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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
INTERVIEWEE: Mrs. Ila Pridgen
INTERVIEWER: Mrs. Emily Ring
DATE: December 12, 1977
R: We are in the home of Mrs. Ila Pridgen on Lake Santa Fe, about
twenty-five miles from Gainesville. The date is December 12, 1977.
Ila, I want you to tell me where you were born, and who your parents
P: My father was David Rountree, who was a contractor. And my mother
was Annie Lofton, a schoolteacher in a little one room school in
Rocky Point [North Carolina]. Because I was an only child for a
long time, and mother had to be away and there was nobody to take
care of me, I began school when I was about four or five years old.
This was to keep me out of mischief, I reckon. But it did mean that
I graduated from high school earlier.
R: Yes. This was a one room schoolhouse?
P: It was a one room country school.
R: Was there a little stove there?
R: Did you have to walk to school?
P: Did I what?
R: Did you walk to school?
P: Oh, yes, it was just a very short distance.
R: I see. Of what occupation was your father?
P: He was a contractor.
R: Yes, and your mother had how many children?
P: Well, she had a little son, Robert. He was about three years younger
than I. Then Robert died with hemorrhagic fever when he was quite
young. A terrific loss. And then a few years later, my sister,
Elizabeth, was born.
R: Yes, we have made a recording of Elizabeth.
P: Mother only had the three children.
R: I see.
P: But two of us survived.
R: And where, after you left the one room schoolhouse, did you go to
P: We moved to Wilmington [North Carolina], and so I went directly,
I was, oh about ten years old, nine or ten years old, and because I
had gone forward so fast in the one room school, I entered the sixth
grade in Wilmington.
R: My goodness.
P: Naturally of course, I graduated early.
R: Yes. And then did you go on from there to school?
P: Well, of course, I went on through the graded school, and then on
through the high school. And then I went to St. Mary's, Raleigh
[North Carolina]. I had won a competitive scholarship, which was a
P: It was a Murchison scholarship, worth about $5,000.
R: Oh, that was a lot of money in those days.
P: It was an awful lot of money.
R: Well, now, St. Mary's in Raleigh is a girls' Episcopal school
P: It was a 4-year college at the time, but now is a junior college.
R: I see.
P: It's now more advanced. But it's a lovely school, and I'm deeply
grateful to God that I could go to St. Mary's, because otherwise
I would never have known, probably, anything about the Episcopal
R: I believe it's still flourishing.
P: Oh, yes. One of the oldest schools in the South.
P: And incidentally, I think this is very interesting. My grandmother
was there during the Civil War.
R: You don't mean it!
P: She was there during the Civil War.
She visited me while I was a student
teachers was one of her friends when
And I was awfully proud of it.
at Raleigh. And one of the
she was there during the Civil
R: And so you came to the Episcopal Church through St. Mary's.
P: Through St. Mary's.
R: From the Presbyterian?
P: No, from the Baptist.
R: From the Baptist church; I see.
P: I joined the Baptist church when I was in Wilmington. I had pneumonia,
and we were strangers in a big city for that time. The Baptist minister
was perfectly lovely to me. He was an older man, about sixty years
R: Now did you have any ambitions at that time for a career? Girls didn't,
weren't supposed to have careers in those days in the South, were they?
P: No. After I graduated from St. Mary's, which was in 1910, I married
Dr. Claude L. Pridgen. And he, had an early call into the military
service, in the Meidcal Corps in World War I.
R: You were quite young when you married him.
P: I was nineteen.
P: Before Dr. Pridgen went into service, the Rockefeller Foundation
gave $1,000,000 toward the eradication of hookworm in the South.
It was not prevalent in the North; it doesn't thrive in the cold
climate, but it was very prevalent in the South.
R: Tell us why hookworm was so prevalent in the South.
P: Well, people had no indoor toilets. If they had an outdoor toilet,
it was very fortunate, but unsanitary. But they often used the out-
doors, and then they went and planted vegetables and all in the gardens.
That's a terrible thing, but it's the truth. And the larvae got into
the food, don't you know. And that was the reason it was so prevalent.
R: Got into the bloodstream, and gave them hookworm disease, which
took out the red corpuscles, I believe.
P: Yes, it was the reason they were all pale.
R: It reduced the hemoglobin, I believe, yes.
P: Yes. I was very much interested in that. We married in New Bern,
North Carolina, then close to camp. He was in the Army Reserve
P: He got this message that he was to report to Raleigh to start this
R: And North Carolina was the poineer state in the work?
P: One of the poineers, yes. And we were very proud of the accomplish-
ments of the hookworm group. And I was so interested in it. I'd
go to the clinics, you know. There wasn't anything else for me to
do. We went all over. We went in the western North Carolina mountains
in the summertime. And in the winter time we stayed in eastern Caro-
lina on account of the climate.
R: I see.
P: There was no automobile, just a horse and buggy, or two horses,
maybe, if you were lucky. But I, I was just so fascinated with it.
And I watched those people come into the clinics. There was no
expression in their eyes. They would look like they were dead.
And I remember one man, he was brought in on the back of a horse.
And he was just like, you know, ready to drop. And I said to my
husband, I said, "My lord, that man's about dead." And he said,
"Well, we're going to examine him with a microscope." And of course,
that was a must. He was eaten up with hookworm. We gave him the
treatment. And our policy was to go back everyweek in each area the
same day for six weeks.
R: I see.
P: And the county commissioners would pay part of the expenses, but
the Rockefeller Foundation, through the State Board of Health, paid
most of it. But of course, I wasn't on, I was just interested.
And that man, and those people, so many of them, it was, he was
about eighteen or twenty years old, I guess. But the children that
went bare-footed, they're the ones that usually had it most.
R: Yes, right. And we had it here in Florida too, I remember.
P: Yes, ma'am, you sure did.
R: When I came here in 1938, there was still a lot of hookworm here
in Alachua County.
P: Well I'll tell you, if you want me to skip a little bit, when my
husband went overseas in World War I, I begged him to let me come
to Florida, because my health was so much better. And so my friend
had property out on Little Lake Santa Fe. And I bought a lot from
him, and I built a house on Little Lake Santa Fe.
R: You built your own house after he had gone to the war.
P: We had it built, of course I didn't do that, but it was while he
was in France that this house went up. Well, it was very fortunate,
because he was gassed World War I.
R: Oh dear.
P: And so when he came back, we were in Florida, and it was the best
climate for him of all. But the thing is, I was interested in the
school. The school principal has been state superintendent of
education. He was a retired man, and he was our principal of Waldo
School. This is a fill in, you know. And I was head of the Women's
Club in Waldo.
R: I see.
P: And he said, "Mrs. Pridgen, I declare, we've got to have a new
R: You were head of the Episcopal Women, was that it?
P: No, it was just the Women's Club.
R: Oh, the Women's Club, I see.
P: Women's Club.
R: Do you remember that principal's name?
P: I don't know, but....
R: You can fill it in later if it comes to you.
P: I have....
R: Yes. It was in Waldo, and you were head of the
he wanted you to help him....
Women's Club, and
P: Get the authorization for the county to build a new school.
R: Yes, now this was about what date?
