Grand Pockets’s Blog

Genealogy, Family, Poetry and Peeves

Russell Oran Elledge, Sr. Granddad

Russell Sr. was my grandfather. He died 3 years before I was born so the only way to get to really know him was to talk to my Dad. To get him to slow down a minute, sit down, and really try to remember his father for me and make me see him as a person. I think he succeeded. This was written therefore by my father, not me. All I did was channel the words to paper.

Russell O. Elledge, Sr.

Russell O. Elledge, Sr.

First some basic facts. R.O. Elledge, Sr. was born on the 4th of August 1901 in French Lick, Indiana. He died 7 Jan 1951 of lung cancer. He hadn’t even reached his 50th birthday. He married Gertrude Roesch in 1922 and they had 2 children, daughters, Jeanette Hope, and Charlotte. Gertrude died of the scourge of the early 20th century, Tuberculosis, in 1928. He remarried, around 1930, to  Cora Emily Maddock, a woman he had met while visiting with Gertrude when she was in the TB sanitorium (my note:Dunham Tuberculosis Hospital). Emily, as she was known, had a husband, Harry Woellert, who also was dying of TB and in the same sanitorium. When Gertrude was diagnosed, Health services came in and took Jean and Charlotte and put them in a segrational sanitorium. The fear of TB was so rampant that children of infected parents would be isolated to ensure they didn’t have the disease themselves, before sending them to relatives. They would never see their mother again. Grandpa had them sent to French Lick to live with his parents John and Nettie, where they lived until he’d remarried and settled in with Grandma Emily. Can you imagine the anguish and heartbreak this disease had on families? Grandpa is buried at Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, a gorgeous resting place. He lies in the Veterans’ Section on the side of a hill. All the vets there have the same smallcem-elledge-russell markers on their grave. As alike in death as they were different in life, with each equal at the end. Now, I’ll let my Dad tell the rest of the story…

9-9-2003 Loveland, Ohio at the dining room table at Dad’s house:

Me: Tell me about your dad. What he looked like, what was he like as a person?

” Daddy was of average height, about an inch shorter than me, so he was maybe, 5-9 or 5-10. He was slightly stocky, but not heavy, not to the degree that he had a weight problem or anything. In his prime years, he was, what? Maybe 180-220 pounds, probably at the lighter end of that range. Of course, when he got sick later on, he had lung cancer, you know, he really dropped and became quite thin just before he died.

He had a serious demeanor, he smiled a lot but he wasn’t a jolly ho-ho type or anything. One thing was that he had these really dark, deep dark bags under his eyes, like big circles, that gave him a dark, mean look. Only he wasn’t really mean at all, just when you didn’t know him he might have looked that way. He had grey hair early, in his twenties, it was dark but for some reason turned silver very young. He also had a little round bald spot that I remember when I was a teenager. He wore a mustache all the time.”

Me: In the 1930 census it says he was a mechanic for a soda company. Do you know about that?

“No, I didn’t know about that. I know he went to school at night to get a degree – he became a civil engineer. At first, though, he was a mechanic for Balcrank. He worked for them on the 2nd shift for years. We lived at 2250 Washington Avenue in Norwood, Ohio;  Balcrank was in Oakley about 15 minutes away so he didn’t have far to go to get to work. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time with him when I was young because of school and he worked 2nd shift but when he got a chance I would work with him in his shop.

Our house in Norwood was what they call a “Saint Louis” style house. A duplex, the doors were both on the left side. The one on the farthest went inside to a set of stairs that went up to a second floor. That’s where we lived.

Daddy was very mechanically minded and liked tools. When we moved to Branch Hill, on Hollow Lane, there was an old chicken coop in the back, it was about the size of my shop here, maybe 12×20 or 12×25, certainly no bigger than that, but we gutted it and rebuilt it. He was an electrician so we wired it and put in his tools, mostly like a woodworking shop. When he had time to do something he liked to go out there and work on things and I always had to go help him. My brother Jackie got to run wild, as I was the older son I had to go help Dad in the shop. Of course now that I’m older looking back I’m glad it was that way but I resented it then.

