Friday, July 4, 2014

A Flawed Legacy - 27

I spent a week with Blake and Eleanor, the first and last times we would ever be that close.  Of course, I was raised with my grandparents and Blake was like a big brother to me, although we were never too close.  I will never forget the first day I met Eleanor.  They were about to get married (January 10),one of the coldest nights I will ever remember) and they dropped by on Sunday, December 7, 1941 - the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

Blake offered to get me back on the road, but first he wanted to show me what Yale - our previous home) looked like.  It had hardly changed, we did stop and see a friend and then, Mina Armstrong, my grade school teacher).  Of course, we went by the farm which had really changed and down some side roads I could recall.  Finally, we wound up near Capac where the highway headed for Inlay City, and a main highway headed for Detroit.  Blake seemed to think I had a lot of courage, hiking around America as he saw it.

My first ride suggested a highway that I did not know about, one that went around Detroit rather than through it and took me far enough to get on his recommended route.  Only thing, it passed by a prison and when a guy stopped, he made sure I wasn't an escaped convict he had just heard about.  He was headed for a town in Ohio that I forget its name for good reason.  He drove into the heart of the city and as I was trying catch a ride, the police stopped and made me show my identification, before telling me I could not hitch hike in the city.  I said OK, walked a dozen or so blocks and stuck out my thumb.  That was a poor decision as the cop came back and told me - at first, he was going to take me to jail for breaking the law.  Instead, he took me to the outskirts of town - far away from any traffic, and let me out.  I'll bet I was there for an hour before I saw one car and that was a local., who turned off a block from where I was standing.  The sun went down and I began to wonder what I could do.  Fortunately, a big Lincoln pulled up, asking where I was headed and told him Columbus - as that was the only city I could think of in that direction.

Turns out he was a nice guy, an ex-USAF pilot and when I told him I had used to "boy-sit" (not baby sit) for Colonel Paul Tibbets at Eglin AFB, he told me that they were friends.  (Tibbets was the pilot on the Enola Gay that dropped the A-bomb on Hiroshima in Japan.  Now he was in business at the airport in Columbus)  With that info, he suggested I stay at his house that night and he would rake me to see the Colonel the next day.  He had a small mansion and had me sleep in their pool house for the night.  I had just got into bed and I heard someone dive into the pool.  I peeked out and saw a woman - in the nude, in the water.  Good idea, I made sure the door was locked, the curtains pulled and I got into bed and went to sleep.

He called me about 7AM and had me come to the house where he had prepared breakfast and we left a few minutes later.  He dropped me off at Tibbets' office, wished me luck and drove off.  I discovered the Colonel was flying in later, learned the boys I knew were all in school and I found some magazines to read while I waited.  A hour or so later my "benefactor" came back, we learned that Tibbetts was going to be much later and said he would take me to the bus stop where I could get a bus going to Charlotte, NC, which had been my original goal.  With that, he gave me a ticket envelope with a bus ticket for Charlotte and a $50 bill - the second one I had received along the way.  We parted ways as he told me, the next time I was coming through Columbus to call him and gave me his business card.  I discovered he was an official in the local city government.

I was in Charlotte by 4PM and found the YMCA where I got a room and went downstairs to get a cold drink and met a moving van driver looking for a "lumper" to help him the next day.  I was his man and he met me at 6:30 the next morning.  It was an easy job and he asked if I would like to ride with him on future jobs.  Yes, sir.  The next day, I discovered a Labor office and was sent to Coca Cola for the day and wound up lifting cases of 32 ounce filled bottles off the line and onto a pallet and I began to think I could not do that for eight hours.  I started to ask the supervisor when he told me they were shutting down that line and sent me over to a "testing" area where they were testing drinks.  All I had to do was start up a line as directed and stack cases of 12 ounce product on special pallets.  That would be my job for the next six weeks.

My moving van driver came by to pick me up for a couple of weekend jobs where we loaded up on Saturday mornings until we were done and I got two days pay.  I opened a bank account to take care of the money I was earning.

Meanwhile, I was studying my Bible on the evenings and was getting used to talking about what I was learning from my studies, all the while going to church, whichever was the closest one, wherever I happened to be.

I had no work scheduled one week, so I got a bus ticket and went to Charleston, SC, where I had always wanted to visit and found it to be expensive until a Police office told me about a Mission just outside of the city.  I found it and discovered some new friends, a couple who had started it in an old house with a half dozen potential bedrooms, so I stayed with them and spent my days looking for people who could help us fill the bedrooms with cots and places to hang clothes.  By the end of the week, we had discovered a lot of help.  Charleston has many significant families, wealthy people willing to help us get the Mission underway.  I had a call from my van driver and would spend the next two weeks travelling with him.  

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