Tag Archives: granddad

Granddad featured in ‘Slice of Life’ story

8 Nov

The Valley Morning Star in Harlingen, Texas, wrote a story about my grandfather! There’s a photo, too. (I’m trying to get a copy of it.) I added the links — force of habit. Besides, how many of you have an 81-year-old grandfather with a Web site?

Valuable service: Woody Spillman

Apartment manager goes extra mile to help residents

November 5, 2008 – 10:34PM
By EDWINA P. GARZA/Valley Morning Star

Woody Spillman may be unlike any other apartment manager in the Rio Grande Valley.

Spillman helps his apartment residents with everything from flat tires to rides to the airport at no charge.

In 1995, Spillman, who is originally from Missouri, purchased Oakridge Apartments at 119 N. First St.

During the 1970s, when he was a banker, Spillman spent his winters on South Padre Island.

Decades later after he retired early and started searching for an apartment building to manage, he found the right fit in Harlingen.

“I wanted to be near water,” Spillman explained. “I’ve been here ever since.”

Spillman, now 81, says he’s happy managing his nearly 20 units.

“I think it’s better than anything,” he said. “I like the association of my residents and I enjoy working.”

Spillman, who offers his residents all kinds of free help, says he learned valuable customer service tools when he worked in banking.

“Some of it is my own idea and I don’t know anyone else who does it,” he said.

Because it can be costly to clean up and do construction after someone vacates a unit, Spillman tries to keep his residents at Oakridge Apartments. To do so, he offers monetary bonuses to people who renew their contracts.

Currently, Oakridge Apartments has no vacancy, he added.

When asked why he offers residents all kinds of help, Spillman said he’s just a nice guy.

“If anybody has a flat on the street I’ll stop and help them,” he said.

“It’s not too often that something like that happens.”

A former Merchant Marine who served during World War II, Spillman said he’s traveled across the world. He has visited Japan, Singapore, North Africa, England and Germany, among other countries.

“I got around a lot,” he boasted. “I’ve had an interesting life and at 81, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.”

The family history blog I started has several letters that granddad’s parents sent to each other before they were married.

Granddad’s update, post Hurricane Dolly

28 Jul

My grandfather lives in Harlingen, Texas, and decided last week that he and his girlfriend, Lina, would take on Hurricane Dolly from his home. I’d already heard they the two of them had survived the storm, and the return of electricity brought a post-Dolly e-mail.

Finally got power back on just this evening. It was off 5½ days. Being without power was worse than the hurricane. I had 2 large coolers so loaded the stuff from my fridge and kept it on ice but don’t know if I saved it.

We were on the south side of the hurricane so all our wind came from the West. Very strong (100 MPH) and very gusty. It was an experience. My friend Lina stayed with me and she says she will never stay in a hurricane again. (I admit being in the same house with her was a bit like I imagine it would be to be in a cage with a hungry lion.) ( I exaggerate, It was good to have her with me.)

My apartments came through in good shape. I boarded up some windows and sat in line for an hour and a half for sand bags. I have 4 large “Live Oak” Trees in my front yard and they all survived. I had a yard full of limbs, some as large as my wrist but I had no broken glass. One apartment has a wet carpet and I still don’t know how. Water didn’t get high enough to go in the door. I inspected the roofs and maybe a dozen shingles were blown off.

After the hurricane, water was deep and we couldn’t go anyplace without driving through water. No one had electricity so all restaurants and gas stations were closed. After a couple of days of cold food and no coffee I rigged a small propane heater on it’s back in my vice so it made a burner of sorts. I was able to heat a meal. Showers were cold but in 100 degree weather it wasn’t that bad. Sleeping at night even with windows open was difficult.

The day after the hurricane the highway was alive with hundreds of generators, National Guard and all sorts of electrical crews and clean up people. National Guard set up in several locations and passed out bags of ice, cases of bottled water and “Hot Meals.” Hot Meals are military rations. You pour water in them and they will get so hot you can’t hold on to them. They are really very good. The 3 that I had were “Vegetarian Pasta Fagioli,” “Vegetarian 3 Cheese Lasagna” and “Chicken Pasta Italiana.” There was also in the box “fruit mix, M&Ms, Peanut butter, ice tea mix, salt & pepper, napkin plastic knife & fork etc.” The lines for these were a mile long but moved at a good pace. One of the grocery chains gave out free ice.

There were benefits. There were a lot of “people helping people.” My residents sat in the front yard to keep as cool as possible and all got acquainted and would share ice ,water and hot meals with each other. It was heart warming.

Living was difficult mostly because of the 100 degree weather and no cooking capabilities. When the restaurants and gas stations did begin to reopen (Some with generators) there were very long lines as most people still didn’t have electricity in their homes.

I hope I never live through another hurricane but if one comes along I will stay and will know better how to handle the next one.

Granddad and Dolly

23 Jul

I’ve done floods. And blizzards. And earthquakes. All were fun in their own way.

