Sunday, January 28, 2007

Jimmie Henline

by David Parmer

Oscar "Doc" and Laura (Copeland) Henline, both of Orlando, were married in August 1924. Doc, as he was known, was not a doctor but an employee of the Equitable Gas Company.

From Doc's brother Bill Henline, Doc and Laura learned of a child born in Clarksburg in 1928 whose mother was unable to support and care for her two year old boy. In those days adoption rules were few and the number of parentless children was many so in short order Doc and Laura had a child. In this way Jimmie came to his Orlando home.

It wasn't long before Doc and Laura became aware that their adopted son was not a normal child in terms of physical size and was destined to grow no taller than four feet tall. Of course, Jimmie's physical differences gave rise to childhood teasing. Life was not easy for Jimmie but he handled it well and raising an exceptional child in Orlando seemed to present no problem for Doc and Laura. Jimmie brought much happiness to his adoptive parents.

Jimmie was exceptional in other ways as well. He amazed his classmates at Orlando school by demonstrating his double-jointedness and the ease of standing on his head. In high school he was his class cheerleader during intermural basketball games1.

He also amazed his adult listeners as he played the piano in the United Brethren Church. Jimmie had been taught the rudiments of the piano by Evelyn Smearman, daughter of Reverend J. J. Smearman of the United Brethren Church.

Jimmie succeeded in school and he graduated from Burnsville High School with the Class of 1950.

Left: Jim Henline's 1950 graduation photo. Below right: Jimmie Henline with Pauline Bennett.

After high school Jimmie migrated to Dundalk, Maryland where he found employment at a dry cleaning business owned by the inlaws of Dick Morrison, an Orlando native. After two or three years in Maryland, Jimmie returned to Orlando and found employment as a clerk in W.D. Brown's Store.

When he was about 25, around 1954, Jimmie contracted polio. Fortunately the disease was in an early stage and with treatment Jimmie suffered only partial paralysis but had to wear a leg brace for the remainder of his life.

On a personal note, I knew Jimmie when he tended bar in Burnsville for Oscar Blake and when I was attending Glenville State College. I was present on one occasion when someone tried to pick a fight with Jimmie for absolutely no reason except that he was a midget. I'm sure he had to endure taunts and unkind acts throughout his life and not many people could bear up under such perversity. I never knew Jimmie to utter an unkind word or express sorrow for himself or to criticize others, and for all of that Jimmie was more of a man than most of us.

Laura and Doc never had an biological children. Laura Henline died in 1966 and Doc passed away in 1970. Jimmie followed in 1985

Thanks to Pauline Bennett (daughter of David & Maysell (Parmer) Bennett) for the photos.

1. The freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors have boys and girls tournaments. The freshmen play the sophomores, the juniors play the seniors and then the winners play for the championship. The gymnasium is decorated with crepe paper and banners touting the class team, each class has cheerleaders, and a good time is had by all.

1 comment:

  1. I remember jimmie well.. he and my mother(Kathleen Riffle) played as children. I stayed with my grandmother on the hill above the Henlines and spoke with him many one time when he was in Maryland he was a pro wrestler or so I was told. I last visited with him in 1982 he was living in the Henline house by himself