|Ralph was the
eldest of five children of Abbie Elizabeth Sausser and William Joseph
Souder. He was his mother’s pride and joy as well
as being her helper. He returned her live and pride in
abundance. Theirs was a special relationship.
When he was 11, he went to work in the
onion fields to help support his family. They were living in
Ohio at the time. When he was 13, they returned to
Washington, D.C. At 15, he was working for his father as a
messenger boy. At 16, he became an apprentice
machinist. At 19, he quit and made the trip of his lifetime
to Alaska, with his friend Carl Porch. It was on this trip
that he got his tattoo. He was very proud of this macho
action and displayed it proudly to his mother. She burst into
tears and broke his heart with her words. She said I brought
you into this world, a perfect baby and I was so proud of
you. Now… He fills with tears when he
tells the story and I do too. It is not until you become a
parent yourself, that you begin knowing or understanding the feelings.
One of his happiest memories in his
childhood was staying at Aunt Dale’s on her farm in
Ohio. He always said that the first one out was the best one
dressed. They kept all their hats, mittens, and scarves in a
big box by the door and they just grabbed whatever they wanted as they
went out. Ralph has always been at home wherever he hung his
hat so just fit right in with the family.
He remembers turning the wringer on the
family washing machine until Alfred was old enough to do it.
I imagine he did many things for his mother since he is so handy with
Money was always scarce and he is full
of praise for his mother for being able to do well with very
little. One of his favorite meals to this day was economy
meal for them. She made gravy of the short ribs to go on day
old bread. As a result of their always having day old bread,
we had fresh bread every day in our house. I can remember
buying ground round and not just plain old hamburger, either.
And we always had enough in the pot for whoever dropped in at supper
R.W. took his responsibilities as eldest
son very seriously. Ralph took it so seriously that he
offended Mother, (his wife, Flo) deeply when he gave up their little
cottage to save his parent’s house during the
depression. It made sense economically because there was more
equity in his parent’s house. I can imagine how
hard it was for her to move in with her in-laws. They have
some special memories from that time though. R.W. lost his
job, went to the library, did some reading and research and decided to
make a run to Florida for oranges and sell them off the back of his
truck. This was so successful that he soon had a fruit stand
at H Street (in Washington, D.C.); hired some young drivers and made
more money than he did later at the Navy Yard. He
re-purchased their cottage for cash. The Rossignol brothers
were the young truck drivers and they became a big part of our
Mother had a young welfare girl for a mother’s helper and the
Rossignols were there too, whenever they could be spared and Mother
needed them. When I asked Mother one day when Daddy was going
to visit again, he decided to get a stay-at-home job, machinist at the
Navy Yard. For many years he worked the grave yard shift to
make the extra $2 a week, also to have time to work his second job
during the day. The fruit stand was not as successful without his
hand to guide them and eventually he had to give them up. Then he
did truck repair for Uncle Johnnie and Bob Lyles and other. I
can’t remember a time that he didn’t work two jobs until he
had the welding shop.
He stayed active in the Masons and the Men’s Club. He took
us to the beach every Friday during the summer. We spent every
vacation in Alabama for quite a few years until he decided that the
road went two ways. Our most likely Sunday activity was a drive,
Mother’s favorite recreation. Often we went to see Uncle
Harry and Aunt Helen, or Thelma and Biebs; occasionally Aunt Esther and
Uncle Buddy or Aunt Abbie and Uncle Johnnie, or maybe to
He remodeled the kitchen to Mother’s height; consequently we
washed dishes at shoulder height. He traded work with Uncle
Johnnie and had him landscape her yard. As our family grew, Mother
wanted to buy the house on the hill (where the Deaver’s live) but
daddy mindful of the depression, built dormers in the attic, again on a
barter arrangement with Bob Lyles this time. He also opened the
living and dining room into one large room and built a fireplace.
He hired a bricklayer for that but acted as helper for him. Many
a time we dressed in front of a trash fire.
He believes in letting everyone do his own thing-differences are
interesting. One of his child raising rules, was not to say
‘no’ unless you had a reason to say it.
Daddy became Pop with Billy Connor. Guess Chuck and Margaret
picked it up. I didn’t learn until years later that he would have
liked to be called Granddaddy. He worked very hard to give Chuck
a cast iron stomach like his. Chuck did well but the creamed
onion fed at the age of 1 just about did me in. It was about ten
years before I ate creamed onions again. When Chuck was 8, he
wrote a paper about his best friend, Pop.
When he married Vi, we didn’t see as much of him. They did
a variety of things including acting as house parents at a Methodist
home for teenagers. They bought a place on the Eastern shore,
Daddy got his boat. Finally, they took Tony and loved and
nurtured him for many years. Until Tony became too heavy for Vi
to carry and Daddy was too lame to carry him for her.
Daddy retires periodically from his machinist job but says he likes the
good things of life too much to stay permanently retired. Also he
enjoys working, says it keeps him going. His employer is good to
him as are his working companions.
Pop always describes himself as a jack of all trades, master of
none. He has a lively curiosity, great intelligence and certainly
exceptional mechanical ability. There was nothing that he
couldn’t fix around the house. He says if he couldn’t
fix it so that no one else could either. He was not going to be
outdone. He did a lot of bartering to get things done well; an
idea that has always been popular with the professionals. He was
a man ahead of his time and with the least bit of cooperation from his
family, could have had more success in the financial field.
Pop is very outgoing, loves people of all kinds. I used to think
the more strange the better. But it was some of his
‘strange’ friends that loaned us their cottage at the
beach. It was also through some of his ‘strange’
friends that we got Duke.
Pop also loves to read. When he took me with him on his
Saturday excursions, we always went to used book stores. He would
stride along swiftly with me running to keep up. He said he
stopped taking me when I learned to talk but it must have been later
than that because I remember going.
He is fiercely independent, first and foremost, a family man. He
is proud that we all take after him in those respects.
Written by: Betty Louise Souder Spittle
(age 56) in December 1983