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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
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
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
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
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
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
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,