In the United States, you don’t often expect to become friends with a Russian man, but that is exactly what happened with my dad, Allen Spencer. Dad was working at WOTCO in Casper at the time, and his friend, Vladimir worked there as well. For Vladimir, the United States was the epitome of the word freedom. He loved the United States, and as an immigrant, who loved the United States, he wanted to learn the language. He was working very hard on it when he and my dad met. Dad was excited about Vladimir too. He had never known anyone from Russia, and really, never expected to. He told Mom and my younger sister, Allyn Hadlock that there was a Russian man working with him and he wanted to learn Russian so he could talk to him.
Dad bought a Russian/English dictionary, and began to study it. He had some specific phrases he wanted to learn, such as, Hello, How are you, Do you like America, and Do you have a family. Every night they sat down at the table to work through the dictionary, figuring out what he would say next. They also learned that certain symbols, some that we use today, could mean something very different in Russian. The American symbol for “ok” is a good example. In Russian that symbol, with the circle of the thumb and forefinger, is a cuss word. It is very similar to flipping someone the bird. They laughed about that one. Then, when Dad wanted to say Dirty Rat, Allyn told him to use that American symbol for ok, because that should do it. That really got them laughing, and it still makes Allyn laugh to this day when she thinks about it.
I think the thing that Vladimir liked so much about my dad was the fact that he tried to learn Russian, and that he reached out to a foreigner too. Vladimir and his wife didn’t have very many people that he could visit with…at least not in Russian. He was just so pleased that Dad was actually learning Russian. I’m not saying that Dad was fluent at Russian. In fact, his Russian could be considered comical at times, but the main thing was that he tried. Dad and Vladimir became the best of friends, and mom and Vladimir’s wife were friends too. They were invited to dinner at Vladimir’s house, and his wife made Borscht. Borscht is a beet soup. Now, I have to tell you that Dad must have really felt a friendship with Vladimir, because Dad hated beets, but he ate that soup. They told Mom and Dad that in Russia the people didn’t have very much meat, so their meals consisted of potatoes and vegetables. They were able to buy more meat now though, since coming to America, so when they had their American friends over for dinner, they bought meat for the Borscht…mostly because Americans are used to eating meat.
Vladimir and his wife wanted to be like the American people, because they loved this country. The did their very best to Americanize everything they did, because they wanted to be true Americans. This was the true melting pot…every foreigners dream, and they wanted to be a part of it. Dad and his Russian co-worker became good friends, and Vladimir always appreciated Dad’s efforts to make him feel at home in a new land.
When a mother dies young, the family is left to try to put the pieces back together, even though a very important piece of the family will now be forever missing. Theresa Halcyone “Halcy” Davis Freese was a young mother with so much to live for, when she passed away at only 40 years of age. Halcy left a loving husband, Louis Emery Freese, and four children, Vera, who was 14, Buford, who was 10, Myrtle, who was 8, and Florence who was only 4 1/2. It was a lot for a dad, who was going through his own horrible grief, to handle. For Louis, trying to care for his children and still make a living, became almost too much. Thankfully, he had the help of his mother-in-law, Theresa Elizabeth Spencer Davis, to help them all through the pain of loss, and care for the children, when their dad couldn’t, either because of work, or just the deep sadness of losing his beloved Halcy. The children’s aunts and uncles, Halcy’s sisters and brothers helped out too,and they all showed such kindness to the children, that it became something the children would never forget.
Their Uncle Luther, who was courting Lena Timpte at the time, took the children to the Timpte’s bakery to visit Lena. Later the children would spend a lot of time at Luther and Lena’s farm, and they lovingly pointed out that Lena made the best candy!! They would also go to visit their Uncle Reuben and Aunt Maggie, who lived on the “Creek Place”. That was a great place to visit because they could go swimming in the creek. Clifford and Josephine had the farm in the center. There was always an aluminum pitcher on the table full of milk, which is a real treat for “town kids”, and they remarked that “no one can fry potatoes like Aunt Josephine!” Aunt Cassie was always so sweet, and she kept her girls long hair in beautiful curls. She also had a music box they could wind up and listen to…you could see the inner workings too, which was an added bonus. Aunt Ruth took the children on their vacations for years, and made them clothes. She also did so many other things for them over the years that they became too numerous to mention, but were never forgotten.
As these dear aunts and uncles passed away, one by one, Florence, who was Halcy’s youngest daughter, and the author of this portion of Uncle Bill’s Family History, felt the heaviness of loss that she could not feel as a little girl of only 4 1/2 years, when her mother passed away. While she loved her mother very much, these aunts and uncles had stepped in to make her life a happy one in spite of loss, and for that she could never thank them enough.