Interview with Ken Durrance, November 8, 2004

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Interview with Ken Durrance, November 8, 2004
Durrance, Ken ( Interviewee )
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University of Florida Campus (General) Oral History Collection ( local )
University of Florida -- Student housing

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University of Florida
Holding Location:
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
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Interviewee: Ken Durrance
Interviewer: Jenn Garrett
Date: November 8, 2004

G: Today is November 8, 2004 and I=m interviewing Ken Durrance about his
experiences at Flavet Village. Where are you from, Ken?

D: I was born in Brewster, Florida, which is also a phosphate mining town that was
owned by American Signing and Company. lt=s about six miles from where
my wife was born and raised.

G: Did you know each other in high school?

D: She=s three years younger than myself, so she was one of my better friends
sister. Our families have known each other years before. I really didn't know
her. I lived in Brewster and it was about six miles from where she lived and we
moved to her hometown about a year before I graduated. I met her at that time.
I didn't think anything about going with her. She was a little ol= girl to me then.
I was a big senior, and she was an eighth grader. I came back out of the service,
I discovered she had grown up.

G: What year did you come out of the service?

D: I came out of the service in 1948.

G: 1948. You were in the Navy?

D: I was in the Navy, right.

G: Had you gone to college or the university before?

D: No.

G: What motivated you then once you got out in 1948? Did you go to school right
when you came back?

D: Yes. I was out in 1948 and I started college the first semester in 1949 at Rollins
College. I had a football scholarship there. The reason I went to college was I
thought I wanted to be a football coach. I changed my mind as I went along in
school. I was such a sorry football player they discontinued playing football after
I was there one year and I transferred to the University of Tampa and played a
year of football there on a scholarship. That=s when Mary and I really got
together the second time. l=d gone with her a little bit when I first got out of
service, and then we met up again there. That=s when we decided to get

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G: Was she at FSU [Florida State University] at that time?

D: No. She had gone one year to FSU and came back and was going to business
school in Tampa. When I transferred to Tampa, that's where we got

G: How old were you when you got married?

D: I was twenty-three.

G: What made you come to the decision to go to the University of Florida instead of
staying in Tampa?

D: I decided I didn't want to be a football coach then. I wanted to go into animal
science. They called it animal husbandry at the time. The University of Florida
had the school, of course, agriculture in that field.

G: Can you describe the changes in your life from what you were doing in Tampa to
when you came to Gainesville? Were there any big changes? Was it the same
kind of university life you were used to?

D: Oh, it was a change. Tampa was a very small centered locale at the time, right
downtown Tampa. The university here, which is larger and has a lot of different
disciplines in it. It was different in that way. The course work was more stressful
here at the university than it was at Tampa I would say.

G: The university was so much larger than the school you were used to, yet
Gainesville was a city that was smaller than Tampa at that time?

D: Right.

G: How did your military experiences change your values and your outlook on life?

D: I don=t know that it really changed my values and my outlook on life with
exception of you have more varied experiences and I think you reach maturity
maybe a little faster and you get a little more focused in a way. One thing I
should say now, in coming to the University of Florida, my oldest sister had come
to the university. She started in 1939 or 1941.

G: That=s very unusual, isn=t it?

D: Yes. At the time, as a teacher, you could come here in the summer. That=s
what they did. There were a lot of ladies who came here during the summer and
came to summer school and worked on their degree. At the time, she became a
teacher, she was nineteen years old. She was seventeen when she graduated

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and a straight-A student, and at that time you could take a test and become a
teacher if you passed the test. Well, she passed the test easily and started
teaching. Someone had come from the university around the different schools,
telling them about what they could do. She came to the university here and
pecked away in the summer and finally got her masters degree from here.
Anyway, she kind of set the tone for our family. I had another brother who came
out of the university. He came out of the service in 1945 or 1946 and came to
the university here. I had visited with him and went to a class with him one time.
I guess maybe that stimulated me a little bit.

G: Did he ever live in the Flavets?

D: No, l=m afraid he never did. They lived in a garage apartment here off campus.

G: Do you think that your military experiences influenced your work ethic in any

D: I don=t think it influenced my work ethic. I was always the youngster, I always
had jobs. It was just your upbringing. Everybody worked. I was the youngest in
a family of six. I always wanted to try to keep up with the rest of them and do it. I
always worked.

