The Blimp: 1950 I had quit my beer salesman job in Charleston and went to Washington D.C. My sister Frances and my Aunt Alice and her husband Bill Williams lived there. I got a job selling Blue Plate Foods. I replaced a man who had killed a boss for firing him. It was a lousy job and I lasted two weeks. I then got a job as a beer salesman. We had beer and wine. The wine came in from California in railroad tank cars. We bottled and labeled it.
While on a trip to Haggerstown, Maryland I saw the Fort Pitt blimp. I knew it was run by my friend Bob Domin, of Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania. He had brought his blimp to Charleston a couple of times. We became good friends. Anyhow, I was required to spend the night in Haggerstown and complete my route the next day. Sorry, this happened while I was selling Blue Plate Foods. The wine and beer was my next job. Anyhow I got with Bob Domin and crew that night, and we celebrated.
Back in D.C., I sold beer and wine. This was a tough job and paid by commission. The competition was fierce. Then winter came on and snow was flying. My sis and her husband Bill Williams were heading for St. Louis. I called Bob Domin in Pennsylvania and told him that I was coming through there. He said he had a job for me. So I left with Sis and Bill. We became snowbound for three days in Uniontown, Pennsylvania.
I finally got to Pittsburgh, it was another two days in Fort Pitt Hotel before Bob could come and get me because of the snow. The morning that we were supposed to take the blimp to winter quarters, a gust of 65 mile an hour wind hit the blimp and blew it off the mast. It was tied to a line. The line was always attached to the rip cord. The rip cord was legal and necessary so be sure that it doesn’t blow away.
Andy Kelly was on watch and pulled the rip cord which split the belly of the gas bag and destroyed it. This must be done otherwise it could go a long way, possibly doing damage or killing someone.
So, I spent the rest of the winter with the Domin’s. They had a motel, bar and dance floor. On weekends we would rent out the cabins and watch for the occupants to drive away, after doing their diddling. We would rush into the cabin put on clean sheets, straighten up the floor etc., and rent it out again. Sometimes 3 or 4 times a night and we had 20 of them. I told Bob that he should make up business cards saying “Dine, Dance and Diddle with the Domin’s”. He turned down my advice.
Now this blimp loss was a $65,000 financial loss for Bob. In the spring he got another blimp contracted by Pfeiffer Beer by W. Lee Spectacular. We spent a summer making two or three day stops at various cities in Michigan and Ohio advertising Pfeiffer Beer. We would give five minute hops to kids or bar owners or distributors of the beer at no charge. We made our money by flying time logged at $150.00 an hour. I did a lot of flying of the blimp myself.
Lou Post was our licensed pilot. He liked to booze it up at night and was hung over the next day. We would clear the field and the town and Lou would say okay Bob take over. It was simple to fly. Top speed was 45 miles per hour, we usually did 20. The controls consisted of two foot pedals. One for left turning and one for right turning. The side of the pilot seat was exactly like the side of a wheelchair, with the elevator for up or down. Lou would say “Just follow that highway, Bob” then he would go to sleep.
When Lou was flying at night, Bob and I would visit bars and sometimes set up the house. We looked pretty nifty in our snazzy uniforms. It was a fun job for the most part. The blimp had a 10 man crew for setting up and transporting of the trailer and the other ground equipment. Never more than one beside the pilot in the gondola at one time.
Once on a trip to Charleston, West Virginia with the blimp the wind came up so strong that the blimp could not land. It would be too dangerous for the ground crew to try to hold and secure it. So the pilot continued to face the wind and hold his own for some time. Now it was getting dark and he was running low on gas.
We loaded up 6 five gallon cans with gas and followed the blimp in the wind to Ironton, Ohio before it could be brought down for gas. This was about 100 miles from Charleston, where the ground crew and the anchoring equipment was. We kept contact with the blimp during this wild ride by radio but it was only good for about 15 miles. So we stayed pretty close together. Meanwhile the wind had died down enough for the return trip to Charleston. This happening was with the first blimp, the Fort Pitt Blimp.
