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My dad, Hector Clyde Stanley was born November 18, 1911 in Mira, Louisiana, the second of six children born to Wesley Birdwell and Beulah Thompson Stanley. Granny and Pop Paw had some unusual given names for their children and so at an early age, Daddy changed his to Henry. Later in his life when a bank in the small town in which we lived confused his bank account with another H. C. Stanley, he changed it again to Clyde Henry. Imagine the night mare of researching his name in genealogy! Luckily on most documents he is listed as Clyde.
I’m not sure how old he was in this photo but I’m thinking less than two years old.
When Daddy was very small, Pop Paw was a farmer in North Caddo Parish but at about four years of age, Pop Paw began making a living in the timber industry. They first moved to Fostoria, Texas, and they, along with other families working in the timber industry, lived in railroad cars. When logging was complete in a particular area, the train and its inhabitants would move to another location. Daddy told me they moved thirty four (34) times within an eighteen month period.
My grandparents were both musically talented and could play almost any instrument. Luckily they passed this on to their children. Daddy played the mandolin, however in the photo below with his brother, Audrion, he is shown with a fiddle.
In 1919 they moved to Ida, Louisiana where my grandfather farmed on shares. Apparently they did well as by 1924 they bought a brand new Ford Car. Daddy drove a tractor and worked on equipment on the farm. In fact, he told me he was the first person to hook up electric lights on a tractor. This would enable farmers to work at night when the weather was cooler. He wanted to patent his idea, which would cost $75.00, however Granny wouldn’t give him the fees.
Although I did not find out until I was eighteen years old, my Dad had been married prior to his marriage to my Mother. That marriage which was never spoken of in our family by any one at any time, lasted less than three years and there were no children. In 1933 my dad married my mother, Mamie Louise Martin and of this union, there were six children.
My grandfather left farming and went to work for several different sawmills in East Texas. Dad soon followed, although he had owned and operated a service station in Ida. At sawmills in Bivins and Atlanta, Texas he worked as a mechanic. I remember when we lived in Bivins bathing on Saturday nights in a washtub. It was not until the early 1950s that we got indoor plumbing.
In the mid 1950s we moved to Jefferson, Texas where he ran an ice plant and by my freshman year, we could be found in Ganado, Texas. Daddy worked for an oilfield service company as a mechanic. By midterm of my sophomore year we had left Ganado, went to Dayton and Liberty, Texas and finally back to North Caddo Parish where he worked for a tractor dealership and Mother owned a small café in Belcher. Mother had a new red and white Ford Falcon and Daddy drove one of those God awful green Studebaker cars that looked the same coming or going! After I married they returned to South Texas where he worked in Pearland, Humble and finally retired in Conroe, Texas. I think Daddy’s vagabond ways began as a child when his father followed the job regardless of where it took them.
My daddy was a superstitious man. He didn’t like gardenias because they reminded him of cemeteries. He wouldn’t have a cedar tree on the place because if they grew large enough to shade a grave you would die. He wouldn’t start a job on Friday that he couldn’t finish on Friday.
It was bad luck to sweep after dark or under someone’s feet. If we left home and something was left behind (mostly Mother’s purse) he would not go back for it. Bad luck!!
But the one superstition he branded me with was that of the black cat. Of course that one has been around for ages, but his obsession involved seeing one crossing the road in front of you. We either had to turn around, find another route so as not to cross the cat’s tracks or roll down your window and spit to wash out the tracks! Many years after his death I had my sophisticated Uptown New Orleans grandchildren in the car with me and a black cat crossed the road in front of us. My mouth began to salivate! Then I screamed, “Roll down your window and SPIT!” Of course they thought I had totally lost my mind, but soon realized when I pulled over and would not move until everyone in the car had hacked up enough saliva to wash out the cat’s tracks, that they had better SPIT! And for you information, I still do it today.
Daddy and I had a special relationship and he taught me much, such as one wrench from another, how to read a road map and much more. We loved to watch baseball games on TV together, sometimes rooting for the same team, sometimes not, but our cheers (or rants) were always as loud as if we were in the stands. When I was in my teens I made the comment that I wish we could see a Major League game in person. At that time it seemed only an impossible dream however it did come to pass when my brother Jim took the family to see the Astros play at the Astro Dome in Houston. I looked at him and said, “Did you ever think we’d do this in person?” only to be interrupted with wild cheering from the “Clyde Section”.
