The Reynolds Family
A narrative as told to Larry Reynolds
Written & Contributed by Larry Reynolds
I will try to fill you in with what I can remember and what dad and mom told me.
My father, Howard Walton Reynolds, was the son of Charles Henry Reynolds and Ruth Electa Kingsbury. They came from Quebec, Canada, to Vermont in the winter of 1878 where their first son Burton was born March 9, 1878. Soon after that they moved to Illinois because dad was born in Baileyville, Ogle County, December 11, 1879. My grandfather Charles was a stonemason and a teamster. Dad showed me one of the stone bridges he helped his father build west of Freeport.
My mother, Rachel Becky Bushman, was the daughter of Joseph Spangler Bushman and Rebecca Jane Hurless. She was born December 8, 1886 in Davis Junction, Ogle County, the youngest of three children, but grew up in the Coleta area. Dad was working as a butcher in Milledgeville in 1908. I believe that’s where he met mom. They were married October 15, 1908 in the United Brethren Church in Coleta. Mom’s cousins Hanford and Nellie Bushman stood up at the wedding with them. Hanford and Nellie were brother and sister. Dad farmed in Wysox Township, Carroll County, for a while but then moved to a farm in Genesee Township, Whiteside County. That is where Clare and Ruth were born.
I am not sure what year they moved to the N.R. Weaver place on Ridge Road in Jordan Township, but I was born August 28, 1923, on the Weaver farm that Dad [Howard Walton Reynolds] rented. It was north of Sterling and northeast of Coleta. On the Sterling to Milledgeville road, there was a school house on the east side of the road at an intersection; we lived two miles due east of there, right next to a school house just south of the farm. Joe Bushman (Uncle Frank’s son) lived with us and worked on the farm. Dad was the first person to put a Model T Ford engine on a harvester to power it and make the load easier for the horses. Some men from a harvester manufacturer came to look at it and the next year they came out with an engine mounted on their machine. I remember that he was mad because they did not even thank him for the idea.
Times were good and we had plenty of money. Mom had a Ford Model T roadster and a team of horses—a gelding and a mare (Dan and ?)—she drove to town when it rained and the roads were muddy. Dad had an Overland touring car (a huge beast), probably 1923–24, with a large trunk on the back and several spare tires. He also had a Ford Model T truck with hard rubber tires on the rear wheels.
When I was about 2 we drove that Overland all the way to Omaha, Nebraska, to see Harold Eastabrooks and his family. He worked for the Union Pacific railroad. We had at least two flat tires every day and dad and Clare would patch them and hand pump them up and away we would go. I don’t remember how long it took to drive there and back, but it was quite some time. The road (Lincoln Highway) was under construction and mostly dirt and mud.
I jumped off the porch roof of the Weaver farmhouse when I was four and broke my arm. Mom started me in the school next to and south of the Weaver farm at age four. Mom did not want me to start school because I was only four, but the teacher told her I would be OK, so she let me go. Actually, I think she wanted to get rid of me as she was 45 or 46 and I was a little hellion. The kids teased me because I was younger, but big for my age. I think that Clare and Ruth went to the same school that I did. Clare and Ruth both attended Milledgeville high school. Clare quit during or after his second year, but Ruth worked for a family in Milledgeville and went to school and graduated.
When we lived on the Weaver place, every summer Aunt Pearl [Emma Pearl (Reynolds) Mertz] and her two daughters came to live with us for several weeks. The daughters were Clare and Ruth’s ages and they lived in Washington, D.C. I do not remember their names. Her husband Leven would not come to the farm with them, but I don’t know why not. Mom’s nieces Lucille Bushman and Ireta Eastabrooks also would come to the farm and spend the summer when they were teenagers. Dad and mom did well back then.
Clare and his buddies were caught trying to rob a gas station and dad pulled some strings and got Clare off with probation. I think that it was sometime between 1925 and 1937 and that it was his first effort, but not the other boys.
Sometime after grandfather Joe Bushman died in 1908, grandma Becky Bushman came to live with us on the Weaver farm. She lived with us until her sister Sarah’s husband David Proctor died. Then grandma Becky went to live with her in Coleta. Sarah and grandma Becky lived in the house north of Uncle Frank and Aunt Jonny’s house on the west side of South Street in Coleta. It was two or three houses from the intersection in the center of town. We always went to see them after church on Sunday.
I remember going to Freeport to see dad’s sister Della and her husband Herman Sieck. He was working for the railroad and both Della’s son Fred and Herman’s son Harold from his first marriage were living with them in east Freeport. They might have lived in a downstairs apartment because I remember a front porch, but there were stairs at the rear of the house.
I don’t know why, but in 1928, we moved from there to a farm about 3 miles south of Coleta and a little east on Quinn Road. It was the first farm east of the Coleta Road on the north side of the road. The schoolhouse was on the Coleta Road just north of the intersection with Quinn Road, but I would take a shortcut through the fields to get to the school. We had a large orchard behind the house, so we always had plenty of fruit to eat. Clare had a new 1928 or 1929 Ford Model A Sport Coupe with a rumble seat. When I was probably 6 or 7, I had a BB gun and shot the end of Sadie’s [Sarah C. Siddens] son Charles’ finger. He was Joe Bushman’s stepson; a half brother to Wanda Bushman. We were out in the timber shooting at targets and he stood behind a tree and stuck his finger out and said you cannot hit it. Bang, I hit the end of his finger. Clare had taught me how to light matches with a rifle at about 25–30 yards. We also shot pigeons on the fly for mom to make pot pie out of. Clare was an excellent marksman with a rifle and shotgun and pistol. He taught me well. We—Clare, Joe, Johnny (Ruth’s husband)—and I hunted and fished for food to eat all the time. Malvern was the closest village and that is where Sadie, Joe Bushman’s wife, came from. Her father (Charles Siddens) was a farmer and had a milk route same as Ray Rahn did. We called Sadie’s son Charles Chuck and he stayed with us one summer.
