September Oral History of the Month

The St. Augustine Historical Society has a robust, active oral history program. Every month, we will highlight different oral histories in our collection–a sampling of the many voices of St. Augustine.

 

Interviewee:  HERBIE WILES

Interviewer:  SHELLEY DEVOUSGES, TOM DAY

Interview date: December 6th, 2018

Transcribed by Melissa Ingram and Madeleine Horrell

 

(unrelated dialogue about recording device)

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES:  Okay.  We are here today, December 6, 2018, St. Augustine Historical Society Trustees TOM DAY and SHELLEY DEVOUSGES and we are here to interview Mr. HERBIE WILES.  So, Mr. Wiles, we talked a little bit about things before I turned on the recording.  I would like to know a little bit about how you came to St. Augustine, how your family came to St. Augustine.  How that all happened.

HERBIE WILES: Well, um, we’re first generation.  My dad was born and raised in North Carolina.  My mother came from Illinois.  Dad came down to St. Augustine after World War I.  I can’t tell you why he came to St. Augustine but he came here and his family followed him: his mother and father and brothers and sister came after he came here after World War I.  When mother graduated from high school, (musical ringtone plays over speech until turned off, approximately 15 seconds later) she was born in ’03 so that was about 18 or 19.  I guess 19.  They decided, my grandfather decided to buy a farm and move down here.  He bought the farm but my grandmother wouldn’t live on the farm so she built, they built a house on McCarer Street, 24 McCarer Street which is still there.  And mother and dad met here in St. Augustine and married.  And, um, then we were born, all of us delivered here.  I had an older brother Randy, Jr. who is three years older and a younger brother Jimmy who was six years younger.

TOM DAY:   Do you know why, not why your Dad, because you said you didn’t know but what town in North Carolina was your Dad from?

HERBIE WILES:  Dad was from ahh. . . this is what you go through when you get older.  You know the town but you can’t– it won’t come.

TOM DAY:  Okay.  Well, later.

HERBIE WILES:  We’ll break in and tell ya.  (Laughter)  It was the eastern part of Carolina.  Asheborough.

TOM DAY:  Asheborough?  Okay.

HERBIE WILES:  Asheborough.  In that area.  I think the family basically was, I think my grandmother was from that area but I think on Dad’s side they were all out of south Virginia.

TOM DAY:  Oh really?  Okay.

HERBIE WILES:  Because I know that, I remember them going up visiting aunts and uncles in Virginia.  So, and that’s pretty close in there.

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES:  Now, after your Dad and Mom met and married here, at one point did your Dad, because I know your father was in the insurance business too, at what point did he go into that business?

HERBIE WILES:  Well, Dad, he worked for the city for awhile.  Now this was back in the twenties, early thirties, he worked for the city.  Then, my grandfather’s mother became a widow moved down and my grandfather’s father was fairly successful.  I don’t know, I’d say they were comfortable financially.  Umm they bought a sundry store, not a drug store, but it sold patented medicine but it was not a pharmacy on San Marco Avenue.  It was owned by Raymond Hill, the Hill family and they bought it from them and they called it Lucas and Wiles.  My grandfather was Lucas and Dad of course Wiles.  It’s now an in-and-out store right across the street from Firestone on San Marco Avenue.

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES:  Okay.

HERBIE WILES:  And the City Baking Company was, all that property, was owned by Walter Mohler who owned City Baking Company.  Then there was a drug store and next to the drug store was a building, I don’t know who owned it, but Jerry Kass and his father had a grocery store in there.

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES:  I remember the Kass.

HERBIE WILES:  Now, Dad stayed in the drug store in the sundry store up until World War II.  Then the railroad was looking for anybody to work.  Mother went to work on the railroad and Dad went to work for the railroad.  I think that’s when they got out of debt.  Everybody was in debt but during the war they got out of debt.  Dad went on the board of county commissioners in 1940 and he served for 18 years.  And while he was on the board he served with Harry Jackson who was Judge Jackson’s brother.  And his daughter was married to Harold Lyman.  He was with State Farm.  He was gonna retire and Dad went in the business in 1945 in the insurance business with State Farm.  And then when I came back out of World War II, I went to college and then I decided I wanted to go into the insurance business.  I went in for awhile with State Farm and then Annette’s father passed away suddenly over in West Florida.  She was from Okaloosa County.  We moved over there for about three years and I wanted to get back home.  Dad became terminally ill with cancer and I wanted to get back home so when I came back here in 1961, I started this agency from scratch.  So, I didn’t go back with State Farm.  I started this.

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES:  Started this agency.

HERBIE WILES:   Dad was in there from 1945 until his death in ‘62.

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES:   Okay so 18 years or so.  Seventeen years.  Okay.

HERBIE WILES(overlapping) Mmm hmm.

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES:  Now, you mentioned World War II, you were in the Navy as I recall?  Yes?

HERBIE WILES:  Navy, yes.  I was in right at the last.  I joined to get out of high school.  (Laughter)  I joined when I was 17, in February of ’45, the war was still on.  When I was in the Navy, Roosevelt died, Germany surrendered, got out of boot camp, came home for leave, went back up, went down to New Orleans caught a troop ship.  As part of the crew, we went through the Panama Canal on to Hawaii.  And when I got to Hawaii, we got things that Japan was surrendering.  So, I’m a veteran of World War II but I really didn’t see anything.  (laughter)  By the time I got to Pearl Harbor, Japan had surrendered the first day leave I had downtown Honolulu. They all went crazy.

TOM DAY:  Wow.

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES:  What was that like?

