Interview with Manuel Garcia, July 27, 1979

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Interview with Manuel Garcia, July 27, 1979
Garcia, Manuel ( Interviewee )
Gary Mormino
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Hillsborough County Oral History Collection ( local )

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University of Florida
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INTERVIEWEE: Manuel Garcia
DATE: July 27, 1979
PLACE: Tampa, Florida

G: Now what I am relating to you is what has been related to me, it was long before my

time. Charlie Walls mother died and the story is that Charlie's father married -61-

housekeeper, Dr. Wall, and that infuriated Charlie, old man Wall, who was a young

kid at the time, infuriated him, and the story is that he took a twenty-two rifle and

tried to shoot and kill the stepmother, which resulted in him being taken over by

Dr. Likes, who was the father of the Likes brother)and he was more or less raised up

with them ut he went in a different directiorn)&nstead of staying legitimate, he

went illegitimate. He became addicted to drugs and he got off of them and in his lat-

er years in life he did not have the habit of the drugs. He was primarily a profession-

al gambler, but he would rig up all the elections and he controlled them because he

controlled the election machinery, that is the people at the precincts and the people

at the polls. There were people he put there for the purpose of stealing the votes.

Now there story that was related to me by a fellow, may he rest in peace, his

name was Daniel RoMU Daniel Roy was a friend of Charlie Walls and they had a fire

station over here in west Tampa, which is fire station number five. So, Daniel Roay

Vas sort of the chief inspect r at ths, precinct number five. Claude Pepper was running
aA---spo(_/G L/.- P. ci^^ c vo L[-i jv or0 /.r ~^ 66 ( 11 '0 5k- r,0
for the United States Senate against Clarke Crandle who wasia- the incumbent United

States Senator. Clarke Crandle had the support of the political machine here because

he was the incumbent senator and Claude Pepper was sort of a young legislator that had

gotten active in the race. Claude Pepper was defeated by the way, Clarke Crandle def-

eated him and Hillsborough County was the county responsible for Claude Peppers defeat

and the story goes, whichI\s related to me now, and I would say that this is about

1936, I think it was in the 1936 election that Claude Pepper ran, the first time. When

they closed the precinct doors and they started to count the votes in the precinct over

there at the fire station which is precinct five in west Tampa, they talked amongst

themselves as to how many votes they were going to give Claude Pepper. Well some of

the people said well, we have got to give him ten, fifteen, or twenty, and one guy says

Ybor 38 A

G: hell nojthat is too many to give him, do not give him any. The fellow said, well we

can not do that, and so everyone was giving their opinion as to how many votes, and

one fellow spo je up and says look we have got to give him some votes, Albert DCArhlyF

is the city counts man in west Tampa, he was strong for Claude Pepper, he was a very

popular and strong public official and you know that he got a lot of votes for him,

so it is going to look bad if you do not give him some votes. Finally it got to be

an argument so ROiy went to the telephone and called Charlie Wall and explained it

to him and Wall says to him, well look, you just stand still, I am going to send over

there Peter r5mb Now Peter -r.i s an associate of Wall's. Now you want to imagine

this, nobody can go into this princik, the doors are closed, outside of the precinct

are deputy sheriffs, candidates, candidate su orters, waiting to hear the results,

what the votes are and here comes Mr. Peter gfmis and he walks right on in through

the door. So, they explained to him what happened, and he said, and they told him

about Albert De rtsupporting Mr. Pepper and this and the other and so he said, well,

he said, we will settle it, we will give him two votes, one vote for Albert CiAr-1fr and

one for his wife and everybody else double-crossed Albert. And it ended up with the

precinct giving a lop-sided I do not know 1800 and some votes for Clarke Crandle and

two for Claude Pepper. So that is the story that has been related to me.

M: Someone mentioned I think Hampton Dunn, that Wall's old body guard is still alive. His

name is Scarface.

G: Let me say this. Johnny Rivela, that is his name Johnny Rivela.

M: Do you think he would be willing to talk?

G: Oh gosh you could go see John if you wanted to talk to you. Also Baby Joe Diez, Joe

Diez, D-i-e-z. Those were two people that drove Charlie Wall, they are considered

body guards, I do not know if they were every body guards really, but they were his

ie-wtLs, they chO kA rV (

M: Where did Wall get his clout?

