My name is James Doyle Mallory and I was born in the Conway area and grew up in the Taft area. I started to school in Concord Park Elementary School over on the corner of ’50 and the Orange Blossom Trail which is now McNamara Pontiac; no longer Concord Elementary that went away a long time ago… My mother did not want me to go to Conway Elementary School. Why I don’t really know. But I caught the bus on the corner of Crystal Lake Drive and Michigan Avenue and rode the bus to Concord Park Elementary on West 50 there, just before you get to the Orange Blossom Trail. So I was a bus student. We moved to Taft in 1939 when I was in the third grade. I finished the eighth grade there, went to the ninth in Pine Castle and then to Orlando High School which is now Howard Middle…. the only way to get to school or to Orlando was by bus… It was a country town…
Mr. James Doyle Mallory shares the history of a country boy growing up in Florida, pursuing a college education, serving his country in the U.S. Navy, and coming home to a lifelong career with Orange County Public Schools. Learn more about community life in Taft and the memories of rural life in Central Florida in this oral history interview with Mr. James Doyle Mallory on August 22, 2014 in Orlando, Florida.
Taft Elementary School
But I think it’s kind of interesting the way we were taught when I went to Taft Elementary School there were two rooms downstairs and two rooms upstairs. One was an auditorium upstairs and downstairs was the first through third grade and the other room downstairs was the fifth through eighth grade. And there was a teaching principal who moved from row to row when I was in the fifth through eighth grade. When I was in the third grade was when we moved there so I don’t remember a lot except reading groups and things like that we had in that room until I moved to the other room. The teaching principal moved from the head of one room to fifth grade, to sixth grade, to seventh grade, to eighth grade. He would leave an assignment with the fifth grade and move on with discussions in the other three. So that was the way I went to school and it was subject by subject moving from one grade to another leaving a reading assignment when he left one row to the next. Then [he] would come back and discuss the reading assignment you had and so on. So it was kind of an interesting thing and it was more like a one room school really in each side. Not many people today have that experience. I worked in the school system for 35 years and retired there so it was quite different when I started working as a teacher as to what it was when I went to high school and even elementary school as I described.
Orange County Public School Career
I started teaching in 1958 in Ocoee, Ocoee Junior High. We became Middle School, and we had a few graduating classes before I left there. And then I taught later at Walker Middle School. Walker Junior High is when I moved there. I worked in two schools only in my school experience. Science is what I taught originally and a few math classes. So math and science. And then I worked in the counseling field and that’s where I finished most of the years that I was in the school system...
Ice Route with a Horse and Buggy
My dad [John D. Mallory] interestingly enough I remember when we lived on the corner of Michigan and Conway Gardens Road, my dad would work with an ice company. And when they first moved down here before I was born, my dad ran an ice route with a horse and buggy in Orlando… My folks go back that far. He worked with ice companies the years that I remember and then finally retired with Orange County Road and Bridge Department. He left the ice company and then worked with them for the rest of his experience. My mother was just a housewife, but a mighty good one… I remember [the ice company] was over on Lake Ivanhoe on the south side of the lake. The road that goes around the lake on the south side. I think that was Orlando Ice Company. And then there was one on the corner of Kaley and Orange Avenue that he worked at. I’ve forgotten the name of that one….
Typical Sunday was Sunday School and Church and young people’s group in the evening. And then the evening service and home. And occasionally there were picnics and things at church. Ice cream socials I remember, most fun. When we lived in Conway my dad usually worked on Sunday. It was during the Depression years and he often worked on Sunday and did not join us. Mom arranged when she could to go to church with somebody. So I attended several different denominations whatever she could get a ride to attend. And then when we moved to Taft it was the Baptist Church and occasionally we came to Pine Castle to the Baptist Church … my church experience was mainly Baptist. We attended Conway Baptist when we lived in the Conway area and I went to Sunday School and church there. And then Taft there was a small church that had been started quite a number of years before, but it was a small church and a small community when we moved there… I remember it was a wooden building and it had places for lamps on the walls… there was not electricity as I remember in the beginning… there was a podium up in front and altar where the preacher stood and pews.. they had a piano. I don’t remember an organ at the church in Taft. That is where I attended most of my life. So there was music and the pastor spoke, we took a collection, we dismissed and went home.
I joined the Boy Scouts probably when I was a sophomore or junior in high school… When we were living in Taft they had a big Boy Scout Troop at the Methodist Church in Pine Castle, Troop 36; and that’s where I went to the scouts, went up through the ranks in scouting. I became an Eagle Scout. I was surprised when I went in the Navy and went through Boot Camp that they wanted to put that in my service record that I became an Eagle Scout. I never thought it was such an honor until I really got into the Navy and found out that it was recognized as quite an achievement.
United States Navy and the Hurricane Hunters
I went to Boot Camp in San Diego, some training in electronics in Memphis, and came to Jacksonville Naval Air Station and flew with the Hurricane Hunters, I think about two seasons. The Navy doesn’t have Hurricane Hunters anymore that’s done with. I think the Air Force maybe, and NOAA does all the hurricane reconnaissance now. In the year that I was in the Navy that’s where I spent most of the time. Trained in electronics in Memphis and came out as an operator, radio and radar with a crew in Jacksonville. And we flew right into the eye, 500 feet off the water they said, low penetration…
When we first moved there, there was a railroad truck running right through town and the mail would come and there was a pole that the mail sack would be hung on and they would take the mail sack off, as the train went by slowly, off of that pole and the mail that they were going to deliver was thrown out. And the postmaster would come and pick that up. It was an old locomotive, steam driven locomotive. And I remembered we lived about a mile east of Taft, one mile to the east. And I remember lying in bed many a night and hearing the old train whistle. That’s a real fond memory of mine. And just to the east of where we lived in Taft there was a swamp at that time and there were owls that sounded their hoots through the night many times. So those are fond memories that I have just a country boy growing up…
As I grew older there were some friends that I had down in Taft, mostly it was home life. And there was no electricity and no indoor plumbing when we moved into the house that dad bought when we first moved in 1939 into the Taft area… there was an out house… Light was by lamp. We had an Aladdin lamp that I studied by through high school that was pretty bright. But in general the regular oil lamps were not very bright. But we finally were able to get a radio. I ran a paper route and was able to purchase a radio from the family with earnings I had from the paper route down there. It was a battery radio. So we enjoyed some radio programs. But kids today cannot easily understand how you could do without TV, but there was no TV then either. It was just radio. I wouldn’t give anything for the experiences that I’ve had. It sounds deprived when you talk about it know, but those were rich experiences in my memory.
