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Federal Writers ' Project
Paul Diggs
Lakeland , Florida
[Scout?] , Robert
Combee, Florida
Robert and Rosa Lee Scout
Robert lives in a Negro community called Combee, located three
 and one-half miles on State road [#?] 17 between
Lakeland and Six Mile Creek. [Delapidated?] houses, built of pine
 and cypress, are scattered through these quarters.
they are unpainted and black from exposure to the sun and weather.
 There are no electric lights no radio, and no
running water. The site is considered low land and after a heavy rain
it is covered with water. At this season of
the year all of the available [planting?] space is set out in strawberries.
 Around some of the homes, there is a
little space set aside for vegetables . The soil in this section is very
 rich, and is known [as?] "muck land."
Robert's little farm is located on the left hand side of the State road,
 #17 sitting back about on quarter mile
 from the main highway. The oddity of this home, and the crudeness of
its construction [makes?] is unique in its
[Here?] in this humble existence he tries to earn a livlihood for himself
 and his wife Rosa Lee. He was sitting
on a bench in front of the house beside a tub basking in the sunshine.
 Down the [lane?] he pointed out his wife coming.
 At my entrance through the gate Robert arose and said, "come in"
and went into the house returning with a rocking chair. With the
 dignity of a Prince he asked me to be seated.
Robert is five feet and ten inches in height, very dark in complexion,
 ball headed with a little patch of gray hair
on each side of his head. His long black mustache hangs over the side
 of his mouth. When he laughs his missing
tooth in the front of his mouth stands out. He keeps his pipe in his
 mouth all of the time, stating that it was
his best friend. His pants were patched and resembled a quilt. His [hat?]
was [slutched?] on the side of his head,
 pulled in the direction of the [?] . Rosa Lee, his wife, reached the house.
 She had on glasses, and she to
had a pipe in her mouth. Rosa said thatshe was fifty two years old andwas
neatly dress in a mixed colored
gingham dress. Her shoes were full of holes to give comfort to her sore feet.
They rested themselves on a board
on two boxes with logs under each end. A tub was on the other end.
This bench was used for the family's washing.
Robert said, "I was born in Richmond County, South Carolina, and the second
 year after freedom. I remained in
South Carolina, until 1901. There I engaged in farming and doing other odd jobs.
 My parents were Steven and
Susan Scott, who were slaves. Their slave [masters?] were [Kellum?] and Scribner.
 There were five in my family. "
Robert stated that he came to Florida in [1901?], and was a grown man when he
reached Florida. He worked in the
 [turpentine?] stills from place to place. He lived in [Homassa?], Dekota county,
 seven miles from Arcadia until
he moved to his present location in 1926.
Robert stated that he married twice. His first wife was Rosa [Spanish?].
 They were married in Arcadia, Florida,
in 1914. There was one child born during their wedlock. This child died
with the influenza. His second marriage
was to Rosa Lee Jupiter. They were married in their present home by Rev. Mitchell,
 of Lake Wales, March 11th, 1936.
 He had lived the life of a bachelor [up?] until that time. Before he married,
 his neice, Annie Graham, make here
 home with Robert.
He has no recollection of any other member of his family, stating that
 he had not seen them in years. Rosa [spoke?]
up and said that she had three sisters, Hattie Jones, Valdosta, Georgia;
 Eunice Walker, Moultrie, Georgia;
 and Rachel , who lives in Savannah, Georgia." Rosa was born in Richmond, Virginia.
" Robert said, " we have farmed all of our lives, all I know has been following
a mule behind a plow." " You see I only had a little schooling, I can
only write my [name?] and that is all. They had no grades when
 I went to school I was raised by my grandmother Caroline Bryant,
and when her eyesight [failed?], I had to stop
 [school?]; she was and old slave hoe-hand. I stop school to try to
make her some bread. The book that I studied
[was?] the Blue Back Webster, I went [as?] far as the syllables called Baker.
The other part I took up in my head;
 learning from time to time. An education is something that every man should have,
 it keeps him from getting cheated.
 In the olden times a man would get a letter and stick it in the band of his hat,
 or in the pocket of his shirt,
and tote'it until he could find somebody to read it. When he did, the sweat
from his body had made the writing
so [bad?] you could hardly make it out. [About?] this time I began to study
[about?] womens and that settled it."
" I always wanted a home of my own, and tried hard to have a good [farm?].
I am happy with something growing
around me, and some animals to care for. [At?] present I have a few around me,
 see those fine cows out there
in the field. There is three cows and one [fine?] bull, we have a [few?]
chicken in the back, and four hogs,
 thats why I think a fellow should have something of his own.
