"When the war started, I didn't want to be drafted because the Army would just put me to shoveling coal or something. I wanted to stay with my trade as an electrician. So I enlisted in the Navy and got second-class electrician's mate. While I was in the Pacific, I made chief, the equivalent to master sergeant.
"I was on a troop transport. We would take the troops in and land them on the beaches. Up at Okinawa, there was a suicide plane headed right for our ship. Our ship and the one next to us both opened fire and he was hit. When we hit him, he went down between the two ships. They tried to rescue him but the Japanese code was death, so he swam out to sea.
"I left my ship on the West Coast and went to a receiving station to wait for transportation. I was going to take a course in gyro-compasses and it was clear on the East Coast. While I was waiting, the war ended.
"I got back on with Western Electric. I had to be traveling all the time. I had a wife and baby, and I was on the road 90 percent of the time.
"I had a friend in the heating and cooling business, so I took a job with him at less money to get away from traveling. I was there about a year when Carbide hired me. It was a busy place. They had half a dozen units with maybe 100 people in each unit. I had a little shop near the main office and traveled all over the plant repairing speaker systems and fire alarm systems.
"After 27 years with Carbide, I retired in '72 or '73.
"We bought this house in 1947. Before houses were built on Chesterfield Avenue, we were on the edge of civilization. The street was only paved one block past my house.
"While I was at Carbide, I met some people who were growing orchids, and I joined an orchid club. I had a greenhouse filled with orchids out there in the yard. I loved the pretty blooms, but it was a fair amount of work. I'd sell a few and gave some away.
"When I had just six of my favorites left, I kept them in the bay window of the dining room. In 2010, the last of my orchids died.
"I went to helping out with Hospice and stayed with them for 20 years. I visited patients and ran errands. I visited homes a lot.
"I've done some traveling -- two trips to west coast on the train and a trip to the west coast on a plane. I've been all over the Pacific, back and forth across the equator and the International dateline.
"I've seen a lot of change. When I came to Charleston, they didn't have radios like they have now. When I was about 15, I built a little crystal set with earphones. I got it to work several times.
"A few years later, I took a correspondence course in radio repair. Then I went to a place where they sold radios. People would trade in their old radios, so I bought one of the old trade-ins and repaired it so it was good as new. I think I paid $5 and got a nice console radio.
"We got our first TV in 1953, a 17-inch black and white.
"I worked at McFadden Ignition installing radios in cars. I did the antennas. At that time, they were under the running boards. They'd run the car on the pit, and I would go under there and install the antenna.
"I watch a good bit of TV, mainly 'Andy Griffith' reruns and 'Texas Ranger.' I use the computer some, but I have to ask my son for advice now and then. And I've got a cellphone right here on my belt.
"I lost my wife in 1987, but I'm getting along. I'm surprised I've lived this long. Except for this left knee, I'm fine. I've enjoyed my life. I can't think of anything I'd do differently. I just kind of planned as I went."Reach Sandy Wells at san...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5173.