|Birth: ||Aug. 16, 1918|
|Death: ||Jun. 27, 1973|
Mother Iva had a twin sister named Eva, thus the unusual middle name for Lewis Evalyn Grizzle. His early life was in Delta County, Texas, around the Cooper area but usually in tiny outlying communities. This is a rural area, but highly prized farmland in the early 20th Century.
An early marriage to Faye Nance produced his only son, Ronnie Grizzle. After the divorce, he rarely saw his son. Lewis is said to have a daughter resulting from a wartime romance at one duty station, perhaps the Pacific Northwest.
Married Fain May and lived most of his life in Gregg County. Was a commissioned Police officer, serving primarily in the Gladewater Police Department, but his certificate was signed by the City Manager of Longview, and the Oath was administered and signed by Harry G. Mosley, City Secretary. Mosley went on to become City Manager, and a major thoroughfare in Longview was later named for him.
During World War II, Lewis was sent to Fort Leonard Wood, and two large panoramic Company photos exist of his unit in which he can be identified. He was briefly stationed in British Columbia, then later in England. Drove a gasoline supply truck. Said the only thing that terrified him was "German buzz bombs."
After wife Fain's death, her family gave me several of Lewis's photographs, including one with his army buddies posing in Paris, France with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
As I child, I spent many hours with my Uncle Lewis at his simple home on North Second Street in Longview, Texas. His father had died in October 1939, while the family was living in Mount Joy in Delta County. This was a rural area, surrounded by cultivated fields, and his father worked nearby in a rock quarry, where he sustained the injury which lead to infection and the loss of his life. Lewis was 20 or 21 at the time, and had recently obtained his first car and learned to drive. Soon afterwards, he joined the Army, leaving his mother with two younger boys, Lewis' brothers Wayne (Granville Wayne) and Billy Earl. Wayne, age 15, joined or was sent to join the Civilian Conservation Corps in Paris, Texas. Wayne was sent by train to Arizona and worked to construct a road across the rim of the Tonto Basin. He was too young and homesickness almost lead to disaster as he attempted to escape and walk to Winslow, planing to jump a freight train back to Texas. Lewis's mother, Iva, was left destitute and caring for her youngest son, Billy Earl, who was 6 years old at the time of his father's death. Like many people in East Texas during the Great Depression, Iva determined her best prospects were not toiling in the fields as a sharecropper, but rather in the boomtowns of the newly discovered East Texas oilfield. So she and Billy moved to Longview. This decision eventually led to all three of her sons living out their lives in that city.
Lewis was a man of very modest means, but he was rich in friends. I spend many hours at his house on North Second Street in Longview. The little white frame house he lived in was old and decrepit even in the early 1960s. I can remember the house floor plan was a perfect square, with the interior further divided into 4 rooms by two intersecting partition walls. Each room was exactly the same size.
On the front of the house, which faced south towards Greenwood St., each room had an exterior door, set near each other towards the center of the exterior wall. The two rooms on the back of the house each had one door exiting to either side. As I remember, this house had rudimentary electrical wiring, with a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling at the center of each room. Lights were turned on and off with a pull chain, and lacking wall outlets, incidental electrical devices were plugged into an adapter screwed into the light bulb socket. Inside the house, each of the four rooms had two doors, one leading into each adjoining room. Facing the front of the house, the front room on the left (SW corner) was Lewis and Fain's bedroom. It was also the main door used to enter the house, with Uncle Lewis generally parking on the side of the house facing Greenwood St.
The front room on the right (SE corner) was the living room. It contained modest furniture for seating, along with a television set. In summers, this was the coolest room in a house without air conditioning thanks to an evaporative cooler set in the east side window.
The back left room (NW corner), located nearest 2nd Street, was the kitchen. The remaining back right room (NE corner) was storage, used as a large closet. This house was originally built without running water or electricity. In fact, it had no bathroom. Until perhaps 1960, there was an outhouse, which I dimly remember to be located on the Greenwood St. side of the house, set back from 2nd Street, but perhaps a little closer to Greenwood than the house itself, which couldn't have been more than twice the length of an automobile away from the street.
At this time, through the early 1960's, people in this neighborhood commonly kept chickens in the back yards, usually with the entire back yard fenced in. An alley ran between homes on 2nd and 3rd street, originally for trash pickup. But by the 1960s it was seldom used, and most of the houses in this neighborhood just north of Highway 80 in Longview had chickens with full run of the back yard. As a small child, my grandmother Iva (Lewis's mother) would chase me out of her backyard anytime she saw me headed that direction. And no wonder, considering the condition of the ground inside a chicken yard.
