William J. Ancell and Judith Anne Weeks Ancell

Recorded June 7, 2008 Archived June 7, 2008 41:20 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: MBY004096


William J. Ancell talks with his wife Judith Anne Weeks Ancell about growing up in Chicago, his young childhood during wartime, his family and children, and his work as an environment engineer.

Subject Log / Time Code

William grew up in Chicago during the war and was 7 or 8 when it ended
William remembers the victory gardens that people made during the war
William remembers them having foreign students from the university stay at their house while their own kids were growing up
William and Judith met in a wedding party they were a part of
They have lived in many different places, but home is where you hang your hat
William worked until late so they rearranged their son Bill’s schedule so he was awake to see his dad
William remembers getting the city people and activists with him in order to improve the city sewage system
William went through many different mayors working for the city of Boise


  • William J. Ancell
  • Judith Anne Weeks Ancell

Recording Location

MobileBooth West


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00:04 A my name is Judas, Ansel, but I think you know me and today is June 7th, and we're here in Boise, Idaho. I think I'm 65 years old, but you're the one that always has to tell me that cuz you're my husband.

00:19 Oh, that's right. You're sick to your life.

00:22 My name is Bill Ansell a n c e l l. I'm 70 years old.

00:28 Today's date is June 7th, 2008 and downtown, Boise, Idaho.

00:34 Paper parked right in front of the building that I worked in for.

00:40 25 years or so

00:42 37 years

00:48 And the desire man wife.

00:54 You know telling me I just made me think back to when we first started dating.

01:00 I was 17 and you were 23.

01:04 I think in this day and age they'd think you were some kind of a weird pervert.

01:13 Would you think about that at the time?

01:15 I didn't think about it. I don't guess.

01:21 Do you want to tell a little bit about?

01:24 When you're born and your mom and dad

01:28 I was born in Chicago.

01:31 Is there until I was a teenager?

01:36 My father worked in a shoe factory

01:41 And you are part of his job or his main job after a while was maintain the Machinery. You keep it operating.

01:50 After my brother died.

01:53 Got a little older my mother wants to work.

01:57 Word for the American Medical Association in the office

02:05 They they were they grew up in.

02:09 Missouri

02:18 My father was very soft-spoken.

02:23 And my mom always trying to make things better.

02:30 Had a great time.

02:35 You were quite involved with the Salvation Army in Chicago, weren't you?

02:42 Well, just so there was a Salvation Army Corps building. I'll just walk for house sounds good place to go to.

02:51 Play they have Autobots always family, but

02:57 Resume

02:59 Places for kids to go on that thing and sort of thinking and a big city like Chicago they had already had this stuff in place where stood a lot of the cities are just come lately.

03:14 You were at war in Chicago during the War I guess.

03:22 Who you are? I was I was born in 1937. So by the time the war was over as that was about 7 or 8 years old.

03:36 Thursday the war was over with was a big day.

03:42 Godanriver

03:44 Cut back on a lot of things because of the war effort.

03:49 I like we got today you got gasoline has a big you should

03:54 The time gasoline was rationed other foodstuffs were rationed remember specifically nylon hose cuz if we spent a lot of time standing in line, so my mother could buy some

04:11 I did nothing. I remember specifically with sugar and I think the reason why that remember that specifically is it I was also rationed it was a great treat to have anything of sugar. Remember one time. We took my wagon down the store to use some of our racing.

04:31 Buy sugar

04:33 Put the sugar in my wagon and on our way home.

04:38 I noticed that some of the sugar in the bag of shirt was at a break in it and some of the sugar was trailing out on the sidewalk.

04:49 But life during the war of the life was

04:55 Nothing, like we've seen during such go Wars.

05:00 Or we have now in the Vietnam War and so on it's hard to pin down any sacrifices that those other than military and their families are are making what is a Presa Community. We really

05:15 Haven't made sacrifices

05:22 But during the time of the warrior yet.

