Interview with J. H. Palmer

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Interview with J. H. Palmer
Palmer, J.H. ( Interviewee )


Subjects / Keywords:
History of Florida Education Oral History Collection ( local )

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University of Florida
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University of Florida
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Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license:


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FLA 25A et .
Interviewer: Arthur White
Subjects Mrs. J. H. Palmer

Is Arthur White, Assistant Professor of Education at the

University of Florida interviewing Mrs. J. H. Palmer, maiden

name Caroline LaFontisee. This is a second marriage. Her

i first marriage was to James W. McCollum of McCollum Drug

Store. The interview is taking place in the living room of

her home at 206 N. W. 3rd St. The date is January 23, 1973

and the time is approximately 10:15 A.M. Mrs. Palmer is now

going to recall for us her earliest recollections of Gaines-

ville and their most prominent citizens.

Ss Yes, well a..prominent among the...prominent among the first

people although of course there were people ahead of him, but

in my mind would be Major W. R. Thomas and at the time I first

knew him he was principal of the public schools of Gainesville

and my big sisters were teachers and he used to come to see

them and one time I was about seven or eight he took me on

his lap and gave me fifty cents so I'll never forget him.

And he was a mayor in fact one of the prime builders of Gaines-

ville, I would say, if you picked one man who was always ready.

I'm pretty sure he served time in the state legislature and

a..but he represented us in all occasions and when Gainesville

was awarded the University of Florida, he was largely respon-

sible for it because of his interest and the interest he could

stir up over the state. He and his associates had a number

of very worthwhile helpers and they toured the state and everyone


at least a good many people, seemed to think that Lake City

would get the university because it was one of the colleges

was located there and it was the Florida Agricultural College

and we had here the East Florida Seminary which a great many

people my age are alumni today, but when the legislature pas-

sed the Buckman Bill in 1905, I believe it was, establishing

University of Florida in Gainesville, State College for Women

in Tallahassee, we put up quite a big fight for the Board of

Control and interested citizens all over the state and Mr.

Thomas led that campaign and we got the University, and there

never was such a day in Gainesville as when we learned that we

got the University. In fact, we learned it about one o'clock

at night. Of course, I was much younger then and my husband

and I had been out playing cards and we didn't come home until

twelve o'clock. That was something unusual and we heard the

cannon go off. The old military school that we had here was

still in operation. It was abolished the same year the univer-

sity was started. We heard the cannon shoot off and then the

Methodist Church bell rang and rang and rang. Where the East

Florida Seminary property is now a part of the Methodis social

center and they had a school there so that bell was ringing.

We went down there and the celebration started then and lasted

all the next day and into the next night. We were so thrilled

because we got the university.

Is Days at the East Florida Seminarys

St I feel rather nostalgic about it. I was seventeen and my

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impressions are more lasting than they are when you get older.

Yes, I had three very happy years there.


Ss And graduated from there in 1917 with a class of ten, five boys

and five girls, and I have that diploma and a Dr. Conradi, pre-

sident of the State College for Women years later gave me a di-

ploma from the State College based on that East Florida Semin-

ary Diploma and the president of the university not to be out

done gave me a certificate of graduation from the University of

Florida. So on that one diploma which I earned, I have the two

others which are a courtesy.

Is What was it like to be a student there? Do you remember any-

thing about the teachers or the other students? What did stu-

dents do while they were there? What did they do for fun?

What was the social life? What was the life like at the East

Florida Seminary?

Ss Well, it was beginning to be like it is today. We were beginning

to have football games and baseball games and of course we al-

ways had little dances and the academic building was what is

now Epworth Hall I believe. Well, anyway, its a part of the

Methodist Church today. Its all right around in that neighbor-

hood and then there was tremendous spread over the whole lot of

the city property, the back end of it, we call it the north end

of it was we called the barracks. It was the military school.

and the boys lived there and we had all the parades there on

that property. Every afternoon it was a great event to go for

retreat. They took down the flag at four o'clock every afternoon

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I think it was or maybe it was five. And we'd go down there.

There was three of us, three girls and my boyfriend blew the

bugle and another girl's boyfriend shot off the cannon and then

the biggest one hauled the flag down. So we had to be there

every afternoon. We'd make it convenient to be there in our

afternoon walks. So we had a lot of things that wouldn't be

bothered with now, I guess. (laugh)

Is What were your teachers like? Do you remember any teachers at

the East Florida Seminary?

