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Rudy Devohn Powell, Sr.
"I remember thinking how nice it would be if I went into the Air Force, I would not have to help gather that corn in the hot weather, and I would not have to pick cotton this fall!!"
- Rudy Devohn Powell, Sr.
Aug 5, 04 update
This will start during the summer of 1950. I had completed the 11th grade at Central High School, Caraway, Arkansas. Our class had gone to Hot Springs for our Senior Party in advance of the 1951 actual graduation date for the 12th grade. I remained in Hot Springs for a few days and visited with Uncle Roy Wilson and my cousin Royce May (a/k/a Ann). Then I took a bus to Hoxie, Arkansas, to visit with my grandparents, Mattie and Houston Powell. (Hoxie was a normal bus stop while en-route to my home at Caraway.) Mom and Dad were at home on the farm 2½ miles southeast of Caraway. The crops of cotton and corn had all been "laid-by" and waiting harvest season.
Granddad had a friend who had a chicken processing business in Hoxie and he offered me a job for a couple of weeks until fall school started at Central High. It did not take long to get all of the hot and scalding chicken plucking to satisfy me, so I caught a bus to Jonesboro where I could transfer to a Caraway bus. While at the bus station I went into the Air Force recruiting office to ask a few questions. The Korean conflict had been in all the news and volunteers were joining up like mad. I wanted to join also, but was told that it would require my parents' approval because I was only 17. So on June 29, 1950, I collected the required forms for Mom and Dad to sign and caught a bus to Caraway. (Note: Due to the country folks not having cars and trucks like presently in 2004, there was a fair bus circuit all over the state.)
I can recall the long, hot, and lonely walk from Caraway to our farm home. It was the last of June and the corn was tall on both sides of the dirt road and blocked any wind from cooling me. The dust from the dirt road would rise around my feet and settled in the sweat on my face and neck. I remember thinking how nice it would be if I went into the Air Force, I would not have to help gather that corn in the hot weather, and I would not have to pick cotton this fall!!
Mom and Dad were upset about me wanting to join the Air Force and Mom cried some, but in the end they agreed to sign. I gathered a few items for travel and returned to Jonesboro and did enlist on July 1, 1950 and was sent to Lackland Air Force Base at San Antonio, Texas. They issued my uniform and gear July 5. I still have the original forms which Mom and Dad signed, as well as all of the Air Force "201 file" which recorded all of my official assignments from my enlistment to my discharge.
I was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base for basic training from July 1 to August 23, 1950. I was in 3708 Training Squadron, Flight 5410. There was not much to record about this time, except that we did lots of drilling and marching. We also had training with the gas mask and tear gas. This made some of the Airmen sick from the tear gas, but it was not very bad to me. We also trained with the .30 caliber M1 carbine and military 45-caliber pistol. I qualified with a score of 158 as a "Sharpshooter", with authorization to wear the pin on my uniform.
When I enter the Air Force they issued everyone the old US Army Air Corps uniforms, a/k/a "the brown shoe Air Force".
We were all reissued the new blue uniforms at my next assignment, Sept 20, 1950. We had quite a lot of classroom studies also. There is not a lot to say about what happened during basic training, except that the training instructors were very loud and rough with us. If someone got out of step, they would make us do embarrassing things like stand at attention while the squad marched around them and the Tech Instructor would shout and fuss in their face, or make us do pushups. We also did a lot of exercising and obstacle courses.
One day I got into trouble with a drill Instructor. He was eating a watermelon near the sidewalk and as I walked by him on the way to mail a letter at the Orderly Room, I spoke to him and commented how good that watermelon looked, and if he would cut me one piece? He jumped up and called me to attention and continued to chew me out because I knew better than to ask for anything from the training staff. He did not scare me, but I was not happy about it, nor did I ever ask for anything else during my training.
Air Force Training Course
On September 9, 1950, I entered training at Scott Air Force Base, at St. Louis, Missouri. It was a 36 week Airborne Radio Mechanic, AFSC 30150 course, completed March 15, 1951. I was with the 3310 Technical Training Group. I have an 8 x 10 photo of my class. Some of the names were: John E. Christensen (we all called him Chris) and Charles Miles (a negro). Chris was one of my closest friends. He traveled with me to mom and dad’s home at Caraway, Arkansas several times. Chris’s home was up north somewhere. I heard through rumors that he was wounded while in Korea. I sure would like to hear from him.
The Air Force training course was said to be equal to a four-year college course, except it had no unrelated subjects to be taken. It was just eight hours a day, five days a week of electronics training. The first few weeks were for studies of basic things like voltage, amps, current, potential, ohms and etc. Then we started to apply those electronics to actual working equipment, with lab work and classroom teaching. After a few weeks, we started studying airborne electronics, which included some of the following devices. All were World War II vintage.
There were a lot of other electronic equipment that we studied, and some were more modern, but all of our studies were involving the old "glass vacuum tube" electronics. Solid state diodes and transistors were not around at this date. A few of the instructors told us that new designs were on the way, but they did not think they would replace the vacuum tubes. (Were they ever wrong. Ha!)
During the time I was in school, I used to hitchhike the 300 miles from Scott Field to Caraway, Arkansas to visit Mom and Dad on long holiday weekends. I remember one trip right after we were issued the new Air Force blue uniforms. I had caught a ride with this man and we came up behind a car with an Arkansas tag. I asked the driver if he would speed ahead of the Arkansas car and let me out. He did. I jumped out and flagged the Arkansas car. He threw on his brakes and almost had a wreck stopping. I ran up to his window and asked where he was headed. He said Jonesboro, about 20 miles from home, so I asked if I could ride with him. He sort of thought a moment and said yes. After I got in and we were down the road he said, "I thought you were the police, with that blue uniform, otherwise I would never stop for a hitchhiker. But now that you are here, it is okay". He was very nice. He even drove me to Mom and Dad’s house, maybe 20 miles out of his way.
I was promoted from Private First Class (one stripe) to Corporal (two stripes) March 17, 1951. I was doing very well in the radio classes and making good scores. I was rated with academic efficiency of "Group I Superior".
I remember a week or so after I started the Instructor Training we had a payday. The Commanding Officer called the new assignees to his office to welcome us into the unit. There was four Airmen and myself. One was John E. Christensen, my long-time friend. The commander lined us up and gave a little speech and told us about the United Fund. He said he wanted each of his personnel to buy at least 3 tickets at $1.00 each. Then he paid us (in those days the pay was always in cash, I don’t know about now). We each bought three tickets.
The tickets had to be signed and dropped in a box at the Post Exchange (PX). I wanted to hit the road and hitchhike to Carbondale, Illinois, where Uncle Oris (Dad's brother) lived. I had written to him and planned to spend the long weekend there. I signed my tickets and asked Chris if he would drop my tickets in the box. I told him that I would give him half of what I win. He did and I forgot about them. About two or three weeks later, Chris came into my training class (we were assigned to different class groups) and asked me if I had been contacted about winning a new car. I told him I did not know anything about it. Chris said he had been listening to the local base radio station the night before, and they announced that Rudy D. Powell of the 3320th Training Squadron had won the new car. He got up and tried to find me, but I had gone to the base movie show. He then went to the Orderly Room and checked the records. I was the only Rudy D. Powell on the register, so he waited until he had a class break the next morning and ran over to ask me about it. A few minutes later the phone rang and my name was called. I was requested to report to the main Orderly Room.
I had to catch the base bus to ride across the base to get to the main Orderly Room. I walked in and told someone that I was supposed to see the officer. I sat down next to a fellow Airman. I learned later that his name was Joe Dugger. We wound up serving together in Korea. We visited and talked about the new car which I had won. I had not seen it, nor did I know what kind it was. I walked into the officer’s room and saluted him. I don’t remember what he said, except "Here are your keys. Go get your car and report to your commander. Enjoy it."
The car was a brand new 1951 Pontiac, baby blue teardrop design body. Wow! It sure was pretty. It had just rained and drops were standing on the wax job!! I got in and drove it to my Squadron Orderly Room and reported to my commander as I had been instructed to do. My commander congratulated me and told me that he was also giving me a three-day pass and a tank of gas. I could hardly wait to find Chris and show him the car. We joked about how he could have the back half with the gas tank (ha, ha). I did let him use the car a lot because we were very good friends, not because he claimed half of it.
One thing we studied at great depth during this Instructor Training was photographic memory. We were drilled each day to watch slide projections of numbers and words at faster and faster speeds. Also, we practiced speed reading and speech and lesson planning. The most impressive part was the photo memory. I did learn to see and remember words and numbers when flashed on the projector real fast (I don’t recall the speed), but it did work. For a several years I could see a car license speed by and recall it, but without using a skill it fades away. I think maybe the training may still help me to read now, but the photo memory is all but gone. You know the old saying, "If you don't use it, you will lose it."
Radio Mechanics Instructor
On May 18, 1951, I was assigned to the 3310th Technical Training Wing as an Instructor in the department of Radio Mechanics. I held this job until February 26, 1952, when I was shipped to Korea. I remember that when I was assigned to start teaching I was 17 years old, and I felt like they should wait until my birthday, June 2. I really felt that I was too young to get proper attention from the class and should wait another week. They did not accept my plea. I was assigned a class the next day. (Ha).
