OF BONDAGE - Chapter 1
by Wayne Hamburger
SETTING, FAMILY HISTORY, AND EARLY CHILDHOOD
Early in this century and prior to the advent of the interstate highway system, U.S. Highway 51 sliced through the middle of the country from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border. It was a major artery for commerce and travel between the southern states and the states bordering the Great Lakes. For much of its path through the country, Highway 51 is paralleled by a railroad track which was established and maintained by the Illinois Central Railroad. These two transportation arteries also linked up with river barge traffic along the Mississippi River in many locations. It is not surprising that a number of communities sprang up along these transportation routes. One of these small towns serves as the locale for the series of events which are to follow.
DuQuoin, Illinois, is the community we have identified. The location of the town was originally about three or four miles southeast from where it sits today. When the Illinois Central Railroad located its tracks to the west of the original town, the town fathers decided to move town closer to the railroad tracks. Ironically, the location of the town on both Highway 51 and the Illinois Central has caused some consternation over the years. In order to route the highway down the main street of the town, the route had to cross the railroad tracks. During this whole century, citizens of the town have sat either in their buggies or automobiles waiting for the train to clear the crossing. Patience could wear especially thin when a long line of perhaps 100 or more coal cars ploddingly made their way north to Chicago from the Southern Illinois coal fields. A wait of 20 to 30 minutes was not uncommon and became especially scary when a fire broke out on the opposite side of the fire station. Finally, after many years of concern, the city fathers put fire stations on both sides of the tracks.
Entering DuQuoin from the south on Route 51 gives way to Washington Street which runs the length of the community. The best landmark south on Route 51 is the DuQuoin Fairgrounds. It was built on the site of an abandoned strip mine. Across from the fairgrounds is the Southern Illinois headquarters for the Illinois State Police. The developer of the fairgrounds, William Hays, made his fortune in bottling soft drinks and his Coca Cola bottling plant still sits on the northwestern edge of the grounds. Other landmarks south of DuQuoin were the large gas storage tanks that became rusty and unsightly.
Traveling north on Washington Street, one would pass the Maidrite Sandwich Shop and the DuQuoin Community High School. Route 51 took an abrupt turn west at Main Street where the post office and the Grand Theater are community landmarks. Washington Street continues north past the Elks Club, Methodist Church, First Baptist Church, Keyes City Park, Presbyterian Church and then abruptly ends at the steps of the Marshall Browning Hospital.
The intersection of Main and Washington Street has always been the busiest part of town, but repeated requests for a traffic light at the comer fell on deaf ears at the state level. Traveling west on Main Street along Route 51 in 1931 would take you past the Grand Pharmacy, Popcorn Axley's Root beer stand, Arthur Angel's Drug Store, the First State Bank, the Railway Express Station, Red Star Mill, Bianco's Drugs, the Southern Barbecue, the State Theater, Piggly Wiggly and Sacred Heat Catholic Church. A number of Jewish families with names like Werner, Fish, Wyman, and Friedman owned clothing and dry goods stores along Main Street. Just off Main Street on Division Street was the DuQuoin Evening Call, which has published a daily newspaper for most of the century.
Elite housing was located along north Washington Street and east Main Street. These large, well-kept homes belonged to business owners and professional people. The Italian and Slavic families who settled in the town seemed to migrate to the west side of town, and a number of African-American families also settled on the west side. The poorest residents lived in the far east end of town. This part of town was known as Greenwood Addition.
The part of Illinois in which DuQuoin is situated is referred to as Egypt. The name was applied many years earlier when a long Midwest drought caused crop failures, and for unknown reasons, Southern Illinois was spared. As neighboring residents flocked to Southern Illinois to buy supplies, the area was likened to the land of Egypt in the Bible story. Thereafter, the area was called Egypt. It has little resemblance to the Arab country of Egypt, except that names such as Karnak, Thebes and Cairo dot the area.
DuQuoin's main claim to fame comes by way of its fair. Most headline variety acts and entertainers have performed on stage at the grandstand. In addition, the race track was home to the famous "Hambletonian Horse Race" for many years and still hosts The World Trotting Derby. The town itself is located much closer to Memphis, Tennessee than to Chicago, Illinois and with St. Louis, Missouri within two hours driving distance, citizens don't have to wait for the yearly fair to find entertainment.
Two years following the 1929 market crash, DuQuoin was still a small impoverished mining community in the throes of the Great Depression. In early summer 1931, Dedrich and Thelma Hamburger were awaiting the birth of their first child. Dedrich was fortunate to have employment at the DuQuoin Packing Company with earnings of $13.00 per week. He had married his one and only sweetheart two years earlier and they were elated with the possibility of becoming parents.
On the national scene, Pope Plus XI was speaking out against communism and declared that Fascists could not practice Catholicism. Spain was in the grip of civil unrest and, in this country, President Hoover was asking his countrymen to be steadfast during the depression. All of this seemed far removed from the Hamburger family. Their main concern was getting enough strawberries to satisfy Thelma's craving for this fruit during her pregnancy. Fortunately, Southern Illinois had an ample supply.
Although the main industry in DuQuoin was coal, there was one other large employer, The DuQuoin Packing Company. Dedrich Hamburger was employed as a meat cutter at the packing company. Most of his neighbors were employed at the Kathleen or Majestic underground coal mines. The areas west and immediately south of the town were mined out, leaving large mounds of clay and rock called strip hills. The building of the fairgrounds had remedied the problem to the south, but to the west there were still acres of ugly strip hills.
