An Ordinary Man: The Autobiography of Harold Cunningham by Harold Cunningham - HTML preview
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Whenever the city needed the fire plugs or something else painted Doc would arrest Willie or Percy and fine them for drunk in public. Then he would let them work there fine out painting the fire plugs, curbs, or whatever else needed painting.
Anyway, this is not being written for laughs. What I‘m trying to get across grandson is that some guys take advantage of someone else‘s handicap to try and entertain or impress others. The only thing they are doing is making themselves out to be exactly what they are…..big bullies! They don‘t usually have guts enough to make fun of someone that is their equal. Remember; take up for the less fortunate.
• • •One morning I was walking home with my bike because I had a flat tire and my repair kit was at home. I was just walking across the railroad tracks near my home when Doc Dedeker and Quill Stagner pulled up and asked why I wasn‘t in school. I started crying and told them, ―Cause my mama‘s got T.B.!‖ then I took off running home. Doc was a real good officer and he never ever bothered me again.
There was about five of us guys that hung around with each other in Luling and like most young guys we were always looking for something to do for excitement.
Sometimes we would go over to a church I‘m not sure where, but I know it was in the rich guys‘ neighborhood. We would get in the church and ring the bell for about one minute around midnight. We knew someone would call Doc Dedeker the only officer at that time in Luling. We would hide out and go up town somewhere while Doc would be looking for whoever rang the bell. He usually knew who it was, but we would be up at the Wilson Hotel making like we wouldn‘t do anything wrong.
Then one night about two A.M. one of the guys suggested we make a Blivet and put it on this rich guy‘s porch, set it on fire, ring his doorbell, run like hell and hide out and watch him come to his door and stomp out the fire. A blivet is a paper bag filled part way up with fresh cow manure; of course Doc was called and right away started looking for us.
Fundy and me had got to the Wilson Hotel and started out the side door. There sat Doc in his car. He said, ―Cunningham, you and Bowen come over here!‖ Of course, we didn‘t disobey Doc for he was not a mean officer. He said, ―You boys been in any trouble tonight?‖ I started to say, ―No sir.‖ And he said, ―Now, you guys may as well fess up cause I already talked to Leroy.‖
Anyway, Doc got all five of us and the next day we had to report to the fire station where we had to go before a Justice of the Peace. I don‘t remember his mane, but he had a peg leg. The judge fined us ten dollars each then told Doc to collect it anyway he wanted to.
Two or three of the guys‘ folks paid there fine. Doc asked me how I wanted to pay my ten dollars. Since I was working for the Nehi Bottling Company and throwing papers, I was making six dollars a week, I asked Doc if I could pay him two dollars a week. He said, ―Yes, that would be okay.‖ Every Friday evening Doc was parked at the soda pop plant waiting for me to get paid. That‘s the only time I ever did get into anything like that again.
After that, when the guys were going to do something wrong I would drift on off by myself. I was called a lot of names like yellow dog; you got a yellow stripe down your back. But, that was alright I was able to stand out front of the fire station the next time while they had to see the judge again.
• • •The Night Hawk Café is where I met this man, Roy Jackson. He wanted to know if I would like a job as a swamper on the RC Cola, Nehi Soda Pop truck that he was driving.
I took the job quick! I now had two jobs, the paper route, which paid me fifty cents a day, and the swamper that paid me fifty cents a day plus my lunch. The pay scale being what it was during those days and times, I was making wages equivalent to a man. The going wage was one dollar a day for the W.P.A.
My first day as a swamper for Roy was on the Seguin Route. He was driving the largest truck that was in the fleet at that time. It was a 1940 Dodge that was known as ―Big Bertha.‖ There was also a 1940 Chevy, a 1939 Chevy, a 1940 small Dodge, and a 1940
Ford one ton panel truck for quick deliveries.
Big Bertha was too tall for me to get the cases of pop off the top without climbing up the sides. A case of pop weighed forty-eight pounds, so I would climb up the side of the truck bed, pull a case of pop over the side, and let it down one shelf at a time until I could reach the ground. We were in the process of making a delivery to a grocery store in Seguin and while Roy was making out the invoice I had to take the pop into the store. I was twelve years old at the time and a case of pop weighed almost as much as I did. I had a case of R.C. Cola almost down to the ground when I dropped it and broke eleven bottles. Roy came out and saw the broken bottles. He said, ―Well your first day on the job, and you owe me a nickel already.‖ Roy was joking with me, but I didn‘t think so. All those drivers gave me a tough time.
Since I was the only kid hanging around working and not going to school, those drivers would make my life miserable. They would tease me and do all kinds of things to harass me. Sometimes this one big truck driver would catch me, then; one of the other guys would pull my pants down and pour soda pop on my privates. They told me this would make them grow big. Of course, as soon as they turned me lose they knew not to hang around. They would run like hell because I started throwing bottles of soda at them.
Sometime I would hit one. All this time I was usually crying because I was mad and my feelings were hurt.
This story is not told to make anyone feel sorry for me. Those guys watched out for me.
No one else could touch me or make fun of me while they were around. I think with all the teasing and harassment, I became tough enough to make my way through life and be able to have compassion for anyone else I saw being picked on.
• • •Some of the other people who were employed at the time were Sam Zumock, Alexander, Pinky Ivey, and one other driver that I can‘t remember his name. The men who worked in the plant were Alex Schumann, Gene‘s brother who was the plant supervision Todd Ivey and Pete Mendoza.
On our next trip to Seguin, it got passed lunch time and I was getting hungry. We were headed out of town to a country store to make a delivery. On the way out we had to pass by a cotton gin and a plant where they processed cotton seed into cotton seed cake.
During the processing of the cotton seed cake they had to cook it.
Anyway, I thought it smelled like Bar-B-Q. To let Roy know I was hungry I said, ―Roy I smell Bar-B-Q.‖ He didn‘t say anything. On our way back we went by the same place again and I repeated the same phrase, ―Roy, I smell Bar-B-Q.‖ Roy sill didn‘t say anything, but when we got to the plant, he started telling all the guys how the only thing I had on my mind was Bar-B-Q as I had kept repeating to him the same phrase. From that day on, my nickname was BBQ.
At first this name caused me to get fighting mad when they teased me. After awhile I accepted it and started scratching on walls everywhere…Bar-B-Q was here.
• • •After the war started, most of the drivers and Gene‘s brother Alec moved away from Luling going to work in the defense plants or joining the service.
Gene put me to work in the plant where at fourteen years old I oversaw the production of the soda pop. Along with Pete Mendoza we were the plant crew. Pete and I kept all the pop flowing right on out the doors.
Sugar was hard to come by and it was also rationed, so Gene had to go over to Mexico where he bought raw sugar to make extra soda. Raw sugar isn‘t as sweet as granulated sugar. Sometimes, I had to deliver the soda since Gene couldn‘t find drivers. Defense jobs paid lots more and it was patriotic. The sale of the soda pop to the stores was rationed. We could only fill up what the store had in empties. One case of empty bottles equaled one case of soda. Since there wasn‘t a lot of soda to go around, the stores would try their best to get some extra. There was a lot of money in those days, but not enough raw materials. We had to save all the used soda bottle caps, then take them to San Antonio once a month where they were recycled and we would use them again.
• • •Gene Schumann was a good man. He would help anyone out. Lots of times he could have prosecuted a driver for failing to turn over the day‘s receipts. Sometimes they would drink them up or gamble them away. Anyway Gene always tried to give them a chance to redeem themselves. I remember him to be a good man.