05:25 It covered every bit of conversation every

05:30 Thing we thought about lights. For example, you had throughout your lights to keep from having the

05:39 The city lights being seen by an enemy of any are an enemy aircraft came over. So, you know, we are in Chicago. I'm a long ways from the battle. We still were impacted by the fact that we were at War.

05:56 No, it was a combination of age and size family had in his job all combined to keep him out of the the military.

06:14 He worked on Machinery that was being used to manufacture more time implements.

06:24 Actually, sorry I recall a shoot you didn't work in the shoe factory during the war so much has before and after during the word selfie works for heat treating.

06:38 Company Lindberg Engineering Corporation

06:42 You had a victory garden was that when you first knew the McKenna's?

06:47 No, I'm not sure just tell McGinnis has been my parents got to be such good friends, but they were good friends before before I was born.

07:01 But and we would go to their house almost every weekend. My father would walk to work save up his gas rationing coupons then on the weekend we drive out to

07:13 Little old probably maybe if the most 10-acre Farm

07:19 Our friends had

07:21 Anna

07:23 I was thinking I was different we had went out to the acreage and in my folks Had A Farm a little little little farm. I guess you call it and remember not just with a group.

07:40 With the victory garden was something he had in the city every little patch of ground. That wasn't then have something already on it.

07:50 We were encouraged to plant a little garden. Remember.

07:55 Across the street from where we lived.

07:59 Peapod's established a victory garden which meant they would have low Garden might not be much bigger than this trailer probably sizes trailer. No, no patch of ground was too small to the girls things on his part of the war effort.

08:18 I don't know what the real connection is between.

08:22 What was in the garden and how the that help the war? But

08:26 Set me off sweater did no members in and school?

08:31 I think like the first or second grade.

08:35 I was a very good student. I'd spend time drawing pictures of airplane shooting airplanes.

08:45 Who's been the biggest influence in your life?

08:49 Well, I would like to thank you. I've been because we're the ones that

08:53 Everything is

08:59 I know you've talked about your mother and son singing a lot.

09:05 Well

09:07 She was

09:09 She was active in the church and

09:13 And I saw to that my brother and I went to Sunday school and to church and

09:18 That carried on

09:28 What are some of the most important lessons you learned in your life?

09:41 Do you have an earliest memory that you want to talk about?

09:46 Well, I would just the Warriors probably that I've just for a fleeting second. I feel like I can remember my great-grandmother being in our house.

09:58 But I can't remember anything specific about it. But I was I would have probably been two or three or something pretty pretty small.

10:07 You were quite Young when she died.

10:11 Sarah Wright

10:14 My grandmother died young my grandmother died in their 50s.

10:20 Titan I didn't remember her

10:28 When you are living in Chicago

10:32 It was during the war time that your your grandmother died and your mother had to go down to Missouri to get and you are down with her as a baby. She got to see you. You didn't remember her, but I wondered when you were talking about all the gas rationing and everything. How did that affect the trip down? Do you have you ever heard your folks talk about that? Obviously you didn't do much.

11:02 Justin hooks chicken leg rather you have a gasoline or have a car?

11:08 You couldn't go out and just buy a car because cars were being manufactured they were using that for war.

11:15 Needs

11:17 So

11:20 You would not.

11:23 You would not be able to go out and buy a new car cuz your car was wore out and take my father at least on one occasion bought a car just for the express purpose of fixing it up and to sell it never has your recycling more as part of the war effort.

11:44 Did you ever think about what your life would be like as you grow into adulthood and got older and if so, how does that turned out to be?

11:54 I'm not so sure I had that much idea what it would be like but

11:59 I certainly have no complaints.

12:04 Things worked out pretty well, how would you like to be remembered?

12:09 Well, I guess it's a good father good husband, but Pizza.

12:14 Mean things that we have to do.

12:17 Be nice to be successful at that.