Ruth did not live with us when we lived south of Coleta. She lived with several families and worked as a maid taking care of kids and doing housework. She would sometimes come home for a weekend.
We only lived there a year when Dad had a chance to buy a farm. We moved from south of Coleta to the farm Dad bought north of Milledgeville. It was called East Branch of Otter Creek Farm and was northwest between Milledgeville and Chadwick. There was a small bluff on the other side of Otter Creek and Clare jumped Dan, I think, off that bluff into the creek. Old Dan was smart enough that he half jumped and slid off that bluff. Dad was so mad because the horse could have broken a leg. Clare, Joe, and Horace built a dam out of logs, rocks, and dirt across the creek to make a large pool of water for muskrats, beaver, and other animals to make homes. Clare trapped muskrats, beaver, and otters all winter long for the furs and sold the pelts to make spending money. Joe Bushman, Clare, Dad, and I hunted for coon every week and foxes on the weekend. Clare, Joe, and another man had a hunting shack in the timber west of Malvern where they lived one winter and hunted all winter long. There was no work and no money and they cooked what they hunted and lived on squirrels, coon, wild turkeys, and vegetables. They called it hunters stew and it was real good. Mom showed them how to put a bunch of onions in with the meat to stew it and take away the wild taste. The onions would be thrown away; not eaten. Ruth had a silver fox neck piece made from the only silver-tailed fox I ever saw; most of the foxes were red. In the summer, we swam and fished in the pool that the dam created. There were a lot of bullheads and some catfish and carp in the creek and I used to fish every day in the summer. Clare beat my butt right there on the embankment because I had run away when we were getting ready to go somewhere and I did not want to go.
We were poor back then and had no money, but we had a lot of fun hunting and fishing. We had at least 20 hound dogs, a pair of Basset hounds that lived in the house, a pet coon that lived in the house, and rabbit hutches with pet rabbits. Mom had cats that Clare never liked as they brought diseases to the dogs. We ate good because Mom always had a big garden and Dad butchered pigs and a cow every year and made sausage, steak, pork chops, and ground-up meat. We had plenty of potatoes, corn meal, apples, and meat very day. We had a cellar to store things and a deep well with real cold water. The schoolteacher boarded with us and I rode to school with her or on my pony; they had a horse barn/shed at school for the kids rides. Dad let her use our sleigh in the wintertime; it was a one-horse sleigh. Dad had a buffalo hide car robe that we used in the back seat of the car and on the sleigh and it would keep you very warm.
Ruth was 12 years older than me and Clare was 2-½ years older than Ruth, so they gave me fits when I was small because Mom had them babysitting me all the time and they did not like that. I was a brat, spoiled by Uncle Frank and Aunt Jonny; also Joe and Wilford. Joe had a bar just west of Coleta near where Fiji used to be and he would pay me a penny a piece for all the bottle caps I brought him; I have no idea what he did with them. Uncle Frank and Aunt Jonny were both rural mail carriers and they drove cars to deliver the mail, horses and buggies when the roads were muddy, and horses and sleighs in the winter time. Frank’s father Joseph had been the postmaster in Coleta at the time he died in 1908. I just loved to ride the mail routes and help put the mail in the boxes. They always paid me for helping. I had a pet raccoon that lived in the house and he would steal food off the counter while Ruth was trying to prepare a meal. Ruth would chase me and the raccoon out of the house with a broom. I also had a Shetland pony, Trixie; she was real old, like 30-plus when she died. A friend of dad’s gave her to me since his children were grown up and he wanted her to have a good home. I loved that pony. Clare and dad also had a bunch of hounds (coon and fox). We hunted almost all the time.
When the Crash came in 1929, we still lived north of Milledgeville. The bank in Milledgeville closed and dad lost his money and we were broke. Dad could not make the payments on the farm, but would not declare bankruptcy. He swore he would pay everyone he owed the full amount and eventually he did.
After dad lost the farm, we moved to the timber farm on Covell Road west of Uncle Roy’s farm and were share croppers for a while. We called it the timber farm because it had about 40 acres of timber and very little farmland, about 60 acres. Dad, Clare and Johnny (Ruth and Johnny had just got married) cut timber all winter long and cut it up into fence posts and firewood which they sold and traded for goods. We had quite a few pigs and only several cows and four horses. The horses were Tom and Jerry, huge plow horses, and Dan and a mare that were buggy and riding horses. I would ride Dan to Coleta and buy flour, etc., for Mom. Corn was 10 cents a bushel and oats were only good for feed. Dad had lots of shelled corn. We burned the cobs in the furnace for heat and hauled corn in a Model T truck to Malvern where there was a grist mill on Rock Creek; a popular place during the Depression. Then, Dad cut the body off of his Overland touring car and built a truck bed on the frame. It had a windshield, seat, and a canvas roof, but no doors. It ran faster than his hard rubber tire Model T truck. The miller ground the corn and oats for one half. That gave us flour and corn meal for corn meal mush fried with potatoes. We had a large orchard with apples, peaches, and a grape arbor. With the corn flour, Mom would bake apple cobblers. Mom had a big garden and we raised vegetables in the summer and canned them for the winter. Dad and Clare butchered a pig and we had pork sausage, bacon, and ham. We ate OK, but did not have any money for gas, coal, or clothes. Mom sewed ever day and Ruth did the cooking. Dad had served an apprenticeship with a butcher; in Freeport or Polo I believe. He only attended school until he was about 10 years old and then had to go to work.
