Friday, December 14, 2012

The Tome of Testimony

I'm a gamer.  Sometimes phrases come to me when I'm writing my papers, phrases couched in terminology used by gamers, or in words that sound like it.  I put such a phrase in my paper on the suspension and removal of Al Cahill as sheriff of Duval County, Florida.  Cahill was suspended 30 January 1958.

The term was "the tome of testimony," by which I referred to the very thick -- something like 1100 pages -- transcript of grand jury testimony generated by the investigation into the charges made against Cahill.  The newspaper reported on the thickness of the transcript.  Governor LeRoy Collins remarked, when he received a copy of the transcript by permission of the judge in whose jurisdiction the inquiry was held, that it was "a foot thick."

The transcript probably contained a wealth of information about the case, information which probably would have answered many of the questions arising out of the event.

It is information we historians will never see.  Nor will anyone else.  Grand jury proceedings, and the transcripts thereof, are secret.  Forever.

This is something historians have to deal with, especially when we deal with history that touches on politics and law enforcement.  The "smoking gun" is not available.  We can only speculate about what information the Tome of Testimony holds, but we'll never get near it.

What I had to do for my paper was look very thoroughly into newspaper reports of the event.  It occupied a lot of space in the Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville's newspaper, because it was a very big story.  There are some other sources.  There is a history of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office (formed from the old Duval County Sheriff's Office and the Jacksonville Police Department when the city of Jacksonville and Duval County were consolidated in 1968).  That book has some information on Cahill's predecessor, Rex Sweat, who was reputed to be corrupt.  There is very little on Cahill himself, as he's a character they'd probably rather forget.  There is a great deal on Cahill's successor, Dale Carson, a measure of the regard in which he is still held in the Sheriff's Office and the city generally.

There is a popular magazine article on Rex Sweat which also has useful information in it.  There are a few items concerning the case in the LeRoy Collins Papers at the library at the University of South Florida, Tampa.  One repository I have not yet had a chance to check is the state archive, which I will do before I submit the paper for publication.

The largest source in this case was the newspaper reports, which have to be approached carefully.  We have to watch for "loaded" words or words which could be interpreted in more than one way.  We have to account for the various meanings or the emotional charge a word may carry.  We have to be aware of possible reporter bias or the bias of the newspaper, and we have to take into account the possible agendas of the people being reported on.

It is possible to tell the story of an event from such scant sources, and to perform some analysis of the event and the people involved in it.  There will be questions remaining to be addressed by others with different interpretations.  There will be questions which will forever remain unanswered.  That does not mean that we should not ask them, nor does it mean that we should not try to tell the story.

But there it is, intrepid players of the game of history.  Seek thou the Tome of Testimony, only to find that it is concealed forever behind the strongest of magic spells and castle walls.  Then seek thou other sources, and use your powers of analysis to crack their secrets.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Next step . . .

I got a 98 on my paper on the suspension and removal of Al Cahill as sheriff of Duval County, Florida.  The 2 points probably were for technical points.

Now I'm going to polish it up and see about getting it published in a journal.

That's exciting!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Is plagiarism-detecting software reliable?

I've had an unpleasant experience with my paper about the suspension of Al Cahill.  The professor has required us to submit our papers to a plagiarism-detecting software used by the university.  I am not going to name the particular software.  And I'm not naming it because I think it's useless.

It said it found a 3% match between my paper and the sorts of sources it checks on the web.  Four of the six that it "found" had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the subject of my paper, and in fact had to do with things that have occurred in the second decade of the twenty-first century, not the 1950s.  Two of them did have something to do with a part of my paper.  One of them was a source I was unaware of; it never showed up in my searches.  The other was tagged as being from a newspaper in a Florida city other than the ones in which the central events of the paper took place, that is to say, Jacksonville and the state capital, Tallahassee.  I got the particular source from another site, that of a well-known historical society. 

If this is the best the software can do -- and the professor told me that this was its function -- it does not seem to me to be very useful in detecting actual plagiarism.  The software keyed in on single words, not phrases or paragraphs.  Using a single word that might have appeared somewhere in another source does not constitute plagiarism.  It's called "vocabulary."

