Sunday, December 30, 2012

Chapter 81 Beware the Pennsylvania Turnpike


Our next stop was Gettysburg Battlefield in Pennsylvania, which we all enjoyed, especially Tom. We then headed for New Martinsville to visit with my old buddy Robert Holzschuher, and his wife Mary Ann. We were due there at about 8:30 PM but turned right at Pittsburgh instead of left and wound up driving through downtown Pittsburgh at 5 PM pulling a travel trailer and my radiator steaming as well as me. We finally got to New Martinsville at 12:30 AM.

Robert met us at the city limits. I have never been in a city that had no streetlights, and it made it really dark. What made it worse, there was a really heavy fog. Robert stopped and came back to tell me we were going to go up a little hill. I said "okay, let’s go." Well, I was looking at Robert’s taillights and they started up and quickly disappeared at the top of my windshield. I wound the old Chevy up and away we went. I kept climbing until the car would not go any farther. It just stopped and kind of shuddered and shook but would not go another inch. Of course, everything around us was black. We could not even see the houses.

I set the brake and got out to check the situation. Robert had his flashlight and showed me where his drive was and asked if I could back the trailer into it and on up into his carport. I figured I could, just barely. It would have been a lot easier if I could have pulled my car forward a few feet, but that was not an option. I knew I had to make it on the first try so I started very slowly with a little prayer; I made it and parked the trailer for the night.

The next morning I got my coffee and went out to check the trailer. Roberts’ house was on such a hill that the roof of the house next door was level with the floor of the carport the trailer was sitting on. I walked around to the outside of the trailer and as I rounded the back of the trailer to peek around it to check I almost dropped my coffee. My heart skipped a beat. The outside tire was sitting half on the slab and the other half was out over space. If I had gone just four inches to the west, the trailer would have fallen off the slab.

After a nice visit with the Holzschuhers we were back on the road on our way to Mammoth Cave. The countryside through Kentucky was beautiful. The horse farms around Lexington were particularly scenic. We all agreed that Mampout Cave was beyond awesome and we enjoyed going through it.After spending the day and the next night at Mammoth, we headed home. After 20 days on the road, we were all ready to get back home.

Photo of exit to Pennsylvania Turnpike found here:

Photo of Mamouth Cave found here

Monday, December 24, 2012

Chapter 80 New York, New York

Shortly after dark we eventually got back on the highway to Cade's Cove.  I looked in the right rear view mirror and the trailer did not look right. I pulled over and sure enough, I had a broken spring and the trailer was crabbing down the road catawampus. I stopped in a station and borrowed some Yellow Pages and found a trailer place. By this time it was after eight in the evening. One place said their service department was closed, but if I brought it by they would fix the trailer in the morning.

We found the place, which was half away up a big hill. We pulled in and the salesman had us park on the sales lot and about nine we started bedding down for a long hot night with no electricity, water or sewer. Susie was sleeping on the floor by the screen door trying to get a little air. About 9:30 that evening a man, his wife and a little girl came through the sales lot looking at the trailers. The little girl was about four of five and she came up to Susie's door and looked in. Susie was lying on her back with her head in the door and rolled her eyes up and looked at the little girl in the half-light of the lights in the sales lot.
The little girl went screaming to her mother with,” Mommy there is a dead girl in that trailer-come quick!” Mommy says, “Hush, there is no dead girl! What a story!!”  For the entire time they were in the lot, you could hear the little girl pleading with her parents to no avail. Today almost 50 years later she is still probably trying to convince someone she saw a dead girl in that trailer.

We got little sleep due to the heat and the steady groan of semi-trucks slowly shifting through numerous gears as they made their way up the long hill beside us. Next day about noon we were on our way again but had to cancel Cade's Cove much to Chip’s disappointment. We spent the next night in Warrior State Park, right on the Virginia State line. We got in about dark, but with Tom helping me with the trailer and Chip building a campfire, Mom and Sus soon had hamburgers ready for everyone there in the beautiful woods.

After a long day we arrived the next night at Prince William State Park in Dumphries, Va-just out of Washington D. C. It was beautiful with hundreds of towering oak trees and flowering dogwoods everywhere. We spent the next day at the Smithsonian in D.C. and at the close of the day, went to the Washington monument for a view of Washington. Next day we went to Mt. Vernon, the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. We also went to the Arlington Cemetery. It was a long day but lots to see and lots of fun. The next day we went down to Williamsburg, Va, which was about 150 miles from our campsite.  We spent a full day enjoying the restored buildings and all the exhibits, arriving back at the campsite about 10:30 that evening.

The next morning, July 4th, we were on our way to the big city early. I located the place we had planned to stay in North Bergen, New Jersey. Believe me, winding my way through the east and into the New York area was an experience for this old Texas boy. Next morning I was on my way to the Kiwanis convention and the family was on their way via bus to see New York. The next day they went to the World's Fair. After four days in New York, the convention was over and we headed out of town on our way west. I was happy to get out of New York and back on the road. The boys said that I said that what I wanted most of all was to see the city Limits of New York City in my rear view mirror.

Photo of Prince William Forest State Park found here.   

Graphic of NYC traffic found here

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Chapter 79 Our Battle of Chickamauga

The telephone company gave us an extra week of vacation to go to the National Kiwanis conventions. We went for three years, first to New York City, second to Portland and lastly to Miami. With our four weeks’ vacation, we were able to take our travel trailer and enjoyed three long trips and saw a lot of the United States.  We kept a log of each trip with Chip, Tom, Susie and Mom all taking turns writing each day in the log.

New York City World's Fair
On June 26, 1965 we left Dallas on the way to the Kiwanis International Convention in New York City. The world Fair was in New York that year as well. We drove the first day to Vicksburg, Miss where we camped for the night in our travel trailer. We parked before dusk and made a quick look around before dark. When we settled in for the night, we were next to a forest and the cicadas were so loud and constant we all had trouble getting to sleep. A hound dog that had adopted us spent the night sleeping by our door all night. Whenever another dog or anyone would approach the trailer he would bark at them. It is a good thing we were not in Dallas or we probably would have adopted him.