My Uncle Roy Hurless - his name was Cephas LeRoy, but everyone called him Roy—was a schoolteacher and a farmer. His wife, Aunt Ruia was from Iowa and was teaching school in Genesee Township. That’s probably where they met. He was also a college professor in Idaho for a while. Uncle Roy Hurless moved from Idaho back to Illinois because he had consumption, probably tuberculosis. Then, Uncle Roy Hurless died of dust in his lungs; 1934 I believe, and Aunt Ruia made dad a deal on their farm north of Coleta. She told Dad she would sell him the farm and he could pay each year from the crops if she could live with us and teach school. Aunt Ruia was my teacher night and day. It paid off as I was the highest-ranking 8th grade graduate in Whiteside County and went to Morrison for a presentation. I was about 4 years younger than the rest of the kids.
Sometime before Sarah Proctor died, grandmother Becky Bushman, who was in her 80s by then, came to live with us for a while—at least a year—until she died in 1937. Mom would buy me radio parts and materials to build airplanes if I would keep quiet and not bother Grandma Becky because she was sick in bed most of the time. But, there were too many memories for Aunt Ruia to stay at the farm, so she moved to Iowa to live with her Bowersox relatives in Shueyville. Uncle Roy and Aunt Ruia had adopted her niece named Grace and her sister. Later Aunt Ruia lived in Newton, Iowa, with Grace and the other girl also lived near Newton, Iowa, on a farm I think, but I can’t remember her married name. Grace is the one I would see in Newton when I went through there. Roy and Ruia did not have any natural children and I cannot remember who died that they adopted the two girls. I’m not sure but I believe the girls did not come from Iowa; they both married and moved to Iowa.
I went with Clare, Johnny, and Joe to try to catch the mountain lion that had been seen by several people and reported in the Sterling paper. We had it cornered in a briar patch. The dogs went in after it and a fight of some kind took place. That darn animal came right out about ten feet from where I was standing; it looked more like a cougar than a mountain lion. Scared me half to death. Johnny was just a few feet away and did not get a shot at it. Clare and Joe were on the far side of the briar patch. Several dogs had bloody noses and one had a gash on one side from being slashed with the claws. I don’t remember it being a real bad gash as they did not take him to the vet; just poured some cleaner on it to stop the bleeding. We all stayed at the Clarence Siefken house that night and went out again the next day. I remember that Clarence had a smokehouse and he brought some ham in for us to eat ham sandwiches and we all slept on the floor. Someone finally claimed they shot the thing but I never saw anything to prove it.
Allen Engelkens parents lived on the farm across Covell Road and we traded work time back and forth during haying and corn picking. Clare had already been building radios whenever he got the money to buy parts. Clare had got married to a young woman, although her parents and mom and dad didn’t want them to get married, and had TB, so he was sent to the Modern Woodmen Tuberculosis Sanatorium near Colorado Springs, Colorado. His wife decided to go back home and live. Her name was Loretta Dollinger and she was from Dekalb, but she was a very pretty girl, maybe 19 or 20. That was in about 1933. Clare might have met her in Dekalb because Ruth was going to school there and I think so was Loretta. Clare would drive to Dekalb to bring Ruth home for holidays and that is how he met her.
While he was gone, his wife moved back with her parents and got a divorce, or an annulment as they did not live together very long, a month or two. When Clare came home a year later, about 1934, there was no work and the farm would not support another mouth, so he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and went to Crater Lake, Oregon, for about two years. He was foreman of a dynamiting crew. When he came home from the CCC, dad was not only farming, he was the road commissioner for Genesee Township and Clare, Joe Bushman, and Johnny Conrady all worked on the farm, in the quarry, and on the roads. Clare operated the bulldozer, Joe the grader, Johnny drove dump trucks hauling crushed rock, and dad ran the farm, the stone quarry, and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) workers. He had about 75 WPA men working in the quarry and on the road. Wilford (Dutch) Bushman also worked for Dad as foreman over the road crews. Politics: you give your relatives jobs and keep the money in the family. The farm hand who lived with us and worked the farm was paid $30 per month and board. He was from Minnesota and there was no work up there, so he sent most of the money to his family. Ruth and Johnny lived on a farm southwest of Coleta; just a small farm, 80 acres if my memory is good. He did not like farming; he was a good carpenter, but he was also an alcoholic and blew his money as fast as he made it.
Clare did not like farming and had always been interested in radios; he had built several so that we could have one to listen to. Clare got me into radios because he needed a helper; we could not afford batteries to operate the radios, so we found a Buick starter/generator and rewound it to make 110 volts AC. We mounted it on mom’s gasoline powered washing machine and it gave us enough power to run a transmitter. The receivers were powered by batteries.
I remember the dances at the town hall in Coleta when I was a little kid. They got a little rough and they tried to stop the drinking, but the Federal Government could not do that, so what chance did a few Christian women have? I was a kind of a hellion and hung out with Clare, Joe, and Johnny. I also hung out with Uncle Frank and Joe and they had me drinking beer when I was about 12 years old. I remember one time I had home brew left over from thrashing and I sat in the barn and drank until I passed out. Dad found me and would not let me go to the house. I had to sleep in the barn that night.
