Interview with Raymond Owens, 2014 October 24

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Interview with Raymond Owens, 2014 October 24
Owens, Raymond ( Interviewee )
Thelusma, Jennifer ( Interviewer )
Mejia, Brittney ( Interviewer )
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
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Oral history interview


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Tidewater Main Street Development Project
Spatial Coverage:
United States of America -- Virginia -- Mathews


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UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
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UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
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TMP 059 Raymond Owens 10-24-2014 ( SPOHP )


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The Foundation for The Gator Nation An Equal Opportunity Institution Samuel Proctor Oral History Program College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Program Director : Dr. Paul Ortiz Office Manager : Tamarra Jenkins 241 Pugh Hall Digital Humanities Coordinator : Deborah Hendrix PO Box 115215 Gainesville, FL 32611 352 392 7168 35 2 846 1983 Fax The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP) was founded by Dr. Samuel Proctor at the University of Florida in 1967. Its original projects were collections centered around Florida history with the purpose of preserving eyewitness acc ounts of economic, social, political, religious and intellectual life in Florida and the South. In the 45 years since its inception, SPOHP has collected over 5,000 interviews in its archives. Transcribed interviews are available through SPOHP for use by research scholars, students, journalists, and other interested groups. Material is frequently used for theses, dissertations, articles, books, documentaries, museum displays, and a variety of other public uses. As standard oral history practice dictates, S POHP recommends that researchers refer to both the transcript and audio of an interview when conducting their work. A selection of interviews are available online here through the UF Digital Collections and the UF Smathers Library system. Suggested corrections to transcripts will be reviewed and processed on a case by case basis. Oral history int erview t ranscripts available on the UF Digital Collections may be in draft or final format. SPOHP transcribers create interview transcripts by listen ing to the ori ginal oral history interview recording and typing a verbatim d ocument of it. The transcript i s written with careful attention to reflect original grammar and word choice of each interviewee; s ubjective or editorial changes are not made to their speech. The draft trans cript can also later undergo a final edit to ensure accuracy in spelling and form at I nterviewees can also provide their own spelli ng corrections SPOHP transcribers refer to the Merriam program specific transcribing style guide, accessible For more information abo ut SPOHP, visit or call the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program office at 352 392 7168. May 2015


TMP 0 59 Interviewee: Raymond Owens Interviewer: Jennifer Thelusma and Brit t ney Mejia Date: October 24, 2014 T: So, hi, my name is Jennifer. M: t tney Mejia. T: O: Raymond Owens. T: Raymond was born when and where were you born ? O: When? T: Yes, when and where? O: 1932 in Hudgins Virginia. T: Hudgins, Virginia. You can go ahead and tell us a little bit more about where you live now. O: Well I live on the property that was my grandfather s. When he bought it, he bought it from Motchins He w As a boy growing up, my daddy went to sea and my uncle also, husband, he went to sea also so we lived with my grandmother in the old farmhouse. I was the only child but my aunt had two children and we all lived together as a family for years. O ne of a cousin of mine cause we grew up together. We lived there and then my aunt and uncle bought anoth er place, another farm close by, so my mother and D addy bought the whole place from my grandmother A


TMP 059; Owens; Page 2 T: Okay and what did your mother do when your father was at sea? You mentioned that you and your cousins lived with your grandmother while your father and uncle were at sea. W hat did y our mom O: They went to sea. T: Your mom went as well? O: No not my mother. She stayed at home. She never worked for anybody. M: So she was a homemaker? O: Yeah she was a homemaker and my aunt was a homemaker also. B ut we lived there. We were a very close fami ly. T: What is your earliest childhood memory? O: Going to church on a Sunday. I can remember as a little three years old and the church at that time had two stoves, one on either side of the room. A nd I can remember laying down on a b ench. My mother always, in the winter time, picked the side as close to the stove as she can get and I can remember laying out on a pew and laying my head in her lap and going to sleep during the preaching. I walk but she a lso stretched me out and I went to sleep. T: Do you have any favorite lessons that your mom or your father taught you growing up? O: Well, my mama and Daddy were awful good to me. A nd according to them I never caused them any trouble. My dad went to sea on a ship on a passenger