The next day we were up early and knowing that our trailer was in good hands, we were out to the Vicksburg battlefield. Tom had to check out every single cannon. He was a real historical expert on the battles of the Civil War and gave us a blow-by-blow description of each.  We spent our second night in the trailer with our watchdog on duty. The next morning at 6:30 AM we were on our way east.  We were all sad leaving our faithful watchdog behind.  We threw a tire tread near Bessemer, Alabama and had to spend the night, which put us behind schedule.  We were on our way through Chattanooga, Tennessee to our destination of Cade's Cove, in the Great Smoky Mountains. When I said we did not have time to tour the battlefield of Chickamauga, Tom was so disappointed; we decided to make a quick drive through.

I looked at the map and saw we could drive along Lookout Mountain and still get back on the highway for Cade's Cove. After a few stops with beautiful views and a cannon or two, we came to a dead end in the road, still up on the top of the mountain. I had to try and back the trailer several times to try and get us turned around. The last time I backed, the right trailer tire dropped into a ditch. No matter what I tried, I could not get us out. I had all the family get out and by this time we were drawing a crowd. I finally gave up and went into a nearby house to telephone AAA. That was the first time I realized AAA did not cover trailers. It was getting late in the evening, but finally I found one tow truck that would help us. When he showed up an hour later, it was just a pickup with a winch on the back. He hooked on and with his tires smoking and mine squealing and smoking, and a number of men and boys pushing, we finally got out of the ditch. When we pulled out of the ditch a cheer rang out from the crowd and everyone was clapping.

Photo of New York World's Fair found here.

Photo of Vicksburg battlefield found here

Photo of view from Lookout Mountain found here

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Chapter 78 Dog and Butterfly

The kids had been after me for some time for a dog. A friend of ours, Joe Dean, was a hunter and had bird dogs. He raised Pointers and had one that was not going to make it as a bird dog. She was the runt of the litter and when Joe took his dogs out to train them she would scramble under the truck the first time he fired a shot. She would hide under there and refused to come out. He wanted to get rid of her so we took the kids over to see her. They just had to have her so she became our family dog. They named her Duchess and she was a member of the family for the next fifteen years. 

I built a doghouse and cut a hole in the north wall of the garage and put her dog house inside the garage. She had the run of a fenced in area back of the garage. Despite this great set up, she eventually became a house dog.  Duchess was a great pet for the kids but not what you would call a fearless defender of the rest of us or our property. I often commented that she was the only dog I had ever met that had a hollow space where her brain was supposed to be. The kids would hang strips of material from limbs of one of the trees and she would jump up and hang on the strips. What was she thinking? However, she was a great pet for Chip, Tom and Sus and they all spent many an hour playing with her.

One funny story about Dutch many years later after all the kids had gone off to college Charlotte and I were sitting on the back porch one evening after work and the dogs (we had several at that time) were running around and playing in the back yard. Dutch came up and sat on the porch next to me and I said, “Dutch what do you have in your mouth?”  She was holding her mouth kind of funny and I did not know if she had been hurt or what. When I said that she began wagging her tail and opened her mouth and a big butterfly just flew out and disappeared around the corner of the house. We had a great laugh at that, I don’t know how long she had been carrying that darn butterfly in her mouth but I bet he was glad to get out of there. She may not have been a great hunting dog, but she surely had a soft mouth.

In 1964 Charlotte decided she wanted to earn some dough on her own. She began selling World Books, a popular encyclopedia set, and also worked part time at Montgomery Wards. I don’t know which job was more draining but she gave both of them a try over a couple of years.

We bought a larger two-story home at 3261 Camelot in Sparkman Club Estates and rented out the Ainsworth house. Ainsworth was our first rent house and it stayed rented for many years until we sold it to the renter in 1973. The Camelot house had two bedrooms and a big bath upstairs and the boys laid claim to those. We had the master and another bedroom downstairs so Susan had her own bedroom. The den was directly below the boy’s domain and every once in a while they would get to tussling and it would sound like a couple of bears were wrestling and rolling around on the floor. I don’t know how many times Charlotte would go to the foot of the stairs and holler, “Boys settle down, quit banging on the floor.” We also had a sort of breezeway room between the kitchen and the garage so Duchess had her private room as well.

The bus stopped at our corner where we lived and I could get off across the street from my office in downtown at 308 S. Akard St. The return trip in the evening was just as easy and convenient. I decided I would give it a try and rode the bus for about a year.

Photo of pointer pup found here.   

Photo of Dallas city bus circa 1963 found here

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Chapter 77 Fire and Water

One weekend in 1962 we were on a scout camp out at Possum Kingdom lake and George Landrum was the scoutmaster. Landrum was a retired Marine Drill Instructor and made a pretty tough Scoutmaster. He was heavy on the “Master” part. George was notorious as a man who could out snore anyone in the county. When he got fully tuned up you could clearly hear him all over our camp area. On that particular evening we had all enjoyed several hours around a big campfire and we were finally in our sleeping bags. Of course, George was the first to get to sleep. All the adults slept in a separate area from the boys and all the men slept in sleeping bags on the ground except George who always slept on an army cot.

 After about an hour of trying to sleep with that saw mill running next to us, everyone was still awake. About that time four of the older boys sneaked into the adult area and picked up George’s cot and quietly carried him off, with George not missing a snore. It sounded like a railroad train going off into the distance as they carried him away. I was so glad for the relief; I did not say a word to the boys and knew they wouldn’t do anything to hurt George. The relief was just too overwhelming for any of us to stop whatever they planned to do with him. I quickly went to sleep and I had to find out from the boys what happened next.

The boys had carried George out into the lake about twenty feet from the bank, and he was still sleeping soundly with the lake water about two inches below the bottom of the cot. In other words, about two inches from George’s bottom. At daylight here comes a big bass boat at full speed leaving a wake that was almost a foot high. As it passed George, the water came right into bed with him and he jumped up to find he was standing in water half way to his knees. The boys disappeared and as we woke up here came George mad as a wet hen-well, mad as a wet Scoutmaster-looking for who put him in the lake. I played dumb and so did everyone else. I don’t think George ever found out for sure who did it.
Another time we had a big ceremony planned for the evening campfire for the boys. We did a lot of work setting it up and would not let any of the boys near it during the day. We put a steel wire under the pile of wood destined to be the big campfire that night. The other end of the wire we attached up in the top of a nearby tree just to the north of the campfire location.  We rigged up a big rag that we were later going to soak in kerosene, and attached it to a pulley that we pulled up to the top of the tree.

