My dear uncle, Bill Spencer, who left us on Christmas day, 2020, was such a favorite of mine. We were a lot alike, and we had many of the same interests. It was Uncle Bill who taught me to play cribbage, but was never one to let me win. I learned to play well, and when I won…I knew I had really won. Back when you could get away with letting your kid drive on your lap, or even themselves with you in the car, well before they were of an age to get a permit, he let me drive to their cabin when we visited. Even my dad was ok with it, so I drove the three of us for quite a while. As a mom, when my kids needed family history information, I knew that my Uncle Bill was the guy to go to. He was the family historian from the time he was eight years old, and I quickly became as obsessed as he was. Uncle Bill did his research the old fashioned was, by making trips to different places to look in cemeteries, county and state records offices, and libraries. It was much harder work back then, and those of us who have been the beneficiaries of Uncle Bill’s hard work, can say that he has done a great work.
Uncle Bill is my dad, Allen Spencer’s older brother. Uncle Bill was ten years younger than his sister, Laura Fredrick, and three years older than his younger sister, Ruth Wolfe. The two boys were in the middle. The family lived many years in Holyoke, Minnesota, and ran a farm there. Uncle Bill, being the oldest son, played a big part in the farming. He, along with mostly my dad and Aunt Ruth helped with haying, and growing the the gardens. Their dad worked for the railroad, and so the farm was largely left to my grandmother, Anna Spencer, and the kids. My Aunt Laura was married during a good part of the younger children’s growing up years. Nevertheless, Uncle Bill and Aunt Laura were very close during his childhood years when their mother was working and Aunt Laura took care of him. They grew to have a close friendship, as well as being siblings.
As they grew older, Uncle Bill and my dad were the definitely the boys of the family. They loved getting into all kinds of trouble. The jumped on the moving trains, even though they had a pass to ride. They played with dynamite, even sinking the gatepost couple of inches. They also loved to go fishing, and often brought home a good catch, which all the family got to enjoy. Even though they were typical boys, I guess they weren’t all bad. I’m sure that when Uncle Bill got to Heaven a little less than a month ago, there was a wonderful reunion between the brothers, as they rest of their family too. It makes me sad to know that all of the siblings are gone to Heaven now, but only for myself and those of us left here. For the siblings it a big celebration. They are all together again. Today would have been Uncle Bill’s 99th birthday…and his first birthday in Heaven. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Bill. We love and miss you very much.
For my nephew, Dave Chase, each year is defined by the sports that have taken place, and the games he has been to. Whether Dave is watching sports or participating in them, it’s all about sports. Dave is kind of a complex guy. He is very family oriented, and wants his family to lead happy and fulfilled lives, but he is very much a guy, and that means that while his wife, my niece, Toni has a wide variety of interests, and he sees her personality in their home and all she has done with it, but when it comes to what Toni is doing at any given time, Dave’s mind starts zoning out to…you guessed it…sports. I think that the girly things Toni likes, while making their home wonderful, comfortable, and homey, are things that Dave can’t really wrap his head around, because…well, they don’t have anything to do with sports. About Toni’s activities, Dave says, “I’m a male. I don’t remember what Toni has been doing for the last week, let alone the last year. I am not good at details. I just have an analytical engineering mind.” Every time I read that it makes me giggle. It is just so typically Dave, and I find it hilarious to say the least.
It was a good year in sports for Dave’s competitive teams. His co-ed softball team placed first in Division A, his basketball team went undefeated for the season and they are now competing for first place. For Dave it is the thrill of the competition, and that doesn’t just mean in physical sports. Dave has been playing Cribbage most of his life. His dad taught him how, and continues to be the one person Dave can’t beat. In the last three cribbage tournaments that Dave’s been in he placed 3rd, 2nd, and 1st, in that order.
Dave isn’t picky about what level the sports are in either. His favorite college team is, of course, the Wyoming Cowboys. As any Wyoming fan knows, they did pretty well in 2017, and they are doing excellent at basketball as well, except for the fact that they lost today…darn it!! Nevertheless, for Dave the best way to spend a birthday is at a game, which is where he was today. I just wish it had been a better game for his birthday. A couple of weeks ago, Dave managed to be in the right place at the right time to get caught on television at a Wyoming game. While that may not make him a celebrity, it’s cool to be spotted at the game, courtesy of the news.
