The Life and Times of Leonard Ray Manes

January 1999

(As transcribed by Linda Beard in January 1999)

I was born on May 6, 1921 to Thomas Ezra Manes and Agnes Lucille (Wells) Manes in Clovis, New Mexico, along with a twin sister, Luella Mae.  Both my twin and I weighed over 8 lbs. each.  I was born approximately twenty minutes before my twin.  We were born at home with my dad helping in the delivery.  I was the third child out of seven children.  Luella died of a ruptured appendix when she was 20 years of age.

At three years of age we moved to Lubbock, Texas where my dad was a plaster and stucco contractor.  My earliest memories were of Luella and I being enrolled in Kindergarten.  I remember my dad having to saw the legs off two chairs for us to sit in as we had to furnish our own chairs.  At the end of the school year Luella and I received a prize for being the best students in the class.  We received a box of chalk and a small chalkboard.  We went through the third grade in Lubbock and I can remember selling the Lubbock Evening Avalanche newspaper on the streets.  I think I made about 30 cents a day.  (Big money, I thought!)

I think it was 1930 when we packed up and moved to Farmington, New Mexico because of the depression.  My dad's brother was a carpenter and a preacher and he persuaded my family to move there as he thought the employment situation would be better.  We really experienced some rough times for a few years.  Our whole family would pick fruit and vegetables on the halves just to have something to eat.  Also, along the irrigation ditches, wild asparagus would grow and it could be cut every morning.  We lived in a little shack that we had to wallpaper over the cracks in the walls with newspaper.

Thank God for credit in those days.  Sometimes my dad would do some small jobs for one of the grocers to help pay our bills.  Later on, I went to work for the grocer and was paid fifteen dollars a week and I let five dollars of that go on our bill.  I later went to work for the Farmington Bakery as a helper but wound up doing most of the work, sometimes working 16 hours a day, which soon got too much for me to continue working and going to school and I had to quit the bakery.

During these years, my folks took on the responsibility of putting mom's two brothers, Howard and R. L. Wells, through school.  R. L. was a good athlete and a role model for me.  In 1932, Farmington won the State Championship in football as several players had already graduated elsewhere and re-enrolled at Farmington High School.  Anyway, R. L. got me interested in sports and I went on to play 4 years football, 3 years basketball, and 2 years track.  I attributed athletics to keeping me in school.

Luella and I graduated in 1940.  In 1941, Luella was going to a business college in Albuquerque, New Mexico when she was stricken with appendicitis.  She died shortly after.  That was the biggest blow I have ever received as Luella and I were not only twins, we were best friends.  All through school we were never separated.  I had already lost another sister, Imajo, who died when she was 12 years old.

Anyway, after graduation I went to work for the Farmington Mercantile Company.  It was a wholesale company whose slogan was "Wholesalers of Everything."  They sold mostly to the Indian Trading Posts around Farmington and a few grocery stores in town.

Let me back up a little.  I'm getting ahead of myself.  Before Luella passed away, a portable skating rink came to town and before they left, they had a couples skating contest and Luella and I won.  We both received free skating passes while the rink was still there.  When they got ready to move, they asked me if I would like to go with them as a floor manager, so I said yes.  We moved the rink to Bayard, New Mexico, down by Silver City.  After a few months we moved to Clifton, Arizona and then to Stafford, Arizona.  I guess I became homesick, so I and a friend, Buddy Ames, hitch-hiked home.

Now, back to my story.  My work at the Mercantile Company was a good job.  We received everything at cost.  Our groceries, clothing, tires, gasoline, oil, you name it, we had it!  Then, in 1941, December 7th, the war broke out.

Shortly thereafter, my two brothers, Conard and Olas, were both drafted and soon were sent overseas.  In August of 1942, I was inducted into the Army and was sent to Fort Bliss, at El Paso, Texas.  I was 21 years old.  From there, I was sent to Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas.

I soon was assigned to the Hospital as a Medical Technician.  I supervised 6 other technicians.  I kept records on all the patients.  I ordered medical supplies, gave shots and assisted the doctors in the morning sick call and did first aid work, as well as doing most of the suturing done on the drunks that were brought into the emergency room.

What got me started was one night they brought in a big black man and his head was split open from ear to ear.  The doctor on call happened to be a psychiatrist and just took one look at him and told me to sew him up and put him in one of the wards.  He just walked off and left me, so I shaved his head and sewed him up and did a beautiful job on him!  After that, I did nearly all of the suture jobs.

I guess the word got around the hospital.  The Medical Officer in charge of the emergency room, Captain Sidney Epstein, offered to help me any way he could if I wanted to go to medical school, but I was young and foolish and I didn't feel like I could make the grade.  I was never very good in biology and chemistry.  I know now I should have tried it, but it's not the first mistake I ever made, nor the last.

