Thomas Beaty, also called Tom Beaty, I was born in Orlando General, October 10, 1934 and I lived actually on Bear Lake which is close to Orlando and Apopka. My family had an orange grove out there and that’s where we lived.
LISTEN Part I (20:42)
Were your parents born here also?
No. My parents came here in 1920 from Valdosta… my father had a limited education because he worked in the family farm in Valdosta as a young man and he worked there until he was 30… and he sold the farm and went and bought a brand new Model A in downtown Valdosta… then went to the Justice of the Peace and the Justice of the Peace married them on the running board… and they came to Orlando in 1920. And they came to Orlando and had five children….
LISTEN Part II (7:25)
What did your parents do for a living?
My father was in the construction business and he ended up with a roofing company in Orlando and Winter Park called Winter Park Roofing Company. He put on a lot of tile roofs at Rollins. Some of them are still there. My mother stayed home and raised us kids until my younger sister got out of Edgewater and my mother then went to work at a maternity dress shop next to the newspaper. Then she ended up buying it. Maternalane of Orlando was my mother.
She ran it for 25 years. She didn’t work until she got her children out of high school and then she decided she wanted to go to work. So my father by that time had started an orange grove. We had an orange grove south of Winter Garden and the orange grove made a living for them. And she bought the maternity shop and had a pretty good business with them. And a lot of Orlando women bought a lot of clothes from her when they were pregnant.
What was a typical Sunday like for you growing up?
We were involved in the church. I went to Calvary Presbyterian Church which was on the corner of Edgewater and Colonial Drive. Our whole family were all members of that church, had been there ever since my folks came to Orlando in the twenties…. So we went to church on Sunday. And then of course, my mother was a great cook, and then we had a normal, nice Sunday dinner. There was no television. We listened to the radio for a little bit. We played. I lived on East Concord. I lived on the first block of East Concord which is right next to the newspaper. And we had a lot of friends that lived in that neighborhood. Two of my friends were the Hurt brothers, Pete and Maury Hurt, who wound up being pretty well known in Orlando as artists. They lived down the street from us. And I enjoyed the heck out of playing games on East Concord. In those days Colonial Drive of course was brick, and the trees, the oak trees covered the top of the street really. And Colonial Drive actually stopped two blocks west of Orange Blossom Trail. It didn’t go to Winter Garden like it does today…. We had a lot of fun riding our bikes up and down that little area, Concord, Amelia. Where the Hurt brothers lived, in a house next door there was a vacant lot. We played a lot of football games there and all the kids used to congregate there. Had a lot of fun doing that. So that was a typical Sunday and then Sunday night we’d get ready to go to school.
Where did you go to school?
I went to Marks Street. Actually, I went to the first four grades at Lyman School because Bear Lake was in Seminole County. And we went to Lyman which is now called Millweed… I started the fifth grade at Marks Street… then I went to junior high at Memorial Junior High which was on Lake Eola right down the street here. And then I went three years to OHS and graduated in ’52 which was the last class for OHS….
Did you get a job right after school?
Well, what happened was when school was out my mother said to me, “You are not going to sit around at home. You’re going to have to find a job.” So I went down, not too far down on North Orange, the state had an employment agency office, it was run by the state, to find jobs. And I went in to put my application in there and the interviewer said, the only job that they had, I might think about was working on putting a fence together on some property in Windermere. At whatever the rate was, it was pretty low priced. So I said, “Well, my mother won’t let me back in the house unless I get a job, so I’ll take it.”
Working for Martin Andersen in Windermere
So I then went to the guy who was running the trucking operation for the newspaper and that’s where I applied. And he said the newspaper owner had some property in Windermere and he was building a wooden fence and if I wanted the job I would meet him on Colonial and Orange at 7 o’clock Monday morning. They’d pick me up and take me out there. So that’s when I started working for Martin Andersen. What I did is I’d ride out there in the morning, I’d hold up one board and some guy would hold on the board and we’d nail them up. We were building a four board fence on 40 acres that Martin Andersen owned… he was going to build a home out there… he had built a boathouse on the lake. That boathouse was almost finished when I went to work there. And when he would come by in the afternoon after work, he would stop there where I was putting up the fence. He got to know me and he says, “ I want you to help me unload the car and help me around the boathouse.” So that’s when I started working for him. And I did that toward the end of that summer, ’52.
