Sunday, July 17, 2016

1963 - Chapter 8 - A Growing Family


  After my discharge from the Air Force and our return to Nashville I was ready to adjust to civilian life again. I was accepted at M.T.S.U. before I got out of the service and my plan was to go to school full time and work full time. It wasn't a good plan. For some reason I tend to make my life unnecessarily hard. I also didn't have a clue what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. History was my favorite subject and the only path that I could settle on was to be a history teacher. So I majored in history, while minoring in sociology and political science. It was early May and we moved in with Debbie's parents until we could find a place of our own. The family was always crazy about Robbie and everybody made over Misty since she was now the baby. Even my brother-in-law Hulon was crazy about her and he never seemed to like kids that much. I tried to find a job through the Tennessee Department of Employment Security. The VA rep there sent me to several places but I couldn't find anything that I liked. I was being somewhat picky because it had to line up with my hours at school. After enrolling in the summer quarter I was going to school three days a week. A couple of weeks without a job was making me nervous. One day out of the blue Baird-Ward printing company called to offer me my old job back. I didn't know it at the time but this was required by law. My options weren't good at that point and I reluctantly accepted their offer. Baird-Ward was the last place that I wanted to work. I was assigned to plant number one, directly across the street from 100 Oaks Mall on Powell Avenue. A Wal-Mart store is located there today. I hated this job and resolved to find a better job as soon as I could. Luckily I was only there about eight months. Not long after going to work I started hunting Civil War relics. It had always been my fantasy to buy a WW2 mine detector when I was a teenager but I never did. One morning I was reading an article in the Nashville Tennessean about a local man who had bought a metal detector. On his first time out he found over fifty minie balls and other Civil War relics in his back yard. He lived in a subdivision on a hill overlooking Murfreesboro road near I-24. Until this article I didn't know they even made metal detectors for relic hunters. I found a dealer in the yellow pages and he sold Whites brand detectors. My first one cost me about 100 dollars. Interstate 65 was under construction near the intersection of Thompson Lane and Franklin road. This was near the battle of Nashville monument and was part of the Confederate center on the first day of battle, December 15, 1864. The Confederates had been here for two weeks prior to the battle. The construction area was a very short walk from plant one. I worked the 2nd shift and one night, just before dark, I hunted for relics on my thirty minute lunch break. Almost immediately I found a .69 caliber drop in nearly perfect condition. It was unique in that it had very little oxidation on it. Every minie ball that I have found since has been white with oxidation after being in the ground for so many years. Minie balls were soft lead with a silver color when they were new. I can't describe the excitement I felt at that moment and every moment since when I find something that I know to be from the Civil War.
The first minie ball that I found 




  Hulon had been collecting Indian relics for years and had a great collection of arrowheads. I had tried to interest him in Civil War relic hunting but he told me that he only wanted to hunt Indian relics. One weekend I talked him into going with me to my spot near the battle monument. By this time I had found a number of bullets and Union eagle buttons. Hulon had a keen eye for finding things on the ground. Once we were driving down a street and he told me to pull over. Hulon had spotted money lying in the street.  I was using my detector while Hulon was walking behind me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him bend over and pick something up off of the ground. It was an eagle button. From that moment on Hulon was hooked. He bought a metal detector and we hunted together until his death in 1984. Hulon had more patience and was actually better at metal detecting than I was. He found some things that I never found, like cannon balls, a Union belt buckle, and bayonets. On a very hot summer day I took Debbie, her brother Ronnie, and his cousin, and soon to be wife Diane to Stones River battlefield to hunt for Civil War relics. All we found was junk and we were covered in ticks. A few days later my head started itching and I found a bump with a tick embedded in it. I removed the tick with tweezers and thought no more about it. A few days later I woke up with a dull headache and my eyes hurt when I moved them. For about a week I was sick as a dog. My head was pounding and I developed a low grade fever. Debbie took me to the emergency room and the doctors gave me several prescriptions. The medicine helped the symptoms but then I started throwing up and I couldn't stop. This lasted for another week. Debbie took me back to the emergency room. The doctor gave me suppositories that stopped the nausea but I was still sick. I went to my family doctor for a physical. He sent me to have tests done on my gall bladder which turned up nothing. I finally returned to normal after about three weeks but this was the sickest I had ever been in my life and the longest. Not until years later did I connect that tick bite. I read that ticks carry very serious diseases and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. There is no doubt in my mind that I had some form of tick fever. The article said that diseases caused by ticks are hard to diagnose unless you let the doctor know that you were exposed to them. That summer I found a map of the battle of Liberty Gap near Bell Buckle. Hulon and I drove to the battlefield site which was very rural. There was a farm house near the road on Liberty Pike and we stopped to ask the owner if we could hunt on his property. The owner was a nice old man in his eighties named Webb Lynch. Every time that we came by he was always very hospitable and we usually visited with him before we set out to hunt. It wasn't long before he we had an open invitation to hunt on his property any time that we wanted. Over a period of about eight years we found many Civil War and WW2 relics there. The property not only had been a Civil War battlefield but the Tennessee maneuvers were held on this property during WW2. Tennessee was a good training ground for the European theater of war. The terrain was very similar. Between myself and Hulon we found M-1 blank rounds, a mess kit with the name Pvt. Dabbs, and October 1941 etched into it. A whistle and a U.S. Army Signal Corps ring. I found about a third of my Civil War collection there.
Where I found my first minie ball and Hulon found his first Eagle button
This is where I-65 was constructed


Hulon holding two six pounder solid shot cannon balls that he found at Knob Gap near Nolensville
The battlefield of Liberty Gap 

Me hunting at Liberty Gap

Hulon Helms

Mr. Webb Lynch

A minie ball lying on top of the ground


  After my discharge Donna told us about a new subdivision being built near Antioch called Fair Oaks. Debbie's family wanted us to live in East Nashville so we would be close. There were just too many bad memories for me there however. South Nashville was the only area of town that I was not familiar with. I had lived in west and east Nashville. My dad's drug stores were in north Nashville. We found a ranch style house for 18,950 dollars. It had three bedrooms and one and a half baths. The house was 1,100 square feet with a carport. As always when it comes to something like a house or car I am looking for the cheapest payments and I don't really think ahead. At that time I could have had pretty much anything I wanted. Something with a garage and big enough to grow into. I was scared that I couldn't afford the higher payment so I settled with less. We signed the papers but we weren't able to move in until around September.  I didn't have to but I paid 2,000 dollars down on the house and bought furniture for every room. I inherited about 8,000 dollars from my dad's estate when I turned twenty-one. After my parents died, daddy's debts were paid off before any money could be distributed to his survivors. He didn't leave a will and all of his assets were placed in probate. After everything was settled, each one of us received 2,500 dollars a piece. Carolyn, and Faye were his children by his first marriage and there was Mark and myself. Donna was left out because Daddy never adopted her. This is why it is important to have a will and designate who you want to raise your children in the event of your death. A trust fund was set up for Mark and myself because we were minor children. Didi was responsible for this trust fund since she was our guardian. Unknown to us she was putting our social security checks into our bank accounts each month and she was raising us on her salary at the telephone company. This is why I inherited 5,500 more dollars than I started out with. Since Mark was younger when they died he received around 10,000 dollars when he turned 21. Eight thousand dollars had a lot more value in 1971 than it has today. When I became Mark's guardian, just before leaving for Colorado, a social security lawyer came to the house on Boscobel Street. He was there to explain what was expected of me as a guardian. I asked him how I was supposed to spend the money. He told me to spend it on anything that I wanted to as long as Mark was properly cared for. By this time I had found out that Didi had been saving our money for us. I asked him if I should do the thing for Mark. He was incredulous. The lawyer had never heard of anything like that before. He said that Didi was a special kind of person. I will always be grateful to her for unselfishly caring for us. 

