Interview with Wilton Drex Bradshaw

Interview with Wilton Drex Bradshaw

My Dad, John Wilton Bradshaw was born in 1913 in Waverly Virginia.  His mother Jossie Bradshaw and father Arthur Bradshaw were blessed with John as their first born April 28, 1913.

My Mother, Dorothy Mae Chapman was born in 1917 in Chuckatuck,  Her mother Novella Darden  and father Joseph Rosser Chapman were married in XXXX Stories abound about my mother and some of them are repeated here.  Seems that during her younger years she was prone to do things when she knew they were wrong but if told to go ahead and do it she would.  On one occasion she was at Moores store with her crocket mallet.  Several of the guys in the store told Dottie to hit one of the men on the foot with the mallet.  She refused at first but then with coaching she wacked one of the men and drew blood.  She immediately went home and told her mother that she needed a whipping because of what she had done.  Seems this comment was common place around the Chapman home according to my Aunt “Eddie Pie”.  Frank Spady spoke up for Momma once and told Mr. Chapman the following:  Chap, if you do not leave Dottie alone I am going to kick you in the belly.  Granddaddy ask what he had said and Frank repeated his comment again.  With this granddaddy moved his chair back and Frank took off.  He went home and told his mother that Mr. Chapman had beat him up.  Mrs. Spady came to the house and ask granddaddy about the beating during which he said simply I just moved my chair back as if I was going to get up and when I did he ran.  I did not touch the boy.  Mrs. Spady was satisfied and off she went.

On the 31st of August in 1938 my mother went to Lakeview Hospital in downtown Suffolk and gave birth to a health 8 lb baby boy.  She named him Wilton Drexel Bradshaw and this is his story from that day forward (as best I can recall).

The first couple of years are a blur but I mention the old market downtown as I do recall several visits to that open air facility when visiting my grand parents on their farm off of route 460 between Suffolk and Windsor.  Every Saturday when we were visiting my dad’s grandparents we would ride into Suffolk and make some purchases and then return to the farm which still has the same house on it now.  This market displayed its products out in the open and in wooden containers with lots of saw shavings on the floor but was torn down in the 1960’s to make way for other development.  I even attended a basketball game with my mom and dad later in life which was on the second floor of this building.  Mom played basketball with an outside team and both Dad and I went to all the games.  I remember bouncing the ball during halftime at many of these events and although unable to get the ball through the net tried awful hard.  I think this might be why I enjoyed playing basketball so much in high school.

There was a short stint when we lived in Portsmouth but in the early 40’s we moved to Chuckatuck.  First we lived in the house my Aunt Stelle lived in and then moved two doors down.  This was the house I remember most where I was raised until I entered the Navy in 1960.

The house in Chuckatuck was a two story white clapboard with a porch all the way across the front.  There was a set of steps on the end next to Mr Johnson but I never realized that there must have have been a door out of the living room or at least plans for one.  There were three bedrooms upstairs along with a bath.  Downstairs we had a living room, dining room, kitchen and den.  Drew has the dining room table which has a story of its own.  The back yard was large with a double garage that held mostly boats that daddy bought and rebuilt or reworked time and again.  One of those boats was a Dodge Watercar which I think was about 26 feet long.  It had a HISO aircraft engine (12 or 16 cylinders I believe) in it and was a direct drive.  I do know it was a V engine because on any number of trips I would get down inside the engine compartment to stay warm

Chuckatuck was a small village of some 150 people in the 1940’s and in fact it stayed that way until late in the 1970’s when some expansion started to take place.  It had just about every thing that you needed especially in the 1930/40’s.

Just before you got to Mr. Byrd’s store was Mr.White who owned an electronic repair shop.  He had a tent next to his work space and showed 16MM movies every Friday and Saturday night during the summer.  I do not remember the exact cost but it was minimal (5 cents for a movie and about the same for popcorn).   There was a monkey next to the popcorn machine that made life interesting for all of us.  This was a segregated tent approximately 40 feet long and 20 feet wide with wooden benches on both sides.  Most of the colored (black) folks lived on the Ridge or on the farms as tenants and the whites in the community (around the intersection) of route’s 125 and 10.  On a normal Saturday night a number of the farm hands who lived on Holiday Point farm (Governor Godwins home place) and Cedar Brook Farm would come into town for the movie.  After the show like many kids at that time we all moved via bicycle.  Directly across from the Tent show was the Schools base ball diamond.  We played TAG on our bikes with the one who was “It” having total use of the infield while those being chased had to stay within the base line.  We had no grass on our infield like the big guys.  Lots of bike wipeouts as you might imagine.   (NOTE.  Growing up in Chuckatuck, in the country was a great experience and although no colored folks went to school with us I still had some great relations with them and did not consider them any different from me other than their color.

