William McAllister, Lisa McAllister, and Amy Farges

Recorded October 4, 2007 Archived October 6, 2007 38:43 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: GCT004318


William McAllister was interviewed by his daughters, Lisa McAllister and Amy Farges, as well as his grandson, Julien Farges. They talked about William’s life growing up, the Depression, WWII, William’s return to college after the war, his Masters and PhD, marrying his wife, their many moves around the U.S. and raising children.

Subject Log / Time Code

Grandpa was a coal miner.
Great Depression
Pearl Harbor
How he met his wife
Strong faith


  • William McAllister
  • Lisa McAllister
  • Amy Farges


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00:00 Foods are much bigger.

00:08 I'm William McAllister. I'm 83.

00:13 Years of age the date is

00:18 October 4th

00:22 2007

00:25 And I I'm Lisa's father and Amy's father and Julian's grandfather.

00:35 I'm Julian Farr's on 13, it's October 4th. We're in New York City Grand Central Terminal and William is my grandfather.

00:48 I'm Lisa McAllister. I'm 39 and it's October 4th 2007 and I'm here in the Grand Central Booth with my sister and my nephew and my dad.

00:59 I met me first. I'm 51. It's October 4th, 2007 burned Grand Central and I'm Williams daughter his favorite.

01:17 So let's get started. Yeah, let's start over dad. You came from a family that seem to have more aunts and uncles than any of us can remember. How many were there an Uncle's my father was a family of 10 children and my mother was a family of 12 children and they all had children who got those children got married and they had millions of cousins. Yeah. Yeah, very big does that mean there are still some McAlister's out there that we've never met probably be some that I haven't met did you ever spend time with them when you were little like all the time? I spent some time but depended on where we lived during the Depression. There's a lot of moving around because there are no jobs. And so we had some Wild Wings that we're not the best place to be but

02:15 During a year or so when we lived in with an aunt in Gerard Way, I played with my cousins there. I had I had a pretty good time with them. But the only times we had to any big Gathering us when when they have a picnic out in a park and some of the people that had jobs we're able to provide most of the food for instance. So do you guys all live close together? Was it separated through like no, we all lived in the same town that my mother always lived there my father and his family lived in in Maryland, but they migrated North because there were no jobs there to the mines played out in in in Maryland. So they moved up to where there was a steel industry. What kind of mind pop?

03:06 They're called mine. They were call Miners and did Grandpa do that by the time he was 15 his parents both died. And so the youngest is still living there. And so what he came North like some of his older brothers and got a job there. That's where you met. My mother was his dad and I'm not sure if I don't really know.

03:32 Run rate was has to be so then your whole family you grew up in Youngstown pretty much. Okay, and then the depression how old were you when that set up welded. I was born in 1923. So in 29 why that's when they actually stock market crashed and within a year or so why they're hardly any jobs left in the steel industry. And so the happy place where we lived.

04:05 Too expensive for us. So we had to move around a bit. And I remember going to I'm going to probably seven different schools by the time I was in the fourth grade.

04:16 Panda

04:18 But you you and your brother and sister stay together time.

04:29 My brother was born Ten Years After I was my sister's two years older younger than I just need an extra mouths to feed 104 guy. Were there any highlights during the Depression any times when you thought this is going to be it's going to be over or was it just

04:55 You are told me you were too young and you were.

04:59 I really didn't have any great moments of hope that things would get better for you.

05:06 Yeah, I was always optimistic at least in thought it was always in speech but then I realized things were not good. But well that's so you play the card you get basically it now. Are you in charge of Aunt Rita when you are nobody was in charge of

05:27 I know how to get her very angry and she never forgave me for that. Did you have to take care of her or no? No, no, not quite two years younger than I and so she's pretty Savvy really bad kid of the family. No, I don't think anyone else was outstandingly bad or good but I think she she benefited from having somebody older than she and a younger brother who was much younger.

06:01 That does kind of a family Dynamic. Well, when did your passion for music kick in pretty early? I used to get up early in the morning and to get a shortwave radio. For instance. I would like I always picked up Quito Ecuador for some reason. They advertise this time of the morning which of course was probably a different time there, but I would I would I would listen to music G. I was probably in grade school today or

06:39 Yeah, when I go to the high school, I got caught up in jazz music and I had a pretty big record collection, but I've always liked classical music to some degree and no knock knock the radio was it?