 I am always gwine to have something.
The good Lord said [that?] he would take care of me,
 and I am going to see that he does."
"I pray hard all of the time, and believe that he [?] my prayers.
I [am?] a member of the Baptist Church,
I joined [because?] the spirit led me there. That little church
 you see standing over [yonder?],
 I am the pastor of it. I have [about?] ten members when they
 all are present. God called me to reach
way back in [1923?].
" I [believe?] that [every?] man should be govern by his own [mind?].
When I was young I worked on the farm
[and sometime hired myself?] out doing odd jobs. I remembered once working
[for?] a man all the week, digging
[ditches?], we knocked off [a turday at?] twelve oclock. He had hired us
 at One dollar and seventy five
cents [a day?]. He took our [names and said that?] he had to go to the
 [bank?] in town to get our [money?],
 we set along [side?] of the road [and?] waited, [and?] waited; but no man
[came?] back, finally a white man
came along and asked us what we boys we waiting for. We [explained?]
 to him why we were [waiting?], he said,
"that he saw that man in Plant City, fixing his car at [a?] filling station.
There we was, we had promised [cap?]
 at the store that we would pay him for [his rations?], [and?] we were left in
[the?] ditch. This has happen to me
 more than once, folks, [promise?] to pay you and leave you with out [any?] grits."
"When the [boom?] was on I [made?] from [Three?] to [Four?] dollars a day.
 Now I [make?] nothin' but
[what little food?] I can raise and sell off my [place?],
 we [can?] hardly sell our vegetables in
[Lakeland ?], there is so many doing the same thing.
I received some assistance [from?] the [old?] age
[Assistance?], fifteen dollars a month, which I stretch as
far [as I?] can. Through the help
of the good Lord I [manage?] to live [some?] how. I manage
 to keep my little [farm here?], if the
[freeze comes?] I will [be?] ruined, I [am?] expecting to
 [have?] a good strawberry [crop?].
While talking, all of a sudden Robert said to his wife,
 "say sister lets make a bargian- ain't
we gwine to cook today ? With a smile beaming all over her
 face, she answered, sure I is honey."
Rosa arose from the bench and went into the house.
After filling his pipe with some Hi-Plane Tobacco. Robert said,
 " I voted in South Carolina, and I
 never voted in Florida. Once I started to vote, and was told that
 a nigger could not vote in a cracker election.
So I stayed [from?] the poles every since. I think the government is
[picking] up in places like soda when mixed with cornmeal."
" I am not able to do hard work, except what I do [here?]
on my little farm, I was ruptured some years ago, and
I can't lift anything heavy. I feel good otherwise.
 When I feel bad I take my sassafras tea, and that brings me around.
 Over dar' in that shed I keep plenty on hand.
Robert arose and went in the direction of the shed to show me his
sassafras herbs. Here he started to explain
how he came in posession of his present site. "This land was given
 to me by Mrs. Graham. Before I lived
on the other side of the creek at Castle. I could not raise
 very [much there?]. The land bein' low and
 when a heavy rain would come it would drown out all of my crops.
After homesteading and paying four
dollars a year taxes, she gave me the deeds. I have ten acres-
 two of htem are cle red, and the rest are
woods and swampland. This old peice of house [that?] you see here was built
 from an old house given tome in Carter.
I hauled the lumber one half mile in a whellbarrow and built it myself."
The house was weather-[bearded?], with no [windows?], only board shutters.
 Laughing hearidly Robert said,
" If that house had glasses it would [fall?] down.
It would'nt stand [any?] glasses."
The weather boarding on the out side was rough and
the ends [was?] not evenly nailed on, some protruding
beyond the end of the house. The top was covered with some old
second hand galvanized tin. It was badly
bent and [looked?] to be leak proof. The chimney on the east side
 was very crudely built. It looked like
it was ready to fall down. There [was?] a little shed about twenty
feet from the house, where he kept his farm tools.
 It was shackly built with plenty of space between the boarding.
 The front [was wide?] open, and hanging on the
rafters were dried seed and peas used for cooking. In front of the house
a well cultivated strawberry patch
was in bloom. A crudely built cypress [fence seperated?]
the strawberry field from the house.
Along side of the shed was a stack of wood obtained from his land.
 His whole cleared site was fenced in with
cypress poles, cut from the timber land. In the rear of the
 house there was another acre cleared and part of
it was set out in vegetables. In the east corner there was
a crudely built enclosure out of cypress poles used
to quarter his four hogs. Near this enclosure was the out house with
no roof over it. On the north side of the
field was a chicken yard, and next to the chicken yard was Robert's
rickety built barn. Rosa Lee said " her chicken was given to them for
[part payment?] for washing, she did at some of the white folks homes.
