Charles Ray Williamson
From the Fortress of Solitude
I was searching through the endless papers that surround the chair I sit in when scanning papers and photos and found the following three letters from young Charles Ray Williamson to his father, Charles Williamson. As far as I know, these are the only surviving letters from Charles Ray to Charles. They communicated by letter because long distance telephone calls were expensive in the late 1940's.
Charles Ray's parents (Charles Williamson and Elda Vercellino) divorced when Charles Ray was 10 years old. Charles Ray and Elda lived in Lead. Grandpa Charles moved to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and taught school for a few years before moving back to Deadwood to work as a salesman for the Nash Food Company.
The first letter was written the day after Christmas, 1946. Charles Ray's parents were newly divorced. He was ten years old. The letter is faded and difficult to read. I typed it below the document for ease in reading. The "?" indicated words I can't make out.
December 26, 1946The last sentence of the letter above is very typical for divorced families. The child was caught between parents.
Lead, South Dakota
Dear Dad I had a very nice xmas. I got the skis and the two dollars. I'll tell you what I got for xmas. I got a bow and some steel pointed arrows from Uncle Maruice and Aunt Joe. I got a "?" dollar football from Uncle Ed. A Mickey Mouse film viewer from mother, a fourteen dollar coat from mother, 5 dollar sweater from mother a flashlight from "?" and some money, a "?" socks, book, 16 dollars for my bike and only 18 more dollars before I can get one. Mother has never told me not to write you or to see you.
The story of the bike continues in this letter. Charles Ray saved for the bike since Christmas. It is now April, 1947.
Elda and Charles Ray had the bike picked out from the Firestone store. The following letter was written in May 1947. Charles promised to help his son purchase the bike referred to in the letter above. The money hadn't arrived.
The story ends happily. Grandpa Charles sent Charles Ray the $20.00. Charles Ray had his first bike. He remembers it was red. He and his buddies rode their bikes all over Lead.
The last letter was written almost a year after the first, December 1947. Charles Ray was eleven years old. It seems Grandpa Charles was going to send his son a watch. Charles Ray already had one. I find it interesting the way Charles Ray signs these letters. The first one is "Love Charles". The second and third letters are signed "Your Son Charles". This final letter is signed simply "Charles".
Tomorrow, Luella's handwritten story of her life.