I read the printout of the tape that I had prepared for you, and couldn't help think "What greater ego hath any man?" Someone once said that a bore is someone who talks about himself when you want to talk about your self. I've really had my fill the last hour or two. There were a few experiences that I had that apparently I hadn't thought of when I was making the earlier tapes, so I'll try to fit them in chronologically.
During the time I lived on Kenneth Avenue we lived in the upstairs in a duplex over the Clarkins. Well, during that time, and it was in the summer, incidentally, I learned the truth about Santa Claus. I had a friend, a neighbor, Billy Held, who had a scooter. It was a tubular frame scooter. I had never seen one like it, and I wanted it. I had a pair of roller skates that Billy wanted, and we decided to trade. We went to Billy's house to get his scooter and told his mother what we had decided. She suggested that Billy Pringle should check with his mother first.
I went over to my mother and told her that I wanted to swap my roller skates for Billy's scooter. She wanted to know why, and I told her simply that I wanted the scooter, and she remarked that I had wanted the roller skates when I had gotten them. Finally, she said, almost in desperation, "Well, I declare. We bought you wagons, we bought you roller skates, we bought you this, we bought you that ...", and I stopped her and said "You have? I thought Santa Claus had bought those." Well, she laughed and said something to the effect that it was time I knew the truth.
Incidentally, I must have been somewhere around twelve years old at the time. Well, anyway, I finally did get my scooter.
Later, in fact the next Christmas, was to be the first Christmas without my Santa Claus. In earlier Christmases I had my brother and sister to help with the excitement, but we never had a Christmas Tree. My mother and Dad would hide the presents around the house, and we would get up while it was still dark and grope around finding the presents. So this particular Christmas morning, I awakened and just laid in bed; after all, there was no reason to get up. But my mother called to me from her room, and asked why I didn't go down stairs. And I thought that was kind of cruel.
Actually, it wasn't like my mother to be that heartless, I thought. So I mumbled something about what was the use, and she kept insisting, "Well, you better go down and take a look. Well, I thought maybe there was something to this, so I went down stairs, and the way the house was arranged, I got to the bottom of the stairs, made a right turn and went into a dining room, across the dining room, looked in the Kitchen, then came across another part of the dining room into the living room, then back through the hall to the bottom of the stairs. And I found no presents.
Well, that was very disappointing, because I felt that my mother was just making fun of me now. So I went back up to bed without any comment at all until she called me again. And she said I ought to go down, and take another look. Well, at her insistence I did go down and there in the dining room, leaning against the wall was a Flexible Flyer Junior Racer sled. It was a sled to end all sleds. This is what I wanted for a long time, and I was getting it this Christmas. Anyone who had a Flexible Flyer of any kind was certainly considered one of the best on the hill. And to have a Flexible Flyer Junior Racer, Gee that was just under the Racer Racer, which was about seven feet long.
But anyway I was very happy.
I remember quite well that this particular Christmas was on a Sunday, there was snow on the ground, but lo and behold, because it was a Sunday, I wasn't allowed to take the sled out. I pestered my mother and dad all day, but they held fast; after all, the Sabbath was a day of rest, and not a day for having fun, so to speak. However, just after dark, they finally broke down and said, O.K. I was allowed to take the sled out just for a short while, and only on the sidewalk next to our house.
Incidentally, I remember many, many years later, I went down town in Greensburg and bought a Flexible Flyer for my kids. It didn't carry the name Junior Racer, but it was really the same sled; they just dropped the title, I guess. You already had a Lightning Guider, and much to my dismay, the whole family preferred the Lightning Guider to my famous Flexible Flyer. Well, what do kids know, anyway?
Incidentally, when that little incident with the sled happened, I lived on Leishman Avenue right around the corner from the school. I was in sixth or seventh grade at the time. But just about that time also, something happened that really could have been quite historic as far as Bill Pringle was concerned, involving Kenny Bradshaw, who is your Uncle A.J.'s brother, but who was also a friend of mine. It was sometime in May and he asked me if I wanted to go swimming. The swimming hole, or the swimming place was in the Allegheny River right behind the American Window Glass.
Well, I knew that if I asked my mother, she would say no, because it was too early in the year, so I went upstairs, put my bathing suit on and then dressed and came out. Kenny went to his home, and threw his bathing suit out the window to me, and together we went down to the river. When we reached there, there was quite a crowd swimming, and it wasn't too bad. This, of course, was the first time in for the year. I had always considered myself a fairly decent swimmer, but within a few seconds after we hit the water, we decided to swim out to a raft that was anchored perhaps 100, 150 feet out from the shore.
Actually, it was somewhat tiring to reach the raft, and as soon as we got there a whole bunch of kids came and they started rolling the raft over. It was just a little too much for me and I wasn't having a good time, so I started to swim back to shore. I remember my arms were like lead, and I swam to the point where I was looking at the shore figuring I don't know whether I could touch down or not. But I kept swimming, kept swimming (I wasn't moving very much), but I was going through the motions. Kenny, incidentally, was a few yards behind me. And I came to the point where I thought I could touch bottom. But when I let my feet down, however, I touched bottom all right, but my head was under water. Well, now it took a great deal of effort to get back into position where I could swim. I did, with considerable effort, and then again tried to touch the bottom, and again I couldn't.
Well, I was done; there was no reason for me to swim; well, there was every reason for me to swim, but there was no way for me to swim at all. And to this day, I am firmly convinced that if it hadn't been that Kenny Bradshaw was just a few yards behind me I wouldn't be dictating this today.
However I also remember that I didn't panic, in fact, I didn't want anyone to know that I was in trouble except Kenny, who was right behind me. I called to him and he put on a little speed and got underneath me and just lifted me by the buttocks and walked with me just a few steps on the bottom of the river bed, as long as he could hold his breath, and then he just gave me a toss, more or less, towards the shore, and oh, what a feeling it was when I lowered myself this time, and just the tip of my toe touched the sand. I had to crane my neck to keep my mouth above the water, but I was so relieved.
It was years later, when we heard about Kenny Bradshaw's death incidentally. He had had a stroke later in life, and I was working at the time, and I couldn't see any way that I could get to Kenny's funeral until your mother reminded me of this little incident. So needless to say, your mother, and K.C., and I did go to the funeral. And it was at his funeral that I saw what I considered, maybe a little schmaltzy, but something I kind of liked, but the minister, as they lowered the casket into the grave sprinkled a little earth, and I found that that earth was from England. Incidentally, I have a little bit of English earth and I hope that someone does that for me.
