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Interview with Mary Purser, February 11, 1982

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Interview with Mary Purser, February 11, 1982
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Purser, Mary ( Interviewee )
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University of Florida Campus (General) Oral History Collection ( local )

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

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Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
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This interview is part of the 'University of Florida' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
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the University of Florida.


UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
INTERVIEWEE: Mrs. Mary Purser
INTERVIEWER; Emily Ring
February 11, 1982


R: Today is February 11, 1982. I am sitting in the home of Mrs. Stuart
Purser, Mary, located at 2210 NW 2nd Avenue. Mary, would you tell us
something about where you were born and where you grew up, and your
parents and grandparents and sisters?
P: Well, fortunately I don't have a very large family, or that would be a
rather lengthy comment. I was born and reared in Chicago. People in
Chicago usually specify which side of Chicago because it has such dis-
tinct differences in the areas. Because I was raised on the north side
of Chicago and close to the Lake, I had very pleasant feelings about
Chicago. It was a very attractive area in that time and I can say that
I enjoyed my childhood there.
R: When were you born?
P: I was born in 1913.
R: Who were your father and mother?
P: Well, my mother and father were not Chicagoans. My father was brought
up in New York, in Brooklyn, to be exact. He came to this country as a
very small child. His father was a hotel manager, and left Dresden,
Germany with a wife and four sons. My father was the second son. His
mother passed on soon after. Later, he and the other three boys, not
caring too much about their stepmother, and she not caring too much
about them, were on their own, and so he practically raised himself in
New York City.
R: What was his name?
P: Paul Oswald May, and he worked for the German-American dye and chemical
company most of his life. He was a chemist, actually. As he was
growing up he began taking night classes in chemistry and became quite
a skillful chemist. Later he was sent to Chicago as manager and the
western salesman for this German dye company.
R: What was your mother's name?
P: My mother's name was Marie Jagsch. My father's was so much simpler;
I'm glad I had my father's name. The name Mary May was confusing, how-
ever. Most people would say, "Well, Mary May what? So, it was nice
that I added Purser later. I'm a twin and because of that, I suspect
my mother was surprised of the arrival of twins, and might have shared
the name, and so I have a sister Jean who lives in Detroit.
R: Is she an identical twin?
P: Yes, we're very much alike and we both married artists. Her husband's
a sculptor and was head of Wayne State University art department for
many years. He retired this year.
R: So you grew up on the north part of Chicago with your twin sister and
there were no other children?


2
P: Yes, my brother. I think because my sister and I were so close, he
felt a little bit on the outside.
R: He came later?
P: No, he was a year-and-a-half older. And he had a somewhat different
viewpoint. My sister and I were more satisfied with being children, I
think. I think he always wanted to be an adult. He seemed to be
always sort of putting his best foot forward, so to speak, and that
amused us and I don't think he liked being laughed at. We got along,
but we were never really very close. I saw him again recently and we're
real good friends, but it's just that we didn't have a whole lot in
common. Now, my brother wanted to be an architect, but we all gradua-
ted just at the time of the Depression and there was no building. So
he settled for being a mathematician and he has been a comptroller now,
for many years and has worked in cities like Detroit and Pittsburgh and
at the head of the office of some rather large companies. His life has
been quite different from my sister's and mine. We have always been in
the college community and had an association with art groups and that
kind of thing.
R: Where did you go to school, Mary?
P: I think it's kind of interesting now that I look back. I went to what
would be called a "neighborhood school." Chicago must have had a lot of
neighborhood schools where children walked to school because there was
only one of each grade and that would mean that it would just take in a
small area. And so the school I went to was called "Swift" and I can
picture almost exactly every single teacher I had in that school. My
sister and I were always the ones who did the artwork. In those days
art wasn't conceived of as something for everybody and certain children
were selected out to do the decorating of the room and that kind of
thing. However, they did have art. An art supervisor came around and
they did have art for everybody, but we were sort of pointed to as the
class artists. So we might have missed a little bit of math or English
or something, but we were always the ones who decorated the room or did
the art.
R: And you and your sister were not separated in school.
P: No.
R: Sometimes I've known some twins that separated.
P: No, we were always together, but we'd separate ourselves on occasion.
We had twin friends at one time; their name was Davidson, I recall. And
they became rather famous dancers. And I went with Harriet and my sis-
ter went with Gretchen, or visa versa. I don't remember right now. I'm
surprised I even remember their names, but when we were old enough to
walk to the corner drugstore and buy an ice cream cone and ask for a
glass of water. We were with these separate friends-and we confused
people then. I remember one time the druggist said, "Well, how many


3
times are you going to come in here and ask for water?" because two
pairs of twins would be quite confusing.
R: They were identical twins?
P: Yes, (I think so). And they had their pictures in the Chicago Tribune
some years later, as being really well-known dancers. That was kind of
an intersting little thing. And then in high school we also had our
own friends. But somehow we were always together with friends. We had
a little group. But we were very compatible, always and still are.
R: Now youtmother did not work outside the home.
P: No. She was a wonderful homemaker. She was a marvelous cook and during
the Depression years she could stretch a dollar about as far as you
could stretch it and have an attractive table.
R: Had her people come from Germany also?
P: Yes. Now, I haven't told yet about my mother, but her family was per-
haps a little more interesting than my father's. I know very little
about my father's family, actually. But I should add that my father's
family included musicians. His uncle was a violinist or viola player,
both, perhaps, in the Kaiser's orchestra in Dresden where my father was
born. So the family had some distinguished members, and that's about
all I know about them. But on my mother's side, I knew all my mother's
sisters and I even got to meet a great-aunt in Germany one time when we
were on a trip to Germany in the late '30s. Stuart and I met my great-
aunt Katharine, and that was quite an experience. My mother came from
a family who left Europe for particular reasons. My grandfather had
been raised to be a Catholic priest and he didn't want to be a priest,
and didn't want to be a Catholic. And so he married a Protestant and a
friend of his found a job for him in Columbus, Ohio. So he went there
and was a foreman in some sort of factory for a while. At that time he
had four children, I guess. My mother was third and there were nine
children in all. Later he became a rather well-known wholesale florist
and that, along with politics, was his interest in life. His wife was
considered quite a good mathematician. People would bring problems to
her that they couldn't solve and she would solve them. She never
learned to speak English very well; no wonder, because she was at home
with nine children. But my mother, being one of the older ones, as-
sumed the responsibility of helping raise the other children, and sev-
eral of my aunts became quite interesting as professional women. One
of my aunts was a grade school principal for many years. Another one
was a secretary to a blind superintendent of the Ohio State School for
the Blind, and probably the most distinguished of all was my designer
aunt who was quite a well-known dress designer. The other members of
the family were nice average people.
R: So you think that your interest in artistic things comes from your
mother's side of the family.


