My First 72 Years: Memoirs of Robert J. Snipes

(Completed March 4, 1995)

This is one of my father’s memoirs, the longest and most detailed autobiography. He learned to use my mother’s computer so he could write and print them for us. This is the longer, more detailed version of his autobiography written the year prior. For the full story and links to all four documents, see this page.

The following are recollections of some of the most memorable and treasured experiences — some amusing — of my lifetime. These “Memoirs” supplement my “Autobiography,” dated Jan. 22, 1994.


Following my birth in Sherman, Texas on August 29, 1922, our family made several moves before settling permanently in Dallas. When I was about year old we moved to a house on Congress Street in Dallas, then to Houston when I was about 2, where we stayed about a year. We relocated to Brownwood for a short period before moving to 642 4th Ave. in Abilene, when I was 3. I don’t recall much about our two-year stay in Abilene. But I do remember that our house was located at the end of a street, next to a large field of mesquite trees. One day, after a heavy rain, I wandered out into the field and noticed an enormous number of tiny frogs hopping around. I was amazed; it seemed obvious to me that it had rained those frogs. Later, Mother was likewise amazed to find my pockets full of frogs when she sorted out my clothes for washing.


We moved to our Potomac Avenue house in Dallas, Texas, about 1926, when Dad got a job classifying cotton. He bought a new Buick in 1927; we kept it until about 1938. I enjoyed going with Mother mornings, when she took Dad to catch the streetcar that he rode to work, and again when she picked him up at day’s end.

My school days began in 1927 when I was enrolled in Bradfield Elementary School, only a block from our house. The Principal was Mr. Harris, and my favorite teachers were Ms. Gather (kindergarten), Ms. Bronstetter (music), Ms. King (playground), Ms. Cooper (first and second grades), Ms. Simmons (art), and Ms. MiIler (geography). I usually ate lunch in the school cafeteria (lunch cost 15 cents in those days). My first sight-of-blood experience occurred at Bradfield. A student ran out of the school through the swinging doors and put his arm through the window. That opened up his arm from wrist to elbow. I don’t remember how I happened to get a look at him; probably glanced into the office while walking by. That incident really shook me up.

I made many good friends while living on Potomac. My favorites were Joe Messina, Bobby Kennedy, Conway Lamars (now deceased), Jimmy Elsby, Paul Schaffnit, James (deceased) and Buddy Milligan, Clyde Stewert (deceased), Ray Wiley, and Eugene Butler (deceased). We spent many good times together playing baseball and football in a vacant lot across the street, going to Saturday movies at the Varsity Theater near SMU (cost: 25 cents), going fishing at Turtle Creek (about half a mile from our house), and playing hockey in the street with sticks, cans and roller-skates.

I remember one distressing incident — later amusing — when Joe and I went fishing at Turtle Creek. He was walking across a bridge holding his pole in one hand, fishhook in the other, and dragging his line on the bridge boards. The line caught on a nail and pulled the hook into his finger. No way could we get that hook out, so we walked all the way home with me holding the pole, him holding the line and crying his eyes out. Why didn’t we cut the line? Who knows? When we got to his house, his mom cut the line and pushed the hook on through and out.

It seemed that Joe and I were destined to either get hurt or get in trouble somehow. One time he and I were climbing a big cottonwood tree at night. About 20 feet up I went out on a limb and was holding onto another above my head. Joe was above me and decided to step out on the limb I was holding to. The limbs broke and down we went, knocking limbs off all the way down. He fell on top of me, knocking all the wind out of me. We recovered with nothing more hurt than our dignity.

Another time Joe and I were roaming the alleys, shooting birds with my new B-B gun. We were at the back of our favorite vacant lot when we saw Joe’s sister wandering along out by the street. I could not pass up that opportunity to show off my great marksmanship, so I lay down in the grass, took aim (Rambo-style) and fired off a round. Much to my honest surprise I scored a hit right on her little fat leg. She screamed, went home crying, and told her mom. Mrs. Messina called Mother, who promptly called me home and confiscated my B-B gun. Guess who had to go down and apologize? Joe thought that was very entertaining. 

I began my self-employment ventures when I was 11 or 12 years old.  Magazine sales caught my attention; the thought of earning my own money was attractive. After canvassing all the neighbors, I got 10 or so customers, and that worked out well for a couple of years. Those days most magazines cost only 5 cents. Favorites were The Saturday Evening Post and Ladies Home Journal.

