Joseph B. Spigener, Jr.
U. S. Army Air Forces
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 12/20/1943 - 01/28/1946
Instructor, 3501st Army Air Forces Base Unit

Joseph was born in Athens, Louisiana. He was one of eight children of Joseph B. Spigener, a telegraph operator for the Louisiana and North West Railroad, and Gracie Wert Dillon Spigener, a woman, Joseph recalls, as having a fourteen-inch waist. "She was the dominant one," he says of his mother. "She ran the farm." His father left his railroad job to farm. It was a hard life, Joseph says. "The only cash crop that you could depend on was cotton," he remarks. "And if it wasn't boll weevils it was the drought. It was one or the other that killed the crop every year." The family, which went to church in a wagon, kept milk and butter cool in the well, and used outhouses. Every Monday Joseph helped his mother with the laundry by washing clothes in boiling water in large black kettles outdoors. They bathed once a week in a "number three wash tub," referring to the model number of a galvanized steel tub. Joseph's mother cooked on a wood stove. He recalls the day his family's home was wired for electricity. "It was one string and a forty-watt bulb," he says. When family members needed shoes, "your daddy had you to stand up and he drew a circle of your foot on a piece of paper and he took that to the store with him," he says. For money, Joseph raised chickens and hogs, which he fed grass hoed from the cotton fields. When he was 16, he sold his hogs and earned more than five hundred dollars. "From then on I made my own money," he says. Of the Depression he says, "You wouldn't want to live that over again. It's too hard, but on the other hand it's good for you because it humbles you." Meanwhile, Joseph went to school, doing his homework by kerosene lamp. "That's about as much light as striking a match," he says. After he graduated from Athens High School in 1936 he remained on the farm. On September 26, 1941 he married Susie Fuller. (They would have two children, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.) After the war began he entered the U.S. Army Air Forces and was sent to Sheppard Field in Wichita Falls, Texas, where he was deemed underweight at 114 pounds (minimum requirement was 130), and released. He farmed for another year, then re-entered the air forces in December of 1943. He was sent to a radar and electronics school at Truax Field in Madison, Wisconsin. When he finished he was asked to teach the classes. Joseph sent for his wife (and infant son) and they lived together in a hotel while he taught until November of 1944. He was then sent on to two Advanced Radar Schools--first to Chanute Field in Rantoul, Illinois, then to Boca Raton, Florida. Because he was teaching the latest knowledge in radar--hollow waveguide--the textbooks were "super secret." After the war ended, he was sent from Florida to Maxwell Field in Montgomery, Alabama, before being discharged on January 28, 1946. Joseph worked for a bus company in Mobile, Alabama, then, using the GI Bill, enrolled at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston in January of 1949. He finished a four-year curriculum in accounting in three years. The family moved to Shreveport where he worked as an accountant for City Service Oil Company for 28 years. Susie worked for the same company for ten years. The company moved them around frequently, although they lived many years in Camden, Arkansas. Both retired while living in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1981. They moved to Shreveport in 1994.