BC: James Paul Ratliff | Created by: Tricia Fells 2013
FC: James Paul Ratliff 1937-2012
1: Autobiography of James Paul Ratliff written by James Paul Ratliff
2: In the year of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ at nine minutes after nine o'clock on August 9, 1937 a boy child was born to Agnes Lucille Dodson Ratliff and James Milton Ratliff, In the City of Cumberland, County of Harlem, in the State of Kentucky. They chose to name this boy child James Paul Ratliff and I am that boy child. There were two girls before me by the names of Jacqueline Jean (Jackie) and Betty Sue, another boy about 6 years after me his name is Ronald Lee (Ronnie). I remember very little about Cumberland Kentucky except that the Roark's lived next door to us. I had learned how to twirl on the back of my heel, so I went to their house, stood on their front porch, yelled through the screen door to watch what I could do. I twirled on my heel and when I stopped they started laughing, that embarrassed me and I ran back home. The Roark's had a Daughter Barbara, my age and she was my first puppy love, she called me G Paul. One other thing I remember was that a river ran through the Town and one day a rainstorm occurred up stream so we went to the river and watched mattresses, roof tops and out buildings float by. There was a deaf mute there also, when he saw the mattress he put his hands together placed them on his cheek, as if to say there goes a mattress. We moved from Cumberland to Lynch Kentucky where we lived in a house that set on the side of a mountain.
3: The mountain sloped down from the top to a flat area, across a alley way, across our yard, then sloped down to the next flat area where the street was with houses on the opposite side of the street, then sloped down again to the river behind those houses. The front of our house faced the front of the house next door with a small fence separating the two yards. When we were on the front porch of our house we could talk to our neighbor sitting on their front porch. Our neighbor would always make homebrew in a number 3 wash tub and invite dad over when it was finished to share a glass of brew together. Dad would let me drink some of the foam off of his glass. I was about six years old when my brother was born at home. When it was time, we had to go to the neighbor's house until he arrived then my Dad came over and carried me along with my two sisters to see our new baby brother. Just down the road about a one-half mile was, on the way to town, was the entrance to a coal mine. One day the engine was coming out of the mine pulling some coal cars, while my dad and I were walking by. The operator of the engine, who was a friend of dads stopped to talk to him. He asked if I wanted to ride into the mine with him, my Dad said definitely not, he might like it and I do not want him working in a coal mine.
4: My Dad worked in a Cabinet Shop that sat under a cliff in the mountain and you could hear the rocks every once in a while falling on the tin roof, which always scared me but did not seem to bother the people that worked there. My Dad always carried a lunch pail to work, when my Mother would pack it, she would put in a cupcake or a candy bar and when he came home after work he would let me open his lunch pail so I could have the treat. On the days I was bad, Mother would meet Dad at the door and tell him. He would make me go out back and cut a limb off of the Peach tree and switch my behind. From what I hear I cut a lot of switches, because I was very bull headed. One Christmas I received a G-Man badge and a toy gun set, when I wore it outside the neighborhood kids made fun of it and I never wore it again. One night Dad was called out to help fight a forest fire that was raging at the other end of the mountain that we lived on and we could see the red glow in the night sky. As the night wore on the sky was getting brighter and brighter as the fire was moving toward our house and I can remember standing at the window and seeing the flame. They were able to put it out before it reached the houses. Another time a big bolder rolled down the mountain and rolled through our neighbors garage. Every one was excited, we all went over to look at the bolder and the damage it did to the garage. I am sure the owner wasn't very happy.
