MY LIFE IN NINE PAGES
The early years in Owensboro, Ky
Looking back on 86 years of what was, rather that what might have been, it has been quite a ride. So fortunate to have been raised well, married the right lady, and been able to care for them all.
Well, Here goes! Hang on !
I first saw light from a crib, in the nursery, at St. Joseph Hospital, Owensboro, Ky, September 22, 1924.
Yes, hospital, not in a log cabin, as my granddaughter thinks.
I was the first, and only, son of Thurman Hickman 2 Feb 1895-16 Mar 1962, and Lillie Mae McKnight Ware, 8 Nov 1903-16 Feb 1984.
I was to be followed in, short order, by three sisters, Martha June, 2 Jun 1926-28 Jul 1981 Betty Jane, 5 Jun 1927-12 Dec 1990, died of bone cancer. Thelma Elaine, 8 March 1930. Martha married three times, left three children. Betty never married, Elaine married once, had six children, and is the only surviving sister, now living in Ohio.
I never knew much about my father, except he would work when there was work. Being at the beginning of the hardest of times, it developed that work was getting more scarce every day. I do know that he worked for Kilpatrick, or Kirkpatrick Motors in Owensboro,
until that job expired. I know he drove a beer truck for Falls City beer distributor. I used to ride with him on his routes, on occasion. I know that he ran a fish delivery route in the county for awhile. I recall that the largest department store in town took fire, and he took the night watchman job, until the building could be secured. He worked with a friend repairing auto engines in his friends’ garage.
It was here that I received my first noteworthy injury. Being a kid, doing something I shouldn’t, I managed to get a pretty good cut on my hand. Dad put a dirty, greasy shop rag on the cut until the bleeding eased, then stuck my hand into a bucket of dirty, diesel
fuel. The bleeding stopped, no pain, except my feelings being hurt. The wound healed right up and I have a very small scar to this day. I also think that episode kick started my immune system! I have always healed quickly.
I remember that during the big Ohio flood of 37, I think it was, my father and some of his pals, were “busted” for making turnip wine. Sentenced to community service. Mainly cleaning up their mess.
One night my father came home drunk like you would not believe. He had lost another job. A huge affair took place, my father walked out and I never saw him again.
I hated my father for the longest time. It wasn’t until I got well into maturity that I found rhyme or reason for his actions.
Looking back, times being what they were, who knows, I may have done the same thing!
Here we are, mother and three sisters, living on the graces of my paternal grandmother, Emma Belle Martin Ware, 3 May 1873-8 Nov 1938, only income is what grandmother brought in from her dress making and refitting.
Mother, being resourceful, went to the Masonic building, right down the block, and struck deals with doctors, and other professional people, about doing their shirts and office linens. She took in their laundry, starched the cuffs and collars, did the doctor’s office linens which paid the bills and this put food on the table.
As for my part, there happened to be a “Mom & Pop” little restaurant down the street from us, operated by a husband-wife team, Mr and Mrs Terry. She was the prettiest lady
I had ever met until then. Anybody remember the cowboy star of the area, Tim McCoy?
Mr Terry would pass for a double. Both real nice folks.
Anyway, I would earn a coke and a quarter for dumping the trash and sweeping the sidewalk in front of the place. I kept the coke, the quarter went in the pot.
Another deal I managed to get into was, selling “Liberty” magazines in the street.
I don’t recall this working out well, as it didn’t last long.
One of the things I liked to do best when I was a little guy, was sit on the river bank and watch the tow boats push those long lines of barges down the river. Especially those big sternwheelers. I could sit for hours and dream of being one of those great river men.
“Keep Out” signs didn’t mean much to a city kid with time on his hands. I used to sneak into the typesetters space and watch him set the evening Messenger Inquirer paper.
I didn’t bother anything, I knew better.
It was here in Owensboro that I had my first touch of puppy love. She was a lovely thing!
She sat in my classroom, two rows to my left. She didn’t even know I existed.
But boy, did I know she existed. I winked at her once, but she didn’t notice. I most likely would have fainted!
Her name was Sally Boone. I don’t if she was related to Daniel or not, and at the time, didn’t care. I don’t think we ever spoke to each other. I most likely would have died had she looked my way! Her father was big in local politics, I was told later.
My mother taught us kids, yes ma’m, no sir, thank you, may I, and if you please!