4
P: More or less. I think the music came from my father's side. My father
could play almost any instrument, and was an excellent violinist. I
had musical education. My parents were so interested in music. My
mother, by the way, had a lovely voice and studied opera in New York and
also continued her singing lessons after she moved to Chicago. That
was kind of her hobby, but she never did anything with it profession-
ally.
R: But you're interested in music as well as art?
P: Well, I think that I'm not. I can't say that I am because I don't
think I have the same feeling for audio as I do for visual. Music to
me is marvelous at times, but I never have the urge to just go to con-
certs a lot or anything like that. It isn't something that I just have
to do. I like quiet. I like bird noises. I like listening to wonder-
ful music occasionally, but art, the visual, has always been what I've
really enjoyed. I do think that people divide somewhat into two groups
of being either audio or visual. And I think a lot of visual children
in the schools are overlooked because perhaps they're not the best lis-
teners and their visual sense is the one that needs to be approached.
That isn't always approached real well.
R: I'd never thought of that. So you have been interested in art all of
your life.
P: My sister and I have both devoted ourselves to it. We knew from the
time that we were very young that we were going to be artists and that
we would go to the Art Institute, and we went there as children, by the
way. My mother and father sent us on Saturdays to the Chicago Art
Institute and we had very good instruction. At that time art education
was getting a real boost. There was a growing interest in it and it was
being enlarged and improved.
R: About how far from the Art Institute did you live?
P: Well, it seems strange. Now, here in Gainesville, we have a barn-
studio which is exactly eight miles from where we live, and it has
just occurred to me that I lived only eight miles from downtown Chicago,
and yet it would take an hour to get home, because the elevated made
every stop. The streetcar, of course, was even slower. But the bus is
what we usually rode. The bus ran on Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore
Drive and Sheridan Road, and that's all continuous. It was a lovely
ride and you could see the lake. But I always thought of it as a very
long trip coming home from downtown and going downtown. It seemed like
a long, long way and really it wasn't very far. We didn't have a car;
my father was a person who traveled a lot and was very timid about
driving so he never learned to drive. He was afraid of it, really, and
my mother didn't learn either, and so we depended upon public transpor-
tation a great deal.
R: Fortunately in those days it was not expensive.


5
P: Oh, ten cents. We went back to Chicago last year-it was very windy
and cold and we were standing outside of the hotel just a short dis-
tance from the Art Institute, where we were supposed to go to a meeting
(this was an art education convention we went to), Stuart said, "Well,
let's just take the bus." And so when we got on and Stuart said, "How
much is it?" the driver said, "Eighty-five cents." And Stuart said,
"Eighty-five cents! The last time I rode on this bus it was ten cents."
And she looked at him as if he was crazy.
R: So Stuart grew in Chicago, too?
P: No, Stuart was born in Arkansas, a little town named Stamps. There was
an interesting documentary on Stamps recently, by a famous black woman,
who is a poet, and I can't think of her name. You probably know it.
She is from Stamps and she did this TV documentary, "Return to Stamps".
But anyway, it's a very small town in Arkansas and Stuart's dad was
with a lumber company there. After they cut out lumber in one place,
in those days, they'd just move on to another location, so they moved
to central eastern Louisiana. Stuart was raised right near Natchez in
Louisiana in a lumber town called Goodpine, and it was near a town
called Jena. It's not very far from Alexandria, where Stuart and I
lived for ten years.
R: The big lumber companies just swept through those southern towns and
cut out all of the timber and then they moved on to somewhere else.
P: Right, yes. All the virgin timber. Well, I think there wasn't really
any realization that there would be a scarcity. It didn't occur to them
that they needed to reforest. His father was kind of the spirit of the
town, in a way. He was a marvelous man. He organized the children
into groups, Boy Scouts, a band to go out on Sunday, a swim at the
creek, and he wasn't always in favor with the local preachers. Although
he was superintendent of the Methodist Sunday School, he was sometimes
at odds with some of the very conservative thinking of a small town.
Stuart grew up with a very wonderfully spiritual mother and a very well-
organized and authoritative father who really gave him, I think, a good
balance.
R: What did Mr. Purser do for a living?
P: Well, he was a craftsman, actually. He was in charge of the whole saw
operation. I guess you could call him a welder. He was a very, very
fine welder so that he was in demand, and even after he retired, lumber
companies, though they knew they couldn't get insurance for him, would
try to hire him because he would get the very best cut of the lumber.
That's the important thing. A lumber mill is in the business of cut-
ting lumber very well and he kept the saws in such perfect shape and
ran the mill so well that they were always doing very well. He had a
little bit of clout so that he could tell the owner off occasionally
when he needed to.


6
R: An indispensable man.
P: He was, really, and a wonderful man.
R: It sounds as if both you and Stuart had a very wonderful childhood.
P: Well, I used to think when Stuart told our children stories about his
childhood, I'd think, "Oh, that makes my childhood sound so dull." His
were trips into the woods, sometimes all scary and very exciting and
sometimes very humorous stories, too. I could never think of anything
humorous that happened to me when I was a child; but I'm sure there
were some humorous things that I just had forgotten about.
R: Did Stuart enjoy going hunting?
P: Yes. Well, of course, Stuart is very much against hunting now and I
think in view of the ecological problems with diminishing species and
all, that he is very conscious of the need to stop the killing, and
hunt with cameras instead of guns. But when he was a child that was a
wonderful experience for him because he learned about the woods.
R: And he learned to love the woods, right.
P: He went out in the woods a lot; he was very familiar with it. His dad
always taught him not to waste. For example, his dad would point to a
dead duck on the fence and say, "See that? That's waste. Someone shot
more than they needed and they just left it." You only shoot what you
need--and that kind of thing. So he had a very fine background in the
highest thinking that goes on among hunters.
R: So you and your sister went on through high school together in Chicago,
and then I believe you went to the Art Institute as students?
P: Yes. You asked if we were very similar. We had just a half-point dif-
ference in our grade averages in high school. We had a wonderfully in-
spiring art teacher in high school. Her name was Nell Devine. As a
matter of fact, we worked more with the staging of plays and costuming
and backgrounds and that sort of thing in her class, but there were
five art teachers in the high school where I went. It is called Senn
High School--very large. At the time we went there they had the nation-
al championship band. They won the top award in dramatics in the city;
they had the city championship Glee Club. It was really an outstanding
school in the city.
R: It was not a school especially for the arts.
P: No. It was just a very large school. In our graduating class, at mid-
terms, there were close to 500 students.
R: What year did you graduate?
P: 1931. And when we graduated-this was February, not June--they gradu-
ated 500, so you know the school was very large. As a matter of fact,


7
they were adding a wing to the school when we graduated. Well, this
art teacher, Miss Devine, was very interested in my sister and myself,
and she was always very loving and thoughtful about our interests and
work. She had heard about an annual competition at the Chicago Art
Institute for the Chicago Women's Club Scholarship and she told us
about it. So we went down there and took the exam; I received the
scholarship; my sister was the runner-up.
R: That was a touchy situation.
P: Well, it was. But since I had definitely won it, I went to art school
that fall. As you know, the Depression caused a lot of problems finan-
cially, and after we had graduated from high school in February we had
both gotten jobs at Dennison's paper company. It didn't pay very well,
but it was a pleasant environment. It was close to Marshall Fields and
Michigan Avenue. It wasn't in a disagreeable part of Chicago, or dif-
ficult, we were only seventeen. My mother would have worried if we had
been in some other area because these were the Al Capone days. We both
worked there, and then when I left, my sister kept the job of teaching.
After I finished the year at the Art Institute I went back and took the
job that she had, and she went to the Art Institute for a year. That
way we supported each other. Of course our parents took care of our
needs at home. Board and room, was all taken care of.
R: And you were teaching craft classes at the Dennison company?
P: The Dennison paper company was really an interesting experience. When
we walked in there we had taken our little package of drawings that we
did in high school around to places like A. B. Dick and finally someone
said, "Well, why don't you try Dennison's?" So we went in there and
this lovely white-haired lady met us at the door and soon said, "Well,
I think I might have two part-time positions doing mimeographing--you
know, drawing, making drawings for reproduction. Dennison's crepe
paper was and is today used for decorating and party decorating, and
they needed instruction sheets to give customers. However, when we
went in, they began training us for teaching. They would give free les-
sons to anyone who bought all their supplies there. We would stand at
a large table with about thirty women sitting all around us and show
them how to make anything they wanted to make. We got three days' les-
sons on this before we started. If they wanted to make a full-blown
rose, you looked in the files, found the pattern and taught them how to
make a full-blown rose. If they wanted to make Mt. Vernon in cardboard
you just had to figure it out.
R: And you were learning along with them too.
P: Yes, we learned a lot. A teacher might come in and want to make a vil-
lage of South Africa with little wire figures made of crepe paper, or a
wealthy lady might come in with all her gifts and want someone to help
her wrap them.
R: I guess crepe paper was something rather new in those days.


