Here, gathered in our beloved South Dakota, are a few members of our Williamson / Mattson Clan. Charles and Luella are to be blamed (be kind, they didn't know what they were doing). We're generally a happy bunch and somewhat intelligent (notwithstanding our tenuous grasp on reality). I'm also proud to say that most of us still have our teeth.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Williamson and Mattson Children. Rapid City and Spearfish.

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Hello Family,
Gather around and hush up, its time to get together in another virtual reunion to visit, ponder, reminisce and chuckle at a few treasures pulled from the yellowing, cracking pages of yet another of Grandma Violet's photo albums.

Scanning pictures from aging albums can be a tricky exercise, especially old albums with sticky pages covered by a sheet of clear plastic. Over the years the photos cement to the sticky pages. Surgery is the only way to separate them. Someday I'll post a picture of me in full surgical garb operating on one of these pages with scalpel and tweezers. If I'm not careful I can rip a picture with one tug, sending a beautiful pristine image to an early death.

Today we will walk down Memory's There and Back Again Lane to the late 1960's. The place, South Dakota (yes it was a part of the United States back then and no, contrary to what you may have heard, we lived in a real house with indoor plumbing and electricity). We will make two stops during our stay. 1. Rapid City and the home of the Williamsons at 2214 38th Street. and 2. Spearfish at the home of John and Beverly Mattson.

We start with the eldest of the six Williamson children in residence. Kim Williamson (now DelGrosso) was 12 years old when this picture was taken in September 1969. Notice how perfect. Notice the posture. Notice the smile. Notice the hair. Luella actually took her time with Kim's hair. The rest of us got the tale end of her patience on hair cuttin day, and believe me that is not where you wanted to be when Luella was holding sharp clippers.

Anyone passing the house on hair cuttin day would have heard lots of "Oops!" then screams then slaps on exposed thighs (her "giving us something to cry about") then more screams because she'd actually carried through with her threat and given us 'something to cry about', then the inevitable "Live with it," to shut down any further objections to the crop circle she'd executed on your scalp.

Did the Princess ever have to wear a cap for a month or so to hide the train wreck hidden underneath her cap? No.

I give you Princess Kim, the darling of the family, practically perfect in every way...........

Now guess, who was lucky enough to follow Madam Kim in the birthing order?

Me! This is Me in September 1969. I'm eleven years old. It seemed Fortuna, the Goddess of Fortune and Luck had it in for me from the moment I was born. Notice the glasses. I got them in 4th grade. Who gets glasses in the 4th grade!? Mind you, they are good lookin for 1969.

Aw, who am I kiddin. Let me tell you about those glasses. I got marched into Standard Optical in Rapid City and told to sit down while Luella surveyed the wall of frames for something she could afford.

"Got anything made of tin foil?" she asked the optician. The optician laughed.

"How about frames made of pipe cleaners?" he chimed in not realizing Luella wasn't joking about the tin foil.

"Good Grief," I sighed and sat under a table.

"These are all too expensive," she pronounced after a two minute ponder. "No glasses for you. Tell the teacher you need to sit in front of the chalkboard and stay in from recess so you don't get hit in the head with a ball."
She took my hand to leave. The optician stopped her.

"Lady, I've got some hand me down frames. Would you like to see them?" He pulled out a box of used glasses kept under the cash register. The box was labeled, "For the Unfortunate Dakota Children. Love, Your Friends in Africa". He handed me the pair you see in the picture above.

"Those glasses once belonged to a Swahili Chief," he said. "He was very brave. He killed many lions and tigers and bears."

"There are no bears in Africa," I replied.

"Well, Giraffes then." He was frustrated.

"If these were his glasses, then why do I have them? What happened to him?" I asked.

"A lion got him. Didn't see it coming, did he?"

"Good Grief," I said looking through the crooked glasses. I suddenly felt very much like Charlie Brown.

By the way, go back and look at what I'm wearing in the picture. That shirt is 100% polyester. It snagged every time someone sneezed within 4 feet of me.