5: The only winter I can remember, it snowed very hard and the snow piled up on the telephone lines about a foot high and icicles that hung from the mountain cliff behind our house, were a lot taller than I was. I remember one day we were on a train headed toward Texas. I don't remember packing for the trip or getting on the train but I do remember the train was full of Service Men. Dad had to set on one of the suitcases while Mother, Jackie, Betty and I set in a seat and Mother held Ronnie for he was still a baby and I was about seven years old. We crossed over the Mississippi River and when I looked down at the water, I said to my Mother; look at the botermotes, of course I meant motorboats. When we arrived in Fort Worth, Texas, Uncle Theo (Mothers brother) and Grandma, (Mothers Mother, Gladis) met us at the train station and we rode home from Fort Worth to Antelope, about 60 miles, in the back of a pickup truck with a tarp pulled over us for the night air was cold. We lived with our grandparents Dodson for a while and attended Antelope School. That didn't last long for Dad found a house that he rented a couple of miles down the road from our grandparents house. We transferred from Antelope School to Jermyn School in Jermyn Texas. The School was a very small school for there were three grades in one room. My teachers name was Mrs. Wolf and occasionally she would bring her little boy to school with her,
6: he would sit on her desk and do all kinds of funny things that would make the class laugh. One day in class I had a sick headache and tried to get the teachers attention but it was to late and I barfed all over the floor; then I ran outside. Betty and Jackie were in class down the hall and someone went to their class and got them to come and take care of me. I used to have those sick headaches all the time and when I would barf it would be over with and I would be O.K. When I got back in the class room the Teacher told all the Kids that if they needed to throw up they did not have to ask her permission to leave the room. One day mother had bought me a new pair of boots and the first day I wore them to school was a winter day and it was cold outside and the school was heated with steam radiant heaters and I put my feet to the heater and when I took them off the souls of my new boots were partially melted for the souls were made of a soft rubber that was called crepe souls. A boy in my class brought his bicycle to school and I learned how to ride it and when I got home I wanted to ride Betty's bike but she said I could not, so I waited until they went to town and rode it any way and boy did I have fun. We lived in the country so we had to ride the bus to school. One morning after a hard rain that night, we had to pass the Antelope school bus coming from the opposite direction on a muddy dirt road and when they got side by side both of the busses got stuck in the mud. By the time they got the busses out of the bog and made the rest of the route it was lunchtime when we arrived at school and we enjoyed the whole ordeal. Since we lived in the country and
7: the nearest house was about a mile down the road I did not have any friends to play with very often, I would make my own games by lassoing the pig, chasing the baby chicks until the mother hen would get tired of running and jump on my back and peck me on the head. I would make my own sand to play with by rubbing sand stone on the concrete roof of the storm seller, then make roads and hills for my cars. I would pour water down the Tarantula holes to make the Tarantula come out so we could kill them. On some special holidays Grandma would invite all of the family over and have a big picnic dinner down by the creek in a pecan grove. We had Uncles, Aunts and cousins from all over that part of the country and they would all bring food, real home cooking. Granddad would hang ropes in the trees for us kids to swing on and he had other games for us to play, although I cannot remember what they were. In this same pecan grove is where my dad let me shoot the shotgun for the first time. We would go to the pecan grove and hunt squirrels during squirrel season and Grandma would cook them for lunch. Granddad had horses for his farming, and when Jackie had to go the outhouse and the horses were near the house, she would not go because she was afraid of the horses, so mother would go with her. Granddad raised his own hay for the cows and horses and I remember loading the hay bails on the horse drawn wagon and hauling them to the barn and building hay stacks outside of the barn. We would get on top of the hay stack and slide off.
8: We moved again about a mile further down the road to the Leatherwood farm to a house behind the main house because Dad was working in Port Arthur and he felt it would be safer there because we were not on the main road and the other place was and sometimes there would be strange characters traveling that road. Peete our dog would scare them off if they stopped at our house. We lived in Jermyn until Jackie and Gloria, a cousin of ours that was living with us, graduated at the end of that year, then we moved to Port Arthur. In the front yard of the Leatherwood house we lived in, was a huge thorn bush that was about 15 feet in diameter and I made a tunnel into the center of it for me to play in. I felt like bur-rabbit in the briar patch. It was at this house that I witnessed for the first time the birth of a baby calf and it was not a pretty site for they had to help the mother cow to deliver by using a come-along to help the calf come out and I was really not impressed. We also had a windmill in the front yard that pumped water into a tub for the cattle to drink; you could hear it squeaking at night and hear the water running into the tub which mad a real country sound. At night the horses would come up to the fence close to the house and rub on the fence post and the first time we heard it we did not know what it was and it scared us until mother shined the flashlight out the window and saw that it was the horses.
