A history of the meeting, courtship and marriage of Norris Chambers and Ella Sudderth and their life together.
This account was written in 1989, the year of our fiftieth wedding anniversary. An updated version will be prepared in 1999, the year of our 60th anniversary. That 10 years has been full of excitement and interesting occurences.
I guess you could say it all started way back in the early 1800's, because that was when my grandma was born. Perhaps you are wondering why my grandma being born in the l800's had anything to do with it. Well, it's really pretty simple. You see, she had a birthday, and just about every birthday was celebrated by her children and grand children along with friends and neighbors by having a regular all day picnic with dinner on the grounds on the banks of Red River. There were many grandchildren, great grands and great, great grands, and many of these brought their friends along for the day's festivities.
And so it was on this memorable birthday in 1937 when Grandma Almeda Williams' birthday was celebrated, that the celebrants came for the fellowship and eats. I didn't much want to go to this affair...I wasn't in the mood for that sort of thing. But I was prevailed upon very heavily to make my presence felt, so along with Mamma and Papa, I journeyed the two miles to the creek for the day's activities.
It so happened that there was a first cousin by the name of Roxie Williams. She brought her mother and father, George and Laura and their two adopted daughters, Margie and Dow Jones.
They also brought another girl by the name of Irene Bailey. She was a sister in law of Roxie's brother Jay. She lived somewhere away east of our diggings, probably ten or twelve miles across the country.
Irene had red hair and freckles. I was always partial to red hair and freckles, so during the course of the day I carried on some conversation with Irene. We decided we might have a little fun on a date, so I went motoring over that way about the next Saturday night. I located her country place of abode from her detailed directions, and we went to the show in Rising Star. I don't remember what was showing, but we seemed to enjoy each other's company. I could fill a much larger book than this about our dates and activities during the summer, but Irene just up and left with her family for California in the Fall. That left me without a girl friend.
On one date during the summer, we doubled dated with another couple. A boy named R.D. and a girl named Moselle. Actually, her full name was Ella Moselle Sudderth. She lived a few short miles east of Irene. Moselle also had red hair and a few well placed freckles. It never occurred to me that she might be available, so I went ahead with my usual activities with Sam Williams, a cousin and a very good musician, and a few others, and we attempted to make music over the radio every Saturday.
The music was probably pretty putrid, but we got a lot of letters and requests, and peddled our peanut butter every week. It was pretty easy to sell, since we had everyone we knew to go to the stores and ask for it. We called it FARM BOY PEANUT BUTTER, and we called our band the Jolly Farm Boys, complete with my own composition as a theme song. During the week, I worked at home on the farm, plowing, hoeing or doing whatever has to be done on a back woods farm. I was official milk maid every morning and night, and we milked from one to a half dozen old white face cows that were either half or quarter Jersey. They didn't supply a lot of milk, and we gave the calves half of it to make them grow better. Our main money crop was in selling calves. We also sold sour cream and eggs when available.
The first batch of peanut butter we decided to advertise and sell, we bought in a big tin can probably ten or twelve gallons from the factory in Brownwood. Then we had some labels printed and started putting it in jars. Things went real smooth until we got to the hard, caked butter near the bottom of the can, then we had a problem getting it out and into the jars. We solved that problem by mixing home brew hog lard with it. It didn't hurt the taste, and probably added a few nice cholesterol units to the product. At that time we didn't know about cholesterol, either good or bad, and everyone ate hog lard like butter when butter wasn't available. Didn't taste too bad, either. And if it killed anyone, they are still dead and didn't complain.
But, to get back to the subject of the fifty year marriage, we will forget the peanut butter and other crazy things that we were doing, and get on with the romance.
A few weeks after Irene left, I got a letter from Moselle, which simply said:
"Can you give me Irene's address? I would like to write to her." I had written a few letters to her, and had her address. She lived around Bakersfield, where Buck Owens and Merle Haggard later came from.
So I send it to her, but added a few lines of my own where I asked if she would be interested in having company on Saturday night. She answered in due time, and I told her I would come on the next Saturday night.
Well, that night came, and Sam was visiting me. He visited a lot, and I visited him quite a bit. After playing for the radio show at 11:00 at Dublin, we came back and made plans to go on the date. Sam was going with Dow Jones, and we went by about dark to pick her up and continue on the escapade.
We drove up to Uncle George's and went in to get Dow. You would never believe what we saw there. The dining table was piled high with meat. They had killed a couple of big hogs that day, and everyone, including Dow, was gathered around the table cutting up meat to be ground for canning.
It was immediately obvious that Dow could not go anywhere until the meat was cut and ground, so we got busy and in about an hour finished the job. Then she had to do a little make over before we left. It didn't take long, but by then it was getting a little late, and it was very dark. Of course, at this time of year it got dark early, and it wasn't really as late as it seemed. But by the time we got to Moselle's, there were no lights on, and things looked very dark and gloomy.
I went up on the porch and knocked on the door. That was about as hard a thing as I ever did. I was practically a stranger there, and I didn't know what kind of reception to expect. But I knocked, and her brother, Vonlee, came to the door in his sleeping clothes. I muttered a bit and told him I had a date with Moselle. He said, "Well, we've all gone to bed. I don't know what you all can do." He went back inside for a quick consultation and announced that the decision had been that it was too late.
So with a sad countenance I walked back to the car and we drove back down the hill. We then had a quick conference to decide what our course of action should be. Our decision was to go to Brownwood, a pretty good sized town about twenty miles to the south.
I won't bore you with the details of that date, as it really wasn't relevant. I did find another girl friend at home there and we drove around awhile and then went home.
It was a couple of weeks later when we exchanged letters again, and I made another date. This time, I went by myself and didn't have to stop and grind meat while bedtime approached. It was a nice country date. We went to the show in Rising Star. I don't remember what was showing. It probably wasn't a very good movie. But after the show, we went to the grocery store and bought two pints of ice cream in cups, complete with wooden spoons. Ice cream was ten cents a pint and the spoons were free. We drove out south of town and stopped and ate it, and got better acquainted.
At that time (point in time, as the modern generation says) I had a 1932 Chevrolet two door, painted a pretty green. I had bought it a short time before for two hundred dollars. I earned the two hundred by raising and selling eleven hogs. It was a pretty good car, but about every three or four hundred miles the connecting rods got to knocking, and the pan had to be removed and the rods tightened. Also, it used oil and fouled the spark plugs. They had to be taken out and cleaned at regular intervals. While we are knocking it, one other thing needs to be mentioned. Somehow it managed to get mud in through some air holes in the flywheel housing and it collected in the starter drive. So when you drove through the mud for a few miles, you could not use the starter. That meant, unless someone gave you a push, that the starter had to be removed and cleaned before you could get the engine going.
One more paragraph about the automobile. One night while coming home through thick mud, I had to slow down for a deep hole, and in the process the engine died. Of course the starter wouldn't work. There was nothing to do but get a wrench and crawl under the car in the mud and take it off. The auto was so low in the mud there wasn't any room, so I had to take a shovel (I usually carried one in the back) and dig the mud out enough to get under. I don't know who was muddier when I got through the road or me!
While on the subject of mud, it often got so thick and sticky that it would pack between the rear wheels and the fenders and would load down the vehicle so that it wouldn't go. That meant getting out and digging the stuff out with a tire tool.
And before we get off the subject of the automobile, I must tell about the night I brought Ella Moselle home about midnight. Just as I chugged up the hill to her house, the old machine stopped dead in its tracks. The engine would run, but it wouldn't move. We got out and I walked her home, then I turned and started back. I was a good fifteen miles from home, but about four or five miles in that direction my Uncle Billie lived.
I decided to walk there and see if I could get any help.
It was dark and scary down those country roads. It seemed that every house had a yard full of mean barking dogs, and they didn't hesitate to let the world know that a stranger was intruding and that they didn't like it much. Only one big old dog was brave enough to approach me, and he was quickly discouraged by a four foot stick I had picked up by the side of the road.
Well, when I got to my uncle's, there wasn't a sign of life. Not even a dog barked. I walked bravely up to one of the doors and banged on it. Finally I got Uncle Billie awake enough to explain that I had car trouble, and might need a little help. He woke up Douglas, who was sleeping in the small middle room in the same bed with Shorty, or Stanley. Doug was about my age. After a short discussion, we decided to take their Model A Ford and go pull the old Chevvy to their house. We took a strong calf rope, and without further incident got it there about two thirty.
It was the consensus of opinion that we ought to go tell Mamma and Papa what had happened, so they wouldn't be worried. We motored across the country and informed them about three or four in the morning about the fate of the automobile. After a lengthy discussion and an early breakfast, we decided that I would go back with Doug and see if we could get it fixed.
Neither of us had done much mechanical work at that time, but we tore into it as if we were pros. It was obvious that there was some sort of clutch or transmission trouble, so that's where we dug in. Before doing this, we had to drive a few miles through the timber to a neighbor's house and borrow a socket set.
About the middle of the afternoon, we got the transmission out and started trying to get the clutch out of the pressure plate. We took out the wrong bolts, and the who thing exploded, springs flying all inside and wedging the whole works in the housing. We eventually got everything pried out and found that the hub of the clutch was sheared off of the disk. So, that meant we needed a new clutch. As it was getting too late that day to go to Brownwood, we went the next morning and got a new clutch.
We had fun trying to put the pressure assembly back together. We decided to jack the springs shut by placing it under the barn and cranking the jack. But, believe it or not, the barn started raising up, and the springs were still not down enough to put a bolt in. But ingenuity paid off. We got between two big forks of a tree, after smoothing the inside limbs off, and jacked it shut.
It went back together without incident, and about four or five o'clock in the afternoon of the second day, the job was successfully completed.
I invited Douglas to accompany me the next Saturday night on a date. He accepted the invitation, and several times in the next two years he and a girl friend went with us on these wild dates. Stanley, or Shorty, also went along at other times. He took various girls, including Velma, the one he later married.
Douglas was quite a character. When we went in a drug store to get refreshments, most of us ordered a coke, or something like that. Doug always ordered an Alka Seltzer, and drank It with apparent relish.
