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Edited by:
Charles Young

Edgar Bertram Twelker autobiography

As a young child, Ed Twelker almost died from a childhood illness, and then later suffered abuse. I consider this an inspiring story -- it proves that abused children can recover and have a productive and happy adult life. Then much later in life Mr. Twelker would have probably died if it had not been for a chance encounter between his daughter and an American doctor. In 1998 and 1999 Ed shared his story with me for my family history web pages. The reader is cautioned that the following story contains a somewhat graphic description of child abuse.
My mother was born in 1895 near Hillsdale, Michigan, where her father had a farm. Grandpa Lewis took the family west to Pacific Beach, a suburb of San Diego, in around 1906. Grandma Lewis and their son, Laurel, both suffered from lung disorders and Grandpa Lewis thought that a move to a milder climate would be beneficial to them.

Grandpa started a bean farm on the Pacific Beach property. Laurel, who was five years older than my mother, passed way at the age of 21.

My father was private secretary to E.W. Scripps (1854-1926), one of the founders of the Scripps newspaper chain. E.W. had a home in the country near San Diego and had his office in the home. It was a large, rambling ranch style home. I have recollections of running through the hallways of this home when I was around 4-5 years of age and there are photographs of me taken on the grounds there. I also remember taking part in Easter egg hunts with the Scripps kids on the grounds of the mansion. I understand that my father's sister, Marie, was the Scripps children's governess. Marie passed away when I was very young, so I have no recollection of her.

"EW", as he was known, had a fine yacht on which he sometimes went on lengthy cruises. He finally died on one of these cruises off the coast of west Africa. Had medical assistance been available, he probably would have survived. When E.W. was away, it seems that my Dad handled all of the business affairs of the newspaper chain, at least as far as "old EW" was involved.

When I was a kid, I recall that Dad had to make frequent trips (via train, of course) to Cincinnati in connection with the newspaper business. He was on one of these trips in February 1916 when my mother started having warnings of my imminent birth. She was alone in the cottage where they lived on the grounds near the Scripps mansion at the time. Old EW ordered his chauffeur to take my mother in his personal limo to a hospital in San Diego, about 15 miles away. It was a dark stormy night. The San Diego river, which is normally dry, was on a rampage that night and had to be crossed to get into town. They barely made it.

My mother suffered from a female disorder following my birth and minor corrective surgery became necessary when I was 15 months of age. Before leaving for the hospital, my mother, knowing that her mother was in poor health and possibly wouldn't be able to care for me, told a neighbor and retired nurse, Mrs. Perry, that if anything should happen to her, she wanted Mrs. Perry to have me. My mother, apparently in a weakened condition from an earlier illness, didn't survive the surgery and died at the age of 21.

Grandma Lewis cared for me for awhile until I became very ill and was taken to the hospital when I was two years old. The doctor told my grandmother that I wouldn't survive the night. I had been diagnosed as having typhoid double pneumonia. Grandma picked me up and carried me to the home of Mrs. Perry who worked over me all night. The next morning, the doctor came by to sign the death certificate and inquired what time the little boy had passed away. Much to his consternation, Mrs. Perry told him that I was not only still alive, but greatly improved, that my temperature was near normal. The doctor replied that her thermometer must be incorrect, but when he used his own thermometer he found that it indicated my temperature was even lower!

Dad left me with the Perrys until I was four years old, when he remarried. Seems that he had met the woman who would become my stepmother at the Scripps ranch where she was the Scripps children's governess. One would naturally assume that she would make me a good stepmother.

