September 2011 Everything's Relative
Readers share their tales of the lighter side of family history.
April Winner
Hero's Welcome

The heroes in our family trees put others' needs first -- whether in glorious acts of bravery or through everyday sacrifices -- and inspire us to do the same. A shining example of ancestral heroism wins this reader a copy of our book Life in Civil War America.

Life Saver
My great-grandmother, Harriett Eliza Hoskins (Roate), was born Aug. 5, 1872, in Mentz, Cayuga County, NY, and died Apr. 7, 1951, in Auburn, Cayuga County, NY. In 1898, she was presented with a medal by the Syracuse Volunteer Life-Saving Corps., located in Syracuse, NY.
The Oswego Daily Times, of nearby Oswego, NY, reported the following on Saturday, March 26, 1898: "The life-saving corps will also present a medal to Mrs. Hattie Roate, who saved the life of William Tyndall last fall, whose boat was upset in the rapids in Seneca River."
Peter Wybron, York, NY

Your Story
A Rosie by Another Name

She was only 19. She had a year-old daughter, and a husband going off to war. It was time to take charge, and take charge she did. Doris Oler Waters joined the ranks of women all over the United States and became a defense plant employee. She spent her days at Bendix in Baltimore, producing tiny glass pieces for airplanes.
Her days began by taking her child on two Baltimore busses and one streetcar to her mother-in-law's house on North Avenue. After walking down Oliver Street to the red brick Bendix building, she spent the next eight to 10 hours at a work bench on the second floor.
As Mom tells it, she, Margaret, Mary Butler and the other women workers put tape on flat, clear glass strips approximately 3 inches long. Next, they sprayed the strips with something silver and set them on a rack. Each rack held one to two dozen strips. When it was full, it was taken into a darkroom. Only one person was allowed in the room at a time. Here, the rack of strips was dipped into a solution and hung to dry. Once they dried, the women removed the tape and carefully examined each piece to make sure no fingerprints showed. It was painstaking, tedious work.
The Allies won the war on the home front, too. Thank you Doris, Margaret, Mary and all the Rosie the Riveters.
Nancy Lee Waters Lauer, Ellicott City, Md.

Born to Be Wild
My great-grandfather Eli Mayo emigrated from England just before the San Francisco Gold Rush. In a 1927 letter to my mother, my father said his grandfather Eli was a carpenter in the construction of Fort Sutter.
Then he hit it big. My father was fond of telling us that Grandpa Eli forded the Sacramento River with $10,000 worth of gold on his back.
He married Margaret Hanlon of Limerick, Ireland, and they had five children. From the Sacramento Bee, I've learned his life consisted of a long string of petty crimes.
Shortly after he was appointed pound master (dog catcher), Eli went on trial before the board of supervisors for various offenses in connection with his office. An example: G.W. Harlow complained that Eli had illegally taken a cow. Eli's defense cost him $50.75.
He was "honorably discharged," with notice from several board members that if he continued in that course of action, they would vote for his expulsion.
Aug. 4, 1880, he was arrested and convicted of keeping upon his premises stagnant water and filth. His defense: Nature left the ground in that condition, so he was not responsible.
He refused to abate the nuisance. For this he was again arrested and a jury found him guilty.
A more docile life followed for Eli. In 1890, he was listed as a pioneer of Sacramento County. In his later years, he somehow became a lawyer. By what means is not recorded.
He died Dec. 30, 1897.
To all his delighted great- and great-great-grandchildren, Eli remains a hero, a man of his time, when barroom brawls and hangings were commonplace. Well, it was the Wild West.
Wynne Crombie, Huntley, Ill.