Anyway, back to his job. He was an industrious type, a hard worker. In the depression, the 30s, he worked for the W.P.A. He was going to school but the need for civil engineers was big and the WPA had him overseeing projects for 80 of Ohio’s 88 counties. Many of them were like installing street lighting traffic signals and things like that. Then before the war he went to work for Balcrank. They made ball cranks – you know what those are? Yes, well, they made those and those lube machines for Standard Oil, the kind that hang from ceilings of car garages and you pull down a hose and grease a car with it. In the 1940s they also made metal lawn chairs. They were the first ones around that made those kinds of lawn chairs with metal tubing going all around for the arms and legs. At first he was an electrician, then became a Maintenance Manager for the plant, and ended up as the Plant Engineer in WWII responsible for all the maintenance and operation of machines in the plant.

Mr. Dewazzo, the owner, he lived in Glendale in a big fancy house. Well, he bought a huge chandelier for his house from a supplier in France. He ordered it special from overseas and it had like 1200 pieces all taken apart for shipment. It arrived without much instruction and they were all written in French, which nobody could make heads or tails of,  so Mr. Dewazzo pulled my Dad from the plant for awhile and put him to work in his house putting together that chandelier. Daddy got it done, too, bit by bit after a time.

How’dya like them apples, slick?

From engineer to chandelier assembler at the whim of a rich man. Nope, Daddy never griped about it. You kidding? It was posh duty compared to the plant.

Mr. Schott, a partner in the business, who owned Coney island, and is related to Marge Schott’s husband, you know, who owned the Redlegs for a while, also knew Dad. Of course, he didn’t have a thing to do with the Reds then, that was Powell Crosley, but Coney Island was the best amusement park around, maybe the whole country at the time.  It was famous, and those old parks had a flair and flavor these new places like Kings Island just can’t match. Yeah, we got free tickets once or twice.

Anyway, during the war they converted the plant over to making anti-aircraft shells. That was pretty crucial to the war effort so one day, Mr. Dewazzo called my dad into his office. There were two guys in suits from the FBI there who wanted to talk to him. The labor situation was restless and there were some stoppages from time to time but the war suspended all that. They wanted Dad to work as an anti-saboteur agent. No so much that German sympathizers or anything would try to halt operations, but there were union guys, activists who would try and shut things down. Because of the war, they couldn’t strike or anything but they tried to make it tough to operate sometimes. The ammo production was crucial, of course, and Dad watched the machines close.

One day, he noticed a ball of rags going into a machine that would certainly jam it up and stop the line. He quickly thrust his hand into the moving machine and snatched out the rags before they could get wound into the innards but he wasn’t quick enough, getting his hand pulled in and he broke a phalange. You know, a finger?

(At this point Dad laces his fingers on his belly and laughs out loud)

Didn’t think I’d know that did you? Anyway, it was next to the ring finger on his right hand. He prevented the damage from the rags but broke his finger. Can you imagine that? There was another agent in the plant who was watching things, too, but Mr. Dewazzo would never tell him who it was.

After the war was over they called him in and gave him an e-pin. It was like an award you got for selling so many war bonds. I don’t know how many he sold but it was a lot because they only gave a few pins and he got one. I think he worked at it so hard because he was disappointed they wouldn’t let him join the service, saying he was too old, because of his family and because his job was a critical one, so they wouldn’t let him sign up.

A bit later they called him into Mr. Dewazzo’s office and there were more FBI guys, and his best friend, too, the Plant Superintendent. His name was Ben something or other, I can’t remember his last name anymore. Oh well, anyway, he and his best friend got plaques for their services as Government security during the war. Imagine that – the other guy who was an agent in the plant turned out to be Daddy’s best friend. And neither of them ever knew it during the whole war, either.

