Sunday, October 31, 2010

Me - Glenn Alexander - 1928

Edna (1906) was the eldest child in our family she was married and away from home first. George (1908), Fred (1910), and Howard (1912) Howard were the first Three Musketeers. They seemed to always stick together and even married three sisters Beatrice, Nerine, and Bona Lee Carter.
Then came Ola Bell (1915) the youngest sister, she was kinda alone with all boys. She was my second mother, I did not like that. She was a star basketball player along with her best friend Nancy Goodman.
Then came JD (1918), Albert (1920), and Paul (1922) who stuck together like glue. So when J.D. finished high school and left home, Albert and Paul were sure to follow. They all worked a while in the mill and then joined the Navy together on the same day.
That left John William (1924), Mark (1926), and me (1928) to be the last bunch of three. John William died which left Mark and I to be together. Mark liked to hang with the bigger brothers rather than me, so I kinda felt like the little one that no one loved. At times I felt mother should tie a pork chop around my neck so at least the dog would play with me.  Listen to me give a recap about the members of my family.

I have already written a detailed account of my life. At 82 I am the only one living in my family it has been this way since we entered the 21st century when Ola died in 2000. As I have taken a detailed look back to all I have experienced during my lifetime I realize more than ever how very blessed I am. All my experiences both the good and bad have helped to make me the person today. I try to stay in contact with all my nieces and nephews and their families. Facebook puts us in contact daily. Hazel and I have been married sixty-one years and have three wonderful children, Pamela, Glenn, and Michael. Blessing continue with the growth of the family with the addition of their children and grandchildren.

Pictured here with Hazel and me are Glenn, Michael, and Pamela in 1970 and 2008.

These tables were on display at my 75th Birthday. They were created by three special ladies... Donna Yates, Susan Gurley, and Teresa Randall.

The displays represent the many jobs I have had over my lifetime. I first served in the US Navy and then became a carpenter, painter, brick mason, handyman, fireman, barber, school teacher, and bus driver.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My Brother Mark Lee - 1926-1990

As I write about my brother, I am thinking wow, where has time gone? It seems it was only yesterday that Mark and I were playing around the house as brothers only two years apart. Mark was two years older than me. He tried to connect the older brothers not the little new kid but we did have much time together. Just like normal kids we fought played and made up like all young boys do. He would take me out into the woods after dark and make out like he was going to leave me and that scared me. One spring day Mark took me with him to school and I remember I had to do the pee when we were out on the play ground so I relieved myself at the edge of the play area. I don't know why but Mark really got mad at me, not sure if I embarrised him in front of his friends but he yelled at me and told me not do that out in the open. That was quick lesson learned. Mark would not take me back again so I was on my own from that day on. The picture to the right is of Mark and me. He is the taller guy.

I spent all of my time with mother while the others was in school and working and by the time I got started to school Mark was in the third grade and would not have much to do with me. It was not long when the older brothers was leaving home and working to make it on their own that we got much closer to each other and started doing all the job that needed to be done.

A couple times a year mother would give us ten cents each to go to Mr Campbell's house and get a haircut at his house. Our brother George had a set of barber tools and would cut hair for the neighbors and when he left home he left the tool with us. One day mom gave us ten cents each to go get a haircut; Mark came up with the idea that if we cut each other’s hair we could go to Beavers store and get a moon pie and a Pepsi which at that time cost five cents each. It sounded like an excellent idea so we took the clippers and all the other stuff that was in the bag he left and went down in the field across the road and I sat on a stump and he cut my hair and it looked so bad that he would not let me cut his. This is the first time that I learned not to trust my older brother, we went on to Mr. Campbell's house and got my hair fixed which had just one alternative, a buzz cut and Mark’s was cut right.

Everything was all about the same until Mark was 14 and I was 12. J.D., Albert, and Paul left home which left the farming for us to do. This was also the time we sold our best mule which left just one to do our farming. Mark and I attempted to do about as much as when the older brothers were at home. It did not take long that first year to fine out we could not do it all. We were able to stay in school and do all of the work around the farm the best we could which meant some things did not get done as often or had to be left undone.

