Recollections about Pop Crismon
This is a collection of remembrances about Pop as submitted by family members.
The photo below is believed to be the last one taken of Pop. This was in September, 1980 in the back yard of grandson Sam. The photo says a lot about Pop. He always wore a hat, his favorite was the leather one shown. He was always clean shaven with good personal hygiene habits - probably goes back to his Army training. You won't find a photo of Pop without him wearing a jacket, regardless the time of year. Seldom with a necktie, the top shirt button was always fastened. His clothes were always somewhat drab in color. He said he wanted to blend in with the crowd and not be a target. Pop never had a negative thought and would not say anything derogatory about anyone. He loved small children and was always seen smiling. At his suggestion, after all of these years many of us still gaze at each full moon and think loving thoughts of Pop and Momma.
Pop's mother died when he was seven. Uncle Rufus' wife had also recently died. Pop was sent to live with Rufus to become a "house boy". That didn't work out so Rufus traded a mule for a sixteen year old girl who was to do the cooking and housework. However, all she wanted to do was play games outside with Pop. Rufus returned the girl and got his mule back. Rufus eventually married a widow lady and years later the wife sympathetically gave Pop the money he needed to go to St. Louis to live with his brother, Herman and subsequently join the US Army.
Pop told the story when he was about ten years old a US Marshall came looking for his dad. Catt was accused of illegally cutting railroad tie timber on government property. Catt had been tipped off about the arrest warrant and hid out in a cave. Each day Pop would trudge up the hill to the cave carrying a lard pail of food for his dad. After several weeks Catt returned home when he learned the charges were dropped. At about the same age Pop worked at a sawmill. His job was to hold the reins of the owner's horse, ready to be ridden upon demand. Pop fell asleep in the shade of a tree and awoke much later in the direct sun light. Pop suffered from heat stroke, survived and learned a lesson.
At the end of his first enlistment Pop decided he would not reenlist and would get himself a job and make some really big money. He went to work for a dairy just north of Fort Sam Houston, his first-ever real civilian job. Pop said it was some of the hardest work he had ever done. He worked seven days a week from sun up to sun down and slept in the barn. At 3:30am each morning the dairyman's wife yanked on a cord in the house that rang a wake up bell over Pop's sleeping head. Pop would milk and feed the cows, separate and bottle the milk, and then deliver the milk to customers by horse and wagon. After delivering the milk he cleaned the barn and cow pen areas. The dairyman ended up owing Pop $200 in wages. The dairyman offered Pop 20 acres of land just north of Fort Sam Houston in lieu of the $200. Pop opted for the $200 cash, went to St. Louis and had a wonderful time. After he ran out of money Pop said that he supported himself playing pool. Shortly after WWI began Pop reenlisted in the Army and stayed there until his thirty year retirement.
Pop said that in the early 1900's the Alamo Mission in San Antonio was a pile of rubble and the remainder of the walls stood only about three foot tall. If you look carefully today you can see where the reconstruction began. Pop said there was a night club named Tiffany's across the river from the Texas Theatre on the north side of Houston Street. He saw May West perform there. Pop said that in the original Buckhorn Saloon in San Antonio you could buy a beer for a nickel and have a hearty free lunch. Women were not allowed in the bar room. If a woman or non-white person wanted to buy some beer (or others considered to be "undesirable"), they presented an empty lard pail to the back door to be filled.
Pop had an eye for and appreciated the individual beauty in all women. He took Mom to see Sally Rand performing her famous "Fan Dance" when they were attending the Texas Centennial in Fort Worth in 1936. Soldiers from Fort Riley were sent there to perform in the Centennial celebration. Local cowboys and Oklahoma Indians were also employed to perform at the Centennial. Pop said the US Army gave the Indians clothes to wear and that the Indian men cut out the back of the trousers for convenience. The Army provided a monthís worth of food to the Indian tribe camped close to the Centennial site. The Indians then had a big Powwow and ate up all the food in a couple of days. The Army then rationed out food only on a daily basis. Pop said at the conclusion of the Centennial the Army Commanding Officer personally presented the Indian Chief with a prize bull and several cows to be used for breeding purposes. To celebrate their good fortune the Indians had another big Powwow and ate the bull!
This is one of the last photos of Bessie while she was still healthy. At the age of 77 her hair was just then turning grey.