HERBIE WILES:  Well, you know, it was, you know of course especially for the people of Hawaii who had really gone through it.  But Hawaii was umm, when I got there, there were a lot of open spaces on the water and everywhere there was anything open there was storage stuff.  You know war materials that were going there.  Of course, they were beginning to be depleted because they could see the war was coming to an end.  It was an interesting place to be.  Now, I can’t, wouldn’t be able to find myself around Honolulu anymore.

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES:  Have you been back since?

HERBIE WILES:  Went back one time.  Yep.  Kind of looked around.  Went on the base.  I was at the sub base at Pearl Harbor which was right across from Fort Island where the big ships were all parked that got sank, you know.

TOM DAY:  So, did you get on another boat and come back to the United States at that point?

HERBIE WILES:  Umm, yeah.  When I was discharged in 1948, I signed up for a minority cruise ‘til I was 21.  They let me out in February.  My birthday was in May.

TOM DAY:  Okay.  So you served for a number of years after the war was over.

HERBIE WILES:  Yes, I served, I was in there about 2 ½ years.

TOM DAY:  Mmm hmm.

HERBIE WILES:  And, um– Well, a little more than 2 ½ years because it had been 3 years, 4 years to be twenty-one.  So, I served about 3 years in there.  Yeah.

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES:  Now, when you were discharged, did you come back to St. Augustine and is that the time that you went to Florida State?

HERBIE WILES:  Yeah. I came back and messed around for about a year.  Basically that’s exactly what I did.  (Laughter)  And, um, Dad sort of put it to me pretty, you know he said we’re glad to have you home but now it’s time for you to start paying a little bit.  You can use my car but I want you to put gas in.  You need to give your mother some money towards the food.  And I was working at the post office not making a lot of money and of course I realized that if I do that I’m not gonna have much money.  Of course he was pushing me to do something so I went to college.  Went to Florida State.

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES:  And you were, as I recall reading, you were one of the first men to attend Florida State.  It had been FSCW for awhile.

HERBIE WILES:   Yeah.  The same year, 1947.  Annette, who I met in college, was the first class of 1947 where females and males were together.  And same thing with the University of Florida.  It was 1947 they opened it up.  But I got there in ’49.  I got in the Spring, at that time they were on a quarterly basis, I got in the Spring quarter of 1949.

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES:  So, it was still relatively new?

HERBIE WILES:  Oh yeah!

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES:  You were a definite minority?

HERBIE WILES:  Yeah.  It was kind of fun, too.  (Laughter)  You know.

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES:  And you met Mrs. Wiles there, and when did you marry?

HERBIE WILES:  In 1952.  She graduated in ’51.  I graduated in ’53.  And so we married in February of ’52.

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES:  Okay.

TOM DAY:  So when you came back to St. Augustine, what are some of the things that you noticed may have changed?

HERBIE WILES:  To be honest with you, coming back in ’48, there really wasn’t a lot of change then.  Other than all of the veterans were back home.  Most of them in college.  The town was about the same as I left it.  San Marco Avenue still had the trees growing over it.  It was before they widened San Marco and tore all of the trees down.  You remember where they were in that area?  Around the shrine and all of those big, beautiful homes.  And I really didn’t notice a lot of difference and there really wasn’t a lot of difference because there were not a lot of new people moving to St. Augustine.  And basically, I think that new people that moved, especially even after I got out of college, we treated them like tourists because we didn’t know they were still, they had moved here.

TOM DAY:  Well, it was still a pretty hard place to get to.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: (overlapping) Yeah.

TOM DAY:  You didn’t have Route 1.

HERBIE WILES:  You didn’t have—and no interstate.  You had to come down US 1.  And US 1 through St. Augustine came in, went down to King, to, uh, Bay Street, you turn left on King Street, you went all the way out past, uh, what is now Ponce de Leon Blvd and made a left turn where the light is on Master’s Drive and you went down Old Moultrie and what we call Old Moultrie and Old Dixie Highway.

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES:  South Dixie Highway.

HERBIE WILES:  It was something.  Two lane the whole time.  It was, uh, so it was a lot of difference.

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES:  And I recall that being the case at least when I was growing up.  There weren’t too many people moving in either.  On occasion, we’d get a new kid in school, but it was just occasionally.

HERBIE WILES:  No.  Hmm mmm.  Very slowly moving.  While I was on the county commission, in the, um, I got on between the sixties and seventies it started growing.  And then after the, uh, what is it, Farichild now– When Fairchild came, that brought in a lot of people.

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES:  Now, you were on the city commission, or county commission.

HERBIE WILES: No, county commission.

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES:   For how long?

HERBIE WILES:  For twelve years.

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES:  And was that during the period of time when, do I recall that, it was when you started getting some planning and development and those kind of restrictions?

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) We, um–  The group that was on the board during that period of time instigated zoning and adopted the Southern Building Code, which was one book, because things were just going up.  You lost the old contractors that had pride in what they built and things were beginning to get pretty cheaply built.  We had a hard time on the zoning.  Zoning was pretty tough.  But people saw the need to divorce, you can’t have a nice home and a repair garage next door.  You know and things like that.  That’s what was happening.  So, as far as the county is concerned because the city, the zoning for the county doesn’t relate to the city.  That’s another tax district and they represent themselves.  But we helped install that all during that period of time.  I served with Dan Michler, Earl Bird.  Oh, gee, uh . . . Three of the people when I went on the board served with my Dad.  And then they started getting newer, younger men running as we got today.

TOM DAY:  Did you know a man named Hiram Faver?

HERBIE WILES:   Oh yes!  Everyone knew Hiram Faver.  Hiram Faver was Clerk of the Court.

TOM DAY:  Yep.

