Judith Kent: Today is October 25, 2001. This is Judith Kent speaking from the Flagler Beach Historical Museum in Flagler Beach, Florida. Joining me today is Catherine [Wickline] Wilson.
First of all, thank you Mrs. Wilson for talking with me today. I’ve read your book [A New Beginning: A Picturesque History of Flagler Beach, Fl.] and enjoyed that very much- loved the pictures.
Catherine Wilson: Thank you.
Kent: You got some great old photographs!
Wilson: Most of those, I would say probably seventy-five or eighty percent of the photographs that are in the museum [Flagler Beach Historical Museum] were in my father’s [George Wickline] personal effects- stuff that had been saved over the years, years and years.
Kent: So he was interested in the history of the area?
Wilson: Well he was. But a lot of the reason he had these things is because he was¾ well, he grew up here¾ but the fact that he was in county and city government for over forty-two years that he put in as City Commissioner, County Commissioner or City Mayor. So he had a definite interest in the entire area.
Kent: Very good. That [the Museum] will certainly be the basis for anyone who wants more information about the area.
You speak about your grandparents coming in 1911. You said that they "traded ten acres of land in Dupont" [Florida] ¼
Wilson: They came from Crown Point, Indiana in 1911. They had purchased ten acres of land through the Chicago Herald, sight unseen, basically the way Palm Coast [Florida] started out. They sold their mercantile store in Crown Point due to health reasons for my grandfather and moved to Florida. When they got here they stayed in the Dupont area at the Tip-A-Canoe Inn, which there is a picture of in the Holden House [Flagler County Historical Society in Bunnell, Florida]. When they went to view their land it was under water because they came in the rainy season. They were very disappointed, naturally, so the company [Dupont Land Development Co.] offered my grandmother a job running a rooming house out in the Haw Creek area, on [County Road] 304. That house was there until about three or four years ago when it burned. She ran that rooming house for a year or so and during that time they were able to trade their ten acres of land for eight lots here in Ocean City [now known as Flagler Beach], which was on the west side of the Inter- costal Waterway. In 1913 they moved to Ocean City and it was there that my grandmother started the Post Office. We have her official appointment from the Post Master General appointing her Postmaster of Ocean City in 1915. It is hanging in the Museum.
Kent: That didn’t just happen; I mean she initiated that, right?
Wilson: She initiated that. She and my aunt, they wrote letters to everybody that they knew back in Indiana and Illinois, and encouraged the few people that were coming over here to do the same. With this, the mail just began to generate. It was neat.
There were five paddle wheelers, boats that came up and down the river, delivering goods to St. Augustine and Daytona and all. They would stop there [in Ocean City] and a lot of times they would drop off the paper or they would drop off mail¾ but the mail was normally carried from Bunnell.
Kent: So, she was the breadwinner for the family for the year that they were in Dupont and was employed even when they moved here, and your grandfather was negotiating the land transfer¼
Wilson: Right, and when they moved here they built a building to start a mercantile store here. Those pictures also, are in there, in the museum. So, they ran the store together and then she took care of the post office. By 1923 they moved the post office to the beach side because there were quite a few people over here at that point. By that time we had a bridge [connecting the island to the mainland]. We didn’t have a bridge until 1920. The only way you could get across was on a little ferry that Mr. [George] Moody built. So they moved the post office to Flagler Beach and it was to be called Ocean City Beach. The Post Office Department said that it was too long a name and it would be too confusing with Ocean City, Maryland, and Ocean City, New Jersey. So, by this time Flagler County had formed (in 1917) so the consensus was well, we are Flagler County now, and so we will call it Flagler Beach. That is how Flagler Beach got its name. A lot of people think that it was named after Henry Flagler, but it was not.
Kent: Very good. So your parents were both very entrepreneurial¼
Kent: I’m assuming that in that era there was fish to be had and¼
Wilson: The things that people did here in the twenties¾ early twenties or late teens¾ was to fish, get oysters, (and I have to say this very quietly) dig turtle eggs. Because they could sell¾ my father would get the turtle eggs and take them to Bunnell and put them on the train¾ and they would sell them to the bakeries in St. Augustine. A turtle egg is almost all yolk. It is a very soft, pliable egg. The bakeries up there would buy all they could get because they were so rich to put in their rich pastries. So they would sell them. In a turtle nest you would have upwards of a hundred eggs in one nest.
Another thing that the people did, they cut palm buds, because you know, millions of palms¼
Kent: Sable palms?
Wilson: Well, old cabbage palms. They would cut the bud out of it and sell these buds. They shipped anywhere from twenty to thirty thousand at a time on these paddleboats. They would ship them to St. Augustine for shipment further for use at Easter, Palm Sunday.
Kent: I never heard of that. I’ve heard of heart of palm as a food source, but never the blossoms being of commercial value.
