The "Jim Dykes" Histor Page
This page will present short informative emails and articles covering our Teke years. Many of the articles to-date came from our honorary Histor (Jim Dykes BL303, who passed away in August 2011). We are sorry to see Jim gone...no one had more knowledge about our BL Teke chapter than Frater Jim. Anyone is welcome to post their nostalgic remembrances here, just send them to me! Send your articles to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The articles are presented as a series of emails submitted, in order of date, the most recent at the top.
April 12, 2016, John McGiboney wrote:
Let Me chime in on the beginnings on the TKE Chapter at Auburn. For those who came to the fist couple of Birmingham TKE get together event at the Stogies Club House in Homewood. I joined that club about 25 years ago. In taking to one of the members I learned that he had been a member of the first of men who formed the fraternity. You might remember the name of George Boyd from you Goody Book days. I believe he was Beta Lambda 9 on the scroll. He had been a member of the Stogies Club for about 20 years when I joined. some of you may have met him at the second Birmingham event. He stopped by for about a half hour. His wife died and he married a friend of mine's mother. George died two years ago. I will get a copy of the obit for the file. YITB, John McGiboney
On Apr 12, 2016, Benny Bliss wrote:
John is correct. All of the information about our beginnings is available at TKE Headquarters. I have a copy of all of this information put away in storage somewhere. Alpha Lambda Tau was a small national fraternity that was based in the South. After WWII, many fraternities were not able to survive and merged with other nationals. ALT merged several of their chapters with TKE...LSU. North Carolina State, Bucknell, Maryland, Georgia Tech & Auburn among them. I will have to dig it out some day or anyone is welcome to get copies from TKE.
We also absorbed a small local fraternity called Phi Alpha Phi or something like that...
Beta Lambda 10...Rein Rudolph Schlitz settled in Birmingham. I dated his daughter in the 1970's and met several of the original ALT members that became Tekes. One was my little league football coach...Joseph Miller, an engineer from Birmingham.
Beta Lambda 1, William Weed was always good to speak with about the early years of Beta Lambda too. Not sure how he is doing health wise now, but understood he had some health issues.
On Apr 12, 2016, John McCarthy wrote:
According to what I heard when I was Histor of Beta Lambda Chapter, there was a chapter of a local fraternity named Alpha Lambda Tau, that provided many of the member as the first TKEs at Auburn.
Our Civil Engineering Department Head Dr Rex Kelly Rainer was an Alpha Lambda Tau. He did not speak of his fraternity experiences much, but acknowledged and participated in some of our Beta Lambda TKE activities in the 1970s. He had many Tekes on staff, but not just because they were fraternity brothers, that had to be good civil engineers first.
The Office of the Dean of Student Affairs at AU might have some history on Alpha Lambda Tau. Or the TKE International Office might know something about how the local chapter joined TKE.
Also legend has it, and facts seem to verify it, that Beta Lambda Chapter was the second TKE chapter south of the Mason Dixon Line. The first chapter south of the Mason Dixon Line was Beta Beta Chapter at North Carolina State University. I have met many member of Beta Beta Chapter and they confirmed this story. While an undergraduate, I stayed at their Chapter House one night while travelling through North Carolina. It was quite a welcome visit. I have visited many of them since.
