Sunday, September 26, 2010

Howard University

Today I was arbitrating the results of two indexers who indexed the same image from the North Carolina Freedmen Letters 1862-1870. A name mentioned in almost every letter was Major General O. O. Howard, Commissioner. I decided to find out a bit more about this man.

O. O. Howard is Oliver Otis Howard who was born November 8, 1830, He was a career US army officer. However, the reason that his name appeared so often in the letters was that he was commissioner of the Freedman's Bureau. The bureau's purpose was to integrate the freed slaves into a free society.

I knew that many black college students attended Howard University and assumed that the university was founded by a member or members of the black community. When I was researching about who Oliver Howard was, I learned that he was the founder of Howard University. Howard University was founded in 1867. The university was open to both females and males and didn't judge an applicant based on color.

Nearly thirty years later, he established Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee to provide for the education of the "mountain whites."

Oliver O. Howard

Sunday, September 19, 2010

School Experience as A Baby Boomer

I was talking the other day to a woman at my gym who was concerned about moving and the impact on her teenage son. She was worried that he would have trouble meeting friends because her son is very shy. I told her that I faced a similar situation when my husband took a job in the San Francisco area, but I knew that my son would make friends based on my own experience.

As a student, I went to two elementary schools, two junior (middle) schools, two high schools and two universities. At each change, I met new friends from the members of my class. And as I predicted, my son found friends at his new school and has maintained that connection beyond his high school graduation.

You may think that I attended all of these schools because my family moved a lot. You would then be incorrect. I was a part of the baby boom that occurred after World War II. The number of children that were born in the years following the war strained the public school system. Communities were faced with having to build more schools to accomodate the dramatic increase in children of school age.

I started kindergarten at Adair Avenue Elementary School. I don't have much recollection of my time at the school. I remember being in kindergarten and sitting on the floor while the teacher read us a story. I also remember coloring pussy willows with colored chalk and having to have a nap on a mat in a darkened room. First grade also left me with few memories.

I fell off the schoolbus regularly when we arrived at the school to the point that I had bandages on my knees on a regular basis and had scars on my knees for many years later. As it turns out I needed glasses. By first grade, we were starting to read. I had learned to read before I was in kindergarten because my mother was a former school teacher. But this was the first time that I was asked to read from the blackboard. So that year I ended up with eye glasses.

My brother had started kindergarten that year but was at New Hope School. This school had been a one-room school in what was a rural part of the county. It was scheduled to be demolished but was temporarily saved by the urgent need of a place to house kindergarden students. Adair Avenue kindergarten was full.

The next year, I was to begin my second grade. My 1st grade brother and kindergarten brother all started at Noble Avenue Elementary School. The construction on the school was not completed until after the school year began. The focus was on completing the classrooms and then finishing the remaining facilities within the building.

I was in the morning kindergarten class so was home by lunch time, but I had lunch in the school cafeteria when I was in 1st grade. In the early months of second grade, we had to bring our lunch and we ate lunch in our classroom. Before I ended my time in second grade, we had a cafeteria. It was at Noble Avenue School that I first experienced the multi-purpose room.

Noble Avenue School was my home from second through sixth grade. However, as I was about to enter junior high school, the school district needed to build another junior high school. I ended up at the new school rather than the school that I had expected to attend. This time most of my class from Noble Avenue were in the same school with me but I was placed into a special program at the school. The students in this program were kept separated from the other new junior high students. There were 72 of us divided into two homerooms. Since we came from several elementary schools, I found myself in a homeroom with about a quarter of the students I already knew.

My parents then moved us to California. I attended O A Peters Intermediate School. I made some friends some of whom ended up at the same high as I did. The end of that year, my parents bought a house that was in the same school district but would place me in another high school, This was the school from which I graduated.

During my time in high school, the district was building a 5th high school and had created a contest to name the 5th school. A few years after I graduated from high school, the district lines were redrawn so that my younger siblings ended up at another high school than the one from which I graduated.

Years later, many of the schools were closed because there were not enough students. But the one thing that I learned from my years as a student is that you will meet friends.

Friday, September 17, 2010


My sister, brother and I donated one of the three cordboards that my mother owned to the Tustin (California) Museum in late 2008. The museum asked me if I could send them something about the history of this particular cordboard being in Orange County, California. However, events in my life caused a delay in a reponse. In October 2009, I sent the following email message to the museum:

I meant to send you a blurb about the cordboard that I donated to the museum last year but other events superceded my time.
My mother started an answering service at 1212 Sycamore Street in Santa Ana in 1968. She had been a supervisor at Orange County Answering Service that was located at the corner of Bush and 10th Street in Santa Ana. She was frustrated with the quality of service that her employer was willing to provide to its clients so she started her own business. Her sister who was an operator at Orange County Answering Service was my mother's first employee.
At the time that my mother started her business, Pacific Telephone leased the cordboards and provided maintenance support. The cordboard that I donated was one of three that my mother leased from PacTel. These cordboards were not new in 1968 and seemed to have been manufactured in the late 1940s. At some point PacBell did not want to support this type of cordboard. My mother ended up owning the three cordboards and the maintenance costs.
I came across a picture of my father's mother taken in 1910. She was sitting at a cordboard in the parlor of her parents' home. My great grandfather provided phone service to a small community in Anoka County, Minnesota. My Grandma was answering phones for 24 customers, but the picture did not look much different from a photo that I have of my mother in front of a cordboard with 100 slots. My mother met my father because she was one of the two teachers at a 2-room schoolhouse built on my grandmother's parents' property.
The cordboard that I donated was in operation until 2006. This is a picture of my mother in the early years of her answering service.

