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Holland, William "Bill"
Holland transcript, 1 of 1
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UH - Houston History Project. Holland, William "Bill" - Holland transcript, 1 of 1. July 26, 2007. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. September 20, 2014. http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/houhistory/item/1071/show/1070.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

UH - Houston History Project. (July 26, 2007). Holland, William "Bill" - Holland transcript, 1 of 1. Oral Histories from the Houston History Project. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/houhistory/item/1071/show/1070

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

UH - Houston History Project, Holland, William "Bill" - Holland transcript, 1 of 1, July 26, 2007, Oral Histories from the Houston History Project, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed September 20, 2014, http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/houhistory/item/1071/show/1070.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Holland, William "Bill"
Creator (LCNAF)
  • UH - Houston History Project
Interviewer (LCNAF)
  • Austin, Diane
  • Phanuef, Victoria
Date July 26, 2007
Description Victoria (Tory) Phaneuf had been referred to Mr. Holland by local residents who were aware that he was one of the last remaining wooden boat builders in Biloxi. She contacted him and asked if he would be willing to do an interview. He agreed, so Tory and Diane Austin arranged to meet him at his boat yard in Biloxi, which is located next to his house. The interview took place in the enclosed construction area of his yard. Diane led the interview with Tory present taking notes. M.r Holland was born in 1946 in Biloxi, Mississippi. He began his boat building career at the age of nine and spent time with many of the local boat builders, including the Kovacevichs who built oilfield boats. After high school in 1964, he went to work for Ingalls where he learned to weld and burn. His tenure lasted until 1970, but was interrupted by a stint in the Coast Guard during the Vietnam Crisis. He worked other construction and layout jobs, but always built boats outside his work hours. Both his daughters work in his small yard and he employs about two full time employees. They renovate and build all different types of wooden boats, though their specialty is carvel round bottom boats. He notes that after doing more repair jobs than usual the previous year, they had done few in 2007 and he attributes this mostly to the rising price of materials and people being unable to afford boat maintenance. Especially since the ‘90s and after Hurricane Katrina, wood for boat building has been increasingly difficult to procure. He also talks about the stress and expense in recovering from Katrina and his disappointment and shock in the lack of assistance he received from religious groups and companies. This was different than their experience after Hurricane Camille. He discusses what he sees as the end of the wooden boat building craft and describes his dedication to teaching people about it.
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Energy development
Subject.Name (LCNAF)
  • Holland, William, 1946-
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Biloxi, Mississippi
Genre (AAT)
  • interviews
Language English
Format (IMT)
  • audio/mp3
  • application/pdf
Original Item Location ID 2006-005, Box 12, HHA 00704
Original Collection Oral Histories - Houston History Project
Original Collection URL http://archon.lib.uh.edu/index.php?p=collections/controlcard&id=231
Digital Collection Oral Histories from the Houston History Project
Digital Collection URL http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/houhistory
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Repository URL http://info.lib.uh.edu/about/campus-libraries-collections/special-collections
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the "About" page of this website.
File name index.cpd
Item Description
Title Holland transcript, 1 of 1
Date July 26, 2007
Original Collection Oral Histories – Houston History Project http://archon.lib.uh.edu/index.php?p=collections/controlcard&id=231
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the "About" page of this website.
File name hhaoh_201207_324c.pdf
Transcript HHA# 00704 Page 1 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 1 Houston History Archives VP027 William (Bill) Holland July 26, 2007 Biloxi, MS Type: mp3 Interviewer: Diane Austin Transcriber: Devon Robbie Editor: Lauren Penney Ethnographic Preface: Victoria (Tory) Phaneuf had been referred to Mr. Holland by local residents who were aware that he was one of the last remaining wooden boat builders in Biloxi. She contacted him and asked if he would be willing to do an interview. He agreed, so Tory and Diane Austin arranged to meet him at his boat yard in Biloxi, which is located next to his house. The interview took place in the enclosed construction area of his yard. Diane led the interview with Tory present taking notes. Mr. Holland was born in 1946 in Biloxi, Mississippi. He began his boat building career at the age of nine and spent time with many of the local boat builders, including the Kovacevichs who built oilfield boats. After high school in 1964, he went to work for Ingalls where he learned to weld and burn. His tenure lasted until 1970, but was interrupted by a stint in the Coast Guard during the Vietnam Crisis. He worked other construction and layout jobs, but always built boats outside his work hours. Both his daughters work in his small yard and he employs about two full time employees. They renovate and build all different types of wooden boats, though their specialty is carvel round bottom boats. He notes that after doing more repair jobs than usual the previous year, they had done few in 2007 and he attributes this mostly to the rising price of materials and people being unable to afford boat maintenance. Especially since the ‘90s and after Hurricane Katrina, wood for boat building has been increasingly difficult to procure. He also talks about the stress and expense in recovering from Katrina and his disappointment and shock in the lack of assistance he received from religious groups and companies. This was different than their experience after Hurricane Camille. He discusses what he sees as the end of the wooden boat building craft and describes his dedication to teaching people about it. TRANSCRIPTION Interviewer Initials: [DA] Interviewee Initials: [WH] DA: And it’s goin’. Here we go. Well if you wanna start out, just background, name and where you’re from and when you got into all of this.HHA# 00704 Page 2 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 2 Houston History Archives WH: I’m William Bill Holland and I was born in Biloxi in third 16 ’46. And I was raised on what we call Biloxi Back Bay and we lived in what they called the Biloxi housing projects, at that time Bayview Homes, which was concrete homes. And uh, we were uh, my mother and my father was in the fishing industry. My father was a captain on a, the Biloxi shrimp boats and my mother worked in the seafood factories, pickin’ shrimp or shuckin’ oysters. And we all were raised Catholic and we went to the Biloxi Public Schools. And during the afternoon, weekends and summer months I spent my time along the Biloxi Bay at the boat yards. And the boat yards from the time I was four years old, the boat builders all knew me and they kinda looked after me and set me by the side of the pile of lumber while they dressed lumber or cut boat frames. And then when I reached the age of nine years, I uh, built my first little boat which was a little, uh, pram, eight foot pram. And I bought my lumber from the Biloxi Lumber Company, which is still in service today. And then when I was 13 I built my first Biloxi cat boat which I copied off of a, a boat under construction from the D’Iberville, one of the people that lived here. The 82 year old man that was building a cat boat and I built that boat and finished it when I was 15 and during the weekends and summer months I worked at the shipyard. Frank Gutierrez’s shipyard in Gussie Fountains. And uh, we used to haul boats out. We had a set up three slideways, which they’d pull the boats on and we would scrub ‘em, sand ‘em and paint ‘em and make repairs from the old schooner hulls to modern luggers. And uh, then uh, Mister Gussie Fountain, he was a craftsman of building the Louisiana Lafitte Ships and doin’ a lot of repair and conversion on a lot of the Biloxi luggers that were built in the ‘30s and ‘40s. And then we would have boats come over from Louisiana that needed a lot of repair work, that worked for the oil company, that were all out a wood and we would maintain and repair those boats. And then several of the boat builders I worked along with and would go to their boat yard and learn some of the skills that it took to build boats and uh, I’ll mention a few names and one would be Gussie Fountain, it’d be a Frank Gutierrez, it’d be Mister Homer Fayard, which was, his father-in-law was Mister Brander. And Mister Brander built a lot of the big wooden shrimp trawlers in the ‘50s and Mister Homer and them, they built some beautiful yachts. And then along with that I worked with Mister Nick Misco, uh, he showed me quite a few uh, secrets on boat buildin’ and Mister David Fayard. Mister David Fayard was an old boat builder. And then finally as I got older and buildin’ my own boats and in my own business, I got to know Mister Tony Jack Kovacevich real well. And he was one of the famous builders for the Biloxi Schooners and a lot of the oil boats out a wood, seismograph, and also they went into steel boats. They built a lot of large party boats. Chandelier boats we call ‘em. And they built a lot of boats for the Panama City fishin’ area out of wood. [Dog barking] For what they call head boats. But I’ve always been on my own, I’ve never actually, after I left high school I went into I went to work at Ingalls and learned the trade of weldin’ and burnin’ which I use today in all of our boat construction, because we learned to do it. And uh, we also have…drafting. I do my own lofting and drafting of boats. Making pattern, pattern making. I went in the military service in the Coast Guard during the Vietnam crisis and then when I got out I went back to Ingalls. Worked nighttime and built boats daytime. And then we took and I worked a lot of construction, different jobs. I worked at oil refineries and I traveled around the country doin’ layout