Back to the Farm

Pat and I returned to the farm in Kansas around the middle of December 1956. The weather was cold and wet.

Mom hired a high school boy to help her with the farm after dad had died in October. After I was home a few days she moved to Wellington, Kansas where most of her folks lived. I knew I didn’t want to be a farmer but I do like living In the country.

Friends and neighbors came one day and we cut sixty acres of sorghum and shocked in one day. Man, what a good feeling to have that done, and what a good bunch of friends they were.

I was busy feeding the livestock and couldn’t go and get a job to take care of Pat and my expense, so mom said we would have a sale in April, 1957 and rent out the farm. We sold most of the older cows at the livestock sale barn. We had the auction of the the rest of the cattle, horses and machinery in April. It really hurt to sell my horses and Dad’s work team, it made me feel like I had failed. I rode my two horses around the barn yard while they were being auctioned off, it still hurts now after fifty plus years.

The next move was to El Dorado, Kansas and we rented out the farm.

New Mexico AFB

About ten Airman left Biloxi, Mississippi on the train and arrived in Albuquerque, New Mexico in August, 1955. We were picked up in a bus and taken to our radar site in north central New Mexico. The site was about 20 miles southeast of Chalma, New Mexico with an elevation of about six thousand feet. We were given our Barack’s and room numbers as we departed the bus. I was assigned to a room that was occupied by Frank Herman who was from Garden City, Kansas. Frank had been there for several weeks and I was assigned to the same crew he was on. He was a good roommate and we became good friends. Also on my team was James Cable and the three of us hung out together.
The radar site was there to keep all aircraft away from Los Alamos Atomic bomb proving ground. There were several other radar sites spread around that area. Our site had around three hundred people on site. The radar operation was a 24/7 we worked as teams, there were four teams and we were “Dog” team. We had private aircraft
call us to guide them out of storm as they were flying over the Rocky Mountains. We also would be tested when the Air Force would fly unidentified B-52,s. We would call for fighter aircraft out of Sandia AFB to intercept any unidentified aircraft or any aircraft that was flying towards Los Alamos. We would direct the fighters where to intercept the Air craft. Sandia AFB is located at Albuquerque, NM. Our site was five miles from Elvado Lake where there was a bar/restaurant, filling station and a few old rental cabins. Zeke and Carlotta, Bruswelos opened and operated it, Zeke also worked at the radar site as a handyman.
Pat and I got married on December 23, 1955 she stayed in school and graduated in May – June 1956. I had rented a 18 ft trailer from Zeke which was close to the bar/restaurant. Pat would help in the restaurant while as at work sometimes just for something to do as there wasn’t television. There was an Apache Reservation on the other side of the lake with their village about ten miles from the bar. When they would get their monthly check they loaded up in the pickups, males in front females in back then off to Zekes for a evening of fun and booze.
In October 1956 mom called and said dad was in the hospital and not doing very well. I got a emergency leave and we started home. We got five miles east of LaJunta, Colorado and our car broke down. We had a wrecker pick up the car and take it to a garage for repairs. We then walked to the bus station and just thirty minutes was to leave for Wichita, Ks. Dad died a few days after we arrived of cancer and we went back to pick up our car then went back to our site. Uncle Fred and mom went to the Red Cross and I got a honorable emergency discharge to help mom on the farm. We loaded up our stuff the first part of December, 1956 and came home to Kansas.

Lackland Air Force Base – Texas

Lackland Air Force Base, Texas

The first of March, 1955 I boarded the “Doodle Bug” which was a railroad engine and one passenger car that traveled from El Dorado, Kansas to Kansas City. There were five of us traveling to KC to join the Air Force, we were all from Butler County. Jerry Hayes of El Dorado, Gene Mauck from Douglass who I new from high school days, Wesley I can’t remember his last name from Augusta and a guy whose last name was George also from Augusta. My girlfriend Pat was there to send me off to Uncle Sam, I think she was the only one there as I did not see the other recruits have anyone there.

We arrived in KC and was taken to where we would be getting our medical exams and chow hall. They had two big rooms with cots for us.  There were about two hundred plus recruits, and I was assigned to one room and the rest of my group was in the other room. After the exams, they were making three groups of 75 to 80 in each group and my Butler County group came and got me and the officer allowed me to be in their group, I sure was glad. We were then loaded in sleeper rail cars and shipped to San Antonio, Texas. That was the best sleep I have had, it was a steady rocking and rolling.