My second earliest recollection that comes to mind is my learning to swim.  The Lone Star Cement company was digging marl from the area adjacent to Chuckatuck village and moved the materials via rail from Chuckatuck down to the washer plant.  (more on this later).  In one of these deep holes, (small lake)  adjacent to the railroad track just south of route 125 which connects Chuckatuck with Driver via the Kings Highway bridge, several of the locals including my older relatives (Sonny, Carole Willoughby, and the Howell boys and my dad along with Mr. Saunders) constructed a floating platform to be used for sunbathing and swimming.  I recall with vivid memories that my Mother always took me to the swimming hole and always put my orange life jacket on me.  That particular day, I suspect I was about thee years old, she took my life jacket off, grasped me under my arms (I was facing her) and she said ”today you sink or swim”.  With that she tossed me about 5 feet from the floating dock and when I surfaced my feet and hands were doing exactly what I had been doing all the time with my life jacket on, and that is the Dog Paddle.  Between spitting water and doing the dog paddle I made that 5 feet with relative ease and from that day forward I never wore a life jacket while just swimming again.  I was a water rat and from the word go and was in the water even though I had to be carried everywhere we went.  Swimming carried on for all my years in Chuckatuck and was an after school and weekend event.  When not cutting grass or riding my bicycle, we were all at the swimming hole.  There were many holes to swim in and we tried them all.  The one hole directly behind my house had a very steep bank about 25 feet high.  It was a great place to jump off of and seemed like it took an eternity to reach the water.  We would jump, swim to the shore and race to the top to jump again.  This particular hole was the cause of my weak knee when playing football in later years as one of Arthur Raines friends from Suffolk (I thought he was crazy) jumped from the top onto my leg as I was swimming away.  I am convinced now that my Medial Miniscus was torn at that time.  These Marl Holes were a great place to be during our younger days and our families always knew where we were.  Today they are a source of water for the City of Suffolk.  Lots of other lakes in the city but our forefathers sold (gave them all away) to cities like Norfolk who now own’s and controls many of them but the Marl Holes now known as Lone Star Lakes.

I must have been about four years old, if my memory serves me right, when an Irish Setter puppy (Duke) became my best friend.  He was blood red, just like my grandmother Jossey hair, and it can be said that if I went somewhere, Duke would be right there.  It was impossible for me to play hide and seek with my next door neighbors Polly and Ace Johnson or anyone for that matter as Duke was always lying by my side or very close anyway.  He thought it his job to take care of me and that he did very well.  At a tender age of seven years old Theodore Allen who lived up on the Ridge, now living in Sandy Bottom, was my best Army buddy and we fought the Germans on a daily basis behind our house.  A fence that separated the yard from the field was a great place to dig fox holes and tunnels under the fence.  We slipped and crawled from one side to the other with Duke hanging tight.  There was no way to get rid of him as he was my protector. I spoke with Theodore about this in 2009 and he remembers our times together and how much fun we had.  During the war effort Theodore (Thedo as he was called) and I killed more Germans and Japs than the law allows.  Everyday when possible we crawled under and through the fence line to shoot at our enemy.  Tough to keep Duke out of the line of fire but we managed.

Another item that comes to mind is my fascination with ghosts.  Living in Chuckatuck very close to churches we have several cemeteries.  The St Johns cemetery (with many ground level vaults) was always a lot of fun on Halloween because a number of the colored folks who lived on the Godwin farm (Holiday Point) had to pass right by that cemetery enroute home.  When they would leave the tent show in Chuckatuck several of the older boys like Sonny and Virgil and Spunk would go down to the cemetery and put on white sheets and wait for the colored folks to come by.  Some noise from the cemetery and a view of white sheets just sent them on their way into the woods with lots of loud sceams and yelling. If we were not at the cemetery then we were possibly down by the grist mill.  The home currently occupied by Parker Howell had a very nice place for us to hide while we laid a tow sack (peanut bag) filled with straw out in the road.  When a car approached the hill and started down they would see the bag in the middle of the road thinking it was a person or something they would slam on their brakes and skid to miss it.  Once they got out of the car to pick up the bag now thinking its peanuts, we would pull it out of the road and run into the woods trying to keep from being caught.  Not very smart but no one was ever hurt by this.