G: Well, he was born and raised here and I guess he got his clout, I do not know how he

Ybor 3A A

G: got his clout. I knew him very well. He got his clout I guess being locally here

and being connected with the prominent families, he was related to the Likes, he was

related to the Walls, he was related to the Mclays. You know what I mean, that is

where it all came in and I guess he decided that in politics, that is the people in

the community, that so-called establishment, wanted to run the government and he was

in a position of having these Latins whom he knew and worked with. He was able to
+t-Lr as
go ahead and qrjTArtrsupporters. And with the force of money and fixing the elections

he was able to be successful.

M: His money came mainly with bolia?

G: Yes, that was bQlida. He did have one gambling house at the El Dorado and they had

other bolida places, back in those days there used to be a lot of bolida.

M: Ramble on a little bit about the bolida. What the role of bolida was in Tampa.

G: Well, the role bolida played I think led to all of the assinations that occurred here,

the gangland killings. Because in order to be in the operated you had to have the

controls of law enforcement. Law enforcement had to be on your side. And naturally

if you had -t control of law enforcement, you were not going to let guys or the

people who had not supported your candidate, so to speak, or who were not your friends

to participate and get the profits of illegal gambling. And so what(would\you do if

they tried to operate illegally, you would get the law enforcement officers to go

raid theraand so naturally that fellow to defend himself, -he had to do something.. So

what he could do, maybe eliminate the fellow that had the power. And that is where

the idea came well, the thing to do is to just start killing each other. So, that is

when they tried to kill Charlie Wall several times. I think it came because he had the

control. of bolida and then when other people were killed, it was because.? retaliatior

maybe from someone that was trying to kill Wall.

M: Bolida, I take it was wide open in Tampa?

G: Oh, yes it was wide open. I can remember when a fellow would have for instance an area

he would go up to the First National Bank and just go up to each floor. He had his

Page 4

Ybor 38 A

G: has always been talk about you know people taking graft, but what the hell, anybody

knows, I was not there to see them take it. You.know what I mean, so I can not say

that there was any, that they were dishonest, but there was a lot of it going on,

you know of course without it you could not very well say that they did not know

about it. And there was an old story that would go around that periodically certain

times, maybe once a week, maybe twice a week, or maybe three times a month, the

police agencies, like the sheriff's office, and the chief of police would call up

these different places that sold be9-da>and they would say look, we are going to

have to pick up a couple of guys today, so have two guys over there we can pick up.

So they would go over there and they would pick up a couple of guys and they would

take them down to the jail and they give the names. And they would charge them with

possession of lg and they would put up a $500 cash bond and d And

that e)esues. for the community, for the city.
a whiyter
M: Turning to politics then, just to through out a cou le names, Pat V\ithw?

G: Yes, he was probably, one of the best lawyers that Tampa ever had, he was a powerful

fellow, he was the state senator and president of the Florida Senate and probably

one of the most talented legal lawyers that I have ever met in my life. He was a

tremendous lawyer, and when anybody ever committed a serious criminal offense, and he

got up in the morning, he knew he was going to get a telephone call from that guy

when he got to his office. From Pensacola to Key West, he represented everybody in

any serious criminal charge. He was a tremendous lawyer, probably one of the finest,

and I mean he had the talent. And like I say he played politics hot and heavy too,

he was president of the Florida Senate and he was senator of this county for many

years and he was also a member of the-iouse of representatives in his earlier years.

And a very, very successful lawyer., i /
3R/^ ^q oz VuJ r oA V(d'/ o .1
M: Rex P "Crc._ L- F -

G: Rex, was the state's attorney, he was also in politics rea stron? he got started

I think when Dave Sh'itz became governor. He was appointed state's attorney at that

Ybor 38A

G: time. I think that the state's attorney here died in office, he had died in office

and they appointed Rex Farrit. And that is when he started, and then he became

real powerful when Holland got elected governor in 1940.