 "The [barn?] was built out of cypress poles and covered with old tin, and boards.
 The yard space was fenced in. There was [a?] wide gate with space enough for a car
or wagon to [pass?] through. In this unsanitary [arrangement?] the [cows?] were milked once a day.
In the interior of their house there [was?] found some home built furniture.
 In the front room a large fire place was the only [means of?] {Begin deleted text}
obtaing {End deleted text} {Begin inserted text}
{Begin handwritten} obtaining {End handwritten}
{End inserted text} heat. In front of it was irons, Rosa said,
" the fire place was used to heat the irons when she ironed.
 The walls were covered with newspaper and magazines.
 The floors were bare, with only a small rug on the front room floor.
 The [boards?] was unevenly matched on the
floor and left cracks in between them, you could see the ground
 and feel the air coming up through them.
In this room was a long table without any covering on it, and
 an old type singer sewing machine. Hanging
in the middle of the room from a rafter was a bunch of oranges.
The bed rooms were very crowed, with no way of letting air or
light in, except opening the shudders,
 although there was plenty of air from the [cracks?] in the walls
 and floor. A shed covered the open space
[entering?] the kitchen which set apart from the rest of the house.
 It was very small, and was crowded with
 a small wood stove, a wood box, old trunk, [and?] a table filled with dishes.
Everything was very clean and orderly arranged in this crude home.
 They had two barrels near the kitchen
with a large [galvanized?] [pipe?] running from the roof to catch
the rain water. On top of the barrel
was a bag that was used as a filter for the water, and another pipe
joined the second barrel with a fine
mesh screen and rag over one end. Out of this barrel the water was used.
 It was clear and clean,
and around it was lots of trinkets used in and [around?] the house.
 Two old time iron pots were close by.
With pride he showed me his wagon, which was a wheelbarrow, stating
that the horse was not able to pull very
much (meaning himself.)
Suddenly the small [bull?] came walking up to the fence that surrounded
 the house, and they immediately
 grabbed the long rope dragging behind him, and pulled him away.
 He [was?] considered to very dangerous.
He was very fat, [having?] the advantage of the good grazing
land around the little farm.
In the delapidated shed was a pile of straw, and under it was sweet potatoes.
 Robert said " that they were
kept there to be protected from the frost bite. [I?] have always saved
vegetables, when I was in the Spanish
American War it saved me from hungry. A many day by knowing what to do
 with dried vegetable seeds I was able to eat,
I enlisted as a soldier in the Spanish American War when I was thirty years
 old at Summerville, N.C. I was a member
of Major Young's Company. We went up from Savannah, Georgia, and started to
 Cuba, after [landing?] about two oclock.
 While out to sea about midnight the boat turned around and headed back
to Savannah. There we learned that the war
 was over, then we were mustered out. We left the dock singing and shouting,
 and every [one?] was on their [way?] home.
 Lawdy [ussy?] there was [plenty?] of trouble during dem' times, only
folks did'nt argue overthings as long as
they do now. " Rosa Lee, came back to the yard with a smile, letting her
husband know that his meal was ready.
He entered the small kitchen and after saying the blessing with reverance,
Robert said, " that old lady of mine
can cook up a mess. She can do more with fat bacon than a monkey can with
[peanuts?]. I like fat meat, pork,
collard greens, peas, cabbage, grits, and good corn bread. Now and then
I kill a chicken when one of the breatherns
[comes?] around. We have plenty of eggs during laying seasons. Our meat
 supply comes from the hogs that
 we butcher and salt down, when we run out of green vegetables we fall
 back on the dried vegetables we [have?]
 stored away." Robert's appetite was very good, he asked for the second helping.
 The syrup that he was
 using was his own make, [apparently?] he liked it, from the [way?]
 he soaked his corn bread in it. Rosa said,
" we usually have two meals a day when they are able. she also related
 [that?] she was a member of the prayer
 band, they would [meet from?] house to house each week. "
 I walk all over this place, we have no other way to
get around, some time my old man he walks to Lakeland,
he spends his time working on the farm, and keeping
busy with his church program. When not working you can find
him and that old [stinking?] pipe sitting out
 front of the house when the weather is good. When it gets cold
 he comes [inside?] by the fire place.
You see by our [wood?] that we are ready for the cold weather.
 [Some?] time my neighbors come over and talk.