Certainly I can see the thinking behind the use of these programs.  But in the old days, before we became so dependent on computers and the internet for everything, a teacher knew the capabilities of his or her students, and could pretty well tell when a paper was written in a style and manner above those capabilities, and would call the student in for The Talk.  And the student would get an F.  Well, the teacher OUGHT to have known the capabilities of his or her students, but sometimes it did not work that way.

On his senior paper in high school, my brother was accused of plagiarism and given an F with no appeal.  The teacher would not budge, even when our mother talked to the teacher  The teacher did not bother to attempt to verify whether the charge was justified.  She was right, and that was that.  She just "knew" my brother "couldn't" have written such a paper.  It was on the Yellow Fever epidemic in Jacksonville over a hundred years ago now.  What the teacher did not know -- and did not bother to find out -- was that our aunt was at the time Director of Health Information for the State of Florida, and had gotten my brother all sorts of publications.  She read the paper, our mother read the paper, and I read the paper.  We looked at the sources.  He footnoted everything he should have footnoted.  Where he did not use footnoted quotations, he used his own words.  He did not plagiarize.

Should twenty-first-century plagiarism-detecting software protect the student from lazy teachers as well as allow a professor to detect cribbed papers?  Perhaps, but it should do a better job of detecting than focus in on one word -- such as "waiver," which I used in the sense of a waiver of immunity from prosecution -- and return a result of a story from a few days ago (fifty-four years after the events about which I wrote) concerning the President of the United States.  I told my professor I was surprised the software did not return references to a bunch of sports articles!

The other thing that makes me very angry is that I was forced -- by the use of this software being required -- to place my paper out there on someone else's server forever.  This is my work, and I like to control my work completely until it is published.

Before I will think well of these sorts of programs or services again, they need to make some pretty massive improvements.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Papers, papers, papers

It's coming down to the end of the term -- just a little less than a month to go, and it all goes too fast at this point.

So I have three papers to do.  I've got the research done on two of them, and almost done on the third.  That third one is for my Geologic History of Florida class.  It's been fascinating learning how Florida formed out of the ancient bits of this and that tectonic plate.  The paper I'm doing is on the formation and composition of the soils around St. Augustine, Florida, which relates it to my overall research project on St. Augustine during the Second Spanish Period (1784-1821). One of the aspects I'm interested in is what the people in and around St. Augustine had available to eat, which was, of course, influenced by the condition and capability of the soil.

Another paper is for Early Florida history class, which deals mainly with the First Spanish Period (1513-1763).  However, my paper is the oddball in the class, because our professor, who is on the federal commission for the 450th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine, scheduled for 2015, wanted a paper done on the 400th anniversary, which took place in 1965, and which ran smack dab into the civil rights movement in St. Augustine.  It's been a fascinating study.

The third paper is for my Florida Politics Since World War II class.  I'm ambivalent about politics.  I've come to feel like the waggish tagline says:  Poly = many; tics = bloodsucking insects.  But this paper topic I've picked is very interesting in that nobody has written about it in any of the usual academic venues -- books and peer-reviewed journals.  There is a paragraph about it in a book on LeRoy Collins; there is another paragraph in a book on the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.  There is nothing about it in the Florida Historical Quarterly.  So I'm breaking new academic ground here, and that is exciting.  Hey, so I'm a nerd!

Anyway, I've mentioned here in this blog what I'm writing about for this class:  Governor LeRoy Collins's suspension of Sheriff Al Cahill of Duval County in 1958.  I've interviewed a couple retired Jacksonville cops for this, and gotten good information from them.  That's fun!  These guys are great!

I've had to do a bunch of traveling for these papers, because of course now that I'm going to the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, I'm doing papers on events and conditions in North Florida, and have to keep going back up there (where my permanent home is) to do research!

And that's what I've been doing for the past several weeks.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Life as a Graduate Student, or: Road Trip!