The next morning, we unloaded into Air Force buses and were driven to Lackland Air Force base, and unloaded at our home for the next eleven weeks. We were greeted by our Technical Instructor (TI), lined up into four lines, then marched (what a mesh) to our barracks. The barracks were two story.  The bottom story had the showers/sinks and stools for the whole building, also the TI had his private room there. Then one big room with army steel cots stacked two high for about forty airmen. The top floor had a day room with tables for writing and studying.  The top floor had a big room for forty cots like the bottom floor. We were assigned cots I was lucky to get a top bunk and we were each given a foot locker to keep our personal stuff and our socks and underwear. We had shaving and shower stuff as well as writing material and shoe polish. I was on the bottom floor and the other four Butler County guys was on the second floor but I didn’t mind as I made friends fairly easily. All seventy six of us were now called a flight.

Over the next few weeks, we learned how to march together, but there were a few guys that had to carry a rock in their left hand to remember left from right, thankfully not me. We marched to everything, pictures, barbershop for a buzz cut, clothes, classes and the firing range. The TI wanted to know if anyone could drive a truck while we were at the range and several hands went up and they left and I thought, SUCKERS. They came back in fifteen minutes pushing three wheel barrows full of ammo, never volunteer in basic training.

After being in basic for a few weeks, the weather started getting hot and not much shade was available. At times while we were standing at ease on the street waiting for an empty class room, some one would pass out and they would carry them to the shade and put some water on their head, they would come to and be okay.

There were three movie theaters on base and we could go on the last four weekends of basic. We also could get passes on these weekends to leave the base. I never had the desire to leave the base and a few of the others also stayed on base. Since I stayed on base, I didn’t spend much money and there were a few that spent their money and would come to me to borrow five bucks telling me they would pay me back double on pay day. Every one I loaned money to always paid me back. I would not loan over five dollars and would not loan to everyone.

We sure looked forward to mail call. The first ten days, the TI would have everyone stand around him and he would yell the name on the letter then pass it back to you.  There was no mail for me for several days, what a downer — I thought Pat had moved on. Then, the next mail call, the TI called out Woodall, Woodall, Woodall, Woodall, damn Woodall you made out today (love you Pat).
We completed basic training — two of us from the 76 people of our flight are being sent to Kessler AFB, Biloxi, Mississippi for radar training but first we can go home for a week.

Kessler AFB Biloxi, Mississippi
I arrived at Kessler in June of 1955 and started radar operator school. All air traffic that was with in 300 miles of the radar site would show on the radar screen.  We were trained to write backwards and read what was on the radar screen then to plot this info onto a 8 ft x 8 ft clear plastic vertical board. This board had circles, mileage markers and lines like a compass. There were recorders putting the info from the board onto paper so if there was a need this info could be saved.
While at Kessler when we were not in class, a friend and I would go to the swimming pool or go to the Airman’s club and had hamburgers and beer. The club was not large and would hold about seventy people. Sometimes they would have singers booked in as there was a small stage for the entertainers. One evening my friend and I went there and some guy was singing and playing a guitar and shaking.  There were about twenty people there and I asked “Who is that?” It was Elvis Presley and he was not well known yet but was getting popular, this was July, 1955.
One weekend four of us took the bus to New Orleans and down to Bourbon Street. Good music but crazy and odd people.
From Kessler AFB ten of us were sent by train to a radar site in northern New Mexico, this took place in August, 1955.

Browne’s Market

After I returned home from wheat harvest, I went to work for Browne’s Market and Butcher Shop in El Dorado.  My job included stocking grocery shelves, and sacking and carrying groceries for customers.  Also, on Tuesdays, I worked in the slaughter house. There were four of us slaughtering about twenty hogs and my job was to pick everything up that was on the floor and put them in their designated places. I picked up the hearts, livers, and kidneys then hung them up on hooks and washed them off. That left just the guts on the floor, which I gathered and put into five gallon buckets then carried outside and dumped them into fifty five gallon barrels. Every Tuesday when we butchered hogs there were two couples that would be going thru the gut barrels and cutting out the stomach and what ever else that they could use. The slaughterhouse butchered cattle on Wednesday but I wasn’t involved with that. The store also had a baker and two sweet ladies did the baking. One’s name was Bea Hammaker, but I’m sorry I can not remember the other lady’s name. They made sure I got a warm doughnut when they baked a new batch.

While I worked for Browne’s I had a room at the Butler Hotel, just a half block from where I worked and across the street from the Butler County Courthouse. Pat was living with Marilyn, which was about a mile or so from the hotel. I would walk to her house and back most evenings. Later on, I bought a 1929 Model A Ford which we rode around town in. Pat and I started going steady about December 1954.