P: Oh, it must have been about 19-, let's see, I guess that was in
R: Yes, around 1918.
P: And, so we
to go with
women went to the county commissioners, and they
a bond issue for Waldo. And then I had got my women
me, we scattered. And we took in every home for the
And we, we carried the issue. There wasn't a single
they were all "Yes."
R: My goodness.
P: So we got the new school building, which is the brick building now
R: So you feel that you were largely instrumental in getting that
brick building. Nowadays, bond issues don't ever pass anymore do
P: I don't really know.
R: Well, they have a great deal of trouble, I think, getting them
to pass nowadays.
P: But I had a woman working with me when I came out of the hospital.
And she had originally been a Waldo woman. She lives in Keystone
[Heights] now. And she told me, she said, "Mrs. Pridgen, your son and
ours entered the new building in the first group after the school was
R: Now you mentioned your son. Tell me about your children. How many
you had, and....
P: I had two.
P: My son was born while Dr. Pridgen was with the hookworm work. I
was married in 1910. And in 1913, he was called to be head of the
hookworm work in Raleigh, and I was pregnant. And I had to give
up this clinic business. I couldn't trot around all over the country
and examine 500 specimens a day, don't you know, and that's about
what it amounted to. But Leonard was born when we were living in
Raleigh. And he was named for his father, Claude Leonard, Jr. and
Dr. Pridgen hated the name of Claude so bad, I said, "Well, we'll
call him Leonard."
R: I see.
P: And so he's Leonard now, except his friends he's made in the last
ten or fifteen years call him "Pridge."
R: I see.
P: He's an ex-army man, too.
R: He's an ex-army man?
P: Yes, he advanced to colonel in World War II, and he's been overseas
a great deal. I visited him in Japan. I visited him in Germany.
R: Now what is his occupation?
P: He was connected with the school system in Fort Lauderdale, in the
southern part of Florida. Later he was with the community college
in Fort Myers.
R: Oh yes. He's down there. Well, it's nice to have him so close.
You visited him with he was in Germany?
P: Oh yes. I was visiting with him overseas.
R: Was that after the First World War?
P: He was a baby then. This was in the second one.
R: Oh, yes. World War II, of course. I'm a little confused here. Well,
now, so you brought him here to live on Lake Santa Fe...?
P: As a child.
R: And he attended the Waldo School.
P: He went to school there, yes.
R: And then, your second child was a girl.
P: Was a girl, Anne. Leonard now is sixty-four, and Anne is fifty-three.
R: And you are a great-grandmother.
P: Yes, I have four great-grandchildren, sons.
R: Yes. And you are about eighty-six?
P: I will be eighty-seven the second day of February.
R: And still driving your own car.
P: Yes, but they're raising cain about it for fear,
time for me to quit. So I do have a companion.
come this morning, there wasn't anything for her
they think it's
I didn't have her
to do. But she
R: Well, now did you have your daughter when you came to Waldo?
P: My daughter was born while we lived on Santa Fe.
R: And they went to the Waldo School.
P: Yes, that's right. And Anne was born in Florida. My daughter was
born in Gainesville, Florida, in a small private maternity hospital.
R: Yes, I see. Well, did you have any close neighbors on Lake Santa
Fe at that time?
P: The McManuses. My mother had taken Mrs. McManus as a teenager,
and she married from our place.
R: What about the people on Earlton Beach who sold everybody their
azaleas, were they established yet?
P: Oh, yes. Our next door neighbors were the McGills. She was an
actress, and retired. They had built, I went down there, a beautiful
brick, I mean stone, house. And the Shipmans, she was a Shipman.
And her Shipman family moved to Florida. They now fill up Earlton.
The McGills were my next door neighbors.
R: Well, now did you do your shopping in Melrose...
P: No, no I didn't
R: ...or Waldo?
P: I tried to get to Gainesville.
R: You tried to get to Gainesville.
P: Of course, I did shop quite a bit in Waldo; Claude Sparkman's, for
R: Well now, which Episcopal church did you go to in those days?
P: None. When I got there, they had to get that organized. You see,
I wasn't an Episcopalian.
R: Oh, you were leaning in that direction because of St. Mary's.
P: Yes, I loved it. But you see Dr. Pridgen was Baptist.
R: Yes, oh, I understand.
P: And I just said, "I cannot leave his church and go to an Episcopal
church," don't you see?
R: I see.
P: Because it just wasn't the right thing to do, in my opinion.
But then when Dr. Pridgen came on back, he practiced medicine in
R: He had been gassed.
P: He had been gassed.
R: Did it affect him very badly?
P: It caused his death eventually.
R: I see.
P: But, anyway, what was...
R: Now you're telling how you came to be an Episcopalian.
P: Oh yes. Dr. Pridgen, everybody knew he was a doctor. He didn't
want to practice down here. I had built the home, and I had paid
for it out of my allotments. It was completely free of any mortgage.
R: Your military allotments?
R: I see.
P: And so, that, I felt like God had led me there, you see, to prepare
for him. But people would say, "Doctor, my wife's so and so, my wife's
this...", and maybe they'd want to pay him, maybe they wouldn't.
But that didn't make any difference to him. Of course, we didn't
have money, but he just didn't think about money.
R: And of course he went to people's houses.
P: He went to people's houses.
R: Now you can't get a doctor to come to your house.
P: Yes ma'am. And if a woman was in labor, I've known him to sit
there night after night, you know, just to be sure. If you'd lived
out in the country you would understand.
P: But, I started to tell you how I got to be an Episcopalian. Of
course, he'd been back a long time, and we'd gone to the Baptist
church. But while he was away, I had to have something to keep me
occupied, and I organized a bridge club in Waldo. They'd never played
bridge before. I think there was one woman there who had, Mrs. Jones.
R: Well, didn't the Baptist church disapprove of card playing and those
P: Well, I was going to tell you. The minister told my husband, you
see, it was after he came back that I just continued the card club
when he came back, don't you know? And Reverend Hicks told him,
he said, "Dr. Pridgen, I hate to tell you, but the governing board
has voted to turn Mrs. Pridgen out of the church because she plays
R: Oh my.
P: Yes, ma'am. That's the truth. And it made me furious, and so I
just made up my mind. I said, well, I went to see Mr. Hicks, Reverend
Hicks, and I said, "Mr. Hicks, I know that you and Dr. Pridgen are
very close friends, and I don't want to hurt you, but I'm going to
tell you what. They're not going to turn me out, I'm getting out.
And I'll do the thing that I wanted do all these years, and that's
organize an Episcopal church, and have a church that I could love,
and one that wouldn't think that it was a cardinal sin to play a
game of bridge."
R: Which is considered so innocent by Baptists today.
P: So he said, "Mrs. Pridgen, I regretted that very much, and I don't
approve, of course." And I said, "If that's what they want, that's
what they're going to get." So then I had my name withdrawn. I
said, "I don't want you to feel that I'm kicked out. I'm not kicked
out, I'm getting out before they have a chance to tell me that."
And, so I got out.
R: Well, now how did you organize your own Episcopal church?
P: Well, I just worked around, and...
R: Had Elizabeth come to live with you by that time, your sister?