Si Oh yes. Its easy to remember every one of them. We had only

one woman teacher, although it was coed. Mrs. Martha Grimes,

and she taught our literature and rhetoric classes and I was

especially fond of her. Then we had Captain Lynch, who after-

wards, I don't know whether he is still living or not, he moved

from here down to St. Petersburg but he was in the university

for a long time and he was a wizard at mathematics. If you

couldn't understand anything in mathematics from arithmetic to

calculus, Captain Lynch could make it easy for you. They all

had titles, military titles. Major Floyd, he was called Major

Floyd as long as he lived, had the science classes and Captain

Johnson had some of the literature and the languages, but we

really got to know them because there weren't so many of them,

you know, very well. I think as a perfectly normal student I

knew What I could get by with in each class (laugh) and what not

to try.

I: Were they very strict with the students?

Ss Yes, they had no punishments except demerits, and the boys, if

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they got demerits, had to walk the north. They'd have to walk

just so many hours on the parade grounds carrying a gun. I

don't remember what these girls had to do. I believe we walked

too but we didn't carry guns, but we would drill with Major

Floyd, yes, oh we went through the manual just bhe same as the

boys and we used wands we called them, nothing but pole or sticks

and we could present arms, right armsA right shoulder, arms and

we had to march just like the boys. It was very interesting.

I loved, drill because I loved Major Floyd a lot, he was one of

the most loved although he was very stern and very emotional.

He'd get mad with us and his chin would quiver and you'd think

he was going to cry any minute. He didn't do it but you always

thought he would. (laugh) and then we had Captain Lynch. He

was a little different type, but I remember them all very hap-

pily. Of course, in those days Gainesville was little. We

knew them personally, their families and all about them. My

big sisters were teachers and they'd have evening swares I guess

you would call them, get together. They would invite East

Florida Seminary faculty to the get together so we knew them

pretty well. They had rules. The boys, the barracks boys we

called them, boarding pupils here, could get out on the town on

Friday nights and Sunday nights and they would have to be in by

nine o'clock. I think. Taps would be blown at nine o'clock

no matter who was out or what was going on. And we lived in an

old house that's still standing now on what used to be called

Church Street, I think its 4th Street now and there was a balcony

upstairs and I'd go stand on that balcony because I knew at nine



o'clock my boyfriend would be playing taps. He'd play the

bugle and I'd be out there listening at nine o'clock. And I

studied after that, not much before it. (laugh) I was not the

studious type, but I really think I got a lot out of the

extracurricular activities, at least. (laugh)

Is Do you remember Mr. Sheats as county superintendent?

Ss They lived next door to us and my older sister was a teacher and

the family was Catholic and there was quite a bit of antagonism

toward them. There were people all over the county who had

never seen a Catholic and a.. Mr. Sheats was very tactful and

very emphatic about recommending my sister because she was an

excellent teacher.

Is She was a Catholic, your sister?

Ss Yes and a., but he would manage to . when I came along I

taught school for six months. Of course, I didn't teach long,

I married the first man that asked me. (laugh) He said he mar-

ried me for my money. I was making thirty dollars a month and

he said he thought he could use that thirty dollars a month

but I quit work as soon as I married him and he didn't get

the thirty dollars (laugh) but a..with the exception of two

in the family, there were nine brothers, we all taught and a

..Mr. Sheats was very wonderful in smoothing the way for us

because there were very few Catholics here at that time. He

always told us we'd have to be especially good to overcome

that (laugh) feeling. You know and I guess he helped us to

build up our standards. I taught at Paradise, a six month

school and I had everything. I had beginners, second grade,


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a fourth grade, a fifth grade and a seventh grade. A one room

schoolhouse. Yuu know.. I don't think you have them anymore.

I remember the school house stayed there for a long time. I

used to enjoy riding by it, but a schools were very different.

This was in those days. We didn't have roads, we didn't have

automobiles. Children had to be able to walk to school. So

it meant that we, myself and other members of my family who

taught, taught in a lot of country places. We used to call

Trenton and that area the West End. Its now Gilchrist County,

but it used to be the west end of Alachua County and if you were

assigned to the west and that was just hopeless.....they were


Is Do you remember what the Sheats house looked like. Do you

have any recollections of this home?

St Yes, it was according to houses of that day rather pretentious,

a two story house, as I remember, I think it had upstairs porch

too, but I remember the downstairs porch and a wonderful back-

yard. I played with Howel, and Will and Bessie, the three

Sheats children and they were very nice neighbors and Mr. Sheats

was always wonderful to all of us. In my teaching days he was

county superintendent then got to be state superintendent and

when we went to a teachers convention, that was I lived next

door in Gainesville but they moved to Tallahassee, of course,

when he was state superintendent. But he would always have us

in his party. We would get a suite in akhotel whenever we would

go to an educational convention. And I knew him that way, al-

though I married after my first year of teacher, but I used to

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go go with my sisters to some of the conventions. We had a

lot in common. I've kind of lost track. I don't know whether

any of the Sheats's still living now.