With all the coal mining in the area from strip, shaft, and slope mines, much of the town was honeycombed underneath by empty tunnels far below the surface. Very often, a tunnel would collapse and a resident would find a sink hole in his yard in a matter of seconds. This was viewed as only a small inconvenience, even if scary, because the economy was so dependent on coal mining. Most families listened intently to the mine whistles each day to determine if they were signaling work for the next day. DuQuoin's population has always fluctuated in accordance with the coal mining industry. Some residents see this as a blessing while others view it as a curse. Coal mining has been one of the most hazardous occupations of industry and continues to be so.
The fathers of both Thelma Morrisey Hamburger and Dedrich Hamburger worked in the coal mines and one of Thelma's brothers was accidently killed in the mines. Mining was not only dangerous, but it was also not a dependable source of income. Coal miners were often dependent upon their neighborhood grocer or the company supply store for extended credit, in order to carry them through periods of unemployment.
William Morrisey was a big, jolly Irishman who had lots of friends and enjoyed his whiskey. Frank Hamburger was a small, second generation German who never took a drink. His only vice was the pipe that hardly ever left his mouth. Both men were anxious to see that first grandchild that was on the way. There was some speculation that the child would be named after the grandpas if it turned out to be a boy. As it turned out, they would have to wait until Thelma bore a second son to have one named William Frank.
In the early hours of Wednesday, May 20, 1931, Thelma Hamburger was having a stressful time awaiting the birth of her son. Thelma was a large woman, having weighed 185 pounds on her wedding day. Now, after nine months of carrying a child, she was well over 200 pounds. The difficult delivery of the male child left the little one bruised and battered. Dedrich took one look at him and proclaimed him to be the ugliest baby he had ever seen. After the dark bruises disappeared and the baby's head reverted to a normal sphere, Dedrich proclaimed him handsome.
Down the hospital corridor, another woman had also given birth on this date, but her child was a daughter. This child was the daughter of a prominent dentist in town. The family was a little amused at the news that a little Hamburger boy had been born on the same date as their daughter. It is easy to theorize that the dentist and his family hoped that their precious little daughter would never get involved with that meat cutter's son. The two children would grow up attending school together through high school and then lose contact forever.
It was not easy for Thelma and Dedrich to come up with a name for their new son. Thelma wanted to name the boy after his father, but she didn't like either of his given names of Dedrich Herbert. She finally decided on the lesser of the two evils and named the child Herbert Wayne. Since she was afraid that he would be nicknamed, "Herbie," she just decided to call him Wayne. With a surname such as Hamburger, life was going to be difficult enough without adding to it.
Hamburger, of course, is of German origin. Frank Hamburger's father had left the Alsace Lorraine area of Europe to find his fortune in America. Frank's father died at an early age after locating in the prairie land northeast of DuQuoin, Frank's mother remarried shortly thereafter, and little Frank would never receive any formal education. He spoke only German at home and learned the English language from various employers. Frank never learned to read nor write and thus was unable to communicate with any of his family in Europe. Although there are other Hamburger families presently living in the United States, no connection has ever been established to the family living in DuQuoin, Illinois.
Dedrich Hamburger completed only the fifth grade in school, and his wife Thelma dropped out after completing the eighth grade. In the Hamburger family, education was not considered important anyway, because most employers were only concerned with whether or not an employee had a strong back. They both had learned to read and write and this was considered an advancement from the past generation. Dedrich had a steady job and life was good. The new baby was showered with affection and whatever gifts they could afford from the butcher's small salary. The young couple could even afford to purchase a little house at the end of Main Street in Greenwood Addition.
For them, social contacts were through church attendance at the many Pentecostal churches scattered throughout DuQuoin. Following the massive Pentecostal revival that swept throughout the country in the early 1900's, churches sprang up in every section of town. Thelma and Dedrich enjoyed visiting each church and comparing preachers and sermons. This also brought the couple into contact with many people and helped them establish new friends. Dedrich never owned a car and never learned to drive one, so he walked to church and transported his new son in a baby carriage. As the Hamburgers visited one church after another, religion became more than a source of entertainment. It gradually became the most important aspect of their lives. It would be safe to say that the first place to which little Wayne was taken was to church.
When Wayne was about two years old, Thelma heard about a new preacher that had come to town from Louisville, Kentucky. He was preaching in a small church within a few blocks of the Hamburger home, and it wasn't long before Thelma and Dedrich had to go see for themselves what all the fuss was about. They found that the preacher's name was James Sowders. He was very young, with a pretty wife named Clara. James turned out to be a dynamic preacher and held his audiences captive. The Hamburgers were convinced that James Sowders was a spiritual man, and that God Himself had sent the preacher to DuQuoin.
James' arrival in DuQuoin was not altogether by divine intervention. A man by the name of Robert Pair had been holding church services in the little church on Leonard Avenue. Robert realized that he could not serve the church in a full-time capacity, so he looked for a permanent preacher. Robert Pair had been attending Pentecostal camp meetings in Olmstead, Illinois and Elco, Illinois under the supervision of William Sowders. Pair concluded that Sowders could be of assistance in locating a full-time preacher for his church. When Pair sent William Sowders a letter making his needs known, William sent his son, James Sowders, to DuQuoin to meet the need.
When James Sowders came to DuQuoin in 1933, he was rather new at the preaching business. He had practiced preaching some in his father's church in Louisville,Kentucky, but this had not prepared him for the many problems he would encounter in DuQuoin. James had experienced a troubled childhood since his parents divorced while he was quite young. James spent most of his early years with his grandmother. He had very little contact with his father throughout his youth and reunited with his father after James had reached adulthood. James was born in the town of Shippingport, Kentucky in 1904. He was arrested numerous times during his teenage years for participating in illegal activities. He became a hobo, drifter and gambler. This was hardly the type of background that would produce a responsible pastor, but in spite of it, James succeeded.
