Person:Arthur Smith (54)

Arthur David Smith
b.17 Sep 1886 Albia, Iowa
d.29 Aug 1952 La Jolla, California
m. 1 Sep 1885
  1. Arthur David Smith1886 - 1952
  2. Edward Armstrong Smith1890 - 1941
m. 11 May 1916
  1. Maj. Arthur Myers Smith1917 - 1999
Facts and Events
Name Arthur David Smith
Gender Male
Birth[3][4][6] 17 Sep 1886 Albia, Iowa
Marriage 11 May 1916 Oskaloosa, Mahaska County, Iowa(license)
to Cordelia Joseph Myers
Death[5][6] 29 Aug 1952 La Jolla, California
Burial[6] Forest Cemetery, Oskaloosa, Iowa
About 6 years old, in his "Little Lord Fauntleroy" suit. Taken in Albia, Iowa.
About 6 years old, in his "Little Lord Fauntleroy" suit. Taken in Albia, Iowa.
Wedding day picture, 11 May 1916, Oskaloosa, Iowa
Wedding day picture, 11 May 1916, Oskaloosa, Iowa
Outside Oskaloosa, 1915.
Outside Oskaloosa, 1915.

Arthur David, who was known all his life as "A.D.," was an Iowa farm boy who hated farming -- especially in the Iowa winters. In this respect, he took after his father, Wilbur D. ("Webb") Smith, who had held a series of jobs in town and away from the home farm as he grew older. A.D. got his first paying job when he was 14, working on the machinery at the nearby coal mine where his father worked as a miner. When he was 18, he got a job in town, in Albia, keeping the newspaper's press equipment running. A couple years later, he was working as a tinner and electroplater. A.D. was also a talented carpenter and cabinetmaker (an ability he may have inherited from his grandfather, William H. Smith). In fact, his shop teacher at Oskaloosa High School was sufficiently impressed by the quality of his class projects that after he graduated, A.D. was hired as part-time assistant shop teacher.

Like many of the men in his family, A.D. worked for a time for the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad, at first as a brakeman, but later as a surveyor. He worked out of Lander, Wyoming, for several years, and my father remembers, as a small boy, riding across the plateau in his father's large-wheeled Willys Knight touring car, supplied by the railroad, with the back seat filled with surveying equipment. On a hike in the nearby Popo Agie wilderness area with some friends, A.D. managed to fall part-way down a canyon and came close to losing his life. For details, see A.D. Smith at Popo Agie. The fall damaged his shin and he walked with a slight limp the rest of his life.

Fremont County, Wyoming, 1920 census:[1]

Smith, Arthur D. Head 33 yrs b. Iowa (parents, b. Iowa) Brakeman (Railroad)
      Cordelia Wife 27 yrs b. Kansas (parents, b. Iowa)
      Arthur M. Son 2-4/12 yrs b. Iowa (father, b. Iowa; mother, b. Kansas)
      Edward Brother 29 yrs b. Iowa (parents, b. Iowa) Brakeman (Railroad)

About 1922, A.D. packed up his wife and son and moved to San Diego. (He said later that his decision was made largely on the report that it never snowed in southern California.) He held several jobs as a self-described "handyman" (somewhat to his wife's embarrassment), then, having saved up most of his earnings (and, again according to him, having "a silver tongue at the bank"), he opened a newspaper and orange juice stand in the downtown business district, built into the corner of one of the largest office buildings. Because of the establishment's black-and-white floor tiles, it was called the Chequerboard, and it was quite successful. It had service windows opening onto the sidewalk, and many office-workers and executives apparently looked forward to their morning glass of fresh orange juice on their way to work.