06:56 Weatherhead record players back then didn't they are p.m. Records. Hey Pop. Did you ever go see like live jazz music that any of those bands. I had one weekend pass before we went overseas and we went from Maryland up to it to New York City and I was up for about 48 Hours except for 2 hours that I fell asleep. Whose names you probably don't remember her ever knew but they played in The Village Inn on 52nd Street Ventura Street. Very good time. Good send-off. Did you have any best friends that you stayed in contact with throughout these years? Yeah. Well throughout the

07:56 Years. Anyhow, the my best friend was somewhere was two years younger than I was still around and he and his girlfriend became his wife introduced me to mother and we were friends. Yeah, but he went off to the Navy when I went to the service in the Army on Pearl Harbor day. I remember exactly where we were because the two of us made fudge and twice as much sugar as as necessary.

08:27 Cancel a sweet tooth we had for many years but speaking of Sweet Tooth.

08:33 Wasn't your favorite dessert always pie?

08:37 I swear to like pie as before. I find out how loaded it was, I guess. So on Pearl Harbor day. Were you old enough to go into the army yet at that age. Well, yeah, it's pretty close. Yeah, that matter fact. I probably had already been registered for the draft because they start taking people in the round 1940 and they could see what was happening. And so

09:05 Then I graduated from high school in June of 42 and I started to school and case what used to be case School of applied science. And so I went there through through April and my draft I was supposed to report for the draft at that time.

09:28 Which I did but because I was underweight they didn't take me so they said come back in 6 months. Puppy saved my life.

09:36 You could have because well because six months later after I had to fix my watch list of so I did go in and it's a matter of fact that I went back and got accepted October 1st. And then on my birthday I buy 20th birthday. I was actually in inducted birthday gift you don't forget. So where did you have boot camp? It was in Louisiana, Georgia, Fort Benning, Georgia.

10:07 What school did you did you make a conscious decision between the Army the Navy and the Marines or did they just know how do whatever they wanted good question you those mistakes that you should look back at it and wonder about they had everybody it when you became eligible for the draft play. There was a test given to test you took this test Army Navy or no decision. Well, that's at that triggered at the subsequent events cuz you are really smart. I bet you I mean

10:55 Officer track things are so so that's how I wound up in the the ground forces because

11:07 I don't know. I type. I II experiences with the Navy. They took me over season 5 days in a real big ship but she hardly knows coming back. It took 12 days on a on a liberty ship that I noticed everything. It was it was not know it was terrible. So I better off on the ground.

11:32 And then after training you ended up being shipped out right away, or is that when you came up to New York? Well, what happened is this specialized training program? You were took infantry basic for 13 weeks and then you were supposed to go to college and I already had my mind set on going to like Carnegie Tech which was in Pittsburgh near home. Well the last day of the program the last day of the RR basic training somebody got the New York Times every day and there was a particle in that sings. This program is being discontinued. And so instead of going to school they sent us to Advanced infantry training in Louisiana. So that was like a March and then in August after a week of a jungle training. I tried to fool the Enemy by sending us to Europe.

12:26 So you thought you were going to the South window? Well, I felt like it I meant for you were already there, Fort Meade Maryland and I did have a weekend pass with my family. I didn't get a furlough because I was supposed to but once I found out that I was already 20 high as matter fact. Yeah, almost 21 they put me on the list to go overseas as a replacement. Yeah. I was with the Training Division and they came overseas much later than I did and I guess I got lucky in one respect cuz after they came to Europe, they went back to the States and over to the Pacific. So all your friends and training already broken up, you know, we had a certain group in basic training that you got to do another group and advanced infantry training and so, you know,

13:26 A few people I knew from basic been overseas with me. We landed in the Normandy together in 23 or something and all the only thing about it was climbing down the side of the ship and getting in those boats and putting a shower but it wasn't that so that was that was at mile at the usual place where troops got off. Yeah, because you know that already they already got the beaches ready for all sorts of supplies the command sinisi. I know you see thing to have the troops get off there. So we landed in Normandy and we stayed there a couple days and then they put us on trains and we worked our way through France and into Belgium and right near the German border.

14:23 And then all of us were Replacements, so what they did was parcel people out to different divisions. Did you just want to wish that you never signed up when you got there? Because you know, I have no experience with that. You don't know what to wish. I joined the 1st Infantry Division, which was both good and bad was one of the best divisions neck, but they unfortunately that landed on HR in Africa Sicily in Normandy. So you knew that they were going to be

15:09 Used your misuse. Did anybody Pellitteri felt him they wished?