  We moved into our new house in the Fall of 1972 and were the second family to move in on the block. Right next door was Jerry James and his wife Gwynn. They had a boy and girl named Marty and Christy. Marty was Robbie's age and Christy was Misty's age. A few years ago I learned that Marty has since passed away. We became close friends with the James. Our house was on a cul de sac, which made it safer for the kids to play. It would not take long for the rest of the block to fill up with neighbors.  I was driving to Murfreesboro three days a week in order to attend classes at MTSU. Besides my job not paying enough, I hated it. I applied at Oscar-Mayer meat Co. and luckily I was hired. They were looking for veterans and I applied at the right time. I was making great money there but it was a miserable job. We had to work in huge freezers wearing a heavy parka's. One freezer was so cold that we were only allowed to stay in there fifteen minutes at a time. I had weird hours. One shift was from 6:30 P.M. until 2:30 A.M. The other was from 8:30 P.M. until 4:30 A.M. These shifts were killing me because I was getting very little sleep. There were nights when I would sit in the parking lot and I couldn't remember how I got there. I was nodding off at the wheel and it was a miracle that I didn't kill myself. Jerry James asked me if I wanted a job where he worked at Colonial Baking Company. It was a hard decision because both jobs paid about the same and the health benefits were similar. At least I would be warm and the hours might be better. I took the job in March of 1973 and would end up working there for nine years. Between my G.I. Bill education benefits and my salary I was making good money. The Vietnam Era G.I. Bill was great and much better than the later Montgomery G.I. Bill that I qualified for as a retiree from the Air National Guard. My credit record at that time was perfect. I fell into the financial trap that many young people are susceptible to. We signed up for credit cards and started financing everything. When the money was pouring in we weren't investing, saving money or paying off our bills. After a while we were overextended and soon the collection agencies were calling.  As a result the decade of the 1970's was a lot tougher for us financially than it should have been. Let's call it a learning experience. I was blessed with a beautiful young family but I was stretched to the max working long hours and going to school. There was little time left for them. In 1973 Debbie was late on her period and made an appointment with her gynecologist, Dr. Crafton. He had an office on Gallatin road in East Nashville. After a pregnancy test he told her that she wasn't pregnant and gave her medicine to start her period. She was pregnant however and the medicine caused her to miscarry. The loss of an otherwise healthy baby hit us both very hard. It is bad enough to lose a baby due to natural circumstances but when it happens because of medical malpractice it is even harder to take.  Because of this we tried to have another baby and soon she was pregnant with Jon.
Misty with attitude

Deb with Robbie and Misty









  I had known hard work but Colonial was one of the hardest and most challenging jobs that I ever had. For the first two years I worked in the bun room. We boxed and bagged all kinds of hamburger and hot dog buns. Learning this job was very difficult because it took hand and eye coordination to master it. When I was learning the job we had a supervisor that cursed me about as much as any T.I. that I ever had in the military. If there was a mechanical problem that caused the line to back up, that was one thing, but I would catch hell if I caused the line to back up. I worked some very long hours. We were off on Tuesday's and Saturdays. On  Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday we worked a regular eight hour shift but on Monday and Friday we were required to work until all the orders were filled. This could mean eight hours in the slow time of the year. Which was usually January until sometime in the early Spring. Then there was the rest of the year when you could work anywhere from twelve to sixteen hours on a regular basis. I remember some nights that I worked as long as twenty hours straight. I hated the nights when we would have a breakdown. Especially when you thought that you would have a fairly short night. On those nights you would sit around for hours waiting for the line to start up. I was working these hours and trying to go to school full time. For three straight years from the summer of 1972 until 1975 I was going to school continuously during the Summer, Fall and Spring semesters. Many weeks I never got a real day off. On Tuesday I went all day to classes at M.T.S.U. with anywhere from two to four hours sleep if I was lucky. Some Tuesdays I had no sleep at all. I still have notebooks where you can tell where I nodded off to sleep in class taking notes. When I got home late in the afternoon I went straight to bed most days unless there was something planned. On Saturdays I usually slept through most of my day off. This pace would eventually take it's toll. Sometime in 1974 I had my first full blown panic attack. I can't remember what I was doing when I had my first attack, but without any reason a sudden feeling of panic would sweep over me. I literally felt like I was going to die right there on the spot. My heart would beast so fast and hard that I thought that I was having a heart attack and I would become short of breath. It was so bad that just the fear of an attack would bring one on. I would have several in a day sometimes. I didn't want to leave the house and I would lay in the floor in front of the TV. It was so bad that Debbie threatened to divorce me. I went to the doctor for a physical. When I told him about my problem he handed me a prescription for Valium. He never asked me why I was anxious or suggested an alternative to taking drugs. This was 1974 and I don't know if anyone even knew what panic attacks were back then or how to treat them. It was probably the 1980's when I began to hear people talking about this condition. Over the years my daughter Melanie and Jon have also suffered from anxiety but because of my experience with it I was able to help them through it. I thought that I was going crazy. At first the Valium worked but over time I was asking for a higher dosage. In addition I would have to hide my pills from the druggies at work. I always hated to take medication. One night I just decided to stop taking the pills. I wasn't  going to let this thing beat me. The attacks would continue for years to come. At least I was able to function and I was no longer a recluse, afraid to venture out of the house. When I was having attacks Debbie could usually tell but I managed to hide them from everyone else. Anxiety is a form of depression. Because of what happened to my father I am determined not to give in to it. I wonder sometimes if my father wasn't suffering from anxiety and the only way he knew how to deal with it was with alcohol and drugs. Long hours at work and going to school full time was the trigger for my attacks. As a result I began to cut back on my hours at school. 