12:27 How many children do we have in the Gorge?

12:31 Do you want to name? You have some favorite stories about them?

12:40 The one that strikes me to set.

12:44 True you in any number safe?

12:48 Michigan Michigan State University, I guess what?

12:53 They have a program for foreign students to be able to.

12:59 Going to people's homes be a part of family activities for a short time as be at the enhancer experience their educational experience being in this country.

13:10 And so you

13:12 Spent a lot of time on that and is a part of that. We all had quite often and foreign students from the University in our house and

13:26 Oh Jeepers around

13:29 France Vietnam

13:35 And everyone will course we're playing with our kids and the kids were or young and

13:47 They students would invariably try to teach our kids a couple of words of whatever language they had.

13:59 So they were Vietnamese they would teach about maybe how to say hello and goodbye and talk about some food or some simple things as a part of visiting with our kids.

14:13 One time we had some people from England.

14:19 This isn't with us. They had some little kids size of our kids.

14:24 And after

14:28 The kids have been playing in the yard for a half hour or so my middle son. Brian came running in the house. I think I can speak English. I remember that Mark. I remember he

14:47 It's not quite an artist and actor and while he was quite young. I don't know what just how about 8 maybe 10 or something.

14:56 You're the part in the play Pinocchio, and I think he was assigned the part of the

15:05 The old man that made Pinocchio

15:08 And I think just the day before this production was supposed to go on somebody made the decision that things would be better if he switched over.

15:20 And played the part of Pinocchio instead of atoms are better.

15:29 And he's doing a marvelous job at if we too bad with that didn't get taped or or somehow or another because he did an absolutely marvelous job with no preparation time. He knew the other person's part. So well that he was able to pick it up and

15:48 So I just was amazed at his ability to do that. It's been too bad. He hasn't stayed on with acting but it was a nice.

15:59 Who's singing then? Do you remember he played Gepetto later on when he was a little bit of got a favorite story about your bill.

16:18 You got too many of them. I have too many stories about Bill.

16:25 Yeah.

16:28 Twins think which one was talking about all this enthusiasm. I know.

16:37 Special person he's his

16:41 Enthusiasm for

16:45 First Learning vis-a-vis Azan for reading is

16:51 Helping other people on Eastchase is always out there.

16:59 Wanting to help

17:05 What do you remember about me?

17:08 When you first met me know anything.

17:12 Well your bubbly personality fat.

17:18 Respond

17:24 How do you make me?

17:27 We were both in wedding party where my brother was getting married to your best friend or one of your best friends.

17:35 And

17:38 Because we're both the same wedding party we met at that point.

17:47 What's your best memory of your childhood before we met?

18:00 Well, my best memory, I think I should I don't know. I know you were talking about dilip park at one time when we were just guessing it and talk about though the farm that was in near, Villa Park, Illinois.

18:20 And

18:23 We went out to that little Farmers our friends house every weekend.

18:30 Which was a fun time cuz you got outside the big city. I had friends that had never been outside the city limits of Boise.

18:39 Chicago and here I was having the opportunity to leave.

18:45 Leave the city behind and be out in the country for a weekend.

18:53 That was I enjoyed it at the time. But as I thought back on if it was a remarkable time that we were able to do that.

19:06 Do you want to talk a little bit about getting your education?

19:11 Yeah, I got a degree in engineering and associate degree in.

19:16 Management

19:21 I was pretty special because I was never a good student.

19:25 And I had to work as well as go to school. So it was more difficult than ever to because I was distracted with my work.

19:40 But we prevailed got the job done. I remember.

19:49 As a result of all that after getting my degree in and engineering.

19:54 I had to go on and take some State exams for

20:01 My something

20:07 And I had a hard time with that.

20:10 To the point where I wondered if I'd ever pass and then then I didn't pass the test.

20:16 Same day. Your second son was born. I was in the group that was taking the test was in the state or County.

