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.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My Sister Ola Bell - 1915-2000

Ola was was born on May 12, 1915 and was 13 years old when I was born, the age that girls began to think of getting married back then. From the point that I was old enough to retain memories, I remember her very well. For a while I thought that I had two mothers. I imagine that mother gave Ola the job to take care of me so she could do all of the work that she had to do. Pictured Ola with Mother and Ola and her husband Collis shortly after they were married.

I remember Ola as someone that always worked hard; she did her best to stay in school and graduate. Ola had a best friend in school, Nancy Goodman, the two did everything together. They were two of the best players on the basketball team at Cool Spring High School. They remained friends through life. Ola was the first person in our family to complete high school and was the only person in my family that encouraged me to finish high school which I did. See diploma at the end of this post.

I do not remember going to visit Ola when I was very young after she moved from home. However, she would come up to visit us quiet often and would always bring me something. One time when I was around eight or nine, she gave Mark and me a bicycle for Christmas. I remember it being one of the nicest bikes I had ever seen; it had big tires, headlight, horn, and luggage rack. We rode it everywhere we went, when you would see that bike you saw us two on it. It took couple years of heavy use before we wore it completely out.

From about this time, there was not much contact Ola and her family. I would see her again after I returned home from my tour in the Navy. I spent a good bit of time in Kannapolis with Ola, Edna, Paul and others. I remember she seemed to be constantly going to or returning from work. Ola, like the rest of the family, grew up in some very hard times and I guess that had an effect on all of our lives.

Ola married Collis Frank Christian on December 14, 1940. They had three children, Nancy Louise (12-21-1941), Paul Daniel (03-12-1943), and David Ray (03-22-1948).

This is a picture of Mother and the five oldest children. Brothers on the back row left to right are Fred, George, and Howard. Sisters and Mother in the front, Ola, Mother, and Edna.

This is Ola's high school diploma, the first one in our family to graduate from high school.