In general, the classes did go very well. The students seemed to take real interest and I was getting good review reports, except for one report. I was teaching one day and had the class gathered around a workbench to demonstrate something. I asked for someone to hand me something across the workbench, but they were involved and did not hear me, so I hiked my butt up onto the bench and reached over to get whatever it was that I wanted. Just at that moment, one of the class monitors stuck his head in the door and he wrote that I was attempting to teach from a reclining position. I was called into the main office and scolded and warned not to do it again. (Ha ha.)
The most outstanding class that I remember was a class of about 15 Greek Air Force men. Some were Sergeants and Officers. Most of them could not speak any English and I could not speak Greek. I had to use all types of ideas of how to teach them. It was very rough on them and me for the first week or so, and then we began to communicate best by blackboard sketches and many hand signals. By the time the class was finished, they were very pleased, and so was I.
During this time span, Chris and I made several weekend trips to Caraway, and then we started to go to Memphis, Tennessee. I rented a small house near the base. I traded the new car for an older 1942 Ford, with some cash difference, to help finance it. Not long before I was shipped overseas, I had traded for and purchased a 1951 Henry J (built by Kaiser). I let Mom and Dad use it until I returned. This is what they drove to California when they were helping to search for my duffle bags.
On February 26, 1952, I was ordered to report to Camp Stoneman, California, for shipment to Korea. I was given a leave before shipping to Korea, and then I reported to Camp Stoneman Mar 11, 1952. My duffle bag of all my clothing got lost between Jonesboro, Arkansas and California, so when I arrived at Camp Stoneman, I did not have anything except the clothes I was wearing. They put my shipment on hold until my clothing could be found. Mom and Dad traveled by car the full trip through El Paso to Camp Stoneman looking for my luggage, with no luck.
While I was at Camp Stoneman awaiting shipment, Uncle Alfred Austin’s brother Bassil came to visit me. I was not expecting him. I suppose Alfred told him I was there. In any case, when Bassil came into my barracks, he was in full dress Army uniform, with stripes all over his sleeves and ribbons on his chest. He was a 25-year Army man. I called out, "Uncle Bassil." Every airman turned to look. He whispered to me, "Don’t call me uncle." (Ha ha.) Bassil drove me to his home and I spent the weekend with his family. I did enjoy it. Bassil died with a heart attack around 1980.
On April 26, 1952, I departed from Camp Stoneman, California and shipped to Yokohama, Japan via the USNS General M.C. Meigs, a Navy transport ship. It was about an 8-day trip.
This trip was not to be confused with a vacation, but I did enjoy portions of it. We slept in quarters which had been cargo compartments modified to have canvas bunks four high. The men were well-packed into the ship. My bunk was close to the bow (front) of the ship, and it caused a very pleasant sleep as the ship rose and fell with the seas.
We spent quite a lot of time on deck where it was cool and fresh. I recall the water was clear blue with lots of fish around. We had good weather with low swells and not many men got sea sick. When they did get sick, it did disturb me, but I did not get sick. I don’t recall what happened when we arrived at Yokohama, except I do know we were not allowed to have any passes. We were processed and shipped straight to Korea by DC-3 aircraft.
Duty in Korea
When I arrived at K-10, Chinhae, Korea, I was assigned to the 18th Comm. Squadron as an electrician. Our housing was metal Quonset buildings about 20 feet wide and 60 feet long. The bunks were the folding canvas type we would us for camping, with an air mattress on it. We only had blankets and sheets. The pillow was attached to and part of the air mattress. There was no air conditioning, but there were a couple of window fans. I don’t recall the weather getting hot, even though I was there during summer. We moved north to K-55 during the winter. It was cold there.
My duties were to keep 120-volt ac power generators running to the Communication Center. We had a ship offshore which provided power to the entire base, but it was unregulated and not dependable. I had to keep six PU-75 generators ready to run, with one always online. Four-cylinder Jeep engines powered the PU-75 generators.
I built the manual changeover switching system with whatever I could find, scrounge, or beg in order to switch from one generator to the other without disrupting the Comm. Center power. It was all exposed manual knife switches, etc. When we moved to K-55, the Texas 146 National Guard from Ellington Field took over K-10. I remember a Sergeant Shaw who was very upset with the hazards of my system and proceeded to make changes to it. He lost power to the Comm. Center several times, and had the panel and wiring in a real mess.
During my time at K-10, a couple of Airmen were assigned to work with me in the power tent. (All of the generators were in like a 20-man tent.) One was named Red Prince and the other was Joe Dugger. If you recall, I said earlier that Joe and I met at Scott Field. I did not remember him, but Joe remembered me and asked if I had won a car at Scott. Then I did remembered him talking with me.
My commanding officer was Captain Hampie, a good man and officer who thought I was magic with the power generators, etc. I don’t think he ever knew some of our tricks. We would go behind the master telephone switchboard and slip a piece of paper under the relay contacts for the Officer's mess hall telephone. When someone reported it out of order, we would take our telephone truck to the back door of the mess hall and walk thru the storeroom to get to the telephone and test it. While there we would toss out a few gallon cans of goodies, like peanut butter, peaches and American cheese. We did enjoy the parties afterwards (ha ha). The enlisted men did not get these things in our mess hall.
The Air Base K-10 at Chinhae was not very large. There was one short runway, about 4500 feet, on which the dirt and gravel had been built up and covered with a steel mat--the type which can be seen in movies of war. It was a temporary runway. When the aircraft wheels touched down, it was very loud. The pilot would alert new passengers to expect it. The runway faced a large building at one end and the bay at the other end, and there was a steep rock bluff beside it. I remember looking down at the runway when I first flew into K-10. I did not think we could land on it.
The US Air Force shared K-10 with the South African Air Force. We both flew the World War II F-51 Mustang aircraft. Our planes carried belly bombs, rockets, and 50-caliber machine guns and flew missions daily for support of the ground troops. K-10 was a "rear base" for maintenance, etc. A lot of missions were flown direct from K-10 and others were relayed from other bases farther north. Anyone who has internet can log on to "18th Fighter Bomber Wing" and find some real good information.
K-10 did not provide much entertainment. There was a theater and I recall a traveling USO show like Bob Hope (not Bob, but like his shows). We did enjoy it. I also remember one time one of the Korean Army men invited me to attend a live theater show in Chinhae. I could not understand Korean, but he interpreted partly. It was a good stage show, like at Jones Hall--Nutcracker, or something like that.
We were issued the aluminum mess kits. There were no plates or silverware at the mess hall. All of the food was served from a tent kitchen with gas burning cookers. We had to exit the eating area and pass a huge pot of hot soapy water and long handled brushes in order to wash our mess kit after each meal and hang them on our cot mosquito net poles to dry. I remember at Thanksgiving, I was on KP (kitchen police) duty and helping cook a huge amount of frozen turkeys. I don’t remember how many, but I do remember that they were stamped "FROZEN IN 1938." This was 1952, 14 years later! But they were still very good.
There was not a proper laundry service. Each building had a Korean "house boy", usually about 12 or 14 years old. He would gather our dirty clothing and carry them to a nearby Korean laundry in Chinhae. We all shared in the general housekeeping expenses, and everyone paid their own laundry bills.
The South Korean Army had a training camp near K-10 also. I remember one day I was walking from Chinhae to the base, along a gravel street. I could hear the Korean drill sergeant as he marched his group of young Korean troops down the road. All at once I heard running footsteps behind me. I turned just in time to see the drill sergeant jump and kick one of his troops in the small of his back, knocking him through the other men. He fell to the ground. They all marched on and left him there. I helped him up and tried to console him. I sure hope our American troops are not mistreated this way.
This is being written in order to document some of our good times together in order to keep our memories alive and to be passed on to our loved ones to be able to share in some of our life history. The intent is for Rudy, Sr. to start this and to have each member of the family to add to and correct as desired. Then I will update this file and reprint. There are good times and bad, but most of the bad times will not be presented. The good times are more than we will be able to recall. There will be an attempt to start with about 1956 through 2004. As other items are recalled, they can be penciled in and typed in later.
The Powell family consisted of Rudy Devohn, Sr. (DOB 6/2/33), Mary Beth Cain (DOB 11/12/36), Rudy Devohn, Jr. (a/k/a Vohn) (DOB 7/19/57), Montie Lamar (DOB 12/23/59), and John Delane (DOB 12/29/68).
During the fall of 1955, they had just completed construction of a new shopping center in northeast Houston, Texas. It was named Lakewood Shopping Center. I was working in a new barbershop which was located in the southern half. Beth was a shoe sales lady in a new shoe store named Shepp’s which was located in the north end. There was a drug store with a soda fountain and sandwich grill about midway. I went there to get a lunch and found an empty stool next to a very pretty girl. We started a conversation and introduced ourselves. I told her I was a barber and she was selling shoes. I told her that if she would come down and visit our new barbershop, I would give her some bubble gum. She said she would give me a balloon if I visited the shoe store. (Ha ha.) This led to my asking for a date. Just think about it. If there had not been an empty stool next to Beth, there could have been no Vohn, Montie, John, Joel, Bethie or Jake!
