William J. Anderson (1905-1975)
We’re back in 1909 once again as the extended family of Guy and Vera Anderson (Bill Anderson’s parents) gather at their farm house outside Killbuck, Ohio on a warm May day. The little boy, eldest son of Doc Stout’s youngest daughter, was named for his two grandfathers. William for Dr. William Stout and J. for his father’s father, Joseph J. Anderson. No, his middle name was not Joseph. It was just ‘J.’ Mother said she thought that although her parents wanted to honor both their fathers, they were reluctant to give little Bill the name of a man who had died so young, so they gave him just the initial. Since the Anderson line is a long succession of Josephs and Johns, that works quite well.
Here’s another picture of the three children taken about the same time as the big family picture–maybe even the same day. I have no doubt that the adorable hat my mother is wearing came from Node Nelson’s hat shop, which we caught a glimpse of here. And Uncle Bill is already demonstrating the fashion sense that we see on him later.
As I have mentioned before, my mother, Harriette, worshiped Bill, her older brother, and followed him everywhere, even insisting on being allowed to attend the same class that he was in at school. Harriette was the scholar in the family, delighting in reading and exploring all kinds of subjects, but Bill–not so much. I can imagine that his favorite class was recess, and his favorite activities had to do with DOING, not studying.
When Bill dropped out of school after 10th grade, his parents sent him to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, Citizen’s Military Training Camp, created by the federal government for young adults after the close of WWI. Here he is in his uniform.
From an early age he had mechanical skills. He was one of the first people in Killbuck to build a radio when the early radio kits came out. In case that did not impress you, let me point out that radios were a BIG DEAL. The 1930 census even counted households with radios. Later in life one of Uncle Bill’s many jobs was repairing radios, T.V.s, and anything electrical. He could fix anything connected with mechanics, including plumbing.
As a girl, I was impressed with his sense of derring-do. I asked him once if he was not afraid of working on electricity in a house without turning off the power. And he scoffed. Once he was piloting a small airplane, and wanted to take me up for a flight. Although I loved my Uncle Bill, I screamed bloody murder when he tried to put me on the plane, until he gave up. Clearly, I did not inherit his fearlessness.
In 1923, when Harriette was 17, and Bill was 18, the family moved to Columbus, Ohio. Harriette had just graduated and wanted to study medicine to follow in the footsteps of her grandfather Doc Stout. Guy and Vera supported her going to college, and thought that the men in the family could get better jobs in the capitol city, and save money by not having to pay for outside housing and food for the new Ohio State University student.
However, jobs were harder to find than they imagined. Vera took a job at a hospital, but quit after one day because she could not stand the sight of the sick people. Harriette seems to be the only one who thrived in their new location, going to Ohio State Football games and dating a handsome pre-med student. Bill, however, became despondent at not being able to find work.
One morning, Vera and Guy came downstairs to find a piece of paper folded up like a small envelope. On the outside was the formal address:
Inside, was a polite note that shook up my grandmother so much, that she, who tended not to keep anything, kept the note in her desk all her life. (Or perhaps she was more amused than shaken.)
(I inserted periods but left the original spelling.)
Somewhere along the line, Bill had met Sarah Warner and they became an item. My mother believed that they met on this occasion when the family gathered on the porch of Hattie Morgan’s house in Killbuck. That would indicate that Mother was friends with Sarah and had invited her to her home in Killbuck.
I have no idea exactly when (or even if) Bill took off for California, but he could not have stayed long, because on September 15, 1924, he took out a marriage license to marry Sarah Warner and they were married the same day. At the time in Ohio, persons under 21 years old (unless the woman was pregnant) were required to have parental consent for marriage. That explains why both Bill and Sarah claimed to be twenty-one on their marriage license application, although she was twenty and he had just turned nineteen the day before.
It is entirely possible that “leaving for California” was a cover story for his going to Madison County, Ohio, where Sarah lived, and where they were married. Bill Anderson played the angles all his life.
With his good looks, sense of style, and ability to get what he wanted out of life, I believe William J. Anderson would have made a very good con man–if he had only learned to spell.
Information about William J. Anderson and comes from personal knowledge, and from death records, obituaries, census records and marriage records obtained from Ancestry.com; and from the recorded recollections and photo albums of my mother, Harriette V. Anderson Kaser (1906-2003). You can learn more about the history of Ft. Knox Kentucky at this website.
This has been a weekly post in the 52 Ancestors/52 Weeks Project started by Amy Johnson Crow at “No Story too Small.” Check out her weekly recap showing the list of participants for some ripping good stories.
This story of rollicking Uncle Bill’s early days is a real treat and memory- jogger. Grandma Vera told me of how when she and Guy went to pick him up at the Kentucky camp, he went upstairs in the barracks to collect his gear, and they heard a fight break out between him and his barracks mate, Bill claiming that latter had filched some of his stuff. (The Anderson boys were not adverse to using their fists when they felt they had been wronged.) Yes, Bill’s spelling was practical and youneek. Apparently he was an advocate of the fonetix system. Without this his letters would have been colorless and impersonal. I have a letter he wrote to me from overseas during W W II. His spelling had improved somewhat but not to the degree that the writer was unrecognizable.
Bro, thanks for adding the “charming” story of Uncle Bill and his fisticuffs. Apparently, they Anderson boys included Daddy Guy (our grandfather). According to Herb (our cousin), he kept a blackjack under the counter at the restaurant and was not afraid to wade in to break of Saturday night fights.
Along about Veteran’s Day in November, I intend to feature some letters home from WWII, and I hope you’ll lend me the one from Uncle Bill.
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