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Saturday, February 7, 2009

More on FORECLOSURE- Mom Buys a House

Some of the earliest pictures of Irma & Robert Nahikian in front of their home bought with Irma Nahikian's tailoring for the US Navy, below.

Compliments of Lavon, Brother No 1. And Thank You!_________________________________________________________

A few corrections to the blog, if I may...

For part of World War II, U.S. Navy Radioman First Class (RFC) Robert L. Nahikian (1) was stationed on the campus of the University of Alabama in Auburn, Ala. RFC Nahikian taught Morse Code to class after class of sailors soon to be heading to the South Pacific.

(1) Dad’s rating was RM3 then RM2 at Auburn...this means Radioman Third Class then Radioman Second Class. He made RM1 when the Navy Radioman school at Alabama Polytechnic Institution (later renamed Auburn University) was decommissioned (closed). The RFC is an incorrect ")designation."

Family lore has it that when the commanding officer was obsessed with having the sharpest looking sailors in the U.S. Navy. Inspections happened almost daily. During one inspection, he noticed RM3 (third class petty officer) Nahikian's tailored uniforms and demanded to know how this uniform had been altered.

RFC Nahikian, more than a little worried about his "altered" state, confessed that his wife & mother of his two (at that time) children had made the changes, removing the "bell" from the bell bottoms, sewing on the patches and tailoring the mid-blouse to fit. Irma Curtis Nahikian had arrived by bus. (2)
(2) "TRAIN...due to rationing, commercial intercity bus service was non-existant).

Soon, the commander set Mom up in business in a one room building. As hundreds of new sailors arrived, their uniforms were piled and piled beside Mom & her sewing machine. My sister and brother (about 4 and 7 years old) remember having a rotation of sailors that looked after them and their goat. (3)

(3) The base commander was a previously retired full commander that had been recalled to active duty. He was appalled by the appearance of the students under his command as they had been rushed through boot camp with insufficient time to have their uniforms altered to properly fit. When he saw that Dad’s uniforms were altered to fit perfectly he asked Dad where he had them done as he did not know of any local establishment capable of doing this work.

Dad explained that his wife was an accomplished tailor and had a sewing machine. It was suggested that if Mom was agreeable, the Navy could set her up in an on-base facility where she could operate a tailoring shop. She was given a large room at the end of a warehouse and she spent all day working with her foot-powered treadle Singer sewing machine altering uniforms and sewing on stripes. Keep in mind that this was a un-air conditioned building set in an open field in central Alabama. I can’t imagine what the temperature was.

The rest of the building was a supply warehouse and there was a civilian employee who ran it. He resented Mon “invading” his little kingdom. He felt that women should not be working and should be at home. The goat you mentioned was his, not ours. He had it to keep the grass around the building cut and also milked it. This man also had a hatred for red-headed woodpeckers and shot them whenever he could with a BB gun.

The rotation of sailors who looked after Marta and I were actually the security guards who did keep an eye on us as we wandered in and out of their area of responsibility, but there were no sailors directly assigned to “look after” us."
For the next two years, (slightly more than one year ...1943 . I started second grade in Asheville in 1944) Mom sewed: patches, insignias, taking the bell out of the bell bottoms - at $.25 (yes, a quarter) each. A year later, RFC Nahikian (by now he was RM2) was deployed to a ship. Mom packed up her two kids, her sewing machine, $3750.00 and went home to Asheville, N.C.

This was the down payment for the home we lived in for the next 50 years. At 25 cents each, she had sewn 11,000 uniforms in 12 months

P.S. - Having a down payment did not guarantee buying a house. Mom found the house to buy for $7.500, but (of course) couldn't get a mortgage - no subprime lenders in those days, even with a 50% down payment. Finally the mortgage was approved in her Mother-in-Law's name. This was considered a unique exception; the bank officer noted that "Mrs. Nahikian has a job in a war product factory and is a responsible widow." (4)

(4) " The money for the down payment came from all those hundreds of uniforms Mom had altered in Alabama. But, when she started the purchase negotiations a big problem arose. Under North Carolina law at that time, a wife could NOT buy property and could not get a mortgage loan!!! Her husband could, but he had to be physically present to sign all the papers, mortgage agreement, etc. The fact that this was impossible as he was in the South Pacific had no bearing. No husband present . . . . No purchase, no mortgage loan, no exceptions. The dilemma was resolved by Grandmother Alice (as she was a widow, the requirement for a husband did not apply) buying the house and then giving it as a gift to her daughter-in-law. "

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