Euless, Texas was first settled in about 1867 as a small farming community in North Central Texas. The City is located midway between Dallas and Fort Worth Texas, just west of DFW International Airport. It was incorporated in 1953 and at the time of the 2000 U.S. Census had a population of 46,005. The City of Euless encompasses approximately 16.3 square miles. (42.1 KM2)
Henry “Tubby” Murray Huffman was born in Euless on 6 March 1919. He graduated from South Euless School and worked with his father in construction work . He married Bettye Sue Akin of Dallas and joined the Army Air Corp in 1942. At the time of this interview, Tubby lived in Waterflow, New Mexico
Debby Vasser was born in Fort Worth and is the third child of Henry Murray and Bettye Sue Huffman.
Debbie Vasser: Today’s date is Monday, January 15, 2007. I’m Debbie Vasser, and I have with me Henry Murray Huffman whom I am interviewing today. For our records give us your entire name.
Henry Huffman: Henry Murray Huffman.
Debbie Vasser: And where do you live as of now?
Henry Huffman: I live in Waterflow, New Mexico and the mailing address is P.O. Box 1560 Waterflow, New Mexico, 87421.
Debbie Vasser: When and where were you born?
Henry Huffman: I was born in Euless, Texas on March 6, 1919
Debbie Vasser: If at home, what home was it and where was it?
Henry Huffman: It was a home I believe that was taken by the airport later, about a mile and a half east of Euless. I lived about a quarter of a mile south from the road that existed.
Debbie Vasser: Who was your mother and where was she born?
Henry Huffman: She was Annie Laura Huffman. She was born in a little old place. I believe it was Faldon, five miles south of Dallas.
Debbie Vasser: Do you remember any stories about her childhood?
Henry Huffman: I don’t really remember too much of her childhood. In fact, I don’t know that she talked that much about it, it don’t seem like, at least I don’t remember any of it that much.
Debbie Vasser: Except that her father married…
Henry Huffman: Yeah, her father married Louie, Louisa…
Debbie Vasser: And her sister died in a fire, her mother’s sister…
Henry Huffman: I believe that’s right but I think it was her half sister.
Debbie Vasser: So your mother’s father had been married before to your grandmother’s sister.
Henry Huffman: I believe that’s right.
Debbie Vasser: Do you have any brothers or sisters?
Henry Huffman: Yes, I had a sister named Jewel Maurine Huffman who was six or seven years older than me and she married Heorger Massey. She died from a strangulated Femeral Hernia when she was thirty seven years old.
Debbie Vasser: …and your brother?
Henry Huffman: Well, I have another sister that’s three and a half years older than I, and her name is Florene Huffman. And she married J.B. McGinnis. She and I still correspond a lot by phone everyday just about, some times more.
Debbie Vasser: …okay and now your brother.
Henry Huffman: Now my brother…Harold Thomas Huffman (nicknamed Bubba) was born 1932. He met the depression head on, kind-of at the beginning of it. He was 14 years younger than me and he was in the Navy for some time and was discharged later. And he married Glenadene Barton and they had two girls, Kathy and Shelly.
Debbie Vasser: Do you remember your mother’s mother and father?
Henry Huffman: Well, my grandfather died well before I was born but I sure remember my mother’s mother because she was like a second mother to me. That’s what we called her.
Debbie Vasser: She was quite superstitious wasn’t she?
Henry Huffman: She was quite superstitious, back in a time when they had slaves. A lot of it came from them, but she had some that she was strict about in obeying, like bringing a hoe in the house and cutting your fingernails and toenails on certain days of the week, but anyways she lived religiously.
Debbie Vasser: Do you know anything about where you grandparents were born?
Henry Huffman: I really don’t. My grandfather was quite frequently in Dallas when he was very, very young. I knew a Mr. Seal who knew him very well and they hung out together a little bit down there. Mr. Seal became rich selling gravel down there. He had a railroad line run out on his property. I built his home and his son’s home and they were very nice people.
Debbie Vasser: Now your grandfather was Commissioner of Dallas?
Henry Huffman: Yes, he was Dallas Commissioner for two terms; he built what most people call now, that is known as Chalk Hill. He made that cut through there and all they had was horses and scrapers and it was all white rock but he did really well to get that in there. He also built that over-head bridge that’s on Eagle-Ford road there somewhere.
Debbie Vasser: Do you remember any interesting stories of your grandparents?
Henry Huffman: No not much.
Debbie Vasser: Tell the one about mom and grandma in that dress…
Henry Huffman: Well after we had moved to Euless my grandmother had her house built about a hundred yards towards Euless we were on Euless-Bedford Road and she spent a lot of time looking out the window. It was a past-time. She was very very inactive. She was fairly healthy. In fact she stayed in bed most of the time but she spent most of the time looking out the window trying to see what was going on down at our house. On one day I knew she would be watching and Florene suggested that I put on one of Momma's old dresses and run down there and get her attention to watch what Annie (Momma) might be doing. I had a bonnet on, like they used to wear back in those days. We had a fence that was less than 3 feet high and I ran towards it and jumped it. Margie (Neely-Massey) was there with other Momma and she asked what in the world happened to Annie?
Debbie Vasser: Now your fathers parents, do you know when they were born and where they were born, anything about them?
Henry Huffman: I don’t have any idea. I believe they came from Tennessee, and I barely remember
Debbie Vasser: And your grandmother wasn’t too sociable was she
Henry Huffman: No, I think in a way she may have been trying to joke a little bit but every time I went over there she would say ” hmmm, I thought you was a little black boy”.
Debbie Vasser: And they weren’t at all in favor with your dad’s marriage to your mother.
Henry Huffman: No they didn’t go to his wedding. They didn’t have anything to do with her and were very uncomplimentary of her in every detail. When Uncle Blunt got married Nonnie was so happy, she said that she gets out there in the field and works liked a man and I think thats what she expected of Mama and she just wasn't trained that way.
Debbie Vasser: And they didn’t like the fact that she was Baptist.
Henry Huffman: No, I think being a Baptist was what caused the wedding to be non apparel.
Debbie Vasser: Because they were Methodist.
Henry Huffman: Of course Daddy was too. Nothing wrong with Methodist. That just happened there.
Henry Huffman: The Baptist church was right across from the Methodist church and we’d sing “Will there be any stars in your crown” and they’d sing “No not one, no not one”.
Debbie Vasser: Do you remember any stories that your parents or grandparents told about their ancestors or childhood that stand out?
Henry Huffman: I can’t think of them much right now.
Debbie Vasser: Don’t know of any ancestors from way back?
Henry Huffman: No I never did get acquainted with all of Daddy’s kinfolks. Some lived over there where the airport was. I knew their names and I knew they were there. It’s not like we didn’t like them or anything, it’s just we really didn’t get acquainted with them. We had an Uncle Joe in Arlington. I guess he was dad's brother.
Debbie Vasser: Speaking of your paternal grandfather, he was the Commissioner right?
Henry Huffman: Yes, he was Commissioner of Tarrant County for a couple of terms.
Debbie Vasser: You come from a family of Commissioners?
Henry Huffman: Yup, I came from a family of Commissioners.
Debbie Vasser: So how far can you trace your family history. It would be back to your grandparents pretty much, you don’t remember great grandparents?
Henry Huffman: No, I can’t remember my great grandparents at all.
Debbie Vasser: What was your father’s occupation?
Henry Huffman: He was a carpenter. He was very very agile; quite a climber. He was a very good carpenter, didn’t really believe in the very best finish of things but was very fast and economical.
Debbie Vasser: Talking about his climbs, didn’t he have a couple of close calls?
