Here we go again. I was just considering the earlier tape that I gave you, and as I recall, it took us up to just the start of WW II. As I review it in my mind I realize that certain things I overlooked, some of them are probably quite important. For instance, citizenship. But anyway, one thing I overlooked was my employment, so let's pick it up there. I guess like many young men, my first job was passing newspapers. I had a touch of that somewhere between 5th and 7th grade. I just helped a regular paper boy. However, after I moved to Eccles Way in Parnassus I got a route of my own. I passed the Post-Gazette in the morning and the Sun-Tele in the evening for $3 a week.
I left that job to take a job at Silverman's Drug Store. I started as a delivery boy for $8 a week, and after school and weekends. I look back now and I realize that I never had a day off. When school was out, I worked full time at the drug store and I received $15 a week. After a few months, I was made manager of the soda fountain at the same salary. A couple of instances I think are worth repeating. One Sunday afternoon I was sitting in one of the booths packaging chocolates, Mr. Silverman was in the back room. A couple came in who were friends of Mr. Silverman from Pittsburgh.
Incidentally, Mr. Silverman and his brother had two stores, one in the Hill district in Pittsburgh, which the brother actually managed, and the other on in Parnasus which Mr. Silverman managed. Anyway, these were friends of his. He insisted that they sit in a booth, and called me and asked me to get them something real nice.
I asked them what they would like to have, and both of them hesitated, and I suggested that Silverman's drug store made the best banana splits in the country. The woman said she hadn't had a banana split since she was a little girl, and so I set out to make the banana splits.
And just in case you are not aware of it, the routine recipe for a banana is that you start with a split banana, you put on a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a scoop of strawberry ice cream. Then you put some strawberry sauce on the vanilla, and some other, probably pineapple on top of the chocolate. You then put a scoop of whipped cream between the two scoops of ice cream and top that with a maraschino cherry. Then you sprinkle some little chocolate bits.
In this particular case, however, since these customers were friends of the bosses, I decided to do a little extra. So instead of the one scoop of whipped cream, I used two, one on top of each of the scoop of ice cream, and then a cherry on top of each one. I served them and the customers, these friends of Mr. Silverman's were quite pleased. In fact, when their visit was over, the lady went out of her way to compliment me on my banana split, she said that it was the best she could ever remember.
And the people left the store, and I swear that their shadows were still in the doorway when Mr. Silverman came over to me, and he looked at me, and he said, "Holy hell, Pringle! Two cherries?"
There was one other story. One of the pharmacists was Myer Rosenburg, affectionately known as Rosie. He was a well liked person, but again, it was on a Sunday afternoon and nobody in the store when this man came in. I was busy behind the soda fountain and Rosie was behind the prescription counter. The man came in and gave the impression that he had had a few drinks. (Incidentally, this was before the repeal of prohibition.) He went back to the prescription counter to order whatever he wanted.
In the store, at different locations, we had dolls. These dolls consisted of a weighted base and a stick, like a lollipop stick, sticking up, and the doll's body, which was just a hollow form, rested on the end of that stick. It was made so that it would pivot on that stick, and then from the shoulder there was another stem up, and the head fit down on that. When you touched this, the figure was so balanced that it would rock for several minutes. They were in the form of a preacher and a hobo, which were the two designs. Importantly, the price of these was $.50.
There happened to be one on the prescription counter just to the right of where this customer was standing, and as I went by I touched it. This had been the instructions given by Mr. Silverman, which is actually good merchandising. You move these, and it catches the eye of the person, and they may or may not buy one. In any case, I starting this one rocking when I went by into the back room.
When I came out, the customer asked Rosie how much these dolls were, and Rosie said $1.00. The man immediately started to bicker with him and said that he wouldn't pay a dollar, but he would pay $.75, and Rosie said, no, the price was $1 and that's what he expected to get for them. There was quite a discussion lasting for several minutes, perhaps five or ten. Then finally Rosie, with apparent desperation, said that he could have it for 75 cents. At that the man started to laugh and said, "I just wanted to show you. You Jews think that you can beat us, but I'm one guy that you can't beat. And just to show you that I'm a good sport, I'll give you a dollar for it." Rosie wrapped it up, and acted very humble, thanked him for his consideration, and the man left with his toy.
Rosie walked over to the cash register, rang up 50 cents, put in the dollar bill, and took out a half dollar in change. He walked over to me flipping this half, and when he reached the soda fountain he slapped the 50 cents on the soda fountain and pushed it over to me and said, "Pringle, this is yours. And let that be a lesson to you, you Gentiles cannot win."
Oh, so much for the drugstore. I worked there about 18 month, really. I walked off the job actually, and just quit. It was the only time in my life that I ever did, but Mr. Silverman was not the easiest man to work for, and the particular night that I quit, well, he caused me to quit. I guess it's enough to say that.
So, I remember that my mother was very unhappy about this. I was the only one in the family that was working. If I remember correctly, I was a freshman in high school when I quit there. I didn't go back to work until I was a senior, and then I got a job part time at the A&P. In those days, you did not help your self, there were countermen. It was several months that I worked at the A&P, and then I got a job at the White Tower, which was a sandwich shop chain.
Incidentally, at A&P I was getting $.25 an hour, at the White Tower I was working 54 hours a week for $13. In January 1936 I went to work at the American Drink Shop as a counterman, and eventually as a short order cook to some degree. It was just shy of a year that I worked for the American Drink Shop and, oh, I guess that I could dwell on that a lot longer. There were several experiences at the American Drink Shop that I thought were rather amusing.
