Saturday, February 2, 2008

Growing Up - Ages 17-18 – Part One

We did not get electricity on the Propst Farm until just before I got out of the Navy in 1948. When I came home on leave for the first time, I discovered that we had one light hanging from the ceiling. You had to reach up and turn it on. Since there were no wall outlets, if we wanted to plug something in, we had use the ceiling socket adaptor so often times there were cords hanging from the ceiling. I am pictured here in the field near the house.

Before I was discharged from the Navy, Albert had married Pauline Ellis. Mark had married Margaret Houston before he went into the Navy. As soon as J.D. got home, he bought the Propst Farm of fifty-two acres and was farming it. I was always amazed that he could pick over three hundred pound of cotton in one day compared to one hundred pounds, the best I could do. Mother lived with J.D. and Colleen for several years. Later, Albert built her a little two room house in his back yard where she lived for quiet a numbers years until she was not able to stay by herself. At that time, she moved in with my oldest sister Edna and later with Ola, my other sister. She lived there until she died in 1973.

I started attending Cool Spring High School in the fall of 1942. I met Johnny James who became one of my best friends. Our friendship lasted until he died in 2002. He went to college and became a professor at Florida State University and I went into the Navy on leaving high school. We lost touch with each other until 1990 when we started connecting at our class reunions; our friendship remained strong over the years. We both made the basketball team the first year and played guard together all the time that we were in high school. Johnny and I were the first boys ever to take the homemaker class. I had helped to cook for many years and the teacher though that I was a good cook. I caught on to sewing and was pretty good at that too. I learned to sew patching my clothes; we never did throw anything away we just patched it and wore it again.

One day in late spring after entering Cool Spring High School the previous fall, five of us boys decided to skip going to school. Our plan was to get off the school bus before it arrive at the school and meet at Vaughn's Pond which was about two miles from school. We all brought our lunches and we played in the pond all day and met our buses where we departed from them that morning. We thought everything went well and were proud of ourselves for pulling off this incredible deed. Just as homeroom started the next day, we were called in to the principal's office. Mr. B. M. Madison appeared to be quite mad; he made us sit for about ten minute before he said anything. He asked if we knew what we were doing there and we all said yes. He asked us what we though he should do about our playing hookie the day before. We told him that he should give out the punishment since we were the ones that did the bad thing. He thought for a minute or two and gave us a choice to take ten lashes with his big leather belt or be suspended for three days. We all chose the ten lashes. We all were very ruff young boys and we knew that he could not hurt us too badly so we bent across his desk and he gave us our punishment. This all took place right inside the open window in the school picture. Listen as I tell this story.

There were eighteen boys and the same number of girl in our class. As years passed we had some that dropped out to start working, get married, or go into service. By the time the class graduated, there were only twelve each and everyone knew each other very well. There were not many activities in high school. There was Future Farmers of America (FFA) and shop for the boys. In shop I made a wheelbarrow and some other little things. Johnny’s dad was the agriculture teacher and he would not let us get away with anything!

During my second year in high school I got a job driving a school bus making twelve dollars a month. At that time I was not sixteen but I had a lot of experience driving our 1931 Ford. Mark drove a bus the year before. About every day when he we got home he would let me drive the bus and sometimes after the last student got off he would let me drive it the rest of the way home. Back then all you had to prove your age was to take a Bible with your birthday in it which was good enough. That is how I was able to enter into the Navy early. I quit school in the eleventh grade to enlist in the Navy. I attended school on the base where I was stationed and was able to finish with my class when I came home on leave. All of the roads were dirt. In the winter the rain would cause big ruts in all of the roads. The area where I lived was one of the worst routes in Iredell County. The buses had governors that would not let them go over thirty miles an hour. I was able to drive all winter without getting stuck. One day I was called into the principal's office and the supervisor from the bus garage was there. He wanted to commend me on the winters driving. He shared that no one was able to drive that route without getting stuck up many times and wanted to know how I was able to get through all winter without getting stuck. A lie would have been easier but I had to tell him the truth, I told him that on every rainy day I would plug the governors on the bus so I could go a little faster to prevent getting stuck. His commending me suddenly stopped and became a long lecture on bus safety. I got fired for the rest of that year. I was hired again the next year and by that time it paid twenty dollars a month. Listen as I tell this story.

I remember that when I got my first check I went to Gabriel’s Clothing Store in Statesville and bought a used suit and a wrist watch. I had seven dollars left over because I did not have to buy a shirt since the salesman gave me one. I went to the five and ten cent store and bought mother a little pin, a hand holding a heart, for one dollar. It was one of the prettiest things I had ever seen and she really loved it. She had it when she died and it was just as pretty as ever. I spent another dollar on getting my picture made in my new outfit. I thought I looked real good.

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