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.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Chapter 61 Boar Hogs and Bear Hugs

At this time, we were going to the First Presbyterian church in Uvalde. Frank Walker was the pastor and we liked Frank a lot. He asked me to be the Assistant Sunday school superintendent so I accepted but really did not know a lot about the job. Frank was a hunter and hunted with a crossbow. I got so tickled listening to him tell about the time he shot a javelina hog. These animals are very aggressive and they will attack you if you are not careful. One time Frank shot one of these boars and the wounded hog started after him. He sat down on the ground, and put his feet against the crossbow to get another arrow ready to shoot. Frank’s description of sitting down in the brush trying to hurry and get another arrow off, all the time watching that javelina boar hog, with its long tusks lumbering toward him was a scream. Fortunately he did get another arrow off and stopped the charge. The boar dropped less than ten feet from him.

clip_image0028_thumb6As I said, Frank was the Presbyterian pastor and his good friend Jim was the pastor at the Baptist Church. They were both in our Kiwanis club and they used to joke that they were going to go together and build a duplex to live in. Frank would take the side with the shower and Jim would take the side with the tub.

Frank was the one that got us going back to church. My church attendance had been pretty poor from 1945 until about 1953. I had a tent mate in the Philippians that was a Baptist preacher and he cussed and drank a lot. He really turned me off of religion because he was such a hypocrite. That was before I realized that men supposedly representing God,clip_image0026_thumb no matter how religious or well meaning, would fail me. They are, after all, men. However, God will never fail me. The religious leader, whether Pastor, Preacher or Priest has very little to do with my bond with Jesus Christ. He can help me understand about Jesus but he cannot incorporate Christ within my own spirit. I learned the slow way that one can know all about Christ and never really know Christ. When we incorporate the indwelling Holy Spirit, it is only then that we become new persons in Christ.

Whether he is a man of the cloth or layman, a man's words and actions are so frequently used by others as a yardstick or measurement not only to judge that person but also to judge Jesus Christ. That is exactly what I had done. I had judged the Church and Jesus by that man's actions. Frank Walker was a true friend to me. He helped me work my way through these false conclusions, finally realizing how shallow and wrong I had been not to realize that any man's actions could not define God. We can emulate Jesus but we all fall short, none of us are completely without sin. For example, I can verbalize how I should forgive but when it comes to really forgiving and loving that person who has hurt me so deeply I fall short. If we truly endeavor to follow the teaching of Jesus Christ and LOVE GOD AND OUR FELLOW MEN WE WILL DO WELL. Well dearly beloved, there is my sermon for the day.

Photo of angry javelina found here.

Photo of Uvalde church found here.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Chapter 60 Hello Kitty

clip_image001One hot August night we were sitting in the living room in Uvalde, and all the windows and doors were open to try to get any little breeze we could. All of a sudden right out of the front door in our front yard there was a piercing scream that made our hair stand on end. I recognized that it was an animal, probably a mountain lion or cougar. Charlotte told the boys to get away from the door and windows, and I was running to the bedroom to get my 45. I grabbed it as quick as I could and was sliding in the clip, and jacking a shell into the chamber as I came running back through the house to get out the front door. The door was open so only the screen door was between the outside and me. I sailed through the living room, hit the screen door and put a big bow in the screen. While I was getting my gun, Charlotte had latched the screen door. By the time I got the screen door opened, I could the hear the dogs barking up the street, picking up the scent as the animal made its way down the block.
I can’t blame Charlotte too much because I did even worse to her. I was always hot at night and she was always cold. I kept the window by my side of the bed open and Charlotte kept the heat going in the boy’s room because she was afraid they would get cold like she did. Well, I woke up in the middle of one winter night and it was so extremely hot! I got up and closed the door from our bedroom to the hall and opened wide the window by me. Several hours later, still in the middle of the night, one of the boys had a nightmare and screamed out. Charlotte leaped out of the bed and, as usual, started for the boys’ room at full speed. I woke up-sort of-and I knew what was going to happen, but I couldn’t wake up enough to warn her in time. WHAM! She hit the closed door. I turned on the light, and Charlotte was lying on her back looking up at the ceiling trying to clear her head. As she rolled over to her hands and knees, she began explaining to me why closing that door was a really dumb thing to do. I was laughing so hard I couldn’t hear her. I guess me having such a good laugh did not help the situation.
On a cheerier note (!), we had a player piano and when we played it with all the windows andclip_image002 doors open you could hear it all over the neighborhood. The neighborhood kids who were playing outside would come over to enjoy the music. A lot of the notes were not playing because so many of the tubes were leaking air, so I decided to rework the piano. I ripped all the tubes out and took the back of the piano apart. I had parts all over the living room and the dining room. It took me about a month to put in new tubes and get the piano back together. Charlotte was patient with me but her house was messed up for a whole month.
Photo of mountain lion found here.
Photo of player piano found here.