My Other Grandfather, Clarence Buller

I’ve posted quite a few entries on this blog about my grandfather, G.M.C. Massey, my mother’s father. He left reams of paper containing typewritten memoirs of his life, and I mine those manuscripts regularly to share historical tidbits here.

mystery figure: My Other Grandfather, Clarence Buller

My Other Grandfather, Clarence Buller

I haven’t written about my other grandfather, Clarence Buller, for a simple reason: I never knew him. I never knew anything about him.

Growing up, I thought he was dead. I don’t recall anyone specifically telling me he was dead, but I have the distinct impression I was simply allowed to believe that rather than discuss the matter. I never heard differently until I was high school age.

My father had grown up the only child of a single mother. That much I knew. See, as a kid, I wondered about the last names in our family. I understood why mom’s family name was Massey, so Granddad Massey made perfect sense. But why did Granny Tilly, my Dad’s mother, have the last name Fisher?

Dad did not speak of his childhood and neither did Granny for the most part. I came to learn that he and Tilly moved to San Diego before he was 3 years old — without his father, Clarence. That first marriage ended and Tilly started a new life. She was hired as a seamstress for the Air Force, and that job turned into a 30-year career that eventually took her and Leonard (known to family as “Sonny”) to San Antonio, Texas.

Along the way, she married another fellow, Harry Fisher. That’s where her last name came from. The way I heard it though, they sent my father away so the newlyweds could spend time alone together. Well, Harry liked that set-up so much that he did not want Dad back in the house — and that marriage ended. No telling whatever happened to Harry Fisher.

My father never spoke of these things. Granny barely did, and she certainly did not go into any level of detail. So, when my brother and I were told in the early 70s that our grandfather was alive and well on the Texas Gulf coast, that came as a shock rather than a surprise. My brother wanted to go look for him, but I had no interest. Our father harbored a deep, abiding, lifelong bitterness about being abandoning by his father and it was quite clear that to search for him would deeply hurt our dad.

Also, it was the 70s. Both Scott and I both sported long hair and beards, not highly regarded in Texas at the time. I figured if we did manage to track him down and showed up on his porch announcing ourselves, he’d be as likely to be disgusted with what he saw as thrilled at us finding him. Meanwhile, our father would never forget that we had wanted to find the man he never wanted to see or hear from again in his life.

So, that was that.

Until after mom’s death when Scott and I were clearing out her house and we found two old newspapers from Palacios. These contained stories about the deaths of dad’s 2 grandfathers, both Granny’s father, Fred Crawford, in 1923, and Clarence’s father, Louise H. Buller, at the end of 1930.

These piqued my interest enough, I began to wonder about my grandfather, Clarence. With all the modern online genealogy services, it took little effort to discover that Clarence was dead (no surprise) and buried in Palacios. Intrigued, I suggested to Sara we visit the little city by the bay, and that’s where I finally met my grandfather — graveside. I took photos of his tombstone, but for the life of me, I cannot find them now.

Clarence is buried beside his second wife, Jessie, as well as the daughter they lost at 6 years of age, Betty Joy Buller. The parallels to my niece, Jessie, dying at age 5, struck me and I wondered how that loss of his daughter impacted my grandfather’s life. The local history center had some written volumes about the history of Palacios, and I found two references to Clarence Buller. He and one of his brothers (either Linder or Wesley, I don’t remember which) ran a fish camp in the 40s there on the bay. And the record mentioned “the Clarence Buller house,” with an address (which I have, of course, lost and forgotten), so we drove by and looked at a modest but sturdy brick house in town. We considered knocking at the door but did not.

Finding Clarence after all those years made me wonder anew at his life and why he left Granny and my father. The only explanation I ever heard was that he was not ready to be a father. Tilly had my father when she was 18, a year after her father died, and Clarence was a few months younger. I have no pictures of Clarence at all but I did find one photo (buried somewhere) showing my great-grandfather, Louis Buller, proudly holding his young grandson, Leonard. Clarence may not have been thrilled by parenthood, but Louis sure looks like he liked being a grandfather.

I don’t believe in regrets, in that they seem to suggest that you would want things to have turned out differently. But that would inevitably alter the current situation, and I wouldn’t want to risk that. So, I won’t say I regret having never met my grandfather Clarence, when he was alive.

Still, I do wonder what it would have been like to meet and talk with him.


About bullersbackporch

I am a native Austinite, a high-tech Luddite, lover of music, movies and stories and a born trainer-explainer.
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2 Responses to My Other Grandfather, Clarence Buller

  1. Debbie Hatchell says:

    Wow, I just was sent this article from my sister.
    We must be related. My grandfather was Clarence Buller. My mother was Jackie Bullet. Clarence’s oldest daughter. I presently live in San Diego.
    I think you’re my Uncle?

    • Actually, we’re cousins since we share a grandfather, Clarence Buller — “half-cousins” technically, due to having different mothers. My father, Leonard Buller, was your uncle. As I wrote in the 2 blog posts, I never knew anything about my grandfather past his name. I only learned more after both my parents died, as my Mom continued to keep the Palacios articles hidden after dad’s death, presumably in deference to his wishes. My dad, Leonard was born in 1924 in Angleton, Texas, but my granny, Velma Ann “Tilly” Buller (formerly Crawford & later Fisher), moved out to San Diego by 1927 at the latest. They moved back to San Antonio in the mid-30s. Funny to hear y’ll ended up in San Diego later.
      Delighted to”meet” you!

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