My Poppy, Harry Lincoln Sebastian, was born July 10, 1924 in Cleveland, Ohio, the second child and only son to Everett Montague Sebastian and Shirley Yolanda Bemis. They had one more child and then, in December 1927, Shirley passed away. While my grandfather, being a man and from the generation he came, did not talk about his young life or family a lot, I believe both losing his mother so early and the Great Depression had a strong impact on his life.
The 1930 census shows my grandfather living with his father and two sisters at 9006
Capitol Avenue in Cleveland. One amazing part of my genealogy journey this time around comes with the advent of technology, specifically in this case, google maps. While many family members lived on farms where addresses were not always listed on the censuses, my Cleveland area research has allowed me to google the addresses family members were listed at and see the homes they lived in at the time. I have really loved that! I have always felt some strange attachment to places, wondering at the stories the walls could tell if they could talk of the families that lived in them. Some addresses I googled showed nothing but a vacant lot where a building once stood.
Poppy would take us to see the annual Christmas light display at Nela Park’s GE plant every year when we were young. On those rides he showed us some places he had lived, shared a few stories, and lamented how downhill the once vibrant Cleveland neighborhoods he had lived in had gone. He recalled standing outside the Indians’ ball field catching baseballs that were hit out of the park with friends! Yet, despite his passing on this information, I was quite young and could have never found any of these places again. My grandfather was only six when he lived on Capitol Avenue so he may not have even remembered it.
In 1940 my grandfather is listed on the Cleveland census living with his father on Lucerne Avenue. His sisters were not living with them at the time. The 1940 census also asks where you were living in 1935. The answer to this question for my grandfather states “same place.” However, at some point during his early years after his mother died, my grandfather went to live with his father’s parents on the farm in North Carolina.
Seven days after his eighteenth birthday in 1942, Poppy enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He and my Granny shared many letters during this time. They had met earlier in Marion, North Carolina through his cousin Mary Catherine Sebastian who was friends with my Gran. He first wrote her from South Carolina and later from Denver, Colorado where he was a mechanic on airplanes.
After the war, Granny came to Cleveland and they were married January 25, 1947.
For awhile Poppy drove a truck delivering for a bread company. Then he and Gran moved
to North Carolina and he and Gus Watkins, Granny’s dad, operated the S&W Service Center where you could buy fruit for 29 cents a dozen. They later moved back to Cleveland where he drove a truck delivering for Heinz. Years later, when my husband and I purchased our first home built pre-1900, Poppy was only able to visit one time. As soon as we pulled up in the driveway, he told me our house used to be a store and he delivered to it! Poppy later worked at Ford Motor Company in Parma for many years before his retirement.
My grandparents had one daughter, my mother, and moved from Cleveland to the suburb of North Ridgeville where they lived out the remainder of their lives. We have many fond memories there, including Memorial Day picnics where Poppy would squeeze into his Army jacket every year.
Poppy died 4 December 2009. I promised him his memory would live on as I would share his stories and values with my children and theirs someday. Poppy had the strongest work ethic of anyone I ever knew. He lived through the Great Depression and the New Deal, and believed very strongly in making something of yourself on your own. He smoked for years, but when he quit he kept his last unopened pack of Kents. I cannot say if this was in case he ever wanted one or to prove the strength and determination he had in the same way he was able to keep a full bar and never touch a drop after he quit drinking. I like to think it was the latter, and I keep that pack of cigarettes as a symbol of Poppy’s strength and determination.