Nancy Simpson/The Madera Tribune
Billy Whatley, right, and “Uncle” Ray Whatley stand together at the family reunion.
My husband and I recently drove to the other side of our great country, to a place called Alabama, for my family reunion. As always, it was great to see my dad, my brother, my sister and her husband, all the cousins and their families, and other relatives in that part of the country.
My dad was born and raised in a very small town in Clark County, Alabama. The town bears his family name of Whatley, named after his great grandfather, Franklin Benjamin Whatley. My father, Billy Whatley, was one of eight children, and of his siblings only he and his oldest brother, Ray, are now living. Uncle Ray will be 100 years old in October, and my dad will be 96 in November. Both men are of completely sound mind and able to tell tales of their upbringing, their family and community in great detail.
While we were in South Alabama, a group of us took a “tour” of an area alongside Bassets Creek and Deas Creek. As my dad told of his childhood experiences in this area, the others in the group listened intently and with awe at his amazing ability to recall dates, facts, and names of people and places. As I stood and watched him interact with the others, it reminded me of the old E.F. Hutton commercials on TV. “When EF Hutton talks, people listen.”
Daddy’s ability to remember is incredible. Every time I talk with him, something reminds him of a story from his past, and I listen as he recalls events that took place many years ago during his lifetime, or stories that friends or family members have told him.
I am pretty sure I did not receive all of my family’s “remembering” genes, but my dad is not the only relative that has these abilities. I am very fortunate to have many people in my dad’s family who are able to remember events of the past in great detail. Uncle Ray, also has amazing recall, as did all of their siblings. Uncle Ray is a retired Methodist pastor, and if you have ever been around a pastor, you can be assured they all have stories to tell.
My grandmother (Uncle Ray’s and my dad’s mother), Ruby Whatley, also came from a large family. She was one of nine children. One of her brothers was also a Methodist pastor. His name was Wilbur O. Calhoun, better known as Uncle Wilbur. This man is very famous in our family. Many, many tales have been told about Uncle Wilbur, as he was one of those individuals who was always right, and was always quick to correct people who may have inaccurate information. We loved Uncle Wilbur, and he was a good man, but a little of him usually went a long way.
Daddy has shared many stories about Uncle Wilbur over the years. People love to hear Uncle Wilbur stories, and my dad can tell them well. When I was at home last month with my dad, he gave me a box of letters to the editor that Uncle Wilbur wrote to the local newspaper. Uncle Wilbur had his own column, and I would expect the editor “enjoyed” the materials he received each week from Uncle Wilbur.
In some of my articles coming up, I will share with you a few of our Uncle Wilbur stories. For now, I will leave you with one of the stories he wrote about an old-fashioned one room school where the teacher was young and attractive.
One morning a pretty young school marm came to school and found, in large letters, on the board, “I WOULD LIKE TO KISS MY TEACHER.” The school marm did some detective work and ordered the young man to stay after school. His peers, eager to learn what happened, loitered around until he came out and bombarded him with questions about what had happened. He finally smiled knowingly and said, “Well, fellows, all I can say is, it pays to advertise.”
Uncle Wilbur was born in 1901, and died in 1991. He had no children, but would be proud to know that his name and his reputation lives on within the family as well as throughout our country.
— My love to all,
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“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
— 1 Corinthians 13:13