ONE FOR ALL, AND ALL FOR ONE

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Book, not short story, an account of four brothers raised from a poor family to become established adults, an autobiographical memoir about Virgil Dube and his relationship with brothers standing
tall together against adversity. Virgil becomes an artist and writer. His younger brother Joe becomes Pan Am Champ, 1968 Olympic medalist and 1969 World Weightlifting Champion. Twin brothers
veterans of the military 20 years each, Alfred becomes a disc-jockey and Clifford a super mechanic, their motto - 'One for all, and all for one'.

Submitted: April 27, 2018

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Submitted: April 27, 2018

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ONE FOR ALL AND ALL FOR ONE –

THE DUBE’ BROTHERS

An Autobiographical Memoir by Virgil Dube’

*  *  *

ONE FOR ALL AND ALL FOR ONE – THE DUBE’ BROTHERS – is a historical memoir Copyright © 2018 by Thomas Virgil Dube’ with all rights reserved. No part of this biography may be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission of the author, his brothers, or their families except for brief quotations embodied in critical articles, and reviews.

 

FORWARD

 

One of us became a commercial artist and writer. One of us became a World Champion weightlifter and Olympic medalist. One of us became a radio disc jockey following a military career. And, one of us became an excellent mechanic after a proudly served military career. All four of us grew up from humble beginning to become honorable men of responsible character.

During our youth we four brothers stood shoulder-to-shoulder, even if confrontational with each other. Occasionally during our childhood, combative situations arose from outside rivals. In such instances we each stood firm, always together. If another kid, or adversary challenged one of us unfairly, altogether we would see that our brother didn’t stand alone – ‘one for all and all for one’, our motto.

As men, we’ve lived our lives independently, yet close, and in the character for which we grew up together.

Within this account of my life in conjunction with my three brothers, and entrees to follow by my three brothers, I’ll make references to certain individuals - pros and cons. In sensitive circumstances I deem unwarranted, I depart from mentioning actual full name(s). Instead, I may mention given name(s) to avoid infringement on any person’s confidentiality. Where warranted and not offensive, I do mention actual names for historical correctness. Comments I make concerning personal beliefs are inclusively my own based on personal experiences, observations, and traveling a long road. In instances for dramatic representation of certain events, I have used literary license. However in doing so, the accounts are as close to fact as one with limited actual knowledge can reasonable represent literally.

Note that the accent over the e’ in Dube’ is sometimes used and sometimes not used. The French version uses the accent, some of the family like my daughter Kimberly and me adhering to that old version. Some family members not using it and preferring the modern American version refer to their name spoken as sounding – Du-bee, for which my son uses.

My brother Joseph Douglas Dube’ changed his given name in his late teens from being called Doug or Douglas by everybody in his youth, to Joseph or Joe as an adult. Commonly, he goes by Joe, for which he is recognized in the weightlifting circle, and the general public. Following his example, I attempted to change my name from Virgil to Thomas, or Tom, in the mid 1980’s. However, I didn’t care for it after a period when I signed several of my artworks Thomas. I reverted back to Virgil since everyone knows me by that name for which my mother gave me after the Roman poet, and it isn’t an everyday name. In this narrative and in real life, I still call my brother Doug, or Douglas, but in Part 5 - Chapter 14, I refer to him as Joe.

 

VARYING STORY AND NARRATIVE VIEWPOINTS

 

To write this biography I’ve relied on recall linking my life with my brothers and parents, plus my parents telling us boys of events prior to our births and when we were too young to remember them.

Writing historical fact and events I use first person viewpoints. This is practiced for a majority of this memoir.

In a creative manner and for variation I have chosen to write a series of short stories in Part 2 depicting true happenings using third person omniscient viewpoints. The short stories are based on and depict historical truths, though the setting and dialogue in some instances are visionary.

 

CONTENTS:

 

PART 1 

PUMPHREY-DUBE’ FAMILY CHRONICLES

 

CHAPTER 1

PUMPHREY FAMILY ANCESTRY

 

CHAPTER 2

DUBE’ FAMILY ANCESTRY

 

PART 2

STORIES REMEMBERED – STORIES TO TELL

 

PART 3

FOUR BROTHERS AS YOUTHS

 

CHAPTER 3

SEPARATION - CATHOLIC FAMILY HOME CARE

 

CHAPTER 4

MOVING – ALWAYS MOVING

 

CHAPTER 5

MY SCHOOL YEARS, GRADES 1-12, AND CONCURRENT HOME LIFE

 

CHAPTER 6

MISCELLANEOUS REMINISCES UNFADED BY TIME

 

CHAPTER 7

BOUTS OF MISCHIEF AND ACCIDENT’S UNFADED BY TIME

 

CHAPTER 8

CASUAL EXERCISE TO WEIGHTLIFTING

 

PART 4

INFLUENCES ON MY LIFE

 

CHAPTER 9

TERRY WHITE MY BROTHER-IN-LAW AND FRIEND

 

CHAPTER 10

OWEN MASTERS AND THE INDEPENDENT LIFE & ACCIDENT INSURANCE COMPANY

 

CHAPTER 11

TIME TAKES ITS TOLL

 

PART 5

FOUR BROTHERS AS ADULTS

 

CHAPTER 12

VIRGIL: ARTIST - WRITER - FAMILY MAN

 

CHAPTER 13

OBSERVATION, ANALYSIS, AND PRACTICE

 

CHAPTER 14

JOE: 1968 OLYMPIC BRONZE MEDALIST

AND

1969 WORLD WEIGHTLIFTING CHAMPION

 

CHAPTER 15

ALFRED: RADIO DISC JOCKEY - MUSIC MAN

 

CHAPTER 16

CLIFFORD: SUPERB MECHANIC – FISHERMAN

 

PART 1 

PUMPHREY-DUBE’ FAMILY CHRONICLES

 

*  *  *

 

CHAPTER 1

PUMPHREY FAMILY ANCESTRY

 

Hardie Pumphrey 34 Years Old

MY MOTHER - HARDIE DUBE-PUMPHREY

 

Hardie Pumphrey was born December 4, 1907 in a West Florida rural farm community named Hickory Level. Deep in farming country in Jackson County, it was a nondescript area situated westerly and between the closest towns of Altha and Marianna, Calhoun and Jackson counties respectively.

Hardie was the eleventh child of Hannah and Alfred Pumphrey, Jr. Hannah was a Butler with English and some Indian ancestry. Alfred was of Welch ancestry and Quaker idealism; farther back Pumphrey (Pumprey in the old world) history dates to Holland north of France. Hardie went unnamed three months, Hannah and Alfred undecided from a host of suggested given names. Only after Alfred’s accidental death during the spring of 1908 did Hannah select Hardie, a name Alfred had not disagreed yet made no commitment. Our mother had no middle name.

 

Our Grandmother - Hannah Butler Pumphrey (1871 – 1941)

 

Hardie had eight sisters and four brothers *, all registered by date of birth in a family Bible that was destroyed after entrees, or lost. Following are the names and known dates (several died after this tally, so death dates are not entered):

 

* AUNTS AND UNCLES – PUMPHREY SIBLINGS:

1.   Tom - born February 13, 1893, died - April 20, 1918.

2.   Mary - born May 10, 1894, died.

3.   Amanda (Mandy) - born November 1897, died - 1908.

4.   Luther - born July 1, 1898, died - October 14, 1953.

5.   Dewey - born November 1899, died - April 28, 1946.

6.   Milton - born September 1901, died - February 1965.

7.   Clara - born April 4, 1903, died - August 9, 1971.

8.   Dora - born 1905, (twin) died after 3 months.

9.   Lily - born 1905, (twin) died after 3 months.

10. Grace - born January 20, 1906,

11. Hardie - born December 4, 1907, died - April 9, 1971.

Hannah Married Amous Martin June 12, 1911.

12. Eva Mae Martin - born April 20, 1912.

 

Tom and Mary the oldest children, helped Hannah by taking additional responsibility for raising the kids after Alfred’s death. As might be expected, a colossal challenge faced the large family after the man of the house passed on. Not just chores but accumulated debt meant everybody had to pitch in and work to survive. It was the hardship of this impoverished period that marked the steadfast character of the descendants and modern-day Pumphrey clan.

 

 

First cousin Wally Pumphrey prepared the lineage chart above. He did some exceptional genealogical research on the Pumphrey family dating back to Burlington, New Jersey, where family ancestor Walter Pumphrey emigrated from Wales around 1678. In addition, Wally’s findings established the Holland connection, and Quaker roots to Walter shortly after he arrived in America.

Hardie as did her siblings, lived a rough life as youngsters. Her education probably didn’t exceed the eighth grade, she attending deeply rural schools in Hickory Level.

 

CHAPTER 2

DUBE’ FAMILY ANCESTRY

 

Joseph 25 Years Old

FATHER - JOSEPH ARTHUR GERALD DUBE’

 

Our father Joseph was born in Lewiston, Maine on June 17, 1912. Of French descent, his American family originated in Quebec, Canada (New France) in the mid 1600’s. Thereafter siblings migrated to America, principally, Lewiston.

Record keeping and happenings was poorly recorded by family members and thus incomplete on the Dube’ side of the family. Only recently did I learn Alan Dube (family relationship not established) did genealogical research on the Dube’ family in France, and their relocation to Canada. Much of his research is published under his Internet website. Pronounced do-bay with an accent mark over the e’, the family began in the new world in New France along the St. Lawrence River on the Isle of Orleans, allegedly by four brothers leaving France and arriving between 1660 and 1670.

According to Alan, Du Be was an old French name supposedly derived from the Forest Du Be in central France. Mathurin Dube’ in the 1600’s fused the separated syllables to a single name, Dube’. Dubois, Dubay, and like names, are among a group of French names similar and associated. The Dube’ name is quite popular in Quebec today.

 

Ludger and Laura Dube’ - Our Grandparents Wedding Picture 1911

 

Grandfather Ludger Dube’ born October 19, 1887 (died October or November 1918) immigrated to Lewiston-Auburn, Maine, Andrus-Coggin County from Saint Hubert, Quebec. In 1911 he married Laura Marie Frechette in Lewiston, Maine, she from Lewiston born June 12, 1889 (died May 3, 1969). His son and our dad, Joseph Arthur Gerald Dube’ (called Jerry when a boy) was born on June 17, 1912. Our dad’s brother Lucien Joseph (Roland) Dube’, was born October 25, 1916, and his sister Fleurette Dube’ Gastonguay was born May 1, 1919. Laura’s parents and our great grandparents were Sophronie and Francois Frechette from Tingwick, a small Quebec province.  

Only the following tidbits are known of the Dube’ family in Lewiston and out of Quebec. The family as with most French people, was predominantly Catholic and attended St Peter’s and Paul’s Chapel in Auburn. Our direct ancestor Mathurin Dube’, was born 1630 and died December 28, 1695 in Riviere-Ouelle, Canada, New France. Ludger worked for the Lewiston Fire Department, was in charge of large draft horses that pulled heavy fire wagons. Often he entered his draft horses in log-pulling contest in local fairs. Laura worked in a Lewiston shoe factory and never learned to speak English. Along with millions in 1918, the Spanish flu claimed two of our ancestral family members. The exact date of the dual deaths was not recorded, likely October or November at the flu’s height. Daddy informed us Laura and Ludger’s young daughter Irene (our aunt) passed away around 11:00 a.m., and Grandfather Ludger died the same afternoon around 4:00 p.m., he 31 years of age.

Laura, desperate to survive and seeking lost companionship, remarried a man named LaPointe, who had a son by his previous marriage. Son Lucien and Joseph became brothers-in-law, their closeness ongoing throughout their long lives.

 

Crayon Drawing by Joseph of His Boyhood Home Near Lewiston-Auburn, Maine

 

Joseph grew up in a healthy environment living outside Auburn, Maine on a farm. A young boy and playing, he walked in a balancing manner across a tree log, or board, over an outhouse pit yet to be buried with dirt. Wearing a nice suit of Sunday clothes, he slipped and fell into the pit and stank for days. His education extended through the sixth grade before having to get a job to help with family income after his father-in-law LaPointe died in the mid 1920’s. He entered the Army around 1933, and served eight years. Stationed in Maryland, he attended the Maryland Institute of Art, where he learned much to further a fine art talent he possessed from youth. Joseph spent active duty in Panama, where he tried boxing for recreation and sport. He did well briefly, but after some defeats and wake-up calls to the reality this wasn’t his sport, he dropped boxing competition. As a boy he loved domestic rabbits. Raising them, he made his own rabbit cages of wood; wire floor, interior boxes for females (does) to birth young, and slanted subfloor tin to deposit waste pellets and urine to the ground. In later years, Daddy used the waste material as fertilizer in our seasonal gardens he and Mama dutifully planted spring and fall.

 

MATCHED BY MAIL

 

Stationed in Washington State on a reenlistment, Joseph became lonely and began using a dating service headquartered in Texas to seek a girlfriend. Hardie living with her brother Luther Pumphrey and his wife Flossie in Altha was also using the dating correspondence service. The two were linked via mail and began to communicate on a regular basis, he from Washington, she Altha Florida. Ultimately, the two decided they were matched for each other and agreed to meet and get married once he retired from military duty.

Honorably discharged from regular military service, but joining the war effort for World War II (civil service), Joseph was assigned to the Panama City shipyard, for which he would report after his marriage. There he would work as a painter on naval ships headed to sea for war duty. Upon his discharge from the Army, the stage was set for the couple to meet and do the wedding ceremony.

 

MET AND MARRIED IN JACKSONVILLE

 

During 1941, Hardie and Joseph corresponded actively via The Lonely Hearts Club based in Texas. Joseph stationed in Washington State was serving his last days in the Army. Hardie (formerly Hardie Mathews) was divorced around 1937, after her son Adron Earl Mathews was born June 28, 1935 and died April 9, 1937 (his death will be clarified later). She resided in Altha at her mother Hanna’s home during the correspondence. Dismissed after serving two terms in the Army, Joseph rode a train from Washington while Hardie rode with her sister Clara McMillan from Altha to Jacksonville July 5, 1941, where the couple met at the Jacksonville Train Terminal. They were married July 6, 1941 in the Duval County Courthouse - Clara, Eva, and Corbett witnesses.

 

*  *  *

 

Honeymooning in Jacksonville, Joseph and Hardie spent some leisure time with Hardie’s sister Eva, and her husband Corbett Mathews, who lived in East Springfield. Corbett worked in Jacksonville as an electrical linesman. Soon he would suffer a terrible accident, falling from a light pole and badly injuring his knee. His knee injury was probably a bi-condyle fracture, whereby the joint was dislocated. Not having it properly attended medically - realigned and perhaps corrective surgery, the knee stiffened as it healed leaving him permanently crippled, walking the rest of his life with a stiff leg. Eva worked in the King Edward Cigar Company located in East Springfield on East 16th Street, rolling cigars. During this time Eva and Corbett became friends with Wallace Wade, who with his wife and kids, would be long-standing friends with Hardie and Joseph, and their sons.

Time arrived for Hardie and Joseph to travel to Altha, and Clara did the honors chauffeuring them in her car. Joseph went to work taking a daily ride with co-workers from Altha to the Panama shipyard. Soon he grew restless minus his pet rabbits, and began to buy New Zealand Whites and Californians and had them shipped to him. His rabbit population multiplied bountifully, for that’s what rabbits like to do - multiply. During his service at Panama City Ship Yard, Joseph suffered a bad accident whereby a piece of sheet metal fell from an upper ship deck and pinned his arm to the decking floor. His triceps muscle was cut in half, which upon healing left a sizeable scar the remainder of his life. Despite the severity of the injury, which ended his war effort job, no permanent or debilitating condition hampered him as time passed. With newborn child, and injured, Joseph was released as a private citizen.

The second child was born February 15, 1944, another healthy baby boy, Joseph Douglas Dube’. Shortly after his birth, Joseph and Hardie decided to leave Calhoun County and return to Jacksonville. Before he departed, Joseph set his rabbits lose in the wild. Local people teased him years later saying they’ve spotted all kinds of mix-breed wild rabbits in Calhoun and Jackson Counties.

Gay Realty on West Bay Street in Jacksonville was the builder of their bungalow on Acosta Avenue (later Eaton Avenue), the mortgage signed quickly after their arrival in 1945. Waiting the construction to finish, Gay allowed the couple and their two small boys to live in a small cottage behind the Big Oak on the corner of Cocoa Avenue and Lamson Street.

 

*  *  *

 

From the version told me by my parents, the following first short story of Part 2 is how I imagine the scene of their meeting at the Jacksonville Train Terminal.

 

PART 2

STORIES REMEMBERED – STORIES TO TELL

 

*  *  *

 

LOVE BIRDS AFLIGHT

Story By Virgil Dube’

 

The train whistle blew and the engines’ steam bellowed outward to blend with the morning haze. The large locomotive appeared on tracks between adjoining lines of motionless trains. Hardie, and sister’s Clara and Eva, stood quickly from the bench they had patiently occupied two hours at the Jacksonville Train Terminal.

“That’s Joe’s train,” Hardie said excitedly, her sisters agreeing.

“I’m as nervous as a jitter-bug”, Hardie added, her attractive face blushing suddenly. Clara McMillan and Eva Mathews drew close to embrace her, they too anxious to see and meet the first time this total stranger, Joseph Dube’, a military retiree having served eights years in the Army and soon to disembark the oncoming train from Fort Smith, Washington.

“Sis,” Clara said, “from Joseph’s looks in photographs he’s sent you while you and he corresponded in the Lonely Hearts Club, I’d say you got a hunk and prize.”

“Hunk, you say … he’s only five-four, but yes, a hunk in my eyes,” Hardie replied bashfully, yet with a proud grin.

“And he likes pet rabbits,” Eva added, “How much better could he be … a genuine domestic man.”

In the ensuing moments, passengers clamored in their haste to and from the train, visitors meeting incoming passengers, others forming a line to depart for Miami, the trains’ ultimate destination. In the midst of it all a lone man bearing a heavy suitcase stepped from one particular car. He wore slightly baggy brown pants and a wrinkled white shirt, the collar unbuttoned. His tie hanging uneven and to one side bore diagonal stripes of varying browns. The sisters spotted Joseph immediately, and gapped at how strikingly handsome he was, his short stature yet solid structure, how eloquently slow he closed the gap between them and him.

“Holy mackerel,” Eva whispered, in Clara’s ear.

“Right on, sis,” Clara responded, followed by a playful chuckle.

Hardie gasped, held her breath, then clasped her hands to her pounding heart, which seemed to swell with a love she had already attained during their estranged courtship that had covered three thousand miles distance.

She found it tricky to take succeeding steps forward. But she managed step-by-step to meet the small man of colossal charm, who would impact hers and others lives so incredibly a lifetime.

What happened next was in reality love at first sight.

 

*  *  *

 

July 6, 1941, the Justice of the Peace in the Duval County Courthouse stated, “I pronounce you, Hardie Mathews, and you, Joseph Arthur Gerald Dube’, husband and wife.”

“Now, Mr. & Mrs. Newlyweds,” Eva said, standing beside her husband, Corbett, “Until you decide otherwise, you’re welcome to stay awhile with us in Springfield. Corbett says Joseph can get a job painting ships at the shipyard, and Hardie I can get you on working at the King Edward Cigar Company with me.”

Hardie answered, “Thanks, Eva and Corbett; we appreciate your offer. However, Joe and I want to spend private time together, at least a week or so, then get ready to return to Altha. Joseph already has a Naval job waiting him in the Panama City shipyards. Meanwhile, we’ve rented an upstairs apartment at the corner of Eight and Main Streets above the theatre.”

Clara stepped close and added, “With Finley off surveying the woods for St. Joe Paper Company, I plan to hang around Jacksonville a little bit. Hardie and Joseph, you two deciding to go back to Altha is just fine with me, but remember Eva and Corbett’s suggestion. Let me know when you’re ready and I’ll chauffeur you to Altha.”

 

*  *  *

 

“Sis, I hate to see you two go,” Eva said leaning half in the car to give her sister a farewell kiss on the cheek.

“Thanks, Eva, but Joseph must work at the Naval shipyard, and we would pick the country over the big city any day. Besides, Mama needs someone close since she’s sickly and may not be around long.”

Corbett having secured the luggage shut the trunk hood. He clasped Joseph’s outstretched hand, his new brother-in-law standing nearby. “You and Hardie are always welcome should you quit that job and decide to come back. By the way, Wallace and Kitty Wade * wish you well and hope to see you soon. Just keep in mind there’s more opportunity for work here should that day come, and you have friends already settled here. I met Wallace Wade while working for the Jacksonville Electric Authority, and it has opened doors to a fine family relationship. You and Hardie can join us anytime until you get your feet properly planted here should your return someday.”

“We’ll keep your offer in mind, Corbett … so long,” Joseph commented, his French accent heavy but English good.

A goodbye said and hugs made, Hardie just feeling signs of her pregnancy, settled in the back seat.

“Ya’ll ready, we got a long ride to Altha and Ma’s,” Clara declared from behind the steering wheel of her big Chrysler.

“How do you feel?” Joseph asked, as the car pulled away and he scooted close to Hardie in the rear seat.

“I was sickly this morning, honey, but feel better now. I’m thinking right away it’s gonna be a boy.”

 Joseph grinned, then kissed her.

The black shinny car sped away on its journey across north Florida on Highway U.S. 90. When it arrived hours later at Hanna Pumphrey’s Altha home, a horde of greeters awaited the newlyweds, family, and friends - especially Hardies’ dear friend, Mamie Tharp.

 

*  *  *

 

Not long after she arrived in Altha, Hardie received the letter from Eva with bad news. It read:

‘Dear Hardie and Joseph,

Corbett had a terrible accident while climbing a telephone pole. He fell jamming his leg. Waiting too long to have the injury tended to, his knee joint stiffened so bad he in the weeks since that the doctor is saying too much damage was done without proper care to do surgery. He will probably walk stiff-legged the rest of his life. He’s home now and drinkin’, which really worries me. Please keep us in your prayer’s, especially for my Corbett, a good man. To let you know the Wades have been especially kind and helpful during our ordeal.

Love and kisses, your sis, Eva.’

 

THE END

 

* TRIBUTE TO A FAMILY OF MULITPLE TRAGEDY:

Eva and Corbett befriended the Wades after they married and moved to Jacksonville where Corbett met Wallace on his electrical job. Without absolute confirmation the couple’s shared an apartment until thy moved out to respective places, the Wades in a home on Atlantic Boulevard, Corbett and Eva to an apartment in Springfield not far from the King Edward Cigar Company on E. 16th Street where Eva rolled cigars. Wallace and Kitty Wade were friendly and basic folk, both exceedingly gentle and kind. They had four children. Holly Wade was about Virgil’s age. Louise was about Douglas’s age. J.A. was born sometime between Douglas in 1944 and Clifford and Alfred Dube in 1948. Little Corbett was next and named after Corbett Mathews. The family was struck by several tragedies in later years. Kitty was killed in a car crash while pulling onto Atlantic Boulevard near her home. Holly died from an ailment not identified, the tragedy later known to the Dube’ brothers. J.A. had gone to the north Jacksonville Speedway garage for an auto part for his racecar. Returning, he crossed the track unmindful the Christmas tree lights had signaled the drag race to start and was in progress. The drivers and officials did not see him in the dark until he was fully on the track. Too late to avert hitting him, he was struck multiple times and killed instantly, his body pinned in a car’s wheel-well where it rotated until the car stopped. At his funeral Aunt Eva, who dearly loved J.A., told us every bone in his body was pulverized. J.A. Wade was outgoing and friendly. As a teenager he often came to workout with Douglas and Virgil in Oakwood Villa just after they started training on Olympic weightlifting. He was also a good friend to Alfred and Clifford and his death was a tragic loss the four brother’s felt deeply, especially for Eva and Corbett, and for numerous others. Wallace Wade died from Alzheimer’s disease before he reached a ripe old age. The Dube brother’s lost contact with Louise, knowing nothing of her whereabouts, or history.

 

*  *  *

 

HANNAH SHARES OLD FAMILY TRAGEDY WITH JOSEPH

Story By Virgil Dube’

 

August 1941 Hardie and Joseph hadn’t arrived in Altha very long. Hannah Pumphrey opened the screen door to her home and stepped fragilely out on the breezy porch. She looked skyward at the evening stars, then at the couple sitting in shadow and side by side on the swing, lazily moving it to and fro.

She felt sick, knew her time was near to be with her Savior. Standing quietly, she more in shadow on the dark porch, starlight striking the floor boards before her and not quit to her, she was suddenly compelled to share with Joseph her new son-in-law some old family history. With all that had happened to her personally, and her many children due to her families’ past, and Hardie tragically losing her son from her previous marriage, now pregnant and married again to what appeared a wonderful man, she wanted them to start their relationship on the right foot, especially Joseph a Frenchman in southern culture. She moved cautiously close to them, and settled in an old rocker opposite the couple to tell the story of her husband Alfred Pumphrey’s death in 1907. She wanted Joseph to know in more detail than he had already heard from Hardie of Adron Earl Mathews’ death, Hardie’s first son, and to highlight the subsequent hardship the family bore, and the whole of Altha sharing at that time.

 

HANNA PUMPHREY’S STORY

 

“Joseph, if you don’t mind I would like to give you a brief history lesson. Alfred’s family is reported to have been Welch. In early history they reportedly emigrated to Great Britain and Wales from the Netherlands. Walter Pumphrey immigrated to America in Burlington, New Jersey in 1678 at 23 years old, and soon became a Quaker. The Pumphrey family is recognized as one of the earliest Quaker families in America – a deeply religious background. Walter’s son Lazarus Pumphrey was an ancestor to Alfred Pumphrey, Sr., my husband’s father. One Pumphrey group branched to Texas, another the Carolinas, and yet another further south. Our immediate ancestors settled in Leon County, West Florida, at that time expansive and a western section later to become Jackson County. They homesteaded in Hickory Level, a small backwoods settlement that is situated in agricultural Jackson County, westerly and between Altha, and Marianna.

“I was born August 1871. My maiden name is Butler and I have Indian and English ancestry. It was there I was born and married Alfred Pumphrey in 1891. Alfred was divorced from a previous marriage. He was persistent, so I finally gave in to his proposal. It was my second marriage too, my first having failed for reason I need not say.

“One by one our young’uns arrived, Tom first, then Mary. I was plowing the fields when birthing pains struck and I rushed to the house to give birth to Dora and Lily, both to die at three months. Hardie here was my eleventh child, she born in Hickory Level on December 4, 1907.

 

Our Grandfather Alfred Pumphrey, Jr. (1862 – 1908)

 

“Alfred and I were undecided after we each suggested many names, so Hardie went un-named three months. Only after Alfred’s tragic death in March 1908 did I settled on Hardie, a name Alfred did not dismiss after my suggestion. She has no middle name.

“Hardie was my last child before I remarried. Alfred and I had seven sisters and four brothers; all registered by date of birth in a family bible that was destroyed in a relatives’ house fire. Mary, my second child after Tom, was born in 1894. She and Tom helped me by taking on added responsibility for raising the kids after Alfred’s death. As might be expected a huge challenge faced the large family after the man of the house passed on, especially how to manage the debts we owed. Our survival from this impoverished period marked the character of our Pumphrey family to this very day.

“Laying railroads was an involved process involving brain and muscle. After harvesting railroad timbers in the surrounding woods, crossties were processed and laid for track. First, timbers had to be honed, treated, then hauled by oxcart to sight then laid. Alfred supervised a logging crew to cut timber from local yellow pine. His responsibility was to cut timbers and haul them by cart to the mill to be made into crossties. On his fateful day he took up his rifle at lunch break to wander into the woods to hunt. Dewey our young son had accompanied him to work that day. He trailed along to hunt with his papa. They came back empty-handed shortly thereafter. Alfred tired, unmindfully sat on the tongue of the two-wheel log cart and leaned back against one large iron wheel to rest. The heavy end of the huge fresh-cut and trimmed pine log had been jacked clear of the ground. It was secured against the wagon axle by chain with the taunt jacking stick strapped in place in the sleeve of the jack. One worker Dewey later identified as Lamar Cranston asked Alfred to move elsewhere because he was in a danger should the cart jolt and the jacking stick spring lose. Alfred moved away, initially. But within minutes he returned and sat on the same spot. Perhaps he had dozed off and flinched to spook the oxen; I don’t know … the incidents’ cause fuzzy to Alfred’s fellow workers. What logically happened was, the cart suddenly lurched. An ox might have been spooked by something other than Alfred jerking, or the beasts merely shifted their weary bulk to better rest, or loose soil or limb under a wheel may have given way. Whatever the reason, the tongue movement was enough to cause the chain to loosen and the strap to unbind just enough to release tension on the strapped jacking stick. It flew upward at tremendous speed striking Alfred in the head. In truth, it was a freak accident. He died in my arms at home six hours later from a brain concussion.

“My husband’s death and loss of income began our family distresses. Our belongings had been bought on credit, and our home was mortgaged. There were eleven children to feed with no immediate revenue, and many too young to work. To survive we turned to farming the land - and all pitched in, even the young. But that wasn’t enough to pay immediate debts. Soon impatient vultures began to circle our camp.

“Dealers came daily and unmercifully seized unpaid items. One day Malcolm Stewart, a merchant, drove his wagon up to confiscate all he could load, which would have left us destitute and in straits. We had been bled enough and I was at my ropes end. We were in dreadful need of certain goods to survive, so I grabbed the shotgun from over the front door and from our front porch persuaded him at gunpoint to leave. The mortgage financier briefly came to our rescue and granted us a grace period. Able to resurrect ourselves marginally after the shock, we finally moved out to live with welcoming relatives. Clara was taken into a separate household, which helped us cope. The boys: Tom, Dewey, Luther, and Milton worked the fields as a means to pay board and the girls did domestic odds and ends coupled with manual labor. I married a man named Amous Martin on June 12, 1911, and we settled on a place. April 20, 1912 Eva was born, but the marriage with Amous didn’t pan out. The boys, independent and free-spirited, viewed Martin as lazy and a letdown from the likes of their father. They aggravated him fiercely, until eventually he had enough and took off. Here’s an example of my boys’ temperaments: Grace loved to dip snuff, even in school, where she spit juice out the open window. This prompted the teacher one day to send her home after he tired of her spitting outside. Dewey and Luther wouldn’t have any of that and went with Grace to school to confront the teacher … and did so very convincingly without violence. Not going into detail on the persuading part, she returned to school no questions asked.

“In 1918 Tom enlisted in the army to fight in World War I. He was allowed to take Coonie, his pet raccoon to Fort Benning, the U.S. Army war training camp. Afflicted suddenly with appendicitis and needing emergency surgery, he bled to death on the operating table.

“Luther took initiative and reached out to better himself, and subsequently the family. He bought an expanse of land, which allowed us property to live, and married a girl named Flossie. Over time our family stayed close-knit and did much better. Clara married Finley McMillan. Dewey married Myrtle-Ruth, Milton married Mary Jane, Eva married Corbett Mathews, and Mary married Jeff Baggett.

“Hardie married Henry Mathews and Adron Earl was born in 1935. At two years he wandered away from home. Hardie was away running errands and had left him with a sitter. Somehow the boy slipped out without the sitter aware and wandered into the branch. Its speculated he crossed a makeshift log bridge over a woodland brook and wandered into the nearby woods. Returning, he apparently bypassed the bridge and tried to cross the stream afoot. He slipped falling into the running water and drowned, most likely striking his head not to recover consciousness. Hardie came home to find him missing. Calling for him, she looked all about. Frantic, she dashed into the branch where she found him lying facedown in the water. Snatching his dead body up, terrified, and screaming, she ran to the road to go to town for help.”

Hannah leaned forward in her rocker, looked Joseph in the eye, and added, “Son, the shock Hardie experienced that day will never fade away. It’s something you and your family in the future will have to accept and deal with. She and Henry went through hard times after Adron’s death, a deteriorating relationship that subsequently ended in divorce. Devastated and in time growing lonely, Hardie wanted betterment in her life and joined the Lonely Hearts Club … thus she met you. Son, I believe she did right good … for I see in you a wonderful man.”

Hannah sat back, she again in the shadow of darkness. Tears had formed and begun to stream down over her soft cheeks as she said in finality before going in to bed, “Joseph, I hope this helps you to become more acquainted with us Pumphrey’s and our family background. We’re close-knit because we’ve traveled a rough road and have survived by the grace of the Man on high, and pure guts.”

 

THE END

 

*  *  *

 

ALTHA EMBRACES JOSPEH DUBE’, AND HE THE TOWN

Story By Virgil Dube’

 

Settled in Altha, a small community midway between Marianna and Blountstown, West Florida, Joseph quickly purchased Californian and New Zealand White domestic rabbits. And, he became a member of the American Rabbit Breeders Association. Before his rabbits were shipped to him, he built a row of cages on the place Luther Pumphrey leased him and Hardie. The parcel of land on which stood a wood-frame house, was just outside town and bordered a branch on the backside.

Joseph had settled to adjust to southern culture, was liked and accepted open-armed in the Pumphrey clan, and within the Altha community. And, he took warmly to everyone. The locals especially liked his easy-going good-natured personality accentuated by his strange foreign accent, and were fascinated with his passion for rabbits, especially his ability to sketch and paint that he practiced occasionally for leisure.

Joseph coveted his new living environment by freely wandering the small town of Altha and was greeted and accepted whole-heartedly by all he encountered as Hardie Pumphrey’s new husband; she formally married and divorced after a horrible tragedy that affected grimly the entire community. Adron Earl Mathews was to everybody a beautiful affable child, loved by all, especially Mamie Tharp one of Hardie’s best friends, she a lady you never caught without her straw hat with flowers pinned to the sash.

A month after arriving in Altha, Joseph broke from working on a rabbit cage. He sat on the porch edge and wiped sweat from his face. It was terribly hot and he desperately wanted to cool off. A beer seemed nice, and appropriate, especially to drink one when Hardie was in Blountstown with Milton’s wife Mary Jane, and Mamie Tharp. The women were running errands and visiting old friends and relatives, so the idea struck him to take some leisure time and hike to town, a lengthy walk but good exercise.

In town he bought himself a bottle of Miller Highlife and took a swallow. He stepped from the store to the sidewalk and scanned up and down Highway 71 trying to decide which way to explore. He walked as far as the old Methodist Church founded around 1870. The old cemetery behind the church seemed interesting to explore, so he walked casually through it to the back end, observing Hardie’s relatives abundantly represented by a number of plots and many headstones. Then he turned around and began to walk back, deciding it best to return home. Before reaching the corner where he would turn to walk back home, Bull Taylor, tall and lanky, stoop-shouldered and rather stork-like, happened up and stopped directly before Joseph.

Despite the plug of tobacco in his mouth and his left cheek bulging, Joseph could understand plainly what he said; “Joseph can’t beat a cool Miller on a hot day.”

“Right you are, Bull.”

“Except perhaps Altha’s specialty.”

“What might that be?”

“The juice, Joseph.”

“Moonshine?”

“Absolutely; the best hereabouts is made right here, ask most folks up Georgia and Alabama way who comes here regularly to buy our brew.” The look of satisfaction was evident in Bull’s close-set blue eyes that peered at Joseph astride a long-beak nose. His smile formed deep wrinkles riveting across his beard-stubble tan face.

“Sorry Bull, but moonshine’s a might strong for me. I’m already chancing Hardie will skin me alive for drinking Miller beer. I did hear the shine’s kinda’ popular in these parts … but a specialty; is that true?”