I remember he bought a car just before the war began.  It was a Master 85 Chevrolet. That was the most basic car Chevrolet sold. It had no armrests, one sun visor, no radio and, of course, no AC. I don’t think any of them had AC then but this one sure wouldn’t have. It was a straight six with 85 horsepower and a vacuum assist transmission. That meant you couldn’t shift it at all unless it was running.  Then, with the war, of course, gas was rationed. Even then it was cheap enough, maybe 15 cents a gallon. They never thought of price gouging like they do now, if there was shortages, like then, they rationed it. You got coupons for so much. Of course, people sold them on the black market for quite a bit but Dad would have none of that. So we didn’t travel much, even with the car.

Everything you really needed was close, then, too. Like the grocery was just a couple blocks, and a theater, and drugstore, and the dry cleaners. Every neighborhood of so many blocks had their own. Not like the super stores today and you have to drive to get anywhere at all. A five minute walk was all it was. Kids could buy anything for their folks, then. Like they’d send me to the pony keg, or a neighborhood tavern  for a bucket of beer. I’d fetch it for a nickel a bucket, these little quart size pails they had, and sip the foam off the top as I walked it home. The owners knew you, the neighbors all around knew you, and they knew your folks, so you didn’t try to do anything wrong, because your parents would know before you set foot on stoop. Now if you say something about the neighbor’s kid they get defensive and angry and act like it’s your fault.”

Me: Why and When did your Dad leave French Lick?

I don’t know exactly. He didn’t talk hardly ever about his childhood. I know he ran away from home at 15 or 16 and joined the Navy. They found him out and made him get out, though. When he wound up in Cincinnati after that I don’t know, but he did.

He was never a churchgoer either, didn’t want to go or talk religion ever. I think it was because his family was all really strict religious types from a Fundamentalist sect in French Lick. He kind of rebelled against the whole idea and never would have much to do with it once he got away. We visited french Lick only two or three times when I was growing up although later on, when I went back myself years later, I was able to drove exactly to the house without a problem. They lived high up on a steep hill in town. His dad, John Wesley, was a carpenter at the French Lick Hotel. He only had one eye because of that job. He was working on a screen door at the hotel when he popped out a tack and it flew back and pierced his eye.

His dad, John Wesley was ornery as a kid, though. There’s a story about him my Dad told me. The French Lick Hotel and its twin at Baden Springs are big places and once were the go to place for the wealthy because they were mineral springs, and they advertised that water as Pluto Water, which was supposed to be good for the constitution. It had a logo of a devil on the bottle, I recall.

Well, you know what mineral water makes you do, right? Well, it makes you poop. A lot. And people would drink it and walk around all these paths they had from one gazebo to another and bow to each other and the like, and all around the trails there were outhouses. Little white painted cottage-like outhouses and the men carried walking canes. They’d pick up a cane, or the ladies, a parasol, from the lobby when they went for a walk and when they used the outhouse they’d place the canes on the door to show it was occupied.

Well, John and a friend got an idea and snatched a bunch of those canes and hooked them on every door of every outhouse on the trail real early one Saturday morning when the trails would be full of walkers – none of whom could find an empty “seat” for their use. Can you imagine that? (Dad is again grabbing his belly and roaring with laughter. When he finally calms down, he takes off his glasses and dries his eyes. My dad loves a good joke). Oh, my. That must have been so funny but I’ll bet he got in a bit of trouble over that.”

Me: After the laughter dies down. Tell me about the sanitorium you were in as a child.

“You mean the Convalescent Home? Well, Dad lived on Duck Creek Road, or maybe Norwood then. Anyway, the cure for rheumatic fever then was rest and that’s what it was. A rest home. It wasn’t bad or anything. We got to play a lot but not active games like baseball or sports. It was go to bed early and get up early and we all had chores to do. They had a collie dog and one of my chores was to feed the dog every day. All in all I was there only for about 6 to 8 months. Charlotte came and saw me a lot. She’d take me on walks. She was beautiful.

