THE WALLACE BENJAMIN WHITE FAMILY
Above: Larry and aunt, Patricia Ann White, sister to Larry’s mother, 1946
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Memories of My White Relatives
- Memories of Elkhart
- Illinois River Draw Bridge
- Nash Motor Cars
- Road Games
- The White House
- White Christmas
- Christiana Creek
- Shoeless Joe
Memories of My White Relatives
My maternal grandparents were Wallace Benjamin White (Sr) and Nellie Frances (Teall).
Nellie Frances Teall and Wallace Benjamin White (Sr) as I remember them as a child.
When Wallace Benjamin White was born on May 9, 1905, his father, Tony Matthew White, was 24 and his mother, Nona May Turner White, was 19. He had a year older sister, Mabel, and would have two younger sisters, Viola and Katherine in coming years.
He married Nellie Francis Teall on November 20, 1924, in New London, Missouri. They had nine children in 19 years. He died on December 13, 1976, in Levering Hospital, Hannibal, Missouri, at the age of 71, and was buried in Grandview Cemetery in Hannibal.
Nellie Francis Teall was born on February 11, 1907, in Center, Missouri, to John Redmond Teall, age 42, (1864-1930), and Nellie Francis Beasley Teall, age 28, (1878-1949). She had three older sisters, Lela Mae (1899-1949), Laurel Fay (1901-1974), Leta Sue (1903-1984), an older brother, John Redmond Jr (1904-1957), and a younger sister, Iola Belle (1914-1996).
She married Wallace Benjamin White on November 20, 1924, in New London, Missouri. They had nine children in 19 years. She died on July 23, 1992, in Hannibal, Missouri, at the age of 85, and was buried next to her husband in Hannibal.
Their Family in 1953
Above: Wallace White family April 1953. Back row L-R: Marjorie, JoAnn, Wallace Jr (Jack), Betty, Charlotte, Helen. Front Row: Donald, John Timothy, Wallace, Nellie, Patricia.
Their children in 2003:
Above: L-R: Marjorie Gwendolyn, Helen Beatrice, Betty Gene, Wallace Jr. (Jack), JoAnn, Charlotte Sue, Patricia Ann, Donald Wayne, and John Timothy
Memories of Elkhart
When I was a child, my White grandparents were living in Elkhart, Indiana. It took us over eight hours to drive from our home in Hannibal, Missouri to Elkhart on two-lane highways, a large part of which was two-lane Route 36, before it was improved into an interstate highway.
Travel was slow, as the highways went right through the heart of every town on the route. Most intersections in town were four-way stops, as traffic lights were used at only the busiest crossings, and those were not synchronized with each other to move traffic efficiently. That often meant stopping at every stop light and every stop sign on the route through town.
I remember the endless moving at a snail’s pace because of some farm implement on the road ahead of us. Getting stuck by the draw bridge near Pittsfield was always a bummer, and I recall that it took us quite a while to get through Springfield, Illinois because it was the biggest town on the route.
In 1955 American cars like our Nash averaged between 13 and 15 miles per gallon of gasoline, and held about twenty gallons in its tank. Regular gasoline cost about 23¢ per gallon in those days. A brand new car cost about $1600+, but average salaries were only about $4,000 per year. Postage stamps were 3¢, and sirloin steaks cost 69¢ a pound. Bread cost 18¢ a loaf, and a gallon of milk was less than a dollar (92¢).
We would leave for Elkhart very early morning, while still dark, and we children would go back to sleep after curling up in the big back seat of the car. Mom packed a breakfast of cinnamon sweet rolls and pint-sized glass bottles of milk for us to eat in the car when we woke up.
One of the highlights of nearly every trip was a stop for lunch at the McDonald’s drive-in restaurant on Route 36 in Springfield, Illinois. Dad would buy a big sack of a dozen 15 cent hamburgers, which was a real special treat for us, because this was the only fast food restaurant we knew of! It was big, bright, and cheerful, and had this huge golden arch out front that was taller than the building! It was quite a sight to see! And, inside they had a big Wurlitzer jukebox with bright lights and bubbles that moved all around the outside front edge!