Grandma Lewis died at the age of 52. Grandpa Lewis, when I was only three years old, had lost all of his family excepting me, and had come very close to losing me. It was only natural that I became the "apple of his eye". Dad told me years later that Grandpa Lewis had come to visit me one day and found me out in the yard, chapped and burned from the blazing son, with my lips cracked and bleeding. I was obviously badly neglected. I recall that "Marty", as I had been told to call her, would put me out the back door after breakfast and then lock the door so that I couldn't get back in, even though sometimes I would knock and call to be let in, sometimes leaving me to soil my pants. I will not go into all of the details, but even a dog should not have been treated the way she treated me. Dad told me that when Grandpa Lewis found me in such deplorable condition, it angered him so that made some very uncomplimentary remarks to Marty. She then took out her anger on me.

Shortly before my half-brother Neil was born, in 1921, Dad took me to live with his father and brothers and sisters who were still living at home in San Diego. All of them had jobs and I would usually come home from school to an empty house. Finally, in June of 1924 when I was eight years of age, Dad took me back to the Perry's for the summer. At the end of the summer, it was mutually decided that I would remain with them.

Mr. Perry died in 1930, shortly before my 14th birthday. I stayed with Mrs. Perry until 1941 when I got a job as a Morse radio operator with Western Airlines in Las Vegas, Nevada. I had acquired the skill as a "ham" radio operator, starting at the age of 16. Las Vegas wasn't much of a town in those days-- only about 8000 population! I was in Vegas for three years and then was promoted to a position as Flight Dispatcher in Salt Lake City in 1944. I met my wife there and our two children were born there.

In the spring of 1949, after a reduction in personnel in Salt Lake City, I spent that summer working as a dispatcher for a small upstart airline in Fairbanks, Alaska. About the time the deep freeze was starting to set in, I was offered a job as dispatcher with a fledgling airline here in Honolulu -- the predecessor to the present Aloha Airlines. After a struggle of several years, that airline became the leading interisland air carrier, Aloha Airlines. I dispatched for Aloha for 32 years and retired in the spring of 1981. I feel that I was privileged to be associated with the airline industry during their "golden years".

In case you are wondering how I happened to become a radio operator, I have been an amateur (ham) radio operator since I was 17. My call is KH6ACC. I got my first ticket in 1933 and my call was W6ISG. Following the war, I held W7JWZ in Salt Lake City until I moved out here in 1949. I worked only CW (morse code) during those early years.

George Hockmeyer has been through here on the QE2 several times since he first contacted me for whatever information regarding our families that I might have. I always enjoy his brief visits here. Soon after we got acquainted, we discovered that we shared an interest in the theatre organ.

I was into bicycling until about 2001. I bicycled on all of the Hawaiian islands and much of the United States. Following my retirement in 1981, I joined a group of 20, mostly much younger people (some not yet out of high school!), riding a bicycle 3800 miles across the continent from Vancouver, B.C. to St. John, New Brunswick. Took us 57 days and, at the age of 65, I was the oldest in the group. It was something that I had wanted to do for years, but previously didn't have time for.

I also took advantage of my airline travel privileges, especially in the first ten years following my retirement. I made numerous trips to Europe, where I looked up many Twelkers in Germany and Holland. Even visited another Edgar Twelker in Germany!

On one trip, in 1985, I took my bike along and rode through all of the eastern bloc nations from Warsaw, Poland to Sofia, Bulgaria, a distance of about 1600 miles. Very interesting. With the exception of Romania, the highways couldn't have been better. The automobile traffic was very light everywhere-- truly a bicyclists paradise!

In October 1986, I was trekking (hiking) with a group of much younger people in Nepal when I fell off of a cliff. Landed on my head on an outcropping of rocks about 10-12 feet below the trail. That knocked me out, following which I either rolled or tumbled another 30-40 feet down a steep slope. To make a long story short, I sustained a broken neck, broken right arm, and six broken ribs, not to mention numerous scratches and bruises.

My daughter, Hazel, got over there from Honolulu. Fortunately, she met a young American M.D. and his wife on the flight over. He went to the hospital with her where they found me only semi-conscious. I was dying of uremic poisoning due to the fact that I had to lie flat on my back and they hadn't bothered to drain my bladder. The American doctor said that I would be dead in a couple of more days. Hazel rushed to the house doctor and told him to drain my bladder without delay. God help anyone who happens to wind up in a Nepalese hospital!