If I'm not mistaken, you have two tapes, and only one have you sort of made a print of. The other one, I don't really remember everything that's on it, but I don't think I covered telling of mother's death. In any case, I was in Chanute Field. I had been in the service since April 27, and this happened on Sept. 22, 1942. I happened to be the bay chief in my barracks, had a private room at the end of the barracks. I was sleeping and if I remember correctly, it was 2:30 or 3:00 when the runner came over from the orderly room came over to waken me. When he did, he made some comment that there was some telephone call and I was supposed to go over and take the message; then he added, undoubtedly to prepare me, "I think it is bad news."
So when I went over to the Orderly room, I picked up the phone, and identified myself and it was someone from the Red Cross. He said, "Are you alone," and I said, no, the CQ is here, and he said, "are you standing?" and I said yes, and he said "Well, sit down". I was getting a little impatient with him about this time, and I asked him if he would please just give me the message. Of course it was a telegram through the Red Cross, from my brother indicating that Mother had been in an accident and had died at 5 minutes after midnight.
Well, I got home for the funeral, and this was the first funeral in our family. I had always criticized these funerals where the deceased were put on display and people walked by, but somehow my whole attitude changed. My mother was laid out (that's a heck of an expression) in the living room of our home on 422 Freeport Street in New Kensington. But I went to answer the door, and at the door were two little girls, about 9 and 6, and the 6 year old was the spokesman, spokes person I guess, but she wanted to know if they could see Mrs. Pringle. So I let them into the living room, they went over and stood next to the casket, and the littlest girl started to cry and said that Mrs. Pringle always used to talk to them as they walked by when she was out on the porch.
It was about 16 months later when I got the second telegram. By this time I was married. Your mother and I were living in Ardmore, Oklahoma. I learned that Dad had died at the home of A.J. and Ethel in Cleveland. They are both buried in the grave yard of the old Parnassus Presbyterian Church in New Kensington. Just for the record, Mother died on Sept. 22, 1942, and Dad on December 7, 1943.
Well, those are the only notes that I made to fit into your earlier tapes, so we will try to pick up from the time that you were born.
Actually, the 418 Air Base Squadron landed in Ardmore about a week before Thanksgiving, 1942. We heard rumors that the people of Ardmore were not very happy about having the Air Base just outside their gates, but the experience that I had, and that we had, certainly didn't bear out that rumor, because by Thanksgiving day, I had received no less than eight invitations for Thanksgiving dinner. I had accepted the first one, of course, and this was given by Mr. and Mrs. Stayton, and she was to be the director of the USO. Also with the USO was a Faye Shores, and a Gwen Fulmer. These three ladies went out of their way to make all of us at home. I was also to meet up with a Mamie and Lee Murphy. I happened to be in a restaurant one evening, and this couple sat beside me. They were a few years older than I, maybe ten years older. But the lady came over and introduced herself, and asked if I was Pringle; it seems that I had sung in her church. That led to quite a close friendship for the many months that I was to stay in Ardmore, particularly up to the time I was married.
I am reasonably sure that I have, on the earlier tape, made whatever comments I thought appropriate about my stay in Ardmore, including the fact that I worked for Mr. Sprecklemier, who had a print shop there, and who, eventually, became the God Father for Tom.
In August of 1944, the doctor had predicted that we were to become parents on the 17th, but the 17th came and went with no event. The following week, Paul Manrow, along with his wife, Janet, who lived in the same little bungalow with us, when he came back from the base, he would come up to your mother and say, "Is you is or is you ain't."
And it wasn't until the 24th, and Oh, how well I remember. Your mother awakened me in the early hours, and said something was happening. Of course, I got all excited, wanted to get up and call the doctor, but she said, no, she didn't think it was that far along yet. But the next thing I know, she got out of bed, went over and called the doctor herself. I heard her talking to him, but the net result was that we got your mother in the hospital, about 9:30 in the morning.
When I started to dictate this, it seemed to remember that we borrowed Mrs. Hivick's car, but now I'm not sure. In any case, we got your mother to the hospital. She was taken away from me and put in a room where I was allowed to visit in a few minutes, but it was right around noon or half past twelve when she went into the delivery room. She was only in there about thirty five minutes, and Mrs. Hivick came out holding the most beautiful baby I had ever seen, and I'm not joking. That little baby looked to be about nine months old. I had seen a few newly born babies, and they were always wrinkled and red, but not this one. Well, we already had his name picked out, of course, and that was William Robert.
One of the early things we had to do, of course, was to have him baptized. His God Parents are his Aunt Mary, and his Uncle Bill. I suppose we have talked about this before, but do you know that Mrs. Hivick stood as proxy for your Aunt Mary at your baptism, and a friend of mine, a fellow soldier from the base by the name of Jim Litvinik I asked to stand for your Uncle Bill as your Godfather. Litvinik lived in a place called Treveskin, which is outside of Bridgeville. I've seen him once since I've been home, but I learned later that he is a teacher where Art Vaughan went to high school, so he was one of his teachers.
This little bungalow that we lived in, at one time it was just that: a little bungalow, but the owner had divided it into three two room apartments. I say two rooms: the living room was also the bedroom, and then a kitchen. The building was T shaped, and each of the three ends of the T was an apartment. Frank and Louise Ramer lived in the other front room, and Paul and Janet Manrow lived in the one in the rear. We became quite good friends.
When we were expecting you, the Ramer's were also expecting. You have to know Frank to appreciate him, he was constantly talking about having a boy. He always contended that every time a boy was born, it lowered the odds of his having a boy, or his wife having a boy. So every once in a while, we would find a pink ribbon tied to our door knob, indicating that he wanted us to have a girl. But they shipped out to some place in Nebraska or Kansas just about two weeks before your mother went into the hospital, and before Louise was due to go into the hospital. But the day after you were born, I picked up a letter from my mail box from Frank, and he said something to the effect that Louise had gone into the hospital just a few days earlier, with the original plans of having a baby boy, but he went on to say that when he took Louise into the hospital, as she walked into the room, she turned to him and said, "Let's have a girl," and he said, "O.K., go ahead." So they had a little girl, and this letter, of course, was to tell me so.
