The circumstances of Hazel Williams’ early life were not fortuitous. When she was 10 years old, her family broke up. It was 1923 and her mother took all the kids –Hazel, her two older brothers and 3-month old Benny—to her sister’s farm in Nebraska and away from the husband who beat her.
In Nebraska, her brothers worked on farms for board and room and attended the country school. In town, she and her mother and baby Benny had an apartment. Benny died at the age of 3. “We were treating him for the flu and it was spinal meningitis. My world dropped out. But I got through it.’’
Hazel got through living with families not her own and working for room and board while she went to high school and worked Saturdays at Woolworth’s. She would get through the loss of another brother who committed suicide after suffering from schizophrenia for many years.
“I had such a rough life. I was determined not to get married until I could better myself.’’ She took her job experience at Woolworth’s and built upon it, finding a new job each time that would teach her more and improve her skills. When World War II broke out, she worked for the Army Air Corps in Burbank.