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COLLIS, Walter Leroy

COLLIS, Walter Leroy[1]

Male 1924 - 1999  (74 years)

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  • Name COLLIS, Walter Leroy 
    Born 27 Sep 1924  Brentwood, Contra Costa, California, United States Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Died 21 May 1999  Sacramento, Sacramento, California, United States Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I19  Parker/Collis Genealogy
    Last Modified 31 May 2012 

    Father COLLIS, Ernest Russell,   b. 31 Dec 1896, Brentwood, Contra Costa, California, United States Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 26 Jun 1976, Sacramento, Sacramento, California, United States Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 79 years) 
    Mother SHERMAN, Bertha Irene,   b. 2 Mar 1903, Kalispell, Flathead, Montana, United States Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 30 Jun 1970, Traverse City, Grand Traverse, Michigan, United States Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 67 years) 
    Married 14 Oct 1923  Spokane, Spokane, Washington, United States Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F1  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Living 
    Children 
    +1. Living
    +2. Living
    Family ID F13  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 27 Sep 1924 - Brentwood, Contra Costa, California, United States Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

  • Photos
    Roy Collis 1943-3.jpg
    Roy Collis 1943-3.jpg

  • Notes 

    • died in his chair at home from heart failure, was cremated.

      !NOTE: Roy attended grammar school and one year of high school in Colfax, Washington. He attended one year at Sacramento Sr. High School before joining t the armed services during World War II, on 13 March 1943. He was a cannoneer with the 705 Tank Destroyer Battallion. He served in Rhyneland, Ardennes, Central Europe, Normandy, and their battallion was surrounded in the Battle of the Bulge. He received his high school doploma by passing the tests after being discharged 11 Dec, 1945. He was later a volunteer in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, stationed in Newfoundland, Canada, as a truck driver hauling petroleum. He worked for the State of California between the two armed services and later returned to the State of California as a supervisor for the Electronics Data Processing area of Cal-Trans. He retired from State service in 1981. He lived in the Arden area of Sacramento. He liked gardening and had quite a knack for it. He also liked to work in his wood shop.

      MEMORIES OF WALTER LEROY COLLIS
      (as told to Marilyn Parker, June 4, 1988)

      I remember little of the ranch in Brentwood; just going through the orchard between Grandma Collis' and our little shack, Grandpa sitting in the rocking chair on the porch with tears rolling down his cheeks because he hurt so bad. Yet Grandpa always had time to play with me. Whenever I'd come, he'd hold me on his lap.

      I can remember Grandma chasing him around, telling him, "Walter! do this." Boy! He'd move. She was just a little tiny squirt. We used to gather around the piano and sing the old traditional stuff on Christmas Eve. Money was tight so we would go out and cut down a tree whether it was pine or whatever, and decorate it with homemade decorations. I remember stringing popcorn, making chains and paper decorations.

      Grandpa Collis was a big man, religious, a blacksmith, 6 feet 1 inch on one foot and 6 feet 2 inches on the other; A big man with big arms. He wouldn't hurt a fly. He fell across a ladder picking fruit and developed cancer of the bladder.

      After grandpa died, the Bank of America took the ranch. Dad (Russell) was so angry at the B of A. He put Grandma's organ on the burn pile along with other items without asking anyone whether they wanted anything. Grandma went to live with her son, Ed in Oakland. Dad took the family and went to Oregon to homestead on land and built a log cabin just West of Scapoose near Portland. Winner was a timekeeper in a fibreboard plant near there about '32 or '33. We weren't there very long and left everything and went to Diamond, Washington. I liked to go to Jack Sweat's market on Main Street there. It was a combination grocery, hardware, Post Office. There was a big pot bellied stove. The farmers would sit around it and talk. We boys would go in and tease them. They'd roust us out and then we'd sneak back in. Chickens hung by their feet. Dried beans and other goods were in barrells. You would reach into the pickle barrell and grab one.

      Dad worked with Grandpa Lamb, who ran the grain elevator. Grandpa was a banker but didn't like banking. Grandpa Lamb got a fever and lost all of his hair. He did not have one hair on his whole body. He was embarrassed and always wore a hat, even at the dinner table.