  Whenever we had a violent thunderstorm water would seep through the ceiling and wall behind the bun room. On one particular night we were walking around in about two or three inches of water. With all the electricity flowing in that room it was a miracle we weren't electrocuted. On April 1, 1974 a tornado hit near the bakery while I was at work. It left a path of destruction for about two miles. It touched down near the historic battle of Nashville Monument. The tornado toppled the monument, smashed plate glass windows at 100 Oaks Mall and ripped up trees along Thompson Lane. It also leveled a furniture store along the way. I heard about the destruction of the monument on the news and I drove by there on the way home. The monument was totally destroyed. It had been a familiar Nashville landmark my entire life but I was shocked to see it lying in pieces all over the ground. The only thing left was the pedestal. That night as I sat in my car looking at the damage, I thought that it would be rebuilt in a fairly short time. I was wrong. Eventually the bronze angel and the two charging horses, that he is holding back, would be remounted on the pedestal. The horses represented the North and South. The stone obelisk would not be replaced. This was after I-65 was completed and it was in a spot that was isolated and hard to get to. A group of private citizens raised money over the years and had the statue fully restored and moved to a park on Granny White Pike. It was finally rededicated on June 26th 1999. I have always loved the inscription on it.    

"Oh, Valorous Gray, In The Grave Of Your Fate, 

Oh, Glorious Blue, In The Long Dead Years,
You Were Sown In Sorrow And Harrowed In Hate,
But Your Harvest Today Is A Nations Tears.
For The Message You Left Through The Land Has Sped
From The Lips Of God To The Heart Of Man:
Let The Past Be Past : Let The Dead Be Dead. --
Now And Forever American!"

  Beginning April 3rd and all day of April 4th there was a super outbreak of tornadoes that was not surpassed until the super outbreak of 2011. There were 40 confirmed F-4 and F-5 tornadoes. In 13 states and part of Canada there were 148 tornadoes. Tornadoes touched down in West Virginia, New York, North Carolina, Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia, There was 600 million dollars worth of damage in 1974 currency and at one time there was 15 tornadoes on the ground at the same time. Xenia Ohio was nearly wiped out and Louisville was heavily damaged. Three hundred and nineteen people died in these storms. The death toll in 2011 killed 324 people by comparison. Two tornadoes hit Nashville on April 3rd. Both of them did extensive damage in South Nashville along Harding Place and through the Mountain View community near Hickory Hollow, Murfreesboro road, and Edge of Lake subdivision. I remember the account of one woman who was taking a shower in an apartment complex when a tornado took out the wall of her apartment. Unexpectedly she was exposed to traffic on Harding Place. I worked that day and I remember standing in my front yard after I got home that night. The lightning was unlike anything I had ever seen before. It was an awesome light show.
Battle of Nashville monument before the tornado

Damaged Battle of Nashville Monument


Damaged entrance of 100 Oaks

Barcelona Apartments on Harding Place



72 planes were damaged at Metro airport

Edge of Lake


Edge of Lake

This picture reminds me of what the lightning looked like that night
Re dedication ceremony for the battle of Nashville monument

      
  In the Spring of 1974 we took a long weekend trip to a town called Everts in Harlan County Kentucky. Debbie was very pregnant with Jonny. Our friends, Bill and Sharon Wilson lived there. We had been very close friends with them in Oregon and by this time they had a little girl. Harlan county was in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. This was in the heart of  of Appalachia and coal country. Growing up I had listened to stories about this region from my uncle Bud who had preached for years in Pikeville Kentucky. I was a little apprehensive when we left the main highway and drove over to Evert's. It was like we had left America and entered a third world country. I had never witnessed such poverty in the United States. There were wooden shacks and the area was filthy looking. It looked like there had been a recent flood and debris was everywhere. Bill was probably the wealthiest man in Everts. He was a successful businessman that owned a car lot and a restaurant. We found his restaurant and you could hear a pin drop as we walked in the door. The restaurant was packed with customers and all eyes were on us. It is difficult to be comfortable when you are being glared at the entire time. We ate lunch and caught up on old times. Bill's car lot was just across the street from his diner. Very early on the morning of our arrival a van had been stolen from his lot. After lunch we drove over to his house. It was a nice but modest white clapboard house. Bill cautioned me not to drive my car while we were there because of our out of state license plates. He said that people were wary of strangers. If we needed to go anywhere he would take us. That was okay with me because there was nothing to do in Evert's anyway. 

  The next morning at breakfast Bill asked me if I wanted to go with him to look for his stolen van. He told me that this was not the first time that he had a vehicle stolen from his lot. Whenever it happened he didn't involve the police because he was afraid that he would be killed or injured by these people. Everyone knew each other because it was such a small community. Bill would just go looking for it and would usually find it abandoned somewhere.  I said that I would like to go and we hopped into his jeep. A twelve year old boy, who was one of Bill's relations, rode with us that day. Bill wanted to drive to the top of a nearby mountain and see if the thief might have abandoned it in a hollow somewhere. As we approached a very narrow road that led up to the crest of the mountain there was a blue pick-up truck blocking our way. As we waited for it to move the three men in the front seat glared at us. They looked like characters out of the movie Deliverance and there was a gun rack with rifles. They finally drove off and Bill told me that they were probably the ones who stole his van. We would probably find the van somewhere close by. By this time I was getting very nervous but I was trying to remain calm. This was long before carry permits and I was wondering just what I had gotten myself into. Bill had shown me a 38 that he carried for protection, but he didn't have it with him. The road ascending the mountain was only wide enough for one vehicle and it was the only way to the top, It was a winding road with no guard rails and steep drop offs. Besides worrying about the thugs in the blue truck I was afraid that we were going to tumble off of the side of this mountain. Suddenly, a look of concern came over Bills face and in a worried voice he said that occasionally he was getting a glimpse of the blue pick-up in his rear view mirror. It was following us. I kept looking back but I couldn't see it. When we were almost to the top he slammed on the brakes and motioned for us to follow him. We took off running and the three of us crouched down behind a boulder. Just then Bill starts laughing and it didn't take me long to realize that I was the butt of the joke, I was also laughing, more from relief than anything else. I told him that I was going to kill him for scaring me like that. 

  Bill had always been a nut and was constantly joking around. He was a lot of fun to be with. We walked out behind the rock and there were three big dudes standing on the road looking down at us. Bill later told me that he turned around to say something and I had disappeared into thin air. I took off running and the only place I had to run was straight down the side of the mountain. Luckily there were no cliffs and I had trees to hang on to in order to slow my descent. When I reached the middle of the mountain I stopped to catch my breath and to listen. By now I was feeling pretty bad about being such a coward. I was trying to build up my courage to climb back up the mountain and check on Bill and the boy. About this time I heard Bill calling for me. Slowly and with great effort I made my way back. When I reached the top Bill was nearly rolling on the ground with laughter. When he could finally talk, he said that the three men were not the same men that we had seen earlier. They were coming down from the top of the mountain and our jeep was blocking the road. The men were simply needing us to move our car. This had to be my most embarrassing moment ever. On our way home we visited Cumberland Gap National Park with Bill and Sharon. After this we had dinner together for the last time. We kept in contact with them for a few years but eventually we learned that Bill and Sharon divorced. It was really sad because they had always seemed to be madly in love with each other. 