In any case, it was some time in 1936 that Dale Moore, a line foreman for West Penn Power Company came in, and I jokingly asked him if he needed a good man. Dale answered that he sure could, and that if I happened to know of any, he'd be happy to know. About a week later he stopped in, and asked me if I was serious about looking for a job. I told him I was. He told me to go up and see Frank Ousten, who was a division manager. To make a long story short, I did.
At Mr. Ousten's request I prepared an application, and delivered it to his office just a few days later. I think that that was on a Wed when I took my completed application back. On the following Monday, I received a telephone call from Mary Heyer, who worked in the office. I guess she was asked to call me because she knew me, we went to school together. I was told to come down for an interview. My interview was 9:30 in the morning.
When I went in, I was ushered back to the district manager's office. I was a little surprised, I expected to know the people to whom I was going to talk, because my brother Tom worked for them for 10 years, and I knew practically everyone in the district. However, there were two strangers and Mr. Chandler, who was the district manager. The one man sitting behind the desk stood up as I came in, walked around to the front of the desk, and made some comment about how much I looked like my brother Tom. He turned out to be Bob McDonald, who later turned out to be the president of the company. The other man was Charlie Woods, whom I had heard Tom speak of many times, he was supervisor of meter readers.
The interview took about 45 minutes, and I remember it very well. All during the interview, there was no question in my mind about if I got the job. I was wondering only when I was going to start. I didn't know at the time, however, that there were 14 people interviewing for the job, which was, by the way, that of a meter reader.
Incidentally, my brother Tom, who had read meters in this district up until Sept of this particular year, had moved to Butler as chief meter reader. A couple of days later, I got a telephone call to get a physical and to report to Mr. Chandler. I took the report to Mr. Chandler and he indicated that my physical condition was acceptable, and when could I start.
This I do remember, was on a Wed, just a week after I had put in my application. I started the following Monday, and that, of course, was the beginning of a career that was to last just over 40 years. I worked as a meter reader from that day, Dec 14.
Incidentally, there is another reason for remembering that day. My brother and I had planned to visit our relatives in West Virginia, and because I had to work at the American Drink Shop on Sunday, I didn't go, but he took my car and wrecked it on the way home. In fact, I was in the office when my cousin came in and told me the sad news. Fortunately, Tom was not hurt, other than shaken up.
I worked in New Kensington as a meter reader until April, and then I moved to Springdale as a chief meter reader. From then to the end of 1937. Then at the first of 1938 I moved back to New Kensington as chief meter reader. I remember my pride. Chief meter reader, looking back anyway, is not a lofty job, but it seemed like quite an achievement to me, because here I was the chief meter reader of the next to the largest district in the northern division, and my brother, who had at that time, 11 years experience was the chief meter reader of the largest district in the northern division.
I worked as chief meter reader until July or August until I was offered the job of collector in Kittaning, but for a rather lengthy reason that was withdrawn, and I was given a job as special meter reader, working for a man by the name of Otis Hecker, and the job was to travel from district to district and I was used as a measuring device to determine the length of the meter routes. This was a very interesting job, and I enjoyed it tremendously. I worked at that until 1941, when the job was discontinued, and I wound up back in Springdale as chief meter reader.
It was on that job, however, that I was working that the draft hit us. At that time, the draftees were called up for a one year or the duration. My number was called, and I reported, went down to Pittsburgh, said goodbye, kissed all my friends goodbye, and reported to the Old Post Office Building to be drafted into the service. I went through the physical, and when I was finished, I presented myself to a major at the end desk, who looked at my papers, and stamped them "Rejected. Insufficient opposing molars."
In spite of the fact that I in no way wanted to go into the service, this was rather disappointing, to think that I wasn't good enough for the draft. But, that was the way it was, so I reported back to work the next day, much to everyone's surprise.
It wasn't until December of 1941 when Pearl Harbor was hit. Right after the new year that I went to the Post Office in New Kensington and told them that I wanted to enlist. The sergeant in charge went through a rather lengthy interrogation, and started to prepare my papers. I had resigned my job, so to speak, or taken a military leave. After about a half hour's interview with the Sgt., he suddenly found out that I was classified as a 1B, and he told me that he couldn't touch me, and that I couldn't be drafted as long as I carried that 1B classification. I questioned him, I said that I was under the impression that the only reason that I was 1B was because I had insufficient opposing molars. This was no longer sufficient reason to keep one out of military service. He said that he realized this, but as long as I carried that 1B classification, I would be a civilian.
So I said the heck with them, if they wanted me, they could come and get me. Well, this was in Jan 1942, and lo and behold in April 1942, they did, and I left for the service on the 27th of April, 1942.
That pretty much covers my employment, and so I've got myself in the army now, or I found out, the Air Force, but there was one particular date that I overlooked that was mighty important to me, and that was 19th of March 1941. It was on this day that I was granted citizenship in the United States.
I had already had the first papers, and this was to get my final papers. The requirement was that I was to take down to the Federal Building with me two adult citizens that I could use as references, who had known me for several years. So, I asked Mr. Harry McQuaide, who was a neighbor of ours, and a friend, and the father of a young lady who was a friend of mine, Dot McQuaide, and I also asked Bob Sweetland. I don't really know why I chose those two people, but I did. Bob and I went to school together, and were, and still are, good friends.
