Genealogy of the Bunce Family
Henry John Bunce (1899-1959)
by Michael S. Clark, grandson
Early Years - My grandfather, Henry John “Jack” Bunce, was born into a large family on June 10, 1899 in Hammersmith, a suburb of London, England. He was baptized six years later on March 18, 1905 at Acton St. Mary in London, on the same day as his younger brother Reg. Jack and Reg’s parents were Robert Bunce, an apparel draper as a young man, whose occupation at Jack’s birth was listed as a manufacturer’s agent, and Margaret Hare, who was the daughter of Ann Bunyan and Henry Hare. The Bunces had only recently relocated to Hammersmith, having previously lived with Margaret’s parents on the Hare family farm in the village of Upper Gravenhurst, Bedfordshire. Jack was one of eight children, with four living brothers and three sisters. He was the next to youngest and was 12 years younger than his brother Guy.
Jack’s father Robert was a wandering spirit who in the early 1900s began making trips to Lead, South Dakota, ostensibly to mine gold, and returning home to England every few years. He was actually an agent who dealt in mining properties, and from possibly as early as 1901 (definitely by 1906) until some point in the early 1920s he was president and general manager of the Black Hills Financial and Development Corporation. This company was listed in 1914 at a value of $3.5 million, and continued operations in the west for a number of years. The company's business plan involved the acquisition of underfinanced gold and tin mines, followed by investment of capital into them to reclaim ore that the previous owners did not have the capital to exploit. The company would then sell off the lesser quality mines to finance continued operation of the better performing properties, eventually consolidating to one or two of the best performing operations.
My great aunt Dorothy, Jack’s older sister, remembered that times were good when her father was at home, with plenty of money, lots of food on the table, and a loving father whose children loved him dearly in return. But when Robert Bunce returned to the gold fields, as he always did, the money he left to see them through would eventually run out, and the family would know hard times until his return two or three years later. Presumably he stayed in the United States when war broke out between England and Germany in 1914, which would have made travel across the Atlantic hazardous. An interesting side note is that in 1909, on one of his voyages across the Atlantic, Robert Bunce sailed on the S.S. Luistania, a famous ship that was sunk by the Germans in one of the opening events of World War I.
World War I - Robert’s son Jack grew up in London, and enlisted about the same time as his brother Harold on Oct. 1, 1915 in the British Army, during the early part of the war. He graduated on Sept. 22, 1917 from the 27th Training Reserve Battalion, but only after at least one false start. Apparently, when Jack first enlisted, he was too young to serve. Interestingly, his mother did not intervene right away, and she let him pursue this “adventure” for a short while. His deception was almost discovered at the onset by his officers due to his inability to grow a moustache, which was considered a standard part of the British uniform. However, he somehow managed to maintain the ruse for at least a few weeks more. He was on the verge of going overseas, destined for the fighting on the front, when his mother decided that enough was enough. She revealed his true age to the authorities, and they sent him back to his family.
Jack joined the army a second time, having finally reached the requisite age. He was sent overseas, following completion of his training, where he served as an ambulance driver in France, and later Russia, in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He apparently had a knack for learning languages, and he learned French, and even a little Russian. He was transferred after the Nov. 11, 1919 end of the war to the Army Reserve, and discharged on March 31, 1920 as a private, having been awarded a Campaign Medal for his military service, and a Victory Medal for having served in the Great War.
Jack did some boxing while he was in the army, probably prior to being shipped to France, and his fellow soldiers nicknamed him “Bunny Bunce”, due to his youthful looks. A remarkable coincidence, also probably prior to going to France, is that one of Jack’s commanding officers during this time was Kenneth Richard Reynolds, whose mother, the author Amy Dora Reynolds, was an aunt of Jack’s future wife.
From family records, and some old “dog tags”, we know of the following
Regimental Number 69194
Serial No. (27th Training Batt.?) – 11823
Serial No. (R.A.M.C.?) – 104243
Serial No. (Army Reserve?) – 14882
Marriage and Family - My grandfather after the war was supposed to go to South Africa to study forestry, but changed his mind quite against his mother’s wishes, and went instead to America to join his father in the gold fields of South Dakota. Jack’s younger brother Redge ended up going to South Africa instead to take advantage of the opportunity that Jack passed up. Jack disembarked for the United States from Southampton, England on the Cunard Line ship S.S. Aquitainia and arrived on Nov. 20, 1920 in New York.