That night, well after dark we led the boys single file through the woods in total silence down to the campfire area. There was no moon and it was really dark. We settled the boys around the huge pile of wood that was to be the campfire.  A Dad who was good at story telling began to weave a tale about the Indians who had camped at this very spot after they had made a raid on the white men. The Indians had also had a successful buffalo hunt and they were thanking the great father in the north sky for their success.
He laid it on real good and finally he started the fire lighting ceremony. He solemnly faced the west and said, “Oh great father of the West bring down flame to light our fire.” Nothing happened. Then he faced south and repeated his words with the same result. Then to the East and still there was no response from the great father. Finally he faced north and with a lot of emotion he pleaded with the great father in the North sky. Nothing happened. I could hear the Senior Patrol Leader, Ron Park, up in the top of the tree striking his lighter over and over. He was supposed to have soaked the rag in kerosene and then on signal, light it and send it whizzing down the steel wire to start the campfire. Finally the flame was seen at the top of the tree and it started down the wire. After about six feet down the wire it got caught on a limb and would go no further. I could hear Ron climbing toward the burning rag and about that time Ron slips and starts down the tree crashing through the limbs. Fortunately he was not seriously hurt but it was a ceremony that none of the boys ever forgot.

Photo of Possum Kingdom Lake (I am not making this up) found here.

Graphic of campfire found here.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Chapter 76 On My Honor

 The Telephone Company wanted their employees to be more active in community work and I complied, spending most of my efforts in Kiwanis. I was the District chairman of the “Support of Churches Committee” and also the Agriculture Chairman. I was the Kiwanis point man in producing the annual Arabian Horse Show at Fair Park and served on the board of Kiwanis.  I was also the assistant scoutmaster of the troop our boys joined-Chip in 1961 and Tom in 1964; both rose to the rank of Eagle.
Their troop met at Walnut Hill Methodist Church and was a camping troop. They went on a campout every month, rain or shine. I was soon one of the Assistant Scout Masters. We had some great camp outs and it seemed the worse the weather, the more the boys remembered them. The older boys would tell the younger ones, “You should have been with us at Van Alstyne if you think this weather is bad!” The Van Alstyne campout was in February and the temperature got down to around 10 degrees, with the boys sleeping on the ground-Dads too. Later I became the scoutmaster and then Tom joined the same troop. All three of us enjoyed our scouting days and both of the boys went to National Jamborees and became eagle scouts.

When I was Scoutmaster, we had a really cool deal for the boys.  We had a point system on which the patrols were graded. The way they left their campsites, the number of merit badges the members of the patrol were awarded, their advancement in rank, etc. were used to accumulate points all during the year. At the end of the year, the patrol that had the most points would get to enjoy a “Patrol Meeting in the Sky.” One of the Dads in the troop was the executive pilot for an oilman by the name of Constantin. Camp Constantin at Possum Kingdom Lake was named for him. Mr Constantin was generous enough to let us take the winning patrol up in his DC 3 company plane for this great experience. We flew from Love Field to Camp Texhoma, to Constantin, then to the South to Scout Camp at Athens, Texas and back to Love Field. Each boy that wanted to was allowed to sit in the co-pilots seat and pilot the plane. The boys really worked for this award.

Both the boys were Cub Scouts and then Boy Scouts and Susan was a Brownie Scout in 1962 and then a Girl Scout in about 1965 or 1966. I think all the kids benefited a great deal from these programs. Charlotte was very involved with them. She was a Den Mother and I remember her playing baseball with them more than once. She participated actively with Susie in her Scout activities.
We continued to enjoy our time at Highland Park Presbyterian. Charlotte was in charge of the nursery and I was teaching a Sunday school class of 12-year-old boys. These were all boys who were sent to me when they would not mind and were disrupting their Sunday school class. I would take them across the street where there was a park. After exercising them with races I would bring them back to the classroom and give them a shot of how they should act if they were Christians. I often wondered at the time if I was doing any good, but in seven or eight years, every once in a while one of those boys would stop me in the hall of the church and tell me how much he appreciated what I had done for him. That made it all worthwhile.

Photo of Camp Constantin found here.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Chapter 75 Work Hard for the Money

Two of the guys at Floor Service wanted to open a service station on the side and I backed them. I had no intention of working at the gas station but the two of them sort of quit or at least would not work at making the venture a success and I had to step in and help. I never worked so hard for so little in my life.

It took me about two years to discover the owner of Retail Rental was not handling the money as he should. I didn’t want to have any part of that so I resigned. Another learning experience: not doing my due diligence. I had a dilemma. I had resigned from two jobs in the last three years and that was not a good thing to have on your resume. I applied at several firms but no luck. I did have offers from Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Co. and New York Life. Both offered a draw against commissions but I had a wife and three kids to support and I really was not sure about my ability to sell. I finally decided to go with Connecticut Mutual.
However, about the middle of March in 1961 the Vice President for Texas for the Telephone Company called and asked if I would like to return to the Telephone Company. I said yes, if it was not in Engineering. He said it was not and on March 20, 1961, I was re-hired as the Traffic Results Supervisor. The company had a group called Service Observers who monitored the service and measured it. They would stay on the line until the customer answered and then drop off, not listening to any customer conversation. We had these observers in Dallas, Ft Worth, Wichita Falls, Lubbock and Amarillo. This was the group I was to supervise. I had two managers to assist me and a Chief in each office. This was more like it, though I still wanted to get back to District work. I tried to be the best Traffic Results Supervisor they ever had and did fairly well. I received several nice raises and letters of commendation. They called me to St Louis (Southwestern Bell’s five state headquarters) to assist in training other Observing offices.
We still had the “Casa View Sinclair Service” business and Ernie and Jerry had continued to let it run down. Being the “silent” partner I had to spend more and more time there. I would get up and drive across town to the East side of Dallas and open the station at 6AM. I would get to the office by 8AM. At seven in the evening I would return to the station and close at ten or eleven. I finally told those two they would have to shape up or I was going to sell the station. That was okay with them because they had very little money invested in the deal. I sold it as quick as I could, at a loss of course. I had learned my lesson-several, in fact:
1. Never invest in a new enterprise you do not run yourself.

2. Never be 90% of the money in any deal where you are not running the show.

3. Never trust anyone to be willing to work at a deal as hard as you do.
4. Never get into any business that you know nothing about!

