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Hopkins grew up on a small farm in Georgia. It was a tenant farm. Hopkins father was farming a piece of property that his mother owned on a tenant basis. They were very poor. Hopkins did not know it at the time because everyone else was poor. Hopkins finished high school and was able to go to Berry College in Rome, Georgia. Hopkins was able to pay for college by participating in what amounted to be a work-study program. Hopkins estimates that for his 4 years at Berry College, he may have only spent 200 dollars on his college education. Hopkins graduated with a Bachelor's in Science in Chemistry. Hopkins ended up doing nothing with his Chemistry degree. His sophomore year he had an Organic Chemistry professor who stimulated his' interest in Chemistry. After Hopkins got out of school he went to Atlanta and did not get into the Chemical business; Hopkins got a job with Sears Roebuck [Annotator's Note: Sears, Roebuck, & Company] for the catalog and distribution business. Hopkins' job was to write letters to people who were not paying their bills. Most letters were similar but they were tough. After Hopkins had been with them for a while, Hopkins got a job with Royal Typewriter as a junior salesman. The junior salesman were the gophers for the senior salesman. Hopkins recalls hearing about the New York World's Fair which was in the spring of 1940. Hopkins wanted to go but he did not have enough money. Hopkins read in the Atlanta Constitution that a Reserve Naval Guard unit was going to be taking a 2 week cruise to New York. The light bulb went off in Hopkins' head. He joined the Naval Reserve in order to see the World's Fair in New York. When they got ready to make the roster of people who were going to go on the 2 week cruise, they did not have enough money to pay the train fare from Atlanta to Charleston for everyone. Hopkins effort was shot down. He was told he could pay his own way on the train. Hopkins got on the train and he was able to dodge the conductor all the way up. They got on the USS Edward which was an old 4-stack destroyer. Since Hopkins was junior his job on the ship was peeling potatoes. Hopkins sat on the fantail of the destroyer and peeled potatoes the entire way. Hopkins peeled enough potatoes to help feed 200 men at breakfast, 200 men at lunch, and 200 men at dinner. They got to New York and Hopkins was able to go to the World's Fair. 1 of the neat things he got to do at the fair was see the world's 1st demonstration of television. Hopkins did not have to go to boot camp before his cruise. After the fair, they got on a ship to head back to Charleston. The ship went through numerous maneuvers on its way back. Hopkins was assigned the job of scraping paint off of the side of the ship. Hopkins got back to Atlanta and was living in a boarding house. Hopkins got back his 1st night and got about 4 hours of sleep. He went down in the morning and there was a copy of the Atlanta Constitution on the table. The headline read, "Naval Reserve unit called to active duty." That same afternoon, Hopkins went to the Navy office and asked them what could the Navy offer him besides peeling potatoes and scraping paint. Hopkins had his college education, so they suggested he go to flight training. Hopkins went to flight training in December 1940. Flight training never occurred to Hopkins, it was just an alternative to peeling potatoes. Hopkins enjoyed it and was designated a Naval Aviator in September 1941. Hopkins went to Jacksonville, Florida with 1 of the earliest classes. They had 3 training stations: 1 in Jacksonville, Pensacola, and Corpus Christi. Hopkins was at Jacksonville. In September 1941 Hopkins was commissioned in the Naval Reserve. They trained in the N3N [Annotator's Note: Naval Aircraft Factory N3N Canary] and the N2S [Annotator's Note: Boeing-Stearman Model 75], which were training planes. Some are still flying today. Hopkins then flew an SNJ [Annotator's Note: North American T-56 Texan] which was a metal monoplane. The 3rd phase had them flying some of the obsolete fleet planes. Hopkins finished his instrument training at Jacksonville and then he was transferred to Miami, where he trained on the obsolete planes.
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