Lonnie Leander (Bill) Evans Biography

Lonnie Leander Evans was born 14 June 1912. He was the sixth son and seventh child of Hezekiah Luther and Nellie Evans. The birth occurred at the home of his parents in Guymon, Oklahoma.

His name was determined in this manner. His mother, Nellie Hodge Evans, had a very close childhood friend named Lonnie Bair. Lonnie was about three years older than Nellie, and they were raised together by the Bair family. Nellie decided to name her second daughter after Lonnie. However, after Irene, the first daughter, she got only boys. Finally, in 1912, she decided that her current pregnancy would be her last, so she would name the child Lonnie, regardless of whether it was a boy or girl. The baby was a boy, and true to her desire, was named Lonnie.

At about the age of 2 (1914), Lonnie moved with his family to a new house on North Lola Street. The house was small and the children shared two tiny bedrooms. When electricity was brought into the house, it was expensive. Lonnie would tell the story of how there was only one light bulb to share between the two bedrooms. It was always a struggle between the boys and the girls as to which room had light.

As a child, Lonnie had a speech impediment. It was difficult for him to pronounce certain words in a way that others could understand him. Unfortunately, his own name, Lonnie, was one of them. This proved very embarrassing on his first day in school. His teacher repeatedly asked him what his name was. Each time, dad would do his best, but the teacher just could not understand. Finally he said: 'Oh Heck! Just call me Bill' The name stuck and ever since Lonnie was known as "Bill"

The 1920 census shows Bill living with his parents, 2 brothers and 2 sisters in Guymon Township.

When Bill was nine (1921), his dad considered him old enough to help earn the family a living; so he was included with his older brothers in an expedition to harvest Broomcorn in the Texas panhandle. On the last day of the harvest, Bill's dad challenged him to harvest a rather large number of bundles. If he did so, his dad would give him a shiny new silver dollar. Inspired, Bill worked harder than he had ever done, and met his goal. True to his word, Bill's dad produced a brand new 1921 silver dollar and placed it in Bill's outreached hand. Then he took a switch and gave his son a good whipping.
'That was for being lazy and not picking that many bundles every day.'
The episode apparently convinced Bill that it was to his advantage to put out a 100% effort in anything he did.

After the harvest, Billís father did not return home for three years, giving Billís mother no support. It was a rough childhood for the young boy, with a speech impediment and two older brothers who were constantly teasing and picking on him. Bill learned early to fight for his rights and privileges. Bill's mother worked hard to provide for his family, managing a hotel and taking in laundry and boarders. Her efforts at giving her children a decent upbringing would eventually pay off.

Dad was a boy scout during this time. He loved that program. Bill earned every merit badge offered by the scouts at that time, and became an Eagle Scout in 1927, at the age of 15. By 1934 he was a scoutmaster.

The depression hit the Oklahoma panhandle early. It was a tough time. Dad left home early, after he finished the tenth grade, and went to live with his older sister Irene and her husband, Roy Hunt, in Hutchinson Kansas; where he sought work and the opportunity to complete his schooling. He got a job in a mortuary where one of his duties was to drive the hearse. If the hearse was not needed that evening, he could use it to take a girlfriend on a date.

The 1930 census shows Bill as living with his mother and younger sister. A boarder, named Emily Surven, a 76 year old widow.

Dad spent some time with the Civilian Construction Corps, or CCC. He also did some ďriding of the railsĒ, that is using freight trains to go from place to place, looking for work.

Back in Guymon, Bill found his true love. He had a friend, L. J. Holland, whose fiancee, Thelma Henderson, had a friend; a young lady named Hazel Holmes. L. J. and Thelma arranged a date for Bill and Hazel. They were soon going steady, but times were tough, in terms of making money, and dad always was mindful of the value of a penny. Some even called him a tightwad. Once, while walking by a restaurant, Hazel gave her truelove a subtle hint:
'Those hamburgers sure smell good'
The hint was taken and Bill responded:
'Yea, let's go closer and get a better smell'.