Back then everyone dried their laundry on clotheslines in their back yards. Most people could not afford electric dryers. The clothes lines were our favorite targets on Halloween nights, whether or not they had clothes hanging on them. Each year we all promised not to cut each other’s lines. So, come dark, we went out with clippers in hand, and down came all the clothes lines the full length of the block, on both sides of the street.  I don’t remember being caught, ever. We also amused ourselves ringing doorbells and running, standing one on each side of the street and pretending to pull up a rope when cars came by, or throwing dirt on people’s porches. Hey! Who ever heard of trick or treat?

Our favorite 4th of July escapade was to get up early and shoot fireworks on our friends’ bedroom window sills. Great wake-up call! Everyone slept with windows wide open. No one had air-conditioning in those days.

Summers were fun. Some years when my Great-Aunt Pearl went from Dallas to Macon, Missouri, to visit relatives she would take me with her.  We travelled on the train most of the way. This was a special treat for me.  I had great times in Macon. The things I enjoyed most were walking downtown to watch trains come and go, attending ice cream socials and watching movies in City Park, going fishing at Macon Lake with Uncle Coon. I had some good friends there, including Bennet Strong and Ned Wilson.

One of the things I enjoyed most in those early years was our summer trips to Colorado. Dad was rarely able to go with us, but Mother scraped and saved all year so she, Jean, and I could make the trip; the high altitude reduced her hay fever. Oddly enough my brother, Jack, did not go with us either, as he had more hay fever in Colorado than in Texas. We would visit Peggy and Russell Brown (Mother’s good friends), Uncle Ben Brock and his son and daughter-in-law, Ben and Helen. Mom drove us up there in the ’27 Buick. We always had to go over Raton Pass, which in those days had only a winding, twisty, mostly one-way, gravel road. One time we had to stop and back down the road a short distance to let an oncoming car go by (I think I got out and walked).

We rented an apartment in Denver. Each day we would go a different place, sometimes to Colorado Springs or to the mountains nearby. Some of our favorite side-trips were to Cave Of The Winds, Manitou Springs, Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods. One year Uncle Ben took us up in the mountains for a picnic. He cooked steaks and all the trimmings and we collected rocks and waded in the creek. A rain shower came up and lightening struck the side of the mountain just above us. That was impressive.

On one trip back home from Denver when Dad was with us, we stayed overnight in a small town called Lelia Lake about 50 miles east of Amarillo, Texas. It was very stormy all night. The next morning we arose to find the highway under water. Dad was determined to go on, so he drove up on the railroad track and followed it until we found a place to get back onto the highway, probably 2 or 3 miles down the road.

Often during summers and some holidays, I spent memorable times at Grandmother Snipes’ house in Douglassville (town of about 200 people) in northeast Texas. Usually my Aunt Lucile, who lived in Dallas, would take me and her son, Sonny, with her when she went to Douglassville.  In those early days Grandmother Snipes’ house had none of the modern conveniences: no electricity, running water or gas, and no phone, as I remember. Coal oil (kerosene) lamps were used for light, a well for water, one fireplace in the main bedroom and a huge woodburning stove in the kitchen for heat.  Bathroom was a four-holer outside. My cousin and I spent great times hunting in the meadow behind the house and fishing in the stock tank.  Once, while walking in the meadow, I came upon a blacksnake at least 4 feet long.  Getting too close in checking him out, I found him not to be so friendly. He made a run at me and I fled clear across the meadow with the snake in hot pursuit. Thus my fear of snakes to this day.

Grandmother Snipes’s house had porches on three sides. In later years she got the house wired and installed a Delco gas-engine generator, which was placed in the space under the house. The Delco seemed to run out of gas at the most inopportune times, like during supper. Someone would have to go gas it up and restart it.

Grandmother Snipes raised most of her own food, including milk cows, turkeys, chickens, and hogs. She had a barn, smokehouse, vegetable garden, and some big pecan trees I liked to climb. Meals were a big thing with her, especially on weekends when all sorts of relations would drop in. There always seemed to be 2 or 3 different kinds of meat on the table– fried chicken, ham, beef; plus rolls, cornbread and vegetables.  Breakfast usually cornbread, toast, and lots of eggs, sausage and bacon. She always had food enough for the family and for the Blacks, who helped in the kitchen. None of the leftovers went to waste; they were fed to the chickens, turkeys and hogs.  I was impressed with her method of slaughtering chickens for cooking.  She would catch them, swing them around by their heads and pop them off, letting the bodies flop around in the yard ’til they lay still.