“Give you an example,” Bull replied, then paused. Before further commenting he placed two fingers to his lips, turned to one side, bent, and spit a brown glob dead-center on a clump of dandelions nearby, then continued, “Last Saturday I was gettin’ my ears lowered at Hobe’s Barbershop when this Alabama dude strolled in. He asked right-out where he might get a snort since he’d heard clear to Jasper where he lived, that some mighty good stuff was brewed in Altha. In the next breath he swore he was on the level – wasn’t a Fed.

“Hobe sat the clippers down and excused himself. I chuckled when he said, ‘Please step outside stranger and I’ll point you in the right direction.’

“Hobe leaving the door open, I heard him instruct the feller, ‘See that tall house over yonder beyond that grove of oaks.’

“The feller lifted a hand to shield his eyes from the bright sun, and replied, ‘Yes, I appreciate your help, barber. I’ll mosey right over there and get acquainted.’

“The gent took a step to leave when Hobe stopped him, ‘Hold on, padner! To acquaint you prematurely … that’s Brother Dully-Bob Houser’s house. He’s our Methodist fire and brimstone preacher, straight as an arrow, and the soberest drunk in Calhoun County on Sunday that makes some of the best brew. Anywhere else you can get all the juice you want … take your pick, but Dully-Bobs is’n the best.’

“I watched as Hobe swept his arm full-circle, the man’s head rotating likewise, he grinning broadly and his tongue licking his lips.”

Joseph watched in amusement as Bull paused momentarily to again spit on the hapless weed patch, its yellow flowers now withering. Then he continued, “Now Joseph, does that answer your question?”

“Sure does. Now, I have another question, so I might be wary… especially of you. Who is the town gossip?”

Bull bent over, slapped his legs with his big open hands and laughed heartedly, at the same time losing his tobacco plug. Straightening up, he took the Prince Albert tin from his shirt pocket, pinched a plug and stuffed it in his cheek. Teasingly, he stepped close and patted Joseph on his shoulder, and answered, “Hell, all us moon-shiners. Word of mouth is good advertizin’ – dang good business, my friend.’’

Bull retreated several steps about to resume wherever he was wandering, which couldn’t be too far or for much purpose, and said lastly, “Joseph, your brother-in-law, Luther, is a master brewer … Altha’s bud-and-non-wiser, second only to Dully-Bob.”

Joseph raised his beer bottle, smiled, then walked on, saying over his shoulder, ‘Gotta go and finish some work on a cage, then feed my rabbits. Bull, I enjoyed your story. Have a good day … and remain sober by staying clear of Dully-Bob and Luther Pumphrey.”

 

ALTHA’S WEEKEND CHAMPION BRAWLER

 

One day while Joseph was on an excursion around town, he unexpected encountered the town bully, Horus Pawley. He had exited the drug store and was on his way to visit with Luther when Horus strolled up to block his passage on the sidewalk. “Hey new guy, wanna’ fight? Let me see wha’cha got.”

Joseph stopped in his tracks, stunned at the flagrant challenge unprovoked.

In prior casual conversation with his brother-in-laws, Joseph had related his military service experiences. He had informed his relatives of his boxing experiences while stationed in Panama in the Army and undoubtedly word had spread he was a boxer, perhaps in their opinion gossiped roundabout, a world boxing contender. Though short in stature it was evident he was fit, muscular, and quick on his feet. These attributes weren’t needed to demonstrate this day, for Joseph remained calm and polite. Unfazed by the man’s superior bulk, and brashness, he replied, “I’m not afraid to fight you, Pawley.”

Several moments passed by, the two keenly eyeing each other, Joseph calm; Pawley intent. Finally Pawley said, as he stepped aside, “I have no quarrel with you, Joseph. Have a good day.”

Word spread and none of the town toughies confronted Joseph. Men citywide held respect for him and enjoyed conversation with the short Frenchman with the funny foreign accent and friendly disposition.

 

*  *  *

 

Weeks later Horus Pawley had overly consumed moonshine one Saturday night. In a rowdy mood, he suddenly snapped a pool stick in half when toughie loudmouth Glen Westbrook made an insolent remark, calling Horus’ sister a cheap lose gal. The actual remark from the pool parlor was heard clear to the grocery store and adjacent theatre, where a certain celebrity was to arrive soon to entertain his audience before his film would play on the big screen.

This overt aggressive behavior by the good old boys was normal each weekend to pick the week’s toughie in Altha, or the ‘Week’s City Champ’. Every weekend anxiety filled the air in Altha, the slightest spark needed to set aflame the ensuing brawl that involved a large contingent of Altha’s free-for-all crowd running to join in. The resultant brawl would become folklore the following week throughout Calhoun and Jackson counties, especially when a certain celebrity silver screen cowboy became an ear-witness. In a flash Horus broke another pool stick over Glen’s head and the brawl commenced, the free-for-all carried into the street.

This night the crashing and swearing sounds greeted Tex Ritter as his luxurious car entered Altha city limits, and later carried into the theatre when the singing cowboy and western star and his chauffer performed before a full house. The western movie star had traveled that evening from Marianna for Ritter’s engagement at the Altha theatre just prior to the showing of his latest western movie. Earlier and halfway to his destination, the automobile had a flat tire. Delayed thirty minutes, he approached the theatre to find the weekend brawl in full swing, both in the pool hall and out on the street. He asked the chauffer not to park out front but drive around back. Once safely inside, Tex Ritter sang and talked to the kids as a Hollywood hero film star was expected, giving them advice on living properly, avoid alcohol and excessive smoking, being responsible citizens, be obedient to parents and teachers, and lastly; to obey the law and never fight. All the while amused, and with keen interest, he asked his chauffer always nearby to check on the goings-on outside, who was winning, and at what risk was he to leave and the best opportunity. “It’s finally over, the chauffer whispered a twelfth time to him after he had ventured precariously to peep out the theatre front door. A battered man told me a fellow named Horus Pawley is the only man standing. He’s letting everyone in town know he’s champ and would like a round with Tex Ritter.”

“Let’s get the heck outta here, ” Tex Ritter responded. Then said aloud to his audience, “thank you for your attendance, and patronage.” He waved goodbye to them, then disappeared through the back door hidden behind the large black curtain swept across the large screen.

During the ruckus Joseph Dube’ was comfortably tucked-in at home. He had a warm glass of milk along with Hardie’s tasty teacakes just prior to bedtime. It wasn’t long before he was tucked beside his wife and fast asleep.

On the other hand, Horus Pawley was helped home by drunken friends. There his wife Paula Pawley nursed his many aches and pains, and wounds, then gave him another shot of Luther Pumphrey’s brew to help him sleep, which he did until late afternoon the following day.

Altha city champ had his price to pay.

 

*  *  *

 

Tuesday, April 7, 1942, Doctor Eldridge traveled in his roadster eleven miles from his office in Blountstown to Altha. He was to deliver a baby - not unusual, for he had delivered hundreds. He and Doctor Dowling had between them delivered practically the whole Jackson and Calhoun county populace. His destination could be anywhere his services were needed, but on this occasion it was a log house located behind Luther Pumphrey’s home and halfway to the railroad track and loading platform. In the small cabin Hardie Dube waited in labor, Mamie Tharp at her side.

Daily at three o’clock p.m. the M&L locomotive whistle blew. And so did Thomas Virgil Dube’ announce his arrival into the world. Mother and her eight pound-twelve-ounce son were in fine shape. The child’s father Joseph was off work for the occasion and beaming with pride … his first, a boy.

 

*  *  *

 

Twenty-two months later on February 15, 1944, Doctor Eldridge would deliver yet another Dube boy. Hardie in labor was rushed to a new clinic built on the outskirts of Altha for the good doctor. The new baby boy weighed nine pounds - four ounces heavier than his older brother and as healthy.

First thing when mother and child had settled at home, Douglas Baldwin walked from his store to visit Hardie an old friend. Awestruck by baby Douglas, his namesake, he proclaimed, “Why, Hardie, that boy is a huskier and more solid-built feller than his brother. I bet he makes one heck of a baseball player or great athlete when he grows up.”

Little could he have known that moment how accurate his speculation?

 

THE END

 

*  *  *

 

PANTHER STALKING TWO BROTHERS

Story By Virgil Dube’

 

Distant lightning flashed followed milliseconds with cracking thunder. Hardie paused momentarily from her labor to glance up, not yet convinced the storm was headed her way. Even so, she must complete her chore, washing the babies clothes.

She noticed earlier a gray streak appear in the west and hover above the branch treetops … less concerned then, more vigilant now. Sneaky-quick, elements had gathered aloft to form a menacing swath of dark cloud. Despite bright sunlight in the eastern sky behind her, a former breeze had picked up to become crisp wind … awareness she suddenly awakened to and knew what was imminent … drenching rainfall. Trees skirting her property boundary and the branch some hundred feet away began to churn.

“Dad-burn-it,” she swore, as she snatched up the clump of lye soap and applied it forcefully to the bumble of diaper cloth, bracing it against the galvanized metal number-two tub to bear down harder fabric on the scrub board. “Praise the Lord I’m almost done with this the last load … only Joe’s denim britches remain to wash later.”

Hardie scrubbed harder, the firmaments beginning to pop around her, her oldest sons’ crying intensifying, perhaps because of foul weather. No, that couldn’t be the reason. He’s been fretting ten minutes; all the while his infant brother remains quiet. Last peep around the house corner she observed Virgil sitting upright in the crib while Douglas was lying on his stomach soaking up the sun then shinning and sound asleep.

Concern mounting, she muttered between grunts from hyped labor, “What in the dickens is ailing that boy? Each time I’ve checked, all appears fine. He hasn’t messed in his pants, but seems scared and keeps pointing at the woods … but nothing’s over there.”

Hardie finally concluded, something has got to be wrong …  something’s in the branch that young’un is upset with. Impulsively, thinking the worse, she peeped again, and gasped at movement more pronounced than windblown foliage in the branch. Almost screaming, she dropped the bundle she had rung by hand and was about to pin on the clothesline, and dashed to investigate what she instinctively feared; a panther.

“Oh my God,” she cried, as she rounded the corner, actually seeing the panther move stealthy from behind bushes at the branch edge, then crouch and snarl at the edge of the branch stream.

Having assessed the young helpless prey, now a dangerous obstacle confronting him, the big cat hesitated. Remaining across the branch stream, he circled in a wide loop, then stopped better to assess his prey and the newcomer, a real obstacle for his next meal. He crouched again and growled apprehensively.

Frantically, Hardie bounded toward her two boys, gathered them in her arms and fled to the nearby back porch. Flinging the door open, she rushed inside where light had prevailed minutes before, was now an eerie advancing darkness. Slamming the door, she placed the boys on the front room couch. Desperate to substantially protection she and her boys, she scanned the room, her eyes settling on the old English armoire. Mustered great strength, she pushed the heavy furniture to block the back door entrance.

Rain poured as if a huge bucket had spilled from the sky. Lightning flashed, brilliantly lighting the house interior through several windows. Thunder trailed to shake the earth and thus the house. The igniting elements didn’t damper the cat’s determination once he collected himself. In swift bounds he leapt across the stream then sprang upon the back porch. Rising on hind legs, he pressed his forelegs against the screen door, split it, and tore its mangled frame from hinges. Then he clawed anxiously at the heavy wood door separating him from his prey.

Regardless of the cat’s brisk efforts, Hardie felt she and the boys were momentarily safe, but for how long? Trying to ignore the panther’s noisy efforts, and repress mounting fear, she fed her boys, Douglas by breast, Virgil a bottle of diluted and sweetened condensed milk already prepared and in the icebox. Along with it he enjoyed warmed bread pudding she furnished that Flossie Pumphrey had made and dropped off yesterday. Nerves on edge drove her to eat but she forced herself to stop and leave Joseph a sizeable helping when he arrived home from work, which was hours away.

She settled uneasily in a rocker and prayed as her boys bundled against her. She clung tightly to each when the cat intermittently clawed vigorously. She forced herself to be unruffled when the cat seemed too tire and didn’t claw. As a diversion she listened to the rain’s melodic pitter-patter on the tin roof, and sang folksongs to balance with the array of sound nature created.

After twenty minutes the rain let up. The panther’s clawing had also lessened. And, for five minutes quiet reigned. With just one back window to peer outside, she peeped out but saw nothing astir, could only wonder, perhaps the panther likes being under the porch cover until the rain slackens and it can return to the branch. She decided the time to seek help had arrived. I’ll dash out the front door to the clay road and stop anyone who might pass by. If nobody comes I’ll run to the Pippins place a half-mile toward Altha. She checked the rear a second time, and then the two front windows and saw no panther. He’s either slumbering out of sight on the porch, or has returned to the branch.

I must take the initiative, Hardie concluded, building her courage, least he find another way inside, or loosen the hinges and overcame the front door. She gathered both boys up and wrapped them in a blanket. Cracking the front door cautiously, she peered out. Not seeing the panther, she charged across the porch, and ran across the weedy puddled front yard as fast as her legs could propel her through sloshing mud.

Her brother Luther happened by in his Ford pickup truck. He was headed to Altha with a load of firewood for his home. Through the hazy windshield, he spotted her, drenched and holding her sons, her wet face terrified. He hit the brake, which shifted the load forward but none fell over the wood railing to the soaked clay road.

Rolling his door window down, he asked, “What’s the matter, sis?”

She gasped, tried to speak, but her utterance was unintelligible.

“Tell me later. First, get the heck in here,” Luther commanded.

Seated beside him, she explained. He scanned the house and immediate woods but saw no sign of the big cat. He shifted the truck into gear and pulled away, carrying her and the boys to his home in Altha. Leaving them under his wife Flossie’s care, he summoned neighbors for a hunting party. Despite a thorough search of the branch and surrounding woods without hounds, they found no trace of the panther.

The Dube’ family wasted no time moving to town and in Hardie’s mother’s former home, Hanna Pumphrey having died in 1941.

Ever since and on occasion in the hours after sunset, people roundabouts heard cries from the woodlands. Sounding like a woman in distress, word traveled it was the cry of the panther that had stalked the Dube brothers.

 

THE END

 

*  *  *

 

YOUNG ARTIST

Story By Virgil Dube’

 

Two weeks had passed since the panther incident. Jeb Boswell, one of Joseph’s shipyard co-workers, felt the family deserved a change of scenery, and some excitement. His brother Rodney was flying in from New Orleans to spend a week with him, so he invited Joseph and his family to ride with him for the greeting at the Pensacola airfield.

Several days afterward Hardie stood at her kitchen table kneading flour dough to cook hoecake for supper. Virgil just over two years old strolled to the table’s edge with a paper in his hand. He held it up, and said, “Mama, pit-cher.”

“Okay, honey, give me a second.”

She wiped her hands on her apron and reached for the sheet of paper. It was the same she had an hour earlier written a grocery list. She had placed it and a pencil on the chair table near the front door in the event either Luther or Milton happened by and would ride her to the grocery store in Altha.

She turned the paper over, “Now, what could this be you’ve drawn on the back of my grocery list, son?”

“Aia-pane, Mama.”

“You said airplane … really? I see; it looks pretty good.”

“Thank you, Mama. It’s the aia-pane the man flew and we saw come out of tha’ sky.”

Hardie initially feeling it merely marks a toddler scribbled on paper, opened her eyes wider as she peered closer at the pencil drawing on the backside of her grocery list. She gasped, then looked closer more astonished by the second. Her two-year old had drawn a scene from memory, and it clearly depicted an airplane like the one Robby Boswell traveled on that landed at the airfield in Panama City. He had even added puffy lines to indicate clouds, and the people standing around were not stick people that youngsters might be expected to draw his age; they were believable forms of persons.

She looked down into her son’s brown eyes, saw pride and something other, and special, and said, “Yes sweetheart, it’s definitely an airplane. It’s beautiful and just like the one that brought Robby home. And the people look so real. You’re my little artist and I want to see you do more of your drawings.”

“Okay, Mama. I like drawin’.” Virgil scampered away to draw more.

Hardie continued beating and kneading the dough, stunned her son so young was undoubtedly a natural artist, and thought; he’s picked up his daddy’s talent. During those moments of contemplation, she pledged his talent would grow and flourish by any and all means at her disposal.

Will his brother Douglas also acquire the gift? She wondered, and loudly sang with joy in her heart:

 

“Oh! Just what will we do because instead of one there’s two, we will have heaps of fun because there’s two instead of one.

When our work is all well done we will play out in the Sun and we’ll have just heaps of fun because there’s two instead of one.

We will learn the Golden Rule and at 6 we’ll start to school and our work will be just fun because there’s two instead of one.”

 

Hardie stuck to her private promise furnishing Virgil paper and pencil, crayons, and coloring books. This continued throughout his growing years until weakened in time she could do no more. Virgil’s drawing skill improved steadily with age, and Douglas followed in his footsteps, he too receiving art supplies. Together they looked at and studied Joseph’s drawing instruction books depicting human and animal anatomical construction, the manuals he purchased while attending the Maryland Institute of Art in Baltimore, Maryland while stationed at Fort Meade. The boys had become competitive artistically and soon physically as Douglas began to grow by leaps and bounds, which spurned both to improve respectively and elevate themselves to heights by natural self-discipline.

Douglas would impact the world as a powerful and athletic man, stand before a heavy barbell as the great crowds hushed and he prepared for yet another World Record. He would meet a President and be honored by him for his lifting accomplishments, meet numerous famous people throughout his fabulous career, and afterward, and through it all, never change from the basic and good person whereby he was raised by caring and dedicated parents.

Virgil would become a master craftsman with artist skill and potential; win festivals and show his Rockwell-like paintings in various venues. His art would in part support agent sales initiatives for one of the top insurance companies in America, ranked as high as twenty-seventh. And he too would win state weight-lifting titles and set records, though he pursued the sport to just a certain level of accomplishment.

Many times Hardie would stop when seeing her son’s draw and wonder with greater dread what happened to that sheet of paper bearing the airplane image. She had saved it but somehow it vanished. It was in fact a masterpiece of its own kind lost to the Dube’ family.

 

THE END

 

*  *  *

 

NEWLYWEDS JACKSONVILLE BOUND

Story By Virgil Dube’

 

World War II was raging across earth. The U.S. was fighting two fronts; Japan in the Pacific Ocean, and Germany, allied with countries in Europe also fighting in North Africa. Joseph Dube, onetime veteran now civilian and Florida resident, landed a job in the war effort as civil-service worker at the Panama City shipyard.

Never owning a car, or ever to own an automobile, Joseph traveled daily to and from work with fellow shipyard workers living in and around Altha.

All went well with the Dube family with Joseph working a job that supplied his small family sufficient income, until one day an accident on the jobsite changed the family’s destiny.

“Watch out below on the dock, Joe!” The workman yelled from the lower ship deck.

The sheet metal had slipped from the cabled hoist and was speeding earthward. The warning sounded moments too late. Joseph managed in the last instant to dive sideways. Landing prone on the planked floor, the sharp metal edge ripped into his left triceps muscle almost severing it but not the main artery. It was evident to all present his quick reflex at the last instant saved his life.

Joseph was rushed for medical attention. The wound stitched and he medicated, he was sent home on medical leave to recover. Douglas Baldwin an Altha merchant and Joseph’s friend picked him up from Fred Jackson’s house in Blountstown. Taking him home in Altha, Douglas helped him groggy from drugs to his feet and into his front room where Hardie anxiously waited.

“Oh my,” she exclaimed, seeing the heavy bandages on his upper left arm. “He looks worse than I was told.”

“He’s peaked and weak from blood loss,” Douglas exclaimed. “The doctor’s did a great job stitching his wound. He’s sedated, but fine, Hardie. A few days rest will do wonders. Your Joseph is a tough man.”

“From the looks of that bandage you could have lost your arm, honey.”

Joseph exhausted, and sleepy, merely nodded.

Douglas backed to the door. Gripping the knob about to leave, he said, “Holler if you need me, Hardie, okay.”

“We’ll do Douglas,” Hardie answered.

“Joseph managed, woozily, “thanks for your help.”

Several hours passed. Hardie sewing the shirt she had washed blood from, looked up as Joseph entered the front room, and sat on a high back chair. “Hardie, It happened before I could get out of the way. This is going to change things, but we’ll talk later about that. The triceps muscle was cut through but the metal missed the artery. I’ll be fine as long as I’m careful. Would you mind feeding my rabbits until I’m able?”

“Okay, honey. Just tell me how to go about it and I’ll feed them after supper. We’re having collards, cornbread, snap beans, and fried chicken … that is, if you feel like eating.” Joseph smiled; for he was developing a hardy taste for southern cooking over the Army mess hall he’d been acquainted eight years. Injured or not, he was famished and ready to eat.

“I need some good cooking, so pile it on, honey,” he answered.

Joseph healed remarkable well the following two weeks. During their time together during the long days they lounged around the house, he and Hardie talked passionately about their futures, and they planned, coming to a decision to move to Jacksonville. Corresponding back and forth with Eva and Corbett, they decided it better to stay a period with them, at the same time check on the job at the shipyard Corbett had suggested, then look for a permanent place to live across the St. Johns River eastward. The Wades lived on Atlantic Boulevard on the east side, and Clara had a place nearby on Atlantic Boulevard, which she was renting. They favored these general locations Eva also favored, the east side of town.

Before leaving Altha and no place to store his rabbits for perhaps months, Joseph released them into the Calhoun County wilds. Rumor spread by many who hunted the backwoods, and observant farmers, that they spotted all kinds of weird-looking rabbits in and around Altha’s branches and open farmland.

Well into 1945, Hardie, Joseph, and the boys, traveled * to Jacksonville and settled temporarily with Eva and Corbett. Josephs’ arm had healed steadily and he was prepared to get on with his life and care for his family – first goal, find a home. Hardie and he found a land developer and contractor who would mortgage their new home. A meeting was set and would occur in downtown Jacksonville.

“Here it is,” Hardie, said, with Douglas in her arms as they walked the sidewalk down West Bay Street fronting the St. Johns River, Virgil holding his father’s hand. She pointed to the gold lettering on the dingy windowpane, ‘H. H. Gay, Land Developer, Contractor, and Mortgage Financier’. Joseph stepped forward and opened the heavy door with his good hand.

“Lordy,” Hardie exclaimed, when they entered a narrow dark hallway and she looked upward at the steep staircase and railing.

The hefty and jovial man greeted the family in his second story office. “Hardie and Joseph, I’m H. H. Gay at your service. Would you care for a drink of fresh water from my water cooler?”

“Thanks, believe we will,” Joseph replied, as he and Hardie seated themselves.

The rotund man pulled a cone-shaped paper cup from a tube and pressed the pour-button. The cooler bottle upside down, gurgled and bubbled as it released the water. He passed the first cup to Hardie holding squirmy Douglas, then poured another for Joseph, followed by one for Virgil before they seated themselves and he wedged his way around the cluttered desk to sit and do business.

The move to Jacksonville from West Florida in 1945 was permanently settled that day. Hardie and Joseph had struck a deal with H. H. Gay to build a simple two-bedroom bungalow with kitchen and bath. It would be situated on the second lot off Lamson Avenue at 8835 Acosta Avenue in rural Oakwood Villa, ** a community across the St. Johns River from downtown and beyond the Arlington district.

H.H. Gay had arranged they stay temporarily until construction was completed in a small house off Lamson near Dandy Avenue. Hardly bigger than a work shed, it was located behind a huge oak tree that stood so near the road, *** the road had to be curved around its massive roots.

The couple soon had jobs earning money. Before construction began Hardie worked temporarily with Eva at King Edward Cigar Company in East Springfield. Joseph painted ships at the Merrill Stevens shipyard on the city-side of the St. Johns River near the John T. Alsop Jr. Bridge that had opened July 1941.

Though the family would move several times in coming years, even be separated months, and events good and bad in their lives would unfold for which they had no control, the little bungalow would forever be their permanent home in the expanding city of Jacksonville.

 

THE END

 

* The mode of travel to Jacksonville was never mentioned to Virgil. His parents with two small boys, and possibly much luggage, he assumed they used a train, or Greyhound bus, the former more likely.

** Later Oakwood Villa was renamed to Woodland Acres, and has in recent times been referred to as Oakwood Villa Estates.

*** The network of main dirt roads off Atlantic Boulevard was soon paved with asphalt, side roads named in alphabetical order, paved much later. Acosta Avenue where the bungalow was built would be renamed Eaton Avenue later.

 

*  *  *

 

NEW BUNGALOW HOME IN OAKWOOD

Story By Virgil Dube’

 

The white sided green trimmed house on a 60x120-foot-lot, with two front rooms, back kitchen, spacious front porch, and small back porch, was a grand possession when the Dube family left the shanty off Lamson and Dandy Avenues and moved in. The indoor bathroom with fixtures wasn’t added until later. For the present, an outhouse in the back lot served nature’s needs.

Hardie and Joseph lived one year at 8835 Acosta Avenue, then a dirt road. It was one of few homes built at that time in the neighborhood where dirt roads were laid out in an extensive grid in virgin woods. They had one close neighbor, Mike and Harriet Vasilko living on the corner next door. Mike of friendly disposition was proud of his Russian heritage. Mrs. Vasilko, though not unfriendly, wasn’t outgoing. In the years associated with the Vasilko’s, Virgil never became closely attached to her, but did maintain friendship with Mike.

The Vasilko’s had two sons, Buddy and Emory, who were much older than Virgil and Douglas and seldom home. So the boys never bonded as childhood playmates, though Emory moved across Eaton Avenue in later years to become a good friend to Douglas then living in a trailer where the old rental house once stood. *

Just down the hill a half-block, Acosta Avenue dead-ended into a swampy region that blocked car traffic but harbored cottonmouths and an array of other critters. A stream flowed perpendicular across the bushy passageway, which amounted to nothing more than a wooded path continuing a vestige of Acosta Avenue. A house on the corner at Century Road was one of the first built in the community. Mary Bickford was a loner, recluse, and the sole resident. Mary would for a long time be a mystery to the Dube boys, and in their minds, odd and even spooky. Later she and they opened up to each other, they finding her a nice lady.

Joseph quit the shipyard job and began working with Mike Vasilko, a paint contractor with plenty offers of business needing reliable help … non-better than the dedicated man next door. Very quickly Joseph became skilled house painting, and between jobs sometimes sporadic with Mike, he free-lanced his own, primarily homes and apartments.

 

AGGRAVATING MIKE VASILKO: Virgil loved drinking coffee, ** and even young, carried a cup around when he played outside. As a toddler in the new home and yard he roamed freely, his mother remained watchful as he played and drank his coffee.

But every once and a while he would set aside his coffee cup and ventured next door to the Vasilko’s and play with their back yard water pump, which subsequently would loose prime and thus aggravate Mike. He kept running Virgil off but the boy persistently returned. The ritual got to a point Mike needed to break Virgil from the cat and mouse game. An idea struck him one day and he placed a jointed toy wooden snake in the pump behind the pouring spout. Virgil came up as usual, grasped the pump handle, lifted it and pulled down. Up came water and the snake. He screamed and took off. That ended the pump episodes to Mike’s satisfaction.

Joseph’s regular labor job, and freelancing as a painter, weren’t sufficient to put enough food on the table, especially with two husky boys who loved to eat any and everything.

Clara suggested Hardie and Joseph stay at her house at Atlantic Boulevard near Arlington Road for low rent, and they rent their bungalow to supplement Joseph’s income.

Hardie and Joseph accepted her offer and moved in off Atlantic Boulevard in 1946. ***

 

THE END

 

* The first Dube home built, the bungalow, was 8835 Acosta Avenue, the street later changed to Eaton Avenue. Hardie bought the small wood frame house opposite the vacant lot – 8821Eaton Avenue. In time she purchased a third house, large duplex in Riverside in a state of demolition, had the bottom floors hauled by truck and huge trailer across the river to the vacant lot, the large multi-room house becoming 8827 Eaton Avenue. In later years, 8821 deteriorated badly. After the house was finally demolished, Douglas divorced moved a trailer to the lot where he lived several years alone. PLEASE NOTE: it was agreed between them that Hardie did much of the business dealings, Joseph in compliance. He worked his painting jobs and brought his paychecks to her, she a good money-manager.

** Aunt Mary Baggett hooked Virgil on the coffee habit at the tender age of three, when after she gave him a sweetened tablespoonful, he fretted for it and she gave in, spooning him regularly sugared coffee with cream. He has continued to drink coffee daily and is none the worse for it at age 76, calling it ‘my health drink’.

*** The relocation to Atlantic Boulevard would last about three years, ending in 1949.

 

*  *  *

 

LIVING BESIDE ATLANTIC BOULEVARD

Story By Virgil Dube’

 

Hardie, Virgil, and Douglas in Watermelon Patch at Atlantic Boulevard Home

 

The new home on cement blocks was smaller than the bungalow, a rather basic wood structure. The slat tile over-lapping siding was green in color. The front supported a small covered porch suitable for a single rocking chair. A triple tier concrete-block step structure allowed access in and out of the house. Each of the three simple rooms had a couple of windows, closets with a curtain serving as a petition, a double bed, and the front room with a couch. Free-hanging curtains in doorways separated two front rooms.

Hardie and Joseph slept in the front room in a bed bunched with heavy quilt-cover and a chamber potty underneath the bedsprings on the plank floor. The boys slept in the other room, the accommodations similar. Across the back and two-thirds the width of the house ran the kitchen. It had an iron sink set into a plain board counter usually supplied with a bar of Ivory or lye soap. The water drained down a pipe through a hole in the floor. Outside, it continued under the house to flow outward into the backyard via a curved rubber hose. Otherwise, Hardie swung open the back door and let fly used dishwater or whatever leftovers the chickens would scarf up. Basic-built upper cabinets more like boxes were convenient for food storage. A tall china cabinet to hold dishes with wire-front double-doors occupied a corner. The simple constructed dinning table was usually covered with a checkered cloth. It and four high back chairs were centered in the room. An icebox stood just inside the kitchen beside the door accessible to the front room. The iceman wearing an apron routinely delivered a block of ice pinched between big tongs. He would place the block below the metal-lined storage compartment and above where the drip pan rested in a compartment open to the floor. He always drained the melted ice water for Hardie.

The front yard was a mix of grass and weed, and somewhat shaded from a large oak tree next door. A distance from porch to highway, the ground sloped lastly to the concrete pavement. The back yard too was expansive, the entire lot narrow yet deep, and weedy. A hand pump near the back of the house served for Hardie to do her clothes washing, and hanging them rung out on a nearby clothesline.

Despite some deficiencies, the size a big one, the house and location proved convenient and fairly comfortable. The house was situated near a bus stop, which offered transportation to and from downtown. Synhoff’s Fried Chicken restaurant stood next door at the southwest corner of Arlington Road and Atlantic Boulevard. The delicious aromas were always welcome into the Dube household. Across Atlantic Boulevard and catty-corner stood the Tropics, a nightclub surrounded by what the boys saw as a mysterious fence their mother suspected enclosed wholesale sin for sale, and tall palm trees spaced in close proximity adding to the businesses allure. Blackie’s fish market down the highway westward stood near Wallace and Kitty Wade’s home, Wallace with bunches of old cars in his yard. A row of new-built stores stood directly across Atlantic Boulevard from our house, at the west corner of Arlington Road.

Joseph placed rabbit cages along the lots’ backside he built in Oakwood Villa. The pens, an enclosure of wire on tall legs, some with custom-built boxes inside to support straw for bedding new-born and hairless bunny infants, and with slanted tin drain sheets under wire footing for poop to drop and be extracted to ground, skirted the back fence and ended near the outhouse at the lot far right-rear corner.

Joseph purchased New Zealand Whites. One handsome white rabbit he took special pride he named Royal Flush Joe. Soon Joseph aspired to more than just to raise rabbits for pets. He joined the American Rabbit Breeders Association. His boys looked through the rabbit magazines he received by mail and frequently drew pictures from photos. Joseph soon aspired to begin study to eventually become a registrar of rabbits and a show judge.

Hardie acquired chickens for hen eggs. And together, Joseph and Hardie broke the property’s rear land with shovels, raked the weeds free and disbursed the clumps. With a big-wheel push-plow with diagonal blade, they plowed furrows in the soil to sow seed for seasonal gardens in the open area between the house and backyard chicken coup area. The garden became an occasional playground for the boys, especially between rows of potatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumber, peas, beans, corn stalks, turnips, mustard greens, collards, union, squash, beets, to name a variety of what the boys would grow up eating to attain the good health they each shared throughout their lives.

Hardie went about her business as a housewife singing her favorite songs. One of her favorites was Jimmie Rodgers, the Blue Yodeler from Meridian, Mississippi; in circles considered the Father of Country Music. Throughout the boys’ childhoods they became familiar with the old-time songs featuring ballads of hobos hopping trains, one of Virgil’s favorites, ‘Hobo Billy’, for which in later years he would paint a picture and write a short story honoring the song’s character.

 

*  *  *

 

A growth began to show on Hardie’s right neck. It was diagnosed as a goiter and had something to do with iodine imbalance in her system caused by thyroid gland dysfunction. It would grow in size and eventually need removing, which when finally removed would mark a turning point in the destiny of the Dube family, and in much later years her ultimate fate.

 

*  *  *

 

One afternoon as the boys were scooting toy cars across the wide front steps, a snake appeared at one end on the middle step and the boys froze. The snake glided across the step near their paralyzed hands and down the other side. Excited, both boys ran inside, yelling, “Mama, Mama, we saw a big snake.” Always protective, Hardie appeared around the house corner with a garden hoe clutched in her hands. Against her sons’ protests, she thoroughly hacked-up the small harmless green snake.

 

*  *  *

 

A little girl the same age as Virgil lived next door. Actually, One larger house stood in front of a small house in the back yard. In the small house she lived with her mother, the whereabouts of the husband and the girl’s father always unknown to the brothers. Both boys took a fancy to Faye Mitchell, for she was blonde, pretty, smart, and friendly. Both laid claim as her boyfriend, she their girlfriend … truth being she was a playmate and friend with both, playing trucks and cars with either or both boys through the wire fence separating their yards.

Faye began school with Virgil at Arlington Elementary School in Arlington. During the first day they saw a film whereby a jaguar attacked a giant anaconda in a Brazilian jungle and fought to the death, the snake winning. They shared a day when the cafeteria built apart from the school burned down and all kids were excited to get off early and go home by bus. The three had their pictures made together at Cohen Brothers downtown department store when Hardie had them properly dressed and ushered them by city bus to have the portrait made. The original and copies of the picture are still in possession of Virgil and Douglas.

 

Cohen Brother’s Photo – Douglas, Virgil, Faye

 

Faye remained close friends of the brothers the couple years they lived off Atlantic Boulevard. One evening sitting underneath the big oak in her yard, she and Virgil said they would marry and have lots of kids, toys scattered all over the yard. It was kids-talk; nevertheless, one Virgil always remembered and wondered if Faye had too.

In the seventh grade and living miles apart, she and Virgil attended Northeast Springfield Elementary School. However, the break in time and estrangement had taken its toll in ending their former attachment. Except for causal greeting in the school’s hallways, and one visit Virgil and Douglas made as teenagers to her home by the highway where she remained outside proudly showing them her pet goat and shared brief friendly conversation, the three never reconnected. Before Virgil entered high school word came to him in Oakwood Villa that she and her family had moved from town, probably to Palatka, though that was never confirmed. To this day neither brother knows anything further of Faye Mitchell’s life, a pity.

