The First 80 years- Autobiography
THE FIRST 80 YEARS I need to begin this by acknowledging the support of the man who fed, clothed, and housed us during our immature years, Eugene C. Cannon, Sr. He was always there, and although I can’t recall ever being sick, no doubt he would have seen me through that also.
It has been about 65 years since the days I write about in New Orleans so I needed memory refreshing by Yvonne and Doris to help me over some blank spots.
At the time of my birth Calvin Coolidge was president,. Herbert Hoover would be elected for a single term in November. Presidents were sworn in March 20th until Franklin Roosevelt, when the date changed to January. I was the third of 8 children of my mother. My two older sisters were both born in 1926, Yvonne in January and Doris (Dot or Doris Mae) in December. I came in 1928. Naomi (Nay or Nay Nay) was born in 1929, Esther Louise) in 1930 and Beverly in 1932. Walter (Wali Hasib) was born in 1933 and Calvin (Steve) in 1935. Our other 5 brothers and sisters, Robert (Bobby) in 1947, Edward (Edward Hasib) in 1948, Evelyn in 1950, Harold (Hali Hasib) in 1952 and Patsy (PJ) in 1955 were Theresa’s and Daddy's.
The New Orleans I was born in was mostly unpaved streets, duplex houses (one house with two separate entrances and sides) mostly rentals, few single family dwellings but most homes had gardens, Dad maintained his roses and we had many other flowers, Mother had her geraniums. There were few trucks, many horse and mule drawn wagons. Police walked their beats but I don’t recall the locals calling them by name. There were many grocery stores and bars, nearly one on each corner. Mardi Gras was the same big festival it is now.
Mother said that when I was born I had the bluest, most beautiful eyes she had ever seen. I don’t recall them being blue, but there is a blue circle around my irises.
I had an accident when I was a toddler in which I walked into a kerosene heater that was about as tall as me or taller. My recollection is of falling and I think the heater falling with me. Yvonne’s recollection is of my knocking a pot of water off the heater. The burn or scald mark is still on my left shoulder. Mother was using the heater in the kitchen.
My earliest memory is of me sitting on a wooden locomotive engine in our back yard, with me next to the back porch. I would have been about 3 years old then, in 1931. During the depression years I had lots of toys, compared with the neighborhood kids. I gave some of my toys to some of the kids, angering my father.
Among the toys I had later were Lincoln logs and an Erector set. I preferred the Erector set to the Lincoln logs because I could build many more interesting things with that while the logs were very limited. I had a Lionel train set, but did not have any of the additions that were available.
I had lots of marbles. We played for keeps, and I was fairly good, in spite of being what we called ‘funky-knuckled’. I had aggie and steely shooters, and some glass marbles which I had mostly won.
Our first dog was a white Spitz named Pal. Pal was very protective of us kids, sleeping on the foot of my bed and snarling at my Dad when he tried to shake me awake. His growling would wake me up. We kept Pal for some years, until he disappeared one night.
We had a rocking chair that Mother would use when feeding the baby or putting the baby to sleep. One day Yvonne sat rocking in the chair and I decided to help her have some fun. I stood on the rockers and pumped her faster and faster. The chair flipped over, dumping both of us on the floor. We looked with amazement at Yvonne’s arm – it was bent at the wrong place in at a strange angle. It had broken. Dad rushed her to the hospital and had it set. We had an upright telephone without a dial. When you picked up the receiver the operator would say “Number please” and connect you with your party. If the line was busy the operator would say “The line is busy” and we’d laugh and ask “who is the lion busy eating?”. Our first dial phone was also an upright. To make a long distance call you had to dial 0 and ask the operator for the long distance operator.
Phones were set up for sharing. If the line was not shared it was called a single party line, if shared with one other it was called a two party line. There could be four parties on a single line. If one party was using the line others were expected to hang up and allow privacy to the one using the line. Some would eavesdrop on incoming calls, there were different rings for the different parties and the eavesdropper would wait until the called party answered (the ringing stopped) and quietly pick up the phone and listen in.
Dad had a Ford Model T. When we kids went to church with him we would pile into the car to go. We could not have candy or especially not ice cream in the car. Two of Dad’s brothers had coupe with rumble seats. We loved getting a ride in the rumble seat. We would argue over whose turn it was to ride there. My earliest ambition was to build ships. I had dreams of great sailing ships, with a vast number of sails, sailing down the Mississippi to the ocean, with me in the crow’s nest with my telescope. I didn’t like steam ships at all.
I can remember saying to my mother "I know you love me, since I'm your only son." That was about to end with the birth of my brother Walter. Mother still spoiled me, however.
The first school we attended was Danneel Elementary. Doris and I would walk together. One morning we decided to skip school, and walked to the bridge over the drainage canal at Washington Avenue. Unfortunately a neighbor saw us dancing on the bridge and told mother. We were spanked and sent to school.
Among our friends were the Webber family. The son, Raymond, was one of my best friends.We lived within walking distance of the Castains. The oldest child, Douel, Jr., was about a year younger than I was. We played together often. We frequently saw cowboy movies and Tom Mix, one of the heros had a white horse. Near where we played there was a white horse in a field. I came up with the idea that we’d take the horse, keep it at the Castain house, and Douel and I would take turns riding it. It sounded good to Douel, and we untied the horse’s rope and headed down the railroad tracks to the Castain house. About halfway there Douel said “Here comes my father! What will we tell him?” I said “Don’t worry, I”ll pretend we don’t have it”. Mr. Castain roared “What are you doing with that horse” I could see that “what horse?” wasn’t going to work, so I said “He followed us”.In those days before child abuse, Mr. Castain beat the two of us good..My aunt told me to go home. I protested that if I went home my daddy would also spank me. I was right.
If memory serves me well, I ate some things at the Castain house that I didn’t see elsewhere, such as rattlesnake, alligator tail, and turtle. I drew the line at ‘possum, it looked too much like a rat.
Mother died when I was 7 years old. She realized that she was dying, she made a plea that all of us be kept together. This was mostly true.I remember standing in the hall while a weeping Mama C (my mother’s mother) and my aunt dressed to go to the hospital. Some kid, no doubt one of my cousins, said to me: ”They’re crying because your mother is going to die.” Although I knew it to be true, I wanted to fight him for saying it. Mr. Castain watched the entire funeral service through an open church window. The services were at my mother’s uncle church. I seem to remember my sisters being dressed all in white.
At the grave site the grave diggers completed their work while we watched. We said our final goodbyes, but I don’t remember leaving the cemetery. Later, on the 4th of July, my Dad started crying, forgetting that he was holding a lit firecracker in his hand. I managed to get his attention to throw just before it exploded.
During the Great Depression a time when jobs and money were scare and goods were cheap, there were lines for many hand-outs. There were bread lines, soup lines, milk lines, and others. One day a lady asked me to hold her place in a milk line, and I made the mistake of agreeing to do so. Almost as soon as she walked around the corner my father walked by, and saw me. He snatched me out of the line and began lecturing: I don’t ever want to see you in one of those lines!” he thundered. I tried to explain I was just holding a place in line for someone. He wasn’t listening, even paddling me on the way home. He finally cooled off enough to hear what I was saying when we were inside and he was preparing to use the belt on me. He told me that regardless, everyone in the neighborhood knew us, and would think that we were depriving some family that needed the food of their assistance. There was no unemployment insurance. No job, no income.
There would be men standing on the street corners selling pencils or apples. A popular song was “Brother, can you spare a dime”. Another was a fairly amusing one “One meatball (you get no bread with one meatball)”. The singer reads a menu and discovers he only has enough money for one meatball, and tries to get a slice of bread or anything to go with it.
Our father and one brother, John were postal employees, letter carriers. They would sort the mail, then head out on their routes. A mail truck would deliver their mail bundles to boxes along the route where the carriers would pick them up. The carriers had large leather bags in which to carry the mail – I can remember Dad cleaning and polishing his bag weekly very carefully. The carriers delivered the mail by foot. We seldom got up early enough to see Dad before he left for work, and we sometimes wouldn’t see him before he went to bed. In spite of this, he definitely was not an absentee father. There were two unions in the post office, one for blacks, Letter Carriers Association, and a white one, I think it was the Union of Postal Employees.
