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Paecetime (Civilian Life)
by Mansel W. Johns (353R/353B D/A)
After being discharged from the service, I returned to the farm, took a job as an auto mechanic in a country garage. Not having many people around as we had in the Motor Pool, I decided this was too lonely. I then worked as a roofer laying three-tab shingles that paid very well. My boss loved to drink beer and eat steak when he had some money; therefore, I decided I had no future there. Next three of us purchased a compressor and a motor and took jobs spray painting barns, houses and farm buildings as there was a great deal of deferred maintenance on farms after the war. This was good for a while but I could see that there must be something better in the future. I remembered that I loved tools and making things and building things. I decided to go back to college and finish the courses in teaching shop. While in school I worked on the farm on weekends. After school I worked in a hardware store plus tending bar two evenings a week and Sunday afternoon. That job was as an education in itself.
After graduating in the Spring of 1948, I helped build a barn at home. In the Fall I took a job teaching in a small town, Gilman, Wisconsin for $2,600. There I taught drafting, woodworking, welding, leather craft and algebra. I enjoyed this very much. The students as well a the citizens of the community were very appreciative and respectful of what we did in the school system. During all my summers, while teaching, I either attended summer school, got menial jobs with a tree trimmer, worked as a roofer, painter or did school repairs.
I met My Girl by accident on a warm balmy evening in June of 1949 while I was home on the farm for the summer. In hopes of seeing some of my buddies I hadnít seen since returning from the service, I decided to visit a couple local taverns 6 or 8 miles from home. While sipping a beer and having a casual visit with the locals, someone came in and said Kenneth Reuter had an accident about Ĺ a mile up the road and since he was our next farm neighbor I went up to check. It was a sideswipe but cars were in one lane so I used my flashlight to try so slow the traffic down.
One car slowed and stopped. The fellow in it I knew but casually he said this is my sister and when I told them about the accident they said he is a relative of ours. We talked a little more and I found his sister friendly and interesting. Made me feel I would like to know her better so I asked her for a date. She said I am busy. I said I have heard that before how about your phone number which she finally and reluctantly gave me.
I called her in Dubuque and was permitted a very short date but after that they were longer and quite frequent as we both had many interests alike. Some of which came from our farm background. For the following three summers, when I was not teaching, we spent so much time together we decided we should get married. Her brother agreed even though I was not of her faith. It did not cause a problem and doesnít yet today. Presently she calls herself a recovering Catholic. We were married in 1952.
I quit my job and took a similar job in Medford, Wisconsin, the county seat of Taylor County. The pay was better - $2,900 for nine months. Housing in Medford was almost non-existent so we purchased a used 8í x 24í mobile home for $1,600 that we could pull behind the car. After one year in Medford we pulled our home to Dubuque, Iowa. I worked in the John Deere tractor factory but found it was not my bag so I took a teaching job in Madison, Wisconsin. We still lived in the mobile home and did so for five years.
In 1959, partly because of the three months of unemployment during the summers, we started building a house while living in the small mobile home. We carried the tools in the trunk of the car for two years as we built our home on two-day weekends for two years plus the three months (7 days a week) in the summers. Dot loves to drive nails in the house. I would guess that she drove ľ of the nails in the home plus practically all the insulation.
After two years we moved in and are still in it today. In 1987 we added a four-space garage as well as a new kitchen plus twelve feet to the back side of the house. In building the house, we did all the work ourselves including the designing. The parts we got help with was the digging of the basement, the heating, plumbing and the hot roof. This project put me in mind of some of the work performed in the Engineers.
I felt burned out after teaching Junior High for 13 years in the Madison system making a total of 18 years. To quit teaching in 1967 was a difficult decision to make because I had just reached the top of the salary schedule of $12,000. My wife was selling real estate and she searched for an investment. We purchased a 3-unit apartment building which we rented to graduate students. We also purchased a very run down mobile home park with 21 renting lots. For six years our weekends and my summers were spent remodeling the park. We both worked digging, forming, pouring concrete, staking it off and edging it bringing it up to 50 units. We finished the park with the landscaping and planting of 60 trees.
Then we purchased a 19-unit student rental apartment building. We knew it was in bad shape but did not expect it to take 7 years almost full time to refurbish it. Again the two of us did almost all of the crack patching, painting, carpet laying, plumbing repairs, furniture repairs, glass replacements, carpentry, drape making, electrical work, interviewing, leasing and cleaning.
After having the building 14 years we sold it not for the substantial gain but we felt we needed more time for ourselves. We still are too busy with our home, our garden, the 3-unit and the 50 families at the mobile park. We have taken some time to play as we pulled an 18-foot camper thruout the States and Mexico. We have taken 4 international trips, 5 cruises, flying lessons and we own a 1995 Harley-Davidson Heritage model motorcycle. We hunt white tail deer, fish, and garden. I take care of 4 swarms of bees, do wood carving, and do some bonsai work forming small decorative trees.
I donít know whether being in the Engineers where we did everything inspired me to do some of the things I have done in life or whether the Engineers chose those of us that were capable of doing many things and enjoyed a variety of projects in life.
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