 

TWINS ALFRED AND CLIFFORD ARE BORN

 

Hardie’s Twins: Clifford (L), and Alfred (R), Prior to Her Sickness

 

Alfred was born minutes before Clifford on November 3, 1948, at Doctor Gay’s clinic in Mayfair Road on Jacksonville’s Southside. Alfred weighed just over three pounds, and Clifford just over five pounds. Alfred underdeveloped stayed in an incubator several days before being released to go home. Once home and lying on each side of Mama, Douglas and Virgil at the beds’ foot made their picks, Virgil choosing Clifford, and Douglas Alfred.

Hardie growing worse in health, it would take over a year before normalcy returned to the Dube family life. The change about to take place would be impactful immediately, and last 6 months with time afterward a slow recover period for Hardie. The subsequent estrangement would remain a dismal memory etched forever in the four brothers’ minds.

Mama did recover to a great extent. After Virgil reached eight years old, Douglas around six, and his small twin brothers around two, Mama doing her housework and everybody finally reunited, she added to her favorite song, singing often around the house as she went about her daily chores:

 

“Oh! Just what will we do because instead of two there’s four, we will have heaps of fun because there’s four instead of two.

When our work is all well done we will play out in the Sun and we’ll have just heaps of fun because there’s four instead of two.

We will learn the Golden Rule and at 6 we’ll start to school and our work will be just fun because there’s four instead of two.”

 

THE END

 

PART 3

FOUR BROTHERS AS YOUTHS

 

*  *  *

 

CHAPTER 3

SEPARATION - CATHOLIC FAMILY HOME CARE *

 

Early Photo of Hardie and Joseph’s Four Boys’

 

I was seven years old when the prospect of being separated from my parents horrified me.

Daddy gathered Doug and me close, and explained, “Boys, because your mama had a goiter removed from her neck, plus the twin’s birth, she is in emotional crisis, has suffered a nervous breakdown. Your Aunt Grace went through similar experience, but much worse. You will have to live with another family while she is hospitalized, and that could be months. Don’t fear. I will be close to visit you four weekly. The family’s caring for you are Catholic since I am Catholic, too.”

Daddy left us one evening with an old couple living directly behind our home on Atlantic Boulevard, to go wherever, probably to see Mama in the facility. Settled in the house with the old couple, I disliked the smell of their Boston Terriers, and the general shambled appearance of their home. I snuck out and fled back home, where I hid under our bed. Daddy found me, but he didn’t make me to go back to the neighbors’ house.

I believe a Catholic social worker drove us by car us first to the Havener’s home, then after three months, to the Chasen’s home on the Southside, a total of six months extending into the summer of 1949 for which we were alienated from our parents.

The picture cover for this autobiography depicts we four brothers the day we arrived at the Havener’s household in Garden City north Jacksonville.

I remember vividly arriving at the Havener home, the large side yard with flowering bushes on its perimeter. We were treated well there, except suppertime when we were expected to eat everything on our plates. Basically, that was a good thing, except I had difficulty eating gristle fat on meat that they cooked, served, and forced us to eat. To this day I hate fat meat; gag on gristle.

A number of equally cared for kids stayed with the Havener’s, one in particular around fourteen years of age. He tried to be fresh with me one day, but I ran away from him. Angered, later he hit me on the head with a baseball bat, knocking me temporarily unconscious. Nobody was around to witness the assault. I did not report him for fear he might waylay me again.

The Havener’s encouraged us to play games inside, one being cards. I was not enthused to play card games, yet I tried one game and disliked it. I have never played cards since.

We always expected Daddy to visit on Saturday’s. I would wait upstairs beside the window facing east and watch if he got off the city bus a block away. Most times he did; sometimes he didn’t and I became pouty.

While at the Havener’s I attended Garden City Elementary School three months in the second grade, and failed. Later at Southside Elementary School where we returned to school in late 1949, Mama had me tested for the third grade, and I passed. I suppose the trauma and loneliness affected me at Garden City Elementary School causing me to fail.

After three months the Catholic social workers relocated us. A nice woman speaking encouragingly to us drove we four boys to the Southside home off Sunbeam Road. The Chasen’s were a large family with a bunch of kids, most likely children in similar predicament to us. The property surrounding their house was vast; with pine trees stretching as far as the eye could see. Our stay with the Chasen’s wasn’t good, for we were mistreated a number of occasions. All in all, Mr. and Mrs. Chasen with many kids to attend tried their best; at least I hope they did. One occasion, we were threatened to have our mouths washed out with soap if we said any vulgar word. I went straight to the bathroom, took a bar of soap and bit a mouthful from it, gauging immediately. I figured at least I had prepared myself in the event I slipped up with some un-nice-ity warranting soap as punishment. Doug did a misdeed one day resulting in corporal punishment involving all kids. When he did not come forward and admit his wrong, we all were lined up and paddled. We boys slept separate from the girls, they in a different room. There was one little fellow who was spooked by the dark, and often cried aloud. We would take a flashlight and shine it on the ceiling, our hands and fingers making images of a wolf opening and closing his snout, we making growling sounds terrifying the kid. Ever so often, one of the adults would come to investigate, but I don’t think he found out our misdeed deserving soap punishment. We lay in the dark playing like we heard a panther outside trying to get in through the windows. This also spooked the little guy into crying, furthering a parent to come check. The brightest happening at the Charen’s was some kind of festival in their yard, where we kids played games, me remembering especially sack racing.

I was ecstatic that summer when Daddy sent word Mama was home and we were returning to them, reunited again. Our Catholic family home stay and separation lasted from February to August 1949. It was a humiliation that would remain with me throughout my life. I suppose it could have been worse. However, I hold little respect for either family where we stayed.

 

* NOTE: The Catholic Church was charitable, a guardian to our family in the early years of we boy’s lives. It began with six months of Catholic family home care. In later years the Catholic Church supplied us groceries when Daddy was out of work, and for that we are indeed thankful. Father O’Shea a priest for the Catholic Church at Jacksonville Beach approved Douglas and me entering the Catholic School there. I will explain later what happened. In the aftermath of not doing so, I feel what happened was actually better we didn’t attend. I feel strongly it would have been disruptive in our natural lives yet offered us better education. We would have certainly undergone regimented discipline and adherence to religion daily as youngsters, both contrary to the independence and openness we shared between us growing up and into manhood.

 

CHAPTER 4

MOVING - ALWAYS MOVING

 

FOREWORD: Each summer during school vacation months, Mama took us four boys to visit West Florida during the mid and late 1940’s, except 1949 and early 1950’s, when we ceased to visit regularly. I’ve listed below some random occurrences recalled while writing this memoir. And subsequently, I listed our moves in Jacksonville along with pertinent events I recalled while living in different places. Attempting to list all the changes of address in our youth, I have counted at least a dozen moves. It seemed we were always on the go changing from this place to that place, which truthfully sometimes, was quite unsettling.

 

SUMMER VACATIONS IN WEST FLORIDA

 

AUNT MARY’S OLD COUNTRY PLACE IN RURAL CALHOUN COUNTY

 

Aunt Mary’s old place several miles away from Altha was situated in rural country just uphill from the branch where Uncle Luther and his family lived: his wife Aunt Flossie, oldest sister Cecilia, son Alfred, and younger daughters Elvia, Edra, and Eunice. The clay road outside Aunt Mary’s property stretched into farm country for miles. The back of her large peanut field slopped slightly to the branch not far from Uncle Luther’s farm and home. Throughout the countryside lay farmland, me observing them in awe as a young boy.

When we boys and Mama arrived each summer at Aunt Mary’s old place, Ronnie Pumphrey usually dressed in overalls and a plaid shirt, greeted us with a smile, his eyes oozing liquid and swarmed with sand knats. We always cringed at first sight of him in misery. At that time, first cousin Woodrow Pumphrey, his wife Ruth, Ronnie, and their daughter, lived in a small room to one side of the old wood farmhouse. Cousin Woodrow looked the world like Humphrey Bogart, the movie star, and he was a war hero having served in combat in the Philippines’ jungles fighting the Japanese.

We enjoyed these visits to an environment similar to the 1890’s. Aunt Mary with no electricity used oil lamps, also an artesian water well, making and doing things as her grandmother had done long, long ago, and surviving quite fine. We especially enjoyed playing daily with Ronnie around the farmyard with chickens clucking and scampering about keeping us company, and pigs, cows, and a mule fenced in. I always enjoyed peeping between wall slats into Aunt Mary’s smokehouse and savoring the appetizing odor of meat hanging being smoked. Wood fences dissected the immediate barnyard, and the outhouse stood a short distance down a weeded path from the house. As a man, I drove my wife to the old place to find it in poor shape and being used as a barn - nothing like when we visited it long ago. I snapped a picture and painted it in the background of my oil painting ‘Following in the Same Row’. Since my last visit, I’ve learned from a relative the old house was demolished.

When Uncle Luther’s cotton field just down the road from Aunt Mary’s was ready for picking, he organized a public picking. People gathered from distances to earn money he paid per sack picked. Doug and I joined them and Uncle Luther’s kids, our first cousins, to pick cotton for $.50 a loaded croaker sack, it with a strap slung over one shoulder. Many pickers were black country-folk picking cotton alongside me. They worked hard and were friendly toward us; actually jolly individuals particularly wary of rattlesnakes. After we filled our sacks following what seemed hours picking, hot and sweaty and wary, we hauled them to the weighing truck where Uncle Luther paid us the half dollar for each sack he dumped in a large truck. Believe me, handpicking cotton was tough to fill even one sack, the hardened pointed spines on each cotton bulb spikey and damaging to ones fingers.

One day Aunt Mary’s cat walked up to me outside her house with a naked baby rat clamped between its jaws. I wanted the cat to let the helpless pink creature go, and went to fetch Aunt Mary to order the cat to release the little rat. She came outside straightaway. Instead of complying with my wish, she explained to me that predator and prey was nature’s way, and the cat was doing a good thing to keep the rat population in check on her farm. She said the cat would not bite and hurt the baby rat, but would swallow it whole, which I reluctantly accepted. She allowed the cat to gulp the tiny rat down, and then he returned to the nest and commenced to consume the remainder of the litter, me looking for somewhere else to play.

Douglas and I enjoyed climbing the ladder up and playing in the loft of Aunt Mary’s corncrib among corn shucks and dried corn. The corncrib stood perhaps fifty feet from an artesian water well in the front yard. The well intrigued me. It was comprised of a wood box about four or five feet square. A pulley wheel attached to the top brace and rope dangling, allowed a bucket to be lowered into the dark expanse below, dropped into spring water, then pulled back up full.

Behind Aunt Mary’s house a large iron pot sat on the ground near a stretch of charred wood cinders. A fire set, she used the pot to hold scalding water to sanitize clothes needing washing in a tub with washboard that the women hung on a nearby clothesline.

The average farm animal was contained in pens, except chickens and genny hens roaming freely about her large yard. If we weren’t careful where we stepped, we would invariably mush poop and have to clean our feet with a stick, or wash it off using the hand water pump next to the back porch.

Many times playing in the yard with my brothers or cousins, Aunt Mary and Mama would sit in rocking chairs ‘dipping snuff’ on her almost ground-level front porch and shuck corn, snap beans, and hull peas and butterbeans. While working, and chatting, one or the other would place two fingers against their puckered lips and spit a stream of tobacco juice into a vegetable can on the porches’ plank floor edge. Watching them always fascinated me with their good aim, though between the two, and the can, dribbles of brown stuff coated the board planks. Their aim good, not always perfect, for juice sometimes flew off course and splashed beyond the can into the yard. A chicken roaming too close might received a slippery load, cluck in alarm and dash off.

Aunt Mary’s farmhouse interior was naturally rustic, the front three-quarters one large room. A separate rear room provided the kitchen with an ancient wood table and large ironwood stove. At one end, the pantry held Aunt Mary’s utensils, also stored canned foods in large number. The far side was petitioned for a separate room. This is where her son Woodrow and his family lived. Aunt Mary did not have electricity wired to her home. Lanterns and oil lamps furnished her, Woodrow and family, and her daughter Dawn Reese dim light at night. Dawn Reese in her teens woke us many mornings from sleep, where we lay cuddled on the plank floor near a cedar chest under heavy blankets. Aunt Mary slept in a large feather mattress bed, and Mama in another large bed, both heavily covered with home-crafted quilts. The many times we stayed with her, Aunt Mary used her antique irons heated on the stovetop to press hers and Dawn Resses’ clothes, and Mama our clothes.

My Aunt Mary was clean, definitely a no nonsense person. Before each meal, she made us boy’s wash our hands at the hand pump next to the back porch using her homemade lye soap. I must say emphatically – my Aunt Marys’ lye soap would beat anything you could buy commercially today for cleanliness.

One morning waking up I found Aunt Mary out back on the porch skinning a jackrabbit. She told me she shot it in the field early that morning with the single barrel shotgun she kept above her front door on supports. I believe the gun was 20-guage.

Aunt Mary’s peanut field extended over a broad area of cleared land. One day playing in the yard near the field, I watched a black man she hired to plow it behind her mule Old Jeff, named after her former husband Uncle Jeff, who died in the 1940’s. I was amazed at this wiry man’s stamina. Despite the incredible heat of midday, and dust bellowing up around him, he worked hard, long row after long row. At the end of each row plowed, he turned the mule around to plow another row. Taking a quick breather, he wiped the sweat from his face, neck, and bare arms with a rag pulled from his rear pocket; then immediately continued to plow.

Another day Aunt Mary and Mama surprised Doug and me, asking if we would like to ride on the wagon to Altha harnessed to and pulled by Old Jeff. We were thrilled and happily accepted her offer. During the ride on the country road, us next to Aunt Mary on the plank spring seat, she let us take turns holding the reins, which I remember was thrilling.

Our picking blackberries to can in Mason jars began in the countryside around Aunt Mary’s rural home. Picking would continue with zest in later years after she moved to Altha next to the railroad tracks where blackberries grew bountifully. One year Mama and us boys picked ninety-nine quarts. Always afterward we enjoyed Mama’s blackberry cobblers with milk added. Yummy! I can almost taste them still.

 

AUNT AND UNCLE LIVING IN ALTHA PROPER

 

Eventually selling their farms and animals, Aunt Mary and Uncle Luther moved from the country to residences in Altha.

After Uncle Luther moved to town, one day he and son Alfred put a pair of boxing gloves on Douglas and me to punch each other outside Uncle Luther’s house next to his small variety store. We had quarreled and they thought duking-it-out was the means for us to resolve our dispute. I always felt they were overly curious how well Douglas naturally big and near my size though two years younger, would fair against me in combat; so, they put the gloves on us. Altha residents in near vicinity gathered to watch Douglas pin me against the house and flail away. The best I remember, I did not want nor seek to hit my brother, even defensively. I punched a time or two to show some combativeness, but Uncle Luther quickly saw my posture and the futility and had Alfred stop the fight. The consensus was that Doug was the victor.

After Aunt Mary moved from the old farm to a nice house and fenced-in yard in Altha, she prepared a garden in her back yard. One day she asked Douglas and I to break down the withered corn stalks across the dirt road adjacent her house and beyond a large oak tree. We stomped down the dead stalks awhile, and then took a break sitting on a hollow log in the shadow of the big oak tree. Momentarily, Douglas heard an alarming noise near him. Twisting about, he spotted the large rattlesnake just feet away, rattling and coiled ready to strike. He whispered to me and in unison we jumped up and fled unharmed. Intrigued after coming to a stop maybe a hundred feet away, we eased back but didn’t see the snake anymore.

I recall an occasion when Elvia and Eunice were nice and took Douglas and me to movie theatre in Altha to see a Gene Autry movie, against Aunt Mary’s wishes. I recall she thought the western movie violent, not decent for us boys to see. Regardless, we insisted to go with our cousins, who bought us popcorn and drink in the small and narrow movie house located in the block-long business district of Altha. The theatre’s inside sloped acutely downward to the screen on a stage. The interior looked and smelled a hundred years old. We enjoyed the movie and were thankful our cousins sided with us to prevail over Aunt Mary’s objection.

One day when Doug and I were in a rambunctious mood Aunt Mary caught wind of it, believing we were making fun of her. She said sternly we were ‘making sport’ of her, a term I hadn’t heard prior, but got the gist by the nature of her complaint. We simmered down quickly. Later I learned the term originated in England, was used much in old times for one poking fun to another, or being insolent.

We spent much time visiting Uncle Luther’s house alongside Altha’s Main Street, also Highway 71. The frame house seemed ancient to me, the floors squeaky when stepped across, with a large front room filled with antique furniture, and a fireplace with mantel. A wide front porch stretched across the entire house front. An elongated kitchen was at the rear, where I remember on occasion it was filled with relatives visiting from all around … that kitchen popular. The bedrooms were to the left side once entering the front door. Despite it of antiquity, the old house seemed homey.

Our blackberry picking continued at Aunt Mary’s new home. We boys along with Mama almost daily at some period grabbed our metal pails and walked to the railroad tracks behind the property, the tracks running through Altha from Marianna to Blountstown, the M&B Railroad the shortest line in Florida. One year, we picked ninety-nine quarts of blackberries; Mama and Aunt Mary cooking them in a huge pot on her wood stove, then fastidiously canning them in quart-size mason jars. I remember the snapping sound when the jars were sealed. Boy! Did we enjoy Mama’s baked blackberry cobbler throughout the following year. As we picked the blackberries alongside the long railroad track, we had to be careful of rattlesnakes in the waist-high thickets. One day I saw a black racer across the tracks in the adjacent cornfield from where I had previously picked. The black snake moved amazingly fast down the cornrows to get away from us disturbing it.

Mama displayed great stamina wearing her broad straw hat picking alongside us boys, up and down that railroad track. The work hard plus reward afterward was well worth our effort. Several years ago I oil-painted on canvas kids playing along the railroad tracks in Altha, the inspiration coming from our many outings picking blackberries.

Back in those days the concern for youngsters running free wasn’t as prohibited as it is today … for good reason. There was little fear or anxiety for us boys drifting away from home for hours at a time, and, we usually told Mama where we were headed. Douglas and I especially roved a majority of Altha back then, enjoying the contrasting country life as opposed to the more restricted ways back home in Jacksonville.

Altha was special to us back then, and remains so today my beloved hometown, especially proud I was born there 76 years ago this coming April.

 

UNCLE MILTON’S COUNTRY PLACE OUTSIDE ALTHA

 

Often we would take a ride out of Altha to visit Uncle Milton Pumphrey, his wife Mary Jane, daughter Myrtle-Ruth, and especially his son Willard, who was two months older than me, he born January 1942. The simple but large wood home they lived stood back from the M&B railroad tracks.

Across the entire expansive of his front weedy yard, Uncle Milton randomly stored his collection of vintage cars, my guess in remembrance only, approximately thirty-to-fifty, maybe many more. How he collected them over the years, and for what reason other than just for the fun of it, I do not know. However, I can testify that there were some mighty old and once valuable cars in his rusting collection. I took liberty with his blessing to play driving in the old cars, shifting the rusty gears, pumping the gas pedal, pressing the squeaky brakes, and turning the ancient steering wheels. Under most cars weeds were growing up between decayed floorboards, the ground visible from where I sat playing. It was off one of these cars I learned how to ride a bicycle, Willard’s old bike he let me borrow. I got up on the fender and pushed off sitting on the bikes saddle. After several shaky attempts I was riding Willard’s bicycle all over his yard. I never lost my ability to ride my bikes from that day, and daily still ride my bicycle around our neighborhood at 76 years old.

Uncle Milton always wearing overalls was a huge powerful man. His massive hands were like two vice clamps. Mama told me how he would lift one end of his car to place a jack rather than jack the frame up to repair a flat tire. She told me the story when he in Marianna as a young man helped a car dealer reposition his showroom cars inside his business. The car dealer needing his showroom car removed from the tight show window summoned him and another fellow powerful too, to lift the car and replace it with a newer one.

Uncle Milton a beekeeper, always with jars of honey and honeycomb available, raised his bees in backyard boxes a good distance from the house. He enjoyed feeding us boys honey, the honeycomb especially delicious to me. I recall chewing the sweet honey almost running from my mouth until the wax became crumbly and I had to spit it out.

Uncle Milton visited Mama and Daddy in the mid sixties. He passed away in 1966 a real loss to me especially fond of him a decent man to the core of his being.

During our visits to Uncle Milton’s we became close friends to Willard our first cousin, playing in big yard constantly, enjoying the M&B train occasionally speed by blowing its whistle for us. Through the many years since that time Doug and I have maintained fairly close ties with Willard, who still lives in the Altha and Blountstown region.

 

AUNT EVA AND UNCLE CORBETT’S PLACE NORTH OF QUINCY

 

The drive from Quincy to Aunt Eva and Uncle Corbett’s place north of town seemed distant years back, though I believe it was less than twenty miles from town. Their property stood at a forked intersection of country clay roads during intermittent times we lived there. Many times, Uncle Corbett or Aunt Eva came to get us in Jacksonville in their Dodge truck, we traveling in the back flatbed all the way to or from Jacksonville and West Florida. One year, Mama sent Douglas and me alone by train to Quincy, where we walked to the local jailhouse to meet up with Uncle Corbett’s nephew - the jail keeper. He kept us until they arrived later that day to take us to their country home. We lived awhile with Aunt Eva and Uncle Corbett, and attended Mount Zion School in the boonies. It was a three grade school where one teacher in one room taught all students. One day Douglas had an accident in his britches not his fault for which he was punished, and told to stand in a corner his nose against the blackboard. I detested the teacher from that time to when I left that school. I remember once we kids had to take a small glass jar home to fill it with poop, then return it to school for worm analysis. I recall us kids on the bus initially nervous carrying our poop jars, some out in the open. It was an embarrassing ordeal for most of us.

Originally, Uncle Corbett had an old store, and an old house where he sold everyday commodities. Around this old place, he planted much corn, some watermelon, and peanuts. He raised hogs, which he hauled occasionally to the slaughterhouse in Quincy. I remember going with him in his pickup truck with a 55-gallon drum full of slops in the flatbed that restaurants in town had given him. After a short drive, we arrived at a hog trough on the outskirts of a large cornfield on his farm. He began panning slops into the trough, hogs running from remote cornrows and squealing joyfully. I chased piglets a distance around the trough, catching a few that squealed distressingly, twisting ferociously to get loose from my grip. The little pigs were amazingly strong and hard as rocks.

Uncle Corbett’s new home had replaced a very old home farther up the country road on their property. Douglas and I had stayed briefly with them prior at this old home site. The new home a great improvement included a store at one end at the road junction, with gas pumps outside as a convenience for local travelers. Uncle Corbett was friendly with the locals, especially the colored. Occasionally, he had a drinking problem, and I remember him drunk on his porch unable to stand up. While working as an electrician in Jacksonville years before, he fell from a ladder and injured his knee. He never had it cared for and it stiffened on him for life, he walking stiff-legged on that one leg. I suppose this had much to do with his occasional drinking. Nevertheless, Uncle Corbett was a good and righteous man, one we four boys idealized. After we grew up, Douglas with me nearby, asked Uncle Corbett one day what he thought of youth’s today? He grinned and replied after quick thought, “Well fellows, I see it like this; kids today go to the hot sandy beach and bake themselves all day under the burning sun. Any other day when you ask them to mow the lawn, they complain, ‘Gosh, it’s too hot outside’!” When he ended his analysis with a broad grin, Douglas and I almost keeled over in laughter, Uncle Corbett beaming ever broader.

Aunt Eva assigned us chores, was a strict enforcer. I remember especially in the mornings we gathered chicken eggs laid by hens in the chicken house in a basket, the enclosure smelly and unpleasant.  In later years Clifford staying at Aunt Eva and Uncle Corbett’s place would testify to the same wretched odor. Another of our chores was to tidy the yard and cut grass with a sling blade. One day when Aunt Eva was unhappy with our efforts, jointly, she made us sit on the living room couch a long time as punishment. I did not mind that reprimand at all. Resting on the couch was welcoming. When we ate supper with them, Aunt Eva was keen about proper manners. On occasion, she used a wet rag to smack one of us out of line. Overall, Aunt Eva and Uncle Corbett had much positive influence on us four boys, and greatly affected our lives in a constructive manner as we entered adulthood. We expressed our appreciation to them before their deaths.

I remember we had a friend near my age that lived close by their farm and store. However, I do not recall much about him, other than we occasionally visited and socialized.

 

AUNT EVA AND UNCLE CORBETT’S HOUSE ON THE SOUTHSIDE

 

Mama still recovering form her nervous breakdown, Douglas and I spent yet another stint with Aunt Eva and Uncle Corbett at their second home in Southside in Jacksonville, me around nine and attending an elementary school there briefly in the third grade before I attended Southside Estates Elementary School the same grade. The period was so brief I don’t recall much, knowing it was located down the street from where Reddi-Arts store stood many years on Hendricks Avenue. I remember one of our chores was raking leaves under a big oak tree in the backyard. Walking to school covered about three blocks, the name of the school I don’t recall. Aunt Eva made me wear shorts pants to school, the outfit stylish, very nice. The problem was, I hated wearing short pants. One morning Douglas and I awakened with a tablespoon of castor oil in our mouths. Aunt Eva dared us to remove them, saying it was the only way she could get us to take the tonic she swore was good for our innards.

Uncle Corbett’s mother Mamie Mathews stayed a spell with them while we visited there. She was huge, never leaving her rocking chair to even walk across the room. When Aunt Eva and Uncle Corbett were off working and Douglas and I came home from school before them, Aunt Mamie was there, asking for us to get this or that for her. One day we walked into the house to find her in a heap on the floor, begging us to help her get up and back into the chair. Doug and I tugged with all our might to move her, but she was so huge we couldn’t budge her. It wasn’t until Uncle Corbett got home that he aided her back into her chair.  

The corncob threat happened during this visit, Aunt Eva saying if we didn’t wash behind our ears when taking bathes, she would get a corncob and scrub behind them for us. We made sure our ears were extra clean when later she inspected them.

The visit on the Southside didn’t last long. When it ended with Mama better, we were happy to return to our bungalow home in Oakwood Villa.

 

CHAPTER 5

MY SCHOOL YEARS, GRADES 1-12, AND CONCURRENT HOME LIFE

 

My parents leaving Altha for Jacksonville in 1945, then a year later moving to Atlantic Boulevard marked the farthest back of my remembrances. Vague recall at age four, they became more vivid after we settled at our second home off Atlantic Boulevard and I approached five years old. From age four to age six was eventful and impressionable for me about to enter Arlington Elementary School on University Boulevard a good distance from home.

This chapter focuses on my grades and experiences in elementary, junior, and senior high school, coupled with corresponding ages and happenings out of school during the specific period of schooling. Later in a separate chapter I will specify topics at random and add text on interesting or special events and occurrences anytime during my three brothers’ childhoods and mine.

 

Ages 4 to 7

No Kindergarten - Grade 1

Attended Arlington Elementary School

 

THE FIRST GRADE: By age 6 in 1948, the same year Alfred and Clifford were born in Fairfield at Doctor Gay’s medical office, I began school at Arlington Elementary School on University Boulevard near Arlington Road. I was a little fuzzy what was going on when I began school, definitely prone to play rather than participate in class activities. Eventually the school principal informed me sternly that if I wanted to pass to the second grade, I had better buckle down and take learning serious. I heeded his advice and set myself on a straight course to pay attention and learn.

Two things occurred in the first grade for which I remember. The first was setup with a projector flashing a movie on a large portable screen, we kids shown a nature film in a jungle setting in South America. A jaguar was walking a jungle path minding his own business when an enormous anaconda snake ambushed him from the adjacent brush. The massive constrictor encircled the big cat fast. The cat and snake fought for a period, the cat desperately trying to bite into the snakes’ head to kill him. The jaguar unsuccessful and finally failing in strength, the snake squeezed the life from him. The deadly deed done, the snake slithered off into the jungle brush. To this day I have wondered - what did this film depicting explicit violence, even if in nature, mean to first grader’s education?

The second occurrence was the morning the school cafeteria caught fire. Looking back I would assume a grease fire got out of hand, but do not recall the extent of the fire. What was so reminiscent, was, we kids all excited were happy we were excused from school for the remainder of the day. I remember being lined up and marched outside then waiting for my school bus to pick me up. All about I heard exciting chatter by my schoolmates, me too joining in.

 

AT HOME

 

Age 4 to 7 (1946 - 1949): our family of four soon to be six lived in Aunt Clara’s house on Atlantic Boulevard. Age 4, I picked up Daddy’s art book on anatomical animal drawing that he attained while a student at the Maryland Institute of Art in Baltimore when he was in military service. I studied the book diagrammed with basic drawing construction of big cats, dogs, and various animals. I comprehended while studying the book that good drawing depended on a solid foundation. My mind was stamped from that time to become an artist, setting in place my approach to be analytic. This was no unassuming occurrence; for it would greatly impact my life growing as an artist and the manner I viewed and studied the natural world to depict my subjects accurately. I have a similar animal drawing manual today that I purchased years back. I keep it symbolically in my art instruction collection.

During the period living at Atlantic Boulevard I became close friends with our next-door girl, she my age. When we moved from the house that my parents rented from our Aunt Clara, I lost all contact with her. Nevertheless, her memory has stayed with me all these years. I am so grateful our mother took she, Douglas, and me to Cohen Brothers downtown department store to have our portrait made together. It is one of my treasures. I will cover this story elsewhere in my memoir.

 

Ages 7 & 8 

Grade 2

Attended Arlington Elementary School and Garden City Elementary School.

 

THE SECOND GRADE: was spent at Garden City Elementary School, when we boys were estranged from our parents, living in Catholic family care homes. My remembrance of the actual school is understandably vague. I do recall the three-block walk to school and the hilly steps leading up to the school entrance. Even now I can feel my depression at that time, wanting absolutely nothing to do with school or the homes ... just wishing to return to home to Mama and Daddy. Consequently, when I received my report card I had failed the entire second grade ... fitting our living condition.

 

AT HOME

 

After Mama delivered twin boys Alfred and Clifford, she experienced a nervous breakdown. In addition, she had a goiter removed earlier from her neck, part of her thyroid gland also removed. Consequently, she had intrinsic problems leading to the breakdown. Daddy couldn’t keep us boys and work his shipyard job. When he took us to a neighbor’s when Mama was taken away by ambulance, I couldn’t stand the putrid smell of the neighbor’s house, they keeping Boston Terriers inside their home. I ran home, where Daddy found me later hiding under our bed. Our admission to family care homes came quick, mentioned earlier in my memoir.

As I mentioned earlier, Mama and Daddy considered sending Douglas and me to the beaches Catholic School. I remember walking with Father O’Shea along the beach near the surf, him asking us questions and we compliant. We would have attended the school except the morning Douglas and me were waiting on the bus at Atlantic Boulevard and Lamson Street, it didn’t show up, or we were late and had missed it. Mama took this as a ‘sign from above’ and decided not to send us to the Catholic School. I believe to this day that Douglas and I would have gotten a thorough and better education than in the public school system. However, it would have been disruptive to our freewheeling life style and maybe not such a good thing in the long run.

During this time and throughout our childhood Mama diligently made us boy’s teacakes, both as cake forms cut in wedges, and teacake cookies she placed in a tall gray stone jar with lid. Anytime during the day when we were hungry from playing or working in her garden weeding or planting seeds in it, we could run inside and get us a teacake from the jar sitting on the kitchen table. Her teacakes were delicious and great with a glass of cold milk.

I would go into the summer school vacation having failed the second grade. A prideful youngster, this affected me negatively. I had no idea how I would cope with the embarrassing setback among kids a year younger than me.

 

Ages 8 & 10 – Grades 3 - 4

Attended Southside Estates Elementary School

 

THE THIRD GRADE: my mother was very persuasive. Before entering Southside Elementary School back in the second grade, my mother requested I be given a chance to determine if qualified I be promoted into my normal third grade class. I scored high and was placed in the third grade. I don’t recall much in this class, only that at age nine I was selected to participate in the Maypole dance around the maypole. I had to wear a white shirt and tie, prompting Daddy to teach me how to tie a double-Windsor knot. Until this day I tie my ties when I seldom wear them in the double-Windsor knot.

Many of our neighborhood kids attended this school and I became better acquainted with them: Billy and Ira Self, Billy Taylor, Cecil Waldron, Cecil and Lee Longino, Molly Lanier, Betty Conner, the Watson’s, and Betty Champion, just to mention a few.

With the years separating me from this era of my life, it is fuzzy the time-set when Douglas and I stayed at our Aunt Eva’s and Uncle Corbett’s home on the Southside. I do remember I was in a third grade class in an elementary school three blocks from their house, and must assume that our visit with them was quite limited in duration, probably a few weeks.

 

THE FOURTH GRADE: this year in school greatly impacted me physically and emotionally. Primarily, I contracted ringworm on my scalp that needed dire treatment, involving: my head being shaved, purple medicine swabbed on affected areas, and me wearing a stocking and baseball cap at all times. Consequently, I missed many days of school that threatened me not passing a second time. I did pass, but privately swore never to miss another day of school, an assertion I fastidiously stuck with straight through high school.

My class included Sue Potter, Diane Reed, Wayne Torbett, and Jackson Royal. Of these notable kids I would continue to be classmates only with Sue Potter at Terry Parker High School, the remainder going to Englewood High School.

I recall rest-time each day when the teacher instructed us to lay our heads on our desks for fifteen minutes. During recess period we played dodge ball mostly. I was quite good evading the ball thrown by a student on each side of a group of us in the middle, the last standing being the winner. One day as I walked back to class from the playground, I heard two people whispering behind me, knowing who the boy and a girl were. Aware Jackson Royal was bullish with other kids and had pulled this certain stunt on several and me next, I prepared for him. To impress the girl beside him, he charged at me my back to him. I watched his oncoming shadow carefully. At the precise time, I ducked in a deep squat as he lunged, flying over me without touching me, and landing in a heap on the ground in a hedge next to the brick school wall. Embarrassed, he got up and walked away – no word said. One day after school I went to see what commotion had arisen just off the school ground. Wayne Torbett and Jackson Royal were in a slugfest pounding each other. I took one look over shoulders and moved away to stay clear of the gladiators fighting.

Wayne and I got along good, became friends - of sorts, and we shared a commonality. He liked my daily potted meat sandwiches Mama made me for my lunch, the meat mixed with mayonnaise and salted and peppered. I liked his peanut butter and jelly sandwiches his mom made him. Often he and I to vary our tastes would switch sandwiches at lunchtime. After the fourth grade and our family relocated downtown in Springfield, I lost contact with Wayne and other schoolmates in school that year.

 

A TIME WHEN SISTER BROOKS ENTERS OUR LIVES

 

My earliest memories after the Catholic family-care homes are returning to Oakwood Villa around 1950, when I was eight years old. Mama had met Sister Brooke’s, as we remember only her surname. She lived off Atlantic Boulevard in a nice wood frame house. Sister Brooks devoutly religious started a Holiness Church in our neighborhood in a wood home gutted to accommodate an open space audience. She held Sunday services plus Sunday school, Wednesday night services, and tent revivals periodically. Well into the services her crowd began to feel the ‘Holy Ghost’ come over them at intervals, and they spoke loudly in ‘tongues’. This happened every service, and got heated up in tent revivals when the ‘spoken to’ sprang from their benches, lifted their arms aloft, and flailing them about, yelled to the rafters in praise of the Almighty. I remember one occurrence when a woman got so carried away; she fell on the sawdust-covered ground and flopped about so fiercely she struck her head on the bench edge, the gash so bad she needed medical attention.