I don’t remember much about the hamburgers, but I do recall the big, greasy, white paper sack full of salty fries! The fries were really delicious, but the sack was so greasy and messy we had to set it on the floor of the car and eat out of it. We couldn’t hold it because of the grease oozing out of the sides of the sack. Dad would always bring lots and lots of paper napkins so we could put some down on the floor to put the sack on, and then some to dry the grease off our hands after we ate.
Dixie Cream Donuts
On the return trips, from Elkhart to Hannibal, we would stop in Springfield at the Dixie Crèam Donut shop on Route 36 for fresh, hot, glazed donuts. Dixie Cream donuts are a little taller than other brands, so that when they get flipped over to cook each side, it results in that characteristic golden band around the middle. I fondly recall those donuts being so light and creamy they would just melt-in-your-mouth! What a treat!
Often, when my grandma and grandpa White came to visit us in Hannibal, they would stop at Dixie Cream in Springfield to get us a treat. When they arrived, after initial greetings, Grandpa would ceremoniously, and painfully slowly, open the trunk of his car, so we had time to gather around, and then, as if in slow motion, lift out a big white cardboard box with a clear window in the lid.
Through that window were a mixed dozen of those glorious Dixie Cream donuts! He would make an event of carefully carrying them into the house as though they were real treasures, with us at his heels, circling close behind, anxious for snack time to arrive.
Illinois River Drawbridge
State Route 36 in those days was a winding, twisting 2-lane highway with an tortuously high amount of farm equipment traffic from the Mississippi River through the hills to Springfield. It took an awful long time to traverse that piece of highway, and we just hated that stretch of road because it was at the end of a very long trip, and we always got stuck behind slow moving semis and farm equipment in long no-passing areas.
What was worse, was the draw bridge over the illinois River right in the middle of this hilly, winding, painfully slow, stretch of Route 36. We just hated getting stuck on that drawbridge when coming back from Elkhart, because it often stopped us for at least half an hour, often more.
When there was a barge approaching, the railroad style crossing bell in the middle of the bridge would start ringing the alarm, and the alternating dual red lights would start flashing, and soon the pavement would start rising in front of us, eventually blocking the way forward.
The pavement in the center of the bridge was hinged so that it would lift up like a clam shell and slowly and laboriously swing upwards to create an opening for the barges and tug boat. This took about five minutes, and was finished long before we could even see the barges around the distant curve. It wasn’t unusual to be halted there for a half hour or more.
It was interesting to open the windows of the car when the draw bridge was lifting up, and hear loud splashes as objects rolled down from the pavement into the water in the river below. We always wondered if any of those were lost valuables disappearing forever into that river. It often seemed like the river current was almost as powerful as the tug, slowing forward progress to a snail’s pace, depending on how strong the current was, and how many barges the tug had to maneuver.
Then the string of barges would slowly appear with the tugboat kicking up a rooster tail wake sometimes higher than the deck of the barge. Straining against the current, the tug struggled cautiously to get just the right angle to guide its load through the opening. The names of the tugboats were fun to look for, too, with monikers like Kathy Spivey, New Dawn, George Levine, and Ginger Belle.
When the weather was nice enough, we got out of the car and stood at the railing to watch the struggle. We also helped clean up the bridge by chucking any loose pebbles we could find into the river. We always saved a few to drop on the barges as they passed underneath. I never gave any thought to damage that we might cause, or injury to crew members, who all seemed to disappear into the tug before they passed under the bridge.
Watching some of the loaded barges was interesting, depending on what cargo they were carrying. Most of the barges had a cover because they were carrying grain or other agricultural products, but some open top barges carried coal, while others had flat tops to carry large pieces of machinery.
Once we saw a tug with several flat top barges carrying olive green army tanks, trucks and jeeps. Dad was familiar with each of the vehicles and told us what they were and what duties they performed. It made the wait much more palatable on that trip.
Nash Motor Cars
As I recall, we had two or three Nash sedans during the 1950s, and at one time, a Rambler station wagon for mom. The Nash cars were big and roomy, shaped like upside down bath tubs, while Mom’s Rambler was more like a small station wagon.
One of the cars I remember us making the trip to Indiana in was an early 1950(?) Nash 4-door with a sloped back window over a vast trunk lid. That Nash had a huge back seat, with deep, soft cushions, softer than our sofa, that made it quite comfortable, even with four of us in the back seat.
Later we had a Nash Statesman, that was also very roomy. It wasn’t as sleek looking as the previous Nash, but, it had an automatic transmission, which apparently made a lasting impression on me since I remembered it. I remember my Uncle Joe Hoffman, who lived down the street, coming to our house to see the new car, and running his hand on it as he walked around it, as though caressing it.
I listened as he and Dad talked about the car, and although I didn’t understand a lot of what they talked about, I could tell Uncle Joe really liked it, and Dad was quite proud of his new purchase. As I recall our last Nash was a 1956 Nash Ambassador sedan, which was more upscale than the Statesman, but still roomy and comfortable.
Another neat thing about the Nash was that you could scoot the front seats forward as far as they would go, recline the backs of the front seats all the way down, and they matched up with the front edge of the back seats, to make a very comfortable bed! Of course, that was in the days before cars had to have headrests or seat belts.
My dad’s brother, Uncle Bill Vaughn, borrowed the Nash Statesman one time when I was about ten or eleven years old, and took me and my cousin Sharon Sampson on a week long trip to the Rocky Mountains. We slept comfortably overnight in the car, and washed up the next morning in restaurant or gas station bathrooms.
We rested very well in those big, comfy, seats made down into beds. It was my first time away from mom and dad for any period of time, and I secretly felt kind of lonely, but felt really grown up to be “out on my own.”
The hood ornaments on the Nash cars were strikingly attractive with a gleaming chrome wind goddess in the lead. The ornament’s style was changed a little from year to year, but it always suggested sleekness, speed and flight.
The art and beauty of the automotive hood ornament and automotive design elements are being artistically preserved by many who are photographing and archiving these timeless designs that adorned our automobiles with distinguishing artistic allure.
There weren’t any digital or electronic games back then, and no magnetized board games suitable for use in a car, so we entertained ourselves by singing songs, reading Burma Shave signs along the road, playing “I Spy” and the Alphabet game, where you looked for letters of the alphabet on road signs to go from A to Z.
Since the route was very rural, and there weren’t nearly as many roadside signs or billboards as there are today, we also allowed letters from license plates, as long as you could point them out for someone else to see. The game really advanced quickly when we got to a town, because the highway went right through downtown, and there were lots of signs and billboards.
- One of my dad’s favorite songs, which he liked to sing very fast, went:
- Mares eat oats, and goats eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy.
- A kid’ll eat ivy, too, wouldn’t you?
It took me a long time after I learned to sing the song to figure out the real words. At first I thought the song was:
- Maresey doats, and goesey doats, and little lamsey divey.
- A kiddle e-divy, too, wouldn’t you?
B-I-N-G-O, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Radio & TV commercials, nursery rhymes and the alphabet song, were popular pastimes on the trips, because we had a six-year range between oldest and youngest. The older ones could read many of the roadside Burma Shave signs along the road, and with help from mom and dad, we had many good laughs, although some of the more risque ones we didn’t understand, and there was no forthcoming explanation. There was usually a comment from the front seat, like, “Huh. wonder what that means . . . . ?”
As we got older, there were writing, reading, coloring and drawing to occupy our time, but with a six year age span, we often just stopped everything and broke out in song, or I Spy, so everyone could join in.
And, in that big Nash back seat, it was pretty easy to just curl up, pull on a blanket, and take a nap. The naps made the trip go much faster, and we could arrive refreshed and ready for some serious play time with our White aunts and uncles.
The White House
Grandma and Grandpa White’s house in Elkhart I remember as being gray asphalt siding. It had a screened in porch on the front side of the house, with the front door off the porch that opened into the dining room, which was in the center of the house, with a large living room on the Pacific Street side, and the kitchen on the back side.
The kitchen had a door to the bathroom on one end, another to the back porch, and a third outside door to the driveway. The steps up to the front porch were on the side of the porch, rather than on the end as shown in this more recent photo.