TMP 059; Owens; Page 3 liner, and I never saw him except i two or three weeks and come home for a couple weeks. He only got a month off. He always took it in the month of August. That was the month I was born i n so my mother and I would go to whatever port: Philadelphia, Baltimore, Norfolk, to see him. A nd on some occasions, we would take a trip with him on a boat from one port to another and come on home. I had good parents and we had a good relationship I can remember one thing that my mother said the only time I ever got in trouble was that D addy was packing his suitcase to go away again and he asked me to hand him a flashlight and I picked the flashlight up and threw it at him. I got a be s the only time she had to beat me. M: Do you have any stories from your parents about your grandparents or how they got here, in Virginia? O : I y grandparents. Well, I do know my grandmother was born in Eastern Shore Maryland and she came over here because she had relatives here in the county. S he had three sisters and they all lived her e in the county. Back in those days, I think the only mo de of travel was by steamer: a boat that went from Mathews to Norfolk, Baltimore maybe hit everything in the Chesapeake Bay. do know that my great grandparents are buried up a t Gloucester? U: You have to give me more detail.


TMP 059; Owens; Page 4 O: The one there across the road from the school, Kingston? No not Kingston. U: In Gloucester? O: Yeah on the left hand side before you get to the C ourthouse. U: Oh, Ware. Ware E piscopal? O: Yeah. My great but predo minantly my family has been Bap tist. But I had a good life, good childhood. It was kind of different growing up in Mathews because you went to the s chools that were in your area. I mean, like, I did s Island or New P oint or around Mobjack until I go t to high school. I went to Lee Jackson and I remember one time in Lee Jackson, my mother and I were gonna take a trip with m y daddy on a ship. We were going to Nassau in Florida and our school was still in session. My assignment since I would miss school was I had to keep a diary every day and then read it when I got back to the class. And that was a fate worse than death, [ Laughter] third grade stand up and read a diary. I think I conned the teac her into reading it to you to tell the tru th. But school was different then tha n it is now. I remember in third grade one of the boys in the class much to ge t in trouble, but anyway he had to go to the office and I having to go to the office. And now I guess nowadays.


TMP 059; Owens; Page 5 T: Tell me more about how you said that everyone went t o school in their neighborhoods. T ell me more about how the classrooms operated when you were in school. O: Well, when I went to Lee Jackson, we had first, second, t hird grades all the way up. I plit like you s ee sometimes in the movies, old days you have about three classes in the classroom. It was a specific classroom that you went to. If you lived in th e neighborhood that went to Lee an d so they had a school in s I sland, they had one in Cobb s Creek and I guess that you was assigned to. So get to know other children your age that lived in the c ounty. And a lot of fellas and girls too I met in high school I had never seen before. They lived in New Point or Cobb s Creek or something, or down Bohannon, which is Mobjack area. ably not familiar with that, but anyway T: Okay. Question: when you were growing up, were there any kind of favorite holidays that you celebrated or any kind of family traditions that you guys had during the holidays? O: We ll, we ng too much emphasis on how we . Easter was a big time because it was religious going to church. B ut Christmas we had a Christmas tree. We usually went out in the woods and cut a ceda r tree down and a lot of the decorations was homemade decorations. I think one Christmas that stands out into my mind, I guess I was probably five or