My dad was an intelligent man and a hard worker. He believed you gave a full day’s work for a full day’s pay. He was honest and never lied and stressed honesty at all costs. Perhaps I get my outspoken ways from him for in his words, “Say what you mean and mean what you say” or my favorite Clyde-ism, “Keep two things clean that are uniquely yours; your word and your name.”
The last time Mother and Daddy moved to South Texas he told me he would return to North Louisiana one day but he when never say when that day would be. Many times I asked and he never gave an answer so I turned to Mother as to when she thought that day would come. She told me Daddy thought you only go home to die. Weird I thought.
During the last year of his life Daddy was in and out of the hospital many times. It was then they decided to purchase a small house in Vivian and return to Louisiana. Don and I moved them back and two weeks later he passed away on January 1, 1980. Maybe there was something to his superstitions.
Don, as he preferred, was the second child of Raymond and Sybol O’Pry Hemperley. He arrived a jaundiced baby born on August 18, 1941 in Vivian, Louisiana. Growing up on a 60 acre farm near Gilliam, he was a precocious child who often ran away from home to play with his imaginary family that lived just across the levee. Many were the times his mother, with switch in hand, would cross that levee to retrieve him. When asked where he had been he would speak of visiting his fantasy wife and children who lived across the levee.
Don attended grammar school in Belcher, Louisiana. By high school, a new consolidate school had been built in Vivian and he was among the graduation class of the first four full years of the school. Don could have been an honors student for he was a very intelligent person. Often work on the farm, work after school at a gas station in Gilliam, or his antics got in the way. During his senior year he was suspended for three days for smoking on campus. He was also reprimanded for singing and dancing in the hallways while classes were going on.
Following his graduation he knew he did not want the farm life anymore and enlisted the United States Air Force on July 22, 1959 in Shreveport, Louisiana. His basic training was at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. As basic training does for so many young enlistees, he went in a scrawny teen and came out a well chiseled mature adult male!
Basic Training at Lackland Air Force Base
From San Antonio he was sent to Indiana University at Bloomington to become a Russian Linguist. His studies included not only the language but also the history and culture of Russia. From the first day of class his professors spoke only in Russian; wrote only in Russian; and expected the soldiers in the class to learn and excel in all things Russian. Not all students graduated (one even committed suicide) as it was an intense degree of studies.
August 6, 1960 Don returned home and we were married that night at the Belcher Baptist Church. After a short leave we headed to Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas where he was to attend crypto-logic and intelligence training school. Did I ask what all that meant? Heavens no! We were too busy celebrating our recent marriage and starting our married lives. Besides, it didn’t matter to me just as long as we were together.
By New Year’s Day of 1960 I was expecting our first child and Don was boarding a plane for a fifteen month tour of duty at the 6986th Wakkanai Air Station located on the northern most point of Hokkaido, Japan. Being the linguist he was he soon picked up the Japanese language and was able to communicate with the locals. He loved the food as well as the people in Wakkanai. Off time was spent writing letters home, visiting orphanages and at the Club Walk’N I NCO club where he was on the Board of Governors.
In April 1962 Don returned stateside and met our eleven month son Steve for the first time. We packed our little black 1950 Ford and headed to his next assignment at the National Security Agency located at Fort George G. Meade near Laurel, Maryland. I knew Don had a high level security clearance, but NSA?
The Cuban Missile Crisis took place during the time we were in Maryland and I can remember Don working long hours and being very concerned. Of course, I had no idea of what his job entailed, but the reality of the crisis set in when I drove to work and there were few cars on the road. The shopping center, which was usually bustling, was desolate. The air was tense as most everyone was waiting for President Kennedy’s next news conference.