      Dad left Diamond to manage a warehouse in Thera, halfway between Diamond and Endicott. There were wheat fields all around and the railroad ran right beside the warehouse. The family lived in a rent free apartment in the warehouse. I remember skating up and down the warehouse. I went to the one room schoolhouse across the street from the warehouse. when that school closed we went to school in Endicott about 13 miles away.

      Dad had a difficult time showing his affection for his children. He seldom punished his children, but sometimes we needed it. At about age 9 or 10, I got mad at Dad and set the wheat field by the warehouse on fire. Dad beat me and he cried every time he hit me.

      When the folks would go to the barn dances, we kids would get stuck on blankets behind the stove. We boys would sneak out when no one was watching.

      Grandpa Lamb offered Dad the ranch about 3 miles out of Colfax (on the way to Endicott and Diamond) to farm. The ranch was owned by Grandpa Lamb and his sister Melba. A new highway was being built by the ranch and Mom started cooking for the highway crew. We kids ate after the crew had finished. I would watch the crew drill and dynamite. One cold night one of the crew threw a box of dynamite on the fire. It scared the heck out of me as I expected it to explode. It didn't. It burned great.

      I went to Martha Washington High School in Colfax and lettered in track. I took the East Washington District in broadjumping. I liked school. I didn't like grammar or history, but I liked math, geography, and science. I was good at and got A's in the subjects I liked but I would go fishing at the Palouse River or the Creek when I didn't like it.

      I worked on ranches for $1 a day, cleaning barns, feeding cattle, or herding the horses or cows in. A show cost 5 cents, and overalls cost 10 cents. You could get a handful of licorice sticks for 1 cent. You would reach your hand in the jar and grab a handful and you would always have to let go of some to get your hand out of the jar. We could go to a matinee when we could get a nickle. It was sure hard to get a penny in those days. We didn't throw them around like the kids do now. Mom always saw to it we had clothes and food even though we didn't have much money.

      One Halloween we took a wagon all apart and put it together again on top of a farmer's barn. The farmer probably tied a rope to it and rolled it down. Many times for entertainment we would go in the barn and walk the rafters trying to knock the other person off onto the floor 15 feet below. Sometimes there was hay on the floor, sometimes not.

      When we walked to school in Colfax, Laura would want to walk on the rail on the car bridge over the Palouse River. She carried the flashlight. I would walk beside her because the river was running high and rough. She started to fall and I grabbed for her . The flashlight hit me in the mouth and broke off one of my front teeth. We had to walk over the bridge or the railroad trestle. The trestle was shorter, so we often walked it. Mom would have killed us if she had known, as there was nowhere to go if a train came.

      Dad went to work in the creamery with Ted Ackerman. Ted left the creamery, leased farm land, then bought it. He did very well financially. Dad wasn't a go-getter. He took things as they came. He was happy with a moderate home life. He was a great dad and would have fought the devil himself for any of his kids.

      Uncle Pete and Aunt Gladyce were living in California. Pete was a hardwood floor layer in Oakland and then went to work a McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento as a mechanic.

      I remember that Grandpa's old ranch was still there in Brentwood when we came to Sacramento in 1941. We lived with Aunt Gladyce and Pete. Dad went to work for McClellan but didn't like the work. This was just after WWII started. He quit. They told him that he couldn't quit. Dad asked, "who's going to stop me?" They said they'd draft him. He said, "then draft me, you'll have to support all my kids". He quit and they never drafted him.

      He went to work for Lyon Darwin Hardware in Oak Park. Some gal gave him a hard time so he quit that and went to work for Robinson's Construction. Redgate was a supervisor there and when Robinson's went out of business, Redgate went to work for another construction company. He would call Dad to come to work on other jobs. I was about 18 when Dad worked for Robinson`s. He was driving a company truck when he cut someone off on the road. The man yelled at Dad. He stopped the truck and got out with a pipe wrench. I said,"Dad, you're going to get us killed". Dad said, "I can take care of this." The man got in his truck and left. Dad had a temper. Dad wasn't big but always said, "It doesn't mean I'm not tough."