Also close to us was a Mr. and Mrs. Abrams. Actually, they were our land lord and land lady, and they lived diagonally across the street. They were quite good friends; they were not in our social strata. They were quite a bit better off, but they had us for dinner about the time that I was shipping out. I'm sure you heard a lot of criticism about Jewish people. These people were Jewish, and when I was eventually shipped out, Mr. Abrams got me to one side, and said he knew there was no use telling me not to worry about Pauline and Billy, because I would worry anyway. But he said there was one thing I didn't have to worry about was the rent, and he immediately lowered it $5 a month. I think we were only paying $40, and it was lowered to $35 when I shipped out. They were also the ones that asked if we would send them your first pair of shoes after you were finished with them, and they would have them bronzed, but somehow we never did have it done.
You remember [our dog] Duffy, of course. Well, that name came from a Chow (at least Louise said it was a Chow - it didn't look much like one). She bought this Chow for Frank's birthday, and it became a pet for all of us. It was a weird little pup. For instance, there was a little Fox Terrier that lived around the corner, and this little Fox Terrier used to chase Duffy away from his own food dish. When Frank and Louise shipped out, they asked me if I wanted to keep Duffy. Well, by this time of course, you were almost born, and while I liked Duffy, I just didn't think it was right to ask your mother to take care of a dog, so we didn't take it. The lady who worked for the Abrams said that she would take it, so the dog was taken over to them.
I remember one day, I was working day turn, and I came home from the base and found your mother in the kitchen preparing dinner. She was crying, and this irritated me (this was before you were born, incidentally) to see her get emotionally involved, and I wanted to know what was the matter. She started to tell me that Duffy had been given to Patsy, the lady that had taken the dog. The new tenants where the Ramers moved out were Jack and Rosemary (right now I can't think of their last name).
Your mother went on to say that she was out in the front yard and Duffy was running around, and this Jack came up to your mother and said that Duffy had gotten out of the yard at Abram's house and he couldn't get hold of him. Knowing that the dog would go directly to your mother, he asked her if she would catch him. So your mother said, she would take him over. She just called to Duffy and walked up to the house where the Abrams lived, and Duffy trotted faithfully at her side. She said that she opened the gate, walked into the back yard, Duffy followed her. She stepped outside and closed the gate, and Duffy sat down and looked at her so dejected as much as to say, "Boy, I thought I could trust you." and she started to cry. In the meantime, I started to cry to, but I was in the same breath scolding her about getting upset over some "dumb dog" that wasn't even ours.
Well, about an hour later, it was after dinner, I was sitting out in the front, and I saw Duffy. He came over and I petted him, and Jack came down and said that the darnn dog got out again, would I please catch him so he could take it back up to the yard. I did exactly what you mother did, I said, "Oh, I'll take him up," so I trotted up and Duffy came after me, into the yard, I turned around, closed the gate, and the dog looked at me the same way, and I reacted the same way. So I went back and went in to tell your mother what happened, and we stood there like two dumb kids: arms around each other, bawling our brains out. I guess the expression is bawling our eyes out, isn't it?
Mrs. Hivick, of course, the lady across the street, became our Aunt Stella. I don't know if you remember visiting her back in 1953-4. Well K. C. was born, so you had to be five or six. Aunt Stella had a coal black dog. In fact, because of his color, it was called Pennsylvania; its call name was Penna. It was named because he was coal black, and coal was from Pennsylvania, and her husband had been in the coal business and gas business in Pennsylvania.
Dad - I remember she came to Pennsylvania once, and we visited with her and gave her a ride somewhere. I remember her talking about all the signs that had her dog's name on them: Penna. this and Penna. that. (Penna had died by this time) I also remember staying with her in Ardmore, Oklahoma during the summer of 1955? 57? when we went back to Ardmore to visit.
Well, needless to say, this what quite a new thing for us: with our new baby boy. Everybody in Ardmore made a big fuss over you. I remember one occasion where I had been invited to sing at a Professional and Business Women's Bond Drive fashion show. Because of this, I was invited to sing at the Carter Seminary. This was a school for Indian Girls; they had to be at least 1/8 Indian. This was not a welfare school, the parents or whomever were quite wealthy.
I went out to the Carter Seminary along with a Sergeant Ramez. Ramez was a magician, and very good, too. He did slight of hand and card tricks; I was unprepared for what was to happen. I thought that someone out there would be acting as master of ceremonies, or mistress of ceremonies, and would merely introduce me, I would sing my couple of songs, allow for an encore, and that would be all. Prior to the show going on, but after we arrived, I was asking one of the ladies who seemed to be one of the heads, what kind of music these girls liked. Incidentally, they were from six or seven years old up through sixteen. Her answer was "Oh, anything that you might hear on the radio today." I made a comment, "Oh, Frank Sinatra type?" and she laughed and said she didn't think they knew who Frank Sinatra was. Anyway, the show was turned over to me, and I sang a couple, was fairly well received, and I asked if there were any requests. The first one was Shoo, Shoo, Baby. Of course, you have no way of knowing, but that was one of Frank Sinatra's early big numbers. The star of the show, however, was Sergeant Ramez with his magic tricks. We were going down the stairway after the show was over, and we were greeted by about ten of the sixteen year olds, and they gathered all around us. They insisted on Ramez doing some card tricks. If you ever stood on a stair way with your audience completely around you trying to do card tricks, or sleight of hand tricks, that's really something.
Anyway, because of that evening, I was invited to take my family out to their Christmas party, and of course we went. Well, when we walked into the door, all these Indian girls gathered around and started shouting about the white baby. We turned our white baby over to them, and that's the last we saw you until we were ready to go home.
We were to stay there in Ardmore until June or July of 1945, because your mother was pregnant with Tom at the time. Of course, we didn't know it was Tom. I was at the office when Paul Manrow stopped. He was in Personnel. I thought he was going to take me home, but he made some comment about wanting to talk to me in private. He seemed to be disturbed. I couldn't think of what was the matter. We went outside, and he hemmed and hawed, and finally said that the shipping list had come through requesting that one 791 (that's an Air Operations Specialist) Staff Sergeant to ship out into the Pacific some place, and I was the only one on the base. He even said he had tried to get me promoted to Tech Sergeant, and then he wanted to substitute my boss, Hugh Gualtney, but I wouldn't have appreciate that.
