I, Joe Beaver Ratliff, was born the eighth child of Joe Hayden Ratliff and Nancy Elizabeth (Beaver) Ratliff, in the town of Girard, Texas, July 16, 1923. Before I was one year old we moved to Floydada,’ Texas where my dad rented the Snodgrass farm. I have very little recollection of my life at Floydada, as we moved from there when I was four years old, to Quitaque, Texas. The one thing I do remember about living at Floydada is the birth of my baby sister there. That made the score five girls and four boys for my parents who adored every one of us.
We moved to Quitaque by wagon, and there were no paved roads leading to Quitaque in those days. My folks ran the City Cafe, where my father and brother did the cooking. But by then, the depression forced most of the businesses in Quitaque to close, including the cafe. Dad and the older boys worked at odd jobs to keep us younger ones in school. There were not many people in those days who had much more than a living, but the people of Quitaque were hard working ones who loved their neighbors and their town.
I attended school in Quitaque until I was in the seventh grade, when we moved to Ft. Sumner, New Mexico, and Dad began working for my brother,Pete, who owned a restaurant and bar. I had visited Pete and wife, Jessie Mae, during summer vacations, and I had mixed emotions about moving to New Mexico and leaving my friends in Quitaque.
While I was visiting Ft. Sumner, one night a few of the local cowboys were in the restaurant indulging in a few beers at the bar, when someone came in and said that a visiting shooting gallery had cheated a fellow out of some money. The local cowboys, who kept their horses tied behind Pete’s cafe, got on their horses and dragged that shooting gallery through town. This was a little swifter justice than I had ever been accustomed to seeing.
I liked Ft. Sumner from the very first day we moved there. The schools, the climate, the teachers and the townspeople were the finest.
In 1940, my brothers, Pete and Mark, were managing a dining room and barracks near Gallup, New Mexico, for an amunition depot under construction for the U. S. Army. I went to work for them and washed enough dishes to last me a lifetime. Most of the employees were Navajo Indians who had never had a regular job for the government. They were assured by the Army that they would not be paid with script, which was only good at reservation trading posts. When they received their first government check they thought it was script and they refused to work until the Captain went to the bank and received cash with which to pay them.
I left Gallup and went to Las Vegas, Nevada. I hit town about 2:00 in the afternoon and thought, “What a town of shacks!” When I awoke, about 11:00 p.m. and went outside, I saw the thousands of neon lights and thought I was in a different city than before I went to sleep. I got a job driving a truck, and I had never seen a truck that large, a 32 yard dump truck Euclid Trailer. I was discovering gears three weeks later.
It was March 1942, and I decided it was time that I did my bit for my country. I saw the shoes the Army was wearing, and thought they were made for walking, so I joined the U.S. Navy on March (Friday) 13, 1942. I’ve never been able to figure out who that bad luck was for, the Navy or me. After arriving at boot camp at San Diego Naval Training Station, we were in formed that the six week training schedule Wad been cut to three weeks. The chief assured us we would miss nothing. So, they gave us a pair of those Army shoes and they barely lasted the three weeks. From there they sent us to radio school and I learned in sixteen weeks the math that I didn’t learn in three years. I was assigned as an aviation gunner in a patrol squadron in the Caribbean, escorting convoys to North America.
Once when I was home on furlough in 1944, I was sitting in a drug store in Santa Sosa, Mew Mexico, when I saw this girl with pretty brown eyes and curly hair. She took the scissors and cut off one of the curls and threw it in the waste paper basket. My buddy ’introduced us and from that day I have never been interested in any other girl since. Her name was Jackie Herndon, now Jackie Ratliff.
The Navy told me that if I would volunteer to extend my service in the Caribbean six months they would give me my choice of stations when I returned to the states. I selec ted Kirtland Naval Detachment, Albuquerque. They said, ‘’No problem”. After I completed my six month extension and went to select my station, the closest opening they could provide to New Mexico was the U.S. Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida. It seems the Navy always knew what was best for their personnel.
I was discharged from the Navy December 4, 1945, and Jackie and I were married ten days later, in Albuquerque. The fact that we had neither money nor a job didn’t seem to be a major problem at the time. we decided to move to Los Alamos, the home of the Atomic Bomb. I received a job with the Manhattan Project, which is what it was called then. I don’t think Jackie was too impressed with Los Alamos, at first, we were fortunate to get a government trailer to live in. It was kerosene heated, and kerosene cook stove, with no indoor bathroom. A deluxe model! There were no paved streets and no stores in town. We shopped at the commissary and attended a choice of two theaters for 15¢ each.
Our first ride to Santa Fe on the Army bus down the unpaved road was quite an experience. I heard later that two of the bus drivers went to work as stunt drivers in Hollywood when they got out of the Army. Los Alamos was an interesting place to live in its early days. I knew, on sight, Dr. Bradbury, Dr. Teller, Dr. Openheimer and others. One could never have surprised visitors from out of town, as you had to arrange passes three days in advance for anyone to visit.
Our baby daughter, Beverly, was born October 1, 1946, so she was ready to spend the winter with us in the one room trail er. It is a good thing she loved the cold because we had plenty to give her. Shortly afterwards, we got a new house to live in. The roads and streets were paved and shopping centers and churches were built. Our son, Gerald Wayne, entered a nicer environment than his sister had three years earlier. The atomic bomb had brought peace to the world, and Los Alamos had become a thriving little city with the big scientific labs being built. After living there four years we moved back to Albuquerque where I went to work for Civil Engineers at Manzano Base. Jackie was employed by the American Automobile Association. She worked in the insurance Department for 15 years, then resigned in 1978.
After graduation Beverly Jo married James D. Glatt. They lived in Albuquerque for a few years then moved to Chicago. They present ed us with our first grandchild, Jennifer. Jonnah Jo followed ten years later. We were saddened and shocked at the death of Beverly’s husband, Jim in 1983.
After Gerald Wayne graduated from high school he went to the University of New Mexico for two years. He added to our family, a wife, Becky Jo Cobain from the state of Washington, and her two beautiful little daughters, Diana Jo and Lynette, by a previous marriage. On March 8, 1975 they gave us a grandson Jeremy Joseph Ratliff. Diana is attending Airline Stewardess school in Washing ton, and Lynette is a junior in high school in Jacksonville, Florida. Jerry and Becky are in the process of moving from Washington back to Albuquerque at this time.
Beverly works for an insurance company here in Albuquerque. She and her daughters live in their home here. Jennifer is a sophomore in high school, and she is a continual honor student. She is secretary of her class and is very active in student government, also she is active in Job’s Daughters. She has her mother’s boundless energy. Jonnah, age six, acts as an advisor for the family.
Jackie and I feel that the best is yet to come. We have all of our family in Albuquerque now. I retired from Civil Service in September of 1980 after 3^ years of Government service. We have a travel trailer and we enjoy traveling when we can. I work part time for Security at the State Fairgrounds. Jackie has taken up painting as a hobby. She was thrilled this year when one of her paintings sold at the State Fair.
Best wishes, Aunts, Uncles, cousins and friends.