Bill Ingram (1913-1999)
William T. Ingram Jr. and his family were an important part of Cliffside’s proud heritage. Bill was the son of William Thomas Ingram and Sarah Ramsey Ingram. His brothers were Harry Ingram and Peter Hoyle Ingram; sisters were Ethel Ingram McCombs and Ida Ingram Teague. He married Jewel Christine Davis and their children are Rose Maureen (Patsy) Ingram Dothard, Billy David Ingram and Gene Oran Ingram. His son Gene wrote these recollections of his father.
He belonged to the generation that has been dubbed “The Last Great Generation” by Tom Brokaw and others, that lived through and somehow survived the Great Depression, World War II, and the sheer poverty of that time.
My earliest recollection of our father was about 1943-44, sometime in there, and I remember that he had gone into the Army, was given a short leave before reporting for duty and shipping out to Germany. This was a heck of a long time ago and it is hard to remember everything that was going on then. I do remember that Germany and Japan were the enemies of the United States and that this country was said to be fighting for it’s very existence.
Dad was 28 years of age when he enlisted in the Army, a young man but old for the service and with three children would not have been drafted. I think he felt a sense of duty to serve the country in some way during those times. Anyway he enlisted and fought in battles in Germany during the height of the heavy fighting with the Nazi’s. He wrote home frequently during the time he was over there and each kid received a letter as well has the letters that he sent to mother. I still have one that he sent me and that mother saved over the years.
I remember him leaving to ship out to Germany like it was yesterday. He and mother were walking down River Street and he was going to stop and say goodbye to Pop and Grandma Ingram as they, I believe, lived on Reservoir Street at that time. I was supposed to stay at our house but I followed them down River Street, hiding from their view, until they crossed the bridge and walked up by the Methodist Church and I turned around and went to Mama Greene’s.
Except for his letters, we weren’t in contact with him until the war was over. I do remember the day the war ended in Europe and there were cars driving up and down the road with horns blaring and flags waving, everyone was happy that it was over. The day he came home I was so excited that I put my shirt on backwards and didn’t even notice it until he got there. We had oyster stew that night, one of his favorite meals.
He did seem different after coming home. I don’t know how one could live through that mess and not be different after seeing everything that went on over there. I think it shaded everyone who saw combat and that they became harder because they had to in order to survive. He never talked to me much about his experiences and I never asked much. I do know that he was quieter when he came back and seem to hold things in, and would have bad nightmares about his time over there. Unlike today men did not have someone to talk with aside from their families, and the military could not have cared less about how they acted when they got home. He was awarded the Bronze Star and Silver Star for actions while over there. One of his old buddies who served with him in Germany said that he was fearless when in battle. I know that he was proud to have served in the military and requested that he be buried in his uniform, which he had kept for all those years.
He liked to hunt and fish and taught us how. In Cliffside there wasn’t much game around except for rabbits and fish. If anyone had ever seen a deer near there, the whole town would have been running home to get their guns. We learned to swim in the river. He taught me and my brother to swim by throwing us in the 10-foot hole. You learn fast under those circumstances. He loved to pitch horseshoes and there were always games going on somewhere on River Street.
I remember when he took me up to Forest City to get my drivers license in the old ‘51 Ford we had at the time. I passed both tests and he let me drive home. l was so excited and thought I had the world by the tail until on the way out of town, I ran a red light that I didn’t even see. He let me know in a hurry that I wasn’t quite ready to drive on my own for awhile. He managed the town team for one season around the time I got hit by a car while we lived on River Street. I got to be the bat boy that season after I recovered. That was one of the most enjoyable times that I remember. We finally moved off of River Street, from the house all three of us children were born in, and moved to 9 South Main Street, just across from the mill. I thought we were “uptown” then, because we had an inside bathroom with hot water. Didn’t have to run outside anymore in the winter or use the old slop jar. The folks lived there until they bought a home in Boiling Springs around 1960 and they lived there until their deaths. Dad was born in the month of March and died in October. Mother was born in the month of October and died in March.