8
P: Well, I think it was rather popular for flowers in the home. Actually
I learned a lot about flowers because, although I never cared too much
for paper flowers generally, I think some are attractive. I like the
ones that don't really look like flowers, I mean, they don't look like
any particular flower. Dennison's had patterns for everything from a
delphinium to a pine cone lily. I learned the names and the shapes and
the appearance of any number of flowers. I could make a perfect chrysanthemum.
Roses got to be a real problem if you didn't know how to get
the calyx just right'.
R: This is not the kind of art you taught later at P. K. Yonge?
P: No, this was just a job. There was nothing really creative except now
and then. We confused the women so much at this table that they decid-
ed to have one of us go upstairs and work on designing part favors.
We drew straws and I was sent upstairs to design.
R: They couldn't tell you apart.
P: So I designed party favors and I made up sheets that would be mimeo-
graphed for directions for making things. It was somewhat creative and
then, too, we got jobs from people who would come in and want, for ex-
ample, a papier mache horse for the Kentucky Derby for a table decora-
tion. Someone came in one time who wanted to honor Carl Sandburg and
they wanted papier mache figures of all the Rutabago Stories characters.
My sister did those; they were just darling. And then we got to making
puppets and teaching people to make puppets out of crepe paper. So it
was rather close and so at lunch hours I would go to the Art Institute
occasionally to see exhibits and we'd have to be careful we didn't run
into people who just knew one of us who'd think we were the other, and
we'd confuse them and then they would think we weren't speaking; it was
a little bit awkward.
R: Well, you didn't like to tease people on purpose, did you?
P: No, we never tried to do that, though my sister teased me one time by
going half way down the stairs with a fellow. He was a neighbor friend
of my brother's and he had gone off to college and came on a visit. He
didn't really know us apart very well. My sister grabbed his arm and
ran down the stairs with him just as a joke. Then she came back up.
But that's the only time I recall.
R: You sort of shared this scholarship.
P: We both got a scholarship the next year so that we both got to be in
school and after that I married. Well, I was working at Dennison's in
between the years at the Art Institute, and by the way, I went to night
school that year so that I made up what amounted to about three years
at the Art Institute.
R: And Stuart had come up from Louisiana.


9
P: Yes. Now, Stuart was in his fourth year when I met him at the Art
Institute. He had been through college so that he was in a position to
work at the Art Institute at various jobs in the school. Helen Gardner
a well-known art historian, had him for the art history classes.
R: What college did he go to?
P: He went to Louisiana College, a small Baptist college in Louisiana, not
far from his home. Very nice little denominational college.
R: Where is it located?
P: It's in Alexandria. I mean Pineville, across Red River from Alexandria.
And incidentally, we went there to live and I lived there ten years
after we married. But what I started to say was, I met Stuart walking
down Michigan Avenue on his way to the Art Institute one day. Actually
I was going to the Christian Science Reading Room that day. I was
walking down the street...
R: Was you(family a member of the Christian Science Church?
P: My mother was.
R: But your father was Catholic?
P: No. Nobody in our family was Catholic. My grandfather had left the
Catholic Church.
R: So your mother had joined Christian Science.
P: She didn't have much of a church affiliation because her father left
the Catholic Church and the children were never really attached to any
particular church. Her father sent them to the Congregational Church.
She had been to church as a child but there was no real attachment. My
mother had been looking for a church for many years. She was very spir-
itually oriented and when she found Christian Science, my brother was
healed of a very difficult problem of asthma almost immediately, and she
took up the study.
But back to the story: I was on my way to the reading room and here
comes Stuart along the street. I'd seen him on the janitor team. The
"A" students, at that time, were given menial jobs because they were the
only jobs there were and so Stuart worked cleaning up the classrooms,
and I would see him at the end of the classroom with the other young men
who also worked as janitors. And then I went to some parties given by
the Delta Phi Delta art honorary fraternity. I was invited to some of
the parties. I couldn't afford to join, but I went with some of the
young men that invited me and I would see Stuart at those parties. So
I knew him well enough to talk to him on the street. We talked about a
block or two on my way to the reading room and the next thing I knew he
called me, and invited me to a school dance. That's how we got to going
together. We married about a year later and then left Chicago. We


10
went out to teach in Washington at Washington State College. And that
was a wonderful experience. We were about as poor as anybody can be.
We were on a one hundred dollar a month salary, taking a half-time job
at the time of the Depression. It sounds miserable, but it was really
fun because we made our own fun and we had lots of company. There were
many young couples who were on the same budget, and we still correspond
with and occasionally see some of them that we knew out there.
R: And you liked to live on a shoestring?
P: Oh, yes. Because I'd already learned how to manage, living in Chicago
during the Depression.
R: Was either one of your children born out there?
P: No, we lived there for one year and then we moved to Louisiana. Stuart
had been offered a job in Louisiana at the college where he had gone to
school. We lived there for ten years. Bob was born in 1940.
R: Was that a church school?
P: Yes, it's a Baptist college. There were three jobs open to Stuart in
the summer of 1934. University of Kentucky, one at Wasington State,
which we accepted, and the other one was at Louisiana College. Stuart,
having been to Louisiana College (he taught there one year too in be-
tween his art studies), thought, "Well, that wouldn't be a very novel
thing to do." The Lexington, Kentucky offer sounded pretty good, but
it was art history and Stuart didn't want to teach art history, and so
we elected to go out to Pullman-and it was wonderful. We got to see
that part of the West and we really loved it out there, but we were kind
of anxious to get back to the South or East because we just felt like
our roots were back here. Stuart and I taught together at Louisiana
College, though I really didn't have a regular job; I was part-time.
R: Were his family still living in that part of Louisiana?
P: Yes, we frequently spent weekends with them, and we spent all our holi-
days with them. It was nice that we were so close. It meant a great
deal to them and to us too. His sister lives in Monroe, Louisiana; she
had married a dentist. We used to visit there, too, but we were just
thirty miles from where Stuart's folks lived. When they moved up to
Rayville, which is northeastern Louisiana, they were about one hundred
miles away.
R: Then your two children were born in Louisiana.
P: No. Bob was born there in '40. We moved in '45, and Jeannie was born
in Chattanooga in '46. See, we lived in Louisiana from '35 to '45, and
Stuart came very close to being drafted. He was close to the age of
exemption, but at one point he was drafted and he was put in charge of
the group of people who went up for the physical. He was the only one
who chose the Marines. Army and Navy people were shipped out, but they


11
never had enough men to make up a group of Marines, and so he stayed
around long enough that the age limit was dropped, and then he was ex-
empted. He was really embarrassed. The students had given us going
away parties and the college had given us a week in New Orleans. They'd
given me his job. I was to teach for him while he was gone. There were
just the two of us at the time in the art department of this small
college.
R: So then he came back.
P: So then he decided that since he had already been given the year off he
would go up to Ohio State. So he went up there and worked as a doctoral
student, with a teaching fellowship. He had a good year with a very
fine person up there in art history, Ralph Fanning.
R: And you stayed on.
P: Yes, I stayed on with Bob and taught. I took care of all the classes.
They were largely women. So many of the men were gone, and I had a lot
of army wives. There were five army camps and four air bases, and so
classes were mostly army wives and people from distant states. Stuart,
then worked on his doctorate and he could have gotten it, but there
were some difficult language requirements--and he wasn't getting very
far with his painting. Somehow it wasn't a very good place for the
painting.
R: He needed you as an inspiration.
P: Well, thank you. He then just dropped the idea of getting the doctorate
and came back. But in the meantime he met a Dr. Lockmiller who encour-
aged him very strongly to come look over a job at Chattanooga, and
Stuart and I then had to make a decision. We liked where we were, but
the salary was not very good. There was a great deal of interest in
the art among the community and one generous lumber man had even built
us a new department and offered to subsidize our salary. But we just
felt that it was right to move on. The interest in art seemed to grow
after we told them we were leaving. We thought that wasn't quite right,
and that they should have thought of it sooner, and so we accepted the
job in Chattanooga and we were very happy we did. I did some teaching
there and Jeanie was born there the first year.
R: What college was that?
P: Well, it's now called the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, but
at that time it was called the University of Chattanooga. And at one
time years ago, it was a Methodist school. Then it became a city col-
lege and then part of the state university college. We've been back
there and Stuart's done a lot of portraits of the trustees there; we've
been back on many occasions. Living in Chattanooga and teaching there
was a nice experience. Bob was in kindergarten by that time, so there
is that difference in their ages, but it worked out very well.