      One day I bought gas at a Shell Station that we often traded at. I didn't have quite enough money, so the man had me leave a tire while I went home to get some more. Dad got mad that the man didn't trust me and went up and told the man to never keep my tire again.

      I belonged to the YMCA, a christian club. They contracted out kids to work in the packing sheds in Courtland, and I got a job there. I worked for Western Union, delivering telegrams on a bicycle. Worked for Riverview Orchards, on the river highway, pruning pears. I went to work for a Sunset Tile Company as a tile setter just before I went into the service.

      I met Charlie at Uncle Pete's. Charlie had a friend, Kenneth, who lived 2 doors down from Pete. Charlie and Frank Jacinto, a crippled boy, would come to visit Kenneth. We would do things together. Frank would steal candy bars. He would say he was going to. We never saw him take it, but he would come out with one. We were afraid of getting in trouble so we quit going around with him. He wound up in Folsom Prison.

      Charlie and I rented a car and decided to go in the river through the big rocks. We got the car stuck in the rocks and had to have someone pull us out. We sure did not do the tires on the car any good. We used to go up to the mountains above Colfax. Charlie's Uncle had a cabin there. We panned for gold but didn't find much.

      I went into the service in 1943 before I graduated from high school.
      I was stationed at Trowbridge, southeast of London, England for 4 months. The Germans were dropping buzz bombs. They did a lot of damage but were not too accurate.We left Dover England on an LST, (Land Ship Tank). It would hold 4 tanks. We landed at Omaha Beach in Normandy. We drove our tanks off into the water and then up the beach with the Krouts firing at us. We established the beach and then started fighting between the hedgerows. Hedgerows are the mounds of dirt between each farm that have hedges planted on the top of the mounds to serve as fences. We'd sit on one side of the hedgerow and the enemy on the other. Every once in a while they would throw a hand grenade over. Pretty soon we would throw one. back. You could yell over that you needed a cigarette and they would throw a pack over to you. (or a bottle of beer.) Yet if you stuck your head up, they'd shoot it off. They were just doing their job. Our tank had a bulldozer to open a path through the hedgerow. We would fight from one hedgerow to the next. We gained very little ground. Saint Milloux, a pretty little town, was leveled. We crossed the Rhine River at Worms. We were attached to 101st airborne. We were routed to go to Bastogne, Belgium and were surrounded but never captured in the Battle of the Bulge. Supplies had to be brought in by aircraft. Dalton was flying there at the time, but I never knew it. After we got out of that, we traveled across Europe up into the Bavarian Alps along the southern route into Austria. We were not allowed to cross the Swiss border as that was a nuetral country. I was in the tank spearhead B, the second vehicle behind the jeep. We went through Austria almost to Vienna. A military government was established and I did guard duty. The northern route went into Berlin.

      I then came back to La Harve, France (2nd largest city in Normandy) and went by light cruiser to Springfield, Massachusetts. From there I came to California to Beale Air Force Base just before the holidays. The war was over. I stayed in the reserves and was called back into service in the Air Force during the Korean War. I was stationed at McClellan Air Force Base with the barracks just this side of Marysville Boulevard (Splinter City). I would report in the morning and was told to go home. I slept at home rather in the barracks. Then I had to report in the evening again. I got tired of that, so I asked my friend in the office to get me shipped overseas. He asked me where I wanted to go. Korea? No! there was fighting over there. Alaska? No. It was too cold there. Havanna, Cuba, that sounded good but I was too late. Someone else beat me to it. The only thing left was the Northeast Air Command. I didn't know where it was, but I said, "sign me up." So I went to Newfoundland, trucking aviation gas.
      When I got out of the service, I passed the GED test and the entrance exam to Cal., but I had too much to make up, so I didn't go. I went to Sacramento Junior College for 1 1/2 years. Then went to work for the State of California."

      note from Tom Alexander: Dear Marilyn....Barb, and I too, would love to proof your manuscript. Your parents were the greatest!

