William Crismon after Boot Camp
William (none) Crismon was born on August 15, 1894 on a farm in Miller County, Missouri. His father, Austin Melrose ďCattĒ Crismon and several family members built the log cabin with a sod roof. His mother, Elizabeth (Abbet) said he was just too small of a baby to be burdened with a middle name.
While the Crismon Clan in Missouri was considered to be well off in those days, we donít know why Popís family was not for awhile. Pop's Great Grandfather, William Wayne Crismon, Sr., was an early settler in Missouri and owned considerable property that was passed down. In later years Catt seemed to do well financially, having owned a business and a number of farms over the years. We suspect the plight of the Catt Crismon family had much to do with the fact that Elizabeth died from drinking tainted water when Pop was only seven years old. Her untimely death left Catt with four boys and an infant daughter to raise Ė plus work the farm. At Elizabeth's funeral two month old baby sister Cora was handed to Elizabeth's sister to raise. Baby Robert was placed in an orphanage in St. Louis. Pop was taken in by Catt's brother, Lon. The remaining boys, Andy and Herman, remained with Catt to work the farm.
In November 1912 William enlisted in the U.S. Army at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, just outside of St. Louis. As a matter of fact, he said the only town he remembered visiting before was Tuscumbia, Missouri. Pop said during the train ride to St. Louis he wore his first pair of new shoes. Pop saw a U.S. Army recruiting poster on the train and decided that is what he wanted to do with his life. William was underage and did not meet the minimum weight enlistment requirements. His brother Herman paid the camp cook twenty dollars to give Pop a job at the mess hall and "fatten him up". Even at age 18 Pop still didn't meet the weight requirements and it took several more months before he did. At enlistment Pop was practically illiterate having gone to school only through the third grade. A friendly officer began teaching Pop how to read and write during war time in France. Pop was a fast learner and later was appointed First Sergeant of his Company. Pop successfully attended a number of military schools and earned a vocational technical certificate in photography after retiring from the Army. He continued practicing his penmanship even as an old man.
This photo of Pop was taken by Pop's brother Herman at Popís graduation from boot camp. Notice the jacket is much too small, almost bursting at the buttons and short at the sleeves. Did the Army chow fatten him up? And what unusually large pockets. The breeches are unusual as well, perhaps they were made of canvas or leather. We wonder if the shoes were Popís new ones. After boot camp Private Crismon was transferred into an artillery company at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. There he was named the company carpenter.
During most of his military career Pop served in the Cavalry. Private Crismon served on the Texas/Mexico border in 1916-17 chasing Pancho Villa. He was on the first boat load of soldiers shipped to France during WWI. He remained stateside during WWII. Corporal Crismon was awarded the Silver Star in France for battlefield valor on December 31, 1918. Later he was given a battlefield promotion to Sergeant. After the war Pop was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas for about 22 years and was part of the U.S. Cavalry School cadre.
Pop married Bessie Zulema Stull in 1927. He was stationed at Fort Riley at the time. Their first five children: JoAnn, William Junior, Robert Wayne, Mary Louise, and Frederick Hugh were born at the Fort Riley Post hospital. Pop was stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky at the time the last son David Lee was born. About that time the children with great fondness and respect named him "Pop". Master Sergeant William Crismon retired from the military in 1943 after 30 years of service. He and Bessie then moved their family to San Antonio. All six of the children attended the South San Antonio High School.
During his long retirement Pop enjoyed playing poker! His favorite game was "Texas Hold'em". As a retired serviceman he could fly free on US Air Force planes and he traveled extensively. Material things were of no interest to Pop, family was. In his later years when traveling around, a small overnight bag contained all of the necessities his life style required. William Crismon died on October 1, 1980 in San Diego. Bessie died April 28, 1999. They are both buried at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas.