Monday, June 30, 2014

A Flawed Legacy - 21

We stopped in Oil City, OK, for breakfast, a place I will never forget.  I got off the bus, walked through the front door of the restaurant and was greeted by the waitress (there was only one) who exclaimed, "My, you look bright and chipper this morning" to which I replied, "I think I have just been born again'" to which she replied, "Well, praise the Lord.  Have a seat."  So, I did.  "What are we having for break-fast?" she asked.  Recalling that I only had $10 to my name at that moment, "I'll just have a cup of coffee."  "No way," she responded, "That's no meal for a man who has just been 'born again' - it's my treat,  Get whatever you want."  She seemed to realize I was embarrassed, so she added, "Never mind, you're my new brother and I'll get you what I know you will enjoy" and she was gone.

What a meal I had and what a hug I received as we were leaving.  I was embarrassed by the fact I wanted  to  leave a tip, but I only had the 50+ cents I had in coins in my pocket, but I also was excited by her confirmation that God had apparently reached my heart, by revealing hers.

After a brief stop in Oklahoma for an check on the engine of the bus, we would be late in arriving in Tulsa.  At this point, I was beginning to get nervous about meeting this "great man" of God, but there was no need to be concerned.  My call to the college revealed that this was graduation day, that he would be speaking and afterwards, he and his wife were leaving for three weeks on vacation.  What was I to do, how could I explain my reason for being in Tulsa, a long ways away from San Diego?

We had passed a "labor" office on our way into town, so I had not changed clothes.  I was still wearing jeans and a tee shirt, ready for work I reasoned, so I headed that way.  On my way, I noted an older hotel with a sign, "$10/night".  At least, I thought, I have a place to sleep.  The office was not unlike the offices I had run in California.  "Sign in, take a seat.  If you're lucky, you might get some work."  I took a look at my watch.  It was 10:30 in the morning and there were three other guys waiting.  I sat down.

Just before Two in the afternoon, the phone finally rang.  "Any of you guys good at counting?" the dispatcher asked and my hand flew up.  "Grab your bag and head for the truck," he yelled as I headed that way, "If you're not back here by 6PM, you'll have to wait to get paid in the morning."  That sounded like good news to me.

The job was only a few blocks away and John, my boss-to-be was waiting as I climbed out of the truck and asked, "Are you sure you can count?" he asked and I replied, "I'm a college graduate," to which he replied, "I didn't ask you that.  I asked if you could count."  "Yes, sir!"

It was a parts supplier for several manufacturers and you not only had to count the parts, you had to make sure the right parts were in the right bins.  I didn't realize it, but as I was finished with one row, I was sent to another on the opposite side of the warehouse.  What I did nor realize was that John was double-checking my work on the previous row.  After three rows, he called me into his office and explained, we have to finish this job by Friday afternoon.  "Can you work ever day?"  What he was asking, "Can I count on you to be here every day."  "Yes, sir!"

When they were ready to close, John noticed the bag I was carrying.  "New to town?" he asked, "Yes, sir!"   He explained that he knew the owner of the hotel I had seen, so he told me he would give me a ride to it, went inside with me and told the clerk, "Put Mr. MacRae's bill on my tab and I'll settle with you on Friday night."  "Yes, sir!" as he handed me the key to my room.   "Oh my," I thought, I can have something to eat, tonight."

John was there when I came out of my room and said, "Let's have breakfast." and we were on our way. For the next four days, that was the routine.  I still had the $10 bill as he had also paid for my breakfast and ran a tab for my evening meals.  He brought me lunch every day as he poured out his life to me as though I was interested, which I was, and he never asked me questions about my life.  We were finished with the inventory by Thursday evening and he brought me back on Friday to make some changes he had been wanting to make, but needed help in getting it down.  He signed my ticket by 3PM on Friday so I would be sure to get paid and gave me his card.  "If you ever need a job in Tulsa, see me.  I always need some sort of help."  When I got to the Labor office, I discovered I had a check waiting for me, 40 hours of work at $2.50/hour more than I expected and the dispatched had another job waiting for me on Monday morning.  When I got to the motel, I discovered my bill had been paid and a room had been reserved for me at the local YMCA.

I walked away, crying.  I had never ever been treated so well and I could do nothing but praise the God I had been reading about  - faithfully, every evening.

I was about to have the shock of my life.  As I was walking toward the YMCA, I happened to see a cocktail lounge on the same side of the street.  I began to reason, "Since I had worked hard all week, I had "earned" the right to have a beer" - obviously forgetting that I had seldom been able to stop with "just one" beer.  I took hold of the door handle and it appeared to be locked.  I tried again and again as I could hear laughter from inside.  The windows had been painted so you could not see inside.  I began to reason that it must be a private party.  I started to walk away when two couples approached and asked me if it was open.  "I don't really know.  You will have to try it for yourself," and walked on.  To my amazement, they walked right in.  I began to wonder and it was then that I recalled my promise on that bus.  My life was going to change.  Obviously, it appeared that I needed help.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Flawed Legacy - 20

The easy part was finding "homes" for our youngsters.  The girls were eager to go to a friend's home who had been certified by the State and the boys went to a home that appealed to me.  There were other boys, the home was definitely led by a caring man and I was comfortable with the plans.  I expected we were on our way to real solutions for our most serious problems.

The Greyhound bus left on a bust Saturday afternoon.  It was May 9, 1975.  I went to sleep while we were riding past the desert areas of Southern California and after more sleep at night, we were in Phoenix, AZ, in the early morning hours.  Time for breakfast and I began to realize how unprepared I was for this trip.  Breakfast left me with $10 in my pocket.  That made me realize how important it was for all of us for me to be very careful about how I spent my resources.  I would need to get back to California   So, as we headed North, I decided I needed to "bone up" on my Bible studies as I would be meeting with a man, I assumed to know the Bible from the first page to the last.

Where to start?  Certainly not with the Older Testament as every attempt I had ever made to read the Bible would leave me confused as to why it was discussing old men with long names that were next to impossible to pronounce and places that made no sense to me.  I decided to start where Jesus started in His ministry and that would be easy for me to find.  Everything He was supposed to have said was printed in red letters.  That was easy.  It was in the forth chapter of Matthew, the first book in the Newer Testament, the 17th verse, where he says, "Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand,"

Repent!  Repent?  I had no idea of what that word should mean to me.  Although I had been attending church for most of my life, I could not recall of anyone who had ever even mentioned the word.  And I was supposed to be meeting with someone I thought knew everything there was to know about the Bible?

I looked out of the window of the bus as it roared through the deserts of Arizona as if I was asking for help in defining that word, repent.  I have no idea as to how long it took for me to start recalling my childhood, but then I was and in particular, it was those arguments my Mother used to have with my Grandfather about the "costs" of keeping me on the farm.  I recalled that I was surprised by what my Grandfather was saying as I had thought I had been helping them - as sort of payment, but what hurt me was the fact that it did not sound as if I would ever be living with her.  It was through those arguments that I would learn my Father was seriously ill and now as I reflected on those conversations, I remembered that I knew my Father had died, but no one had ever told me what had happened.  I knew that I grew up almost hating my Mother for abandoning me - at least that was the way I thought about it, and now I began to realize, I had a real reason to repent.  I no longer loved my Mother; in a sense, I hated her.  I had real reasons to repent.

And I tried to do just that.  But I began to realize I had other issues.  I always seemed to reset my friends for what they had and I did tot have in way of clothes, toys, parents that did things for them, like taking vacations and I never had anything like that.  I had vividly remembered the trip my uncle took my grand parent to visit the World Fair in NY City and I thought, I would never get to do anything like that. Even when I was getting ready to graduate from high school, the others were talking about college and I just knew, I could never do that.  Issue after issue flooded my mind and now, I had failed my marriage and my responsibility for my children.  I was doing my best to make sure the others on the bus did not see me or worse, hear me.

So, I prayed and sobbed, sobbed and prayed, until it stopped.  A peace came over me that just the thought of how it felt thrills me to this very hour.  "God", I pleaded, "does this mean You have forgiven me?"  I happened to look out of the window of the bus and it was dark outside and raining.  I could see the lightning flashing against the mountains in the distance and as it did, I watched the wind of the bus as it raced through the night, sort of "rolling up" the road dirt and pushing it across the window.  I thought, "Oh my, does this mean my sins are being washed away?" - a phrase I had heard so often in church.  I don't know how to explain it, I felt that they had.  I vowed to God, I was through with "sin" as I knew it, in my life.  So, I turned on the overhead light and began to read so more.

That too, was amazing.  I had tried several times over the years to read my Bible.  I always seemed to have one available, but it was lost cause.  I would read a few verses and quit a as it seemed like I would never understand what it was saying - to me.  Now, I could not get enough and it seemed, every verse I read had a definite meaning to me.

A Flawed Legacy - 19

San Diego on any day of the year is a good day.  We were fortunate to have found a nice duplex apartment that was close to the elementary school we needed for our children and across the street from a shopping center. It was a great new start and it should have worked well for us.  Unfortunately, it did not.

My problem was that I had not yet learned how to deal with rejection and working for a company that promised to "Write your Congressman" on behalf of the companies I was able to convince that they needed to participate, meant that I was being rejected on 60 to 70 per cent of my "unannounced" calls. More often that not, the owner was not available.  I should have anticipated this, but I did not.

Instead, I turned to what I had begun to believe was my old "dependable" as far as jobs were concerned.  I dropped by an employment agency looking for a "better" job and would up with another promise of the future and more drudgery.  I had some breaks.  The young Indian emigrant with more clerical skills than I had ever seen was easy to place in an "employer paid fee" job.  That impressed her father who came to the office with the resumes of the other children I had yet to meet and told me not to worry about fees; he would pay the fees for any of the others I placed.  That became my goal, but I did not share my thoughts with the agency manager and soon she became critical of my efforts.

Then came the bomb shell.  The mail box of the people in the adjoining unit had been pilfered and it did not take long for the authorities to visit Janice.  From what I would soon hear from the investigators who talked with me, she was blaming me for my financial failures.  To be honest, I almost lost it.  I came close to beating on her after she hid in our bedroom behind a locked door.  I kicked it in and was ready to beat on her, when I realized my promise to her and to myself.  One more incident like we had experienced earlier and I was through with the marriage.  The next morning I was talking with a lawyer about the possibilities of a divorce.  I would learn that we could not afford one.

So, I let the inevitable happen.  She was arrested, went to court - alone, and eventually, she was found guilty.  I never visited her in jail and was not interested in visiting her in the prison she was sent to for an evaluation.  Instead, I went to the appropriate offices in the State to see what assistance I could get to stabilize our family situation.  It would take time, I was told.

I called an old friend we had known in a Los Angeles church we had attended, shared my sad story and asked him if he could arrange to find me help for my problems.  By this time, I had to admit there had to be something wrong with me to have worked so very hard with no significant results and now, to find our family in disarray and my wife facing ten years in prison.  He came to San Diego, picked me up and we met with two others who were supposed to understand family crises.  We talked for over three hours and I realized, I was trying to convince them of my realities and they were fixated on what they had read about Christian family dynamics.  We were getting nowhere, but something my friend had said began to resonate with me.  My problem were more spiritual than any of us cared to admit.

With that I called a man I had known briefly, but who had made a lot of sense to me, so I called his office in Tulsa, OK.  Unable to reach him directly, his secretary suggested I come to Tulsa so that it would be easier to have him understand my predicament.  I thought that was a good idea.  I could not think of anyone in California who would be interested in listening to me.

I went back to the people I had talked with at the State offices and asked about the possibilities of placing the children in temporary (90 days) "Foster care" homes.  I assumed that before the 90 days had elapsed, Janice would be out of her temporary hold in prison, I would have learned more about my own sense of reality and we could establish a plan to our children.  To this day, I thought it was a good idea, it had been endorsed by the child welfare people.  Things would work out for the best of everyone. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

A Flawed Legacy - 18

Now, with four youngsters and a marriage that had so many questions, it was difficult for me to focus on the future.  My former friends, the ones I had literally given all of my energies to to so that we might succeed, were planning on another enterprise, but like before, most of their ideas were figments of their imagination and so I set out to find another opportunity with little or no credentials.  It wasn't easy.

I made a number of attempts.  The most promising - in my mind, was to convince others of the promise I saw in marketing cassette tapes being used to carry messages to the people who needed to know that life was what you make of it, by the energies one will employ to make it possibile.  I found a source for the tape players and recorders - in Europe and they were eager to provide them by the millions if required.  A source for the tapes themselves was much easier.  A former customer in Los Angeles had several contacts in Mexico.  My first prospect was the area's largest ministry where it was my opinion, they could record the sermons and the music played every Sunday for the thousands of listeners they claimed to have and distribute these cassettes by merely maintaining their mail lists.  My contact was eager to get started, but the ministry with a vision had trouble envisioning my proposal.

I had also made contacts within one of the nation's largest manufacturers of washing machines and driers and I thought they were convinced enough for me to fly to their facilities in middle America and demonstrate my proposal.  Place a recorder/player in each of their units with a tape that helped the new buyer take advantage of all of the unit's features.  I thought they had bought the idea until they asked to see proof that I could deliver as many units as I had proposed.

I returned to the West Coast with a belief I could convince my former contacts within the banks we had used to finance our employment business, but would soon discover they had lost a lot of their money when the IRS closed us down.   Unfortunately, my resources dwindled to next to nothing with that turn of events.

So, I hit the streets promoting the sales of a Marketing plan that I had personally used to promote our former business.   Along the way, I ran into a former USAF Colonel who had bought a franchise in a temporary help business and was struggling to get it off the ground.  To make a longer story shorter, we joined forces and were successful enough to help him envision a string of such offices across the Los Angeles basin.  He opened another office with a loan secured on the basis that his Latino wife was a corporate officer and the banks were open to promoting minority owned enterprises.  I stayed in Long Beach to operate that facility while he was using the Orange county office as his headquarters.

It looked as though we might become quite successful when I discovered that without my knowledge, my wife convinced my sister - apparently, she needed to get away from me and they moved to San Clemente and before I knew anything about it, they were gone.

With that, I was literally destroyed.   Finding an apartment downtown I started to develop new friends among the bar operators nearby and began to visit them rather than taking case of business.  Along the way, I began to entertain thoughts of suicide.  I never tried, but I lost my enthusiasm to live and things went downhill until I was fired   I thought I had reached the end of the line.

I called my wife, wondering if there was any possibility that we might get started again if I moved to San Clemente.  For some reason, she agreed.

I found a job immediately, developing a mailing list for a store operator who was importing goods from the Far East.  They were barely making it financially, so I found another job, a night job at a local factory, operating a punch press, and then a third job I could handle, cleaning KFC units in the middle of the night.  It was not easy and made more difficult by the fact I discovered some of the bills my wife had run up when I wasn't there.  The worst case was a store owner who was surprised to learn I was not a Marine Corps pilot who had been shot down in Vietnam.

I thought I had proved my point that I would do anything - legal, to maintain our family, but that we needed a new start.  An old friend had offered me a job in San Diego and with the promise that I was done with my drinking and that she would stop lying about some of the things that had happened in our lives, we decided to move and I had hopes it would all work out, some way.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Flawed Legacy - 17

Yes, I was wrong.  Dreams, expectations can fade, suddenly, without notice.

I no longer remember how I first heard of the money missing from a rent deposit made by one of the tenants we were supposed to accommodate.  All I can remember is that something like $400 was missing and Janice claimed to have no knowledge of it.  As it turned out, the tenants insisted they had paid her we did not have the cash on hand to make up for it.  Finally, I would learn that she did know more than she was admitting and I had but one thought.  Vividly, I recalled the Judge's warning during her sentencing for the first offense and all I could think of was her serving ten years in prison.

Fortunately, I had the opportunity to go through the landlord's books regarding deposits with an Asst. District Attorney investigating the case and his first impression was that his boss would not go ahead with prosecution.  I was wrong again.  I got a loan and tried to repay the landlord and they refused.  So - for some reason, still unknown to me, I acknowledged my responsibility and the DA filed charges.  I was headed for court for a crime I did not commit.  I thought it was better than having my wife in prison.   And I had seen the books, there were other mistakes and I sensed that possibly, they were wrong and my wife was not guilty - even though she had admitted to me that she was.