In 1939 or 1940 when Lyndon B. Johnson was running for congress (my dates could be way off here). Gene went all out for him. I understood that he and Johnson were friends in school. Anyway, when he came to Luling for a political rally, Gene was all over the place. One of my jobs was to take a couple of soda ice boxes and a few cases of soda, set up a soda stand at all the football games that were played at home. I got to sell pop and see the games for free. Another time, I was swamping for Roy Jackson, and we were making the Gonzales run. We left Luling, went to Ottine, then to Gonzalez, and then back to Luling. Roy had been making me learn how to drive. Now remember I was about twelve or maybe thirteen at the time.
Anyway, he wanted me to learn to drive so that while he was in the store collecting the money for the delivery I was to drive up the street to the next stop and start sorting the bottles, and getting the soda off the truck and into the store. This way Roy and I working together like that made for less time for our days work. We stopped at the first store in Harwood and put off the order. I then drove up to the next store, which was Spear‘s Market. I went ahead and got the bottles and the soda loaded and unloaded while Roy walked up the street.
In Harwood at that time there was a constable there named Judge Hammon. He was known as a real tough guy on traffic offenders. Well, Judge Hammon was standing out front of the store when Roy walked up. Roy said to Judge Hammond, ―Did you see that kid driving that truck?‖ Judge Hammon says, ―I sure did.‖ Roy then told him, ―Well, he don‘t have a driver‘s License, what do you think should be done about that?‖Judge Hammon made like he was going to arrest me and take me to jail. Of course, I was scared to death about ready to start crying when they all started laughing. One of those times when you think maybe one of these days I‘ll grow up big and come back and kick the shit out of those guys!
• • •It was the first part of December when Roy had to take a truck load delivery to a store in Seguin. Roy had me as his swamper, but he needed some additional help. James Logan (A.K.A. Bo Hunk) was also a swamper for one of the other truck drivers and he had already finished for the day. So, Roy asked Bo-hunk to go with us. We delivered the soda and for some reason I don‘t remember what, Roy and Bo-hunk got into an argument. Roy told Bo-hunk he couldn‘t ride home in the cab of the truck with us. So, Bo-Hunk climbed on top of the truck and Roy said, ―O.K., but you can‘t ride with us in the cab.‖ Roy took off for Luling and it was pretty cold that day. Bo-Hunk decided to ride it out. Roy was so mad at Bo-Hunk when we got to Luling, he told Gene what had happened, but he said the thing that made him so mad was because the damn fool sat up there and sang all the way back freezing his ass off.
• • •I quit working for Roy and started working for Sam. Sam had a pretty good drinking habit. Lots of times I had to drive the truck home. One time on our way home from the Kennedy Karnes City route, Sam was pretty tipsy. We were on the North side of Nixon when a young cow came out in the road. Sam hit the cow, but not straight on. He hit it a slanting blow and the cow spun around like a top, but it didn‘t seem to hurt the cow. It didn‘t damage the truck because in those days truck fenders were really tough. So I had to drive on home because Sam decided he was not capable. The roads then were mostly all gravel.
When Sam and I worked the Kansas City route there was this beer joint out on the highway that Sam always made it the last stop. There were several girls working there as prostitutes. Sam, to have himself a bit of fun used to sic the girls onto me. I always stayed with the truck until Sam decided to leave. I would climb on top of the truck and throw soda pop bottles at them. They would harass me for awhile, but always stayed out of range. All those guys in the bar thought that was great fun. I guess it was for them, but scared the hell out of me.
• • •
After I turned fifteen years old Gene took me one day to Lockhart and got me a driver‘s license. This was a commercial operator‘s permit. This allowed me to drive trucks. Gene then made me a full time truck driver. Gene assigned me the 1940 Chevy, which I thought to be the best of all the trucks. Sam was driving the 1939 Chevy. Like I said, the 1940 Chevy was a very good truck and one day I was making the Seguin route.
I didn‘t know it, but Gene was also going to San Antonio that day. He always took his wife to San Antonio once a week for singing lessons. When I got in that evening Gene got really hostile with me and said that he had caught me that morning going seventy miles an hour with his truck, and he wasn‘t going to allow me to cowboy his trucks.
Sam came in about the same time and we were both checking in with the day‘s receipts.
Gene told Sam that from now on he was to take the forty Chevy and Bar-B-Q can take the thirty nine Chevy. The next day I had to go to Gonzalez. I didn‘t know it, but Gene followed me out of town.
That evening Sam and I were checking in about the same time again. Gene said to Sam,
―I thought you said that old thirty nine wouldn‘t go but thirty five or forty miles an hour.‖
Sam says, ―That‘s all I could get out of it.‖ Gene remarked, ―Well maybe you can get only thirty five or forty miles per hours out of it, but Bar-B-Q had it up to sixty five going out of town this morning. That‘s the last I ever heard about my driving.
Somewhere along about this time Gene took me off the truck and put me back in the plant because I knew how to make the pop run, the bottling machine, plus the inspection of the finished product. I seemed to always be in trouble of some kind with him. But Gene was having problems that I didn‘t know about.
Some days I couldn‘t do anything right. Almost every day or at least two or three times a week Gene would fire me. I would go home and it wouldn‘t be but a few minutes until Gene would show up at our house and raise all kinds of a fuss about me not being at work and for me to get back to the plant and go to work. It got to where I would walk around to the corner Texaco station and wait for him. One day he fired me four times. I know I must have caused him a lot of trouble because I was bull headed and wasn‘t going to let anyone bully me around. We remained friends even years later.
Pedro and I worked long hours together as we had to do the whole work load. Pedro would bring tamales and other Mexican food that he would share with me at lunch. We would always sit on the old elevator to eat our lunch and Pedro would try to teach me Spanish. I got to where I could speak a little bit then I forgot it all after joining the service. Pedro was a real easy going guy and a lot older than all the other men. We always had a good time. He really treated me like I was the boss, when in truth there wasn‘t really any boss. We both knew what had to be done and we did it. The last time I ever saw Pedro was in 1949.
I was in Luling to see my mom while I was on furlough. I took off to find the soda pop plant closed. I remembered Pedro and his wife ran a little café down on the old Lockhart highway, better known as the bottoms. I went down there, and his wife told me Pedro was working at the graveyard. I drove up there and sure enough Pedro was working. We had a little reunion and I never got to see him again. – Pedro was a friend of mine.
• • •
I‘m going to write a little story about where we lived and some of my friends that was raised in the same neighborhood. All of us was raised in what today‘s standards would be considered abject. Let‘s take in a few blocks around the lower east part of Fannin Street.
There was my mother with three kids. Our dad had died when I was six and my oldest sister was ten. My brother Olan had left home at sixteen and joined the CCC and after that he joined the regular army at eighteen.
There was Jack Graham, his mom and dad both died. His sister Alice and her husband Luther was raising Jack. They had a cow they kept behind the house, so Jack‘s job was to take the old cow down by the railroad tracks where she could graze. Most of the guys would hang around down there with Jack when we could. Then there was Willie and Oscar Benner along with I think another brother and sister. Their dad was gone dead I think. Anyway, their mother was single and trying to raise this family. There was also Brandy Ferguson, his dad and mom both died. My uncle William Blundell helped Brandy as much as he could. Brandy just moved around a lot. Brandy was very successful from all that I ever heard about him. Now we have Pinkey and Todd Ivey along with their sister. There dad had also gone on. So, Mrs. Ivey had to raise these kids. Then how about Mr. McGlothin? He was a dad trying to raise several boys and girls. I think about six in all. Then there was Billy Roamell a very good friend of mine and his family. His dad was dead so his mother had to raise several kids.