On one of these wild escapades when Short and a girl friend was along, we decided to go to a gravel pit across a field and up on a big hill. We took off that way, and after getting about half way across the field, we started sinking in sand. If you have never been stuck in sand, then you have never been stuck. The car differential was on the sand, and the wheels were turning freely without any forward or backward motion. I got out the trusty shovel, and we started digging. Shorty walked several hundred yards looking for something to put under the wheel. I began trying to jack up the wheels. The jack would go down, but the car didn't move.
Finally Short came back with a couple of fence posts. After another trip or two, we got enough timber to jack the machine up and get the six foot posts under the back wheels. We moved back the full length, and immediately sank again. In the next two hours, we repeated this process many times. Finally we got on firm enough ground to get back to the highway. The moral of this story is, don't drive across a sandy field to get to a gravel pit on a hill.
The two girls took this very well. I don't remember any complaints.
One Saturday night Clyde Chambers, my younger nephew, went with me to go with Moselle and her friend Gladys Spurlock. Gladys lived on the road to Brownwood and east down a sandy lane. We got there some time after dark, and as I recall, there must have been a dozen sisters or brothers or both. We had a nice evening and took the girls home about midnight. On the way home, somewhere between Uncle Billie's and Williams school, we ran upon a big herd of horses or mules. Clyde was driving, and was moving along at a pretty fast pace. There was no way he could get stopped in time, so he started turning right and left and dodging them. It seemed there were horses everywhere. I kept waiting for the crash, but he steered us through the whole wild bunch. I guess they might have been doing a little dodging, too. Anyway, we were pretty shook up about it for awhile.
Another time Shorty went with us to Gladys' for a date. I don't remember the reason, but somehow we did not go anywhere that night. It might have been the weather, or her folks might have said "No, no go!" But we stayed home. We conversed a lot, and Shorty and one of the brothers got into a hot checker game that lasted for hours. I don't know who won, in fact, I don't think they ever said. They just played.
Finally, one of the boys said: "I guess we better go to bed so they can go home. We took that as pretty good advice, and closed the double date at that point. I think that was probably the last time Shorty went with Gladys. Clyde didn't go back either. He started going with Ruby Ragland about that time, and they got married later.
But Doug and Short continued to double date with us, and we saw a lot of shows and ate a lot of popcorn and ice cream.
Usually I visited on Friday night, then we would double date on Saturday night. Then on Sunday night, I went back and we had a single date again. A few times we went to church in Rising Star on Sunday night. We ate their bread and drank their wine, and they seemed glad enough to see us.
Somewhere along about here I got a job in the oil field. It was a low key job and didn't pay much. Actually, it was $40 a month. But that was pretty good money compared to farming and raising hogs. So our courtship was pretty well financed. I worked at this job for about a year. I had started working on a few radios , too, and made a dollar or two now and then at that. I had studied radio in 1935 at Brantley Draughon in Ft. Worth, and had completed a home study course. I could fix them pretty quick, usually.
The job I had required going to gas wells across some mighty rough roads and some pretty slick and boggy mud. Then there were pumping wells that had to have the rods and tubing pulled occasionally to repair the pumps, which were at the bottom of the well. This was very nasty work. Most of the time when we pulled the two inch tubing, it was full of oil and salt water. Sometimes just water, and sometimes just oil. When I unscrewed each joint, as it was raised up 21 feet, the fluid sprayed out all over me. I then had to run with the end of it out to the end of the rack, and put the line on to raise another joint. Of course I was thoroughly wet with oil or water after the first joint. It took about and hour and a half to pull this pipe, and about the same length of time to put it back.
The most miserable day I can remember was a Thanksgiving, and a cold, cold, cold Norther came rolling in. The well was full of oil, and I was soaked instantly. I had too much oil on me to get around a fire. So I just froze. It's been over fifty years since this deep freezing, and I still remember every minute of it. I didn't think I would ever be warm again.
The rest of our dating period was pretty routine. It was every week end, rain or shine.
Then, in May of 1939, Ella Moselle finished school and became a graduate of May High School. I sat in the audience and cheered when she got her diploma. We had assumed that we would be married sometime after she finished school, but had not specified a date.
Papa told me that if I wanted to get married, that we could live with them there on the farm and do country work until we could do better. I did not have the oil field job then, but was working occasionally on oil leases when the pumper needed someone to help work on a well. I was also fixing a radio occasionally. I only remember one thing he told me about getting married. He said, "When you get married, you are taking on a big responsibility." He was right.
We discussed it thoroughly during the week end, and decided to go to Brownwood on Monday and get married just like that with no invitations, announcements and all that stuff. I went by and got her on the eventful day, and we motored to Brownwood without incident. We went into the Court House and found our way to the County Clerk's office. We asked for a marriage license I believe it cost $2.75. It showed that I was 21 and Ella was 18. (Actually, she liked a little bit being that old). I asked the woman if she knew where we could get a Justice of the Peace to marry us. She was very helpful. She said she would get Judge Perkins, and that he would perform the ceremony right there. So she got him, and we went around behind the counter and he read the sacred rites. The clerks served as witnesses, and the ceremony was completed in perhaps five minutes. I handed him $2.00, and we walked out as husband and wife.
It was approaching lunch time, so we went up the street to Pa and Ma's Cafe and feasted on hamburgers and soda pop.
Then we started back home after awhile.
We went to her house, and informed her dad that we had got married. We didn't know just what kind of impression this news would make. But apparently it went over all right. He said, "Well, I can't give you anything for a wedding present except a pig." This was OK with us, since we were not getting married for presents. We took the pig and raised it properly into a hog.
I don't remember what her Grandma said when we told her. She lived about a hundred yards up the hill from where Moselle, Vonlee and her dad lived. They slept at home, and ate at her Grandma's. Moselle was the chief cook and bottle washer and housekeeper for the family, and I'm sure they missed her in that department. About the middle of the afternoon, or a little later, we departed for the old Rushing place where Mamma and Papa lived. It rained on us some on the way to Cross Cut, and we saw some pretty mean looking clouds down toward where we were going. We stopped at Tom's garage and told him we were married. He was a little reluctant to believe it, but accepted the fact without comment. We arrived home before dark, and found out that there had been some sort of tornado in the vicinity. Pittman's house, about two or three miles east of us, had been destroyed. None of them were injured, because they were not home. A small child and his smaller sister were there, but they got scared and went to the cellar, and were uninjured.
That night it rained just about all night and did a lot of thundering and flashing. It rained a lot more that week, too. We went back to visit Moselle's family the next week end. I remember her dad saying he had been expecting us sooner.
About this time we changed Moselle's name to Ella, which was her middle name. There was no grand renaming, or anything like that. Just a plain and simple change from Moselle to Ella. There was no particular reason I just liked that name better. Even today, when someone calls and asks for Moselle, we know that they are from the old days when that was Ella's name.
We continued to live at home on the Rushing Farm, and I farmed when I wasn't working on a radio or helping on an oil lease. Most of the time it was farming or ranching. We had about 25 cows, and sold calves each year. Also saved cream and sold it for the prevailing price, which was based on the butter fat content of the bucket full that we were selling.
Clifton and Mary Lou had married a few months before we did. We visited them some, and I worked for Clifton when he needed help on the oil lease that he was pumping. We didn't do a whole lot for recreation and entertainment. Ella and Mamma played Chinese Checkers a lot when they were waiting for us to come to dinner.
Things went along about the same until the fall of 1940 when they started building Camp Bowie at Brownwood. I managed to get a job there unloading box cars for the construction project. The pay was 40 cents an hour, and the work was hard. But it was the most money we had seen in a long time.
We moved to a rented room in Brownwood to be closer to the work. It was a cold and wet winter, and I didn't enjoy the outside work very much. We cooked our meals at Deoma's. Carl slept on her back porch on a cot, and stayed there during the work session. Later, Clyde came to work and we moved back to the Rushing place and rode to work every day with Carl. He had a 1936 Ford. One rainy day he drove up to the May highway too fast to stop, and we went across the highway and through a fence into the sandy field beyond. We bogged up almost out of sight, and it took a team of mules to get us out.
Work was getting pretty scarce. Carl, Clyde and I were working in a gang that just went around from building to building cleaning up scrap lumber and debris. One day I was sitting on a lumber pile taking it pretty easy. One of the big officials of the company came by and asked me my name. I told him "Chambers" and he wrote it down. The next morning the foreman fired Clyde. Evidently he got his "Chambers" mixed up. When they fired Clyde, Carl and I both quit, and we went back home. Later, Carl went back to work in a different area. I stayed there at home and did the usual. This was in the Spring of l941.
I had been trying to get a job with Civil Service. I had taken a test and passed it in 1936. Suddenly, one Saturday morning, I received a letter telling me to report to Duncan Field on Monday . That was pretty short notice, but the mail had been delayed by heavy rains that week.
We did a hurried packing job. We didn't have much to pack. So Sunday morning about nine o'clock, we left for San Antonio. We had purchased a l937 Chevrolet 2 door.
Things went well until we got somewhere around Johnson City, then the car started slowing down, and we could smell the brake linings burning. The front brakes were locking. I crawled under the vehicle and opened the bleed valve, relieving the pressure, and we continued on our way. Pretty soon the same thing occurred again, and I had to bleed off a little more pressure. Eventually I found out what was causing it. When you used the brake, the pressure would let fluid into the wheel cylinders, but for some reason it would not release on the front ones. So by not using the brakes any more than necessary, we were able to go a long way without trouble.
That is about all I remember of the trip to San Antonio except the German music that we kept getting on the radio. It was coming from Fredericksburg, which was a German community.
Just about dark, we rolled into the city of San Antonio. It seemed very big to us at that time. We didn't have any idea where we were going, and even if we did would not have known how to get there. A few inquiries at service stations convinced us that Duncan Field was on the other side of town, and we received elaborate instructions on how to find it. We wanted to find a place to live close to the field. We were unpleasantly shocked to find that when you made a block you didn't necessarily come back to the same street. You might wind up out in the country. I was also impressed by the San Antonio river that kept winding in and out and under the streets. It was not a thing of beauty in those days, and was there only because the city was originally built near it and it could not be moved. It was a necessary nuisance.
