Friday, July 24, 2009

"Modesty Becomes a Young Man"

"Modesty becomes a young man."

For the first time since I started writing this blog, I am finally able to write about someone I knew -- or realized I didn't know. Charles "Fred" Jones, my grandfather, was born on October 16, 1884 in Cincinnati, Ohio, the middle child of Charles Henry Jones and Rachel Wainright. If I would ask my siblings what they remember, the list would probably include the following:

Jan and Pop (as we called them) lived at 2424 Eastern Ave. (now Riverside Ave.) in the East End. The small frame house was located directly across the street from Highland Elementary School with a clear view of the Ohio River. While I was growing up, the house was painted "bus company yellow" as Rose would say, and I still remember the faded line just short of the first floor ceiling that marked the level of the infamous 1937 flood.

I remember a man who chewed tobacco, had a spitoon, talked to his parakeets, and loved to go for "rides" on a Sunday afternoon buying ice cream cones for all involved. There was always a jar of caramels and we constantly had to be asked to stop playing with the pedal on the Singer sewing machine in their bedroom.

Pop was just short of 65 years old when I was born. Jan had a clear preference for girls, so I was "in". There was no thought of shortening my name from Kathleen to Kathy or "Kath" as my family knows me because Jan loved my Irish name and couldn't understand why anyone would want to mess with such a beautiful name.

I knew Pop had worked at the "bus company" as had my Dad when I was young. I recall stories of Jan and Pop living on Columbia Avenue (what is now part of Columbia Parkway) when they were newlyweds. Dad used to point out the foundation of the former house when we drove by and talk about horse-drawn wagons that used to deliver milk each day.

In the name of "progress" Jan and Pop moved down from Columbia Parkway and built their home on Eastern Ave. The Breving Cousins, Rosemary, Fred and Bob were older and I contacted Rosemary and Fred to "fill in the blanks" for me, as I realized how much I didn't know. I'll write about our conversations in a later post.

I was "googling" the Cincinnati Street Railway and the Cincinnati Transit Company on the computer. Much to my surprise I found that there was an organization called the "Cincinnati Transit Historical Association" with bus and rail aficionados as members. Bill and I attended a meeting, hoping to connect with the organization's "librarian". The library was scheduled to be open the next day, so I made arrangements to see what I might find.

I knew from Pop's death certificate that he was a "retired foreman." Luckily for me, the "bus company" published a magazine for employees that often featured a story based on information supplied by the company foremen.

The picture of a man I barely knew began to emerge. In the July-August edition of The News, the headline read "Butch Jones Too Modest About Record." Now there's a question I want answered -- why was Charles "Fred" Jones known by his middle name or more often by the nickname "Butch"?

Pop was the foreman of the Hewitt Avenue "car barn". He apparently took a lot of pride in his work and had quite a reputation. The article stated:

Because his motto is "Modesty becomes a young man," Foreman Fred 'Butch' Jones said not a word at the July Conference of Foremen about the fact that there was not a single P.C.C. car failure in Walnut Hills during the month of June. (P.C.C. stands for a special Presidential Cabin Car that was in limited operation at the time).

As I scanned month after month of publications I read citation after citation recognizing the work he oversaw (i.e., Mr. Jones' division had gone 630,000 miles with only one pull in).

At one point, "Butch" decided he wanted to paint his entire shop white. He offered to do it himself, if necessary. He was apparently proud of his white shop as a picture in The News pictures Pop waving his cane at another foreman who suggested that perhaps his shop was even better.

To be continued . . .

No comments:

Post a Comment

Join the conversation. Comments are appreciated and keep me motivated.