At 4:30 a.m., July 4, 1962, my son was born in Bay Saint Louis, MS hospital. His doctor wanted to go to New Orléans for the 4th, so he induced labor on July 2nd, but my son would decide for himself when he was ready to be born. He chose the 4th and the 4th it was. The doctor was none to happy.
He may not know, and his sister may not know, what roads I traveled to collide with their father. It was a winding road; sometimes a bit unsettling. Here is the story.
Delta State College was a sleepy small college in the Mississippi Delta in 1959. I graduated that summer having dropped Student Teaching. I did not like my supervising teacher in the Cleveland Public School System. I would suppose this was my first “drop-out”. That summer, South Central Bell gave a test to prospective employees on the campus. I took the test and they offered me a job in accounting. Mind you, I majored in English with a minor in French and had taken no accounting courses. The key then, as it is now, was that my sister worked for the manager of South Central Bell, therefore, a job I was not qualified for in anyone’s imagination was offered and accepted.
I started to work in downtown Jackson as soon as I graduated. I lived with my sister and brother-in-law, which was very kind of them and rode with my sister every day to work. I did not have a car. She would get on the elevator and go to the upper floor where she was a secretary for the Manager. The accounting department was on the bottom floor.
During that summer, I also enrolled in Arthur Murray School of Dance paying $300 to learn how to teach. That was a lot of money in 1959. Arthur Murray offered a payment plan to suck you in so I signed the contract (later paid Ross Barnett, Jr. to have me released from that contract) however, I am ahead of the story.
I learned all the machines in the accounting/payroll department. It was extremely boring to me. After finishing my work for the day, I would have to sit there, on the clock, doing nothing until 5 o’clock. This did not make sense to me and as I looked out the large windows across to the Governor’s Mansion, I would think of being out in the fresh air as I had been in college. As you can guess my second drop out was lurking right around the corner.
One day, the Arthur Murray Studio called me at work, which I had told them never to do, to ask me to come in a little early to teach a student. I thought leaving at 4:30 would be o.k. so I left. I failed to tell my supervisor I was leaving or why and to this day I have never admitted that is why I walked out that beautiful fall day…my second “drop-out”.
Needless to say, the next day I was given the opportunity to resign. It did not seem to matter that I was an excellent employee. I failed to follow the rules set forth by The Company. One could say this was a huge mistake and as far as retirement goes, yes, it was, but as for life, no it was not. Had I not left, there would be no Freddie or Jackie.
I searched for a job and found a position with The Adjutant General’s office as a file clerk. I filed very quickly and soon ran out of files to file which brought forth the ire of all the other workers in the bull pen. Then the Major’s secretary left and he chose me to take her place. The last one hired…the first one promoted. This clenched my fate, so to speak.
A storm came and I was the only secretary left at work that day. The General needed someone to take shorthand. I said I could knowing full well my skills were way below par, not ever using shorthand after I finished the course in high school. This was a disaster for me as well as for the situation. The General had a friend in a junior college and I was soon placed there under very unusual circumstances.
On the first day of school, the Speech teacher was killed in an automobile accident. They were in desperate need to fill this position…hence, my college degree finally paid, some would say. Based on the General’s recommendation, I was hired sight unseen.
The first day I walked in to teach a class I had this sinking awful thought: “I had not learned how to teach…I ‘dropped-out’ of student teaching.” I did know how to call the roll so I proceeded to do this task. This, in and of itself, was daunting. The names were all French and even though I had a minor in French I had not learned French surnames.
My students were my age. I was by this time 21. Most of my students were “drop-outs” from Loyola or Tulane from wealthy families who came over to this little school to make good grades thereby allowing them to go back to “their school”.
The teachers/instructors all except one were old. I dated the only young teacher my age and was content with this young man. However, the students from New Orléans were more exciting and fun and I soon joined their ranks of merriment. This was rather frowned upon by the administration.
The classes I taught were Speech, Business English, and Fundamentals of Grammar. The Grammar course was o.k. I had never heard of Business English and certainly was not prepared for Speech having a bilateral lisp with a tongue thrust. I knew that I was not the teacher they needed and started looking for a high school position knowing that the college would find someone who was more qualified than I by the end of the term. This really was best, by now there was a larger problem.
A young man in my class had somehow turned my head and before the next fall, I had married him. Now had I not “dropped-out” from student teaching; had not “dropped-out/walked-out” from South Central Bell that fall day a year before, or if my shorthand had been better, and the worst, had a young lady not lost her life, I would not have met this young man. All these things happened because of the road I had chosen in my senior year of college.
The next year I taught in a high school close by and he finished his last year at the college. During this time, I was pregnant. Of course, every one counted the months and days to see if I were pregnant when we got married. I was not and our son came almost 10 months to the day…July 4, 1962…Frederick Joseph Bourgeois, III.
The pregnancy had not been easy. I had almost miscarried; this, I am told, was a sure sign that the child would not be healthy. When he was born, he cried and cried and cried. Nothing seemed to help. As he got older, I gave him baby aspirin and coke. This seemed to make him better. By the time he was two, he looked as if he were from a third world country.
His father was in higher education by this time and I was teaching in a small town with one doctor for the entire town. That is the way most small towns were back then. I carried my son to him to see what was wrong and he said: “There is nothing wrong with the child. The mother is the problem.” Three weeks later my son was diagnosed as “terminal.”
Two surgeries later over a one year period and the diagnosis changed: “If he lives five years then he might have almost a normal life span.” I was adamant that my son would live.
This is the young man who is now CEO and Founder of Team FREDNET. I promised God if he lived, he would make a difference in this world. I thought that if he lived he would have a higher purpose.
Therefore, as early as 2 or 3 years of age, the moon became his dream, his focus.
This is the back story. It does not matter how many Teams are entered in the Google Lunar X Prize, my son will win…not because I say he will but because this is his purpose in life. Whether he lands the first robot on the moon or not, he is a winner by being where he is at this time and place living his dream.
For those who would like to take this journey with him, volunteer your time, donate what you can, dream the dream with him.