Fred and Margaret

Fred Wesley Vickers was born April 14th, 1916, the first son and second child of Wesley Call Vickers and Nellie Hilda Falkner.

Wesley and Nellie had met and married in Charlotte Harbor, in what was then DeSoto County, Florida. After their marriage December 14, 1910, Wesley and Nellie settled down to raising a family. Wesley tended orange groves and took care of cattle until 1920. Then, in 1920, Wesley turned to building and managing a local store and gas station, also doing some carpentry work on the side. Later, beginning in 1929, Wesley served as a County Commissioner for Charlotte County (formed from DeSoto County in 1921) continuing through the 1930's, 40's, and 50's. During this time Wesley also drove school buses for the county. Nellie was a homemaker, making clothes for her family and preserving food from the trees and garden which Wesley tended.

In 1915, Wesley bought 40 acres of land for $400 from Nellie's great uncle, Thomas S. Knight. By 1917, Wesley had built the home in which he and Nellie would raise their seven children: Margaret (b. February 12, 1914), Fred Wesley, Mary Ellen (b. March 5, 1918), Betty Jane (b. July 15, 1923), Tom Kelly (b. March 24, 1925), Wesley Call, Jr. (b. August 26, 1928), and Earl Ray (b. July 25, 1931).

The family Christmas tree was always placed in the front living room near the fireplace. Fred remembers the Christmas stockings he and sister Margaret would hang on either side of the fireplace mantel. They would eagerly look forward to finding the stockings filled with candy on Christmas morning.

One of Fred's earliest Christmas memories was when he was five or six years old. After going to bed Christmas eve, he decided to quietly creep back down the stairs to see if Santa Claus was there, yet not really believing or expecting him to! Fred's dad was there was dressed in a Santa Claus outfit he had borrowed from the church. Catching his first glimpse (and not really expecting a real Santa), it scared Fred so, that he tore off back up the stairs in fright and amazement!

Fred's grandpa, Kelly Falkner, lived with the family for several years while Fred was in school. They shared the upstairs of the house with the other children. Grandpa Kelly kept bees out in the back yard where he had a large tub (an extractor) made for churning the honey he would bottle to sell. Fred would sometimes accompany him out to the hammocks (swampy areas along the creeks out in the woods) where he would set out something sweet to attract the bees. Then they would follow the bees to their hive in a log or tree where his grandpa would smoke them with his smoker in order to capture them.

At other times, Fred's grandma, Margaret Adeline O'Connor Vickers, would stay with them for several months at a time. Her room was always the upstairs room on the north corner of the house while sister Margaret's room was on the front side of the house upstairs. Fred's room was the large open room at the top of the stairs.

Fred was nine years old when his brother Tom was born. He remembers telling people that he would have to wait nine years before he could play ball (softball) with his new brother Tom! Softball was a favorite sport in school while growing up. Fred and the other school children would usually play during the lunch breaks at school. Other games Fred enjoyed playing as a youth included checkers, which he would often play with his sister Margaret.

During his early years, Fred's home did not have electricity or running water. Kerosene lamps were used for lighting. The 20' well out in front of the house supplied them with water. Fred would draw water from the well with a bucket for his mother to boil the laundry in and then also for the rinse tubs. The children's baths were taken in a large wash tub in the kitchen. Cooking and boiling water for laundry and baths was done with a wood burning stove in the kitchen. Fred would help his grandpa Kelly cut down pine trees and then saw them into blocks for the wood burning stove. To keep their foods cool in the ice box, Fred's dad would drive to the ice plant in Punta Gorda weekly to get a block of ice for the ice box. The earliest family car that Fred remembers was a Chrysler/Plymouth that his dad started with a crank in front of the radiator. It was this car that the family took to the Vickers' Reunion in 1926.