  Debbie was due to have Jonny toward the end of June 1974. On the morning of June 24th I took her to her OBGYN doctors appointment in Nashville. I waited in the car with Misty and Robbie while Debbie was with the doctor. As far as we knew it was a routine visit because Debbie wasn't feeling any contractions. When Debbie got in the car she told me to drive to her mothers house and drop off the kids. From there we were going straight to Baptist hospital. The doctor said that we were not to tarry. Debbie had been in labor all night and she needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible. Jon was born later that afternoon. Debbie was put to sleep during the delivery and I have some pretty funny home movies of her in recovery. The next morning I was on the way to the hospital and for the first time I heard the song Having My Baby. Talk about perfect timing. It is funny how each hospital  has it's own childbirth procedures. I was not allowed to be in delivery when both of my boys were born. However if I had wanted to I could have been in the delivery room when my girls were born. Rob was born at Presbyterian Inter-Community hospital in Klamath Falls Oregon. Misty at the Air Force Academy hospital. Melanie at the old Donelson hospital, which no longer exists. Of the four, Baptist, which is now St. Thomas hospital midtown, had the strictest procedures. Whenever the babies were out on the floor they would clear the hallways. I had to scrub up with antiseptic soap and wear gloves and a mask every time I was around Jon. The standard hospital stay, barring complications, was three days for all hospital births back then. Now the standard hospital stay is no longer than 48 hours and they are not so worried about germs as they used to be. 
Deb with Jon
  Robbie was five in the summer of 1974 when he began playing Little League baseball. He played on the ball field at Cole Elementary. There was no tee ball back then. No coach pitch or bending the rules, and yes they kept score. They played baseball by the rules. It was hilarious watching them play at that age. I remember the first practice when the coach told the kids to take the field. One kid started crying because he didn't know where the field was. In the games the pitcher would throw the ball to the batter. The batter would miss the ball and the catcher would miss too. When the catcher threw it back to the pitcher he would miss. This might go on three or four times before anybody would catch the ball. 


  Debbie's mom Margaret was crazy about Jonny, as she was all of her grandchildren. I remember how thrilled she was when we brought Jonny home. When Jon was about a year old she began experiencing severe pain. Her doctor recommended that she have her gall bladder removed. She had gall bladder problems for years. However Mrs. Phillips pain continued to worsen and the surgery seemed to exacerbate the pain. I remember walking into her bedroom one day, which was in the front of the house, and she was sitting on the end of the bed moaning, and in intense pain. I felt so sorry for her but I felt helpless to do anything. She had a battery of tests but the doctors didn't know what was wrong with her. Another time she was diagnosed with an arthritic spine. Finally doctors correctly diagnosed pancreatic cancer. We were told that pancreatic cancer is one of the hardest cancers to detect. By the time that she was diagnosed Mrs. Phillips only had seven weeks to live. We were all devastated by the news. Mrs Phillips was a great person and she was the center of Debbie's family. She was what I loved the most about her family and was like my own mother. On the night of November 3, 1975 I was at work at Colonial baking company when Debbie's sister Judy called me. She was crying as she told me that her mom had just died.  I felt like someone had kicked me in the gut. Debbie was at home with the kids and Judy wanted me to tell her the news in person so somebody would be there with her. We were at the hospital every time there was an opportunity and we weren't expecting her to die that night. I knew that Debbie would be crushed because she wasn't with her mom when she died. I dreaded every mile of the drive home and what I was about to do. When I got home I knocked on the front door. After answering the door she asked me what I was doing home so early. I told her to hold me. She had a quizzical look on her face as she asked me why. Again, I told her to hold me. As she put her arms around my waist and laid her head on my shoulder I whispered in her ear that her mother was dead. I could fill her body convulse as she began to wail. It reminded me of my initial reaction when I learned that my mother had died. The next few days were surreal because her death was so hard to accept. Debbie's dad seemed lost. At one point he looked at me and said "Can you believe this is happening"? I never saw so many flowers and such an outpouring of grief since the death of my parents. Over the years I have been to a multitude of visitations and funerals and have seen many dead people. However I have never seen anyone that looked as natural in death as Mrs. Phillips. She had lost very little weight and her color was very good. It looked like she was just lying there asleep. During her funeral I cried like a baby. I have only cried for two people in my life. My mother and Debbie's mom. She was buried in Mt. Olivet cemetery.



The first time Robbie ever saw Jon


Mrs Phillips and Jon


  I can't remember exactly what year this happened but I know that it happened in the 1970's. It was during the summer, late on a Sunday night, when I was working at Colonial and I usually drove out Franklin road to Harding Place on my way home in Antioch. Franklin road was deserted as I approached Elysian Fields Drive. The road is straight as an arrow until you get to Elysian Fields. At Elysian Fields there is a slight curve. The first thing that I noticed was a car, on the side of the road with its flashers on. In the middle of the road was a car that looked like it had hit a Mack truck head on. Smoke was rising from the wreckage and it was obvious that it had just happened. Several people were lying in the grass on the side of the road. They were obviously injured and a man was attending to them. He told me to look for the other guy. I thought, what other guy? There was only one vehicle involved. Just then I noticed something. The rear tire of a motorcycle was extending from the grill of the car. Afraid of what I might see, I drove very slowly for about 100 yards. There in the middle of Franklin road I could see the motionless form of a crumpled man, still wearing his motorcycle helmet. He was missing a leg and straddling the yellow lines. The man was killed instantly as he hit the car doing an estimated 75 miles per hour. It was also determined that he had been drinking. There had been a man, woman, and child in the car and they were critically injured. 

  Around 1975 I became a shop steward for the Bakery and Confectionery Union at the bakery. I took the job more out of frustration than anything. We were working very hard and for long hours without breaks. For my first couple of years I was working in the bun room. We were supposed to be relieved every two hours for a ten minute break. There was a break man that relieved everyone on the bun and bread lines. Our first breaks usually came on time. However as the night went on breaks would get farther and farther behind. Our second break was usually late and everyone took longer breaks as the night progressed. This threw the break man further behind. On top of this we were not getting a lunch break. I got a copy of our union contract and read it. According to the contract we were supposed to get a ten minute break every two hours and a thirty minute lunch break after four hours. Every time I would bring this up to anyone they would just say something like, that's the way it has always been around here. To me that was not a legitimate reason when the contract specifically said otherwise. Part of the problem was our Chief shop steward who was a great guy but he was illiterate. He couldn't read the contract. Another issue was our disciplinary procedure. It was so vague that the company could pretty much do anything that it wanted. The bakery was so hot, especially in the summertime that people were passing out. I didn't know it at the time but the president of the company wanted the bakery to stay above eighty degrees on a regular basis. He had gone so far as to seal off the vents and fans in the ceiling. Sometimes around the ovens the temperature would be as high as 120 degrees. I left the bun room to take a job as a checker. My job was checking orders and loading the tractor trailers for what we called our rural routes. I eventually lost about 45 pounds from working and sweating the weight off. We were the definition of a sweat shop. Colonial Baking Company was the fastest and hardest job that I ever had. 