20:33 Google building and was a guy just wasn't Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

20:41 In

20:44 While we were taking the test.

20:49 There tornado warning came about

20:53 And so they decided to close the school.

20:56 Which meant all of us are in the school auditorium taking the test had to leave.

21:03 What we're doing and go out because of tornado.

21:09 And so it was not for me to do. I was probably 50 miles or so from home. I don't know. What I'm supposed to do is sitting in my car watching a tornado. So I just drove home.

21:21 And when I got home as I walked got out of the car, my mother-in-law was there.

21:29 And I couldn't imagine what she was doing there.

21:34 But as I got closer to her, she said that that you and her in the hospital delivering Bryan.

21:43 And your father had taking you there at 8. They had they lived about 75 miles or so far we did.

21:53 They drove.

21:55 Up after after I had left home to go take the test you to call her father and he came and took her the hospital is it turned out I got there before you was born.

22:06 Motel that was a real shock that they have walked out and got out of the car and I'm always there Majid what was happening labor while I was fixing your breakfast that you're talking about Grand Rapids and Muskegon. Maybe I need to go over the places you've lived.

22:28 We left you've lived and we've lived.

22:32 Well, I lived in Chicago now in Laporte, Indiana and then Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico.

22:41 For short time

22:43 I'm back to it. We went back to the

22:47 Laporte in to Coldwater, Coldwater, Michigan

22:53 And

22:57 Monroe Monroe, Michigan, Muskegon, Michigan

23:02 Lansing, Michigan

23:06 I'm in Boise.

23:10 Used to say homeless where you hang your hat remember as you travel so much.

23:16 What's your favorite place to live?

23:21 Well Puerto Rico, I guess if I could just pick anything.

23:27 I probably would go to Puerto Rico.

23:33 That's where your dad lost his help though. So you always hesitated to go back there.

23:42 My father died of a heart attack, when is 69 years old.

23:49 How to make sure the education

23:54 Pizarro

23:58 Who's a mechanic?

24:00 Cortes mechanic repairing

24:04 Machinery that did the work in Factory

24:14 What was your rub?

24:17 First job after college

24:21 Well, I guess I went to Monroe, Michigan.

24:26 What works with County Road Commission?

24:30 And not

24:32 While I was there I was also.

24:37 I'll call up into the army was in the reserve is call up the reserves and and

24:44 Spent a short time.

24:46 An active duty in the in the army.

24:51 That's when they still have the draft.

24:55 But you signed up but probably. I don't know for sure what the graph it probably did but I went into the reserve.

25:06 What was the idea that I was going active-duty for sync 3 months if I remember right?

25:11 So I was lucky enough to just have that like the time that was that critical skills program. They had them again that you were able to get into the delayed reserve and just do basic training. I was so enjoying was considered a critical skill and so

25:28 We are didn't have to do the same as

25:32 Somebody head lice was less fortunate.

25:38 How long were you in Monroe then?

25:44 No, I'm not sure maybe two years maybe a little bit more. That's why you're letting when we got married.

25:50 So it's it might be a little more nuts and I might have been might have been 3 years, but

25:57 Out of the middle of that then you had to carve out the time to go into military service. I went into the military. I got discharged from military then went back to my old job.

26:09 For short time and then move to Muskegon.

26:14 Cuz I got a job there.

26:19 Talk a little bit about Muskegon. That was a pretty nice job for a young engineer at that time.

26:28 Why was the

26:30 Assistant

26:33 Leann Sheriff remember item

26:36 Yeah, we we are.

26:42 He hired you though to groom you.

26:45 To take his position because he was going to retire in three or four years.

26:59 That's what happened. So did you like that?

27:04 Youngest engineer in the County engineer in the state of Michigan. Is that time and dates largest county?

27:12 Your real active even back then in the engineering Society weren't you?

27:25 Muskegon area chapter

27:30 And I know it was on track then to a couple of years. I would have been present at our gas station. But instead of staying there doing that we moved to voice again.

