TO THE WINHAM’S STORY
On July 4, 1987, my father, at a family reunion held at Bossier City, Louisiana, on the beautiful grounds of my first cousin, Charles Benjamin ’Ben’ Winham, Jr.’s home, told an interesting story. Dad told the history of the Winham Family beginning in the State of the Georgia, how the Winhams migrated to North Louisiana from there to other places. My Dad had taken notes for some time on this subject. My brother, Stephen Ray Winham, obtained the notes and typed them for posterity’s sake.
My Dad, after he finished with his story, said he hoped someone would add to it because it took some time and effort for him to write this story. I, James Rufus Winham, would like to add my own sequel to this fascinating story.
This story is true to the best of my knowledge. Although, I, on occasion do embellish at times, so forgive me if I got some of the facts not completely right. Also, my story may be out of time sequence, but I, too, am getting on up there in years. With that said, I shall begin my story.
I was born at 10:01 a.m., August the 21st, in the year of Our Lord, 1942. I was born at my father’s and mother’s house. My father was Henderson Winham, and my mother’s name was Lula Mae Kelly Winham. I don’t remember much of my early years. But I do remember some things. When I was three years old, My mother and I had been visiting someone and on the way back home, My mother lost control of the vehicle, (I don’t profess to know how) and fell out of the door and was killed. Except for a Chihuahua dog, named Truman (who hated me) I was the only one in the vehicle. I know I asked Momma to get up and turn the car back right. I remember a school bus driver by the name of Mr. Kirklin, (he probably was the first to discover the accident). He pulled me out the window, and someone, somehow, brought me to my Dad’s store. My clothes were all bloody, and someone had taken the clothes off, and put a pair of blue jeans that was too big on me, so they made a belt out of grass rope, to hold my pants up. I remember my two older brothers, George Keith Winham, and Charles Henderson Winham, both crying. That is all I remember of this episode in my life.
I remember a black lady named Minerva and my Grandma Winham took charge of me until My Dad married again.
My Dad remarried a beautiful and talented young lady, by the name of Freda Dean Anderson. She was the oldest sibling of four younger brothers; Dad needed a helpmate to take care of three boys. Freda was a brave soul. She was only seven years older than my oldest brother, George, 11 years older than Charlie, and 15 years older than me. I think, on the whole, Freda did a good job with us. We did not go to jail.
THE EARLY YEARS
My Mother had two sisters and three brothers. The favorite aunt of all the nephews and nieces was Bessie Faye Harrison. Her husband died in a car wreck and she never remarried. She had one child, Charles “Robert” Harrison. Robert served in the U. S. Marine Corps, and then went to college. I did not see Robert for quite some time. Every body loved Aunt Bessie Faye. She spent the rest of her life protecting her family. She died in 2001 or 2002 from Alzheimer’s. One of her grand Daughters, Robbie, was with her at her passing. I spent almost every weekend with her and Granny Kelly. Aunt Bessie Faye spoiled me. She made me a Durango Kid outfit and a Bat Man suit. She was always doing something for me. I cleaned the house, burned the trash, when I was old enough I mowed the grass, washed the car. I would do anything they asked me, most of the time I did before they asked me. The summer after my 10th grade, Granny Kelly died. She suffered for many years. I lived with Aunt Bessie Faye my junior year in high school. She worked for Cities Service Oil Company in Shreveport, so she moved to Shreveport on Colombia Street two blocks from Centenary College. After I graduated from high school, she helped me get a job with Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company in the mail room, at the Shreveport Office. I loved that job. Mrs. Cora Rhodes was my boss and I loved her. But Mail Room people could always move to other jobs in the company, so I was offered a job working in the Service Department. I lived with Aunt Bessie Faye most of the time I worked in Shreveport. But her company changed to CITGO, and transferred her to Philadelphia, That was a sad day in my life, I think hers also. She had never been to Yankee land, but she survived and retired, and moved to Florida. She lived two blocks off the ocean, and she enjoyed it very much.
My Mother’s other sister, was Jonoda (Noda) Booth. Aunt Noda lived in Leggett, Texas and one of my Dad’s Sisters, Aunt Velma, lived in New Willard, TX. Both sawmill towns, and about six miles apart. Aunt Noda had two beautiful daughters, Juanita and Joyce, and a son, Troy (Sonny). Aunt Velma also had two beautiful daughters, Margaret, and I have forgotten the other one’s name. But she had extremely beautiful daughters about my age. I really did love them. Aunt Velma had a son, Billy Pete. I liked him. Margaret had a son, Joseph “Howard” and a daughter, Jeanette. Howard was between Charlie’s age and my age. Jeanette took care of her mother and father in their old age and sickness until they passed. I know God has a special place for Jeanette.
