Kent: Today is July 27, 2001. This is Judith Kent speaking from a private home in Espanola, Florida. Joining me today is Mrs. Alice Longwood and Mr. Jim Allen.[Also present were News-Journal reporter Jacque Estes and more than ten members of Mrs. Longwood’s six-generation family who came and went during the interview. Daughter Gertrude Bennett and granddaughter Alice Brock participated in the interview.]
Kent: Let’s start over again. In 1923…
Longwood: 1923 we didn’t have but one railroad and that was that one out there. They took up all the rails and everything and put those over there. I lived about four miles down the road in a place called we called Neoga [Pronounced Ne-o-gy].
Longwood: Neoga. And I stayed there about ten years.
Kent: What kind of a place was that?
Longwood: It was a turpentine farm. You know in 1929 they stoped….potatoes. When they bring the potatoes from over river [St. Johns River] there in Seville, that’s the way they traveled right here to Espanola. And all the people from here had to go and meet the big old truck with the potatoes and take them right there to that depot. It was big, it would make two of these houses here. The boys that worked there, they had plenty of work to do there then.
And after we did that, we moved from there and came here [ Espanola] and we’ve been here ever since 1961. Before I came here there were stores here all along this place from Neoga down here to Espanola. I knowed everyone’s name, garages and all everyone right here, those who were on that side and I worked for a lady on this side. And so, they had two motels down there where those houses is, down further. And this place was full; there was nothing but houses all out there and all back here and all down the railroad. The train had water tanks, you know, those big tanks with water for the engines, and they would stop every morning and fill up their tank to the trains. And it was a bunch of them. But honey, we had plenty, plenty peoples here then, but it just fell off ‘till it didn’t have none, hardly just. I came here because it looked like it was a settled place, you know, to live on. I bought [this property] it in ’56. And after I bought it I built on it and just stayed here.
Now, what else you want to know?
Kent: Tell us about Neoga. How did it come about?
Longwood: Neoga was a turpentine firm. You see my Daddy .there wasn’t but three of us children raised up together I was the onlyest girl and two boys. I was raised at Ft. Meade, Florida when I was smaller. But my Daddy wanted us to come to him, down here. And so we stayed there and he worked hard. After I married out I married up at the courthouse in Bunnell after I married out he moved and he went to work in a place called Melrose. After he moved to Melrose he took sick and he came back. And when he came back I just went on and took care of him because he was dying. He had that thing they call ensopta. So I seen about him and after that we moved. After we got here we just built and everything. And I didn’t do anything but take care of him. But Neoga wasn’t nothing but a turpentine farm. I think that’s where he worked his self down, right there.
Kent: Turpentine? That was like a camp?
Longwood: Yeah, quarters too. It was a big place. It was about as big as here [Espanola], wasn’t it Gertrude?
Bennett: Yes mam, It wasn’t a camp it was a settlement.
Longwood: Yes, a little settlement. It was like a little cut off place like we got here now. They had stores and all that.
Bennett: …everybody in the community would go and trade for groceries.
Allen: Now in Neoga, was the house that you lived in, was it your house that you lived in?
Longwood: No, the boss man, he carried my Daddy everywhere he went. And when he bought Neoga he had a special house there for my Daddy. He was a wood driver or something that a white fellow that was living in it. And he [the boss man] saved that for my Daddy after the wood driver left. He went and got my Daddy and put my Daddy there.
Allen: Did they call those “quarters”?
Longwood: Yeah, that’s what they call them.
Allen: OK now. There is another name that I have overheard, and you tell me whether this was true. A guy named Allen owned some of those quarters, but they were referred to as another name, “nigger quarters”. Have you ever heard that term?
Longwood: No, never have heard that.
Allen: OK. I guess that was just from the white portion of the community.
Longwood: No, I never had hear that.
Allen: How did you meet your husband?
Longwood: Well, we was all in a field one day, working. You talking about my first husband? You see, my first husband (Gertrude’s father) been dead since ‘65. But the one that I married after then up there at the Bunnell courthouse, he just passed away in ’84.
Allen: What was your age when you married?
Longwood: He wants to know my age! [laughing] I’d have been 15 the 7th of January.
Allen: OK, and who did you stay with after your marriage? Did you stay with your Father?
Longwood: Yes, I stayed with my Father, and then after I stayed with my Father there was three houses remember I was telling you about the trains down the road where they get the water from? A man by the name of Williams had two nice homes up there. You can see some houses over there now. My husband, he went and rented one of those houses after we moved from Neoga and left my Daddy and came back.