There was many more that I can‘t remember too much about. I‘m just trying to give you a glimpse of the many families living on faith and the best they could! I never ever heard anyone complain about their circumstances.
We didn‘t have bathrooms. When we wanted a bath we heated a pot of water on the stove and took a number ten wash tub and filled it up about half full and then poured the boiling hot water in. Most houses had an icebox.
The ice man came around once or twice a week. Mom would get a twenty- five pound block of ice when he came. I don‘t remember how much it was, but I think fifteen cents.
There was a pan under the ice box called a drip pan where the ice melt would run into it.
It was necessary to empty it every day.
If you could see a picture of old Fanning Street as it was then, you would see an alley that ran the full length of the block with outhouses for each house. Some one holers and some two holers (I guess in case you wanted company). I know that all of us did not understand how poor we were. We had lots of fun and made up our own games. We had to entertain ourselves.
• • •I never was poor because never had anything to be poor about.-Old Harold 2010
• • •Anyway, the gist of this story I suppose that I want to convey to someone else is that I‘ve never read or seen anything that has been written about these women and men who were single parents for the most part raising a bunch of kids in one of the worst periods of our nation‘s history. These were the kids who became known as the greatest generation. Most of those kids went on to become great success stories in their own right. I‘ll take that back, not most, but all of those kids became a great success in their own right. Some died in the war. Most of the boys served and survived. At best they were the most patriotic of our citizens we have ever produced in this country. But the main thing is their moms and dads raised a bunch of kids that never got into serious trouble. Not any of them that I know of. They were tough kids, but fair as fair could be. Also honest in a way you could hardly understand. We used to have fights among ourselves, but we didn‘t‘ try to maim each other. No one even allowed more than one guy to jump on another guy. Fair was fair, no cheating. Maybe that‘s why they were called the greatest generation. But they left out one of the most important things; the greatest of moms and pops that raised them.
My thinking is that the members who are still with us from the ―greatest generation‖ are still right to this day trying to lead our new generation back to the freedoms to proceed with your life as they see fit. This is our last battle, after this someone had better raise another greatest generation or we won‘t ever have another country like we once had. –
Freedom, liberty, honesty, courage, and love of our country. All it takes is good old common horse sense. This country up until now has never been run by a bunch of intellects. I sometimes wonder how much smarts does it take to become totally dumb.
Anyway, with just a small amount of education one can see we have had the best or have created the greatest place to live in all of history. It‘s as close to utopia as anyone has ever gotten to yet. Why do people that claim to be Christian, are supposed to be smart, want to change a winning hand?
• • •Anti protesters are like a wrecking ball, they only swing in the direction the operator directs it to go.
Old Harold 2011
• • •I never will forget the day of December 2, 1941. I was walking back from my friend‘s house about two blocks distance from mine. All the houses on the street that had a radio turned them up as loud as they could. The thing I remember most was that we were at war and Kate Smith singing God Bless America.
Soon after August 1943, one of the guys I ran with heard about a welding school in San Marcos. We checked it out and about six of us decided to go. All of the guys quit but me.
I went ahead and graduated from six weeks training and got transferred to South Houston for an advanced welding class. After six weeks in this school I graduated and was immediately given a job at the Houston Galveston Shipyard in Pasadena, Texas. We were started out at two dollars and ten cents an hour. I thought I was rich.
There was this lady in South Houston that owned this real large house. She rented out the rooms for twelve dollars a week for each person. Some rooms had two people, some only one. For this twelve dollars we got room and board. She even packed a lunch for us.
There were twenty eight guys and gals who was renting space from her. We worked ten hour shifts. We would catch a trailer truck the shipyard provided every morning to work and in the evening when the shift was completed. The trailer was a van type trailer with benches down each side and down the middle. The driver had to make several stops to pick up people who gathered at certain locations and then go to or from the shipyard.
I had been working about seven months when one day I got up late and missed the bus. It was about fifteen miles to the shipyard, so I remained at my apartment. The next day when I reported to work the superintendent, a man named Smitty, with one leg shorter than the other came by and saw me working on one of the after deck houses. He was one of the union bosses. There were several unions at that time that you could join. I would not join a union since they were always going on strike or threatening to and were delaying work. I told them that my brother was fighting in the South Pacific and I would not support them. Anyway, he didn‘t like me for this reason. Smitty told me he was going to lay me off for two weeks.
I didn‘t mind because it was about one week until Christmas and I had not been home for the seven or eight months while going to school and working. I wanted very much to see my mother and sisters. I had saved some of my money so I went down to Sears and some of the other stores and bought a lot of things I thought would make my mom and sisters happy. I was happy also because my mom and sisters had not enjoyed a decent Christmas in a long time. When the two weeks were up, I caught the old Greyhound back to Houston. I went back to work and then I came down sick with the flu. I remained at home for one day because I was so sick. The next day (still sick) I went to work. I was welding on one of the after deck houses along with a girl that was going with my friend that lived at the same boarding house as I did. We both lifted our hoods up about the same time and lit up a cigarette and she was telling me about a date she had with my friend the night before.
That‘s when Smitty came by. He called both of us down from where we were working.
He then told us he was going to lay us off for two weeks. The girl was also non-union.
Anyway, I told Smitty that I was not going to accept any more layoffs. He got real mad and started cussing me out for being a smart son-of-a-bitch.
Like I said before, he was a short guy and one leg was shorter than the other. When he called me an S.O.B. (which back in those days was a real no-no), I hit him with my welding lead and knocked him down between the rails we were using as a platform. I then hit him two or three more times. One of the guards ran over and pulled me away.
Smitty got up and told me I was fired. I told him he couldn‘t fire me because I had quit the minute he called me an S.O.B. I cleared out, left the shipyard, and went back home.
• • •The only thing the welder could not repair was the crack of dawn.
Old Harold 2010
• • •I was hanging around the Night Hawk Café, and one night about two o clock in the morning when Boone Johnson (I knew him when I went to school in Harwood), drove up and came in the café, saw me and asked me if I wanted a job driving for Air Line Freight Lines. I said, ―Yeah!‖
He gave me all his shipping invoices and told me his truck was outside and that he wasn‘t going to drive it any further. I took the truck and trailer on to San Antonio. When the dock foreman arrived about six o‘clock I told him what had happened and asked for Boone‘s job.
I was about sixteen and a half years old, but was licensed to drive a tractor trailer. Clark, the dock foreman, said he would talk to the owner of the fright line. He came out in a few minutes and told me I had the job. I worked for Airline Freight lines for about six months.
• • •There was this little lady about fifteen years old named Betty Davis that worked as a waitress at the Night Hawk. I was totally in love with her. We ran off together to Houston, had another truck driver named Bob to go get us a marriage license. We then found a Justice of the Peace and got married.
I got a job driving a truck for Brown Pipeline Contractors out of Oklahoma. They were installing the entire pipe for a new Navy Ordnance Depot sight near Camden Arkansas.
The job was completed at Camden. The company then sent me back to Houston where I picked up a new Chevy with five welding machines mounted on the flat bed. I had to proceed to Rankin, Texas where the company was repairing and rewrapping a pipeline for Conoco Oil Company from Pampa, Texas to San Angelo. My job was to keep the welders serviced and drive along the pipeline where they were needed. Keep the welders supplied with tools, welding rods, and any other equipment they needed.
