Friday, February 29, 2008

Life of William Ricketts Smith, Part 10: Big Trips, Hawaii, and Japanese Surrender

(Part 9 is here.)

Summers are hot and winters are cold in that area [Fort Knox, Kentucky]. Sometime around the first part of December, we got orders that we were shipping out. Our First Sergeant Boyd was able to get furloughs for most anyone that wanted one, so we packed up our little family and returned by train to Lodge Grass. It was winter. When we left out of Chicago, there were over twenty cars on the train, all full, powered by a steam locomotive. It was below zero as we crossed North Dakota. Our car had a coal stove in one end but it was not well tended. We used an Army blanket and my GI overcoat to stay warm and it was almost impossible to get anything to eat. The steam lines froze in some of the more modern cars and they were without heat. We were happy to get off at Billings, where we changed trains to Lodge Grass.

I returned to Fort Knox a few days later and a week or so later, went by the ranch in Montana in a troop train bound for Fort Lawton in Seattle, where we boarded a ship bound for Honolulu, Pearl Harbor, from there by train to Schofield Barracks. We were housed in Area W which was used for temporary unassigned units, where we lived on C rations. After a couple of weeks, we replaced the 82nd Ordnance Company, which had been there for several years. They were due for rotation back to the States, but because they were not in a combat area any longer, they had to be sent to Okinawa and then returned to the States, not as a company but individually.

Our duties at Schofield was the servicing of the equipment of the combat units passing through on the way to Okinawa, and there was a big build-up of troops taking place there for the ultimate attack on Japan. Our unit consisted of many different sections: tanks, wheeled-vehicle units, gunnery, instruments, machine-shop, welding, parts and supplies, and electrical. We could repair most anything. As the flow of troops increased, we sometimes worked around the clock to get it all done. About July, I was promoted to T3. We continued to work hard. We would go to the beach on the north shore sometimes. The water was very clear and some great breakers. My head got sunburned several times before it got toughened up [Gran lost most of his hair early in life].

It was about August, I think, we got orders to start preparing to ship out. The workload was still heavy, so some of our men were assigned to preparing our tools and equipment to ship. Then President Truman ordered the Atom Bomb dropped and everything was put on hold and sometime later the Japanese signed the surrender. We were all assigned a MOS number, based on time served and number of dependents, etc. Some had numbers a lot higher than me, so I was pleasantly surprised when my number came up just before Thanksgiving.

(Part 11)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Photo of the Week: 24 February 2008

(Click on the picture for better detail)

From left to right: Grandma Alice Johnson Keen, her sister-in-law Maude Leah Keen Torvanger, and Maude's husband Bert Martin Torvanger.

I never met Uncle Bert, but we used to visit "Aunt Maudie" sometimes at her apartment in Walla Walla. I LOVED the smell of that place - old, musty, creepy - and the funky old elevators with a window in the door so you could watch yourself move between floors. It was dark and dusty in the hallways, but Maude's apartment was sweet, small and cheerful. She had funny old mauve couches that we kids would smile to each other over, and she would give us money as gifts. Mom said she boiled the coins and washed and ironed the bills before she gave them to us, and we always thought that was funny. Now I think it's absolutely adorable of her. Awww... she wanted our money to be clean.

Aunt Maude never had any children, so Grandma Dot and her sisters were Aunt Maude's heirs. Grandma Dot gave Mom some of Aunt Maude's things, and I remember old nightgowns and pillowcases and sheet sets floating around our home, all marked with the name "Torvanger."

Aunt Maude and Uncle Bert apparently bought some interest in an oil well in Oklahoma. Years later, about 2002, I was contacted about my family tree on Someone from the oil well share company was trying to find Aunt Maude's heirs because we were owed some money, and Mom and I got all excited. Wooo hooo, here comes the cash!

Reality sank in when we learned how much Mom and her three siblings would be receiving. So far, with long distance phone calls, gas money, and legal copies of Aunt Maude's and Grandma Dot's wills, it's cost Mom more than she would have earned from the oil well, just to get this thing hooked up. We're not quite as "in the money" as we once hoped - but that 25 cents a month sustains our Bazooka bubble gum habit, and really, that's all we can ask for.