" My old lady Robert said, " goes around more than I do. Ha! Ha
! she is a busy body. Rosa's eyes
flashed and she went on with her work. In leaving he invited me
back, stating that he liked good company

Federal Writers' Project
Paul Diggs
Lakeland , Florida
December 29, 1938
Stembridge, Will & Julia
807 Florence Ave
Lakeland , Florida
Will and Julia Stembridge
At the and of this sandy street lives Will and Julia Stembridge,
807 North Florence Avenue, in a weather-boarded
house that is unpainted - The steps entering the house are out of
line and are badly in need of repairing.
 The front porch was covered with running vines, and there were pots
of flowers sitting around the edges,
 with several large ferns in standing vessels. A swing was on the north
end and a green rocking chair on
the south end. The flooring on the porch was old and very loose.
On knocking, Will answered from the kitchen where he was eating. He said,
 "come in brother, come back and
 have something to eat." Through an apology this courtesy was declined;
and the purpose of the visit was explained.
 Will laughed and said," if I can see it in print I will tell all about
myself if it will be of any use.
 Well he said," as long as it is you I will try to satisfy you."
"You see I am just camping in this ranche (meaning his house). Good houses
 are scarce here in Lakeland ,
 and I don't know when I will be able to own one through these hard times."
You have to pass through the front room which is expensively furnished.
A large fire place sits in the center of the housed painted white,
 which separates the front room from the kitchen. The same
flue is used for the large wood stove. There was a bed room adjoin-the
front room with a lovely suit of furniture in it.
 The windows all had shades and curtains to them, they were neatly arranged and clean.
The kitchen was very large. It served two purposes, to cook, and [his?] dining room.
 The furniture in the kitchen was not modern [as?] that in the front
 room and bedroom. Entering from the kitchen was another bed
[room?] which contained one double bed, and [a?] single bed.
 The rest of the furniture was modern, with [a?]
new late model oil burner sitting in the middle of the floor.
 His stepdaughter Annie [was?] asleep in bed in this room.
Will [was?] dressed in the uniform of the Firestone Company for whom he works.
 It was greasy from the many cars he serviced during the day.
 His wife came in from out of the yard and spoke very plesently.
 She took a seat and listened while will continued to talk.
 Noticing the [well?] laundred shirts on the
sofa when I came in, Julia was asked who did the nice work,
 she replied that she did. Stating that she
takes in laundry in order to assist her husband, "I have been doing that for years."
"Will continued, "well I know that Christmas was good to you,
I had [a?] nice time working, and riding
around seeing my friends. I was proud that I was living."
"Well I know it means business when ever you call, what's
 big about me that you want to know where
I come from and about my people. I ain't nothing but a poor working man,
been with on company ten years. "Will talks with a pleasant smile [at?] all time.
 At this point Julia said, "tell him what you know
it may be worth something to us."
He stated that he was five feet and eleven inches in height,
 weighted two hundred and nine pounds.
Light brown in complexion, and forty years old.
 "I was born in a log cabin two miles out from Fort Valley,
 Georgia. The log cabin only had four rooms, there were five of us in the family.
 My parents were John and [Leathy?] Stembridge. My mother has been married
 four times since the death of my father.She is now a Candy."
" I lived in Georgia until I was twenty years old. My parents were sharecroppers.
 They had charge of [a?] thirty acre farm with fourteen mules on it.
 While on this farm I worked hard with my brother James,
the only one who stayed on the old place. My other brother
ran around from place to place. My two sisters,
Mary and Mattie died. My father later moved to Fort Valley and opened
a merchandise store, this store he
fran for three years. Later he died, and my mother married again.
 My step daddy made me git' it on this farm.
I did everything a man was big enough to do. Hoe, plowing ditches,
 plant cotton, pick it, built fences, and
looked after the animals. My step daddy did not believe in any thing but work."
" I never knew what money was during them times.
 I left there and came to Lakeland , Florida in [1918].
You see I have only lived two places in my life up there and down here.
 When I first came to Lakeland, I found a job with the [Standard oil?] Company,
 on [Lake?] Weir Drive, I stayed with them until 1919.
I was getting three dollars and fifty cents [a day?] unloading large
 tank cars filled with gasoline and oil." [??]
"I left thiscompany and went to work for Mr. [B.M.] Coniber,
who was at that time located on Main Street,
 near Tennessee avenue. I stayed with him until [1935?], there
I changed tires. While working for
Mr. Coniber I married to my wife sitting over there.
