Max's Story


I was the third child and first son of William Lowery and Opla Teresa, born in a converted railroad box car on June 24, 1919 in Taft, California . The oilfields were booming and housing was in short supply. Dad worked for the railroad where he was an engine watchman. That job consisted of tending the fire for the boiler and monitoring the steam pressure so that the engine would not have to be shut down during its few hours of lay-over before the trip back to Bakersfield.

We were only a short time in the box car, then we moved up to "South Taft" on 513 Rose Ave. Dad went to work in the oil fields where he was a saw filer for the rig-builders. In those days of all-wood derricks, sharp saws were prized and a good saw filer was highly regarded. Although the work was very hazardous, the high pay was appealing so he became a drilling helper, or what was commonly known as a "rough neck", for the next twenty years or so. When I was a little boy between six and ten years of age, he would let me go to work with him many times. Watching an oil well being drilled from close up, was fascinating to me. I guess there were no safety engineers or OSHA inspectors then, because nobody seemed to mind my being there. They did tell me not to climb the derrick.

In June 1927 we moved to Bakersfield where I acquired the rustic skills of milking, slopping pigs, plowing, irrigating, haying. Formal education ended in 1937 with high school graduation. I worked for Montgomery Ward in shipping and receiving, and hardware and sporting goods sales until almost the beginning of WWII. Once in high school I wanted very much to go into Drama, but Mother nixed that.

The first year of WWII was spent in an anti-aircraft battery at the end of the runway at Hilo airport in Hawaii. In January, 1943 I transferred to the Air Corps and started learning how to fly airplanes. The pilot's wings and the 2nd Lt. bars came in November 1943 in Yuma, Arizona, and from there to Sacramento, California to learn to fly the B-25s. By July I had mastered the aircraft enough to be assigned my own airplane and a crew and orders to fly to North Africa., specifically Oran in Algeria. A superb adventure. We went from Miami to Puerto Rico to British Guiana, across the mouth of the Amazon to Belem, to Natal Brazil, the jumping-off point to cross the South Atlantic to Ascension Island, then to a place in Liberia called Roberts, up to Dakar in Senegal, and across the Sahara to Marrakech in Morocco, then on to Oran.

From here I was sent to the island of Corsica to be permanently assigned to a medium bomber group in the 12th Air Force. Our job was to interdict the German supply lines to their operation in North Italy. The main objectives were the rail bridges in the Brenner Pass and the river and road bridges in the Po Valley of North Italy. The German anti-aircraft fire was fierce. I survived. By the end of the war in Europe I had flown 68 combat missions, been promoted to Captain, and sent home. Almost immediately after arriving I was smitten by that lovely creature, my future wife, Doris Croft. Wonderful! Her father was a general contractor and I went to work for him as a carpenter. Dorie and I were married in 1946. There were three children born of this union, Clayton Andrew (Andy) on October 17, 1949; Cecelia Rochelle (Celie or Celia), on September 25, 1951; and William Carey (Bill), on March 18, 1957.

Dorie was lost in an auto accident in 1963. In August of 1975, I married Janet Reese Coulter. She had been widowed about the same time as I had.

In 1954 I became a licensed general contractor in the State of California and was actively engaged in the construction business until retirement in 1985.

February 1992