The Ancestors Of George & Hazel Mullins

by Philip Mullins

Chapter 23 - George and Hazel Mullins, 1966-1994


George and Hazel Mullins Home, 1990
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Survey of George and Hazel Mullins Home Site
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Summary: George Mullins retired from the US Coast Guard and began a second career as a maintenance worker for Baptist churches and camps. He and Hazel moved to Texas in 1974 where he owned and managed a feed store. In 1994 he retired from his second career with the Baptist church.

Retirement and a second career

When Junior retired from the Coast Guard he was 44 years old. The house in Pensacola was paid for, three of the four children had already left home and Jeff paid for all of his own clothes and had plenty of spending money of his own. Junior now had more money and less responsibilities than he ever had since 1946. For the first time he and Hazel began to put some money into their saving account. For the last few years Hazel had received a check once a month. She paid the bills and divided the rest into two amounts. She used this money to buy groceries every two weeks. It was impossible to save anything. Much of what they bought came from the Sears and Roebuck store because Sears financed the purchases.

The two older boys were still in university but they largely paid their own way. Hazel and Junior drove to Tallahassee every month with a load of groceries and they still bought the boys clothes and paid for their transportation for their visits home. Even while Diane's husband was a Naval Officer, she and her husband could not make ends meet and they had to be helped occasionally with cash or gifts. When Philip immigrated to Canada and when George Morris purchased land there, their parents were ready with the cash to help them. Junior gave Diane her first food freezer and George Morris his first chainsaw. Junior and Hazel were a never failing source of aid to their children both with money and words of encouragement. Some of the time, when Philip was being hunted by the FBI agents armed with a warrant for his arrest, when George Morris was living as a beatnik in New York City, when Diane left her husband and children in Jacksonville, Florida, and went to live in Washington, DC., it was difficult not to be judgmental. But even then Junior and Hazel were ready to help, without being asked, and without confrontation.

Junior began a second career even before he retired from the Coast Guard in October 1966. As soon as he arrived back in Pensacola in September he was given a job by the Warrington Baptist Church. He had been hired while he was still on Saipan to be the church's janitor for $300 a month. For the next 27 years, with one break, he worked, full or part-time, as either the custodian of a church or as the manager of a church camp. He worked for the church in Warrington for three years. He supervised a part-time cleaning crew and he himself worked full-time cleaning and maintaining the church buildings. He became a member of the Warrington Baptist Church the same month he hired on as it's janitor and he and Hazel took positions of responsibility in the Sunday School and in the library.

George and Hazel Mullins

Camp Stallion


In the winter of 1969 a former Minister of Education of the church in Warrington asked Junior to manage a church camp near Grangeville, Louisiana. The Judson Baptist Association of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was about to begin a five-year pilot project to find out if it's member churches would utilize a rural recreation and meeting center. The association had leased a camp on the Amite River between Greensburg and Denham Springs about 30 miles from Baton Rouge. In January 1970 Junior left his job in Pensacola and moved to the new camp, named Camp Stallion. In June Hazel and Jeff followed. Junior managed and maintained the camp and Hazel ran the kitchen. Both of them enjoyed the work. Junior's primary job was to maintain the premises and the yards. The camp had a swimming pool and both of he and Hazel enjoyed swimming. Hazel's sister, Edna, lived just a few miles away as did Junior's father, G.N. Mullins. Irene had died in December 1969 and Junior and his younger half-brother Claude tried to spend as much time as possible with G.N. at his home outside of the town of Kentwood. Hazel was only a few miles from her mother's home in Pike County and that of her brother Percy in Osyka. She visited both frequently.