Jack joined his father and eldest brother Guy in Lead, South Dakota, but only remained with them a short time due to Guy’ fierce temper and mean disposition. Apparently, Guy loved to fight and relished picking on Welshmen since “they kicked when they fought”. But when there were no Welshmen to be found, Guy took no qualms in beating up his younger brother. While my grandfather held Guy in low regards, he loved his father and remembered him as a kindly soul who supposedly made two or three fortunes in the gold fields, but “gave lost them out the goodness in his heart.” True or not, Jack loved his father. Their South Dakota residence was at 27 Sherman Street in the old west town of Deadwood, where Wild Bill Hickock had once been sheriff.
Jack’s decided to leave South Dakota not long after his brother Edward Warren, nicknamed “Wary”, and his sister Lena Mary, nicknamed “Queenie” arrived in South Dakota, having been sent by mother Bunce to “keep an eye on the old man”, and keep father Bunce from wasting away the gold profits. This arrangement did not last long, as Jack and Wary in 1923 headed to Lake Louise in the Rocky Mountains near Banff, Canada, where they picked up summer jobs working in the lake-side lodge there washing dishes and sweeping floors. Queenie, meanwhile, made her way to Modesto, California where she opened a millinery shop with Miss Pearl H. Cook, a Christian Science reader, who in South Dakota had become Queenie’s friend and confidant. Father Bunce had been a devout Christian Scientist himself, and his daughters followed him to that faith.
Robert Bunce enjoyed the carefree life of a miner that he had always known in South Dakota, returning home to England only when the whim came. Responsibilities ultimately caught up to him when the rest of his family, wife and all, appeared in the United States in 1924. His wife Margaret forced him to put his gold mining days behind him, and moved him to southern California to settle down and tend to family, a turn of events he is said to have accepted grudgingly.
At Lake Louise, meanwhile, Jack met Sidney Dolores Percy, an English painter who was staying at the Lake Louise Lodge after having visited relatives in New York. Sidney loved to dance and enjoyed the company of Wary, who was also an excellent dancer. Jack, on the other hand, was a terrible dancer, but he kept cutting in whenever Sidney and Wary were on the dance floor. Persistence paid off, and Jack and Sidney were married on Oct. 3, 1923 in Vancouver, British Columbia. They settled down after the wedding in Alhambra in southern California, close to Jack’s mother in Pasadena, which created a difficult situation due to his mother’s overbearing personality and controlling nature. Jack and Sidney had three daughters born to them in Alhambra --- Hazel Maude Bunce, who was born on Sept. 29, 1924 in Alhambra, but died in infancy, Rosamond Maude Bunce, who was born on Oct. 29, 1925 in Alhambra with spinal bifida, a condition which confined to a wheelchair for most of her life, and my mother Jacqueline Vere Bunce, who was born on Nov. 28, 1927 in Alhambra.
My mother remembered going with her father as a little girl to visit Grandmother Margaret Bunce at their house in Pasadena. Jack was always very formal with his mother during these visits, and would great her with a solemn “hello Mother.” She generally wore black, and sat queen-like in a large chair in the parlor, with a large black purse held tightly in her lap. Jack told his daughter that this purse was filled with money, which my mother believed for many years, envisioning the Bunce sons bringing in tribute from their jobs. This image was probably somewhat true, at least until the sons acquired wives and families of their own, my grandfather being the first of them to do so. But eventually his brothers did acquire wives of their own, and quit sharing their paychecks with mother. None of the daughters ever married, with Dorothy and Madge taking care of mother until she died, and Queenie, the renegade, running her hat shop with Miss Cook.
Shortly after the births of their daughters, Sidney became stricken with polio, and she and Rosamond, both in wheel chairs, went to live in a southern California nursing home. Jack in the meantime moved to Oakhurst in the southern Sierra gold district to become the manager of Beery's Fishcamp Lodge, a resort on the road that led out of town to Yosemite. My mother went to live with her father, spending summers with him at Fishcamp, and parts of the school season with her teacher in town. She would also join her father at their Oakhurst house in winter when the Lodge was closed. The Oakhurst house was located outside of town on the road to Bass Lake, and my mother remembered it being in the country and surrounded by trees.