It was not very long before JD., Albert, and Paul would come home on leave, each time they would bring us a lot of stuff, and would help us out at the farm for the short time they were around. We held on the best we could doing the farm work together. When mark graduated from high school he joined the Navy 1944. He was trained in Quantico, VA. He served on two of the AGC Command Ships. He served four years and had the rank Yeoman 2nd Class.

His leaving to enter service left the farming up to me keep going. I did it for one year and saw that I just could not do all that needed to be done I decided to join the Navy. Mother said that she would sign for me to go in early at the age of 17. At that time, Mother sold all of the old farm equipment since there was no way that farming could be continued. The next year the older boys were getting out of the Navy. J.D. went to live with mother and a little later bought the farm.

Mark got out of the Navy about the same time as I did. Soon afterwards married Margaret Houston and moved to Charlotte and lived in Morris Field. He attended a brick mason school a trade school for veterans. Having two older brick mason brothers, he thought that would be a good trade. I also went to Charlotte and attended the school until I got a full set of tools then left and went back to Statesville to live with Paul for one month and then I moved in with Albert and Pauline.

A little later Mark moved back to Statesville too and wanted to build a little house for Margaret and himself. I had just bought a 1941 Chevrolet and I thought it was the prettiest car on the road. Mark had a old pick up truck. He talked me into our taking our vehicles to Charlotte to sell one and then taking the money and building his house. The old truck would not sell but my shinny pretty car sold and I got much more for it than I paid. We went back home and J.D. said he would let Mark have an acre of land down the road I gave Mark my money to build the house and that was the end of that deal. Mark had a house and I was back to working and still living with Albert.

Mark and I did several jobs for different people; he was a good brick layer and did a lot of contracting around Statesville until he was call to be a preacher. He attended Fruitland Baptist Bible College and started preaching. He was a member of a Baptist Church that had a bus ministry. The deacons and pastor of the church wanted Mark to be in charge of it. He decided to go to a trailer park across the street from where he lived and the first Saturday he went over and told that he would take them to church the next day on Sunday. He drove the bus to the trailer park and picked up the children. When he got to church Sunday morning with that bus load of kids, things just did not look so great for him. That afternoon the deacons had a meeting and he was told that the church decided that it did not need a bus ministry.

Mark was married to Vera Strikeleather and later Elizabeth Garrett. He stayed with his ministry and still did some contracting, until one day he was reading his Bible and just went to sleep and never awoke again. His neighbor found him just sitting in his chair with his Bible on his lap dead.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

My Brother John William - 1924

John William, was born September 24, 1924 and lived six weeks and died from pneumonia on December 2, 1924, was buried in Olivet Baptist Church cemetery Long Island,Catawa, NC. Hazel and I drove to visit the site in October 2010. We took pictures of the church and headstones of my father, James William and brother, John William whose graves are side-by-side.

Like my father who died when I was very young, John was the brother that I never knew. He would have rounded out the final three brother cycle; George, Fred and Howard made the first triad; J.D., Albert, and Paul made the second triad. This could have been one with John William, Mark, and I. Well that is just the way it was, I have often wondered what he would have been like and I am sure he would have been a brother I could have close to. I guess it would have been that I would have got more worn out clothes as they were passed down through the boys and me being on the end of the line. Well some day when we get to heaven maybe I will get to be with him and see what he was like. I will just have to wait and see as I am looking forward of that day.

My Brother Paul Daniel - 1922-1982

Paul was born on July 10, 1922 in Mooresville, NC. The boys in our family seemed to hang around in groups of three and were closer than with the others in the family due to the age differences; George, Fred, and Howard in one group and J.D., Albert, and Paul in the next. Paul was the youngest of his group and seemed to often follow the other two and be part of whatever they were doing.

When I started to school Paul was 12 or 13 years old so I was still in elementary when I started to remember things that the older boys were doing. I remember the time that the boys in the Cooks, Motens, and our family built the pond between our farms since all three properties connected at a point. The pond was about six feet deep. Some of the guys had gone to the saw mill and got a big board for diving it so happen. The board had some rough pieces on the end so the guys had to be careful jumping off. One day the guys were in the pond. Paul, showing off, ran ahead, and tried a quick dive before anyone else could but ended up scraping himself pretty bad on the end of the diving board. I remember thinking how it must have hurt and know he was in pain for a long time.

