Back to Biloxi and Building a New Home
In October 1952, I managed to get my transfer to Headquarters TTAF, at Gulfport, MS. This was a pleasure moving back to the Biloxi area. I had managed to contact the personnel office; then, I met a Mr. Denny Wambsgans, who was the Director of Administration for the supervision of the Accounting System for the Civil Engineering Division for the 10 Bases under this Command. Under this system each base was to report expenses daily-as instructed, in the same manner, as per the Manual and its instructions.
Denny Wambsgans family and brother owned the L & N Bakery there in Biloxi, just east of Caillavet Street. They sold French bread and sandwich bread each day to the L & N Railroad dining cars and to all who wanted to buy it. For example, a load of French bread at that time sold for just five cents; and, when 2 days old sold for three cents, and you can bet all of us poor people bought some of it.
So - Marie, Bill, Helen, Ann and I packed up, and moved back to the farm house in Biloxi, at government expense. This was one time that we did not call on our friend, Jimmy Brodie, to move us. We had to get everything in order for the children to continue going to school and that didn't take long. I managed to catch a ride to the office with someone going that way and then I used my car for a week; then the other person used his. Every two weeks I was on the road. My traveling instructor for the first few months was a man named Bill Clayton. The ten bases under this command were - Lackland at San Antonio, TX; Lubbock, at Lubbock, TX; Parks, at Pleasanton, CA; Amarillo, at Amarillo, TX; Lowery (1 & 2) at Denver, CO; Francis E Warren, at Cheyenne, WY; Chanute, at Chanute, IL; Scott, at Belleville, IL; Sampson, at Geneva, NY; and Keesler, at Biloxi, MS. (See Maps)
It was evident that my time with Headquarters Technical Training Air Force each month would be two weeks of travel to one of the bases; and return; and, then two weeks in the office writing up my report; and, in preparing for my next visit at a different base. Prior to visiting a base, my supervisor and I would review management and administrative procedures of real estate; and, appraise procedures of preventive maintenance procedures. In visiting a base, I had my orders to do certain things, and upon arrival at a base, I would check in with the base commander and advise him of my visit. Then I would check in at the Bachelor Officers Quarters and visit the engineer office to be audited or checked. I had with me the reports and audits of the Auditor General and reviewed them for compliance. When leaving the base, I would have a critique of my findings with the officer in charge of civil engineering and the base commander, to let them know my findings and what was expected of them in correcting the discrepancies. The officer in charge of the engineering division I was in was a Colonel Walters. When possible my transportation was on military air, from and to Keesler Air Force Base. When military air was not available, I or we traveled on commercial air. The travel by military air took place when pilots from WW2 retained their commission and were required to fly one or two days a month in order to get in their flying time to get their $500 extra (proficiency time) each month. I must say these expeditions, at times, were the next thing to committing suicide, because the pilots had never flown the type of plane given them to use. I did enjoy my trips to Lackland at San Antonio, TX because I got to see the Alamo, and the Buckhorn Bar; and, to Parks Air Force Base, near San Francisco, because I got to see the Golden Gate, and ride the Trolley - to the Top of the Mark, to the Mark Hopkins Hotel - there us Service Men at the Top of the Mark got all drinks for free or for 50 cents, but beware the dining room had a cover charge of 5 to 10 dollars per person - to the top of Knob Hill; and, to visit Fisherman's Wharf; and, to see Alcatraz Prison from the Wharf; and last but not least, to see the famous China Town in San Francisco. I got to see the William R. Hearst home. You may recall he was the great news man; and, to ride on the high and the low roads there in the mountains.
While at Francis E. Warren, at Cheyenne, WY, as well as Scott Air Force Base at Bellville, IL, I got to see those two bases that had been built in the late 1800's where the US Cavalry fought the Indians, rode horses; and, the stables were converted to garages for the use of the US Air Force. Summing it up - I really got to see the United States while doing the work that I was assigned to do.
I got to visit some of the Bases as a Reserve Officer each year for I had my Captain's commission and each year I had two weeks of training at either Keesler AFB or Sheppard AFB at Wichita Falls, TX. I found these visits or training periods very interesting as I could use the things learned in my daily work. I was reimbursed for my time as an officer and for my regular job. This was called "Double Dipping" and the money came in handy in paying bills and for schools for the children. I should mention that while at headquarters I was considered a SO - for a "Smart Operator" - but, when at the bases I was considered a SOB, because Headquarters Personnel were not liked at all. Another thing I noticed when Base Personnel were rubbing the thumb and forefinger together - that meant we have visitors from "Hdq Company" - so be on your good behavior.
Marie and I decided to build a home on the land we had picked out of the Hengen property. We built on it and we thought it was the nicest location of all the property available. This was because John and Louis had contracted with a Mr. Hollingsworth to put a sawmill on the place and cut timber for which we would all benefit by the sale of the timber. Jim, Lucius and Darius had already picked out places they wanted and now it was up to Marie and I to do the same. We had a hard time selling this to Louis, because he seemed to be in no mood to divide the property. However, Marie came up with the idea that she and I would never sign for anyone to ever get anything unless she or I signed. This was cussed and discussed. Darius, Jim and Lucius already had two acres, a strip 200 feet x 200 feet and deeds for it so Marie was given her deed for the same, for the land that we had selected. No survey was ever made and this was OK so long as no one ever questioned it. An acre was really 208.8 feet x 208.8 feet and this would cause some troubles later on. Since no surveys were ever made, directions were not correct. These were finally straightened out at a later date.