 

On another occasion Shot Gun Daisey was being harassed by some of the locals (I was not one of them but was watching as usual) when I saw her come out of her house and head for my house.  I was already in the house when she arrived and she immediately demanded to talk to Daddy.  Mom said he was out in the back working on a boat with my uncle Frank.  Miss Daisey marched though the house and out the backdoor directly into the garage and immediately told my Daddy that she was going to kill somebody if they kept up this mess with her.  Uncle Frank suggested that she best not talk that way when she informed him that she was not talking to him and if he did not shut up she would shoot him.  She left without any additional words but boy did I get a chewing out.  Miss Daisey would take our baseballs or anything that went into her yard and since it was across from the church yard that was a frequent incident.  The front yard of the church was a great place to play as the trees had not been planted at that time and it was big.  Miss Daisey would keep the balls until one of our parents went over to retrieve them.  One night we were playing hide and seek in the church yard and making lots of noise.  That noise was interrupted by gun shots from Miss Daisey and off we went into the grave yard.  Back in those days there was a wrought iron fence about four feet tall down both sides of the church.  At a full gait I hit that fence and made it over with no broken bones.  That fence came down in the late 50’s when the Sunday school portion of the church was added on.

 

From Chuckatuck the most logical place for daddy to launch his boats was at the Kings Highway bridge.  At the Northern end of the bridge there was an Army gun system, I believe a 37MM gun and large search light.  We were still worried about the Germans and Japanese so blackouts and air raid warning were frequent.  Many of the Army guys came up to my Grandmothers and danced every Saturday night in her hallway thus she was the USO of Chuckatuck.  This house was the place to be on a Saturday night and with piano players like Herman Scott everyone would get their thrills.  It was noted that Herman had worn the ivory off two sets of key boards and was working on the third.  Amazingly he did not use sheet music, just played by ear.  I was allowed to attend but had to show my support by dancing with Momma which I did when ever I could.  My Aunt Edith, Aunt Stelle, and my Grandmother were real supporters of the Army.  Many of these men returned with their wives in later years and maintained contact with my family and our friends over the years.  The men of this camp helped daddy when he would take his boat down to be launched and were always trying to help out.  I remember one trip while sitting in the trailer one of them ask me what I would like to have and I mentioned a goat.  A couple of days later during an evening when Momma was playing bridge the troops stopped by and left me a small Billy Goat.  You might guess what I named him?  Billy.  Since we did not have a pen or box they chose my mothers clothes hamper filled with clean clothes to house my latest pet.  Old Billy and I got along just fine.  Mom was impressed with his sleeping accommodations and after getting him squared away outside he grew to be a great pet.  He liked to butt me but only if he could see my backsides.  If I got down on all fours and faced him he would just stand and look at me but let me turn my butt to him and he would attack and roll me over.  As he got larger he was relegated to the back yard and ultimately to a farm for safe keeping.  I also had a number of rabbits and they were nice to have and some of them grew to be good size.  One big one had a sore on his side that would not heal and he had to be put down. I think it was a snake or something that bit him but not sure.   I had pens for them behind the garage while the chicken house was on the other side away from the house.  This was a very sad time for me as I really did like my rabbits and hated to see any of them sick.  Their cages were for them at night and during the day I tried to play with each of them.  Duke was still my companion and remained so for many years.  I also had two pet squirrels, Chip and Chuck and as I approached the garage one or both of them would jump down onto my shoulders and climb inside my jacket or shirt.  We had them fixed which was not the thing to do as they just tore the stiches out and ultimately we had to put them down.  Oh such a sad day for me.

There was an artisian well located at the bridge that had a 10 foot standpipe with a cut off valve.  Water would flow freely from the top of that pipe if the valve were opened.  Today the water level is at about 34 feet below the surface.  So much for development and what it is doing to our country.  That bridge has now been removed as it was unsafe for any type of traffic.  Seems the big sand trucks really did it in.

I remember one trip down to the launching area when daddy put his boat on two telephone poles and pulled it with his truck.  This was a trip of about three miles and although the poles got hot they did not burn but did smoke a lot.  The roadway was paved so it was an experience to remember and a very cheap way to get the boat down to the river.  I suspect we did not meet another vehicle during this event which speaks of just how few cars used this road at this time.

My grade school years at Chuckatuck were pretty much all the same.  I worked hard, learned little and just got by with grades that did not make my parents very happy.  It was not that I could not learn it was that I just did not learn and thought I would just get by.  That is exactly what happened as you remember I was 35 out of 36 when it came time for graduation.  Some of my teachers like Mrs. Bagnell, my first grade teacher and Dorothy Davis worked hard with me but I just seemed to slip by.  Mom worked with me on my homework which helped but when it came to doing it on my own I just did the minimum and my grades showed this all the way through school.  From the beginning I found myself in school trying to buy my way out of suspected trouble by giving things away and I thought this was what needed to be done.  I did not cheat, but if accused, which there was a lot of I would offer some pencils or other trinkets in my open top desk to keep them from telling.  As you might imagine I was an easy target for the more outgoing guys.  One could tell from my grades that had I been cheating I would have been doing much better but what I got was what I deserved