We went to a drive-in somewhere off of Wayside Drive. On the way over there my 1953 Kaiser Manhattan car battery went dead at Wayside and Telephone Road in front of a service station. I sure was embarrassed! We went on to the drive-in and the movie was "rained out" due to fog! I drove Beth home through the Washburn tunnel to Waldean Street in Marwood, near Cloverleaf. I got lost on my way home to Mom and Dad’s house in Freeway Manor. I found myself going around the circle at the tunnel. The fog was so bad and no matter which exit I tried I always came back to the tunnel. If this wasn’t a fine young lady, I would not have ever ventured to that side of town again.
And then, at one of the first meals I was invited to attend, a piece of bubble gum had been stuck under the table where I was sitting. When I started to get up, it stuck and strung across the kitchen. This embarrassed Beth more than me. Everyone had a big laugh. Then at Thanksgiving I was invited to eat with them again. After the prayer was said, Penny said, "Mama, Fay didn’t close her eyes and she was looking at the food." (Penny was in the kitchen watching through the door.) Fay spoke real quick and said, "So what. Rudy was too." Fay was around four years old. But guess what? Read below to get the rest of the story.
January 19, 1956, Mary Beth Cain and Rudy D. Powell were married at Channelview, Texas. We were married in the Dell Dale Baptist Church by Rev. Trent. Attendees were Beth’s parents, Ivy C. Cain and Mary Lee (Sarver) Cain; Rudy’s parents, John Wylie Powell and Ruby Jewel (Barger) Powell; Hazel and J. T. Moore; and Beth’s cousin Pat Jeffers.
For a short period we first lived in Mom and Dad’s house in South Houston. They had just moved to Arkansas and had the house up for sale. From here we rented a one-bedroom garage apartment in eastern Houston. Then shortly thereafter we were transferred to San Angelo, Texas, with Trans Texas Airline (a/k/a Tree Top Airline). Our complete fleet was about thirty modified World War II DC-3 aircraft. They had a one-hangar maintenance crew at San Angelo.
Beth and I both were amazed at the difference in the country in west Texas and the Houston area. When we moved out there we pulled a U-Haul trailer with our 1947 Plymouth. Beth was very unhappy because I had tied our garden plow onto the rear of the trailer. It looked like the Hillbillies. (Ha ha.) I remember trying to plant a garden in the backyard at our first rent house on Avenue M. The ground was a dry and hard sand. It would not grow weeds!
After a month or so, we had a real bad sandstorm. Beth tried to seal all the windows and doors, but it did not keep the sand out of the house. It was so dense that the lights in the room were dimmed with a halo of dust around them. The sand got into the cabinets and just covered the plates. It also seemed like it was nighttime during mid-day. I think it took two days before it started to improve.
When this sandstorm first started, I was at the Trans-Texas hangar with the work crew. We watched a bad cloud approaching from the west. It looked like a solid wall rolling on the ground and a dark cloud overhead. Our foreman told us this was a real bad sandstorm. We rushed to close the hangar and secure everything. When it looked like the storm sand wall was about ½ a mile from us, a small plane came flying over the top of the black cloud and dived for the east end of the runway in a tight turn and started to land into the face of the storm. Our foreman said the plane would crash unless we helped him to land. We jumped into a truck, drove to the runway, and found the plane had just reached the front of the storm wall and was flying at full speed but standing still. We had to jump out and grab the wheels and tie ropes to the runway and pull the plane to the ground under full power. This was a very scary time for all of the crew as well as the pilot.
There was always something new to see or learn about that country. During a certain season the huge tarantulas migrated. Thousands crossed the road between San Angelo and the old air base. We could not drive through them without running over a lot. They were huge, with a four to six- inch leg span, and they were coming from the east to the west as far as we could see in both directions. We also saw several large rattlesnakes along that same stretch of road. They were like three inches round and six foot long! We did not do much trail walking out there.
Our only child at this time was a young Cocker Spaniel named Pammie. She was a lot of company for Beth and me, always doing something to keep our attention. One time we came home from church and found her with a box of tissue pulled out and piled all over the bed room.
Beth learned to drive while we lived in San Angelo. Her Sunday school class had a driving class for the class members. They went to the old World War II airfield, where the Trans Texas Airlines maintenance hangar was located. A lot of concrete space had been abandoned and this is where they let the students learn to drive. We had an old 1947 Plymouth with a manual shift, which she learned in.
Another time we pulled a couple of tricks that I will not forget. One morning I was setting on the commode, while she made breakfast. I had my head in my hands and couldn’t wake up. She poured a small glass of water on me. It did wake me up and I was mad. I chased her out onto the front porch and poured a glass of water on her head. Everything quieted down afterwards, but when I went to work and started to eat my lunch, the man across the table said, "There is a hair hanging out of your sandwich." When I looked and tried to pull it out, it would not pull out. I opened the sandwich and found an SOS pad inside instead of meat. It had all the proper trimmings, but no meat. The men sure got a laugh out it when I told them what had happened. (Ha ha.) Beth not only gets mad, she gets even too!
During church one Sunday, Beth developed a real bad headache. (We learned later that she had migraine headaches). She wanted to leave and wanted us to just drive and let the wind blow into her face. We started to drive west and decided to drive on to Carlsbad, New Mexico. Everything was closed by the time we arrived, but we did enjoy traveling in the pretty hill country. On the way home to San Angelo, we ran into a bad sandstorm. Sometimes we could not see the concrete road over three feet in front of the car, and the oncoming cars just appeared suddenly with their headlights about ten feet ahead. We parked under the shed of a closed service station. The cops came by and made us move on. I never thought it was right to make us get back on the road when it was so bad.
We moved back to Houston for TTA. We moved into small house in South Houston, on Rea Street for awhile, then we bought a new house "shell" built by Downey Brothers on our four lots at 14511 Brownwood St. in Cloverleaf, Texas. We lived in a small trailer with Mom and Dad behind their barber shop at 3818A Telephone Rd., Houston, Texas until the house was completed. I installed all the electrical wiring. Beth’s dad, Mr. Cain, helped with some of the sheet rock, and Dad helped sand the hardwood floor. It wasn’t long after we finished and moved in that we had a window peeper. I saw his tracks in the fresh sand near the bedroom window. I had Beth stay with her Mom and Dad while I sat in the woods and waited for him to come again. About 10 p.m., I saw a man sneaking up to the window. I had a 38 revolver and flashlight. I shined the light on him and told him to stand where he was. He turned around and started running. I fired three shots at him before he turned and ran into the woods. I called the cops and they were there in two or four minutes because someone else had called them about him. We searched the woods and could not find him. I don’t think they ever found out who it was.
We had some chickens and a rooster. Beth was afraid to go into the yard because of the rooster. I told her to get a stick and run him off, but every time she picked up a stick she tossed it at him and ran. This just made the rooster meaner. (Ha ha.)
Mom and Dad had a barber shop on Telephone Road with a trailer house behind it. They enjoyed this location and the neighbors. I barbered some with them and part of the time I worked for Trans-Texas Airlines. Beth’s brother, Marvin, shined shoes for Dad in the shop. They liked Marvin a lot. Beth’s dad, Ivy Cain, worked for his brother at a Fairway service station on Lawndale Street, which was not too far north of the barber shop. Both families became acquainted with each other during this time.
Around this time is when Vohn was born, June 19, 1957 at the Southmore Hospital in Pasadena, Texas. I remember Beth and her friend Hazel Moore were out shopping when her labor pains started and Beth said it scared Mrs. Moore real bad. Beth went to the hospital and the nurse sent us away. She did not think Beth was large enough yet. We went to her aunt Madge’s on Strawberry Street in Pasadena to wait for the pains to increase. It took about 12 hours of labor before the birth.
About a month or so after the birth, Mother (Ruby), Beth, Vohn, and I took a trip to Paragould, Arkansas to tend to some business, Mom and Dad had rented their Cotton Belt farm to Bill Ford, a friend for years and the father of one of my best friends from Caraway, Arkansas, Bobby Ford. We went to school together from about the 6th grade through the 11th. He had sold some of Mom and Dad's cattle which were part of the rental deal. While we were there, Beth and Vohn stayed at Mounds with Uncle Alfred and Aunt Dorothy Austin while Mom and I went to the courthouse and law offices. When we returned, we found that Beth and Vohn were both in the hospital. It turned out that Beth had developed "milk fever". She was running 105 fever and Vohn was real sick with stomach and bowel problems. They both had blood poison and might have died if Dorothy had not gotten them to the hospital. All was well after a few days of medication.
Mom and Dad (a/k/a Ruby Jewel Barger and John Wylie Powell) moved back to Arkansas to take back their farm on Cotton Belt Road. They lived there for several years. I remember Mom had a hive of bees behind the barber shop and wanted to move them to Arkansas. We taped and sealed the hives to keep the bees inside for the trip, but there was a lot of them outside and they flew along with the truck all the way to Arkansas. I remember when we were loading the hive onto the Dodge pick-up truck, Mom tripped and fell backwards with the hive falling on her face. I just knew the hive would burst and let the bees out to swarm all over her. It did not burst, but it did crack her cheek bone and was sore for a few weeks. Vohn loved to visit and stay with them. Grandpa was always taking him fishing or swimming naked on Locus Creek, just behind their house.