We were working out of Rankin, Texas when I got my notice from the draft board notifying me to report to Houston for my physical and my entry into the service. My boss wanted to get me a deferment, but I said, ―No.‖ By this time my little Betty had ran off back to Luling. We got a divorce.
• • •Welders are good fire detectors.
• • •January 23, 1946 I reported to Houston where I got my physical with a lot of other guys.
We were put on a train and shipped to Fort Sam, Houston. I remember going through my home town Luling about two or three in the morning and thinking my mom and sisters were only two blocks from me as I passed by. I remember thinking two blocks was just the same as one hundred miles. After about ten days, they assigned us to groups to take basic training. Since I had re-enlisted into the regular Army I could choose regular Army or Army Air Force. I chose the Air Force.
From Fort Sam, Houston we were loaded onto a troop train and sent to Wichita Falls, Sheppard Air Force Base for basic training. After we arrived there, the base was going to close down as a basic tracing facility so we were loaded back on another train and sent back to San Antonio, Lackland Air Base for our basic training.
We got six weeks of basic training then we had to apply for some type of tech school. I chose the military police school. One of the guys that had been inducted into the service with me at Houston named Edward Klimpel from Sugarland, Texas was still with me through basic training and the military police school.
Edward couldn‘t read or write so in the evening we set on my bed on the lower bunk and I would read to him the text book. He could remember nearly everything I read to him.
When it came time to take the test for passing this course, instead of a written test they
gave him a verbal test. He passed with a hundred percent! We got our orders for our next assignment and Eddy and I got the same assignment again. We were transferred first to Kerns Air Base, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Harold and Edward Klimpel, Austin, TX 2010
All of the troops were going overseas so we were given a ten day leave before leaving for Kerns Air Base. All the air bases were listed as Army air fields. Kerns was a staging base to go overseas. After about ten days we embarked on a train and were sent to Camp Stoneman located at Pittsburg, California.
After about three days at Camp Stoneman we were marched down to the water front and loaded onto ferries that took us down to San Francisco. We got right off the ferry and marched over to the docks where a large troop transport was tied up. We were loaded aboard this large ship the USAT General Mann. There were approximately three thousand troops loaded onto this ship. It was a very large troop transport I remember seeing the Golden Gate Bridge disappear behind us.
It took this ship eighteen days before we were unloaded at the docks on Guam. We were there to replace the men who had been in the war. They were so glad to see us they met us at the dock with boxes of oranges and apples. I don‘t have any idea where they got them.
We got off the USAT General Mann the ship that had transported us to Guam in June or July of 1946. We were taken to some old deserted barracks at North Field. At this time there were three air fields on Guam; North Field, Northwest Field, and Harmon Field.
The first night or evening they served us chow at a make shift mess hall. About eleven or twelve that evening everyone come down with diarrhea. There were only two outhouses with three holes in each one. It was raining like always on Guam.
There was this small clay slope going down to the outhouses. My buddy Eddy Klimpel had a pain that hit him about the same time it hit me. Eddy stopped long enough to put on his house shoes. Seems like they were something like flip flops, but I know they weren‘t because flip flops had not been integrated into the American Society at this time.
Eddy beat me out the door and he started down that little clay slope or mound when all of a sudden his feet went out from under him and he turned a somersault. His shoes went one way and his body another, right beside me and Mother Nature called on him right then. Anyway, he was way too late to make it to an outhouse and besides, there was a long line waiting. I made it out to the side of a coconut tree. There was not a bush or tree or anything else that didn‘t have someone squatting by it.
The bad part of it was Eddy couldn‘t take a bath until the next day at two P.M. We had a big water truck pull up to a make shift shower everyday at two P.M. and the driver would pump cold water for about two hours if you didn‘t get a bath then you were out of luck until the next day. There was also a leister bag hanging out in the middle of the yard in front of the barracks. This is where we got our drinking water. We would fill our canteens which held about a quart of water. Clean water was hard to get.
• • •This wasn‘t the end of our trouble. There was someone that got on board that ship with the crabs. I got them and was afraid to report to sick call because I thought I had some kind of bad venereal disease. Them weasels would jump on motorcycles and race all around the area. Finally, an old master sergeant that was sleeping in the barracks where I was also sleeping noticed me scratching and jumping. He came over to me and says,
―Kid, you got the crabs, you go over to the supply tent and see the supply sergeant and get you a can of DDT spray.‖ ―Spray yourself all over and then be sure you take a bath when the water truck comes.‖ I did as I was instructed to do and it got rid of my problem.
It was no big deal over in the islands to get the crabs. I‘m sure I had some kind of mark or smell about me that attracted them. If I got within nineteen feet of a crab it would jump on me. Lots of DDT was used back then. I don‘t see any ill effects it had on all the G.I.s that used it.
• • •I was assigned to the military police company located at Harmon Field. This is where my career began. I got right into it and liked the job very much. There were still renegade Japanese soldiers on the island that we had to be on the lookout for. I was assigned the midnight shift and this one night I was posted on a gate to the entrance and exit of the officer‘s quarters. This was a small gate house with sand bags up about four feet all around the outside. The jungle foliage was thick and draped over the roadway making it hard to see much of the road way coming down to the gate house. This night was brightly lit by a huge moon. I could only see down the road a space about ten feet wide. I heard this rustling in the underbrush coming towards me it kept getting louder and louder. I was pretty scared as it got closer. I had a Sub Thompson with a thirty clip inserted and was about to start firing into the underbrush.
Then I thought about a history lesson in school about John Paul Jones telling his men not to fire until you can see the whites of their eyes. I thought the hell with this I‘m going to start shooting and about this time an old sow with six or more little piglets ran out onto the road where I could see them in the moonlight. I came very close to relieving myself right about then.
• • •We were on Guam about seven months then one evening we got orders to pack up our duffel bags and report to the orderly room. We were lined up and given some additional shots. About three o‘clock in the morning we were loaded onto three C-54 cargo planes and the next thing we knew we landed at Nichols Field, Manila, Luzon Island, Philippines.
I was at this location for less than a year and was then transferred to Clark Air Base, Angeles Pampanga Luzon Island, Philippines. Before I got transferred from Nichols Field there was several escapades, pranks or whatever that occurred.
There was a Japanese prison camp at Nichols Field that my unit or company was assigned to oversee and guard. They were awaiting transfer back to Japan. These prisoners of war would not even think of going outside the base as the Filipinos would do away with them immediately.
To give them something to do they were assigned to base clean-up details. I was assigned to the back gate which led to the officer‘s quarters and Fort William McKinley which was the 13th Air Force Headquarters. All gates that had an exit and entry to the outside city had to have a supply of condoms and pro kits. No one in uniform could leave the base without taking some with them.
Anyway, one of the clean-up crews came by to clean up the gate house and surrounding area. One of the prisoners saw the condoms in the big box I had in the gate house, and wanted to know what they were for. Since he couldn‘t speak English and I couldn‘t speak Japanese, I thought I would play a joke on them. There were about eight of the prisoners on the detail. So I proceeded to take one out of its wrapper and blow it up like a balloon. I then tied the end and started bouncing it around. They seemed to think this was great fun.
I gave each one a condom; they all inflated them and was running all around bouncing them.
Along about this time up drove a colonel. I suppose going to the officers club. He jumped out of his jeep and really read me off. I was so scared that he was going to do something to me I couldn‘t hardly talk. Anyway, I had to collect all the inflated condoms and destroy them. I was having one hell of a ball before that straight laced colonel showed up.
