Monday, January 28, 2013

Chapter 92 Slip the Surly Bonds of Earth

I really had an itch to fly. My friend Bob Cox, who lived in the country south of McKinney, was a Braniff Airways Captain and he had an airstrip he called the “Weed patch” at his house. He had a J-3 Cub that we flew from his strip. Bob and I had cattle together east of Blue Ridge and we would fly over and check the cows every once in awhile. 
Aronica Chief
Bob told me of an Aronica Chief over in Southlake that another retired Airline Captain had  for sale. After some negotiation I was able to buy the plane and Bob and I went over and flew it back to McKinney. It was a really cool plane; a Delta aircraft engine mechanic had rebuilt it from the airframe out. It was a tail dragger and looked like new. I kept the plane at Bob’s airstrip and every once in awhile, I would slip over and fly my plane. Bob was also an instructor and would give me lessons on the finer points of flying. The little plane was quieter and more comfortable than the others I had flown and I enjoyed it very much.

I was a Lieutenant in the Naval Reserve and was the Supply Officer of the Reserve Unit. As an active reservist, I could join the Navy Flying Club at Hensley Field in Grand Prairie. With the exception of my time in our Aronica Chief, I had not flown much since 1948 but was able to solo after just three hours of dual instruction. I was flying Cessna 150's. These were tricycle landing gear planes with a control wheel instead of a stick. They also had self-starters and radios. I had to learn radio procedures and a new way to land and take off. The new way was to come straight in for your landing with radio contact and instructions from the tower all the way. Hensley Field was an active training base for Navy Pilots. Flying a little Cessna in between those jets was a little hairy to say the least. One day I was landing (at about 50 miles an hour) and the tower came in on my radio and said Cessna 2n take the first exit off the runway, you have a jet coming in behind you. I did as I was told, and as I whipped onto the exit the jet whizzed by at about 200 MPH. After that, I always flew over to the Arlington airport to practice touch and go landings.

Cessna 150 like the one I was flying solo 
One day I was flying with my instructor learning some new techniques and we were taking off from the Arlington airport. Pointing out toward the window to my left, he said “look over there.” We were climbing out of the airport about 500 feet off the ground. As I looked to my left I lost the engine. It just went completely dead all at once, no warning. In that situation the worst thing you can do is pull the nose up trying to gain altitude. I instinctively slammed the wheel to the instrument panel lowering the nose so I could keep from stalling. I started looking for a place to set us down because at 400 feet all you can do is go straight in and hope for the best. The instructor reached over and started the engine again. We then continued our climb and everything was okay. I looked at him and he was grinning and said, “You did everything exactly right. Nine out of ten students will pull back on the wheel trying to gain altitude.” That sounded good but he had almost given me a heart attack. He had me fly solo after that.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Chapter 91 Playing Monopoly

The next project was something that was brand new.  Around 1968, Bob Hudgins and I built the very first Mini Warehouse. We had tenants coming to us wanting to store stuff in any vacant apts. We decided to build a series of single garages-all attached-and bought some land out on Kirby street in Garland to do this. We were having a problem trying to decide on a name. AAA1 Rent and Store, Your Garage, The Attic were some of the suggestions.

One night Charlotte and I were driving back from San Antonio, and we were discussing this. She said how did I decide what to charge since this was the first storage facility ever built with this design. I said that I had gone down to Bekins Storage and they had sectioned off little bins in their warehouse that they leased to people. I doubled their charge and that was the way I set the first rental charges. That was the time girls started wearing mini-skirts. Charlotte said how about Mini Warehouse. Oh, wow, that is it! What a great name. So, the first Mini Warehouse came into existence.

However, Bob and I could not get any financing for our project. The banker’s questions were; What if your idea doesn't work? What are we going to do with all those vacant buildings? I told the banker, “You could own the world's largest car wash”. He did not laugh. We finally borrowed the money on a 60-day signature loan. We finished it in December in the rain, snow, and bad weather. We went all January-no tenants. We began to wonder how we were going to pay off that note. In February we got our first tenant and by the middle of April we were leased up with a waiting list. The next five years we very seldom had a vacancy.

