At Work

” . . . So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit—It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.”–John Greenleaf Whittier

Advertisements

Robert Haws (Dad) is no stranger to this blog. He pops up in various stories, and I’ve touched briefly on his work life. This week we’ll take a more complete look. The quote above is taken from a poem he learned in high school.

Dad’s Navy discharge papers included a box for “preference for additional training” he would be interested in. “Comptometer (refresher)” and “accounting” were typed in. Unfortunately, there were tens of thousands of other guys returning home at the same time, all vying for jobs; plus he had a pregnant wife. Time out for education was a luxury he couldn’t afford—he needed a job. So he went to work for Mr. Marshall (Taxes) while they lived with Mom’s parents. Housing was in short supply, too!

In 1946, Dad made the decision to start an independent rug cleaning business, initially partnering with his brother, George (Comedy). Their dad had been on some construction jobs in Hinsdale, and thought the area was affluent enough to support a rug cleaning business. They acted on that suggestion. It took some time to find a place to live, so Dad set up a business phone line in Hinsdale, and had someone take messages until they could move. In pre-Tri-State Tollway days, it was a one hour drive from Deerfield, on the days they had work. Rug cleaning equipment was loaded into the back of the station wagon to go to jobs.

24 May 1948, outside the house at 422 S. Adams, Hinsdale. There is no lettering, but I imagine this station wagon was the first “truck.” Mom didn’t drive, and they wouldn’t have been able to afford 2 vehicles.

In early 1947, Mom & Dad finally found a first floor of a house to rent (above). Toward the end of 1947, Dad had bought out George’s share of the business. By 1949, a new different truck (below) had been purchased, nicely lettered! The early trucks were all used, I believe, because new would have cost too much.

Spring, 1949, my sister, Carole. This may have been the first truck with lettering: a Chevrolet. The hood has “Wallmaster Service.” He always abbreviated “Brothers” on the trucks. Fewer letters, lower painting cost!
Spring, 1949. Same truck as above, but 9-month old Warren sitting on the fender. Yes, based on other photos, there WAS another adult in front of the car, just out of the photo framing, but within reach!

Rug cleaning initially did not keep his schedule full, so as shown on the hood above, “Wallmaster Service” (wall washing) was added to have enough work. As a kid, I remember seeing a large, wooden box (bigger than a trunk) in the basement workroom with that lettering, and asking Dad about it. The wall washing equipment was stored in it, but by then he had discontinued using it.

November, 1952. Dad in a different truck, at their recently-purchased house (not visible—those are neighbors’ houses). Most likely the truck was newly-acquired, probably the reason a photo was taken! Sewers will recognize “Binding & Serging.” We had a machine for each in our basement, with a vast assortment of carpet binding tape and carpet thread. It worked for carpets just like for clothes: binding tape encased a raw edge and was stitched in place, and serging used 4 or 5 spools of thread to put an overcast stitch on a raw edge.

A home with a family business run out of it is different in so many ways. Work wasn’t a place you went to—it was part of everyday life. I understood at a fairly young age there was no guaranteed paycheck every week. If Dad didn’t work, there was no paycheck! It was never a source of worry—there was always money set aside—but it was a reality.

We were the only family I knew of (until high school, at least) who had two phone lines—and six phones! Of course, one line was for the business, which we kids would NEVER touch, unless it was to answer a business call. Each floor of the house had a phone for each line. We needed to be properly instructed before we were cleared to answer the business phone. I would never say, “My dad isn’t home . . .” It was always, “Mr. Haws isn’t available right now . . .” While most people who called for appointments knew it was a family business run out of our home, we always needed to sound professional.

That also meant if a business phone rang, the noise level dropped to zero. The first floor business phone was in the dining room, so if it was dinner, five children were immediately silent. There was no silverware clattering on the plate and no, “Pass the mashed potatoes,” while Dad answered the phone and asked the customer to wait so he could get his appointment book. While he went to the office in the basement, one of us would listen for him to pick up the line down there and make sure he was talking. Then the button was held down (to disconnect) before replacing the hand set. No hanging up noisily! Dinner returned to normal.

1971. I think there was another van before this one, but I didn’t find any other photos. I’m trying to recall why the lettering seems off (the “Bros.” is missing). Something must have happened to the doors, and maybe the only replacements he could find had windows? The “Haws” is definitely curved, which begs for a matching arc opposite, but it’s been way too long ago for me to remember the details!

Dad was not the least expensive rug cleaner. He always said he could never afford to have a sale. Either he’d lose money on the job (expenses wouldn’t be covered), or his reputation would suffer because he’d have to cut corners. Neither option was acceptable to him.

When you are the owner, the day doesn’t end at 5. Sometimes after dinner Dad was in the basement, catching up on paperwork, or cleaning an area rug picked up that day. We kids knew where he was, and could always go down to ask him something or say goodnight. Sometimes we got roped into helping with something (Father’s Day). My sister recalled getting “shampooer rides” when she was pretty young, if a rug was particularly dirty. Dad would have her sit cross-legged on the shampoo machine to add extra weight so it would scrub deeper. I never got that lucky.

We kids also got “hired” to sort the paid invoices. Each month was simply sorted by date, so didn’t really pay much. At the end of the year, though, all twelve months were merged and sorted alphabetically. That paid $10, but was a lot more work, deciphering Dad’s handwriting. It was good preparation for reading census records, though, and I learned that Llewellyn did actually start with 2 Ls.

The summer after freshman year of college, Dad hired me occasionally. My work hours had been cut at the jewelry store, but he was usually able to schedule one job a week that could handle a 3rd worker (me). I didn’t use the machines, but helped with moving furniture, hand scrubbing the edges of the room, and any other job he gave me. It was an interesting experience, watching him at work not in our basement!

