Charles E. Brister
Fireman 1st Class
U. S. Navy
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 1944 - 08/02/1946
Oiler, Fireman, USS Stern

Charles was born near Provencal, Louisiana, as one of four children of Don E. Brister and Lula Waters Brister. His father worked for a sawmill at Flora, Louisiana, skidding logs from forests with mules. After Charles' mother died when he was eighteen months old, he and an older sister lived with his grandparents, Rebun Allen Brister and Addie Brister, whom he called "Mama" and "Papa," in a house that had only two windows, and no electricity. A fireplace provided heat. "They were in their sixties when we went to live with them, and they were wore out because the old farm, it just didn't hardly provide enough to keep them going. We cut and sold firewood for five dollars and fifty cents a cord," he recalls. They also raised corn and cotton, and sold produce. Charles helped; by age eight he was plowing with a horse and mule. They killed their hogs, which grazed on open range, in the late fall, and preserved the meat with salt and smoke. "We didn't eat beef because we didn't have a way to keep it," he says. Times were hard. One year, he and his sister received an apple and an orange for Christmas. "That was all," he says. Clothing was also difficult to obtain. "When we got a new pair of britches, Mama would have put patches over patches," he says. The family traveled by wagon, mainly to town on Saturdays and to Harmony Baptist Church on Sunday. At night they slept under mosquito bars. "Mosquitoes would eat you up," he recalls. To take a bath, he would fill a tub at noon, leave it in the sun, and bathe that night in the warm water. Charles attended Flora High School, often taking his lunch (usually consisting of biscuits and bacon) in a syrup bucket. He also worked at a sawmill for thirty-five cents an hour. He later transferred to Cotton Valley High School, where he graduated in 1944. "My daddy was working at Cotton Valley and he wanted me to come and finish school where he lived," he says. Charles entered the U.S. Navy that spring. After boot camp in San Diego he was assigned to a destroyer escort, USS Stern (DE-187) where he worked as an oiler in the engine room. He also served on the USS Wesson (DE-184), another of four ships of a destroyer escort. The ships were decommissioned in Jacksonville, Florida in December of 1945. Charles received his discharge August 2, 1946 in New Orleans as a fireman first class. A few weeks after he returned home he went to work for Continental Oil Company on a seismograph crew. He worked in several states over the years. Charles married Laverne Scroggins, a classmate, in 1946. (They would have two children.) On August 25, 1979 he married Jerry Downs.