R: This was before she came.
P: That was before she came.
R: All right. Did you find some Episcopalians living in that area?
P: Yes, there were some Episcopalians there.
R: And they needed a church.
P: They needed a church, and we began to work to organize an Episcopal
group. We looked for a building.
R: You took a little Presbyterian church.
P: I think it was Presbyterian, I'm not sure.
R: Is it still standing?
P: Yes, ma'am. It's still in use.
R: Oh, you mean the church at Melrose?
P: No, not Melrose, Waldo.
R: Waldo, the church at Waldo.
P: Waldo. St. Paul's.
R: Yes, right.
P: And so we women made sandwiches, met the train, the Seaboard came
through Waldo about noon, we'd go down and sell four or five dollars
worth of sandwiches to the passengers from the track. It's Amtrak
now, but it was Seaboard then.
P: And we accumulated enough money to do the church over a little bit,
and build an altar. And then, of course, by that time, Elizabeth
was with me.
R: I suppose you didn't have a rector every Sunday, you would have a...
P: We, I think we had two services a month, in the afternoon.
R: I see.
P: And the rector of the Holy Trinity, Bill Stoney, would come over in
the afternoon, and the funny part about it, the good Baptist husband
of mine, he got interested in it. Not enough to join the Episcopal
Church byany manner or means, but he taught a Sunday school class.
R: Well, good for him.
P: And then I had a choir, and Bishop Juhan, Frank Juhan from the pulpit
said, "That was the best choir." It was a junior choir. You see,
having the service in the afternoon, you could just pull in any denomi-
nation that you could.
R: It was a children's choir, a junior choir.
P: It was children, mostly.
R: I wish I could have heard it.
P: Well, it really was lovely. There were about twenty in it. The
church never had any adult membership over eight or nine.
R: And you had gotten your musical training at St. Mary's?
P: I had a certificate in pipe organ at St. Mary's, in addition to an
R: I see, uh huh.
P: But, organ was my field.
R: I see, uh huh.
P: And so, this was a little reed organ, but it would produce music.
And this group was very enthusiastic. We had known Bishop Juhan in
Greenville, South Carolina.
R: Oh, you had?
P: Before he was ever called to Florida.
P: Because he came out to the 113th Field Artillery, where my husband
was at camp. He was with that in World War I, don't you know.
R: Well, I guess the University of the South at Sewannee [Tennessee]
was very dear to his heart all through his life, wasn't it?
P: The what?
R: The University of the South at Sewannee was very dear to Bishop
P: Oh, yes, yes.
R: I guess he was always talking about...
P: And Bishop Juhan felt as much at home in our home as he did anywhere,
P: And his son, Sandy, would come down and spend the week with us,
often in the summertime. And he's a minister over at Jacksonville
Beach, I think, now. But Bishop Juhan was a very dear friend of
the family. He christened Anne, my daughter.
R: Do you remember any extremely cold winters on Lake Sante Fe in
P: I remember one that was colder than anything I've ever seen since
then. It was, well, now I came from North Carolina, it was before
I had bought and built down here, don't you know? And we stayed at
the hotel, my little boy was with me. Leonard, you see, my little
boy. And we stayed at the hotel in Waldo. And it was in the last
of January, and my birthday's the second of February. It had been
awfully hot, just terribly hot, and we went to bed that night.
Leonard slept with me, he was just a child, you know. And it began
to turn cold, and the thermometer dropped, I think it was to thirteen
R: My goodness.
P: But everything froze.
R: Killed all the citrus trees.
P: Every bit of the citrus business. And it had been, you just almost
had to have a fan for several days before that.
R: Well, approximately what year would that have been?
P: Oh dear Lord, I...
R: Was that during World War I?
P: It was during World War I.
R: I see, so it must have been from '16 to '18.
R: And then there was a flu epidemic in 1918. Did that touch this
area? The terrible flu epidemic of 1918.
P: I had it in 1918.
P: I usually picked up flu if there were any bugs around.
R: Because you had had pneumonia as a child.
P: Yes, I'd had pneumonia several times.
R: Well, how did you heat your house on the lake? How did you heat it,
with a wood stove?
P: Oh, with a kerosene stove and a fireplace.
R: A kerosene stove.
P: Yes, it was a two story house.
R: I see.
P: I've always been a fanatic on insulation. And even way back there.
I had the people put in insulation in the ceilings.
R: Well, that came in handy when it got that bad.
P: It came in mighty handy.
P: It comes in handy right on.
R: Well, I guess you had planted some citrus trees which you lost.
P: I tell you, when I decided to move down here, I bought a place from
Mr. McManus, twenty acres of pecans. They were young pecans.
P: And that was the greatest liability that ever had happened.
R: Oh, really?
P: They didn't do anything. When they began to bear it was after I
had left and gone to Gainesville, the colored people, somebody, got
all the pecans. It bordered on Little Lake Santa Fe, along the edge
of it, it was on Little Lake Santa Fe. But anyway, somebody else got
every pecan that ever ripened. So I was thoroughly disgusted with
R: But you were able to sell the land later?
P: I sold it later. But he, Dr. Pridgen lived in our home a number of
years, and it was a very fortunate thing. Later he was in the
Veteran's Hospital in Lake City.
R: The Veteran's Hospital in Lake City, yes.
P: Well he was there for over a year.
R: Before he died?
P: Before he died. Well, that was years before he died.
R: What year did he die?
P: He died in '41.
R: Oh, I see.
P: In February of '41.
R: It was after he died that you moved to Gainesville.
P: No, ma'am, no. I was going to tell you. I'd go up there every
weekend to see him. I'd take a friend of mine. I said, "I've got
to get out and make a living. He cannot do it." We, we didn't have
the income coming in. And I said, "The only thing I know is music."
And I said, "A lot of people owe him for his services as a doctor."
I said, "They'd be owing me probably for the children's music lessons."
And I said, "That still wouldn't buy my groceries."
R: I see.
P: And so my friend suggested, said, "Take a business course." And I
never dreamed of it before.
R: Who suggested that?
P: This friend, Mrs. Jones.
R: I see.
P: Her husband was a Seaboard man. And so, Dr. Pridgen was a southern
gentleman, and he did not believe in the wives working.
P: Well, I knew that he would never agree to my taking a business
course, so when he would go to Waldo to his office I'd take my car
and go to Gainesville the other way, and that's how I got my business
course. And the teacher was, well, he was, I don't know. He took
the money for the course, but he quit before the thing was over and
skipped. But he'd given me enough so that I could go on with it.
R: Now was that typing and shorthand?
P: Typing and shorthand. But there's one thing good that he did do for
me. He found out that the law school wanted to add another person to
the secretarial force, and so he highly recommended me. And I got
R: And now what year was it you went into the law school on the staff?
P: 1929 was when I went to the law school.
R: And you were there for many, many years.
P: Twenty-six years.
R: Twenty-six years. Retiring in what year, let's see, that would have
R: Fifty-five. Now how did you come to be the librarian of the law
P: Well, I was so interested, when I got into that law school, I was
thrilled to death about it, and...
R: You studied law, too, didn't you?
