of Brownies. My troop, I
forget which name it was, but anyway, it won.
R: Now what was that fat used for during the war, to make soap?
F: No, that was the big catch. It was used to make gunpower. We made
it and we sent it off to Proctor and Gamble. They got the fat out of
it and sent the, oh, what is that material?
R: Potash. Well, I know you use potash to make soap. I don't...
F: No, it's not really. It's--they made soap--but it's something that
you get out of fat that you make gunpowder out of.
F: I guess it is, but at any rate, I wondered, because the great many
people out in the country wanted to make their own soap, because they
do make their own soap. Essie Ames and I, at John's recommendation,
John was reading Jules Verne, The Mysterious Island, where they landed
on an island in the Civil War with nothing but a dog collar. And pretty
soon they had locomotives running around and everything else, and they
made gunpowder out of manatees. They killed them and got their fat, and
made gunpowder, and made dynamite, and blew up the inside of a cliff
and lived in it. So John told us how to make gunpowder and we decided
to make it ourselves. And just about the time we were successful,
Essie Ames and I had heard, by God, the war was over.
R: You mean you were making soap, but not gunpowder. You wouldn't make
F: Yeah, we found out how to get the gunpowder out of the soap, and send
that on, and not bother with Proctor and Gamble.
R: Nobody but you would do that. But you were for peace always later on.
F: Yes. Oh yeah. But I was for winning this war with Hitler, and
later on I was for peace. But I taught them. We salvaged the fat,
the Brownies, and I taught them all. We got so much money and so
many tickets that we could do all kinds of things after that. We'd
go out riding, and they were riding out at Mrs. Blake's. They went
swimming out at this pool out here on Twenty-Third Avenue. They sent
a lady down from Washington who told me that I couldn't take them
camping all night, but we did go, had gone camping all night lots of
times. I'd have one child doing the cooking, and one child picking
up the garbage, and one child doing this and that. I had twenty-
three Brownies. I was covered with snakebite kits. It wasn't until
after it was all over, three years later, that I would wake up in
the night in a cold sweat wondering what I would have done, if we
had danger; a snakebite or drowning or something.
Because Kate sometimes went with me as what they called "the
tawny owl." I was "the brown owl." Kate was the tawny owl. They,
the children, had been poking at a cottonmouth moccasin in the creek.
It would have been, of course with Kate there she could have driven
them in, but I also went out with them all by myself on occasion.
Then the lady from Washington said we couldn't do that because that
was taking away from what the Girl Scouts would do.
R: Oh, I see. That was too advanced, huh?
F: That was too advanced, but they loved it. They absolutely adored it,
except they didn't like maple syrup. We had pancakes and maple syrup,
and they wanted molasses.
R: Molasses. They wanted molasses?
F: Yeah, they wanted regular....
R: I imagine not liking maple syrup.
F: I don't. I got real maple syrup from up north, in honor of them. Yeah.
R: They didn't realize what a treat it was.
F: And Mr. [sic, Dr.] Townes R. Leigh [Dean, College of Arts and Sciences]
wouldn't tell me how to make nitroglycerine out of this fat.
R: She would, she would tell you how to do it?
F: Not Mrs. Townes R. Leigh, but Mr. Townes R. Leigh. He was the head
of the chemistry department. He hid behind a black cloud, but we
found it out from reading Jules Verne. He could make it out of,
what do you call those little sea cows--manatees. Well, then we could
make it, too.
R: I think they are protected animals now.
F: No, but we didn't know. We didn't want manatees. We just wanted to
get the fat from the farmers around the country.
R: Yes, uh huh.
F: And get the nitroglycerine out and make it, and still they could make
soap out of it, where we could find soap, and so we wanted to try that.
And we got the prize, by the way. I was the best fat salvage chairman
in Alachua County, and Alachua County was the best in Florida, and
Florida was the best in the United States. Then I got in the Woman's
Club just to be, just so Helen could go to all of the woman's dances.
Kate never wanted to.
R: This is a social must in those days if you had a teenage daughter. You
had to be...