TMP 059; Owens; Page 6 six years old but my mother had spinal men in gitis and she was in the hospital for twenty some days. A nd i t was like doomsd ay around our house then we even put a Christmas tree up to tell you the truth. But she survived and everything was all right She was in the hospital so long that she had to learn to got out of the hospital. U: them about the time you went for the Christmas tree you know with your uncle and D ad. You and Debbie, in the car. [Laughter] O: Oh yeah. My uncle, who lived with us, he went to sea also and he was home for prior to Christmas and my daddy was too. We were going to get a Christmas tree, go out in the woods and chop a tree down W ell, my cousin and I, we started out one morning early a nd headed to Gloucester, and went down a farm and looking for a tree, never did get a tree. But back in those days, the only place you could buy whisk e y, unless it was bootleg, was at the ABC store in Sal uda We ended up there. Of course, m y uncle an d my d addy bought a bottle for C hris when we got home that night. When we drove in the yard and had an old shed that my uncle put his car in. They caught the dickens when they got in the house, going all day long with those two children, going to an ABC store, getting a bottle of whiskey [Laughter] I guess growing up in Mathew s was a fun thing to do exaggeratin g, people were like that. You go in the two drug stores, c hardly get in and a lot of people who had an automobile would bring it down and park along the street, two or nd then they


TMP 059; Owens; Page 7 would get somebody to bring t he whole crowd up at night and then they would have to car to have sit in to watch the peop le walk by. But Mathew s at that time was pretty well self sufficient. We had a department store, three or four automobile dealerships , the s tore right on the corner. It used to be a real nice department store. They had a section for men, they had a section for wome n and you c ould get anything you wanted to They had one grocery store here at the Courthouse was an A& P B ut most every neighborhood had a post office and in the post office, you always had a general store, but the staple goods that they needed We had a cow a nd two horses, raised some hogs, my grandmother used to make butter and take it out to the store and Mr. Dille hay would sell the butter. He had customers who wanted Miss and I can remember going out and taking two or three cakes of butter with the pretty picture on the top you have stamp them and bring them in to the grocery store. You only bought from the store pepper and salt and things like that that was staple goods. Anybody had a n old hen that stopped laying, they put it in a coop and they take it out to the post office and then a truck would pick it up and carry it to Baltimore. You never got any money. What you got was a due bill that you could spend it at the store. I guess as the years went by, Mathews progressed some. I guess some of it in the right direction and some of it in the wrong direction. We used to have, when I was a boy, we had a theatre right across the street here. We called it the B Jo I


TMP 059; Owens; Page 8 maybe mostly we ekends, know that it played on Sundays o r not because this was a pretty so ca lled s a lot of things people do now on Sunday that you Sunday in our house was, all the food for Sunday dinner was cooked Saturday, except maybe the rolls. The rolls was put over on top of the wood stove to rise and t hen they would cook them when you got home from church. We ate dinner and then Sunday afternoon was a visiting session, which somebody, mostly my would go visit all day long. We never had a lock on the door. We had locks on the doors but we d and it was just a wonderful way to live you know? I remember one time, w e were going around Hallieford and when you came home, you walked in the house and you could sm ell cigar smoke. Somebody had been in there, I guess somebody in the family waiting for us, we never got home early enough and they left. Nothing was just taken or changed or anything. It was probably an uncle or somebody that came in U: Like Po ppa O: Ye ah. And this might be interesting to you we had a black man that used to work for us on the farm. I never can remember any money was taken, exchanged hands. He helped us and we helped him, Sam Gwyn n. He was a wonderful person and he worked on our place in I guess in exchange for doing some work for us, he was allowed to take the two horses and go ou t and do work for other people. B ut come Saturday afternoon he quit.


TMP 059; Owens; Page 9 U: He quit? O: He would go home, ge t all dressed up, put his three piece suit on, and walk from Hudgins to the Courtho tell you that. Everybody l iked Sam. He had a saying h e wore long j ohns year round. He said the long johns keep s the heat out in the summer, keeps the cold out in th e winter. But you could see him out in the field, ninety five degrees, sweating and everything T: [Laughter] So you did mention that you r father and uncle lived out at sea guessing a lot of the men in your neighborh ood also went out at sea for most of the year. So was it a normal occurrence to have African American gentlemen work around the house and help with farm work ? O: about African American I know Sam w as. He w as a great person. He was accepted in o ur family almost like a the big meal back when I was a little boy wo uld be in the middle of the day, and Sam always ate dinner with us. Well, we had a kitchen sink that was probably as long as this but half of it was just a portion I can remember my grandmother trying many many times to get Sam to come sit at the table with us , my place is here at the sink. We just, we never forced him to do anything. H e did what he wanted to do, but he was a real Southern g entlemen. Really was. w old he was when he died, but he was an old man, he was an old man. He predominantly worked for us, but he would also help other people in the neighborhood. But come Saturday afternoon, he