I remember once when I was visiting there during my high school days, we were all waked up one night by a bright light outside. I looked out and saw the barn burning.  Sonny and I ran out hollering “fire” for what good it did (no fire-house in that town). We somehow got the livestock out, tried dumping a few buckets of water on the barn, but to no avail. The whole barn was consumed in a matter of 30 minutes or so.  Grandmother Snipes was devastated and said she would never build another barn.  Two others had burned down in past years. Her devastation was even greater when a few days later the remains of a body was discovered in the rubble.  It turned out to have been a derelict who had apparently been sleeping in the barn and had probably been smoking. He was known to have had seizures in the past and probably had one when the fire started, then could not save himself.


In 1936 my father accepted a job with the American Cotton Shippers Association and we hod to move to Le Havre, France. We departed New York aboard the French Liner, Champlain, a beautiful ship (later sunk by the Germans in Saint Lazaire Harbor on the west coast of France; 138 crew members were lost). It took 7 days for the trip across the Atlantic and the English Channel, with a short stop at Southampton. upon arrival in Le Havre we checked into the Hotel Frascati where we stayed a few days while searching for living quarters. We found a nice upstairs apartment at 42 Rue Ernest Renan, not far from downtown. Our landlady was Madame De Launey who lived downstairs. She had an employee named Geogette who did the cleaning and cooked 2 meals a day for us. Neither of them spoke English, so communication was a bit of a problem until we could learn French.

I spent my time walking around town and at the docks watching ships come and go, and playing in the walled back yard. Geogette and I became good friends.  I taught her some English and she helped me with my French.  One time while joking around, I wrote her a note on a piece of paper.  In the process of attempting to thrust a knife through the note (for whatever reason) I cut my finger rather badly. She was aghast, as was I. All I could think to say was “tres mal” (very bad). After I got all bandaged up, Mother decided it was hardly worth going to a doctor.  I still have a scar to remind me of that episode.

Mme. De Launey was very nice to us all the time.  She did get angry with me once, however.  While playing with a ball in the back yard, I kicked it over the wall into the neighbor’s yard. Over the wall I went and retrieved it. When Mme. De Launey heard about this she told me in no uncertain terms never to do that again. I should have told her, she said, and she would have taken me over there to apologize and get the ball. Faux Pas Major!

Another pastime for me in Le Havre was going a few blocks from our apartment to a carnival. There was a food stand there where they sold small fried balls similar to our doughnut holes. Delicious! I stuffed on those every chance I got.  I also liked to watch a clown-like person standing up on the merry-go-round as it circled. He held onto nothing and acted like a manikin. I could have watched him for hours trying to figure out whether he was a real person.

Mother decided to send me to school in England rather than Le Havre, because of the language barrier. She decided on a public school in Romsey, Hampshire, England. When she took me to Romsey to enroll me, I became really depressed and did not want to stay. After having a big cry, and seeing that Mother was saddened but determined that it was the best thing for me to do, I realized that it was a losing battle. and I agreed to stay. She left me there and went back to Le Havre.

The other students soon made me feel better about my plight and we became good friends. About half the students were on-campus residents like myself. The other half lived at home in town and attended day school only.

The school was operated on a very strict basis and was directed by a Headmaster, Mr. Summers. He did sone of the teaching, along with his daughter, Joan, and two full-time Masters, Mr. Gothard and Mr. Davis. Some of the subjects taught were Latin, French, English History and arithmetic.

The school building was separate from the living quarters. It was a large, two-story, quonset-type building, heated only by one coal-burning pot-belly stove on each floor (totally inadequate for the space they had to heat). We all had chill blains all winter! Discipline was first and foremost at that school. Punishment (for broken rules or failure to do school work) was meted out by strikes on the hand or butt with a small wooden rod, with the number of whacks dependent on the seriousness of the offense.

The 12 or so of us who stayed on campus lived in a dormitory. The two Miss Reeds, who ran the living quarters, were grumpy old maids, who often threatened us with a cane, but never struck us with one. We were not convinced, however, that this would not eventually happen. We had no heat in the dorm. Wash water was on a counter at the end of the room.  Pitchers, washbowls, and towels were furnished. We took nightly baths, two boys at a time (in a big clawfoot tub), so we could wash each other’s backs. If any horseplay occurred, in came Miss Reed, brandishing her cane.

Our outside activities included soccer and cricket, played usually at a field not far from the school. Saturdays were study and play days, and parent visit days. On Sunday we donned our clean shirts (with 2-inch-wide, stiff, white collars), shorts, school caps and blazers (with black and red school color stripes); then we marched single-file to the Romsey Abbey, where we attended church services.  In the afternoon we took a walk in the beautiful English countryside.