I knew how he felt, because he knew that we were expecting our second, we had become very close, so there was nothing to do but try to put his mind at ease. Of course when I got home, I told Pauline, and then later went around back to tell Paul. Janet answered and asked me if I would please not kid Paul about it, because he was so upset he hadn't eaten dinner and couldn't talk. Well, anyway, I left somewhere in July. But I know that you were asleep in your play pen on the porch the morning I left. I took a picture of you sleeping there, and its in one of our albums someplace.
Of course I left, and hitch hiked to Oklahoma City where I tried to catch a plane, but I wasn't able to. I took a train and I was going to Kearns Utah, which is just outside Salt Lake City. I don't really remember much about Kearns Utah. I do remember Salt Lake City, visiting the Tabernacle, which was quite close to the Elks, if I remember correctly. We were there just a couple of weeks, and this is where we had what they called our 'Overseas Staging', preparing us to go overseas. I left Kearns, Utah, and went to Washington Barracks near Portland Oregon, although it was in Washington, if I remember. I remember practically nothing about that. We were there just a few days. Eventually we shipped out from Oregon on a converted tanker, not knowing where we were going.
There had been a false rumor about VJ day, and I was telling everybody we would never see the boat, but here we were. After we were aboard, we were told we were going to Hawaii. There were a group of entertainers on board that ship. I remember a Tom Dillan, who had a real high, Irish Tenor voice. I saw him once on the Arthur Godfrey talent show, but nothing else became of it. I think one of the things I remember about that trip was seeing a rainbow in the middle of the Pacific. The rainbow wasn't the traditional semi circle or arc on the horizon; it was a complete circle.
We landed August 26 in Honolulu. Our first assignment was to the thirteenth replacement center near the village of Wahiawa. I was to learn that Hawaiian is probably one of the simplest languages to pronounce. Every letter is pronounced. There are no combinations like our ch, and sh, gh, and so forth. So every letter of every letter is pronounced individually just as in this one: Wa-Hee-a-wa. Incidentally, the name Hawaii is correctly Ha-wa-ee-ee, pronouncing both the I's.
When we got to the thirteenth replacement center, we had been aboard ship for six days. Most of the guys were talking about the first thing they would do would to get a fresh water shower. About that time it was 4:00, 4:30. I looked out of the window, down the grade and I saw them open the PX. I decided the first thing I was going to do was have a beer. When I went down, however, I found I had to get into a line. I swear that line was about half a mile. You moved up, single file until you got to the window of the PX, where you were allowed to buy just one beer. It was customary that when you got your beer, you just walked back to the end of the line and you drank it while you worked your way up to the window a second time. In spite of the fact that I hadn't had a beer for six days, I did get the second one, but you know I couldn't finish it; it tasted so terrible.
I went back to the area, and they were having mail call, so I stood there with the crowd waiting for my name. It was called seven times: I got six letters, one for every day on the ship, and a telegram. The letters, of course, were from your mother, so I put them in post mark order; the telegram was last. And I opened that, and it was from Mrs. Hivick and carried the message "Thomas Hivick arrived O.K. August 22. Everybody fine. Love, Aunt Stella." I believe that's verbatim.
Incidentally, that's the first I heard of the name Tommy Hivick, when I had left, your mother and I had agreed that if the child were a little boy we would call him Thomas for my brother. We hadn't picked a second name, and I told your mother she could pick any name she liked. I found out later, in fact, I think I found out in one of the letters, that when your mother was taken into the hospital she was told she had a little boy, and she started to cry because she had wanted a little girl. So Mrs. Hivick made the comment, "O.K, I'll take the little baby, he could be Tommy Hivick," so that's what he was, of course: Tommy Hivick. Incidentally, Aunt Stella's his Godmother, along with Mr. Sprecklemier as I mentioned earlier.
We were on the island for two months, from the thirteenth replacement center in Wahiawa we were sent to Wheeler Field, which is the base at Skofield Barracks. I don't really remember how long we were at each of these. Actually, we were without assignment until after Wheeler Field. Eventually assigned to Kuhuku, which is on the opposite side of the island of Oahu. And there was a B-24 base, and I found myself working in the Operations there. Two other men were assigned there with me to replace the staff being released. It just so happened that I was the ranking non-com, so I was put in charge. One of the other two was a fellow from Brooklyn, a Jewish boy, I don't remember his name - Schwartz or Shultz comes to mind, but I'm not sure. The other fellow was a Texan named Smith. Both were all right, except for this Texan who used to drive me up the wall about his complaining about being in the service, and how if he had been home, he would have been making all this money. It was a nuisance; I guess everyone expects a GI to gripe, but he did it constantly.
I was somewhat amused; one of my duties as the operations manager was to review the personnel records of the entire squadron. Personnel records were identified in the Army as a 201 file; so every month I had to go to personnel and I would get all the 201 files. In one of my first experiences at this, I found that when you opened a 201 file, which was a small book, opposite the page that indicated when the last change of rank was made, was the civilian occupation and earnings. Well, when I had entered the Army I was making $135 a month, which is $31 something a week; after checking the personnel files for the entire squadron, I found there was only one man in the squadron making more money that I was, and he was getting $37 dollars a week. But this Smitty, who was griping about all the money he would be making, was hired as a parking lot attendant for $18 a week. Incidentally, the boy from Brooklyn was listed as hardware clerk, making $25 a week.
I got into Honolulu occasionally. It was sort of a relief. I would usually go out Kameha Meha Avenue to the Honolulu Elks, and there the atmosphere was entirely different. I didn't have any money, but it was comforting just to get away from the military atmosphere. The Honolulu Elks was situated in a large frame mansion. I heard the story that it was built by a Mr. Matson, who had it built for his new bride, but when he brought her to the island, he took her to the mansion, she walked in, walked around the first floor, and said, "I don't really like it," so it was never occupied, and was bought by the Elks. It is necessary any time some one visits the Elks to sign a register. As I went to sign my name on the first visit, I noticed the name immediately above was of a person from Lodge 512, which is New Kensington Elks, my home Lodge at the time. I didn't remember the name of the person, I didn't recognize him, but he lived at an address up in Mount Vernon, which is up in Parnasus, which is where I lived. I was never to meet this person, and have never seen him since. He had gone back home.
The war was over by this time, but I don't really remember and VJ Day, except the one that we had heard falsely reported when we had left the country. By now, there was a point system arranged, and it was necessary to have 87 points to get discharged. There was some sort of formula: I think it was one point per month, and one point for oversees, six points for each dependent, and in any case, with the arrival of Tom, I wound up with 85 points.