Going into court with the thought I might end up in prison was a scary experience.  My lawyer accepted my desire to leave it in the hands of the judge and not have a jury hear the claims and counter-claims.  I heard the testimony of the landlord's employee and for the first time, I took heart.  I was next on the witness stand and told the judge my understanding as to what had happened, including my thoughts on the way the landlord kept books, and stepped down.  No sooner had I sat down and the judge made his decision - I was not guilty, of poor judgement perhaps, but not guilty of a crime.

Shortly thereafter, for no other apparent reason than my employer assuming I had been guilty, I was fired.   But not through with that employer.  They claimed that I had taken money from the amounts that I had been responsible for and it did not take long before I was arrested.  Fortunately, the same Assistant DA was assigned this case and it didn't take him long to convince the DA, there was no case.  I was freed of all charges, but un-employed, again.

The friend who had offered me that job was now working for another company and they approached me to see if I was interested in getting even.  That was an interesting thought, but as I considered that we could compete with those who had filed fraudulent charges against me, I decided to join them.

We opened an office away from the previous one I had started, so there would be nothing for anyone to claim I was competing with them, and the fact was, we opened our office to compete with a major nationally known temporary help firm and within weeks, they had closed their office and left the area. Now we had employees from that firm and from the previous employer as well and were well on our way to even greater success.  We would open two others offices in short order, but I had nothing to do with them.  In the meantime, however, I had found a large company in need of females to work on an assembly line and used my contacts in the "gay" community to recruit new employees.  Within a month, we had more females working out of that office than we ever had numbers of men.

With that, the management bought another agency located on "skid row" in downtown Los Angeles and I became their manager.  We did very well from the outset as I fashioned an environment where most of the potential workers were comfortable as they waited on the possibilities they might obtain work and more importantly, money for a "cot, some hots and a drink or two" - which was life in the streets.

By now, our company seemed to me prospering, but one day I had a visit from the IRS.  They wanted to know of my relationship with the company, an employee or a corporate officer?  I was still an employee as I really was not interested in a title, I thought I had earned a secure position in the company and was more content, dealing with the employees.  At least, they seemed to be more honest with me than some of the actions in our home office.  The visit with the IRA was not just the first one.  I would discover that rather than depositing the monies we had collected for income taxes, they had ignored their responsibilities and within weeks, our doors were padlocked.  Gone was the possibility I would ever see the wages I had earned as bonuses, but were not paid because of "temporary" problems.  Well, we were in the temporary help business, so promises were temporary as well.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Flawed Legacy - 16

My new job, a new opportunity, was almost perfect for me.  They had created a "labor" office in East Los Angeles, where there plenty of people looking for work.  There was a problem, most of them were "Latinos" and as I started calling on the major businesses in the area, they needed the kinds of help - day laborers, we had to offer, but there was a caveat - No Latinos, and believe me, they were not as kind as I am trying to be.  It was the first time I had ever run into rampant prejudice.

Fortunately for us, among those waiting to be called for a day job, there was one Latino who was not only articulate, he was also very bright.   He worked for us on a few jobs where he was well received and I got to know more about him.  We talked about how to overcome our problem and decided that we could start a "language" class in the mornings before the orders came in.  We took the words that our customers would use in explaining their particular jobs and translated them into words our workers would understand.  Those classes began to pay off as we developed customers who were willing to accept the efforts we were making.  After all, the more they could accept our people, the less problems they were experiencing in thefts and property destruction.

But unfortunately, our management began to realize that the salaries we were being paid did not match up with profits they had expected.  I had lunch with the President and decided to tell him exactly what we could expect in the next few months and told him, frankly, it might be better to close the office and put us to work promoting the clerical end of the business that was more profitable.  He accepted my suggestion and we moved on to "greener" pastures.

In a city the size of Los Angeles, there were literally hundreds of sales people promoting the temporary help business, so I decided to "buddy up" with a gal who was a real "pro" when it came to knowing the reality of our market.  One thing appealed to me and that was the numbers of customers who were in the "direct mail" business that required lots of "bodies" whenever they had a promotion, a perfect need for temporary employees.  I also had a friend of a friend who operated a service in the "black" community that searched for jobs for their teenagers.  We got together and I discovered a company that would use literally, dozens of unskilled workers to fill the envelopes that were part of that business at that time. Our first order was for 120 temporary workers who would be working 24 hours a day for several days.
That was 40 workers working eight hour shifts, around the clock.  The customer's original complaint was that no one could fill such a request.  Thanks to my contact, we not only filled their first order, we had ten other potential employees standing by in case there were workers who did not show up.

Imagine the delight of our management.  They had never experienced having 120 workers on the job daily.  And the nationally known customer paid our invoices, promptly.  I got a nice raise.

And I convinced the company we ought to open a new "labor" office, away from the "skid row" offices that were common to such organizations.  That worked as well.

During this time, our second son was born, and we discovered an apartment complex we could "manage" for a fee, merely by collecting the rents and notifying office of any problems.

Life was good.  I was doing what I loved to do - even though there were times when I was literally working 18 hours a day, on occasion, seven days a week.  With four beautiful children to raise, it was as if my dreams of success were upon us.  I was wrong. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Flawed Legacy - 15

Melinda - now my Susie, would be in the hospital several days.  I would be there every night after work, still praying, still wondering, why?  I know, I left Janice at home taking care of Mary Kathryn, but none of that seemed to concern me.  What had begun to trouble me more than anything was the fact we did not have the resources to pay the hospital bills.  Soon, we did not have enough to pay the owner of our house and we would be evicted.

I had hoped my employer - especially my friend, my boss, would offer something.  Not money out of his pocket as he was always whining about the cost of supporting his wife's spending tendencies, but a word to the management of how dedicated I was to my responsibilities.  Nothing was ever said, that I knew of, at least.  I began to think of a change.  But we needed  the security.

We moved into an apartment complex where there were four units on one side of a sidewalk and four on the other side.  It was nice, but we were pregnant again.  Soon, our first son came along.

The more I thought of my responsibilities and the less I thought about the possibilities at my job, the more I was tempted to go back to drinking.  I will never forget an incident before William, our first son was born.  Our children were all born by caesarean section and we knew exactly when the delivery would be scheduled, so I boasted that "my wife was going to have a baby at 7:30 the following morning" and offered to bet on it.  To my surprise, three or four fellows took the bet, so that when it happened, I collected a couple of hundred dollars, that we needed at home.  Instead, I bought the "house" a couple of rounds of drinks and tipped the waitress generously.  Stupid, I know, but with all that seemed to be going on in my mind, it was true to form for me to disregard my real responsibility.

I don't know if that is what caused it, but I would soon be shocked to discover that my wife had been stealing mail from our neighbors' mail boxes and was caught and jailed.  I had wondered where she got all of the gifts the children had at Christmas, but she claimed that her mother had paid for them.

There was a trial, she plead guilty and to our amazement, the judge sentenced her to ten years in prison, but let her go on probation because of our children, warning her that if she continued to violate the law, he would assure her that she would serve every day of that sentence.

It wasn't long before I was sickened by everything that was happening - to me (I thought) and finally I had enough of my job, my bosses, my opportunities there and quit my job.

But an amazing thing happened.  I had made friends with a temporary help supplier who had been calling on our company and when he heard that I had left, he called to see if I would be interested in working for him.  It involved a better salary, the potential for commissions and a company car.  It was like "manna" from heaven as far as I was concerned.  We moved back to Los Angeles and it looked like our future had really improved.

A Flawed Legacy - 14

We were broke, no question about that and I was not handling it well.   I had a tendency to get angry - very angry, and I almost blew it.

Fortunately, Janice had called my sister and she came to our rescue.  A place to stay until I got on my feet and no apologies necessary.  The next morning, I was on the street looking for a job - any job, and was told there was a bookkeeping job open at "Danny's" restaurant and although they would hire me, I was not interested in keeping books - at a restaurant.  Funny - in a sense, they would go on to become Denny's, the same as the ones in your area.

Somehow, I found that they were looking for concession managers at a local entertainment center - Melody Land theater, if you are familiar with the Anaheim area.  I was hired right away as an attendant, but it was a job - in the evenings, so I could look for a better job during the days.  Turned out well as we had an absentee Manager and he let us alone, if we were doing what needed to be done - no complaints from the main venue.  We started hiring Marines from a nearby base and met their expectations.  Then, my sister wanted to work as well, so that helped.

