Monday, June 2, 2014

A Flawed Legacy - 1

To start with, we have to go back to the turn of the century, the last century,  We are going to the State of Michigan, in particular, Brockway Township, in St. Clair county and to the farm country West of Yale, MI.  There were two farms, about a mile a half apart from each other.  On one was the widow lady, Mrs. Cheeseman - excuse me, I can never remember her first name and her two children, William, the son and a younger daughter, Cora.  On the other farm, we find the Ensley Brown family with their seven girls and one son, the runt of the litter as Bill used to call himself.   In between those girls was Lillian.

This is all about those two, William and Lillian and the fact they were married on the "longest night of the year" in 1903 or 1904 and would have the first of their three girls on April 11, 1906, one week before the infamous earthquake that almost destroyed San Francisco, CA.  There would be two more girls, Bernice and Noreen, and two sons, Blake and Keith.  Sadly, Keith was still born.  Somewhere in the years to follow, they would leave the farm while William tried his hand at gas and oil marketing in Yale.  It didn't last long.  The children either went to school in Yale or to the one room country school house, a mile and half down the road from the farm - where I would also attend while on the farm.  We all attended and graduated from Yale High School.

Blanche immediately went to Port Huron, MI, to attend a business school.  Bernice would go to Detroit and eventually married Frank Bowden, an investment banker from Arkansas.  Noreen chose to go to Flint, MI, where she graduated from Hurley Nursing school as a registered nurse and would later marry Hayward Welch, who worked with his father at Welch Sash and Door Company in Port Huron.

It gets a little vague here as Blanche, my mother - unknown to us for several years, married a young man named Harvey Klemmer, who she described as a sailor on the Great Lakes ore ships and "given to drink."  The marriage was annulled.    As children, we never knew about this Harvey Klemmer, but he was obviously more  than a sailor.  We now know of him as the Harvey Klemmer who would eventually write a book (Harbor Lights) talking about his experiences as an aide to Joseph Kennedy while he was the Ambassador appointed by FDR to the British government at the outset of World War II.  Yes, the Joseph Kennedy who was father to John F. Kennedy, the 42nd President of the U.S.

Mother would move i=on to St. Claire Shores, MI, where she began working for a sales executive with the Diamond Crystal Salt Company.  His name was William J. MacRae, known either as "Bill" or "Mac".   He was divorced and had two sons, Donald and Edward.

Straight out of a Hollywood movie script, the young beautiful secretary married the handsome, older man and they lived happily ever after - well, not quite.  There was a stop at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit where their son was born on August 28, 1929.  He was supposed to have been a girl as they had already named "her" - Shirley Lou.  And so it was the boy's name became Sherwood.  For a middle name, they chose Brown, my grand mother's maiden name - which you already knew if you are following this.  Jobs seemed to be plentiful so having left Diamond Crystal, they headed Southward to Ohio and a sales territory assigned to "Mac" by a friend, the President of the Ohio Blue Tip Match Company.   Apparently, they had chosen Toledo, OH for a home base, but then tragedy struck.  Their furniture had been shipped by the Ivory Truck Lines and stored in a warehouse in Toledo which was destroyed by fire causing them the loss of all the beautiful furniture "Mac" had bought for his bride.

Next stop, Cleveland, OH, more accurately, Lakewood.   It was now 1932 and mother was pregnant. Lillian - who I will start referring to her as "Nan" as that was what I would call her for the rest of my life, came down to be with Mother for the birth and then, suggested she take me home to the farm with her after Shirley Lou was finally here and everyone, apparently, was happy.  I will always believe that Nan thought of Sherwood would become the other son (Keith) who did not survive his birth.  I was apparently happy as I heard that I stood up all the way to Michigan.  One thing for sure, I sure did like the farm better than the city.

Now, it gets rather vague.  I was not keeping account nor do I recall ever seeing my father and mother until sometime in 1936 when they moved back to Detroit and somehow, I joined them.  I recall attending school there and it seems as though I made a couple of trips with my Father as he was calling on customers.  What I do vividly recall is the fact Mother would make fried eggs and I hated  the yolks, so I would eat the white and my Dad would eat the yolks.   Then my sister and I went to live with a lady who lived off of a canal in East Detroit and I used to love sitting on their dock, pretending I was fishing.  I remember it being 1936 as I saw all of the Landon for President signs in the school yard, apparently it was the latter part of 1936.   Somewhere in this time span, my Father lost his memory caused by a car accident he was involved in a couple of years earlier.  I did not know it until years later, but he was placed in a State hospital in Pontiac where his death certificate said that he died.

What I do know is that I was back on the farm and would stay there until I was 17 and immediately joined what was then, the U.S. Army Air Corps. 

And I plan to be back, tomorrow.

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