Wilson: No, this wasn’t the blossom, it was the palm fronds that were used in the churches. Naturally they would get the small fronds. They never used the huge, big ones, I don’t think. There was never any indication in any of the records that I went through of the size of the palm fronds. But just from my own experience through church they couldn’t have been the huge ones. That sort of culled out all the palmettos, too.
But they also sold fish. A few people farmed. One of the requirements for application for homestead exemption¾ not exemption, but to file for homestead was to farm the land. I understand that when Mr. Moody homesteaded the entire area here (a hundred and sixty nine acres of down town) he raised tomatoes and sweet potatoes down in the area say from Daytona Avenue, west toward the Intercoastal Waterway where it would be more mucky land instead of the sand.
Kent: Where the salt intrusion wouldn’t be¼
Wilson: Where that wouldn’t be bad. He did that just long enough to fulfill his homestead obligations and then he began to subdivide. By 1925 we had a lot of people here. Not in terms of what we think of today, but we probably had twenty-five or thirty registered voters and their families. The first school on the beach side was in 1917. I believe there were twelve or fourteen students in it. That would be from first grade to junior high school, I guess because they still had to go to Bunnell to high school. Some of the boys would even¾ Leonard Moody and George Moody (two of Mr. Moody’s sons) would drive the school bus. They had a corduroy road that led up to the bridge. What the corduroy road was, it was a road where they used palm logs¾ the big tall palm trees¾ and they were laid transversely up to that area. That’s what took the bus or cars through the marsh. They were laid in the marsh there. I talked with George Moody and he said that he remembers one time when the water was high after a northeaster when the bus slid right off the road. You can imagine a corduroy road, bumpty, bumpty, bumpty, bump.
Wilson: Yes. It was amazing to me that they would let seniors or juniors, you know, grown boys sixteen or eighteen years old drive the school bus. They didn’t have the worries that we have today.
Kent: What personal characteristics do you think that your grandparents had that enabled them to survive so well¾ thrive in a pretty hostile environment here?
Wilson: Well, probably hostile is only in terms of the animal life and the fact that you didn’t know what to expect. I think that they were pioneers at heart like all the people that came here in the very beginning. When they came here in 1913 there was already one gentleman here who had bought seven acres of land¾ seven or nine acres of land down in the area north of the bridge along Lambert Avenue. He had planted an orange grove down there and he had been there two years when my grandparents came. So he was the only person here, so there had to be a pioneering spirit in all of these people¾ which I think is great.
Kent: Risk takers and hard workers¼
Wilson: Well, they didn’t have the worries then that you have now. Your little world was where you lived and you dealt with how to exist and how to live.
Kent: So, they had children born to them here?
Wilson: No, my grandparents adopted my aunt who is ninety- nine years old now and lives in Ft. Pierce. She will be 100 in May of 2002. My father was the only blood child. He was born in 1903. They came south with my grandparents. Then in 1920 they adopted Flossie Bouchard and raised her. She was six years old, I think, when they adopted her. This was in 1920; you are looking at a very depressed time. I think she was one of eight or nine children that the parents couldn’t care for and they farmed them out. They were originally from Canada. She passed away December 31, 2000 at age eighty-four and she was able to contact all of her brothers and sisters in the last twenty years of her life, which I thought was a really neat thing. But she also¾ she had the grit. She was the first woman ever elected to the [Flagler Beach] City Commission in 1937 and she was one of the founders of the Flagler Woman’s Club and very active in church. She was always active.
Kent: A good role model.
Wilson: Oh yes.
Kent: So your experience with Flagler Beach begins when? Your father moves from Flagler Beach to Eustis¼
Wilson: My father took a job with the Wilson Cypress Lumber Company in Lake County near Eustis and Deland. It was during the time that he was working over there that he met my mother. They were married in Cassia, which is a little settlement that is still there, half way between Deland and Eustis. My sister was born in Deland and I was born in Eustis, however my parents separated three months before I was born, so I actually grew up in Tampa. I never saw my father until I was eight years old. He brought my sister and I here to spend the Christmas holidays and that was the first time that I remember seeing my grandparents. At that time they had relocated their store and post office to the building that is at the corner of Central Avenue and Forth Street which is now the pharmacy. They built that building. My grandfather and my father made every block in that building; they were hand poured on a Montgomery Ward block machine.
Kent: Like the sample in the Museum? Very interesting.
Wilson: That sample in the museum was one of the blocks from the Holden Building which is now the Plaza Marche store. It just shows how strong the construction was. We have quite a few of the older houses that are still here that were built like that.
Kent: So, what was your impression that Christmas as an eight-year-old seeing Flagler Beach for the first time?
Wilson: Well, it was strange in a way that I had never been to the beach before. Even though we were in Tampa I never went to Indian Rocks or St. Pete or Clearwater Beach. So, I got to see the beach. Of course we were only here for a week and being only eight years old, so I just sort of tagged along.
I had pleasant memories of meeting my grandparents. I know that we stayed with them. They just had a little two-bedroom apartment above the post office and the mercantile store. My sister and I slept in my father’s bedroom and he slept down in the cab of his semi down below.