The last truck. This one was fitted out for the truck-mounted “steam” equipment he added in the mid-1970s. It had propane tanks for heating the water and built-ins inside (designed & built by Dad) to keep everything secure. This photo was likely taken when he sold the business & retired in 1984, after 38 years in business.

None of us kids followed Dad into the rug cleaning business. My dreams at age four of a “Haws Sisters” rug cleaning business fizzled when Carole decided to become a teacher. I don’t know if it bothered Dad that no one carried on in his footsteps. I’m sure he would have welcomed it, but he never laid on a guilt trip, that I recall.

Growing up in a family business, I learned firsthand things I would later hear in college business classes—and some things that were never mentioned:

  • Be honest, and treat people fairly.
  • Pay yourself first (AKA “save for a rainy day”).
  • If you make a mistake, fix it.
  • If the customer is unhappy, fix it (even if it wasn’t your fault).
  • Stand by your principles. The husband who sent a check for less than the written estimate? Dad mailed the check back and wrote that full payment was needed. The guy stiffed him, so Dad never worked for them again.
  • Respect others in the business. I once made the mistake of calling the other rug cleaner in town “the competition.” Dad corrected me, saying they were “colleagues.”
  • Help out the new guys. People helped him when he was starting out. They may know something you don’t, or have a new idea worth listening to.
  • Keep learning. I watched him take night classes to earn a real estate broker’s license when I was in junior high. That said more than any words would have. So when he bought a PC at age 70, it didn’t surprise me!
  • Do your best. Always. Your name and reputation is at stake.

The work ethic I “caught” at home work far surpassed anything “taught” to me elsewhere. Thanks, Dad!

July 1984. “Happy Retirement, Bob” “The World’s Finest Carpet Cleaner” That sums it up, perfectly.

#52Ancestors


Comedy

“Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight!”–Stephen Sondheim

You may have discovered the harder we try at humor and comedy, the less successful it is. The unplanned moments are often the funniest. Most people don’t find genealogy entertaining, let alone funny. So much of what we research falls into the category of sad, even tragic, events. How does one find humor in the deaths, illnesses, war injuries, tornadoes, and rattlesnake bites that befell our ancestors? You don’t, because it just isn’t there.

Sometimes, though, comedy sneaks through during the research process. We learn a quirky fact about someone, or the process of tracking down a piece of information is so convoluted, you can’t help but laugh at how you reached your conclusion(s).

My dad was the youngest of five. His oldest brother, Paul, died very young. You met Dad’s next oldest brother, Henry, in Namesake. He was six years older than Dad, so I’m not sure that as kids they would have hung out much with each other. Marie was in the middle of the boys, leaving George, eighteen months older than Dad, as his closest sibling, age-wise.

With three older brothers, and three sons of my own, I’ve observed brothers, particularly ones close in age, can have interesting relationships. Sometimes difficult ones! I don’t remember hearing many stories about Dad & Uncle George when they were young, but I imagine when they weren’t killing each other, they were causing mischief together.

Around April, 1941, in the backyard at 910 Rosemary Terrace, Deerfield, IL. Robert Haws is on the left, newly enlisted brother George is in the middle, and brother Henry is on the right.

During the 1990s, Mom’s Meintzer clan held four reunions: 1990, 1992, 1995, and 1997. We kids flocked back home to attend them, if we could. I remember sitting in the kitchen one of those times, packing coolers, cooking, whatever. Mom’s kitchen wasn’t very big, but in our family, the kitchen was [is] a regular hang-out spot, regardless of whose house and kitchen.

So a bunch of us were in there, and Dad started telling this story about when he was a kid. He and George found some rags in their basement. They didn’t know what they’d been used for. Somehow they got the brilliant idea to see if they would burn! This was probably the late 1920s, so they were eight to ten years old, maybe? Not necessarily the age to think through consequences of their actions real well.

Their dad smoked a pipe, so finding matches wouldn’t have been hard. Latex paint didn’t exist, so the house paint would have been oil-based. Where you have oil paint, you have turpentine.

You can see where this was headed, right?

Apparently Bob & George had the sense to put the rags in a coffee can. Of course, the coffee can had probably been used to clean paint brushes, so it’s likely there was turpentine residue inside it, also. Anyway, the fire started by the rags (and yes, they were still in the basement!) was a little more robust than they anticipated.

Fortunately, their mother (Victoria) had been upstairs, smelled the smoke coming up the stairs, and went to investigate. She extinguished (smothered, I imagine) the fire, and gave the boys “what for.” Lesson learned, right?

No, not really.

In the next day or so, they had a repeat performance. I’m not sure whether they thought they had a “better” plan, or what, but their mom was back downstairs, putting out the fire again. That time she was probably more emphatic about stopping the nonsense, threatening promising to tell their father (Edward) if it happened a third time. That was enough motivation for them to cease and desist!

Now, rags burning in the basement of a 2-story wood frame house is not a joking matter. It’s downright serious! Time has a way of mellowing the danger, though, especially when we know everyone came through safely. By the time Dad finished telling his story, it was seen only as a comedy of errors. We adult kids were in hysterics, and the grandkids old enough to appreciate the story were shocked and appalled their grandfather was such a scalawag when he was young.

Then there was my mom.

She’d been at the sink during the story, washing vegetables or something. Her reaction was not one of amusement! She railed into Dad, wanting to know why, in 45+ years of marriage, she had never heard that story. She continued on about how he should have told her about that incident when Bob & Warren (my older brothers) burned their bedroom floor.

Hold the phone! What??