Well after dark, we were in the vicinity of the field, and started looking for a place to rent. We saw a "room for rent" sign on a large house, and stopped to inquire. It was only a bed room, but the landlord said they would put in a "hot plate" and we could live in it for $16.00 a month. We took it. We shared the bath at the end of the hall. It was a single story house, and had only the one bath. But we were the only tenants, except the man and woman who lived there. Their name was Beard, and he was a contractor.
Monday morning, bright and early, we were up and I started to find Duncan Field and see about the job. I drove about three miles to the front gate, and was steered by the guard to a big building near the gate. It was an employment office for the facility. A big sign over the gate identified the activity as "San Antonio Air Depot."
I walked into the building. There were perhaps fifty or sixty others there, filling out applications, etc. I got in a long line and waited. In about an hour I came to the window. I explained that I had been promised a job by mail. The clerk looked at my papers and said, "You don't belong here. You are already hired. Just drive in and go the Engineering Administration Office and show Mr. Smith your papers. I had wasted over an hour in the employment office, when it wasn't necessary.
After a few more inquiries, I found the Administration Office in the corner of a very long building. In finding it, I walked through one end of the building and saw many airplanes in all stages of assembly. The Air Depot was a repair and overhaul station for Air Force planes.
When I went into the office and asked for Mr. Smith, I found him at a desk near the center of the room, facing about two dozen desks, most of which had someone occupying the chair. He told me to go across the hall to the personnel office and get my paperwork fixed up. This took about an hour, and then I was sent back to begin work. Mr. Smith assigned me to a woman by the name of Lutz. She said she was glad to get some help, and assigned me to what they called the "leave section." This area was operated by five women.
The Civil Service allowed 25 days a year annual leave, or vacation time, that could be taken any time after it was earned, at the rate of about 2 1/6 days a month. Sick leave, to be used only when sick, was 15 days a year. To take some of this leave, the employee had to fill out a form requesting it, and this timely information was entered on his card, which was in a long shoe box type file. Each clerk had certain letters of the alphabet. The employee could ask how much time he had coming, and could apply for it.
After about a week, Mrs. Lutz put me in charge of the Leave Department, and she went on to some more responsible job. The work was simple and easy. It paid $1260 a year, or $105 a month. My title was Under Clerk Typist. The Chief Clerk, Mr. Smith, only made $150 a month. There were two other classifications between the top and my position. A Jr. Clerk, the step above me, paid $120 a month, and Assistant Clerk was $135. These salaries were fixed by Congress, and could not be changed without an act of that body. The clerks did not get a raise during most of the war.
Things went very well. I found out in about a week that we lived only about two hundred yards from the office, and that there was not even a fence on that side of the field. I could walk across the railroad tracks and be at work in five minutes.
Ella's brother Vonlee, who was about a couple of years older than Ella, came to visit us, and decided to stay with us and look for work. We were glad to have his company. He walked across the railroad and began to ask the foremen in the shop for a job. Pretty soon he got a job as a Jr. Engine Mechanic, which paid $125 a month to start. I sent in an application for Jr. Aircraft Electrician, which only required 2 years radio or electrical experience.
The Beard's decided that our room wasn't big enough for the extra person, so we moved to a nice little garage apartment over on Sims St., off of Nogalitos Ave. This was about a mile from the field. I got a raise to Jr. Clerk after six months. About this time I received an OK to go to work as an Aircraft Electrician. I transferred from the office to the shop, and started my electrical career by serving about a week in each electrical department. At the same time, I started to school on aircraft electrical.
After my six week training program, I was sent to Final Assembly and given an airplane to do all the electrical work on. This was a P 40 that had made a crash landing, and required extensive structural repair. I had to remove all electrical instruments and wiring, sending the equipment to the various departments for overhaul. Then, when the airplane began to get back together, I had to reinstall everything with new wiring. When we finally finished, it was like a new airplane.
Vonlee continued to live with us, and we enjoyed San Antonio. Ella drove all over the city, although she had not got a driver's license. It didn't matter much in those days whether you had a license or not. She rode the bus a lot, too, when I had the car at work.
When Pearl Harbor was bombed, on December 7, we had just discovered that someone had stolen our spare tire. It was mounted on the back of the car. The next day, war was declared.
While we lived here, I finally found out what was wrong with our brakes. I had been continually bleeding them and adding fluid. The brake line going to the front wheels was stopped up. The pressure of the master cylinder would force the fluid through the stoppage, but it wouldn't come back from the wheel cylinders. I finally got it unstopped, and that part of the car never gave anymore trouble.
It wasn't long until our landlord decided he wanted more money. The government had already frozen the rents, and he could not raise it unless he improved it. We were paying $22 a month. He wanted us out so he could convert the garage to another room and get more money.
We found a large house on Mayfield, about three or four miles from the field, and moved in. We didn't have much furniture, but we had bought a small refrigerator. (That refrigerator made 13 moves before it was retired). We began to accumulate a few more things, and really enjoyed our big house. Vonlee got married while we lived there, and he and Edith found a garage apartment not too far away.
The owner of this house was a service man, and was being sent overseas, so he decided to sell the house. We didn't have enough money to buy it, so we had to start looking for another one. We finally found a good sized house on Linares street, not far from the field. They had changed the name of Duncan Field to Kelly Field. Originally Kelly Field adjoined it. They combined the two.
It was while we were living here that I was sent to Pyote, Texas, out in the middle of the desert in West Texas to make some radio installations in B 17's.
We lived on the base in barracks, like the soldiers. We ate in the mess halls and went to the same shows. After about six weeks, after getting all the planes there converted, we were sent to El Paso, where we again lived on the base like the Air Force personnel. We made the same installation in B 24's, and it took about the same length of time.
Of course, it was in San Antonio where Ann was born. We lived on Mayfield at the time. There was a big tropical hurricane on the gulf, and it came inland as far as San Antonio. It rained so much that boats traveled up and down our street. On the way to work, the car drowned out in deep water. I had to light paper and dry out the ignition system before it would start. I did finally get to the field, and everyone was outside trying to tie down airplanes. Several were wrecked there on the flight ramp because they weren't tied properly or broke loose. The storm slacked off some by the middle of the afternoon, but when I got home, the street still looked like a river.
Would you believe that this was the night that Ella decided to go to the hospital. Sometime after midnight on September 1, 1942, we arrived at the P&S Hospital, and about ten o'clock the next morning, Ann was born.
Mamma came to stay with us a few days to get the baby off to a good start. I had got my first disc recorder not too long before that, and about the first thing I did after Ann and Ella came home was to record a long session of crying. It was loud and clear.
I played it back later, when things were pretty quiet. Mamma was in another room, and she came running in and exclaimed, "What in the world is wrong with that baby?" You could say she was really fooled. We took a lot of pictures of the new baby. She was a very pretty thing, and we were very proud of her. I was doing a little film developing and experimenting about this time.
I also had a radio repair shop in the back porch of the house. I put a small sign outside on the house, and did quite a bit of radio repairing. I fixed radios for a second hand store where we had bought some furniture.
We had good neighbors on Mayfield, and really hated to move. But the house was sold, and the new owners wanted to live in their house, and asked us to get out. We started looking, and found a house on Linares Street, closer to the air field, and in an older section of the city. We stayed in this house until we left San Antonio.
In August of 1943, we went to Fort Worth and Dallas, and I prospected for a job at Consolidated and North American. I managed to get a job at North American, in Grand Prairie. The old North American plant is now LTV Aircraft. In September, we moved to Grand Prairie. Our first week was spent in Arlington at a tourist court called The Dixie Courts. Our cabin was a tiny thing, not much bigger than a modern closet. I was working the night shift, and we spent the mornings looking for a house. We had stored our furniture in San Antonio.
About the third day of looking, we found a nice two bedroom house on Dallas Street, on the west side of Grand Prairie, and bought it for $3750 with $300.00 down and payments of $40.00 a month. We moved in without any furniture, and called the storage company to bring our possessions. I was working seven days a week, ten hours or more a day. The furniture came on a Sunday, after I had gone to work.
The movers would not take a check, and Ella didn't have enough money to pay the bill, which was around $70.00. We had left our money in a bank in San Antonio. Ella went down town and started trying to find someone to cash a check for her. This was quite a chore on a late Sunday afternoon. But she happened to find Mr. Turner, the man who owned the agency we bought our house from, and he was nice enough to let her have the money. So we were officially moved in then.
I had agreed to work the second shift because it paid 6 cents an hour more than days, and the hours didn't sound bad. I was supposed to work from 3:30 to 12:00. But I found out that they were working ten hours, which made it 2:00 in the morning. Also, they were working Saturday and Sunday. During the
year and a half I was there, I never worked an 8 hour day, nor a five day week. We did get a few Sundays off.
North American was building B 24's in the B plant where I worked. My classification was Field and Service Mechanic, and I worked outside and in the hangar. They had many airplanes built, but they had not flown. They had problems from the assembly line, or had parts missing. I was very familiar with the electrical system of the B 24, and my services were in great demand when they began to try to get the airplanes to work. They gave me a leadman job, which paid 10 cents an hour more than the top pay in the labor grade, so my pay jumped from $1.06 an hour to $1.46. This was a lot of money in those days. The union kept getting raises, and I was making $1.61 an hour when I left.
I had a radio shop in our house there also. Radio tubes were very hard to find, especially the popular types. I managed to take the less popular tubes that were available and change the sets to use them. I did some business in what little spare time I had.
It was here that Ella and I undertook and completed the biggest construction job of our careers. The house we bought had a septic tank, and it didn't work. It ran over and back under the house. The back of our lot was higher than the front.
Shortly after we moved in, we noticed that they were digging a sewer line in the alley behind our house. We noticed that it was very deep, but didn't pay much attention to it. This was before we had trouble with the septic tank.
Things got so bad we decided to get connected to the sewer line, but could not find a plumber that would do the work. Plumbers were very scarce, like everything else. I went to the city hall and looked at the map of the line, and it showed that it was 22 feet deep at the manhole a block east, and indicated that a riser had been installed so many feet from the manhole for our house. So, we decided to connect to it ourselves. We could buy sewer pipe and cement. So, one morning I took a shovel and started digging, after carefully measuring to where the riser should be. I dug down about six feet in the soft fill dirt, but didn't find anything.