At the age of 23, James decided to contact his father and this proved to be the turning point of his
life. James accompanied his father to a church service in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1927, and there he became converted. In July of that year, he underwent an experience that Pentecostals called "The Baptism of the Holy Ghost" (taken from the second chapter of the Book of Acts in the Bible). In 1929, James reported that he had received a call to the ministry. He said that God had spoken to him with the message, "I want you to preach My gospel." This was the exact same way that William Sowders claimed that he was called to the ministry. According to James, a number of worshipers in the Louisville church had witnessed the event, and confirmed its authenticity by speaking in other tongues with interpretation following.
While attending his father's church in Louisville, James became attracted to a pretty, dark-haired beauty who had recently become a church member. Her name was Clara Hawkins. Prior to joining the church, Clara had worked as a professional entertainer by dancing and singing. She had used the stage name of Clara Dawn. Her sister, Nell, who was a member of William Sowders' church in Louisville became concerned about her welfare and invited her to accompany her to church. Clara was converted almost immediately and she, too, claimed the experience of "The Baptism of the Holy Ghost" on July 6, 1930. She gave up her professional career and took a manual labor job in Louisville.
James and Clara were married on June 30, 1932, and when they arrived as newlyweds in DuQuoin in 1933, they had little or no possessions. James liked to tell his congregation in DuQuoin about their courtship days in Louisville. He claimed that his father, William Sowders, would allow no contact between them while they were courting. All communication had to be by handwritten notes passed to Nell as the go-between. James often bragged that he had never held his bride's hand or kissed her before their marriage. It was from this background that James tried to enforce similar rules on his congregation in DuQuoin. James often said that he would have liked to have kissed Clara while courting, but he felt it would offend God. This concept, of course, was instilled in him by his father's narrow interpretation of the Bible.
In the early days of Pentecostal worship, all participants were a happy group. Most were poor, uneducated, and deliriously happy with their newfound religion. Their spiritual lives were full and complete. Daily work activities were merely an interruption in the worship of God. Worship was the main purpose for existing. Every home became a worship center and it was just expected that daily prayer meetings would be held in all the homes. The meetings were extemporaneous gatherings which served to sustain the members' level of spirituality until the next scheduled church meeting. Most participants felt freer to express themselves in these small home meetings than they did at church, so they were important to the continued growth of the movement.
Reports from that time period indicate that school children on the way home from school would stop off at different homes along the route to join in prayer meetings. These meetings were accentuated by singing, shouting, and praising God. Participants were filled with joy and exultation from these spiritual encounters. People sought not only glorious spirit-filled experiences, but they also searched for healing from sickness and injury. Most worshipers were too poor to seek professional medical attention, and they became dependent upon God to heal whatever ailment they had. They trusted God to heal common colds, influenza, pneumonia, scarlet fever, chicken pox, mumps, arthritis, broken bones, ulcers and so on. Amazingly, a large majority of these afflictions disappeared after prayer.
Dedrich and Thelma participated in these activities and raised their son, Wayne, to also accept their beliefs. At one point in Wayne’s life, he suffered a sprained ankle. He hobbled over to his Grandmother's house, which was nearby. A visitor, Nina, was at Grandma's house and she noticed that the boy had a problem. She placed her hand on the swollen ankle and prayed a short prayer. The pain and swelling immediately left and the young man went on his way with no more discomfort. Manifestation of the Spirit of God and its healing power made lasting impressions on the youth.
When Wayne reached the age of three, two separate happenings made significant changes in the Hamburger family. Esther Elaine Hamburger was born on December 14, 1934, and Wayne was no longer an only child. Then, Dedrich was involved in an industrial accident at the DuQuoin Packing Company which disabled him for the rest of his adult life. The accident left Dedrich severely crippled and paralyzed on one side of his body. Childhood memories of this era picture a father on crutches and dragging a useless leg. His mouth was drawn to one side of his face by the stroke which he had suffered following the incident at work. The accident was caused by some men who were wiring the plant to expand electrical circuits. One of the workers dropped a live wire on Dedrich while he was bent over a table, working. Dedrich was nearly electrocuted and the family always felt that it was only through the mercy of God that Dedrich's life was spared.
Workmen's compensation and employer responsibility were unheard of in the early 1930's; Dedrich would have never considered filing suit against his employer for any reason. He just accepted his problem as God's Will. With the sociological climate of that day, he would never have had an attorney to accept his case or hope to win a judgment, anyway. This was true in spite of the fact that the employer was totally at fault. The family had no choice but to accept public welfare and handouts from family and church friends. None of the extended family had enough resources to give more than token aid. Food was provided by credit orders given through a local grocer by the county government. Clothing for the family came from public relief projects which manufactured bib overalls for males and flour sack dresses for females. Blue denim shirts were also made for the boys and men by the relief project.
Dedrich went from being a hard-working father to a dependent cripple. His spirit was broken, along with his body. The strokes suffered by him (following the accident) left his heart severely damaged and part of his body useless. Although he eventually was able to discard his crutches for a cane, and in later years, the cane as well; he would never fully recover.
After the accident, Dedrich and Thelma became immersed in church activities as much as possible. They held out hope for many years that Dedrich's body would be completely healed. They were totally dependent upon the government for financial support and upon God and the church for the healing of body and spirit. With little money and few possessions, the family felt blessed just to be intact. They were always strengthened by the support of their church family, regardless of the desperate situation in which they found themselves.