And it was getting to where we were almost finished with the fence. He came to me one day and he said, ”What are you going to do now?” I said, “Well, I’m going to go to Orlando Junior College.” He said, “Well, I tell you what, I want you to go to my office. Do you know where it is?” I said, “Yes, sir.” “I want you to see my secretary and I want you to tell her that you’re going to help her work in the office.” So I said, “Okay.” Her name was Elba Morris.
Everything in Orlando was going on in his office…
And I went and I went home and I told my mother. And my mother said, “Well, we got to buy you some nice clothes if you’re going to go work in the office.” My mother made my shirts, if you can hardly believe that. So we went and bought some shirts. I went to the newspaper. I went in and found Miss Morris and said, “Martin Andersen said that I was going to work with you.” And she said, “That ____.” She was not happy. She was not happy to hear that. I think she was having some issues, maybe feeling like she was overworked. Then some 17 year old redhead kid in there to help her wasn’t her idea of an answer I don’t think. So I went in, she said, “I don’t know about this.” So she said, “All right come back here tomorrow.” The next day I went in there and she set me up a desk right behind her desk right next door to Martin Andersen’s office. And she said, “Do you know how to file?” “I guess.” There was a four drawer file cabinet and a big stack of letters and copies of stuff that needed to be filed and I knew my alphabet so I filed them. Wasn’t long before she was pretty happy to have me. And so we got a long very well. And so I did a lot of things for her. I could type… so I could type his letters, answer the phone, and when she wasn’t there, you know, I did a lot of the secretarial work. And it was right next door to his office and everything in Orlando was going on in his office. It was amazing. We had a lot of big fancy folks come through there: the governors, the senators, congressmen, the mayor, any politician in town had to get Martin Andersen’s approval to do anything basically. And it wasn’t long before Elma Morris left. I think her husband and her moved out of town… Andersen… had a pool of secretaries that would come in and work and I would help them, train them basically…
What would be an example of a letter you might type? What was his writing style?
Well, Andersen was a newspaper guy from the get go and he was probably, I don’t think he had much education, I think he had about an 8th grade education. But he obviously had talent, writing talent, much more so than me. And he could absolutely write. And his writing style was paragraphs, short paragraphs. Very nice letters.
Letter from Martin Andersen, Orlando Sentinel Publisher, to Tom Beaty, April 15, 1957.
He was very famous for writing a thank you letter for a thank you letter. If somebody wrote him a thank you note he would write them a thank you note back. So he was very, very good at that. He did beautiful editorials that were in the newspapers. He pound those out and I would take them to the news department and give them to them to run. And I’d read them on the way walking over to the newsroom. So he was a very good writer, very good. So the letters were not that hard to type because they were short paragraphs, and they weren’t very long, usually one page. And, you know, I kind of enjoyed doing that. In fact, I even got to where I could sign his name as well as he could. He had a style of signing his name that was a newspaper style that they put a line over the “n”. I think because the “n” and “m” would get mixed over… His name was Andersen which a lot of people don’t know it was “s-e-n”. He signed it very legible, but he did put a line over the “n”. And so I did a lot of his letters. He would just dictate and we’d get it off the dictating machine, type the letters, and then I’d sign them and send them out. So a lot of them were signed by me.
You said you did errands for them as well?
Well, I did a lot of things for his wife Gracia Andersen…. what happened is an estate on Lake Ivanhoe came up for sale, the Coffey Estate and so he purchased that which worked better for Gracia, I think… and they moved in that about the time I went to work for them.