If you pulled that chair from under the table, you put it back when you finish with it!
Raymond Martin, open the door for the ladies! Ladies go first, Raymond, and don’t you forget it!
Mother, I learned it well, bless your heart. I still practice what you preached. It has served me well. And have tried to pass your message to mine as well.
When Emma Belle died, we moved to Lexington.
GOOD BYE OWENSBORO
I miss you
ON TO LEXINGTON
In 1938-9 we left Owensboro and moved to Lexington to live with mother’s family.
They had a nice two story home in a nice neighborhood.
Isaiah and Anna Beck McKnight.
He was a harness and saddle maker, she was a sweet lady, patience of a saint..
Their parents came from the old country via Canada, You can see they were of Irish and German ancestry. A wonderful pair for sure.
By moving to Lexington, I was put back one half of grade in school.
Lexington Junior High was a much larger school than Owensboro, and lots more activities. I tried them all. In art class I made a poster advertising a school play, and it got published, made another with anti-war theme, also published.
Just missed roles in school versions of Pirates of Penzance and Mikado, not enough “projection” I was told.
I did get on the stage, however, in a skit where I appeared in drag. Imagine, Ol’ RW in drag! Must have been a sight! Ol’ RW skipping across the stage holding his skirt tails out.
and singing, “As I sail home to Galveston in oleander time, in oleander time.” yuckie!
The activity I disliked most, though, was music. The music teacher, miss(?) Stout, was a
rather large lady. In other times, she may have qualified for the Chicago Bears linebacker. She always had a smile on her face, reminded me of a mule eating thistles.
You know, the smile, somewhere between a smile, smirk, and a sneer. Miss Stout had us make notes in a small loose leaf binder which she would check every Friday. It gave a whole new meaning to TGIF!
If my book wasn’t up to her liking, she would fold it up, look down at me with her grin and whack me on the head with it. However, before I left her class, we became good friend as we came to understand each other. We both knew I would never be a musician.
My new neighborhood was filled with kids about my age. Among which was this cute wisp of a thing. She often “helped” me with home work, often to the point of doing it all.
Yes, it was my Bonnie. My future Lovely and Gracious. We didn’t know it at the time.
Time rolls on and I make it to Henry Clay High School. School becomes more difficult for me. I can’t keep on track with studies. I wish now, that I had paid more attention to
sentence structure, punctuation, etc, which is evident by this scribbling.
In Spanish class, “Snag” Wilson and I were the only ones that could “roll the Rs”, but we both failed the course. He was so called due the his loss of his front teeth in a motorcycle wreck. The army fixed his teeth, sent him to Europe. I later learned he was killed near St. Lo. He was my best friend and “running pal.”
About midway through senior year, I had had enough.
Oct 27, 1941 I was sworn into the Navy at Louisville, sent off to the Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Illinois.
It was here I was taught the basics of life, according to someone, including how and when to shave. Here I am, a fuzzy cheeked “child”, being handed a razor and told to use it, -now! A day that I shall never forget!.
After several weeks of learning the basics of self support, we were about to graduate into the regular navy!
One night we were ordered to roll out, pack you stuff, and make ready ship out!
The next thing I knew, I was on a train headed for San Francisco.
The war had started!
About the only thing I remember about the trip was, it was not a Pullman coach, it took 6 days, it was dirty, and we had about three hours to stretch in Albuquerque, NM. Red Cross milk and doughnuts never tasted so good! Being a top priority troop train, I suppose security was a concern, accounting for the delays, re-routing, etc.
Finally arriving in San Francisco, we were sent to, what was then called, Treasure Island.
From there, after three-day of wondering and waiting, I was assigned to the USS Henderson, designated AP1..She was built in 1914 and took troops and horses to France in WW1. Now a troop ship ferrying troops to the Pacific. Later refitted into hospital ship USS Bountiful, she got back in time for the Iwo Jima campaign.
Finally left port and headed west to Pearl Harbor. Anyone familiar with the “rollers” that
come in off the Pacific there at SF, know what I mean when I tell you that you WILL be sea sick. Mama Ware’s little boy, Raymond, was one sea sick dude. It lasted three days.
We made Pearl in 9 days, zigzagging in a convoy, delivering troops and supplies.
When we first arrived at Pearl, the oil, trash, and destruction was still all over the place.
