A week or so ago my brother, Dan, was asking about my Grandma Erma Foutz’s childhood.
He was preparing a tribute for his fiancee, Laura’s, grandma on the occasion of her 80th birthday. With both of our grandmas gone — Erma in 2000, and Sue Ley in 2007 — Dan thought it would be nice to introduce Laura’s grandma to them, and share some stories about the influence they had on his life.
I never had a chance to write up something for Dan. On a pretty tight deadline, he pulled an all-nighter and put together a collection of memories he had of Grandma, which I’m sure made a very nice presentation. Maybe he can share some of that here, and you can add some memories of your own.
So I’ll just share some facts about Grandma and her large family, mostly as an excuse to publish a bunch of neat old photos I found during my week of document-diving at Mom and Dad’s.
Just the Ten of Us
For starters, Grandma was literally a coal miner’s daughter. The 1900 census first records 13-year-old Charles as working alongside his father, Clement, in the coal mine — I’m not sure which one. This is work Charles still did decades later, as noted in the 1920 census, when he is head of a growing family. By 1930, his census record reports his job as “extra help” at the steel mill. In his 1941 draft card for World War II, a 55-year-old Charles lists his trade as construction work, and his place of employment as “Route 8.” His 1962 obituary remembers him as a retired coal miner and steelworker.
The family moved frequently. Between 1920 and 1930, various records show the family at five different addresses in New Philadelphia, Ohio — 2 on East Avenue as well as homes on Fifth Street, Fourth Street and Second Street. Charles and wife Viola Mae (Palmer) Johnson’s home in late adulthood is at 448 Kelly St. NW, an address that first appears on the 1941 draft card, and where a widowed Charles is still living at the time of his death.
The family was large. Grandma often talked about having to share a bed with her two sisters. Records indicate 10 children who lived beyond infancy. My first Foutz-Johnson newsletter post detailed the tragic and untimely deaths of three Johnson brothers: Joseph, who drowned at age 9 in 1936; Carl, who drowned at age 18 in 1937; and Charles Jr., who died following a diving accident in 1939. These brothers were born in 1927, 1918 and 1922, respectively.
The remaining siblings, pictured above in 1979, are:
Thomas Leonard (1912-2000)
He worked in construction and made his home in Phoenix, Arizona, from the 1950s on.
Virginia Mae (born 1914)
She married Ernie Knisely. The couple made their home in Ravenna, Ohio, where Ernie worked as a shipping & receiving clerk.
Nellie Irene (born 1916)
Married to DeLoyce Fitzgerald, who worked 39 years as a track foreman for Conrail. They lived in Uhrichsville, site of many summertime Johnson family reunions.
Erma Maxine (1920-2000)
Grandma. Grew up in New Philadelphia and married crosstown football star Don Foutz of Dover. At the time of their engagement, she is shown as working in the offices of Greer Steel in Dover. She would eventually work as a secretary for Miller Studio. Following Grandpa Don’s death in 1980, she married longtime friend — and boss at Miller Studio — Max Miller. The couple traveled extensively and entertained many relatives and friends at their homes in Tucson, Arizona and New Phila.
William Dean (1924-1995)
Uncle Bill was an Army paratrooper in the Pacific during World War II. Married Jeanne Zurcher. He worked for the I-F Manufacturing Co. in New Philadelphia for 35 years. He enjoyed golf. I could be wrong, but I think this is the uncle who used to tell us, “See my finger? See my thumb? See my fist, you better run!” All in good fun, of course.
Lloyd George (1929-1982)
Floyd Clement (1929-1994)
Fraternal twins. Lloyd worked for Ridge Tool and Joy Manufacturing Company, and made his home in Dover, until moving to Las Vegas just six weeks before his death. He was married to Hester Armstrong and Rebecca Wingeier. Floyd served in the Air Force during the Korean War and received specialized schooling in Chicago. He was married to Julia Stechow. He died in Parma, Ohio.