The story begins in Massachusetts on July 22, 1924. Willis Harrison Bell was the first child born to Sarah Teasdale Bell and Willis Milton Boutwell Bell. He was also the first of two sons born into a marriage that would soon fail. On the 20th of December 1926, in Los Angeles California his brother Charles Allen Bell II was born. Between Will’s birth and Charlie’s birth the couple moved from Massachusetts to California, the exact timing remains unknown. The marriage lasted about 3 to 4 years more as evidenced by the 1930 census. At that time Willis Sr. was a lodger in Los Angeles, while Sarah and the two boys were back in Newton, Massachusetts living with Sarah’s sister Lillian. Although the passage of time would bring drastic changes for these two brothers their lives would be interwined in ways neither could then imagine.
Within the next few years Sarah married Hervey Heywood. From that point their childhood history is taken from pieced together bits of information given by Will, Charlie and those they confided in. The divorce and new marriage created tensions and living changes that provided little stability. As adults Will and Charlie's memories of their early life with Sarah and Hervey were vague, sometimes with an air of sadness and even fear. When Will talked about his life in Massachusetts he could remember picking and eating blueberries. He also had memories of the leech filled Charles River. Both he and Charlie went out on the river on home made rafts, neither knowing how to swim. When their stepfather had too much to drink he was often mean to the boys. Later in life they felt it was because they were a constant reminder of another man with his wife. Will never talked much about his experiences in that situation.
When Will was nine and Charlie six their mother sent them to spend the summer with their dad and his new wife Edna Babbs Bell in California. They took the train across the United States with their Aunt Ethel. On their way to California they were able to visit the Chicago Worlds Fair. The trip, as eventful as it must have been, was rarely spoken of by Will. For reasons neither boy understood, at the end of the summer Sarah never sent for them to come home. They would not see her or hear from her again for over thirty years and then only because Charlie made contact with her. It is hard to imagine how these two young boys felt leaving their mother and the safety of Massachusetts for the bustling city of Los Angeles. However, they would be welcomed by Edna who cared for their needs and truely adored them. She would be a saving factor in their upbringing and a great support to them as men. Both Will and Charlie always spoke highly of Edna and showed the utmost concern and care for her. They called her mother and she was their mother in every sense.