In the fall of 1970 Jeff left to go to school in Nashville, Tennessee. He returned to Camp Stallion the next summer. Jeff maintained his ties with Pensacola and after he entered the merchant marine he returned to Pensacola between jobs. Junior and Hazel had no intention of returning to Pensacola and in May 1972 the house in Pensacola was sold for $13,000. They stayed at Camp Stallion for over three years. By 1972 the Judson Baptist Association had decided to build it's own camp on land it had purchased about 40 miles north of Jackson, Louisiana. The lease on Camp Stallion was canceled in 1973 and some of the camp's activities were moved to a recreation area on Joar Road on the outskirts of Baton Rouge. Junior and Hazel moved to a trailer belonging to the association that had been set up next to the baseball diamond at the recreation area on the outskirts of Baton Rouge. Junior continued to work at the same salary. His new duties were to clean up and maintain the recreation area and to be the janitor at the Baptist Seaman's Center in Port Allen on the west side of the Mississippi River. Work on the new camp proceeded so slowly that by the fall of 1974 it was obvious that it would not be completed that year. There was little for Junior to do in the meantime but wait.

In the summer of 1974 Philip, who was wanted by the FBI for draft evasion and who had been living in Canada since 1968, came to Baton Rouge for a visit. His grandmother Carrie was brought from Pike County to see him. Junior thought that a visit to Pike County would be too risky for his son to make. Until 1976 the FBI made semiannual or annual visits to Junior's home to look for Philip with the intention of arresting him. Instead of Philip visiting them, Junior, Hazel and Jeff decided to drive to Toronto in the summer of 1968 to visit Philip. The next summer the group again made the trip. This time they were joined in Toronto by the oldest son George Morris. The group left the city and camped out in provincial parks north of Toronto. By now the visits had become an annual event. By the summer of 1970 George Morris had moved to Toronto and joined the cooperative business that his younger brother had started with a number of other American exiles. That summer, when Hazel and Junior came to visit, the group camped on some property that the cooperative was trying to buy in Lanark County, Ontario. By the next summer the cooperative had purchased 100 acres of land near the small town of South River, Ontario, and the group camped there.

For a while Junior and Hazel though about leaving the United States as well. In 1967 Junior had applied to immigrate to New Zealand but was rejected because he was too old. In 1969 he was offered a job as a night watchman and janitor at Camp Keswick, a Baptist camp north of Toronto. He finally decided against taking the job because of concern about the Canadian winter. Instead, in May 1972, they purchased 16 acres of land in Burkeville, Texas. Burkeville is about 15 miles west of Fort Polk, a US Army training base with a hospital and a commissary. Junior and Hazel felt that this would be an ideal spot to build a permanent retirement home.

Burkeville, Texas

Burkeville was settled before the Civil War. The surrounding area was cleared for cotton farms adapted to a slave-plantation economy. As a result from 30% to 40% of the population of Newton County are black. This is very similar to the situation in Pike County, Mississippi. In 1855 a grandson of Richard and Ann Simmons moved to Newton County, Texas and Hazel was surprised to find that some of her new friends at the Burkeville Baptist Church were distant cousins. G.N. had remained in contact with a childhood girlfriend from Port Arthur for the last fifty years. This lady and her husband, now retired to Burkeville, became friends of Junior and Hazel. They helped Junior and Hazel purchase land on the outskirts of the little town. Hazel also had relatives in nearby Sabine Parish less than 20 miles to the north. Several times, she and Junior attended the Hayes family reunion at Fort Jesup near Many, Louisiana. These were cousins on her father's side, some of whom Hazel knew from her childhood.

Newton County is a rural county much like Pike County, Mississippi in appearance and history. Burkeville is a crossroads town in the Big Thicket area of what is called "deep East Texas." At one time the village had a commercial district that served farmers and timber cutters. In the 1970s few commercial farms existed in the county and the timber industry was in decline. One of the first really large saw mills in east Texas was located three miles from Burkeville in Weirgate. It was still in operation but at greatly reduced capacity. With the decline of the timber industry and farming, the area had a static or declining population. Burkeville's population had remained under 1,000 since World War Two. By the time the Mullins moved there, it had more churches than businesses. The village had four churches, two gas stations, one welding shop, one grocery store, a school and sometimes a bar or a restaurant.