HERBIE WILES:  And um, he went in the service, probably volunteered, I don’t think.  And while he was gone, um, I can’t think of the gentleman’s name.  He was a tall lawyer.  Took over as clerk of the court and I remember that because I worked at the Matanzas Theatre a little bit part-time and a couple wanted to get married, now I wasn’t of age.  But he grabbed me as a witness so this couple could get married because the courthouse was right down the street from the theatre.  You remember?  It was on the corner of Charlotte and umm…

TOM DAY:  Cathedral.  Charlotte and Treasury or Cathedral.

HERBIE WILES:  Treasury, yeah.  He grabbed me.  Nice man.  So, I went in as a witness.  Never knew who they were but I witnessed their wedding.  And then Hiram– When Hiram was there, he served along with Red Cox.

TOM DAY:  Yep.

HERBIE WILES:  Hiram loved St. Augustine, St. Johns County.  And I think he put that love into Red Cox who was a New Englander.  And Red Cox married and he and his wife moved down here and that’s the way we got Red Cox into St. Augustine was Hiram Faver.

TOM DAY:  Really?  In reading commission notes, Hiram Faver seems to have been the link between the county and the city because everything went through him.

HERBIE WILES:   (overlapping) Yep.

TOM DAY:  I remember he was mentioned as instrumental in making sure that the state road department did certain things.  When they put US 1 in where Ponce de Leon Blvd is now.

HERBIE WILES:  Yep.  They were the clerk of the county commission so they, they had a– and he was a very easy man to work with.  It’s amazing when you go in the clerk’s office now and the number of employees and what we had back even when I was on the board.  There were only about 4 people in that office.  But you gotta remember we didn’t have any, when I ran for office in 1965 there was about 35,000 people living in the entire county.  That wasn’t much.  Only about 16,000 registered voters.

TOM DAY:  Wow.

HERBIE WILES:  And now we’re what?  About 198,000 voters. We’re over a quarter of a million people now living in St. John’s County.

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES:  Yes.  That’s amazing.

HERBIE WILES:  Golly.

TOM DAY:  You feel crowded at all?

HERBIE WILES:  Just a little.  (Laughter)

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES:  Well, the Fullerwood area where you live, and I know you and Mrs. Wiles have lived there for as long as I can remember, that area has changed some but it still has the same feel to it.

HERBIE WILES:  Yeah, it does.  Dad uh, the first house he bought, I thought he owned where I was born on McCarer Street, but they rented.  I can tell you where we moved to.  I remember most of the places.  And he bought on the corner of Ocean and San Marco.  It’s now half of a lot, a very narrow lot.  The south half of that lot was his and next to it was Fort Marion Chevrolet that Jim McGardner at that time ran or was the manager of.  And after the war, Annette needed more space and Dad bought a house that was built by Sammy Willis’ uncle on his mother’s side, who did all of the brick work himself, made the bricks and then built the house.  It was quite a nice, little place.

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES:  He made the bricks too?

HERBIE WILES:  He made the bricks.

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES:   Oh my goodness, okay.

HERBIE WILES:   And uhh they were made out of . . . oh shoot. . .  well, I’ll think of that too.  But anyway, we lived there and then Doug, in 1949, Dad sold that to Annette and bought 63 Bayview Drive.  And he and mother lived there until he died and mother lived a year afterwards.  It was too much for her.  And so I bought the house in 1963 from mother and we’ve been there ever since.  So, it’s been in the family since ’49.

TOM DAY:  Wow.

HERBIE WILES:  It was built in ’26.

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES: (overlapping) Yeah, yeah, some of those—

HERBIE WILES: I think [Inaudible] house was built at the same time and I think the two houses were built by the same builder but I’m not sure.

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES:  And I think a lot of people don’t realize really just that whole Fullerwood area really boomed after World War II but there were several homes there dating way back to the…

HERBIE WILES:  There were a lot of homes but there were a lot of lots still there and so it’s pretty near built out.  That area off of Atlantic was open, I didn’t realize it was subdivided but nobody ever built in there til the last 25 years.  You know where I’m talking about?

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES:  Yes.

HERBIE WILES:   That was, uh, kinda vacant. We all went to the Fullerwood school.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Yes, we did. (laughter)

TOM DAY: Was that considered part of St. Augustine at the time?

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Yes—

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) Yes, it was part of the city.

TOM DAY: The city limits were May Street, for all I know—

HERBIE WILES: No, no, no.

TOM DAY: (overlapping) then they moved outward.

HERBIE WILES: It was always outwards. It was, uh, about where Master’s garage was, if you remember where Master’s garage was, on San Marco?

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES:  Yes, it was just before the, um, drive-in, right?

HERBIE WILES: Yes, somewhere there.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: (overlapping) Somewhere in there. Because I don’t think the drive-in was in the city limits.

HERBIE WILES: It may not have been, at that time, I can’t quite remember where that was, at that time.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: (overlapping) Right.

HERBIE WILES: But, North City, Fullerwood was in, uh, in the city.

TOM DAY: Okay.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Yes, the D&B had always, the Deaf and Blind School, had always been in the city limits. And that has expanded quite a bit.

HERBIE WILES: Oh, yeah. Well, they filled in the marsh, which they can’t do anymore, but they filled in that marsh, and built all that there, you know, where the blind department is, the football field and all that, that’s all. . .

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Yes. What, what are some of the changes, over the years, that you have seen that you would consid— given your rich history with St. Augustine, some of the changes that you would consider the most positive changes in St. Augustine?

HERBIE WILES: The most positive changes?

