Friday, February 5, 2010

Charles Rupert Luckenbill - Feb. 5, 1909 - Sept. 9, 1973

Uncle Rupert, the oldest of my mother's four brothers, was the only one in his family to graduate from high school, which he did in 1927.  He was a talented, self-taught musician, playing mouth harp, accordion, and any sort of stringed instrument, including a "tater bug" mandolin (the nickname came from the maple/rosewood rib pattern of the body which resembled a potato beetle), and a fiddle which he constructed himself using a wooden cigar box; the fiddle's neck was silk-smooth and glistened, and at its end Rupert had carved a beautiful horse head.

His brother Gene played guitar, eventually owning a Gibson with mother-of-pearl inlay on the fret board.  Another brother, Bob, played harmonica, and had a beautiful bass voice.  Rupert and Gene were also good singers, and the three of them were great at harmonizing.  They would play and sing at PTA meetings, revivals ... anywhere they could.  The fourth brother, Albert, liked to say that the only thing he could play was the radio.

For a while Rupert worked for a traveling book-bindery, a workshop having been set up in the back of a truck.  It would go from town to town and repair peoples' books.  The business owner's son was a deaf-mute; Rupert learned sign language, which in those days was spelled out letter by letter, so he could help the boy communicate.  Rupert then taught the signs to my sister Joan who now, at nearly 83, can remember the signs for all the letters except, says she, "I can't for the life of me remember how to make an 'R'!"

Rupert was a good man and a hard worker.  When the book-bindery went to the Chicago World's Fair in 1933 he sent his youngest sister Juanita a red bracelet and his niece Joan a blue bracelet.  "I always wanted everything red," says Joan, "but Mom Luckenbill said I was too blonde to look good in red."

Rupert enlisted in the Army in 1942, at the age of 33, and spent the war years in London.

He never married.  As a young man he'd had a crush on a girl named Tootie, who was the sister of his brother Gene's wife, Altessa; both sisters were attractive.  Rupert carried Tootie's picture in his wallet for years.

One time a letter came from a man who was writing to accuse Rupert of having made his daughter pregnant.  Rupert didn't know the girl; it turned out that the letter should have been addressed to a man named Rupert Brakebill.  Whether this Rupert Brakebill was the father of the child or not, he later married another of Altessa Heilman's sisters, one named Donnabelle.

After the war Rupert became a truck driver.  He liked to get up at five a.m. and have a whoppingly huge bowl of cornflakes.  I like a whoppingly huge bowl of cornflakes myself.

He liked to tell half-raunchy jokes.  One such might go something like this:  "This guy told me he'd like to stick the cold end of a hot poker up (some certain somebody's) ass.  I asked him why he wanted to stick the cold end in and he said he wanted to watch the guy pull it out."  

Grandpa and Grandma Luckenbill had never owned a house until Rupert and Albert bought one on Third Street in North Manchester for them.  Sometime after Grandma's 1958 death a fire destroyed about half of that house.  Sadly, most of the contents were destroyed or ruined, including Grandma's collection of hundreds of sets of salt and pepper shakers, which she kept in a glass-doored cabinet, and quilts she had made, and perhaps even that home-made fiddle of Rupert's.  The part of the house that had not been destroyed, basically the living and dining rooms, was roughly re-built to a condition that was habitable, and Grandpa and Rupert lived on there until Grandpa's 1968 death and Rupert's death five years later.

I didn't know Rupert all that well, and thank my beloved sister Joan for sharing her memories of him -- as well as many other of her precious memories -- with me.  She talks; I make notes, and then make paragraphs of her stories.
My brother Gerald remembers "a family gathering at Grandpa and Grandma's when Uncles Rupert, Bob & Gene sat on the front porch, played music and sang for at least an hour.  What a time!

"Rupert had his truck leased to Warsaw Trucking Company and hauled a lot of castings from Dalton Foundry to Peoria and Quincy, Ill.  During that time was when he would stop and have coffee with Mother and visit.  He once told of his time in England during the war when the Germans were sending the self-propelled bombs into the country, and the weird sound they made as they went over the post he was assigned to.  He worked in the Motor Pool at the post.  He was a very good mechanic and did all the work on his own truck  His truck was a 1938 or 39 International with a sleeper cab  One time he was parked at a truck stop in Illinois and the air leaked off of the brakes and his truck rolled down an embankment and the front was severely damaged.  He had it towed home and rebuilt with the hood and grill off of a 1947 International.  He called it his new old truck.  Uncle Rupert was just a good guy with a great sense of humor.  He told Jeanette [Gerald's wife] and me that he was so glad when he got dentures because when they ached he could put them up on the shelf and watch the damn things ache."

Thanks, Gerald!

1 comment:

  1. George, A great tribute to Uncle Rupert who I thought was one of the nicest people in the world. I probably seen him more than the other uncles as he would stop with his semi and visit with Mother over a cup of coffee. He was very funny. He also would let me sit in his big truck as long as I did not touch anything. He was a hero to me. Thanks G