 She was Julia Hall. She has three children- James,
 who lives in Washington, D.C. and works at the Pennsylvania Railroad Station;
 Marian, works at Futch Funeral Home,
 [?], S. Florida avenue, and Annie, works at the Paramount [?]
Cleaners -8 [?] S. Florida Avenue.
" I left Mr. Coniber and worked for Hendrick and Nicholson Tire Company.
I held this job down until 1928."
" I left this job and started working for the Firestone Company in 1925.
 My boss man is Mr. Joe Daniels.
He gives me thirteen dollars a week since they cut our salary.
 I go to work at seven oclock in the morning
and quit at eight oclock at night I have seen many men come and go since
I have been on this job. One good
thing I don't owe anybody, all of my furniture is paid for.
" What I have learned has been from having good [compections?].
 You see my people only allowed me to go as
far as the second grade in school. I have picked up more since that time.
I hardly ever forget anything.
I check all of the tires around the place and keep tabs on everything
 that comes my way. They trust me with my work.
Will was asked if he owned his home. He said, "that he rented the house
 from Mr.G.O.Conack, paying [one?] dollar and one half per week.
He further stated that people will take your money, but they [?] not fix up the
[property?]. He hopes to buy a house some day. He said he ownes his car.
It was a [19?] Ford, and it was sitting
in the back yard and looked to be in farily good condition.
 There was a [del picated?] shed built to house it not
 far from the back door. Banked around the back door were many potted flowers.
 In the yard were lots of lumber. There was no fence around their yard.
 It [eaten ed?] out to the [alley?]. [When?] approached about voting.
 Will stated that he has never voted in his life. " But I do think it [is?] half
way right to vote. One can get what he ask for if he votes.
I did'nt have to [chance?] when I was on the farm to [learn anything?]
about this thing called politics.
I would vote for President if I had the chance. A few weeks ago
I paid [one dollar?] to the Red Cross. You see I have my cross [in?] the front window.
A fellow never knows when he [will? holy?]. [When?]
I am on the job I hear my white [folks?] talking about who is a good man and who is not.
 I pick up a lot by listening.
" When I was in Georgia I was a member of the missionary Baptist Church, since
I have been in Florida I ain't nothing.
It is a shame to say it, but I don't even go to church. I live [a pretty good?]
 life, never been in any trouble
in my life. Thats a pretty good record don't you think.
 I think it is about time [that I?] make my peace with the Lord.
 He don't like ugly."
" I am pretty healthy now but a fellow never knows when he will get sick.
I never [had a?] doctor to me in my live.
 My old lady has had one. I think she [washing?] too much.
Julia said that the washing don't worry her much anymore.
 When she first started it cause [pulis?] in her wrist and arms.
 Some time I get a scratch or bruise from changing
tires [ar un the?] place. When [I ? cars?] I always wear boots.
 I know lots of boys who suffer from rheumatism
from not [taking care of?] themselves. Some time I work around
the battery department and the acid from them
cause me to cough. [?] [from?] that nothing hurts me.
In this home whose furnishings [was?] modern, there was evidence
of [cleanliness?] all around. Julia takes
lots of pride in keeping a good home. Although the [? hid?]
 the beauty of the furniture. The [beds?] were made [
up?] except the one Annie [was?] [sleeping?] in. The [spreads?]
 were of [loud?] colors and clean. Julia she
[was?] neatly dressed in a gingham dress. Will is above the average
 in his line of work, and delights to talk
 about what he can do around cars. he has lived in this community for a number
 of years and is well liked by both races.
" Will said, " I am able to get what I want, with the assistance of
 my wife's children who gives [a?] little [of?]
 their earning towards food. [We send?] around five dollars a week for food.
 You see I have a good cook in my old lady.
 She [knows?] how [to?] make them biscuits and corn bread like a [fellow?] likes them.
"That brought a smile to
Julia's face. She stated that she like to cook. And [??] of the good
 things she prepares for the [family?].
Saying that they all come home hungry, and they always find good hot food on the stove."
" Will said, " that his greatest trouble was [eating?] too much [sweets?],
 [?? my coney?]. Home time I like
my tardy too. But I never drink on the job.
" Well it is time for me to get back on the job, when I get a [place?]
 of my own where I can have things like
I use to [on?] the farm, I want you to come to see us. In riding around
I see lots of places I would like to own
if I [had?] the money. Thats the biggest thing I [do?] when [on?] the job.
 I [find a?] friend [amd to ride to
[some small?] town and take a [nip?] (he meant a drink) and I get
lots of pleasure out of that. " Well I wish I could tell you [more?] about myself
 and the family this time. [One?] thing [?] of my [people?]
 here are grown and able to [look out?] for themselves. We get along nicley together.