She explained that the burn mark on the oak floor in the boys’ bedroom was caused by them starting a fire. Granted, it was small, but still a fire. At the time (the ages were never nailed down, but probably somewhere around the age of our dad’s adventure), she was worried there was something more seriously wrong with them. If she’d know Dad and George had done the same type of thing, she might not have worried as much!

Warren, Bob, and me at Scenic State Park, near Bigfork, Minnesota. Yes, that is a Mickey Mouse Club, short sleeved sweatshirt. And a really big fish, not caught by me! Warren says it’s probably a Northern Pike, rather than a Walleye Pike. He doesn’t recall who actually caught the fish. It could have been either one of them, or my dad, who was taking the photo. Estimated date, July 1961, ages 13, 3, almost 14. Why are there no photos of the Bluegill (my “first” fish) that was placed on my hook when I wasn’t looking?

At that point, if we’d gotten our laughter under control, we all lost it again.

I remember there being a blackened area on their floor, usually covered by a throw rug. By the time Dad was telling his story, we’d been gone from that house for over 15 years. The floor and burn mark had been replaced by a McDonald’s, and I’m unaware of any photos with that section of floor. Mom is now 97; I don’t expect her to remember the circumstances (it’s been 20+ years since the reunion where it came up!). So as a thorough researcher, my only option was to contact the perpetrators. Bob died in 2008, leaving Warren as my only hope.

He wasn’t much help. Of course, It’s been 49 years since he moved out of that house! Did I have pictures? No. He had no recollection of anything like that happening, and adopted a Mission: Impossible attitude, disavowing all knowledge of the alleged incident. Evidently whatever punishment they received didn’t leave a huge impression! He suggested IF such an event occurred, it was probably him and Bob trying to light paper with a magnifying glass.

Some of you may remember back in the pre-Nintendo/Atari/Sony, and pre-iPad days, childhood entertainment was pretty simple. It could include roller skating, playing cops & robbers, or making stick floor plans for the worms on the sidewalk after a rain (yes, I was a weird kid!). Compared to that, firing cap rolls by hitting them with rocks, or lighting paper or dry leaves with a magnifying glass were far more exciting activities! But starting a fire that way was harder than it sounds, because it took a really steady hand to keep the beam focused on the exact spot. Move a bit, and you were effectively starting over! It was a skill I learned under the tutelage of my older siblings.

The boys’ room had three west-facing windows, but it presented several logistical problems, reducing the plausibility of the magnifying glass scenario:

  • the burn was closer to the door than the windows, so the sun would have had to come in at a fairly low angle
  • there was an elm tree (later succumbing to Dutch Elm disease) that would have blocked sunlight from that angle
  • even without the tree, the light passed through a window and window screen, first. I could be wrong, but I think that would have dispersed the beam enough that it wouldn’t have worked. It was hard enough starting a fire outside, sun directly overhead! Adding obstacles wouldn’t have helped.

Clearly the details of my brothers’ mischief have been lost through the years. I don’t doubt its occurrence, though. Mom had no reason to make up a story like that, but my brothers had every reason in the world to have forgotten the incident! We just don’t confidently know the why or how of their fire.

Sometimes it’s not the event itself, but the memory of it, and the reactions generated from retelling, providing the comedy. Fortunately none of our four “pyromaniacs” continued down that path—that we know of, at least! It seems I instinctively knew to keep my matches on the top shelf of a cupboard, and never retrieved them in view of my children . . .

#52Ancestors


Easy

“It’s so easy . . .”–Linda Ronstadt (1977)

No, I’m not writing about falling in love, and I’m not related to that Linda! This week’s prompt lodged the song into my head, and I just couldn’t shake it . . .

There are ancestors we think will be easy to research and track down: those with distinctive names, for instance. Unfortunately, an unusual name is no guarantee of being easy to find, because it’s so frequently misspelled. In addition to the “i-less” version of Meintzer (Mentzer), I’ve run across:

  • Mintzer
  • Menzer
  • Mentcer
  • Menzer
  • Menser
  • and so on!

Even less “complicated” names, like Mike’s Kuklers, have a dizzyingly wide variety of spellings, as vowel and consonant sounds swap at will:

  • Cukler
  • Kukla (minus Fran and Ollie!)
  • Cookler
  • Keckler
  • Geckler
  • that’s just the tip of the iceberg . . .

So if neither the unusual names nor the simpler names are easy, is anyone easy? The answer is no. Yes. It depends.

Clear as mud, right?

I’ve discovered searching becomes “easier” when I know more about a person or the family. That seems really obvious, but it’s trickier than it sounds! Just because I know lots of details, doesn’t mean I can use them all for searching. Sometimes I need to, sometimes I don’t. How to decide??

When too many search parameters are used, the person I’m looking for is often eliminated because one or more of the details is:

  • Missing
  • Unreadable/misread
  • Too specific
  • Not specific enough!
  • Way out in left field
  • Flat out wrong (yes those last 2 are technically different!)

in the record I am looking at. A search using fewer fields reduces the odds of someone not making the cut.

I finally found Mike’s 2nd great grandparents by searching for their 3-year-old son¹ with just his name, age, and county. It was a long shot that paid off. I had no idea where they lived in Detroit in 1870, so a page-by-page search would have taken forever.

Searching with less, I ended up with a relatively short list of kids, from whom it was easy to pick out the misspelled, sound-alike, surname. Reading with my ears is very important!

The two sets of 2nd great grandparents on my dad’s side, in Manitowoc², were found the old fashioned way, cranking reels of microfilm by hand (pre-internet). They lived in a rural area, with fewer families, but both their last names were recorded wrong! If I’d relied just on their names, I never would have found them!

