Memories Part 2

Part Two

Family: I must take time to praise my wonderful family I have been blessed with. My two brothers have gone on, they were Mutt and Jim. Jim I was never around after he grew up.

I remember him most for coming to visit me, then he married a lady named Delores (Hamrick) that I had been dating for three or more years. She has two sons by him, then he disappeared. Their boys were named Joel and David Kent, but I haven’t seen them since they 3 or 4 years old.

The Hamricks were a solid family from Webster Springs, West Virginia. On the courthouse lawn, in Charleston, there’s a statue of “The Mountaineer”. Delores’s uncle, Rimfire Hamrick, posed for this statue.

Mutt was very funny and entertaining. He was okay except that he drank too much. I have four sisters living at this time, but I must say just barely. I don’t believe any of us remaining five will be remaining five years from now.

Jim, my son, lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He has a real nice wife; a Cuban lady named Maria – a wonderful mother to her kids. They have three kids: Marco, Alma and Marialena. I get to see them about once every two years. They are less than 100 miles away and maybe it’s my fault. I don’t know.

Kenny is a swell guy and so is his wife Barbara. They are tops. I see them a couple of times a year. They have three daughters: Linda, Paula and Kim. Linda has two daughters, which makes me a Great-Grandpa.

Keith is in California. He and wife Anne are good people – but no kids to carry on the dynasty. They helped me with this book, and have a computer/technical business out there.

Bobby is here in the area. He is so very good when he is good….

Maribeth and Doug – three kids all A-1: Brian, Krystal and Tamra (“Tammy”). They are the ones that I see every day, so naturally I am close to them in more ways than one.

Gary and his wife Sandy have Jason, Ryan and Brandon. All the kids here want to be my fishing buddies, which sometimes causes a problem. I take one and the others are upset. They all love to eat my fish and eat my sausage gravy and biscuits. To everyone I am Pappy.

Tammy gives me a hug everyday. Once I said “That was not a very big hug”. Now most any time she’ll walk away after a hug and come right back and say “I can give you a bigger hug”. It makes me wonder sometimes if she’s going to break my neck.

The grandchildren all love to spend the night with us and they like our stairway. We tell them they will fall and break their neck. That’s what my grandmother used to tell me. Ryan, who is 10, spent a day and night with us.

His parents came to take him home after the visit, Brandon (who is six and claims to be my number one fishing buddy) seemed very quiet during the visit. I learned why when he gave me a goodbye hug. He looked me in the eye and very seriously asked “Did you and Ryan go fishing?” This time, I was able to say no without lying. I would have been in big trouble if I would have said yes.

Our oldest son Bill and his wife Sylvia live out of state. We don’t see them very often. I say our’s because he is my stepson. They have Billy and Nina. Billy when he was small lived here and he was a good fishing buddy. He came back once last year and was a good fishing buddy at age 18.

Mike lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is divorced and has custody of their two kids: Jennifer (16) and Kevin, now 12. We are very close to this family because we had custody of the kids for about 3 years.

We took care of them right here after the divorce, because Mike was working in Egypt for two years. When he came back, his job kept him jumping from one state to another – not giving him time to settle in and put the kids in school. He was finally moved to Raleigh with a permanent job.

Kevin and I have birthdays a few days apart, so we celebrate together. I said to him a couple of years ago, “Okay Kevin, now I am 80 and you are 10. When you reach 80 I will be 150”. He said, “You’ll be dead”. I reluctantly agreed.

Jeff Cole, the youngest of my four stepsons. He finally found himself a Sandy and they have a terrific little son one year old named Jackson, and a new daughter Chandra.

Marion has two sisters, Joanne and Rosemary. They both get honorable mention from me. Joanne and her husband Rudy have Tara and Patrick. They are all so easy to love. Her parents are Helfred and John Condon.

Bob Hartman and Rosemary. Wow! What a lady this Rosemary is. I never in my life met a gentler, sweeter personality. She is Marion’s sister. Bob is a real okay guy too. They have six, all grown up. All are tops.

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More Family. My sister Stella is two years younger than I. Her and husband Danny had seven kids. Danny worked the mine much longer than I did. He died of lung cancer (black lung) at about the age of 50.

Stella has been in a wheelchair for many years, probably 8 or 10. But I predict that she will outlive all of us, mainly because she is so happy. She is the happiest of all. I briefly got to know her son, my nephew Paul, pretty well about 25 years ago. Also Jack. I was very impressed with Paul.