After I sent the information above to the museum, I received an email message that told me the following:

The cordboard you donated does attract a lot of attention since it appears that almost everyone "of a certain age" has a PBX story!  (Including myself since I operated one in the 60s).

Note: PacBell and PacTel are the same company. The named changed as the telephone company monopolies were required to break up into smaller entities.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Do You Have Relatives or Ancestors Enumerated in A Canadian Census?

Although you may have been born in the United States as were your parents and your grandparents, you might find that you have relatives or ancestors that lived in Canada. The Canadian census images that are currently available for viewing will then be of interest to you.

I have looked at hundreds of US census images. This data is not always reliable as I found on more than one occasion that the age of the same person from one census to another are not always 10 years apart. One of my relatives was less than ten years older in the next census to the point that she was almost the same age in one census as she was 30 years before.

However, as you come across records and find that you have a year's difference in the birth year of a relative who lived in Canada and in the United States, it may be due to the difference between the meaning of the age recorded in a census between the US Census and the Canadian Census.

The instructions to the enumerator of the US census has been since the 1850 census to record the age of the individual at his/her last birthday. I looked at so many US census images that I assumed that the age in the Canadian census was the age at the last birthday. I was wrong!!!

When you find a relative in a Canadian census, do not assume that the age is the age at the last birthday. You will be wrong as was I. After enough times that I found a relative in a Canadian census whose age was a year older than I expected, I decided to look at what that data meant. A little research revealed that the age in the Canadian census is the age at the next birthday.

If you are looking at census images for countries other than the United States, be sure to understand what each data point means. Do not assume that you know.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

2347 Prospect Street, Berkeley, California

About a year ago, I visited the house in which I lived when I was a student at the University of California. It had turned into a Co-op and was a shell of its former beauty. When I was living in the house, it was well kept. The girls residing in the house were expected to participate in the upkeep. We washed dishes, set the tables, polished the silver, etc.

Recently, I thought about the house and wondered what had happened to it between the time I lived in it and when I visited it. My search for information led me back to the period before I lived there. I remember that I was told the house was built around 1904-1906 and had been donated to the university by Phoebe Apperson Hearst (by whom I don't recall). Since Mrs. Hearst gave large contributions to the University of California and was a strong supporter of women students, I believed what I was told. I distinctly remember knowing that the silver that I polished belonged to Mrs. Hearst.

As I searched for more information about the house, I became suspicious about Mrs. Hearst's connection to the house. I learned that the house was built in 1906 but have not discovered who had it built. However, based on an academic paper written by Professor Frederick Parker Gay, he was living at that address in 1913. Who's Who in Berkeley 1917 has an entry on page 87 for Dr. Gay stating that he was a professor of Pathology at Cal since 1910.

I came across a page at the University of California website about the centennial celebration and history of the university. The page included information about women's living groups and made reference to Beaudelaire Club. 2347 Prospect St. (Formerly Al Khalail (women's club), Chi Sigma Phi sorority, and the residence of Professor Fredrick P. Gay.) 1950.

Professor Gay was living at 2347 Prospect Street in Berkeley according to the Polk-Husted Directory Company's Oakland-Berkeley-Alameda City Directory of 1923. I found an "In Memoriam" in the New England Journal of Medicine that said he was at Columbia University from 1923 until his death on July 14, 1939 in New York City.

I then found a paper written by Michael A. Green (Class of 1962) entitled "A Brief History of UC Berkeley Greek System." Enewah Incorporated 1913-1914 became Al Khalail and Al Khalail 1914-1927 became Chi Sigma Phi, a local sorority. Chi Sigma Phi closed in 1934 (page 39).

Based on various directories and Blue and Gold yearbooks, Al Khalail Women's House was  between 1919 and 1925 at 2736 Haste Street in Berkeley. In 1915 Al Khalail was at 2536 College Avenue. Thus, it seems that Al Khalail moved to 2347 Prospect Street after 1925. Then in 1927, the house at 2347 Prospect Street became the residence of a local sorority, Chi Sigma Phi. However, Chi Sigma Phi dissoved in 1934.

I have no idea who owned the house after Chi Sigma Phi closed in 1934. The first indication that I had of the existence of Beaudelaire Club was 1943. The Bancroft Library at Cal has a folder (27) from the Women's Dormitory Association Records of 1935 to 1965. This folder contains the "Minutes of the Beaudelaire Club 1943."

Because of the riots at Cal, my mother said that I could not stay at Cal. Under duress, I transferred to UCLA. When I transferred, I could not find university housing. I rented an apartment just off campus with another female. By the next year, no one wanted to live in university housing. This time was probably the beginning of the end for the grandeur of the house at 2347 Prospect Street.

I remember reading somewhere that the house was occupied by Naval midshipmen. That would have been brief as the military was not held in high regard by university students at that time. The Blue and Gold yearbook of 1978 indicated that the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity was living at 2347 Prospect.

If you do a Google search for this address, you will find hits that refer to the house as a house with an African flare. It think that Phoebe Apperson Hearst had she donated that house to the University would be rolling over in her grave to see it today. But then, maybe not.

Mrs. Hearst died in 1919. I still wonder about that silver I polished.