Chapter Five - Youth

	We moved to Smackover, Arkansas from Aberdeen, Mississippi, and
then to Tuscaloosa, Alabama when I was junior high school age. We lived
in 26 different apartments and houses in Tuscaloosa. That was Dad's
answer to the age old question, "Whatcha gonna do when the rent comes
due?" We stayed until evicted and then found another place where they
did not know us. Most of my life had been tough. Whatever happened
though, we knew the love of our Mother would see us through. I always
had the utmost faith in my Mother. She was a solid rock in a paper

	We eventually got to Tuscaloosa, Alabama and after we had been
there a month or two my Mother told me that she had found the place she
had been looking for and if my Father lost his job here he would leave
alone as she was staying in Tuscaloosa. She meant what she said and when
Dad left he left alone.

	Times were really getting tough about the time we moved to
Tuscaloosa but I will cover that later. This is about Tuscaloosa.
Tuscaloosa is located in the Western part of Alabama and this was pretty
obvious as it seemed at times that half the businesses in Tuscaloosa
started with West Alabama, such as West Alabama Cleaners, West Alabama
Furniture Company, etc. Tuscaloosa is close to the Mississippi border.
It is also located along the Black Warrior River.

	Tuscaloosa is the home of the University of Alabama and the
Bryce Insane Asylum. Tuscaloosa is named after Indian Chief Tuskaloosa
and you frequently see it spelled with a K instead of a C but the C is
the correct spelling. Tuscaloosa is home of Stillman College, a
predominantly Black college. Tuscaloosa is progressive and tends to do
things on a more permanent basis than many cities in Alabama, such as
overpasses over railroad tracks instead of the lower cost crossings.
Tuscaloosa is a friendly town and Tuscaloosa is a town where people tend
to care about other people. Tuscaloosa may well be the greatest city in
Tom & Juanita Bowerman
Tom & Juanita

The Warrior River is primarily the boundary between Tuscaloosa and Northport. Northport is on the low side of the river bank and tends to flood during high water and Tuscaloosa is on the high side of the river bank and tends to be high and dry regardless of the state of the river. Tuscaloosa is Tuscaloosa and there is no other like it. People in Tuscaloosa tend to know why, such as Radio Station WJRD is named after James R Doss and Radio Station WTBC is Tuscaloosa Broadcasting Company, owned by Bert Bank, who was a Japanese prisoner of war in the Bataan Death March. You may have been able to detect that my Mother was not the only one crazy about Tuscaloosa. I loved it the minute I saw it. I love it now. I have lived in Anniston in the Eastern part of Alabama, near the Georgia border, for 40 years but I still love Tuscaloosa. I will always love Tuscaloosa.
Tuscaloosa High School

Tuscaloosa is the home of the foundry in Holt, Tuscaloosa is the home of BF Goodrich Tire Company. Tuscaloosa is the home of Gulf States Paper Company and Bemis Bag Company. Tuscaloosa is the home of many of my remaining high school classmates. Tuscaloosa will always have a special place in my heart. Tuscaloosa is where I was young and Tuscaloosa is where I had dreams of fame and fortune. Tuscaloosa is where I sat under the stars and plotted a course for the future. It is the place I found integrity and said, "Hey, this is for me." Tuscaloosa is where I saw my sister blossom from an awkward girl to a beautiful woman. Tuscaloosa is where I was baptized for the remission of sins at the age of 15. It is the memory of Brother Long and Elder O.J. Henley. Tuscaloosa is where I was prayed for and where I was given brotherly love like I had not known existed, and where I discovered who I was and who I wanted to be. Tuscaloosa is where I learned to cope with the realization that all my dreams would not materialize on earth. Tuscaloosa is where everything my Mother loved remains. Tuscaloosa is where I hoped and dreamed and where I began to make the necessary arrangements for the trip through life. Yes, I will always love Tuscaloosa, but not enough to leave the area where I met and courted and won my wife and where our lovely children were born. I must be satisfied with Tuscaloosa as a memory, like a first love. Marion Simmons was the only true friend I ever had before we moved to Tuscaloosa. In Tuscaloosa, William Hoggle, Roy Schmarkey, Bill Miller, and L.B. Hughes became very close friends. Champ Lewis, Eugene Barlow and Druid Beavers were also close friends. I loved Brother Long, who baptized me for remission of sins and Brother O.J. Henley, Elder of the Central Church of Christ. I was very close to H. L. Kincaid and Dave Underwood. Sue McLeod, teacher of Boy's Social Problems and Rubye Gulleye, algebra teacher were also very close friends. I considered Mr. Harry Simon Berman, Sr., Father of my sister's husband to be a dear friend and one of the finest men I ever met. Dad was foreman of the tight barrel heading mill and Mr. Schmarkey was foreman of the slack barrel heading mill. The Schmarkey's ran a rooming house for college students and we stayed with them awhile when we first moved to Tuscaloosa. That is how I met Roy Schmarkey, who was about my age. Bill Hoggle, Bill Miller and L.B. Hughes were friends of Roy and became my friends. Roy Schmarkey was slightly heavy but not what you would call fat. Roy chewed tobacco and was crazy about the Warrior River. His Mother would not knowingly let Roy go to the river so Roy invented a club called The Bent Door and always told his Mother we were going to The Bent Door when we left for the river. No one ever asked where I was going so I did not have to lie. It was not that no one cared, it was just that my parents trusted me. In all my life, my parents never asked me where I was going or where