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The Life and Times of Roy Strain Part 2

The certificate reads: Texas Department of Health. BUREAU OF VITAL STATISTICS. Certificate of Birth. (So if all you want are the facts here is the hard copy, just the cold hard facts.) 1. Place of Birth: STATE OF TEXAS. County of Comanche. City or Precinct No: Near Comanche. 2. Full Name of Child: George Roy Strain 3.Sex: Male. 4. (For Plural Births Only. 5. Number in Order of Birth). 6. Legitimate?: Yes 7. Date of Birth: July 22, 1898. FATHER: 8. Full Name: James Robert Strain. 9. Residence at Time of This Birth: Comanche County, Texas. 10. Color or Race: White 11. Age at Time of This Birth: 37 years. 12. Birthplace: Texas. 13a: Trade, Profession or Kind of Work Done: Farming. 13b: Industry or Business in Which Engaged: Farming. MOTHER: 14. Full Maiden Name: Mary Ellen Roye. 15. Residence at Time of This Birth: Comanche County, Texas. 16: Color or Race: White. 17. Age at Time of This Birth: 28 years. 18. Birthplace: Texas. 19a: Trade, Profession or Kind of Work Done: Housewife. 19b. Industry or Business in Which Engaged: Housewife. 20. Number of Children Born To This Mother Including This Birth: 5. 21. Number of Children Born To This Mother and Still Living: 5.




State of Texas. County of Hamilton. Before Me on This Day Appeared: D. Richardson Known to Me to Be the Person Who Signed the Certificate Attached Hereto, Who on Oath Deposes and Says That the Facts Stated in the Foregoing Birth Certificate of: George Roy Strain Are True and Correct to the Best Of His Knowledge And Belief, And That He Was Acquainted With the Facts at the Time of the Event. Signature: D. Richardson. Sworn to and Subscribed Before Me This 17th Day of April 1952. Mavis R. Ohnmeiss. Notary Public In And For Hamilton County Texas.


State of Texas. County of Hamilton. Before Me on This Day Appeared: Jewel Richardson. Known to Me to Be the Person Who Signed This Affidavit, Who on Oath Deposes and Says That the Facts Stated in the Foregoing Birth Certificate of George Roy Strain Are True and Correct to the Best Of Her Knowledge and Belief, and That She is Acquainted With the Facts And That She Is Not Related to the Individual by Blood or Marriage. Signature: Jewel Richardson. Sworn to And Subscribed Before Me, This 17th Day of April 1952. Mavis R. Ohnmeiss. Notary Public In And For Hamilton County, Texas.

State of Texas. County of Comanche. The Birth Certificate of George Roy Strain Attached Hereto, Was Submitted to this Court, As Provided for In N. B. No. 614, 46th Leg., R. S. 1939. It is the Order of This Court That This Record be Accepted by The State Registrar for Filing In The State Bureau Of Vital Statistics. Signed: R. E. Seay. County Judge. Date: April 18, 1952. Of Comanche County.

     There are some troubling facts about this document. Indian Gap is in Hamilton County, so why did my father take Doss Richardson (remember the guy who offered him a ride up the hill to Indian Gap?) to Comanche County to get a birth certificate documented? My information says my father was born in Indian Gap and that is in Hamilton County. Then why did my father wait until 1952 to seek a birth certificate.

     Evidently he didn’t need a birth certificate to go to work as a guard at the Naval Air Station, Ward Island. He worked there for a few months and then went to work for Brown and Root, the contractor who was building the Naval Air Station. Once construction was completed my father applied to Civil Service and was hired as a Sheet Metal Worker Helper. I would have thought that the application to Civil Service would have instigated the need for a birth certificate. That was in 1942 not 1952.

     By 1952, I had finished college and was teaching school in Plainview, Texas. My father had quit being a scoundrel (Mrs. Belken would have been so pleased had she known) and was a member of the church of Christ. by 1952 he was already a Deacon or possibly an Elder in the church. The need for a birth certificate may have been related to his separation from the Naval Air Station and subsequent retirement.

     My memory of his retirement was one of great stress for him. He had risen to Master Mechanic in the Sheet Metal Department but had been busted back to Trainee Helper because of eye surgery and his inability to see to do his work. The Naval Air Station and Civil Service Commission wanted to send him away with the total sum of what he had paid into the retirement fund. It seemed to them the issue was his length of service and his contention was that he was being forced out for medical reasons. I believe he had several sessions with an attorney and the end result was that he retired with a monthly retirement check. This made him financially independent for the rest of his life.