12
R: Were you allowed to teach at the university in Chattanooga?
P: Yes. And I was payed a proper salary.
R: There was no nepotism?
P: No, there wasn't. And it worked out well for me because the person who
was teaching the design and some of the subjects that I was going to
teach had not been satisfactory, and they were anxious to replace her
right then. So I fell into the job right away. But I taught only half-
time because I had to be home much of the time. At one time, though,
our resources were difficult because of the move and everything, so I
also taught at a private school, Bright School, some afternoons, and I
worked with very gifted children. There were small classes and the
work...
R: That was a good name for the school.
P: Yes. Mary Bright was the principal. It sounds like Mary Poppins or
something. She was a charming, lovely lady. She had tried being a
teacher in the public school. I think at that time Chattanooga was
very low on the national list in education, and so she started this
fine private school. I don't feel strongly about private schools at
all, but I think sometimes they do fill a need. What they do in most
cases, of course, is pull down the public schools. All the professional
people in Chattanooga would, even before their children were born, sign
up for Bright School. It was a marvelous school.
R: Of course, we're used to that sort of thing now. The South has been in-
tegrated. But even in those days we had some very fine, a few very
fine private schools.
R: And if you go back far enough, the South had only private schools
because it was very late getting its public schools.
P: Yes.
R: My mother always felt that private schools were much better.
P: Yes.
R: My father had run private schools.
P: Mary Bright was very much into art. I've noticed in a lot of private
schools, in the old days Latin was very important, and the three R's
were overemphasized to the point that the students sometimes missed out
on some of the things that go with public schools. They just pounded
the academics because, in most cases, they were preparing students for
the eastern colleges. They wanted to be sure that they could make it
into Harvard and Yale and all those schools.
R: I suppose Chattanooga had an upper class made up of the executives in
the coal and steel industry?


13
P: Well, yes. There are a lot of small factories there, and there are a
lot of professional people there, and the interesting thing is that all
the rich people live up on the mountains. Not only is there an upper
class, they live "upper," and parts of Chattanooga were a disgrace
until more recent years when they finally had to clear out the smog.
It's kind of a valley that's surrounded by mountains and the air there
was considered to be very unhealthy.
R: Did you live in a place with a lot of smog?
P: Well, yes. We purposely lived close to the university so that I could
teach. Otherwise, I couldn't be with the children if I had to, and
actually, transportation there is so difficult in the winter. You had
to ride those very precarious highways up to the mountains. When the
weather was bad, people traveled a little cable car down the mountain.
And I guess in some cases, they don't even try to come down. The fog
is terrible in the winter. The summer, of course, is alright, but the
problem of living out from town was always the distance. Signal
Mountain too is out quite a ways, anid, of course, so is Lookout Mountain.
The mountains are all around the city. Bright's School was in the city.
In fact, I used to walk there. However, since then, I think they've
rebuilt out a little further. It was among what used to be "mansions,"
or fine houses in that area, when Chattanooga was much smaller. I
suppose, many of the homes were very nice, but most of them had gotten
older and were a lot more run down on some of these streets right in
town.
R: So it was located where the first fine homes had been built.
P: Yes. It was in that area and it had been there quite a while, I guess,
when I taught there.
R: How did you happen to come to the University of Florida?
P: Stuart had become well known through the Southern Art Education Organi-
zations and art organizations as a leader in art and consequently, we
went to a lot of conventions at that time. We were really quite well-
acquainted with other schools and other people and Stuart was asked to
be...
R: What organization was it?
P: Well, Stuart started one. It was called the New Southern Group (of
Painters) and then we also went to the Southern States Art League--I
believe that's what it was called--and that included artists and art ed-
ucators, but as the groups grew larger and as the South has grown, art
education is separated from the college art groups. Stuart was presi-
dent of the Southeastern Art Association--I can't remember the years--
but it was when the children were small, and so his reputation grew,
both as a teacher and administrator, and as an artist. In our fourth
year at Chattanooga, he was asked to start the art department at the
University of Mississippi. A government grant was extended for that.


14
I think it goes back to the fact, too, that the Southern universities
now had become co-educational and they thought that there was a need
for more subjects that girls would like. I mean to say that their view-
point had been rather narrow in that they thought: "Boys don't need
art; girls do need art." And Tallahassee used to be more of a music
center than Gainesville. Now it's pretty well equalized. We've made a
lot of progress that way.
R: Now, what year was that?
P: Stuart was asked to go there in 1949. We'd been in Chattanooga since
summer of 1945; we got to Chattanooga on VJ Day. We arrived there on
VJ Day and we were there for four years. We graduated a large class of
students, and I might add that those were the best students we ever had.
They were GI's who came back and were just so into their studies, and
into being good students. We had marvelous classes. We have friends
here in Gainesville, the Cravens, who were our students at that time.
We saw them graduate, and soon after, they got married.
R: Now Roy Craven was a student of art in Chattanooga?
P: Yes, he studied with both of us. And Lorna was, too. That's interest-
ing in connection with what we were talking about because they live
here now.
R: Roy Craven is now head of the gallery.
P: He's head of the gallery, and also teaches classes in Indian art. Lorna
is a very accomplished artist. That class was unbelieveably good. I
kind of lost track of where we were.
R: How you happened to come to Ole Miss.
P: Well, Stuart was then asked to start the art department there, so we
were talking about the different colleges becoming co-educational. It
became obvious that art was one of the things they didn't have at Ole
Miss. Here at Gainesville they had a small department at that time,
but at Ole Miss, there was nothing. Stuart went there about a month or
two early and went to every town of any size in Mississippi and put ads
in the local papers offering to talk to anyone who was interested in
taking art at the University of Mississippi. And so he got to meet a
lot of people. By the time he opened the art department in the fall he
had a large group.
R: Well, he went out in the state and got his students.
P: Yes. He contacted students, he talked to the parents, he talked to the
people. Ole Miss was a lovely experience. It's a very friendly school.
I think most people who don't know Mississippi are really unfortunate
in that they don't know the good things about it that a person who has
lived there know.
R: All they know is that Ole Miss has had many misnomers.


