by Les Moore
To my children and my children’s, children’s children.
I dedicate this journal to you who have known me and to those of you who are yet to be born. May all of you who have my blood and the blood of your mother and grandmother flowing in your veins be guided in some way by our successes and cautioned by our mistakes. It is a long and sometimes treacherous journey that you all must walk.
I am now in my 70th year and am closing in on my final destination. My family has been my life force. I have been fortunate far beyond any man I have ever known. I had the love of my life for near 50 years and the best children a man could ask for. What a wonderful blessing God has bestowed upon me. Yet, with those gifts, comes the ever fears, that you, my children must face. I pain for your future. The world we now live in, and the world that I see that you will walk, shall be hard. I write these words and hope that in some ways, maybe, you will learn from my life, and the pain that will surely come, may be eased.
MAY God Bless
And keep you all
Leslie Thomas Moore
11 – 05 – 1940
House of Providence Hospital
14 Avenue and W. Grand Blvd.
Asylum for the insane!
What a hell of a start?
How About Tomorrow
I don’t know about tomorrow,
I just live from day to day.
I don’t borrow from is sunshine.
For the skies may turn to gray.
I don’t worry o’er of the future
For I know what Jesus said
And today I walked beside him
For He knows what lies ahead.
Many things about tomorrow
I don’t claim to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.
Written by my mother.
Zella Mae Moore
1919 – 2001
Our first home
26938 Ann Arbor Trail
When I was a boy.
With Jackie and Don.
Way to the woods.
We would run
And we built us a raft.
And we sailed the pond.
Near the river.
In the Valley of the Sun
My dear children, let me tell you a story, the story of my life. Legend has it, that it was once a footpath, from somewhere in what is now called Dearborn, to the Huron River, near what is now called Ann Arbor. The Indians that once lived in the forests that surrounded what is now called Detroit, used the Ann Arbor trail as their main route to access the camp’s that were scattered throughout the area.
When my family moved to the small frame house at 26938 Ann Arbor Trail in 1945, the Indian trail had become a two-lane gravel road with only six houses spread out from Inkster Road to Beach Road. It was about a 3 mile stretch.
My father had moved us from the brownstone on W. Grand Blvd. in downtown Detroit, so his sons would have a better life. He did not want us to grow up in the city, like he did. He bought the house from the farmer who lived next door, a Mr. Henry Roloff. Mr. Roloff had built the house, and it had been used as a sharecropper’s house before we bought it. It was a two-story two-bedroom one bath over abasement and an unfinished attic. A coal fed furnace heated us in winter.
My brothers and I slept in a small second bedroom on a double bed for about three years before my sister Mary was born. We were then moved upstairs to the attic, where there was no heat, in the same double bed. We were then moved upstairs to the attic, where there was no heat, in the same double bed.
When we first moved into the house. It had no running water. There was a cistern in the basement. And there was a hand pump on the kitchen sink that would draw water from the water stored in the cistern you could not drink the water from the sister because it was rainwater that was collected from the rain gutters that surrounded the perimeter of the roof.
We had to haul drinking water by the bucket from old man Rolof.s, well over behind his chicken coop. there was an electric pump in the basement that supplied water for the toilet but it was always breaking down. I got my hand caught in that pump one time and I still have a crooked pinky finger on my left hand to prove it.
We were standing along the gravel road behind the stand of cement blocks and an old board that we had found three brothers trying to sell some works. It was late summer 1947, it had rained that morning and we decided not to build upon because the grass with the wet. So we went to the Willow Grove. That was just beyond the apple tree where we had very black yardarm. The best worms in Michigan. Lived in the bar were these magnificent willows group. It was easy for us as the earth was so soft and abundant with giant crawlers.
There was Jackie and Don and my name is less, they called us the Moore boys. We were about 10 months apart. It was a time that cannot really be expressed in words. I think of those days with reverence, because they were so innocent. It was mama and daddy and us was our world.
