(Editor’s Note: For the next several months, The Marengo-Union Times will be printing chapters, word for word, from “The Life and Times of Walter S. Weimer,” an autobiography from Marengo resident, Walter Weimer).
Meet Walter Weimer, an ordinary guy, who has had some extraordinary experiences.
Born into a childhood of extreme poverty, where he and his siblings had to use their wits to survive. There was little formal education, but he had one very strict teacher he will never forget who taught him arithmetic and how to read and write.
When the bridge washed out during the Johnstown Flood, he had to swim to and from work, even commandeered a row boat one day that got away from him in the swift current when he had to bail out. “I never did know what happened to that boat.”
He didn’t even get to drive his first car, but being a “positive thinker” considered it a good experience. In fact, he believes all of the hard times only made him a stronger, better person. He’s never had time to feel sorry for himself; he’s too busy living.
Had it not been for World War II, he might have been a major team baseball player; he was that good.
One of his buddies in the service was the original Kilroy, and Walter can tell you how you would know his mark.
He has been a real hero, saving lives not only when he was in the service, but in civilian life as well. He was often in the right place at the right time.
As a soldier on the front lines and a prisoner of war in Germany, he miraculously escaped injury and death on more than one occasion. As a POW, his friend Jim Waddell often gave him his portion of their only meal of the day; a bowl of watered-down soup. To this day Walter doesn’t know whether Jim was being generous of just didn’t like the soup. Walter has good friends from his service days scattered all over the country.
After the war, he “knew what he wanted and he did it”-he married the girl he had met while on maneuvers in Tennessee before going overseas, now his wife of over 40 years.
But life was never meant to be placid for Walter. Maybe he would have died of boredom. When he was driving a bus in the inner city during the riots following Martin Luther King’s death, bricks were thrown through the window of his bus, but he delivered the bus to the garage right on schedule.
On a lighter note, there was a neighbor who built a boat in his basement, only to discover it was so large he couldn’t get it out of the basement. He was so embarrassed he moved out of the community.
Walter tells about the good and the bad, his fights, being locked out after he returned from a night on the town and having to climb over a very high fence. But he was never that wild. One thing that bothered him when he was in the service, was the profanity, and does to this day. “It will be no part of this book.”
He was often down, but not out. Maybe he was lucky. Maybe his positive attitude just carried him through. He has crammed into one lifetime enough living for two.
You will enjoy reading the often-funny exploits of this interesting man, a Will Rogers of our time.
Grandparents & Immediate Family
A brief history
My Grandad was born and raised in Germany in a town named Weimer. He came to America when he was a young man. He settled down in a town called Ozark, Ohio. I have no idea what kind of work he did. I remember seeing this one time; he was a very small man. Relatives said he weighed 93 pounds.
My Grandmother came from Ireland; her maiden name was McFarland. She was a large woman weighting 350 pounds.
During my childhood I remember being told a story about my family and the Spanish American war. As the war progressed there were soldiers going from door to door looking for new recruits to fight in the war, when the soldiers came to my grandparents’ home, my grandmother was sitting in her chair swing, outfitted in her hoop skirt. The soldiers searched the house never finding anyone but my grandmother. What the soldiers didn’t know was my granddad was so small he could, and would, hide under my grandmother’s hoop skirt.
I was about seven years-old when my granddad died. I went to Ohio for the funeral. My grandmother died a short time after and I was kept in the dark about how either of them died. They had three boys and two girls in their family. All of them settled in the Pittsburg area except one of the girls. She married a man from Ohio and lived there all her life.
My Dad and my Uncle Chuck were both in the Marines during the First World War. After the war was over they bought a small sideshow. My uncle was a barker for the show and my dad was a snake charmer. From what I was told the business was good until they both got tired of traveling. They set up shows all over Pennsylvania and Ohio-one time in Alabama.
In a small town in Alabama they were taking a break. Uncle Chuck walked out in a field behind the circus where he met a girl eating blackberries. He asked her if she would like to join his circus and she said “yes.” She went by one name only, Babe. My uncle painted a twelve by fifteen boat canvas with Babe’s picture on it. He named her Renee, the wild girl, captured in the jungles of Africa. She played the part very well.
When the circus broke up my uncle took Babe back to Pennsylvania with him. He bought a new Indian motorcycle. My uncle learned later that when he would go to work in his car, Babe was learning to ride the motorcycle. One day when he returned home from work, Babe was gone and so was the motorcycle. Neighbors told him she was riding the motorcycle for about one month before she left.
Uncle Chuck said he never saw that woman again or the motorcycle. He shared his knowledge with others by saying, “never trust a circus woman.”
My grandparents on my mother’s side were born and raised in America. Their names were Bill and Catherine Clements. They resided in the town of Ruffs Dale. I met granddad Clements once when I was nine years-old. There is an amusing story told about granddad Clements.
Across the street where he lived, there was a flagpole where every morning the flag was raised and every evening the flag was lowered. Granddad had a rocking chair on his front porch that stayed there day and night. One Halloween a prankster decided to have fun. They took granddad’s chair on tied it to the flagpole rope and hoisted it to the top of the pole. The next morning granddad went out on the porch to find his chair was gone. This put granddad into a screaming rage of anger. He had most of the people in town looking for that chair. After awhile someone looked up to the top of the flagpole and saw the chair hanging there. They brought the chair back to my very grateful granddad. You see, he kept all of his money under the chair seat. He started tearing the seat from the chair to see if his money was still there. Under the chair cushion was ten thousand dollars.
Granddad worked very hard all of his life in the coal mines, what a relief it was to find his money.
My close family lives in the western and northern suburbs or Chicago. My two brothers and two sisters lived in Pennsylvania but now are deceased. *My wife and I reside in the western suburb of Hanover Park, Illinois. Our son Robert Jr. and Darin, live in West Chicago, Illinois. Our daughter Linda and her husband Dennis Popovits live in Palatine, Illinois. They have two married daughters; Kristina is married to Marc Moxon and Denise is married to Mark Martinez. Kristina has a son named Kristopher.
*(Editor’s Note: Walter and his wife, Vera, are current residents of Marengo, IL)