* Genealogy of the Clark Family *
(version July 2, 2017)
Please email corrections to Mike Clark

 

 

 

James F. Clark, Sr. (1889-1942)

by Michael S. Clark, grandson

 

Early Years - My grandfather, James Frederick Clark, believed that he was born of immigrant parents on May 14, 1889 in Detroit, Michigan. His father, who is also thought to have been named James Frederick Clark, is said to have been from the Scottish Highlands, and to have been sent in the late 1800’s as a British soldier to Ireland, most likely to Ulster County. There he married an Irish girl, probably named Carrie Finnigan (Finnegan), and emigrated with her to the United States, possibly to escape one of Ireland’s many potato famines. The names of James' parents are listed on his 1923 marriage certificate, but this is the only evidence we have of their identities. Though life in Ireland was no doubt hard, it may have been little better in America, and James and Carrie, if those are their correct names, died in the Detroit area not long after the birth of their third child.

Three children were born in Detroit - an older sister, my grandfather James, and a sickly younger brother, who died young. Although James' always gave his own birth date as May 14, 1889 and his birth place as Detroit, no records have been found in the Michigan State Archives to confirm this, which makes it possible that he did not know the correct details of his birth. Another possibility is that he was born somewhere other than Detroit - perhaps Windor, Canada. Or that his parents, for whatever reason, never reported his birth to the authorities. James did remember being only 5 or so years old when both of his parents died. He claimed to have learned a little Gaelic from them, and his childhood memories included dancing the Scottish Sword Dance and Highland Fling with his father.

When the Clark children became orphans, possibly around 1894 or 1895, they went to live with a German-Jew family in the Jewish quarter of Detroit. Because James grew up on the city streets with Jewish playmates, he became fluent in Yiddish, a German dialect spoken by many of the Jewish communities from Europe. Unfortunately, we do not know the names of his foster parents. However, it is possible that Lemmons (Lehmann?), Groh or perhaps even Edgeworth was their last name, as James later provided the names of Amos Lemmons and Mrs. Belle Groh (neé Edgeworth) to the U.S. Army as relatives/friends of his that lived in his hometown of Detroit. We do not know for certain where they lived, but it is very likely that they lived on or near Hastings Street, which was the heart of the Jewish community in Detroit at the turn of the century.

The Jewish quarter of Detroit, which was also known as “Little Jerusalem”, was more-or-less bordered on the north end in the late 1890s by Brush, Orleans, Montcalm and Watson Streets, with Hastings Street running north-south straight up the middle and forming the heart of the district. Yiddish-speaking German Jews made up the bulk of this community, and Hastings Street was described at the turn of the century as overcrowded, noisy and teeming "with foreignness and a queer Yiddish dialect”. Today most of Hastings Street is gone, having been demolished to make way for the Interstate 75 Freeway (Chrysler Freeway).

As the Hastings district began to decline and deterorate into slums in the 1920s and 1930s many Jewish families relocated to nearby Dexter, Linwood and 12th Streets (Rosa Parks Avenue), which are just north and west of the old Jewish quarter, with 12th Street taking the place of Hastings Street as the new hub of Detroit's Jewish culture. More affluent members of the Jewish community moved to Windsor, which was on the Canadian side of the Detroit River, just opposite from downtown Detroit.

James' foster parents were older than his real parents, and they had a grown son who had spent time in the “Wild West”. This son was a man of questionable character who had been in New Mexico at the time of the Lincoln County cattle wars. He was a violent man, rumored to be in Detroit hiding from the law, and he made life miserable for the Clark children. Once, when James was a little boy of only 8 or 9 years, he was sitting at home at the top of the stairs when his foster brother came home in a drunken rage. The older step brother kicked James down the stairs and either broke or dislocated his shoulder, an injury that gave James trouble for the rest of his life.

