When I was released from active duty in the Navy, in September 1962, I rode a bus home to Charlotte from San Diego – three long, long days.  On a ride like that you move around, sitting with this person for a while, then that one, shooting the breeze.

One day I sat with an iron worker who told me about his job, how he sometimes had to lean into the wind to keep from getting blown off a girder.  [Just thinking about it scared me.  Still does.]  He also told me that he was paid $5.50 an hour, with another raise coming soon, to $5.75 an hour.

I was flabbergasted.

This guy was making more money in three eight-hour days than I made in a month when I was a seaman.   And my shipmates and I didn’t work a little 40-hour week either, in port or at sea.  When our ship, the USS Los Angeles, was at sea, which was right often, we were working, standing watch — or on call — 24/7.

And he had another raise coming.

[I know, $5.75, doesn’t sound like much now.  But, adjusted for inflation, it’s the equivalent of $95,721 a year in 2016 dollars. When I graduated from college four years later I went to work for $3 an hour and I was told by a supervisor even that was way too much.]

So I asked this guy, “How much do you want to make!”

“More,” he replied.

Coming Friday:  You Did WHAT?


You Know, Don’t You

Who would have thought that a letter written by my great grandfather 186 years ago would have survived.  And yet, there it was, in a drawer at the Virginia State Library in Richmond.  Bo and Mark, two of my sons, and I had gone there hunting for our roots.

The letter

William Hume Stith, who was seven years old, had written a one-page letter, dated June 15, 1830, to his mother.  He had written in ink, perhaps with a quill.

“My Pa says I must write to you and in obedience to his orders I now sit down to do so,” William told his mother, whose maiden name was Rebecca Harris. He said he missed her and his brother, John, and he made a promise:

“I will endeavour [sic] to be as good as I can but you Know [sic] what little boys like me are.”

Coming Monday: More