Eventually Sidney recovered enough from her polio disability to join Jack in Oakhurst, probably around the time he took on a new job as secretary and treasurer for the Madera County Fair. However, it would be several more years before Sidney was able to walk unaided and drive a car again. Jack became a United States Citizen on Nov. 23, 1942 in Madera California (#5446307), and Sidney became a citizen on June 24, 1946 (#5640213, petition no. 673). Sidney’s incentive in gaining citizen was to return to England after World War II ended and bring her mother back to the States. Unfortunately, she found her mother too senile and fragile to travel, so she put her in a London nursing home and returned home alone.
Job history (Social Security #567-12-9750)
Pre-1936 – Jack worked many jobs, including one as a laborer on an Ostrich farm. He also worked in the movie studios, where he added English voices to foreign-language films, as well as any needed sound effects. My mother said he was very good at matching his English words to the moving mouths of the actors in the films.
1936 to 1939 – Jack worked as an accountant in Oakhurst, Calif. for Beery's Fishcamp Lodge in the Sierra Nevada foothills, and became at some point the manager for the lodge. It was located on the road into Yosemite National Park, and my Mom would stay there with him during her summer vacations from school. However, the original lodge burned down in 1942 in a tragic fire, and was rebuilt as the Silvertip Lodge, which in 1981 burned down as well. There is a lodge there today, but it is two generations removed from the one where my grandfather worked.
1939 to c. 1946 – Jack was secretary and treasurer for the Madera County Fair and the Madera County Farm Bureau. He listed his occupation on his 1942 citizenship papers as auditing and accounting. However, his main duties involved organizing and managing the county fair. My mother said that he loved this job, but he had to give it up when my grandmother convinced him to retire and move to the coast.
c.1946 to 1959 – Jack and Sidney for a short time managed a motel on Old Highway 1 in Santa Cruz. This motel is long gone now, and Highway 1 has been rerouted to its present route so that the site of the motel is now on a side street at the intersection of Escalona Drive and Grandview Street, not far from Natural Bridges State Park. Later they ran a mail-order business selling real estate forms, and this in 1958 was their main livelyhood.
Later Years - Jack and Sidney moved to Santa Cruz, on the California coast, just after the war when Sidney returned from her post-war voyage to England. Daughter Rosamond, who was in a wheel chair, was with them. Sidney always dreamed of living on the ocean, and Jack’s sisters Queenie and Dorothy were already living near Santa Cruz in the community of Seacliff, where they had a lovely cliff-side house that looked down directly to the beach.
Jack and Sidney eventually bought a house on Holway Drive, near Morrissey Blvd. where Jack around 1958 suffered a heart attack, not long after building a wooden ramp into the house to accommodate Rosamond’s wheel chair. This event forced him to retire.
Jack loved birds, and he always had large milk cans filled with the seed to feed the wild birds. He also had lots of birds inside the house, including a bright-colored macaw that I remember in a cage in the basement. He also had a small fish pond filled with goldfish, and I remember him catching one for me to take home as a pet. This was the house they lived in when my mother was away to college in Berkeley, and I remember visiting them here when I was in kindergarten, and staying in a room in the attic.
However, my grandparent’s finances were strained, which led them to move in with us in 1959, to make ends meet, at our new house at 18998 Allendale Avenue in Saratoga. This was around the time that I was in kindergarten. We had a huge house in Saratoga, and they lived in one half of it, while we lived in the other. My grandfather was at this house only a few months, and he and died here on Oct. 8, 1959 of kidney failure when I was in 1st grade. He was only 59-years old. My mother would later insist that his attending physician was incompetent, and she blamed him for her father's death. Jack is buried at Los Gatos Memorial Park, with wife Sidney (d. 1965) and daughter Rosamond (d. 1970) buried nearby.
Copyright © Michael S. Clark, Ph.D., 1998-2017 - All rights reserved.