From the beginning, my father had been an on-again-off-again husband and dad. As I was being delivered, he was being off-again -- for the last time. The youngest of five children, I was born in the Oskaloosa, Kansas, home of my great-grandfather, Christian Hofmann. I came into the world during the depths of the Great Depression on November 18, 1934.
My birth mother, Berniece, and my siblings were living with her parents near Kansas City, Kansas. It was a cold and rainy afternoon when she got her brother to drive her to Oskaloosa, a distance of about 60 miles, so that her aunt could assist with my birth (thus saving the expense of a hospital stay). "Old Doc Smith" was also in attendance; he had delivered my mother and many of the other Hofmann family babies.
Much of my first 18 months we lived with my grandparents near Kansas City. Grandpa Henry owned and operated a small grocery store; did well and for several years provided for all of us. But he didn't plan for the management succession of his business. Consequently, when he died unexpectedly, no family members were prepared to take over running the business. The store foundered shortly after Henry died, and had to be sold. My mother's divorce was also finalized that same month, and she was awarded sole custody of her children. My father was ordered to pay $15 a month in child support. He actually paid a little for a while and then quit. Suddenly there was no source of income and five young mouths to feed. Something major had to be done, fast.