We had a little airport here then. It was a grass field on the south end of town. It started around tenth street and Daytona Avenue. I remember it had a beacon light. I remember that beacon flashing through the bedroom all night long¾ going around and around and around. That is the thing that sticks in my mind the most. Then when we moved here in 1956 I found the base structure of the old beacon light in the lot across the street from where we built our first home here¾ which is now the south side parking lot of the Community Church. I can remember that beacon to this day, just flashing all night long, going around and around and around.
Wilson: Well, it was through that beacon, I guess, that Lindberg found the airport when he got fogged in and couldn’t get back to New York.
Kent: That was quite a "red letter" day for the community, wasn’t it?
Kent: How did you happen to move back to Flagler Beach?
Wilson: My husband was a millwright by trade. In the fifties there wasn’t a lot of work for millwrights. The phosphate plants in and around Tampa were sort of cutting back. What a millwright does is go in and set all the fine-tuning of all the machinery that has to be set. He finally went to work for a building supply company in Tampa. I was working at the Hav-A-Tampa Cigar factory. My father happened to come down and visit us and offered my husband a job. We just pulled up stakes and moved.
Kent: Good for you. You have some of that pioneer spirit, too.
Wilson: I guess.
Kent: But you found a much more modern city when you got here.
Wilson: Oh yes, because in the twenties there was very little electricity. I still have the Rayo lamps that they used in my grandparent’s store. When my parents split up my mother ended up with those lamps. I studied by those lamps all through school. Now I use them as hurricane lamps. We didn’t have¾ well; people had outhouses in the beginning. In the research for my book I found where the City had sent letters to everybody saying that they had to discontinue the use of their outhouses and go into septic tanks. I found that kind of interesting. The people who are growing up today have probably never seen an outhouse. I think it is a part of history; it is the way people lived. In fact, when my mother and stepfather bought a place in Tampa back in the thirties¾ my mother married in ’33 when I was three years old¾ she bought a place on the outskirts of Tampa that was in one of the "Boom" subdivisions that never took off. Three houses were built and one burned, so they bought this house with two and one half acres of land for a thousand dollars in 1933. We had an outhouse, because during the Depression people had come out there and dug up the septic tanks. They took all the wires, all the light fixtures, all of the plumbing fixtures. They even took the tile off the walls and floors to get money to eat. So, when mother bought the house, it was a shell with the windows, doors and floors. They had even taken all of the inside doors off. Anything that could be taken off was taken off and sold. So we had an outhouse when I grew up, and we used the oil lamps.
Kent: So it wasn’t too different from the living conditions here at the same time.
Wilson: Probably not a lot. We didn’t have to scrounge for food. When the Depression came, even in the thirties it was difficult. It was very difficult. You tried to grow what little bit you could grow.
Kent: So you had a garden?
Wilson: Oh yes.
Kent: Was that part of your chore list?
Wilson: I don’t remember that so much as we just all had something to do. I don’t remember it as being chores. We just sort of did what had to be done. That is the difference I see today, because the kids don’t have chores, but they have every modern convenience (which we have done to them). They have no reason to think back on these things or wonder what it was like. My hope is¾ through the Museum¾ to be able to do class field trips for some of the earlier grades, forth or fifth graders, that could look and get some comprehension of what life was through the pictures. Because you can read and read but if you don’t have a picture in your mind it doesn’t make an impression. I cringe to think what might happen in this world if through all this mess that we have experienced in this last month¼ [the 9/11/01 World Trade Center tragedy] what would happen if we had no electricity, no water and no telephones? How are these young people going to survive if they have never had any exposure to surviving in a pioneer world?
Kent: A word that you often hear [describing pioneers] is self-sufficiency¼
Kent: That is a hard concept, I think, for young people today. The more that we can record [their life styles] and make it available, the better.
Wilson: Last night on TV they were interviewing these kids in Central Florida with this history/ geography teacher. They don’t teach geography any more. They were doing demonstrations out on the football field to show these kids how to find areas¾ countries in the world¾ by longitude and latitude. These kids had no clue! I think we have to get back into geography and history in the classrooms. Not the old history we did so much¾ knowing names and dates of places¾ but world history and how the world has changed. We are a world now, not a country of our own.
Kent: Another issue that you touched on has to do with sustainable growth. You spoke of the turtle eggs. Who knew [in the twenties] that was a limited commodity?
Wilson: Back then that wasn’t a limited commodity. In fact, you could dig turtle eggs up until the last ten or fifteen years.
Kent: So it is population growth and pollution?
Wilson: Yes, the people have done it to themselves. We are doing it to ourselves. We are expanding growth into the wildlife preserves¾ or close to them¾ we are forcing out the wildlife. It is difficult to see.
Kent: So you see your interest in history as being tied into teaching younger generations.