This blimp was acquired by Bob – by taking a crew to Los Angeles California and buying it from Howard Hughes. It was in collapsed condition. They inflated it, bought it, and brought it home. Howard Hughes had used it to advertise “The Outlaw” by Jane Russell. They brought it home to Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania in short daytime hops. I was not in that crew.
The Blimp: We were in Traverse City, Michigan doing our thing with the blimp for the Cherry Festival. It was a big deal for the town folks. There were a lot of them dressed up as Keystone Cops. They were harassing people, of course in fun. I went to breakfast one morning and ordered ham and eggs. The waitress said, “Do you want your cherry pie before or after breakfast?” I said, “I don’t want any cherry pie”. She said, “You must have cherry pie, or you don’t get breakfast”. So I ate cherry pie. I went walking down the main street, and they had built a platform about 8 foot high. On top of this, two Keystone Cops were guarding it. It had a man imprisoned in stocks. That is with his head and two hands through a yoke. I asked the cops what he had done. “This man said he didn’t like cherry pie.” It was a real fun thing.
We would fly our blimp over picnic areas or crowded beaches and make balloon drops. These balloons were blown up by us, by mouth. I was pretty windy in those days. But it was a real task to fill the gondola of the blimp. At a desired time over a desired location, the balloons would be forced out by opening the door and shoving them out.
In 1951 in Beckley West Virginia, I became an insurance agent. I married Joyce Nichols. We were together 16 years and had two sons, David Keith and R.K. Jr. We always called David, Keith. He always called himself David. R.K. Jr. we still call Bobby. I am proud of each one and each is doing fine in his own way. Bobby always liked fishing, like me. Keith only wanted to drive the boat but was never interested in fishing.
Harless was quite a man. I admired him very much, but he sure had a temper. He owned an A Model Ford. It had to be cranked by hand in order to start it. He would crank it a few times and then reach in there to charge the spark or the gas, then crank some more. This was very tiresome and frustrating. Also very dangerous. When the engine fired or started, the crank did not always release. But its kick, it was called, would many times break an arm.
Once Harless had been trying for a long, long time with unsuccessful effort, to start the Ford. He took the crank out and proceeded to beat up on the hood and fender of the contrary Lizzie. They were called Tin Lizzies at the time. He liked his hooch pretty well. So we had a few together sometimes and we were great friends.
I was a machinist at Glen Martin Aircraft in Baltimore. This was in 1954. Keith was born at John Hopkins Hospital. I went fishing a lot with Carl Meade while there, and sometimes with Mutt. Once Mutt grew weary of this. He drop his line over a 6ft. bank, then he moved back about 30 feet to the shade of a tree. His reel was set on click and he was sleeping with the rod in his hands. Me, I kept on fishing down stream and came back about an hour later.
Mind you, the bank was a sharp drop, about 6 feet. Mutt couldn’t see me, so I grabbed his line and took off down stream. He woke up and came chasing the big fish that he believed he had on. I enjoyed the prank much more than he did.
I came to Florida in 1954. There was a newsstand concession in the Post Office, run by a blind man. He sold cigarettes, candy, chewing gum, et cetera. You could tell him “this is a $ 5 bill” and expect him to believe you. This he did and give you the correct change.
These concessions were standard in the Post Offices everywhere I had been. I had been in a lot of places. There were never any complaints or mugging to my knowledge. In today’s high crime, and especially juvenile crime, it seems difficult to believe. It is such a great let down from forty years ago. Now a blind person would be the first to get mugged.
Upon arriving in West Palm Beach, Florida in October of 1954, I began looking for work. I discovered no responsible company wanted to hire anyone over age 45. It took a lot of almost degrading interviews because I was 43 and the attitude at that time was that I would be over the hill in two years. I changed my age back 4 years. I was eventually able to prove this and my drivers license still states that I was born 1915 instead of 1911. My age now as of Groundhog Day 1993, is 82. Anyhow, I got a job with Singer Sewing Machine Company because I had this experience.
Two months later I got a job as a beer salesman. I had put in many applications when I arrived in Florida. On a Monday I submitted one weeks notice of leaving. The boss fired me on Tuesday. Over the hill at age 45, I am 82 and still employed.
