Chapter Fifteen - Courting Caton
I was working for Army Audit Agency and assigned to work for Tom
"Bulldog" Howard on an audit of what was at that time called Anniston
Ordnance Depot, or AOD. I was a GS-5 at the time of the audit, an
Auditor Trainee. My trainee status should not be construed to mean I did
not know everything, as I was sure I did. The team generally recognized
that the people at the depot knew very little and we would have to give
them the guidance they needed and help them climb a little bit toward
our level of expertise. Well, we were not really that bad but we were
cocky and very sure that our recommendations would help the depot. The
correct answer of course is that the people at the depot knew
immeasurably more about the operation of a depot than any of us would
ever know. What we would really find was a few minor errors made under
the pressure of operation and people doing things differently than we
would prefer, but producing equal or better results.
The above should make it easier to understand my frame of mind
when I met Frances Johnson Caton. Frances was slaving away at a tough
GS-5 supervisory supply job in Depot Property at Anniston Ordnance Depot
when I met her. I knew the instant I met her that we were going to get
married so I asked her for a date. She said yes and it was all settled
from that point. I asked her to marry me on that first date, or rather I
just told her we were going to get married. Her response was a laugh.
She just did not understand that it was all set.
I decided I would not push the proposal for awhile as she seemed
so amused when I mentioned it. We just mainly had a good time. We went
to movies, we went to the club at the depot, we parked, we did
everything but sex. Sex before marriage was not very common in those
days. Neither of us were blessed with money so the things we could do
were limited to available funds, or maybe I should say unavailable
Frances would still go out with some dummy now and then but I
had no interest in dating anyone else. She went out with a dummy named
Walter Barney one night and Albert Lingle and I went to the AOD club and
tied one on. This was my last drinking party. I had twenty one drinks
that night before we decided to flow back to town. I had the 1955
Chevrolet and it had the old power glide transmission. Lingle made a
comment that my car would not pull the steam off a biscuit. We were
stopped at the exit from the depot road to highway 202 when he said it.
There was no traffic in sight so I put the transmission in neutral and
floor boarded it and when it was fully revved up I knocked it out of
neutral into drive. We burned rubber for half a mile and by that time
the highway patrol lights were flashing behind us. I pulled over on the
shoulder of the road, determined to keep my mouth shut. I just answered
yes sir and no sir to the questions. Lingle was making a real ass of
himself in the meantime but I kept quiet. A highway patrolman drove my
car in to town. Lingle kept telling him he was exceeding the speed limit
and he had no more rights than a private citizen and he was making a
citizen's arrest, etc. The patrolman had said he was going to drive
Lingle to the Purefoy Inn and take me to the county jail. He stopped a
mile from town and said he thought we had a flat on the right front and
asked Lingle to check. Lingle got out and the patrolman leaned over and
slammed the door and yelled, "Walk the rest of the way, you smart assed
SOB." We went on to the court house.
The Highway Patrol told me I had been pretty decent and they did
not think I was drunk and were not going to make a sobriety test. They
said they were just charging me with reckless driving for burning
rubber. I was locked up until I could make bail. Lingle came by and
found out he had to have bail money and the signature of a judge. He
decided the only one with money was Sherwood Sorrell. Sherwood was an
alcoholic but always had money. Lingle had seen Jewel McAlpin carry
Sherwood out of the club while we were there and decided she took him
home with her. He went to her home and woke her at two o'clock in the
morning wanting to speak to Sherwood and she unloaded on him. Jewel was
six foot five inches tall. She did tell him she had left Sherwood at the
Purefoy Inn so Lingle goes to the Purefoy and wakes Sherwood at about
2:30 AM. He told him what he needed and why and Sherwood told him to get
what he wanted out of his billfold and get out. Lingle then got the name
and address of the judge and woke him at three AM and told him he had an
emergency, that my Father had died and he had to get me out of jail and
to the funeral by ten AM. The judge signed and then Lingle had to get
someone else out of bed to accept the money and sign a release. He had
me out of jail by 4:30 AM. They told me I could not move my car before
8:00 AM and I went back and got it. I did not have to go to work as it
was Sunday. I did not even have to go to court but had to pay a fine of
about $27.00. I decided I would never drink any more other than an
occasional beer and I have kept that vow.
I think that was when Frances knew I was serious when I told her
we were going to get married. She had been married to an alcoholic named
Welch Caton for quite a few years (Jan 1938 to Mar 1950) and had thought
she would probably not marry again. Since they were married twelve years
and never had any children she was certain she could not have children.
Frances and I were engaged from the day I met her as far as I am
concerned but she thinks we were engaged when she said she would marry
me and that was in October of 1955, or close to it. We (she) decided we
would get married April 14, 1956.
James McKamee was Chief of Internal Review at AOD at the time we
became engaged and committed a job for me in April, 1956. I was to keep
working for Army Audit Agency until April and then transfer to the
depot. It seemed like a good plan. I did not particularly like McKamee
but I decided beggars could not be choosers. McKamee, as Chief of
Internal Review, was a GS-11, which meant I could not go above GS-9 in
Internal Review unless he left and I got his job.
I spent most of our engagement at Fort Rucker in Ozark, Alabama,
but managed to visit Anniston a couple of times. I called as often as I
could afford it, probably more often. If John Cotten had not been such a
good friend the wait would have been unbearable. John was also engaged
and had a job waiting in Huntsville, Alabama when the audit of Fort
Rucker was finished. We had similar problems and were both making phone
calls. John was from Mississippi and had graduated from Mississippi
I called Frances one night and she was not home so I took a long
shot and called her at the Officer's Club at AOD. It turned out to be
not such a long shot after all as she was there and obviously partying.