Return trips, we carried walking wounded, empty shell casings, and recyclable materials
Recycling is not new by any means. I think we made four or five trips during my tour.
Something that very few people know about my time aboard the Henderson is, that I spent my first year anniversary in the navy, in the Henderson brig. That‘s right.
Instead of keeping lookout for periscopes, I was having lengthy discussions with a shipmate. The Officer of the Watch caught me, gave a warning, and caught me the second time. Off to Captain’s Mast and awarded three days, “piss and punk.” Better known as bread and water. Another learning experience. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds, but bad enough. I became a real good periscope “watcher forer!”
After two years or so aboard, I was given two weeks leave, and ordered to report to New Port News Navy Yard in VA. After checking in there, I was assigned to the carrier, USS Hornet, CV12. I was assigned to the Fourth Division, which was a gunnery group considered to be ships company. A brand new vessel, being outfitted for duty.
I was put in control of a group of six 20MM anti-aircraft guns. This involved the maintenance, cleaning, and ammunition control and inventory. I loved it.
In did manage to get off a letter or two to that little playmate there in Lexington. You thought I had forgotten about her, didn’t you! No way, Jose’.
Anyone interested in the war cruise of the Hornet, can get it on the net. My most vivid memories of the time, was the “Marianas Turkey Shoot”. Our Navy pilots destroyed the Japanese Naval air wing in one great air battle. I stood on the flight deck and watched the “con trails” high in the air as the planes maneuvered. And watch as one after the other would spiral into the sea, not knowing if it was friend or foe.
Then came the typhoon off Okinawa that put the Hornet on the injured reserve list, so to speak. The violence of the storm caused the forward corners of the flight deck to collapse, much like dog‘s ears, making it impossible to launch planes in the normal fashion. This put a crimp in air operations. Maybe.
The rest of our carrier group were to hit some islands in the north of Japan that were about ready to produce planes. Not to be left out, the admiral in charge of our particular section, Admiral “Jocko” Clark, a full blood Cherokee, convinced the powers that be, that he could launch planes while running in reverse. We are the only carrier ever to launch a successful strike against an enemy, while backing down.
Admiral Clark was awarded a medal for his action, and as far as the crew, we brought him to hero status.
The escapade with the typhoon brought an end to the war cruise of the Hornet and we returned to Hunter’s Point, CA for repairs.
While in dry-dock, the war ended.
I was one of three picked from our ship, to pull Shore Patrol duty, by someone who will forever be on my “to do” list. Shore Patrol arm band, gun belt, leggings, the works. I still have the arm band.
VJ night in San Francisco was a nightmare! It was all there, drunk civilians as well as sailors, nudity, destruction, people being just plain nasty. It got so bad, the Captain in charge of our unit, told us to just walk our beat and try to stay out of the way. Try not to get hurt! So, what the Hey! The war was over! Let’s go home!
GOOD BY NAVY!
I was ordered to report to the Naval Reserve Center in Cincinnati for processing and discharge.
Immediately following that event, I went straight away to Lexington, KY, and after a few days of getting re-aquatinted, the question was asked, the answer given, and the rest is history. A date that will liven in the record books. 12 September, 1945.
So, on October 11, 1945, Mother Ware‘s little boy, Raymond, became a civilian, a mister, a husband, and a job seeker, all at once.
There followed a string of jobs related to the tree surgery, or arborist, if you will. Trimming, removing, feeding, the works. The man I worked for took a contract with Ma Bell to trim phone lines along the right of way. That was enjoyable work as it was mostly in the country.
It was during this period that, we became parents, bless her heart!
Son Edward Martin, born 14 Sep 1946 and
Son William Richard, 18 June 1948.
Let me say here, this business about fathers having “morning sickness” is no joke!
While waiting for the bus to go to work, people thought I had been partying all night, what with my barfing in the gutters. It lasted about a week, and suddenly cleared up.
In the meanwhile, my mother and father in-law, had moved to Daytona Beach, Fl. He took work as barber in the army convalescence/rehabilitation center located there. This was also a vocational training facility, instructing in all sorts of occupations. Fabulous place.
My lovely and gracious wife, and I, decided I needed some training in some sort of meaningful work. Nothing to lose, we packed our meager trappings and moved to Daytona Beach.
GOOD BY LEXINGTON
Starting all over, it seems, we moved in with my wife’s parents, again. There was plenty enough room this time, however.