TMP 059; Owens; Page 10 Hudgins to down here to the C ourthouse and perhaps that night he got walked back or maybe he could get a ride with somebody. And we have another black man who fished all his life He, what call it, had a pound net out in the bay and he would come to our hou whether you heard this or not, but he would be the first one to come to our house was good luck for a black man down and bring us a nice fish to eat and everything. So I think back in those days, predominantly we had a good relationship with the Afro American pe ople. And I think we still do in Mathew a hundred Terry Hea rn, he worked for his uncl e. Tom Hearn has a shop up Blake else. I gonna a good job. T: You said that it was good luck for the first person to come to your house on New O: Right. T: O: No, I h is name was Preston Brooks, he said it was always good luck for a black man to come to a hou se before anybody else did. H early, going out, fishing


TMP 059; Owens; Page 11 most everybody got up early. I can remember my grandmother saying that my grandfather went to bed when the sun went down a nd when the sun came up, he jumped out of bed and went to work. She also said that he would get his work So old people used a lot of common sense in what they did. T: you tell me a little bit about O: When I got out of high school, first job I had was working at Su tton and Klein, the hardware and feed store right down the road here. B ut I had applied to the apprentice school in the shi pyard and I was accepted there. S o I went to Newport News and went to the apprentice school and then I stayed there until I retired. U: O: Yeah, I was wood pattern not, b ut the shipyard had a foundry and any casti ngs they made like the anchor, the rudd er, the propeller, even valves and things like that, you had to make a wooden pattern for it. T hen the in various sized boxes and put cement around it. Then they would pour it and pull t he pattern out pour the hot metal into it and come up with a casting. M: So like molds? O: Molds, yeah. We did everything from ship propellers to small valves. Particularly did a lot of work when they first started the submarine program because it was a


TMP 059; Owens; Page 12 s and everything that went on a sub. S o we made just about everything that was cast out of metal to start with. It was very interesting business very interesting When I left the shipyard, retired, there was only five people left in the shop and at one time there had been seventy five. So it had dwindled started the apprentice pro gram back up and the shipyard h as a new apprentice school. T hey really know that the only way they gonna get people to know how to build ships is to train them themselves. T: When did you retire? O: Twenty one years ago. T: Oh wow. time. U: The year I was born, he retired. T: He retired to spend more time with you [Laughter] U: O: Well had a good life. When I retired I always had, in my everyday, I never thought about anything except build ing a nice home on my grandfather s property. At first I gave my daughter and son in law a piece of land adjacent to the old house. At first, I guess the first job after I retired was to take care of my granddaughter here cause I used to take care of he r every day and t hen I built my daughter and son in law a house. D urin g the time I worked in the ship yard, I also was a general contractor. I built homes which was really my love. I loved


TMP 059; Owens; Page 13 bu ilding homes for people. I built my daugh ter and son in law a ho use next to me, t hen after I finished that house, they moved in and I used to take care of her every day. My da ughter taught school and my son in law was an electrician so I would get there at their house before they went to work and I would cook breakfas U: Not much. O: I used to take care of h er. When we finished breakfast have eggs, other mo hat was the mold we had? U: A bear. [Laughter] O: A bear shaped pancake and we would finish eating and cleaning up the dishes. The next thing she w ould say was, I want to go see G randma Evy. Grandma Evy was my mother and she was still living at the time. U: So she was actually my great grandmother. O: They were just buddies. One way we were over there and I was doing some things in her house and sh e had a heart attack. I called the rescue squad and they were there in five minutes and took her to Gloucester. But she was just wored out I guess S he since then. We got over it but she was there when she had the heart attack. I guess you remember it U: No.


