This is the third installment of the family history story. The focus is mainly on the Fish family since there is so much more research done on that branch of the family tree. This episode is about Charles Avery Fish, not because he was such a lovable person but because he lived such a long life.
Charles Avery Fish was the son of George Andrus Fish and Clara Ann Fairbourne. He was born in November, 1889 in Missouri and died in March, 1980 in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin; he was 90 years old when he passed. His main profession was linotypist (see photo of his master printer certificate). He was fortunate to find a partner in a Mr. George Hook, a journalist. It was always a good joke that this partnership was destined to be: Hook and Fish. Of course!
The newspaper they owned was the South Milwaukee Voice-Journal in Wisconsin. It was a prosperous business in that era, before craisgslist siphoned off the income from classified ads. Readership was high, pretty well saturating South Milwaukee and Cudahy. In the 1990s the paper was delivered free; I am not sure how long that policy was in effect. The business also printed remembrance cards for funeral homes, and any other printing jobs. The printing presses in the back were the old-fashioned kind, with movable type, platens, and big rolls of newsprint running through them.
The business was eventually sold of course, I guess when both partners were ready to retire. In more recent years it was bought by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, and its name was changed to South Shore Now.
Mr. Fish was addressed by family and neighbors by his middle name Avery. It seems to have been a family tradition to call people by their middle names, which kind of complicated the genealogy hunt because you were not sure if someone's name was their actual first name or not. So in most cases I have given the full name, when known, on any detailed listing.
I have said that Mr. Fish was not known as a lovable person. Maybe he was when younger, but the stories I have heard are that he was more famous for being a skinflint than anything else. He always bought factory-second cigars (the boxes from which were repurposed by my dad for holding parts in his basement tool shop). He grumbled when my grandmother bought my mom a watch as a graduation gift. (as if the $1.50 expense would ruin the whole family budget) Grandma often told him he was good at saving a penny but not at spending a dollar. You get the idea.
The reason for his strict budgeting was probably that he was investing every penny he could for his retirement. We found out years later that he owned municipal bonds and assorted stock, which were unfortunately liquidated over the course of his lengthy retirement. I am glad that they did take a couple plane trips to California to visit their son, George, in San Jose. And it must be noted that he did pay for piano and singing lessons for his daughters; music was a priority.
Fortunately Grandma was a good cook who could do a lot with a little. She lovingly made dumpling soup, baked beans, or pies from the rhubarb that grew out back by the garage. Yet my mother complained that breakfast was skimpy and lunch was often a bowl of rice. Was she exaggerating?
Since I was the youngest child of his youngest child, Grampa was always old to me. He was always bald. He was seemingly always retired, although he did not really retire until 1965.
He did have some hobbies. He had a little wood shop in his basement, and made a slim pocket attached to the door for the newspaper delivery. He worked on the daily crossword puzzles. He was a member of Odd Fellows, and (with his wife Metha) the Gold Agers club. One of the oddities about grampa was that he never drove; it was Metha who zipped around in her little white Valiant. While Metha attended Golden Agers events more regularly, Avery did attend special events. He went to a Halloween party costumed as a very old man, with cane. He paraded in a circle with other contestants for best costume, and won. Why? Because he hobbled around with the cane (which he did not need in real life) and generally acted like he was 200 years old instead of a mere 70 or so.
One newspaper clipping noted his fiftieth wedding anniversary which included a picture of Charles and Metha. He wore a boutonniere and she wore a corsage. The headline reads: “C. A. Fish, Wife Mark 50 Years Of Wedded Life.” The story continues:
“On June 4, 1913, Mr. and Mrs. C. A. Fish were married in a quiet ceremony in Hartland (Wisconsin). The minister officiating at the ceremony was the one who had confirmed Mrs. Fish several years before.