Is All the Sheats's children are dead.

Ss I don't know.

It They are.

St Uh huh. I'm not sure. There was one, Howel was my contemporary

although was younger than I was and I knew Will he went to

school here at the university.

GIs What kind of boys were they? Do you remember what kind of

children they were? Were they rascals?

Ss Well, you know the saying the preacher's son is the worst boy

in the world and the teacher's son isn't much different. They

didn't share their father's interest in education. (laugh) They

were nice boys though really. My mother loved little boys any-

way. She had nine girls and three boys and she was always par-

tial to boys and she particularly loved the older boy, Will

Sheats. He was kind of a prodigy of hers and then the oldest

one was Bessie. They moved to Tallahassee, of course, when

Mr. Sheats was state superintendent, and that Bessie was a

beautiful girl. She married real well. She has a son I believe

is still living in Miami. William Harper Davidson. We always

called him William Harper but he said call him Harper.

I: Do you recall anything about Mr. Sheats's appearance when you

first met him? What did he look like when he was a young man?

Ss Well, he wan't very tall. He was Tall. Id say about five foot

nine or ten and when I first knew him I think he had a small

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moustache, but I was just a little girl I could be wrong about

that. Mrs. Sheats was a very indulgent mother, and a very nice

neighbor. I don't know how she put up with all of us but she

always had room for us. She had three children and my mother

had twelve so we more than got even when we did the visiting

(laugh) but Mrs. Sheats was always mighty nice. She was never

...well, she was not an educator at all, she never was up to

Mr. Sheats according to the educational and intellectual stan-

dards but she was wonderful as a wife to him and very hospitable

to all of his interests and the people who came there and every-

thing. We were very fond of her, and of course Howel and I

played with all the children in the neighborhood white or colored.

It didn't seem to make much difference in those days. (laugh)

We played around together, we were just little things. They

moved away from here, of course, when Howel and I were still

quite young. And Will was my mother's favorite and he and my

sister had a kind of a very youthful sort of love affair.

Didn't last, but while it lasted it was quite important.


It You siad you were involved in civic affairs and a let me ask

you a question. We discussed briefly that in 1903 there was

quite an incident here involving Mr. Sheats and Booker T.

Washington and you recalled that you were on sore organization

or some committee that was protesting.

Ss Well, of course, Booker T. Washington was famous then and Mr.

Sheats was broad enough to recognize merit wherever he found

it, and he invited Booker T. Washington to speak here. Well,

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Page 10

he didn't designate the place, he just invited him to speak

in Gainesville. In fact, I think his plan, and perhaps he

did speak. I remember the altercation better than the result,

at ..from the bandstand down on the courthouse square, open

air thing. I think that was the place Mr. Sheats chose so

everybody could here him.

Is Were you there?

St Yes, of course, I was grown or nearly grown anyway and so he

a.. was very much criticized. Its like one of our Florida

born, family connections said, "A cracker, a real low down

backwoods cracker, will not tolerate a nigger." Them over

their by the still, well that element criticized him for having

him, well Booker T. Washington, was a national figure and should

have been recognized for what he did. He wasn't trying to be

white or anything. He was working with his own race and doing

for them and he did up lift them a whole lot. He did a great

deal for the education of the colored schools and everything.

Somebody circulated a letter against Mr. Sheats. A letter

that Mr. Sheats had written. They got hold of it, and it had

his signature and with a carat they inserted a phrase saying

in the white auditorium which he had not designated at all.

That was not a part of his letter at all. It did him quite a

bit of injury, I think, but he lived through it.

GIs Were you at the indignation meeting in Gainesville?

St What's that, what?

GIs Were you at the indignation meeting in Gainesville when Mr.

Sheats walked into the auditorium and made a case for why he


Page 11

had invited Booker Washington? Were you there that night?

Ss I don't know. I may have been. If I was, I was too young to

be impressed by it. My older sisters worked with Mr. Sheats

more than I did. He had gone on to Tallahassee before I

taught. I had Mr. Holloway, his successor in the county


It You said you were on some kind of a committee about this inci-

dent. How did you feel about it? Did you feel Mr. Sheats

was right in this incident?

St Oh, I would have sworn by anything Mr. Sheats did or said.

He was a well, he was sort of a champion to us. We had come

from New York State and a.. we were dammed on two counts before

we started to teach. We were yankees and we were Catholics.

Mr. Sheats, having very few good teachers, the system was not

anything in Alachua County until he made it something really.