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Well, I’m gonna ask you about the negative ones too. (laughter)

HERBIE WILES: Um, well, umm, I’d have to say that, you know, we’ve had so many new people come, and I think positively, we’ve really picked up a lot of good people who’ve paid back to the community. I think that’s a real positive thing. It’s a negative thing the fact we have so much growth, but the positive thing is that people who moved here, the majority, there’ve been a few who have not, but the majority, uh, have always paid back. Especially the business people that’ve opened. I think about John Bailey, for example, and, uh, Bob Curtain, that have moved. Calhoun was born here, but Bob married into the Greene family, but he was from out west, but, but he moved here. Jack Perrault, who married one of the Nader girls, they had a successful business, they both paid back. They were really some great people; I think that was a positive thing. So many things that we thought helped, but really, deteriorated from what we had. For example, and, uh, I’m thinking about the trees, when we—it was before, before ’95, it was before we had Ponce, and so, businesses were getting, the traffic on US-1 was so heavy, so they widened it, the state widened it, and cut down all those beautiful trees that looked like magnolia. That’s the way it looked down San Marco, if you recall.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Yes, and they took out some orange groves too.

HERBIE WILES: And that was kind of sad, but at the time, it seemed like the thing to do. Of course, when ’95 came, and they put in Ponce de Leon, we didn’t need to do that. Although we still need to do it. In fact, I think they need to take parking off of San Marco now, all the way.

TOM DAY: We’re gonna need another road, to last between 95 and 1. That doesn’t seem to get done. Um, I’ve read a lot of the commission notes, about that period of time, when they were expanding the roads, some of the things they did and there was sort of, a strengthening and a waning of interest in preservation. And, um, I think it was in 1960, ’59 or ’60 that they started the Historic Preservation and Restoration Commission. Supposedly, any changes that went on had to go through that, um, first. And for a while, it seemed to work, and it showed up in the commission notes. But then, it just seemed like people either lost interest, or maybe they’d gotten over restoring things and wanted to move on, and, and make things more efficient. Like widening a road. Um, but, those are the challenges, I would say, that you take on, when you’re growing a town, there’s a great computer game that you can play, um, Build Your Own Town, and if you make the wrong move it goes away. (chuckling)

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) Yeah, well, you know, like the—the bridge for example, when it was built in ’26, ’27, that was a welcome thing. But you gotta remember, also, during those years, people wanted the railroad to come right through town, if you recall. Which was a big mistake, that was a big mistake, to put that bridge there—Now, it wasn’t at the time. But if you removed the Bridge of Lions today, you’d have less traffic downtown, you wouldn’t be caught between that—and there’s no way to widen, I mean, what we’ve got in town is like, European cities, there’s no way to widen the streets!

TOM DAY: (overlapping) No.

HERBIE WILES: We’ve got to figure a way to- to let everything through, and then we’re putting more and more stuff on it, you’ve got cars, you’ve got bicycles, you’ve got trailer trains, now you’ve got these little things with the things running around—

TOM DAY: (overlapping) . . . little. . . little (inaudible)cart.

HERBIE WILES: Now you’ve got people on bicycles hauling people, and, I mean, to impede traffic, it’s terrible. And I think, I think someday they’ll work out what they need to do. And then you’ve got big trucks coming through, they’ve gotta unload, and merchants that need products. I’ve noticed that most of them delivering are doing it in the early mornings. And so, they block traffic, I figure, at least they’re getting out of the way for the big crowds later on.

TOM DAY: Do you ever remember a transfer point that was set up for loading big trucks? Unloading big trucks and putting them on smaller trucks, out by the exit?

HERBIE WILES: The only that—The only thing I can think of, there was a place, uh. . . I’m trying to think of his name, too. Out on, uh, South Ponce, right off of King Street, that I think was, at one time, where they would get the stuff delivered, and there’s been talk about that, having a place where you can dump that, it’s, it’s adding another cost, to the consumer, because you gotta pass that cost on. And that’s probably an answer, because I’ll tell you what, you’re looking at semi’s, going down in the center of the old district, it’s tough. Not only is it tough for them to drive, but they can tear up the stuff.

TOM DAY: (overlapping, quietly) Ruin the sewers underneath them, under the weight of those trucks.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: In spite of, you know, some of the issues that you’ve addressed in terms of what we face now in St. Augustine, I still hear a lot of hope in your voice.

HERBIE WILES: Oh, yeah.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Yeah.

HERBIE WILES: I think that—

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: (overlapping) And I appreciate that.

HERBIE WILES: . . . We just gotta understand that, you know, I’m not anti-bicyclist, but the bicyclists don’t understand the law, and the drivers don’t understand the law, and it’s not enforced. You don’t ride a bicycle towards traffic. It’s been proven that there are more killed riding their bicycles towards traffic—which they think is safe—than it is if they’re riding with traffic. And when they’re on a road, they’re a vehicle, just like a car, they gotta make stop signs, they gotta do all that stuff. Once we got that worked out— and I’m hoping that we can work out, I think some of the stuff’s gotta stop, I think it just gotta say ‘We can’t have that, to impede traffic.’

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: And again, it’s a matter of education. Educating the public and, um, the bicyclists, and the tourists. Um, and just being—

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) And the college. Remember we have the college kids too, who, they, you know, I was in college, I was young, I don’t cuss ‘em. I just know when I get close to the college, drive slowly and watch out. ‘Cause they’re just liable to walk out in front of you.

TOM DAY: (overlapping) They do, yeah.

HERBIE WILES: And just, why cuss ‘em, they’re, they’re kids!

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Exactly. Just watch out for the skateboards, right? (laughter)

HERBIE WILES: Oh, yeah. (laughing)

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: I think that’s their principle mode of travel.

TOM DAY: On skateboard, yeah. I have a lot of ‘em, I live down at the end of the street here, down Saragossa, the first block. Kids go down there on those skateboards, I can hear the coming, (mimics skateboard sound, presumably) and here they come, flying by.