Charlotte and I had acquired a 14-unit Apartment complex on Oram Street.  Bob and I next acquired four twelve-unit apartments on Cole Street and McKinney Street in Dallas. Bob and I opened an office together on Lemon Ave.  Soon after this we took over a defaulted mortgage on a 100-unit apartment on Simpson Street, called the Commodore, with a third partner, Charlie Pittman. Charlie was President of a Savings and Loan, and I was doing the appraising of the Real Estate for them. I saw an opportunity to furnish the insurance for the houses that they were loaning mortgages on. This was fully legal at that time. I took the exam, and got my Property and Casualty insurance salesman license. I would sell the insurance during the day, and that night Charlotte would type up the policies. The Addison General Insurance Agency came into existence.

We had a man working for us at the Commodore named Pete. When we acquired the apartment, the previous owner was six months behind in his payments and had been practicing deferred maintenance for years. Many of the apartments had been robbed of their disposals, sinks and even commodes. The swimming pool was full of furniture and the parking lot had several abandoned cars on it. We took over the mortgage with no cash down, but we had to furnish the money to renovate the entire building. The lender agreed for us to pay the monthly mortgage payment based on occupancy. It was 50 % at first so we owed only 50% of the payment amount. As occupancy increased, the payment did the same.

Pete was amazing. He could start work in the morning in an apt and repair the furniture, put in new carpet and replace the missing plumbing. By quitting time-in one day-he would finish renovating an apartment. He would do an apt a day and soon we had plenty to lease. They were all one bedroom furnished apts. The building was 50% occupied when we took over. We had to evict most of the tenants and, I hired the wife of a Dallas Seminary student for manager and a nurse in training at Baylor for Asst manager. In six months we were about 80% occupied, and it got slowly better after that. The lender, Liberty Mutual Life then tried to cover us up with delinquent properties. We did accept a few, a 150 unit on Cedar Springs and a 120 unit in Richardson. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Chapter 90 School Days

Our next big trip was four weeks to the Kiwanis convention in Florida in 1967. We traveled to Mobile and went through the Bellingrath gardens then across the Florida panhandle and down to Miami. We actually camped on the beach at Ft Lauderdale. After the convention ended we went across Florida on Alligator Alley, through the Everglades to Naples and then turned north stopping at Ft Meyers for the night. 

The next morning we stopped and bought a gallon of fresh squeezed orange juice and put it in the refrigerator in the trailer. We forgot to latch the door and that evening when we stopped for the night we discovered that the refrigerator door had come open; the gallon fell to the floor and emptied out all over the floor of the trailer. What a mess. Chip was able to drive some and relieved me on this trip, which made it a lot less stressful for me. We made a run by Atlanta and Stone Mountain battlefield on the way home. After leaving Atlanta, we did very little sightseeing and just headed for home.

In 1967 Tom went to the Scout Jamboree in Idaho. He met scouts from all over the world and he brought home all kinds of souvenirs. Tom was also in the orchestra at Thomas Jefferson playing violin. Tom had a lot of talent, he played FIRST chair in the school orchestra but I don’t think he ever really enjoyed playing. None of the children took to music. I told each of them it would be good to play some sort of instrument. Tom chose violin, Chip the guitar and Susie the piano.  However, none of them really seemed to enjoy music. I also asked them to each chose some sport to be involved in. Tom was a swimmer. He had a beautiful natural stroke. Chip was a runner. When we lived at the farm in McKinney he would run 5 miles down toward town and then return 5 back to the farm. Susie was active in the drill team at Thomas Jefferson High School. The boys were active all through High School in the ROTC. Chip was Cadet Colonel in his senior year and Tom followed a couple of years later being Cadet Lt. Colonel in his senior year.

This was the year I bought a 1967 Plymouth for $3500 for Chip to go to school in. Tom bought this car when Chip left for SMU. Tom in turn sold it to Susan when he left for SMU. In Susie’s senior year she had a little accident in it and she went to work at a steak house as a waitress to pay for the damage. She claims to this day a car pulled out in front of her but to tell the truth I think she was putting on her lipstick while driving. When Susie left for SMU we sold the car, but it had done a good job for us.