When I think back I have a little guilt complex, because when I went to Pittsburgh, I was told to ask for a young lady, a niece of Mr. McQuade and also a friend of mine, Jane Elwood, who worked in the Federal Building, and she had prepared me, orally, as to what to expect, but she asked me to come to her office when I got there on that particular day. I did this, and I had prepared the papers in advance, so she sent us across the hall into a courtroom. When I got into the courtroom, I found that it was filled with citizenship candidates, and their witnesses. A judge was up at his bench, of course, and Jane simply walked to the front of the courtroom, and although I couldn't hear the conversation, it was obvious that she was giving her my application.
So, when he completed the person that he was interviewing, the next name that he called was William C. Pringle, and, as I said, I remember the guilt complex, I thought, "Boy, politics starts right at the beginning." There was no reason that I should get preferential treatment and be taken ahead of all those other people, but, because one knows some one, this was what was happening.
Of course, at the time I had no guilt complex, I was real happy, I thought that I was pulling a real good one. But anyway, I was interviewed, and the result was that I received my citizenship papers.
My grandmother on my father's side lived in a place called Fence Houses, which was 15 miles from Horden, and on more than one occasion, my family and I walked that distance. I have since then driven that road, and it is only a few minutes drive.
My dad, of course, was a coal miner, and he was not a particularly aggressive or outgoing kind of a person. He and his brother had married my mother and her sister Elizabeth, who we called nothing but "auntie", and who died in 1925 before the rest of the Pringles came to America.
I believe that my mother and father would have been much better off if they had stayed in England, but I believe that the principal reason that they left was me. My mother swore that she would never let me go down in the mine. My brother, who was 19 at the time we left, was not yet working down in the mine, but he was working at what we called "the belts", or the tipple, but it was a sure thing that once he turned 21 that he would go down in the mines. I am confident that that's the biggest reason that my mother agreed to leave for America.
I remember coming home from school and finding my parents sitting at the kitchen table talking about the possibly of going to America in the spring of 1923. I remember their saying that they had so much money in the bank, they could get so much for the furniture, and maybe they could borrow some, and how much they would need.
Well, it seemed just like a fantasy, but later that summer, I went with my father to Hull in order to arrange for our trip. We were to leave from Liverpool, and the month or six weeks prior to our leaving, we spent most of our time travelling about the country visiting relatives that we were never to see again. We visited an uncle of my father's, my great uncle Jim. I remember the party that they had because when we visited them, other relatives that lived in the area were invited to spend the evening.
Among the people there was a Mary Pringle, who was a medium, and could, by her own admission, could contact the spirits beyond. I can still picture myself sitting with the crowd at the table. My brother was sitting diagonally across the table from me and also directly across from this Mary Pringle, and my sister sat directly between her and me.
I remember the look on my brother's face as though he was very surprised, and about this time Mary stood and very slowly stood up and, in a very shaky voice, said that she had a message for Ethel Pringle. The message was that she was going on a long voyage and that we would have trouble with our luggage. My dad explained to me that this person was a medium, and I responded that she sounded more like a comedian.
I was quite taken with this, because we were about to leave for America, which is certainly a long voyage, and as it developed we did have trouble with our luggage. My dad, however, reminded me that the reason that we were was that we were going to America, and what family of five could travel that far by train by train, by ship, and then again by train, without having trouble with their luggage.
My brother and father made two large wooden boxes for the bed linens and household goods that we were taking with us. We then got from the steam ship company some labels or stickers that had "wanted" or "not wanted" on them. My dad reasoned that "wanted" meant that these items were wanted in the hold, and that "not wanted" meant that they were not wanted, and so they would come to our stateroom. Well, we were to each to carry a small handpiece, but we went ahead and applied the stickers to the rest of our luggage.
The way I remember hearing this story, the two tags were "Hold" and "Keep". His dad reasoned that "Hold" meant the articles that they were going to hold in their hands, while "Keep" were the ones that the ship would keep for them.
I remember very well when we walked down that isle to our stateroom, opening the door, and there in our room were these two huge boxes. The cabin trunk, which contained my ninth birthday cake, was down in the hold, and was not delivered to us until we reached Boston. We were able to get the boxes shipped down to the hold, but we had to make some adjustments for our clothing.
I remember that trip remarkably well for my age. We left on the 21st of September, and landed in Boston Harbor on the first of October. The trip was quite an experience for me. I met some young people, Frankie and Dick. Frankie and his family shared a dining room table with the Pringle's. Our family had many a laugh just reminiscing about the experiences. She was a very domineering woman and he was very hen pecked. The conversation at the table would go very much like this, with the mother speaking, " Frankie, want a bun? ... Go ahead, take it. ... If you don't want it, leave it, your father will eat it," and believe it or not, the father would eat it.
That was the first time I had ever been in a bathtub, and it was a sunken tub. The ship was the H.M.S. Magantic, and I seem to recall my father saying that this was her maiden voyage, but I don't know that for sure.
We landed outside of Boston, and this was a big disappointment to me, because I had seen in the picture shows people arriving in New York with the skylines and the statue, and everything so exciting, but in Boston, all you could see was hunks of clay here and there. My first encounter with the american labor force was that we had to stay in the harbor overnight because the dock hands quit at 4:00, and they would not stay past that to unload our ship.
I remember getting all our baggage. My sister and brother would go up one line, my mother and I up another, and my dad up a third line looking for our baggage. We finally got all our baggage assembled, and caught the train through Philadelphia to Parnassus, which is now part of New Kensington.
With all the excitement of coming to America, I can remember as we pulled into the station in the evening. As the train pulled out of the station and I could see across the station, I saw the side of a big old wooden building which had a store in the first floor of the building. We were to stay with the Hunter's on the second floor in an apartment. I cried and wanted to go back on the train to England.
