Back to the Corps of Engineers

After arriving back in Biloxi from LSU, I found myself having to follow the procedure of sending my application to the Corps of Engineers, in Mobile, AL for processing, before going on the job. One has to appear in person, and has to go through the process, all over again. It was nice to see and visit with all of my old friends, eat in the mess or dining hall and get ready for my new assignment. There were tests of physical and mental ability, and government drivers licenses to pass and the many things that are just taken for granted.

My supervisor was a Mr. R.W. (Dick) Davis. He was to be the resident engineer on the job there at Eglin Field, Florida, it was a pleasure meeting with him. He was a retired naval officer on duty with the Corps. It had been decided that I was to sign for the buildings to be used as offices and warehouses, and to be on hand for the checking in of supplies and materials. The project was to have a contractor build a heavy equipment testing building with walls of concrete and steel three feet thick. When I checked in at the officers club at Eglin Field, I noticed that those others checking in stated on the Check In Card, that they were on TDY and I did not know what TDY was so I asked the manager and he said that's "Temporary Duty". So I was getting up to date with procedure. Next, I signed for the different buildings required and had one of them, near the area to be used, converted into an office, and housing area, consisting of kitchen, dining room and bathroom. I was asked to sign for the buildings, without ever having seen them, which was customary; but, I refused. This delayed matters for about a half a day, but I have the custom that I will not sign for something I have never seen, and that was it. This was required as per my prior training, and caused some good comments. This was to be where I would live for the next two months, off and on. During this time I had rented a house at Cinco Bayou for my family to move into and for the children to get lined up for school. Then the house was to be used for summer guests and the rent went to $400.00 per month and I had to move from the area. So I asked the Postmistress where a suitable house could be found and she said there is a house next door that is for rent. I had no trouble in renting this nice house. Or, as my son Bill says, "That's where the scorpions were on the walls". It was not what we wanted, but it had to do. It even had a garage for our car. Later we called it "The Little Brown House". The owner was a retired Army man (Sgt) and he and his wife moved out in the country. I was told that the man was a beer hound, and I would find beer bottles under the house and, that he was very hard to get along with. I found Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd B. and Ruby Welker in their home at one of the bayous northeast of Valparaiso. They were some of the nicest people I had ever met. Isn't it strange how stories brand a person who is minding his own business and get lost in the daily world? They had a chicken farm and were raising 3000 to 4000 chickens in chicken houses and were selling the eggs as well as the two year old chickens at the local market. The special chicken houses were wired with time clocks and the lights came on at 3AM to 4 AM each morning. Because of this, most of the chickens laid two eggs a day instead of one. He also raised tomatoes for the local market. He had sunlight where the tomato plants were raised. He planted the plants in the ground early enough to get the tomatoes on the market before all others could and was making a fortune doing so. So, Mr. Welker turned out to be the opposite of what the people in town had branded him to be. Just jealous, I guess, or they never cared to find out if they were wrong in saying things that were not true. Doesn't this give you the creeps wondering what people think of you, or maybe me? (Smile) Later on I found out that Ruby (Mrs. Welker) was Mrs. Gertrude Allen's sister that lived in Biloxi, MS; and, that Mr. Allen was a principal in the Biloxi City Schools.

While I am in the mood, I will relate to you that Ruby Welker informed me that their former neighbor, now my new neighbor, Mr. Walter Ruckel and Mrs. Gilda Ruckel and their children were some very interesting people. Walter's mother was a member of the Plew family that were some of the early settlers of the area. They were the ones who had given most of the land, fifty miles square - except for the local towns already there that Eglin Field was is located North of Fort Walton; and, perhaps South Crestview, FL. When I was assigned to the Fort Barrancas Office, in Pensacola, FL, I was sent Eglin Field, to assist in locating the office there and made observations that the land was mostly covered with palmettos (whenever you find palmettos you find rattle-snakes), small oaks, and would be an excellent place to build Hangars and Runways for the Army Air Corps at the beginning of WW2.

Now back to t he subject of Walt Ruckel. He had been a fighter pilot in WW2 and had a BT-13 that he flew, at times, for his private use. I had found out he was looking for a Airplane Mechanic. Just by chance, Marie and I had just recently met the T. H. Friels in a hardware store in Fort Walton that I or we had known while at Bush Field; and, we asked Walt if he could use him and he did. So TH helped Walter to decide not to fly his plane as it was not in proper condition. The next time we ran into the Friel's was when Ann went to School at Auburn University in Auburn, AL, for they had moved there. In between semesters, Ann would leave her extra clothes and furniture there with the Friels. One of the tragedies that happened to the Friels was that their son was killed in an automobile accident, when coming home from college. Their daughter Camille married a Naval Officer and after 10 years of married life they were divorced and she now lives in Auburn, AL.

One of the things of interest was knowing my neighbors. One of them was a retired colonel that lived across the street. And of course, he was one who enjoyed his rank and made use of it at times. One instance was during a bad lightening storm, lightning had hit his attic fan and his house it was gradually beginning to smoke. So I called him and he was at first very much upset and said that he didn't want to bothered by a peon neighbor at any time. So I asked permission to speak to him,which he granted, then I told him his house was on fire, and he asked me to call the fire department. I told him "No, since it is your house you should do so." He has yet to say, "Thank You." (Smile) Life has its problems.
According to my records, I was only on this job from February, 1951 to July, 1951; but, during that time I had learned a lot of things. Mr. Davis, the resident engineer, and I and the staff got along very well. I assisted him to "Open the Bids" for the contracts and to record them and to visit the contractors staff and get things moving. It was during this time that one of the nurses from the Eglin Hospital informed me that I was to have a dental appointment over on the base. This was a surprise to me and since the matter was confirmed by Mr. Davis, I went when scheduled. Then I was scheduled for a physical and informed I was to go to the 14th Air Force Headquarters, in Birmingham, AL for an interview and appointment as a Captain as an Accounting Officer in the Air Force Reserve. Of course, I had to fill out the necessary papers first and send them in; and, then I went to Birmingham for two or three days to go before a review board of a Colonel, Lt Colonel, and Major, at which time I answered verbal questions and filled out many forms giving answers to as many as possible; of the questions, some did not apply to me. I learned that really quick as some questions were for other than the accounting or comptroller field. After finishing the exam I returned to Eglin and went back to work.

In about 10 days, I received my commission in the mail as a Captain in the Air Force Reserve - as an Accounting Officer. To me this was quite an event, as none in my family had ever been a commissioned officer. I counted this as an honor to my mother and father, and family, and not to myself.

Civil Service

LSU - The College Years