  Something had to be done to change the situation but I didn't know how to go about it. So, I started attending union meetings and I had a friend nominate me to be a shop steward. I was elected Chief shop steward and at first it was all trial and error. I made mistakes but over time I was able to win victories through the grievance procedure. We had some pretty raucous meetings with management. I paid a price because I was harassed by my supervisors and as a person who hates confrontation it was nerve wracking and very stressful but I learned a lot about human nature. When the chips are down I discovered that you can count on one hand the people that will stand by you. I learned that just one person can get a lot done. It was kind of like the refrain of the Civil Rights movement. If not me, who, and if not now when? At first I was too willing to fight peoples battles for them. The grievance procedure stated that a person was responsible for initiating a grievance on their own, by first talking to the supervisor without the shop steward being present. If they couldn't resolve the problem the shop steward would become involved on the second step. After that, if the problem was still not resolved the grievance would be submitted in writing to the President of the company. A meeting would be arranged. If it still couldn't be resolved it could then go to arbitration. The arbitration process was costly to the union if we lost, so we only had two arbitration's in the nine years that I was at Colonial. We won one and lost one. Most of the time that people came to me with a grievance it would go no further when I told them that they had to talk to the supervisor by themselves. Most people seemed to appreciate the job I was doing as chief shop steward. However I made my share of enemies in the union and the company. This was because I stood up for the union when they were right and the company when they were right. I never lost sight of the fact that the company was our employer and not the union. The movie Norma Rae, with Sally Fields, reminded me how I was treated at times. I was watched and mistreated by management at times because of my Union activities. Confrontation just made me that much more determined to stand up to them and the experience taught me a lot about myself. I was involved in four contract negotiations while at Colonial. I rewrote the grievance procedure and disciplinary procedure. The company adopted almost all of my language word for word.

  My proudest moment came just before Thanksgiving in the late 1970's. We had an incentive in our contract called the Earned Work Credit. It was designed to encourage attendance. For every week of perfect attendance, ten dollars would be added to a sum of money that we would receive every November in a lump sum. Most everyone used this money for Christmas. Every year we would gripe because our checks were usually shorter than expected. They paid us for vacations but we were not paid for holiday weeks. We were able to negotiate into the contract that a holiday was considered a day worked for the purposes of being counted in our Earned Work Credit. Between vacations and holidays it was now possible to earn 520.00 dollars if you had perfect attendance. There were 52 weeks in a year. Five hundred and twenty dollars went a lot farther in the 1970's than it does now. Everything worked out fine for a few years until one November our checks were much lower than normal. When I asked supervision about the discrepancy they explained that the company would no longer pay us for holidays and vacations. I knew that the company was in blatant violation of the contract. I could force them to pay us but it would be after the first of the year before we received our money. We needed this money for Christmas. Everyone was very angry and I had a brain storm. I would take advantage of the anger and call a special meeting at the union hall. It was located on North 1st street in Nashville. We gathered on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. This was one of the busiest holidays in the baking industry. We were usually off the day before the holiday but had to work on the holiday. As mad as everyone was about this, only about half of our membership showed up for the meeting. For my purposes this would be enough. Wild cat strikes were illegal and we could all be fired on the spot. However I told the membership that I was going to try to bluff the company into believing that we were going to walk off the job. This should put a real scare into them just two days before Thanksgiving. Before I got on the phone I told them to make a lot of noise and to act as angry as they could. When the receptionist answered the phone I asked to speak to the company president, Mr. Kraut. She told me that Mr. Kraut was off but I could talk to the vice president. I told her to put him on. The noise from our disgruntled union members could be clearly heard in the background as I told the vice president that we wanted a meeting that afternoon with management. I told him about the money that the company had shorted us on our Earned Work Credit. We had called an emergency meeting of the membership and they were very angry. I couldn't guarantee him that I could keep them from walking off of the job. Before the vice president could respond I heard the excited voice of Mr. kraut, who was supposed to be off that day, say "Greg, don't let them go out, you keep them from going out". I was smiling as I told Mr. Kraut that I couldn't guarantee anything unless we could arrange a meeting that very afternoon. He said that he was too busy and it would have to wait until after Thanksgiving. Knowing that we would lose our leverage I said no. It had to be today. Reluctantly he agreed to a meeting. Several of us met with Mr. Kraut that afternoon. I pointed out in the contract the language proving that a holiday was a day worked for the purposes of the Earned Work Credit. Vacations had to counted because of past practice. The fact that the company had always counted them for Earned Work Credit in the past meant that they couldn't arbitrarily stop paying it. They had established a precedent. I could tell by Mr. Kraut's expression that we had won. Dejectedly he asked "Greg, why aren't you a lawyer"? Coming from Mr. Kraut, I took this as a compliment. The company agreed to our demands and we were paid on our next payday in time for Christmas. This amounted to thousands of dollars in back pay when you counted every employee that was shorted on their checks. 
Elmo Copeland

Melvin Hargroves

Supervisor named Gordon

The bun room

Where the dough was hand twisted

Johnny Clouse and Jerry James


  In 1976 I found out that Debbie was pregnant with our fourth child. Although I was crazy about my kids, and we always talked about having a lot of them, I felt like four was about all we could afford. All I had to do was smile at Debbie and she would get pregnant. Vasectomies were a popular form of birth control but the thought of getting one made me cringe. At first I was being selfish because I wanted Debbie to get her tubes tied. After being shamed I finally set up an appointment with a urologist and had it done. The doctor gave me a shot of Sodium Pentothal, or truth serum as it is sometimes called. Almost immediately I was feeling the most pleasurable high that I have ever experienced. I was laughing as the doctor snipped away and I told him that he could cut it all off. I didn't care about anything at that moment. He laughed and said that he better not. I wouldn't be too happy after the drug wore off. On March 17, 1977 I was ready to walk out the door on my way to classes at M.T.S.U. Debbie had a pretty sharp contraction and I was afraid to leave her. I told her to get ready and I would take her to the hospital but she thought that we should wait since she had only one contraction. The hospital was near Hermitage and we were in Antioch. I made her get in the car and we headed to Donelson hospital. It was a good thing because we ran into heavy traffic and construction on the way there. We arrived just thirty minutes before my daughter was born. Melanie was born on St. Patricks Day 1977. The doctor sang "While Irish Eyes Were Smiling" during the delivery. Like all of my children she was beautiful and things couldn't have worked out more perfect, I had four healthy children and beautiful children.

