Summary: After a disastrous year farming George Mullins re-enlisted in the US Coast Guard. He was assigned to a ship based in Mobile, Alabama. This is followed by three years each at Coast Guard bases in Hawaii, Florida and the island of Guam. Hazel and the children accompanied him to each assignment.
Junior becomes a farmer
World War Two had finally ended the Great Depression. Those farmers who had stayed on the land during the war saw prices for agricultural products rise to pre-Depression levels. Some of the demobilized men returned to the farms hoping to settle into the kind of life they remembered from their youth. This is what Junior wanted to do. He had spent most of the last 18 months away from his wife and his two infant sons. Now he wanted to be able to come home at night to his family.
He and his younger brother, Robert, who was also recently demobilized, rented a farm together. Robert was single and so he shared the farmhouse with Junior, Hazel and the two babies. The house was an old-style farmhouse without modern plumbing or electrical wiring. However it had a wide porch across the front and was surrounded by a pretty yard and a nice picket fence. The house was liveable. For Junior and Hazel the really important thing was that they were together and near Pike County. On weekends they often went up to the Bluff Springs Baptist Church and visited family and friends.
Junior planted twenty acres of watermelons, potatoes and corn. He and Robert worked the farm with a team of mules. The crops did not prosper. It rained all summer, making it impossible to control the grass. The potatoes rotted in the ground. Robert soon grew tired of farming and left Junior holding the lease. At first Robert had enjoyed being home again but he, like hundreds of thousands of other demobilized men, was restless. The crying of the two babies irritated him, as, it seemed, did everything else. He went back to California where he had been stationed during the war.
By the late summer it was obvious that even Junior, with his great strength and willingness to work, could not save the crop. The family was broke, their small savings, their bonus money, everything had been invested in the crop that failed. In September a third child, Diane, was born at the hospital in Tylertown, Mississippi. Junior realized that, despite its drawbacks, the military at least gave his family some security. Immediately after Christmas, on December 31, 1946, he re-enlisted in the US Coast Guard. Unlike so many of the veterans, Junior would have stayed on the farm if he had been able to do so. During the war thousands of young men from southern Mississippi took their wives and families and went to live in the cities along the coast. During the Depression many folks had returned to rural areas simply to survive. Now the young people flocked to the cities in such large numbers that in some places it seemed that only the middle-aged and the elderly were left on the farms. With the decision to re-enlist in the Coast Guard Junior too cut the ties that bound himself and his children to Pike County and the agricultural life.
On January 3 Junior was assigned to a buoy tender based at Mobile, Alabama. Hazel, the two boys and her new daughter moved into a rented house west of Osyka, behind Joe Cutrer's place. The oldest child, George, was now old enough to ride a tricycle. Junior's mother, Mary Arthur, came from Galveston to visit her grandchildren and to renew her friendship with Hazel. The two women had met for the first time in Galveston when the baby George was six weeks old. One of the first things that Junior had done, after reporting to the Galveston Life Boat Station, had been to find his mother. He had not seen her for 18 years. She and her husband, Manuel, befriended Junior and his wife. Now Hazel introduced Mary to her mother Carrie Strickland. Mary and Carrie liked each other and Mary returned for another visit several years later. Hazel lived in the rented house near Osyka until Junior was able to rent an apartment in Mobile. In October 1947 he found a place at 1546 Kellogg Street and Hazel and the children moved there from Osyka.
When Junior was assigned to the Rambler in January 1947 the ship was tied up at the Chickasaw Shipyard. The Rambler was converted to military use in 1943 and was designated a lighthouse tender. In 1947 it was charged with maintaining navigational aids on the Inter-coastal Waterway on the Gulf of Mexico. Ordinarily it was out of port for a week and then would be docked at Mobile for two or three days. In January 1947 it had no cook on board and so could not go to sea. There was no food on the ship and the men were eating all of their meals at the base. Junior quickly organized the mess. Whenever the Rambler found itself near Mobile, the skipper would tie up at the shipyard for the night. When the ship was docked in Mobile, Junior would cook breakfast and lunch and then leave the crew a meal of cold cuts at night. In this way he was able to spend many nights at home.
For about a year the crew of the Rambler built wooden structures on Mobile Bay. The structures were used as beacons to guide ships that were entering or leaving the bay. Each structure was fitted with lights. A short beacon was built at the water's edge and another, taller one about 300 yards behind. The men first laid out a trail through the swamp, carefully marking each sink hole with stakes. After the site was located holes were dug in the ground about 10 or 12 feet apart using post-hole diggers. Creosote poles about ten inches in diameter were carried from the Rambler on the men's shoulders and then set in the holes. Three poles formed a tripod upon which a battery-powered light was mounted. Mud sills were added at ground level and, finally, the men built a cat-walk which was used when the batteries had to be changed. All of this work was done by the crew of the Rambler. Although he had other duties, Junior helped carry the heavy poles through the swamp. Sometimes, as a joke, one group of sailors would move the stakes marking the trail so that the next man would fall into the sinkholes that were about knee-deep.
When it was not involved in this work the Rambler traveled as far east as the Appalachicola River in Florida, a distance of some 200 miles. The waters around Panama City, Fort Walton Beach and Pensacola, Florida, had hundreds of buoys that were maintained by the Coast Guard. Each of them had to be picked up and cleaned of sea growth. The buoys and their 1,000-pound cement anchors were hoisted on board the Rambler and the crew used hoes to scrap away the algae and the barnacles. The lights were changed, the batteries replaced and any necessary repairs made before the buoys were lowered back into the water. This was the work of the buoy tenders.
On August 1, 1948, Junior was promoted to the rank of First Class Petty Officer. He had been discharged in 1945 with the rank of Second Class Petty Officer and he had retained that rank when he re-enlisted. With this promotion his base pay went from $141.75 to $198.74 a month. Hazel received a family allotment in addition. The pay was low when compared to civilian pay scales but it was adequate. The family lived in government housing in the second floor of a two-story duplex. The housing project was a half-mile from the bay and one and a half miles from downtown Mobile. The Interstate Highway, I-10, occupies the site now. The Mullins' found friends among their neighbors and the children enjoyed playing in the huge fields that surrounded the buildings. Junior saved enough money to buy a Keyser automobile so it was possible to visit the folks in Pike County and southeast Louisiana. On Christmas, 1948, the oldest baby George got his first bicycle and in September 1949 he enrolled in the first grade at Arlington Elementary School in Mobile.
The following spring, in March 1950, Junior received orders to report to the Coast Guard radio station near Honolulu in the Territory of Hawaii. Hawaii was a fabled paradise that was famous even before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. This was Junior's first overseas assignment and Hazel was eager to go with him. Her brother Percy had passed through the Hawaiian islands during the war and Hazel looked forward to seeing the islands too.
Junior left the Rambler on March 24, 1950. On May 5 he reported to the radio station on the island of Oahu some 2,000 miles west of the coast of California. He traveled by bus from New Orleans to San Francisco and then by military airplane to the Hawaiian Islands. The Coast Guard Radio Station NMO was situated on the southern coast of Oahu on Highway 72 and overlooking Muanalua Bay. A few miles to the west was Diamond Head and a few miles to the east was Koko Head. Both were extinct volcanoes with prominent profiles. The radio station had a complement of 21 men, 3 dogs and a cat. The station had a swimming pool that was the center of social life for the families attached to the station.
When Junior left Mobile Hazel and the children moved to her mother's home in Pike County. Mary Arthur, Junior's mother, came to visit at Carrie's house for the second time. During this visit the oldest boy, George, cut his nose on the frame of a swinging mirror at his grandma Carrie's house. The doctor in Magnolia stitched the nose up but George carried the scar for the rest of his life. After two months Junior found an apartment in Hawaii. Hazel and the three children were driven to New Orleans where they boarded a Missouri Pacific Pullman coach for Los Angeles, California. At Los Angeles they were met by Robert Mullins. Robert was by now married and had two children of his own. The next day Hazel and her children took a train to San Francisco. A taxi carried them through the cold and foggy night to the airport where they embarked for Hawaii. Junior met them at the airport in Hawaii with garlands of flowers.
The furnished apartment that Junior had rented was at 383A Kairolu Drive in the village of Kailua. It was about 15 miles along the coastal road from the USCG radio station. On the other side of the Koolau range of mountains, ten miles to the east, is the city of Honolulu. A drive to Honolulu meant crossing the mountains through the Nuuanu Pali. The Pali is a huge cliff that marked the edge of the inland plateau and the beginning of the coastal plain upon which the village of Kailua is built. The view from the top of the Pali, which included much of southeast Oahu, was quite impressive to people from the flatlands of Mississippi and Florida.
The highway to the Coast Guard station skirted these mountains by following the coastline past several spectacular beaches and blowholes. The blowholes are holes in the rock that connect to caverns at sea level. Whenever a big wave enters the cavern, a spray or water or air rushes out of the hole. The most famous of the blowholes along this stretch of highway is the Halona Blowhole. In the early 1950s the islands were not as crowded or developed as they are today and the family enjoyed long slow drives through this beautiful and exotic countryside. Junior had two cars in Hawaii. The first was a used 1948 Ford. The second car he purchased new. He paid cash for a brand-new 1950 Sheraton-Blue four-door Ford Sedan with red leather upholstery and a sun visor. This was the first new car he had ever owned and it was his pride and joy. He kept this car for nine years and finally sold it on the island of Guam.
In September the two boys were enrolled at Kailua Elementary School and the family moved to a detached house at 783 Kahoa Drive only a few blocks from the apartment. The boys walked to school. In deference to Hawaiian custom, elementary school children were not required to wear shoes to school and the two boys enjoyed going barefoot sometimes. George was in second grade and Philip was enrolled in kindergarten. Junior was given a mixed Airedale and German Shepherd puppy dog which he named King. This dog stayed with the family until it disappeared on Santa Rosa Island at Pensacola, Florida, six years later. The family had cats too and the dog King never learned to leave them alone. When King came around the cats sometimes would jump up on the children and stand on their head with their claws embedded on the poor child's scalp. Behind the house were fields and a herd of horses. The children and their friends enjoyed exploring nearby and digging holes in the sand. Junior learned how to open coconuts and the children would look for them and carry them home. Banana trees grew wild and once Junior brought home an entire bunch of bananas from a tree growing beside the road.
On weekends the family went to one of the beaches nearby or crossed to the Honolulu side to swim on Waikiki Beach or to play in the parks. On Saturdays there were symphonic concerts at Kapialani Park in Honolulu which were followed by more exciting guitar playing and hula dancing. Many hours were spent at the pool at the Coast Guard station either at parties or simply swimming. The family that lived next door in Kailua, the Roseberrys, had two sons who became playmates of the two Mullins boys and a bond of friendship was formed between the adults.
In the summer of 1951 Philip came down with the mumps. Polio was epidemic that summer so he was placed in a hospital and treated for that. He remained in the hospital for much of the summer, receiving leg massage from the nurses and staying in darkened rooms. He was discharged just days before school resumed in September. He could barely walk and had to be carried to the car. The March of Dimes paid for his stay in the hospital. That summer Hazel became pregnant again and on January 1, 1952, the fourth child, Jeffrey, was born. When her labor started, Junior piled Hazel and the three confused children into the car for a fast drive to the Queen's Hospital on the other side of the Pali. The baby was born in a wheelchair at the emergency entrance to the hospital and Junior caught his new son in his own hands.