I had called a friend - an employment agency owner I had met at an association meeting and he had an interesting proposition.  He had sold a franchise to a young woman looking for a business opportunity and she had grown tired on the work involved.  It so happened that she owned a house in an up-scale neighborhood where we could live as long as we paid the utility bills and was satisfied with a negotiated amount of any fees I collected.  It looked good, but I was about to learn a valuable lesson.  You don't open an employment agency if you cannot afford the costs of advertisement to attract people looking for jobs and even though I was pretty good of locating people, interested in changing jobs. it was slow going and I was not earning any real money.

Imagine my surprise when a former manager called me to see if I was interested in being his assistant in a plastic manufacturing company, nearby.  It was too good not to accept so we moved from our very spacious house to a two bedroom apartment.  It was good to get back on a regular salary and I loved the job.  There were three principal owners of the business and they were interested in my job, how it was going at in turn, I was keeping them informed of the customers we were serving.  It was obvious, it was a "family owned" business and the employees - in key positions at least, were treated as family.

And we were pregnant again.  We had also discovered a house we could own on a contract basis; that is, we made a down payment and as long as we kept up monthly payments on a regular basis, we could eventually purchase the house.  To tell the whole truth, I was proud of "our" accomplishments.

Then, there was an argument and Janice ran off to our bedroom and apparently,threw herself down on the bed.  I tried to comfort her and suggested we go out for some ice cream. On the way, suddenly, her water broke and we headed for the nearest hospital.  There was no time to call for our doctor as she was rushed off to a delivery room.  Within an hour or so, they brought our second daughter to me and - to be perfectly honest, I was shocked.  Mary Kathryn had been beautiful child and here was this scrawny little girl, delivered two months two months earlier than her due date.  Melinda Suzanne was about to take over my prayer life as I was told, her chances of survival were slim at best.

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Flawed Legacy - 13a

I got carried away with my so-called "career" endeavors and failed to include the most significant event in my life.  Significant, not only because of the woman that I married, but the fact that we became the parents of four lovely children.

I think I have already told you but I was drinking too much, thinking more about the "Me" in my life rather than the importance of considering the fact that actions beget circumstances.  That was true in my life and I had begun to recognize the downward spiral.  That is where I came mind-to-mind and heart-to-heart with a man and his thoughts as compiled in his book, Think and Grow Rich.  Napolean Hill was his name and if you ask most American men over 50 years of age, you are almost certain to discover that if they have not read his book, they have heard him lionized among motivational speakers. I ate up his words, I began to dream his dreams.

So it was, I decided to change my ways and headed for the most safe haven I had ever experienced in my life to date.  I went to church and specifically to the First United Methodist Church in Hollywood, CA.  True to form, the people I met, noticing the fact I was nicely dressed, appeared to be younger than I was actually and single - at least there was no wedding band, they headed me to the Young Singles class, led by two of the nicest people you would ever care to meet.

I could see the eyes and noticed the smiles on the young ladies I met and recognized the hesitancy of the younger guys.  It was obvious, they were seeking relationships and I was one of them.

The gal I met - and would eventually marry, Janice, was cute as could be, had dancing eyes and it wasn't long before we were dating.  And dating led to thoughts of marriage and those thoughts led to the obvious.  We had determined that we could do better as a married couple and then there was the obvious.  Since we were going to be married, there was no reason to wait for sex.  There was a very good reason, she became pregnant before the wedding plans were developed and from that moment until our wedding date, everything else took a back seat.

She told me that she was working at an aircraft facility that happened to be one of my clients.  I knew the Personnel Manager well and when I tried to call my beloved on the phone, I would learn that she did not work there, had never worked there.  My friend confirmed this.  She had applied for a job there, but she was not accepted as the interviewer believed she was not serious about working.  That really jolted me, but I was in love, that was for certain, and I knew very well about the little "lies" we all seem to share too often.  I was even more guilty than she was.

The wedding went off well, her mother was very good at such things and we were happy in our new "home", a rented apartment across the street from the NBC studios and when we could afford it, we moved to a nicer place nearby.  I was doing well in my job even though I was not happy, so when a better offer - or so I thought, came along, I jumped at the opportunity.

Our first child, Mary Kathryn, was patient with us and delayed her arrival until it almost matched the typical nine months waiting period.  She was a big girl, ten pounds, eight ounces and beautiful beyond any words I could find to describe her.  Talk about "proud Poppa's" - those words fit me perfectly.

Janice was relieved - to be sure, and we were well on our way to successful life, when the tragedy I spoke of earlier came upon us.  I was devastated, there was no better description.  Janice was disappointed, but she was the one who reached out and uncovered a solution.  More on this, later on.  

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Flawed Legacy - 13

(NOTE:  This is the second "edition" on Thursday and it is the 13th, not because that Friday's would be the 13th, it just happens that I am leaving town for the weekend, as a delegate to my church's yearly convention.  I am looking forward to the experience, just as I hope you are looking forward to future editions of this blog.  And, I am looking forward to your responses as well.)

That stop at an employment agency was very interesting.  First, that the Manager happened to be a man I had met at a Simmons' sales rally and second, that he had something to offer that I needed to consider.

He offered me a position - not a job (he said), as a Counselor reminding me that with all of my Air Force experience in Personnel work, I ought to be a "natural" and their office had lots of "traffic", an essential when it came to this business.  I decided it was better than waking up every morning with a "hang over" and the regret that I was wasting too much of my time.  It was interesting.  The first person I interviewed happened to have the right experience for a job opening we had advertised and by 5PM that day, he was hired.  In the first week, I would "place" 5 applicants and I began to realize, this was more than was expected of me, especially when it came to other "counselors".  There was also a matter of money, of earnings for each placement, and each of the placements I made were of the "applicant pay fee" category and it was the Manager who set the terms.  He was gracious enough to offer me $50 as an advance, pending the full payment of each fee.  Aha, we didn't discuss this at the start.

I made three placements the following week, there was no offer of an advance and so I decided to do some research.  The public library was in the next block and so I spent my weekend there, evaluating my experience against what I was reading about other agencies, all of whom were out of the area.  My third week was a little better, I interviewed a fellow who was willing to pay his fee "up front" and I was fortunate enough to find him a job right away.  I made three other placements that week and again, there was no offer of an advance, except that I collected my portion of the fee that was paid.  Now, I began to here the "chatter" of other counselors and when we had a chance to talk, I learned they were in worse shape that I was.  Most were "earning" about $250/month.

So, I went back to the library, discovered three likely candidates for a job in other cities and wrote each a letter, asking for what they looked for in employees, the wages they paid and the possibility of openings.  I was unable to get stamps on the weekend for my letters, so I brought them with me to the office, expecting to mail them at lunch time.  Instead, I was invited to lunch with the manager and when we came back to the office, I was asked for my keys to the office and informed that I was fired.  As it turned out, he had seen the envelopes in my desk drawer, had someone read the letters, and decided it was time to let me go - keeping the fees I had earned and would not be paid.  Of course, I appealed to the State employment offices and then learned. it would take 4-5 months before a hearing would be scheduled.  So much for my dream.

Fortunately for me, I had made friends along the way and one directed me to another, more reputable agency and I started there within a week of my interview.  The traffic was slower, but the office attracted a better class of applicants and I was fortunate enough  to place an executive whose new employer paid his fee which was close to earning enough for me, almost equal my "losses" with the other agency.  My new manager and I became good friends and although I was not earning what I had expected to be earning, I was making excellent contacts with prospective employers.  When my friend and his wife decided to move to another area, I was made the manager.

I would learn that the agency owner's only interest was in a good return on his investment, and I was able to convince him that I had hired some reputable employees, capable of running the office when I was not there and we could make more money if I started travelling, searching for people needed in the LA area, and we made a deal.  At long last, I thought I had arrived.  We did well.  The office was productive and I was successful dealing with other out-of-State agencies.  Then the owner died and his wife sold the agency without any word to any of us.  At least she paid us what we had earned and gave us a 10% bonus on top of that.

I would be hired as Manager of another agency and would soon learn that they were doing some things that troubled me, so I began to quietly search for another opportunity.  It came rather quickly in the form of an out-of-town agency owner who was interested in opening a branch close to one of my employers offices and I hired two of the people I had previously employed.  Shortly after we started, I learned there was problems in the financing the new office, so I offered to underwrite that for a share in the overall company operation.  They were doing good where they were; I knew we do as good if not better.