work. And then always worked maybe a four day week and built boats on the weekends. I’ve always been a boat builder and I don’t build one particular type, I build all types. We build anything from a Biloxi oyster skiff, fisher skiff on up to a 65 foot multi-passenger boat for Coast Guard. And today we build a lot of custom built boats and we do a lot of renovation on a lot of the old boats. And I’m married with two children. Married Opal Woods, HHA# 00704 Page 3 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 3 Houston History Archives been married 39 years and I have a daughter named Teresa and a daughter named Audrey, and they both work in the boat business with me, building boats. They would work the band saws for cutting frames, dressin’ lumber and even stackin’ lumber at times, we would stack lumber, it was a family operation. [Pause] I’ve always stayed a low profile, never advertised and just been self employed. [Pause] Today we have, after Hurricane Katrina came through and destroyed everything, we do have a, a new building that we’re trying to finish. We still have the front of the building to finish. We have a new home that we’re trying to get finished, be another six months to a year on it and then we had to repair three piers and we had to put a new bulkhead in. And thank goodness our railway system wasn’t destroyed, so. And today we doin’, we have work to do for the museums and work to do for individuals out of Louisiana that we do a lot of work for. DA: Is a lot of that related to Katrina damage or- WH: No, no, it’s new work or customers that we’ve had over the period of years. They’re repeat customers. DA: Okay. So basically you mentioned doin’ some repair, did you see a lot where the people that had boats that needed to be- WH: Last year we did quite a bit a repair on, we had six boats that we hauled. Normally we don’t haul but about four a year. But we hauled I think it was six boats and we did a lot of a repair on those boats there. Mostly for gettin’ ‘em ready for the season. And this year, here it is July and we’ve only serviced two boats this year. So it fell off real, real bad and we have two boats that we’re workin’ on now, but we have other work in the, comin’. DA: Would you say, in terms of that it fell off, is that ‘cause people found somewhere and get ‘em fixed or did people just go out of business? WH: No uh, there was a lot of boats that got lost, there’s a lot of people that doesn’t have the money to have their boat maintained. To me that’s the biggest problem right there is havin’ the money to maintain your boat. Material has gone doubled in the last four years. And then we have people that just try to do their own work and try to save on labor. DA: If we could go back to this four year old, nine year old boy. What got you interested in building boats in the first place? WH: It was in the blood. Let’s see, the boats that, I was actually lived at the boat yards. I had a uncle that was a boat builder and he worked at one of the yards that I went to. And then I had people that, some of the craftsman when my father was coming up, my mother and father were married, they were raising our family, they used to live in the same house together. And so, everybody back then, everybody knew everybody. They, you could leave and not have to lock your door and you didn’t have to worry about nobody stealin’ anything. But today, you have to lock everything up, you can’t leave nothin’ out. Even here with the front of the shop open we hafta stay around here mostly all the time. Thank goodness we’re on a dead end street. HHA# 00704 Page 4 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 4 Houston History Archives DA: When would you stay that started changing? WH: It started changing when you had too many lawyers tryin’ to get lawsuits out of somebody getting injured. Because I could go to any boat yard as I young kid and I was welcome at any yard and, if I wanted to make little model boats with the scrap by the scrap pile, the craftsmen would assist me. They’d cut out a little boat on the bandsaw, somethin’ for me to play with, they’d watch me around the railways, the slideways. You know it was just, it was the atmosphere that you don’t have today. You didn’t have to worry about lawsuits, you didn’t have to worry about drugs, you didn’t have to worry about people gettin’ drunk and foul language. People respected each other, they helped each other and they shared a lot. Today it’d be nice to have ANY kid come by and wanna learn. I’ve had young kids come by that come here and they’ll be here for a day or two, and they see the hard work and the first thing they wanna do, they wanna go play a video game or either they’ll go find a job that pays much more money but not as intelligent type of job. I’m afraid the wooden boat industry that I’m in is gone. You know, when I’m gone it’s gone. Even though I’ve had some apprentice through the Mississippi apprentice program for [Inaudible] for the arts. I had that back in the ‘80s. A lot has to do with people wanting boats, the fact that fiberglass moved in, people went to fiberglass and forgot about wood. Wood’s a renewable source but not a very- lot of expense, other than mother nature growin’ it. Where, and there’s a lot a work in workin’ with wooden boats, it’s not just pulling something out of a mold, you’re hand crafting that boat. Every boat that I design and build is from the heart and the soul, when you build it you’re creating something with your hands and your mind. And what happens is you’ve got to make that boat sailable, floatable, and look real good. You want the boat to be comfortable. You want the people when they leave here to be very happy with what, the product that you’ve built ‘em. It’s like a Michelangelo when I design a boat, just like this model we have here that were lookin’ at. This was of a Biloxi lugger built in the ’40s and ‘50s. And I’ve copied this off one of ‘em that we service every year. And each boat has their own design and all their details. Used to be able to look on the horizon and pick out every boat that you could see and name every one of ‘em because you could see the [Inaudible] of ‘em in the sun or the sky light that you could see, you could pick that boat out and know which one it was. Today you can’t do that, you don’t know what you got out there today. DA: Now you talk about bein’ a kid and being able to just go in and have people show you what to do, is that really how people learned? WH: Yeah. DA: Is one person tellin’- WH: Sit, you just sit on the woodpile somewhere out of the way and just, just watch ‘em. And then if you had a question to ask you could ask ‘em, they didn’t mind showin’ you. Today you don’t have that. I have people that come from all over the country that when they come by I’ll stop, just like y’all today, I’ll stop what I’m doin’ to teach and to show the boat building. DA: Were there other folks, other young people of your generation, at that time that were still interested in building boats? HHA# 00704 Page 5 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 5 Houston History Archives WH: Yes, you had some people that got into it, but they’re more into it for the money instead of the love of workin’ with the wood. I love workin’ with wood. And my wife will tell you my first love is the boats, not my family because there’s times when I used to work seven days a week, 52 weeks out of the year, Christmas, Easter. Back in the ‘70s I was young and very energetic, and it doesn’t matter who come up that wanted a boat, I was ready to start it for ‘em. Back in ’76, ’77 and ’78 I lofted and cut out 36 boat kits from the range of 42 to 65 foot. And I was only working with myself, a nephew, Andy Fountain is my nephew who’s one of my apprentice and my daughters. And not only did I loft and cut these boats out, but I also built an average of one to two boats a year. DA: Mmhm. The kind of boats that you’re building, have there been a pattern to it, have you seen like, boy, back in ‘70s everybody wanted this, and in the ‘80s- WH: Yeah we had commercial boats that we were building, shrimp trawlers and then we went into a few little smaller yacht type of shrimp traw- individually owned, and then we went into the large sport fishing boats in the ‘80s, and then we went into more custom built boats in ’85 up ‘til present day. And we have been building anything from the Biloxi schooners to the steam boats with the fan tail stern. We have building custom built trawler yachts which is our big demand. We have built some smaller 45 foot schooners which are, one’s down in Destin, Florida right now. And then we have quite a few of the Chandelier type boats they accommodate anywhere from six to 10 people for three day overnight trips. DA: Now you mentioned going to Ingalls and what did you learn at Ingalls that was useful? WH: Ingalls, I went there as a young kid to get rich. [Laughter] I learned the trade as a production welder back then and you had to really, as a production welder you really had to get out and weld. And I mean you had a quota that you had to get every night and then you had a weekly quota that you had to equal what you were gettin’ paid, and if you didn’t meet that quota over a two week period then you would be laid off. And it was really rough back in the ‘60s. And so I left Ingalls in the ‘70s, early ‘70s, after Hurricane Camille. DA: So which years did you work at Ingalls? WH: I started in ’64 and I…left in ’65 for service and come back and worked in Ingalls from ’67 on up ‘til ’70. And we, the things that I learned at Ingalls, I also use today in building wooden boats because we build a wooden boat, we just don’t stop with the wood hull, we build fuel tanks, water tanks. We build handrails, we build masts, rigging, and everything we work with today is stainless steel or aluminum. DA: In terms of just to go back and make sure I understood, when you talk about having a quota, that’s a quota for the number of welds or the number of- WH: The footage. You have a footage to weld at Ingalls. And everything was tested and inspected, and [Slight pause] it had to be done right. HHA# 00704 Page 6 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 6 Houston History Archives DA: So basically not only are you building the hulls, but then once you’re getting to build, you’re building by hand things like the rails and- WH: Yes, we build, once we get through with the wooden hull and its gettin’ to outfit, we’ll build the handrails for the boat, we build swim platforms, we build the mast, the booms to pick up skiffs with, we run electrical wire, we do electrical wiring, we build the