Friday, February 22, 2008

You Know You're Having a Good Genealogy Day When...

... you have to update your GEDCOM at, not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES because you keep finding more good stuff after updating it the last time.

A special thanks to my "cousin-in-law," Susan H., who threw me such a great document this morning that I've been working on it all day, adding more names to Findagrave, and finding even more people to add to my file. AWESOME.

It's so nice when we can work together.

Life History of William Ricketts Smith, Part 9: Gifts from God and Family Life

(Part 8 is here.)

Several months previous to this time, a detachment from our company had been assigned to service duty on a tank driving range where trainees were taught operation of tanks. There were several areas used and I was assigned to one of them. One evening as I had parked my truck and was walking to our shop, we had a building in an old rock quarry where we met to take a truck back to our barracks, and Sergeant Bass and one of the mechanics was trying to find a problem with the electrical system on one of the trucks. I inquired concerning their problem and the answer came to me immediately from thin air, which I later learned to be the Holy Ghost.

When our company was reorganized, the sergeant that was in charge of the electrical section was relieved because of a minor disability and Sergeant Bass remembered the above incident and I was given the position as Non-Com over that section and promoted to T4 (Sergeant). I know that this was a gift from God!

Living off the post was a new experience for me. West Point is about seven miles from Fort Knox and about 25 miles from Louisville. Durwood Sheets lived in Louisville and James Nunnallee lived in West Point. Durwood had a 1936 Ford 2-door and James and I would meet him each morning in front of the store in West Point and drive to Fort Knox and return to West Point each duty day, except some days when we had to stay on the post for some special duty. It was pretty much of a hassle trying to be a soldier and a family man at the same time, but I was able to spend some time with my little family.

Our house was small, there was a kerosene cookstove and an oil burning heater. Trudy had to walk downtown to buy groceries and do their laundry and carry oil for the heater and kerosene for the cookstove. A couple with a boy about our son's age lived in the other half of our house, so the two wives and boys became friends, which helped to pass the time.

(To be continued next Friday)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Photo of the Week: 17 February 2008

(Click on the picture for more detail)

This picture is from Neenaw's house. Years ago, Gran wrote down on the back of the frame who everyone is. Last time I was at Neenaw's house, I scanned this picture and sent it home to myself - but I must have taken "neglectful genealogist" pills that day, because I didn't copy their names down. Next time I'm at Neenaw's, I'll do that.

I do know that the man sitting in the middle of the front row - the "thorn among the roses" - is my 3rd-great grandfather Thomas William Zane, and the woman with the dark hair standing behind him is his wife, Susan Virginia "Jennie" Cummings Zane - both of them beautiful, of course. "Not an ugly one among us!" Thomas and Jennie are my great grandmother Ruby's grandparents, so this might be the farthest-back picture I have of any of my ancestors. They are pictured with other members of Thomas' family. His father, Jonathan J. Zane, died when he was very young, and his mother remarried Mr. Wright and had more children, so I imagine these are his siblings and their spouses.

Thomas is in another picture at Neenaw's, with his band in Sundance, Wyoming. The nifty thing is, we had that picture of the Sundance Band and knew he was in the picture, but didn't know which band member he was... until we saw this picture above. Those whiskers don't lie.

UPDATE: While I was cleaning out my email inbox this weekend - all 47 pages' worth - I found this note I emailed to myself from Neenaw's, with the NAMES on the back of this picture. So here you go:

Standing, left to right: Adelia Ermine Wright, Jonathan Haines, Arthur Haines, Susan Virginia "Jennie" Cummings Zane, Silas Wright, Frank Bryson Murray

Sitting, left to right: Della Haines, Mary V. Wright Haines, Thomas William Zane, Clara S. Mason Wright, Nellie Margaret Wright Murray

Gran wrote: "This picture was apparently made after 1890 in Michigan as Elizabeth Ann Zane moved to Wyoming in 1890. Jesse Zane would be over 20 years old in this picture. T.W. Zane would be between 45-50 years old."

