Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sepia Saturday

Today's episode of Sepia Saturday: The Other Side of the Family

I've spent the last few weeks introducing my father's side of the family. Today I'm going to venture into the maternal end of the gene pool.

This is my maternal grandfather, Joseph Raymond Royer:

I'm not certain when the photo was taken, but he looks fairly young. He was born October 15, 1898 to Adam and Louise Diffenderfer Royer, and it's possible that this may be a graduation photo. He married my grandmother, Susie Elizabeth Kleckner, sometime around 1917 and their first child, my Uncle Dayton, was born in October 1918:

My mother, Helen, was born in 1922. I'm guessing that this photo of Dayton, my Aunt Bernice and my mother was taken in 1923:

Eventually, there were five Royer children in all:

Helen (b 1922), Robert (b 1924), Dayton (b 1918), Betty (b. 1926) and Bernice (b. 1920)

I never knew my grandfather. As you can tell from the clothing in the above photos, my grandparents were not poor. I have no idea what my grandfather did for a living, but his family was fairly well off. All that changed when the stock market crashed in 1929. From what I understand from other family members, my grandparents lost everything. Grandpa took to drinking and eventually abandoned his wife and five children in 1931. Rumor has it that he left town with another woman, but her conscience got the best of her and she returned. Grandpa supposedly traveled west to Chicago. My Uncle Dayton looked him up when he was in Chicago while in the navy during the war, but he couldn't bring himself to actually go see him. His anger and hurt was too great.

My grandmother never divorced her estranged husband. She struggled on alone, working hard to raise her five children during the Great Depression. Sadly, she passed away from cancer in 1972. I remember very little about her, except for her hands. They were thin and very bony, with thick blue veins running along the backs of them just under the surface of the skin. They were worker's hands, yet when they held mine they were cool and soft and gentle.

I have no idea when my grandfather may have died or if he ever found happiness again. His abandonment left many unanswered questions and affected lives in ways he undoubtedly never realized and most likely never cared about. My mother once told me that when she was a girl, she'd often go to the movies and sit through the end crawl, scanning the credits to see if her father's name was there, hoping that perhaps he'd left them to go to Hollywood and work in the movies. Unsurprisingly, his name was never listed.

I wonder if she ever really stopped looking.

You can find more Sepia Saturday photos and stories by going clicky --> HERE!


  1. Your grandfather was so handsome!
    I love the memory you have of your grandmother's hands.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Nice memories of your grandmother! The pictures are the curly headed little ones...and that sailor suit...adorable!

  3. Priceless photos despite the family tragedy; back in part of my history the crash affected my uncle's wealthy family too, though alcohol did not take over. Well, it was a part of Uncle's John's bad habits, but long after the crash!

    How sad that your uncle did not contact your grandfather, but that is how folks were, and so everyone missed out.

    I would have guessed the first photo one of graduation, too.

  4. This is a very interesting story and would make a good book. Your Grandfather was very handsome. I find the story of your Mother in the movie theatre story very sad and sweet at the same time. That void is never really filled.

  5. Pat, I can see shades of you in Joseph's face! Lovely, lovely photos.

  6. What sadness being abandoned brings, both for the left-behind spouse and the children! Your Joseph is listed as a laborer doing car washing at the time of the 1930 Census. The 1940 Census will come out in 2011, so it will be interesting for you to see if you can find him in that. I checked the Social Security data base, but didn't find a date of death for him with the birthdate you have. I wonder if he assumed another name?

  7. A sad, sad story. I love the part about your grandmother's hands and the image of your mother looking for her father's name in the movie credits. Heartbreaking!

  8. Beautiful pictures and the story is sad. Abandonment is such a sad scenario. My father left my mom and 3 children due to alcohol and when I found him later, he too was devastated to have lost us. There is always two sides to every story for sure. blessings

  9. Marvelous post - you have to wonder whether the most inventive fiction writer could ever come up with stories that can match those hidden away within our family archives.

  10. Sorry, that last comment was from me and not from Alexander (my son had left the computer logged into his Google account!)

  11. So wonderful to have so many beautiful photos of your ancestors. They are certainly a treasure.

  12. A Poignant Mystery.The Actions Of One Can Affect The Reactions Of Many.Bless Those Cool,Soft & Gentle Hands.

  13. The photos are wonderful but the story is so sad. The crash of 1929 was a terrible even and we often forget the human toll it took on families.

    Interestingly, my grandfather also deserted his family and also moved to Chicago? What was it about Chicago that attracted these guys?

  14. very pretty and sweet looking children, your grandfather really missed out not seeing them grow up.