"Well," I thought, "I guess we missed the measurement a little." So we began to dig the trench in both directions, looking for it. It was supposed to be 4 feet from the top of the ground. After going from one edge of the lot to the other, we still didn't find it. I decided to dig another foot or two deeper, just to be sure it wasn't there. We had enough dirt stacked around there to make a mountain. Still no pipe.
Then, we decided to dig on down to the main line. So we started digging straight down. We built a derrick over the hole, and Ella pulled the dirt out by backing the car, then I came up and emptied it. After we finally got down to about fifteen feet, the soft dirt turned to mud, and water started running into our excavation. We tried bailing it out with the garbage can, but it ran in faster than we could haul it out. I figured we were probably within five or six feet of the big line.
We made a quick trip to Cross Cut, and I brought back a twelve foot piece of steel rod, sharpened on one end. My idea was to drive this down to the line, and knock a hole in it so the water could drain out. I drove it down several times across the hole, but didn't find any line where I thought it ought to be. I kept driving deeper , and finally found the top of the line about ten feet below. A few licks with a sledge hammer got results, and the water started going down. We hauled out a lot of mud, and finally got down to the line, 26 feet below the surface. I hadn't punched a nice little hole in the line, but had collapsed the whole thing. It was an 8 inch clay tile line. But, after a few days of work, I took some tin and repaired the line with cement, and put a four inch hub in the top of it. Then a few joints of clay tile brought us to about five feet from the surface. I never enjoyed any work as much as I did filling up that hole.
But the digging had just started. Because the lot sloped up, we had to go deep to get the right drainage from the house to the line. We were about six feet down when we got to the riser we had installed. From there, it was an easy matter to install the rest of the line.
We didn't stop there. We dug up the drain line from the septic tank and hauled it to Cross Cut, where we installed a bath room for mamma and papa. He dug the septic tank, and did a good job. They got water from a tank a little way up the hill. The water ran down to the house by gravity. It didn't run very fast, but it did run. The bath worked. We installed the whole thing in one Sunday.
While we lived in Grand Prairie, we made many trips to Cross Cut.
In the Spring of 1944, Patricia Mae was born. Her arrival was at the Methodist Hospital in Dallas. This was also a midnight trip, but the wait was not so long. In fact, we just barely made it. When Ella and Pat came home from the hospital, we got Roxie Williams to come stay with us a few days. We met her at the railroad station in Fort Worth.
Not too long after Pat's arrival, the draft board in Brownwood began to get disturbed because I was not in the armed services, and decided to put me there. During this transition, I found out that the reason I had not been drafted sooner, they thought I was. I had been sent to Dallas for a physical shortly after going to North American, and after passing, had been expecting each month to be called. What had happened, when I had the exam transferred to Dallas, someone in the Brownwood office placed all my papers in the file for those already in the service. I would never have been called if North American had not asked for a deferment for me. They did not make the same mistake again.
Clifton and I decided to join the Maritime Service instead of being drafted. We went to the recruiting office in Dallas and signed up. They got everything ready, and told us they would call us as soon as they had openings. There were three basic training stations, and we didn't know which one we would go to. There was on in New York City, one in Florida and one at Catalina Island near Los Angeles.
We sold our house and moved everything back to Cross Cut, storing it in an old house there. Clifton and Mary Lou did the same thing. They had not bought a house, and had lived in Arlington in a garage apartment. Clifton had gone to North American soon after I went to San Antonio. Clyde and Junior worked there awhile. Junior stayed with us while he was working there. Tom lived in Arlington and worked at Consolidated in Fort Worth. He later quit, and worked in the Chevrolet garage there awhile, before going back to Cross Cut and finding an oil field job as a pumper.
We stayed at Cross Cut about two weeks, then on a Monday we got a letter telling me to report to St. Petersburg, Florida on the previous Saturday. There was no way we could do it. So I wrote a letter to Dallas and explained the situation. Clifton and I each got another letter by return mail instructing us to report to Dallas on the next Saturday morning for a trip to Catalina Island.
Ella and the two little girls, Ann and Pat were to stay with Papa and Mamma at Cross Cut. We figured it might be a dreary existence in a lot of ways, but Papa would show the kids a good time, and it just seemed the proper thing to do at the time. It was a sad parting. Ella and Mary Lou took us to Dallas to catch the train, then they started back to Cross Cut and we started out for California.
There were five groups of 25 each at the train depot. Clifton and I and one of our co workers at North American, Claude O'Neal, were in the same group. The officer in charge of the trip was a very nice guy, but not quite as nice as the ones in the recruiting office. We had a Pullman car, and were assigned two to each bunk. That's pretty crowded in those little train bunks. I had an upper with a boy named Cone. The trip was pretty uneventful. It took us from Saturday until Tuesday afternoon about six o'clock to get to Los Angeles. We had meals served in the dining car, and lived more or less like kings during the trip. We did a lot of stopping and letting trains with more priority get past us. Some of these trains that came along beside us were filled with German POWS on their way to camps somewhere in the interior of the country. They did a lot of talking mostly in English to us. Often we were stopped side by side with hardly four feet between us for hours. They were happy about their fate, and told us how bad ours would be.
When we stopped in Los Angeles, the officer in charge told us goodbye, and turned us over to another one from our new camp. He was a lot rougher, and got mad very easily. He referred to us as "Gleeps", whatever that was. We got the impression that he didn't like us, and would do all he could to make life miserable for us.
We were crowded on an electric train, or glorified street car, after a march of several blocks. During this march, there was one big old boy who had lost a shoe, and hobbled along on one foot. It seems that he had got drunk and vomited in the bunk, and his room mate got mad and threw his shoe out the window somewhere in West Texas. After what seemed like miles and miles, we got to a town called San Pedro, and then we got out and hiked several more blocks to the Maritime Services installation on the docks. There were a lot of big ships around. The building we went into, right on the water in fact, above the water had apparently been a big warehouse in peace time, and was now the receiving headquarters for the U.S. Maritime Service.
The first order of business was supper. It was probably nine o'clock, and the regular meal there was over. We filed into the mess hall, and passed through a cafeteria line. You didn't choose any food. You held out your tray, and guys with blue denim suits slopped it out of big pots and onto the trays. As hungry as I was, it looked pretty good. About the time we got seated, six to a table, a big, rough guy bellowed out: "We are here to eat, so get with it. Don't chew it, inhale it. The last ten men to finish will police the mess hall. Get going!"
The guys jumped at their food and started wolfing it down...some even pushed it back and got up and walked out.
We found out later that the first ten men who walked out were snagged for the clean up detail, and that they spent two hours cleaning up after the rest of us had finished. I took my time and finished the meal. It really didn't matter to me whether I was washing dishes or standing around waiting.
When we got outside, they herded us onto trucks several of them with cattle type side boards, and took us a few miles through the town. When we got out, we found we were at the Y.M.C.A. We went into a large room in the basement. There were a lot of lockers and benches, and a big room full of stacked single mattresses. These had coarse ducking outsides, and thin hard insides. Each of us walked by and took one and carried it to the big room with the lockers. There, we threw them on the floor and went to bed. I don't remember, but I think I slept pretty well. Before daylight the next morning, we were called outside, and loaded into the trucks again, after stacking our mattresses and sweeping and mopping the area we had occupied.
We arrived at the warehouse about daylight in time to get in line for breakfast. It was a long wait in line, and the officers inside were hurrying everyone and telling them to "inhale" it and get out so hungry men could some in.
The whole situation was "Hurry! hurry! hurry!"
But by the time we got to the mess hall, the drivers must have driven themselves out, because they didn't bother us much while we ate. Each section was assigned a leader when we came out, and he explained that we would be filling out papers and be processed during the morning, and in the afternoon would take a ship to Catalina Island. He said it was about a three hour trip. He was right, we filled out all kinds of papers and had out pictures taken and our fingerprints recorded.
We saw a couple of weather worn blue suiters on the dock, which was partially enclosed in the building. They were a smart aleck type, and laughed about the new "Gleeps" come in. One of our group argued back: "It was either this or the Army!" The answer in return was, "Boy, the Army is a good deal compared to this." We soon found out what he meant.
About two or three o'clock, we finished our processing and were loaded on a good sized ship that they called the "Avalon." It had been a resort ship before the war, and had carried tourists and week end party goers to Catalina for a fun time. We later learned that there was another ship used by the Maritime Service called the "Scott", which was used mostly for training. We got a chance to experience some of the training at first hand.
Not too long before dark, we docked at Avalon, Catalina Island. The first view of the island presented a small town, several piers extending several hundred feet out into the bay and a sandy beach on our left that extended several hundred yards, and ended against a high cliff, or hill. There were a few bathers lounging on the beach, but I didn't see any in the water. As we approached the dock, there were several boys swimming in the water, and asking us to throw coins and watch them dive for them. Some were thrown, and usually a boy came up with one in his hand.
We walked down the gang plank, probably a hundred and fifty of us, all excited and curious. We were also a little tired after the day of doing nothing except mostly waiting. Old "loud voice" told us to follow him, and we did so, after another group left in front of us. Another two or three waited to follow us. We went into a large warehouse type building, and a bunch of guys in blue dungarees started handing us baskets, and told us to fill out forms that were handed us with our names and addresses, and told us that all our clothes would be sent back to our homes. Then we stripped off all clothes, and were herded into cold showers and I do mean cold. We ran through them as quickly as possible, and were handed towels as we emerged in another big room with a long counter. The blue clad boys behind it began handing us things. First, came a big blue bag and a big white bag. Then someone handed some socks, another looked us over and pitched out what he thought to be the proper size shorts several pairs. Then the shirt people and pants people did the same. There was the bucket man, and the brush man. The last character actually asked our sizes when he handed out the dress white suits and the dress blues, complete with caps and ties.
These clothes were all packed in the white bag. We were told that the blue bag was for dirty clothes our laundry bag.
Next came a half mile fast walk to another big building, which a small sign informed us was a theater. Before going in, we were lined up according to social security number. We were told to stay in this order, and then went inside and sat down in theater seats, holding our bags on our knees.
