Interview with Elizabeth Wohl, February 26, 1974

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Interview with Elizabeth Wohl, February 26, 1974
Wohl, Elizabeth ( Interviewee )
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Hillsborough County Oral History Collection ( local )
Spatial Coverage:
Hillsborough County (Fla.) -- History.


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 'Hillsborough' 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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Ybor City Typist: Margaret Lenkway
4D Sept. 23, 1974
Interview; Elizabeth Wohl
Interview Date; 2-26,74

Page 1

I: A subject that I find really interesting...

W: In what?

I: Ah, the Convent. You went to St. Joseph's Academy?

W: No I went to the St. Joseph's Convent, out in Ybor City. That is,

oh my young man, I'm 80 years old, so the first school-days that I went

were, you don't want to record that do you?

I: Yes mama.

W: Of what I received my education?

I: Well would you like to know what's happening, in case you're wondering

why I'm so interested in this?

W: Yes. ,o

I: WhylI wanted to know. I'm trying to trace the history of education...

if you can't hear me just tell me... I'm trying to trace the history

of education in Ybor, in Tampa generally, back -919", 1900, 1920, as it

related to the Latin children, and the Latin immigrant children when they

came here.

W: I can tell you about that.

I: And that's what I'm trying to find out. Now I structured questions,

in other words in stead of just asking you to talk about it, I found that'

it's best if I ask a series of questions, and that way I get better


W: Yes. Well you as1-me anyway you want, it's all right with me, I'm

glad to answer you anything that I know, or what I remember.

I: I appreciate that. That really helps me.

W: Yes. You see, because it's not written down. I started my education,

my early education at the St. Joseph's Convent in Ybor City.

Ybor City Typist: Margaret Lenkway
Sept. 23, 1974

Page 2

I: Was that Our Lady of Mercy?
W: I think it came later, Our Lady of Perpetual Prayer, but it's the

St. Joseph, the Order of St. Joseph. And they were on 12th. Street, or

the Church I think is still there, but I don't go to Ybor City too much

so I don't know if Ybor City is changing with the University coming on,
V,Cp- S~a.gthu
and everything. So I started at the convent until I was in the sixth

grade, then I went to the Henderson School. Which was on the corner of

Henderson and 6th. Avenue, ah the Corner of 6th. Avenue, which they call

Henderson now, and Jefferson. That's the ah, it was the ah, Tampa High

School, they called it. It's Elementary School. So I went to the sixth

grade there. Entered, I had taken a- examination.aed they sent me up

to the blackboard to, for arithmetic, I was better than all the rest of

them because I had a good foundation. And then I continued, in those days

they only had, they had the eigth grade and then you had four years of

high school. I finished and then I went to high school. Hillsborough

High School was onpone corner was the school, the Tampa High School and on the

other corner was the Hillsborough High School, that was in 1908.

Course,I graduated in 1912, but my class went to where Thomas Jefferson

is there on...what is the Thomas Jefferson School, on the corner, I mean\
or'h blu'fI-
it hadljust been built. And we were the class of 1912. Well now to

start with, after that I had decided I wanted to teach, So in those

days it did not require a college degree to teach school, but you had

to pass a state examination, and there must have been 12 or 14 subjects,

I studied all summer under a tutor. There were two or three of us girls

who had graduated who want to be teachers. So we studied all summer.

Y'or City Typist: 70irgaret Lenkway
Sept. 23, 1974

Page 3

14 Together?.

W: The three, we were tutored by a Miss Kel4y, she was a school teacher,

she's dead. She was a school teacher here and she prepared us. We had
to take reading, oral reading and we had to take a fundamentals in

written, spelling, arithmetic, geography, United States History, History

of Florida, in those days you studied Florida History which was a

separate subject, agriculture, which was science, they called it agriculture;

then of course we had to take psychology, well there were about ten or

twaty subjects. Then you were rated on the grade you got, that was the

kind of certificate you got. You got a two year certificate, a four year

certificate, or a five year certificate. And I amae the grade almost

90, which gave me a four year certificate. I thought my four years, all

of them in the B.M. Ybor School. Then I took the examination again and

made-almost the same grade, but then I got married and my husband didn't

want me to teach. In those days he was poor but proud. He didn't want
me to teach, so I quite. But I had taught four and a half years and
all)my experience was with the Latin children, of Ybor City.

I: Why didn't your husband want you to teach? You said he was

proud. What did they think of school teachers in those days?

W: Oh, we were highly respected. The, you know the children, I didn't

have one American child. I'd enroll, we were required to enroll 60

children, and you had an average attendance of between 45 and 50 a day.

And those children that came to you, came from poor families. You

know Ybor City Latin families are like our Jewish people they want to

see their children advance. They want to see their children better

educated than they are andlthat way you are like our people

Ybor City Typist: Margaret Lenkway
Sept. 23, 1974

Page 4

education plays a very important part in our religion. And we're, you

know... they'd come and bring the children to enroll and give me their

names and so forth, the children they knew one word of English and their
/AAA ;,<-
parents. Well luckily I k:.ew a little Spanish, s4aee I was raised in

Ybor City, I wasn't born there but I was raised in Ybo City.

I: Let me interrupt one second.

W: Yes.

I: Just for, -help:me to keep my tapes from being mixed-up. Can you give

me your full name on tape, so I know which one tkis- is?

W: Elizabeth W. Wohl Bkrger. I'm Mrs. A.R. Burger. My husband was

Abraham Robert Burger, but my name and my diploma; and all is Elizabeth

Wohl, and of course I'm a Burger.

I: Ok. And let me get a couple questions here on this. Where were

you born?

W: Savannah, Georgia.

I: Ok. And what was your birth date?

W: September the 18th., 1893.

I: Ok. And your native language was English?

W: Yes. And I speak, I can read some Hebrew, and I speak Yiddish, and I

did speak Spanish, and I understand Italian, could understand some Italian,

many words. ANd when father had h-is store and we used to work in the store,

and help himk in the store and the trades were Cubans, Spanish and Italian

people. We hardly ever had an American customer. So we had to know the


Ybor City Typist: Margaret Lenkway
Sept. 23, 1974

Page 5

I: Did many Jewish people live in Ybor City?

W: Yes. That's where a lot of them, we lived there and those that didn't

live in Ybor City lived in the Heights, in Tampa Heights.

I: What was the difference between the Heights and Ybor City?

W: Well Nebraska Avenue was the dividing line, and allj that area inbetween

Nebraska Avenue and say Florida Avenue, or Franklin Street was the Heights.
Michigan Avenue, Columbus Drive, Amelia, Francis, Palm Avenue all/those

streets were what they call Tampa Heights, and all of the old time Tampans

lived in that area, Jefferson Street, where the St. Joseph... ah the

St. Elizabeth Hospital is. Thatwp$all, the, you know the society people

of Tampa lived all and around through there.

I: And where did West Tampa begin? West Tampa. Wasn't that on Columbus


W: It... well I don't know too much about West Tampa. I can't tell you

too much about West Tampa. I dontt know... I know the park there,

MCFullon Park, and ah... I really can't tell you about West Tampa.

I: What was West Tampa in those days? Was it a town far away from Tampa?

W: No, no it was just like Ybor City. It was on the West end, they had

businesses. Jewish people were there. A lot of Latin people, Italians,

Cubans, Spanish had stores there, and it was similar to Ybor City, but I

think Ybor City was more progressive than West Tampa.

I: Progressive? How do you mean more progressive?

W: Well...

I: In what ways?

W: Well it was... weti business and it was... to me... you... I just

can't tell you too much about West Tampa. But to me it seemed like

Ybor City Typist: Margaret Lenkway
Sept. 23, 1974

Page 6

Ybor City was more advanced than West Tampa. They didn't have as many...

it wasn't as big, they didn't have as many businesses, and it just wasn't

as big as Ybor City.

I: Oh you mean it was less developed.

W: Yes. And then you know maybe you has as fine a class of people there

as you had in Ybor, but I'm not familiar with West Tampa, only the few

Jewish people that I knew that lived there, outside of that I didn't know.

I: Where did most Jewish people live in Tampa?

W: You mean prior to what time.

I: Prior to 1920.

W: Prior to 1920...

I: During your childhood.

W: ... we lived .. those of us whose parents had businesses, we lived

back of the store, or over the store, or across the street, it there

was a store downstairs we lived there, or little houses surrounding. There

were little houses that have been torn down on eigh Avenue today and 16th

Street, around like that. Now we lived, first we lived back of the store,

then we rented an apartment across the street on the third floor, we had
an apartment they-, then after that we built a home on 9th Avenue, just

below C r., You know where '' Sj':... well it's just

below it before you got to.,. on the same side of the street. Beautiful

two story house. We built it and moved there. But most of the Jewish people

and you know your Latin people they lived in Heights, but they called the

Heights, as I sasl from Nebraska Aveune on. Nebraska, Central Avenue,

Opk Avenue, ?ine Street, all of those streets is where we lived. And we

had our first synagogue on Palm and Jefferson. It's still there, we

YBor City Typist: Margaret Lenkway
Sept. 24, 1974

Page 7

the neighborhood got so bad that we had to move from there. But our first

synagogue was right there. See...

I: It was on Palm and Jefferson?