Coffey Estate, 1700 W. Ivanhoe Boulevard overlooking Lake Ivanhoe. Photo from side entrance off Dartmouth Street.
“In September of 1937, R.G. Coffey announced plans to build a $100,000 home on the west side of Lake Ivanhoe. Coffey was an internationally known sportsman, and former president of the American Amateur Trapshooters Association. James Gamble Rogers was architect for the home, one of the finest in Florida, and Paul A. Smith the contractor. The finished home, one of the show places of Orlando, contained eighteen rooms and seven baths” according to Orlando A Centennial History by Eve Bacon, volume II, pages 84-85.
And he had a Polish family [The Balabanski family] that he had brought over from Poland during that conflict over there and they worked for him, in the yard and in the house, took care of his clothing and the cleaning of the house and some of his yard work and the wife did the cooking. And so, they lived, the Coffey Estate had a little cabin in the back and they lived there…
LISTEN Part III (20:12)
How would you describe a typical workday for you?
Well, for one thing, it was so exciting, I didn’t go to OJC, Orlando Junior College. I went there and took a few courses, but I was just, I could hardly wait to go to work every day. It was just unbelievable. Martin Andersen was the kind of guy that would come to work at about 9 o’clock or ten in the morning. He didn’t get there at 8:30 and worked until 5. Maybe he didn’t get there until 10 or 11. But when he got there it was very exciting for everybody. He was just a – he might rant and rave a little bit – and he might be a tough boss, which he was. But he was a fair guy. And his suite of offices at the newspaper in those days had a big waiting room and a lot of times you would have four or five guys waiting for him when you came in in the morning.
And he had a charitable organization called Good Fellas and some people would come in that were in trouble financially and needed help. They would come and sit and wait for him to come in and talk about their problems to see if they would help… I remember one guy, one fella that was from Cocoa that had some problem. I don’t remember what the problem was, but he had some police problem. He had gotten cross with the police. And he was evidently not guilty according to Martin Andersen. Anyway, Andersen helped him. He came in and wrote letters for him and eventually gave him some money and let him straighten his life out. That was typical of what he would do. And I don’t think a lot of people knew that. It was the newspaper charitable organization called Good Fellas. But he ran it. One of the jobs the secretary had was to talk to those folks. We’d have, a lot of times… a woman come in with a young child. The secretary would take the story down from the lady say,”We’ll get back with you. Call us tomorrow.” Type it up, give it to Mr. Andersen and he would approve it. And then the secretary would get the money and give it to the woman the next day when she came back. He approved all of it I ever saw. And eventually I did that. I would listen to the problem and write him a little note and he would approve it and get the money for her…. In my involvement with Martin Andersen it was a very active part of what was going on down there.
Another interesting thing Andersen did, I always thought, when he owned Manana Farms he had a group of laborers that worked the farm. And they were all black guys and they lived in Oviedo. And so, the first Christmas that I was there Mr. Andersen said to me, “I want you to buy some stuff.” I guess Norbert [Norbert Consoni, “The Orlando Sentinel” comptroller] gave me the money. And we bought some clothing and this and that. He told me what to buy. And then had some money and some food and he said, “I want you to go find – “, he gave me a list of about four black guys that had worked for him at Manana Farms. He said, “I want you to find these guys in Oviedo and give them these gifts.” And so, Oviedo, it’s unbelievable, it was all dirt streets back, not in the downtown area, but I would say, east of the downtown area. So, I got a company truck and drove out there with these gifts… and I would stop and knock on the doors and the people were not very helpful. They did not like a redheaded white boy looking, but I had known one or two of these guys because I was back and forth from Manana. They knew me when they saw me and then I gave them these gifts. But you can imagine that he just, he took it on himself to do that for those people. He thought they were deserving of a Christmas present. So that was the kind of thing that he did and not a lot of people knew that I think.
He also started some benefits for his employees and maybe you could tell me about that?