In the colliery of Horden, there was only one building that was not built of brick, and that was a corrugated metal building built during WW I and called "The Tin Club." Another thing about Horden was that the summer before we left England, the coal board had all the houses wired for electricity. This wiring consisted in putting up hanging lights in each of the rooms, and wall switches which were a dome shaped brass fitting with a toggle switch. I was sitting on the staircase as the men finished up making the last connection and walked out, and I ran downstairs and switched the one in the parlor up and down thinking that this was truly a miracle.
We lived with the Hunter's for about six weeks until mother and dad found a house in Valley Camp, which is now another part of New Kensington. This was a duplex side by side, and when I went in I found out that we had gas lights. Oh, what a come-down that was. Here we were coming to the land of plenty and we left a house with electricity and were coming to a house with gas lights.
Incidentally, I remember that my mother had a clothes washer that was water powered.
This was the beginning of a rather unusual time for me. I hated this country. I was in standard 3, which was the equivalent of third grade except that I think that my education was a little more advanced than third grade. I was originally enrolled in the fifth Ave. sixth grade school in Parnassus during the six weeks that we lived with the Hunter's.
Of course, when we moved, a little experience that I remember, and have been reminded of down through the years. As we were moving in, it was just shortly before Christmas, and there was a store diagonally across the street that was operated by Mr. A. Spezzano, whom I was going to get to know very well in later years.
But I remember my mother telling me to get a haf pound of boil'd 'am for sandwiches, and my dad added, "Get me a packet of Camels". When I went into the store, of course it was my first time, and the man had never seen me. So, when the man acknowledged me, I spoke up (quickly) "I wanna ha' pound of boil'd 'am and a packeta camels." He looked at me an said, "What?" I said, "A ha' pound a boil'd 'am and a packeta camels." He asked me to repeat it, several times, and finally I was getting impatient, and I stopped, and said very deliberately, "I wan' a ha' pound a boiled 'am and a packet a Camels."
And mister Spezzano has since died, but I think up to, at least the last time that I saw him before his death, when I was reading meters, he would greet me every time I would enter the store, "Hey, Johnny, ha' pound a boiled 'am and a packeta Camels."
So I went back in the year of 1934, and I took my senior year in one semester and graduated with the class of 1934. I did not graduate at the top of my class, however, but I was in the top third.
I worked part time at the A&P store. I worked Saturdays, and part time after school. I continued to work at the store after graduation as a counter man. In those days, they did not have self service stores, you went up to the counter and ordered your can of beans, or your quart of milk, and the counter man went to get it for you, and counted up your bill, and you paid him. And this was quite an experience, but I worked there for about a year.
In 1934 I took a summer job with West Penn Power Co., as a junior salesman. We sold no major appliances, just bulbs, irons, toasters, pin up lamps, but my time was being demanded more at the A&P, and that was a sure thing, so for some reason or another, and I can't imagine why, because I was doing all right as a salesman, but I decided to stay with A&P.
Well, from there, Al Lawrence, a very good friend of mine, arranged for me to get a job with the White Tower system. I went to work for them for $13/week (54 hours). I worked there until two weeks before Christmas, when I learned of an opening at the American Drink Shop, which was a restaurant in New Kensington on 10th St., between 3rd and 4th Ave., and no other restaurant was anything like this one. It was open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They sold a lot of beer, but it was not a beer garden, they served beer with the meals, and that accounted for a small proportion of the business, but there was still a lot of beer moved. I worked there from Jan 2, 1936 until Dec 13, 1936.
It was on the 14th of Dec that I started to work for West Penn Power Company, and even that day is memorable. I think one of the few times that I was early, I was early that day. In fact, I was the first one in the office. I was standing inside the office, and this man opened the door and I saw that it was my cousin Alec Pringle.
By way of explanation, I had planned to quit the drink shop on Friday, and then Sat and Sun, Tom and I were going to go in my car, a '32 Chevy, six wire-wheeled coach, and we were going to use that to go down to West Virginia. He had a '31 Ford roadster, which is an open car. On Friday, Herb Leiperts, one of the bosses, asked me to work Sat and Sun, because they had not been able to get a replacement for me. These two men, Bob Elliot and Herb, had been very good to me, so I agreed that I would work. So I called my brother and told him that I couldn't go, but that he should go, and take my car, leaving his for me, and he should go down and visit W.Va.
Well, getting back to the morning that I started, Cousin Alec, came to the door, and his only comment was, Tom wrecked your car. So I asked how he was, and he was sitting in Alec's car out front. He explained that he was coming home in the wee hours of Monday morning, and somewhere north of Weirton, the accelerator stuck (according to him), in his efforts to maneuver the accelerator loose, he lost control of the car and plowed into an embankment.
I remembered that there was $300 worth of damage to the car, and I wasn't able to pick it up until Feb. But, fortunately, he wasn't really hurt, and he paid the cost of the repair, and I, at last, started on was to be my 40 year career with West Penn Power Company.
I worked from Dec until Apr, and there was another school mate of mine, Tom Butler, was hired just 7 days before I was, he was hired on the 7th of Dec. He was hired in Springdale, with the understanding that we were going to separate Springdale from New Kensington, as far as the meter readers were concerned, and he was to be the meter reader in Springdale, and I was to be the meter reader in New Kensington. But when the time came for the switch, the boss called me over and asked me how I would like to report to Springdale Monday morning, which was, incidentally, was the first of April.
