The Idea

Large Scale Portraits of people with a lot of life experience that integrate the actual words of their stories into the lines and wrinkles of their faces.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bill- Transcript

Bill, 99


I was born on August 29th 1912 four and one half months after the Titanic struck the iceberg and went down in the North Atlantic. On April 14th at midnight the ship struck the iceberg it sank and then I was a fetus inside my mother's body- making me born August 29 approximately four and one half months later . August 29. Yes, in 1912

Nelsonville, Ohio in Athens County - that's 65 miles South East of Columbus. It's 14 miles from the Ohio University at Athens. We call it OU. I went to college, yeah, for a time back in '31, yes. I grew up in Nelsonville. Then I had a time in West Virginia. I had my uncle, oh, and aunt down on a farm there where I went to high school I started in 19... I wanted to do farm work the old fashioned way- the old way- and learned to garden- raise vegetables, raise wheat, oats, corn, and take care of horses and cows and pigs, chickens. My aunt used to take care of chickens. That was on the mountain North East of Fairmont and that's Marion county. My dad grew up on the same farm.

My dad was a mining engineer. Pittsburg Coal Company. There was lots of coal. I grew up in the mines. I worked in the mines. It started in 1930. Workers are getting as much in an hour today as I got in a week. I got 18 dollars a week. That  was 1930 and of course the great depression was on and that was a lot of people have a lot of trouble to get along and they didn't have jobs and a lot of people didn't have much money and lots of people had trouble getting along especially when they had a family- children. You hear stories about trouble today all the world's survived troubles cause there was trouble back then too. 80, 90 years ago there was trouble in the United states and the world so...

I stayed with my mom and dad cause, see I was only 17 years old when I started at the mine. It was 16 miles away. I had to drive. I rode with my dad cause my daddy's  brother owned the mine. I just drove with my dad to the mine. He had a '29 Desota- that's a Chrysler product and his brother - my uncle John Lawson-  went to work. It was tough back then for a lot of people. Some miners got killed in the mine. Got covered up with soot falls. And, well, they were difficult times but they're difficult times today too. Suffering never ceases.

Mom was a little woman. She was a little woman and I was too big a baby for her- a little woman and they couldn't get me born. I was so big the doctor was gonna cut my arms off. He said the baby's dead. They gave births in the home then and they got over to the house and my aunt came down and took a hold of that doctor's arms and said your not gonna cut that baby's arms off- she's ready to clock 'im cause he said, "well the baby's dead." So, they took four people -  the doctor, my grandma, mom's aunts.  Two of them held mom down on the bed and the other two put forceps on the temples and - that's why I've had poor eyesight all my life cause they crushed my optic nerves here where they pulled. The doctor pulled and Aunt put her arms around the doctor's waist and pulled and squished my head. My head's yet out of shape today! I got lumps all over and ridges cause they squashed my head! The baby's head is slightly pliable- new baby's- so it didn't hurt my brain any. But, I were dead so they laid the baby over on the table  and he said, "That baby is dead- baby's dead." Then he went to work on my mom- cause mom was badly torn- for a little woman and my aunt wouldn't give up. She took the baby up and I suppose paddled me and rolled me on the table she said anything she could do what to do to the newborn baby and about a half an hour 35 minutes she said it was the baby put out a little sound and the doc swirled and said "Give me that baby!" and he took me up by the feet and got to wailin' me and out came the normal cry and he told that story all over town about a dead baby coming back to life.

About 1938 or so and I staid on the farm all summer. 'Course was well fed by two aunts- and uncle. They took good care of me and fed me well. Of course I worked hard too- pitchin' hay and hoin' corn and all. You had to work hard back then and learned to handle horses and ride horses and those were my happiest days, I believe. I was on the West Virginia farm. I guess cause I was out- out in the open and I liked animals I loved animals I loved horses, I even liked chickens. I raised chickens back in when we was in ohio. Up until the law stopped it. Then they wouldn't let us raise chickens because for the longest time it was the big industry  they raised chickens  by the millions now and they didn't want people cheatin' on 'em and raisin' chickens in they backyard.

I was never especially serious... there was two or three girls I was kinda stuck on but they didn' want me and then I find somebody else that was a good girl but,  I didn't wanna have her. You couldn't make yourself love somebody You might go on a date with 'em or take 'em to the picture show- the movies they called picture shows but, eh, I just couldn't get the good girls that make very good wives. I jut couldn't care for 'em.

Then after the war I was a few years older and went to California- and met this girl -her name Jean Frances- Frances Gene Alfrey it was a northern Baptist cemetery- seminary. She was goin' be a missionary and we got kinda serious and I was 16 years older than she and her mother didn'  like that. Didn' want that old man marryin' her  daughter. Anyways in due time I finished school and went back home . went back to workin' mines. Of course if the mines were on strike I went back to help my aunt and uncle - and 2 aunts cause I just loved the open life.

I went 1942 I think I went in- drafted by President Roosevelt. I wasn't called on before then  cause I was kind a old - 35 years old. They wanted young guys. Back in that old day- Nelsonville, young guys gathered- hundreds of them - in 19 ... whatever year it was- I forget when the war stared. Anyway, they had buses to Fourt Hays - hundreds of us. All  the restaurants in town gave a free breakfast to all the GIs- potential GIs- soldier boys of World War Two. I didn't like the term GI. I disliked it- Government Issue - like it's something that's not very important- government issue. That's why I didn't like that term GI. Soldier boy sound better to me.