Outside of Wyoming, Dave is a huge Dodgers, Lakers and Kings fan. The Dodgers did awesome in baseball this year, even though they didn’t win the pennant. It’s hard to say how the Kings are doing this year, because it’s too early to tell yet, but Dave says that the Lakers have been struggling for a while, but a true fan never gives up on their team…right. And the Rams…now that they’re back in LA…are Dave’s new football team…even if 2017 wasn’t their year. And Unlike Dave, who has no idea what is going on in Toni’s world, Toni has been watching his, and she is very much in the know about every team Dave likes. Way to go Toni!! As Toni said, “All I know it’s been a great year in sports for Dave, and definitely a year where his talents got better with age.” Today is Dave’s birthday. Happy birthday Dave!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
When my husband’s aunt, Helen Knox passed away on January 11, 2017 at the good old age of 99 years, her passing left her soul mate, Uncle Frank Knox to carry on alone…at least in that the love of his life was not longer with him. Of course, his sons are still here, and his grandchildren, one of whom I have had the great privilege of getting to know over Facebook since her grandmother’s passing. Yesterday morning, it was Frank’s granddaughter, Kate West who passed along the sad news that Uncle Frank had gone to Heaven to join his sweet wife, Helen. My thoughts immediately went back to the times that Frank and Helen came for visits, and what wonderful and interesting people they were. I wanted to write a tribute to Frank about the times I remembered, but then I read about Kate’s memories, and…well, I hope she won’t mind if I take a chapter from her Lifebook for this story. Her memories are so sweet and so thoughtful, that it became very clear to me and to anyone who read her words, that her grandfather was very, very special to her. Nothing I could have said could even begin to compare to the words of his Kate…or to those of her dad, Greg Knox, who told me that the date of Frank’s passing was the same date he and Helen married, just 71 years later. That is a very special day to Frank and Helen.
While Kate is very sad that her grandfather is gone, she is glad that he is with her grandmother again. They had lived long and happy lives, with 71 of those years lived as husband and wife. When her grandmother passed away, Kate found herself distressed because her grandfather was now without his other half. For Kate, the connection she and her grandpa had was the closest relationship she had with any of her grandparents. Part of the reason is that Frank and Helen lived with Kate’s family for 4 years, from the time Kate was 8 until she was 12. Helen was a little more quiet than her husband was. Frank was always very outgoing, and that made him easy to get to know. The relationship Kate had with her grandfather reminds me of the relationship I had with my Uncle Bill Spencer. Kate’s grandpa, or maybe her dad, taught her the game of cribbage, like my uncle did with me. After that playing cribbage became a ritual. The family used to go camping, and it always seemed to rain, at least one day of the trip. That was all it took for Kate and Frank to get out the cribbage board and pass the time in the friendly rivalry that cribbage always is. Those are the memories that will last Kate for the rest of her life…the memories that will keep her grandfather in her thoughts. She won’t pass a cribbage board without thinking of their games, or hear the rain without thinking of her grandfather. He will always live in her heart, as he will in the hearts of all of those who loved him.
Having moved to Spokane, Kate didn’t get to see her grandfather as often during those last years, and while she feels the regrets that come from a busy life and the difficulty distance brings to staying in touch, I can tell her that for her grandfather, the memories of the fun times with his cribbage partner kept a smile on his face, and she lit up his day with the love that showed on her face for her grandfather. While we may not realize what a huge impact we have of the life of another, they know it. Those around us who care about us, are the bright lights in our lives. That’s what Kate was to her grandfather. Uncle Frank will be greatly missed by all of us, who loved him. We look forward to seeing you again in Heaven, Uncle Frank.