I have three papers this term, all of which deal with events or conditions back home in north Florida, now that I'm going to graduate school in south Florida!  That just figures.

My classes are on Tuesday and Thursday, giving me a four-day weekend.  That makes going home quite doable.  I had not expected to come back much before next month, but decided to come up and do some research.  It has been rather a disappointment to the family, because my main purpose being research has meant not much family time, but my husband and I did watch "Apollo 13" last night -- even though half the time I had my nose in my computer, arranging the newspaper articles I had photographed off the microfilm at the library!  Such is the life of a graduate student. 

I did, however, see enough of the movie for the final several minutes to bring the usual tears to my eyes.  I can't see that movie without getting teary-eyed.  I remember that event, and the waiting to see if the astronauts had made it through re-entry.

I've spent the last two days, Friday and Saturday, in the main Jacksonville Public Library.  I left Pinellas Park early Friday and went directly to the library (after having lunch at a favorite restaurant in Jacksonville's Riverside neighborhood, that is).  I spent the afternoon going through the Florida Times-Union index and found some interesting and wonderful information for my paper in the Florida politics course.

That paper deals with Governor Leroy Collins's suspension of Duval County sheriff Al Cahill in 1958.  Lots has been written about Leroy Collins and his term as governor of Florida.  The vast majority of these writings have to do with his actions related to civil rights.  Nobody, as far as I have found out, has written anything about the suspension of Cahill. 

That event is another one I remember.  I grew up in Jacksonville.  I was eleven years old at the time, and I read the newspapers.  The story was all over the papers and the television news.  Cahill had just taken office the year before, having defeated Rex Sweat, who had been sheriff of Duval County since 1932.  His removal was the end of a string of sheriffs who attained office with no prior law enforcement experience.  A new tone was set when Governor Collins appointed Dale G. Carson, an FBI agent, as Cahill's replacement.

I have a number of questions I'll be addressing in this paper.  I'm going to enjoy this -- I do like breaking new ground.  That's what we historians are supposed to do.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Journal advice

I had lunch with my friend Barbara today.  We met in 1986 at a Star Trek movie.  We were big Trek fans then, and accumulated a circle of friends who were, too.  We had some great times.  We have moved on, yet we fondly remember those days.  Our friends have moved on with us, and we still keep in touch with the hard core.

Barbara is optimistic and a fountain of positive wisdom.  She has encouraged me to keep a daily journal, even if only to write one sentence.  So I'm going to do that.  The journal will be hard copy, and sometimes I will record in there things that I wish to keep private.  But I will also, from time to time, reprint here the entries that pertain to the subject of this blog: the journey of a historian-in-training.

The first entry will probably be tonight.  Tomorrow is the day my husband and I lug a bunch of my stuff -- mostly books! -- to my new digs, in the home of a family friend, four hours south of where we make our home.  I'm looking forward to the living arrangement, which is eminently suitable for both of us.  Our friend has just painted the interior of her house, and is also going to install a new ceiling fan for me in my room.  I saw the color she had in mind for my room, and I like it a lot.

I'm looking forward to the program in which I will be working on my master's degree.  The Florida Studies program at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg is an interdisciplinary program, and in addition to history courses concentrating mainly on colonial Spanish Florida, I will take courses in other subjects which are related and which I think will enhance my research. 

For instance, this term, in addition to a seminar in Early Florida and a seminar in Florida Politics Since World War II (which is required of all Florida Studies majors), I will be taking Geologic History of Florida.  I think an understanding of the geology is important to my understanding of the soils of St. Augustine, which in turn is necessary to an understanding of what food crops would grow there!

Related to that will be a course or courses in the environment and environmental history of Florida.  I have already had one course in Florida's environmental history at the University of North Florida.  That course concentrated on the area of the St. Johns River, which includes St. Augustine.  I had not anticipated the course would be so deeply relevant to my inquiries, but it surprised me.

I also anticipate taking a basic economics course, because part of my study of St. Augustine during the Second Spanish Period is to study the economy, possibly to find new material to bring out about that economy, from information I will be digging out of the East Florida Papers and other original documents.