I had been leasing cars and had just signed on for a new Mercury.  I was at home when my "partner" stopped by and asked if she could use it for the weekend, leaving her Cadillac as collateral.  "Sure, why not!"  Monday morning came and she had not returned and so I called her office, leaving word for her to call when she got in.  I really had expected that she might be returning the Mercury later in the day, but she did not.  Two days passed and her husband called  with really bad news.  His wife and "our" bookkeeper had cleaned out the corporate accounts and the family's and that my Mercury was on the highway between Las Vegas and Los Angeles where the State Police reported that the engine was burned up, apparently when they has run off the road and tore a hole in the oil pan.

A Flawed Legacy - 12

With no specific goal in mind, I headed for Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry.  Enjoyed it, but not the motel I chose.  Onward, heading for St. Louis.  Had an idea I might see old friends from the days at Scott AFB, but had to wait for a week.  Meanwhile, needing to make some money, I stopped by the Kirby (vacuum cleaners) office and was hired immediately.  No training, just "get out there and hustle."

It was easy.  People were not buying the vacuum cleaner, they were buying the thought they could earn money by referring others to view a demonstration.  Never did see the results of this, but then I sold a vacuum to a couple with no floors in their house.  That wasn't difficult.  They had linoleum covering the ground of which the house stood and every time it cracked - and there were several, the dust went all over the sofa and stuffed chairs, but worse, the beds.  They had a teen aged daughter and her job would be to vacuum - everything, every day.  Oh yes, they paid cash, no discounts, full price.  Imagine that.

The boss heard about this and made me the "trainer" for his territory covering most of Missouri.  The pay wasn't bad, gas certificates, free motels and an over ride on the trainee sales.  Problem was, they would hire anybody and trying to train people who had no idea of how to manipulate people into buying was next to impossible.  At the end of the month, I headed West.

Surprised my Sister in California and it was good to be with her - at long last.  We had never, ever, lived together and getting to know her husband and children was really a good move for me.  Of course, there was the "bad" news I had to share with my soon-to-be former wife and Mother that was not easy and I am not proud of the explanations I had to offer.  But the die was cast.  I had made a bad mistake and it didn't seem to bother me that there was no turning back.  Of courses, over the years, I would pay a terrible price for disappointing my Mother.

I had to find a job and there wasn't much to offer in the area where my Sister lived so I moved on to Los Angeles proper, where I met a guy with a great offer.  He had a warehouse loaded with "hand knit" ladies sweaters and offered me a deal to sell them to department stores, out of State.  I was rather naive thinking that was a good deal and I had no problem making lots of sales, mainly because of the price and the obvious quality of the sweaters.  I paid my own way - on credit cards, and within thirty days, I had sold all that we had to offer.  I returned to Los Angeles to get paid for my efforts, but there were problems.  To make a much longer and sadder story shorter, the sweaters were not ours to sell. My new boss had a long record of selling knitting machines to gullible women who would also buy the yarn, but only a few would ever get paid.  The LA Police department would fill in the details,  It was a classic "Ponzi" scheme and they were still trying to locate my employer.  Welcome to California, Sherwood. Turns out the "office" he used was his girl friend's home and the last I would ever hear of them, they could not be found.

There was a brighter aspect to that experience.  I had met them at a Charles Simmons' sales seminar and he appeared to be very good at it.  I actually learned a lot about selling and during some of the meetings - aka sales rallies, I would meet people looking for sales people.  My favorite one was selling fine china to young employed girls and I had a lot of fun demonstrating the inherent value of buying expensive items that would last a lifetime.  It really did not matter if they did not buy on the first call, the names of other potential buyers were enough to earn really good money for me.  I only worked in the evenings and on weekends, so I had lots of "free" time.  Too much.  I really got lazy and worse, would head for a bar after every successful sale, knowing I could sleep it off the next day.  I began to develop really bad habits.

On one of my better days, I stopped into an employment agency looking for sales people I could add to the "team" I could create on my way to becoming a millionaire.  At least, that was my dream 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Flawed Legacy - 11

Getting enrolled at Georgia Tech was easier than crossing a street on a green light.  I was really surprised as I had anticipated some of the problems we encountered regularly in the military.

It was a whole lot easier than my efforts to get started on the studies involved.  I had to remember that I had only attended three years in high school and it had been seven years since I had sat in on a lecture that would eventually require me to answer questions on a test that would determine my future.  I had no problems with the English classes and the Drafting course I was taking.  Math, Algebra, was another situation and I might as well have been studying a foreign language when it came to understanding what my Physics instructor was saying.  I was about the realize the situation I was in.  My fellow students were much younger and they were the "cream of the crop" from the schools they were used to attending.

Fortunately, my counselor found a remedial course in Algebra I could attend and waived the requirement for Science classes until I had time to study the definitions being used in most classes.  By the time I realized I was not going to make it at Georgia Tech, the college had suggested that I ought  to consider other possibilities.

It was then that I discovered that in the heart of Atlanta, there was a relatively new college being established and they were looking for veterans with GI Bill scholarships.  So, I transferred to what was known in those days as the Atlanta Division of the University of Georgia; nowadays highly regarded at Georgia Sate University.  They moved me into the upper classes in Business Administration and I took to that curriculum like the proverbial duck to water.  I even found that in spite of my problems with math at Tech, I excelled in Accounting.  So much so that my Professor almost insisted I change my major to Accounting and he would assure me of a advanced scholarship so that I could become a CPA. I had no interest in "pencil pushing" and it was out of the questions as far as I was concerned.

In the meantime, I had been living on my Mother's couch in her one bedroom apartment. Whether moving out of that situation or meeting a gal in Sunday school was my motivation, but we decided to get married.  As a result, I was shocked to hear my Mother's response when I told her that I planned to get married.  "Sherwood, there has never been a divorce in our family."  What?  I thought I had told her I was planning on getting married, not getting a divorce.  Later I will share some thoughts on what she had said, but not for the moment.

We were married and moved into an apartment closer to where my bride worked as a Secretary for an executive in Delta Airlines headquarters.  We had talked about future plans I had when I graduated and that was to get a Commission in the Air Force and hopefully, travel to many of the places where we had Air Force bases.  She seemed interested and especially, the thought of travelling and so we were off to a good start.  Then, I began to realize that even though I had become President of the "day school" and was obligated to attend various school programs, they held no interest to her.  The only time I recall her visiting the college was when we had an "awards" program and I came away with quite a number of the awards.  She and my Mother were very proud and I was embarrassed.

Prior to graduation, I had made another decision.  I wanted more than anything to become a Father as I had never known the love of my own Father.  He died - unknown to me at the time, when I was living with my grandparents and none of them seemed to realize that it might have been important to me. Anyway, we had refrained from the possibility that she might become pregnant, but now I suggested it was time to consider the possibilities.  It would never happen.

I found my first civilian job with a major oil company and was grouped with three others from the same graduating class in a management "training" class.    It seemed like a good idea and I did my best to put up with the juvenile attitudes of my fellow trainees, even though I tried to demonstrate the knowledge of "administration" I had learned in the Air Force.  It was not working so I made attempts to opt out of the situation and when that failed, I offered my resignation.  I found another "opportunity" with a marketing firm and thought I had found an excellent transition from my military experience.  However, there was trouble at home with the reluctance to attempt a pregnancy as it seemed, her employment future was far more impressive than mine.  By that time, I had a sales territory out of the city and even though I was trying to balance my home life with my career, it was not working.  I felt trapped, so I made a move that still makes me wonder why.  I simply packed up my clothes, said good bye to our dog and left town.

In retrospect, it was a stupid move as I was turning my back on friends that I had made in college and in my interests in a political career and worse, I had no idea where I might be headed.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Flawed Legacy - 10

I was devastated by my loss and I guess it showed.  My boss told me to take ten days off and gave me an address of a home I could visit and be refreshed.  My secretary started to cry every time I came into her office.  She and her husband had been our guests at a restaurant when we gave them what was then, the truly good news.  I decided to take my boss's offer.

It so happened that in the house next door was another friend from Japan and he was now stationed in the Pentagon,  To make a longer story short, I only stopped at Eglin to pick up my clothes and personal items and was on my way to Washington, to the Pentagon.  Wow!  I was instantly amazed and wondered what I might be doing next.  It so happened that when the war broke out in Korea, they had   called up the Reserves in a hurry and made some serious mistakes.  People were hurt by the move and it would be my job to investigate, looking for the facts in many of the claims.