When James was only about 10-years old, his foster father sent him to work in the Detroit railroad yards, where the boy worked as a brakeman, which was a very dangerous job for a youngster. The brakes were applied from the back of the train to the front, one car at a time, by turning an upright wheel on the roof of each car. The brakeman would then run across the top of the moving car, and jump across to the next car to apply each set of brakes. Falling off a car, or worse yet between cars, usually resulted injury or death. He also later worked as a railroad clerk, but possibly not until he was an adult. Brakeman's work was hard, with long hours, but James made many friends in train yards all across the Midwest. Unhappy at home, he sought the help of his railroad friends and made plans to leave Detroit. When the time was right, he caught a train out of the city, and ran away from home.

James had managed to save two five dollar gold pieces, a lot of money for those days, and he brought these with him to finance his escape. To keep anyone from following him, he would take a train for a short distance, then change trains and get on a new one heading in a different direction. He pre-arranged to have railroad friends waiting for him at each train stop to help smuggle him onto the next train. He left Detroit in this fachion, and in so doing made it impossible for his foster family to find him.

James worked many jobs in many places, and we know little about the first few years after he left Detroit. Eventually, he found himself on a combine crew working the wheat fields of the Midwest. The combines would start in the South and work their way north, harvesting wheat, all the way up into Canada. When the weather began to change, the crews would turn around and work their way back south again.

Staying one step ahead of winter, the combines eventually ended up in New Orleans where the workers were paid the entire season’s wages in full. Thus, for the first time in many months, James and his companions found themselves with idle time on their hands and money in their pockets. A few nights of drunken revelry were usually in order; and the men afterwards, carrying with them everything they owned, would look for winter quarters to wait out until the combines returned in the spring.

One night in New Orleans, having just received his season wages, James was out on the town when he was rolled and robbed of everything but the shirt on his back. Penniless, with no place to go and no one to turn to, he had few options. Rather than sleep in the streets, he enlisted at the age of 27 in the army. He recalled that army life was good, and the army became his home. He received clothes, room and board, and six dollars a month in pay. Army life was similar to the communal life of the combine crews, and James had little trouble adjusting.

The year 1916, when James enlisted, was a time of turmoil. Europe was overcome with war, and the United States itself was facing the prospect of a war with Mexico. General Venustiano Carranza, having seized power in Mexico, was threatened by the rebel bands of his adversary Pancho Villa. When the United States gave formal recognition to Carranza’s government, an enraged Villa crossed the Mexican border into Texas and New Mexico to seek revenge.

On March 16, Pancho Villa attacked and burned the town of Columbus, New Mexico killing 16 men, women and children. President Wilson lodged an immediate protest with Carranza, but the Mexican general did little to allay American fears. Further raids by Villa’s “banditos” seemed likely; and the next day, without Carranza’s permission, Wilson sent American troops, under the command of General John J. Pershing, into Mexico to pursue the banditos. Carranza condemned the pursuit as an invasion and threatened war. Immediately, U.S. troops, among them the newly enlisted James F. Clark, began massing along the Mexican border in preparation for war

The above narrative is based on stories that my grandfather told my father, and my father, in turn, related them to me many years later. My grandfather died 11 years before I was born, so he was never able to relate to me any aspects of his life. Consequently, all of the above is third-hand information filtered through the memory of my father, who sadly passed away many years ago. Despite many years of research, I have not been able to verify any of the information above with public records - no vital records, census returns, nothing. Most of it is probably more or less true, but it will no doubt need to be revised if some records ever surface that cover the early years of my grandfather's life.

However, assuming that we have the correct names and time lines for my grandfather's parents, there are a couple of interesting possibilities. First, the Detroit City Directories show that there is a James F. Clark who from 1887 to 1893 lived at 242 Alexandrine Street in Detroit, which is just a few blocks west of what was then Jewish quarter (see map below and right). This James F. Clark held a variety of jobs including harness maker, tinner, wiper (Detroit, Lansing and Northern Railroad Company) and slate roofer (J.D. Candler & Company). As the 1893 city directory is the last mention we have of him, 1894 or so might be the year of his demise. Perhaps this man is my grandfather's father. Then there is also record of a Carrie Clark who from 1895 to 1899 worked as a domestic at 315 Putnam Avenue in Detroit, which is just a few blocks north of 242 Alexandrine (see map below and left). Perhaps this woman is my grandfather's mother. If so, she may have worked as a servant after her husband's death, with 1900 or so being the year of her passing. But again, all this is complete speculation, and we may never know for sure the identities of these people.