George, Charlie and I used to catch a train every summer and go to Leggett. After George and Charlie left, I went by myself. We always had a good time and that was the highlight of summer.
My mother’s brothers were Joe, Charles and James. Aunt Bessie Faye, Aunt Noda, and Uncle Joe were my mothers half sisters and brother. Granny Kelly married first cousins, both named Kelly. The first husband died, and she married my Grandfather, Poppa “Rufus” Kelly (I was named for him and my Uncle James). Uncle Charlie and Uncle Jamie, and My mother were born to Rufus and Granny Kelly.
One time around Christmas, I was at Aunt Bessie Faye’s and Granny’s house. I went down to the field behind the house. I picked the most beautiful shaped pine tree. I chopped it down and dragged it back to the house. I was not big, and the tree was a lot taller than I.
Anyway, I got it to the house. Robert came out of the house, and started laughing (I loved his laughter) and said to me: “James Rufus, this house has very tall ceilings, but that tree is too tall.” Robert helped saw the tree down to size, we decorated it and I thought that was the most beautiful tree.
MY GRADE SCHOOL YEARS
This takes in account my years in the 1st to the 7th grade. My first grade teacher was Miss DeMoss; at that time she wasn’t married. She had a life-sized playhouse in her room. We could actually go in the play house and play. Every day after lunch, we were told to lay our heads on our desk. Then Miss DeMoss would crank up the old Victrolia and we would listen to fairy tales. I met my first close friend, Burnis Felton Carrington, Jr. in the first grade. We stayed close throughout my days in the Plain Dealing School system. His mother and dad, Vera and B.F., owned a café and Burnis’ sister, Joy Nell, was always fun to be around. Burnis and I spent many nights asleep in the back room of that café. B.F. died some time last year, 2005. Vera is in the nursing home in Plain Dealing. Burnis is also; he had a bad stroke many years before, and after that his wife died. He has a son and a daughter. I think his daughter comes most weekends and he goes home with her. I have never met his children. I also had another friend, Hiram Mizell. His father was the pastor of Plain Dealing Baptist Church of which my Dad was a deacon. Brother Mizell had been a Chaplin the United States Army, and decided he wanted to go back in the army, so they moved away from Plain Dealing when I was in the 3rd grade. I never saw Hiram again.
My teacher in 2nd grade was Mrs. Vallery. I liked her. I remember noticing girls at that young age. My favorites at the time were Ann and Nan Pitman. They rode the same bus as I, and I would sit in between them. They were some of the sweetest girls that I would ever know. One of them died years ago, I don’t remember which one, but I suspect that the other twin still grieves.
Then on to the 3rd grade. I was in Mrs. Ruby Purcell’s room. Mrs. Purcell was my most favorite teacher barring none. And she had the most beautiful daughter, Rebecca who was a year younger than I. I did not have a chance with her, ‘cause she was as brilliant as she was beautiful. She married a friend of mine, Edward Brandao. He was smart as a whip also. I don’t know, but I thought they made a good match for each other. Mrs. Purcell had a son, Bruce, the same age as my brother Stephen, and they got along well together. One day before school started, the boys would play leap frog over some iron posts. I did not quite make it, and tore the crotch out of my jeans. Fortunately I had a blue jean jumper and put that around my pants. Mrs. Purcell sent Burnis and me down to the basement. I took off my pants and Burnis took them to Mrs. Purcell, and she sewed them up. One time Burnis and I painted our faces like Indians. Burnis said to me when Mrs. Purcell returned to the room that he and I would say “How." I did, he didn’t. I received a little lecture for that. Another time Burnis and I, after school one day, decided to pay Mrs. Purcell a visit at her home. I think she was shelling peas. She said something about worms, and Burnis said, "I eat worms all the time." We all got a chuckle out of that. Many years ago, I don’t remember which year, Mrs. Purcell and her son Bruce got hit by a drunken driver and they were killed. I was devastated about that.