P: Dean [Harry R.] Trusler [Dean of the College of Law] allowed me to.
I would sit in and audit, if I didn't have some work to do in the
office, don't you know. I'd audit different courses. Just not for
credit. It never once occurred to me to go on and work toward a
degree. And the dean, Dean Harry Trusler, said, "Mrs. Pridgen, why
in the world aren't you taking the courses for credit?" He said,
P: And I said, "I wouldn't have sense enough to do anything with it."
And he said, "Well, you would." He said, "I can guarantee that."
And so I took one of his five hour courses first, which was a fresh-
man course, of course, and I was fascinated with it.
R: And what other professors did you have?
P: I had all of them, before I got through.
R: That was, Judge [Robert S.] Cockrell [Professor of Law] was on the
P: Judge Cockrell, Professor [Clifford W.] Crandall [Professor of Law],
you've heard of Crandall?
P: Jimmy [James Westbay] Day [Professor of Law], he was the youngest
man on the faculty. And he, and Te Selle, Clarence Te Selle [Professor
of Law], they were very fine, very brilliant people.
R: And they knew you, you'd been around the college, and so they welcomed
you into their law classes?
P: Oh, yes. And...
R: Well, now were you the first woman to take the law classes?
P: No, Clara Floyd.
R: Clara was...
P: Do you know Clara Floyd?
R: Yes. I'm going to make a tape of Clara tomorrow.
P: Well, Clara Floyd, I think...
R: But you were taking courses at the same time she was?
P: I, I don't know whether Clara, I think Clara was more advanced than
I was, don't you? You see, I couldn't take a full course. It took me
ten years to get a three year course.
R: Of course you had a full-time job in the library, didn't you?
P: Not then. I was a secretary.
R: And you had a full-time job...
P: Oh, full-time.
R: ...in the library.
P: And then I had a home. I had built a rooming house for law students.
R: Oh, where was that?
P: It was not very far, about two or three blocks from the law school.
R: I see.
P: 1102 Northwest Third Avenue.
R: Third, yes. Near Mrs. Pound's home, right behind Mrs. Pound's home.
P: Yes, the next block from the Pounds. And I built the upstairs with
a separate entrance.
R: And that house is still there.
P: It's still there, and I sold it, closed the deal. I got my money on
the mortgage only just a couple months ago. I sold it in 1972, when
I took a first mortgage.
R: Yes, I remember when you sold it. I think I looked at it. Well, that
was a shady street, I've always like it.
P: Yes. And it wasn't far from the law school, and I didn't have to drive
a car. That apartment house was not there then. And I could just
cut right through to the university.
R: Just walk through.
P: And just be there in a few minutes. Of course, if I had to shop or
do something like that, why of course, I'd drive my car.
R: Well, had you ever had any courses in library work?
P: Never had one, never had one.
R: You just had to pick it up.
P: I had to pick it up.
R: Learn it.
P: But the woman who was librarian, she was an old woman and an old maid.
I went there for $100.00 a month, and that was for the ten months only.
The legislature appropriated a $1,000.00, and so I was to get $100.00.
It was the first time they'd had two people. I was just thrilled to
death with it, you know, I was just fascinated with it. And, I would
study with the boys. Oh, when I began to take my courses, and everyone
of them would come to me, because I took unusually good notes, you see,
having had the practice that I had in secretarial work.
R: Were there any other girls at that time in the law school, besides
you and Clara?
P: Well, right to begin with there were none, but they began to come
R: I see. How were they treated by the other students?
P: The girls?
R: The girls. How were they treated?
P: They were all right.
R: They were treated all right?
R: I heard, wasn't there something about the law students shuffling their
feet if a girl was coming in?
P: No, they'd shuffle every time Dean Trusler would come in. It was
because he had an accident before I ever knew him, I've forgotten what
it was, he had broken a leg or something. But anyway, when he came in
that was our way of greeting him. Not shuffling in derogation, but
just the way they greeted. And clapped their hands, see, that was
traditional there. I had forgotten about that tradition. But this,
I started to tell you, I hadn't been there six months. I didn't know
what in the world I was going to do when, you know, at the end of the
ten months. But this poor old soul, she hated me so badly she resigned.
R: The head librarian?
P: Yes, she...
R: You don't want to tell us her name, maybe?
P: No, I'd rather not.
R: And she thought that you were an upstart, huh?
P: I think she thought so, and she was envious. Because the faculty
would come to me, after I had been there sometime, you know, and I'd
help them with their absence records and everything. And she never
did learn, I don't think, to look up law, she didn't care. But I
was fascinated with it, you know.
R: Yes, it really meant something to you.
P: It meant something to me. So then I took it all over.
R: Well, perhaps you would like to tell us about some of the students
who were in the law school then, who later became leading politicians
in our state.
P: Well, Reubin Askew [Governor of Florida] was one of my boys. Lawton
Chiles [U. S. Senator from Florida].
R: Our governor and our senator were there.
P: And George Smathers [U. S. Senator from Florida]. George Smathers
lived in my house after I built this house, you know. And I thought
a great deal of him and I'm very much interested in Bruce his son
[Florida Secretary of State], because some of these days he's going
to be at the top. I wrote him when he went in as state senator, you
know, that's what he ran for. And I said, "Bruce, I was very fond of
one United States senator, George Smathers. "And I said, "if I live
long enough I'm quite sure I will have known another Smathers."
R: Well, what about Senator [Spessard L.] Holland [Governor of Florida and
U. S. Senator], did he, was he there then?
P: No, Senator Holland was not a student there, but his sons...
R: His sons, I see.
P: Senator Holland was before my day.
R: I see, yes. Was there any indication that Reubin Askew or Lawton
Chiles were going to be leaders at the time they were in law school?
P: They, they were good students. I think Lawton Chiles graduated the
year that I got out. And I think Reubin was there one more year. But
the greatest compliment that I've ever had in all of my life, if you'll
pardon it, after Reubin went in as governor, of course I had retired
long since, and Reubin Askew presided at, at the going away to-do
for me when I was a student, you see he was head of one of the frater-
nities. And, but anyway, this was long after that. And I went to
homecoming, John Marshall Bar skits, and I took, my grandaughter took
me. And she said, "Mimi," all my grandchildren call me Mimi, she said,
"Mimi, I want to shake the hand of a governor." And said, "This is my
only chance as long as I live, I'm quite sure." Because she knew that
I knew Reubin. And I said, "Well, I'd like to shake his hands, too,
I haven't congratulated him." And so I went, we finally got to him.
Everybody was crowding around, and he took both hands, and looked in
my eyes, and he said, "Mrs. Pridgen, I've never known anyone who has
influenced as many people as you have for good."
R: How wonderful.
P: Now that's the most wonderful compliment I've ever had.
R: Yes. indeed.
P: It really was. But Reubin is a fine person, I think. I don't think
he can be bought.
R: I know you are very proud of him. No, he couldn't be bought.
P: He can't be bought. But, oh, I don't know, judges all over the state.
Now yesterday morning, maybe it was Saturday morning, the phone rang,
and it was Judge [Charles] Fulton. He is chief judge of Federal District
Court of South Florida. A big job. Well, he called me, and I have
kept in contact with him. There's a gift in there of cheese from him.
