The Young Bill

I’ve been thinking about writing my story for a long time. Since having started I realized that there is so much that I could get caught up writing and it would take up a whole lot of space and time. I am going to hit some of the highlights that have been important to me. And when it comes right down to it, my mind and memory isn’t what it use to be.  I plan to tell my story concentrating on my immediate family.  For very short periods in my early years I had little contact with the Town side.  And the Dailey side would be better told through others.  There were good times, but most of what I remember are the times together that always seemed to end up in drunken arguments.  Or my Uncle Alva, Mom’s brother, twisting my arm up behind my back to get me to say, “Uncle”.  Which I recently learned he did with my sons.

I was born July 26, 1940 in Bremerton Washington and was supposed to have gotten the name Forrest Evans Towne Jr., or maybe the III.  But it got overruled by my Grandpa Archie Dailey and was named William Forrest Towne, after a sheriff in Whitman County Washington by the name of William Dailey.  At least that is the story I was always told.

My first memories start when I was about two or three.  We lived in, what I assume, was a farm on Bainbridge Island.  I remember a glassed-in kitchen that looked out at a barn.  Parked alongside the barn, my folks had a long, about 25 foot, black speedboat.  When Pop had it in the water, one of the things he like to do was race the Washington State Ferries, especially the Kalakala, that ran between Seattle and Bainbridge.  Before leaving the dock they always had me wearing a life vest, like the old cork ones you see in old movies.  One day it was accidently got kicked off the dock and sank.  I never had to wear a life vest again.

Later we moved from the farm to a little cottage.  There was a Marine and his family living in a house behind us and he use to bring us boxes of Snickers and other chocolate candy bars, things he was able to get at the Navy exchange that weren’t readily available in town.  He had a young daughter about my age and we decided to cut each others hair, we got in big trouble.  Playing around the house one day, I found a Pepsi bottle with what I thought was pop and drank it.  It turned out to be turpentine.  The only thing that I could eat for a while was Jell-O.  With everything being rationed it was hard to come by until Mom told the grocer what it was for.  We got all the Jell-O we needed.  Pop and a friend of his, Roy Jimenez, bought “ME” an electric train set for Christmas.  I was only allowed to sit and watch them play with it.  One time they set it up in the living room and decided to take the cab off the motor.  I don’t know which, but one of them thought they could sharpen their penknife on the wheel of the engine as it was going around.  The blade broke and went flying out, breaking the bay window in the living room.  One Halloween, Mom and a friend of hers decided to go out trick-or-treating, mostly tricking.  Mom had an empty thread spool that she notched around the edges.  then she would wrap a string around it and put a pencil through the hole.  They would go up to someone’s window, lay the spool against it and pull the string.  It made quite a racket as it ratcheted against the window.  Then they would grab me and we would run into the woods and hide.  Setting here, thinking about that time, I was not aware of a War going on.  Or that there was not a lot available because of it.  We always had what we needed and seemed to have fun.  Pop taught me how to wolf whistle and I remember riding around, standing on the back seat of his Hudson convertible, whistling at girls on the street.  Pop got some really dirty looks.

About age four or five, after the war, we moved out to Grandpa Town’s farm in Altmar New York.  He had a couple of Belgian Draft Horses.  They were the biggest things I had ever seen.  When we sat down for dinner, I remember, Grandpa had a big bowl at his place and he would put everything in the bowel.  He figured it was all going the same place.  There was a pond on the property that I could go fishing at, using worms that Grandpa told me to just carry in my pocket.  My Mom didn’t appreciate that when she checked pockets before doing wash.  Later we moved closer to Pop’s brothers.  They had bought a truck and trailer that Pop drove into New York City hauling goods.  I remember the kitchen in the house that Mom and Dad were renting.  One time we were sitting, having dinner, during a lightening storm.  All of a sudden, a bolt of lightening came slamming into the kitchen and bounced between the water and gas pipes.  Mom and Dad got pretty excited.  The trucking company didn’t work out, Pop was doing all the work and brothers were taking all the money.

When I was about six, we moved back to Washington.