Mystery solved.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Life History of William Ricketts Smith, Part 8: New Son, Tank Training, Fort Knox

(Part 7 is here.)

Shortly afterward, we left for Washington state where we visited some of Trudy's relatives and where I later became employed at the Bremerton Navy Yard as an electrician and was later called into the Army in September. I was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where I was in basic training in the Armored Force. After five weeks of basic training, I was sent to Armored Force School for Tank mechanics and graduated with a T5 (corporal) rating. Shortly thereafter our son was born.

I applied for an emergency furlough, which was refused because the Red Cross reported that the mother and child were doing fine. The company clerk made out a request for furlough and told me to carry it to the battalion commander's office and see if it would be approved... and it was. I arrived at the hospital in Vancouver [Washington] just as Trudy and the baby were being released. I spent several days there before returning to Fort Knox. I continued working at the motor pool tank shop.

Meanwhile, they had expanded the training center to three groups and we had received several shipments of new tanks. However, men were getting transferred and shipped out continuously and life was quite uncertain from day to day. In the spring of 1944, we were organized into an Ordnance Company and became the 698th Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Company. All men with limited service classifications due to age or minor disabilities were transferred out or discharged, and new men, mostly trained at Aberdeen, were brought in. We finally became a line outfit and life became a little more certain.

A short time later, Trudy decided to come to Kentucky so we could be together. Through a friend in the outfit, I found a small house in West Point, Kentucky and rented it. Trudy and the baby arrived in Louisville on the train and we got settled in our little house in West Point.

(To be continued next Friday)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

If You're Going to Die, Do It Out West


My genealogy time this week has mostly been spent organizing my records at Any way and anywhere I can build my family tree online, I'm all for it - plus Findagrave is unique, in that you can add, edit, upload pictures, "leave flowers," find other family members, organize people into "virtual cemeteries," and more, SO easily. It's about the easiest and funnest way to preserve family history records online that I've seen (aside from Ancestry "The Brat" .com's famous people family tree feature).

Adding your people to's records necessitates knowing what happened to their bodies. Were they cremated? If so, what happened to the ashes? Were they buried? In what cemetery? If you don't know, has a spot for that too - but since I know most of my ancestors were buried, and I don't feel like putting "unknown" on all their records, I've been calling around to cemeteries, city hall offices, funeral homes, you name it, this week. If nothing else, I work hard at living up to my blog's name.

Mom's family is mostly in Walla Walla - at the same cemetery, bless them - but Dad's is scattered between Montana, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon, and Kentucky - and I've had more luck with the Western states. Small-town Kentucky has sweet adorable people, like in every other state, but the older records there don't seem to be in very great shape, availability-wise. Part of the problem is the age of my family's graves - they're all older, because most of my family emigrated West before 1900. Back in the time I'm looking in, my family members were probably born at home, died at home, and buried at home or in the churchyard. Elkton only has one city cemetery and if your ancestor's not buried there, the city office can't help you. You'd be better off heading to Kentucky and spending a week cemetery-ing.

This is true of a lot of places, even some out West, but I find that since Western states are slightly newer, records are much more accessible (and in my case, better organized), the cemeteries are kept up by city programs, and the poor city employees don't have to don a dust mask before finding your ancestor's burial record.

Lady in Elkton, my apologies.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

DAR Update

The check I gave DAR Lady with my application, cleared about two weeks ago. I've been told there will be a lineage workshop next month at our local genealogical society. I invited Mom, Aunt Nancy, Candace and Mandi to come, since they're kind of local. Sounds interesante.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Photo of the Week: 10 February 2008

(Click on the picture for more detail)

The Dysarts, playing in the snow - driving through the Blues, maybe? Or in the Mt. Hood area?

This is from one of those funky old cameras that put two images on the same photograph. On the left we have my grandfather, Carl Byron Dysart Jr., with some really tall snow, and on the right, his parents, Carl and Ruth (Ackley) Dysart, looking more animated than I'd ever seen them (click on the picture to see their big smiles).

You know how those old pictures are - no one could smile and everyone was all dressed up and they always looked so... sedate. You would never know that a half hour later, they'd be changed out of their Sunday best and out slopping the hogs or something.

