Florida Humanities Council

William & Hazel Hough

William R. Hough was raised in St. Petersburg, where he graduated from St. Petersburg High in 1944. During the war he had a newspaper route and sold papers to air force trainees. His wife Hazel grew up in Fort Myers, site of Page Field, a pilot training facility, and Buckingham Field, the largest gunnery school in the southeast. The Houghs offer unique insight on the home front in Florida during World War II. Both recall strict rationing and a strong military training presence.

Following high school Mrs. Hough attended the Florida State College for Women, which became Florida State University during her tenure there. Mr. Hough entered officer training and was in the V-12 unit stationed at the University of Miami when the war ended. After the war he attended college on the G.I. Bill of Rights and went on to earn a Master's Degree in Business at the University of Florida. Hough built his reputation in the finance world as founder of the investment banking firm William R. Hough & Co., which he operated for 38 years. He and his wife Hazel are well known philanthropists in St. Petersburg.

Video Oral History

Movies Thumb

Below are excerpts from an oral history interview with Bill and Hazel Hough describing their childhoods in St. Petersburg and Fort Myers and their experiences on the home front during the war years. The oral history interview was conducted by Jim Schnur, Special Collections Librarian, Poynter Library, University of South Florida St. Petersburg in January 2009.

Growing up
Hazel speaks about Fort Myers being base of largest gunnery school and pilot field in southeast, compares Fort Myers of yesterday to today. Bill speaks about his years in Fort Myers and then moving to St. Petersburg. Stories include children going to school barefoot and constantly brushing mosquitoes off arms.
Hazel speaks about rationing during war, including shoe coupons, desserts made with cane syrup, and fresh fish and cracker cows for meat.
December 7th: Bill
Bill’s memories of December 7, 1941: It was a blow to family and father’s car dealership. He talks about how his father re-enlists and shows father’s wings and tags from WWI and WWII.
Pearl Harbor: Hazel
Hazel describes playing ping-pong on December 7, 1941, and hearing about the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The only game in town
Hazel tells story of Bill’s uncle’s dealership – how he was stockpiling autos before the war and became the “only game in town” during war.
School in the war years
Hazel describes changes in her school’s curriculum because of the who went a funny story about a flight course she took.
Classmates go to war
Hazel talks about classmates that went to war and shows her high school yearbook with a theme of “flight.” She tells of how they heard planes overhead all day long in Fort Myers. Shows more pictures from her yearbook and Bill makes a funny comment on how the students are all wearing their military caps in a non-regulation manner.
Hazel discusses sacrifices and contributions to the war including knitting scarves for the Royal Canadian Air Force and collecting items such as items such as tinfoil and newspapers. Bill talks about how he collected newspapers.
Selling papers
Bill describes how St. Petersburg changed during war. He talks about his paper route downtown, which delivered to cafeterias, rooming houses, and hotels occupied by servicemen during the war. He would sell papers to servicemen in line outside of the cafeterias.
Tourism in the war years
Bill talks about how St. Petersburg thrived during war years of 1942–44 and tourism continued to flourish. Hazel mentions that tourism in Fort Myers suffered during the war years
Nelson Poynter
Bill speaks about the St. Petersburg Times editor Nelson Poynter and an employee strike at the newspaper.
News on the radio
Hazel speaks about family hanging on every word from the radio because her half-brother was overseas; he was eventually killed in 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge.
Letters from overseas
Hazel talks about her brother’s letters to his wife and the six-month-old daughter he never saw.
Bill describes VE and VJ Days, and the day that President Roosevelt dies. Notes that VJ Day was almost a non-event for him because he was preparing to go to the Pacific theater. Describes what it was like being in Miami during the last year of the war, life at University of Miami, and the bases in Florida.
An elite unit
Bill talks about the members of his unit: They were all from Florida. Everyone had high grades and test scores. They were well prepared for the program; everyone went on to become successful.
VJ Day
Bill speaks of moving to Miami University of Ohio for the rest of training after VJ Day, converting to NROTC. Tells the story of being given 24 hours liberty on VJ Day but not being allowed to take it because of superior officer.
Hazel’s college days
Hazel describes entering college after war. She starts at FSCW, finishes at FSU after school is converted to co-ed because of tremendous influx of students from all male UF after the war. Talks about men from UF visiting FSCW and vice versa.
College after the war
Bill describes going to UF to receive a Master’s Degree after war, and his feelings about being in school throughout the war and not going overseas.
Bill and Hazel meet
Bill and Hazel tell the story of how they met.
Beginning a career
Bill talks about his successful career in St. Petersburg and how he got into finance. He was always fascinated by money.
Proposing marriage
Hazel describes when Bill asked her to marry him.



Hazel Hough's yearbook from 1944 depicting aviation theme
Hazel Hough's yearbook from 1944 depicting aviation theme.
Hazel Hough's yearbook from 1945
Hazel Hough's yearbook from 1945 with various honors she received.