Willow Street, where we lived, was unpaved then. Periodically oyster shells were dumped on it. Street vendors would pass on mule drawn wagons singing their sales pitch: “Wa-ter-me-lon, watermelon, red to the rind!” “Blackberries! Get your sweet ripe blackberries!” Then the walking “Hot peanuts! Two bags for five!” “Hot tamales!” The Good Humor man would come with ice cream, Eskimo Pies, Sidewalk Sundaes, and Popsicles. Mule drawn wagons were the trucks of the day. The Mardi Gris floats were pulled by mules.
Everything was delivered at no extra charge. The milkman brought quart bottles (“Milkman, keep those bottles quiet!) with pints of cream. He also delivered eggs and butter. During the winter, if there was a freeze the neighborhood cat would lick the column of cream that would protrude above the bottle.
The iceman carried 100 pound blocks of ice, and delivered according to the sign in the window, 25, 50, 75. The ice was for the icebox, almost no one had a refrigerator. The bakery also delivered but my grandmother preferred bread that she had made. She continued baking when we first moved in with her. Dad came home one day with a loaf of bakery bread and said “Mama, you don’t need to make bread anymore. You’ve been working too hard, and the bakery bread is as good as yours.” The silence that followed that was like a clap of thunder. The kids stopped what they were doing and looked at Mamou. She said not a word, but she never baked bread again.
We called our paternal grandparents “Hot Poppa” and Mamou. Hot Poppa was just that. I remember him wearing a three piece suit, spats, and a panama hat, which we mistakenly called a straw kadi. Our maternal grandparents were “Dad” and “Mama C”. Our father’s brothers were “Uncle Bubba”, “Uncle Sees” and Uncle John. Mother’s oldest brother was Uncle Joe, then L.B., and Junior. Mother’s sisters were Aunt Louise and Aunt Lillian. “Dad” used here will only be my father. My memory of Hot Poppa’s parents, Grandfather Oliver and Muzee, is of a visit to Nairn, Louisiana, one summer and my climbing up in a tree in spite of the old man having told me not to. He was sitting in a rocking chair at the door to his house. I fell out of the tree.
After Mother died, we moved to 3741 Willow Street and Mamou moved in. Our Aunt Rose, Dad’s sister, also lived there. When we first moved in there was no water heater. To take a hot bath meant buckets of water on the stove and carrying the buckets upstairs. We soon had a gas water heater.
One day Aunt Rose took me to the store when she was grocery shopping. I surprised her by keeping a running total of the cost of everything she selected. At checkout I told her how much it would be, and the clerk heard me. Of course he scoffed, then showed me a difference of 10 cents. I told him he’d overcharged us on the bread – a recheck showed I was right. After that Aunt Rose took me any time she could.
Mamou did not allow us to dance or play cards, but she didn’t control Aunt Rose. She danced to the music of a Victrola, which was a wind-up phonograph with a big horn. There was also a player piano, which could play rolls of music when you pumped the pedals. It was hard work for us kids, but fun. We played auction bridge with Aunt Rose. It was much like bid whist, but there was no kitty and there was a dummy. Aunt Rose did the Lindy Hop, One-step, Two-step, foxtrot and others. I was “born with two left feet” and only waltzed and “slow-dragged”.
The corner grocery had cages of live chickens. Mamou would select the one for Sunday dinner, feeling to make sure it had the right amount of fat, was clear-eyed and healthy looking. At home she’d wring its neck and let it flop around – sometimes the headless chicken would actually run around. Then she’d bleed it and dip it in hot water to ease plucking its feathers. When we had turkey she would use a hatchet to chop off its head.
We were one of the few families in the neighborhood with a radio, so when Joe Louis, a great heavyweight fighter was fighting, most of the neighbors gathered around our front porch and yard to hear the fight. We were all convinced that Joe had been doped when he was beaten by Max Schmeling. The yells and cheers when Joe won the rematch could have been heard on the moon.
We “watched” various programs on the radio especially horror ones such as “Lights out!, “The clutching hand”, and “Inner sanctum mysteries”. Our grandmother had “Stella Dallas” “The adventures of Lorenzo Jones”, “Portia faces life” and “Fibber McGee and Molly”. There was also “The $64 question”. It and other game shows were banished after the discovery of cheating.
Before Mohammad Ali and his “What’s my name” I was battling to have my name used. Everyone wanted to call me “Junior” or “Junior Cannon”. I wanted to be called ore Mohammad Ali and his What's my nameI was battling to have my name used. Everyone wanted to call me Junior or Junior Cannon. I wanted to be called Eugene or Eugene, Jr. I pounded my sisters to make them stop, and ignored others, but I couldn't stop Mamo Dune.
My sisters and I would walk approximately ten blocks to the church for Sunday School on Sundays. Dad was Sunday School superintendent. He wrote a pamphlet on the subject. There were slum apartments on the other side of the street from the side we'd walk on. When we passed the slum kids would say here come those proper talkin Cannons because of our non-ghetto speech. Our mother had been a school teacher and we learned grammar and pronunciation from her.
Mamou had a dog named Prince. He was a German Sheppard, fairly large and very friendly. Prince died while Mamou was on a visit to the country, and we held a funeral for Prince and buried him in the back yard.
One very strange incident occurred. Yvonne and I were crossing Louisiana Avenue one day. When we reached the center island the light changed. We waited for our green then stepped off the curb. A speeding car ran the red light and when it passed I saw Yvonne face down in the street. She also thought she was prone in the street. I started to yell Yvonne! when I realized she was standing next to me holding my hand. We were back on the curb and the speeding car was just about at the next corner. We looked at each other, and Yvonne said That was the first time that I was ever killed. She was not bruised or cut, and her dress was clean. She could not have been hit by the car or been down in the street.
There used to be a canal, the New Basin Canal, used by barges that ran south to Basin Street. It was filled in to South Claiborne and later completely.
A couple of boys from our block and I would go to the canal when bananas oanswerr watermelons were being offloaded and beg for one. If a watermelon was dropped and broken they give it to us. The problem with a broken open melon would be that the juice would run all over whoever was carrying it. It would run down my clothes and into my shoes, if I was wearing any. We did go barefoot very often. One day I saw two white boys playing with a boat they had built. They told me I could have it, and not checking it or anything I launched it into the canal and climbed aboard. It began leaking water at an increasing rate and I realized it was caulked with mud. I just did manage to get back to the canal bank and out before it filled completely. Actually, I should have known better. Every summer a number of boys would drown in the city's canals.
Calvin played with one of my rubber band powered model airplanes and broke it. I spanked him because I had told him to never play with them. As I sat on the porch stairs later Calvin sneaked up behind me and hit me in the head with his cap pistol so hard it broke into 4 pieces. Blood spurted out of my scalp and blinded me. I had blood everywhere. Mamou stopped the bleeding and pulled my scalp together. My head was wrapped in bandages for a couple of weeks after that.
My main buddy in those days was Eldridge Hurley (Duts), who lived on Claiborne Avenue. Claiborne had just about the widest neutral grounds (traffic islands) in the city. Most nights we'd lie out in the grass and gaze at the stars and wonder if the sun was lighting all of them or if they had their own lights. We'd wish on falling stars and daydream. Another buddy,Gerald Dupre, was only around during the day at his grandmother's house, next door to us. He went home at night when his parents would come. Gerald has been a lifelong friend.
Our next school was Thomy Lafon Elementary. The principal was Sidney J. Green, we called him fesser Green. He spotted me one day on the playground and said that he knew me: =E2=80=9CI taught your father, he boasted. Later after an altercation of some type, he told me you are nothing like your father. He would tell students: I'll mark you, sir, meaning a low grade in deportment.
The school was located in a slum area, rundown, rat and roach infested apart ment buildings. There were street gangs, who mostly fought other gangs and bullied the kids. They were mostly unarmed, and just used fists as weapons. One day a gang came on the school campus, and when Professor Green challenged them, they picked him up and dumped him in a garbage can.
The family next door would send the son, about my age, to the store to buy half beans and half rice meaning half a nickel'sr worth of beans and half a nickel's worth of rice. This would be dinner for five people. I go because we'd ask for langnappe piece of candy bonuses. In those days there were penny candies such as Baby Ruth, Hershey's and Butterfingers larger than the fun-size-candies today.
I have stammered all of my life, worse at some times than others. Mamou deci ded to cure me. She would attempt to hit me in the mouth with a wet dish tow el when I stammered. I stopped stammering around her because I quit talking around her. One teacher insisted that I only stammered when I didn't know the when called on. That was far from the truth.
