Betty Morjana Will’s Life Story
My date of birth was December 26, 1934. I was born at home, on East Smiley Avenue, Shelby Ohio. My parents were Faith Miller Hoak and Thorton H. Hoak. I had two older brothers Jack J. and Donald M. Two and a half years later I was joined by a sister, Beverly. So we were a family of six.
I don’t remember the following incidents, but I do remember being told of them by my mother. One was when she was pregnant with Bev. I used to get under the kitchen table to get away from her because I knew that she couldn’t reach me. Another time Bev was in the basinette, she was maybe five months old, and I put a piece of hard tack candy in her mouth. Luckily I told mom and she removed the candy. Bev didn’t choke. I didn’t understand the fuss, because I thought I was being nice by giving her a piece of candy.
Mom and Dad both always worked, so we had different babysitters. One that we especially disliked was Evelyn Hench. If I remember right, she tied us to chairs outside and washed our mouths out with soap. I don’t think she ever watched us again after that. I also remember Mom telling me how hard it was for her to go to work when we were crying and didn’t want her to leave.
I don’t remember doing without things, but times were hard during World War II. I do remember ration stamps. We had to use stamps to purchase gasoline and sugar. Nylon stockings were scarce. We also had to color and mix up margarine. Bev and I did this. You get a block of what looked like lard and a packet of orange colored powder. We had to mix, and mix, and mix to get it evenly colored.
Saturday mornings Bev and I were always busy cleaning and doing household chores. Jack and Don did the outside chores. At the time we had two theaters in Shelby, the Castamba, which was really nice, and that State, which was okay. After our work was finished on Saturdays. Mom always gave us enough money to go see the movies at both theaters (admission for under 12 years old was only 12 cents) and go for a coney and a Strawberry pop afterward. Our Saturdays were rewarding.
One unpleasant memory about the Castamba was when Bev and I knocked over a big ashtray in the ladies room that was full of sand onto the carpet. I don’t know how they knew how we did it, but they did. We weren’t allowed back there for awhile. I remember being embarrassed. This brings to mind another incident that probably happened about the same time.
Most of our school years were spent living at 40 Third Street. It was a nice four bedroom house on a nice street and in a nice neighborhood. They were building some new houses at the north end of the street. Bev and I wanted to check out these houses. We were looking in the windows and discovered that the door was unlocked, so we went in. We had fun with an ironing board that opened out from the wall. After we got tired of opening and closing the ironing board, we went upstairs; not realizing the steps had just been varnished. We had been tramping around outside in the snow and mud and so we made quite a mess. We didn’t know until years later that a neighbor lady had called the own of the house, Mr. Garrett, and told him that we had been in his house. He of course came to our house to talk to our daddy. Daddy offered to pay for any damages. Mr. Garret said no, he just wanted us punished, so daddy spanked us in front of Mr. Garret and that was the end of it.
We had a lot of fun growing up and playing with the kids on Third Street. In the summer we used to pack a lunch and go to Seltzer pack to go on the Indian trails, hunt for Buckeyes or swim in the pool. The boys played softball in a field at the end of Third Street. We also played Red Rover and Kick the Can. I used to enjoy trading comic books. We usually did it with the Knapp’s—Chuck, John and Kay. Comic books only cost ten cents and we both had a stack to trade. Another activity I enjoyed was going to Alberta and Carlena Stewart’s house in the evening. We would sit on their front porch and take turns telling stories—usually ghost stories. Each person tried to tell the scariest.
During the summers Jack and Don both had vegetables routes. Harold and Doris Leonhardt lived at the north end of Third Street and they bought fresh vegetables from Celeryville and hired the young boys to go door to door selling them. This kept them busy and they earned some money too. Don also had a paper route.
Don had congenital heart problems, so we all kind of looked out for him. We felt that we had to protect him. I used to help him on his paper route and he would make it worthwhile for me. After the papers were delivered we would go to the store and Don would buy candy, chips and pop. We would sit under the shade of a nearby tree and eat our goodies. Even better then getting the candy was knowing I had helped him and made things easier for him. Don and I were close growing up and we did double date when we were in High School. If I had ever had a question about the “birds and the bees” I could ask Don. He would answer in a nice way and not laugh at my questions.