rudders, the shoes, we build the stainless steel water tanks, aluminum fuel tanks, we build the engine beds that the engine sits on, and anything a boat requires to have for make it functional, we build it. DA: And where do you get the materials to build that stuff? WH: We purchase our materials out of our distributors, out of New Orleans. DA: Has the inside [Inaudible] changed or is that [Inaudible]? WH: Yes on the inside of the boats that we build we go back to the work that they did in the ‘30s. And what I mean, we would use a lot of craftsmanship. We use a lot of mahogany. We use raised panel doors, inside and outside the door. We have all solid wood, we have no particle board, no cheap material, it’s all quality material in the boats. And the boats are all built on the line of a heavy work boat construction but in a yacht finish, which you don’t have today. They’re massive construction and also what we do today and we’ve been doing for years is every boat is built above Lloyds of London rules and regulations. And it could be Coast Guard inspected for multi passenger boats if they wanted to use ‘em for that. We stay with that standard of construction. DA: Do you see a lot of that kind of shifting of the boats purpose, that I bought it to have it made into this and are you ever been asked to convert a boat to something else? WH: Oh, yes. I have boats that are bought here as shrimp trawlers and that we’ll convert that boat into a trawler yacht. We’ll have some of them that’ll come here that the [Pause] cabin needs a rework on it or either the hull is badly damaged, we gotta repair the rot wood on those. We change engines, we change shafts, we change fuel tanks. It doesn’t matter what type boat, as long as it’s a wooden boat, we work on it. Very seldom we’ll do a fiberglass boat. DA: The work in fiberglass, I mean you were talkin’ about it’s molded, what- WH: Well, to me is a fiberglass boat, is you’re pulling a boat out of a mold and the mold is doing all the work, where here we start from the raw material, and from the raw material we have to shape the keel, the stem, we have to loft the boat out to get that patterns and cut the shape of the frames from the patterns out of the heavy flitchens. We have to dress our planking and rip our planking down to the size it’s got to be, each piece has to be individually fit so you’re handcrafting a vessel. HHA# 00704 Page 7 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 7 Houston History Archives DA: And you mentioned when we first sat down about the patterns disappearing. Where to patterns come from? WH: The patterns come from the lofting of the boat. The lofting is the drawing out of the boat on what we call a lofting table which we would be the, if the boat was gonna be 40 foot, the table’s gotta be about 45 foot long so that you can actually draw the boat out to the size that you’re gettin’ ready to build it. And so then we pick out the patterns from your layout on the lofting table and we pick up the bevels, we pick up the bolt sizes, the timber sizes, everything comes off the lofting table. DA: Now where is the customer, the client, do they stand at the lofting table or- WH: No, they come here and when we start a boat, we’ll work with a half model and we will actually design a boat for what they’re gonna use it for, shallow draft, the type of speed they want, the width that they want, the type boat that they want, a carvel plank boat, which is round bottom boat or a v-bottom boat. And we’ll have to set them up for the type of depth that they want, if they want a deep draft v-bottom or a deep draft round bottom. And our specialty mainly is carvel round bottom boats. And they are, once the half model is determined as to what they want. Then we might not see the owner until after construction of the boat is set up on the keel and started. DA: So y’all do all the agreement at the model? WH: Oh yeah, at the model stage, yeah. DA: Okay. WH: Yeah. DA: How long does it generally take to build kind of the standard boats. You said you build ‘em from 36- WH: We go from, average is just about 40 foot to 65 foot, is our average. Our main length is about 45, 50 foot. DA: So how long to build a 45 foot boat? WH: A 45 foot boat we could take about six months on the hull and most probably outfittin’ it from the time we start the cabin, the fuel tanks, settin’ the engine and everything you’re lookin’ at another eight months. So give or take about a year and half we’d have a finished product. DA: And how many to you have goin’ at any one point? WH: Uh, I’ve had as many as three at one time. But today we don’t have any goin’ ‘cause we’re doin’ a lot of repairs right now. HHA# 00704 Page 8 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 8 Houston History Archives DA: Now if you had more than one goin’ at a time, do you have, you said you’re pretty much workin’ by yourself? You have how- WH: I have two full time people with me and one time we have the work on ‘em. [Slight pause] And I have a couple part time that comes in, and they’re learnin’ the trade is what they’re doin’. DA: And has that been pretty standard over the years? WH: Yeah. Not really it’s just, just since the hurricane season. Since the hurricane. ‘Cause mainly it’s just been two of us. DA: So things picked up since the hurricane? WH: Well we trying to satisfy everybody but now it’s slowin’ down and we we’ll be back down to a couple people. DA: Okay. Now the folks that you hire, are they local folks? WH: Yeah, local, it’s family or local. DA: Can they still learn the same way? You just sit around and watch, they didn’t grow up doin’ it since they were nine? WH: No, because I do a lot of teachin’ today. DA: Okay. WH: Yeah. I teach them. DA: Other then what you did at Ingalls as far as that was kind of training, is their other training you- it sounds like most of yours was I go find a boat builder and hang out with him for awhile, is that? WH: Well, main thing is hands on building. And as, comin’ up as a young person, I helped build quite a few boats and workin’ and just handin’ somebody tools or goin’ to get material for ‘em. That’s how I picked up a lot of things from ‘em. And wasn’t afraid to ask questions. And so that’s [Pause] I’ve had drafting in school. I worked in a foundry when I was in high school. I also uh, I’ve done a lot of machinery work too. DA: Now you mentioned insurance as the big factor as to why that’s not happening any more. When did that start to where you h- WH: I think that started back in the ‘80s, because you had these shipyards here, all the shipyards here that was buildin’ boats or repairin’ boats, that were larger, much, ‘bout three, four times HHA# 00704 Page 9 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 9 Houston History Archives larger than I am, they got to where the uh, anytime somebody’d picked a boat up, somebody’d get hurt, they want ‘em to file a claim against ‘em. DA: Are there other things that you would say have really changed about the nature, obviously the way people even learn the craft has changed, what else did you see change? WH: Uh, it’s just that it’s gone by the wayside. I think the government coulda come in and subsidized some of these yards and got ‘em training programs to teach the people, some type of a training programming to let the old people that had this craftsmanship go ahead and have some type of apprentice program or school where they could teach people. I have a lot of adults today that are waiting for me to get my building finished because I’m gonna have a little private school myself, for boat building. I’ve got about 10 people that wants to come and I’ve already set up to where I can start teachin’ them on my own, where I’ll teach them the heavy work boat construction on boat building. But this’ll be wood boats, it’s not steel or aluminum or anything. DA: When did the steel and aluminum really take off? WH: Gee, that’s back in the ‘50s. On commercial boats, that started back in the ‘50s and just, just kept on going. Then they went into fiberglass, was the next thing. DA: And that woulda been? WH: Fiberglass came in the ‘60s. DA: So when you started there were already boats- WH: Oh yeah. DA: Most of the others were already movin’- WH: They were fadin’ out. Yeah, they were startin’ to fade out. When I was comin’ up in Biloxi just about every corner on the back bay you had some type of a boat yard or seafood factory or a ra- slideways to haul boats out. Each factory had their own little slide system to pick boats up. They went to the shipyard to service their boat and then you had, some of ‘em had their blacksmith shop set up on the corners. DA: And you mention workin’ on boats from Louisiana, how long’s that been goin’ on? WH: That’s been goin’ on now for the last 15 years. DA: Do you know why? WH: Uh, I imagine craftsmanship and findin’ somebody that would wanna do their type of work on the boat. HHA# 00704 Page 10 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 10 Houston History Archives DA: Okay. So they’re havin’ the same problems? WH: Oh yeah, same problem there too. DA: You mentioned earlier on about the oilfield boats that would come in? When did that- WH: Those were some of the seismograph boats built by Mister Tony Jack Kovacevich back in the ‘40s and ‘50s. And he had built those boats for the first exploration in the Louisiana oilfields in the ‘40s and ‘50s, and then over the period of the years when the boats got old, the oil company sold them to individuals and the individuals kept these boats and they went down in repairs. And then some of the local, out of town people purchased these boats in Mississippi and they brought ‘em to my place here for from to rebuild ‘em. And I been rebuildin’ uh, matter of fact, ‘bout four or five of them that I’ve been workin’ on so far. DA: And what do you convert ‘em to? WH: Well they’re already converted to little pleasure boats, ‘cause that’s the way they were built, like a pleasure boat. And then what I do is go in there and change and repair the frames, replank the bottoms, change rotten planking uh, repair the bulwarks. Three of ‘em that I know were on 32 volt systems from the ‘40s and ‘50s and we changed their electrical system over to 12 volt system. DA: So still after all this time- WH: All the time. I have one down there that I purchased before Hurricane Katrina, which was built in ’56 by one of the Kovacevich Brothers and uh, it still has a 32 volt system and we’re in the process now of changing it over to 12 volt. And just boat the way the boat was built in 1956, it’s still the same way today. It’s got the old time ice box that you put a block a ice in. It’s