Billy Graham’s wife wrote a book titled “It’s My Turn”. That’s the way with me, now it’s my turn to relate to you about myself before I met and married your father. I was born on February 23, 1926 to Roy Jennings and Ruth ( no middle name or initial) (Winey) McRoberts. I was born in a log house. Not like the modern day log homes, but the logs had been shaped into square logs and mortar between them. The inside of the house was finished and wall- papered and painted. I was third in line of a family of six. Howard is the oldest and was born on April 5, 1920. He married Betty Grubb from New York state and they have lived their married life in that state. They had a family of three: David, Carolyn and James. Olive is my older sister who was born on January 5, 1922. She married Ralph Sells from Muskegon and they lived there. They had a son Robert and a daughter Karen. Ralph died in 1970 and some years later she married Gordon Petyanus who died shortly after they were married. Later she married Don Collier from Sunfield and they live on his farm. My younger sister Marie, born August 14, 1927, married Duane Deardorff and they live in Lake Odessa and have most of their married life. Their family is Jan (Janice), Kim and Dawne. Roy Junior, always known as Bud, was born October 17, 1929. He married Vera Lee from Ohio. They lived in Pennsylvania for a couple of years and then moved to Ohio. Their fam- ily is Rose Ann and Terry. Daniel Joseph, called Joe by us and Dan at his work, was born September 3, 1940. He lived in Traverse City for several years and now in Dutton.
We always had a good time as a family. I guess the most popular game we played was chinese checkers. All the marbles would end up in the middle of the board and not much place to move. But we always worked our way out. We use to play ball too, and sometimes with some of the neighbor kids. A fun time for me was Sunday nights when the young people of the church got together. We didn’t have a lot of time for recreation as work took up a lot of our time, chores, housework and such. During the time we lived in the log house, which is on what now is called Darby road just off of M 50, west of Lake Odessa, us kids raised lambs. Only one at a time as they were given to us by some people that lived on another road east of us. Raising them was an experience because some of us (girls) were afraid of them. Sometimes they would try to bunt us as we were on our way to or from our outside privy. Yes, I said an outside toilet. It was oh so cold in the winter. But in warmer weather any one of us girls might have lingered there a while to delay the chore of doing dishes. Doesn’t that sound like kids philosophy, putting off some- thing we know we have to do?
We always enjoyed strawberry season. Mother would make a large biscuit shortcake and bake it in a round cake pan. Then cut it in two pieces like a layer cake, then put strawberries on the bottom and then cover it with the top piece and more berries. It was yum yum.
Our father was a minister in the Church of the Brethren, and of course we went to Sunday School and church every Sunday. I always enjoyed it and participated in the activities. I never felt that church was a chore or that it was something I wished I didn’t have to attend. I always had the desire to be there and to learn more about living a Christian life in the way Christ wants us to live. When I was twelve I was baptized and joined the church. The Thornapple church didn’t have a baptistery so baptisms were held at the creek just a little ways west of the church. Some times the folks would take us to other churches when dad was helping with a service there. The folks took each of us at least one time to our churches Annual Conference. Although Howard has no recollection of going to conference. District Conference we attended with the folks as much as we could. We went to the Thornapple Church, which was located at the corner of what is now called Darby road and Campbell road. It was not a very large congregation. It was a country church as many of the Church of the Brethren congregations were. When I was a teenager we had young peoples meetings on Sunday evenings, but during the week we didn’t have very much in church activities. Your grandpa was the pastor there for twenty-five years. In 1942 the church secured a summer pastor and then they had someone else after the summer was over. It was in 1947 that your grandpa accepted the call to the Marilla church and was there pastor for twenty five years. He was in the Free Ministry, which means that a minister makes his living at some other occupation and receives a small amount for his time on Sundays and the visiting one does in the congregation and visiting the sick. At the time of his ministry this was very common. However, by the time he left Thornapple the paid ministry was coming into being (but not at the Marilla church).
Farming was what dad did for a living for the family. Later in his life he drove truck. Farming was done with horses and I remember when I was probably Junior High age I drove one of the teams once in a while. I wasn’t very fond of doing that because the team had been known to run away. I was fortunate, they never did when I drove them. It wasn’t because of my skill but just that it never happened. I didn’t like driving them when we were making hay because of the snakes or mice that might come up with the hay as the hay loader brought it up onto the wagon. I also milked cows in the summer time when Howard and dad were helping with the thrashing of grain for the neighbors and also our grain.
