As I Remember, Chapter 15

This entry is part 15 of 39 in the series Ted Bio


      Time passed quickly. Every day the kids were growing like a bunch of weeds. We were sure proud of our little family. But it was going to grow. In the spring of 39, Dell and Lillian come driving in. We had plenty of room and sure tickled to see them. Dell said; “Couldn’t stand it any longer. Ray is after everything and it looks like he will get it.” Then he grinned. “He wanted our new house, so I gave it to him. After it caught fire and burned to the ground.

      Dell had a little cash saved up. Also he owned a brand new Hudson two seated car. We shopped around and found a place for sale a couple of miles farther up the ridge. He sold his new, then bought an older one, made a down payment on the property, then moved in.

      By now I was an expert at falling and bucking the giant fir trees. We made a good team. When we couldn’t find a job, we would cut wood down in my lower ten acres. We were always busy. Dell and Lillian had one child and another on the way. Phil, the boy, was first. Annie would come along later. We were a happy group and lots of good times together. Then in the fall of 39, things began to change. Adolph Hitler’s armies invaded Poland.. The first phase of the terrible war that was to follow.

      In the spring of 1940, German planes were bombing England. Almost destroying the great city of London. France had fallen and many other small countries. The U.S. began helping England. Our dormant munitions factories become alive. The ship yards began building ships. Our president began building up our army and navy. Getting ready just in case.

      Jobs were no longer scarce. Most everyone was working. The price of everything started going up, including wages. There was a garage for rent in Hillsboro. I considered myself a good mechanic. Dell and I rented the building and hung out our shingle. DEWEY’S GARAGE. WELDING. Dell was also a pretty good mechanic and under my careful supervision, he got by real good. But we weren’t making nearly as much money as the guys that were working for the shipyards. Even a woman welder was taking home more pay than we were. In the fall of 41, we closed the thing. Dell moved Lillian and the kids into a house in North Plains, then took off for Vallejo California. He had been offered a good job working for a construction co.

      Oregon Shipyards were advertising for welders. I always said that I could weld anything but a broken heart. I went down and applied for a job. Men were crawling all over those ships.

Hanging from ropes. Now there is one thing that I had always been allergic to and that is height. Even getting up on top of a twelve foot fruit ladder scares hell out of me. After I had taken my tests and passed with flying colors, I told the man in charge. “I will take the job but I am scared.” I went on to explain. The guy took notes of this and assured me that I would be kept near the ground level.

      I will never forget my first night at Oregon Shipyards. I would be working nights on a Liberty ship that was almost completed. When it was time to go on, a guide took me and about a dozen more up that big stairway to the upper deck of the ship. So far, so good. Then he led the way to where I was to work. Which was clear down in the bottom of the thing. Not only did I have to crawl down a ladder for about a hundred feet, but the darn thing was on a declivity. Like a tall step ladder leaning over backwards. It took all the guts I could muster but I made it down to the bottom. I am sure that my hand prints are still on those bars. I was terrified, to say the least. I had told the super that I had a fear of heights. He said that I would not be off the ground level. Of course where I was working was O.K. It was getting up and down that high ladder that scared the hell out of me. As the night wore on, my fear increased. Somehow I knew that I would never make it back up there. I would either freeze to the thing and yell for help. Or come tumbling down and land on that steel floor. Either way, was suicide.

      There was one more guy that had about the same feelings as myself. I could see him looking up that tiny steel ladder every few minutes. I asked him. “Does getting up and down that darn thing bother you?” He nodded. “It scares me about half to death and I told them I was like that. I wish there was another way out of here.” “Me too.” It was good to know that I wasn’t the only one. Then very slowly, an idea began to dawn on me. I looked the situation over. Then I had the answer. About two minutes before quitting time, I picked up the cutting torch, lit it and cut a hole about tow feet square in the side of the ship. Me and my new found friend crawled through and walked away. Needless to say, this was my one and only night there. And I made no attempt to collect my night’s wages.

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