Charlotte was still substitute teaching at Cary Middle School and she netted over $800. This helped a lot with our expenses. My salary as a middle manager at the Telephone Company was only $12,760. This was the year we formed Magna Enterprises, Inc. and put some of the real estate in it. We were still dividing our time living at Camelot and Willow Springs Farm. Chip graduated from Thomas Jefferson and entered SMU in September. 

Photo of Bellingrath Gardens found here.

Aerial of Alligator Alley found here.

Photo of 1967 World Scout Jamboree badge found here.

Photo of 1967 Plymouth found here.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Chapter 89 Misadventures in Farming

Chip and Tom helped me with the cattle from time to time.  When Chip was 15 or 16 he felt he was bulletproof and he knew that with his mind and strength he could deal with any cow he met. Once he was helping me put a half Brahma half Charolais cow in the working chute. She did not want to go, but Chip was going to put her there. She started toward him and he took a “just bring it on” stance. She did not slow down as she went right over the top of him, and he wound up on his back in the mud with the funniest look on his face. As soon as I saw he did not have broken bones or other major damage, except his dignity, I was laughing so hard I had to sit down on the ground in the mud myself. This was a real learning experience for Chip. He could not believe that that cow didn't just bounce off of him.

I was not immune to misadventure. There are lots of opportunities for accidents, bumps, bruises and an occasional broken bone when you are living and working on a farm. I could relate a number but the closest I ever came to making headlines because of an accident was a careless mistake I made. I was plowing one spring day on my big powerful Farmall M pulling a 38 disc harrow. This was before three point hydraulic lifts and the harrow was simply hooked to the hitch of the tractor. Collin county was one of those places in Texas
where there were underground springs that would appear only after long period of rain-usually in the spring and the rest of the year they would be totally dry. You could drive across a pasture in August and never know there were there. Drive across in the spring and you had better know where they were and be ready if you happened to drop into one because once in your only course of action was full throttle and hope to get to the other side on dry land.

This particular beautiful spring day I was plowing along enjoying the day, the puffy white clouds, the robin egg blue sky, and most of all that wonderful smell of freshly turned soil. The moisture in the soil was perfect, just right for working and was boiling out behind the harrow. It was beautiful. As I was enjoying all this my heavy tractor suddenly dropped out from under me. Wet spot, mayday, underground spring, dang!!

I quickly pushed the throttle to the firewall and the big M dug in and began to lug down. The harrow finally stopped completely but the rear drive wheels continued to turn. The result was the front end of the tractor quickly rose into the air. Sensing the danger, I snapped off the ignition-just in time. The two ton tractor sat in the middle of the field with its nose pointed straight toward the sky. Another two seconds and that big machine would have fallen over on its back crushing me between it and the harrow.

One day as I left for work, I told Tom to mow the north pasture. Well, when I got home that afternoon late Charlotte cautioned me to not fuss at him because he had run the tractor through the fence and was busy fixing the fence when I arrived. Tom never mentioned it and neither did I. After all, anyone can make a mistake while driving a tractor...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Chapter 88 Land Office Business

During this time, I was still working at the Telephone Company. My previous experience of leaving employment there led me to diversify my opportunities. Be prepared! In addition to the rental houses we acquired, I had several partners with whom I would periodically work deals.  We continued to expand our Charolais cattle business.  We bought 8 purebred Charolais cows and a bull named James.  
I had acquired my Real Estate Broker’s license a year or so earlier, and had started selling some land in the McKinney area. Frequently friends would come out to visit us at our farm and they would say, “I wish we had a place like this.” I would try and help them find a place and one thing led to another and before I knew it I was in the land business.