15
P: It's true in some ways; they are kind of unprogressive in Mississippi.
R: Miss America and the football team are all they know.
P: But the campus is lovely. The students are extremely friendly are nice
young people who have fine social graces. It's true what they say
about Mississippi, "It's not a state, it's a club." There is a lot of
tradition, and a lot of southern charm.
R: Especially at Ole Miss.
P: And it's really a very interesting and attractive place to be.
R: If your father went to Ole Miss, then you'd go to Ole Miss.
P: Yes. And the professors are extremely charming people. The ones I
studied with were fascinating teachers. And I got my B.A. there. I
took classes in history, astronomy, geology. I got a minor in English.
I had all of my art credits so I didn't have to get them. I didn't need
to take any art to get a major in art because they were transferred
from the Art Institute.
R: These were the days when William Faulkner was writing the novels that
became so famous.
P: Yes. And we had to read them. I had a very fine professor that was
the graduate dean, who knew William Faulkner somewhat. He invited
William Faulkner's brother to come and talk to us. I used to walk part
of the way home with him occasionally. He was a history major.
R: You are speaking of William Faulkner's brother.
P: Yes. He looked just like William. Stuart got to know William Faulkner
because Stuart would be out painting or sketching, and Faulkner, who
was very much interested in the arts, would watch Stuart and ask him
questions. So Stuart got to visit with him some.
R: Do you remember the name of your professor who became dean?
P: I think it's Hutchinson, but I'm not sure. He passed on shortly after
that. He wasn't very elderly. I had two elderly professors. Dr.
Morris was one of them. He was state geologist at one time. The other
one was a darling man. I have his astronomy textbook. He was asked to
be an after dinner speaker at many occasions because he was so witty
and cute, and I think he must have been all of seventy-five when he was
teaching. He was a very elderly man to be so lively.
R: Professor
P: Kennan. Dr. Kennan. He was a darling man. Of course, I had the
children to take care of and I had to do my homework each night. So I
didn't get to be very sociable there, but actually people in Mississippi


16
are very friendly. Incidentally, I was asked to represent the
University of Mississippi at the Centennial celebration here at UF. I
walked alongside of the president of the University of Maine in the pro-
cession.
R: Did you work at the demonstration school on campus?
P: Jeanie went to the kindergarten and to the nursery school and Bob was
in the only elementary school they had then. I think they have another
one now. He had a funny experience in the music area. Bob was a
rather quiet child and he was very pleased when the high school band
leader (recruiting a bit earlyl) selected him as the one in fourth
grade who would be the best trombone player. Bob didn't think about
the work he'd have to do to be in a band, but he just couldn't wait to
get home and talk us into buying a trombone, which we did. The band
director's name was Mr. Work, and that's rather interesting because
every time we'd see him at the drug store or something we'd sort of turn
our backs so we wouldn't have to speak to him and he would turn his back
too, so he wouldn't have to speak to us. The report on Bob's work
wasn't very good, I'm afraid. Bob really wasn't that interested in
being a trombone player. When he found that he had to carry his trom-
bone to school and couldn't ride his bicycle--it was quite hilly in
Oxford--I don't think he liked his trombone at all. He got as far as
"Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and that was it.
R: Well, didn't he become interested in art, too?
P: Well, Bob was a generalist, and today he is somewhat of a generalist,
but his ability in art wasn't really as unusual as Jeanie's--I mean,
we didn't see a great deal of talent--but he would do a lot of art; his
main interest was building things. He would take wood and other mater-
ials and make things that were really quite unique. I can't explain it
exactly now but I remember one time--it sounds rather mundane--he con-
structed a door stop that was very unusual in some way when he was quite
small.
R: Well, he did turn out to be a teacher, didn't he?
P: Yes. A design teacher and department administrator. And right now he
is into environmental design and teaches things connected with that.
He likes textile design and color theory. Now his main concern is
architecture, architectural design, and environmental design, not in
the sense of being an architect, but in restoration of or in apprecia-
ting architecture.
R: Where does he live now?
P: He's head of the art department at Bellevue Community College in
Bellevue, Washington. His doctoral dissertation had to do with teach-
ing art, teaching architecture to children, and how to help them under-
stand architecture and the environment.
R: Where did he get his degree?


17
P: University of Oregon is where he got his doctorate under June McPhee.
She's a very hard taskmaster; it was a long, hard job, but she is also
an environmentalist and a designer, and they had a very good experience
together. Bob's other degree came from the University of Washington,
where he got a degree in design having to do with understanding basic
design, and of course you can go into many different areas in that.
His first degree was from Central Washington College at Ellensburg,
Washington.
R: Bob is married and has a family?
P: Yes and no. He is married, but he doesn't have a family. He lives in
Seattle and his wife is an English major. She studied at Brown and
she's from Seattle.
R: And where did Jeanie go to school?
P: Jeanie graduated here at the university. Now she has her master's in
art education.
R: And she's teaching here in Gainesville.
P: Yes, she teaches at Buchholz.
R: What year did you leave Ole Miss to come to the University of Florida?
P: We left in 1951. I managed to graduate with a B.A. there. We left
that summer and Stuart was invited to come here.
R: Who was chairman of the art department here at that time?
P: Hollis Holbrook. He had resigned and I think Stuart had been suggested
by him, as well as by several others who thought that he would be a
good person. So he came here, as head of the art department. I think
he enjoyed the administrative work, but it turned out to be quite a
problem because, although this school is interested in art to a degree,
there was always the emphasis placed on the so-called men's areas--the
law, medicine, agriculture, engineering. These have always just tra-
ditionally, received the money. Architecture, of course, got more sup-
port than art, and there was even the sort of a feeling that architect-
ure is more important than art; and so Stuart had somewhat of a diffi-
cult time although he was very successful, I think, with his faculty
and had their support, right down to the last one.
R: He came here in what year?
P: Well, he came here in '51, and in a short time he had a very large de-
partment. He had wonderful support from his faculty and students. But
the problem arose, I think, when Dr. Miller, a fine educator, passed
on. There was some confusion in the administration about a department
like art, which needed so many things at that time in order to keep up
with its growing number of students.


18
R: Do you remember what year the art gallery was built?
P: No, I really don't.
R: Was it after Stuart came?
P: Oh, yes. And incidentally, it has never been adequate. They didn't
really plan it to house the art that they now have acquired, and so
they are building a new one. The plans are under way and they hope to
have it built in a few years.
R: Well, art was originally in the same building with architecture.
P: Yes, and it was in that old makeshift building for a long time. And
finally they were given a couple of other temporary buildings and
Stuart struggled along and did a marvelous job. Enrollment was great;
the grade average was very high. I think the grade average of the art
students was between A and B, I believe. And Stuart had a fine depart-
ment with so many problems that Stuart felt that he couldn't handle the
administration any more. He didn't want to. And so then he became a
full teaching professor. We went off for a couple of years to
California to make the transition, because it was a little difficult to
drop out of that position.
R: And who came as head of the department then?
P: Clint Adams came in and he turned out to be a disaster. I mean a real
disaster, in every way. He divided the faculty. He fired everyone
that Stuart hired that he could possibly fire. They've all since gotten
good jobs. He couldn't fire Roy because Roy was on tenure. But there
were five others that he dismissed.
R: What about Pleasant Ray, the other artist professor?
P: Oh, you mean Mac...
R: Macintosh. Pleasant Ray Macintosh.
P: Yes, I didn't know. P.R. is all I've ever heard--P.R. Macintosh.
R: He was around then, wasn't he?
P: Yes, he was established. He couldn't be fired. But he retired
shortly after that, and Mac has been very successful with his paint-
ings. Stuart thinks he does a great job with his painting and should
have a New York show. I understand there is something under way of
that kind of thing right now. Perhaps there will be one. Incidentally,
Clint brought in some very fine people, but what he did was create a
division so that no one in the group that he brought in dared to talk
to anybody in the old group. He made them feel like their job was on
the line, and so they wouldn't even look at you. It was a terrible
situation.