'Cause I was a motion picture operator, besides the coal mines, I learned when I was 13 years old to be a motion picture. They trained hundreds of us. Maybe thousands of us to be mechanics. So, we had so many mechanics we didn't have a place for them. So a lot of guys they had trained ended up doing something else maybe cooking in the mess hall and since I was an operator- I put on my papers I was a motion picture operator in Ohio . I got a break then.  I was willing to give my life for the United States as were many others but I ended up  in a projection booth. I didn't know any place any safer than a projection booth.

Everything changes but not everything changes for the better. There's too much greed today - anything for money and a lot of changes because of the money. They stopped people raising chickens in their back yard!

I met my wife- I was going to university to learn about electronics and there was a this church near by had a party every Friday night and for the students from Northern Baptist Seminary and my future wife was one of 'em - of 'course I didn't know her - All those girls I had. You take a girl to the show or something but them ones wasn't serious- These girls wanted to be missionaries. One of 'em's name was Frances Jean.

Her mother didn't like me I was too old. Of course I was 16 years older and she'd call me that old man because I was 16 years older. 30 years old I was an old man to her and she definitely didn't want her daughter marrying an old man and she didn't want her having any babies with me! Of course she married me anyway.

I bought a farm - I was fond of raising children on a farm and so we settled then. I wanted to teach the children about life what it was like out of the ordinary teach them about animals and anything I could teach them, But her family didn't like that and she got so she turned on me. She didn't have a mind of her own - I had to marry the whole family... and so she divorced me.

We had 5 children. The last one died because Jean- she couldn't stay away from cigarettes. She would sit there and read at night and didn't watch her baby - name was Steven Michael. She said - she told me "I'm gonna getting him up soon" and she went get 'im outta his crib and baby was dead. Been dead some time. I was blamed for that by the parents.

I had never had a drink in my life before. But I got to drinking. And I finally discovered I was an alcoholic. In due time they took her and children and all to Chicago and so I had no children.

The mother called me a murderer of that baby so late one night- I got drunk and I'd a got straightened out in due time but she called her family she always had a call her family they wanted to know everything I did and they threw me out. That brother- Jeans brother- two of the brothers they threw me out that night and shipped me out. Jean said, "Get that bum out of here." Her two brothers threw me out the door, took me down and put me on a bus. But I don't want to condemn them.

I got kinda bad to point I was gettin' arrested. Moved to Columbus- jobs out there. then back to Akron- good place to get jobs- I was pretty good mechanic but I got to hittin' the bottle still and got fired two or three times I got fired. Got a job down in Athens then- same kinda work . They knew what I could do but they didn't want a drunk either so finally got straightened up some.  I had a bad reputation - alcoholic - and bad went to worse and I was down and out. I wasn't evil. I was never evil but, I was a hopeless case.

So, I was an alcoholic. I don't consider myself an alcoholic anymore because I don't drink. If they would listen I would help anybody. I'd tell them don't take that first drink and ask for help - ask God to help you. I used to talk to people about what their problem was. God helps those that help themselves. You get no help from the whisky bottle. Just trying to drown your troubles and when you wake up you're worse than ever.

Now my son knows there are two sides to the story. Lots of times there are two sides.

I tell them live a christian life, go to sunday school, go to church at least, go to church and read the bible, and be forgiving, and be helpful. For if you can be of help if some body is in trouble or a person is bereaved or sick ... any age... you'll be a good person.

I volunteered as a Salvation Army - bell ringer - because I wanted to be helpful.

I often think about an afterlife. Sometimes I get to thinking when things get bad, and don't feel good, I get down to think, I'm gonna die and I don't care how soon. It does me wonders to have a visitor. I feel like I'm getting help sometime. I think there's a higher power. Wherever the higher power comes from I don't know.

It seems that things are geeting worse. Floods! Tornados! I've never seen it so bad. Boy things are bad.

I 'd rather people forget about my mistakes. I 'd like to be remembered as being generous and unselfish and giving. If I had 50 cents I'd give a quarter of it if someone needed it. I see some down and outer want me to buy him a sandwich. I knew what he wanted. He wanted a bottle. I'd go into the store and where they sell some cheap stuff anything with alcohol in it. I'd say what the bum's like give me a quart of that. The guy-  that's what he wanted.  He didn't care about something to eat. He wanted something to drink. No sense talk to a drunk man about what he should do.   He didn't want to get saved.  He wanted a drink right now. I knowed a lotta men didn't care about anything else. One thing I couldn't stand though, is dishonesty. I couldn't stand anyone that would steal for what they wanted. If somebody woulda been dishonest I might given them a dollar, five dollars if they wanted something to eat. We've got a lot of dishonest people in the universe but, more good than bad. More good people than bad.

I don't know what to do about war. I've got no answer for war. There's no way to stop wars. There's lots a bad people. But there's more good than bad that's all I can say .

I'm 99 years old. Why do some people live to be old? Lots of people don't.  I've outlived the people that have died. I think maybe cause I worked a lot on the farm and sleeping 8 hours a night and sleeping soundly, good food to eat. I think that has something to do with longevity- the food you eat. And honey, I drip it right into the cup- in my coffee.

I wore glasses to school. They made fun a me for wearing glasses and called me pretty boy - Pretty Boy Lawson and four eyes.  I didn't like that.

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