Ann Johnson

August 24, 2021

Madelyn McClarey [00:00:01] And since. Hello, my name is Madelyn McClarey, I am here in Apalachicola today, February 15, 20, 20, and I am here on behalf of Florida A&M University History History Department for Graduate Studies.


Ann Johnson [00:00:22] I’m here with Ann Johnson.


Madelyn McClarey [00:00:25] And Johnson is indeed a native of Apalachicola, which is a very beautiful place here in Florida. I’m just interviewing her today to talk about some of the things that she found incredible about her beautiful society and community and what her contributions were and are currently so mischance as well. Could you tell us a little bit about what it was like growing up here in Apalachicola?


Ann Johnson [00:00:59] Well, I grew up here on Seventh Street in Apalachicola, and this is the school I attended for eight years. And what’s the name of the school? A family.


Madelyn McClarey [00:01:12] That is amazing.


Ann Johnson [00:01:14] So with the Carolinas nuns. And and that’s where my first eight years. And by the time I got in high school, they closed it out. So I attended my last four years public school. Quinn High School.


Madelyn McClarey [00:01:33] Awesome. And what was that transition like for you leaving this school and going?


Ann Johnson [00:01:40] Well, when I left the school here, we was a lot of bands than I was when I got out to the high school. There are a lot of the stuff that we had learned here. We were a little above them when I got there.


Madelyn McClarey [00:01:58] That’s nice. And so do you feel like you were a leader when you got over there? Did you feel more confident? Right. Tell me about how you felt as you’re


Ann Johnson [00:02:10] here going to cap the school. We learned a lot more, you know, and and it was instilled in me because I was a little slow when I went to high school because, you know, kids tend to kid you, you know, because of where I came from.


Madelyn McClarey [00:02:28] So when you say slow, you’re talking about like you weren’t really into a lot of the activities


Ann Johnson [00:02:34] they know, like, you know, and a lot of things that I say with a little a little more faster than I was. I understand, because we were you know, we was taught a lot more in skills, how to love one another and respect one another.


Madelyn McClarey [00:02:50] That’s really amazing. And I feel like a lot of people in inner cities don’t have the experience that you had. And I write beautiful, just so you know. Tell me a little bit about do you have siblings?


Ann Johnson [00:03:06] Yes, I have five. Please. I have two boys and three girls.


Madelyn McClarey [00:03:14] And what about sisters and brothers?


Ann Johnson [00:03:15] I have one sister, Lorraine Bank, the one you just met.


Madelyn McClarey [00:03:19] Wonderful. What was it like growing up with her here?


Ann Johnson [00:03:23] Well, I will always take care of my sister. I’m the oldest. I’m two years older than you and she can always look up to me. And I was always a brother around the house and I learned how to cook when I was nine years ago.


Madelyn McClarey [00:03:45] And so, I mean, from meeting you today, I see that you are extremely independent, you’re very intelligent, and you seem like a lot of fun. I just hang out.


Ann Johnson [00:03:59] I’m a people person. I love people always.


Madelyn McClarey [00:04:03] So that being said, as a kid in Apalachicola, what were some of the things that you learned about your environment?


Ann Johnson [00:04:11] Well, Seven Street, which is right over here we are we call this the Cross Street, because that’s where the Huntress came up. We had our grocery stores and it was a real popular street is along with the school located Yield Seventh Street. And really, I miss to come because you used to be a huge car, but we did not live there. And we had our grocery stores and we got along really well with each other and we learn from each other. I’m a student. This is a popular street because we had the Rose family to have the Rose family had the barber shop, the poolroom. And also we had our. There it was real nice and we got along really fine. We learn from each other. We had one of my big families that we are close to was the Kelly family, which was really related to the speech, which was our principal at high speeds. And then we had our brochure, which was the road we had. We had Mr. Tomaro was one of our grocery stores, and he had us on a rough road, which was he was a builder. He built homes and still a great builder, construction. He was in construction and the Methodist church that that’s right. Now it’s the oldest church here and that’s the church we was raised in also.