In May 1952 Junior received orders from the Coast Guard to report to Santa Rosa Life Boat Station at Pensacola, Florida. During their final weeks on Hawaii the family attended a production of a radio show called "Hawaii Calls''. The show was broadcast from beneath the Moana banyan tree on Waikiki Beach. The children played in the sand while the adults listened to the program. The show always ended with the famous Hawaiian song of farewell, the "Aloha Oe". Its slow and dignified refrain suggested that the family would one day return to Hawaii. Shortly after June 9 everyone embarked on a ship for the trip to San Francisco. The Roseberrys and other friends came to place leis of flowers around the families' necks and to listen to the military band play as the ship pulled away. Later the leis were thrown overboard so they would wash ashore. If the leis washed up on the beach it was supposed to be a sign that one would return to these beautiful islands.
The crossing to California was extremely rough and even the baby Jeff was seasick in his crib. The ship was a military vessel and Junior was assigned mess duty in the galley. The dog, King, was kept in a cage below decks and everyday the oldest boy, George, led, or was led around by, King on a leash. By the time everyone had gotten their sea legs the trip was over. The car had been shipped earlier so it was waiting in Oakland upon the family's arrival. Without pausing in San Francisco, Junior drove down US Highway 101 through the mountains to Salinas and Santa Barbara. He went to Huntington Beach in Los Angeles where Robert Mullins was living. After a day's visit with Robert and his family Junior began an epic non-stop journey of over 1800 miles from Los Angeles to Pike County.
After leaving Los Angeles on US 60, he entered the Colorado Desert. It was June and extremely hot. Jeff soon developed a heat rash that grew progressively worse. George came down with the mumps and lay on the back seat for the whole trip. Junior took the most direct route. He drove past the Joshua Tree National Monument, through Blythe, past the Colorado River and US 95 and on to Phoenix, Arizona. This was all desert country. Sand dunes blew across the road. An aqueduct paralleled the road for miles. Around Phoenix entire housing projects were being built on absolutely treeless desert. Mostly the country was barren for mile after mile. There were occasional water wells and lonely picnic spots where Junior would stop briefly for a rest and a snack. It was relentlessly hot.
At Phoenix he left US 60 to travel south on State highway 84 to Tucson and US 80. East of Tucson the country became more mountainous and less frightening. He followed US 80 to El Paso, Texas, and then US 290 through another long stretch of desert, through Austin, Giddings and Brenham and finally on Texas state highways to Huntsville and US 190. US 190 was familiar territory to Junior and after Jasper, Newton and De Ridder he felt at home. They drove through Baton Rouge and up to Osyka. Junior headed straight for Percy Strickland's place on the Magnolia-Progress and Osyka-Holmesville crossroads in Pike County. Grandma Sophronio Simmons instructed Hazel to prepare a bath for Jeff, to put alum in the water and set it in the sun to warm. A couple of these baths dried up Jeff's heat rash. George quickly recovered from his mumps but Diane came down with the disease soon after their arrival in Mississippi. The family stayed in Pike County much of the summer, recovering from the trip and renewing friendships.
In the end of August Junior reported to the Santa Rosa Life Boat Station on Santa Rosa Island near Pensacola, Florida. For about six months the family rented an old house at 922 North Sixth Avenue in the City of Pensacola. The children were enrolled in N. B. Cook Elementary School a block or so away. Pensacola was a medium-sized town with a large population of military personnel. It is near enough to Mississippi to make possible frequent visits and it was a cheap city to live in. Junior and Hazel decided to make this their permanent residence. On January 1, 1953, they purchased a three-bedroom house that was under construction at 206 Earl Court Street in a new housing development called Edgewater. The new house was about halfway between downtown Pensacola and the Pensacola Naval Air Station. The house cost $7,400 with monthly mortgage payments of $40.11. Soon after buying the house Junior received a raise in pay that made his monthly pay $275.00 so that the house was easily affordable.
Not long after buying the house their household effects arrived from Hawaii in a huge wooden box. Junior kept the box and made it into a playhouse for the children. He added a pitched roof, a front porch, two windows and a door. It was a perfect miniature house and the children used it for years as a "club house" and as a place to store their toys.
In the next 13 years, between 1952 and 1965, Junior was stationed in Pensacola three times for a total of about seven and one half years. Hazel and the children lived in Pensacola continuously until June 1970 except for a three-year period in the middle 1950s. The three older children lived in Pensacola for about ten years and Jeff, the youngest, has little recollection of having lived elsewhere. In May 1972 the house at 206 Earl Court Street was sold and Junior and Hazel moved to Louisiana. Their youngest son, Jeff, stayed in Pensacola where he had grown up.
The Santa Rosa Life Boat Station in Pensacola, Florida, was one of a string of such stations operated by the Coast Guard. The life boat stations had several missions. The men helped to maintain buoys and lights that are aids to navigation. They manned a tower to visually search for boats in trouble. They inspected vessels and small boats and enforced marine safety laws. The Life Boat Station was also a communications center which was used during storms and disasters. As its name implies perhaps its most important function was to search for and rescue vessels in distress. For this purpose the Santa Rosa station maintained several small boats. One was a wooden life boat called a surf boat. It was unsinkable. It had a ton of lead in its keel so that it would right itself if it were rolled over in heavy seas. There was no cabin and the helmsman simply tied himself to the wheel. The station also had a 38-foot picket boat that could travel at 30 knots (35 miles) per hour. The picket boat had an open area amidships and was used for transporting people to and from the station. There were also several smaller boats.
The Life Boat Station was located on a long, narrow sand formation that extends for about 125 miles along the shore of the Gulf of Mexico. The sand formation,properly called a barrier island, is formed by water currents in the Gulf which tend to move beach sand steadily westward. The barrier islands begin east of Fort Walton Beach in Florida and extend to Fort Morgan at the mouth of Mobile Bay. There are passes, or breaks in the islands, at Destin, Pensacola and Perdido Bay for the Choctawhatchee, Escambia and Perdido Rivers. Santa Rosa Island itself, extending from Destin to Pensacola, is 48 miles long. The southern side of the island faces the Gulf of Mexico. The northern side faces the various harbors and bays that make this part of Florida so attractive and useful to people.