G: Do you feel like your military experience influenced your commitment to

D: I can=t really say that it did. I got training in the service, and I went to some
schools. Maybe that stimulated some, but I don=t know that it really had much

G: Did your parents go to college?

D: Oh no. My mother went through all the schools here in Florida, then she came
up, the highest grade was eighth, which she went through the eighth grade.
Then my father, I think, went through the sixth grade.

G: When your sister decided to go to school at the University of Florida, did your
parents support that? Were they supportive of all of you going on to higher

D: Especially my mother. She always encouraged us to go to school and get more
education all the time. Out of the six of us, four of us graduated from college. I
have another brother who was a self-made engineer. He was probably one who
should have gone to college. He accomplished a lot of things and traveled in the
world and did a lot of things. He didn't go to college.

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G: Why was it so important to you to get your degree?

D: So I could better myself as far as monetarily, one, and two, just the
accomplishment I think.

G: A university cheerleader of this era concluded that they, the veterans, have no
school spirit. All these people are interested in is getting an education. Do you
think that was an accurate statement?

D: Read that again, please.

G: They, the veterans, have no school spirit. All these people are interested in is
getting an education.

D: I wouldn't say that. All that I know of GIs, they have tremendous loyalty to the
university and all. At the time they were in here, it was a different era. As I say,
we have things so simple now. Like we were talking about, with the computers
and all that, whereas before, you had to dig out a lot of stuff at the library. It took
a lot more time. A lot of them were like me. They were just average-intelligence
guys that had to work like hell to keep up and to get through education. In other
words, you had to fight it, young lady, to get through.

G: Do you feel like you might have been more motivated than an entering freshman
that wasn=t coming to school on the G.I. Bill?

D: Yes, I do. There were a lot of other G.l.=s here, too.

G: You mentioned that you were studying animal husbandry, which is now animal
science at the university?

D: Yes, now animal science. They changed it.

G: Did you have any expectations about the University of Florida? You said that
you visited when your brother was here?

D: Yes.

G: Was there anything that surprised you when you were actually here at the
university that maybe you hadn=t expected?

D: It was all new to me. The field of animal science was the first time I had really
experienced it of all the diversified animals and really getting in depth in that. I
don=t really think that there was much else.

G: Did you know how long it would take you to graduate once you transferred here?

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D: Yeah, I had figured it out pretty well when I would graduate.

G: Were you worried about anything about moving here?

D: I was worried about being able to make the grades. That=s the mystery to you,
not ever going to college, or going to a big university like this. I=d been to Rollins
and I=d been to Tampa, and I=d been just the average student. I didn't have
the dedication then like after I got married. That made a lot of difference.

G: Did you do well?

D: Well, I got by.

G: Can you describe a typical school day for you?

D: A typical school day? I=d get up anywhere from 2:00 am >til I don=t know,
because I could do my best studying. I am still that way. I can do more in thirty
minutes in the morning than I can in an hour and a half or two hours when night
time comes, it seems. l=d do most of my studying early in the morning. Then,
as I said, I had a job there at Vet Science, which I would clean the floors, wash
the test tubes, whatever have you. I would sometimes go in then and do it. I had
the liberty to do it [study] at anytime during a twenty-four hour day, so I did it all
different times. That varied. Then I had another job in which I carried the mail
down to the science department, or at the time animal husbandry as they called
and the outlaying areas that they served. I spent a lot of time with that. I went to
class and then would come in and I usually went to some work then. Then I=d
do what studying I could. l=d do most of my studying early in the morning.

G: Did you go home for lunch? You mentioned that you walked to school.

D: Right.

G: You both walked onto campus together.

D: Yes.

G: Then what would you do for lunch?

D: We=d come in and put together some kind of sandwich or something usually,
course it was just to have a little soup or something like that. I believe my wife
has already described the wonderful week of thin sandwiches that we=d eat.
The one thing about her cooking that she didn't mention, she finally found that
she could boil a rutabaga and not burn it up. I got so full of rutabaga I never
wanted to see another one. Since, she=s really learned to be an excellent cook.

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G: So you usually brought your lunch to school with you?

D: At the time, yes, if I was going to be caught, then I would eat. Most of the time
with our classes the way they were we had an opportunity to come home.

G: How did you balance you school responsibilities with your responsibilities at

D: How did I balance what?

G: What were your responsibilities at home?

D: My responsibility at home was basically to keep my studies up when I was home
from work, and like my wife described, once in a while we=d go and play cards
with other couples, and once in a great while we=d be able to walk up town and
go to a movie.