19
R: It's a wonder you ever came back.
P: Well, it's a wonder Stuart survived it because it was so difficult-to
have all the people he'd hired, fired and that sort of thing. But no
one really liked Clint Adams. They were glad when they caught him; they
caught him at a freakish sort of thing that he was doing and so they...
R: What became of him?
P: Well, Dr. Reitz finally looked in on it and found out that there was
something really wrong, so he fired him. So, then Gene Grissom took it
temporarily. And when Gene took it, things didn't improve too much.
You know, there was the "Ivory Tower" problem, and Gene never tried to
reach out to the community. Stuart had tried to make the art depart-
ment something that the community could enjoy. We even had a high
school day when he brought in students from all over the state. The
children had boxed lunches, and an exhibit of high school art was ar-
ranged. It encouraged really talented kids to come in and join the
university.
R: Did you start teaching at P. K. Yonge about the time that Stuart came
here as head of the art department?
P: No, let me think now just how that went. When we came here, I'd had
just enough experience with women's clubs and that sort of thing--not
that I don't enjoy them--but enough to realize that that wasn't what I
wanted to do with my time. I wanted to get busy at something definite...
R: Professional.
P: ...that wouldn't use up what time I had, because when you have two
children in the house, you don't have much time anyway. And I thought,
well, if I stay home all the time, my time will just dissipate and I
won't get things done. So I began taking art classes, for no particu-
lar reason other than I wanted to do more painting. My area had been
design at the Art Institute of Chicago and although I like that very
much, I really always wanted to be a painter and an illustrator. I only
took the design because I thought it would be practical and that I
would be able to make some kind of a living from it. I think I was
gifted in that area; I had taken an art course in high school and we
did a lot of reproduction work with the school magazine and that sort
of thing, but I always wanted to do more painting and drawing and so I
signed up at UF. We had some very fine art teachers here, and among
the professors that I had one summer was Don Sudlow from California,
who was hired by Kimball Wiles, dean of education, and Stuart, to do
art education for the two departments. Students from ei+her department
could be in his classes. So I took that six hour workshop and that
gave me six hours in education which were the only education credits I
had. As I was working on my painting and gathering credits my husband
said, "See here, you've got enough credits to get a master's. All you
have to do is write your thesis." So I said, "Well, I can't do that.
I won't have time to sit down and write a thesis. I've got to cook


20
meals. I have to do this and that." He said, "Well, yes you will."
And Bob and Jeanie chimed in and said, "We'll fix the meals." Bob was
a good cook by that time. He likes home activities and he likes to
cook and so he did a lot of cooking and Jeanie helped with cold lunches
and Stuart helped too-and so I managed to get my thesis written up
that summer and so I graduated. When I did, Ina Jo Bennet, who is now
Ina Jo MacKenzie and teaches at Gainesville High, came to me and said,
"Well, I would like to get my master's, and I was wondering if you
could take the county job of art supervisor while I'm getting my degree.
And I said, "Well, I'd certainly like to. I don't know if I'd be qual-
ified." But it worked out so that I could get my education credits
while teaching. You're supposed to have a certain number of education
credits in order to qualify, and I didn't have a teaching certificate,
but I could be working on it. So, I taught and Ina Jo took two years
to do her master's. She thought it would be one, and then, she found
it would take two and so she...
R: In other words, you had earned your master's in art, but not in educa-
tion.
P: Yes. I had a master's in painting and I had a good bit of college
teaching experience and I also had taught Saturday classes for children;
as well as children's classes at the Chicago Art Institute. I had that
background, but no credit for it. So I took these long night courses
they have once a week at Norman Hall.
R: Oh, yes. I know. I took them.
P: And so I finally did get accredited with thirty-six hours beyond my
degree. But anyway, I enjoyed the county experience very much, and I
learned about working with children in the schools. I learned a lot
about teachers and...
R: Now you were supervising the art teachers?
P: There were no art teachers. I worked daily with teachers and children.
I had four schools; actually I had five the second year, and I taught
at one each day of the week. The second year I taught at a junior high
on Friday's. They didn't think I was busy enough!
R: Now these were all high schools.
P: No, these are all elementary schools. I had Finley, Sidney Lanier,
Stephen Foster, and what's the other big one over across town?
R: Russell?
P: No, Kirby Smith. I had Kirby Smith. I got to know every teacher in
Gainesville in elementary school. I would see each one every five
weeks. I had a schedule where I would-well, Ina Jo had this all set
up, and I just followed her schedule. I would go to one school a day
and work with five teachers or more. In five weeks I would have seen


21
every teacher in the city and I would actually teach the classes. Now,
lots of people in education think you should just work with the
teacher, and then the teacher transfers the materials you've worked
with them to the children. But r realized that most of the teachers
hadn't had much art, and some hadn't had any, and they were scared to
death of doing some of the things that I would suggest they do. So, as
a kind of a teaching experience for the teacher and the children I
would go in there and teach the class, and in that way I gave them all,
I thought, pretty good experiences in art, especially in painting. We
would do outdoor sketching some, and, of course, we did a lot of things
pertaining to three dimension. We made puppets, we did papier mache,
and we worked with seasonal things like Christmas decorations. But I
always worked with the idea of the creative aspects of art, and this
was a good experience for the teachers. That's why I'm working so hard
now to get an art supervisor in the county. Last night I mailed let-
ters to each of the board members encouraging them to further a plan
that I think is already under way, and that is to get an art supervisor
just for the elementary levels, because this is where it all starts.
(Art Supervisor and an art teacher for every two schools was placed
just a few months later.) If people don't have some sort of a back-
ground in elementary art, it's very hard later to pick it up. The high
school kidq are embarrassed when they can't draw something that doesn't
look beyond third grade.
R: After you left they didn't have an art teacher?
P: Well, yes. Ina Jo went back in. I was there two years. I felt that
what I did for those four schools was very worthwhile. I'm sure Ina Jo
did a good job when she went back in, but then they began to teach art
through television.
R: Why was it confined to only four schools?
P: There were only four elementary schools in Gainesville then, and we
didn't go to the outlying schools.
R: Not in the rest of the county.
P: No, and to no black schools. And in a way that was okay, because
beyond four it is just impossible to do a good job unless you have a
lot of workshops and the teachers are willing to come and work with you.
It was a matter of not enough time.
R: Well, they were the four lucky ones. This was before integration.
P: Right. They were the only grade schools right here in Gainesville. I
taught at Buchholz, the junior high, on Fridays too. I still know some
of the people who were in the classes. But although that was a very
hard, very difficult job, physically and mentally, it was very enjoya-
ble. I love working with the children and all, but it was physically
exhausting. Ina Jo, I think, found it pretty difficult too. So when
they suggested that she do a TV show. TV was then coming in and it


22
seemed like a good idea to have a TV in the room or have one inthe
school--she redesigned her art program. The children would go and
watch a demonstration, like, "This is the way you do water color," or,
"This is the way you collage." It's like having the children go to an
exhibition, see it, and then go back and paint. But what happened was
that the teachers didn't go back and work with the art. They would
just look at the TV and enjoy it and then return to the room and do
something else. Maybe a few did some things, but art just declined.
R: It was too passive.
P: Yes. And it has declined ever since then. Soon after, Ina Jo
(MacKenzie) became a high school teacher. The school board and educa-
tion administration brought in people who sat at desks. They pictured
someone sitting at a desk sending out little notes, and that's where
the art has been in recent years. They had a man who was well-inten-
tioned, but he was a music major for one thing, and he had been an ass-
istant principal and he wasn't cut out to be an art person, yet he was
the one that was made art supervisor.
R: You feel that the supervisor must go to the schools and work with the
teachers and the students.
P: Exactly.
R: And you've told them that in the letters that you've written.
P: Yes. That's what I told them. And I've also written other articles
for the paper and I went to the meeting out at Buchholz the other night.
We were discussing it. You'd be surprised how many parents want art
for their children.
R: Is that right?
P: Almost everybody mentioned the art at that meeting. People often think
their children are getting art when they're not. Teachers are doing a
lot of step one, step two, step three. Patterns, coloring sheets, it's
very bad.
R: On the other hand, many people think it's just one of those frills, as
they say.
P: And actually it should be integrated. That's one of the points that I
brought out, that art should not be a little room off somewhere, because
then when teachers send their children to that room once a week they
think, "Aha, the art is over. Now I can go ahead with my other things."
But I think the art should be part of everything in the elementary
classroom. Now, that sounds maybe a little radical, but it isn't. It
can be brought in as a motivational force even for mathematics-like
working with geometric shapes in a creative way. There are just so
many things that you can do with art.


