m. 8 MAY 1873
Facts and Events
from TALES OF OUR ANCESTORS. By Cecil R Camfield, March 28, 1995
Fred was born in 1874 and then Mabel. Aunt Pearl came along in '87. Because, as I got the story, Fred, at 13, was so incorrigible that when the baby came they sent him to his grandparents.
Now I must insert some geography. Mike and Sarah had settled on an 80 acre farm on the S. E. corner of the Bronson-Orland Road and (what is now Slisher Road) 4 miles south of Bronson, Mich. One mile south was (is) Hickory Corner's and a little east was (is) the red brick Hickory Corner's School. 3/4 mile north, in the field back of the Dunkard Church lived the Warner family of 8 children, around Fred's age. In those days children went to school until they passed the eighth grade or had to work in the winter, so Fred went to school with the Warner children, as well as working with the boys and ended up marrying the youngest, my mother.
I have left Fred to the last because he was MY father and I know more of his interesting life. In his words, "I lived in the most amazing era of history. I helped my grandmother dip candles for the only light we had and lived to watch television." Fred was born in 1874 in South Bend, Ind. He passed the 8th grade at Hickory Corners School and worked as a "hired man" until he married Libby Warner in 1897. They set up housekeeping, as sharecroppers. A year later Earl was born. (He carried forceps marks to his grave.) A few years later they moved to South Bend and Fred got a job as a laborer working in the construction of St Mary's College. Electricity was new and the electrician took Fred on as his helper. Fred realized electricity was he coming thing and took a correspondence course to learn about it. Fred learned of a job in a power plant in Keokuk, Iowa and went there to work. A year later he succumbed to the "Siren Call" of easy money to be made raising chickens in the warmth of the Ozark Mts.
Somewhere at this time Fred bought a good camera that took pictures on silvercoated glass plates. With this he picked up some income from people around them while in the Ozarks. His work was quite good and he kept at it for years.
After starving out (actually) raising chickens, they moved to Cotter, Ark. and Crane, Mo. where Fred worked in the mines keeping the electric motors and generators running. (A footnote here: Fred was deaf. His story was that he had catarrah as a child and it left him deaf.) He could "listen" to a motor by holding a screwdriver to the motor (or generator) and placing the handle against his head, thus feeling the vibrations. However, he could not hear the trains in the mines, nor sort out the other vibrations fast enough to be safe, so when Galveston had a big flood he sent his family to live with Libby's sister's family, the Harrises, southeast of Bronson, where Libby and Earl lived for several years.
Finally Libby prevailed on Fred to leave Galveston and he took the family to Chicago where he found work driving taxicabs. They found an apartment in the Jewish Ghetto. (Another footnote: One winter Saturday as Earl was out walking a neighbor called to him, "Are you a Gentile?" "Yes." "Will you take care of my fire?" (Orthodox Jews would not work on their sabbath.) Earl got a regular route set up.)
At this time Chicago was changing from gas to electric. Fred joined the army of electricians going from door to door asking if they could remove the gas lights and replace them with electric lights. Somewhere along the line he met Fred Decker and family and a long relationship resulted. (Deckers became so well acquainted with our family they named their son after Howard Harris.)
Fred liked to work with, "my little brown hands," but Decker had another philosophy and formed Hub Electric Company with Fred as "general forman." They grew so large they did the wiring of all the big theaters built in Chicago before World War One.
About 1922 Fred and Earl (who was working for "Hub" while going to college nights) and another man quit "Hub Electric" and started their own company, "Field Electric." Taking advantage of the building boom on Chicago's North Side they concentrated on apartment buildings in that area.
Field Electric was in our home. In the basement was the lighting fixture assembly, where I learned to assemble fixtures. In the back yard they added a storage building where supplies were kept and assembled and loaded onto the truck for delivery to the job. I was too young to load the truck but was expected to come home from school and fill the orders. Someone would load the truck at night before they gather around the dining room table to work over the plans for estimating the next bid, while I slept on the cot beside them.
The company did so well that the other electrical contractors complained to Fred that he must be under bidding them. Fred said, "If you will give me your quotes I will add 10% and get all the business I want." He knew that by word of mouth is reputation for quality, workmanship, and staying within time estimates, was what got them the business.
Fred was unfaithful to his marriage vows and, finally, Libby divorced him in 1925. As a part of the decree the judge ruled that I was not to see my father again. "Field Electric" moved out and I didn't see Fred for twenty some years. Over the years Mother mellowed, remarried and, when friends of ours vacationing in Florida looked him up in St Petersburg and found him ready for reconciliation, I went down and met with him.