Going to work for Al Johnson, must have been a very hard decision for my father and mother to make. They had been married about 13 years at the time and had 3 children whose ages were 12, 7 and the "baby" of the family, yours truly, was 2. My mother was raised in east Texas and my father had moved there as a teenager. All of their extended family lived within a 40 mile radius. My father was working for a Concrete Redi-mix company in the Port Arthur, Texas area. He had worked his way up from a concrete truck driver to a truck foreman in charge of a fleet of concrete trucks. As fate would have it, Al Johnson Construction Co. had contracted with the concrete company on one of their projects. It was on that project, that lasted several months, that my father was introduced to the Al Johnson people. The supervisors and engineers of the project were impressed enough with my father that at the conclusion of the project, they offered him a job with the company as a Concrete Superintendent. The easy part of the decision was the money and promotional opportunities which were far greater than at the concrete company. The hard part would be knowing that it meant moving around the country from project to project. East Texas was all they had known. The kicker of the decision was the first project was in Mobridge, South Dakota and winter was coming soon. My parents said the first paycheck went to buying parka's and boots.
My parents were in their early and mid 30's. My father never said, and unfortunately I never asked, why they decided to take the job. We will never know the reason since both have since passed away. I like to think they took it for the adventure of seeing new things and places. They definitely saw a lot and the promotional opportunities were there as he ended his career with the position of Project Superintendent/Project Manager. During their career with the company, they had moved 21 different times, finally settling down in Lafayette, Louisiana. My older brother, by 10 years, got off the "ride" after move number 5 in Russellville, Arkansas while my older sister, by 5 years, stopped moving after move number 12 in Lafayette, Louisiana. As for the baby of the family, I got off the ride in Cape Girardeau, Missouri (move number 15). But my traveling days continued because I joined the U.S. Navy at age 17 and saw many parts of the world. My parents continued on, with an empty nest, for another 6 moves before their retirement. I guess towards the end, after us kids quit traveling with them, they simply didn't need as many moving boxes. Growing up, it was understood that moving boxes were important and we kept every good one we could find. To this day, every time I see a well made cardboard box, I immediately think, "that would be a good moving box" and have a hard time throwing it away.
Moving orders from the company to pack up and move to another location came about every 1 1/2 years. Sometimes we were only given a couple of weeks to pack up everything we owned and move a thousand miles away. Several times, my father had to go ahead of us to help set up the construction project and the burden would then fall to my mother to make the arrangements for a moving van and getting everything packed up and ready to go. The company was a family owned company and treated their employees like family. On a typical project, there would be about a dozen company people and the rest of the work force would be hired locally. About half of the company people on the project were Civil Engineers and the rest were craft superintendents or general superintendents. They depended on each other and treated each other with respect. It was a good company that was a surrogate family to many of their employees. The company changed drastically at the end of my father's career. Other members of the owners family had taken charge of the company and could not or would not understand the importance of the family oriented work structure of the company. I had an opportunity to go to work for the company when I graduated college with a Civil Engineering degree. Due to the changes that were happening in the company, and my desire to provide a stable place where my children could go to school in the same town from kindergarten thru high school, I passed. I wanted something for my children that I never had, and that was childhood friends. Friends who you knew all of your life and who you could talk to about things that happened years and years ago. Friends who knew secrets on you and you on them. Friends who you would eventually celebrate graduation, marriage, and child birth. Friends who you could lean on when that pretty girl down the street broke your heart or a loved one had passed. Just as I know my mother and father made the correct decision for us kids by going to work for the company and move around the country, I hope my wife, at the time, and I made the correct decision to go the other way and try to put down roots in one place for our children. Even though it is always said that we live with the decisions we make, the children must also live with those decisions.
Anyway, one of those houses is in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania, which is not too far from me so I thought I was check it out. In the pictures, it is the first house on the left as you go
|First house on the left|
|Looking up the hill|
|Looking down the hill|
|That's the house on the right almost to the bottom|
My older brother didn't make the move to Pennsylvania and stayed behind in Arkansas where he had graduated High School. Before we moved, my parents gave our cat away to a dairy farmer who lived on top of a mountain about 10 miles away. The story was he would be happier on the farm chasing mice and would have a good life. Apparently that happy life for Spotty didn't materialize because low and behold after we got to Elizabeth, PA, my brother called and said the cat came back and was sitting on the front porch of the old house. It had walked all the way back. Since my brother would be coming to PA to work for my father during the summer, it was decided he would bring the cat back to us, which he did. Unfortunately, it wasn't long after the cat got to PA that he got ran over on the four lane highway in front of the house.
The dam project my father worked on was located on the Monongahela River at the town of Charlaroi. After leaving Elizabeth, I drove over to take a look. It is a large lock and
|Notice how close the town is and the houses on the hills|
It seems Elizabeth was the first place where my memories are connected. I have memories before that but they are only spotty and not connected. Maybe that is a side-effect of moving around so much at such a young age, I don't know. My parents always put a lot of thought in the houses and towns we lived. My father would drive farther to get to the project in order for us to live in a better place. I can't remember a bad house or town as I was growing up. Elizabeth was a good town and neighborhood for an 8 year old, whose memories were just beginning.
It was a good day.
Ya'll take care of each other. Cya down the road.