Sinclair logo found here.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Chapter 74 Risk and Rewards

I absolutely hated working in the engineering department in a tiny room without even a window. Also, I was not having much interaction with other people, just working on engineering dial offices all day long. I would go out on the fire escape just to get fresh air and see the sky. I felt like I was in sort of prison up there on the ninetieth floor in downtown Dallas. After about a year I went in to see my boss, Mr. McDade, a very kind man, and told him I needed to get out of engineering. He said he would see what he could do.  I managed to stick it out for almost one more year.

At this moment in time we had another very moving experience. We were attending Highland Park Presbyterian Church every Sunday. While Charlotte and I were trying to decide about leaving the Telephone Co. Dr.Elliott, our pastor, spoke one Sunday on, “where you spent your working life.” He spent the whole sermon emphasizing that one should not spend their life in a job that was not rewarding to them. Charlotte and I looked at one another several times during his sermon and wondered how he could know so many of our job frustrations he was describing.

On November 1, 1958, I laid my resignation letter on Mr. McDade’s desk. He tried to talk me out of it, but I had made my mind up after discussing it with Charlotte. Even though I was giving up all the health benefits and the guaranteed retirement, Charlotte and I had agreed that it was time to leave. I was surprised when they told me that no one in management had ever resigned from the Traffic Department and reminded me that I was giving up a lot. They even gave me a going away party with gifts, and letters of recommendation.

Charlotte had to be really committed to my happiness to agree with me to leave the company after ten years with three small children at home. In the last six months I was with the Telephone Co. I had started looking around and making inquiries as to job possibilities. I had offers from several insurance companies and Real Estate brokers but a small company that needed help intrigued me the most.

I went to work as Executive Vice President and COO of a company called Floor Service Company. We had about 6000 floor polishers in the drive-ins and grocery stores for people to rent. We had District men all around Texas that would go by the stores once a week, and collect the money and give the stores their commission. We sold franchises in states other than Texas and they purchased their polishers, racks, record books, and supplies from us. We next established stores that had tools, equipment, camping trailers and hospital equipment for rent. We called these stores Retail Rental Stores. I set up a woodworking business to build racks for the 7-11 Stores. I hired my neighbor and my old boss at the telephone company to help me turn out the racks.

We branched out and opened a Retail Rental Store that had a complete line of rental products. Party supplies, medical equipment as well as all types of construction equipment. We also became dealers of Nimrod Camping Trailers. We sold and rented the trailers and did a brisk business in that line. We incorporated the company as Retail Rentals, Inc. We were pleased with the rate at which our business was growing.

Photo of Dallas skyline circa 1960 found here
Photo of Highland Park Presbyterian Church sanctuary found here.  

Friday, November 23, 2012

Chapter 73 The One Who Heals

In January, 1960 Charlotte stopped in at the grocery store at one of those portable x-ray units. About two weeks later we got a post card with the results; all it said was for her to check with her doctor. We immediately went in; they did a lot more x-rays and we soon had the result. Charlotte had a tumor in her left lung. We were both devastated. Her surgery was scheduled at Baylor with the best surgeon in town. Charlotte’s brother Bill who was a doctor in San Antonio recommended him. Both Bill and her brother Bob came to Dallas to be with Charlotte. Bill was to be in the operating room with Charlotte.

White Rock Lake
The afternoon before the operation, Charlotte and I went to White Rock Lake and sat on a park bench there and had a long talk. The bench was on the Southeast side of the lake just a little north of the present Dallas Arboretum.  We also had a long prayer together. Neither of us knew what to expect, but we knew it was really serious because the way they insisted she be operated on immediately. The doctor had given us very little information and Bill was worried, so he had rushed to Dallas to be with her.

We checked her into Baylor, and she was soon on her way to pre-op. I cannot convey the emotion we felt as I kissed her just before they wheeled her through the doors and away from me. The surgeon came out after they had wheeled her in and sat down with me. He was very serious. He said he would do his very best but they would possibly have to remove the left lung and she would be in the operating room for as long as six hours. I cannot tell you how frantic I was and how helpless I felt. She was away from me and I could not do anything to help her. As the doctor turned to go, I immediately went downstairs to the Chapel there in Baylor. I don’t mind telling you I was crying. I had not cried in twenty years. I got on my knees in that Chapel and prayed like I had never prayed before. Over and over I pleaded with God to intervene and help Charlotte as well as the doctors.

 I guess I was there about an hour and I finally went back upstairs to the waiting room. I had not been there another hour when Bill came out and he was shaking his head. I almost died on the spot. He came over and sat down and said that when they got into the operation they found the tumor, and it was attached to the back of the left lung by a small muscle like a stem. The tumor was about the size of an apricot and they just snipped the stem and that was it. Bill said that they all agreed that it was obviously benign.
Chapel at Baylor Hospital

There is no way for anyone to ever convince me that this was a not a MIRACLE performed by GOD. We had experienced a miraculous act by an awesome God and it was an incredible experience for us.  After Charlotte was in recovery Bill, Bob and I decided to go out for a little something to eat. I insisted that we all go to the Chapel first and thank God for His miracle. They reluctantly followed me there and after giving our thanks we did go eat. A week or so later we got the report that the tumor in fact was benign and we had nothing further to worry about.
Photo of White Rock Lake found here
Photo of Baylor Hospital Chapel here.  

Friday, March 16, 2012

Chapter 72 AHOOGA!

I have always been interested in Model A Fords. They are amazing vehicles that were built from 1928 until 1931. During that time, 3.25 million Model A Fords were produced. I found out that there was a group of guys starting a Dallas chapter of the National Model A Club. I contacted them and arranged to meet with them. We got a charter but I did not have a Model A. They helped me find one, and in a month or so I bought a 1929 Sport Coupe that was in rough shape. No wheels and a little tree growing up through it. They all helped me pull it up on a trailer and we hauled my trophy home.  

clip_image002I disassembled it down to the frame. I put the frame in the back of our 1955 Chevrolet Station Wagon and took it to the sand blaster. I brought it home and put it on four jack stands and started building my Model A from the frame up. I researched every part before installing it. Many of the parts were either missing or the wrong year for my A. My car was originally assembled in November 1929.