Taft Paper Route
It was mostly dirt roads. The only paved roads that we had, now it’s called 4th Street, but it was Boggy Creek Road, at the time ran from the center of town and the Old Dixie Highway ran through town from north to south, from Orlando south into Kissimmee. And those are the only paved roads that I remember except maybe Landstreet. Landstreet Road was just a road maybe two blocks to the north of the main area of Taft. But most of the other things that people lived on were dirt. And so I rode a bicycle and delivered those papers on dirt roads mostly. Oddly enough I used the same old bicycle to deliver them in Palm Beach when I went to junior college down there. Took the old bicycle down there and delivered papers to help pay my way through junior college….
The History of Taft
There were several of us that had an interest in documentation of the Taft area, so we met, I think it’s been 12 to 14 years ago that we started. And since then we’ve printed a book on The History of Taft, The Veterans of Taft, The Families of Taft…. But it was kind of interesting to gather that together and we were instrumental in having a monumental sign posted at the Taft Community Center listing the Taft history. I thought that was quite an accomplishment. It’s posted on the premises of the Taft Community Center. The county provided it and dedicated it it there. It has a short history of Taft, when it was founded on the one side… it’s a historical marker…. I remember growing up there was a grocery store. I don’t remember any other businesses in Taft besides the grocery store, that was the main thing. When Taft was founded it was a lot of, a sawmill was there at the beginning… But the only thing that I remember was farming. There were some farms and that’s about it as I remember. In the areas around Taft the pulpwood industries shipped pulpwood; logs that went to make paper out of Taft on the train….
The Ice Box
I remember during World War II we had paper drives and collections of metal to support the war effort. And war bond rallies things like that were events that I recall during those four years. It was pretty tough growing up in the Depression. But we always seemed to have enough on the table. Dad did some farming, had a garden, we had a cow, had chickens. So there was not really a want in our family because we were able to provide what we needed. So there wasn’t a lot of commercial shopping. It was your own production. I remember dad would perhaps have a hog killed, kill a hog once a year. And there was no refrigeration. We had to take the meat he was able to – he had grown up on a farm in Alabama – he was able to cut the meat and we took it to a locker, a frozen food locker down on Boone Street in Orlando. They had a place where they would rent lockers, frozen lockers, and the meat was frozen and as we needed it we would go and get it from there. The refrigeration we had at the house was an ice box. A block of ice put at the top that would cool the rest of the box. As I remember it was a wooden thing with a place at the top of the ice box to place the ice, and, of course, that would have to be replaced as it melted. You’d have to got to an ice plant. And, like I mentioned, there was one on the corner of, I think, Kaley and South Orange and one on Lake Ivanhoe where my dad had worked. So we were able to get ice and replace it, but you had to go and get it. There was no ice route in Taft. The route that I mentioned earlier that my dad drove was in the streets of Orlando…
Where does milk come from?
I remember my mother making several of her dresses from the print cow feed bags and I remember my mother setting up a quilt rack in the living room and having her friends come in and make a quilt. She made most of her clothes as far as I can remember. She made pretty much all of them and a lot of mine as well. My dad’s attire was usually overalls, that’s what I remember him wearing mostly. But those were fond memories to me. I think to kids today, I remember when I was teaching in Ocoee, I asked in class one day, “Can someone tell me where milk comes from?” And the answer was, “a carton”. I thought somebody would answer a cow, but it was carton. It was kind of interesting to see the town grow and yet it was hard to see the demise of the country setting that I grew up in because those were fond memories …
College and Military Service
I graduated from high school in 1948. There was no junior college. I didn’t see anyway in the world, my dad was a laborer, there was no money to look forward to college. But that was a dream that I had and so I made the preparation as best I could with the subjects I took. And as I recall I had all the precollege courses except a foreign language. My aunt offered when I graduated from high school, she lived in West Palm Beach and there was a Palm Beach Junior College… and she offered to let me live with them and go to junior college. So that’s where I went for the first two years. I went from Palm Beach Junior College when I graduated from that in 1950, started University of Florida. The Korean War was at its height… to avoid being drafted I started to look at what I might get into that would help me further my education… so I decided to visit the offices of the different branches, decided that the Navy would be the best bet…Went to San Diego and boot camp was up and went to training in Memphis for electronics and then was stationed at the Hurricane Hunters in Jacksonville. Got out in 1955 and went back to the university with the help of the GI Bill…. I was able to get a master’s degree and start teaching in ’58…. I started in 1958 and oddly enough the principal of Ocoee Junior High School who hired me was my eighth grade teacher. So I worked in the school system and retired in 1993….
I should add that God has been a great part of my life and if it were not for his leadership and his presence in my life I don’t think I would have accomplished much that I’ve described that I’ve accomplished. So I give Him the credit and take not much for myself.