M: Spessard Holland? 01 c i \ V\ G ~v c OrI C5'~tl )

G: Spessard Holland, he.was Hollands real close friend. And I will tell you a little

story about that in just a bit. And Rex became you might say, he was a political

boss in this area, in other words, c ronfti boss. In other words I expect

that his relationship to Holland was so close, awd not only in this area, I expect

state-wide that he called a lot of shots. Iniother words when it came to the

of people in politics. And I will tell you a little story. Henry Toland tells

this story. He was a member of the legislature from Plant City, he was at one time

president of the Exchange National Bank. He is notpracticing law, and he up there

at Holland and Knight. And Henry said that he was not satisfied with the way Rex

FarrT-rwas handling patronage in Hillsborough County and then he went up to Holland.
rcx4-a5+ket- W 0 UIkA o-,
Holland' 1'bven governor, this was before*i I. And he went over there and he put

in his pitch to Holland and told him that he felt that Rex was hurting him as this

and the other, and why politically, and that he ought to do something about it. And

after Holland heard Henry's story, he turned to Henry and Henry says I want to tell

you something, he says when I went to college at the University of Florida, he said

I was a pitcher on the baseball team and Rex FcrfOwas the catcher and he never gave

me a bad signal, I thought that was a pretty good story. That reminds me of another

story that was related to me about Jack Kennedy. Apparently George Smathersr/who was

then the United States Senator wanted Kennedy to do him some favor, to do something
CDpCP A0- S ^ U.S. .-riy (rA ./-IIGY / 7-5-1 f?V _7
that Smathers was interested in, and he went to see Kennedy. And Jack Kennedy told

him that he would do it provided Smathers did something for him and that was to sort

of help Kennedy get certain legislation passed in the senate. And Smathers agreed tc

do that and Smathers went ahead and did his part of the bargain, and the legislation,

it passed the senate, but Kennedy did not perform for Smathers and Smathers got a

Ybor 38 A

G: little bit worried about it. And Smathers had a very, very close friend named

Bill Thompson which is the Bill Thompson in that photograph that I showed you.

And he asked Bill, Bill often saw the president when he was at the White House,

and he told Bill, I wish you would see Kenedy and tell him about this bec-

ause I have not heard from him on the matter that he was going to do for m I have

done performed for him. And Kennedy gave Thompson a message, and Thompson related

the message, and said not to worry that Kennedy would carry out his part of the

bargain in due course. But time went on and the thing did not occur. I mean what-

ever he was supposed to do for~--- Smathers did no happen. So Smathers decided to

go see Kennedy. And he got to get to see Kennedy, I do not know whether it was at

the White House or some place else, and he said to Kennedy, you know I performed for

you, and I am going to cash in my chip now and he said you have not done what you

promised you would do for me. And he-said now Smathers that reminds me of a story,

and I.would like to relate it to you. One time there was fellow at and

every night before he went to bed he got a glass of water and put it right down next

to his bed there on a little table there, and his habit was to take out the glass

eye before he went to sleep and put it in the glass of water. And he said he did

thatthat night. So during the night he got thirsty and he grabbed the glass and he

drank it not realizing that his glass eye was in it, he swallowed the glass eye.

Well that upset him no end. And so he decided he had to do something about it, he

was real embarrassed and he went to A the doctor. And he did not want to tell the

doctor exactly what happened, so he started to tell the doctor, he said I have been

having some pains in my abdomen and he said, I would just like for you to sort of

check me out and see what is wrong with me, he said because I do not know I think I

that I ate something, this and the other. He did not want to tell him exactly how

stupid he had been. So the doctor told him to go ahead and disrobe and go into the
examils-Jroom and lay down in a prone position so after the doctor told him to disrobe

and go into the examining room and lay down in a prone position, the doctor when in

Ybor 38A

G: the 'and he spread his legs and he inserted this instrument up his anus, a procta-

scope-and as he was looking down in there he saw this glass eye looking right at

him and he tapped this man on the shoulder and said hey, George, you have got to

learn to trust me. I thought that was a pretty good joke, don't)you. So Smathers

caught on ofourse, I presume Kennedy did what he told him he was going to do. I

hope these things that I am relating to you do not become public information.

M: No, do not worry.

G: Now, I have got your word that they are not going to become public information.

M: No, right, you could sue me, so do not worry Dave ScWItz?
G: &o-uy Ozf 6e^ ^,Iig Dave
G: I o not remember too much about Dave SchVftz except that he was Jewish and they

ran a dirty propaganda against him. He got elected governor of Florida and was a

very, very strong governor. Now, I forget what year, I think it was 1932 that he

ran, that is my recollection. I was at the University of Florida at that time.