My recollection of our meals is scant. However, breakfast consisted of milk, bowl of porridge, bread and marmalade. We were allowed one hard-boiled egg, twice a week.  Students whose parents could afford it — and the Masters who ate with us — could have a hard-boiled egg every day.  Sunday lunch was special, as I remember.  For dessert we had a most delicious Christmas pudding, with sauce.

Some of my student friends whom remember were: G.M. Gapp, Jean Neon (he, too, was from Le Havre), Maurice Prescott, J. Bario, B. Russell, Hazelwood, and J. Hood-Bailey. When I left the school in 1937, the students gave me gifts of a notebook and pictures of us all.  I was really touched by this, as most of the students had hardly any spending money.

While I was at Romsey, Jean and Mother came to England for about two weeks in the spring, to visit and to shop in London. I met them there for 2 or 3 days, and we had fun seeing the sights. We visited Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, the Tower of London, House of Parliament, Kew Gardens, Traffalgar Square, and we rode the double-deck buses.  

When school closed for the summer I returned to my family in Le Havre.


Later in the summer of 1937 Dad quit his job. He had become increasingly dissatisfied with his fellow workers falsely classifying shipments of cotton. He was also becoming more and more frightened of the prospect of Germany invading France (and rightly so). We returned to the U.S. on the liner, Washington, then went to Macon for a short time to visit my Grandmother Mamie and her sister, Aunt Pearl.

When we returned to Dallas, Mother rented a duplex apartment at 4301 Emerson Street. This was just across the street from the new Highland Park High School, where I enrolled.

I made several very special friends while going to high school. We called ourselves the Emerson Street Gang (E.S.G.), not in today’s meaning of gangs, but just a bunch of guys who enjoyed having fun together.  E.S.G. consisted of myself, Bill Abright, Johnny Cox, Billy Wadlington, and T.C. Hooker.  We played touch football, hunted doves north of town, and sometimes went fishing.  Some Friday nights, one of us would borrow his family’s car and we would all go across town to play miniature golf, attend a carnival, or go to Kiest Park and spot-light smoochers (wonder we didn’t get shot for the latter).  Sometimes the guys would get together for poker parties–a little far out for this “po’ white boy” who could hardly afford to buy shoes.  We frequently double-dated and attended school functions together.

Another weekend activity we enjoyed was spotlight rabbit-hunting at night.  Abright’s pickup was best for this, as we sometimes bagged 30 or 40 rabbits on the country roads north of town. What do you do with 30 or 40 rabbits? We found a good disposal place. We took them to the Love Field air terminal and gave them to the Black baggage-handlers, who were delighted to get them. Yes, we almost got in trouble one night when we got caught driving around in a farmer’s pasture. He stopped us at his gate as we were leaving and took our names and addresses (fictitious of course; never heard so many wild names). The farmer did not get our license number, thank goodness.

Our old 1927 Buick was stored in the Potomac garage for some time prior to 1938. That year I decided to haul it to Emerson Street and get it running again. The plan was to cut the top off and make it into an open-air roadster. Bill Abright helped me work on it. We got the body cut down and were about finished when Bill hit the windshield with a hammer, shattering it. I had intended to leave it on, but Bill didn’t know that. We drove it like that for a few days, then checked to see what the new license tag would cost. Talk about the National Debt! No way! I finally had to sell the old car and got $5.00 for it, not one of my better financial deals.

Speaking of cars, E. S.G. got together and purchased an old stripped-down Model-T Ford. We had great times driving it around locally. It was a crank-start car, of course, and had only the frame, wheels, engine, and seats. Once, while driving down the street, we looked down and noticed the manifold was red hot. We pulled over and everyone bailed out, expecting it to explode. It had merely run out of water and was OK after we refilled it. We had lots of fun with that old heap.

Joe Messina, Paul Schaffnit and I often hunted rabbits together. Near Kaufman, we found a good place to hunt swamp rabbits (a large offshoot of the cottontail). They were excellent eating game.

This was a period of very lean finances for our family. Dad was hospitalized with a nervous disorder and was not working. Mother was teaching piano to keep us afloat, so I decided to get a Dallas Times Herald paper route to help out. The route encompassed our street and about 8 streets adjacent to Emerson. I had about 150 customers, mostly in duplexes and apartment buildings, so the route was easy to walk. It took only about two hours to make deliveries. My first car, a 1929 Model-A Ford, bought with $100 saved from my route profits. Bill Abright and Eugene Butler often helped me throw the papers.