27:46 And I work for C Lansing I think for about 4 years.

27:50 And you were the assistant director of public works there.

27:55 That was quite an interesting job. You've spent an awful lot of nights working along with your dazed and put you didn't Muskegon.

28:05 Well in Lansing that the issue there would be storms and flood control the combined sewers and

28:13 Trying to

28:23 Make the city safe for democracy cats to Skagen.

28:28 Remember you would be drawing the plans at night and building the structures the next day you were and remember when Little Bill didn't know you don't need to come home from work and we going to

28:43 Random

28:45 Good job on the field working as Inspector and setting grades and supervising the construction.

28:54 And of course we work long days and then I get home at night. The kids are our bill is only one. We had a bill to be in bed.

29:06 So you got to a point where you rearrange his schedule so that he could be awake when I was at home and at night.

29:15 It was a good move that he was with a night owl throw it off a lot of number of years older two, and then we had Brian and Skateland.

29:30 Dial trimmer in the morning.

29:34 And then when you were in Lansing, are there any really defining things you can think of with your work there that are outstanding for you? Well, I don't know about that, but they eat.

29:50 Freelancing had combined sewer storm water and sewage all won the same pipe.

29:56 And then that pipe empties into the river which events has sewage going into the river.

30:04 They had built large treatment plant wall while I was trying to do everything I can do with that project, but

30:12 Enlarge pre-employment take care of but he had the so much flooding.

30:18 Back to Earth and back up in the people's homes that sort of thing. So it was quite a project to try to hold it down.

30:28 It was nothing compared to what I was involved in Boise though before we get to that. I keep thinking back to the mall that you were so instrumental in designing and getting going down the center of downtown Lansing closed off some of the downtown streets and

30:47 And no putting the streetscaping.

30:52 Pedestrian Mall was probably just how big it is his least two blocks in a might be three or four.

31:03 And then you decided to come to Boise. I remember you came home and said I've got a job in Boise, Idaho. Where is it? And I said, I don't know somewhere near, California.

31:22 It wasn't me Boise turned out to be pretty challenging because

31:28 The city was I've been growing and growing so fast that if structure was not keeping up with with the girls.

31:37 And so they had a sewage treatment plant. What is overloaded and it smell up the whole neighborhood because it wasn't adequately treating the waste water sewer lines themselves are covered by small portion of a relatively small force of the city. I think we figured about that time that if they're part of the city had been

32:03 Separate City and I've been the size of Moscow buff without without any provision for Wastewater.

32:17 But we are about two months after I came to work for the city. They had a proposed annexation of a large area in the people from that area came to the city council meeting.

32:34 Upset with a city council for wanting to Annex the area of the city could adequately take care of what they had why they want to Annex and have more responsibility.

32:46 And they hate that people are very end. Tagging Ustick. We're not coming to the city council and I are at all. I couldn't even get into the room. It was packed so much. So it's been out in the hall and listens best. I could to the doorway.

33:04 But the whole issue seem to be the lack of source we should now is my responsibility this about a year later. They have another proposed annexation by that time. We had a plan laid out and I think we had a bond issue of water. Don had Consultants working on the expansion of the tree and plant plans laid out for a new tree or plant on the west side of the city.

33:38 So the same same thing started repeat itself people coming.

33:44 To the hearing to complain the city council on. And we were able to show them.

33:51 What we had pools in the time frame are Ron and people's attitudes just changed on the spot.

33:59 That was quite an interesting thing to be a part of.

34:03 I also the existing for you plant that we had was so overloaded people thought that if we add it on to it that meant that the older would be more and they're mine.

34:15 If you double the size of treatment plan to double the older and that's not the way it works. If you double size a tree and plant you cut back on the other cuz you could do a better job of treating the Wastewater.