Henry Huffman: Yeah, one time after he was over 80 yrs old he was at one of his rent houses closest to his house over there on Huffman drive and I don’t know he just fell off somehow. I don’t think he was carrying anything, but he probably slipped or backed up too far and it scared Florene to death. She called an ambulance and he got up and said he was alright and he didn’t hurt a thing. And that was pretty unusual for someone his age. And the ambulance came and he said, “well, how much do I owe you cause I’m not going back with ya'll.” He said, “no, no charge.” Later on Dad must have been eighty-four somewhere in there, he had a couple of little houses in Arkansas; one he lived in and a couple he built and used as rent houses. The first one he built had a flat roof on it and it was getting quite old. Water had gotten in and ruined some of his decking up there. He went up there alone and built him a ladder that was two feet wide at the base and eight inches wide at the top and was carrying a sheet of plywood up the ladder and in stepping from the ladder to the house, which he was trying to do without having anything to hold to, his ladder kicked out from under him and he fell about nine feet on the concrete and that almost did him in. He broke his pelvis bone for one thing and it disrupted his heart. He never had any heart trouble but the doctor says it's kind of like dropping a water balloon nine feet. If it hadn’t been for some school kids waiting for a school bus about one hundred feet away he’d probably would have died there, because he was out of the way and the shrubbery didn't show him, and there wouldn’t have been any way he could have gotten seen from there. He was calling ”help” and at first they didn’t respond, but the louder he yelled someone came down to see what was going on. And they got him an ambulance. He survived that but after that he was never quite as well as before.
Debbie Vasser: Do you have any particular memories from growing up at home and of life?
Henry Huffman: Well, yeah during the depression we had no money at all. I'm gonna say we was poor but we didn’t know it. Daddy worked, I think in Dallas for $2.40 cents a day after he went long times without any work hardly. And I know that Kate, Margie Massey’s mother, worked out with various truck farmers for around $.80 cents a day or something like that. Times were awfully hard.
Debbie Vasser: Did he grow vegetables?
Henry Huffman: Yea, we had a little truck farm and we had seven or eight cows at one time and some of them got killed by the new deal from FDR and we got paid for them. That helped a little bit. We were a little bit in the dairy business; very, very lightly though. I remember we had a little cooler place down there where we had to keep the milk cool.
Debbie Vasser: Well, what did you do for recreation?
Henry Huffman: Well, there was always games of various sorts going on and I know I played basketball in high school. I wasn’t any good but I played anyways.
Debbie Vasser: Your school class was pretty small?
Henry Huffman: Yes, there were five of us that graduated, Billy (Eden), J. N Pierce, Margaret Bayless, Margaret Fuller. I don’t remember if I saw Margaret Fuller again after we graduated. I did see J. N. off and on and Billy was my best friend. I went to the service a little bit before he did. Unfortunately, he was killed; he was a pilot of a B24 Bomber. That was almost automatic death.
Debbie Vasser: So his B24 was lost over Italy.
Henry Huffman: Yes
Henry Huffman: Margaret Bayless married Tommy Gleghorn and they had twins, a boy and a girl. I don’t know about J.N. Pierce.
Debbie Vasser: When you were growing up in Euless did they have any stores that were centers of the community or what were main churches, things like that.
Henry Huffman: Well, they had a Methodist and Baptist church very, very close to center of Euless. Each of them had a tabernacle behind them where they’d hold summer revivals. Later on there was a fundamental Baptist church that split off from First Baptist Church about a hundred and seventy-five yards or feet or something north of the Methodist church, and I don’t think we had any other churches close by other than the Church of Christ in Bedford and I don’t remember much about other churches.
Debbie Vasser: And that store, what was it? EZway was it there then?
Henry Huffman: No it was Fuller Brothers then. I don’t even know if it was Fuller Brothers at first. Homer started it. He had a little old Model T Ford that he would deliver groceries in and my grandmother ordered some things and one thing was an eight pound pail of lard and they had it sitting on the running board, just a little old rail around the drivers side, I don’t know I guess you had to get off on the other side or something but that thing, the bail of the bucket had flipped over on the battery. It didn’t look hot, it just looked real red and I thought that was the color of it and I picked that thing up and I wound up with a crease of burnt fingers across my hand. But there was no complications, it was just painful.
Debbie Vasser: So now when you were little what was the method of travel? Was it cars? Or was it still horse and buggies?
Henry Huffman: Well I think it was pretty much cars traveling, I told as a joke to Mr. Bayless, who used to cut through our place to get to his, that I didn’t know he knew how to drive a wagon.
Debbie Vasser: Wasn’t there something funny about a Mr. Grover Huffman coming down the road or something?
Henry Huffman: Yeah, Grover (Huffman). I think Louise won a three hundred dollar prize from Readers Digest for telling that. Cars were very crude, I think this was around 1910 or 11 somewhere around there but my Uncle John was just fooling (joking). Well he called Grover up; he was the first one in the area who had a car, and daddy learned how to drive it by letting Grover ride his bicycle. And while he was gone he got in his car and drove it around a little bit which distressed Grover quite a bit, but that wasn’t part of the tale, but Uncle John thought he saw Grover coming and he ran and climbed a telephone post, and when the guy came by it wasn’t anybody he knew at all but he did wave at him.
Debbie Vasser: What were church activities like? In grandmama’s diary they were very active in church. I mean they had socials and stuff, was it still that way in your youth?
Henry Huffman: They had dinners very often after church, the main thing I remember eating at those dinners was celery with cheese in the curve of it, and I thought that was the best one.
Debbie Vasser: Okay where did you start and finish school?
Henry Huffman: Well I started at south Euless which is there for most every body up till now I guess. It was a little different when we first started. It was two story and the second story got condemned or something and I think they took it down I don’t know, there wasn’t too much change in it. I started there and I also graduated from there.
Debbie Vasser: You skipped second grade, you said.
Henry Huffman: Yea, I started school late or something and my folks thought that I could probably skip the second grade which I regret, I’m glad I didn’t have to graduate any later than I did because I was already about a year older than Billy who was the youngest one there, but I missed some things there like handwriting and other things like that.
Debbie Vasser: Did you say grandma let you stay home a lot? Didn’t you tell me one time that if you kids said you felt bad or something she’d let you stay?
Henry Huffman: Yeah she was very compassionate and let us stay home. I don’t think that was a very good idea but it sounded nice at the time.
Debbie Vasser: Do you remember who was President at the time you were born, or any of the ones that stood out?
Henry Huffman: Not from when I was born, but Willkie, but he was later though, I guess I was born when Woodrow Wilson was president. I’m not real sure on my dates but I think that’s right.
Debbie Vasser: Okay, momma! When and how did you meet your spouse (Sue)?
Henry Huffman: Well, I had a cousin which we talked about earlier, Aunt Addie burning up, I don’t know if we talked about her? burning up or not…
Debbie Vasser: The one who died before your grandfather married your grandmother?
Henry Huffman: Yeah, there were three of those girls, Mattie, Hattie, and Addie. I believe that Aunt Mattie’s daughter had a girl that was Sue’s age and about my age and they came up to the house all the time and she came up to the house one time with Madelyn and I paid no attention to her. I think she was about ten years old or something like that, but later on Madelyn wanted me to go with them on a hayride which John Bode, an engineer in Arlington now, drove an old panel truck of some kind and it had hay in there. And I remember that was my blind-date with Sue and we really hit it off pretty good. I kept going down there and then less than a year later we was married.
Debbie Vasser: Well let’s see when was the hayride?
Henry Huffman: November 11, 1939
Debbie Vasser: And then you married when?
Henry Huffman: September of 1940.
Debbie Vasser: Yeah I remember that momma said that earlier when you all were little that they got stuck in a barrel, her and Madelyn.
Henry Huffman: Yeah we had a overhead tank down out there that had been discarded and had rusted out and so forth and we had a two foot pole out next to the rim of the top and Madelyn and Sue got into that thing and got to rolling and wound up with it on the top and they couldn’t roll any more they couldn’t get down so they kept calling and I heard them and went out there and rolled the barrel over and helped them get out
Debbie Vasser: Now what did momma do occupation wise?