We moved from the log house in the winter of 1936 to Campbell road about a mile east of the Thornapple church. I really don’t remember too much about the move except we did a lot of moving with the horses and the sleigh. We did have to change schools during the year even though we moved only about two miles, but into another school district. That was quite an adjustment for me.
Electricity came to our community sometime in the early 40′ s. Dad was renting the farm on which we lived and the land owner chose not to wire the house and buildings for electricity, so that meant we still used the kerosene lamps in the house and gas lanterns that we took to the barn for light. I guess we were a bit jealous as we looked out at night and seen all of the neighbors yard lights. During my high school years the folks moved to another place and that place had electricity and when I went to live with my grandparents to finish high school, they had electricity. What a nice thing that was. I went to country school through the 8th grade. What is a country school? I guess all the one-room schools were in the country rather than in towns so, “country school”. One teacher for all eight grades. I really liked school. Besides the usual studies we sometimes did some fun things, like arithmetic (you’d call it math) contests. This was with addition and subtraction. I always liked arithmetic and I did well in those contests. If you’ll let me brag a bit, one time when I was in the fifth grade I beat an eighth grader. We had spelling bee’s too. That was fun and I was looking forward to contests with other schools, but about the time I was old enough to participate, the contest was changed to a reading contest and I was not a good enough reader
to participate in that contest. Oh well, we can’t get through life without some disappointments. One year while I was in “country school” I received a certificate for neither being tarty nor absent for six months. Another year I received a certificate for neither being tarty nor absent for the entire school year. Small tokens, but I was very proud.
Then came high school. What a change for someone who had been in country school. No such thing as a tour to introduce us to how things would be as we entered this new world. Most of our freshman class lived in Lake Odessa where the high school was and they all knew one another because of going through the grades together. This was a very hard adjustment for me. But somehow I made it. I was in the band and played the clarinet. We played at the basketball home games, which I enjoyed very much. Of course we had concerts and played at other events. Always at the Memorial Day parade and the Fourth of July celebration. I received a letter in band. We had three band teachers during my four years in high school. Three of those years were during World War II and many of the teachers were drafted. Besides the required subjects I took all the math I could also took shorthand, bookkeeping and typing., History and chemistry were okay, but I wondered why I needed chemistry. World history was very hard to understand and English definitely was not my favorite subject. The teacher was very good and knew her subject, but it was very hard for me. Math, shorthand, bookkeeping and typing was my favorites and I did well in these subjects. I did all right in all subjects, but had to work harder at some than I I did in others.
During my last three years in high school I stayed with my grandparents, Elmer and Anna Winey. The folks had moved and I didn’t want to change schools so I stayed with them. They lived on M 50 west of Lake Odessa about five miles. Then came graduation time with our Baccalaureate in the Methodist church in Lake Odessa on Sunday evening prior to our Thursday night graduation in the high school gym. Our caps and gowns were blue with a white tassel. Graduation was on June 1, 1944. I did get an award that night, which was the Citizenship Award, I was really surprised that I received it, but proud too. At that time there was no such thing as an open house for friends and relatives. We just graduated and some close relatives came and maybe some friends. And now like all other graduates, out into the real world to find out if what we learned could be applied. I always spent weekends and summers at home, but after graduation I went home to live with the rest of the clan. Although some had already left home. Olive had married Ralph and Howard had gone to New York state into Alternative service. There he tested milk and from the results would plan a diet for the cows. Even the animals seem to need a diet. Of course, this was for better milk production.
Now that school was over I needed to get a job, which I found at Bergy Brothers Grain Elevator in Alto, grading eggs for size and quality. It was while I was working there that I met my “knight in shining armor”. Well I met your father. He also worked there driving truck making deliveries of feed to farmers. We started dating in September 1944. Often we would go to the movies, usually in Lowell. Since I lived near Alto, Lowell was the closest. Tickets to the movies were 35 cents each. This of course was in 1944-45. We usually stopped at a gas station on our way home to have a dish of ice cream. I guess they had a restaurant along with the station, but it definitely was not a convenient store like we now have. His car was a 1933 Plymouth, his pride and joy even though he had to stop periodically and pour some brake fluid in so the brakes would work. Why not put a master cylinder on and have it fixed? Lack of money, of course. We dated until November 11, 1945 when we were married.
Keith and Jean’s Story: (Mother) Our wedding was at my parents home on Pratt Lake Road southeast of Alto. Our parents, brothers and sisters were present. Also Geraldine, Lucille and David (just a baby) Botruff. Marie Bergy was there, but Howard was still in service, so he was unable to attend, as well as my brother Howard as he was in New York state in alternative service. My father married us. Sometime later the folks had a reception for us inviting the church and some friends. Most weddings at that time were small weddings with the parents having a reception some time later. Ralph and Olive made our wedding cake, which was an angel food cake that your father requested because he liked it so well. We probably had ice cream too, but I don’t remember that. We didn’t have a honeymoon, didn’t have money for that as well as we needed to work to have grocery money and other necessities. We lived with my folks for two or three weeks until we got an apartment in Alto.
