HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRANDPA
I was raised by my maternal grandparents. My maternal granddad was John Frederick Lynn. Today is Grandpa John’s birthday. Born 9 March 1890, were he alive today he would be 117. He did live to be over 92 years old, passing away at the Veterans’ Hospital in Loma Linda, California. Caution: the Lynns have long lives.
Grandpa Lynn was born in the country at Wagoner, Cedar County, in southwest Missouri. He was one of seven children of his father Mayro, and his mother Ann Elizabeth (Hollon) who died nine days after his birth. After his father remarried and had eight more children by his second wife, Grandpa John was raised by his grandfather Jeremiah French Lynn (born 1829, lived 93+ years) - a sometimes beekeeper, itinerant country preacher, and farmer. It came to be that I was raised by my grandfather who himself had been raised by his grandfather. That may have given me a unique perspective. Make of it what you will.
My great-great grandfather Jeremiah moved with Grandpa John to southern California around the turn of the century. Grandpa John graduated from a business high school in Los Angeles, and started his career as a secretary and clerk (a male profession in those days). He was drafted into World War I, with the rank of “Field Clerk,” a rank that no longer exists - it was somewhere between a master sergeant and warrant officer, and rated a salute (he told me he would cross the street to avoid having to return salutes, because he didn’t feel worthy). He was discharged after the war, but many times told me what a mistake it had been to not remain in the military for retirement (a lesson I later took to heart).
After the World War I ended, Grandpa John joined the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department, as a deputy sheriff, under Sheriff Eugene Biscaluz. He had a uniform, a badge, and a pistol (which I have today), but worked primarily as a “statement reporter.” Recorders had yet to be invented. When someone was arrested, the prisoner would be interrogated, Grandpa John would take their statement in shorthand, and then transcribe it to the typewriter (he typed at lightening speed). He often would bring transcriptions home for my Grandmother Edna to read, to see if they matched his shorthand. As a result, I grew up listening to horrific but exciting statements from murderers and various other criminals, some of which are famous to this day. Sometimes Grandpa would escort prisoners on the train up to San Quentin Prison, near San Francisco. I always liked him to do that, because he’d return home with puzzles, toys, and candy from San Francisco’s Chinatown.
Not long after World War II erupted, Grandpa left the Sheriff’s Department to make more money by working, as a tool clerk, in the shipyards that manufactured “Liberty Ships.” As one result, I got to see several Liberty Ships being launched.
After the war, Grandpa John opened a “Letter Shop” at 1st and Main in Los Angeles. Letter shops were the forerunner of businesses like Kinkos. He typed letters for businesses without clerks, and printed menus and business flyers on an old mimeograph machine (how many whippersnappers know what that is!).I helped out some in the letter shop, but spent a lot of solo time exploring the streets and shops of downtown LA - I especially enjoyed riding the Angels Flight tram car (no longer there), and hanging out at the magnificent Los Angeles County Library. In those days it was reasonably safe for a boy in Los Angeles; today I’d want to be accompanied by a SWAT team.
When the Letter Shop business failed, Grandpa joined the Los Angeles Police Department as a jailor (During my days as a cop in Tucson, I sometimes worked as a jailor). Grandpa John never liked the police department as much as the Sheriff’s Department. Later, he worked again as a clerk at the Los Angeles County Health Department. He closed his career as a civilian clerk at Norton Air Force Base, in San Bernardino, California. Grandpa was probably the last of the male clerks. He didn’t “retire” until after age 80 (that’s the direction I’m heading!).
Grandpa John Lynn was a remarkable man. He wasn’t famous, and didn’t have fancy degrees – but he made it through the 1930s great depression with a salaried job, had a great work ethic, took care of his family, doted on my grandmother (who henpecked him terribly!),loved corny jokes and puns, and gave me the love so desperately needed by all kids, and certainly by me. He was always very proud of me.I wish he knew I retired from the military, and that folks elected me to the Alaska Legislature. Perhaps Grandpa John somehow does know that. I hope he would be as proud of me, as I am of him. Happy Birthday, Grandpa John!