Butler and I made a trip to Eagle Nest Lake in New Mexico during the summer of about 1938. We went in his dad’s car and stayed about a week, as I remember. While there, we watched a bear foraging around the lake one day. We were fortunate he stayed in his own territory. It was a memorable trip for us, a great camping site and a beautiful area.

After I graduated from High School in 1940 Dad was out of the hospital and he offered to pay for my first term at Southern Methodist University. We moved to a small house on University Boulevard near the school. The term went OK, but Dad could not handle further financing, so I withdrew. Then we moved back to our house on Potomac in 1941 (lessee had not renewed his lease).

Mom continued teaching piano; I got a job with the Farm Credit Administration in downtown Dallas.

Soon after the U. S. entered World War Il (December 1941), I decided to contribute to the war effort by going to riveting school at night, with the idea of obtaining work at an aircraft assembly plant in Fort Worth. Having completed the course, I changed my plans and decided to apply for the Naval Aviation Cadet Program. I was accepted in June 1942. This began my unforgettable Navy flying career, which lasted into the 1950’s (my Navy experiences are detailed in other compilations: “My Military Experience 1942 to 1953” and “Tours of Duty 1 and 2“).


After the war ended in 1945, I returned to Dallas to live with my mother on Potomac. I returned temporarily to my old job with the Farm Credit Administration. Then in 1946 1 enrolled in Southern Methodist University under the GI Bill, to finish my college education. A little later, Mamie and Pearl moved down from Macon to live with us; Pearl had got where she could not properly care for Mamie, who had broken her hip and did not get around very well. Shortly after Mamie and Pearl came to live with us, I remodeled the old servants’ quarters attached to our garage. Then I moved into it in order to have a quiet place to study, away from Mom’s piano teaching and other interruptions. During the 40’s and 50’s we made many memorable trips to be with Jean and Doc and their family in Mineral Wells.

During those years there were some big changes in my life. Dad died suddenly of a heart attack while on a trip to Houston in May 1947. In October 1952, Mamie died of cancer. After Mamie died, Jean and Doc took Pearl to live with them in Mineral Wells, to relieve Mother of the responsibility. Later they had to place Pearl in a care center, where she died in February 1956. Grandmother Snipes also died in the 50’s.

After I received my degree in Civil Engineering in 1950, I was hired by the Water Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver, Colorado. I moved to Denver in February and began a career that lasted more than 29 years.

Water Resources Division is responsible for the collection and publication of basic data relating to the ground and surface waters of the United States. This entails construction and operation of gaging stations (at specific locations on rivers, streams and lakes), making frequent discharge measurements, taking water samples, and computing flow records and extremes for each site. Many other types of data are also collected, including special water reports such as flood frequency, time of travel studies, and water availability. The reports are used by various federal, state and local agencies for irrigation, water impoundment and other project planning and construction studies. My work was very gratifying and enjoyable, although trying at times.

I worked in the Denver office a year, transferred to the Fort Worth suboffice in the Texas District for two years, then returned to Denver in January 1953. Mother sold the house in Dallas about May 1953 and moved to Denver Where she bought a house at 945 Olive Street. We lived there until soon after I  married in December 1954.

While working in Denver I succumbed to the habit of trout fishing and I frequented many lakes and reservoirs in Colorado, trying to outwit the wiIy rainbow, German brown and lake trout. I had my best luck at Lake Granby, Grand Lake, Green Mountain Reservoir and Dillon Lake. My stream-fishing was less successful, but still fun.

In the spring of 1954 my good friend, Jim Shanks, and I bought an old Jeep pickup, fixed it up with a tarp for camping, and headed out for two weeks in the desolate region around Moab, Utah. Uranium had recently been discovered in that area and the Feds were paying top prices for the ore. We were out to make our fortunes by staking claims and selling them. After wandering many miles in the desert, and just about wearing out our boots and geiger counter, we gave it up as a bad job. We conceded that our trip had been a good experience and a lot of fun, but not a money-maker. We had found several areas of high counts, but they were already staked out–probably by Charlie Steen, who was already making humongous profits mining uranium in the area. We returned to Denver tired and feeling lucky the Jeep did not break down.

Jim and I also mode several camping-fishing trips together—six-mile hikes up to a beautiful lake near the top of Mount Evans, west of Denver. Someone had built several lean-to’s at the lake; they were excellent shelters during the cold nights. The last time we hiked up there, we found them all burned down. That was one cold night, but the fishing was good.