At that time in my life. I had not a care in the world. I was seven years old. I had the woods upon the river and a new dog named Susie. Every day was adventure. My daddy used to take me hunting with him on Sunday mornings that was the only day he had off from the Packard motor car Company factory.
I once saw him shoot a pheasant on the fly with a single shot 22, to this day I am still in all of that shot. I am an avid hunter and a very good shot, but that shot was incredible.
Everybody likes to brag about their old man but let me tell you I had the best. Jack Ralph Moore was in a word salesman, but he didn’t become that until he broke away from the factory. He hated his job at the factory so bad that they called him, lightning, because he moved so slowly.
Zella Mae Wellman was in a word, mother but she was always that. If ever a boy needed a woman to love him it was I. And she was always there. I know you read about other mothers, but it is impossible that they could have been like her. She was always a saint in our eyes. She was the boss and daddy did what she said.
He could be roaring drunk, but all she had to say was “Jack” and he would become a little puppy. My old man was no pushover. Probably next to Bobbie Werstine he was the toughest guy I ever knew. I remember he took me with him one night, on the pretense of a job or something like that. We told momma. We ended up at the Trail Inn, this joint was a bar on Ann Arbor Trail in Nankin Mills. It was so long ago, there were guys in there with uniforms on. From the Second World War.
Me and the old man were sitting at a table by ourselves, and this soldier at the next table says something to my dad, the guy gets up walks over to our table. He grabs my old man’s beer and starts to drink it. My dad looks over at me and says, did you see that, he hit’s the guy so hard he flies over the table and lands on the floor, his hat fall straight down off his head and lands on our table. My dad picks up the hat, stuffs it in his pocket, and we leave. He that hat for years and it was our secret. God I worship him. He was everything I ever wanted to be, He was so damn smart. He used to tell me when you know you’re right, you fight, never back down, but use your head be smart.
Years later when he was old and I was older. I would ask him about this incident and he would claim he didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.
After he died. I found the hat in the bottom of one of his drawers. I took it out and burned it while they were burying him. I know that’s what he would have wanted.
Mama has always been there. She is a rock. My dad always called her the pick of the litter. She was the backbone of the Wellman family. Next to my grandmother. She is the most determined woman I have ever known. Nothing fazes are at least she never shows. She made my dad become what
he became. I was there and saw it happen. With grace and wisdom. She molded this high school dropout into one of the best salesman that I ever saw. I say this because I’ve seen the so-called best. I’ve been a salesman most of my life working for some of the hardest sells there are, my old man wrote the book of hard-sell. A hard-sell is what’s called intangibles, something you can’t put your hands on, memberships to club’s and in the end he was selling cemetery property, plots for graves. He was the best they ever saw, this guy was breaking 140-year-old records for cemetery property when he was 72 years old. The people at Rose Hills told me that they would send spies to follow him to see how he did it. They would ask him his secrets and all he would say is, all it is, is luck.
Near the end he bought his close at thrift stores and dressed like a bum.. He drove a beat up pile of junk. But when he died he was worth over half a million dollars. He left mama with no financial worries. It was like he dictated his life. When he died, it was instantaneous. The paramedics told me he was dead before he hit the floor.
I remember one time I suggested to him that he ought to write a book on selling. He looked at me like I was out of my mind. He said for what, to give away all my secrets. And I said no, just maybe, you will help some poor struggling salesman who will read it. He looked at me over the top of these junk glasses that he had probably found and said, “don’t tell them nothing, if they want advice, sell it to em.”
He was a different breed. A man from a generation long past. A generation that was, and will never be again. He was the kind of guy that would stop
his car in the middle of a block, get out and walk over and had some bum sitting on the curb, a five dollar bill and when they pass the plate at church. He would put in a quarter.
He hated mooches, he couldn’t stand a man that didn’t work. He worked me and Jack like grown men. I used to think he was trying to kill me, or I should say, work us to death. The early years were tough but after he finally hit the jackpot. He backed off.