Luckily, I knew their wives’³, as well as their children’s, names and birth years. Even when the surname didn’t look right, my eyes still picked up on the entire family unit. It slowed me down enough to take a closer look at the dads and realize they were the right ones. Without that information, those details, it would have been easy to miss, and difficult to make a case for those misspelled names.

Sometimes the small details keep me from chasing down a rabbit hole. Wrong occupation? Wrong location? It might be my person. Or not. People did change occupations and locations, but usually not as often as they changed their shirt. Does everything else fit? It may be fine, then.

Right wife, wrong kids? That always raises a huge red flag for me. While older kids move out, and younger ones are born, between one census and another, there is usually some carry over. A wholesale kid-swap is unlikely, but same-named, similarly-aged couples are more common than we think. I usually end up researching that family for quite a while to determine if they are mine. Most times it fizzles out.

Different wife, right kids? I start looking for the first wife’s death (or a divorce) and another marriage. I’ve found more than a couple later marriages that were a complete surprise! Fortunately, no bigamists. Yet.

So, easy? I don’t think it really exists in genealogy. Every once in a while there’s a situation when a new bit of information allows a number of other seemingly random pieces to suddenly fit together and make sense. I may delude myself into thinking it was easy, choosing to forget the blood, sweat, and tears; banging my head on the keyboard; and the wailing and gnashing of teeth (done quietly, so as not to wake Mike!); that transpired prior to that.

But then, its being easy wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying, would it?

#52Ancestors


¹1870 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, Wayne, 2nd precinct, 6th Ward, Detroit; Page 33; dwelling number 288; family number 292; line 5; Frank GUCKLER [KUKLER] household; accessed 4 September 2017. Frank GUCKLER [KUKLER], age 9/12; NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 713; digital image. Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

²1870 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Two Rivers Town; Page 15; dwelling number 108; family number 113; line 10; John HORS [HOSS] [HAWS] household; accessed 2 February 2019. John HORS [HOSS] [HAWS], age 44–surname enumerated as HOSS, sometimes getting mis-indexed as HORS. Should be HAAS, HAASE, OR HAWS; NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1723; digital image. Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

³1870 U.S. census, population schedule, Wisconsin, Manitowoc, Two Rivers Town; Page 19; dwelling number 134; family number 139; line 10; John RINDER [BRUDER] household; accessed 2 February 2019. John RINDER [BRUDER], age 33; NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1723; digital image. Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

Namesake

Once again, I’m thinking in reverse . . .

Rather than write about a person who was named after someone else, I’ve decided to focus on the inspiration for the name.

Growing up, I knew my dad’s oldest brother, Henry, better than any of my other uncles—or aunts, for that matter. He worked with my dad in the rug cleaning business, so I saw him five days a week, in the morning, the afternoon—or both! When I started on genealogy, I learned his middle initial was “U.” As a kid, I couldn’t imagine any name beginning with a “U,” but I soon learned it stood for Urban.

Robert Haws (left) and older brother, Henry Haws (right) over the holidays, some time between 2001 and 2008. After Aunt Mary died in 2001, Uncle Henry moved back to the Chicago suburbs, and the brothers became “partners in crime” once again. Dad provided Henry with transportation to appointments, and they’d enjoy lunch out.

Now, back when Uncle Henry was born, the Catholic Church was very particular about children being baptized with saints’ names. There are eight Pope Urbans, with Urban I being a saint, and II and V being “Blessed” (a step below sainthood—they need more miracles!). There are also a couple “local” St. Urbans, so I can’t really pinpoint which might have been the one he was named after.

During a visit to Sacred Heart Church in Winnetka, Illinois (near Glencoe, the Schweiger stomping ground), I found Henry’s baptism record in the church register. The names were all Latinized, but it was clear that Aunt Lizzie and Uncle Urban Levernier were his godparents. NOW his having Urban for a middle name made sense! Lizzie was the older sister of his mother (Victoria), so Urban was an uncle by marriage.

Urban Alexander Levernier was born 25 January 1887. He was at least eighth out of thirteen (perhaps more) children. The 1900¹ census showed the entire family; parents Honorius and Barbara [Happ], and all the kids, ages 7 months old to 25. His father farmed, with the help of the three older boys, but “Ervin” (yes, his name is often creatively spelled!) was still attending school.

By the 1910² census, his father and sister, Emma, had died (they were both buried in St. Mary cemetery, Highland Park). A brother and two sisters had moved from home (presumably married). Barbara was widowed, head of household, and listed as a farmer. She also said she had 13 children, 12 living. The additional four children included in the 1900 census count were ignored. Urban and his brothers (Matthias, George H., and John) were working on the farm.

Urban married my grandmother’s sister, Elizabeth Schweiger, 23 April 1912, at Sacred Heart Church, in Winnetka, Illinois. When Urban registered for the WWI draft³ in 1917, he was living in Shermerville, but farming for himself in Northfield. It may not have been his mom’s farm, because in 1920,4 he was on Seltzer Road, in Northfield, just down the road from his brother Matthias. Matthias and the two youngest siblings were living with their mother, Barbara—presumably still on the original family farm.

The 1930 census5 placed him on Pine Street, in the town of Glenview. He moved his family into the home in June, 1925:  

Mr. Urban Levernier is the purchaser of the M. Grenning, Jr., house on Pine St. He expects to take possession about June 1.

Glenview” 1 May 1925, Newspapers.com: accessed 9 June 2019, record number: 71504029; citing original p. 13, col. 4. The Daily Herald, Arlington Heights, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

In ten years, his occupation changed from farmer to “contractor, trucking.” From other documents and family stories, I know that he had a “black dirt business.” That’s probably what the census description is referring to.