Marion Coleman and I began going together in early 1954 and found we had much in common. She was a geologist working for the U. S.G. S. Mineral Deposits Branch in the same building where I worked. We shared the hobby of visiting old mining towns west of Denver, including Victor, Leadville, and Cripple Creek. We took Mother and Marion’s mother, Tiger, with us on a trip to Leadville and collected all sorts of mineral and rock samples. Marion was good at identifying most of them. We still have many of those rocks to this day (that has to be the most well-traveled rock collection ever).

Marion and I were married in her hometown of Colby, Kansas, in the dead of winter on December 11, 1954. My brother Jack came out from Washington, D.C. to be my best man. He, my mother, and I drove to Colby from Denver. It was a small wedding with only a few relatives and close friends attending. Jack told us he would make sure we got off after the wedding without being “assaulted” or “charivaried”. But sure ‘nuf, he turned out to be the chief trickster. He filled our luggage with rice, stole the car keys, and tied cans to our car. With our spare key, however, we were able to take off pretty well on schedule. We still find rice in our luggage to this day.

Our honeymoon trip was outstanding even though it was cold and snowy most of the way. We drove to Trinidad, Colorado, the first night, then proceeded south into New Mexico the next day. We visited Eagle Nest, Taos, Santa Fe and Grants. In Arizona we visited Petrified Forest, Winslow Meteor Crater, Painted Desert. At Grand Canyon we took a mule-ride trip half-way down the canyon and back up. Then on to the old mining towns of Jerome, Tombstone, and Prescott. Farther south to Phoenix, Saguaro National Monument, and Tucson. We also visited Nogales, Mexico, before heading for El Paso where we visited Marion’s brother, Denzil, who was in the army and was stationed at Fort Bliss. We spent Christmas at my sister Jean’s, in Mineral Wells. We headed back to Denver via Amarillo and Lamar and ran into the worst snow and ice storm imaginable.

Mother graciously consented to let us live in her Olive Street house for a while until we could find a home of our own to buy. She stayed with Uncle Ben a short while, but later came back to live with us. We finally found an older home we liked, at 1010 South York Street; we moved there in late 1955. The house was furnished, which saved us a lot of immediate expense.

Marion continued working until just before Lynne was born in June 1957. I reluctantly continued to drive across town to work. Mother had sold her Olive Street house and moved to a place about a block from us. We enjoyed being close to her, as she could walk to our house, and we could go to see her often.

Marion’s father died in 1958. Tiger stayed in Colby until the next year. Then she moved to Boulder, Colorado, where she stayed until she moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico, a couple of years later.

We decided to move closer to my work and to get a newer house. December 1959 we moved from the York Street house to 70 South Dover Street in Lakewood, west of Denver and near the Federal Center, where I worked. Mother decided she would return to Texas to be near my sister, so in 1963 she moved to Bedford. In July 1961 Jack and his family came to Denver to visit us and Mother. I took him and his boys, Bob and Jim, on a camping trip in the Williams Fork headwaters, a place pretty well off the beaten track. It was a memorable trip: we fished and hiked and saw lots of wonderful mountain scenery. Our only calamity on that trip was that Jim left his cap at the camp site. He was quite upset that we did not return to retrieve it, as Frau Eikler (their former German Nanny) had given it to him. The trail to the camp site was only a Jeep trail and we were lucky to get in and out the first time in a mere Chevy station wagon.

Marion and I took Lynne on several trips before leaving Denver. One of the best was the trip to Yellowstone National Park and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. In the Grand Tetons we stayed in a rented tent-cabin at night and saw the sights during the days. Horseflies nearly ate us up around the camp, but Park Rangers said regulations did not permit spraying pests.

On our trip to Utah in 1964 we visited Capitol Reef and Arches National Monuments, Goblin Valley, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Monuments, Dead Horse Point and Monument Valley.


We moved to Alamosa, Colorado, in 1967 when I was assigned to direct the Surface Water portion of a special water-availability project. The investigation also included Ground Water studies. The project was initiated to determine ways in which Colorado could pay their long-standing water debt to New Mexico and Texas under the Rio Grande Compact. Ironically, Colorado’s water debt was automatically paid off a few years later when New Mexico’ Elephant Butte Reservoir filled and spilled due to unusually high natural runoff.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Alamosa, a small town in the San Luis Volley of south-central Colorado. Winters were quite severe as the valley was about 7,000 feet in elevation, but summers were nice. I enjoyed fishing on the Rio Grande and tributaries; Lynne went with me a few times. We sometimes drove out into the desert areas and found arrowheads. Our weekend trips to see Tiger were fun; she lived at Los Alamos, in northern New Mexico, just a couple of hours away. We would take her on rock-hunting trips and visit Bandelier National Park, Taos and Santa Fe. In August 1966 we took Tiger and went on a trip south along the Rio Grande in New Mexico to see Elephant Butte Reservoir, the towns of Truth or Consequences and Las Cruces, and White Sands National Monument.