Work was scarce in the early Thirties. Once Dad noticed an ad for a short order cook. He applied, giving in his resume that he was well experienced in preparing food in fine hotels. He got the job. The problem was that dad had never been close to a kitchen, except his mothers.
On his first day at work, the waitress called for Bill to get some Apple Fritters for a customer. Dad had no idea what she was talking about. Thinking fast, he shouted back
'Get them yourself'
It worked.
Starting that day, he obtained the next day's menu and burned the midnight oil researching how to make the things thereon. Later Dad found out that his boss had not been fooled, but liked Bill's spunk.

Bill and Hazel were married 8 Dec 1934 at Guymon.

These were still the depression years and the newlyweds were poor. Hazel was still supporting her parents; though at some point her older sister Iola took over most of that responsibility. Bill and Hazel moved in with his mother in Nellieís house on North Lola Street. Within two or three months, Hazel became pregnant with their first child.

The baby, named Daniel Lee, was born in November, 1935, at the home of Billís mother. Shortly after, they both realized that they needed to move out and establish a home of their own; however Billís employment picture was still bleak. It was Billís friend, Lon Holland, who came to the rescue. Lon and Thelma had moved to Corpus Christi, Texas. Lon notified Bill that he could probably find employment in that town as a baker. They moved in 1937.

Hazel and Bill moved into one of a group of small cabins, located on the northern end of ďDowntown" Corpus. Bill found work at the Fair Maid Bakery in uptown. They had no car, so Bill used a bicycle for transportation to and from work.

Sometime in 1938 (before November) they moved uptown, closer to Billís work. They lived in a trailer or mobile home. Hazel was expecting her second child at the time. Robert was delivered in November 1938 at Fred Roberts Hospital.

Bill was always looking for improvement in his salary. In 1940 the Navy built a new base in Corpus to train carrier fighter pilots. They needed civilian bakers for their bakery. Bill applied, and was hired. However, when he reported for work, he found the rules had changed. The Navy now required that all bakers had to be in the Navy, so he enlisted. The family was now eligible for base housing, so he moved Hazel and the kids into a nice two bedroom duplex on the base.

On 7 Dec 1941, Pearl Harbor was bombed; an event that changed the life of almost all Americans. In 1942, Bill was deployed to the Southwest Pacific, on Manus Island, part of the Admiralty Islands. It was the staging base for Macarthurís invasion of the Philippines. Bill was a Chief by that time, earning the promotion in less than four years of service, a remarkable feat, even during war time. He ran a bake shop that provided bread and other bakery products for thousands of men.

Lonnie Evans 1942

This is Bill in uniform ca 1942 or 1943

On the way to Manus, Dad had the rare opportunity to cross the equator at the point where the equator crossed the International Date Line. In celebration of this event, Dad drilled a small hole in the silver dollar that his father had given him years before.

The war ended in early September 1945, but the navy told those stationed on Manus Island that it would be some time before transport could be arranged to take the home. Bill and his friends noticed an old Dutch freighter in the harbor. They asked the Navy if they would let them fix that old rust bucket up and sail it back to the states. The Navy agreed and soon Bill was back in the States. While his was overseas, Hazel and the kids had moved back to Guymon, where they were again living with Billís mother.

Billís first job, after returning home, was to repair the roof on his motherís house. A man helping him, possibly a relative of Hazel, told him of a job opportunity in Cherokee, Hazelís old home town. Bill did find work there as a baker, and his boss allowed him to live in a two bedroom home, across from the Cherokee elementary school, as part of his salary. The family moved in late Oct 1945.

In the summer of 1946, Lon and Thelma Holland paid a visit to Bill and Hazel. They convinced them to move to Corpus Christi, Texas again. The moved occurred in Sep 1946.

They moved in with the Holland family in the Meadow Park Subdivision, while their new home was being built.

They moved into their new home on Archer street early in 1947. It was financed under the G. I. bill and was 700 square feet, with two bedrooms, one bath, and a two car detached garage.

While living in Meadow Park, Bill worked at a bakery; but the new home was too far from work. At this point, he made a career change, leaving the bakerís profession, he became a salesman. If it could be sold, Dad probably sold it at some point in his life. He worked for Terminex, Sears, and the Flato Appliance Store, among others. He finally settled on selling carpets as his life employment, working with Bill Fowler, owner of Rogerís Floor stores in Corpus Christi, and New Orleans.