While I had a job to do at the Kahukuwa Operations, it was an 8 hour job with plenty of spare time. But every day we checked the bulletin board in front of the Orderly room for the shipping list. Finally I was to see my name and found I was to be sent back aboard a baby flat top. This was quite a relief to me; almost everyone else wanted to fly home, but I didn't want any parts of that flying; it was a little too far for me. There were men shipped back on real small craft, and I was fortunate to find a baby flat top. It was a very pleasant trip; we were arranged in ten men squads; we had no duties for the top three graders, and I was among the top three graders: staff sergeant. I had no duties to pull. We would have sort of a role call once a day. I suppose so if anyone fell overboard we would find out within 24 hours, but there was a master sergeant in charge of the ten of us. We were out on the flight deck the day before we were to reach Los Angeles. I recall one of the men saying it had been 26 months since he had been state side. Well, that started the group to reminiscing; one guy had 18 months, somebody else said twelve months, and this many months and that many months. The master sergeant, who knew a little of my history, commented, "How about you, Pringle," and I said "Seventy Two ..." Everybody gasped, "Seventy Two!! Boy, you were here when they hit Pearl," and I said, "... days." They almost threw me overboard. Actually, that was what it was between leaving the country and coming back. That included sixty days on the island and twelve days on the Pacific.
We landed in the States in Los Angeles about midnight. I remember getting into a truck and being taken to an empty barracks, and given bed clothes, and then about midnight the next night, we were put aboard a train and started east. I don't remember how long, but it seemed like a long time on that train. I remember going through the royal gorge in the rockies, but it was night time. I was lucky, however to have a compartment. It just so happens that the master sergeant in charge was someone I had come to know, and there were room for three in this room at the end of a regular Pullman Coach, so we occupied that. It was a relatively pleasant trip.
I found myself being assigned to Camp Chaffe, at Fort Smith Arkansas. We were there about a week, and I was to get my discharge there on the 11th of November, 1945. And how well I remember I went over to the Chapel where we were to receive our discharges. We were given instructions that we went through a ceremony or ritual when we received the discharges presented by an officer. Normally, when a GI approaches an officer, the first thing he does when he stops is to salute, but we were told not to do this. We were told to approach the officer, just stop in front of him, and put out our left hand; he would place in our left hand, our discharge, then we were to step back and salute. Well, that was real easy, and there would be no reason why anyone would get fouled up in that, but after forty some months of saluting, I got all mixed up and when I got to the captain, he started to reach out with his left hand to give me the diploma, but I saluted. Well, that caused him to withdraw his left hand and started to salute. Meantime, I wanted to correct myself, so I reached out, and of course the diploma wasn't there. So after a few seconds of embarrassment, I finally got it in my hand, saluted, and took off.
My intentions at that time were to stop at a building right across from the chapel, and sign up for the Air Force Reserves. I don't know why, but that is what I planned to do, never thinking of being called up again, but in the excitement of getting my discharge and having it in my hot little hands, I walked right past the building. I don't even remember passing it. Well, I went back to the barracks and loaded all my things. I got a ride into town, then I got a cab and also remember that it was a Sunday, Armistice Day, and I asked the cab driver to take me to the Elks.
Well, it was a little old frame building, sort of a western rural town. The Elks was on the second floor, and I had two large barracks bags. I climbed those stairs with the barracks bags banging the walls, got to the top of the stairway, saw the bell, rang the bell, it was answered, I showed my Elks card, and was immediately made welcome. The first thing I wanted to know, of course, was could I have a beer. I found out that they didn't have a license. They had lost their license for malpractice of some sort, I guess. So I had to go dry that first day.
Dad, is this where you were reading the book, "See Here, Private Hargrove!" ?? (Dad replied: "No, that was between Chicago and Ardmore")
I shipped my barracks bag home, and the train actually got me to Ardmore about 4:00 in the morning. When I stepped into the apartment I had been gone only since the end of July, but this was November, so that was several months. Both you and Tom were sleeping, and I wanted to wake you kids up. Your mother indicated to let you kids sleep, I was home now and I would be home in the morning, and sure enough, I was. I remember waking up the next morning, and I remember looking at the foot of the bed, and there were you standing up in the crib with both hands on the top of the crib and just staring at me; absolutely no expression on your face whatever. I started to talk to you, and thought with a lump in my throat, "Boy, if he doesn't remember me I'll scream or die." So finally, your mother walked into the room and said, "Billy, do you know that's Daddy. That's your Daddy." And you just turned away from me and looked at my picture up on the mantle. Apparently your mother had been talking about me while I was gone and you associated Daddy with that picture. But I got up, went over to the crib, and you just looked at me, no smile, really no expression at all, and you walked away from me to the other side of the crib. Boy, my heart sank. Then all of a sudden, you burst out with a big grin, and came running to me.
In the meantime, Tom was still asleep. He was lying there with his face almost buried in the pillow. I just looked at him, and finally your mother blurted out, "You don't like him!" and she started to cry. Well, of course that wasn't true, I didn't even know him. But then he was awakened and we had a union and a reunion. You might be interested to know that the crib in which he was sleeping had been made for you by me out of three orange crates. I got three orange from one of the local fruit stores (the A&P I guess it was) and I took them apart and put them together to make a good sized crib. Then your mother got some satin and silk, cushioning and such. Actually, it looked quite beautiful with her trim, but underneath there were three orange crates.
Paul and Janet Manrow were still there in the same place, and he was expected his discharge at the end of November, which was that month. They invited us to stick around Ardmore for the next three weeks or so and they would drive all us back home. That was quite a break for us because that was quite easier for us than travelling by public transportation with a fifteen month old and a three month old child, so we took advantage of that.
While we were waiting in Ardmore, I didn't have any civilian clothes, so I decided I would go buy a suit. I went down to the only men's store, and they had only one suit in my size. I don't remember now what size it was, but I remember when I went into the service I wore a 36 short. Whatever I was wearing then, he had only one suit in stock, what we called then a salt and pepper tweed. If you looked closely it looked like specks of white and black, but from a distance it looked just like a gray suit.