I had been. Anyway, I liked Roy and we were life long friends. Roy died in North Carolina a few years ago. Roy knew when he was going to die and did not want his wife to see him die. He drove to a remote area and parked and died. His son found him and knew why he did it. Roy was in the Navy during World War II on the USS Tuscaloosa. His ship was chased all over the North Sea by a German pocket battle ship and Roy was hit in the chest by a fairly large round. He lost several ribs as a result. My ship pulled into Boston once and I was in a bar and looked up and saw Roy Schmarkey walk in. We had a couple of drinks and went to the rest room. I was so glad to see Roy that I hit the wall in front of the urinal with my fist and the entire wall went down, leaving the rest room exposed to the general public. The bartender motioned for me to come over to the bar and I walked over and then turned and ran. I ended up going one direction and Roy a different direction and I did not see him again until after World War II. William Hoggle lived near Bryce Insane Asylum. His Father was a male nurse at Bryce. His Mother was a cleanliness freak. When we went in Bill's house we had to take our shoes off and prove our feet were clean. His Mother was always cleaning. She even took the kitchen chairs to the back yard and cleaned them in a large pot of lye water every week or two. She was a nice lady but she hated dirt. Bill was a natural born mechanic and he was on a program during high school that permitted him to go to school in the morning and work as a mechanic at Tuscaloosa Motor Company in the afternoon. Bill was an excellent driver and one of the few drivers I considered good enough to feel comfortable sleeping while he drove. Bill had a small brother named after John Wayne. I trusted Bill totally in any kind of transaction. Bill Miller lived with his Mother and two of his bachelor uncles in a tent near the Warrior River. Bill's Mother talked to herself and no matter when you went to town you usually saw her on the sidewalk with a shopping bag in her hand walking along talking to herself. She had what appeared to be a tumor in her stomach. Bill was ashamed of his Mother and would walk past her and turn his head the other way as though he had not seen her. I would always stop and chat with her. Everyone called her Aunt Lizzie. Bill would walk on half way down the block and wait while I talked to her. Aunt Lizzie was a little confused but she was really a grand old lady and I enjoyed talking to her. She would finally tell me to go on before Bill got mad. Aunt Lizzie always wore old clothes and Bill wore $200 suits, which would cost a thousand dollars today. Bill had an old radio that had about 50 knobs to tune it with. It was a pain to change stations but it had the best sound I ever heard. You could hear it two miles away on the river but never got any louder as you got closer to it. The tone was beautiful. Bill could usually be found poking around in the trash dump, which was maybe a hundred yards from their tent. Bill got in the National Guard and trained most of the war but finally went to new Guinea. He shot himself in the knee to get home and drew disability pay the rest of his life. Bill died recently. Most of the people I cared most about are dead now. L.B. Hughes was a horse fanatic and worked at a stable when he was not in school. L.B. and I agreed to get in the Navy on the buddy system where they guaranteed you would stay together. They turned me down because of fallen arches and took L.B.. L.B. was on the Arizona at Pearl Harbor and his body is still somewhere on the Arizona as it was never recovered. If the Navy had taken me at that time I suppose I would be on the Arizona with him now. Many people have forgiven the Japanese. I never have and I never will and no one can tell me the yellow sneaks will ever be any different than they were at Pearl Harbor and during World War II. People do not change for a certain occasion and then change back. They are as treacherous as they ever were. Roy Schmarkey is dead and L.B. Hughes is dead. Bill Miller died in 1993 according to Bill Hoggle.. Bill Hoggle is alive and well and rather young looking. Bill lives in Northport and runs a junked car lot, buying junk cars and selling parts and crushing and bailing the remains and selling it as scrap metal. Bill and I write one another occasionally. He was the one who told me about Roy's death. Bill attended our 50th Tuscaloosa High School reunion a couple of years ago and said there are less than twenty of us left. I know of two who have died since then. The Black Warrior River became my home away from home. My friends and I knew the Warrior and its banks like the backs of our hands. I did all my home work during class and when I got out of school in the afternoon I always walked to the river, usually with Roy. We would stop by and get Bill Miller. Bill Hoggle and L.B. were usually working on week days. It was 3 or 4 miles to the river but we thought very little about a walk less than five miles. If we got tired walking we would run awhile. We would check Lock 10 and Lock 11 and sometimes go to Lock 12. We usually had a boat of some kind. After the river had been unusually high we would go up and down looking for boats that had broken loose and tow them home and sell them for a dollar or two. We got the idea of a motor boat for us and started searching and found a boat that had once had a large motor in it. It was on the bank and had large cracks in the bottom. We sold scrap metal and raised some money and bought it for five dollars. We packed it with oakum and sunk it in the river and let it swell. We sold some more scrap metal and bought a four cylinder Chevrolet engine for it. We raised money for parts and Bill Hoggle rebuilt it. We got the drive shaft and transmission with it. A