Henry Huffman: I guess put up with us.
Debbie Vasser: She was drama teacher for the schools…
Henry Huffman: Wait a minute oh I thought you were talking about my momma, sorry.
Debbie Vasser: Oh sorry, my momma…
Henry Huffman: She taught expression at three of the schools when we were first married and moved out to Euless. We moved there, well we didn’t move the last of the war, but I believe this was after the war. Also she taught school, expression in Euless, Bedford and Hurst and it was just an individual thing and she had pupils that were not connected with the school and that went on for quite a while but she finally quit that.
Debbie Vasser: They gave lots of plays…
Henry Huffman: They gave plays and she affected several boys that are now men in the community.
Debbie Vasser: And she was born and raised in Dallas?
Henry Huffman: Yes, she was the oldest of three children. Hugh, her brother was five years younger than herself and Caroline was five years younger than he was. So they were pretty widely spread
Debbie Vasser: And where were you two married?
Henry Huffman: In her house on Marsalis Street in Dallas
Debbie Vasser: And I remember she wore blue velvet…
Henry Huffman: Yeah had that dress for a long time and we let it get away someway. I think we hung it in a place where some moths could get to it.
Debbie Vasser: I remember her saying she didn’t like the way her hair was fixed an hour before the wedding and she washed it.
Henry Huffman: Everything, yeah an hour before the wedding.
Debbie Vasser: Nearly gave her mother a heart attack. Also you two were only engaged for two weeks weren’t you?
Henry Huffman: No, it was a little longer than that.
Debbie Vasser: I don’t know, I thought she always told me that she came back home and announced that ya’ll were getting married in two weeks and her mother fell back in the bed and stayed there for a week.
Henry Huffman: Well, it was pretty sudden; yeah when we decided to get married we had a rather short engagement.
Debbie Vasser: What was your first car?
Henry Huffman: My very first one was a 34 Chevrolet Coupe. It wasn’t ever too good and I painted it with a brush and it didn’t help the looks of it a lot. Not too long after that got a 38 Ford that was about a year old and it was a good car. We enjoyed it and kept it until I went into the service I guess.
Debbie Vasser: By the way, about momma’s family that stands out, her mother worked in ammunition or some kind of factory.
Henry Huffman: She worked in Grand Prairie aircraft industry; I guess it was North American, Now Chance Vought or something like that.
Debbie Vasser: And her father had been a postal worker?
Henry Huffman: Yea, he was a postal worker.
Debbie Vasser: And his family was from Paris, Texas?
Henry Huffman: I believe so.
Debbie Vasser: And her family was from? Where was grandma’s side of the family from Oklahoma?
Henry Huffman: Oklahoma at first, yes.
Debbie Vasser: Any other memories that stand out about grandmother?
Henry Huffman: Well, I have lots of memories but they're a little hard to…
Debbie Vasser: I know you said ya’ll were always close.
Henry Huffman: Yeah.
Debbie Vasser: Okay, what about the places where you lived. You said you were born by the airport?
Henry Huffman: Yeah it was a place that Ray Woods later bought and built a little rodeo arena down there and named it after Audie Murphy, a famous war hero and he was out there some. I don’t remember too much about Ray Woods. He had a family that was in church but I don’t think he came and I don’t know anything about him. So really I think he had a used car place in Dallas.
Debbie Vasser: And then where did you move after that?
Henry Huffman: Well that old place was pretty run down that we lived in down there. It was a box type house. I can remember I could see daylight through the walls of my bedroom and in several where the cracks appeared and they were all on a single wall, and it was also cold. But we also had lots of wood for the stove. We moved from there to the same location I guess, where daddy died but we all were separated. But it was a different house; it was a little house that didn’t have much room in it, I think it was also a box type house. It was not in too good of a shape; I remember it had a barn and it had an old motorcycle in it down there that was just parts. I don’t know. I think it belonged to Tom Weatherly who is some of our relations on daddy’s side maybe. There was twelve and a half acres with that which daddy bought but I don’t know too much about it. That’s where we had our little truck farm and dairy and stuff in there. We remodeled it a couple of times but I remember one of the times when daddy did things impulsive, and he decided that we didn’t have enough room and they was gonna tear it down and rebuild it to kind of what it was in its last stages. But Bubba said he went to school one morning and everything was as normal as can be and when he came home and that house was scattered all over that lot. There was nothing left standing and he couldn’t imagine what had happened.
Debbie Vasser: So did granddaddy build the first one too?
Henry Huffman: No.
Debbie Vasser: Oh he just bought it. But he built the other one. That reminded me about something that you told me about your growing up time that Grandmomma would get the wood for fire, and one time you didn’t want to go get the wood and something about granddaddy chasing you with a razor strap?
Henry Huffman: Well you hit two tales…
Debbie Vasser: Well tell both of them.
Henry Huffman: We was out at the barn over at the original place over by Ray Woods place that we sold that’s down by the airport, I don’t know I was kind of a momma's boy and for some reason we were all at the barn and I would not for some reason walk from the barn to the house. Momma told me to, Daddy told me to, and I just wouldn’t do it. And daddy went into the house and got his razor strap and not only did I walk to the house, I ran to the house. To get those straps I stopped as quick as I could.
Debbie Vasser: So grandma’s weapon of choice was those lilac twigs wasn’t it?
Henry Huffman: Yes I’ve been spanked with everything handy when we were at home and we had a lilac bush there, from which she gave me good ones with. I’ve been spanked with everything from frying pans to butcher knifes.
Debbie Vasser: My goodness, a butcher knife? Now was there anything about firewood or was I just remembering the wrong thing?
Henry Huffman: I always regretted that I... I don’t know how much I helped her but before washing machines it seemed like we always use to boil the clothes. We had a cast iron pot out there that set up there and she’d go off through the trees down there and come back dragging dead brush and limbs to make the fire for the washing, and I tell you I .. I don’t know if I helped her or not, but I’ve always felt like I certainly should have. She shouldn’t even have had to go because I was teenager at least or maybe a little pre-teen.
Debbie Vasser: Well, knowing you, you helped. Do you remember the depression? Oh well we talked a little about that.
Henry Huffman: We talked a little about that but it was pretty severe. I remember that I was wearing my uncle's cast-off cloths to school at one time and glad to get them. Momma fixed them up to where they looked pretty decent, but I graduated in the seventh grade and diplomas were 75 cents we didn’t feel like I could afford it so I graduated from grade school to high school with, well it happened that Naomi Jernigan wasn’t there so they handed me her diploma, so it wasn’t too obvious. But money wasn’t always there, sometimes, but daddy was always talking about how the Lord provided money for things when you have to have it. Jewel's appendix burst one time and that was still in the time of the depression, but it just happened that he had gotten into enough money somewhere, someway to pay for it, but he was always talking about how the Lord provided him with money when he just had to have it. He was very generous, he would take anyone into his home and had an uncle that lived with us for awhile and then Mrs. Neely, my grandmother, after she got to where she couldn't live alone after Kate passed on with breast-cancer. And he took Mrs. Neely, my grandmother, in there and they seemed to get along fine We didn’t have much money but it seem like it worked out real well.
Debbie Vasser: That’s neat. Do you remember anything about Prohibition, anything about that?
Henry Huffman: Just hearing about it and reading about it. There were a lot of bootleggers around…
Debbie Vasser: Oh yeah?
Henry Huffman: Yeah there were two brothers who were very heavily involved in it. I don’t know if they caught them in anything illegal, but it broke up things pretty well for them when it got legalized.
Side 2 of tape 1:
Debbie Vasser : Okay World War II, do you remember World War II?