got no air condition, no generator. But it ran on a what they call a’ inline 671 Gray Marine, one of the first Gray Marines, decoys that came out after the war they had. And then it’s got a manual gear. It’s all 32 volt system and we’re just starting to change it over and there again no air condition. [Slight pause] It’s a very cool boat durin’ the summer to go on. [Someone sneezes] God bless ya. DA: Almost a shame to change it then. WH: I had a big 50 foot trawler here that we had designed and built, and I had built it off of lines of two of my boats. One was a commercial trawler, one was a schooner and I put the two boats together. The bow and the stern and made a beautiful trawler yacht out of it. And an individual from Baton Rouge come by one day and he was lookin’ for one of my boats and my wife sent him down to Biloxi Harbor to look at a couple of ‘em. And he didn’t like those and when he came by asked for somethin’ else and uh, she said, “Well our boat’s for sale.” And he went and looked at it and he bought it. And so, since then we’ve been out of a boat, since I think about 2002. And we’d had this 50 footer that we bought, the ’56, 1956 model that we were gonna go ahead and convert it with a modern engine and air condition, and generator. What you’d use at home.HHA# 00704 Page 11 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 11 Houston History Archives DA: But get a buncha good pictures of it before you do- WH: Oh yeah. We do, we do. DA: Um, d- WH: It was damaged during Katrina and it cost a few dollars to get it back in the water and we just keepin’ the boat preserved ‘til we have time to get on it and work on it. ‘Cause it’s got about 15,000 dollars worth of damage on it. DA: Has anybody done ever kind of the history of the early Kovacevich boats? WH: No uh…I don’t think they have. I know I’ve done quite a few of ‘em, repairin’ ‘em. DA: ‘Cause that was a very interesting era when they weren’t simply converting trawlers- WH: Right, there was actually a designin’ and buildin’ ‘em for that, yeah. And see the boats that we build today are built the same way other than usin’ modern stainless steel fasteners. We’re usin’ butt blocks which Lloyd’s of London calls for and the Coast Guard. And then we use a lot of epoxies in our work too, you see. And with the stainless steel we use for hardware and handrails and rigging, you don’t have that much maintenance to ‘em anymore. You just service the boat. Some of my boats don’t get service for at least two to three years because they can stay in the water that long with no problems. DA: Mmhm, mmhm. Do you know did they have any of the Kovacevich boats at the museum? WH: Biloxi Museum? Oh no, all their, everything they had, all they got now is a trailer they workin’ out of and all the uh, the pictures and artifacts are stored in some containers. Trucking containers, yeah. DA: Okay. Were they any other of the oilfield boats that we’re being made over here? WH: Kovacevich built a lot of the steel oil boats, supply boats. And Mister Tony’s son Jack is alive today and he could give you a good history on the supply boats. DA: Is he still in Biloxi? WH: Uh, I don’t know if it’s either Biloxi or Ocean Springs now. DA: Okay, okay. WH: His first name is Jack, Jack Kovacevich. DA: So are there any other folks who got into buildin’ oilfield boats?HHA# 00704 Page 12 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 12 Houston History Archives WH: [Sighs] Well his Uncle Ja- Uncle Neil. But Neil Kovacevich worked with his dad, Tony Jack. Tony Jack was into the oil boat. DA: Okay. WH: And that’s all that I knew of here. DA: Okay. WH: There was a’ A. Gutierrez that built some boats here for the oil company but they, they didn’t but maybe a couple and he’s long been passed away. DA: Okay, and his name again? WH: A.Gutierrez. Shannon A. Gutierrez. DA: Why didn’t you go into steel? WH: ‘Cause I preferred wood. [Laughter] I’d rather work with the wood. It’s much, much lighter, and not as dirty, and it wasn’t as [Slight pause] nasty for sandblastin’ and paintin’. [WH talks to some people in the background] DA: Um, okay, so you preferred wood. Did you try steel boats? WH: Oh yes, I’ve worked a lot in aluminum at Ingalls and if I was to work with anything today it would be aluminum boats, because I could set up, I’ve had people come from all over the coast wantin’ me to build aluminum boats because they said if I could sit aluminum like I do wood, then when you go to weld it, you see that the thing there you don’t have the heat distortion with a tight fit. Uh, I had uh, welded at Ingalls, I used to weld aluminum, I used to weld stainless steel, and I worked a lot on atomic submarines too over there. DA: Okay. So the difference between aluminum and stainless steel? WH: Stainless steel is clean and stronger, aluminum is light and uh, clean to work with. You can, all the tools that I have set up for workin’ woodwork, I just go right into with aluminum. I use my band saws, my table saws, my routers and then I’ve got machines for here for welding aluminum I just haven’t set up with it. [Laughter] DA: Okay. WH: Lumber is getting very expensive to get today. We were payin’ a dollar to two dollars a board foot for lumber and I went yesterday to pick up some cypress and mahogany, and the HHA# 00704 Page 13 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 13 Houston History Archives cypress was from five dollars a board foot, the mahogany was 10. So in the future we may switch over to, if a person didn’t want, we’d go to aluminum. DA: Okay. So the process of layin’ out, doin’ the lofting- WH: It’s the same. It’s easier really. To build an aluminum boat is easier than buildin’ a wood boat. DA: And that’s- WH: And it most probably be quicker too. But it’s, it’s the craftsmanship that goes into the wooden carvel boat that you don’t have no more. In other words, as myself I’m 61, there’s not any kind a wooden boat that a person comes here, says they want, that I couldn’t build. And where else could you go to find somebody like that? But as far as aluminum boat or a steel boat, anybody knows how to weld could set up and build ‘em a boat. And as far as lofting a steel boat out, you just have a deck, a chime and a keel. Where on a wooden boat you have water lines every foot and as this model show here, you’ve got one, two, three, four, five feet, that’s how deep this is. And each one of these lines has to be laid out on the lofting table. And then once it’s laid out, it has to be divided up into sections for frames and then you have to make that frame to where it’s no flaws in it. It’s nice smooth curve and then you pick your bevels up from one frame to the next. And all your wood is cut out, your frames are cut out on a band saw with the bevels. And when I get through assembling a boat, it looks like a big dinosaur that I’m building. Once you look into it, it’s just beautiful. It’s geometrically everything is shaped and the bevels, every frame has got their proper bevels on it. But I’ve had a lot of people from Louisiana that come over here and steel, I’ve had people from Ingalls that come over here and ask about how do we get the boat so fair, and it’s all in the lofting. The eye when you go to loft, because the eye has a lot to do with your lines being nice and straight and smooth. Just like a water line on a boat. I could tell you a water line on a boat before the boat is built. I don’t calculate, I just look at the boat, I tell you where the boat’s gonna sit at. DA: And that’s just experience. WH: That’s experience, that’s the gifted talent that I have in woodwork. Yeah. And as a young boy coming up when I was buildin’ boats I had a, one of the craftsman was such, did such fine work in fitting wood that I had an uncle used to jump on me all the time because I took a lot of time and fit the wood up too tight, you couldn’t even see the seams. And we’d actually have to make seams to do the caulking, ‘cause see we also applied cotton to the seams of the planking just like the old time people. Oh it’s the old time boat building. And we’ve got boats to build but we can’t build ‘em until we get the shop done and we’re not trying to get the shop done because we’ve got boats that we’re tryin’ to work on, ‘cause we got to have money to pay your bills. After the Hurricane we didn’t get no help in here from any of the volunteers. We had people come by that wanted to volunteer, but they wanted to take and, say they’ll send somebody in here to help us clean up, we never did see anybody. So we did everything out of pocket and all of our life savings went into putting our place back like it is.HHA# 00704 Page 14 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 14 Houston History Archives DA: Yeah, yeah. [Pause] WH: The SBA helped us out with a loan for the bulkhead and the house and some personal. And then I had some friends up in Indiana and one friend from Duke University that donated a small amount of monies for a table saw and one give me money for a planer, and stuff like that. And when you work all your life to have everything set up to where when you reach the retirement age that you could retire and it’s all gone within a matter of three hours. To where we’re sitting at now, you might say we had six feet a water over us. It’s a, you know with six foot of, we’d be under water that much. ‘Cause see, I mean, that ol’ building there, come all the way up to the second floor there. And that second floor was like a little hardware up there, marine hardware, we had stuff that we collected for 40 years. And we got stuff here in five gallon buckets that we’ve picked up and we’ve saved and we threw thousands and thousands of dollars worth of stuff. So we had over 40,000 board feet of lumber here that we had. We had select old growth cypress, some of the trees mighta been a thousand years old that the wood come out of. We had mahogany, we had select mahogany, we had old growth juniper which you can’t even find today, the type of wood that I have. It’s stuff that I’ve accumulated 40 years. And the storm took it all, everything. We had keels, I had about five keels for boats in a range from 45 to 50 feet. They all went, everything went. We had stem materials, like a, eight by 15, 12 foot long out of cypress or juniper. Wood that went with the storm. And we were only able to recover about five pieces of wood. We were so tired and exhausted, the wood scattered all over the, north of here in the woods and people’s houses and land. And you just didn’t have the time and we didn’t, we lost our vehicles. And we had boats that we had lost. We had four boats here that we had lost during the