On July 19, 1963 Don’s enlistment was up and we returned to Louisiana. Our daughter Kelly was born in September and we settled into a life far from the fast paced Air Force one Don loved. He soon became a partner in an insurance agency and was a Junior Warden as well as Master of the Belcher Masonic Lodge. He was instrumental in incorporating Gilliam as a Village and served as its first Village Clerk. He was a jokester, a loving father and husband, generous and a good friend to everyone.
Many many years later in life he mentioned his time in the Air Force and I asked, “Now just what was it that you did while wearing those Air Force blues?” He replied with that precocious smile, “I spoke to Russians flying their planes over water near Hokkaido and they didn’t know I was an American. I also decoded and transcribed top secrets while at NSA.” I rolled my eyes and thought, there he goes again; pulling those same tricks much like he did on his mother about his fantasy family. So was he was telling the truth or not? I suppose I will never know for sure.
Matthew 25:36 reads: “Naked and ye clothed me: I was sick and ye visited me: I was in prison and ye came unto me.”
Nevalene Stanley Thomas was born July 19, 1936 to Addison Audrion Stanley and wife, Ora Oneta Tolleson in Bivins, Texas. One of her grandfathers wanted to name her Ineva and the other Evalene. According to her, they settled on naming her Nevalene but she prefers to be referred to as Neva. Neva was a twin; however her mother had great difficulty having the children and only Neva survived.
Apparently she was born to sing and attend church as at the age of 4 to 5 years old she would walk to church, by herself, at Grogan’s Mill near Bivins, Texas. Every Sunday Brother Will Grogan would ask her to sing Trust and Obey….. all five verses of it … before services began. Her father left the mill for work at the Texarkana Red River Depot, where he was a dozer operator during the construction of the depot. During the time spent in Texarkana she did not attend church.
In 1943 they moved to Huffines, Texas to live with her mother’s father and it was here she got back into church. In 1946 they moved to Vivian, Louisiana when her father went to work for the local General Motors dealership. On July 6,1952, while only 15 year old, she married John Howard Thomas, Sr. They became members of Walnut Hill Baptist Church where she served 25 years and seven months as the music director and Howard was a deacon. And all the while, she was singing!
By 1954 Vivian’s local radio station was broadcasting from Walnut Hill Baptist Church where a quartet comprised of T. J. Stanfield, Lois Ragsdale, Albert Holt and Neva sang. Neva sang at revivals, the Lions Club and for many local funerals. She would take her lunch hour, go to the funeral home and perform, and then return to work. The Happy Time Singers, another of Neva’s groups, soon emerged and the members were Jean Walton, T. J. Stanfield, Buddy McBride and Neva.
Emanuel Baptist Church in Vivian is where Neva met Doris Gomery and enlisted her to become the sound technician. On her first recording in Oklahoma City, Doris accompanied Neva and it was there they met John Rohloff who had played with Andre Crouch. Between that time and 1986 Neva had recorded three CDS and five cassettes.
Even though Neva was staying busy, she still felt there was another direction God wanted her to follow. Being the Christian woman she is, she opened her Bible searching for answers. Her Bible was opened to Matthew 25:36 which reads: “Naked and ye clothed me: I was sick and you visited me: I was in prison and ye came unto me.” On June 3, 1986 the charter for the non-profit corporation was signed for G N H Ministries of Vivian by the Louisiana Secretary of State. Thus The Born Again Singers were born and continued for fourteen and one half years of prison ministry. Neither ice storms, rains, sunshine or lack of finances stopped these troupers! They were provided for by donations and were on a mission to share their love of God and Jesus!
Rev.T. J. McDonnel, pastor at Whitaker Baptist Church in Texarkana, was
instrumental in gaining the group entrance and acceptance into many prisons. During their ministry they traveled to the Federal Correctional Institute in Texarkana, Texas, and the Texas Department of Corrections in Seagoville, Texas. In Arkansas they visited at Cummins in Grady, the Men’s Diagnostic Unit in Pine Bluff, the Department of Corrections in Tucker, and the Wrightsville Men’s Penitentiary in Wrightsville. Louisiana penitentiaries served were Wade Correctional in Homer and the Louisiana State Prison in Angola. Neva’s granddaughter Johnna, who also sang, accompanied them and with the exception of one time, was allowed to enter the prisons to perform beginning when she was about eleven years old.