Wilson: I think so. I think so. Even when we came here in ‘56¾ my kids were four and six¾ we went down on the beach and we gathered the little coquinas. And just to be able to say that I did it, I made a pot of coquina soup. What a chore! [Laughter] We wanted to experience¾ I think we all need to experience things that life has to offer in our particular area. I think that this is one of the great things that can be looked forward to with the Princess Place Preserve up there. We need to foster that.
Kent: Tell me about your girls. You mentioned exposing them to the beach¼
Wilson: They grew up here. The beautiful part of their growing up here was the fact that the only thing that we had to worry about¾ well, not the only, but the most important thing we had to worry about was making sure that they swam where the lifeguard was. It didn’t matter; kids could walk up town¾ we lived what, eight or nine streets down¾ it didn’t matter, you didn’t have to worry about them walking around the whole community. Everybody knew everybody. There was no [Interstate] 95 at that point. The high school was in Bunnell so a lot of the boys¾ in fact there were a couple of cheerleaders that even¾ they hitch hiked back and forth to football practice and cheerleading practice. My kids didn’t! But, you knew everybody. So when you saw this kid on the side of the road, you stopped and picked him up because you knew him. You knew the family; they knew you. They weren’t afraid to get in the car. We didn’t have the crime; of course we don’t have a lot of crime now, but through growth comes crime¾ , which is sad to say. I think that we had a real neat area¾ a wonderful area for young people to grow up in.
They were able to go out and "Trick or Treat" (much as I don’t agree with it in this day and age.) You never had to worry. I had a youth choir with twenty-one kids in it. One Halloween I heard scraping on the glass and I went out and it was one of the kids from the youth choir and I caught her soaping my windows.Oh, she was so embarrassed. She said, "But we only do it to people we like!" She came back the next day and scrubbed the windows. This is the neat thing. Kids will always have pranks, play pranks. One Halloween in Bunnell there were a bunch of boys that went out to the Ag.[Agricultural] Plot (out State Road 13 where it goes to the Fair Grounds). It was just the Ag. Plot then, that was before there was Fair Grounds or anything. The Ag. Plot was part of the agricultural division of the school. They took Ag. as a subject because you had mostly farmers; you had the "red necks" and the "beach kids"; that is the way that they looked at each other. But anyway, a bunch of the boys went out there with a truck one Halloween and they pulled up the outhouse and brought it in and set it on the front lawn of the high school. They put a little tag on it saying "Superintendent’s Office" Well, most people in town just thought it was a riot! This was a kid’s prank; nobody was hurt. The outhouse was taken back and put back and nobody was hurt.
Another prank that they played when they were putting 95 through¾ by this time my daughters were teenagers¾ the boys were looking at the girls. We woke up one morning with this red light flashing in our driveway. We couldn’t figure out what in the world¼ When I looked out¾ we had a circular drive in front of the house¾ one of these markers from 95 (that flashes the alert) the saw horses with the flashing light¾ the boys had gone and picked one up sometime during the night and put it in our driveway. It is hilarious when you think back on it. This was in the wintertime, along in February, we didn’t have sun for about a week and I never could get that thing to stop flashing. We called the company and asked them to come and pick it up. They said, "We’ll send somebody." but they never did. Finally my husband just loaded it on his truck and just dumped it on the road out at 95. But these were the fun things. Nobody was hurt, and everybody got a good laugh out of it.
Kent: Surrounded as you are by ocean and Inter-costal Waterway, was that a big part of the growing up?
Wilson: Yes, we love to fish. My youngest daughter, Barbara and I would go fishing. Jo- Anne didn’t care a lot about it. Bernie [my late husband] didn’t take a lot of time to go fishing. We would go down some of these little waterways down here¾ the first ones that where dredged¾ and fish. We would go down to the low bridge down at Walter Boardman and fish. Of course, the first three or four years we were here the kids and I lived on the beach. We only lived two blocks off and it was just wonderful.
Kent: When you think back about your grandmother and mother and yourself and your daughters do you see any similarities and differences in your roles?
Wilson: In a way. I think that the women in my family¾ my grandmother, actually both my grandmothers and my mother¾ I think we were all pioneers. I don’t know looking at myself now if I could go into the areas that they went into. I feel like I could, but it is a whole different world now. My grandmother on my mother’s side she was a pioneer in as much as my grandfather was in service. He joined the Army in 1898. They were in the Philippines in 1910. My mother had her forth birthday on the boat going over there in 1908. I have pictures of the thatched hut that they lived in on stilts and everything. My grandmother had to make do wherever they were. My grandfather talked about when he had to march sentry duty down these lanes in Mindanao. This little pig was running down the path in front of him and all of a sudden the pig was gone and this boa constrictor had come down out of the tree and got that little pig.
People can’t relate to those things now. Probably if I had grown up in a city I probably couldn’t have either, but I heard my grandfather talking about it. And then having lived in the country in Tampaand then this was the first time I ever lived in the city limits was when I moved to Flagler Beach. We always lived out, so I was always around the country and the land¾ to see how you had to live off the land. People here lived off the land. We didn’t so much in Tampa even though we had a garden and mother raised chickens. In a sense we lived off the land, but not as seriously as the people that started here. What I was saying lived off the land, that was the thirties. Those that lived off the land here, that was the twenties. Every ten years you can see a difference in how people lived¾ how they have to live.