Notice I'm a few pounds overweight? My five brothers and sisters were bone skinny. What happened to me?

I wasn't stupid. I knew we didn't have a lot of money. I knew every meal might be our last for several days. I was a survivalist. I realized eating a few extra calories when food was available might be the difference between living to the next meal or starving to death under a pile of clothes in the jungle we called The Utility Room. If it was in the cupboard and eatable, I ate it.
It was "Every Man for Himself!" at the dinner table in our family. I was not going to go hungry, especially if I was the only one who had to wear glasses, and that's for damn sure.

Kevin Williamson, 8 years old in September 1969

Kevin Williamson, 9 years old. September 1970

Kevin came next in the birth order. Notice he got school pictures two years in a row. What's up with that? I got a school picture in 1969 and another when I graduated from High School in 1976 (and I had to pay for that one myself!).

Notice his hair in both. Didn't I tell you Luella and clippers were a dangerous combination when her patience was "shot to hell". You could tell what kind of hair cut you were going to get on Hair Cuttin Day (which came the day before bath day) by looking into her eyes. If her eyes were normal, you might walk away with a hair cut that let you blend in with the other home hair cut kids who sat in the back of every classroom in the 1960's.

If Luella's eyes were partially blood shot then the sides might look OK but the top might come out lopsided (a sneeze of hair on one side of the head, and a mop on the other). This wasn't good for Kevin because he loved to run. A lopsided top meant extra hair on one side of his head. The extra weight caused him to run in large, wide circles. Very amusing to the rest of us, especially at supper time.

"Kevin, its supper time. We called you and you didn't come. There's hardly anything left!"
Imagine a kid with a lopsided hair cut, running in large circles trying to get into the house before all the food was gone? Ah, those were good times.

If Luella's eyes were completely blood shot then there was no hope. You either ran away as fast as your little legs could carry you our you resigned yourself to a fate worse than death.

In case you were wondering, boys buttoned their dress shirts all the way to the top back then. I don't know why, but we did.

Finally, notice the large gap between Kevin's teeth in the 8 year old picture? I thought I'd point that out.

This is 6 year old Janice Williamson (now Burrows), Canyon Lake Elementary's Little Miss Congeniality in 1969. She nearly drove the photographer to drink.

"Smile," he'd say. Janice sat motionless, staring blankly into the camera.
"Come on honey. Give us a smile."
"I am," Janice responded in a monotone voice.
"Think of something happy," Janice's teacher suggested hoping to get her off the stool so the line of waiting children would start moving.
"What have I got to be happy about?" Janice was our optimist. Never a dull moment around her.

I'd like to point out something interesting. If you look closely at Janice's picture (click on the picture to enlarge if you want) you'll notice the faintest sign of a smile on both corners of her mouth. In my humble opinion, this picture of our sister Janice was the photographer's Mona Lisa.

Look, the smile is the same! That vacant, "no one is home" look is THE SAME! This picture of Janice is pure gold. It needs to be properly framed and donated to a local museum so future generations can admire it's beauty and hidden, very hidden qualities.

By the way, Luella's eyes were completely blood shot on the day Janice got her 'Picture Takin Day' hair cut and bath. Janice survived the ordeal. Her secret was the dress. Notice the hypnotic pattern of geometric shapes and colors? The dress kept people's eyes away from her face and hair. The dress mesmerized them. She wore that dress off and on until her graduation from High School.

6 year old Jonathan Ray Williamson in 1969

7 year old Jonathan Ray Williamson in 1970

Janice's twin. Our brother Jonathan also got his picture taken two years in a row. Is it just me or does it look like Jon didn't age that year?

Jon and Janice were opposites. Janice made a great place holder if you ever needed someone to keep your place on the couch while you went to the bathroom. Jon was full of personality and cheer. He loved strangers and spoke to them whenever he had the chance.

"Where's Jonathan," mother would ask at 11:00 P.M.
"He's outside talking to another stranger," we'd reply, and he most likely was.