1897 Rand McNally maps of Detroit showing where Carrie Clark and James F. Clark lived.
(Assuming that the streets back then were numbered similarly to the way they are today)

 

A disastrous fire on July 12, 1973 at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis (also known as the 1973 National Archives fire) destroyed roughly 16 to 18 million military personnel files, which included about 80% of the official records of men and women who from November 1, 1912 to January 1, 1960 were discharged from the U.S. Army. Both my grandfather's and father's army records were among those lost. Fortunately, we have my grandfather's own personal copy of his personnel file that was given to him when he was discharged. Thus, we are very confident as to the accuracy of the narrative that follows, which covers his life from 1916 on, as we have been able to verify it with both his own military record, and with a variety of civilian records.

 

 


 

The Military Record of James F. Clark, Sr.

(serial number R-56613)

 

Dec. 5, 1916 - Enlisted in Company A of the 28th Army Infantry at Jackson Barracks in Louisiana for $6.00/month plus clothes, room, and board. At the time, American troops under the command of General John J. Pershing, were pursuing the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa deep into Mexico. Eventually, the 28th was sent to Texas in support of the pursuit. However, the 28th remained on the American side of the border and never made the crossing into Mexico.

Feb. 5, 1917 - United States troops are recalled back across the border in order to avoid an open conflict with Mexico, but border skirmishes continue for the next several months. In one incident, Private Jim Clark entered a shack near the border and was attacked by a bandito swinging a machete. Holding up his rifle to protect himself, he deflected the blow; but the unprotected fingers of Jim’s left hand, holding tightly onto the stock of his gun, caught the full force of the blade. Portions of his first and second finger tips were cut off just below the fingernails before Jim bayoneted his adversary to the wall.

April 6, 1917 - War is declared against Germany; and the Mexican campaign, in light of the greater conflict, is quickly forgotten.

May 29, 1917 - Commissioned corporal at Fort Ringgold in Texas.

June 12, 1917 - The 28th Infantry sails for Europe as one of the four infantry regiments (the 16th, 18th, 26th, and 28th) of the 1st Division of the American Expeditionary Force (A.E.F.). Fifteen days later the A.E.F. land at Brest in northern France, and the soldiers of the 1st Division become the first American troops to enter the war.

 

The French and British commanders were anxious to send the untested, green American troops into the trenches to fill the gaps in their own war-weary ranks. However, Pershing had no desire to engage his command in the war of stalemate and attrition that the Allied and Axis powers had waged for three long years. Instead, the Americans were assigned to quiet defensive sectors to gain experience while Pershing worked on developing an offensive strategy.

Far removed from the fighting at the front, the men of the A.E.F. were at their leisure to enjoy the French countryside and learn French lifestyles and customs. One day, some of the officers of the 28th decided that, as a gesture of goodwill towards the locals, the Americans would haul away a number of large, foul-smelling manure piles that graced the front yards of several houses in a nearby farm village. Early one morning, the deed was done. However, when the farmers awoke and discovered what the Americans had done, the intended good deed was viewed as something more akin to an act of war. Apparently, the manure was fertilizer for the village fields, and the town elders demanded the immediate return of the piles. The soldiers quickly hauled the offending piles back into town, thereby avoiding conflict with the French peasantry.

 

Oct. 20 to Nov. 20, 1917 - Lunneville Defensive Sector, a minor defensive operation.

Jan. 15 to April 3, 1918 - Toul Defensive Sector, a minor defensive operation.

April 25, 1918 - Montidider-Noyen Offensive begins, a major offensive operation, lasting until July 7 and fought alongside French and British troops. This operation involved several battles and was the first time that American troops were engaged in actual combat.

 

On the eve of being shipped to the front, the men of the 28th were given passes for the evening. Virtually all of the troops headed into town for some serious drinking - possibly the last party that many of them would ever know. When the time came to return to camp and board the trains for the front, most of the 28th was still in town, drinking up a storm and hoping to delay the trip to the trenches for as long as possible.