December 23, 1959, Montie Lamar Powell was born while we still lived at 14511 Brownwood Street. Everything was going real good with Vohn and Montie until Montie was about 10 months old. He was in his high chair and pulled a pan of boiling water off the stove onto his back. It poured down from his shoulders and into his diaper, Beth pulled the diaper off as fast as she could, but the area burned real deep. Beth called me at work at Ellington Field and said he was in Tidelands Hospital. I had been car pooling with Bill Lindsey from Highlands and did not have a car to come home in. My foreman, Bill Glazier, who was a voluntary fireman in Friendswood, offered to drive me to the hospital. He used his siren and red light to drive fast. When we arrived at the hospital, Montie was in a hospital baby bed. His whole back and butt was burned. The skin was gone and he was standing and holding the bedrail crying. When he saw me at the door, he reached for me and cried for me to take him and comfort him. I had been instructed no one could touch him because of infections. I could not stand it and had to leave. It took several weeks for all of the burns to heal, and they left some big scars to this day. But a big problem was that he was just starting to walk when this happened. This set him back about another 10 months in walking and also slowed his learning to talk. (Note: It does not seem to bother him now in 2004.)
Beth’s parents and family, Ivy Camble Cain and Mary Lee (Sarver) Cain, visited Mom and Dad at the farm on Cotton Belt. Mark Allen was real close to Vohn’s age. He liked to play around the barn and animals until an old goose got after him. Mark tried to climb a small tree and got his foot caught in the fork and the goose got him by the seat of his pants and whipped him with its wings. (Ha ha.) Everyone sure enjoyed that visit.
Grandma was always big to play with the boys. They called her "Grandma is the messer," and she chased them around the kitchen table. They had horses, chickens, geese, and goats, and Dad had a Ford 8N tractor. The boys always enjoyed their visits there at Cotton Belt on Locus Creek.
1962 Feb to May
During the last quarter of 1961, Beth, Rudy, Vohn (4 ½ age) and Montie, 2 age) were living in Euless, Texas near Dallas, on an assignment from Trans Texas Airlines. During this time, Vohn went to visit Grandma and Grandpa Powell at Paragould, Arkansas. Montie told his Grandma & Grandpa that he was too little to go and stay with them in Arkansas, but he would be bigger someday. Grandpa bought a small used bicycle for Vohn. He brought it to the house and took Vohn to the Marmaduke highway (there was no traffic). He pushed Vohn to start him. He rode it the first try! Grandpa followed Vohn in the truck and he did real good until it came time to stop. He did not know how and fell. Someone stole it after he returned to Euless.
Beth saw an ad in the newspaper for a job in California for an Instrument/Electrical Inspector for Radio Corp. of America (RCA). I applied and away we went. We bought a new Volkswagen car and a small utility trailer from Sears. I built a lightweight deck and side rails, neat! We removed the rear seat back and made the whole back seat a bed. We could all four sleep in it--a little close, but cozy.
We left Euless about February 7, 1962, 1:00 p.m., and tried to outrun a bad northern storm. As we traveled, we listened to the radio weather. We were driving northwest and skirting the edge of the storm front. The wind was very rough on the Volkswagen, but we did outrun that storm. We drove all night and stopped in New Mexico. We visited the Route 66 Indian tee-pees and snake pits, etc. The boys bought some trinkets. Then we drove on into Arizona and saw some very pretty country. The Painted Mountains, or was it Valleys? Montie did like the rocks. Every time we stopped at a park, he threw and threw the rocks. At one place where the old time Indians lived in cut-outs in the mountains (I believe they were Pueblos), we wanted to drive to the ruins. But there was about one to two feet of old snow, hard on top. I felt the Volkswagen would make it. Wrong! We got stuck about halfway up the trail. I had snow chains in the car and had to dig the snow away from the wheels in order to put on the chains, then we managed to turn around and make it back to the main road, Route 66. For some reason Beth did not see the pleasure of that little detour (ha).
Beth seemed to be very happy on the trip as long as I stayed on the main road, and so were the boys and I. I
think it took us about four days to get to Marysville, California, where I had to check in with RCA. From there,
we were sent to Chico, about 60 miles north. We could not find anything to rent, and had to stay in a motel in
Paradise for about two weeks. Paradise was about 10 miles east of Chico, up onto the top of a mountain ridge.
It was a very pretty place, but it rained every day we were there. I was working 12 hours, 7 days a week, and Beth
and the kids drove around the area looking for a rental house in Chico. They got onto one trip just out of Chico
and drove up a long, tall mountain trail (just wide enough for one car). There was no place to turn around.
The higher they drove up the mountain, the more rugged the trail. Finally, they came to an old deserted building
where they could turn. It was a Wells Fargo relay station. A small bit of history to remember.
My work schedule was 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., as an inspector of all phases of construction for a Titan-1 missile site for three months. (I looked on the WWW Internet and found the history of this Chico site. It was completed and tested and put into service for one day, then shutdown and covered with dirt, because it was already out dated.).
Beth and the kids had plans for a trip to somewhere quite often. I would lay back in the VW front seat and sleep while Beth drove with the kids in the back. We went to several locations--the Golden Gate Bridge, Yosemite Park, Mt. Lassen, and Lake Tahoe. We moved to Paragould, Arkansas to live at Cotton Belt until I could find another job. On the trip, we traveled thru Nevada, Utah, and the corner of Colorado into New Mexico, then thru Texas to Arkansas. It was a very beautiful trip. We saw a lot of mountains.
We have a few memories of this trip. When we entered Utah, a sign said "Last gas for 75 miles." Beth said I should turn back to the town we were leaving and fill up. I looked at the gauge and it appeared about ¾ of a tank. I said that would travel 75 miles in a Volkswagen. Wrong!! I did not account for the trailer and huge mountains. We found the 75 mile station about midnight. It was closed. We checked the map and it showed another spot a few miles ahead. It was closed also. So we decided we would sleep until morning and then get gas. It was super cold on top of these mountains. We had to start the engine to warm up. I decided to pour a gallon of lantern coal oil into the gas tank while the engine was hot. It ran real good. I started driving up the mountains and killed the engine and coasted down until I had to restart. We could see a city every time we topped a mountain, but in that country, twenty miles looked like two. We did make it to the town and gas station. Beth will never let me forget that.
Also, we had a blowout on the little trailer. I put on the spare and had a second blowout just as we were coming into a city. I unhooked the trailer and left Beth and Vohn to watch the trailer. I drove into town and looked for some tires to fit the utility trailer’s 12-inch rims. There were none in town. I went back to the trailer and did not know what to do. Then I saw a small aircraft fly over and land. I knew they had 12-inch tires with a larger outside. I drove into town and ask how to get to the airport, where I found a pair of 10-ply tires. I bought them and took both wheels which were blown out to a station and had them mounted. The tires were so tall I had to remove the factory fenders. I never had another flat as long as we had the trailer.
However, there was a time when we were pulling up a steep mountain with the right-hand side dropping down into a deep canyon and forest. Suddenly the trailer went crazy. When we stopped, the right trailer wheel had come off and had rolled into the canyon. I thought there would be no way to find that wheel, but I looked up the hill and in front of the car was the wheel! It had gone into the forest, hit a tree, and bounced back onto the road! Honest! We could see the slide marks in the dirt where it had landed flat on its side and slid onto the shoulder. When I inspected it, I found that the bolts had come loose, and the bolts and nuts were gone. I remembered passing a house at the bottom of the hill about 200 feet back or so. I told Beth and the kids to wait with the car. I walked back to see if they had a phone or some way to get some new bolts. It turned out that he had a shop in back and he had the new bolts, washers, and nuts. The Lord must have been watching after us. We traveled through Texas into Arkansas. We wanted to visit with Mom and Dad, a/k/a Grandma and Grandpa Powell. We started looking for job ads.
Beth and I traveled from Paragould, Arkansas to Florida in answer to an advertisement for a job interview in Miami. The interview was for a job in Mobil Alabama, we accepted the offer. While staying there overnight, we learned that NASA was planning to launch the third man into space. Beth and I parked on Cape Canaveral (presently known as Cape Kennedy) and waited for the launch. On May 24, 1962, we watched as Scott Carpenter blasted off to outer space. We were about one mile from the launch site. The sound was roaring and smoke poured out around the Aurora 7 Space Ship. It was exciting. The area around us had several news vans, etc. There were several spectators like us, but not near the crowd one can see on the TV during the last few launches. Also, I have been told that the public cannot get into the area where we were at the time any more. We have movies that we made at the time of lift-off. There is color, but no sound.
We moved from Paragould, Arkansas to 907 Hurtel Street, Apt. C, in Mobile, Alabama. Then we moved to 502 Michigan Avenue. This is where we became acquainted with John and Eunice Kays. Both John and I were inspectors for modifications of Air Force F-105 aircraft. Beth and Eunice liked to go to see the wrestling matches near where we lived.
While we were living in Mobile, Devohn and Montie was invited to appear on a local children’s TV program for Vohn’s birthday, July 19. I cannot remember the name for sure, but I think it was Captain Bob’s Children’s show. They introduced Vohn as the "birthday boy" and zeroed the camera on him and Montie, who was setting next to him and the Kays children. I made a 8mm movie of the TV screen and Montie had it converted to VCR a few years ago.