HERBIE WILES: Yeah, it’s, uh, it’s nice to have the college in town, but also, people gotta give or take, just like John Versaggi, I hate to see him move from downtown, but I can understand that he just probably got tired of it. And, I hope he’s happy out there in Valencia.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: I think so. You would know more than me, but, uh—

HERBIE WILES: ‘Cause I understood, he did a great job on his dad’s house.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: (overlapping) Oh, yes, absolutely. Absolutely.

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) He renovated that thing, and his dad was a great guy, too, both of ‘em. Johnny was just, just a fine man. That whole family seems first class.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: And they certainly give back to the community.

HERBIE WILES: Oh, yeah. That whole family did.

TOM DAY: Well, that’s good location right now, for the current president of the College.

HERBIE WILES: Yeah, he bought it. I thought maybe the school bought it, but that’s not- as I understand, Joe bought it, which—I don’t blame him.

TOM DAY: Yeah, uh, John is, uh, yeah, I think he’s happy.

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) Well, good.

TOM DAY: He knew he had to move, two reasons. One is the, uh, one was the college, that was a primary focus, because he thought at that point they were gonna develop the tennis courts, and that may still happen, but he didn’t wanna be around when they put another big building there. And the other one was, the two hurricanes. I mean he had water right up to his front door.

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) Oh, did he? Yeah, yeah.

TOM DAY: And that house in on a slab. So—

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) It didn’t ever have that much water. We’d just, you know, regardless of what they say, we do have climate problems, and uh, the water is gonna keep coming up. These last two hurricanes were the highest water I’ve ever seen. And I had, I had water in my house at Bayview, it was just a little bit, and I think it seeped through the front door, and, uh, we were able to dry it out in a hurry and save that, but, it just uh—and you know, I lost a car, sitting in the car port, and uh, water was even in the, uh, where you put the glass. I mean, it got that high.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: (overlapping) In the cupholder?

HERBIE WILES: In the cupholder!

TOM DAY: Yikes.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Yikes is right.

HERBIE WILES: And I, ‘cause what, just, last week, week before last, we had that big—

TOM DAY: (overlapping) Rain storm. Yep.

HERBIE WILES: Noreaster? I had to wait, uh, miss church, I had to wait, uh—

(funky ringtone plays in background for about five seconds)

HERBIE WILES: Oh, let’s see. I’ll just call them back.

TOM DAY: That’s what I’ll do, just turn it off.

HERBIE WILES: But, um, I have to wait for water in East Park to go down, before I could go out. It was high enough, it was over to the sidewalk. So that’s about eight, nine inches of water. You don’t wanna get your car in that. And I see these dummies with trucks.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: And they—That part, as I recall, growing up, never used to flood.

TOM DAY: (overlapping) Oh, yeah.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Now, where I lived, down on Fullerwood, and, um, Douglas—

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) That dip down there always had water.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Always, always had water, even in a bad rainstorm.

HERBIE WILES: Ever since I lived there, if it’s a flood tide, you know a real Noreaster tide—

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: (overlapping) Right.

HERBIE WILES: It’ll get in that, it’s always been that way, I’ve had people call me, when I was on the county commission, say ‘You’ve gotta come out and look at my road’, and I said I can’t get out of my own house right now, but as soon as I can, I’ll come out and look at your problem. (laughing)

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Is there anything, I know I talked to you, I guess it was last week and the week before about setting this up, is there anything else you want to add? I mean I could sit here half the day and talk to you about everything, but, um, I know that your time is valuable, and. . .

HERBIE WILES: I don’t do anything. I just have a place to come.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Exactly, you do a lot, and you do a lot for this community.

HERBIE WILES: You know, I , I was born on McCarer Street, I don’t know how long we lived there, because I was a baby, but I’ve got a picture in front of the house, on that house on McCarer Street. I don’t remember the number, but I can, I can remember where everybody lived, (inaudible) and the O’Briens [sp], that’s where we lived there, and then Donald Buck [sp] was in the next building, you know you could go round there, and I can remember when the McDonald’s, Mary McDonald and all them went to that house, and then my grandmother was in that one. I remember when, after World War Two, that Alfred Schwartz [sp] built the house next to Grandma, and then out the corner, was the, uh. . . oh, shoot, what was his name, L. J. Riley [sp].

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Yes, that was next door to us.

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) Yes.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: (overlapping) Yes, the Riley’s were there.

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) He and Boone, uh, uh, Claire Boone [sp] danced together, did you know that?

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: (overlapping) No.

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) Well, she was a dancer, did you know that?

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Yes.

HERBIE WILES: She met, uh, Boone. She was in a USO show—

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: (overlapping) Right.

HERBIE WILES: And she met him that way, and that’s how they married. But L.J., I remember him. He was of course, quite a bit older than I was. At least ten years or so. But I remember him. I remember him and his mother and father, I think his dad worked for the railroad, but I’m not sure of it. And they lived down—Then there was that vacant lot, that ran all the way down to San Marco, before they built. . .

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Before they built, yes, my parents built in 1951, right next door to the Riley’s and that was a—

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) Right out on the corner.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: That was on the corner, right, and that was a double lot. A corner lot.

HERBIE WILES: Yeah. But I—We lived there, I remember living over under the lighthouse, there were two buildings there, the Coast Guard had it, and there was a little small house that was just Randy and I, Jimmy, I don’t think was born then. I was awfully young, I remember playing, and Tommy Keegan [sp] owned the house, the big house, and he rented this little smaller house, and we lived there. Then I remember we moved to 32 Mulberry Street, which was on that little creek back there, and, uh, the (inaudible) lived down the street, Peter Thompson and John lived on Locust Street at that time. And then, because they saved ten dollars a month, they moved from—That’s what Mother told me, ‘cause I asked her, why did we move from Mulberry to Milton Street, and she said because the rent was going from $35 a month to $25 a month. And that was a lot of money back in the day—

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: (overlapping) Absolutely, it was.