Sister Brooke’s was very nice to us boys, and became a good friend of my mother. I recall one day she had carried me somewhere in her car, and returning to our home, took a sharp left turn onto Lamson Avenue off Atlantic Boulevard. Cars in those days did not have seat belts. Turning so sharp and rapidly, my passenger car door not sufficiently shut, opened. I flew out and landed smack in the middle of Atlantic Boulevard on my butt. Lucky me, no cars were in sight. Sister Brooks was very upset realizing the possible consequence of her blunder. I do not know if she told Mama; I never did.

For whatever reason, probably encouraged by Mama, at age 8 I was to be baptized in Pottsburg Creek to join the Holiness Church. I felt extremely uneasy about this, my head definitely not into religion, especially watching from the shore the male preacher sister Brooks had asked to do the service, dunk person after person after a brief confirmation of faith by that person. Standing in the cold water, the man’s fingers pinching my nose, his other hand supporting my back, he asked if I believed this and that and would I devote my life to what was really a puzzlement to me. I did not immediately answer, but looked toward the shore at my mother nodding her head. Finally, I said yes, and was dunked. To this day, especially raising my children, I sincerely disagree throwing serious religion on children, when they are impulsive and impressionable in the growing years of their minds and bodies. I believe in leaving the serious stuff to the pious adults; allow the kids to develop into it as they see or don’t see fit.

 

LIVING AND PLAYING AT OUR BUNGALOW HOME

 

The second stretch we lived at our bungalow home on Eaton Avenue was 1950 to 1952.

Playing in and out of our primary home, our parents allowed us four boys much freedom, especially when compared with youth in today’s world. We played cars and trucks in a yard predominantly dirt and weed, no lawn. I had no idea what a lawn was back then, leave alone, St. Augustine grass.

In the far backyard an outhouse served us when nature called. In later years our parents added a bathroom to the back corner that consisted of a toilet, sink and cabinet, and heavy iron bathtub. It was an addition for which we were proud, almost considering ourselves high-fa-luttin’ folk. I still remember intently watching the plumber melt lead in a handle and cup flask over a cooker for pipefittings; excited I would soon do my business indoors in comfort and not risk a spider chonking-down on my behind.

Our parents eventually purchased the adjacent vacant lot, using it to plant garden vegetables, spring and fall crops. Though we had less food during phases when Daddy had no houses to paint, we relied on our gardens for sufficient food supplement. When money was coming in Mama did the grocery shopping at Crews Grocery on Atlantic Boulevard. She would buy commodities on credit and pay for them monthly, had them delivered by James, a big black man we boys grew fond of. In my mid teens I carried handbill ads for Mr. and Mrs. Crews in Southside Estates, New Southside Estates south of Beach Boulevard, Arlington, Glynlea, Fort Caroline, and Mayport. I walked many miles leaving leaflets door-to-door, tolerating aggressive dogs, insufferable heat, and rain. This occurred weekly on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, when I earned $.50 cents Wednesday, and $1.50 Thursday. Of the two dollars I received, I used a nickel each day to buy a fudge cycle and took the remainder home for my mother to use living expenses.

I attended Southside Estates Elementary School in part of the third and the entire fourth grade. We went to Altha during the summer after Mama recovered. To help Mama further recover, Aunt Eva and Uncle Corbett kept us with them a spell when they lived in Southside several blocks from Treaty Oak. We went to a school there, but I don’t remember its name. June 1952 we returned to 8835 Eaton Avenue where we live another short period. Sometimes we walked to school when the Southside Boulevard was being constructed. Large underground sewer pipes lay alongside Southside Estates newly constructed roadway, appealing to us kids who had fun crawling through them. When the school board approved giving kids smallpox shots, I slipped away the day of the inoculations and fled home. It was not until in the Army during Basic Training that I got these important shots.

 

DADDY’S RABBITS

 

At the vacant lot’s rear Daddy built rabbit cages. He purchased Californians, chinchilla’s, New Zealand whites, and later satins to fill them. I believe he had as many as fifty rabbits, maybe more at one time. He loved his pets, but needing money for his family, he butchered two-month-old fryers and sold the meat to local grocery markets. He stretched the hides on wire forms and sold them also - rabbit furs desirable back then for fashionable women’s apparel. I sat many times watching him kill and butcher rabbits. Though killing these adorable animals was repulsive to me a young boy, I sat nearby to study the skinned naked rabbit’s muscular anatomy, for which I related the various muscles to that of the human body, and recognized the closeness to other animals in anatomical drawings I had observed in art books. This period of study – watching Daddy butcher rabbits – had a profound impact on my developing understanding of human and animal anatomy.

 

SCALP INFECTION TRIGGERS SCHOOL ATTENDANCE RECORD

 

The second, third, and fourth grades greatly affected me in grade school. Distressed because of separated from my parents, my focus on school in the second grade at Garden City Elementary school while in foster care, was limp at best, resulting in me failing. Entering Southside Estates Elementary School, my mother petitioned to the school principal for me to take a scholastic test to evaluate my grade level. I passed and was placed in the third grade, which I had no problem passing to the fourth grade.

In the fourth grade around age nine, I contracted a skin infection. Not surprising when I look back at us boys playing robustly in the dirt, I was diagnosed with scalp ringworm. Daddy was prescribed a purple medicine to coat the infected sites across my scalp. In order for the infection to heal, he cut my hair then shaved my scalp, for which I bawled the entire time. I wore a stocking on my head that Mama knotted on the top, plus a baseball cap over that for several weeks. Schoolteachers permitted me to wear the baseball and stocking underneath in class, otherwise I could not have tolerated classmate ridicule. One day a substitute teacher stood in for our regular schoolteacher. Spotting me immediately with my cap on, she asked me to remove it in her class. I replied I could not, was too embarrassed to actually say I had a scalp disease before the entire class. A boy spoke up on my behalf telling her I had a scalp infection and must wear the cap for protection. She was gracious and allowed me my cap.

I missed 29 days of school in the fourth grade resulting from the scalp infection. I was passed to the fifth grade, but pledged privately never to miss another day of school. I went through the twelfth grade with perfect attendance, a full seven years. My record was not unblemished however. One day in the tenth grade I arrived late to the school bus stop and missed the bus. Some neighbor gave me a ride to Terry Parker Junior and Senior High School but not in time for homeroom class when the role is called. In my first class I was permitted by the teacher to go to the administrators office and report my attendance. I reported to a clerk that I was indeed at school, and she said okay and would change my day missed as tardy. When I received my next report card it showed I had missed one day, proof the clerk had not done her job. I attempted again to get the record straight but the school authorities made no effort to follow up my attempts to make the correction. The actual record shows I missed one day in seven years, a misnomer. In fact and truth, I never missed a day of school from the fifth grade to when I graduated from high school, a private prideful thing for me.

 

Ages 10 & 11 – Grade 5

Attended Beulah Beale Elementary School

 

THE FIFTH GRADE: For whatever reason, I suppose to make available our Oakwood Villa house for rent and to make extra income, our parents moved to town. We lived a period of time at Aunt Clara’s house on Pearl Place in Springfield near Pearl Street between 9th and 10th streets, and midway between Silver and Main Streets. I spent the fifth grade attending Beulah Beal Elementary School on Eighth Street, a couple blocks from our temporary home. I recall much about the school, but little about everyday happenings as a student there. I do remember several happenings, for instance, the principal honored my brother Douglas’s art and my art when she hung our pictures in her office. She mentioned to my mother I was several years advanced artistically, an observance I took to heart to improve on thereafter. Another happening wasn’t pleasant. My teacher Mrs. English was a stickler for proper student obedience. Whenever she left her class for whatever, she left a student monitor to keep order, that person one of her favored students and an eager tattletale. One day the monitor reported to her I was talking in her absence. When I protested, she asked me sternly to step outside in the hallway. She bent me over and swatted my hinny with a ruler several smacks. I lost all respect for Mrs. English, the insult worse than the small pain … because, the infraction was false. A conniving person I never had anything to do with before or after delivered it, and Mrs. English proved to me she was a cold and unbending person.

Another tantalizing happening occurred. Students were informed in an auditorium school meeting that a class play would involve any kid wanting to tryout for acting parts. The auditorium nice, the thought of trying out enticed me. Shy naturally, I decided acting wasn’t for me and I did not audition. I’ve often wondered since what might have happened if I had auditioned ... will never know.

 

AT HOME

 

Living at Pearl Place I met one of our longtime friends, David (Richard) Barker *, he and I in the same class. He, Doug, and I played much in the nice neighborhood. And we walked the railroad tracks several blocks away from home, often to the Merita Bread surplus store to purchase bread for Mama. We bought comic books at the corner drug store at 10th and Pearl Streets, my favorites Superman and Mighty Mouse. We, along with David Barker, on occasion slipped into the Purina feed plant on 11th Street, and played on the tall stacks of feed, sneaking for fun to hide from the workers. One day visiting David and his mother Mrs. Barker living off Pearl Street about three or four blocks distance, she had placed bands of colored cellophane across the glass screen of her television set, and we watched T.V. in awe. That was a popular phenomenon at that time around 1953 to simulate color television reportedly on the horizon to be produced and available to the public.

 

* In later years long after we moved from Pearl Place, David Barker contacted Doug and me. He visited us renewing our friendship and lifted in several weightlifting tournaments alongside us. A good presser, his technique on the snatch and jerk lockout prevented him moving to high ranking in the sport. Regardless, David was a powerful man, extra strong in his shoulders. He living today in the Tennessee Mountains west of Ashville and me in Jacksonville, we occasionally correspond.

 

Ages 11 thru 14 

Grades 6 & 7

Attended Love Grove Elementary School and Northeast Springfield

 

THE SIXTH GRADE: Lovegrove Elementary School located off University Boulevard between Atlantic and Beach Boulevards was such a great distance from our home we were bussed to and from Oakwood Villa. My classroom was located at the terminal end of one school wing. I recall little of the classroom - my seating, classmates, and teacher vague, only that I liked one particular girl. She was smart and good-looking. But she would never know, for my shyness was a problem I would tolerate many years. I did well with my studies and passed to the seventh grade.

 

THE SEVENTH GRADE: bussed from Oakwood Villa by beautiful bus driver Mrs. Sharman, we kids crossed the Mathews Bridge high above the St. Johns River, and car import docks on the western shore. Our bus swung north through northeast Springfield to J.A. Axon Elementary School located on west Eight Street. The two-story school was red brick and ancient, with long hallways. My teachers were: Mr. Scroggins the science teacher, who lost his fingertip to a gun accidentally going off), and Mr. Yates who I privately called - Yatsie-boy, and an old lady who’s name I don’t recall.

The seventh grade was eventful for me. I met Faye Mitchell again, my one-time playmate while living off Atlantic Boulevard. She and I weren’t in the same classes. The last time I recall seeing her was when I passed by to see a teacher lecturing her in the hallway. Our eyes met, she rolling them in disgust at what the teacher was saying.

One day our English teacher - upper middle age, frail, nervous-natured, and strict, decided we students would do a round robin reading a single paragraph, one student following another in seated rows. I was seated on a row next to the side blackboard waiting my eventual turn, still a long time. I decided I would make a paper airplane as I waited, half attentive to the reading progress. Finished folding it and still time before my turn to read, I tested the paper plane. I tossed it gently down the blackboard eraser holder and chalk dust tray. Instead of innocently falling as I expected, it took off and lifted on a draft of air, probably from the school air conditioner blowing suddenly hard. Anyway, it floated upward, then circled the front of the class, the teacher focused on her book and unaware it’s presence, and it approaching her from her back in a wide circle. Several kids saw it, and watched as it looped around her and popped her on her right breast. I was close to panic as the suddenly enraged teacher turned beet-red, swore loudly, and insisted to know whom the culprit was. Nobody spoke, and her threats of retaliation against the class eventually softened and went unchecked.

I began to read novels at this school. Our school bus scheduled late on certain days to take us home, allowed me about a half hour freedom. Discovering a public library down the street, I walked to it and got a library card. I began to check out character biographies ... all famous Americans of yesteryear, plus I checked out the Black Stallion series. During my seventh grade school year I read twenty-nine novels, and have never stopped reading books to this day, a wonderful personal practice I maintain great pleasure.

 

AT HOME

 

We moved back to 8835 Eaton Avenue, where we would live until we grew into manhood. Early during this period I began to notice girls, so did Douglas, he outgoing and more direct than me shy.

When I was 13, Mama and daddy moved next door to 8821 Eaton Avenue, a small wood frame house. Our parents rented 8835, which was both good and bad. It did offer them extra income from Daddy always working as a painter and doing sporadic jobs with miscellaneous local contractors. The renters were sometimes unpleasant, one family especially we had serious trouble to be mentioned later. There were good renters also; the Cox’s who later moved to the north side.

 

Ages 14 to 19

Grades 8 thru 12

Attended Terry Parker Junior and Senior High School

 

THE EIGHTH GRADE: Terry Parker opened in 1956 when I was fourteen years old. It was an adjustment because of classes and classrooms being multiple called periods. During gym period, we boys were lined up outside and told to march and pick up sticks left from earthmovers clearing the future playgrounds. It was an introduction to dressing out in gym, a thing Douglas and I didn’t abide in the beginning, me especially because I hated wearing short pants. One of the coaches finally told us it was mandatory to dress out, or we would fail gym period. We began to dress out and did quite well in the class.

 

THE NINTH GRADE: I signed up for an advanced class that included French, but didn’t include art. Mama didn’t approve of this, and persuaded me to change to the general level that included commercial art. My art teacher, Mr. Dupre’, asked us during the first minutes of the class to draw and paint a picture in tempera paint. Seeing my submission he called me to his desk. Speaking low, he told me he couldn’t teach me much if anything, and asked if I would help him with the students, that if I did, I would receive an automatic A+. I did as he asked, and though he wasn’t a refined artist I did learn some tips in Mr. Dupre’s art class.

 

THE TENTH GRADE: my favorite teacher Mrs. Jodi Messer taught World History, my favorite subject in school beside art. She used outlining for her study assignments that was perfect for my mentality. I was an A-student thru her class, and won a debate against some smart kids. I did well in shop class, especially mechanical drawing. I mingled with the kids in gym on the playground but never outside of school. During my tenure at Terry Parker I never attended an outside social, or sports game. I was by this time becoming a real homebody, a trait I’ve maintained to this day.

 

THE ELEVENTH GRADE: by this time in my life with no real direction, except maybe to become a commercial artist, I was tired of school after eleven years, and couldn’t wait to graduated from the 12th grade. Consequently, my grades were mediocre, and though bright enough, I just didn’t feel motivated at the scholastic level. During my business arithmetic class, the teacher alternately a coach cared less about his math students. He preferred instead to talk daily with the sports jocks in his class, which disappointed a host of kids and me. He class teaching lacked substance. He would give assignments, asking us to read and study without explaining the practicality of business math to any marked degree, then talk with the jocks. His grading was based on follow-up tests weekly. Comparing him to Mrs. Messer was like comparing a flea to an elephant.

During the Presidential fitness program President Kennedy had initiated in schools across the country, I did very well, second to my brother Douglas. I did ninety-six sit-ups in two minutes and many push-ups that I don’t recall the count.

One day while walking around the back of the school, I heard boys talking in a walled area near where dumpsters were stored near the cafeteria. Curious, I peeped into the enclosure to spot my brother Joe with a couple other boys smoking cigarettes. I told him Mama wouldn’t be happy to find out he was smoking. However, I never told her. He smoked most of his life; only a few years ago suffering a bad health issue to finally quit cold turkey.

During the year we met Terry White, a bodybuilder we trained with and began to lift together in weightlifting contests. He, Doug, and I became lifelong friends, and he and I future brother-in-laws. I will explain later.

 

THE TWELTH GRADE: I cruised through the last year of grade school making sure I had enough credits to graduate. I made no spectacular grades and had no clear vision of my future, except maybe to become a commercial artist. Aunt Clara offered to send me through Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, but I declined in favor of taking a correspondence course of illustration at the Famous Artist School. During one ceremony for seniors in an auditorium in the Prudential Home Office building, we were quoted what we would become in future years. One by one the 245 members of our senior class heard their futures postulated. At the end I was getting antsy they had left me out, then, the class spokesman said Virgil Dube would be another Norman Rockwell … I was pleased. My senior picture quote was – ‘A man diligent in his own business’. Our senior class graduated in Swisher Gym at Jacksonville University. The ceremony over, I looked for and found Mrs. Jodi Messer and thanked her, telling her teary-eyed she was my best teacher ever.

 

JUNIOR-SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL SUMMARY

 

Entering the 7th grade at newly constructed Terry Parker High School in Arlington, I was bussed there from Lamson and Hare Avenues. I remember after the school opened and we kids attended, every gym period at the beginning of class, we were lined up and made to walk a large open field picking up sticks from the woods previously plowed over and debris burned to make the future playground.

It was during gym class we were introduced to weight lifting, the coaches constructing homemade weights out of canned concrete ends attached by a galvanized pipe. One crude barbell weighted 110 pounds, the other 120 pounds. Before long Douglas and I lifted the weights easily, he eventually pressing the 120-pound barbell with one hand, which was a spectacle, the kids enjoyed watching. Around 1957 Mama purchased a duplex house. She had it transported across the river from the Riverside area by truck to Eaton Avenue. The new reconstructed house 8827 was placed on the empty lot between 8821 and 8835. We lived there until after my graduation from high school, and after a van truck in Riverside struck Mama during her purchasing the house.

June 1960, I graduated from Terry Parker High School at Swisher Gym at Jacksonville University. Following my graduation on Friday, I set out early Monday morning on foot to Arlington looking for a carpenter’s helper job, which I found and was hired for a short duration. Before I landed the job I would become a viable commercial artist, I worked several odd jobs. They included bagging groceries at Winn Dixie Food Store off Atlantic Boulevard, roofer’s helper for Hodge Roofing Company, and warehouse worker and ditch-digger for Cleveland Consolidated Electric Company.

 

CHAPTER 6

MISCELLANEOUS REMINISCES UNFADED BY TIME

 

Douglas Playing Cowboys in Our Yard

 

WESTERN MOVIES AND PLAYING COWBOYS

 

From as long as I remember us four boys played cowboys in our yard, donning our western hats, six-guns strapped around out waists, and holsters tied to our thighs. Our horses would usually be a broom tucked between our legs, we galloping the frontier in our yard, rope for the reins, and horses’ mane the straw end.

The roots of our cowboy admiration came from Daddy when he began to accompany Doug and I at an early age downtown to the movie theater-cluster at the corner of Ocean and I believe Laura Streets: The Palace, Imperial, and Empress, to watch cowboys of the silver screen, or Tarzan. As the years passed, we rode the city bus by ourselves, never having a problem. I loved the commotion, all the excited kids outside anticipating the show, the dynamic large posters outside behind glass, and on tripods, displaying in portrait and action the highlighted star and movie scenes, like: Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, John Wayne, Lash LaRue, Whip Wilson, Tex Ritter, Tim Holt, Sunset Carson, The Durango Kid, Johnny Mack Brown, and a host of others. The cost I remember was as low as nine cents per ticket, and the popcorn was also cheap. I enjoyed the serials also, especially Superman.

Back at home we had some rootin’-tootin’ serious gunfights, playing we were our western movie heroes shooting it out with outlaws. I recall vividly playing sheriff, or a gunfighter hired to clean up a town overtaken by desperadoes, using my Dad’s rabbit cages facing each other in our back yard as the town, the rabbits in their cages twitching their noses the fearful desperate citizens.

My, oh my! What an imagination we had back then. Even today when I watch one of these old western films I am fascinated how we admired them so much by the simplicity of the movie sets, shallow acting and stories in some instances. Back then our cowboy heroes was bigger than life. With substance compared to today’s many heroes for kids not adhering to basic values, we in emulating them, were fortunate.

Never mind the old westerns were mostly B-Rated movies. I still relish those old heroes, and once in a while paint a picture depicting a western scene indicative of old-time cowboys.

I suppose all this hero-worshiping and living the stories we imagined and played, was the beginning of an expanding imagination that would become evident in my later years as an artist and writer. Our play for the most part was a genuine thing of purpose in the long run.

 

SNAKES

 

Oakwood Villa in the first years we lived there was rural, wooded predominantly with interspersing dirt streets. It had a truly country taste. Our home sat on a hill off dirt road Eaton Avenue that slopped down to terminate at a swampy expanse, a brook crossing a narrow walking path a distance farther. The pathway was bordered one side with tall dense bamboo, the other side pine woodland with heavy brush and fern. Eaton Avenue continued westward opposite this swampy area beyond Century Avenue to ultimately end at Pottsburg Creek miles away. We boys roamed freely and played liberally in this swampy woodland, often walking barefoot * through the winding narrow brook, the water clear and cold, minnows aplenty. From this wooded area all about snakes existed, especially cottonmouths. We encountered them often, on two occurrences snakes entering our home. A notable incident happened in the Peterson’s kitchen at the base of the hill, where a huge cottonmouth was killed. When the police were called, the Jacksonville Journal sent a reporter out to interview Mrs. Peterson, she saying she was feeding one of her girls when the snake appeared from the low sink counter door. Her story of gallantry was printed in the paper soon afterward.

 

* We predominantly got around barefoot for lack of good shoes, but mainly by preference. Sometimes the hot tar roads or sandy soil scorched our feet, prompting us to scamper onto weeded ground to stand until the hurt subsided.

 

Mama ran out of the house one day yelling, “There’s a snake in the kitchen; stay clear boys.” Curious and excited, I sneaked into the house and crept into the kitchen. Peeping with stretched neck, I spotted the thick black body coiled in a recessed area between the floorboards and planked wall. I ran outside yelling, “Mama, I saw him; he’s a big’un.” On hands and knees I waited and watched for the snake to leave in the open space under our house, it supported on concrete blocks. Sure enough, I spotted him shortly as he slipped down to the ground and slither away. On another occasion Daddy walked from his and Mama’s bedroom to the new in-house restroom and stepped on a snake in the dark. Carrying it outside, somehow, he said he thought it a copperhead.

Uncle Corbett visited us one day. Looking the place over a custom of his, he stepped out the back door and yelled, “God Almighty! There’s a huge cottonmouth I almost stepped on. He’s crawled under the house.” Uncle Corbett dashed down the road and soon returned with a neighbor carrying his .22 rifle. The two men lying on their bellies, searched under the house until one spotted the snake under Douglas’ bedroom and mine **. Uncle Corbett took careful aim and fired, killing the snake with a single clear shot to his head. The men dragged the snakes’ corpse from under the house into the front yard, a very large cottonmouth. We boys played with the snake the remainder of the day, coiling him up and coaxing passerby’s to come see him, teasing them he was alive.

 

** Doug’s bedroom and mine was small, our twin beds separated by a narrow isle, the beds snug against sidewalls. An open closet of sorts occupied the front corner, with a rod to hang clothes that was mostly our parents. Our sparse clothes was stored in a chest of drawers at the foot of the inside bed, an isle separating it from the foot rail. The beds’ frames were sturdy iron, for which on occasion I stumped my toes on the bottom foot going to the restroom in the dark of night.

 

I encountered cottonmouths many times rambling through the woods, often stepping around them on paths giving them plenty of space. I spotted many near Humphrey Gold Mine’s lake located in a sprawled area of sand mounds where we boys often played cowboys and I went to shoot my bow and arrow. It was located then where Regency Square now stands, a place we boys ventured often to the lake. My brothers swam in the lake, but not me ... for, I had never learned to swim, and still don’t know how.

One day when I wandered into the swampy back area of our locality, near where Jax Lanes bowling rink was built years later, and not far from Humphrey Gold Mine off Millcreek Road, likely playing Tarzan, I wadded with dungaree’s on into a clear pool of water that a natural stream fed to about midthigh, the pool surrounded by thick brush and trees. I had just stepped out of the water when I spotted a few feet from me a cottonmouth enter and swim across the pool. Naturally, I took flight, never to venture into that pool again.

The saddest occurrence involving a snake happened when I found our beloved old dog Butch *** lying dead beside the brook at the foot of the hill from our house. I picked him up, and crying, carried his body home. I suspected a snake had bitten him, for his snout was swollen. He was seven years old, about forty-two in human years.

 

*** Butch was part pit-bull and Labrador retriever, tan, and muscular when grown - about forty-five pounds. We got him as a puppy off one of the side streets off Atlantic Boulevard around where Cortez Road is today. Butch was protective of our mother. On several occasions when he accompanied her to the city bus stop and someone suspiciously approached her, he would growl. We boys not driven by values people view today, trained him to fight, and he was a neighborhood champ. Butch was a free-roaming pet - came and went as he pleased, but was always near. Every morning that we walked three blocks to catch the school bus, Butch would accompanied us, leaving for home or wherever he took a notion when we loaded, the bus driving away.

 

Butchs’ body lay near where sometime before while I was out practicing shooting my bow and arrow, I jumped up on a long pine tree fallen amidst thick fern and brush. Balancing myself, I began to walk the length of the tree. About midway I heard a rustling on the ground below and saw the mass of fern and foliage move. I notched an arrow, pulled the bowstring, and then shot the arrow blindly. The snake I hit unseeingly in the brush coiled violently, as did my arrow stuck in him. I jumped from the tree and fled from the swampy region. Later I returned looking for my arrow, but I didn’t find it or the snake.

A special remembrance was when my friend Hoke Eberhart and me were out gallivanting the neighborhood for no special reason. As we boys about twelve years old approached Woodland Acres Elementary School apparently during a mid summer teachers meeting, we spotted commotion, a gathering of adults in the schoolyard. We walked up to see two men showing off before the on-looking ladies, jostling with sticks a very excited long slender snake. Hoke called out, “He’s just a coachwhip; he won’t hurt you.” The men ignored him a boy, kept aggravating the snake hissing and striking at them like crazy, coachwhip’s prone to excitement when threatened. Hoke walked casually past the men, bent over, and grabbed hold of the snake behind his head, turned, and alongside me, walked away, the snake coiled around his arms and the men thunderstruck and quiet. Hoke carried the snake greatly calmed several hours he and I showed him off around the neighborhood. Approaching Crews Grocery store on Atlantic Boulevard, Hoke said, mischievously, “I’m taking him inside to show Mr. and Mrs. Crews.” Stunned, I replied, “What! Carrying that snake in that grocery store you’re asking for it, Hoke.” Moments after he entered the store, he flew out, the snake in hand, right behind him Mrs. Crews boiling mad, beet-red, and swearing like a person possessed by all kinds of bad demons. We took off running. Arriving home probably an hour after Hoke caught the coachwhip, Mama encountered us, saying she heard we had the snake and were sporting him everywhere, and told Hoke pointedly to get rid of him. On the street in front of our house, Hoke tossed the snake into the wooded lot across the road, his long body spiraling in the air. That was the last I saw of Hoke’s coachwhip that took a boy to show two grown men how to handle him, and terrified a woman I’m sure some of her hair turned grey suddenly.

Of the variety of snake we boys encountered they ranged from dangerous cottonmouths to harmless grass snakes, including: garter snakes, rat snakes, moderately poisonous copperheads, Hoke’s coachwhip, and a pigmy rattler whose venom is very poisonous. How we four boys in our ramblings avoided being bitten by snakes, scorpions, and spiders, is a wonder.

 

TWO PROMISES KEPT, EXCEPT FOR ONE, TO A DEGREE

 

One morning after Mama had recovered her breakdown and we lived in Oakwood Villa, I around 8 years old, had dressed for Sunday school, except for my socks and shoes. Mama approached the bed I sat and asked if she could put my shoes on. I leaned back after she sat on the edge of the bed then placed my feet on her lap. She rubbed each foot a minute or so, then as she put my socks and shoes on, she asked me, “Virgil, would you promise me never to smoke or drink?”

Surprised, I looked straight at her and answered, “Yes, Mama, I will never smoke or drink.”

A couple years later as Doug and I were visiting with several neighborhood boys at the street corner near our home, a boy I was unfamiliar approached me offering me a cigarette. I said no, politely, but the boy persisted, swearing how much he liked smoking. Repeatedly exalting cigarette smoking, he kept offering me and I kept refusing, until, he finally slipped a cigarette in my left chest shirt pocket.

Astonished at his brazen insistence, and persistence, I became abruptly irritated. I pinched the cigarette between my fingers and thumb, lifted it out of my pocket like it was poison and extended it from me to near his face, then dropped it on the ground. For an instant his eyes widened, then he sprang back when I jumped forward and slammed my shoe soles down on the cigarette and then spun my body around grinding it to a pulp. I replied, as I stepped back, “That’s what I think of your cigarette.” He said nothing, as he and his friends exited quickly. I don’t remember him afterward; think he kept his distance.

One day as I entered our home from the back door I stopped in my tracks seeing Mama smoking a cigarette. Caught, she held a shocked look on her face, saying she was so pressured she desired a smoke after many years quit. I responded, “Mama, how can you ask me not to do something that you do?” She put the cigarette out, apologized, and agreed with me. I don’t know if afterward she smoked in privacy or not, but she never smoked in my presence from that day. From the time I promised Mama never to smoke, to this day in my 76th year, I have never had a cigarette touch my lips.

Drinking alcohol is another matter. I had no idea what an alcoholic drink tasted like until one day around age 30 when I was visiting my father-in-law Bill Dukes at his Bundy Lake property near Grandin in Putnam County. He asked me if I would like to try his blueberry wine that he had made from blueberries he grew on his property. I paused momentarily, glanced at Sharon shrugging, then said I would give it a try. I fairly liked his wine ... told him so, but didn’t care for the bitter alcoholic after-taste. Since that first drink I have on rare occasion had a socializing beer, or rarer a stronger drink wile visiting with my son Jeff, the after-taste of any alcoholic drink a real dislike to me. I might average one alcoholic drink socially every five or so years. In principle, I still honor my mother’s request; I do not drink alcoholic beverages preferring my Arabica bean coffee instead.

One Saturday evening Doug and I in our athletic prime were about to drive home with weightlifting buddies after a tournament in Orlando. Five of us six suggested first to go to this bar downtown, me reluctant but giving in and going along with the majority. I believe several of them wanted to see if they could get me a non-drinker, to drink, maybe get drunk. As we settled at the bar counter everyone ordered their drinks and the bartender approached me, “Mister, what will you drink?” I smiled, looked down the line at my on-looking apprehensive buddies, then replied, “I would like a fifth of milk.” Surprised, they all cackled loudly, as the barkeep responded, “Honestly,” and I reaffirmed, “Yes, I really like pure milk.” The guys with me caught off-guard, backed me up telling him we were weightlifters here for a tournament and I didn’t drink booze. He brought me a giant glass of milk in a jiff. I thanked him and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was the only clear-headed one of our group later driving my car back to Jacksonville safely with my buddy’s as passengers.

The years have stretched in time since I said I would honor Mama’s requests. During the interim I have concluded she instinctively knew the potential damaging effect these habits would have on me a budding artist and was protecting my talent, health, and general welfare.

Since that time cigarette smoking is considered by widespread example and research to be one of the filthiest and unhealthiest habits a person can undertake, hydrocarbons infiltrating the entire body via the lungs and bloodstream with lung cancer a prime consequence, cardiovascular disease another. Alcohol among the cocktail of drugs insanely consumed by humans in varying manners, is statistically one of the most addictive and destructive drugs on the planet, personally, and property wise. Moderate alcoholic consumption has been touted compensatorily as healthy in many circles. But when one takes an in-depth look and examination of a user, especially an abuser, total contrast is obvious – and note, the beer-bellies are an indicator of damaged done where inside the body there exists a shipwreck that is surely sinking.

 

DUAL PORTRAITS – FATHER & SON

 

Visiting casually with Daddy the morning of February 28, 1973 with a cup of coffee in my hand, he in his night robe sitting in a rocker on his front porch next to me also in a rocker, an idea struck me. I asked him, “Daddy, would you like to do a pencil drawing of me in this rocker, then I do a pencil drawing of you in your rocker. He said yes, thinking it a great idea. After collecting his drawing tablet and graphite pencils, we commenced drawing, me sketching him first, then he following suit. Below is our dual portrait, a treasure among my collection of artworks.

 

DUAL PORTRAITS – FATHER and SON

Left - Daddy Drawn by Virgil – Right - Virgil Drawn by Daddy

 

KANEY’S STORE

 

As teens, we neighborhood boys and the girls we adored, and teased, congregated early evenings at Kaney’s Store and gas station on Atlantic Boulevard across the road from Crews Grocery. We bought either RC Colas and added peanuts for the overflowing fizzle, or Cracker Jacks with a little prize in the box, or Babe Ruth and Powerhouse candy bars. Grouped outside the store, boys one side, girls the other side, we socialized an hour or so. One evening an older fellow I knew of but wasn’t my friend, happened up as we boys visited. Just out of Army basic training, he boasted how skilled he had become at judo and hand-to-hand combat demeaning us in a petty manner. I can’t remember how he and I clashed that night, just the surprise of what happened. I believe another boy suggested to him I was a good wrestler and he took him up on it. Anyway, when he grabbed hold of me his training did him no good. I threw him easily, a very embarrassing display that prompted him to exit quickly.

 

CRAZY FRANK

 

A tall slender man perhaps in his late twenties or early thirties often wandered up to Kaney’s when we boys gathered. A bit left of center (probably for good reason in his past), he wore a western hat, and toy cap pistol holstered on a belt around his waist. Douglas teased him most times he appeared, spreading his feet wide apart and challenging Crazy Frank to draw his gun, Frank complying, always a sport taking the teasing in good nature. My wife Sharon as a girl knew of this man commonly known as Crazy Frank, she at the time living in Southside Estates. There was rumor he had killed someone in a bygone time. Personally, I didn’t believe he had, for his demeanor and action in our presence was of someone less likely to violence.

 

PLAYING MARBLES

 

From about eight years old to my early teens I occasionally enjoyed playing marbles. My brother Douglas and I would go to our bedroom chest of drawers, and in a drawer where we kept our generous supply of won marbles, place a good number in a pocket and set out searching for a game in our neighborhood.

We defined our marbles as: shooters, peewees, cat-eye’s, swirlies, and bummies. We always had our favorite ‘shooter’, a marble that fit just right between our right-hand index finger tip and the thumb knuckle above the fingernail. Many shooters shot their marbles with the thumb-tip pushing the marble outward from being tucked behind the index finger, this method not energizing the marble as much as the former method I mentioned. We preferred ringsies games, whereby a player would mark with a stick a broad ring of varying diameter, usually four-foot across. Each player was expected to place his equal quantity of marbles into the circle center. Centered in this bunch we placed the peewee prize marble, usually of distinctive if not single color. If it were struck from the ring from anywhere within the ring at any time, the shooter won all the remaining marbles. When Doug and I returned home from playing marbles we normally had both pants pockets full of won marble that we placed in our treasure-chest drawer.

I was respectable playing marbles, won my share and could ‘stick’ my marble behind one my marble struck squarely. However, Doug was very good playing ringsies. He not only had a good shooting eye, he could shoot the marble so hard it stuck in place and spun rapidly where the former marble it struck sat, and flew off a distance from the ring. I have seen his shooter strike and break many a targeted marble.

If time allowed from our homes to the school bus stop we kids played chaises. This game involved a player shooting his marble at a random distance before him, the second player shooting his marble from the same distance trying to hit or come fairly close but yet a safe distance from his target. Sooner or later one or the other would slip up and get too close to his foe, for which his foe would strike his opponents’ marble and claim it as his own. Any shot forward had to be exactly from where the shooters marble rested on the ground.

In our day marbles was popular with kids, not so today, though in select circles the games are played with zest. There are regional and national championships. It is a game that if brought back would be a viable alternative to electronic gadgets.

