By Roda Grubb
PHARR — Ann had gone to visit a cousin in northern Indiana while she was in college. Coming home she hitched a ride with her cousin’s friend, a pilot with his own plane. It would be the decisive moment in her life — that moment that everyone seems to have in some form or fashion.
“I enjoyed the flight quite a bit,” said Ann Hazzard, in her quiet voice. “My dad met me at the airport and I said, ‘Hey, Dad, I know what I want to do.’”
Her whole family were schoolteachers and she simply didn’t want to do that. Her mind was made up.
“I want to fly,” she said.
“Ok,” said her dad. “Fine.”
Since times were tough and jobs were hard, in college Ann had been taking three majors in hopes of finding a job in one of the three — home economics, physical ed and biology. She had reluctantly been training to become a teacher, not knowing what else she wished to do.
Her father, more than likely, felt happy about her decision. He had lost a leg as a sophomore in college and had always wanted a boy, but had three girls instead.
“I was the oldest boy of three girls,” Ann said, laughing. Her dad would take her to do things around the small, hilly acreage they had.
“We had 14 acres away from town and in the morning before he went to teach at the university, we would go out and he would teach me to scythe correctly. When you do it correctly you lay it down like a carpet without high and low points in the grass.”
It was the 1940s and unusual for women to fly. But she had the call of the wings and after taking classes and flying lessons, Ann received her private license and was ready to take it to the next level — a job.
Having already signed a contract for teaching in a small town in southern Indiana - teaching all three of her majors in one school and receiving $50 more than her cousin in Indianapolis - she was obligated. She did her teaching time but could hardly wait for the year to be up. She had enlisted as a WASP - Women Airforce Service Pilot - and she was itching to fly.
“I went to Ft. Wayne to take the physical and it flustered the doctors and nurses because I was the only woman there,” she said, smiling. “They took towels and pinned them together to separate us. They were so used to men walking through stark ass naked, I guess. I don’t know. I wasn’t.”
Training in Sweetwater, Texas, she was then sent to March Field, California.
“I was assigned to the Tow Target Squadron,” said Ann. Towing the targets 50 feet behind their planes, the men in their planes would shoot live ammo at the targets. During her time she recalls only one incident.
“They had three ranges of anti-aircraft and I was in the middle range this day,” she said, laughing. “The gal ahead of me all of a sudden broke through on the radio and said, ‘Damn you, I’m PULLING this thing not pushing it!’ Puffs of smoke were hitting in front of her plane instead of back where the target was.”
When her time was over, it was over with a bang.
“I was in a military class in Florida to become a second lieutenant,” she said. “They came in one day and said, ‘You’re going home.’ They dropped us - just like that - like a weighted down rock! The only thing we got out of it was transportation home.”
There were 1,078 WASPs and they were classified as civil servants until 1977 when Ret. Air Force Col. W. Bruce Arnold coordinated the women’s lobbying effort and the proud WASPs (a little over 1000 by that time) were finally awarded veterans status for their work for their country during WWII.
Ann got married and had two children, a boy and girl. Since it was too expensive to fly any longer, that part of her life was set aside. But she married into the Air Force.
“I was still amongst the military and that was great,” Ann said. After 13 years of marriage multiple sclerosis took his life and Ann remained a widow for 15 years.
As a means of living, she partnered up with the widow of Gen. Casey Vincent, one of the Chennault’s Flying Tigers during the China/Burma Theater and the Air Force’s youngest general at 29, to form a modeling agency.
“All the people were connected with the military - wives, widows, children. At that time in San Antonio, they had a lot of fashion shows,” said Ann. “We were busy all the time.”
One day she received a call from a man in the Valley inquiring about the where’s and how for’s of running a modeling agency, thinking of starting one in the Valley. His name was Harry.
Harry Hazzard was from Michigan and his family farmed produce on the small acreage they had.
“I remember selling cabbage door to door,” he said.
The radio played a large part of his life. “When I was about 10 or 11, I used to stay up listening to the Big Bands broadcast from all over the country,” said Harry. “I would sing along. That’s where I got started singing.”
His true love was aviation and he went through seven grades sitting up next to the black board before finally admitting he couldn’t see.
“I finally broke down, got glasses and gave up my ambition of being a pilot. I did go with my best friend when he went to join the Navy Air Force hoping they might not notice my eyesight but they noticed my thick glasses right away,” he said, with a heavy sigh.
Music was still part of his life since he played a trombone with a 13 piece dance band in high school - playing the Glenn Miller type music. Taking architectural drafting in college whetted his appetite and he studied architecture in college before having to drop out to help his parents grow their new business.
“They sold their house and bought a piece of property just outside of Toledo, Ohio,” said Harry. “Just had the property and no money.”
Fixing up the old gas station, they added grocery stock and grew that for awhile. During this time Harry worked for a local architect in Toledo helping to pay for the growing concern.
“We still needed a little bit more money so we put up a sign that we had RV space,” he said. At that time you couldn’t hardly find RV space - in ‘46 - and within the week we had 30 RVs there.”
The Michigan health department stepped in and said, “Oh no you don’t. We have rules and regulations.” It was a learning curve and Harry began discovering all about the world of RV parks.
“Ann was a pioneer in aviation,” said Harry. “I was a pioneer in the RV business.”
The park was successful and they needed to expand. Since he and his dad had taken some trips to the Valley they decided to open a park here.
“It was cheaper to expand down here than it was up there. Holiday Village was the number two park here in the Valley with Rollin Homes Mobile Park in Mission being the first park. When we built this we had a Woodall 5 Star Rating - one of only two in Texas,” he said proudly.
With the loss of his parents his brothers split up the parks and Harry chose to stay with Holiday Village. His family was settled there and his first wife died there of a brain hemorrhage at 47 after 17 years of marriage.
Lost without her, Harry knew he needed people in his life and thought a modeling agency would be the thing to do if it weren’t too complicated. One day he made a phone call to an agency he found when looking through the phone book of San Antonio and talked to a woman by the name of Ann.
First, before the romance could begin, Harry took his daughter on a 12,000 mile RV trip as a graduation present. Upon returning he called Ann again to pick her brain and requested a bill for her time. Ann said it wasn’t necessary so Harry thought a dinner would be appropriate and scheduled a trip up to San Antonio to seal the deal.
“And he’s been feeding me ever since,” said Ann, with a wide grin. “It was a good date — 34 years worth!”
Traveling is part of their regular routine as are Harry’s singing gigs around the Valley with Sheldon Tucker - a 6 foot 5 inch, 250 pound Idaho cowboy. Harry - or he could be called Dean Martin since his voice is a close match - produced his first recording at 76 and now has six CDs. His voice is deep and warm, strong and vibrant and full of the joy his singing brings to him. Ann faithfully sits in the audience, supporting her favorite man.
“We haven’t accumulated a lot of money,” said Harry. “But we’ve had a good life. The Lord did a good job.”