"Gleeps," the guy said, "you will leave your gear here, and will come back after mess. You will form in the same order outside, and will always move in this order according to your Social Security number. We don't have much time. We have to eat and get back here and get out before show time. Now move!"
When we got outside, he told us to go "double time" back like we came. Before long we came to another big building with a big sign across the top that read "BOOS BROTHERS". This was the mess hall. Before the war, it had been a large cafeteria for residents and tourists. There was a long line waiting to get in, and a bunch of different groups leaving from a side door. Again we got the hurry lecture. "Don't eat it inhale it. Hurry!"
Eventually we got in and got the night's menu slapped on our trays. I don't remember what it was, but I don't remember having any really bad meals, so it must have been good. They had beans pretty regular, and potatoes, bread and some kind of meat.
After supper, we made another double time march back to the theater. We went to our bags and brought them outside, then went back to the other side of town to another big warehouse type building, and entered. There were several hundred other recruits here, milling around and being yelled at. Our cranky boss addressed us again. "Tonight, you are going to stay here. You will put your sea bags against the wall and follow me." At the far end of the warehouse, there were many stacks of thin mattresses. We each were told to take one, and carry it back to our bags. There was a "head" in an adjoining building. We were told that a "head" was the sea term for latrine, or toilet, and that we would refer to them as heads while on the island. We were also told that there would be no smoking anywhere except when the smoking lamp was lit, and that we would be told when it was lit, and where to smoke. He was also kind enough to tell us that we would have a quota of cigarettes issued each week, and that we could use the quota cards to purchase cigarettes.
The first night passed without incident, and before daylight the next morning we were up and on our way, after stacking the mattresses back where they were. We carried our bags to the theater again and left them while we had breakfast. After breakfast, we took the bags and started out, under the direction of the leader. He put us in another big building that was broken up into smaller rooms. We were asked if anyone in the group had taken ROTC training. About four or five held up their hands. The leader looked them over, and picked one, telling him that he was Assistant Leader, and that it would be his job to march the group everywhere we went.
"After today," he explained, "nobody will walk on this base. Everyone marches.
You will be given drill instruction for one period each day, and I expect every man in here to learn to march and obey commands."
We were told to get all clothes out of the bag, and lay it on the floor in front of us. Each was given a punched stencil with his name on it, and was told to stencil it where instructed, and nowhere else. We were not told why. Then the brush and ink was passed around, and the stenciling began on each item. At least half of us got the instructions wrong, and stenciled the clothes in the wrong place. This wasn't evident until later, when we were told to roll them a certain way. When they were stenciled right, the name came out when they were rolled. All that were wrong had to be stenciled again, and a lot of them wound up with at least two stencils on shirts and other garments. The dress clothes were marked with indelible pens where it didn't show. He also told us how to lay each piece on a bunk, or mattress, in a certain way so that the complete picture was a ship pointed on each end. A very pretty sight!
Next came drill instruction. We started marching, and marched to our theater and left our bags. Then we marched back to town and out away from the harbor to the hospital a series of big buildings. This time the assistant leader started us to counting as we marched, and the leader started yelling at the ones that were not in step.
At the hospital, we were again stripped and lined up for shots. There were at least a half dozen. Then we went into the dental department, where there must have been twenty or thirty dental chairs with a guy standing at each one. My guy told me I needed some fillings, and that he would make an appointment for me. Then I was through. Clifton wasn't as fortunate. The guy told him he had a tooth that needed to come out. He took a needle and poked around it. About that time another guy came by and yanked it out. Clifton gave a nice little yell. The shot had not had time to take effect, and it was a painful extraction.
Two boys in our group fainted while waiting for their shots. They threw cold water on them, and when their time came, they were shot just like the rest of us.
They pulled a nasty joke on one of the boys that fainted. When it got his turn, the man with the white coat told one of the helpers he needed the special needle for him, and to fetch it. He came back with a needle at least a foot long. The poor kid almost fainted again. But they used a regular needle to shoot him. Some of the ones they hit started walking out with the needle sticking in their arms. The needle had come loose from the main body of the hypodermic. The way they were hitting, the needle must have stuck in the bone.
When this mess was finished, we went to "seamanship" class. Here they taught different kinds of knots, correct nautical terms for items and things like that. Then there was gunnery training. We were instructed in the use of several types of guns carried on merchant ships, and on the use of gas masks. We were told that we would never enter the water without life jackets on. "There is no such thing as a good swimmer on the ocean. If you don't have a jacket, you don't have a chance. You will always use them when in the water." And we did.
The first week finally passed, with us using the theater and the warehouse for our quarters. On Sunday we were told that we would be moving to "La Valita," a group of former tourist cabins. Each cabin contained a bath and either six or eight bunks, depending on the size. It was much closer to the mess hall.
We got our fist lessons in good housekeeping. We had to polish the floors every morning before leaving. The bath had to be spotless. If any trace of dirt or debris was found, the whole cabin personnel would get extra duty. Extra duty consisted of two to four hours at night working in the mess hall or doing janitor work in the offices. About the third night, we got our first extra duty. Some one in our cabin had gone back in the bath room and left a trace of water on the lavatory. This was enough for the inspector to put our cabin on the list.
My job that first night was guard duty. I was to let no one in or out of a side door in a downtown hotel, which was full of gleeps like us, only a week or so older in experience. I found out that every week each group moved to some other place. This hotel was our next stop from our cabins.
We were told that only officers or instructors wore white caps, and that we would never have occasion to wear ours while on the island. The dress whites would only be worn after we were advanced. We had to salute every officer we met, no matter what branch of service he was in. They tried to teach us which was which by the insignias, but most of us couldn't remember. So we saluted everything with a uniform on.
The next week we moved to the downtown hotel. There were six in our room, and it was harder than ever to keep everything clean and shining. We were studying lifeboat operation two periods every day. This consisted of learning all the terms referring to different parts of the boats, the names of the officers in a boat and their duties. The final exam at the end of three weeks required each of us to take command of a lifeboat, give all the required instructions and have the crew lower the boat, row around the ship and come back to be hoisted up. This was quite an accomplishment, and in conjunction with a long written examination, gave each one who passed a lifeboat certificate, issued by the Coast Guard. This, we were told, entitled us to more pay when we went to sea.
The laundry facilities were practically non existent on the island. There were two wash areas, but they were small and there were too many trying to use them. The only equipment was the bucket and scrub brush issued us and a bar of laundry soap. Most of the groups tried to wash their clothes in the sea. But this didn't work very well. Some tried to use bleach and got too much, causing white streaks and spots on the blue denim pants and shirts. They would be in style today, but then they looked pretty seedy. There was an inspection every Saturday morning, and all clothes had to be laid out on the bunk in the official ship pattern, with the names that we had stenciled on showing on the outside of the roll. We were only allowed a few items in the dirty laundry bag. I rolled up my dirty clothes and laid them out as clean ones. Most of the clothes were in such poor state that it was impossible to tell the clean ones from the dirty ones. I got by with this procedure the whole time I was there. Others that didn't try it were written up for too much dirty laundry, and were given extra duty for it.
After four weeks, we were given a week end in Los Angeles. On Saturday morning, we boarded the Avalon and sailed to San Pedro. From there, we took the electric trains to Los Angeles. Clifton and I went to the USO at Hollywood and Vine. They offered what entertainment they could to servicemen. We wore our blue uniforms, and I guess most people didn't know what kind of sailors we were. We didn't either, really. One civilian asked us if we were Russian sailors.
Saturday night we wandered down the street a little to the Hollywood Canteen and saw Kay Kyser's band playing for the dance. The dancers were so thick you couldn't have got through them if your life depended on it. About ten o'clock, we went back to the USO to see if they had a place for us to spend the night. Finding lodging for servicemen was part of their services.
We were told that there was a garage apartment for us somewhere across town, and were given instructions for finding it from the electric train and bus lines. After about an hour we found the place, and we did get a nice upstairs room for a token $1.00. People were very cooperative about furnishing spare rooms for the USO.
We tried to get in touch with Clifton's cousin, Glen Strange, who was in the move business and later was the bar tender in the Gunsmoke series. He was not home, and we didn't see him this trip. Later, Clifton contacted him and spent some time visiting him. This was after I had left and gone to New York.
This was the only visit to the mainland that I had. After the basic training was over, everyone was given a classification. This was the job that the recruit would be assigned on the ship when he sailed. My classification, along with most of our group was "Messman." This meant that we would work in the galley, or kitchen.
Clifton and I decided we didn't want to be kitchen help, so we went to one of the officers and complained. He told us that this classification would be for only one trip, then we could go to school and learn something else. I told him that I had been promised that I could go to radio school and be a radio operator when I joined in Dallas. Clifton told him that he had been promised an "Engineer" job.
He said there wasn't anything he could do about it, and that was final. We had already anticipated this, so I told him, "Then we want to resign."
"You know," he said, "you will be drafted as soon as we release you. We will have to notify your draft board."
We explained that we had thought of that, and after due consideration, we would take our chances with the draft board.
He knew when he was licked. He said if we would stay on the island for a few days until some openings came up, he would see that we got to go to the advance schools. The engineer school was on the island, and the radio school was in New York. We agreed to wait.
In about three days, Clifton was assigned to the engineering school, but I stayed around another two weeks. During this time, I stayed at the St. Catherine Hotel, just up the shore from the old theater building. During the day I was assigned to what they called "Maintenance Duty." Maintenance duty consisted on whatever had to be done to maintain the island installation.
The first day I went to this new duty, about a hundred or more of us were lined up. Some character came up with a note pad and said he needed volunteers for the trucks. I had seen some of the recruits riding around on the trucks, hauling stuff from the ship to the mess hall, etc., and I thought this would be a pretty easy and interesting job. I stepped out, and the man put me in line with others who volunteered. When he got all he needed, he marched us down toward the mess hall. He pointed toward a truck and told another fellow and me to go get on that one. I knew then that I had made a mistake.
