The Darker Side of Jim Crow Florida

by Mike Miller
(Mount Dora, Florida)

Man In Courthouse

Man In Courthouse

Man In Courthouse
Hotel Clark, Memphis
Belle Glade Restaurant

Gus was one of the best men I ever knew. He worked for me on one of the soil testing drill rigs that I ran out of Tampa shortly after I graduated from the University of Florida in 1966.

He was a driller helper, and although a small man, did heavy labor all day long without complaint. He received minimum hourly wage and I was never able to get him a raise in the year that we worked together.

My boss said the job was worth no more than minimum wage. Gus was getting close to retirement age, and although he couldn't read and write, his wife was a well educated woman. She was the principal of a black school in Tampa.

Gus's only vice, as far as I know, was playing Bolita every week. That was an illegal gambling game in Florida. Bolita disappeared shortly after the state came up with the Florida lottery and made it legal to separate poor people from their money.

I managed the drilling department of an engineering testing company. We had three truck mounted drill rigs that made test borings at sites all over the state. The borings were to determine the quality and strength of soil to be used in design of building foundations or pavement sections.

Each drill rig had a white driller, and two black driller helpers. Gus was the most senior of all the drillers and helpers.

Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was on the books, not everyone in Florida was on board with the new laws regarding equal opportunities in jobs, housing and other areas of society.

In those days, many hotels and motels would not accept black guests even though the new laws prohibited discrimination. This meant that my black driller helpers could not share a room with the drillers, and presented a housing problem for which a solution had long existed.

Every Florida town had a boarding house or motel that catered exclusively to black customers. These were not always advertised as such, but any black person in a town could direct us to the appropriate place where Gus and the others could rest after a heavy day's work. A similar problem existed with restaurants. Some allowed black customers inside; others made them use a take out window and eat outside.

The pictures above were taken in 1959 and earlier. Things had not changed too much in Florida by by the mid 1960s, but those bad old days are just ancient history now, except to the people who lived them.

Click here to post comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Florida Tales.

Much of the information in our website is available in a series of books for each of Florida's eight geographical regions, along with a separate book covering the entire state titled Florida Backroads Travel. All books are available in Kindle versions and some in soft cover format also.

Click on the book cover for free previews of these books at Amazon.

This  book   shows you 50 nifty places to visit on less than a tank of gas from major Florida cities.

Click on the cover for a free preview at


First Name

Enjoy our free monthly ezine with news of day trips, towns, inns, festivals, food, history and more.

Recent Articles

  1. Florida Backroads Travel - Things To Do In Florida Off The Beaten Path

    Feb 21, 17 12:33 AM

    Florida Backroads Travel is about off the beaten path places to see and things to do.

    Read More

  2. Zellwood Corn Festival

    Feb 17, 17 12:55 PM

    I miss the Zellwood Corn Festival Zellwood is a small town on US-441 about 25 miles north of Orlando. Today, in 2017, it is a one traffic light town,

    Read More

  3. Yogi Bear Camp Ground

    Feb 16, 17 12:00 AM

    I lived in Fernandina Beach as a child. All of my father's relatives lived in Louisiana and they would come to visit. Every year we brought our tag alongs

    Read More