I was promoted to chief meter reader, after working just 4 months with the company. I remember Jim McCercher was the district manager. When I started with West Penn Power Company, I was making $100 a month, on the 8th and the 23rd. On the one pay I got $45, and on the other pay I got $47.50, which was a pretty good portion of the $100.
But when I went to Springdale, of course, I was congratulated on my promotion, but when I got my first pay check, there was no change, so I talked to Jim McCercher about it, and he said that he would check into it. Later that day, he said that it would be in my next pay check, but two days later he called me in, and said, "Bill, you're going to hate me. That raise will not be in your next paycheck," and I was curious to know why, and he said, "Well, you've been with the company only 4 months, so you're not a regular employee until you've been working 6 months, so we can't give you a raise." This wasn't that disappointing, really, because the raise was only going to be $10, but I was always amused by this, because by the first of June, when I had my 6 months, I got a $10 increase, which I would have had no matter where I was working.
But, in any case, I had become chief meter reader in Springdale, the smallest district in northern division, and my brother was chief meter reader in Butler, the largest district in northern division. So, we had so much in common. We looked alike, we had the same interests so far as the work was concerned. In fact, my mother commented that we were never together more than two minutes before we were talking about West Penn Power Company, and I suppose that was true.
At the end of that year, incidentally, I was reading meters with an associate, Bob McCullough, who was my assistant, or the meter reader, and I was the chief meter reader. At the end of the week, which was the end of the year, I learned from Bob that he was going to be made chief meter reader in Springdale, which, of course, was my job. So I was then told that Jim McCercher wanted to talk to me, and there I learned that I was going to be moved back to New Kensington as chief meter reader, which was quite a promotion for me, really. I had the same problem there, however, with the raise. I finally did get a $15 raise there. By this time, I was making $125 a month, which was pretty good money.
In June of that year, which would be 1938, I was offered a job as collector up in Kittaning, and I was wildly excited about that, although the division manager explained to me that I was going to be getting a $15 a month raise, and he knew that my family was depending on my income. Of course, if I took the job in Kittaning I would have to move there, and actually it would cost me, and cost my family money. So Mr. Ousten explained that if I felt that it was not economically possible for me to move to Kittaning, that I should just say so, and I wouldn't be penalized for it, but I told him that my mother and dad would insist that I take it.
But as luck would have it, before the transfer was made, I was called into his office and explained to me that they had overlooked some one who was working on a special assignment, and they felt it only fair to offer him the job, and so they would have to retract the offer with me.
In the office with Mr. Ousten and me was a Charley Woods, who was supervisor of meter readers. He then explained that the man that he felt should get the job as collector worked for a man called Hecker, who worked for him, and that he was on a special job working with the meter readers. So, when this other man was given the job of collector, that left this job open (Am I confusing you?
No Dad, I follow you just fine.
Anyway, I was offered that job.
His name is Art Youmans, and I went to work for a man whose name was Otis Hecker, actually known as "Oats". This was the best thing that ever happened to me, because I didn't get a raise, but I got a $10 a week expense account, and I would move from district to district.
To make a long story short, at that time we had 36 districts, each containing their own meter readers, and I was to work in 32 of those, and I went to work more or less as a meter or a scale. I was to decide how many meters could be read in that section in the time given. This was really an education to me, because I remember sitting in my living room my first day waiting for Oats to pick me up, and my mother started to cry, she said, "Her baby was leaving home."
It was up to that time, when I got my check, I went home and gave it all to my mother, and she would give me $12 for spending money. I thought that I was really helping out my family, so now here I was going to live away from home, and my mother explained that I should handle my own money, and I said, well, this would be quite a challenge to me, but I still insisted that I wanted to still help at home, and give her so much a pay.
Well, that was a very noble promise. I agreed that I would give her $25 a pay, but now I would have to pay all my own expenses, my own car payments, my own gas bills, my own clothing,... You know something, when I finished paying all those bills I never had $12 left to spend, and I must confess, I'm not very proud of it, but the one who really picked up the bill was my mother and dad. If I had to cut into it in any way, I'd cut into their $25 allowance, or contribution, we'll call it.
Anyway, that lasted until 1941, and there was nothing available to me when that job came to an end. Of course, I had known that it was temporary, so I went back to Springdale as chief meter reader.
As I said earlier, I was drafted on the 27th of April, 1942. We went to Pittsburgh first, where we were sworn in, and we were turned loose somewhere around noon, I guess, and told that we had to report back to the Post Office Building at some time. I don't remember, but it was somewhere around 5:00 or 6:00, when we boarded a train, and the next thing that I knew I was in Fort Mead.
We were there only five or six days, but I remember a man from Jeanette, whose name was Charles Pritchard. Because of his name and because of mine, every list that came out I remember well. It was Pringle, Pritchard, Prosser, and Provensano. Prosser was from Monongahela, Provensano was from New Kensingston. I didn't know any of these people, but we became close very quickly.
I remember one morning when we had fallen out for formation, and the drill sergeant was instructing us on how to do the hand salute. Pritchard was on my right, and that poor guy ...
Wait a minute, let me back up some. On the very first morning when we fell out, we were told the night before that everyone had to shave in the morning, and the man was very emphatic about it. In fact, the sergeant pointed out one very young boy, who the sergeant indicated maybe had never shaved before, but in the morning he was to be shaved.