The shiny new car stopped in a cloud of dust in front of the stand that the boys had made, a tall, slim man with snow white hair, got out of the passenger side of the car. He stood for a moment and mopped his brow with a clean white handkerchief and looked down at the boys. How’s business. The old man asked the boys you going fishing. Mr. Jackie said to the man? Well, son, he said I’m heading up to Nankin Mills, but I don’t think I’ll have much time to fish we got some real beauties here. Mr., we just dug them this morning.
The old man motioned to the younger man who was driving the car, he didn’t say a word, but nodded toward the rear of the car. The driver walked to the back of the car and opened the trunk and took out a bag of oranges. The old man offered each boy in orange. He said I’ll give each of you fellas and orange for a can of those crawlers. The boys looked at each other and all shook their heads at once. $.10 a can. Mr. that’s our price. The old man looked at his companion and smiled, he asked the boys what their daddy did. They all answered together, he works at Packard Motor Car Company. The old man held his hand to his face to cover the smile that had appeared.
The old man wiped the band of the straw hat. He held his hand with the white handkerchief and motioned to his friend that it was time to go. He looked down at Donald, who was the youngest of the three and held out his hand. Donald picked up the biggest can on the stand and handed it to the old man. The old man reached down and patted Donald on the head and put something in his shirt pocket. He slowly climbed back into the shiny new car and rolled down the window. He didn’t say a word to the boys. He just sat there looking deep into their eyes like he was trying to tell them something. Finally, after the longest time he smiled and gave a faint wave and with a nod to his friend, the shiny new car disappeared up the dusty gravel road forever.
What did he give you the brothers wanted to know? Its mine cried Donald as he ran for the house and the protection of mamas willow switch. They caught him before he got to the steps and wrestled him down and got the brand-new five dollar bill out of his pocket. Before they could get away, grandmother had come around the corner of the house. In response to the screams of young baby Donald. Grabbing both older boys by the ear. She dragged them up the stairs onto the front porch and into the living room of the modest frame house that had been home for almost 3 years.
Mae, she cried, they’re beaten up on this baby again. Referring to me and Jackie. But mama, we pleaded, part of its hours. Part of what mama said. Jackie then told her the story about the old man in the shiny new car and the oranges and the worms. We left out of the part about five dollar bill
baby Donald started screaming about his dollar. He didn’t even know was a fiver? I had the bill rolled up in my mouth and was trying to act like I didn’t know what he was talking about when my grandmother slapped me on the back of my head, causing me to spit it out on the floor.
Mama slowly unravel the wadded up bill and sat there staring at it in disbelief. Five dollars to this family in those days was enough for food for a week. Where did you get this? She asked with fire in her eyes. The old man gave it to us, we cried. He bought some worms from us, he wanted to trade for oranges, but we told him, $.10 a can. Like you said mama. Tears welled up in her beautiful blue eyes and she gathered her boys around her for hugs and kisses. You did well. She said to her sons. You boys go and play and daddy will take you to Dotson’s for pop an ice cream when he gets home from work.
It was some months later while walking through the kitchen there, lying on the table, I saw his picture. I stopped and looked at the newspaper. My dad had left before he went to work. There he was the old man that had bought our worms. It was a very big picture beneath the very big words. Henry Ford dead. It was April 7, 1947. I shall never forget that day.
It wasn’t until years later that I fully understood the magnitude of those headlines. All me and my brothers knew at the time that the old man had stopped along our dusty road and spent a small portion of his unbelievable life with us, and had shown us his kindness, was dead.
I showed the picture to mama and told her that was our friend, who had bought the worms for five dollars, but I don’t think she believed me, I was always stretching the truth back then, and I suppose she thought I was at it again. But it didn’t matter. I knew it was him. He had that same look in his eyes, in the picture, that he had sitting in his shiny new car as he waved goodbye to us. I’ve often thought about the old man I’ve read much about him. There were those who hated him and called him a crackpot and there were those who called him a genius. But one thing I know for sure, I could tell by the look in his eyes. He was a good man.