I was only 12 or 13 years old, but mom’s cousin William Hurless was the Coleta barber and a justice of the peace and for 25 cents you could get a driver’s license. Nellie was his daughter and she married Ray Rahn. Kenneth was their son. All I had to do was drive a car into his driveway at his house in Coleta or in front of the barbershop. I used the farm dump truck. He wrote out my license on a card form, stamped it, took my quarter, and I was a driver. Bills’ barbershop was just south of the Coleta town square on the west side of the street, the post office was on the southwest corner, then there was a garage, and he was two doors south of the corner. It was just a small building and then he moved his barbershop to his house that was just west of where Uncle Frank lived when we were kids. Uncle Frank and Aunt Jonny lived in the second house south of the barbershop when I was a kid and grandmother (mom’s mother Rebecca) and her sister Sarah lived next door to the barber shop. Ray and Nellie Rahn lived on the north side of the town square, the second house north of the hardware store on the west side of the street. It was a tiny house. They lived in Milledgeville after that and Ray hauled milk and cream to the cheese factory in Milledgeville. They moved from there to Sterling and we—Corky, kids, and I—stopped in to see them on our way home from visiting Clare’s family in Burlington, Wisconsin driving the red T-bird convertible. We also had two dogs with us. Ray and Nellie were living in Sterling when they died.
The house between Uncle Frank’s house and Iola Flynn was Bill Hurless house later. I know that Nellie had a relative living in Rock Falls who had a red headed daughter and she and I dated several times when I was living in Rock Falls before the war. Cannot remember her name, but she was a shirt-tail relation; anyway that’s what mom called them. Anna might have been her mother’s name, but I’m not sure.
I was going to high school in Milledgeville and had my own car. I paid $200 for a 1932 Chevrolet 4-door, 6-cylinder sedan. Uncle Frank loaned me the money and I paid him back every week. I had been driving the farm truck for some time and I could drive the bulldozer. Dad let me drive the car when we would go to Coleta so I had experience. (I never did have a wreck until after the war and I was driving long-haul trucks.) Dad had a DeSoto; 1935 I believe. I liked to drive the DeSoto better than my Chevy because it would run faster. I worked all summer at the soybean plant and hauled peas to a pea vinery sheller near where we lived. That was the year everyone had to get a social security number to work for big companies. I also worked for a pilot who dusted the soybeans and peas in the fields. I carried gasoline and sacks of the dust from his truck to the plane and waved a marker flag at the end of the field where the telephone lines were. I think he paid me $5 a week. I know I did not have many friends as I was too young, but I had a car and then I would have lots of friends. I picked up three other kids going to high school and they each paid me 50 cents a week for gas. $1.50 would buy me a week’s worth of gas.
There was an amateur radio operator, a ham, in Milledgeville who had a radio repair place and I had been building electric fence controllers from old Model T Ford spark coils. He agreed to sell them in his store and he gave me a job after school and on weekends repairing radios. Clare worked there also in the evenings. A friend of Clare’s had met another girl and Vera Althoff where they worked at Frances Shimer Junior College in Mount Carroll and talked him into going up there with him (I can’t remember his name, but he ended up in Joliet State Prison for car theft). Neither he nor Clare had a car and he would borrow Dad’s or mine to go on dates to Mount Carroll and that is how he met your mother Vera. Then, on Monday morning my gas tank would be empty and I would have to put five gallons of gas in the car so I could go to school all week. Five gallons cost $1 and that was a lot of money to me.
Clare and I built the first 10-meter portable transceiver that we ever knew of. It was in a wooden box we built and had straps to hold it on your back. It had earphones and a telephone microphone we rigged up. It had the new miniature tubes and used dry batteries. We could talk for several miles to one another as no one else was on 10 meters. I was called kid QRM (QRM being the Morse code Q signal for interference) by all the hams as I was always making a lot of noise.
In all the times that we moved around, we attended the United Brethern Church in Coleta every Sunday by horse and buggy or car; rain, freezing, or shine. We had an Indian pastor one time and if someone went to sleep he would let out a war cry right in the middle of his sermon. I loved him, he was our scout master and could really tell stories and teach all about hunting and fishing. I cannot remember what Nation he came from.
Horace Bushman, the son of Frank Raymond Bushman and his first wife Hazel, broke his neck diving into a shallow part of Elkhorn Creek in 1935. He lingered for a day, but then died leaving a wife and young daughter. That is also near the old reunion campgrounds on the Hurless Homestead. It’s also near the Elkhorn Grove Cemetery in Carroll County. Clare, Joe Bushman, and I used to hunt coon along Elkhorn Creek. I could take you right to the farm where we used to hunt. We would roast ears of corn over a small fire while the dogs were running and go chasing after them when they treed a coon.
After Grandma Becky died in 1937, Carter and Lucille Dauen and Carter’s son Jackie, Ray and Nellie Rahn and their son Kenny, mom and dad, and me went to Sheridan and New Castle, Wyoming, to see mom’s sister, Lovina Eastabrooks, and her family. Her husband Ernest worked for the railroad; he was a conductor and his run was out of Sheridan, Wyoming. Lovina and Ernest had two sons and a daughter; their daughter Ireta was married to Virgil Mikesell. After Ernest retired from the railroad, they moved to New Castle, Wyoming where Ireta and Virgil and Virgil’s sister lived. Virgil was hurt or sick and could not work and they moved to Florida in the late 1930s. Ernest and Lovina didn’t move to Florida until later. Ireta and Virgil had a citrus farm, mostly all oranges, as I bought a truckload of oranges from them one time and hauled them to Denver. Ernest and Lovina lived with them in Florida. Lovina died in 1946 and Ernie in 1961. I remember Ruth writing and telling me that one of them had died down there, but I don’t remember which one.