[And?] thats the way people should live. He [laughed?] and said, "Well after
all I believe I will amount to something.

Life Histories
2,500 words
History of R. W. Wishart
[1206 14th Avenue?]
Tampa, Florida
[August 22, 1939?]
Lindsay M. [Bryan?]
"Yeah, man. I was bawn in a turpentine camp, spent near about
 forty years in the business, and woulda been in
it yet if the bottom hadn't-a dropped out of it.
I've soaked up so much turpentine in my life that if you run
me through a still right now, I reckon you'd git about ten gallon outa me."
The speaker, a 40-year old veteran of the turpentine woods, chuckled
at this jest as he sat on the front porch
of his weathered one-story home in an old residential part of Tampa.
 He stretched his long wiry frame in the
porch rocker, ran long fingers through a shock of wavy brown hair,
 and his level gray eyes took on a [reminescent?]
 look as though gasing back through the endless vistas of [gum-exuding?]
 pines that had been the scene of his life.He went on!
"When I say I was bawn in a turpentine camp I mean jist that.
 My father was manager of a 20-crop naval stores place,
 an we lived in the camp near Eastman, Georgia, an I was bawn right in
 the camp in 1899. There was six children of us,
 an as soon as us boys was old enough we shore had to work, helpin around
the still or the commissary, or work as water boys. When I was about two years
old my folks moved to another camp at Bay Lake, Florida .
"I started to school there when I was six, in a little one-room
 log schoolhouse in the woods. I started in
the turpentine business as a water boy when I was eight,
 an finally worked myself up to manager of eight camps at [$230?] a month.
"My folks believed in education, an I was sent to school regular when
I was a boy, but worked in the summers.
When I was about ten years old we moved to a camp at Martin, seven miles from Ocala,
 an I was promoted to talley "man"--keeping tally on the number of tress boxed
or streaked by each nigger. Niggers do all the labor
in the woods, an most of the work around the still.
 The manager, foreman, commissary men and woods riders are
all white men. At each camp there will be from 50 to 200 niggers,
accordin to the number of "crops" worked.
A crop is about 10,000 trees. "The white folks live in fairly good homes at
 one side of the camp, and the niggers in their quarters at the
other side in two-or three-room cabins or board houses.
 We always aimed to have separate quarters for the
single niggers to keep them from messin up with the married men's wives.
But this didn't always work, and
there was many a fight on account uv them mixin at night in the woods.
"By the time I was 12 years old I began to learn how to make boxes an
streaks, an do everything else in the
woods an at the still. A box is a deep cut in the tree to ketch the gum,
an streaks are shallow gutters out
in the trunk of the tree to lead the gum down into the box.
 In late years most turpentine men use cups attached
to the tree to ketch the sap or gum, instead of the deep boxes
they used to cut. The cup system makes the trees
last longer. The dip squad travels through the woods with a
team or truck loaded with barrels into which they
collect the gum, an then haul it to the still to be refined into
spirits of turpentine. The gum is about as
thick as thick syrup, and when heated the rosin settles to the
bottom of the still, and is drawed off hot into barrels.
"When I was about 13 years old I started to ride the woods, an was
 foreman of the dippin squad. I rode three crops,
an that was a man's work. About 1914, when I was around 15,
we moved to Loraine, Manatee County, about 12 miles from Bradenton. At this camp
the boss thought I was too young to ride, so he give me a job
as talley man and inspector of box cuttin. By this time I was
an expert box cutter myself, and could tell
the niggers how to do it right. If a box aint cut exactly right its no good at all.
 I worked part of a year there, an then got a job guardin convicts
 in a turpentine place at Punta Gorda.
"All this time I was goin to school in the winter,
 and when I was 16 years old I graduated from high school at Ocala.
 Next I got a job as manager for Mr. Hamp Lowther who had a
30-crop place at Verna, Florida. There I worked
in the commissary some, an worked as woodsman, ridin one ride,
 besides actin as manager. I worked there and
at other camps till I joined the army and went to France in 1917.
 After the armistice I came to Tampa.
 Then in 1919 I got the idea I could get rich raisin canaloupes,
 so went to Ocala and tried it a year an lost $500
I had saved. My cantaloupe crop was a plum failure. So I decided
I'd better stick to turpentine.
It will be noted that Mr. Wimster's speech varied at times
from rural Florida dialect to the better diction of
his high school influence. "In 1920 I went to work as over-rider over eight woodsmen
on a 100-crop job at Nalaca, Florida, but there came
a slump in the price of turpentine and the force at this place was out to
 about nothing, includin me; so I left
there and the next year when the market picked up a little I got another
job, as foreman of a 40-crop place at Miakka.