My land brokerage business continued to grow and I was then what is called today a “Buyers Broker”. I would have someone come to me, and ask if I would help him or her find a place in the country. Most of my buyers were professional men who wanted a place in the country to take the family on the weekends, and the summer. This meant the land had to be within a short distance of Dallas, and have the amenities that would provide recreational opportunities. They wanted to have things such as a lake, or horse barns, or in two cases a place for a landing strip for their plane. They were also able to charge off all farm expenses against their ordinary income.
I provided full service in that after the sale, I would buy them a little set of cattle if they wished, and I would clean the cattle up, give them their shots and worm them. I would get someone to build fences, and pens for them, including working chutes. On more than one occasion, I had a lake dug for them. I would even find someone to look after the place when they were away. Later, when we were building Early Texas Homes, I built homes for several of them. I was fortunate, in that from 1965 until I stopped in 1988, I always had someone on my waiting list, looking for a place in the country
When the Congress changed all the tax rules in about 1987, it put a big damper on the business niche I had developed. For one thing, no one was allowed to charge off ordinary income with farm expenses any more. Charlotte and I opened a Century 21 Office, and began selling residential and commercial real estate, as well as some land. We soon had 18 residential agents, and were the leading real estate office in McKinney. I did not sell residential but continued to sell some land. Charlotte was an active partner in all I ever did; always playing the support role, but I would never have had success in any endeavor we ever undertook without her support and advice. She worked hard in whatever we did, whether it was rental property, land, cattle, home building, greenhouse operation, property and causality insurance company, or real estate brokerage.

Photo of Charolais found here

Photo of digging a stock tank found here.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Chapter 87 Crazy Horse

Sus and cousin Jill on Punky

Susie always had to have a horse. We were keeping a Palomino named Punky for some neighbors, but she wanted one of her own. We first bought Brownie. This was a horse that was not what he was purported to be. Susie came to me one afternoon and said she could not make Brownie go. Whenever she got on Brownie and tried to ride him he would back up instead of going forward. I went out and climbed on Brownie and sure enough, when I gave him a little kick and a loose rein, he started backing up. I turned him around and started making him back up. When he wanted to stop, I sawed on his bit and pulled the reins tighter and made him continue backing. I backed him all the way to the front gate, turned him around and backed him all the way back up the hill to the house. After that, she did not have too much trouble with him backing up but he had other problems as well. He was clearly not satisfactory, so I took him back to the fellow who had lied to me about what a wonderful children’s horse Brownie was. He would not take him back, but after I explained to him more clearly how I felt about it he decided to take the horse back.

Next, we bought a POA (Pony of America), but Susie hit a growth spurt and he was too small for her.

It was then we purchased Asba. He was a big half Arab, half Quarter Horse. The only problem with Asba was he was almost blind in his left eye. Susie really enjoyed riding him and he was a good horse. I was exercising him one early morning and decided to go through the gate to the front pasture. When Asba started through that gate, he apparently thought something was going to hit him on that blind side of his. He jumped sideways about five feet, and I found myself hanging on the saddle down on his side. I was sort of hanging head down with just a little of my right leg up on the saddle.

Well, this position I was in spooked Asba even more and he took off at a dead run. He was running along the barbed wire fence, and he kept drifting closer and closer to that barbed wire. I had to make a decision in a hurry. If he got against that barbed wire fence I was going to be skinned alive. If I dropped off, I had to make it through his galloping back hooves without getting stepped on. With me bouncing against his side, I could not pull myself back up into the saddle. He ran real close to the fence, and I decided to chance it and just turned loose and tried to protect my head as I hit the ground under him. Amazingly, he did not step on me and stopped a short distance down the fence line and waited for me. I dusted myself off, said a little thank you prayer, and got back on him. We had a great ride for an hour or so but I was always ready for a sudden move whenever we went through a gate or by a post, etc. I covered this with Susan about five times until she was pretty tired of hearing about it.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Chapter 86 Willow Springs

An investor came to me and wanted to buy the Frisco place. I told him it was not for sale, but he insisted and kept coming back to bargain with me. He finally offered me $850 per acre cash for the place. I had bought the place with owner financing, and ten percent down. Remember, I had paid $395 for the place. After looking at replacement places near McKinney, I found one I liked that was 110 acres with a farmhouse on it and a good barn. I called the investor, and accepted his offer. 

We called the new place “Willow Springs Farm”, and enjoyed spending many weekends, and summers there for several years. We were still living at Camelot in the winter.  Willow Springs had a nice farmhouse located on it with a big yard and it was a perfect place for us to go to on the week-ends and full time in the summer when the kids were out of school.