storm. [Sighs] DA: You had four in here? WH: Huh? DA: Four that you were workin’ on at the time? WH: Four boats outside. Not in here, they was outside. DA: Okay. WH: Yeah, we had four boats outside. We had two in the water and two on land. We had lost those boats. And uh, we’re just now gettin’ to where we can, we’re accumulatin’ like a bead blaster and a little sandblaster unit. We’re trying to rebuild some of our tools even though they’re pitted pretty bad. I was disappointed no one came forward like they did during Camille and help the boat builders out and donated power tools and stuff like that. I was very shocked, very shocked. And today everything I have done here so far in the last two years is out of my pocket and on my own. DA: Now during Camille, who was this that was comin’ forward?HHA# 00704 Page 15 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 15 Houston History Archives WH: You had some big tool companies, I won’t mention their name, that came forward and donated band saws and wood planners and table saws to some of the boat yards that I worked with. But you, there again it’s different era, different type people in companies. You know, no one wants to help out like they should. [Pause] We even had a story in Wooden Boat Magazine ‘bout the loss that I had and the most important thing, one fellow from Chicago wrote me a letter and had a set of the Wooden Boat Magazines and then I had some people from Mississippi that had a set. Not the full set, just so many and I’m puttin’ a set of those together. And that’s about the biggest thing I’ve had out of state. I was very disappointed in some of the religious groups that’s going around said that they would come in and volunteer and they would help and we never did see anybody. So my men were able to come in and work and donate their time until we could get back to where we could have our operation goin’. DA: You mentioned part of it is just a different time in terms of companies and stuff like that. WH: Yeah. DA: Is that, was that reflected though in this area, that there just wasn’t- WH: Well I think a lot has to do with this was a dying area, the boat buildin’ and you’ve got casinos comin’ in and lot a people, we stay a low profile, we never advertise or publicize and we, the only thing that we have is people like yourself comin’ into us to do stories. And, because we always have a workload of boats to work and we don’t try to get in there and wham bam thank you ma’am. We get in there and work as craftsmen, we’re not tryin’ to get rich, we just tryin’ to do a design and build a product like a Michelangelo would do a sculpture or something. It’s a one on one type of boatbuilding. You’d get an individual that would come in here and say, “Well Bill I wanna family trawler,” and they’d tell me the size, the length, how much depth they want and I’d design it for ‘em. And then, I’m 61 and I’ve designed and built over 50 boats so far. DA: You mentioned having a school? Are there resources to help you develop a training- WH: No, everything’s out of pocket. DA: Oh, [Inaudible] none of these preserve the culture groups would? WH: No because I don’t ask for none. I’ve had some [Pause] help from the [Pause] one source asked me that they would donate like 500 dollars or 1,000 dollars but the paper that they had me to fill out was so stringerous for paper work that I’d rather get out here and work on my boat yard then I would fill out the paper work for such a small amount. DA: Mmhm. [Pause] And you were sayin’ you just see this as dying, you don’t see another generation or another group of people? WH: No, I think it’s gonna be gone. Gonna be gone, yup. [Pause] ‘Specially this type of boat building, the old type. You’ll always have the fiberglass, you’ll have big companies building supply boats and offshore boats and crew boats and stuff like that. But to get down and build the HHA# 00704 Page 16 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 16 Houston History Archives boats that were built 100 years ago, to build ‘em today but putting modern features and fasteners in ‘em and the wooden material like they did hundreds of years ago, that’s just gonna be gone. DA: Who are your primary clients now, has that changed in terms of where they’re comin’ from? WH: Uh, I’ve got some from uh, Gulfport. I’ve got some from Louisiana. The biggest parts from Louisiana. Yeah. DA: Okay. But they’re still from this area. WH: Yeah, they’re from the South. Yeah. DA: It kinda goes from [Inaudible]. WH: Oh yeah, they know what they want and I most probably would have more if I would advertise, but then again you’d have such a workload that you’d be into it for the money and not for the craftsmanship that deserves to go into a boat. DA: Mmhm, mmhm. So it’s word of mouth as far as? WH: Yeah, all my business is always word of mouth. DA: Okay. Are they private concerns or small business or? WH: No, one’s a private concern, they’re into [Slight pause] this one specified type boat. Uh, then I do a lot of the things for the museum. I do do some consulting [Pause] which I don’t charge for. DA: Consulting on the design? WH: Woodwork , woodwork and design. Yeah, yeah. And I also work with the Coast Guard on multi-passenger boats inspection. In 1994, I was one of eight people selected to represent the wooden boat industry in rewriting the wooden boat [Inaudible] on maintenance and repair of wooden vessels. And we were in Yorktown, Virginia for that. DA: Are there other areas of the country that have boat builders still- WH: Yes, you did have some in Tarpon Springs, the Greeks, you do have one or two I know of down in Louisiana but not as professional boat builder. They might build their own shrimp boat or there was some down in Tarpon Springs still buildin’ the Greek sponge boat, but I don’t know if they’re, from what I heard the last time I was there a year ago they’re all retired. And there again the trade is gone. And on the East Coast I know some people that I’ve talked to that’s been on the East Coast and have found out that the older generation has died off with the trade and the younger generation is pickin’ up more to the fiberglass than they are to the wood. HHA# 00704 Page 17 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 17 Houston History Archives DA: And you talked about the expense of the wood, have there been periods where it was almost impossible to get wood or is it always about the same? WH: Well [Sighs] today, since Hurricane ‘Trina a lot of the saw mills that I’ve been dealing with, that have gone out of business because they had lot of the forest has been destroyed, and a lot of the trees are down, and the people that owns the land will not let ‘em harvest the trees that are down. Land owners afraid somebody’s gonna damage the land. PLUS the environmentalists, I won’t say what state, but there’s certain states that I dealt with that the environmentalists has changed to wear they don’t want you to harvest cypress or juniper in certain areas. And that usually grows in a wetlands area. DA: Mmhm, mmhm. WH: Matter of fact today, to get juniper is just a thing of the past. DA: Mm? WH: Yeah. Juniper’s a very soft wood, it’s a cedar and that we use for planking. Certain boats people want the juniper because it’s, you can build a boat and I can leave it out of the water for years, without it openin’, crackin’. But if I build it out of cypress, the boat needs to be back in the water within a few days to a week after it’s been hauled. ‘Cause cypress constantly dries out and it swells. It’s a wood that grows with a lot of water in it. DA: Did there used to be a lot of juniper in this area? WH: Pardon? DA: Did there used to be a lot of juniper in this area? WH: No, our juniper comes out of Florida. [Laughs] DA: Okay, okay. So that’s not been an environmental thing, it’s just never been here. WH: No. DA: Okay. WH: Mostly, and I don’t mind sayin’ Florida state. DA: Okay, okay. [Both chuckle] Oh. WH: All my lumber has always come out of Florida. I got very little out of Mississippi and none in Louisiana really. DA: Mmhm. So the primary is the cypress, juniper, and you mentioned mah-HHA# 00704 Page 18 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 18 Houston History Archives WH: And long leaf yellow pine. DA: Okay, okay. WH: Yeah, we use a lot a pine also. DA: Okay. So back, when would you say it started getting tough with the wood? WH: I would say in the ‘90s. DA: Okay, so it’s been pretty recent. WH: Yeah, mmhm. DA: You weren’t- WH: Yeah, it’s in the ‘90s, it started fading off because people went more to fiberglass in the ‘80s and then they just got away from it in the ‘90s, the wood. And then when I first started purchasing wood in Florida I could go down there, had 10 saw mills in one little town. Now there’s none. DA: Okay. [Pause] So those were along the coast [Inaudible]? WH: Uh, north of Pensacola. DA: Okay, okay. WH: The pan-, put the Panhandle of Florida. DA: And, so that whole industry’s gone now? WH: Yeah. DA: What other, besides the lumber, are you linked into any other of those, like getting steel, aluminum, has that been pretty- WH: The steel and aluminum is no problem because it’s always trucked in, you’ve got so many distributors, dealers on it that you could get it from uh, Miami to New Orleans to uh, Tennessee and Birmingham. Anywheres that you want, you can get your aluminum and steel. But the prices fluctuate. Where wood varies, you got more cypress I find today at the saw mills being cut than you have pine because a lot of the big mills has got all the pine that’s mostly being cut for house lumber, construction. Cypress is usually cut more for your finished product, um, trimming out and uh, just the word cypress. Which is a very durable wood to weather. And uh…HHA# 00704 Page 19 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 19 Houston History Archives DA: So these increases in prices have really been since Katrina? WH: Yeah. DA: You see it coming back down? WH: No. [Slight pause] It won’t be comin’ back down, no. DA: They figured they can get it, that much money for it and they’re just gonna- WH: Well there’s just not a supply for it no more. There’s a, I mean a demand, there’s a supply but just the demand ain’t there. And the old growth cypresses, it’s been pretty well cut out but there’s still places in Florida that there’s a lotta ol’ growth cypress. But it’s, environmentalists just won’t let you have it. ‘Cause you got to uh, the equipment that you go in there to get cypress with is so detrimental to the land, tears up the ground. ‘Cause it’s in a wet area. DA: Do they still use the same kinda, um, I saw some pictures