  At some point in the late 1970's Jon began to have frequent bladder infections. Our pediatrician set him up with an appointment at Vanderbilt with a urologist. The urologist wanted to put him in the hospital to run a battery of tests. In addition to the bladder infections he was also constipated a lot. The tests revealed that Jon had an extremely rare condition. So rare in fact that the doctor had never encountered anyone with Jon's condition, As far as he knew there had never been anything like Jon's condition on record anywhere in the world. Jon's brain was not telling him when he had to relieve himself. His bladder was abnormally large and shaped like a Christmas tree. A normal bladder is round. Not only did the doctor not know what was wrong with him he had no idea how to treat his condition. This doctor had been touted as one of the best urologists in the country. He tried several different antibiotics and medicines on him but nothing was working. The condition worsened. Out of desperation I asked his pediatrician what could be done? We had been told that eventually this condition could effect his kidneys and I was afraid it could become life threatening. He suggested that we take him to a hospital in Cincinnati. This was not an option because I could not afford to be away from work that long. Nor could I afford the expenses associated with a long hospital stay in a city that was that far away from Nashville. After a long pause he told me that there might be another option. There was another nationally renowned urologist in Nashville but he was at Baptist Hospital, which is now called St. Thomas Midtown hospital. After seeing Jon, this doctor wanted to run the identical tests that had been done at Vanderbilt. I felt sorry for Jon because these tests were very painful and both times he had to spend close to a week in the hospital.The doctor arrived at the same diagnosis that the other doctor had arrived at. There was a difference this time however. He felt confident that he could successfully manage and treat the condition. The doctor had no idea what was wrong with Jon either. His condition was so rare the doctor asked permission to photograph him so he could lecture other doctors about his condition. We began to see progress almost immediately but there were still setbacks. Jon developed a fever and began to look jaundiced. We took him to a female pediatrician in Smyrna. She was married to a prominent heart doctor in Rutherford County. The doctor ran a battery of tests and we were in her office for over two hours. Jon's poop was white and his urine was so dark it looked like Coca Cola. She said that he had a virus and sent him home. That night his condition worsened and he was so yellow, he almost glowed. We took him to Southern Hills hospital in South Nashville. The ER doctor quickly realized very that Jon had hepatitis. He told us that we needed to take him to Vanderbilt ASAP. Jon's Urologist told us that one of the antibiotics that he was taking gave him hepatitis. During the years that Jon was being treated Debbie and I spent a lot of time taking him to the doctor. We saw steady improvement however. His bladder shrunk to a more normal size over time. Since Jon has become an adult it seems that he has outgrown the problem and to my knowledge has no problems today.
  
  We had neighbors several doors down on Joann Court named Butch and Jennie Hunter. They had two little girls and we became close friends. Butch was a Metro Nashville police officer and he was in the Tennessee Air National Guard. He was constantly talking about the Guard and how much he liked it. Butch told me that I could keep my old rank of SSgt if I enlisted. I would have to work one weekend a month and two weeks of summer camp each year. I could retire in sixteen years since I already had nearly four years active duty. When I turned sixty I would receive a monthly pension and good health insurance for the rest of my life. I enjoyed my last year in the Air Force but I was ready get out when my time was up. After five years there were aspects of the military that I missed but I didn't want to do it full time. Being a part time Airman had it's appeal. The only problem was that I regularly worked on Saturdays and I knew that management would have a duck once they learned that I was joining the Guard. A friend of mine named William Bridgewater was also an Air Force veteran and worked at the bakery. I told him that I was thinking about joining the Air Guard. After weighing the pros and cons for a few months we decided to enlist together in October 1977. As I expected, my supervisor didn't like it. He was dumber than a box of rocks and told me directly that I couldn't join. I was prepared for this and read the law to him concerning the rights of employees and the National Guard. It didn't matter. He remained adamant that I couldn't join. In the end it didn't matter because upper management overruled him, as I believed they would. I have made many mistakes in my life but joining the Air Guard was one of the smartest things that I ever did. Almost 39 years later, as I write this, I am receiving a monthly pension from my almost 21 years in the military and I have Tri Care For Life health insurance. This insurance pays 100% of our health bills with few exceptions. I also have many other benefits, along with BX and commissary privileges. Butch Hunter was one of the best men I ever knew. He has since passed away but I will always be grateful to him for influencing to join the Air National Guard.

  My first years in the Guard were some of the happiest of my life. Most everyone that I served with were a great bunch of guys. There was hardly a Guard weekend that I didn't enjoy. The men I served with would make me laugh until I cried sometime. I also enjoyed talking politics, religion and history with these guys. About half of them were law enforcement officers, primarily Nashville police officers. They taught me a lot about law enforcement and I loved to hear their war stories. The 1970's were not the greatest years for the military. The War in Vietnam soured many people on the military and the it was in decline. Drug use and crime was rampant in the active military. The army began using comic books in order to teach soldiers how to do their job since many of them were barely literate. Jimmy Carter, like Barack Obama, allowed the quality of our military to deteriorate. Because of Kent State and Vietnam the Guard had a bad reputation in the 1970's. It was considered a refuge for draft dodgers and a good excuse to party and get away from your wife a few days out of the year. Guardsmen were the Paul Blart's of the military. A bunch of untrained weekend warriors. All stereotypes have a little truth to them. The first summer camp that I pulled was one week in Nashville and one week in Gulfport Mississippi. Most of the week in Gulfport was spent at the beach or around the pool. There was a lot of drinking and partying. We had a couple of short meetings during the week that passed for training. Our commander was an executive in civilian life and had a large ego. I looked at him as a pretty boy that was content with this charade. The men in our unit however were some of the most competent and experienced people I had ever worked with. Most of them were like me, prior service veterans. Many were Vietnam veterans, police officers and they had served in all four branches of the military. 

 This is a picture of my 1957 Ford pick-up truck in the late 1970's. It was Ford tough and built like a tank. I loved this old truck. A friend of mine named Joe, who worked with me at Colonial Baking company, sold it to me. Joe had tied a bunch of artificial red roses to the front grill. I asked him why and he said that he had declared the truck dead and had given it a funeral. The flowers were on that grill the whole time I owned it. I would love to have a nickel for every time I had to help my sister Donna move. She lived all over Nashville and Middle Tennessee at one time or another. Because of her, I came to detest helping people move. To make things worse she always managed to find an upstairs apartment. For reasons I will never understand she moved to Sullivan Illinois in 1977. I worked five days a week at Colonial. Tuesday and Saturday were my days off. Donna decided to move back to Nashville and asked me to help her. It is 333 miles or nearly five hours to drive from Nashville to Sullivan. I would only have my day off to move her and I couldn't see how it could possibly be done. She begged me over and over to help her. There was nobody else. She kept saying that it was only a three hour drive to Sullivan. Of course I didn't believe it but I was on a guilt trip by now. Very early on a Tuesday morning, in the early fall,  Donna, her son Larry, and myself set off in my truck for Illinois. My tires looked like racing slicks, they were so worn. When we arrived at her apartment in Sullivan, my heart sank as I realized that she had nothing packed. Working like a fiend I just threw everything in the bed of the truck. My anger grew because this whole process was taking a lot longer than I had hoped. It was well after dark when we finally got on the road back to Nashville. My nephew Larry was my load strap. He was lying spread eagle on top of everything the whole way back to Tennessee so we wouldn't lose anything. It was well into the early morning hours of Wednesday morning when we reached Clarksville. I had to be at work that afternoon at two oclock. So far so good. I was fighting sleep but my truck had made the trip without incident. No break downs or flat tires. Suddenly my generator light came on but the truck was running fine. I decided to chance it and kept on driving. We made it home without incident. My bed felt so good and I was able to get a few hours of sleep before I went to work. The next time I tried to start my truck however, it wouldn't start. I had to jump it off or use my clutch to get it started. This went on for a long time and the truck sat in front of my house for months. I am a master at procrastination and know little about mechanical issues. Finally in the summer of 1978 I decided to try to get it fixed. My brother-in- law Ronnie Phillips was a mechanic and I asked him to look at it for me. The only problem was I had to get it to him in East Nashville. 