I just got an e-mail from my grandfather who is preparing for Hurricane Dolly. Dolly just made landfall in South Padre Island, Texas. When I was in the eighth grade, we went to South Padre Island to visit my grandfather for Christmas. It was very cold there that year. Grandad sold the island condo several years ago and moved to Harlingen, Texas, which will be in Dolly’s path.

Grandad is in his 80s. He owns an apartment building in Harlingen and still does a lot of the maintenance himself. In his e-mail, he talks about boarding up and caulking doors and windows at his girlfriend’s and the apartment — he did that himself. His e-mail:

Hi Y’all

Hurricane “Dolly” is just about to make landfall at Brownsville TX. Lina & I are settled in at my place prepared to ride it out. We spent all day yesterday buttoning everything down. I waited an hour and a half in line for sand bags. We boarded up Lina’s house in Sebastian and spent the rest of the day getting the apartments ready. Winds are reported to be just under 100 miles per hour. We will have 2 problems.

Problem 1. I am all electric and the power will without a doubt be off, maybe for several days. My freezer is full. I hope it doesn’t all spoil. I was so busy with everything else I didn’t have the foresight to buy a small camp stove. We have plenty of canned goods & water but we may be eating cold pork & beans out of the can. Weather will be mild so no air conditioning won’t be a big problem.

Problem 2. We are expecting a lot of rain. Harlingen is very flat and only a few feet above sea level. When there is a 3 or 4 inch rain businesses close and schools send the kids home because there is extreme flooding. We had a 17 inch rain a few years ago and I lost a new van to the water. My insurance Co. paid me a total loss on it. I have installed plywood panels in the doorways of my building and caulked them in. I hope they will keep the water from flooding the ground floor of my building.

Other than that we are just waiting for the big blow. I do not believe that we will have any major problems. (perhaps famous last words) My building built 4 years ago was well constructed to withstand hurricane force. 100 M.P.H. winds are strong but some hurricanes pack 150 M.P.H. winds.

I’m kind of looking forward to the experience and will let you know how we come out. Wish me luck.


It must run in the family — I kinda what to know what it’d be like to go through a hurricane too.


20 May

An e-mail from my grandfather today:


I mailed you something today and I’m really anxious to see what your response is when you get it.


I love surprises! I hope it’s not something that I have to feed …

The other e-mail from him today:

To all my internet friends

I am going to the hospital for surgery on Wednesday May 21st. I will have an arthritic shoulder joint replaced. The left one. I had the right one done about 5 years ago. I’m supposed to be in the hospital for about 3 days so don’t flood me with emails while I am gone.


He might be trying to revive his baseball career. I’m pretty sure we’re (somehow) related to pitcher Burleigh Grimes. (If you’re not keeping up on family history, my grandfather’s mother’s maiden name was Grimes.)

A trip to Texas, 1946

14 May

I’ve been working on a family history project, scanning photos, letters and postcards that we found in the basement of my grandmother’s house.

Most recently, I discovered a bundle of postcards and letters my grandmother, Celia Fulkerson, sent home to her parents in 1946 while on a trip from Missouri to Texas with her friend Dorothy Hogg and my grandfather, Grimes Spillman, whom she would marry two years later. I had letters Grandma sent to her parents from De Queen, Ark., and Houston; a postcard she sent to her brother from Lufkin, Texas, another sent to her parents from Houston; and the ticket from her flight home (only $41.11!).

I knew a few things from the letters, but didn’t know why they were taking the trip. Granddad filled in me on that tonight:

Celia and I were married on Dec. 13th 1948. The Texas trip was in 1946. I was in the Merchant Marines and was not assigned duty like the other services. I could go to any port and sign on to a ship. I always chose to sail tankers and saw a lot of the world. The “Russell” mentioned was Russell Bate a high school friend of mine. We joined together. Russell now lives in Chillicothe, Mo. I shipped from Long Beach CA. and New York City but usually from Houston or Galveston Texas. One day I was sitting in a shipping center in Galveston waiting for a ship to be posted that I thought I would like and looked across the room and there sat Calvin Porter from Trenton who I had met in Mo. a few times. We sailed together that trip to Casa Blanca North Africa and became hard and fast friends. Once Calvin, Russell and I all went to New York together to ship out but Russell and I shipped out on different ships and Calvin joined the Paratroopers.

The trip to Texas was when I was going back to ship out. I Bought a Mercury Convertible (I think a 1941 ) to drive to Texas with the intention of selling it there. Celia and her good friend “Dorothy Hogg” (Dot) went along and flew back. I traded the Mercury for a motorcycle and stored the motorcycle until I returned from the trip. Then brought the motorcycle back to Missouri. That trip was a load of Naphtha to Bremerhaven Germany.

Family trivia: Granddad has more names than I can keep up with. His kids never called my him “Dad.” Grandma always called him “Honey,” and my mother, the oldest of three, started calling him Honeyboy — because, well, he was a boy called Honey. It stuck. For years, I thought that was his name. My brother, sister and I have always called him Granddad — Grandpa was my father’s father, although he died in 1982. Granddad’s full name: Woodford Grimes Spillman. He’s gone by his middle name (his mother’s maiden name) since he was a baby; in the past few years he started going by Woody.