23
R: I well remember the work that you did at Finley school when my boys
were there, and it just made everything at Finley school so much more
exciting. I remember the children used to have their artwork lining
the hall. They do have still a certain amount of that at Finley, don't
they?
P: Well, the last time I went over there. I really should investigate
further. I've seen things at the mall, and I've seen exhibits of
children's work here and there, if they're not able to put things up in
the mall that are of any quality or value you can just about decide
they are not doing very much. I went to Finley one time and here was
one very nice little exhibit from one class and it said, "special stu-
dents". These are the very cream of the crop, the very unusual stu-
dents, and they were doing rather nice little drawings but other than
that it was just, "Take a clothes pin, put tissue paper on the clothes
pin and dip it in glitter"--just stuff like that. Everybody's work is
identical. Now Glenn Springs Elementary School had an art teacher for
a while, but even there the teachers somehow get the idea that you have
to help children by giving them some sort of a pattern or show them how.
They don't realize that it can come from the children. That's where
the teachers fail. They don't really see how children can be creative,
and the problem is they think their work should be pleasing to parents.
They want it to look like a product. Incidentally, if the children are
given enough art, it will look like a product. If you don't ever give
them the chance to be creative, then this other stuff is not going to
be art. It's just going to be a lot of stuff.
R: Let's talk a bit about what you-and Stuart are doing in your retirement
years. You both recently retired from teaching and have joined our re-
tired faculty group.
P: Yes. We love that.
R: Are you painting every day in your own studio?
P: No, we don't paint every day, but we try to get to it as much as possi-
ble. Our studio is out on 1-75 and 39th and it's an old barn. Stuart,
with the help of some students, fixed it before we retired, and managed
to get it insulated. We even have a bathroom. We have wonderful space
and we have all the furniture we need--tables to work on, a little
place to cook, a tiny little kitchen, and air conditioning. Stuart
went to a garage sale one time and found a marvelous curtain to put
across the door, and there's an old double bed there in case we want to
take a little nap. The room is very large; it's the top of the barn.
We used to have the whole barn, but we realized we couldn't use the ex-
hibit space very well because of the fire problem. We didn't want to
be tied to the studio either, because if you have a gallery you have to
be there all day. So we gave up the idea of using the lower part after
we had fixed it as a gallery. We did have two or three shows there,
one for Jesse Aaron, and one of our own, and then we decided that we
would just turn it back to the Haufler's and pay a little less rent.
We don't own the barn. We just rent it.


24
R: Tell us who Jesse Aaron...
P: Jesse Aaron was an elderly black man whom my husband discovered here in
Gainesville. Stuart managed to get his work before the public on many,
many occasions and he became quite well known and was written up in all
the Florida papers. Now he has an exhibit at the Corcoran Museum in
Washington, D. C. It opens this month along with several other primi-
tive artists' work. Many of the artists are black.
R: Tell us what sort of work he does.
P: His work will be circulated all over the United States. His carvings
are extremely imaginative. Jesse used to describe them as "rough
sculpture". He always emphasized the "rough" because he did them with
great speed. He really worked very fast and turned out a lot of work.
If it had certain characteristics or certain branches, or whatever, he
would make it into whatever it suggested to him. It was usually ani-
mals or human faces. The faces he used were generally black faces and
then the animal shapes would come out of the parts of the wood. Some-
times he would combine them. Some of his work looked a lot like totem
poles.
R: Does he still live on Seventh Avenue?
P: Well, he passed on two years ago at the age of ninety-two, and his wife
is now in Miami with their daughter. They are thinking of making his
little house into a museum.
R: Good. And that's located on Seventh Avenue near Thirteenth Street.
P: Near Thirteenth, right. And Jesse built that house himself. He also
built a church that's near there, although he was not a church-going
person.
R: He built that church?
P: He helped build a church right in that area that is used today. When
his daughter, Ida, would come to visit, she would make repairs on the
house--clean the whole house, paint it. She built a porch all by her-
self one time. And she built the back room. She's marvelous. Just
like her dad. She'd worked with her dad so much she knew how to do all
these things.
R: Didn't he also have a wonderful garden?
P: Yes, next to the house. He raised all his vegetables and shared them
with us and lots of other people. And he wouldn't sell them to anybody
who didn't work. Negroes who were lazy or didn't do their part in the
community, he refused to sell them vegetables.
R: Wonderful farmer, yes.


25
P: He was a very unusual man. He was a really good citizen. I wrote a
little book about Jesse, and Essie (Campa), our yard man, whom I think
a great deal of. I'm hoping to publish it. It's mostly a picture book
and right now the market in the publishing business is a bit difficult
because everything is so expensive. To put out a book in color would
be quite expensive.
R: Well, now, Stuart published his book.
P: Yes, I'm hoping I can get mine published, but in color it would be too
expensive for us. Stuart published a book on drawing that has been
very successful.
R: A textbook on drawing?
P: Yes, Drawing Handbook. And then he also wrote other books; Applehead,
and one on Jesse, too.
R: Who published those?
P: Well, he published all of them. I should bay "we did" because we took
our savings and put it in the books, and I encouraged him, and also ed-
ited his books, but not completely. He had other help on them, too.
R: He wrote another book about his childhood, didn't he?
P: Yes, it's called Applehead. And then he also wrote a little story of
Jesse, which he published and all of these have sold well enough to pay
for the cost, but the drawing book was picked up David Publishing Com-
pany, and has become a very much used textbook in universities all over
the world.
R: So that has made money for you.
P: Yes, it has. It's a nice thing to have that check come in twice a year
because Stuart gets a very good royalty on it.
R: And Stuart has also sold some of his paintings as very good prices.
P: Well, yes. Stuart and I have both sold many of our paintings, but
Stuart is the one who has them in a lot of very important collections.
One of our local people, Bill Chandler, owns two of Stuart's best
paintings. He has a fine collection and will probably give it someday
(I'm just saying this) but I would hope that he would give it to the
university someday, when they get their new facilities.
R: Tell us about the two that Bill Chandler owns.
P: Well, one is a painting called Negro Funeral and the other is called
Chickens Roosting, and they are early paintings of Stuart's that he did
in the Louisiana days. Stuat's painting has become more abstract as he
went along so that he has moved with the times. You might say Stuart


26
is a scribe of the South. He's told the story of the South in painting.
I really think it would be wonderful if he could have another exhibit
sometime soon. I hope that he will be able to show the whole series of
paintings from his early times and the years that we've lived in the
South.
R: Now the one I love best is the one of the little black girls going to
Sunday School all dressed up.
P: Yes.
R: Where is that one?
P: I think that belongs to a friend of ours in New Orleans, John Curtis.
He has collected a great many of Stuart's paintings.
R: It was shown at the gallery once.
P: John was a student at Louisiana College. Not an art student, but one
that we knew quite well in Louisiana College. He became quite well-
fixed in later years. He has a very fine private school in New Orleans
and he has bought over thrity-five of Stuart's paintings. Stuart has
some in museums in some of the southern cities, and also, he has had
his work exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum, and in the Corcoran, and
many other places. He's won the Atlanta first prize at their annual
show in Memphis at least two or three times, and New Orleans several
times, "Best in the Show: that is, and so his work really has gotten
lots of acclaim.
R: Good.
P: I've been awfully proud of Stuart's work. He's done more writing
lately, but he's done some painting too. He won first place last year
in a show in Naples, no, in Sarasota, I believe it was.
R: Was that the Ringling Museum?
P: No, there's a very nice, new gallery there that handles Stuart's work
and this particular show is called All-Florida Artist's Show, or some-
thing like that, and they gather artwork from all over the state.
Stuart won first prize.
R: Is all of his painting now abstract?
P: Well, it's always semi-abstract. We both paint sort of semi-abstract.
Mine are always distinguishable, but I work more with the thought of
colors and shapes. Stuart has more of an emotional quality of some
feeling that he's conveying in his work.
R: Are you ever tempted to go back to the more conventional type?
P: Every once in a while Stuart does something that proves that he can.
He's done a lot of portraits and they have to be very representational.