     During this period, but while I was still in College, there was a meeting of Civil Service Employees who were protesting the plans to close the Naval Air Station. A meeting was held and Chaired by a somewhat young Congressman or maybe Senator named Lyndon B. Johnson. The employees all had their say. Mostly the cry of the day was “We own our homes here; we don’t want to move; we can’t afford to move, therefore leave the Naval Air Station open so that we can keep our jobs”. Of course the answer given by Lyndon Johnson was that decisions were made by the Congress and no one person could control that vote or guarantee the continuation of the Naval Air Station. He offered them immediate jobs if they would consider transferring to California.

     After the meeting, my father insisted that I go with him up on the stage and shake hands with Lyndon Johnson. I was embarrassed and felt that Lyndon Johnson wouldn’t remember me five minutes after leaving the stage. Lyndon Johnson was warm and friendly to everyone. As we left the stage, my father told me, “Bill, you have just met a great man”. I didn’t know it then, but I had just shaken the hand of a future President of the United States.

     When my father was born there was little bother about birth certificates or medical records of any kind and seldom was there a physician on hand. The state legislation mentioned in the certificate was designed to make birth certificates available to older people. Sadly enough, two years after the birth of my father, his mother, Mary Ellen Roye Strain, died having brought five children into the world and maintained a family for several demanding males. 

     My father would say that he could not remember his mother at all. He was the youngest of her children and was raised by his grandmother, Abigail Maxwell Strain. My grandfather was not too slow to remarry and produced another large family of step-brothers and sisters for Mary Ellen’s children. These can all be seen as listed on the Strain Family Website.

     Mary Ellen Roye Strain died when she was about 30 years old. Mr. Strain, my grandfather, lived for a long time after that. My mother surmised that because of the loss of his mother, my father was spoiled by the older sisters who helped Grandmother Maxwell raise him. I’ve wondered about my father yearning for a mother who died at the age of thirty, and then marrying a woman who was proclaimed by her own father to be sickly. Any connection do you think?

     On February 4, 1979, I sat down with Aunt Bess, one of my father’s older sisters and at her instruction drew a picture of The Strain Place in Johnson County, Texas around 1897. My notes on that drawings say: Aunt Bess was 6 when the family moved from this house 3 miles Northwest of Alvarado in Johnson County, Texas. She remembers that she had long blonde hair when she lived here in 1897. The house was built and owned by Uncle George and James Robert Strain. Uncle George was James Robert’s brother. Uncle Will Bradley helped with the building. He and Aunt Lizie lived down the road. Aunt Lizie was James Robert’s sister. The Construction was 12” batted siding (also batted inside) with a wood shingle roof. Wooden posts served as the foundation. There was one front step. The house faced South and was built on sandy soil, surrounded by tall oak trees. There were weeds in the yard. Doors were paneled. Children living in the house were Bess, Mike, Lease and Lizzie. The adults were James Robert, Abigail Roye, Eleanor and Uncle George. Roy was born in Comanche County on Uncle Jim Cunningham’s place.

     That solves the mystery of why the birth certificate was registered in Comanche County. The house in Indian Gap had not been built and the Strains were staying with the Cunninghams in Comanche County. The house that James Robert Strain, Uncle Will Bradley and Uncle George Strain build in Indian Gap was almost identical to the house near Alvarado. A photograph of the Indian Gap house before the “piano room” was added shows an almost perfect likeness to the drawing.

     Many years later when our family lived in Corpus Christi, Uncle Will Bradley and Aunt Lizie lived in Taft, Texas about twenty-five miles away. We visited them often. Uncle Will was painful for me to look at because he had very red tissue covered with veins showing prominently below his eyes. He chewed gum instead of tobacco, which he had given up and when he had finished chewing, he’d put his gum in a box to keep until he was ready to chew it again. Can anyone else remember when you put your gum “on the bedpost overnight’ so it would be there to be chewed the next morning?

     Walking from town to home, Uncle Will found a beautiful metal “snap-shut” box with a very colorful picture of a Peacock on it. He was delighted with this find and kept his gum in that box from then on. My mother and father wanted to tell him but never got the courage that this was a condom box, or a “rubber” box. Uncle Will wouldn’t have had a clue as to what a condom or a rubber was and they could think of no way to explain it to him. To my knowledge no one ever told him.

     My father spoke of Abigail Maxell often and seemed to think of her as his mother and this was a strange prelude to the fact that as he grew older and I grew older and my children grew older, I became the oldest grandson instead of the son. I wonder at the frequency of parallels of this sort, the mother who died so young suggesting the wife who would be sickly followed by the son who was raised by his grandmother and then became the grandfather of his son. It was a wonderful thing for me to be asked if Mark were my brother. Alas, that never happens now. There are several other stories at this point, but they’ll have to wait. There is another document to pursue.