In second and third grades marbles (or dinks) as we called them garnered much of my attention.  Boards with small holes cut in them with numbers as to what one would receive if they rolled a dink through from 10 feet.  Smaller holes equaled more dinks while larger holes just a couple.  Might have been my first attempt at gambling but I did OK.  Playground time was the best for us and we had it every day.  Made lots of friends and played lots of games.  One boy had a hole in his sole under his big toe and as he walked through the rink (which he did all the time and he was big) when we were shooting dinks at least one dink would disappear each time he made a pass.  Now that was stealing and I knew that.  He even got some of my best “Stickers” which were those that stayed in the rink as it hit another and drove it outside.  The ones we drove outside were ours for the keeping.  Kind of like pool shooting but on a much smaller and much less expensive basis.  However in playing dinks you stayed on your knees a lot which at my age today would be somewhat more difficult.

In 4th and 5th and 6th grades we learned about girls and all those things that were new and exciting so to speak.  You will notice that there is a lack of school educational things that I was learning but I was learning about life and all its facets.  Some of these during our playground activities that will not be mentioned.  This was our experimentation age and not with drugs.  My illegal smoking came from smoking dried corn stalks and drinking some of the juices that came from the silo at Bill Saunders home.  In retrospect it’s a wonder we did not die from drinking that stuff but someone was watching out for us.  Bicycles were our mode of transportation from every activity.  Living only one half mile from my school it was easy for me to ride my bike and carry my books with ease.  Lost a lot of my homework en-route but then that is to be expected I guess.  It was tough to convince my teachers about this but I tried.  Bicycles with playing cards attached to the front fork hitting the spokes made a great sound of a motor running and made the pedaling just a bit easier although it was a little harder.  One of our biggest sources of entertainment was the tent shows, shown under a tent by Mr. Wright directly across from the school, on Friday and Saturday nights.  They were mostly Westerns and although segregated we still played together afterwards.  Mr. Wright ran the electronic repair shop so he had the 16MM projectors and got the film for each weekend show.  When the movie was over it was on our bikes and off to the baseball diamond right across the road.  Kind of like “king of the mountain” is the game we played and as the king you could go anywhere on the diamond while all others had to stay in the base line area (lack of grass area).  The king would take his bike and hit another bike to put them out of play.  We had lots of fun and always ended up locking pedals or something to make a big mess.  My bike changed color every week with a new paint job.  A small one with training wheels migrated to a mid side and then a normal bike.  No car for me until I went to college.  I did get a Cushman motor scooter when I was about twelve years old.  It was green and I remember riding it home from Moore Farm Lane on a cold night with dad following me in the car.  I was surely one proud individual.  I found a friend in Sonny Burgess down in Hobson and he had a Cushman Eagle.  We would ride together between Chuckatuck and Hobson and race to see who could go the fastest.  That Eagle was fast and normally beat me.  The Cushman scooter was a centrifugal clutch while the Eagle had a gear shifter.  The old road had lots of curves which made it fun to ride as we would weave back and forth.  (not a lot of vehicular traffic during the middle of the day).  I delivered the Sunday Virginian Pilot newspaper throughout Chuckatuck and Hobson for several years and collected the money at $1.75 per month.  Because of the distance I drove (no license) between those two points and never had a problem with an accident or speeding.  One of my teachers Mrs. Dorothy Davis and her husband Dick were one of my customers and every time I ever saw Mrs. Davis I always said “You owe me $1.75.  She remembers that well and would always laugh.

Mom always knew when it was 2:45 as Duke, my Irish setter would head for Gwaltneys store on the corner of routes 10 and 125 and wait for me to walk or ride my bike home from school.  My mother mentioned on a number of occasions that she had no need for a clock as Duke knew when 2.45 PM came and he was off on his mission to meet me.  He would be at the corner of Gwaltneys store resting and waiting for me and where ever I went he went.  I remember trying to play hide and seek and as always Duke was close by.  When we went duck or goose hunting I could warm my hands between his front legs.  All of that long hair and his body temp was a good hand warmer.

Duke was a good bird dog and always stayed close to you when hunting.  Seems he learned this when Dad shot him for not listening to his commands like “Come ”.  Tough love yes but it did its job and how well I know that.  Duke also liked to go with me to the chicken house where I had about 100 pullets (young chickens).  I remember going to get them with Arthur Raines and I drove to Suffolk to the hatchery.  I did not have a driver’s license but drove anyway.  Seems that when we picked up the little chicks they were about four or five days old and had been next to heat lamps.  With the chicks on the back seat and Arthur and I upfront I demanded that we keep the heater on (Spring) to keep them warm.  Thought we were going to die from the heat but we did OK.  Duke liked to go into the hen house with me but one day he decided to try one good size hen for supper.  Daddy took the chicken and tied it around Duke’s neck after correcting him severely with a fan belt.  Duke never to the day he died messed with another chicken.  He would go with me into the chicken yard but would put his head down and failed to even smell one of them.  Sometimes lessons are hard to learn but when we do we never forget them or at least ole Duke did.