He was the beginning of better schools in Alachua County and

he wanted to include my big sisters in his teaching programs

because they had had good training and they were good teachers,

but I don't think he always got a way with it but a..we loved

him a whole lot. He was a lovable person. After he got to be

state superintendent he did a lot of good in this state.

GI. Do you remember any of the campaigns as a state superintendent?

St What's that?

GIi Do you remember any of his campaigns as a state superintendent?

Do you remember any of the scandals that went on?

S; Well, I was the youngest of all this family and I don't think

it made much of an impression on me as it might have but I was



always for him whatever he did or said. And we were very

good friends with all of the Sheats. They had three children

we fitted in with them right next door.

Is You were active in the Woman's Club. Do you remember how they

were involved in education, how Florida Federation of Woman's

Clubs were involved in education?

St Well, they alwaysecarried an education department on the Feder-

ation, a committee and it was their business to know what was

going on in the state educationally and they were usually on

boards of several state colleges for women the university

and a..those in touch with higher education and also with the

county superintendents where.ever they lived for the county

schools. I would say the bond was very close between being a

club woman and an educator.

I: A lot of club women were educators?

St A..yes, some of them were teachers but that was one of our

main projects as..observers and assistants to higher, medium

and primary education.

It Were there a number of women or any women who stood out in your

mind as having a leading role in the Federation of Woman's

Clubs and their role in education?

St Yes, a..I"m thinking of one who was president. Now I came

into the active work of the federation under Mrs. W. S. Jennings

was the widow of a former governor of Florida and her interests,

she never got over being a politician, her interests were more

political. She was succeeded by Mrs. E. Lewis of Ft. Pierce.

She had been head of the school teaching program. I think she

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Page 13

was county superintendent that county, Ft. Pierce, well, she was

the educator and she was in closer touch with educational prin-

cipals and I succeeded Mrs. Lewis in the presidency and carried

out a lot of her projects, but my interest was mainly on the

club woman herself and building up communities and making it a

privilege to be a club woman and a real prize or something, not

so much a duty to be a club woman. Thestate and national

federations the larger groups we kind of fostered from my

time on and their still doing that a whole lot.

Is Do you remember Miss Clem Hampton in the club?

Ss Oh, Miss Clem raised me.

Is Miss Clem raised you?

S; Yes, she was in our home all the time and sister, my

oldest sister was after Mrs. Barco but she and Miss Clem taught

together and my sister would hardly weigh 90 pounds, she was

a tiny little thing and Miss Clem as you know weighed close to

300 pounds. We'd see her buggy coming, they went every were in

a horse and buggy those days, see it coming way down on one

side and way up on the other side and everybody knew it was

Clem and sister (laugh) coming. But yes Miss Clem I think was

very much loved. She told this story on herself one time,

says..On the train coming home from soemwhere at night and they

said we haven't a lower berth for you and we can't give you a

berth tonight. She weighed about 330 though and they wouldn't

dare put her in an upper so she said that was alright just go

through every pullman and say that you have a woman here that

weighs 300 pounds and she has an upper berth. The man laughed



and said alright I will. He same back and said Miss Clem you

win. He says the first coach I went into the man says there's

only one woman in the state of Florida that weighs 300 pounds

and that is Miss Clem Hampton. She can have my lower berth

any night of the week. (laugh) So that's the way Miss Clem

got a place to sleep that night, but she was in our home a

great deal and I loved Miss Clem. The last time I went to see

her she was on the third floor of the Leon Hotel in Tallahassee.

She always followed the legislature. She was always lobbying

for something, I don't, it was usually for something very im-

portant educationally speaking. So I had a visit with her,

but I don't think she lived very much longer after that. She

was very stout, probably died suddenly but I don't remember

that. It's been long ago, but yes she used to come and visit

us all the time, with my sister. Mss Clem was a great teacher.

I had her for my teacher when I was in the fifth grade.

Is Do you remember now how she taught: What she was like as a


Ss Not much good.

Is She wasn't a good teacher?

S: Not considered so. Of course, I have my sister's viewpoint

on that. My sister taught with her in a number of places and

sister didn't always approve. She though Miss Clem was too

lenient and too easy on people. Of course, she was fat and

good natured. But I loved being in her classes. I was in her

class when I was in the fifth grade and then one of my sisters,

who's a teacher got the North Gainesville School and we had so

many tramps in Gainesville at that time, now this takes you way

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back, you don't hear about tramps anymore, but sister

was afraid to walk to school by herself in the early morning

because she had to go part of the way on the railroad tracks.

She taught in North Gainesville School so I went to school with

her in North Gainesville for a while. It took me away from

Miss Clem so I was very sad about it. We loved Miss Clem.

She was a friend of sister's as long as she lived.

GIs She was a friend of Mr. Sheats too, right?