San Diego County, California, 1930 census:[2]

Smith, Arthur D. Head 42 yrs (marr. at 28 yrs) b. Iowa (parents, b. Iowa) Proprietor (News Stand)
      Cordelia M. Wife 35 yrs (marr. at 21 yrs) b. Kansas (parents, b. Iowa)
      Arthur M. Son 13 yrs b. Iowa
Fortune, Nellie Roomer 43 yrs Single b. Iowa (parents, b. Iowa) [no occupation]

About 1932, as the Depression took its toll in San Diego, A.D. finally retreated to the family farm outside Oskaloosa, on the theory that no matter what happened to the stock market, at least they wouldn't starve. (He had inherited the family farm after his father's death in 1930 and had leased it out.) His small family shared the farm for several years with the family he had leased it to, and apparently all of them managed pretty well. A.D. had to play catch-up, however, having never been an enthusiastic farmer. "I learned how to farm entirely from books," he later maintained.

Mahaska County, Iowa, 1940 census:[8]

Smith, Arthur D. Head 53 yrs (marr.) b. Iowa 1935: Same house [no occupation listed]
      Cordelia J. Wife 45 yrs (marr.) b. Kansas 1935: Same house
      Arthur M. Son 23 yrs (single) b. Iowa 1935: Same house Salesman (Retail Furn. Store)

About 1940, A.D. felt economically secure enough -- and sufficiently tired of Iowa winters again -- to move back to San Diego. He bought a house on Missouri Street in Pacific Beach and he and Cordelia lived there the rest of their lives. A.D. had given up the Chequerboard in 1931 and now made his living with land investments in southern California (which was developing at a rapid rate, especially after the war began). But he was always willing to make a few dollars fixing a toaster or surveying a lot.

Though he spent his earlier life as essentially a blue-collar worker and became a middle-class entrepreneur, his relative economic success may be gauged by the fact that his only son, my father, attended the Army & Navy Academy in La Jolla from First Grade through high school graduation. (This was partly due to my grandmother's social pretensions; she didn't want her kid attending public school "with all those Portuguese children" -- Pacific Beach being home to numerous immigrant fishermen in those days.) His experience at the Academy led my father (with war obviously looming) to enlist in 1940. Because of his ROTC training at the A&N Academy, he quickly was advanced to sergeant -- which pleased his father enormously -- and led eventually to a career as a U.S. Army officer.

A.D. died in 1952 of leukemia after a short hospital stay in La Jolla, but he was buried "back home" in Oskaloosa. ---Michael K. Smith

  1. Fremont, Wyoming, United States. 1920 U.S. Census Population Schedule, ED 47, p. 4A; District #1, household/family 80/83.
  2. San Diego, California, United States. 1930 U.S. Census Population Schedule, ED 38, p. 3A (4330 - 37th St), household/family 55/55.
  3. Iowa Authenticated birth record.
  4. Cordelia (Myers) Smith, Family History Notes.
  5. California Death cert. no. 52-072654..
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Grave marker, Forest Cemetery, Oskaloosa, Mahaska, Iowa, United States.
  7.   United States. Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. (Washington, D.C.: National Archives Microfilm Publication M1509, 1987-1988), 5 June 1917.

    Arthur David Smith
    Age: 30 yrs
    [no street address], Mt. Harris[?], Colo.
    Born 17 Sept 1886, Albia, Iowa.
    Employer: Cole Utah Coal Co., Mt. Harris, Colo.
    2 yrs in Iowa Home Guard[?]
    Wife and child
    Blue eyes, brown hair, medium stature.
    Crippled in right foot

  8. Mahaska, Iowa, United States. 1940 U.S. Census Population Schedule, ED 62-22, p. 11A , #238 (301 N. "D" St).
  9.   United States. World War II Draft Registration Cards, 27 Apr 1942.

    Name: Smith, Arthur David
    Residence: 301 N. "C" St, Oskaloosa, Iowa
    Born: 17 Sep 1886 Albia, Iowa (56 yrs)
    Person Who Will Always Know Where You Are: Mrs. Cordelia Smith [same address]
    Employment: "Self" [same address]
    Description: 5' 9-1/2", 162 lbs, blue eyes, gray hair, light complexion, no disabilities.