Back to Duke as a hunter.  Having learned to stay close he was sort after by many as a bird (quail) hunter.  Frank Spady came by one Saturday and ask Dad if he could take Duke hunting.  Dad said sure so off they went in his vehicle.  About two hours later Duke came into the garage to let us know he was home.  Daddy thought Frank had dropped him off but soon Frank showed up and wanted to know if Duke was home.  The answer was yes and Frank said well let me tell you what happened.  I drove to a soybean field close by and let Duke out of the trunk.  When he hit the ground he stood.  I loaded my gun and Duke held his position until I was ready.  The birds got up, I shot twice and nothing fell.  Duke moved out and stood at least three singles during which I fired twice each time with no results.  We moved on to another field close by and once again shortly after getting out of the vehicle Duke stood a covey of quail.  They got up, I shot and nothing fell.  Duke found several singles but I was unable to hit anything.  We returned to the Saunders field close to the Marl holes when Duke stood again.  This time I was really ready when the birds got up I shot and nothing fell.  Duke looked at me, the birds and then just left and I could not find him.  I guess he thought “if I find them and you cannot hit them I quite”.  This is a true story and can be confirmed by talking with Frank Spady or anyone who knew Duke.  In an interview with Frank Spady in 2009 he reconfirmed that story for me.

It was around this time that my hurricane lawnmower was pulled by bicycle to the old Nick Wright farm where Arthur Raines and I cut the grass around the power plant as we called it.  Actually it was a phone transfer station and is still there.  This was right on the corner of the road that led to the big house on the point.  Nick Wright had been instrumental in building the Nick Wright Bridge, also knows as the Kings Highway bridge where my Granddad worked along with Sonny at times.  I believe the fare was 5 cents to get across.  Along the road leading to Nick Wrights farm was a dam that separated two lakes.  These lakes were filled with Geese and ducks during the year and in fact they just stayed here year round.  Good food close by and protection in the wooded portions of the lake which I believe was owned by Kirk Lumber Company.  At any rate on one Winter day I had been riding with my uncle Sonny and Carole Willoughby in a Model T truck.  I was sitting in the middle of the seat and noted that I could see exhaust fire going out the tail pipe through a hole in the floor board.  They were going to go ice skating and would not let me go so they put me out at home and off they went.  I really wanted to go but they said no and so it was.  Off they went and while skating/walking on the pond at Nick Wright’s Sonny fell through the ice and Carole had a hard time getting him out.  When they finally did get him out it was back to my grandmothers house with him and into the bath tub to warm him up as he had become hypothermic.  I suggested to Sonny that had he let me go he would not have fallen through but it could have been me so best I was left at home.  We had lots of snow in those days and always enjoyed the sleigh rides and tractors that plied the roadways looking for people to pull out. Aleck Winslow would bring his dads Oliver tractor and make runs back and forth between the bridge and Chuckatuck to pull cars free as needed and pack the drive ways down.  No, we did not have drivers licences at this time but living in the country you did what needed to be done and made out OK.  I cannot remember ever seeing a policeman in our area as I grew up.

 

One of my best friends early on was Theodore Allen.  He was seven years older than me but we played together a lot.  He lived on the ridge, area across from the school, and we played so many games like Army in our backyard.  Dug foxholes and shot Germans and Japs all day long.

A Minstrel show event was one that we had several times a year in the auditorium of the school.  (this is now the display area for Saunders Supply).  The minstrel was a group of white people who painted their faces black and took on characters of black people as well as their language.  Jokes were told and skits were performed that took about an hour or so to perform.  I can remember them very well and in fact at one such event I lost my index finger nail as it got caught between the seat bottom and back (folding type seats) when the young lady sat down in front of me.  Trying to be smart I lost my finger nail as the weight of the young lady and the physics of the seat back and bottom coming together just squeezed the crap out of my middle finger.  A hard lesson to learn but learn I did and have not done that since.  The show went on and I suffered but all the while learning lessons the hard way.  The End Men at a minstrel show, as they were called, were those who had several speaking parts.  One such exchange went like this as I remember.  Rastas had gone on a trip and while away he called home to see how things were going on the farm.  His cousin Swanson answered the phone and this is the exchange.  Rastas this is Swanson,  Swanson, how is everything at home.  Fine, just fine everybody is doing Ok now.  No problems but just one thing I needs to tell you “the dog died”.  The dog died,  Swanson how did that happen.  Well, it happened when he ate the burnt horse flesh.  How did he come to eat burnt horse flesh?  Well the mule got burnt up.  But how did the mule get burnt up?  Well the barn burned down with the mule in the barn and he could not get out so he was burnt up.  How did the barn burn down?  Well the barn burned down when the sparks from the house fell on the barn.  What caused the sparks from the house?  Well the house caught on fire which caught the barn on fire then the mule got burned up and the dog ate the horse flesh so he died.  Well how did the house catch on fire?  Oh it caught on fire when the curtains burned up from the fireplace sparks.  But you told me everything was OK.  Yes well we did call the fire department but they were so late getting there that when they did arrive they just watched the activity and knowing you were not at home suggested we just tell you that everything was OK.

