A smoke and a beer later and I got it all figured out....sometimes it is true...you just have to walk away, clear your head, and start again.
Instead of calling the contact.php, I just put the php and form code right into my template where it used to call the contact.php file. I removed the session_start() from the original code, leaving just the <?php and then on the very first line of the template I put the <?PHP
session_start(); ?> and what do you know, it works fine now.
Again, thanks for the help. This all might be a bit beyond my skill set currently, but I am a very fast learner.