Shortly before Christmas, 1934, Urban died under unusual circumstances:

Irvin Levernier, 48 years old, was found shot to death early yesterday in the yard of his home at 1153 Pine street, Glenview. A shotgun lay beside him. The police said they believed the death a suicide, but a coroner’s jury returned an open verdict.

“Shot to Death in Glenview ,” 23 December 1934, Newspapers.com: accessed 6 June 2019, record number: 354863040; citing original p. 2 col. 4. Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, online archive (http://www.newspapers.com).

An “open verdict” means the coroner’s jury confirms the death is suspicious, but is unable to reach any other verdicts open to them. That margin of doubt was sufficient to allow for Urban to be buried in Sacred Heart Cemetery, not far from his sister’s grave. If his death had been ruled a suicide, that would not have been permitted in 1935.

Funeral card for Urban Alexander Levernier, 1887-1934. Burial was in Sacred Heart Cemetery, Northbrook.

Urban died before I was born, so I have no first-hand knowledge of him. One thing I know, is that he liked to fish! Ramones1234, at Ancestry.com, shared two photos of Urban, demonstrating that:

Urban A. Levernier, as a somewhat younger man. I don’t know the date, or who the children are, but he clearly made his catch that day! Photo credit Ramones1234.
Urban A. Levernier, 1934. This was earlier in the year in which he died. Only one fish this time, but he seems pleased with it, nevertheless. Photo credit Ramones1234.

My Uncle Henry wasn’t the only person named after Urban. As I was looking through my database, I found:

  • a living grandson of Urban, with Urban for a middle name (son of daughter, Lucy)
  • George “Urbie” Levernier (son of brother, George)
  • Richard Urban Levernier (son of brother, John)
  • Caroll Urban Beinlich (son of sister, Lucy)

It’s entirely possible other, more recent descendants have kept the name alive in the family. I’m not as caught up with that family as I should be. Even though Urban died relatively young (age 47), he left a naming legacy that reached forward several more generations.

#52Ancestors


¹1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northfield Township, e.d. 1176; Page 2A; dwelling number 75; family number 78; line 21; Honory LEVERNIER household; accessed 7 June 2019. Ervin LEVERNIER, age 14, January 1886 (written over 1887 and 13); NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 294; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

²1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northfield, e.d. 63; Page 4A; dwelling number 40; family number 41; line 9; Barbara LAVERNIER household; accessed 7 June 2019. Irvin A. LAVERNIER, age 23; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 238; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

³Urbin LEVERNIER, serial no. 1162, order no. 61, Draft Board 1, Cook County, Illinois, citing World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: NARA microfilm publication M1509, 4,582 rolls. Imaged from Family History Library Roll No. 1504100. accessed 7 June 2019

41920 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Northfield, e.d. 137; Page 6A; dwelling number 99; family number 99; line 7; Urbin SAVERNIER household; accessed 7 June 2019. Urbin SAVERNIER, age 33; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 358; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

51930 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Glenview, e.d. 16-2236; Page 4A; dwelling number 73; family number 75; line 33; Urbin LEVERNEIR household; accessed 7 June 2019; NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 528; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

 

Military—Addendum

Something new always pops up . . .

USS Alchiba, AKA-6. Image linked to the Wikipedia article² for the ship.

As I prepare a post for publication I try to confirm (as best I can):

  • the facts are accurate
  • my spelling is correct
  • the story will make sense to someone having no background with my family
  • I’ve filled in as many gaps as possible with additional research
  • my logic and analysis are sound
  • necessary links and footnotes are in place

Unfortunately, life intervenes on a regular basis, pushing my writing right up to—sometimes past—my scheduled publishing time! Yesterday was no exception. That post had a lot of moving parts I needed to line up, so it took longer than I anticipated.

As I worked on it, I thought I remembered seeing the name of the ship bringing Bob, Spike, and Cliff back to the states, but I couldn’t find it. I checked and double checked the papers and notes I had from Mom, the Christmas cards from Cliff’s wife, Esther, but it wasn’t there. I decided I must have been mistaken, and left it as a mystery. I was okay with that.

So today I was cleaning up and sorting through some papers on a different table, and what pops up, but a 3″ x 6″ paper with:

David Gaillard: went over on this ship

USS Elsheba: came back on this one

<Forehead thump>

Seriously? Why couldn’t I find this yesterday?? A ship’s name meant I could check for more information, so I started with a quick Google search. No Elsheba but there was an Alchiba in the Navy during WWII. The spelling was wrong, but the pronunciation worked. Was this the ship they were on? The “War Diaries” on Fold3 described her mechanical issues and the attempts to solve them:¹

In June of 1944 the Alchiba returned to the states for repairs to her engines. This was to mark the end of the Alchiba’s active part in the Pacific, for newer ships were brought in to replace the older war-tattered ones. She was placed in the Service Squadron of the Pacific and continued carrying supplies to the advanced bases, making two trips, one to Espiritu Santo and one to Ulithi atoll, taking in Guam and the Philippines.

It sounded promising! The Wikipedia article² tied in even better with my dad’s timeline;

On 30 May [1944], Alchiba entered the Moore Dry Dock Company, Oakland, California, to undergo extensive alterations and repairs. The work was completed late in August, and the cargo ship got underway for sea trials in San Francisco Bay. Engine trouble developed during these tests, and the ship returned to the yard on 1 September for further repairs. She took on cargo at the Hunters Point Navy Yard on the 22nd and sailed once again for Espiritu Santo.

While en route, the ship experienced more engine problems, but she reached her destination on 9 October and commenced repair work. This process continued until early November, when the vessel shaped a course back to San Francisco. She arrived at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo, California, on the 29th and underwent extensive repairs to her main engine.