W: Palm and Jefferson. It's still... the building is still there.

I: I'd like to take a picture of it, that's why.I'm trying to get the

precise ______ \- .

W: Oh I have a picture of it. I have a picture of it. I'll loan it to you.

I got some of the... When we celebrated our 25 Anniversarywe had a

picture taken of the synagogue. Our synagogue now is the one on the Bay

Shore. This right r;qc down...

I: Oh yes\, I've seen it.

W: That's the one we moved from there to the Bay Shore. Now what else you

want to know? Have I told you enough?

I: Oh no, heavens no. I'm interested in knowing more about the Jewish

colony before 1920, during your childhood days. The Jewish people were

a minority group, just like ...

W: We've always been a minority gqanp. Therelonly about seven million

Jews in the whole ... no... 14-million Jews in the whole world. New

York has a great Jewish population, the Eastern Cities. But our Jewish

population was very small.

I: In Tampa?

W: Was, and still is. I don't think...I don't think we have now, course

you can't keep up, we have 0 four congregations now, we used to have one.

Three of the four congregations, we have, where I belong since my childhood,

we have about 350 members, families. Then the one on Swan, the big one on

Swan must have about 400 or 450 Jewish families. Then there's another smaller

Ybor City Typist' Margaret Lenkway
Sept. 24, 1975

Page 8

one on Swan. I don't, I don't think they have more than 150 or 200

families. Then there's the new one that I thinkhas under 100. Then

there are many Jewish people who are not affiliated that we dontt know

about. Only when they die they want to be buried in the Jewish cemetery.

But... many of them don't even want that. You don't know that they're


I: Well, let me ask you where did the Jews live mostly back in those

days before 1910?

W: Well where did they live?

I: Did they try to live near each other, or did they just scatter throughout


I: No. They lived, as I said the Tampa Heights section was where a lot

of Jewish people lived, and then a lot of them\lived in Hyde Park, the old

Hyde Park. See? Plant Avenue, and in the Hyde Park area, notrr t'w

the old Hyde Park area, because the'new suburb beautiful were developed

later on. And then all these out lying areas were developed later on.

I: Right.

W: See. So most of the Jewish people lived either Ybor City, or the

Heights, very few, a few families in West Tampa, and in Hyde Park.

I: Did the ones in Hyde Park have theAusinesses in Hyde Park?

W: No, they had them downtown like Maas Brothers.

I: Oh... right.
W: The original Maas' there home was just, it was on the corner, you

know where the Gory School is, in that area is where Mr. Maas lived. There U "

Ybor City Typist: Margaret Lenkway
Sept. 24, 1974

Page 9

I ^.!
eight Maas. There werelfour brothers of the Maas's. The Wolf, form the
Wolf brothers they also lived in Hyde Park. Thete businesseswere


I: So Jewish people, at work knew each other, though? Whether, like if

you lived in Ybor City you knew people in Hyde Park...

W: We did, we did... But you see we had two congregations...

I: Oh two congregations?
W: At that time. First there was one and then we had te split about 70

years ago, We were one congregation and that was in Hyde Park. And

the Jewish people, some of the Jewish families like my sister-in-law,

Mrs. Joseph Wohl's family. Dhe was a former school teacher too, and she

was born here in Tampa.

I: Mrs. Joseph Wohl?

W: Mrs. Joseph Wohl.

I: What's her maiden name? What's her first name.?

W: Rebecca Goldberg Wohl. Her father had a store downtown, then he had

a store on 22 Street.
S^l^L ncc C^R ft
I: A-fealw told me of Sara andGlara.Wohl.

W: Well they're my sisters.

I: Oh.

W: They're !:jy sisters, but Mrs. Joseph Wohl is my sister-in-law.

I: Oh, oh I see.

W: They're a lot of Jewish girls who t-ught school here and they're

college graduates, Dr. Legal's wife. Of course then the law changed that

you had to have'a degree to teach school. At first it was an LI. Now

Ybor City Typist: Margaret Lenkway
Sept. 24, 1974

Page 10

my sister Clara has an LI. Then you had to have a BA, or you know some

degree. And there oh just quite a few Jewish girls, women who were

teachers here.

I: Why would they want to teach? Why so many Jewish girls teaching?

W: Well there wasn't too much else.,you could do, you know it seemed

like it ab, it was a nice profession for a young women. You could go

into an office, some of them were, I had some friends who worked in

offices-that-are gone now. But most of the girls wanted to teach

school just because it's nice profession.

Vi Were there many teachers coming from out of state into Tampa to


W: Not too many. They came from the neighboring cities, Plant City and

so on. And those, now when I started the'yalways put the new teachers out

in the country.

I: Oh really. ch'"

W: Yes -aw. But I didn't teach in the country. I taught in Ybor.

I: Why didn't they put you out in the country?

W: Well I just asked them tht- I didn't want to go, and my family was

here and I was living ... I wasn't married aM- I wanted to live with my

family, and a Professor Beauholtz, L.W. Beauholtz, I remember his name,

Then his son was my Latin teacher in high school afterwards. But

Professor Beauholtz was Superi ndent of Schools. And I started to teach at

$40 a month. A big amount of money.
T: c) i-J *thi')t Sn
I: That's not too much. Not even in those days I don't think that was

much. Was it? rori- colf'rS ?

W: No. $40 a month that was what I got But then during World W'ar/

Ybor City Typist: Margaret Lenkway
Sept. 24, 1974

Page 11

Just before I quit teaching before I got married, in World War 131

thought a double session. I made $120. I was getting $60 a month, that's all

they paid teachers.

I: Tell me about the double session? How did it work in those days?

W: How'd it work? Well now I taught in the original building, you know

where the Ybor building is, -he Ybor City School is on the cornorof...

I: Yes.

W: 15th, is it 14th, 15th or 14th and Columbus Drive. There was stit the

one building, the original building. Well they had a big lot there and they

had a one story frame building and they gave that to me. Thad desks in

there and they had a wooden stove in the corner, and that was my first

room. Then I got ... I can show you the corner room hat I taught after

in the brick building, but I went h) cl ir0/l4, __,In those days we

were allowed corporal punishment was permissable, we used to get green

switches and switch the little bortoms, f'sed to hit them on the'hand

with rulers.

I: What grade did you teach?

W: First, second and third.

I: All together?

W: -Mostly... No... First, second and third. Then when... I taught mostly

beginners. But then one superintendent thought that it would be good for

a teacher to go up first, second and third and go with her class, and I did

that once. But most of my teaching was with beginners, first grade, And I

got great satisfaction out of the.., the children were very, very nice.

They came .frm all kinds, all sorts of, some were poor... some of them I used

Ybor City Typist: Margaret Lenkway
Sept. 24, 1974

Page 12

One little-boy he was so dirty that I used to have to get the principal to

take him down 'the other room and give him a bath, in a wash tub, and he come

back with his hair slick down... I forgot what his name was. And I used to

bring him lunch everyday, he was so poor he couldn't afford, and I in

those days we didn't have any lunch rooms, and I used to bring him lunch every-

day. Bring a couple of sandwiches when I brought my own. And I got a lot
ftQC54ro u)L". .
of respect from the parents, you know-my--etrol..

I: These were all Latins'?

W: All Latin people. I think I had one American girl, that I remember.

I: How'd she feel being with all those Latins?

W: Felt perfectly at home. 7Course I could speak with them and make them

understand me, and oh they loved me.

I: The one American girl...

W: The one American, oh I talk...

I: How did she feel?

W: ... I talk English. The one American girl.

I: HFw did she feel?

W: Well I just think, that the, you know, she, ah, children are happy,
4 hck-
it's what they learn from adults the prejudice,] children themselves don't know
if we wouldn't teach them, if they wouldn't learn.. .Ouite a number of

years ago I had a woman working for me for 26 years, and she lived on my

premises when I lived on, before I moved to the apartment and she brought

her grandchild to my, I-m just gna show you how children learn from

their parents hatred and good things. So she brought heri, cute little

grandchild and my granddaughter was a little girl, here was a black child

and a white child, a Christian child and a Jewish child, and my granddaughter

Ybor City Typist: Margaret Lenkway
Sept. 24, 1974

Page 13

took her hand and said "come on" and they sat on the floor and they

played together, with no feeling that you're white and I'm ... you're

black and I'm white. But the prejudice that comes on is what they hear

from their parents. Of course, thank G-d we're overcoming that, that

a human being is a human being regardless of the color of his skin, or the

way they worship G-d. So, I mean we're getting around to that now, but

there was a time and there was a time when they looked down on Latin

people as much as they looked down on Black people.

I: Really?

W: The American population...

I: You mean in Tampa?

W: Yes, sure. There was prejudice.

I: Nobodws ever told me that.

W: Yes there was ... they didn't care too much. You know there were signs

on, at Clearwater Beach"limited clientele". They didn't want the Latin

people there and they didn't want the Jews there. And you-know garlic that

you know.Latin people use, we use in our cooking to, the children would

bring these balonga sandwiches which are full of garlic and you can smell

them all over, they're wonderful... I like it. But the American people

look down f- people that use garlic. They didn't think too much of Latin

people. They didn't... I mean there's always been prejudice against Jewish

people, but there was prejudice against the Latin people in Tampa to. But

today some of, our leading citizens are the children of those pioneer Latin

people. The lawyers and the doctors and the dentists, all of them out-

standing citizens in this community. They come from that Ybor City background

Ybor City Typist: Margaret Lenkway
Sept. 24, 1974

Page 14

and West Tampa background whose parents were ambitious enough for them

to be educated and to be somebody in the world. They were very anxious

for their children to get an education.