G: Were you in charge of paying the bills and doing the finances?

D: No, we=ve always done that together. Except of late. She does them all now.

G: Where did you live just before moving to Flavet?

D: We lived in Tampa in an apartment there.

G: How does it compare to Flavet as far as number of bedrooms and the size?

D: Basically it was about the same size in Tampa as it was where we moved. The
only thing is about the Flavets, and that is it=s made out of this beaver board, or
some type of material. You could hear all through on each side of you. For
instance, one time we were having a little discussion our way, we were arguing
some, which is usual for a married couple. She thought it was such a calamity,
disagreeing about anything. All of a sudden, through the wall, we heard cursing
and all of that, an ex-Navy nurse putting on her husband for studying for his
doctors degree in psychology. We just busted out laughing. We didn't have
any problems at all.

G: How did you go about finding a place to live when you found out you were
accepted to the University of Florida? Do you remember how you found out
about the Flavets?

D: I don=t remember who told us about the housing possibility living in the Flavets.

G: But you did have that all figured out before you moved?

D: Yes, we did.

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G: Can you describe the interior of your apartment? What were the ceilings like?
Do you remember?

D: It was just beaver board they had up there that they built all those old Flavets out
of. They=re just thrown together.

G: Did the light fixtures have any kind of glass over them or was it just a bare
lightbulb up there?

D: That would be in the bathroom, it was just a bare light. I don=t recall in the living
room. In those apartments, there wasn=t any space between the road and
Flavet, the building itself, except about an area I would say about fifteen feet in
there to the road that you came in. Then when you went in the door, it was a
rectangle type of living room, then the right corner then was the kitchen was
walled off just a little bit. Then the left side was a bedroom and bathroom deal.
A very small bedroom and very small bathroom.

G: Do you know how high the ceilings were approximately?

D: I don=t know, young lady. I would say about ten feet high, that's about right.

G: Did they have paved sidewalks at that time?

D: No. Well, not in front of the Flavets. Then when you got going on to campus
walking up, now where the Flavet three was actually is now where the track is. If
you went straight across the road there and then went to the west there, then
that's where Flavet three was.

G: Is that where Flavet field is now?

D: I don=t know about that.

G: 1=11 have those in all the maps. Do you recall any optional amenities besides the
ones we=ve already talked about that you were able to get?

D: No, I don=t. I don=t recall any.

G: Some people have mentioned that you were allowed to plant flowers and things
like that right in front of the Flavet. Was it grass or just bare ground?

D: It had a little bit of grass and then 1=11 tell you this story. We didn't have any
plants or anything in front of our place. So l=d learned the campus a little bit
then and where the plants and ground people had plants that they would put
around, not in the Flavets, but in other places. So I guess one Saturday
afternoon when there was nobody working I went down and got about five for six

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plants down there myself and planted them in front of our Flavets and made it a
little better.

G: Was it up on blocks, above the ground?

D: Yes, it was.

G: I think I remember that from the pictures.

D: Yes.

G: Now, the grass, if people had grass, were you in charge of mowing the grass for
your area?

D: No.

G: The university would do that for you?

D: I don=t know who did it.

G: I know that both of you must have been very busy, you at school and your jobs
and all that. Did you ever have to help out with any of the household chores, like
cleaning the house, doing your laundry?

D: Oh yeah.

G: Did you do the laundry sometimes?

D: I don=t really remember doing the laundry. I=d do the house some.

G: You didn't have a telephone. Where would you go to make a telephone call if
you needed to make one?

D: I can=t remember. I don=t recall.

G: Can you describe the social life for men at Flavet Village?

D: Well, from my standpoint, there wasn=t much. My total social life deal was
visiting with immediate neighbors plus we had a couple that lived right down from
me that was in animal science, too. His wife was a good cook and they=d invite
us down there about once a week and give an ol= skinny fellow that I was then, a
good meal trying to help out. Plus, we would go and play cards with one other
couple there, I recall. The man was from down in our little town that we had
come out of.

G: When you played cards, did you all usually gamble?

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D: No, no gambling.

G: Did you know anyone in the Village before you moved in?

D: We found out later that we knew one or two. Like one that became my wife=s
brother-in-law=s brother. He lived in there for a period. Then the fellow I was
telling you about that was from down in our area that we played some cards with,
they had lived there, but we didn't know it when we moved in.

G: Did most residents have similar backgrounds?

D: Yes, they did, that I knew of anyways.