The Christmas I received my little red wagon, Paul took the wagon from me after I road it down the hill in our yard for the first and only time. Paul jumped in for the next ride which bent wagon in the middle and broke one of the axels, it was like he had squashed a bug. I had great brothers but they played rough a lot of the time like most boys do growing up.

Paul was a good worker around the farm and a great brother to me. He drove a school bus for a little while and would let me drive it around the farm some afternoons. Pictured here is Paul at the lake and both of us showing off the fish we caught that day. The last year Albert, J.D., and Paul were farming they had a big crop of corn that was piled up in a big row out near the barn ready for a corn shucking a few nights later. We got the word out that we were having a corn shuckin'. Now us guys sitting down to a big pile of corn and shucking is work. But when it meant seeing your best girl, that was different and it made it a social event. I was too young but my brothers would pair off with a girl and everybody would line up in front of the mountain of corn. When the corn was shucked, the corn would be thrown over the pile into the grass on the other side and the husk would be tossed backwards. Before the event, my brothers would put small bottles of white lighten and some red ears of unshucked corn through the pile. If you got a red ear, you could kiss the girl of your choice or vise verse. I remember Paul getting hold of a couple bottles and a few ears of red corn that night and having a really good time.

Mom got upset with them but did not fuss too much; that might be the reason they left home to work in the mill because shortly afterwards Paul left home to work in Cannon mills. J.D., Albert, and Paul did not like working in the mill so they joined the Navy.

The three brothers joined the Navy on July 23, 1940. They trained at Quantico, VA Naval Training Camp. All three brothers were assigned to the Battleship USS New Mexico. Paul was later assigned to the Air Craft Carrier Marcus Island, USS Pyburg, and USS Solomon Island. He was Chief Store Keeper Officer. Pictured here are J.D and Paul.

Paul would always bring me something (shoes, socks, dungarees, and underwear) when he came home on leave. He married Edith Kincade (born 5-18-1924) from Kannapolis so he was with her all of the time when he was home. They had three girls: Beverly (3-4-1946), Linda Paulette (7-7-1947) and Kathy Elizabeth (10-21-1950). Edith stayed with us for a while when Paul was away but when Paul was home on leave they would always go to Kannapolis.

About the time he was getting out of the Navy I was going in so for another two years he was not in my life. When I first left the Navy I stayed with Paul and Edith. I bought the 1941 Chevrolet when I was staying with Paul and Edith, they were living about seven miles out on US-64. I am pictured here with this car, I remember being so glad I was able to purchase this car. I only lived with them a couple months; all three of us were working so we did not see each other often. At that time Albert was not working very much and I guess that is why I moved in with him and Pauline. He and I just drifted around for several months before I started to lay brick with Fred in Statesville.

It was not long before Paul and Edith moved to Kannapolis to find work. Shortly after they moved he went to work for a company that made fiberglass fabric. I think his working here caused his life to be cut short; it caused a lot of problems in his breathing and many other things that gave him great discomfort.

While I was living with Paul we decided to go to Myrtle Beach for couple days. We left early one morning and got down around noon, spent the afternoon on the beach, and went and had a big fish dinner. We took a couple old army blankets and went to sleep on the beach. Everything went well until early in the morning; it got cold and we almost froze! We endured the cold and made it till we could find a cafe open. We warmed up by having a good hot breakfast and we drank a lot of hot coffee. Once the sun was up and it was warm again, we had some more good time on the beach and headed back home early afternoon.

I had a lot of good times with Paul and Edith, after Hazel and I got married we would visit them in Kannapolis, I think the last time we were there Kathy was born. Hazel stayed a few days with Edith to help out with the other two children, Beverly and Linda.