In those days a lot of the wrecking yards had Model A’s sitting somewhere toward the back of the yard. My favorite was the yard in Sunset, Texas. They had about ten old Model A's lined up along the back fence. I would load the family up in our station wagon and head for Sunset early on Saturday morning. I would take my tool box with lots of Liquid wrench and head for the back of the yard. I would spend most of the day lying under one of those old cars taking off some part that I needed for my A. Charlotte and the kids were so good, as they would spend hours waiting for me. Charlotte would crochet and the kids would play games on a quilt spread over the back floor of the station wagon. In clip_image002[5]the evenings after work, I would spend time out in the garage working on the A. It took me five years to complete the job, but when I finished we had a better than new Model A Ford to drive around in.

Later in the project, I was looking for a left front fender with a wheel well for a spare tire. I heard of one up in Oklahoma. I drove up there one week end and after a search I found it. The A was sitting out in a pasture, but I could see that the rusty left front fender was one with a wheel well. I went up to the farmer’s house and asked if I could take a look at it, if it was for sale. He said ok so I went down in the pasture and sure enough it was rusty but in pretty good shape, definitely restorable.

I went back up to the house and told him I needed a left front fender. I then asked how much. He said he would sell it for $50.00. I said all I wanted was the left front fender. He then said he did not want to sell after all. I turned to leave and he said, “I won't sell you the fender but you can have the whole thing for $50.00.” I came back the next weekend and loaded the A on my trailer and brought it home. I had no room in the garage so I put it in the back yard and started taking it apart. My neighbors understood and no one complained about me having a junk car in my backyard.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Chapter 71 The Blues of the Fisherman

In 1958, when Tom was about five, he and I joined a YMCA program called Indian Guides. Tom was Little White Buffalo and I was Big White Buffalo. Several of Tom's friends were also in the tribe, which was the Tonkawa Tribe. We had meetings, wore headdresses and played games. We did not do much camping; that came later when Tom was a Cub Scout and even more as a Boy Scout, where camping skills became a large part of the program. clip_image002

We continued to make our annual trips to the coast. We usually went down to South Padre. We all enjoyed these vacations and did a lot of fishing and crabbing.

The boys were so different. Tom would fish all day and never lose interest. I think he was always expecting a big fish to grab his lure at the next moment. Chip on the other hand loved fishing, but only when they were biting. If he had been fishing for 15 minutes and there was no action at all he was ready to move on to whatever was next.

I remember one instance in particular regarding Tom. We were down at Lake LBJ in the hill country and had an opportunity to fish with a nationally recognized fishing guide by the name of Dave Hawk. Charlotte’s brother, Charles, and I went out one morning with Dave and Tom was alrclip_image001eady down on the pier when we left. Tom wanted to go so bad but three men in the boat was all the room there was. Anyway, as we left Tom was on the pier with his fishing pole in hand and his bait in the water looking wistfully at us as we pulled away. I thought about him all the time we were out on the water moving from one location to another across the lake.

After four hours of intensive fishing we had only caught about three black bass. Dave was saying, “You should have been here yesterday; we almost filled the boat with fish.” I had heard that before on other unsuccessful fishing trips! Well, as we pulled back in the dock, there was Tom still fishing, still in the same spot. As we were tying up I asked Tom if he had caught anything and he pulled up his stringer and he had about five fish. A bass, two sun fish and two Catfish. He had caught more fish then we three men had, even though we had the famous fishing guide to our advantage.

Tom asked if I would help him clean his five fish when I cleaned my one bass. Of course I said yes and he and I went over to the cleaning station by the pier and I started cleaning all the fish. As I was cleaning his catfish I was giving him a verbal explanation as to exactly how to do it. He was standing between me and the cleaning table and his head was just about level to my belt buckle. As I cleaned his catfish I had to skin it and there was quite a bit of blood on the table directly in front of Tom. His head started slowly getting lower; I thought he was just going to move for a better look but I noticed it got lower and lower. All of a sudden his head disappeared completely and I reached down and caught him. He had passed out colder than a mackerel.

That was when I realized Tom did not like looking at a lot of blood. Even to this day he is not a fan.

Photo of Lake LBJ found here.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Chapter 70 Twister

In 1956, we built a nice home at 3605 Ainsworth in North Dallas at a cost of $18,500.00. Dallas had a record high of 113 degrees the August day we moved in. We had a big attic fan in the hall but no air conditioning. We busily began putting in a new yard and getting settled in our new home. It was a 3-BR and 2-bath home which was very adequate for the five of us. However, about that time Alice, Charlotte’s sister, and her husband Winn, along with their four children were moving back to Texas. They needed a place to stay; Alice was pregnant with Kim at the time. So the six of them plus the five of us lived together for about four or five weeks. I can remember stepping over bodies everywhere as I made my way to the back door to leave for work at six in the morning. clip_image002

We joined Highland Park Presbyterian Church. They had a great kindergarten there and it was supposed to be the best in town. I rejoined the Naval Reserve and began to attend weekly drills. By this time I was a Lieutenant Senior Grade, which is the same rank as Captain in the Army or the Air Force. The extra pay helped with the bills and I had accumulated about 12 years credited service. I planned to stay in until I retired with 20 years of service. I also joined the Northwest Dallas Kiwanis Club.

One of my favorite authors when I was growing up was Will James. He wrote western books for young people. I read Scorpion, the Good Bad Horse, Flint Spears, Lone Cowboy and Looksee with Uncle Bill several times. I used to read to the kids in the evening as we put them to bed. I would sit in the hall between the boy’s bedroom and Susie’s bedroom and read from Looksee with Uncle Bill. Chip recently reminded me of this and began telling me the stories that he remembered from the book.

clip_image001One of the real newsmakers of 1957 was the Dallas Tornado. It formed out by Red Bird Airport, traveled up Singleton Blvd and toward Love Field. We saw it form and went up to the top of the Telephone building to watch it. As it went up Singleton, the sheet iron was ripped from the buildings and filled the air. I saw that it was headed in the direction of our home and began trying to call Charlotte on the telephone. Busy signal. I continued to watch and knew if I could see the Love Field tower when it passes that point that meant it was north of Love. We lived two miles north of Love.