 My car is packed, and tomorrow we put the rest of my stuff -- including a bookcase, a file cabinet, and my office chair -- in my husband's F-150.  This is going to be an adventure.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What Kind of Historian Am I? - part 2

So in my last post on this topic, I declared that I am a "historicist" - that is, I hold to the idea that we must evaluate historical persons and events in terms of their own times, not our times.

The next "school" of history and historiography I identify with is called the Annales school, named after a group of French historians led by Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre, publishers of the Annales d'histoire economique et sociale (Annals of Economic and Social History).  As with my historicism, I arrived at my congruence with the Annalistes by my own route, in thinking about why we do history and how we do history.  I figure things out on my own; I do not seek out ideologies to identify with.  In fact, I distrust and am highly suspicious of ideologies and ideologues.

The Annalistes got tired of the dominance of political and diplomatic history.  There's more to it than that, they realized.  They sought a holistic approach.  They looked at the big picture.  I like the big picture; too many people today are short-sighted, concentrating on minutiae, when they should step back and see the broader landscape.  That broader landscape is what I am after in my study of history.

Annalistes like Fernand Braudel embarked on massive studies.  Braudel produced a two-volume work, The Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, which encompassed political, social, economic, intellectual and geographic factors.  This is the sort of thing I'm after in my study of St. Augustine, Florida, during the Second Spanish Period (1784-1821).  There were political factors at play, such as repeated attempts by British colonists, and later by Americans, to take Florida from Spain; there were economic factors -- shortages of cold cash and staple goods; there were social factors -- the Catholic church, practices concerning marriage and child-rearing, for instance; there were geographic factors -- St. Augustine is bordered by rivers and a swamp, and the presence of the swamp produced public health problems.  History, I have always been convinced, is a great deal more complex than we usually find it presented in books.

Basically, what I'm looking for is a Unified Field Theory of history!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Little Florida History: the Midwives' Song

Today I am going to relate a tale from my own childhood, which reveals a little Florida history from the mid-twentieth century.

My aunt, Elizabeth Reed, was a public health nurse and in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, Director of Health Information for the State Board of Health, as it was known in those days.  Today it is the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services.

In this capacity, she traveled around the state of Florida, making speeches, observing conditions, and otherwise gathering data on Florida public health.  One experience she had was in the Florida panhandle, in Tallahassee, with a group of midwives who served the surrounding rural area, in the 1940s.  There was a shortage of doctors in these rural areas, so these midwives were on the front lines in assuring safe childbirth.  The state of Florida wanted to assure that they used the latest in aseptic practice (handwashing, sterilizing equipment, etc.).

These women were in the main not well-educated.  The nurses who trained them used "visual aids," as in one meeting where the nurse was making the point that the infant mortality rate was still too high, and emphasizing the need for good aseptic practice.  The nurse stood at the head of the group with a jar of beans, saying that for every bean in the jar, there had been a woman or child who died in childbirth as a result of carelessness on the part of a midwife or midwives.

Just then, two women entered the meeting late, and took seats in the back of the room.  Another woman seated up front looked back and saw them.  Then she turned forward again and said to the nurse who was training them, "You see Sister A---- what just come in?  Two of them beans is hers!"

The ladies had a song they sang for what today would be called "team building."  Here are the first two verses and the chorus.  Unfortunately, I cannot remember the third verse.

The Midwives' Song

We midwives will help you
As your dearest friend,
For we are all midwives indeed!
We help build the nation,
Assistance we lend,
For we are all midwives indeed!

For we are all midwives, indeed! (Hallelujah!)
For we are all midwives, indeed!
We know what is right,
And we work day and night,
For we are all midwives, indeed!

There are babies in Heaven,
Who should be on Earth,
For we are all midwives, indeed!
They had no good midwife
Assist them in birth,
For we are all midwives, indeed!

For we are all midwives, indeed! (Hallelujah!)
For we are all midwives, indeed!
We know what is right,
And we work day and night,
For we are all midwives, indeed!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What kind of historian am I?

