Instead of going out Friday night (I’m told normal people my age do that a lot), I stayed home and went through some old pictures with my Dad. I literally have boxes and boxes of old pictures from his side of the family. Pretty much all of the are from the early 1900’s to the 1950’s. Pretty much all of the are just pictures of horses and cattle, but every once in a while I find some real gems. We found some gems on Friday.
As I was handing my Dad old pictures and having him tell me as much as he could about them, he noticed something that I never have.
My Dad is a big WWII buff, he knows more than your normal cattle rancher about the topic. But he knew nothing about this picture, nothing. It is a form of torture for me, to not know stuff, I like to know stuff, especially about this family and these damn pictures (write on your pictures people! Generations of your descendants will thank you!). So I was forced to bring out the big guns, my friend Erin. Erin knows everything about history, I love e-mailing her because it is always a mini history lesson. I knew if anyone could help me, she could!
Sure enough, Erin knew stuff. First and foremost she calmed me down. My Dad didn’t seem to think the swastika was quite as interesting as I did, and that freaked me out a little. Erin explained that each generation has different view and reaction to that era, and there is a great deal of stigma attached to Germans of that time. She then went on the say it is easier for those of us farther removed from WWII to objectify the history. I agree.
Ok, now for the really interesting part. Erin said the swastika laying flat was used in the U.S. as a decorative symbol/good luck symbol on paper photo frames prior to WWII (more late 1800’s-early 1900’s). The Nazi swastika has a different orientation (turned to stand on one of its points).
Erin told me to look through the rest of my old pictures and try and match his guy’s face with other pictures. I noticed that many of the formal Lucas pictures that do have writing on them mentioned Orient Street, which according to Erin, was where this photographer’s studio was at some point. This gave me hope that the man in the picture was a Lucas, which would make him a lot easier for me to identify. I looked back through the Lucas pictures and after searching through six shoes boxes of photos I found what could perhaps be an older picture of the same man. What do you think?
Well, Erin had much better luck finding out about the photographer than I did about the man in the picture. Turns out the photographer had a pretty interesting and relevant to Chico, life. Check out what Erin learned about him:
Charles Bruce Hemminger was born to a farming family in Pennsylvania on April 4, 1870. He grew up in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, and married his wife, Laura Elwell, in approximately 1905 (exact date and location of marriage unknown at this time). Laura was born on April 2, 1872, in Iowa. Both the 1910 Federal Census and 1911 Chico City Directory show that the couple had settled in Chico, California, by 1910. Charles had established a photography studio in Chico, located at 320 Broadway Street, which he operated through about 1918.
Charles rented a home at 405 Orient Street from 1910 through 1913, then moved in about 1914 to 5 4th Street, where he remained through about 1918 (Chico City Directory listings). The Chico City Directory lists Charles and Laura as living on a rural route in 1920-1924, and the 1930 Federal Census lists them as owning a home and farm on Speedway Lane, where Charles is engaged in orchard work.
It appears Charles turned his career from photography to agriculture, voter registration records confirm this switch, but it is undetermined if Charles gave up photography completely during this time. A search at the County’s Recorder’s office may detail exactly where his orchard and property were located on Speedway Lane. In 1939 and 1940, Charles lists himself in the Chico City Directory again as a photographer with his studio listed at 218 West 3rd Street, but still residing at Speedway Lane. A listing in the Chico City Directory from 1937 lists Charles’ photography studio at 336 Broadway Street. The 1940 Federal Census confirms the duel livelihoods, photography and agriculture, with his wife Laura helping as an assistant in the photography studio. Between 1940 and 1944, Charles and Laura moved to Modesto, California, where Laura passed away on October 10, 1944. One of Charles’ brothers, Thomas Hemminger, had lived in Modesto and passed away in 1937. It appears two other brothers, William and John Hemminger, had also settled in Modesto by 1937. In 1948, Charles traveled back to Pennsylvania to visit his brother Dr. Robert Hemminger and other relatives living west of Harrisburg, whom he had not seen in over 40 years. The visit is mentioned in several articles in the Gettysburg Times in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Charles returned to Modesto and later passed away on October 3, 1959. He and his wife are both buried in Acacia Memorial Park in Modesto.
Even though I didn’t figure out who the man in the photo was, I still learned stuff. And I’m not giving up yet. Since the Lucas family is rather well documented I’m going to look through the Chico State Collection and see what I can find. And, who knows, maybe someone reading this blog will recognize him?! I’d like to thank my friend Erin for being so smart and always taking the time to answer my history related questions! Go follow her blog at http://knowledgeofourancestors.wordpress.com/