We moved from Mobile to Huntsville, Alabama on November 22, 1963, the day President Kennedy was killed. I remember we were packing and left our TV unpacked until the very last thing. We wanted to see all we could. However, after we got into our 1962 Volkswagen and new 1963 Chevy Super Sport (409 engine and automatic on the floor--the best car we ever had), the radio was 100% about the killing.
I was privileged to see a few things which made history. (1) I saw Dr. Wernher Von Braun, the German scientist who engineered the V-2 ballistic missile for the Nazis during World War II, then came to America after the war to help the USA develop our space ships as the Director of NASA. They took a German V-2 rocket and converted it to our first Saturn V launch vehicle that would send men to the moon. (2) Also I saw the first laser gun experiments at Red Stone Arsenal, (3) and worked on a computer which was as large as a 3-bedroom house. All of the devices were the old vacuum tubes. We had to walk inside the computer to work on it!
When we moved to Huntsville, we moved into a nice little house at 1009 S.E. Randolph. We acquired a small puppy during this time. We named him "Muttsie". Grandpa and Grandma Powell came from Arkansas to visit around Christmas.
One day I came in from work at Red Stone Arsenal and Beth had found an ad in the paper about a three-bedroom house in the country for $25.00 a month. We called and were escorted about 20 miles north of Huntsville on top of Sand Mountain. This was 120 acres of hills, forest, a waterfall, and canyons. We rented the house, outdoor toilet, chicken house and barn. There was an electric water pump outside with one faucet at the kitchen sink. We had to bath in a No. 3 washtub. The only heat was a mid-sized King heater, with a six-inch pipe thru the ceiling. This house had been built by the government during World War II. It had a porch and was on tall blocks. It had been painted white about five years before. The rent was cheap because the landlord wanted someone to live in the house to protect the property. The last people were rent free and they tore up the place. The landlord felt that if someone paid a small rent, it would be better for him. He planned to build a new home there in about five years. We only lived there about six months, but we have many tales to tell!
This property was about 25 miles southeast of Huntsville. You can find it by taking highway 231 south and up a high mountain to Morgan City. Take a left on Union Grove Road about two miles, then turn left on a dirt road (I think it is now named King Cliffs). It appears that way on the MSN internet. The house sat on top of a rounded hill top, surrounded with about ten acres of clover. About 200 feet north was a small spring creek which flowed year round. The creek was about two to three feet wide and four feet deep. On the south side towards the house was the clover field. On the north side was uncleared brush and blackberry land. The creek came from a spring about a half mile west near the mountaintop, where a moon shiner once had a large still. The Feds found it and busted several barrels of brew. The brew soaked into the sand and rocks and came out in the spring water. Neighbors said people came from all around to get a bucket of the spring water. (Ha.)
This spring ran east about 200 yards and then down the cliffs to a canyon which was about 75 feet deep and 200 feet wide. This canyon started at a waterfalls about 200 yards south. The falls were always running water due to springs upstream. The walls of this canyon were all huge slabs of granite where a cavern caved in years ago. It appeared that this was a fault line of an earthquake. In fact, some of the granite cracked and fell during the great earthquake up in Alaska while we lived there.
The boys had lots of fun playing with Muttsie in the clover field. They ran and lay down in the clover, which was high enough to hide them. Muttsie ran around and jumped up to see over the clover until he found them, then the chase was on again.
Several scary adventures happened while we lived here.
We moved from Huntsville, Alabama to 1010 San Jancito Street in Highlands, Texas for a few months, then moved to South Main to rent the old Dr. McCasland’s home. His office had been in the building in front, where there is now a flower shop. The doctor’s wife gave all of his medical books to Beth, and we still have most of them. Beth has studied them for many of our medical problems.
While we lived here, Montie backed up to an open flame space heater. His jammers caught on fire and burned his butt about three inches across. I was eating breakfast and when he called, I ran to him and put the flame out with my hands. This burn was not major, but could have been tragic if I had not been able to cover the fire with my hands quickly. Montie did not need another burn.
I worked for a while offshore for Lorac Service Corporation as the operator of electronic navigation equipment onboard a survey boat. Then I hired in with Philco Ford, Inc. at NASA at Houston, Texas. While at Philco, I was involved in several notable projects. One was to build a movie mock-up of NASA’s main control center, Building 30. I was the lead technician with 16 technicians assigned to build and assemble a copy of the consoles-related furnishings for the Al Capp movie of "Marooned", one of the first movies about men in space. The equipment was made from plywood, with some real TV monitors and flashing lights to appear as a working control center. The project was completed, functional-tested, shipped to Hollywood, and put into storage for about 24 months. Then another movie company purchased it from Al Capp and proceeded to make the movie. Beth and I went to see the Houston Premier showing. I don’t recall the date, but we did get to see several of the people I worked with at Philco. It was quite a thrill to see all of the stage equipment we had designed and built. The movie has been shown on TV in the past and I have a copy of it.
Beth completed a course at Lee College for Nurse’s Aid, but because she was pregnant she did not continue the training for RA nurse. On December 29, 1968, John Delane Powell was born. We lived in Highlands, Texas at 101 E. Houston Street, first house behind the car wash. The house has been gone for several years now. We purchased a home at 206 S. 6th Street, which was the Hollingsworth home site on three acres. John was about two months old when we moved in. Grandma and Grandpa Powell moved into a smaller two-bedroom house in the back yard, and Grandpa had a barber shop on Sheldon Road in Chanelview. Grandma had a barber job near Sheldon at Market Street. I worked at Air Products and Chemicals in La Porte and at Mobay Chemicals in Baytown.
While I was working at Air Products, Inc., I worked with Lester Williams. He loved to catch catfish. He had a special homemade stink bait (pew-eee). He took me fishing in the small streams and rice field runoff ditches. We caught a few catfish and then I took Beth. She caught a three to four-pounder one afternoon near Enterprise Products at Mont Belleview. She fell in love with cat fishing. Lester taught us how to make stink bait and we made about 24 pints. It lasted us about two years.
We had a barn and garden spot, and for a while we had a milk cow. She was a lot of work, but we enjoyed fresh milk and cream. Grandpa had a large garden in the front yard, near the Flankers. It really did grow some nice tomatoes. John used to help Grandpa in the garden and also showed him how to buy toys! John also painted Grandpa’s old Dodge truck (without asking if it was alright). Grandpa let John have or do almost anything he wanted to.
Grandma and Grandpa Powell moved to Arkansas again, this time to Emerson Street in Paragould. They bought a barber shop in the old High full building. Aunt Dorothy and Alfred were still living at Mounds and farming rice and soybeans. Alfred also owned the Cotton Belt home and farm.
I received a job offer to move to Scotland for two years for Brown & Root to work offshore in the North Sea on the British Forties Fields platforms. The family was included in the move, but the main problem there was that I had to go ahead of the family and start to work, leaving all of the packing and moving of our household to Scotland. It took Beth and the kids a month or more to get things ready to ship.
Fay and Buddy moved into our house to keep it safe. Fay wanted to keep the milk cow, and tried to learn how to milk one morning. She grabbed a teat and pulled with two fingers. The old cow looked around at her and swatted Fay with her tail. She knew it was not me milking (ha ha). Fay decided she did not want the cow!
I rented an apartment at 19 Katie Road in Arboreta, Scotland, about 60 miles south of Aberdeen, which is where I flew in and out by helicopter. I rented the apartment one week before Beth and the kids were to arrive and I asked the landlady if she could do a little shopping for us so something would be in the icebox when we arrived from Aberdeen the next week. She did have the basic items, milk, eggs, bread, bacon, butter and some orange marmalade which was so bitter we could not eat it. The landlady was about 60. Her husband was dead. She told us afterwards that it was a real pleasure to "cater" to us. It turned out that she was very high in the community. She was Director of the huge hospital in A broth.
19 Katie Road was different than the apartments in the States. It was narrow and part of a four-apartment complex, four (4) stories tall. The kids were real impressed with it except we could not get John to go to the 4th floor. It was too scary. Across the street was a park lake with an island in the center with an old Fort building. In the winter the lake froze over and the local kids skated. This was quite a change from Highlands, Texas.
One adventure was a treat to all of us. We wanted to go grocery shopping in Aberdeen because there was an American food store there. We caught the train in Arbroth to Aberdeen and took a taxi to the store. After a while we had two big baskets full and checked out. We had to call another taxi to return to the train. The driver knew the schedules and said he might not be able to catch the train. He drove like a mad man through the streets of Aberdeen to the station, then drove right onto the passenger platform and helped us to unload the groceries into the train. We just got on when they rang the bell to clear the doors for departure. We did eat well for the next few weeks.
The people were very friendly and helpful. In one case, I went to the bank to open an account for Beth to operate and survive while I was on the Forties oil platform for four (4) weeks and then have one (1) week of being at home. I did not have any cash to deposit--only a transfer of monies from my Highlands bank account. Banks everywhere would not allow us to cash a check until our funds had been transferred to their bank. This bank Vice President told us not to worry. Beth could write checks as she required. It would all catch up soon. Then we found an Austin car (steering wheel on the wrong side) ha ha. It was priced about equal to $4000.00 US dollars. I went to the banker and asked about setting up a loan. He asked if I could have it paid for in about six months. I said yes. He told me to write a "hot" check for it. No contract--just my word to pay. I could not believe it! Then when I went back to the used car salesman, he said that in Scotland everyone knows that every car is priced with about $200 extra just to bargain with, and being that I had just arrived in Scotland, I was not aware of it, so he discounted the car price. Unheard of!