Clare was then in the CCC in Oregon. We were gone for two or three weeks; what a trip for us boys. We went all over Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa. I will never forget seeing Devil’s Tower, Yellowstone Park, Custer Battlefield, Mount Rushmore, Deadwood, South Dakota, and lots more. I believe it was in 1937 because two of the cars were brand new and they had Chevy’s new knee action front end that came out in 1937.
In Coleta there was a small house near the U.B. church that I think belonged to Lucille and Carter. It had a big garden with a large grape arbor and Jack Dauen and I dug holes in the garden under the grape arbor and buried home brew so the Fed’s would not find it. Uncle Frank, Joe, Carter, and Dutch would make home brew in the cellar of Uncle Frank’s house and bottle it and hide it where it could not be found. Jack and I would get elected to do the burying as the neighbors would not suspect two kids digging in the gardens. Those were some days, if my Mom would have known that I was doing those things she would have killed me because she belonged to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. I lived with Uncle Frank and Aunt Jonny when school was out. It was a lot more fun and Aunt Jonny would buy me anything I wanted.
In 1938, Clare was living at home on the Hurless farm across Covell Road from the Engelkins farm. Your mother and Clare were married in Dubuque, Iowa on April 16, 1939. I do remember Clare and Vera living in Freeport, because I visited them there when I came home from the CCC. Clare had a doublet antenna run from the house to a tree and it was only a quarter-wave antenna. He was not happy with the results after having a full-wave antenna at the farm. After living in Freeport, where Vera was from, for a short time when Clare was working for the Freeport Silo Company, they lived on the farm with Mom and Dad and Clare worked on the road driving the bulldozer. Joe drove a grader and Wilford worked a WPA crew and drove a dump truck. The also worked in the quarry crushing rock into gravel for roads. Dad was road commissioner. Johnny also worked in the quarry in the wintertime. He and Ruth lived south and west of Coleta on a farm. Previous to that they had moved to a farm that Johnny’s father had loaned them the money to finance. They built a new barn and had a party to celebrate and someone set the barn on fire and it burned down with no insurance. They lost the farm to the bank as everything was in the barn; machinery, etc., but no animals burned. That farm was north of Johnny’s father’s place and west of the Morrison-Chadwick slab.
Clare and Vera’s first child, Joyce, was born in the hospital in Morrison on September 24, 1940. Your mother had a difficult pregnancy with Joyce and had to go to a doctor in Morrison. Joyce was sickly after she was born, but I don’t know what was the problem. Then in 1941 they lived in a small house east of the U.B. Church in Coleta. You, Larry, were also born in the hospital in Morrison on December 26, 1941. There was a huge snowstorm when Vera went into labor. They almost didn’t make it to Morrison because the roads were so bad the car couldn’t make it up the hills; but Clare kept trying because he didn’t want you born in the middle of a snow bank!
I did not graduate from high school. I had enough credits, but did not have a suit or dress clothes to wear to the graduation, so I did not go and they would not give me my diploma. I needed a job, so as soon as I got out of high school I joined the CCC and they sent me the new camp in Oregon, Illinois. It was set up to help the farmers with soil conservation programs, but I was assigned to a crew putting up a fence around White Pines State Park. After a couple of months I saw a notice on the bulletin board that they were looking for radio operators at the CCC camp at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin. I asked to be transferred. They gave me a Morse code test and I passed, so they shipped me off to Camp McCoy. As soon as I got there I was sent to the Ninth Corps Radio School for five weeks to be an Army radio operator. Then I shipped out to Camp Alvin, Wisconsin in the north woods in the lakes area on the Michigan border. The closest town was Iron River, Michigan 37–40 miles away. The Army ran the CCC camps and there was a radio operator at each one for communications. I was the Army radio operator at Camp Alvin and was using the Army transmitter for my Ham use, but it was only 50 watts and CW (Morse code) with head phones only. In 1939, I ordered parts from a Ham supplier in Council Bluffs, Iowa, to build a 150-watt CW/phone transmitter and had the parts shipped to Clare. He built the transmitter and Mom and Dad and Clare and Vera came to Camp Alvin in upper Wisconsin to deliver it. I then put the Army crystals in my transmitter and also used it for the Army messages. I had my Hallicrafters receiver with me that I used for the Army and myself because the Army received was an old three tube heterodyne and my receiver was a super-heterodyne. Clare and I made contact every night on 160 meters; my call was W9JZW and, of course, Clare was W9MBI. They closed the camp right after Pearl Harbor and sent me back to Camp McCoy where they had too many radio operators. They needed truck drivers and since I knew how to drive a truck, I learned how to drive a semi truck and became a semi driver hauling materials to the Army camps. I even came to visit your family in Chicago with one of the Army trucks. I was there overnight and it was parked in a vacant lot across from Clare and Vera’s second-floor apartment on Maypole Street.
