|Autobiography of W. E. Smith.|
|Family Page > William Smith's Autobiography > Chapter 3, Annie|
I had a good home with a fine father and mother, one brother, and three sisters, and a good situation with the Frisco Railway paying $60 per month, so why should I be restless? But I was. I drifted into a Presbyterian church, Sunday school and Christian Endeavor. We used to say "Providential Guidance," and I do still emphasize that. In the choir of that church sat a young lady in the alto section who wore a broad-brimmed white leghorn hat with large cloth red roses sewed on it. I thought I had never seen such a gorgeous being in all my life, and as I forgot all about the preacher and his sermon, I got to studying what was under that adorable headpiece. Sunday after Sunday I looked for that hat and my dream girl just seemed to develop more and more. I cannot say just what she was thinking and I am sure nobody else could. That was the spring of 1895. I assure my posterity we were formally introduced and at all times maintained the strict behavior of the day. For instance, while we had no curfew, by 10 P.M. she was safely inside her door and I was on my way home. Annie Rebecca Scobee. . .[Next: Hollywood] [Contents]
That was a long time ago -- over 50 years. It seems as but yesterday. She was a most remarkable character. She was at that time teaching school in St. Louis but did not bear the earmarks of a school teacher. I was then 20 years old. We maintained a close friendship, not quite as close as I would have it, but she had some ideas of her own and I knew I had a contest cut out for me. Parties and picnics were many, and another thing that brought us in closer contact was the choir. You see, with my initiative it was not long before I was a member of that choir and then director of it. We had four members for each part, 16 in all, and the organist was a fine lady and friend, and the sexton pumped the organ. Many solos did I sing, especially in the Sunday evening services, and maybe with a bit more pathos, as Annie was listening.
Another stumbling block to get around was her stepfather, Alexander Ruggles, who was very jealous of his daughters. A very fine old gentleman with a great love for little children and a greater disdain for dudes, especially those fellows who seemed to have designs on his daughters, he showed many a young fellow the gate, one of them being my worst competitor. This young fellow was studying for the ministry and was one of a class of three, Annie Scobee, Ed Thias and Alex Cameron. The teacher was Miss Augusta Neff, who I think was interested in promoting my designs on the lady member of the class. The course was strictly the study of Greek and since I was not a Greek scholar I could not claim a seat in this class, which was quite a hardship in my social standing. This class sponsored a number of picnics, parties, etc., but it seemed always Ed Thias was the favored gentleman, much to my annoyance. He afterward went to a seminary, which I thought was a good place for him, and when he graduated he was married to a young lady coed and they took a postgraduate course in a college in Germany. When they came back he was ordained a Presbyterian pastor of a church in Illinois, where he served for several years and then went to his reward, leaving his widow with a baby boy and girl. This widow came to California and served a position in Hollywood High School. The name of Mrs. Edwin Thias will long be remembered in that high school institution.
Annie had a stepsister, Lulu. Lulu was a fine young woman, very talkative and my true friend. I do not know what she told Papa Ruggles, but I do know the bars were let down when I came around, but Papa Ruggles never could sit in our company -- his jealousy would not let him. I did manage, however, on a number of occasions to get invited to Sunday dinner, but he left me strictly alone. I believe he liked me. Before we became engaged to be married he took sick and I believe gall stones of the bladder took him to heaven. I stood by his death-bed and bade him "goodbye" and as I leaned over to catch his words I heard him whisper, "God bless you." To the best of my knowledge those were his last words. I have wished many times that he could have lived to know my two daughters and seven sons. I am sure God answered his prayer and he would have been a fine friend as was Grandma Ruggles.
It was in the fall of 1895 that the auditor of the Frisco Railway came to me and told me of a man in California who would like to trade positions, and as we were doing similar work and I wanted to go to California with my family, the change seemed to be the thing. So November 1, 1895, found me located in Los Angeles; Pop and Mom, Jennie and Rowena followed me a few months later. So I left Annie Scobee in the hands of some of my rivals with my destiny in jeopardy. It was no small matter for me to leave all my beloved, etc., behind and go on this adventurous change. But I was still young and laying a foundation for the future and of course Annie was going to California too someday.
