The Rock That Made The Ripples
Charles B. Thomas

Page 2

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All images provided by and © 2004 Charles B. Thomas


College and Army Days

The U. S. Army drafted me for a two-year term of duty one year after my June 1957 graduation from the University of Maryland. Following infantry basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia, I attended Advanced Artillery FDC (Fire Direction Center) School at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. Using longitude and latitude on maps like graph paper, we learned how to measure the distance and direction between our guns and the forward observer's radioed-in target. Next, we would calculate the settings for the guns and what strength propellant powder to use, and take into account weather conditions, so that the artillery shells would land at the spotted location miles away.

Now trained, the Army flew me to Korea for 13 months, arriving on Thanksgiving Day. Who would have suspected then that this draftee private would earn sergeant stripes in less than a year, and then return to Fort Benning to train recruits? It happened.

Being stationed in Korea gave me the opportunity to explore goldfish, waterlilies, lotuses, and other ornamental aquatics in the Orient, including Japan and Hong Kong. Throughout my life, wherever and whenever I travel, I search for whatever relates to water gardening.

Following my father's example, I gave waterlily blossoms, hardy and tropical, day blooming and night blooming, including Victoria blossoms, to my summer and autumn dates in high school, college, and thereafter. Gentle waterlily-lover reader, you do understand what a splendid impression these flowers made on those dates, don't you? They always favorably impressed the parents, too.

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Washington, DC, displayed tropical waterlilies and Victorias at their gardens and in government pools in and around the District. To ensure having enough of these tropical beauties, they produced many more than they needed. Although producing surplus tropical plants, they continuously had too few hardy waterlilies. Meanwhile, at Three Springs, Dad had a surplus of exactly what Kenilworth needed. He also lacked facilities for producing tropical plants. So they exchanged surpluses. This circumstance gave me valuable experience growing tropical plants, Victorias included, in the production and display ponds at Lilypons.

Having completed the two years of required service in the Army in June of 1960, I began to see time as more my own. No school, and no military service. No Army Reserve unit existed in my area where my artillery occupation would fit. This circumstance freed me from two years of otherwise-required weekly meetings and summer camps.

However, a Virginia National Guard battalion received a call to active duty in October 1961 during the Berlin Wall crisis coupled with an escalation of hostilities in Viet Nam. That battalion urgently needed the same artillery FDC occupation that kept me from attending those weekly meetings and summer camps.

Between receiving the recall notice in mid-September and reporting to Fort Campbell, KY, home of the 101st Airborne Division, in late October, Mother and I called on dancing school and high school friend Sally Smith to offer sympathy upon the death of her father. Before flying off to duty, Sally's mother agreed that I could have her daughter's hand in marriage. We were duly married December 26, 1961.

The National Guard unit returned to Richmond upon termination of active duty in August 1962. Margaret Mary (honored by N. 'Margaret Mary') was born the following November. Virginia arrived in May of 1964, Victoria in May of 1966, and Elizabeth in July of 1978.

Graduation Day 1985
Left to right: Victoria, Virginia, Howard Crum, Mary Frances Crum (Howard's mother), Elizabeth and Sally
Hollins College, Virginia

Margaret would marry Timothy Koogle, owner of a grounds maintenance business, and become Lilypons Water Gardens president. Virginia would marry Howard "Chip" Crum, a UPS sales executive, and be a partner in Victoria would marry Tim's older brother Richard who would become LWG vice president. She would be a Mary Kay sales rep with four sons and a daughter. Elizabeth would marry Dan Diaz, who also would operate a grounds maintenance business, taking care of the web site for LWG. All four sons-in-law worked summer jobs at LWG while in school.

Meanwhile, it became obvious that I would head the family business at some future date.

Copyright 2004 Charles B. Thomas

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