15:16 You talked once about having some pretty bad command and that the the leadership that sent you to the places they sent you was.

15:26 Well, maybe not the sharpest. This is how it happened. Is it when I joined the division they had just captured the first German City auction, which is near the French border. And so we were in the woods outside in Durham.

15:41 It's been briefed. We're waiting for the Air Force if we're clear Daiso their bomb ahead of us. We could move well planes bombed us and wiped out right next to where I was. So that's one of those mistakes friendly fire things so I can be moved moved on and we got orders to moving when the head that Doug Fox world's biggest. She'll buy our own artillery shells so far. I've only gotten hit by it tomorrow people and then we we we had a bunch of Divisions attack to that place called hurricane Forest where the Germans had very good though firing positions in the has kind of a slaughterhouse really just chewed up about six infantry divisions there and

16:33 That's where I lost my first day first buddy. He was right next to me and you got shot by somebody on the side and

16:48 We regrouped after the first to try at that hill and so we went back up and we were digging foxholes and taking turns digging and watching ahead and done tree burst of shrapnel burst hit the tree above us in that both. He and I got booted at the same time. So they sent me back to Belgium in Des Peres.

17:14 Are you afraid it on me and I sent you back but during the time that I was in the hospital the Germans broke through in the so-called bulge. And so when I came back while you that was all still had stabilized by then. I was lucky in that regard and

17:36 Remember as we approach the Border. I can see the planes that they were dropping supplies to places like bastogne which was isolated and having a kind of a difficult time. So what was it like living in the camps that the army established as a camp. I mean, I was either on the ground or else we were back in some some place where there were dwellings. You know, what they would do is if you get back you could take time off the line to go back to places like Spa in verbier with your little towns in Belgium and very, of course you were living in a dormitory certain place and so it was either feast or famine regardless housing.

18:27 So did you like when your

18:31 Fighting and it was time to like sleep and nothing was happening to you have like a sleeping bag or something or did you just sleep on the ground? We could have slept on the ground. I may know people could carry anything they want but what I did would most people did was this we had a belt and ammunition felt you can make it real big bigger than your waist and I just put a blanket in the back of that folded over and I had a musette bag that I carried with what little food I was going to take and that way that was it didn't have to carry much do they how they had cooks and I admire those Kooks, you know during the time that we were in the hurricane forest. And in the front was there was a couple hundred yards back they brought food up and I remember on Thanksgiving Day 4044. Yeah, they actually had turkey sandwiches.

19:31 I got to hand it to them back later on that cooks you do during the war when it went on through the Rhine Valley. They took a wrong turn somewhere and captured a bunch of Germans. Then you couldn't live with him. They were so proud. I said so pop. What do you remember when like things started to lift like when Roosevelt got elected and did your dad work on them? Because you know, he's made some moves that he realize that you could no longer let the boom-and-bust cycle go on. You couldn't have this happen. I mean after all Karl Marx use this as a as a argument for the end of

20:23 The kind of government kind of society we had so the government intervene and I know I remember it was good because my father was able to get work finally are able to move to a place where I stayed until I went to the service and but you know what the depression really didn't lift it was going it was gradually giving ground and the only thing that really made it happen was World War. I mean, I basically that's it. Did you meet Mom before or after the war after I'm glad I never met her before she didn't have a wreck and just friend Peggy Mahoney introduced us.

21:17 Panda

21:19 They got married later than we did. But unfortunately that got divorced some years later and then I lost touch with him. What was the first thing you noticed about Mom?

21:29 Well, she she was pretty Zippy. I checked very very positive very athletic. You know, not that you've it participated in sports, but you was always on the move.

21:53 She is very very involved in most everything. She did. Yeah. Yeah bill and I were walking around and I guess his girlfriend was sitting there and they introduced us that was on a Sunday and on Thursday. I went with the three of us went and picked her up. This is interesting mother's 19 years old and she's grounded.

22:24 So they let her go because they're losing their daughter started to go together in the short time. We realized that this was the way we should do. We should do things stay together. And you had a 1/3 partner. I think Mom would have said, oh, yeah, we go right when we we we want it said we wanted to get engaged cigar and a half years. I had a friend Father decreed. So we told we went to see him. So he leaned on them. They listen to the clergy.