I would be given a file on each person stating everything the the government, the Air Force, knew about the individual and a copy of their personnel records, so that I knew a lot about them.  I was sent on temporary duty to the ROTC unit in the closest college to where they currently lived, so that I could "just happen to run into them" and talk about their experiences  in the call up.  Some guys had made a bad mistake, saying things they should not have said and then there were the others who were seriously hurt.  Like the reserve Sergeant from St. Louis whose orders to report were so urgent that he would lose the business he had started after WW II, his wife left him and married another man and he had effectively lost contact with his children.  Fortunately, based on my testimony and the facts of the matter, his case was reviewed and he received a substantial award to cover some of his losses.  He had confided in me that before we had met, he was seriously considering suicide.

His case and others not quite as drastic motivated me to go a good job, but the more cases I reviewed, the more I was sickened by the attempts of some to - as one guy told me, "...pick up a little extra money" merely by claiming he was cheated by the government.  "No one cares," was his excuse.

The travel and some of the stories I had heard began to wear on me and when I discovered that a Colonel I had served under in Japan was now stationed at Scott AFB, IL, I applied for a transfer and got it - and another award for my service.  Scott field is one of our oldest bases, but it was better than the beach in Florida.  Besides, they had two major league baseball teams.  While I was in Japan I had played a lot of baseball and had managed a women's softball team, made up of the wives of many of our fighter pilots.  As a youngster, I had lived and breathed through the play of "my" Detroit Tigers.  As a member of the Armed Forces, we had free admission to the games in St. Louis and as veterans, we also got a lot of "free" beer from appreciative fans.  We had to wear our uniform so we were paid a lot of attention from others in the stadium.

My job on base, however, was something else.  I did not work for my friend, the Colonel, but had a number of jobs that really did little to challenge me.  I was - in a word, bored.  I tried travelling around on the weekends, to Chicago and parts of Illinois, but my favorite was exploring the "other side" of the State of Kentucky.  Fascinating world, so unlike other places I had ever been.

Then I received "good" news.  When I had re-enlisted in 1949, I signed onto an "indefinite" enlistment requiring me to serve for three more years, but after that I was free to resign at my request, and so now, it was late August and I could resign to enter college.  That became my plan, resign, go to college, get a Reserve commission as an officer and return to the military when I graduated.

So I called my Mother in Atlanta and an "on again/off again" girl friend in Denver, telling each one, the first one to help me get in college was where I planned to live for the  next four years.  Mother won, easily.  Within a week, I had a call from the Dean of Students at Georgia Tech, hoping to welcome me when classes opened in September,  It was a slam dunk.  I was headed for Georgia.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Flawed Legacy - 9

Finally - although I would not have used that word in May, 1951, my tours had ended and I was ready to leave Japan with hundreds of memories stored up and tears in my eyes as I prepared to go.  My Japanese Colonel friend had asked me to spend a couple of days with him and surprised me by taking me to his wife's home where they had prepared a feast for me.  Oh my!  They came from miles away to thank me - once again, for the food and other items we had brought to them,  The highlight of the meal was a huge bowl on Sukiyachi and it was delicious.  But there was a problem.  When I looked around to say my goodbyes, I looked for their cat.  Suddenly, the room became very quite,  I was about to learn the important role the cat had played in my farewell.  Had I known what they planned to have a celebration, I would have made certain my buddies would have been there.  However, on base, you leave alone.  No good byes, no parties, no nothing.  All debts and friendships are cancelled.

This time was departure was on a civilian plane with 50-60 other guys, heading home.  We laid over in Hawaii and with a guy I had met on the plane, we decided to go into town and get drunk as we shared stories of our adventures in Japan.  I decided to talk about the thrill I had in climbing Mount Fuji.  A friend of a friend had introduced me to an Army nurse in Tokyo and she was looking for a partner to go with her.   What fun, half way up.  Then we began to tire and were amazed at the numbers of the much older Japanese men and women passing us by.  We struggled up to the last station and decided to head home.  Then, this 90 year old man sat down beside us and told us not to worry, he would be the guide to the top,  We looked at each other as we had set a goal of making love as we got to the top.  Ha!  The air was so thin and we even had trouble breathing while we were standing up.  Our goal had faded, so we moved on and made it.  As we parted, we made a vow that if we ever met on the mainland, we would - finally, complete the task.

As it was in Hawaii, we slept past the hour we were supposed to leave and had to check in with the Operations office to see when we could get another flight.  That gave us two more days in Hawaii and this time, we were scheduled on an Air Force cargo plane, no seats, no hostesses, no drinks, so we decided to start a poker game.  As fate might have it, the Colonel who had been my Base commander for a couple of months was on board with us and he had lots of money.  By the time we got to the U.S. he was broke and my friend and I had plenty with which to celebrate in San Francisco.  We ate at the restaurant at the top of the Mark Hopkins hotel and I recall paying our waitress $20 to get a quart of milk because there was none available in the kitchen  She returned with a half gallon.  Not having real sweet milk for years, you might understand.  Fun part was the fact that as they left, the people at the next table included my $20 on their bill.

When I got home to Detroit, I would learn that my Mother had moved to Atlanta, GA.  Apparently, her letter telling me of the move never got to me.  Fortunately, my Aunt and Uncle answered the phone and came to pick me up and on the way to their home, we stopped so I could see my Sister and I also met the guy who would become my Brother-in-law.   My Aunt would take me to the farm to see my family up there and after a week or so, I was headed for Atlanta.  It was good to see my Mother and spent some time with her, the first I had really spent time with her since I was little more than a baby boy.

Now, I was on a train to my new duty station, Eglin AFB on the Gulf coast of Florida.  I got there on the 4th of July and it was hot, but not nearly as hot as it would be as I was taken to the transient quarters, barracks made of metal and by the time the sun hit the roof, it was immediately 25 degrees hotter than it was in the sun.  I learned I was assigned to the Armament Test Center and given a room in an air conditioned barracks.  We were only a few miles off of the beach at Fort Walton and we started work at 6AM so that we could be at the beach and in the water by 3PM.   The only problem was transportation, so I still had money from the poker game on the flight back to the U.S., so I bought a car and immediately had "buddies" who needed a ride into town every time I headed there.

It was a good duty station as I was put to work revising the Armament skills section for airmen assigned to such work and had a good boss and a great secretary, a first for me, even though I shared her with the Commander of our organization.  It wasn't long before I noticed the bathing beauties who were everywhere on the beaches.  One in particular came from Iowa, the daughter of a farmer family and it wasn't long before we were in love.  She had to go home with the girl friend she came with, but it wasn't long before she was back.  She wanted to get married and so did I.

Unfortunately, it would never be.  She was staying in a motel and after she had lunch, we would go out on the beach area to take in some rays, waiting for me.  One day, however, we had visiting "brass" from the Pentagon and I had to stay for them.  There was no way for me to call her to let her know of the delay.  Finally, after 6PM, I headed for the beach only to find an ambulance, lights flashing, as I drove up.   She had had a sun stroke and when they couldn't revive her, they headed for the hospital. She didn't make it.  By the time I got in to see her, they were wheeling her to the morgue.  The hospital administration was on the phone with her parents when I got to them.  I was almost scared to pick up the phone as - to me, at the moment, I was responsible for her death.  Her parents would have not have any of that.   She had called them every day, told them of our plans and they were delighted.  They had six girls, no boys and were ready to welcome me into their family.  They even sent me air fare  so I could fly "home" with her body and they welcomed me into a family I had never had

Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Flawed Legacy - 8

Back to Japan and the task of re-classifying our enlisted personnel, I was prepared for all of the "problems" we were supposed to discover.  With a few minor problems, we breezed through the effort, made possible by the assistance of our various unit commanders.  Of course, as my "boss" suggested, I also was responsible for maintaining their records, so they were committed to cooperate.  That was an interesting response but the truth of the matter is the fact that I saw how well a unit can function if everyone is committed to succeed.  Years later, I would long to be employed by a company who actually recognized such possibilities.