Jim and a friend or two staggered back into camp at the appointed hour, drunk and happy. Despite their condition, they were given the task of helping to round up drunken comrades and place them on a train for the front. The gathering of the 28th proved to be a difficult task. As soon as a partying soldier was caught and thrown on the train, another would slip out the nearest window and head back into town. After a few soldiers had been apprehended several times, the officers finally figured out what was happening and posted an armed guard to watch the train windows. Thus, with fixed bayonets blocking the avenues of escape, the men of the 28th were rounded up, thrown into trains, and shipped to the front.

The soldiers of the 28th had good reason to fear the front. The dampness and disease of the trenches were legend, and when these discomforts were combined with the technological horrors of modern warfare, utilized in battle for the first time in history, the Great War became truly one of the most terrifying episodes in the human experience. Fighting machines - including tanks, armored cars, and airplanes - appeared in battle for the first time; and technologically-advanced weapons - such as machine guns, flame-throwers, and poison gas - added a dimension of terror unknown in previous wars.

Wary of facing death at the hands of so many new forms of destruction, both sides opted for a defensive war. Miles and miles of trenches, from within which to hide, were dug across the French and Belgian countryside. In grim irony, the trenches merely became focusing points for the terrors of the Great War; and the dampness, disease, starvation, poison gas attacks, endless artillery bombardments, and brutal hand-to-hand combat of the trenches were magnified when combined with the terror of fighting machines and mechanized weapons.

Once, Jim was issued a hand ax and advised that this tool was one of the better weapons for hand to hand combat in the close quarters of a trench. Meat cleavers, sharpened trenching shovels, and small pick axes were also weapons of choice. Apparently, the standard 24” American bayonet was much too long to swing around in the narrow confines of a trench; and European bayonets, at 30” to 36”, were said to be even worse.

After four years in the trenches, the war-weary ranks of both sides were growing thin. Fresh troops were in short supply, and men of all ages were pressed into service. Jim remembered one instance when, after an especially bloody and brutal trench fight, he noticed that the dead German soldiers he had helped to kill were mostly 14 and 15 year old boys whose “rifles were bigger than they were”.

 

May 28 to 30, 1918 - The Battle of Cantigny was the first all-American offensive in the war and was fought with French and British support. The battle began on the morning of May 28 with an hour-long artillery bombardment, followed at 6:45 a.m. by the American advance, which crossed a front of 2,200 yards in 45 minutes to reach the German trenches. Although Cantigny was an American victory, with close to 250 German prisoners taken, the Americans lost 45 officers and 1,022 men. Despite fierce counter attacks over the next three days, the Germans were unable to retake the captured positions. Shown to the right are the Coat of Arms adopted by the 28th Infantry after WWI, when they were named the "Black Lions of Cantigny".

 

Jim was wounded at Cantigny during the American charge on the first day of battle, and though he lived to fight again, he was left emotionally and physically scarred for life. His unit on the morning of the 28th was given orders to storm the enemy positions after an artillery bombardment had hopefully weakened the German positions. The Americans issued forth from their trenches at the appointed time, and began the long charge across the crater-pocked expanse of “no-man’s land” to engage the enemy. Running through a smoke-obscured hail of bullets and shrapnel, with shells exploding all around, Jim saw the head of his best friend blown off in an explosion, and yet the headless body, bloody and torn, continued to run until it disappeared into the smoky mists. Shrapnel from another explosion tore off part of the heal from Jim’s foot, and, unable to run any further, he stumbled into the crater of a shell hole, where he sought refuge with two companions.

The artillery bombardment continued and, the Germans, in an attempt to stem the American advance, released clouds of deadly mustard gas. The dense fumes settled into the low spots of no-man’s land, and the shell holes in the battlefield became gas-filled death traps. Jim, dazed from his wound, was unable to get his gas mask on by himself. He surely would have coughed his lungs out and died had he been by himself, but one of his companions helped him on with his mask just in the nick of time. The battle continued, and the artillery barrage never let up the entire time. The recent memory of a friend’s horrible death, the ceaseless pounding of the big guns, and the loss of blood eventually took their toll. When medical help finally arrived Jim had succumbed to “shell shock” and temporarily lost his mind.

