Leaving the Estate Sale of Billy and Dixie Hanson, I was now headed to the home of his sister, Virginia “Sissy” Hanson Burge, which was a short distance down the road. My friend Cheri was still with me as we followed Tommy and Kathy to his mother’s home. My relationship with this family is so closely related that they appear in three of my family’s trees. On my paternal Stanley side, my grandfather, Wes Stanley’s sister, Roxie Lee had married Robert Benjamin Hanson. Roxie and Robert were parents these kids father, James Hanson, therefore their grandparents. On the maternal Martin side of the family, my mother Mamie Martin’s sister, Gladys, married Roxie and Robert’s son, James also known as Jim. And on my husband’s side, Laura Hanson Hemperley, his grandmother was the sister of Robert Hanson!!! Okay, this is getting very confusing and I’m afraid one of us is married to a monkey’s uncle!
But allow me to introduce you to Sissy:
Sissy was only two years old when her father, “Jim” Hanson died during a yellow fever epidemic in 1932; her brothers James and Billy were only four and one. Aunt Gladys had a hard life providing for these children and Sissy says they often wondered where their next meal would come from. She was in the second grade in Ida, Louisiana before she saw her first white cake. Brother James sold his dad’s saddle to buy a wooden bicycle to deliver ice to the residents of Ida. That cause quite a stir in the family, but it did help provide for them.
By 1939 Gladys was remarried to Claude Norris Gingles, better known as “Buster” and was working as assistant post mistress in Ida. Buster was in the Army and in 1946 they moved to Doyline and lived in Green Tree Village which was the housing for those associated with the shell plant located there. Leaving Ida in her senior year of school was the hardest thing Sissy said she ever had to do but Aunt Gladys offered her encouragement and told her she was going to like it.
The neighboring family, the Greesons, had six girls and so Sissy made friends quickly. There was a handsome young man named Wilburn Thomas Burge on the basketball team and Sissy asked the Greeson girls about him. They approved and within a week Wilburn “Kink” had asked her for a date to a ballgame. In her last year of school Sissy played the cymbals and baritone tuba while her brother James played the bass tuba.
Sissy and Kink were married on October 10, 1947 in the parsonage of the First Baptist Church in Doyline. Kink worked as a Pepsi delivery man covering a large part of North Louisiana before he became employed at the Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant where he worked for over thirty years. Sissy worked at a general store in Ida before moving to Doyline and afterwards at the Dixie Cream, the LAAP as an ordinance inspector, at the hospital in Minden as the central supply clerk and later in the thrift store at Hope Youth Ranch. Their family includes sons Wilburn Thomas, Jr. also known as Tommy, Kenneth Noel and two daughters, Barbara and Kathy. For many years they lived in downtown Doyline but for the past thirty years have resided at the dead-end of Point Road in the former home of Kink’s parents which was also a fishing camp and boat launch.
It wasn’t long before we arrived at Sissy’s house located on beautiful Lake Bistineau. Cheri was anxious to wet a hook and see how many fish she could catch before our visit ended but we were not here to fish. I was her to visit with Sissy……. period! I had not seen her in a very long time and she was much frailer than in younger years. She now has the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and can no longer live alone therefore Kenny and Barbara live with her.
At first she didn’t recognize me but when told who I was, we hugged for a long time; her smile was welcoming and that bear hug felt good. She had Barbara bring out her photo albums to share with me and when prompted could tell me of things that happened long ago but had difficulty with her short-term memory. There were two photos that she dearly cherished, those being of her father, Jim Hanson. The one below is of him on the top right, brother Doris Hanson on the left, and sisters, Myrtle Hanson in the middle and bottom Retter and Woodie.
My visit was short as Sissy was tiring and needed rest. As she turned to retire to bed I told her I wanted a good-bye hug. As we stood face to face she looked at me quizzically and asked, “Did your Momma die?” to which I replied, “Yes a long time ago”. She and I both held back tears and held each other tight.
She never looked back nor did I. At least we had that precious moment together and hopefully it meant as much to her as it did to me.
As we drove away Cheri declared that we were coming back….. and next time she would bring her own fishing gear!
Back home I couldn’t wait to share the photo of Jim Hanson and his brothers and sisters with another Hanson cousin, Michelle Chamblee McBride and her family. Was she ever surprised! It was like a priceless treasure as none of her family had ever seen the picture before of their loved ones at such an early age.
So, so wherever you road trips lead you, be it down a dusty road, a visit to a library, a walk in a cemetery or an interview with one of the elders of your family, please share! And if you have a “road trip” planned anytime soon, please give me a call.