#52Ancestors: Grandfather William Wallace Greene’s Four Years at 1920s Phoenix Union High School

Phoenix Union High School
Penny Postcard of Phoenix Union High School.1
My 22nd entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge for 2015.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

Amy’s 2015 version of this challenge focuses on a different theme each week.

The theme for week 22 is – Commencement: Countless schools will be having their commencement ceremonies around this time. Think not only about school, but also about commencement meaning “a beginning.”

I am quite behind on this blog challenge, hence the late commencement post.

My 22nd ancestor is my husband’s paternal grandfather, William Wallace Greene (1908-2003), who went on to Stanford medical school, became a surgeon, volunteered to serve in WWII and left as a Lt. Col., and treated victims at a liberated concentration camp.

Grandfather Greene grew up in the territory and then state of Arizona. He was born 26 August 1908 in Phoenix, Maricopa County, Arizona Territory, as the oldest of two children to William Wallace Greene, Sr. (1869-1944), and Veronica Victoria Dorris (1883-1982). He was 3 and 1/2 years old when Arizona achieved statehood in 1912.

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Wallace, as he liked to be called then, attended Phoenix Union High School. Phoenix Union High School was founded in 1895, beginning “…with four classrooms and 90 students.”2 The high school, located at 7th Street and Van Buren, closed in 1987 after 92 years of operation.

Ancestry has digitized all four of Grandfather Greene’s yearbooks, so in honor of this commencement theme, I took another peak at what those yearbooks can tell me about Grandfather’s high school years.

Freshmen Class, 1922

Grandfather Greene joined the freshmen class of Phoenix Union High School in 1922, at the age of 14 years. He is identified as Wallace Greene on the Freshmen Class Roll of the Phoenician, the school yearbook.3 A class photo is included, and I think I successfully identified Grandfather Greene–based on other photos I have seen of him–by his smile, eyes, and forehead.

William Wallace Greene -1922 Yearbook - Ancestry - web
Freshmen class photo, 1922. I have marked who I think looks most like Wallace.
Click image for a larger view.4

Sophomore Class, 1923

William Wallace Greene, 1923 Class Photo
Yearbook photo, 1923. 5
Identified as Wallace again, Grandfather is listed on the Class Roll for Sophomores in the 1923 issue of the Phoenician yearbook.6

In the 1923 edition, individual student photos were included for every class, not just seniors. However, since none of the individual photos are identified with names (except seniors), I had to again guess which one was Grandfather, based on a comparison of his features in later photos.

Wallace also belonged to an honor society that year.

William Wallace Greene , Parnassus Society
William Wallace Greene is in the top row, fourth from the right. Click image for larger view. 7
Grandfather’s senior yearbook provides information about the Parnassus Society.

 The scholarship Club, or Parnassus Society, is a club composed of about sixty students made up of the school’s scholars. To be eligible to this club one must have grades of at last two “ones” and two “twos”, or three “ones” and one “three”. The Scholarship Club was organized three years ago as a local club. It has since then gained national recognition and is now one of the most important clubs in the school. This year the Scholarship Club put on two very successful banquets and sponsored an interesting assembly.8

Junior Class, 1924

The 1924 edition of the yearbook included individual student photos just for the senior class. The junior class–Wallace’s class–has a big group photo in which the students are so tiny that I cannot even begin to try to identify Grandfather Greene.

William Wallace Greene, Junior Class Photo
Junior class photo, 1924.9
The yearbook includes a note about Grandfather under the Music Department page, indicating that he played in the band and qualified for the Coyote Emblem.10

I was not able to identify Wallace in any club or activity photos for that year, and since members were not identified by name, I could not find him by name either.

Senior Class, 1925

His senior yearbook is where I struck gold with Grandfather Greene. Despite first reviewing these yearbooks back in November, I made a new discovery last week. Which did not pop up in the initial November 2014 results, when I had searched under the proper spelling of his/our surname–Greene, with an “e” at the end. Silly me. I should know better. By failing that first time to search under all variant spellings, I missed the best information item of them all.