TMP 059; Owens; Page 14 O: U: No a O: I remember you and I got there and when they took my mother to the Walter Reed Hospital in the ambulance, she and I drove up there in the truck. There was another lady up there, a Mrs. Buchanan here in the county. A she was there, but sh e took care of my granddaughter until I called my wife and the rest of the children. Somebody to ok care of her un til we went home that night. M: What year was this? O: U: into the house. I think it was [19]95. O: 1995 so the boss says [Laughter] T: How old was your mother when she O: Eight y seven, I think she was eighty six. U: She lived a long life. O: Yeah she had a good life. Yeah, s he was a firecracker. But she had a good life. The n after she died, my wife and I lived in her house for a year or two while I was building my dream home that I dreamed about all my life. Then when we moved into our new home, I tore her old house down. She never liked it. She never liked the house cause she liked the old farmhouse that we were all raised and born in and everything a new house but my mother n big rooms, big windows, you


TMP 059; Owens; Page 15 know? But the old house, let me tell you, have a pitcher pump at the kitchen sink and that was it. Then when my daddy built that house, it was a nice home, warm and everything. But she alw ays grieved for the was gonna u s e down, she said, well Evy never liked that house anyway ed Worked two years building that house that we live in now. M: What kind of materials did you use? Like bricks or O: No, just brick foundation but the house is som ewhat of a Southern Colonial. I used cedar siding on it Regular sized house. But I enjoyed building houses. I really did. W young and you got children, you have to do everything you can do to make enough money to send your kids to school. I had three daughters and nobody in my family had ever gone to college. We were determined that my three daughters were going to college. The y had their choice, do both. ell you. funny episode with one of my daughters. She went to Virginia Tech and she never took chemistry in high school. S he took biology. T he course she was taking, she had to have chemistry. Well, the first football game, my wife and I went up to Virginia Tech for the game and walking around the campus there, you


TMP 059; Owens; Page 16 see all these little signs like if you need help or if you need a tutor or you need this, call this number, call thi s number. The first marking period, my daughter call me up and she says, D and she started crying. And I anything you cou jus t part of your education. She never did that. But then I told her, she finished in four years. S he went to summer school thr ee summers. She never got a chance to work during the summer and make spending money or anything but very well. I think in a way, thinking back eighty two years old here. If you think of any questions you can ask me. I pretty hard to pull things out of your mind. I can remember things fifty, sixty years ago but I [Laughter] T: Selective memory. O: [Laughter] My daddy was the same way, everybody I know that gets old have had mental medical problems. T hey know what th ey did childhood on up. M: Did you guys have any community traditions? O: Say that again


TMP 059; Owens; Page 17 M: Did you have any traditions within the community? Like church suppers or did you guys do anyt hing for O: s always belonged to the Baptist Church at Hudg ins and my wife and I are very I guess, due to our age the r e but we still go to church every Sunday and we have Wednesday night dinners at church in the fellowship hall. We go to them. My wife i s a little bit more active bad about staying home if at h ew s, most of th e churches in the county have a prayer bre akfast early Sunday mornings. I usually go to them and so I have said that I can probably join most any church in Mathew s and be welcomed because I know a lot of people that go to all the diffe rent churches. Right now, our Sun day school class started up for Tue sday her but just started last Wedne sday. Salem Church, a Methodist c hurch around M oon has a ornings and that just started up I think this first time we had forty people come. Men and wom en of all ages, all color come blessed by having one of the retired ministers preach the first four people who go to Florida when he gets cold. [Laughter] cause if I lived half the year in Florida and half th e year here, I would feel disconnected somewh ere. trying to catch up with something I enjoy living in Mathew think you can have any better life than living here.


