Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chapter 7 Family Business

clip_image00217_thumb6About this time my Dad left the highway department and formed a partnership with a friend of his named McKelvey. Dad’s brother Hugh joined them about a year later and they named their new company Field Brothers Construction. Hugh moved to Lubbock with his wife, Vida, and son, Townsend. They bought a house not far from ours. Hugh had been one of a very few Naval Aviation pilots in World War I. Dad was just a teenager and worked in the shipyard. Hugh was a few years older than Dad and had withdrawn from college so Dad could go, because finances were tight in their family. Dad appreciated that and neveclip_image00219_thumbr forgot it.Hugh smoked a pipe like Dad but was more studious and serious. He had a great sense of humor but was just more reserved. Dad was more the life of the party type; he loved practical jokes and liked everyone and everyone seemed to like him. 

Dad could also be pretty bold. I remember an exciting experience in 1931 when I was six. We lived on 22nd street at the edge of town. Mom was complaining that her new Buick Victoria was using too much gas. Dad checked it out and decided someone was stealing gas at night when the car was parked out front of the house. He decided to catch them in the act and about dusk one night, he parked the Buick out front and crawled into the back seat with his 45 Cal automatic pistol (I still have that gun). I remember Mom begging Dad not to go out there and after he did, she sat in the dark living room watching out the window. This just added more drama and excitement for me.

clip_image002I later learned that about 2am- after I was asleep-a car pulled up behind the Buick with its lights off. Two guys got out with a gas can and a hose (what was commonly called an “Oklahoma gas pump”) and took the gas cap off the Buick. About that time, Dad jumps out of the Buick with his pistol cocked and lines the two up against the car. He takes them down to the Lubbock police station and turns them in. Of course Mom was panic-stricken wondering where they had gone. It turns out it was a couple of teenagers; one of them was the son of a doctor in town. Lubbock was still a small town and Dad of course knew the doctor; he had the police call the doctor to come down and pick up his son. The doctor showed up about 3 AM. He was grateful that Dad refused to bring charges but the son learned that crime definitely does not pay.

Dad and Hugh had construction jobs all over the panhandle of Texas and each of them was overseeing respective construction sites. They were mostly road construction jobs and some bridges. Dad would leave every Monday morning and get in late on Friday nights. He and my mom would almost always be out partying and visiting friends on Saturday evenings. As a result about the only communication I had with my Dad was when he had to discipline me. Dad was never mean to me and never disciplined me unless I really needed it. I was never abused in any way and was probably more spoiled than anything. I did idolize my Dad; he was from the old school and taught me a lot about values, ethics, clip_image002[1]truthfulness, honesty and being a man. He did not put up with whining and of course a man would never did cry! (Heaven forbid)

An opportunity for Dad’s discipline arose in September, 1932 when I entered in first grade at Dupree School in Lubbock. I had a pet tarantula and I took him to school with me. I had him in a square egg carton made for six eggs. All our desks were hooked together in a line of about eight or ten desks in each row. I was sitting in about the fourth or fifth desk back from the front and a little girl with long pigtails was sitting in the desk in front of me. I had to take a look at Oscar and make sure he was okay, so I peeked into his box. As I sneaked a peek, Oscar came busting out and ran up the pigtail hanging down the back of the little girl in front of me and plopped down on her desk in front of her. She began screaming bloody murder, and then all the girls were screaming and climbing up on their desks. Several of the boys and I were running around trying to catch Oscar and I was hollering, “Look out-don’t step on Oscar!” About that time the teacher grabbed me by the ear and marched me down to the principal’s office. He sent a note to my folks and I was in trouble again. Worst of all, I never did find Oscar!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Chapter 6 Flying High