When I was about 8 I decided to earn some money. I made a shoe shine box, from I think a cigar box. I took a can of my father shoe polish he only had black, his shoe brush, and a polishing cloth for my brief enterprise. My first, and last, customer showed up wearing a pair of brown and white saddle oxfords. I applied the polish while my customer read his newspaper. I worked on the right shoe, brushing the shoe and possibly his sox also, then when I started with the cloth he looked down. I thought I was looking death in the face.he said quietly, hose are brand new= He walked away, and I went home and after telling my father what he happened, watched as he destroyedmy box. My next job, helping one of my buddies deliver papers, was much safer.
The New Orleans public school system in those days was eleven years. Text b ooks were free, which was not true in some other states. They were free in Louisiana because of a governor named Huey P. Long, who also abolished the poll tax so that poor people coud vote for him. He was very popular, and beca me a senator. Long was assassinated, and my teacher cried the whole day. Long had run for president on a platform of 40 acres and a mule and A chicken in every pot..
Brewing, distilling, importing or sale of alcoholic drinks was against the law when I was born, but the Constitution was amended to legalize liquor. My reader had cartoons against liquor, such as one of a little girl pulling other father; coat tails, saying Father, dear father, come home with me now and many references to Charley Barleycorn.
Slot machines were against the law in the city, but they were legal in thesuburbs. Some of the boys and I would go to a ferry landing and sneak aboard a ferry and play the penny slots during the summer when I was't working.
Racial segregation was the law of the land. Supposedly everything was separate, but equal. Separate was not equal. Libraries were very unequal, I read just about every book in the colored library. There were colored drinking fountains, bus and train waiting rooms,and especially schools. States and cities that could not adequately support facilities were supposed to support two. Of course they could not.
The police, firemen and garbage men were all white. I suspected the police of taking graft since there was a bookie operation behind Berner's pharmacy that was never raided.
Orientals born here were citizens, but immigrants could not be naturalized. The term used for those now calling themselves African American then was colored or Negro or black. The very derogatory term nigger was in common use. Discrimination applied in states where segregation was not written-into law. Many property deeds had clauses restricting sale to whites only. I don't think colored were supposed to use City or Audubon park, but I pretended stupidity and used them anyway, dragging my buddies with me. Shakespeare park had too many trees for us to fly our model airplanes.
Streetcars had moveable Colored only signs that could be moved towards the back of the streetcar as the front filled up or emptied to adjust the seating. Sometimes when conditions were right one of the boys would hide or steal the sign, and watch the confusion on the faces of new riders for the sign.
Marian Anderson, a great internationally famous black contralto was denied permission to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall in Washington by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1939. She wound up performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, before a very large crowd.
To get to the black library from our house I had to walk through Shakespeare park. One day, while reading a book on the way home I walked into a huge oak tree. I hit it so hard I broke the skin on my forehead, and walked home with a bloody face.
Danneel School was the first school we attended. Lafon school was next. Shirley Wyse the cutest girl in the 3rd grade became my first girlfriend by passing a note that the teacher snatched. She made Shirley and me standup while light she read the note to the class. Shirley asked if she can be my girlfriend instead of Eldora. Teacher asked if I was Eldora's Eugene? I said quiet angrily that I was no one's Eugene. After school that day, I told Shirley she can be my girlfriend, but she was not to tell anyone. Thelma Phillips who I thought was the prettiest girl in New Orleans and possibly in the United States. In fifth grade I carried her book from school while she ignored me totally. In six grade her family moved to Detroit and I never saw Thelma again.
Soon after learning to ride a bike, I got a job delivering groceries at the corner store. I think I was paid about ten cents a day. I moved to Berner's pharmacy where I was paid twice that.
Dad married Theresa Boyd in June 1940 and we moved to Cadiz street. Our stepmother could hardly have moved into a more hostile sphere. We knew all about stepmothers. We had read books and seen movies.
She objected to being called Miss Boyd and we told her that under no circumstances would we call her mother She compromised with sister. Sister would buy us the cheapest clothes, usually ill fitting. She insisted I wear hand-me-down clothing from her nephew, who was about six feet, and 180 pounds. I stood 5-5 and weighed about 75. I didn"t have a pair of shoes that fit until I started buying my own in later years. She felt that toilet paper was too expensive for children to use, so we had to use newspapers.
One thing I never forgave for was insisting I wear knickers (knee length pan= ts with an elastic bottom). My legs were skinny enough, and to make matters worse after the pants had been washed a couple of times the elastic would be too loose to grip the leg and the pants would just droop.
I got a job delivering for Soniat restaurant, an Italian cafe. I think I was paid about two dollars a week.
There was a school in the next block, but it was for whites. I had to walk quite a distance to a colored school The next year I went to Hoffman Junior High and Dad would give me one way carfare.
On December 7th the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. I was passing by Berner's pharmacy on my way to my cousin's house when I heard the announcement on radio speakers that Mr. Berner had mounted outside. The report said that the bombing was ongoing. I rushed home to tell the family. The next day we had assembly to hear President Roosevelt report on the dastardly deed and the day that would go down in infamy. He stated that he would ask Congress to declare a state of war between us and the government of Japan. The next day he asked for a declaration of war against Germany and Italy, they had declared war on the U.S.
World War II started in Europe in 1939, actually it began before that. Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935 and Japan invaded China about 1938. The draft started in 1940 and our uncles Bubba and John were drafted, supposedly for one year. Uncle Bubba was discharged because of age, while Uncle John, who was on terminal leave when Pearl Harbor was bombed didn't get out until hostilities ended. The main thing reminding us that we were at war was air raid drills, in which air raid marshals would patrol the streets after the sirens sounded looking for leaking out past blackout curtains, shouting Turn off that light!.
A new high school, Booker T. Washington, a vocational school, opened in September 1942. It was built beside a rail yard and was blackened by soot by the time construction was complete. I wasted a year attending there. I did make a miniature pair of shoes that were complete in all details, uppers, insoles, welts, soles and heels, but using glue instead of stitching. Someone stole them from my locker. I had a suspect, but could not prove anything. I must have been a good mark.
We raised chickens in our back yard during the war. Dad gave me a runt chick to take care, and it grew to be a magnificent rooster. We showed them at the school, and I had to take it home that night. I left it at my buddy's house for the night. Sometime during the night his neighbor grabbed my rooster, killed it, and plucked the feathers off. When I returned in the morning there was no track of Lil Biit, as I called the rooster. The neighbor denied having seen it, but I saw thefeathers in his garbage can.
One of Yvonne's friends had a beautiful Germen Sheppard with a pedigree going back to Columbus. She moved in to an apartment and had no place for it. She gave the dog, Fanny, to Yvonne. She was a wonderful pet until som eone stole her.
During the war everyone had a victory garden. We raised all kinds of vegetables. We were not too successful with tomatoes. Each tomato seed seemed to contain a horn worm, which would wait until the plant had fruit and then overnight strip it entirely. We also raised chickens as noted above. We had different breeds, Rhode Island Reds, which LIl Bit was, Barred Rocks, Leghorns and others, which we would order so many chicks and they were delivered in a large flat box, almost always with all alive on arrival. The house was raised so that it was above flood level and the roost was in a room under the main house. One night rats invaded and killed a number of chickens. After that each night we'd wait until the chickens were on the roost and then-remove the ladder they used to get there, and then set rat traps.
I had some bantam chickens, including a mean little rooster named Spurs. Dad insisted that I get rid of him, but I refused. Finally, one day, Spurs flew across the fence and killed the rooster next door. I sold Spurs to a buddy.
Most things were rationed with stamps need for purchase, such as red stamps for meat, and other colors for butter, sugar and other things. Gasoline was rationed, but many people used others stamps we used T for truck stamps but had no truck. We really had no shortages with plenty of meat and sugar.
My sisters and I liked margarine, and disliked butter. Dad liked butter. Margarine had to be sold uncolored, with the coloring in a little bag in the box. One day we decided on a mean trick. We carefully colored a pound of margarine a light yellow and put it in a butter tub. We added salt in spots so that it was uneven. We put it into the refrigerator and when Dad came home tol d him that one of our uncles had been to the country and had brought back so me butter. He started praising fresh farm butter, and could't wait to butter a slice of toast.