I finally got hold of Charlotte about the time I saw the tower as it passed Love. I told her, “Now don’t get excited but a tornado is headed right for you. Get the kids and get into the hall closet.” Charlotte gathered the three kids up, drug a mattress into the hall closet and hid under there with the three children. Fortunately the tornado split over Bachman Lake and one arm went to the south of our home and the other passed to the north. Prayers answered again!

Photo of Highland Park Presbyterian Church found here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Chapter 69 Take the A Train

When we first moved to Dallas, we lived for about six months in an apartment. I had been looking for a place for the family every chance I could but I had not found anything. We were having trouble selling the house in Uvalde and Charlotte was tired of waiting for it to sell.

clip_image002She finally said, “The kids and I are coming to Dallas by the end of March whether the house sells or not, so find something for us to live in.”

I really started looking and one evening, about dark, I went out to see an apartment that seemed to be fairly priced. It looked good so I gave them an earnest money deposit and headed back to the office because I was working nights as well as during the day. That weekend I headed to Uvalde with a U-haul to get Charlotte and the children.

We moved into the apartment and began unpacking. The first night about 6 pm there was the loudest noise you could imagine. It shattered our ears. Susie was crying and the boys were holding their ears. The building began to shake, all the dishes were rattling and I ran to the door. When I looked out I found the answer. A freight train was rumbling past on tracks about 25 feet from our back door. We were just far enough from the Gaston Avenue crossing that our back door was just where the train started blowing its horn. clip_image002[4]

Charlotte could not believe I had rented an apartment right on the railroad track.

We did get used to it, however, and we had a lot of fun with guests. We would not tell them and when the dishes started jumping and the pictures on the wall got crooked, the kids would giggle and look at one another, waiting for that blast on the horn. We would go on talking as if nothing unusual was happening. Our guests would look at one another and appear a little apprehensive. I think the kids thought that we had to pay extra to have a real live train in our back yard.

We finally sold the Uvalde house on March 24, 1956, Charlotte’s birthday. To understand how bad the market was our house was the ONLY house to sell in the entire city of Uvalde for that first quarter of 1956! We, of course, lost money on the sale.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Chapter 68 Moo-ving to Frisco

clip_image002Our move was a lot more complicated than merely transplanting a family and all our household goods from one end of Texas to the other. We also had to move the cattle up from our place near San Antonio. We bought 180 acres southwest of Frisco, just north of Highway 121. I had been eagerly scanning the newspapers for land for sale and one morning I saw an ad in the paper that offered 180 acres up by Frisco for $395 per acre. Well, I had been checking land prices, and I knew that land in that location should be more like $500 per acre.

I called Mr. Roberts, the listing agent, and arranged to meet him at the farm that evening after 5:00. We met and he drove me all over the place. It looked real good. clip_image002[10]

I asked Mr. Roberts, “This is a nice place, what is wrong with it? Is it next to the new dump or what?”

He told me that he had listed the place a year earlier and had gotten a full price contract on it but the owner had made an end run. He had contacted the buyer directly and told him that they didn’t need an agent. They could work their deal without him. The buyer and seller agreed, but then got into a fight, and the deal fell through. He said only yesterday the owner had called from California and asked if he could still sell the place for the same price. Roberts agreed without discussing any change in the price.

clip_image002[8]I told him that I would take the place so he said for me to come to his office in McKinney the next day, as he had no contract forms with him. He also had an appointment to show it to some other people early the next morning.

I said, “No, I want to buy it now”. We dug a brown paper bag from under the front seat, and drew up an agreement which we both signed. I gave him an earnest money check and he noted receipt of it on the bag. We took that to Plano Title and they acknowledged receipt of it. The owner of the title company was a friend of mine, David Fair. He prepared a closing document, and we bought the farm at a great price.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chapter 67 Big D

In January of 1956, I got a call from the Division office in San Antonio to come in for a visit. Everything was going great. The District was running on autopilot. There were no Union Grievances, all offices at the top of the chart as far as service results were concerned. Everyone was pretty happy.

clip_image001I had been more active with community service at the company’s request. I was on the board of the Chamber of Commerce and the incoming President of the Jaycees. I was heading up the effort to make John Nance Garner’s home a museum. I had just been elected the first vice president of Kiwanis and I was on the executive board planning the centennial anniversary of the founding of Uvalde. I had asked Dale clip_image001[4]Evans, a native of Uvalde, to come and ride in our grand parade. At First Presbyterian, I was Assistant Superintendent of the Sunday school. I was also chairman of the support of churches committee at Kiwanis, and we were coordinating some joint efforts for helping the poor in Uvalde.

Well, the powers that be had decided that all Traffic men needed to go through engineering training and help get the rest of the exchanges in Texas converted to dial. My time had come, and they wanted me to move to Dallas. I said I did not want to go!

I am giving you more detail than you probably want to hear to explain why I was dead set against leaving Uvalde in February of 1956. I did not have an option, for everyone had to go through this engineering cycle. The Uvalde Leader News did a two-column article on me when we left thanking me for my contributions to the city during our six years there. I did appreciate the recognition and really hated to leave. Uvalde was a wonderful little town of some 8500 friendly, salt-of-the-earth people. I had grown to love the town and our many friends there and leaving was really difficult. We had purchased 5 acres near the airport and had plans drawn for a new house in the country at the edge of town but that was not to be. We were literally ripped up by the roots and sent off to big D to start a new life there.

clip_image002I reluctantly reported on February 1st to the Headquarters for Texas, which was located at 308 S. Akard Street in Dallas. I was assigned to a senior Engineer and my new title was Senior Staff Engineer.


Photo of Garner Museum found here.

Photo of Dale Evans found here.

Photo of SW Bell Dallas office circa 1956 found here.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Chapter 66 New Dawn

While I was District Superintendent I was proud of a battle I fought in Laredo, Texas. We had a big manual office there with about 130 some odd operators. The operators were backed up by “service assistants” who in turn were backed up by an assistant chief operator. We had a vacancy in the Assistant Chief Operator group and after much thought and consulting with the Chief Operator I decided that Aurora Gonzales was the best candidate by far. There was one problem; she was Mexican American not Anglo. No Mexican-American had ever been promoted into the management group.

I sent Aurora’s name in as the new Assistant Chief and got a quick call from my boss’s office. “You can’t do this, it will disrupt the whole office. You will have a revolt on your hands and the boss will not tolerate that.” Then the boss calls and tells me it won’t work. I refused to back down. We went back and forth for several days and finally they approved my recommendation but said it would be my responsibility if disaster happened and the Mexican-Americans there refused to follow one of their own.