Henry Huffman : I well remember it. We joined Aviation Cadets because I would have been drafted to join something later I’m sure, and I thought I would enjoy flying more than I would foot soldiering. It was quite an ordeal before it was all over. I know Sue went with me down to the place where I signed up to be an Aviation Cadet and she approached some recruiter or someone standing there advertising the war and asked, “Aviation Cadet is not as dangerous as foot soldier is it?” He said, "lady it’s all dangerous. I’m not going to lie to you."
Debbie Vasser: (laughter) He said, "I’m not going to have any widows crying on my shoulder.”
Henry Huffman: Yeah, I’m not going to have any widows crying on my shoulder, but I had never been in a plane. I thought that it would be alright, so we went out to Red Bird Airport and it was a little small airport to the south of Dallas, took a ride in a Piper Cub and it was supposed to be two passenger, but in those days we were all slender, so we all three got in it.
Debbie Vasser: Oh really!
Henry Huffman: He flew around the shoulders of Dallas. Main thing was I wanted to feel how it felt to be up in the air and I liked it. Well, my first assignment was to go to San Antonio Aviation Center. I wasn’t too much on the news because the hurricane that had been on the coast had moved into San Antonio and was in the tent city there and it blew everything flat as a flitter. I had an old turned up pasteboard suitcase with clothes in it that I brought and that thing melted. It was summer time but we were freezing to death! The rain that was there was coming cross ways and not down. And we got gathered up and taken to another air force base there in San Antonio, to get dried out, some different clothes, some blankets. I know we got to take a warm shower and we were really appreciative about that. They looked on our resumes and saw that I had been a carpenter and I spent several days reconstructing the tents that were down. This time they were wood half way up and then had a wooden roof over them, so they were much better than the ones that were blown away.
Debbie Vasser: So you stayed in San Antonio for…?
Henry Huffman: For about three months, I believe that’s right. We went to ground school over there and we learned about things on flying that we’ve never encountered, but we never did any flying at all, we ran some seven mile cross countries.
Debbie Vasser: Wow really?
Henry Huffman: They were very demanding on the aviation enlistees. I guess they were trying to see who was thick skinned enough to stay. They was very hard on us and in the mess hall we had to sit on the first four inches of the chair and ask for things to be passed in a certain way. These guys would walk up and down the aisle trying to intimidate you. We had one guy named Johnny there, I don’t know what nationality he was, always full of fun and pretty brave. One day we had a great big bowl of cold chocolate pudding in the middle of the thing and he whispers over to the guy sitting next to me, “hey have you ever felt the heat that raises out of that stuff, he says, its cold but heat comes out of it and he stuck his hand out there over it and he slapped his to the bottom of it and pudding went everywhere. About that time the fellow walking the aisle saw it and he was a little bit unhappy. We had to walk carrying our parachute for quite a while there.
Debbie Vasser: You must have wanted to put peer pressure on them not to do that anymore. Then you went to…what was next?
Henry Huffman: I went to…Pinebluff, Arkansas. We were flying PT-19's. It had a little ranger engine, six cylinder in-line engine. It was a very nice little airplane. It was an open cockpit and had two seats. And we was flying off of a field that was square. It was about a mile square with a Wooden-T in the middle of it that would turn with the wind. We would land whichever way the wind was blowing. We’d land into the wind depending only on that because we did have radio communication but no tower or anything. My pilot was a little bit younger than I was, but he had a lot of flying errors. He was a civilian and his name was Martin I believe, and he said, “I have a military check ride coming up tomorrow and I’m a little rusty on my aerobatics do you mind if we do a few aerobatics?” And I said, “well I’ll tell you this is the first time I’ve ever been up in anything, but I don’t know.” He said, “well everything will be fine I won't do anything dangerous, main thing is get your seat-belt tight and don’t touch anything.” And I’ll tell you that fellow went through ever maneuver in the book, loops, and the spins and the (unintelligible), it didn’t scare me too much because I knew he knew what he was doing, but it certainly was an adventure.
Debbie Vasser: Oh that would be scary. Now that’s the first time you went in a plane, did you learn to pilot there?
Henry Huffman: Yeah, I don’t remember how much time we had before we soloed, but some of those experiences I won’t forget. It was quite an ordeal if you take into consideration how many years you have and how long you’ve known it. Things that seem so routine with your instructor you sometimes tend to question. I know we had one fellow there, I think he was a Jewish fellow. He wasn’t the best and there wasn’t any reason to be cause he did it but, when he soloed he never could gain enough altitude. He kept staying low and he said, “Well I kept thinking there was an airplane above me” and he made his solo flight all right but I don’t think he…I think he got washed out. When you got washed out they sent you straight to Hondo, Texas to the Bombardier School.
Debbie Vasser: Is that the one when you all were flying one time and ya’ll thought you were running out of gas?
Henry Huffman: No, I had lots of different adventures in basic training. We were flying Vultee BT13, 450 horse power, enclosed canopy, and a little ahead of those we had been flying. I had two or three incidents that I’ve mentioned and I tell them often so I don’t forget them (laughter). One of the first things I remember is right after I soloed I was flying by myself and took off on a runway, we had runways and Control Towers there that told us which ones to land on…
Debbie Vasser: This was in which city?
Henry Huffman: This was in Greenville, Texas. I started to land but since I’d taken off, there was an awful strong cross wind and I guess I might have been the first one to ask for landing instructions. He told me to land on the runway that I had taken off from but the plane didn’t want to stay over that runway at all. I finally got it parted in the direction that drifted along with the crosswind, I was going to hit the runway all right but when I did, I kicked enough rudder the other way that I left the runway immediately and headed for a bunch of parked airplanes. I thought, man this ain’t going to work so, I open my throttle full and thankfully I had a little bit of momentum going and I cleared the airplanes and I was feeling real good about that except the control tower was right dead ahead of me and I was a whole lot lower than it was and I turned. The Lord was with me all the way. I don’t think I had enough flying speed to really make a decent turn but any way, I missed the control tower. It was said that some people had baled out of it but I think they were just joking about it.
Debbie Vasser: And they called you “Lucky” after that?
Henry Huffman: They called me “Lucky” a long time after that. They called my Aircraft Number and said to circle the field and when you hit the runway change, said when you land report that ground loop. I don’t know what it was but it wasn’t a ground loop.
Debbie Vasser: And didn’t they change, they started teaching pilots about cross handling…?
Henry Huffman: Yeah, the next day they had sessions on crosswind landings.
Debbie Vasser: So they hadn’t been teaching ya’ll what you needed to know.
Henry Huffman: No, I didn’t have any idea what to do with the thing except what I did.
Debbie Vasser: Is Greenville after Pineblood, when you went to Greenville?
Henry Huffman: Yes, it was after that. We were going to have a day cross country. It was a miracle that anyone got back on night cross countries with no lights. Well, we just had a map and a little old name of a town down there where they had a little unlit, well I think it did have some runway lights, but that’s all that they did have. They had a plane on the ground to communicate with you, tell you what direction the wind was and…
Debbie Vasser: And you have to land at some of those?