That's my Christmas present. And his wife writes me regularly. And
I'll tell you why, I think that he is closer to me than anyone else.
He called me. He wanted to know how my daughter-in-law, Leonard's wife,
was. She had a cancer operation on the colon, and he was worried about
it, and so he called me. It was the day before yesterday morning, from
But, I think one reason Charlie feels closer to me than a great
many of them did, I don't mean to say I was close to every single one
of them. But they knew that I was there, and I would do anything I
could to help them. But it was after Charlie and Imogene were married
and they had this son who, about twenty-one or two years old, and they
called me from their summer home in North Carolina one day. And
he said, "Mrs. Pridgen, Doug's here." That's the son. And said,
"He's unhappy at Wake Forest." And said, "I want him to go to the
University of Florida, and he said, he wouldn't he's not going."
And then they were insisting that he go, and Doug, this son, said,
"There's one thing, one condition. I will go, if I can stay in Mrs.
Pridgen's home." And I really and truly think that it's the fact
that I helped him with his child, his boy, and I had a beautiful letter
from Doug, only a few weeks ago. And I think it was his anniversary
or something, or his birthday. And he said, "Mrs. Pridgen, I'll
never forget you forwhat you've done for me. You tided me over a very
critical time, I realize."
R: So you got two generations of them.
P: I've got two generations, yes, I have a good many of the two genera-
tions. And it's wonderful, really and truly.
R: Did Judge Tench go to law school in your day, or...
R: Judge Benmont Tench [of Alachua County].
P: Well, I was going to say no. I was awfully, I better not say this,
but anyway, Benmont, I was very close to him. I knew his mother and
father well, and during the Christmas holidays I said, "I'm going
over to Keystone to that hotel and rest." And I said, "Don't give
my name to anybody, tell them where I am." Well, I was called to
the telephone in Keystone Heights Hotel. I just had to get away.
Living the life I lived, you had to get away some time.
And it was Benmont Tench. And he said, "I want to talk to you.
I want to see you." And so he came over there to see me. And he wanted
to talk to me about going to the University of Virginia law school.
R: Oh, my goodness.
P: And, so, he spoke to me that Saturday. We didn't see each other after,
but we met at Mabel Voyle's funeral.
R: Yes, he was a pall bearer.
P: Yes. And Benmont came up and spoke to me, and...
R: We so much regret, at the museum, that we didn't have a chance to
make an interview recording with Mabel Voyle before she died. She
was a mine of information.
P: Yes, she was.
R: Very active mentally.
P: I was very fond of Mabel, through the church, and then I roomed at
her house for three months, three or four months, because my daughter,
and her husband and baby came down from Chicago. He'd gotten a posi-
tion teaching physics to start in September. But he'd been discharged
from the navy, you see. And so they came down with this precious little
baby, and I was in my home in Gainesville there, and my father was
living, and I had, I had two bedrooms downstairs and a sleeping porch.
But it was crowded, and so I told Anne, I said, "Well, until Mort
can get his house built, I'm going to try to get a room outside."
And so Mabel Voyle found out about it.
R: Was she living in the home where she's...
P: Yes, ma'am. She was living right where she died. And so Mabel said,
"Why sure, I've got this extra room, you come on." Of course, I paid
her. But you know money doesn't mean, you know, doesn't completely
pay every time. But she, we had a wonderful time. I mentioned that
because I got closer to her than I would have ordinarily, don't you
R: Well, since we didn't get a chance to record Mabel's life, maybe you
would give us a few indications of her importance here in Gainesville,
and her life in the church. Was it her family who helped to build
Holy Trinity Church? The Voyle family?
P: What's that?
R: Did her family help to build Holy Trinity Church?
P: I really don't know, because Holy Trinity was flourishing when I knew
R: Yes. It was built around the turn of the century. It was built around
1900, wasn't it?
P: I think it was.
R: Yes. Well, she was head of an abstract company, wasn't she?
P: Yes, she was head of an abstract company for many years. I've for-
gotten, the paper said when she retired, but she was the head of it.
She was a wonderful abstracter. And she weeded her own row, and she
was ninety years old.
R: So she must have been in contact with a great many lawyers here in
P: Well, I guess so.
R: Having to do with real estate transactions.
P: Yes. Now of course, her work was making up the abstracts. It wasn't,
she was not a lawyer.
R: No, but she had contact with lawyers through that work.
P: Yes, that's right.
R: Well, how did you feel about the new building, when they put up the
new law building not too long ago? How did you feel about it? Didn't
it win some kind of an award from architects?
P: I think so. Of course I was connected with the law school when it
was in the first building on the corner of University Avenue and, what
was it, Ninth Street, or what is it?
R: Thirteenth Street.
P: Thirteenth Street, that's right.
R: I thought it was a beautiful building.
P: I loved it.
R: I liked the auditorium there, very much.
P: Yes, I did too.
R: The new building is very modern.
P: Yes, I've been in there.
R: Quite a different type of architecture.
P: Dean [Joseph R.] Julin, the present dean, has been awfully sweet
to me. Of course, I never worked under him at all. But he knew
that I had been connected with the law school.
P: And, oh, for a long, long time, he....
R: Do you always go up to hear the John Marshall law skit on...?
P: I tried to for a long time. Dean Julin wrote me this letter, and
I've forgotten what the occasion was, maybe it was a Christmas letter
or something, and he says, "you are truly great." I thought that was
awfully sweet and he didn't have to say that.
R: Why yes.
P: And he didn't know that I wasn't great. But I like Dean Julin.
R: I like him too.
P: And I'd, I'd like
a friend of mine.
in a convalescent
to meet his daughter. She is being very nice to
She's in the convalescent home, a nurse I guess,
R: Oh is she, I didn't know.
Now, we have covered your years out on Lake Santa Fe, and your
coming into Gainesville, and having law students in your home.
P: I built the home for them, too.
P: I built the upstairs for law students. Not to give it to them. Lord,
no. To rent to them.
R: No. Now, did you serve any meals to them?
R: No, just rented rooms.
I'll tell you, during exam week, when they were studying so hard,
of course, I was taking law, for ten years around then. I couldn't
but a little bit at a time, you know, one course at a time.
P: And so I knew how they'd react.
P: And about ten o'clock at night, when you were preparing for examinations,
I would fix a great big pot of hot chocolate, and then I'd go to the
foot of the stairs, and tell them, "Boys, come on down and have a break;
quit your studying a little while and have hot chocolate, and then
you can go on back."
R: I know they appreciated that.
P: Well, they did, they really did.
R: And I suppose they sometimes discussed these cases that they were
studying with you.
P: Oh, yes, yes. If I happened to be in the same course with them. One
of the worst experiences was the sadness you feel when one of them has
P: And Charlie [Charles E.] Bennett, you know, the congressman?
P: I was very fond of Charlie. I admired him tremendously. And when
he was in Asia, I visited my aunt in Jacksonville quite frequently,
and I'd call up his mother to find out if she'd heard from Charlie.
And she said, "Well," one of the letters, later, said, "I guess he's
getting on fine. You know, he had a stroke, I think. He lost the
use of his legs."