Once on a one-day outing at La Jara Reservoir south of Alamosa we gathered driftwood from the shoreline. Later when we burned some of it in our fireplace, it burned with varicolored flames, almost like fireworks. The wood had probably drifted down to the reservoir from old mining areas upstream, where it had picked up minerals from the water.

The longest vacation trip we took while living in Alamosa was to California in May and June 1968. Our first stopover was in San Diego, where we visited my Navy friend Larry Helmuth and his wife. We also toured the famous San Diego zoo. Then we went to Los Angeles, Disney World, and Sea World. Up the coastal highway and over to Stockton to visit Marion’s Aunt Dorothy and Tillman, It was a real experience to see all their collectibles and stuff they had bought at auctions and yard sales. Their business was reselling the items.

We drove to San Francisco where we ate at a good seafood restaurant, saw the usual sights (Bay Bridge, trolleys, etc.), and walked the cold, damp, windblown beach. Then we called it quits and drove home via Bakersfield and through the desert on a scorching day.

When the San Luis Valley project was completed in July 1970, our family moved to Grand Junction, a city located on the western slope of the Colorado Rockies, just 26 miles east of the Utah border. I replaced the Subdistrict Chief, who retired at that time. We bought a fairly new house where we lived for a year; then we found a home on one acre at 109 Hillcrest Manor. Corey was born in November 1971 while we lived there.

The place on Hillcrest was one of our very favorite homes. It had a wonderful house and an outstanding garden area with many apple, plum, pear, cherry, and peach trees, plus raspberries and 70 rose bushes. Irrigation water was furnished at a nominal cost via ditches and canals from the Colorado River. We usually had all the water we needed for the yard and garden by merely opening our headgate. I was elected Ditch Company Treasurer and Ditch Rider for our area, a position I held until we left Grand Junction.

During my “reign” with the U.S.G.S. in Grand Junction, I was fortunate to be involved in the construction of about 13 new gaging stations in the Meeker area. Those stations were required to monitor streamflow and water quality of streams in the area north of Grand Junction where oil shale exploration was beginning. I designed the concrete controls for the sites and directed the construction of the gages. That was a very interesting project.

One of our trips while in Grand Junction was in 1974 when Marion, Lynne and I went to Salt Lake City. Corey was too young to go with us, so Tiger (who had moved to Grand Junction by this time) kept him. We enjoyed seeing the Great Salt Lake, the Mormon Tabernacle and other interesting places.

By 1977, the cold weather in Colorado was adversely affecting my attitude. Contending with 7 months of winter, as well as increasing disagreements with my boss and others in the District Office, led me to believe it was time for a change. I applied for a U.S.G.S. job opening in San Angelo, Texas, and was accepted. I transferred in 1977 and we bought our first brand new house there. Tiger moved to San Angelo shortly afterwards. Lynne had married in 1976, so she did not go with us.

My job was essentially the same as it had been in Grand Junction, but with added responsibilities, making the transition relatively simple. Our gaging stations covered southwest Texas west of Big Spring, Abilene and Del Rio. We had a one-man office in El Paso which took care of the few gaging stations in far west Texas.

We enjoyed our short, 2-year stay in San Angelo. Several short trips around the area acquainted us with our surroundings. Corey started to school, we made new friends, and the weather was an obvious improvement although windy much of the time. One of our new hobbies was collecting aluminum cans to sell. We would range the highways around town for the never ending supply and often find other ‘treasures’ as well. Corey and Tiger especially enjoyed this sport. We sometimes even found money blowing around.


In 1978 1 began making plans for my retirement. I retired in March 1979 after more than 29 years with the U.S.G.S. The Austin District Office threw a big dinner party for us before we left. Many of the people from Austin attended. Even one of my former work partners (Bob Allen) from Fort Worth showed up. They gave me some incredible gifts.

Marlon and I took a short trip around the East Texas area trying to decide on a place to retire to. Palestine was our final choice. Our search for a suitable home led us to an older country home on 3 acres, just east of town on the Old Jacksonville Highway. Many improvements were necessary before we could move in (the house had not been lived in for several years), so I went there to start on them while Marion stayed in San Angelo to sell that house. By the time we moved, I had some of the work already done (new roof, new wiring, house levelled). We soon had a heat-pump installed, new vinyl siding, septic system, and kitchen and bath fixtures. I installed drop-ceilings and wall-paneling in most of the rooms in the succeeding months.

