On September 27, 1896 Edward McKinley Wiedrich was born to John and Sarah in Pembroke, Genesee County, New York.[i] His middle name of McKinley is not verified. He would grow to 5’7” with blue eyes and brown hair. He was their first born child. Although his children claimed he had little formal education the 1910 Federal Census lists him as attending school. Since his father was a farmer it could be he missed school often to help on the farm. But he was an avid life-long reader and received much of his knowledge from what he read. By 1915 he had left school and worked in a mill.[ii]
Always one who wished to wander the world, he left home and became a merchant sailor. In October of 1918 he received his seaman’s certificate at the Port of Boston that lists him as 5’7” and 165lbs – probably the heaviest in his life. Later he would probably weigh 120lbs soaking wet. Two of the ships he worked on were the Elizabeth and the Margaret.[iii]
Wiard Plow 1921
Once home and went back to work at the Wiard Plow factory where he
worked as a fireman.[iv]
The family moved to 1 Pearl St, Batavia, Genesee County, New York. Also around
this time he also worked delivering ice whether as a side job or during a
layoff from the plow factory.[v]
This is how he met Hazel Bristol when he delivered ice to her house.
Hazel Bristol and Edward Wiedrich married on March 17, 1921. They were married by Rev. Johnson in the Baptist parsonage in Batavia. After the wedding they lived with[vi] This arrangement while financially beneficial was a problem as Hazel’s mother was difficult and domineering. This is especially evident when Hazel became pregnant with their first child. Hazel had her leg amputated to the hip as a teenager. Her mother did not want her to have children so when she became pregnant Mattie went to the police station
Their first daughter, Yvonne was born on January 27, 1922, followed one year later by Bonalyn on January 13, 1923. By 1925 Ed was a woodworker probably still at the Wiard Plow. They continued to live with Mattie until 1933 when they lived at 12 Swan St. in Batavia. This was just up the street from the Wiard Plow. Hazel was operating a Doll Hospital out of their house. This was where she repaired china dolls.[vii] They had now added two more daughters, Millicent born May 15, 1928 and Constance.
In 1935 they moved to the outskirts of town to a farm on Creek Rd. [viii] While he continued to work at the Wiard Plow he also did some farming at their house. Sometime in the 1930’s he also swept up at a bean factory. His daughter Millicent related how he would bring home the sweepings and the kids would pick out any beans that were in the dirt. Things were tough at this time and the beans helped put food on the table. It also developed a lifelong love of beans in Millicent. In the 1937 city directory Ed’s occupation is trucking. By the 1940 Census he had lost the farm on Creek Rd. and was back living with Mattie. He was now a laborer in a farm implement factory (probably the[ix] Ed was again in the house of someone he couldn’t get along with.
Within the year he moved his family to Gloucester City in a trailer camp in Gloucester Heights. Someone had promised him a good job but when he got here there was no job. He ended up cleaning out septic tanks and was soon covered with boils. Around this time he signed on to a merchant ship leaving his family to get by on their own. Yvonne who had graduated from high school in Batavia took a job as a waitress. Millicent who was 12-yrs-old and in school took a job bussing dishes at the diner. Ed never sent any money home and when he returned a year later brought no money back with him. Meanwhile they lived in a truck converted into a trailer home in Thorpe’s trailer park on Marlboro Ave. Millicent told of sleeping in a tight dark space over the cab that left her claustrophobic. Bonalyn graduated from Gloucester High went into the Navy as soon as she turned 20-yrs-old, the minimum age to sign up for women. Yvonne had a baby girl and continued to hone her skill as a waitress. She was joined by Millicent in the waitress ranks. Millicent and Constance continued attending Gloucester High where Constance played athletics.
