Friday, May 26, 2017

Sepia Saturday: A Flea in the Bed

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo of a baseball player is the perfect prompt for a story about my granduncle Woody Woodring. Unfortunately for me, I already wrote that story. However, when I told Woody’s story in 2012, I thought his last season as a professional baseball player was in 1929. I have since discovered that is not so. While his career lasted only another 5 years, he did enough to earn him his very own baseball card.
Woody Woodring 1925 baseball card Portland Beavers
Arthur "Woody" Woodring
1925 Portland Beavers

Reading “Portland” on the card confused me at first because my research had revealed only his time with the Martinsburg Blue Sox, part of the Blue Ridge League, and with the team representing the Shops of the Norfolk & Western Railroad. A clip in the Portland Oregonian dated January 1925 revealed there was much more to Woody’s story, attesting to his strength as a catcher.
News article Portland Oregonian January 1925
from the Portland Oregonian January 1925
A month later, the story was quite different. The sports reporter for the Portland Oregonian praised Woody for his arm. In his last year with the Blue Sox, Woody’s fielding percentage was .994 in 72 games, the best fielding record ever by a catcher in the Blue Ridge league. He was credited with 46 assists in 359 chances and was charged with only 2 errors. Impressive.

News article Portland Oregonian February 15, 1925
from Portland Oregonian, Feb 15, 1925
But then the reporter went on to caution, “There’s always a flea in the bed somewhere.” 

That “flea” was Woody’s batting average. He predicted Woody would never be the starting catcher, no matter how good he was at it, if he couldn’t hit, run, score.

Woody played in the minor leagues about the time many of the teams started aligning with the big boys. The Portland Beavers were part of the Philadelphia Athletics organization. Despite boasting a roster of players who later achieved Hall of Fame status, the Beavers repeatedly finished in the bottom half of the league. How long Woody remained with the team is not known. However, a news article from 1930 indicates that at some point he had returned home to Martinsburg, West Virginia and was back with the Blue Sox.
News article about Woody Woodring being traded Apr 11, 1930
from Morning Herald Hagerstown, MD Apr 11, 1930

For some reason he was released but quickly grabbed up by the Cumberland Colts in Maryland. After that, there is another gap in Woody’s career. As before, he made his way back to Martinsburg. In 1934, a news article reported he decided to resign as manager of the Blue Sox because the time commitment interfered with his business interests.

Woody's resignation as manager of Blue Sox 1934
from Evening Sun Hanover, PA May 31, 1934

Those “business interests” were not likely any fancy investments or wheeling and dealing. On the contrary, it is more likely he needed a “real job” that paid better than minor league baseball. In 1932, he was a driver for Standard Oil. 

Then at least before 1939 he became a salesman for Corkran Hill & Company, a distributor of meat, cheese, and margarine. What a bonus to get a company car! 

Corkran Hill & Co car
Woody's car
Corkran Hill & Co.

That was his career until the day he died at the ripe ol’ age of 47 (!) in January 1951.

Arthur Woody Woodring and Velma Davis Woodring 1949 Martinsburg, WV
Woody and my grandaunt Velma 1949

Don’t get caught looking. Run the bases to Sepia Saturday.

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Sepia Saturday: Snakes Alive! or Heavens to Betty!

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt is one I can hardly look at without getting chills. Snakes – hate ‘em, even the supposedly “good” ones. My aunt Betty (my father’s sister) shares my fear. Actually, she exceeds it. The day she started hating snakes is permanently etched in her mind.

This picture was taken on that very day.
Beverly Slade Anderson 1939
Beverly Ann Slade about 5 years old 1939

Aunt Betty had been sent to live with Richetta Moss, a family friend, since her mother (my grandmother) was in no emotional or physical shape to take care of a baby due to alcoholism. Mrs. Moss’s family owned a beach cottage at Ocean View. On that fateful day in 1939, the family was constructing a walkway from the cottage to the road using bricks that were piled up in the back yard.