The Palestine place was really enjoyable in many ways. Sometimes deer would graze in the field behind the house. There was plenty of space for gardening, but the soil was so sandy we had difficulty succeeding with our efforts. There was a storm cellar and an old shed near the house. The shed was good only for storage of our overflow items and my tools.

After we got the house all fixed up, I started my lawn mowing business in town, mostly for exercise and something to keep me busy. Corey and I went fishing and camping a few times on the Neches River, not far away.

We had an amusing event one summer. A big skunk set up housekeeping under our shed. The smell was intolerable at times, especially when I walked around in the shed and stirred him up. No way was I going to put up with that situation forever, especially with his mating season coming up. The skunk came out only at night, so that meant watching for him in the dark. I was intent on hunting him down with my trusty single-shot 22 rifle. He was so quiet when he came out it was impossible to know when he did. I devised a scheme to solve that problem. I stacked cans in front of his exit so he would have to move them to come out. Then I waited for him the first night in the dark with my flashlight and single-shot rifle. After a while the cans clattered and out he came. Snapping on the light, I took aim and fired off a round. Missed him a mile and he scampered out into the field. No time to reload! The same thing happened three nights in a row. When I told my good neighbor, Gary Tuschoff, the sad story, he offered to bring his much better gun and come over some night. A couple of nights later he came over and we waited for the usual clatter of cans. Finally, out came the skunk and I spotted him with my light. Gary and I both opened fire, but missed. We chased that skunk out into the field, with Gary firing and me holding the light. Gary finally got him just at the edge of the woods. Mission accomplished!

After a couple of years, the Palestine location proved to be unsatisfactory for us. It seemed that most things we needed or wanted to do could not be had in Palestine and we wound up driving the 55 miles to Tyler quite frequently. So we decided to relocate closer to Tyler. We sold the Palestine place and bought a nice home in Lindale, about 10 miles north of Tyler, where we moved in late 1980

I re-established my mowing business in Lindale. Marion became interested in marketing and started selling several different products. Soon Tiger decided to move to Lindale, too, and we found a house for her. We also bought 6 acres of land a couple of miles from our house with the idea of building a house on it in the future; that didn’t happen, and we later sold the land.

In June 1983, we moved to our present home at 2622 Boldt in Tyler. We moved mostly for convenience to stores and doctors, and so Marion could have access to a greater sales market. Tiger decided to stay in Lindale, but we were able to visit her often, as it was not far to drive. She liked her place and her neighbors and did not want to make another change. I continued my self-employment and Marion branched out with handwriting analysis and doing food demos in stores.

My mother died in Mineral Wells in June 1983. That was a very sad time for all of us. Tiger passed away in September 1992 after many months of declining health. Another sad time.

Marion drove to Colorado in March 1987 to be with Lynne when her daughter, Alma, was born. Marion got as far as Denver but got caught there in a snow storm and was not able to get to Grand Junction until after Alma’s birth.

Lynne later moved to Phoenix with her husband and Alma, but her marriage soon went sour. She decided to come to live with us in Tyler and get a divorce. She worked and went to Tyler Junior College in 1990-92. Then she enrolled at Texas A&M University in 1992, and she and Alma moved to Bryan.

She loves her classes and expects to graduate in late 1995 with a degree in anthropology/archaeology.

Corey enrolled at Trinity University in San Antonio after he graduated from high school in 1990. he received his B.A. in Psychology with honors on May 7, 1994. He is now living and working in San Antonio.

I took a memorable trip to Washington D.C. in November 1989 to visit Jack and Louise and see some of the incredible sights there. We spent a wonderful week together.

In October 1990 Marion and I attended a reunion at my friend’s fabulous home in Hot Springs, Arkansas. That was a get-together of E. S. G., the group of us who had spent good times together in high school.

This just about wraps up the salient aspects of my “first” 72 years. I feel sure that other events could have been mentioned, but their omission does not in any way downplay their importance. It’s been fun and a real research project (pinning down historic dates is not always easy). I trust that anyone who wades through these pages will receive at least a glimmer of satisfaction and possibly rekindle memories of their own.

Bob, 1926, age 4 – Abilene, Texas
Bob and Marion – May 7, 1994 – San Antonio, Texas – for Corey’s graduation from Trinity University