Strangers gave Jonathan the love and attention he didn't get from the rest of us, being the kid stuck in the middle of a large family of six children. Of course in those days strangers weren't as dangerous as they are today. Besides, we all carried pocket knifes and could kill, skin and cook a bear in one hour - no problem. Remember, we're talking about South Dakota. You never knew if an Indian would break into the house and try to get you to part with your scalp in the middle of the night. Everyone carried some kind of weapon (Dad had his 22 pistol. Luella had her clippers).

Jon usually fell asleep in front of the TV late at night. Waking him up for bed was the family's real entertainment for the night.

"Jon, get up!" He wouldn't move.
"Jon, wake up!" Jon would sit up and look blankly around the room. "It's time for church. Mom's waiting for you in the car. Hurry."

Jon did just what you told him to do. He went outside in the winter at 10:00 P.M, opened the door of the Rambler, got in and sat - waiting for mom to take him to church.

Life was good in those days.

Jilane Williamson (now Bodily) was the youngest in 1969. She was five in the picture above. She needed glasses because of her wandering eyes. I believe her glasses came from the Swahili Chief's wife.

Because of her wandering eyes, you never knew who she was looking at. One eye pointed north while the other pointed south. She made an excellent compass if you ever got lost in the woods. For many years Jilane thought our family was composed of twin dads, twin moms and 12 brothers and sisters. She thought she had a twin double because of the double reflection she saw whenever she looked into the mirror. She spoke to her twin for many years. The neighbors suggest we institutionalize her. She had surgery to correct her vision when she was young. She was traumatized by the loss of her double.

Poor Jilane, she was always the last to get her hair cut. She was young and it really didn't matter what she looked like.

We called her Tootie back then. UNDER PAIN OF DEATH AND DISMEMBERMENT DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, CALL HER TOOTIE TODAY. She will kill you, then hunt down your children, grand children and will stay alive out of sheer spite to get your great grandchildren.

I wish we would have kept those glasses. I'd pay real American money to get them back if they ever turned up on Ebay or something. Priceless, that's all I can say.


The following pictures were taken at the home of John and Beverly Mattson when they lived in Spearfish South Dakota. The home used to belong to Grandma and Grandpa Mattson.

Uncle John Mattson and 5 month old Gina.

2 year old Kirk Mattson entangled with 6 month old Gina.
Gina knew how to handle herself then and that hasn't changed one bit today.
To this day, Kirk still stays at least one arm's length away from Gina.
She never forgets a wrong done. Never.

Two year old Kirk and 6 month old Gina in their Spearfish home's kitchen.
I remember that kitchen well. Kim and I used to spend a week with Grandma and
Grandpa during the summers. I loved that kitchen. It had a real automatic dishwasher!

OK Folks. That's enough for today. Thanks for reading and spending some time down 'There and Back Again Lane'.


Sir Thomas Chamberlayne, Ambassador to Spain from the English Court

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove.

Hello Williamsons!
A short historical footnote about our 10th Great Grandfather Sir Thomas Chamberlayne. Sir Thomas was the English Ambassador to Spain during the reign of Henry VIII, his son King Edward and his half sister Queen Elizabeth. This put him squarely in play during the tulmulchious reign of Henry VIII as he quarrled with many of Europe's crowned heads and the Pope over border disputes and of course, marriage.

There is one letter from our 10th Great Grandfather that survives today. He wrote this letter to Henry VIII's son King Edward and the Privy Council (the King's Cabinet) in February 1553. The letter is diplomatic in nature and written in the English of the day. You'll find it difficult to read and understand, nevertheless an excellent document to have in our family history. The letter is below.


