William Emmet PALMER, Sr

William “Bill” E Palmer Sr (31 July 1911 – 14 August 1970) was born in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. He was the youngest of four (4) children born to Willie PALMER and Mary JOHNSON PALMER. William’s mother died of typhoid fever in 1916 when he was only five years old. I have an adorable photo of him when he was around this age. Actually, he looks like he would have been about seven. He’s wearing a white shirt, a necktie and knickers. He looks so solemn and reflective in the pose, I’ve wondered if it was taken after Mary’s funeral. But he really looks older than five. It’s such a cute picture though. I’ll post it after I get it marked.

William E Palmer Sr
I would love to find information on his elementary education. But he, along with my mother, was a member of the first graduating class (1931) of Roosevelt High School in Gary, Indiana. He was a member of the football team. I think he also took the Woodshop Class that was offered to many of the male students during that era. After graduating, he worked in the Merchant Mill at US Steel Corporation in Gary.

He served on the Senior Usher Board (several years as President) at St Timothy Community Church. And he was noticeably moved by the hymn, “Peace in the Valley.”

He and his wife, Floretta Violet MABLE PALMER, were well-known and respected throughout the community of Gary. They gave birth to five (5) children: Violet, William, Jr., Charles, Patricia, and Donna Jeanne. (Yes, I’m the only one who was called by first and middle name.) (Link to post)

Daddy kept a very handy pocket knife on him at all times. He had so many uses for that knife. If I was doing homework or a crossword puzzle and my pencil lead got dull, he would flip that knife open and whittle until my lead was sharp again. When the watermelon truck came; and he wanted to “plug” a melon to check for sweetness, out came the knife. I smile as I think of the many apples he peeled for me with that same knife that he had used for who knows what. After he finished with whatever the task was, he just swiped each side of the blade once on his pants leg, flicked it closed and dropped it back in his pocket. Even today, when I peel an apple, I try to keep the peel in one long strip as he sometimes managed to do. Just that simple action would cause me the greatest delight.

Daddy started early preparing my brothers for manhood. Both Billy and Charles, had paper routes for as long as I could remember. Even doing his shift-work at the Mill, he made sure they were up bright and early to complete their routes before school. The papers came flat; and they folded them into thirds in such a way that they would stay folded when they pitched them onto the porches of their customers. They kept the folded papers in these heavy canvas bags that they slung cross-body over one shoulder. I remember Daddy helping them with all that. And Thursday was “collection day.” I didn’t think much about why Daddy accompanied them to collect payments from their customers. I did have the reasoning ability to think he was making sure customers paid. In retrospect, there may have been a “peer element” he was protecting them from as well. My Daddy . . .

I’ve given him the term, “plaid-collar worker” because he wore plaid shirts to work. Not the flannel kind — the cotton kind. I knew he changed into work clothes (maybe a long-sleeved jumpsuit) and showered before changing back into his street clothes to come home. He got dirty at work; but he came home clean. To this day, I have the highest regard for a man in some dirty work clothes. And I consider his wife and kids blessed. He wore a sweatband on his forehead that was no more than a yellow sponge with a thick rubber band woven through it. Today, I would be like, “Dude, you gotta be kiddin’. I don’t know WHERE he bought those things.

Of course, he cherished my sister and me. But he was overprotective with me — “the baby” — and, somehow both he and my mother managed to spoil me rotten. I guess this is as good a platform as any to share the poem I wrote about him at the age of 26 — six years after his passing at the age of 59. I’ve held on to this poem for almost 40 years and can still recite it verbatim. But, since I’m a little on the obsessive side, I can’t just throw the poem out there. I have to pretty it up, which I’ll try to do this weekend. (I’m actually headed for the library right now.) I only had my Daddy for 20 years. But you can see the lasting impression he made on me.

For the benefit of my descendants, updates to this page will be made throughout my research.

4 thoughts on “William Emmet PALMER, Sr

    • You’re so right, Cathy. So you know exactly how precious the memories are. And they are as vivid as ever. And that knife . . . oh, wow. I sometimes laugh when I think about the possibilities that exist today for cross-contamination. But not back then — a simpler place and time.

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    • Glad you like it. You would’ve liked my Daddy. He wasn’t an outdoorsman like you; but he had the survivalist instinct — with a little swag thrown in for good measure. You picked up some of the swag too. 🙂


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