Yours in the Bond, John R McCarthy Beta Lambda 0495 AU Class of 1975
April 12, 2016, Tom Dunlap wrote:
From the Auburn Glomerata 1948 Yearbook -- the first appearance of TKE Beta Lambda Chapter --- I don't recall this "history" of the founding of the BL Chapter when I was a pledge. Frater Jehle, Weed etc., are shown in this photo. YITB - Tom
April 26, 2007
(In response to Jim wanting to know what happened to my VW):
Aaaaa yes....the famous VW incident at our house party at Jekyll Island Spring 1966....which has been folklore in my family for over forty years. First, I had begged my Dad to borrow their brand new VW for the house party...and he reluctantly let me take it. That first Friday night of the house party, John Self and I, along with our dates, were driving on the beach, when all of a sudden instead of seeing beach sand ahead in the headlights, we were heading straight into the surf! Too late. We got stuck...the wheels just spinning, right at the water’s edge. So all four of us hiked up the beach and to some road that took us to a small hole in the wall bar. We were the only white people in there (exactly like that scene in the movie Animal House). We called you guys back at the motel, and also called for wrecker help. Finally, a state trooper showed up, and promptly told me it was state law that you're not supposed to be driving on the beaches (I think he took pity on me...that was the last of that). Then comes a wrecker. The trooper and I and the wrecker driver drove out to the beach, but we could not find the car. Then I looked out INTO the water. There, shining up THRU the water, I could see headlights shining! The tide came in and the water had risen about two feet. Just at that time....it was like a miracle...over the sand dune came running about twenty Fraters...beer cans in hand, and hooting a hollering (this was great fun for them). So we back the wrecker next to the surf, and this big Frater (he was a football player....huge), grabs the wrecker hook and cable, and starts walking out towards the car. The cable stops short by ten feet. So then everyone gets around the car and pushes and lifts (with this ominous suction sound) and pulls and finally we get the car up on the beach. Someone opened a door, and all this water poured out. Everyone was ecstatic. I was feeling nauseous. They towed the car to the VW dealer in town. I then spent all day Saturday at the VW place while they washed out the car and flushed the engine. I managed to get a TKE fraternity check (courtesy of Gary Gibson, the Crysophylos, to help give me a loan for things...it was touch and go for awhile if the VW dealer would even honor it)! They told me when I drove back to Auburn, I had to have the oil changed every 100 miles or the engine would seize, which is what I did. Also, on the trip back to Auburn, I got a ticket at that speed trap somewhere in Georgia (note: Jim later told me it was LUDOWICI and “it is in the lore of the state of Georgia”). Back at the Teke house, I finally got the nerve to go out to that house pay phone and call my Dad. O Boy....he was not happy! "He just drove it right into the ocean!" he kept saying. Later, my Dad traded this VW in on a new car. I pity whoever ended up with that car....the VW dealer told me that within a year everything in that car was going to be ruined from the salt. And that was that was the end of the VW incident.
April 24, 2007 (this is MUST READ!)
Thought you might like to see what will be running as my editorial in the Walton Tribune (Monroe, Georgia) on Wednesday (April 25). You do not KNOW how much it means to be reconnected with one of the most special times of my life.
Yours in the Bond!
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Jim Dykes <email@example.com>
Date: Apr 24, 2007 1:04 AM
Subject: MUSINGS by Jim Dykes for Wednesday, 25 April 2007 To: Walton Tribune <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I had not thought of the name on the return address section of the envelope in years, yet here was a letter from Tom Dunlap properly addressed to me. That letter's arrival just ten days ago has set about a series of events that has opened a whole new area of history for me. Tom was initiated into Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity at Auburn the year after I was. By the definition of "fraternity" we are brothers. Yet here was a brother that I had not seen since June of 1968 and had not talked to in some thirty years. The letter was an announcement of the formation of an alumni group of Auburn Tekes for the 1962-1972 decade and that we would hold reunions and get-togethers to rekindle old friendships and share memories of our days at Auburn. Where it will lead, I don't know, but there are already some excellent ideas being bandied about in terms of service to the local chapter as well as finding ways to help scholastically.
Bruce Sprague and Frank Wingate have done the work about creating a web page where we may post our histories from college forward. Now that the oldest of us are approaching retirement, it is fascinating to look back and see what has become of a group who came together as individuals, worked together, studied together, partied together, participated in a variety of hijinks together, and came into the world to go our separate ways and making our mark. The guys in Pharmacy were pretty well locked in to what they would be doing. So Wesley Kirkland is a pharmacist and is probably as meticulous in his work as he was in his studies. "Gordo" Mills wanted to fly. His major was aviation and his career has spanned the Air Force, a pilot for Eastern Airlines and a pilot for Delta.