9: The house we lived in had electricity and running water from a well but did not have gas or a bathroom. The house was heated with a wood burning pot-bellied stove in the living room and mother cooked on a wood-burning kitchen stove. It was part of my job to bring in the wood. We would take a bath in a number three galvanized washtub in the kitchen and mother would heat the water on the stove because we did not have a hot water heater. When you wanted to use the restroom we would walk about 200 feet to a little wooden privy behind the house and at night we would use the chamber pot or off the side of the front porch. That summer after Jackie and Gloria graduated, Daddy and a friend of his drove up in a flatbed truck and we loaded all of our belongings into the truck. Mother and Jackie rode in the cab and Daddy, Betty, Ronnie and I rode in the back with the furniture. The truck had side rails and a
10: tarpaulin over the top and down the sides and back so we were not exposed to the elements. Late that night we arrived in Port Arthur where Daddy had rented a building that once was a store. He installed walls in it to make rooms with a living room, kitchen, and two bedrooms, one for Jackie and Betty and one for Mother, Daddy, Ronnie and me, also a bathroom of which we had never had before. The house was located on 25th Street across from the dead end of 4th Avenue. When School started Mother enrolled me in Terrell School, where I met Erick Kimble (Peanut) who lived across the street from us. We would ride our bikes to school together. Peanuts Daddy owned a service station, also across the street from our house, and we would meet there and see who could drink a bottle of coke the fastest, I never did win and I do not like coke today. I also met another boy named Leroy Hebert and he lived about four blocks from our house. I would ride my bike to his house to play. One day I was over at his house around lunch time and his mother invited me to eat with them.l I sat at the table and she put a slice of meat and rice on my plate, then she did something that I had never seen before, she put gravy on my rice. I guess I looked shocked for she asked me what was wrong so I told her I had never had gravy on my rice before. In Kentucky we ate rice as a cereal with milk and sugar. Her response was, try it, I did and I have been eating race and gravy ever since. Dad had a car but sometimes we would catch the City buss to go to town or over to Aunt Dorothy's house.
11: We lived on 25th until I was in the sixth grade and was transferred to Woodrow Wilson Junior High School, then Dad bought a house at 621 Marshall Ave. I would ride my bicycle to school and sometimes I would walk for it was only about a mile or so. The neighborhood boys would play sandlot football on the center median of DeQueen boulevard, The Johnson boys would also play with us and the younger of the boys name was Jimmy and when he grew up he became the coach of the Dallas cowboys Football Team. Down Town Port Arthur was a booming place during those days. There were three movie theatres down town and on weekends we would go to the movies, one Saturday afternoon Audi Murphy and Susan Cabot were in front of the Strand Theatre signing autographs and I got to meet them. Down town Port Arthur was always crowded in the 1950's. On Saturdays, when Dad would take us to town, Mother would make him drive around until we could find a place close to where she wanted to shop. Today one would not believe it but back then a parking place was hard to find on a Saturday. My Dad would always get the news paper on Saturday morning and go through the grocery sells, Pick out the items that we needed then load us in the car and go to each store where they were selling two for one items, there was usually a limit, then he would send us in one at a time until he got all he needed. I know it was for our good but I still did not like to do it.
12: In those days we did not have air conditioning, instead we had an attic fan and at night we would sleep with the windows open so the fan would draw in the cool damp night air. When the humidity was high you would wake up in the morning and your night clothes would be wet. Another thing we did not have was a television until I was in the ninth grade and then we only had three channels. We had to get a tall antenna that extended above the top of the house and at times the picture looked like a snow storm. My favorite comedian was Red Skelton. Mother always watched wrestling an would really get into the action when her favorite wrestler, Gorges George was on. When I entered the ninth grade my dad got me a job at Stevens market, which was on the corner of 7th Street and Marshall Ave., one half block from our house. while I was working there, there were these two gorgeous teenage girls that would come in and buy RC Colas. Mr. Stevens would holler at me, if I was in the stock room, to bring out a carton of RC Colas and I knew who they were for. One day Floyd Rivers who lived across the street from us, we ran around together, asked if I wanted to take Betty and Vivian out on a date, these were the two gorgeous teenage girls previously mentioned. I told him I would and my life has not been the same since. Betty worked across the street from the grocery store where I worked and she would watch every move I made. We dated for about five years and then in February 1960 I joined the Army Reserves.
