Interview with Mrs. Stewart, May 22, 1971

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Interview with Mrs. Stewart, May 22, 1971
Stewart ( Interviewee )
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Gainesville High School (Alachua County) Oral History Collection ( local )
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This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.

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Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
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This interview is part of the 'Gainesville High School' 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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INterview with Mrs. Stewart conducted by John Sabatella, Debbie Scott and Monick

Robinson, May 22, 1971.

R: Would you like to tell us how long you have lived in Gainesville?

S: I was five years old when we moved to Gainesville in 1899.

R: That would make it 72 years?

S: Yes, because I am 77 years old.

R: Where did you come from?

S: From Green Cove Springs.

S: Your history is all in Florida.

S: Yes, my father was born in North Carolina but m other was born and reared in

MIddleburg, Florida. THat is about 22 miles from Jacksonville.

R: Why did your family decide to come to Gainesville?

S: My father had work here.

R: What kind of work?

S: He was a book-keeper all of his life.

R: Did he work for the city?

S: No, he worked for the railroad. At that time it was the Gainesville & Gulf

and later it was changed to the Tampa & Jacksonville although it never

went from Tampa to Jacksonville.

R: How big was Gianesville when you first came here? Do you remember?

S: I would not know the population but it was small. THere were not any

paved streets or sidewalks. In my early days, we used gas lights and then of

course, we had lamps. We did not have electricity in this house until about

1912. THe sewage was not put in until about 1912 and it was put in before this

street out here was paved.

R: What was the major mode of transportation?

S: Walking


R: How about horses?

S: We had a horse and buggy but it was not everyone who could have a horse and


R: When did the car come in.

S: It was about 1910 or 1912. I had a friend whose brother worked with the

Ford Nbtor Company and he had one of the first cars in Gainesville. He had

a Ford.

R: When did you get your first car?

S: We did not have a car until after I went to work. I went to work in 1924.

R: Where

S: With the state and at that time it was called the State Planning Board.

Now, it is a division of that industry.

R: Did you go to work for extra income or because you wanted to pursue a career?

S: Well, we really needed the money I guess. I wanted to do something to help


R: Did you find the work enjoyable?

S: Yes. I went to work in 1924 and I worked until 1929. Then, I married in 1929.

My husband died in 1943 and I went back to work for the State Planning Board

of Florida in 1950. I worked eight years.

R: WHat have you done since then.

S: Since then I have retired.

R: What do you spend your time doing now?

S: Housekeeping and working in the yard and crocheting.

R: What kind of things do you crochet?

S: I have crocheted fourteen afghans since I have retired. I will show you one

after a while.

R: What sort of things did people do for entertainment when Gainesville was that



S: We had pianos and we had music. It was later years before we had movies. On

the week-ends we would gather at each other's house and play the piano and

sing. We had dates

R: Where did they show the movies?

S: The first movie house was up here by the Livery, Craig Theatre. It was up in

front of the old post office.

R: What didhe older people do?

S: Well, they had more time then and they use to visit their neighbors which

people do not do now. They do not have time.

R: Did most of the people, especially the kids that were born here, stay in

I Gainesville or did they move out?

S: A good many went off to college and probably did not come back. I know one

friend of mine here he was in the service and when he came out of the service

after the first world war then he went to New York. He has just in the past

few years retired and come back to Gainesville.

R: HOw big of an influence did the University play on yRnxxxiti x the town?

S: When the University first opened it was small. You knew the students.

THe churches use to have entertainment for the young people on the week-ends

on Friday, Saturdays and everybody went to church on Sundays. Then we would

have dates and we would go to someone else's house for a while.

R: How old were you when you starting dating?

S: I was about seventeen.

R: Was this the average age?

S: Yes

R: What was the average marriage age?

S: Well, I was not married until later in life. I was married when I was 35.

Most of my friends had married earlier. Some of them had married right out

of high-school.


R: Did women pursue very many careers?

S: There was not that many for them to have. THey use to work in the stores.

I had friends my age who use to work in the stores downtown. I know a friend

of mine who lived up the street here who worked for $.75 a week.

R: What was your school like?

S: I started to school in this building that is down here on the southside of

University Avenue. We did not have a brick building or a regular school

or a graded school until they built Kirby-Smith. I went there in the second

grade through the twelth.