We rented a nice little two-bedroom house in Los Angeles but Pop could not get his feet on the ground and within a year, more exactly August 1897, he returned to St. Louis. Annie and I, however, kept up our correspondence. In July of 1897 a world Christian Endeavor convention was held in San Francisco and Annie was sent as a delegate. Of course she could not come to California without "running down to Los Angeles for a visit." She was with us about one month that summer. Sadie and her baby, Ina, were likewise visiting us at the same time. I spent a very happy summer that year, but like all good things, it came to an end. Annie had to return to her school September 1, so Pop and Sadie went back to St. Louis with her.
NOW!!! Something else happened that summer. We all got on a boat and made the trip to Catalina. What an outing that was for two lovers, for such we had grown to be. I am sure she was in love with me then, but she had a hard time making sure of herself. Much to her embarrassment that boat would not keep an even keel and she lost her sense of balance. I thought it best to leave her alone for awhile. Of course I was worried and went down to a lower deck and found a spot which I thought was just under where she was. It was, exactly. I could not resist looking up, and I did. She could not resist looking down, and she did. And the sea breeze saved the map of my face from discoloration. That all over, we all felt a little relieved, but Annie retired to a lounge and kept her eyes closed for the rest of the journey and I was deprived of the pleasure of her company.
We all landed safely and found cabins for overnight accommodations. I think the beds must have been made especially for a work house gang. The mattresses seemed to be filled with rocks and the original breeding places for fleas. Some of the party, allergic to flea bites, scratched themselves into blood-poisoned boils, Sadie especially, and those bites are some fond memories of Catalina.
But there lingers in my memory, and never to be forgotten, the next morning after the first night in that cabin. I cannot say just how it came about. Annie and I could stand it no longer, between the rocks, and fleas, heat and a few mental or heart obsessions, so we each quietly dressed and met outside about 4 a.m. Although lavishly chaperoned we found ourselves alone together, and, wandering off, we found a large boulder overlooking the vast expanses of the Pacific Ocean. The surf made a perfect accompaniment for our retreat. For every young couple wanting to get married together I heartily recommend that Catalina rock. Oh, we beat around the bush -- not being experienced in those matters, both of us being very shy young people. We finally got down to business and started talking "very plainly" to each other. She seemed to understand what I was driving at and she finally said, "Oh, Will I just cannot give you an answer now. We must wait." So wait we did. I am very glad it turned out that way then. In fact I am perfectly satisfied with the way everything turned out later.
Well, the day came for Annie to board the train for her return home4. Of course I couldn't kiss her goodbye because we had not become engaged yet. But, oh, that hand clasp, those endearing glances, the "all-aboard" of the conductor and the "choo-choo" of the engine nearly drove me crazy. I think if I had been a Tarzan I would have pulled that train back. But such are the ways of life for a young man, so I pulled myself together and started all over again. When I got home I found a card with a dime pinned on it with an inscription: "A dime & pin for you." I kept that a long time, but in later years, after nine children had made their advent, or, as the Darky preacher said, "I had a son born to me," it took that diamond pin to meet expenses.4. For letters written on her train ride home see Annie's Letters, August 12 and 14, 1897.It developed the following November for Mom to return also to St. Louis with Jennie and Rowena. Mom for many years had been troubled with piles, and I think with additional worries she got in a terrible condition. Now the task of packing and shipping five rooms of furniture, there being about half a car load of it, was no small matter. Mom was a first class packer and I believe she could pack more stuff in a suitcase than Norman can pack in his Pontiac, which ability he no doubt inherited from her. She broke down near the end of the job and a good part of it was left to me.