I didn‘t get into any trouble.
• • •This is a real war story……
During World War II, there was a general named Chenault that was fighting behind the lines out of China. His outfit was called the flying Tigers. He flew fighter planes against the Japanese which controlled most of China. The only way to supply the general was to fly his supplies in from India over what they called the hump. Flying C-47 cargo planes loaded as heavy as possible they would fly over his location, and drop them by parachute.
I had the privilege to fly one of these missions in 1945.
It was a hot dry time of the year and we had to fly from India over the hump, over Burma and out over the Gobi desert. While flying over the desert before we had dropped our load to the General, one of the engines started to sputter and then stopped. With only one engine left, the pilot made all of us get our parachutes on. After we had complied, the pilot ordered all personnel to bail out. It was the darkest night I had ever known so all contact or visible contact was lost.
I landed okay and took my parachute and buried it as I had been taught. Then I had to find my way out, somehow and your survival instincts kick in. The only thing for me to do was to start walking, hoping to find a road or something that would lead me out to safety. I came upon a railroad track and I figured this railroad would take me somewhere.
As I started walking down this railroad track I came upon a railroad trestle. I didn‘t know what it was crossing over, but I had to continue on across it. This trestle must have been quite long for I had been walking about five or six minutes when a train started approaching from the other side. l knew it would be a Japanese train so I decided to drop down between the railroad ties and hang on until the train passed. That was the longest train I have ever encountered. When it finally passed my arms were too weak to pull myself back up on top. I just hung there the rest of the night. When daylight finally came the desert sand was only about two feet below my boots. I got so mad that I just hung there all day. Real was the story but if you believe it Barnum and Bailey has a spot for you.
The End….Old Harold
• • •There was this guy, a friend of mine named Harold Grapes, in my outfit. We would buddy up together and go down town. We were not allowed to go by ourselves since the G.I.‘s were getting killed and robbed nearly every week. Harold and I was on one of our outings and we went down to one of the local bars and got pretty tipsy. It was time to go back to the base, as we had a curfew at eleven P.M. We decided to catch a Jitney back to the base. A jitney is (or was before it got stolen) a jeep. The body was removed and another body installed that had a top and seats on both sides. They were dressed up real pretty with fringe around the roof like one of our old buggies.
It was made into a small bus with the sides open. There was a driver and a conductor that rode in back and collected the fares. The fare out to the base was twenty-five centavos. I gave the conductor my fare, and Harold gave him a fifty centavos coin, which he was to get twenty-five centavos back. The conductor didn‘t give it to him. Harold told me that as soon as we got to the main gate he was going to drag the conductor off with him and get his change. The conductor wasn‘t too fond of Harold‘s request and a fight started. Harold hit the conductor and the conductor was whipping the shit out of Harold. I hollered at Harold, ―Turn him loose! Let me have him!‖ So I proceeded to improve the conductor‘s manners and he wound up whipping the shit out of me. Never drink too much of that Rukus Juice and think you can fight. Just because someone is smaller than you don‘t mean that he can‘t protect himself. Anyway, the conductor jumped back on the jitney and away they went with Harold‘s twenty-five centavos.
• • •There was also this little escapade that happened while I was stationed at Nichols Field.
Several of us guys decided to go over to the enlisted men‘s club and have a few beers.
One thing lead to another then someone suggested we go down to this house of ill repute where there were some joy girls. This house was located about two blocks from gate number two that fronted on Baclarin Boulevard. All the guys got themselves a girl but me. The only girl left was a girl everyone called monkey face.
Well, monkey face was well boozed up. Anyway, I took off all my clothes but my shorts and combat boots. I decided that I was going to play house with her even if she was all boozed up. She had other ideas. She ran into another room and came back with a two-by-four and started to swing it at me. I took the two-by-four away from her. She turned and ran back into the other room again. This time she came back with a bolo knife or cane knife which ever a person would call it. She came at me and I jumped out the window and she did also. Down Baclarin Boulevard we went with her right behind me swinging that bolo at me.
It was late at night and all you could hear was my combat boots hitting that pavement. I ran into the gate house where my military police buddies were on duty. They stopped her and one of the guys went back up to the house and retrieved my clothes. I guess you know who was made fun of for about a week. That was the end of my outings to the house of ill repute.
• • •After Japan had surrendered and our military took over the Philippines there was a really big problem with the black market. The natives were stealing anything they could, and reselling it on the black market.
There was this Filipino that worked for the Provost Marshal at Nichols Field. And he had informed on some other Filipinos he knew. In retaliation they were going to kill him.
The Provost Marshal put him under house arrest so that we could protect him. He moved into one of our barracks, but needed his clothes and other items to keep himself clean. He needed to go to his home to pick up these items.
The Provost Marshal assigned me and another man that was about five years older than me to escort him to his home and bring him back. The trip had to be made after dark.
This military policeman‘s name was Klem. He had been a bodyguard for Al Capone.
He was given a choice to join the service for three years or go to jail. After three years in the service if he made it through, he would be given an honorable discharge and his record outside would be forgiven. Klem was the driver and I sat in the rear with a Sub Thompson and a 30 caliber machine gun on a mount.
After we delivered this man to his house he was so thankful for our protecting him that he insisted his wife fix us some fried chicken. It was dark and the man was out in his front yard trying to catch a couple of chickens with a wire chicken hook out of a large cedar tree. He wasn‘t having any luck so I told him to just hold the light on the chickens and I would get him some. He did and I let loose with the Sub Thompson and killed four chickens real quick. The man didn‘t say anything and picked up the chickens, cleaned them, and we ate fried chicken for the first time since I had been overseas. We got the man delivered back to the base where he had been assigned a place to live until other arraignments could be made.
The next day Klem caught up to me and said, ―You crazy bastard! You know what you did last night?‖ I said, ―Yeah, I helped guard a man and ate chicken.‖ Klem said, ―You shot that man‘s fighting chickens.‖—Cock fighting in the Philippines is one of their main sports. I spent the rest of my tour at Clark Air Base and came home in June 1948. We had another fourteen day trip on a troop transport, but wasn‘t as crowded this time.
• • •I should tell you about my girl friend while I was stationed at Clark Air Base. I was assigned to town patrol as the desk sergeant. There were approximately thirty men on duty in downtown Angeles during the hours from five P.M. to about two A.M. we had a curfew for all personal at eleven P.M. There was this bar called the Moonlight Bar. I was going into this bar quite often and met this girl that was a little larger than the normal Filipino girl. I don‘t remember her real name, but everyone called her Tarzan. She had hair all the way from her ankles to her armpits. She was always protecting me when I got too much Rukus Juice. I don‘t know what ever happened I guess she found someone else since I was being shipped back home.
• • •As the desk sergeant in downtown Angeles I had to book personnel that were arrested and lock them up. We had one cell block made out of steel bars that would hold someone in if they were arrested. We usually had someone in the cell block all the time.
One evening one of the patrols picked up a small sailor. I‘m not sure how he had got all the way up to Angeles as the Navy base was at Subic Bay and it was about sixty miles away over the same road that the Bataan Death March took place. This little guy was pretty drunk and the patrol sergeant was going to lock him up and that‘s when all hell broke loose. It took five good sized military policemen to put him in that cage. He was grabbing the bars then we had to pry his hands and feet off. It was like trying to lock up an octopus. After he was finally locked up, he was yelling and climbing up hanging from the top of the cell block. We called the Navy guys to come get him.