G: Do you remember any special ways that they celebrated holidays or birthday?

D: No. Like my wife had told you earlier, we were very close to our families on both
sides, and it would have been a crime not to have gone there as far as they were
concerned. Every holiday we had an opportunity we went home.

G: You didn't have a car, so how did you get home?

D: Later we had the car.

G: What year did you get that?

D: It was about my last year here. Sometime during that period. I had an uncle that
lived in Gainesville here, and he was kind enough to take us down there when we
went. We didn't go [too often]. Christmas and maybe Thanksgiving. We didn't
go home much until we got the car. When we got the car we went a little more

G: Was it hard to save up the money to get the car?

D: We were both working, and I had the G.I. Bill, so after we got over the initial
introduction to our pay scales, then we budgeted well and we built up a little bit of
money, enough to pay down. My uncle was kind enough to buy the car for us
and let us pay him on a ready scale. We paid him off ahead of time. That=s
always been our belief; if we owe any money any time is to try to pay it off as
quick [as possible], or we always pay it off ahead of time.

G: Is that something that comes from the way you were brought up, or the
experiences you went through when you were younger?

D: You have to remember, maybe it was, from the standpoint that I was born just
before the Depression set in. My wife was born in the early stage of the

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Depression and went through that period. Everybody had to really squeeze the
nickel, you didn't know where it was coming and you had to be prepared a little
bit. I=d note that nowadays people don=t seem to think. They just spend.
They=re going to buy and all. We never have believed in that.

G: Going through this difficult time period, when you were going to school, it was
something that you had done back when you were younger?

D: Yeah, as far as the money is concerned.

G: Do you keep up with any of your friends that you met in the Village?

D: Yeah, I still keep up with a few.

G: Do you recall any groups of certain guys that would socialize together, was it the
ones with children, even the fathers, would they all socialize together?

D: I socialized more with some of the fellow students I had when I was going to
school. They weren=t necessarily G.I.=s in my field of animal science.

G: Is there anything that you did by yourself for recreation to kind of get out of the
house that wasn=t school related?

D: Not a whole lot. We=ve always been a couple that did basically everything
together. All fifty-four years or right at fifty-four.

G: Was there any diversity within the residents of Flavets? I know it wasn=t
integrated at the time.

D: We never heard a whole lot about it. There was one lady that my wife used to
tell some things, but we were involved so in work and my school and trying to
make ends meat always, I didn't have time for that.

G: You didn't have a maid, right? Your wife told me that she did the cleaning. Did
you ever get sick while you were living there? Do you remember going to the

D: I don=t remember going to the infirmary, but I had experiences and all. When
working one time out at Payne=s Prairie, I got into a bunch of bumble bees and
they stung me all up and by the time I got home, my wife didn't even recognize

G: Did you go to the doctor?

D: No, I didn't go to any doctor.

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G: Why not?

D: Well, that just wasn=t my thing.

G: Did you know anyone that was in the volunteer fire department?

D: No, I didn't.

G: But you knew that there was one?

D: I had heard that there was, but I don=t recall.

G: Do you remember anything in particular about the Flavet newsletter that came

D: Not really.

G: Did you feel safe living in Flavet?

D: Oh, yes.

G: Did you feel like there was a sense of community there?

D: There was a sense of your local three or four families that lived around you or
something, but no, I didn't have time.

G: When you=d walk to school, were there other people or other couples that you
usually walked with, that you would leave with at the same time? Did a lot of
people walk in at the same time?

D: I just had eyes for my wife. I don=t even recall any others that we walked in with.
There probably was sometimes because there are different people.

G: The Dean of Students, R.C. Beatty was quoted as saying there was a low
divorce rate in the Flavets. Did you find that was true?

D: I guess so. I don=t know anything about that.

G: You didn't know of any?

D: No, I don=t know anyone personally that divorced. I heard that there was a
couple or so, but I didn't really know that as fact.

G: What kind of rules were there for living in Flavet?

D: I really don=t recall. I don=t remember ever, of course, noise was a big thing

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because of the way the buildings were built. You could hear everything through
on each side. There were probably some complaints about that at times.

G: Your wife mentioned that you did ultimately move out of Flavets. Was it because
of the noise?

D: Well, one, and then two, we had an opportunity to get this garage apartment that
we thought would be a little better.

G: Was there anywhere you could go to complain? Where would you go to
complain about the noise?

D: I=d never really think about it myself.

