I don’t know if it was after he knew he was sick or whether it was something he was thinking about—as all of us do at this point in life—but he was obviously thinking about writing the story of his life, and these were the notes he was making to himself of what happened along the way.
Dad used the working title “Of Days That Used to Be”—a little dramatic for my tastes, but, then it was just a working title!
He started with “1918 – HSW & MWL married in Glasco, Kansas”. The initials, of course, identify his parents Hanson Sumner Woodward and Mary Wilhelmina Lampert.
Dad was an only child, so he always had a very close relationship to his parents. My dad only got one week of vacation each year, but for most of my childhood, there was no question but that our annual family excursion was to drive through the night to Kansas to visit his parents. And when Granddad Woodward died in 1963, Grandma Woodward came to Texas to live with us for last eight years of her life. Dad was a devoted son.
Dad duly notes his own birth on February 23, 1920, the death of his grandmother in 1922, and a family trip to Colorado in 1924, certainly important family events, but ones that he probably only remembered as heard from his parents.
Dad loved learning! It must have started early because the next most important years for his memoirs are his years in elementary school. He listed all of his teachers by name—except his fourth grade teacher who must have been very unimpressive not to make the list: Mrs. Capron and Miss Bruner (1st grade), Miss Pierce (2nd grade), Delma Nowella (3rd grade—and who remembers their third grade teachers first name???) Pauline Olmstead (5th grade), Edna Erickson (6th grade), and O.W. Cobb (7th grade).
Dad does drop a few subscripts into his notes about getting whooping cough and “Lindbergh” in 1927. I don’t know if we have American heroes like Charles Lindbergh anymore!
From 1932, when he was 12, to the end of high school, he tended to list activities that he loved doing. In his own shorthand, he writes: “ play – baseball – reading” . If I had to describe my years 12-15, I might have made the same list!! Pretty interesting.
He notes a few personalities “Joe L (Joe Louis), Babe R (no explanation needed!) Lindbergh kidnapping” but those were all afterthoughts in his notes, after “play – baseball – reading”.
In 1933, he adds electricity and in 1934, he added radio to his lists of interests and activities. Hold on to that—because he did for the rest of his life.
After graduating from high school, he lists the following for 1938: Teaching (his first job), Dating (first outings, I’m sure), and ’29 Chevy (first car). The relationship of those three items is pretty obvious, isn’t it!!
Most Americans would say that WWII broke out in 1941 after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but the word War makes his list in 1939—the year Hitler actually began WWII with the invasion of Poland.
Dad left teaching at his one-room Kansas schoolhouse in 1941 to go to Radio School in Kansas City, which is where he roomed with J.P. Lyles from Justin, Texas, who had a picture of his little sister on his desk, a Texas girl named Daisy with beautiful red hair. The single entry that recurs every year from 1941-1945 is Daisy, ending with “married Daisy” and “war ends” –kind of a humorous juxtaposition that Dad would have definitely inserted purposefully. He had a great, but subtle sense of humor.
1946 – Converted . He took his faith very seriously and while he had always been a believer, even a church goer as a boy and young man, his word converted probably describes his new lifelong commitment.
From this point on in his outline, it is pretty sketchy. I don’t know where the detail went, but it is mostly the birth of children and family moves. He does include, however, the planting of the Eastridge Church of Christ in 1953, of which we were part, and Fort Worth Christian’s (FWC) beginning in 1958. I know that these two events were BIG events in our family, moments when Dad’s faith was stretched and he grew. I believe that’s why they are in this list.
Mom and Dad were pretty young in 1953, and Dad was pretty new at commitment, yet he took on teaching responsibilities at the new Eastridge church, teaching jr. high boys for years—which was no easy task. He became an elder sometime in the late 50s or early 60’s, just before Eastridge merged with other congregations to become the Midtown Church of Christ, where he continued to serve through that transition.
His outline ends in 1961, something I would explain with the fact that in 1965, my dad’s life changed drastically. He lost his job, lost his health, and became severely depressed. No doctors, no treatments, nothing really fully restored Dad to the physical or mental health that he had earlier enjoyed.
When he was diagnosed with terminal cancer (mesothelioma) in 1989, it was another bitter disappointment—the last one—that he had to deal with. I know that he had had bigger ambitions, bigger expectations for himself, but starting with his polio in 1930, his life had not been that easy. This last and final disappointment could have hardened his heart.
I’m so happy to write the momentary conclusion of his story though for him because I know that he was faithful to the end. As death came closer and after he had no more voice for words, he wrote on his notepad. “My Jesus, as Thou Wilt”
A few years back I had one of those dreams that is so vivid that I sometimes call it my vision. I die in that dream and as I approach heaven, I see my dad running to meet me. I never saw my dad run because of his polio-inflicted lameness, so I know that this image is of a new time—and that his story did not conclude at the Prairie Mound Cemetery.