TMP 059; Owens; Page 18 T: I well how did you meet your wife? Who is she? T ell me about her. O: My wife? My wife is from Norfolk and her g odparents lived here in Mathew s which was friends of my family and [Interruption in interview.] T: Sorry about that. Y ou were telling us that your wife is from Norfolk. O: Norfolk an d she used to come up to Mathew s quite a bit because her godparents lived up here and her godparents were very good of friends with my family. Well cause I went to church one Sunday morning and back in those days when church was over, you just milled aroun d and talked and everything. I was out in the front of the church and I see this girl come out of church and I looked at her and I said, who is she? And to my sister, this is the truth, marry th at girl. Well, that afternoon, I got a a cause Anyway, she says, well friend and I want you to go sa iling. Well, we met her at the picnic and we got along real good t ogether. S o one day t was d uring the summer w sailing and we went sailing cause we lived on the water. It easy you know. S o


TMP 059; Owens; Page 19 w e went sailing all the way down to an area called the Hole in the Wall, which one side is the bay and the other side is Stutts Creek. W e got down th ere, having a wonderful time, and the wind died out and the mosquitos came out and then we were just sitting there Eighteen foot sail boat not going no where and we just sit there for a while. A fter, I guess thirty minutes, I heard a n outboard motor coming. I t was embarrassing because my daddy had to get in the boat and come down, and he pulled us back home. W e started dating and just . carried on from there. We started dating and that was in the summer of 1954 I was drafted to go in the army that fall. We be came engaged, and I went overseas to Germany and she waited for me. We wrote letters back and forth as often as we could. At that time, she was going to college over in Norfolk, but after she come to the conclusion that we were gonna get married when I got out of the army, she quit college and went to work. If she had continued going to college, she pro bably have [Laughter] U: Aw you were meant for one another. O: ut, yeah, we became engaged. B efore I went in the army, I went to the jewelry store in Newport News a nd bought an engagement ring. I gave it t o my mother to keep for me. Back in those days, nobody had any money and I think I bought it and paid ten dollars a month or five dollars a month or something from Mr. Allen at Allen Jewelry Store. But an yway, I was stationed, taking basic training i n Ft. Jackson, South Carolina. Mother and D addy came down one weekend and brought my future wife with them a nd I gave her the ring down in


TMP 059; Owens; Page 20 F t. Jackson, South Carolina. And t hen . I got out of the army in fall of [19 ]56. It was around Thanksgiving, and we got marr ied first of the year, January . So w seven ye ars this January. I remember that U: Getting close to sixty. O: Uh huh. I remember . everything for me happens at church. I was at church one Sunday and this man that was predominant in church, he came up to me and he says, Raymond re about ready to finish your apprenticeship t ya? And I said, yeah in a couple weeks. He said, I know, I got my eye on y ou. He was on the draft board. H e said, I got my eye on ya. Well, the day I finished my apprenticeship, I got my card in the mail. M y boss where I worked in the shipyard wanted m e to get a deferment bec ause it was a critical trade. I said, no oulder the rest of my life. et going in the army. I was in B erlin Germany for a year and a half and very educational Very educational. T: Tell me a little bit about you said your experiences in Germany were very educational maybe a little bit about your time while you were in Germany. O: In Germany? T: Yeah. O: Well, I was in the Sixth Infantry Regiment which was i n reality, we were in barbed wire and the Russians had towers all around West Berlin The only way