Then moving further along to the 4th grade, Miss Boggs’ room. She was a dandy. She had students go up to the black board (I think it is politically correct to call them chalk boards this day and time) and work out a problem. If the student could not do it, the student got a whipping standing by the black board in front of God and everybody else. I did not think that was fair, of course it never happened to me. While in the 4th grade, I made the greatest decision that I have ever made. Dr. W. E. B. Lockridge was the pastor of Plain Dealing Baptist Church, and whatever he said in his sermon one Sunday, it touched me and I became a Christian, by taking Jesus as my Savior that very Sunday. That is a decision that I have never regretted.
Now we come to the 5th grade, Mrs. Johnson. When special seasons would arrive, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, probably others, Mrs. Johnson would draw on all the chalk boards, with different colors of chalk, the most beautiful murals depicting that special occasion. How wondrous it was to me. 5th grade brought about new friends. Bruce Bandy, M. A. Gleason, David Kelly, who were already in the Plain Dealing School system. But Lo and Behold, a new family moved from Cotton Valley, LA to Plain Dealing. Mr. Harold Stanley opened up a new grocery store. Mr. Stanley was one of the finest people I have ever met. He had a son, Melvin Stanley, who was in the same grade as I. For lack of a better term for Melvin, he was the head instigator. Between Melvin, M. A., Burnis, David and me, with Melvin as the head instigator, we got into a lot of mischievous trouble. These friends were life long friends, even though some have died and I rarely see the rest, my life was very much influenced by these friends. Melvin also had a beautiful sister, Carol. Carol and Joy Nell Carrington and all the above mentioned friends and families had a great amount of influence on my young life, and I shall always be grateful for the influence. I started playing in the band when I was in 5th grade, and continued on through out the remainder of school.
Now we enter the 6th grade, Mrs. Alma McKinney. She was a lovely person. I enjoyed being in her class. She introduced me to the National Geographic Magazine. She would tell the students to pick out an article from that magazine. Then she taught us how to do an outline of that article. That has been beneficial to me through out the rest of my life. In her class I learned about astronomy; I was fascinated by this. Ella Sue (Wise) Lynn will tell you I have sent her many articles on this subject. So, I made it half way through school. I was happy, I think.
But along came the 7th grade, Mrs. Hudgens. That woman was a round trip. I think she was the self-appointed “Principal” for the 5th, 6th and 7th grades. When anyone in those grades got into any sort of trouble, she/he had deal with Mrs. Hudgens. I had a taste of her when I was in the 3rd grade. My brother, Charles, was in Mrs. Hudgens class. Before school one day, Charlie and I had an argument, and I snatched his home work. George Tom Powell told me to tear it, so I did. Well when Charlie was asked to hand his homework in, he did. Mrs. Hudgens asked him what happened, he told her. She sent two boys over to the third grade class, and Mrs. Purcell told George Tom and me to go to Mrs. Hudgens' room. She severely chastised us and George Tom rewrote Charlie’s homework. Of course in 5th, and 6th, and 7th grade, Melvin Stanley and I faced her wrath many times. And speaking of Melvin, when the haircut known as a “Flat Top” first became a style, Melvin and I went to Mr. Perot’s barber shop and asked if he would give us a flat top. Of course Mr. Perot was no dummy; He called Mr. Stanley and my Dad to see if it was O K. And it was. So the next day at school, we were the talk of the school. Mrs. Hudgens always had her desk facing the students. Immediately on seeing Melvin and me, she ordered us to move our desks behind her. As the day worn on, Melvin said he did not know how he did something, and Mrs. Hudgens said she knew what was wrong. He did not have any hair, and the Sun had baked his brain. 7th grade was one of my most difficult years. But all was not lost. The Plain Dealing Baptist Church had a Sweet Heart Banquet, and I had my first “date” with a very beautiful and very smart girl. I could not believe it when she accepted. This lady, in our senior class, was the Valedictorian. Of course I was a dummy, and did not know how to act with a date. I was so embarrassed, I did not think she would speak to me again. Fortunately for me, that was not the case. Rosemary Griggs, who is a sweetheart herself, never belittled me in any way. I am so proud that she went with me on my first date. I still love her for that.
And that brings me to the close of my grade years. I was so thankful.
MY FATHER, STEPMOTHER AND MY BROTHERS
Before I go to my High School Years, I would be remiss if didn’t tell something about Dad, Freda, George, Charles and Stephen. My Dad in my opinion was an important man. He also said we did not have much money. Funny, it seemed to me like we had plenty of everything, and I thought I was rich. He owned his own store, and to me he was quite successful. He was the Chairman of Deacons in the Plain Dealing Baptist Church. In Fact he wrote the 1st 100 years History of the church. He was Valedictorian of his High School Class, a Latin Scholar, and had many more accolades, but most all, he was my father, Henderson Winham, and my brothers and I loved him very much. He could be quite hilarious, but I won’t go in to that. Suffice it to say, he was a good man. He was born in August 1912, passed away in February 1988. Think about all the inventions he saw in those years. From a horse and buggy to a man on the moon.