 Another drop in the price of turps laid me off there in 1922.
Up to then I hadn't had much time to think about
gittin married, but now, with nothing else to do, I remembered a
nice gal I'd met in Polk County, so I went
 a-courtin up there an married her. Then I got a job as manager at
 Camp Four in Polk County, for Mr. W. C. French.
"In 1922, I think it was, I was offered a better job, as manager
of eight camps owned by a New York concern
at Opal, Okeechobee County. This was a big virgin woods in low,
swampy country, and the outfit was a big one of
120 crops. There I had charge of 400 niggers and nine woodsmen (riders).
 I got $250 a month and held that job
for two years. Then come the damdest rainy season I ever saw in Florida .
 It poured down for weeks, and water stood knee deep all over the woods.
We had to set around in camp and do nothing. There was 400 heada niggers
an 30 heada horses an mules eatin up rations, an besides the
 wet weather made the horses and mules backs all
sore so we couldn'ta worked on anyhow. I shore had a mess of trouble on my hands.
 An to make everything worse the big bosses in New York kept telegraphin
 me an wantin to know why no production. Finally I got mad an
told em to go to hell an git somebody else, an I walked and waded off the job.
"Next I worked a while an manager of a 30-crop job at Camp Cook, near Panama City.
All this time, remember, the price of turpentine kept goin down,
an that was mostly the reason I changed jobs so much. Whenever the
demand for naval stores got slack the operators would shut down or cut wages.
Substitutes for turps and
rosin were comin on the market, and besides many plants had began
to distill the product from stumps and lighterd knots.
This cheap stuff made it almost impossible to operate a
regular turpentine business at a profit.
"By the latter part of 1924 I had some money saved,
so I went to Spring Park, Marion County, and bought me a
10-crop turpentine place of my own, and 200 acres of farm land.
Then the Florida boom begun, and my laborers
all left and went to the cities or up North where they could git higher wages.
I could't make a livin on my
place, so I quit and went to road contractin for a while. Then from 1926 to the latter part of 1932 I worked
for Aycock Lindsay, big Florida\ turpentine men, as manager and later as top rider over all their camps
in Dixon County.In 1934 the price of naval stores again hit bottom, and I went to Venus, Florida ,
as superintendent of a logging camp. "In 1937 I heard that the government of Haiti wanted an experienced
turpentine and timber man to survey the pine forests of that country for possible sources of turpentine
and lumber, and I sent in my application
along with fine letters of recommendation I had from the leading turpentine and lumber companies of Florida .
There were a lot of other applicants, but I got the job and went to Haiti in 1937 to take up that work.
"When I got to Port-au-Prince, the capital, the government furnished me with a military escort, guides, camping
equipment, laborers, and everything necessary to explore and survey the immense forests there. The timber
resources there were practically undiscovered and undeveloped. In two trips I spent about two years there in all,
and discovered approximately 22,000,000 acres of good turpentine producing timber, absolutely virgin, and of such
growth that most of the trees will cut 12x12 timbers 50 to 70 feet long. I established a turpentine still there
and it is now in commercial production.As he told of these accomplishments,
the Florida turpentine expert rose and paced the floor in enthusiasm.
His eyes glowed with a discoverer's [fervor?]. His rather fine profile
lit up with intelligent interest
in his subject, as he continued: "They don't know what they've got down there!
 There's millions of dollars in the finest virgin timber,
and with labor at 20 cents a day they can produce naval stores to
 compete even with the cheap synthetic substitutes.
When asked about the home life of the Negroes in the Florida turpentine camps,
 Mr. Wimster smiled, relaxed,
and again became the "boss man" of the resinous Florida woods:
"Turpentine niggers are a class by themselves. They are different
from town niggers, farm laborers or any other kind.
 Mostly they are born and raised in the camps, and don't
 know much about anything else. They seldom go to town, and
few of them ever saw the inside of a school house. In nearly every camp
 there is a jack-leg preacher who also works
in the woods, and they usually have church services on Sunday at one or
another of their houses. And every camp has
its 'jook', as they are now called, but the original name of this kind
of a joint was a 'tunk'. This is a house
where the men and women gather on Saturday nights to dance, drink moonshine,
 gamble and fight. Between dances or
 drinks, young couples stroll off into the woods and make love.
"The supreme authority in a camp is the foreman. To the niggers he is the
law, the judge, jury and executioner.
