Papaw was raised during the Great Depression. Maybe that’s part of why he was so resilient. He told me things weren’t too bad for his family, because they were mostly self-sufficient with a garden that grew everything they needed. Not that things were easy for them though. After December 1941, he heard the call and signed up to join the war effort. He enlisted in the Navy and was shipped off to the South Pacific. He was an electrical petty officer in a flotilla that once carried a young Navy Lieutenant named Richard Milhous Nixon.
When Papaw was in high school (circa 1938) he had this car that just wouldn’t work. When he and his cousin wanted to go into town to shop, they would flag down passing cars saying they couldn’t get the motor to start. They would get them to push the car (to get it started) until that person got mad. Then Papaw would tell them they were alright. Then they would flag down the next driver. Papaw had them all fooled though, that car wouldn’t work because it didn’t have a motor!
In high school, Papaw had a teacher with a glass eye whose classroom was on the first floor of school. When they wanted to leave class, they would roll a marble up to the front of the room. She thought she had lost her eye, and would start looking for it. When she was on the floor looking for “her eye”, Papaw and his friends would skip out of class through the window.
After the war, he came home and started to work at a local movie theatre as the projectionist. He even worked on the set of “The Horse Soldiers” starring the Duke, John Wayne. John Wayne even asked him to come to L.A. and work for the studio. But he decided it would be better to stay here in Louisiana. In his home that he had bought with his wife not too long before. He went on to work for a furniture company (and kept at it in the projection booth at night and on the weekends).
I have the clearest memories of him clicking his dentures at me when I sat on his lap. I swear that man knew just how to distract a child. It was always the strangest thing to me because his teeth moved! And mine didn’t! I can remember that he was always happy. It seemed like nothing could get him down. He got a computer in the early 2000s and was always asking me and my dad to teach him how to do things. He loved to learn how to use his computer. He even had a facebook account for a hot second. Papaw was the most open and welcoming person I’ve ever met. He was a great man and I will miss him dearly.