My Stepmother, Freda, was smart as could be. She was a good mother to George, Charlie and me, but perhaps, we did not always see it that way. She was a good wife to my Dad. She has always been industrious, good housekeeper and a magnificent cook. She did not always have a easy life, but she stood the test of time. June 14, 2006, she will be 80 years old, but I think she will always seem young to me.
My Brother George Keith Winham. George had to grow up fast due to the death of our mother at an early age. George did his best to keep Charlie and me out of trouble. Later, when a child was born to my Dad and Stepmother, Stephen Ray Winham, he tried to keep him on the straight and narrow also. George has always been a dependable, good and respectable person. He is a 32nd degree Mason, and has been a Master of the Lodge. He is a Deacon (Emeritus) in his church, and licensed minister. I think he got married in 1959, to a beautiful, easy going lady, and really smart, the wonderful and wondrous, Patricia (Weise) Winham. She and George have three wonderful children, Adrian Keith, George Kevin, and Karla Ann. They are all smart, and beautiful, and I love him and all of his family. George and Pat have been an inspiration to me. Charlie and I always called George the Pillar of the Community, not in a facetious way, because that is what he was to our way of thinking.
Charles Henderson Winham. Charlie was ever the Mover and Shaker. He got more things accomplished, than most people would be able to. Charles was a 32nd Degree Mason, the Master of Teikoku #19 in Okinawa. He started some programs in that lodge that are still carried on today. I always thought he was a visionary. He married Julia Ann Williams of Mendenhall, MS. I think that Julia should be in the running for sainthood. She is very beautiful, extremely intelligent, but that does not make her eligible for sainthood; she had to put up with Charlie and me for one 18-month period of time. They have four wonderful Children, Charles Jr., recently retired from the U. S. Air Force attaining the rank of Major. Carol Roxanne, she is a sweet lady, she had some difficult times, but I think she overcome most of them. Camille Alexia (Mimi Bird). She is a cutter if there ever was one. She just oozes with kindness and friendliness. She has two children, and a wonderful husband. The Last child, of Charlie and Julia, Thomas is a smart man. He can play the piano, and lots of musical instruments. Charlie passed away February 16, 2004. He was a good man, I love him, and sad that I won’t see him until we meet at a more friendly time, in Heaven.
Stephen Ray Winham. Steve told me recently that his name on his birth certificate is Stephan. Not Stephen. But he said Stephen has served him well over the years, and he would keep that spelling. Steve is extremely brilliant. He has had three beautiful wives; the first marriage produced a sweet and lovely child, Mia Cherise Winham. His third marriage to Bettye was a good thing to happen to him. If you want to see class in a lady, just look at Bettye. George and Charlie both agree with me on that. Stephen is retired from the State of Louisiana; he was the budget director when he retired. He is working at another job now, not because he has to, but he’s just a bundle of energy.
All of my brothers have been heroes to me. I love them very much.
HIGH SCHOOL YEARS
The 8th grade was not considered High School, in fact I do not know how to classify the 8th grade in the Plain Dealing School system at that point in time. But I do know the 8th grade at the time was experimental. By that I mean, the 8th grade class moved from the high school building, to the same building as the 5th, 6th and 7th were. We were assigned to a classroom, and different teachers would come to that room. I think we had Miss Oxford, Coach Hearne, and Coach Buttry; some taught more than one class. Mr. Hearne would have us make speeches, both assigned, and not assigned. The ones that were not assigned, each student would take two pieces of paper, put two different topics and place them in a bucket. We would draw out two slips and make a two-minute speech on one of the topics. Bruce Bandy, quickly “dubbed” them “Bucket Speeches.” In 8th grade is when a girl first broke my heart, the first and only time. She had someone else to tell me, she did not want to have anything to do with me forever. That is the first time I thought I was really in love, but I survived it, barely. In band that year, we went to Miami, FL and Havana, Cuba, we really enjoyed it.