That's a question I am spending some time this summer thinking about.  I am reading a book on historiography - the study of writing about history.  It is Caroline Hoefferle's The Essential Historiographic Reader, in which the author describes the various "schools" of historigraphy by discussing their history and development.  She starts with the Greeks and Romans and moves forward right up to the 21st century.

Some of the schools of historiography do not impress me, and many of them have been discredited by time and historical events - so history affects itself.  However, I have found out that I am, for one thing, a "historicist."  This school tells us we must examine the past on its own terms.  I have long been critical of "presentism" - judging the past by the standards of the present.  I have felt that the only fair way to examine history is to examine it in terms of its times.  Sure, these days we are convinced (well, most of us . . . ) that slavery was and is an evil.  But when we are talking about ancient Rome and its system of slavery, when we are talking about the events before and during the Civil War and about the causes of that war, we need to put ourselves in the ethos of those time periods.  Unless we do that, we cannot understand what the concept of slavery meant to those people, or to certain segments of the people, at that time, which means we cannot have a firm understanding of how these conditions came to exist in the first place.

Or, take the case of Prohibition, the era of the Volstead Act (1919-1933) in the U.S.  Nowadays, we are convinced that the Volstead Act was a mistake, a stupid law that did nothing to curb or eliminate excessive drinking, drunkenness, and the social toll they exact, and did everything to give rise to the modern specter of organized crime.  But when we want to examine the roots of the Volstead Act, the conditions and social movements that led up to its passage, we have to place ourselves in that time period, using the social and emotional tools that they people of the time had available.  We cannot look at it through 21st century eyes and give an accurate and reliable account of how it came about.

I arrived at this viewpoint through reading and thinking about history, and about how I would go about doing it.  So, okay, I'm a historicist.  And schools of historiography are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

I have several other books on historiography that I am going to plow through in the next several months.  I will post again on my explorations into what kind of historian I am.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Hurry up and wait

So I have my application in to the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.  My transcripts have been ordered.  I've mailed off my request for a waiver of the GRE.  I've indicated who I want letters of recommendation from.  I've submitted a letter of intent (why do I want to get into the Florida Studies program?), and I've sent a writing sample.

Now it is time to sit patiently and wait, something I'm completely incapable of!  So I'll be itching and climbing the walls until I hear.   And so it goes.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

All Graduated

Yesterday was graduation day at the University of North Florida.  It was a lot of "hurry up and wait," so it reminded me of having been in the Coast Guard!

But the "hurry up and wait" was made bearable by friends giving good wishes and making happy talk, and by making acquaintances in the hallway where we were waiting, and just having a good time.  (Read "Six Degrees of Karen Rhodes," today's entry in my blog Karen About Genealogy to see how connections worked yesterday). 

Finally, the time came to line up and filter into the arena floor, where quite comfortable (thank goodness!) folding chairs awaited us.  I was in the last row, but that made me visible to my family, and they got lots of pictures.  The young man sitting to my right, Ray, had acquired his 5-year-old son from grandma and grandpa, sitting nearby in the audience, and held him on his lap for most of the ceremony.  The lad was quite well-behaved, and Ray took him on stage with him.

After being photographed by three photographers as I came off the stage, I was waylaid by a friend who gave me a big hug.  We exchanged congratulations.  Moving down the aisle back to the seats, I was ambushed by three professors and given big hugs.  One professor admonished me that I need more degrees (this is my fourth college degree, and my second Bachelor of Arts).  I said I was working on it!

Another professor accosted me before I got back to the row.  Then it was time for the recessional, and it was all done.

So my time at UNF passes into memory. It was fun!  It was challenging.  It was an experience I would not trade for all of anyone's money.  I may have received my Phi Beta Kappa key at Florida State University in 1969, but I feel like I earned it at UNF in the last four years.

Stay tuned for the further adventures of a historian-in-training. Next step:  Get my application in to the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

Monday, April 23, 2012


Happy to report that I lived through the defense.  My husband accompanied me, for moral support.  Also, it's part of the entertainment, and one thing I do is keep him entertained. 