We learned that the only Southern Baptist Church (it was not called Southern Baptist, but was sponsored by the Southern Baptist Missions) in Scotland had just started in Brekin, about 15 miles inland from Arbroath. It turned out to be a new church started by some American oil workers in the local Masonic lodge in Brekin. We attended about three or four services there before the church bought a local Scottish church building which was abandoned. I think the Southern Baptist of London arranged for the purchase for $1000.00. It was a grand old stone church building, complete with all furnishings, including a large built-in pipe organ and stained glass windows. Pastor Mark McClard and his family had been called from the Houston area shortly before we arrived. We continued to attend there after we moved to Aberdeen, which was about 50 miles north, through some very pretty forest. Montie loved the forest and heather-covered mountains. He had his mother drop him off in the mountains for a campout. He had a pack and some food. One thing he had was a can of biscuits, which he opened and found they had to be cooked (ha ha). He was so hungry he had to eat some raw.
We had to learn to drive on the wrong side of the street, on the left side. It is scary at first, but got better with a little time. The circle turn-arounds were worse. It was hard to come to the circle and then go to the left rather than to the right.
A very unusual thing happened about this time. Scotland required all persons with a work permit to leave and return through Customs after about two months on the job. I departed Scotland and flew to Rotterdam, Holland, and checked into the hotel. I went down for lunch and found Beth’s uncle Dan Sarver in there. He was a QC Inspection Manager for Santa Fe Engineering & Construction and was on business with a client. He was living in London, but was over in Holland for about 2 days. This sure was a surprise to both of us.
Montie and John started in a local Scottish school at Arbroath. Montie had completed the 11th grade at Sterling High and was due to be in the 12th. Scotland did not have a 12th grade. They graduated after the 11th. Also, their studies did not match the USA studies. We arranged for Montie to attend the American school in Aberdeen. He had to ride the train back and forth from Arbroath to Aberdeen. It made a very long day for him. We moved about ten miles north of Arbroath to Lunnan Bay into an old school house that was built of stone two feet thick. It was very cold, with only a fireplace for heat. We found a house in Aberdeen, at 1 Glenn Gardens, and moved there to make school better. It was a very modern house. John did not like the Scottish school ways. While we lived at Lunnan Bay, he attended a very strict school. They had to march everywhere and wear uniforms.
A few weeks after we moved to 1 Glenn Gardens, I came off the platform and found Beth and the boys all very sick with the flu. They were all laying in front of the fireplace trying to keep warm. I had to start to nursing them back to health.
Vohn managed to get on an offshore job with Sedco, I believe that was the name. Scotland found that he did not have a work permit and made him stop. He got a taste of offshore drilling. He decided he did not want to stay in Scotland. He wanted to go back to Highlands and live in the little house. Fay and Buddy had moved into our house at 206 S. 6th Street to watch after everything. While Vohn was in Scotland, he bought a new 12-string guitar. When he left Scotland, he did not declare the purchase of it. I don’t remember how he managed to pay the dues, but he did get permission to keep the guitar.
Montie made a school trip to Glen Sheas ski resort and had a great time. Beth, John, and I drove up in the mountains to Glen Sheas. There were very pretty mountains and snow, but I don’t think we were able to see Montie. Later, Beth, John and I made a trip to the north of Scotland to the Lockness area, where the Lockness Monster was supposed to be. On this trip along the banks of Lockness, we visited an old cemetery and found some tombs with the skull and cross bone symbol of the witch. We were told these were witch graves from the days when they were burned on the stake. John found a tomb which had broken open and had some bones on the ground. He took one bone and still has it to this date.
Beth and the kids loved to go to the auctions. She did bring some nice things back to Highlands.
I was sent to Rotterdam, Holland, for about three months by Brown & Root. Beth and John came over for a while and visited Holland. They saw the windmills, the Rhine River, and tulips in bloom. They had a good visit, plus, there was a McDonalds about two blocks from our hotel. We all enjoyed the American style hamburgers. I had to work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. I did not get to see much.
We moved from Scotland to Bergen, Norway. Brown and Root shipped all of our furnishings. Beth, the kids, and I went to Highlands for a couple of weeks leave. I went back to Scotland and drove our car to Bergen. I crossed the North Sea on the ferry. This led to a new problem. Norway drives on the right hand side of the road and we had an English car with the steering wheel on the wrong side. We had to learn to drive again!
Bergen was very pretty. It was in the mountains on the coast. Brown and Root arranged for us to rent an apartment at the end of Veslefrickvien Street on the mountain side. There were huge boulders in the yard and trails into the forest close by. The woods were full of wild blueberries.
There was no American school in Norway for Montie to complete his high school. Brown and Root would provide expenses to send him somewhere else, but we chose to have him go home to Highlands. Brown and Root paid an expense allowance. Montie completed high school at Ross Sterling and lived in the little red house in back of 206 S. 6th with Vohn. Fay and Buddy still lived in the big house. John started going to an American school in Bergen. It was a four- or five-bedroom house that had been converted to a school. It was wood frame and red, located overlooking one of the many waterways around the coast of Norway. He had to travel by public bus from near our home, then transfer on the other side of the mountain tunnel. This was not a good arrangement for an 8½ year old boy who could not speak the language.
One very bad problem--which could have been very bad--was that John had to change buses at the tunnel which crossed the mountains towards our house. One day he got off one bus and started to get onto the second when the Norwegians pushed him back and he could not get on. He could not speak their language to let them know what he needed. When the bus left, he did not know what to do. If he walked through the tunnel, it would be about eight or nine miles. He chose to come to the NKP Building where I worked downtown, which was about three or five miles through city streets and intersections. I worked on the 4th floor. John came walking up with his backpack on about 30 minutes before I was due to go home and told me what had happened. Scared me to death! I called Beth at home and she was worried because he was so late. I don’t recall what happened afterwards, but I do remember the school was notified.
We had several local trips in Norway. The mountains were huge and the roads had to travel through tunnel after tunnel. Note: Most of these tunnels were made by hand by World War II prisoners. Also, there were huge underground caverns for submarine harbors for the Germans. The people of Norway were also captives. A lot of bad stories came from this period.
At Christmas time, Brown and Root provided tickets for Montie to fly from Highlands to Bergen for the holidays. The day Montie arrived there was a 12 inch snow. When we drove to the airport to pick him up, there was only one set of tracks in the snow, which made it easy for us to drive. On the way home, Montie and John were in the back seat, not saying a word, just looking from left to right at the beautiful snow on the mountains and cedar trees. John said, "It is just like we are in a Christmas card." We all enjoyed that Christmas season more than any we can remember. Montie and John played with the local children with skis and sleds.
Then for Christmas we traveled to Vatnahauslen, which is a ski lodge about 75 miles north of Bergen in the mountains. (Beth, John and I had heard of this place in about September and traveled there to check it out. We loved it and made reservations for Christmas.) The lodge had flags across the front for each country with visitors at this time. I don’t recall the total count of flags, but there were at least ten. The USA flag looked good and we were the only Americans. Almost everyone spoke some English, so we had no problem communicating. This lodge was small, with maybe twenty families at the most. The kids were real impressed that, when we went to eat dinner they had a table with our name on it and a special waiter (just like movie stars). Ha ha. The food was great. Montie still talks about the brown onion gravy and steamed codfish. This was a great time to remember.
Another thing that we all remember is the children coming to our door and singing Christmas songs to us. Their tradition is to sing for gifts--sort of like our Halloween trick-or-treat. Then at New Year's it seemed that everyone in Bergen except us had a large amount of fireworks. When they started setting them off at midnight, the sky lit up with all colors. The snow was still covering all the trees and houses. It sure caused some pretty fireworks as it reflected off the mountains, etc.
Beth developed some medical problems and had to have a hysterectomy. I stayed and worked in Norway. Beth and John returned to Houston. Beth stayed in the States about two months and then returned alone. She had put herself on a diet and had lost down to about 136 pounds. She was a real beauty to me when she departed the airplane. She was wearing a long maroon coat we had bought in London, and tall brown leather boots. She looked like a movie star.
While Beth was in Highlands, Jim Gleave and some of the men I worked with invited me to attend the Methodist Church with them. While the service was in Norwegian, someone started whispering the message to us in English. Later, we found that it was a retired missionary from this church. He had just returned from a 25-year assignment for him and his family in Africa. With his help, they started an English-speaking service for the oil workers. When we returned to Highlands, Northside Baptist sent them a box of song books.