In the early 1900s what was the nation's largest oil field was discovered less than 80 miles south of Burkeville near Beaumont, Texas. Many men from the area commute to jobs in the "Golden Triangle" area of Beaumont, Orange and Port Arthur. Others work in oil fields throughout the world. In the 1960s a hydroelectric dam was built on the Sabine River a few miles north of Burkeville and the Toledo Bend Reservoir was created. On weekends the state highway passing through Burkeville was crowded with cars headed to weekend homes on the lake. The existence of the Spindletop oil field and the Toledo Bend dam kept Burkeville alive after the decline of the farm economy. Beginning in the 1970s a small but steady stream of retired persons moved into the area. In the 1980s, an increase in timber production and the discovery of natural gas in the area helped keep the population from declining further.

Junior and Hazel had purchased the land in Burkeville so they could retire there. For a year and a half they continued to live and work in Baton Rouge with the Judson Baptist Association. In the fall of 1974 Junior resigned his position as camp manager. He had not had a camp to manage for over a year and it was apparent that the new camp would not be opening soon. In fact it was not until 1979 that the new camp was ready for occupancy. Junior promised to return when the camp was ready and the couple left for Texas. In November 1972 they moved into a new brick ranch-style home they had built on their land in Burkeville. This was the first rural property that they had ever owned and on it they built a hobby farm. As soon as the ground was cleared of trash Hazel selected the site of her garden. Next she choose a large area for her chicken house. She intended to have plenty of chickens. Junior got Jeff and his friend, David Bradley, to help string a five-strand barbed wire fence around the front two-thirds of the property.

As soon as they moved to Burkeville, Junior and Hazel joined the Burkeville Baptist Church. Hazel joined the choir as usual and was given responsibility for the church library. Junior volunteered to do maintenance on the grounds. They both held church offices and Junior saw to it that the youth group was supplied with cookies and drinks. In March 1983 Junior was ordained a Deacon and took a seat on the church's Board of Deacons. Most of their close friends were fellow members of this church, including their best friends Robert and Carrie Jackson. Robert Jackson was their Sunday School teacher and became their business partner. In 1978 they bought into a feed store belonging to Robert in Newton, Texas, 15 miles south of Burkeville.

In 1979 the new camp belonging to the Judson Baptist Association was nearing completion and Junior reluctantly returned as its camp manager. Upon his arrival at the camp he found that it was far from complete. The construction of the camp had been managed from Baton Rouge and most of the work that was supposed to be finished was not. Characteristically Junior undertook to finish much of the work himself. He saw to it that the house trailer was moved from the Joar Road site in Baton Rouge to the camp near Jackson. For the first time the contractors found themselves closely supervised by a resident manager. What the contractors could or would not do Junior did himself. He and Hazel filled trenches that had been left open, finished carpentry on the buildings, painted them, supervised the installation of a swimming pool and a sewage disposal system, landscaped the grounds, laid sod and planted trees and shrubs. Junior attended to all the final details that is generally handled by the general contractor. On the day that the camp officially opened he and Hazel were painting the last building. The two of them spent a year at the new camp. As soon as it was operational they left. They had done what seemed impossible a year before and now he had a business of his own to attend to.

Before they left for Camp Jackson they had invested $6,000 in the Newton Feed Store. Their partner and the store's majority owner was Robert Jackson, a public school teacher, a Baptist deacon and Junior's best friend. Robert's wife, Carrie, was the secretary of the Burkeville Baptist Church and she and Hazel were close friends. Under Robert's part-time management the feed store was going broke. When Junior returned to Texas in 1979 he took over management of the store. Over the next four years he worked in the store for five days a week. Robert kept the store on Saturday morning. Hazel and Carrie both worked part-time at the counter while Junior and Robert carried out the bags of feed and helped the customers. Within three years Junior had built the trade up so much that he had no more room in the building in Newton. He began to look around for somewhere to go since the building they were using was rented and could not be expanded. The Newton Feed Store had money in the bank, a building full of stock and an excellent reputation with the public and with their main suppler, the Lone Star Feed Mill.