Thelma tried to provide some financial support by doing domestic work for various families in the community. She was strong and able to clean houses and do laundry for those who were able to afford her services. Her pay usually was seventy-five cents or one dollar per day, depending upon the generosity of the family for which she worked. The only time that she ever showed any dismay over her situation was the day she lost her dollar which she had earned. Somehow, while walking home, she lost it. She could not help crying in front of her children. Usually, she shouldered her responsibilities with no complaint.
Following Dedrich's accident, he could not hide his depression over his situation. The children were affected by this as well. The Christmas season was especially painful for him because he could not provide gifts for his children. He had showered his oldest child with gifts while he was employed, and now he had a little girl for whom he could not buy items. All summer long, Dedrich worried about purchasing enough coal with which to heat during the winter months. The coal house could be bulging with the large lumps of coal used in the heater and the cookstove, but still he worried as to whether it would be enough. Around Thanksgiving, he started fretting about the Christmas season. He would keep reminding his children that even though he wanted to purchase them gifts, he would not be able.
Christmas was made even more bleak by the fact that the church leaders, William Sowders and the local pastor James Sowders, were both opposed to any type of Christmas decoration. This meant that no church member could have a Christmas tree in his home, and the church could not be decorated for the season. These church leaders taught the people that decorations and holiday trappings were of the devil. They told the people that the birthday of Jesus was not on December 25th, and the holiday was created by merchants seeking a profit. Children were told that there was no such thing as Santa Claus.
It is difficult to imagine a church belittling the birth of Christ, but they felt that they could justify their actions from the Bible. William Sowders regularly scheduled a preacher's meeting in Louisville, Kentucky during the Christmas season. This took the local pastors away from their churches during that time period. This helped to de-emphasize any recognition of the holiday and prevented preachers from being tempted to have holiday programs in their churches. It is obvious that the church's attitude toward Christmas contributed to Dedrich's depression during the season. It was also normal for the Hamburger children to sympathize with their father's feelings, thereby being permanently affected by his feelings. The children's depressive thoughts were also formed by the practice of certain civic groups to distribute food baskets to the poor at Christmas time. Dedrich fretted about whether or not his family would be included on the distribution list; however, Wayne viewed this from a different perspective. He hated to see the men come to his house with food baskets because he didn't want his friends to know how poor they were. At these times, he was ashamed of his family and his father. He often found himself wishing that they would not stop at the Hamburger household to heap further embarrassment on the fact that the family was poor. All the neighbors knew the situation, anyway; yet, the little boy felt that it was degrading to his family. The humiliation of facing his friends after the receipt of a food basket was something difficult for him to bear.
His parents knew that without the extra food the family would not have much to eat. To Wayne, it seemed as if the extra food wasn't worth the shame it brought. This was compounded by the men from the civic clubs who brought the food. They made an elaborate show of the process, rather than doing it discretely. The distributions could have been made quietly, yet that would not have brought the kind of publicity the clubs were seeking. They had their pictures made by the local newspaper while the distributions were being made. The pictures appeared on the front page to garner the most attention. Although the Hamburger family could not afford a newspaper, Wayne always imagined that the newspapers carried a picture of his father receiving a food basket. Wayne envisioned these men as smiling do-gooders who would give you a food basket at Christmas and then would not bother speaking to you the rest of the year. Children’s perceptions of situations create lifelong impression, irregardless of whether the perception is true or not. Such was the case with Wayne and the food baskets.
Early in life, Wayne established a close relationship with his paternal grandparents, Frank and Martha Hamburger. Although Frank was illiterate, he was a hero to his grandson. The grandparents lived on a small farm, and with earnings from the coal mines and produce from the farm, they lived comfortably. Martha Hamburger was a tiny lady who was sickly all her life. In spite of numerous health problems, she was tough and resilient and took excellent care of her family. She loved cats and had a number of them flocking around when she traipsed around the small farm feeding her chickens and tending to her garden. One of Wayne's first memories of the farm is when his Grandpa dug a cellar out back and lined it with old railroad ties. Grandma kept her canned fruit, vegetables, potatoes, turnips, and carrots in the cellar during the winter months. She kept her butter, milk, and eggs cool during the summer months by placing them in a large bucket which was then lowered on a rope to the bottom of the deep well.
Grandpa Frank butchered hogs each winter so that the family would have a supply of meat. Memories are still vivid of the hog being plunged into the barrel of hot water so that the hair could be scraped from the hide. The fat was trimmed from the disemboweled carcass to render into lard and a portion was retained to make lye soap. Ashes from the wood stove combined with water made a lye solution. This mixture was added to lard, cooked over an outdoor fire, and produced lye soap. Grandma heated water in a large copper kettle and boiled her clothes with a portion of lye soap. She scrubbed them on a hand washboard, rinsed them in a tub of clear water, and then hung them up to dry.
Grandma was really proficient at curing hams and bacon from the butchered hogs. She combined salt and brown sugar and rubbed the meat with the mixture until it was thoroughly saturated. These were then placed on shelves in the old smokehouse behind the living quarters. Grandpa brought green hickory limbs from the nearby woods and burned them on the dirt floor in the middle of the smokehouse. The green hickory produced an abundance of smoke which was trapped in the smokehouse to permeate the meat. After many days in the smokehouse, the meat was cured and would not need refrigeration.