Relationship Chart

10th Great Grandfather
Sir Thomas Chamberlayne and Elizabeth Luddington
Edmund Chamberlayne adn Grace Strangeways
Edmund Chamberlayne and Eleanor Coles
Thomas Chamberlayne and Mary Wood
Rebecca Chamberlayne and John Williamson
Cuthbert Williamson and Elizabeth Allen
(?) Cuthbert Williamson and Susanne White
Matthew Williamson and Selina Dandridge Jeffries
George Matthew Williamson and Margaret Ann Willis
William Jonathan Williamson and Effie Helen Victor
Vennie, Ima, Inez, Lille, Josie, Emmett, Walt, Charles and Maurice


Please your most honourable Lordships to be advertised how that since the Emperor's arrival here hath occurred no matter of moment worthy to be certified, every man attending to hear wherefore the estates of these Low Countries were called; and on Tuesday last the same were assembled in Court, where the Emperor and his sister, the Lady Regent, were present. As I do learn, his Majesty, first of all, gave them all hearty thanks for the good towardness that he had always found in them to assist him in the defence of themselves and those countries, and so told them that he had no less confidence that at this time they would be as willing to give him aid in their defence against such an enemy as the French King is, who forced him to these wars when his Majesty least looked for the same; consequently, it is said that his Majesty's sister made a like demonstration, and, as it were, a declaration how obedient and willing subjects she had found them in his Majesty's absence; exhorting them so to continue.

Then, as it is told me, the President of the Estate made a certain rehearsal of the great charges the Emperor had been at in these Low Countries, giving to understand that such sums as had been levied were already consumed by the wars; reporting the same unto the Treasurer, then present, who affirmed the same, and, therewithal, the proportion for the purpose at this time, being put in writing, was by some of the Secretaries read unto the States there gathered, which, as I can learn, required for aid 6000 guilders of Brabant only, 9000 of Flanders, and 3000 of Holland, and of the other countries after like rate, whereupon the Commissioners of each country are departed home, for to make demonstration to the people, to see how the same may be levied, and so to make answer. The States of Brabant do remain here, setting about the levying of their part, which declares that the grant is made of the demand. The Spirituality, as I understand, must give the half of their revenues for this year, as they did the last; so that there is great likelihood that by this means, and by great loans made his Majesty of late in Antwerp, he shall want no money to make the French King a good war this summer to come, which the people do wish to be better than that is past hath proved.

I am informed that knowledge is come hither of certain conclusions lately taken by the Princes of the empire, at a diet by them holden; and amongst all other, it is said that the Count Palatine is appointed to come unto the Emperor for Commissary touching the same conclusions; and to require the Emperor, in the name of the rest, to be content (considering his present weakness, and lack of power to follow the wars himself) to allow the King of Bohemia for his coadjutor in the empire; and, upon that condition, they will be content to take the wars wholly upon them that way, and seek for to make the French King restore all that he hath wrongfully usurped since the beginning of these wars, belonging to the Empire; meaning that his Majesty should but defend these Low Countries, and keep the French King occupied this way, if he think good; and for this purpose it is said that the Count Palatine is looked for to be here very shortly.

A bruit goeth that the Emperor, by some intelligence out of Italy, is in great jealousy of the Venetians, who, as I am informed, have lately made the Duke of Ferrara their General; whereof I doubt not but Mr. Morysin, by his conferences, is able to certify your Lordships more than I can. The Emperor demands of these Estates payment of the one half at the end of this next month, and the rest within four months after, for which is great care taken, because there is so little money stirring. Somewhat like to part of the afore written, here is now a bruit spread that a son of the King of the Romans doth come shortly hitherwards. Which is the sura of our present occurrences; and, therefore, I will leave to be molestious unto your most honorable Lordships, beseeching Almighty God long to continue the same in health and honour. From Brussels, the 20th of February, 1553.

Your Lordships' most bounden at commandment,

T. Chamberlayne

Sir Thomas Chamberlayne, of Prestbury, in Gloucestershire, Knight; who, having served the late King in several foreign negociations, seems to have been now appointed to succeed Sir Richard Morysin as Ambassador-Leger at the Court of Brussels. In 1559—60 he was deputed to Spain by Elizabeth in the same capacity, but was revoked in October, 1561, after which time we have no intelligence of his public life.