My three year tour in Japan was about to be completed, so I tool advantage of privileges I had earned and made a tour of the places I had visited.   First stop was our satellite base outside of Seoul, Kimpo Airdrome.  I had placed all of the enlisted personnel serving there and most of them agreed it was a good duty assignment.  Then, I ran into an "old" drinking buddy I had met in my travels throughout Japan.  He was in Korea assigned to an Army reconnaissance outfit, flying along the 32nd "parallel" to observe the North Koreans and their troop movements.  He invited me to fly along and it was quite an experience.  Everywhere we looked, as far North as we could see, there were preparations being made to move South.  Plenty of military of course, but what intrigued us was the numbers of supply vehicles to support a military invasion.  "Do you report on this?" I asked my buddy and his reply, "Yes, every time we fly over, we  keep track of additions or movements."  It was all hard for me to believe. 

Next stop, Tokyo, but as I was was walking through the airport, I saw a press conference underway and being curious, I walked over to hear what was being said.  There were reporters from all over and they were grilling what I heard were State Department representatives.  The gist of most of the questions had to do with the possibilities of North Korea invading the South.  "No, we are aware of their capabilities and have concluded, they are merely doing what most armies in the field do, move about so that their soldiers do not get bored with their assignments,"  What?  That was not what we saw.  It was not what was being reported, daily.  I wanted to raise my question, but the press conference ended and I got on my bus, wondering why I had just heard what I had actually heard.  Oh well, I was heading home and right then, I had places to go and people to see.

I took the train back to Kyushu, but got off in Kokura to take a bus up to say good-bye to my dear friend, the former Japanese Colonel with whom we had become close friends.  We spent three days, getting drunk and crying that we would not be seeing one another again.  He was the closest I had ever come to a man ad I used to think of him as my Father.  We visited his wife and daughter in the village where they lived and neighbors turned out to wish me a fond, Sayonara.

I had left my Jeep there as there was a good local mechanic who could fix "everything", so I paid him and left for Itazuke.  As I was approaching the guards at the gate, they were waving me down, "Guess what, Sarge,  the North Koreans have invaded the South."  It was June 30, 1950.  I had a feeling I would not be going home right away. 

I was right.   A couple of days later, I was asked to attend a conference where plans were being made to form an Air Force Unit that would move to South Korea and fly missions from there.  My job was to assemble a cadre of experienced enlisted technicians to support the mission at Itazuke and the date for their transition would be announced.  That was when knowing the guys who were doing my job at other bases in Japan became a God-send.  Within seventy-two hours, a full complement had arrived and were temporarily housed in our base gymnasium.  We were ready to go to war.  The Provost Marshall issued me a gun and I was instructed to make certain, no one left except when we went to the Mess hall.

As it turned out, I did not sleep for the seventy-two hours they were with us and so, I collapsed.  All I had ever dome was follow instructions and it went off like clock work.  For that, my over eager superior prepared a recommendation for a Bronze Star, but the authorities reduced the award to an USAF Commendation Medal.  I was very proud, but even more proud of the fifth stripe I was awarded for my efforts in that crisis.

I was surprised to learn that my "contact" at Fifth Air Force headquarters was impressed by that job and so, he had me on other assignments in and out of Korea.  I will never forget the first trip to Korea. All we had to do was report to the air strip, pick up a parachute, convince the load master we knew how to use it, and take a seat, making sure we buckled up.  Sitting next to me were three youngsters from the 24th Division (Army) who had missed the deployment of their regular outfit and would catch up with them when we got to Korea.  One kid was crying, at least I could see the tears in his eyes and asked, "What's wrong, soldier?"  Turns out that they only had 9 bullets between the three of them and they thought they would be asked to fight as soon as we landed.  I assured them that was not the case and I would help them to find their outfit.  That was easy.  The Division headquarters had assumed there would be instances like that and had personnel assigned to the Air base to get them where they needed to be going.  Just imagine.  Going into a combat zone with only a few pieces of ammunition.
That was more than enough to scare me and to realize that this war was now, very real to me.  On my way back to my base, that plane was loaded with wounded soldiers who would be treated at the hospital in Fukuoka.

On a later trip, I discovered there was a B-25 bomber scheduled to go where I was going and so I got aboard.  We had hardly cleared the air strip when I noticed the port engine was spilling oil all over the wing.  I hurried up to the pilots and discovered they were Greeks, who did not speak English, or so they said.  "No, problem" they indicated and they shut that engine down.  A few minutes later, I looked out of a starboard window and there were flames coming from that engine and we were about 500 feet above the Sea of Japan.  All they did was start the other engine and shut down the one with the fire.  I kept wondering what I would do when we went into the sea.  There were three other "passengers" aboard, but they were all asleep.  I decided to let them sleep as I kept my eyes on the port side engine. It was dark and as I looked out I saw lights, hopefully from Pusan which had to be the source of the lights.  It was, but now the pilots were starting to climb - on one engine.  I was not sure it could, but it did and a few minutes later, we were on the ground.

The pilots caught up to me as I was searching for a gate to get out of there and they threw their arms around me and drugged me over to a counter.  "Speak English," they shouted to no one in particular, but soon a guy came over to us from someplace - remember, it was the night time.  What they wanted others to know was that I had become their "navigator".   "Give him medal," they laughed and I broke away to get out of there.  I was thankful to be alive, 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Flawed Legacy - 7a

I am going to interrupt my chronological "journey" for a day as I review a couple of incidents that happened while I was stationed at Itazuke.

The first occurred when four of us who were new to Kyushu decided to take a long weekend and travel around the island and view life as a Japanese native.  We started by walking down the rows of street side "stalls" out of which they peddled their wares and more often, their fruits and vegetables.  We had a blast teasing one another, urging the others to buy a sample - which never happened.

Then we came upon a beautiful hotel in Kokura and walked in to see how much it would cost for a night and discovered for "G.I.'s" it was more than reasonable.  We paired off and spend most of the day walking through the beautiful gardens and we also discovered the bathing pool.  It was divided by a sheet hanging the ceiling and barely touching the water.  It was there to separate the men from the women.  My roommate and I decided to try it out and no sooner was he in the water and he began to "test" the curtain.  Immediately, there were screams and a guard came to warn us - "No touchee!"

It was my first time ever in a pool and I was really enjoying myself when my buddy came up from behind me and whispered, "We are going to have lots of fun this evening."  With that I was out of the pool and looking for the others.  When I found them, they asked if I did not know about the other guy, that almost everyone knew he was a "queer".   Innocent me, I did not know.  Back in our room, he was quick to undress and sat on the floor, buck naked, inviting me to join him.  When I told him that such things were an abomination in the Bible, he laughed and ordered more Saki from room service.   That incident ended any relationship we had ever enjoyed.

The next day, I separated from the others and was eating in a restaurant when a Japanese man came over and asked if he could join me.  What a fascinating guy, we would become fast friends, not only with him, but also his family.  I learned he had been a Colonel in the Japanese army and his last station was on Iwo Jima, had also served in Korea and China and with that, I asked him about the pictures I had seen of Japanese soldiers throwing babies into the air and stabbing them with their bayonets.  He acknowledged that such things had happened, but also told me of the drugs and alcohol his superiors had ordered for his troops, telling him it helped the men become even more brave.

There were many such incidents that we discussed and finally, I asked him about Iwo Jima.  It was, as he told me many times, "...real Hell attempting to endure the constant bombardment."  Then, came a real bomb shell.  Many of the men turned to homosexuality, believing they were going to die and nothing mattered to them anymore.  In fact, he claimed, his Adjutant and another high ranking officer, held him down and tried to rape him.  They forgot about his pistol and he shot the Adjutant, killing him, and the others fled.  When the American forces finally landed, my friend and hundreds of others surrendered believing they would get better treatment than they were receiving from their own.

And that was true, but my friend also had to stand trial in a Japanese court for the murder and they took his pension away from him.  It wasn't until the courts heard of the atrocities committed by their own, that he got his pension restored.   One day, he asked me to join him as he was going to be "tried" by a Samurai court and I was about to be amazed by the court's attitude toward homosexual acts in their ranks and I was able to obtain a transcript that later was confirmed by translators who had it written in English.  I have always wished that I could have kept that so that others might know more about the so-called "disease" of homosexuality,  As long as I was in the military and involved with personnel who could possibly be involved in such acts, the more I needed to provide the evidence presented in that Samurai court 

Shortly after I became a Staff Sergeant and could join the Non-Com club, I was approached by three other, higher ranked Sergeants with more service than myself, asking if I knew a certain Colonel in HQ, asked if I knew of any of his Section 8 fixations.  Turns out they were "queers" in the eyes of the military and subject to Section 8 discharges, loss of rank, privileges and immediate discharge, so they needed a "heads up" if the Colonel started asking about.  Since his office was a few doors from my own, they asked me - as a Sergeant,  to keep them advised.  Nothing ever happened.

