May 25, 2012
On this date in 1924 my father Carl Bernell Yates was born in the Yates family home at 101 E Lincoln Ave, Chrisman, IL 61924. His was a short life dying at age 31 working hard to support his young wife and two children. He has been dead now 57 years, almost twice as long as he lived and is buried in Woodland Cemetery.
It turns out that while my mother was born in Dana, Indiana she resided in Chrisman on Jefferson Ave. during her impressionable years in the early 1940's. Mother is also gone now but she seemed to fondly recall in later years her being part of the high-tech world by working the switchboard when it was located above the Blue Room Cafe. She also was very keen on the idea that she was courted by Carl Yates in the day.
Through these choices of others my paternal and maternal lines were already starting to tangle with one another's space, formalized by marriage in 1946. In April 1947 both mother and I apparently were equally screaming as a result of the birth process at the Paris Hospital.
While unique to our being I now realize this process had been undertaken countless times past. Perhaps you like me are now more impressed with the history of Chrisman, IL and more fully appreciate that rich and full lives filled with highs and lows have been created lived and expired in Chrisman well before we came along.
As a family genealogist now I am fascinated with how many versions there are of Chrisman, IL as each of our memories are flavored by whatever touched us while in her presence. Literally by accident I found myself arriving for a solo visitation to my father's grave on father's day a few years ago. I was overwhelmed with a fuller picture that he too started his life with the loss of a treasured parent when he was 6; then I also recalled that the loudest voice of mourning at my father's funeral was the big man sitting behind me.
This was my wonderfully human grandfather Harry Elmer Yates; I know he was mourning the loss of his son but I am very sure he was also reliving the pain of he and his older brother Arthur being required to prepare their father for burial, dig his grave and bury him during a smallpox epidemic. I am also sure he was thinking through the pain of losing his young darling Ruth Evelyn at Christmas time in 1925 and his young wife Jessie Leah in 1930.
As a result of life circumstances my mother, my sister and my half-brother lived in Chrisman for a short period and the experience was very memorable for me. This is the town where I could walk out of my apartment which was on the 2nd story of the structure next to the old Well's Mower Shop; my first stop would be to say hello to Noodles Ellis and my Grandfather Harry Yates who were working together doing blacksmith things that I recall as dirty, hot and noisy!
My next stop was a corner building (with bars over the place were you asked for things); I knew I could always ask to say hello to my "Uncle Wil" and sure enough Uncle Wilbur would deliver his face with that killer smile with a kind word. Then on to say hello to my Uncle Fred at his barber shop; he let me work for him some in the shop as his "Shoe Shine Boy." I only remember ever shinning shoes he delivered from his own closet!
Then I would stop by and poke my head in and say hello to the guys doing the typesetting for the newspaper; they were kind enough to invite me in one day and show me how they selected the type and create a master for printing. Then out to say hello to "Uncle Red Yates" at his TV shop. After a short conversation, I would make my customary stop at the used car lot where I logged considerable time sitting in one of the cars "playing driving" with sounds and all. I am sure I created a good number of laugh moments for the Mooney Automobile Team.
Then past where Aunt Barbara George Yates worked at the little Insurance Building; I think I went in once to see if I could say hello but don't recall much about it and didn't understand what they did. I know it was not as I recall as dirty, hot and noisy as the blacksmith shop. Then across the park, climb atop the bandstand and safely back home. For a little kid, it may have felt like a lifetime but it may have been all of 30 minutes.
I had my first night out by myself in Chrisman. It started with dinner at the Blue Room Cafe with breaded tenderloin sandwich, fries and a strawberry milkshake. Oh I was a big shot for sure; then I realized my Uncle Fred was playing a pinball machine likely keeping a sharp eye out for me. At least I was man enough to leave a tip and say hello to him as I left to make my next appointment; the first feature length colorized Long Ranger movie!
It was showing at the Empire Theater, admission $.15 and I remember that the man taking my ticket had a prosthetic hand with a leather glove on it. I remember that hand now in a way that I can't remember anything about the movie.
If you read the Chrisman, IL story then you likely have your own memories too; my perspective now is that whether high or low memories, we learn and grow from them and they should be cherished because they are forever part of us and are a link in the chain of history of this little town.
Ronald E. Yates
(Son of Carl,
Grandson of Harry E. Yates)