23:13 They'll at least you know, she I've got a really wonder about her doing what she did coming to live with me in that trailer, you know, like a lot of people were there we were all ready we're veterans and this is what they had in the way of housing. You can't suddenly accommodate a big influx of students. If you don't have a building program and nobody with nobody had that kind of money at that particular time in history. So that's what she did but she is as I said, she's always been ready for the next adventure.

23:48 So after you went to war you went to college, yes. Yes. I already finished part of a year. It's hard to explain but anyhow at years and then when I came back why I started back to school at case. I realized in a short time that I wasn't going to be able to do all this engineering courses. I wasn't interested in that. I was interested in chemical research. So I took up a lot of my time and I said, all right with Drew from school and then I started at the Bowling Green in February of January. And where was this in Ohio? What did you ever think that you would be?

24:41 Going to get your Master's in your page. Damn it. Did you ever have that in mind grown up he did is that what everybody is it does a doctorate in science wants to teach the ties and I couldn't afford it. We were expecting our fourth child that when I left graduate school 103 children already in it. And you had the first two in the trailer.

25:12 Yeah, I know by the time Jim was born we were in the barracks apartment one bedroom and then we lived up there with two bedroom and Bobby came along and then this is just as we were leaving way, but we came to New Jersey Mary Beth was born 7-weeks later.

25:39 So what else should we know about reading reading tutors? Probably no. No. No my dad. Of course, he had to work pretty hard to make a living and of course like many young people if your parents aren't there, why does no one to tell you to stay in school why he just got a great school education is basically a kind of a smart man. I realized but yeah, you don't have a formal education. What did he like enjoy? What a grandpa like music or will he likes Sports you like to watch games ball games yet. He was a baseball fan. Did you ever play?

26:31 Highest play around but I never played on an organized team but every day after school when it was fall we go up to the Wake Park and throw the ball around get tackled and Mall each other has a lot of fun. Did Grandpa play ball with you or he was work too hard. No, no extended. There's always one coming by to stop any kind of activity and took up the street. What is your favorite vacation?

27:05 Like vacation the ones without us free having your own family. There wasn't much time for vacations summer. Well,

27:19 Liking your teenage years not a whole lot. You know, I just went to the pool and things like that, but then between the time I left college and the course I now had six months to wait to go to the yard. I did work in the steel mill three shifts for chemistry Department to my job was to go or to the The Open Hearth furnace has they would pour the Year this big big symbol full of hot metal. They poured into a bunch of tall vessels and you took samples from these my job is to go over there with that bucket and tongs pick those up take them back drill them out. And then the drillings would go to the chemist who did the analysis and you're nobody had to do was make sure that all the impurities were down below the level which would make them.

28:13 Making bed still so Grandpa was still working there when you were there. Not in the steel mill per site for save it in a metal fabricating call truskin and so he here.

28:28 He was taking finish steel-making sashes and things like that metal objects war came along. They were building things that had to be attended to two tanks flanges. They put on tanks to they were trying to make a flotation device to make tanks swim into the shore. I don't think that ever took very well, but he had work from yeah, I would say yeah, that's right. I mean he was working 7 days a week.

28:58 I know that was it talk to Sam. Did you get to see him off in her was he working? Well, of course that happened is that

29:08 The war started the pickup and War work started to pick up rather quickly and after 1941 and so

29:16 Then I went into the service in 43 and that whole summer I was working swing shifts. So if I was off at the same time, he was I could see him but that there wasn't a whole lot of time together the first thing, you know, it was time to go.

29:35 Did Grandma write to you when you were in enough in a castle overlooking at the river just before the Rhine? I got a care package with spaghetti. And it I know I said boy. That's something I cook did. Oh, yeah, it was good.

29:58 Yeah, why but I would get stuff from her all the time. It was pretty good. I remember and I guess he got caught up in the in the business of military and seeing that I went there and he did something kind of Reckless. He joined the paratroopers. Yeah, he did. He jumped actually do and how you don't join the paratroopers no wings for you instead of it.

30:32 But he knew that the war was over then and he

30:36 He was in there in between the World War II and Korea. But yeah, what are some what are some of your favorite memories with Grandma?