We had a group of "gung ho" ROTC folks who did the four year program and then came out into the Navy, Marine Corps, the Army, and the Air Force. Chuck Scott, working on his degree in Marine Biology needed three labs to complete the degree. Those labs were offered the summer he was scheduled to graduate. The Navy said "No, we want you now!" so Chuck got a degree in Zoology and ended up a Navy fighter pilot and a member of disaster investigation teams. Upon his retirement from the Navy, he became an investigator with the NTSB. While on active duty, Chuck was one of the investigative team on the space shuttle "Challenger" disaster in 1986.
Carter Tomassi was the original "free spirit." Two quarters shy of graduation he dropped out to follow his heart and became a part of the late Sixties counterculture. His creative nature and interest in photography has led him into a career in film and documentaries.
What is fascinating as we have begun to catch up with each other is the fact that we have all pursued our course in life and have each found our niche. One of the poignant stories is told by one of my brothers who has finally acknowledged the reality of a problem that he had at Auburn and one that dogged him over the years. He finally confronted it and has become an overcomer.
Then, looking at the roster there are those names with the term "Deceased" after them. Wade Botts was initiated with me and was the "old man" of our neophyte class. Wade was a commercial pilot and died soon after graduation in an accident.
Looking at the pictures of the "then" and "now" we have all aged, some more gracefully than others. We are gray, wrinkled, bald, and many of us suffer a variety of the "itises" of aging. Yet for all our years of life we share the common bond of having had the privilege of being "brothers" in a special place and a special time. Tau Kappa Epsilon is called "The Fraternity for Life." Here in the past few days that has been proven true all over again. Now it is but a matter of getting back in touch with "Eki," "Mau-Mau," "Dobie," "Spook," "Boney," "Sparkle," "Noodle," "Nick the Greek," "Spot," "T-Bear," "Carpetbagger," "Bug," "Mobile Bay," "Happy," "T-Boy," "Catman," and the rest. The years have gone by and our lives have all diverged from that special time together, but through it all the "brotherhood" and friendship remains. Who knows what tales will be told the next time we get together! One thing that is certain--it will be a gathering of brothers.
April 23, 2007
When I pledged Beta Lamda Chapter in January of 1965, we were in the old place at 316 E. Magnolia. It consisted of the main house, the Armstrong house next door, and the converted chicken coop in the back that we called the "Submarine." My pledge quarter was in the "Armstrong Mansion" and I moved into the "Submarine" as Dave Bell's roommate spring quarter.
One of the fixtures in the main house was a brass eagle that was on the archway from the living room to the main hall. One of the pledge duties was to polish the eagle. It stood for the Bald Eagle, dear to TKE. It was easier to hang an eagle than it was to find an Apollo and hang him.
When we moved to the new house at 554 W. Thach, the eagle came down. At the new house the decision was made NOT to put the eagle up. I voted for the eagle, but the consensus was that we did "not want to drill any holes in the bricks." The eagle went into storage.
On one of the cleanup days, the eagle was sent to the dumpster. I could not stomach that and asked if I could have it rather than it being thrown out. The eagle then came into my possession.
It remains in my possession.
What do you think about polling the jovial Fraters and see if we might, as a body, contact the Chapter and offer the eagle to them. It has its own history having been in the old Chapter House from the time that Beta Lambda purchased the place until the move Winter Quarter of 1966. If we could be assured that it would occupy a place of dignity and honor in the house I would be glad to see it "go home." If it was going to be trashed, I would just as soon keep it.
Let me know your thoughts. Yours in the Bond!
(Frater name lost)
April 21, 2007
Charles J. Brewer is CEDRIC JOHN Brewer pronounced KED-RICK. He reamed us all out for calling him SAID-RICK.