F: Yeah, I had to be in the Woman's Club. But I didn't do anything in the
Woman's Club. I did a few book reviews. I played the accompaniement
to the "Star Spangled Banner" for somebody to sing. Later on, in the
University Woman's Club, I was historian, but I didn't do much in it
either. That Mrs. Townes R. Leigh's remarks in the University Women's
Club were a scream. But I was historian and I had to go over all old
minutes and she would, her remarks were very, very funny.
R: Tell us about Mrs. Townes R. Leigh's suppers.
F: Well, I only went to one.
R: Harvest moon supper?
F: Harvest moon supper, and Mrs. Townes R. Leigh would get very sentimental
about getting sand in your shoes and never leaving Florida. I only went
to one of them, but I rather enjoyed it.
R: Did you go to the one where she requested that each of us bring a little
bag of dirt from wherever...?
F: From our yard?
R: From where we were born, wasn't it? From the state we were born in?
F: I don't know. I wasn't there.
R: Oh boy, yeah.
F: I think I went to the last one, because I remember Teresa and Ernie
[Ernest G.] Atkin [Professor of French] getting up and leaving. And
I remember Cliff [Clifford P.] Lyons [Chairman, Division of Language
and Literature] saying Mrs. Townes R. Leigh wanted something from him.
He said, "Well, we'll get a committee."
R: I think Era Heath was often a mistress of ceremonies.
R: There were some ceremonies, yes.
F: But I don't know how they got Mrs. Leigh to stop.
R: She didn't stop until she became ill.
F: Didn't she?
R: I don't think so.
F: Well then, let's see, after George came back from the war, I quit the
Brownies, and started getting excited about peace, because this was
the time of....
R: Of the Korean War?
F: Well, no, it was the time of [Joseph R.] McCarthy [Senator]. I told
you, didn't I, in this family party, about sitting next to, oh, dear,
I can't think of anybody's name. Thomas Mann.
R: And when you told us a while back about what Thomas Mann said about
the United States being an incipient fascist country.
R: And so you were very active during the McCarthy Era, against McCarthy,
F: Well, you see, that was one of the reasons he was leaving the United
R: Thomas Mann, yes.
F: Thomas Mann. And he sat through it in Germany and had to leave. And
then he said he recognized the same symptoms here and would have to
go home. So when I got back, I did recognize that these were the
symptoms, and started up on the branch of the Women's Strike for
Peace. And we sent Claire Stryker to Russia.
R: Was this a meeting that she went to in Russia--a woman's meeting of
F: Well, the Women's Strike for Peace, of course, was started in Wash-
ington, and we were just a branch of it. I forget how many of us
there were. We were to work for peace down here, and we did a number
of things in honor of peace. One of the things was the Russians
were going to pay the way of these peace-loving women. This was under
Khrushchev. And Madame Khrushchev also agreed to start up a corre-
spondence which Mary Sue refused to sell to the Sun or the Times Union
or anything else, because she thought it would be a bad idea.
R: Now those letters have never been published?
F: They've never been published. She still has them.
R: Well, they certainly should be published.
F: I think so, too. And she could have the...,
R: Maybe she would let the Florida Press publish now because they would
have some historic value, I think.
F: Well, at any rate, she didn't publish them. We had a milk strike at
the time, because the milk was getting--this was after, of course, the
bomb. The milk was getting polluted with...
R: Atomic residues.
F: Atomic residues. I forget what else we did. I remember that you and
I drove down to St. Petersburg to hear a general speak on peace.
R: Yes. Forget his name now.
F: I've forgotten his name, but he spoke very well. But the most important
thing, I think, was sending Clair Stryker to Russia, because that
caused a terrific stir. She had a very nice time in Russia, and wasn't
afraid that they would attack us, and came home and spoke to every
group in town, practically, about peace. And I think she did a lot
to calm us down, although we seemed to be still a little roused up
about it. Then George and I worked very hard on the other McCarthy.
Not the war McCarthy, but the peace McCarthy.
R: Eugene McCarthy--Eugene.
F: Eugene McCarthy came to visit in Maine at the Trowbridges. Clint
Trowbridge is a godson of mine.
R: Your neighbors in Maine?