In 1947, Hazel became pregnant again, and delivered her ďbaby boomerĒ, whom she named Lonnie Jr. in Feb 1948.

Shortly after moving to Archer St., Dad began attending night school and soon earned his GED High School diploma, again using the G. I. bill.

He also joined the Free Masons. After becoming a Master Mason in the Blue Lodge, he joined both the Scottish and York Rite Masons. He remained a Mason throughout the rest of his life.

Religion was important in Billís life. The family first attended the Prescott Christian Church until about 1951, when they became founding members of the Bethany Christian Church, much closer to their home on Archer St. They were very active in participating in this Church. Later, when Hazelís health forced them to sell their home on Archer Street and move in with their son Dan, they began to attend the First Christian Church of Corpus Christi. Later, after Bethany Christian closed its doors, Dad transferred his membership to First Christian.

Both Bill and Hazel were interested in tape recordings of the Bible. They bought a reel to reel recorder and used it to play readings from the Bible. Later, after Hazel's death, Bill bought a cassette player and cassettes of audio Bible readings. He would go to sleep each evening listening to those tapes.

After her youngest son left home in 1966, Bill and Hazel began to re-invent their lives as ďempty nestersĒ. They engaged in extensive travels through the U.S., and spent some time in a square dance club.

In 1972, Hazel began to suffer from an unknown ailment which affected her speech and control of her muscles on her left side. It was eventually diagnosed as a brain tumor. She would pass away 9 March 1978, in Corpus Christi.

Bill, now without a home of his own, did a little travel, then moved in with his younger sister Juanita, in Big Springs. He was active in the senior singles activities, especially Parents Without Partners. It was at a PWP meeting where he met a lovely young widow, Imogene Hale Ledbetter. Bill and Imogene were married 27 Sep 1980 at the First Methodist Church in Stanton, Texas. They moved into Imogene's home on Business I-20, just west of Stanton's city limits.

Now retired, with a new home and a new family, Dad began to take a new direction in life. Out with the salesmanís suit, and in with the jeans. He soon took up bowling and for many years he bowled in two leagues at the same time. He bowled both left handed and right handed. He liked me to visit so that he could take me to the bowling ally and show everybody that he could beat his son. He and four other senior bowlers once entered in a menís open tournament in Odessa. I called them the geriatric five. Even though their competition was much younger, they finished in third place.

Dad also was a member of the Noontime Lions Club in Stanton, and served as Tail Twister for awhile. He was proud of that job.

He also loved dominoes and loved to beat up on his sons in that game, as well as anyone else whom he could find willing to play. I know of no one who could consistently beat him.

Bill was a master at the Bar-B-Q grill. He had a large gas one on Imogene's patio, under the shade of a large and beautiful mulberry tree. His specialty was "Beer in the Rear Chicken."

Gardening was a passion for Imogene, and she soon passed some of her enthusiasm on to Bill. Imogene had a three acre lot, much of which was in vegetable gardens. However her 1 acre front yard was largely reserved for wild grasses and flowers. It was Dad's responsibility to mow it. As he aged into his seventy's and eighty's, the mowing, morning walks and bowling kept him healthy and strong.

Bill and Imogene loved to travel, but, because of their advancing age, they confined themselves mostly to group travel.

Dad was always watchful of his money. Except for the mortgage on his house in Corpus, he never paid a dimeís worth of interest in his life, or so he claimed.

He valued the concept of marriage and family. He was always faithful and supportive of his wife, and a loving father to his children.

He was forgiving, and toward the end of his life, he stated that he held no grudge toward any man.

By the turn of the century, Bill's advancing age was begriming to tell. Arthritis decimated his knees, both of which were replaced with artificial ones. Asthma and lung problems began to plague him. This however did not stop him from celebrating his 90th birthday in style in June 2002. In that same month Imogene turned 85. Both families held a joint reunion to celebrate the event. Dad and Imogene danced to his favorite hymn/song "When the Saints Come Marching In."

However time would take its toll. By early 2005, Bill was confined to a wheel chair, then a nursing home. By early March it was obvious that his time was growing short. Still his mind was mostly clear and active until a few days before his passing on 27 March 2006.