Wade Franklin Botts who was in my initiation class was the oldest of us there. He was a commercial pilot. He died of a myocardial infarction along about 1970. It was in the Auburn Alumnews and I remember it well because Wade was one of those no-nonsense guys who made an impression on all of us.
(Frater name lost)
April 20, 2007
As of June of last year I am on medical leave from the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church. I have served pastorates for thirty years but am eaten up with arthritis. I have had total replacements of both hips, both knees, and had the right wrist fused and left ankle fused. The left ankle was done February of last year and has NOT taken so I will undergo surgery again on 11 May in Mobile and hope it works. If it does not work this time, the only alternative is amputation. THAT I do not desire. So, this surgery WILL work. (Power of Positive Thinking!) I need to have both shoulders replaced and five vertebrae fused, but that will wait for the future.
Boy, do I have some stories and memories. The problem with writing them is that "The names have been changed to protect the innocent" does not work! I cite for example Terry Theiss coming in from having been shafted by an Auburn sweetie and getting passed out drunk. We tied his legs together and had one of the guys from OTS (vet fraternity next door) come in his white medical jacket and convince Terry that he was paralyzed from alcohol poisoning. The only antidote was to regurgitate, so we dragged Terry, tied legs and all, to the bathroom where we forcefed him a jar of warm mayonnaise. Surprisingly the "paralysis" was healed as Terry turned his innards inside out!
I look forward to keeping up with and SEEING my Fraters.
April 13, 2007
I received Tom Dunlap's epistle today and regret that I will be unable to attend the reunion. I am tied up doing the eulogy for a lady who was a member of my church when I served Social Circle. I am MOST interested in getting involved and would appreciate your giving my best to all the "jovial fraters" (as Eki used to call us) at the reunion. I would also love to have the access information so I may get in and update all my stuff for you.
What ever happened to your VW bug that wanted to float away at the beach?
At age 61 I am getting old and decrepit. I got the arthritis whammy from BOTH sides of the family and have had both hips and both knees replaced. My right wrist has been fused and I am working to recuperate from an ankle fusion of my left ankle. My surgeon is in Mobile, so it is ALWAYS fun to go down for checkups. I am currently on medical leave from the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church where I have served in ministry for 31 years. I left the business world in 1976 and received my Master of Divinity degree from Emory University in Atlanta in 1978. I have been in the itineracy ever since.
Looking at the list of all the folks who are going to be there brings back some GREAT memories. I am currently in Bug's old stomping grounds and am attending Dalton First United Methodist Church. Danny Bailey was a member of my church when I was pastor at Redan UMC from 1979-1984. Ask Dave Rees if he has ever forgiven me the water balloon wakeup call at 316 E. Magnolia during initiation week. I had to get up on the roof of the porch and chunk it in the window. I see some good old Teke jocks on the list-- great football and softball, not so good in basketball, but we had a helluva great time. The Hueytown Flash is on the list. Ask Tommy Ray if he still has his UMOC poster. Then of course there is Jim "Marine Option" or aka "uniboob" Dunlap who had trigger reflexes when we would send pledges back to wake him up. Of course there are some scholars there, but I will NOT embarrass you by naming names--your secret is safe with me. Were it known that Beta Lamda had actual scholars residing in the house, our Animal House memories would be sullied. Is Ed Bonieski still in the coin business? I still have the drilled 20 cent piece he sold me. I have seen some of the fraters over the years--"Huck" Sawyer, Gordo Mills, Brad Pruden, Frank Baldwin Wingate (why did I remember his full name? He was supposed to have MINE in his goodie book!), Bill Beemer, Luke Prescott (I officiated some of Coach Luke's football games and he is good friends with my last secretary's family at Tunnel Hill), Tommy Parham, and Danny Bailey. Speaking of middle names, David Brooks Rees gave me a hard time about getting his name in my goodie book. Come to think of it, the water balloon was DESERVED!
Man, I wish I could be there. Looking back, those years at Beta Lambda were some of the best ever. We had and HAVE something special.
