Sunday, November 18, 2012

Red Clark

ABT 1946

-Leonard Sherman Clark (1899 – 1974) was named after his grandfather Leonard Sherman Clark, yet was nicknamed "Red", due to his red hair.  In his later years, he simply went by "LS Clark".

Red was born in 1899 to parents Niles Martin Clark and Lizzie Tooker of East Haddam, CT.  His father Niles died when Red was just 11 years old.  It was around that time that Lizzie put Red (and his four brothers) into work home orphanages.  Much of the very colorful story below was provided to me from his sons.

Red was raised partly in the Temporary Home for Boys in Haddam, CT.  This was the type of work farm where boys would often be given short or long term assignments to live/work in various homes in the community, where they would earn their room and board by doing odd jobs, and often times would be exploited or abused by their keepers.  As Red had told the story to his boys, this youth of his was all about "slave labor", and that he always resented his mother for putting he and his brothers in orphanages, while she squandered the family fortune on her second husband, Mr. Folger, who was 20 years her junior.

Red's first job the Home sent him to was to a man named Captain Adams who had a place on Clark's Hill in East Haddam.  This was just after his father had died, and he was only 11.  When Captain Adams died, Red was returned to the Home.  He then was farmed out to a farmer, where Red had problems getting along with the other help there, including a boy by the name of Mike Cavanaugh. Their fighting was the cause of Red being returned to the Home again.

At this point he was assigned to work at the home of what he called the 'three old maids', spinster women.  One of the old maids, named Adele, had a lover and it appears Red walked in on them in a "compromising circumstance".  The man was a big German fellow and Red suspected him to be a German Spy.  Anti-German sentiment was building all throughout the 1910s, of course.  The German fellow took of his belt and was going to beat him, but he got the jump on him and caught him in the head with a big ceramic vase. Thinking he had killed the German, Red did not go back to the Home, but instead ran away deciding just to find a job. Before running away however, he saw a small stash of money that the three old maids kept in a jar, and promptly bought himself a cowboy hat.

After running away he went to Hartford to find work.  He claimed that a Doctor hired him after hearing his story, to do odd jobs, on the condition that he would attend High School at night.  This doctor put him on a road to appreciating education, and Red had always credited the doctor for inspiring him to continue his education, which led him to his ultimate career as an industrial engineer.  But there was still a long road to that, after leaving school, and the doctor's employ.

In January of 1916, he enlisted in the Navy at age 16 1/2, but had lied about his age in order to enlist.  American participation in WWI happened just fifteen months later.  After the War, in 1920, he was living with his mother, Lizzie Tooker, who was by then on her third husband, and living in Redbank, South Portland, Maine.  I believe he stayed in the South Portland area for several years.


In 1929, during the height of the Depression, he moved to Newburgh, New York (to be closer to his elder sister Claudia while she was between husbands).  Through Claudia he met and married a co-worker of hers from the sewing shop, Anna Marie Repko (who was from New Windsor just to the south, and was born to Austro-Czech parents Michael Repko and Susan Mueller), and had five children.  When Leonard married Anna in October of 1929, he was working as an accountant, and after the wedding, Leonard started work as a office manager at Moore Printing Company, then later a car salesman at Newburgh Auto Sales, and a few years later was working with the WPA. 



In 1930, Red and Anne moved to 90 Montgomery Street in Newburgh (just a few doors down from Claudia), then a year later, they moved south to 38 Quassaick Avenue in New Windsor.  In 1934, they moved back up to Newburgh, at 164 Lander Street.  Then in 1938, across the road to 173 Lander Street (this was at this point on the other side of town from his sister Claudia).  The Clarks stayed on Lander Street until about 1942, when the family moved to Utica, NY.

Later that same year they moved to Arlington, Texas, where Leonard worked as an Industrial Engineer for the War Manpower Commission, setting up assembly lines on war planes fighters. Leonard was investigated by the FBI for being a communist sympathizer in the 40s, which was an unfortunate case of mistaken identity (there were many Leonard Clarks out there).  The FBI cleared him of all charges, but during this time, it was discovered that he had lied about his age on the WWI enlistment papers, and was dishonorably discharged.

When WWII was over the family moved south to Hondo, Texas, where Leonard worked for Texas Employers Insurance Association as a Safety Engineer.  About 1947 the family moved east to Beaumont, Texas where Leonard then worked as a Encyclopedia Salesman.  As his son states, he made a fortune in the encyclopedia business and that he could "sell snowballs to Eskimos".  Leonard was fond of gambling, unfortunately, so the family saw very little of what he made.  However, his kids do have fond memories that their father loved them all dearly and that they never wanted for affection or food.


Eventually, after working many sales and life insurance jobs, he wound up in Corpus Christi in the mid 1950's.  In 1960, at 61 years of age, he and Anne moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where Leonard work for less than a year as an industrial engineer at Goodyear Aerospace at NAS Litchfield Park, Arizona, until his retirement around 1962.  He was a longtime member of National Safety Engineers Society.  His wife Anne became the breadwinner in their later years, working as a sewing machine operator for Penn-Mor Inc. (JC Penney's).  It was said that she could sew 1680 pairs of ladies' panties in a single eight hour shift!

Anna worked hard to get Leonard's dishonorable discharge reverted and apparently was successful, since he received an honorable discharge posthumously from President Jimmy Carter.  At the time of his death, he had five children, nine grandchildren and a great grandchild.  His and Anna's ashes are interred at Green Acres in Scottsdale, AZ

The story of Red Clark is interesting to me, given that he was so influenced by continuing education, and a career in science.  This is quite a different life than what his blue collar siblings and forefathers lived.

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