Then again, all my sisters were, Joan was gorgeous then she gained weight but she was beautiful then. Of course she’s my sister so she’ll always seem beautiful to me. So was Jean for that matter but her and Charlotte were dark headed where Joan was blonde. Of course, Joan and me and Jackie were from Mom and Jean and Charlotte were actually Gertrude’s girls.

maddock-thomas-dcThat’s Gertrude Roesch, my dad’s first wife. She died in the TB Sanitorium and so did my Mom’s first husband, Harry Woellert, but they called him Bud. Mom always said theirs was an arranged marriage to get her out of the house. Her father died in 1919 or so, and the last couple years at home after he died were really rough for her. I think her Mom started to drink a lot and get mean after Tommy died. So when Bud offered she accepted even though he was much older. She always swore the marriage was never consummated. He was older and sick and needed someone to care for him so it was arranged they’d marry because in those days an unmarried young lady would never be allowed to live with an older man without a lot of gossip and her reputation being ruined. So even though it was just business in a way, they married for that reason. Daddy and his first wife Gertrude, however, were in love in the traditional sense, so her death caused my dad much grief, but I’m not sure Mom felt more than relief when Bud died. Maybe a little sadness. Hers was a marriage of convenience and he was her friend but never that way.

Anyway, Daddy and Emily met there, taking care of their spouses and when they died, both Bud and Gertrude were buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in St. Bernard. I have the plot numbers around here somewhere if you ever want them.”

Me: You seemed close to Charlotte.

Charlotte Elledge

Charlotte Elledge

“I was. Yeah. Of course maybe that was because she was fun to be around. Her and her fiance, Joe Albers (remember the Albers grocery stores around here? That was his dad, had she lived and married him she would have been set up very well, alright, but it wasn’t about that for her. He was a great guy and very good to her) took me to Coney Island one day for the whole day. We had a lot of fun.

But I was close to all my sisters. Jean and Charlotte were a lot older and seemed like babysitters almost but they were nice to me. Probably Charlotte more but maybe that’s just because she died, you know, and that takes a special place, because Jean was good to me, too. Joan and I were closer in age and it was more typical brother and sister spatting now and then. We’re similar personalities and clashed some, then, but now we’re very close and she’s as important to me as anyone outside of Mom and you kids. Her kids, too. Doug, especially has been very kind and nice to Mom and me. He helps around here a lot and is always checking on us.” (my note: Doug is my cousin, Doug Bennington).

Me: Anything else about your Dad?

“Oh lots of things, little things like he smoked heavy. Lucky Strikes and Camels. Got him, too. He died of lung cancer. And he was a drinker. He was known to toss a few curse words around. He could sling the lingo if he got mad. Even though he didn’t go to church he saw to it that all us kids were at least acquainted with the idea and that we were all married in a church. He was very active in the American legion, too. He was Post Commander at Barnett Post 123 in Norwood, Ohio. That’s quite a deal to be Post Commander. He played in the Post’s Drum and Bugle Corps, too. He played the bugle, what they call a single valve. You push it with the thumb and it opens up. Cincinnati has Knothole Baseball and he was on the Post Committee that sponsored the thing. He wasn’t a big sports fan, he did it for the kids and because that’s what the Post was involved in. He was very civic minded and duty oriented.

On Mom’s side we saw little of the family. The only ones I knew were Uncle Bert (Maddock) and Aunt Cora, he was Thomas Gilbert’s son, also named Thomas Gilbert, and they called him Bert. All in all they just weren’t a close family. I called them all in the phone book once and not a Maddock there knew a thing about any Maddock ancestors.  Neither family was like your Mom’s, with cousins and get-togethers and lots of visiting back and forth. It’s not that we didn’t care;  we just weren’t types to visit and have a lot of to-do. It was enough knowing every once in a while that they were all ok. But then you kind of lose touch that way and I guess we mostly did outside of my sisters and Jackie and Uncle Bert. There was another brother, too, did you know that? His name was David and he was stillborn. He was born between Jackie and me.

