DICK – Biss, at about 17, didn’t get along. She had no desire to assume the running of the house. Dad talked it over with the female relatives and it was decided that Biss would stay with Aunt Anne (Stanley) in St. Petersburg, Florida, for about a year.
This next portion explains how Lad got to Venezuela and also into the Army.
LAD – I got into the oil business in Venezuela through my uncle, Ted Human. He was a civil engineer and saw an ad in the business paper that requested workers for Venezuela. He applied for a job with a company called Inter-America, Inc. He got the job and asked Dan, also a civil engineer, to come down and help him. He also asked me if I’d go along as a mechanic to maintain the company trucks. We were going to build a road from Caracas to Columbia, which would go across the top of Venezuela. Barquisimeto was the name of the town in Venezuela. Dan left with Uncle Ted (in October, 1938) but I had to buy tools, equipment and other stuff that I would need. By the time I had everything ready and had arranged transportation, it was the end of December, 1938. I left from New York City on a Grace Line ship on December 26, 1938. I was at sea on New Year’s Eve. We had a rather bad storm going across to the port of Caracas and most of the passengers got sick. I was one of the few that didn’t get sick. I was still able to get around although the ship was pitching rather badly. After that, they put balance wheels or gyroscopes in those boats. They really helped a great deal. It did not stop the pitching, but it did stop the yawing.
I worked for Inter-America for a couple of months but I wasn’t getting paid. Neither were the other guys. Uncle Ted found out that the pictures sent to the Venezuelan officials showing the road we had built was actually just smoothed-out sand, not cement. He got pretty upset about that because it wasn’t a real road. He and Dan had done the surveying and figured the angles and the grades, and then, instead of pouring cement, they just leveled off the sand.
Ted was injured in a car accident and returned to the United States. I guess Dan wasn’t interested in staying after that. Ted had introduced me to a fellow and I had worked on his vehicles. I was able to get a job with him at Soconey-Vacuum and I worked for them for two years.
While Uncle Ted was in Venezuela, he had a chauffeur named Manuel. They were going to Caracas down a road and came to a river with the bridge across it. Many of the bridges in Venezuela are two lanes wide but only one side of the bridge is finished with planking. Manuel was going a bit fast and he was going up a slight hill and because there was a piece of equipment on the road, he didn’t realize that the other side of the bridge had the planking. Manuel tried to get over to the left far enough but wasn’t successful. The car went over the bank and into the river. Uncle Ted got hurt quite badly. Aunt Helen (Human) came down from the US and took him back to a New York City hospital. Although he lived for a few years after that, he was in very poor health.
After working in Venezuela for 2 ½ years, the company required that I take two months off and go to a temperate climate. They didn’t care where, just that I had to be out of the tropical climate. So I went home. Just before the ship landed in New York City, an announcement came over the PA system that some government employees would be coming on board. When they arrived, they asked everyone for their passport. They told me that I wouldn’t get my passport back. I went to Trumbull and shortly thereafter, got my conscription notice, classifying me 1-A. Because of my draft status, I had trouble finding a job. I figured that if I signed up, then I could pick which branch of the service I went into. I went to New York City and tried to get into the Navy and the Air Force but I was rejected because of my eyesight. I was finally able to get a job at the Producto Machine Company (in Bridgeport). They made machines and dyes. It was a fairly nice plant, it was considered pretty good equipment. In December, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and shortly after that I got a notice to report for duty. I was able to get a deferment because of my job but by April, 1942, I had been reclassified 1-A. I received a notice to report for duty in May. Two days later I got a letter from the Navy saying they had lowered their eyesight requirements and I was now eligible. I tried to talk the Army out of it, but was unsuccessful. So I went into the Army.
Tomorrow, some more early memories of Trumbull. You’ll hear about Dave entering the Army. On Monday and all of next week, the letters will have been written in 1942. Lad is in training at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Aberdeen, Maryland, although there are rumors that some of them might be going to California. Dan was in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, for training but he has been moved further north, to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, so ha can get home on a weekend. He and Lad both are near enough for this.