My parents and I moved to Midland in early 1946. We were on our way to see my grandparents and great grandparents in Cisco, TX, and stopped in Midland to spend the night. It was the first time in years that I did not have an asthma attack, and Mom and Dad got to sleep all night . Dad liked that so much he went out the next morning, got a job, and we moved to Midland.
I attended South Elem. and then Cowden. There I found I was too small for football, too short for basketball, but just right for the band. I also learned that dancing with girls wasn’t too yucky.
At MRS, I discovered cars and a multitude of new ways to get into trouble. I took up racing early on. I held a Land Speed Record for almost 9 years. Unfortunately, I set it on Illinois St.
While attending MRS, I discovered that somewhere along the way, girls got cuter, more curves, and became much more complicated. They expected the guys to take them to dances at the Youth Center and to actually dance with them. Fortunately, my dancing improved quite a bit. There were the movie dates and later the drive in movies. Those were the days, or nights. The big 30 cent box of popcorn, a large gallon coke cost about the same, until they added that damn diuretic a few years later. Then there were all those really swell movies to watch (I’m sure). Did anyone ever tell you they saw a bad movie at the Texan, Chief or the Fiesta?
When most of my friends left for college to earn more degrees than a thermometer, I joined the Navy. I served aboard two Aircraft Carriers, did an 18 month tour in Sicily. I went to a lot of places I didn’t want to go, and to some that I would never have thought about. Most were interesting, and all were much different from Texas.
After the Navy, I attended New York Univ. in Manhattan for 2 years ( on the GI Bill) so that I could go the New York Inst. of Photography at night. If you have spent any real time in New York City, you know it is not at all like Midland … or any other place on the planet. It was educational and entertaining to say the least. It was a real eye opener.
In 1965, I came back to Texas looking for a job and ended up in the Dallas/ Ft. Worth area, where I took a job at a Television station in Ft Worth, running a television camera. I knew it was not photography or cinematography, but it would have to do until something good came along. It did pay the rent and kept me from starving to death. One day I found it was a lot more fun than real work, so I stayed in television. It was an Independent TV station, and not a Network station, so we did everything ourselves. I remember running the first base camera at baseball games where I would cover first base and home plate. Unfortunately, that was all of the game I ever got to see.
Then there was wrestling every Monday night. Folks .. .it ain’t real, trust me. I started on high camera in the loft with the announcer. We had this 1000 watt light near him pointed at the ring. When the Director in the truck wanted a commercial break, he would have me give the announcer a cue to commercial. He would turn on that big light, and 20 to 30 seconds later the match ended. If that is not proof enough – the good guys and bad guys used the same locker room, and they car pooled to other cities to wrestle. So there .. .just don’t tell anyone.
Freelance camera work was usually a blast. The rock concerts were always good. I remember a Sly and the Family Stone concert at Will Rogers Coliseum. I volunteered to run one of the two high cameras up in the rafters. They put us about 30 feet up on this 4 x 8 foot platform hanging from the rafters then took the ladder away. Fifteen minutes later they started letting the crowd in. Remember how people used to smoke in the theaters and at indoor concerts? Some of that smoke wasn’t from cigarettes, but from the evil weed. Where does that smoke go? I am sure that was a great show. The guys from the truck came up and got us after everyone left. We were soooo hungry.
The company promoted from within, so we learned to do everything from lighting, TV cameras, building sets, audio, and the new video tape stuff If you were lucky, and stayed with it, they usually let you try your hand at directing. This was way back in the black and white days and still a lot of live television. What a fun job. I have some good stories and memories.
I did leave out a lot of things – like sitting around the TV station drinking coffee and talking to people like Forest Tucker and Van Johnson while we were getting the set ready to tape a show. Same for Flip Wilson who told the story of his childhood. His family was so poor he joined the Army just so he could have something to eat, and the next day the Korean War started. Joey Bishop is really funny off camera. I never got to meet Ann Margaret but did get a photo session with Julie Newmar.
I married a Ft Worth girl in 1966. It was lust at first sight, dang I loved that little gal. We eloped while her parents were away at a CPA convention. Did you ever wonder what would happen if two only children were to get married? Let me tell you .. . two boys, three grandsons and one granddaughter. We will have been married 43 years the 21st of this month. There were good times, bad times and a few sad times, but I was blessed with a wonderful wife and two super kids. As much fun as my two boys were, it was only a warm up for grandkids.
I took up skydiving in the 70s. It was my wife’s fault. I trained and made my first jump on a Wednesday. I went out Saturday afternoon with my wife, just to watch. My instructor saw me standing around watching all the parachutes and told me there was an opening on the next load and to suit up. Well, I was there to watch but couldn’t say that so I said “Oh I didn’t bring my check book, darn. 11 My dear wife popped up and said “I have mine”, so I made my second jump. Wow, much more fun that the first one. I was hooked, and she never offered her checkbook again. I earned the United States Parachute Assoc. Class A-Band C sport parachutist license. I missed the D license because I never got to make my 30 second free fall at night. I earned a USP A Jumpmaster rating, FAA Senior Parachute rigger rating and served 2 terms as a Councilman for the Texas Parachute Council. I started doing freefall photography with a helmet mounted camera, won a few trophies and got some more good stories. I did log over 300 miles of free fall .
The 80’s found my sons David and Jeff, along with their dad, in Boy Scouts. Both boys made Eagle Scout. I stayed on as Scoutmaster long enough to find a replacement after they left scouts. I then moved into adult training and got to work with a lot of soon to be Scoutmasters. I received the District Award of Merit and an assortment of plaques. There were good memories and a few more stories.
As a Christmas present to myself, I retired in 2002. I started riding with a group of very senior bicyclists. The core group were in their early ?O’s, and they kicked my butt on the first ride. I learned later on that they rode 3,000 to 4,000 miles a year, because they didn’t have to work and their wives were home. After a 30-40 mile ride, we have a nice lunch then go home and take a nap-if we feel like it. We do this 2-3 times a week year round. Little old ladies are welcome. The miles do add up.
January 2008, we discovered my wife, Toni, had breast cancer. Ten days after Toni’s surgery, my mother passed away. The rest of that year was filled with doctor. trips, chemo and then the radiation, but it was worth it. Toni is cancer free. I am a lucky man!
Now that was a great story and well written. My Bother Tom was an outcast in your class. Thanks so much for that great story!!!!
Really a good story, Ski.