Anyone know this ‘Greatest Generation’ member?

I know I’ve mentioned it before, and I’ll probably mention it again many times before I hang up my keyboard, but it’s not even close to choose what the best part of my job has been these past 38 years.

It’s all the great people, in all walks of life I’ve gotten to meet— and in many cases befriend—that I know I’d never have met if I hadn’t worked for this newspaper.

After four decades of this it seems like I just about know everybody. It’s so normal that sometimes I need to be reminded that’s not the case for everyone.

My wife moved here from a big city out of state, a place, where you’re not likely to know 75 percent of the people you see in a trip to the store to buy a sixpack of Dr. Pepper, like we do in Rockdale.

Not long after we got married I did a stupid thing—hard as that may be to comprehend—and spent an hour or so scanning oversize books one night before she and I headed to a nearby town in our county.

From left, Billy Brumbelow, Duke Bland, Roy Williams and a very young ‘Mr. X’ in Austin during World War II. From left, Billy Brumbelow, Duke Bland, Roy Williams and a very young ‘Mr. X’ in Austin during World War II. Looking into that bright light, as I tried to maneuver the books with the lid off the scanner, left me with a blazing light bar in my field of vision that took up a great deal of my eyesight.

So we departed in the car with me basically being unable to see. By the grace of God we made it almost to our destination but among the things I was unable to see were the speed limit signs. I did, however, see the flashing red-and-blue lights behind me. The town’s police chief walked up. “Hello, Bob (not his real name),” I said. “Hello, Mike,” he replied. “You were going too fast.”

Sue’s mouth just about scraped her seat belt. “ You know the policemen in this town, too!?” she said.

Well, yeah, doesn’t everybody?

Then there was the time at a Rockdale Fair when I was walking to the New Salem Clubhouse, heard my name and turned to find a lady whom I’d gone to high school with and hadn’t seen in probably 35 years.

We chatted pleasantly for a few minutes, then she turned to go.

“How did you recognize me after all this time?” I asked.

She looked at me like I’d just asked her what that smell was in the heifer pens?

“Uh, you just got out of a great big hulking white van with ‘Rockdale Reporter’ plastered in huge letters on the side.”


So, it didn’t surprise me last week in the Milam County Clerk’s Office, while deep in mathematical thought trying to add up a couple of dozen candidate statement sheets for a story about campaign finance, when I felt someone come up from behind me and lay something across my note pad.

It was Joan ( pronounced “Jo-Ann”) Pratt a longtime employee of the county clerk’s office.

We go way back. Back to the time I spent the entire night in the county clerk’s office waiting on election returns from a certain town in western Milam County whose name starts with a “T” and has won three state football championships.

“Iwanttoshowyoua picture from when my brother enlisted in World War II, in Austin,” she said.

I passed up my usual goofy response, which would have been “on our side, I hope,” because the photo was so interesting.

Four very young men, so slight it looked like the next strong wind would have blown them into Congress Avenue.

Sobering to think so many in the appropriately-named Greatest Generation were so young when destiny called them.

“From the left, they are Billy Brumbelow, Duke Bland and my brother Roy (Williams),” she said. “We’ve never been able to find out who the other one is.”

Joan, who was raised in Rockdale, asked if I could help her find out.

Absolutely. It’s in the top right hand corner of this page. If anybody knows, you can e-mail or call me and I’ll let Joan know.

There was something I always wanted to know about Joan’s name so I asked her: “Why didn’t they just go ahead and spell your name ‘Joann’ or ‘Joanne’? I know everybody pronounces it ‘Jone’ because it’s spelled that way.”

“Oh,’ she said. “That’s the way Dr (I.P.) Sessions spelled it on my birth certificate (pause). But we always said we were so poor we couldn’t afford the other ‘N.”

I didn’t ask her any more questions.

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2012-11-08 digital edition

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