I: Are you talking about the cigar makers, and ...

W: Cigar makers nd well most of them were cigar makers or even the

street sweepers werelyoung Italian men, or middleagecItalian men, they

came to this country many of them weren't educated, they had no profession,

they had no training, Many of them were garbage collectors, street sweepers...

What else could they do? They had to make a living. Worked in stores,

collecting stores.

I: What other kinds of prejudices were there between the American

Tampans and...

W: They just look down their nose at theA, didn't think they were quite as

good. That was... they just didn't think they were quite as good.

I: Well how would an Anglo-American teacher manage in the classroom of

Ybor City with these Latin children? Did they look down on them?

W: No.

I: Well how did that work?

W: You mean they, the Latin people respected an educated, you know

they respected a school teacher, they respected the principal. Thought

very highly of the principal. The Latin people did of the principal, And

the principal was an educated man and broad minded enough to know that

there are all kinds of people in the would and that he has to respect them.

I: Which principal do you mean ?

W: I talk about Professor Crow, there was a Mr. Coleman, there was

Ybor City Typist: Margaret Lenkway
Sept. 24, 1974

Page 15

Professor... most of the:.time that I taught Frank C. Crow, was there.

And his sons are still living Frank Crow... I think Frank Crow is still...

well Professor was Frank Crow. And then he had a son, I don't know where...

but I think he's still living Then there was a Professor Coleman. I

don't remember any other, most of the time that I taught was under

Professor Crow.

I: What did Mr. Crow do at the Ybor School for the Latin people?

W: Well I don't know what he did any more than to be a good principal,

and I don't know outside of that We did missionary work there in those days.

I: Missionary work?

W: Huh, you'd call it missionary. The children, I mean they weren't,

some of them would come to school nice and clean, but some of them ,l;, .i1'

This little boy that I told youg--k, I had... Mr. Crow would take

him out and give him a bath, he got to smelling so bad that I could detect...


I: Obvious if they had a school here it was obvious that they had a school

there. But fifty years later all signs of those schools, those teachers,

the ideas they had, everything has disappeared. Without a trace. All

that's left are a few people that can still tell you what happened, and

that's it.

W: Well I lived it, and I'm telling you as I lived it.

I: I had a couple questions that I got... I haven't even started my

required questions but there's a couple things that I wondered about.

Ybor City Typist: Margaret Lenkway
Sept. 24, 1974

Page 16

I: What was the Tampa Bay Gate?

W: Tampa Bay what?

I: Gate.

W: Gate? I don't know what the Tampa Bay Gate is.

I: You used to say "we'O meet at the Tampa Bay Gate."

W: It might have been the entrance to the Tampa Bay Hotel.

I: That's it.

W: Where the University of Tampa is. It might have been that. I don t


I: Ok. There were public night schools in 1912 for those who couldn't

attend school, under Professor Cook.

W: Under Professor Cook?

I: Yes.

W: Oh I remember Professor Cook, he taught, he tdughIAlgebra I believe

in High School, and he gave my sister Glara some private lessons at home.

He taught I think, mathematics. He was a blond fellow, he taught...I

don't know anything about his classes, but I very faintly remember

hearing about night school. But I did teach... no I never did teach -t.

I taught a class, citizenship, help them become American Citizens, but

that was through the Jewish Community. Had nothing to do with the Public

School System.

I: But it waslLatins?

WY No, I only had Jewish people who had come from foreign countries, and it

was about the time of Hitler, World War... it was when Hitler came into

power and he started persecuting the Jews as many as possible.started

Ybor City Typist: Margaret lenkway
Sept. 25, 1974

Page 17

coming to this country.

I: About the 1930's.

W: Yes. And so having taught school they asked me would I help prepare

them for citizenship. And I taught a class... just a few, maybe half a

dozen. women. I taught them their English, and spelling, a little English

and helped them to pass their examination and become American citizens.

But I had nothing to do with public schools system.

I: Do you know anything of the Hebrew Free School?

I: Hebrew Free School?

I: Yes.

W: Yes.

I: What was that?

W: That was a ... a synagogue, it's on the corner of O k Avenue and

Central, and that is today Beth Israel Synagogue. The people that belong-

there, very few of them came to my congregation, but most of them went to

Beth Israel. Max London was instrumental in helI,6iig-them build them

build that synagogue. It's a Jewish synagogue.

I: Why did they call it the Hebrew Free School?

W: I don't know why. I wasn't connected with it.

I: Did it have anything to do with school?

W: Nothing. Nothing to do with school. Except Hebrew School. See we

Jewish people have a religious school that is attended by the children after

public school. Say the children gt out of school at 3 o'clock, classes

start for them in religious training and in Hebrew. Cause you know our

prayers are written in Hebrew. Now of course they are all translated, we

Ybor City Typist: Margaret Lenkway
Sept. 25, 1974

Page 18

use part English and part Hebrew. And the children attended these classes

to learn Hebrew, to learn the religion. That's why they're probably

called ....

I: The Hebrew Free School.

W: ... it was a congregation, but to learn their religion and the Hebrew


I: Did you ever hear of the Latin American Institute? Did you ever hear

of the Italian Mission Night School, on 9th. Avenue and 16th. Street?

W: I think I know something I might, my sisters or brothers might know

more about it than I do. Was that Reverend Fisiglia's?

I: This would be before Mr. Fisiglia?

W: Before Reverend Fisglia?

I: 1912.

W: On... where was it at?

I: Ah, 9th. Avenue and 16th. Street,

W: Our business was on 7th. Avenue and 16th. Street.

I: Two blocks away.

W: Yeah, well I don't know anything about that.

I: Ok. Now I'll get to the questions. I do want to know something else.

I'm very vague on B.M. Ybor Elementary School. Do you know, I know you

weren't there at the time, do you know when it first started? When was

their first school there? In 1890's?

W: I really don't know the history of the school. I really don't. I

just know that I started there in September of 1912. And taught there

until March of 1919. I was married in May, and I remember I quite, I was dc--

a double session then, and I wanted to stop at the end of the term and...

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Sept. 25, 1974

Page 19

teachers were scarce because so many of the teachers were leaving to

go and do war ,i work where they'd make more money.

I: What was war work?

W: Work in offices, and replace men who were going into the service. So they

had to have... the women were leaving because they could get more money doing

other work. So then I ah, I left in March and married in May. But I

taught six and a half years.

I: Ok. During, I think 1915 they built either a new school, or they added

to it...

W: They added to it, made this real big building, they added to it.

I: Was that.., what part of the present building over there is this new

building ? Is it...

W: It's just the back ... I don't ... I got that con... I don't ride

there too much now. There's one brick building red brick building it

had four rooms downstairs, I think and four upstairs. I taught in the

corner, and that still remains there Then they built that other great big

building to the back. A great big... it had a basement in it and

everything. But I never left my building, I stayed in the same room, except

the one little, the one little wooden building and then I was allowed to

go into the other one.

I: Now. What did Latin parents usually talk to you about, concerning education?

Did they ever come into visit you or send you notes?

W: Some of those notes are the funniest thing, written on a piece of bag,
you know if they didn't have newspaper they'd tear off a piece of mennella

bag and write you, and the English, probably the children wrote it and the

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Sept. 25, 1974

Page 20

spelling was all wrong. One note I remember a little boy was absent and

he brought me, I insisted on them bring a note whether the parents couldn't

write it in English and sRV-S '/ well I asked him what's the matter, I

forgot what his name was, why didn't you come to school, he's says

yesterday my momma she catches one baby.

I: I never heard... that's funny.

W: And there were so many... I used to tell so many funny stories about the

children, but I 've forgotten them. You know it's been so long, that's

over 50 years ago.

I: I know. I can't imagine 50 years ago.

W: 60.

I: 60.

W: G-d blessed me to reach this age, nobody... my husband died at 71,

my father, my mother, brother and G-d permitted me to live, I'm the oldest

of the family. I was 80 years old my son gave me a big birthday party, he

says "wait till I'm 85" he's gonna give me another bigger one. But the

years are hard now, but thank G-d I'm pretty good for my age.
I: You know it's sad for me in a sence it's nostalgia I guess is the word,

that I read the papers and I see all these pictures of people and I know

that they'er probably dead, or they're in retirement, that their whole life

is gone.

W: Oh yes.

I: It's hard for me to accept.

W: Yes, well because you're young. Now a friend of mine said to me, "Dontt

you feel sad, or don't you feel bad that one by one the people that Itve

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Sept. 25, 1974

Page 21

known through the years, they're leaving and I'm still here?" Well I

feel sad when they leave, but then I know that my times coming to, e Itm not

gonna stay sad about it and I'm not gonna worry about it. See I maintain

my apartment, I have no help, I used to have help, I'm able to do it. I

bake and sell it and give the money to the church I'm keep myself busy,

I'm very active in my synagogue work, I was much more active Itve given up

alot of things that I used to do cause you just cantt do them, you know you

get older my vision isn't good and my hearing isn't too good, so you have to

give up a lot of it and I don't drive a car. So I have to give up a lot of

things and I do feel sad to see my friends and the family one by one

leaving. But what can can1we do, we just have to live on and nobodywants,

you know nobody wants to be around you if you're sad and if you talk sad

things... I mean my grandchildren don't hardly have time for me and if I

was to tell them something sad I'd never see them.