HERBIE WILES: . . .because the revenue, that was like living in North City, ‘cause back then, we all went to school, but we could go through the D&B school back then, and there was an entrance there, and then you could go down, and there was an entrance down on McLaren Street [sp] and then you’d ride to school. And I even came home for lunch.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Yes, I do remember that.

HERBIE WILES: ‘Cause you know, they didn’t have a cafeteria down there. And then we moved, uh, well I guess, I moved on Bayview when I was really little, that’s when I had a mastoid problem, in my ear, and Dr. Greggs took care of that. Then I think we moved over onto the beach.  And, uh, in fact, I think it’s the house, I’m not sure whether it’s the one that Bill Lee lives in, or, um, Lohair—

SHELLEY DEVOUSGES: Cindy?

HERBIE WILES: Cindy. I think it’s the one that Bill lives in, we lived in, we rented that, when I was young. I remember that, I had terrible earaches, and they ended up- they didn’t have antibiotics back then, so they removed the bone behind my ear—

TOM DAY: (overlapping) Oh, gosh.

HERBIE WILES: . . . it got infected, mastoid, you don’t do those mastoid operations anymore. (coughs)

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Cindy has done some real—I don’t know if you’ve seen—

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) Yeah.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: She’s done some real, some beautiful renovations to that.

HERBIE WILES: She has. I’m glad she’s there, I’m glad she’s happy there too.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: She seems to be, yes, to be back.

HERBIE WILES: But anyway, it’s been a—I’ve lived in North City most of my life.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: (overlapping) Well you’ve certainly given a lot to this city. A lot of yourself, a lot of your time.

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) Well, the city, and the county’s been mighty good to us, you know, you’ve gotta be a part of it. I can only remember one family, I can’t think of the names, but they owned the motel on the Bayfront. Uh. . .

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Brock?

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) No, not him, it’s. . .

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: (overlapping) Oh, okay.

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) The motel that’s now owned by the guy who owns, uh, I think, I think it’s now a Best Western.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: (quietly) Okay.

TOM DAY: The Monterey?

HERBIE WILES: The Monterey, the family that owned that, and it’s the only family I ever knew, of business people, who got involved, took, never gave back. They all died.

TOM DAY: Well—

HERBIE WILES: I can’t think of the name of ‘em, but I remember they never—The whole time they were here, and owned that motel—Now I didn’t know em, but they never did a thing for the community, they just took. I’ve never known any other person that came to St. Augustine that didn’t gave back. Business people.

TOM DAY: Mm-hmm.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Is there something about St. Augustine, as a business person, uh, that, is there something unique about St. Augustine that makes you want to give back.

HERBIE WILES: Yeah, I think so, ‘specially now that it’s spread out, I think so. Uh, we were raised at that time, now you gotta remember, people like Joe Shelly [sp], back in 1965 when we had the four hundredth? John Bailey, and that group? They were city commission, no pay. They volunteered, they didn’t pay ‘em! I never understood whether that’s good or bad. Payin’ the politicians, but at that time, people gave—they would run, on their own expense. I think they got a little expense if they had to make a trip on behalf of the city, but anything else, they pay it out of their own pocket! And, uh, I just think we all felt like we wanted to give, you know, at the chamber, city, county—well, at the county they did pay. I only got three hundred dollars a month, and I thought I was wealthy. (laughter) Now, you know what they’re making now?

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: I have no idea.

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) Over sixty five thousand dollars.

TOM DAY: Oh, wow, city manager over here makes—

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) School board doesn’t make more than twenty five, thirty thousand dollars now. The point I’m concerned about now is that I think we’ve had this, I think we’ve had people running for jobs for the money, not because they want to serve.

TOM DAY: I’m not in a position to be, I know the city manager gets paid well, but I wouldn’t run for mayor for the money (laughing).

HERBIE WILES: No, but I think- it seems like the city commission is making, now I’m gonna guess, ‘cause I know it’s not much, maybe nine hundred dollars a month? They may not make that, mayor made like fifteen hundred dollars a month, I’m not sure, it wasn’t much more. Course, I don’t like an elected mayor, so, mind the mayor—

TOM DAY: (overlapping) You, you mean, what do you prefer, an appointed mayor?

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) No, no, no, you get five people, let them serve—

TOM DAY: (overlapping) Let them choose—

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) Look. Nancy, and the people that served before her—

TOM DAY: (overlapping) Oh, I see.

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) I have nothing against Nancy. She has no more power—

TOM DAY: (overlapping) That’s true.

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) She has no more power than any other commissioner. The county commission, they are like the chairmen, serve for a year, or if they re-elect, maybe they’ll serve two years, but it got out of hand, and they dumped a mayor. . . put a mayor in, and Hamilton happened to be in the legislature at the time, and said, you straighten her out, so we went to this elected mayor. Course we never go back ‘cause most people don’t know that. You don’t need an elected mayor. All you need is like five good city commissioners, and I think we’ve got pretty good city commissioners; one of them wants to be the mayor, you know, give everybody a turn. What is it? It’s nothing but, uh, you run the meeting, and you act as the mayor.

TOM DAY: Yeah, I’ve never seen the, uh, commission meeting notes that the mayor had any greater influence over the, uh, anything else—

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) Yeah, yeah. Because our charter is a city management type government, not a mayor one. But because people watch television, you’ve got a mayor in Jacksonville, they think the mayor is the big important person, and they’re not.

TOM DAY: No, city manager is definitely, it’s where you gotta go.

HERBIE WILES: Yeah. And you need a good city manager in order to operate. And they’re not gonna make everyone happy, neither is any politician, but you gotta look at. . .

TOM DAY: You remember any city manager that stands out in your memory as being extraordinary?