After he finished we told him that it was margarine, and that he knew now that he could't tell the difference. He became extremely angry and sputtered that he had known all the time, and was just going along with the joke. He did, however, throw out the rest of the butter. Sometime about this time I decided to be baptized. I stood up in church and declared my intention. When we went home Dad said he wouldn't allow to be baptized because I wasn't good enough. A state of war now existed between us. I demanded he explain to me how I wasn't good enough and these Sunday Christians in the church were good enough. I told him that not a single member of his church was any better or even as good as me. He retorted that that was what he meant, I didn't honor my parents. He couldn't explain what honoring meant. I let him know then and there that I would never join a church if I couldn't then and there. The rest of his life he never questioned my decision not to be baptized or to join a church. I was never able to fully believe in the God of the old testament and that is why I could't be baptized.
That God was created in the image of man rather than the other way around. He was also vindictive as in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the flood. He was a God of War.
I did not believe in creation and have some problem with evolution. The cry of Jesus on the cr,seems more like a sudden realization that his belief was not going to come true, he would be left on the cross to die rather than taken down and the heavens opened for an army of angels to enthrone him.
My last New Orleans school was Gilbert Academy. The science teacher there, Mr. Dutton, was top notch and made me more interested in school then at any of time. I ran the lab for him, and assisted in grading papers. I enjoyed chemistry and physics. He introduced me to calculus. Unfortunately, he i had Inadvertently introduced me to smoking. I was working at a drug store, Jahn Pharmacy delivering and working as soda jerk. Cigarettes were fairly hard to come by, and the store owners would sell them under the counter. Mr. Dutton asked me to buy cigarettes for him. In order to buy, I had to pretend they were for me. My boss said he had never seen me smoking, so I started smoking so he would see me doing it. I continued smoking for 34 years.
Mr. Dutton offered to get me a scholarship to Tuskeegee. I told him that as much as I admired Dr. George Washington Carver I had no intention of attending an all black school. He said he couldn't more than write a recommendation that might help.Dad had an old folding camera, film size 120, about 2 inches by 4 inches, with a lens speed under f8 and a shutter speed of about 1/60th of a second. I discovered that by reversing the lens I could focus a bit better, andI started using the camera all of the time. Mr. Dutton allowed me to use the dark room to develop my pictures and admired my work. He decided to makeme the official school photographer, and let me use his camera, the kind used by press photographers of the day, a Speed Graphic. I used it to cover athletic events, school functions, and for portraits.
My buddies included a lifelong friend, Raoul Maurice, Wendell Adams, Gerald Painia, and Jerry Denton. On Friday night we gathered at the most popular teen spot, Portia's Ice Cream Parlor. It was always packed inside and out. My sister Naomi worked there, but I got no favors. Other than ice cream the attraction was the juke box with six records for a quarter. The old 78 rpm records held about 3 minutes of music, so all new music was about 3 minuteAn ice cream cone was a nickel, for twenty five cents you could get a banana split, a whole banana split lengthwise, three large scoops of ice cream, syrup and fruit over each, real whipped cream over them, topped with a cherry.
Another popular spot was Hayes Chicken Shack. My sister Yvonne worked there. It was so successful that the owner decided to open a first class restaurant. He decided that there would be a dress code for the new place. This resulted in a partial boycott because few wanted to dress to go there. Still, our prom was there. One interesting thing, fights were unknown on the weekends. Everyone was there to enjoy the times. Some of us did sneak drinks, however.
Gerald Painia's father and his brother opened the Dew Drop Inn, a night club. When we felt like hearing live jazz we'd sneak in with Gerald's help.
Gerald Dupre, ed fishing in addition to flying model airplanes, and he an d I would rent a boat and go out the Industrial Canal into Lake Pontchartrain and fish in the lake. I seldom caught any fish, he always did. One day, as we went out I noticed the sky darkening. I called Gerald's attention to it, but he felt it was ok. We rowed out quite a distance, and the wind suddenly increased, and large waves started slamming into the boat. We tried t head in, but were not really certain which direction was. I was facing the wrong way, so I turned around just as a large wave hit us.
I lost my oar, so now we were in big trouble Gerald would paddle then hand me the oar and paddle and hand it back. We managed to get to an extension of the levee and with the assistance of a wave, pulled the boat up. We dragged it back through the downpour and almost hurricane strength winds to the boat house. I asked the attendant why hadn't he warn us. He pointed to the storm flag, which he said had been flying all morning.. We learned to recognize itGerald built a nice little speedboat, powered, I, by a Mercury engine.On his second run with it, he hit an underwater object. Like a good captain=, Gerald went down with his boat. I don't think he ever repaired it.
I worked one summer at Dennery Cannery. It was hard work, but it paid fifty cents an hour. give my pay to Dad, and he'd give me an allowance. One payday I looked in the window of a Florsheim shoe shop. I saw a nice looking pair of shoes and on a whim went in and tried them on. They felt great! I bought them and headed home. Dad thought they looked very good, then asked what had I paid for them. He exploded FIFTEEN DOLLARS! I don't pay fifteen dollars for my shoes! Take them back I refused. I told him that the next week I would be buying shoes to wear to work also. We glared at each other and he went into my work area and broke up someof my model airplanes, but I kept the shoes.
The last clothing related argument we had was when he saw the suit I had made to wear to the prom. I had made weekly payments to the tailor. It was a blue serge suit, a one button roll jacket and pants were semi-drapes. It was amild version of a zoot suit, actually a very good looking suit, and of course, having been tailored, it fit perfectly. Dad guessed 35 dollars, and was angry when I told him it was 50.
Like most blacks Dad was a registered Republican. This was the party of Lincoln, so blacks supported it. Unfortunately the whites in the Solid South voted Democratic and made the primary winner the de facto electee. Huey Long had abolished the poll tax in Louisiana to be sure he would be the winner. Illiterate whites would vote for the rooster, the symbol for Democrats. Blacks had to pass a literacy test in some parishes while whites did not. I tried to get Dad to change his registration to Democratic so his prim art vote would mean something, but failed. The solid south attempted to defeat Truman in 1948 by becoming dixiecrats and running their own candidate. They failed.
We built rubber band powered model airplanes, scale models that didn't fly very well and non-scale that did. We graduated to gasoline motor powered planes. New engines weren't available during the war, so we=t used ones. We flew them on control lines made of fishing lines. Our first attempts at control were crude, but improved quickly as we joined other experiments.
Gerald Dupre and I entered the Army together. We took a mass physical, and I am certain that the same needle was used for a whole line of recruits for smallpox vaccination. I was appointed roster leader, in charge of 20 recruits. When we arrived at Fort Sam Houston in Texas we were issued uniforms. Mine would have fit someone twice my size. When I complained I was told that I migHtt be able to swap it at the next station.
We were given a flying five to buy what we needed. We were issued a razor and toothbrush. That night, on the way back to the barracks f=rom the Px a group of us got into a fight with a group of whites. The MPs were called, and we dashed to our barracks. I managed to get undressed and under the covers before the MPs arrived, but those who tried getting in their bunks without undressing were arrested by the MPs and supposedly charged with starting a riot. As was typical in the south, only blacks were arrested. Gerald and I shipped out the next day, so I don't know what happened to those arrested.
We boarded a troop train the next day. Troop trains were regular trains with,the seats removed and cots installed. They included a kitchen car. I had a top bunk and Gerald the lower. The train pulled off onto a siding for dinner and the night. We used mess kits and in the gloom couldn't really tell what we were eating.
That night Gerald decided that he was hot and opened his window. He was wearing long underwear. I had an undershirt and shorts, and was actually cold. During the night an engine was hooked up and we started the second leg of our trip to Aberdeen Maryland. The engine was a coal burning locomotive and smoke and soot poured in through Geralds open window. Everyone in the coach wanted to murder him. In the morning we were supposed to wash up using our canteen cup and steel helmet. All I succeeded in doing was smearing the soot a little more evenly.
We arrived at Aberdeen, where we were joined by Wendell Adams. The Army was as segregated as the rest of the south. While we could have white officers and NCOs white units did not have black officers or NCOs. We did not eat together and sat apart at mass meetings. In the Navy blacks and Filipinos were mess-men or orderlies.
While awaiting the start of basic we were assigned as firemen at white soldiers barracks. When I discovered this I complained to the commander and was told good soldiers obey orders without complaint. When I remarked that I supposed I wasn't a good soldier I was given the task of digging a hole six feet long, six feet wide, and six feet deep using the entrenching tool he intended to use for digging foxholes. When I got about half way the sergeant iN charge threw in a cigarette but and ordered me to fill up the hole.
