Monday, September 23, 2013

William Augustine Sullivan Revisited

William Augustine Sullivan

I've been re-reading a memoir written by Aunt Tiny and feeling like I should be sharing some of her stories about Grandpa William.  I also entered his military registrations for WWI and WWII today and learned some new things.  So, more on Grandpa Sullivan tonight.

I'm not sure when Tiny wrote her memoir - 12 typewritten pages of stories about people and places growing up.  My Mom thought it was around 1999 and was likely after Aunt Toots (Sister Augustine) passed in April of 1999.
Aunt Tiny is actually Dorothy Gertrude, 4th child of Marie and William A.  Her Dad nicknamed her Tiny because she only weighed 4 pounds when born.  In Tiny's words : 

Dorothy Gertrude Sullivan
Dad was born in Erin, Wisconsin on June 17, 1877 of parents Michael Sullivan and Catherine Whelan. He was named William Augustine but when he met Mama he told her his name was Arthur so she called him Arthur as long as I can remember and Lu’s middle name was Arthur. So… his mother called him Augie, Mama called him Arthur and his friends called him Bill. We called him Daddy, then Dad.

Dad had a sister Mamie, two years older than him and a brother several years younger, Dave. Though Toots and I went to Marshfield several times for visits, I never met Aunt Mamie. She was always working out of town. The only recognition I have of Uncle Dave was a photo of him in his World War I uniform.  He died at the young age of 27 from tuberculosis.

Dad was a small man and a very persnickety dresser; he had a thin face with dark hair and eyebrows and wore glasses. I swear, he looked the same when last I saw him. He always seemed to be ‘older’ to me but he was just “Dad’. We also knew that he was ten years older than Mama but that fact was not true. I sent for my Dad’s birth certificate in 1988 when I was having difficulty getting a passport for a European trip and his certificate gave his birth date as 1877, sixteen years older than my mother. I wonder if she ever knew.

The only photo I have of my dad is one that was taken in Canada – he was sitting on an outside stoop, hat perched jauntily on his head, with Lu on one side of him and Eddie on the other. He seems to be proud of his two sons so neatly dressed in their winter woolens and wooly stocking caps, also boots.  He called Eddie ‘Sonny’. 
Lu, William A. and Eddie Sullivan, Le Pas, Manitoba Canada

I have no idea what prompted Dad to pull up stakes in Canada and move to Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Perhaps it was at this time that he became employed by the W. G. Wheeler Company of Rockford, Illinois; I know he became a lumber broker for that company and traveled for them, quite extensively, and Oshkosh may have been a central location....The state’s second largest city in 1866, Oshkosh became known as the ‘Sawdust City’ and the ‘Lumber Capital of the World’ with sawmills lining the Fox River and producing over one million board-feet of lumber....

Dad was traveling now with a Model A black Ford company car. He’d take his big, brown leather grip and set off for the week. On return he’d reacquaint himself with the children, have a good dinner and set off for a neighborhood tavern to co-mingle with his men-friends. He was ‘Bill’ to the men. He was making a good salary at that time.  Tiny Sullivan

My other re-discoveries today were Grandpa Sullivan's WWI and WWII military registration cards.  These are in the National Archives and Records Administration repository.  I accessed them through and downloaded the record copies.  For both wars, he was too old, but was required to register anyway.

Wm A. registered in 1918 while living in Le Pas, Manitoba, Canada.  He had his statements witnessed by the police magistrate of Le Pas and then mailed back to the Wood County Local Board.  According to his card, Wm A. was 41 years old, a lumber inspector for the Finger Lumber Company in Le Pas. He lists his mother, Catherine of D St in Marshfield, WI as next of kin.  The registrar noted that he was short, of medium build, light blue eyes, dark brown hair and no visible physical impairments.
WWI Registration for William Augustine Sullivan

When he registered in 1942 for WWII, William was divorced from Marie and living in Milwaukee at 737 No 15th St,  He has a phone number.  He is 64 years old and lists his birthplace as Hartford, WI. (He was actually born in Erin Township.)  The registrar notes that he is 5 foot 6 inches tall, weighs 147 pounds with blue eyes, grey hair and a ruddy complexion. He is employed by Quirk Crate Company, E Layton Drive in Cudahy WI.  He lists his daughter Anne, 50 Northwestern Ave, Oshkosh, as the person who would always know his address.  That would imply that he remained in touch with Anne at least somewhat. Sali, did your Mom ever talk about Grandpa?

WWII Registration William Augustine Sullivan
The Quirk Crate Company made wooden milk crates.  Someone was selling this crate on Etsy.

The North 15th St address doesn't have any vintage homes anymore.

I'm sure Bill/Augie/Arthur was a less than ideal husband and family provider, I still wish that I might have met him to know him myself.  His children write fondly about him - at least in his early years.

But I remember that about my own father - he was much more fun and approachable when my sister Nancy and I were young than when he and my Mom were struggling to raise 6 kids.  As I learn more about these grandparents, I discover that I have traits in common with them.  I learn to appreciate them as adults navigating a difficult world, something I couldn't know or appreciate when I was a child.  We had such fun in Oshkosh.  It could have been a totally different experience.

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