Allen: Who was the guy that your Father followed here to this area? What was his name, do you remember?
Longwood: Let me see, I want to tell you the truth.
Allen: Well, while you’re thinking about that, answer me this question. Did your Mother and Father work at that mill?
Longwood: No, my Mother have never worked there, because my Mother and my Father, they were separated. She just had us three children; that is all I can remember.
Allen: So he just brought the children here. He raised us here.
Longwood: Yes, he raised us here.
Allen: So your Mother stayed in Kissimmee or where ever it was.
Longwood: Yes, That was my home in Kissimmee. I was born in Kissimmee but I was raised by my Daddy and his sister.
Allen: The quarters where you lived, did you have to pay for them?
Allen: They furnished those quarters if you worked there?
Longwood: They furnished them.
Allen: So your Father did not have to pay for that. Did he receive money each month or each week?
Longwood: He [the boss] payed off every month.
Kent: In money or in commissary notes?
Longwood: Cash money, I know it because I used to ……[laughing] he teased me about that, so I would know it. And [we would] buy stuff from the store there. That’s right, cash money.
Kent: So the commissary was right there.
Longwood: Yes, a big commissary.
Kent: What kind of things did they have?
Longwood: They had most everything that you see in Mr. Harris’ store (You know, down there in Bunnell?) It was a big commissary. What I miss so bad is I loved that cheese. My Daddy would buy it by the cake from the commissary for us.
Kent: Did you have a garden?
Longwood: No, I never did have. The onlyest garden I had was when I moved here in ’61.
Allen: Children, I know that this is your only daughter [Gertrude]. OK now, how many did she have?
Longwood: Twelve: nine boys and three girls. And that is why that is three of them here now.[ Nods her head toward three men in the kitchen area of the room.]
Allen: Did you ever want more children?
Longwood: No, I spoke just like this ever since I was young, “If I get married and had a child, I didn’t want no different.” And so that is the way it was.
Kent: Did you have your child at home or in the hospital?
Longwood: No, Mother Butler, the midwife was up there.
Allen: So it was at home that you had her?
Longwood: Yes, at home.
Allen: What was the law during that time as far as marriage is concerned? How old did you have to be before you could get married?
Longwood: Sixteen, so they say. My Father, he was there and he always told me when I was young, he said rather than making him shamed you understand he said if I took a notion to get married to let him know and he would see that I got permission to marry. And that’s what he did. That is how I came to marry so young.
Allen: Your grandparents, did you ever know them?
Longwood: No, I never have seen my Daddy’s mother.
Allen: Did you ever hear your Father talking about them as to where they came from?
Longwood: Oh yes.
Allen: Where did they come from before?
Longwood: They came from some kind of, I don’t know, some kind of Indian…My Daddy’s mother, that’s what she was. She was mixed, you know.
Kent: Mixed with Indian?
Allen: Did you know that here in Neoga was an Indian reservation. And of course, they accepted Blacks pretty good, and intermingled and some of them married and so forth.
Longwood: Yes, St. Augustine, too.
Allen: Do you have any knowledge about that at all?
Longwood: No, I shore don’t. Don’t tell me that….
Allen: So when you were there in Neoga there were no Indians.
Longwood: No, no Indians. I lived there until I was near about twenty years old. I stayed there in Neoga. I never think about it. [ Baby cries] Oh Lord! I’ve got six generations.[Break: Tape reverses, some content lost]
Longwood: and work in the fields too, corn and all.
Bennett: You’d leave one [corn stalk] standing, for fifty cent a day.
Estes: And when was that?
Allen: You’re thinking about the year it was?
Bennett: Yes, I’m going back to the year because I’m 76 now and I was about 12 or 13, wasn’t I Mama?
Bennett: At that time I walked from Bimini [Florida] to Espanola every day, to school.
Longwood: She walked that way to the school.
Bennett: From the Johnson Brother’s Farms. There’s a little old church out there now. I walked from Bimini every morning. Katherine, Alice and Mary, we all grew up together and we would walk. My Dad was working for the father [Johnsons] and Katherine’s father was working for the son. They were about three or four miles apart. Every morning they would come out and wait on me because I was down below. I would answer back and we would all get together and walk here. And then in the afternoon at 2:30 we would walk back to Bimini. At that time we would go to school so many months out of the year and then and work in the fields. When they were harvesting they would let us children out early.