As anyone who has ever done a major home project knows, keeping the youngins busy and out of trouble is key to making progress. Assigning Betty and Jackie (another child in Mrs. Moss’s care) the job of gathering bricks and hauling them in their little wagon was the logical thing to do. Surely it was both work and fun for two little girls to fill the wagon and pull with all their might through the bumpy yard.

However, on one trip with the wagon, Betty picked up a brick, unaware that danger lurked beneath. But there it was – a snake. As if just seeing it were not bad enough, she accidentally stepped on the thing. With that, she dropped the brick and just ran.

When it comes to those limbless reptiles, Aunt Betty has been running ever since.

Be like Aunt Betty and run, run, run to Sepia Saturday.

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Sepia Saturday: You Say Tomato - I Say McDonald

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt shows a number of people focusing their attention on one dapper gentleman with hat and cane in hand. His expression is seemingly one of annoyance. But isn’t he well-dressed? Among my old photos is one of my maternal grandfather’s cousin Lee McDonald dressed similarly in light pants and dark sport coat.

Lee McDaniel or McDonald 1891-1973
Lee Roy McDaniel or McDonald
15 Nov 1871 Virginia - 30 Jan 1973 Indiana

The timing of the prompt photo inspired me to go ahead and update Lee’s line in the “Genealogy Do-Over” way, complete with proper citations and all that. Unfortunately, this Do-Over is Not-Done, thanks to absence in census records, conflicting records, and confusing names. In the state of Virginia, the family was known as McDaniel. Lee’s parents were Grattan McDaniel and Melvina Davis, sister of my great-grandfather Walter Davis. In both 1880 and 1900, they were McDaniel. But in 1920 Indiana, they were the McDonalds. Why, I don’t know. And why Indiana, I don’t know. But all the living children had relocated to Indiana as early as 1907, judging by a marriage record for Lee’s brother Thomas.

As adults, three of the McDaniel brothers – er, uh McDonald brothers – were professional painters: Lee, Grover, and Bernard. Lee was employed at the Polk Sanitary Milk Company. (Sanitary? Isn't all milk "sanitary"? I didn't know a company needed to make a point of saying it.)

Polk Sanitary Milk Company
The Polk Sanitary Milk Company 1925
courtesy Indiana Historical Society
I don’t know how a milk company kept a full-time painter busy unless they needed those oversized milk bottles kept clean with fresh paint. The company was a large enterprise, frequently expanding, so there’s that too. 

Lee retired from Polk’s in 1956, right about the time the company fell on hard times and closed. No use in crying over  - well, you know. 
(posted on Findagrave)

To see how others were inspired by hats and canes and well-dressed folk, please visit Sepia Saturday

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Sepia Saturday: Dollar Steaks, Kilroy, and Love

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

Valley Diner 1940s menu Toms Brook VA

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt featuring a vintage menu from Milan & Dan’s CafĂ© in San Francisco brings to mind an old menu that was among my mother’s possessions. Dating from about the early to mid-1940s, the menu came from the Valley Diner. This menu has all the earmarks of a low-budget operation. Two plastic pockets allow the proprietor to swap out a list of offerings without having to order all new menus. The name of the restaurant is even handwritten on the cover. 

Valley Diner 1940s menu spread Toms Brook VA

The day’s specials filled a page that was painstakingly handwritten and inserted over the regular menu page. It appears to be original, and since this menu predated quick copy services like Kinkos and Office Max, it is likely someone wrote a page for every menu at the Valley Diner. And now because someone in my family apparently took a menu as a souvenir, an employee had one less menu to fill.