I worked for Mr. Joe Browne until the end of February 1954, then my coworker Jerry Hayes and I both joined the Air Force.

Meeting Pat

Around the last of September or first of October 1954, my friend Eldon said you need to come and meet my girlfriend’s friend in El Dorado, her name is Pat.

We went to the El Dorado theater where the girls were after a football game. We started up the stairs to the balcony just as Eldon’s girlfriend Marilyn was coming downstairs and Pat was with her. Pat was in her Pep club uniform, a white blouse with a red vest, black skirt, red sock and a black sock, a pair of black and white saddle oxfords and a very beautiful face. She didn’t know I was going to be there, as she had told Marilyn not to set her up with any more dates, she was capable of getting her own.  I’m glad I didn’t know that, or I may have not gone. I said, “Hello, I’m Jim Woodall, it’s good to meet you”.  After talking for a few minutes, I asked her if she wanted to go on a date. She said yes, and as I write this we have been together over sixty three years.

What a lucky guy I am, also what a lucky bunch of kids and grand kids for Pat saying yes to this bashful country boy.

Wheat Harvest

In 1954, my good friends Johnny Ramp and Eldon Province went to Pond Creek, Oklahoma to go on wheat harvest for Eldon’s cousin, this was the last of May. They needed another combine operator on the crew, so they came back to Latham to see if I wanted to go, which l did. We drove back to Oklahoma and we went to work getting the equipment ready for wheat harvest.

The man we were working for was Omar Skaggs and he had four combines and four trucks as well as a trailer house and a bunk house with metal bunk army cots for the crew. Omar’s wife was our cook and she and Omar stayed in the trailer house. When we were in the fields cutting wheat they would bring our meals to us, otherwise we would eat in the trailer house.

When we moved to another location, we loaded the combines on the trucks and the header of the combines were raised so they would be just a few inches above the cab of the truck. We would load up with combines loaded, a pickup pulling the bunk house and a pickup pulling the trailer house, quite a parade on the road. I was a combine operator but when we were moving I was driving a truck that was loaded and top heavy. When we were not cutting wheat we didn’t get paid but did get room and board. The combine operators were paid 12 dollars a day and the truck drivers were paid 10 dollars a day. Johnny and I were combine operators and Eldon was a truck driver.

We cut Omar’s wheat and some of his friends around the area, then we loaded up and headed to western Kansas. Eldon decided that he didn’t want to go on further so he went back home. We worked our way through Kansas, some of the customers were people Omar had cut for several years. He was always calling ahead, getting more acres as we moved north. We left Kansas and cut into northeast Colorado then into Wyoming and back into Nebraska.  It wasn’t unusual to have a big deer jump up as you were cutting in these areas.

We moved into South Dakota then into North Dakota. Omar always made arraignments to park our bunk house next to a place that had bathroom and bath privileges such as a local hotel. We left the Dakotas and moved into Montana which I thought was a lovely state. The wheat was not ready, but we were at a ranch of twin brothers and they had bailed hay that they need to be brought into the barn so we hauled hay for a couple of days. The school kids that lived in the country made arrangements to stay in town during the winter so they could get to school.

While we were in Montana, Johnny and I drove to see Custer’s last stand. We would try to see things in the area we were working when we could. When we got paid, I would cash my check and send most of it home by money order and mom would put it in the bank. We were at Helena, Montana and near the Canada border around September 10. Johnny was to start his senior year and school had already started, so both of us quit and the crew went on up into Canada. Johnny wanted to hitch hike to Oklahoma with our stuffed duffle bags, I said it’s the train for me so we both rode the train to Ponca City, Oklahoma which is twenty miles back to where Johnny’s car was. We left our heavy bags at the train station and started walking. We walked past other hitch hikers as we walked the 18 miles of the highway, then turned onto a gravel road and walked another mile and caught a ride the last mile. We arrived at the Skaggs farm to find a flat tire on Johnny’s car. We changed the tire and drove twenty miles to the train station to get our luggage then headed back to Kansas. We both were glad we didn’t ride our thumbs from Montana.

Broadview Hotel

I am 17 years old, just out of high school and no job and no training for one except for farm work. My good friend Rod who graduated a year ahead of me said come to Wichita and work with me at the Broadview hotel as a bellhop. I moved to Wichita and started work in June as a bellhop. The hotel furnished our uniforms but didn’t pay us, so the money we made from tips was our wages. Rod and I rented a room together in a rooming house four blocks from the hotel.
This job was sure strange to what I had ever done before, but I did enjoy being close to several movie theaters. I didn’t have a car but there were city buses that I used but I walked most of the time. Rod had a car and we went to Latham most week ends. We also lived close to the YMCA and we would walk to it and box or play basketball.
There was a baseball stadium close that had a semipro tournament each year, and next to center field area was a railroad yard that had boxcars parked in it, so we would set on top of the rail car and watch the game.
In December, Rod said he was going to start college and he would need to move in with his mom so he could afford college. I decided to move back home and I had saved a little money and had a checking account at the Fourth National in Wichita so back to the farm I went.