So . . . not a bent screw, but engine problems. That could certainly slow her down. The Alchiba arrived in Espiritu Santo 9 October, but repairing her mechanical problems prevented her leaving as scheduled on the 13th. “Early November” could easily accommodate their 7 November departure, and arriving in San Francisco on the 29th is dead-on with the information I had. I think we have a match!

I was unable to locate any records documenting the guys actually being on that ship—no transit list or transfer documentation. Finding something like that would have put a lovely bow on the whole story, but sometimes it’s not to be. Perhaps I’ll find those records digitized some day, but in the meantime, I’m happy to have reduced my mysteries by one!

#52Ancestors


¹”World War II War Diaries, 1941-1945″, digital image, The National Archives (https://www.fold3.com), accessed 27 May 2019, dated n.g.; USS Alchiba, image 302745269; citing World War II War Diaries, Other Operational Records and Histories, compiled ca. 01/01/1942 – ca. 06/01/1946, documenting the period ca. 09/01/1939 – ca. 05/30/1946; Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Record Group Number 38, ARC ID: 4697018, roll 1970; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

²Wikipedia contributors, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia (https://en.wikipedia.org), “USS Alchiba (AKA-6),”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Alchiba_(AKA-6) (accessed 27 May 2019).

Military

“The difficult we do immediately; the impossible takes — eh — a little bit longer.”
― U.S. Navy Seabees Construction Battalions WWII

Four days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, my dad, Robert William Haws, turned nineteen. I’m sure he saw the handwriting on the wall when FDR declared war the next day. His older brother, George, had enlisted in the Army prior to Pearl Harbor, but Bob knew, as an unmarried young man, he was likely to be called up early. He registered for the draft 16 February 1942.¹

Rather than wait to be drafted, he decided to take matters into his own hands and enlisted on 19 August 1942. That allowed him to choose the service branch he wanted (Navy), instead of whatever Uncle Sam decided. He always said he chose the Navy because the uniforms fit better than Army uniforms, but it made sense for a couple other reasons. As a teen, he joined the Sea Scouts, so had experience with that. Great Lakes Naval Base (the nearest training center) was only thirteen miles away—not too far from family and girlfriend.

Robert Haws as a Sea Scout. Year undetermined, but around 1938 or 39, maybe? Sea Scouts currently encompasses ages 14-20, I don’t know if it was different in the late 1930s

According to notes my mom made, Bob had five weeks of “boot camp” at Great Lakes, followed by nine days leave before starting Storekeepers School back at the base. That service school lasted sixteen weeks, completing on 22 February 1943.

Storekeeper Class, January 1943, Great Lakes. Bob Haws is 2nd from the left, in the 2nd row from the top. In the middle of the bottom row is Cliff, destined to be a life-long friend.

Bob left Great Lakes four days later, and was on a train headed for the West Coast 4 March 1943. My parents were a pretty serious item at that point, and Mom was willing to get married before he left. He said no, he didn’t want her to possibly be a widow, potentially with a child to raise. Nor did they get engaged, because he didn’t think it fair for her to be tied down while he was overseas. Her behavior would have been under scrutiny at home, whereas his—not so much. He didn’t plan on “misbehaving,” but realistically, what happened in the Pacific could stay in the Pacific. They exchanged lovers knot “promise rings,” however, and wrote regularly.

The next part of his timeline is a little sketchier. Bob & Cliff left San Francisco the 29th of April aboard the USS David Gaillard (hull# 441, built in Richmond, California).² The ship crossed the Equator on 10 May 1943, but due to security concerns, Bob’s Neptune certificate lists the longitude “secret,” headed for “A mission of war in the South Pacific Ocean.” He may not have known the longitude at the time, either.

Neptune certificate for crossing the Equator the first time. The original exceeded my scanner bed. It had to be scanned in sections and stitched back together!

The ship was headed for New Caledonia. Bob and Cliff made a practice of stashing a couple pieces of fresh fruit in their “ditty” bags, which presumably would go with them if they needed to abandon ship. They put that day’s fruit in, and ate the fruit they’d put in the day before. A number of Liberty Ships had sunk, some due to possible enemy attack, some due to fatigue failures.  My metallurgist brother educated me about those issues in 2005, but Bob & Cliff wouldn’t have known reasons in 1943. They just knew there was a risk, and didn’t want to starve, waiting to be rescued. Fortunately, it never came to that!

My mom’s notes next mention he was in Noumea, New Caledonia, on 29 May, which fits with her comment that it was a “31 day trip from the states.” They lived in tents in the hills, and had pesky mosquitoes. Orders arrived 24 June to leave for the New Hebrides—specifically, Air Center Command, Navy 140 on Espiritu Santo (now the island of Vanuatu).

Long before Survivor brought the show to Vanuatu (Lelepa Island, off the northwest coast of Efate), the United States brought the Seabees (referenced above in the subtitle) to Espiritu Santo to clear the jungle and build an airstrip. More construction followed, including quonset huts designated for the supply depot.³

My parents’ bookshelves held a 1977 book titled Journey to the End of the World: A Three-Year Adventure in the New Hebrides.8 It was written by Charlene Gourguechon and had nothing to do with World War II. Rather, she described the native people of Espiritu Santo, their culture and beliefs. Not many books are written about the island, though, so my dad bought a copy. A map of the island faced the title page, and my dad attached a post-it note at the bottom of it:

Map facing the title page of the book. Notice that my dad added a label “NSD” (Naval Supply Depot) for the NE peninsula. That caused some confusion for me. I believe it’s pointing to the wrong location, but I think I know what happened. Read my theory below.
Note on the title page: “I arrived in New Caledonia in April 1943. We waited 2 weeks for a ship to Espiritu Santo. We opened a Naval Aviation Supply Depot, the first one in the Pacific. We supplied all carrier and land based planes from 24 40′ x 100′ warehouses + jungle storage. Left for California November 1944. Dad” They actually LEFT the USA in April, arriving at New Caledonia in May.