So when we fell out the next morning, Pritchard right beside me looked like he had a two day growth. The sergeant stopped in front of him and asked him why he hadn't shaved, and Pritchard said that he didn't know how. The sergeant asked him who shaved him at home, and he said, his mother. Actually, it was kind of pathetic.
The sergeant indicated that he had heard all kinds of stories about the sergeant being a father to the GI's, but never a barber, so he gave Pritchard five minutes to go back and shave. Well, he was back in about 10 minutes, and he looked like he had held his face next to a fan, he was cut all over the place.
Well, I was later to learn that Pritchard was an illiterate. He could neither read nor write his own name. He worked for a plant in Jeanette sweeping the floors. And I learned quite a bit later, when I talked to his parents, that when this draft thing came up, they thought that it might be good for their son, Charles. They even went down to the draft board. The net result was that the poor guy was drafted, and he was the butt of every joke in the outfit. People refused to let him fall in near them when we were told just to fall in.
I took pity on him, but I must confess that I had some misgivings. When we were on the train, not knowing where we were going. I had known Pritchard for 4 or 5 days by now. A Lt. entered the car and announced that he was about to tell us where we were going to go. Of course, everybody was excited, and interested, they gathered around the Lt. to find out what the news may be.
I said everyone, everyone but Pritchard. Pritchard sat in his seat, chin in his hand, just gazing out the window. The Lt. started to make his pitch, he explained to us that we were not just a haphazard group, that we had something in common. We had an IQ level that had been high enough for us to be accepted by the Army Air Force. I couldn't help but wonder, however, when I received this news about how intelligent I was, and then I looked over to Pritchard who couldn't even write his own name, and the Lt. already said that we had something in common.
In any case, we were in the Air Force, and bound for Miami Beach. I was there during the month of May, really, and from there when to Chanute Field. Well, incidentally, at Miami Beach, outside of close order drill, we were tested and re-tested, and untested, ... And I remember that I took tests for the radio, weather, and air mechanics. But the push seemed to be for air mechanics. When I think back now, I don't know why I would choose that, because you and I both know that I'm not mechanically inclined. But maybe it was because the army brain washed me.
I entered the school for air mechanics at Chanute Field, which consisted of 10 phases 12 days each, and two of those days were given to either guard or KP duty. It was there that, after the first couple of weeks I guess, when I was asked to ...
Oh, incidentally, the barracks consisted of two story building with, I don't know how many men it would accommodate, but each floor was recognized as a bay. There was a barracks chief responsible for the whole barracks, and a bay chief responsible for each bay.
And after a few weeks, I was appointed bay chief of the second floor of the barracks. This also I remember very well. One of my duties as bay chief was to wake up the troops in my bay. Well, I had not been a good example of promptness, in fact, I was late so many times I was almost fired a couple of times from West Penn. I always had to take my final and semifinal tests at school because I was tardy more that three times. But now, one of my duties was to wake up the troops.
The orderly room had a CQ, Charge of Quarters, and he had a runner. He would run over to wake up the various bay chiefs. But much to my amazement, I was never late after that, but
I remember writing to my mother and dad, particularly to my mother, explaining to her that I now was a bay chief, and that because of that I got a class A pass. I was now allowed to go off the base any time I wanted to, I was spared KP duty, guard duty, and any other kind of duty, really, and that one of my responsibilities was to wake up the men in the morning. I remember her reply, she wrote back saying, "Good Lord, we have lost the war".
It was while I was at Chanute that I got the very sad news, about one or 2 o'clock in the morning, a telegram from Red Cross, actually from my brother, telling me of the death of my mother. She was hit by an automobile and fatally injured on Sept 22, 1942.
Incidentally, just on labor day, I had been home really illegally, because of that class A pass. I had gotten a ride home, and I wasn't supposed to be more that 30 miles from the base, but I took a chance, and never regretted it, because that was the last time that I saw my mother.
I returned after going home for mother's funeral. It was then early in October when I went back to Chanute Field. I was delayed just one phase before graduation, so I actually finished my air mechanics training just 12 days later than I would have otherwise.
We were, about 200 of us, shipped out to Bowman Field, which I found to be an induction center. So with about 6 + to 7 months service, I was actually one of the veterans. I was pulled out as a drill instructor. Actually, I was about to become what we called permanent party at Bowman Field, as a drill instructor. This suited me fine, I liked that kind of work, I liked to think that I was proficient in it, and this is because of my training in England. When I was just a child, we did far more complicated close order drill marching while I was just in the first three grades of school in England than I ever got in the army.
I remember one amusing experience I had. There was a Corporal Hlatkey. He had a very military bearing. I don't know how much you know about close order drill, but it is actually not an unpleasant experience as long as you have a drill instructor who knows how to give commands. I have had some that gave commands on the wrong foot, and the whole squad or platoon, or whatever you call your group is really a mess.
But this man was very, very good, and he was a supervisor. He was not our drill instructor, he had to oversee several squadrons. There were 45 men in a squadron, 3 files of 15 men each. On this particular day, he had taken over our squadron, and I happened to be the front end man, so that when we were going in our normal director, I was the first man in the first column.
We were marching, and this Cpl. Hlatkey gave the command right oblique, and we executed it, and then he gave us to the rear march. I hesitated a bit, but every one else executed it, so I did too. Well then he gave us a left flank, and a right flank, and about this time, the whole squadron began to disintegrate and permeate through the whole drill area, and I ended up standing right in front of Cpl. Hlatkey.
Now he was speaking to the whole group, but he was looking at me when he said it. "Don't you guys know where you're going?" And in as much as he was looking at me, I sort of figured he expected an answer, and so I said, "I know where I should be going." So he asked me where, and I pointed out the direction, and he indicated that I was wrong.