I remember early before sixth grade class opened for the day at Lovegrove Elementary School that kids in large number played marbles all across the school ground. My, my, how times have changed.

In writing this insert for my memoir, my wife Sharon mentioned to me how well around 10 years of age she played marbles as a girl. While living at Atlantic Beach she could beat most of the boys ... and, sounds like she could have been good competition for Doug and me.

 

THE VEGETABLE MAN

 

I was quite young when the vegetable truck stopped at scheduled intervals in front of our house in its route through Oakwood Villa. The friendly middle age patron wore an apron, as he exited his pickup truck to greet Mama stepping from our front porch to check his produce, always buying from him. The vegetable man’s truck-flatbed was covered by a metal canopy for shade, and was supported by corner posts. An adjustable side covering protected his produce from road dust, and offered shade for he and his customers. Neatly placed and separated on some kind of under support not visible, was a variety of fresh fruit and vegetable, the smells I remember being pleasant. Centered at the back a scale hung by chain for weighing purchases. I can’t remember when he stopped his route, only that for the time we knew of him he was a regular fixture we boys enjoyed his stopping at our house, always delighting our mother with his delicious goods.

 

THE BOW AND ARROW

 

From my early youth I took a fancy to shooting the bow and arrow. My parents not able to afford an expensive archery set, I began to make my own bow, but purchased arrows randomly at stores. I would go into the woods and look for hickory limbs the right size to fashion into bows with my pocketknife. I would spend hours whittling the wood, shaping a handle first, then forming in gradual thinness flat arms to the end string notches ... all in one long piece. I made some fairly good bows, one memorable and so strong it snapped most twine I used as string, even wire. Eventually I whittled it smaller for practical use. I would practice often in the side vacant lot, shooting at small targets to gain accuracy, even pencils. Today I practice at our north Georgia cabin, shooting my Bear 76’er fiberglass recurve bow at 55-pound pull at box-foam commercial targets, no sights, no stabilizers. Often I wonder how well I would have done as a competitive archer; never got the chance since weightlifting dictated my time several years, and my art career took center stage for my family’s welfare and mine.

 

POPGUNS

 

In the swampy area at the foot of the hill our house stood, a thick stand of bamboo stood off the main pathway. I would select a length of bamboo, and several reed up-shoots roundabout. At home I sawed a hollow length of bamboo about six inches long for the barrel, with a center hole about three-eights of an inch in diameter. I would fashion a handle for the ramrod, one end the bamboo knot - the other a hollow length about two inches long. I would cram a reed into the hollow end until it was firmly seated. Then I would spit on a solid surface like our concrete block steps and pound the opposite end of the ramrod just long enough it would breakdown and flare and fit snuggly into the barrel hollow tube to about an inch from one end. At this point, I would fit the flailed ramrod into the barrel to test its snugness and workability.

My popgun made, I needed ammo. I climbed our neighbors chinaberry tree, the Vasilko’s, and picked me a sizable pocket full, then went hunting, either for one of my brothers, or any practical target ... lots of times road stop signs. Many evenings gathering chinaberries I stayed a while in the tree, my limb extended well over Lamson Avenue. I would time passing cars below by dropping a single chinaberry. It wasn’t dangerous to the driver, but it’s a wonder I didn’t fall, or the limb break.

My brothers as proficient as I making spoke-guns, often played war shooting each other. The whelps and stings were serious enough if one were hit in the eye it could have caused serious injury, even blindness. However, we boys weren’t of mind anything bad would ever happen, for we kept on warring, playfully, of course, but with a feeling of invincibility. We never seriously hurt one another.

 

SPOKE-GUNS

 

When an old bicycle rim was available (there were plenty to chose from roundabout our neighborhood), I would unscrew the spoke wires connecting cap from the outer rim. I would turn the barreled nut around and re-screw the wire into it just so far. This made available a length of open space within the small barrel nut to pack sulphur match heads I scraped from kitchen matchsticks. To shoot the gun, a matchstick or piece of short wire was placed tightly in the open end of the barrel. A lit match held under the barrel caused gas to expand in the packed sulphur. When the gas expanded to a threshold, it would violently push at the packed blockage, eventually to explode and shoot the wire or match as a speeding projectile. The sound was loud, like a firecracker, and would propel the missile a good distance. Many times we were so proficient making a tight fit for the explosion to occur, that the barrel nut would actually split and peel outward.

 

OUTHOUSES

 

From my birth to when Daddy finally put a bathroom in our Oakwood Villa bungalow, then followed putting one in the extra rental house they later purchased, we used an outhouse. We even used outhouses at our rural relatives homes in West Florida the early years we visited them in Calhoun and Jackson counties. The outhouse on Aunt Clara’s home off Atlantic Boulevard we lived a couple years was located in the back right rear of the property, a good walk along a weedy path to access. The outhouse at our bungalow was at the back of the lot. At the rental we lived a while, it was located at the left rear of the lot, accessible through a wire-enclosed chicken yard I often got chicken poop mushed between my toes. When that happened, I used a handy stick to clean the smelly crap from my skin, then went back to playing, or whatever.

 

 

WHEN NATURE CALLS

Oil Painting By Virgil Dube’

Copyright Registered - Library of Congress

 

The outhouse depicted in my painting ‘When Nature Calls’, is constructed much like the ones our family used in my youth up to about 1950. The door and sides were vertical wood planks, the seat a box over a deep hole in the ground, the top cut into a circle about a foot across. We used newspaper for wipes, or old Sears and Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogue pages. Definitely crude by today’s standards, the rank smell and maggot-infested waste matter was accepted as a way of life for personal relief at that time. Whenever I sat over the hole to do my business, I always looked first that a spider or scorpion wasn’t stalking nearby to sink its fangs into my hinny. Why the caution? Spider webs were common within our outhouses and we found plenty of scorpions as we played in our yard. I can remember when Daddy dug a drain-field in the back yard for the bathroom he was putting into the rental. We boys when he was at work climbed onto the house roof and jumped off onto the dirt mounds beside the trench ... a bit dangerous but great fun.

 

FOOD

 

Daddy’s painting jobs were fairly regular. Therefore, we never went hungry for any period to overly stress us. And, my parents received income from a rental house that had a mortgage like our bungalow. However, Daddy experienced job lapses necessitating we receive assistance, and that came from the Catholics, my fathers’ primary religious affiliation. I recall several occasions we were given bags of groceries donated by the Catholic Church, and the charity has left a warm spot in my heart for them.

Mostly, my parents grew fresh vegetables in gardens, we rarely without delicious country cooking on our supper table, rarely without teacakes for snacks. Our family drank whole milk, not tea. Daily, the milkman delivered fresh whole milk in jars placed at our front door, he taking the used clean jars and adding to our bill Mama would pay at chosen intervals. Visiting our relatives on farms in West Florida, we drank fresh cow's milk strained.

 

CLOTHES

 

To say we were impoverished would be stretching reality, though at times when Daddy was thin on paint jobs, we relied on help from the Catholics, and our Aunt Eva and Clara doing much to keep us better dressed.

Seeing us in moderately tattered clothes wasn’t unfamiliar to people we knew, or visitors. Even so, our clothes were mostly laundered and clean.

Mama was especially good at sewing, and repairing our clothes, that believe me, we treated roughly. She sewed on an old Singer foot-pedal machine in a black cabinet, with drawers, and a swing-out cover to lay excess fabric, when the cabinet was opened and machine lifted to upright position for working. I was forever fascinated watching her sew, she lots of times making dresses from feed sack calico fabric she purchased at the grocery store, actually the flower prints pretty as I recall. And, I used to love playing with that old Singer sewing machine, Mama often chasing me away.

Our daily attire was dungarees (called jeans today) and a white T-shirt. My brothers and me rolled our dungarees bottom cuffs up to mid calf, and mostly we played barefoot. I always wore a belt, mostly so long the end hung when the buckle was notched. The shoes we wore were purchased like much of our clothes through Sears & Roebuck or Montgomery Ward mail order catalogues. I can remember many times my shoe bottoms wearing thin, the stitching coming lose and sole flapping when I stepped. Eventually, I would tire of the flapping and noise walking and cut the sole half off. This left my foot bottom bare and vulnerable to whatever I stepped on.

As we aged we dressed better, though our clothes in general weren’t on par with many kids in grade school. But that didn’t bother us; we were happy-go-lucky kids seasoned to accept what we had, were given, or didn’t have accepted as normal.

 

WASHING CLOTHES BY HAND

 

Mama washed our clothes when I was younger using a #2 washtub, a scrub-board inside it, and a stick to beat stubborn dirty clothes. Actually before our bathrooms were installed we washed ourselves outside in the same #2 tubs.

Mama hung the washed clothes after she wrung them out in a tight twisting manner, clipping them with clothespins on clothes lines Daddy set up between two opposite metal posts, perhaps twenty feet apart. Direct sunlight was a healthy manner to dry our clothes. I remember how laborious the washday task was for Mama on top of her other wifely and motherly duties, and appreciate her caring for us that much more. Only when Daddy ran an electric line to a ringer washing machine set up outside, did her chore become more modernized and tolerable.

 

RADIO THEN TELEVISION

 

To entice me, Mama allowed me to listen to our radio on the refrigerator if I would regularly wash the dishes after suppers *. Dishes done, I would stand on a chair, place my arm upon the top frontal of the refrigerator, and listen with my ears close to the speaker. I enjoyed nightly drama programs that included Gang Busters, Gunsmoke, The Lone Ranger, the Green Door, Dragnet, The Shadow, and a host of programs that in truth may have heightened my imagination for writing in my latter years.

 

* One notable instance washing dishes happened one night Aunt Clara visited us. I could hear hers and Mama’s voices in our bedroom talking a lengthy time. When she appeared in the kitchen carrying a mason quart jar, she walked up beside me and said, “son, I want you to see something and hold it in your hands.” She handed the Mason jar to me filled with large bills, and added, “that is $15,000 dollars. I want you to see what hard work can award you.” Naturally, she wasn’t giving me the money, just offered me advice on the value of it used correctly. I have lived with this moment and lesson planted in my mind, glad to have married a person with like value to my Aunt Clara.

 

Before our eventual home T.V. purchase, we walked to the ice cream store on the opposite side of Atlantic Boulevard to buy ourselves a ice cream cone, then sit on a bench the proprietor furnished, eat our cone and watch shows through a large window from 5:00 p.m. to about 7:00 p.m. Our favorite shows were Superman, The Lone Ranger, and The Cisco Kid. Not until we lived first on Pearl Place in Springfield, then returned to Oakwood Villa, did our parents purchase an Admiral black and white television. Our favorite programs from that time were aplenty, including dramas, westerns, and variety shows galore.

 

SANDLOT BASEBALL

 

When we boys got a new baseball with the hide neatly stringed, it was a proud possession. However, we batted it so much the string began to wear and would eventually break. Soon, the hide dislodged and we were forced to play with a naked ball covered with fine wound string. At this point to preserve it, we wrapped it with electricians fabric tape. The fabric tape eventually unraveled necessitating we rewrap the ball. This was a constant practice but didn’t hinder us the fun we shared between us and other kids in the neighborhood to congregate at fields to play, we all picking sides diplomatically. We brothers had fairly nice gloves Mama bought us, and we kept good care of them.

A couple blocks from our home on Eaton Avenue, a vacant lot offered us kids a large sandlot baseball playground. If no one was playing when Doug and I arrived, we played between us, taking turns pitching and hitting the ball. Doug at this time had grown quite strong, his towering fly balls sailing a half block.

Later, we played baseball in the Woodland Acres Elementary school play diamond covered with clay and a tall wire backstop. Doug and I would go about three hundred feet into the outfield and mark an arching circle from left to right field foul lines. This was our home run marker. He and I being fans of Mickey Mantle learned to hit well both right and left handed. Doug’s fly balls sailed easily four hundred feet; one I remember a dot in the sky flew probably a hundred feet farther. There is little doubt in my mind he could have become one of the great Major League sluggers had he chosen baseball over Olympic weightlifting. I could slug them far, but was no match for my brother. Left handed, I hit liners three hundred feet - pretty good but not great. When I went out for baseball at Terry Parker high school the coach gave me a choice ... either to play baseball for the school, or to lift weights and not play school baseball. Shocked, already aspiring to compete as a weightlifter, and not liking his attitude forcing me to choose, I responded, “Coach, sorry, I choose weightlifting.”

 

NEIGHBORHOOD FRIENDS

 

When visiting West Florida we played mostly with our many first cousins. In Oakwood Villa we were friends with the Watson kids, Ira and Billy Self, Victor Kelly when he lived in our neighborhood and played with Doug and I, Cecil Waldron, and others on occasion. David Barker was my close friend in Springfield, who I mentioned in another section of this memoir. Hoke Eberhart was a close friend in Oakwood Villa, he carrying the coachwhip around the neighborhood I mentioned in the snakes section.

Cecil Waldron and I were fairly close friends. He lived two blocks away on Galveston Avenue with his mother Lily Barber, father-in-law Calvin Barber, and brother, Emmitt Waldron. Cecil and I played for years almost daily, visiting each other’s homes. We made our own bikes from parts and rode them throughout the immediate neighborhood. Cecil was a good mechanic, would be working on Calvin’s car many times when I came over to visit. He and I did a report on rockets for our 10th grade science class, Mr. Dubose our teacher. He did the speaking from a paper we both wrote, me displaying before the class the Redstone (Army) rocket that lifted our first satellite into space for which I carved with a pocketknife.

As I arrived at the Waldron house one day Cecil and Emmitt were out back getting ready to butcher a hog. I was stunned when Cecil lifted the barrel of a .22 caliber rifle to the hog’s forehead and pulled the trigger. I left in a hurry not wishing to see the grizzly butchering, as I was sure they would be inexperienced compared to my Uncle Corbett butchering hogs that I witnessed several times as a youngster.

Lily and Calvin Barber invited me to hunt squirrels with them and Cecil on a relative’s property near Folkston in South Georgia. I was around fifteen years old at that time. The sun not quite raised, I arrived at the Waldron’s home to find nobody up from a nights’ sleep. I lay an hour on their small front patio-porch until finally they appeared ready to drive to Georgia. They furnished me a .22 caliber rifle as we were headed into the Georgia woods. Cecil, shot several squirrels; I took a crack at a couple missing both purposely. However, Lily killed twenty-nine, surprising me her marksmanship.

Later at Fort Jackson in basic training, I fired expert with the M-14 rifle, scoring 94 out of 120; 68 the qualifying score for expert marksman.

Bottom-line; I didn’t like shooting squirrels.

 

LOCOMOTION FROM POINT A TO POINT B

 

Mama and Daddy didn’t own a motor vehicle. To the best of my knowledge, they have never driven one, except maybe Daddy in military service, am not sure.

Not around autos and trucks growing up I didn’t developed into an auto mechanic. My head was elsewhere. I know general aspects of the function and working parts of a motor vehicle, little more, yet enough to sidestep elementary problems that might arise in an emergency. My brothers however, are well adept at auto mechanics, especially Clifford a darn good mechanic.

Arriving in Jacksonville in 1945, Daddy was hired to a painting job at Merrill-Stevens Shipyard located on the St. John’s River east of the new downtown Alsop Bridge. His mode of transportation first from our bungalow, later to the house beside Atlantic Boulevard, was via the city bus. In later years on contracting jobs his partner and boss Mike Vasilko transported him. Mama got around via the city bus, or she walked. One day for the heck of it, she walked from downtown to our home that wasn’t that far from present day Regency Square Mall. She walked to and bought much of our groceries at Crews Grocery store on Atlantic Boulevard about a mile from home.

Looking back at our family relying on varying modes of transportation to distant objectives, I believe our occasional hard times were due in part to this handicap.

Our first riding toy was a tricycle. I recall riding a bright red one when I was quite small. As the years passed, we boys became very adept at making our bicycles from random parts collected here and there around the neighborhood, and purchasing chains, master links, the bearing and guts to the sprocket, handle bars, and wheels. If I lacked auto mechanical skill, I made up for it building my fast bicycles of basic frame and tires, machines my legs pumped the pedals faster than most kids I raced. Today I am quite comfortable fixing my cruiser bicycle; though manufacturers are making it more difficult to strip them down to personally repair. When we didn’t walk somewhere, we rode our bikes - miles and miles.

I have never roller-skated; always wondered why it didn’t interest me as a boy. I did make stilts using long wood sticks to climb on a flat brace and walk tall; stilt-walking loads of fun.

We had scooters, but only used them sparingly. I can’t recall actually playing with our scooter very long before I became disinterested.

 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

 

My earliest recollection of Christmas was when I was age four or five, and we lived off Atlantic Boulevard. Christmas Eve night I heard my parents shuffling about and whispering in their front room that served as both a living room and bedroom. A curtain hung in the doorway separating our bedroom from theirs. Around age 5, I crept to the curtain and peeped past it to see them arranging gifts around our small Christmas tree. I knew instantly they were in fact Santa Claus, and that in truth, Santa in the bright red suit in the department stores where we sat on his lap telling him what we wanted for Christmas, didn’t exist. I never let them know my finding, nor my brothers for a long time. Quite frankly, and though not religious, I still enjoyed Christmas for the good cheer it creates one person to another, and, I still enjoy the tradition today decorating our house with my wife. The good cheer is refreshing and exhilarating.

Doug and I usually went into the woods to get our Christmas tree. It was always pine, which had a Christmassy smell. We made a crude stand of boards nailed crosswise and into the tree base. Tacked braces kept the tree upright. Placing it on a table, we strung it with lights, added sparkly garland, a few bulbs, silvery drooping tassel, and finished with pinecones. Most times we draped a white bed sheet around the base to simulate snow.

When Mama and Daddy could afford it, we had nice several presents, especially cowboy cap pistols and holster sets, along with cowboy hats, and a box of rolled caps. I loved the colorful metal play cars and trucks I couldn’t wait to go outside to push around on roads I made in the yard dirt, sounding ‘doo’in-doo’in’. I received a Howdy-Doody puppet around age 11, and coveted it until somehow it disappeared.

Easter was always a joy. We were always in great anticipation for Easter morning to get from the Easter Bunny baskets of candy eggs and prizes in plastic eggs under cellophane and in stringy fake grass, the chocolate bunny a treat to savor during the day. At Sister Brooks Holiness Church she put on an Easter egg hunt after Sunday service for the congregation’s kids, always a challenge to get the Golden Egg and big prize. I never found it.

 

CHAPTER 7

BOUTS OF MISCHIEF AND ACCIDENT’S UNFADED BY TIME

 

PERSONALLITIES: Growing up we four boys shared much alike. However, we had and still have distinctive characteristics.

Doug and I differed in assertive behavior, he more sociable and physically combative by nature. I was and still am predominantly introspective, private, and even shy at unexpected times that annoy me. I’ve never cared to be the center of interest, thus have shunned attention and fame in my personal pursuits. I hate and will not speak publicly before groups of people.

Clifford shares much of Doug’s characteristics, except he could be quite rambunctious at times getting into trouble. All in all, he was and still is today a compassionate person.

Alfred the smallest of us was more laidback. He enjoys oddities and acting funny, lots of times being plain goofy to entertain us. He is good-natured with most people, and was our neutralizer when things got too serious. He like Doug and I, are artistic, though he doesn’t practice drawing anymore, his interest more centered on airplane modeling. His son Adron is an excellent artist, pencil drawing his specialty.

The one thing we shared in our youth was defending each other. That we did many times in a neighborhood over the years becoming increasingly disparaging as we neared manhood.

 

I AVOIDED FIGHTING WHEN I COULD: We four boys were protective of each other, and though I defended myself, and my brothers likewise defended me, I was a good wrestler and rarely resorted to fist fighting. Naturally laid back when younger, I hated confrontation and fierce fighting. However, there were instances I had no choice as I aged. Douglas and Clifford were the real gladiators of the family, both with flammable temperament if provoked unduly.

When perhaps ten years of age, I became quarrelsome with a boy living next door, his parents renting my parents second house. We were in the vacant lot between the houses, me not wishing to encourage an imminent fight for which the boy was seeking. Douglas dashed from our house suddenly and put a beating on the boy, Doug nearly two years my junior. In defense of myself, I tried to avoid the fight to a more aggressive foe seeking for a puzzling reason to me to provoke me into a fight. The same boy years later walked up behind me and hit me blindside. He caught me in a not so conciliatory mood. I wiped the blood from my nose, then punched him, knocking him to the ground. Then I commenced to pound him badly. I was not happy with myself afterward, arguments and fights always upsetting me afterward.

My first mischievous incident I recall was when around four years old, my brother Doug and I had a fierce pillow fight. It amounted to more fun than to inflict injury one on the other. However, it reflected the competitive spirit between us early on. The boxing match in Altha between Doug and I mentioned earlier was another impish incident that was instigated by others when we were very young.

Our venturing secretly into the Alpine Dairy pasture off Atlantic Boulevard was a joint venture Doug and I undertook without parents aware. And, the incident when the Arlington principal called me down for not behaving that I mentioned earlier was also an innocent happening. These along with others lost to memory, paved the way for more robust episodes of both mischief and accident to come, and here they are as I recall them.

 

THE SANDSPUR INCIDENT: After moving back to the bungalow from Atlantic Boulevard, when I was about eight years old and Doug six, we played war in the yard. Our weapons were sandspurs.

If an area of our yard that included the open lot next to our property wasn’t plowed over and a garden growing, it was weedy, supporting lots and lots of sandspurs nasty to walk amongst. Doug and I would pick us a handful that included the long stem to hold in the palm of our hands and not be stuck. After picking a sizeable handful we would hide and ambush each other, picking a stem from our bunch and throwing it at each other, sometimes getting stuck on an arm, the face, or through our thin shirts, the stinging symbolizing being severely wounded in battle.

Sandspur wars ended abruptly one day after we had spurred one another several times. Doug hiding on our back porch, I snuck around the east side of the house, ready any moment he might sprang into action and hit me a good one. As I rounded the back corner and heard a subtle sound, I sensed him hiding behind Mama’s ringer washing machine on the porch. I walked farther into the clear at a point I suspected he would spring up and throw his sandspur. At the precise moment I felt he was in position, I whirled around and threw my handful of sandspurs upward since the porch was elevated, our house on concrete blocks. The entire bunch struck his face. He dropped his sandspurs, screamed bloody-murder, and brought his hands to his face, the prickly spurs digging deeper into his cheeks, chin, over his closed eyes, ears, forehead, and in his hair. I knew I had done a terrible wrong, seeing him in pain, hopping and screaming on the porch. I leaped up the steps to reach him about the same time Mama did from inside. Together, she and I picked the sandspurs from him, all the time she giving me a fierce scolding, and Doug too, for playing such a dangerous game. Soon she and I had them pulled off Doug’s head, Mama’s displeasure intensifying. I don’t recall getting a switching for my terrible deed, because Doug was equally involved but hurt. I don’t remember Doug and me playing the war game anymore.

 

THE TWO-FAMILY BRAWL: The best I recall this incident happening was when I was perhaps twelve or thirteen years old. I won’t identify the family renting my parents house that one day outright belligerence prompted them into a collision and free-for-all with Douglas and me. The combatant neighboring boys a notch above backwoods hicks, whose parents didn’t care their son’s belligerent conduct, seemed always at odds with us, throwing rocks, and cursing us. One-day words were spat and a fight erupted in front of our houses. It advanced into the weed lot across the street. I was battling one boy along with his younger brother. Douglas was duking-it-out with another brother, the second oldest ... three of them against the two of us. Glancing briefly sideward, I spotted Douglas had knocked the older boy to the ground, he on his knees half conscious, each blow of my brother’s fists snapping his head side to side. The boys’ mother crazy mad, got into the act, running at me with a garden hose in hand. As I fought her son now encouraged greatly, she striking me repeatedly with the hose, Daddy appeared and dashed to my rescue. Instead of the woman, he grabbed me by my arms and pulled me before I was about to defend myself against her ... she still flailing me despite Daddy’s grip on me. As Daddy pulled me away and soothed things, the defeated family disbursed. I heard voices and looked about to see people had gathered a distance. Some were still running towards us from a block away to investigate what was being spread about that the Dube brothers were in a big fight. Soon thereafter, the rental family moved away, leaving us hunky-dory happy.

Away during the brawl the day it happened, the fourth and much older boy encountered me some time later on Lamson Avenue. Badmouthing me, then making an aggressive advance toward me, I sidestepped and threw him to the pavement. Pinning his arms, I looked him in the eye as I duly rubbed his elbows on the hot road asphalt, and thoroughly warned him. When I finally released him, he fled. I learned years later when I was completely disassociated with these boys, that tragedy had befallen them, two accidentally killed. I felt sorry for the family despite our sour history.

 

DOUG HORRIFYING HIS TEACHER: I was summoned to the principal’s office from my sixth grade class at Lovegrove Elementary School, the messenger informing me my brother Douglas was in deep trouble. I appeared in the office to hear the story – first, that Doug had been excused to go to the boy’s restroom, where several boy’s informed him crickets were lose there in large numbers. He gathered several crickets and went back to class to find the substitute teacher gone to the main office for some reason. He hid behind a portable petition near classroom sinks and the work counter at the head of the class, awaiting the teacher’s return. Returning, she stood before her class and began to speak, he sneaking up behind her. He pulled her lose blouse collar back gently and dropped about three crickets down her back. She screamed, grabbed at her back frantic to get at the imprisoned equally terrified insects between her bare skin and the cloth. Meanwhile, Doug dashed around the petition, as the teacher intensified her screaming, jumping, and dancing all about the head of the class, the kids in awe going nuts in laughter. He slipped unobserved back to his desk. Freed of the insects the teacher asked who had put them down her blouse, swearing she would do nothing in reprisal. Not wanting to get his classmate’s in trouble, Doug raised his hand, admitting, “I did it.” The teacher had lied. Fuming mad, she marched him to the principal’s office where that official called Mama, she telling him to give his butt a good shellacking. I returned to class in wonderment, half amused, half concerned for my little brother and his mischief sometimes extreme.

 

ALERT FOR THREE BOYS: Hoke Eberhart dropped by our house one day to meet with Doug and I to go to the sand mines (Humphrey Gold Mine) to play, and practice shooting my bow and arrow. At the sand mines, we set up a target on a small bluff and began practicing. Hoke wasn’t a good shot with the bow. Even after I gave him pointers, he insisted on placing the arrow on the wrong side of the bow handle, which caused the arrow’s flight to swerve off target on release of the bowstring. We had been shooting a while when one time I drew the bowstring back extra far, so far the arrow point flipped over the thumb knuckle of my bow-gripping hand as I released the string. The arrow veered off target to the right. Well, guess what? Hoke wasn’t standing far enough away from the target to avert the arrow flying straight at him. He did react quick enough not to be impaled in the crotch. As he spun in a split-second exposing his right buttock, the arrow struck his wide leather belt, partially piercing it. The huge bruise and slight penetration mark on his butt cheek would remain several weeks. Hoke and I was lucky the incident hadn’t been worse.

In the meantime earlier in our expedition, my mother had received word from concerned neighbors we three boys were seen headed to the mines with weapons, a bow and arrow and Hoke with a .22 rifle. Fearful for our lives, she called the law, and a Duval County patrolman responded, driving to her home to investigate the serious report.

We three were walking up Eaton Avenue coming home when we spotted the police car in front of our house, and the patrolman talking with Mama. Hoke took off heading home. Doug and I entered the yard apprehensively, Mama immediately fussing at us, and the patrolman too getting in our face giving us a good lecture that I am certain Mama advised him to do. We swore to he and her never to do it again. And, we didn’t ... a lesson learned.

 

SNIPPY DOG MEETS BASEBALL: Walking from our sandlot baseball games heading home on Dandy Avenue, we were on occasion pestered by a nasty little black and white terrier pooch running into the street in our wake from a residential yard. He snarled, showed his fangs, and snapped ferociously at our dungaree cuffs and shoe heels (we wore shoes playing sandlot baseball). One time he caught hold of my dungaree cuff and shook the cloth until it tore. At this point I had about enough of the little pest. However, I used restraint because I liked dogs, despite the people owning the pest sitting many times on their front porch doing absolutely nothing to stop the dogs’ unscrupulous behavior. One day when I was in a no-take-attitude and the pest tore out of his yard, the porch occupied by his owners paying him no attention, I made a decision. As he drew near, I turned rapidly, a baseball in my right hand drawn back to hurl it. The dog instantly saw my action, and his danger. He whirled around and took off … but not fast enough. The baseball I threw struck his backend – hard, he screaming, his backend next dragging the ground as he attempted to get further away from us. Looking back I suppose we boys shouldn’t have reacted as we did dashing for home. However, we did, expecting any minute after arriving home we would be reported, or the people would come and confront our parents. But nothing happened. Time passed. We finally venture down Dandy Avenue to play baseball, but seeing the people on the front porch, we grew apprehensive. Passing the house, nobody challenging us, we spotted the dog with a cast on his backside. I suppose they felt equally guilty for what had happened, for nothing thereafter was said directly to us about the incident. And we were nice too, never blaming them for their neglect. The pest healed but never returned to patrol the street to my knowledge.

 

PINGING THE APPALLING MAN”S TIN ROOF: Though Clifford was usually the standard for mischief in our family, Doug and I at times had our episodes. The account here is an example of one episode that was rather extreme and naughty on our part, truly uncouth. However, our action was a response to what Doug and I felt was a wicked man inflicting cruelty upon his family members.

A block and shouting distance from our house, four people lived in a medium size block home with a tin roof. I won’t identify the exact names of the inhabitants. For the purpose of this tale I’ll call the boy about Doug and my age, Toby, his mother Mrs. Nice, because she use to speak to us boys in passing when we walked up the street by her house, the old woman always inside Mrs. Elderly Nice, and the middle-age man also her son, Mr. Awful. Mrs. Elderly Nice was the mother to Mrs. Nice and Mr. Awful (brother and sister). Toby was Mrs. Nice’s son, the father’s identity a mystery to us, he never living there.

I didn’t developed friendship with Toby, though he went to our schools. Mostly, he was withdrawn, a sign of the oftentimes hostile environment he lived.

Before delving on Douglas and my malice, I want to begin explaining that we two boys around 12 years of age idealized baseball so much we played ‘hitting the ball’ with sticks and lime rocks in the street out front of our home. We’d toss up a rock and strike it with a sawed-off portion of an old broomstick acting as a bat. If the rock flew high and long it was a homerun. If on the level and struck hard, it was a line-drive hit to the outfield. Grounders were outs, and misses were strikes. The imaginary games were fun to play.

The reason I mentioned this game we played, was, that Mr. Awful must have studied and envied us playing, for he would come out in his yard and pitch up stones and hit them with a stick, too. This peculiar copycat behavior that occurred increasingly regular, was actually comical to us boys, and highlighted our opinion the dingbat was far left of center – get my drift?

Too often from our home we heard arguing, cursing of an extreme obscene nature coming from that house, knowing Mr. Awful was in a temperamental torrent about something disagreeable to him. Many occasions’ family members fled into the yard, where the shouting intensified proportionally. A rumor passed around Mr. Awful had actually struck or beaten his mother, Mrs. Elderly Nice. Because of heightened emotional outbursts, Doug and I had reason to believe the rumor and we decided to torment the goofball.

On random dark nights, Doug and I would gather up some lime rocks … not big that would be damaging to property, but large enough to carry a good distance. We would stand about a block away and hurl them very high in an arch. Then we would stop dead still and wait, listening for the resulting PING! - A hit on the goofball’s tin roof. Mr. Awful would run outside cursing bloody murder, but not see us retreating a safe distance. After cooling off and his episode finished, he would go back inside, but not for long, for the event would happen again with the same results. Doug and I were never caught. However, I’m sure Mr. Awful knew the tormentors, but he never confronted us.

In time Mrs. Elderly Nice passed away, and the extreme behavior subsided, as did our uncouth action and response.

 

PLAYING HIDE & SEEK IN PURINA FEED WAREHOUSE: Several blocks from our home on Pearl Place in Springfield stood a Purina Feed Warehouse off Pearl Street. About eleven years old, my friend David Barker, Doug, and I curious what was inside, snuck up to the rear of the warehouse. Workers came and went doing their duties in and out of the warehouse, many driving forklift haulers stacked with sacks of animal feed. At the right time, we three ran quickly inside the large double open doors, excited our daring and evading detection tactic, heightening our venture. Inside we climbed the mountains of sacks piled almost to the ceiling high above the floor, intrigued at our feat of sneaketry, evasion, and cleverness. We would play our game of evasion up and over mounds of sacks for however long until we tired. The same manner we entered evasively, we snuck out. We played this game several times and were never caught. I wondered years afterward if the workers had actually spotted us, had ignored us knowing we were harmless having not damaged the sacks. I must believe they hadn’t because of possible company liability if one of us were hurt.

 

RESCUING CLIFFORD: on an evening I was resting quietly at home after a day at school, a desperate phone call hastened me to go to my brothers’ rescue. Clifford called saying a pack of boys waited outside Jax Lanes bowling alley for him to leave, sending the message inside they were going to beat his butt. Doug was elsewhere and not available to help me. Anxious beforehand and no time to waste, I arrived at the bowling alley front door, seeing Clifford was correct, a bunch of bays were loitering about and in a nasty mood awaiting him to exit. I passed between them and entered, found Clifford and got from him an explanation that I don’t remember today, the cause of their anger with him. Clifford and I walked out the front door, the crowd of boys confronting us. I said in a forthright stern manner, “You guys will probably hurt us. However, I can assure you that some of you will wind up maimed and in the hospital.” Wasting no time, we walked forward straight at them, through and past them untouched. Nobody confronted us in route home. Afterward I supposed our reputation as four brothers sticking together dampened the situation – the Dube boys - one for all and all for one.

 

BILLY BRANDISHING THE 2x4 BOARD: Doug and I loved drinking milk by the quart. One day when we were walking to Kaney’s Store on Atlantic Boulevard to buy ourselves each a quart, we were encountered as we arrived at the corner of Berry and Lamson Avenues. A kid named Billy approached us menacingly holding a 2x4 board about two feet long, brandishing it in a threatening manner. “I’m going to beat the hell out of you Doug,” he bragged. I stepped closer but a safe distance from him, looked him straight in the one good eye, and the other glass eye, and said, ‘Billy, you might get a swing or two with that board and hurt one of us, but, I can assure you the other will brake your bones and cripple you.” Billy got the message loud and clear and backed away. He took off while the getting was better for his health.

Billy was a troubled kid and abusive in situations with other kids. Belligerent, he always sought confrontation in the neighborhood and at school. I learned after the board incident Doug had in an earlier fight with Billy, knocked his glass eye from its eye socket. Except for this board incident, I stayed clear of this disturbed kid for which I have no idea what ever happened to him in his life.

 

TEASING, THEN WRESTLING POOR JOHNNY: When Johnny, a mentally challenged but good-natured much older fellow than us boys, and living just beyond the swamp at the base of our hill, wandered up to investigate the excitement outside our house after our Uncle Corbett shot the rattler under our bedroom, Doug and I seized upon opportunity. We stopped Johnny outside our fence and built up the situation mischievously; warning him he must be exceedingly careful, that a cottonmouth was coiled and ready to strike in our front yard. Johnny was so captivated, yet scared and impulsive, he crept close and got the meaning of our prank and teasing.