Nephew Danny Jr. I never saw from age 14 to when he retired after 28 years in the Air Force. He did okay for himself. I like him just fine. We spent some time together fishing and getting reacquainted. He has a lovely wife named Helen. They have offspring, but I never got to meet any of them.

My older sister Frances married a guy named Bob Hill, a big handsome brute. He would drink from the fruit jar until he passed out. He would beat her up sometimes. But once she left him and came home with one year old Bob Jr.

The next day he came to our house and took her back at the point of a rifle. At the time I felt he was going to use that gun if he didn’t get his way. Before her marriage to Bob Hill, she was dating a man named Gilkerson. He was a real nice guy. He was a railroad engineer. I enjoyed his company very much one summer. We went fishing real often. The poor guy got killed in a head-on collision of two trains.

Older sister Frances is gone about 10 years. She had husband David Racoff, one hell of a swell guy. We remain close by birthday cards, holiday events, and an occasional phone call. That’s not much, but we plan to visit him after the July 4th reunion.

Sister Margaret lives in Lenoir, North Carolina. Her health is failing. Sister Claudia, in a wheelchair. Sister Peggy – Emphysema, she must carry oxygen around. Me – I guess I do pretty good for the shape I’m in, as the saying goes.

John Roche, a cousin by marriage to Nadine Golihew; he is a most amazing guy, also very interesting. One difference between he and I is that he likes Canadian. Me, I prefer bourbon – otherwise he’s O.K.

Bob Hill Jr., my nephew, lives in Maryland with wife Shirley. Their daughter Pam wrote me recently wanting information about the Howingtons. She’s interested in the family tree. Since I am the oldest survivor of this group, I should be of help.

But actually I know a good bit about my mother’s family but not much about Dad’s side other than what I have told in this story. I know they came from England but I don’t know when. I heard that one Howington (I don’t remember the first name) was a war prisoner and escaped by riding a fence rail across a big swift roaring river. It was in the civil war.

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As for my mother’s side of the family there were a lot of them that I knew when I was very young. My mom was one of 12 kids. She was a real good mother. She had no control over my dad and his whipping of me. She had a generally sweet nature.

Our family seemed to talk bad about each other after they grew up. I am talking about my immediate family. Mom would have none of this. She would always have something good to say about all of us; though in my own opinion it was difficult at times. In her family of Meades, I will try and remember all of their names.

Her parents were Bob Meade and wife Alfair Lockhart Meade. George was the oldest and Mom next, then there was Roy, Homer, Curt, Charles, Ollie, Orville, Maggie, Virginia, Alice and Daisy. They are all gone, on to a better world I hope.

Grandma Margaret McGraw Meade – actually Great Grandma Meade, married Hence Meade and she went west in a wagon train in the early 1800’s. She came back to visit her son, my Granddad Bob Meade, about 1925. She died soon after that.

She had some interesting stories about hardships while traveling west, and some Indian stories. I am using a recorder, and I often think how wonderful it would have been if we had those stories recorded, and my mother’s stories too. She had a terrific memory.

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My Dad always talked about going out west and homesteading, but never took any action to this idea. About the only place he didn’t move, I guess. He would have probably been successful at it. I give him credit for always being a hard worker and a good provider, as best he could in those hard times.

There were no luxuries, period. We got one pair of shoes a year. We were always barefoot until time for snow. Dresses were made from flour sacks. Dad’s worn out clothes were not thrown away – Mom made clothes for me out of them. She always had a sewing machine. The girls’ clothes were always homemade. The clothes were handed down from one girl to the next, after they were outgrown, to the next girl they would fit.

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George had many kids. I remember Frankie, Glen, Howard, and Albert. I never saw or heard from any of them after they grew up. Homer I remember kind of on a sad note. He came to Florida when I did, or a couple of months later. He wanted so bad to stay in Florida.

Times were tough then; Homer could find no employment. He went to a fish camp several times and offered to run the boats, clean fish, wash dishes, cook, dig worms – just anything. Anything for room and board. No luck.

The poor guy went back to Ohio that same winter and died of pneumonia. I always felt that if he hadn’t gone back, he would have lived a long time. His family was Carl, Bill, Grayson and Bernice.

Roy had kids but I never knew any of them. That surely is my loss, because I thought so highly of Roy.

Virginia had only Agnes. Virginia was married to Gus Carlson. At one time I was visiting them in ’27 or ’28. Gus was one hell of a man. He was a contractor and he built dams. He built the Conawingo Dam in Maryland. When I met him he was starting on a dam in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

I worked for him a couple of months on this project. Come the weekend and Gus would booze it up pretty hot. He was Swedish, and his English had a very heavy accent. He used to sing when drinking. In his words – “I had a little chicken, she had a wooden foot”. It was supposed to be a wooden leg. Anyhow his song would go on like:

The best little chicken we had around the farm
and another little drink won’t do us any harm.

whereupon we would have another nip, whether we needed it or not.

