A Sharecropper's Son

A Sharecropper's Son

by Shirleen Von Hoffmann


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781456765675
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 06/16/2011
Pages: 108
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.26(d)

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A Sharecropper's Son

The Life of Ted Sullen
By Shirleen Von Hoffmann


Copyright © 2011 Shirleen Von Hoffmann
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4567-6567-5

Chapter One

Tending the Fields

I was born December 20, 1931 in High Bluff, Alabama. High Bluff had a population of about 150. It was a farming community with two churches; a Holy Church and a Baptist Church. Our family attended the Baptist Church. We lived in a share cropping community whereby families lived on the farm and took care of the farm. Basically you spent your whole life working for the man. We did manage to attend Church every Sunday though.

There were three families that lived there, the Sullen family and two families called Neil but they weren't related.

My mother and father were wed as teenagers at 16 and 17. I was the oldest of eleven. They had been married less than a year and then I came along.

I was a very sickly baby because I had chicken pox at age one. I had sores all over my body. It was so traumatizing to my Mother and Father because they were just kids themselves. So my Auntie Tote took me and raised me for three years and then returned me back to my parents.

When I turned seven years old, I had to work, pick cotton, shake peanuts and clean the farm. In fact, I remember the time my Mom was picking cotton and I was riding on her cotton sack. We would pick cotton from early day break until dark. If it rained, I was supposed to be able to go to school but if the barn needed cleaning, I didn't go to school.

The school was about 3 miles from where we lived. I remember walking to school and putting newspaper in my shoes to make the soles last so my feet wouldn't get blisters. You would get to school after walking so far and rushing, you were so tired from work and getting there you couldn't learn anything but I tried awfully hard. Many times I would just sleep in school.

The older you got the more responsibility on the farm you took. I think that back then, people had kids because of the farm income. We usually ate pretty good because we always had a small plot of land that you could grow vegetables on but you sure had to work very hard for those vegetables.

Sharecropping is living in a shot gun house on the farm that you don't own, not too far from the bosses' house so he could spy on you. He would see what you were doing, hear what you were saying and watch your comings and goings. You work, plant, harvest and do everything on the farm for the right to live there, for the small vegetable patch and for a very small amount of money that you got to spend on getting food from the store.

You didn't get paid until the crop was ready. In the meantime you went and worked other farms to make enough to get by. And on the farm they had a country store, where you got all your food, clothes, school supplies and everything you needed to live. They kept a record of it, so when the crop came in, that all came off the money you earned. You hope and pray that when the time comes for the crop to harvest in December you make some money for the rest of the year but you find out you still owe money. Share cropping never allowed you to get out of debt. You know you are making money for the man, but the man never lets you make any money. You see your father come back every year and say, we didn't make any money this year and we would all cry together. You would say, "Why, we worked all year, so hard?"

I knew as a young kid I had to leave Alabama. Somehow; someway, I had to leave. We stayed sharecropping until I was ten, then we moved to Hartford, Alabama and we left sharecropping and just worked farms. My mother and father were finally able to buy a house and we had our other family members in the same city.

My mother's father and mother lived across the street from us and Uncle Porter and Aunt Minnie Mae lived across the street. Up on the hill lived my Uncle JC and Aunt Mae. Uncle Johnny and Aunt Laurie lived across town. My Father had two brothers, Uncle Jim and Uncle Johnnie. Uncle Johnnie lived in the city across town.

It was so nice to be so close to so much family, especially my Grandmother, with whom I was very close. We called her Mama Lula and she was part Cherokee and had long, black beautiful hair. I would talk to her and comb it for hours. She was the one who encouraged me to go to school and become someone. She was going to help me do it, too. I spent many hours with her.

She got really sick when I was around eleven. It was probably cancer but they didn't know about cancer then. She would tell me stories about her life and I would listen to every one of them. I think she felt closer to me than the other kids because I loved being with her so much. When she got really sick, we would take her around to see healers. We tried everything but nothing worked. At 43 she passed away and my whole world got turned upside down and just stopped. I always remembered something she said to me, "Don't stop learning, be respectful to people, pray every day and try to go as far as you can. Never take NO for an answer. You've got to get an education." She knew how much I wanted one too but when she passed, I lost all hope of getting one.

My Grandfather was Papa H and he lived with her across the street. He had a temper but was always nice to the kids. He always had something nice to say. It was always nice to sit down and talk to him too. He loved his kids and was very proud of them. He remarried two years after Mama Lula died and stayed in the same house across the street. I am not sure where he met his new wife because I had started work and was away from the house but I know she made one mean pecan pie!