Before the session started, we talked to Dr. David Sheffler, the medievalist in the history department.  He was the other member of my thesis committee.  Undergraduate honors theses need only 2 committee members.  I asked Dr. Sheffler if he was prepared with his rubber hose, and he did let me know that the department had outlawed waterboarding last month.

Kidding aside, we began the session.  Dr. J. Michael Francis, one of the latinamericanists  in the department, and the department chair, came in and we started after I introduced my husband.

They began by asking me how I had come up with the idea of my thesis -- that is, that godparenthood in St. Augustine, Florida, during the Second Spanish Period served as a vehicle for the transmission of values, influence and status -- how I developed it, and what methodologies and sources I had used.  That was not difficult.

Then they -- particularly Dr. Francis, as he is more familiar with the location, though his period is the 16th century rather than the late eighteenth and early nineteenth that I'm working in -- asked more penetrating questions, which I was also able to respond to.  The idea is not, as some may think (and some may experience) to tear the thesis and the argument to shreds, but to bring up the questions that the material may demand.  They both said there was a lot of meat in my paper, which generated lots of questions.  And the questions were not necessarily designed to challenge either my thesis or my argument, though some were.  There were plenty of questions which dealt with collateral study opportunities which may arise naturally out of the material I am uncovering.

I am breaking new ground, and this is an important part of a thesis.  If I can complete some of my project -- enough to really show something about godparenthood, or enough to enable a really practical, useful population picture of St. Augustine to be derived -- in three years, in time for the 450th anniversary of St. Augustine's founding, Dr. Francis said I'll be "the golden girl."  It could put me very much in demand for making presentations.  That would be great.  So I have to groom some aspect of this same project for my master's thesis, so I can advance the work just that much more.

I also need to spend the summer not only reading, but also transcribing and translating original documents, either from the East Florida Papers, which are available locally on microfilm, or from actual documents held by the Florida State Archives.  I plan an archives visit this summer.  Next summer, with some of Dr. Francis's travel money for students in the Florida Studies Program at the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg (pending my acceptance there), I hope to go to Washington, D.C., to work with the originals of the East Florida Papers, for those portions which do not show up well on microfilm.

It is going to be a busy two years!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The defendant will please rise . . .

Tomorrow, I will be undergoing my first thesis defense.  I have written an undergraduate honors thesis.  Many departments do not require undergraduates to defend their honors theses; the history department does.  Facetiously, Dr. Francis, my mentoring professor and the department chair, and chair of my thesis committee, told the department secretary to reserve the conference room for "Karen Rhodes's interrogation."  I told him to be sure to bring rubber hoses.

To say I am a little nervous would be the truth.  I'm not sure what to expect, beyond that I had better doggone well be familiar with what I have written!  As to that, I just did a complete read-through (and caught a few typos) just to have it a little more fresh in memory.  Memory's a tricky thing to a 65-year-old undergrad!

After the experience tomorrow, I will blog about what it was like.

As soon as I recover from the blows of the rubber hoses!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Caught in the Tide of Events

Many times during my most recent academic adventures, I have felt like I am caught in the riptide of events, powerless to struggle free, swept to my destiny. 

The tide just came in once again, and grabbed me.

One of my chief concerns about the decision of whether to stay at UNF for my master's in history or follow my mentoring professor down to the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg (USFSP) has been where I would live.  We do not have a great deal of money for living expenses.

We have a friend who lives in Pinellas Park, but I was not sure how to approach her.  I don't like to seem like I'm begging (which is my own flaw, not hers).  And I had no idea what sort of space she might have.

I need not have worried.  Today, about three or four hours ago, I sent an e-mail to another friend who lives in Lake Wales.  She is friends with the one in Pinellas Park (she introduced me to her).  Tonight I got a phone call from the friend in Pinellas Park.  She has a two-bedroom house and is looking for a roommate.  So we're going to work out the particulars.