G: Did you find that there were any unwritten rules or codes that residents lived by?

D: Trying to be quieter in general probably than certainly the average housing place
today. People were considerate, I think.

G: You mentioned that your friends would have you over for dinner and things like
that. Was there such a sense of community that people would help each other
out if they were having a hard time?

D: I think so. People would help out some. Are you talking about monetarily or
some physical way?

G: I don=t know. Did it ever happen monetarily or just washing someone else=s

D: I don=t ever recall ever friends just loaning or borrowing any money from any

G: Did you ever get together in study groups with some of the other students living
in Flavet?

D: I don=t recall right in the Flavet group. I did a little bit in my own field.

G: What were the most controversial issues among the residents of Flavet? What
were the things that people were complaining about or upset about?

D: Probably the noise. I=m referring to automobiles. There weren=t hardly any
automobiles around there. If one of them raced up the road up there a little bit,
then there was some complaint because certainly the children being around and
the little ones. That=s about it.

G: How much of a concern was money to you when you lived in Flavet?

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D: It was tight as we came along then I got a little better job and a little better pay
and my part-time jobs. As I said before, I thought for several years after we
graduated that I=d had the most fun I=ve ever had was when it was free money
because we=d stay in cheap rent and didn't have all the other obligations. What
money we had was just between the two of us. We had a little more free money
then than we did a little later when we were buying a home and all this, that, and
the other.

G: Was it hard to find a part-time job? Because you had to find one close to
campus within walking distance?

D: I didn't ever have a real problem. Understand, I had two jobs on campus and
then one job off.

G: You delivered the mail, and you ... ?

D: I cleaned at the Vet Science department.

G: Then your other one was out at the prairie?

D: Out at the prairie, yes.

G: Can you give me an idea of what expenses made up your budget for the month?

D: I would say food was a big thing plus of course we had the regular paying for
Flavet and the refrigerator, after that, which was $9.27 or so.

G: The refrigerator was the five dollars extra?

D: Yes, that's correct.

G: How often did you go out to eat at a restaurant?

D: Every two or three weeks, I would guess.

G: You mentioned earlier that there were very few restaurants to choose from in
Gainesville. What were those again?

D: Max=s Drive-In, then they had the Humpty Dumpty out here, I can=t remember
the name of the road, the one that went straight in front of the University
Administration building, it was going north, down on the right. There was about
four places as I recall.

G: Sometimes you would eat at the Hub?

D: Yes, but I wasn=t counting the Hub. I don=t remember eating there much myself

Page 14

at all.

G: What kind of things did they offer at the Hub?

D: I don=t know.

G: They must have had candy and things like that, but you don=t remember if you
could order things there or if it was just a snack bar place?

D: I just don=t recall.

G: Did your experience at Flavet influence your life?

D: Of course, we were newly married and everything in the world was great to us.
We were able to make out monetarily wise. Everything was fine. When you=re
married to a good wife, honey, that's the biggest thing.

G: When you look back at your time living at Flavet, you mentioned several times
that in some ways it was easier than it was as you went on. How would you
assess that experience?

D: I would assess it like this. It=s kind of a period in your life where here, as you
acquire responsibilities, and all along, monetarily as well as responsibilities. We
had the fewest responsibilities because we had no children. We didn't have any
payments to make on homes or other payments going out. We had the very
cheap housing of the Flavets. That=s what I was referring to.

G: Can you suggest anyone else that might be helpful for me to research or to

D: Well, my wife has already mentioned a couple of ladies. The things she didn't
mention is Vera Brogden is one of the persons she told you. Her husband is still
living. He=d be a good resource. They lived out at the airbase which was part of
the university housing deal. You=re aware of that?

G: Yes.

D: They lived out there to start with. I don=t think they ever moved in Flavet. I
don=t know where they finished off at.

G: What=s her husbands name? 1=11 find it out. Anyone else I should contact? Are
they still together?

D: Oh yes. They lived right over in, it used to be called Black Acres. I don=t know
what it=s called now.

Page 15

G: I should just ask for Mr. and Mrs. Brogden?

D: Yes.

G: Is there anything else that I haven=t asked you about that I need to know?

D: I can=t remember anything right now right off hand.

G: No other topic that we need to cover?

D: l=d just say the university experience was really great for me. I enjoyed it and it
widened my scope as far as life was concerned. I think everybody ought to try a
little bit of it.

G: Thank you very much.

[End of the interview.]