Wounded, gassed and shell-shocked, Jim was sent to the rear to recover in a field hospital. The head medical officer, regimental surgeon Major Clarence E. Fronk, [1] nursed Jim back to health. Many years later, after Fronk had become a close family friend, Fronk often joked that in order to repair Jim’s wound he had “to graft a dog bone onto his heel”. The U.S. Army on July 1, 1918 acknowledged that Private James F. Clark was severely wounded in action in an announcement of casualties that was made in the "Official Bulletin of Casualties Reported by Gen. Pershing (U.S. Committee of Public Safety, v. 2, p. 7). This announcement lists "Amos Lemmons of 62 Thirty-second Street, Detroit, Michigan" as next-of-kin. The name Amos Lemmons surfaces once again in Jim's army records more than a years later in transport papers dated June 15, 1919, wherein Amos Lemmons is listed as a cousin. Unfortunately we know nothing further of Amos Lemmons, nor what became of him.

 Jim remained in the rear, out of action, for a short time during the summer of 1918. During this time, he sat out the main engagement of the Mondidier-Noyon offensive from June 9-13. For this reason, he may not have qualified for a Mondidier-Noyon battle clasp, despite having been wounded at Cantigny. He also missed the battles of Soissons, Saizerais and Vancoulers, which were part of the Aisne-Marne offensive of July 18 to August 6. His wounds apparently had healed shortly after the offensive, as he was back by September with the 1st Division at the front.

 

Sept. 12 to 16, 1918 - The Battle of St. Mihiel was the first offensive fought by the Americans without the support of French or British troops. The Americans attacked the St. Mihiel Salient, 20 miles southeast of Verdun, during an evacuation of the German troops. The Americans cut off the retreating Germans on the first day of battle and took over 16,000 German prisoners at a cost of fewer than 7,500 American lives.

Sept 29 to Oct. 10, 1918 - The Battle of the Meuse-Argonne Forest followed the St. Mihiel victory and was a major offensive fought by combined French and American forces. The battle resulted in the final breakdown of German resistance and led to the final surrender of Germany. A second Meuse-Argonne operation took place Oct. 25 to Nov. 11, but Jim Clark had been transferred out of the infantry by this time and did not participate.

Oct. 18, 1918 - Transferred to the medical department as a consequence of his wounds, Jim finished out the war behind American lines. Despite this acknowledgment in his military records — Wounds received in service: Cantigny May 28, 1918, in action — Jim never applied for, and therefore never received a Purple Heart. He did receive a victory medal with three battle ribbons – Defensive Sector, St. Mihiel, and the Meuse-Argonne Forest. Others in his division, the First, also qualified for Mondidier-Noyon and Aisne-Marne clasps, but Jim was wounded and out of action during those engagements. Although Cantigny, in which Jim did serve, was really part of the Mondidier-Noyon offensive, the army may have considered the battle as one of the qualifying engagements for the Defensive Sector clasp. He also received a regimental medal, the Royal Order of the Cootie, for having “fought lice in the trenches”.

Nov. 11, 1918 - Armistice Day - Germany surrenders and the Great War comes to an end.

Dec. 15, 1918 to May 20, 1919 - Assigned to the Army of Occupation in Germany. Since he had grown up in a German-Jewish neighborhood in Detroit, Jim was fluent in Yiddish, which is a German dialect. Thus, he was able to learn the German language in just a short time, and he ended up being stationed after the war with the Army of Occupation in Germany as a military interpreter. He remembered this duty as “the good life”, since responsibilities were few, life was easy, and there was always plenty of food.