Then there was the night I was working the desk and some Filipinos came in with one of my very good friends and laid him down by my desk. He had been beat to death with some kind of blunt instrument. Most probably beat to death for fifty cents or a dollar. We only made fifty dollars a month and by the time the service made their deductions for insurance, old soldiers home, and laundry we would get about thirty eight dollars. That‘s why he could not have been carrying hardly any money. After that I disliked Filipinos with a passion.
• • •When we got back to Camp Stoneman we got a sixty day furlough. I headed home on a Greyhound bus. I‘m not sure how long it took for me to finally get off that bus at the Old Wilson Hotel. I was short of being 21 years old by about six or seven days. Anyway, it sure did feel good to be home.
I stopped in a beer joint about three or four doors down from the hotel. I had come home with a chip on my shoulder and really didn‘t like anyone. I ordered a Lone Star beer and the waitress gave it to me with no questions.
I met this couple in this bar and they invited me to go along with them the next evening to a dance hall and bar out on the old Lockhart Highway. It hadn‘t been there when I had left Luling. I met this couple the next evening at this same bar. We had a beer and went out to this dancing place. We sat down in a booth and was drinking beer talking a little about getting me a date with one of the girls this man‘s wife knew.
I had to go to the outhouse (yes, the bars still had outhouses). After I went to the outhouse and started back into the bar, a guy I knew quite well by the name of Vernon Bowen (AKA Fundy) approached me and told me they (meaning his little gang) was going to whip the hell out of this guy I was with so I had better leave. I knew Fundy when we were kids throwing papers. He and I had a fight one night and I got the best of him.
He was only in the service a short time. Maybe three months and his folks got him out for some reason. He was drawing what they called 20/20 (twenty dollars for twenty weeks).
Fundy had always been a bully and liked to have another bully around to help him. I told him I wasn‘t going to leave the guy and he would have to whip my ass also.
Fundy said, ―Well, tell you what, let‘s me and you walk up that road over there and we will have us a fight, and if you win we won‘t bother that guy inside.‖ Like I said before, I came home with a chip on my shoulder so I said, ―Okay with me!‖
There were a couple of boys that I was acquainted with that walked up road with me.
They had been somewhat friends before I went into the service and they also knew what Fundy was, so I found out later they had walked up the road with me to make sure the other bully with Fundy didn‘t jump in. Fundy, his bully friend, and I walked up this road.
It was a nice bright moonlit night and as we were walking up the road Fundy kept saying,
―You don‘t want to fight me do you?‖ I had a coin in my right hand and about that time I thumped the coin in the air and hit Fundy at the same time. I knocked Fundy into the barbed wire fence and kicked his ass. I never had any more trouble while I was home.
• • •While I had saved a little money to come home for my vacation, it wasn‘t going to be anywhere near enough if I wanted to go out with the other guys around town. That‘s when I had to get a job. I went over to the old Nehi plant and asked Gene if he had something for me to do. He told me he needed a driver and since I already knew the routes I could start driving. I did drive for about forty days then headed back to my assignment at Carswell Air Force Base, Fort Worth, Texas. I was there for about one week in what they called the pipeline.
My orders came down for me to be assigned to the military police squadron at Topeka Air Force Base, Topeka Kansas. After arriving at Topeka Air Force Base and getting cleared into the military police squadron our barracks were right across the sidewalk form the base recreation building. Every Saturday night the USO would have a dance there.
The USO would send a bus into Topeka and pick up several ladies that belonged to some organization. He‘d bring them out and we would have a dance until about midnight.
I went to my first dance on August 13, 1948 and met this lady by the name of Dorothy E.
Kramer. We hit it off right then and I told her I would sure like to see her some more. So we started dating and I was down to Topeka to see her every night that I was off duty.
She worked for the state of Kansas, I think in the state capitol.
We dated for about five months and word came down that the air base was going to be closed and that I would be receiving orders to transfer to another location. My orders came through, transferring me to Barksdale Air Force Base, Bossier City, Louisiana.
I asked her to marry me, and she said yes, but she wanted her mother to come up from Ozawkie, Kansas and have lunch with us and for her to approve of me. Her mom came up and we all met down town. We visited all afternoon and Dorothy‘s mom was a little woman and we really liked each other so I guess she put her stamp of approval on me because Dorothy and I got married on the 31st of December in the base chapel Topeka Air Force Base.
In 1948 just before Christmas and before Dorothy and I got married, my brother who was stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma called me and asked me to come down to Fort Sill for Christmas, so that the whole family could get together for Christmas.
He said he was going to drive down to Luling and pick our mother and sisters Ruth and Mildred up and bring them back to Fort Sill. Then he wanted me to meet him at his house on base.
Since I didn‘t have a car I got a week‘s pass from my commanding officer then started hitch hiking to Fort Sill. It was around three hundred fifty miles. I didn‘t have any problems catching a ride as I was in uniform and in those days people were not afraid to pickup service personnel in uniform.
Dorothy and Harold, wedding day, December 31, 1948
My bother got back from Luling the next day after I had arrived at his house on Fort Sill.
We had a very good Christmas as Olan‘s wife Mildred was an excellent cook. Olan‘s wife was also named Mildred so I don‘t want to get this mixed up.
My brother Olan and me, San Jose, Ca 1978
The next day after Christmas, I left to hitchhike back to Topeka. When I left my brother‘s house I had the total sum of fifty cents in my pocket. I was going to save it for coffee along the way. I didn‘t want to ask my brother for any money. Times were hard about then. There was this man who picked me up on Highway 75, which would take me right into Topeka. He had a brand new 1948 Chevy Coupe. This was of course in December, and the roads were covered with ice and snow along the shoulder and a few places on the road itself. The highway was crooked and he drove like crazy. We finally got to Tulsa and he said he had to stop just a minute to pick up some bread to take home.
He got out of the car and lying in the front seat was a billfold stuffed full of big bills. I moved away from it as far as I could and when he came back I told him that there was a billfold lying there with a lot of money in it. He says, ―Oh, I wonder where that came from?‖ He picked it up and looked for some I.D. and said, ―Oh, this belongs to my lady friend, I just left down at McAlister.‖ He put it in his brief case and told me he was going to take me down where I could catch a ride.
He took me right to downtown Tulsa and put me out on a street corner. I thought, I‘ll never get a ride here, and about that time I guess about eight P.M. an old 1935 Chevy pulled up and the driver says, ―Where are you going?‖ I says, ―Topeka, Kansas.‖ He said,
―Get in; I‘ll take you out where you can get a ride.‖ I did and he started driving out highway 75 as we got to the outskirts of Tulsa there was several small cafes and he said,
―Let‘s stop and get something to eat.‖ Since I only had fifty cents I sure couldn‘t eat, but I thought, I can have some coffee.
When we got to this little drive Inn Café, we sat at the counter, the guy ordered hamburgers and drinks for both of us. I thought, how am I going to get out of this mess?
Anyway, he insisted that we eat. We finished eating and the guy paid for it and says,
―Let‘s get out of here so I can take you out here where you can get a ride real easy.‖ He drove on out highway 75 for about three miles and came to a fork in the road. There was a street light right in the middle of the fork. He says, ―The road to your left is highway 75, and goes all the way to Topeka.‖ Then he says, ―You‘re broke aren‘t you?‖ I says,
―No, I‘m okay.‖ He said, ―No, you‘re broke, here‘s a dollar so you can get something to eat if you need to.‖ I told him the only way that I would take the money is if he gave me his name and address so that I could send it back to him.
