Monday, May 19, 2014

52 Ancestors - #20 Clarence W. Snyder (1910 – 1984)

Climbing My Family Tree: Clarence W. Snyder at 17 (1910-1982)
Clarence Snyder at 17
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This is my 20th post for the “52Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow of the “No Story Too Small” blog.

I love the kindness and generosity of genea-bloggers. Dara McGivern of Black Raven Genealogy found my grandparents’ marriage license and sent me a link to it and now I have a digital copy, which I will share below [it’s an interesting one ;-) ] Thank you Dara!

My grandfather, Clarence Weldon Snyder was born on March 22, 1910 to Philip Snyder and Pearl Pauline Bailey Snyder. His parents had been married almost exactly one year and he was their first child.  At the time of his birth, his father worked in the timber business in Findlay, Ohio. They went on to have two daughters and two more sons: Christina Belle (1911-1942) [link], Phyllis Ardyeth (1914- 2005), Paul Alexander (1915 – 1975), and Donald (1918-2012) [link].

Grandpa Snyder, Clarence, made the paper less frequently than my Grandma Snyder (Mabel) did, and although I know there was one I have been unable to find a copy of his obituary, so I have less documented on him than I have on my grandmother. But I did find his and Mabel’s 1927 high school year book on Ancestry.com, and that was cool!

My grandmother and grandfather knew each other in high school and dated.  My grandfather, Clarence Snyder, played football his junior and senior years and was the captain of the football team his senior year.  He also played on the basketball team. He was secretary and treasurer of the Varsity Club and a member of the Senior Hi-Y Club (which was a club that promoted “clean speech, clean sport, clean scholarship and clean living throughout the school and community.”). He was also president of the Student Council during his senior year [which gifted him with the task of organizing class reunions from then on].  

Captain of his High School Football Team
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At college, Ohio University, he was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity which was focused on creating “a lifelong commitment to strive to achieve true friendship, equal justice and the fulfillment of learning as part of our overall responsibilities to the broader communities in which we live.”   Here’s a neat fact: he played center on the last Ohio University football team to beat Ohio State University! (OSU then refused to schedule any other Ohio colleges for many years – talk about sour grapes!)

Clarence and Mabel secretly got married while Clarence was still in college, on January 5, 1929, in Crawford County Ohio by a minister in Bucyrus Ohio; then she returned to her home with her mother and sister and he continued with college, until he graduated and they could be together. The interesting part about the marriage license application is that they both lied about their ages – he said he was 22 and she said she was 21 (they were both 18), and she may have lied about her residence, as she reports that she is living in Crestline in Crawford County Ohio (a small town between Bucyrus and Mansfield, Ohio) and I have nothing else placing her there – but it may be that I have nothing else placing her there yet.  I know that it is my grandparents’ license because  its states the groom was born in Findlay Ohio and his  parents of the groom are as P.A. Snyder (Philip Aaron) and Pauline Bailey, and the bride was born in “Lewisville” Illinois and her parents are Verne Erwin and Frances Hartman. I don’t know why they lied about their ages, even at 18 they were above the legal marriageable age in Ohio at that time.  For those relatives concerned with whether the lies voided the marriage, likely not. [My first legal job was for the Legal Aid Society of Dayton Ohio, in the Domestic Relations unit. It’s been awhile so I double-checked my recollection to the extent I could (this is not to be considered legal advice). ] Lying about one’s age on the Marriage License Application is not considered to be lying about a material fact since they were of legal age anyway and would thus not void the marriage. Likewise, lying about one’s place of residence – if she did – is also not considered to be a material fact and would not void the marriage. Moreover, assuming arguendo that it did, Ohio recognized common law marriage until 1993 and they fit the Ohio requirements for that (mutual consent to be married; mutual intent to marry; consider themselves as husband and wife; be legally capable of entering into a valid marriage; cohabit and hold themselves to the public as husband and wife). So either way, the marriage is legal and my mother and her siblings are legitimate.

Climbing My Family Tree: Snyder-Erwin Marriage License Application and Certificate
Clarence Snyder & Mabel Erwin Application for  Marriage License and Marriage Certificate
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By 1933, Mabel and Clarence were living together as man and wife in Findlay Ohio, at 301 E. Main Cross Street, and he was working as a teacher.  He taught Chemistry and Physics.  Their first child was born to them the next year in Findlay. (Note, I will not be giving names or exact birthdates as the children are living.)  In 1935, the couple lived in Jewett, Ohio, in Harrison County, where he taught Chemistry and Physics, coached football and basketball , and was promoted to Principal. They had four children in six years and then nearly a decade later another two children.