What he did do, and there was a lot of discussion in those days I was privy to because I was right outside the door of his office, I could hear what was going on in there. He set up a profit sharing plan. He improved the healthcare, whatever that was. In those days businesses would have a health policy for the employees, pension plan, so he set up increasing the healthcare when I was there and set up the pension plan when I was there. So he was always doing those kind of things for the employees.
The newspaper was the second largest employer in Orlando…
Actually, the newspaper, it’s hard for a lot of people to realize, the newspaper was the second largest employer in Orlando. It’s hard to believe that. The newspaper actually was a group of companies. He had a studio for photography that would photograph brides and whatever and sell the photograph to folks. He had a trucking operation where they delivered freight to the same area of their circulation called Jack Rabbit Express. He had an engraving department, Florida Engraving which made engravings for the advertising industry. In those days you had to have some sort of a way to get logos into the newspapers. They did a lot of metal in the advertising for the newspapers and various publications. So that was a business that he sold. They sold that product. So the business was not just a newspaper. There were some small businesses there. And so, it employed, I think in those days about a thousand people and that was like the second largest [employer] in the city. And it was like that for a number of years while I was there. I spent 27 years at “The Sentinel”. Six years in his office… but it was interesting.
You know, he would scream and holler at people and he would be tough on them…. And I was the messenger. When he had a roll of paper, they used to use teletype machines, there was no Internet. The newsroom at The Sentinel had a room about this size full of teletype machines and they had a big role of paper in a box. And the associations that did all the news broadcastings would teletype from New York to Orlando to put in the newspaper. And they had a big roll of paper that they used on the teletype. Well, Andersen did that on his typewriter. And they, the typewriter had a large Pica large print. So when he was giving out instructions, he was a one finger typer, he would type, tear it off, give it to me and I’d take it to them, the department heads at the newspaper. And obviously, when I was bringing them notes they knew that I was the messenger. They weren’t always happy to see me, or some of them were happy to see me, I guess. But there were some great guys down there. Great people. And I enjoyed that. And I was intimidated, but then again, eventually they thought I was Martin Andersen, Jr.
It was an exciting time in terms of the newspapers and our community. Was there a lot happening at the time you were there?
The biggest thing happening was I-4. The road department in those days was a state department, I believe, not federal, and it was a powerful position to be on the railroad. And those folks were the ones that were working on where I-4 was going to go through Orlando. And Martin Andersen had a lot of meetings in his office with those folks trying to figure out what was best for the city. What was best politically. What was best period, I guess.
There were some problems. There was a lot of pressure not to put I-4 down across Lake Ivanhoe. Some influential people owned homes on Lake Concord and they did not want I-4 running across Lake Ivanhoe, this side of Lake Concord. So those were things that he ended up, I’m not sure he wanted to go that direction either, but I think he, for whatever reason, ended up going that way. He wanted it to go down the train tracks which made a lot of sense. It probably should have been done. And then move the train tracks out of town to keep this train traffic out of here and have I-4 in the same area where the tracks were which would have missed Lake Ivanhoe. Then it would have gone down on North Orange and back around what they call Gertrude Street would have been I-4. There was an awful lot of that activity early on when I first went there. And there was a lot of activity with Senator Smathers… they all came by…. he [Martin] was interested in the city and the growth of the city grew the newspaper circulation.
United States Military Service
…in 1957, I had been in the Naval Reserve… and I was what they called an eight year obligation; two years would be somewhere along the line – would have to be active duty. So sure enough I had to go active duty after I was working for him.
For about six years I needed to go active duty. I had to go in the military. So I took a leave of absence from the newspaper, went in the military for two years.
When I came back out he said, “What do you want to do?” And I said, “Well, I’d like to go into advertising. I’d like to go into the advertising department.” I kind of felt that was my best direction – I was not a news guy. I wasn’t a reporter type. I was more of a business kind of guy and I felt like that would be my direction. So I was put into a training program probably one of the very few if not the only to learn about the advertising department which meant that I stayed six months in the press room, six months in the composing room where they put the ads together, and six months in the Florida Engraving Department where they did the engravings for the ads. And then I was put on the street with the advertising sales guys. So I went through that process, went to work. By that time I had gotten married. I got married when I was in the Navy.