Ss Yes, they came from the same place in Georgia. I think she

had lived in Georgia and a..when they moved to Florida she

moved too. Always taught in the Florida schools and Mrs.

Sheats was a dear little woman but sort of helpless. And

Miss Clem was very capable. I always thought Miss Clem sort

of made do for Mrs. Sheats, paved the way for her. But they

were real people. We loved them.

Is You a..said that Miss Hampton had a very nice complexion.

Had kind of a do you remember her complexion, her face?

S; WHo?

Is Miss Hampton, her complexion and the way she looked, her face.

Ss Oh, Miss Clem?

Is Yeah.

St A..well, a I'm thinking you could answer it all by saying--

she was fat. And if you notice that fat women always have

good skin with well padding underneath it. (laugh) But, yes,

she was rather nice looking. Hopeless as to figure but (laugh)

rather nice looking and very charming. Good company. Mr.

Wideman was our principal and he would say we had to stay in

after school if we had done half hour after

school. We'd have to stay and some teacher would have to stay

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with us and we'd always be...feel that we were lucky:if we

drew Miss Clem. Because Miss Clem would give us the once over

ask us what we were there for, tell us not to do it again, say

"Now, your half hour is up, you can go." It wouldn't be up or

anything because she wanted to go herself. (laugh) But we

loved Miss Clem. She was good company.

Is Do you remember anything about Mr. Holloway, William Holloway?

S; Oh, yes. He was superintendent for the six months that I

taught and he was special nice to me. I remember he and Mr.

Wideman, who had been my high school principal, the year before,

no, it was some years before because I went to the East Florida

Seminary before I taught and that is one of the four members

of the university. One of the abolished schools the university

established. So Mr. Wideman ...who was it you asked about...


Is Yeah.

S: Mr. Wideman and Mr. Holloway came to visit my school when I

was teaching in Paradise. I saw them coming. Fortunately,

I had been to town the night before, for a show. I taught

just four miles from there you know but you had to out on the

trail and horse and buggy and a....I had just gotten there but

I was dressed up and I was glad of that because it made me feel

better. And, they came just after I had called the class

together and I usually had arithmetic first thing and I thought,

my Lord, they will find fault with the way I teach arithmetic,

I was seventeen years old. And I said put up your arith-

metics. and a..get out your readers, which they did and I knew

I could handle reading and they didn't disturb me. They



They didn't say they would rather hear arithmetic which they

might have done if they wanted to so we had a nice visit with

them about five minutes of the reading I wasn't sure I could

by whether they liked my methods of teaching arithmetic or not.

(laugh) They visited the school. They came early Monday morn-

ing and I was glad it was over and knew they wouldn't come

again for a year, and as I say I taught school six months and

married the first man that asked me.

Is Could you contrast the way Mr. Holloway was with the way Mr.

Sheats was? Were they different kinds of people or very simi-


Ss Well, now, I couldn't remember. Mr. Sheats was an intimate

friend of the family, had been a next door neighbor and I knew

him better in that way, I believe, than officially. But a..

well, they both got to be state superintendents you know so..

I imagine they were pretty well matched, pretty equal. I liked

both of the I taught under Mr. Holloway, he gave the teacher

examinations and I took when I was seventeen and I took both could take the examination for secondary teacher certi-

ficate or for first grade and I took for the first grade, I

aimed high whether I'd get it or not it took in harder subjects

and higher marks so I did get the first grade teacher's certi-

ficate. Taught one year under it.

Is Do you remember what it was like taking these exams. Was it

a very serious kind of thing, these examinations? Were there

a lot of rules on ...?

Ss Oh, yes, yes. I imagine it would be quite different now. I

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had a pretty good training. A lot of it was on methods and

I had pretty good training in that because I had three or four

older sisters who taught, and I had heard them talk about

systems that they used and a..procedures and all.

End of side 1.

Ss On this grading committee, I was not on it my sister was and

they had complaints and teacher had gotten a very high

rating and they knew she couldn't have earned it. These other

people in the class and some way or other they managed an inves-

tigation and it just so happened that there were three members

of the grading committee two fo them had used a red pencil and

the third one had used a blue pencil. And all the off-color

grading had been done (laugh) using a blue pencil so that pin-

pointed one person. I don't remember how it came out, I just

remember the occurence and there was cheating at that

time was in the committee, a favorite I guess, a fayoribe in

the grades. I used to hear so much talk about that by the time

I grew up. In those days there were oTly two careers for a

woman to do if she worked for a living and father with

the nine daughters had no idea of trying to support all of us.