I think after my grandmother passed I became much closer to my Mother.

My mother was a beautiful woman. She was part Cherokee, part Irish, tall with a beautiful complexion and one heck of a cook. Her Mother had Cherokee and her father was I00% Irish. She raised and took care of eleven kids and never forgot to love all of us kids.

My Dad was always very quiet. He was a stocky black man who was a very hard worker and somewhat of a "gentle man". He was good with the boys and of course we followed him as far as working in the fields. He always told us to respect people, especially our elders. He always took us to church and worked any type of job he could get. In 1945, he got drafted for the Navy. When they found out he had seven kids, they discharged him. Finally, we made money for our work. Our house was a 3 bedroom one bath home on about 1/2 acre of land, with a little creek running in the back of the property. We managed to fit into this house with four girls in one room and three boys in another, all sharing one bed in each room and one bath in the whole house. I cannot ever remember it being a problem. We usually used a bath. There was no shower. It was the first time we had indoor plumbing.

It was a nice little house and my Mom would always plant flowers in front and we had a few chickens too. My father would get them as babies and we would raise them along with a few pigs. We had a small ice box but we kept most of our frozen food in the freezer up town. At that time we didn't have big freezers. Instead we rented storage in a big ice house that had storage facilities and a butcher house too. So we could buy a pig or cow and have them butcher it and then store it in their ice house.

My father would give us 10 cents every Saturday and all the rest of the money went into the family kitty. I would always save mine. My one brother, Jim Frank, would always buy cheese and crackers. Three of us sleeping in a bed and he wouldn't share those cheese and crackers with us. It about drove us crazy. I remember those times very fondly.

Once we moved we started saving a little. I got some jobs cutting lawns and a couple of white families really liked me. I would cut lawns and run errands for them. It worked out pretty good.

My first real job was at a Doctor's office, cleaning the office. In summertime, I got a job at the peanut mill; I was 13. I was working on the conveyer belt at the peanut factory from six in the evening 'till six in the morning. Then I would go home, get a bath and go to school. There is no way in the world you could learn in school after being up all night. I would get off school at 3 PM but would sleep most of the day. What few hours I could stay awake I tried hard to learn. I really wanted to learn but it's hard to learn when you're tired.

I ran away from home when I was 14 and caught the bus and went to Montgomery Alabama. I was just tired of picking cotton and working. My mother's brother was in Montgomery. My father came and got me and brought me right back. Then I had a chance to go down to Panama City, Florida to work for the Holiday Inn. It was on the beach and I started off busing tables and worked my way up to being a waiter. I stayed in a little cottage in the back and worked for tips and food.

Every Sunday my Dad would put my Mom, brothers and sisters in the car and drive down to see me for a visit. I would feed all of them a big lunch, which they always appreciated. I always kept a little box with all my tips and money and when they came, I would send the box of money back with my parents.

There was group of college kids from Georgia. They only wanted me waiting on them and I would look forward to them coming every year. They would always leave me a huge tip. They always wanted me to party with them, but I never did. I waited on them in the middle of the night if needed but I didn't fraternize with them. They called me Rose Jr. because my name is Roosevelt.

Working at that hotel I learned a lot about how far "being nice" to people can take you in life.

Chapter Two

Tending the Wounded

I worked down in Florida until I turned 18. Then I got drafted. I didn't care about being drafted. I was excited. It was just so nice to not have to pick cotton anymore. That's why I went down there in the first place.

Once I got drafted, I quit my job and I went back to Hartford with the family. The Korean War was going on and I didn't know what to do. At the time, they were drafting a ton of guys, mostly country guys. Then, you got six weeks of training and you went to straight to Korea.

I guess it wasn't time for me to go.

I got a call seven days before I was supposed to go to Army boot camp. A Lieutenant from Gunther AFB called me and said, "Would you rather go into the Air Force?" At the time, the military was segregated. But if you could breathe, they wanted you. I don't know where he got my name from. I said, "Sir, I live 20 minutes from Dover, Alabama. Can you have a ticket waiting for me? I will get my father to drive me up 'cause I definitely want to go into the Air Force."

I talked to my father and told him that The Lieutenant told me to go to the bus station and get the ticket. I told my father that I didn't want to go into the Army, that I got a better offer to go into the Air Force. I asked him to drive me to the bus station. As I said goodbye, everyone was crying and fussing and I told them, "This is a good thing. I will be able to get my GED and everything. I will be able to travel and help my family more."