I claim no fame as a psychic or Houdini but a few things surprised even me. It would mean little these days, but what I used to do was something else. For example, I could and would tell a pregnant women the sex, weight and date of the birth of the baby. I was on the money in 60 to 70 % of the predictions. Also I could look someone in the eye and tell where they were from and the month and date of their birth.
I had not indulged in this for many years, then it came up when my cousin Grayson, his wife Paige and her sister Margaret were visiting in 1961. So Grayson said “Go ahead and tell me my birthday”. I said “I am not going to work on that, because you are my cousin and you would say that I knew it all the time.” He said “No, I won’t”. Margaret, Paige’s sister, spoke up saying “Tell me my birthday, I know you don’t know when it is.”
So I had another highball and came up with two separate dates. I said it was either this or that day (I don’t remember the dates at this time). It turned out to be Grayson’s and Margaret’s birthdays.
The Good Life: All this babbling of mine sounds like I never had any fun. This is not so. I enjoyed life very much. After the 1940’s I had many good jobs and always earned a good living. In my twenty years in insurance, I made a better than average income. As a salesman/representative/repairman, for Singer Sewing Machines I did well. Even in the Merchant Marines, as an AB Seaman I made $62.50 a month. At that time, it was real good pay. Then finally back to machinists’ work. The pay was okay.
I always had a boat since coming to Florida and did lots of fishing. I now have two boats and still fish. One is a small johnboat, powered by two electric batteries. The other is a bass boat. If it’s not too rough to go into the fresh drinking water area where no gasoline is allowed, I take the johnboat, and I do pretty well in there. Otherwise, with the bass boat, I can go into the other part, even into Lake Okeechobee.
After divorce of wife number two I joined “Parents without Partners”, called PWP. This was a rewarding experience for me. Our local was on the rocks; it seemed to be a gossiping group with too many members hating too many other members and no activities for children. No really important functions for the adults, and no money in the treasury. Paid membership was 68 with less than 20 being active or attending meetings.
I took an active role in reorganization and when the president resigned a few months later, I was asked to take over as president. I did, and I organized a weekly dance with drinks being sold. This created a treasury. I also set up a breakfast deal after the dance so the partiers would not be going home drunk, (breakfast was $1), and something for the kids to do every weekend. At election time I was re-elected.
While in this PWP I met a nice lady named Marion Cole. She soon became Marion Howington. I was sixty at the time that we decided to be married, I said to her “I am age sixty, and we may have only five good years of marriage”. She said ” A lot of marriages don’t have five good years”. We had similar goals and ideas, so, we have prospered and now are working on the 21st year of our marriage. She is a great mate, and I love and respect all of her family. They are mostly nearby. That is good, because my own family is scattered. We meet once or twice a year. I wish it could be more.
Honeymoon. On July 14, 1971, Marion and I were married. We had a small wedding with a very nice reception at the Police Benevolent Association Hall. This is where we had all our dances. Incidentally, we must have been doing something right, because in my time spent with the Parent Without Partners there were seven marriages. Two of them were very expensive, fancy affairs. By the time I left PWP to get married, all of the other marriages had floundered and were over.
Back to our honeymoon. One of our members, named Jackie, had a cabin in Franklin, North Carolina which she donated for two weeks to us. Marion’s parents had come down for the wedding. So we packed my old Chevy Bel Aire to the hilt, tied the johnboat to the top and loaded all the kids, Jeff, MaryBeth and Bobby, and took off, leaving Pop and Nana with directions of how to find us. They arrived four days later. It was a three bedroom house up on a hill. The Whipporwills talked to us at dusk every night.
About four or five days later the water well quit pumping. It was too deep to bail it out, so we all watered from the neighbors on another hill about a quarter mile away. We set the John Boat under the front porch roof to catch rain water, if it rained. It rained very little. We used the dishwater by dumping it into the boat and using it to flush the toilet. The family went digging for precious gems. It was two buckets for a dollar. You could keep all the nuggets you found. They found very little of value.
Me, I went fishing. The stream was stocked with small trout and were easy to catch by using golden niblets corn. A grain of corn on the hook did the job. The weather was warm during the day, but was cool at night. A big old tree in the yard had a swing made from an auto tire tied to a rope. The mountain stream was nice, and cool, and swift.
