In August of 1964, my dad, Allen Spencer bought a Hollywood Reloading Press from his brother, William Spencer. Uncle Bill is two years older than my dad, and he loved his little brother, was always protective of him, and took him under his wing. As a little boy, Dad was really proud of his big brother, and wanted to say “brother” very badly, but he couldn’t quite get the word out correctly. Instead it always came out “Bowa” when Dad said it. After a while “Bowa” stuck, and the brothers both used it often. When Uncle Bill sent Dad the Reloading Press, he sent with it, a letter carefully explaining its safety instructions and its warnings. While going through Dad’s things, we came across that letter. It was such a treasure to find it, because it so perfectly depicted the relationship the brothers had.
Always the big bowa, Uncle Bill was very excited that my dad wanted a reloading press, and since Uncle Bill was a gun dealer, who else would Dad have gone to when he wanted to make such a purchase. For those who don’t know, a Hollywood Reloading Press turns used ammunition into loaded ammunition again. Uncle Bill loved guns and all the accessories, and so it stood to reason that Dad would follow suit. The brothers had always used guns for hunting and safety, and even dynamite for blowing out tree stumps…and the occasional gate post. While boys would be boys, these boys weren’t troublemakers, but were rather careful and respected these items. They knew that improper use could be deadly. While my dad had grown up knowing about guns, Uncle Bill knew that he had not used a reloading press before, and he wanted to make sure nothing went wrong. It wasn’t that Uncle Bill thought my dad was careless, he just wanted him safe, and the reloader could bring danger, if not used correctly.
The letter, in my mind, was more about the love Uncle Bill had for my dad, than it was about the Hollywood Reloading Press. Theirs was a close relationship that each of them treasured. Uncle Bill always loved writing letters. He always felt that the written documentation was forever. It carried with it the history of events that occurred in the life of the writer and the receiver. So few of us understand that, I think…at least not until it’s too late. The letter about the Hollywood Reloading Press will always be a treasure to all of my family. I’m sure that the letter was a treasure to my dad too, since he kept it all those years. And I will always think of “Bowa” when I think of the brothers now.
After reconnecting with so many of my Schumacher cousins on Facebook, Ancestry, and now in person, I have begun to wonder more about the Schumacher ancestry even further back. For a number of years, I have been stuck in the 1800’s on the Schumacher side of the family, just hoping for a break, and I think I may now know why. In researching the name Schumacher, I find that Schumacher or Schuhmacher is an occupational surname. It is, of course, the German word for shoemaker. Both spellings can be used as surnames, with Schumacher being the more common one, however, only the variant with an “h” can also be used as a job description in modern German spelling. That fact is of vital importance to my family’s actual history, and it could be the reason I have hit a wall in my search.
According to my grandparent’s, Carl and Albertine (Henriette) Hensel Schumacher, marriage certificate, Carl’s last name was actually spelled Schuhmacher…the actual job description, as well as an occupational surname. I had long known of the difference in the spelling, because my Uncle Bill Spencer had sent me a copy of the marriage certificate years ago, but I didn’t know the distinction that one letter held. I didn’t know that it changed the name from just a name to an occupation. If, as I suspect, Carl was encouraged to Americanize the spelling when he came to America, then anyone searching for information on Carl Schuhmacher, would most likely hit a wall…just as I have done. Americanizing surnames was a very common practice in early American immigration history, and sometimes the name the person ended up with was nothing like their real name. It is a serious frustration for the family history researcher.
This now causes me to wonder if our family might be related to such notable people as Eugen Schuhmacher (1906–1973), German zoologist and pioneer of animal documentaries, Irma Heijting-Schuhmacher (born 1925), Dutch freestyle swimmer, or John Schuhmacher (born 1955), American football player. Perhaps our search for our roots should be heading in a completely different direction, because unfortunately, no one told the people in the nation these people immigrated from that they should change their name too, so the lineage would be preserved. Perhaps this spelling of the name will open the doors that have for so long been locked. Only time will tell on this matter, as I delve into the research to see where it will lead me. I hope that it will lead me to the next level…the one after Carl’s dad, my 2nd great grandfather, Johann Schuhmacher, and beyond.
It is so hard for me to hit a brick wall in the family history line, because I want so badly to be able to take each line way back. It has become an obsession I suppose, just like it was for Uncle Bill. Once you get started you don’t want to stop until you reach your goal. Ancestral lines can be hard enough to follow, as the records kept were not as good, or have been lost over the years, but when you add the fact that the names were most likely changed, you find yourself hitting the brick wall that I have hit. Just like the grade school child who spells a totally different word for the teacher, you find yourself realizing the importance of one letter.
Living in Wisconsin, my Uncle Bill was no stranger to snow. In reality, it was a fact of life from the time he was a little boy. I’m sure that some winters were worse than others, which is the case in any area that gets snow, but those winters when the area got lots of snow, seemed to cause particular problems for Uncle Bill. I’m sure everyone thinks that lots of snow causes problems for everyone, and I would have to agree, but for Uncle Bill, it was a depressing event to a degree.
At least in his younger days, my uncle loved to be outdoors, and traveling, in particular, was very enjoyable to him. In the letters my dad wrote home to him from World War II, Dad mentioned that Uncle Bill was thinking of going to Mexico…of course, there was a job involved in that one, but Mexico would have also been a way to get out of the snow and warm up too, and since the letter was written in February, it’s my guess that Uncle Bill was, true enough, worried about the shipyards closing, but also, and maybe more importantly, feeling the cold winter weather pretty deeply too.
As a little boy, Uncle Bill had run across snow problems when he found himself sitting on the front walk of the family home, looking at the deep snow that was making it impossible for him to any further on his tricycle. The look on his face told me that this was not a happy little boy, and who could blame him. Tricycles are for riding on, not sitting on with the inability to move. And unfortunately for Uncle Bill, his tricycle was not the only place he found himself in just such a fix. It seems his car ended up snowed in as well, which we all know can be frustrating. The biggest difference between the tricycle and the car is the fact that with the car, Uncle Bill was still able to smile about the whole situation, where with the tricycle, he looked quite annoyed.
Winter’s snow can be lots of fun for everyone, or at least those who like winter and snow, but it also has the irritating ability to slow traffic, mess with travel plans, and make the use of certain toys impossible. For those who live in areas that get lots of snow, it can be particularly annoying, as was the case for Uncle Bill, whose plans always seemed to be foiled by the dumping of large amounts of snow, right on top of his world. It seemed he was always getting snowed in again in those days.