Jimmy Hugh Holland and his family lived off Crittenden Road just before Sandy Bottom back on a big farm.  His sisters, Charlotte and Judy also went to our church and school.  Jimmy Hugh and I were in the Boy Scouts together (Troop 25) and our meeting places were either over the store at Saunders Supply (old building now an antique shop) or at the Boy Scout Cabin down behind the drug store.  On one night when our scout master was late we ended up having a little tussel and Jimmy Hugh ended up with a split in his head from a piece of slab wood (slab wood is that piece that is sliced off the sides of a log  to make it square or suitable for sawing into boards).  We ended up at Dr. Eleys office and Jimmy had six clamps put in his scalp to hold the skin together.  Our next tussel was in the back seat of Elsworth Savages coupe down at Oakland Church.  Jimmy was trying to gouge my eyes out but failed to do so.  Believe it or not even after all of this we were still the best of friends and spent a lot of time together as we moved on up into High School.  Eventually the Hollands moved from Chuckatuck and only several times during recent years have I seen Judy.  Judy had a problem with fainting/seizures and had several burns on her arms from an iron.  Yes ladies we did use irons back in those days and even heated them on the stove in the kitchen’

It was during this time that our telephones were on a party line and in fact the to be Governor Godwin was on our line.  One day when Mom was busy in the kitchen  I wanted to make a phone call so I picked up the phone and someone was talking.  A quick thought ran through my mind and out of my mouth came this  “get the hell off the phone” and I hung up.  It was less than five minutes and Catherine Godwin was standing at my front door talking with my mother about what I had said.  My little bottom was paddled and no I did not do that again.

In the vacant lot next to our house I decided to fly a german flag that I had gotten from my cousin.  Off to the ice plant I went and cut a nice long bamboo pole.  From there I tied the flag to it, dug a deep home and put the flag up flapping in the breeze.  Now the soon to be Governor called my folks and I was told that since we had been at war with the Germans flying their flag was not a good idea.  Down it came with no complaints.

Grade school passed and I moved into the 8-11th grades.  Football, Baseball and Basketball were the first order of business and I played all three.  During my four years in high school we played 11 man football my first year, 6 man my second year, 8 man my third year and 11 man my fourth year.  With only 120 pupils in high school (300 total in all 11 grades) we changed as the number of eligible boys changed.  In Football I played End and looking like a string bean my legs/knees took a hit.  I enjoyed playing and became good at the button hook pass.  That call meant I was to go about three steps down, turn around and would be hit with a pass.  The halfback would be coming around the outside and I would lateral to him if I was going to get slammed or I could fake a handoff and run with it.  The latter was normally not in the cards as I was a tall target and someone was right on top of me.  It was a good play and worked well about 90% of the time.  In six man football everyone is eligible to receive the ball.  When Lew Morris or Mr. Steveson put on the pads for football it was tuff.  Lew and Janie Morris lived down on Everetts Road in the big house across from Lynn Rose and Mr Stevenson lived in the house back of the Saunders home on the farm just outside of Chuckatuck.  I learned a lot from them and realized that football might not be my calling to get a scholarship to college.  In fact I never really thought about college until it was too late as was evidenced by my grades.  I struggled through every subject and failed some of them.    Baseball was a second sport and as a pitcher I did not have a very good record.  My last recollection was a loss ratio that was staggering.  Since I was the only pitcher my record my Junior year was 0/12.   I blamed some of it on the other players as they had plenty of opportunities to catch or field a ball.  Now Basketball was my favorite and with coaches like Lew Morris we did well.  I played almost all 4 years (failed out one semester during which time I played with an outside team).  We went to the finals two years running but were beaten in the final game each time.  Referees lost my last game for us in Franklin VA.  Lots of bad calls against us caused members of the gallery to come onto the floor and at the end the referees were escorted from the gym by the police.  It was just not in the cards for us to win.  I played forward and center and became a good jump shot artist from the corner and a hook short across the foul line.  I was high scored in several of the games and played with guys like Butch Frontfelter, Ace Johnson, Arthur Raines, Everett Bagnell, Shack Raines, Frank Oliver, and Willard Moger.  One night Willard and I had a duel from the corners at Chuckatuck and because of our 90% hitting we took the game with ease.  Bobby Harrell from Windsor said that his coach gave him the assignment to guard me during one game.  He held me to 24 points and was proud of it.  Bobby still talks about this every time I see him around Suffolk.  My one semester when I failed out was my Junior year and when I played with the outside team it was a revelation.  I was playing with college/military graduates so the level of expertise was quite high.  In my first game I popped one of them with an elbow and before I could blink he had popped me three times.  His comment to me was “you are playing out of your league son, so be careful”.  I kept my elbows to myself the rest of the evening and did fair.  I had visions of getting a basketball scholarship but soon realized that my educational background was such that I was going to have to study if I was to get by even by the skin of my teeth.