Fred was about ten years old when his family travelled up to the Family Reunion in Chipley. This was the first time Fred remembered meeting all his cousins on the Vickers' side. He enjoyed getting to know and playing with his cousins Glen Vickers, Jake and John Leo Brunner, and Colin Shipes--all about his age. Fred especially remembers his cousin Glen because the two of them had gotten into the homemade ice cream, eaten too much, and had gotten sick! Fred always remembered the good times he had with Glen that year. What a treat it was in 1991, when, after 65 years, Fred and Glen met each other again in Atlanta, GA, and reminisced about the good times they had getting to know each other back at that Reunion!

Other memories Fred has of that special visit to Chipley were the good fig cakes his grandmother would make. The figs would be cut and placed up on the tin roof to dry out. Fred and his cousins also visited and played out at a place called "Rock Hill" where there were huge boulders.

Fred attended the Charlotte Harbor Grade School. He would walk to and from the school near the cemetery which was only about a mile from his home. Each of the grades were taught in different classrooms. Fred then attended the Punta Gorda High School. A bus would travel across the Punta Gorda Bridge each day transporting the Charlotte Harbor students. Fred enjoyed playing varsity football while at Punta Gorda High School.

Fred had several jobs throughout high school in order to earn money. He and a friend milked cows in a dairy over in Harbor View. There were 13 cows to milk, so in the morning before school, Fred would milk seven and his friend, six. Then in the evening they would trade off: Fred would milk six and his friend, seven. It was also Fred's responsibility to drive the milk truck, delivering milk to Punta Gorda each day. Another job (but mostly fun), Fred would catch small crabs to sell to fishermen guides (Vic Larrison's dad) to use for tarpon bait. Fred also worked in his dad's grocery store while growing up, and later in a grocery store in Punta Gorda, filling grocery list orders for fishermen to take out on their boats, as well as waiting on customers. Fred would sometimes go out fishing on the boats for the day with his friend Vic Larrison, whose dad was a fishing guide.

Other interests Fred had were crabbing on the beach side of the Knight's place, fishing off the Charlotte Harbor dock, cast netting for mullet in the creeks on the Knight's property, and oystering and clamming on Boca Grande or at Englewood. He also enjoyed rabbit hunting with his 22 cal. rifle.

Margaret Louise Kessler was born September 24, 1915, in Mt. Carmel, Pennsylvania, the last daughter and eighth child of Benjamin Franklin Kessler and Matilda McCadia Morgan. B. Frank and Tillie had met and married in Mt. Carmel, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. After their marriage October 2, 1892, B. Frank and Tillie settled down to raising a large family. B. Frank had studied at the Philadelphia College of Optometry while serving his apprenticeship with a jeweler, so he practiced both professions when he set up his business in 1892 in Mt. Carmel to support his growing family: Viola May (b. May 14, 1894), Frank Robert (b. May 27, 1896), Joseph Elias (b. April 21, 1899), John Charles (b. August 31, 1902), Grace Eleanor (b. August 13, 1904), Wesley Leroy (b. February 25, 1906), Dorothy Dolly (b. July 9, 1910), Margaret Louise, and Paul Mark (b. March 29, 1917).

Because of heart-related health problems, B. Frank rented out his jewelry store and moved his family to Saint Petersburg, Florida, March 1, 1910. There he built a nice cottage home for his family. It was not long, however, before Tillie got homesick; in 1912 B. Frank moved his young family back to Pennsylvania where they settled in Selinsgrove, south of Sunbury. In 1914, the family relocated back to Mt. Carmel where B. Frank enlarged the jewelry store, doubling its size. At this time the family lived in a nice apartment above the jewelry store. B. Frank was well liked by all of his customers. He was always willing to leave the supper table to help someone. The family attended the Weinbrener Church of God there in Mt. Carmel.

