Williams Family from Evansville, Indiana

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Neal Bollinger

I was born in Evansville, Indiana in August 1908. There were no airplanes to be seen. Very few cars on the roads- most roads were not even paved except for some being brick. No radio stations to listen to and no television. Lillian was also born in Evansville a little later.

I remember some things about my childhood - things were much different than they are now. At Christmas time my Dad would make toys out of old wood. He worked hard at it and we really appreciated it. I remember he made my sisters a doll bed. Mother made dolls and clothes for them and things for my twin brother Earl and I. We would have to wait outside until they put what they made in the living room. They had the blinds down so we couldn't see in and it would be a surprise.

One Christmas my sister Ruth, who was six years younger, shook hands with my Dad disguised as Santa. She said " He isn't Santa- that's my Dad! ". She noticed half of his little finger was gone due to an accident when his ring caught on a nail. Dad didn't try it again. For Christmas we usually had hard chocolates and oranges with homemade presents.

Our Dad worked in a coal mine and would eat his lunch sometimes up on the tipple framework where it was relatively clean, safe and quiet. Sometimes my brother Earl and I would hear the mine noon whistle and go running to have lunch with Dad. He would kindly share his soup with us. He was a good Dad. He made his own beer in the bathtub like many did in those days.

My Dad had a Model T Ford that had side curtains for when it rained. Sometimes on Sunday we would drive the Ford around the "5-mile loop" and visit his Mother, my Grandmother, where she lived in a log cabin. My Dad was born in that log cabin. To get up Stringtown Hill we would have to get a good running start with the model T for a block or two so we could make it up the hill.

We sometimes played "follow up" in the gutter to and from school when we were very young. We went home for lunch each day. It was about a mile each way so that meant four miles of walking each day. Our church was across the street from the school. We would walk that distance again on Sunday, mostly to get an orange and a box of chocolates. We played ball in an empty lot. We also made a hoop and rolled it down the street to try to keep it going.

When we were very young we also made "lighthouses" out of shoe boxes. We would cut designs out of the box and paste red tissue paper over the cutouts. Then we would put a candle in the box and turn the lights down. We would attach a string and pull it around. On the fourth of July we didn't have fireworks. My brother and I instead put carbide into a tin can with a match stuck in the end. We would light it and it would make a big bang. I believe we also had sparklers to go with the homemade fireworks.

Mother worked hard at the cigar factory. She was very good at hand rolling cigars. There is a real art to it and it takes several years to fully learn. She was the one who pushed us boys to learn to play musical instruments. She and Dad saved to buy instruments. I played the coronet and Earl played the violin and the French horn. We played our horns in the church orchestra in Evansville for many years. All our family went to that church - it was across the street from our school.

My Aunt had a store and she would bring Grandma groceries, cookies and candy. Grandma would have the four of us get in a row and she'd go from one to another of us to pass out the candy and cookies evenly. After she passed away we would have parties there. She had a well and they had to drain it to get a rat out. She had an outdoor toilet about 50 or 60 feet from the house. There was a grape arbor on both sides of the pathway from the house to the privy.

My brother and I liked bicycles and motorcycles as a teenager. I had an accident and was hurt but recovered ok. We liked mechanical things a lot. We collected enough odds and ends of car parts at the junk yard to make a running car. My sisters remember it well. We didn't have a body so we made up a simple wood one. There were no seats so we sat on the gas tank. We painted it yellow. It actually ran and we enjoyed working on it.

My brother and I were curious and interested in many different things. Most of our lives we were interested in amateur radio broadcasting. Off and on, we would use "Ham" radio to talk to people over most of the country. Sometimes we would listen in on general calls. Sometimes we would talk to particular people that we knew or had talked to before. When I was a young boy there was no radio, but the Marconi wireless became very widely known for sea rescues. One young man saved the lives of 1500 in a collision of two ships at sea by tapping out the letters "CQ" in Morse code. It was short for "seek you". He became very famous and that popularized ham radio and radio in general.

I went to Lockyears Business College as did my brother and my sister Marie. It cost $200 a year and it seemed like a lot of money then.

In Evansville we had many family traditions. One was a "Burgo" picnic in the park with a good beef stew that was made with ground vegetables. This was mainly a tradition that was kept up by Uncle Ben. We also would get together in the summer and make home made ice cream. We did it enough that I bought a motor driven freezer when there weren't many of them around. It made ice cream more enjoyable.

We would get together on Christmas Eve night to open presents. Also Evansville had several restaurants that made very good barbeque, especially sliced pork. Our family enjoyed it a lot. Some of them used to get it when they went back to visit E-town.

As a young man I met the love of my life, Miss Lillian Frohbeiter. She became Mrs. Lillian Bollinger and we have been happily married ever since. Lillian and I have one son Robert (Bob) Neal Bollinger and we are very proud of him. We let him have a collie dog in Evansville. The back yard was large and with a high fence. He could jump and nearly jump over the fence. Lillian would work hard at home keeping everything ship shape. People that visited in the day remember Lillian ironing and sewing a lot. Often she would listen to "soap operas" on the radio. They were called that because it was mostly women who listened and they would advertise soap a lot. They were stories that went on and on for weeks like an opera story goes on and on. She liked "Stella Dallas" and some others like "All My Children". We let Bob play most anywhere he wanted and do anything he wanted because we could trust him. At home we required he not be too loud or boisterous. At the dinner table we didnít allow talking so people (mostly me) could eat in peace after a hard day.

About 1948 my brother Earl and his wife Ruth, plus Lillian, Bob and I, moved west to California. About a year before our two sisters moved there and my mother. Long before that my aunt Lena had moved to El Monte and step father, Clyde Burns, had lived there for many years before the war. We moved to Monrovia and I got a job in Monrovia near Huntington Drive and Mountain Ave. with a leading and pioneering industrial television company called Conrac. They are still in business. About 1949, when I got the first TV in the family, the family would come to my house to watch wrestling and parlor games on it. That was all the programming that was on since it had to be "live" with no way to record it. The screen was black and white and about 8 inches. When all the relatives went over we would sit on mattresses on the floor. That included Walter, Marie, their kids, Ruth, Frank, Lula, Earl, Lillian and the two Ruthís. Sometimes we would stagger them.

Eventually our whole family lived in the northwest area of Monrovia. Monrovia was a beautiful and peaceful place to live in those days. Mom lived in El Monte a while, then Hollywood, and settled in Duarte which is close to Monrovia. Lillian and I and Bob lived on Concord Avenue and later we moved a few blocks to ______.

After retirement we owned, lived in and ran trailer parks. We settled in Hemet for the climate and the peacefulness. Several of the relatives live here. At one time we had all four brothers and sisters and their spouses living here. Now it's only sister Ruth and Earlís Ruth in Hemet. I have always had good health and have kept in shape. My brother and I have always liked sunbathing at the beach. They say it was like a ritual how we would lay out our towels and turn just right to get an even tan. Often for several hours at a time. We liked Long Beach in the late 40s. I had a bout of shingles that dept me from sleeping for a while. Iíd sleep in a easy chair till they went away.

Because of our long lives, my sisters and I have get a special perspective on life and a special overview of where this world is heading. It's wonderful in some ways and it's not so in others . Things are changing fast and time sure flies.

When I was born the country was only 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 222 years old. I witnessed over 1/3rd of the country's life. I have witnessed both world wars. 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. Various events and when they occurred in my life are recorded in the table below showing how fast the world has changed.

My Timeline (Event and my age)

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


Copyright © 2001 Williams Family from Evansville, Indiana