Madelyn McClarey [00:06:05] That’s what I was going to ask. So it seems like the community here was extremely close and that like you guys to be here today. Actually, I feel so much like broderie love among the people here as a person coming in. I immediately felt welcome in like a warmness about this community. Tell me about people who maybe pass through your community. Did you feel like it was like nice getting to know other people, but that your home was special? How did you feel about visitors coming through?


Ann Johnson [00:06:52] Well, like I say, I’ve always been a people person and I didn’t care about meeting people, you know, as my mom and my dad used to say. And they were bad because you communicate with both the blacks and the like. And I just reached out to people because, like I say, I love I love the people. And, you know, when I look at the kids today, I think they’re missing out on a lot. I’m not against technology, but some of the things that we learned growing up in our culture, I think kids should know more about it. We just sit down and be on the phone all day long and play games. Our data, we are going being really great musician Demchuk Mom, climb trees. I used to roller skate right up here on the sidewalk. I used to roller skate and we learned a lot from each other.


Madelyn McClarey [00:07:57] I agree with you so much in that aspect because I can tell that, you know, again, this is a very close knit community that you’re always happy to see each other. I see people who are coming into town like we are today, and everyone that they’re kind of passing by is like, hey, wait a minute, like, you know, speak to me, say hello or whatever. And I think it’s so beautiful. It’s really hard to explain how nice it feels to be here. So when you were talking about the different relationships that you had with people across the lines of race, tell me a little bit about that. How did you feel, you know, growing up in Apalachicola as a black a black student, how is that going to school?


Ann Johnson [00:08:45] Well, when I went to school, we were integrated here. We will live in segregation. And but my kids, they got to go to school with me. And I got along I got along with everybody I don’t know anything about say, I got into big fights, arguments with anybody. I was just I did love the people. I would go out and visit the people I used to my first ti that I drink. Well, the rehab was really, really hard on me. And I told myself I always been social because I used to be there all the people. And the first day I think, look, I’ll the about it was and it was she invited me into a home right next to the road to room right up there of the corner seven straight. Right. Well anyway, she invited me in and she invited me to some place. It really was like a route me.


Madelyn McClarey [00:09:58] This is the Searcy and.


Ann Johnson [00:10:04] Anyway, it was like a little room and bought the water and she placed it into hot water and we had what you call junk cookies in the cookie jar. And if you do need to get any cookies, anything I enjoy and I always went around in the community and I would always say I’m masturbating. My mom used to go through the community looking for because I know she got my baby miracle everything. She learned how to walk. Can’t you see?


Madelyn McClarey [00:10:45] What do you think? I’m laughing because I kind of grew up like that. I was always on three. What do you think? Because you’re talking about how you were very social and moving about in the community. What do you think it was about the community that just kind of kept you on the move? I know that a lot of times people think that like small towns, there’s nothing to do. Tell me,


Ann Johnson [00:11:11] what are you studying? I was a fisherman years ago. It was a guy named. What was his name when you say he owned a boat and he used to take us up on the river like a little houseboat. Wow. And you are he would talk a bit and you had sodas and snack fish and we would go up the Apalachicola River and fish. And his name was Mr. Donatello. And later on he became the key. I wanted to take care of it.


Madelyn McClarey [00:11:53] So who’s an entrepreneur?


Ann Johnson [00:11:55] How would you leave the job with? My grandmother used to take us on a trip. Like I say, we go up the river and fish and we just enjoy the whole day and I’m still the fish. I could be everything. Really. That’s amazing. I told my kids I know in Korea and one of the biggest, they had lived here surrounded by all the water. Not going to believe I couldn’t swim, but I used to fall at the bottom of the boat. But I get out of the water. I always get back in the boat.


Madelyn McClarey [00:12:37] And I was like, you trust the land, right?


Ann Johnson [00:12:42] We was always short. We kind of like shot people in our family. And she made my first fishing pole and I always followed my grandmother a lot. And what was really made me sick and you never saw merit name, but a maiden name was Mamie Madame.