 He even ranks ahead of God to these people. In speakin to him they all
 call him 'Cap'm'. Among themselves they
call him 'The Man'. An believe me, he better be a man fum the ground up.
If he ever stands for any back talk or
shows a streak of yellow he's through, an might as well quite.
 For they lose all respect for him and won't mind him.
Even though they keep up a pretense of respect to his face,
they'll laugh at him behind his back and gang up to make his life so miserable
 he'll soon have to leave. They like to be ruled by an iron hand an no velvet glove.
"Seems like I always had a knack of handlin labor. Bein bawn an raised with
turpentine niggers I learned their nature.
They all liked me because I was fair and firm, an they'd do anything for me.
If I quit a job and went to another,
ever last nigger on the place would follow me if I told em to.
"Most camps are so deep in the woods that law officers don't bother em much.
 Outside of murder, the officers usually
leave it up to the camp foreman to make and enforce his own laws.
 At least that's the way it used to be. In the old
days there were very few legal marriages or divorces.
 For the sake of good camp government and economy in housing,
it was to the interest of the foreman to see that all unattached
men and women got 'married' to each other.
This was done by what the workers called a 'commissary weddin'.
 The foreman was a purty good match maker,
and when it was decided between him and a couple that they should
'marry up with each other', they simply went
to the commissary and were assigned a house, and an account for
 rations and clothing was opened for the pair.
Then they took their supplies to the house given them and began
 house-keepin together. This was a 'commissary marriage'. Once in a great while,
 when a couple had some extra money and wanted to put on style,
they would have a 'cotehouse' marriage. That is, they would go
 to the courthouse at the county seat, get what
they call a 'pair o' licenses', and be legally married."
An incident brought to mind by Mr. Wimster's account of these
 marriages was told the writer in 1916 by
J. A. Stevens, foreman of a turpentine camp in the backwoods
of [Manatee?] County. About fifty Negro couples
in the camp had long lived together there without benefit
 of "cotehouse" or clergy. One aged pair had been
married by commissary wedlock and lived together happily for
 more than fifty years, and had raised a large
family of grown children. Somehow a white preacher from the
 North heard of this unholy state at the camp
and made such loud complaint that county officials finally, and perhaps reluctantly,
 issued orders that
the Negro couples must be legally married or cease living together.
 As a result, Mr. Stevens said, he had
to pay for some fifty marriage licenses in a bunch and hold a
"mass wedding" in which all the commissary-wed
couples were legally united in one grand ceremony.
 To the Negroes it meant nothing but a big adventure and a
 gay holiday, he said. When asked about feuds between bosses at different
camps over recruiting each other's labor, Mr. Wimster
chuckled reminiscently and said: "Sure, we was always tryin to
steal laborers from each other. All of us did it;
sometimes just for fun, and sometimes because we needed em.
We got right mad sometimes, but there was never any shootin.
I remember one time when I was foreman of a camp in Polk County.
 You see, the great pastime of all turpentine niggers is gamblin, mostly playin 'skin'.
 This is purely a nigger's game, played with ordinary cards.
 Well, one Saturday night after pay day forty of my men was playin skin,
 when one of the owners of our outfit,
a northern man, came to camp and saw em. He said nothing to
 me, but next day in Bartow he told the sheriff to
ooze out to camp and arrest them for gamblin.
 They were all taken to town, fined $35 each and jailed. My boss
refused to pay their fines, so they sent one of my niggers to a rival
camp to indirectly drop a hint that
the foreman could get these 40 men by paying their fines an takin em.
 He fell for it, an hurried to town
where he paid em all out an started em to his camp.
 It was Christmas time, an he staid in town an went
on a big spree for several days.
"I met the gang on their way to his camp, and said:
'Hey, you niggers, come on back home an go to work,
an I'll see you ain't bothered no more about gamblin.'
 They all whooped for joy, an followed me back an
went to work again for me. A week or so later I met the man that
paid their fines, an said to him,
 'How's tricks?' He was lookin mighty glum, an said:
'Rotten as hell. Whilst I was celebratin Christmas
some dam son of a bitch stole 40 good niggers from me,
 an they cost me $35 a head, I wisht I could find
out who got em.'
"I sympathized with him plenty, an it was weeks afterward
 before he found out it was me got his hands.
By that time he had stole somebody else's niggers and got
over his mad, so when we met we jist joked about it.
"Yes, them was the days, but I reckon they're gone for good.
 The turpentine business is done for in this country,
an I don't think it will ever come back. Me? I'm goin back
 to Haiti soon, an maybe I'll stay there."

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