Henry Huffman: Yeah, you had to land at those. There were several lost from that, it’s hard. You’re out there navigating by yourself pitch dark going to an area you never heard of before and find a little old airport that had no lights except you could see them on after you got in the right position. Anyway, we were going to have a cross country flight training and it went to Mineral Wells to Wichita Falls and back to Greenville. I looked at the true course of that thing and it went right over Euless and I thought, “Man, I’m gonna be the last one away and go down and say hi to them.” I waited and made sure the last one was gone that was going except the instructor and I got out there and on those old PT 13’s you pull that throttle low pitch up and you’ve got pretty good speed. That’s the nosiest thing you’ve ever heard and I made it zoom down over Euless, pulled up the prop and pitch and Luther Morelock said he nearly knocked his head off on the hood of the car he was tuning up (laughter). He thought it had exploded; anyway, before the second low pass I saw a plane right beside me tapping on his ear pieces. I nodded to him but I didn’t listen to him and man I tell you, he wasn’t at all happy. He said you go on to Mineral Wells and land and wait for me. That whole time he was thinking of nasty things to say to me on that and he told me. He chewed me out and told me that was probably the end of my flying career. He said to go to Wichita Falls and wait on me there and I did the same thing again and he thought of some more ugly words and he said, “go back to the base and turn in your flying clothes and don’t go near another airplane till you hear from me.” I did that too and he said, “you will be interviewed by the Colonel tomorrow.” I think it was tomorrow, it seems like a day or two I showed up but I couldn’t fly. Anyway the Colonel, he was a very sensible person and I think he kind of understood why might have I done it although it was strictly against the rules, we had been taught all the time that it was against the rules. Anyway, next thing I heard from my instructor was get your flying equipment we’re going to go out and show you how low you said you were and I’m going to show you how low you actually were.
Debbie Vasser: This is the same man that chewed you out?
Henry Huffman: Yeah, and we went out there somewhere and leveled off at I don’t know, about fifty feet or so. He said, “you was lower than that, you was like this” and he grabbed the controls and plucked his wing up there in a turn and I think he was hitting corn tops off the corn rows. He pulled the throttle back and said “force landing where you gonna go?” It would have been alright, I could have landed in the corn field I think, but anyway he was just unpleasant as you can be that whole time Then he said, “Well you couldn’t do anything else so let’s see if you can go back to the base and land it.” I had the thing set up on a perfect landing, he rode in the back seat and it didn’t look like that to him but I was certainly over the runway. When I was in proper height for a landing he said, “don’t land down here in the fields go home to the runway” and he took the controls again and he went bouncing down the runway and got out, I don’t remember if he was saying anything going in or not but anyway I was scheduled to fly the next day and he'd never been nicer to me than he was from then on.
Debbie Vasser: Really! I guess he was really impressing on you not to do that anymore.
Henry Huffman: I guess so; we flew a lot together after that. You know we had good relations.
Debbie Vasser: Oh really! That was good, I didn’t know that.
Henry Huffman: Just acted like it didn’t happen.
Debbie Vasser: Now was he the one that you nearly had to parachute out with?
Henry Huffman: Yeah, I think he was, he said “we want you to shoot some night landings but since you’ve never been in the air at night I want to show you what airplanes look like and what the field looks like from the air”. We went out and we was flying around Greenville and that area just to show the town and show us how the field looked and how the other airplanes looked and not to be scared looking down at your right hand corner and seeing the big blue flame sticking out. I said, “does that ever hurt anything?” And he said, “no but if it ever goes out, you're in bad shape.” I don’t think he thought it would then but it did. I don’t know what happen to it but it just quit, it was dead, and he said to hit the Wobble Pump. We had a little pump on the right hand side to pump gas directly to the carburetor. It would sputter and the propeller was still wind milling from the air speed of course and it would get a little bit of thrust and quit. He said, “we stand a real good chance of having to bail out, just be sure you're ready cause I also think we got a good chance of making it to the field, I just cant tell from here." Anyways, I was working the Wobble Pump and every now and then it would catch a little bit and the engine would run for five seconds or so and then it would die again. Something on the Carburetor was broken, I don’t remember what it was. Anyway we did make it back to the field and we landed very close on the run way. It was a good ways away from everything and they sent someone to pick us up and he said, “well take my airplane on shoot landings and it was maybe like falling off a horse; you get back on or you might not ride ever.” Anyway the touch and go landings went fine.
Debbie Vasser: So after Greenville did you go to Washington State?
Henry Huffman: No we went to Waco.
Debbie Vasser: Oh Waco.
Henry Huffman: We went to Waco for advanced training. We were flying three different kinds of twin engine planes, Curtis P-10, Cessna AT-17, and a beach craft, I don’t remember the number on it. We never knew which kind we were going to fly cause they were all just there and it happen to be what you drew. They also were just a little bit different, half the time you were the pilot and half the time you were co-pilot, and one night when I was copilot we came back to the base and they said they were stacked up and it was going to be about thirty minutes before you can land, just fly somewhere. The guys I was with went down to Temple and made a tight turn around the Kyle Hotel and it didn’t impress me an awful lot at all. I didn’t know but there wasn’t some thing between it and the other side of the road. It had an equally tall building, anyway, he straightens out and flew a while and went back and landed.
Debbie Vasser: Is that where you got your wings?
Henry Huffman: Yeah, that was where Murray was born too. I was in the airplane; I had to familiarize myself with the cockpit. We always had to memorize what there was and touch it blindfolded. I was sitting there in the plane and some one came out and told me my wife was trying to get a hold of me, my son was (well they didn’t know he was a son at the time) about to be born. My wife was at the hospital fixing to give birth to a child and the Colonel had told me that he would let me go home for that. I couldn’t find him. I was considering going AWOL and I’m sure glad I didn’t because it would probably cause some pretty serious ripples. Anyway, I did find him and he got me on my way quick enough to be there for it.
Debbie Vasser: Then where did you go after that?
Henry Huffman: I went to Moses Lake, Washington. They told us all the time that there was nothing up there, just nothing but the airbase. It wasn’t a very old one; it was kind of built for the war. They said do not take your family because there is nothing there to stay in. Sue and I just couldn’t believe we wanted to be separated at this time, Murray was six weeks old. We got on the train and saw the mountains between St. Paul and some of those places in there towards Seattle, but it was another town there.
Debbie Vasser: I’m not familiar with those out there.
Henry Huffman: Spokane, and his eardrums burst, (Murray's) poor little thing, from the height of the railroad there and they had pretty high mountains there. A second engine come over the mountain and helped push you over them. We had to spend the night somewhere and I know Murray’s ears were very, very painful so we got him to the Doctor when we got to Spokane. He said his ear drums had burst and it wouldn’t affect his hearing or anything. We were very happy for that. We got on the Moses Lake and they were right. There, was just nothing there nearly. I think they had a school somewhere, I know they did but I had looked all day and it was getting time to do something. We went to the bus station and Sue was going to go back to Spokane and live at the hotel until I could do something. The Lord again provided for me. The Police Chief came up and got in a conversation with us and asked where we were going. I told him I would rather have her here with me, that I had spent the total day looking and walking, couldn’t cover much ground. Anyway, I found out there wasn’t anything. The Chief said, “you know the school Superintendent asked me if I knew anyone that could prepare the evening meal and babysit for them for a place to stay. I don’t know if they got anyone or not. Let’s run out there and see.” So, we got in the police car and went out to the place. It was a nice place and rural, more rural than Euless was when I was young. We met the people, they were real nice and it suited them real well. So Sue stayed there and did for the time I was at Moses Lake. We started moving around Wenatchee and some other little old towns. We were through at Moses Lake and moved on to Great Falls, Montana for a while in an apartment up there. I remember we had a baby buggy and to keep Murray busy in there she would shove him across to me and I would shove him back. He thought that was great sport. After Great Falls we went to Salina, Kansas which was our staging area.
Debbie Vasser: What does that mean?
Henry Huffman: That was where we got our wills all made out and everything taken care of for the trip over there. Colonel Whitten was our commanding officer. He was an exceptionally nice guy. Everyone liked him. He was a very personable guy. After we got all that done we were supposed to go to Bangor, Maine to be the last place in the United States where we would land before we would fly over as a new group. He got through with us there, ready to go, and he said, “it is not authorized and I may loose my rank or something but a good portion of you people will never see home again. I am going to give you ten days to go home to see your folks.” He didn’t know how much that meant. We all went home and came back to get started on our trip across. I don’t think anyone ever got on to him about it. He later got killed after I came back home in a P-47 one plane accident. I don’t know what happened.