The Santa Rosa Life Boat Station was built to face Pensacola Bay with its back to the Gulf. The station consisted of a large two-story frame building of antique construction and several outbuildings, principally a workshop and some storage sheds. At the beach were two wharves for small boats. The galley was in the rear of the main building and faced the Gulf side of the island. Junior had charge of the galley and did most of the cooking himself.
The skipper or commanding officer of the station was a warrant officer named George Cole. He had been stationed there for nine or ten years and he ran the place as if he owned it. Junior said that Cole stole whatever he wanted. Once an amphibious plane landed on the island and the Coast Guard station was detailed to guard it. Cole stole its stainless-steel anchor and donated it to the Pensacola Yacht where it was raffled off. He once had Junior drive a truckload of scrap material to a civilian's house in Pensacola where it was unloaded. The scrap was US government property and Junior could have gone to jail for theft it he had been stopped by the police or the Navy shore patrol. Another time, Cole detailed several sailors to drive the station's truck to North Carolina with a load of Coast Guard lumber for his farm there.
Cole bought an old house from nearby Fort Pickens and had it moved to the edge of the Coast Guard station. He could not legally put it on either the Coast Guard base or in the surrounding park but by putting it on the edge of both he got away with it. Cole moved his family into the house and lived there. He provisioned his home kitchen with whatever he found in Junior's galley.
Although he was a competent officer and personally likable, the station's men disliked his abuse of his prerogatives and Cole found it difficult to maintain discipline. One day Cole decided to inspect the watchtower that stood next to the main building. The men manning the watchtower were not supposed to read or sit down while on duty. As Cole climbed the stairs, someone phoned up to the tower and warned the man on duty that Cole was coming. The sailor in the tower dropped a bundle of Life magazines into some trash cans next to the back porch of the galley. Cole saw the bundle as it fell past and he became indignant. Another time after a road had been built from Pensacola Beach, Junior found a sign on his 15-mile drive to work. The sign read, "Blue Bird Ice Cream Sold Here". Junior stuck the sign in the grass near the entrance to the station. Cole saw the sign and got extremely angry. He accused the man on duty in the watchtower of sleeping on duty because he had not seen who planted the sign.
The dog, King, came to Pensacola in his box on a train from California. He was a big dog and had developed a nasty habit of pulling boys from their bicycles. He would grab their feet with his teeth and would not let go until the boys fell. Even when he was chained, the neighborhood children were terrified of him. After numerous complaints from the neighbors, Junior carried King to the Santa Rosa Life Boat Station. Unfortunately Cole also had a male dog. The two of them fought and King was usually the winner. One weekend when Junior was at home, Cole shot and killed King. Cole told Junior that the dog had run off down the beach and had never returned. Junior spent several hours looking for King and he never told the children what he though had really happened to him. Instead he told them that King had been "dognapped".
When Junior was first stationed at the Life Boat Station, there was no road between it and Pensacola Beach. Railroad tracks ran between the station and an abandoned brick fort to the west but the tracks were no longer used. The engine and the cars had long since disappeared. The railroad was part of numerous fortifications build on the island that were now abandoned. In 1953 a road was built past the Coast Guard station to connect Fort Pickens and Pensacola Beach. Before 1953 the only way to reach the Life Boat Station was by boat from the Pensacola Naval Air Station, a mile and a half across the channel. The Coast Guard had a small berth across from Building 45 at the Naval Air Station. The men and their visitors parked their cars there and were ferried back and forth on the picket boat.
The families of the station's crewmen were invited to visit the station on Sundays and to stay for dinner. On special occasions, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, most of the families came out for the holiday mess. On one such occasion a two-year-old boy drug a skunk into the mess hall by its tail. After a quick look, the adults began to leave the room. The boy's mother called to the boy to take the skunk back outside. The boy looked dejected but he drug the animal back out through the galley and across the porch. He let go of the skunk's tail and the animal ambled away. Another time, Junior shot one of the skunks that was raiding the garbage cans. It escaped and died near the skipper's house. Its smell kept Cole and his family awake all night and the next morning Junior was ordered to bury the skunk's body. Later Junior caught three baby skunks and gave them to a civilian but none of them survived the neutering and de-skunking operations. In those days before tourists could reach the island, there were a few rattlesnakes on the island and one day the sailors found one in the station's recreation room.
Sometimes Junior would let his older children accompany him to the Santa Rosa Station on Saturdays. They drove to the Naval Air Station and took the picketboat to the Life Boat Station. After the road was built they drove through Pensacola, over the three-mile Pensacola Bay Bridge to Gulf Breeze and then over another bridge to Pensacola Beach and Santa Rosa Island. The children would hang around the station as long as they were not in the way. When they were older they were allowed to explore the island by themselves. West of the Coast Guard station were many half-ruined structures of a military nature dating back as far as the Civil War. There were mammoth gun emplacements buried under mountains of cement and sand. There were intricate and apparently delicate fortifications dating from a time prior to World War One. The largest fortification was Fort Pickens. In the 1950s, the present park did not exist and the island was virtually deserted. Junior didn't mind if the two older boys wondered off down the island because he knew that the man in the watchtower would keep an eye on them wherever they went on the island. At lunch and in the evening, they would make their way back to the station to eat or to go home with their dad.
The primary mission of the Life Boat Station was to rescue boats in distress. When responding to a call of a capsized boat, the men found a recently refinished speedboat washed up on the beach. The waves had turned the boat over and filled it with saltwater. The men pulled it off the beach and towed it to the Coast Guard dock. There was nothing wrong with the boat. It belonged to a banker whose son had taken it out for a run. The engine had died and the boy abandoned the boat, leaving it to wash up on the beach. When the men called the boat's owner to tell him that they had the boat, he responded by giving it to a Seaman. This man sold the boat to another enlisted man who towed it up to Kentucky and put it back in the water.
Once a National Airlines passenger plane struck a waterspout and fell into the water with about 100 people on board. The Coast Guard searched for several weeks but could not locate the wreckage. The search was finally called off when it was obvious that there would be no survivors. Eventually a fisherman hooked onto the sunken plane at the mouth of the Pascagoula River. By then the plane was no longer the concern of the Coast Guard. It wasn't their job to pull the decayed bodies from the wreck.