We came very close to breaking up over that but managed to work our way
April 14th had to come sooner or later and it finally did roll
around. We went from engaged to married that day.
The Johnson Clan
I liked all of the Johnson family. They were always like members
of my own family and made me feel like I was a member of theirs.
Alvie and Nellie were her Father and Mother. Alvie was always
sick and I never knew him very well. Nellie, or Nanny as we called her,
was always my buddy and took my side in any argument. It was too far to
go to Tuscaloosa so when Frances and I had an argument I went home to
Nanny. Nanny would get on Frances about not treating me right and that
would make Frances mad. Most of our arguments were about finances as we
always had financial problems. Alvie and Nellie are both dead now.
Maudie Mae Browning was the oldest child of Alvie and Nellie and
lived in Saks. We were married at her house. She was married to Sid
Browning and I liked Maudie Mae and Sid both. They had two children that
lived, Donald and Charlotte. Don was a city policeman, a highway
patrolman, an air conditioning/refrigeration repairman and finally
opened his own business. Charlotte worked at several different office
jobs. Sid and Maudie Mae are both dead now.
William D. (W.D.) was the oldest son. He was a postman for many
years. He was almost always neatly dressed, usually wearing a suit. He
was married to Vera and I liked both of them. Both W.D. and Vera are
Marshal Hendrix Johnson was the next oldest. Marshall worked for
years at the Anniston Star and wrote editorials frequently. Something
happened to Marshall during World War II and he did not hold a steady
job after the war. He lived in a garage behind Franklin's house at the
time Frances and I married. Marshall is dead now.
Franklin Stephen Johnson was Frances' twin brother and he warned
me sternly that he knew all about these guys making mistakes and ending
up in bed with their wife's twin and he wanted me to watch it. Franklin
was a really terrific guy, with all the dry wit you would ever need. I
loved him like a brother. Franklin was married to Charles White.
Franklin and Charlie are both dead now. Franklin and Charlie have five
children, Lynne, Steve, Anita, Rita and Elizabeth.
Eleanor Hinds was younger than Franklin and Frances. She was
divorced and had three children. Her children were Marsha Nell, Michael
Stewart and David Mark. Her ex-husband, Jimmy Hinds, sometimes paid
child support and visited the children very infrequently. Eleanor was
(and is) a good Mother to her children. She is still alive.
|Barry, Terry & Tommy|
Margaret Ann Gracie was married to Stephen Gracie and lives in
Panama City, Florida. She and Steve have three children, Stephen, Jo Ann
and David Graham. Steve was a pipe fitter in construction work. He has
retired and both are still living. Ann is the youngest of the family.
We went to Panama City on our honeymoon. We drove to Ozark the
day of our wedding and spent the night at the Candlelight Motel where
John Cotten and I had stayed for five months during the audit of Fort
Rucker. The next morning we went on to Panama City and stayed at the
Escape Motel. We also visited Ann and Steve while we were there.
We had two basic problems at the very beginning. One was that we
did not have much money. We were in a world of hurt financially. The
other was mainly frequency of sex. It was not frequent enough for me and
too frequent for her. She told me during the honeymoon that if I
expected her to love me like she loved Welch, to forget it as that was a
once in a lifetime love. At least I knew where I stood. Money and sex
continued to be our only problems during our marriage (39 years as of
the time I am writing this.) Every argument or problem stemmed from one
or the other. It also may have been a serious mistake to marry someone
who had sex with another man for 12 years, since they might either have
had all the sex they ever wanted or just not want sex with someone else.
Frankly, her attitude always made me feel that I just did not satisfy
her, or that she just did not want to be satisfied.
We returned to Anniston after a week in Florida. We had rented
an apartment in Terrace Homes, adjacent to the depot. We bought most of
our furniture from Haverty Furniture Co in Anniston. I bought some
items, such as the Television set, from Farris Faulkner in Tuscaloosa.
We had a pretty nice apartment.
I reported to the depot and was shocked to find that McKamee had
left for a job in Huntsville and a man named John Stanton was the new
Chief of Internal Review. John told me he did not like McKamee and did
not want anyone McKamee had hired and he preferred I find a job
somewhere else as he was not committed to take me. I made a deal with
him that I would be hired and any time after thirty days that he decided
he did not want me, I would quit. John said that was fair enough and he
expected me to live up to my end of the deal. One week later John told
me I could forget the thirty day deal, he was one hundred percent
satisfied with both me and the work I was doing. That eased the pressure
|Rita, Anita & Steve Johnson|
Tommy Bowerman,Lynne Johnson,
Marsha, Mike & Mark Hinds
Our marriage will continue in other chapters in the book. I have
thought Frances was right for me since the day we met. I have never
really had a comfortable feeling that this went both ways. I have always
felt she continued to love Welch Caton. Life goes on. It is not easy to
compete with memories of a dead man. I quit trying. It is not a pleasant
thing to feel someone has sex with you only because they feel obligated
to do so. I could never help wondering why a woman would continue to
love an abusive bum like Welch Caton when he beat her like he did. I never
hit Frances and would never have dreamed of abusing her either
physically, emotionally or mentally. But I knew she continued to
|Terry, Barry and Tommy Bowerman|
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