#2 (Family History)

Back to the Continuing Saga . . .

When the time came for college, mother went to New Rochelle College in New Rochelle, New York, just north of NYC. In her senior year, she was dating a fellow named Roy Johnson whose father owned a huge liquor business in Montreal, Canada. Roy would drive down to New Rochelle and pick up mother in a snazzy new car and impress everyone. My grandmother loved it!
It was many years later that I was packing up some things with mother, when we came across her diploma from New Rochelle. I innocently asked her why she had graduated in December – most graduations were in June. She just dismissed it by saying that there was a religion course that she had missed that was required for graduation.
Interestingly, in 1928, the year she was supposed to have graduated, my grandparents had a new little baby boy, Eugene Julian Shattuck, Jr. I didn’t think about that coincidence until years later.
In 1930, mother was working at the Catholic Charities in New York, when she met this dapper young man who was working on Wall Street. His name was Joseph Milnor Johnson. He had spent his childhood in Norfolk, Virginia. He had six brothers and he was the youngest. When he was seven, the 1918 influenza epidemic hit Norfolk. Thousands of people died, including his mother and his six brothers. His father, William Johnson, and his one son, Joseph, were all that was left of his family.
Not long after that, as frequently happened in situations like this, his father remarried, oddly enough, to a woman named Alice Johnson. Apparently, from what my father said, she was quite domineering, not at all like his mother. It was not a good arrangement. It was her idea that my father should take dancing lessons. Being in Norfolk at that time, of course, he went to Miss Preston’s Dance School. Another eerie coincidence which will show up many years in the future.
My father ran away to New York City in 1925, he was fourteen years old. He got a job as a runner on Wall Street, which meant running up and down Wall Street delivering slips of paper with bids and quotes. He was really thin and tall and FAST.
Mother’s roommate in college, Betty Boyle, had kept in touch. Betty had married a fellow named Jack McGregor. He worked for the Gorham Silver Company in Providence, Rhode Island. On one of his trips to New York, he had met a young man that he thought would be perfect for my mother. This was the relationship nexus. My parents were married in 1932. The wedding was written up in the New York Times, evidently completely by mistake. The name of the owners of the Schrafft’s restaurant business was Shattuck too. But, nevertheless, my grandmother was thrilled.
Jack sent news down to NYC that there was a job opening at a growing business there in Providence, the California Artificial Flower Company (CALART). Any job at this time in the midst of the depression was good, and this turned out to be a great one. My father signed on and they moved to Providence. That was 1933.
Calart’s business was booming and they decided to open a showroom and office in the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. They offered my father the position to manage the Chicago office and off they went. It was 1935. They scraped together enough money to buy a car for the trip to Chicago. The man who sold them the car told them that the car had just been serviced, so not to drive any faster than 35 miles per hour for the first 150 miles. When they finally reached 150 miles of crawling along, my father pressed on the accelerator and the car stopped running. I can’t remember how they ended up getting to Chicago, but I’m sure it was an adventure.

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