Merril Mushroom's Story

Merril Mushroom
Merril Mushroom (photo at left) arrived in Gainesville in September 1958 to attend the University of Florida. She had already witnessed the Johns Committee's tactics in Miami Beach. There had been raids on gay bars and Merril knew that she would have to keep quiet about her sexuality while she was in Gainesville.

Merril and friend in Tampa

Merril often escaped to Tampa for the weekend where she stayed with other lesbians and frequented the bars (photo at right). She lived in the dorms and one day was questioned about some thefts that had occurred. Police suspected Merril because she always seemed to have money to go out of town.

Merril told the police officer that she and her "boyfriend" went to Tampa together and stayed with some friends. The police officer continued to question her about her excursions. Finally, Merril admitted the friends were lesbians. The officer wanted her to become an informant for the Johns Committee, telling Merril how sick her friends were and how she could help them. "I wanted to throw up, but I was so relieved he had bought my boyfriend story. I told him I would think about it. At the end of the semester, I got the hell out of there and transferred to the University of Miami. I never explained why."


Merril's friend, Julia Penelope, (photo at left) attended Florida State University in 1959. One day she was called in to see the Dean of Women. The dean knew Julia was a lesbian and told her that she had to see a counselor. The dean then decided it would be best if Julia transferred to the Univeristy of Miami. She could come back to F.S.U. once things had cooled down. Julia transferred to Miami, but was expelled eight weeks after classes began.

Copyright 1999 by Allyson A. Beutke
All rights reserved. No original portion of this document may be reproduced without written permission from the author.