After completion of my two-year contract with Brown and Root, Beth and I moved from Norway back to 206 S. 6th in Highlands. John was at Grandma Powell’s in Arkansas. When we arrived at the Houston airport and were going through Customs, my luggage and tool box with my name on them was on the carousel going around. Mr. Bill Gwaltney, the owner of Tex-a-mation Engineering, saw my name and waited until we cleared Customs. He walked up and we visited a few minutes. Then he asked me if I would like to go to Alaska. I told him I had just returned from two years in Scotland and Norway, and did not really want to leave again right away. This was on Wednesday. He asked me to call his office the next morning. To make a long story short, he offered me a three-month job, and I was on the airplane Sunday morning headed for Alaska.
This job was "single status". I lived in a Man Camp at Prudo Bay, which was about like a Holiday Inn. They furnished great meals--king crabs, steaks, fish, and a number of things. I was transported to the job site each morning, returned for lunch, and then went back until bedtime. Snow and ice was about three to four-feet deep where it had not been cleaned. I arrived in May and left in July. The sun never set while I was there. The rivers had started to flow huge blocks of ice about two miles from our camp. It sounded like several trains roaring as the ice flowed down and out to the sea. The Alaska Pipeline was completed and started to flow while I was there, and I have a sample bottle of the first crude oil through the pipeline. (Note: In 1997, for the 20 year anniversary, they made a huge bronze pipe and engraved 1,000 names of the people who had been a part of building the oil gathering centers and pipeline. Montie was working in Alaska in 1997 and 1999. He saw this monument and checked it. My name was on it: "R POWELL". There was a plaque nearby which explained that all parties could not be listed. They had to take a random listing and pick 1,000 of the many thousands who did work there. Now my name will be there forever.)
After returning from Alaska in July, Vohn and I tried to go into business. We started Highlands Process Controls, Inc. This did not do very well. Brown and Root offered Vohn and me a job on the North Sea. We closed up our shop and flew to England, where we worked four weeks on the offshore platforms. The company then flew us home for two weeks. This left Beth, Montie, and John at home in Highlands for four weeks at a time.
Vohn and I worked on the same platform. One day Vohn had to have an emergency appendectomy. This was scary. The medics radioed for instructions and a helicopter was sent from Germany. It had a huge iron cross painted on the bottom, like World War II German planes had on them. I flew with him to Copenhagen, Denmark for surgery. They operated within hours and Vohn was in the hospital for three days. They let me stay in one of the hospital training rooms. When Vohn was released, we flew back to Houston. Vohn bought a new GMC van with a wet bar, as well as a house at Batson, Texas. Vhon told his Grandfather Powell, "I am rolling in dough." Dad repeated that statement many times. He thought the world of Vohn,. He loved Montie and John also, but Vohn was the first grandson. After the surgery Vohn returned to offshore work, but to another platform. We did not get to see each other anymore, except a couple of times we met in Highlands while on our off-time rotation.
In late September 1978, I had just returned from two weeks off at home, when I started having chest pains and shortness of breath. The medic on the platform decided I should go onshore for a checkup. I departed on the regular transport helicopter to a huge central "TANK" platform where there was a clinic. I stayed overnight there and was flown to Scotland the next day. By the time I had transferred copters a couple of times, the pilots became aware of my heart condition and would not allow me to fly from Scotland to Great Yarmouth, England, where the Offshore Hospital was located. They feared the changes in elevation might trigger a heart attack. Brown and Root had one of their drivers chauffeur me to Great Yarmouth, about 150 miles away. The driver was a young man that I knew. He was a good driver, but he was afraid I would die on his trip. Sometimes he drove so fast, I was afraid we wouldn’t make it to the hospital. I had to tell him to slow down several times.
When we arrived at the hospital, I was taken in right away and put in the ICU unit. They started giving me medications. Brown and Root called Beth in Highlands and told her that I had had a heart attack and was in bad shape. They arranged her a plane ticket right away, rented a small apartment, and gave her a rental car. It seems like she was there within the second day. I have always felt a great deal of gratitude for the way Brown and Root took care of me and Beth, especially to Larry Beaudreaux who was the onshore coordinator of everything. I would like to record that Brown and Root and their Highlands Marine Insurance Company paid 100% of all expenses--medical, apartment, rent car, transportation and surgery.
I had to stay in the ICU for almost two weeks, then they allowed me to leave the hospital to live with Beth in the apartment. The doctors told me that after about thirty days, I would do one of two things: go to England’s major hospital for surgery, or, if I was stable enough, they would let me return to Houston for the surgery. After thirty days, they did allow me to return to Houston. We were given first class status. It was nice.
During our thirty-day stay in England, Beth and I did drive around and see some sights. One trip was to London to visit with Beth’s uncle, Dan Sarver. They were living in an old English home where William Penn had been raised. We slept in his old bedroom. We enjoyed our visit with Dan and Gene.
When we arrived in Houston, Brown and Root had already arranged for an appointment with a cardiologist, Dr. E.L. Wagner on Sunset Boulevard in Houston. He arranged for surgery at St. Luke's Hospital. Dr. Grady Hallman performed a four-bypass surgery on August 23, 1978, and I returned to work on the North Sea platforms on October 30.
I returned to work in Houston, and from there was sent to Egypt. Hudson Engineering had a contract to provide engineering assistance for completion and startup of five offshore platforms in the Red Sea. During the second week, Carl Nayman, Jim Britt, and I traveled to Cairo for business and to arrange Jim’s trip to Houston. We toured Cairo’s market streets and were amazed at the perfume, herbs, and gold jewelry. Carl Nayman bought some gold items (which tested to be real). Then we went to the Cairo museum and saw the mummies, etc. I bought a few items of silver jewelry. Beth said they had false god items on them and would not wear them. She was correct, but I did not know it when I bought them. We also took a taxi to Memphis and to the area where Moses was found in a basket floating on the Nile river. The visit to the great Pyramids cannot be expressed in words. They were awesome. Every morning when we flew out to the platforms in the Red Sea, we could see Mount Sinai, the holy mountain of God where Moses received the 10 Commandments. It gave me goosebumps each time I looked upon it.
I replaced an electrical engineer named Jim Britt. He had accepted a job with Hudson Engineering in Saudi, where he could have his family with him. Let me tell you what happened to him! Jim and his family moved to Saudi. He had a son that had just turned 18. Hudson Engineering said they could find him a job over there also. They put him on a pipeline lay barge, and after a few weeks they had to dry dock for repairs in Singapore. While there, his son went ashore to buy some gifts. Someone slipped him a "Mickey" and he was found in a coma. Jim flew to be with him at the hospital. While he visited for about two weeks, his son was still in a coma. The doctors did not have much hope for him unless he could be sent to Houston for medical attention. Jim contacted the Air Force to see if they could transport him. At first they thought they could, then decided they could not due to conflicts with the government. Jim was very upset. A Saudi sheik who had a brother that had died the day before in the same hospital came to visit Jim. He said he knew Jim was a Christian because he saw him reading his Bible every day. They had become friends while sharing the ICU waiting room. This sheik told Jim he would pay for the transportation to fly his son to Houston. They arranged for American Airlines to fly in a specially-equipped airplane with doctors and nurses. Everything went well until the plane arrived. Then the local government would not allow a departure until a huge fee was paid to the airport in US dollars. The sheik did not have US dollars. Everything was about to crash down for Jim! But the sheik called an American friend by the name of Ross Perot in Dallas. Ross used his credit card to pay the $10,000.00 fee. They got him back to Houston, but the doctors had no hope after about a month. They made plans to find a nursing home to move him to. One night a group of his church members came to visit. They sang some songs and prayed. While they were singing, Jim’s son started singing along with them! Praise the Lord! He has partially recovered and is living in an apartment with another person. They both work for the Light House for the blind.
I was working at Exxon BOP when Vohn left the North Sea work and he came to work at BOP as a draftsman. David O’Banion also worked as a draftsman. Montie was working for another contractor at BOP, installing instrumentation. One day Montie was waiting for his foreman to pick him up from a job site and he decided to look inside the base structure of a huge vessel. When he looked into the hole in the side, a wild cat came out clawing, biting, and scratching. Montie swung his arm to knock the cat away. Amazingly, he suffered only one tooth puncture wound on the top of his wrist and a little embarrassment for turning white as a ghost from fright. The cat ran away and when Montie told his foreman and coworkers, they laughed and didn’t think much of it. When Montie told me I laughed a little too, but I thought it could be a very serious matter due to the possibility of rabies. I told him to tell his supervisor. That sparked a plant-wide search for the cat that involved all plant personnel and the Humane Society. Traps were set to catch the cat to see if he was rabid. Everyone was searching, but they could not find it. Montie had to take shots in the stomach for thirty days. After this, the men he worked with nicknamed him "the cat man." (Ha ha)
We moved to Corpus Christi for a short term contract for instrument calibration, loop check, and startup at Champlin Chemicals. Montie also hired on the same job. We lived in the same apartment complex near each other. Montie and I were employed by I&E Services, which was managed by Mr. Willard Mayfield, a real nice person and boss. We enjoyed Corpus a lot. The piers were real good for fishing, and the water was clean. Beth and John did some fishing by themselves, and I went with them on afternoons and weekends. We enjoyed Corpus and revisited it later, but things just didn’t seem the same.
We met a fellow there named Phil Frenzel. We called him "The Bird Man" because he had several pet birds in his apartment. Every morning he came to work with bird poop on his shoulders and back. (Ha ha) We continued his acquaintance around the Baytown area, but it has been quite a while since I heard from him.