  The truck was parked in my driveway, which was on a hill. Debbie was going to drive our 1973 Plymouth Satellite Sebring and I was going to drive the truck to her dad's house on Boscobel St. We lived on JoAnn Court in Antioch. Robbie and Misty wanted to ride with me. I put Misty in the cab and Robbie hopped up in the bed of the truck. My emergency brake wasn't working but it was in gear and for added insurance I used my spare tire as a chock. As I was getting ready to leave I put the tire in the bed of the truck. I was in the cab and getting ready to leave when I suddenly remembered something that I needed to tell Debbie and got out of the truck. I walked over to our front porch to stick my head in the door when I heard Robbie hollering. I looked around in time to see the truck rolling backwards down the driveway with Robbie standing up in the back, next to the cab. Luckily, Misty had gotten out of the truck and was standing in the driveway. I took off running as fast as I could but it quickly became apparent that it was going too fast for me to catch up with it. The truck was picking up speed as it rolled downhill. I told Robbie to lie down in the bed of the truck. He laid down on his stomach with his feet toward the tail gate. At first the truck rolled straight as an arrow toward a pick-up truck sitting in a driveway across the street. At the very last moment it swerved to the left and plowed through a short section of chain link fence and broadsided a blue Ford Mustang that was parked in the back yard. I was still running when Robbie jumped up and I could see that he was okay. The Mustangs whole side was caved in but I didn't care because that car probably saved Robbie's life. A few feet beyond the car, at the end of the yard, was a bluff. I was shaking like a leaf as a crowd of neighbors began gathering around us. To this day I shutter at how close to death or serious injury that Robbie came. 

  By this time the neighbor that owned the house came outside and was very understanding considering my truck had just destroyed his fence and heavily damaged his son's car. His son's name was Charlie Brown and he was in the Army stationed in Germany. That is why his car was parked in the back yard. Unfortunately my truck was not insured because I very seldom drove it. Needless to say I promised him that I would make good on the damage. I had not had a real vacation since I was discharged from the Air Force in 1972. We were leaving for Panama City in a couple of days and I was determined that I was going on that vacation. I got a estimate on the fence and found out it would take a hundred dollars to replace it. The car was a different matter. I knew that I wouldn't be able to take care of it for a while, regardless of whether I went on vacation or not. A few days after the accident we left for Panama City and spent a week there. That vacation is a story for another time. When we got back home my neighbor was mad as a hornet. He was angry because I went on vacation instead of saving money for his son's car. I told him that I would try to work something out with Charlie when he got home. He told me that Charlie would kick my ass. I told him that I would cross that bridge later. My brother-in law Ronnie checked out my truck but couldn't figure out what was wrong with it. A few weeks later I found out that Charlie was home on leave from Germany. I saw him in his yard and not knowing what to expect I walked over toward him. He saw me and we met in the street. There was no hint of trouble and he smiled as he shook my hand. I apologized for the accident and asked him what it would take to settle with him. My truck was parked in front of the house. He pointed at it and asked "What's wrong with the truck"? I told him that I had trouble starting it. I popped the hood and almost in the blink of an eye he reached over and reconnected a loose wire . He said "Try it now". I did and the truck started right up. It was very embarrassing that I had overlooked something so simple. However my brother-in-law was a mechanic and he failed to spot it. Charlie said, "Give me the truck and we will call it even". After a handshake and a sigh of relief, it was done. 

  Our Vacation that summer of 1978 was memorable and we still laugh about it today. We were close friends with Debbie's cousin Gloria Travis and her husband Steve. I had known Gloria from the time that Debbie and I started dating in February 1966. I met her husband Steve Travis when they were dating in the early 1970's and we immediately became fast friends. I had known Steve's dad since the 1950's. He worked at Fair Park and my dad would talk to him many times when we would go there. Steve was a very friendly and gregarious person. He and Gloria were fun to be around. We decided to take a vacation to Panama City Beach Florida. There was a mini Winnebago RV available to rent for fifty dollars and we split the cost. Counting both families there were 11 of us packed into this small RV. I only had about 200 dollars to spend and Steve had about the same. Even for 1978 this wasn't a lot of money to take on a week long vacation. We were so strapped for cash that Steve and I would walk into restaurants and ask to see a menu before making a decision to eat there. We saved a lot of money this way. Somehow we ended up having a great vacation in spite of being broke. It was a fun week and almost like an adventure. 
The gang minus Steve at Panama City in 1978
   
  During the summer of 1978 I was still having problems from time to time with anxiety. Out of desperation I made my mind up to start running. I hated running both in high school and basic training. We only ran about a mile and a half but it was all I could do to finish. I started out walking for about two weeks. At first I didn't even have a pair of running shoes. We were forced to run in combat boots in basic training, so I ran in combat boots and shorts. I looked pretty ridiculous and as I started increasing my mileage combat boots weren't very practical. However I was so determined to run that I didn't care how I looked. I went through the phase where my lungs ached and I had a killer pain in my side. Each week I would add a mile and the pain in my side would continue until finally it went away. The combat boots had to go however and I bought a good pair of running shoes. Then it happened. One day after I was up to three or four miles per day I got my first runners high. It was one of the most amazing feelings that I ever experienced. I suddenly felt like I could run forever and began extending my mileage. On average I was running seven miles a day. For a while during the 1980's I was running the 11.2 mile course at Percy Warner Park that was nothing but hills. I ran the yearly 11.2 mile race at Percy Warner and I was running many 10 K races (6.2) miles. My anxiety didn't go away completely but the running helped me manage it. If I was able I would take off running until the feeling passed. I ran every day and it didn't matter what kind of weather or time of day it was. In the winter I came in many nights with my beard and mustache caked with ice. Sometimes when I started running I would be sleepy or very tired after getting off work. After a few miles however I felt like superman. I have run in various places around the world and across the United States. Probably the craziest place that I ever ran in was a game preserve near Ft. Pierce Florida where I could here alligators splashing as they jumped into the swamp. Dogs began to be a problem while I was running. There was one large chow in particular that would come after me and get too close to my legs. Most dogs would run in panic when I ran at them. This dog would just become more aggressive. He came closer and closer until one day I kicked at him. The dog grabbed my leg and drew blood. After I got home I called rabies control to report the dog. I couldn't get anyone to answer the phone so I called the police. All I wanted to know was if the dog had his shots. The owner called and begged me not to have his dog picked up. I told him that I didn't want anything done to the dog. All I wanted to see was proof that the dog had his rabies shots. The police told me over the phone that the dog had been vaccinated. I thought that the whole thing was behind me until I ran by the house with the chow. It was at night and the owner of the chow, and a neighbor across the street, ambushed me. They let there dogs out simultaneously and I was caught between two vicious dogs. This time I was prepared for them. I still had my wooden nightstick from the Air Force I was determined to bash their brains out before I would be dog bitten again. Luckily they turned and ran back into the house. The owner of the chow was a jerk and I should have kicked his butt. I ran regularly for years until Bridgestone tire company in Lavergne started 12 hour shifts. My running became more erratic because I was just so tired. I was still running but not as regular as I would like. The running has benefited me, even though I am now overweight and have atrial fibrillation. At 66 I am probably in much better shape than most men my age. 
  