June 15, 1919 - Sailed from St Nazaire, France on a military transport ship named the S.S. Texan and arrived on June 27, 1919 at the harbor of Newport News, Virginia. Jim listed his next-of-kin on his departure papers as a cousin named Mr. Amos Lemmons at 62 Thirty-second Street in Detroit, Michigan. Lemmons was previously named as next-of-kin on July 1, 1918 when the army announced that Jim had been wounded in battle. Although we have these two mentions of Amos Lemmons, he does not appear in the Detroit City Directories, and there is no mention of him in any of the U.S. or Canadian census returns for the Detroit-Windsor area. So Amos Lemmons is another mystery in this story.

 

Jim’s older sister is said to have lived during and after the war in Canada. Jim wrote to her often, and regularly sent her his paychecks with the understanding that she would safeguard his earnings. Thus, if Jim survived the war he would have a “grub stake” with which to start life anew, and if he did not survive his sister would keep the money. When Jim finished his tour of duty with the army, he took an extended leave of absence to return home to Detroit after a twenty-year absence, to visit his sister across the border in Canada, and to reclaim from her his savings. However, when he reached Canada he found his sister cold and unfriendly, and his money gone. He returned to the United States, and never spoke to his sister again. Once again without money, home or family, he turned to the army.

 

Dec. 5, 1919 - Re-enlisted at Fort Sheridan in Illinois for another three years. Jim as a re-enlisting veteran had his choice of assignments, and he chose Hawaii.

Jan. 28, 1920 - The U.S. Census shows James F. Clark at Angel Island in San Francisco Bay near Marin, California with several other soldiers, presumably in transit to Hawaii.

Feb. 5, 1920 - Sailed from San Francisco Harbor on a military transport ship named the S.S. Logan and arrived on Feb. 15, 1920 at Honolulu Harbor in the Territory of Hawaii. He listed his next-of-kin on his departure papers as a friend named Mrs. Belle Groh (neé Isabella Edgeworth) at 39 McKay Avenue in Windsor, Canada, which is just a short distance away and on the other side of the river from the Detroit address he previously listed for his cousin Amos Lemmons.

Unfortunately, we know nothing of the relationship to Jim of this Belle Groh (c.1869-1940), whom he listed with the army as his hometown point of contact. As to why he listed her instead of his cousin Amos Lemmons, we may never know. Belle was about twenty years older than Jim, which suggests that she was more of a mentor than a friend. Although she apparently was not Jewish, perhaps she or her husband are in some way associated with the Jewish foster family that raised Jim after his parents died. We may never know.

We know that Belle was born Isabelle Edgeworth about 1869 in Ontario, Canada, and that she married Andrew Groh (1870-1944), who had been born in Germany, and lived in Cleveland, Ohio before their marriage. We do not know one way or the other, but Andrew may have had ties to Groh Bros, a Cleveland company of three brothers from Germany - Andrew, Charles and George - who were undertakers, and owned a livery stable. Belle and Andrew listed their faith as Baptists, not Jewish, and they lived most of their married life on McKay Avenue in Windsor, probably at the same house, where they had five children - Irene (1902-1984), William (1905-1967), Genevieve (b. 1910), Milton (1908-1908) and Clifford (1914-1976). There as also another daughter named Jessie, born about 1894, who is listed in the records as Belle's child with a man named Walter. Belle and Andrew died in Windsor, and both are buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Amherstburg, Ontario.

Nov. 5, 1921 - Commissioned a sergeant at Fort Shafter in Honolulu, Hawaii. Later, Jim was stationed at Tripler General Hospital where he worked as a medical orderly. His commanding officer at Tripler was Colonel Clarence Fronk, the same Dr. Fronk who had nursed him back to health in France three years earlier in the aftermath of Cantigny.

 

Jim intended to make the army his career, but in Honolulu he met and fell in love with Louise de Harne. He asked her to marry him, but Louise refused to marry a soldier. She gave Jim the choice between her and the army. He chose Louise, and when his tour of duty ended he left the army forever.

 

Dec. 4, 1922 - Discharged from Tripler General Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii and mustered out of the U.S. Army.