of the old boats and stuff, is it still pretty much the same method then to pull ‘em out? WH: To haul boats? DA: To pull the cypress. WH: Oh, to pull the cypress out. No, ‘cause everybody’s got their own way of pullin’ it. The people I dealt with used to pull cypress with, they’d go and make a bed before they cut the cypress tree down so that when the cypress would fall it would have a soft area for the tree to land, because it keep ‘em from shattering on the inside. And then they would use what they call a bombardier, kinda like a tractor, with tracks on it and they would pull the logs out of the swamp with that. And cypress is so heavy it tears up a lot of the equipment so they were havin’ constant breakdowns. DA: So with all this challenge, you keep doing it ‘cause you love it? WH: Yes, because I have some people that every so often I come across some old growth cypress. I have someone right now that I’m supposed to go look at tomorrow, I’ve been workin’ with this individual, big company [Sighing] since December of ’06, to look at some cypress logs that they’ve been gettin’ out of the swamp. And I’ve got to go look at ‘em and the owner said he’d rather see the logs go into boat lumber than shipped overseas. So I go pick out the lumber. The logs, I may hafta cut ‘em myself ‘cause I can’t get wood [Inaudible] to cut it and I may have to cut the lumber myself here. But I do still go to a big cypress mill down in the Panhandle of Florida that I buy yellow cypress from them. DA: And you have to haul it all back by yourself?HHA# 00704 Page 20 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 20 Houston History Archives WH: Yeah. I have a trailer, up at my nephew’s. Matter of fact it’s loaded with cypress now. And I got a big trailer. Ten ton trailer to haul cypress with. And we have to haul it about 145 miles one way. DA: Wow. That’s definitely, as you said no demand, so it’s pretty much- WH: Yeah. DA: It’s not like there’s somebody- WH: See we used to, they used to deliver to me back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, they would deliver to me. But then somehow or another they had trouble with the tagging system. They had to have a tag for raw products which was the logs, to go on a truck. And then if they delivered, they had to have another tag for delivering [Chuckling] finished products. So the system is what’s shuttin’ everything down. Too many rules and regulations. [Pause] And to me I think somethin’ like, certain woods like cypress or juniper or long leaf yellow pine should be not just necessarily cut for construction or just to be, what I see a lot of today, I see a of cypress being cut for mulch. I’ve been to places in Florida that it makes me sick to see large cypress logs cut up for mulch. For gardens. They make more out of sellin’ it in wood shavings than to have someone take it and design and create a boat or a beautiful home out of it. Something that could be seen and be enjoyed. DA: If you had it over to do again, would you do it again? WH: Oh yes, I’d do it over again. Hey, I’m 61 and I’ll be building boats until I can’t build ‘em no more. I don’t care if it’s a little small boat or a large boat, as long as I can find the lumber I will be buildin’ ‘em. If and when we get the shop finished, the front end finished, where we can get everything in and get everything picked up, moved out, we’ve already started purchasing materials for a 54 footer. DA: And that’s, somebody’s come in- WH: No, that’s a boat on prospect that we will build. I will build. DA: Okay. WH: Build me another boat, if somebody else don’t come and buy it out from under me. DA: [Inaudible] WH: Yeah. DA: [Chuckling] Okay. HHA# 00704 Page 21 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 21 Houston History Archives WH: My own boat, yeah. But usually when the time I, usually I have a boat to build. Matter of fact I’ve got some to build now but they’re waiting for me to get the shop finished. Uh [Pause] because there’s the craftsmanship that I do and my men work with me on the boats, is somethin’ that you don’t find no more. And my men they work, there’s not a lot of money in it, but they love the work like I do. They’re not here to get rich or anything, they just, they got bills to pay and they will work here and, if it’s part time or full time or whatever. The work schedule, the amount of work that we have, depends on how long they work and how many people I have. DA: Okay. WH: I have brothers that could cork boats. I have, I cork boats. Cork it with the cotton and the ol’ mallets. I have a son-in-law that does corkin’, I have two of my other men that do corkin’. I’ve got friends that I’ve taught boat building to that they do corkin’ and boat buildin’, plankin’ and whatever. So you know, if it came to a museum piece or somebody come in here and say, “Well Bill I want you to build a replica of such and such a boat. Bill, can you put a crew together?” They would more than happy to come and work, we’d all work together, as a group. Yeah. As soon as I start a boat, you won’t find a place to park out here, because they’ll be people comin’ in to see the boat under construction because you don’t see that no more. And so what I’ll do, I let the people come in and look and I explain and talk to ‘em and just like this [Inaudible] model, I could sit here and draw this whole thing out for you and show you how it’s done. And it’d be a class of teaching you how to do it, other than you takin’ it apart and doin’ it. [Referring to a drawing or a model] ‘Cause see each one of these, the pins have to be knocked out. And there’s a center line here that when they’re knocked out you take the first one here, number one, you lay it down and you draw that line all around. And it lines up with this line here. Then you take the second one and you line it up that, and then draw that line around it. Then you draw each one. And once it’s done, you done with the model. That’s all you doin’ is makin’ a model to give you the water lines and here’s the shear. You lay this, the shear up here and the water line’s d- everything overlaps each other and you take each one of them, you’ll uh, measure from the center line to here, put a mark, then you take this from the center line to this one, put a mark. The center line to this one, put a mark. And then you bend the batten around it and that gives you the curve of the boat. Now I’m doing this on a half inch scale and then when I loft it out, I have to take this half inch scale and blow it up to the full- DA: Yep. WH: So you see like this here is laid out half inches with a foot, that’s 24 foots, that 48 feet. DA: Okay. WH: See each one of these are a half inch, is what these are here and these, this is the trim, is a foot. DA: Okay. [Pause]HHA# 00704 Page 22 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 22 Houston History Archives WH: But we c- I’ve had a, I guess I lost about eight models, half models during the storm. Blueprints, I had blueprints from all different type of schooners. I’ve had some that I even had from the Smithsonian. I had blueprints that I had drawn even when I was a kid. I even had the original Lafitte blueprints that we had. I had the catboats, blueprints of catboats, Biloxi catboats. I had blueprints on the Biloxi fishing skiffs. Uh [Pause] I had blueprints on three different type of Biloxi schooners. I’d even had the blueprints for the uh, Mary Margaret, which was a very famous and fast schooner. [Pause] And that was built by Mister Tony Jack Kovacevich. I remember it in my mind today and I could make the half model. DA: Yeah? WH: Mm. I can make the half model, matter of fact it’s not far from this design here. ‘Cause this was his design boat and usually once they start building a certain boat they usually stay, you just about pick their boats out, “That’s a Kovacevich boat,” ‘cause you tell the sheer of the boat and the bow of the boat, how it was shaped to bow. And my boats, they pick my boats out because of the rake in stem. I have a rake in the stem and then the stern of my boats was almost as wide as they are in the middle. But yet they narrower, but they FULL. So I take a wooden boat and when I build it, I build it to get as much as I can out of the boat. Not to distort from it. Yeah. DA: Now most of this time you also held other jobs? WH: Oh yes, I was workin’, I worked at…I’d work out of town, workin’ construction. I’d work a four day week come home build boats for three days. I was workin’ Ingalls, I worked at nighttime. And I work, get up at six o’clock in the morning, work ‘til 12 o’clock everyday buildin’ boats. And then when I worked, for companies out a Birmingham, I’d work Panama City or Jackson, I would work a four day week. Come home and work. I worked Chevron, I did the same thing. [Pause] I’ve kinda slowed down though. [Laughter] Arthritis in my knees. Arthritis in my knees and my hands is gettin’ me down. But soon as I get me a doctor to work with me to give me other than Aleve, than I’ll be alright. [DA chuckles] Yeah, my wife has rheumatoid arthritis, she’s had it for quite a few years from an accident. [Talks about his wife’s medication regime] But me, there’s days I have good days and then there’s days I got bad. The people don’t know how much stress that we have goin’ on, because like myself I had to get this building redone. This building was gutted, this new building. This wasn’t here. None of this was here. So all the thing we had was just this metal building here, which I just had built. And we hadn’t even moved in it yet, because the contractor had built it out of square, six inches out of square and I’m trying to get a settlement out of that. I just wanted it done right. And so what we did we had quite a few pieces of panel that we had to come in and redo all this here. Had to have it done, we had to bring dirt in here because all the dirt was washed out, so where we can build boats at. We had uh, tools and supplies all over the ground in here just covered. You couldn’t even walk in here. We come around back here. But we had pickup trucks, oh we took three pickup trucks loaded with tools we threw away. Some of it brand new. All in the water and damaged. We had air compressors, we had band saws, we had planers. The table saws, I had joiners. Everything had to be thrown away it was completely destroyed. Not necessarily under water but tossed around and just gone. Welding machine, we had a huge weldin’ machines that HHA# 00704 Page 23 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 23 Houston History Archives we had. We had aluminum welding machines, was gone. We had uh…[Sighs] patterns. All the patterns I