At another time Johnny happened up as Doug and I were tussling in the front yard *, saying he could whip us wrestling. I was first to accept his challenge, and threw him; then Doug not to be outdone, threw him, then I not to be outdone, threw him again; and Doug threw him yet again … on, and on, and on, until we two realized the poor man was about to collapse from dizziness, and stopped. Johnny never again challenged us to wrestling.

 

* A good wrestler, I was a match for Douglas until he became too big to maneuver, and stronger than me. I do remember one day wrestling him in our front yard and throwing him 17 times. Each time he stood up, I threw him again, until I too tired. Of course we were young. As we grew the potential reversed, though I don’t recall another such match.

 

ACCIDENT - DOUG CLOBBERED BY A TIN CAN: One evening when I was about eleven years old, Doug maybe nine, we were playing in the Bohannon neighbors’ backyard just over our rear wire fence separating our Daddy’s rabbit cages from their yard. The place was a sandy dugout burn pit where Mr. Bohannon buried his garbage and trash, cans especially strewed about. The Sun low and glowing orange in the sky, which looked beautiful when we tossed stuff high in the air, we marveled at the way sand sailed and faded colorfully from cans we tossed skyward. It ended abruptly when I tossed a can almost straight up, a mistake on my part, for we had tossed them more away from us. I yelled, “Watch out, Doug!” However, he couldn’t have known what I did in that instant and didn’t react fast enough. The can struck him just above his forehead, blood spurting. I jumped the fence amazingly fast later marveling how fast I reacted and high I jumped to fetch Mama. The best I recall Doug had to have stitches on the gash, after Mama applied what she called her ‘special Dube mixture’ medicine, predominantly turpentine mixed with an assortment of medicines I never got the formula. The incident didn’t stop Doug and I; before long we were back at it, doing what boys do naturally.

 

ACCIDENT - ALFRED FALLING AND RUNOVER BY MY BIKE: Alfred and I were out together riding for fun, he seated on the handlebars of my bike, legs supposedly outward from the front wheel. He and I were cruising fast along Lamson Avenue paved at the time. For whatever reason I don’t remember, I veered off the road as I approached Dandy Avenue a block from our home. When the bike swerved into a shallow ditch, I hit a hump that caused the bike’s front wheel to twist somewhat bringing Alfred’s legs too close to it. One foot became instantly entangled in the spokes, jamming the wheel, his foot caught in the center cog. The bike halted instantly, throwing him and me forward. We sailed in the air over the handlebars and hit the ground in a mutual heap, me atop him much smaller than I, and he screaming bloody murder. I rushed home to get Mama, who came quickly to Alfred’s aid, again finding one of her boys with a bad injury needing medical attention, and again applying her special Dube mixture before the doctor did his job. Alfred recuperated in time, and wasn’t any worse for ware as a result of the accident I remembered was quite terrifying for an instant.

 

LINE DRIVES STRIKING HOUSES: During one game playing sandlot baseball on Dandy Avenue, Doug hit a bullet line drive across the street and through the open door of a wood frame house. Luckily, no one was in the path of the sharply hit ball, as it sailed into the open front door and clear through the house, then out the back open door into the backyard near a pen of barking Walker Hound dogs. It struck the inside floor a couple times without hitting a person, furniture, or anything else. I insisted he go get the ball, which reluctantly he did. One occasion I hit a sharp liner to right field into an area of weedy grass, and right at an old shack a distance away. The baseball would have given a noisy thump striking the house side, but on this occasion a loud cracking sound indicated it split a sideboard. Little harm was done. Actually, the old house was vacated with shrubby bushes and tall weeds growing freely around it.

 

HALTING CHOIR PRACTICE: On another occasion in our vacant lot next to our home pitching and hitting, Doug hit a line drive left handed straight at a house converted by Brother Pinkston to a non-denominational church. This particular Saturday a group of choir members were practicing hymns around a piano for Sunday service, the singing loud and joyfully fulfilling to the group. When the baseball sailed through the up and open window with no screen, it crashed into the far wall, then bounced nosily about the inside of the church like a ping-pong ball. The music and song abruptly stopped as dead silence followed momentarily. Again Doug retrieved the ball, apologizing to the understanding singers in no foul disposition as a result.

 

CLIFFORD CROSSING CRIME-SCENE TAPE: When word got to us a murder had occurred in our neighborhood several blocks from our home, Doug and I rushed to the scene. Police crime scene tape was posted around the house and yard blocking a horde of people gathered on the perimeter. Someone we knew standing close told us our brother Clifford had crossed the tape and entered the house, nosing around before being chased out by investigators. When we found Clifford we learned the inside was a bloody mess. He further explained what he had heard - that the husband and deceased man had arrived from a trip driving his semi-tractor-trailer. Apparently fearing for her life having been abused repeatedly, his wife fed-up, shot him repeatedly as he lay asleep on the living room couch. Our free-rambling little brother could surely get into places in his bold manner that most of us wouldn’t dare venture.

 

ALFRED AND THE WASHING MACHINE ROLLERS: One day Alfred very young stuck his fingers too close to the duel ringers rotating simultaneously. Screaming for help, we ran outside to find his arm wrung up to the elbow. The plug disconnected, and rollers separated to allow his arm freedom, we discovered he had no broken bones, a blessing considering he could have been maimed in that arm. I suppose the radius and ulna not crossed as the rollers snatched his fingertips, was the reason he didn’t suffer broken bones.

 

CLIFFORD’S SNEAKY TRICK ON ME: I remember one instance the clothesline almost decapitated me. I had a ruckus with Clifford and began to chase him. A good start on me, he ran around the Vasilko’s house on the corner, then circled through the rear lot occupied by the Bohannon’s horse pens, and jumped our rear fence. He had run full circle to where the chase began. Dashing about twenty feet ahead of me gradually catching him ... he changed course abruptly, running directly under the clotheslines. Not seeing the lines that last instant he changed direction, the next thing I felt was pain plus saw a blinding flash of light. I felt as if my head had exploded, then the sensation of my body catapulted and smashed to the ground. I lay flat on my back, groaning, stunned beyond knowing what had actually happened, looking up into the sky bewildered with everything spinning around. Unharmed, I recovered shortly. Seeing how dumb I was to fall for Cliff’s trick, I let the incident pass, reconciling that he had pulled a good one on me. In reality, I had to admire the cunning of my little brother.

 

NAILING THE SCHOOLBOOK: As I was leaving Mr. Dupree’s art class in the tenth grade at Terry Parker High School, a kid walked up to me at the door and said, ‘You might want to check on your brother, Joe. The last I saw him he was in a standoff with Mr. Fairday * the shop teacher, his fist drawn back refusing to be paddled. I believe he’s now in the Dean’s office.”

I went immediately to check on Doug and discovered he had been sent to Mr. McCoy’s office, the Dean of Boys. I learned from him his misdeed, and could hardly believe he had done the rascally act.

He explained: “When Mr. Fairday left the shop class to go to the teachers lounge, he left his class textbook on a bench in the classroom. I opened the cover and hammered a nail through the book into the bench board below, then I closed the book leaving it to appear as if Mr. Fairday had left it and it unmoved. When he return later and tried to lift his book unable to do so, he checked to see it nailed, and went berserk. Mr. Fairday tried to paddle me but I wouldn’t have any of that from him.”

I believe Mr. McCoy suspended Doug for his prank, am not sure.

 

* This naughty occurrence is an instance I won’t give the teacher’s true name.

 

THE PENCIL TO BUTT-CHEEK INCIDENT: Doug had an affinity for mischief in school. Probably the same year as the nail incident above, he sat in class one desk forward from his good friend, Jody Farley, an occasional prankster who played school baseball. This particular day he and Jody pulled a bad one. As Mr. Polo the teacher, also assistant to Mr. McCoy the Dean of Boys, walked the classroom between rows checking student’s progress on his assignment to them, he came to the girl’s desk ahead of Doug’s and bent over for a better look at her progress. Doug seeing his butt was tantalizing close, couldn’t resist. He held his pencil up maneuvering it like he was going to poke the point into Mr. Polo’s butt, snickers coming from kids seeing his ominous gesture … not intending to actually jab the man. However, Jody also saw an opportune chance. When Doug had the pencil just right, Jody jabbed the eraser end with the palm of his hand, the pencil point striking Mr. Polo smack in his butt cheek. Mr. Polo jumped erect with a yelp, then turned and glared at the two anxious culprits. After he cooled off and allowed the incident to slide, he was actually amused by the brazen act.

 

PUNISHMENT MOSTLY DESERVED

 

Unlike today when corporal punishment is admonished, it was accepted in the culture we boys grew up, both domestic and widespread. I don’t recall but one time being switched by one of my aunts and uncles, that being my Aunt Clara one day when she lost her patience with me around eight years old after I had done a misnomer for which I don’t remember. It was a light spanking that was more a statement of her displeasure with me rather than impose a real hurt. Aunt Eva used a wet cloth at the dinner table to swipe one of us if we got out of order. She never struck me because I liked her cooking and usually scarfed it up rather than be drawn into mischief warranting a swipe from her wet rag.

Mama was the disciplinarian in our household. I heard many times after a wrong I had done, “Son, go outside and make sure you cut me a keen switch.” After I gave it to her she would wipe it around trying it for effectiveness, the ominous swishing sound about as hurtful as the thrashing I would momentarily receive. Grabbed by my shirt collar, the switch was brandished against my backside, often leaving whelps. I would circle her still clinging to me, hopping in pain with each stinging blow. After most switching’s to one of my brothers, or me, Mama would cry. I feel by her remorse that she realized she too was wrong carrying out such severe punishment.

Daddy hit me when I was about six years old, leaving my face bruised. I don’t recall the reason for his unwise deed, but it never happened again. I suppose he had a serious meeting with himself and came to grips with his extreme and dangerous action. My father was actually a laidback gentle man. What he did to me was uncharacteristic of him and I suppose he must have been troubled during that time, about when Mama had her nervous breakdown.

 

AFTERTHOUGHT

 

As you might assume from the instances of mischief categorized above we four boys could at times be a handful. After our mischief and sometimes chastisement, we had clear perspective the love our parents extended us by their example and dedication to our welfare in totality. We were strong when our butts were whipped, the aches soon subsiding for us to comprehend we had appropriately received the punishment. I think this realization plus our devotedness one to the other ultimately had a hand in molding us into responsible adults.

To make it clear, though we boys were subject to such punishment, we did not develop inborn hostility one might expect budding from excessive abuse, for we weren’t excessively abused. When we got it; we deserved it. I don’t recall a whipping beyond me reaching ten years old. We grew up loving and honoring our parents and they caring for us. We held and still hold them in high esteem.

When I had children I spanked my daughter early before I brought an abrupt end to that mode of chastisement in my home. My children were raised minus corporal punishment, as I a young child received after doing a wrong. My wife and I set examples in values, and we used leverage with privileges, allotments, and rewards reduced or eliminated a period to correct our children, and I feel it was the right manner of correction. Kimberly and Jeffrey grew up to become stalwart adults Sharon and I love and admire ... the manner they correct their children similar to how they were raised.

 

CHAPTER 8

CASUAL EXERCISE TO WEIGHTLIFTING

 

Active boys we never lacked exercise. Mama’s teacakes and all the whole milk we could drink from a neighborhood dairy cow, raw fresh milk strained, supplied us plenty of fuel to burn.

Me about age nine, Doug and I began to chop wood for our parents’ wood burning stove with a pipe flu extending from it into the ceiling and above the roof. Performing the chore as exercise, we chopped and chopped. Then we hauled the split wood inside and stacked it on a tin sheet next to the wall, the thin steel stove nearby resting on a barrier over the wood floor. With sufficient wood added to it, that stove glowed red-hot. If you got too close to it, you burned; if you got just the least bit away, you chilled. Nevertheless, we diligently supplied wood to burn in it to moderately warm our small home.

Unrelated to exercise, the stove just brought back a memory. About the same time we had that hot stove, and began to workout crudely, Mama was offered a baby raccoon. She was always fond of her brother Tom carrying is pet raccoon to basic training camp at Fort Benning during World War I, Coonie his pet’s name. Therefore, she named her baby raccoon, Coonie. Coonie was a nice pet before he was fully grown and the wildness became evident. He would sit on the couch beside us and watch television, cleaning his paws; murmuring weird sounds, or eating, relaxed just like us sitting. One day after he had aged he bit Mama, but not too bad. Annoyed, understanding his wildness emerging, she gave him away, knowing he would eventually worsen temperamentally and become a problem for her or one of her boys.

Back on track - when a next-door neighbor Mr. Pinkston’s pine tree had fallen and its root were still in the ground, Mr. Pinkston (a minister) invited us to bring our axes and begin to dig and chop away at the root. We dug deep and cut much fat litered to supply our wood stove lots of kindling and fire starter. We chopped vigorously at the root, it finally well below ground level and ready to bury. Chopping wood was great exercise and we knew it.

When I was around ten years of age, Doug and I persuaded Daddy to mail order us an exercise set sold by J.C. Whitney, an old company manufacturing about anything under the Sun. We were excited when the package finally arrived, consisting of two long one-inch diameter wood sticks with hooks and rod attachments for connecting several springs of varying resistance. We began practicing our exercising pronto, pulling and pushing the sticks, stretching the springs to near their limit, which set in place a behavior that would turn full circle in our future’s.

Eventually we mail-ordered a heavy-duty rubber band pulley termed the Jiffy Gym and a chest pull. We added it as an exercise to our spring set. I carried the band three inches wide and one-quarter inch thick, maybe two feet long with nice end rubber handgrips, to school one day to show off in my class. I proudly pulled it faster and more times than any boy. Doug quickly outdid me in numbers of times pulled. Our Jiffy Gym lasted us a while, but as it aged, it began to dry rot, miniscule cracks appearing, probably due to the sweat it was exposed that we failed to clean off. One day outside our home as I pulled it and Doug stood close by, it snapped in half, the end closest to Doug smacking him hard … I believe in his face … a stinging experience as I recall. The accident did not cause conflict between us.

We became more involved with exercising via advertisements in communal magazines. Back in those days top-selling publications listed ads in numerous columns in the back section. We were captivated seeing ads featuring Charles Atlas’ picture promoting his Dynamic Tension principle of exercising. George F. Jowett’s ad intrigued us with his weight resistant dumbbell courses.

After our parents purchased our first television, we enjoyed the segments on the CBS program the Sealtest Big Top Circus featuring strength feats by Sealtest Dan The Muscle Man, Dan Lurie.

Dan Lurie was a renowned and world-class bodybuilder and competition winner, and established the International Federation of Body Builders. His muscular physique, professional mannerism and stunts greatly influenced Doug and I to become more active in physical culture. In later years Joe met and spoke with Dan Lurie about old times in the sport.

In addition to Dan, Doug and I revered old-time strong men, such as: Canadian strongman Louis Cyr, claimed in some circles as the strongest man who ever lived … debatable. Also early physical phenomenon’s: German Eugene Sandow, George Hackenschmidt, Arthur Saxon, and various Mr. Americas including: John C. Grimek – the second and third Mr. America and a future friend of my brother Joe when he became a lifter for the York Barbell Company where John worked, also Jules Bacon, Steve Stanko, Clarence Ross, Steve Reeves (later movie star Hercules), George Eiferman, and Jack Delinger with incomparable lats. These notable strongmen were a few of the tremendous influences before Doug and I actually touched an Olympic barbell.

Gym class at Terry Parker Junior and Senior High School marked the springboard catapulting us into the sport of Olympic weightlifting. Not in the school program proper, but by the fact our coaches set the tone by building us kids weights out of cans of cement connected by galvanized pipe.

Simultaneously, we began to train independently at home. First, we used a long pipe with some kind of load-bearing equipment wheels with a center hole for resistance slide on the ends, the crude barbell weighing about 65 pounds that we lifted in our side yard and left exposed in the weather. In time we owned a Healthway’s 110-pound set, then a Weider 160-pound Aristocrat set, the latter a conventional set of weights making us feel like big-time weightlifters.

A hefty black man named James (mentioned later in my memoir) use to deliver Mama’s groceries from Crews Grocery to our house in a van. Whenever James came and we were lifting our weights in the yard, he would lift a set or two, hoisting 150 pounds overhead on an occasion that I remember greatly impressed Doug and I … another inspiration!

Our Aunt Clara McMillan seeing us so captivated in the sport, volunteered to purchase us a 310-pound York Olympic barbell set (a treasure, for which I still own the Olympic bar and some plates, including two 45-pounders). Aunt Clara accompanied us to buy it at a downtown sports store. At home, we began straightway to train with our new friends Terry and Norman White. The story more detailed is in my memoir section on Terry White, and in my brothers’ personal account later in the memoir.

I didn’t reach the success level as a weightlifter as did my brother Joe. It wasn’t because I couldn’t to a respectable degree, for I had broken some of his prior records as a middle-heavy-weight before he gained much bodyweight to enter and compete in the heavyweight and super-heavyweight classes. I believed his recuperative abilities were heightened over mine, and his bone structure was much heavier than mine, hence, he was a natural more so than me. I did become successful to a notable level. A newly wed man, I felt my wife would likely suffer because of my lifting indulgence and emotional estrangement to an unhealthy degree. Primarily, I felt the sport and marriage did not mix, and quit after the 1966 Florida State Championship for which I lost the state title I won the prior year. The loss and acknowledgement was impactful, yet, I did compete in later years as a Master and had much fun competing in a casual more relaxed manner.

Today at 76 years of age I still workout on routines I devise personally from my past knowledge and experience in the iron-sport, plus latest scientific research on physiology that I keep up with diligently. I ride my bicycle in our neighborhood in the mornings almost daily. Lifting weights, I combine strength movements with regular bodybuilding exercise three times weekly for all-around physical effect, feeling as I age the exercise for which I have practiced 59 years will allow me to age in less discomfort and provide me a better quality of life. The old adage I adhere to: ‘you don’t use it; you lose it’ applies to lifting and my art.

 

PART 4

INFLUENCES ON MY LIFE

 

*  *  *

 

CHAPTER 9

TERRY WHITE MY BROTHER-IN-LAW AND FRIEND

 

HOW TO HUNT BIG GAME

Oil Painting By Virgil Dube’

Model – Terry White

 

During 1959 and in the 11th grade at Terry Parker High School, Doug and I began to lift crude homemade weights constructed by the gym coaches. They consisted of a galvanized pipe sunk into a bucket of cement attached at each end. One barbell weighed 110 pounds, the other 120 pounds. The improvised barbells were left outside on the dirt permanently, became bent under abuse over time due to students continually dropping attempted lifts. Doug and I became interested in lifting during this period we lifted these crude weights, particularly attracted to Muscle Power and Muscle Builder magazines circulated among certain boys. These informative magazines loaded with inspiring pictures, were produced by Joe and Ben Weider of Canada, and designed to promote power lifting, specialized bodybuilding and training programs, and Olympic weightlifting. In addition to these publications, Doug and I became interested and followers of Strength & Health Magazine published by Bob Hoffman of York, Pennsylvania. Hoffman was primarily a promoter of good health products and Olympic weightlifting, his magazine’s every issue listing A.A.U. weightlifting tournaments throughout the country, and major events across the world.

Soon, we heard school gossip circulating about this muscular fellow that nobody should mess with, his name Terry White, he a DCT student. Doug and I became quite curious about this mystery guy. One day outside my English class this muscular fellow walked past me. I spoke to him and he returned my greeting, pleasantly. I sensed he wasn’t what I had heard, and I liked him; saw no treat in him whatsoever. Not much later Terry, Doug, and I became acquainted, since he learned we lifted weights also. Soon, he, his brother Norman, Doug, and me, became training partners, alternating our workouts between our home in Oakwood Villa and at theirs in Arlington. We four became quick and good friends, the White brothers reared by pleasant parents with that good-naturedness handed down. One day working out in Terry’s garage, he suggested we enter an Olympic weightlifting tournament to be sponsored by A.A.U. (Amateur Athletic Union) and sanctioned by coach Fulton Luck of DuPont High School. We all agreed and set about to train, using as reference Strength & Health magazine photos of lifters to learn Olympic weightlifting three competitive lifts techniques: press, snatch, and clean and jerk. After several weeks training, we walked into the DuPont gymnasium to witness this young man on stage concentrating deeply to attempt a Florida State record, he a lightweight at 148 pounds, the weight on the barbell 200 pounds. This single lift has amazed me to this day. I witnessed the best squat snatch ever, he pulling the barbell straight up, descending lighting fast to settle in a deep squat his butt almost touching the floor, the barbell anchored overhead with wide grip solidly locked out, and rising to stand waiting for the referee’s count … a new Florida State Record. David Osborne the lifter, and his brother, James, also a champion lifter that day, would become our close friends and training partners, a friendship that has endured to this day.

Time passing and training regularly; working our jobs going about our everyday lives, the time arrived to join the military. After Terry joined the Army Reserves, I signed on with the Florida National Guard. After basic training that encompassed six months at Fort Jackson near Columbia, South Carolina, I returned home to learn another weightlifting contest was being held in the beaches Band Shell, the oval structure an outdoor amphitheater off of 1st Street in Jacksonville, Beach. No training the past six months, I set about to get in decent shape in a matter of days. In the meantime, Terry phoned me, asking if I might be interested in a blind date to the contest. Surprised, I replied, ‘Well, Terry, you have to inform this girl that when she and I are at the contest I may seem distant, because I must concentrate on my warm-ups and platform lifting. Terry told me the girl Sharon Dukes was set to go with another fellow lifter, Tim from St. Augustine, for whom I knew well, but Tim backed out because of an ailment. When I accepted his offer, the decision changed my life.

Terry picked me up in his Volkswagen Beatle, his date the girls’ sister Gloria Dukes, whom he had been dating several months. Terry drove me to the Dukes home on Parental Home Road in Southside Jacksonville. When I met Sharon in the Dukes living room, and studied her several minutes, I felt one day I might marry her … an impression, of course, that first date.

When we settled in the Beatle’s back seat beside each other, Terry driving up Beach Boulevard bragged for Sharon’s benefit that I didn’t smoke or drink, plus other niceties, with Gloria joining in. Sharon finally replied, “Isn’t he a good Dobie,” and everyone laughed, Terry cackling and saying that Dube was my last name.

Sharon and I began dating after the contest. At first I visited her and her family on Parental Home Road. Then we attended the Midway Drive-in on August 14 when I asked her if she would like to go steady with me. Terry and Gloria were wed in October with Sharon and I in the wedding party. November 14, 1964 I proposed to Sharon, and she accepted. She wanted the wedding date to be an anniversary, August 14, 1965, one year following the day we started going steady. April 14, 1965 Sharon accompanied me to Sarasota, Florida, where I won the Florida State Weightlifting Championships in the 198-pound class, setting two Florida State Records – 330 clean & Jerk, and 840 total.

Married August 14, 1965, we honeymooned in the Smoky Mountains, our destination Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We hiked rocky streams and near waterfalls, and cooked out over open fires many trips between sites visited. It was a glorious honeymoon and vacation that set the stage and our beginning attachment to the Great Smokey Mountains, for which in 1991, we purchased property in Epworth, Georgia near Blue Ridge. We had a log cabin built one year later, then in 1994 an art studio for me on an adjacent lot we purchased.

Terry and Gloria had two children, Lisa and David. Sharon and I had two children, Kimberly and Jeffrey, the four first cousins and friends to this day.

My brother-in-law Terry and I had discussed hunting together during the late 1960’s. Sympathetic to us, Sharon and Gloria purchased Terry and I rifles from J.M. Fields, he a .35, me a lever-action Marlin .30/.30 (rifle I still own). We added other gear that inexperienced city slickers usually hauled into the woods a first time, dreaming of bagging a big buck. We arrived in Osceola National Forest early one weekend morning, the fog heavy, the woods quiet, except for an occasional distant rifle-shot. We wandered about awhile with no destination in mind … you know how city-slickers react set lose a first time in raw nature. Finally, we found an unoccupied hunting stand, a large flat platform someone constructed about ten or so feet above a clearing adjacent a small creek. We climbed up relatively easy then settled on our haunches, and waited for that buck to walk right into the clearing. Minutes passed into an hour, then hours, the sun fully up and the fog burned away. Still, no buck appeared. We each ate a can of pork and beans with a ham sandwich and drank tea from our thermoses. Terry yawned and settled again, his back against an oak tree, as I paced about the large platform. CRACK! A limb broke, and then two deer appeared in the clearing. I turned to whisper to Terry that we had special company, but guess what … he was fast asleep. I jostled him awake to see the does, and though groggy, he was thrilled. By law, you don’t shoot does, so we watched the pair feed until finally they slipped back into the woods. Terry settled against the tree again. After a few minutes I turned to look at him resting, he almost asleep when suddenly an idea struck me for a painting. Sometime after noon when we gave up on bagging a buck and walked a distance to our car, I asked Terry if he would mind posing for me for a painting. He was elated to do so. I retrieved my 35mm SLR camera from the car and snapped a nice photo of him seated and leaning against a large tree, his rifle across his legs … a perfect pose for my painting. I painted Terry some time later in oils, the finished work titled ‘HOW TO HUNT BIG GAME’. It was the only painting I directly registered for copyright with the Library of Congress.

Terry passed away May 30, 2017 having suffered from a longstanding illness, a sadness and loss for me indeed. He was a person who greatly impacted Sharon’s life, our families’ lives, and especially my life.

 

CHAPTER 10

OWEN MASTERS AND THE INDEPENDENT LIFE & ACCIDENT INSURANCE COMPANY

 

Monday morning after high school graduation the previous Friday evening at Jacksonville University’s Swisher Gym, I walked miles from our house to Arlington with a lunch Mama made me to get a job. I began working as a carpenter’s helper. But the walk soon discouraged me working after walking so far to get to it and back home. Referred by my Aunt Clara, I next worked for Hodge Roofing as a laborer helper. The job required that I haul either packed shingles or 80-pound sacks of roofing rock to rooftops via ladders. One Saturday in Beacon Hills neighborhood, and alone, I carried 80 bags from a flatbed truck purposely parked a distance from the house. The bag on my shoulders, I walked about a hundred feet to a tall ladder, then climbed up the ladder to a double-deck roof, where I dumped it, then stepping on the roof, I lifted it a second time to deposit it on the second higher roof. That day I hauled a total of 6,400 pounds as I described. Asked by the conniving roofers Monday morning how I did, I replied nonchalantly, “Not a problem.” I remember between roofing jobs when the crew would stop for refreshment, that I would buy a quart of milk and guzzle it without taking the carton from my mouth.

Age 19, I was employed again as a laborer, another very physical job. I dug 18-inch deep trenches with shovel to lay conduit for underground wiring, plus to dig six-foot-square holes to seat light poles in the Gator Bowl expressway interchange at the west end of the Mathews Bridge. I used jackhammers and tamps, both jarring and physically exerting. Working approximately six months with Cleveland Consolidated Electric Company, the job eventually ended and I was out of work again. Jobless, I was referred by a weightlifting friend Owen Masters for a clerical job in the Supply Department of the Independent Life and Accident Insurance Company at 233 West Duval Street.

During these jobs, and not attending college, or going to Ringling Art School for which my Aunt Clara volunteered to pay my dues, I took the Famous Artist School’s correspondence illustration course that lasted three years. I consider not accepting Aunt Clara’s offer one of the major mistakes in my life and art career.

Owen Masters was a member of the Gospel singing group, the Master’s Family that included his parents and sister. The group was famous in the mid-fifties working out of Nashville. Owen suffered brain injury in an automobile crash in Nashville that killed several people. After he left the singing group he got a job stripping photographic film in the Independent Life printing Department camera room at the Jacksonville home office. Reading about Doug and me winning a weightlifting contest in the Jacksonville Times Union sports section, he contacted us, asking if he could join us training with weights. He was little different in approach to us as many before him, and we said okay, thinking he would soon tire and quit. But Owen stuck with his training with us, and shortly thereafter referred me to an entry-level job that greatly impacted my family’s lives and mine to this day.

Stepping ahead a few years, Owen continued to workout with us on a periodic basis. He progressed as a lifter but eventually hit a peak in performance. Eventually discouraged, he quite weightlifting, but did not abandon us as friends. Owen was the first person my mother spoke to on her hospital bed after being severely injured by a truck hitting her in Riverside and she unconscious two weeks in St. Vincent’s Hospital, he visiting her almost daily. Owen sang country songs to Sharon and I serenading us while we dated. Close by my workstation, he in the printing department, I saw him daily, and we became closer friends. As time passed he and wife Florence went through rough times together and finally divorced. When he quit the Independent Life, he vanished from our lives permanently. I heard he was back in Nashville writing country songs for performers, one Rickie Skaggs he reportedly wrote a hit song. We learned over time that he had passed away, got getting notification to verify this - when, how, or where a mystery.

Anyway, Supply Department supervisor Cook Snead, a plump man with no-nonsense disposition, interviewed me the first day I applied for work. The interview completed and Cook smoking his big cigar and rocking in his office chair just looking at me, I asked anxiously, “Mr. Snead, do I have the job?” He pulled the cigar from his lips, blew smoke upward where it circled his balding head, and replied, ‘Yes.” Then I asked, “When do I start?” And he replied, “Right now.” He instructed me how to get to the basement, where I began unexpectedly the same day I applied to work the job as a supply clerk that would transform my life. Having been a laborer, I truly appreciated the inside work minus grudging hard work and blistering or freezing days.

Within time, Art Director Nick Crews discovered my talent at drawing. Dixon Turner his artist at that time was of independent character. He took inexcusable liberties that prompted Nick to fire him. Immediately, Nick sought me and asked if I would like to work with him in the Art Department on the 9th floor. I accepted. Nick was called on the carpet for firing Dixon, but after explaining Dixon’s incompliance to rules to Jacob F. Bryan III, plus my qualities and the fact I was already hired, JF conceded and I remained hired as Nick’s assistant artist, a career that would last 28 years. After a year, I referred my brother Douglas and he was hired in the Dead Records Department in the basement. He too would remain a full career.

I became proficient on my job as company artist, recognized for artistic merit throughout the home office and field force, and in the industry during my almost 36-plus-year tenure. I learned much about professional art production with an in-house setup that included a superb boss and work environment, a top-quality print shop, and broad company appeal with district field offices in 13 states, approximately 125 or so total.

Douglas and I worked with the company until it was sold in 1995 to American General Insurance Company. During his 34-year tenure, Douglas receiving much assistance from the company in his weightlifting career, especially from CEO Jacob F. Bryan III, which the kindness of the Board of Directors encompassing seven family owners, bolstered him to become a bronze medalist in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico, and World Weightlifting Champion in 1969 in Warsaw, Poland. He also lifted in the Pre-Olympic Games in Mexico City in 1957 winning a silver medal, in addition, the Pan-Am Games for which he won the gold medal.

American General Insurance Company out of Texas dismissed Douglas and me on May 31, 1996. The notorious acquisition company had purchased our company in 1995 for its assets and placed it on the action block. It was rumored the company had acquired over 30 companies to the date the Independent Life was bought. The new executives relieved all former company executives, and from the Executive Suite, systematically fired employees in periodic bunches over time.

The day Douglas and I departed; we entered the Independent Life Building on Independent Drive that morning riding together on his Gold Wing motorcycle. Doug drove it up on the entrance ramp into the building and the Mail and Receiving Department, where we were greeted nicely. We set about to visit most employee’s, starting at the bottom and basement, walking upward to the Executive Suite during the short day for us. After saying our goodbye’s, we rode his motorcycle down the ramp and away, one of us retired for good, the other to work periodically later.

This would be my last job before working at Baptist Medical Center when I was 59 years old, escorting patients for five years for health insurance benefits for Sharon and I. During my tenure there I learned much about hospitals, patient care, and understanding better of people suffering, their sickness, and injury, and prospects for living or dying. In addition to transporting patients, I transferred cadavers from their death rooms to the basement morgue and locker cooler. Working in the hospital proper, then 18 months in the ER, I acquired much appreciation for life, the woes of unfortunate others on a job that I consider one of the best experiences in my life.

 

CHAPTER 11

TIME TAKES ITS TOLL

 

HARDIE’S LATER YEARS

 

Mama’s health was never the same after her mental breakdown in 1948 and 49. She did recover largely to raise us four boys the best she could, we rambunctious to say the least.

She was an independent person, rode the city buses wherever she went around Jacksonville having memorized every single bus number and route. Primarily a housewife, Mama remained mostly at home tending her duties, seeing that we boys were properly care for day after day, our food prepared, clothes cleaned and ironed, repaired when torn or soiled, and placed on our backs to send us off to school. A loving memory was her faithfulness in providing us teacakes. She prepared them from an old-fashioned recipe she grew up with in West Florida: flour, milk, eggs, nutmeg, and I believe ginger, both as cakes cut into wedges, and cookies she placed in a large capped stoneware jug she kept on the table or refrigerator. Anytime we were hungry, whether playing or hoeing weeds in her garden, we could come into the house and help ourselves to teacakes and a glass of whole milk.

Her favorite pastime was playing Christian hymns on her Palmetto high back piano, which she and I (I used my savings) purchased from a neighbor several blocks away for $60.00. Oftentimes she placed a harmonica attached to a wire contraption supported on her shoulders and around her neck. She would recite old stories to us, sing Jimmie Rodgers songs, and she played dominos for which she taught Douglas to be a top-notch player.

 

JOSEPH’S LATER YEARS

 

After Mama passed in 1971, Daddy experience loss and went through a period of lonesomeness. Living by himself, he invited just about anyone into his home on Eaton Avenue, including Seventh Day Adventists becoming increasingly regular and unrelenting in their mission. It was difficult for Daddy to say no, please leave. A nice accommodating person, Daddy tolerated them way past their welcome. My brother Douglas and I knew his disfavor because he began to complain to us. It got so bad that when we visited him, and the clergy representatives clearly seeing family had come to pay him a visit, they lingered … until one of us hinted directly that they leave. Douglas and I talked about this with increasing concern they may be trying to take advantage of him in a clandestine manner. One day they showed up when Douglas was visiting and his patience short. When they knocked on the door, big brother Douglas opened it, and in a very assertive spoken manner similar to King Kong, convinced them to leave promptly and never return. That was the last Daddy saw of the clergy recruiters.

Daddy soon informed us boys he was writing a woman from Texas named Ethel out of Texas. She had been married several times, all her husbands dying, which raise our eyebrows. We cautioned him but he swore she was on the up and up, so we relaxed our concern. After some courting, Daddy and Ethel wed, she several years his senior. Against our wishes, he sold our old bungalow home he and Mama had built in Oakwood Villa in 1945, and moved to Fayetteville, North Carolina. Daddy, and Ethel near her son, Jim, supposedly a former CIA Federal agent, lived a happy normal life. Eventually she became very ill and passed away at the age of 96. Daddy alone again, and with a big house to keep, decided to move in with our brother Clifford living in Byron, Georgia near Warner Robins Air Force Base.

Clifford took care of Daddy, offering him a nice comfortable home, and all the accommodations that went with it. Pop ate well, exercise much, was sociable in the community, and his latter years were comfortable, he healthy and happy.

Saturday evening May 20, 2006 I got an urgent phone call from Clifford, saying Daddy had fallen but seemed okay for now. I heard Pop in the background reaffirming he was fine. Clifford mentioned he had walked the neighborhood on his usual route earlier and was eating a large bowl of spaghetti, which eased my apprehension for the moment.

