Charles Ray Billingsley
July 24, 1911-May 10, 2003
Charles R. Billingsley was 91 when he passed away May 10, 2003 at the RTA Hospice House in Casa Grande, Arizona at about 6:30PM.
He was born July 24, 1911 in Crawfis College, Putnam County, Ohio to Tarlton E. & Nell (Dotterer) Billingsley. He was the third oldest of nine, 7 boys and 2 girls. Only the youngest brother, James and sisters, Martha & Catharine are still living.
He was raised on a farm in rural Ohio. Dad & his brothers were the homespun version of troublemakers but it was more to entertainment themselves than cause problems. Dad only attended school thru the eighth grade. He started ninth grade but was expelled and never returned to formal education. The expulsion was caused by a prank he pulled on the teacher. The teacher was in the habit of making a running start out of the classroom at the end of the day. He would have his rubber over-boots setting by the door and slip into them and keep on going. Charles nailed the over-boots to the floor and the teacher to fell on his face when he tried to slip into them and keep going.
There was another time that the boys got tired of going to school so they figured if they tore the school house down they would not have to go. It was a brick building and to this day you can see missing bricks that they removed. Fortunately they were caught and stopped before serious damage was done.
Grandpa Billingsley let the boys pretty much do whatever they wanted because he believed that they were learning as they were doing. A lot of their misadventures took place while Grandpa was working away from home.
The boys figured that one of the farm wagons could be improved so they undertook rebuilding it to meet their specs. They put a motor on the wagon and started down the road. The only problem was they forgot to figure out a way to steer it and ended up in a ditch.
Another incident happened when Grandpa had been gone for a few days. They decided that a tractor didnít need rear wheels to provide forward movement if they could hook up an airplane propeller to the front power takeoff. They figured it would pull the tractor enough to move it. They succeeded in getting it started and ended up only blowing all of the hay out of the barn. Of course they had to get it all restacked before their Dad returned home.
Another time one of the brothers (George) decided they should build a car in the basement of the house. They worked and engineered on it until it was ready for a test drive. It seems they forgot to factor in how to get it out of the basement and onto the road.
One time when Dad was a teenager he had done some work and had been paid. At that time there was an epidemic of smallpox and his younger brother and sisters had not been vaccinated because money was scarce. Dad used his earnings to take the younger children to be vaccinated. Dad had a case of smallpox and had a pox on his face as a reminder, but many people were a lot more marked by the disease than he.
Dad told us of seeing his Grandpa Samuel Billingsley coming to their house carrying a sack of Plums over his shoulder. He had a long white beard, was very stooped over and short. He reminded Dad of an Elf.
The railroad ended close to their farmhouse. He told us about watching the trains and always waving at the engineer. One day Dadís Grandmother took him to the next town on the train. He got to sit in the cab and watch the engineer at work. He got to blow the horn. He remembers at the end of WWI, a victory train came past. Right after that, the railroad station was loaded onto a flat car and taken away.
When Dad was about 12, the boys broke into a locked chest of their Grandfathers that contained dynamite and blasting caps. They were really interested in seeing how much noise the blasting caps would make. Dad put one down in the middle of the road and dropped a big rock on it. The resulting explosion blew a rock chip into his right eye and he was blind in that eye for the rest of his life.
The depression hit the Billingsleys hard and they moved to Pennsylvania in the 1930ís. There were no moving companies in those days so they had to make many trips with their truck to get everything moved. On one trip they were hauling Grandmaís piano. They had driven all-night and pulled off to the side of the road to sleep. A patrolman came by and told them they could not stop there. Still tired they continued the trip but whoever was driving probably fell asleep, ran off the road and rolled the truck. The piano stayed in the bed of the truck and kept the cab from being crushed. That probably kept them from being seriously injured.
Dad went to work at the Dickinsonís farm. Mom was working there as a housekeeper. The first day Dad came to work Mom was cooking pancakes for breakfast on a wood-burning stove. She was very flushed and red faced because of the heat of the stove but that didnít stop them from getting together later. She was dating two other fellows at the time so was not immediately interested in him. She tells us that the two gentlemen callers had no trouble figuring out who was to court her on any given night. They pretty much decided among themselves who was going to come calling that evening. Mom quit working there soon after Dad came to work so they didnít see each other for a while. When they became better acquainted, Dad wanted to buy her a box of candy. In those days, the version of the lottery was punch cards. A person had to buy a number to punch and see if the winning number was hidden under it, like scratch cards today. Dad had to buy almost all the numbers before he won the candy. Then he mailed it to her.
When they started dating Dad had a motorcycle with a sidecar. When he left his house to go see Mom he would pick different roads so no one could figure out who he was spooning. Mom says that was only him having fun with his friends not that he was ashamed to have them know he was dating her. They sometimes double dated with another couple with the girls both riding in the sidecar.
They were married October 14, 1939 at Momís parents home with only family present. Mom remembers it snowed that night. Dad bought a set of pajamas for their honeymoon and kept them all these past 63 years. He was dressed in those same Pajamas when he was taken to the mortuary last week. For their honeymoon they drove west to Erie, Pa and stayed with Lorettaís brother, Luther, then continued west to Ohio and spent time with Charlieís relatives. While in Ohio, Charlieís Grandfather, Samuel and Grandmother Maria threw them a wedding shower so they could meet all the Ohio family. They traveled on to Kentucky then returned to Pennsylvania to start family life. In order to get back to Pennsylvania Charlie had to borrow money from Loretta.