Madelyn McClarey [00:13:07] And tell us about her


Ann Johnson [00:13:10] where she was the most. She was short. She was very friendly in all the key. And all my kids loved her. And my oldest son grew up with her to a certain degree. And but I always enjoyed going fishing because she took a lot of time after which teacher. And I looked it up better when my sister was kind of like she was kind of like laid back and I was always the one out


Madelyn McClarey [00:13:46] having the feeling. Right. I think that is wow, this is so beautiful. I, for one, am one on this journey. And when I look at your face telling me this is. Oh, I can just see all the emotions and you being able to just like really channel that to moment


Ann Johnson [00:14:05] that you were in, and I think that’s where we used to have a grocery store called Little White Grocery Store. There was a white family with their last name was white. And I guess the right now because they like to smoke, despite driving to the store every morning, he always kind of never lived in a hurry. He was kind of slow about getting to the idea of digital. Come on, how are you going to open the store and get something out of the store? He goes down there taking about ten minutes or 15 minutes. The lady I knew was getting to the store, but and he used to own houses right down the street because when we was growing up, my mom used to rent one of these houses and his daughter, her name was it looked like she was in the music. And I love the piano. I love piano music. And she used to really play the piano. And another name are always this way. Anyway, she had a chair, a sister, and she had two brothers, Stanley and Laura with my middle name is also Laura. Oh. And I learned a lot from them. Yeah. Because of gave kind of education kind of highlight in education. And now and then she would go down to that school with Mississippi, with her granddad’s stuff and, and she was teaching me how to do some things in a store I never get. I would go through some ice cream and I’d I mean I the of that ice cream cone with I feel the difference with the laugh you say, but you don’t really have to fill it up like that at all. I didn’t know, you know, and when I am, I always saw my mother to go up there and every time he would go in the grocery store she would pick him up. And Apple, he will perhaps he won’t bite. I’ll pull it out of all the paper. And we ate. And one of his workers was the name of the delivery boy. Anyway, he wound up being it takes cake to also get a Coke. And he used to work in a store and we would come out of Sunday school on Sundays. You know, we go there with our little pianist and he would say, make up the band, make a man with color. I said, well, I want to read one. I want a green one. You say, what’s the difference? They all are the same, isn’t they? Will Mr. James Baker. Well, yes. The name of Cynthia Baker and his wife was a schoolteacher. She taught school.


Madelyn McClarey [00:17:22] Yeah. So everything you really had great relationships with educators. I keep saying that we’re going back to, you know, how wonderful this was growing up here was, but how you always had a really strong relationship with people in the education sector. Right.


Ann Johnson [00:17:44] And I don’t know if you heard of the Humphris, they got they got a name at the bottom. It was it was Bob Hope. They my name is Minehan and it was a press conference and. Oh, my. With him right away. I never get we all attended Catholic school also dealing with a loved one in the line pay. Well we all attended here Catholic school and we all do. Yes. Is you know we went to a lot of us got it. You know, got into education Apalachicola. But then it was the college which I say was related to speech, which I like. I say we speak with the principal of in high school, high school in Utah and graduated from and I knew we had a home economics teacher with the name Miss McCaskill’s. And and then we had it Tolowa. She told my mom to call my mom, Miss Campbell was wanted to hold a teacher, she taught my mom as my mom attended a school called Dumba. OK, yeah, so.


Madelyn McClarey [00:19:18] So what do you think that because I do see that you have such an outgoing demeanor, you’re so like poised and you’re talking about things that, oh, I can only dream about. Oh, I see that, first of all, on this type of work that you end up doing, like what was the most important thing for you here? For you?


Ann Johnson [00:19:46] Yes. When I was working well at school that day doing it, it was gonna move in with Simple. And Apalachicola was known as a seafood city. So I worked a lot in seafood. I tried to show borscht also which clam and well, later on it was my oldest daughter. She took eel and I from it.


Madelyn McClarey [00:20:21] OK, OK. Can you tell me a little bit about your experience with the seafood industry? How did that feel? Did you enjoy that?