We moved to Beulah, North Dakota, for a job with the Great Plains Gasification, Inc. This was an adventure for Beth, John, and me. We loved the country with the lakes, hills, Bad Lands, Black Hills in South Dakota, and our visit to Yellowstone Park. We arranged with Fay and Buddy to meet them near Yellowstone. We had a cabin at the prettiest lake, with boulders all around it.
Grandma and Grandpa Powell came to visit us in North Dakota. They traveled on the Amtrak train to Minot and we drove by car and picked them up. It was a trip of about 120 miles. When we met them, we all went to a café for breakfast. Dad passed out while eating. We learned later that it must have been a mild stroke. We came back to Beulah and Dad rested two or three days, then we visited the Black Hills and the Bad Lands. These are very pretty, but different from anything in Texas or Arkansas. The Black Hills got their name because of the deep green trees and mountains surrounded by barren plains. They can be seen from a long distance off. Dad returned to Paragould and barbered about another two years. He then had a bad stroke which left him unable to barber.
During our stay in North Dakota, we sort of adopted a 10-year old boy from the Highlands area. His name was Jackie Roten. His parents were in prison, and no one was caring for him. Vohn tried for a few weeks to keep him, but he couldn’t get along with Iris’s two girls, Kelly and Cheyenne. We ran into big problems with the State Child Protection of North Dakota. They found out through the school that he was not our child, so the courts assigned him to be a ward of the state and threatened to take him away. They wanted Texas to pay them for his upkeep, etc., but Texas was not even aware of him. After North Dakota authorities found out that they had to provide all of his welfare and expenses, they became more mellow with us. I called the Attorney General’s office. He called the judge and had the decision reversed, just in time for us to return to Texas. After we returned to Arkansas, Jackie stayed with us about one month. He was just more than we could handle, so we took him back to Highlands and left him with his aunt. We don’t know what happened to him after that.
There were a few years after North Dakota when Vohn, Montie, and I all worked together at Warren Petroleum in Mount Belview, Texas. Vohn actually hired on directly as an Instrument Technician, while Montie remained contract as an All Discipline Designer. I was a contract I&E Engineer. We met several old acquaintances there, like David O’Banion, Darrell Clem, and Phil Frenzel (The Bird Man). We also made several new friends there, like Floyd Whimberly, John Herring, Glenn Wallene, and Bill Dingley.
After a couple years of working at Warren, I accepted another job elsewhere while Vohn and Montie both continued to work at Warren. Early one morning at approximately 8:15 a.m., Montie made his rounds through the plants to check up on the construction sites to see if anything of importance needed to be documented. One work site was a hole dug in the ground which exposed two large 20-inch pipelines. The project involved cutting one of the pipes. The man in the hole, standing on the pipe with a cold cutter device, was almost finished with the cut. Montie talked with the three men working on the project and after surveying the area, Montie proceeded to his office in the Control Building about fifty yards away. As he entered his office, he heard a loud hissing noise, and then a safety man ran past his office. Stepping into the hallway, Montie saw a small group of co-workers gathered at the window looking out over the plant. Montie joined them. Out the window was a giant white cloud of gas billowing up 100 feet into the air. It settled back to earth very quickly and spread out over the plant. One man in the group shouted, "Get to the other side of the building. It’s going to blow." They all scattered out the front door of the Control Building, jumping the front ditch and running down the middle of the Highway 146. They stopped all traffic because the gas cloud had already grown out of the plant boundaries and was now drifting into the neighborhood across the highway.
Montie recalls looking back while running. It ignited, and for what seemed at least a full minute it burned, although nothing was on fire-- yet. The flames were licking up all over the plant. Then various things began to explode, and finally the flames reached the source of the leak. Montie said he expected to be knocked over, but instead it was more like a giant whoosh. From the source of the leak inside the hole, a flame shot straight up like a torch. Montie said it seemed as if the flames reached 800 feet into the sky. Two workers by the names of Steve Furguson and Wayne Hasting were just driving back to the plant from filling up the company truck at the service station. They drove into the plant and went to each well head to try to close the valves manually. They knew the control room was empty of personnel, and that most likely the control wiring would be burnt up by that time. When the two men had done all they could to shutdown the plant and diminish the possible fuel sources, they abandoned the truck because it had become too hot to touch. They ran to join the other folks gathered at a safe distance. We thought that what those two men had done was very courageous. Coincidentally, Vohn was on the Emergency First Response Team for the Plant. However, he was in Houston that morning in a Fire Training Class. He heard everything on the radio and wanted to be there to help his friends. By the time he arrived on the scene, the call had been put in for the Red Adair team of professional well firefighters. Very unfortunately, two of the three men that Montie had just spoken with lost their lives. Amazingly, no one else was seriously hurt. It was a very sad day that I’m sure we will never forget.
Rudy, Montie, and John were working at Sterling Chemicals in Texas City, when Rudy had a heart attack and required three-bypass surgery. Montie and John continued to work there for another year or so. During this time, Montie met a lady draftsman named Jayna Conners. They were married on February 9, 1991. They continued to work together there for awhile, then went to work at Bayer Chemicals for two or three years. In 1997, they took a job in Alaska, and are still working together in the design drafting.
Mom and Dad (a/k/a Grandma and Grandpa Powell or Ruby Jewel and John Wylie Powell) decided that they wanted to be near us in their old age. Dad had a bad stroke in about 1986 or 1987 that left him unable to barber anymore, and he was not able to get around without a walker. Mom was not well. We found out later that she was in the first stage of Alzheimer’s, and she was not being properly medicated. Dr. Dan Ganshorn corrected her medications and she improved for about three years. Then her Alzheimer’s slowly got worse over the years. They enjoyed the time at 214 N. 4th in Highlands from 1991 until Dad died in 1998. Mom was not able to live alone and moved in with us at 109 S. 7th. We did not have room for her in this small house, and had to add a new room for her. She lived with us for 3½ years. Her problem with Alzheimer’s continued to get worse each week. On one trip to Edinburgh to visit Vohn, she walked out of Luby’s when Beth and I went to the restroom. I caught her just as she started to the parking lot. There were several problems and we had to encourage her to try staying at the Mountbatten House for our weekend trips to visit Vohn, etc. She then had to move to the St. James Nursing Home. After about three months, she became hostile with the other patients and workers. She also attempted to leave. Once she was found walking down the street in the rain, headed for Arkansas. We had to move her to Allenbrook Health Care, where they had a secure area and she could not leave.
On May 21, 1994, John married Jill Keys. John had purchased our old home site at 206 S. 6th before they married. They still live there, just about 300 feet from our house at 109 S 7th. This has made it real handy now that they have three children (our grandchildren). They have been a blessing to Beth and me, even though we are too old to give them the activities we would like to give them.
Montie and Jayna left Bayer and accepted a job in Alaska. They both worked in the same building and same Design Drafting department. Just before Thanksgiving 1997, Montie made a trip from Anchorage to the North Slope, when he became very ill with an intestinal blockage. He was flown back to Anchorage to the hospital, where it was feared they might have to operate on him. I decided to fly up there to be with him and Jayna. It turned out that even though it was very serious, they were able to medicate him to recovery. I visited with them for a week and enjoyed our time together. Montie had a very nice apartment near his friend Brett Clements, whom I had worked with at Texas City. Brett had also been Montie and Jayna’s best man at their wedding. Brett also was working with Montie (small world). The snow was deep and cold, so I was mostly in the apartment while Montie and Jayna were at work, but in the evenings we got to visit around Anchorage. For Thanksgiving we were invited to have dinner with a couple that worked there. They had a real nice cottage about 50 miles from Anchorage on a frozen lake in the forest. They all went skimobiling across the lake and through the hills and forest. I stayed at the cabin. I call this place a cottage or cabin, but it was really a good sized, three-level house. We all enjoyed ourselves. I was happy to get to return to Alaska after 20 years. One big change was the glacier where I had stood for a picture in 1977 was no longer in view. It had receded about a half mile around a bend in the river and could not be seen from the same location in 1997. It could only be viewed by boat.
Rudy Devohn Powell, Sr.
Rudy Devohn Powell, Sr., 71, was born on June 02, 1933 and passed away on Tuesday, December 7, 2004. Mr. Powell was a resident of Highlands for over 30 years. He was a member of North Side Baptist Church in Highlands. He enjoyed working outdoors, fishing, traveling. He also really loved his grandchildren and enjoyed helping people. He had served in the Air Force during the Korean War in the 18th Fighter Bomber Wing.
Rudy is survived by his wife of 48 years, Mary Powell of Highlands; 3 sons and 2 daughters-in-law, Rudy Devohn Powell, Jr. of Highlands, Montie and Jayna Powell of Baytown and John and Jill Powell of Highlands; mother, Ruby Powell of Baytown; 3 grandchildren, Joel Powell, Elizabeth Powell and Jake Powell, all of Highlands; numerous other relatives and a host of friends.
Funeral services were held at 11:00 a.m. Friday, December 10, 2004, at Earthman Funeral Home with Reverend David R. Brumbelow officiating. For those desiring, memorials may be made to North Side Baptist Church of Highlands, TX.
(Click a picture for a larger view)