Aurora did great; the people loved her and responded to her leadership. The results of the office improved and labor complaints disappeared. Shortly after I was transferred to Dallas the Chief became ill and had to retire. Who was the new Chief? Aurora!

About twenty years later after I had left the Telephone Company and was on the farm in McKinney and I got a call. It was from a management person in San Antonio and she said Aurora Gonzales the Chief operator of the San Antonio office was retiring and she hoped I would come down to her retirement party. I said when and where, I will be there.

San Antonio was the third largest and most prestigious office in the state and Aurora was the Chief operator there. Even I was amazed. At the retirement dinner there were a lot of speeches. Several of the “big shots” told how they had given Aurora a chance when she was first made management and they could see what a great Assistant Chief Operator she would be. Aurora looked over at me and smiled and sort of shook her head.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Chapter 65 Hot Lead and Hot Chiles

clip_image002The west boundary of my District ran down the Rio Grande from north of Del Rio to south of Laredo at Roma and Zapata. It was the best hunting area of all the districts. Whenever any of the Brass from New York or St Louis came to Texas, they had one of two objectives. Either they wanted to go to Mexico or, during the season, they wanted to go hunting. Either way, they needed a guide so these duties fell to me. If it was Mexico, I had to see that they got back to the Texas side in one piece. If hunting, I had to see that they did not kill one another. A friend of mine by the name of Kincade owned the largest ranch in the county. His family had ranched that country since the mid 1800’s. He was good enough to let me take Telephone Company officials out to his place to hunt. As a matter of fact, the North and South Zone line for doves ran right through the middle of his ranch.

I would take a group of men out there and would station them around a lake far enough apart to not shoot one another. Then I would go to the south end of the lake and go behind the dam, where I would sit down with my back against the dam with my trusty old double barrel. This clip_image001[4]was the same gun I had used in high school. After a little bit, I would hear a shot at the far north end and then bam-bam-bam, right down the lake towards the dam. The birds would come over the dam headed south, and I had a perfect going away shot which is the easiest shot to make. This would go on for three or four hours, and about sundown I would gather the guys up. As I picked them up, there would be shell casings all around them. There is no telling how many boxes of shells they shot. My game bag would be full, so I could give each whatever they needed to fill their limit. We would head over to the ranch, and a Mexican cook would fix supper for them, using the dove they had shot.

clip_image001One time, a Vice President from New York came out to a meeting in Uvalde and someone made the mistake of asking him about pickles. Turns out he considered himself the world’s greatest expert on pickles. We left that evening for Del Rio and Villa Acuna. (Later Ciudad Acuna). Mrs. Crosby’s was the restaurant everyone went to, and he wanted to have supper there. There were four of us plus the VP in the car and, for an hour and a half all we heard was more and more about pickles. We finally got to Mexico and Mrs. Crosby’s and sat down for dinner. They always put several bowls of uncut Jalapeno peppers on the table. The VP says’” What are those”? I don’t know for sure, it may have been me, but someone said, “Those are Mexican pickles.”

With that, he grabs one and before anyone can say a word he pops it into clip_image002[4]his mouth and starts chewing. It took about three good chews and he come right up out of his chair, turning it over. He spits his Mexican pickles on the floor and reaches over and drinks my beer. He breaks out in a sweat, his face is bright red and, as he grabs someone’s water he says, “Really, fellows! I am on fire, I am in trouble!” Everyone is laughing and hooting and hollering. The Mexican police come in and I am afraid we are in more trouble that we bargained for. I explain to the policia what happened and he breaks out laughing. I have to say the VP was a good sport, but we did not hear much from him the rest of the evening.

Hunting zone map found here.

Dove hunting photo found here.

Photo of Mrs. Crosby’s found here.

Photo of jalepenos found here.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Chapter 64 The Office

Along with my position in Uvalde I inherited a personal secretary. She should never have been put into this job, which was way over her head. Dealing with this was adding to my stress and causing problems. I would tell her, “I am going into San Antonio for the week-end. I am going to stop in Hondo and Sabinal to visit with the Chief Operators on the way back on Monday, so I will not be in the office till about noon”. My boss would call at 8 AM on Monday and he would ask for me. “He is not here,” she would say. “Where is he?” She’d reply, “I don’t know.” Naturally the boss was not happy and he would tell me about it when I called him about 11 AM.

1953 typewriter adAfter many conversations and extra training I finally had to make a change and re assign her back to the operating room. I hired a new secretary, Ludeen, who was excellent. She quickly organized her job and had it humming smoothly in no time. Once or twice I did fail to tell her when I was going to be gone. Nevertheless, when the boss called he was happy with her explanation of where I was-even though she did not have a clue. She did, however, let me know about it whenever I forgot to tell her.

Ludeen was a jewel. She took about eight hours off my workweek right away. If the boss called about one of the towns in my district, Ludeen would be laying the file on my desk with all the answers before he asked a question. She also answered a lot of the Chief Operators minor questions, without bothering me with them. She organized the office and the other girls who worked for me there.

I woke up each morning at 5:45 when my radio came on with the McCullough Chain Saw advertising jingle. I would get dressed and head for the office which was about seven minutes from our home. I would park in back of my office and go next door to the Elite CafĂ© and have coffee with the Ranchers and businessmen that met there for breakfast every morning. By seven AM I was at my desk and planning the day. I would write notes on various correspondence and requests for information and put into Ludeen’s box. Everything went to her first and she decided which of the girls in the office was best suited to complete the assignment. I had put all the office staff under Ludeen’s direction and delegated all decisions to her. She enjoyed her work and did a fantastic job of taking 90% of the detail work off of me.

I learned early on that if you were stressed about your workload you had better learn to delegate. When you are used to working by yourself or doing it all by yourself it is hard to turn loose of control and delegate. It not only relieves your stress level but for the first tine your employees begin to grow and make decisions without asking you for permission before making a move. Sure, they will make mistakes and frequently do something different than what you would have done but it is the only way clip_image002for them to grow. You will find that you grow some, too. 

With the Union quiet, we began to convert offices to dial. I was given two Assistant District men. I put one in charge of the big Laredo conversion, and the other one in charge with the Seguiclip_image002[5]n-New Braunfels conversions.