My Early Childhood

One of my earliest memories is standing in our driveway and my mother telling me I was going to start kindergarten. My birthday is in February and so I started in February. We had summer and winter classes back then!
One memory from kindergarten was when a friend and I both told the teacher that a ring was ours. I knew it was mine, but I don’t remember what happened; if I got the ring or she did.
Another memory was learning to ride a bike. I was about 5 years old. My brother, Kenneth, and I shared a small, red bike. Our driveway was long and I would go up and down it till I learned to ride! No one helped me! I don’t recall it taking me too long, as I was very coordinated and athletic! 🙂

Picture attached is me and my duck, Maverick.  We would feed him watermelon rind and I would watch him peck at it till most of it was gone.  When he got older, we took him to a lagoon by the beach in Westchester.

As a baby, (12-18 months) I fell out of my crib with a glass milk bottle.  The bottle hit the floor and broke and then I fell on top of it.  I cut my eye, eyebrow, and chin.  Because I had been drinking, the doctors had to wait to give me ether.  Of course I don’t remember any of this, only what my mother told me.  You will notice in pictures of me outside, I am closing my right eye as the pupil does not dilate or constrict much. I was supposed to wear glasses all the time, but really didn’t until my left eye started to need correction.  That was in my early 20’s.

My parents, Bernice and Ralph Biggs, were divorced when I was very young. I really don’t recall my father ever living at home.  He would come on Saturdays and take my brother and I to the park.

I had an older half brother, Jerry Mathews.  He was about 17 years older than me so I don’t remember much about him as a child.  By the time I got a bit older, he was in the Navy in Korea. Then he married Carol Miller and moved out.

The Early Years – “Moving to Connecticut”

Though I was born in Denville New Jersey in 1957 my fondest childhood memories were formed during our years of living in Connecticut. The best way I can describe my childhood growing up in Connecticut was like living the real-life movie “Sandlot” which featured a group of close boyhood friends doing what boys across America were doing in the 1960s, playing pickup baseball on neighborhood streets and makeshift sandlots from morning to night (at least it seemed that way). My parents grew up in Morristown New Jersey but moved to Connecticut in 1959 when I was 2 years old. My father whose name was Robert C Griffith obtained a degree in Mechanical Engineering (years later on another Robert C Griffith would do the same – that comes later) and was offered a lucrative job with General Dynamics in Groton Connecticut for a whopping $8,000 per year. My Mom often said that was big money back then and they couldn’t turn down the offer, so they moved away from the only town they ever knew and from their families and started a new life in New England. For me, it was the best decision they made because Connecticut was and still is very dear to my heart. I don’t remember anything from Groton because they quickly moved to a nearby town called Montville in 1961 when I was only 4 years old. Like many suburban towns in that area I suppose, the neighborhoods were filled with Navy families who were from different parts of the country. My best friend was Bubba Hilby whose family was from Mississipi. Our birthdays were only a day apart, so our moms would give us joint birthday parties. They only other fond memories I have from Montville was a dog we owned called “Cocoa”. He was a brown boxer that patrolled our yard watching over us. I remember he once got into a fight with another dog. While the other kids all jumped up on a flatbed truck parked next to my house, I decided it was up to me to break it up. I ended up having both dogs bite my knee, ripping open my skin. Because of my heroic efforts, I earned a trip to the doctors where I had to get a tetanus shot. I ended up punching the nurse because, well shots at the age of 5 or 6, were not very fun. Cocoa ended up disappearing one day, he either ran away or was stolen we never found out but we spent months searching for him and never found him. For years I thought of him wondering whatever became of him. If I saw a brown boxer somewhere I would call his name to see if it was him, but it never was, and Cocoa was gone forever. It was the first of many experiences I would have in my life with losing a dog, something I never got used to. The only other memories from Montville was getting punished for playing with matches in the woods behind my house and peeing on my neighbors’ front lawn.  I remember a boy named David Creamer, who I can best describe him as the neighborhood bully.  He would act like your best friend one moment and then punch you in the stomach for no reason except that he could I guess.  My Mom tells me I once threaten to run away from home.  I packed my bags and stormed out of the house only to turn around to see her waving goodbye to me. I made it to the top of the hill and I guess I decided the world for a 6-year-old boy was too big and scary.  I then turned back around and headed back to my safe place, home.  With that, my Tom Saywer adventures were over as fast as they started.   Next up, the greatest place in the world to grow up in – Niantic Connecticut, and where tragedy ends it all.