M:.'Ie ran againstW jj f C 6^t s 6A A" t rFo 7
Cc... h, s
G: No, he was running after sIts, somease else was in office when he ran, I am trying

to think of who it was. I think it might have been John W. Mar*d. He was.running

again 7John W. Martin. John W. Martin served from 1924-1928 I think. From 1928-

1932 somebody else served because you could not succeed yourself. John W. Martin

was in the runoff, he ran in the runoff with Dave Scholtz. Dave ScChtz was from
R 0or d 'J
Datona Beach, he was president of thestate chamber of commerce, he was big in the

elks, and he ran and he beat John W. Martin, i OiGD a121 ; c' {'L J: in Tampa. But he
on.(-,7ir "l--
was Jewish. They ran a lot of propaganda about him about, I rememberVthing that

they were saying about his wife, was a woman of ill fame, and all of that. They had

a really dirty campaign, but he got elected. He was a tremendous speaker, an orat-

or. You know back in those days,.you did not have t.v. and very little radio back

then and he was a guy who did get on the platform you would h e to go listen to hirr

but this fellow man, he could put on a real, real good skeeh. I mean he was a

tremendous orator, Dave SchYltz was. And he left here and went to Brooklyn after


Ybor 38 A

M: Talking about local polits, a=aa things thatloften come aclrossra lot of

conflicting answers, what is your interpretation of local labor problems in Tampa?

G: I do not too much about labor except that I know one time the cigar makers used to

have, that was the big labor union. You kn ow that was the strong one. Tampa, was

not a strong labor town back in those days, except amongst the cigar makers, and

they were, they were a powerful unit and they went on strike. They had a lot of


M: Were they radical?

G: See, back in those days they were considered radical, you know today they are not

considered radicals. But back in those days if you were anti-business so to speak

you were a radical, you were an anarchist. In other words I have got a photograph

at home, a postcard photograph, just like the postcard that you showed me here. Wel

on the back of it was a place for the stamp, and a place to mail it out for the

address and all that, and it is a photograph showing two men hung on a tree out

here off of Howard Avenue on Memorial Highway on the road to Clearwater there one
?SiC5I o cc -
of them was named albino and the other was named 1 both were hung that arose out

of the strike in west Tampa. Now those cards were being sold for a nicli, my mother

bought one, that is why I got it. I let Tony Plj-scmake a copy of it. But they were

hung, whether they were radicals or anarchists, all I know is that they were in here

for the purpose of orgatnfiing the strikers and the cigar factories, and it led to

the shooting of a bookkeeper in one of the factories here, which was Bustillo Brothel

Bustillo and Brothers they killed the bookkeeper and they figured they had him. Well

what happened was that west Tampa was a municipality back in those days and what

they did they took them and put them in the west Tampa jail. Now they were supposed

to transport them to the county jail. The county jail at that time was over here

on Pierce Street near Oak LWvrcemetry. So instead of taking them the easiest route

from west Tampa and going up Fortune Street to the county jail, they came up Howard

Avenue to grand central which is now rCi'.r li i l1,and when he got there to the

Ykor 38 A

G: corner MCJg- Hill was there, they over powered two deputies and carried the guys

and a big group of vigilantes were there and they took them up the road which was

=m Memorial Highway but it was not even paved, I think it was a shell road and they

hung them over there on the tree.

M: If you could remember to bring that in some day I would love to get a shot of that


G: I would be glad to show it to you. I loaned it one time to Mr. D.B. Mc ay, he used

to write Pioneer Florida and I loaned it to him, oh but he begged me to give it to

him, but I would not and I lo8ned it to him.and he had it in there.

M: He must have been a legendary figure?

G: Yes, he was, he was mayor of Tampa and like I say he owned the Tampa Daily Times

newspaper, and he was the cousin of Charlie Wall.

