Part Eight - After the War

Assoon as I got home I started job hunting. I applied for several jobs with large companies, but I had decided I wanted a job with the government. I applied for a job in Customs in New York and border guard in Texas. Then I went to the employment office in Lynchburg, and they said I might get on as a cook at McGuire Hospital in Richmond. At that time McGuire was an Army General Hospital. I went to Richmond to apply and was accepted. I went to work in Richmond in November for twenty-six cents an hour. Because of my Army experience and training I was hired as a “first cook” grade.

     For several days I lived in a cheap hotel room in Richmond, while Margaret and Kerry stayed on in Lynchburg. We could not find an apartment for rent in Richmond. I spent most of my weekends in Lynchburg and the remainder of my off-the-job time hunting apartments. One week I took the car back to Richmond to make apartment hunting easier. One day, when I got off work, one tire on the car was flat. I replaced it with the spare since I didn’t have the money to get the tire fixed. I drove out into the country to try to fix the tire myself. I drove out Broad Rock Road about three miles, where I found a place to pull off the road. I stopped and patched the tire and replaced it on the wheel and started back to town. I saw a large old farmhouse with a two-story garage behind it. The upper story of the garage had double-hung windows and an outside stairway. There was a pile of sand and other building materials piled near the garage. Since apartments in Richmond were very scarce, people were converting any unused space to rental apartments. I assumed that garage was being prepared as an apartment for renting, so I stopped to inquire. The place was owned by Mifflin and Jenny Butler. Mr. Butler operated a tile contracting business from his home. They said they had thought of making the garage into an apartment but were presently using it for a warehouse for his business. We talked for some time. After we had gotten slightly acquainted, Mr. Butler said he would install a kitchen in the small upstairs room in his house and rent us two rooms with whole house privileges. He said, since he would have extra cost to install the kitchen, he would charge us fifteen dollars per month rent. Margaret came to see the place. Mr. Butler installed the kitchen and we moved in in November 1945. We left there in the summer of 1947. While we lived there we continued to try to find a better place. We met a Mr. Horner, [34] who was in the building business. He sold us a lot for five hundred dollars. We robbed Kerry’s piggy bank to get the twenty-five dollars to make the down payment on the lot. We decided that to get the house at monthly payments we could afford we would have to build it ourselves. We tried at several banks to borrow money for building materials, but none would loan us the money. Finally, we decided to turn the land back to Mr. Horner and give up the idea. When we talked to Mr. Horner about this, he agreed to furnish the material as we needed it, and after the house was finished he would get the bank to take over the mortgage so he could get his money. I didn’t know it then, but I later learned that Mr. Horner was chairman of the board of directors at the bank.

     For about the next eighteen months we spent every minute we could working on the house. We did all of the building except the electric wiring, plumbing, plastering and floor sanding. Mr. Butler tiled the bathroom for us for the cost of material.

     We had a wooden box originally used to ship wall tile that we used for a bed for Kerry’s nap. One day we had set a long piece of furring strip up in the corner of the room. Kerry was asleep in his box when the wind blew the furring strip down and it hit his head. His head was bleeding very profusely. This scared us both “silly.” We took him to the doctor. By the time we got out of the doctor’s office he was feeling good again, so we went back to work.

     I had arranged for the plasterers to start the job on a certain morning. The day before they were to come, I had planned to finish nailing up the rock lath. Mr. Horner called me at the hospital to tell me that they would be there a day early. The lath was not finished, and I couldn’t get off work. I called Margaret. She arranged for Mrs. Butler to keep Kerry and went to the house and finished putting up the lath by herself. She was pregnant with Peggy [35] at that time.

     One day Margaret was watching Mr. Butler setting the small floor tile in the bathroom. Being pregnant, her stomach was sort of queasy. Watching the close work with the tile made her nervous, and she had to go outside to upchuck.

     We moved in before the house was finished. It was only four rooms and a bath with cinderblock outside walls, so it wasn’t a mansion, but we were certainly proud of it. We lived there for more than a year before we got Mr. Horner to make the arrangements to transfer the place to us. The total cost to us was four thousand dollars for house and lot. Our payment was twenty-five dollars per month.

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Duringthis time, the hospital had been transferred from the War Department to the Veterans’ Administration, and a Mr. Holland [36] transferred in as chief cook. I was promoted to assistant chief cook.

     I learned that a new hospital was being built in Salisbury, North Carolina. I applied for the chief cook’s job.

     Our oldest friends in Richmond, Bill and Stella Sea, wanted a garage built. I was helping them and had laid the cinderblock foundation about three courses high. Margaret and the three kids were watching. Kerry came over and pushed one of the blocks off the wall. I fussed at him and then asked him why he did that. His reply: “Just wanted to see how it works.”

     Peggy was born on October 24, 1947, at Retreat for the Sick Hospital in Richmond. Virginia Herndon [37] came to stay with Margaret and help with Peggy so I could go to work.

     Less than one year after Peggy was born, Margaret was pregnant again. She miscarried and was very seriously ill and had to go to the hospital.