Paul and Howard came to visit us in Charlotte from time to time. The two of them got along very well so they spent a lot of time together until Howard passed away. We would visit Paul and family from time to time and we could see how the fiber glass was affecting his life; the last few years were hard years for him. He died at the age of 60 on August 15, 1982 and Edith died the next year on March 18, 1983.

Pictured below are Paul and Edith's three girls with some of their cousins. From Left to Right: Virginia, Brenda, Kathy, David, Linda, and Beverly

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My Brother Albert Marlen - 1920 -1995

Albert born on June 5, 1920 was eight years old when I was born. One of my earliest memories was the time at the Ostwalt Farm when Albert wanted me to go to Moose's store with him. I told him that I had no money and he said just come on, so I went with him. On the way, we had to pass through a farm that was run by a local woman. Albert had a pocket full of shelled corn and when we passed through the barnyard he started dropping grains of corn on the ground. One of the chickens took the bait and started following us into the woods. When we were there, Albert took out a fish hook and put a grain of corn on it. When the chicken grabbed it, he pulled that chicken into the woods and we took it to the store and traded it for some candy for me but I don't know what else he got. He told me that if I ever told Mom about it he would beat me up. It was only in this blog that I shared this story!

When I was eight, he left to work in Cannon mills in Kannapolis and shortly afterwards he joined the Navy on July 23, 1940 with his brothers Paul and J.D. He trained with them at Quantico, VA Naval Training Camp. All three brothers were assigned to the Battleship USS New Mexico. Albert served on the USS Coos Bay, the USS Gladiator Mine Sweeper, and on an APA Transport ship to transport troops back after the war. His was Chief Commissary Officer. We did not have many years together, as I remember he was a good brother and did not boss me around very much. As it was back then as in my family everyone had to fend for himself; Albert helped me to learn that.

One night we had a big rain and the road in front of our house was somewhat of a grade. At 4 a.m. there was a knock on our door; someone was stuck in the ditch of the old dirt road and wanted him to hitch up the mules and pull him out. Albert got out of bed and pulled the man’s car up the hill. The man tried to pay him and he said that he could not take pay for helping someone even though our family could have used the money too. That was Albert, he was always helping everyone all the time expecting nothing in return. Pictured here is Pauline (left) with her sister Jennie Ellis.

When he would come home on leave he would do something special like bringing something to me or doing something special for us. One time he took me to Statesville to Farlay's cafe and bought me a great big T-bone steak and taught me how to cut and eat it, my first steak ever. From time to time he would bring me a pair of shoes and other clothes. He always would buy a car to drive while he was home and then give it to us to drive when he went back, a 1931 A-Model Ford to a 1936 Ford Coupe . I did not get to spend much time with Albert since he had joined the Navy for six years and when he was to be discharged I joined for two years.

Albert married Paulene Catherine Ellis (born 10-31-1914) on March 1, 1947. They had two children, Clyde Sidney (11-25-1948) and Catherine Pauline (9-5-1952). After I was discharged, I drifted around a little while with some of the other brothers. It was not long that Albert asked me to come and live with him. At that time he helped me to sign up for the 52-20 government veterans program; Uncle Sam would pay veterans $20 dollars a week for 52 weeks if they were seeking work. This was a good deal because it was about as much you could make if you were working. I did this for a while, but I started laying brick with Fred and Mark for Joe Brown, a brick contractor doing brick work for G.L. Wilson in Statesville. I was paid $1.25 per hr. and Albert was doing labor, $1.00 per hr. Albert was doing such a great job for Joe Brown that in about two weeks G.L. Wilson ask him to work for him. Albert did and It was not long he became one of G.L's best foremen. As time passed he did most of the larger jobs; the years before he retired he built all of Lowe's big stores. Clyde and Catherine are pictured below.

Living with Albert and Pauline was the best thing that could happen to me, it was God sent. They treated me like I was important. We did a lot together, I was there when Clyde was born and over the years he was like my own boy and I still think of him as that.

While I was still staying with them, one night I met this girl and at breakfast the next day Pauline ask what I did last night and I said that I had met my wife, she ask me what was her name and I had to say I do not know but I knew where she works and was going to call her as soon as I could. I found out that her name was Hazel Gentle. While I was still staying with them, Albert, Pauline, and I would go pick up Hazel and we would go to a drive-in movie a couple times a month. They would sit in the front seat and watch the movie, Hazel and I would be in the back seat not watching the movie, or not much of it.