The kids found a place where a natural slide had been formed. The kids could slide down a steep slope about 30 feet. They had a ball doing this. One day MaryBeth lost her pants on this slide. It was embarrassing to her, but of course hilarious to all of us.
Pam, I want you to have a copy of all my scribbling and hope that it will be of some help to you.
I am so sorry I forgot to mention Kim Stolameyer, daughter of Joanne and Rudy Stolameyer. She is such a wonderful person and I feel so sad that the poor girl has been plagued by so many health problem it seems, since I have known her 20 plus years. But she has had some happy times. Marion and I along with Marybeth had a wonderful visit and enjoyed so much her wedding to John. It was a fantastic reception.
The car for MaryBeth: While living in Lake Worth, MaryBeth became 16. I though it would be nice to buy her a car. My nephew Sam wanted to sell his car for $700. It was a small car and I knew it would be a good car for MaryBeth. I said nothing about my intentions to buy it, I just did. Then I presented it to her saying “It’s yours, I bought it for you”. I will never forget her reaction.
Jack Daniels. About 12 years ago my brother-in-law Bob Hartman was approached by an official of Jack Daniels, to submit names of two friends to them for advertising and promotional business. I have been receiving mail from them ever since.
All this mail all these years may tend to give the impression of me being a heavy drinker, or even an alcoholic. I enjoy a drink or two now and then but never a bottle or two.
I am sure Bob turned in my name, because I have accused him, and he did not deny or admit it. I have thoroughly enjoyed this so very much. Some of the kooky things they write… I’ll reprint a couple here – you’ll see what I mean.
Friendly Arguments: My sometimes corny sense of humor gets me in trouble. But what I do is not meant to be a put down, except maybe in a friendly way. My mother-in-law, bless her and her New Jersey accent says ‘bott-le for bottle and ‘fert-lizer for fertilizer.
I kid her about this, and she says ‘I don’t say ‘ambu-lance and ‘po-leece’. Of course, I don’t either but I love it when they fire back like this.
Marion’s father and I would go fishing, when they used to spend 2 or 3 months with us every winter. I would always catch a good many fish and John would catch only a couple or a few. Nana would say that I gave him the dull hooks. He had never gone fishing before he met me. But he sure enjoyed it so much. He couldn’t cast, or take the fish off the hook, which I did for him. We would go trolling, and when he would get one on the hook, I would surely think he was going to bite his pipestem off.
We were visiting with Marion’s brother John and wife Helen. They were such a wonderful couple. It was such a great loss when a great guy as John died at age 66. In joking with Helen I got up the next morning and said what’s the problem here I have been up 10 minutes and no coffee. She says “Up your nose with a rubber hose”. I treasure this response. We always needle each other in the most friendly fashion.
One of my wife’s friends once said to her “I don’t think Bob likes me. He is always picking on me.” She said if Bob picks on you that means your in, he really enjoys your company. Otherwise he would just ignore you.
The poor guy had Alzheimer’s disease a few years later, when Marion and I were in New Jersey for a family reunion. When we arrived we went over to where Pop Pop (that’s what he was called by all of us). Marion says “Daddy, I am your daughter Marion”. There was no sign of recognition at all. Then Marion says “and this is Bob”. He said Bob, Florida, fishing. Amazing that he would remember that, but not his daughter.
I quit smoking. At about age 70 I quit smoking for real. I had been smoke free for two years and doing okay until the divorce. It shook me up pretty good. Then I started smoking again in a big way. My thinking was I am not ready to give up wine, women and song at age 59. But how can I compete with the long hair and earring guys.
PWP did a lot for me, especially when a year later along came Marion. She is still my wife 21 years later. It’s been wonderful. I started smoking at age 14. It was okay at that time. No cancer worry. Just smoke and be happy and enjoy it and feel grown up. The last part about being grown up seems to be what does it today. So many young people do it. Now I have been smoke free for over 12 years. It is my belief that I would not be alive today had I not quit smoking. I have chronic bronchitis, somewhat due to a dozen years in the coal mine (black lung), but mostly for smoking for 55 years.