My time was up in the CCC and they discharged me and I went home. I know that when I came home from the CCC that Mom and Dad were living alone and Dad was no longer the road commissioner. Dad asked me to stay on the farm that Spring and help and I stayed until we had put up the hay and quit plowing corn. Elias Frankfother (everyone called him “Sloppy”) had a grocery store just north of the intersection in Coleta on the east side of the street. His son Laverne “Barney” Frankfother was actually the son of Frank Bushman, but he was raised by Elias after he married Barney’s mother Ora May Crom. Barney had a feed store on the southwest corner of the intersection. Barney also hauled live stock to Chicago for the farmers and I drove truck for him for several months just after I came home from the CCC. He liked muskmelon halves with a scoop of ice cream and we would always have them at the Stock Yards Café in Chicago after unloading.
Farm life was not for Clare or I, either one. Getting up at 5:00 a.m. and working all day until it was dark. Then the cows had to be milked, eat supper, and go to bed. I usually could hear Dad at about 4:30 building a fire in the kitchen stove and starting the coffee. We had a two-gallon coffee pot and the grounds got changed once a week. Mom would add grounds, egg shells, and water every night after supper. Once a week mom would change the grounds and put them in the garden. We never had a milking machine until we moved to the Hurless farm and we always had about 35 to 45 cows to milk. For all of this you made about $20 a month.
I then moved to Sterling and went to work driving trucks for Lambreck Trucking in Sterling, Illinois. I hauled steel products out of the wire mill to St. Louis, Missouri, and Purina cow and pig feed from East St. Louis, Illinois, back to northern Illinois to the farmers who were distributors and sold to other farmers. One of the farmers I delivered feed to was on a country dirt road east of Lena, Illinois. There was a stone bridge on that road and “C. Reynolds” was carved into the stone on that bridge. Charles Reynolds, Howard’s father, in addition to being a freight teamster, was a stone mason when he lived in Lanark and Freeport and built that bridge. There were a lot of different ways to get to those farms where I delivered feed and one of the bridges was an old wooden plank and steel bridge. It collapsed partly as I went over it. The back trailer was going down as I pulled it off the bridge. I also hauled barrels of oil out of Lawrenceville, Illinois, near Vincennes, Indiana, to Texaco dealers in northern Illinois. That was hard work loading 50-gallon barrels of oil. We had to load and unload our own loads.
I knew they would draft me real soon and I did not want to be an infantry soldier, so I joined the Army hoping to become a radio operator. Clare had told me if I came to Chicago, he could get me a job with the Signal Corps where he was a civilian electronics inspector, but I wanted to see the action. I became part of a brand new transportation division that was being formed at Fort Custer in Battle Creek, Michigan. And, guess what; they sent us, and me back, to Camp McCoy for training and to come up to full division strength. Because of my Army experience in the CCC and also being a ham radio operator, they put me in the division headquarters company where I was assigned as a radio operator. Well, the Major found out I was a truck driver, so he put me in the Motor Pool teaching men how to drive big semis that haul tanks, heavy equipment, fuel tankers, etc. I met Vernice Gladstone from Battle Creek, Michigan, while at Camp McCoy. We were married by an Army Chaplain at Camp McCoy, Sparta, Wisconsin on June 2, 1943. We were married about two months before I shipped out overseas and actually lived together one week. I shipped out to England on the Queen Mary along with the rest of the division. After I was overseas about three months, I received a letter that Verna was having the marriage annulled. In England, I did every thing you can name: cooked in an officers mess, drove staff cars, rode motorcycles as a messenger courier, drove fuel tankers hauling gas to air bases, made a trip to France to identify radar equipment for a commando unit to bring back from a German radar station. That was a real disaster, but we got the transceiver unit and that’s what they wanted. I also drove a bulldozer clearing out hedgerows in France. Clare had taught me how to drive a bulldozer when he was working on the road crew for dad. On D-Day, I went in late with heavy equipment (tank transports) and they tried to drown us. We survived and finally got most of the equipment onto the beach. I served in France, Belgium, Germany, and Northern Italy. I was on my way to the South Pacific with a tank outfit, Second Armored, when Japan surrendered and they shipped us to Camp Lucky Strike at Le Havre, France to wait to go home.
Clare, of course, stayed with the Signal Corps and was involved with some very important projects—proximity fuse for the A-bomb, radar equipment, magnetic field transmission (this is the way they talk to submarines all over the world), and radio remote control. I flew an airplane by radio control in 1938. A friend of Clare’s who was in Joliet State Prison built the miniature engines in the machine shop. I used the telephone escapement mechanism used for dialing to control my controls. Each time the rotary system dials, it puts out a different pulse. I used these pulses to identify the control movement and amount of movement. It was slow, but it flew the plane just like flying a real plane. It was used to fly drones for target practice during the war.
Dad had a feed business along with the farm. He sold cattle and pig feed for a company in Des Moines, Iowa. He was in his 70s and his health was not good. He wanted to just do the feed business. So, while I was overseas, he sold the farm at an auction along with all the equipment, except for a disk and a drag, which were stored behind the garage at the house in Coleta, during the war, 1943 I believe. They bought a white frame house in Coleta where they lived and had electricity for the first time in their lives. We had a small battery system on the farm, but it never worked very good. Dad had his horses (Tom & Jerry and Dan & the mare) put down rather than sell them. He had them as long as I could remember. He was afraid someone would abuse them.
Coleta was a small town of about 120 people that wasn’t much more than a crossroads. At the intersection of the north-south road and the east-west road there was the Stinemeyer hardware store-gas station on the northwest corner, a car repair shop-gas station on the northeast corner, with the Faye Johnson grocery store-butcher shop-meat locker just north of it, the Fields grocery store-gas station on the southeast corner, and the post office on the southwest corner with the fire house just south of it.