Albert would let me borrow his car for me date and that was great. One day Hazels co-workers were going to Morrow Mountain Lake for an afternoon picnic and she asked if I would go with her which meant that I would have to miss most of the day at work. Albert said that I needed not to miss work and he would not let me use his car. That struck a nerve so I just walked over to Sunny Sheerl's used car lot and bought a 1941 Ford. It was the prettiest thing that I ever saw other than Hazel; I took her to the lake and had a car for all future dates. Albert understood and all was well with us. I only stayed with Albert and Pauline for the next three months. Hazel and I were married on October 7, 1949. Just a few weeks later I moved to Charlotte since there was not much work in Statesville. We never went to Statesville without visiting Albert and his family.

Albert was always active with the school that his kids attended and other organizations they were involved in. One of Catherine's girl scout leader that ask Albert to be in charge of the cookie sales for the troop. He said OK and asked the girl scout leader how many boxes they were planning to sell. The lady told him being a business man, asked how much money would selling them bring and he wrote the school a check for the whole bunch. He took them to the job that he was working and set them out. He told the workers they were free cookies but if some of them felt they would like to donate to the school, they could just throw some money in the box and he would give it to the school. I heard that the workers gave more money than if they had all the kids out selling the cookies.

Albert built Mother a house behind his house where she spent her last years. Pictured above are Albert and Clyde standing in front of the house.

The little church that Albert attended out on the Salisbury Highway wanted to build an addition and Albert was asked to be the chairman of the building committee. He declined because he was a superintendent of the construction company and thought that it may look like a conflict of interest. However, he volunteered to be the chairman of the finance committee and planned a kick-off for the following Sunday. That day he woke up to a very deep snow. He knew every member of the church and where they lived, so he loaded the back of his pick-up with concrete blocks and start out to visit the members. He knew that they all would be home and before the end of the day he had been to see everyone and had more than enough pledges to build the addition to the church. That is how Albert did things.

Albert would give you his shirt off his back if you needed it; he would give you his last dollar too. He never seemed to think about himself and always of others. He never thought off owning anything permanently and felt free to give away to others in need. He was an excellent example to me.

Albert with his grandson Scott.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

My Brother James Duke "JD" - 1918-1987

James Duke “J.D.” was born on February 26, 1918 and was the middle child in our large family. There are two sisters and three brothers before him and five brothers born after him. Three of them, JD, Albert, and Paul were very close to each other growing up.

Shortly after J.D. finished high school, he left home and moved to Kannapolis to work in Cannon Mill. It was no surprise when Albert and Paul left home to join him working at there too. It did not take them long to find out that working inside a cotton mill was not what they wanted to do the rest of their lives. Soon Albert, with a World War II going on, decided to join the Navy. He asked Paul and J.D. to go with him when he went to sign up to give him support. They all ended up signing up the same day, the three trained at Quantico, VA, and all assigned to serve on the battleship U.S.S New Mexico.

Shortly after their assignment, rules were changed about assigning brothers to the same ship. The Sullivan brothers were five siblings who were all killed in action on 11-13-1942 during or shortly after the sinking of the light cruiser USS Juneau (CL-52), the vessel in which they all served in World War II.

J.D. was a big brother to me when we were growing up on the family farm. I looked up to him as a father figure and thankful that he was a great example to follow. He was a hard worker and could always do more work than anyone else. We share cropped on an old two horse farm where the land was so poor that we could hardly grow enough food to eat. With Moms determination and God's help we made it through the very difficult years. One memory that stands out in my mind is when I was about 13 at hog killing time; there was a job that had to be done. J.D. took me down to the hog pen and gave me a big real sharp knife to carry from the kitchen. When we arrived, he took our rifle and shot the hog in the head and told me to hop into the pen and slit its throat to let out all of the blood. It did not take but seconds for me to look at the hog and hand the knife back to my brother. He did it for me and never told anyone that I had not grown up enough to do the job. He was always there for me. Pictured below - J.D. on the left and

Albert on the right, Paul is taking the picture.