I came home real excited, I hadn't had a civilian suit on for almost four years, three and a half years, anyway. I chased your mother out of the room while I put the suit on, and then when I called her I proudly strutted around the room and she broke out in tears. She said it looked awful, and she insisted that I take it back. I was so angry, after all, how could I take it back? the sleeves were shortened to my size, and the cuffs were shorted to my size. So I took the suit off, practically threw it at her, and told her that if she wanted to take it back, she would have to take it back herself. Eventually she did, but they refused to take it, of course. She learned to put up with it; I wore it quite a bit after I came home.
I think it was in the first week of December when Paul, Janet, your mother, you and Tommy and I left Ardmore. I think we were on the road for three nights. Paul and Janet were going to Syracuse. The first time we stopped was at Will Rogers' birth place, Claremont Oklahoma. We stopped at his home; there was a museum there, and drove some distance beyond there. We were pretty far north in Oklahoma at the time. I don't remember the name of the town, but we stopped and it was well after midnight: 2:00, 3:00 in the morning. All the places had no vacancy. We reached this one town, and stopped at the Mason Hotel. Well, that was the first place we stopped. They had two rooms, but when we were shown to our rooms, when the guy opened the room, it had not been made up. It looked like someone had been having a party in there, so we went over and just sat in the room that Janet and Paul had until our room was cleaned up. But when Janet had opened the drawer, someone had left a crust of bread in the drawer and there were bugs all over the place. So the wind up is that we didn't even undress or pull the covers down; we just lay down on top of the bed. We left early in the morning. I don't remember all the places we stopped, but it seemed amusing. We would go to some restaurant, and in some cases night clubs, and asked the proprietor if he would warm up this bottle for my kids.
Dad, didn't Paul Manrow keep saying, "Here comes another hill, Billy" for every hill in West Virginia? (Dad replied: "Yes, the whole trip")
Well, we eventually got to McDonald. Your grand mother Gill, the only grandmother you knew, of course, had a third floor apartment in McDonald across from the hotel where she worked as a governess. So, once again, her family, or at least that part of her family were reunited, but Paul and Janet didn't stay. They decided they were going to continue on, so I went as far as Butler with them to visit Tom and Eva and his family.
I spent one night in Butler and borrowed Tom's car to go back to Pittsburgh. I reported back to the West Penn headquarters at 14 Wood Street, reporting back to work. I got a pleasant surprise: I found out I had two weeks vacation coming, so I didn't have to go to work until the second of January. I was back in town (Springdale) earlier than that. When I reported for work, I was quite flattered. I was sitting in the outer office of the Vice President, Joe Chambers. He walked in and walked right past me and then a few minutes later he came out and said, "Hey, Bill! How are you doing?" and I was real flattered that he remembered, then I realized that what he had done of course was to walk into his office, picked up his phone, talked to his secretary and asked her "Who the heck is that guy out there?" And I am sure that's what happened.
Anyway, I met with Bob Mcburney, who had been my boss earlier, and he asked me if I had any idea what I wanted to do, and I told him I would like to have a crack at the solicitor's job. Well, there were no openings there, but he told me there was an opening as Chief Meter Reader at, of all places, Springdale. That was where I left when I went into the service. Before actually going to work, I happened to be in Springdale, and I stopped to see the folks there. Cece McMahon was the district manager and he told me that I wouldn't have to come to work until the third because January first was a holiday, and I should get an extra day for that. I found out later that he was wrong, but it didn't make any difference to me, I did report on the third to start working back with West Penn Power Company again, and then I learned that they had hired just around Christmas week, a man by the name of Bill Nichols to be my assistant. Bill Nichols had been a friend of mine back as a freshman in high school. We became, as you well know, very, very close, and he ranks very high in my list of friends, both he and his wife Muriel.
I started looking for a place to live in Springdale, and couldn't find a place to rent, and I couldn't afford to buy. Your mother was beginning to pressure me into getting something. After all, she was up in a third floor apartment with two small children, and it wasn't very pleasant for her. It wasn't until July, some seven months, when I finally found a house. I don't know if you remember Springdale or not, you weren't very old - you had to be six years old when we left there.
Yes, Dad I remember a lot about Springdale.
It was at 169 James Street. I think it was in August of that year when I finally bought that house, and moved your mother and you two to Springdale. We didn't have any furniture. Your grandmother gave us some wicker furniture that she had discarded from her barber shop before the war, but it sufficed. In the fall of that year, however, Bill Nichols and I were working up in Tarentum, and happened to see a company car going in the opposite direction. It turned out to be Bob Mcburney, so we stopped. He had recognized the car. He stopped and asked me if I would like to take over the job of rerouting. This is the job where I had met Bob. I had been working with this Oates Hecker, and Bob and I were working as a meter reader, and this Oates had the rerouting job. Well, he was replaced by Bob Mcburney so then I was working for Bob on that job. Now he was offering to me supervisor of this rerouting job. It was a temporary job, but it was a promotion, so there I was again with my wife and family safely housed in Springdale, and off I went to the various parts of the West Penn System. I was on that job until the fall of 1948.
In the mean time, it was Augfust 30th of 1948 when K. C. was born. Your mother had a little different time with her. I took her to the hospital in the morning, around 9:30 I think it was, but K.C. wasn't born until 9:30 that evening. While this was going on, your grandmother was staying with us to watch after you two.
I was amused to find the following day that as I started to walk to the office that one of the girls at the A&P was standing outside and congratulating me while I hadn't talked to anyone except your grandmother. She said, "I hear you have a baby girl." and I said yes, but how in the world did you know? she was just born last night. She said, "Oh, Tommy and Billy were running up and down James Street shouting 'We have a baby sister, we have a baby sister'." This was long before it happened.
Dad: I remember getting a phone call from you at the hospital telling Tommy and me that we had a baby sister. Her name was to be Kathleen Charlotte, but we were going to call her K. C. Of course, at the time, I didn't know how to spell, so I didn't understand where K. C. came from until much later. I wouldn't be surprised if it was then that we went running up and down the street shouting about our baby sister.
Later in the fall of 1948, I was working some place in the south end of the system, it might have been Charleroi or Donora, when I had been asked by my boss Bob Mcburney to stop and see him at St. Margaret's Hospital. It was on a Friday, and I stopped to see him about 3:30. When I went in he asked me if I would like to take a crack at the job of solicitor. This is exactly what I had wanted ever since I had been with the company, but particularly since I came out of the service. I said, yes I would, but I wanted to know where it was. He said Central Division, and I said "Oh, no, not Mon Valley." and he said yes, in Monongahela.