Longwood: [Alice Brock enters] That’s one of the grands.
Brock: Hi, how you all doing?
Estes: How long did it take you to walk that far [Gertrude]? With kids, you don’t think of time.
Bennett: I would leave at the break of day and was at school at nine o’clock.
Kent: Which would you rather do, work in the field or go to school?
Bennett: I wanted to go to school, but I didn’t want to do the walk. We would work three months out of the year. We would pick up potatoes, harvest potatoes. Mama, how much we get for a bag?
Allen: Fifty cents?
Bennett: That was a barrel!
Longwood: That was them barrels.
Bennett: I don’t think we were getting quite ten cents a bag.
Longwood: You see, I couldn’t count up [the pickers wage] so good because I was checking the potatoes, counting the rows. Sometimes there would be 280, 230 and all like that on each row, you know. I would count going down one row and then come back and count the other row for the truck to come around and pick up. So after I get through counting, he never did give me no less than $35 in a week. So when the wages got high, he gave me $45 what was it, $45 or $55 a week? That’s how I got mine.
Allen: Was that the main crop then, potatoes?
Longwood: Yes, the main crop.
Allen: When did cabbages come in?
Longwood: When what?
Allen: When did cabbages become the main crop down here?
Longwood: They have been a main crop near about ever since I went to work in the fields down here.
Allen: So, you had both. You had cabbages and potatoes. You mentioned the Johnson Brother’s Farm and there still is a Johnson Brother’s Farm.
Longwood: I worked on that many days.
Allen: Is that right? That far back?
Longwood: Yeah. I done worked out at Haw Creek and St. Johns Park and all out that way. I been working all my days.
Allen: Corn was also one of the main crops around here.
Longwood: Oh yeah.
Allen: Was that for eating or for livestock?
Longwood: Well now, you know those silos, those tanks? I know some of them are up there now. They had crops for that that was for the cows and hogs and things. They put it up there for drying and stuff like that. But the corn they would ship that, and the stores they would get nearly all of that on down to Daytona.
Allen: Right off [County Road] 305- 302 and Route 100 there was a market in there. When I got down here in 1981 it was still in operation. I understand that guy used to accept produce and other things in exchange for whatever he had in his store. Do you remember that?
Longwood: No, I don’t. I know the store was there. And I know the place right on the corner where they bring all that different stuff at, truckloads of it. Man, they come with truck loads of it cause I left from right here and bought it. What was the name?
Allen: Children did you have a hard time training did you see a difference in the kids during your time and the kids today?
Longwood: Oh boy, I sure did!
Allen: What was the difference, was it because of attitude?
Longwood: The attitude, yes, that’s right.
Allen: I want to try to establish when was the big change. You know, during your time if you did anything wrong you got spanked, sometimes switched.
Longwood: Yes, that’s right.
Allen: When did that become a law that you couldn’t do that? Do you remember that off hand?
Longwood: Yes, I remember, because they didn’t want the parents even to whip the children. You would get a little switch, you know, you might cut one [child] on the arm and make a whelp or something. They got so they would tell people, “I’m going to tell the police you hit me!” and all messes like that. We they could whip us until the blood come down our legs and we wouldn’t talk about no police. Just like the Bible say, every year the world is getting weak and wilder, every year. Them little fellas I look at my great, great grans [they] say things I wouldn’t have spoke in front of grown peoples. No, Jesus, no!
Allen: What kind of a feeling did you get when you can’t chastise your kids the way it was during our time?
Longwood: You know how it is with me? Just like these boys here [gestures toward great grand sons]. He has made me so mad that I said see that TV playing up there? I say, “If I had knowed you was going to be like you is now I would have took and let you fall on the floor and broke your neck! [laughing] Get out about all these messes! He know it, you know it! [shaking finger at the boys] Yeah, honey.
Kent: What kind of advice do you give them?
Longwood: I try to give them the best advice I know how like I was raised. I never have been arrested in my life and the police don’t to say nothing to me only when he stopped me for that tail light thing [driving with a burned out brake light]. He [grandson] was on the truck that day. I never have been you know a person my age, you can’t find one now [that can say] “I haven’t never been arrested in my life.” You can’t do that. God knows I have; I’ve been blessed. I tell you I haven’t been to the doctor in all these years. I don’t know what they had to me when I was a child, but since I knowed and grown and experienced things in ’72 was the first doctor I went to.