In the little cookbook that I did for the seventy-fifth celebration just as a lark, really¾ I did it as a souvenir type thing. I wanted to show how some people lived and how some people could have lived by some of the recipes that are in there. How they treated¾ there was no refrigeration, there was no electricity so you had to use canned milk. You couldn’t keep fresh milk unless you had a cow and then you would probably end up having to sell it off or give it away to save it. You stop and think about how we cook today¾ how much of the stuff we cook today has to be refrigerated. It is unbelievable.
Kent: Your grandmother cooked on a wood stove?
Wilson: Yes, and then she would have had oil stove. My mother in Tampa, she cooked on an oil stove, and then she finally got one of these gas stoves where you had to pump it up¾ put pressure on it, you know? That is the way you had to do.
Kent: But the women in your family were always involved heavily in the work of the family¾ the nurturing as well as bringing home the bread.
Wilson: Or helping bring home the bread.
Kent: You had a career¼
Wilson: I started a career; I worked different jobs from time to time after I married. Actually, I started working when I was fourteen. My mother was a bookkeeper for a laundry and drycleaner in Tampa and I had to get a work permit¾ this would have been 1944. I had to have a work permit to be able to work. I would work after school and on Saturdays in the laundry and drycleaner, behind the counter in some of the branches that they had down town.
I worked several jobs after I married. I was cashier in a drive in theater that was actually owned by a friend of my mother’s. I worked at the Hav-A-Tampa Cigar factory for two years before we moved here. It was always when times were bad and one salary couldn’t make it to try to raise kids. When we moved here I didn’t work for a while. I got involved in a lot of volunteer stuff. I was involved in PTA¾ I held every office in PTA in Flagler Beach PTA. We had a volunteer fire department here¾ the only fire department you had was volunteer¾ so my husband joined that and I got involved in the volunteer auxiliary.
Then we started what we called a "Nursing Council" in Bunnell for the county where it operated through the Health Department. We maintained a loan closet for sick room supplies. We raised money for that. The Public Health nurses that went out into the homes at that time donated all of their time. What came back from the government for their service to the community went into the Nursing Council and we were able to supply the loan closet with sickroom supplies. We went to Camp Blanding and bought used hospital beds from the government, wheelchairs, crutches¾ I can’t think of all the stuff that we could buy there and be able to loan it out to people here in the county. We also would have work days where people would bring in men’s dress shirts where the collars needed to be turned or were frayed. We would take those shirts, cut off all the buttons, cut the sleeves off at elbow length and cut the collars off and dip them down in the back and bind them with bias tape with ties on them. Those were used as gowns for bed-ridden patients. We maintained that for I don’t know how many years. We got enough stuff so that we opened one up here at the Beach so that people at the Beach could use it too without having to Bunnell¾ that was the problem for any of the Beach people who needed sickroom supplies.
Back in the years¾ in the fifties and sixties¾ we only had one doctor here at the Beach. Actually, it was in the late fifties; his name was Dr. Rose. He had a little house down here on North Central Avenue, which is still there. He was getting very elderly and sickly too, but he would get out of his sick bed and come into his office to see patients. I know, because when the kids went to school they caught chicken pox and I had never had chicken pox. So at twenty-seven years old I came down with a major case of chicken pox. The Public Health nurse was called because they thought I had small pox, it was so bad. That is when I first met Dr. Rose. Not too long after that is when Dr. Canakaris had come into the county. But he was in Bunnell, so we had no doctors here.
Kent: In all your career, you haven’t talked lot about job training.
Wilson: Well, we only had one bank in the county and that was the Citizen’s Bank in Bunnell. They had tried several times to get a bank here at the Beach. Partly because of lack of population, businesses and all, it was a long time before we got one. So in 1970 they formed a board for the Bank at Flagler Beach. Mr. Creal who was president over there [in Bunnell] was president here. They built and opened the Bank of Flagler Beach in September of 1971. I was one of the three first employees in that bank. I walked over¾ I just went into the office one day in Bunnell and I said to Mr. Creal that I was interested in a job but had no training what so ever. He said, "Fine, we’ll be in touch." I never had to make out a job application. When you think back on it you wonder how in the world¾ we had a county with about five thousand people in it and most everybody knew most everybody. If you banked with them (which you almost had to) they knew your financial status¾ they knew whether you were running around here passing bad checks and stuff like that. They called me and gave me six weeks training in the Bunnell bank and we came out here and opened this [Bank of Flagler Beach] in September of 1971. I put in twenty-five years with the bank. Within a year and a half I was no longer a teller; I was assistant cashier and security officer. In 1979 Barnett bought the bank (and by the way, my husband helped build the bank). We had the first deposit; he put a penny in the cement where they poured the floor that went over to go into the vault. After Barnett bought the bank I transferred in 1983 to the main office in Deland where I had the promotion to assistant vice president. I was over five departments at the bank there.