R: There was only one school?

S: That was the only school in Gainesville. At that time they did not bring the

bus children from anywhere.

R: Where did these children go to school? The ones that they bus now?

S: They lived in the country and they had country schools, small country schools

all over the t nty. They went to those schools. I do not suppose that they

went pass the seventh or eight grade. It was after I graduated from high-school

that they began to bring the bus children in from the country.

R: Could this sQ ll school handle those children?

S: At that time yes. THe year that I finished though they had completed that

second building over there by Kirby-Smith. That one was completed in 1912.

R: What kind of subjects did they teach?

S: Reading. Writing and Arithmetic. I guess that we probably had the same things

that you have today but we called them differently. We use to have Phislogy,

History and Mathmatics and Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry. We had

Trigonometry in the twelfth grade which I do not suppose that they get now

in te twelfth grade.

R: Yes. What was the main business or industry in Gainesville at that time?

S: ALachua County has always been very much agriculture. We had mills, lumber



R: Where did the lumber come from?

S: It was brought in from the wooded areas. We had several large mills here.

We had a fertilizer factory. THey dotnot have one now but they had one


R: Who were the prominent people in Gainesville? Was one of these Mr. THomas

from the old Hotel Thomas.

S: I think that he has been left out a great deal in Gainesville history. He

was very instrumental in getting the University of Florida here. He and Mr.

Buckman and those were the two first Doctors Thomas and Buckman.

R: Are they still here?

S: Yes, I am not sure that they still call them that.

R: Why did they want the University here?

S: Well, they had the East FLorida Seminary here in Gainesville. My older sister

went to the East Florida Seminary and my brother. In Lake City, they had a

one year colleges They wanted to combine these two and make a college and Lake

City wanted it and Gqnesville wanted it. Gainesville won out and got it.

It has made'Gainesville a good bit.

R: When did the University become the dominate influence in Gainesville?

S: Always, I guess since it came here. Because it brought in professors from


R: What were the fashions like?

S: I guess what you would expect in that day. The dresses were longer. THe boys

did not have long hair. But my grandson has long hair and a moustache and a


R: Does he live here in Gainesville?

S: No, he lives in California.

R: How do you feel about that?

X 5

S: I saw his mother the other day and she said that she was telling some of the

other relatives that he has long hair and a beard. I think that she was pre-

paring them because he is coming this summer. She said that'she knew that

mother would be glad to see him if he had horns. I would.

R: What sort of games did you play as children.

S: 2o you mean as little children?

R: About 12 or 13.

S: We played hopscotch and jump-rope.

R: Did you piayx have a play-ground facility?

S: At school but we did not have any public play-grounds.

R: On week-ends when you were real young did you go to school to play?

S: No, we played in our neighborhoods and in our yards at home.

R: What sort of toys did you have to play with?

S: Dolls and doll-beds.

R: What did the boys play with?

S: They had trains and balls and bats.

R: Quite different from what they are now with all of the mechanical toys. Do

you remember when they had the first bicycles here?

S: Well, I had a bicycle when I was about 10.

R: Were these the big front wheel ones?

S: No, that was way before my day.

R: More then now did you not have to use your imagination to play because the

toys were very simple.

S: I think that children today have to use their imagination too.

R: What were things like during the war?

S: It was very patriotic. We had the University here at that time. Of course,

we had the trains in that day too.

End of Tape 1-Side 1 6

Tape 1-Side 2

S: I knew a boy in Gainesville that use to paint pictures and posters for them.

R: How did it affect you. Did you have any children or husband in the service?

S: Not in the first World War. I had friends but I did not have any relatives

in the first World War. In the second World War, I lost my nephew.

R: Was he in the Air Force?

S: Yes and he was a Captain.

R: Did the students leave in great numbers?

S: No, not too much.

R: Was there any war time industry in Gainesville?

S: Well we had and still have printing businesses.

R: Do you remember rationing.

S: Do I.

R: What kind of things did you have to give up?

S: Well, we did not have flour.

R: What did you use instead of flour?

S: We used brown flour but not much white flour. My mother would use brown


R: What about the Depression? Did the Depression hit Gainesville very hard?

S: I would not say that it made too much difference.

R: Why do you say that?

S: I think that things went along just the same.

R: There was no industry shut-down.