We were addressed by Brigadier General B. O. Davis, the highest ranking black officer in the Army. The only thing I remember about his address was him saying your color but not your kind. Whatever he meant by that. His son became the highest ranking black officer in the Army Air Corps and later a lieutenant general in the Air Force.
Basic was a little rocky. I shared a tent with Gerald at the end of basic. Bivouac was at A.P. Hill reservation in Virginia and legend is that every class gets rained on Gerald was on the uphill side of the tent, and I tried to get him to ditch the tent properly so that any water funneling down would go a round the tent rather than into it. We slept on the ground in mattress covers. Gerald was convinced it would not rain, so ditching would only be for show. I was skeptical, but went along with it. Almost as soon as we went to sleep the skies opened, not only sending torrents racing into the tent, but taking the tent along with it down the hill. We recovered the tent, but spent a most miserable night while the rain continued into the morning.
After basic we were sent to Fort Lawton in Seattle for further assignment. I learned chess while there. Gerald went to Guam as a member of a graves registration unit while Wendell and I went to Fort Ord In Monterey, California. We were placed on temporary duty with army headquarters to take part in joint qmaneuvers with the Air Corps (then still part of the Army, Navy and Marines. The Army was supposed to be repulsing invaders, while the Marines and Navy were conducting an amphibious operation against enemy held areas. The operations went very well, we were told at the briefing following the end. The operation had taken place at Camp Pendelton.
When we returned to Fort Ord most of us were informed that we were very lucky, we had been chosen for assignment to the Presidio of San Francisco, and we were expected to be outstanding soldiers there. Whatever else that was said was lost in the wind and mutters about where the Presidio was. I believe we were to be completely integrated into various units at the Presidio but someone dropped the ball.
The next black officer I would see would be my buddy John Chandler after he graduated from officer candidate school and arrived at Fort Riley.
We arrived at the Presidio just before Christmas and were given passes to return after Christmas. I was shocked to find a body hanging in the boiler room in back of the barracks. I reported it to the first sergeant and learned that a young white soldier had committed suicide.
Wendell and I spent the time off in Oakland at the home of one of Sisters cousins. She was happy to have us, and had plenty of room. We learned to play bid whist there.
After the holidays we discovered that although assigned to what had been a totally white unit we were segregated into a different platoon and separate jobs. The soldiers who had been drivers were assigned to a car company, and did achieve some degree of integration. Most of my group were assigned to janitorial duties. When I complained I was assigned to clerical duty.
About a week later we were told that we would be interviewed for duties as general orderlies. I requested that I be excused from the interviews since I had no intention of being an orderly. When told it was considered an honor, Ianswered that I would still pass it up. Wendell also passed it up, and asked for duty as a mechanic. He was assigned to the motor pool, and IuCongress was assigned to the guardhouse as prison clerk.
For some reason we were given a tour and demonstration of new IBM machines in this pre-computer time. I was very interested in the machines and asked for school in them, when told there were =E2=80=98no quotas for colored I asked for assignment to the unit. I was quickly turned down.An Army post near Sacramento closed down and the mostly black personnel were assigned to our unit. We were moved into a separate barracks with separate m ess and senior sergeants. I asked our NCOs why and they had no answer. For some reason we were totally integrated for parades. There were no black officers at the Presidio.
Integration proceeded fairly smoothly after that for black men, but any black females assigned to the Presidio were immediately transferred to Fort Ord. Meanwhile I had attended clerk-typist school at Fort Ord and then personnel administration at The Adjutant Generals school at Fort Lee, Virginia. Esther was taking basic there when I arrived She was still there when I finished my school.
After the Korean war started the 4th Infantry Division was activated at Fort Ord, and I went there as a drill instructor. The Army had taken a beat in Congress for not attempting to utilize rejects, called 4-Fs. To prove their that they could not be utilized, our company was selected to train the first batch. In my platoon I had two that were blind in one eye, one with one arm, and a couple of lame individuals. I also had some mental deficients. Things were rocky at best. I tried to teach one who was blind in the right eye how to fire left-handed rather than trying to aim with the left eye with the rifle on his right shoulder. Finally at the rifle range when he tried to do as I had shown him he fired and the ejected empty cartridge went into his helmet and bounced around on his head. He turned around with the loaded rifle and his finger on the trigger. I shouted at him, grabbed the rifle and pointed it down range, and cussed him out. I had to report to the battalion commander for cursing a recruit. I was chewed out in spite of my explanation.
I applied for officers training school and was sent to Fort Riley, Kansas. While the school itself was integrated, the rest of the base was segregated. A young candidate, Leroy Amar, and I were turned away at the officers club, and told that black officers and candidates had to use the black NCO club. Whites used the officers club. Junction City, at the gate to the postwas segregated. Amar and I spent our weekends in the college town of.
During the eleventh week of training our senior TAC officer told me that non= e of us meaning the black candidates would be allowed to graduate. He said they would begin boarding us out at the end of the week, for me a week. I said that we thought we were doing well. He said that we weren'tneeded, so we were out. He added that they would keep me until the 19th week. When I asked why so long he said that I was boosting the class grade average and that they'd like to keep it high. He then laughed and said that if I stopped stammering I might be graduated. I told the other candidates about the conversation, and Amar and I decided to submit our resignations. The others decided to stick it out and be boarded out.
After we reported to the transient company Amar told me that intelligence wa= s looking for prospects. I went for interview and was sent to the Counter Intelligence Corps school at Fort Holabir, Maryland.
While we were in school we learned that a black female soldier and a white m= ale soldier had gone to a bar in Baltimore. They were told to leave because we don't allow any of that here.
Upon graduation I was assigned to the New York field office, in Manhattan at the foot of Broadway. While I enjoyed the interviews that made up most of the job, I faced a struggle to live. I received a housing allowance of $75 a month. north and the cheapest decent place I found was a sublet room at $25 a week. I had a food allowance of $1.70 a day which barely covered breakfast. I was repaid the cost of clothing and laundry, but that was not much of a help. It was a relief when I was assigned undercover to Hampton, Virginia. In San Francisco I had been in able to go to stage shows and a night club once in a while, but in New York the best I could do was go to a bar for a beer once a week.
I worked as a bellhop/elevator operator until a guest thought it would be fun to kick me. That did it for me when the manager told me that was part of the job. I was soon aboard a ship headed for Korea. President Truman extended the active duty terms for all service personnel for one year.
We landed at Yokohama, Japan and went to Camp Drake at the foot of Japan's sacred snow-capped mountain, Mount Fuji. We were issued equipment there and fired our rifles at the range. Camp Drake had been home of the 1st Cavalry division, all white while here. It remained white until the 24th Regimeny of the 25th Division misbehaved badly in Korea. The 24th had white officers and black enlisted. The men were integrated into other formerly allwhite units, including the 1st Cav.
I was assigned to the 45th Infantry, but switched to administrative duties. I joined a new unit personnel section and quickly reorganized it into what a couple of inspector general teams called the best small unit personnel sectionin 8th Army rear.
One day my phone rang. I answered and a female voice said I have a call for Sergeant EugeneCannon, I identified myself and the voice told me to stand by. The Tokyo operator came on and said Go ahead. I then heard Beverly's voice saying Eugene, I was shocked, I asked her how in the world did she manage to get through to me She replied that she had no problem at all, and was calling to tell me that her husband, Flip Philips was in Pusan. She told me what unit, and that she had not been able to talk to him but figured I could get in touch. I was unable to call him, and we corresponded by mail. Beverly had navigated through the 8th Army, 10th Corps, and division rear switchboards and talked to me on my field telephone. The unit I was assigned to, 700th Ordnance Battalion, had no black officers, and I do't recall seeing any in division rear.
After the armistice took effect the division returned to the States, but I t= ransferred to a unit that remained when I learned that we were to parade dow= n 5th Avenue in New York, after a ship ride through the Panama Canal. The ship I eventually rode back docked at Seattle, a trip at least 10 days shorter. I was sent to Camp Chaffee, Arkansas, where I received orders assigning me to Fort Lewis, Washington, for further assignment. A white sergeant whom I kn qqqqq ew from Korea asked me to spend the weekend at his house because he wanted his parents to meet a Colored person. They had not known any. I suggested he call them before inviting me. They were horrified, and let him know that no way would they allow a colored person to stay at their home.
I spent my leave in New Orleans and upon arriving at Fort Lewis learned I was reassigned to the Presidio. I felt like I was at home. Unfortunately all was not roses. The job I was assigned should have been a part time job for someone with a full time doing something else. Although I enjoyed being able to see the latest shows and visit night clubs and good restaurants, I was bored during the work day.