Kent: And you didn’t have a MBA from Wharton School of Business.
Wilson: I had a MBA from the school of hard knocks! [Laughter] I feel like a lot of the fact that I grew up in my family with my mother and my father after we moved here¾ both of my parents were entrepreneurs. My mother always said, "Use your head to save your feet." I try to do that to this day, sometimes not too well, but¼ we were encouraged and expected to use our heads and common sense and see how far you go with it.
Kent: How does that translate to your girls?
Wilson: Very good! Very good. My oldest daughter, well my one daughter, JoAnne is working for the Post Office Department. She was with the Palm Coast Post Office now. She is acting Postmaster in Florahome. She has raised four daughters; the youngest will graduate next year, right here. All my kids and grandkids have gone through the school system here which has been outstanding. I’d like to touch on the school system a little bit when we finish this.
My youngest daughter, Barbara Revels, she has¼ let me back up. My husband went into business for himself as a builder here in the early sixties. He has done a lot of buildings around here. He actually built the A frame to the [Flagler Beach] Pier over here that is still there. He built the Road Superintendent’s house out of the Old King’s Road brick that is over at the Stockade in Bunnell. There are many, many, many houses that he has built around here. Through this, Barbara got the bug. I like to say that she cut her teeth on the hammer and the nail. She was always trying to do something. JoAnne was good at a lot of things and still is good at a lot of things, but she didn’t have the physical stamina that Barbara had and has. Barbara went in right out of high school and went into real estate. She ended up in two years opening up her own office which is the Coquina Real Estate and Construction at this time. [She] Started out then building houses. This coming Saturday night (which will be the twenty seventh of October, 2001) she will be inducted as the first woman president of the State Home Builder’s Association. So, I am kind of proud. I am proud of all my girls, because I am proud of Joann and what she has done with her career but also in what she has done with her kids.
Actually, I have another daughter who works for the Department of Defense in the Pentagon. She is a pretty sharp young lady, also. In fact, she was in the Pentagon the day that the plane hit it. [9/11/01] She is all right now. She has been up on the hill within this last month two different times. I had just talked with her the other day and they put her on this Cipro , is it, as a precaution? She and two colleagues from the Defense Department had been up there working. They put them on it for a three-day period, but all of the outbreaks or [anthrax] contamination that they found were on the fifth and sixth floors of the Capital and she was in only the second floor. It was strictly a precaution. Here again, my girls are pioneers. I hope that my whole family¾ I just feel that every person should be a pioneer to a degree. I’m not going to sit in that rocking chair.
Kent: You said that you wanted to speak about the schools.
Wilson: Oh yes. The school system¾ we had a very good school system here. Naturally they had the black school, because this was before integration. I would say here, that black high school had the most fantastic band¾ bugle and drums, drum and bugle corps. Those kids were just outstanding with their rhythm and their¼ Then we had the [white] high school which was in Bunnell. They started kindergarten about the year that we moved here, I think, so it was K through 12. Then we had the Flagler Beach School which is now the Wickline Center which had really outstanding teachers. Both my kids went through the sixth grade here and through the high school in Bunnell. They have just come out with a fantastic education¾ for a high school education. They have taken courses, naturally with all of their jobs. Barbara had some college courses through DBCC. [Daytona Beach Community College] The level of education that was put out¾ and I think the fact that we were a small county where parents showed an interest in what their kids were studying was a big thing. The schools can’t do it all. When Palm Coast came in naturally you had numbers to deal with. We fought to keep this school [Flagler Beach] open. We had to have 120 students in average daily attendance to keep the school open. When you get a limited number of enrollments you can only offer specific subjects. It has to be the core. So, when Palm Coast came in we were able to get increased enrollment and the school system was able to add more subjects. In this case we have benefited from the increased enrollment. But then you are looking at the increased population¾ even without Palm Coast right here in Flagler Beach ¾ went from in 1956 we had 600 registered voters, now we have about 4,500. So, we have growth in the whole county. That makes for better education. We have a branch of DBCC here now which we would never have had. You have to have some numbers, but I don’t want the numbers to get too big.
Kent: You mentioned the black schools. What changes have you seen in race relations in the years that you have been here in Flagler Beach¾ or known about it or heard about it?
Wilson: That is a two-headed question. Whenever the¾ before Palm Coast came you had your black community. You had your black community at Espanola. You had your black community in Bunnell. Most of the people¾ the black people in these communities¾ worked in the sawmills, the farms, some had small businesses. They were always working for other people. The women worked as maids and there wasn’t a lot of opportunity before the county began to grow.
