LSU - The College Years
We packed up in August of 1947 and moved back to Biloxi, and I registered at LSU in September for my freshman year. This was a real shocker for me after being away from high school since 1932 - after all this time I must meet the standards of those just graduating from high school. The first thing I had to do was take remedial reading. I was only reading 200 to 300 words per minute. So I found myself reading 500 words per minute. I found out if my teacher taught football players - at night - I went to their classes. This was a means of me making an A or B or sometimes a C instead of a D. Marie helped me financially by working in stores and hotels. I worked on week ends and when I had a chance. Now don't forget - I was not on the GI Bill - this was a real blow to me. I had $4000.00 in accumulated leave due me in Civil Service, and I used it until Mr. Tonsmeire - the President of the Bank in Biloxi - offered me funds at about 2 or 3 %; this helped. When I finished LSU, Mr. Tonsmeire arranged for me to have a job with a gas company at $25,000.00 per year; but it had no retirement, so I decided to go back with the Army Corps of Engineers, in Mobile, AL. I accepted the offer to go to Eglin Field, Florida, as a Chief Project Auditor. They furnished me a tutor, Bobby Dewitt, to help me get back in the 'Swing of Things' and to understand what I had missed while at LSU.
The past paragraph does not tell you of t he things I did during the 1st and 2nd year while I was attending LSU. The first and part of the 2nd year, I lived in the "Rock" or stadium, as a student. I roomed with 2 or 3 other students. Sleeping in bunk beds and studying at the study hall or some quiet place. I ate my meals at a dining hall; I had breakfast and dinner each day - no lunch. I managed to contract "Trench Foot", while taking showers, down the hall from my room; my feet swelled up; I could not wear shoes; and, I could not walk - very well. To get rid of "Trench Foot", I went to the Dispensary and the Dr. gave me rubbing alcohol and Amens Baby Powder to put on my feet. This took a week away from attending classes, but it worked. To this day, I still have continuing troubles with my feet. So, I did not do well the first summer semester. I gave up taking algebra and passed library and English One. It was like a dream to me in the first year in studying and going to classes and taking notes, and trying to remember enough to pass the exams. My first semester began in the summer and it was considered as a re-run for those who had failed in the regular semester. For me to take algebra and pass the subject was impossible. The second semester I recall two fellow students, one was named Clark and the other named Heffner. Clark went to South America as an engineer and Heffner went on to become a fighter pilot in Vietnam. Marshall Heffner at present lives in Ocean Springs, MS. He has a boat and goes fishing every day.
While I was very busy with my subjects, at school each day, my wife Marie was still back in the Hengen family home; and, during this time she was getting ready to have our third child, Marie Ann Stillman. I still had the family car, a Frazier, that I had bought in Augusta and kept it in Biloxi with Marie or with me at LSU. At this time I recall I needed some money to take care of the hospital expenses in the Biloxi Hospital, so I managed to sell my golf clubs for $100 - at which time I received a $100 bill. Then on March 23, 1948 Ann was born. I took off from school for a few days for the event. As I recall, when I went to pay for the hospital bill I had the $100 bill to use for that; and, had to write a check because the hospital would not take the $100 bill. You may have guessed it - $100 bills were very scarce, and I had to deposit it at the bank in order to use it.
At the end of the second year, Marie came over to join me in the struggle; and, we had Bill, Helen, and Ann with us. It was a pleasure having my family with me even though we had rough times keeping things going. We rented a house and then rented an extra room to two students for $45 per month which helped pay the rent of $75 or $80 per month When the students left we moved to an apartment near the entrance of the college. I worked in the Istrouma Hotel, as a relief clerk, and Marie worked in the college restaurant as an order clerk. Later, she worked at the hotel as a relief clerk the same as I did. I arranged my classes to fit in so that one of us would be with the children, while the other was away. The bus driver on the city bus would wait until I waived, from the campus, so that all knew the children would be properly taken care of, this got to be quite an event each day (Smile).
My studies at LSU were very interesting. The first three years I found myself trying to use or apply the information I was studying to my daily living (meaning the work at the Office - from 8 to 5 each day) and actually that was not possible. Summing it up, all a person has to do is to remember what you study long enough to use it in passing the exam that you will or may be given, and to make sure you hand in all your required research papers on time. Very little of what you have learned will ever be used in your daily work. Only just a few of the professors or instructors have ever held a job in the business world. Perhaps I had never thought that when a parent sends a son or daughter to college for four to eight years, that is just time they have someone do their baby sitting for them so they can rest for a while.
In my last year at LSU, during my last semester our neighbors, Sid and Mary Fontinote had a dog that had rabies - "Dumb Rabies" and because of that everyone in the neighborhood was subject to taking 14 Rabies Shots - 7 on the left hip and 7 on the right hip; this went on for 14 days. Marie, I, and Helen and Bill had to take these shots.
I am going to tell you a very interesting story about one of my neighbors. Sid Fontenote, with his wife and 2 young daughters, lived next door, in one of the four-plex apartments. We lived on the ground floor. Marie and I took turns taking care of their children while they were away and they took care of ours while we were away; this was a good arrangement, because one never knew what would happen next. One night when I was on duty in the Istrouma Hotel, as clerk and night manager, I heard an awful racket in the bar adjoining the office. I was informed that a drunk large man, about 6 ft and weighing 280 pounds was going to beat up two men that had taken his monthly government pay check by gambling, and would not give it back to him. He had threatened to kill them and I was asked to call the chief of police, to prevent this from happening. That fit Sid's description. He had been in the submarine service during WW2 and often went on binges like this. I got someone to take over the desk and went in to the bar where he had the two men, one in each hand, and was banging their heads together. So I bravely went over to Sid and said "Hey, this is your neighbor and I hear you need some help." He said, "These men have my pay check and I am going to get it back, even If I have to kill them". So I talked to the two men and said, "You better do as he says and make it quick." So they did and by that time the Chief of Police arrived and took them all over to the jail. I gave the money to the Chief of Police, who was a good friend of the hotel. I asked him to return the money to Sid's wife so they would not have to go without funds for the month and he said he would, and did. The next day they turned Sid loose and no charges were filed. He was ashamed of himself and did not tell his wife where he was for two days. He never knew that his wife had his money. Finally, he called me and I told him he had no charges against him, that his wife had his pay check. He was one happy man and his wife and children were waiting for him to come back home. This story, as well as many others I lived through, would more than fill this book.
It was on the last day for me that I took my shot in the right hip; not knowing the consequences, I went to take a test in statistics; and, when I walked in to classroom door - I went blank - my right hip was hurting, very painfully, and I asked t he instructor to have the test taken at a later date - and this was refused - and I had to flunk the test and this caused me to stay there - one more semester to remedy the situation. A LA State Senator that lived in the hotel where I worked managed to give me a "Scholarship" to cover my expenses for this last semester.
During the last three months, I took the graduate course in Systems Accounting, and managed to make a 94 on my CPA course. I really learned more than I had planned on. This data was very useful to me in the years to come.
When I completed my full course at LSU, I contacted the Corps of Engineers in Mobile, AL. They informed me I would be accepted for employment as soon as I could be available. This fact sure was really appreciated, as many others were rejected. So with the help of Jimmy Brodie, and his two-ton truck, all of our belongings were moved back to Biloxi and very shortly thereafter he helped us to move to Cinco Bayou, just a bit north of Fort Walton, Florida,