Jack and Don looked out for Bev and I too. One time at the swimming pool I was “showing off” for Jack and some of his friends by jumping in the water that was over my head before I learned how to swim. I panicked and opened my mouth to yell for help. Jack jumped in and got me out of the pool. Later, he would remind me of the time that he saved me from drowning.
During our high school years Bev and I went to football games and dances at the Jay-Teen, dated boys and went to square dances in Attica every week. The after-school hangout was in Stevie’s Drug Store when they had a soda fountain. We used to get “green rivers” there. The Whitehouse was probably the most popular place to go. Ralph Smith or “Smitty” owned this hamburger shop and they really did have delicious hamburgers. Mom worked there for awhile. She also used to work at the Shelby Pure Milk Company. We used to stop there after school for ice cream cones. I remember that always looked and smelled clean in there.
I forget to mention a couple of things earlier. One is that all four of us kids took piano lessons from Mrs. Emerson on Fourth Street. She was also the organist at the First Christian Church for a long time. Don played trombone and was in the Shelby High School band. Bev and I took voice lessons from Olivia Weaver who lived on the corner of East Whitney and Second Street. Her husband’s name was Fred and they had a German Shepherd dog named Lady. Lady would lay under the big grand piano while we were having our voice lessons. Because of Lady’s presence we were always on our best behavior.
Bev had a beautiful singing voice as did our Grandma Mary Hoak and Aunt Donna Richards. Bev was in Glee club and choir and always got superior ratings for her solos at state contests. She was in some local musicals, plays, minstrels, and sang at many weddings.
I remember at our first voice recital I was supposed to sing “Silent Night.” Everyone knows the words to the song—right? Well, I forgot the words. I looked at Bev and she was mouthing the words, trying to help me out. Some how I got through the song, but I felt so bad. What I really wanted to do was take tap dancing lessons, but I never got to. I do still think that I could have danced as well as Bev sang.
An important part of our growing up was going to Sunday school and church at The First Christian Church, which was on the corner of East Main and Second. The minister I remember best was Reverend Taffle Crowe. He had reddish sandy colored hair. His preaching style sometimes bordered on “hell fire and brimstone,” but he was a kind person and I was in awe of him. One time the church had an evangelist who said whoever could learn all the names of the books of the bible would get to say them in church the next Sunday. Well, I learned all 88 of them and got to stand up and recite them. I had to stand on a chair to be seen. I was really excited and quite pleased with myself.
When I was 16 or 17 years old I went to Camp Christian at Magnetic Springs, Ohio. This was a very satisfying week. I loved the whole experience—staying in the cabins, sitting around the campfires, going swimming, eating in the dinning halls, the evening vespers, and making friends. I really enjoyed all of it.
One of the most important people in my life was Grandma Miller. Everyone should have a grandma like her. She and Grandpa Miller lived on Clark Street in Willard, Ohio.
Their house was a big white house with five or six bedrooms. There was a front porch that stretched across the whole front of the house and had white wicker furniture on it and lots of green ferns. There was a neat attic filled with trunks, boxes, china dolls, hats and books. Sometimes it seemed a bit spooky. I had a favorite bedroom. I think of it as the “yellow room.” The wallpaper was a small yellow flower and the yellow curtains were lacy. There was a huge gold brass bed with a yellow bed spread. When the sun shone in this room it just took on a golden glow. It was beautiful and I enjoyed just standing in the doorway looking in. I can still picture that room. It is as though I had just seen it yesterday.
Grandpa was an engineer for the B&O Railroad. He was over six feet tall and had iron gray hair, which he kept in a butch hair cut. He was good to us and teased us a lot. Grandma was about four feet eleven, pleasingly plump, had white hair and a sweet smile on a pretty face. She was a kind person—caring and understanding. Whenever we went to visit she had her arms wide open for us, a smile on her face and a full cookie jar. She was always a safe haven from all of life’s little hurts—a source of comfort and quite strength.
There were two war heroes in my family—Mom’s brother William A. Miller (known as Bill) and my brother Jack. Bill was a flight commander in the Army Corps during World War II. He led many successful missions over enemy territory. He was lost in action over Styr, Austria. Neither he nor his plane were ever found. They eventually held a memorial service in St. Louis. At the time he attained the rank of Major and was due to be promoted to Lieutenant. Bill had been popular in school, and was captain of the football team. He was well liked by everyone and sadly missed by all who knew him.