This is from the late 1930s-early 1940s era.

Saturday, February 09, 2008 Memorials

Creating memorials for people in my PAF file, at, is the project of the moment. (It changes as I get distracted by something else - good thing I have this blog to keep track of what I used to be doing.)

In my PAF file, I looked for people for whom I had burial information. Along with the memorials for my eight great-grandparents (links are in the sidebar, under their names), here's a list of people I've created memorial pages for. Women are listed by their maiden name, with married name in parentheses.

Ackley, Alfred "Denton"
Ackley, Henry Tillinghast
Adams (Dysart), Mary Ann
Austin, Ernest Stewart
Bachelor (Hickmott), Alvira
Bachelor, William Dallas
Barnes, William Franklin
Bathrick, Mrs. Abigail Kettle
Bathrick, Lysander
Clark (Craig, Austin), Rozilla Margaret
Cummings (Zane), Susan Virginia "Jennie"
Daggett, Diane Lynn
Dragoo (Keithler), Jennie Lee
Duggan (Johnson, Golden), Hattie Ellen
Dysart, Carl Byron, Jr.
Dysart (Baker), Letha "Irene"
Dysart, William M.
Fox, Harold Germaine
Fox, William Raymond
Isaac (Bucholz), Chickie
Johnson (Biersner), Hattie Quintilla
Keen (Dysart), Alice "Dorothea"
Keen (Isaac), Elsie "Marguerite"
Keen (Zolber), Dr. Esther "Kathleen"
Keithler, Howard Ernest
Keithler, John Lawrence
Newberry, Jason
Newberry, Mrs. Lucinda
Newberry (Ackley), Mary Lucinda
Newberry, Mrs. Polly
Newberry, Samuel
Proctor (Barnes), Daphne
Smith, John Jason
Smith, Raymond Maurice
Smith, William Ricketts
Zane (Fox), Elizabeth Ann
Zane, Jesse Thomas
Zane, Thomas William

I also found memorials already done for these people:
Austin, Dr. Kenneth P.
Bachelor (Bathrick), Katharine
Balch, Adm. George Beall
Barnhouse (Dragoo), Jane M.
Bathrick, Stephen
Bathrick, Tillabee (Tilly)
Daggett, John Birney Jr.
Dragoo, Emery J.
Dragoo, Ewell
Dragoo (Faught), Isabell G.
Dragoo, Jacob
Dragoo, John Irving
Dragoo, Liberty Ulysses
Dragoo (Evens), Mary Grace
Dragoo (Simmons, Cole), Sophia Anna
Dragoo, Tucker Steele
Jones (Dragoo), Isabella
Keen, Lester Orlan

This list is a work in progress. If you knew any of these people, I'd love to "flesh out" their memorial pages with whatever memories, stories, etc. you could add - just email me at brinatty at comcast dot net.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Life History of William Ricketts Smith, Part 7: New Job, New Car, New Wife

(Part 6 is here.)

Early in the summer of 1940, I was offered the job of operating the power plant for the town of Lodge Grass. It was one of the highest paid jobs in the area, $142.50 per month. It was a 12 hour, seven day week job. I was responsible for operating the generating plant and maintaining the distribution system, reading meters, billing customers, as well as purchasing needed supplies and fuel for the engines. After a few months I had saved enough money to buy a used 1938 Chevrolet coupe, so I gave my 1929 Ford roadster to my brother.

During the summer of 1938, I had worked on a wheat farm a few miles southwest of Lodge Grass, operated by Bill Formanack of Miles City. His son Bob was working there while his dad ran a tire shop in Miles City. Bob played the piano and we organized a band, playing for local dances. A couple of years after that Bob married Ileta Stovall.

After acquiring my "new" car, I decided to drive up to Formanacks' farm to show Bob my car. There were a mother and daughter visiting there that afternoon from Sheridan, Wyoming, the daughter having gone to school in Sheridan with Ileta earlier. This daughter later became the love of my life and the mother of our two boys.

A few months later she accepted my gift of an engagement ring. Then on the seventh of December 1941, war was declared against Japan. It was quite apparent that I would soon be involved, being physically fit and 23 years old. We agonized over whether or not we should marry, her father thought not but let us make our own minds up. Meanwhile I went to Los Angeles to complete schooling that I had previously started. Upon my return, we set the date of 14 April 1942 and were married.

(Part 8)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Kentucky Death Records at

As much as I loathe for acting like a big genealogy-hoarding spoiled brat (she said kindly), I appreciate the state of Kentucky for being so generous with their records. If you have a subscription to and lots of folks in Kentucky, like I do, you're in luck, ma'am. Or sir.

I've been trying to restrict my research to looking up grandparents, aunts, uncles and first cousins, who tend to be neglected in the wake of finding new family members, and "firming up" their information - finding death dates and places, forgotten children in censuses, etc. Kentucky's vital records have been most helpful on my Smith, Mobley, and other Kentucky families.

The actual death certificate images are available from 1852-1952 and most of the years between; there are a few years missing. I've made a few sad discoveries - an uncle died at the state asylum, a cousin died of pneumonia after her tooth was extracted (no antibiotics yet), and another cousin died of cancer of the tongue, yikes! - but the death certificates have also been very valuable in terms of getting more complete and accurate information on some family members, and discovering new people in the process.

When the Church is finished digitizing its millions of microfilms and makes them available FREE online in a few years, I'll be the first in line to see them... in the meantime, is a somewhat necessary evil.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Well, guess what.

A dear friend (and possible cousin, we just haven't figured out how yet), Compulsive Writer, has asked me to write guest posts during the month of February at an LDS women's blog, Segullah. I'll be there every Tuesday. Here's my first post.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Photo of the Week: 3 February 2008

(Click on the picture to make it bigger)


My dad is celebrating his 65th birthday tomorrow and for a special surprise, I'm posting his favorite picture of himself (NOT). You're welcome!

What a cutie. I really do love the Alfalfa hair.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Life History of William Ricketts Smith, Part 6: College, Barley, and "Valuable Lessons"

(Part 5 is here.)

In the finals of my senior year, I purposely flunked some of the tests because I didn't want to be the valedictorian and have to make a speech, but I ended up being salutatorian and had to make a speech anyway. I know this was a disappointment to my parents (I never told them the truth). I earned a scholarship from the Montana University System and decided to use it at Montana School of Mines because they did not require ROTC training, however I really preferred to attend Montana State College. These decisions were made because I was unable or unwilling to face the responsibilities that were inherent to the talents that I was blessed with. Fortunately God gives us time to learn some of these valuable lessons.

During my High School years I had the opportunity to be a relief operator at the city light plant and became familiar with the operation of the machinery there. In 1940 a Rural Electrification project was organized in our county.

Meantime my dad and I had moved to the ranch that was owned by my mother's father. We spent the first summer trying to get the place into production and were living in a sheepwagon. It was a hard summer as we worked about 15 hours a day. That fall we bought an old log house, which we tore down and moved to the ranch, and by the latter part of November 1939, I had assembled a one-room cabin from the usable parts of the old log house.

We moved some of our furniture from the house in town and my mother and brother, Raymond, joined us in our "new" home on the ranch. We celebrated Thanksgiving together. It was in the fall of that year that my dad was able to go with Uncle Jack and Aunt Dorothy to Kentucky to visit his mother, whom he hadn't seen since he and my mother were there in 1913 on their honeymoon.

He was reluctant to leave, as the barley was ready to harvest, but we all insisted that he go and assured him that we could get the crop harvested. Our neighbor, Jack Williams, had an old binder that had not been used for years. He consented to let us borrow it and we pulled it home behind the pickup. I worked on it for several days and finally got it in running condition. My brother was 18 years old and in High School, and had experience with horses, so it became his job to drive the team while I shocked the bundles and made emergency repairs on the binder. We had the grain all in the shock by the time Dad got home.

Later that fall, I took the truck, a 1934 Ford 1 1/2 ton, and went to Shaws mine in the Wolf Mountains, about 25 miles away, for a load of coal. We used the coal for both cooking and heating. By the time I got home the temperature was 20 degrees below zero.

(Part 7)