We were a little ahead of the environmentalist in that we had sheep to mow the grass. Let me tell you an amazing story about the habits of sheep. We had to put the sheep in a shed each night, because the wolves had gotten into them and killed several of them when we left them out in the yard at night. One morning, I went out to let the sheep out of the shed and as I opened the door, a hoe handle fell across the door and landed on a box on the other side of the doorway. That made a bar about ten to fifteen inches off the ground, right across the doorway. The first sheep jumped over the handle before I could remove it. After I had leaned the hoe against the wall of the shed, I stood there in amazement watching as every one of the remaining sheep came up to the door, one behind the other and each jumped over the imaginary hoe handle that wasn't there. I thought to myself, "You know, a lot of people are just like that!”

One disadvantage with the location of Willow Springs was that it was about a mile off the pavement on a dirt road. Several times when it had rained and Charlotte was on her way to the farm she would slip and slide, and twice she slid off into the ditch, becoming stuck. We had Joe Bryson, the foreman on the 2000-acre ranch next door, bring his tractor over to pull her out. He was a great neighbor and was always ready to help. When Susie was a senior in high school, I asked Charlotte to move to the farm after Susan went to college. Charlotte said, "If you want me to go to the wilderness with you, we are going to be on a paved road”. End of discussion.

Photo of jumping sheep found here

Photo of dirt road found here

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Chapter 85 Wild, Wild West

In 1966 we took another trip to the Kiwanis convention in Portland, Oregon. We spent our first night with our close friends, Goodwin and Mary Bray, at their farm in Clarendon, Texas. Goodwin wanted to show everyone his farm and loaded all of us into an old, beat-up pickup. The seats were just springs with a blanket over them and it rattled so loud you could hardly talk. The three kids were in the back of the pickup and Charlotte, Goodwin and I were in the cab. Goodwin took off through Johnson grass as high as the windows of the pickup, bouncing us across rows that had been furrowed for cotton the previous year.  Charlotte’s description from the log that we kept of the trip says it best.

“Well sir, never in my entire life have I had such a ride. The truck was about to fall apart, no seats, no brakes and the windshield so dirty I could not see out of it. Off across the field we went.  He floor boarded it and we were bouncing across the field and the children in the back looked like popcorn popping as they bounced up and down.” 

The next day we left early and drove to Blue Water State Park near Grants Pass, NM.  We went down, down, down into Blue Hole where we camped for the night. The next morning when we left, the car would not pull the trailer up the hill, so I had Charlotte and the kids get out. Chip and Tom pushed until we finally got to the top. From there we stopped at Meteor Crater on our way to the Grand Canyon. On Sunday we had a little Bible study and worship service, as was our habit. I notice in the trip log that Charlotte mentioned, “Daddy always prepared an interesting Bible lesson for us on each Sunday when we were on the road.” That was nice to read. I remember I had each member of the family read a section of the Scripture that applied to our discussion.

From the Grand Canyon our next highlight was a tour of the inside of Hoover Dam. We visited Sequoia National Park and the giant red woods and then Yosemite.  From there we moved on to Lake Shasta where Charlotte came down with a bad bladder infection.  Some really nice folks next door, who had come to Shasta every summer from L A for twenty years, took us under their wing. The Riley’s had a nice boat with them and took the kids boating several times. They also had a beautiful original 1939 Packard that was really cool. The Rileys’ son and I drove the Packard into town and got medicine for Charlotte. There was a Doctor camped near us who gave us a prescription.  It was quite a little community.

After a day of rest and medication she was well enough to travel-next stop Portland. The Convention lasted four days and the family did a lot of sightseeing while I was at the convention. We returned along the south bank of the Colombia River. We went across a bridge one time so we could say we had also been in Washington State. Two days later we arrived at Jackson Hole at Yellowstone National Park. We stayed several days at that magnificent landmark. In Denver, we stopped for a visit with Dan and Polly (Charlotte's brother and sister in law). We tried to make it to a  KOA in Amarillo but after over 400 miles pulling that trailer I gave out somewhere around Dumas, Texas. We pulled into a roadside park about ten PM and called it a day. We sat out in the folding chairs and enjoyed the cool breeze for a little while and then went to bed. 
About two o'clock in the morning the roar of a bunch of Harley Davidson motorcycles awakened us. They were all around the trailer. I got my 45 out and spent the rest of the night on the gaucho at the front of the trailer with my gun pointed at the trailer door. They did leave about sunup but the rest of the family was stirring by then so we had breakfast and got back on the road. Then we made the run back to Dallas to complete another great trip. 