Before I got within ten feet of the truck, I could smell it. It was a garbage truck. There wasn't a clean place in the bed to sit or stand. No one was allowed in the cab except the driver. We backed up behind the mess hall, and the driver told us to start loading. The load was to be big garbage cans full of sloppy stuff. There must have been fifty of them. We could haul about ten or twelve at a time. They were full of all kinds of rank slop. Beans, soup, bones, etc. And they were heavy. Before we got the first load dumped, we were wet all over. We dumped the stuff over a high cliff into the sea.
There were many birds around the dump site. I don't know if they were diving for the garbage, or for the fish that probably hung out around it. Anyway, it wasn't a pleasing duty. When the end of the day finally came, the driver said: "Everybody come back to the same place tomorrow morning."
The next morning we marched out again. The officer in charge said for everyone to go back where they were the day before. I pulled a sneakie on them. I followed a group that was headed for the main office. I didn't know what they were doing, but I knew it wouldn't be any worse than the truck work.
It happened that the group I followed was working in the main office. The boss there told everyone to go where he was the day before. I explained that it was my first day, and that I needed something to do. He asked me if I could type, and he started me to making out W 2 forms for those leaving the service. This lasted the rest of the week, then we were told that they wouldn't need us there any more. We had done all the extra work.
Once more I followed the line up to the assignment area. I didn't volunteer for anything, and after the volunteers had left, I was assigned to the carpenter shop. This was not hard work, and was quite interesting. We worked on small boats, planed lumber, and stuff like that.
I was told that I would leave for New York on Saturday morning, and to report to the hospital for a physical.
The proper papers were given me, and on Saturday morning, several of us boarded the Avalon again and started our trip to New York. By the middle of the afternoon, we were at the railroad station in Los Angeles and boarded a Pullman bound for the East coast. Again, there were two men assigned to each bunk. There was an officer in charge of our group, consisting of the usual 25 men who were bound for radio school. The officer was one who had been promoted from the ranks, and he was very efficient and very nice. He told us we could take turns sleeping or both sleep together in the bunks.
The train trip to New York lasted from Saturday through all the next week and to Tuesday morning of the next week. Apparently our train had a very low priority, and every time another train was to come by, we were placed on sidings. We sat for hours sometimes waiting for a train to pass before we could go.
On a Tuesday morning, our train arrived in New York. We got off and after walking a few blocks, boarded a subway train. This ride took us to a ferry within sight of the Statue of Liberty. We got on this big ferry boat and crossed over to Staten Island. From there we rode a bus to the far end. The place we were going was two or three miles out in the end of the harbor. It was a small island called Hoffman Island. At one time it had been a quarantine station for immigrants arriving in the United States. They were kept here until they were cleared to go to Ellis Island, which was between us and the city. The buildings here were made of red brick and were all two stories in height. Very old.
The first week was called "maintenance week" and each new group was assigned to do routine maintenance. Each two or three of us was under a civilian in that particular activity. I spent two days in the mess hall, washing pots and pans. They were very large pots. Some of us were putting potatoes in a big potato peeler and others were mixing dough, etc., in large mixers. It was quite an experience. We also dished out the food in the serving line, but I never got around to that...I was busy with my pots and pans.
The rest of the time, I worked in the garbage detail. But this time, I was in the paper baling area. We took all the paper from waste baskets and separated it, baling the paper and throwing away the rest of it. We had quite a bit of spare time, and I kept up on the latest news by reading the late papers that had been thrown away. It was also interesting to read some of the letters that had been discarded. Of course, you would think we wouldn't stoop to reading these private documents, but we did, and enjoyed it.
I found a Yale combination lock that had been discarded. I spent several days trying combinations during my spare time, and eventually got it opened. It was an excellent lock, and I used it for years on my tool box at General Dynamics. I still have it.
We got mail regularly. I wrote the same way. Ella and the kids were doing all right. We got paid twice a month, and I sent most of the money home. There was a post office there, and we could get money orders. It really didn't take much to get by there. Nearly everything was furnished. I got $50.00 a month to start, and when I got to New York, I got $56.00 and had a little stripe on my sleeve. I think this meant Seaman First Class, or something like that.
Also, by being the only one in our group that was over 21, I automatically qualified as assistant group leader. This was a little better position. I was excused from extra duty and policing the facility. We were in a large, downstairs room, with long lines of double bunks on each side. The floor was some sort of hard wood, and was kept polished. It had to be swept and kept spotless, and on Saturday morning, had to be waxed and buffed with a big machine. There was also an inspection of bunks, clothes, etc. We had excellent laundry facilities here. There was a large room with many sinks with hot and cold water, and a drying room with steam pipes to hasten the drying. I did a few washings here.
Our day was pretty routine. We started each day with exercises outside the barracks. There were about fifteen minutes of this, then we had breakfast. After breakfast, we had two hours of code practice, an hour of typing and an hour of radio theory. In the afternoon, there was another two hours of code, and another hour of typing. Then there was an hour of physical education, where we played volley ball, swam, etc.
There was an hour of gunnery two days a week, where we learned to shoot the various kinds of guns that the ships would have.
Since I already knew typing, and could do about a hundred words a minute, I didn't have any trouble passing the 25 words that was required, and got to take off a lot of time during the typing periods. I also had a pretty thorough knowledge of radio theory, and didn't have to do much studying in that class. The purpose of the whole course was to teach the class enough radio theory and code speed to pass the F.C.C. test for a radio telegraph operator. With this license, you were qualified to serve as a radio officer on a ship. There were groups taken to New York almost every day to try the tests. A few passed, but many failed, and came back for more schooling. When our group went to try, I passed the test without any trouble. Only sixteen words per minute were required for a license, along with a passing grade on the theory . I passed both, and got my first F.C.C. license.
Since I was assistant group leader, it was my job to march the group everywhere we went to classes, to the mess hall, etc. And even on Saturday, when we were dismissed for the weekend to go to New York, everybody had to march to the boat. When we arrived on Staten Island, the marching stopped, and everyone was on their own. The Saturday afternoons and nights in the big city were interesting. The first time I went to the city, I bought two little turtles for Ann and Pat, and the store mailed them for me. I'm sure, from what I heard later, that they made quite a hit. I also bought myself a cheap wrist watch the first one I had every owned. It worked nicely, for a cheapie, and I used it a long time.
We were told that we would be assigned to a ship in December.
While visiting New York, I took several tours through the various parts of the city. It was very interesting. I also saw a lot of shows. Usually two of us rented a room in a small hotel. The rooms were clean and the price was very reasonable. On Sunday morning we got on a subway and rode to the Staten Island ferry, and then went across by the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. After arriving at Staten Island, we took a bus to the South Beach, which was on the extreme Eastern end, and then got on a boat to Hoffman Island, which was about a couple of miles or so out in the harbor.
There were thousands of swimmers and sun bathers on South Beach. It was "off limits" to us, because the Maritime Service said the water was polluted with sewage. You could see the dark water a mile or so off shore where some of the sewer lines emptied. From Hoffman Island, we could look across the harbor and see Coney Island. I never went there, but you could see the carnival rides. One, in particular, was a tall tower with parachutes coming down. They were probably guided down a wire, or something. It must have been quite a thrill to ride one down.
Things went along pretty smooth until the atomic bomb was dropped in August of 1945. They had a theater on the island, and I saw a lot of picture shows. When Japan agreed to surrender, we were told that all who wanted to could get a discharge. I was in the first line waiting for mine. I was given what pay I had coming, and was told I could keep all my clothes except the dress blue suit, and that I could wear it home by making a deposit, and could return it for a refund. I wore it home, and did return it later and finally got the refund.
l arrived in New York after dark while the victory celebration was in progress on Fifth Avenue and Herald Square. There were people from one side of the street to the other in every direction as far as you could see. Confetti was flying everywhere, and everyone was shouting and clapping. Several people were on little stands in places, trying to make speeches. I was carrying my sea bag through this mess, trying to find my way to Grand Central Station and make arrangements to get back to Texas.
It was relatively easy to get out of the city. I bought a ticket on Continental Bus Lines, because it was a lot cheaper than the train. The bus was old and uncomfortable, but it went day and night, and in about three days we pulled into Dallas. I got on a Texas Motorcoach and went to Fort Worth, and then boarded a bus for Brownwood. Would you believe that Marjorie turned up on the same bus, on her way to Brownwood. She and Ed had been about everywhere during the war.
I sent a telegram to Ella telling her when I expected to arrive in Brownwood. Everything went according to schedule, and I was back in Cross Cut again. We were all reunited, but without a job or a place to live.
For awhile, we just enjoyed being together, then I began looking around for a job. I fixed a few radios in the community while I was waiting. I got a job with Montgomery Ward as a service manager, but they were assigning me to Sweetwater. We looked for two days and could not find a place to live there not even a tourist court. I gave up on that job and kept looking.
I was offered a job at Otis Elevator Service Co. in Dallas. We started looking for somewhere to stay there, and did find a place at La Reunion, a wartime apartment construction project. It was a pretty nice place, although very small by today's standards. There were four apartments to each building, and we had one about the middle of our building. About the most memorable thing about this move, and it wasn't exactly a good memory, was the car trouble we developed about the time we got to Dallas. We had bought a small two wheel trailer and had loaded it up Sunday morning for the move. It seems we always waited until the last minute to start our moves. When we got to La Reunion, the car wouldn't do anything but idle, and we couldn't get enough power to back up to the door.
I had to take the carburetor off and work on it before we could unload and get to bed. It was already dark and approaching bedtime. But I got it fixed, and we made the night. I believe the kids had a bunk bed here.
The next morning I arrived at the Otis office. I was told I would have to purchase a Union Card every week, which would cost 10% of my wages for the week before. This money would apply toward some future acceptance into the union, several years down the line. I was beginning as a helper, and helpers were not allowed to join the union. After you became a mechanic, you were entitled to belong, and the initiation fee were very expensive. I got my card and started to work.
Each mechanic was assigned a helper, unless he was on an installation, in which case he had several. I spent about two weeks with each mechanic. The mechanics were assigned routes of buildings which were under the maintenance contract, and they kept all the machinery clean and painted and hopefully in good working order. This cleaning included the elevator shaft and pits. I spent many hours on top of elevators while they were in operation. Sometimes, on the top floor, I had to get down some to keep from hitting the top, and when working in the pit, you had to watch out for the counterweights on one side and for the elevator when it came down to the bottom floor or basement. There was a big spring in the middle of the pit, and as long as you kept your head lower than the top of the spring, you were safe.