My brother Jack fought in the Korean War. He and several of his buddies quit school their senior year to join the army and serve their country. Jack was at Fort Knox, Kentucky for his basic training, then sent to Korea. He was in the 24th infantry division. The 24th was the first to cross the 38th parallel, which divided North and South Korea. Jack drove an ammunition truck so he had to park out away from the camp at night. He told us about all the notches on his steering wheel. One side of the wheel was where he had several close-calls and the other side is where he had to shoot someone. He said the steering wheel was full of notches.
The night he was wounded he said he had changed position on his cot. His head was where his feet usually were. He was shot by a Russian made gun and that when was hit it flipped him off of his cot. He doesn’t remember everything that happened after being hit. He was taken to Japan by helicopter where he had surgery and other medical care. He lost part of a kidney and he had a compound fracture of his right leg. He had injuries to his chest, abdomen and back. I remember when the telegram came to the house saying that Jack had been seriously wounded in battle. That was all we knew for awhile. Then he called us from Sendai, Japan telling us he was okay and would soon be in the states. This had really been hard on Mom and she felt better after talking to him. He was sent to Camp Atterbury, Indiana. Our whole family went to see Jack and I can still picture that visit. We went into a day room and there was Jack in a wheelchair and his right leg in a cast. His brown eyes looked huge in his pale face. There were lots of other young men with fingers and toes missing because of frostbite. Most of them had unhealthy looking complexions. Jack was thinner and just looked afraid. It must have been hell for an eighteen year old to go through what he did in Korea. I don’t understand why an eighteen year old can go to war but can’t buy or drink a beer. He was soon discharged and home to recuperate. I think his war experience affected him the rest of his life.
I should mention my Dad really enjoyed hunting. Rabbit, squirrel, and pheasant were fair game. He also had dogs and went coon hunting. He was feeding a fox in a cage for a lady on East Main Street while she was gone and the fox bit him. It almost took a finger off! He also had rabbits and chickens for awhile. His garden was his pride and joy. He always had a big beautiful garden—lots of vegetables and some flowers. His car (whatever it was at the time) was always kept and shiny. He was always neat and particular about himself and his things. Mom always kept a nice clean house and fixed good meals for us. She enjoyed playing the piano. She played “by ear” and could sit down and play anything. She also loved poetry. Besides having four children Mom always worked outside the home. She had her hands full and did a good job. She was also a good Grandma.
Jack was the first to get married. He married Marilyn Schaffer from Willard and they had two children—Jacqueline and Steven. Don married Delores Durnwald from Shelby. They had three children—Donna, Tom and Jim. Bev married Bob Wilcox from Shelby. They had three children—Chris, Todd and Julie. I married Dwight Lee Lykins from Shiloh. We had two children, Janalee and Steven. Dwight and I divorced and I married Bud. We divorced and I married Walter Will from Shelby. We had a daughter—Kelly Marie. This made for a full house, as he had children from his first marriage. There was Walter and myself, Jan, Steve, Kelly, George, Stanley, Philip, Gay and David—ten in all.
I can only imagine what life without children would be like. I feel blessed to have my three—Jan, Steve and Kelly. They have given my life meaning and given me much joy over the years.
Grandchildren are truly gifts from God. They rank right up there with the Seven Wonders of the World. I have Cari, Jan’s daughter, and Alecia, Steve and Tyler, Steve’s three. I also have Kelly’s two little girls Courtney and Katelyn. Tyler had been the youngest until Courtney and Katie came along. The whole family has enjoyed have little ones around again.
Due to the urging of my Nursing Supervisor, Elizabeth Roby, I went back to school at the age of 60. I started out in the Nursing Program and then changed to Human Services. One of the reasons I decided to go back to school was so I could say I done something besides being a housewife and mother. Somewhere along the way I realized that being a mother was the most important thing I had done. I enjoyed school very much and got good grades and graduated in June of 2000 with my associates to degree in Applied Sciences—Human Services.
I continue to do Home Health Care and I always have my family, friends, church, and I always have a good book to read. I can always take a class at Ohio State or at North Central if I want to. I am happy and content with my life. I am 67 years old and this point in my life I will accept whatever life brings my way.