Then always you had the migrant workers that lived out on the farms that were different¾ well, they didn’t have the opportunities that even the people in Bunnell had with their own school. Sometimes I wonder what happened with the black community in Bunnell when they were forced to integrate. They¾ integration was new to them also and I don’t quite know how to phrase this, but just in the school itself¾ speaking of the band that they had¼ When integration came the black children or teenagers were brought up to the high school¾ junior and senior high school¾ a lot of them got lost in the shuffle. They did not make a place for the drum and bugle corps. I feel looking back, strictly looking back and not being the person dealing with it, that if they had promoted the drum and bugle corps, I think it would have helped both races. We had a lot of the black kids¾ some of them did go into the band. But then we had band members that dropped out because the black kids were there. This was all part of a beginning of integration. You always have people that can’t accept and, you know, it is the growing pains of integration.
The [girl’s] basketball team¾ my youngest daughter played basketball¾ the basketball team, the girl’s basketball team they were¾ the black girls that played on that basketball team were the elite of the black community. I will say here, and I know this for a fact, because as a parent of a basketball player and two cheerleaders, we wore out three cars going all over northeast Florida hauling girls for the basketball teams and/ or cheerleaders for all he boy’s football teams. I finally told the coach¾ we had trouble getting people to drive cars for the girl’s basketball games because they didn’t want the blacks in their cars. I told her [the coach] we would have better protection if she would get permission, I would get my chauffeur’s license if she would get a bus¾ requisition a bus from the county. The boys all went by bus. The [football] coach drove the bus. The girl’s basketball coach said, "I can’t drive the bus. I have my mind on what I am going to do in this game and I’m not going to be driving a bus." Which was fine. So, we did that. I drove the bus for three years! [Laughter] But those girls¾ you can’t imagine..that first year, they never lost a game. When those girls would get back on that bus¾ to hear them all talking and singing¾ they would sing all the way back! It was just the most elating, uplifting thing to see these girls play together in cohesion on a team¾ sing together on that bus coming home¾ that was a beautiful part of the integration. I see some of these girls now; one of the girls works at the Court House. I saw her a couple of months ago and she just walked up and put her arms around me and said, "Oh, I haven’t seen you in so long!" These are some of the nice memories. I know there were times when it was difficult, but it was just as difficult for the black kids¾ in fact, I think sometimes more difficult because they had to prove themselves in a world they weren’t used to. I felt for them. I still feel for them.
Now, you have a totally different black person here now¾ thirty years later¾ with the black people in Palm Coast that are coming from Jamaica, Belize, all these different countries. These people are totally different from the black person who worked as a migrant worker on a farm¾ the black person that was in Bunnell that never really got a chance to go out and work. This I think is a good thing. I know many of the black people up there. I sing with them through the Flagler County Music Society. They are wonderful people. I think that we need to draw from their expertise. There are many very well educated black people up there. I think that Flagler County has come around in a very nice way with integration.
Kent: How did that happen¾ people like yourself offering to risk driving a bus, or¼
Wilson: I never thought about it as that. I just felt like it was something that would help and I did it. I think it was just general acceptance because of the acceptance throughout the nation.
Wilson: Timing, that is the whole thing.
Kent: So there were not black people living in Flagler Beach in the early days, but surely some of them were employed at the hotel, or construction or¼
Wilson: I’m ashamed to say this, but ¾ not that I could have done anything about it but¾ because of the times black people came over here and worked. They came over here as laundresses, as yard men but they had to be over the bridge before dark. Yes, this is some of the things that you find in history. They were not allowed to go to the beach here. They could go to the beach down at the crossover there at High Bridge Road. I think that this is a shameful thing, but as I said, it was the times. Thank God we are passed that. I had a black woman come into the Museum¾ oh about six/ eight months ago when we were here in City Hall¾ she just kind of glanced around at things and she walked straight over to the desk where I was and said, "I want to ask you a question." I said, "What?" She said, "Why do I not see any black people in any of these pictures?" It really took me aback, and then I had to get my thoughts together¾ I thought, "You didn’t because they weren’t here." It wasn’t that we were trying to omit them, [from the museum displays] but they weren’t here. She said, "OK" and she walked out.
I would like to see¾ and I have not had the time though I have thought about it several times¾ trying to work with some of the people in the black community to see if they wouldn’t do a history of their community. I feel like it needs to be done. Those people have a lot to tell, and if we don’t get it before the older, older ones go, it is not being passed down, same as the white races. It is not being passed down to the grandchildren. If it is, the grandchildren aren’t listening, because you have this world you are having to deal with.
Kent: I think that the African American Society with their new building is thinking of doing something like that.
Wilson: I’m hoping that they will go into the black community in Bunnell and talk to them.
Kent: I think that is their intent.
Wilson: I’ve talked with Reverend Gibbens and his wife several times. I have some friends there, in fact this one the Irvins, they are very, very nice people, very caring. Their heritage needs to be preserved. Just like ours.
Kent: Just quickly, tell us about the Museum and how that came into being.