The man said, ―No, I‘ll tell you what, you‘re a young man, someday you will meet up with someone who needs a hand up.‖ ―You give him that dollar and pass it on.‖ I never forgot that man, and what a good lesson he taught me about helping or giving aid to another person. I‘m sure that I have given away several hundreds of dollars along the way, for I will not ever turn away man or beast that is hungry.
Anyway, it wasn‘t but a few minutes until a car came down the highway and stopped.
This man also asked me where I was going. I told him, ―Topeka, Kansas.‖ He says, ―Get in, that‘s where I‘m going.‖ I got in and we talked a little, he said‘ ―Where are you stationed?‖ I told him, ―Topeka Air Force Base.‖ He told me he was also stationed there, told me what squadron he was in, and it was next door to mine. So I wonder was this the
―big guy‖ guiding things along? In the military police squadron at Topeka Air Force Base, there was a man named Thaxton. Thaxton was just about 60 inches tall. I don‘t even know how he could ever have been selected to be a military policeman. But, even though he was short he could make a lot of racket.
There was a bar on Kansas Avenue close to an area of Topeka called The Bottoms. The name of this bar was Ed‘s Tavern. The Bottoms was off limits to military personnel.
Most of the military police usually frequented this bar when they were off duty. It wasn‘t a large place maybe ten stools at the bar and three or four tables.
Thaxton would go in this bar, get a little ruckus juice in him and always pick a fight with some guy that was usually the largest person in the bar. Some of his buddies form the military police squadron would have to get him out of trouble.
One time he and two or three of the other guys went down into the Bottoms where there was a bar with a juke box set up in this house that had been sort of converted into a tavern. It was kind of loose, and there were prostitutes that hung around this place a real good place for these guys to get into some real bad company. That‘s the reason for the Bottoms being put off limits for military personnel.
Captain Purvis decided to make a trip down to the police station where all of the men who were assigned to town patrol worked out of. I was assigned to the town patrol because you had to be above average in dress and behaviors. Anyway, Captain Purvis wanted to check out some of these places down in the Bottoms to see if there were any military personnel that were in these off limit joints. Captain Purvis had brought a 6 X 6
truck down to transport any offenders back to the base.
Captain Purvis, myself and Sergeant Hulett walked into the front room of this one bar.
There were no restrictions since this was an illegal bar operated out in the open. The police didn‘t try to shut them down. Anyway, Thaxton was in the next room drinking beer and when he heard someone come in he made the remark to his buddies, ―Well, I guess that‘s Captain Purvis, Sergeant Cunningham, and Sergeant Hulett come to take us to the hoosegow.‖ Captain Purvis stuck his head around the corner and said, ―That‘s right Corporal Thaxton.‖
We took all the GI‘s about seven altogether, had them transported back to the base where they were turned over to their First Sergeant. All Thaxton got out of it was an article 104
and restricted to the base for two weeks. Thaxton decided he needed a new pair of shoes so he went over to the supply room, told the Supply Sergeant he wanted to get a new pair of shoes. The Supply Sergeant didn‘t stock shoes small enough to fit Thaxton, so they would give him a purchase order so he could go downtown and have himself a pair of shoes made. The Supply Sergeant told Thaxton he wasn‘t going to give him a purchase order because you already have about four pair.
So the next day at guard mount, that‘s a formation that occurs each time a shift changes.
You‘re put in formation where the officer in charge or the Provost Marshal can inspect all the guards to see if they are in proper uniform. Captain Purvis was the one who was doing the inspection this time. He got down to Thaxton and there he was in his class A uniform with no shoes on just a pair of socks.
Captain Purvis asked Thaxton where his shoes were and Thaxton told him the Supply Sergeant wouldn‘t let him have any. Captain Purvis knew Thaxton had shoes so he told the Sergeant of the Guard to lock Thaxton up in solitary for the night. He didn‘t get out for two days and he was glad to get his shoes on.
The base closed down in December 1948 and Thaxton shipped out and I didn‘t see him again until 1963. I was stationed at Yokota Air Base, Japan, and I was walking down the sidewalk when I looked up and there was Thaxton coming towards me on the other side of the street. I hollered at him and we had a visit reminisced a bit and Thaxton said, ―Hey you know what Cunningham? If we would have kept a diary of all the things we have seen and did we could write a book.‖ That‘s the last time I saw Thaxton.
• • •Dorothy was a jewel of a lady. I didn‘t‘ know how good of a lady she was until later after I had lost her. Dorothy and I had bought this 1941 Ford Club Coupe and had fixed it up really nice with new paint, new upholstery, chrome dash, and a new engine. While I had orders for me to proceed to Barksdale Air Force Base, Strategic Air Command or better known as S.A.C. Headquarters sent orders down for four of the men in the military police squadron to remain at Forbes Air Base as housekeepers until further notice.
There was a jeep left for us to do the patrolling of the base and make sure all the buildings were secure. We worked a rotating shift eight hours on, twenty- four off. It was a real bang up job. Just the four of us on the whole base. No one ever came by to check on us. We had to send a weekly report to S.A.C. Headquarters.
After Dorothy and I got married we had a small apartment about two blocks from downtown Kansas Avenue, Topeka, Kansas. The lady we rented from was Mrs. Selbach, and she was a really nice lady. It was an upstairs apartment.
We didn‘t have very much money so we paid our rent, bought groceries, and allowed ourselves enough money to attend one movie a week. Most of the time we listened to the radio or read a book. We were in love and we tried to make each other comfortable.
Dorothy was quite a woman and really knew how to take care of our finances. I had always wanted a set of encyclopedias, but couldn‘t afford them. One night, the phone rang, and this guy told me that my name was picked at random from the phone book to participate in an advertisement program. He also told me that his company sold sets of encyclopedias and sets of Lands and People. He said the books went for about six hundred dollars, but that I could have them for free if they could use my name in the advertisements.
He wanted to come over and show me the books and the plan or contract for the use of my name. Me, not being to dry behind the ears said, ―Yeah, come on over!‖ This salesman laid out all these books on the floor, and they were what I had always wanted.
He told me all about how I could have all the books if I would sign a contract letting his company use my name in their advertisement campaign. I signed the contract and then he explained to me that I would have to belong to this book of the month club which was six dollars a month, but that I could quit anytime I wanted. Dorothy and I liked to read a lot so I said that sounded good. He seemed to be a really nice guy.
I gave him a check for six months for the book of the month club which was thirty-six dollars. The man then went on his way. Since I had paid for six months for the book club, I thought I would quit after the six months was up if we didn‘t like their book offerings.
Two months went by, and I got a letter from this company telling me I had missed two payments and to remit twelve dollars immediately and that my contract was for six hundred thirty six dollars and that my payment would be six dollars a month until it was paid in full. The thirty-six dollars I gave the salesman was for a down payment.
I wrote them a letter back telling them what had transpired between me and their salesman. I told them if this wasn‘t correct and the salesman had lied to me I would just send the books back because I did not like to do business with someone who lied to me.
Anyway, they started to send me a threatening letter about every week or so and I didn‘t respond. Finally, after I was in arrears twenty four dollars they sent me a letter in a red envelope telling me how they were going to inform the base commander and my commanding officer.
The next day I went to see the base legal officer, told him the story, and showed him all of the paperwork. The legal officer asked me if I still had the box the books came in. I told him that I did as it was a real nice wooden box, and I had intended to keep it whenever I had to move.