Margaret recalls being frightened as a little girl living above the jewelry store. There had been several burglaries to the jewelry store below. In addition there was a bar next door to their apartment and Margaret remembers the loud brawls that often erupted so close to home. In one instance, Margaret recalls her father being awakened one night as a burglar was attempting to climb from the porch through their second story window. B. Frank successfully frightened the burglar away by calling out "Mom, hand me the gun!" He later rigged up a series of fish hooks hanging from the post to discourage would-be burglars. On another occasion, B. Frank heard a burglar climbing up the porch post. He picked up a large crock pot and threw it down on the burglar, who then became quite irate, accusing B. Frank of throwing a toilet pot on him!

Margaret loved to read and she would often find herself scaling the ladder to the dusty attic to read the old books stored there. She enjoyed exploring the contents of old boxes and antique furniture and especially going through the ancient trunk in which her mother kept many of the old family keepsakes. She remembers the fun times she and the other children had snow sledding down the hills in Mt. Carmel. Going to "the country" to visit her mother's sisters in Perkasie and Jersey Shore was always a special treat as well.

On several occasions, Tillie would allow Margaret to go visit Viola over in Selinsgrove by the Susquehanna River. Margaret loved to visit and she would help Viola clean house and make the beds. Here too Margaret enjoyed exploring the attic which ran the whole length of Viola's house. The attic was full of old books and things and Margaret remembers clearing a place by the attic window where she could sit for hours reading and enjoying the view of the countryside until Viola would call her for supper. Margaret would enjoy swimming with Paul and her cousins Alvin and Billy in the Susquehanna River.

Margaret barely remembers her grandmother, Lydia Wetzel Morgan. Grandparents didn't pay much attention to the youngsters, leaving them pretty much to themselves. She does remember, however, that her grandmother made very fine meals, more than enough good food for everyone!

By 1920, Margaret's older brother Frank joined his father in the jewelry and watch repair business. When B. Frank and Tillie decided to move to Winter Park, Florida, B. Frank sold the building and the business to his son Frank who had been managing a store in Bellefonte.

Margaret was in the fourth grade when her family moved to Winter Park about February of 1926. The family travelled in a straight eight, seven passenger Rickenbacker that burned as much oil as it did gas! The trip took at least a week to complete. As it was winter, Tillie used an old talcum powder box to scrape the ice off the windshield. The family stayed each night at tourist houses (bed & breakfasts). The trip through Georgia was almost entirely on red clay roads. After leaving one tourist house the car got stuck in the orange mud and B. Frank had to walk a ways back to the tourist house to have the man tow his car out with a tractor.

For the first few months after moving to Winter Park, B. Frank and Tillie stayed in the home of a pastor friend, Rev. Buck. Dorothy slept on their lake-side porch, and Margaret and Paul slept in a tent that their dad put up out back. Tillie would come out and cook for the children on a small burner in the tent. Before long, B. Frank purchased a two bedroom Spanish style bungalow at 1168 Melrose Avenue near Lake Virginia in Winter Park. Soon after, Grace and her young son, Donny, moved down from Pennsylvania to join them. Grace, Dorothy, and Margaret shared one room, and Paul and Donny slept on a studio couch in the dining room. One time when Grace and Dorothy were changing in the bathroom, Grace looked up to see a "peeping tom" staring in the bathroom window. In fright she let out a whooping scream! This incident really bothered B. Frank and he left the house with a loaded gun looking for the culprint. Margaret felt sure that if he found him, he would have shot him dead.

Margaret's father owned and often wore a rather large extremely beautiful six carat diamond ring. Tillie was always worried that someone would see it, and knock him over the head for it. So the ring eventually ended up in the bottom of the sugar bowl for safe keeping. It was this ring that B. Frank later traded for a lot on Lake Virginia. By 1940, B. Frank and Tillie built a beautiful lakefront home on this lot.