(laugh) He couldn't figure it so of them had finished

and a..well, she was more than a seamstress. You'd call her a

modes (?) I guess. She was very French and a..had had training

with some ultra sewing organization before we left the New

York State and she never taught. She sewed. And the other

one a..clerked in a store. She taught a little while but she

didn't like it and she preferred commercial work ard she clerked



in a store but the rest of us there/seven of us had taught.

Is Where had they mostly got their training for teaching, your

sisters? What schools did they go to?

Ss They had what they called a summer normal and they would use the

plant of the old East Florida Seminary or the high school

whichever they happened to have most available and you could go

to summer school and get your teaching methods and I remember

the books that we had on teaching and I knew nothing about it.

I was just seventeen years old but I read all those books from

cover to cover and the six month# that I taught I put into prac-

tice as well as I could and I had every grade in a one room

country school, you don't see those now-days.

Is What were the students like in your school?

S: Well, I had two sources of attendance, the mill and still.

I taught at Paradise and the still was right near where I

taught, the turpentine still and the people who a..the children

whose parents operated that still came to school to me and then

the mill was at the other end of town, so I had still children

and Mill children and then I had one who little girl, I

remember she was my solitary bolster I used to say. She was

the only one who always came to school clean. And always know-

ing her lessons. She was related to some people who lived

there and who owned the mill (laugh) and so Bessie Frank was

the little girl that I could turn all my hopes on and try

methods on that the others couldn't quite take, but I loved

every one of them and for a long time, afterwards I just taught

for a year, they remembered me and they'd come to see me and a

Page 19


Did you ever know the Pagents?

Is No, I didn't.

Ss Well, they had a family. I taught three or four of their

children and they never forgot me. Isabelle, Jake hnd Cuffey

(laugh) but I had fourteen to start with, just a little country

school, and but had almost every grade in that fourteen, then

seventeen and then one day eight more came walking in so my

final number was twenty-five, when I finished school that year.

It Where did you live?

S: What?

It Where did you live in Paradise? Did you move to Paradise?

Ss Yes. I lived with the Pagents. They lived right near the

school and right near the station, railroad station, out at

the railroad tracks. I think the house still stands, I lived

there, came home Friday night and went back Sunday afternoon.

.Paid eight dollars a month board. Her price was ten but i

jewed her down to eight because I was coming home every week-end.

(laugh) But I really felt ..of course I knew I was going to be

married and going to be very happy, but I felt kind of sad when

I shut that little schoolhouse door for the last time.

Is Was it a wood school or a log school?

Ss What's that?

Is Was it a wood school or a log school?

Ss It was a just a one room schoolhouse and it was

Is Was it made out of wood or log?

Si It was right near this home where these people lived and

I say, they lived at the still, out there the turpentine still

and the mill was about a mile away so I drew my students from

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FLA 25A -g

the still and mill.

Is Well, is there any final recollections? This will be our last

question. Are there any final recollections of Gainesville or

your life that you'd want to put on this tape.

St Yes a of course, I think that school that I taught lasted one

year and I remember one teacher who succeeded me and only one,

it was absorbed with the North Gainesville pupils and those

children, the Pagents who lived there sent their children to

Gainesville to school. The pony and a buggy and the children

were driven to school every morning and a..that stopped the

school finally. They were a good part of the enrollment and

I don't believe the school ran more than one year maybe two

after I taught out there. It was absorbed into the Gainesville

schools but two of my big sisters had taught there before I

taught there in Paradise so we felt like we owned the little

school. It was interesting and I remember a lot of things

about it. I had one little boy and I asked him what his name

was, first day he came to school, he said "Cal" I said "Have,

you a middle name?" He said "yes". I said, "What's your

middle name?" He said, "Houn." (laugh) and I said "Alright,

you get your father to write your full name." So the next day

he came back proudly, flourishing this paper and his name was

Webster Calhoun Ramsey. (laugh) South Carolina (laugh) But his

middle name was Houn I remember that we had an old stove. The

stove pipe would fall down every little while and a..the school

house was very primitive. The kids would help me put the stove

pipe back up and it would run again a little while and then on

sunny days I would take them out in the yard and tech them in

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FLA 25A Page^22

sunshine when the stove pipe wouldn't work (laugh). Its a

wonder they don't have any school out there anymore. It ab-

sorbed into Gainesville. Those old country schools had a place,

though, that I don't think they could ever be filled. Children of my sisters who taught said she hated to see a coun-

try school abolished and these children come into the city

schools because they lost so much. They had a proprietary in-

terest in that school and the buildings. It was their home and

their class and everything.

Is The parents, too, would have this feeling?

St Yes, the parents felt that way too. Whenever they came to town

they were just lost in the multitude. They had a lot more

individuality when they had their own little school, but a..

yes, its better for them the way it is. We won't stand in the

way of progress whatever form it takes.