Two years ago I was seated in the waiting room to be called for a hearing aid exam. I had an appointment. I see a couple go to the information window. I think that I know the man. I kept looking at him trying to remember where and when I knew him. He finished his business at the window, and it just so happened that he came and sat beside me. His wife was on the other side of him.
I said, “I believe I know you”. He said, “Well, I don’t recognize you”. I asked if he had worked at the various places that I had worked. He said no. I said, “maybe you were an insurance customer of mine with this company called Peninsular”? He said “no”. I asked a lot of questions trying to place him, then finally gave up, saying, “you sure remind me of someone I used to know”. ” His name was Kozkowski”. He did a quick double take and said, “That’s my name!”. I said, “Are you Pete?” and he said “yes”. It turned out he had fished along side of me some 35 years ago.
I always believed in owning my own home. I hated to pay rent. When Marion and I married, I moved into her house, that she was renting. It was owned by a serviceman who was overseas. I wanted to buy it but the rental agent that we dealt with refused to give me the name and address of the owner.
Meanwhile, I had moved away from Monroe Drive and sold that place back to my sister Frances. She gave me $1500 for my equity and took over the mortgage of $100 per month with about $13000 balance on the mortgage. She had rented it out for $550 per month to a Pervis family with an option to buy. I initiated the move to get back the property. This was made a little easier by the fact that Pervis hated to pay rent. So it was a real hassle for Frances. She agreed to let me buy it back after we talked to Pervis and he did not want to use his option to buy.
My sister said that I must raise $5000 up front. We did, buy saving $100 per week for one year. It was not easy to do this. We had Bill, Sylvia and young son Billy. Also Mike and Diana and Gary, Jeff, MaryBeth and my Bobby. But we did it and we ate a lot of “Hamburger Helper”. The kids complained sometimes, but they went along real good knowing what we were trying to do. We got back my property by paying a total of $25,000 for a place that I had bought seven years earlier for $13,500. But it was still a good deal. It is now appraised at $125,000.
What was also a big help was a settlement with Kurt G. Joa, my job at this time. My profit sharing at age 65 was $9,400. We spent that remodeling before moving back in. Frances held an additional $10,000 we owed her on a deal at $200 per month at zero interest. So my stubbornness at not renting has paid off and now helps us with a fairly decent lifestyle. Also, the fact that I have continued to work up to now and contributed to our income.
Marion also worked until age 62 and wanted to continue but gave it up at my suggestion to take care of Tammy. MaryBeth was paying strangers $110 a week to take care of Tammy. I said to Marion, quit your job and take Social Security at 62 and take care of Tammy. Not for $110 a week but for $70 per week. This happened and seems to be a very good deal for all concerned.
About our eating situation, when dinner was ready, all would be seated except Marion. This was before we moved back here. Marion would be putting the food on the table with a large crowd and the bowls would be empty pretty fast. Some would be passing the empty bowls back to Mom requesting more of this and more of that. Poor Marion, although she enjoyed what she was doing for her family and never complained I didn’t like all that hustle and bustle for Marion.
We had only been married for a couple of months but I wanted to change this so I announced to all that from now on, no one sits down at the table until Marion herself is seated. It worked for awhile until she broke it up by calling everyone in to be seated, then it was back to the same old thing. She also insisted that everyone seated at the table wear shirts. That included me.
February 2, 1993. Happy Birthday To Me. It’s GroundHog Day in 1993 and I am 82 years old today, and proud of it. Like Phil Harris said, if I would have known that I would live so long I would have taken better care of myself. One of the very few things that my wife and I disagree on is my birthday parties. She says birthdays are for kids. But me, I want to have family and friends in for a get together. Some drink, some eat, a cake and ice cream and swap stories. I feel good about it. Especially since I read about a scientific survey that agreed with my thinking. They said that birthdays are good for one, and have discovered that the people who have the most of them seem to live longer.
When driving along, sometimes I see people walking beside the highway. I can’t help but have a feeling of sorrow and compassion for these people in our area. They are almost always Mexican or Guatemalan and have no other means of travel. Then I think back to my younger days and it doesn’t seem quite that bad. Walking then was a way of life. If we were going some place, we must walk. The distance was not important. Some schools I attended were from a mile or two, to five or six miles. No one felt sorry for me or for no one else. It was just something to be done, so get on with it.