Mr Bostic worked at the “hospital” as it was called, Mrs Bostic worked in a dry cleaning plant as spotter. I went to school, learning the air conditioning trade, and machine shop
Schooling on the GI bill. Living in on campus housing, along with Bonnie’s money watching, allowed us to put down on our first car! A 1936 Ford “woodie” wagon. $190! Paid it off in three months. Well, yes, it did need a little work, but ran good.
As time went on, we found an apartment of our own, moved in and settled down.
In January 1951 our third son came along. Unfortunately, the lad died just 12 hours after birth. Underdeveloped lungs. It was a sad occasion, but we endured.
Along came a job as machinist in an airplane plant. Got it. We were making a plane known as Jamison’s Jupiter. Sad to say it didn’t fly, so to speak. The man went bankrupt.
I had to sue to get any kind of pay for the time worked on the promise of success.
Ended up with five cents on the dollar.
The Daytona dog racing track opened about this time, I worked walking dogs before each race and putting them back in the kennel after each race. It paid, but not much.
After all of this, she had managed enough to put down on a building plot, so we could at least plan for something of our own.
Bonnie took a steno course at night at the local Junior college, and landed a job as bookkeeper at the local VW dealership. Man, did that help.
After going from makeshift work to another like it, there came an ad in the paper where the city was going to hire eight new firefighters. Man, I jumped on that right now!
I managed to pass the physical, written and oral tests and was accepted! I was number six of the eight hired. May 1951, it was.
It didn’t take long to realize that a rookie firefighter’s pay is all right, if you can make it from hand to mouth, and willing to sit on it.
We worked, at the time, twenty four on and twenty four off. I needed a job between shifts.
Well, let’s see. I was a plaster’s helper mixing plaster, where kids broke the walls in class rooms. I worked with an engineering firm, surveying and laying out sub divisions.
I worked at various times at gas stations, even worked for the Crosley auto dealer, for awhile. Of course not all at once, just as the occasion demanded, and over a period of time.
In late 1951 we secured a GI backed loan from the bank and started building our new home. Masonry, three bedroom, one bath, full kitchen, and hardwood floors. Final cost, $9300! Not including “sweat equity.”
Looking back and reviewing the records, it seems unreal. As time went on I added a separate garage, large concrete patio, another full bath, a rec /den combo, and fireplace. It was really nice. Sometime later we managed to put in a pool. I had to hire that job out.
In September 1952, we welcomed our fourth son, Robert Lee, A plump little bundle of joy. Turned out to be a chip off the old blockhead!
November 20, 1956, saw the arrival of our daughter, Susan Marie, a real joy to us all, but more so to mother. She won’t be the lone female in a house full of rowdy men.
Along came racing on the beach. The fire department always sent a truck to stand by should they be needed. Alas, and alack, I never made that trip. I had not been there long enough to be in the know. Translated,- politics.
However when the speedway opened, 1959, a lot of the guys didn’t think much of racing on that high banked thing at the speeds they were talking about.
Nonetheless, safety personnel were needed, and enough hardy souls were garnered to begin operations. I worked races and events between Fire Department days on duty.
It started with one man and extinguisher at the east end, one man with extinguisher at the west end, eight or so men along pit road with extinguishers and one old truck in the garage area.
Man, have we come a long way.
I started at the speedway in 1959 on the east end of the track, by myself and one extinguisher.
When I left Daytona in 1980, after 20 years at the track, I was in charge of a safety crew of some 60 men and eight trucks, and untold numbers of extinguishers, and related safety equipment. As far as pay goes, you could easily do better elsewhere. But I loved it!
I worked mostly through Bill France, Jr. A genuine character in his own right, but strictly business, when it came down to it. He wouldn’t put you to do something, that he wouldn’t do, or hadn’t already done. Fine fellow.
As parents, we took every opportunity to participate in our children’s activities. For example, all four participated in the state AAU Summer Swim program. We took them all over the state for various swimming events. They were average athletes with a bovey of second and third place ribbons and trophies.
Casting for mullet, in the surf, was one of our favorite activities with the kids. We would, about dusk in the evenings, go to the beach, build a small fire, and wade in the surf, and throw my cast net, and catch a good eating fish called Mullet. At certain times of the year, they would be fat with roe. Cooked up right, it is lip smacking good! These activities have been banned, I am told. What a shame. Something about sea turtles.
