Title: Thomas A. Sigman
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i


DIVISION OF FLORIDA HIGHWAY PATROL




50TH ANNIVERSARY ORAL HISTORY PROJECT


Interview with Major Thomas A. Sigman




Interviewed by Mikell Bowen




Date Interviewed May 19, 1989


-L- ~







MB: This is May 19, 1989. Major T. .A. Sigman .is being

interviewed in his office at 1:25 p.m. for the FHP oral

history project. As you know Major the FHP will observe its

50th anniversary in 1989 and this interview will establish

your knowledge of and your input into the past history of

the Patrol. Please give me your name for our files.



TAS: Tom Sigman.



MB: What date did you start with the Highway Patrol?



TAS: August the 12th 1956.



MB: When were you born?



TAS: April the 20th, 1934.



MB: Where?



TAS: Charlotte, North Carolina.



MB: What jobs did you hold prior to becoming a trooper?



TAS: Well as a youngster while I was going through high school

from the 8th grade through the 12th, I was involved in what

they call DCT or diversified cooperative training in the

high school in St. Augustine and I worked at the drug store







the Rexall drug store in St. Augustine for approximately. 6

years but from the 8th through the 12th I got out of school

at 3:15 p.m. and went to work at 4:00 and got off at 10:00

and I was what they called the delivery boy or stockman when

I wasn't delivering drugs.

/
MB: You went to elementary school and high school in St.

Augustine?



TAS: I went to Orange Street Elementary and then I went to high

school at Catalina High School.



MB: Did you receive any other form of training before entering

the Patrol?



TAS: No.



MB: You served in the United States Marines I understand and

obtained the rank of Corporal before being discharged. Tell

me about the service.



TAS: I went into the Marine Corps shortly after graduating from

high school and spent two years in ..went in and went to

Paris Island and went through boot camp and then I went to

Jacksonville to school and from there I went to photography

school in Pensacola at the Naval base and then when I

finished there I went to Miami and was put in the third air







wing and my duties were like disaster type photography

anytime anything happened to the military aircraft or

vehicles I would go out and take the appropriate pictures

and so forth for the investigation and I had two years but I

spent over a year in school and I wanted to go overseas but

they told me I would have to ship over...if I wanted to go

overseas and I didn't want to do that at that time but I

thoroughly enjoyed my military. I think it changed me from

the high school lad to a man and I have always been fond of

my memories of the Marine Corp.



MB: Most former marines are, aren't they?



TAS: Yes they sure are. The old saying once a marine always a

marine.



MB: Why did you decide to come on the Patrol?



TAS: That's an excellent question. I have often debated that

myself...thinking back why or how did I end up here. I

thank goodness that I did but the biggest reason I suppose

as I stated I was in accident photography in the service and

I was interested in that field and then when I got out and

was looking for permanent type career the Patrol was kind of

the lead of law enforcement at that time which I consider it

still is and it went from there. I talked one of the

troopers in St. Augustine into letting me ride with him one







night and I really liked the freedom the outdoor type of

work and you are kind of on your own as long as you do your

job and so forth and I applied for it and fortunately I was

accepted and been here ever since.



MB: About how much did you make when you first came on the

Patrol?



TAS: $275.00 when we first started and then it gradually started

going up from there after a few months but it was $275.00

the first few months.



MB: What training school were you in?



TAS: The 14th recruit class and it was located where the present

facility is now only at that time it was in the old

barracks. They were quite comfortable at the time except

when you go to the training facility now you really see what

comfort is and how nice it is but at the time we thought we

had it made so to speak and it was real nice...we enjoyed

it.



MB: What kind of courses did you take?



TAS: They had a variety of different courses. You had first aid

naturally and your traffic accident investigation and your

regulatory traffic laws and other miscellaneous laws that


1







would come into effect out on the highways....courtesy

public speaking, self defense. I remember Tony Maseda which

just retired recently he was one of the charter members of

the Patrol I had the good fortune of him instructing us in

self defense and Tony is one of the better ones we ever had

and I enjoyed that.