Is OK, well, I don't have any further questions.

SI I consider that my foundations, although we'd consider them

very elementary today, must have been sound because I have

been able to go on to other things and a..we see what a contrast

now in the way education trends and other things are moving

but I believe we must have had the right kind of start. Faith

in the future is what I have (laugh) Things will get better and

better. Broader and broader for our children as they come along.

Is One thing I said that interests me. You said that you

thought about aiming high on the teacher's exam and I wonder

did Mr. Sheats influence you at all in that kind of decision to

aim high?

Ss Oh Yes. Mr. Sheats was one of the first influences I every had


in my life. I don't think I was more than five or six years
old when I first knew him and he must have influenced all of

us a great deal. He took a great deal of interest in us and

he had only three children and there were twelve of us so he

could spend some spare time on us and a..yes, I think that

he....we had a good deal of help coming up. Mr. Sheats and

Mr. Holloway who followed him also ....they both lived in the

neighborhood with us and of course my sisters being teachers

we were in right close contact with him all the time.

It The one thing you did notice was how much Mr. Sheats wanted

your sisters to teach and he was very liberal about religion

and Catholicism.

Ss Yes, He was their champion. Wherever they went he'd . of

course, he was a Methodist. He had no reason to take up for

their religion in any way except he told every place that they

taught, "Now, you have that feeling about Catholics, but I'm

just asking you to forget it and emphasize the kind of teaching

you're getting so just take note of that and I don't believe

you'll have any complaints." And he sold them not in spite of

the fact that they were Catholics but because they were good

teachers. They carried out his plans for the schools. He was

a fine man. I taught with him for years. Last time I saw him

he ahd a meeting here. I don't know how we had the nerve to

do it, but we called back former students of the old East

Florida Seminary after it had been closed for seventeen years

and they said we wouldn't get too many people here and we had

over 200 and we had two or three wonderful reunions. Major

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Page 24

Floyd was one of our teachers East Florida Seminary, the only

one left and he said, "Well, you can't carry it on for long.

You might have it one or two or maybe three years," but he

said, "people will come and they won't find the people they

went to school with and they won't come the next year and so

you'll find your attendance won't grow a whole lot." And this

proved to be true. I think we had three reunions and I tell

you they were big events for Gainesville because, of course,

the university took part in it and a..I remember Dr. Murphy

was particularly sympathetic with it and a..although he hadn't

been one of the old timers himself he welcomed them all very

cordially and a..the White House Hotel used to be on Main

Street, you know, we would have our banquet there and oh..

we'd strut all over town. Had a picnic out the Devil's Mill

Hopper, things like we used to do forty-five years ago (laugh)

and we really had several very interesting reunions and I re-

member we elected Fletcher Burnett. I said I wouldn't take

the chairmanship any longer and a..we elected Fletcher Burnett

chairman. He had a clothing store here and a....Fletcher did

not do one thing. He sent me word by Olive, his wife, she said,

"You know, Fletcher says he's afraid of you, afraid you'll

jump on him." I said, "You tell Fletcher for me that that's

the smartest thing he ever did. That when a thing is over its

over and there's no use..I'm all for killing it right then and

starting something else." I said, "No use trying to drag on

and make a go of it because we have exhausted. 6ur memories

and resources and the people won't come back again," I said,

"If you're through, you're through and let's just face it."



I: You said that was the last time you saw Mr. Sheats. What

was.. what was the occasion what was he like then, the last

time you saw him?

St It was something we had here. He didn't care to sit on the

platform he wanted to sit with the group and talk with every-

body and he told the members of what they had done. I think

that was the year that we decided..there were too many disap-

pointments and I think that they had decided meanwhile that

somebody instituted the system of memorials and that can be

deadly. Of course, its a nice tribute to the one who's gone

and all like that but I thought well, from here on out they're

all getting old, somebody's going to be dead everytime and I

don't believe we wanted as a memorial society. It was fair

square. (laugh)

Is You siad that when you were a little girl you played with

black children and black and white children played together

a..where do these black children come from? Where did they

live in Gainesville at that time?

Ss Well, most of them happened to be...the little children we

played with were the children of cooks that people had and

sometimes they would have to bring the children to work with

them. I think that's how we got with them. It wasn't a

neighborhood thing at all and it wasn't extensive. It was

just occasionally.

Is Do you recall a character...a man ....a man by the name of Sam;

S. W. DeBose, do you remember this man?

Is On, DeBose, yes.

SI Do you remember Sam?

Is I remember the name, yes. He was a...wasn't he a high school

Page 2>


principal or something like that? Yes, see my sister

was way up in primary teaching and she was on I guess Mr.