was able to recover is what you see in that loft right there. DA: Yep. WH: And the rest that we had down below here, the schooner and the steamboat and little Lafitte skiffs, they gone. We never did find the first one. None of it. Not even the first one. [Pause] The government come in here and picked up all the propane, the settling tanks, after the storm. No matter if it belonged to you, if you had it in the yard or not, they’d come in here. We had, people that come in here and steal from us what we tried to salvage during the daytime and put it to one side, they’d come in at nighttime and steal it from us. [Pause] And the rest of the world, you know a lot of people just lost a home. We lost our home which was, insurance said it was built too strong so that water took it. We had a Rottweiler dog like her that was two years old, we had four bobtailed cats, and we had a baby raccoon. And we lost all that during the storm. Plus all our personal everything. We lived, matter of fact my wife washed what clothes we could find over in the factory parkin’ lot, in mud, she washed those in a wheelbarrow so we’d have somethin’ to wear. And we had a makeshift bathroom with a blue tarp and a five gallon bucket and a toilet lid [Chuckling] that’s what we used for MONTHS. And we’d eat here, out on that slab out there in the heat and we were eatin’ Vienna sausage and crackers, and maybe a Meal on Wheels would come by, somethin’ or they’d bring us a meal. But it was not really nutritious, like you go to a buffet or somethin’. And then I, my nephew let us stay at his place up in Van Cleave, which was an 18 mile drive every day. We’d pick up ice every morning to [Slight pause] cool our water down and keep what food we had, keep that on ice. And then when FEMA offered us a trailer, we had a trailer to stay in. So we been stayin’ in the FEMA trailer now almost two years. Well a year and half really. And won’t be long, we hope, to get out of that but, but the way the, when we first started our home and we designed it and got an estimate what it would cost from the architect, and we applied for our SBA loan, got our SBA loan. We didn’t get the money like we should have and the materials from month to month kept gettin’ higher and higher, where we figured the architect and myself, figured about 115,000 dollars for the shell of the house, it went over 150,000. And right now we have the house, after six months construction, it’s bein’ near completed on the outside, but not the inside. DA: Okay. WH: So the inside’s gonna take us, whatever we bring in money from repairs on boats to do that. To do the inside. We have to have it wired, we have to have the plumbing, we have to have air condition in it. And we have to have the walls, which we normally, we do ourself. Me and my wife. We’ll shop from paneling, we’ll shop for tongue and groove lumber, and we just don’t use sheetrock. We’ll try to do somethin’ nice. And then we took out a pocket and built this second floor and there’s a company that we went to and bought all this stuff, these toolboxes for a third of the cost at an auction to store tools in. So we’ve got tools in them we were pickin’ up at the auction house in Alabama. And then we’ve been pickin’ up new draftin’ table. [Pause] Some hardware we been stockin’ back again. So if we can keep our health and keep our mind and our wit about the way things are going, we’ll do just fine. That’s all, it’s the way it is and uh, lot of a people say, “Well you gonna retire at 65 or 62?” I said, “No,” I says, “The only way I retire is HHA# 00704 Page 24 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 24 Houston History Archives when I can’t go no more.” And then most probably I’ll switch to buildin’ small model boats then. ‘Cause most of the old people I apprenticed under, when they got old and ate up with arthritis, or injured or crippled, they would sit down and make wooden model boats. Yeah, so it continued on, you know. DA: [Inaudible]- WH: And uh, in my life, I lived back in the 1920s, imagine. [Pause] We think nothin’, I think nothin’ but boats, nothin’ but lumber. I watch loggin’ trucks haulin’ lumber on the interstate, I could tell you if it’s cypress, mahogany or pine. I could pick lumber out form a long distance and tell you just about what it is. [Pause] I’ve had quite a few ruptured disks, herniated disks, slipped disks. And if it wouldn’t be for the chiropractors I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. [Chuckling] And I use an inversion table which is just about wore out from the storm. That’s what helps out. Keeps the vertebrates apart. And a good chiropractor. I don’t drink and I don’t smoke. Don’t gamble. ‘Course I spent a few dollars at the casino but by the time I lose 10 dollars I feel so bad about it. [Laughter] As you can tell I like to eat my money. [All laugh] ‘Cause I was a thin person at one time, but since the hurricane, the stress that you have on you because I’m here, I’m workin’ kinda, build a home, build bulkheads, get my business back, build a shop, keep jobs going, keep customers happy and livin’ in FEMA trailer which you don’t get a good nights sleep in because there’s nothin’ comfortable in. [Extended pause] [Long sigh, sob] I guess if we just keep goin’, time everything will be alright. That’s all I can, all I got to say. DA: Well I’ll tell ya, [Inaudible] thing to have after everything that you- WH: You can’t do nothin’, but see, lotta people don’t look at it like we do. It’s mother nature, we went through Hurricane Camille we lost everything. But we had a lotta help during Hurricane Camille. And we were younger. When you’re 21, 22 years old and you lose two or three years out of your life, tryin’ to rebuild back, that’s nothin’. But when you’re in your 60s, well I started when I was 59, I’m 61 now. You know what I mean, it takes a toll. Arthritis’ll be brought on by the stress. I’m a diabetic, which I was a diabetic before the storm, but I’m not on insulin. If a lose a little bit more weight, I most probably wouldn’t even be on and I have lost some weight. But when you don’t get out to uh, you have to get a decent meal, you can’t cook a meal like you want to in a trailer. So you eat out a lot. So you pick the cheapest buffets and you watch what you eat at the buffets. We got to where we’re very conservative, we eat at buffets anywhere from 12 dollars to 19 dollars, for two people and that’s very cheap, when go get all your vegetables and your meat that you want. But that’s not every night, that may be uh, three times a week. So most of the time it’s sandwiches or what she can cook up on the stove. But you have to have an attitude to where, you know, “Things’ll get better.” You just can’t sit around on, uh, I never forget one day after one of the storms hit down in Florida. I went down to the sawmill and one of the guys that cuts my lumber for me, he was pretty well destroyed. And he was sittin’ a year later, out underneath a tree. And I seen how depressed he was. And when I came back home I told my wife, I says, “You know it’s a shame, they don’t try to get up and do somethin’,” because he’s so depressed, you could see it in his face. And so when Katrina came along and I studied the hurricane’s ‘cause I work outside a lot. We have boats to move and things to secure so, when we seen the hurricane was goin’ not west of Grand Isle but turned east of Grand Isle, I HHA# 00704 Page 25 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 25 Houston History Archives knew that the pressure from the northeast quadrant, we would be taking a beating, but NOT THIS BAD. We were only looking at maybe three foot of water in the house, that’s where we left our dog and our cats in the [Inaudible] ‘cause they coulda got up on the bed and on the furniture. And three foot of water woulda been less than what Hurricane Camille put in the yard, so. But when we rode the storm out, up here at the Windgate Hotel, north of I-10, when we come back that next day everything was just gone. It was just like a bomb hit it. We didn’t have nothin’ but a slab, we had trees all along the fence. We lost eight trees and we were, there again they were supposed to send people in here to help us. We cut all the trees up and hauled ‘em out. We had uh, I guess every week they had come in here and haul the debris off that we had put out there. [Slight pause] We had boxes full of tools that we never even opened, that we just left out there, drill boxes. We had engines, matter of fact we had five diesel engines. We lost all them. We had six outboard motors, brand new outboard motors for one of the charter boats. We lost, lost all that. That was mine, really. We lost all them. Matter of fact this year, I just finished rebuilding this band saw. This is a very old band saw and then I got the other one out there, the other big band saw, I gotta rebuild it. And I’ve got two wood planners. I’m, uh, you can’t buy, some of these tools today that you buy just, just doesn’t qualify like the old tools do. So I’ve just decided to rebuild ‘em. Electric tools, electric sanders. Sanders that hold up to the jobs that we do, that you can’t buy no more. I’ve got to where I’ve rebuilt those. I had tools purchased and put up for school, the boat buildin’ school, we lost all that. ‘Cause I had that all set up too. ‘Cause we had plans and the plans were to have a picturesque type of little boat yard that the tourists would come and see boat work bein’ done with the railways and my home, which was right there. And we were all but within 14,000 dollars before the storm happened. And [Chuckling] now like that gone commercial, I’m up to my eyeballs in debt. [Laughter] DA: You mentioned Camille a couple of times, so you all [WH chuckles] Camille, when Camille came in. WH: Yeah. DA: For you all and Camille, how was, you know- WH: I was livin’ in Biloxi, at a little Jim Walker House in Biloxi. And we had two foot of water that came in the house. And the house was beginning to float off the pilings, but Camille came in and left. You know, knocked on the door then left. This storm came in and STAYED. And the wind, from my indications showing the anchor bolts and the concrete slab, the twisting of ‘em, the trees, which is the big old oak trees have been here through years and years of storms. The limbs weren’t just blown one direction, they were twisted and hung up in the tree. Meaning a twister and we had indications of a tornado here, but yet we fought with the insurance company and went before a mediator and I finally settled with a little more than half of my insurance on the structure of my house. No co- I didn’t get nothin’ for contents. So