Remembering Momma

Dear Liza,

Hazel, a friend, and Willie Vee, taking a break from picking cotton

As I have written in several other posts, your Great Grandma Billie was a very special lady. She was born and given the name Willie Vee Deal in Canute, Oklahoma, in 1921. She died 7 years ago today at the age of 92.

She was a typical woman of her generation, I suppose. She grew up on a small farm in Southwestern Oklahoma, picking cotton with her sisters and learning to drive a tractor at twelve.

She and her sister Hazel once daringly skipped Sunday School to watch a Nelson Eddie and Janet McDonald movie, but nearly died of fright when she caught sight of an uncle, and feared he would tell on them. “Silly,” Hazel said. “How would he explain that HE wasn’t in church?”

The two left Canute in 1943 so Hazel could be close to her fiancé, Raymond, who was stationed in San Diego. They built airplanes for Douglass Aircraft and lived the life of newly-independent young women.

Douglass was where her named changed from Willie Vee to Billie. “We’ve already got three Oakies on the floor named Willie”, said her foreman. “You’re Bill.” So she became Billie. She and Hazel joined the bowling league, used their ration books to buy sugar, and always went on double dates because so few fellows had cars.

Willie Vee (Billie) and Hazel, being like Rosie the Riveter

Momma met Dad because they worked in the same factory, but they didn’t meet at work. Momma wrote the company newsletter which was sent to ‘the boys’ who had been drafted or enlisted, to keep them up on who was dating whom and what the latest jokes were. Dad was one of the recipients of this monthly newsletter.

Dad in the Pacific (top left)

When he came to California on leave, he went home to Delano and found that his wife (who is now known as his first wife) had been using his paychecks to set up housekeeping with another fellow. He was heartbroken, his future down the drain. He did what any American boy would do, he said. He got drunk.

He somehow got on the bus and back to Manhattan Beach, the only other address he knew in California… Momma’s return address from the newsletter. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Wedding day giggles

Momma took a chance on this divorced, card playing man, against her Methodist family’s wishes, and it worked out fine. They were giddily, happily married for 50 years.

Momma was a farm girl, a riveter, a mother, a librarian, a Little League baseball hot dog maker, a camper, a seamstress, and a role model for joy and loving-kindness. She is with me everyday, making sure I do my best for those around me.

Me and Momma in Sedona, 2000

I hope you and your family are taking care of each other during this odd time of Sheltering in Place.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Author: Judy

I am a new transplant to Portland from Salinas, a small city in Central California. This is a blog about my new city.

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