Williams Family from Evansville, Indiana

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Walter Charles Williams

His own Story

June 2001- Age 92

The Lord has been good and merciful- Bless His Holy Name

I was born in the year 1908 near West Franklin, Indiana in Posey County a couple miles from the Ohio River. West Franklin is between Evansville and Mount Vernon. There were no airplanes to be seen. No cars on the roads- the roads were not even paved except a few with bricks. No radio stations to listen to and no television. I don't think I saw an automobile before I was 8 years old.

My grandfather fought in the Civil War. When I was a small boy I met a relative that fought with him in that war. My Great Great Grandfather fought in the American Revolutionary War. Most of our relatives migrated from the Carolinas- some via Kentucky. I started a genealogy study to learn more about them and my children are helping and continuing the work. Many ancestors were of German origin and many of English origin. Some came to Posey County when it was still a wilderness including hostile Indians. Elkana Williams came there about the time Lincoln was born here- about 25 years after the Revolution.

My sisters were born in a log house on the farm. This was not very far from the log house where Abraham Lincoln was born 99 years before me. My Dad built a nice new house just before Bob and I were born. The house is still there and is in good condition after 86 years of use. One day Bob was playing in the old log house and found some old money underneath it.

My parents had 12 children total including two sets of twins. I was a fraternal twin. Two of the children died. One a baby and one at age 13. My mother died when Bob and I were 5 years old. My older sisters helped Dad raise us. My Mother was only 45 when she died two weeks after the twelfth baby was born. Stella took over the care of the baby- William ( later known as Stocky). Dad always wanted boys to help him work on the farm. Instead he had 7 girls in a row before the boys came along and we were too young to be much help.

My Dad plowed the fields with a plough you walked behind hitched to two horses or mules like Little Joe uses on Little House on the Prairie. There were no tractors in our area yet. The few tractors in the world were not powerful enough to be useful. My twin brother Bob and I would sometimes walk behind our dad when he plowed. We saw baby rabbits and a snake or two. Dad would kill snakes even though it was not a wise thing to do since they ate mice that got into the corn crib and ate our corn.

We all attended a two room school house and we walked to and from it every school day. I think it was about two miles away. Maybe it seemed that far to us especially in winter when it would get cold and sometimes snow. I don't think my sister Lillian or brother Bill went to that country school since they were younger. All of us in school ate lunch in a little thicket on the school grounds when weather was nice. The older sisters would fill a basket with food and bring it to us. It was good. One particular special day I remember Dad came by in his wagon at recess and asked the teacher if Bob and I could come with him to Mount Vernon. It was the closest town. He had something to do there. He bought us a soda pop and lunch at a restaurant for the first time. It really tasted good. Bob went down a slippery slide and when he got to the bottom he didn't know to drop his feet down so he landed hard on his bottom. I followed and did the same thing.

We always had good food to eat. The whole family would pick blackberries and they were plentiful. Mom always kept a big vegetable garden. The older Sisters canned food a lot- especially Stella, Lula and Emma the oldest girls.

In 1917 at age 9 there was a more than the usual amount of snow. Then in Spring when the snow was melting there was heavy rain and it caused a big flood. I remember Bob, Dad, Angelo Benner and I rode in a dinky boat across the low country that laid between Angelos place and a neighbor of ours. The dinky boat would rock back and forth a lot - I don't know why it did that but it stands out in my mind.

When World War I came we still lived in the country. The farmers would all go down to Mount Vernon to see the farm boys off to the war. There was a lot of weeping. I'm sure that many of those young boys didn't make it back.

We moved into town, Evansville, in 1918 when I was 10. Mom had died by then. Dad and the 9 children made the move to town. I think we had about three wagons of furniture, children and our other things. Lulu was married and stayed in the country. The trip was about 15 miles each way. Many Saturday nights Lulu and her husband Bill would come into town in their wagon to see the latest movie. We moved into a small double tenement and I don't see how all 10 of us slept in it. I think it only had two bedrooms.

It was quite an adjustment to make that move from the only home we knew. One example is that in the country playing baseball we would field the ball and throw it between the runner and the next base to get him out. You can imagine the city kids reaction when we started playing by our rules. We soon learned to do it their way.

A very short time later we moved into another double house but bigger as it had an upstairs. The house was 1/2 block from Johann Funeral Home. In those days automobiles were just coming in and horses still pulled fire trucks, grocery wagons, milk trucks, funeral hearses and everything that was large and moved. When the funeral home found out Dad was good with horses and a qualified teamster they hired him sometimes to drive very beautiful horses and hearses to funerals.

A big influenza epidemic struck the United States in 1918. A lady who had three children on our block died. I remember Bob getting it. I often went to the drug store to buy medicine for the family. Dad took sick with spinal meningitis and died leaving all 9 of us as orphans. In those days they didn't have antibiotics to cure it. Its an infection of a part of the spinal chord and the brain and is readily curable now. Stella took over as mother. Emma, Grace, and Eva took jobs in cigar factories and Mayme was soon old enough to work at small jobs. Boy, were we the younger ones lucky to have sisters like that who were willing to work and stay single to keep the family together. They gave their wages to Stella for the family.

