Friday, January 06, 2006

THE DEPRESSION YEARS Cont. Life In The 30's.

Wallace A. Johnson MBA
Apollo Project Test Pilot
CDR Spaceship DEWAJ
Senior Navigator Test Pilot


Things were rough in the 30's. My Mother did all she could to keep the family together after my Father passed away. I was 11 and doing rather well in school, but it wasn't without the help of some people I will never forget. In particular, my music teacher Ms. Norris. I was laboring to master the violin and cello, and as it happens from time to time, one of my strings would break, and there I would be. I couldn't afford to buy strings, but somehow, the next time it came to be at practice, Ms. Norris would hand me the necessary string. I know she couldn't afford those extra expenses herself, but as a substitute teacher currently, I know that teachers quite often supply their students with necessary items which students can't afford themselves. Teachers are a special lot, at least the good ones are, and Ms. Norris was one of those. She was very instrumental in my appreciation of music in all of its forms and she was a very imnportant part in the eventual formulation of the person I am now and have been in the past. She was a kind soul and I will never forget her.

Another person I will never forget was a Mr. Ben Duggan. He was an executive for an insurance company there in Houston, Texas. He was notified about my particular circumstances by my home room teacher Ms. Fern Smith. He took it upon himself to more or less adopt the family, me in particular since I was the older of my syblings. I remember on one occassion being taken to a professional baseball game for the first time. It was the Houston Buffaloes, and we had seats right behind home plate. I'm not much on sports, but I was impressed with the whole thing and now realize how kind he was to me and my family. I saw him as a good man who was just trying to do a kind act out of the goodness of his heart. During the war, while I was overseas, my mother wrote me inform me of his passing by sending me a clipping of his obituary which was in the Houston Chronicle. I still have that clipping believe it or not. He was a special person, put on this earth for a special reason, and I now realize I was part of it in a small way. I came to find out that my family wasn't the only one who he helped and he was highly respected in the Houston business community for his various charities.

I mentioned my home room teacher Ms. Fern Smith. If there ever was an angel who walked the earth, she was one. I had her in the third grade while I was attending Hawthorne Elementary School. Let me digress for a moment. While living in Cuba, I had attended school on refinery grounds and was in the third grade. All classes were taught in spanish. I was lucky because my mother would speak to me in Spanish and my Father would speak to me in English. I always responded in Spanish. So I understood both, but my main tongue was Spanish. When I started school in Houston, with my language problems, I was put in the first grade. I picked up my English speaking abilities rapidly and within a years time found myself in the third grade. So I was at the proper grade level for my age in no time. Ms. Smith, was my home room teacher at the time my father passed away and took an immediate interest in me and my family. She became very close to the family and would visit from time to time insuring all was well and that we were being cared for. She was the person who told Mr. Duggan about my family and I kept in constant contact with her with personal visits and correspondence through the years
My first letter from her came when she wrote on the passing of my father. I still have that letter. I wrote to her and visited with her on many occassions through the years until her passing when she was in her 90's. She was an old maid, never married, who was very frugal, but somehow amassed an impresive portfolio of stock holdings and real estate, which came to a sizable sum. I remember clearly, during WWII, I was on leave one day, and I visited her. She was having her lawn mowed by a young boy who lived next door to her and she introduced me to him. I remember the occassion well, because although I was 19 or so at the time, he made an impression on me, for it was obvious Ms. Smith thought well of him. Ms. Smith dabbled in oil paintings and was quite prolific with pastoral scenes and flowers. During one of my letter writings to her in the 90's, I received a letter from an attorney by the name of Kennedy. He informed me of her passing, that he was her lawyer and was the executor of her estate. He informed me that in her estate, she had mentioned me by name, and that I was to have the choice of three of her paintings. Not only was I shocked to hear of her passing, but the fact that she remembered me in this special way was totally unexpected. I have those paintings to this day and I cherish them, but the most surprising thing of this commentary, is the fact that the attorney who contacted me about my legacy was the very same young boy who lived next door to her and to whom I had been introduced to while on Navy leave in 1944. I'ts funny how unimportant little things can seem to be at the time they take place only to realize much later that the moment was a pivotal one in future events. Maybe there is a lesson here for us to consider. I personaly believe that every moment is precious, and that it should be reflected on as important to the extreme. Now that I am in my autumn years, I realize how true this is.


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