Saturday, March 14, 2015

Robert Sidney Russell - Uncle Sid

I asked my sister-in-law, Mary Simms, to tell me what she remembers about her Uncle Sid, thinking I would incorporate her memories into a story of my own, but when I read what she wrote I realized I could not improve on it. Therefore, this is Mary's story.


[This memoir will be divided up into segments showing the origin of the information.]


I first met Uncle Sid when he came to Colorado to spend time with Frances and Doyle at the end of World War II.  He had recently been discharged from the US Army after seeing combat duty in the Pacific Theatre.  Sid had been wounded quite seriously and was still in a state of post traumatic shock from war injuries.  Later I felt it was rather unusual that upon being discharged that Sid came straight to Doyle in Colorado rather than returning to Arkansas to be with his parents first.

Uncle Sid was a very quiet and polite person and showed great respect to everyone he met.  Sid had a personality that people just automatically gravitated toward.  A truly magnetic personality.  Especially attracted to Sid’s charisma were the ladies—both married and single.

Sid had very little money and most of the time did not have wheels of his own, so he mostly dated women who had access to a car and could provide their transportation.  He did eventually purchase an old c1928 beet truck that ran at times and did not at other times.  One night while en route to see one of his harem of lady friends his truck lights gave out all of a sudden.  Since all roads around Nunn, CO were built on the straight surveyed section lines, Sid assumed he could simply continue in a straight course until he came to a stop.  Not so.  Seems now and then the intersections of the county roads had a jog in them, and when passing through the intersection one came out about 50 feet to the left or right when entering the next mile of road.  [The reason for this jog was said to be because the earth is round.]  Unfortunately, it was at this point when Sid’s lights gave out—just before the jog.  He and his old truck ended up in the ditch just to the left of the continuing county road—with the front of the truck nosed down into the road ditch and the radiator slammed up against the ditch bank on the far side.

One lady that he courted for quite a while was a local school teacher named Miss Marita Plunkett.  She was especially nice but did not have access to a car of her own.  Hence Uncle Sid did not spend too much quality time with her.  When he would return from a date with Miss Plunkett he would drop his used condoms at the yard gate.  Frances would go out the next morning and dig a hole and bury the offending items so her kids would not find them.

One time Miss Plunkett and Sid came by the house and came in to visit for  a while before going off on their date.  Our family had spent the day shopping in Greeley.  Unfortunately when Kenneth was sent back to close the kitchen door that he had left wide open an old hen had already wandered into the kitchen.  Kenneth did not notice the chicken and slammed the door shut.  Several hours later when Doyle and family returned from Greeley, the hen had spent her time roosting on the cot in the living room and doing as all good hens do—pooping on the bed.  Frances chased the hen out but failed to check for damages. 

Bobby and I were already in bed on the cot when Sid and Miss Plunkett arrived so Miss Plunkett, being a very mannerly person, came into the living room to say hello to Bobby and me.  She sat down on the foot of the bed and leaned over with her hand resting on the covers.  It was rather dark in the room and Miss Plunkett kept sniffing at the air and trying to hold a straight face.  The next morning was when Frances found that the bed covers were covered with chicken poop!   We never did find out if Miss Plunkett got any on her skirt or hand—but judging from her continuous sniffing the air she had to have smelled the chicken poop.  Frances was mortified!

When a lady would tell Sid that she was married and hands off, Sid would inform the lady that she was much too pretty to be married, and the lady would usually have an affair with Sid.  Flattery will get you everywhere. 

One morning Sid was still asleep in the “north” bedroom when Frances told Kenneth and me to come see something.  Sid was facing toward the wall and the covers had come down to his waist and his entire bare back was exposed.  I could not believe what Sid’s back looked like.  His entire back was one huge scar from burning.  Seems he had been scalded by a boiling teakettle when he was a kid and then again by a mortar shell during the war.  He must have suffered terribly from those injuries.