Right there, in the section of individual senior photos, is Grandfather’s senior photo.

But that’s not all. Right next to his photo is… his signature! The yearbook copy that Ancestry digitized was owned by someone who knew my husband’s grandfather, and had Grandfather sign the yearbook.

William Wallace Greene, 1925 Class Photo
1925 senior class photo, with his signature.11
Special mention is made about Grandfather Greene at the Coyote Club banquet on the night of 22 January 1925. “The musical program consisted of a vocal solo by Miss Methel Ingraham and a horn solo by Wallace Greene accompanied by Nell Greene.”12 Nell Greene was Grandfather’s younger sister.


#52 Ancestors: Uncle Joe Deaguero, ALS Took Him Way Too Young

My 49th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks family history blogging challenge.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

Joe Deaguero - High School Yearbook
Pioneer High, 1965. Courtesy of Ancestry.com.

My 49th ancestor is my Uncle Joe Deaguero (1947-1983 ).

ALS and Death

Uncle Joe died of ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, when I was in eighth grade. I hadn’t thought of him in years, but the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge had Uncle Joe on my mind quite a bit this year, and got my cousins and I talking about him on Facebook. His was the first close family death of my life. I still vividly remember the day he died. I had stayed late at school to make signs for our upcoming junior high dance, and knew something was wrong as soon as I saw my Mom, who broke the news to me.

Uncle Joe was only 36 years old when this horrible disease took his life and finally spared him from suffering any further debilitating effects. I cannot remember how many years he lived after his diagnosis, but I remember that the diagnosis shocked our entire family, and devastated his wife, my Mom’s middle sister (I’m not identifying her by name since she is still living).

It hit us cousins hard to watch our robust playful uncle wither away and lose his ability to speak, as well as all other motor skills. At first, it was a cane, then a wheelchair, then he was bedridden at the very end. But, he participated in family life as actively as he could for as long as he could. Mom, my aunts, grandma, and I took Uncle Joe everywhere with us in his wheelchair. I remember us popping wheelies and making him laugh, and me often jumping on the back of the wheelchair for a ride while pushing him around. I also remember his tears of frustration when trying to speak, when his mouth and vocal chords no longer obeyed his brain. Or when he couldn’t get his hands and arms to move. I remember my tiny aunt being able to lift him in her arms towards the end, because he had lost so much weight and muscle.

Life with Uncle Joe

Fortunately, though, most of what I remember about Uncle Joe are happy funny memories.

He and my aunt were married less than a decade, and although we did not attend their wedding (they eloped in Vegas), I do remember when they got married. Because I wasn’t too happy about it at first. He was taking my fun playmate auntie away…she was a big kid herself who loved to play with her nieces and nephews.

But, Uncle Joe soon grew on me. He was a big kid himself too when it came to his new nieces and nephews. I loved spending the night at their beautiful refurbished old home filled with antiques (including an old fashioned toilet with the pull-down chain handle to flush it). They had old pin ball machines and a juke box that I never tired of playing with. Uncle Joe’s passion was restoring antique cars, and I loved to drive around with him in those — especially riding in the rumble seat of his Ford Model A. The three of us went camping in his restored Willys-Knight. Uncle Joe was an avid woodworker, who made us cousins the coolest toys, including an awesome fort for the bedroom of some of my boy cousins. And every trip to the movies with my aunt and uncle resulted in tons of over-priced junk food that Mom never let me have.

My aunt and uncle never had children of their own, but they showered us nieces and nephews with love and attention.

Family History Discoveries

While on Ancestry.com last week, I got a shaky leaf record hint for Uncle Joe, which is what inspired me to write about him. These hints led to some fun discoveries about my uncle.

First,  a high school yearbook photo of him while a student at Pioneer High in Whittier (Los Angeles County), California. Since he and the other students on that page are in robes, I assume this is his senior year. Even if the photo had not been identified by name, I could have picked him out immediately, I remember that same smile.

But, what surprised me was to learn that Uncle Joe served in the military. I never knew that. I found a U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File entry that indicates he served in the Air Force from 8 April 1966 (most likely, right out of high school) until 4 April 1970.