13: In March I went to Fort Knox Kentucky for basic training for eight weeks and then to Fort Linter wood Missouri for specialist training. I was in training for six months and then in the Reserves for six years. After I returned home from basic training we were married on December 2, 1960. We spent our wedding night at the Holiday Inn in Beaumont on Eleventh Street. The next morning we headed for Houston but when we entered Houston and saw the traffic there, me being a country boy and never seeing that much traffic in one place, we decided to drive on to Galveston where we spent our Honeymoon at the seahorse Motel on the beach. In those days it was a fancy Motel, but today it isn't that great. Up date, it has been torn down and a Walgreen's drug store sits in it's place. After our honeymoon we lived in an apartment house on DeQueen boulevard while our house in Port Acres was being built, on a lot we bought from Grace and Sam Pritchett, Betty's Sister and her Husband. The name of the design of the home was the Honeymooner. It had a 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, a living room and a Kitchen dining room combination, but it did not have a garage. We always planned to add a garage and a den but never did. We always enjoyed living next to Grace and Sam for they were good neighbors. We became good friends with Gene and May Powell who lived in the house on the other side of our house and have remained friends ever since. Update both have passed away. On May 7, 1962 the Lord blessed us with a beautiful blonde headed baby girl. We named her Paula, after my middle name Paul and Sue after Betty's middle name Sue.
14: Then on March 17, 1964 the Lord blessed us again with a beautiful naturally curly brunette Girl. We named her Pamela Kay, she wasn't named after anyone special but she was special to us. They always enjoyed going ext door to aunt Grace's house. Grace kept Paula when I took Betty to the hospital when Pam was born. Grace and Sam sold their house to Peanut and Sue Bullion that had three children, our girls enjoyed playing with their girl and tow boys. We lived in Port Acres about 12 years and sold that place and bought a house in Port Arthur at 1249 James Avenue, in 1973 and is where on March 19, 1974 the Lord blessed us again with another Beautiful brunette baby girl. We named her Tricia Lynn and again she was not named after anyone special, but she was special to, even though she was a suprise but a welcomed suprise. Before we were married I resigned the job I had with Stevens Market in 1958 and went to work at the Texas Highway Department, in the Engineering Department, where we surveyed for highway locations and control staking for Highway construction projects. The office was next door to the Glass Drugstore on Proctor Street at Stillwell Boulevard in Port Arthur. Then we moved to a new building on highway 347. We worked on numerous highway projects in Jefferson County and Chambers County which included four lanes of Hwy. 347 from Port Arthur to Nederland, Hwy. 69 from Nederland to Beaumont, two hwy. 73 overpasses Winnie and Pleasure Island Causeway Hwy to Louisiana.
15: After leaving T.H.D. in 1966 I went to work with the City of Port Arthur, again in the Engineering Department. We worked on many street paving projects and city wide drainage projects. We did the layout construction staking for the Port Arthur City Hall parking lot and the operation center streets and drainage on Highway 73. In 1974 I began doing layout work for the streets in the urban renewal area on the Port Arthur west side for Buddy Hammond and the next year I went to work for him at this construction company, i would layout construction projects, help place concrete, operate equipment and hustle supplies for the projects. We placed many yards of concrete for house slab's, driveways, and parking lots. We placed concrete in several of the refineries in the area, for tank foundations and building slabs. Things went pretty well until about 1984 and construction hit rock bottom. I was missing pay checks and when our banking account was down to 45 dollars I had to tell Buddy that I would have to find another job, that was very hard to do but Buddy understood. Not to long after that he had to go bankrupt and close the doors. I planned not to go back to work for a while and take a few weeks off to rest but Hollier construction called me to work for him part time. Betty said she thought I would never go back to work and she was getting worried. I finally decided to look for a job and found one with a company named Textrack. I worked with them setting control stakes for railroad construction and also ran a backhoe and dozer when doing the construction of the railroad.
16: I was in charge of building a grain unloading pit at the Port of Beaumont and two sets of truck scales in Beaumont and in Pasadena. While in Pasadena building a Railroad bridge I got the end of my left thumb smashed off with a 10 pound sledge hammer, from not knowing how to speek spanish. I worked in the office for a few months and then they transferred me to work for Duckworth portable building compay, which was owned by the same company. While there I was in charge of buildnng a concrete slab for a metal acetylene rental and storage building. Keith Capello worked with us for a while building Portable buildings. I left there and took a job with Troy Construction in charge of engineering on the Jimmy Johnson overpass approaches and access roads for about two years. During those two years Betty was able to go to Lamar and got her associates degree in accounting. I made enough to pay for her college expenses and run a family. If it hadn't been for this job she would not have been able to afford to go to college. In 1988 this job came to a close and they offered me a job with the prime contractor but I would be working out of Houston so I turned it down and took a Job with dp Consulting Engineers here in this area on February 1989. This is where I am to this day and will probably retire from this company.