As this day has approached, I have found it very hard to believe that my Uncle Bill Spencer, my dad’s brother, is turning 95 years old today. I remember the uncle from my childhood, full of life, and exciting stories. He was the man who taught me the game of Cribbage and challenged me to try to beat him. He never gave me the game, but rather made it a true victory when I was able to beat him. He never made me feel like a failure when I lost either, but rather told me that every game I played made me a better player, and he was right. I loved the times we had together playing cribbage. It will always be one of my favorite memories of my uncle. Over the years, we tried in vain to figure out a way to play long distance. That was one challenge that beat us. I suppose that in the age of computers, we might have found a way.
Uncle Bill is a unique kind of person, in that he found something he was interested in when he was just an 8 year old boy, and he never lost his passion for it. For Uncle Bill, that passion was for his family genealogy. As a young boy, he saw a little black book his mother was working on. It was a simple record book of the family members she knew of at the time, but for Uncle Bill, it was a challenge. He was hooked, and for as long has his memory lasted, Uncle Bill continued digging for more information. His work would take him on many trips to pour through libraries, county records, state records, and to walk miles and miles of cemeteries. He had a need to find out about his past. He found himself feeling annoyed when people didn’t properly mark photos and documents, with important information, such as who was in the picture, when it was taken, and what was going on. So much information is so easily lost because someone didn’t take a moment to properly document a picture. Since I have looked over all his work, I can understand his frustration, because there are pictures that we know the relationship of, but not the name of the person, and some people we don’t know anything about at all. And no way to find out. History lost…maybe forever.
When my girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce were in grade school, they had an assignment concerning their family history. My mom, Collene Spencer said I should get a hold of my Uncle Bill…his reputation as the family historian had preceded him. I called him, and he sent what was needed for their assignments. That was awesome, but it was not the end of the story. With Uncle Bill’s way of peaking my interest, I have picked up the torch and I am running with it. I pray that I can do him proud. Uncle Bill has dementia now, and doesn’t remember that he was working on the family history, Still, I pray that I, and others like me, can carry on his legacy for him, so that history will not be lost in this family. Today is Uncle Bill’s 95th birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Bill!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Monday nights during the school year, basically September to late April or early May, Bob and I bowl on a league at Sunrise Lanes in Casper. There are a few fun things we do there, like bowling poker, pushing nickels, and the high game pot. I don’t often win the poker hand for some reason, but I continue to play anyway. I suppose that the winners vary pretty well, but it does sometimes seem that the same people win a lot. It really doesn’t matter, since it’s only a dollar a game to get in. Obviously, the more cards you get the better your chances of winning, and I’m not a bad bowler, so I usually get enough cards to have a fair shot…since two cards are taken for every strike and converted split, and one for every spare.
I don’t play poker any other time, but in years past, I played Cribbage with my Uncle Bill when he would visit or we would visit there, and Spades with Bob’s grandfather whenever we would go to visit in Forsyth, Montana. Those are always fond memories for me, because these men were two people that I very much enjoyed spending time with. They were also pretty much the only people who I played cards with…not because I refused to play cards with anyone else, but simply because they were the only ones I knew who really played cards much.
As I was gathering my cards to turn them in at the end of the game at bowling on Monday night, I looked at them, and decided that they were really a particularly bad hand. Almost nothing matched, and nothing lined up for a straight or flush either. Without thinking, I made the comment that I had a hand like a foot. That was something I hadn’t thought of in years. I thought that it was Bob’s grandfather who used to call it that, but then I thought maybe it was my Uncle Bill. I honestly am not sure, but I know that I always thought that was quite funny. Nevertheless, it described the hand that I had quite well.
I haven’t played regular cards in a number of years now, but in many ways, I think I miss that. I know it really isn’t about the card game, but about the time spent with those two dear men. We always related so well to each other, and I miss the fun times we had. Bob’s grandfather is gone now, having passed away ten years ago on October 22, 2004. While my Uncle Bill is still living, Alzheimer’s Disease has taken many of his memories away from him now, and I am simply thankful that he knew who we were after we told him that we were his brother’s family, when we visited him recently. Cribbage came up, but I’m not sure he would remember how to play anymore. Whichever of these two dear men used to say, a hand like a foot, no longer really matters, because I don’t think I will ever hear that again, except in my own memory.