TMP 059; Owens; Page 21 you could get to West Berlin was fly in or take the night train. So we went in on t he night train on the way. It was during the night when they go through the stops of rules and regulations, but there was always Russians soldiers there and they had the ir tommy guns, standing and everything. It was a very dangerous time. When I first got into Berlin, it bothered me for about a few weeks but then after that, you get used to it. What I remember distinctly was w hich is scary when we first got into Berlin and they had a me eting of us new troops and they said that we were there only to protect the senior officers and their families, and i f the Russians decided to take over Berlin, we were on our own. They were n my mind that the big boys in the government and the care nothing about the troops. T the feeling I got that. W e used to train a lot for escape and invasion s o if the Russians did come in. But we only had one scary time over when we were in Berlin. Russia did some stupid move in one of the smaller countries and we went on alert for it. We thought they were gonna move us out but it died down. I guess the diplomats se ttled it some way. But e very company had a n alert team and all the time, we had what we ca lled a deuce and a half truck: a two and a half ton truck with a trailer on it loaded wi th equipment and ammunition. E very company had one on alert and we would pull alert duty twenty four hours. We had to stay by in case they called with the . but other than cate too much with the Germans. B ut the German people, those that I did meet and talk to in pig L atin


TMP 059; Owens; Page 22 more or less [Laughter] were very nice, very kind. But they had a hard time in that time because one thing that I thought that you need was most of the German people, unless they had a business or store, they worked at cleaning up the city caus e it was bombed out everywhere. A nd they would go to wor k You woul em leaving, and they would be dressed up in a three piece su it and they carried their brief case. Well in their briefcase, t hey had their lunch. I t was a condition they were. B ut then they would walk the street or catch the bus and go to t he particular building that they were tearing down and clean the bricks up. I guess th ey rebuilt the city with bombed out bricks to tell you the truth. But I enjoyed bein g Germany, traveled all over Europe, saw a lot of things that I wouldn Another frie nd of mine was a Jewish boy fro m Hampton and I guess because w became friends. We took the twenty day l eave and went all over Europe. We went to France and Italy and England, Switzerland. Very educational. You see what the other side of the world is like. U: tell them about your sergeant, w hat happened to him? O: Oh y eah. I was a platoon rad io operator and the top sergeant and the s taff sergeant of the platoon was they had a platoon, their room was a nice and good sized room. M e and another boy, we were platoon radio operators so we slept in the platoon headqu arters. Our sergeant in there wa s a master sergeant and during Second World W ar, he had been a captain in the army. But after the war a nd it probably still do they will cut you back to your permanent rank. A nd


TMP 059; Owens; Page 23 his permanent rank was master sergeant which is still top dog in the army. Bu t he resented that. I ut he was always good to me and I think treated everybod y in the platoon very good. I guess several months before I was to come back home, his time was up and he sa id he was coming back home. H e was fro m California and he was going to open up an ice cream shop in California. He bo ught a new automobile He had an Ope l but he bought a new sports model O pe l, German car. I t was his time to go so he left. Well, several months after that, I got out and I went ba ck to my job in the shipyard. W enty, thirty minutes before time and we usually start reading the paper in the morning. Anyway, this particular morning, I picked up t he front lines and it says, spionage S ergeant Mintkenbaugh. He had gone to California, he had opened up his i ce cream shop, but also at the time I was with him in Germany, he was a S oviet spy W hich worried me [La ughter] because I said, man, come get me mean, he had a girlfriend who lived in E ast Germany and he used to, half the night e came back one time with a little cup and saucer that he gave me. china. The factory was bombed out during the war. But he was arrested and he had been a Russian spy for any number of years. In fact, at one time he had gone to Russia. B ut they sentenced him to life in prison and I often thought about, is he still living? Is whether he died in prison or something. I guess if I was knowledgeable, which


TMP 059; Owens; Page 24 not, about a computer, I could maybe you can go o n a computer and find out what happened to him. It sort of shook me up cause I thought for sure the FBI would be coming to ask me questions about him. B ut I guess they knew enough about evable. Y was doing. I guess he was in a good tour of duty to do a lot cause he could get into cont act with the Russians very easy, being in had a girlfriend in East Germany; been going ov er there to do dirty business, far as I know. But strange things can happen to you all the time all the time Think of anything else? U: Well, you can h e O: Oh yeah I had a n uncle who was a captain of a tanker, and he was from Mathew s and he went to sea. All the people in my family went to sea And he was captain of a tanker and he used to run to Europe on a regular basis. His ship would come into Hampt on Roads, which was No rfolk, the port down there. H e never left in a convoy. He told me I never go in a convoy cause the Germans asion when they invaded France and h e told me one time he saw seven ships torpedo ed in one night in the distance. But he never was under fire or anything. He survived and he was living in Pennsylvania, and he was gonna take his last ship to the far east to get oil, and when he went up the gang plank, he had a heart