Since Frank had lost his own father at an early age and was mistreated by his stepfather, he was especially indulgent with his children and grandchildren. Wayne adored Grandpa and basked in the limelight of his love and affection. Tramping behind Grandpa in the furrows of freshly plowed ground was pure ecstasy. The smell of the newly turned earth (along with the treasures it revealed) was indescribable. The little farm was the site of a long-lost Indian civilization and produced a plethora of artifacts. Plowing the fields always uncovered Indian arrowheads, flint stones, and other relics. One can only imagine how the early Indians used the land that made up the 21-acre farm of Frank Hamburger. It produced a world of excitement for a small boy enamored with his Grandpa.
Grandpa taught his grandson how to milk the cows and tend to the other livestock. He let him witness the birth of litters of pigs and other miracles of nature. He took his grandson along on fishing trips to the little farm pond on the neighboring farm. He allowed Wayne to wade barefooted in the tiny creek that flowed though the farm. Wayne stood in awe and watched as his Grandpa used his shotgun to kill hawks, wild dogs, and foxes that raided the farm yard. The scent of the barnyard with its manure, hay and animal smells only heightened the excitement. Then, when the day came for Grandpa and Grandma to give up the farm and move to town, it was one of the saddest days on record---for Wayne’s grandparents and for Wayne as well.
On the day that the sale was completed, Wayne witnessed the transaction. The buyer handed Grandpa $700.00, and to the little boy, this seemed like a fortune. The man laughed at the boy's curiosity and remarked that he bet the kid had never seen that much money before. Then, though Grandpa couldn't read, he had enough common sense and retained the mineral rights to his land. Some oil company representatives had drilled test holes earlier, which led Grandpa to think there may be oil underground. No wells were ever drilled, but just the thought of it made everyone giddy with excitement. Grandpa also made the buyer promise to preserve the tiny family cemetery that was located in the northwest corner of the acreage. Some of Grandma's relatives were buried there. Regretfully, the man's promise was not kept. The stones were removed and the graves were desecrated by the farmer's plow. Like the Indians before them, the memory of these early pioneers is lost to something called civilization.
At one time, Frank Hamburger owned the farm and additional property in DuQuoin. He lived in town because he was employed in the coal mines. When Dedrich Hamburger was injured, he was no longer able to make payments on the home he had been buying, so the bank foreclosed on it. Frank then deeded his house in DuQuoin to his son Dedrich. Frank, his wife Martha, and their son Clifford moved to the farm. Wayne much preferred staying with his grandparents at the farm, but it was much easier for him to attend school from his parent's home. During the summer months, Wayne begged to stay at the farm with his grandparents and his Uncle Clifford.
Transportation between Wayne's parents’ home and the farm was made possible by Grandpa's team and farm wagon. The team consisted of a work horse named Charlie and a blind mule named Laurie. The team provided the power for plowing, cultivating, harrowing, raking and transporting. The farm wagon was made from rough-sawn lumber from a nearby sawmill and its wheels were iron-rimmed with iron spokes. It had a seat board up front that held the team's driver and one or two passengers, depending upon the size of the individuals. Everyone else rode in the wagon bed with a blanket in the bottom to cushion the ride. Riding in the bed of the wagon was a tooth-jarring experience. Occasionally, Dedrich and Thelma and their children walked the five miles to the Hamburger farm, but most of the time they waited for Grandpa Frank to bring the wagon into town for that purpose.
Grandpa always stopped at Wayne's house when he came to town for supplies, and Wayne looked forward to accompanying Grandpa to town. Grandpa tied his team to a hitching post just north of Daily Brothers market. The area was reserved for that purpose and a number of horse-drawn vehicles were left there while their owners shopped in DuQuoin. Down the alley from the hitching post was Axley's root beer stand. A half-block west of that was Angel's drug store. Grandpa usually bought his grandson a treat from one of those establishments. A pineapple hand-dipped ice cream cone from Angel's drug store could only be topped by one of Axley's root beer floats. To a young boy with few luxuries at home, this was just like heaven on earth.
Wayne basked in the attention given him by his Grandfather. He loved to sit beside him on the old buckboard behind Laurie and Charlie. At no time did he consider himself underprivileged because he was riding in a horse-drawn wagon instead of an automobile. Grandpa even allowed him to drive the team down the streets of DuQuoin and along the country roads toward home. This was an exhilarating experience that was not even surpassed years later when Wayne climbed behind the wheel of an automobile for his first driving lesson. Wayne was ashamed of his clothing made by the public relief project and the fact that his family was poor, but never was he ashamed of his Grandpa and Grandma.
The only tension in the family occurred when Grandma Martha and Thelma started discussing religion. The grandparents attended the Hard Shell Baptist Church and Thelma and Dedrich attended James Sowders' Pentecostal Church on Leonard Street. When the two women started discussing religion, Grandpa started for the barn lot to hitch up the team. He knew that the discussion would end in an argument and Thelma would want to leave the farm. The same was true when Grandma visited her son and daughter-in-law in town. They could never agree on church doctrine, but in every other instance they got along wonderfully well. In time, Grandma was converted to the Pentecostal faith and they had nothing over which to disagree.
Grandma Hamburger was an excellent cook and Thelma was pleased to be taught about such things. Thelma's own mother, Minnie Morrisey, did not like to cook and was not able to teach her daughter about these things. Thelma enjoyed both cooking and eating, so she basked in the attention her mother-in-law gave her in regard to this matter. Martha Hamburger was unexcelled as a biscuit maker. Her biscuits never failed to be fluffy, light, and thoroughly delicious. She also excelled in making desserts such as pies and cakes, but her specialty was bread pudding. The bread pudding had a custard base which was sweet and tasty. She also concocted a home made syrup from brown sugar, maple flavoring, and water; it could be drizzled over pancakes, waffles, biscuits and bread pudding. She was truly a "master craftsman" with such culinary delights.