“The 50th anniversary of that ceremony was celebrated with a party at Pythian hall on June 9. More than 100 friends and relatives flocked to the hall to offer best wishes to the couple, including two of their three children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
“Fish's sister, Mrs. Ethel Hamilton came from Cresco, Iowa, for the party. She is visiting the Fish family before returning to Iowa.
“Whitey Dixon provided music played during the festivities. “He played for our 25th anniversary at the Badger hall in 1938. It seems like it was only a short time ago,” commented Fish.
“Mr. and Mrs. Fish have lived in South Milwaukee since 1928. Prior to that time they lived in Manitowoc for 15 years. [NOTE: Charles had a print shop in Manitowoc before becoming a partner in the Voice-Journal.]
“We are planning a second honeymoon in July,” said Fish. “We will go by jet to California to visit George, the only one of our children who was unable to attend the party.”
It was with some astonishment that I read newspaper clippings of his musical career. We knew that he played trombone and had led a local municipal band. We did not know that he also sometimes sang in addition to his other musical accomplishments. One headline from a Cresco, Iowa newspaper (The Times-Plain Dealer) said, “Town Band Popular Entertainment.” The cutline read: “The town band was an important organization in the early years of Cresco, the band members being called upon regularly to perform at public functions. Date of the picture is not known but did include such early residents as Jack Beuhler, Avery Fish, Billy Mead, John Kakac, Gordon Fiske, and Charles Martin.”
After Metha died in June 1973, Charles sold the house and all the furnishings and moved to California to be closer to his son, George. He even put prices on the canned goods on the shelf, and charged my mother for items she wanted.
A few years later we hear that he is getting serious with a mere girl of 70 and marries her. Part of his money went to pay off her bills, and then another chunk for medical bills when he broke his hip in a fall. He had to move into a nursing home and his second wife divorced him. At any rate, it seems that he outlived most of his money.
To add insult to injury, his will was very sloppily written, leaving it very ambiguous how he wanted his bequests made. (whispering now) Mother believed that he intended to disinherit the middle daughter Dorothy and have her share split equally among her three children. Well that is not what happened but it was Charles' fault for okaying such a document.
I have included material here that is not very adoring of my grandfather but it is the truth as far as I know it. He was a cheap person who seemed to value money more than his family, and at times treated strangers better than family members. OK, he had a right to do what he wanted with his money and none of us were owed anything. On the other hand he must have been very strong-willed and focused on goals. And I never saw him deliberately nasty to any of us.
I do wonder whatever happened to his musical instruments and why he abandoned music. It seems to me that music is normally a lifetime avocation, and it seems unusual when it is abandoned fairly early in life. He did not even have any sheet music in the house when he sold it.
[George Andrus Fish (born Aug. 14, 1858 in New York state; d. 1940). Was a traveling salesman of household utensils and sundries. Married Clara Anna Fairbourne of Pittsburgh, PA (1856-1946). Resided in Cornelia, Missouri and Cresco, Iowa. CHILDREN: Charles Avery Fish (born Nov. 6, 1889 in Cornelia, MO; died March 30, 1980 in California), married Metha Carolina Christiansen (born April 25, 1895, died June 8, 1973) in Wisconsin; Ethel (born Aug. 6, 1891 in Shanghi, MO; married John 'Fred' Hamilton and adopted a boy, Donald); Fredrich McCumber Fish (12-18-1895 to 11-5-1914). Charles and Metha had three children: George Madson (or Madsen) Fish, (m. Helen Poliak on July 19, 1947; no issue). Dorothy Mae Fish (B. 4-18-1919) who married Melvin 'Red' Greinke and had three children, Gayle Marie, Gary Arthur and Glenn Robert. Twins Althea Doris Fish (b. 2-13-1921; m. Bill Ubick Sept. 6, 1947; 3 children) and Alden Donald Fish, who died at three weeks of age.]
First installment with the whole fish family tree info is here at: http://minnieapolis.newsvine.com/_news/2011/06/15/6866070-gnw-a-few-genealogy-notes-on-missouri-branch-of-james-family