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.