My Rants and Raves

LEARNING ABOUT RACISM 

This story illustrates my strong feeling regarding racism.  The summer after 6th grade, my family and I went to Bowling Green University in Ohio.  My Dad was attending a week-long Teacher’s Conference and we all stayed in a dormitory.  While there, I met a boy about my age and we ran around together during the week playing and having fun.  On Friday, the last day of our stay, the University offered open swimming in their indoor pool.  That was a big deal and something we all loved to do.  Well, my friend, who was from Mississippi – and who was black – said he couldn’t go.  I went ahead and had a good time but could not fathom why my new friend didn’t want to go.  As it turns out, blacks were not allowed to swim in the pool.  Now try explaining to me why that was – in Ohio yet.  It made no sense in my 11-year- old head in 1957. That was pure and evil racism – and it really pissed me off!

 

DISABILITIES

This RANT is about something that torques my jaw – picking on people who have a disability.  Maybe because I grew up with a brother who was disabled or maybe because our current President makes fun of disabled people on national TV – THIS REALLY BUGS ME!  In this case, it’s a disability caused by loss of hearing.  Most (80%) people lose a good portion of their hearing as they age so it’s quite common.  And I’ve been guilty of this too:  picking on people who can’t hear.  Like “Come on old man – turn up the hearing aid” or just laughing at them when they miss a joke.  And – speaking from experience – when they ask “What did you say?” and you get a negative response.  Again, we have all done this.  Just remember, we don’t make fun of blind people so what’s the difference?  My mother used to say that although she was a diabetic and used a cane, her biggest disability was her hearing. 

 

A FAVORITE CHANT

Go back, go back, go back to the woods. 

Your coach ain’t nothin’ and your team ain’t no good.*

 

 

WORDS OF WISDOM:

“Don’t let the bastards get you down!”

“Transcend the bullshit.”

“Nothing good ever happens after midnight.”  (Seriously!)

 

* On Audio Recording

Only One Left

IMPORTANT DATES AND PASSING’S OF MY FAMILY

My mother was born October 8, 1908; my father was born November 22, 1907. They married in 1933. My sister Ava Carol and twin, Arda Beth, were born premature on February 5, 1943. Both weighed about 2 ½ pounds. Arda Beth died after 8 short weeks.

My younger brother, Lyle, was born on March 14, 1949 and he died of hemophilia on November 9, 1966 at the age of 17 ½. He basically bled to death internally and at the time, there was nothing that could be done to save him.

My father passed away of a heart attack on July 30, 1981. He was 73 and was teaching school at Huron College the day he died. He taught school for 52 years.

Mother lived to be almost 93. She passed away July 30, 2001 – 20 years to the day that my father died. She had a difficult and often painful life losing two children, enduring several miscarriages and losing her husband in her early 70’s. However, she always maintained a wonderful spirit and lived a life of goodness and grace.

My older sister, Carol, lived to be 68. She died of ovarian cancer on May 6, 2011.

A Close Call for Lori Lyn

When Lori Lyn was one year old, we experienced a very traumatic event with her. We were at my in-laws for the weekend and had just enjoyed a home-cooked meal of roast beef, potatoes and gravy. Palmer, my father-in-law, and I were cleaning up in the kitchen when we heard the women screaming. We ran into the living room to find little Lori laying on the floor not breathing. She had grabbed a piece of meat from a plate in the kitchen and walked into the living room and then apparently fell backward on her butt. The piece of roast beef became lodged in her throat.