P: And she said, "I'm just very happy that he's getting along all right,"
but she said, "Mrs. Pridgen, he'll never be able to do anything." And
it hit me right between the eyes, and I said, "Mrs. Bennett, you know
Charlie and love him, and I know him and love him, too." And I said,
"In my humble judgement, Charlie Bennett will never be licked. He'll
never be whipped. He'll overcome whatever handicaps." And he has.
P: Now Charlie doesn't aspire to be governor or anything like that.
A lot of these others, you know, go in as a congressman, they want to
go on to be a senator....
R: Well, he's been a congressman a long time.
P: He's been congressman a long time...He is severaly handicapped as a
result of that illness, but he does a fine job in congress. He's a
very fine person. But when his son died a few months ago, he had a
young son and somebody told me, and I couldn't find it in the papers.
And I called [Congressman] Don Fuqua's office and the secretary phoned
Washington to find out if that was true. I wanted to be sure. And so
she called me back that afternoon, and she said, "Unfortunately, it
is true." And I wrote him a letter, I felt like, maybe it might help.
R: Well, now LeRoy Collins, Governor Collins didn't go to our law school,
P: Yes, he went there, but it was before my day. But anyway, in this
letter, Charlie Bennett replied, and he said, "Mrs. Pridgen, you've
always been an inspiration to me." And said, "You always have been
ever since I've known you." Well, that doesn't make you mad.
P: We'll just let it go at that. And I'm very fond of him.
R: Well, now we rather recently added a lot of judges to the judicial
system, which I guess was very much needed, because their calendars
were so crowded.
P: Yes, I know. Well, there's so many of my old boys are judges. So
many of them. And people on the faculty are some of my boys. Bob
[Robert T.] Mann [Professor of Law], he was one of my boys. And
Frank Maloney [Professor of Law and Dean Emeritus] once the dean.
R: Oh, he was one.
P: And there are a lot of them, that's for sure. When I pick up a paper,
I look and see, there's one of my judges.
R: Yes. That makes the news much more interesting.
P: Well, it does. Kind of specialized.
R: Right. Well, now suppose we talk a little bit about your work in
the Episcopal Church. Not too long ago we decided to build another
church in the western part of Gainesville, on the Millhopper Road.
And you are a founding member of that church, I believe.
P: Well, I don't know what you call it. They put me on a committee to
found, to start St. Michael's. And I hated like the mischief to
leave Holy Trinity, 'cause I love it, always have loved it. I think
it's one of the most beautiful churches. I've seen churches in Europe.
R: I agree with you.
P: And it's much prettier than anything I ever saw in Europe. But any-
way, if I'm needed somewhere, I'll go, regardless of how I feel about
it. And I went over there, and worked awfully hard.
R: Now that was Bishop Hamilton West who put you on that committee?
P: Yes, I think it was West. I know he did. Well, I worked with Bishop
West quite a bit when I was down at Holy Trinity, because he was chaplain
at the student center at one time.
R: Yes, I remember, he was in the student center, yes. The Chapel of The
P: The Chapel of The Incarnation. And I got the church women interested
in that, and we helped build it, but....
R: Helped build the chapel.
P: The efforts, I think, to build the chapel.
R: Yes, yes. I think the chapel was built in the early '30s. I know it
was before the war.
P: Well, it seemed to me like...well, the thing is, I happened to be head
of the women at Holy Trinity, and I'd go from one student center to
another. The Baptists had a perfectly lovely student center, as you
might know. The Presbyterians, the Methodists, the Catholics, then I
went to the Episcopal, and I just was embarrassed. We had Weed Hall.
The furniture, in the original, was cast-outs, you know. And the
windows were out and everything. Some of them, not all of them.
R: It was just an ordinary residence, wasn't it?
P: I think so.
R: Somebody gave it to the church.
P: But then my efforts went all over the state then, to contribute
money so that they could buy new furniture. And so, that was very
R: And then they built the Chapel of the Incarnation. I wonder how they
hit upon that name.
P: I don't know, I had nothing to do with that.
R: It's, it's a very nice building. And then did you start going to the
R: Or did you continue...?
P: No, I continued at Holy Trinity. Finally we wrote to every chapter in
the Diocese of Florida.
R: Every chapter.
P: But not south Florida. And then I was criticized, or people nagged
me. They say, "Why in the world, our son goes there, he's from Miami."
I said, "Well, I took on all I could do, and I couldn't do any more."
But it was just the Diocese of Florida, not the Diocese of South
R: It does seem as though all the Episcopalians in Florida should have
contributed to it.
P: I think so. I think they did. And I was so thrilled when it material-
ized and I could go in the room, you know, the living room, and I wasn't
ashamed. When I'd go in the Baptist Center and things were so nice,
and the Methodists, but not in the Episcopal. But it worked out all
R: And then the day came when Bishop West wanted you to start a new little
church out in west Gainesville, St. Michael's. And how did you go about
P: I don't know. I have forgotten. I just opened my mouth and talked,
R: Well, do you remember some of the other people who were connected with
the founding of St. Michael's? Who was our rector at that time, I
P: Oh, I believe it was the Reverend Custis Fletcher.
R: Not George Alexander, who later became head of the school of theology
P: No, no.
R: It was after his time. Was it in Mr. Hauser's days, Mr. Hauser?
P: My brain is....
R: Well, I should remember that, but I don't. But anyway, they built
the Sunday school building first, and had services there, and I remember
Michael Hall was the first rector. Mike Hall.
P: Mike Hall. I think he lives in Lake City, doesn't he?
R: I think he does.
P: Yes, he was the first rector. Well of course, we were still having
services in the Seventh Day Advent Church on Tenth Avenue.
R: The church was built on Millhopper Road. Morton Teller, my son-in-law,
helped plan it and supervise construction. He'd go by in the morning
and see that everything was going all right. He'd come back at night
and go by there. He's not an Episcopalian, but he worked hard on the
building and furnishings. Morton Teller was the one that was first
chairman. And he did a nice job, he always does, yes. Do you remember
the names of some of the other people who were instrumental in building
P: No, I don't recall. I've only been in there one time lately. That
was when it was dedicated.
R: When it was dedicated. I remember. I went to St. Michael's for two
years and then I came back to Holy Trinity. Did you come back to Holy
P: No, I didn't come back. I had helped start the new church and felt
I should stay with it. I belonged to Holy Trinity for about thirty
R: Now about Trinity, Melrose. Tell us a little bit about it, that's an
historic church, isn't it? In Melrose?
P: Is what?
R: That little church in Melrose is a very historic church, isn't it?
P: Yes, I think so, I don't know too much about the history of it, but
there's some old, old churches about 100 years old, at least in this
R: A little board and batten church, yes.
P: Yes, Fred Yerkes is the minister there now.
R: Does he preach every Sunday?
P: Yes. I don't know; he preaches everywhere, but I don't know how he
gets any rest. There are only twenty-four hours in the day, but how
in the world Fred Yerkes covers his territory, I don't know how.
R: Well, he's an interesting priest, tell us about him.
P: He lives in Jacksonville, I know. And his mother was quite old.