HERBIE WILES: There’s been some good ones, that I thought were good, there’s been some ones I didn’t think were as good, I think they all tried to do a good job, I think we’re in a position now where. . . in all fairness, that we need a professional city manager now. Even, um, going with him, and I think that there’s too much politics involved, and I think you need a city manager who, he’s got to please the people, but he can lay out the stuff that needs to be done, and I think we need that now.

TOM DAY: I think we, that particular job has grown, the responsibilities have grown exponentially, and I think maybe sometimes too much is expected from them, because they have to be an engineer, a politician, a financial person—

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) Well, all they need to do is know how to run the government.

TOM DAY: And it’s different than running a business.

HERBIE WILES: Yeah. . .

TOM DAY: Well, that’s interesting.

HERBIE WILES: Again, these are my opinions, it’s not. . . you know, just, looking at it. . .

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: You have good opinions.

TOM DAY: And it’s interesting from the perspective, to see over the years how some things have worked, or haven’t worked, or how they could be better—

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) We’ve had some, now I will say this, we’ve had some what I call professionals come in, people that you hire from somewhere else, they weren’t that good either. But we’ve had some excellent ones, and I think that what happened, when Joe Poymar [sp] came on working for the city, it was at a time in which I think the city, as well as the commissioners, were tired of doing new things. And they wanted to stop, and I think that Joe, uh, Poymar, more than anyone else, fit the bill. And that started the promoting from within, and I think we had too much and I think we need to go back. Nothing wrong with any of the ones who’ve served thus far, I mean this fellow who’s up there now they’re alright, but he’s not a city manager. He’s an engineer. And, I think he tries to do a good job, and I’m sure he does as good a job as he can do. But, you know, you’ve gotta, we’ve been talking, how many of you’s been talking about the parking problem? It’s never been solved. You need somebody who can, who can work with that. And then you hire someone to tell us, they put that on the shelf, with the other ones that have told us what to do some years ago.

TOM DAY: (quietly) That’s true.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: (overlapping) That’s true.

HERBIE WILES: Again, that’s my opinion.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: But your opinions are from. . . you have the benefit of having these, these years of experience in St. Augustine and giving back to the community, and your opinions are, um, very valid, and very important from that perspective. Anyone can have an opinion, but I don’t think anyone has an opinion in the context that you do—

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) And of course, you know I don’t think what I’m saying is right, I’m always willing to listen to anybody that might give me a new perspective on it. Lemme ask you another question. One thing I think we’ve missed over the years, and I don’t know how to correct it, I’m as much at fault as anyone else, but people like Herbert Wolfe [sp], and Walt Frasier [sp], and Frank Upchurch Sr., uh, Frank Tart [sp]. You know, a lot of those people, when I was young, in business, that were really leaders in the community, and, you know, you lose those people—Lawrence Lewis, I mean, I think, you know, we would’ve never had Flagler College if it weren’t for Lawrence Lewis, and you know, I think, I think after a while people forget about those kind of people. I think that can be attributed to, none of ‘em made a living but you know, Lawrence grew up here, went to college, stayed in Virginia, but he never lost his love of St. Augustine. He always wanted, ‘cause he would be. . . Lawrence would be a hundred and one, a hundred and two if he was still alive. He was ten years older than I am. Not only that, but, that. . . that, um, that family that gives so much money has not only had the Presbyterian church because of him, but the Flagler College. Those kind of people, you know, you lose ‘em. And I hate to lose those kind of people, you know, they just sort of fade. Is anything done on that y’all are working on, or have you, that, you know, I’m just as much at fault for not doing anything as anybody, so I’m not blaming anybody, I’m just saying, why didn’t we do that, you know, why didn’t we get more information on some of these people?

TOM DAY: Well, the information is definitely there, it just has to be collected, and you, you can call it Leadership or whatever, because those people do stand out as having accomplished many things without ruffling too many feathers, and bringing the community together to grow.

HERBIE WILES: I just think Flagler College, and I, I think they do, but I’d like to see a little bit more on, on, on him, because I think he just added so much, he just did so much for the community. You know, I’m a Presbyterian, and so was, uh, so was he. And he found, in the will, that Flagler left, saying that he didn’t say that you must give to the Presbyterian Church in New York, and the Presbyterian Church in St. Augustine. But, he had in his will that he would like the foundation to, uh, help, and, and they have. I think they’ve helped the New York Church that he was a member of, and, and St. Augustine Church, as well as the college. They do a lot, of course, the Kenan, University in North Carolina, that’s, the stadium is Kenan,  they put that up. They do more in education, but they do come down, and they’re generous with the church, providing, and I think is the right thing, we’re doing work too, they don’t just give ‘cause you need the money.

TOM DAY: (overlapping) Well that’s good.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Yes, yes. The Kenan foundation is very active in North Carolina. Especially at UNC. I went to law school at UNC, Kenan was our—

TOM DAY: (overlapping) Everywhere.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: On everything.

HERBIE WILES: And the family, was, was a great family too. Um, they, they were just good people. Whatever ha— I was just wondering about that, I . . . people like that. . . uh, Weimar [sp]? John Weimar? What he’s given as far as art goes, and theatre. With Jean too, you look at Jean and. . . What’s um, her partners name? Cute girl. They started the Limelight theatre—

TOM DAY: Ah, okay.

HERBIE WILES: And look what it’s done for us. Now look at that, ‘cause that’s that thing that Tommy wrote. About Flagler. It was a play, a musical.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Oh, I see, this?

HERBIE WILES: Yeah. I liked the musical, so I framed it. Well, anyway, I’m getting off of what you want. [transcribed assumes they are looking at a program/playbill for the musical]

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: No, not at all, not at all. You know, I wanna thank you for sharing your thoughts, and your opinions, and your time.

