It was in the fall of 1939, that Mom and I both started taking flying lessons. We went out to Stinson Field in San Antonio. We were flying J-3 Piper Cubs. We would get 30 minutes of instruction about once a week. I really loved it and thought flying would be my passion for the rest of my life. I loved flying between the white fluffy clouds and out into the blue sky again. I dove into the manuals and studied for ground school every chance I got. I worked at the grocery store after school and some weekends to help pay for my lessons, but Mom paid for most of it. My $5.00 a week did not help a lot. She was making $85.00 a month teaching school at that time.
Later that summer I was in Harlingen with Dad and Margaret, along with her two sons, Billy and Mike. Dad was digging more irrigation canals, this time across the Valley. At the close of the summer Dad bought me a 1934 Austin Bantam. It was a neat little car, but I had a lot of trouble keeping it running. I also spent time at a crop duster’s airstrip at the east edge of town. He had built his son a bi-plane that was powered with a Model A Ford engine. It was really cool.
It was that summer that I saved Billy from drowning. We all were at a river crossing and decided to take a swim. The river went through a culvert under the road and was very swift at that point. Billy got too close to the culvert and the current swept him closer to the intake mouth. He hollered for help and I swam over and grabbed him right before he was about to be sucked into the tunnel under the road. I got him under the arms, but his body was inside the culvert. I had both feet against the concrete and was having a hard time holding on to him because of the force of the suction. I remember Billy saying to me, “Just let me go, there is nothing to do,” but I hung on for dear life and Dad heard us and jumped in and pulled us both out.
Photo of 1933 Austin Bantam found here.
Photo of Harlingen highway found here.