Now we are finally getting in the real High School with the 9th grade. I remember Rachel Rodgers, Mrs. Barron, Mr. Jones, and my favorite high school teacher, Mrs. Ada B. Cheshire. The one thing that stands out in my mind about the 9th grade: Mrs. Cheshire taught English I, which was the last period of the day. The very first day I was in her class, she told me to stay after school. When the class ended, I dutifully stayed. Whereupon, she took a “rubber Tubing" - that is what she called it, and commenced to hit me 5 or 6 times across my back. I asked what that was for, she told me it was because my last name was Winham and I was going to need that before the year was over. I really didn’t think much about it. As I said previously, my Dad owned a store, and every day after school I had to work. When I arrived at the store that day, Daddy asked if I got into it with Ada B. I said no, not really, I told what happened; Daddy said I got lucky because the first day he was in her class, she hit him in the jaw with her fist. She was still my favorite teacher in High School. Melvin Stanley, M. A. Gleason, and I formed a trio. We were quite good and performed all through High School. Gail Southerland on Piano and David Kelly on drums backed us up. One time we were on a Shreveport T V station. M. A. and Melvin have passed. Once we were three, and now only one. M. A. and Melvin, I miss you. The band went to San Francisco that year.
10th grade. This brings up Civics, Mr. Calvert, Physics, Mr. Harvill, English II, Mrs. Cheshire. And of course band with Mr. Jones. The band traveled to Memphis, TN that year and as usual, fun was had.
Now the 11th grade. Mrs. Rodgers, Geometry, Mrs. Phillips, English III, Miss Cornish (another one of my favorites) Typing, Mrs. Cheshire, Latin, and Band. We went back to Memphis this year.
Now our high school days are coming to the end. 12th grade. Mr. Calvert, American History, Miss Cornish, Bookkeeping, Mrs. Rodgers, Algebra II, and Mr. Jones, band. We went to San Antonio, TX. We really did have a good time there. I was in the Senior Play, “You Can’t Kiss Caroline.” I played the lead male part, and Peggy Warren, was Caroline. Mrs. Ruby Phillips directed that play. When it came time for me to “Kiss” Caroline, Peggy turned her head, and I kissed her on the cheek. Whereupon, Mrs. Phillips showed her how to kiss; she grabbed me, and planted some kind of “kiss” right on my mouth. My toes curled up. Man she really knew how to kiss. That was fun also. Then what we had been waiting for -- for 12 long years, Graduation Day. Actually, it is commencement day. Because from high school, you commence going on with your life.
LIFE AFTER GRADUATION
Welcome to the Cruel World. As I previously said, my Aunt Bessie Faye helped me get a job in Shreveport. After she moved to Philadelphia, ARKLA Gas Company transferred me to the branch office in Plain Dealing. The person working there was inducted to the U. S. Army. I really did not want to move there, but no go, no job, so I went. While living in Plain Dealing, the music director of Plain Dealing Baptist Church moved. Brother Blackwell, the Pastor asked me to take his place. I said no, I can’t do it. So Daddy comes to me and said, I was going to do that. That settled that. I am glad I did, I had fun. My life was going nowhere in a hand basket. I joined the U. S. Air Force February 25, 1963. That was an adventure. I served continuously until January 31, 1991. That was 27 years, 11 months, and 6 days. I completed basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. After that I went to technical training at an army post, Ft. Benjamin Harrison, IN. I graduated with the highest grade and was designated The Honor Graduate. After training, I was sent to Wiesbaden, Germany for three years. While there, I was on temporary duty (TDY) to Norway, and the Netherlands. I also visited Austria, Italy, France and Switzerland. I saw the Vatican and got to see West and East Berlin. I also made some life long friends: Kenneth Richter, my first supervisor, Jerry Collins, and Stanley Dolley. Stan and I attended Tech Training, went to Wiesbaden, and on to Viet Nam. When Stan’s tour was over in Viet Nam, he got out of the Air Force. These friends and I still correspond by mail, email, and telephone. While in Viet Nam I was promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant. Worked many hours. I went on Rest and Recuperation to Okinawa to visit my Brother Charles and his wonderful family. I enjoyed that very much. And then I returned to Viet Nam. The tour in Viet Nam moved fast. I did not get killed, and am thankful for that. May be when you see what I have written, my listening audience would wish I had bit the dust. So sorry.
Photo Page One (My Maternal Grandparents, My Parents, Brothers)
Photo Page Two (My Father and Stepmother, My Brothers and Wives)
Photo Page Three(My Wife, Brenda, James Rufus Winham II, Rick and Shelley)
Photo Page Four (Rufus in the Air Force, and as a Mason)
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