MB: Did you have much physical training?



TAS: We jogged every morning and did regular calisthenics and

naturally as it was in the Marine Corp. it was the same in

the Patrol recruit you were always doing something wrong so

they would put you through these calisthenics of course that

was for your own good and betterment of the outfit but you

got enough physical training.



MB: What equipment were you issued when you graduated?



TAS: Well in my particular case when I...on graduation day they

ended up they had made a mistake and they ended up having me

going to two different places. They had two letters. One

of them going to Lakeland and the other going to Leesburg

and as it ended up eventually they sent me to Leesburg and

they didn't have enough cars back then because there was two

of us going into Leesburg out of that recruit class to take

the position that another senior trooper had transferred to

Deland and we only had one car which was issued to the other







trooper. It was a 55 Ford with a standard shift which was

the last standard shift that the Patrol had for many years

and then we both used it on different shifts. If he worked

the early shift like 6 to 3, I would work the 3 to 12 and

he'd come in and we roomed together and we had an upstairs

apartment and I could turn the television on and I could

hear him coming in and back then the TV's wasn't as good as

they are today and it would pick up what he was saying so I

could tell what activities he had for that day and I knew I

had to get out there and beat him so we kept a little

running competition going in good humor but we had the old

55 Ford and we put over 100,000 on the cars back then. My

first car was a 56 Ford which had 37,000 it was a sergeant's

car out of Orlando and as you are probably aware) they never

issued a recruit trooper a new vehicle until they had at

least a year on because they figured if you were going to

wreck one you'd wreck it in the first year and they want you

to wreck an old one so I had that 56 and it was the first

one that the Patrol had with an automatic transmission.



MB: Do you remember who was in charge of training at the

training school?



TAS: Lieutenant Dickerson. I can't remember his first name off

hand but it was Lieutenant Dickerson in charge of the

training now he was in charge of the firearms and the

physical type and I believe back then it was Captain Hall I







know his name as good as I know mine and he was an

outstanding leader and set a example that everybody could

follow. He was real strict but everybody completely

respected that gentleman and he was one of the reasons the

Patrol is what it is today because of the manner and the way

he trained people back then. 1



MB: Were there any dropouts from your training school?



TAS: There was as I recall about 5. We ended up with 47 in the

14th recruit class and there was about 5 dropouts. We also

had a sheriff, the Sheriff Rodney Thursby from Volusia

County went through. He was elected Sheriff and never had

any experience in law enforcement or no background so he

went through the Patrol school with us then became sheriff

of Volusia County. And by the way with the 47 that

graduated at the present time I am the only one still on

active duty from that class so is fast going by the wayside.



MB: What sticks out in your mind on your career on the Highway

Patrol?



TAS: Association with fine professional officers. They are

underpaid but day in and day out they get out there and

serve the public. Its a non-thank you type job on a lot of

things we do because our main contact with people is telling

them that they are doing something wrong on traffic







violations and basically people don't like that but the

Highway Patrol is fortunate to have the leaders and troopers

that are professional people and even though they are

underpaid they still serve the public in an outstanding

manner that they do.

/
MB: Can you name some people on the Patrol who have been

influential in your career?



TAS: My second troop commander when I was stationed in Leesburg,

Captain Harry Weaver was in Orlando, he is probably the one

that stands out in my mind as being the top ethics morality

just generally super person both supervisor wise and trooper

wise and as a man. I think retired Captain Russell Garris

stands out in my mind as one of the sharpest people I have

ever seen in uniform and one of the most enjoyable people to

work around. Whenever you are working with Captain Garris

he could kick your spirits and it was a pleasure to work

with him rather than it didn't seem like a job you sometimes

wonder why you are getting paid for doing this but he's a

fine, fine individual. I always liked him and I always call

him Inspector Lee Simmons. He was another man of high

ethics and morality. A very knowledgeable person that was

second ranking individual in the Department and I can always

remember as a rookie trooper every time you would see him

when he had his winter shirt on he had about five or six of







those stars on his left sleeve and I would just stand there

in amazement with it and say well someday maybe I'll have

that many but he was another fine, fine individual.



