Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lonnie Cletis Bernhardt

Lonnie Cletis Bernhardt the son of Jacob Alphonso Bernhardt was one of 4 siblings: Lonnie was the oldest, then came Gussie, then Allie (“Al”), then Raymond and finally the youngest was Lillian. The only living descendants are from Lonnie and Al, as the rest either did not have kids (Gussie and Raymond) or all the children are gone (Lillian lost her girl at the age of 2 and her son Billy Thomas at midlife).

Al had one child (Shirley Bartlett) who now has grandchildren. But the rest of the descendants from Jacob Alphonso are all from Lonnie.

Jacob Alphonso, the father  (my grandfather), and his wife Ada (formerly Ada Meisenheimer) seemed to never get along. After being married a few years, they split up but didn’t divorce. Jacob Alphonso then went to live in a rail car at the Spencer Shops. People tend to think that his wife, Ada, was bi-polar although that term wasn’t even invented at the time. But her mood could be really up or really down, and when it was down, she could be a real nagger. On the other side, Jacob was the youngest of the kids from Laura Elizabeth Davis (JC Bernhardt’s first wife) and I learned from my aunts and uncles that he was doted on (some say “petted” too much) and thus was used to having his way. So it seemed that this union was doomed from the git-go.

The two eventually got back together and lived in a house in the city of Salisbury, beside of the residence where Ernest Theophilus lived. Uncle Ernest’s house is still there but the house where my grandpa and grandma lived is long gone.

Ada’s brother, Al Meisenheimer, had a farm on what is now St. Pauls Chruch Road. Al used to come to Salisbury to sell livestock and vegetables. My dad decided that he did not want to stay in his own house since his mom and dad fought all the time, so he followed Al all the way out to Town Creek one day as Al was heading back home. Al picked him up and put him in the wagon and my dad never went back home until he was a teenager. So Lonnie was actually raised on the Meisenheimer farm. My father wasn’t close to his dad, but I don’t think he hated him. Dad seemed to be able to see both sides in his parent’s arguments.

Later on, Jacob Alphonso and his wife split again and this time they divorced. Surprisingly Jacob never learned to drive a car until after he was divorced. He would take the trolley car to work (at Spencer) and back, and everything else he needed was close by in the city. But after the two split for good, Jacob Alphonso got his driver’s license and moved to South Carolina. He went to live in a boarding house.

Before he left Salisbury, Jacob Alphonso got my dad, Lonnie, a job in the Spencer Shops when my dad was only 17. Grandpa Jacob himself was a boilermaker at the shops. I had heard my grandpa talk many times of how you would take a flat piece of steel, drill holes in it, then curve it into the shape of a cylinder, rivet it together and then construct the boiler tubes. Since the Spencer Shops were a complete overhaul facility, they had a separate boiler building which meant that the shops were quite a big operation. 

Story told by Oleba Bernhardt Sebastian

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