Debbie Vasser: That was sad. He was good. Now where did you first see a B-17 at? Moses Lake?
Henry Huffman: Yes, Moses Lake. That is an awful big airplane compared to those trainers. They look tiny now, I found out since I went to the museum out in Tucson. I couldn’t believe how small they were, but they were the biggest at the time. I went there as a copilot but I hadn’t had any transitional training. I was assigned to Captain Riley. He was an excellent pilot; also an aviation cadet. He had graduated a couple of classes ahead of me. He had been somewhere in Florida for transitional school where you learn a lot more about the plane and things. It was the first I was ever in one. It looked like something completely different than what I had ever known. He said, “take this thing, I want to go back and get some target practice.” They were towing a tow target and he wanted to go back to the waist guns and shoot at it. I said, “Do you know this is my first time in a B-17?” He says, “well it flies just like anything else you fly.” It felt awful big but I did fine with it. I will never forget it though! I could probably do a little better with a story telling except in twelve years and three weeks I am going to be one hundred years old.
Debbie Vasser: You are still young at heart. Did you meet your whole crew there at Moses Lake?
Henry Huffman: Met the whole crew. We flew across together. We landed in Greenland, I believe, after leaving Bangor, Maine. The next stop was Prescott, Scotland. We went ice skating that night. We tore up about three pairs of their skates. They looked at me a little different, like I was a hundred years old. I gave up that. I got to where I could go around the rim a little bit, but I never did learn to ice skate. After that we stayed there a couple of days. We then went to a new base that had been built especially for us or somebody. It was Friendlyham about four miles from Ipswich I think. I heard someone mention Ipswich the other day. That was the first time I had heard anyone mention it in England. We were about sixty or seventy miles out of London not more than fifteen or so miles from the coast by the English Channel. We got settled in there.
Debbie Vasser: How soon did you start your missions?
Henry Huffman: We hadn’t been there too long. I think it was my third mission that we did a shuttle mission where we bombed Ragensburg which is deep in Germany. Then cut off towards North Africa and went inside Italy and flew beside the Alps there to try to avoid the fighter aircraft. They always had an awful lot of them on a return trip from target. I hope it was a surprise to them. I think it was, we didn’t encounter much there. It was about a twelve hour flight and that was about maximum for the B-17. An awful lot of people started to run out of fuel over the sea there. You could see them ditch and land in the water quite often. All of us were, I think we were short too, shorter than some except we got off a little early due to missing an extra field order. We were in the air thirty minutes before an awful lot of other people were. We knew we were in trouble so we cut our fuel mixture back to the red line till it was practically unsafe to run any leaner. We had enough fuel to get into the pattern but didn’t have enough to go around again. We just landed and the runway was there and we just dove into the landing area and made it alright.
Debbie Vasser: How long did you stay in North Africa?
Henry Huffman: You know I can’t remember exactly, I remember three or four days there. Everybody threw their guns away to lighten the planes. They had to get those back in place and had to put bombs on the planes. We were going to bomb Bordeaux, France. I don’t think they knew it at the time. We were going to try to knock out the submarine pens at Bordeaux. I think we missed them.
Debbie Vasser: You probably got something. At the beginning of your missions was it daylight or night time?
Henry Huffman: No, they were nearly all darks before day. It probably got light by the time we crossed the English Channel.
Debbie Vasser: So you didn’t have fighter escorts all the way?
Henry Huffman: We didn’t have fighter escorts period for the first several missions. The fighters were taking a pretty good toll ofus and they claimed they were losing four percent. But we had to make twenty- five trips and twenty-five trips times four was a pretty good wipe out. I hear now they were considering dropping daylight bombing because of the severity of the losses.
Debbie Vasser: Daylight, now were ya’ll on daylight?
Henry Huffman: Daylight, yeah the British would go by night. We would go by day. They would often put up the Lancaster which is a four engine bomber. I can’t remember the others. The Lancaster was the main one. They would just area bomb and they would blow up a few and dropping bombs on each other. They didn’t sight, they just went to the city and dropped.
Debbie Vasser: Now ya’ll were during the daytime because I thought you said it was just getting light as you got over the English Channel?
Henry Huffman: Well it wasn’t night time it was daylight bombing but we started early.
Debbie Vasser: Oh, so you started early, it was just getting light.
Henry Huffman : We would get up about 3:00 a.m. By the time we got the bombs on and the briefing and all, get to the airplane get it started. That first run down the runway with bombs is another moment you don’t forget.
Debbie Vasser: I bet that’s the truth. How soon did you come to that one where all the one hundreds group got wiped out?
Henry Huffman: Oh, that was about the 12th, it was October 12, 1943. I don’t remember when I got over there but it was well down in the missions. It was about the 10th mission or something like that or 11th. At the briefing they said you shouldn’t have any trouble. It was something on the Rhine River at Munster where they had a bunch of railroad marshalling yards and quite a bit of other important things for the war effort there. We were gonnna bomb that, you shouldn’t have too much trouble with anything. They had a guy that was an Englishman but was a propagandist for the Germans. Our group wing consisted of 390th bomb group and the 100th which always had little bit of a raunchy reputation and the 395th which was all right too. He had been saying Lord Hall was going to be laying for the century group when they come back, meaning the 100’s. You are gonna see quite a bit of us.
Debbie Vasser: Why were they mad at them?
Henry Huffman: Well somebody in the 100th had got shot up pretty bad and they let their gear down and was circling like they were going to land. I think some of their problem was probably turbo problems or something and they didn’t have enough power. Everything got to looking better and they said, “Let’s just make a run again and see.” Not the United States but Britain, they said, “We’re not going to be worse off there than we are here." Anyway, they shot the two escorting planes down and took off for home and made it I think.
Debbie Vasser: The Germans had been escorting them down?
Henry Huffman: Yes escorting them down. They thought they were going to land; they had their wheels down and everything like they were going to. It made them kind of mad and I think they wanted a little revenge. Sure enough when we went back the 100th only got one plane back and it came back with us. They had sent twenty some odd and got back seven or eight.
Debbie Vasser: In the 390th?
Henry Huffman: Yes, in the 390th and the 395th lost about seven too. I don’t think the rest of the Air Force lost any.
Debbie Vasser: Wow! So they were just going for…?
Henry Huffman: Just their wing. He wasn’t kidding about …
Debbie Vasser: They were gunning for the 100th.
Henry Huffman: At that time especially it was just too costly to continue daylight bombing. They did not tell us but I hear that was what they were thinking.
Debbie Vasser: Your plane was pretty damaged wasn’t it?
Henry Huffman: Yeah, it was flack I think, anti aircraft burst that come from the ground that came up and you could just see big black burst everywhere. The ones you could see missed you and I was always happy for that. One came through our wing and just took the oil tank the flack burst. I don’t know if it was in it or barely under it or what. It just emptied our oil tank on number three engine and the engine props feather with oil pressure to stop them from turning. They’d turn the blades into the wind so they don’t windmill. Trying to feather that one just did not work because the oil was all gone. Of course we knew we were going to have problems because the prop was running away. It also controlled the pitch of the prop. It was turning I think we were trying to run about twenty-eight hundred rpm or so and it was up about five thousand rpm back of the red line. No oil to lubricate it and I knew something was going to happen. Pretty soon the prop just started leaning back and chewing into the cowling and moved into the number four engine. It knocked the prop real crooked; the bouncing was so bad I didn’t think we had a chance at all of surviving it. But the oil was there and it feathered and we stopped the vibration. We just had two engines and they were on the same side. One had about half power because the turbo charger was frozen up on it or something. We made it alright on everything except fighters were sticking on us until we picked up our fighters. They looked like they were amazed at our damage. They flew along beside us and looked at the bad side and shook his head and pulled ahead of us to look at the other side and his prop wash nearly downed us.