Working at the time at Baptist Medical Center escorting patients on the weekend shift, the next day Sunday morning while on a patient call, I was radioed to come to the transportation office, that my wife had called me. Immediately, I knew this meant something bad, probably concerning Daddy. When I called Sharon and she told me Daddy was in a bad way and in the Macon Medical Center, my anxiety rose. Rushing to my car in the garage I cried the whole distance, feeling deep inside that Daddy’s time had come. Lunch and clothes packed I left home immediately for Macon, Georgia. When I got there Daddy was conscious, but his kidneys were shutting down, and I was informed he had sepsis. The caregivers prepared him for transport to ICU, but before he left, he sat up and reached forward to shake all four of our boys’ hands. I wasn’t aware at that moment that it would be the last contact I would make consciously with my Daddy. Quickly in a coma, he died peacefully two days later on May 23, 2006 at 3:33 p.m.

His funeral was held in Blountstown, Florida. The funeral precession to the gravesite with cars pulling off the road, was heartening, and truly affected my children, my son Jeff crying openly. Inscribed on his headstone in the graveyard behind the Methodist Church in Altha, is engraved: ‘ALWAYS A HANDSHAKE’.

 

PART 5

FOUR BROTHERS AS ADULTS

 

*  *  *

 

CHAPTER 12

VIRGIL: ARTIST - WRITER - FAMILY MAN

 

Virgil breaking from chopping wood at his cabin

 

ARTIST

 

From when Mama first supplied me Saturday Evening Post magazines, I studied Norman Rockwell’s paintings and drawings, his color management, and style and technique from the inception of a picture to its conclusion. Besides Rockwell, whom I believe is technically one of the best painters ever; I studied many notable artists and illustrators from bygone eras, the Renaissance Masters through the Golden Age of Illustration. I identified closely with Howard Pyle, James Montgomery Flagg, and J.C. Lyendecker, each with different approach to painting and offering me some unique artistic insight. Enriching my skills in draftsmanship, I studied my mentor and outstanding illustrator, Albert Dorne, the former President of the Famous Artist School headquartered in Westport, Connecticut.

Early in my youth I established the habit of drawing at least once a day, which I believe has enhanced my understanding of nature, its bountiful form, texture, and color. The practice sharpened my eye for all-around detail, which I feverishly paint throughout a picture rather than the accepted norm whereby the focus is centralized and much else is subdued on the fringe. I believe the eye naturally scans our environment, seeing, observing, and remembering - no different in a picture.

One day I remember specifically. Age eleven (1953); I strolled into the alleyway behind our Springfield home to lie on a slanted basement metal door located on the rear outside of an Episcopal Church. Enjoying basking in the sun and feeling the warmth on my backside, hands propped behind my head, I scanned the roundabout natural setting, appreciative, studious as to individual forms, textures, and highlight and shadow of varying objects, seeing through rather than merely gazing at them, realizing fervently that I have a natural and wonderful ability, and, an perceptive mind. I pledged that moment that I would improve the rest of my life with each drawing and painting. And, I have lived by that pledge to this day, my next picture always my best ever.

One of the biggest mistakes I made in my life was to refuse my Aunt Clara sending me through the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Florida. I went to the school and walked through the campus to see what the famous school was about. I remember standing before several Peter Paul Rueben’s paintings impressed by his mastery. However, the trip did not alter my decision. Aunt Clara, a loving, good, and charitable person, one of the influential persons in my life, had sent my cousin Dawn Reese through college. I heard her speak much of doing so, enough not to want this spoken of me. I chose instead an art illustration course comprised of 44 lessons to be corresponded through the mail. When I submitted my drawings for review to the school, a representative from Connecticut met with me personally at our home. After graduating from Terry Parker High School I enrolled in the Famous Artist Course, planning to study commercial illustration by means of three large instruction manuals *. I paid for the course in monthly installments for three years, the money earned from labor jobs I worked out of high school. A few lessons completed, and not applying as an artist, I landed a supply clerk’s job with a prominent insurance company headquartered in Jacksonville. After 3 years, I was transferred from the Field Supply Department to the Art Department, where I worked almost 28 years as company graphic artist and illustrator, cartoonist, sometimes sculpting on special assignments. My graphic and creative work was important in motivating field sales, was used throughout the home office, and by many general employees and company officers, including instances of civic needs and programs. Prior to the company’s acquisition in 1995 and my release in 1996 by an asset-guzzling conglomerate, I was acting Art Director.

Other than modest professional training, I am a self-taught artist, who after retirement, primarily paints for fun and relaxation. I fervently believe each sitting before my working image adds further to my skills – absorbing the little things all about that make the big difference in my immediate effort.

Proficient in all mediums due to personal diligence and practice in a career as a commercial artist, I paint an array of subjects: human interest, country, western, wildlife, on occasion portraiture and cartooning. Much of my theme is rural, since I grew up in a country environment heightened by spending many summer vacations in West Florida with aunts, uncles, and a host of cousins on their farms.

Before computers appeared I painted behind an easel, or on a drawing table, traditionally like most artists. In those days I recorded an idea as quickly as possible, sketching before refining it as a detailed pencil drawing. Opting to use picture references, or not, I redrew the original sketch until it was technically right and acceptable to me. To reach an accepted design and rendition I often did many tracings, refining and moving picture elements around freely. This early procedure was critical and my most laborious process in picture making. These days, I paint traditionally on a computer using Corel Painter Essential 5 and Procreate on my iPad. I get the same if not better effect using my old traditional approach to painting.

In the early 1980’s I learned and adapted the Old Masters Painting Technique from art teacher Don McCormick during night classes at Jacksonville University. The process involves gradual buildup of color glazes brushed over a monochrome under painting consisting of brownish grey, or sepia. Don at that time was Art Director at Channel 12 TV station in downtown Jacksonville. I enjoyed his classes, even to take his life-drawing class separately that greatly accelerated my drawing speed after ideas struck me. Don would become so focused on his class that when he walked from place to place and didn’t look down, he often stumbled over objects in his path. He was a humorous happy-go-lucky fellow I connected with as an artist and friend the few years I knew him before he relocated in South Florida.

When I was an easel painter, I favored oil paints, second acrylics, and rarely worked in watercolor. I enjoyed rendering large charcoal preliminary drawings on quality tracing paper to transfer them efficiently to a canvas. Once reliant on pen or brush and ink as a commercial artist at the Independent Life, enjoying stylizing line to attain convincing textures and tones, I rarely do them anymore. Little different than when I painted behind an easel, my desire today is to master digital painting bringing it on par with my traditional style of painting for which I have almost 80 works of art yet to complete.

In 1991 my wife Sharon and I purchased creek side property. Shortly afterward, we built our North Georgia Mountains log cabin home near Fightingtown Creek. On our adjoining wooded lot we added my art studio in 1994. Facing this log studio on a stone patio I constructed by the creeks’ white water, I work while away from Jacksonville: painting, drawing, and afterward writing my many projects presently stored in sketch and rough manuscript form in digital idea files.

Traveling across the North Georgia, Tennessee, and Carolina foothills and mountains offers me boundless subject matter, for which I either sketch or photograph for potential reference use. On that note, my photo and art reference morgue is quite large, begun in 1963. Today I have approximately 45,000 reference images in hundreds of orderly categories for easy access. I do not copy photos. Instead, I use them for accuracy to refine detail preliminarily drawn. My paintings and drawings are the result of mental imagery originally sketched on paper, then refined in stages before using references. Drawing and planning pictures mentally before resorting to references maintains mental sharpness, which builds on one’s skills. An imaginative practice I began years ago while riding the city bus to my job downtown was to close my eyes and visualize a simple object – example, a screwdriver. I would visualize the object in profile, then turn it around slowly to head on, followed by foreshortening it by turning it back and forth and up and down and varying the speed of rotation.

I believe being an artist/painter is much more than applying medium to canvas, paper, hardboard, or on the computer screen. While working alongside my whitewater creek in North Georgia, I experience a connection with nature that is inexpressible, a fellowship with both inert and living things beautifully surrounding and flowing through me and ultimately inspiring my pictures.

Art is my underlying heartbeat, my joy to practice, and my gift to share.

 

* I still own my 3 large Famous Artist Illustration lesson books. Great to study, I often refer to them to refresh my skills on any particular aspect of art instruction.

 

RETIRED – I COMBINED PAINTING WITH WRITING

 

During the mid 1980’s I wondered what might actually happen should a full-blown nuclear war break out between America and the U.S.S.R. An idea struck me after pondering this curiosity to write a story, yet, I had no prior creative writing instruction, or experience. Nevertheless, in 1986 I began to formulate in outline method a story of sorts, titling it ‘The Last Clap of Thunder’, that involved a worldwide nuclear holocaust. Mentioning this to a friend, that person suggested I write it instead of using a ghostwriter. I enrolled for a night course at Jacksonville University on creative writing, but two-thirds through the semester, I had to quit. Regardless, the short stint helped me grasp creative writing, and with practice and personal study, I knew I could improve and write proficiently. One morning at work prior to work hours, I sat at my IBM Selectric Typewriter with a blank page and began to type my novel. From that moment I’ve never faced a blank page without writing in a focused manner. Writing stories is a hobby I’ve diligently followed to this day, completing two finished novels as e-books on Kindle, and approximately sixty-short stories accompanying paintings and drawings, and this memoir.

 

FAMILY MAN

 

As human beings we are bound by instinct, impulses, and actions sometimes constructive and rewarding, yet sometimes not contained and embarrassing, and too often, dire, destructive, and consequential. Never drunk; never an estranged husband; never a physical or mental basher, never a two-timer, I have through all natural impulses tugging at my coattail remained true to my wife and immediate family from the get-go. I suppose my loyalty to family is rooted in my youth when Mama and Daddy was always dedicated to us, both diligent in keeping us together when we were first separated from them in Catholic foster homes, and thereafter through school. Also, we boys sticking together bonded inseparably, were defensive one to the other … an attitude ingrained in us then and into manhood.

From around 13 years old I envisioned myself a married man. I pictured me going to work in my car, as my wife a true housewife readied our kids for school, driving away from my conservative home with a white picket fence surrounding my yard of lawn and flowers.

That projection became an actuality. Sharon and I were wed at Southside Estate Baptist Church off Southside Boulevard on August 14, 1965.

We lived first at Paramount Apartments in Arlington off Fort Caroline road. Seeking a home, we moved to Congaree Drive West in Arlington, a small three bedroom, two bath, concrete block front brick veneer home, that had a $11,000 mortgage with a $79.00 monthly payment. The house and yard was nice and easy to maintain.

One evening living there, Sharon asked me to purchase some item from the convenience store several blocks away. I stepped quickly into my jeans, put on an undershirt, no underwear, and shoes, then I dashed out to our car. Driving to the storefront, I got out feeling an airy sensation in my britches. Unmindful, I entered the store before it closed at 11:00 p.m., and purchased the item. Back at the car door about to unlock it and get in, I bent over to pick something up off the pavement, and felt the airy sensation once more. Standing erect, I glanced inside the store to see a woman gaping at me through the front window. Thinking nothing of it, and arriving home, I pulled my pants off to get ready for bed when I noticed the reason for my former airy feeling. I had somehow and unknowingly during the day, ripped the seam of my rear pants about eight inches long. Telling Sharon my sensation and experience, we both had a hefty laugh.

Another time, I heard a noise during the wee-hours of night. I got out of bed and searched the house. No intruder discovered, I thought for sure someone was prowling outside, probably trying to enter through the back French doors. Donning my pajamas, I slipped out the front door, then eased around the side. Approaching the house rear, I mustered courage and charged full speed around the corner, forgetting about a table and two-bench set of outdoor furniture on our flat concrete patio. CRASH! BANG! HOLY CRAP! OUCH! You get the picture, me sprawled, swearing, hurting, later to be embarrassed standing injured before my frightened wife. Awe! The power of persuasion and recklessness, that overrode me to pause a moment to access the blunt reality. My bumps and bruises healed in due time, and there was minor damage to the furniture scattered across the patio into the backyard.

One day after we had lived on Congaree Drive, my mother-in-law Juanita dropped by to inform us she and husband Bill Dukes were divorcing. She asked Sharon and I if we would like to assume the mortgage on their home on Parental Home Road. Initially we were surprised, but after some thought, agreed the move would be a betterment for us, especially since none of Sharon’s siblings were interested in the home, and Bill favored us having it. Around 1968, we moved to Parental Home Road from Arlington after selling our first house quickly. We lived 33 years at our second home with many wonderful and otherwise memories.

My wife Sharon and I are much alike, though we do share dissimilarities. Partnered with mutual respect, even today our kids grown with families for which we see remain safe and secure, are respectful one to the other. Their paths to tomorrow remain prosperous for them and their children.

Child rearing began for us early 1970, when attending OBGYN office on University Boulevard, my wife Sharon and I learned she was pregnant. Our daughter Kimberly Ann Dube’ was born August 12, 1970, she 7 pounds, 12 ounces. Three years later on September 6, 1973 our son Jeffrey Thomas Dube’ was born, he 8 pounds, 4 ounces, both at St. Luke’s hospital and neither sex known beforehand.

Kimberly was and is the light of my eye, we so much alike in looks, thought, and mannerism. Beautiful, and smart like her mother from the beginning, she was studious in school, and ultimately became a nurse, first at Baptist Medical Center here in Jacksonville, then as an ecology nurse with a local cancer clinic. Growing up, she was also athletic, an excellent swimmer for the local Sans Souci Association swim team, and swimming for Englewood High School. She was excellent with all the swim strokes, especially the butterfly, and won many trophies in inter-association and city tournaments. She married Ronald Bullard of Jacksonville, he an avid bow hunter, outdoorsman, and works for a prominent electrical company. Kim and Ron’s daughter Noelle was born in 2000. Beautiful, she has arrived to the point she is about to enter college, and is debating what she wants to do in life. Whatever she decides, she has the smarts and initiative to excel.

Jeff came home from the hospital to be held by his sister, she patting his face while holding him, her hand annoyingly contacting one of his eyes and he squirming to avoid contact. The two grew up protective of each other, yet at times combative. Today they are close, and have wonderful families. I began to practice pitching a baseball to Jeff, he trying to hit it in our fenced-in backyard. He learned quickly at age three, and soon was hitting the baseball over our fence. I continued to work with him, teaching him properly how to throw the baseball, hit and catch with his new glove. By age five, he was playing tee-ball with Sans Souci Association. In his first game for the Red Sox under coach Keith Greene, he hit a home run. Rounding third base his fast legs churning for home, his oversized hat kept flopping down over his eyes, he having to straighten it with his pumping hands and arms. Jeff was an all-star player each year he played baseball, from tee-ball to high school for Englewood High School. He played on a travel team for a period, and was looked at a Terry Parker game by a major league scout, the Cubs, I believe. Selected as one of the 100 best high school players in the state, he attended a special camp for scouts in Orlando. Upon returning, and not saying anything to his curious parents, I asked him finally what happened. He commented, “Dad, I don’t want to be held in a minor league team with a small salary and not have a genuine prospect for a major league career.” He clarified he was short by Major League standard at 5 feet, 7 inches, which was a detriment against much taller players. Though he was one of the best players I’ve ever witnessed play the game, Jeff chose to live a normal life with the liberty to make his own way. His wife Kimberly is into real estate, and together with Jeff the two refurbish homes, rent RV’s, and have made a nice living and kept up a beautiful home on the Ribault River in Jacksonville. Their daughter Breanna born premature, has grown into a smart second grader with high scholastic scores in school. A prolific reader, she devours books she checks out from the public library, and her vocabulary is on par with most grownups.

Today my kids are highly responsible adults with families for which Sharon and I are immensely proud.

 

ATHLETE AND HOBBIEST

Virgil Presses 290 Pounds - Florida State Middle-heavyweight Record

1966 Florida State Weightlifting Championships – Jacksonville Beach, Florida

 

Apart from art and writing, I enjoy shooting archery in the woody property at my mountain cabin, lifting weights at home by combining Olympic weightlifting to toughen joints as I age along with lightweight training for muscle tone. In bygone years, I was a lifting competitor alongside my World Champion and Olympian brother, Joe. During my short lifting career, I became Florida teenage, Florida junior, and Florida State middle-heavyweight champion. I established seven Florida State records during my thirty-plus tournaments, and was southeast coast light heavyweight champion. Today as a retiree, I maintain my cardio and general fitness bicycling with my wife Sharon in my Jacksonville neighborhood.

 

CHAPTER 13

OBSERVATION, ANALYSIS, AND PRACTICE

 

NATURALIST

 

Naturally curious, like most kids starting to draw so young, I viewed the world about me as a fascinating place to live. Drawing things meant studying them from the surface, and wanting to duplicate them on paper. Around age four observing my father’s old art school drawing book, I grasped directly the fundamental process of structural drawing to lay the foundation for completing an accurate portrayal of what me the artist was drawing. So young, and being naturally persuasive as are all kids the first years of their lives, these habits acclimatized my brain early on to be analytical, the forerunner to me becoming a realist persona and striving to improve my drawing skill. Not satisfied to just understanding the surface of things, I desired to comprehend their fundamental makeup. From early in my youth, probably starting when scrutinizing my father’s drawing book, I acquired a thirst for learning nature’s properties ramped-up later when reading the Weekly Reader in grade school, adding to my understanding of the things I drew and painted at that time with crayons. That focused practice molded me into a freethinker, which has endured to this day casually reading esteemed scientific journals and textbooks to build upon and sharpen my perceptual faculties. My interests aside from my art, writing, reading, my family, and science, are reasonably contained and private. I enjoy reading many aspects of literature, novels by notable novelists my favorite. I switch perceptual gears reading science journals and books for which I enjoy articles principally on anthropology, paleontology, evolution, cosmology, astro-physics, particle physics, biology, geology, space exploration, and much more giving me advanced understanding as a layman of the natural world that has been so helpful enhancing my art, and me as a person.

Along my path of self-education, several persons have inspired me in my quest to better understand the world at large about me, my mind untethered to any preconceived biases. Robert Audrey’s book ‘African Genesis’ delving on his summations of archeological finds pertaining to Australopithecus, a pre-hominid species in Africa over two million years ago, was an eye-opener and thought provoking. Robert Conrad’s book ‘Territorial Imperative’ on the subject of his study of animals’ territorial behavior supplied me a richer understanding of aggressive/protective conflict by and between humans, and of most animal species. Of incredible importance to me was the influence from Jane Goodall’s study of chimpanzees initiated in the jungles of Gombe under Anthropologist and Paleontologist Lewis B. Leaky seeking a fuller understanding of the ape and human relationship. Her patient and insightful studies under sometimes adverse condition has enlightened human knowledge about our close relationships to these marvelous primates, our close cousins by virtue of a two-percent difference in our DNA, their high intelligence and activities mirrored to us. Today Jane Goodall’s pioneering research is continued at the Gombe Stream Research Center as the longest continuous study of any animal on earth.

To clarify, my unyielding view is that nature in itself is all consuming.

During the many years I’ve studied nature to enhance my art, and to satisfy my natural curiosities, I’ve endeavored to respect people’s viewpoints. This includes my sympathy for those of faith since I was raised in a religious climate: my parents, close relatives, and friends entirely of faith-based belief. These people are dear to me. They are decent and respectable human beings for which I have attended churches with and felt quite comfortable in a good-natured environment displayed between the members of the congregation.

Because I don’t abuse others with my private beliefs, consequently I don’t receive much reprisal, though I have been verbally attacked on several occasions. I don’t feel threatened by others as to my differing opinion coveting science over spiritual apprehension in explaining my private position in existence. This is because my background in study and physical fact-finding reinforces totally my view that humanity and all living organisms on Planet Earth are exclusively an evolutionary byproduct of our expanding Universe coming into existence 13.7 billion years ago. I might add that not all scientists shun divine intervention, but a majority does, especially within disciplines of research, cosmology, biology and physics. Advancing evidences in the above named disciplines strongly suggest we are likely not alone across the cosmos, that life, as we know it based on carbon and water and planetary life-zones, varies in degrees of complexity and may be quite common within our Milky Way Galaxy, and the billions of galaxies housed in millions of clusters across the infinite cosmos.

Sad to me I see that today there is an extensive right-wing movement to suppress science with extremist's taking a protective stance. Their feeling is they are under siege from hard data assaulting their faith-based ways of life. To a degree, I understand. Yet, I feel their campaigning is overzealous.

First, science is actually a term for ‘comprehensive human knowledge’, hence: the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experimentation. In principle, the illumination of human curiosity and subsequent discovery and education is not in direct conflict with religion; it’s the fact that advancing knowledge subsidizes, re-explains, or supersedes former beliefs; therefore, the defensive response is comprehensible. The Scopes Trial is an example of fundamentalist’s legal action taken on the theory of Evolution, which has survived and advanced within biological, cultural, and physical Anthropology disciplines solidly footed in modern scientific thinking and experimentation.

Second, science as collective human knowledge is an intricate component of human intellect through the ages. It was rooted in the dawn of time when hominid’s discovered fire for heating, to illuminate light, and to cook food. Stone tool making advanced from hunting and skinning to defense, then to wage war before metals were discovered. Today when we travel our cars to and from work, and to vacation or go wherever, we are using a marvelous machine comprised of steel, plastic, and rubber, and runs off fossil fuel derived from crude oil in subterranean crust that once was animals dead millions of years. We come home daily to eat our specialized and farmed foods, maybe to exercise, to enjoy enumerable modes of entertainment with our families, then when in dire need, resort to medical attention with science its foundation, and much more. We all benefit from comprehensive human knowledge (science) – be we the common person, the rich, or even the homeless indirectly.

It isn’t my wish to assail challengers to collective human knowledge on the viable aspects of it with vast examples to prove my point. What I would like to say is – please look around at the daily advantages of science we all enjoy before dispelling a wonderful aspect of humanity based on a hypothetical viewpoint. And above all, be you of my view or not, please respect your fellow person. Humanities cultural collisions over the ages should be testimony of the consequences.

 

TALENT A GIFT - OR PRODUCT OF PERSONAL DILIGENCE

 

I like most artists are congratulated on our artworks by observers referring to the work as ‘great’, ‘adorable’, ‘fantastic’, or ‘fine craftsmanship’, and please believe me, I along with all artists are immeasurably grateful the praise. However, many observers follow up saying how much of a ‘gift’ we have bestowed on us by the divine. I’ve heard and read of some artist’s irate at such comment to express how much of an insult is to them personally when their workmanship is in fact and solely based on their sacrifice in schooling, intense and grinding self study, and hard work. I have on occasion experienced like dissatisfaction feeling the observer doesn’t honestly see me as the actual creator of what he/she has expressed genuine admiration … again, me expressing my thankfulness regardless but not responding to churn heated waters. I understand fully it is a complimentary gesture. Still, it has a belittling ring to it when ones life efforts are reduced to the suggestion he/she’s aptitude and effort are usurped.

The reality is every person is unique, has natural intellectual inclinations that are hereditary. The neurons via synapses interconnected into messaging and life-supporting networks within our brains and radiated throughout our bodies are made up of differing capabilities person to person making one actually unique from another, thus inclining a person to: musical, mathematical, artistic, photographic memory, cumulative fact-finding and retention, or any number of natural abilities that he/she either grasps to improve upon, or neglects and allows to wither. I know this as a fact. At age four when observing my father’s animal anatomy art book, I grasped the process to draw fundamentally, and over the years improved with every drawing and in later years, painting. My brain was wired to see and analyze; I was not zapped as an achieved artist; I worked hard to build over the many years a purely natural inclination that my predecessors in cumulative manner handed down to me genetically. And, this is the same with all so-called gifted persons … no divine zapping, just achieved individuals sacrificing, diligent studying, and continuous applying themselves to enhance their natural abilities.

Most persons can become whatever they want to a degree minus exceptional natural ability. The brain’s neurological makeup can be remapped with practice and even after one suffers trauma. Mentally impaired persons are an example of the conscious mind giving way to the creative mind. I recall an instance when a woman approximately 40 years of age began having lapses in her eyesight. Getting worse, she was diagnosed with a condition for which she would lose her sight altogether, and she did. Blind, she needed a purpose in life and sought a means to that end. Her husband helped buying her art books and reading them to her. Increasingly enthused, she desired to, and then began to paint. She used a mental mapping process whereby her brain visualized the composition of the image she would paint on canvas. With her husband’s continuous help and her colors arranged systematically on a palette, she was able to paint physically and equitable to what magnificent images she envisioned, and she commercialized on her wonderful works that I vaguely recall numbered around 300 … extraordinary. The old saying, ‘where there is a will – there is a way’, is evident in this instance of two persons being straightforward and engaged … they alone making the impossible a possibility.

 

RACIAL VIEWPOINT

 

Be we white, black, or red, we are all one and the same in fundamental aspect, divided in bygone times by distance and culture, and differed superficially by environmental adaptation. Today all races are reunited by availability of travel, the roots in old world exploration and propagated by modern locomotion, the human species free to diversify unchecked and the gene pool likewise. This is scientific fact I learned long after my childhood association with black people.

My first encounter with a black person was with James, the stock and deliveryman working for Crews Grocery Store I mentioned earlier in my memoir. I liked James as a genuinely good person, kind to my parents, generous in delivering our groceries by van, and considerate of us boys he stationed on Wednesday’s and Thursday’s at numerous routes to deliver Banner Food Store hand bills to doorsteps across the Southside and Mayport areas. James was one of the best persons I knew of at that time, and is still an example for me to measure my fellow person. During our association with James he impacted my viewpoint about race, and being respectful of others of different culture. However, it took a sad thing to happen, and this greatly affected me afterward. One day I unexpectedly blundered. While James was at our house delivering groceries I opened a Muscle Builder magazine to show him a picture of Leroy Colbert, a notable black bodybuilder with 21-inch biceps. I said unmindfully, “Look at that n - - - - - r’s huge arms! The instant I said it, I regretted my insensitive statement, next saying apologetically, “James, I am really sorry; I didn’t mean to say that.” He responded much as you might expect of low key James, “That’s okay Virgil, I know you didn’t mean it.”

That unforgettable moment marked a repealing change in me. I viewed James emotionally and physically no different than my brothers, my mother, my father, and myself, seeing him truthfully as a decent, kind and helpful human being only different by the color of his skin. Instead of criticizing me, James showed kindheartedness. I felt like I had arisen from a depth of ignorance to a height of enlightenment.

While delivering grocery handbills in a remote black community in the woods off old St. John’s Bluff Road, I encountered a friendly but robust black boy approximately to my eyes in height with slight built. After he tussled with another black boy, and when I mentioned I was a decent wrestler, he challenged me. We squared off and took hold of each other, he hard as a rock and strong from the get go. Before I knew it I was laying on the ground on my back. Surprised, I got up and said I would like another round if he would. This time I prevailed, but the two of us were sports on an equitable basis, and parted respectful of each other and friends thereafter.

The day in 1960 when the black sit-in occurred downtown at the Woolworths lunch counter, the police all around town, Doug and I were on Duval Street waiting for the city bus to take us home. We had visited town for some reason I don’t recall completely unrelated to the racial affair, and, were not informed of the trouble brewing. As we stood there hearing the commotion a couple blocks away, and later learned people were brandishing ax handles and many were hurt, we noticed an elderly black woman standing near us, she too awaiting a bus. She was crying, mumbling, “Lordy, I wish people could get along better together.” I looked compassionately at her and answered, “Misses, I do too. I don’t think people should be mistreated and what’s happening is wrong.” Douglas reflected my sentiment. Recalling my experience with James, I understood and felt her hurt deeply, and resolved those minutes awaiting our bus to respect my fellow person the best I could under circumstances not harmful to me.

These examples relating with black people in my youth, affected me apart from the culture I was formally familiar. I wasn’t raised through childhood to find fault and embody hatred. When I view examples of or see bigotry at any level, it repulses me. It reflects deep-seated prejudices and insecurities in sick minds for absolutely no other reason than to elevate ones self esteem and put another person down to further the perpetrator’s supposed dominance or superiority … that in fact reflects a person’s inferiority complex. There are awful people of all sects and dissimilarity, the cruel and evil having no cultural or color distinction. Some people will hate others for the sake of hating and that is a mental dysfunction. People are people no matter their race, gender or preferred gender, deity or no deity, culture, or level and station in life. We’re one and the same, each citizen be he/she good, bad, or indifferent living and sharing equal rights under our nations’ Constitution.

Idealistically, if each of us no matter our color, culture and belief, showed and acted with respect and camaraderie one to the other, there would be no divide instigating dire consequences. All said, utopia is a pipedream.

 

POLITICS AND PATRIOTISM

 

I’m a card-carrying Democrat, and I’m quite comfortable as such. I registered in 1963 upon the advice of my boss to exercise my right to vote in the upcoming Presidential election, our company predominantly supporting Republicans, he not persuading me who had Democratic leaning.

Politics isn’t my favorite subject. Like religion with oppositional viewpoints, it riles people and gets them up in arms and even combative; history has proven this. In today’s national and local political climate both major parties are constantly at odds – diminutive bipartisanship and middle ground, which is quite different in the years I grew up.

This combative atmosphere radiating from Washington, DC through the public has me feeling politics has become over indulgent in our society today, though everyone of us as American citizens must to a degree pay attention to what is going on at all levels of society, and the world at large. Stepping into the voting booth, it should be the duty and practice of every voter to be prepared to make sensible decisions based upon conclusions after thorough examination drawn from authoritative sources of persons running for public office. I also feel people in general and not those directly involved in politics, do wrap themselves up in politics daily, some overzealously spilling into frenzy. Delving unnecessarily and heatedly on matters persons are directly disconnected and have no control can be a waste of energy, possibly a detriment to ones health, valuable time consumed, so such so it controls their lives possibly in negative manner depriving he/her of productivity for which that person might have otherwise attained. For me a creative person with so much else in my life to do and achieve, political immersion then retreat is like: ‘I get down-right grimy, then I get into the tub for a soapy bath and do myself a thorough cleaning getting the scum off, then I get right out, dry myself off, and go about my business’ – kind of like Superman in and out of the phone booth.

Nonetheless, if we truly care about the welfare of our country and our fellow citizen(s), we as caring people can’t avoid politics. It is what balances our society and nation between productive and nonproductive episodes and extremes.

Though I am a progressive person by nature - politically, I’m to no extent left, nor no extent to the right. I feel extreme political viewpoints, as coveted by extremists and even administered into governmental policy by obsessive often-uncompromising politicians, is dangerous and counterproductive to our democratic society as a whole. I am a moderate considering myself a conservative Democrat, apt to vote more liberal but also either side of the isle, and, I have jumped across that fence in the past on rare occasion. The person running for public office and standing on principles in conjunction with fair play, or a person proclaiming to be a patriot, should be of honest and kind attitude to their fellow person, covet decency and good and common values, and abide by the Constitution for the welfare of every American citizen, be solid in analysis and decision-making if in office to better domestic and foreign affairs and to bolster international affiliations. These are people liberal or conservative I would call nationalistic, and if running for office and they are a worthwhile politician of bipartisan mindset, that is whom I would likely back and vote for in any election, be he/she Democrat, Republican, or Independent.

 

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

 

All is well and good with conscientious law-abiding citizens. However, there are those in society who are devious, rebellious, parasitic, and homicidal.

My stance on crime and punishment slants toward conservative. I feel established penalties are justified, actually in severe instances of illegal activities by career criminals at all levels and crimes of cruelty and torture not severe enough. Inequitable sentences bother me when in one courtroom a crime of severity is of lesser rendered punishment than lower rated felonies in another courtroom, feeling this disparity – thanks to lawmakers, judges, states and districts, prosecutors, and lawyers – is the supreme weakness in our country’s court system where balanced sentencing in reality is never achievable with a stagnant mindset.

 

CHAPTER 14

JOE: 1968 OLYMPIC BRONZE MEDALIST

AND

1969 WORLD WEIGHTLIFTING CHAMPION

Joe’s Winning Clean & Jerk in the 1969 World Weightlifting Championship’s in Warsaw, Poland

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE: almost two years between us, Douglas and I from the start were close. Our twin brothers Alfred and Clifford born over six years after my birth, allowed Doug and I to claim them jointly, and bond quickly as four.

I’ve felt the love and concern of our parents, and the unfortunate estrangement from them while at family homes so young, has further attached us brothers in a protective manner growing up, thus the title of this memoir.

Mentioned earlier, Douglas changed his name addressed him by family from Douglas to Joseph, or Joe. Following, I will refer to him as Joe, since it’s his preferred name, especially in the public eye. Our mother would have called him Doug, or Douglas as I do, one reason I still call him by his boyhood name when we were so close growing up.

Out of grade school, Joe tried to enter the military service, but his weight disallowed his entrance. As a consequence, he swore to serve his country in another manner, one-day to stand on the victor’s podium as a world weightlifting champion, and, he fulfilled that pursuit holding the American flag high in 1969.

Joe and I weight-trained together for a period, perhaps four years; first as novice lifters at our parents home on Eaton Avenue in Oakwood Villa neighborhood, then as more seasoned A.A.U. lifters at my home on Parental Home Road, as three Florida State Champion’s at James Osborne’s house in San’s Souci, occasionally at his home in Doctor’s Inlet, intermittently at the Riverside Athletic League Cy Crawford Book Mine, and for a period at the YMCA in Riverside. Later as an elite lifter of the American Weightlifting Association (the A.A.U. disbanded), Joe worked out in training camps such as the Olympic Training Facility in Colorado Springs, Colorado, at the York Barbell Company Gym in York, Pennsylvania, all supplying conditions better suited him to adjust as a representative of his country to international competitions.

Joe first married Carla Shope of Doctor’s Inlet, she a co-employee at the Independent Life Insurance Company. They lived in rural Clay County off Doctor’s Lake. His frequent departures from the family environment, including training at select facilities, and foreign tours, took a domestic toll, as it did in five other marriages. His marriage to Regina Davis of Baker County, Florida, resulted in two sons: Joseph, Jr., and Jason Dube. He has several grandchildren living close to him in Sanderson, Florida, his present residence. He and Regina remain respectably close friends. In addition, he is close to his former wife, Mary Jane of Jacksonville, she a talented artist with a cheerful personality.

Joe has agonized physically in recent years, as has many veterans of the sport reaching elite status and championship caliber. Olympic weightlifting is a sport involving fast movement and hyper-joint-flexing with extremely heavy weights. It notoriously wears joint cartilage and bone, in Joe’s case necessitating he undergo a hip replacement operation. Despite other physical maladies, he is determined to overcome them and get his health back on track.

Daddy, Joe, Alfred, and I share artistic talent. From other sources, I hear it is a trait in the Dube’ family. Between he and I, Joe sold the first artwork in a talent show held downtown in Hemming Park. I believe he was around ten years of age. He also did the first oil painting, that of President George Washington, me not taking up the medium for many years, my specialty pencil drawing and soon pastel painting. When Joe began weightlifting in his mid-teens, his interest deviated, and eventually art became less important as time passed. About twenty years ago I approached him to paint country scenes in unison with me, my idea to promote us commercially, possibly. He wasn’t attracted to my idea, so I backed off. Pictured below is an example of his painting style, which reflects the ability he had so young. If he had pursued art, I believe both of us would have risen unilaterally and quite high in the art world.

 

Old Man, Grandson, and Pooch in Barn

Watercolor by Joe Dube, Sr

 

Presently, Joe enjoys his retired life, especially his big screen TV, and working on his computer stylizing photographs in Photoshop for himself and others seeking his expertise …Virgil Dube’.

 

REMEMBRANCES

By Joseph Dube’, Sr

 

Joe Meets President Nixon – 1968

Left to Right: United States Olympic Weightlifting Coach-Bob Hoffman, Pennsylvania Congressman-George Gooding, National Weightlifting Chairman-John Terpak, President of the United States-Richard M. Nixon, World Heavyweight Weightlifting Champ-Bob Bednarski, and World Superheavyweight Weightlifting Champion-Joe Dube’. The President is discussing the champions’ gold medal awards with their famous coach, Bob Hoffman.