S: No, I do not think so. It is an agriculture county.

R': Where there any plantations around GAinesville?

S: Not in my day. But before my day down near Arrendondo there was a plantation

down there and the Hales owned that. That was quite a large planation.


R: Tell us about your holidays and what kind of things that your family would do

together? How did you celebrate Christmas?

S: We would hang up our stockings when I was small.

R: Were Christmases as big and as commercial as they are now?

S: No, because we did not have all of the stores and we did not have the places

to buy things. As for toys, we only had toys at Christmas time. We did not

go down to the ten-cent store and buy something everyday of the week. You

waited until Christmas and Santa Claus brought you something.

R: Did you have a fireplace.

S: Yes, we had a fireplace here and in there.

R: That is how you got your heat?

S: Yes, we would use a wood stove to cook on.

R: Did you have a Christmas tree?

S: No, people did not have trees very much when I was small.

R: When did the trees start to become popular?

S: I guess that I was grown and it was my sister's daughter that we use to have

Christmas trees for. That was in later years. We did not have trees when I

was a child.

R: What sort of food did youave?

S: At Christmas?

R: Yes

S: We had fruit cake, ambrosia, pound cake and a turkey.

R: Did all of the relatives get into one t ce for the day?

S: No, not too much.

R: Did you give presents to your parents too?

S: Yes

R: What kind of presents diyou give to them?

S: Such as we could buy in the stores. I know that I bought a little mirror and


gave to my mother one year. I think that I paid $.50 for it.

R: You had saved youjmoney?

S: Yes.

R: Did you get an allowance?

S: No, we did notave an allowance then. YOu asked your parents for what you

wanted and they gave it to you.

R: Did you usually get what you wanted?

S: Yes

R: Did you do extra chores or anything like that so that you could make extra


S: No, I did not do that then either.

R: Did they have a big celebration on the Fourth of July?

S: Yes they did have celebrations on the Fourth of July.

R: What would you say are some of the big differences in life in Gainesville

fifty years ago and life in Gainesville todd?

S: Well, people have many more conveniences then they use to have. They have

washing machines and dryers and electric refrigerators and things like that.

R: How do you feel about Women's Liberation?

S: Well, I believe in a woman being recognized. I do not think that she should

be put in a man's place.

R: What do you consider a man's place?

S: Well, I mean there are certain things and certain kinds or work that a man can

do and a woman can not do them.

R: Physical labor?

S: Yes

R: In your family when you were young, your father was the head of the household?

S: Yes, he was the whole support. XSHX

R: Your father had the last say?


S: No, there never was much arguing about anything.

R: Did you ever get into very much trouble?

S: No, I do not think so.

R: What did you do that was michievous? Did you ever smoke a cigarette?

S: No, I never did.

R: What was Gainesville like during Prohibition?

S: Well, we had a saloon on almost every corner of the square.

R: During Prohibition?

S: No, before. When Prohibition came they did away with those saloons.

R: How did people react to this? Were they for it or against it?

S: The people were for it.

R: Did the men feel any differently about it then the women did?

S: Yes, they were for it too.

R: So, it was not a big change.

S: No, except that we got rid of the saloons.

R: What sort of things could you buy in the stores and what sort of things

could you make yourself?

S: We did not have any frozen foods of course.

R: What sort of things did you buy from the store?

S: We bought staples and ice.

R: Did you make your own jellies and thinks like that?

S: Yes, pretty much.

R: Did your mother make most of what you ate or did you buy it.

S: She made most of it. There were not any places that you could buy prepared

foods, like there are now.

R: DId she have to churn butter?

S: No

R: Where did you get butter?


S: We had the dairies and they bought the milk to the house. Maybe every day or

twice a week.

R: How about eggs?

S: We bought those from the stores but they were fresh eggs.

R:How about weaving and making your own clothes.

S: No, weaving was before my day.

R: How about knitting?

S: My mother sewed and she made all of my clothes. I never had a ready-made

dress until I was a junior in high-school. Then we did not have too many in

the stores and you had to order them from the salesbooks like Bella-Hess,

Sears, and Montgomery Wards.

R: Did you have dances at school like the prom.

S: No not when I was in school.

R: Were football games a big thing?

S: Yes, at the University games. Not too many people had cars and they would

walk to the University for a football game and then we would walk back home.

