Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Pondering the Past Before the Kid

(In the photo [1932], William E. T. stands on the ground at the right. His brother James stands upon the log at the left. In five years both will die.)

The Obituary of William E. T.

William E. T., a well known resident of West Caln  township, died yesterday in Coatesville hospital, where he had been a patient twenty-four days.  He was in his seventy-fifth year.  Death was due to pneumonia, complicated by a stroke of apoplexy.  His death is the third to take place in the family within three weeks.

Mr. T. and his brother, James T., lived together near Sandy hill, north of Sadsburyville.  James T. had been ailing for some months.  Then William T. suffered a stroke and a few days later developed pneumonia.  He was taken to Coatesville Hospital, and a few days later, on January 23, his brother, James T., passed away.  While he was still in the hospital his son-in-law, Benjamin F. M., of Modena, also contracted pneumonia.  He died on Thursday last and his funeral takes place today.

Mr. T. had lived in West Caln for close to sixty years, having moved to that section from the vicinity of Marshallton. When the first steam traction engines were placed on the market, he and his brothers, James and Harry, became interested, and they were the first to operate a traction threshing outfit in this part of Chester County.  For years they followed the threshing business, and later they engaged in business of providing wood to the Coatesville Steel mills.  They continued in that business until a few months ago, when they were forced to retire on account of ill health.

In his younger years, Mr. T. was very active in community affairs in Sadsburyville and vicinity.  He was a member of the famous Sadsburyville Band, which was a musical institution of note a half century or more ago.  At the present time only a very few members of that band survive.  It traveled about the country in a very ornate bandwagon, seating thirty or forty people and carrying the elaborate array of band instruments.  It was drawn by four or six horses, and its arrival in any community was considered an event.  The musical instruments used by this organization are now eagerly sought by collectors.

Mr. T. was the last of his generation.  Surviving him are two sons and four daughters: Jesse L. T., of Downingtown; Mrs. Charles J., of West Caln; Mrs. Benjamin F. M., of Modena; William B. T., of Berwyn; Mrs. James S., of near Parkesburg, and Mrs. Edwin B. at home.  Two children are deceased.  His wife died ten years ago.

The funeral will take place from the Landis Funeral Home in this city on Wednesday afternoon at 2:30.  Internment will be in Upper Octorara Cemetery.  Coatesville Record,  2/15/1937

(In the photo from left to right: William, my father, Florence T. M., Benjamin Franklin M. IV, Benjamin Franklin M. III and Francis M., 1931)

The vagaries of the moment often determine the paths of lives. There are no "but, ifs" in life worth a moment thought. There is what is and if each event had turned a different corner it does not mean your existence would have been improved. It could mean your existence never occurred. 

In 1937, The Kid's grandfather, great grandfather and great uncle all died within a three week period. His grandfather, Benjamin Franklin M. III had injured his back in a work accident when young, which may be the reason he stands slightly bent in the photo, and been given the job of managing the family general store. That is the delivery truck in front of which the family posed. His wife Florence had worked for the family as a servant.

When they married in 1918, The Kid's father was already on his way.  The family patriarchs claimed Florence was a goldbricker who had seduced this young man and led him astray.  At the time of their marriage, he was 19 and she was six to eight years his senior. (Her tombstone gives her birth year as 1893, but according to her obituary she would have been born in 1891.) Although The Kid's father had nothing to do with the situation leading to his birth, somehow the wrath of the family fell upon him. The Kid's father was named for his grandfather, William Wilson M., but when William Wilson M. died, the inheritor of his name was not an inheritor in his estate.

The Kid's father, Bill, didn't have an easy life. He was disparaged by his father's side and came to be closer to his wife's family. In 1937 he lost most of that. In 1937, Benjamin Franklin III died at the age of 37, leaving behind his wife and three children. Florence father died at the same time. 

Bill joined the Civilian Conservation Corps to support his mother and brothers. They were living in one of the row homes along what was called M. Row in Modena. (The picture was taken in the early 1990s.) William Wilson the grandfather owned the entire string as well as the store that sat on the front corner of the street, but his generosity didn't go much further than renting out a unit to his daughter-in-law and her sons. 

Bill's grandmother disparaged his joining the CCC as it being "work only fit for niggers," but did very little to help the struggling family of her late son.

The Kid's maternal side wasn't sitting on easy street either. (The Kid's maternal grandparents pictured at Whitford in 1920, year The Kid's mother was born.) Francis and Esther were married in February 1920, just about 3 1/2 months before the birth of their only child, Millie. Esther was the older by a year of this couple as well.

Things were going to get rough by the time The Kid's mother was nine when the Great Depression began. Her father was going to find some work pulling weeds at a dollar a week. Her mother went to work as a maid to the rich folk who lived on the edge of the county seat.  By the time teenage Millie met the Kid's father at a carnival, she was working in the dank darkness of a mushroom farm. The Kid's mother has memories of the wealthy man on whose estate they were tenants giving her gloves each Christmas.