Have a ball and someone drink a beer in my honor.
(Frater name lost)
September 29, 2015
From Terry Adams (BL310)
Hitchhiking With John Self
I remember John Self was passionate about sport cars. Once, in his room at the Teke house, he and I got into a heated debate about cars. He couldn't believe it when I said it didn't matter what kind of car I drove, as long as it got me where I was going. “A car is more than something to get you from point A to point B!” he said adamantly.
I mention that discussion for a reason. Not long after our talk John invited me to spend the weekend with he and his family in Beaufort, SC. I honestly can't remember it was Spring Quarter of '65 or '66. But at any rate, I said sure. John's father was stationed at the Marine Air Station in Beaufort and I had an interest in military aircraft. And besides, I liked John.
You'd think a young man with such a passion for automobiles would have one of his own. John didn't, and neither did I at the time. John's plan was to hitchhike to South Carolina. I'd never hitchhiked before but at that point in my life I was up for just about anything. To John's credit, he made arrangements with a friend from Savannah who was going home for the weekend to give us a ride as far as Savannah.
So we left the Teke House with his friend after classes on Friday. I remember his friend made a detour to the Georgia Southern campus in Statesboro to to pick up a friend who was traveling on to Savannah with him.
By the time we neared Savannah, it had been dark for some time. We were still too far from Savannah to see the lights and I was surprised when John tapped his friend on the shoulder and directed him to pull over in the middle of nowhere where a small road intersected the main highway. We both grabbed our overnight bags and got out.
It was a little strange to see the lights of John's friend's car pull away, leaving us alone in the darkness. We crossed the highway and followed the small road leading north. I don't remember how long we walked before we saw the first car, but do remember how spooky it was. It was a dark night, made darker by the woods that stood close to the road on both sides. I have no idea what John and I talked about as we walked along that lonely road, but I do know what was going through my head: What on earth possessed me to hitchhike from Auburn to South Carolina? Finally we saw the lights of a car coming behind us.
As the car's headlights came closer, we moved off the road and stood on the shoulder, our thumbs out. For a brief moment we were elated when we saw the car pull off onto the shoulder. But then instead of slowing down, the car sped up, heading straight for us. For the sake of a good story, I'd like to say we dove face first into the drainage behind us. We actually both landed on our feet when we jumped into the ditch. We watched in disbelief as the car blew past when we had been standing seconds before, throwing dirt and gravel as it pulled back on the road. We stood in the ditch until the taillights grew smaller and finally disappeared before we moved back on the shoulder.
We started walking along the road in the darkness again. It was five or ten minutes before we saw another car heading our way from behind us. I think we were both reluctant to try again – I know I was – but we stood and put our thumbs out. The car stopped just past us and waited for us. John told the driver we were going to Beaufort and he said “hop in.” Not long after that we saw the flashing lights of a police car ahead. The driver slowed as we went around the police vehicle, and as he did, John and I realized the car that had been pulled pulled over was the same one that had tried to run us down, or at least scare the hell out of us. We both felt a sense of revenge when we recognized the taillights of the car. I hoped with all my might that in addition to whatever he'd been pulled over for, he was also three sheets to wind and would spend a night or two in jail. Karma.
The rest of our trip to Beaufort was a blur. I don't remember if the driver who picked us up took us all the way into Beaufort, or we had to catch another ride. But we made it. The highlight of the weekend was when we were driving around Beaufort the next day. We were on a road that ran alongside the Marine Air Station that passed very close to the fence of the base and saw three or four F-4's parked just inside the fence. I'd never seen an F- 4 that close before, much less on the ground. I was amazed at how huge they were.
To this day I can't recall how we got back to Auburn. Maybe a family member of John's drove us to Savannah and we met John's friend and rode back to him. Maybe we hitchhiked all or part of the way back to Auburn. But I can tell you the Teke House never looked better than it did that Sunday when we arrived back in Auburn. I never hitchhiked again.
