Blake's Stories - Waller Family Reunion - Denmark South CarolinaThese stories were originally recorded by Lisa Shea, and then Blake tweaked them to fix inaccuracies.
Blake Waller was born in White Plains, New York, in 1956. The family moved a lot and while he was growing up they lived in Brazil, Connecticut, New Jersey, Illinois, and Texas. Blake was the third out of four children. The eldest was George (ten years his senior), then sister Becky, then Blake, then the youngest, Bruce. Blake also lived in Murfreesboro, TN, New Orleans, LA, Columbia, SC, Bamberg, SC, Denmark, SC
Blake feels he and Bruce were absolute hellions - always fighting with each other and doing wild things in the house. He thinks that they wore down both of their parents. It’s bad enough that he admits that if his kid’s did half of what he and his brother did, he would have killed them. Fortunately, Blake knew all the tricks of the trade so he could “nip it in the bud”!
While Blake's older brother George only got a dime from the tooth fairy, Blake got a quarter.
George said that his father used to play football and such with him growing up. When I asked Blake, he said no, that his dad was always off on business trips and didn't do that much. There is a difference of ten years between the two sons; when Blake was born, his father was already 38. At the age of 54, Blake understands better. The older you get the less energy you have…
George remembers holidays as being very quiet because all the relatives were off in other locations. They did do a sweep of visiting various relatives when they were preparing to head out to Brazil which was the only time in the past 62 years that he'd seen Vince (his cousin).
One time Blake and Bruce were exploring neighborhoods and found a house that was just being built and it had aluminum siding. They threw a rock at it and noticed that it made a very cool dent! They kept throwing rocks while laughing and were amazed at how they could put their initials in the siding. (Note: the Waller boys were ALWAYS throwing things) All was well until, the local cop walked up to their mom at a little league game to ask about the vandalism. Blake and Bruce were very indignant and upset when the cop claimed they also broke a window. NOT! How dare he? Just a bit of an economic indicator – cost to replace about 250 sf of aluminum siding = $175. Today = $2,000 +/-. Blake's father George found out and to Blake's surprise he wasn't as furious as might have been thought. Blake later found out that when George was little, he found a bucket of oil sitting next to the house. He threw a rock in it and saw it made a neat splash on the side of the house with a cool “pluupp” sound. So he then threw a bunch more rocks into the bucket to watch the splashes. It might appear that George had been severely punished for this oil experimentation, and therefore may have been somewhat lenient with his own sons.
George (dad) remembers the only time that his dad showed any great emotion was because of his misbehavior. George had discovered the power tools his dad kept in the basement, more specifically a wood lathe. He found out that if you set the lathe at just the right speed that it would fire a piece of wood clear across the basement and put a dent in the wall. When his dad got home George dragged him excitedly down into the basement to demonstrate his new skill. "Jesus Christ!" snarled his dad when he saw what had been going on. Majorly angry!
Blake was playing around with some friends and accidentally threw a snowball through a neighbor's screen door. The neighbor came out screaming and yelling and then went across the street to Blake’s house to complain to his dad. He thought his dad and the neighbor were going to literally get into a fist fight. So his dad reminded the neighbor that *his* fat son had nearly destroyed their clothes lines by hanging on it. So later that afternoon, Blake's dad was off in a huff repairing the screen door while the neighbor was in a huff resetting the clothes line in fresh concrete. They never spoke again. The neighbor’s name went from Mr. Hutchinson to “that loudmouth jerk”!
Blake remembered mom’s beveled glass, hand painted white light that she always threatened him and Bruce with "death" if they ever touched it. He always thought it was odd that this one lamp had such a high price on it. Then, George admitted that the very first day that mom’s new treasure - the lamps (there were originally 2) were brought into the house, he was flinging something around the dining room and broke the top off of one of them. That is what started the “death threats”. All George’s fault!
When the family lived in New York, they would regularly get deliveries from a guy who brought beer and soda. The delivery man would always yell out "Beer Man!" when he arrived. Mamaw (Jane's mother) came for a visit from Tennessee. Jane told the delivery man in no uncertain terms that he'd better yell "Soda Man" when her mother was around, because her mother was very against drinking.
Blake's mom loved cherry wood and got a tea cart made out of cherry. Blake and Bruce loved to use it as a race car, riding on top of it with the other one pushing. NOT! We would have died an instantaneous and painful death! Mom would have pled “justifiable homicide”.
Blake was told point blank by his mother, Jane, that "Waller’s didn't sing" and that there was no way any Waller had any musical talent. Until his mid 30’s, he absolutely believed that singing was not in his genes. It turns out that it was the *Warrens* (Jane's side) which didn't sing - but the Waller’s had grown up singing. If it wasn’t for Giles Salvo, the music minister at Denmark First Baptist Church, convincing Blake that in all his years of teaching music that he only had one person that truly could not sing, Blake would still be convinced that he could not sing. After that, he sang in the choir and a men’s Southern Gospel Men’s Ensemble “In Faith”.
When Blake moved to Connecticut, he found a cool new belt in one of the closet’s of the new house. It had little loops all around it for bullets and it was about 2 inches wide. He and Bruce thought this was awesome that they could bullets into a belt. Unfortunately, Jane saw it as a perfect attitude adjustment device. Many a smacks (well deserved) were delivered with it.