I recall going for a five pound sack of sugar needed for canning. This was near Clintwood, Virginia. It was five miles one way. I was seven years old. Maybe I was seven and a half. But I was not eight yet, I know that. My Dad became so much concerned that I had not returned after a few hours, he came looking for me. About half way home, he spotted me coming. I did not see him.
He hid behind a bush and when I came even with him he jumped out to scare me. He succeeded very well. I started running as fast as I could toward home. He ran after me yelling “Wait son, it’s me, Dad!”. By then I knew it was him. But I pretended not to know. I kept on running. In my little mind I thought to teach him a lesson. Scaring kids was common in those days.
My Mom’s brother Curt Meade was five or six years older then me when I was five or six years old. Well, he was a little older than me, about 12 I guess. I had a real problem with nose bleeds. It would let go most anytime for most any reason. I could bend over and it would let go sometimes. My Uncle Curt would tweak my nose to make it bleed. Then laugh at me and my problem. That problem of mine continued until I was about 8 or 9 years old. My Mom cured it by taking the advice of a neighbor and tied a blue yarn string around my neck. Now don’t laugh – it worked. Well, at least it was a nice coincidence.
I still get the shivers when I think of how some people have to make a living in the winter time. The last job I had was in Beckley West Virginia. I had an insurance debit.
The staff manager was named Powers. He was a very religious guy. I played a trick on him once when he was showing me my route. It was cold, very cold one day. We had to park the car and walk to a house about a couple of hundred yards around a sharp curve. He said, “Bob, you watch around the corner, if you see anyone coming let me know. “I just have to take a leak”. I said, “okay”. I’m looking around the corner, a sharp corner.
There was a house around there, that was the house where the people lived that we were going to call on. I waited until he had started real good. I lifted my hat while looking around the corner and said “How do you do?”. Of course no one was coming, and I was just playing a trick on him. He never did forgive me for that. He’s a very religious guy, so he couldn’t cuss me, so he just looked at me and shook his head. He had wet all over his pants and also on his top coat that he had on.
After I was settled into my route I needed to call on a client who paid once a month, “Red Powers”. That’s the guy who got the wet leg. He was my supervisor. He said, as we drove by, “It’s up that road about a half a mile. You’ll have no trouble finding it. It has a big tree in the yard, and is so noted in your book.” This was when I was by myself. I went up the road and it was snowing. I go half a mile. No house with a big tree in yard.
I keep going another half mile or more. I see three or four houses, no big tree. I finally found someone outside chopping wood. I asked if he knew the people and I gave him their name. He said, “that’s back down the road”. I said, “I found no tree in the yard”. He said, “it’s been cut down for firewood”.
I found them and changed the instructions to “big stump” in the yard, not big tree. After taking these side road trips, with chains on the tires, that I must take off when I get back to the hard topped road, then put them on again for the next side road. There were no snow tires in those days. Now I have a problem when it gets below 80 here in Florida.
Being retired and being home most of the time I get a lot of phone calls from people with something to sell. At times it is very annoying. Recently I received the second call in the same week from different insurance companies. So I said yes, I am 83 years old what do you have for me. He said well Mr. Howington perhaps someone else in your family might be interested. I said “yes my Dad needs some coverage”. The phone went dead.
Today, February 20, 1993 I was reading our local paper and noticed the following item:
A ferry carrying 280 people took on water in rough seas between Sweden and Denmark, and passengers were removed by rescue boat.
That’s all the article said but it brought back a memory of the roughest 25 mile ride I ever had, in all my life, in all my years at sea. We were in Malmo, Sweden and I wanted to go to Copenhagen. It was December 1932. It was so rough that I knew the small ferry boat would capsize. I was seasick. It took four hours to cross a 25 mile trip. The local native passengers did not seem to mind, although I saw a couple of them heaving up like me.