Valley Diner 1940s menu Specials Toms Brook VA
Valley Diner 1940s menu under the Specials Toms Brook VA

Valley Diner 1940s menu Toms Brook VA

With a common name like “Valley Diner,” one would expect to find a number of same-named restaurants throughout the valley of Virginia, but there was only one “Valley Diner.” It was located near Toms Brook, a very small town of about 250 people in Shenandoah County. Its location along route 11 made it a popular eatery for travelers heading north toward Washington DC and Maryland or south toward Harrisonburg and Roanoke. That is the same road my grandaunt Velma Davis Woodring would have taken from Martinsburg, West Virginia to visit her family in Harrisonburg and Shenandoah. Maybe she was the culprit who stole the menu!
Valley Diner Toms Brook VA 1960s postcard
1960s postcard of the Valley Diner, Toms Brook, VA
(from Shenandoah Co Library Archives)
Whatever was so special about the Valley Diner to make a person walk off with a menu has been lost to time. Maybe it was a special occasion to be celebrated with a $1.00 steak or oyster plate. Or maybe it was just a convenient lunch spot offering a hamburger for 15 cents and crab meat sandwich for 40. Most sandwiches were under 45 cents, so the $1.00 “Kilroy Was Here” sandwich must have come with everything on it.
What was on this sandwich to make it so expensive?
Valley Diner Toms Brook VA 1960s postcard
1960s postcard of the Valley Diner, Toms Brook, VA
(from Shenandoah Co Library Archives)

I was hoping to make THAT the story, but I could find no references to such a thing, only a song “Kilroy Was Here” by the Leather Sandwich band of Australia. So I went looking for the history of the diner. The National Park Service published a document in 1995 about diners in Virginia. According to the NPS, the Valley Diner was a wood-frame building with a barrel-vault roof built sometime between 1925 and 1930. The exterior walls have been covered with stucco. A glass block counter and knotty pine paneling were added in the 1940s and 1950s updates. The diner operated under the name “Bud & Yanks” throughout the 1930s.

An obituary – yes, an obituary, of all things – told more of the story. When Mary Sue Rakes graduated from high school in Franklin County, Virginia, she worked for Naomi and Eddie Wilkerson and then followed them to the Valley where they opened the Valley Diner in the mid-1940s. (I wonder if Naomi is the one who wrote the menu.) But that is not the end. The Valley Diner is where Mary Sue found love. Yes, love. Eugene Hottle Crabill worked at the Woodstock Locker Plant (a frozen food locker) and delivered meats to the Valley Diner. I suppose he was the one carrying those delicious dollar steaks and oysters. He and Mary Sue married in 1952 and together they opened a retail meat business, Crabill’s Meats, which is still going strong.

Valley Diner Toms Brook VA today
The Valley Diner today
(from Flickr)
In the late 1960s when I-81 was constructed bypassing small towns, Valley Diner took a hit, as did many businesses. Today the Valley Diner is just an empty shell, a decaying relic of days gone by when Mom ‘n’ Pops could make a good living along a main corridor. Nevertheless, the building is listed in the survey of historic resources of Shenandoah County.

Valley Diner Toms Brook VA today
The Valley Diner 2011
(used by permission of Diner Hunter Spencer Stewart)

Valley Diner Toms Brook VA interior today
The interior of the Valley Diner 2011
shot through a window
(used by permission of Diner Hunter Spencer Stewart)

It looks like this five-finger discounted menu holds some historic significance after all.

To see what others are serving up, check the Today’s Specials at Sepia Saturday. Tell them Kilroy sent you.

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Mystery Monday: Chasing John Sheehan Part 4 - John and Katie

Mystery Monday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that asks us to share mystery ancestors or mystery records – anything in our family history research which is currently unsolved.  With any luck fellow genealogy bloggers will lend their eyes to what has been found so far and possibly help solve the mystery.

Unidentified man with John Jr. 1918
Man with John Jr. 1918
My efforts to identify the mystery man in uniform and the mystery children known as “John Jr.” and “Bob” (or Bobie) led me to another possible couple of couples, this time all named John and Katie/Catherine/Kathryn.

Unidentified man with John Jr. 1921
John Jr. and Unknown
I eliminated John and Katie of 514 18th Street in Brooklyn because John was born in the United States. Then John and Kate of Court Street in Brooklyn were eliminated when the 1905 census revealed John was actually born in London; the nail in the coffin was the fact that they lived next door to Jerry Sheehan – likely a brother – who was also from London.