I: Right, right.

W: So you have to live for the young people.

I: Right now you're doing something for a lot of people by putting this

down on tape. Very few people left here that ah...

W: Well I've been admired, I don't say this to brag, but I've been

admired by a lot of people to be as able to do everything, and my son don't

do anything for me., I mean I don't ask him, he's a very busy businessman,

I take care of everything for myself. Go to the bank myself. Run my

household. I used to be able to get up and talk in front of public,

write papers, I have some beautiful papers that I've written. I've traveled

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Sept. 25, 1974

Page 22

a good bit and I've tried to keep my eyes and ears open to learn as I went

along. I'm still going to a class, and they just disbanded because the

people, the young women, I'm the only old woman there and young women, we

were studying it was a religious class, and I was going to synagogue and

people don't have gas, some of the young women from Temple Terrace couldn't

come in. And so I said "What am I doing here?'", -^ '- but I'm still

learning. If you want to learn you can learn, as long as...

I: That reminds me. Did the students ever write their impressions about

anything? Did you ever have them write papers, .say in the third grade or

forth grade?No you didn't

W: First, second and third. Oh yes we'd have to have them write little

compossions and...

I: What did they have to write about?

W: Oh, my dear I can't remember. Maybe about, you'd ask them.., oh I can't

really remember. Little know a third grade child, of course

the third grade child today is much more advanced then a third grade

child was then, because in my day I had to be grown-up to see an automobile,

to be on an airplane, all of these things which the children have today, I

was already way up in years. So the children today that watch television,

they know more then I do, they ride in ateplanes, they ride in automobiles,

well I was already way up in years before I had these things. So they're born

in a different, smarter age. Where we left off, they start where we left off 4;r

Isn't that right? They're born in aeroplanes and automobiles, and I had

te be maybe forty, fifty years old before I rode in an aeroplane. See, so

the children...

1: It must have been quite an experience.

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Sept. 25, 1975

Page 23

W: I was the first one in my family, at the Peter Airport.

I went from Tampa to Miami. But I've been to Europe and Israel by plane,

traveled through... we spent seven weeks traveling my husband and I, we've

been across the United States, been to Nassau and to Cuba.

I: Well let me give you the questions first The double sessions, what

was the, how did a double session work?

W: Well, I took in 60 children at 8:30...I don't know... yes t was 8:30.

I had blackboards, and the method of teaching, I don't know anything about

today methods, but we taught the word method and we taught phonetics.

And I'd have... you know they had books and I'd put the blackboard with

arithmetic and all of that. Then they do... they'd learn and they'd learn

from their books, I taught them reading, writing and music and arithmetic,

and I taught them how to read and by the end of the year they could read

and speak English, they could understand me. Then at 12 o'clock those

children left.

I: For the day?

W: For the day.

I: Well that was only four hours.

W: Yes, 8:30...

I: Three and a half hours.

W: It was either eight or 8:30, I don't remember. Then I'd erase the

blackboards and clean them off, and write again, and at 12:30 or 1 O'clock,

I don't remember which, I'd take in 60 more children and keep them tb' o'clock,

or 4:30. That's way I taught the double session, because we didn't, you know

we have.., the population was growing, Tampa was growing, we needed more

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Sept. 25, 1974

Page 24

schools, they needed more teachers. It was hard time then toa

I: Was this double session only in Ybor?

W: I think so, I don't know.

I: I think it was.

W: I think it was only in Ybor. Now my sister, if you interview Clara

Wohl, she did a lot of planning and she wrote a book on teaching to foreign

born. She was to have it copywrited, but she didn't. And she laid the

plans for all the teachers that taught in the Latin school, Ybor City, West

Tampa and DeSota Park, all those that had what they used to call the Baby

Class, that's more or less like pre-school, like kindergarten, or maybe...

they came at six years but if they didn't know any English you have to teach

them English to understand your commands: come to me, turn around, stand-up,

sit down. The children didn't know, they came from foreign homes where

they spoke foreign languages, and so my sister Clara planned, Clara Wohl, she

planned and wrote a book she had the outline and every week they used to

meet and she'd give them the outline for the whole week. And every week

they'd meet, I think it was Friday afternoon and she'd plan the work for

all the Latin speaking Baby Classes, the first grades.

I: Oh, she made the plans for the Baby Classes.

W: Well it was... I think it was the baby classes, more like the beginners.

I: She didn't make plans for all grades?

W: No,no, no.

W: Oh, just the Baby Class.

W: Just that Baby Class.

I: Why Clara, why not somebody else? Why was Clara given

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Sept. 25, 1974

Page 25

W: Well because she was a good teacher, and they ... she just advanced

her self.

I: Um, it seems to me that the children who went home at 12, if their

parents worked in the factory all day, didn't this create a problem for

the parents? Weren't the children unattended after they went home?

W: Well, I can't tell you about that, but maybe there was an older brother

or sister, or you know families helped each other. They didn't live like

EemdBo today, with servants and with everything, you know washing machines,

you name it and you got it electric today. But the women worked hard and maybe

there was a mother that lived with the family, not like taday. Older people

are put in areas by themselves today. But in those days there was maybe

three generations in one home.

I: Oh, so the children...

W: You know... that's what I think.

I: That's true that's the way it was.

W& Because I know that, I mean I've read and I know they were the three

generations. When I first married I lived with my father and mother.

I: Did you run the house?

W: I didn't run the house, my mother was living and my father. Then I

married, and I married a very poor man and we couldn't rent, there wasn't a

decent apartment to rent. We couldn't afford to, to, to, we couldn't

afford it and my mother had this two story house and she gave me a bedroom,

and we lived together, cooked together, ate together and then my son was born,

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Sept. 25, 1974

Page 26

so we were three generations. But she died and I took over the house then.

But in those days it was uncommon 1 n

I: What was uncommon?

W: That, you know, today it's uncommon...

I: For that.

W: '.. for that to happen.

I: Ok. Let me ask you, when you said parents wrote notes sometimesrtoiyou

what were their problems? What were they writing about?

W: Well if the child was sick, or most of the time they were absent for

sickness or the parents were sick and they couldn't attend, I don't remember

the reasons, you know 55-60 years is a long time to go by.

I: I;m gonna try me best though to get this information. Let me ask you

this, what kinds of reasons would you have for contacting these parents?

W: If they were unruly, or if they were absent for awhile, what else could

I have asked them. That's about, you know they weren't absent or maybe

they didn't have clothes to wear, thetg clothes weren't clean, maybe the

mother couldn't wash. You know those were problems then, not today so much.

I: Let me ask you, how did you inform the parents? How would you let them


W: I could speak enough Spanish to let them know, they'd come to see me,

I'd invite them, they'd come to see me if the child wasn't good, or I'd

write a note. I didn't have too much of that because when the parent brought

the child to school they'd say "now you be a good bpy and listen to your

teacher, or I'm gonna kill you." You know they show them their hand.

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Sept. 25, 1974

Page 27

They beat them.

I: You mean the parents brought the children to school?

W: Not... when they enrolled them, at the first of the year.

I: Well what if the problem occurred during the year? What if you...

there's a kid in your room who's a bad discipline problem?

W: I'd switch him. I was permitted to beat him.

I: But what if you wanted to tell his parents. How would you go about it?

VJend a note, or tell the kid or what?

W: Well I'd tell the kid and he would know. I don't think I ever wrote

notes, they'd come to see me, the parents when the child... didn't

have so much trouble. Of course the... there had to discipline

them then same as you have to today.

I: What about good things, not the bad things. What about good things like

PTA meetings, plays...

W: We didn't have PTA's then.

I: Oh. What kind of...

W: We didn't have a. lunch room, we didn't have a PTA,. that was before

the days of the PTA.

I: What about... What kind of parent involvement was there?

W: What kind of...

I: Parent involvement. Parental involvement?

W: There wasn't any because the fathers and the mothers worked. Most of

mine the fathers and the mothers worked. And if the mother didn't work

she had so many children and she had the house to take aare of, she wasn't

playing cards, or running to the movies like the modern women doing, she

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Sept. 26, 1974

Page 28

had plenty of work to do.

I: What kinds of adult education programs were offered at B.M. Ybor

Elementary? Were there any special programs for the adults in the community?

W: You mean for the teachers, ofFor the...

I: For the parents.

W: I really don't know. They probably, if they went to any classes

you know there are the clubs the Centre Esponal, and the Centre Spieana,

and the and all of the clubs. And I think they

got there education programs through the,..I don't think the school system,

Hillsborough County School System offered anything, not that I know of

or can remember.

I: What criteria were used in selecting teachers to work at B.M. Elementary?

W: How were they selected?

I: How were teachers selected to go to B.M. instead of somewhere else, for


W: I really don't know. Where ever there was a necessity I imagine.

I: I noticed for example, you said beginning teachers were usually sent

to the country.