When I decided I had enough I replaced another NCO whose wife was having their first baby on a shipment to England. When I arrived there I found thatI would not get the job I expected. The holder of that job had just extende d his tour for an additional year after already having served five years, the maximum.. I was assigned to the 803rd Engineer Aviation Bartalion instead of 928th Engineer Aviation Group. The personnel officer was CWO Marvin Ware, a black officer. After he rotated there were no black officers in either battalion or group headquarters.
I had inherited a mess. Instead of a well set up organization like the Presidio or a just started one like the 700th, this one was total chaos. No one knew what the actual number of men assigned or where they were. NCO had been demoted and promoted by officers who did not have authority.
I waded right in. I requested rosters from the machine records unit servicin=g us and had the commander call a muster at which any personnel not already on the rosters were to be entered and all absent personnel had to be accounted for. We discovered that one soldier who had left the unit 2 years before was still shown as on his way to a new assignment. I had to assign two men to work full time on reviewing old orders to find out when some of the missing had been scheduled to be picked up by new units. It was almost two months before that was straight.
Next came the matter of incorrect promotions and demotions. That had to be handled by individual letters for each man to the general courts martial authority, and was another command. I made a lot of enemies before that was finally straightened out.
I still had problems keeping lots of administrative matters in line with regulations, especially when the Army created specialist grades and we started getting low ranking NCOs who should have been made specialists. The CO didn't want to set up a classification board, insisting that instead I take care of the process. Off duty I discovered that London was too far to go other than on Saturday, so my buddies and I would go down Saturday evening and return Sunday night. Prices were still controlled from the war when I arrived there, so a good meal in a very good restaurant was only about $1.50 and hotel rates were also very low. Price controls went off fairly soon after I arrived
During the week we would sometimes go to The Cock and the Bull pub. The English thought that Americans couldn't play darts so they would always try to get us drawn into a game. I bought a set of darts from a buddy, and soon I didn't have to pay for beer any more. We got so good that when people who didn"t know us stopped in the locals would get us to show how good we were. I visited many historical places such as Stratford-on-Avon, Windsor, the white cliffs of Dover, the Tower of London and many other places.
After about two years the 928th personnel sergeant returned to the States an= d I was transferred there. The 803rd commander was very unhappy with my trainsfer. Soon after my arrival the units changed from Aviation to Heavy Construction, and accountability returned to the Army. We completed the mission in England and prepared to move to Germany.
The movement went as smoothly as possible, but our commanding general complained because the units did not march away from the ships with rifles on their shoulders. The English would not allow movement with arms. We had to crate the rifles and move them as baggage.
Our unit moved to the town of Zweibruken in Bavaria. We were close to Munich and close enough to Heidelberg to visit there on weekends. To get to Berlin required going through East German checkpoints and customs, more than I thoight worth it. I visited Yvonne at the air base at Spangdalem while there.
I ran into a problem with the executive officer. He wanted me to take the s=regent major position and I didn't want it. I pointed out that regulations said the position should be filled by a senior non-com, which we had plenty of, and I was far junior to most of them.
He kept insisting, and I pointed out that I had sufficient time in the command to return to the states. He relieved me of duty so I rotated to Fort Blis=s, Texas where I attended the guided missile fire control maintenance school for Nike Hercules missiles for 47 weeks. I had taken some Army correspondence courses in radio and television engineering and some of the material was directly related to radar.
After graduation I was assigned as an instruction rather than being sent to a missile battery. I spent a year there disliking El Paso intensely. I spent most off duty time in the club for lack of anything else to do, mostly playing pinochle for beers. I was fairly good at that and at pool.
My enlistment was up, so I threatened to get out if not assigned to a Nike ite. I was assigned to a battery in Castro Valley, California, near Oakland.m There I could spend my weekends either in Oakland or San Francisco.I found that I was not chief maintenance as I had expected, instead just on e of a group. I concentrated on getting the best performance I could from the radars. I had one radar working so well that an inspecting team thought it was broken.
After about a year and a half the Army said that it had a surplus of personnel in the higher grades in my specialty, and requested volunteers to go to the Ordnance Guided Missile School in Huntsville, Alabama. Despite misgivings Wen about the deep south I decided to go. While attending school there I avoided contact with white civilians in town, and had no problems. I was always careful to drive at least five miles under the speed limit, with my California plates on a Lincoln
When I completed the course my picture was on the last page in Ebony as the honor graduate. I received mail from people I hadn't seen since grammar school. I turned down an assignment as instructor and went to White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Yvonne's family was at Holloman Air Force Base there.
I came down with tuberculosis at White Sands, and was transferred to Fitzsimons Army Hospital in Denver, Colorado where I spent more than a year. While there Esther's, husband, Allen Scott, flew up in an Air Force Reserve plane to give me a ride to visit in Riverside, California.
After I was finally released from the hospital I was assigned to the 197th Ordnance Detachment at Fort Baker, California, a sub-post of thePresidio. While there I discovered a problem affecting all Nike Hercules missiles in the Army and suggested a fix. I was working on a thorny problem the day President Kennedy was assassinated. Another sergeant was watching television, and called me to come and watch, saying the president had been shot, and he thought he had been killed. We listened to the broadcast but allunits were placed on Red Alert, meaning attack may be immanent.
There was no attack, and things settled down with Johnson as president. I was on orders to Okinawa, but before departing we had to install and modify a Nike radar system at the Army desert training center at Camp Cook, California. When we arrived there for installation we found a tank on the hilltop. It was Beverly's husband, Flio, saying Welcome to Marlboro country. We installed the system and helped train some Signal Corps personnel in use and maintenance.
When I arrived in Okinawa I found the shop I was assigned to working overtime, seven days a week because of a backlog on work to be performed. I objected because nearly all were held up because of a shortage of parts. Working extra hours would not produce parts. I was told that the policy was to work overtime when there was a backlog and it would not be changed. I escaped by changing jobs.
There was a lack of personnel to use and maintain precision test equipment used to insure accuracy of fire control and communication equipment, so I attended a short course conducted there and moved into that field.
I was assigned a team and we prepared to go to Vietnam, getting passports and diplomatic visas. We were to wear civilian clothing when off duty. We loaded our equipment on a plane and flew into Tan Sohn Nhut airport near Saigon.
We calibrated equipment in and around Cholon, the Chinese section of Saigon, and travelled to Bien Hoa viewing a fire-fight-between ARVN and Vie while enroute. We returned to Saigon each night to spend the night in acivilian hotel there.
On later trips to Vietnam the buildup after the Bay of Pigs incident had taken place. We no longer took civilian clothes with us. We made trips to Taiwan, Thailand, and the Philippines. After each trip we returned to Okinawa for a month. The trips were scheduled to take 90 days from beginning to the next trip. The time in Okinawa was spent verifying our equipment and preparing for the next trip.
I had met Yoshiko Arakaki before my first trip to Vietnam. I and a couple of my buddies invited a quiet club off the main street. I struck up a conversation with the bartender, and mentioned I had gone to the theater in Japan and all roles were played by men. She told me that in Okinawa all roles were played by women and asked if I=E2=80=99d be interested in going to a show. I agreed, and she told me she would be off the next night and we could go then. had dinner and attended the show. She introduced herself We dated regularly after that. She told me that she was divorced, and I met her two young daughters. After receiving several job offers I was allowed to retire after completing a normal tour of duty in Vietnam.
My first job after retiring was working at the Army's telephone relay site. This station employed what was called a troposcatter system, with Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission (MASER) receivers. The received signals were amplified then rebroadcast to southeast Asia, meaning the PhilippineTaiwan, Thailand and South Vietnam. We shared a building with Japan Telephone and Telegraph.
The work was interesting at first, seeing how the telephone calls were stacked up and transmitted, and separated on receipt. The processes used is called frequency division multiplex. Another method, not used there, is time division multiplex, used by time share systems.
We worked three twelve hour days in a row, then off for three days. I tried driving home and eating dinner and sleeping then making the trip back, but dr ives of over two hours each way was too much.
I received a job offer in Vietnam, ten hour days, two hours of which would be overtime, and a six day week, the sixth day overtime. I accepted and soon was working in Cholon., repairing instruments.