That left John and Katie who were living at 559 W. 48th Street in Manhattan. John’s birthdate of May 1862 is not far off from the expected 1863 date as noted in the Catholic Parish records. He was born in Ireland and immigrated to the United States in 1880. Katie, too, was born in Ireland and immigrated in 1882. John worked as a teamster while Katie kept house and cared for their children. She reported 5 of 7 living: Daniel (1886), John J. (1888), Thomas (1890), Patrick (1894) and Louis (1896).
1900 Manhattan, NY federal census
In following the children, I found a birth record at FamilySearch for Thomas Oliver Sheehan born 1890. His mother’s name was given as Katie Cleary. The excitement of finding a maiden name was short-lived as a later census showed one Patrick Cleary boarding with John and Katie, both of whom were born in the United States. As if this were not enough proof that I had not found the right family, little Thomas Oliver Sheehan’s death in 1891 included the fact that his mother was a widow. There went that family!

But when one door closes, another one opens. Up popped more birth records, this time for Thomas M. in 1890, Dennis in 1892, Patrick in 1894, and Mary in 1896. The record for “Thomas M.” came with a new maiden name: Kate Ryan. That same maiden name appeared in marriage records for Thomas and for Louis. Perhaps Dennis and Mary were the two children that Katie reported did not survive; the years fit. Or maybe they were Nora 1884-85 and Edward (1900-1900).

In 1905, Kate was the head of household at 559 W. 48th Street in Manhattan. John Sr was not there, but the 5 sons were. The 3 oldest were fully employed while the 2 younger attended school.
1905 Manhattan, NY state census
Any suspicion that John had died was resolved in the 1910 census when Katherine declared herself a widow.
1910 Manhattan, NY federal census
Shucks! And with that I knew the man in the photo could not be John Sheehan – that is, IF this is the right family. I wallowed in self-doubt for a while wondering what the heck I am doing, why I am even bothering going through New York census records for someone that might not even have lived in New York. He might have never emigrated from Ireland to begin with. Even if he did, he might not have elected to go to New York. Maybe he went to Massachusetts or to Canada. But I can’t stand to leave a task unfinished, so I gritted my teeth and moved on to 1920.

Ho Hum. Nothing too surprising. In 1920, Catherine was head of household and three of her sons were there: John, Patrick, and Lewis. Daniel and Thomas were married and on their own. The Sheehans were no longer living on West 48th Street. They had moved a couple streets away to 506 West 50th. Wait – what? 506?  506! 

1920 Manhattan, NY federal census
That’s the house number I have been wanting to find: 506. Just like the number in my mystery man’s photo.


1925 Manhaattan, NY state census

The moment I saw that oh-so-familiar number, “O-M-G” could be heard from Virginia to Manhattan. There was nothing left to do but figure out who the man could be and how he was related to the mystery children John Jr. and “Bob.”

Obviously, the man in uniform was not John J. Sheehan, Sr. since he had died before 1910. Could the man be one of the sons?

It is logical to start with John Joseph since the man in the photo was holding “John Jr.” However, John J. was still single and living at home in 1920. John Jr. was born in 1917 and sister “Bob” followed about 1919 or 1920.

I moved on to the brothers thinking maybe one of them named a son John and added the “Jr” to distinguish him from “Uncle John.” Daniel is out. According to his World War I draft registration card, he was married and had three children by 1917. This does not fit the timeline of photos. Furthermore, Daniel had no child named John.

Thomas and his wife Rose look like possibilities. They had a son John, but he was born in 1914 and could not be the infant in the 1917 photos.

Patrick is unlikely the father. He was still single in 1920. In 1930, he was head of household that included a wife and his mother but no children at all.

1930 Queens, NY federal census

Louis married in 1921 but was divorced by 1925. It is not likely that he was the father of John Jr. and “Bob” either.

  1. If this is MY John Sheehan and family, then the photo of man with baby is NOT John Sheehan. Nor does the photo seem to be of any of the sons.
  2. If I have found the right family, maybe I just don’t have the right clues. I’m missing something.
  3. It is possible that some other family member was visiting Sheehan relatives at 506 W. 50th St.
  4. I’m beginning to think the 506 address is just a coincidence.
© 2017, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.