He never married. He suffers from asthma, but sets a terrific pace
for himself, keeping up with several mission churches and Boy Scout
R: Of all the preachers you have known, would you like to single out
any that stand out in memory?
P: In addition to Bishop Frank Juhan, perhaps the ones I was closest
to were Bill Stoney, Bill Lillycrop (chaplain at the Chapel of The
Incarnation). Custis Fletcher was Rector of Holy Trinity when we
left to organize St. Michaels. Of course my eyes have been very bad,
and I am at a loss with the new prayer book. I try to get along with
the new rituals. Fred Yerkes asked me to organize a junior choir at
Trinity, Melrose. It was an uphill battle to get young people out to
practice, and I had to give it up. I said, "I'm kind of incapacitated
myself with these eyes." And I said, "I'll do the best I can." And
there are two women over in Melrose that are very active, a Mrs. Rice
and Mrs. something, I've forgotten.
R: Well, now tell me about your grandchildren. How many grandchildren
do you have now?
P: Well, my daughter has two children, a son, James Teller....
R: And your daughter Anne lives right here close by.
P: Jimmy lives in Dallas, Texas, and is with Texas Instruments.
There is the grandaughter Mary Eileen Teller. She's married again,
Bernard Musleh. But anyway, Tinker [Mary Eileen] works at the library
at the university. She's got one more course to take for a master's
degree in speech therapy, and it seems she never can find the time.
Her first husband, he was a book fiend, really and truly. He was
perfectly happy if he had a book. But, anyway, they were divorced
several years ago.
R: Did they have any children?
R: You don't have any great-grandchildren.
P: I don't on that side, but on my son's side, I do.
R: Your son's side, you have great-grandchildren.
P: Now Leonard married twice.
R: He lives down at Fort Myers.
P: No, Port Charlotte.
R: Port Charlotte.
P: He works out at Edison Community College, that's Edison College.
But his two daughters by the first wife, one of them lives in California
at Arroyo Grande. I went out to see them when the oldest boy, the great-
grandson, was graduating. And she has two great big boys. And then
the other daughter lives over at Suwannee, on the water, you know.
R: Oh, on the Suwannee River.
P: I guess it is. And she has two sons, so I have four great-grandsons.
No great-granddaughters. Now, by the second wife, Leonard's second
wife, he married a German girl. He met her in Germany. And I went
over there before they were married, and I think he wanted me to,
R: Pass on her.
P: So I met her before they married. They have two daughters. And one
is married and works at the university. And the other one is at Howey-
in-the-Hills Academy. She's quite a bit younger than Claudette. And
this is her first year. She's fifteen or sixteen years old.
R: Well, you have a lot of young people to keep up with, don't you?
P: Yes, I do.
R: Besides all your lawyer friends and your judges. Well, would you
like to tell us about any other interesting episodes in your life,
Ila? That you might have left out without, anything important, because
you've lived a long time in this area. How do you feel about the changes
that are taking place in Gainesville and in the church? We spoke about
the prayer book and the old people not being able to read the new
liturgy in church and so forth...
P: Well, I was happy with the old prayer book.
R: I think many of us were, yes.
P: And I, I don't resent it, but I can't read and keep up with it. I've
got to try, but I'll sit back by the organ. I don't march down the
aisle, because I stagger, I'm very uneasy on my feet. But I put on
the vestments, and I sing with them the first verse, the hymn.
R: Oh, you sing in church choir?
P: Yes, in Melrose.
R: I see.
P: And then I sneak around, and come on back and sit by the organ.
R: I see. Well, who plays the organ for them.
P: Florence James.
R: How many people in that little church in Melrose?
P: Oh, I don't know, I have a list at home, about fifty or sixty.
They're lovely people. We have a very interesting bazaar before
Christmas. Did you go last year? It was in October.
R: Yes, that's right.
P: It was in our program.
R: I remember.
P: But they made several thousand dollars, or so. So many people said,
"Oh, it's the wrong time of the year." Well, I don't know, it might
be that it's a good time of the year, because people have come to do
their Christmas spending.
R: Right. Spend all their money there.
P: Yes. Have to spend all their money. So it may be, I don't know.
I'm not a judge. Just kind of weed my own row, and go along.
R: Well, now how do you find living out here on the lake alone?
P: I have a companion that comes every morning, five days a week.
R: And you have your daughter close by.
P: And she's very helpful to me.
R: Didn't you say you went over to her house every afternoon and had
a glass of something?
P: Cream sherry. Have a happy hour.
R: Well, it's a beautiful place here. I know the members of our circle,
St. Margaret's, have always enjoyed being here. We had many happy
picnics at your house.
P: One of the last times I talked to Mabel Voyle, you know, the tables
were strung out here on the porch. And I sat at the table with Mabel,
and several of the older members.
R: I last saw her at my house, the Sunday before she died, and we had a
good meeting of St. Margaret's....
P: You're going to hold it on Tuesdays again, aren't you?
R: We changed it from Sunday afternoon to Tuesday morning to be more
like the other circles.
P: Well, how many circles are operating in Holy Trinity now?
R: I think only three.
P: I thought there were three.
R: St. Agnes, and Bishop Weed, and St. Margaret. The reason we had the
meetings of St. Margaret's at night, of course, because originally
we were all working women, and couldn't come in the daytime.
P: Yes, but you've grown up, haven't you?
R: Everybody's retired now. I think that's a better word, grown up.
P: Yes, really.
R: How do you feel about the growth of Gainesville?
P: I can't make any sense to it. I don't feel at home. I have a very
definite feeling about that. It's, it's not familiar. Because for
some time, you see, my eyes have been so bad. And I only go to
Gainesville when I have to go to the doctor's. I've been spending
a lot of time at Dr. [Charles] Pinkoson's optical lab for the last
few months, ever since January.
R: What is your eye trouble, is it cataracts?
R: Cataracts. Have you never had the operation yet?
P: Yes, I've had the operation. And I've finally mastered the art of
putting in the contact lens, too.
R: Oh, you have....
P: I thought I never would do it.
R: Are you wearing contact lenses now?
P: One. This is the eye that's operated. I'm very much afraid he's
going to say, I've got an appointment with him seven months from now.
I was out there last week, and he says, "Your eyes are getting along
fine. But the sight is not like it was....now, when I first put
the lens in in the morning, everything looks bright and beautiful,
you know. You see so much more than normal. But I dread....
R: But then you wear the other glasses on top of your contacts.
P: Well, you see, you have to, yes, this eye has to have the glass in,
R: For the sake of the other eye, I see.
P: You see, this is the thing, you've got to use as much sight as you
can there. And this doesn't hurt. But, I hope I never have to go
through that again. I don't want to. The operation itself wasn't,
it was fine. It was all right; I'm fine now. And of course, now that
I've mastered the art of putting in the doggone lens, but they're so
tiny. And they pop, and then you've got to find them. And if you
don't find them, it's thirty dollars per.
R: I know it.
P: I'm stingy when it comes to such things.
R: Ila, going back over your life, you said, at one point, that your
husband, Dr. Pridgen, felt that a woman's place was in the home. And
he didn't know that you were taking a business course, because you
were worried about his health, and you felt that some day....