MB: What were the living conditions in your first location?



TAS: They were on today's standard they would be fair but at that

time I would call it good. I was single at the time and

Trooper Jones and myself had a room together and he

eventually transferred to Titusville and I obtained another

room by myself and I remember I paid $35.00 a week for a

room and that's just what it was a room you had to eat all

of your meals out there were no facilities to cook anything

and I didn't get married until 1959 and then we purchased a

house and at that time we were paying $65.00 for a two

bedroom one bath block type house. It was a nice house. It

wasn't very large but it was all we needed at the time.

That was in Leesburg.



MB: Describe how the equipment has changed over the years. Your

vehicles, your paint jobs for instance, your side arms

issued.



TAS: The vehicles have gone from as I stated moments ago we

had...when I first came on they were just phasing out the

standard shifts and went into automatic transmissions and

now we have gone full cycle we are back into the standard






shift on the Mustangs. The paint schemes have changed very

little even though the hood used to be where now. it 'is solid

the hood back then on a marked unit had kind of a "v" type

shape on it and was real attractive I thought and they had

those federal sirens on the top which was a single light and

it had a light in the front and a light in the back and it

was a pointed type light and it was very attractive I think

more so than the ones we have today but they weren't very

loud the sirens weren't very loud and the lights weren't as

good as we have today. The equipment we have today is some

of the best I think in the country. I have checked

everywhere throughout the states and I have yet to find

anybody that is receiving what our present Director,

Director Bobby Burkett, he's got it to the point that the

trooper now has a choice of a Mustang or a regular patrol

unit and they also have a choice of firearms between the

magnum and the 9mm handgun and it is strictly voluntary they

can have either one they want just as we reorder the

Director has got it set up where they can order what they

need so we have real good equipment today. We have radars

today but I can remember before we even had radars we had

the old speed timing device which had two rubber tube type

hoses that you stretched across the road so many feet apart

and when the car ran over the first one you would flip a

switch and then when he hit the second one it would shut it

off and that would compute your time and give you his speed

and we would all have to sit back and run them out what we







call a hole back in a parked area or. behind the bushes or

something like that but today we have the moving radar which

is great. Now I have seen the radar come from the stage

where a supervisor had to run it to now just about everybody

on the Patrol has a radar so we are doing real good on

equipment I think probably one of the better equipped

agencies in the country.



MB: Your record reflects that you have received many letters of

commendation during your career. What is your opinion on

how a trooper should approach the motoring public and still

carry out his duties?



TAS: I go back to the old adage... treat other people like you'd

want to be treated. If it was your wife, your brother, your

sister or your mother or something out there how would

you...what would you do to help them. One of the biggest

thrills I get out of working road today when I get out

there... I always have and I probably always will... is when

a disabled motorist or something like that you really have

an opportunity to make a friend for the Department. Those

people are lost even though it may be only a few miles to

the next service station or something on that order when

they are broken down... they are like in the middle of the

desert and when you drive up you can just see relief come

over them and you offer to help them and act like you are

really interested in their problem it really works for you.






The same way with motorists... a vast number of the

motorists have no problem with the citation you have to sell

it to them and do it with courtesy and explain to them you

are out there to not only to save their life but lives of

other motorists and I just enjoy working the road where you

can assist people. I do not enjoy putting people in jail.

I do it especially on drunk drivers and that type of thing

but I can't say that I enjoy or get a big charge out of

putting people in jail but I understand that is necessary

especially with a drunk driver situation but I do enjoy

assisting people that is one of my biggest thrills is when I

get to assist one or the way you handle them after an

accident and assist them to get a motel room or whatever you

might do and it is just great.



