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.