To me it merely more evidence of the efforts will make just to exposes others who are "different" than them and it goes on today, except that it is much worse.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Flawed Legacy - 7

Itazuke Air Force Base is located on the Southern most island of Japan, Kyushu, just outside of the city of Fukuoka, and that was to become my home base for the rest of my stay in the Far East.

It was there I would meet M/Sgt. Max Miller, who would become my mentor and dear friend for the next year and a half.  He was taking care of the assignment of the dozen other "recruits" who were with me in the flight to the South.  The first thing I noticed were the six stripes o his sleeve. He was a force to be reckoned with - advice I first heard the day I started training at Lackland.  He asked me what I had done so far in my "career".  I told him about backing trailers and the advice the General had offered so he asked me if I knew the alphabet.  "Yes, sir" and with that he led me over to some file cabinets in his office and opened the drawer containing the enlisted personnel on the base.  "Another guy told me he knew the alphabet, but it should be obvious to you that he was wrong as soon as you look at these files."  He was right, they were a mess, but it did not take me long to get them back in order.  Miller did a double check and turned to me and offered me a job in his office,

He also told me that promotions would come along if I kept doing what I had done and he was right.  He left eighteen months later and left me in charge.   I did not have his six stripes but I did have four on my sleeve and an earned reputation in the headquarters.  One of my proudest moments in that span came when the Base Commander came to me and and asked if I would help him as we integrated the first black airmen to serve on our base.  I was about to meet seven of the finest men I would ever meet and three of us became life long friends.  With that effort I was awarded other honors and the most exciting came when they asked me to re-enlist so that I might return to the States - to Lowry AFB in Colorado to undergo training, that changed the old Army definition of skills and qualifications to the new system being installed worldwide for the new, United States Air Force  It was a good move for me as they gave me an opportunity to re-enlist for an indefinite period of time, an opportunity that I would take advantage of in the years to come.

There were six of us from all over Japan and the Philippines who were headed for Colorado and we met at the airdrome outside of Tokyo.  As we were talking about our experiences, an Army Colonel approached us and told us we had one more duty to perform before we left.  With that we were escorted to waiting Army vehicles and wound up at GHQ headquarters.  Then we were taken upstairs and entered an office that was dark, except for a light at the opposite end.  We were seated at this huge conference table and the order to come to stand at Attention.  As we stood, a figure came in from the other side of the room and to our amazement, it was the "Man" as he came closer. As he shock our hands, we realized we were meeting the Supreme Commander, General MacArthur.  He was very formal in his remarks, but he was commending each of us for our service in the Air Force and how important it was for each of us to seriously study the materials we would receive.  He seemed to be saying, the future of the "new" USAF depended on our ability to follow through and execute our responsibilities.  When he left , he shook our hands again and disappeared beyond that light on the other side of the room.  We stood there, confused at first, but amazed that we had come close to meeting such a powerful person!

Lowry AFB was quite a bit different from the bases we had left behind us.  We had really intense instructors and they were committed to the task at hand.  Most of us noted the difference between this effort and the daily activities in our offices back in Japan.  After six weeks of study, we were released for a furlough we could enjoy before returning to Japan.

I was headed for Michigan to see my grandparents and my mother who had quite a surprise for me.  She wan.ted the four of us to drive down to Baxter, TN, to see my sister, Shirlee, who was enrolled at Baxter seminary.  There was a long story about that, but I enjoyed the trip as I was seeing parts of our country I had never seen before.  The joy came in watching my grandparents on their first trip into the Southland.  I still chuckle when I recall my grandfather's remarks at finding what he thought was Cream of Wheat cereal on his plate with his eggs and toast.  "Welcome South, Grandpa, to the joy of having grits with your breakfast!"

I still regret almost ignoring my sister, but the fact was, we hardly knew one another as she had stayed with our parents for the most part, while I lived on the farm.  We seldom had seen one another.

Friday, June 6, 2014

A Flawed Legacy - 6

Six of us were assigned to JAMA, Japan Air Material Area, and we were assigned to a group that was concentrated on recovering government material from the islands that we had abandoned as the war ended.  Each of us were interviewed and sent to the areas where they assumed we would be utilized. They asked me about my work experience and I said that I had grown up on the farm so the only thing I could really do was milk cows and drive horses and tractors.  Since they did not have cows and horses, I was sent to the Motor Pool and came face to face with the "tractors" that pull trailers and the Sergeant who headed the section to which I was assigned, M/Sgt Simonetti from Philadelphia.  I will never forget him.

He tossed me some keys, pointed to a tractor and said, "Let's see how good you are."  Ha!  I had never driven one of these, but it was worth a try.  I took my time arranging the seat and searching for something that would tell me how the gears were arranged.  There was no "arranging" the gears on the farm tractors I had driven, but I found a plate that gave me the info I needed.  I started it up, pulling the gear shift into the first gear and Simonetti waved me on.  Slowly, I inched it ahead, got it into second gear by "double clutching" as I had heard others explain and that worked also.  I drove around the circle of equipment in the middle of the yard and when I got back to Simonetti, he told me to turn it off.  "You really haven't had much experience, have you?" he asked and before I could answer, he went on, "You did good, kid.  Are you any good at backing trailers?"   Aha, when Grandpa or Blake were gone and our tractor was sitting there, I had had fun backing our one trailer into places that had always troubled Blake.  "Yes sir," I replied.   Pointing to the trailers that were parked nearby, I added, "Those are bigger than the ones I have backed before, but I know how to do it."  "Good, son.  You have got your first job in the Air Force."

He would teach me how to connect the tractor to the trailers and with that, I was in "business".  He also took me to our Captain and introduced m as "our new yard master".  So that was my job for the first six months of my Air Force career.

Back at the barracks, I soon learned why guys would leave the barracks in the evening and come back bragging about what they were doing.  Not wanting to reveal how naive I was, I followed a couple of them one evening and they came to the edge of the base and a hole in the fence which they would walk through - and break the law, and on they went to a nearby house and disappeared.  It wasn't long before they came out and headed back to the barracks.  I knew one of them well enough to ask what they were doing and the guy laughed.  "You really do not know?"  "We were just doing what every 'red blooded' guy has to do, regularly."  I wasn't that naive.  I had heard about "houses of ill repute" but that was the first one I had ever known about.

My job parking 18 wheelers took me no more than 2-3 hours and afterwards, I got busy cleaning up the messes that were everywhere.  The Captain noticed me one day and took me aside, explaining hat was "gook" work and suggested I come into the office and be available to drive other trucks as needed.  It was an interesting assignment as my "regular" job had caused quite a stir about me.  Some referred to me as Simonetti's "boy" but I didn't worry about that.   I knew the Captain liked me as well.

Then, came my break.  The base General's driver did not show up, so they sent for me to go to the barracks and get dressed in my "Class A's" - the uniforms we wore for inspections or parades.  As I headed back to the Motor Pool, the car was sent for me and I headed for the General's office.  He was a nice guy, asked where his regular driver was and I had to explain that I did not know.  We left for Tokyo with him pointing the way.  I had been to Tokyo, but always on a train.  We drove to the GHQ headquarters and before he left, he left me with two passes, one for lunch and the other for dinner and was on his way.  I spent the afternoon walking around downtown Tokyo, checking in with GHQ every other hour on the hour to be sure the General was still involved.  As it turned out, he was "involved" all day and into the night.  As we got underway, he asked me if I would like a beer and I was scared to answer.  "That's OK, one beer won't hurt your driving and I've got a few in my bag." 

We were halfway back to the base when he asked, "Do you know what happened to my regular driver?"  "No, sir."   "Well, it's my opinion that white boys are not what we want chauffeuring brass," but you have done a good job and you need to be doing something better with your life.  I plan on transferring some of our excess people off of our base and I'll be sure you name is on it.  Make sure you get a better job when you get there.  Do you understand?"  "Yes, sir."

The following Monday, I was on my way.