There were periods of stress during these halcyon days as Wayne was introduced to death when he was about five years old. Dedrich often told his children about his sister, Esther, who had died of pneumonia during the epidemic of 1919. Dedrich had been holding his sister in his arms and rocking her when she breathed her last breath. This story was sad and hard to understand for a young boy, and it was only when death came to his mother's family that it was something experienced first-hand. During the summer of 1936, William Morrisey suddenly died of a heart attack brought on by exertion during extremely hot weather. Thelma Hamburger was at her father's home when he collapsed and died. Wayne would never forget the grief that his mother suffered during that period.
It was the custom during the 1930's to bring the deceased back into the home for the wake. Neighbors and friends carried in large amounts of food for the family and then sat with the corpse during the night while the family tried to rest. This practice assured that the family would not be left alone with their grief while the corpse was in the house. The funeral was also held in the home the next day after the wake. A friend suggested to Thelma that if she touched her dead father's hand, she would not be so shaken by his death. She did as suggested; however, it was a foolish suggestion. Wayne, even though only five years old, was also encouraged to touch his dead grandfather. As he ran his hand under the shroud and touched the cold hard flesh, it created an image of death that would stay with him the rest of his life. The moment is still vividly recalled in a negative sense and served no purpose in ridding a youngster of the fear of death.
A few months after Grandpa Morrisey's death, another tragic death occurred. Thelma and Dedrich were visiting at the Hamburger farm with their children when they received the shocking news that Thelma's baby brother, Lee Morrisey, had been electrocuted in the coal mines where he worked. Wayne's Uncle Lee had been married only one week when he lost his life. Once again, Thelma was devastated by her brother's death, and her young son Wayne would never forget the sorrow of such loss. He learned early in life that death is also a part of the human experience. No one was immune. Never can anyone be prepared for a loud knock on the door in the middle of the night telling of a loved one's death. Such was the case with Uncle Lee.
No one can choose the time or place of his death unless he commits suicide, but if a person were allowed the privilege of choosing, perhaps a good place to die would be in church. There was a time during the late 1930's that an elderly lady in the church on Leonard Street died during the church service. She became ill and the preacher, James Sowders, had the congregation pray for her. When her condition worsened, someone suggested that she be taken to the hospital. She collapsed and died in the doorway of the church. Although Wayne was saddened by the death, he concluded that if he could choose the site of his own death, he would like for it to be in church.
The little house at the end of east South Street in Greenwood Addition of DuQuoin became the home of Dedrich and Thelma Hamburger around 1936. When Frank and Martha Hamburger occupied the house, Grandpa Frank kept livestock at this place in town as well as on his farm in the country. In addition to his disabling stroke, Dedrich also suffered with stomach ulcers. Someone told him that goat's milk was good for ulcers because it had a high percentage of milk fat. He was able to obtain a milk goat and he stabled his goat in the same area that Frank had used for his livestock. Wayne and his siblings were raised on goat milk and goat cheese. The milk goats were bred periodically and new goat kids arrived on a regular basis. One of the delicacies at the Hamburger household was barbecued goat. The goats were slaughtered when they were about 30 to 50 pounds and the barbecued meat was delicious. Were it not for the goats, the Hamburgers would not have enjoyed milk, meat and cheese on a regular basis. Wayne was taught at an early age to milk cows by his Grandfather, so it was expected that he share in milking the goats.
The house that the Hamburger family resided in was a small four-room building which made it necessary for Wayne and his sister, Esther, to share a bedroom. Then, in 1938, when William Frank Hamburger was born into the family, it became even more congested. Although the family was crowded, it was nothing compared to a relative's family that lived up the street from the Hamburgers. That family eventually grew to a total of ten children housed in a four-room house. By the time Galen Lynn Hamburger arrived on the scene in 1945, Wayne had talked his parents into letting him sleep in a building in the back of the residence. The little one-room shanty was used by Thelma to do the family laundry, and it was referred to as "the wash house." Heat was provided by a wood-burning laundry stove or by a kerosene heater. In spite of the frigid conditions during the winter months, Wayne enjoyed having his own bedroom.
When Wayne reached the age of nine or ten, his parents decided that it would be less trouble if the children stayed home during night church services. It was at this point that Wayne became an unwilling babysitter. He was really sort of ambivalent about the whole deal, because he did not enjoy sitting at church for the long hours required by a church service. James Sowders was not particularly fond of small children anyway, so it was easy for the parents to leave their children at home. The responsibility of a ten-year-old child to look after other children when Wayne himself needed a babysitter, is totally lacking of reason. The only explanation for the parents' behavior is that they believed the children were under God's protection.
A potential trouble spot was the care of the children. Wayne unmercifully teased Esther during their early years. This was the instigation of many quarrels between them. With the parents gone to church, there was no one present to referee these fights. William and Esther were allowed to go to bed when they got sleepy, but Wayne had to stay awake to look over things until his parents returned from church. Often, it was very late at night before their parents returned home from the long church services. In the days before television, it was not always easy to fight boredom and sleepiness for that many hours. In recalling this time period, it is evident that some Higher Power was looking out for the children's welfare.
In reality, the family was most fortunate that a major catastrophe did not occur during those times. The coal heating stove, which sat in the middle of the living room, was the only source of heat for the home. Often, when it was extremely cold outside, Wayne would fire the stove to the point that it became red with heat from bottom to top, including the stove pipe to the ceiling. It is a miracle that the house never caught fire during the parents' absence. The children regularly popped corn through the open door of the stove and it was common for some of the coals from the fire to be drug out onto the living room linoleum.