 

Some of my fondest memories when I traveled and competed in my weightlifting career, was having chance encounters with some very prominent people (celebrities). Meeting them was quite thrilling. Also, a highlight and thrill of my life was being invited to the White House by The President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon after winning the 1969 World Weightlifting Championships in Warsaw, Poland. Also after this huge victory I had long aspired, in 1970 I was invited to perform some lifts and be interviewed by Johnny Carson of The Tonight Show. Before Johnny and I spoke, I cleaned 400 pounds and pressed it several reps. I thoroughly enjoyed my interview with him, he a very nice host, and Ed McMann his sidekick.

In 1971 as a member of the Pan American Games team, we were staying at the famous Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami, Florida. I had just finished a training session and was returning to the hotel to clean up after my workout. As I walked into the lobby, I spotted this lady sitting on a bench wearing this hat with a price tag attached and hanging down. She struck me oddly, for she looked extremely familiar. I stopped close, and kinda looked seriously at her, asking finally, "Are you Minnie Pearl"? Her famous smile beamed, and she started laughing, “Why yes, I am.” When I shuffled closer, she added, “Are you with the team staying here?” I responded, “Yes.” From that point we had a wonderful time talking to each other. She was sociable, very nice, and as I left her, she wished me well in my upcoming competition in Columbia. Another great memory was meeting movie actor Kirk Douglas in the downtown Denver Hilton Hotel, he an advocate of the Olympic Games and training facilities for athletes. The whole Olympic Team was invited to go to a preview of Mr. Kirk’s new movie that was playing just down the street from the hotel. As our team met in the lobby, I was coaxed into lifting Kirk over my head before we continued to the theater. Inside the theater Mr. Douglas sat directly in front of me. At one point I bent forward and tickled his ear. He turned around and said, “Boy, do you want me to whip your butt?” My goodness did we all cackle. We all had a great time that night before leaving the next morning for Mexico City and the Olympic Games. Some of the other famous people I met were: Johnny Weissmuller - Tarzan, Scott Brady - westerns, Johnny Unitas - football, Don Shula - golf, Arnold Palmer - golf, Jack Nicklaus - golf, Lee Trevino - golf, William F. Buckley - columnist, and Charley Daniels – music; to mention a few I recall this moment. 

I moved to Baker County about 11 - 12 years ago. I have two wonderful sons Joseph Dube Jr., age 38, and Jason Ryan Dube, age 35. Between my two sons I have 8 grandchildren. Joe Jr. with two boys and two girls. Also, my son Jason has the same number of children. At the present I live next Door to Joe Jr. and really enjoy spending quality time with my immediate family. 

For many years I loved ridding motorcycles and for many years traveled to Daytona Beach for Bike Week. I had quiet a few friends including my longtime friend Terry White. We went on quiet a few trips all over the southeast. He recently passed away and I sure do miss those great times we had. These are very fond memories, indeed. 

While staying at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami 1971 I forgot to mention about meeting up with Bobby Goldsboro after he and Johnny Mathis performed at The Entertainment Night Show in the hotel dinner and ball room. After his performance I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Goldsboro Backstage. I heard he was from West Florida and asked him to confirm that as fact. He said he was from Marianna and he and his dad went to Altha Florida just 14 miles down the road from Marianna and did some fishing with friends of theirs. I told him my brother and I was born there. He was very nice and I really enjoyed our conversation. Just a few years ago I sent him an email and received an email back, him stating that he remembered me and congratulated me on my weightlifting achievements.

 

JOE DUBE’S WEIGHTLIFTING CAREER

Article By Artie Drechsler

American Weightlifting Federation

 

As of the year 2013, Joe Dube’ stood as the last male weightlifter from the US to win a World Championship in weightlifting. Joe’s victory was a true upset, inspired in part by his loyalty to the US and to his friend Bob Bednarski, who had been (at least temporarily) robbed of a World Championship title on the eve of Joe’s competition. Seeing what had happened to his friend and fellow American, Joe vowed revenge – and he got it. But how did he become a World Champion?

 

*  *  *

 

Joseph Douglas Dube’ was born on Feb. 15, 1944 in Altha, Florida. In 1945, his family moved to the Jacksonville, Florida eastside area, where Joe resided until 2006 when he moved to Sanderson in Baker County Florida. He was 13 years old when he had his first experience lifting weights. On that occasion, he managed to clean 110 pounds, but could not hoist it overhead. Those were concrete weights the coaches made privately for use in the school playground. While Joe had his first tussle with the weights at age 13, it was not until 1959 at age 15 that he developed a serious interest in the sport of weightlifting. That interest was triggered, as it was for so many serious weightlifters, by an encounter with Strength & Health magazine. The particular issue that Joe had obtained recounted the story of the 1959 world weightlifting championships in Warsaw, Poland. It was a remarkable coincidence that Joe would read about a world championship in Poland, because 10 years later he was to have his greatest day in weightlifting competition - in that same country and at that same event. But we are getting ahead of the story.

Back in high school, Joe engaged in many sports. He played football with distinction, rushing over 200 yards in a single game as a fullback. He was also outstanding in the shot put, at 15 years old tossing the twelve-pounder close to the 60-foot mark weighing less than 200 pounds. A swift sprinter on the track, Joe was capable of a 10 second 100-yard dash.

Not to get ahead of his story, some years later after his high school track and field days he once again played around with the idea of tossing the shot put. He had obtained an overweight shot weighing 19 pounds. Training diligently with that special ball of iron, he did a toss of 56 feet without going across the ring. He gave up the idea being a shot-putter, desiring instead to remain focused on his lifting career.

He entered his first weightlifting competition Feb 1960. At that meet, he pressed 195 pounds, snatched 190 pounds, and hoisted 250 pounds in the C&J (clean and Jerk), at a body weight of 175 pounds. March 1961, he won the Florida state teenage championships at a body weight of 198 pounds, setting two teenage American records, a 250-pound snatch and an 805-pound total. By December of that year, he had increased his bodyweight to 204 pounds and his total surged to 910 pounds, pressing 300 officially for the first time in his life, the youngest person in history to do so. April 1962, at a bodyweight of 228 pounds, he made lifts of 320, 285 and 345, for a 950 total. The C&J and press were teenage American records. It seemed that Joe was ready to ‘own’ the teenage heavyweight ranks in the US.

But while Joe's star was rising rapidly, so were the stars of two other teenage heavyweights of that time. Just after Joe’s record making performance, Winston Binney, a youngster from Indiana, cleaned and jerked 385 pounds, totaled 1000 pounds and became the first teenager to clean 400 pounds in official competition. Shortly thereafter in New York, Gary Gubner put together lifts of 360 pounds press, 315 pounds snatch, and 400 pounds clean jerk for a 1075 total.

Joe Dube’ was not intimidated by such unexpected competition. Rather it set him afire. March 1963, Joe upped his total to 985. By June, Dube’ made lifts of: 355, 305 and 390, for a 1050-pound total.

November the same year, he pressed 380 pounds, snatched 300 pounds, and clean and jerked 390 pounds for a 1070-pound total. A mere four weeks later, he upped his total to 1085 pounds, which included a 389 1/2 pound press to break Gary Gubner's recent Junior World press record. Finally, February 1964 at a bodyweight of 286 pounds, Joe made real weightlifting history by pressing 400 3/4 pounds for another Jr. World record. In so doing, he became the first teenager in the world to press more than 400 pounds.

During 1964, a few months before the 1964 Olympic Trials that was to be held at the New York Worlds Fair, Joe fell victim a freak accident, in which he was hit by an automobile and pushed through the plate glass window of a fast-food restaurant near his home. Joe was sidelined several weeks, and in the process, lost about 20 pounds. He slowly trained himself back into condition. However, the injury and weight loss hurt his chances at those trials and he was unable to make the Olympic Team that year. Joe continued training through the next couple years and by November 1966 had recovered sufficiently to total 1100 pounds for the first time in his career. April 1967, Dube moved his total up to 1165 and in the process established a new American Record Press of 430 pounds. At the Nationals later that year, he placed second for a bronze medal. More importantly, he qualified to represent the USA in the Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada, a competition in which Joe won a gold medal for the US.

Inspired by his first big win in international competition, Jacksonville’s sport’s hero trained as never before for his biggest challenge yet – a pre-Olympic competition in Mexico City, in October of 1967.

The best lifters in the World would be there, and Joe knew it. Nevertheless, he would be ready. At that competition, he increased his total to 1212 pounds, breaking Gary Gubner’s recent American total record and brought a silver medal back to the US. His success during that competition inspired Joe to even further heights, and by March 1968 he made additional weightlifting history. He set his first Senior World Record – a 449 1/2 pound press.

In June of that year, Dube placed second at the Nationals, an event at which the great Bob Bednarski made two World records. Bob broke Joe’s recent world record in the press and the Russian, Leonid Zhabotinsky’s C&J record, the latter with a lift of 486 ½ pounds. But at the Olympic Tryouts in August, Joe was to have his day. In that competition, he took back his World Record press with a lift of 461 3/4 pounds and made a personal record of 1267 pounds in the total. That total won the Olympic Tryouts and assured Joe of a coveted spot on the US Olympic Team.

While Joe was in tip-top shape for the Olympics, he became ill shortly after arriving at the Olympic Village, as did most of U.S. team. They had all become victims of amoebic dysentery. In Dube’s case, it came after he merely dampened his toothbrush with Mexican water.

Despite his bout of illness and loosing about 19 pounds, Dube was able to perform well, earning a bronze medal for himself and his country. He was the only lifter on the American team to win a medal in weightlifting at the Games that year.

It was during the 1968 Olympic Games that Leonid Zhabotinsky, basking in the glory of his 2nd consecutive Olympic victory, made the tactical mistake of stating that the Americans were “too weak to ever beat him”. His remarks infuriated Joe, who vowed to train with a vengeance for the 1969 world championships, which was to be held the following year in Warsaw Poland. Joe did just that and by the time he had arrived in Poland he told his friend Dick “Smitty” Smith, quote “This is my place, I own it.” Those words proved to be fact, not boast.

And, as if Joe was not already fired up, the flame burning within him was raised to a level of white-hot by what occurred the day before he was to lift. On that day, Bob Bednarski, who had reduced his bodyweight to compete in the newly created 242 pound class, had set new world records and apparently won the World Championship going away. However, the Russian delegation protested Bob’s victory on a technicality and his last C&J was disallowed. The result was that the Russian in his weight class, Jan Talts, was awarded the gold medal and Bob was relegated to second place. While this decision was to be reversed a year later, when all the facts were understood, on the eve of his competition, Joe was positively enraged by what had happened to his American teammate and he vowed vengeance the next day.

But the challenge facing Joe was daunting. Not only did he have to overcome two-time Olympic champion Zhabotinsky, also the fact the Russian’s brought a second superheavyweight, Stanislav Batishev. Batsihev had defeated Joe in the pre-Olympic tournament in 1967 with his final C&J. In addition, Joe faced an improved Serge Reding, of Belgium, the man who had beaten Joe for the silver medal in the 1968 Olympics. Although Dube expected that his toughest competition would come from Zhabotinsky, the big Russian made relatively low lifts of 413 pounds in the press and 358 pounds in the snatch. He then withdrew from the competition claiming injury, which Joe and the American delegation felt was contrived to save face. One competitor was down with two to go. And Joe was up to the task of taking on the other two.

Dube made his first two presses, including a 446 second attempt. He missed his 3rd attempt at 457 – but that was to prove to be his only miss of the day. Joe made a 358-pound personal record in the snatch, clean and jerked 468 pounds and made a personal record in the total of 1272 pounds. That outstanding performance awarded Joe the gold medal. He was the World Superheavyweight Weightlifting Champion at last.

It was the first time an American had earned the superheavyweight title since Paul Anderson won the Olympic Games in 1956, and the first time any American had won a world championship in weightlifting since Chuck Vinci’s victory at the 1960 Olympic Games. As was mentioned earlier, it also marked the last time an American male was to win a world weightlifting championship to this day.

The following year, the great Vasily Ivanovich Alekseyev appeared on the weightlifting stage and began his dominance of the world superheavyweight scene. At the 1970 World’s Championships, although Joe was able to equal his total from the prior year, his performance only yielded him 4th place. His showing disappointed Joe, but he was far from defeated. He trained with renewed motivation and at the 1971 National Championships was once again in the best shape of his life. He pressed 457 pounds, snatched 369 pounds, then erased Norbert Schemansky’s long-standing American record with a 473-pound clean and jerk to establish his own personal best in that lift. In making these lifts, Joe became the first athlete in US weightlifting history to total 1300 pounds. Amazingly, Joe’s breakthrough record was erased moments later by Ken Patera, whose total of 1306 gave him the National title.

Undaunted, Joe trained to avenge his defeat. He planned to do this at the 1971 World Championships in Lima, Peru. Unfortunately, disaster struck Joe in Peru. He injured his back while warming up for the competition and had to withdraw. It was a truly bitter moment for Dube, but as usual, he was far from defeated.

He resumed training as soon as he had recovered sufficiently from his injury and by January 1972 was once again in top form. Lifting in a meet in Cincinnati OH, he was prepared for an attempt at a new American record snatch of 382 pounds and afterwards attempt to become the first to ever snatch 400 or over. He lifted this great weight overhead and came completely out of the squat staggering all over the platform when the bar started to fall behind him. Joe’s great fighting spirit caused him to struggle too long with the errant weight and he injured his elbow. That injury spelled the end, at least temporarily of Joe Dube’s career, a career during which, it should be noted, he performed some extraordinary lifts in events other than the Olympic three. For example, Joe once full squatted 710 for 12 reps with no wraps of any kind, 745 for 3 sets of 5 reps. He dead lifted 710 for 3 sets of 5 reps with no special training or effort, push pressed 505, jerked 530 from the rack and front squatted 660 for 3 reps. Any one of these feats is outstanding in its own right.

At this point in his life, Joe enjoyed several years of well-earned retirement but, ultimately, that resilient ‘iron bug’ deeply seated within him, coaxed him onto the competitive platform once again in 1980. Now nearly 36 years old, Dube snatched 310 pounds and clean and jerked 410 pounds in his first comeback competition. He then took third place at the 1980 National

Championship and went on to win the American Cup competition later that year in Hawaii. At the 1981 Nationals, he took second place once again, with a 766 total. That event marked his last competition.

In establishing junior and senior American records, in setting junior world and senior world records, in becoming the first teenager in history the world to press 400 pounds, the youngest to press 300, and the first American to total 1300 pounds in winning an Olympic medal and becoming superheavyweight champion of the world, Joe Dube certainly had a great career. But his contribution to his beloved sport did not end when he retired from the platform, as Joe continued to show up to meets to help wherever he could. He attributes a part of his giving spirit to in incident early in his career that contains a lesson for us all.

The incident was a meeting that Joe had with the great Olympic Weightlifting champion and strongman, Paul Anderson. Joe was competing at the Tournament of Champions competition where he set his first junior world record. Paul was giving one of his legendary strength exhibitions (which Paul conducted all around the country after he retired from weightlifting). As usual, Paul’s exhibition of his great gift and creation, his physical strength, inspired his audience, including young Joe Dube. And seeing the great Paul Anderson perform might have been enough to inspire Joe to go on to even greater deeds. But after his exhibition, Paul took the time to give Joe something more. He spoke with Joe directly, and at length. Paul told the young boy that he could be a world champion as Paul had been. Paul told Joe that if he truly came to believe in himself his dreams would become possible.

To this day, Joe credits that talk with Paul as having been one of the greatest inspirations of his life. It helped him to develop the confidence to pursue his dream and become one of the world's best and renowned athletes. The lesson for all is not a new one, but one that is very worthy of being repeated. The lesson is that as we move through our daily lives we should be aware of the opportunities afforded us to embody, and support the ideals of strength, wholesome attitude with others, and healthy living. For we never know who we will touch or in what manner. We never know what minor comment, what small act, what word of encouragement may give someone else the spiritual or inspirational fuel needed to drive him or her forward to do great deeds and to live a life of strength, health, and virtue.

Joe carries this philosophy close to his heart, as anyone who has seen him at competitions and in the gym, inspiring youth and carrying the word about our great sport, can attest. That is why Joe’s kind, caring, and courageous heart, as well as his tremendous strength of body, has made him the inspiration that he continues to be.

 

NOTES OF INTEREST

 

* Guest of President Richard Nixon at the White House

* Special appearance on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson

* Keeps up with the sport and regularly gives advice to younger lifters.

* An artist of portraits, wildlife in colored pencils, using charcoal and pastels

* Mentioned briefly in the novel The Book of Air and Shadows, whose fictional protagonist is said to have competed in the 1968 Summer Olympic Games.

* Inducted in the Weightlifting Hall of Fames, York, Pa.

 

BEST OFFICIAL LIFTS

 

Press 462 pounds (210 kg)

Snatch 369 pounds (166 kg)

Clean & Jerk 473 pounds (215 kg)

 

BEST UNOFFICIAL LIFTS

 

Press 475 pounds

Snatch 385 pounds

Clean & Jerk 485 pounds

 

CHAPTER 15

ALFRED: RADIO DISC JOCKEY - MUSIC MAN  

 

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE: My brother Alfred has always had an ear for music. During his youth, perhaps as young as age 5, he was asked by the church minister to play the piano solo at several services, by ear and no music sheet. Along the way his desire to play the piano diminished, though music remained dear to him and his primary interest throughout his life.

After school, he began to work at Jax Lanes, a bowling alley located off the Arlington Expressway in Jacksonville. Earning minimal pay, he became a good bowling machine technician, and talented bowler. I believe he scored several 300 perfect games and held a high set average. I felt he could have become a professional bowler, but that wasn’t his forte. Thereafter, he was drafted into the military and served active duty in Vietnam. After two years he left the military but reentered six years later to remain for a lengthy career. His twenty-year stretch in the military was followed working Civil Service full time at Warner Robins Air Force base in central Georgia as a jet fighter mechanic. He retired from there with a nice pension and enjoys life today to the fullest.

Alfred married a Georgia girl, Dot, and they had two children - Adron Earl, and Christy. Today he has several grandchildren, his family living in Georgia not far from him.

Three marriages later, Alfred presently resides in Abbeville, Georgia with wife JoAnn in a comfortable quiet home.

Living in Cochran, Georgia several years he worked part-time at the radio station outside town, with a country music audience spanned across central Georgia. Presently, he works for a second station near his home, which also supplies his Sunday morning Gospel Music to central Georgia. He use to enjoy putting together airplane models and was quite good at it, so good he had one displayed in the museum at Warner Robins Air Force Base.

My wife Sharon and I enjoy Alfred’s CD’s he has made for us of old-time Rock and Roll and Country Music by renowned artists … a large number, indeed, for which we are thankful every time we listen to one. When we travel the byways to craft shows or to our mountain cabin, Alfred is always with us in the music he has furnished us … Virgil Dube’.

 

REMEMBRANCES

By Alfred Irvin Dube

 

Before I quit grade school in 1964, I remember the dean of boys, Mr. Polo telling me if I quit school, I'd never make anything of myself. But he didn't know us Dube brothers. I countered, telling Mr. Polo I would make something of myself one way or another.

I did finish grade school level getting my H.S. diploma in 1976 through the G.I. Bill. I attended Middle Ga. College in Cochran, Georgia for two quarters, made the Deans list my first quarter and just barely missed it my second quarter. But the thing that amazed me was the fact I scored very well on my College SAT examination. I also attended United Broadcasting College in Jacksonville learning broadcast training to be a Radio D.J. through the G.I Bill for 6 months: June to Dec. 1973, for which the VA covered payment.

Over time I diligently saved my lunch money, and when I saved a substantially amount, I walked from school to Arlington Rd. My destination was the record shop, where I would buy records and visit with my DJ buddy at WQTY 1220 AM in Arlington Plaza. Afterward, I walked alongside Arlington Expressway to home over 5 miles, having just bought a single record - that's how important music was and still is to me.

I went on to make a generous salary yearly not including my VA benefits that I was entitled to and earned. As most Veterans do, I did quite well as a College graduate, and made something of myself. Contrary to what Mr. Polo believed, I wasn't about to be defeated just because of what he said; lesson; never stop believing in yourself, especially your abilities and spirited initiative. No matter what anybody may believe or have you believe you know yourself better than anybody else can.

Virgil and Doug went on to be quite successful in Weightlifting because of self-determination. They never forgot where they came from, driven by what Mama said, “A winner never quits and a quitter never wins”. She preached to us “Willpower means never giving up”. We were so blessed to also have Aunt Clara and Aunt Eva guide us, and they certainly dished out discipline to us.

Adron was born July 6th 1972 in Warner Robins, Georgia. Kristy was born May 5th 1974 in Dublin, Georgia. These were the two happiest days of my life, to have a son and daughter, for which today I am so proud.

As of now, I live with my beautiful wife Joann in Abbeville and work on Sundays doing my Southern Gospel show. I'm still working as a Southern Gospel DJ in Hawkinsville, Georgia on Sunday mornings from 6:00 am to 11:00 am on WWKM 93.1fm and WDXQ 96.7fm and WDXQ 1440 am. This August 2018 will mark 30 years airtime for me. And, I never gave up, despite flunking the FCC element 9 portion of the FCC test twice to get my FCC license.

Never-say-never! I finally got it on the third try, Element 1 & 2 easy involving rules and regulations. Ron Wayne, (RIP) my teacher at the broadcasting college did a great job teaching me what I'd need to know to be a good if not better DJ.

I like tinkering with electronics. As a pastime, I spend time on EBay, buying, repairing, and selling electronic equipment for the pleasure of doing so.

I had to put up with a lot while employed at Robins AFB in Warner Robins working around some unsavory characters amidst more mighty fine coworkers. I did the job for my kids, to assist in raising them the best I could. But the time had come to retire, and I am glad I did.

As a retiree I still relish building models. Even though I haven't gotten back into it like I want, but hopefully I will soon. I have some beautiful F-15 models to build plus other models.

Of special remembrance concerning model building, my son Adron and I spent some time building F-15 models. He and I went to the IPMS National Championships in Washington, D.C. and placed third in our category on our first try.

We did quite well building models, a foundation for me from much training from my close friend Bruce Radebaugh, a four-time National Champion. He the best teacher ever, allowed me to show Adron what I learned. Adron and I had great times building models, and I hope it may not be over.

As I look back in time, I cherish and remember those good 'ole days and good 'ole dreams. As a young whippersnapper of 2 and 3 years of age, I enjoyed very much living in Pearl Place, several blocks from Duval Medical Center. I along with Clifford loved Christmas time and especially getting out in the dirt and playing with our new toys.

One day, Virgil and Doug received toys in the mail, a Roy Rogers and Dale Evans set of figure toys and an Army set of figure toys. Virgil liked his Roy Rogers set and Doug his Army set. Well, it didn't bother me. However, Clifford didn't like it at all and felt he was left out. So he devised a plan one day to do something about it. While Doug and Virgil were at school, Clifford found their toys and buried them in a hiding place, probably under our house hard to get at. He never admitted to taking them, or where he hid the toys. And Doug and Virgil sort ‘a let him slide. I don't know if Mama got involved in the mysterious disappearance or not.

One day, just before Santa was to come on his sleigh, I remember one of us got stuck under the garage door trying to sneak into the garage in a hole we dug to see what toys Mama and Daddy had put away for Christmas. Somehow we got wind some packages were stored in there. On another occasion Daddy caught Clifford with a pack of Viceroy cigarettes and Mama gave him a good spanking, telling him never to touch another one; in one ear and out the other.

A number of times with Mama and Daddy unaware, Clifford would wake up very early, sneak out, and walk the neighborhood breaking neighbors’ milk bottles on their porches. What possessed him is a mystery to all of us. He finally got caught and again, Mama gave him another whipping for what he had been doing. Finally the breaking of the milk bottles stopped and the neighbors were greatly relieved. But you sure took a chance walking barefoot in our community during Clifford’s calamitous episode.

One day while on the front porch, I started running to jump off the porch. My foot landed on a board with a rusted nail sticking up, the spike going all the way through my foot. Virgil and Doug heard me screaming bloody murder, and ran around the front corner of the house. Doug held me down while Virgil pulled the nail out. As Mama screamed, she grabbed me up in her loving arms and carried me a several blocks to the Duval Medical Center emergency room. There, they treated my wound, then gave me a booster shot, which I didn't like. The doctor did all he could to keep me from seeing the needle, me complaining I'd been stuck once and didn't want to get stuck again. This little story comforts me today, for Mama and Daddy sure loved us more than anything in the world. They couldn't stand one of us getting hurt, even if a switching.

We lived in Pearl Place for a short time. Eventually, we moved back to our real home in Oakwood Villa on the east side of Jacksonville. I believe it was around 1953.

Clifford and I were still young enough to enjoy our toys at Christmas time. One Christmas, we got some Cowboy and Indian toys, bow and arrows, and cap guns and we had a blast playing and chasing each other. I'd shoot Clifford. But he would refuse to play die. So I said you're not playing fair. It was me who had to be the dead desperado.

Mama eventually bought Clifford and me a bike, as she had before with Virgil and Doug. Clifford would heist my bike and go riding sometimes when I was asleep. I'd lock the bike because I knew he'd gallivant off with it if I didn't. And he'd find my key and take it anyway. One day, he had an accident with it when a car hit him and destroyed my bike. But he was okay. It was bad when I'd have to lock my bike to try and keep my twin brother from heisting it.

Mama would not allow or tolerate us fighting each other. But sometimes Virgil and Doug got out of hand and she would intervene severely with them. As my memory is refreshed, I believe Clifford was right in the middle of it most of the times. I was the smarter one not to aggravate Doug and Virgil knowing they might tear my butt up. But mischievous Clifford didn't care.

When I turned age 10 or 11, I became quite interested in music. Thanks to Charlotte Joyner, our neighbor who's Mom and Dad rented one of our houses. She had a 45 single record of Connie Francis “Vacation” which I thoroughly liked. I went to Mama and asked her if I could get that record and a small record player. She soon obliged, thus beginning my career with music.

And boy did I go head over heels in love with music and records. Now age 69, I've over 30,000 records and lots and lots of CD's and Stereo equipment. This was in the early 60's when Clifford and I were attending Arlington Jr. High School, and Virgil and Doug were attending Terry Parker high school. Clifford and I hated school and sometimes would play hookie and get caught time and again by Mama and get our butts tore up repeatedly.

I still remember the day I heard Mama screaming when a pot of scalding hot water fell off the stove onto her legs. The ambulance came and got her to the hospital and it took extended time for her to recover. Thankfully Daddy was there to assist her when it happened.

Then around 1962 or '63, a Railway Express truck struck Mama, causing damaged to the cerebellum of her brain. She was bed-ridden for a number of years, a miracle she survived, though she was never the same as before the accident.

Mama had a photographic memory, especially with numbers. We all thought it remarkable she could remember the numbers of all the city of Jacksonville city buses. She and us boys regularly rode the 47 Southside Estates bus back and forth to town, catching and unloading a couple country blocks from our home.

Clifford and I never finished Jr. High School, because most of the time, we weren't very studious. Finally, I managed to get my diploma in 1976. I quit school against Mama's advise on November 18th, 1964. I never dated girls, because I didn't have wheels. Girls or no girls, I knew the day would come when I'd have to answer Uncle Sam's call. From there I also knew a girl awaited me in my future.

I was drafted on May 24th 1968, and took basic training at Ft. Benning, Georgia, at the same time Clifford was taking basic training at Ft. Benning, he about a month ahead of me. After basic training, I took AIT training at Ft. Leanordwood, Missouri, and then came home for a short leave before being shipped to Vietnam. While in Vietnam, I was overrun by a 2 1/2 ton Tractor on Feb. 13th 1969, and placed on medical profile for a good 8 months. When that happened, I remembered the unfortunate accident to Mama getting hit by that truck. But I faired much better than she, who wasn’t as fortunate.

Though many of my fellow troops and friends didn’t survived Vietnam, which sorrows me today, I came home, and spent my last 5 months at Ft. Hood, Texas. After an Honorable Discharge, I went back to work at Jax Lanes where I previously worked. While working there, I met Dot, soon to become my first wife. She and I had two kids, Adron Earl and Kristy. After we were married, we moved to Cochran, Georgia, her hometown. I finally found work at the local Radio Station, WVMG. After 2 years in radio, I quit due to several unfortunate incidents not my fault. I returned to Jacksonville looking for work but couldn't find any. So being in a desperate situation to provide for my family, I reentered the Army and was stationed at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. I was surprised that the Army would let me join due to my age. While on duty at Ft. Campbell, I was injured in the line of duty three times and the Army discharged me two years early with a 10% disability. Since then, it is up to 80%. This was in June 1978. I worked a couple odd jobs at a convenience store and again in radio and at a bowling alley in Warner Robins. I also took a drafting course in Warner Robins. And I eventually got hired on at Warner Robins AFB, Georgia. I worked there 28 years, 3 months and retired on Jan. 2nd 2009. I am saying all this to demonstrate that abled veterans can apply themselves once they arrive home discharged from service. I eventually retired to settle down with my present wife, Joann. We live in Abbeville, Georgia and enjoy a laidback comfortable life.

One night in early 1962 or '63, us four brothers accomplished a feat that no other brothers in one family have ever duplicated. All four of us took 1st place in an A.A.U. sponsored weightlifting contest in Jacksonville. To the best of my memory, it happened at the local YMCA gym on Riverside Avenue at the Tournament of Champions contest. I took 1st in the 123 lb. class; Clifford took 1st in the 132 lb. class; Virgil took 1st in the 181 lb. class, and Doug took 1st in the 198 lb. class. It has never been done again since that night. We four are very proud of what we accomplished that night. Virgil and Doug's Riverside Athletic League team manager Cy Crawford could hardly believe what happened.

This last pleasant memory concludes what I have added to many more wonderful memories in this important account of our lives – our memoir, ‘One for all, and all for one’.

 

CHAPTER 16

CLIFFORD: SUPERB MECHANIC – FISHERMAN

 

Clifford displaying a bigmouth bass he caught in our pond

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE: My brother Clifford Whitney Dube is a fine generous person. Always full of energy, naturally curious, adventurous, and mischievous, during his youth he was hard to hold down and gallivanted everywhere. His high energy level could get him into trouble, one occasion I recall when he dropped by the Eberhart home on Cocoa Avenue to wind up playing marbles with Mr. Eberhart, and losing. Ticked off, he swore some mighty wayward words for which Mr. Eberhart later told me they were (@&^$#%^&*) exclamatories that he had never heard of … get the picture.

In his late teens, Clifford had a serious problem for which he paid the price and accepted it. But as a consequence he became one of the most responsible persons I have known, and I have always been proud of his turnaround. Entering the Army, a career coinciding his twin brother, Alfred, he became an excellent DI and was elevated in rank. I believe he served as MP also. Clifford served with the Army in South Korea, and in the DMZ a spell. Retiring with honors after twenty years, he too worked as mechanic specializing in jet wiring at Warner Robins Air Force Base in central Georgia. The twin brother’s worked in adjacent hangers on F-15’s and F-16’s during their time at the base working Civil Service.

Clifford married a girl named Darlene, she with him much of his military service. He stationed in Panama and they together, adopted an infant they named Tammy. Today Tammy with a college degree is an accomplished caregiver and nurse practitioner, and the mother of two girls and a son. Clifford and Darlene’s daughter Jennifer was born thereafter, and still resides in Georgia near Warner Robins. She has three children, Cliff’s grandchildren.

Tragedy struck when Darlene passed away due to a long-standing illness, leaving Clifford heartbroken many years. Time healing him, he dated several women, not ready to settle down until he met and married a Chinese lady named Linda. After living a while together in Byron, then Warner Robins, Georgia, and Linda aspiring to move to Florida, he decided to return to Florida. A happy couple, they live in Daytona, Beach near the Atlantic Ocean. His new location is ideal to Clifford, and to Linda also. He an avid fisherman, fishes several times weekly, recently taking up shore fishing that he loves. Linda has joined him shore fishing, both with friends having great fun, and catching lots of big fish. Linda loving the outdoors has further developed a hobby she attained while living in Georgia … gardening. If anyone needs to find Linda, just look outside … that’s where she will be, in her magnificently decorated gardens, either weeding, planting, or further cultivating for an additional area to plant vegetables and fruit.

Clifford had a bout of poor health several years ago and was hospitalized in Macon, Georgia. For a period his condition seemed dire, and this had me gravely concerned. But with time and strong personal resolve, he healed, and though not to his former best health, he is up and around keeping busy these days, fishing a darn good activity for him.

Life is good now for Clifford, and Linda in their new Florida home. He has traveled a sometimes-rough road, but has persevered magnificently, my brother and friend for whom I am so proud … Virgil Dube’.

 

AFTERWARD

 

Beginning in Catholic family home care we four brothers bonded in a protective manner that lasted throughout our childhood. As adults, we were and still are close, especially Douglas and me when we worked in close proximity for the Independent Life & Accident Insurance Company: 1960 - 1996. In retirement we four are presently residing in separate locales: Douglas in Sanderson, Florida, Alfred in Abbeville, Georgia – Clifford in Daytona Beach, Florida, and me in Jacksonville, Florida. We’ve remained close and have lived our lives respectably, four proud men the hub of their families.

Undoubtedly, I haven’t covered a sizeable extent of my life of meaning and fulfillment writing this personal memoir including my brothers; it would be impractical within a reasonable-sized manuscript. However, I have included much of the important things my brothers and I have experienced to share with our future generations and the public.

This memoir is principally about my life in conjunction with my brothers and highlights of their lives. When near completion, I delved in much inner-debate to include certain opinionated entrees, whether they would be overly offensive, or not. Ultimately, I consider my memoir not complete without speaking truthfully and open-minded on personal happenings, opinions and insights, and have dedicated a chapter titled ‘Observation, Analysis, and Practice’ to better convey me in genuineness. I would hope that my effort if not agreeable concerning my judgments, are appreciated as up-front and an honest personal statement. All things considered, preparing and completing this recollection of my life and ideals that I began working thirteen years ago involving our family’s history and my relationship with my brothers collectively, was a challenging undertaking. Though the preparation and work was compressed recently into a three-month span, I’ve had fun recording an assortment of old-time remembrances.

And, my brothers have helped. I thank them for their contributions adding substance to this chronicle.

I feel I have reached a respectable level of skill in artistry. However, I’m not a widely known artist or writer, fame not a vital focus in my pursuit of craftsmanship, though I would never refuse it and the proceeds. However, within my private dominion I am proud of my beginning in youth that has led to what I do and who I am and where I am headed.

If anything, I wish to convey to my descendants from this memoir to believe in ones self with conviction, cherish wholesome principles and standards, be kind to that person you see every morning in the mirror, and do likewise to others, be stubbornly positive, forthright in direction, honest, and with clear achievable goals in mind, work hard striving for aspirations with a solid plan and fierce resilience. If you wish to be a team player for an honorable objective, by all means do so with conviction and robustness. Be aware that you are what you make of yourself - and, be careful - don’t be what others want you to be if in your heart you know it is wrong for you a unique person.

Good luck to you in your life and endeavors, sincerely, Virgil Dube’.

 

Sharon and Virgil at their North Georgia cabin on their 52nd Wedding Anniversary

 

THE END

 

 

 


© Copyright 2018 Virgil Dube. All rights reserved.

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