W: When they very, you know the very beginning they sent them out to the

country, because they thought they, you see there was a rural school that

had-all the grades, from the first through the sixth, I think, or the eigth

grade all in one room, because it was a country area, they didn't have

buses to bring them to school, they'd walk to school. And they'd have in

the one, like I had, but that was out in the, you know the rural areas, and

I didn't know to) much about it.

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Sept. 26, 1974

Page 29

I: But you mean they'd send inexperienced teachers out to these kinds of

schools where one teacher would have to teach six different grades in one


W: Years ago they did that,

I: But then the more experienced teachers would get to teach in the city.

W: Well I suppose so, but I don't how I was selected to teach there,

evidently they needed teachers, and my grades, that was considered a good

grade, 89 and a fraction. Which was considered a good grade on all the3-3

subjects, that you had to pass an examination on. So I.. and I think

through some influence to, I think. I had a cousin, who's been dead for

maybe forty years now, he was an influential man and I think that on a

recommendation from someone like that you could get into one of the bigger

schools like Gorry, or Ybor or Plant, ah not Plant, but Robert E. Lee


I: Those were considered good assignments?

W: AJU the Tampa Heights Schools. They were good schools. I mean as good

as could be expected at that time.

I: Ok. What special steps were taken to prepare teachers who didn't speak

Spanish, or who didn't know Latin culture to teach in a school like B.M, Ybor?

W: They just had to get along the best they could. The children just

would;,havertoilearn, because we had... I happened to be-one of the women

that happened to know that I could make myself understood to the children.

But the other women were American girls, raised right here in Tampa, and

they were very successful teachers.

I: How did they handle themselves? What would happen, especially if they

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Sept. 26, 1974

Page 30

new? The American girls could not speak, couldn't speak Spanish, right?

W: Well the, the, surely they could. TBha didn't even teach Spainish. n

the High Schools in those days, they taught Latin and French and German.

They didn't teach Spainsh. Now one of my sister that's at Lewis Tarrenson

she studied Spanish, and one of my brothers studieS Spanis- in High School,

But when I went they didn't even teach Spanish, They didn't offer Spanish.,

I: Isn't that strange with so many Spanish people in the city?

W; But they didn't even offer it. There was Latin.,, you had to have two

years of Latin and a foreign language, either German, or French, those

were the two languages, French and German. And they didn't teach Italian,

with as many Italian as there was, and they didn't teach Spanish.

I: How did you learn Hebrew? Did you go to a Hebrew Free School?

W: Yes I went to that afternoon school.

I: But you didn't go to the Hebrew Free School?

W: No, I went to Rodem Shalom. The same one here. But I was already big

and I know the Hebrew because of the prayers that I've gone so much, we

say so many of our prayers in Hebrew that I can find my place, we have a book

and I can find my place if I go into a service and I can usually find what

page they're on, because of my familiarity I've been going so much. But I

have a sister that reads it fluent, my brother reads it fluent. See our

religion, the bible and the prayer books. wre all in Hebrew.

I: Are all in Hebrew, I've seen them. But I wondered how you had learned


Ybor City Lenkway
Sept. 26, 1974

Page 31

R; Well I went to, after school.

I: _- _. \_ _\_\ cause tFhe ,Raf: probahly-


W: The Rabbi taught. And today we have a system just like ah, we have

a wonderful ah, parochial school right here that... oh the children are,

they can speak Hebrew.

I: That's quite an accomplishment.

W: Oh they know the prayers, they speak, they talk to each other, they

know the... they're wonderful, the children today,

I: Now, let me ask you this: How did the American teachers feel about

teaching the Latin children? Were they...

W: They didn't mind it at all.

I: Maybe they didn't mind, but what would they say? What were some of

their likes and dislikes? What was it like being an American teacher at

a Latin School?

W: Well I couldn't see where they, they didn't like their work, they were

good teachers.

I: How did they feel about teaching ?

W: I think they felt there wasn't any difference to them. I don't think so.

I: I could remember that, it's a waste of time to try and take notes

from somebody because I'm taking up your time for two hours and I want to

put it to best use, and that's the best use using a tpe recorder.

W: Yes, wonderful.

I: Because I guess, in all, I couldn't remember half of what you said,

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Sept. 26, 1974

Page 32

W: Oh no, no. I talk so much, I'd talk you to death already anyway.

I: No, I ... you know when I was younger I used to ...

W: How old are you?

I: Thirty years old.

W: You are. Have you taught school yet?

I: Yes.

W: Where at?

I: I South America.

W: Where?

I: In Columbia, South America.

W: Oh you taught in South America. And you're working on the.,, what is

your theme?

I: My theme is Latin Immigrants in Tampa and how they were effected by

education, or what kinds of education there were,

W: Well I can tell you that the Latin people in Tampa have come a long way.

And as I told you once before, some of our most prominent citizens of Tampa

are from the original early Ybor City and West Tampa Latin people who came

here. You take Dr. Persia, or Judge I mean you could go on

and on and on with all these Latin doctors and dentists and architects...

I: See that's today, what I really want to find out is what it was like

teaching back in those teens. What what... How the problem of Latin

Children who had another culture, who spoke another language, ate different

foods, even had a different religion came to a community like this, wnet to

the schools, where most of the teachers did not speak Spanish, were not

Spanish themselves and had no training for this special kind of problem,

like they train people today with headstart programs and things like that.

Ybor City Lenkway
Sept. 26, 1974

Page 33

And I'm finding out how the teachers and the students got along with

each other.

W; They go along fine.

I: And what they thought about it.

W: They got along fine, the-parents would bring the children, they had great

respect for teachers, the parents themselves and they taught the children,

they told the children they must respect the teachers. I never had any

trouble. Of course they didn't use the language, the children then didn't

use language, they weren't as braisen as they are today. ANd the parents

ment something to them, and they listened most of the time they listened

to the parents. They were scared to death because the father or-mothers-

were pow pow, you know they gonna pow-pow them if they don't listen to the

teachers and try to do the right thing.

I: So parents really helped to make the children listen to their teachers.

W: Yes. I remember I had a set of twins, I had two sets of twins, you

know a man well he has twin sisters, I don't know if they're

both living yet, Angelia and Adilena Nosio and I taught them. Dr. Pandino,

I was a first grade teacher to Angelia and Adilsna Nosio. I taught

Dr. Pandino, he jsut passed away, he was as I recall, he was a blond,

blue-eyed Italian boy. He was beautiful, he was a pretty child, and I

remember his mother, his mother was a mid-wife. Very fine woman, she divorced

her husband and then she married Dr. ah, I can't think of his name, Dr. not

but she married this other doctor, and she carried on her

profession. But of course Joe Pandino was a wonderful boy. I saw him in the

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Sept. 26, 1974

Page 34

hospital, St. Joseph's Hospital, and my brother said,"You know who this is?"

He put his arms around me and he hugged me, he remembered me.

I: That's incredible that you saw a person from his start all the way

through his life.

W: Well of course I lost track a little, I used to get in cabs very

often, the Yellow Cab when I lived on the other side and the man, the driver

keep looking at me and looking at me and I said,"Do you know me?" He said

yes you were my teacher, you were Miss Lizie. It made me feel good.

I: They- called you Miss Lizie?

W: Miss Lizie.

I: Let me ask you: What were the most serious learning handicapps of these

young students that you had?

W: I think the language.

I: The language was...

W: Was, you know, sure it was. When.. and they'd cry and they wouldn't k

know how to ask to go to the bathroom. They didn't know the language, they

came from Latin homes. And that was the biggest problem to the child.

But after they were there awhile and the teachers were kind to them and had

sympathy with them, they learned and weren't afraid of us, and we learned

to love them very dearly, of course we would.

I: What was the difference between first, second and third grade as you

taught it?

W: Well you had a,,you had an outlineto follow, you had a curriculum

they would hand you every week. You're required, you had to cover so many

pages in the reader, and you had to do numbers up to ten, or you had to

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Sept. 26, 1974

Page 35

they'd give you... you had a spelling book you'd pick out, they'd tell

you how many words. They'd give you an outline an you kept it,you dept

it on your desk with each days work.

I: So in a sence you had to really push those children to learn that

material and...

W: Oh yes. By the end of the year they could read and write, and we felt

great accomplishment when you get 60 children that don't know one word

of English and by the end of the year they've gone through a primer, a reader,

ah, ah, they can speak a few words, they understand your commands, they

can write a little, they ah ah... writing was emphasized in those days,

there was better penmenship then, then there is today. I still have a

fairly nice handwriting and you know I'm an old woman, it's not shaky.

We were taught the Spencerian way of writing, you know. And we teachers

had to go to school to learn it and then taught the children. We

had a period for writing, each day would... We had


I: Yes.

W: That were given to us weekly.

I: By who?

W: By the principal. We'd meet, all the first grade teachers would meet,

or say we had a faculty meeting with all the teachers, and thbefirst-grade

teachers they'd get their outline, the second grade, each teacher wrote...


W: ... I think the principal outlined your work for you.

I: Where'd he get his outline from? Did he make it up himself?

W: They were, these were printed forms, but they were filled in. You had

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Sept. 26, 1974

Page 36

to fill them in.

I: Oh I see.