Hurricanes struck the Gulf Coast virtually every year, sometimes causing considerable damage. A hurricane makes landfall at Pensacola every three or four years. When this happened, Junior went home and prepared the house and the yard for the high winds that he knew were coming. Then he returned to the station. The chief boatswain mate and his men would take the Station's boats to Bayou Chico in Warrington to ride out the storm. Junior and the other men stayed at the Life Boat Station for the duration of the storm. As the third ranking officer on the station he could expect to be the Junior Officer of the Day every third evening and, in the absence of a chief or the warrant officer, he was the Officer on Duty.
One night while Junior was the Officer on Duty, a fishing schooner with nine men and one woman on board radioed a distress signal. A hurricane was approaching and the wind was gusting to 70 or 80 miles per hour. The waves on the Gulf side of the island were already 15 feet high. The fishing boat was loaded with tons of red snapper fish. The ship's cook had been at the wheel and had followed the wrong beacon light and had run the boat aground on the Gulf side of the island not far from the mouth of Pensacola Bay. The schooner was aground about 200 yards from the beach.
Junior and the boatswain mate decided that the seas were too rough to use the boats for the rescue. Instead a helicopter was dispatched from the Pensacola Naval Air Station to drop a life raft to the schooner. The skipper, the woman and several men came in on the raft but without thinking to tie a line to the schooner so that the others could use the same raft. In the worsening weather, more rafts were dropped until finally by 3 or 4 AM the crew was all rescued and safely at the Life Boat Station. As the On Scene Commander, Junior was responsible for the success or failure of the rescue. Coast Guard Headquarters in New Orleans and other units of the Navy and the Coast Guard sent messages on the teletype requesting instructions and information. Junior had two teletype operators on duty but neither of them knew how to compose messages. He spent a large part of the night and the next morning composing teletype messages. He had to search through a reference manual every time he wrote a sentence. This was paperwork under pressure, paperwork in its worse form. He did not like this part of his job.
Other missions were not as difficult as this one nor as successful. A yacht had left the Naval Air Station just before daylight and had been run over in the dark by a barge. Several men were drowned. When the Coast Guard pulled the sunken boat into their dock, they found that almost everything on board had been stolen from the US Navy. The yacht was undoubtedly the property of some Navy officers. Other boats overturned and other boaters drowned. Many times the men pulled bodies from the water. During the seven and a half years that Junior worked at the Life Boat Station, he saw several of these corpses. Sometimes the bodies had been in the water for several days and were in disgusting shape. It was impossible to get used to this aspect of the work of the Life Boat Station.
Junior had a good reputation both as a cook and as a reliable and honest man. He was well liked by both officers and men. He was a good cook and was well known for that. Unit commanders were glad to have him on board because of his skill as a cook. He had been offered the position of recruiter several times by District Headquarters and he was often encouraged to "strike" or apply for the rank of Chief Petty Officer. He refused knewing that, as a Chief Commissaryman, we would be assigned only to larger bases and ships. He preferred small land-based stations where he did not have to oversee other men or go to sea. Whenever he was aboard a ship he was seasick the entire time. He was, in fact, skilled at avoiding sea duty and served on ships for only five and a half years of his 22 years in the Coast Guard.
Usually the Coast Guard rotated their enlisted personnel every three years. In other words, they were reassigned to a different location every three years. If the sailor had a family every effort was made to place him in a location where housing was available for his family. It was the policy of the Coast Guard to keep the families together was much as possible. This meant that a Coast Guard family could expect to have to pack and move to a new home in a new town every three years unless the sailor was given sea duty. The children enjoyed and even looked forward to these moves. However, in many respects, the frequent moves disrupted the familie's life. Hazel was always careful to make the move during the summer months so the children would not miss school even though they lost their friends and their familiar surroundings. Junior had grown up in a household that moved frequently from one house to another but Hazel had not. She felt the effects of the moves more than either her husband or the children. She had grown up in a tightly knit rural community in which friendships were formed for life. Now she found herself in a new town every three years. She never really adjusted to this and never had many friends outside of the small Coast Guard and church circles in which she felt comfortable.
In 1955 after almost three years in Pensacola, Junior learned that he was being assigned to a supply depot on the island of Guam in the Marianas Islands. This was some 10,000 miles from Pensacola and was literally on the other side of the world. There was no hesitation or discussion. The family would go to Guam as well. Junior left the Life Boat Station on Santa Rosa Island on April 2 and was at the Coast Guard Depot on Guam on June 7, 1955. Hazel stayed in Pensacola until school was out in early June. By now the three older children were all in school. George had just finished the sixth grade, Philip the fourth and Diane the second. As soon as school was out Hazel took the children to Pike County. She knew that it would be at least three years before any of them saw their grandparents again.
By July Junior had rented a civilian house on Guam for the family to live in until the Coast Guard could find an apartment for them on the Naval base. Hazel supervised the packing and storage of their household effects and, on the appointed day, drove the car to New Orleans to deliver it to the railroad for shipment to San Francisco and from there to Guam. She and the children boarded a Pullman car at New Orleans, also bound for San Francisco. This trip their room was a compartment with two seats facing each other by day and four bunk beds by night. The children were five years older than they had been in 1950 when they accompanied Hazel to Hawaii. They were reasonably well-behaved and the trip by rail was pleasant and uneventful.
On August 11 she and the children boarded the USNS Fred C. Ainsworth in San Francisco. Hazel bought a harness for three-year old Jeff so he wouldn't fall overboard. As soon as the ship had passed under the Golden Gate Bridge, the mid-ocean swells sent the sea-sick passengers rushing to their cabins. The family had their own cabin. The ship had movies and amusements for the children and there were plenty of friendly fellow travelers to meet. There was also the every changing ocean to watch. Everyone quickly adjusted to the shipboard routine and, despite the bouts of seasickness, enjoyed the trip. The ship crossed the 180th Meridian, called the International Dateline, and arrived in the Marianas Islands a few days later. The voyage from San Francisco had lasted about two weeks.