The house Lewis lived in, I believe, was actually leased to my grandmother, Iva Veazey Grizzle. But in her old age, she had married a neighbor, Mr. Walter Chambers, who we called Pop. They lived about 3 lots south of Uncle Lewis on 2nd Street, towards the middle of the block bounded by Greenwood St. and Adams St.
Between my Uncle Lewis's house on the corner of 2nd and Greenwood and the north end of 2nd Street, where it bent eastward to become Russell St., there were never any houses. In fact, the north end of 2nd Street was a bit gloomy and overgrown, with dense woods and undergrowth on the lots, and trees overhanding the street. We were never allowed to play in those woods.
On the east side of 2nd Street, there were no houses. Instead, mostly privacy fences and a shallow buffer of trees and wild growth separating the poverty of 2nd Street from the backyards of one of the more affluent neighborhoods of Longview.
Next door to Uncle Lewis's house, on the same lot but located a few feet north of his house on 2nd Street, was the "little house." This was a two room "shotgun" house, a tiny minimal dwelling that was once prevalent in black neighborhoods all through the South. One door at one end, facing away from the street in this case, a kitchen, and a bedroom. No bathroom, no running water, nothing else. This little house on 2nd Street was my first home, the residence of Billy and Carol Grizzle when I was born on 9 Nov 1957.
On the NE corner of the lot where his house stood, Uncle Lewis always kept a vegetable garden. He never had chickens like the rest of his neighbors, but he did have all manner of vegetables including corn. This garden plot was just large enough for him to keep using a garden tiller.
Uncle Lewis loved to fish, and he was more of a subsistence fisher as opposed to my dad, Billy, who went for game fish like Large Mouth Bass. Uncle Lewis always had a boat, usually a flat bottom aluminum boat, but in the final few years of his life, he had an off-brand fiberglass boat, Skeeter being the name brand bass boat of that era, and today also (as of 2011).
Uncle Lewis would run trotlines, and liked to fish at Caddo Lake, Cross Lake, Lake O' The Pines, and especially favored Lake Tawakoni. After my dad died in 1970, he made special effort to take me fishing, mainly at nearby Lake O' The Pines, but also at Caddo. This was especially important to me, because at age 15, he started to let me drive. I have a clear recollection of him teaching me to drive along Highway 80 towards Marshall and on to Caddo Lake. Which brings back another memory, when my family lived at 706 Memphis St. in the Greggton community of west Longview. Uncle Lewis began letting me drive when I was very young, only a 1st or 2nd grader, sitting in his lap and steering the car while he operated the pedals. We went less than a city block, all on dead end streets with no traffic, but this was very exciting for me.
Uncle Lewis also spent a lot of time with me showing me how to handle guns. We went squirrel and deer hunting, with no success.
He would hunt and fish for food. I know squirrel was on the menu, as were frog legs. In fact, I went frog gigging with him on the NE side of Lake O' The Pines, just on the far side of the Highway 155 bridge. While most people in East Texas were interested in game fish like Large Mouth Bass, Uncle Lewis concentrated on Catfish and Crappie, because these were more reliable for subsistence fishing. I can distinctly remember him scaling crappie, and using pliers to pull back the scaleless skin of Catfish. Between him and my dad, I watched a lot of fish cleaning as a young boy. Sometime in the mid 1960s, fancy electric knives came out, and they become proficient in using them to filet fish, though Uncle Lewis complained they wasted a lot of meat. Uncle Lewis also liked frog's legs, but we rarely had these as a family meal. I can remember one occasion when we did. He was cleaning frogs outside under the large pecan tree beside 2nd Street, and my Aunt Fain was dipping the cleaned frog's legs in a bowl of batter before frying. I was playing with the raw frogs legs, noting how they resembled a human leg, with large thigh muscles and a knee and calf muscles. I bent a raw frog leg and watched as the muscles moved... All this was too much to stomach for me, and I have never tasted frogs legs to this day.
Uncle Lewis always had a 55 gallon drum under his pecan tree filled with water and an outboard boat motor mounted for repairs and testing. The water inside the drum circulated for cooling while running the motor.
The pecan tree in Uncle Lewis yard facing 2nd Street produced an amazing amount of nuts in those years, and he was constantly experimenting with various devices to shell pecans more efficiently. These started with simple metal nut crackers, hinged pliers really, but eventually he found a percussive cracker that used a rubber band to apply a precise amount of sharp shattering impact to the pecan shells when the pecan was mounted between two machined steel pistons. This device made the pecan shell simply fall away from the nut, which almost magic.