Howard Reynolds House
Dad and mom’s house was 5 or 6 houses west of the intersection on the south side of the road. The Tillman house was next to it on the east side and the Meyers house was next to it on the west side. A corn field was across the road and there were fields behind the property. It was a two-story white frame house with an attic and a partial cellar. A single-story kitchen wing was on the back of the house and had a trapdoor in the floor for access to the cellar. The house had electricity, but no central heat and no running water and I don’t believe it was insulated—at least not very well. Downstairs, in addition to the kitchen, there was a dining room, living room, and dad and mom’s bedroom. The kitchen had a coal cook stove and there was a coal stove in the dining room and bedroom and an oil stove in the living room, although the living room was usually kept closed in the winter, except at Christmas. Upstairs there were three bedrooms, all heated by stovepipes passing through the floor from the stoves on the first floor. Only one bedroom had a closet. There was a second closet upstairs in the northwest corner of the house for the other two bedrooms. The well with a hand-pump was just outside the kitchen door and the outhouse was about 50 feet behind the kitchen. There was an unpainted single-car garage with a dirt floor next to the Tillman house with a driveway on Howard’s property between their house and the garage that gave the Tillman’s access to their garage. Dad charged Russell Tillman $1 a year to use that driveway so he couldn’t claim ownership by using it for 20 years. The garage had a lean-to on the west side of it with a coal bin and storage areas on the west side for bags of seed that Howard used when he was selling seed to farmers. There was a large garden behind the house (about half an acre) with a chicken house at the southeast corner of the property. There was a Concord grape arbor, an apple tree, and raspberry bushes on the west side of the garden behind the outhouse. There was a huge oak tree at the northeast corner of the property, just west of the driveway and just south of the sidewalk. The only other tree on the property was an elm tree behind the garage. Clare, Vera, and their three kids, Joyce, Larry, and Gene, lived with them for seven years after World War II.
When I got home, I knew I was not cut out to be a farmer (neither was Clare). This disappointed Dad, but I could not see working from sunrise to after dark and making less money than I could in eight hours. Truck drivers could make more in a week than a farm hand did in a month. I was also a wanderer; I did not want to stay in one place and that is why Jean divorced me; she wanted me home and I wanted to stay on the road. I bought a semi tractor, a 1940 Chevy that was worn out from all the war-years miles and after hauling freight for Lambrecht for a few months, I got tired of working on that truck at every truck stop and not making any money, so I sold it and came to Chicago and stayed with your parents while I looked for a job. I went to work for Relay Transport. They sent me to Summerset, Pennsylvania and I ran from there to New York and Indian Town Gap and back for about six months. I did not like living in the East, so I came back and went to work for Clare and his partner [Cross & Reynolds Trucking] hauling eggs, butter, etc., until the steel strike and there was no work. Royce “Burky” Burkholder, a friend of mine, and I went West and traveled all through Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. Burke was married and his wife and daughter were in Sterling, so he went back to get them. I went to work for Western Auto Transports hauling cars from Detroit, Michigan, to the western states and I lived in Denver. Colorado. A friend of mine, Roy West, and I took over hauling cars from Detroit to Clinton, Iowa using a relay system. We had about six trucks and ten drivers. The driver changed at Cold Water, Michigan. This way, the trucks never stopped running except to service them in Clinton for gas, oil, tires, etc. Whenever a driver wanted off, I would fill in and I also hauled some freight with a freight tractor-trailer rig we had.
On one of my trips I had a load of tires from Gates Rubber Co. in Denver with a New York destination. It was leased to Denver Chicago Trucking and re-leased to Cooper Jarret, who I worked for during the war when I stayed with Clare and Vera in Chicago. Clare decided he wanted to go to New York with me. He took motion pictures on the way and we stopped in Summerset, Pennsylvania to see an old girlfriend of mine. Summerset was an Amish town and they rolled up the sidewalk at 9:00 p.m. every night.
I met Jean Davis in Denver, Colorado. She worked in a department store as a display woman. I had known her and her sister in Denver, Colorado, when I lived there. Her mother lived in Columbus, Indiana, and Jean had some relatives in Iowa. We started dating and I fell in love. Jean did not like me being gone and I was talking about moving back to Denver and buying a rig and hauling freight again. She did not want to go to Denver, so I quit driving and moved to Sterling and went to work for White Castle as a machinist. She did not like Sterling and we were not getting along and I did not like working every night indoors. Jean went back to Indiana and I moved back to Denver. This was like 1948–9. I went back to hauling freight between Denver and the West Coast. I started to race when I was in Clinton, Iowa; stock cars and midgets, and when I got back to Denver, I got involved in racing again. I met Coralin “Corky” Carey in a gas station in 1954 and we started dating and was married on August 28, 1955, my birthday. I quit driving trucks in 1957 and went to work for Ford. I continued to race until I was injured in 1965 and I gave it up for good. In 1962, I went to work for J.C. Penney Co. as a manager in a new Auto Store in Denver. In 1963, they made me training manager to train store personnel for their Auto Centers. I worked stores all over the country, including Alaska. I left Penney when they said I needed to move to the New York office and we moved to Texas in 1972. The rest you should know. Corky and I had two children: Gary and Jackie. Gary Dean Reynolds and Donna Barnes; married in 1984. Donna had a daughter, Mindi, who Gary raised as his own. The have two sons, Christopher and Joshua, and two grandsons, Tyler, 2 years old, and Cody, 1 year.