I guess I'll be doing my master's at USFSP.  I like the interdisciplinary nature of the Florida Studies program.  It will allow me flexibility to explore topics I would not be able to explore at UNF.  Apparently the History Department at USFSP is stronger than that at UNF.  Unfortunately, UNF is having some problems in that area right now.

Now I need to go print out the admission requirements and get to work meeting them.

And my life takes yet another twist

I like watching "Law & Order," for one thing because of the twists the plot always takes.  I think I like that aspect of it so much because it reminds me of my own life.

I despise job interviews, so I'm happy to be a historian and free-lance writer.  I'm my own boss and do not need to put up with interviews.  What I hate most about them is the awful question, "Where do you see yourself in five/ten years?"

Listen, my life has taken so many twists, I have learned that there is no way I can answer that question!  If someone had told me in 1971 that I would be in the military, I would have laughed.  I wanted to, even as a child, but it was the 1950s and "nice girls" did not do such things.  Well, I was sworn in as an enlisted member of the United States Coast Guard Reserve in February of 1976.

If someone had told me in 1974 that I would be a registered nurse working in Jacksonville's large hospitals, I would have said, "And what have you been smoking?"  I was capped and pinned in 1979, and began working in a hospital.  It did not last long. We had three deaths in the family in the space of two years, and the emotional toll was too much.

If someone had told me in the mid 1980s that I would have a book published, I would have told them they were nuts.  I started work on my first book, Booking Hawaii Five-0: An Episode Guide and Critical History of the 1968-1980 Television Detective Series in the early 90s, and it was published in 1997.  By the way, after fifteen years, it is still in print.  I have since produced a second, more seriously scholarly book, Non-Federal Censuses of Florida, 1784-1945: A Guide to Sources, which was published in 2010.

If someone had told me in 2002 that I would be going back to college, I would have had them committed to the loony bin as a danger to themselves and others.  I entered the University of North Florida with a double major in history and Spanish in 2007.

And when I entered UNF, if anyone had told me that in five years I would be pursuing a master's degree in history, I would have taken them to the nearest shrink.  I begin my master's studies in the fall.

The question is:  Where will I begin such studies?  And that is the latest twist my life has taken.

I have been accepted into the master's program at the University of North Florida.  However, my mentoring professor, one of the reasons I applied to the graduate school at UNF in the first place, is leaving.  He is going to the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg, where they have a program in "Florida studies," of which he will be a part.  He has been given an endowed chair there, with funding the like of which he did not get at UNF.  I do not think UNF realizes what they are losing.

So I am contemplating following him down to USFSP.  It will mean family separation, as we cannot move our household down there for a variety of reasons.  But it is only four hours away, so frequent visits home are certainly possible.

There are logistics to be worked out.  What my professor told me is that right now, what I need to do is look at the program of study, then if I like what I see, I need to get my application in.  Then we will see what we need to do to get funding for me.  We can pay for part of it, but with living expenses separate from home being thrown in, the tab has gone up considerably.

I do like the program, which I looked at last night.  It is an interdisciplinary program, and I get to, with the advice and consent of my advisor, design my own program.  I like that a lot.

I have to have a decision in three weeks.  Stay tuned.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Clio's Daughter

Clio, of course, is the Muse of History.  I am a history student.  I have been accepted into the Master of Arts program of the Department of History at the University of North Florida, where in one week I will graduate with my second Bachelor of Arts degree, this one in history and Spanish.

My main area of study is St. Augustine, Florida, and its province of East Florida, during the Second Spanish Period (1784-1821).  I am currently engaged in a long-term research project I began as an undergraduate at UNF, with a grant from the Office of Undergraduate Research.  This project is recreating the family structure of St. Augustine during the Second Spanish Period, to analyze the relationships in the community at that time.

I wrote an undergraduate honors thesis on godparenthood in St. Augustine during this period, as a means of transmitting values within a family, and of transmitting influence and status from the elite downward.  It's an interesting study, and vastly incomplete because the sources for this particular period are wonderfully numerous.  There is a lot of research yet to be done.

So, as a historian-in-training, I am definitely Clio's daughter.