As aside, I'd like to tell the Fraters who were there when I was, why I suddenly disappeared at the end of spring quarter of1968. I was supposed to graduate then, but I learned I'd missed a couple of required courses and would not graduate on time. Both my roommates, Tom Lotz and Tom 'Dobbie' Dollman, left at the end of spring quarter. I decided to commute from Lafayette, my hometown, for summer quarter. That's when I lost touch with everyone.
The commute wasn't bad, it took less than 30 minutes each way. And I was on schedule to graduate in August – or so I thought.
At that time Vietnam - and the draft - was on the mind of pretty every male at Auburn. It was hard not to think about Vietnam, especially for those of us moving toward graduation. I think it was in 1967 when some joker cut the masthead and a huge headline underneath it from The Birmingham News and posted it on the TKE bulletin board in the hallway leading to the public area of house. The headline originally read “MARINES BEAT OFF NVA ATTACK. Some Frater with a good sense of humor and a steady hand carefully cut the words NVA ATTACK off so the headline now read “MARINES BEAT OFF.”
Vietnam and the draft were certainly on my mind as I began summer quarter, which was supposed to be my last quarter before graduation. Two weeks into classes I drove to the Navy Recruiting Office in Columbus, GA, and signed up for the Navy's 90 Day Delayed Enlistment plan. My plan was to go to boot camp camp after graduation, then apply for Naval OCS.
The following weekend the Navy gave me a bus ticket from Lafayette to Atlanta, when I went to the Armed Forces Induction Center on Ponce de Leon Avenue.
I passed the physical and spent that night there. The next day I signed an agreement giving me 90 days to report back to the induction center for active duty. Then I was to leave for boot camp in either San Diego or Great Lakes. I was scheduled to report about two weeks after graduation, so all was well. Until I decided to sell my car.
I don't know how many of you remember, but I bought a pale blue 1967 Mustang fastback from Fuller Ford in Opelika on their 'Senior Plan' when I was on summer break between my junior and senior year. After I returned home from the induction center, I decided to sell it. I couldn't have a car at boot camp, and who knew where I'd end up after that?
The following weekend a friend from high school came to look at the car. He decided not to buy it. But he happened to have a WWI Model 1917 rifle in the back seat of his car. He showed me the rifle and a brown paper bag with lose shells in it and asked if I'd like to shoot it. I said yes.
We drove out of town on a dirt road and pulled over just before we reached a wooden bridge over a small creek. There were empty beer cans scattered around so we picked up two or three and walked out on the bridge. My friend tossed a can in the creek and gave me the first shot. I noticed the bolt was hard to close and lock, but like an idiot, I went ahead and fired anyway. The can was still floating, so I put another round in the chamber. Again, the bolt was hard to lock. I aimed at the can and squeezed the trigger. Then I heard the loudest noise I've ever heard and for a split second saw a puff of white smoke coming toward my right eye. My ears were ringing and I suddenly I could see nothing out of my right eye but blurred shapes of blue and green from the sky and trees.
My friend drove me to the hospital in Lafayette. Because it was late afternoon on Friday, both doctors had left for the day. The nurse gave me the name of an ophthalmologist in West Point, GA. I had to wait until Monday morning to see him. The shock to my eye wore off about two hours after I got home. The pain was incredible.
Early Monday morning I drove to West Point. The doctor examined my eye and asked how old I was. I said I was 21. He shook his head and said, “I hate to see something like this happen to someone your age, but I think you're going to lose the eye.” Still, he put drops in my eye to deaden it, clamped my head into a refraction machine and spent the next hour digging tiny pieces of metal out of my cornea. He used a small battery- powered drill and a pick. The drill was like a miniature dentist's drill and the pick looked like a large sewing needle with a handle.
