William McKinley Bates was born September 25, 1900, to James Ragan Bates and Victoria Parrish, in Riddle, Oregon. He was their fourth and youngest child. When he was an infant, Willie contracted polio. One night, he was very near death. His father gave up and told his mother to just let him die. However, Victoria could not give up hope. She built a small fire in the wood stove, placed her baby in a small box, and set it in the oven with the door left ajar. After several days, young Willie’s health began to improve. He eventually recovered, but walked with a limp the rest of his life from the polio.
Bill’s dad died in 1926. Shorty thereafter, while in his twenties, Bill hopped a train in Oregon and rode to Carbon County, Utah. Why he decided to get off here is not known for sure, but he found work as a telegraph operator in Helper. Not long afterwards, he met Ida Lucille Richardson. They were married on November 16, 1927 in the Price City courthouse. Their first home was an apartment in Martin, Utah. On the day they were married, someone delivered a dirty stove to their apartment. Bill had to work the morning following their marriage, so Bill and Ida didn’t have a honeymoon. They just stayed home and cleaned the dirty old stove. Bill lovingly referred to Ida as "Sally."
On July 24, 1928, Ida gave birth to their first child, James William Bates in Martin, Utah. Bill was scared to death. As recorded in Jim’s own words “I’m especially thankful for my parents – that they desired and wanted me in their family. They gave me the greatest gift on this earth – the gift of LIFE.
Bill and Ida had two more living children, John Gordon “Jack”, and Alma Rae. Ida also gave birth to a stillborn son, Dennis.
Bill’s occupations mostly included working for the Utah Railway and also for the coal mines. The family moved around a lot, mostly living in mining housing. As Jim wrote in his own personal history “We didn’t have anything because dad would be out of work several months of the year, but dad and mother grew a small garden and raised a batch of white Leghorn roosters. When a hobo would come to the door, Dad would invite them in – give them a hair cut, a hot bath and share what little food we had on the table. Dad’s compassion for his fellow man stuck with me the remainder of my life.”
Jim wrote in his journal about his dad bragging about his ability to catch big browns (native Brown Trout). His father told him “The first thing you do is locate a nest of new born mice, nice pink ones without any hair. Position them on a wood shingle and float it out into the lake. Of course the mouse is rigged up with a hook and attached to a long line. When the shingle is in the right spot – jerk the mouse off. As the mouse struggles for shore those big brown hit with a vengeance.” Jim says he never did see his dad catch a fish that way!
Here is a story clip from Jim’s journal: “Dad had killed some chickens for a cook out. One evening while everyone was standing around the camp fire Dad slipped a chicken foot into Aunt Ruth’s apron pocket. When she stuck her hand into that pocket, felt the raw bone and sinew and whatever else the mind can conjure up – she went ballistic. When she finally collected her wits, and identified the culprit, she chased dad all over the camp ground with the dead chicken foot.”
Together, Bill and Jim raised chinchillas for fur. They kept them in a fold up wire pen in the living room of the house Bill and Ida lived in, in Helper. Bill and Jim had hoped to make a mint off of them. They planned to sell them for their fur. Right after they got them, the government put a ban on selling fur for coats. Bill and Jim tried to sell the animals as pets, but were unable to do so. They were left high and dry, with chinchillas in Ida's living room!
Ellen remembers Bill as always being a kind, gentleman. Bill always tipped his hat to the ladies. He was always kind to Ellen. He was clean, neat, and never unshaven. His yard never had a weed in it. He had a raspberry patch that took up the entire garden lot.
He loved little children. At the time his children were leaving home, a family in Kenilworth had great financial difficulty caring for their large family. Bill and Ida took their twins into their home until the twins were adopted by another family. A newborn sister of the twins, Mary Jo, came into their home when the twins left. They raised her for many years. It nearly broke Bill's heart when she was adopted into another home.
Bill knew the Bible frontwards and backwards. He read the Bible all of the time. Although he stated that he doubted it’s divine origin, he said that it was written to keep men on the straight and narrow.
While Jim’s family was living in Logan, Bill and Ida lived in the basement of their Spring Glen house. While living there, Bill and Jim built the living room, and the upstairs front room. Bill was living in the Spring Glen house when he died on May 17, 1960.
Jim titled a chapter in his autobiography “Dad’s Drinking Problem.” He talks about many of the problems that arose because of his father’s drinking problem. His closing paragraph on this chapter ends with these words: “Due to these conflicts of the heart our lives seemed to be uncertain and it weighed heavily on our emotions and our ability at times to progress. Repetitious behavior by dad threatened to tear our family and our very existence apart at times; however, we survived the storms, which were frequent. Our life was not rosy, free from pain, misery, sorrow and heart break, but amidst all the conflict there have been tender, heartfelt experiences, relationships, and insights that are treasured by each of us.”
Bill had a serious drinking problem his entire life. It began in his youth. His parents would give him a hot totty each morning when he was a child. This was a habit he was never able to overcome. It eventually took his life.
Ida loved her “Knight in Shining Armor.”Note: The above picture is of William McKinley Bates with his first child, Grandpa James Bates.