Most of the mechanics were nice, and easy to get along with. But a few were arrogant and demanding, and did nothing themselves. One such character I worked for had a seven story apartment building with an automatic elevator. Automatic elevators were pretty rare in 1945. They operated with a series of up and down locking relays. These relays were closed by the selection of the passenger of the floor he wanted. A relay would lock in and stay until the elevator stopped. They were located in the penthouse on top of the building, immediately above the elevator. With seven stories of apartments, there was considerable elevator traffic during the day.
The mechanic would tell me to clean up, and he would go to the coffee shop for two or three hours. I held a pretty severe grudge against him, and decided to get even. I started my campaign by looking down the shaft by the side of the elevator until I saw someone with a big load of groceries get on and select their floor. I then quickly pulled out the relay for the selected floor and pushed in the one for the floor above. The poor passenger arrived on the wrong floor. As most floors looked alike at the elevator, he walked down the hall to his apartment, and discovered he was on the wrong floor. This disturbed him a lot, and soon they were complaining to the building superintendent about the elevator service. Of course the superintendent called to office. The supervisor came out and found the mechanic out having coffee. Of course, the helper was not supposed to know anything about the system, and on these routes was not allowed to do anything except clean and paint. The supervisor watched the relay operation for awhile, and had me try several floors from the lobby. Everything worked beautifully.
He was a little peeved at the mechanic for being gone so long.
The next morning, the same thing happened again, and a very frustrated supervisor came looking for the mechanic. I told him that he usually went to a coffee shop around the block. He went after him and brought him back. They rode up and down and changed switches and relays for two or three hours, and finally thought they had it fixed. Meanwhile, I kept cleaning and painting. The third time it acted up, they sent another mechanic out to look it over, and transferred the grouchy one to another route. The new one adjusted a few switches on the doors. He was a nice guy, and they didn't have any more trouble with it. I don't know where the culprit finally wound up I think he was put on a construction job. They had to work there. So the moral of that story is, when you have a bird nest on the ground, don't try to use a step ladder.
I had several interesting experiences. I was amazed at the three basement levels below the Adolphus hotel, and the 20 foot elevator pit below the lowest level. This pit had a leak, and every morning had about four feet of water in it. We had to pump it out with a hand pump, and then clean out the paper and stuff that was dropped down beside the elevator into the pit. You can't imagine how much garbage finds its way into an elevator pit. The hospitals were the worst. There you found bloody bandages and other hospital rubbish.
For one week, I was sent to Greenville to clean up an elevator that had been accepted for service. It had not been cleaned in many years, and there was a lot of work to do. The mechanic that I went with was a very nice, hard working fellow, and we put in a week of hard work. We cleaned about a foot of oily dirt and trash out of the bottom of the pit, and washed and painted the walls of the shaft. Then the machinery in the penthouse had to be cleaned and painted.
The highlight of the project was what we found in the shaft. We found several dollars worth of coins. These we divided equally. Finding the coins helped a little bit to ease the discomfort of the job.
I worked the elevators in many of the big buildings in Dallas. Some of the mechanics had several buildings, and I went from one to the other on the clean up detail. We also had several freight elevators in industrial plants. One was a big shop that made coffins. This was an interesting thing to see. Another was a coffee roasting plant.
But I was not satisfied with the job. I wanted something more like electrical or electronic. The telephone company in Dallas offered me a job, but the starting wage was only $6.00 a day. This was a considerable cut from the elevator job, which paid $1.03 per hour to start. The mechanics started at about nine dollars an hour and could go as high as $12.00. I rejected the telephone job.
I quit and took a job in a radio shop. There were three of us there, and very little work to do. But the company charged so much to the customer that if you fixed one set a day, you did pretty good. I remember one old table model radio that needed a capacitor. At that time, they were worth about three cents each wholesale. I fixed it in a few minutes, and they charged 35.00 for the repair. I got 40% of the labor, which was about $12.00. I felt sorry for the poor customers. But the shop was owned by a big jewelry store and was located on the floor above. I guess most of the customers could afford the prices.
Meanwhile we were living nicely at La Reunion. We had saved a few hundred dollars, and were intending to buy a house as soon as we decided where. We drove around Dallas quite a bit, but were undecided.
One day we were in Grand Prairie, and I happened to see a radio shop. I went in, just looking around, and found that the operator was a man I had worked with at North American, Mr. Tucker. He offered to give me a partnership in the business, and suggested we rent a new building that was almost finished on Jefferson. We decided to call it City Radio Service, and rented the building for $40.00 a month. It was a very nice shop, and we had good business. We were making a nice living. Meanwhile, we bought a house two blocks from the shop on Austin Street. We thought we were set for life.
But about this time, many returning servicemen decided to go in the radio repair business, and began to open shops in the backs of about every business in town. One of these returning servicemen had a nice little nestegg, and offered to buy our shop. We decided to sell, and Tucker went to work at Temco, the aircraft company that had replaced North American and later merged with Vought. It became Ling Temco Vought, and is now LTV. We decided to move back to Brown County.
The man who bought the shop bought our equity in the house. We hired a big truck to move us back to Cross Cut. We loaded everything and left Grand Prairie. The truck driver said, "It looks like you are pulling up stakes." That is what we were doing, and we haven't been back to Grand Prairie since. One last remark about the episode: the man who bought the Radio Shop didn't last six months. The repair business kept getting scarcer as more shops opened. He went to work at Temco.
We came back to Cross Cut in about July of 1946, and I began looking around for a shop location. We went to several towns, but most of them either didn't have a suitable building, or there wasn't any place to live.
We finally found a small building in Brownwood on Fisk Street for $40.00 a month. About the first of September, I opened a shop there, and did a good business. I had several customers from before the war, and many needed battery radios changed to electric, since they had got electricity. I converted a lot of them. Also did some repair work for the city folks. Tubes were still scarce and hard to find, and new radios were not yet available.
In December, we bought a lot out on the Coleman highway and decided to build a house. We tore down the lumber additions to the old Rushing house, and took the lumber from the garage and barn. Vonlee was in Brownwood, going to a watch repair school. He helped me, and we built a three room and bath house. We had found a house to rent on Vinson Street for $30.00 a month. We lived on one side, and Vonlee and Edith lived on the other.
Plumbing fixtures were very scarce, in fact they were unavailable. We couldn't find a bath tub. We were able to get a surplus commode, but it didn't have a tank. I made one out of sheet metal, and fitted the float and valves in it so that it would work. I dug a septic tank hole, and used an old steel water tank. I used clay tile for the drain system. These were available at the brick plant. We also had used them for the foundation of the house. The inside walls were not finished, and we didn't have screens. But we had gas, water and electricity. So we moved in. I guess it was a pretty primitive existence, but we were happy. Every week end we went to Cross Cut to see Papa and Mamma. They seemed to expect it. Ann and Pat liked to go there because Papa bragged on them so much and gave them so much attention. Ella usually did a lot of work that needed to be done around the house.
By May, it became evident that we were the victims of the same surplus of radio shops that had caught us in Grand Prairie. There was a government sponsored school in Brownwood where the veterans were paid to go to school, and then were paid to operate their own business. So the number of radio shops expanded to 23 in downtown Brownwood. Just like Grand Prairie, there was a shop in the back of every garage, auto store, variety store or any other place where a sign could be hung outside. There just wasn't that much work to do, so when it split, there wasn't any left for anyone.
Again, I began looking for a job or a new vocation. I had completed a course in refrigeration and air conditioning.
There was an article in the paper saying that the state was looking for driver's license examiners. I wrote for an application, and filled it out. I figured I could do that.
Also, there were ads saying that Consolidated Vultee at Fort Worth was hiring for production on the B 36, which had just made a successful flight. I wrote them, outlining my aircraft experience.
In a few days I got a letter from Consolidated telling me they would like to interview me at my convenience. My convenience was right then, so we went to Fort Worth and found our way to the big plant on the west side of town. I got to the personnel office, and they called a supervisor from the flight line to interview me. His name was Carl Clark, and he was in charge of radio, radar and electrical. He told me he thought he could use me in radio and radar, but that there wasn't any to do yet, and I could work on aircraft electrical until the program got going. He had me apply for a top secret clearance. The wages was $1.23 an hour, which was Field and Service Mechanic B. I took it, and we went home to close up the radio shop and get some stuff packed together. This was on Thursday, and I was to start work the following Monday, This would be just after the July 4th holiday.
We got back to Brownwood, and I hauled all the equipment from the shop and stored it in a small storage building we had at the back of the lot. Before leaving Fort Worth, we had rented a small bedroom on the side of a garage on White Settlement Road, and I intended to stay there while we were looking for a place to live. On Sunday I made the trip alone and got prepared to start Monday morning.
They took me to a big hangar just north of the main building, and the boss introduced me to the other electricians. There were only nine at that time. I was number ten.
We started working on the things that had gone wrong on the first flight. There were plenty of them. It was weeks before it was ready to fly again.
I went home every Friday afternoon and came back Sunday afternoon for about
two months. Meanwhile, we were looking for some place to live. It was almost impossible to find any kind of apartment or house. We finally found a very small house in Weatherford, and I drove back and forth to work every day. Part of the time I shared rides with others, leaving the car for Ella some days. On the days she had the car, she came into Fort Worth and went house hunting.
In the Spring of 1948, she found a house in White Settlement that was for sale, but the owner was willing to rent it until it sold. He was asking $3200.00 for it, but couldn't sell it because it was unfinished, and no mortgage company would loan money on it. Most people didn't have enough cash to buy it without a loan.
The house didn't have sheetrock on the inside walls, and there was no plumbing at all, other than a pipe coming through the wall on the north side with a faucet on it. There was a water line connected to it. There was electricity, but all the wiring we had was a light bulb hanging from the ceiling in each of the four rooms. There was no bathroom, but a nice toilet a few feet north of the house. There was also a ten by twenty chicken house just back of the toilet. We didn't have gas, but there was a butane tank buried east of the house, and two pipes coming in one for a cook stove and one for a heater in the front room.