Upon arriving at the prisons they had to be cleared by security and often performed either in the prison’s chapel or gymnasium, which led them past cell block filled with prisoners. Now that takes some guts!!! But these brave ladies would not be deterred.
Vickie Neiderhofer, Judy Holley, Neva Thomas and Johnna Shew Kunath
On their first trip to Angola upon arriving at the gate they learned each of them had been cleared for admittance however their equipment had not. It had to be left at the gate. Neva wondered how in the world they would musically minister to this group of 417 men who had earned the privilege and wanted to attend. Luckily one of the inmates had a keyboard they borrowed. That night Neva wrote and performed two songs that she says until this day she doesn’t remember the lyrics. Seven inmates repented and there were few dry eyes in the place.
On their second trip to Angola while riding the ferry across the Mississippi River, the group got out of their vehicles and began to sing gospel songs. Other passengers joined in the celebration to the point the river boat captain said they had the ferry rocking. On the return crossing the captain told how much he had enjoyed their “concert” and asked to have prayer with them.
Mostly their ministry was done as a musical concert, however the group also provided
Bibles, audio recordings, published a news letter for inmates, were pen pals, attended
seminars and worked with prisoners on Pre-Release. Following training Neva became a spiritual adviser to death row inmates. On the night prior to his execution, an inmate convicted of murder, wrote the following letter:
Excerpts from the letter read:
“Dear Sister Neva, It is with a heavy heart I write this last letter to you for I know by the time it reaches your precious hands, you will be wrapped in sadness and sorrow because of my execution . I wish with all my heart I could take your pain and sorrow from you. I did not want to leave you all physically but by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus I was spiritually prepared and unafraid. Praise God! I pray you can find peace and comfort in the truth that death for the Christian, by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus is but a mere stepping stone into eternal life in Heaven. By the time you read this I will be standing in Heaven, in the presence of God and our Lord Jesus and all those who went on before me.”
Another inmate, who at a young age, had robbed a lady of her purse in a Wal-Mart parking lot appealed to Neva to aid him in making an apology to his victim. The woman had a grandchild with her. He had demanded the lady’s purse and when she would not surrender it, he fired shots and she gave him her purse.
After accepting God he wanted to make a video of apology to his victim. Neva was instrumental in getting the video made and aired on TV. There was also an arranged face to face meeting for the apology and the victim accepted it.
Apparently Neva and The Born Again Singers were accepted cordially by many of the inmates as evidenced by many self made cards and letters that were sent to her. Her scrapbook is filled with letters of appreciation from those she touched as well as newspaper clippings regarding the groups other appearances.
The inmates sent cards for Christmas, Mother’s Day and Valentine greetings. Some of the prisoners’ art (from their homemade cards) is below…..
Many of The Born Again Singers are still actively involved in Christian fellowship. Here’s a little more about each one:
Doris Gomery is a retired social worker who worked with juveniles at a boys’ home in Greenwood, Louisiana. She also studied criminal law and was a Probation Officer for the State of Louisiana. Currently she attends First Baptist Church in Vivian where she belongs to Hands and Feet and One to Another which offer prayers and assistance for varying needs to people in the community. She also belongs to Prayers Ministry which encompasses the globe as they pray for those in need. At one time she was involved in Message Music and distributed music to book stores as well as individuals.
Vickie Neiderhofer has passed away since her participation with The Born Again Singers.
Johnna Shew Kunath, all grown up now, is the proud mom of two daughters, one recently adopted son and two foster children. She is a Bridge Teacher at Greenacres Middle School in Bossier City and sponsors the Junior Optimist Organization. Johnna and her husband Jason attend First Baptist Church in Princeton where they started a senior citizen ministry called Senior Moments. Daughters of the King, a ladies’ ministry of fellowship and Bible study, was also organized by Johnna at the church. Volunteering in this household involves everyone including the children. Johnna and her daughters volunteer at The Nest, a part of The Renesting Project. And if all of this isn’t enough she is currently involved with a group, the Christian Women’s Job Corp of Northwest Louisiana. Theses volunteers will go into prisons and educate and set up housing for those being released.