(Dad) In January, about two months after we were married, I went into the army. During the time your mother and- I had been dating, World War II ended. That was a very joyous time for everyone. Gas had been rationed but when people heard the news of the end of the war, a lot of people drove around honking horns and rejoicing. It is very sad that countries can’t settle their differences through talks and negotiations instead of the loss of so many lives. There are many scars today even though the war has been over for more than 50 years. The war was over but men were still being drafted. Although I didn’t have to serve during the war, I still served almost two years after the war was over. I reported to the induction center in Detroit and from there I went to Little Rock, Arkansas. We had Quainset huts for barracks. The weather was very cold, rainy and damp all of the time I was there. It snowed some, too. The weather reminded me of sugar making time. I was there until late in March when I finished Basic Training, after which I had a ten day furlough. Oh, was I ever glad to get home. Army life was never for me, but I still had almost two years to be there. When I had to report back Howard, Marie, the folks and your mother took me to the train station in Chicago. I had to report to Blackstone, Virginia. Got there about the first week in April and was there for about three weeks. They had intended to send us over seas, but since most of us were drafted and had less than two years to serve, we weren’t sent. So we were shipped from Virginia to Fort Lewis, Washington, clear across the states. It took us a whole week to get there. We spent a lot of time on the siding, as troop trains were not a priority as the freight and passenger trains were. Freight went mostly by rail and not truck as it does now, and a lot of people traveled by train. As I remember we got to Fort Lewis about the first or second week of May. What I liked best there was the newer brick barracks. Well, I got settled in and did some training. I was placed in the Second Infantry Division in the heavy weapons company.
(Mother) During the time your dad was in Arkansas I continued working at the elevator and lived in the apartment in Alto. Sometime after his 10-day furlough I quit the elevator and went to Muskegon and lived with Olive and Ralph and worked in a sewing factory. My job was making flaps for pockets for jackets.
(Dad) When I came home in July on a 30-day furlough we planned that your mother would go back with me. We’d drive our 1941 Chevy coupe that we had purchased soon after we were married. (Dad and Mother ) It was about the first of August when we headed for Washington State. We had the car loaded with a few belongings and took some food to eat so we didn’t have to stop all of the time as well as it was less expensive. Your Uncle Bud, who was 16 at the time, went with us. On our way out we all rode in the front seat. Bud spent a lot of time leaning over the seat to reach the food in the back. Seemed he was always hungry and still today claims we never stopped to buy anything to eat. However, we did. After we got to Tacoma, our destination, we got a motel. Seems we must have thought there was only one and we needed to take the first one we saw. It was not a very nice one. It had and odor and was dark and dingy. Next day we found a much nicer one. Bud stayed about three days and took a train home. I think he enjoyed the trip with us and a train ride home. Our intent was to find a more permanent place to live and then I (mother) would find a job. We were very fortunate and found the combination of the two. We answered an ad in the paper for a person to take care of a 2 and 4 year old boy and girl. The ad stated that a young couple would be considered. We were the first of many to answer the ad and he chose us for the care of his two children. We lived with the father and two children with no expenses of rent, lights or groceries. Each week he’d give me (mother) $25.00 to buy groceries. At that time $25.00 would buy a LOT of groceries. We thought we were really living it up. It wasn’t a real beautiful home, but it was very convenient and very nice for a couple of country kids that never had the convenience of indoor plumbing and a sink instead of a dish pan to wash dishes in. We really had it very nice.
(Dad) Each morning of the week I was up at 4:45 to report to camp. Our days were spent on the rifle range or some other kind of training. I felt we never did do anything important. In November of 1946 I went on maneuvers. We left camp and went to Seattle and left there by boat, went down to San Diego, California. Our purpose was to land on the beach with our heavy weapons, mortors, machine guns and rifles. It was a practice landing with some difficulties. We were there for a month practicing different things and returned to Seattle and back to Fort Lewis. Glad that was over. During the time I was in Tacoma I lived off the base and it was pretty much like anyone that goes to their job each morning and returns at the end of the work day.