      About Roy. We had a few conversations about WW II and his role in it. Marilyn, he was a bonafide hero of great courage and honesty!!! He was the driver on his tank destroyer, which also served as a scout. That means his tank was out in front looking for the enemy, a very dangerously exposed place to be. He told me that when they spotted Germans he'd Kick the tank in reverse with his foot and fly out of the area as fast as the tank could go backwards, then when the sgt. thot it safe he'd have Roy turn it around and head for the CO to report their sighting.

      Roy worked for Gen Patton and was part of his 3rd Army enroute to Germany from France when the Battle of the Bulge started. Ike ordered Patton to make a sharp left turn and relieve the trapped 101st at Bastogne. Patton said he'd be there in 3 days and his word was good. The 101st was almost down to fighting with sticks and stones a few men had no ammo, some only had 3 or 4 rounds. It was a magnificent military feat to stop and turn the 3rd army 90 degrees in the ice, snow and mud of France and Belgium in DEC. because of the difficulty of keeping the equipment moving in those conditions. If you can imagine, tanks and trucks slipping and sliding off the muddy roads and bogging down in ditches to be towed out and hustled on their way only to be bogged down again at the next turn in the road. Tanks were sliding sideways like race cars on a race track and beware anything in their way as they couldn't stop.

      Roy's unit got to the outskirts of Bastogne slugging it out with the Germans while crashing thru their lines and saving the 101st from annihilation. If Roy's unit was ever attached to the 101st, he never mentioned it to me and I see no reason for his unit to be cut loose from Patton and turned over to Gen McCaulif's 101st.

      Once, when trading war stories with each other, he told me they captured a few Germans, one of whom was rattling his mouth in German and getting on everyone's nerves. Roy told him 3 times to shutup. He didn't, so Roy shot him in the shoulder with his rifle. "That shut him up."

      When passing thru a little town a bunch of kids came out approaching his tank. Tank destroyers have open tops and kids were known to approach them, then getting close they'd toss hand grenades inside killing the gunners and the sgt. tank commander. In Roy's case, his tank Cdr yelled at the kids a few times to go back. They didn't and he fired his machine gun over their heads. They kept coming and he cut them all down, then, with a broken heart, crumpled to the deck crying uncontrollably. (This story really gets to me).

      Roy told me the thing that got to him most was picking up the dead US soldiers who, for the most part, were just 19 year old kids. Roy was probably 18 at the time. He never told me, but I know that was on his mind until he died. Those thots never leave anyone who has seen the dead and stuffed them in a baggie or covered them with a blanket in a final goodbye. Believe me, I know! I've no doubt Roy was under siege of PTS, but he handled it by himself, which tells us he was a courageous man who never whined about it. Roy was a real hero in my book!
      ( email From Tom Alexander, 3 Sep 2007)

      California Birth Index, 1905-1995 Record
      Name: Walter L Collis
      Birth Date: 27 Sep 1924
      Gender: Male
      Mother's Maiden Name: Sherman
      Birth County: Contra Costa

      U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 Record about Walter L Collis
      Name: Walter L Collis
      Birth Year: 1924
      Race: White, citizen
      State: California
      County or City: Sacramento
      Enlistment Date: 6 Mar 1943
      Enlistment State: California
      Enlistment City: Sacramento
      Branch: No branch assignment
      Branch Code: No branch assignment
      Grade: Private
      Grade Code: Private
      Term of Enlistment: Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law
      Component: Selectees (Enlisted Men)
      Source: Civil Life
      Education: 2 years of high school
      Civil Occupation: Automobile Serviceman
      Marital Status: Single, without dependents
      Height: 50
      Weight: 099

      Social Security Death Index Walter L. Collis
      Name: Walter L. Collis
      SSN: 561-26-1253
      Last Residence: 95815 Sacramento, Sacramento, California, United States
      Born: 27 Sep 1924
      Died: 21 May 1999
      State (Year) SSN issued: California (Before 1951 )

      U.S. Veterans Cemeteries, ca.1800-2006 Walter L Collis
      Name: Walter L Collis
      Service Info.: US ARMY
      Birth Date: 27 Sep 1924
      Death Date: 21 May 1999
      Cemetery: Sunset Lawn Memorial Park
      Cemetery Address: 4701 Marysville Blvd Sacramento, CA 95838

  • Sources 
    1. [S45] California Birth Index.