One other person had a profound influence in Wayne's life besides his Grandfather Frank. He was not a sports hero nor particularly outstanding except to his own family and Wayne. The man was the father of three of Wayne's best friends. These friends were Tom, Bob and Charles Moss. Their father's name was James and everyone called him Jim or Jimmy. Jimmy Moss and his wife, Alta, became almost like a second set of parents to Wayne. Jimmy died at a very young age, but he left a lasting impression on those with whom he came into contact. Jim was a hard-working laborer and coal miner who provided adequately for his family. Wayne was guilty of comparing Jim to his own father, who was unable to work.
Jim realized that Wayne would not be able to enjoy the same activities as his own three sons unless he provided it. Week after week, when he sent his own three sons off to a Saturday matinee movie, he included the little Hamburger boy from down the street. The price of a matinee movie was a nickel, which was also the price of a sack of popcorn or bag of peanuts. Dozens of times, Jimmy placed a dime in Wayne's hand at the same time he gave his sons money for movies and treats.
Jim loaded the four boys into the back of his old Model A Ford car and dropped them off at the theater. When Hopalong Cassidy, Tom Mix, Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry rode across the screen, they became part of Wayne's make-believe world thanks to Jim Moss. It is little wonder that Jim played such an important part in Wayne's formative years. After a few years, Wayne came to realize that his own father, although disabled, was a loving and wonderful father as well.
It is ironic that Wayne, who grew up in such a religious home, actually prayed his first prayer to God asking for a way to be provided to go to the movies. One Saturday, when the Moss family had gone out of town to visit relatives, Wayne asked his father for a nickel to go to the matinee. He was told there was no money in the house, but if he could find five pennies lying around somewhere, he could have them. A search of the house turned up three pennies, which was two short of the admission fee. Every drawer and known hiding place was checked over and over, but there were only three pennies in the house. At that point, Wayne got on his knees and asked God to help him find two more pennies so that he could go to the movies. Perhaps, if the prayer had been answered, it would have disappeared from memory. Sometimes in life, the prayers that we don't get answered become more important to us than the ones that are answered in the way which we want them to be answered. Had Wayne's prayer resulted in a trip to the movies, he would not have learned a lesson in disappointment. Such lessons can and do shape and mold character. When we live long enough to see the importance of such character-building, we can become thankful for it. Dedrich and Thelma probably were praying that movie money could not be found because they were taught in their church that attending movies was a sinful activity.
Across the street from the Hamburgers lived a family named Joslin. Mr. Mel Joslin was a livestock buyer for the DuQuoin Packing Company and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. Anytime the Cardinals were playing and Mr. Joslin was home to hear the radio broadcasts, he would have his radio turned up loud enough to hear it all over his property. Since Dedrich and Thelma were uninterested in baseball, it was only natural that Wayne would be drawn to the radio broadcasts from across the street at the Joslin house. As a small boy, Wayne spent hours lying in the grass across from the Joslins listening to the ball games. The Cardinal announcer was named France Laux and he was eventually replaced by a young man named Harry Caray. During Wayne's youth, he never had an opportunity to see his beloved Cardinals play; however, this was rectified in later years. The players of that time period included names such as Morton and Walker Cooper, forming a battery as brothers. There were also such players as Johnny Mize, Jimmy Brown, Marty Marion, Terry Moore and a youngster named Stan Musial.
The Hamburger family was always looking for ways to supplement the county relief orders and when a newspaper route opened up in 1942, Wayne was encouraged to take it. He was eleven years old when he first ventured into the business world. Dedrich was able to locate an old bicycle in the neighborhood. He paid fifty cents for what was nothing more than a pile of junk. It had no fenders and no chain guard and the wheels were bent with missing spokes. Somehow, Dedrich put the bike in shape and taught Wayne to ride it. He was now ready to deliver newspapers to 100 customers on the east side of DuQuoin.
There were a number of hazards to delivering newspapers in Greenwood Addition. Just riding the broken-down bike was a problem in itself. Pant legs were continually getting entwined in the sprocket and chain since the bike lacked a chain guard. Mud freely splashed into the face of the rider as well as onto the back side, due to the fact that there were no fenders to ward it off. The newspaper bag containing the papers frequently caught in the spokes, which resulted in throwing the rider over the handlebars. Wind, rain, and snow were also barriers to the delivery of newspapers, but none was as dreadful as the dogs in the area.
Wayne was bitten repeatedly. Leash laws were unheard of, and dog owners could care less if their animals bit the paper boy. Greenwood Addition was full of stray dogs anyway, so no one would claim ownership of one guilty of mischief. One particular dog was a menace for the whole time Wayne delivered papers. He was a large black dog which laid in wait at the same spot every day to chase the paper boy. Wayne finally learned to carry a club with him at that particular point of his route. On one occasion, he was able to deliver a good, solid blow to the dog's head. The dog lay still in the grass, and he was convinced the problem had been solved. The very next day the dog lay in wait with more pent-up viciousness than had ever been shown before. Wayne’s only solution to the problem was to peddle faster and outrun the dog.
The newspaper customers were to pay ten cents a week for the daily paper. Wayne was to collect a dime from each customer and then turn in seven cents of that to the newspaper office. This, in theory, was to allow the carrier a three-cent profit on each one. The principle made sense, except it really didn't work that way. The owner of the newspaper collected his seven cents per customer each week, regardless. Whether the carrier collected was not the newspaper owner’s problem. This meant that the carrier had to make up for any and all of those customers who failed to pay their newspaper bill. There were many of them. Some didn't have the money and others just exploited the paper boy. Wayne was never able to clear more than fifty cents per week. This happened only on rare occasions.
