Excerpts from interview with Sam Trickey on August 17, 2011

In these excerpts, Sam Trickey discusses tensions that he experienced at his job because of his outspoken support of farm worker organizing and also tells a story about Cesar Chavez’s interactions with his son when he was a young boy. 

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Sam Trickey: Sometime in the early 1970s, the Florida Farm Bureau Federation had an editor named Al Allsibrook who started in on UFW organizing in Florida.  He said some things to some local radio stations, including one that was an am country music station that I occasionally listened to, that reminded me of home.  The comments were about the situation in California, and I heard a quote from him that I was pretty sure was not true.  I went down to the studio, a little studio on Kincaid Road on the East side of Gainesville, and they played it back for me. It was clearly untrue, so I submitted to the radio station that it was untrue.  Somehow it got into the newspaper, The Gainesville Sun, but I don’t remember how.  Anyhow, Allsibrook also wrote to the paper.  I wrote back and said “No, Mr. Allsibrook doesn’t have it right. I was there.”  The idea was to discredit UFW in Florida by what was going on in California.  That was the basic issue.

… He published an article in the Florida Farm Bureau Magazine.  The article was titled: “Dear Dr. Trickey”.  It was on the cover page of the magazine.  Mind you, I was not tenured at that point. 1972, because I remember I was tenured in 1973. So this means that with two young children and untenured, and not terribly popular in the Physics Department because of my social justice involvement, our Department Chair at the time did not like the idea. My next door neighbor on the 11th row was a guy who actually worked at the Farm Bureau part time, and he came over one evening and said “I need to tell you something in utmost secrecy.” This is thirty-some years later and I don’t think I’ve ever told this part of it. He said, “The Farm Bureau is about to print a really nasty article about you. Be prepared.”   I talked to Tom Scott, Department Chair, and then Herman Spivey who was Acting Dean, and I remember Dean Spivey, with a very nice Tidewater, Virginia accent, said, “Well Sam, I cannot temper your understandable anxiety, but as long as I am Dean and you have behaved according to Academic Freedom standards, as meticulously as you have, no harm will come to you.”  Tom Scott was not a man who particularly liked me, but he showed integrity.  He told me to call the Dean. And the dean told me that I’d be okay.

Sam Trickey: I’ll tell you one more story. In 1975 or 1976, Lydia, Mathew, Phillip and I were living in California in San Jose when I was on sabbatical working for IBM. We go to La Paz right after the farm workers moved there.  We had a Boycott Lettuce sticker on our bumper of our microbus.  We reared our children as Spanish speakers so Matthew only spoke Spanish at that time. He was three and a half years old.  We were walking from Cezar’s office around to where the other offices were with him when Mathew grabs Cezar’s hand and says, “Senor Chavez, Senor Chavez,”  “Si Mateo,” says Chavez, “sabes que dice…” and he’s pointing at the bumper sticker and Chavez says, “que dice?”  knowing what it said of course, but Matthew responds, “No compre chuga [sic],” but he’s a child so he can’t say lechuga, “Ohh, muy bien Mateo!” says Chavez. And here was a man with enormous stresses and problems and he takes a minute to a minute and a half to talk to a three year old who’s explaining his own bumper sticker…

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