Jim had contracted with a contractor Powell and Broussard, and managed to get his house built. So we contracted with them. They laid out the house and we found a brick mason and got underway. By that time the contractor was found loafing, so we got rid of them and we all pitched in. Anybody that could use a saw or hammer was drafted. Hollingsworth sawed some of the timber from our two acres and this came in handy, and he also paid for one half of the new well, because his people needed fresh water to drink. The lumber was air dried and was soaked in penta to keep from having termites. But we did have powder post beetles. We had to put Johns Mansville Asbestos shingles on the roof, and on the siding as a safety measure in case of forest fires. A fireplace was put in, by the hardest and finally one day, with Darius's help and everybody else, we moved in. That was a Great Day. The Biloxi Lumber Company extended credit to us as well as others and as the money came in; we managed to finally pay off the debt. As I recall - the house cost about $27,000 dollars; and, this did not include the cost for labor. Buster Mallard, of Western Auto, helped us with the plumbing, water pump, and stoves and such. Without the help of friends and neighbors, we would have never made it.
In the meantime the children had to get to school and the problem, as usual, was overcome. At first they went to D'Iberville; and, then by the hardest we switched them over to the Biloxi City Schools. This was made possible by paying tuition and us taking them there each morning and going to get them each evening. My being an Air Force Reserve Officer took care of the tuition expense.
As stated before, I at times enjoyed my job at Hq TTAF because I got to see the big cities and bases in the United States. But after one of my trips, where my luggage was lost for a few days, I was considering transferring to job there at the finance or comptrollers office. So I met Colonel George Davis, Comptroller, and talked to him and he assured me of a position there in his office. According to my records, this took place in September 1953. At this time, I recall working with a fellow named Lane Hammack; who met his wife while in Germany during WW2. We performed reviews of audits and investigations that had taken place at the bases to make sure that proper policies and procedures had been used or taken place. To do this we were trained and studied the codes and instructions of the Judge Advocate General. This, of course, was done with the assistance of the two judges assigned there at the headquarters. Later on, Mr. Hamack was transferred to Headquarters in San Antonio, and then I worked with a man named Tom Reeves. The section I was assigned to was under the control of a Colonel and Lt Colonel, who reviewed and signed our completed work documents as required.
While all this was going on, our home was being built. The foundation was put in place and the brick work in place, as stated before; and, then the lumber for the foundation and rafters was air dried and painted with penta and termite solutions. The county loaned us their big concrete mixer, and we bought red clay for the fill in for the pillars foundations. Down in front looked like the Amazon jungle; and, it had to be cleared.
Bert Husley's son was talked into putting the road. The area we called the tennis court was full of small pine trees and had to be cleared. Then in a location about 200 ft south of where Tommy's house is now, Hollingsworth was cutting timber to be sawed up and to be sold. Interestingly enough, Hollingsworth used steers, instead of horses and tractors to haul the huge logs being cut to the saw mill.
We wanted the house to be large enough to have a nice kitchen, with a breakfast nook, and a living room and dining room, all overlooking the bay with a bath or two and at least three bedrooms; and, a nice big back porch and garage where we could drive in and not get wet when it rained. So with this in mind, we drew floor plans, and made it that way.
During this time Jim Hengen and Lucius Hengen managed a dairy, and a chicken farm. After a while Lucius went to work for the Ford Motor Company in Biloxi. Later on Jim married Eloise Anderson; and, they with the help of others ran the dairy for a number of years; they had one daughter named Rebecca or Becky. Darius had built a home or house over by the fish pond; and, later on married Ruth Chapman, a daughter of Joe and Hattie Chapman. Darius sold, or gave, an acre or so of land to them, just east of ours and the Chapmans built a home there. I had quite a bit of lumber left over and sold Mr. Joe the lumber to build the building or garage just back of his house for $300.00.
At this time it is recalled that Darius helped Mr. Joe put an artesian well in his front yard, it was quite a job to do so. After that Mr. Joe and I had a survey made to see if the property lines were correct. Then one day he came over and told Marie and I that we would have to move our house because the survey showed that he owned some of the East side of our land. Well, this was quite the thing, so we asked him to go home. "Sit down and think it over". Then we went to Louis and he had the deeds of us both changed the way it was intended originally since no one used a compass and the directions were incorrect. This same thing happened later on to both Lucy's and Jim's Deeds, as a compass had never been used showing North and South. These things happen when a survey is not made to begin with.
I sold enough lumber to build a barn to a man named T-Man Jones, who lived down where the D'Iberville Sewer Plant is now. Unfortunately, Mr. Jones died before he could pay for it and his family moved to New Orleans; I think Bill will remember his son named Rusty.
Later on, Lucius Hengen married Betty Gilbert, and they had 2 children, one named Randy and the other named Michelle. Both Jim and Lucius built homes next to each other there on the bay. The 10 acre strip between Marie and I went to Louis Hengen and family; and, west of Louis's 10 acres, John Hengen had 10 acres.