  In May 1979 Debbie's grandmother Grace Brown wanted to sell her 1970 Nash Rambler. It was clean and in great shape since she only drove it on short errands like going to the store or to church. I bought it from her for 500 dollars. A rain storm was moving in about the same day that I bought the car. There was a heavy downpour that lasted for several days. One night after I got off at Colonial I started driving toward our house near Smyrna. In January 1979 we moved from our house in South Nashville. We only had 1,100 square feet there and moved into our present house that had 1,400 square feet at the time. Over the years we have expanded twice and now have 2000 square feet. As I was driving toward I-24 I learned on the radio that there was flooding near the Bell Road exit and Hickory Hollow mall. This was an understatement. It was raining so hard when I approached the Bell road exit that I could barely see to drive. As you approach Bell road, in the east bound lane, there is a hill that overlooks a valley. Mill Creek flows through the valley just before the Bell Road exit. As I topped the hill I saw traffic at a standstill on both sides of the interstate. It was raining so hard I didn't have a clue why traffic was stopped. I thought that there had been a wreck or something. It never occurred to me that Mill Creek had flooded and the water was over the interstate. If I had known this I would have pulled over while I was on the high ground. Instead I drove right into the valley and became stuck in the traffic jam. The rain was so loud that I could barely hear my radio. I jumped out of my car so I could get a better view of what was holding up traffic. To my horror I was completely surrounded by rushing water. The loud noise I was hearing was the rushing water combined with the deluge of rain. It sounded like I was standing next to Niagra Falls. The only thing above water was the asphalt of the interstate that I was standing on. In a near panic I jumped back into the car and tried to figure out what I was going to do next. After a couple minutes I stepped out of the car and water was swirling around my feet. If I had been thinking clearly I might have been able to steer on to the shoulder of the road and back all the way up to higher ground. The water was rising so fast I didn't want to take a chance on being swept away. Tarzan couldn't have swam in that water. I took off running for higher ground. As I was running along the interstate I was looking down on a scene that was surreal. There was a subdivision below me and the houses were half submerged in flood water. People had left in a hurry because the lights were still on in the houses. I could see furniture floating around inside. When I got to the top of the hill I was waving my arms trying to warn people not to go any farther but they ignored me and whizzed right on by. Finally a man pulled over and asked me if I needed help. I told him about the interstate being under water and he asked me if I wanted a ride. After I got in the car he carefully made a u-turn and drove against the traffic down the shoulder of the interstate. Luckily he was also from the Smyrna area. Flooding was everywhere that night and it took us about two hours to get home. The next morning Debbie and I set out to try to locate my car. The rain finally stopped and the water level had dropped enough that we could safely drive around the Antioch and Hickory Hollow area. The whole area was devastated and cars were lying on their side, upside down and in every possible position. I looked down one creek and it was full of cars that had been swept away. A police officer told me to check a towing company that the city used to remove the flooded cars. He said that my car was probably there. Sure enough I found my car and it was a total loss. It had been under 10 feet of water and was swept into the median. My Rambler was  found upside down and I had only owned it for three days. I paid 500 dollars for the car but my insurance company gave me 750 dollars to replace it. The car I bought with the insurance money was a piece of junk. 


  That summer our Security Police unit was sent to Savannah Georgia to pull a joint medivac exercise with our air evacuation medical unit. Our job was to act like patients. I was excited about going to Savannah because it was such a historic city and I planned to take Debbie and Melanie with me. Melanie was only two and Debbie could not bear leaving her at home. We left the older kids with her sister Judy in Nashville. The motel we found was in a bad part of Savannah. While I was training one day Debbie said that she was propositioned and someone tried to sell her drugs on the way to breakfast in a nearby restaurant. Otherwise we had a fun time in Savannah. We went to Tybee Island, the riverfront and Ft. Pulaski. One day we drove up to Charleston and went out to Ft. Sumter and drove around Meeting street, King street and the battery. Overall that summer camp was more like a family vacation.  Our primary responsibility however was to support our air evacuation squadron. I worked second shift guarding their medical tent and supplies. Finally the day came when our Security Police unit posed as patients in a simulated combat zone. Some of our guys were picked to have head, stomach, chest, arm and leg wounds. They were made out of rubber and looked pretty realistic. I was strapped to a stretcher and waited for the nurses to carry me on to the plane. We had the old C-130 A models and they were sitting on the flight line with their ramps down and the engines running. I hadn't been on a plane since I left the Air Force and I was pretty nervous. The planes were configured to carry stretchers and they were taking off and flying once around the air field. When my time came two flight nurses picked me up and ran in the direction of the plane. About halfway there the nurse behind me screamed in pain and she dropped me on my head. Luckily the wooden handles took the brunt of the impact when my head hit the pavement. The nurse that dropped me dislocated her shoulder and would have to have surgery. I was totally helpless and almost became a real patient. After they determined that I was okay I was again picked up by nurses and hot loaded on to the C-130. My stretcher was placed up high on a rack and locked into place. It was a weird feeling flying flat on my back and unable to move. As the 1970's came to a close gas prices were high and inflation was on the rise.  Because of rising interest rates the real estate business was virtually dead and we were facing economic stagnation. Unemployment was rising because our heavy industries like the steel industry, and the car industry was not prepared for the rise in gas prices and the onset of foreign competition, especially from the Japanese. Then there was the humiliation of our embassy personnel being taken hostage in Iran. It seemed that America was in decline. America was still in a funk over our defeat in Vietnam and the state of our national defense was in a sad shape. Little did we know at the time that the 1980's would be a more prosperous decade and we would have a president that would restore faith in America.



             
On the flight line in Savannah's Travis Field

Medical Tent at Travis Field, Savannah Ga.

Me and Melanie in Savannah

Melanie in Charleston's Battery