The following photo is one of the photos I have with my Uncle Joe.

Flanagan Family Wedding 1970s
My Uncle Flanagan’s wedding in the 1970s. Uncle Joe is in the back row, far left, next to his wife (in the hat). I am in the pink dress in the front row.

#52Ancestors: Elsie Charlotte Hayes, My Only High School Graduate Grandparent

My 19th week in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

I’m closing the gap at just 4 weeks behind in this series (the challenge just wrapped up week 22). I initially blamed my tardiness on being super busy at home, work, and with my volunteer work. However, the extended lapse can be blamed on the recent diagnosis of some critical health issues that had wiped me out for a while (you can read about that on my food blog).

But I’m determined to chronicle at least 52 Ancestors this year, so I’m playing catch-up.

My beautiful Grandma (left), and a good friend.

My 19th ancestor is my grandmother Elsie Charlotte HAYES (1926-1992). I have written about Grandma before, but not as part of my 52 Ancestors series. What inspired me to write this post is graduation season. Elsie may be my only grandparent to graduate from high school. I know that her husband Michael John FLANAGAN (1927-1997), a poor orphan, never graduated, and joined the Navy at just 17 years old. My other grandfather Benjamin ROBLEDO (1919-1990), born to poor immigrants, did not graduate either. Both grandfathers’ naval records confirm this. And while I do not have any proof that my long-lost grandmother Rosie SALAS (1923-?) did not graduate, documents confirming she was raised in a poor migrant farming family make it highly unlikely she would have completed high school either.

Elsie attended Berkley High School in Berkley (Oakland County), Michigan. She lived and grew up in nearby Southfield Township, Michigan. Elsie graduated with the Class of 1944. It wasn’t until after her death that I came across her high school yearbook in her old photos and papers. I have since given it to my Mom, but not before scanning some key pages.

The front of Elsie’s yearbook.
Title page of the yearbook.

Berkley High was established in 1922, and Wikipedia mentions some sort of new school in 1949 (after Elsie graduated), but does not indicate if the school moved to a new location, if the old one was demolished and rebuilt, or if just new buildings were added. The actual school website is even less helpful, providing absolutely no information whatsoever about the school’s history. The City of Berkley has a city timeline (.PDF) on their museum page that provides a bit more info, but still no clarification if the current school site and any of the buildings are the ones that Elsie attended.

  • 1919: Construction was begun on Berkley School on Berkley Avenue north of Catalpa. Looking at Google Maps, this location is across the street from the school’s present site.
  • 1934: Berkley High School holds its first outdoor graduation ceremony at Angell School grounds for 54 graduates and 1000 attendees. Could this have been the venue for Elsie’s own graduation ceremony 10 years later?
My grandmother is in the fourth row, on the right.
Elsie was part of the Girl Reserves her sophomore, junior, and senior years. She is in the front row, at the far left end. According to current school documents, the Girl Reserves no longer exist as a school club.

I remember Mom telling me, when I was a young girl, how Grandpa used to taunt Grandma by making fun of and singing her school fight song “Maroon and Blue”. I asked Mom why, not understanding why Grandpa was being mean, and Mom explained that Grandpa was not being mean. He did this out of jealousy and hurt (Grandma compassionately knew this), because he never had the luxury of completing high school, but wished he had.

First half of the Berkley High fight song, “Maroon and Blue”.
Second half of the Berkley High fight song, “Maroon and Blue”.

To put Elsie’s high school years in historical context, the bombing of Pearl Harbor happened her sophomore year. The war ended in August 1945, 14 months after her graduation. Elsie must have lost childhood and high school friends in the war. Sometime between her June 1944 graduation and June of 1946, Elsie moved from Michigan to northern California (I think Oakland) with her sister Cassie and Cassie’s family, where Elsie obtained work as a messenger for the Retail Creditors’ Association (according to her marriage certificate). On 22 June 1946, Elsie married Michael John Flanagan, whom she just met only one month prior.