I felt a cold wave of fear that is difficult to describe but I knew I had to do something to save her. The women were paralyzed with fear and Uncle Bobby who was 12 at the time just paced the living room floor yelling “Shit! Shit! Shit!” It was panic city – the scariest scene imaginable. I grabbed Lori by the foot and held her upside down striking her back. Still she was not breathing and was turning blue. The God-awful thought went through my head about a film in a First Aid Class in college that demonstrated how to do a tracheotomy on a live animal using a razor blade and a pen to allow breathing through the throat. God – could I possible do that?? My next thought was to try to get a hold of the piece with my finger. Fear was over coming me as I tried to think what to do next. (The Helmick Maneuver wasn’t known to us back then!) The thought came to me to try to push the meat down her throat. So I put my finger in her small mouth and pushed on what I thought was the piece of meat. Suddenly she cried – the sweetest, most precious sound I had ever heard! She was breathing! We all hoped the meat passed to her stomach and not her lung, but she seemed to be okay. We called a nurse who said we should take her to the hospital in Sioux Falls to check her out. We did and they determined what we had hoped – that the meat had passed to her stomach.

I had never been so afraid in my life that my little girl might die. And I had to somehow save her. Thank God – I was able to do that. I felt a tremendous sense of gratefulness and when it was all over, it was the happiest day of my life!!

My Dogs

I had many dogs starting with Prince, my mid-size, black and white mutt. I received him from my parents when I was about 5 or 6. Not the best dog, but he was loyal to me and that’s what I remember most about him. He was with us for about 4-5 years when I was told he ‘ran away’. (Later I learned he was hit by a car.)

Then there was Sugar. Sugar was a purebred beagle that we purchased from Uncle Dwayne Knight since he bred and raised beagles. One day when I was 12, I was moving the lawn. I heard the brakes squealing and ran out to the road to see Sugar laying there dead. The driver who hit him just kept going. I cried over that for awhile☹ Then we got another beagle named Lady Bug. She was a great dog that Lyle and I shared. She lived a nice long life and had a super disposition – we all loved her! She was especially close to Lyle.

Once I got married and had kids, we had several dogs that didn’t last long for various reasons. Then I gave Lori a dog named Punkin. She loved Punkin and she reciprocated her love for Lori. Soon after, Lori received another dog from a friend who she called Nikki. Both dogs kept Lori very happy and we could see Lori was becoming a dog whisperer. She had a way with dogs and in her grown-up years and has since acquired many more.

When I met and married Sue, they had a little Bichon Shih Tzu dog named Tucker. He was just plain mean and even bit Dylan at age 2. Soon after, he bit the neighbor’s mother (Grandma George) and we had to put him down. It hurt Alissa but we had to do it since we just couldn’t break his mean streak.

Sue and I felt bad that Alissa didn’t have a dog so in August of 2000, we went to see Mother in Huron. I was running in Andy’s Road Race and it was also during the South Dakota State Fair. On Saturday afternoon we went to the fair, landing at the 4H Barn. A lot of commotion in the back of the building led us to a pen of miniature dachshunds just 6-8 weeks old. They were the cutest dogs ever. We found one we loved, bought him and named him Gus. My mother had a nickname called Gus when she was young and helping out on the farm. (All 5 sisters had boy nicknames since they all wore overalls!) We brought Gus home and he was so damn cute that we knew Alissa would love him. We got him mainly for her. We didn’t tell her a head of time and when we got home we told her to close her eyes and I put Gus’s nose on her check. She opened her eyes and loved him immediately and he loved her, too. Trisha, however, got up the next morning, saw Gus and jumped up on the piano bench screaming “What the hell is that?” Oh Trisha…

One year later, same place, same story but add Kevin, Lori, Trisha and Alissa to the scene. After my Mother’s funeral, we went to the fair to show the kids where we got Gus. Sure enough, there were more doxies from the same breeder in the 4H Barn. Everyone fell in love with the puppies and this time, we picked up two little black and tan female siblings – Greta for us and Maddy for Lori. Did we ever have fun with those dogs at the motel that night! Alissa, Trisha, Kevin and Lori and two little puppies were up most of the night laughing and having fun in their room.

