I, Ronnie Wayne Williams, was born on April 15, 1933, on the banks of Red River about 20 miles from Dallas, Texas. This was the Oklahoma side of the river and my grandfather had owned a farm about eight miles east of Dallas. He and five neighbors were the first Sooners to cross Red River and homesteaded land when the Indian Territory opened up for settlement.
I experienced the hardships of the 1930’s depression and carry the economic perspectives and scars. I saw farmers’ cows sold to the government for very little money. Those cattle were killed and piled into deep pits with lime poured over them so that hungry people could not eat the meat. This was one of the programs that the government used to increase money circulation.
In 1943, during World War II, my father worked as a share crop farmer. After paying off his debts, he had $300, a Ford, a wife and four kids. I arrived in Fresno at 10 years old and when the McKinley irrigation ditch was the north end of town. I learned to swim in the ditch and there were a number of public dance halls and about a dozen movie theaters. One could go downtown on the bus for a nickel and go to a double feature movie for a dime with a vaudeville act included. I attended Chester Rowell Elementary school, and Roosevelt Junior and Senior High schools, graduating in 1952, right at the beginning of the Korean War.
I completed two years at Fresno State College due to a deferment from the military draft because I was in ROTC officer military training and planning on becoming a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force. This was delayed in 1954, when a Mormon bishop asked me to go on a Latter Day Saints mission for two years. I was informed by the ROTC that if I pulled out of school, upon return from my mission I would be drafted into the Army as a private within a month of returning from my mission, and my military service would be served as a private instead of an officer.
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The LDS mission was served in the central United States and it was very successful; upon my return, sure enough, I was drafted into the U.S. Army as a private. After eight weeks of basic training at Fort Ord and eight additional weeks of advanced basic training at Fort Carson, Colorado, the troops were loaded onto aircrafts at night to be flown to South Korea. During the boarding of the planes, 40 names were called to step aside and my name was on the list. The 40 privates were instructed to board the two-engine propeller-driven airplane. In flight, we were told we had gotten lucky and that we were headed to Washington, D.C. to be members of the Presidential Honor Guard for a two-year term.
My work highlight while in the Honor Guard was going to the airport to meet Queen Elizabeth and the King, as she walked own the red carpet not even two feet from where I was standing at parade rest.
While in Washington, D.C., I met my future wife while she was working for the government as a secretary. I was impressed that she could type 90 words a minute with no errors. We dated while she spent summers in D.C., going back to BYU to complete her studies. At the end of the first summer, we became engaged. Later we moved to Fresno and she became a teacher in Selma and I graduated from Fresno State in 18 months with a teaching degree.
In addition to teaching school, I became a salesman. My brother worked for Hartford Insurance Company as an adjustor. The company wanted him to transfer out of town, so he responded by leaving his job. He came over to my house and informed me that he wanted to start an asphalt company. His plan was to have me do sales for him part-time, after school and on weekends. My brother borrowed my dad’s old truck and started out with a squeegee broom and a 5-gallon bucket. Selling residential driveways initially, I quickly moved on to small shopping centers, mobile home parks and then the largest malls and shopping centers in the state.
Within 10 years, I was securing contracts as large as a million square feet and I sold asphalt repair and sealing for 14 years. When I opened up in the city of Stockton, I sold a contract to seal the largest shopping center there. Upon arriving with the trucks and equipment to seal the parking lot, we were greeted by the Stockton police. They told my brother he was not going to do this job and that he was not going to take that kind of money out of Stockton. My brother responded by telling his crew they had 30 seconds to start work or be fired. Needless to say, the police retreated and we sealed a million square feet every year for that company. Williams Asphalt Sealing became the largest asphalt sealer west of the Mississippi River.
Another side job, I also invested in rental houses and apartments with partners. Conducting the maintenance and interviewing renters, I managed these properties for 15 years. In 1992, I stopped selling asphalt sealer and started selling off my real estate in June 2005 at the top of the market.
Retiring from a 40-year career as a school teacher in June 1999, I then began my travels through 22 states including Alaska and Hawaii with Jay Nelson and my sister.
After we’d been married for 56 years, my wife lost her battle with lung cancer in 2015. I have four children; three live in the greater Sacramento area, one died in March of 1998. I have seven grandchildren.
I have frequented the Wednesday morning Clovis Senior Activity music and dance for the past four years.