 

Jim was mustered out of the military with one official war medal:

        — Victory Medal with three battle clasps (Defensive Sector, St. Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne)

Other medals that he could have received, had he or his son applied for them, were:

        — Mexican Border Service (created July 9, 1918)

        — Purple Heart (revived February 22, 1932)

        — Army of Occupation of Germany (created November 21, 1941)

 

Left: The jump-off at Cantigny. After a violent artillery preparation of one hour, the 28th Inf, Col. Hanson E. Ely commanding, began the attack on Cantigny at 6:45 a.m., May 28. The objective was reached "per schedule" at 7:20 a.m. Private C.W. Foley, Co. E. 28th Inf., now connected with the Pictorial Bureau, says that this remarkable picture was snapped by a French photographer who arrived on the scene in a tank.
Right: A portrait taken in 1919 of Company A of the 28th Infantry Regiment when they were stationed in Germany with the Army of Occupation. Private Jim Clark is not in this photograph, as he was reassigned to the Medical Department in October of 1918. However, he served with these men and fought alongside them for many months prior to his reassignment. There are 46 men in this portrait, but there were probably more than 100 in the unit when the war started.

 


 

Later Years - Jim was introduced to his future wife Louise de Harne by an army friend of his named Joe Walsh, who was in the Army Medical Department with Jim. Joe Walsh was destined to become Jim's future brother-in-law. I believe that the event where the introduction took place was a dance of some sort that was put on to help soldiers meet unmarried women, but I may or may not not remember the facts of the story correctly. In any event, Jim and Louise fell in love, and were married on Oct. 12, 1923 in Honolulu. He was 34, and she was 31 years old.

Jim and Louise went to live with Louise's mother Frances de Harne in a large house at 1245 Wilder Ave. Besides Jim, Louise and Frances, who was known to everyone as grandma, Louise's siblings Helen, Eleanor and Eddie also lived in this house. There were at least two bedrooms upstairs in the attic, and Jim and Louise stayed in one of the bedrooms, with Louise's brother Eddie in the other bedroom. This was where Jim and Louise stayed for the next 22 years.

After his marriage to Louise, Jim worked briefly as a packing foreman for Theo H. Davis, who was a factor and a member of one of the original missionary families in Hawaii. Unfortunately, Jim had a very bad temper, and he was fired when he got into a fight at Davis’ packing house.

Jim was not a well man, and he had problems with ulcers as a consequence of his war injuries. After the Davis job, Colonel Fronk arranged for him to have an ulcer operation at the Navy hospital at Pearl Harbor even though the Colonel was an army surgeon at Tripler Hospital. Apparently, the Navy hospital gave better care than Tripler, and Colonel Fronk wanted Jim to have nothing but the best.

Colonel Fronk was not only the family doctor but a valued family friend. He was Jewish, and he enjoyed speaking Yiddish with Jim. The Colonel was also a big game hunter who traveled all over the world in search of trophies.

Jim worked for the National Park Service for eighteen months after his recovery from the ulcer operation. Kiluaea Volcano had recently been made a national park, and Jim worked on various projects from a military camp in the park. He helped to build the Volcano House, a concession financed by and later operated by the Lykurkas family. Afterwards, he remained a good friend of the family. He also helped to explore some of the lava tubes near the construction site, and there is an old photograph showing him entering one of the tubes.

My father, James Frederick Clark, Jr., was born on Nov. 9, 1924 at the old maternity house on Beretania Street in Honolulu where he was delivered by Colonel Fronk. James, Sr. wanted his son to be named Jamie, the Scottish version of his own name, but the registrar incorrectly entered the name as James. To the family, the younger James was known by the nicknames of Jimmy and Junior, even though he very much disliked the latter.

James, Sr. had a problem holding jobs because his poor health and a very bad temper, and he worked at many odd jobs during the depression. For awhile, he worked as a “luna wai”, or water boss, on one of the large pineapple plantations on Oahu where he supervised the distribution of drinking water to the field hands. Apparently, his position was distinguished from that of a “luna hana”, or work boss, who oversaw the cultivating and picking of the pineapples.