Dad learned to fly in an open cockpit biplane in about 1929. I remember going out north of Lubbock on the Amarillo highway to the airfield to watch Dad practice takeoffs and landings in that biplane. Dad’s instructor was a pilot named Ben Branson. He and Dad flew to Austin in 1930 in an open cockpit biplane. Dad was doing his first “cross country” and Ben handed him a note with instructions. The note said for Dad to take over and fly to Austin by himself but to know where he was at all times.
clip_image002Of course, they had no radio or intercom in those days but the fuselage was all open between the two cockpits so you could pass a note from one pilot to the other. Notice they got each other’s attention by shaking the control stick. Apparently, the oil pressure gauge was  only in one cockpit. Knowing where you were all the time was a challenge. All little towns painted their name on their water towers. Since there were no radios or navigation equipment, if you got lost you flew down close to the ground and checked the name on the water tower to figure out where you were.
After getting his pilot’s license Dad bought a 1929 Curtis Robin Cabin plane. It was a three passenger plane with two seats behind the pilot. The seats were made of wicker. The pilot sat up front alone and the two passengers were behind him. The pilot had a control stick, and this was before any airplanes clip_image002[6]had “steering wheels” to control them. 
On one particularly memorable trip, Dad was flying alone over the Davis Mountains in West Texas when his engine quit. In those days, everyone wore parachutes when they flew. He could not get the engine started so he got out on the step and started to drop off and bail out when he spotted a corral down by a railroad. He figured it was big enough to land in, so he got back in the plane and glided down like a big buzzard, going round and round and got lined up to land. As he came in, he barely made it to the corral. He knocked the top board off the fence but set the plane down successfully.
However, the pen was not as large as he thought, so when he got to the other end he was still rolling pretty fast and he ground looped the plane. It finally stopped, he got out, gathered up his stuff, and walked over to the fence next to the railroad track. He said it was six hours before the first freight came by. It was moving pretty slow so he jumped on and rode the train into the next town where he got a car and went on to Austin to bid on a job. They had to come in and dismantle the plane to get it out of the corral. After it was dismantled, they put it on a freight car because there were no roads anywhere close.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chapter 5 Living in Lubbock

Dad atop shop bldg in Lubbock 1926Less than a year after their marriage Dad was transferred to Lubbock, Texas to be District Engineer for the Texas State Highway Department. Mom and I followed when I was three months old. We arrived in Lubbock in May of 1925. Incidentally, Texas Tech was also founded in 1925-or at least the first building was finished in 1925.

At that time Lubbock was a small town of about 10,000 people and had about four streets that were paved. They were paved with red bricks but the rest of the streets were dirt. You traveled at your own risk in wet weather. Heading west there was a clip_image002[5]little pavement of bricks from Ft Worth to Mineral Wells, but after you crossed the Brazos it was dirt all the way. This is a photo of a typical “main Highway” in West Texas in 1925 being maintained with the most modern equipment. Mules had previously pulled the grader shown in the photo.

When they constructed a road they would have to move dirt to build up the roadway. This was done with Fresnos. A Fresno was pulled by about four mules and looked like a big scoop. It was about four or five feet wide and had a big handle that stuck out the back. The operator would hold the bucket down, scooping up dirt until the Fresno was full and running over. The operator would then hold the big handle down and drag the bucket to the roadway where at the proper spot would lift the handle up dumping the dirt. He walked behind with the reins from the mules over his shoulder.

1211 Ninth Street, Lubbock, TexasWe first lived at 1211 Ninth Street in a rented house not too far from Dad’s office. My folks were Presbyterians and I was baptized at the First Presbyterian Church in Lubbock August 9, 1925. Reverend Lewis was the Pastor.

After about a year, we moved to a duplex at 2113 13th Street across the street from Hub and Betty Jones. They had two d2113 13th Street aughters, Billy Bob and Betty. Mrs. Jones was called Big Betty and was a dear friend of my mothers’ as long as they lived. When I was almost four years old, I got in big trouble here. The lady next door was a rose grower and had a large number of very expensive patented roses, each of which had a tag describing Me in the rose bushes-just trying to help!which rose it was. One afternoon, I apparently was looking for something to do, so I took all the tags off for her and presented them to her when she rushed out to see what I was doing in her rose garden. Apparently, this was a big mistake. Things were very strained for a while between Mother and the neighbor lady.

Another time I exasperated my parents was about this time at our church. A grown-up came into our Sunday school class and said, “All of you who are supposed to be baptized today come with me.” On Sundays Mom had me dressed to the nines

Well, I was never one to be left out, so I fell in at the back of the line not knowing I had been baptized when I was about eight months old. We were marched into the main sanctuary and lined up in front of the congregation. My Mother and Father were horrified when they saw me at the end of the line. Not knowing what to do, they did nothing, so I was baptized for the second time. So you might say I am a double dipped Christian!

In 1929 we moved to a larger single family home at 2629 22nd Street. This was before the days of electric refrigerators, and we had an icebox that sat in the back hall. Mom put a card in the window for the iceman to know how much ice to leave. The top of the card Me on my first horsehad 100 on it, the bottom 50, and one side 10, and the other 20. Whichever number was shown on top was what he left. There was a little door by the icebox that went through the wall, and that is where he would put the ice. The milk, butter, and eggs were also delivered once a week.

There was not a thing west or south of us except cotton fields and playas (lakes formed by buffalo wallows). Even so, I was able to get into trouble here as well. On one memorable occasion, a buddy of mine and I found a stalk of green bananas that my Dad had hung in the garage to ripen. We proceeded to eat a large quantity of these and both got very, very sick. Mom and Dad rushed me to emergency at the hospital where they pumped my stomach. I have a hard time even smelling bananas to this day-much less eating them.