He was not able to join the army during WW11 because when he went for his physical he had to pass some sort of stress test and passed out while doing it. The army sent him home. He worked as a machinist in the Troy Engine Works in Troy Pennsylvania during WWII. His contribution was to built engine parts for the military. The Troy Engine Works was building steam engines that went into Liberty ships. Of course in those days almost all manufacturing was converted to military use. He was proud to tell us of figuring out how to build more parts than had ever been built before. He worked out a system that, while the right hand was doing one thing the left hand was doing another and he was also using his head to do a third. He was able to set production records that stood until the plant was closed years later. The older employees resented him because they feared his output would set the standard for the plant.
Later he became a highway maintenance man and crew foreman. In that area of Pennsylvania the winter snowfall is very heavy. It was necessary to keep the main highway open and it was his job to get it plowed. Equipment in those days was much less sophisticated than now and there was a lot of manual handwork. He and his crew literally shoveled mile after mile of highway. He told us of an incident where there had been a death and it was several days before the road could be plowed enough to get the mortician to the house.
It was during this time that Mom and Dad began to build their first home in West Burlington. Since material was expensive Dad bought old houses and barns and tore them down for the wood and nails. John remembers stacking boards, hauling bricks in his wagon, and straightening nails from these demolitions. We remember the night Dad came into the house with a knot on his head because a hammer he had left on the roof that day fell and hit him. It took six years to complete the house and as soon as it was completed, it was decided that Dad needed to move to a warmer climate for his health. They looked at San Luis Obispo, Calf and Coolidge Arizona. Obliviously Coolidge won out. The house and virtually all of the belongings were sold and we left Pennsylvania in the summer of 1952. Everything we owned was packed into a Willis Jeep station wagon. Dad built all sorts of cubbyholes, shelves and boxes to pack full with our personal belongings. John was 12 & Ed was 7. The trip took 26 days with stops to visit relatives and to take in the sights of the country. Dad loved to travel and would continue to do so throughout his life.
The day we arrived in Coolidge the temperature was 112. That was a big shock to say the least.
Dad built a house on Palo Verde Street in Coolidge and worked as a carpenter and later as an airplane mechanic for Moody Crop Dusting. Soon after he went to work for Charlie Moody, we moved to the airport and lived there until the company was sold. We lived in Valley Farms for a short time until they bought the property on Diffin Road, Cactus Forest in 1960. There was an old block house on the property and Dad fixed it enough to live in until the present house was ready. The present house was originally on the WWII German POW camp north of the Gila River. Later it was moved to Florence Union High School. Dad bought it to tear down and use the lumber but it was in such good shape he decided to move it to Cactus Forest. It was moved from the High School and placed on a foundation that had been readied. An interesting side note; the house was one of the classrooms that John attended Agriculture class in when he was in school.
After retirement he enjoyed woodworking and selling at flea markets. He often said he made far more money doing that than he ever made working a regular job. He made and repaired many types of clocks, buying them by the container load from European countries. He designed and built a clock that had all wooden gears, and one that used water transfer to keep time. The centerpiece is the Walnut grandfather clock that stands in the living room. It was made from old Walnut boards hauled from Pennsylvania during one of the vacation trips. In fact Dad seldom bought anything new in his projects. He was a world-class procurer. He never threw anything away and knew where everything was stored. In Cactus Forest he has a museum filled with his creations such as miniature farm tools and equipment he had seen and used in his early years in Ohio.
He enjoyed traveling and Dad and Mom went all over the world. They always went with tour groups so all the arrangements were made for them. He was especially interested in the people and architecture of China, Japan, & South America. They were in one of the first groups to visit China after it was opened for tourists. He especially wanted to see the ďDigĒ at Sian where the emperor had buried full size terra cotta figures of horses, chariots and men. He rode elephants in India and Nepal. The trip to China was one that he especially liked to tell about. In fact everyone that ever visited with him was told of that trip.
He is survived by his wife of 63 years Loretta and sons, John & Marge Billingsley of Farmington NM and Ed & Dorothy Billingsley of Pearl City HI. Also Sisters, Martha Cummings of Winter Park, FL, Catherine Ennis of Towanda, PA and brother, James of Winter Park, FL. Five other brothers and his parents are deceased.
His grandchildren are Erica Hanks, Mesa Az, Tina Sparks of Muskogee OK, Daniel Billingsley of Hobbs NM, Tricia Blair of Bloomfield NM.
Allen Pearson and Michael Pearson of Honolulu HI, Lisa Uyetake of Hilo HI, and Tina Melton of Okinawa Japan.
His Great grandchildren from Johns side are: Tinaís: Shanay and Garrett Sparks, Ericaís: Clinton, Kayden, Danielís: Johnathon, Brionna, & Brian, and Triciaís: Orianna, plus a new one on the way.
His Great grandchildren of Edís: Alanís: Bryson and Alan Jr (AJ), Lisaís: Nohea, Logan and Taylor, Mikes: Scott, Tiffany, Joshua and Jaycie. Tinaís: Andrew and Kekoa.
His Great-Great grandchildren of Edís: Alexis born to Tiffany June 30th.
Memorial donations may be made to RTA Hospice 1675 E. Monument Plaza Drive, Casa Grande, Arizona 85222.
This life story was a corroboration of John Billingsley who wrote the first outline, Loretta Billingsley who added a lot of her memories and Ed Billingsley who contributed more memories and wrote the final document. I hope you enjoy this short reminder of Charles and what he contributed to our lives.
To see some of the miniatures Dad created please click on this URL Farm Miniatures