Go home when you’re ordered in German

One of the joys of working on the editorial page each week comes when I write the 10-20-40-100 column you can see at lower left.

I’ve been doing a “ looking back” column now for 37 years. When I started in 1974 every single item was new to me even though, of course, it covered only 10, 20 and 40 years.

But I’ve just about caught up. I remember a big majority of the items from 40 years ago covered by The Reporter and in three more years that section of the column will also be referencing stories I wrote.

That’s one of the reasons why when we started the 100 years ago portion in the summer of 2010 it uplifted my spirits. Surely I wouldn’t have any first-hand knowledge of Rockdale people from one century ago.

But 100 years ago this week The Reporter reported two Rockdale area men brought in the first bales of cotton from the 1911 crop. J. J. Hillin and Emil Timmerman. Mrs. Hillin went to my dad’s church. I could even show you where she sat if we’d make a trip down to the end of Burleson Street today.

Emil Timmerman lived right across the alley from me when I was a kid. I’d be lying if I said that I had lots of memories about him but I sure do about his wife.

I think for a while I believed Annie Timmerman was my own grandmother. That’s understandable because she was the great grandmother of just about everybody I played with as a kid.

The eastern third of the block I grew up on—I can hear some of you saying that I never have grown up—was four generations of one big, very nice, family.

Emil and Annie lived in a little white house directly across the alley from me.

Next door to them, on the other side, was their son, Albert Timmerman Sr. and his wife Willie Lee.

The adjacent two houses, just to the nor th, contained t wo more generations, the children of Albert Sr. and Willie Lee—Albert Jr., wife Edna and kids Diane and Robert; Marvin and Dorothy (Timmerman) Thaler and kids Bruce and Brent.

It was a wonderful place to grow up.

Bruce and Brent and Diane and Robert called A lbert Sr. “Grand- dan” and called Annie “Mamaw.”

I had a grandmother but she was 700 miles away. So I called A nnie “ Mamaw ” for a while before figuring out that wasn’t really appropriate.

Emil and Annie lived on their farm out at Bushdale before moving to town. I remember Mam— uh, Annie—speaking German.

That was apparently what they spoke at home. It made a marvellous language for discipline. When you’re corrected in German you’ve been corrected!

There was a huge oak tree to our side of Annie’s house. In later years, after he retired, Albert Sr. would sit under that tree in the afternoons. I must have waved at him a million times and he always waved and smiled.

The Timmerman great grandkids and I were always running around the neigborhood to each other’s houses and yards.

We found by combining two front yards we could play football. We’d use the concrete sidewalks as goal lines. One of them was Annie’s. I don’t think she ever fully understood what we were doing.

We generally all got along great, even though once I put my string of firecrackers on the hood of Marvin Thaler’s brand new black Ford Galaxie one New Year’s Day. Somebody held their “punk”—remember punks?—too close and they went off.

He was so nice about it. Of course he made me root for the Astros for an entire year as penance. Even then the Astros didn’t win the National League penant.

Sorry, couldn’t help it.

Annie passed away in 1965. Her little house has been gone many years.

Her eyesight got bad in later years. I remember more than once I’d ride my bike in the street in front of her house just about dark. She’d see me and come to the porch.

She thought I was her great grandson, Brent. “Brent!” she’d yell at me, w ith her German accent: “It’s too late. Go home!”

I always went home. Then I’d feel bad because I figured I’d gotten Brent Thaler in trouble.

Okay, so I remember people from 100 years ago. But they’re sure nice memories and I sure grew up in a great place.

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2011-08-04 digital edition

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