In 1942 Mom and I were still living at 378 Meredith Dr. She was teaching school and going to night school, working on her masters. I was working at the grocery store and at Mrs. Guillage’s shop. (Charlotte was still getting the choicest of orchids each Saturday). I was made Master Sergeant, Regimental Sergeant Major of the ROTC, and later in the year I was promoted to 2nd Lt. About 80% of the boys were in the ROTC and all knew that it was a matter of time until they were in the regular service. Shorty was a sponsor and marched and drilled as well. When we had Regimental Reviews, the Sponsors marched in the parade with their respective officers. Charlotte was not my Sponsor since I did not make officer until after the senior year started, and that really bugged me pretty bad. Charlotte and I graduated from Thomas Jefferson in San Antonio in June 1942.
That summer Dad and Margaret were in Houston living on North McGregor Way, and I worked all summer as office boy for Peden Iron and Steel co. I had to catch the first bus way out near McGregor Way at 5:00AM, pick up the mail at the main Post Office and take it to the office. I had to have all the mail distributed to each desk by the time the salesmen came in at 8:00 AM.
I was able to get some more hours flying off a small field in southwest Houston. It was next to the highway to Victoria and there was a high electrical line along the highway. The runway was rather short and you had to slip the plane as you came in over the wires to get the plane down before you ran out of runway. As you came over the wires you would give the right rudder a shove and at the same time left aileron. This put the left wing down and the plane sideways to the runway. At the right time to execute the opposite control, which would straighten out the plane and you, could gently set the plane down on the runway.
Then in September I enrolled at Texas A&M to major in Agronomy, the study of soils and crops. I was very much interested in agriculture. I was in Hart Hall and Troop A of the horse Cavalry. We rode and drilled in formation and on horseback. I had two roommates. One was Douglas Barron and the other was Red Barry from San Angelo, Texas. There was an epidemic of measles that first semester, and the infirmary was full. Both of my roommates had the measles, and I nursed them for about two weeks. Fortunately, I did not get the measles, and never have. As a matter of fact the only childhood disease I ever had was chicken pox. It was at the end of my first year at A&M that I joined the Navy, at my Dads’ suggestion.
My Uncle Barksdale Stevens also advised me, “Lieutenant, (he called me this ever since I was in military school) if you join the Navy, you will always have something to eat and a clean bed to sleep in every night”. I decided to go Navy and enlisted in a program that allowed you to complete your college, then go to Officers Candidate School and become an officer in the Navy. It was called the V-1 program. After one year at A&M, in the summer of 1943, the government changed the plan and called all of us up to active duty as enlisted men. (Don’t trust what the government tells you because they will change the rules on you after you have committed. I am a slow learner; I got caught again, big time, in a complete change of the rules in the eighties, more a little later on this.)
Photo of Peden Iron and Steel building found here.
Photo of Hart Hall, Texas A&M found here.