“If a man has something to say that is worth saying one time he should let the written or printed word keep on saying it after he is gone.”
“…I felt that it was necessary for me to do something to keep us from being entirely forgotten.”
James Larkin Pearson,
Poet Laureate of North Carolina, from 1953 to 1981
Friday, February 17, 2012
The West Patriarchs: 6th in a Series, William Charles West, Sr.
Here we go on a journey I have been reluctant to take!I am beginning my last two posts on the West patriarchs.I have been “putting off” writing these two because they are particularly difficult for me to recall emotionally and to write.They are about my grandfather and my father.
My grandfather, William Charles West, Sr. was the fifth of the thirteen children and the third son of Thomas Harvey West and America Ann McNeil.He was born on January 1, 1892, in Wilkes County, North Carolina.I assume that he was born at their home on Stony Fork. In 1902 the family moved from Stony Fork to Banner Elk, North Carolina.In my blog about my great grandfather, Thomas Harvey West, on November 5, 2011, I talked about the family’s move from Wilkes County to Banner Elk.
My grandfather, who, at some point in his life, came to be known as Charlie, did not talk about himself or his past.He was a “man of few words.”In order to piece together a microcosm of his life, I have mainly garnered tidbits of information about him through comments from my dad or my aunt or from my collection of old photos.I have used these sources to draw conclusions and make assumptions.Since I noted this same characteristic, a reluctance to talk about personal things, in my father, I have come to realize that the West men must have been “men of few words.”
William Charles "Charlie" West
From photographs of Papaw, as we called him, he was a handsome young man from whom my father inherited his looks.His hair was dark and definitely had some natural curl, but I remember it only as being gray, with curl but thinning.Photographs of some of his brothers indicate that they, too, may have had curly hair. He was short of stature and as an older man, somewhat stocky.This short stature was a characteristic inherited from his grandfather and father.His grandfather, Alexander Balus West, was about 5 feet 8 inches according to his military records. Likewise, in their photographs his father and mother appeared to be short.
A Game of Tennis
"Home, Sweet Home!"
Charlie apparently enjoyed good times.Many of the photographs that I have of his early days depict him with friends, posing for humorous, tongue-in-cheek pictures, and playing games. In some photos he and my grandmother are playing tennis with another couple, all dressed, of course, in their “Sunday” clothes.In another photo, which was labeled with the title, “Home, Sweet Home,” he and my grandmother are posed in front of an old shack with my dad, an infant.
He must have possessed some musical ability since he owned a guitar which he appears to be playing in one of the photographs.This guitar was passed down to my father and then to my sister, Sandy.She and I did not realize that this guitar had belonged to our grandfather until we recently recognized it in the photograph, nor did we know that he had played it.
Good Times with Charlie on Left
My 90 year-old Aunt Jack, his only child living at this time, said that he was a good father.I know that my dad was very much a sportsman. He enjoyed hunting, fishing, and tennis, which he may have learned from his father. I remember their fishing together at Watauga Lake near Elizabethton, Tennessee.
A Wedding Photo?
As a young man Charlie worked for Intermountain Telephone Company in North Carolina.He met my grandmother, Ada Beatrice McQueen, at the telephone office in Newland or Cranberry, North Carolina, where she worked as a telephone operator.Apparently, at some point, she had moved back home to Austin Springs in Johnson City, Tennessee. During their courtship he traveled between Banner Elk, North Carolina, and Austin Springs in Johnson City to “court” her.They were married on August 21, 1915, in Newland, North Carolina.My dad, William Charles West, Jr., was born in Newland on July 10, 1916.At that time, my grandfather was a telephone superintendent with Intermountain Telephone Company in Newland.
Home: 106 W. Poplar Street
Ada, Charles, Alzenia, Jack
From personal letters, I learned that for a short period of time, “Papaw” worked in Cincinnati.His wife and young son, Charles, lived with him for a time but moved back to Austin Springs where my grandmother, apparently, lived with her parents.Eventually, Charlie and Ada West moved to Johnson City where he continued to work with Intermountain Telephone Company.In Johnson City, they lived for a short time on Spring Street and later moved
to 106 West Popular Street where they lived until their deaths.There they reared their three children, William Charles West, Jr., Alzenia Helen West, and Christine “Jack” West.To date they have five grandchildren, six great grandchildren, and eight great, great grandchildren.Two additional great, great grandchildren are due within a few months.
At the age of 28, Charlie joined the First Presbyterian Church in Johnson City, Tennessee.After 40 years of service, he retired from Intermountain Telephone Company in Johnson City where, at that time, he worked as a lineman.His wife, Ada, died of liver and pancreatic cancer on December 6, 1965, at the relatively young age of 70.My grandfather Charlie passed away in Johnson City, Tennessee, on August 13, 1967 of throat cancer at the age of 75. His abusive use of tobacco and alcohol may have contributed to his throat cancer.In addition, to his three children and five grandchildren, at his death he was survived by five sisters:Lou Triplett, Alice West, Belle Butner, Ethel Graham, and Flora Lowe; and three brothers: Mack West, Bob West, and Guy West. He is buried beside his wife at Monte Vista Memorial Park in Johnson City, Tennessee.
Papaw and Charlotte
I most certainly cherish this photograph of me with him when I was one year old.
Younger Days: Charlie and Ada
Charlie at Home on Christmas
You may double click on the photos to enlarge them.