Guam is the largest island of the Marianas Island chain. Guam measures some 30 miles long and six miles wide. The northern part is ringed by high cliffs while the southern part is surrounded by coral reefs. The terrain is hilly but there are no large mountains or volcanoes. The island was discovered by Ferdinand Magellan before 1522. It was a part of the Spanish empire but Guam was never colonized by the Spanish. Its inhabitants are neither Micronesian nor Polynesian but are related to the Malays of southeast Asia or else had immigrated in recent times from the Philippines. Mostly they have Spanish surnames but speak and read English and their own native language. The island had been taken from Spain by the United States during the Spanish-American War of 1898 but it did not become important to the Americans until after World War Two.
The Japanese controlled the rest of the Marianas Islands after World War One and they invaded Guam soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The small US Marine garrison was captured and imprisoned and the island was garrisoned by Japanese troops. The Americans returned in force in 1943 and recaptured the island. The American invasion scarred the island in many ways that were plainly visible 12 years later. There were few large trees on the slopes facing the invasion beaches. They had been demolished during the invasion and the naval bombardment that preceded it. Tunnels and gun emplacements were common; broken, shattered or abandoned guns, tanks and trucks lay rotting in the undergrowth. Shell casings, live hand grenades and other ordinance were everywhere. Bodies of both Japanese and American soldiers killed during the invasion were still occasionally uncovered by rain or fire that shifted the earth or destroyed ground cover. In 1958 George and Philip found the skull of a Japanese soldier which was still protected by a helmet and gas mask. The bones below the chest were missing, perhaps having been blown away.
When Hazel and the children arrived on Guam, Junior had already rented a house in the hillside village of New Agat. This was a community of Guamenians. The neighbors were used to "stateside" couples who fought and drank and their children who stole and broke things. The Mullins family attended the Agat General Baptist Church and got along well with their neighbors. The Baptist church was pastored by a Guamenian man named Angelo Sablan and had a mixed congregation of stateside and native people. The majority of the population of New Agat was Catholic and the village had a large Catholic church and a Catholic school just down the street from the house the Mullins were renting.
The 1950 Ford car had been lost somewhere at the Navy depot in San Francisco and did not arrive in Guam until months later. In the meantime Junior was forced to buy a 1938 Ford to use. The supply depot where he worked was six or seven miles away from New Agat. It was near the island's largest city and was across the harbor from the Naval base. This 1938 Ford was the source of much frustration. Soon after the family moved to New Agat, the three children were playing in the car. It was parked at the curb in front of the house. Philip unknowingly released the parking brake and the car started to roll down the steep hill toward the Catholic church at the end of the block. Fortunately, it mounted the curb and crashed into a thick hedge in front of a neighbor's house. The hedge stopped the car and nothing was damaged except for the shrubbery. Junior apologized and the neighbor was willing to forgive the damage.
Another time a Coast Guard admiral was sent to inspect the Coast Guard station on an isolated island called Ulithe. There was no cook there so Junior agreed to go along and cook for the admiral's party. The 1938 Ford would not start. Junior tried to push start it and rolled it all the way down the steep hills of the village as far as the police station near the beach. He gave up and called the depot's Officer on Duty from the police station. They got Junior's uniform from his locker and sent a driver to pick him up. They sped down Marine Drive through the capital city, Agana, and up to Anderson Air Force Base at the northern end of the island. When they arrived at the airfield, the plane had already reached the end of the runway and the pilot refused to take Junior on. Junior didn't really mind missing the trip but he knew that he would have to go back and get the old car started. After a long time the 1950 Ford was found in San Francisco and arrived on Guam. Junior quickly sold the old 1938 Ford.
The Guam Depot was a supply depot servicing Coast Guard LORAN Stations throughout the Pacific Ocean. LORAN was an acronym for Long Range Aids to Navigation. The LORAN network consisted of pairs of radio stations at widely scattered points all over the globe. Each pair of radio stations broadcast a distinctive signal. Ships, airplanes and land-based stations could use the broadcasts to triangulate their true positions. The locations of the LORAN stations had been determined very accurately by taking simultaneous readings on certain stars. Because these radio stations were designed to aid navigation, they fell under the jurisdiction of the Coast Guard. Junior served on four radio stations that were part of this network: Hawaii, Miyako Jima and Cocas and Saipan islands.
The Guam Depot consisted of a deep-water dock where cargo ships could tie up, several storage buildings, an administrative building, the galley and several garages and workshops. Since a buoy tender also operated out of the Guam Depot, there also was a large concrete area that was used to store chains and buoys. The buildings at the Guam Depot were of a distinctive type of metal building that was developed by the US Army during World War Two. The buildings were constructed of interlocking semicircular steel panels. Each panel was corrugated to make it rigid. When the panels were bolted together, the entire structure resembled a tunnel. The metal arch served as both walls and roof. The floors were concrete and the windows, if there were any, were located near the ground and were screened. Most of the Quonset huts, as the buildings were called, had no glass in the windows. Glass was unnecessary 15 degrees north of the equator. Nor did the buildings have heating or air conditioning systems. All of the buildings at the Guam Depot and many other military buildings on Guam were of this type.
Junior, as usual, had charge of the galley at the Guam Depot. His responsibilities were actually less than they had been at the Life Boat Station in Pensacola. As a center of communications and supply, the Depot had more than enough officers around to assume command whenever necessary. Junior found that he had time to volunteer for outside activities. He cooked for the Boy Scout's Jamboree for two years. The first time was at the request of the Coast Guard commander. The second time was at the request of the Chief Warrant Officer in charge of the Coast Guard commissary. The chief was also a Scout Master. The Scout Jamboree was always held at Nimitz Beach during the Christmas school vacation and it lasted an entire week. Junior spent most of the week of the Jamboree supervising his volunteers and cooking for the scouts. The Boy Scouts rewarded him with a shoulder patch and a thank-you speech.
