Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Was Granddad in Show Biz?

Several months ago, I found my maternal grandfather's WWI US Draft Registration Card. The registration date of the card is June 7, 1917.  Although I've since found other references for my grandfather's birth place, there was some new information, information I had not found elsewhere. These include my grandfather's birth date and place of birth, as well as his location in 1917. On this card, Galen W. [Weiker] Rote reports that he is living at 525 Locust in Toledo, Ohio, and was born on Mar. 7 1888 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

I also learned that his “present trade, occupation, or office”is “Show Business.”

WWI US Draft Registration Card for Galen W. Rote

Wait a minute! Show Business???!!

I hadn't seen that before. On census forms and in city directories for Toledo and for Sandusky, Ohio, where my mother was born and where Galen died, I've seen him employed as a brakeman, a salesman, even a bartender for the Central Labor Hall. On his wedding license application, Galen gave his occupation as machinist. According to my dad, Granddad Rote also managed a restaurant for a time, although I've found no confirmation of this. But, show business is different, and intriguing.  

On his draft registration card, Galen gave his employer as J. S. Forenze. Or, are those even initials? They could easily be the number 28, possibly added later, although I don't know what that might mean. If you have a suggestion, please let me know! For “where employed” I first interpreted his answer as “Peerless Mrs. Ed. [unreadable] Mich,” but with some help from a second cousin have since come to realize it was “Peerless Mus Co. Det Mich” (Peerless Music Co., Detroit, Mich.).

A bit of research, plus a couple of conversations with a friend and coworker who works in independent film, suggested that Peerless Music Company was probably a branch of the Peerless Film Corporation. I was fortunate enough to turn up a photograph of the Peerless Film Corporation's Detroit headquarters in 1917. The building was located at 153 East Jefferson in Detroit, Michigan, as referenced in the photo and comments for the photo. I love the coincidence of the photograph being from 1917. Did my grandfather walk down that street? Did he work in this building?

I'm fascinated. In what capacity was my mother's father working? None of his other positions have a obvious connection to the music or film industry. I wonder whether this just was a young man's willingness to take advantage of an opportunity, or whether it reflected a dream close to his heart. What was his position, really? Did he take tickets, work backstage, or was he part of a variety act? His use of the phrase "Show Business" seems to suggest a romantic attachment to his work, but did his actual position place him in some dusty corner dreaming of fame, or did he have the opportunity to appear on stage or screen?

Did Lulu approve, or disapprove, of the work? When Galen left this job, did he do so because it had never been more than a temporary situation, because he'd found himself unsuited for the work, or because his wife required more stability? Certainly I know that by the time his first child was born, he was working in more traditional, less unpredictable fields, as a brakeman.

My mother was fairly reticent when it came to talking about the details of her life, so I don't know whether her silence about her father's foray into show business reflected a lack of knowledge of events that happened well before she was born, or whether she grew up hearing about her dad's adventures on the stage. Either way, I would dearly love to know more about this aspect of my grandfather's life.

Marriage License for Galen W. Rote and Lulu Cruan

Today I found the marriage license application for my mother's parents, Galen Weiker Rote and Lulu P. Craun.

Detail of Marriage License Application for Galen W. Rote and Lulu Craun

I had previously determined the probably location (Toledo, Lucas, Ohio) and approximate date (sometime between 1911 and 1917) based on what I knew from other records, but I had simply come up with a blank when attempting to find the actual record with the date of the marriage. Of course, this is just the application, but it gets me much closer to the actual date. I also love that this record provides confirmation of so much information pertinent to my genealogical research, since in addition to the names and birth dates of the couple, it gives names, including maiden names, of both sets of parents.

Here's a transcript of the record:

No. 17199

Galen W. Rote and
Lulu Craun

} Probate Court, Lucas County, Ohio
To the Honorable Judge of the Probate Court of said County:

The undersigned respectfully makes application for a Marriage License for said parties, and upon oath states; that said Galen W. Rote
is 23 years of age on the 7th day of March 1911,
his residence is New Castle Penna,
his place of birth is Harrisburg Penna,
his occupation is Machinist,
his father's name is Alpheus Rote,
his mother's maiden name was Ella Ward,
that he was not previously married [and is (crossed out) ___] and that he has no legal wife living.

The said Lulu Craun
is 23 years of age on the 26th day of July 1911,
her residence is Toledo Ohio,
in said Lucas County, Ohio,
her place of birth is Butler Indiana,
her occupation is Clerk,
her father's name is Jesse Craun,
her mother's maiden name was Mary Beck,
that she was not previously married ____,
and is not a widow or divorced woman, [her mar-
ried name being (crossed out) ____]
that she has no legal husband living _____

Said parties are not nearer kin than second cousins, and there are no legal impediment to their marriage
That neither of said party is an habitual drunkard, epleptic, imbecile or insane, and is not under the influence of any intoxicating liquor or narcotic drug. It is expected that Rev Ballinger
will solemize the marriage of said parties. Lulu Craun (her signature) Galen W. Rote (his signature)

Sworn to and before me and signed in my presence this 29th day of August 1911
OBrian ODonnell (his signature) Probate Judge. C.L.Conlisk (his signature) Deputy Clerk Probate Court.

Note that information in square brackets has been used for text that was crossed out and parentheses indicate my notes regarding immediately preceding text.