P: Well, the doctor had said he could never work anymore.
R: So you went ahead and took a business course in spite of his wishes.
P: Dr. Pridgen resented it, really, I think he did. I just felt I had
to be prepared to earn a living.
R: You did it to get that first job as a secretary....
P: That's right, with the law school.
R: And then he was incapacitated, and you had the job, but he still was
unhappy about it.
P: It was not something he could be very comfortable about.
R: Well, don't you feel that it was satisfying to him, perhaps, when
he was in the hospital, that you did have the work?
P: I don't know.
R: Or did he, did he have a pension that would have covered your expenses?
P: He did not, for a long time, have a pension. And I don't know whether
you ever heard of Jess Davis [Gainesville postmaster and local historian]
R: Yes, indeed.
P: Well, he and Mr. Davis were very close friends. And Mr. Davis told
him, he said, "Pridge, you should have a pension. Your illness is
service connected, and you're entitled to a government pension."
P: And Dr. Pridgen said, "I'll never do it, as long as I can put one foot
in front of the other." And Mr. Davis said, "Now let me tell you some-
thing, big boy." He said, "That's not quite fair to your family." He
said, "You just don't like the idea of a woman, your wife, working."
And he said, "You better go on and get your pension." So he did, he
made an application, and it went through all right, and I still get
some remuneration. And I called Mr. Davis, and I haven't seen him or
spoken to him for years, and years, and years. And, he was in the
paper. Of course his wife died since then, but anyway, I told him,
I said, "Mr. Davis, I haven't seen you for many years, but I just want
to tell you, that the force that you used with my husband, making him
get a retirement pension, has really been an untold benefit to me, and
I want you to know that I appreciate it." He was very nice.
R: Well, he knows a lot of the history of this town. He's been recorded
by the oral history people. I know you do approve of girls having the
training to get a family income if they need it in later years.
P: I don't mean that a business course is a must, necessary, but I,
didn't have one, I had arts and science and music, that was all I had.
R: Yes, and that doesnt' get you a job.
P: And it doesn't get you a job.
R: So, you would recommend all young girls and your granddaughters that
they have something that they can use to make a living.
P: To fall back on.
R: You never know when they might lose their husbands, and need to earn
P: They to college, and if they graduate, and get a schoolteaching
job, they are prepared.
R: Who were your models of independence in women, either your mother or
aunt? Did anybody give you the idea, when you were growing up in
North Carolina, were there any, did you know any women who were out in
the world working?
P: Well, Mother was a schoolteacher, and she helped support the family,
because Dad was not a good manager. So Mother did. But I didn't
grow up with any special leaning toward a career.
R: You know Ila, when we type up these recollections of your life we will
put them into the archives of the Florida State Museum.
P: Florida State Museum?
R: Right. On the campus, and we now have over 2,000 interviews, including
P: Eight hundred Indians?
R: Right. And, we have a good many older people here in Alachua County,
and we're trying to get all the retired faculty people. So....
P: Well, I hope I haven't made any misstatements. I feel like really and
truly, you know, they speak of that loss of memory from old age? And
I'm getting it, really and truly.
R: Oh, I think you've done a wonderful job.
P: I don't know.
R: No, I think your mind is right on the ball. And so....
P: Maybe I remember things in the past more than I do the present.
R: They say that's true, yes. Right.
P: It is.
R: I think you remember things farther back very fine. And then when we
got up to St. Michael's, the establishment of St. Michael's, there
was a little bit of trying to recall who was active in it, besides you.
P: Fred Arnold. Fred Arnold and I were appointed by the vestry at Holy
Trinity. But Fred never did do very much. Is that good enough?
R: That's all right. Fred kind of left it up to you, huh?
P: Well, he was busy. Well, I enjoyed doing that.
R: And then you actually went to St. Michael's for a long time, just to
encourage them, didn't you?
P: Well, you know, when you have worked as hard as I did, you....
R: You felt like you ought to attend.
P: You feel like it's kind of your baby, and so you don't feel like
quitting. Now, if I went back...
R: Now, did you organize the choir there, too?
P: No, I, let me see, yes, I did have a choir there.
R: You had a choir there, I know, I went there two years, I believe there
was a choir.
P: But there was an organist there.
R: Mr. Reed. Mr. Charles Reed.
P: And so I would presume to help out; I didn't want it. And course, a few
years ago, I had this finger cut off, and I don't play the piano now.
That's a Steinway baby grand. My husband gave me that piano two weeks
before my son was born, and he was 64 last September. And that was
the smallest baby Steinway, baby grand that they made, now they make
them like teensy-weensy little fellows.
R: Are you going to leave it to one of your grandchildren?
P: Well, I already gave it to Anne, but she never used it. I thought
Tinker would take it, but Tinker's given up piano. I'll let them
fight over it.
R: You're not going to put in your will who gets what?
P: Not really. Now this furniture, that chair, that dining furniture,
and my bedroom furniture, that all was about 1910. You want to see
the table? Come here.
R: Ila Pridgen was much too modest to tell us all of the honors that she
has received in her wonderful life. I, as her recorder, feel bound to
add a postscript to what she has told us. On Saturday, May 13, 1972,
the University of Florida Law School held Ila Pridgen Day and a Florida
Law Reunion. From all over the state came her boys to pay her honor.
And this is what the program has to say: "If asked who influenced
them the most during their law school days, hundreds of Florida lawyers
who studied at the University of Florida College of Law between 1929 and
1955 would probably name Ila Rountree Pridgen. Mrs. Pridgen began the
26 years during which she worked for the College of Law in 1929 as
assistant law librarian. While working at the law school, she attended
classes and earned an L.L.B. with high honors in June, 1943. During
World War II she served in a triple capacity as law librarian, admini-
strative assistant to Dean Trusler, and faculty member. When many of
the faculty members were away in service Mrs. Pridgen taught several
law courses, primarily criminal law. In 1948 she became full-time law
librarian and remained so until her retirement in 1955. Many members
of the Florida bar today will remember Mrs. Pridgen best from the personal
counseling she gave them. She initiated the still-functioning Senior
Loan Fund to enable students to overcome financial emergencies in their
senior year of law school so that they could graduate. She always took
a keen personal interest in the law students and was concerned with their
welfare. She was highly respected and dearly loved by her boys, many
of whom lived in her house. Known as Pridgen Hall, the house was run by
Mrs. Pridgen even though she was employed full-time by the College of
Law and was the mother of two children. At a banquet, a portrait of
Mrs. Pridgen will be presented to the law center by Judge Charles B.
Fulton and William Reese Smith, Jr. Others of her boys will present a
"This is Your Life" program, featuring the career span of Mrs. Pridgen
in the College of Law. In addition to the presentation of the portrait,
the contributors to the Ila R. Pridgen Fund began a book collection
presented to the University of Florida Law Library in Mrs. Pridgen's
name. Alumni may add to this book collection by sending a check to the
dean. Each book purchased for the Ila R. Pridgen Collection will have
an appropriate flyleaf recognizing her long service to the College of
Law, and will be symbolic of the love and affection felt for this dis-
tinguished lady by her boys."