Norma Norris Morris met and married an inmate. Norma lives in Bloomburg, Texas and goes to the Full Gospel Church.
Judy Holly Thompson, a registered nurse, met and married an inmate. She resides in Vivian and attends First Baptist Church.
Neva currently attends the Yocana Baptist Church in Yocana, Arkansas where she has been the Music Director for the past seven year and writes a newsletter for her church. She goes to weekend singings but no longer travels for the prison ministry. One of her favorite sayings is “This Too Shall Pass” which is indicative of her belief that all problems taken one at a time in Christ’s name will get better. Ask Doris about Neva and she will say she is a booster of people’s confidence, an advocate and encourager who brings out the best in everyone. I say she’s all that and more but specifically a child of God born to sing His praises. On a recent visit with her and her daughter, Letitia Thomas McGuire, they sang “I See Jesus” for me. The photo below was taken at that time. Neva is still married to the love of her life, John Howard Thomas, Sr.and they give praise to God daily for the wonderful life they have had. They have two children, Letitia Darlene Thomas McGuire and John Howard Thomas, Jr.
I think that I shall never see
A thing as lovely as a tree.
Not the one that grows in the yard
But the one I’m working on oh so hard!
The one with branches covered with names and places
I would be lucky to find a photo showing their faces
But as it is now I know not what
Who married who and who they begot!
One by one each branch I climb
Hoping that in this lifetime
On my brick wall I’ll get a clue
And discover which child belongs to who.
Tonight the leaves on my tree are shaking
No time to stop ‘till daylight is breaking
And when sleep finally does come over me
What do I dream about but that darned Family Tree?
I’m addicted to morning coffee, jigsaw and crossword puzzles and more especially genealogy. There I’ve said it! Genealogy is my true addiction! It is filling in the blanks or finding the right piece to complete a story. It’s an insatiable desire to know everything; the whole truth and the details that paint a picture of a person in your tree. Having said that, the stories and documents you discover might surprise you and make you wonder if it should be included in your tree. Such is the case of two Pattillo brothers, both charged with murder.
My grandfather, Wesley Birdwell Stanley, never spoke of his mother’s family yet he spoke of her with a great deal of love and respect. I remember when I was a teenager, I asked about the Pattillos. He gave up little information other than his mother was Mary Lucinda (Mary Lou) Pattillo Stanley, daughter of Joycie Williams and George Alexander Thomas Pattillo. He also said his mother was half Indian, which I have yet to prove but looking at him, I would say if he got any of her genes, then it’s true.
Years later while searching through Roots Web queries, I ran across one that was searching for information regarding Mary Lou’s brothers killing their father! What?? Could that be? Last year I ran into a Pattillo cousin, Mary Jane Dominick Pattillo, and asked if she knew anything regarding the murder. The story that she recanted had been told by her father and it went like this:
George Alexander Thomas Pattillo had been murdered by his son, William, and the body had been dumped in a well!!!! Aha! That was most probably the reason my grandfather never spoke of the Pattillos! That could be the reason I have never located a gravesite for George Alexander Thomas Pattillo. Mary Jane thought the argument had been over a woman. What she didn’t share was that her grandfather, Wesley Elisha Pattillo, was also at the scene of the crime.
Mary Jane also told me that another of George Alexander Thomas’s son, Thomas Bird Pattillo, had murdered the person Hosston, Louisiana is named for, James Monroe Hoss! Wow! What kind of family was this? Two brothers from the same family had committed murder? I had to know more and the search was on!
Shortly after this conversation I was contacted by Michelle McBride, through Ancestry.com, who is also a member of this Stanley-Pattillo tree. She and I discussed the conversation I had had with Mary Jane and decided to work together to prove/disprove these stories.
Michelle located several articles regarding George Alexander Thomas’ murder on genealogybank.com. As you can see below, William and Wesley are first mentioned in the Little Rock Gazette on April 12, 1879.
On September 5, 1879 the following article was published in The Times Picayune via telegram from Texarkana regarding the indictment of these two brothers.