uh, if it wasn’t, a house was not built too strong, the wind tore it down. If it was built too strong, the water tore it down. Because when we build a home, we build a home strong like a boat deck, ‘cause a boat has to ride out heavy seas. And this home that I have here now is one of the strongest ones on the coast. We built this home like we do a cabin on a boat. Everything is bolted together. The beams are bolted, the top plates are bolted to the bottom plates and the joyces and the pilings comin’ outta HHA# 00704 Page 26 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 26 Houston History Archives the ground are bolted to that. And in studying houses after the storm, the problem they’re havin’ is I don’t see why the engineers don’t see this, is that if from steel pilings, concrete pilings, wood pilings, or brick pilings, and you‘ve seen this yourself, no matter what it was built on, from the floor up was gone. These pilings go all the way up to the rafters. And the rafters are five by 10, long leaf yellow pine and they’re bolted to it. It’s one massive construction. And this elevation that we’re in now, we’re 22 foot high. We didn’t have but 20 foot of water. So we may never, even this floor here’s 24 foot. So if we have another storm this year or next year, hopefully [Chuckling] we won’t have the damage. But you don’t know, mother nature may have something worse. A tornado could hit. So I got to where, you know we just, just take it and go with it, as long as you got your health, you know that’s the main thing. DA: Mmhm. So you never thought of leavin’? WH: Oh no. No. We came into this world with nothin’, we must leave with nothin’. And what you make of it is up to you. You can make a good life or you can make a hard life. I’ve had a hard life but a good life, and I’d do it over again tomorrow. Only thing about it, and I wouldn’t change anything really. Actually this is my, let’s see, one, two, this is my fourth building to be in. Because the one I had in Camille was destroyed and then the one I had in another location, we moved from that location ‘cause it was destroyed during Katrina, and then my old building there, 40 by 40, it was destroyed, and the new building here was destroyed pretty well. I had a contractor come in here and redo this one. Except the roof, he did everything but the roof. [Sigh] I just don’t have the money to do it. It leaks, before the storm. ‘Cause the contractor that built it built the foundation out of square. [Laughter] Six inches out of square. So what I’ve done is just gone ahead and, even though I filed a lawsuit against ‘em, it’s been over two years. I just, I don’t worry about it. I gotta pick up and go, I can’t wait on that. Just like the storm, we gotta pick up, so we’re hopin’ within the next six months to a year, have all this out of here, have the building that was our big door here uh, doorway here with the windows. This’ll be finished on out. It’s already prefabricated, the beam goes, see it up there? DA: Uh huh. WH: It goes over here prefabricated, deckin’ on out. That’ll be my mold loft up here and my mill shop. And then the home be finished. All this out here out here will be gone through and gotten rid of. And uh, all we’ll have is just the yard and a beautiful yard at that, ‘cause my wife she’s been buyin’ flowers, so. DA: [Inaudible, chuckling] WH: So she buy flowers, we [Inaudible], I’ve got a bunch of cypress trees to plant. I’ve already planted five. I’ve got eight more to plant. And uh, so we gonna, we’ve put a lot of fill in here, we’ve put over a 1,000 yards of dirt in here. That’s hard to believe. Thousand yards of dirt. Yup. And then we had to put a new fence up before the thieves stole [Chuckling] [Inaudible] completely. Good thing they didn’t haul the band saws off because one of the boat yards over there, matter of fact Jack Kovacevich, his daddy’s yard, Tony, all the big ol’ time band saws, the HHA# 00704 Page 27 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 27 Houston History Archives big planer, he went there some time after the storm, somebody’d hauled it all off for junk. And I had people comin’ in here pickin’ up aluminum, and copper, and stainless steel that we had. DA: Is this issue of, you talked about in Camille nobody would come and steal stuff from ya, now it is. Has these been a gradual change or is there a period where you say things really changed in Biloxi? WH: It has really changed because what you have, the casinos, have brought in a lot of out of town people. And I’m not sayin’ the out of town people is, but whenever you have a disaster you get people come in here that’s, you have people that have good intentions to help other people, but you have so many of those that are mixed in that want to uh, uh, fill their pockets. And you have a lot of con games. You have a lot of bad contractors. You have a lot of people that’s just riding around looking for stuff to steal. We, I’ve seen that many a day. I’ve seen people ridin’ around three days after the hurricane with deep sea rod and reels in their cars. And there’s no fishing going on, no one, they didn’t have none of that stuff. And we had charter boats here that had sports fishing, they was lookin’ at some stuff that we had. We had rod and reels here. We had tools here layin’ around on the ground, we tools out in the road out there. And people’d pick it up and take it, not knowin’ it belonged to somebody else. Because they were in here lookin’ and the law tries as much as they can, can’t blame the law ‘cause they can only do so much. You can’t be everywhere. And truthfully if I woulda had one of my boats here to stay on, I almost probably woulda killed somebody, because that’s how bad it was, the stealin’. The, because looting to me is one of the worst crimes you can do right now ‘cause people have lost everything, they’re down on their luck, and they don’t know if they gonna live or die themselves. They don’t know when the next day they gonna get anything, food or water, they just hafta you know, work whatever’s comin’ available to ‘em. And then people come in stealin’ from ‘em. [Sighs] But time will tell and, the way I see it right now is just everybody you know, some people may not have the feelings that I have. But uh, I hope that within’ another year everything’s gonna be just fine. DA: Mmhm, mmhm. [Pause] Well is there anything else you wanted to? [WH laughs] You have done a fabulous job of covering all aspects of everything from you know- WH: Well I hope I don’t, anybody that listens to this, I hope they don’t really get offended by it, but we have our feelings and we live it. We know what we’ve been through. They may not have. Uh, until you live it don’t question it, that’s the way I look at it. Especially when you come here and all your life that you’ve worked for for 38 years is gone uh, everything that you have is, is there and you’re pickin’ up the pieces, and you’re hurting with your back or your arthritis or you’re weak in your legs from goin’ so long. And the heat, the flies and the mosquitos. I remember after Camille, the C-130s came over and they sprayed insecticide for the flies. We never had that here after Camille- Katrina. We had people come down and had water rations for us. We had SBA loans that would give you grants or we’d have, Red Cross would give us vouchers for bedding or something. And which they still have today. I may not be one that gets or hears about it, you see. I’ve applied for a grant. Bein’ I’m in a flood zone, even though it’s 14 foot in a 13 foot flood zone, I’m not qualified for the 150,000 dollar grant. So I applied for phase two and I haven’t received that grant. I haven’t even heard nothin’ from ‘em, here it is July and I HHA# 00704 Page 28 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 28 Houston History Archives applied for it almost uh, well matter of fact in January. And I know people that have got phase one, got phase two and also got money from phase one AGAIN. And the people that I know got uh, they mighta got their home damaged and lost their car, [Clears throat] but they didn’t lose they livelihood, they didn’t lose, total loss of their home, they had a home to go back to. I’da given ANYTHING to come here and had just the home standing. I woulda. And if I’da had this second floor up here and I’da lived up here. So, some people are more fortunate right now as to government. It’s like one of my congressmen said, “Well we appropriated four billion dollars for the state, for the grants and it’s up to the states’ representativeness to get the money handed out.” Well it’s been over a year and a half since they started the program and a lot of the people that I know haven’t even got, that’s in the phase two, we’re in the flood zone and we’re punished because we were in the flood zone and we had flood insurance. I had 20,000 dollar flood insurance and 20,000 on contents. What’s 40,000 dollars? That’s nothin’, whenever you’re havin’ to put out to pay to get everything cleaned up. Or [Slight pause] FEMA helped us, somewhat. We got the minimum amount from FEMA. But then I know people that got uh, in the 20s from FEMA. I know people that got insurance and then still got grant money. Now see that’s what, I don’t care if I get any, I don’t care if we get a DOLLAR as long as they say, “Well I recognize you’re here in the flood zone, here’s a dollar, here’s 10 dollars,” or whatever. And um, I know someone that got less damage, just, just lost his home in Biloxi. That’s all he had was his home lost. He got 100,000 dollars. Shoot, 100,000 dollars would be pull me out of the hole, but here we don’t look to get anything. The only thing we have is our pride to pick up ourself and keep on goin’. But the hurt, the hurt down deep in the heart is what the representatives and the congressmen don’t realize. That uh, we’re bein’ uh, stepped on and like we bein’ punished ‘cause we live on the water. [Extended pause then deep sigh] And if I was young, everything here’d a been cleaned up but [Chuckles] I just don’t have willpower sometime. We get through working here after three-thirty, I go inside and it’s the only cool spot I got, so I flop myself on the sofa, drink a cup of coffee. My wife always has a cup of coffee. So. I want y’all to go inside and meet her. DA: That would be great, we’d love to do that. WH: Yeah, yeah. I got some boat pictures I wanna show you too, if I could. DA: Excellent. WH: Okay. DA: Alright. You wanna unleash him from his [Laughs, inaudible] [END OF RECORDING]HHA# 00704 Page 29 of 29 Interviewee: Holland, William “Bill” Interview Date: July 26, 2007 University of Houston 29 Houston History Archives