There were some very good restaurants in Cholon and Saigon, but there was always the danger of someone deciding to blow up the place. I found out how dangerous the place could be one morning when we were driving to work. We traveled in an Army truck from the place we had breakfast to the shop in Cholon. That morning as we cleared a crowd crossing the street a teen ager threw a hand grenade into our truck. The two men at the rear of the truck jumped out but the rest of us, six men, were still in the truck when the grenade blew up.
I used my belt and the belt of one of the men to stop the blood flow from his arms. The man who had been driving was standing by the truck with his mouth open so I yelled at him to get us to the hospital before someone bled to death. Three of our group were badly hurt. I only had burn marks, no shrapnel. When we go to the hospital one of the corpsmen wanted to know if they we're supposed to treat civilians. I yelled that two of the group would be dead in a few minutes while he was arguing a technicality. Luckily a doctor decided treatment was more important.
The three badly injured returned to the States. Two months later the two wor= se ones were back, ready to work. The third had enough and did not return. Meanwhile back in Okinawa my son Charles was born. I decided that I would return to Okinawa at Christmas time.. My boss told me I couldn't go, but I let him know I was quitting. I left Vietnam for the last time in December. Before the Tet uprising.
After a lot of persuasion by Esthe r Yoshiko married me. She had said that she had no intention of going to the U.S. and refused for a year to marry me. After we were married I adopted her two daughters, Ritsuko and Sachiyo to avoid being just a step-father. Both girls agreed to the adoption.
I was jobless for a couple of months, then answered an ad for a radio broadcast monitor. I was curious about the job and applied.
The job was listening to broadcasts by North Vietnam radio mostly for reports on the downing of our aircraft and the capture of our pilots. I also listened to broadcasts by the Philippines when Marcos was assuming dictatorial powers. I also listened at times to broadcasts by Red China for downing of our drone aircraft.
I transcribed letters home from captured pilots and Army men and Marines captured and some deserters broadcast on communist radio. Among the statements I transcribed was the one by John Sidney McCain 3rd, the Republican candidate for president. I also transcribed statements by Jane Fonda urging American pilots to refuse to bomb North Vietnam. Congressmen wanted the statements to attempt to try her for treason. The broadcasts also included excerpts from the services, such as the Viet Cong Giai Phong (Liberation) news agency, the North Vietnamese newspaper Nhan Danh, and China's New China (Shinwa). The organization was part of the CIA called Foreign Broadcast Information Service. I would sometimes bring Yoshiko and the children with me and they would spend my working hours at a nearby beach.
I took a second job, that became my primary job, working days, repairing and calibrating instruments for the calibration teams that I had been a team chief on. My monitor job became a night, secondary job.
The first evening of the new job when it was time for me to leave Charles wrapped himself around my leg and begged me not to go. When we finally convinced him to let go he vowed to wait in the doorway until I returned home.I transcribed the letters home written by the prisoners and the description of the Christmas parties allowed by the camp commander. I also transcribed the description of release ceremonies in which some of the prisoners were turned over to European newsmen for return to the United States.
My day job was lead technician for a team of electronic repairmen repairing and maintaining the standards and equipment for the calibration teams I had been a member of.
Soon after starting work I had to lay off one tech because the company we were working for had to reduce expenses. It was fairly easy, since one worker did fairly sloppy work and did not seem to understand how the equipment was supposed to work. I took Charles to work with me sometimes, and he reported to his mother: Daddy doesn't work. He just walks around.
FBIS held various tournaments for its employees. I always won the pool tournament a game that fascinated Charles. He would peep over the edge of the table each time I took a shot. He wanted to try but couldn't have reached anything. I didn't have a regular bridge partner, so I was inconsistent there.
At our first Easter egg hunt Charles quickly gathered a few eggs, then found the special prize egg. I tried to get him to pick it up, but he objected, saying he had enough eggs, so he was leaving that one for someone else. I urged him to leave one of the other eggs and get that one, but he still refused. I don't remember how I finally got him to pick it up, but it wasn't easy.
After about a year the long hours began to get to me. I quit the night job and just worked during the day. We had to let another tech go and I had to cover for him. I didn't mind the work at all.
When I was unemployed I paid for Japanese tv, but working as a contractor the status of forces agreement had the military paying the fee for all of us. My car was registered originally under Japanese rules then under status of forces. I had a Japanese drivers license.
We were doing fine until President Nixon let the dollar float. Its value shrank against the yen. Okinawa reverted to Japanese rule and everything was in yen. My landlord had an odd sense of value. Since the dollar was worth less, he increased the rent, which was in yen. We bought most food at the commissary, so we weren't hurt too badly there. Gasoline went up. I was paidin dollars and my retirement pay had nothing to do with the cost of living in Okinawa.
I decided that it might be time to go to the United States. I had Esther start sending me the want ad section of the Los Angeles Times so I could see w ho was hiring. There had been a couple of job fairs in Okinawa that I had attended but they offered just about nothing in electronics. I sent resumes to a few companies but they said that they preferred waiting to interview me i= n person before discussing openings.I took vacation and we headed to the States. Sachiyo was air sick from the time she saw the giant C-5A Air Force transport plane we would fly back on until she climbed on the camper Yvonne and her husband, Charles Robinson, met us with.
We drove from Sacramento to Muir Woods where we saw the giant redwoods. We drove south from there across the Golden Gate bridge to San Francisco. We saw the Painted Desert in Arizona, and White Sands in New Mexico. We travelled to New Orleans, where Ritsuko and Sachiyo would stay with my brother Bobby until we sent for them to join us in San Diego. They enjoyed the stay, attending school and baby sitting Baby Bobby, Bobby's first child. Yoshiko, Charles, and I returned to Okinawa for me to complete my contract. Upon completion I had intended to work in the San Francisco bay area, where I had been potentially accepted for a job that paid well and offered advancement. Yoshiko wouldn't hear it. She complained about the cold and how far I might have to drive. She wanted to try San Diego, where Esther lived. Esther invited us to stay with her until I got a job and place to live. We took full advantage of her generosity.
I told Yoshiko that we wouldn=E2=80=99t be able to find a job that paid a living wage in San Diego, since it was so close to Mexico. She pointed to the weather and other desirable aspects. I borrowed Esther's, car ours was enroute from Okinawa - and started looking for a job. Most places either weren't hiring or told me to come back in 3 months. Places that were hiring said I was over qualified meaning too old for their position.
Yoshiko went with me to all of these places because she didn't want to be left alone in Esther's apartment all day. Finally I was interviewed by a manager who was interested in me. Yoshiko had to use the rest room, and he was surprised that she had been sitting outside waiting. He bought her a drink while he interviewed me. He told me that I was over qualified for his position, but he was sure that another supervisor would hire me. He sent me to another of the company's building to see him. After interviewing me, he made an offer. The personnel manager said the position to be filled was lower than what I was offered, so the supervisor, upgraded the position.
The job was building test fixtures for use by the technicians in repairing and calibrating circuit boards for the company's machines. I discovered that I had to learn integrated circuits quickly.
We had found a house for sale near the school Esther taught at, and I needed a job to qualify to assume the loan. The house was rather small, but was better than the apartment I had planned to move into.
Yvonne's, son, Calvin Robinson, thought I got the job easily because the company needed more minorities to meet fair employment goals. Perhaps, but I was qualified.
When Ski hired me he promised his friend, Bill, that he would be lead, but he neglected to tell either me or George, the other tech. The result was noisy disagreements when Bill attempted to assert himself. I thought Bill was rather dumb, and for a student about to become a graduate engineer terribly ignorant.
One of the manufacturing techs came to me with a problem with one of the fixtures and I saw immediately what caused it and began modifying the fixture to correct it. When Bill objected to my changing the design I explained the and the cure. Bill attempted to stop me again and I informed him that I wasn't going to stop until the fixture worked properly. He went to see Ski, who came over to tell me to cooperate. I explained the problem and the fix and Ski left without saying anything. I saw him talking to the chief who nodded his head in agreement and I heard He's right. Ski took Bill off to the side and told him something, and I heard no more about the fixture.
Bill left to become a full time student, and George made himself lead tech. I could have cared less since he left me alone, and I began designing the fixtures myself. The work was very interesting now. One of the design engineers complained that my circuits were more complex than he was allowed to do. I also assisted one of the design engineers when he had problem getting circuits to work properly.
The manager who initially interviewed me wanted me to work for him since he had purchased a machine to automatically test circuit boards. I tried it, and decided that I could program it and allow a lower rated tech do the operation generated some modifications to our higher level machines so that they could communicate with computers and wound up having to travel around either making the modifications or teaching techs how to do them.
