Friday, March 10, 2006

Bill's Early Years as told by John

On August 30, 1914 in Sherman, Texas, Walter Lee and Rosa Ivey had their fourth child, Wilbur Vernice, and he weighed in at 12 lbs. and change. Back then, child birthing was done in the home, generally with the help only of a midwife. There was no doctor, no anesthetic, and no cesareans. When Vernice came out of the womb it was quite a stretch, literally, and soon after Rosa told Walter, "No more!"

Vernice was the youngest of four children. Ollie Mae was the oldest, then Oswald Lee, then Eunice Marie and finally Vernice, the baby boy (who from here on will be referred to as Bill for continuity's sake). Whether it was planned or happenstance, there was a three-year gap between all of Rosa's pregnancies.

Walter Lee's father, who is known in family records only as W. H. Ivey, moved his family from Tupelo, Mississippi to Grayson County, Texas in 1863. It is speculated that the relocation was due to the inevitable encroachment at that time of Tupelo by the Union Army during the Civil War. Walter was one of 11 siblings, one of whom was named Montezuma, or Uncle 'Zumer, as Bill remembered him.

Walter laid down stakes in Sherman, which was the county seat of Grayson, and married Rosa Dodd. He became a merchant and a very lucrative one. After World War I broke out in Europe in 1914, Walter watched events unfold, and shortly before the United states entered the war in 1917, he bought all the flour that he could store. After war broke out for America, the price of flour quadrupled in Sherman, and Walter made his fortune.

Though Walter was never wanting after that, Bill remembered him as being stingy and miserly. Ollie, on the other hand, was very generous to Bill. At the age of 10 or so, Bill wanted a light for his bicycle, and Ollie gave him four dollars for him to buy it. Sometime later Bill found out that that was Ollie's last four dollars, and after that there was nothing Bill would not do for Ollie.

Ollie was not the only one who indulged young Bill. He shared a bed with his older brother, and Oswald, usually going to bed first, would warm up Bill's side of the bed for him. Oswald was a high school football star who gained the nickname "No Hips" Ivey, as no one could ever seem to tackle him. Had it not been for a back injury sustained from playing ball, Oswald could've gone to college on a football scholarship (though Bill always maintained that Oswald had hurt his back lifting a Model T's wheel back up on the road from where it had slid off in the mud).

One night, when Bill was in his early teens, one of Oswald's friends spent the night with them. After they went to bed Bill found five dollars in the friend's pants pocket, and Bill took the money. Oswald's friend pressed charges, and Bill was sent off to reform school.

The young delinquent arrived at the detention center wearing a nice pair of shoes and was soon offered a sum of money to trade shoes with one of the other detainees. Bill wanted the money more than the shoes and took the other boy's offer. He used the money to buy cigarettes and other necessities.

Now Bill was a bully, and in any enclosed situation when there is more than one bully, a confrontation is bound to occur, and that was the case with Bill and Bud Fox. There was a fight between the two with no clear-cut conclusion after the fact other than that the two became best friends. Even into their golden years, Bill and Bud remained friends.

By the time Bill finished reform school, the great Depression was in full swing, and he and Oswald took off for California in a Model T Ford in search of better times.


At 8:23 PM, Blogger Rosa said...

Wow, I never knew half of that! Fascinating! Figures, dad was a bully. Damn Texan.


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