The steps to the second story bedrooms were in the dining room near the center of the house, and were quite steep for our short legs. I remember using hands and knees to climb up, and jumped from one step to the next to climb down.
The upstairs bedrooms had been built in the attic space, and the interior knee walls had been opened up by removing the interior lathes and plaster and adding insulation to the outside walls, to create yet more storage. I used that same idea many years later when I built five rooms in the very tall attic space of a house we once owned in Noblesville, Indiana.
The family shared a really big bathroom off the kitchen. I think a part of the back porch had been incorporated to make a long, narrow, bathroom that contained that closet. The closet didn’t have doors, it had an assortment of blankets and curtains hung along its front. There was also a food pantry off to the other side, which, again, may have originally been part of the back porch.
The dining room displayed a large, wall hung, illuminated electric clock that always fascinated me. The face of the clock had a clipper ship at sea painted on it, with a lot of sails fully filled with wind. Each of the sails was actually the name of one of grandma and grandpa’s children.
The clock was a gift to them from my father, who had hand painted it. The clock disappeared after grandpa’s death, and no one seems to know what happened to it! What a sad loss! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have it today?
The 1930 census for Hannibal, Missouri records that Wallace and Nellie’s family were living with Wallace’s parents, Tony and Nona White, at 2421 Market Street. Their youngest children were still at home. Viola was 18 and a stenographer for an insurance company, and Katherine was 15. Tony, age 47, listed his occupation as auto mechanic, and Nona, age 45, listed hers as shoe worker at the shoe factory.
Wallace, age 24, listed his occupation as truck driver. Nellie, 23, did not list an occupation, but was probably housekeeping and tending to the children, which at that time included Marjorie, age 2 1/2, and Helen, age 1 year.
Also living in the home during that census was Nona’s widowed father, Frank Turner, who listed no occupation. He died in his sleep at that address on November 1, 1934.
2421 Market Street
Above Front row L-R: Wallace Jr (Jack) & JoAnn, 2nd row: Betty, Marjorie, Helen, Rear: Wallace holding Charlotte, and Nellie, 1937
In the 1940 census, Wallace and family were living in Mexico, Missouri, where he was employed as a laborer by A.P. Green brick factory. Family tradition is that he first hauled raw clay from the pit where it was excavated to the sorter yard, but later was able to get indoor work running and repairing various machines.
Above: Open pit mining operations next to the A. P. Green Fire Brick Company in Mexico, Missouri, 1955. Notice the steam shovel bottom left, pile of mined clay at center, and roads in and out of the pit at top right.
More on A.P. Green at https://shsmo.org/historicmissourians/name/g/green/
Nellie did not list an occupation in that census, but, we know that she was housekeeping and raising her children, Marjorie, age 12, Helen, age 11, Betty, age 9, Wallace Jr, age 7, JoAnn, 5, Charlotte, 2.
Our families never had much money, and I can remember that most Christmases were pretty sparse, with only a gift or two for anyone. Sometimes there wasn’t enough money to buy new decorations for the tree, which often was a small fir we found growing along the highway or railroad tracks. There was always great discussion about which side of the tree to turn to the wall to get the best side facing the room.
Then, droopy limbs would be tied with black thread to higher limbs or even the trunk of the tree, to pull them up and fill in the gaping holes. Decorations were often strings made of fluffy white popcorn, some tinsel, and a few lights. I remember one year when dad dipped some of the light bulbs into blue paint, so we would have some color on the tree.
I also fondly remember the electric bubble lights we once had. They were shaped like a candle in a base, and when warm, the liquid in them would move bubbles from the bottom to the top, where they disappeared. That bubbling motion, and their bright colors made them very appealing to us, and we worked tirelessly to keep them standing upright on the branches for maximum bubbling effects.
An Elkhart Christmas
Gifts were usually school or church clothes, some candy, fruit and nuts in our sock, and one toy each on Christmas morning. I remember one Christmas in Elkhart we were at my grandparent’s house, when the only thing under the tree was a bushel of red apples in a #3 galvanized wash tub.