The newspaper route taught Wayne some hard lessons of life which were never forgotten. The first one was that there is no such thing as fairness in the business world. The strong win out and the weak fail. The only recourse for the weak is to learn how to be strong. The second thing learned by the young entrepreneur was that many people in the world have ulterior motives and can't be trusted to do the right thing. This early experience convinced Wayne that he would never have enough money to equalize the odds; however, such a handicap could be overcome with a good education.
Although Wayne earned only about fifty cents or less per week, he was still required to tithe 10 percent to the church. After retaining a nickel or dime for himself, the rest went into the family budget for necessities. Tithing was taught to be a privilege: one had to give to God. It was only much later in life that Wayne seriously questioned this practice.
The most rewarding experience of the newspaper carrier was associated with the DuQuoin State Fair. Each year, the Fair Manager issued free passes to all the newspaper carriers. These passes allowed each paper boy to enter the grounds and ride the carnival rides free. This was a thrilling experience for all the paper boys, but especially rewarding for a poor boy who considered it a luxury beyond his dreams. The Hamburger family would never have allowed their son to go to the fair on his own, even if they had the money to do so. It was strictly forbidden by the church for anyone to even go near a carnival. The bright lights of the fair comprised a world completely foreign to one which he had been introduced at church. The trip to the fair helped to make up for the meager earnings of the paper route. Wayne found that he could supplement his paper route earnings by mowing lawns at fifty cents each, and raking leaves in the fall at the same rate.
At the age of 13, Wayne was offered a job at a Walgreen drug store in the downtown area. As a flunky, his duties included such things as sweeping the sidewalk in front of the store each morning, emptying trash cans, sweeping the aisles in the store, restocking shelves, running errands and many other simple tasks. He went to the store each morning before school, and then returned there after school to work a couple of hours. He was paid at the rate of fifteen cents per hour. This was enough to qualify for a social security card. His employer made the application and he received his card in a few weeks.
The year was 1944, and it was not uncommon to see both women and children employed in jobs that had been previously filled by men called to war. Employers were forced to use whatever means they could to get work done. Wayne was pressed into other jobs at the store after he had been there only a short time. He learned to operate the cash register and served as a soda jerk at the soda fountain. This proved to also be good training for the young man in the ways of the business world.
Cigarettes were rationed during the war years and each store was given only a specified allotment. Those cigarettes were held back under the counter to be sold to the store's best customers. Purchases were handed to the customers in brown paper bags to disguise and retain secrecy of the item. Other customers soon became suspicious and questioned the practice. Some became very angry about being refused cigarettes when they knew that a supply was under the counter. The brands of cigarettes handled by the drug store in those days were Lucky Strike, Camels and Marvels. Since they were all rationed, the customer just took whatever was available. The youthful clerk was badgered to sell cigarettes to some of the more aggressive people, but most of the time he would follow the store policy. The only time he would forego store policy was when a customer appeared in uniform. He believed that members of the Armed Services should not be denied rationed merchandise.
It was with pride that Wayne was able to resist any temptation to smoke tobacco. His religious training and his conscience kept him free from the tobacco habit. Besides, it was gratifying to know that the boss could trust him in handling merchandise and money. The boss rewarded his workers by allowing them to eat candy and ice cream while on the job. Wayne viewed this fringe benefit as valuable because of the small wage he received. At home, such treats were rare and had to be shared. At work, he could eat all he wanted without sharing.
Wayne was also involved in the sale of another item which was hidden from public view. Condoms were never openly displayed or even discussed. Customers were very secretive about their desire to purchase this item. Only male customers asked for them, and under no circumstances would a male ask a female clerk for such an item. There were times when Wayne was the only male employee in the store and the customers had no choice but to request condoms from the young kid. For a long time, the boy sold the item without even knowing what purpose it served. The best-selling brand of condom was "Trojan," and the customer normally asked for it by that name. Other men clandestinely crept up to the young man and whispered, "Rubbers," in his ear. The sales were secretive, and the item was handed to the customer in a small brown paper bag in the same manner as the cigarettes.
Since Wayne was employed at the drug store, he matured prematurely. He spent more time with adults than he did with children of his age. He wanted to act grown-up and he looked for ways to express it. He believed that no task was beyond his capability. The store stock room was above the store and was reached by a long, steep stairway on the outside of the building. Wayne tried to show off his prowess by shouldering heavy loads up the stairs. Deliverymen dropped off supplies in the alleyway next to the stairway, and it was Wayne’s job to haul the supplies up to the storeroom. Often, the deliveries consisted of large amounts of merchandise which spilled over into the alley. It was imperative to move the items from the alley as quickly as possible.
Wayne was anxious to please his boss and also to exhibit his prowess in moving the items quickly. As a result, he injured his back and suffered with it continually thereafter. The heaviest items he managed to carry were the cases of Coca Cola and other flavored syrups used at the soda fountain. The syrup was packaged in gallon jugs, which were packaged four to a case. Wayne managed to carry two of the cases at a time up the steps. With each gallon weighing from 10 to 12 pounds, the two cases easily weighed between 80 and 100 pounds. Even though this young lad was nearly six feet tall and weighed 150 pounds, the loads he managed to carry were excessive. No one ever intervened or questioned this work activity.
During the hot summer months, it was Wayne's practice to shed his shirt while moving the merchandise up the stairs. A customer spied him one day without his shirt and perspiring profusely. The customer promptly nicknamed him Tarzan. The customer also bragged about the amount of work Wayne was doing. These remarks just spurred the youth into taking foolish risks to impress people. His only reward for such feats was a permanent backache.