Picking up where we left off, with lives short and long…
THREE JOHNSON BROTHERS
Growing up, my Grandma Erma Foutz would regale us with stories of having to share a bed with her two sisters, Virginia and Nellie. Probably that had a lot to do with the seven brothers who also shared the family’s home in New Philadelphia, OH. Or rather, houses.
Records from 1920-1940 show the family moving as many as five times, from 137 to 290 East Ave., to the 400 block of Fair Avenue, to 223 2nd St. SE, to 364 Fifth St. NW, to 1244 Fourth St. Maybe there weren’t enough rooms — or cash, on father Charles Arthur’s coal miner’s salary — to spread everyone out.
Another legend I heard as a kid was a tragic one. Several times before riding my bike to Dover Pool, or swimming at Tuscora Park, I heard about as many as three of Grandma’s brothers drowning in separate incidents, always with the admonition for us to be extremely careful. Here, for the record, are the details:
June 16, 1936:
Joseph Johnson, eighth child of Charles & Viola, drowned in the Tuscarawas River just after 2 p.m. He was 9.
May 30, 1937:
Carl Johnson, fourth child of the family, drowned in Stillwater Creek in Urichsville about 2:45 p.m. He was 18.
August 13, 1939:
Charles Johnson Jr., born sixth, fractures his cervical spine and completely severs his spinal cord in a diving accident at the Tuscarawas River in New Phila. He dies 17 days later. He was 16.
What’s curious about the death records is that they track, in tandem with the 1930 Census, the family’s four different addresses in that decade. Which may have everything to do with economics, or life in those times. But I wonder if part of it, too, had something to do with those four tragic years, and a house having more sorrow than it could hold.
This series continues in “Long & Short of it (Part 3).”