We were so busy we forgot all about my accommodations after they left, and when the day came for shipping and bidding Mom and sisters goodbye I hadn't any idea where I was going to live or when ever I would see my dear ones again. Mom was suffering terribly, so I stuck out my manly chest once more to Mom, and this time I said, "Mom, you can't go on that journey alone with those two little girls. I am going with you." The moving vans were at the door. While they loaded I got dressed and went down to the office. I saw my chief clerk and told him my story. He gave me full clearance to go to the top boss, Mr. J. J. Byrnes, and I tell you, approaching that man in his position was something like having an interview with Joe Stalin. Mr. Byrnes became very sympathetic to my cause and gave me a special freight rate and a round trip pass. Not that he was glad to get rid of me, but he did say, "If you don't use the return portion of the pass you may mail it back to me," which I subsequently did. That was in November, 1897.
We all found shelter in St. Louis with Sadie until we could get possession of our old home again and unpack all that furniture and settle down. Sure, Annie came to see me as soon as we returned. But as Sadie was living in the southern part of St. Louis, and our home being in the northern part of town, the matter of my neglected courtship had its complications, and anyway I had to get back to business. Again I appealed to my friends in the Frisco Railway office and they made a job for me in the "freight department." I struggled with those tariffs and rate sheets trying my best to make an impression.
One day the assistant auditor called me up on the carpet, and I tell you that was something to be put on that spot. He told me they wanted a voucher clerk in the treasurer's office of the American Car and Foundry Company, and he thought I might like the job. He recommended the change, so did I, and forthwith the next day I took a bath, put on a clean shirt, collar, cuffs, had my hair cut, got a shave, for my whiskers by this time began to scratch, shined my shoes and called on Mr. Hoadley, Treasurer, and got the job. I believe I am the champion "check-writer of America," or at least should be. For over four years I did nothing but write checks, fortunately not on my own bank account but on about seventeen others in banks scattered all over the East and middle West. That was a nice job and afterward it developed into a position in which I had my own "secretary" and some responsibilities.
All this time Annie was growing and growing on me and we were getting closer and closer together and Lulu was keeping a watchful eye. Time and space does not permit to record the many committee meetings, parties, outings, socials, etc., we had to keep up with -- Annie all the time keeping at arm's length! One evening standing at the front door bidding her good night -- we had had a very pleasant evening and I felt encouraged -- I asked her if I could kiss her goodnight. WOW -- I did, but it was only a peck on the cheek which she offered me. It was something at least, and I cherish it to this day. My encouragement grew out of bounds.
One evening, a rainy and stormy night, we went to church all dressed for the weather. I wanted to be a gallant suitor and assisted Annie in getting her rubbers off. When it came time to put them on again my hands slipped, or I slipped, and caught hold of her calf to balance myself. And oh, my! There I had spilled the apple cart again. Well, we parted company, "never to see each other again." I had been so rude. Oh, what a night! My good friend Lulu heard of it and gave that sweet little chuckle of hers and made it her business to see me for further instructions. They were: "Don't give up -- Annie will be all right, so just get hold of her and apologize and everything will be forgiven," and so it was.
Now I would like to say a word about these lovers' quarrels. I think they are the spice of life and the joys and pleasures that follow are out of this world. They also are the means of getting to know each other better. They also help to develop character. Never be afraid; just go and place your arm around your wife or husband, whether in the right or wrong, and say, "Honey, I am awfully sorry that you are in the wrong," give her a broad smile and a resounding affectionate hug and boy, oh boy, your blood will tingle from the roots of your hair to your toenails if you can make hers do the same. And so Annie and I became reconciled. Bless her dear heart.
I have often heard it said: "Don't tell everything you know." Keep on loving and say nothing. It is wise that some things get into this biography and also that some do not. I would not want it known that I was a scrappy kid and had to stand and fight when occasions offered. I could not run due to the polio, but I never had a black eye or a cut head as my brother did.