34:28 So we wound up some of the neighbors got together activist got together called for a meeting in the Veterans State Park. They wanted to have that meeting outside. So the people can enjoy the smell coming from the tree or plant just to make their point.

34:48 But as the meeting progressed there was at some point one the people.

34:55 Ask a question.

34:57 And I was called upon to answer that question, which meant that I had to leave where I was standing in those Circle or people and we'll go over to the microphone when I was at the microphone. I answered the question and then but that just opened up a whole flood for questions. And so I was standing there answering the questions of all these bad people that were going to pass I have to get

35:24 Money to hire a lawyer to stop the city and by the time we got done with that meeting that night. I had a bunch of friends. They all got behind and instead of complaining they got behind and

35:39 Supported what we're doing mayor and city council or happy the neighbors were happy.

35:48 Quite a feat

35:52 I thought I got off to a pretty good start and it's that time as far as spending the next 30 Years the same job.

36:00 Why did you spend 30 more years here?

36:03 Well, I didn't have to go someplace to get a bigger job because they the job that I had it was growing so fast.

36:13 I am the

36:16 Beyond sores, we went into the air quality before I got done when I was responsible for air quality is solid waste.

36:26 Floating candles

36:32 So we hadn't done the job got a lot more responsible. So I didn't have to go someplace else to find a bigger job. I had a right there in front of me.

36:42 Over that period of time we saw a lot of Elsa.

36:47 Department heads come and go every mayor seemed to fire his fair share get them to retire early or whatever. I think there were two of you that made the cut through all of those years. What was your secret? Why do you think that happened? Because all of your mayor's respected you and and look to you for advice and help.

37:12 Well, I just had to remember.

37:17 Why we were there at all. It was to take care of the public and meet the public needed.

37:26 This Beast a good stewards of everything. We had to wear those money or

37:32 Whatever we had. We had to be good stewards of it and people understood and appreciated that.

37:41 Yeah, I Member One mayor that we had and he fired three Fire Chiefs.

37:49 In his first term

37:54 But there was quite a turnover forced turnover in airport in

38:02 Being in Parks. It was quite a bit of turmoil are but those of us that understood why we were there and what our role was got along just fine.

38:14 Kept your noses clean and do what God would have.

38:21 That are responsible positions do

38:25 Congress or senators?

38:28 The heads of major Departments of the federal government that some of the dumb things they do is just

38:34 Appalling to me yet, and it's it isn't hard to do just do his.

38:39 Tuatha remember you're there you're there for the public and

38:45 You know, I think one of the defining things worse when you became a member of the association of Metropolitan sewage agencies, not many people any of her two boys had before the mayor's weren't no. No. We were just a little small bird and and you begin to go to all of those National meetings and became a regional director and and have won a lot of significant awards for the development of the sewage treatment in this area and and some of the other things and had prototype cutting-edge facilities where you had people from all over the world coming to visit. I can't help but think that some of that really has left you you don't has has been even as much of a benefit to the city of Boise is the infrastructure that you helped create.

39:35 I I like before we close for you to talk about some of those awards that you received over the years and some that the city has received because I think they're really significant, honey.

39:46 I know you're very mild.

39:54 I'm probably the

39:57 A proud of those things but pride comes before the fall to so you have to keep your nose to the grindstone.

40:08 I think I saw the words that probably was not as much of anything is the 1/4.

40:14 Ensuring Excellence that I received from the idle Society of Professional Engineers couple years ago.

40:21 That's cuz your people right here in my backyard. They know man knew who they were voting for.

40:28 It was nice.

40:30 You also even though you're retired from your job at the Boise City right now. Just talk a little bit about your current position.

40:40 Well, I'm on the State Board of Licensing for Professional Engineers professional land surveyors Spotify ever being able to pass this exam and then bring the pain.

40:53 On the board of examiners is just appalling to pay I can't imagine how that ever happened the logo of the Lord's got something in mind. It's because you are so decent and honest and they they know that if when you meet God, what do you want to say?