MB: You sound like a pretty nice person. You were assigned to

the World's Fair in New York City in 1964, did you enjoy it?



TAS: I sure did. I tell you how that came over or how I heard

about that I was patrolling between Leesburg and Eustis on

State Road 44 and got a call on the radio back then we

didn't have a station in Leesburg and we had to work out of

Orlando and said Captain Weaver wants you to call the

station and I thought then well I am going to St. Augustine

cause at that particular time they were having the (unk)

situation in St. Augustine and I just (unk) send me to St.

Augustine and when I called him he said do you want to go to







the World's Fair in New York and I said yes sir and he said

now wait a minute before you answer you better talk this

over with your wife because it is going to be for 3 months

and I said okay I'll call you back tomorrow so I discussed

it with my wife and she has always been agreeable she is a

Department person she understands how it works and that part

has gone smooth all my career. She understands about being

late and so forth. I have been very fortunate to have a

wife such as she is to understand all these things.. But

anyway I went that is the way I ended up up there and I

enjoyed that. It is a different world. I don't know that

I'd like to live up there. It's a hustle and bustle all the

time and the unions are quite strong. I remember I got in

trouble one night at the Florida Pavillion at the World's

Fair because they had to have a union man come around and

turn the light switch on you couldn't turn a switch on to

turn on the lights on and it was getting dark out where the

porpoise tank was and I just walked in and flipped the

switch before long they had the head union man around there

and I was about to be in trouble so it is a little bit

different than we are down here but we met a lot of nice

people. One of the big thrills of it we met so many other

troopers from other agencies across, at that time, 48

states. We would get together about once a week and go out

and eat and so forth and it was to talk over the differences

in the Department and even back then it was evident that the

Florida Highway Patrol was just about a step or two ahead of







most of them but I really enjoyed the World's Fair. I

appreciate the Department for giving me that opportunity to

serve them.



MB: After Captain Prater, I believe it was, retired didn't you

serve as acting troop commander? For a short time or was

that a different one?



TAS: That was a different one. Captain Hill was here when I came

here. Captain Jimmy Hill and I just need to say a word

about that man while I am thinking about it because he is

one of the finest people, I should have mentioned him while

ago and it slipped my mind but if anybody ever knew Captain

Jimmy Hill when he was with the Patrol still today he is

here in Palatka and still the same way he's probably out of

all the people I have ever known worked with and worked for

he has the best rapport with people of anybody I have ever

seen both employees and the general public and he can get

things headed in his direction the way he wants it to go in

a manner that makes the employee want to do it and want to

be part of the team and I have really tried to adopt some of

his procedures in what I attempt to do but he is an

exceptional man with people and I think he got a lot of

experience up when he handled Colonel Kirkman back when he

was stationed in Tallahassee and I think he was also in

charge of the records section which had a vast number of







employees in records and he..... it was a problem but he

gained vast experience in that field. He is a natural in

public relations with people.



MB: How do you look on your career with the Patrol when you look

back on it having reached your majority?



TAS: I have been very fortunate. I've always had good

supervisors wherever I worked I've been fortunate to have

good supervisors. The men that I have been stationed with

we worked good together and I think a lot of it comes, I

hope, because of what you put into it. You get out of it

what you put into it but I have been very fortunate having

the supervisors I've had. They would direct you in the

right direction the same with the people working with you.

I now...in another couple of months will have 33 years on

and the only thing I dislike about that is because of the

number of years that I have left are becoming short to where

it is mandatory retirement. I don't know that I will stay

that long but I really if I could throw up a coin and start

over I would like to start over again I have enjoyed it so

much. It has its ups and downs but everything does.

Looking at the big picture I just thank the good Lord that

somehow I ended up in this.



MB: Thank you.



cd




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