When William and Bessie married, he was 32, she just 16. Very much in love, Pop enjoyed and Momma tolerated occasional weekend whoopee sorties out on the plains of the Fort Riley reservation. One balmy day the two were romantically engaged on an Army OD blanket (OD was a term for the Army color "olive drab"). Just then a troop of cavalrymen came charging their mounts over the knoll with Momma frantically trying to cover herself up with the blanket. As the mounts came to a screeching halt, the startled Officer saluted and said, "Excuse me Sergeant, carry on!" The troop wheeled about and made a hasty retreat; Momma never got caught out on the plains of Kansas again.
In 1931 Master Sergeant William Crismon was promoted to First Sergeant of Troop A, 2nd Cavalry. From that point on fellow troopers and officers referred to him as "Sergeant Bill."
At the time of their marriage, Pop owned a new 1927 Chevrolet car. During his annual 30 day furlough he decided to show off his pretty bride to the family living in Arkansas. On the way the car motor failed. They pulled off the road and set up camp under a big tree. Son Fred is a lot like Pop, a master of all trades. Fred says, "I can fix anything except a broken heart - and if she is good looking I'll even give that a try!" Pop took the engine apart and determined what needed to be replaced. He hitch hiked to town, bought the parts, repaired the engine and they were soon on their way. Mother named the car "Shimmy Lay" saying it shimmied on the road and lay in the shop.
Pop's most embarrassing moment happened when as a senior citizen he went to the DMV to have his driver's license renewed. A long line of people were controlled by metal pipe stands with a chain attached. Waiting in the line, Pop absent mindedly stuck the index finger of his right hand into the top of one of the pipe stands. The line moved. All of a sudden Pop realized he couldnít get his finger out! As he shuffled along he pulled the pipe stand with him while trying to get his finger out - shuffle, drag pipe, shuffle. People began to notice his plight and a slight snicker was heard here and there. The line moved again. Now the chain was tight and the pipe stand could not be moved any further along. More people snickering and giggling. Pop leaned over and began to moisten his finger with his mouth; lick, lick. A small boy began to laugh and pointed at Pop; frantic lick, lick. Several prudish women scornfully look and Pop and one says under her breath, "Nasty old man, just what was he thinking of!" Lick spit, frantic lick, lick, pull, pull. Finally his scratched and bruised finger popped out. A roaring round of applause and laughter was given. Pop beat a hasty retreat for the door. Perhaps tomorrow will be a better day. He said at least he brightened up the dull wait in a long line on a hot day for a lot of folks. At the age of 70 Pop received his first and only traffic ticket. He paid the fine, sold his pickup and never drove again.
Pop's most diplomatic moment came when the high school principal and a senior lady teacher came to visit Pop who was out in the front driveway at the time, bent over the engine of the car. The principal informed Pop that son Bill had been accused of damaging the coke machine by pouring Coke in the coin slot. The stern principal asked if Pop knew anything about son Fred's absent from school excuse notes that appeared to contain his forged signature. The teacher said Pop's son Bob frequently disrupted her class, thinking his responsibility was to be the class clown. In silence Pop pondered this for awhile and then responded that he was a retired soldier and had a hard time just feeding six rambunctious kids much less making them mind; the roof of the house leaked; he had a bad back; and did the principal know anything about how to get a car started. Staring at Pop's hat, they both apologized profusely for bringing their problems to Pop and promised him they would not bother him again. They then beat a quick retreat! What probably influenced the turn of events is it just so happened that Pop could not find his hat that day so he was wearing a hat that belonged to son Bob. The hat had a large safety pin holding up the front brim and had the word "GIRLS" painted on it.
Pop's genuine honesty was always an example for all. He had an offer on the house that was listed for sale on the Old Laredo Highway. In the early 1950's houses were in short supply and it was a sellerís market. Pop didn't want to accept an offer because he felt the offered price was too much! Pop was aware of the spit and chewing gum holding the old house together. Plus, the roof still leaked! He knew where the bodies were buried and was aware of its warts. When the buyer learned that Pop would not accept his offer he invited Pop to walk down the road to the Ice House and have a beer. Pop asked Bob to come along to give him support. There, Pop said, "I am sorry, but I can't accept your offer because ..." The man cut Pop short and upped his offer by $500. "No, no, you don't understand. Your offer is too much. The place is not worth it", Pop pleaded. They haggle back and forth and finally the man said, "I appreciate your honesty, but if I don't buy your house today my wife will kill me. She wants that house and out of our mobile home right now!" Being an understanding man, Pop reluctantly agreed but not to the extra $500. The new buyers didn't live in the old shack even one year and Pop always regretted giving in. William Crismon was an honest person!
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