Dares were things I weighed very lightly. One day in the Railway office on the 7th floor, my "bosom friend" brought his lunch in a #6 paper bag. He had crackers for lunch and the crumbs remained. He dared me to fill the bag with water and drop it out of the window. We frequently had let small things fall out of that window. One day it was a mouse which we caught. We made a parachute of yellow tissue paper which we tied to the mouse's tail and dropped him down on Broadway. He ran down the sidewalk carrying his parachute until he dropped out of sight through a grating. That was comic. This bag of water was tragic. It went off as it hit the sidewalk with a BANG, dropping directly in front of a gentleman wearing a stovepipe hat and carrying a gold headed cane -- presumably an actor. The hat went one way, the cane another, and he sat on the sidewalk beside a little stream of water with cracker crumbs as little islands.
Also my "bosom friend" and I dared to go out on a raft on the pond. The raft started to go to pieces. It was decided one of us must jump in and try for the shore. I jumped -- down, down, down I went to my armpits. I thought I was going down to China but here I am today. Another time my "bosom friend" took me for a walk on the ice. It was getting "rotten," as we used to say, and as we walked along it started to sway. It seemed at every step we would go through. But we separated and held our breath, and as by a miracle we reached the dam and were safe. I had not yet met my destiny. One day Annie and I were walking the railroad trestle across a creek and a train was coming along, but we had not met our destiny as yet, and so it goes.
Then one day after some four years of courtship I up and says to myself -- No, I guess I said it to Annie -- says I, "See here." She gave me one of those looks of hers, but I was also determined to pin her down, and before I had a chance to finish one half of my prepared speech, she says, "Well, suppose I say yes." I nearly collapsed. It was nearly four years before I could get her to say those kind words. Well, I made haste in getting her a nice little ring, opals surrounded with diamonds, and were they beautiful. Then there was the announcement party. Everybody was very happy, even one or two of my other girl friends, who still held fading hopes.
Annie and I loved each other very much. She often said she wanted to get married and have a family and not teach school any more. She never taught school any more, and before I realized what married life was all about -- within nine months and twenty-three days from July 3, 1900, our wedding day -- the cutest little package was left in our bed one night that had ever come into our home. It was a dear little girl, robust and as healthy a baby as was ever born. We named her Elizabeth after her Grandma Ruggles, which was just the proper thing to do. My new sister-in-law Lulu was as happy over that advent as the parents were.
She grew in wisdom and stature. Annie is now Mother. Mother had plenty, and to spare, for her child. It so happened another new mother in the neighborhood was not so fortunate, and her baby was starving. We have always held to the principle of sharing what we have, and so the neighbor's baby was brought in for regular meals and its life was saved.
Everybody who had a family in those days knew healthy mammas had to have a rest before the next one was expected, and so Elizabeth's meal laboratory had to be changed. Various homemade prescriptions and recipes were proposed, but Elizabeth, being high-bred, required something special. So our next enterprise was a cow, whereby hangs a "tail" and not the cow's. As in my boyhood days, I remembered Pop and his Jersey and thought I would profit by his example. Instead of buying a high-bred Jersey or any other strain I decided on an old scrub cow which had a scrubby calf, which I did not get. That night I lay awake wondering what was the first thing to do to take her milk away from her. I decided first of all to be kind to her, and if she was going to kick me over she should have the first kick. I found out what to feed her and from which side she preferred to be milked. No excitement was allowed on the part of the neighbors, and my women folk were warned to stay away. I got all fixed up and quietly sat down and started "pulling." I had to try several combinations but soon that juicy white liquid started flowing, and when I got up from that stool I felt like a real man and PAPA. We had failed to find anything that would agree with Elizabeth and she was beginning to show signs of starvation. Even fresh Jersey milk, which was available at that time, had no life-giving elements for our child. But when we started giving her that old scrub cow's milk she grew into a little "butter-ball," as we used to call her, and a mighty cute butter-ball she was. I think much more will be said about Elizabeth, the daughter of a school teacher and a father who had started a college education and flunked.