Margaret was not happy when her parents required her to repeat the fourth grade. They were concerned that since the children transferred down mid-year, they may get behind. Margaret attended the Winter Park Elementary School (across from the current court house on Park Avenue, but since torn down), and the Winter Park High School on Pennsylvania Avenue (now the Winter Park Middle School). Throughout her school years Margaret enjoyed playing on the school basketball teams and the Foster Fanning Softball Club teams. She also loved growing up by the lake. Margaret really enjoyed swimming and diving from the dock her father built there on Lake Virginia. Sometimes Paul would chase her into the lake and not let her come out. Margaret would end up having to swim across the lake and walk back home on the train tracks.

Margaret notes that her father had quite a temper but that he always handled it well. She thinks that his temper was probably due to the fact that he never felt well physically. Another reason she noted for his temper may have been the trouble and general hard time John and Leroy gave him after they initially moved back to Pennsylvania. If he had something to say to the children by way of discipline, he would tell Tillie who would then talk to them. He was generally very easy with the children (although they learned quickly not to ever talk back to him) and let Tillie make most of the decisions. Tillie handled most of the family's finances.

Although Margaret describes her father as a nervous type and easily upset, and although she and her mother often disagreed, their home was a secure one and a good sense of humor was never in short supply. Margaret's mother would sometimes drop her dentures below her upper lip and chase the children around the house--a terrifying, but fun experience for the youngsters! Margaret remembers her sister Dorothy putting red pepper in the fudge she made for April Fool's Day! Margaret recalls one time when down on the dock, she said something to cause her brother Paul to get angry. He pulled the locket from around her neck and in return Margaret slapped him! She realized very quickly she had gone too far and saw only one way of escape. Clothes and all she dove into the lake with Paul close behind. Paul chased her across the lake and back again before catching up and making amends! B. Frank would often take the family for two and three week vacations tent camping. There were many good memories in the family and the children, it is said, never once heard their father and mother exchange cross words or argue.

Soon after moving to Florida, B. Frank and Tillie first attended the Methodist Church in Winter Park and then the Broadway Methodist Church in Orlando before finding their church home at the First Alliance of Orlando. B. Frank would generally have the car backed down the driveway where he would continually honk the horn trying to hurry Tillie along as she got the children ready for Sunday School and Church. Tillie was not hesitant to let him know she didn't appreciate the horn! Margaret recalls that she was always happy in the church. She remembers becoming a Christian when she was about 12 years old while attending the Alliance Church. Family prayer and Bible reading in the living room was a regular activity for the Kessler family while Margaret was growing up.

During Margaret's junior year in school, Dr. Richard A. Forest, founding President of Toccoa Falls College and Academy, came to preach a series of meetings at the Alliance Church. Impressed by his teaching and preaching (and also because she did not always see eye to eye with her mother), Margaret secured permission from her parents to attend her senior year at Toccoa Falls Academy in Toccoa Falls, Georgia. It wasn't long after arriving at Toccoa Falls, Margaret grew homesick, for this was the first time she had lived away from home. After this initial adjustment was made, however, Margaret began to enjoy her new friends. She also continued her strong interest in reading, poetry, and sports. She especially remembers the wonderful Bible classes taught by Mrs. Forest. Upon graduation from Punta Gorda High School in April of 1934, at the age of eighteen, Fred Wesley Vickers moved to Orlando to learn the sheet metal trade from his Uncle Fred Falkner. Fred stayed for a few months with his Aunt Exie and Uncle Joe Kessler and then moved to live in his Uncle Fred Falkner's garage apartment at 910 Maxwell Street, Orlando. Fred's starting wages were about 35˘ an hour.

Having grown up in the Trinity United Methodist Church in Charlotte Harbor, Fred now began attending the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church with his Uncle Fred Falkner's family.

Throughout her school years, Margaret Louise Kessler lived with her family in Winter Park, Florida. However, for her senior year of high school, Margaret attended and then graduated from Toccoa Falls Academy in Toccoa Falls, Georgia, at the age of eighteen in May of 1934. Upon her return to Winter Park, she continued to attend the First Alliance Church of Orlando, the church her parents attended.