I wandered around the Internet (particularly Fold3.com) trying to locate corroboration for the note and map label. Dad had a good memory, and  was really good with directions, so I trusted his labeling, but it had been 30+ years! The location he marked for the depot seemed a long way from Luganville, where the airstrip and port were located. To me it seemed inefficient to transport supplies to the opposite side of the island, and then back to where they started, for use or to ship elsewhere.

Fold3 had lots of documentation about the island (we’re talking hundreds of declassified pages!), including a map (below)6 of the base area. One page described the supply depot being located on Pallikulo Bay—which I promptly looked for. There it was, east of Luganville, on the tip of the “thumb.” It was a peninsula pointing north, similar to the one Dad had marked, just smaller—too small to be seen on the book’s map! While there were roads heading north on the island, nothing else I read seemed to indicate the supply depot was at the north end. If Dad had seen a better (larger) map of the island, I’m sure he would have caught the mistake himself, and corrected it.

Photo credit: Fold3.com, “World War II War Diaries, 1941-1945” 6

The Navy Muster Rolls7 on Fold3 provided a quarterly snapshot of where Bob was, and his rank while in the South Pacific:

  • 30 June 1943—SK3c (storekeeper 3rd class)4 at US Air Center, Ebon-Aviation Supply Annex, Field Torpedo Unit #17, received at Receiving Station, Noumea, New Caledonia
  • 16 September 1943—US Air Center Command, Navy 140, change in rank to SK2c, V6—”V6″ may indicate General Service and Specialists (USNR classification)5
  • 31 December 1943—SK2c (V6), US Air Center Command, Espiritu Santo
  • 31 March 1944—SK1c, V6, US Air Center Command, Espiritu Santo
  • 15 June 1944—change in rank to SKV1c, V6. US Air Center Command, Espiritu Santo. The “V” in the first part was added to indicate Aviation Branch
  • 20 September 1944—SKV1c, V6

We have a letter (undated) from D. D. Hunt, Officer in Charge, to The Commander, Air Center, Espiritu Santo, recommending that Robert Haws be promoted to SK1c, 3½ months early, effective 1 March 1944. The rational to waive the standard time was:

Haws has been in charge of building #14 with direct responsibility for the arrangement of and the development of considerable storage facilities. His good judgment in this respect has been amply demonstrated by many compliments on the appearance and outlay of his stocks. His initiative has never been dimmed by the volume or condition of the stocks poured into his building. He has assumed the qualifications and responsibilities of a first class storekeeper.

Pretty good, for 22½! Of course, he had help, and certainly wasn’t the only storekeeper on the island:

Undated (June 1943-October 1944) photo of the Aviation Supply Depot guys. Bob Haws is in the back row, far left. I don’t think we had names for the others.

Life at the Supply Depot wasn’t all work, however. The guys developed friendships with the locals: Bob Haws Like Brothers

They also had time for fun and games:

Note on back: “Shipwreck sailors or something.”
Poker was always popular, though Cribbage came in a close second. Bob Haws is 2nd from the right. One of the others is “Spike” Haessly. I’m not sure about the rest.

After a year and a half overseas, the guys finally were scheduled for home leave. Bob, Spike, and Cliff transferred to a Receiving Ship (RS) 13 October 1944. Unfortunately, they couldn’t obtain passage back until 7 November! They waited and waited, frustrated by the delay. The return ship’s name is lost to us. Apparently it also had a bent screw and could make only 8 knots. Perhaps they simply tried to forget that trip?

They slid under the Golden Gate Bridge 29 November 1944. A new waiting game began, this time for seats on a train to Chicago. They finally arrived 16 December 1944. Bob’s next assignment would be states-side, so he proposed to Ardyth by mail. He could bring a spouse with him, if she wanted, but his leave wasn’t very long. She needed to make arrangements before he arrived. You’ll find that next chapter in Going to the Chapel.

My dad never joined any of the veteran’s organizations after the war. I don’t think he regretted the time in the service, but he didn’t seem to want to rehash it, either. He certainly left the Navy with a number of very good friends, despite them being scattered around the country. Their shared experience created a bond that survived time and distance.

An update to the post can be found here.

#52Ancestors


¹”Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Multiple Registrations”, digital image, The National Archives (https://www.fold3.com), Robert William HAWS, serial no. 1497, order no. 10620, Draft Board 1, Lake County, Illinois; citing WWII Draft Registration Cards for Illinois, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947; Microfilm Roll: 44008_14_00104; accessed 25 May 2019.

²Wikipedia contributors, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia (https://en.wikipedia.org), “List of Liberty ships (A–F),” https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=List_of_Liberty_ships_(A%E2%80%93F)&oldid=877812245 (accessed 26 May 2019).

Ship name  SS David Gaillard Namesake David Gaillard MC Hull # 441 Ship type standard Laid down 5 November 1942 Launched 14 December 1942 Fate Scrapped 1971

³Otto Torriero, Patrick Clancey, Larry W. Jewell, Hyperwar: A Hypertext History of the Second World War (http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/), accessed 24 May 2019, “Chapter XXIV, Bases in the South Pacific,” (https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/Building_Bases/bases-24.html), pages 228-232.