W: He'd, he'd... There was a plan. I don't know where he got it from.

But you were required for your years work to do so much. Maybe to read

through two first grade primers, you were supposed to say... taught them

numbers to twenty, or to ten, I don't remember any more, you know it's a

long time since then. But I know we were given an outline.

I: Were there any special activities that the Latin students had at the

B.M. Ybor ?

W: No.

I: Out of the ordinary?

W: They played with, all the children got out on the ground, they'd eat

their lunch, they brought their lunch, they ate their lunch, they'd play

games, just like any of your children do, I imagine today.

I: Did you have any plays, or any auditorium... Did you have an auditorium

in those days?

W: Not in our,,our

I: Only, not until 1915. Didn't they build an auditorium in the great big

building in 1915?

W: I don't remember. I really don't know. I wasn't in there. I don't think

they even had an auditorium in the great big building. You know the population

of Ybor City had grown so and they needed every inch of space that they

could have for the children. No we didn't... I don't ever remember

I: Well did they have Flagday celebrations, or Christmas day, or...

W: We'd have Christ... We'.d decorate for Christmas and for Halloween,

Thanksgiving. Oh, we used to make turkeys, you know stencil turkevss

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Sept. 26, 1974

Page 37

for Thanksgiving, make pumpkins, they'd carry home little drawings of

pumpkins, we'd use the stencil and they'd color them. Yeah for Christmas,

and I know Christmas casue then we had a music supervisor and she'd c me

and bring you songs that you had to teach them for different holidays.

You're making my brain work today.

I: About this music, you speak of music and art did you have to teach

all that?

W: Yeah. The ah...

I: You had to teach everything.

W: Yeah. Sure.

I: Well in other words before you went, well even when you went on double

session you had the same students all the time for everything in the

first grade.

W: No. I dismissed those that came in the morning and take in more in...

I: More in the afternoon.

W: ...more, different children in the afternoon.

I: That wasn't always that started ... When... Double session started when?

About 1915, or...

W: No it's later than that ah, I taught a double session in about 1918,

as far as I remember.

I: You spent some years there without a double session?

W: Oh yes,yes.

I: Ok. This is what I'm trying to picture. The years of normal teaching,

with no double sessions, you were there from maybe 8:30 in the morning

to about 2 o'clock in the afternoon.

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Page 38

W: Yeah, 2, I don't think we dismissed them till about 2:30 or 3. But

our periods wer short, ten and 15 minute:periods. Cause you can't take a

six year old child and make, have his attention more than ten minutes at

a time, ten... All of our periods were ten... But you had to know what you

were doing and you had to have an outline, because if you didn't they'd

run wild. And you had to know... so of course our work was planned. And

we could give them small sheets of paper, they'd spell in the first grade,

you'd call out the word and they'd spell it and then they'd hand it into

you, and you corrected it and gave it back to them the next day, same as

they do now. I suppose they do that now, I don't know.

I: I think I'm getting something here, you had say 60 kids in a classroom.

Those 60 kids were with you all day?

W: Yes.

I: Ok. Every ten or 15 minutes you would change the activity?

W: Yeah.

I: From penmenship to music, or to art, or to ...

W: Singing or we'd march around the room, or we'd do calisthenics...

I: You did calisthenics in the classroom?

W: Yeah, we'd do like this you know...

I: Was there any room?

W: Yeah, they all stand-up...

I: Would you do it with them?

W: Sure I'd have to show them.

I: My goodness.

W: Oh, you made me go back so far, Yeah we would you know one, two and

we'd sing, and you know do that and then they'd do the feet, and five minutes

maybe. To let them Children can't sit still that long.

Ybor City Lenkway
Sept. 27, 1974

Page 39

I: Did all the teachers do this kind of thing? Every ten or 15 minutes.

W: I think the periods were not more than ten or 15 minutes.

I: What you called periods?

W: Yeah were a period. You taught, you taught them reading the phentic

way, we had big letters and they'd have to give us the should. We'd go

through the entire alphabet with the sound. And you could get them, I

think Bradly used to put them out, you know the people that make ..

and we had big letters and say the letter "S" said ssssss, and the whole

class would say, and "T" and you know you'd give the soundof the letters.

And then when you put a word up, then we had words and we'd put it up and

they would phenetically give you what it was.

I: Oh, I see. Then, was there any time during the day that you and the

children left the classroom at all? Anytime...

W: Except at recess and if they had to go to the bathroom.

I: Would they leave by themselves to go to the bathroom?

W: Yes. The toilets, as I remember were right in the building and they

could go themselves, there was many a poodle on the floor to with these

little ones. Many wet pants too.

I: But generally speaking the only time that you and the group as a

whole left the classroom, during the day was for lunch and for recess.

Or was that...

W: Thatwas recess

I: Oh, lineh,-wasrrecess.

W: Yes.

I: How long was that?

W: I think they had a half hour.

I: About half an hour. Did they eat... they brought their lunches in bags?

Ybor City Lenkway
Sept. 27, 1974

Page 40

W: They brought their lunches.

I: Balongy sandwiches and the garlic...

W: The garlic you could smell it all over and the Italian cheese, -

so strong you know. I love it. And baloney sandwiches, or egg sandwich,

they'd bring an apple. But they brought it from home,

I: You know I never thought about it, but what kind of lunch did people

generally bring to school if they didn't bring this? Not B.M. Ybor, but

what did American children, what would American children bring to school

for lunch?

W: What would they bring? They'd bring cheese sandwiches, you know you can

get bread and butter, fried egg sandwiches, ah, jelly sandwiches. I know,

now my son is 52 years old and he went to B.C. Graham, and that was before

they had a lunchroom there, and I used to give him peanut butter sandwiches,

that was already when peanut butter came out and put raisins on his peanut

butter, sandwiches, or jelly sandwiches, jelly and cream cheese, and I think

they used cream cheese too, and guava jelly, oh yes, and they'd bring the long,

cuban sandwiches with guava paste. Oh are you bringing back memories.

I: Did the American teachers ever try to sample some of this?

W: Yeah, they liked the guava jelly and they... they had a great love for

the children, the American teachers.

I: Those that stayed. I'm sure there were some that left.

W: Some of the finest teachers were put out in the Latin school. There

was a Mrs. McCullum, you speak Spanish?

I: Yes mame.

W: And they used to... she was a great big, fat women and they used to call


Ybor City Lenkway
Sept. 27, 1974

Page 41


W: She didn't know what they were talking

about. But the children called her

I: What did mean?

W: A a a fat


I: Oh, means goat.

W: I think it's goat. I think it is.

I: Oh, \ .

W: And she didn't know, but ah you know like children they would have

nicknames for the teachers. But as far as I know the teachers loved the

children. They loved their work, other wise they wouldn't teach.

I: That's what I was thinking .

W: You know you have to love your work and you get a great satisfaction

out of teaching, and it was always most gratifying to me to think that I

took 60 children, who didn't know what I was talking about and at the

end of the year, in June when they were dismissed from school, they could

read, they could talk to me, they could tell me what they wanted in English,

come and tell me if their mother had a baby, they'd come and tell me we have

a new brother, or they could tell you things, you know. Or if I wore a

pretty blouse they'd come and pet me and the teachers pretty today. Well

you know that's great satisfaction, I didn't get any money for it, I finally

got up as.Ilshidlto:$69 a month. That's all they paid you.

I: Why'd they pay you $120 for a double session?

W: Well because I was doing I had a hundred and twenty children. I was

getting twice $60.

Y_bor City Lenkway
Sept. 27, 1974

Page 42

I: So they weren't paying you by the hour?

W: I had already advanced my self. Some teachers were making $75-$85, they

gave you... I think if you taught. But as a beginner I started with $40 a


I: Let me see where... go ahead did you want to say something?

W: That's all.

I: Ok.

W: I've talked myself out already.

I: What aspects of American culture did you try to emphasize to the

students? I don't know first, second or third grade, was there any

aspects of totally American culture that you tried to emphasize tototally

Latin students?

W: I don't know what ... I don't really know it. As a whole as I remember

the children were nice and well mannered, they brought the culture of their

countries, their parents had handed it down to them. Of course there was

some crude people, as you know not everybody that came... many of them

weren't educated, they came from parts of Europe, I mean they came from

cities, they just didn't have any education. But as far as I remember the

children weren't bad.

I: Well this isn't a discipline thing. This is a ...

W: You had to discipline them though. You know they'd talk,.,most of the

discipline, I was considered a good disciplinarian, I always had excellent

order in my room.

I: How did you do that?

W: Well I insisted on it and I got it. I was quiet spoken and I always

had good order. And I'd punish them. See we were allowed too if they

disobeyed,and then many a time a used to ge the switch and switch them.

Ybor City Lenkway
Sept. 27, 1974

Page 43

You know it was permitted. And they didn't want to, it hurt to get switched.

The children had enough sence to behave themselves. I didn't have too much,

once in awhile... Another set of boys, when I had that little building where

the buildings were low, they went up to the window, jumped on the window sill

jumped out, I went to spank them.

I: You mean they ran out?

W: Run. He jumped the window, the windows were low you know on the ground.