I don’t recall any adults being around when we got up and hurried to the tree. We were surprised and disappointed, of course, but, as children do, we made the best of the situation. We counted the apples, decided how many each person would get, put them back in the bucket under the tree, and spent the whole day going back to get an apple as a snack, spreading them out so they would last all day.
I can only imagine how sad my parents and grandparents were that they were not able to do anything more than that on Christmas, but I’m sure they felt some relief when we made a bit of a game of eating our share of the apples one at a time, so they’d last the whole day.
The White’s house was located in an older neighborhood that bordered Christiana Creek, which had flood control gates on it somewhere upstream. When the gates were closed, the water was only ankle deep, and we could wade across to the city park in the middle of the stream.
When the gates were open the water was too deep, and the current too swift to cross, so we would have to walk several blocks to reach the bridge to cross over. We would often take a shortcut over the railroad trestle, but more than once had to run precariously to get to the end of the wood structure because of an oncoming train.
We often waded across to the park when the water was low, but then would have to walk all the way around to get home, because the gates had been opened! There was a large deep spot in the creek, not far from where we usually waded across, that was called the swimming hole. There was a swing with a rope and an old truck tire that you could ride from the bank and drop off into the deepest part of the water.
There was also a double deck diving platform with what we called a “high dive” board which I didn’t use very often because I didn’t like the pressure on my body when going that deep. There was also a buoyed line that marked off the area that was safe from the current when the floodgates were open.
I recall one incident in which Aunt Helen had chosen to go swimming with me and my uncle, Don White, her brother, in Christiana Creek in Elkhart. Don and I were, perhaps, eleven or twelve years old, and Helen was in her mid-twenties, but had the mental capacity if a child. The creek was generally only chest deep when the gates were open, and ankle deep when they were closed. But, there was also a ponded area with deep water and a high dive that was accessible all the time. This is where we liked to swim.
Helen didn’t do any actual swimming, that I recall, but liked to walk around in the chest deep water. She didn’t talk to anyone, or get in anyone’s way. She was just happy being there occasionally splashing a little water up onto her face. Don and I were nearby, but didn’t feel that we had to be right there with her. Nevertheless, we did keep an eye on her.
Three teenage boys who were also swimming started picking on her, making her quite uncomfortable. She was in a near panic, not knowing what to do, and they had surrounded her, so she didn’t know how to get out of the situation. I realized what was happening, saw that Don was up on the high dive, and didn’t see what was going on.
I decided that I had to go to her “rescue,” making lots of noise as I splashed over to her, yelling at the boys to leave her alone. I was a skinny little pre-teen at that time, but my bravado worked! They moved on, and we left to take her home.
The creek also had some real good fishing holes, and my Uncle Don, who was nine months younger than me, would grab a couple of fishing poles, dig up a few worms, and we’d go fishing. We didn’t have reels, just a piece of line tied to the end of the bamboo cane, and a hook at the bottom. We didn’t need sinkers or bobbers, because for catfish you just drop the bait on the bottom and wait for the fish to find it.
We did have an old rusty pair of pliers that we took with us because it was very hard, often, to get the hook out of the fish’s mouth. Sometimes the fish would swallow the hook, and it was even harder to retrieve to fish again. This was made even more difficult by the sharp spiny fins that kept poking us. We put the fish on a rope stringer placed back in the water to keep them alive until time to clean them back home.
One evening we decided to go fishing for catfish, using dough balls made from slices of stale bread and a chopped up chicken liver. We were real lucky that night, and caught a stringer full of fish. But, we had stayed so late into the night, and had gotten so tired, we didn’t feel like cleaning the fish. So, we hung the stringer of fish on the clothesline to keep the fish away from animals, and went to bed.
Well, by the time we got up the next day, the fish had been hanging in the open air long enough that they had spoiled. Whew! What an awful odor! We had a miserable time getting rid of the rotten fish, and it took a long time to get the odor off our hands, and out of our minds!
We walked about a block up the alley to where there was a dumpster we could place the rotting carcasses in. We didn’t even keep the stringer, deciding it would be better to replace it than take the fish off it. Still, today, after all these years, I have a dislike for fish with a strong odor or “fishy” flavor!
Once, at 138 Pacific Street in Elkhart, my Uncle Donnie (Donald Wayne White) and I found dad’s paint pigments while exploring the large room Grandpa had built across the entire rear of the house, and “played” with the silver one that was stored in a small .
We painted the sidewalk from the driveway to the house with the soft, silky smooth pigment, spreading it with our hands. It had no flavor (which was a good thing), but it was so mesmerizing we felt compelled to spread it out to share its beauty.
I have to point out that Donnie was nine months younger than me, so it was probably me that led the mischief. We spread the silver pigment on the sidewalk, getting it all over our hands, of course, and then onto our clothes. But, what are you to do? Art is where you find it, right? And, the task at hand was to make that stretch of sidewalk as pretty as possible.
I sprinkled the entire package of pigment from its psper envelope onto the concrete walk and began spreading it with my hands to smooth it over as much surface as possible. Don happily joined in, crawling on top of what had already been smeared to spread it even further.
We eventually figured out that crawling on the pigment had to stop because it was destroying how pretty it was. We worked to the edges and then got on the grass to finish smoothing it out.
We were totally immersed in our work when Grandma came out back to check on us, and found what we were up to. There we were, caught “red handed” with the evidence of our deed smeared all over ourselves.
She had brought a camera with her, and made us assume the position shown in the photo to preserve the evidence. I don’t remember what happened after that, but I’m sure the aftermath wasn’t fun.
My mom said that she remembers that we both got our butts spanked, and dad had to find a painting job that would use silver gilt lettering so he could replace the pigment. I’m sure it caused difficulties all around, but the sidewalk sure was pretty for a short time!
Everyone had to walk on the grass until it washed away to avoid tracking the silver pigment into the house. So much for good intentions!
The ‘56 Ford
Grandpa White liked cars, and it seems, after I was old enough to notice, that he had a new car about every time he came to visit. I remember a Hudson Hornet with load leveling that let him raise and lower the front or back, or one of the sides, or all four corners!
Another was a Mercury sedan with a retractable hardtop that folded back into the trunk to create a convertible. Then a Dodge with a swing-away spare tire (we called it a Continental Kit), and another with a fuel filler tube hidden behind the tail light.
My favorite, though, was his 1956 Ford Victoria with Moonroof. It was green and white with a plexiglass moonroof above the front seats, a Continental Kit on the rear that housed the spare tire.
It had also allegedly been equipped with a Thunderbird engine and dual Cherry Bomb Glasspack mufflers. The glasspacks were developed specifically to enhance the sound and performance of muscle cars and coincidentally gave the car a gutteral rumbling sound, much like modern Mustang GTs.
Grandpa’s Victoria had a standard 3-gear stick shift (manual) transmission, and during one trip to Hannibal, he took me, Donnie, and Timmy, down the Hannibal hill on Highway 61 toward the junction with what is now county road 412. Highway 61 crests just past Huckleberry Drive when heading north, and beyond is a long, gentle slope downhill to the junction. There is also a reduced speed limit at the top of the hill.
As we approached the reduced speed zone, Grandpa slowed from highway speed, placed the shift lever in second gear and slowly released the clutch. The back pressure on the twin mufflers made a sweet, bassy, symphony of tones as the car boom-boom-boomed all the way down the hill.
It was music to our ears and we begged Grandpa to do it again, but he said we’d probably better wait for another time so we didn’t cause the neighbors too much grief. We never got to do it again. because he was soon in his next new car.
Wallace and Nellie family in backyard of 2421 Market Street in Hannibal. Gardening tools and canning equipment were kept in the shed at left, and cobbler’s stand and craftsman’s tools were stored in the shed at the right. Railroad tracks ran just behind the two sheds.
Wallace with his sisters on his parents 50th wedding anniversary, April 15, 1953. They are in the living room of 1505 Vermont, Hannibal. L-R in front: Tony, Nona, Mabel, Wallace. In rear L-R: Katherine and Viola (Peachy)
Next chapter: Vaughn and White Great-Grandparents