By Vance Perkins
I have always had the utmost respect for those who served in the military of the United States of America. Those who answered the call during WWII have been dubbed “The Greatest Generation”, and rightfully so.
I was able to visit and interview a few of that generation. Mr. Howard Spell was the first one that I interviewed. Since interviewing him in 2015, he crossed over Jordan into the land of no more war on Mar. 31, 2018. I hope you find his story as interesting as I did.
These United States were in the midst of the “Roaring Twenties” before “The Great Depression” crippled the economy. On the world stage, Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin were rising to power, setting the stage for events that would plunge the world into WW II.
Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb were making names for themselves in the sports world. Chrysler Corporation was formed to compete with Chevrolet and Ford. The first motel (motorist’s hotel) opened to accommodate the growing automobile travel industry. The first Goodyear blimp takes flight and Calvin Coolidge delivers the first presidential inaugural address to be broadcast by radio.
Into this world, on July 13, 1925, Howard was born to Emery and Angie Huffman Spell in Orangefield, Texas. Howard’s dad was a preacher who also worked in the oil field for 10 cents an hour to take care of his family. Life was not easy.
Howard can remember times when they lived in tents on the locations where his dad was working. He also fondly recalls being rocked by his mother as she sang gospel songs to him and his sister. Also burned deep into his memory are the sounds of his mother praying for him, as she rocked him to sleep.
Spell in the Army
In 1943 at the age of 18, he joined the ranks of the U.S. Army as an infantryman. He became a member of the 76th Infantry. He walked in the very places we read of in our history books. He crossed paths with military men we have watched in documentaries. Do you recognize any of these names and places? Patton, Battle of the Bulge, Siegfried Line, Rhine, Bastogne, Antwerp, Ardennes, River Meuse. He was there. He fought in the trenches. He helped clear the concrete bunkers called pillboxes the Germans had constructed. It was very intense warfare to say the least. We owe a debt of gratitude to Howard and all those who have been called “The Greatest Generation”.
Howard was discharged on Mar. 9, 1946. He returns home and begins working for Foster Wheeler Construction Company. During this time, he meets the Braneff boys from Starks. They introduce him to one of their cousins, Lucille Clark. Howard and Lucille marry in early 1947 and make their home in Pt. Arthur, Texas.
Early 1951, Howard is still working for Foster Wheeler. In a deep trench, lying on his stomach to position timbers under the tracks of a big rig, a large truck loaded with wooden timbers is inadvertently backed over him. The truck wheels roll over his head crushing his hard hat and continues rolling over his upper torso. The back of his skull is crushed like an eggshell, his shoulder injured and his left eye damaged. He spends 35 days in the hospital.
In late 1951 while recovering from his injuries, he and Lucille move to her hometown of Starks. Howard is unable to work for 4 1/2 years but while recuperating, he begins classes at a technical school to learn how to repair radios, TV’s and electronics.
He begins working at Nevil’s Radio Shop in Pt. Arthur, Texas but the call of construction work beckons again and he returns to work in the plants as a heavy equipment operator. In 1962, he begins working for the Louisiana DOTD at the scales in Starks. He retires from the state in 1993 with 31 years of service.
Howard is a very accomplished musician, playing guitar, bass and mandolin. He is self taught. Beginning at the age of 10, when his sister would leave the house, he would get her guitar and begin learning the chords.
For several years, he has played the bass at the church he attends, Calvary Apostolic Church. Howard is also known for his water dowsing ability. He has marked the location of many water wells in the area. When using limbs for dowsing, he prefers peach tree limbs. He became aware of his dowsing ability by closely observing another dowser, the late Wendell Drake. The need for his special gift has lessened considerably since the installation of a public water system in the area.
Howard and Lucille still reside in Starks. They have five children, George, Howard, Herbert, Patricia and Sharon. Their family is now five generations deep, as they are great great-grandparents.
It has been a pleasure to visit with these fine people. People like Bro. Howard and Sister Lucille are what make this country great. Honest, hard working, God fearing individuals doing whatever it takes to make a living. Loving God and each other and praying for family and friends.
By reading my feeble attempt at writing about Howard’s life, I hope, we realize, that he is one among many of our family and friends who have contributed greatly to maintaining and preserving our way of life.
Look around, there are Unknown Heroes among us.