Well, very frankly I wasn't too happy about that, I wanted the job, but I certainly didn't want to live in Monongahela, so I asked him how much time I had: when did he have to have an answer. He reminded me that the job I was on was good only for another six weeks, and I was aware of that, so he told me the sooner the better. I said, "Well, gee, if I decide to take it, when would I start?" and he said, "Monday morning." This was 3:30 or 4:00 Friday. So after giving it "a lot of deliberation, study, and hard work", I told him yes, I would take it. So Monday morning I reported to Mr. Rockerfeller in Monongahela and started on what was to be a very enjoyable three years.
I had not been very much impressed with Monongahela. I didn't know much about it, I had driven through it a couple of times; we had a girl working for us that lived in Monongahela and I had to drive her home some Friday afternoons and sometimes pick her up on Monday morning. But I wasn't in Monongahela seven days before I changed my mind. I found that when passing someone on the street in Monongahela, they actually looked at you and said hello. Although some one used to tell me that the reason was that I was looking at them. But in any case, I made a lot of good friends in Monongahela; still have them, although we rarely see each other.
The job itself was ideal, one of the best jobs in West Penn Power Company. One of the problems is that it isn't a very highly rated job, and it wasn't a high paying job. However, it was decent, and much better than many of my contemporaries who started as meter readers. I was there for ten months.
Dad: What was it? What did you do as solicitor?
When I accepted the job, I talked to Bill Sturm, who was commercial manager. This was a very high job, he was Bob Mcburney's boss. He explained that I wasn't being forced on anyone, that the people down there were expecting me, and that I was to be welcomed. They would pay my expenses while I looked for a place to live. They would also furnish transportation back and forth between Springdale at the end of the week, and the beginning of the week: I had a company car assigned to me. I was not going to be pressured because houses were not very easy to come by, particularly rentals, which is what I had to do.
I moved into the new job. It turned out that the person I worked for, Victor Rockerfeller, was not a perfect boss by any means, but he was very understanding. He had a lot of respect for me and for my job, but he never ... There were a couple of times when I volunteered to read meters during an emergency when someone was off sick, but he would never let me do it. He explained that I had already proved that I could read meters, and if he were to relent just once, then they would be calling for me every time some one had an ingrown toe nail.
I found that I was accepted in the community, and looked upon as somebody with a responsible job. In 1949 I finally found the house on 736 East Main Street.
Is that right Dad?? You didn't give the house number, but I think that was it
I think you will remember, Bill, the house that stood on the top of the hill. I remember that you and Tom used to stand on the porch and watch the river boats go up and down the Monongahela. You used to be able to name them all as soon as they came into sight. K.C., I know, has told me that she doesn't remember Monongahela at all, but that's not to be too surprising, she was only five when we left there.
Dad: not only do I remember it, I found it once when I was driving through it with Pat.
In 1951, I got a call from Frank Pizzica, the local Buick dealer, who asked me if I would have lunch with him. I agreed, met him for lunch, actually we had it at his home and he prepared it. He said he wanted to talk to me at lunch time, he wanted to offer me a job. So he offered me a job managing his used car lot. He had just put in a new car lot, at least he had repaved it and built a small prefab house that would be used as an office. He explained that he knew that I had enjoyed the security of working at West Penn Power Company, and that going into a job selling used cars, to say the least, had some risk to it. So he asked if I minded telling him how much I was making. Well, I was making $325 a month at that time. He offered me $300 a month and $10 on every car I sold. He said, "Actually, if you can't make $10,000 a year selling used cars, then I'm hiring the wrong man." So I told him I wanted to think it over.
I thought about it, and I pictured myself running that lot and selling cars to everybody that came down the street. I decided that West Penn Power Company would probably pay never pay me more than $400 a month. I knew at that time that we were getting 3%, 4% increases each year, but I felt that these couldn't possibly continue, so after thinking about it for several days I went back down and told Frank that I would take it, but I wanted to give three weeks notice to West Penn. This was O.K. with him, but he suggested that in the mean time, maybe I would like to come down week ends and in the evenings to get acquainted and let people get acquainted with me. I agreed to do that.
I remember that I went home and tried to figure some diplomatic way to tell your mother, since she had also worked for West Penn Power, as you know. And I thought that she might be quite upset about this. She was holding K.C. in the front room of our house in Monongahela. We had a fireplace there. K.C. had a cold, and I took her. As I said, I was looking for a diplomatic way, an easy way to tell your mother, but I just blurted out, "I quit my job today." I was surprised that your mother didn't bat an eye. She just said, "Oh, why?" I told her what had happened, and she just shrugged her shoulders, and frankly I was astonished. She said well, I had been able to provide up to now, and there was no reason to expect that I wouldn't continue to do so.
So anyway, I was to branch now into a new career. After about a week, however, of notice I was spending my evenings and week ends down at the used car lot. I even sold a car; didn't really sell it, I just recommended it and it was sold. About that time, steel went on strike, cars weren't coming through, and I was beginning to wonder if I was making a wise decision. After all, I was a dyed in the wool West Penner, I had fifteen years service at that time, counting my military service, so I went back to my boss, Mr. Rockerfeller, and told him I hadn't really changed my mind, but I was just sort of feeling my way. I was wondering that if I were to really change my mind, was my job still open, could I still have it. Well, he said he would check, and the next day he told me that it had been offered to another man, Bill Stroud, who was chief clerk over in Monnesson. It had been offered to him the evening before.
So I figured the die was cast, and asked him if I could take a half a day and go into Pittsburgh to talk about whatever equity I had in West Penn. I wanted to find out what I had in annuity, and he told me to go ahead. I went into Pittsburgh and I was so disappointed. I was supposed to have an appointment with a girl in Personnel whose first name was Ted (I can't remember her last name now) She must have taken three hours for lunch, and I had to just sit around and wait for her, and I was as mad as could be.
But while I was waiting, Ken Gehring saw me waiting, and asked me what I was doing here. I told him what was happening, and he said, Gee my name had gone across his desk. I was being considered for a promotion for a new job. I asked him what the job was, but he told me he was not at liberty to tell me because there was no decision made. Within a few days, Mr. Rockerfeller called me into his office. I had about a week to go on my notice, and he asked me if I wanted to go back into Pittsburgh and talk to a Mr. Percy Rice, who was the personnel director. I agreed to do it, I went in and found myself talking to a Mr. Jack Walter. He made quite a favorable impression on me. I have come to know him much better since then, and he was probably one of the best bosses I had, one of them anyway. He ranks along with Ralph Miller as far as I was concerned. Well, we talked for a couple of hours, and all during that time, as far as I was concerned, and the impression that I was trying to give is that I was willing to listen to any suggestion they had, but as far as I was concerned I was leaving the West Penn Power Company.