Estes: What did people do when you were growing up for doctors. Did they have to go to town or was there somebody
Longwood: Oh yes, just like me saying, “We have to go to Bunnell.” or something like that. I haven’t seen ….just like this place here. There’s no doctor here. But they [doctors] didn’t get none of my money too much.
Kent: Was the midwife an important person in the community?
Longwood: That was one down that way, she passed away. She was Bevis Irving; she was one. Who was that other one, Gertrude? Mother Butler, yes, and Ms Mitchel.
Allen: Was she high in the community, was she a person that was looked up to?
Longwood: Yeah, uh huh.
Allen: What kind of training do you think she would have had in delivering babies and so forth? Do you think that she had to go to some kind of school or did she learn it by experience?
Longwood: Well now, I heard Mother Butler, she was talking to us one day and she told me she had to go through so many different things things she would do for us. I asked her, “How you know how to do that, Ms Butler?” She said, “I was trained for that!” She hadn’t lost a baby from them years until she was waiting on me.
Allen: So they had some instruction.
Longwood: Oh yeah, they had instruction. I had my aunt that raised us, she was a midwife. She would go to Ft. what was the name of that place? No, we was there at Ft Meade, but what is the other place down there?
Brock: Ft. Myers?
Longwood: Yes, Ft Myers. She would go all the way down there midwifing. She would come and I was about 11 years old, I reckon, because it wasn’t long before we moved over there to Neoga my aunt would come in there and she would tell me, “I want you all to be good now and listen to your cousin.” She is the one that went on to college to be a teacher. She [her aunt] woould say, “I want you to listen to her now and pay attention to what she says. Don’t be too fast around here.” Honey, she would come back, we wouldn’t see her until the next morning. I was always wild, I wouldn’t let them catch me but I would listen. She would be telling, “She had a fine boy last night, a real fine boy.” [laughs] God knows you think I’m crazy talking like that, but I didn’t know nothing at all about babies and no kind of mess like that. I was nearly ten years old, I reckon at school they were talking about that. That’s the way I found out. I wasn’t studying about nothing like that, boys neither! [laughing]
Allen: Do you all want to take a break? We’ve got some refreshments here. We are going to eat!
Longwood: OK then, let’s go eat! Look at there!
Allen: While we eat it will allow you might think of some other things, too.
Break for lunch: Mrs. Longwood had let Jim Allen know that she would enjoy some spicy chicken wings for lunch. He obliged and brought with him a generous portion for the assembled family, plus potato salad, rolls and soda. A middle-aged grandson served the older women, children and guests. Mrs. Longwood eats with gusto, interacting with family and guests the entire time.
Technical Error: The interviewer unwittingly reverses the audiotape and in so doing tapes over some content. Mrs. Longwood discusses working in the fields and going to school through the eighth grade. She says she enjoyed school. She states that she never went hungry for lack of food. She tells about buying a truck and learning to drive. She describes her only encounter with the police in which she was stopped because a taillight on her truck had burned out. The truck provided transportation when the family migrated north to the Carolinas harvesting crops. She talks about a long habit of dipping snuff, which she says caused her to loose all her teeth. She does not wear dentures during the interview. When asked if she ever had any hard times, she thought for a long interval. Finally she said:
Longwood: No, I never had any hard times.
Allen: Were you ever mistreated by anyone?
Longwood: No, I haven’t been. And I always when I worked in houses, cooked for them and all I never have been mistreated by them and I can go back any time. I cooked for the boss man, Bob Deen and his wife. She had some kind of stroke. He came in one day and Mrs Deen was laying on the floor. So he was out there on the farm, you know, that’s where they lived at and he came right on out there. She called for me, she couldn’t hardly talk. She was real old but she couldn’t talk good. She said, “Go, go, go get Alice.” He knew what she said so he came out here and he got me. I worked for her about two years. …lift her around and fix her food you know, oatmeal and coffee and stuff like that in the morning, and water to bathe and carried her back and forth to the bathroom and like that. I did that for about two years, I reckon.
Allen: Are you familiar with any brutality as far as any Blacks being beat up or anything like that? You don’t know about lynchings or anything?
Longwood: Naw, it wasn’t going on when I got here but I have heard about it.
Allen: But you never witnessed anything like that?