R: How about your high-chool? Did your high-school have a football team?

S: We did not have a football team until I was way up in high-school. THey

did have one in 1912. I was on the first basketball team that the girls had.

R: What position did you play?

S: I was a forward.

R: Were you good.

S: It has been so long ago that I have forgotten.

R: Did you win very much?

S: We did not really play other schools much.

R: It wasmore intramural?

S: Yes

R: Was there a newspaper?


S; Yes we have always had a newspaper.

R: Was it the Gainesville Sun?

S: Before that I think that the McCurrys had the Sun and they called it the

Gainesville Daily Sun Since then it has been the Peppers who bought

it and then they sold it.

R: Where were the stores in Gainesville?

S: Well, everything was centered around the square all of the grocery stores

and dry-goods stores. Of course, in the early days we did not ever have a

ten-cent store.

R: When did the ten-cent store come into Gainesville?

S: When my father bought this house in 1907, there were no lights and the water

was on the back porch. There were no sidewalks and no pavement.

R: How did you put the electricity in.

S: You put it in through the attic.

R: Did you ever play in the attic?

S: No, it is not that easy to get into. There was a spicket on the back porch

and my father had the water put into the house when he bought the house.

R: What kind of a stove did you have.

S: We had a wood stove at that time.

R: You would boil the water and put it into the tub.

S: Yes, after they put in the sewage and all then we had the hot water put it.

R: Your house has changed quite a bit?

S: Yes, of course, the house itself has not changed but we have a few more

conveniences then we did then.

R: How did you and your husband happen to come to live here?

S: My husband was with the Southern Bell Telephone Company. He came to Gainesville

to work here and I met him here. We were away from here for about three

years and then camd back. We lived with my-mother because my father had died.


We had a grocery store on Seventh Street.

R: How many children do you have?

S: I just have one.

R: A daughter?

S: Yes and this is her picture up here.

R: Did she go to college?

S: She had two years at the University before she was married. Her husband

finished at the University after they were married. He went into service

and was in Japan for a year and she stayedhere with me. Dora was here

with me and the baby came and she and the baby stayed here with me while he

was in Japan.

R: What sort of work does he do now?

S: He is an electrical engineer.

R: Where do they live?

S: They have been in California since 1955.

R: Do you get to see them very often?

S: YEs, pretty often. I have been out there several times. They have been home

a number of times and I am expecting them next month.

R: Was the University always on that same location?

S: Yes

End of Tape 1-Side 2


Tape 2-Side 1

R: Mrs. Stewart, is most of your furniture what you had when you were young?

S: Well, since I was here.

R: Did you We to play the piano?

S: My parents gave me the piano when I graduated from high-school in 1912.

R: Did you have to learn to play?

S: I had had lessons.

R: You could not practise without a piano.

S: We always had a piano. In fact, my sister had a piano before I did. It was

in 1912 that my sister had married and was away so they got me the new piano.

R: Is this Mr. Murphy any relation to the Mrs. Murphy who was the teacher?

S: It was her husband's father.

R: Are there any families here now that you are associated with that you were

friends with when you were young or have they all left.

S: No there are quite a few here yet but they look a little different.

R: I was noticing the long hair. A couple of them had long hair. How about Mrs

Fury she has just lived here since 1935? Did you make friends with her right


S: I have known her for years, yes. Her husband was a railroad man.

R: Like your father?

S: No, my father was a book-keeper. I had a brother-in-law who was a railroad man.

Mrs. Fury's husband worked for the Seaboard and my brother-in-law worked for

the Atlantic Coastline. Well, we use to have steam ships and we do nothave

these any more.

R: Where would you have steam ships?

S: In Jacksonville, they had the Steam ship Company and then they had the

regular long passenger steam ships, from Jacksonville to New York City. Some


people thought that it was quite a thing to take a boat trip from Jacksonville

to New York.

R: How would they get to Jacksonville?

S: On the train.

R: Did you travel much?

S: Not when I was young. I know pretty much about Florida.

R: When was the first time that you left Gainesville for a long trip?

S: I guess when I went to California for the first time, in 1956.

R: You said that you left town for three years with your husband. Where did you

go then?

S: He was with the telephone company and we lived in several different places.

We lived in Deland, Titusville, Lake City, MacClenny.