They described this job, and it sounded very interesting, and I had made up my mind I was going to take it. Jack was explaining that he was not the final say, that we would have to go down and talk to Percy Rice. I hadn't either rejected it or accepted the job up to this time. But the job was to be Jack's assistant, that's an assistant training superintendent. We went down and talked to Percy Rice, and he asked Jack what the situation was, and Jack explained to me that the decision was up to him, Mr. Rice. Well, Mr. Rice said, whatever you want Jack, and Jack said he wanted me. So here again, I had not yet accepted it, but Mr. Rice asked if we had discussed salary. Now, as I said, at the time I gave my notice I was making $325 a month, but since that time a general raise came through, a $30 a month increase, so that put me to $355. Then when we were talking in this conversation with Mr. Rice, he asked if we had discussed salary, and we said no we hadn't. So he paused for a moment, and said "What's your salary now?" and I said $355, and he said, well how about $40 (raise). I almost fell off the chair. I expected the usual answer, "Well, that's about the right salary, why don't you try it and in six months, if everything works out, maybe we can get another $10 or $15. That put my salary to $395. Now bear in mind that just three weeks earlier I was saying I would never make more than $400, so now I was within $5 of what I had thought was going to be my tops.
So I took the job. However, it didn't work out. The first few weeks I was on a cadet program. I was sent to several offices, I spent two weeks in Springdale, two weeks in the Kittaning office, etc. I didn't go to the district offices because I had already worked in district offices, but I spent maybe a week in the advertising department, and so forth, training. Well, I finally did start the job, but I was a square peg in a round hole. The job just didn't materialize the way I had expected. After all, any job takes the form of the man who is doing it, and I guess I just wasn't cut out for it. So that job lasted just eighteen months, at which time I was transferred within the department, still within Personnel, but to the employment section where my job was employment interviewer.
My predecessor was assistant employment supervisor, but I wasn't given that title. My job there was to interview anyone who came in the office just off the street, or if they wanted to hire some one in the various districts, one of us, my boss or I, would go out and conduct the interviews. This lasted for 18 months and was quite enjoyable. I enjoyed this. We underwent quite a radical change in West Penn about this time, though. We brought in a business consultant firm, Booze, Allen, and Hamilton, and they gave us the business all right. They made recommendations, and one of the recommendations was to put Personnel managers in all the divisions. Well, first of all to group districts into divisions and then put personnel managers into the divisions, so of course that cut out my job, so far as the field work was concerned. I was told by the head man that really there was no place in personnel for me.
That was probably one of the most trying times I had in West Penn. I had jobs, with the very rare exception of the training job, that I had enjoyed and thought that I could do, but here I am sitting in the employment office, and we weren't doing any employing. We would get an occasional person off the street, but they never got such royal treatment in their lives as they got from West Penn. I had nothing to do. I welcomed the opportunity to just to talk to them.
My boss during this period was a fellow named Walter Cottam. When my boss, the employment supervisor, was transferred out (because there was really dismantling the employment office), I was called into his office. He said that he had just talked to Bob Chrissman, my boss, and while Bob had really nothing but praise for me and my efforts, he just felt that I was not of the stature, did not have the background and the ability to take his job as employment supervisor, because now the employment of this office would be aimed more at college level students.
This was very disappointing for me because I had worked with Bob for well over a year, 15 or 16 months I would guess. We traveled together quite a bit, went to various colleges, universities soliciting engineers. I recall one trip to Penn State, to Bucknell, then up to Rencelier, Stevens, and I was so irritated with Bob. He was a big man, about 6'3" and quite large in every way, but he would have appointments to talk to several students. Inevitably he would be late, not because he was busy, but he would stop and get coffee, and then bluster in, and I use the word bluster, like a whirl wind as if he were the busiest man in the world. I don't know how he attracted engineers, or anyone for that matter, but in any case, Mr. Cottom was telling me that he didn't think I could fill his shoes. I told Mr. Cottom that I could find no fault in his decision; after all, where could he go for an appraisal of me except to my boss. I told him that I had only one regret, that I was being judged by a person who I felt was not qualified to judge me, but I still had to accept his decision of course.
That was an awkward time from then on, because I didn't have any job here. He had assured me that I wouldn't be laid off, they would find a job for me. But the uncertainty was irritating. I did have one other offer in the wage and salary control office, but from what I could determine from the job description, I would be going from the frying pan into the fire. The man who would be my boss was also a friend of sorts, Clyde Swanson. I told him very frankly that if he would choose me, I would do the best that I could, but I didn't feel that I was the man. I knew that a Harold Lang was being considered, and I suggested that he had a much better background. The result was that Harold Lang got the job.
I had been sort of thinking just what areas should I look at. I was putting out a few feelers of my own. I thought about sales, residential sales, or right of way because I had some experience with that, and the other job was claims. However, I didn't linger thinking about claims because there were only three claims men, and the chance of any one person being funneled into that job where there were only three jobs total were quite high against that. But, lo and behold, Walt Cottam called me in and asked how I would like to get into Claims department. Well, to make a long story short, I went up and was interviewed by Ed Haymand and Al Bloone and was offered a job as Claims Adjuster, which probably turned out to be one of the best things that happened to me. This change took place in January 1955. I had just shy of 20 years with West Penn Power Company, and I was to spend the next 20 years as a Claims Adjuster.
I did skip over one little minor detail. During that time that I was in the employment section, in personnel, the West Penn Power Company had a special meeting, and had everyone on the payroll invited to a meeting at the Sheraton Hotel, where Mr. P. H. Powers, our president announced that West Penn Power Company was moving its general office to Greensburg. Boy, you thought the world had come to an end. All these die-hard Pittsburghers, they didn't even know where Greensburg was. At this time, of course, we were living in Monongahela, which starts me thinking along a new line. The announcement of West Penn making a new move was made some time in 1952 or early 1953, probably in '52 because we had not yet even acquired the property in Cabin Hill. In any case, we were living in Monongahela and you had started at the Transfiguration School in 1950.