I suppose that everyone has an aunt or uncle that they connect with better than some of the others, and while the choice would be really tough for me to make, because I have so many great aunts and uncles, I would, nevertheless have to go with my Uncle Bill Spencer, who is my dad’s brother. Uncle Bill and I have always clicked. I notice many ways that we are alike. It was Uncle Bill that taught me how to play cribbage, and when they came to town, the rest of the family was hard pressed to spend much time with him…unless they wanted to watch us play. It was Uncle Bill who got me interested in coin and stamp collecting. I think I liked pretty much anything he was interested in.
While my interest in those things didn’t last very long, there was something that Uncle Bill got me interested in that has stayed with me for years…genealogy. Uncle Bill has been interested in the family history since he was a little boy. I can’t say that I have been interested in it quite that long, but since my girls were little for sure…and probably a while before that too. So much of what we now have is because of the work that Uncle Bill did over a lifetime. As a kid, I was certain that I hated history of any kind, but as an adult, I discovered just how interesting history can be, especially when you apply it to your own family. Most of the time, we don’t really consider the impact our own family members had on the course of history, but often they had a great impact…somewhere, at some place in time. Uncle Bill looked for the things our family did, and for the impact many of them had in history. That made them seem more real. I have also found out that some of the characters that we studied in history in school, are ancestors of mine, so that makes them even more interesting. Sometimes you just have to look at things differently, to really be able to see them for what they are.
While history and genealogy were something Uncle Bill and I shared, I can’t say that those things were the reason that we connected so well. In fact, I can’t say exactly why we connected so well…only that we did. Sometimes, it isn’t just about things you have in common, but rather about personalities. I think Uncle Bill and I were quite a bit alike in our personalities too. Maybe it was our sense of humor, or maybe our determination, but whatever it was, we always seemed to click, and it was a relationship that I always cherished.
Through the years, we tried to keep in contact with letters, but that was not always easy or successful. Uncle Bill didn’t get on the computer except to log his gun shop inventory, and so letters were just about it for him…especially since phone calls across the country back in the day could be pricey. We had thought about finding a way to play cribbage long distance, but could never get that figured out either. These days, online gaming is pretty easy, and if he had know much about the computer, we could have done it. It makes me sad that we were never able to do so.
When we went to see Uncle Bill on this trip, the Alzheimer’s Disease had taken much of his recent memory from him, but when we told him that we were his brother, Allen’s family, he knew who we were. We talked abut the very distant past…his and his sibling’s childhood, and he remember playing cribbage…I think. Nevertheless, it was not the same. The relationship was locked in the past, where it will most likely remain. I wish I could be close enough to see him a little more often, and maybe we could even give a game of cribbage a try. Though I haven’t seen him nearly as much in the past few years, as I did in my younger years, I find myself missing him terribly.
In years gone by, the choices for recreational activities were pretty limited. There weren’t any radio stations to play music for dances all the time, things like television and computers were still in the future. So, what did people do to entertain themselves. Of course, there were things like the occasional barn dance, and the county fair, but in reality, there were not a lot of choices. The saloons wee an option for the men, but not for the nice women…in fact they were embarrassed if anyone knew that their men were in the saloon at all. Not that the men were very influenced by how the women felt about it. If they wanted to go in there, they did, and that was it.
The saloon was where the men could get a drink and socialize with friends, or they could play poker. The other things that happened in the saloon, such as the womanizing and fighting, were not talked about in good moral company. That didn’t mean that all men engaged in such immoral activities, but I’m sure some did. Of course, just having those dance hall girls in the place, is enough to make most women suspect.
Poker was pretty much the card game of choice in the saloons, but maybe some of the men played it elsewhere. Back then, I doubt if the women would be caught dead playing poker, because it was probably considered a sin. These days, playing poker is considered simply a fun activity, and it is played in homes, casinos, and even bowling alleys. Lots of people play, and have a great time doing it. Times were just different back then, and sometimes I wonder if that wasn’t a better thing. There seemed to be an innocence then that we don’t even have in our grade school years in school now.