Then in 1945 Ed decided to pack up the family and move to Florida. Bonnie was still in the Navy and Midge (Millicent) who had just graduated from high school decided to stay in Gloucester and board with a friend’s family. Ed, Hazel, Yvonne, Connie and Patsy moved to Tampa, Florida. They left just before Christmas and had a journey like the Joad family in The Grapes of Wrath. The truck and Yvonne’s ancient car made the trip. Vehicles broke down and took a lot of tinkering to get going again. Bald tires went flat and needed sewing (a desperate technique when tires are unavailable and expensive) and less pressure to avoid more flats. At night they would stop by the side of the road or in a parking lot. They spent Christmas in the truck. I can imagine a sad atmosphere - Connie who would have to transfer schools and Hazel who endured so much in her life. They eventually reached Jacksonville where they stayed with friends for a few days until after the New Year. Then it was on to St. Petersburg.
Eventually they settled in De Soto Park in Tampa on the bay. The park had its roots in the 20’s when Tampa set aside the park to accommodate people migrating to Florida or just wintering and later in the 30’s during the Great Depression permanent residents. These former “Tin Can Trailer Camps” became the trailer parks of the post war era. Florida encouraged them to support the tourist industry. At De Soto there were various trailers and cabins and some circus people. There were circus acts practicing in the park green. Tampa had great resources for the children around the city. Recreation directors were in all parts of the city including De Soto Park all day during the summer and after school during the school year. In De Soto Park it was Mochine Fernandez who worked there from just after WWII until 1969.[x] I met her in 1969 when we rode over to see where my family lived during their early years in Florida. One of Midge’s favorite pictures was of Hazel, Midge and me (Arlene) making a walkway of upside down batteries in front of the cabin in De Soto Park.
Ed found work on a farm and later in a Dawson fish camp where he did carpentry work. He loved working on boats. Both he and Hazel were active with the local Power Squadron. Anything about the sea found a place in Ed’s heart.
The Wiedrich clan finally found a home on Interbay Blvd. in Port Tampa. It was a large old Florida house built in the late 1800s. It was large enough that they made apartments on the first and second floors for some extra income. There was a wrap-around porch and a large side yard. In 1964 a few years before Ed died he suffered a heart attack and gave the family a scare. He recovered but on August 2, 1966 he died of complications from pulmonary thrombosis, myocardial infarction and a ruptured peptic ulcer.[xi]
[i] Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Social Security Administration.Original data: Social Security Administration. Social Security D), Ancestry.com, Number: 140-12-8288; Issue State: New Jersey; Issue Date: Before 1951. Birth date: 27 Sep 1896; United States, Selective Service System.
World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: National rchives and Records Admini), Ancestry.com, Registration Location: Genesee County, New York; Roll: 1753735; Draft Board: 0. Birth date: 27 Sep 1896 Birth place: New York;United States of America; United States, Selective Service System. Selective Service Registration Cards,
World War II: Fourth Registration. National Archives and Records Administration Branch l), Ancestry.com, Roll: ; Local board: Camden , New Jersey. Birth date: 27 Sep 1896 Birth place: Pembroke, New York
[ii] State population census schedules, 1915. Albany, New York: New York State Archives.Original data: State population census schedules, 1915. Albany, New York: New York S.
[iii] Edward Wiedrich Citizen Seaman Identification record; New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010), Ancestry.com, Year: 1920.
[iv] 1920; Census Place: Batavia Ward 4, Genesee, New York; Roll: T625_1114; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 10; Image
[v] Story told by Hazel Wiedrich about how she met Edward. Also a picture of him driving the ice truck.
[vi] Ancestry.com, U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 (Provo, UT, USA, 1933 Batavia, NY
[vii] Ancestry.com, U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 (Beta) (Online publication - Provo, UT, USA: 1933 Batavia, NY
[viii] Ancestry.com, U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 (Provo, UT, USA: 1935 Batavia. NY
[ix] Ancestry.com, Year: 1940; Census Place: Batavia, Genesee, New York; Roll: T627_2538; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 19-5.
[xi] Death Certificate