Ollie and wife Agnes had several kids. But they were only names to me, except that I knew Opal briefly, and also Daisy briefly at another time.

I guess my favorite aunt was Aunt Alice, probably because I got to know her better. I spent time with her when she was married to Basil Golihew. They lived in Landover, Maryland. Basil was a swell guy and was a strong union man.

I could not understand why he would bid a job so high as to lose the job. I wanted him to bid the job a little lower and let me help with the carpenter work. He would not and he could not get work, nor could I. I also spent some time with Aunt Alice a few years later, still during the depression. She was now married to Bill Birch. I had a lot of fun with them. Bill was a card. Alice and Basil had three daughters, Nadine, Joyce called Dukie by us who loved her, and Edna.

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The Japan Arrow

Jim Woods was my shipmate and my buddy on the good ship Japan Arrow. That’s the longest I ever stayed on any one ship. Its home port was Beaumont, Texas. From there we made regular trips to cities all over the north east coast; this is called coast-wise sailing.

Jim Woods was a most unusual young man. He had a photographic memory. He could quote any paragraph from books I had read – he had also read them.

He could give you names and dates of any historical event you could mention. Me, of very little formal education at that time, considered myself very fortunate to have him for a good friend. He helped me a lot in trying to better myself by reading and taking correspondence courses.

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When I quit the sea and married, I named my first son Jim for him. James Curtis was also named for my uncle Curtis that I liked and admired very much. He was killed in an accident at a young age, 26. There, Jim, now you know.

While I’m at it: My second son Kenny (Roy Kenneth), a real swell guy, was named for my sister Edna’s husband Roy Rollins. They have both now been dead for 50 years. No, not Kenny – he is very much alive, I am happy to say.

My son Keith was named by other people. I agreed to David Keith, with the agreement that he be called Keith. I didn’t like the sound of Dave. Understandably, he hated Keith and insisted he was Dave after he grew up.

Bobby was a junior, but I didn’t like the sound of “junior”, so officially he is the second RKH. He hates the name Bobby, and insists he is Bob. I had a brother who was a junior, and they called him junior all of his life until he got big enough and got away to change it to something else.

My middle name is King. That’s what I was called until I left home, then I was Bob. I know a lot of kids who hate the name that they were called while growing up.

My older sister was named Fannie. I can understand the change to Frances.

My youngest brother was named Jabus. Now, what the hell is a Jabus? I never did find out…. I got carried away. Where was I?

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Jim Woods and the good ship Japan Arrow. Once, just before I was to go ashore at Staten Island, I had a fight with one of the guys in the black gang. The “black gang” means the below deck or engine room crew. The fight was stopped by the mate.

This guy named Giles said, “I’ll settle with you at 4 o’clock”. It’s now 12 noon, and he’s coming ashore at 4. I said “Fine, I’ll be waiting on the dock”. So I settled in at the nearest speakeasy and waited. I have a big mouth, and told the bartender what was up. He passed it along, and the result was that the bar emptied out at 4 to see the fight.

The launch was late about 20 minutes. Giles stepped ashore. I stepped in front him. He pulled out a long bladed knife and started to move away. In these days most sailors and others believed in a fair fight. The crowd said, “let’s take the knife away from the bastard and make him fight fair”. He ran back to the ship.

Beaumont was the home town of Giles. A week later, while we were in Beaumont, the chief engineer fired Giles. In a restaurant that night a couple of locals came to the chief’s table and said “Why did you fire Giles?”. The chief says it was because he was a yellow bastard.

One of them broke a ketchup bottle on his head, and told him that they would be waiting for me when I come ashore.

About six weeks later my friend Jim and I were back on another trip. We were having breakfast in the restaurant about 4 AM. Out of the corner of my eye I could see a guy going from one table to another and pointing to us.

Jim says, “This is it buddy, we are going to be ganged”. I said, “no problem – I will show them that a fair fight should settle it”. So I said I would fight him fair. We go outside and Giles tears into me with a salt shaker in one hand and a knife in the other.

Some guy hit me from behind. I go down. Jim comes in and says, “You guys fight fair”. They clobbered him. We got beat up pretty bad, fat lips and blue eyes. No real lasting damage. On the next trip down, about six of my shipmates went ashore with Jim and I. We scoured the town and the waterfront all night, but found none of them – end of story.

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On to Part 3