Halley’s Comet: Mark Twain, one great American writer. In my thinking, the greatest of them all. He said he was born during Halley’s Comet, and would not die until it came back again, and it happened just that way. I mention this, because when it came back to take him away it so happened that I was born. I always thought it would be nice if I could use this same system. If so, I would be here 75 years waiting for the comet to come back. That part did happen. The comet came and went and I have a bonus; I am now 82 years old. Should I wait for another comet? No. No chance.
Vero Beach. Today Saturday, March 6, 1993 Marion and I went to Vero Beach to meet with Bob and Rosemary Hartman, to have lunch with them, and take a tour of their new home under construction. It is going to be a super dwelling. I understand it will be their winter home, and later their retirement home. I can only describe it as wanting for nothing. It’s stands out alone from the other ocean front homes. I was awed by the grandeur of the place. I don’t know if they have a name for their new home. But if they were to ask me, I would say, “call it The Taj Mahartmann”.
Armadillo: In 1964 I was transferred to Tampa, Florida. Although I met some wonderful people while there I wanted to get back to West Palm Beach because here I had such good fishing. And the year I was there I came back here three times to fish. While in Tampa we were driving around in the outback trying to find a good fishing spot which was difficult to do and never really did. One such trip we thought a big rat ran under the car but it was an armadillo about 10 or 12 pounds. I grabbed it by the tail as it ran under the car and it started digging straight down. I had a heck of time from keeping it from going under ground completely. I managed from going out of sight, I put it in the car trunk, took it home and of course Keith and Bobby wanted to keep it. So being mindful of its digging abilities, I bought hardware cloth, half inch mesh, and in the back yard I dug a hole four foot square and two foot deep. I built a cage to fit that hole that size and sunk it in the ground. This was filled with dirt and packed it down real good and another cage, the same size was put on top of this one and held together with O rings.
The darn thing would only come out at night to eat. All day he would stay in his burrow he had dug in the cage. Of course the boys wanted to show it off so a water hose did the trick. Point the hose down hole and he pops right out. We fed him celery, cabbage, lettuce and he seemed to be a carnivore so we fed him lots of little hamburger patties and he seemed to like that.
Iguana: While in Tampa Keith and Bobby spotted Iguanas in a pet shop. They bought one each. They were small but they grew real fast. Keith named his Chico and Bobby’s was named Ricky.
A year or two later Chico discovered that Ricky was a girl so we needed to come up with a nice female name. She sure ate a lot and she would climb up on my knees and eat out of my hand. So we named her Garbagina.
When we moved back to West Palm Beach in 1965 I built a cage along side the back of our house. It was 8 foot high, 8 foot wide and 22 feet long. I had heat lamps in it for the cold weather and we put limbs all around, big long limbs, 18 – 20 feet long for them to play on. We acquired nine more iguanas. The cage was made of half inch mesh, hardware cloth. We were attracting some flies so when a friend decided to do away with his screened-in swimming pool I took his screen and presto no more fly problems. This was quite a show place. One neighbor called it the luxury motel for iguanas. They were around five feet long, all of them. All of them were named and most of them would come to me for feeding. They loved hibiscus leaves, blossoms and tender vines. They would eat a slice of fresh bread but only from my hands as it was fed to them.
My doctor was fascinated by this story and he came to my house twice to observe the iguanas.
Dedication: I would like to dedicate this to the two most important ladies in my life. My mother Dora Bell Meade Howington, and my wife Marion Howington. I have known other nice ladies in my time, and was married to one of them for a time.
For my mother who never found fault in any of us. And believe me, she could have found plenty of reason if she so desired. But she only looked for the good in other people. It was such a shame that she had to leave Florida because, she loved it here so much. She planted flowers and she sewed. She liked to read, and she just loved making things for people with her sewing machine.
I would take her down to the spillway and we would sit on the bank and watch the sea cows (they call them manatees). We would watch them frolicking in the clear water, at high tide they would eat the grass that grew along the shore.
My wife Marion: I am blessed by still having her with me here for more than 20 years. She is everything I could want or need in a wife and a partner. I love her and have great admiration and respect for all her family – each and every one of them.
Also my thanks to my son David Keith Howington and his lovely wife Anne. This story would not have been possible without their help and encouragement.