Uncle Lewis's house was the gathering spot for all the children in the neighborhood. He was so kind and friendly with all the little kids, that they loved to ride their bikes his way and sit with him beneath the pecan tree for hours on summer days. This neighborhood was about a mile off Highway 80 and 2 blocks removed from 4th Street, two very busy thoroughfares. So no doubt the light traffic of North 2nd Street was off the beaten path, and a safe area for kids to play, especially in that day when kids played outside all the time.
Uncle Lewis also had many adult friends, who were often found visiting at his house. Unless it was dark, it was rare to find him in the house. Basically, the shade of the pecan tree on 2nd Street was his living room, and he was always holding court there, either with neighborhood kids or one of his many friends.
Two men I particularly remember were Lester Beard (Baird?) and Red Brahmer (sp). Lester is a real name, Red a nickname, and I am unsure of surname spellings. Lester was a talker. As a child, I was a bit unusual in that I always preferred to listen to adult conversation over playing with other children. One time after Red Brahmer left, my Uncle Lewis remarked to me, "He was on the Bataan Death March in World War II." Being young, perhaps not even a teenager at the time, I was new to the world. Though born in 1957, World War II couldn't have been more remote to my imagination than ancient campaigns of Roman Legions. But the phrase "Bataan Death March" sounded fascinating and exotic, and immediately caught my attention. I instantly said to Uncle Lewis, who had made the comment casually, "Next time I see him, I want him to tell me all about it." A look of dismay came over Uncle Lewis's face. "Never say anything to Red about Bataan. Don't ever bring it up when he is around."
I have since seen documentary films, and know why this was not a happy, or even tolerable, memory for any American soldier who survived.
Uncle Lewis was a chain smoker. Like a lot of World War II vets of his generation, it was rare to see him without a cigarette. No doubt this took a huge toll on his health. In my earliest memories, I knew he worked at a manufacturing plant in Longview's East Industrial Park. But mostly I remember him not working, maybe the last decade of his life. I knew that he had suffered a heart attack at some point, because he was bad as the President, Lyndon B. Johnson, about lifting his shirt and showing his belly and chest scar from heart surgery. He also coughed a lot, no doubt with lung problems like Emphysema or COPD. But the smoking continued. Also, he consumed a lot of salt, and he had been warned by doctors to quit both cigarettes and salt. But he couldn't or wouldn't give them up. I remember watching him salt a slice of watermelon, which was a common summertime treat under the pecan tree in Uncle Lewis's yard.
He told me, "Do as I say, not as I do," and warned me that acquiring a taste for salt was very difficult to break, and a health disaster. This I took to heart, and never again salted my food, though I know that most prepared foods have too much anyway. I believe this advice is the reason that, until now at age 53, I have never had high blood pressure or been on any kind of medication. But in other ways, I am a lot like Uncle Lewis. As a kid, I always thought of him as my fat uncle, though looking back he was far from the level of obesity that is prevalent in the world today, and though I was a skinny kid through my college years, I now closely resemble Uncle Lewis in size.
Uncle Lewis liked music, though he spent less effort and less money than my dad. But I do recall him going with us one Saturday night to the Louisiana Hayride in Memorial Coliseum in Shreveport. I also remember finding an all night diner after the show where we ate dinner. In that era before fast food restaurants and no 24-hour businesses, this was remarkable to me to find someone serving food in the middle of the night. Back in those days, businesses simply did not stay open at night. This brings to mind the first convenience stores, 7-Eleven, which originated in Dallas. The very name of the company indicated how revolutionary the concept of opening early and staying open late at night was. Eventually 7-Eleven built a store in a Longview neighborhood not far from Uncle Lewis's, where he bought me and my brothers our first Slurpee, a frozen drink. He didn't have a lot of money, but on rare occasions, he would buy us a little something, like a popsicle from a street vendor.
For a time, Uncle Lewis and Aunt Fain owned and operated a blue plate diner in downtown Gladewater, Texas. That lasted only a year or two, and it was before I was born, so no direct recollections.
Uncle Lewis was such an important part of my early life, and I loved him and Aunt Fain a great deal. But this is a story that ends too soon, with him passing away when I was 15 years old. As I sort through old photographs and see other aspects of his life, I realize I knew him only as a child, and there are so many things I never knew about him. I doubt we spent a total of 30 minutes talking about World War II, and only a few times did we discuss his son and my cousin Ronnie. Uncle Lewis was one of the most even tempered individuals I have ever known, always kind to everyone and I can never remember him with a sharp opinion or unkind thought towards anyone, but I think Uncle Lewis had a lot of private regrets, things that men of his generation learned to keep inside. I only met his son Ronnie twice, once while Uncle Lewis was living, and once at his funeral. On at least one occasion, maybe both, Ronnie brought his grandsons, who were little guys at the time, but old enough to play furiously outside.
