Born on April 23, 1937, at Grogan’s Mill near Bivins, Texas in Cass County, my brother, Charles Edwin Stanley was the third child of Clyde Henry and Mamie Louise Martin Stanley. He had two older brothers, Jimmy Clyde and Thomas Neil and the three of them were mischief makers from the get go! One local man, Mr. Jack Bird, referred to these boys as Big Tuffie, Middle Tuffie and Little Tuffie even though they were not mean perhaps they were little rascals. Charles and Tommy were so close that many people thought them to be twins. While there were three girls also born to Clyde and Mamie (Me, Judy and Kitty) later, Charles is the subject of this post.
As a child he was mostly called “Ed” but as he grew older he would answered to “Charlie” or “Indian” because he had a dark complexion, dark hair and eyes and we were suppose to have Native American heritage.
Times were hard and WW II was going on. The house he lived in had no running water nor indoor plumbing, nor electricity. Bathing on Saturday nights was done by heating water on the stove and dumping it into a washtub. Drinking water was in a water bucket that sat by the kitchen stove with a dipper nearby.
The boys had few toys to play with. They shared one toy dump truck or if fortunate enough to find a flat liquor bottle, would use it for a car. They scraped enough parts from an old bicycle to make one that they shared and rode everywhere. Charles learned to ride it at five years old; after all he had to keep up with his older brothers. The bike they shared had a “motor” which was made by attaching a piece of cardboard with a clothes pen to the spokes on the wheel and made a motor sound when pedaled.
They collected scrap metal, rubber and paper for the war effort and would use any other scraps they could find to make rubber guns, log wagons, sling shots, airplanes, baseball bats and also made their balls from string. They had a big swing made from a burlap bag. The nearby barn was a great place to eradicate rats with their rubber guns. Sometimes they traded things they had found at the dump with other kids and created new toys such as the wagons in the photo below made in 1945.
Tommy, Kookie and Charles Stanley, Bivins, Texas
If you notice, Charles and Tommy both have on “service” caps. One of their neighbors had a relative who was in the war and had sent home a trunk full of captured German Army souvenirs. Included was a German officer’s uniform complete with gas mask. They took great delight in hiding with the gas mask on, jumping out and scaring someone! Their imagination ran rampant and therefore they played Army a lot and killed off many enemy German and Japanese soldiers.
The house they lived in was elevated in the front which made for a cool area in which to play. Underneath they made toad frog houses and when locating a doodlebug hole would promptly produce a twig, stick it in the hole and chant “Doodlebug, doodlebug, come out of your house. Your house is on fire.” Sometimes the doodlebugs would run out but if not, they moved on to another hole and tried again.
Charles started to school in Bivins in 1943 where he was always on the honor roll. Annually the school would have a Hillbilly Band, a Halloween Carnival or a Donkey Basketball Game. It was good times while in Bivins.
When Charles was about eight years old he saw a man with a nice ring made of bone. Shortly thereafter Charles found a round bone with a hole in the middle and decided to make himself a ring. Yes, you see it coming, don’t you? The bone got stuck, swelled up and by the time Clyde discovered it, had to be sawed off Charles’ hand!
At the end of WW II the family moved to Atlanta, Texas where Clyde took a job. They lived in a house directly across the street from the Atlanta Rabbits Football Stadium. Charles and Tommy soon learned they could go beneath the bleachers on Saturdays following a Friday night game and find money! Charles didn’t play football but instead joined the high school band in Atlanta playing the bass horn. He loved music and he loved Atlanta.
The boys had a couple of scooters through most of their high school years. The last one, Clyde “souped up” to where it would run 60 mph on the highway; 50 mph on a nearby dirt road. Thus began Charles’s love for motorcycles! But more of that later…… Charles and Tommy often took the scooter on Saturday nights to the midnight show to see “Cowboy Shoot ‘Em Up” movies. The headlight was so dim you almost had to strike a match to see if the headlight was on.
After a while the family moved outside of town to a farm. They raised chickens, hogs and had a large garden. They also raised Black Diamond watermelons which Charles and Tommy peddled in the river bottoms of North Caddo Parish in a 1940 International truck they had overhauled by themselves.
Clyde changed jobs to run the ice plant in Jefferson. It seems the transfer from Atlanta to Jefferson meant some records Charles had didn’t transfer which would delay his graduation for another year. Charles dropped out of school but earn his GED.
He first worked at the ice house on the dock but by winter was able to get a job at the local Ford dealership washing new and customer’s cars. Before long he worked as a mechanic but when the dealership discovered he was good with parts, moved him to that department where he first worked in parts for race cars and later in truck parts.
The race car parts job lead to another adventure for Charles. After acquiring local sponsors he was soon drag racing in various tracks located in East Texas. One of his first and finest was an English Ford Angelia. However, his daily drive was his 1958 turquoise and white Ford equipped with every racing part or gadget you could imagine! It was hot and fast on the drag strip!
Charles eventually moved to Longview where he worked for Pegues Hurst Motor Company forty plus years as the head of the parts department.
Remember that motor scooter? Many years later Charles bought his first Honda Gold Wing motorcycle. Through the years his vacations on the Gold Wing took him to every state with the exception of Hawaii and possibly Alaska. He loved traveling the old West and learning the history at each of his stops. Once when caught in a rain storm in a small town and no motel in sight, he stopped at the local jail for information only to be informed there was no shelter for miles and miles. They did, however, offer refuge from the storm by allowing him to spend the night in an empty jail cell! On another trip he started at the mouth of the Mississippi River and followed it to the Gulf of Mexico. His travels were an education in itself and while along on the three week trips he made friends, explored cultures and loved the ride! Luckily over the thousands of miles traveled, Charles was involved but once in an accident when a dog ran out in front of him causing him to lay his “scooter” down.
Another passion Charles had was cameras. He collected cameras from yard sales, antique stores or wherever he might find one. And they did not just sit on a shelf; he used them. Once on a trip to my house in South Louisiana we went to the Lake Ponchatrain lakefront where he waited for just the right moment, when the sunset was perfect, to capture the beauty of the moment when the Causeway became a sillouette. One can only imagine how many photos he made on his many adventures.
Charles met and married Imogene Hill of Avinger, twice to be exact. They first married on February 23, 1957, divorced and remarried on May 12, 1972. Although the second marriage did not last either, they remained dear friends and wonderful parents to their two daughters, Terri and Tami. While he had another lady friend in his lifetime, he never remarried.
Daughters Terri and Tami, wife Imogene Hill Stanley and Charles Stanley
The six of us siblings were different in many ways. By far, Charles was the most adventurous.
Charles passed away on May 16, 2004 in Longview, Texas of connective tissue disease. He was buried at Lakeview Memorial Gardens on May 20, 2004.
Happy Birthday to a wonderful brother who swapped his Gold Wing for Wings of Gold.