In 1980 the two oldest sons moved to east Texas from Canada. Philip worked in Beaumont and came home on weekends to his parent's house in Burkeville. George Morris, his wife and three children moved to a rented house in Burkeville and stayed for two years before moving to Austin, Texas, in 1982. By then the oil economy of the Golden Triangle had collapsed and in 1983 Philip also left for Austin. In the summer of 1983 Junior's partner in the Newton Feed Store ran into financial trouble. Robert Jackson was also a part-time rancher and he had tried to expand his herd of cattle too rapidly and without sufficient pasture land. He could not pay off his mounting debt to the feed store for feed that he had taken for his own herd. His only recourse was to sell the only other asset he had left, the feed store. Junior and Hazel did not have the money to buy Robert out so a third party was found. Junior and Hazel got their original investment back but Robert received nothing at all. His debt to the store was larger than his capital investment. His bad luck continued and the following year the bank foreclosed on his cattle herd and all but a few calves were confiscated and sold.

For a while after the sale of the store Junior worked as a caretaker at the East Texas Baptist Encampment south of Newton. About 1985 he took a job as the part-time custodian of the Burkeville Baptist Church. He cleaned the buildings and maintained the grounds. The church paid him a salary for this and he worked about two days a week doing this and other jobs for the church. In addition he did small jobs for many of the widows in the village, often for no pay. He continued to work for the Burkeville church until the church split in a dispute between one of the deacons and the pastor. The pastor, the music director and the majority of deacons were forced to resign by a small but well organized faction in the church. When Junior resigned from the church he lost his job as well. In 1993 he retired from his second career but this time without ceremony or recompense.

After Junior and Hazel moved to Texas in 1974 their children, one-by-one, followed. By 1993 all four of their children were living in Texas. Diane moved into a house on her parent's property in Burkeville and the three boys lived in Austin, the state capital 300 miles to the west. Of the nine grandchildren, four were either attending university or had recently graduated. None of the grandchildren were as yet married and there were no great-grandchildren.

Both Junior and Hazel continued to enjoy good health. In the 1980s they had installed a swimming pool behind their house. They both enjoyed using it and they encouraged their friends to use it as well, especially the young people from the new Emanuel Baptist Church where Junior served on the Board of Deacons. Junior continued to raise a few cattle in conjunction with Robert Jackson. Every year he fattened at least one bull yearling in the barn he had built near the chicken yard. He gave the beef to his children. Hazel continued to quilt but at a slower pace. Junior worked doing maintenance for widows around Burkeville and spent the money fixing up an antique car he had purchased. Mostly he found that maintaining his own place occupied most of his energy.

In 1992 Junior and Hazel celebrated 50 years of married life together. The next year they were both fully retired. Every month retirement checks came from the US Coast Guard and from the Social Security Administration. This meant that they did not have to rely on their children for room and board or for financial help in their old age. On the contrary, they continued to help their children and grandchildren financially. During the 1980s each of their children had borrowed money from their parents, often for the down payment on a house.

Junior and Hazel's retirement home in Burkeville is really a hobby farm. In addition to chickens, Hazel had, at one time or the other, guinea fowl, pheasants and turkeys. Junior milked a cow named Sunshine for several years every morning and evening. He later moved his tiny herd to a pasture a few miles away but about half the year he had a bull in his barn that needed to be fed twice a day. Pigs and goats have come and gone. Junior's workshop and Hazel's sewing room occupy a large shed that also serves as a hay barn. For about twenty years they had a large garden area in the black land behind the swimming pool. Some years they rented another garden area in a sandy plot in or around Burkeville. When they managed the Newton Feed Store between 1979 and 1983, they realized how knowledgeable about farm life they both were. Detailed knowledge about seed varieties, cultivation and animal husbandry came back to them from their young years. Their large gardens likewise called to mind their childhood years growing up on farms in Mississippi and of the year they had spent as full-time farmers in 1946. Although they had spent their adult years in America's small towns and suburbs, for their retirement years they chose to return to the farm.

It is a fitting end to this story of our ancestors to observe that none of Junior and Hazel's children (or, for that matter, none of the children of their siblings) grew up on a farm and, in 1993, none of their children, nieces or nephews lived and made their living on a farm. Junior and Hazel's generation marked the end of the agricultural phase of our family's history.

George and Hazel Mullins (1990)

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Copyright © 1994-2005 by Philip Mullins. Permission is granted to reproduce and transmit contents for not-for-profit purposes.