When I was born mother said the doctor told her to pinch my head off, flush me down the commode and try again. Years later she said she never said any such thing but it was not unlike her to recant things. She said I was so small they could have carried me home in a coffee pot. I can remember being the smallest kid in the first grade and I can remember years later when we were living in Florida the teacher wanted to hold me back and not promote me to the next grade because I was so small. She thought it would be a good idea for me to be in a class with children closer to my size. I remember my mother agreeing to this logic but dad was indignant. He said that if I made passing grades, which I had, that I should be promoted. Later I remember being 15 in the tenth grade and weighing something like 83 pounds. Because mother had moved us from a school we all liked to a school in Atlanta we all hated we were all miserable and failing. Since I was failing anyway mother said I should stay home and tend to my 5 year old brother while she worked. Never mind that the law said you had to go to school till age 16. It sounded like a good idea to a 15 year old kid. The first day at home I turned on the TV and watched a program and kept waiting and waiting for something to happen but all they did was talk and talk and talk some more. Welcome to the world of soap operas. The following year I repeated the tenth grade and was failing again. When the school year ended I weighed 96 pounds, that’s 2 pounds less than the commercial “98 pound weakling.” I would like to say I was really strong for my size and though I had failed the same grade twice I knew I was pretty smart about some things. My reading and comprehension was good but I was weak in math (It’s strange how math played a bigger and bigger part in all the occupations of my working career) so when my older brother, Odell, said he was going to join the Army and did I want to join with him? I thought about how I sure didn’t want to go to the tenth grade for the third time and told him yes. Problem was, I only weighed 96 pounds. Two weeks before my 17th birthday I went to a doctor who gave me a horse shot of vitamin b-12. I went home and went to bed and mother brought me food. I got up to 106 pounds and went and signed up for the Army on the buddy plan with my brother. My brother, being 18, could join on his own but me being only 17, had to have my parents consent. My mother signed with the belief that they would never take me but it turned out the minimum weight limit was 105 and I weighed 106 so I was in. In the Army I was in a survey group that worked with trigonometry and triangulation and transits and theodolites. Gone for three years I returned home a hefty 123 pounds. I worked mostly in the printing industry while attending night school from place to place for a year or more till mother said she had talked to the principal at Manchester High School and he would test me and let me return to school. I passed the test and went in to the 12th grade. They put me in an advanced English class and I loved it. I passed that course withan A plus I was voted most talented for the yearbook. The entire senior class was required to take a spelling test and I blew them away on that with several teachers stopping me in the hall to tell me I did excellent on that test. And when I graduated I was still the smallest guy in my senior class. Armed with a diploma and being a veteran I landed a job at Lockheed Aircraft Company. I worked in the machine shop for 13 years while I attended a Trade scool for classes at night. After taking a myriad of courses I was promoted to Tool Designer. We started on drafting boards, graduated to black and white two-dimensional computers and finally went to three dimensional color computers. All these technical classifications required a lot of math, plus a bit of creativity. I came along ways from the skinny, barefoot kid to a more educated person with a white-collar job. Fate had smiled on me.
The before and after photo of me are so you can see for yourself how I went from a poster child for starved looking children to a person who now looks like they never miss a meal.
Garden Till You Turn Green