Ann Johnson [00:20:34] Well, to a certain degree. But I also used to work in a cafe. I was a cook. I used to love to cook, but I did seafood cooking. I used to work at the hook. Hook was one of a number one restaurants, all the nanny there and also worked with the Amazons. They owned a big OK. So is this a


Madelyn McClarey [00:20:59] family or a company?


Ann Johnson [00:21:02] It’s a company, OK. And it was a family because I work. Ah, she was my white friends. One of my white friends were very close, always were older than she was, and she always looked kind of like I was kind of like a mother to her daddy, like a mentor. And so as both the work that I did here work as well when they first came out of that, she needs to be certified. I went through to see the program out of Tallahassee back in 1979. I came certified as a it’s amazing. And I also worked at the hospital in care of a floor closed down for a long time. I worked in the nursery for I don’t do a lot. They really didn’t. Have they ever seen a certificate that time? And I worked all over the hospital and I always like nurse. I always like that. You’re amazing. I always got involved with that. I worked at one of the nursing homes that were here and they closed it down. Do you know the name of that? Maybe it’ll come to you. But it was right where Lowes used to be. And I like buy the hospital and I don’t see it until I know. Like I said, I wound up moving away, but ah, I’ve been going over forty some years


Madelyn McClarey [00:22:43] and that’s what I was going to ask you to. What encouraged you to come back.


Ann Johnson [00:22:47] Well, I come to see my mother, my mother are having some problems with her hair and like I say, she’s not supposed to be ninety five this year so I came back to relieve my sister. OK you’re


Madelyn McClarey [00:23:03] ok and you’re like the perfect person to do


Ann Johnson [00:23:06] it because. Yeah, because I’m used to seeing you on television, like, amazing. And before I came here, I live in Stockler almost thirty years and I worked there at one of the nursing homes there but thirty three years.


Madelyn McClarey [00:23:29] So you truly are an educator, a nurse, a counselor, all of those really important things like that. Yeah, I


Ann Johnson [00:23:39] got my first job when I left high school. I went to New York and that’s where my first job I guess was working in the big day. Wow.


Madelyn McClarey [00:23:53] Talk to me a little bit about. The only Apalachicola has changed because I know to be able to see some place, you know, as a child to grow up there and know kind of where everyone’s home is, every businesses, and then to see, you know, the changing geography. How does that make you feel like how I know that you’re back home


Ann Johnson [00:24:22] so you’re not here to stay. I’ll be leaving back out on the end of the month. Yeah.


Madelyn McClarey [00:24:29] And but tell me how how you felt like when you came back, because you know the same place. Fortunately for you, a lot of the people are still here. So, you


Ann Johnson [00:24:40] know, two years of this city, the city of Apalachicola, all always depended on seafood. But the seafood, our industry had gone down. So, like I used to be known as one of the options capital. But it’s also you are buying it in one of the geography of that area. It’s going to be asked to. But a lot of it has kind of really played out. And I’m a little disgusted by some things. You know, it’s not like it should be growing like it really kind of to me.


Madelyn McClarey [00:25:28] How does that make you feel? I know you said that you’re disgusted, but like to, you know, actually being here and not like, see it on TV or somebody tell you over the phone, like, what type of feeling do you feel besides that? I mean, knowing that you’re a native of this place, you know, home, no matter where else you live, this is where it’s like. Right. Tell me about some things you would change.


Ann Johnson [00:25:58] I don’t know if I’d be changing, but I would just love to see them change, you know, different styles in the coming year. Beside, you have to go way to Panama City, Tallahassee, Florida, hundreds of miles even with doctors at the hospital. I would love to see the hospital group. And it just some simple changes. You know, if they’re not even in a Wal-Mart coming here, you know, and it just. Just like me, that’s one reason why I say, even though this is my home, I wouldn’t want to come back to LA, not at my age of 77, simply because you have the everything if you really need. You got to go hundreds of miles to rise. Even if you need to go to a doctor or a specialist or something, you got to go hundreds of miles there and back it. If I don’t know what to be driving a night I was


Madelyn McClarey [00:27:11] driving is also, you know, that really calls to mind where we are in history. Right. So when you spoke of Apalachicola as a girl, right. You kept saying, like, we have one, we need it. Like everything, everybody. It’s kind of, you know, took care of each other out for each other. I hear you reiterate that. So that really says I’m right about not being in the age of technology like we are now. Right. But you’ve still had you feel like more resources than you have today.