I was hospitalized for 2-1/2 months-- nine days in Kathmandu, eight days in a Bangkok hospital, and the balance of the time in Honolulu hospitals, followed by about six weeks of home therapy. I was very fortunate to make a complete recovery, and have only a slightly restricted movement of my head as a "souvenir".

Following recovery from that accident, in September 1987 I rode my bike 100 miles in what, for me, was record time for the distance-- 8 hours and 40 minutes. Two years following my accident, I did a two-week bike trip in the southern part of China, roughly from Guangzho to Guilin. Very interesting. Prior to that, in 1983, I did a three week bike trip in the northern part of China, which included Beijing and vicinity followed by a two week cross-country from Xian to Kaifeng. The latter segment was the most interesting experience of all of my travels. We were the first white people that most of the people along our route had ever seen. Entire towns came out to stare at us as if we were men from Mars! Streets in the towns and villages were lined ten deep with people who came out to greet us as we passed through!

I made six trips to Europe, including Germany, where I looked up quite a number of Twelkers. Most of them were in Germany, but I also found Twelkers in Amsterdam. The Amsterdam family thought that the name had always been Dutch. However, after they met me and learned that my ancestors had migrated from Germany, and that there were still a few Twelkers in Germany, they were able to trace their lineage back five generations to the same area of Germany that my forefathers came from! Quite a surprise for them!

I was never able to find a Twelker in Europe who knew what the name means. It remained for the wife of one of our cousins in St. Louis to find a dictionary of German names in the St. Louis Public Library. The name, loosely translated, means "a weaver of ticking". Ticking, as you may know, is the cloth that is used to cover mattresses. "Twele", in German, means to weave, so our name apparently means "Tickingweaver".

This all adds. The greatest concentration of Twelkers in Germany is in the Osnabruck/Bielefeld area. That area happens to be the center of Germany's textile industry.

Using the internet, I found a German ham named Twelker, Franz Twelker, DL1ABR. I was suprised that there is another ham in the world by the name of Twelker! He sent me his picture via email which turned out very good.

In 2005 Mr. Twelker provided this additional information:

After over fifty years in Hawaii, I moved to Missoula, Montana in November 1999. I have a daughter, Nancy, and her husband, Joe, who live a ten minute walk from me.

My daughter, Hazel, still remains in Honolulu. She is a Counselor at the U.S. Navy's Pearl Harbor facility. Nancy has been living on the mainland for about thirty years. I've been able to adjust to the cold winters without much trouble. I owned and lived in a tiny cottage in a suburb of Honolulu (Kaneohe) for 35 years. Due to the mild climate there, houses do not require much insulation. Fortunately, I had a good friend who was an expert in termite eradication. When my house was being built, he brought over a gunny sack full of termite poison and we spread it all over the foundation area just prior to pouring of the concrete foundation. During the fifty years I was out there, I never heard of a house that was free of termites when it was sold years later. Mine was absolutely termite free, so I didn't have to have it tented. I sold it before it was even on the market for MY Price, and $10,000 more than I paid for a far larger home in one of the upscale neighborhoods of Missoula. Millionaires live in a couple of large homes across the street from me! I have a practicing M.D. on one side of me and practicing attorney on the other side! All very friendly people. In Hawaii, I had a mail carrier on one side and a plumber on the other.

If I want to play music at midnight loud enough to hear all over this big house, no problem. It cannot be heard at all next door. In Hawaii, the cops would be at my door to tell me to turn it down! Homes there do not have any insulation.

Hawaii is great for those who love the beach, sailing, etc. I enjoyed hiking in the mountains there until I was well into my 70's, but never cared much for the beach. I was fortunate to have a good job there, with very liberal travel privileges on the airlines.


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