Aunt Fain was a very sweet woman, just a really dear person. I will be forever embarrassed to have let her languish in a nursing home on Eastman Road in Longview for decades with only infrequent visits. When my family was younger, we did make an effort. Sadly, we saw her more when we lived in Carrollton (Dallas) than after we moved back to Longview. But at least my children all remember her, and spent some time with her. Aunt Fain suffered from epilepsy, and had occasional fainting spells, sometimes injuring herself and occasionally even getting a bruise on her face when she fell. For this or whatever reason, she and Uncle Lewis never had any children, though I knew she loved children and this was a major unfulfilled yearning in her life. She was sure special to all of her nieces and nephews, and I came to appreciate her even more at her funeral service as I gathered with the May family and renewed acquaintances with all her brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews whose names are all so familiar to me from the long hours I spent with her, but whom I never knew so much as a child except by her constant care and conversations about them. It was as if we were all her own children.
These are my recollections of Uncle Lewis, spending several hours reminiscing and writing this Saturday afternoon, July 1, 2011. Except one, amazing really, after so many decades since Uncle Lewis passed away. Just this morning, I took Uncle Wayne and Aunt Nell along with my wife Belita and our two youngest sons Paul and Peter, to Sam Satterwhite's farm in north Harrison County because he offered to let us pick peas in his garden. This is something I had never done with my children, and I thought it was important for them to be exposed to a little piece of their great grandparent's world, from a time when food didn't come from Walmart. This year's record drought has taken a toll on purple hull peas. In a normal year, we could have picked a bushel each in an hour, but this year, we could glean only a few peas, and even fewer fully formed pods. At any rate, after leaving the pea patch, we headed back on FM 726, crossing over on the west side of U.S. 259 on FM 726 towards Gilmer. There a few hundred yards west of Highway 259, in a frame house on the south side of FM 726, Uncle Wayne wanted to see if a man named Fred Goodson was still alive. For the past two years, Fred has been in failing health, and he was not able to come to the door today, being bedridden, but his wife called his son out to show the produce they sell in the front yard to passing customers. Fred Goodson and his family once lived on 2nd Street next door on corner opposite on the SE side of 2nd and Greenwood. Johnny Goodson used to be my playmate as a child, but I would scarcely recognize him today, going on 50 years later. But when Uncle Wayne identified himself, he launched to his feet and embraced my uncle and aunt, and immediately told him how much he missed Uncle Lewis and my dad, Billy Earl. I know the world does not note people like us, and our names are in the newspaper only in the obituary pages, but it warms my heart to know that these people were warm and kind and well thought of by their neighbors, and that among those who recall them, their memory is cherished even many long years after they have passed from this earth.
July 1, 2011
In cleaning my mother's house and sorting her papers, I found this obituary for Lewis Grizzle published in the Longview News on Thursday, June 28, 1973, Page 8A:
Funeral services for Lewis Grizzle, 54, of Longview, will be at 10 a.m. Friday at the Radar Funeral Home Chapel, with Dr. Laney Johnson officiating. Burial will be in Lakeview Memorial Gardens.
Mr. Grizzle died in his sleep Wednesday morning at his residence. He had suffered from a lengthy illness.
He was a retired USI drill press operator, and a 30 - year resident of Longview. He was a member of the Baptist Church, the VFW and was a veteran of World War II.
Survivors include his wife, Mrs. Fain Grizzle of Longview; a son, Ronnie Grizzle of Fort Worth; a brother, Wayne Grizzle of Longview; two grandsons, Ronnie Grizzle, Jr. and Eddy Grizzle, both of Fort Worth; and several aunts and an uncle.
Leslie Leon Grizzle (1899 - 1939)
Iva Veazey Chambers (1897 - 1966)
Audrey Fain May Grizzle (1926 - 2010)
Lewis Evalyn Grizzle (1918 - 1973)
Granville Wayne Grizzle (1924 - 2012)*
Billy Earl Grizzle (1931 - 1970)*
Lakeview Memorial Gardens
Created by: Danny Grizzle
Record added: Jun 05, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 37938361
Many thanks for your service to our country during WWII.|
Added: Jul. 8, 2014
Added: Oct. 20, 2012