Wilson: Well, the museum¾ when I was researching my book, for about ten years I had just been gathering little bits and pieces of information: things I would see in the paper, bits and pieces of things people would say I would jot down and stash somewhere. When I retired I decided that I needed to do something with this. In the meantime I had researched the newspapers in Bunnell, the City minutes here gathering stuff and when I retired in ’95 I decided that I needed to do something with this or pitch it out. So, I got busy and wrote the book. It was during the time that I was researching the book that I realized that Flagler Beach would be 75 years old on April 8, 2000. So I was in City Hall one day and Charles Trad (who was the mayor at that time) and Greg Mischank (who was City Manager) were in there and I just made a remark that the town was going to be 75 years old and they both said, "Well, we need to do something about that." So this celebration¾ that was along about December of ’99 I think. We just got a committee together and they said," Would you want to help us?" I said," Sure!" So we just hand picked a group of people that we thought would be interested in it and we put on the seventy-fifth celebration at Flagler Beach. It was a big day with a parade and all this stuff. And by doing this, we thought if we are going to bring all these people in we need to be able to show all these pictures. So we got busy and got all these pictures framed and got pictures from five of the pioneering families which are the ones we are featuring in there [in the Museum] and hung the pictures in City Hall here. The talk just began to lean, "Well, what do we have? What do we have? Well I have such and such a thing." Then we began showing artifacts that people had and it just sort of grew. I don’t know how, it just kept ballooning and growing and growing. Now we went before¾ in March of 2000¾ we went before the Tourist Development Council and gave them our ideas and the City had offered the use of the three fire bays over there because they had built the new Mosby Building down there where the fire house is. They OK’d $126,000 in funding to renovate the firehouse and make a museum. It took us from then until last August to finally get contracts and get plans and everything. Then of course, what you see now the City picked up the difference on. It has just blossomed. Everybody in town is as proud of it as I am. Everybody talks about it and they feel that it was something that was long overdue and worthwhile but nobody ever thought about it. I don’t think any one person really thought about it, it just evolved¾ and evolved at the right time. In anything we do I think that timing is the key.
Kent: It is quite elegant I think.
Wilson: Thank you, we are real proud of it. We are working now to get volunteers and also working on grants to have paid personnel so that we can have it open hopefully Tuesdays through Fridays, four hours a day and one Saturday a month. This is what we are aiming for. Hopefully it will be self-sufficient.
Kent: OK, I think that we have pretty much covered our questions. Is there anything else in particular that you would like to add?
Wilson: Well, I think that we have covered it pretty much. I notice the one thing here that you have is the World War II impact on life in Flagler Beach. I think that is almost an interesting subject by itself because we had spotter towers right here at the end of [CR] 100 on the beach side where the volunteers for the Air Force would monitor the planes coming over. The spotter towers were supposed to be about every twenty miles. There is still one in Ormond-By-the-Sea. You had to have black shades on your windows at night; you couldn’t let any light show from your house. You had to have the top half of your headlights painted black so that no headlights would show up at night (they would be focused down on the road). What is now the Gamble Rogers State Recreation Area was the Coast Guard Station at that time, that we have pictures of in the Museum where they manned the Radio Response Station there to the Coast Guard Station in Jacksonville. They radioed back and forth and there were numerous subs sighted out here during the war.
You couldn’t even go on the beach during the day with binoculars for fear that the sun would reflect from the glass from the binoculars out and give a signal. The Civil Air Patrol manned the little grass airstrip out here. There were buildings there. I understand that the¾ what was it the Navy¾ had something at the airport across from the high school. And then the Coast Guard, they patrolled the dunes¾ patrolled Flagler Beach behind the dunes on horseback. That was constant patrolling all the time in case somebody came ashore. These were trying times.
I wasn’t here at the time, but I know how it was in Tampa, because we had the same things in Tampa. We had to cross the Causeway going home at night and we had to have the headlights blackened. We didn’t have to worry too much with the shades; because where we lived we were away from the coast. Anything that would show light on the coast had to be controlled. We have three Coast Guard passes in the Museum there that belonged to people here. People here couldn’t come across the bridge at night without a pass. They had to know that you belonged here. I thought that was interesting.
Kent: Picture/ photo ID.
Kent: Were there family members that were involved in service?
Wilson: No, well actually my stepfather went into the service. He went in in 1939. But as far as my father was not in service. Let’s see, he was born in 1903 so he would have been¾ when they started drafting the age limit was probably too young and by the time that they got to the age limit where he would have been called, they didn’t draft. He was¾ the things that he was doing here also I think would have deferred him. The family at that time were either too young, or just a little over or just a little under the draft age.
Kent: I’m sure that there were many from Flagler Beach.
Wilson: Oh yes. Those were the war years. These are the war years, too. It will never be the same; [since the World Trade Tower tragedy] it is a totally different thing. You won’t be manning spotter towers, watching planes, you won’t be watching submarines, but it is all going to come¼
Kent: Thank you so much for spending the time and chatting. I will type this up and get it to you for your critique.
Wilson: Well, I enjoyed it!
Wilson: I am glad of the opportunity.