A brief autobiography

Leo E. Garrett as of 7/28/96

The Man

Click the small pictures for a larger view.

There is a saying that in the thirties, a large number of people migrated from Georgia to Florida, thereby raising the average IQ of both states. My family was one of that group. Weather, economics, and the boll weevil had ruined my father's career as a sharecropper so they went south. I was the seventh of nine children and the first Floridian in our family.

My earliest memories are of watching my father split timber he and the older boys had cut the night before. It seems cutting trees is cooler (and safer) in the middle of the night. All of us would sit around in the evenings and scrape and sand the axe handles and boat oars he had made. Every week or two the old man would load up the Franklin and make the rounds of various stores selling them for a dollar a dozen.

Stroll Thumbnail When WWII broke out jobs became available and we were doing OK until the revenuers got interested in my father's chicken farming. It seems he bought much more corn and sugar than our small flock could use. We moved in 1944 to a small (pop. 600) town called Everglades City. My father became a fisherman and boatbuilder. Later he became construction foreman for the Company that owned the town and set up a cabinet shop.

Unable to display image In 1949 I won the Miami Herald Spelling Bee. The townfolk took up a collection and bought me suitable clothing for the trip to Washington DC. Lots of firsts' for me. First plane ride. First legal train ride (my mother refused to fly back). First TV. First pro baseball game. (I saw Satchell Paige and Bob Feller pitch against the Senators.) First necktie. I was insufferable. How did I do? Thirtieth of fifty.

In 1951 we moved to Naples, Fla., a much larger (pop. 2500) town. My father's concept of "liquidation of assets" was: convert them to whiskey, drink it, then relocate. He could handle hard times better than success, so he had a tendency to generate them.

In 1953 I graduated high school second in my class. I might have done better if I had studied and not dropped out for six weeks in the middle of the year. In October of that year, despite the good advice of my employer Fritz, I joined the Navy. Fritz was a Coast Guard Boatswain's Mate who wound up building a corner store into a major south Florida chain. Why should I listen to him?

Boot Camp Pic CWO Garrett The Navy was fun! And they made you eat three meals a day. I put on twenty poinds but kept my 32 inch waist. I was back down to 185 within six weeks after boot camp and when I retired as a Lieutenant in 1976 I weighed 185 and had a 32 inch waist. So much for the Navy broadening one. I retired in Jacksonville, Fla, the same town where I had originally been sworn in.

When I was in Kingsville, Tx in 1957 I met and married a pretty little hispanic girl. We had four children, two girls and two of the other kind. A year after I retired we divorced. My granddaughter was married this Spring! I have four grandsons.

Leo at UNF I went to college with the GI Bill and earned/received a couple of BAs. One in Secondary Ed. The other in a self-designed field called "International Studies". Collecting Coke bottles is not a reliable occupation, so I got a Work-Study job in the campus VA Office. I met Beth there as an unhappy customer. She was using up her remaining GI Bill benefits going for an MA. We used her student loan to get married in October of 1979. It looked like she might be called up for the Iran thing and I was determined to have more status than just 'camp follower'. Besides, I don't do laundry.

Beth had a job offer in Brownsville. The position would not be open until Oct 1980 so in July I sold my MG, paid off our bills, and picked her up at Ft. Benning, Ga on the Blue Beast, a 1972 Suzuki GT-750 "Water Buffalo". (I had totalled my '74 the year before.) From there we began an extended motorcycle camping trip. We went up the Appalachians into Canada, across the top of the Lakes, back down thru the "Soo" to Milwaukee where her folks live. Then down to Mississippi and the Gulf and back to Jacksonville by the 15th of September. We have pictures.

We hired a truck, hitched a travel trailer to it and came to Texas with Beth following in her Civic to pick up any pieces that fell off. She started the Brownsville Community Health Clinic Midwifery Delivery service and stayed there a couple of years. I found a job repairing lawnmowers, tractors and vacuum cleaners at a rental place. Beth moved on to Planned Parenthood, the state, Hidalgo Planned Parenthood. She worked four years for Women's Health Care Group in Brownsville but became a "lady of leisure" 1 Jan 97, and is currently resting.

I started, as a volunteer, writing programs for the Gladys Porter Zoo. They had a computer to track the Endowment program and didn't know what to do with it. Things got completely out of hand. I am now a part-time employee and baby-sit over twenty computers and their users! Some of them know what to do with them.

I'm retiring again in Dec 2000, having become a "double-dipping greedy geezer" in April 2000. Overall, it has been fun, and I think I was right to tell Fritz I didn't want to be a grocery store manager!

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