It was at the Youth Group Meetings at the First Alliance Church in the fall of 1934 where Fred and Margaret first caught each other's eye. It seems that Margaret instigated their first contact when she asked her brother Paul to introduce her "to that good lookin' fellah over there"! It was not long before Fred and Margaret became the newest "hot item" in the youth group.

During their courtship of six years, they enjoyed picnics at Sanlando Springs, double dating, trips to the Sanford Bridge Pier and Daytona Beach, horseback riding, youth group fellowships at church, and even a trip to Pennsylvania (Margaret's birthplace) in 1940 to meet more of her family. On one of their trips to Sanford, the young couple so much in love, had a friend of theirs, Gordon Miller, perform a mock wedding for them! Fred often took Margaret down to Charlotte Harbor for his family reunions.

During much of this time Margaret worked at Kress's Department Store in downtown Orlando. Fred continued to learn the roofing and sheet metal trade in his uncle's business. Some of his roofing and sheet metal jobs took him to Cocoa and Daytona Beach.

One day while visiting Margaret's family over on Melrose Avenue in Winter Park, Fred fearfully asked Margaret's father, Benjamin Franklin Kessler, if he could take his “daughter Margaret off his hands.” Mr. Kessler, with a twinkle in his eye responded with "Gladly!" Margaret recounts that she had "very shapely legs and a nice body--lean!" As they made their plans to marry, they acquired a beautiful lot on Bass Lake in Orlando, and Fred began to build their new home.

Fred and Margaret were married on a Sunday afternoon at 5:45 pm, February 16, 1941, in the First Alliance Church of Orlando by the Rev. E. W. Richards and spent a brief honeymoon in St. Petersburg. Before their new home was ready for them, Fred and Margaret rented a small home for several months at 434 Conway Road (now Curry Ford Road). Their first month's rent after marriage was given to them free as a wedding gift from their landlord. Within several months, Fred and Margaret were ready to move into their new home. The first address of the house was Rt. 5, Box 799-A. Sometime later the address was changed to 2515 Crystal Lake Drive, and then many years later changed again to 2601 S. Crystal Lake Drive[picture of Fred and Margaret]

Fred and Margaret's first child, Colin Paul Vickers, was born November 7, 1942. In the summer of 1943, when Margaret was several months pregnant with their second child, Fred enlisted in the United States Navy to serve in World War II. He reported first to Jacksonville, Florida.

A summary of Fred's service in the Navy Seabees is as follows: He was stationed at Camp Endicott, Davisville, Rhode Island, for basic training. His rank upon leaving Camp Endicott was M 2/C. He was part of Company C, Platoon 3, of the 103rd Battalion. His combination score book for rifle target practice in July of 1943, indicates a high degree of accuracy. August and September appear to have been spent at Camp Perry, Virginia, where Fred departed September 28, 1943, for New Orleans, as Petty Officer, M 2/C.

Fred's completed his service with the Seabees with the following schedule, reconstructed from letters and notes:

April 21-29, 1944              Nine Day Leave, (FPO USS Barker, New York, New York)
May 29, 1944                    Left the Amphibious Training Base, Little Creek, Virginia
June-July, 1944 (?)             North Atlantic Cruises to Greenland, Iceland, and England (?)
August 10, 1944                 Boston, Massachusetts
October 3, 1944                 USS Barker, Norfolk, Virginia
October 27, 1944               Bermuda; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Scotland Bay, Trinidad
November 5, 1944             Cuba
November 8, 1944             Panama Canal (FPO changed to San Francisco)
February 10-19, 1945        Ten Day Leave, Rank M 1/C, (FPO New York, New York)
March-May, 1945 (?)        North Atlantic Cruises to Greenland, Iceland, and England (?)
June, 1945                         Dry Dock in Philadelphia waiting for transfer
July 7, 1945                       Left the USS Barker
July 8-22, 1945                 Sixteen Day Leave, transferred to Mayport (Jax), Florida
August 24, 1945                Arrived San Diego, California
October 22, 1945             Arrived San Pedro, California
November 17, 1945          Discharged

Other ports along the east coast included Portland, Maine; Boston; Providence, Rhode Island; Norfolk; and Mayport (Jax), Florida.

