War Bonds, Pt 1

My father’s oldest brother, Donald, was born in Owen Sound in 1933. For a number of years after Uncle Don’s birth, Grandpa and Grandma lived in Buffalo, NY. Grandpa was from Greensboro, NC. He was born in 1911. His dad, George Rick Sr was an engineering professor at Greensboro’s Agricultural and Mechanical College for the Colored Race. Today the school is known as North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, or NC A&T for short.

At the time my grandparents met, Grandpa was living in Buffalo, NY, most likely in Matsen Park. Grandpa visited Owen Sound with his friend Pete Jefferson where he met my grandmother Isabelle who was three years younger. They soon married. I can’t say for sure why they chose to live in Buffalo, but I do know that’s where they went for a good time. Toronto was comparatively quiet and boring then. Much of Grandpa’s family was in Buffalo.

Only my uncle Jerry was born American, in 1942. His five siblings were all born in Owen Sound. During WWII Grandpa worked as an aircraft mechanic. He had also worked at Bethlehem Steel’s Lackawanna plant where he’d gone to jail for labour organizing. When I asked him why they had moved back to Owen Sound, his brief cryptic response was that they had returned because of “all the shit” that was going on in the United States. I don’t read too much into this statement. It could mean anything. There were also stories about escaping squad cars across county lines before two-way car radios were widespread.

The Tompkins were back in Owen Sound by January 1944 for the birth of Carolyn Isobel, George and Isabelle’s only daughter. “Aunt Care” was my Sunday school teacher, a St. John Ambulance attendant, photographer, musician, and motorcycle enthusiast. Most importantly, for this project, Carolyn was a computer analyst for Black Clawson Kennedy, a manufacturer of turbines, mill gearings, steel castings and propellers. Carolyn was into home computing, with modem, before anyone else I knew. At some point she began a genealogical database which was last printed in 1996. The bulk of the information available for this project is because of Carolyn’s early computing knowledge and dedication to her family. Yet another treasure trove, only slightly less detailed, are Aunt Ruth’s memories.