F: Yes, well, my roommate lives next door in Maine, and Clint is my
godchild, and McCarthy lived in Clint's house. The idea was that he
was going to, he was going to stay in this house and'write speeches
and write statements and do things like that. The place was full of
secret service men, and Mary Crocker, whose husband was head of
Groton School, came to call, and saw him talking to the younger child-
ren about poetry. She said, "Look, you could put a bullet right
through the back of his head." The secret service men jumped up out
of a bush and said, "Oh, no, you couldn't, ma'am." But we didn't have
to feed the secret service men. As Gus said, they just ate peanut
butter sandwiches in the bushes. But at any rate, the point was that
McCarthy was a great disappointment to me, because whenever anybody
went sailing, he came out and wanted to go too. He didn't stay shut
up in his little house writing.
His chief interest was religion. Religion, poetry, baseball, and
R: So he didn't really concentrate enough on politics?
F: He didn't work very hard on politics, and after his visit, I felt
for heaven sakes! We, George and I, gave all our money to the
McCarthy campaign, you see. We had worked for, I just can't think of--
Stevenson. We worked very hard for Stevenson. Stevenson, I think, would
have been an excellent president, because he was interested in politics.
Politics came first with him. But McCarthy was so much interested in
other things, and wanted to go sailing. I never thought he could do
the work necessary to be president, and so after his visit to Maine,
I calmed down on McCarthy. I think a lot of people did the same thing.
I noticed that very few of the peace-loving members of Congress were
working hard in favor of McCarthy, but that's about all I can think of.
Now I belong to the Garden Club, but I have done very little in the
R: Well, now you were active in your church. Did you belong to Bible
study groups? Didn't you lead a Bible study group?
F: Yes, I, we have, you know, Bible studies with each circle. And I
remember I had made speeches to the young people in the church. I
said, "In la sua volonta e nostra pace." And that is, as you know,
from Dante. And I translated it for them, "In His will is thy peace,"
and they almost split their sides laughing at it. So I didn't feel that
I was getting anywhere with my young people in Bible studies, because
they were really too young and too uneducated for me to get anywhere
with. Now the good old Presbyterian women are smart as whips. That is,
when I have taught Bible to them, they have been right in there like
R: They know their Bible.
F: Well, they not only know the Bible, they know....
R: They know life.
F: They know a lot about life. They know a lot about T. S. Eliot. They
know a lot about Yeats, and I read them that Yeats poem, you know,
about the second coming, and that had a profound effect on them. I think
Presbyterian women are smart cookies.
R: Well, they got a little education when they were coming through school
which the kids today don't get.
F: Which the kids now don't get. Yeah. So I did that, I remember, teaching
Galatians one time. But now the only thing I've got down here, I believe,
are these notes. You didn't want me to leave out my questions.
R: I wanted you to go back to your girlhood and the wonderful opportunities
you had to meet some of the famous people of that day. Tell us about
F: Well, the thing about that is that I was like these children who laughed
right in when I said, "In la sua volonta e nostra pace." That is, I
thought I was a pretty smart young girl. On the other hand, I didn't
get anything. I met [Bernard] Berenson, who was at the height of his
power at that time, and spoke I don't know how many foreign languages.
And I had lunch with him up in Fiesole.
R: How did this come about that you had this opportunity?
F: Why, this old man, Mr. Greenwho was on the boat with us, the Columbo,
which sailed from New York and took a long time to get to Naples, he
liked to stand me up in front of things and see how I reacted, and my
father had got acquainted with him. He was about my father's age, I
think. He had graduated from Harvard in 1896, around there. And he
went back and helped his father, who was an engineer; they made
that land on the edges of Chicago, where they had the World's Fair.
And later on, he got mad at his father, left home, and went around the
world. He went around the world because he didn't like being an en-
gineer in Chicago. He said to himself that he would keep on this way
until he was forty-five, and then he would have used up all his money,
and then he would commit suicide. But before he used up all his money,
he bought a lime grove in Dominica in the Windward Islands. He only
had to be back at the lime grove once a year in the spring when the
limes were ripe. He sold them to the Coca Cola people and the rest of
the time he traveled around, and he knew absolutely everybody. He
took me to see Berenson, who was on his hill outside of Florence. And
[George] Santayana, who was in a hospital with the Blue Nuns in Rome.
