My mother told me that Al was from Toledo, Ohio. Outside of that lone fact, she didn’t mention any other vital statistics. I found out over the years that Al was in the U.S. Navy for a short period until he was diagnosed with diabetes and discharged. Mom also said that Al was court-martialed for abandoning his ship, because he felt extremely sick and one day decided that he needed to see a doctor. Apparently, as the story goes, his commanding officer wouldn’t let him leave the vessel. As my mother loved to tell it, he managed to jump ship only to pass out on the steps of the hospital, near death.
After his discharge from the Navy, Al came to Springfield where he met and married my mother—Sharon K. Slack in the late 50’s. He also attended Southwest Missouri State University for a short time and reportedly played football. According to Mom, he was a “center” on the team. He was known to have made many trips to a Veterans Administration Hospital in northern Arkansas for the treatment of his diabetes, which got progressively worse.
Al divorced my mother in either 1963 or 1964. I was around 3 or 4 years old at the time. From that point, I was told he moved to Kirkwood, Missouri outside of St. Louis, and remarried. I vaguely remember a few short telephone conversations with him over a 5 year period and do recall a brief visit early on. I had no contact with him after age 10 that I recall. It wasn’t until 1977 that his wife called to inform me that Al died of a massive heart attack. That’s about all I knew of Al Pounds up to April of last year.
Sadly, my beloved mother passed away in 1999 of cancer. I now wish I had asked more questions about Al, but until my trip home in 2009, I had no interest in doing so. From a young age, I always felt Al abandoned us, and that was that. His absence all those years helped galvanize a simple belief I have held for quite some time: it’s easy to become a father, but it takes years of dedication, hard work and love to become a “dad”. Shortly after the divorce, my mother met and married the man who would love and raise me as his own—James D. Hair. He was then and still is “Dad”.
James legally adopted me when I was 10 years old, and my name has been “Hair” ever since. It was a good thing especially since one grade school teacher insisted on hyphenating both surnames to produce an awkward sounding Andrew “Pounds-Hair”. I bristled whenever she corrected me insisting that my name was not legally “Hair”. The teasing from my classmates over my funny sounding hyphenated name was relentless, but I managed to survive. Fortunately, I was bigger than most of my peers. That helped, but honestly, I had something else going for me—I was proud to be a Hair!
I didn’t realize it at the time, but that box of old photos I combed through sparked a burning desire to learn more about the Pounds branch of my family tree, if for no other reason than to know. The discoveries I have made in the past year have truly amazed me and created a passion for learning more about my heritage and the family history that accompanies it. As genealogists say, I have been “bitten by the bug”!
In Part II of this story, I will reveal some of the facts and stories I have unearthed in my search for Al, to include unexpectedly finding a step-sister. Stay tuned!