From Sandersville to Wallertheim
Dad was born in Sandersville Georgia on February 19th,1916. Grandma (Mama) to dad, was the second wife of Duncan Hicks who fathered 7 children with his first wife. Grandma was born Lulabelle Curtis during the last decade of the 1800′s and had an older brother (James Curtis) who moved to Springfield, Ma sometime between 1915 and 1920. In 1932 or 1933, Uncle Jim had Lulabelle send two of her sons to Springfield to work with Uncle Jim at the Kimball Towers Hotel where he was the Head Waiter, and eventually the Maitre De. My father (James Thornton Hicks) and his brother George Marion were both able to find work thanks to Uncle Jim who left the South partly because he was tired of the lynchings.
James Thornton Hicks was one of 9 children from the union of Duncan and Lulabelle. Duncan was a house painter who went to work in a horse and buggy. Dad used to say that Papa got the meat, and the kids got the grits and gravy, because Duncan needed the protein to work a full day. Dad used to say that our last name had been Bostwick sometime before he was born, and for some reason it was changed to Hicks. Why and when, he was not sure of. Sometime around 1942, Dad was drafted in the United States Army, and was shipped out with his segregated unit to fight in World War II. Dad served in the second wave of D-Day according to my mother Elisabeth Helene Beck of Wallertheim, Germany. Dad spotted mom one day walking home from her job and tried to talk with her. “I wasn’t one of those girls who wanted chocolate and nylons” said mom, and I would not give your dad the time of day. Dad was persistent, and was able to convince mom to let him walk her home, (but only part of the way said mom), because she did not want dad knowing where she lived. One day, mom came home from work, and found dad sitting in her kitchen, where she lived with her mother (Maria Mussel Beck) who had been widowed from Opa (Herman Beck) since 1931 or 1932, as Opa died of tuberculosis. “Why did you let this soldier into our house said mom to Oma?” Well, Oma said, he seems like a nice guy, and I hope that wherever your brother Gustaf (who was drafted by the German Army) is, that someone will treat him well also. Dad hired Oma to do some of his laundry, and before you know it, she was frying the fish that he and his buddies caught in a local lake.
This occured sometime in 1945, and my sister Marlis (short for Maria Elisabeth) was born
on April 15th, 1946 while dad was back state side, working to have mom and Marlis come to Springfield. Mom and dad were married in Germany, however the United States Army did not consider it legal. Through many trying years, dad and mom exchanged letters (that are in my basement), and finally with the assistance of Congressman Boland, Mom and Marlis arrived in New York on December 8th, 1948. Mom and Dad were married again on December 16th, at Uncle Jim and Aunt Glads house on 62 Alden St. in Springfield, Ma.
My brother Michael James Hicks was born on November 9th, 1949. My twin sister Stephanie and I were born January 26, 1956. Back then, mom did not know she was going to have twins, and when Dad found out he felt proud and strong. Mom said when she got home from the hospital, she handed Stef to Marlis, and me to Mike, stating now you each have the sibling you wished for. Dad passed away on June 22nd, 1973 from Colon Cancer which was ten days after I graduated from High School. But he was proud to know that Mike graduated from M.I.T., and that I would be going to Salem State College where he drove me to my interview with Arthur Gerald, Director of the then Minority Affairs Program that allowed me to come that July of 1973. Dad never met Mr. Gerald, as he was to weak to get out of the car after driving us from Springfield. Mom passed on May 15th, 2012 one day shy of her 87th birthday. Now she is smiling with Dad again, they were apart for 39 years.