I went to work for his company for a while, long after he died. I used to walk through his plants and look around in amazement at the accomplishments this old man achieved.
I never told anyone this story. I suppose I didn’t think anyone would believe me. But that’s okay too. Jackie and Donald I know it’s true. So does mama. And maybe, just maybe, if that other great story is true, me and Jackie and Don will be able to sit down with the old man some day and tell him what we did in this life and maybe he might have time to go fishing with us.
Down the road about a half a mile to the east lived. Elmer and Juanita Winchester Lumley. He was a retired Army artillery officer in World War I. She was a collector of antiques and a real estate broker. He owned two Pontiac dealerships and collected rare birds. Mrs. Lumley was an aristocrat she came from a very wealthy influential family of the upper crust. They were personal friends of Henry and Clara Ford, as well as most of the elite in the city of Detroit.
She was a devout Christian and was childless. They were both in their 60s, when we moved to Ann Arbor Trail. She loved children and kept as many around her as she could. She would come and take me and my brothers to her house and we would spend hours learning Bible verses. She had a young teenage girl named Jean Waldecker that she had let move-in with her because her family couldn’t afford to keep her. She was a beautiful girl that had a beautiful voice and she could play the piano very well.
Mrs. Lumley was a big woman with very long gray hair that she wore up in a bun. She was the sweetest person I ever knew. She loved me more than any of the kids that came to her home. She told me so often. In the summer we would go to her house. Sometimes every day. Working with Jean to teach us to sing and Mrs. Lumley would teach us the Bible. About a quarter of a mile down the road from the Lumley’s house was the Pinnow farm. That’s where Artie Pinnow lived.
Old man Pinnow’s family had been on that land for decades. They had about 100 acres at that time. He once owned the land that now is the Warren Valley golf course which is directly across the road from the farm.
The Lumley house was over 100 years old at that time, that was over 60 years ago, and it is still standing.
Artie would come to the sessions and eventually we formed a singing group. Jean would play the piano and I was chosen to introduce the group. For about three years, we would travel all over the city of Detroit to different churches and sing. For a time we were on the radio every Sunday night. I think we must have hit every church in Detroit at one time or another. From the biggest to some with only 10 people in them. My little brother was amazing, he could recite Scripture from memory for over 45 minutes. He was so small they would have him stand on a chair when we were on stage so they could see him in the back rows. He was only three years old.
I remember going to this enormous church down on Grand River Boulevard I think it was a Baptist church. We got up on the stage and I almost freaked. I looked out on the audience and there must’ve been 5000 people there. Another time we went to the small black church and we were singing and the place was rocking, people were jumping up and down when all of a sudden this big fat lady was stomping all over the aisle, put her foot right through the floorboards. They didn’t miss a beat. A couple of guys from the back came and pulled her out and we just kept on singing. This was her ministry, I suppose, her way of serving God. She would gather kids from all over the surrounding area once a week for her Scripture memory club.
On the weekends we would have big picnics out on the lawn by the bird cages in the summer and she would have famous people from all walks of
life to visit. As we got older, the appearances slowed down because of Boy Scouts and football and other things with that we got involved in.
I remember on a couple of occasions. She came to the theater in Garden City and actually had them stop the movie, so she could find us and take us to a performance. She knew the guy that owned the theater.
I remember in the summer. Some afternoons walking home from school I would pass her house and she would be out in her magnificent flower garden, she would call me to come and help her with the armloads of beautiful bouquets into her fabulous house that looked like a museum.
She would always sweep me up in her arms and bury my face in that enormous bosom I could hardly breathe. She would tell me, Brother Moore, someday you’re going to be somebody. She always had a word of encouragement. Such a wonderful woman.