When Clarence and Mabel started their family it was at the height of the Great Depression, when it was extremely difficult to find work and provide for one’s family.  In 1932, Ohio's unemployment rate for all residents reached 37%; and those who retained their jobs usually faced reduced hours and wages.  Many people couldn’t afford to pay their property taxes and so school districts were underfunded. Many teachers had their salaries cut, and there was no money for supplies. Many schools cut both the school day and the school year; some simply closed. It was a rough time to be in education. I don’t know whether he lost his job or left it but by 1939 the family was living in St. Clairsville, Ohio and Clarence was a salesman at a car dealership. This was also an awful job to have in the Depression because automobiles were still a luxury item and people weren’t buying luxury goods then. But Clarence took the jobs he could find to try to support his growing family.  Grandpa supplemented the family table by hunting and fishing; and when she was old enough ,my mother would go hunting with him. She remembers eating squirrel stew at times.

As WWII spread across Europe in 1939 and 1940, the U.S. government and military began to lay a infrastructure to support the war, building 67 ordnance factories across the country (on approximately 44 million acres of land taken by eminent domain from private citizens), and recruiting workers to staff them. Recruiters especially sought those with science backgrounds. The jobs were to be temporary, for the duration of the war, but they were attractive because they were secure and meant a steady paycheck for the duration; they were patriotic; and since they were deemed “essential”, a person working there would not be sent overseas to fight.  Due to his chemistry and physics coursework in college, Clarence was offered a choice between working at the Plum Brook munitions/TNT plant about 5 miles south of  Sandusky, Ohio or at the Atomic Bomb project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Mabel objected to the primitive conditions at Oak Ridge, so they took the Plum Brook job and moved to Huron Ohio, on Lake Erie. Plumbrook’s first production line of TNT started on November 15, 1941 – 22 days before the attack on Pearl Harbor (Plumbrook eventually produced more than one billion pounds of ordnance throughout World War II -- over 400,000 pounds per day).

Even though it was steady, necessary work, it was not an easy place to work. A history of Plum Brook put together by NASA noted that since the buildings were considered temporary, they weren't insulated sufficiently for the cold Ohio winters, and workers worked in their heaviest coats as “icy blasts tore through the warped window casings,” and managers regularly had to brush snow off their desks. Plum Brook employees were also subject to strict conservation and rationing for the war, and were strongly encouraged to set aside 10% of their pay to buy war bonds. They saved gas by carpooling or biking to work (even in the winter).  Many families planted “Victory gardens” to supplement their food  needs as the federal government imposed rationing on the American people to limit the amount of scarce goods civilians could purchase (so more could be sent overseas), starting in the spring of 1942, the rationing eventually came to include sugar, meats, butter, oils, cheese, juices, dry beans, soups, baby food, ketchup, and bottled, canned, and frozen fruits and vegetables. Clarence and Mabel maintained a garden , and Clarence continued to go hunting and fishing for the family table.

In September 1942, Clarence’s sister Christina died in a car crash that also severely injured her husband. Directly after the accident, Clarence and Mabel took in one of Christina’s daughters, intending to raise her as their own, but the father’s family asked to take care of her pending her father’s recovery, and the girl was sent to Florida to live with them instead.

Also late in 1942, Clarence’s brother, Don, who was in the Army, was sent off to the Pacific Theatre to fight the Japanese. So at this time, Clarence was working in very difficult conditions, trying to support his wife and four daughters, grieving the death of his sister and fearful for the safety of his youngest brother. The stress load must have been enormous. But many at Plum Brook and around the country were suffering similar stresses and so they weren’t ever talked about. After the surrender of Japan, production at Plum Brook came to a halt.
Climbing My Family Tree: Clarence W. Snyder  1943
Clarence W. Snyder, 1943
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After the war, in the late 40’s and throughout the 1950’s, the family’s economic station improved. Clarence became a manufacturer’s representative for a variety of toy and sporting goods companies, going around to retail stores and chains in his territory and convincing their buyers to purchase his clients' products. Mabel kept the books for Clarence’s business, utilizing her accounting degree. As the economy as a whole improved, people were more willing to spend money on frivolous items, and as the soldiers and sailors came home the baby boom followed, and Clarence benefitted by both.  Although you have to wonder how his family felt as he travelled a lot for his job and, at times, was gone for a month at a time. Clarence established a tradition of taking each of his kids, in turn, with him, at least once, on a trip to Detroit, so they could see a big city.  

In 1958, their youngest daughter, at age 12, had to have spinal fusion surgery that required eight months thereafter in a body cast. While she was in the hospital, Clarence and Mabel had the carport converted into a room to hold a hospital bed so that she could be cared for at home.  As Clarence did not have insurance, expense of the surgery and other medical care was paid for in cash. Later, his son needed ear surgery while in college.

All of Clarence and Mabel’s kids worked and saved money towards their college education – I think it is admirable that Clarence and Mabel fostered a family mindset that said, of course, their daughters and son would go to college (that still wasn't normal for girls) but were honest and let them know that they must earn money to help pay for college because they couldn't pay for college for six kids alone.  I also understand that Grandpa had a standing, partially facetious, offer to give any daughter who eloped $1000 [the equivalent of $6929 now] - none of them took him up on that (I think Grandma would have been very upset if they had, even though she had eloped).