The building was a little one story ... so this boy so me coming with the

switch he justwenteto the littletbuilding, got in the window and jumped

out. He was gone. But then maybe the next day his father or his mother

would come back with him and "now you beat my boy if he's not a good boy,

and you beat him and you make him be a good boy, we want him to be good."

See they would give you the authority. That's what I can truefully:say,

they were very respectful, the Latin people were to me. I never' taught in

any other school .

I: What kinds of awards did you give-aid how did you award the children?

W: I don't remember how I... Oh yes. We used to have stars, you know these

little gold denison stars, put that on their paper and then we'd have an

honor role, if they were running perfect attendance they'd get a star

everyday, and I don't _knww:c- how I rewarded... Oh and of course they

were so happy if they got a gold star.

I: Did you reward them for good behavior?

W: Yes. I think they were good behavior and attendance, things like that,

I: Pretty much what you find all over the schools.

W: What?

I: Pretty much what you see in any school, I think. It's like all the


Ybor City Typist: M. Lenkway
Sept. 27, 1974

Page 44

W: Yes, yse.

I: Everywhere. What was the procedure for passing Latin pupils from one

grade to the next? For promoting them? From say first to second.

W: They would get their report cards at the end of the year. If they

had learned and they were deserving of going up... You talk about some

of your problems with the principal, and tell him,"well this child hasn't

done as well and I don't think that he would fit into the second grade,

so you'd hold him back.

I: Did the principal usually let you hold them back?

W: Yes. They weren't worried about how much it was gonna gost to keep

them another year then. But if they weren't, when I had stragglers and

if the child wasn't physically prepared. I mean not physically but mentally

ready to go up to the second or the third grade.

I: You're saying in those days they weren't so concerned about the cost

of this, they just said put them back and teach them again.

W: We I mean\ it never entered into anything like that, that's it's costing

the county so much to keep a child over another time, If the child wasn't

deserving and he wasn't prepared to go up with the rest of the children he

was held back and he did his work over-again.

I: How did the children feel about that, about being held back? Did they

accept it?

W: There was no other way. They didn't get, wasn't promoted on their

card, it wasn't written that they got promoted.

I: But you know if you were a child seven years old, and still with

graders wouldn't that affect the childs behavior, or feelings?

W: I don't... maybe in a way. I don't... just don't remember. But I

had boys 13 years of age in the third grade. They didn't... some of them

Ybor City Lenkway
Sept. 27, 1974

Page 45

just, just didn't do well. And then I had one boy, I remember his name

was Tony Fernandez, he did beautiful charcoal work and I had for years,

he did some charcoal on paper that he gave me several of his drawings.

Well he was 13 years, had come to this country when he was 12 or 13 years

old and couldn't speak any English, so therefore he had to go in the first


I: Well did he stay? Did he stick with it?

W: He was a nice boy, he stayed and then he got promoted. Used to see

me on the streets all the time.

I: Ok. Let's see if we got anything on that. I'm trying to save enough

time because there's a couple of questions I want to ask you about something

else. Was there anyway for dividing the children up into groups, say on

the basis of boys and girls, or older and younger?

W: I think. Now I don't remember how we... I think we had the boys on one

side... I don't remember how we did that. I think the boys sat...boys and

girls sat mixed. We had single desks. And as far as I remember they were

just, you know the little ones, those that were taller sat in the back

and those that were shorter sat in the front. And then if there was a bad

boy you'd put him closer to the front, near you.

I: Did you assign them seats?

W: Yes. They'd go everyday to the same seat.

I: Based on... How would you assign a-seat to the student?

W: I don't remember. I don't... I don't really remember how we did that.

I: What kinds of courses, subjects, or activities did the students like


W: Oh, they liked to sing. And of course they liked their play period.

Ybor City Lenkway
Sept. 27, 1974

Page 46

I: You gave them a play period?

W: No.. You know, you'd sing with the fingers. No I didn't have a play period.

It was work, but I don't remember. I really don't.

I: Do you remember any activities that they disliked, or ?

What were the unpopular, unpleasant parts of the day?

W: I just really don't recall.

I: That's ok. We got that question.

W: You know I'm going back an awful long time.

I: You must feel like a time machine when I get through with you.

W: I'll be hungry, ready to eat.

I: I think that's about that. Now I do want to ask you, I don't have

these down but. You say that you went to the St. Joseph's Convent...

W: Convent.

I: And then I think you went to Henderson?

W: It wasn't called Henderson, it was the Tampa Heights school.

I: Oh, back in those days?

W: Yes.

I: And then they tore that down and made a new school?

W: Ah no...yes they did. That was a wooden building,,and they tore that

down and made the Henerson, then they turned that to a Colored school. It's

back of the St. Elizabeth, where St. Joseph is you know, right in that...

where, not the present St. Joseph, but where St. Joseph was, well they

call it St. Elizabeth now. It was on that... down going towards 6th Avenue.

I: Now.. That means you went to St. Joseph Convent the first through the

fifth grade.

W: Through the fifth, and I was in the sixth grade when I left the convent.

Ybor City Lenkway
Sept. 27, 1974

Page 47

I: And during all that time you also went to Hebrew school after'the


W: Ah, no. They didn't have a congregation then. I was about 10 or 12

years old when the first Rabbi came to our congregation. Then after

school we would go there and learn Hebrew, learn the prayers.

I: That would have been about Junior High, I suppose.

W: We didn't have junior high in those days. We had eight year, eight year.,.

four and four, the primary was four and fQur, the grammer school just went

through the eigth grade. And then when you got to high school that was the

nine, ten 11 and 12.

I: Oh. Well like B.M. Ybor only went through the sixth grade, didn't it?

W: Yeah, 'Ybor... then they started I think by that time, by that time I

think they started Junior High. The Robert E. Lee was a Junior High. My

brother, a younger brother went to Robert E. Lee. But I went, mine was

the Convent and then the sixth and the seventh and the eigth, then I went

to Hillsborough and finished there. But Hillsborough High School in 1912,

1911, went to Thomas Jefferson. Where Thomas Jefferson is on, down there

on Ola and, the new Thomas Jefferson, but theyccondemed those because they

didn't meet the requirements. But the class of 1912 was the first class to

graduate from there. Then it, I don't know when it became a Junior High.

Now my son went there, it was a Junior High. But when I went, my class

graduated from there, class of'9912, and we were all, we were the largest class

that ever graduated, we were 37 in the class.

I: Huh, its not too big \ Thirty-seven people.

It's come a long way. Now here's what I'd like to know. At St, Josephts

Convent, about how many teachers were there for all the students?

W: Oh, I don't know.

Ybor City Lenkway
Sept. 27, 1974

Page 48

W: I took music lessons there. I played the piano.

I: But you went to school there all day as well?

W: Yes.

I: That's where you learned your P's and Q's?

W: Oh yes. Yeah. I got a wonderful foundation, because when I remember...


I: I'm very interested in knowing about St. Joseph's Convent. I'd like to

know teachers, were they Sisters?

W: Did I...

I: At St. Joseph's Convent.

W: They were Nuns.

I: Oh they were nuns.

W: They were nuns. They had the convent there. They were Nuns.

I: Sbothe Nuns taught.

W: Oh yes. That was a parochial school. Definitly a Catholic school.

I: And the... Oh it was a parochial school.

W: It was a parochial convent. They had a convent, and the Bishop used to

come. It was a Catholic school. You ask me home come a Jew goes there?

I: Yeah...

W: I still stayed a Jew. And because the schools, the convent were better

schools and as I told you...

I: Then what? The public schools?

W: Then the public schools were, public schools weren't considered good

at all.

I: Why not?

W: Well we just didn't, my parents didn't think they were as good as the

Ybor City Lenkway
Sept. 27, 1974

Page 49

private, and most Jewish children did go to the private schools because

they were better. And we loved the Nuns. My mother used to say, "Why are

you running there on Saturday?" They'd have games for us, and we loved

them. We loved them, because they... I mean that was there life work and

they knew how to be with children and all. And I really did love them, and

I still love the Nuns.

I: Were they Americans, or Latin.people?

W: No they were American. They were from I think, I don't know if

they're the Franciscon Order, but they were everything. You know long

black... they were Nuns with the big cross and everything.

I: Did they speak Spanish?

W: No they were American. They came from New York, some... from the North.

But one thing I will say they knew we were Jews and there weren't too many,

two or three girls, but when the Bishop would come the children would all

have to go and kiss his ring and kneel, well we don't kneel to anybody

bu to G-d, or I mean we don't kneel at all in our prayers and it was

against our religion, and so the Nuns knew, they sent us out, they had a

building on the outside where we'd eat our lunch and they'd give us a

certain number of problems to work, work a page of arithmetic, or do

a composition, or whatever it was and we were working out there while the

Catholic children were doing what they were supposed to do. They never

asked us to learn their prayers and we didn't take Catechism. The Catholic

children had to take Catechism.

I: What did you do while they took Catechism?

W: They'd give us somenassignments we either did some arithmetic...I used

to know all of the Catholic,the Hail Mary and I used to be able to say them

Ybor City Lenkway
Sept. 27, 1974

Page 50

all and the Angela's they used to do the, you know make the sign of the

cross, when the Angelas would ring at 12 O'clock.

I: And you had to do that, or...

W: I didn't have, they knew that we were Jews.

I: But you did it anyway?