Debbie Vasser: (laughter) Oh No!!
Henry Huffman: We didn’t have much more flying speed anyway. But it worked out alright and he and another one stayed with us all the way there. We got to England and it was fogged in and you couldn’t see anything. It was fog, fog, fog we didn’t know really quite what we were going to do with that. We knew we had a good navigator and he kept us in the direction of the field. When someone said there’s the Fernlinham Castle and we knew then we were right at it. We were familiar enough to know what course to take from it to hit the field. When we saw the field it was half covered and half not covered we didn’t even look for the runway we just landed crossways and rolled to a successful stop. We ran over a power plant out near an intersection of the runway but it didn’t hurt anything. We had one man injured and he wasn’t seriously injured but he never fought again. We got him off to help, he was tail gunner. That plane was shot up so bad they considered not putting it back in service. It was one of the newer planes; it wasn’t the one we normally flew. We normally flew the B-17F. It was a G and it had the chin turret and some things it was going to. They worked on that thing about three weeks and sent it up and it didn’t come back.
Debbie Vasser: Really, well I’ll be! Did it crash on its own or just get shot down?
Henry Huffman: No, it was shot down.
Debbie Vasser: Shot down. Now ya’ll meantime moved…
Henry Huffman: Debbie gave me a book incidentally that gives the history of every B-17 built. It is very interesting. You can tell who it was delivered to. Ours has even told what it was named. It told who flew it after we flew left and went to the Pathfinder Group after about the fourteenth mission. It was very interesting to look and see the history of some of them that you knew.
Debbie Vasser: Well, that’s good. I see this is about to run out and you did go to the Pathfinder group?
Henry Huffman: Yes, I went to a Pathfinder group. They had twelve handmade sets that were much like the old early weather radar that had the sweep hand on it that went round and round. The funny part was, they were all recently built and that was about the time they decided camouflage wasn’t worth the painting on them. They were all silver and there weren’t any silver planes over there at that time.
Debbie Vasser: Goodness they stuck out like a sore thumb.
Henry Huffman: Sitting on the lead of a sixty odd plane group seemed like an awful conspicuous place. I think they picked on us a little special but we made it.
Debbie Vasser: Tell what a Pathfinder did.
Henry Huffman: Well, the first Pathfinder would get over the target over Germany and sometimes we would have to bring the bombs back home because our target was covered and the alternates were covered we would just have to bring the bombs home and sometimes land with them or they would sometimes be dumped in the English Channel. After we got those twelve radar sets we volunteered to be one of the groups that flew the plane and the night before the raid we would have to go there and sometimes that meant we would have to be up a good portion of the night getting it appraised. I think it was fairly successful. It amounted to doing about the same thing that the British had been doing all the time. They did it I guess because the Germans had been doing it to them......area bombing. The city would show up on the radar and you'd just hit the city.
Debbie Vasser: The radar beam would find the city?
Henry Huffman: Find the city through the clouds. You would drop the bombs without worrying about the cloud cover.
Debbie Vasser: Did you have trouble dropping bombs on a city?
Henry Huffman: No, in the daytime it was clear up where we were flying. We flew most of our missions at about 24,000 feet. The temperature at that altitude was 60 degrees below 0.
Debbie Vasser: So you had warm suits?
Henry Huffman: Yeah, but we would have been in terrible bad shape if we had to bail out at that altitude. Our flight suits were electrically heated including shoes and gloves. If I had bailed out I would have probably not survived. All of that equipment was so bulky. The flak suit I was supposed to wear I always sat on as I thought that was a pretty good area to protect.
Debbie Vasser: You had flown fourteen missions at this point and you flew ten of them as a Pathfinder?
Henry Huffman: I think so, about ten, I think.
Debbie Vasser: Same crew?
Henry Huffman: We kept the same crew. We lost the bombardier. He flew with another crew on one mission and didn't come back. He was shot down, but survived. He came to see me, incidentally, after I came back to the States. He was a pianist and a Russian Jew. He was a real interesting person. We had an old piano and he wanted to play for us. He asked us what we wanted him to play and we couldn't think of anything. I later learned that he was killed in action so I guess he decided to go back for another combat assignment.
Debbie Vasser: When you finished your twenty-five missions you got to come back?
Henry Huffman: Got to come back. I requested Carswell Air Force Base because it was close to home, but since I had experience with radar missions they sent me to Boca Raton, Florida which was a dream place really because that is where they were training radar people and I would have to fly five hours a day and that was just about it. That was a beautiful country where the ocean was warm enough in winter to swim in.
Debbie Vasser: And you took Mama on a flight?
Henry Huffman: Yeah, I started to tell about that earlier. Officers could take their wives for a ride in a military aircraft one time a year and I had never taken her. They had a P-78 out there which was the same thing as an AT-17 which I had trained in in advanced training. I felt quite confident that I could remember everything good enough. We took off a little bit late in the evening.....I don't know, we could fly as long as we wanted to. The takeoff went well and everything. I didn't have a co-pilot You don't really need them. Sue was a pretty good co-pilot. We flew up and down the coast a lot. It was getting dark and it was interesting to see the lights coming on around Miami and Fort Lauderdale. We flew on pretty far up the coast. We just flew around til we got tired and came in. I was worried a little in the back of my mind about a night landing since I hadn't been in the thing in a year and a half. I had flown so many aircraft since I had flown it, but everything came back to me real good. We had a check list which I went through and the night landing went fine. We came in. I had been previously awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross, but they hadn't given it to me before I left England. After the landing that day I was told to go by the Operations Office. I didn't know what was up, but they had a 16X20 framed photograph of me receiving the DFC with Sue looking on. We really enjoyed that flight together. Sue really enjoyed it. It was a special memory.
Debbie Vasser: So you were there in Florida about a year?
Henry Huffman: I was there about a year. We took occasional navigation training flights together which was really to our benefit as we got to draw per diem and expenses. I made three of the trips, twice as pilot and once as co-pilot from Boco Raton to Carswell. One time I couldn't stay at Carswell. I landed there, but couldn't find a guard for the radar so I had to take off and fly to the Naval Air Station in Grand Prairie where I could get a guard. At that time the radar we were using was supposed to be very secret. But I'd been up there two or three times and all worked well to get people together in that vicinity. Of course they wouldn't have wanted to come just for the ride. It worked out alright for us. We would get to stay a day or if it was on a weekend we would stay the whole weekend. On my last one I flew up here in a B-24 and sometime on the day we were supposed to come back Sue called me and said I had to get back to the base as I was going to get out of the Air Force. I told her that it was completely impossible because nine people were scattered and I didn't know where they were. I would have to wait til our meeting time to fly back. The base said that they would have me checked out and that I would have time to catch transportation away and sure enough they had me checked out. I never did get paid for that last flight, but I didn't mind. I was going home.
Debbie Vasser: How was the train trip back with Mama expecting Gary? When was that? After you were out of the Air Force?
Henry Huffman: After we were out. She was under prenatal care at the base and she was almost ready to deliver when we got out. I don't remember.......can't remember details about trip back home, but I do remember that we got back in time for Sue to go to Baylor Hospital where she got to see Heorger's cousin, Dr. Massey. He was a fine Obstetrician. Gary was born there and that was in 1945.
Debbie Vasser: All right, so, you were back home....living in Dallas?
Henry Huffman: In Dallas. We had bought a home on Marsalis and we had rented it out while I was overseas. Got back and moved into that house for a while and I carried mail for six months. Sue's stepdad was kind of a wheel over at the Post Office and he encouraged me to take a carriers job for a while. I took a civil service exam and passed it, but I never did go on as a regular. I was always a substitute. The head man there said to me, ”You don't want to be a carrier. Look at all the old men coming in here. They can barely walk. If you are going to stay with the Post Office you need to be a clerk.” But I didn't really want to do that. We sold the house on Marsalis and got enough out of it to build the one we lived in for the next forty-five years in Euless.