By now, the three older children were old enough to join a scouting group. The scout troops at the Naval Base in Guam were completely outfitted by the military and had equipment and support that civilian Scout troops would only dream about. George and Philip talked about joining and went down to join the local Scout troop several times. On each occasion they changed their mind at the last moment and decided to go skating at the roller rink next door instead. Instead, they went out on their own. They learned how to find their way through the surrounding hills, usually looking for relics of the war. Many Saturdays were devoted to familiarizing themselves with jungle areas in and around the Naval Base. They read accounts of the invasion of 1943 and studied maps to pinpoint sites of battles. Sometimes they carried home some of what they found. They left a live hand grenade in their room in New Agat and, on two occasions, the Navy Demolition Squad was called to carry away ordinance that they had collected.
The two older boys and Diane went on long hikes in sword-grass savannas they called "the boondocks." A favorite site was the mountain behind New Agat. The beach below Agat had been a major invasion beach and the old village on the beach had been destroyed during the invasion. The boys found Japanese three-inch rifles still on their mounts, bomb shelters containing rusted equipment and live shells of all kinds. One night the sword grass on the mountain burned off and the night was filled with the sight and sound of bullets and shells exploding. The next day the boys found the torso of the Japanese solder whose skull and helmet they carried home. A second favorite area was within the US Naval Base. The navy base was on a high rocky peninsula surrounded on two sides by tall cliffs with deep water at their base. In addition to the usual military paraphernalia, they found a natural cave in the lava that was deep enough to require ropes and lights to explore. Sometimes they went to a dump site with their dad to watch men fishing for sharks in the deep water at the foot of the cliff. The men used wire ropes that were attached to their cars to haul the sharks up the cliff. Sometimes Junior accompanied the children on their hikes. One time he and the three boys camped out on the beach only to be driven home in the early morning by a torrential downpour that soaked their tent. A couple of times Mr. Brown, a Sunday School teacher at the New Agat church, took them and the rest of the Sunday School class on long hikes into the island's interior. He also knew the location of some caves in the cliffs surrounding the northern part of the island.
Once Junior took the entire family on a picnic to a waterfall called the Talafofo Falls. After a long drive in the car to the eastern side of the island, they parked the car and walked to a little river. The stream had to be crossed by means of a raft that was tethered to a rope strung across the river. After a lengthy walk through the savanna and several patches of jungle, they found a beautiful set of waterfalls in a sheltered spot under some trees. The ground was clean and there was no one else there. It was a perfect spot for a picnic. The whole family jumped in to swim. The oldest boy, George, put baby Jeff on his shoulders and waded out into the river. He stepped into a hole which was over his head. He jumped up and down in the hole until Junior swam over and took Jeff off of his shoulders. George had swallowed some water but he was OK. After a pleasant time, they gathered up their things and walked back to the car. Several years later, the last Japanese soldier on Guam surrendered. Ever since World War Two he had been hiding near the Talafofo Falls while he waited for instructions from Japan.
In early 1956 an apartment on the navy base became available and the family gave up their house in New Agat. The new house was a duplex in a housing complex of single-story concrete homes. The complex was situated on a gentle slope overlooked a concrete batch plant and some other industrial buildings belonging to the Navy. In the fall of 1957 George and Philip got a paper route. Every day they delivered the morning and evening editions of the Guam Daily News. Every two weeks they had to go door-to-door to collect the $2.00 subscription fee and talk to new customers. Junior and Hazel got up early each morning and helped them fold the papers. Usually the newspaper consisted of only a few pages. It was sometimes so thin that the boys could throw the paper from their bicycles, skip it off the front porch floor and have it slid under the screen door and into their customer's kitchen, sometimes at the occupant's feet. This didn't happen often. When there was a wind blowing, it could just as easily sail over the roof and be gone. Once a year, on "Guam Liberation Day" that celebrated the return of the Americans in 1943, the newspaper was so heavy and thick that the boys had to make several trips on their bicycles to deliver them.
In 1957 a powerful typhoon passed over Guam. The schools closed early but when the boys got home they found the evening edition of the newspaper on their doorstep as usual. The headlines warned of the approach of the storm. They felt obligated to deliver the newspaper to their customers. It was impossible to ride bicycles in the wind so they started out on foot. They had nearly finished when they were ordered off the streets by the Navy Shore Patrol. By then, it was only with difficulty that they could walk into the wind. All that night a powerful wind battered the island. The metal jalousie windows were cranked closed but the wind blew rain through the cracks. The children lay sleeping in the utility room in the center of the house while Junior or Hazel mopped up the water coming in through the windows. In the middle of the night, the center or eye of the storm passed directly over the island. Everything became suddenly quiet. The winds died down and the rain stopped. The family went outside and could see the stars in the sky. A few minutes later the wind began again but this time it was from the opposite direction. The Navy housing was built of cement so there was no question that it would survive the storm. Other buildings, especially those belonging to the civilian population, were seriously damaged. Some houses lost their roofs and it took several days to restore electrical power to most of the island. The day after the storm Junior went to purchase gasoline for the car and he found that he had to take his turn pedaling a bicycle that drove the pump at the gas station.
Living on Guam was an adventure for the entire family. The island was large enough and the topology sufficiently varied to make sightseeing and exploring interesting. There were numerous cultural events such as the annual fair and village festivals. The Baptist church had an active social life as did the Navy and the Coast Guard communities. It seemed like the family had just begun to really get to know the island when Junior received orders in the spring of 1958. He had been assigned to a small base at Port Huron, Michigan, on Lake Huron, one of the Great Lakes. The children liked the idea of living on the Great Lakes. Hazel didn't like the idea. For one thing, it would cost too much to buy winter clothing for everyone. Someone looked in a book and discovered that the temperature was below freezing for more than four months of the year. The contrast with Guam could not have been more striking. After a long discussion it was decided to try to get this assignment changed. There was a possibility that Junior could arrange to swap his assignment with another man of the same rate. However this would take too long. It would be costly because Junior would probably have to pay the other man's travel and, anyway, he might not be able to find anyone who wanted to swap. Junior wrote to his father about the problem. G.N. wrote back to say that he would speak to a friend of his, a US Congressman, about the assignment.