30:57 My mother

31:00 Other you know, she has kids all my friends loved her. You know, they called her mama, you know, she was she's really kind of Jolly. She laughed a lot, especially when she got together with her her sisters. That was always a howling Feast, you know, we always left the left the room. But yeah, she's yeah she had a tough time in do with all the moving we had to do because of the economic situation, but she was a

31:35 Is it good to choose a good Trooper?

31:39 Did you how many times a day?

31:43 When we were children.

31:45 Oh when we had children, oh, no. Oh, well, we got married and we moved to Bowling Green. So we stayed there for two and a half years and what state Ohio to Bowling Green, Ohio and we moved to Michigan. We stayed there for years and we came to New Jersey and lived in Springfield for a couple years and we moved to Pittsburgh stay there for almost five years and then we moved to New Jersey and that's where we've been ever since and that except for the two years. We're live in Belgium.

32:20 So pop Grandma did you ever do stuff? Did you have any holiday traditions? Like I know there wasn't a lot of money, but did you all I remember is a treat around the holidays would be Jello with whipped cream on it and fruit in the jello. That was that was that was big big ticket item and Ice lace. That's beautiful place. It was two blocks away from us with this Dairy Store and they had a they opened it and they had a promotion, you know free ice cream I-87 phone. Okay, I was hungry.

33:03 Well, that was a one-time thing. So I have a question. You know, you have this really strong faith that no matter what happens. That's your solid never let go that you never giving up on God and where'd that come from?

33:21 It has to be nature and nurture doesn't it, you know.

33:27 My mother was always our religious and dad was I supposed to had to scale.

33:37 And you had a religious education write this matter fact that most of the great school is with parochial schools fell couple Winters ago. So cold I couldn't go to the Catholic school. I went to a nearby public school for a while. That's when we lived at Farm. There was a farm that had three houses the edge of the property and my parents and my aunt and uncle that two of those three houses and we would get some of the food from their remember my mother and dad could to get tomatoes and can them so we had spaghetti to get through the winter, you know, it was a good staple to have

34:27 We still do.

34:28 Everybody still have Grandma's recipe for tomato sauce.

34:34 Funny things that get passed on like Julian's in to steal your whole family into stealing.

34:48 Pop what else we think we have like 5 minutes, right?

34:53 We have six is there. Is there anything that you would like your children grandchildren to know and their grandchildren or any advice? You want to give them you know, like do something bad, but don't get caught.

35:14 I know that's why I did I think that there are two things in the Army one was from an old Captain Association build to me. I'd gray hair. He said something that I thought was very important. He said, you know Curry just in so much starving the Machine Gun Nest. It says it's getting up every morning and doing you know what you have to do.

35:38 That was it. The second thing I learned was from a young Lieutenant who had been in that who joined the paratroopers after he left our division and he said after we run with this a bayonet this assault course, you crawled under barbed wire and they shot machine guns over your head, you know, and threw up things beside you has simulated combat after it was already said

36:02 Tell you what, you don't feel very good. Do it says I'll tell you one thing don't ever feel. Sorry for yourself the rest of your life and everything.

36:14 My life

36:16 Based on what I experienced during the war and so many times are tough. I say. Hey, look I'm inside a house has no ammunition flying over my head. I'm cold and I'm hungry. I'm not scared. And those are all the things that happen to you people ask if it's like to be in the in the war. I said well for your house when you were the most scared near life add to that the most tired you ever were put those together and then realize that you have to go on and on and not no matter what they're still with. No way to get away from me. The only do it not because of Any altruistic thing you do it because the people around you depend on you. It's a lesson in working together with people. Did you feel good that you were fighting for your country to help other people live?

37:11 Oh, I don't know. I mean when you're in that situation, you're only thinking about what's going to happen next and I had people killed too close to hear from me twice and the guy another one that fox hole next to me was was killed by a sniper. You just got stood up there. Watch out for the sniper.

37:33 Too late

37:35 I guess he lifted his head. So, you know, I'm here by default. No reason to be here.

37:42 People around me for telling to Dying by you.

37:46 In droves, so

37:50 So every day is a gift.

37:55 To be able to still function at my age is

38:00 Amazing

38:01 It's not on my part. It's amazing that I'm still here. Well, that's wonderful for all of us. Yeah, we're glad you got through the only advice for anybody is this a decent and just you know to do something you really like to do, you know, that's what they say. If it's about the advertisement say if you do something you like to do very much then you'll never have to work a day in your life.

38:33 I could have swore we could talk for hours. But oh, yeah.

38:39 It's not long enough.