machinist at the Chevrolet dealer said he would make us a propeller if we got the metal. We were on the river and found a heavy piece of metal. It was an inspection plate on a tug that pushed barges up and down the river. We mounted the engine and ran the drive shaft through the back of the boat and went over the side and under the boat and mounted the propeller. We put a muffler on the engine and cranked it up. We were in business and had one of the fastest boats on the river. We had less than twenty dollars invested in it. The Black Warrior River. What good times it provided! It was no wonder we always headed there after school and spent most of the week end there. Sometimes we would put our bicycles in the boat and go across the river and ride around on that side. The main problem with that was the woods between the river and the road. I had a very old bicycle with high pressure tires filled with a fluid called "never leak" that someone had given me. It was really worth less than a dollar. Roy had a fine bicycle with balloon tires that his Father gave him. Bill Miller did not have a bicycle and Bill Hoggle had an old one that was in pretty good shape. We went across the river once to steal some sugar cane and had cut a bunch of it when a man in overalls walked up with a shotgun in his hand. He said he was going to shoot us. James Fincher was with us that day. His Father owned a jewelry store. James had a package of cigarettes and begged the man to take them and let him go but the man said he was going to count to three and then kill us. We took off running and he fired two or three shots but we never knew if he shot in the air or shot at us. We were moving on. James Fincher never went with us again but we found other sugar cane patches and watermelon patches. We were not just poor, we were dirt poor, the kind of poor that creates an empty feeling in your stomach, the kind of poor that lets you just weigh 122 pounds when you are six feet tall. It was not quite as bad when Dad was there but he soon lost his job and moved on. This time Mother refused to go to Smackover and vold him to go his way and not come back. We were living at 1919 7th Street when he left. Not long after he left the creditors started closing in and finally the furniture store said they were sending a truck to get all the furniture. My Mother decided to fire up the wood cook stove and keep it hot so they could not take it. They loaded everything but the cook stove and it was glowing red hot. We were happy we would have a stove but a few minutes later they came back in an open pick up truck. Two men came in with two by fours in their hands. They reached over and knocked the stove pipe off and ran the two by fours under the stove, picked it up and walked out with it. It was still glowing red when they drove off with it. We had no stove, no beds, no tables, no anything. The house was stripped bare. Herman left and came back with some orange boxes and took down a door and made a table. He got a couple of burlap bags and told me to come with him. We went down to the railroad switch yard and picked up coal along the track. When we had it all, Herman got on top of a coal car and kicked coal off. He said it was piled too high and might fall off and hit someone. When we got home Herman rigged up something so Mother could cook in the fireplace. We went outside and got pine straw and put it down and put quilts and blankets over it. We made some pretty good beds. We got an eviction notice there but stayed as long as we could. This was when Mother got a job with Mr. Kincaid making slip covers and upholstering. She rented a room from Mrs. Kincaid and we moved there. Herman left us as he was married by this time and had one child. There was not enough room for the three of us in the one room so Mrs. Kincaid said I could use the tower. The house was the old Van de Graf home, built before the Civil War and there was a circular staircase leading up to a small room at the top. This room was almost fully used by the railing for the staircase but there was room to wedge a cot in it. The entire walls were windows and all the glass was broken out. The attic of the two story house had thousands of bats living in it and when they came out many of them flew through my room. I would wake up at times and find bats that had missed a window and fell on my bed. They were really nasty looking little creatures but they would leave you alone if you left them alone. In the winters that it snowed, snow would blow in and pile up on my bed. It was also tough when there was a blowing rain. But it was home and it was mine and school was just a block away and I could hear the first bell and get up and wash and get there in plenty of time. There was no breakfast meal at our house. Tuscaloosa High School was located on the corner of 13th Street and two blocks from Greensboro Avenue at that time. We lived at 1217 Greensboro Avenue, which is now the site of a motel. The high school was a two story brick structure, with wood floors that were oiled. Everyone was assigned a home room in alphabetical order of last name so I knew the students with names starting with A, B and C better than the other students. This put Willis Bidgood and John Burnum, the brainiest students in the school, in my home room. There were two algebra teachers, Ruby Gulleye and Grandma Gray. Ruby used a system of helping one another and students that understood it just drilled the ones that did not. She also believed in doing the homework in class in case you got stuck. She would tell us that as soon as everyone understands everything and everyone has their homework finished we will talk about the big ball game coming up. Her students really understood algebra. Grandma Gray's method was to go to the blackboard and work problem after problem that few of the students