TMP 059; Owens; Page 25 a ttack and died going up the gang plank. So you never know when so gonna happen to you. But g oing through the whole war never did nothing. U: Talk about Spain. O: Well yeah, during th e Spanish War he was runnin g oil to the rebels in Spain. Franco who was the opposition caught him, caught the ship. T hey caught the ship and put him in prison. The only reason, the only way he got out of being in prison was the Secretary of S tate of this country finally worked a deal and got him out. A nd he was ready to go back, take another load of oil there. He was just never worried about nothing. He was just a go getter. W hen he was sixteen years old, my grandfather asked him to go down to Cricket Hil go down there and get me a plug of tobacco. Well you know what? H e came back two years later. He got a skiff and rode to Norfolk and ye ars later, he had that good plug of tobacco for my grandfather [Laughter] And he worked his way up fro m nothing up to captain. He had another brother that also ended up a capt ain of a ship. My daddy was chief engineer and none of Now you almost have to be master s degree and a doctorate an d everything to get good jobs. B ut back in those da ys, they worke d and they got it I guess good common sense went a long way. Anything else? T: Do you have anything else that you think that we should know or anything that you really want


TMP 059; Owens; Page 26 O: No, probably I get home know of anything two and I have serious health problems, but I get up every I ran for Board of t b ut then they put me on the Planning C ommission here in Mathew s. I was on that for eight years which I enjoyed. But e verything is getting too controversial now in the county. You getting a lot of people moving into the county now that when they get her e, they want to change things like it was where they came fro opposition to that. I personally would like to see Mathew s stay like it is. I know Wal M art or N ewport News or Richmond to do it. U: n real sick the last few years. M aybe he can just tell you a little bit about how medical care was a lot d ifferent when he was growing up. Doctors O: Yeah, when I was a boy, I was born at home in the ho u se and Dr. Haynes was my doctor, old time doctor. H e was just a general good old family doctor but now the doctors are all specialist in something. pital quite a lot in the past six years, I guess eight days already, d bother me. Bu t last time, I was in Walter Reed have been treated any nicer. The nurse everything in our hospitals around here has really done a hundred percent switch to g ood. I had ve d come to tell you the truth. Just as nice as they could


TMP 059; Owens; Page 27 somewhere else because I had one nurse since last time that I always ask t different hospitals, training? And sh e said, Big Riverside in Ne wport News And I said, well why Reed is part of bunch of scallywags [Laughter] She chose to drive fro m N e w port News every day to be at Walter Reed They treated me wonderful when I was there o special case or anything. M y doctor, he come see me twice a day, and e ven his wife, who is a P.A. she came in to see me. ve a hospital that close that you could go to. Now, our rescue squad here in Mathew s is next to none. I mean wonderful. Time up ? [Laughter]. T: Well thank you so much for speaking with us today. O: be in for [Laughter], whether I had to come up with stories. I like asking I can remember things but hard to come up with ideas. I question you know that I can i think it happens to everybody. If you have problems. Take care of y ourself. Eat the proper foods, g e t plenty of rest and exercise. I used to run a lot. I used to run three miles every day and her mother was a cross


TMP 059; Owens; Page 28 miles a day. But when I was in the hos pretty good for eighty two. U: He worked all his life so that the fifth generation of his family could live here on the same property. So, thanks f or your time. O: I thank you. M: Thank you. O: [End of interview ] Transcribed by : Jennifer Thelusma April 5, 2015 Audit edited by: Jessica Taylor April 5, 2015 Final edited by: Jessica Taylor