I was born on a small farm very near the small coal mining town of Bethlehem, WV on December 5, 1935. I lived there until I was nine years old and in the fifth grade.
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Some of my childhood friends in Bethlehem were, of course, my sister Barbara, six years older than I, Ray Watts, Bud Watts, Foster Colburn, his sister Lydia (Littie), and Ann Stark. Ray and Bud’s mother was a widow and they lived with Charles Radford, Kathryn's father. Kathryn, as well as her sister, Braxie were school teachers at Shinnston Grade School. Braxie Radford was my first grade teacher and because of her I started school at the age of five. Another sister was a nurse and served in the U.S. Navy during WWII. I could not pronounce Radford when I was young so I called him “Raffie”. To my family after that he was always known as Raffie.
I have many fond memories of that small farm near Bethlehem. I can remember I had a favorite tree. The Elm tree had been broken in a storm and when it recovered it grew in the shape of an “N’, one of the strangest trees I have ever seen. We usually had at least one hog which my dad would butcher it with my uncle Farrell Miller. We had a cow for a short time but I never did learn how to milk very well. One thing we had during my childhood was a very large draft horse which belonged to our landlord. When I became old enough it was my job to see the horse was fed daily. I don’t remember if the horse had a name or not but I always referred to the horse as “LaLa”. I had to put down hay and make sure the horse had corn and a share of oats to eat. The oats were mixed with molasses and I would help myself to a portion. From that day on I have always eaten dry oats with molasses as cereal. One thing that many have thought was strange, eating dry oats with molasses or maple syrup. We also had chickens and I was always in conflict with the rooster. I can remember several times being attacked by a very large, mean rooster.
June 23, 1944 was a very hot and muggy day. Late in the afternoon my mother and I saw a very ominous dark cloud in the distance. We went to Raffie’s to see if he knew the cause of this cloud. Raffie was in his sixties and had never seen anything like it. Later we found out it was a Tornado which struck within a quarter of a mile of us. The storm did the most damage and causing deaths in Shinnston which was about a mile away from us. The house where we lived near Bethlehem was owned by Charles Long and we only rented. In early 1945 Mr. Long sold the farm and we had to move. I went to school in May of 1945 and while I was in school that day my parents moved just a few miles to Shinnston. Were they trying to tell me something? Lucky for me, my sister met me after school and took me home.
The section of Shinnston in which we moved was predominantly Italian. This was the section of Shinnston that had been struck by the tornado the previous year
and new houses were being built to replace the ones destroyed by the tornado. My parents had bought one of these new houses from a gentleman by the name of Santo Rotunda. Most of the same families still live in that part of Shinnston, known as Pleasant Hill. These are some of the greatest friends and neighbors I have every known and have the privilege to see on occasions. I attended grade school at Shinnston Grade School and later attended Shinnston High School. In August of 1949, just before entering high school I was injured playing sandlot football which prevented me from participating in any sports during my high school years. My contribution to the school was a little less active. I was a DJ. During the lunch hour for about thirty minutes a day I spun records so other students could dance or just enjoy the music. The equipment was almost antique. All the school had was an old 78 RPM turntable with an older PA system and speakers but it was good enough for us.
I was just an average student and graduated in May of 1953. I didn’t work
that summer. I just had fun and took it easy. I did start looking for a job in August. My
first job was gotten through the Employment Office in Clarksburg. I started to work at the Blue Bird Store on Third Street in Clarksburg in late August. I was making a
grand total of $25.00 a week, on my way to my first million. I stocked shelves and delivered groceries. I worked there until January of 1954 when I got a job in Shinnston working at The Toggery, a man’s clothing and dry cleaning establishment. I bagged and delivered dry cleaning and laundry six days a week and worked the counter every two weeks on Saturday evening until 9 PM. I worked at The Toggery until February of 1955 when, due to lack of business, I was laid off. I drew unemployment until May when I decided to join the Navy. I left Clarksburg at 5 AM on May 13, 1955 for Huntington, WV where I was inducted into the U.S. Navy at the induction center located in the Ventura Hotel in Ashland, KY. A high school friend,
Robert Wilson, left for the navy on the same date. We went by bus to Ashland and spent one day there going through the physical examinations and paper work before being placed on a train and travel overnight to Baltimore where we were met and taken to basic training at the nearby Naval Boot camp.
I attend Boot camp at Bainbridge, MD during the summer of 1955. My daily duties were of Battalion Clerk. Upon completion of Boot camp I was transferred to San Diego, CA to attend Radioman School.
Upon completion of Radioman School in San Diego, I was selected to attend Communication Technician "R" branch school at Imperial Beach, CA. I then was
advanced to CTSN and attended Communication Technician "T" branch school at March AFB near Riverside, CA. I completed "T" branch school in May of 1956 and was transferred to my first duty station in Bremerhaven, Germany. After leaving March Airforce Base I flew home for a two leave to visit family and friends. After the two weeks I traveled by bus to the Naval Receiving Station located in Brooklyn, New York. I spent a few days there until transportation was arranged. I boarded a troop transport at the Naval Station by the name of the USNS George W. Goethals AP182. A memorial journey since it was the first time I had ever been aboard a sea going vessel. The ship was loaded with several hundred army personnel going to
Germany. My job was made very clear to me. It was my duty to clean and keep one head (bath room) clean and well stocked with supplies. No small task with all of those soldiers.
After a 10 day voyage we arrived and disembarked in Bremerhaven, Germany,
a seaport on the North Sea.