Photo of Blue Water Lake found here.

Photo of Lake Shasta found here

Photo of Jackson Hole found here

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Chapter 84 Family Business

We bought another rent house in 1965. It was located north of us on High Vista Lane. It was a nice three-year-old 3 bedroom, 2 bath home. I paid $13,000 for it and rented it right away to a nice couple. We then bought another at 3420 Timberview-about a block away from the High Vista house. It also rented right away but it cost us $14,875.

I had a certain geographic area that I stayed within. It was bordered by Walnut Hill on the south, Marsh Lane on the East, Webb’s Chapel on the West and LBJ freeway on the north. Twice a week I would drive up and down each street looking for For Sale by Owner signs. I would stop and knock on the door and offer to buy their house if it met my criteria. The mortgage had to be assumable, the equity less than $3,000. and the payment low enough to give me a fifty dollar a month spread. The houses were all three bedroom, two bath houses and most all were built by Fox and Jacobs within the last five years. 

I bought about ten of these over the years with an average price of $18,000 giving us a cash flow of about $700 a month.  This was pretty good considering that it equaled my monthly salary from the telephone company at that time. Charlotte and all three kids would clean them up and get them ready to rent. Charlotte and Susie would clean the kitchen and the windows. Tom ran the rug shampoo machine and Chip was in charge of getting the yard in shape. Chip and Tom painted the walls and I did the ceilings

We still had our cows at the farm and I would go out several times during the week in the evening to check on them. I also bought a new Ford Pickup and a few more cows and a new bull. That gave us about 25 head then and they were all doing well. I was looking at my capitol expenditures for 1966 and they were as follows:

High Valley rent house 
High Lark Rent house    
Massey Tractor
Disc Harrow       
10 Cows(Commercial)   
1 Bull    
This really shows the affect of the inflation we have gone through since 1966 just 34 years. 

Photo of Massey Ferguson tractor found here.

Photo of Disc harrow found here

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Chapter 83 Water World

In 1965 I bought a Lone Star fishing boat with a 7.5 hp outboard motor from our friend Dave Murphy so the boys and I could go fishing. We would leave before dawn and get up to Lake Lewisville about sunup. We had about five “honey holes” where we could catch a bass every time we threw a lure in. The boys handled the boat and I would pull the car and trailer out of the boat ramp and on to the parking area. With that team work we would be on the water and on our way in no time. Only one fish per hole however; we would make our rounds and I would get the boys back home in time to eat and get off to school. Charlotte would clean the fish and I would shower and get to work at Bell Telephone.

This was the year that Chip and I had a great escape. We spent two days canoeing down the Brazos River with his best friend Dale and his dad, Wayne. We headed to Glen Rose and spent the first night on the bank of the river. We entered the north end of Lake Whitney late in the afternoon of the second day. It was August and really hot down at the river level. We stopped frequently to take a swim and cool off.  At every stop I told the boys to wear their tennis shoes. Well, at one of those stops, I looked over at Chip and he was sitting on a big rock on a sand bar in the middle of the river, looking at the bottom of his bare foot. Of course, he had not put on his tennis shoes. The blood was gushing out because he had stepped on a broken bottle. Of course, we were far from any help or medical attention being one day down the river from civilization. 

Wayne and I applied pressure and wrapped a skivvy shirt tightly around his foot and the bleeding stopped. No more swimming for Chip. The next day when we entered the north side of the lake, the wind was blowing from the South and we had to cross the lake from East to West to meet Charlotte who was waiting for us at Morgan Point on the West side. We had to paddle like the dickens. If I stopped paddling-even one stroke-the bow of the canoe would swing to the north. Chip and I kept at it for about an hour and finally reached the dock at Morgan Point. We were both exhausted.