You know it takes a negative and a positive to make a good reproduction. I have always been a very modest and bashful young man, very devout in my Christian education and using same for what I thought to be the uplift and betterment of young people.5 I guess the Good Lord thought we were pretty good agents of his to help replenish the earth as He started sending us children one after the other, never in pairs, until the total count was nine -- seven boys and two girls -- and every one of them was delivered to us without blemish or flaw. All of them I think have keener minds than their parents, each one of them having a college education except Edward. He did not need one.5. This portion of the paragraph appeared in the handwritten but not the typed draft.That scrub cow proved such a success that it led us into a small dairy in our back yard consisting of three cows and a calf or two, chickens, etc. And I am often thankful that Boards of Health were not heard of in those days. People were healthier and lived longer on the peck of dirt a person was supposed to consume in his lifetime.
I feel I must record my experience with one of my cows. It may not be of interest now, but she was then. She was a fine young Holstein which I bought from a Catholic priest. She had a calf and was supposed to be perfectly gentle. They delivered her to my stable. My dairy did not need stanchions, for all my cows were supposed to be perfectly gentle and kind. But this baby got into the fold and I no more than sat down to her when with one sweep of her right hind leg she kicked me clean out of the barn. WOW! What a kick for a good gentle Catholic cow. I got up and tied her back legs together, lifted one of her front feet up and tied it there, then took a chain and cinched it around her belly and pulled her nose tight up to the manger. I thought I had her licked, being kind and everything else to her, and sat down quietly and thoughtfully beside her rear end again. I got in only one squeeze when BANG she went again and all my efforts were in vain. She being fresh and her large udder being tight as a snare drum, I knew I had to milk her. I tried to make friends with her and just about thought she would be lovable when another remedy occurred to me. I got a harness ring and ran a small leather strap through it and buckled it on her right rear ankle. I then got a rope with a harness snap on it, snapped it into the ring and made her stand in just the position I wanted her. I tied the rope back leaving all moveable parts free, limiting movement to a certain area. I was careful not to get into that area. I milked a big bucket of milk that night and that cow nearly kicked her leg off but all she hit was the wind. It must be awful to be so ticklish. The next winter it was cold, eighteen degrees below zero, but I milked her twice a day, never without the hitch on her, and finally sold her to a dairy who afterward sold her for sausage, a fine cow gone to sausage for being so ticklish.
God must have thought we were about ready to take care of another baby so he sent us a fine little boy one night, and I was a proud Papa to have such a fine boy-child. He grew and waxed older each day and we named him John Needham Dudley, the John Needham from his Grandpa Smith and Dudley after a former sweetheart of Mother's. No apologies please. It's a fine name for a big smart boy. Dudley was delivered to us by a Dr. Worth, a distant relative of a cousin of Mother's who was staying with us, who married a sister of the cousin, who was not a cousin to the cousin of Mother's. The Worths also had a baby girl just about Dudley's age. They were having great difficulty with her food supply and even the Doctor could not figure out what to do. So Mother simply said, "Bring her over and I will try to see what I can do for her." And Dudley was none the worse for the experience. I went a long way to see that young lady the last time I was in St. Louis. I did see her aunt, the widow of Mother's cousin, but I missed the niece and was very disappointed.
As a toddler Dudley was very venturesome. One day he thought he would explore the attic. There were very dangerous stairs leading up there and in the darkness he took a tumble down those stairs, injuring his back and knocking out several teeth. Within several years we got his back all straightened out and the teeth grew in normally in due time. Dudley was a fine, strapping boy, and before we could scarcely realize how rapidly time was flying by, God again took charge of things. He gave that bird another package to be delivered in perfect condition to 4533 Labadie Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri. Now this boy must have had something to do with his Daddy, or God ran out of new patterns and fashioned him after Papa, for he truly was a chip off the old block, or must have been, for I think I had a chip missing about that time, and we christened him William Edward after his Daddy.
Created and maintained by Matthew Weathers. Last updated Apr 20, 2006.