W: I didn't, no. I said I know how, used to see it done, I was right there

in the room.

I: I'm glad I asked you, cause there's a difference between doing it and

knowing how to do it.

W: No, I don't know how to do it, but I had seen it done. And I can truefully

say that they never imposed their religion, and never asked us to go to

church, or anything. They left us alone. They taught us what we were

supposed to learn.

I: Very good.

W: And through the years I have great respect for them. I have many

Catholic friends like -, we were children together, Did

you keep her as &ong as you did me?

I: Longer.

W: Did she have you, did she tell you more about... she taught long time,

much more than I did.

I: She was there for two hours and wanted to talk some more, but I had to


W: Well she taught much longer than I did. She married and then I don t know

what happened, but she went back to teaching.

I: Well on this subject of the parochial school, was it just girls that

went to St. Joseph Convent?

W: Just girls. Oh they had a boys school, but boys were separate. My

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Sept. 27, 1974

page 51

brother, Joseph Wohl he went to the Convent. But the boys were in a separate

building and they only kept them till the forth or fifth grade, I think.

They didn't keep them too much. But they had boys, but they weren't with

the girls.

I: Oh I see. Different...

W: The girls were separate. That was another building, another little

building that the boys were in.

I: Were most of the students there from the local neighborhood?

W: Yes. Mos-of them were the Latin.

I: Most of them were Latins:?

W: Latins.children.

I: Most of them had to speak English to go there, I guess.

W: Oh yes they taught them English the same as we did. The public school

teachers did, they had to teach them.

I: Now one thing I was never clear on what was... Was there a boundry-

system for schools in these days?

W: What?

I: A boundary system?

W: Yes.

I: What was that boundary system?

W: Ah, if you lived, I don't know what the radius was, but we had to get

special permission to go to the Tampa Heights School, or y-ou would say that

you lived in a different area so that you could go to that school.

I: But if you lived in Ybor City, you couldn't go to the Tampa Heights

School unless you got permission.

W: I think we had to have permission. I knew... well there was no... I

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Sept. 27, 1974

Page 52

don't think Philip Shore was even built then.

I: No it wasn't. None of the...

W: See ah... There was no school in Ybor City, a public school that I

know of.

I: Ybor?

W: The Ybor... Well see I didn't know that. We didn't...

I: B.M. Ybor was there.

W: Well we, we, we came to Tampa in 1890...1897 or 8, well I didn't

remember, I was too young to go to school then, but when I was six years

old I started the Convent. I don't know about, whether there was an Ybor

School there or not.

I: There was.

W: We were just taken to the Convent.

I: How large were the classes at the Convent?

W: I really don't know.

I: Weretthey crowded?

W: NO. You had to pay, I think we paid $.25 a week.

I: Twenty-five cents?

W: Um huh (yes), or $.50 a week.

I: That's pretty good. I'm surprised that kids going to public school

didn't transfer to the Convent.

W: I think that's what we paid, $.25 or $.50 a week. Later on it went up

to more. Music lessons were $.50 an hour. I paid the teacher. I think

that was all we paid, about $.50 a week. Well you know $.50,sixty years ago

Ybor City Lenkway
Swpt. 30, 1974

page 53

seventy years ago was some money. I remember when you could buy two dozen

eggs for a quarter. I remember when you could buy a chicken for $.35, a

chicken, a live chicken. See money had, I mean people were poor then.

I: So fifty-cents a week was quite a bitthen.

W: Yeah, sure.

I: Well well in your public school how much would it cost a students

to go to public school?

W: It was free.

I: But what about buying books?

W: Well you had to buy your books, so did you have to buy your

and we used to be able to get tickets to ride from, on the street car

from Ybor City to the school, Tampa Heights School, if we wanted to ride, if

we wanted to walk it was about a two mile walk, two and a half. We kids-

would all get together, but if you wanted to ride on the streetcar you'd get

a string of tickets, ten tickets for twenty-five cents. And the conductor

come and pull off a ticket, They were brown tickets. ANd you'd get it on

a on a long and they were perforated, and the conductor would take it off.

Ten for $.25.

I: And you'd go everyday to the Tampa Heights school from Ybor CIty?

W: Yes.

I: You were never late to school or anything, were you?

W: I was always the first one. I'm a very prompt person.

I: You must have gotten up awful early.

W: No.

I: I mean how long was the trip between Ybor and Tampa Heights on a Trolly?

W: Take you more than ten or fifteen minutes.

I: That was not too bad.

W: But I was always early. I'm very I'm always a head of time, all my life

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Sept. 30, 1974

Page 54

I do things ahead of time.

I: Let's see you went to Tampa Heights, oh during the sixth grade.

W: The sixth grade.

I: I see.

W: Convent, then the Tampa Heights and to Hillsbovough in 19, I entered in

1908 and graduated in 1912, then of course I took two state examinations.

I: Well then did the Tampa Heights at that time have a seventfL and eighth


W: Yes, Tampa Heights...

I: Oh so you went there for three years.

W: I was there for; because they didn't have junior high schools then.

See that's a matter of... I'm 80 years old, about 65 years, 68 years ago.

I: Well it's possible than that students could only go to Tampa Heights

from Ybor City...

W: Yes.

I: ... if they were going into that seventh and eigth grade level.

W: Now we had a lot of of Jewish children whose father and mothers had

stores in Ybor City that we were friendly with...

I: And they lived in Ybor City.

W: ...they lived in Ybor City because the business was there and they

lived in Ybor City, and we'd start and then we'd go and meet our friend

and before you knew there'd be ten of us walking to school together. We'd

have a lot of fun.

I: So most of the Jewish children knew each other in Ybor City.

W: Oh yes, if we didn't know each other, those in Ybor City knew because

we all went to the same synagogue.

Ybor City Typist: Lenkway

Sept. 30, 1974

Page 55

I: I just want to say that...

W: And we all went to Sunday school together.

I: Sunday school?

W: Yes we had Sunday school.

I: On Sunday.

W: Yes, Sunday. We'd go to services Saturday and then Sunday morning we'd

have Sunday school. We've just changedvwhere we have it on Saturday morning,

our religious school.

I: But in those days everything was on Saturday. See the synagogue that

you went to was in Tampa Heights?

W: Yes.

I: So every Saturday morning youtd have to ride there on the trolly?

W: Well it was prohibited.

I: That's what I was wondering, I understand. Were you orthadox, or

conservative or

W: Well my mother was orth... my mother and father didn't ride. Well we lived

within walking distance anyway. My mother never rode on the Sabbath. My

father my father and mother didn't ride. But today even the Rabbi's permitted

if he lives a long distance, the seminaries have permitted them if they

live long distances to ride to services.

I: Did the Jewish children do things together in Ybor City? Did you

ever go have parties?

W: Yes. We used to, the Sunday school used to give us picnics and we used

to have all the holidays, that the Jewish people observe, we'd have parties

in our Synagogue. We'd have plays and parties and ...

I: You mean plays and things?

W: Yes we'd have plays depicting, just like you would have the Christmas

Ybor City Lenkway
Sept. 30, 1974

Page 56

play, the pagent with the three wise men and the mainjor, well we Jewish

people have holidays that we have plays about.

I: Did you celebrate Purium?

W: Purium. TheY'd have Purium plays. AMd Hanukkah.

I: What's the festival of harvest? Succoth:

W: Succbth. Oh well we had big, we had beautiful Succoth. See cause you

know about it, we had a gorgeous one. And the outside and it was all

decorated with fruit, and then the Rabbi, we had a Cantor. You know what

that is?

I: Yes.

W: And he went in and the blessing was said over the wine and everybody

was given a little paper cup of wine, and we blessed the wine and then

the bread the chulla, the big twist, the blessing was said over the bread

and everybody was given a piece of the bread. It was a beautiful succoth.

And each child was given a bite.of the fruit. It was... We celebrate

that and in those days we did-it in a simple way. But we had parties.

I: Did you... did any of the Latin children ever participate in any

of the Jewish holidays?

W: Yes, sure. We lived among... I had an Italian, in World War, World

War II, you know we would go out to the fields and invite the Jewish boys

for the Jewish Holidays. Well this Italian boy from New York City, lived

among Jewish people and he'd come to my home and all the JeWish Holidays

that I'd invite Jewish boys, he'd come along. And we remained friends for

a long time, but I lost track of him now, But he was such a nice Roy,.

Italian boy, he was glad to get a holiday, a good meal. Why not?

I: Did you have many friends of the Latin children who lived in Ybor City?

Ybor City Lenkway
Sept. 30, 1974

Page 57

W: Did I have many friends?

I: Did the Latin, did the Latin, did you know the Latin children? I

know you went to the Convent.

W: Well I know and her sister Ester,

I: But as a child, when you were a child did you mostly play with Jewish

children, or did you play withLatin children?

W: Well Sure we did. But my father's, I didn't have too many children,

we lived in those days, when I was a young child we lived back of the store.

And our backyard was always full of children, two, three, four children

from the neighborhood. The boys, you know the

family here?

I: Yes.

W: They know our family, they were, we were neighbors when the old man

lived he thought a lot of my mother, old John Yeah we

lived among the people so... I think I've told you all I know.

I: It's six o'clock, it's time to call it quites.

W: Oh it is.