     We found that there was a lot of used lumber at Bellwood, the Army supply depot. The Army was giving it away just to get it off their hands. We got several loads of it and built two large chicken houses and a room to be used in dressing chickens in the backyard. Then we bought second-hand brooders, waterers and feeders. We ordered a chicken-picking machine from Sears and Roebuck. We divided each of the two houses into three sections. On alternate Mondays we would buy two hundred baby chicks. After six weeks, we started dressing one hundred each week and selling them door to door. Soon, we had an established route and orders for more chickens than we could furnish. Margaret was pregnant again, [38] and the odor from dressing the chickens made her sick. The sight of and odor from them sickened us until, for years after this experience, we didn’t care much for fried chicken. After several months of living with chickens twenty-four hours a day, we decided to forget them for one day. We went to Lynchburg to visit Margaret’s parents. When we returned late that night, the brooder heat was off and the two hundred baby chicks had piled up and most of them had smothered. The two hundred two weeks old had chilled and were set back so that they gained weight very slowly. So in about seven weeks we went out of the chicken business.

     The chief cook job in Fayetteville, North Carolina, came open and I applied for it. I was called down there for an interview and was promised the job. Expecting to be transferred soon, we advertised and sold our house. Bill and Stella Sea had divorced and left town, and their house was vacant, so we rented it and moved in.

     I had started to build a house for Mr. Holland, where we planned to live until I was transferred. When we lived on Windsor Road, Kerry started to school at Broad Rock School. Since we planned to live in the house we were building for Holland, we registered him at Manchester School. While we were living at Sea’s house, we were not in the Manchester district, so we had to take him to and from school. One morning I was out working at Holland’s house at time to pick him up, so I went to get him. On the way, a paraplegic from the hospital ran his car into mine. He was driving very fast and rolled over several times. My car was damaged very little, but I was summoned to court anyway. As I had never been to court before, I was scared stiff. My insurance company lawyer went with me. The other fellow didn’t appear in court, so I was dismissed.

     I had invested most of our money in Holland’s house, and it was not completed when I received notice that my transfer had been approved and I was to go to Fayetteville in a few days. I managed to postpone the transfer for a few weeks. Then I contracted a strep throat and had to spend two weeks in the hospital. I managed to finish Holland’s house before I was forced to move to Fayetteville. As I had not had time to arrange for Holland to get a loan to pay my money back, I didn’t have the down payment for a house in Fayetteville. I found a house for rent there, and the family moved in. Later, we found a house near the hospital with a government loan, which I could assume with a minimum down payment. We eventually got our money out of the Holland house. We used this money to build on to our house so that it could be divided into two apartments. We took the furniture from one of our bedrooms and our living room to furnish the rental apartment. Until we could get enough money together to buy furniture again, I slept on the living room floor.

     We were not happy in Fayetteville. It was hot, dry, sandy, flat land. The ants and bugs came in swarms. It was a typical small town near an Army post. There was no local pride, as a large percentage of the people were Army people and expected to move on in a short time.

     After we had been there about three years, the hospital in Salisbury was completed. I had been sent from Fayetteville to Houston, Texas, for four weeks’ training. While there, I received a telegram that I had been accepted for the job at Salisbury. I managed to postpone my transfer long enough to finish the training course and get some leave to make arrangements to move.

     We put the Fayetteville house up for sale, and Margaret and the kids stayed there while I went to Salisbury.

     Before we sold the house, Margaret’s father [39] died. Jim Herndon [40] and Rex drove to Fayetteville to bring Margaret home for the funeral, and I took the train from Salisbury to Lynchburg.

     When we sold the house in Fayetteville, we rented an apartment in a big, old house in Salisbury.

     Soon after we moved there, we made a trip to Lynchburg to visit Margaret’s folks. The kids slept most of the way home. It was well after dark when we came into Salisbury. Peggy woke up and leaned her head over the back of the front seat. Margaret told her we would be home soon, and Peggy said, “I bet a dollar we can’t find our house!”

Celtic knot

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34. W. A. Horner. Return
35. Peggy Lynn Sipe (1947-    ) born Aug. 24, 1947, in Richmond, Va. Return
36. Plennie Wayne Holland. Return
37. Virginia Mae Herndon (1933-    ) born Oct. 16, 1933, in Charlotte County, Va., the daughter of James Edward Herndon and Martha Vernon Tweedy. Return
38. Shirley Carol Sipe (1951-    ) was born Jan. 21, 1951, in Richmond, Va. Return
39. Robert William Tweedy (1974-1953) born Jan. 27, 1874, in Campbell County, Va., the son of James Benjamin Tweedy and Sallie Ann Tweedy; died Oct. 31, 1953, in Lynchburg, Va.; buried in New Chapel Cemetary, Campbell County, Va. Return
40. James Edward Herndon (1909-1974) born Jan. 28, 1909, in Lynchburg, Va.; died Sept. 28, 1974, in Lynchburg, Va.; buried in Hebron Baptist Cemetary, Appomattox County, Va. Return

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