My favorite niece named Debbie, who is currently living in England, has encouraged me to write about our family… mainly because her father – my brother – provides very little accurate information to his children.
I’m sure he’s hoping that someday I’ll forgive him for telling his eldest two daughters, Jackie and Debbie, how much I loved Jello. That’s how they greeted me on my first visit to their home in California. Because of my brother’s lying ways, I was forced to eat – not just one – but two bowls of the only food on this earth that I detest. Each girl had made a different flavor… just for me!
Thus, if those two girls, as well as their brother, Charles, and younger sister, Cathryn, ever hope to get the true story of our family, it will have to come from a more reliable source. In the meantime, I trust our older sister, Gertie, will read this and comment on any errors or omissions on my part.
I believe the above photo was taken in 2000. It was the one and only time I was able to say, “I’d like you to meet my brother Lew. This is my other brother, Lew. And this is my wife, Lu.”
This reunion was the first time in many years that all three of my brothers, our two sisters, and I were at the same place at the same time. After much discussion, we concluded that it had been more than thirty years since we were all together. Sad to say, it hasn’t happened since, and it never will again – at least not in this world. Our oldest brother, Bill, died of cancer in 2002.
I’m not sure the five of us remaining siblings were all able to attend Bill’s funeral. The ‘Old Lady’ of the family will correct me if I’m wrong.
Bill is on the far left in this photo. The other men are – from left to right – Douglas Lewis, myself, and Lewis Somers. The ladies from left to right are Wilda and Gertrude.
I entitled this post ‘Me and My Siblings – Part I’ because I hope to provide information – as I remember it – for all of my siblings… but not all at once.
For no good reason, I’ll start with the twins. The oldest boy in our family (born in 1928) was Bill. His full name is William Henry Seward Leeds, Jr. His birth was followed shortly by Lewis Somers Leeds. Their combined birth weight was over twenty pounds.
In 1945, at the age of seventeen, they dropped out of high school and joined the Navy. Dad had to sign papers to allow them to do it, and although I’m sure he struggled with the decision, he was proud to send them off to defend our country.
It should be noted that Dad had terrible eye sight that kept him out of the service during World War I. Dad was turned down by every branch of the military and even went to Canada to see if the Canadian Army could use him. (Quite a bit different view of Canada in regards to the U.S. military!)
Dad finally was accepted in the U.S. National Guard and lasted for nineteen days. That’s when they finally got around to giving him an eye test. He was immediately honorably discharged.
Prior to Bill and Lew joining the Navy, Wilda and Gertrude had already joined the Navy as Waves. Thus, when Lewis (Doug) and I were toddlers, our four older siblings had all left home.
Each of the twins became Sea-Bees – members of the Navy’s Construction Battalion. Before going any farther, it’s interesting to note that Lew failed his eye test during his pre-induction physical. His eye had been damaged when his brother Bill had hit him with a brick.
Lew asked if he could return the next day and try again. Granted permission, he sent Bill to take the test for him. Bill passed and they both became sailors!
After their first four year enlistment period ended, they both re-enlisted for another four years. Of course, by this time the war was over, but there was still a lot of reconstruction to do.
During that time, both of our sisters married and moved out permanently. So, aside from when one or both of the twins were home on leave, we had the house to ourselves.
Between the twins (I can’t remember who was stationed where), they were sent to Alaska, Cuba, French Morocco, Guam, and Haiti. Neither spent much time aboard a ship. Most of the time they were on land building something.
In 1947, Bill was on a ship for one of the few times in his Naval career. He was part of the detachment observing an atomic bomb test on the Bikini Atoll. If you’d like to read a letter he wrote based on that experience, go to Something Different – a post I added in July of 2008.
Lew (Somers) was in South Africa – as I recall – when he came down with Hepatitis. It was assumed he had caught the disease while he was stationed in Cuba. He was hospitalized somewhere “over there” until my parents enlisted the aid of our Congressman. It took a while, but Lew was finally transferred to a VA Hospital near Pittsburgh. He was honorably discharged in 1952. I remember that year well because Dad welcomed him home by giving him our 1949 Chevy, which he promptly traded in for a 1952 Plymouth.
He soon got a job with the American Standard corporation. I’m not sure exactly what he did for the plumbing outfit, but at one point he was transferred to New York City. It then became a daily exercise for mom, Lewis, and I to watch the Today Show and try to see him wave to the camera on his way to work.
In the meantime, Bill finished his second enlistment period and came home in 1953. Dad gave him money for a down payment and he purchased a 1953 Pontiac. Within a short time, Bill was driving a truck for Hamel’s Express. He stayed with them until his retirement.
There is a lot more to tell about my older brothers, but I’m running short on time today. So I’ll end this post with those all too familiar words:
To be continued…