I got to Gunter AFB. I was there only for few days before they bused us to San Antonio, Texas for basic training. We were there for six weeks of drills and discipline. It was rough. It was cold and it was December. They worked you hard, ran lots of training and exercise. We lived in tents with bunks two high on both sides of the tents. You could tell some of the young men didn't like the fact of living together in the barracks with blacks. There was one guy from Texas and we were talking about shooting sling shots. He said, "We don't call them sling shots in Texas. We call them nigger shooters". Now I am not a violent person but my friend told me I jumped from my bunk to his bunk and he had to pull me off of him. He swears I didn't even touch the floor. I don't remember, he made me so mad.

After our six intense weeks were up we were assigned to different military bases. This ignorant guy from Texas and I became really close friends. When we left, both going to different destinations, we hugged each other and made peace. I went into the Air Force December 7th 1951.

I entered the service on Dec 8 1951 and retired Aug 31, 1975.

I held various ranks at various Air Force Bases in the service as my career progressed. Just so you have a clear idea of the many places and things I have seen and done, here is a list.

My ranks were:

• Airman First Class-one stripe

• Airman Second Class-two stripes

• Airman Third class- Three stripes

• Medical Technician

• Ward Master on a OBGYN Ward

• Staff Sergeant

• Tech Sergeant

• Aero medical Evacuation

• NCOIC Noncommissioned office in charge·

I had many different duties. Some of my favorites were:

• Triaging patients from battlefield to determine which part· of the country they needed to be transported. Some got sent to the west, Travis AFB and some got sent to the east Delaware AFB. • Scheduling medical technicians out to different areas. • Setting up field hospitals to take care of patients. • And of course the Aero Medical Evacuation, where we would pick up patients who were injured and fly them to the safety of a hospital. While they were under our care we had to do everything we could to keep them alive and get them to safety.

My chronological assignments:

• Edwards AFB USA Training (3 months)

• Tachikawa AFB, Japan (3 years)

• Loring AFB Maine USA (1 year)

• Mather AFB California USA (4 years)

• Yokota AFB Japan (3 years)

• Steward AFB Tennessee USA (3 years)

• TDY temporary duty in Japan (1 year)

• Tan Son Nhut Air Base, AFB Vietnam (2 years)

• Yokota AFB Japan (1 year)

• Travis AFB California USA ( 1 Year)

• Yokota AFB, Japan (3 Years)

• Travis AFB, California USA (retired)


The Flights we took out of Japan were from Yokota Japan to Anchorage, Alaska. Then on to Dover, Delaware. Day after day. Or, the West Coast flying from Yokota, Japan to Hawaii to Travis AFB California. A crew would leave Japan and take patients to Alaska or Hawaii, then another crew would pick the flight up to take them to their final destination.

The Beginning

After basic training I got orders to go to Edwards AFB, California. I was trained as a Medical Technician. I don't know how I got in the medical field. I guess my aptitude testing came up that I should be in the medical field.

I was working in the OBGYN ward and we got a call we had to go out and pick up a lady who was pregnant, so I went along to watch. We got her up on the table and she was about to have her baby. The next thing I knew, I passed out and woke up on the other table. My command never let me live that down.

I thought I was going to be at Edwards for a while. I really liked it because it was close to Los Angeles. I was always a loner and kept to myself. I was a little, scared, country boy who didn't know much. I was there for almost two months before I left but not because I wanted to.

The First Sergeant in the medical ward fancied this Nurse. I was in the kitchen when this Nurse reached across me to get a cup of coffee. At the time, the First Sergeant, who really shouldn't have been there, was watching. He mistakenly thought that something was going on. By the next day he saw to it that I had orders for overseas with no idea of where I was going. I knew all along that he had something to do with my transfer that happened so quickly.

So, I had to follow the transfer orders. I got shipped from Oakland and ended up in Japan after sixteen, rough days at Sea. I was sick the entire time.

I went to Tachikawa AFB in Japan. There I worked on a hospital ward. Even with only one stripe I had a lot of responsibility for my training. In fact, I was assigned in charge of a ward. I enjoyed my work and learned how to take care of people.


Excerpted from A Sharecropper's Son by Shirleen Von Hoffmann Copyright © 2011 by Shirleen Von Hoffmann. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


Chapter 1 Tending the Fields....................1
Chapter 2 Tending the Wounded....................9
Chapter 3 Tending the Soul....................17
Chapter 4 Tending a Life....................77
Chapter 5 Tending Dear Friends....................83
Chapter 6 Tending me....................87

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