Billy and Millie married in 1940, living on a shoestring, poor enough they lived in separate homes with their parents the first month of their marriage. They then moved into an upstairs apartment by the Modena railroad tracks .

A year later, The Kid was born and to save him from nightly bites in the bedbug infested apartment, moved in with Millie's parents at Whitford.

By the time The Kid was six months, the whole family had moved to a rental house in Downingtown.

The Kid's father had a job as stoker at Lukens Steel in Coatesville. (Retired in Delaware's father was also working at Lukens at the time, as a shop foreman.) There wasn't a lot of money to begin with and then there was a war that took Bill away for several years to serve in the South Pacific.  He survived a Kamikaze attack upon his destroyer escort when it was tethered to an ammunition ship and he contracted malaria on the islands that would plague him the rest of his life.

When Bill came out of the service, he took a job as a long distance trucker, an occupation he was to do for nearly fifty years.  The salary wasn't great, but it included a house back of a swamp across from where the truck terminal was located.  

The house was half brick and half stucco where it had never been finished. The workmen's scaffolding still stood along one side. The Kid and his parents moved into this isolation for the next two years.

There had never been much money in those early years. When The Kid was moved back into town two years later when Bill changed trucking firms, he became the butt of teasing about his limited and oft-patched wardrobe of ragged overalls. 

Although the overalls soon were replaced by jeans, the number of changes were slim. Some habits die hard, even when circumstances would allow for changes. As a child, The Kid had two pairs of shoes, one pair for everyday and one for "dress-up". The Old Goat still keeps but two pairs for the same purposes.

The Kid and his parents moved back into town during Christmas week of 1949. In 1950 all his great grandparents would die. 

William Wilson M. I on May 13, 1950 at age 84.
Ella Sheeler M. on June 4, 1950 at age 82.
Sara Ann Smiley B.  on July 24, 1950 at age 71.
Millard Charlton B., Sr. on December 2, 1950 at age 73.

The Kid was taken to the funeral of Sara Ann and Millard (pictured at the year of their deaths) and has memories long kept of this couple, but The Kid never knew his paternal grandparents either alive or in their death.  His dad remained anathema to them for the sins of his parents to their dying breath and Bill was cut out of his grandfather's will, with the exception of the forgiveness of a loan his grandfather had given him to buy a car. 

But these grandparents were the losers, losing the bond of kinship with their firstborn grandchild and the contact of their great grandchild out of obstinate pride and snobbery.

For The Kid and Old Goat no memories of these paternal grandparents exist. 

Obituaries of William Wilson and Ella Sheeler M.

W. W. M., of 413 West Minor Street, West Chester, passed away yesterday at his home in the 84th year of his age.  Son of the late Mr. and Mrs. B. F. M., he has resided in West Chester for the past 30 years, moving here from Modena where he operated a lumber yard and general store.  Surviving are his wife, Ella Hanna Sheller (sic) M., one son, John W., of Modena, a daughter, Mrs. Ella M. J., West Chester, a brother, B. Frank, of Atglen, and a sister, Mrs. Horace S., of Hollywood, Cal. Daily Local news. 5/14/1950.

W. W. M., of 413 West Minor Street, West Chester, died at his home yesterday in the eighty-fourth year of his age.  He had been in ill health for the past several months.  Mr. M. lived in West Chester for the past thirty years, except for a period when he made his home in Modena, where he operated a lumber business and general store.  He is survived by his wife, Ella Hanna Sheeler M.; one son, John M. M., of Modena; a daughter, Mrs. Ella M. J., of West Chester; a brother, Frank M., of Atglen and a sister, Mrs. Horace S., of Hollywood, Calif.  Private funeral services will be held from the Wentz Funeral home, 342 East Chestnut street,Coatesville, Wednesday afternoon, May 17, at 2 o'clock. Interment will be in the Upper Octorara cemetery.  Friends are invited to call at the funeral home Tuesday evening, May 16. Coatesville Record. 5/15/1950

"M. - on June 4, 1950, H. Ella Sheeler M., wife of the late W. W. M., in the 82nd year of her age.  Private funeral services will be held on Tuesday, June 6 at 2 P. M., D.S. T.  from her late home 413 W. Miner St., West Chester. Interment at Upper Octorara Presbyterian Cemetery." - Daily Local News. 6/6/1950

H. Ella M.  H. Ella Sheeler M.h passed away in her home in West Chester, 413 West Minor Street, yesterday morning in her eighty-second year.  She was the widow of the late W. W.M., who passed away here just three weeks ago.  The daughter of the late Mary McC. and John S., the deceased is survived by one son, John M. of Modena, one daughter, Ella, wife of William H. J., Sr., of West Chester; six grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.  Also surviving are two sisters, Mrs. Jennie G., of Honey Brook, and Mrs. Chester W., of Coatesville, and one brother, John S. of Elverson.  Daily Local News. 6/5/1950.

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