M: Let us talk about a couple of national events and how they affected Tampa. The


G: Well, I tell you what in the depression it was really bad. An'd I will tell you this
'sjPA Ks oLz-ua
thep Bse building the 't--- _Bayshore"' J..i.'.i..... the work progress administ-

ration and they would pay you fifty dollars a month, and there were men out there

with a pick and shovel digging that sand out there on that Bayshore and gosh I mean

you know, I remember you could Istale bread, two loves for a nice. That meant

that the bread was one or two days old. You could go over to the southerbakeries
th Of3S!?y
which was over there off of and they had a bakery over there that manufactut

ed bread. And the depression was in the 1930s because I was at the University of

Florida right,and you did not think about the depression up there too much because

you were there and everybody sort of got along. And at the University of Florida, if

you ran out of money you could always get something to eat, _k- c L-A4 let you

sign a tab you know what I mean. I remember at the Black Cat' j~. Ce who operated

the Black Cat, hell it was nothing you could go in there and say Pee wee I am broke

I have not got any money. He would say o.k. sign the tab, pay me when you can. And
that was ityou know it did not cost too much, everybody would be able to fight there

Ybor 38 A

G: way so to speak and try to do it. So, I was at the University of Florida from

1931-1938, but I remember that here it was real rough, by that I mean the money

was tight, you know what I mean. Well I will give you an example, Frank Gannon

told me that during the depression he was president of the Tampa Electric Company

and he made $6,000 a year, that was his salary. That gave you an example, the lar-

gest public utility on the west coast of Florida. And if a fellow, I can remember

when they talked about a $10,000 a year man during the depression, boy he was a

real big operator, so to speak. He was a very successful businessman.

M: You came back to Tampa in 1938 then.

G: Yes in May of 1938.

M: When did things pick up in Tampa?

G: After WIiL. 1or I c c L ,- 7-.

M: Wasn't 1939 and 1940, but after the war?

G: I think in 1939 and 1940. In other words you could still buy a hart chaplin mark

suit for $27.50 or $32.50. You know what I mean, back in those days you could

still buy florshem shoes for $10.00.

M: How did the war affect Tampa, WWII?

G: Well, I do not know I can not tell you too much about that, except that I think you
a0 0-l- kt v cI J r ev, r pie
had Mac''ilj field you know it expanded the city. But me not being

in business, you know I did not know about the impacts.

M: Were there many servicemen in town?

G: Oh, yes. 8ank when I was in WWII, I was gone.for a couple years, but gosh yes there

were lots and loots and lots of servicemen in Tampa. P2COV-_ O_ _airforce. You

know you had Mact'll Airforce Base and DcuD pF,.~ But DFCLO cid is where

the airport and all that area is now, that was one of the largest airbases in the


M: What do you think of the future of Tampa? Let us say in about fifty years, can you

try to do a little bit with that?

Ybor 38 A

G: I think that Tampa has got a tremendous future, man you can see it now with all

these buildings going up.ases town. It means that these people are putting up

the money to put up those buildings, they know what they are doing. I mera-yoekow

-It means that Tampa has got a tremendous future, I think, no question about it.

M: Listen Mr. Garcia I would like to thank you very much.

G: I have not told you hardly anything.

M: Well, maybe we can meet again some time.

G: Yes.

M: _and go again, these are very interesting stories.

G: Well, there are a lot of other stories and some of these days I am going to put

them on a tape myself, my daughter wants me to do it. These different episodes

that I know about the things that happened, but Tampa has been a great town and

it has got a lot of history behind itarod you ought to go to Oak Lawn Cemetry.

M: I have been there.

G; Have you? Well there is a lot of things over at Oak Lawn that you wonder why, like

over at another cemetery you ought to go to is Woodlawn. Have you ever been to

Woodlawn cemetery? Well at the Woodlawn cemetery you will see Dr. Hamptoh and his

wife, and they got a monument there and they are both& sitting in a chair and they

bothjave their backs to the city of Tampa. And the story is that Dr. Hampton got

real mad at the city of Tampa for something, I do not know what it was. Phil Hamptqo

4kgrandson will tell you.

M: At the T.V. station?

G: No, Phil Hampton the doctor. And s-tpoeftIy his grandfather had he and his wife

buried there, this monument with them sitting in the chair with their back to

town is because he was mad at the city of Tampa and he turned his back on them.

That is what the story is supposed to be. But there are a lot of people around -\

here that can give you a lot of history about this town.

M: Hey, listen thanks again.

Full Text
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