So, I wasn't willing to just let it drop at that, so I told the Cpl. that after he had given the right oblique command, when he gave the command "To the rear, march", I should have just continued, but I didn't because everyone else made the turn.
And he asked why I would have ignored one of his commands, I said that, according to the drill manual, you are not allowed to give that command after the right oblique command. Then, after giving it a moment's thought, I went on to say that the only other commands that could have been given were "forward march", another was "halt", and the third one "in place halt". Then I added that the fourth one was "gas", which can be given any time.
He told me that I was completely wrong and that he could give any command he wanted any time he wanted to. Well, I wasn't about to argue too much with him, I had argued enough already, and I just shrugged my shoulders as much to say, "Well, if that's the way you want it, but that's not the way it is."
Anyway, right after that he turned us back to our regular drill Sgt., and I saw him walk away. It was just a few minutes later that he came back and he told the drill instructor to bring us to a halt. So Cpl. Hlatkey came over and he stood right in front of me, and he said, "What's your name, soldier?" and I thought, oh brother, here I go again. I gave him my name, and he said, well, I gave you a bad time in front of all these guys, so I am going to apologize in front of all these guys. He said that he had gone over to the Lt. in the middle of the field, and they discussed it, and they decided that I was right.
He asked me if I could drill the squadron, and I said I could, so I stepped out and he stepped in my place.
I remember that when he stepped in, he did not step in at attention, but he was just standing there very much at ease. The entire squadron was at attention except for him. Well, my first reaction was to call everyone to attention, that would get him to attention, and I would have no problems. But I decided that he had been a pretty good sport, and I was going to try to stretch it a little bit further, I walked up to him and I said to him, "Soldier, when you fall in, you fall in at attention.", and he started to say something, and I said, "And you don't talk." Boy, he snapped to like nobody's business.
I marched the squadron off for about 10 or 15 minutes, I brought them back to a halt, and I walked over to him, and asked him if it was enough, and he said that it was. So, as a result of that, they pulled me out as drill instructor, but then they found out that that was forbidden because I had had technical training in air mechanics school. I was somewhat disappointed, but ...
I eventually shipped out of Bowman Field to Ardmore Air Force Base. We arrived there a week or ten days before Thanksgiving in 1942. We found out that Ardmore Army Air Base was a field not yet completed, but that it was going to be a glider pilot school, and a glider mechanics school. We had no duties to perform, really, but we were in the 418th Air Base Squadron. This was to be the administration squadron for the airbase once it got started.
During one morning fall out, the first Sgt. asked for volunteers to work for the Post Exchange. We had all been in the army long enough to know that you don't volunteer, so the Sgt. picked about seven of us, and I was one of the ones that he picked. I was the first one he picked, in fact, because I had told him in a earlier conversation that I had worked in a drug store and a restaurant, and this PX was to be a restaurant. So that was the start of about 7 months, really. We worked as waiters.
After about a month of that I was called in to Lt. McGuire, who was the PX officer, and I was told that I was to be in charge of the rest of the GI's, because he didn't want all of them reporting to the civilian manager. He had picked another man, an army man, for the job, but he pulled him off and gave me the job, so I spent the next 6 months or so running the PX restaurant with the help of some 15 or 16 GI's. It was there that I made Cpl. by the first of Jan, buck Sgt. by the first of April, and then the 1st of Sept made staff Sgt.
The base slowly was approaching completion, we had other men on the field, we had in fact 400 glider pilots and 600 glider mechanics, and then we got one glider. The only thing this glider did was to provide an assignment for about half a dozen men every windy night, when they would send 6 or 8 men down to hold the glider down so that it would not blow away. It never operated as a glider school, really. We were in the 2nd A.F, the 3rd A.F, we had B-26's for a while, but chiefly we had B-17's for most of the time that we were there.
It was decided that I should not be working at the Post Exchange, all the GI's had been replaced with women, mostly wives of the GI's. I was the last to leave the PX, but I was given a job in the orderly room as a duty Sgt. for just a relatively short time.
Bearing in mind that I was trained as an air mechanic, my job naturally would be in the alert crew as a mechanic. We had an adjutant by the name of John Snider. When we started it was Lt. Snider, then it became captain, the last I heard of him he was a full Col. He was the operations officer, so he transferred me from the orderly room to the operations, where my classification was changed to a 791, which was an air operations specialist.
My duty, along with about 6 others was to check flight plans of planes taking off from Ardmore. We had a whole squadron of B-17's where crew men were being trained. We had nothing to do with that, but the administrative planes, personnel, and visitors were our responsibility.
It was while I was on that job that the Lord saw fit to provide me with two sons, almost exactly a year apart.
When I mention two sons, then I had better mention that on Sept. 27, 1943 your mother and I were married in McDonald. We went to Cleveland for a very short honeymoon. I came back to Ardmore, found a place, a little apartment, which I moved into, and your mother moved down to Ardmore about six weeks later.
We were very happy in Ardmore, it was a friendly little town. In fact, I was voted an honorary citizen of Ardmore. It happened at the civic arena. They were having a bond drive there, putting on a show, and I was to sing a couple of numbers. There was something I wanted to do that I didn't want to spend the evening at the show.
I asked Phil Bell, who was in charge of the program to put me on early. I was about the third one on, sang a couple of numbers, and started to leave. The arena was a large recreation hall with portable chairs, and along three of the sides there were concrete steps forming seats.