Later, James, Sr. worked as a salesman for a printer shop in Honolulu called Hawaiian Printers. Eventually, Colonel Fronk found him a job as a clerk for the Attorney General’s Office of the Territory of Hawaii. James enjoyed this job, and he held it right up to his death.

The Attorney General’s office was near the post office, and James often brought stamps and cachets home from the post office for son Jimmy’s stamp collection. Some of the cachets were quite elaborate, and we still have one with signatures on it of the postmaster and of Joseph B. Poindexter, the Governor of the Territory of Hawaii.

James, Sr. had many interests. He was an avid golfer, and he played on a golf team in the Honolulu Commercial Golf League. The team was known as the Territorialists, and it was made up of comrades from the Attorney General’s Office. We still have a newspaper clipping showing James, Sr. presenting a golf trophy, won by the team, to Governor Poindexter. He also liked to sing, and he had a good tenor voice. He enjoyed gambling, particularly at card games. He often played cribbage and poker at the Elks Club, and he seldom lost. He was also an excellent swimmer, and he often went for afternoon swims in the ocean.

Since James, Sr. spoke fluent Yiddish, he mad many Jewish friends, among them Colonel Fronk. He could also speak German, and he once befriended a German sailor whose ship docked at Pearl Harbor during the depression. Apparently, the German did not speak any English, yet he and James were able to converse easily in German.

Memories of the war never left James, and his wounds left him an emotional and physical wreck. He was never a well man, and he had a traumatic heart that gave him problems. He had frequent heart attacks, and he carried ammonia capsules with him to revive himself in the event an attack occurred. He also had traumatic ulcers that reacted violently to acid foods such as tomatoes and pineapples. He was especially fond of tomatoes, but whenever he tried to eat one Louise would end up staying with him half the night inducing him to drink hot water and vomit.

James, Sr. had chronic nightmares, and he used to roam the house at night in his sleep, reliving the horrors of the war in his dreams, looking for Germans to kill. At these times, Louise would grab little Jimmy and hide under the bed until nightmares were over. During waking hours, loud noises reminded him of past battles. Once, when opening the front door to his house on Wilder Avenue, a dynamite blast two or three blocks away caused him to shake uncontrollably.

James, Sr. was a Democrat, which put him at odds at times with other members of the de Harne family, all of whom were Republicans. Despite their political diffrences, James and his brother-in-law Maurice de Harne were close friends, and James often spent the night visiting Maurice and his wife Helen at their Wahiawa home in the central part of the island. It was on one such visit that James rose early on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941 to see Japanese planes flying over the mountains on the leeward side of the island. Realizing that Oahu was under attack, he raced home in his car, bombs exploding on either side of the road, to get to his wife and son, driving past Pearl Harbor just as the battleship U.S.S. Arizona blew up and sank. Fortunately, Louise and Jimmy were safe at home when he arrived there, Jimmy watching the attack from the roof of their house.

Louise was safe, but not well, as she contracted cancer (carcinoma) of the ear in the months following the attack. Despite a trip to the mainland for an operation, her condition steadily worsened, and she died on Oct. 8, 1942, just a few days before her 51st birthday, after a long and painful illness. James, Sr. missed her terribly, and he lived only two months longer than she. He died very suddenly of a heart attack on Dec. 14, 1942 at the age of 53 years. Apparently, he had been swimming the afternoon before without any trauma. However, a heart attack came quite unexpectedly that night; and although Colonel Fronk arrived immediately to tend to him, there was little the good doctor could do.

Jimmy was out working at the time of his father’s heart attack, and no one told him what had happened when he came home that evening. Apparently, James, Sr. had asked Helen, Louise’s younger sister, not tell Jimmy about the heart attack until the next morning since “Jimmy had to work all day and needs his sleep.” James, Sr. died late that night with his friend and physician Dr. Fronk at his bedside. The next day, Fronk told Jimmy what had happened and added that Jimmy’s father had never been a well man and that “it was amazing that he lived as long as he did”.


[1] Clarence Elmer Fronk was born March 30, 1883 in Conway, Iowa, and he died on February 17, 1968 in Honolulu, Hawaii, just short of his 85th birthday.

 

 

 



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