4 http://uniform-reference.net/insignia/usn/usn_ww2_enl_aviation.html

5Navy History and Heritage Command. https://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/u/us-navy-abbreviations-of-ww2/v.html

6“World War II War Diaries, 1941-1945”, digital image, The National Archives (https://www.fold3.com), accessed 25 May 2019, dated n.g.; Naval Air Center Command, Espiritu Santo, image 302005027; citing World War II War Diaries, Other Operational Records and Histories, compiled ca. 01/01/1942 – ca. 06/01/1946, documenting the period ca. 09/01/1939 – ca. 05/30/1946; Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Record Group Number 38, ARC ID: 4697018, roll 2046; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

7“U.S. World War II Navy Muster Rolls, 1938-1949”, digital image, The National Archives (https://www.fold3.com), accessed 22 May 2019, Robert William HAWS entry, dated 30 June 1943-20 September 1944; Air Center, Ebon – Aviation Supply Annex, Field Torpedo Unit #17, Report of Changes, assorted images; citing Muster Rolls of U.S. Navy Ships, Stations, and Other Naval Activities, 01/01/1939-01/01/1949; Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Record Group Number 24, ARC ID: 594996, roll 32664_b042818 of 10,230 rolls; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

8Gourguechon, Charlene. Journey to the End of the World: A Three-Year Adventure in the New Hebrides (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1977).

Nature

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”—Albert Einstein

When my grandfather, Christoph Meintzer (Storms), was born in the Riverwoods, in 1888, his parents’ Lake County, Illinois (Vernon Township), farm house was situated on a road (lane?) angling northwest just north of the intersection of Deerfield and Saunders Roads. The last census (1910) when the family lived there did not show a street name or address, as I’m sure all the nearby properties were farms. It is now named Riverwoods Road.

In the late 1970s or early 1980s, my mom drove me past Christoph’s childhood home—visible from the road. It was easy enough to find, despite Mom not knowing the road name or house address, because she remembered it being just down the road from the Orphans of the Storm animal shelter. That shelter opened in 1928, and she remembered it when her father would drive them to his old house.

I now regret not turning into the driveway or pulling over to snap a photograph, because it appears the house has since then been torn down and replaced by a newer home. I have only two photographs with the house faintly in the background. Extended cousins, if you have a better photo of Christian & Sophia’s house, I’d be delighted to have a copy!

When my grandfather was growing up, there were woods in front (south) of the house. Presumably he played there after chores were done, and honed his hunting skills when he was older, adding squirrels or other game to the family’s table. The Des Plaines River was two miles away, providing an excellent fishing spot. One way or another, most aspects of his life were tied to nature.

How do I “know” any of this, since he died when I was eight? Trust me, I recall no conversations with him about those topics! Yet he left a trail of seemingly random bread crumbs that help paint a picture of him, if we pay attention.

His love of fishing was legendary, and I have numerous photos of him holding a stringer of fish. According to Uncle Gail’s information when I was researching the postcard from Arkansas (So Far Away), his dad sometimes traveled to Arkansas to fish!

Christoph Meintzer (right), his son, Gail, and the catch of the day. My dad snapped this photo, taken between 1957 and 1964, somewhere near Green Bay. Minnie died in the summer of 1958, so if Gail is correct in remembering her coming along to visit that trip, then it must have been 1957. If he’s mistaken about her presence, then the wider range in the quote below is possible.

When I emailed my uncle about this photo, he replied,

. . . 1957 and it was during the time we lived in that place that your Mother & Dad came up with your family and my Dad [Christoph] & Mother [Minnie] and the three of us went fishing. My Dad didn’t want to fish in the small lake I took them to, so your Dad [Bob] got out of the car, made 1 cast and caught a 3 or 4 pound Bass, and my Dad almost broke his leg trying to get out of the car to start fishing. Most of the fish on the stringers were Bull Heads. We spent a couple of hours cleaning them when we got home and then ate them. I would recall the year was between 1957 and 1960.

Christoph also hunted in his younger days. That definitely gets you out in nature! At least one postcard to Minnie while they were courting mentioned his plans to go hunting the next Sunday. A later postcard from Minnie’s sister-in-law, Caroline, mentioned her husband, Jake (Christoph’s brother) was going hunting on Sunday, and did Christ (short “i”, remember?) want to go along? My mom never mentioned having fresh game meat while growing up, so perhaps as the north suburbs of Chicago became more populated, hunting was less successful? Or maybe Forest Preserves and incorporating towns effectively “outlawed” hunting.

I imagine by now you’re wondering why there’s a photo of mushrooms at the top. Well, it turns out Christoph liked hunting mushrooms, too! He took my mom and her brother with him when they were kids, back to the woods across the street from his parents’ former farmhouse. She remembered the animal shelter, so could always find her way back, even 50 years later. The siblings ran around and had an adventure, while their dad searched for mushrooms.  

Mom didn’t remember what kind of mushrooms he looked for, and the kids never got to taste them. He always told them it was because there were mushrooms that were safe to eat, and ones that weren’t, but he didn’t want to risk them accidentally getting sick. She said he cooked them with a silver dime that was somehow supposed to indicate whether or not they were safe.

It’s a totally bogus method, and does not work. I’m being intentionally vague about the supposed technique, so you are not tempted by it. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! My opinion is that he simply wanted the mushrooms for himself, and “possibly not being safe” was a convenient way to justify the kids not getting any!

If I would have asked my grandpa if Nature was important to him, or influenced his life, I’d wager he’d have given me a funny look. He’d have wondered what on earth I was talking about! Yet nature wove itself through his life, perhaps without his noticing. That same thread continued on through later generations, manifesting in one way or another: fishing, camping, golfing, marathoning, gardening. None of his descendants use their “outdoors gene” (is there such a thing?) the same way, but it regularly shows up in our lives.

#52Ancestors