Who was a messenger, a salesman, a dishwasher, an umbrella factory worker, a taxi driver, a stamp collector, and a veteran of the Great War?
That is Herbert H. Parmer, born June 21 1895 to William Eckman Parmer and Emma J. Howe.
The earliest record I could find for Herbert is the 1900 census, which shows him at 4 yrs old with his parents at 29 Dorwart Street. The current home at that address was built in 1910, so it wouldn’t be the home he lived in.
The 1910 Census taken April 22, 1910, shows him at 14 years old living at 507 Green St., which is the address where his family lived for many years. He had not attended school during the September 1, 1909 school year, but he was employed and is recorded as not being out of work at all in 1909. He was working in an umbrella factory. I can’t make out what his type of work was at the factory. Can you read it in the image below in the first column?
A year later, in the 1911 city directory, he was listed as working as a messenger. He would have been 15 years old. The directory lists his address, 507 Green St., which is likely where he lived until he married. It’s interesting to note that at 15 years old, he is listed like an adult in the city directory, along with his 17 and 20 year old brothers and his parents. What a difference it would be today!
On June 23, 1916, Herbert H. enlisted in the National Guard at the age of 21. He was in Co K 4 Inf PA National Guard until August 10, 1916. Then he was in M G [machine gun] Co 4 inf PA National Guard until October 21, 1917, when that company became Co A 109 M G Bn until his discharge.
But first, wedding bells rang. The 1930 census asks what age you were at your first marriage. Herbert is shown as 23 at his first marriage and Florence Ruth as 17. I couldn’t locate a marriage record for them, but they were likely married in 1918 before he left on May 7, 1918 to serve overseas in World War I. A great granddaughter shares some memories of Florence Ruth Parmer:
I have vague memories of Grandma Parmer. I was named after her. I remember going to her house where she had a cedar chest full of greeting cards. She would allow me to look at the cards if I was very careful! I loved this memory so much that I saved every card I was ever given in MY cedar chest so I could do the same with my grandchildren. Unfortunately I won’t have grandchildren so the cards became a casualty during one of my cross country moves but my son still has the cedar chest which is full of family mementos like pictures and Bob’s and my graduation caps and yearbooks. I do have one of her recipes passed down from Mom. She apparently catered for some fancy dinners for the Watts and Shands (of Watt & Shand fame), among others, and came up with an hors d’oeuvre consisting of pineapple rings stuffed with cherries and cream cheese on a bed of lettuce. We make it at Easter. Mom says she was very proper and fancy. (From notes provided by Sarah (Parmer) Constein)
The war ended in 1919, and Herbert returned to the United States in March 1919, being discharged from the military in October 1919.
The 1920 census shows Herbert is married at 24 years old, living with Florence Ruth and son Harry, who was one year old. He was a novelties salesman. They lived at 647 Chester Ave (might actually be Street), next to her parents and siblings. He’s still listed as a salesman in the 1927 city directory.
Eventually, his family bought a house. In the 1930 census, his family is shown at 21 East Liberty Street, where they owned a home valued at $8000. He was 35 years old and was a taxi driver for “Taxi Cab Co.” The census record states he is a veteran of the World War. His family lived at East Liberty Street for several years. The current home at that address, according to zillow.com, was built in 1930, so it would be the same home that the family lived in.
His granddaughter said he suffered from “shell shock”, had TB (possibly from the trenches and gas during the war) and spent time in a sanatorium (From notes provided by Sarah (Parmer) Constein)”. This is consistent with his filing for veterans compensation in 1934 while living at the VA hospital in Coatesville, PA. In addition, the 1940 census shows him as an inmate at the Veterans Administration Facility in Chester County at 1400 Blackhorse Hill Road, Caln Township, PA, near Coatesville, where patients were first admitted in 1930, and which was dedicated in 1932.
His granddaughter “said he lived with them in West Willow when she was a kid and she has fond memories of him. She loved him very much.” She “remembers he used to get his pension check once a month and take them to the West Willow fruit stand to buy them fruit.” She says one “month he told them he could not take them for fruit and she remembers that night Pappap told them he had died.” (From notes provided by Sarah (Parmer) Constein)” Herbert died June 24, 1957 while living at 1938 Willow Street Pike, West Lampeter Township, according to his death certificate.
His granddaughter “credits him with teaching her about edible plants like dandelion, berries, poke, “mustard” and pawpaws. He would take her for long walks in the wood and show her what she could safely eat as well as teach her about other plants like Jack-in-the-Pulpet. (From notes provided by Sarah (Parmer) Constein)” Also, “He kept an army trunk at the foot of his bed. He would call the kids into his room to sneak Hershey Kisses to them. Nanny (Violet) would holler not to give the kids candy but he would fib that they were playing jacks. He would then throw jacks on the top of the trunk to cover his story! (From notes provided by Sarah (Parmer) Constein)”