R: When you moved so much did you always buy a house?

S: We did not buy houses because we were not located and there were very few what

you would call apartments in those days. So, you would just rent a couple of

rooms from some one.

R: In their house?

S: Yes

R: Did the circus come to Gainesville?

S: Yes, every year.

R: Was it a big-to-do for the kids.

S: Yes and everybody went.

R: Was this Barnum and Bailey?

S: No, they did not come until later years. They did come here before 1943

because my husband took our daughter to the circus. IT was down here on do

you know where the Lynch Park is?

R: No.

S: The city owns it now. Mrf. Lynch gave it to the city. That is the same Mrs.


Lynch whose son was killed in the first World War and the post was named

for Ensley Lynch. THe park is on Main Street. It is worth riding down that

way sometimes to see it. It is beautiful with all of the old trees and the

red buds when they are in bloom.

R: When did the airport come here?

S: I cna not remember when it came here. I do not remember when the first air-

plane was here. THey have had the airport a long time.

R: Have you ever ridden on planes?

S: Several times, I went from Tampa to San Francisco non-stop.

R: Do you like to fly?

S: Yes, I have tried it on the train. I have gone out there twice on the train.

I would rather go by plane.

R: How long is it on the train.

S: Oh my goodness, it is so long.

R: Did many people die from diseases when you were a child?

S: We had a flu epidemic during the first World War that claimed a lot of people.

R: How about polio?

S: We never had a polio epidemic here.

R: Has there always been a hospital here in Gainesville?

S: No, ALachua General Hospital was opened in 1927.

R: If you needed serious medical care would you go to Jacksonville?

S: Well, I guess that some people did. We had good doctors here.

R: If you were hurt badly and needed surgery and did not have a lot of money would

you just have to stay here and take your chances?

S: J. knew of one man that did have surgery here and he did not die. THey operated

on him in his home.

R: Was the birth in the home?

S: Yes, before we had the hospital.


R: Was there a doctor in attendance?

S: Yes. I know that my sister and she is eleven years older then I am. Her son

was born in this house here but she had a doctor and a R.N.

R: How about your mother?

S: We were born in Green Cove Springs.

R: Did she have you at home.

S: Yes, there was not a hospital.

R: Did most of the children live.

S: Well, my mother had five children and she lost two from what they use to call

cholera ?

R: What was that?

S: It was a stomach disorder and you do not ever hear of children having it now.

THey know what to do for it.

R: What were the main churches in Gainesville?

S: Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian and Catholic.

R: Did they not have just about everything that they have now?

S: Yes, we did not have the Lutheran, Church of God and things that they have now.

The synagogue has been here a long time.

R: Were the majority of the people Baptist or was there any special majority?

S: I do not think that there was any special majority. They were pretty much

evenly mixed.

R: What religion were you?

S: I was born and reared a Methodist.

R: Do you think that the population has grown very much?

S: Yes, I think that it has. You see when Gainesville was first built the white

people were here in the center. The colored people were on the outskirts.

Now the white people have gone out beyond the Negroes. THat kind of puts the

colored people in between.


R; What kind of jobs did they have?

S: Do you mean the colored people?

R: Yes

S: They were laborers, carpenters and of course they had colored people that worked

on the trains, porters. They were maids and cooks.

R: Did your mother have a maid for you?

S: No

R. That came in later years, a maid to care for the children.

S: Yes, I guess so.

R: I had a maid because my mother worked. I have lived here in Gainesville all

of my life.

R: Did you read a lot when you were young?

S: Yes, in school we read so much. Of course, after I finished school I read

quite a bit.

R: Were there strict school-masters?

S: Yes

R: Were there any men teachers in high-school?

S: Yes and the college wasmostly male.

R: Were there any woman professors at all?

S: There were some yes.

R: What courses?

S: I do not mean at the University. I mean at the schools. I do not think that

they had any at the University.

R: Did any of your girl-friends go to college?

S: Yes

R: Did they go four years'.or did they only go two years?

S: Well, the year that I graduated from high-school there was just seven girls and

two boys. That was just the city children.


R: How many teachers did you have in the school.

S: Well, we had twelve grades.

R: Were any of the grades combined?

S: No

R: Each grade had a teacher?

S: Yes and a principal.

End of interview.