So now we had two dogs – Gus and Greta – and they became inseparable. It was obvious they were pals from the start and loved each other. Gus was still attached to Alissa and Greta found her way to Trisha, but we all shared and enjoyed them. Years later, they became sick and we had to put them both down at the same time. That was a tough day for all four of us.

Fast forward to my retirement and my news of cancer. My dear wife thought it would be an opportune time to get me another dog – preferably another doxie. I was thrilled to receive Winnie, my little dog and companion. She’s coming up on 2 years old now and for the most part, gives me much pleasure. She weighs 10 pounds and is a smart and good little dog. Most of the time, you will find her on my lap or laying behind my neck. She loves to take naps with me!

My Piss Injuries

FEBRUARY 2009,  NUEVO VALLARTA, MEXICO

As told by Trisha:

It was the last day of our vacation and Mom came down with a stomach bug. So Arden, Michael and I spent the day together. Near the end of the day we decided to walk down to the Sea Garden for a change of scenery.  There was a wedding party at the pool bar and we quickly engaged with the group.  After a few (several??) drinks, we headed back to our hotel. As soon as we exited the water, the alcohol hit us. Turns out drinking in water can really mess with you! We were all much “happier” than we realized.

We walked on the beach back to the hotel. It was a beautiful time of the day. The sun was starting to set and we had a fun walk back – talking, laughing and taking pics.  When we got back to the edge of the Grand Mayan property Arden tried to put his shoes on and fell back, disappearing into the lush landscaping. A guard quickly came to his rescue, pulling him back to the path and on his feet.  I think that’s when Michael and I realized that Arden definitely had more to drink than any of us realized!

We all walked back to the hotel. We knew we all needed to eat something and didn’t want to dump a drunk Arden on a sick mom so decided to go to the Italian restaurant down the street to soak up the booze. The entire time Arden kept saying “How did we get so drunk?!?” Over and over. And Over. Michael and I can both hear his voice so clearly saying that on repeat and with great enthusiasm to this day.

We ate pizza and walked back to the hotel. By this point, Michael and I had sobered up quite a bit, but Arden still seemed pretty intoxicated. Somehow the idea of taking a sobriety test came up in conversation and we wondered if we would pass one. To test himself Arden tipped his head back and went to touch his nose with his finger. He was instantly thrown off balance and before any of us knew what was happening, charged headfirst into a little hill near the path, slamming his head into the grass.

Needless to say, he failed that test. Big time. We laughed so hard. And when we finally made our way back to the hotel and into the light of the lobby we realized he still had grass all over his head which of course made the hysterics return.  Such an unexpectedly fun day and night!

 

 

FEBRUARY 2013, RIVIERA MAYA, Mexico

It was another sunny afternoon sitting by the pool, drinking a few cervezas and margaritas. I headed to the bathroom where I slipped and fell. My feet went out from under me and I fell flat on my back. In fact, I did not spill a drop of my drink! As I was bracing myself, my left hand went out and caught the head of a nail on the makeshift bar. Blood…lots of blood. I felt like a VIP with the quick attention I was given by the EMT’s. Sue and I went to the resort clinic via a golf cart. I received 5 stitches and a tetanus shot. Cost: $145. That darn Michael was laughing at me the whole time!

 

 

FEBRUARY 2019, RIVIERA MAYA, MEXICO

Walking back from the bathroom, Arden slipped on the concrete (again!) and thought he just scraped his big toe.  After looking at it, we found a small tip of his toe was lacerated.  Found the pool medics where they cleaned it and bandaged it.  They gave it a really nice dressing 🙂 Another example of a piss injury!

 

The History of ‘piss injuries.’

My high school football coach, Ernie Edwards, first used that term for any injury where you didn’t break a bone or bleed to death. If there was an injury, the coach would say “It’s just a piss injury! Get back in the game!”

When my grandson, Brendan, was 4 years old, he took a nasty headfirst fall on his bike. He was a bloody mess with scrapes and cuts on his face. But he didn’t cry (much!) and assured his grandpa that it was just a ‘piss injury’. I was really proud of him!