I recall years after she had died, when I was in a jam or just bummed out I would go visit her grave and just sit there and talk to her. It was always so comforting. They buried her in the old colored cemetery near Inkster Road on Ann Arbor Trail. She was buried next to her parents. I suppose they were there because it was so close. Then sometime in the 50s. Mr. Lumley bought a cemetery over on Ford Road and he had her move over there.
Wallisville School. It was a long low yellow brick structure. With a flat roof. Lots of glass and a five-story brick smokestack. I and my brothers went there for seven years. From 1945 to 1952. I can’t recall ever missing a day of school I went from kindergarten through the seventh grade. It was about 2 miles from our house on Ann Arbor Trail, straight down the dusty gravel road.
Many times because of bad weather or bad conduct, we would have to walk home past the farms of the German families that owned the land for decades. In the summer and fall we would pick corn or cantaloupes from the huge fields that bordered the road. Or pick a watermelon and break it open on a rock. The corn was good if it was ripe, even if it wasn’t cooked. You could always find some wild rhubarb or cherries alongside the road. Mr. Pinnow had a cherry tree that would get so loaded with cherries. All you had to do was shake a few branches and you had more than you could eat. The back of our property we had eight Pear trees and in the front of our house we had two mulberry trees, and there were at least three kinds of apple trees. Mama was always making pies and tarts.
My grandmother lived with us for a long time and she was always cooking something on the stove. She would get a butcher knife and a brown grocery bag and we would go across the road to the big Valley and pick all kinds of greens. She knew what was good and how to cook them. We went through some very hard times financially. When I was very young. But we always had enough to eat and a warm bed to sleep in at night.
The Michigan winters can be brutal. There were times that we couldn’t get out of our driveway for days being a gravel road, we were the last to get the snowplows when bad storms would hit. To us boys. It was heaven. Skating on the pond over in the valley or sledding down the long steep hill that led the pond was such fun, especially when we had ice storms. The whole world seemed to change overnight. Everything would be covered with ice. All the trees looked like they were made out of glass. The roads were impassable, and of course the school buses were locked down.
I and my brothers and Artie would spend all day playing hockey on the pond. Artie always had the best equipment. Skates, shin guards, hockey gloves and of course a Gordie Howe stick. We were lucky to have a pair of used skates. A lot of times I remember putting socks on my hands to ward off the cold. We had so much fun. The cold didn’t matter.
I remember one Christmas day morning we all met down at the pond with our new equipment that we got for Christmas. I and my brothers got new sticks and skates, here comes Artie with a complete hockey uniform. Brand-new CCW skates. The best made in Canada. Pants, jersey, gloves and even elbow pads.
We were all putting on our equipment and Artie finishes first, there he was in all his glory, looked like a real pro. He runs out on the ice, and
immediately disappears. There must have been an overnight thaw Christmas Eve. We were laughing so hard. It took us a long time to pull him out. Fortunately for him, the pond was only 4 feet deep. In the spring, the Valley would start to thaw and if we had a bad winter we would be in for it.
Our house was set on a hill, across the road from this long, flowing Valley that was about a half a mile across. The other side of the valley ended abruptly at the face of a large cliff the bottom of which ran, the Rouge River. The river ran across the edge of the valley floor and from west to east, and eventually empty downstream into the Detroit River which ran out to Lake Erie.
Almost every spring, like clockwork, the snow would start to melt and the river would swell and overflow and our pond would become a lake. It would get so bad sometimes that Ann Arbor Trail would be impassable.
My brothers and I loved it. Not only did it mean summer was coming, but it gave us an opportunity to build our raft and go sailing. Although we knew that the water was no more than 5 feet deep. It still was quite a thrill to paddle around that huge imaginary ocean, and after a few weeks the water would subside and it would take a couple of good rains to wash away the mud covering every living thing. Soon the trees would bud, the flowers on the riverbank would breakthrough and we knew summer was nigh. We
would always hunt for the wild violets on the river’s bank in early spring to bring home to mom, they were her favorites.
There were so many other countless adventures we had during those magical years we spent in that wonderful place. I suppose it would take volumes to record them.
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