I was leaving after doing my number, and got about half way down the hall when I heard my name over the PA system. I turned, and here it was Phil Bell at the mike who asked me to wait a minute, then he addressed himself to the crowd and said that I had cooperated with bond drives and various churches in town, that he thought it would be nice if they made me an honorary citizen. This, of course, was very unofficial, but I felt ten feet high and two feet small at the same time, I guess.
I had made quite a lot of friends. In fact, I considered staying in Ardmore after the war was over, and did go down to see a Mr. Clough, the district manager of the Oklahoma gas and electric company. He was prepared to offer me a job when I told him about my experience, but then we started to talk salary, I mentioned to him that when I left West Penn, I was making $135 a month in 1942. He said that that was about the salary that he was prepared to pay me. Well, that was disappointing, because I figured that I would be getting at least $25 or $30 more after this 3 + years.
Well, then I got to thinking that I would be the last man there, and when the military started coming back, I would be the low man on the totem pole. By this time I had about ten years service with West Penn, which doesn't sound like a great deal now, but did back then. Well, in any case, as you know, I decided against staying in Ardmore, and came back to West Penn.
I was to spend just about three years at Ardmore. The war was pretty much petered out, but I will never forget the day Paul Manrow, who was one or our neighbors,... There were three neighbors, Paul and Janet Manrow, Frank and Louise Ramer, and your mother and I, and we lived in three little apartments in this one little bungalow. Paul was in classification or personnel, and he came down to the office where I was working and he was on his way home, but I was just starting work. He asked if he could talk to me outside. I didn't know what to expect, but I knew that he was upset.
We went outside and he was just about in tears. He explained that a request had come through for a staff Sgt. 791, and I was the only one on the base. Paul said that he had talked to the personnel officer and wanted to send a tech Sgt., which would have been my boss, Hugh Gwaltney, and I explained to Paul that I wouldn't want that at all. Tom was about due, this was June, I believe, and Tom was to be born that August.
That evening, I went over to see Paul, and Janet said, "For heaven's sake, don't even tease Paul, because he couldn't even eat his supper", because you were about nine months at the time and we were waiting for Tom.
wcp0212So anyway, I did leave, and I went to Kearns, Utah, which was at Salt Lake City. It was at that time that I was able to visit the Mormon Tabernacle. Oddly enough I don't remember too much about it except that I was quite impressed. From there I went to Vancouver barracks in Washington. I was there only a few days when we got shipping orders.
I was telling everybody that we would never see the boat because there was a rumor going about that V.J. day had already happened, but eventually we did sail on the 20th of August, 1944  and we arrived in Honolulu on the 26th.
Tom was to have arrived in about that time, in fact, the doctor had predicted the 26th or the 27th, I think. I went down to the Red Cross, reasoning that if I started any inquiry from my end that if there was any news in Ardmore that I would find out about it more quickly.
That afternoon we had mail call, and I received a letter for each of the 6 days it took us to get across the Pacific, and finally the telegram that was to announce that Thomas Hivick had been born on the 22nd.
We were stationed for the first few days at the 13th replacement center in a little village called Wahiawa, and then we eventually transferred to Wheeler Field which was at Skofield Barracks. We were there just a short time and I was assigned to a B24 outfit on the other side of the island at a place called Kohuko. I was one of three replacements for the operations office, and being the ranking non-com, I was put in charge, which didn't mean much except that one of my duties was to check the personnel records, or the 201 file, to see how long each person had been in grade to see if they were ready for promotion.
I realize now that I couldn't have done it very often because I was in the islands only two months, but I do remember looking at the 201 file on one occasion for all the men in the squadron. On the opposite page from where that information was available was the civilian occupation and salary, and would you believe it, but there was only one man in the squadron that had been making more money than I was as a civilian, and he was making only a couple of dollars a month more.
We were watching the bulletin board to see when we would be shipping out. At that time, with the birth of Tom, I had 85 points, and they were discharging people with that many points. It was not too long before I saw my name on a shipping list, and I found myself coming home to the states on a Navy flat top.
Again it took 6 days, and I was assigned no jobs or duties by virtue of being one of the top three grades. The men that were coming back home were separated into groups of 10, and then a ranking of those 10 or 11 was put in charge. This was simply to keep track of men in case someone fell overboard, but we had no duties.
The ten of us were sitting on board of the flight deck and one of them said, "Boy, just think, tomorrow we'll be stateside", and it was 18 months since he had been stateside. Well, someone else spoke up and said that it had been 24 months, somebody else had 26 months, and so forth, and soon everybody had spoken but me, and the Sgt. in charge, who knew some of my background, asked how long it had been for me, and I said 72. Everybody was surprised, and someone said, "Why, that means that your were here when they hit Pearl!", and I said, "No, 72 days." I think they almost threw me off the ship.
We landed in Los Angeles, but I remember nothing about it. We landed about 4:00 in the morning, we were put into trucks and taken to some army barracks, and then about 4:00 the next morning we left on a train. From there, I was sent to Fort Smith, Ark - Camp Chaffe. Here again, I don't remember how many days, but it was only a matter of days, before I received my discharge. I received my discharge on Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1945.
We had made arrangements for your mother, and you, and now Tom to stay in Ardmore until I got out of the service. So, I was headed back to Ardmore to pick up my family. I also remember that it was a Sunday, because, loaded with my two barracks bags, I got a ride into the town of Fort Smith. I stopped at the ELks well prepared for a beer, but the club had lost its license so I had a Coke. I took the train to Ardmore.