Duke was one of the most faithful attendees at Wesley Chapel Methodist Church.  When we went to church we walked through the three ajorning yards as did Duke.  He would lay down in the front yard or if hot come into the Narthex of the church but no farther that that. As he grew older his trips were more labored and finally one Sunday morning he only made it half way to the church.  On Monday we took him to Dr. Kress in Suffolk to be checked and possible put to sleep.  Dr. Kress said life was too precious for him so just let him be.  Two weeks later his condition deteriorated and being able to only go from our house to Aunt Stells’ he just laid down and was unable to continue without a good long rest.  On Monday dad took the day off and we made another trip to Dr. Kress in Suffolk.  This was the end of a find dogs life and a piece of my heart went with him.  Duke was buried in the back yard and will always be remembered as the best friend I had in my early years.

I believe it was my freshman year when sitting in class Arthur ask me to get him an eraser from the blackboard.  I always sat up front as this kept me out of trouble and would hopefully allow me to get better grades.  I picked up the eraser and tossed it toward Arthur but enroute someone batted it with a notebook and hit a girl.  Immediately the teacher started questioning me and just like on que  Mr. Lou Morris (Principal) stepped into the room and wanted to know who hit the girl.  Being a logical thinker I said it was not me and in fact it was not.  I explained the situation to Mr. Morris and from that I went to the office and being removed from the classroom was told to take the eraser and a note book and from Chuckatuck throw it to Sam Chapmans store in Sandy Bottom and back.  Each time I threw the eraser I was to write it down.  This continued and as I made it about half way down Mr. Morris and Mr. Rippey came up behind me and watched for a while.  When I got to the store there was a coke waiting for me before my return trip, throwing and writing.  It was not about 3 PM and Mom came up behind me wanting to know what I was doing.  I explained it to her where upon she told me to get into the car.  At first I refused saying that Mr. Morris had told me to throw and write and that was what I was going to do.  After a summons to get into the car I did and off we went to the school.  Mom went in, talked to Mr. Morris, came out, took me back to where she had picked me up and said she would be waiting for me at the school.  Some 45 minutes later I made it back to school and off to the doctors we went for my scheduled appointment.  When report cards came out I had an F on deportment.  Mom immediately went to Mr. Morris and said, you punished him once and you are not going to do it again.  My grade was changed to a D.

Dad had purchased a ¾ ton Ford truck with a flat head V-8 for towing his boats etc. and that is what I drove (I had just gotten my license).  Dad had purchased the lot down on Holly Point Lane and he was farming the area where our three homes are now.  Dad ask me to pick up some Fertilizer from Saunders Supply and take it to the Point and put it on the watermelons.  Not wanting to spread all that fertilizer by hand I first went to Bill Saunders and ask to borrow his dad’s fertilizer spreader.  Hooked it to the back of the truck and towed it the Point.  Mr Bishop ask me what I was doing and I explained that I was going to spread the fertilizer.  Since we could not get the truck into the field with all the vines we pulled the spreader through the field, moving vines as necessary to complete the task.  In retrospect it would have been so much easier to have done just what dad said do but not me as I had other ideas.  Mr Bishop always remembers that effort when we talk.