understood and then give them a pile of homework right before the class was over. Her motto was, "If you don't get it this year, you will get it next year." Cecil Jackson tried to flatter all his teachers to get better grades and he told Grandma Gray one day that she sure looked lovely. She is said to have looked at Cecil and say, "Cecil, I am as ugly as home made sin and you know it and if you don't get it this year you will get it next year." I do not think the students felt Ruby was a pushover, they just felt she was a good teacher and helped them understand something they were really afraid of. Karl Bruder was the art teacher and art was a two year course. If you took it one year you were required to take it the next year. For some unknown and stupid reason I signed up for art and it developed I was totally devoid of artistic ability. I could not draw a straight line with a ruler and I was sloppy and had no perspective. Karl worked hard with me and at the end of the year he told me I had an F but he would make me a deal -- if I would not take art next year he would give me a passing grade this year. I told him it was a required two year course and he said, "Trust me, I have pull with the front office." I think I was the only one at Tuscaloosa High ever allowed to take art one year and get credit for it. The football coach and Mr. Ebersole taught wood working. The coach had two fingers missing on one hand and that worried me about wood working but he told me he had been hunting and somehow jammed the end of the shotgun in the ground and got mud in it. When he fired, the barrel peeled back and cut the fingers off. I had a hard time in wood working as I did not have money to buy wood. I would have to watch the construction sites and when I spotted something unlocked go back and get it. This meant I was always working on small projects. I had found a block of wood once and put it in the lathe to make a rolling pin. The wood was not very good and it flipped out of the lathe and hit me on the nose. Blood was running everywhere and Mr. Ebersole grabbed my arm and pulled me to the back door. I felt impressed he was concerned and apparently going to take me to the hospital until he opened the door and pushed me outside and slammed and locked the door. I was a block from home and went home and washed my face and put a wet cloth on my nose and went back to school. I asked Mr. Ebersole what happened to him and he said he just did not want blood all over the floor. Real concern, you know. Sue McLeod was my favorite teacher. She taught Boy's Social Problems and we learned how to cook, wash dishes, set tables, decorate, talk to girls and anything else Sue decided we needed to know. We were required to have a white coat and I had no way to get one. Sue asked me if my Mother sewed and I told her she did and she just happened to have the right amount of material and a pattern. She was sweet to all of us. She was a member of the Business and Professional Women's Club and she made a deal for us to do some work at their club house out in the woods in return for spending a week-end there, and we could each invite a date. Sue personally visited the parents of our dates and assured them she would not sleep the entire week end and keep an eye on us. The girls would be on one side of the hall and the boys on the other side. Well, we made several trips up there cleaning up brush and painting and that sort of thing. Noah Smalley had a Model A Ford with a rumble seat and about ten of us got in it and on it. One time we were on a country road making a curve to the right and the left front wheel just rolled off and went straight toward a side road the WPA was working on. There was a man with a flag in his hand and he kept waving it at that wheel like that was going to stop it. We had so much weight on the back of the car that the hub did not hit the ground. We got a nut off of each of the other wheels and picked up the front end and put the wheel back on. The week end was a fiasco. The girls were all flirts and there was not one among them that would put out but they sure made Sue think they would and she was really unhappy with us. She finally believed us and forgave us. I did not have any idea I would be using the knowledge I got in that class to cook for 40 boys in a CCC camp a year later. I wrote Sue and told her about it and she sent me some recipes and gave me some tips. There were many fine teachers in Tuscaloosa High School and I loved them all. I got a job in one of President Roosevelt's programs sweeping and mopping the cafeteria the first period after lunch and that helped at home a little. I stole a bar of candy one day and that still bothers me, even though I later sent the school a five dollar bill without saying what it was for. My grades made me eligible for the Honor Society but Mr. Dowling, the superintendent of education, called me in his office and asked me if I could get some new clothes for the ceremony and a suit with black tie for the banquet and I told him I could not. He said he hoped I would understand that he was going to be forced to leave my name off the list. I told him I hoped he understood I did not care if he took a flying leap with his list. That is why I was not a member of the honor society. It has really never bothered me. This is covered in more detail elsewhere. Our graduation was in May of 1940 at Denny Stadium. We were fortunate in Tuscaloosa to have access to University of Alabama property. Our speaker told us we were the hope of the future and people were waiting on us with open arms. The truth was that the economy was so bad there were already people with a doctoral who were willing to work longer and harder for less than we were and they could not find jobs either. There were no jobs.
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