So ends Dad’s oral biography of his father. At this point our discussion wandered and left any relation to the point at hand. Chit chat and all. Balcrank is still going strong but it has moved to Weaverville, NC. The Oakley plant is long closed down. Coney Island is still there and trying hard to recapture its former glory.

When Dunham was established in 1897 it was the first municipally owned tuberculosis sanatorium in the United States. It sat on 150 acres overlooking Lick Run Valley on old Guerley Road in Price Hill. In the early years the hospital filled to overflowing and a tent city was set up to care for the patients. Initially it was called Branch Hospital. From 1927 to 1945 it was called the Hamilton County Tuberculosis Sanatorium. In 1945 it was renamed Dunham Hospital in honor of Dr. Henry K. Dunham medical director from 1909 to 1940.

The full name of the American Legion Post his dad belonged to is the Leland M. Barnett Post 123. It was located at 2112 Bennett Avenue in Norwood.

Charlotte Elledge was buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery, in St. Bernard, a village in Cincinnati proper. She died of complications from an emergency appendectomy.

Joe Albers father, William H. Albers opened Ohio’s first supermarket in 1933, the Albers Super Market, in Norwood at Montgomery Road and Madison Avenue. Some think it may have been the first store anywhere to call itself a supermarket. Albers was the president of the Kroger Grocery & Baking Company, when he left to start his own firm and became Kroger’s biggest competitor.

Dad’s story about his father’s anti-saboteur role jives with history – Norwood was a hotbed of union radicalism, GM had hard fought strikes and at Rand-Remington in the late 30s a picketer was shot and killed in clashes with the company. Slowdowns, sit-downs, and intentional sabotage to equipment were common worker ploys. I’m sure the government was concerned about production and jittery about plants being slowed by these tactics. I’d love to know what happened to his pin and plaque, though! I’m not sure about Mr. DeWazzo’s name – I spelled it from the way Dad pronounced it, searches on it brought up nothing.

Dad’s brother David was stillborn when Grandma was shopping and a a car door swing open violently, hitting her in the stomach and knocking her to the ground. By the time she arrived at the hospital the baby had been born prematurely and died immediately. She went ahead and named him David. No one knows for sure where his remains are buried.

Russ Sr. moved his family to Branch Hill in 1945. Dad’s sister, my Aunt Jean met Robert, the son of August Rumpke of Norwood and married him. They lived their lives in the hiome August Rumpke’s father had built in Norwood and passed down through two generations. His sister Joan graduated from Loveland High in 1948 and married John “Jack” Bennington. They raised their family on Tuscarora Drive in Loveland, just three blocks down the street from where Mom and Dad settled down in the mid seventies. They grew closer through the years and are extremely close now, growing from brother and sister to best friends as well. The Bennington kids were my playmates growing up and I honor them now for the caring way they treat thier Uncle Russ and Aunt Pat.  Dad’s brother, Russ Senior’s youngest, moved out to California in the seventies, made himself a success in business and lives there to this day. His son Christopher is a professional set decorator and carpenter on movie sets and is listed in the Internet Movie Database. The latest set he’s dressed to date is for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons”.

Cora Emily Maddock

Cora Emily Maddock

Russ Elledge, Jr.

Russ Elledge, Jr.

Russell, Sr and Ruth Elledge

Russell, Sr and Ruth Elledge

Branch Hospital

Branch Hospital

Open Air School for TB children

Open Air School for TB children

Chevrolet Master 85

Chevrolet Master 85

French Lick Hotel and Gazebo

French Lick Hotel and Gazebo

Pluto Springs

Pluto Springs

Pluto Water Ad

Pluto Water Ad

Tent City at TB Hospital

Tent City at TB Hospital

Coney Island

Coney Island

Russ Elledge Jr.

Russ Elledge Jr.

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