27
R: He has done portraits?
P: Oh, Stuart's done a lot of portraits. He did all the trustees at
Louisiana College and then he did most of them at Chattanooga. He did
quite a few of me and my sister and his sister. Some of the ones of me
were burned. We had a fire the day that Bob was born. We had moved
all of our paintings out into a garage. There was a series of garages
outside our little house and someone walked through there and dropped a
cigarette in an oil puddle and the whole thing went up in flames and
all these paintings were burned. Stuart had a lot of portraits and some
very important paintings in that group.
R: Portraits and things.
P: But that was the day Bob was born, and we were so excited over Bob that
we didn't worry too much about the paintings. People would say, "I
don't know whether to congratulate you or console you." Everybody said
the same thing for about two weeks.
R: Right. Yes.
P: But, today we wouldn't really want all of those paintings. They would
have been sort of a drain, I guess, because we already have a lot of
paintings that we have to house in our garage.
R: You have a garage full of your paintings, too?
P: Yes, we have sold quite a few, but we still have some.
R: Well, Mary, thank you so much for telling us about your life and about
Stuart's life and we hope that you will continue this wonderful career.
in many years to come because you are still rather young
to be retired.
P: We feel young. We play tennis and try to keep going and doing things.
We enjoy every day.
R: Well, thank you so much, and as you know, this will go into the Florida
State Museum for future reference.
P: Well, that's nice.
R: Well, you have taught in other areas beside the supervisory work for
the elementary schools. Tell us about some of your other teaching,
Mary.
P: Well, after I taught in the county, Stuart and I then made a trip to
California and I did some teaching in the art education area at San
Fernando Valley State College, where Stuart was also teaching. Stuart
was in charge of the master's program, the graduate students, and all
in all it was a wonderful experience, but we were happy to get back to
Florida. When I got back I was asked to teach elementary art at P. K.


28
Yonge Laboratory School, and that's one of the highlights of my life
because I really enjoyed working with children at P. K. Yonge.
R: About what years would they have been?
P: Well, I think I taught at P.K. Yonge between 1959 and 1966. Of course
we were in California at two different times, 1958-59 and 1961-62. They
were persistent about Stuart and wanted him to come back out again to
see if he wouldn't stay, but we returned to Florida both times. Then I
was asked to teach art education over at Norman Hall to fill in certain
classes when the enrollment was up. So I was teaching half-time at P.
K. and half-time at Norman Hall for some of these years. Quite compli-
cated! It's hard to recall (the dates)! It overlapped a bit, but it
was between the years of '59 and '66. Then Dean Wiles asked me if I
would teach full-time over in Norman Hall in art education.
R: How long was he dean?
P: He wasn't dean very long. Dean White was my friend for a while, and
then Dean Sharp. I taught there until I retired in '76. And there,
too, I enjoyed it thoroughly. It doesn't really matter to me what age
I teach. I enjoy teaching, I guess. And I enjoy teaching art.
R: You were teaching the future teachers.
P: And I worked with people who had never had art or at least hadn't had
it since about third grade, and they were so excited when they found
that they could do things in art and so many of them were gifted. A
great pleasure to me was in just knowing these young people that I en-
joyed so much. So then I became an associate professor in art educa-
tion at Norman Hall.
R: Were you an associate professor when you retired?
P: I was made Professor Emeritus along with Stuart.
R: And did you both retire the same year?
P: Yes. Stuart retired in '76, according to his schedule. He wanted to
retire just one year early for some reason, and I decided that I would
retire with him because I was at the earliest retirement age and could
retire that year and then we could start working on things together in
our barn-studio.
R: Tell me about the murals that you and Stuart have done throughout your
careers.
P: Well, Stuart did numerous murals for the government. He won several
competitions and did two or three in Louisiana and Mississippi. He did
one that honored Speaker Bankhead in Alabama.
R: Where was it located?


29
P: Jasper, I believe. Where Bankhead was from. We went to Europe in 1938.
Incidentally, we borrowed the money to go to Europe and just before we
left we hurriedly sent in mural designs for a competition that was for
Vicksburg. The person who won the contest would get to do the Vicksburg
Post Office mural, and ten others would be selected for other, smaller,
post offices. So we mailed them in and then set off in April for Europe
and came back about late August, and there was a letter saying we had
both won a mural contract. We were two of the ten. So we got started
on them, and the interesting thing was that we had borrowed money to go
to Europe, and the amount that we made on the murals covered the exact
cost of our trip. So mine is in Clarksdale, Arkansas, and Stuart's is
somewhere in Louisiana.
R: Who financed these murals?
P: Well, it was under the Roosevelt Administration. Eleanor Roosevelt was
very interested in helping artists. Incidentally, she bought one of
Stuart's paintings one time and gave it to the ambassador from Australia.
So Stuart has a painting in the Melbourne Museum which was bought by
Mrs. Roosevelt and given to the ambassador.
R: Wonderful. Do you remember what it was?
P: It is called Negro Baptism. I guess it appealed to both of them. Mrs.
Roosevelt was probably looking at an art exhibit with the wife of the
ambassador. Stuart's murals are mainly about southern industry cotton
gins and that sort of thing. But mine was historical depicting the
early town of Clarksdale, Arkansas.
R: He should have done one about a sawmill...
P: He did. No, no, wait a minute. No, I think he used to cotton gin and...
R: ...because his father was in the sawmill business.
P: Yes. I think he might have done one that was on that order, but I'm
trying to think, usually though, you took something that represented
the town--it had to be about the area. I did something rather foolish.
Being from a city, I didn't know too much about horses. I had some tiny
horses in mine because it was a rather detailed picture of the early
town.
R: This is Clarksville?
R: Yes. Clarksville, Arkansas. I got a notice from the government saying
would I please come up and fix the horses' hooves. I had made them
cloven. At that time I was expecting a baby--expecting Bob, and it was
close to that time. So Stuart and a friend went up and made sort of an
outing of the trip. They went sketching up in Arkansas and fixed those
hooves for me. That was slightly embarrassing. It wasn't noticed for
a while, but there are always people hanging around the post office,
and after a while they got to laughing about it, and so Uncle Sam was


30
embarrassed. Then I got this letter saying, "Please come fix the
horses' hooves." I'd never seen horses. I really never saw horses
except in the park.
R: Well, the two of you have done murals and portraits and pictures of old
southern themes and also many abstract paintings, so now you are doing
mostly abstract paintings.
P: Yes. I like collage and I like to work with acrylics. It's slightly
different from oils. Someday I'll get back to the oils, I guess, but I
enjoy finding unique abjects in nature or in, well, just man-made
things that appeal to me in some way in color or design. This picture
that I have right here is something that I did when I was teaching in
the county. It's playground equipment which I used in more or less a
design sense, and the other one over here is a collage in which I -
started with a unique piece of lace that I bought in Czechoslovakia.
The shapes in it reminded me of Matisse because it has the same curved,
flower shapes.
R: Yes, it does.
P: And so I worked it into something that I call Matisse and Old Lace. It
works out nicely as a sort of still life.
R: Do you still plan to take any of these trips that the retired faculty
goes on?
P: We have our own little trips. We do quite a bit of judging of art exhibits.
We go out and judge sidewalk shows and local shows, and we are
going to go up to the Ozark mountains. I think Stuart has sort of a
hankering to return to his roots in Stamps, Arkansas. We are going up
there and take his sister with us this summer. We go to conventions
quite often. We went to Chicago to an art convention last spring. Most
of our trips have some sort of a purpose related to art. I'm hoping to
go up in the Boston area with my son next summer. I don't know how
that's going to work out.
R: Well, thank you so much, Mary.