It seems that William, only 16 had been the black sheep of the family causing his father trouble. He had banished William from the family with instructions never to set foot on his land again. William moved to Texas but returned and while he and his brother Wesley were walking on the property, the father saw them. He fired a pistol at William who returned fire with a double-barrel shotgun, striking him six times in his heart.
Their acquittal was also published in The Times Picayune.
Case closed! However I still do not know if the argument was over a woman or where George Alexander Thomas’ body rests.
On to Thomas Bird Pattillo! Thomas Bird, settled in 1898 Mira located in Caddo Parish as an upstanding citizen. Since my granddaughter is a deputy clerk in the Caddo Parish Clerk’s office I asked her to run the archived files for documentation on the murder of Mr. Hoss. She was unable to locate any archived files other than the Warrant for Thomas Bird’s arrest, however, it did not say who he had murdered. This genealogy thingy will drive you nuts! There is always another question that needs to be answered.
And then, out of the blue, came the document I had been searching for; the name of the person Thomas Bird had murdered…….. J. M. Hoss of Hosston! This document was located at the James Noel Library located on the campus of LSU-Shreveport.
And there was more….
Wow! Now there was another person arraigned with Thomas Bird!! Who was Isaac Hale and what role did he play in the shooting?
Then on July 16, 1899 he was released? How could that be?
That question was not answered until I discovered he would be retried in September. From newspaper clippings I learned a poll of the jury of the first trial ended with a decision of 10 to 2 and on September 13, 1899 the announcement of the retrial appeared in the paper.
Followed by a postponement scheduled for September 19th.
And while the micro-film copy is difficult to read, on September 20th the court resumed the trial.
The trial was to begin in the morning, however several of the witness failed to appear in court therefore the trial was delayed until later in the afternoon. What I gleaned from this article was that the argument had been over a debt that Mr. Hoss owed Thomas Bird. Both had been carrying weapons for a while and there had been other altercations. Witnesses testified that Mr. Hoss ‘ gun was usually cocked. On that day Hoss had ordered Thomas Bird out of the store three times. Thomas Bird told him he could not hide behind the counter forever and when he came out he would get him. Hoss exited the store armed, followed by his son and another man. Thomas Bird, who already had aim on Hoss, told him to lay down his gun and for the by-standers to move out of the way. Shots were fired and Mr. Hoss was stuck in the lower left arm. The bullet struck his 5th and 6th ribs before exiting on the right side.
The trial which had begun at 6:00 PM and by 8:00 PM the state rested its case. The judge instructed the jury that they were compelled to spend the night in the court-house and that soft side of the benches would be placed at their convenience. This meant but one thing to me, the verdict would be quickly reached!
Three hours later a verdict was rendered and Thomas Bird was convicted, not of murder, but of manslaughter.
According to Louisiana Prison Records, page 2, from Family Search.com Prisoner # 14382, Pattillo was convicted of Manslaughter and was sentenced to serve 10 years from Sept. 24, 1899 until Sept. 24, 1909. He was described was 5’5″ tall, fair with hazel eyes and black hair. He could read and write. Other physical description states he had a long thick head, flesh mole under right eye, bald in front, scar right wrist, long sharp nose, a flesh mole back of neck and was married. His information is listed the third from the bottom on both sheets of the Louisiana Penitentiary Records located in Baton Rouge, East Baton Rouge Parish.
Following his incarceration Thomas Bird in lived in Miller County, Arkansas and in 1940 was listed in the census as residing in Rusk County, Texas with his son, John Raymond and family. Thomas Bird died on February 9, 1952 on the front porch of his house. He is buried at Munnerlyn Chapel Cemetery in Ida, Louisiana. In the late 1960s I located the grave site but last year I revisited the cemetery I could no longer locate the headstone.
Now that I have researched these two Pattillo brothers I feel sure that I have all the obtainable documents on record. But I still do not know what drove them to their actions. What was the motivation for the father shooting at his son? Or why would you take a life over a $10.00 debt? And who the heck is Isaac Hale?
Ah, but the unanswered questions are the driving force behind genealogy and in the words of Miss Scarlett O’Hara, “there’s always tomorrow.” Tomorrow I think I will choose a different ancestor, right after that first cup of coffee.
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.