We all had an itch to have a place on a lake and frequently took our travel trailer to first one lake and then another for weekend family camp-outs  I had gotten an offer from Micky Mantle for lots he was developing on Cedar Creek Lake. I bought one and the next weekend we decided to go to Cedar Creek for a camp-out. I parked on the lot I had bought but it was Charlotte’s birthday and I thought it would be a nice surprise. Charlotte did not know I had purchased the lot. I had let the kids in on the surprise, and they were enjoying being in on the secret. I suggested we spend the night on the lot rather than going to a public campsite. 
Charlotte said it was a beautiful site but we must not camp on someone else’s lot. We built a campfire anyway and as we all gathered around it I asked Charlotte what she thought of the lot. She loved it and that was when the kids sprang it on her, "I"ts yours!” “Happy Birthday!” We all enjoyed the rest of the evening around the campfire on our lot. We later bought several other lots at Cedar Creek and also at Lake Cyprus Springs in East Texas but never did build on any of them. We did ultimately buy a home on Texoma that we enjoyed very much.

Photo of Lake Lewisville found here
Photo of Brazos River found here.  

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Chapter 82 All's Fair

In March of 1965 the company asked me to take charge of the Telephone Exhibit for the State Fair of Texas that would open in October. I had to start in April to have all the exhibits built, and the people trained for the show in the fall. We had to decide what would be in the exhibit and then develop the scripts for all of the people. We had to select two changes of uniforms and then-the hardest of all-select the people to serve.  Each person trying out would memorize a short script. They would then try out in front of us and we had to select 40 out of over a hundred that tried out. 

I was the State Fair Director; I had an assistant director, two other men, and one chief operator. The rest, about 40 people, we selected to be the “presenters”. We just barely made the deadline to be ready when it started. We worked all day every day from May 1 until the fair on October 1. The last week before the fair opened we were working nights, too.We located a vacant floor of the building where we could select the people, rehearse the scripts and build the exhibits.“Jinx” Weekly, the marketing department head, said it was the best State Fair program we had ever had. He sent me a very complementary letter with a copy to my boss.

Shortly after this assignment, I was asked to temporarily return to Engineering because they were desperate to complete some of the dial offices and St Louis had given them a deadline. The head traffic Engineer was a good friend of mine, Rusty Dunlap, and of course I told him that I did not mind helping out, but I was not going to stay in engineering. He said it would only be for about a year. I agreed and I told him I would do the best job I could and not complain for 12 months but if I were still in engineering in one year he would have my resignation letter. He said, "well enough."

I was a member of the management group at SW Bell and every once in while there would be a strike by the CWA Union against the company. Whenever this happened Management would have to man the switchboards so the customers would have emergency service. One year my assignment was to the old board at Cleburne, Texas. I had experience on the switchboard so they assigned me to the night tour. I had the Cleburne switchboard all by myself from 11 PM until 7 AM. It was kind of surreal being the only living being between all the customers and the world outside their homes. I had several emergencies during the two weeks I manned that board alone all night and what I remember the best was a little old lady who lived by herself out from Rio Vista, Texas. Rio Vista was a satellite of Cleburne. Every single night about three A M her signal would light up and I would answer, "Operator”. She would then ask me the same question every night, "Operator, are you still there?” I would reassure her and she would thank me and return to her bed. I have often wondered what happened to her when later they cut that office to dial and served it out of Ft. Worth.

The manual operators in all of the small towns of America performed a great service for many years. They not only connected phone calls but sometimes kept tabs on all the townfolk. I remember one time when I called my Uncle Jimmy in Calvert and had a unique experience. The switchboard was a single position in the front room of an old Victorian house just north of the RR tracks. When the Calvert operator answered I gave her Jimmy’s home number. It was 21J as I remember. The operator asked me whom I was calling. I told her Mr. Hucks. She said Jimmy is not there. I said well ring it any way someone may answer. She said "There is no one there it won't do any good. Bernadine (Jimmy’s wife) is in Houston shopping and Jimmy just crossed the track here by the office." I then said, "Well, just ring his office." Jimmy was the Gulf Oil bulk plant distributor for Robertson County. She responded he’s not there either. I said in some frustration, "Well where is he?" She said he always stops at the Bank for coffee first and he is there. She then rang the bank and I finally talked to Jimmy.

Photo of solo switchboard operator found here.