That went on for an hour a day for the next five days. On the fifth day, the deadening drops began to lose effect. While the doctor was using the drill, I could feel it. I jerked my head backwards, almost causing him rip my cornea – and me to lose my eye. He put the drill and pick down then folded his arms on the small tray in front of me. He put his head on his arms and actually wept. Finally he looked up and said “I've done all I can do.” He referred me to Emory Hospital in Atlanta. He had removed between 35 and 40 tiny bits of metal from my cornea.
The next week, an ophthalmologist at Emory examined my eye. When he finished, he drew a cross section of an eye on a piece of paper. He explained that I had three pieces of metal, two tiny, one larger and shaped like a fishhook, in my cornea. They were in too deep to remove. “Whoever worked on you in West Point did one hell of a job,” he said. “He probably saved your eye.”
On the bus back to Lafayette I lifted the bandage over my eye enough to look at my watch. For the first time I could read the tiny Walthram logo at the bottom of my watch face. My vision was almost back to where it was before the accident.
I was feeling better about my eye but was not prepared for what happened when I got home. First, there was a letter from my draft board. Auburn had expelled me because I'd missed five days of class and notified my draft board. I was to report within two weeks. I went to the draft board and showed them the paperwork for my delayed enlistment in the Navy. They voided the draft notice. Then, a week later, my Father was fired from his job as Plant Manager of Avondale Mills' Lafayette plant. He had been with Avondale for 40 years.
The news devastated my parents, especially my Mother. Not only had my Dad lost his job, but we were living in “The Big House,” a big, beautiful rent-free house the that was a perk of being Plant Manager. We had to be out of the house in two weeks.
My Father found a job with a textile mill in Dadeville, Alabama. Two weeks later, the family moved into a small rental house near the mill.
On September 30th, 1968, my mother drove from Dadeville to West Point, GA, where I took a bus to Atlanta. I had given up the Mustang before we left Lafayette. The next day I was sworn in at the induction center in Atlanta. It was then I learned I was not going to San Diego or Great Lakes, but to a new Recruit Training Command in Orlando, FL. Moreover, I was to be part of the first company to start training there. It turned out the Navy had selected two men from each state to make up the special first company. Everyone in the company had to have completed at least two years of college. I was one of two recruits selected to represent Alabama.
When I stepped off the plane in Orlando I was met by the Secretary of The Navy, several other military and civilian dignitaries, two TV news crews and other media. I was totally surprised at the reception. But not only had I been selected for the first company to begin training at Orlando, but because of my last name – Adams – I was billet number 1, Company 001.
All you who've gone through basic training, no matter what branch of service, know what a blur the first few days are. Talk about the shock treatment. On the second day, we had an intake physical. A technician noticed the vision in my right eye had gone from 20/15 since my first physical to 20/40. I told him about the accident. 20/40 in one eye was acceptable.
Over the next few weeks I settled into the routine of basic training. Endless drilling, exercise, classes, practicing to abandon ship from a tower over a swimming pool, etc. I actually came to enjoy the routine. At mid-point in training we were told it was time to apply for whatever “school” we wanted to enter after graduation. Because of my uncorrectable vision I was only eligible for two areas: Boatswain's Mate or Navy Corpsman. Nothing against Marines, but the last thing I wanted was to be was a medic. There was the small matter of Vietnam, plus I couldn't stand the sight of blood. Or for that matter, the idea of being on the ground in Vietnam without a weapon. Neither did I want to be a Boatswain's Mate, a glorified title for enlisted men who do menial chores, especially those just out of basic.
I learned that if I had a waiver for my eyesight I could qualify for other schools. I got a walking chit from my CO and set off for the base ophthalmologists' office, located in what was then a part of the old McCoy Air Force base. The ophthalmologists used a refraction machine to look into my cornea. He examined my eye both in light and in darkness. Then he ran to the hall and grabbed another doctor. “Look at this,” he said. “This guy's got pieces of a shotgun shell in his eye!” I had clearly told him it was a rifle that blew up, not a shotgun. He told me the metal caused my eye not to dilate in darkness or low light. Then he said, “you're going home.” I actually asked if I could stay in. He said no. He told me if the deepest piece of metal in my cornea – the fishhook- shaped one – ever worked it's way into the fluid sack I would lose the eye. In which case the Navy would owe me disability for the rest of my life.