(Dad and Mother) It was Christmas away from home this year. We only remember that we wished we could have been home. Can’t even remember who we spent the day with, but probably with the two children, their father and same of their friends. Drive In movies and drive thru fast food places were becoming the “in thing”. So movies and food was a big part of our recreation. The weather in that part of Washington state is far more mild than in Michigan or even the eastern part of that state. They have very little snow but of course the year that we were there we had 12″ of very wet snow. It didn’t last long, melted very soon. Not many knew how to drive in snow. It rains a lot in the winter. In the summer when the temperature got to 87 degrees they thought that was very hot. The year round weather there is very nice.
On April 21, 1947 Bob was born in Madigan General Hospital on the army base. A well and healthy baby. (Dad) I had reported at camp that morning and didn’t know that some of our friends had taken your mother to the hospital. When I came in from the rifle range I got the message that we had a son. I guess all the guys in the barracks thoughht I should be turning cartwheels or something. But I have a more quiet way of expressing my happiness. I sat down and cleaned my rifle and when I was dismissed I went to the hospital to see mother and baby. (Mother) I was in the hospital for a week, that was the usual length of time that a mother and new born stayed. I was home for just a few days when I got infection and had to return to the hospital. The big question was what can we do with Bob? (Dad) I went to talk to my 1st Sergeant to ask if I could have time to find someone to take care of Bob. Well, the answer was right there. He called his wife and ask if she would look after him and she gladly said yes. She gave him good care and was very capable as they had a family of five. Your mother was in the hospital a few days and then home again. I was scheduled to go on maneuvers at Yakima Valley, which is about in the center of the state of Washington. The troops had left before I had gotten your mother out of the hospital, so I had permission to drive there. The maneuvers lasted for about two weeks and finished on a Friday. We would be there for the weekend before returning to Fort Lewis on the next Monday. Some times I do have some luck. The 1st Sergeant came to me and ask if I would like to leave and take another officer, back to camp as it was the officers anniversary. Well of course I’d be happy to do just that. I didn’t have to spend the weekend with the troops, but was home with Bob and your mother. I guess when there isn’t any war and it’s peacetime some of the army personnel are not so strict. I was in the army until August 1947. Officially being discharged on August 19th. However, having furlough time coming I was able to be released in late July.
(Dad and Mother) Bob was three months old when we started our trek home from Washington. That little club coupe was as FULL as anyone could get it. We had a basket for Bob and we had it in the back seat with all the other things needed on a trip. And we just put things in the trunk loose, no room for boxes or anything like that. Bob could sleep in his basket or I could lean over the seat and get him out and hold him. No seat belts then to interfere with moving around. We planned to go south into California and see some sights, maybe even as far south as San Francisco. We traveled along the coast and saw the rocky coast line of the Pacific. That surprised us as we thought it would be sandy beach all the way, but it wasn’t and was very rocky. We went through the Redwood forest, what tall trees and one tree hollowed out so cars could drive through it, and of course we drove through it. We didn’t make it to San Francisco, we suddenly decided we wanted to go home, so we headed east. Went through Reno, Nevada, which at that time was the big gambling place. Of course we didn’t choose to do any of that. Might not have had the money to get home if we had been losers. Wouldn’t have gambled anyway. Nevada was the most desolate place in the world it seemed to us. But then there was the beautiful corn fields father east. The east seems so much more beautiful, than parts of the west. We got home on the 7th of August. A funny thing happened the last few miles coming home. We got lost between Grand Rapids and the folk’s farm. Seems laughable now, but it wasn’t then. We were tired from traveling and to be that near home and get lost was quite disgusting. I (mother) had never been from Grand Rapids to the farm and I (dad) didn’t recognize changes in some of the roads, but we finally got there.
(Dad) Very soon after we were home I started working in the grain elevator in Alto again. I think we got home late in the week and I started working the next Monday. We rented a house across the road from the elevator. It was very handy for work. I guess all my life I have lived very close to work and never drove over two miles to a job. At the elevator we started at 7:00 AM and. worked until 6:00 PM six days a week. I drove truck most of the time delivering feed to farmers and picking up eggs that the farmers sold to the elevator. The elevator sold eggs and chickens to a market in Detroit and some times I drove the truck there, but that trip was not my favorite thing to do. Although I didn’t really dread going on that trip. My wages were $24.00 a week. We managed okay paying our heating, electric, rent and groceries, although it was sometimes a struggle. We lived with what we had. Little by little wages went up and eventually I was making $45.00 a week. In September 1948 I had appendicitis surgery, and was off work for awhile but recovered on schedule and was back to work.