The State of Texas No. 668. Marriage License, County of Hamilton. To any Regularly Licensed or Ordained Minister of the Gospel, Jewish Rabbi, Judge of the District or County Court, or any Justice of the Peace in the State of Texas Greeting. You are hereby Authorized to Solemnize the RITES OF MATRIMONY Between Mr. G. R. Strain and Miss Mamie Jewel Williams and make due return to the Clerk of the County Court of said County within sixty days thereafter, certifying your action under this License. Witness my official signature and seal of office at Hamilton, Texas the 15th day of January 1921 (signed) Mattye Jo Sowell Clerk of County Court, Hamilton County, Texas. I, R. H. Gibson hereby certify that on the 16th day of January, 1921 I united in Marriage Mr. G. R. Strain and Miss Mamie Jewel Williams the parties above named. Witness my hand this 17th day of January 1921. R. H. Gibson, Minister. I, Mattye Jo Sowell Clerk County Court Hamilton County, Texas, hereby certify that the above is the original marriage license issued to the above named parties and with the return thereon was duly recorded in my office in book 8 page 138, Marriage License Record of Hamilton County on the 18th day of February 1921. Witness my hand and seal of office this the 18th day of Feb. 1921. Mattye Jo Sowell, County Clerk Hamilton County, Texas. Texas Standard Form.

     My father went with my mother for three years before they married, so he must have begun that courtship during 1918 or 1919, which is basically the end of World War I. My thinking is that Lilly Williams went with my father for three years which would have been as early as 1915, when he was seventeen years old and then was swept off her feet by a returning “doughboy” from “Flanders Field”. The timing was right and I know that “one war later” there was a lot of that going around.

     There seemed to be no hard feelings between the two families or the two women. Basil and my father were close friends and played many domino and checker games together. Board games were Basil’s passion. We spent many summers and vacations visiting the McPherson’s farm. My mother and Aunt Lilly were very close.

     The only resentment I ever heard my mother express was that Aunt Lilly got to finish High School, but Papa Williams would not let two of his girls go to High School, so my mother had to stay at home and work. My mother’s ambition was to teach school, which at that time required only a High School education. Aunt Lilly went away to High School and then got married without ever teaching school. Later my mother’s sister, Mabel, would come to live with us while she finished High School.

     If they were married in 1921, what did they do until 1927, when I was born? By that time Aunt Lilly had two girls older than me and Irma Lee who was my age. I have two stories from very early childhood. My mother told me many times of a car wreck in which my father veered off the road to avoid a head-on collision and hit a tree, throwing me out of the car through the windshield. My mother remembered being in shock and not being able to find me. They were visiting the “home” folks in Comanche and Indian Gap and it was winter and very cold. I was found a few minutes later in the ditch. The fact that I was wrapped in many blankets explains why I wasn’t seriously injured.

     The other memory is of no consequence but illustrates the amount of trouble they would go to for a four year old son. Again we were on a trip “up home” and I had been introduced to a new flavor of chewing gum. We always went “up home” to visit the relatives and they always came “down to the coast” to visit us. The only way I could explain the flavor was that it tasted like gasoline smelled. My father stopped at half a dozen stores to be confronted by glazed eyes as I asked for gasoline flavored chewing gum. Later I identified the flavor as wintergreen or pepsin.

     The “sickly” tag pinned on my mother was a part of my infancy also. She was unable to produce the quality or quantity of milk needed to feed a baby, so I was raised on Eagle Brand milk My mother’s “sickliness” lasted until she was seventy-nine years old, but that’s her story. We’ll save that for another time. But I’m sure all this was instrumental in the fact that I was born six years after they married; there were no more children and in those days the most reliable birth control method was abstinence, so perhaps this created a client for the dance hall girls of Aransas Pass and the Bohemia Club.

     The Life and Times of Roy Strain will not be presented in chronological order or in any organized way except to be told as incidnets are remembered. An attempt will be made to tie each story to some fact that will place it in an approximate time frame.

     One of the first stories my Dad told and this is the one he probably told most often. After working for Durant Motor Co., Snyder Motor Co., Curlee Motor Co. and Gulf Chevrolet, he would say that he had made a living during the depression with three words in Spanish, “Quiere compre carro?” His pronunciation was so exaggerated, it’s a wonder anyone understood the question. He did sell lots of cars to Mexican-Americans who had land and farms and money laid by. Another boost to our income came when World War I veterans began to get the promised bonus money from the Federal Government rushed out to buy a car..

     Very shortly I will begin to call my father “Papaw” and my mother “Memaw”. From the time Michael, my oldest son, was born they chose those titles which were also used by the Cottinghams (my mother’s sister Mabel Cottingham and her husband M. D.) and they liked the sound better than “Paw Paw, Grandpa or Pa Pa” as Mr. Williams was called. By the time I was thirty years old they were my Memaw and Papaw too. I think with retirement my father got a chance to be the father he had wanted to be but never had time to be. My children reaped the benefit of this as did I.

End of Part 2 - Go to Part 3