Longworth: No, I never have witnessed it. As far as I know, I’ve been treated ever since Everything has been going on fine with me with whites and all. We get on as good as anything. And there wasn’t a place I went to work they didn’t want me to come back and continue working. Just like my boss man’s daughter, she moved to that other place down there. She lives out on the oceanfront. She was a teacher. She taught school and she wanted me to leave from here and go there. [Flagler Beach] I had a pick up truck. I would drive out to the beach where she stayed at. She would say, “Alice, you’re here now. Here are the keys. If you get through before I come in just lock up everything. But don’t forget to cook my rice now.” She was crazy about rice. She thought I cooked about the best rice she ever ate. She would say, “Don’t for get the rice, Alice.” I would say, “I won’t.”
Allen: The beach- you were talking about the beach. Were you yourself or any Blacks during that time allowed to utilize this beach or did you have a separate place?
Longwood: Ever since I’ve been going to the beach I’ve been going out there Bethune.[A beach designated for Blacks in Daytona Beach, Florida.]
Allen: Bethune Beach?
Longwood: I been going out there. Had pictures and all made. You know what, they always treated me- because I was raised like that. If you were raised you take that in you and carry it everywhere you go. And you will continue that way.
Brock: Back in 1965 we weren’t allowed toward the pier in Flagler Beach. We had our own separate beach we went to. We called it Cobb’s Corner.
Allen: Cobb’s Corner?
Longwood: That’s where you fish at.
Brock: That’s where you would take us to crab and fish.
Longwood: No, but I’m talking about this here Where is Gertrude? [She has taken a crying child outside.] This beach out here where we went at
Brock: That’s what we’re talking about, Cobb’s Corner.
Longwood: No, that’s out on the ocean, Sugar. That’s down where the stores are at, down below the stores where we went at.
Brock: Well, we went down below the stores.
Longwood: We would sit down there and when the tide come up I always make it up on the hill where I had the truck parked. I carried them down there. Me and my husband carried them [boys] down there, you know, car loads of them. Them boys that work here they would say, “Mr.Gaines, will you carry us to the beach?” He say, “Yeah, I’ll carry you to the beach.” and we would go down there with them. I’m going to tell you how I do. I don’t like water like that to get in. I just go a ways to my feet, you know. Honey, when we got there we would carry about twelve boys like that me and my husband would sit in the truck and watch them. We would count every time the waves come over. We would watch them and count the heads to see if those twelve heads still come up. And so Gaines say, “We better call those boys in.” They would play out there for hours- two hours and like that. And we got ready [to leave] we would be rejoicing to see all those heads come up. Yeah, man! [laughing] We just did that just for the children.
I have a little granddaughter now, down in Daytona somewhere. She wouldn’t go [in the ocean] with her daddy or none of them. She would only go with me. She would come right to me. I said, “You want to go out here and wade the waters with Grandma?” She said, “Uh huh.”, and she run down and grabbed my hand ‘cause she knew I wasn’t going more than my ankle deep. [laughing] Yes, honey. Yes, I’ve been down here many years.
Kent: It sounds like you have had a good life.
Longwood: Yes, I have had a good life, nothing missed ……to own, but I was brought up like that and I’m just like that now.
Allen: Well, you certainly have a good attitude. I can’t ever think of anybody that haven’t had a bad time in their life.
Longwood: A lot of people have, but I’ve been just like that. I never have been in jail or nothing. The police never said nothing to me. I just tend to my own business. I know just how far to go. When people talk to me I know just how far to go to talk to them. I don’t talk off of my limit things that I have no business speaking about it don’t touch me. I turn off on something else every time; I don’t talk . But some people they go talking about some other person, they join right in and next thing you know it is a big thing come out.
Allen: How did you acquire this house?
Longwood: Now my husband that I got now, his first wife, her son
Allen: You don’t mean the husband you have now you mean the one you had.
Longwood: before he died, Rab, he bought these two places, 8 and 9. And his wife took sick and he went to Melbourne. He carried her to another climate, you know. She got along so good there, he told Gaines (he talked funny) he say, “Gainey, I’ve got to go to Melbourne. This season the wife got along so good I’m going to carry her back there. The doctor said she would live longer in that kind of climate than she would here. I’m going to carry her back there and buy me a place there.” Gaines said, “What you going to do with the two lots you got there?” It [the lots] had a house here and one over there but I had that one tore down. Gertrude, she stayed in one of those out there. So he said, “Gainey being as I know that you were my brother-in-law once I’ll give you and Alice that place for $300.” So we bought those two lots here. And then after we bought these two lots, and he tell me, he say, “You ain’t got to give it all to me cash.” He say, “You can just give me a little something because I didn’t bring much with me from Melbourne.” And this bank out here on the right hand side of the road going you know the first one that’s where we had our money stored at. So, as soon as Monday morning I went down to that bank and I told that man up there and he give it to me. I gave him half of it. I gave him $150 and another $150 in the mail.