Ann Johnson [00:27:49] You know, we do. We do. We shake shakes our meal used to run, but my grandma used to run. I mean, used to work. It shakes me. Where does a lot of these even places that I used to work at it with the seafood, they are closed down, they’re going down and it’s just like everybody just dying. I mean, I know it’s a lot of tears is coming here, but it’s the same old growth because we used to have this airport. We used to have soldiers coming in by boat, used to come in here so. Well, that brought a lot of interest in here. You know, people could work right there for that deal. Right. But there’s a lot of things have changed and nothing really, really to me. And it just I don’t know, it’s just totally different.


Madelyn McClarey [00:28:56] It just feels different. Let me ask you a couple more questions and then I will let you take your leave. This is, like, incredible. Oh, like, I feel deeply honored, like, really. And I wasn’t even aware that I was sitting in your school like that. Yeah, we were in this one.


Ann Johnson [00:29:21] Oh, just right here. The church part is and is where we used to have our plays and stuff right here. And I wondered about that. I was like, oh, you have all the way we treat. And one thing I tell people always taught by God in prayer, oh, we prayed for five times a day a more positive. Well, what a difference. A kid in the Catholic school. Right. And I used to shine the candlesticks. I used to say,


Madelyn McClarey [00:29:57] when I can’t grow,


Ann Johnson [00:29:59] I’m never I never. But I got to Polish Ohio. I didn’t know Candlestick grave. I will not find it.


Madelyn McClarey [00:30:08] They embrace it reminds me of my mother in irony. She’s like, I don’t want to.


Ann Johnson [00:30:15] So it was because you like your rules like this said that the three used to dress up so they will come out and go and say made because we used to sing in that year and we saw a lot of our rEU was in Latin. So we go, oh,


Madelyn McClarey [00:30:40] so you were being treated bilingually, you were being trained in a bilingual manner. Oh, that’s incredible. And that’s important.


Ann Johnson [00:30:50] Yeah, we had used it, we were taught a lot. Yeah. Yeah.


Madelyn McClarey [00:30:54] I can I could sense that when you were talking about so you really felt like you’re, you’re a you know, you’re very like when I


Ann Johnson [00:31:05] was right, when I was when I was growing up, the priest asked me er would you want to be when you grow up. I said there’ll be a non Catholic nun.


Madelyn McClarey [00:31:14] That means you were having a great time. Yeah. So. Oh and again, like I, you know, I thought we would be talking for ten minutes but you really are such a wealth of knowledge, you have such a wealth of knowledge, you’re a walking history for people to, you know, take a few minutes with.


Ann Johnson [00:31:37] It’s my first my first black movie I saw was I his name was Simpson, what we always call emergencies. The place up there, they call it the two spot. It’s been there for issues of the tiger. Well, anyway, he used to have show movies there. In my first movie I saw there was movies that, you know, people like talking. You would go see a movie die or you want power. But he had a lot he had a big line here. You get a lot of the Army people and National Guard. Hello. OK, like a long story. No, at his library. Get pricing a library, OK? He had a lot.


Madelyn McClarey [00:32:30] So he actually claims, you know, enclosing a


Ann Johnson [00:32:33] unit that he had to say, I mean,


Madelyn McClarey [00:32:37] uniforms and all. That’s amazing. Tell me I’m going to ask you three questions. I mean, I feel like to be here all day, but I know that have to because this is so easy. Like your you you know exactly what important things are that you want to, you know, and capture them, remember? And there’s some people I don’t even know if I could be this,


Ann Johnson [00:33:05] you know me all about them.