Anyway, I soon met a beautiful young girl working at a restaurant not far from the base.  Usually, for our evening meal we would just have cold cuts, so most evenings we would go to this restaurant to eat.  Some of the guys bet me that I couldn't get a date with this girl, so when I got a chance, I asked her and she accepted.  She knew a good thing when she saw it!

On December 22, 1943, we were married in a Baptist Pastor's home under the Christmas tree lights.  My bride's name was Frances Luella Williams.

Shortly thereafter, Frances became pregnant and we were thrilled to death.  Then, just 8 days before our darling baby was born, I was shipped out all the way to Manchester, New Hampshire for immediate shipment overseas to an Air Transport command station.  Anyway, when we got there, nobody knew why we were there and they had us cleaning latrines and washing windows.  I felt like they had just thrown me to the dogs as I had such an important job back at the hospital.

On October 15, 1944, I received a telegram telling me I had a beautiful baby girl.  We named her Sharon Gay.  I went immediately to my commanding officer and asked for a furlough and he gave me one right on the spot.

I had my furlough but no money to get home, so Frances' dad, Thomas Williams, borrowed money and put a cow and I think a wagon up as collateral.  They wired me the train ticket home and I arrived 10 days after Sharon's birth.

I immediately went to the hospital.  In those days, they kept the mother for 10 days.  Anyway, I went first thing to the nursery to see the baby instead of Frances.  I haven't heard the last of that yet!  I was so proud of Sharon and I got to take them both home.

While I was home, I went back out to the hospital where I worked and told Captain Epstein what happened at New Hampshire and he called the Base Surgeon (the highest ranking Medical Officer, Col. Mudd).  Col. Mudd sent a telegram to New Hampshire requesting my transfer back to my former position.

In just a few days, I received a big manila envelope with orders transferring me to Kearns, Utah (Salt Lake City).  I never did go back to New Hampshire.  They packed up my things and shipped them to me at Kearns.  I was there over a month taking overseas combat training.

Being in the medics, I wasn't required to carry a gun, but I was made to qualify on two kinds and go through the obstacle course and the gas house.  It was really rough.  I was then put on a ship at Los Angeles, California and left for ports unknown.

After about 20 days of zigzagging, we docked at Melbourne, Australia.  We were there only 24 hours to restock the ship, and we weren't allowed to get off to stretch our legs on solid ground.

Forty three days total aboard ship, we finally docked at Calcutta, India.  We took a train (more like a cattle car) to a little place in the northeast part of India called Shamshernager, Assam Providence.  It was a little air base with only one runway.  The primary purpose of the base was to fly gasoline over the Himalayan Mountains into China.

We established a small medical dispensary there where I was once again in charge.  By now, I had been promoted to Staff Sergeant and I was once again doing all kinds of First Aid work.

Two occasions stick out in my mind.  One, an Indian woman brought in a small baby that had been hit by a jeep.  While I was suturing his wounds, his mother was breast feeding the baby.  It was hard to concentrate on what I was doing.

Another time, a young boy was brought in that had been attacked by a tiger.  There was a long slash across his right eye.  The doctor asked me if I wanted to handle it so I said yes.  He thought the boy would probably lose his eye as the eyeball was badly scratched.  I sewed up the lacerations and put a bandage over his eye and told his mother to bring him back in a week.  When they came back, I took the bandage off and it was completely healed.  Hardly a scar, and he had perfect eyesight.

Another time, a cyclone went through a small village nearby and several were killed.  Dozens were brought in to our small dispensary with arms torn off or otherwise badly injured from sheet metal roofs blowing off.  We set up tables or desks to use as operating tables.  Some would die and we would just lay them on the floor and pick up another one.

There was even a write up in the base newspaper that told about the work I did but that paper disappeared along the way.  I thought I had sent it to Frances or my mother but evidently they never received it.

On other occasions, when someone became sick or injured and required hospitalization, I would fly with them to a big general hospital in Calcutta.  I always received a 3 day pass when I had to go, and I knew several of the guys that worked there so I spent the nights in their barracks.  I had met them on board ship coming over.

After my 3 days expired, I would go out to the airbase called DUMDUM Airport and catch a plane back to my base.  Several times I did this, which I enjoyed very much.  I did it so often that I applied for flight status, but the war ended before it was approved.  Also, I was recommended for the rank of Tech Sergeant but it also didn't have time to go through.

When the war was over, most everyone either went home or transferred somewhere else.  After our base was closed, I was the lone medic left, and I boarded a C-47 airplane and flew to Colombo, Ceylon for 2 or 3 months.  We didn't do much there, just waiting, more or less, to go home.

A few times, we would get to go to a place called Kandy, Ceylon that I thought was the most beautiful place on the earth.  One day while sitting at my desk, a big snake crawled up the backside of it and I fell over backward in my chair and rolled out the door.  Some of the natives came in and killed the snake for me.