G.N., it turned out, had pull. He had been a precinct worker for the Congressman from southeast Louisiana for years. When the Congressman had just begun his political career, he had faced serious opposition. G.N. had dispensed wads of dollar bills to voters and had arranged transportation to and from the polls for the new Congressman's supporters. Now the Congressman, Jim Morrison, was firmly entrenched in Congress and was a ranking member of several Congressional committees that the Coast Guard Admiral thought vital to his interests. A word to the Admiral from Representative Morrison would be enough. Junior received new orders to leave Guam Depot on June 2, 1958, and to report to the Santa Rosa Life Boat Station in Pensacola in mid-July. G.N. had not only arranged for Junior to return to Pensacola, he also fixed it so that the family had time to travel back home after school was out.
The family was assigned a private cabin on a Navy transport that was leaving Guam in early June. This was the MSTS Gen. Hugh J. Gaffey. It was returning to San Francisco from the Philippine Islands. As soon as the ship had cleared Apra Harbor on Guam everyone suffered a spell of seasickness but this passed quickly. Junior was assigned duty in the galley as usual. George, now 15 years old, found a girlfriend and spent as many hours as possible watching movies from the back of the ship's theater. The ship passed over the International Dateline on June 6. This meant that the next day was June 6 as well. Philip and three or four other children on the ship had two birthdays that year. They each received a new board game, called Monopoly, from the ship's chaplain at a birthday party.
Three years before the ship had followed the great circle route from San Francisco to Guam and had passed far to the north of Hawaii. This time the ship stopped at tiny Wake Island, about halfway between Guam and Midway Island, and then at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands. The stopover at Wake Island was brief. The island had no wharf and the in-transit passengers could not leave the ship. At Hawaii, the ship docked on June 9 and stayed one day. Catherine, the ex-wife of Julio Mullins, came on board and she and her two children escorted the family on a trip to the zoo. She was of Hawaiian descent and wore an ankle-length sack dress called a moo-moo. It was an old Hawaiian style of dress which had been introduced by the first Protestant missionaries to Hawaii from New England. The Roseberry family also came to greet their old friends. Later in the day, everyone boarded the ship for the final leg of the journey to California. The ship debarked at Fort Mason in San Francisco on June 14 with 1,069 passengers from the Philippines, Guam and Hawaii.
The trip overland from San Francisco to Pensacola was less hectic than the previous journey had been some six years earlier. The children were older and no one was sick. The 1950 Ford had been sold in Guam with the expectation that a new car would be waiting at the Ford dealership in San Francisco. The dealer didn't have the right car so Junior bought a used 1949 Ford instead. He searched the used car lots with his wife and four children in tow until he found a Ford car that he liked. It had to be blue and it had to be a Ford. The one he decided on was in good shape and it looked good. He noticed that one of the rear tires was practically worn out. He had brought with him a kit for a roof rack and he found a lumber yard. He and an employee of the yard put the rack together and mounted it on the car. Some of the bags were put on the roof to make more room in the back seat and off they went.
This time Junior crossed the Coast Ranges and went south to Bakersfield on California Highway 99. He crossed the Mojave Desert on California 58 through Barstow, went north on US 91 for a few miles and then by-passed Las Vegas on Highway 146 through the town of Henderson. He followed US 93 to the Hoover Dam. There they stopped for lunch and a few pictures. After crossing the Hoover Dam US 93 continues south to Kingman in Arizona where it joins US Highway 66. East of Kingman, Junior was persuaded by a chorus of voices from the back seat to leave US 66 for a side trip up State Highway 64 to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Here more pictures were taken and another picnic lunch eaten. This was the last of the sight-seeing. The Petrified Forest in eastern Arizona was judged to be too far out-of-the-way and the children had to content themselves with a stop at a rock shop and the purchase of a chunk of petrified wood. US 66 continued through Gallup and Albuquerque, New Mexico, and on to Amarillo in the Texas panhandle. At Amarillo the family stopped at a motel for a rest. The road had passed far to the north of Carlsbad Caverns, another disappointment to the children.
The decision to visit the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon caused Junior to take a route that paralleled the road that he had taken upon returning from Hawaii. This road is about 200 miles further north and so avoided the deserts of west Texas. Unfortunately it precluded the long talked about visit to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. From Amarillo the road swung southeast on US 287 to Wichita Falls and Dallas and then, on US 80, to Shreveport in Louisiana. In the midst of this mad dash, near Sheveport, one of the rear tires blew out at two o'clock in the morning. The lights in the nearby houses blinked on and then off again as the neighbors listened to see if the first shot would be followed by others. Junior didn't even know if the car had a spare tire but he unloaded the luggage from the truck and, fortunately, found a serviceable spare. This forced a brief halt in the journey. Amarillo to Shreveport had been 26 non-stop hours. The next morning, Junior followed US 80 to Monroe and then took Louisiana 15 to Natchez where Hazel's sister, Christine, and her husband and two children lived. The Mullins stayed overnight in Natchez and the next day continued on their journey to US 51 and Pike County.
As usual the family stayed for some weeks in the home of Hazel's parents a few miles east of Magnolia. During their stay the Bluff Springs Baptist church across from grandpa Percy's garage had a revival. George and Philip joined the church together, just as they did so many other things in their lives. They made a profession of faith together during the revival meeting and the preacher came over to the house the next day to counsel them. He decided that they were sincere and were therefore candidates for baptizism. Baptizing had always been done in the Bala Chitto Creek but in the summer of 1958 the creek was shallow and judged to be unfit. The Bluff Springs Church did not have a tank or baptismal for baptizing so, a week later, everyone went to the large Baptist church in Magnolia where the boys were baptized.
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