Jackie Lynn Reynolds is married to James Melton, who had two daughters who lived with their mother. Jackie had cancer at 19 and was told by her doctor to not try to have children. Ruth Rebecca Reynolds was married to Clayton Lavern Conrady three times. The first time was January 17, 1934. They had no children. They divorced in 1938, remarried in 1940, divorced again in 1944. Johnny married Leota Mae King and had two boys (Arthur and Carl), who sis raised as her own. Loeta left him with the two babies and never returned. He divorced her in 1946 and remarried sis that same month.
My biggest memory of Ruth and Clare is getting my butt busted for everything I did and I am sure I deserved it as I was into everything. I lived with Uncle Frank and Aunt Jonny every chance I got because they gave me everything. Aunt Jonny was from Temple, Texas. She lived on a ranch. Uncle Frank promoted rodeos and I would think he met her while looking for rodeo stock. He brought her home and they were married in Coleta. She was as tough as nails and could be a grizzly bear or as sweet as honey. I know the whole town went ballistic when Uncle Frank brought home a Texas cowgirl, but his first wife Haze had committed suicide following a long illness and he needed help raising his young family.
Ruth was not at home much since she worked in Sterling, Milledgeville, Lanark, Dekalb, and several other places. I do not know where she met Johnny. He was a nice guy; he just drank himself to death. Ruth was working at the Eclipse Lawn Mower Plant in Prophetstown, Illinois, when she died of a heart attack on her door step and that is where Arthur found her. She died in 1973.
Mom and dad were hard working and dedicated to each other and dedicated to God. Dad chewed tobacco and for years [after he quit] he would reach for his hip pocket where he carried his Red Man. Mom hated his chewing and he could not do it in the house. Mom could be tough when she needed to be, but she put up with having a house-full to cook for and to clean up after. She had a stroke shortly after dad passed away and was in the county nursing home near Morrison. Corky and I stopped to see her, but she did not know who we were. Clare arranged to sign the house over to the county in exchange for nursing care for mom as long as she lived. Clare made all the arrangements for the funeral and we did not come back for the funeral.
Dad was a strict disciplinarian and could use the razor strop when it needed to be used. He could never understand why Clare and I did not want to farm; farming was his whole way of life. The animals all had names and the horses and dogs were like family. He took a trip with me in an Army truck one time and here we were going 60 miles an hour with a big trailer full of freight. He made several trips as a boy with his father to the Dakotas driving oxen and pulling several wagons and it took months. He was mostly a teamster and I assume that he built bridges in the winter when he could not farm or whatever. Dad never talked much about his brother Leslie. Dad said he worked at Ford Motor Co in Detroit.
Uncle Burt had a mental problem, but what I do not know. It could have been muscular dystrophy as I remember he acted like that. I do remember his funeral after he committed suicide July 10, 1937 in the Stephenson County Home. He had been put there after his mother died, his father having previously died, and his sister couldn’t care for him. The funeral was held in Freeport and Dad, Mom, Clare, and I all went to the County Home to pick up his belongings and they were in a small cardboard box. Just a few old pictures and some personal items. I do not know what happened to them; Dad probably destroyed them.
Della Reynolds, Dad’s sister, had a son Harold out of wedlock and later married a Herman Seik. He had a son Fred who played football for a college team. They raised the two boys as brothers and Harold and Clare were good friends. There was something there about Della that mom did not approve of, but mom did not approve of a lot of things. We always went to see Herman and Aunt Della when we went to Freeport and I liked being at their house much better than Uncle Roy’s and Aunt Etta’s because at their house I had to park in a chair and stay put, but Herman would take me with him to go to the store. Herman worked for the railroad and Harold worked at Burgess Battery. Uncle Roy worked at Micro Switch. Roy Wessel, Jr., Etta’s son, always acted like he was better than the rest and they were all about the same ages. Roy and Etta move to South Street after Roy retired. I do not remember what Roy, Jr., did; but, his wife ran the flower shop and Uncle Roy and Aunt Etta ran the hot house and flower garden next door. I never did hear anyone mention any other brothers and sisters than the onesyou have listed—Burton, Howard, Della, Emma Pearl, Leslie, and Henrietta “Etta.”. The Bushmans were a much closer group than the Reynolds. I only remember one Reynolds reunion and I was only five or six years old. Corky and I visited Aunt Etta and Uncle Roy Wessel several times when we went back to Illinois on trips. They owned a greenhouse and flower shop on the south side of Freeport. That was more often than I had seen her when I lived at home. I think I went to Freeport once a year to see dad’s relatives. I saw my first moving picture in Freeport when dad, mom, Clare, Ruth, and I all drove to Freeport to see the first movie show in Northern Illinois.
On the Bushman side Aunt Lucile Bushman married Lawrence Dauen. His nickname was Carter, but no one knows how he got that nickname. He had a son, Jack Daeun, who was a good friend of Kenny Rahn and I. The Rahn that lived with dad was a relative of Ray Rahn, but in the Hurless/Bushman group, you never knew what relation they were; everyone was a cousin or aunt/uncle. Nellie Rahn was a Hurless. I was 32 when I married Corky. I had been a vagabond when I came home from Europe. I was not fit to be around. I did not want friends - boys or girls. I did not want to get close to anyone. I did not go home to see mom or dad very often; not a very good son. Corky was much younger than I was, but she was the best thing that ever happened to me.
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