Ritsuko completed high school and started college. She changed from the academic branch to the trade center and took an electronics assembly course. She started work soon after completing the course.
Sachiyo completed high school soon after and began a job search. Yoshiko and I tried out a new Japanese restaurant and noticed the help wanted sign. We told Sachiyo, and after she was interviewed came home and screamed that she had gotten the job.
I was promoted to engineer, and Yoshiko and I went to Europe to make modifications to machines there. There were special rates for two travelling together, and I was originally supposed to be traveling with another engineer, his wife and Yoshiko. The company decided at the last minute to pull the other engineer and have him work on a new project.
Steve and Beverly met us at Kennedy Airport. Unfortunately I hadn't gone through customs in San Diego, so in order to take our computer out of country and bring it back I had to go through customs there. I only spent about 5 minutes visiting.
We started off in Munich, missing the Oktoberfest, but visiting the Hofbrau Haus. Yoshi was amazed to see old women and children drinking pitchers of beer. We ate pigs knuckles and wiener snitzel (veal cutlets. Not hot dogs). One of the secretaries took Yoshiko sight seeing. She liked Munich very much. FoWer the first time in her life she had snow falling on her head.
One thing she did not like was when the manager took us onto the autobahn in his new Mercedes and put his foot into the gas tank. Even with her eyes closed she knew that we were nearly flying.from Germany we went to Paris. We saw the American cemetery , the Arc of Triumph, the Eiffel Tower, Napoleon'sTomb and other sights. Yoshiko did not like Paris as much as she did Munich. We had dinner one day at the Paris manager's home. His wife was a outstanding cook.
We ate in a very good restaurant, but when we ordered our steaks well done the waiter took off his apron and quit, stomping out the front door. The restaurant Yoshiko loved was a Chinese one, where a superb crab soup was served. It was a cream of asparagus with crab.
Air France surprised us with a charge for excess baggage. From there we went to London. About the only thing I remember about dining there was the beer, which is served warm unless you order lager. We visited Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace and other historic places. We were glad to get back home. The trip seemed longer than it was, but we had enjoyed some parts.
I started working primarily on special application projects, modifying new machines for special customer requests. I began working with another engineeron computer systems. I learned programming as part of the job, attending Microsoft University in Seattle. I took classes at San Diego State learning micro-processors. I built a small computer to see if I could make it work. Actually it was too limited to do what I wished. By now Apple and Radio Shack had come out with their personal computers so I bought a Radio Shack TRS-80. I upgraded it as soon as I got it home, upgrading the program memory and system memory. I had bought a Level I and made it a Level ii before ever turning it on.
The computer system manager decided certain personnel needed access to the computer from home or elsewhere, so he installed modems. I tried, unsuccessfully, to design and build my own modem I gave up and bought a very slow modem. and modified my TRS-80 to work with it. My computer looked like a teletype to the company computer.
The company downsized and I began working strictly with systems. It was sold to Scientific Atlanta and closed down one plant. Later we moved to a leased location and the remaining two plants after sale of one company merged into one.
Ritsuko married a coworker, Ramon Mananquil, and their son Christopher was born in 1981. Sachiyo married the boy next door, Joseph Lemon, after he joined the Marines and their daughter April was born in 1982. Kristi was born 1984 and Ritsuko's daughter Kristina the next year. Charles finished high school and joined the Army in 1985..Sachiyo returned to San Diego and divorced Joseph. She held a series of jobs before settling on insurance billing..
I started working long hours, we were working on a system for the Navy for a new class of submarine. The system had to pass a series of tests such as environmental tests. This involved labs in the Los Angeles area. I had a choice of driving a long distance or spending nights at a hotel there. I tried both, neither was very good.
What had been enjoyable work was becoming an ordeal. It was time to hang it up. After 20 years I retired. The clock they gave me is still ticking.I had retired my TRS-80 years before and had gone through a few IBM compatible computers. I was playing with programming and setting up a network. I had up to 5 computers networked at one time. I started exploring the internet.
AT*T as well as others started up internet providers. I started with AOL and,veryits spin off, GNN. I also tried a couple of others that I sampled. Only AOL and AT*T survived. After AT&T started charging they indicated a need for monitors for their newsgroups so I applied. They paid a small fee but access was free. I worked for about 3 years, then in a cost cutting move AT&T cut out the monitor program. They continued free access for us for another year.
Charles son, Cameron, was born in1994 and needed a baby sitter. Yoshiko castlehad said, after the first grand child, Christopher she would not baby sit any. Kristi almost made that come true. Yoshi was afraid all the time that something was going to happen. Luckily nothing serious did. Yoshi baby sat Kristina. Yoshiko said that if I helped she would baby sit Cameron He was the best kid ever, so she was glad that she did. We bought a wagon similar to the one I had as a boy and would ride him and his beloved stuffed animal, Mimi-ko around the block. He always wanted us to go faster on Skyline Drive, laughing like a maniac.
When Cameron was about 3 we bought him a little football. He would kick it and throw it and generally have a good time making touchdowns. One day he told me to catch it and then told me to run for the touchdown. I didn't realize that he intended to tackle me until he wrapped himself around my left leg. I started to fall and twisted around to fall on my right side so as not to hurt him. I fell heavily on my right hip. I hit so hard I thought I broke the hip. My doctor assured my no real damage was done, but that hip was painful for years after.
My ophthalmologist said that my glaucoma pressure was increasing andprescribed drops. One eye responded better than the other, and he changed drops. I stopped my magazines. I continued the newspaper but had problems reading. I had lens replacement in both eyes for cataracts but vision continued to degrade.
Charles married Cameron's mother, Nichelle Morris.,Our first great-grandchild, Christopher's, daughter Reilynn was born in 1999 and Charles's son Chance was born in March 2000 and Christooher's son, Christopher (Bubba) in April 2000. Christopher and the children's mother broke up. Sachiyo married Albert Engleton.
One day Charles, Cameron, Chance and a vaguely familiar looking young man dropped in. The young man was too young to be one of Charles' friends, and too old to be Cameron's. Then Charles revealed a secret hehad kept for 18 years. The young man was his son, Jason Williams, born in 1985.,He had been given up for adoption and had grown up in Seattle. He had come to San Diego to meet the family he had been told he was a part of. He was happy to find two brothers and grandparents. He joined the Army and is now,in Iraq. He keeps in touch by phone and email, and visiting when in town
Kristina and Jason Alfonso had a daughter, Maya, in 2002. April and Derrick Jack had a daughter, Sheniya, in 2003. Jason Richardson and Kristi's daughter, Jaelina, was born in 2005.
Kristina and Jason Alfonso were married. Their son, Eric was born in 2004. Christopher and his girl friend Rona Martinez, eloped to Las Vegas skipping an elaborate wedding that had been planned.
Their son, Christian, was born in 2006 and their daughter Carli in i2007.I have omitted a lot of things, such as the many temporary duty trips I made overseas while in the Army in courier status and a few other memories. If I tried to include them all to spend another 80 years remembering and recording them.
There have been 15 presidents during my time: Coolidge, Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, G.H.W Bush, Clinton, G.W. Bush and at the start of the second 80 years Obama
The summer of the year I spent at Booker T I put my knowledge of shoe repair to good use. I worked at a shoe repair shop and was offered a permanent job there. I had found out that I did not want to repair other peoples stinky shoes, and quickly turned down the offer.
The next summer I worked in a bakery. When the summer started I loved chocolate eclairs. At this bakery they were filled with chocolate cream, and had a rich frosting. I ate so many during that summer that at the end of summer I gave them up almost for life. (this section was cut from below the other highlighted section).
Or status and a few other memories. If I tried to include them all and spend another 80 years remembering and recording them.
There have been 15 presidents during my time: Coolidge, Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, G.H.W. Bush, Clinton, G.W. Bush and at the start of the second 80 years Obama
The summer of the year I spent at Booker T I put my knowledge of shoe repair to good use. I worked at a shoe repair shop and was offered a permanent job there. I had found out that I did not want to repair other peoples stinky shoes, and quickly turned down the offer.
The next summer I worked in a bakery. When the summer started I loved chocolate eclares. At this bakery they were filled with chocolate cream, and had a rich frosting. I ate so many during that summer that at the end of summer I gave them up almost for life. (this section was cut from below the other highlighted section).