And Gertrude Stein, whom he'd known for years, ever since they were in
R: In Paris.
F: No, they were in college in....
R: I mean did he--she was living in Paris.
F: She was living in Paris then, yes. But I was just sort of sucking my
thumb. I didn't know who these people were, and so I was no more...
I was impressed with Santayana.
R: What impresses you about him? Was he, he must have been old, do you
F: Oh yes. He was old and he was really dying, I think. He was in bed in
the hospital of the Blue Nuns. Well, one of the things that impressed
me is that Santayana was deeply religious. Deeply religious in a Roman
Catholic way, and yet very skeptical. Someone said of him that, "For
him, there is no God and Mary is His mother." That's--there's some-
thing in that. That is, he was a very deeply religious Catholic and
at the same time a very skeptical human being. Now Gertrude I don't
remember except that she was very fat.
R: Did you get the autographs of these famous people?
F: No, no. No, I wasn't interested in autographs and I wasn't interested
in, well, I wasn't much interested in them. I was interested in Picasso's
pictures. Yeah, he was young. Yeah, I was old enough to know about it.
R: About what age were you?
F: About twenty-two, but I'd never seen any pictures before. I'd heard a
lot of music and read a lot of books, but there are no decent museums
in West Virginia. There, we had a lot of music in our house, but we,
more or less, got it up. We had a lot of musicians coming to visit.
But there were no, and we didn't, when we went to New York every winter,
we didn't go to art museums much. I had Maxfield Parrish.
R: Yes, we did in those days, uh huh. Yes, I think there's a sort of a
revival of interest in his type of art now among some sophisticated
young people. Bee, now that you've reached this point in your life,
how do you feel about living in Gainesvillealone in a big house?
F: It isn't a big house, but I like Gainesville. But I get lonesome. I
get lonesome, I've got a lot of friends and go out a good deal, but I
would like to have a family around.
R: Yes. Well, what we need in Gainesville is a pleasant and secure place
for older people to live, where they can have their friends around them
in a social light. We thought we had this in Garden Glen Manor, but
it's gone bankrupt. Well, maybe someday we'll have one here in Gaines-
F: Well, no, what I want is for Kate to be living over there with her
family, and John to be living over here with his family, and that kind
of thing. You see, if you're brought up with....
R: Well, that's what we would all prefer, yes. But I think the days when
you could have that are gone forever.
F: You do?
R: Except with a few lucky people. Now I have kinfolks in Jackson, Miss-
issippi, who, my mother lived in one house and one of her sons lived
nearby and another daughter-in-law lived nearby, a widowed daughter-in-
law. So they had a sort of a compound of family houses. In many
southern towns you have still three or four family relatives living
close together. Well, you had it in Plains, Georgia, among the Carters.
That's a typical example.
F: Yes, well, we had it in Charleston, West Virginia.
R: You still have it in Charleston? And you've thought about the possibility
of going back to Charleston?
F: Yes, but it's so commercial and awful now.
R: But you still have relatives there?
F: Oh yeah. Lots of them.
R: Yes. Well, you might enjoy spending some of the summers there now
that Maine is sort of rugged for us. The older we get, Maine gets
F: Yes, it does.
R: ...if you've got a house by yourself in Maine. But could you go visit
your relatives in Charleston?
F: I do. I go every winter.
R: I see, in the winter.
F: In the winter. And last winter was rather difficult because they'd
had such a rough winter.
R: I would think spring or fall would be a better time.
F: Well, that, and some of my relatives who come down to visit me.
R: Yes. Well, of course, spring is such a nice time here. You have
a beautiful garden. I was just noticing how lovely it is. Well,
thank you so much. We really do appreciate this for our Oral History
Project, and, as you know, this will be typed up for your correction.
F: Well, it certainly needs correction. I'll look at it.
R: And then it will be released to go into the archives of our Florida
[State] Museum for the edification of future generations, let's say.
Thank you so much.
F: I hope they are better than these students, "In la sua volonta e
R: Well, they are the students of history. Otherwise they wouldn't be
F: Yes, that's right.