A very tragic and memorable event happened to Bob and I when we were about 10 or 12 years old. We were standing on the corner of a busy intersection when two motor driven firetrucks, going to a fire as fast as they could, entered the intersection at right angles at exactly the same time. There was a terrific impact and firemen went flying. It killed one of them and injured many more. I've often wondered if there wasn't some way that some of the many people that saw them both coming could have waved them down but it would have been impossible. You can imagine the terrified reaction of us boys to see so much horror right before our eyes. The two trucks were from separate stations, one with black firemen, and they often had close calls since apparently they were usually called at the same time and essentially raced to see who could get there the quickest.

About that time World War I ended. Bob and I took advantage of the opportunity to sell papers by walking down the street yelling "Extra Extra". Few people had radios and the newspapers were in special demand as the war came to a close. We sold the papers for only a nickle. We were all a hard working family and always looking for a way to make extra money to feed all those hungry kids.

We never had an inside toilet until I was about 18. There were some cold trips to the outhouse especially at night. When we had been at Evansville for about 2 years we moved into a better house. We had some baby rabbits there. They dug down in the ground under the toilet one day and fell in. A neighbor helped get them out all safe and sound. I don't know what happened to them later.

As soon as Bob and I were 15 1/2 we had to leave school and we went to work. We gave the money to Stella for the family. Bob delivered groceries on a bicycle and I delivered telegrams on a bicycle for Postal Telegraph. We still have a photo of me with several coworkers taken when I was 17. I made $9.00 for 6 days work and furnished my own bicycle.

Later I worked for Swift and Company who ran stockyards and were a large meat packing house in Evansville. They were one of the larger companies in town. One of my jobs was to reach into a pickling bath where hams were being cured. It was very destructive to my hands and they still bear scars after 60 years. The skin and meat on the fingers would be eaten away but it never really hurt. Another job took me into a walk-in refrigerator which wasn't good for my sinuses. A doctor shined a light on them and saw where the problem was. He then drilled a small hole and cleared the problem. I never had much sinus problems after that.

When I was 23 years old I married a wonderful little wife, Marie Louise Bollinger. God lead me to her through a friend of mine that I worked with at International Steel. He was the next door neighbor to Marie and her family on Eichel Avenue. He suggested that I meet her. Several of my sisters also lived on the same block but Marie and I had never met until Doug Johnson mentioned her. I guess there are many people who are glad that he did. I certainly am one.

 Marie became Mother to three lovely children Howard, Harold and Janet. In 1946 we moved to El Monte California and I bought half interest in the Ajax Rug Cleaning Company. Later we moved to Bassett a few miles east on the other side of the San Gabriel River where we owned a motel which had a river-rock facing and a section designed for the owners family to live. We later moved back to El Monte to a home with a vegetable garden, workshop, chicken coop and nice yard. I worked at Worley metal works that made metal lockers for most of the schools in southern California.

 We moved to Monrovia in 1949 and I worked for McShanes Dairy delivering milk and then for Aerojet- General Corporation in 1951. I worked in the Receiving and Inspection Department expediting and tracking parts and materiel that came into and left the plant. Aerojet developed rocket engines for defense and scientific uses. Also we built systems to see in the dark and satellites that would guard against Russian missiles.After retiring in 1967 we moved to Hemet and then Chula Vista near San Diego. In the mid 1970's we moved to Rancho Cordova where we currently live very comfortably.

People who are privileged to live as long as I have, get a special perspective on life and have a special overview of where this world is heading. It's wonderful in some ways and it's very dismaying in others . With the hope of passing on some of this perspective I have listed some information below to show how things are changing fast and how time flies.  

When I was born the country was 132 years old. That may seem like a long time and maybe it is but some people have actually lived that long. The country is now 218 years old. That means I have witnessed 40% of the country's life. Together, my grandfather and I have witnessed 60% of our country's life. I have witnessed both world wars, waved to soldiers leaving for the front in the first world war and helped make ships and ammunition in the second one. 

Teddy Roosevelt was president when I was born. There have been 16 presidents during my life so far. There were only 24 presidents before my birth. Sears Roebuck was only 24 years old. Annie Oakley was 48. Buffalo Bill died when I was 9 years old. Coney Island hot dogs and ice cream cones had been around only a few years and only cost a penny to a nickel.

 Various events of interest are listed below and my age when they occurred. This has been done to show how fast the world has changed. It makes one wonder what will happen during the lives of my great grandchildren.

Walter C. Williams Timeline (Event, my age)

Geronimo died - 1

Wright brothers show first aircraft to public - 1

First commercial Radio Broadcasts - 2

First Commercial airlines - 6

Henry Ford's first Model T - 6

Panama Canal opened - 7

First movie with sound - 19

World depression started - 21

I saw first television program - 41

First credit cards - 42

Man breaks speed of sound - 44

Man on the moon - 61

First Polaroid camera - 65

End of the Cold War - 81

Families can store full encyclopedia on home computer and send pages of it over the phone to others - 85

 

Copyright 2001 Williams Family from Evansville, Indiana