Uncle Sid related this incident about the war injury to our family himself.   For a long time after he was wounded in battle, Sid was totally helpless.  They kept him strapped down to the bed to keep him still while he healed.  For some reason Sid was kept totally naked during this time.  Perhaps to expedite healing.  Anyway, he said that one day a new nurse came in and whisked back the covers in preparing to change the sheets.  When the covers came off there lay a totally naked man bound hand and foot to the hospital bed.  For some reason this amused the nurse and she burst out laughing and ran out and brought in several other nurses who stood around and laughed and giggled about Sid’s condition.  This really upset Sid. 

Our house was very small and there were six in the family.  We had only two bedrooms so it rather crowded us to have Sid taking up one entire bedroom.  Doyle kept finding Sid a place to live with neighbors to free up our living space a little.  One place Doyle found was with a rather dishonest bachelor fellow named Mr. Quaif.  He and Sid seemed to get along OK and Sid stayed there for quite a while.  Mr. Quaif had a car and I would imagine he let Sid use it to court the ladies.

Uncle Sid was always very nice to Doyle’s kids.  He would bring us candy and other treats from town.  He once gave me a small cedar box that he had won on the local punch board.  It had originally been filled with Hershey Bars which he very generously shared with the entire family.  I was so thrilled when he gave me that beautiful carved cedar box.  It was about the 6” by 10” and 3” deep. 

Another local family that Sid lived with was Hattie and Everett Wilson.  Everett worked for Murray Giffin and when Sid went to work for Murray, it just seemed logical for Sid to get board and room from Hattie and Everett.  They thought the world of Sid as did about everyone he encountered.  One time Sid’s shoe string broke and he bent over and tied the two broken ends back together.  This act shocked the Wilsons no end.  They always threw broken things away and replaced them with new things.

Uncle Sid eventually returned to Arkansas to live with his parents for several years before he finally go married and moved in with his new wife.  Sid was given a partial disability pension from the war injuries.  Not enough to live on as a normal person but enough to live like a bum.  I saw Sidney in 1950 and again in 1958 when I visited Addie and Elias’s home.  He was very quiet, and stood on the front porch most of the time smoking a cigarette.  He was a kind and gentle person.  


Bobby always looked more like his Uncle Sid than he did his Papa Doyle.  This eventually gave rise to a questioning of Bobby’s paternity.  One person came right out and told Frances that it was quite obvious that Frances had had an affair with Sid and Bobby was Sid’s son.  Fortunately, for Frances’s reputation, Frances and Sid had never met until after Gladys was born so that squashed the rumor quite quickly.  The accuser was Uncle Harold’s wife, Shirley.  This really ticked Frances off.


Sid was in active combat in New Guinea during World War II and got wounded very seriously.  Seems the natives would steal the dead soldier’s dog tags and sell them to the Army to account for mortalities.  Sid got a bit too close to a mortar shell and was assumed dead by the Natives who removed his dog tag and turned it in.  The Army forthwith informed Addie and Elias that their son had been killed during a battle in New Guinea.  They also sent all of Sid’s personal effects back to his parents.  When the medics checked the battlefield for survivors they found Sid nearly dead.  He was transported back to the Army hospital and was unconscious for a long period of time.  It was touch and go during this time.  When Sid finally came out of his coma he had no idea who he was or where he was.  His memory was blanked out from the trauma. 

When the day came that Uncle Sidney finally remembered who he was and told his doctor, they wrote to his parents and told them that their reported dead son was actually alive but in serious condition at an Army hospital in the South Pacific. This must have been quite a shock to his parents.

It took a long time after this before Sid could leave the hospital and be discharged and return to the US.  

When Sid was just a little kid, he and his siblings were running through the house like a bunch of wild Indians when Sid got too close to the fireplace and caught his toe in the teakettle filled with boiling water.  He flung it all over himself and  scarred quite a bit of his body.  The burns were quite serious but Addie doctored him through this.

One day Hazel came running up the path between Seldon’s house and Addie’s house all excited.  She yelled to Addie that Sid and Minnie had just got married!  Hazel was quite thrilled.  Addie was furious.  She did not like Hazel and disliked Minnie even more.  It was at this point that Sid finally moved out of his parent’s house and moved into Ozark to live with his new wife.

Robert Sidney Russell (1916-1977).