While we lived in Alto Betty was born on February 1, 1949 in Blodgett hospital in Grand Rapids. A healthy and happy baby. Our second bundle of joy. Cliff and your grandpa Bergy were farming, but Cliff wanted to do something else rather than to farm. He went to work for the Caledonia elevator in Dutton. I started farming with my dad at that time. When I quit the elevator in Alto and started farming we moved to a house a little west of the farm. I only did that for a year and went to work for the elevator in Caledonia. Howard, Cliff and I did the farming for the folks, mostly in the evenings after our day I work where we were employed. I was at the elevator about a year when George Statsick offered me a job of delivering fuel to farmers and home heating oil with the Standard Oil Company. After pondering that a while I decided to do that and you know that I vas in that business for nearly 41 years. I worked with Russ Taylor as a Driver salesman 23 years and then 18 years as owner of Caledonia Oil Company. Russ retired when Amoco (or Standard Oil) decided to sell their Bulk Plants, and that was September 1, 1976 when we purchased it. (Dad and Mother) After I (dad) started working for the elevator we moved to Caledonia and lived in the house that was my (dad) grandparents (Farnham) house at 213 Weat Main Street. Soon after we moved there we purchased the house. We lived there for 21 years, until 1973 when we built our house on the north west corner of my (dad) parents farm. I believe you two were 3 and 5 years old when we moved to Caledonia. It was very convenient to live close to school. When you were in high school it was always convenient for your friends who lived out of town to be invited by you to spend their time after school, until a ballgame or other school activity, to our home. That was why on game nights we always had either Hot Dogs, Bar-B-Q’s or hamburgers. There was enough no matter how many had been invited. Did you realize that was always our menu on Friday nights? I think we all have fond memories of the years we lived there. The Buer family next door, the Scott’s across the street, having Eva as our exchange student and many other events. It was also a good place to watch a parade, as they always started up at the school.
(Mother) In 1957 I took a part time job at the Caledonia Elementary school cafeteria. I worked part time for 8 years and then full time for 6 years. It was very convenient to work at school as we were close and I walked to work, as well as when you were home, I was too. I quit at the end of the school year in 1971. I enjoyed being home for about a year and a half, and then took a part time job at the Food Locker. I worked there until we purchased the oil company on September 1, 1976. Then it was office work and bookkeeping, which I enjoyed very much.
(Dad and Mother) You both were very small when we went to the Thornapple Church of the Brethren. Carl Welch was the pastor there at that time, but your grand father McRoberts had been the pastor of that congregation for 25 years. When we moved to Caledonia, I (mother) took you to the Methodist church, but Thornapple was where we preferred to go. In 1953 the neighboring church, Elmdale Church of the Brethren, burned and our congregation invited that congregation to worship with us. Since both congregations were small, the two decided to merge and chose the name of “Hope” for this newly formed congregation. At that time it was decided to build a new building. Stephen Weaver (Duane Deardorff’s uncle) donated the land where the Hope church and parsonage were built. It is at the Kent and Ionia counties line on M 50. Duane’s grandfather, Charles Deardorff, was the Church of the Brethren Denominational architect at that time, so he was the person who drew up the plans for the church. A contractor was hired, but a lot of the labor was donated by the members and friends of the congregation. A short time before the building was completed the Thornapple building burned. Sunday morning worship services were held in the basement until the building was completed. The Easter Sunrise Service on April 10, 1955 was the first service in the Sanctuary. Betty you were baptized in 1960, as well as some others. And Bob and I (dad) was baptized in 1961 and some others were at that time too. Ronnie Moore was the pastor when all of these joined the church. (Dad) I was never taken to church or Sunday school when I was young. When your mother and I started dating was when I first went anywhere to church. I always had the impression that my folks never went to church until later in their lives, but I found out (I think Bernice told us) that my mother went to the Gaines United Brethren church west of Caledonia before her and dad got married. I don’t know about my dad, but after they were married they went to church (the building is not there now) somewhere northeast of Caledonia. Then there was a period of time , when I was growing up they didn’t go. Later they went to East Caledonia Methodist until services were no longer held there, then they joined the Parrnalee Methodist.
(Dad and Mother) We as parents tried to be responsible to take you to church and we tried (and are still trying) to be good examples to you as well as all we come in contact with through life. We admit we have failed many times, but the secret is never to give up. Just keep on keeping on. We never as a family made a practice of reading from the Bible each day as we now do. We let you down in this way, but we hope you are now practicing this very valuable daily instruction from God’s word with your family. What we learn from God’s word and how we apply it to our everyday life is the important thing. We are who we are, but only by God’s direction and patience with us. We have made our share of mistakes, but hopefully we have influenced you in some right directions.