Allen: But that was just land, that wasn’t a house. There was a house on it?
Longwood: Naw, a house was here!
Brock: Three, wasn’t it Mama?
Longwood: No, wasn’t but two. The big one was here.
Allen: So you are talking about paying $300 for the house and the property!
Longwood: Say what?
Allen: You were saying that you paid $300 for the whole…
Longwood: for the old board house and the other board house. It didn’t have but two rooms to it. But this one here (the first one) when we bought it he had about two bedrooms, living room, dining room and a kitchen off the house where they had…and that’s what it was. It had four pecan trees. I would get big bags of pecans every year, you know, those red, grocery looking bags? I would get some from the store and I would bag up three and sell them to the old man ( what was his name?)
Brock: On the farm?
Longwood: No, here in Bunnell. Old man Nipple! Old man Nipple used to come by a white fellow you know and sell us fish and fresh fruit and all like that he came by here one day and he say, “Alice, you got pecans?” I said, “Yes, I got right smart of them.” He say, “You save up me some and I’ll buy all you can get.” They was pretty high you know along then. And I would fill up three of them bags just as full as they could be and tie them up. He came by that Friday and I sold them to him. You want to know how much I sold them for? Five dollars a bag. Now they are getting how much? Almost seventy some cents a pound. I always treated people I never did try to gouge people. Just like when I was selling my eggs; I sold my eggs for thirty cents a dozen. And things were rising so high I went to fifty cents a dozen. My friend, Eva Stewart, I give her when I go out in my back yard where I had my chicken yard at I’d always go to the fence and call her and give her a dozen.
Allen: You still have a pecan tree on this property.
Longwood: I got three. I had the big one cut down because the limbs were spread, they were going to fall on the house.
Allen: Do you have shoots coming up from some of them?
Longwood: No, I got pecans out there on the tree now. They won’t be ready before November.
Allen: I’ve been trying to get me a tree for some time.
Longwood: Show ‘nuff?
Allen: Yeah. Mrs. your neighbor here, Miss Katherine gave me one once and I planted it and had no luck with it at all.
Brock: You probably need to let Mama pot you one.
Longwood: I’m telling you, there’s a tree out there in the big yard by the big gate where you drive the trucks in and that thing comes up every year. I wish you had got that pecan tree right there. They have pecans like that, about that [Holds up fingers 1-2 inches apart.] big around, nice, and the meat was so good, sweet! And I got one, I don’t know what kind of three that was, but the man told me …But I got a paper-shell pecan tree, but that is smallest tree I got. It’s back of the fence in there. It has those long, thin pecan shells.
Allen: You know what I’ve had a lot of luck with? Miss Katherine used to give me the peach trees. Man, they grew up in no time. I got all kinds of peaches.
Longwood: That’s the way I did.
Allen: But a lot of them go bad. I had to cut the limbs off of them all the time. I don’t know what causes that. I even had to cut a whole tree down. It just got too bad, it just of what ever it was. It just got bad and I had to cut it down.
Longwood: My husband got after me one time about planting pecan trees right along there by the big gate, I planted them all down there. When they get like that I go to planting. And honey, what was that man’s name who used to sell clothes?
Longwood: Clarence who had the big dress shop over in Palatka, selling them clothes, and all? Honey, he come [saying], “All right, all right, all right.” My husbands sitting in this big black chair sitting here. “All right, where’s Miss Alice?” he say. “She’s right back there in the kitchen.” “Miss Alice, you got peaches?” I give him a big bag I got from the grocery store, a bag about that tall [indicates a height of about three feet]. It was so full you couldn’t fold the top on it. And the peaches were like (Wasn’t they Alice?) they was big peaches. They was nice, soft and sweet. I get this here fertilizer at Dunn’s Hardware and I just throw it all up and down in January. I raise sweet potatoes, greens, collards, watermelon and those orange trees out there. I had watermelon about this big around and this long laying out there. I got tired of them and I got those little bitty ones. I got them and sometimes I look out the door, you know, and I say, “Well, I better go get me one because around 12 o’clock I’m going to want me one.” So, I would go and get two or three and put them in the house here. I raise a bunch of my stuff.
Allen: I was over in Palatka and there was an old man on the corner over there. And I stopped one day to see what he had. He had some watermelons and I tell you I don’t think I His comment was, “You’ve never tasted a watermelon like this.” When I got home, I’ll tell you I was amazed how sweet it was. I may have to drive back over to Palatka just to get another one.
Longwood: I was amazed they were so sweet. I would look out at them …I just wouldn’t stop. I would put my shoes on and walk out there and get two or three. Around those trees of mine I would plant about three or four vines out there. And we raised some nice water- melons because I sometimes I just go out there and cut one and get me a fork and knife and eat the heart out and throw the rest away. That’s how wasteful it was. It was so sweet. I tell you, I always did have a good time all of my days.
The only thing that brought me down was I broke my hip. You see I broke my hip.
Allen: Just recently, you told me that you broke your hip.
Longwood: Yeah, back in November.
Allen: It’s coming around all right. You seem to be walking around pretty good.
Longwood: Yeah, I’m walking around all right. I got crutches the doctor gave me crutches and everything to walk on. They tell me Mama…. I don’t care, the Lord is just. I’m just… I stepped out the door how I broke it a friend of mine, she is always calling and bringing me something good. Her name [is] Minora Stewart. She called, “Tell Miss Alice come over here when she got time; I got something for her.” And so, I done got through eating everything in the house and I don’t know what was the trouble. I stepped out there and she had that little stone block where you step off of that flat thing. I stepped off that thing and it turned and this whole side and all my weight. I came within that much of hitting those stones
Allen: And your eye problem, is that getting better?
Longwood: Yeah, the cataract. It’s just doing lots better, but [tape reverses, audio lost]
…she can read without her glasses and everything but I cannot do it. It doesn’t show up like it should. He [the doctor] cut that from the back of this eye and he sees something coming on the front of the left eye, but I don’t know, I don’t think I’ll try that. I think I will go on to glory with it just like it is. [ laughs ]
Allen: Alice, do you have a record of how many children and grandchildren and great grandchildren that she has?
Brock: Yes, we counted them up two years ago but we got some more that came into the family. She started off with one child, that child had 12, and out of those 12 we got 58 great grands, it was 79 great, great grands, and it was 31 great, great, great, great grands, and it was 6 great, great, great, great, great grands. So, it is six generations.
Longwood: What makes it so bad is that they’re right round here in Palm Coast.
Allen: The amazing thing, Dr. Judy, is the fact that she only had the one child!
Longwood: The Lord knowed what was ahead and I raised them all. The big one that come in here now, she say, “Momma, I want you to keep my baby. Momma, I know you done broke you hip and all, but Momma what you go and break your hip while I’m having children?” I raised them all, not just the bunch that is walking around in here.
Brock: We got six ministers out of the great grands
Allen: Six ministers.
Brock: six ministers, and three of them from great, great grands. We got three great, great, great grands and four ministers that married into the family. We have nurses, secretaries, we have CAN’s, we have college graduates, Burger King mangers, and Mac Donald managers, (who got the clothing store?) In Atlanta, Georgia we got a clothing store and store managers.
Allen: When do you have your family reunion?
Brock: It will be next month, the 10th, 11th and 12th. We will be in Deerfield Beach.
Allen: Do you have folks there too?
Brock: We have a lot of them. Mom got four nieces and nephews right in Deerfield.
Allen: Yes, because I go down there occasionally. I have a cousin down there. She had a- She is a schoolteacher that had a problem. Her mother had the same problem. She passed out and they had a brain operation. They had to operate on the brain. I don’t think she has even gone back to work as a schoolteacher even though she seemed to be all right. She has some memory problems.
Brock: We have to carry Momma because she is the oldest person in the family.
Allen: Great! I’ve noticed, ever since I’ve known you wear the same headdress. I’ve been trying to get that off.
Longworth: I’ve got so many of these, it’s the children. I don’t buy them. The children, they see I like them. I’m telling you the truth, I have about how many dresses I got in there? I don’t know how many dresses I got in there ain’t never been on. Just hang them up on a hanger in the closet. And, I don’t know how many pair of shoes. I’ve got three or four pair I ain’t never had on. I should tell you, “If I should pass before y’all do, each one just get what you give me.” That’s what you do, just come in and get it. Lordy, [things are] just piling up. I reckon they just don’t want me to want for nothing. When she [Brock] was working at that place she bring me something new something she think that I like she bring it. [Baby cries, Ms. Longwood looks around curiously] She woke up?