I did not take much time off away from the job during the first four years we were in Uvalde. We did take an occasional long weekend to go to  Port Isabel near South Padre Island.

Advertisement for typewriter found here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Chapter 63 The Negotiator

When I had first gone to Uvalde I was working pretty hard, because the District was a mess when I got there. I was traveling about 4000 miles a month and working 70-80 hours a week.

Three months before we were sent to Uvalde, the Communication Workers of America and Southwestern Bell had entered into a contract calling for a number of changes in personnel policies. Several of the Chiefs had run their own show for many, many years, and they were not inclined to change. This, of course, caused a lot of union grievances and frequent formal grievances. At the formals you met in an office and every word you uttered was recorded so there was certain amount of stress in representing SW Bell in these meetings.

I practically memorized that contract and became known as one who really knew all the details of the terms. This helped a great deal in my clip_image001negotiations but several of the older Chief Operators continued to be unbending, which caused me a lot of trouble as well as stress and time. Most of the Chiefs realized that there was no future in continuing to fight the inevitable and conformed, but three of them refused to bend. “I have run this office for thirty years and have done a darn good job so why should I change now?” So unfortunately, I had to take two of them off the job and demote them. This was the hardest thing I ever had to do. Things did start getting better after that.

I had rejoined the U S Naval Reserve and was the Supply officer for a Construction Battalion in San Antonio. Driving to drills every Thursday night and back to Uvalde was a chore. However, it added to our income and I was adding years toward retirement from the Navy Reserve.

I have to admit, I did drive too fast in those days. I was driving 4000 to 5000 miles each month and much of that in the middle of the night getting home to Uvalde. One night I was coming back fclip_image001[5]rom a long union meeting in Laredo. I left Laredo about 11 PM and started those 155 miles to Uvalde. I had just left Catarina on my way to Carrizo Springs and I could see down the straight road for about twenty miles. Not a car in either direction or even a light from a distant ranch house. My Ford would rock along about 100 miles an hour but it had a manual choke that I could pull it out a little and get about 103 out of her. Well, I was rocking and rolling along and I topped a little rise. When my lights dropped as I started down the other side, I could not believe what I saw.

The road was literally covered with cattle. They had gotten out through some fence and were all over the road and in both right of way ditches. The ditches were not deep but they were wide from the pavement to the fence line. I remember driving over to the right fence line and across the road down into the left ditch and back up on the road. As I fought my way from one side of the road to the other all I could see was cows in front of me and on both sides of the car. When I emerged on the other side of the cattle I was shaking so bad I had to stop and get out of the car for a few minutes. It was an absolute miracle that I did not hit a single cow, though I did brush against more than one. That was the last time I ever drove that fast.

It was just as well. I had burned out two engines and when my good friend Horace, the Plant Superintendent, put the third engine my car he had them put a truck radiator. He also had them install a special five bladed fan in the car. That worked well-except in the winter I would drive all the way to San Antonio and never could get the engine warmed up enough to run the heater.

Photo of telephone operators found here.

Photos of Carrizo Springs found here.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Chapter 62 Sister Makes Three

Things continued to run smoothly, and on September 27, 1955 we were blessed with a little girl, Susan Elizabeth, weighing in at 7lb 13 oz. Charlotte was in San Antonio with her mother when she called me in Uvalde. She said she was at the hospital and I had better hurry if I was going to get there before the baby arrived. I did not even go clip_image002[4]home to lock up the house. I jumped in my car, and set a new record for covering the 90 miles to San Antonio. Fortunately, I arrived before Susan did. I made it in about an hour which was pretty good for 90 miles. Susan and her mom were fine. We had just purchased a new 1955 Chevrolet Station Wagon. One reason we had bought it was this was the first model year that had in-dash air conditioning. I brought Charlotte and Susan home to Uvalde with me. I had been using it all week in anticipation of Susan’s arrival and had a mattress in the back. 

In 1955 I was the incoming President of the Junior Chamber of Commerce and each Christmas we decorated a very large Christmas tree on the square in Uvalde. Chip was very impressed when I put on a pair of telephone climbing hooks and clip_image001proceeded to climb the tree. It was actually a very large telephone pole that we used for the center of a big Christmas tree. We were putting the limbs and lights on the tree and I think Tom was more interested in the pretty lights than what Dad was doing. Chip, however, was very impressed I guess because he still mentions it from time to time.

In fact, it may have given him ideas. Chip has always loved to bug his mother and tease her. When he was about five she was calling him to supper one evening and could not find him. He had climbed up into the top of a big sycamore tree by the front porch and was trying to hide behind a big limb. He did not make a sound and Charlotte became frantic looking for him. She went to the back of the house, and he climbed down and ran into the house and was waiting for her when she came in.

Our house in Uvalde was a pier and beam house as opposed to a concrete slab. It was built on concrete piers that had beams set on them and then the floor would be attached to the beams. There was usually “crawl space” under such a house. One time we began to notice a distinctly skunk smell in the house. After a day or two it became unbearable so Charlotte told me I had to do something. I opened the trap door in the closet floor and hung down under the house with my flashlight. Sure enough, about 20 feet from the trap door I could see a skunk that had died under there. There was nothing to do but go after it.

clip_image002I got my old clothes on and dropped down under the house. They had not done a very good job of leveling the lot and the area where the skunk was had only about 12 to 18 inches between the ground and the beam above it. I snaked my way over towards the skunk and about 3 feet from the skunk it was so tight, I had to hold my head sideways to struggle towards the skunk. I reached out for the skunk, and when I did its tail snapped up! Oh me! I just froze. I was looking at that skunk and not moving a muscle and its black beady eyes were looking back at me. I don’t know how long I lay there, afraid to move and get shot in the face with Skunk perfume but it seemed forever. Charlotte was calling, “are you alright?” I could not answer and she did not know what my problem was. After a long time I chanced moving very slowly back to the scuttle hole and climbed out. We waited about an hour checking every once in a while with the flashlight. The skunk never moved again, and we decided it must have been rigor mortis setting in that caused the tail to move. I finally went back under there and dragged the skunk out and disposed of it. It took about two weeks for the house to lose the skunk smell.

Photo of telephone pole found here.

Photo of crawl space found here.