17: In June 13, 1998 we closed on the sale of our house on James Avenue in Port Arthur and moved to 3315 Ave. L in Nederland. We decided to move from James Avenue when me and Brian were working on my lawnmower in the front yard when we heard a pop, pop, pop and we looked at each other and said that was gun shots. We went to the end of the drive way and looked down the street where a black lady was laying in the ditch where she fell after two black boys on bicycles had shot her three times. the week before someone had shot at her house in a drive by shooting. About a month before that happened the neighbors found a black lady in their front yard that had been shot and pushed out of a car. I told Betty then that we needed to move. We began looking for houses in the Nederland area and looked at several before we found the one we are living in now. We feel that the Lord had a hand in finding this house for us, for we never put out a for sale sign at the other house, although the Real-estate Lady wanted to put one out. She came back the next week and said she had a buyer if we wanted to sell so we did. The next week my Sister Betty called and told us about a house her friend was selling and that we needed to talk to them that day so we did and decided to take it because it had everything we had been looking for in a house and it was in our price range. We are very happy we did and we think the Lord for his help. We closed on the house at Avenue L, pending on the sell of the house at James Ave. We repainted all of the rooms, then we moved in, before we closed on the house at James Ave. Betty said if the deal fell through we were going to move out at night so no one would know.
18: The Lord is still working in this deal for we were able to close on the James Avenue property. We are very glad that we have a house that has everything we wanted in a house and in a good and safe neighborhood. We have a large tree in the front yard with a fork in it about three feet from the ground, the kids in the neighborhood and kids that visit like to play in that tree. One of the larger limbs hung over the street and when got to looking at it I noticed that it had a infestation of termites. We were very worried of the possibility of this limb falling across the street or on someones vehicle. We decided that the best thing we needed to do was cut the tree down. We were really sad to see it go and it was a good shade tree for the house in the evening. We have really enjoyed living here and we have good neighbors but they do not visit like the neighbors we had in Port Acres. While working in Woodville TXl., in 1992 I had a heart attack. I woke up that morning and did my usual exercises before going to work and noticed I had a pain in the middle of my chest and I thought that I had pulled a muscle but as the day continued the pain grew worse. I went to the apartment for lunch and that is when the attack occurred. The pain was so intense I could feel the pain shooting down both arms and out the ends of my fingers. I laid in the bed for a time and then the pain went away. I went back to the office told Rita, my secretary, that I was going home because I think I just had a heart attack. Dave Perrell came in and followed me back home where Paula and Keith picked me up and took me to Park Place Hospital.
19: They checked me in and the Doctor that was there was Doctor Morbia. He checked me and confirmed that I had had a heart attack and the nurse chewed me out for driving back from Woodville. The attack damaged the lower 3% of my heart. The Doctor told me that if there is ever a good heart attack, this one was because it warned me that I do have heart problems and now we can keep a check on it. Since that day I have had two balloon procedures, two seperate tow way bypasses and numerous heart caths. I also have had an Abdominal Aorta repair and had my Gallbladder removed. The End.........
21: Thank you for courageously sacrificing your time away from your family to serve our country for your wife, future children and grandchildren.
22: In Loving Memory James Paul Ratliff Monday, August 9, 1937 to Monday, June 18, 2012 Twenty-Third Psalm The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul; He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His names sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff, thy comfort me; Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; Thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
23: Funeral Service Grammier-Oberle Funeral Home Port Arthur, Texas June 22, 2012 at 10:00a.m. Prayer and Scriptural Reading - Psalm 23 by Pastor Ed Wittung Congregational Hymn - "Amazing Grace" Reading of Obit - Pastor George Hearne Eulogy - Pastor James West "I'd Rather Have Jesus" - Paula Capello & Heather Capello Message - Pastor Ed Witttung "What A Day That Will Be" - Paula Capello, Pam Lide & Tricia Fells Closing Prayer - Pastor George Hearne Burial Greenlawn Memorial Park Groves, Texas Friday, June 22, 2012
24: Pallbearers Keith Capello - Active Daniel Fells - Active Austin Bevil - Active Brian Lide - Active Ryan Capello - Active Evan Rawls - Active