Several weeks later I went back to Saunders and picked up several bags of another type fertilizer.  As I came around the corner turning onto Crittenden Road just past the now Volunteer Fire Department I stopped.  Put the truck in 1st gear, revered up the engine and popped the clutch to leave some rubber.  You can imagine my surprise when the truck did not move but with the truck in gear and me listening by the rear wheel I could hear the axle turning freely.  I called Mr. Byrd and ask him to tow me in which he did and he even replaced the axle for me at about $50.00.  My excuse for the break was a lame one holding no water so I paid for the axle and tow job out of my grass cutting money.  Sometime later I picked up Jerry Saunders, Arthur Raines, and Jimmy Hugh.  We headed out with guns down to Nick Wrights for some practice of drive, stop, shoot, drive, pickup and run.  Three of them would be in the back of the truck.  I would drive down to the culvert on Nick Wrights farm where all the geese and ducks were close by.  They would , shoot, jump out of the truck and retrieve the game while I raced up to the power plant and turned around, raced back to them, stopped for pick up and then raced away undetected????  We tried it a couple of time in practice then tried it for real.  (This was illegal as it was private property and posted “No Hunting” property).  It never worked well as we never hit anything just shot a lot of shells for nothing.  Now it should be noted that the Nick Wright house was only about ½ mile away and visible so anyone could see what we were doing.  Not smart at all but then who said I was smart..

Having failed at this our next event took us to the peanut fields of Mr. Winslow in the fall after harvesting was completed.  There was a road through the field and it was fun to drive fast and take 90 degree corners while the truck slid from side to side.  When peanuts are harvested there is a furrow where each row of peanuts were which was somewhat higher than the surrounding dirt.  Kind of like ridges about 3 feet apart.  Having become accustom to the slide with two of my intrepid riders in the back sitting on the tailgate, Arthur in the cab with me, away we went.  After several 90 degree slides I made another run and this time really did slide.  However as the rear wheel hit that ridge, the truck rolled to about 45 or more degrees on two right wheels.  Those on the tailgate exited their positions and due to the angle (me being on the high side) I slid down onto Arthur who had his arm outside the window.  The truck very gingerly rolled onto its side as Arthur pulled his arm inside and we were both looking at dirt.  I suggested that he open the door and was informed that the only way out was up.  Standing on Arthur I climbed out the window and helped him out.  Jerry Saunders and Jimmy Hugh were observing our departure as the dust settled.  Alex Winslow was summoned with his Oliver tractor to right the truck which he did.  The fenders had folded up under the truck but were not bent.  The oil from the engine had run out of the standpipe onto the right fender which I removed (leaving a very shinny area).  Engine started right away and we went home with only a thanks to Alex for helping.  Two days later Dad came to me and ask if I had something I wanted to tell him.  I could think of nothing at the time so I said no.  He ask that question several times and each time I had the same answer.  Then he added something about the truck.  That struck a nerve and I said yes I had turned the truck over in Mr Winslows field.  Seems that Mr. Winslow had questioned Alex, who then told my Granddad who then told my DAD.  How long would it take for me to realize that the Truth always wins out.  Dad had noted something else on the truck other than the shinny place on the right hand fender.  Seems the hubcaps on the right hand side were also bent in.  The truck did OK but I was suspened from driving for two weeks.

 

The area behind my house, now the home of the Suffolk water plant, was a large field and the area of the Marl holes known as such because the marl was used for cement by the Lone Star Cement Company.  There was an old maid by the name of Lucy Upsher whose primary mode of transportation was a horse and cart.  She lived in the area of the Marl Holes and the lane next to the Wesley Chapel Methodist Church was the one she used to get to her house.  Arthur, Shack, Butch and I were on a quest one day when we knew she was not at home.  We went into her old house and looked around a long time at all the old Indian paintings etc.  When we heard her approaching our avenue of escape became that of removing our clothes and swimming across one of the many Marl holes onto an island that was left because it contained a cemetery.  With clothes in hand and over our heads we swam for several hundred feet from Lucy’s to the Island and then on to our side of the marl hole. All in all it was about a quarter of a mile at the minimum but then we were young.  We believed that Lucy was crazy as did many of the other members of the community.  She could be heard coming down the lane hollering at her mule and making all kinds of sounds that were strange to young folks like us.  It was reported by Mr. Frank Spady that when Lucy bought her first car she was known to tow it to Chuckatuck for repairs with her mule.

Living next door to Mrs Gilliam who boarded some of the school teachers tended to make my interest in other girls a little less interesting than normal.  Betty Buchart lived there and taught at Chuckatuck before she married Bob and they now live in Va Beach.  There was one other teacher, Beth Owens,  who had a convertible and I use to drive her to school.  I must admit I had a crush on her although several years my senior.  It was through these teachers that my last year in grade school (7th grade) I was allowed to attend the high school dances if I danced which I did.  I had learned that from my mom at my grandmothers years before so I was in.  I really did enjoy these dances and holding all of those girls.  Once I went to college I would invite Betty up to a formal dance and an outing at the Cabin party.

There is lots more about me but not so much about Chuckatuck.  What a place to grow up in and live.