Debbie Vasser: So, back to Euless. What did you do for work?
Henry Huffman: I think I went to work at Camp Barkley near Abilene. Daddy was working there. We had to join the union. We would go out there on the weekend and work that week and come home the following weekend. Sue would come out after she had taught expression for three days and live with Bob Ducket and Daddy and I.
Debbie Vasser: When did you go into house construction?
Henry Huffman: Well, I don't remember which house I built first, but I got into contracting houses. Things were very cheap then. I remember that the Baptist Church bought the last one I built. It was a 1,700 Sq Ft. brick home on a wooded lot with air conditioning, carpet and all the usual amenities for that time for $17,000. Oh, by the way the Baptist Church bought that house for a parsonage, kept it for many years and sold it for over $100,000. Then I got into some speculative building and then some custom building. I built two of the Horton's nice homes. I never was a volume builder, but I stayed busy at it all the time.
Debbie Vasser: How did you get into underground utilities?
Henry Huffman: More or less by accident. I was building a couple of houses for Herman Smith and John Barfield on Patricia Street in Bedford. Their utility contractor. I don't know, he didn't know anything about it. He laid a sewer line that was running uphill to the man hole and it never did work very well. I asked Mr. Smith...Herman, why he didn't let me do the utilities? All I had was a backhoe. He said that would be fine and for a long time I put in the utilities for his and John's (Barfield) developments. Then I got to where I was bidding other jobs and getting them. Now we are up to '57 now. I skipped '55 when we had you. You have a wonderful family. Sue Ann is your oldest, then Murray, my namesake, and Mindy which is your very present help. They are all wonderful and certainly spoil me.
Debbie Vasser: Speaking of Kids, your son Gary joined you in your business.
Henry Huffman: It was about 1980, or maybe '83....'85?....I tried to retire when I was sixty-five and go on Social Security, but they said that as long as I was going to the job I couldn't draw SS so I went ahead and worked and kept the company til I was seventy years old. I didn't want to work til seventy, but it was kind of repaid because my first Social Security check was for $11,000.
Debbie Vasser: Ok, Gary had two kids and his youngest followed in his footsteps.
Henry Huffman: When I retired we got rid of most of the equipment. Gary kept a truck and a trailer and a backhoe. I don't remember anything else that he kept. He went into backhoe work and he has been very successful with it. He is busier than I ever was. I have been blessed with all my children. Murray had a home accident falling through his attic right after he had retired from the Corps of Engineers and uh, bruised his spinal cord becoming quadriplegic. He died a couple of years later and I was so happy that he did because he was so miserable and he was ready to go.
Debbie Vasser: Murray had two children and a very successful career with the Corps of Engineers?
Henry Huffman: Yes, he went about as high as you could go in the Corps. He moved to Jackson, Mississippi where he was in charge of that facility.
Debbie Vasser: Now, back to your career. Were there any things that really stand out in your memory during your building or underground utilities business relating to Euless?
Henry Huffman: No, not really. Let's see....I think I was elected to the Euless City Council in 1955. I know I was on it in 1955. We met in the Fire Station. I stayed on Council 'til just about the time that the City Hall moved to its present location on Ector Drive. I wasn't on when the move took place.
Debbie Vasser: Who were some of the Council Members you served with?
Henry Huffman: Well, I remember Bobby Fuller for one and there was a dentist who was a good Council Member but I am having a senior moment and can't remember his name. The Mayor was Ernest Millican, Jr. He was Mayor for a time while I was on council and then I believe Mr. Anderson succeeded him.
Debbie Vasser: You also served on the school board?
Henry Huffman: I was on the school board a couple of terms in Euless and then I was on the board when we consolidated with Hurst for a year or two.
Debbie Vasser: Was there anything that stands out in memory while you served on the two school boards?
Henry Huffman: Well, it was kind of a big thing when during the consolidation and everything, because Euless was the only one of the three communities that had had a High School program. The Bedford people and the Hurst People came to Euless if they didn't go somewhere else to get their High School education, but we saw bigger and greater things after consolidation. Johnny Edwards was our Superintendent in Euless when we consolidated and Joe Umphries was Superintendent of .....Hurst I guess. After we consolidated we chose Joe Umphries to be Superintendent of the consolidated district. That hurt Johnny, but Joe was better qualified.
Debbie Vasser: I know...back to your business....there was an incident around the time that grand mama died.
Henry Huffman: Yeah, that was one of the most difficult jobs that I was ever involved in. In 1967 I had a contract in Arlington to build a lift station with a twenty-five foot deep well which amounted to sixty inch storm sewer pipe stood on end to come to the top of the ground. I don't know what it was close to but the water table was only eight feet below the surface. We started digging for the place for the deep part of the well to be and it kept caving in. We would dig and get down to a certain depth, go home at night and the next morning the hole would be much wider than we left it and full of water. I changed the boom on a dragline in order to reach the center of the hole. In the meantime, I decided that I would use an eight foot diameter casing and put the smaller diameter casing inside as we were just about down to depth. I went down into the hole to inspect the firmness of the bottom. We were about ready to pour the concrete base. We were running a pump inside the casing and one outside the casing. The hole was about thirty feet across by this time. I went down a ladder in the inner casing and while I was in there the outer casing collapsed. And I tell you it turned me every way but loose. I couldn't tell which way was up. The Lord protected me because it crushed my hard hat and destroyed the ladder but left me unscathed.
Debbie Vasser: And that was about.......
Henry Huffman: It was 1967.
Debbie Vasser: Bubba (younger brother) was trapped in a cave in too wasn't he?
Henry Huffman: We were working with Herman Smith then. I had to go to Dallas one day and when I returned to the job site Yo Wiser flagged me down and said that Bubba nearly got killed. I asked what happened. He said the sewer tap caved in on him. I looked down into the excavation and there was Bubba almost buried. I was new in the business and did not know that you had to be very careful of ditch lines that were parallel to the one you were working on. While Bubba was down making the sewer tap about one or two tons of dirt caved in on him. Yo had been somewhere away from the ditch, but when he discovered what had happened, he ran into the building and told John and Herman what had happened. They ran to the location and started digging and got him to where he could breath a little bit. It was a very close call. The Fire Department got to the site. Someone suggested that a 30 gal. garbage can be placed over Bubba's head in case of any further cave in. Bubba was able to tell them to get that thing off of him. If any more caved in it could cut his head off.
Debbie Vasser: I want to go back and have you tell about your war decorations.
Henry Huffman: I got the Air Medal which was what we got for completing five missions. I was awarded three Oak Leaf Clusters. Then I was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross which was for completing twenty-five missions.
Debbie Vasser: Ok, we are getting to the end of the interview. Is there anything else you would like to say?
Henry Huffman: Well, I thank the Lord that I was raised in a christian home. Mama and Daddy were very devout christians. During my teenage years I did some things that I am not proud of now, but the Lord has forgiven me and taken care of me all these years. It has been a really good life and I'm ready for the next life.
Debbie Vasser: You and Mama have certainly been wonderful parents and we are thankful for you.
Henry Huffman: Yes, she died December 22, 2001. We cancelled Christmas celebration that year and did it New Years day. It was so lonely without her. She was a sweet lady and I credit most of my children's closeness to the Lord to her.
Debbie Vasser: Is there anything else you would like to say before we close the interview?
Henry Huffman: Well, the growth of the area has been phenomenal. Used to you would go to community functions and know everyone there. And then almost suddenly you would go some event and not know anyone.
Debbie Vasser: Well, I hope that this has been what everybody wanted. Bye, Bye.
This narrative history was produced through the efforts of The Euless Historical Preservation Committee with assistance from the staff of the City of Euless Parks and Community Services Department. - December 2007