TOM DAY: (overlapping) Yeah, thank you.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Sharing yourself with the Historical Society, and with us today, and—

HERBIE WILES: I wouldn’t live anywhere else than North City. We thought about moving, we had this two story house, and it just got to the point where I could see Annette was having a hard time more than I, and, uh. . . we started looking around, and I thought maybe Doug might want the house, so I hated the thought of letting the house go, I think Doug probably would’ve moved Doris, which is not what she wanted, and that’s alright, you know, I like the house, doesn’t mean you have to like it. So finally, I said, Annette, why don’t we tear down the little side porch and put a bedroom there, and so we just live on the first floor.

TOM DAY: Oh, good.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: That’s great.

HERBIE WILES: Still there.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: That’s great, I ride my bicycle by there, periodically.

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) That’s a long bike ride.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Oh, no, it’s not. . . I’m one of the bicyclists though, who obey the traffic rules, and ride with the—

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) Most do. I notice a lot of the, uh, what they call, whether they, they are homeless, but I think what we see are the bums. I hate to say that, you want to put ‘em all together, they’re not all together, they’re the old bums. They’re out beggin’, you know, the true homeless normally don’t want to be seen. They basically, I think, have a mental problem, a lot of ‘em, some of ‘em they don’t wanna, you know, they’re just kinda, you know, away from—

TOM DAY: (overlapping) Well, you and the mayor are on the same page, as far at that is concerned. You know, she understands there is a group that really wants to push to get all those people out of sight, but she says, ‘Look, they have lives too,’ and she recognizes the difference between just homelessness and just —

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping). . . Good point, because I love to bicycle and, you know, we rode bicycles all our lives, I’ve got a three wheeler now, and so, you know, I’ve got, like, my friend Henry Whetstone said—  I would always tell people, ‘If you wanna get a problem solved, go to Henry’, he’ll solve any problem you’ve got. You may not like it, but he’ll solve it. For example, he’s the only person that has solved the bicycle problem in St. Augustine. But you ain’t gonna like it. You don’t have bicycles in St. Augustine.  (laughter) And, so, I was telling- You know what to solve—

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: (overlapping) That’s right.

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) But I feel like, that, um. . . and the police don’t have time to stop ‘em, but you gotta understand what the rules are.

TOM DAY: Yep.

HERBIE WILES: And most people don’t understand. The problem is that they pass the rules but they put no enforcement on it—

TOM DAY: (overlapping) That is a major problem.

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) Other than—

TOM DAY: (overlapping) Everywhere.

HERBIE WILES: When you’re in that street you’re a vehicle, when you’re on the sidewalk, you’re a pedestrian. Now that doesn’t mean you make people move out of your way. That means that you get off your bicycle and, and help out.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: (overlapping) Exactly. Exactly. That’s exactly what you do.

HERBIE WILES: And so- And I feel like bicycles, if they’re properly done, and would work, it would help. Probably more local, I don’t think tourists are gonna ride bicycles.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: (overlapping) No.

HERBIE WILES: What is it, somebody told me that, is it in South Carolina, they have bicycles in places—

TOM DAY: (overlapping) It’s bike sharing, yeah.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: (overlapping) Bike sharing program.

HERBIE WILES: You’d pick up the bicycle and ride ‘em to another place? Well, I look at us, we’re too, we’re too concentrated to do that, in my opinion.

TOM DAY: (overlapping) I think you’re right.  And I think, you know, there’s a plan to do that in the city.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: (overlapping) Yes.

TOM DAY: And there’s a company that’s operating in Charleston right now—

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) Yeah, I think that’s where that was, somebody told me about that one. And I think it’s a good idea, but I look at how small the area is, and I think, I mean, I don’t know how you do it. First of all, you can’t ride down St. George Street. You’ve got one way on Hypolita, you’ve got one way on Treasury. I mean, it’s confusing to the people how they would go.

TOM DAY: Well, as usual, they’d probably take their own confidence—

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: (overlapping) Yeah.

TOM DAY: Whatever they want, but uh, something just flashed through my mind, it had to do with transportation of bikes. . .

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: You were quite a runner too.

HERBIE WILES: No, I didn’t run much.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: I thought that you ran quite a bit.

HERBIE WILES: No, no. Dennis. . .

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: No, but I think I used to see you around town, running.  No?

HERBIE WILES: No, never did run.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Okay, my mistake.

TOM DAY: Who was that? (laughter)

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Who was that man?

HERBIE WILES: Well, it might’ve been, uh, he was a judge, he died young, too, married a. . .

TOM DAY: See?

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: I’ll remember it at two o’clock tomorrow morning.

HERBIE WILES: Four to five years ago, and everyone knew him, and he was very popular. And had, um, cancer of the. . . it’s uncurable.

TOM DAY: Oh, god.

HERBIE WILES: And I can’t even think of his name now. But that’s probably who you‘re thinking about, he ran all over.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: (overlapping) Okay.

HERBIE WILES: And Dennis is still running.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Oh, my goodness. (overlapping) I haven’t seen him.

HERBIE WILES: (overlapping) Do you see him? My god, he runs from the courthouse, you’ll see him downtown, running all around.

TOM DAY: Wow.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: He was, I think he was in school with my sister. Dennison, he had a twin brother.

HERBIE WILES: Maybe so.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Yes.

HERBIE WILES: That was a good family too.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Yes.

HERBIE WILES: That was a good family. That sure was, yeah. And then they lost a daughter, didn’t they? Yeah.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Think so.

HERBIE WILES: They lost a daughter. (beat) Well—

TOM DAY: (overlapping) Well, thank you very much.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Thank you.

HERBIE WILES: You’re quite welcome.

SHELLEY DESVOUSGES: Thank you. I’m gonna turn this off now.

TOM DAY: See how you do that—