It wasn't much, but we were glad to get it. There wasn't any garbage pick up, and as far as we knew we were not in a city. Actually, part of our lot was in Worth Hills and part in White Settlement, but we didn't know it for several months. About the time we moved, we started working a lot of overtime at the plant, and this continued for many years.
Before leaving Brownwood, the owner of the radio station there told me that if I would get a first class phone license, he would give me a job there, and I could run my radio shop part time. This sounded like a good goal to work toward, so I started studying for my license, and we intended to move back in our house in Brownwood. We rented the house and most of the furnishings in it and continued to work.
I took the test and got my first class license, and wrote the station that I was ready to go to work. He wrote back and said he didn't have an opening at that time, but would call when he got one. So time moved on.
At first we couldn't get a telephone because there were no lines, but a few weeks later we were able to get an eight party line. Picking up the phone was like turning on the radio. Someone was talking constantly. It was just barely better than no phone.
We were still driving the old 1941 Mercury that we had bought when we lived in Grand Prairie. We didn't get another car until 1950, when we got a 1949 Ford.
We kept this until 1952 when we bought a new Studebaker. A very dependable and economical car.
When we had lived in the house about a year, the owner came to Ft. Worth from where he lived up in the Pandhandle, and said he was ready to sell. He said he would take $2200 for the house. We had saved enough money to buy it, so by scraping together all we could find, we became the owners of a house without a mortgage. The house had two lots, and they were very deep. The whole thing was almost an acre of land.
Immediately, we ordered plumbing material and cabinets from Sears, on credit, and began making the place more livable. I dug a hole for septic tanks, and before long we had indoor plumbing. We got sheetrock and started closing in the rooms and painting the walls. The lights had switches at the doors, and outlets along the walls for appliances.
The chicken house at the back, I converted to a radio shop, and began doing some radio work back there is the small amount of spare time I had. The kids kept growing, and Ann started to school in the old Liberator Village community center. There were so many students they could only go half a day in shifts. We were doing so well we decided to get rid of our house in Brownwood, and make our home in Fort Worth. We sold the place pretty cheap. The next week the radio station called and said they had a job for me. But since we had bought the house in Fort Worth, and got rid of the one in Brownwood, we didn't go back.
The first tax bill we got for the new house was $3.50. Before long it rose to $7.50. We thought that was ridiculous. In 1950, we took our vacation and went to Cross Cut. I put new shingles on papa and mamma's house, and Ella spent the time scrubbing and cleaning the inside. Papa had been working on the inside a week or so before we came. He wasn't feeling well, and continued to feel bad for two or three days. We took him to the doctor in Brownwood, and he wanted to put him in the hospital and see if he could treat him successfully with antibiotics. His elbows and knees were sore and inflamed and he had fever.
He didn't get better, and in less than a week had pneumonia. He got over that, but had fluid on his lungs. He died in the first week of September and was buried in Wolf Valley Cemetery near May, where Grandpa and Grandma Chambers were buried. They had visited us a few times, and he got to see television here for the first time. He really enjoyed the wrestling. He thought it was real, and got very excited about it. We bought our first television a few days before the first station was in operation in 1949.
With the arrival of television, I started a new era in service work. I had been fixing radios in the shop at the back, and I expanded to televisions. The early TVs gave a lot of trouble, and I soon had a big business going...too big for a part time operation.
One of the first things we did after installing plumbing was build a garage. We had the driveway on the east side of the house, and the garage just back of the house on the driveway side. I added a 12 by 16 foot room on the east side of the garage for a TV shop.
Two men who worked at the plant were interested in TV and had studied it by mail. I had a deal with them to make service calls for me. The sets they couldn't fix at the house, they brought to the shop and I repaired them. This worked fine until about 1954, when we got so much business that there just wasn't enough room. Also, all the coming and going was a nuisance. One of the servicemen, W. B. Wall, and I decided to open a shop on White Settlement Road as partners. I was working at night, and he was working during the day, so that let one of us be there most of the time. Ella filled in at the shop when we were changing shifts, and at other times when we couldn't be present.
The girls were going to school and growing. Ella became involved in PTA, serving many years as President of the various schools. As they approached high school age, she was president of the Band Booster Club. Ann and Pat were both in the band. Ann was a drummer, and later a majorette. Pat was a flag bearer, and was elected as majorette the year she got married. She finished her senior year and graduated after she and Darrell Walters married. Darrell also stayed with us and finished. Ann had married David Blankenship and graduated the year before.
In 1953, we added two rooms and a bath across the north side of our house, and in 1956 expanded eastward about 40 feet, enclosing a garage on the east side. This isolated our old garage, but we kept it for a printing shop.
I had started printing by ordering a hand operated Kelsey press. It was slow and hard work, but it turned out beautiful flyers and cards. I graduated to a motor driven press, and learned to be a pretty fast typesetter. Ella learned to operate the press, and did a lot of printing after I had set up the type. Almost immediately I stated doing a little printing for other people. The shop did all right, and I bought out my partner, and operated it by hiring two full time servicemen and a woman to answer the phone and keep the shop. Also, at different times, I had half interest in four other shops in White Settlement. The first one was called Chambers Radio and Television Service, another was Economy TV, one was Quality TV, another was Factory TV and the last one was just N.R. Chambers TV. This last shop, I gave to Darrell after he started learning TV repairing. I devoted my spare time after that to printing and making rubber stamps.
In 1955, Veronica was born. And in 1957, Roger came along. We had been without babies for a long time, and this changed things quite a bit around our home. Ann and Pat left about the time Veronica and Roger arrived. We had a child in school in White Settlement continuously for 26 years. I spent half of this time on the school board 13 years. I was president for four years. Ella also put in several years as scout leader, Bluebird leader, Brownie Leader and taxi service for the whole neighborhood and school.
There were many kids on our block about the same age as Ann and Pat, and they had a good time playing. They did every thing from stage circuses to dig swimming pools. We had good neighbors, and knew everyone on the block. In the fifties, they built a new City Hall just east of us on the corner, and a fire hall west of that just one lot from us.
After Papa died, Mamma went to live with Deoma in Brownwood. They sold the place at Cross Cut. Deoma married Lilburn Morgan. They had been going together since the early thirties. Deoma was working for the state in the Welfare Department in Brownwood, and Lilburn was busy buying and trading cattle. Mamma did the cooking and housekeeping for them.
We visited in Brownwood from time to time, and had a big birthday celebration for Mamma every year. Her birthday was in December.
Mamma went to the hospital in the early 70's for a stomach check up. She had been troubled with stomach trouble practically all of her life, and it had never been accurately diagnosed. While she was there, she fell in her room and broke a hip. They put a pin in, and fixed it up. After that, she spent time in several nursing homes in Brownwood and the surrounding area. Her hip improved to the point that she could get around nicely without a walker. She seemed well satisfied in the nursing home for several months. But her room mate died, and she never was as well satisfied again. She moved from one to another, and gradually began to get weaker.
In 1976 she died at the age of ninety seven. She was almost 98. This was two years after I retired from General Dynamics. She was buried at Wolf Valley cemetery, near May, Texas, where Papa was buried in 1950. After Mamma's death, we did not go to Brownwood so often, and saw Deoma and Lilburn only occasionally.
While Ann, our oldest daughter, was in high school, she got her first paying job. She worked in a movie theater. She came home excited, shouting, "I got a job! I got a job!" We shared in her enthusiam and I asked her how much she would make. " I don't know. I didn't ask. I got a job!" That was a nice attitude toward work, but she soon asked what a job paid before considering it. She graduated from the theater job to a clerking position in large variety store. It was there that she met a nearby shoe salesman, David Blankenship, and fell in love. They were married about the time she graduated.
Ann and David lived in the little rent house we had next door. About this time David was called to active duty in the National Guard because of the confrontation with Russia over the Cuban situtation, and was sent to Lousiana for training. Ann got a job in a law office and continued to do that type of work for several years.
During this period David and Ann had two beautiful daughters, Sandie and Lisa. They were our first grandchildren. Both made beautiful young ladies, and both have college degrees. Sandie married Brad Wood and Lisa married Tony Baker. Lisa and Tony have two fine boys, Jonathan and Chrisopher. They were our second and third great grandchildren. Sandie does not have children, but has had many ineteresting and unusual jobs. She is now teachng computer in a private school in the British West Indies.
Patricia married Darrell Walters and their baby girl was named Kathy. Kathy was about the same age as Lisa. Lisa, Sandie, Kathy, Veronica and Roger made quite a crowd of small children. Darrell worked at various jobs for awile, then became interested in TV repair. He helped me in one of my shops and before long I let him have it. Patricia helped in the shop and printed wedding ivitations, using the old letter press in my printing shop. She also operated Pat's Record Shop in White Settlement. Kathy was a beautiful girl. She became a beauty operator and worked in several shops, owning her own for awhile. She married Greg Swope and from this marriage our first great grandson was born - Zachary.
Patricia continued her schooling and became a licensed medical tecnologist. She worked for years in several hospitals. At the present she is in school and will be receiving her Master;s degree soon.
Patricia continued her schooling and became a licensed medical technologist. She worked for years in several hospitals. At the present she is in school and will be receiving her Masterís degree soon.
After graduating, Veronica attended North Texas University in Denton. She spent a summer in Colorado at the YMCA camp in Estes Park. While there, she met and later married David Nelson. She completed her college work and began teaching in White Settlement Schools as a kindergarten teacher. Later she and David separated and she married Dale Sustaire. They have two children, Kelly and Karli. Kelly is now a young teen ager and Karli is not far behind. We see a lot of them, since they live in Azle and come by here to and from school.
Roger graduated from high school and spent a couple of years in Colorado, working at different jobs. He came home and got a BFA degree from East Texas University. He worked at various jobs and is now manager of the White Settlement Chamber of Commerce. He has not married, and lives with us. We enjoy his company and he does many things for us that we could not do for ourselves.
We are proud of our four children, five grandchildren and three great grandchildren. They have all been blessed with good health and active minds.
The next portion of this document will be added soon and will complete the transcription of sixty years of a happy and prosperous marriage.
Norris always appreciates your comments
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