The legal officer told me to go home, pack the books up, and then mail them back to this company. He said they would refuse to accept them when they arrived at their location and the books would come back to me. When they arrived back at my address I was to refuse to accept them. The books would be returned to this company and they would have to accept them. Then I would be off the hook.
Well, I went home and was packing the books up when Dorothy came in from work. She wanted to know what I was doing. I told her what I had done and that I was going to send the books back. She then told me that she had paid the twenty-four dollars the day before because she thought I was going to get into trouble with my commanding officer. This made me really mad. Not at Dorothy, but the book company. So now we had sixty dollars paid out to this company. I thought, well, I‘ll pay for the books, but they will wish they had never heard about me.
After that, I started to pay them one dollar a month or sometimes three dollars, even ninety-five cents once. In the meantime I was getting five or six letters a month from them demanding payment. I knew at that time that as long as I paid them something there was nothing they could do. Anyway, it took me around eight years to pay for those books and I‘m sure they burned up that much postage and labor trying to make me pay up. I couldn‘t do that today as they would be able to add late charges and take me to court. – I still have the books and still use them for references all the time.
• • •Salesmen are like a self ordained Preacher – white shirt, new pants black tie –looks good, but full of bull shit!!
• • •Since Dorothy didn‘t know how to drive I decided to teach her. We went out to the base where there was no traffic. I tried and tried to teach her how to use the clutch and shift gears. I got so frustrated that while Dorothy was trying to drive forward jerking and jumping all the parts on the car and it sounding like it was going to fly apart, I said,
―There isn‘t anyone around, so you drive it cause I‘m getting out!‖ I jumped out.
Dorothy, I‘m sure was scared half to death, made it back around the block and got it stopped. She really could drive backwards number one, but she never could learn to go forward. After we got to Barksdale, we bought a 1949 Oldsmobile with an automatic shift and that‘s what Dorothy learned to drive.
• • •Our orders finally came, telling me and the other three guys to report to our new assignment ASAP! Dorothy and I loaded up the little Ford with its rack on top and headed for Barksdale.
When I reported and went to check into my new outfit which was the 91st Air Police Squadron, I walked into the orderly room where the chief clerk was at his desk. I checked with the chief clerk and man did he ever have a fit. He said, ―You stay right there until I can get the First Sergeant!‖ Well, out of the first sergeants office stepped this guy who was about six feet six inches and walked over to me.
He asked me, ―Where the hell have you been?‖ I started to tell him and he informed me that they had been carrying me on the roll call as AWOL for the last six months. Since I had orders from SAC Headquarters he stopped steaming and said, ―Well, we will have to check on that.‖ They got in touch with SAC Headquarters and confirmed my orders.
Sergeant Burrows told me they had never received any orders from headquarters about my being extended to duties at Forbes Air Base. ―High pockets‖ as the men in the squadron referred to Sergeant Burrows became a very good friend of mine.
I was a really good soldier. They held me up as an example of what a military policeman should look and dress like. My boots and Sam Browns were always polished to a point where they looked like Patton leather. I got promoted to sergeant soon and was assigned additional duties with the honor guard. The Honor Guard was called out to meet all dignitaries to welcome them to the base. We were also called on as Honor Guards for all past and present members of the military whatever branch of the service they might have served with. It was also our duty to serve as Honor Guard for funerals as requested by the family or one of the military organizations.
• • •The Korean War broke out and our squadron went from 250 men to 1250 over one weekend. They had mobilized a National Guard unit from Alabama and everything went on high alert. I got promoted quite fast at that time and was put in charge of the Security Flight ―B‖ which consisted of approximately two hundred men.
We had to guard all the aircraft, gates, motor patrols, and anything else pertaining to the aircraft security. This was all behind the fence that had been erected to separate the main base from the aircraft and flight lines. We were not involved with the base patrol which was still our squadron but different duties.
While I was stationed at Forbes Air Force Base the non-coms were assigned to separate rooms in the upstairs of the barracks. There were in most rooms, two non-coms assigned to each room. I had as a roommate a sergeant by the name of McIntyre. The room right across the hall from ours was assigned to a Sergeant Holiday. He had no roommate because no one could get along with him. He thought he was high class, the rest of us were just about three inches below his honor. The Provost Marshal was a Captain Purvis.
He was a self made officer. What I mean is, he had came up through the ranks from private to captain. Captain Purvis had assigned Holiday to be the prison sergeant.
He was in charge of all the prisoners on our base. Most of them were in prison for some minor infraction of the Military Code of Justice. There were no prisoners that had any more than six month sentences on the base. All the prisoners told Holiday as soon as they got out they were going to kick his ass.
On Halloween night 1948, all the personnel of the military police squadron were assigned duties as guards to keep the peace at a large dance and booze party the base commander gave in one of the large aircraft hangers. McIntyre and I got off duty about eleven O‘clock. We both went to the barracks and got ready for bed.
Somehow, Holiday came up in our conversation, as he had to work the party also. He wasn‘t scheduled to get off duty until about one o‘clock. McIntyre didn‘t like Holiday even a little bit. McIntyre said that since it was Halloween we should pull a trick on Holiday. He told me that he had a smoke grenade in his foot locker. He would pull the pin and slip it under Holiday‘s bed between the springs so that when he sat down on the bed it would fall out and go off. I thought that was one hell of a good trick!
Holiday came in about one or one thirty and by this time I had went to sleep and had forgotten all about the smoke grenade. The first thing Holiday did when he came in was to sit down on his bed to pull his boots off and the grenade went off. All of a sudden all hell broke loose. Holiday hit his door, knocked it off, ran down the stairs, got a fire extinguisher, and came back to try and put out the grenade.
By this time the whole upper bay of the barracks was full of smoke. Then Holiday got on a field phone that went directly to Captain Purvis‘s quarters telling him someone was trying to kill him. All of a sudden I woke up and remembered what McIntyre had done and was about to laugh myself sick.
Captain Purvis came over to the barracks within a few minutes with the great investigator whose name was Sylvester O. Beans. Beans began his investigation by picking up the burned out canister of the smoke grenade with a pencil and said he was going to get fingerprints and would know who did this trick. Anyway, McIntyre and I never ever told another soul.
The base closed down and everyone was sent to new assignments. I don‘t know where Holiday went, but in 1962 I was in the Stag Bar at the N.C.O. club at Yokota Air Base, Japan. I looked up at the bar and there was Holiday drinking a beer. I walked over and asked about his health. After we talked for a few minutes I told holiday all about the trick McIntire and I had pulled on him. He didn‘t get mad or anything. I never saw Holiday again.
While I was a member of the SAC Security Force at Barksdale Field, my unit had to deploy many times for thirty days, sixty days, ninety days, and sometimes one hundred eighty days.
We went to places like French Morocco, North Africa, the Azores, Bermuda, New Foundland, Alaska, and England. We didn‘t get to stay home much as this was during the cold war between Russia and the U.S. Barksdale Air Force Base was a very large military
Installation. I‘m not sure, but if I remember correctly it was twenty seven square miles in size. The main base was of course very small in comparison.
Harold, age 27
• • •There was this large area that was known as the reservation. No one lived on this part of the base, but it was used by the military personnel of the base for fishing and hunting.
Fishing was allowed anytime. The hunting was controlled by the game wardens who were personnel from my military police squadron.
The only thing I remember that you could hunt were hogs that had gone feral. Three lakes were located on this reservation. One was Moon Lake, Flag Lake, and the third one was Spring Lake. All those lakes were good fishing lakes since the public could not fish them.