Nevertheless, I don’t think there is anything wrong with playing cards, or even poker for that matter. I play a little poker at the bowling, alley, which is much different than regular poker, in that you just draw the cards when you get a strike or spare. Personally I’d rather play, Cribbage or Spades, over poker in most situations, but in all reality, I’m not much on playing cards anymore. I suppose that is because there is too many other activities to occupy the mind these days. I have to think I like that better than I would have the days when cards were the main entertainment.
Whenever our cousins came to visit from Wisconsin, we always had such a great time. Hanging out in Uncle Bill’s bus, playing in the yard, playing cribbage, going for ice cream, or just hanging out with the cousins…it didn’t matter what exactly, just that they were here to visit again. We felt that way about all of our out of town cousins. In fact, the only thing that was bad about those visits was the end of them, and it always came too soon. I’m one of those people who really hates to say goodbye, especially when I know it will be for a long time. If I had my way, all those people that I love would live in the same town.
When it was time for them to begin the journey home, everyone tried to lighten the mood. We did goofy little things to make each other laugh, even though we were all sad. Of course, we had to take the pictures that last day too, because we wanted something to remember each other by, until the next time we got to see each other. There was still so much to say, and everyone wanted to talk at once, hoping to get just a few more moments with the cousins. A week just isn’t enough time to spend with your cousins. We promised to write to them more often, even though we had promised before and did for a while, and then got busy with our own lives again. I think we knew that writing wasn’t really going to happen, as we promised. Finally it was time to go, and all that was left was the hugging and waving goodbye, and the wishing that the week was just starting, instead of ending. Life seemed a little more mundane after they left. We had to think of things to do, and nothing seemed interesting now. Even the things we had done when they were here were less interesting.
The sad thing is that as we grow older, and have families of our own, sometimes those relationships are lost and become distant, because everyone is so busy. Seldom do the kids get together they way they did when they lived at their parent’s home. Families grow apart, and then comes the point when they almost don’t feel comfortable sitting down to talk, because they don’t know what to say to each other. They have both lived such different lives, with little in common, and it just gets awkward. Soon, it’s just easier to forgo the visits all together. Then comes the moment when the cousin or their parents pass away, and you feel bad because you have been out of touch for so long…and you feel great regret, but it is too late. I wish I had more time with all my cousins and I’m thankful for Facebook, which has reconnected so many of us virtually, and that is the next best thing to being there.
My Uncle Bill is a man of many talents. He hates to see something be thrown away or junked out if it could have some value. Now, I’m not saying that he is a hoarder, because that just wouldn’t be accurate. He just sees value in things that others don’t…such as an old bus. Uncle Bill came into possession of an old bus, and spent some time fixing it up to be used as a camper for his family. And it worked quite well.
They did a lot of traveling in it, coming out many times to visit us here in Casper. We took trips around Wyoming in that bus, and it was also a favorite hang out when they were here. Uncle Bill and I used to go out there and play Cribbage, while some of the other kids played in the bus. My little sisters liked to play house, because it was a separate “house” from my family’s home. And Of course, there was the various kids who wanted to play “driving” in the bus. I remember one time when my cousin Billy was “driving” and he found out that if you take the bus out of gear on a slope, the bus will roll. Thankfully, Uncle Bill and I were playing Cribbage at the time. I never saw my uncle move so fast. He ran to the front of the bus, and put it back in gear. Then, when he stopped shaking, he calmly backed the bus back to it parking place with a boys will be boys attitude. Thankfully there were no other cars in front of us. Looking back now, it’s easy to laugh, but it wasn’t very funny then.
The trips we took in the bus were so much fun. No one had to be tied down, you could sit and the table and talk or play games, and just enjoy the freedom to move around. It was much like traveling in a train…and we all loved it. I remember Uncle Bill teasing us kids about having to lick up our ice cream if we spilled, and then when his son Jimmy did spill, and started to get down to lick it up, Uncle Bill laughed heartily and said, “Don’t lick it up!! I was just kidding!!” The relief on Jimmy’s face was just hilarious!!
The memories I have of that old bus are varied and many, too many to put here. It was a great old bus, and my Uncle Bill did an amazing job on creating a great travel bus, but more importantly he created memories. I know I will never forget them, nor will my sisters. Those were such good times.