I did not get to see him very much once he left home to work at Cannon Mills and then joining the Navy. Just about the time for him to come home I joined the Navy which made about 8 years we were apart. He was in the navy for the duration of the war. He joined 7-23-1940 with his brothers Albert and Paul. He trained at Quantico, Virginia and served on the battleship US Mexico and air craft carrier USS Swannie. He served on the U.S.S New Mexico which was hit by a Japanese kamikaze suicide plane in the south pacific. Many men were killed; thankfully he was down below decks then. While on the U.S.S. New Mexico he served as Chief Machinist Mate Officer and developed something to distill sea water more efficiently for the ship. He was discharged after the conclusion of the war. He never really shared much about the war though and was glad when he was able to complete his tour of duty and return home.

He came back to Charlotte and worked for the War Assessment Administration for a while. Later, he joined Albert and George in running a restaurant business which was located on Highway 64 in Statesville. When J.D and Albert came out of the Navy they were both chiefs; their experiences changed how the brothers worked together. It did not take long to find out there were too many chiefs trying to run that restaurant. J.D. sold out his share and moved on.

By the time I was discharged from my service with Navy, J.D. had married Colean Stewart (born 8-21-1925) from west Statesville, had a son James Duke Gurley, Jr. “ Jim” (8-19-1946), and lived at the old Propes Farm with Mother. He tried farming for awhile but could not make steady income. His son Jim bought his first bicycle by picking cotton for his father. He was paid the same wages that anyone else that picked for him. J.D. eventually bought the house and 50 acres. They lived there for quite a while. J.D. worked for Southern Fasteners over 20 years before he retired and moved down the hill. Colean enjoyed flying and had her pilot license at one time.

Pictured are Colean and Jim at the old family homeplace, the Propes Farm.

He, like his brothers, loved to fish. His family would go to the coast many a weekend just to fish. I really think that he just liked to be on a fishing pier to talk to everyone. He would walk up and down the pier shouting “here spot – here spot” calling in the fish. He also walked up and down Hunting Creek and the PD and Rocky Rivers catching catfish on the weekends. He loved a good picnic, enjoyed eating and fishing outdoors. Pictured here is J.D. with Colean and Mother.

He and Colean worked full time so I still was not able to spend much time with them. However, I knew he was always there for me if I ever needed anything. When possible we would do a little fishing or just get together and visit. J.D. was a pretty good gardener and always planted too much. He found joy in giving the vegetable away, a good neighbor to everyone around him. One time Hazel and I went to visit him when he was home alone. He boiled a dozen ears of good white corn which I remember was the best corn that I had ever eaten over my lifetime. In the picture below, J.D. and Colean are preparing green beans for canning.

I believe that he never met a stranger and had a little mischief in him. He would hide coins in his gravel driveway and tell any visiting kid that they needed to check out the drive way for buried treasure. He sure had a lot of fun for 30 cents he would hide.

He was a very supportive and patriotic man and father to his son Jim. He and Colean would worry like crazy when their son had to go in service. One of his proudest moments was when his son finally received his degree from Appalachian State University. He definitely was a good family man. He seemed to always wanted to be doing something for someone all of the time.

As I think back over time, I remember when he would come home on leave from the Navy he would always bring me some things like hard chocolate candy and clothes. He gave me my first set of underwear, up until this time I had only outer clothes and in the winter long handles buttons in the front and a flap in the rear. One time when he was on leave, he bought a 1931 Ford and left it with Mark and Mother, and me. Here is a picture of the car in rear of our house showing Mark and Mother, I was behind the camera.

Later on when he was in the hospital with cancer, I would visit him and he always told me not to worry because he had already turned everything over to God and He would do for him what was the best and I am sure that he did. At the same time I was trying to get over about fifteen years of medical problems. We had moved to North Myrtle Beach before he died on 8-4-1987. When you get old you always look back and say why I did not spend a little more time with the ones we love, we just think we are going be around forever, so untrue.