He still remembers the worst spanking he got. It was when the family was visiting Dad's mom Bessie. While the parents were out, Blake told his grandmother he hated her because she wouldn’t let him do something. Later he was lying on his bed with his brother and the parents came home and he could hear his grandmother telling George that "And THEN he said he hated me!" and the next thing he knew he was being spanked with a belt. It was bad enough that Bruce who normally was an adversary was coming over to ask him if he was OK.
When they lived in New Jersey, Blake remembers working hard to shovel the front walk after a big snowstorm. It was a good hard packed snow about 18” high and you could cut right angles in it making a perfect path to the door. He remembers telling his father strongly that this was way more than just 50 cent job. So… his father paid him 50 cents. Blake thinks this is when he started to understand “The Art of Negotiating”.
Blake said his mother was extremely competitive. When they got a ping pong table she warned her children, "Don't expect me to go easy on you because you're my kids. I'm going to play to win and I will beat you!!!”
Blake doesn't remember his father being into sports, beyond a few games of golf they played together.
Blake remembers his mother making a comment which led him to break up with his girlfriend in Illinois. He wonders now if it was in part because Jane was planning on moving the family again and knew a big girlfriend relationship could make the move more traumatic. (Blake said this was just a thought, he wasn’t sure about the exact timing of the break up and the date of the “we have to move” notice.)
Blake felt like a misfit when he moved (for the Nth time) from New Jersey to Illinois while he was in high school. He never really fit in with the Illinois crowd and he was picked on a lot. While the prospect of a move was pretty traumatic, it turned out that the change in location and school worked out for the best. He took a job at McDonalds in Texas and did extremely well there - realizing afterwards that he and his co-worker both had ADD which works great in the high paced environment.
Ah, with fond memories and a chuckle Blake remembers when Becky's boyfriends would show up at the door to pick her up, Blake and Bruce would open the door and ask questions like "are you going to marry Becky? Are you going to kiss her?" Finally their mom started locking them in their room when it was time for Becky to go on a date.
When Becky was about sixteen and sitting at the dinner table with Blake and Bruce and their parents she was very aggravated and asked. "Has anybody been using my toothbrush?" "Do you mean the one under the sink?" replied Blake genuinely innocent. "Yes, that's the one," she said. Blake realized this was the toothbrush he had been using to scrub his feet with because the bottoms had been all grimy. Reluctantly he admitted this. Mom and Dad joined by Bruce and Blake burst out with howls of laughter. To say that Becky was absolutely furious is a huge understatement!
One time George (his older brother) came home for Blake's birthday and had apparently forgotten to get a gift. So George found a tennis racket in the back of his car and gave that as a gift. Blake thought this was the best present ever. He only found out the truth later on. Then one of Blake's Dad's friends decided to show Blake what a good tennis player he was. He took the “new birthday present” from Blake and began to hit balls against the garage. Blake remembers the friend scooping up balls by scraping/grinding the racket along the concrete to pop up the ball and being really irate that Dad’s friend was ruining his racket. But, Blake held his tongue since he was trying to be polite. Inside, he wanted to scream at the man “Hey, my big brother gave me that racket for my birthday and you are tearing it up!!!!!!!!!!!”
One time, Becky had a boyfriend visiting from college and he wanted to impress Blake so he let Blake, who was about 15 at the time, drive his car around (a Mustang?). Then later as they were all sitting down to dinner, Blake proudly told everyone that Becky’s boyfriend had let him “drive the car!”. The parents were very upset at that.
When Blake was a teenager, his father George was adamantly against him wearing bell bottom pants because they looked too girly. Finally Jane (Blake's mother) had to tell him that there simply were no other style pants for sale in the store and that they had to get him bell bottoms to get him new pants. Blake finds this very ironic given how George stood up for his sister wearing skorts (a skirt with hidden divided legs) when Dot's parents were adamantly against seeing a girl in anything even remotely resembling pants.
Blake remembers Aunt Dot's eldest child, Beth, driving George and Dot's mother down from Illinois and during the whole ride apparently Beth was partaking in herbal inhalations while her grandmother was sitting next to her. George was smoking mad (pun intended?) about this. Then Beth started announcing to the family at dinner that she thought it would be cool to be the madam of a bordello. She was asked to leave the house. When we asked Aunt Dot what Beth was like, if she was the wild child, she said no, that Steve was always the wild child. Vince chimed in that Beth was the free spirit who liked to hike around everywhere and hitchhike across the country.
Blake remembers his father being a very tell-it-like-it-is guy who was not shy about calling someone an idiot in a business meeting or shooting down ideas. He really upset one guy, John Bonner, by doing this. John was a Vice President and caused many problems for George over the years. But vengeance is sweet. George had written an accounting program that did financial audits of construction activities. Years after George retired, the software helped catch his business nemesis, stealing tens of thousands of dollars which caused John to be fired. George was always proud of this and loved telling the story.
Mamaw would talk adamantly against any drinking - but when she was in the hospital it was rumored that someone was smuggling in wine to her. Also, someone else thought she was drinking Jack Daniels too at the time. Also that she loved Coca Cola in the days it had cocaine in it (before 1903, Coca Cola had up to 5oz of coca leaf per gallon of syrup). NOT SURE ABOUT THIS ONE…
Blake's first wife went with him to a family get-together where they all played Pictionary. She commented afterwards that that was one of the most intense, competitive games she had ever seen. Blake and the family would get loud and boisterous when “crushing” each other in the game. (It was all Jane’s fault since she raised her children to know “I WILL NOT HOLD BACK!”)
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