Later after his older girls got married and began having families, I would say that us grandkids loved his job as a toy salesman because he would give us his samples; he gave us some of the biggest and best stuffed animals, dolls, stuffed football player dolls, and fascinating board games! I loved my stuffed animals.
Climbing My Family Tree: My Grandpa, Clarence Snyder, holding me (L) and a cousin (R)
Me, Grandpa, and a cousin
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In Huron, Ohio, Clarence was active in his local Presbyterian Church and served as a deacon several times. He was also active in the Freemasons, and was elected Commodore of the local yacht club multiple times (he had a yacht named “Our Toy”, which won an award for being the “prettiest” in a regatta in 1964). He was also President of their home owners associations at Grand Forest Beach and later Beach Wood Cove, helping to insure that the city put drainage ditches and sidewalks in the neighborhoods.

My grandfather had a daredevil streak in him. I have heard stories of him swimming across the Sandusky Bay  of Lake Erie to get a package of hamburger and swimming back holding it above his head, out of the water; he also swam across the Hocking River while in college; he would ride a bicycle on the pier so close to the edge that his children were afraid that he would fall in, and then he would repeat it – riding backwards.  Once he picked up hitchhikers who pulled a gun on him, then hit him with it and knocked him out. I remember riding with him in a car that was going so fast on the hills that we went airborn in our seats as we crested the hills – I also remember my brothers excitedly telling Mom about it when we got back to the Camp…Mom was not amused, and told him off! I don’t think we were allowed to ride with him again.

In or about 1969, when I was about 9, Clarence & Mabel retired to Yankeetown Florida, where they bought a house near the Withlacoochee River, on one of the inland waterways, a canal. I remember going to visit them several times. I have a vivid memory of an alligator crawling out of the canal into the backyard.  I don’t know if that happened more than once, but once was enough for me!  After retirement to Florida, Clarence got restless and purchased and operated a 7/11 store there. I have vague memories of the store. He was an active member of the Parson’s Memorial Presbyterian Church and loved singing in the choir. He was also a member of the Masons, and liked to play golf with Mabel and with male friends, including his brother, who lived in the area.

Unfortunately, Mabel developed dementia in her later years. After awhile it got to the point that Clarence could not care for her at home and he moved her to the Crystal River Geriatrics Center in about 1982. Clarence died about two years later of  leukemia. His body was returned to Findlay Ohio and buried in the Maple Grove cemetery. Mabel was buried beside him after her death in 1990.

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I would like to find more documentation/pictures of his years between 1940 and 1982.
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U.S. Census for 1920, 1930, 1940; The Findlay City Directory; The Findlay Republican Courier; The Sandusky Register; http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Great_Depression?rec=500 ; “Education during the great Depression” by Barb Jensen (http://voices.yahoo.com/education-during-great-depression-823239.html); NASA’s Nuclear Frontier: The Plum Brook Reactor Facility, by Mark D. Bowles and Robert S. Arrighi . Monographs in Aerospace History, No. 33. August 2004 (http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4533/Plum%20Brook%20Complete.pdf); http://wiki.answers.com/Q/1000_in_1960_is_worth_what_today?#slide=2; Social Security Index; and Ohio Obituary Index. Also memories of myself, my parents, and my aunts.

5 comments:

  1. You're welcome, Jo :-) It is exciting that they eloped. I wonder why they felt they needed to lie about their ages.

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    1. I've no real idea, unless they were afraid that they wouldn't be able to get the license without their parents finding out if they reported their real ages -- their families may have felt they were too young for that kind of commitment

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  2. Uncle Clarence!!!! My FAVORITE Uncle!!! We did everything together!! Thank you so much for posting this. I am Pete Snyder, Missionary to China, Pearl Pauline Bailey's Sister (Clarence's aunt) "Aunt Myrtle" inspired me. I too have been in China over 30 years - and am leaving tomorrow! I am the grandson of Christine - Clarence's sister. I don't know which child lived with Clarence after Christine's death - perhaps it was my Mother, Bettie. Missionary to Haiti for 48 years. I will cone home and see her next week. Again!!! Uncle Clarence was my HERO!! I often stayed with him and Mabel in Florida. Dr. Peter Scott Snyder (funny, I was a teacher too!)

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    1. Hi Pete,
      It's Jo.
      I know who you are. 😊 We've been talking through Ancestrydotcom. I'm glad you liked the post. I know who stayed with my grandpa and grandma after Christine's death, it's just my policy (and that of a lot of geneabloggers) not to name living people in my blog. [My own family is paranoid about being named on the internet and I promised not to name anyone who was alive without specific permission.] I believe your mother lived with her grandparents- Philip and Pauline Snyder after the accident. Welcome home!

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    2. Pete, I tried to forward you an email inquiry about Myrtle to the AOL address I had for you but it won't go through. When you get back to the states, could you give me a good email to reach you at. My email address is henn.jo@hotmail.com.

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