Our daughter, Susan played flute in the high school band. Mother and I served as chaperones on their trips around the state for games, etc. We chaperoned five bus loads of band members to Mexico city to compete at the Conservatory of Music there. We did get Honorable Mention, but the kids got an eyelevel understanding of the meaning of poverty.
Our band marched in a thanksgiving day parade in New York I don’t recall the year. Mother and I chaperoned this trip also. It was at the door entering Macy’s I caught one of those memorable moments you hear about.
I had opened the door and held it open for two ladies. One of them took two steps in side,
turned back to me with her nose in the air, took a breath and said, ”Oh my! How quaint!”
I’ll never, as long as I live, forget that moment.
Between events at the track and when vacation from DBFD came, we trailered all over the place. Even took the old Oregon trail as best it can be followed nowadays.
A museum in Scots Bluff, NE, displayed a book about a guide to the Oregon Trail, by Stephen Ware. The card displayed under it said that more people were killed by this book, than by Indians! Oh, come now, be nice! Toured from Astoria down the pacific coast. We stayed at campgrounds from Redmond Washington, to Vegas. What a trip!
Stayed in a campground in an olive grove where I found that olives off the tree are not the sweetest things to eat. Stayed at KOA in Vegas, then took the southern route home in time to beat the winter snows in the south west. We had a ball.
Sweetness was not one to stay home. If she took a notion to go, we went! Toured
around Lake Michigan, went from Key West to Ft Kent, Me , on US 1. We did it all.
It was about this time that Mother decided we should find out where we came from.
Thus began the great Genealogy Crusade.
We started in WV with her seeking her past, I aided when she wanted. Then she decided we should look into the Ware line.
Over a ten or twelve year period, we wore out two trucks and a travel trailer, just digging up bones, if you will.
I retired from the DBFD in May 1976, as Deputy Fire Chief, an even 25 years. Enjoyed every minute of it!
During one of our trips, we stopped in Alabama to visit one of mother’s relatives, During the course of the visit, the lady asked if we would be interested in a plot of land nearby. Why not check it out, say we.
GOOD BY FLORIDA
So, in 1980 or so, we sold our Daytona home, took a beating, and moved to Alabama.
It took most of fifteen years rebuilding, and adding to the house, but we owned 63 acres of land we could borrow on should the need be.
I went right to work at the Talladega track as rookie member of the crew there.
About a year into that operation, the gentleman that ran it was in a wreck himself and died from injuries. Having the race track experience I had, I fell heir to his job.
About the same deal as Daytona.
I worked Talladega from 1980 until the fall race of 1993. Again, politics got me. But that’s ok. I was getting tired anyway. It wasn’t so much fun anymore.
In 1999, mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Did that hinder her desire to go? Not on your life.
We went as long as she felt she could handle the ride.
When we sold the house in FL, we bought Bonnie a 4 harness floor loom. She taught herself the ins and outs of hand weaving. Trial and error, and reading everything she could find on the subject.
Finally the day came, we could travel no more! We sold the trailer and all that went with it, and continued as best we could on the computer, and post mail, with her relatives in WV.
Did she sit on her hands and bemoan her fate? Not her! She made quilts for each of the grandchildren, 9 of them, hand wove baby blankets, place mats and table runners, made specialty dolls for some of the church girls, and embroidered doilies to pass time.
She got less and less involved as time went on.
I lost my Lovely and Gracious Bonnie on January 22, 2009. Bless her heart.
I spent a good deal of time thinking of things I could have done for her, and didn’t. Things I did do that I shouldn’t have, then realizing that what was done was done, and nothing will ever change it now. I have to get on with the time I have left.
It has been a trip, sharing 63 years of my life with this precious lady. She will always be my Lovely and Gracious sweetheart. I sorely miss her.
As for me, now, I try to keep up the house work, care for the yard, country folks have yards, city folks have lawns, and I piddle in writing silly stories and poems. Look after an old cow and two old goats. Left over’s from farming days. They are just old pets now.
I try to get to church as often as I can.
Also looking for a rich widow, who is looking for someone to mother. Just kiddin’.
Applications not accepted, thank you!
If I had not gone through this myself, I wouldn’t believe it! Wouldn’t trade it for anything!