The Orlando Sentinel Advertising Department
I went to work in the advertising department working with, there was like six sales guys that ran, that had routes in the city that picked up and worked ads for merchants. So I would work with them for a couple weeks and then I’d work with another one for a couple weeks. So I was working with a guy that had the most advertising accounts in the sales force. He handled all the downtown Orlando accounts: Sears, Ivey’s, Dickson Ives, Gibbs Louis, the merchants. And, my second week working for him he had a heart attack. He was an older guy and they determined that they wouldn’t let him back on the street. It was hot in Florida. You had to walk the streets to see the merchants. And I had been working with him a couple of weeks and they said, “You handle his route until he quits working or gets better or whatever.” And I ended up having the route. And I did that for another six years handling most advertising in the newspaper. It was a great learning experience for me.
LISTEN Part IV (19:45)
By the time the newspaper had been sold to the Tribune Company, and Charlie Brombach was involved in the business end of it, and he came to me and he said, “We need somebody to go to the trucking operation and run the sales department because that trucking business is beginning to be big.” And it was prior to UPS and it was a similar type of thing that UPS does. And in those days it was a regulated business… regulated by the Florida Department of Transportation; it was regulated by the Public Service Commission. And the way that you would have more routes or more areas, you had to apply to the Public Service Commission to get rights to various cities. And so I went to work for the trucking operation as a sales manager. And we applied for various other parts of the state: Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville, so we became a UPS type freight business for the state of Florida. And then eventually we applied to Atlanta and had what they called intrastate freight both within Florida or freight that came from out of state to Florida. And we transferred it from Atlanta into the whole state of Florida. I traveled in that position. I traveled all over the country and sold various large companies to distribute their product in Florida. And that business was sold to Ryder after I’d been about 27 years with “The Sentinel” total. And I went to work for Ryder and finished my career 18 years with Ryder….
Were there economic downturns during that time?
A couple of things I haven’t told you about Andersen, he had a soft spot in his heart for employees. So during the winter months and the spring and the fall, the department heads would come to him and say we need more help in certain positions. He would authorize them to hire them. And then like most department heads, they probably had too many. So when things got tough they had to let them go. They had cutbacks. Now “The Sentinel” was famous for pink slips. They would put pink slips in your envelope, your paycheck, and you no longer had a job. Andersen would go off for two months in the summer time because he didn’t want to be here when the pink slips were put in because he had such a soft heart…. But he was a fair guy. And he was very interested in this city. Extremely interested in this city….
Beautification of Orlando
He was very big on the beautification of the area. He gave plants away. He was very big in the orchid business and the camellia business. He wanted to help the City Beautiful….
What do you appreciate most about Orlando today?
… there are still some places that are wonderful and work hard to keep them nice….
LISTEN Part V (1:25)
How did you meet your wife?
Martin Andersen had some books that he had checked out from the library so I had to bring them back to the library. So I came one afternoon, I had a little motor scooter that belonged to the newspaper. I brought them back over and I turned them in. My sister who was going to Edgewater was in the library with my future wife who I didn’t know. They were in there studying. So I went to my sister, she introduced me to Joan [Wimmer Haugland] who ended up being my wife a few years later. We dated a few years. So I met her at the Albertson Library and now I live on Albertson Place.
And how many years have you been married?
60 years in October we’ve been married. Three children. Four grandchildren. Two live in San Francisco and two live in Atlanta…
Interview: Tom Beaty
Interviewer: Jane Tracy
Date: August 12, 2017
Place: Orlando Public Library
Oral History Interview with Tom Beaty, Part II
Oral History Interview with Tom Beaty, Part III
Oral History Interview with Tom Beaty, Part IV