Madelyn McClarey [00:33:06] But I’ll tell you one of your favorite childhood memories here in memory of Jesus,


Ann Johnson [00:33:20] I’ll say planting flowers and cooking. I used to play any kind of seed I would buy. I never forget. One day my dad bought a bag of Steve there. Well, I went outside and I planted it. I didn’t realize it was cotton three. Oh, so. And we still watch how we used to call the bank and I we play. Right. I only get caught in the water in Kenya and I planted enough. I watched a plant growing old zone and then one day I noticed the birds start cracking open and whatnot. And my mom made a platter, a little small peel out of it.


Madelyn McClarey [00:34:11] I grew cotton. What was their reaction when they realized it was gut?


Ann Johnson [00:34:16] And my reaction, I was really shocked about it because I used to love Bob and I love the game. Even when I live in the as we call the project at the street, I would go plant flowers in your backyard and stuff. I just love flowers and I still do.


Madelyn McClarey [00:34:39] That’s amazing. You would watch them bloom.


Ann Johnson [00:34:42] I love flowers and I’m always curious about animals. My animal love of do not live snake. Oh yeah, I understand.


Madelyn McClarey [00:34:54] That’s beautiful. That is a really beautiful challenge. Now what about and I’m going to I’m going to show forever because it really


Ann Johnson [00:35:06] sounds really interesting. Yeah.


Madelyn McClarey [00:35:08] OK, so you plan it kind of on purpose.


Ann Johnson [00:35:13] All right. I didn’t know if it was a seed


Madelyn McClarey [00:35:18] without me because you played it right now. That’s my little. OK, so when you’ve got to run this pool and going to high school. Right. Tell me what type of transition and what kind of change you thought you might through. You know, wait a little bit nervous.


Ann Johnson [00:35:40] When I first attended high school, I did one of my biggest problem. Well, first, I had to learn hard not to say yes, yes, yes, father, because I had it was instilled in me and I had to learn, you know, totally different. It was totally different. Right. And but it was it was OK. But then, like, it was just something that was missing to me. Well, from what I had learned here.


Madelyn McClarey [00:36:19] Right. Because you were here for a minute. Yeah.


Ann Johnson [00:36:21] And to go to high school. But it was like I said, I always love people. I like to get along with everybody. So and so. It was the. The atmosphere is totally different, of course.


Madelyn McClarey [00:36:41] And I know that your outlook or demeanor, the way you are, is what really makes me awesome there to even.


Ann Johnson [00:36:51] Yeah, I wouldn’t call her. I used to love it and got the baby sitting up by her desk because I love to talk all. We like to talk and and I would


Madelyn McClarey [00:37:09] say so my last question would be. Oh yeah. Well OK. Yes. Is there any and I think I know the answer, but is there anywhere else you would have wanted to go


Ann Johnson [00:37:30] besides at my wedding? Well, I don’t think so, because like I say, everybody was close knit. I grew up with a lot of my relatives and I’ve been at all my relatives room. And just like the day you are there, I’ve been hugging most people because I know you can always mingle with people. And I don’t think I ever would have grown up during that time. Like I say, we all know each other well. You know, we we would like to say we were close knit if we can everybody down, please.


Madelyn McClarey [00:38:24] So that’s really a special recipe, isn’t it?


Ann Johnson [00:38:29] And, you know, this year, Apalachicola meets the town of British people. Really?


Madelyn McClarey [00:38:37] You know what? I did not look that up. And I thank you so much for letting me bring you people. That’s wonderful. And I’m here to see that that’s true.


Ann Johnson [00:38:48] OK, and I think if I’m not mistaken, you came from the Apache. Yes. Indian.


Madelyn McClarey [00:38:57] Oh, thank you so much. This is wonderful. I love we talked for thirty nine minutes. It seems like it was ten because it’s just you’re really I keep saying you have a wealth of information on this. There’s no hesitation because you know, you’ve lived it and you know what your you want to talk about in which way the conversation needs to go. What’s important to you. And I just I can’t thank you enough because I feel completely honored to be in your company again. So my name is Madeline McClary. I’m signing off right now, February fifteen, twenty, twenty. And I’m talking to again. And it’s been my pleasure, Miss Johnson. Thank you. Thank you.

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