Senior Trip

Every school year, the senior class would take a trip after graduation. Every year, the four classes would take turns selling food and drinks at the basketball games and holding raffles to raise money during the four years of high school.

Our class of six took one of the small buses, a driver and a sponsor and headed to the East coast. The first night we stayed at Rockaway Beach, Missouri which is east of Branson – as of that time there wasn’t anything at Branson. We toured Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, and on to Virginia to George Washington’s home and slave cabins. From there, on up to Washington D C. We went to all the memorials and museums in the area, as well as to the U.S. Senator’s chamber while they were in session. We had to sit in the balcony, and could not take our cameras in. As I remember, it looked like mass confusion and sixty-three years later it looks the same. We went out to the tomb of the unknown soldier and watched the changing of the guard, what a sobering site.

From DC we went to New York City, more museums, the Empire State Building which we went to the top and looking down all you could see for blocks were yellow cabs. One evening, we went to Times Square which was very crowded, but what I remember was a guy with no legs sitting on a small platform with small rollers and a small round tub tied to his body, begging for money. He had two small wooden paddles used to push himself around. I never forgot him after all these years, I knew he never gave up on life.

We went to Radio City Music Hall one night and saw the Rockettes dance. They entered the stage from below, up through the middle of the stage floor, dancing all the way. I never knew they made elevators for stages. The other act I remember was a man with a peg leg tap dancing.

Next we went to Niagara Falls, what massive volume of water. The guide said Marilyn Monroe had just made a movie there a few weeks earlier. From there, we drove across Canada to Detroit. I remember Canada being clean and the fence rows didn’t have weeds growing in them. In Detroit, we went to the Ford factory and watched them make glass from sand, it was fascinating. Next, on to Chicago to see the Don McNeal Breakfast Club radio show. At that time it was a popular radio show, and Don announced that the Latham, Kansas Seniors had made it there. When we were there the country act of Homer and Jethro was performing, with one wearing a red suit and the other had on a green suit, needless to say they were a comedy singing act and were good. We left Chicago and headed to Kansas City for our last stop before Latham. We were gone fifteen days — what a memory.

My Ancestors

My grandfather (my father Earl’s father), Robert Allison Woodall was born in Gladstone, Ill. March 16, 1887. His parents were Robert Allison Woodall, who was born in Yorkshire, England in 1830, and Nancy Francis Schull who was born in Kentucky April 3, 1850. My grandfather went by the name of Bob but I think up until the time he got married he went by the name of Allie. Bob’s father Robert came to America from England in 1860.

Two years before this in 1858 Robert’s mother (name unknown), a sister Mary, a sister Jane, and a brother (name unknown) came to America. Robert’s father stayed in England because it is said he was afraid to cross the ocean. Nancy Francis Schull was the daughter of Phillip Schull. Her family moved from Kentucky in 1860 and settled in Henderson County, Illinois. Robert Allison Woodall and Nancy Francis Schull were married in 1869 at Canton, Ill.

To this union were nine children. Robert died in April, 1899 and Nancy died in 1925 and is buried in Olean, Ill. Robert was a teacher and a farmer but not a very good farmer. Nancy was a quarter Sioux Indian. My uncle Fred (Earls brother) told me he remembers his grandmother (Nancy) coming by train to Kansas for a visit when he was about 6 or 7 years old. She raised so much hell with everyone while there that Bob loaded her up after a few days and sent her home by train. Fred didn’t know why she was on the war path.

My grandfather Bob Woodall came to Conway Springs, Kansas working for farmers during wheat harvest and met his future wife Mary Frances Burnett, daughter of Columbus Burnett and Mahala Pope. Mary was born in Milan, Kansas March 19, 1886 and died at Conway Springs, Kansas on Feb 6, 1960. Bob Woodall was born on March 16, 1887 and died on Feb. 1, 1960 in Conway Springs.

Bob and Mary had four children – Earl Lou Woodall born Oct. 15, 1910 died Oct 21, 1956, Fred born July 15, 1913, Mahalia (May) born Oct. 27, 1920 and Robert Merle born Feb. 21, 1924.