Allen: The kid is still sick, I think, she is still crying out there. [In the yard with Gertrude]
Brock: Her mother will probably have to take her back to the Emergency Room.
Allen: OK, do you think we have gotten about all we can get?
Kent: Yes, we thank you!
Longwood: You all are perfectly welcome.
Kent: It was a privilege talking to you.
Longwood: Well, I’m glad these years. The Lord has brought me through.
Allen: It [the interview] finally happened, didn’t it?
Longwood: It finally happened.
Allen: I told you I was going to do this.
Longwood: You surely did, but I did not believe you. Then after you jumped and left and stopped coming [to the Council on Aging Lunch Program]
Brock: She would ask me about you.
Longwood: I would ask about him all the time. One time you was walking into meals he would show up there I would turn my head the other way. The woman what was sitting next to me said I said, “Mercy, they come to get me!” [laughs].
Allen: I used to give her a rough time every day.
Longwood Biographical Information
Interviewee: Alice Longwood is the ninety one-year-old matriarch of a large Flagler County family. She was born in Kissimmee and moved with her two brothers to live with her father around 1923. Her father lived and worked in a turpentine farm settlement called Neoga. That settlement had formerly housed a group of Indians and Blacks who lived together and intermarried. She states that her paternal grandmother was born from such a mix. She attended school until the eighth grade and worked in the fields on local farms. She married at age fifteen and bore one daughter, Gertrude Bennett. She moved to Espanola, a thriving community where local products were shipped to market by rail and by truck along Old Dixie Highway. As an adult she worked on local farms and traveled as far north as the Carolinas harvesting crops. She also worked as a domestic and caregiver for aged and infirm members of local families. She still resides in Espanola; an isolated and depressed area that she states has become “…a little cut off place.” This economic decline and population shift has been attributed to the advent of new transportation routes to the east, including the Florida East Coast Rail Road, US 1 and later I 95.
When speaking of her six generations of offspring she states that she, “Raised them all.” She is proud to have worked hard and believes that she has had a good and blessed life. She is still active, despite a recent broken hip. She has an extensive garden, is active in her church and plans to return soon to the Council on Aging lunch program where she enjoys the company of friends.
Credibility of Interviewee:
Mrs. Longwood seems to have good recall of most remote and recent events. When in doubt she validates information with younger family members. Her claim of never experiencing a hard time or mistreatment throughout her years seems incongruous with the stated facts of her life. She and her granddaughter certainly make an effort to portray the family in a positive light. They enumerate only the successes of each generation. She seems to “accent the positive” in her life story.
Interviewer: James Allen
James Allen is a native of Ocala, Florida. He served with honor in the US Army during the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. He retired in 1981 and relocated his with his family in Palm Coast, where he soon became active in many civic and community groups. Jim began a second career with the Flagler County Council on Aging where he rose to the position of Transportation Manager. There he gained a unique understanding of the county’s rural population. It was at the Council for Aging lunch program that he came to know Mrs. Longwood. He has collaborated with other community leaders in numerous innovative programs including the Flagler Learning Center. Jim conducts tours for local organizations to acquaint them with county history. He recently served a term as the Commander of the Palm Coast VFW. He has volunteered to assist in the Flagler County Oral History Project.
Interviewer: Judith Kent
Ms. Kent is a member of the Friends of the Library of Flagler County who has volunteered to participate in the Historical Project as an interviewer. A resident of the county since 1995, she is a retired nurse educator. She gained her interviewing skills in her undergraduate nursing studies at FSU and master’s program at Teacher’s College, Columbia University where she majored in Counseling. Throughout her thirty years of professional nursing and teaching, these skills were practiced in both inpatient and community settings of the baccalaureate-nursing program of the University of Miami.
Participant: Jacque Estes is a reporter and photographer for the Daytona News-Journal.
Participant: Gertrude Bennett is Mrs. Longwood’s daughter and only child. She resides in Mrs. Longwood’s home in Espanola, Florida.
Participant: Alice Brock is one of Mrs. Longwood’s twelve grandchildren. She resides in Bunnell, Florida.
Sound and graphics production by Bill Ryan