I stood my first watch as a "T" Brancher on July 4th, 1956, OP 2 Bravo Section. My supervisor was Chief Jones. After spending nearly a year at Bremerhaven, the US Navy decided that my services were needed in Turkey, so off I went on my trip to Turkey which would take me nearly two months. I was given 15 days leave in the states but due to the efficiency of the Naval Transit System I had 15 days leave one month in Brooklyn Receiving Station, a week in Charleston, SC and over two weeks moving from one end of the Mediterranean to the other. After all this traveling, fourteen of us finally arrived in Ankara, Turkey.
We then toured Turkey while the Turkish Bus Driver looked for, and finally found Karamursel. No place to live, no place to work and, of course, we had to buy our meals in the Chow Hall run by the construction company building Main Site, fondly renamed Mud Site by the personnel, because it was the only place in the world where you could stand in mud up to your knees and have dust blow into your face. Finally after six months of odd jobs I did get to do what I had been trained to do. (KARAMURSEL) One thing we did accomplish, with a lot of work from a lot of people, in our spare time, was to get an AM radio station (KTUS) on the air so there was something other than Turkish music to listen to in the barracks. The Navy felt sorry for me, so after a year I received orders to Cheltenham, MD where I worked in R&D until the end of my enlistment in May of 1959. After receiving my discharge I just enjoyed the summer but did travel to Washington, DC to interview for a job with the CIA. Since the Agency was not taking on any new employees I decided to
reenlist in August and was sent to Adak, Alaska.
Adak, Alaska is a very small island located in the group called the Rat Islands in the Aleutians. Of course, like a lot of us I spent my year on Adak and when not at work I was in the Ham Shack. I made CTT1 and after school in Fort Meade, MD it was off to Morocco. Morocco was very enjoyable tour of duty.
I had a car and had the chance to travel throughout the whole country. I traveled from the south bordering on Ifni to Tangiers on the Mediterranean Sea and all of the beautiful beaches on the Atlantic coast.
When I returned to the states from Morocco in December of 1962, I got married to Joan Sirk, a hometown girl, and went to Norfolk, VA. to attend Leadership and
Instructors School. After completing school in Norfolk, it was off to Pensacola, FL for the next three years. I was an Instructor for over three years at Pensacola Communication Training Center. I work in the field of Non Morse Research and Development, Electronic Counter Measures. I also had a short time as Armed Forces Law Enforcement just before advancing to Chief. I made Chief Petty Officer on January 15, 1965.
Upon completion of my tour at the Training Center was transferred to Coco Solo, Panama Canal Zone for next three years. While in Panama we had two
children. A girl (Mindi) in September of 1967, and a boy (Eric) in November of 1968.
Upon completion my tour in Panama, we were transferred back to Adak, Alaska.. I must have done something right while in Panama to get sent back to the Black Pearl of the Aleutians. The tour on Adak was very enjoyable mostly due to all the good people. It was a very close knit group of people. We had our Chief's Club, Movie Theatre, Swimming Pool, Hobby Shop and many other types of recreation. The time passed quickly.
A year and half later we were transferred to Homestead AFB. FL. In Homestead I worked at a communication center located in the Keys just south of Florida City. At the end of my tour at Homestead I had completed twenty years in the Navy. It must have been due to some outstanding deed that the Navy decided they would reward me for and give me a good set of orders. Where else, but Diego Garcia. Diego Garcia is an island 800 miles due south of the southern most point of India so I decided to declined the reward and retired on July 15, 1974.
After retirement I returned to West Virginia and went to work as a Service Manager in a Buick Dealership in Clarksburg.. I worked at the dealership for nearly five years when I decided to go to work at the US Post Office. A big mistake. I left after a very short time. My next and last place of employment was as a Service Repair Technician for an Office Supply Company. This job I enjoyed and worked for The James and Law Company for nearly twenty years. I retired for a second and final time on June 30, 1996. Since then we have done just what we have wanted to do. We have our home in Bridgeport, WV, a place in the mountains to get away in the summer and a Motor Home to travel where ever and when ever we wish. For seven years we spent the winter months in Florida and then from January through March, 2000 we spent the winter in south Texas, just north of Brownsville. We then spent our summers in the mountains at Big Bear Lake in Preston County, WV. We then normally spent the winter months in Wildwood, FL until 2003. I always carried my Amateur Radio (Ham Gear) equipment and my computer with us where ever we went making friends as we traveled. In 2003 I sold the Motor Home and in 2004 I sold the summer place in the mountains.
We now stay at home about ten months out of the year and make visits to Florida and stay with family. I still carry a Laptop computer with me so I can keep in touch with everyone and keep my web site and the web site I maintain for the Stonewall Jackson Amateur Radio Association. SJARA I am an active member in both the Ham Club and the Harrison County Genealogy Society
(HCGS). Other than that I just stay busy doing what ever I want to do.
Things seemed to proceed as close to normal as I could expect until November 17, 2009 when my son Eric had a massive stroke. He survived but was in extensive therapy for nearly two years.
On December 27, 2010 my daughter, Mindi Jo Wilt Hollandsworth Pierce died suddenly and Joan never recovered from her death.
Well things never stayed the same after Mindi's death and it all went very badly on January 1, 2014. Joan walked out of the house and announced she wanted a divorce and gave me a sheet of paper listing what her demands were for the divorce. I was served with divorce papers in March 2014 and the divorce proceedings began.
If you wish to read the downhill track of my life after September 2013 your attention is directed to my daily Chronicle