Fred's main responsibility while serving on the USS Barker (based out of Norfolk) was as a scout for enemy submarines from the ship's forecastle. The USS Barker was a destroyer that ran escort for supply ships on the way to England. He had additional duties which included some welding and sheet metal work. Some of his special memories were of seeing the beauty of the icebergs in Iceland. Also he was amazed at how his ship was able to be ferried through the Panama Canal while training with U.S. Submarines. Another memorable, but sad, event was, after hearing of his brother Wesley's untimely death, he spotted his brother Tom's ship in harbor and was able to take a lifeboat out to his ship to find Tom and inform him of their brother's death.

Fred and Margaret's second child, Rita Louise, was born January 8, 1944, while Fred was still in the Navy. Margaret recalls working for Kress's during the holiday seasons while Fred was away. Her mother would sit for Colin and Rita while she worked. Fred's service ended November 17, 1945. After the War, Fred and Margaret added three more children to their family: Ted Wesley, April 11, 1946; David Austin, September 14, 1949; and Kelly Glenn, September 29, 1957.

Some of the automobiles Fred and Margaret owned included a 1935 Plymouth B. Coupe Model PJ acquired by Fred in May of 1937, and a new 1939 Plymouth Coupe Model P6 acquired by Fred in February of 1939.  In September of 1949, the family was driving a 1939 4-door Hudson Sedan. Later automobiles included a 1954 Chevy Stationwagon, a 1956 Mercury, a 1960's model Plymouth Valiant, a 1973 Plymouth Fury, a 1986 Chevrolet Cavalier, and a 1990 Chevrolet Cavalier. Vacations to the beach, New Orleans, St. Louis, San Diego, the Grand Canyon, and Idaho were enjoyed by the family.

As the family grew, Margaret began working at the Belk's Department Store, which was then adjacent to the Colonial Plaza Mall. After this, Margaret took the position of Baker for the Orange County School Board and worked for over ten years in this position at the Shenandoah Elementary School on Conway Road until her retirement. Fred continued to advance in his Uncle Fred Falkner's Roofing and Sheet Metal Company. By the time his Uncle was ready to retire, Fred was Vice-President and half owner of the Corporation. By the time Fred retired, he had worked for over fifty years for the Company.

The correspondence which follows consists primarily of letters and notes written between Fred and Margaret from 1935 to 1959. The majority of letters were written during two major periods in their life. The first group was written during their courtship on the occasion of Margaret visiting her extended family in Pennsylvania and St. Louis in the spring and summer of 1937. There follows some intermitant correspondence up to the time of their marriage. The second major group was written during Fred's military service with the US Navy, 1943-1945. Other known correspondence between other members of the family, such as Fred's mother, sister Betty, and brother Tom are also included. There are a few letters from some of Fred's Navy buddies. All correspondence is placed in chronological order. The letters have been typed exactly as they were written. Misspellings, capitalizations or lack thereof have been retained. Updates will be made to this volume as additional materials may become available.

Greeting cards for Valentine's Day, Easter, Birthdays, and Christmas were exchanged, kept, and treasured by Fred and Margaret from their first holidays together. All of the correspondence, pictures, and documents will contribute to our overall understanding, appreciation, and love for Mom and Dad and the great influence they have had on our own lives. This volume constitutes a labour of love and is dedicated to the ones after whom it is named--Freddie and Margie Vickers, my parents.

Kelly Glenn Vickers
Christmas, 1994

Return to Top of Page

Return to Home Page

Kelly G. Vickers, 50 Trembly Bald Drive, Toccoa, GA 30577

Phone 706-886-0012   Email