Holloway's Board of Examiners and she taught in his normal

schools which is to teach teachers every summer and she taught

a colored normal school and in that way she came in contact with

a lot of colored teachers and she knew them real well a..I

think there were some of them very earnest and conscientious

and were excellent teachers and it was so much better to work

through them and let them teach their own people than to send

some of their own white teachers there to teach them because

the white teachers would talk down in spite of everything.

You couldn't expect anything else and they got more out of it

from somebody who was just on a level, had more discussions

and everything, that were interested and I know they would come

by. She was very frequently on the a..what do you call it..

the examining board....the grading committee was what they

called give the examinations to colored teachers as

well as the white and they would come to her with quest-

ions and ......she ...took quite a part on..., but anyway the

superintendent's committee examinations, grading committee,


Is Do you remember anything about the depot in Gainesville?

They keep talking about a depot around the turn of the century.

St A depot?

Is Yeah.

Ss Right down town. It was the Coast Line, The a Atlantic Coastline

and it went right through the center of town. Main Street.

Is Oh, really?

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Page 27

S: Un hum, well, the depot was right there, right downtown. I

can't remember what's there now but I can see that depot.

(laugh) And we used to take the train there all the time. I

remember when I got married we took the train there it was

just a block or two from my house and we got married at a

time that we could take that train instead of the Seaboard

because we'd have to drive through town and everybody would

be looking at us at our carriage. Oh, a bride wasn't seen on

the day of her wedding at all until the hour of the ceremony,

went into retirement. (laugh)

Is Where did the blacks live in Gainesville?

St The who?

Is The blacks. Where did the blacks ..did the blacks have their

own section of the city of Gainesville?

St Yes, pretty much so.

Is Do you remember anything about it?

Ss Yes. I new too much about it. We were a big family. Rich in

children but not in money and a.. when we finally, we lived in

rented houses a lot. When we finally bought a home a..all we

could afford was one that was kind of on the way to the back

settlement so I had a guest visiting from Georgia one time and

a I went to church and left her, she didn't want to go to church

that morning. She sat on the porch and she said, "I don't

believe you have anybody but colored people in Gainesville."

(laugh) Our home was on a kind of a passageway. They didn't

live between us and town but on the other side, a lot of them

It was all pretty much segregated and we were right on the

edge of the segregation so we saw a lot of colored going past us.

Page 28

It Were the colored people poor in Gainesville, the blacks were

they poor? Poorer than the whites? Did they have a poor


Ss Oh, not oppressively so. Of course, they always expected

favors from the white people and they always will as long as

they live and a...we had lot of calls for help. But my mother

was right skillful, she...she...there were nine girls in our

family so we had a lot of clothes and my mother was the expert

at throwing out the old clothes and buying new ones and she had

a clothes rack which she kept on the back porch and her colored

customers would come there. They'd know that with all of us

different ages they'd find something they could wear and she'

would take a..blackberries or wild plums or anything like that

they brought in payment. We always had well stocked preserve

shelves and they always had good looking white clothes.

It Where was this located in Gainesville? What part of Gaines-


St Well, at that particular time I'm thinking of .over in the was over in the east part of town. The house has since

been torn down.

Is What landmark is there now?

St Well, you said you didn't know the Pagents. The home that they

had owned is there. A big home. It seems like there ought

to be something..its not very far from where Dr. Thomas lives.

Just beyond that. That was the section.

Is What year are you talking about? What year is this you're

talking about?

Si about 1895 or 96.


Page 29

It OK, now a..what was I going to ask you. Did the black section

of town have a name? Did they have..were they called a name

liKe DalcKtown or aid they have a section...was it called the

black section of town?

S: Gainesville was Hogtown.

Is Yeah, but did the..did the people have a name for where the

black people lived in Gainesville?

St Frog Alley.

Is Frog Alley?

St Yes. That was the colored section beyond us. Its name was

Frog Alley. Now, there might have been others.

Is Do you have any idea why they called it Frog Alley?

Si Well, there was a swamp out there and frogs used to croak.

(laugh) That's all I know. (laugh) All I can think of'Frog

Alley. Gainesville was Hogtown, you know, and Jacksonville was


Is What did your father do for a living? What kind of a business

was he in, your father?

St He was a builder. I can see lots of houses around here that

he...that he built you know my first husband was a druggist

McCollums. Its still McCollums but its Robert, some nephew.

Is A nephew.

S; um hum

It OK, I'm going to commence now. I Don't have any more questions.

St (laugh) Well, I don't mind answering them at all. You haven't

you haven't reached my wicked past yet (laugh). I've gotten by

so far. (laugh)

Is Well, yes you have. You certainly made it interesting for me



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