I spent four weeks in a medical hold company until my case came before a medical board. I received an honorable discharge on 27 November, 1968. I was given a Delta Airlines ticket back to Atlanta, plus $15.00 and change. Barely enough to cover the cost of a bus ticket from Atlanta to Dadeville.
After a few months in Dadeville, my Dad resigned his position at the textile mill. He said, “l'll never work for another cotton mill as long as I live.” He didn't. He took an hourly wage job at Uniroyal in Opelika. My parents rented a beautiful old house in the historic district near downtown Opelika.
I took a job at a textile mill in Opelika and saved enough to pay my tuition at Auburn. Then I enrolled for spring quarter, 1969. I commuted from home. I couldn't schedule my thesis that quarter and ended up graduating at the end of the summer quarter. For graduation my parents bought me the suit of my choice and loaned me their second car, a 1963 white four-door impala. Two days later I set off for Atlanta.
So there you have it. The reason I disappeared at the end of spring quarter, 1968. I know I could have visited the House after I started back to Auburn after my (short) time in the Navy, but honestly, I was a little embarrassed. Even though I had worked summers and weekends in the mill in Lafayette for spending money since high school, my parents had paid most of my expenses at Auburn, including my dues. After my Father lost his job they could no longer afford it. It was all I could do to pay my tuition and buy art supplies for classes, especially my thesis. Plus had a part-time job at Jones Sheet Metal in Opelika, Monday through Friday from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm, which didn't leave much time for socializing.
I have great memories of my time at Auburn. Many of them revolved around a special group of guys I got to know when I was fortunate enough to be a Teke.
Special thanks to Frater Tom Dunlap, internet sleuth extraordinaire, who managed to track down my email address several years ago and put me in touch with the Fraters of Beta Lambda. Also special thanks to Frater Bruce Sprague and all he does to keep the brothers who were there when I was, in touch.
One more thing. In 1970, one year after graduating I was married and living in Columbus, GA. My job involved travel to central Alabama and Georgia. One day in LaGrange I saw a gun shop just outside town. I recognized the name: Marcus Smith's Gun Shop. When I lived in Lafayette, Marcus Smith's Gun Shop was located on the Georgia side of the Chattahoochee River next to a bridge over the river. I went there often, mostly to look, when I was in high school and later when I was home for summers from Auburn. Marcus had a great collection of WWII German Luger's. In early 1970 or so he was forced to move his shop near the river to LaGrange proper when construction on the West Point dam and lake began.
For old times sake I pulled over and went inside. Marcus Smith didn't remember me, which didn't surprise me. While we were talking I noticed a Model 1917 above a door leading to a back room. I asked if I could see it. He took it down and handed it to me. “It's not for sale,” he said as he passed the rifle to me. “It's just for display. It blew up on some boy over in Alabama a couple of years ago.” He was fascinated when I told him I was that “boy” from Alabama. And then he told me an interesting story. The ruptured shell casing was still in the chamber when he acquired the rifle. It was a 7mm belted magnum. The rifle was chambered for a .30-06.
So in closing, a word of advice. If a friend shows up with a WWI rifle in his back seat and a brown paper bag full of lose shells on the floorboard, do not under any circumstances agree to shoot it. And if you do, make sure you wear proper ear and eye protection. Just saying.
I still have a little souvenir from the day that changed my life, a tiny fishhook-shaped piece of metal buried deep inside my right cornea. It still has an effect on me. No, not my vision, to this day I don't need glasses. But three years ago when I needed an MRI after an x-ray revealed I had five spinal fractures as a result of a hiking accident, that little souvenir prevented me from having the MRI.
Yours In The Bond Terry Adams (BL310