Before I forget it, while stationed in India, we all had native boys as helpers called "bearers."  They would make our beds for us and polish our boots.  I had a 12 year old boy named Baji Kahn who just worshiped me.  He would fall down and grab me around the knees and squeeze me.  I learned to love him too.  When I got ready to ship out, he wanted to hide in my duffle bag and go with me.  It was tough to leave him crying.

My time to come home finally arrived, and in December, 1945, we flew to Karachi, India to await our ship.  We left India sailing west again, and 22 days later we arrived in New York Harbor on January 1, 1946.  They had a band to greet us and as we came into the harbor, all the tug boats were spraying water into the air.  We were greeted by the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.  They gave us all kinds of goodies.

We were then loaded onto a ferry boat and taken across the river to Ft. Dix, New Jersey where we were given a big belated Christmas dinner.  From there, I was put on a train to Camp Fannin, Texas and on January 8, 1946 I was officially separated from active duty.  I then boarded a train for Devine, Texas where my honey and baby girl lived.

After getting off in Devine, I had to walk about a mile to Frances' home where she was living with her parents.  When I was about 100 yards away, she saw me coming and she came running to meet me.  We stayed around there for awhile as I was looking for work in San Antonio, and after no luck, we decided to go back to Farmington where I still had my job waiting for me at the Merc.

Frances was never happy there away from her mother.  In fact, the first thing she said upon arriving in Farmington was "What time does the next bus leave for Texas?"  Anyway, we struggled through it and some time in 1948 we left Farmington to get in the oil field work with my brother-in-law, who was a driller.

We started out at a small town called Eunice, New Mexico where on April 30, 1948 our second daughter, named Linda Jean, was born.  She was born in a little hospital run by one doctor named Dr. Barzune.  That night, there wasn't even a nurse on duty as there were no other patients, so I had to assist him.  Linda used to remark that she thought she was adopted, but I was there when it happened and I guess I ought to know!

Shortly after, we moved to Big Spring, Texas, where we continued in drilling oil wells.  I eventually became a driller myself.  At one time, I had a full Assemblies of God crew, which was unheard of in the oil patch.

A couple years after Linda was born, our first son, Thomas Wayne, was born in Big Spring Hospital, delivered by a Dr. Thomas.  I was so proud of that boy I had to buy shirts with zippers on them - I was popping the buttons off them!  Don't get me wrong, I love my girls with all my heart, but I think every man would like to have a son.

Then, about 7 years later, we were blessed again with another son, Stephen Lynn, so we finally had the perfect family, 2 girls and 2 boys.  Steve was afflicted with asthma, so we had to move to Phoenix, Arizona, where the climate and good doctors and most of all our Heavenly Father, the Great Physician, touched his body.  That was in 1963, and in 1980 we moved to Bixby, Oklahoma and then finally to Broken Arrow.

You know the rest of the story.  God has been so good to us.  When you kids read this, I want you to know, your Dad still loves you, and I'm so proud of each and every one of you.  God bless you all!


P.S.  Frances suggested a few things I left out.  She wanted me to mention my grandparents.

My grandfather on my dad's side was Joseph M. Manes.  He graduated from medical school somewhere in Tennessee and later became a circuit riding preacher for the Methodist Church.  He delivered hundreds of babies before his retirement.  I really don't have but faint memories of him or my grandmother.  Her name was Martha Virginia (Evert) Manes.  They both died in Clovis, New Mexico.

On my mother's side, my grandfather's name was Robert Lincoln Wells and my grandmother's name was Margaret Elizabeth Wells.  They are also buried in Clovis.

Something else I left out that I thought you might find interesting was when I was going overseas, when we crossed the International Date Line we were all initiated into Neptune King Rexs' Royal Order of the Deep.  One of the things they did was put us in a chair and turn it over backwards.  We slid down into a big tub of water and when we crawled out, we had to crawl on our hands and knees through a long line of sailors with wooden paddles who each one gave us a swat on our wet rear ends.  Next, they blindfolded us and stuck our heads into a barrel of slop.  Then, they gave most everyone a terrible haircut.  I guess they skipped me because I was already losing mine by then.  We were all issued a card so in case we ever crossed again, we would be on the giving end instead of the receiving.  All in all, it was fun.

Also, sometimes we would get into water fights with the sailors.  There were fire hoses all over the ship and we fought several times until the officers finally stopped us.

Every few days, they would fire those big guns on deck and we never knew whether they were actually shooting at Japanese subs or not.  We were always zigzagging anyway.  That's why it took us 43 days to reach our destination and only 22 days coming back after the war.

I'm not going to say this is the end.  I don't know what the future holds, but I will just say these nearly 78 years has been a long wild ride but I wouldn't take nothing for my journey now!