John Charles Weaver (1884 – 1969) was my wife’s paternal grandfather. Fortunately, he left us with an autobiographical sketch, richly filled with family stories and genealogical information. Recently my wife re-read her grandfather’s story of his life. She had remembered him as a somewhat stern and aloof person. But that is not what comes through in his writing. “I wish I had know these aspects of him,” she mused. In order to preserve and share the multi-textured person that was John Charles Weaver, I am sharing his writing in 6 posts.
MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY BY JOHN CHARLES WEAVER (Part 6)
Then there were the school days. My sister, Eva, and I attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help School. Our pastor was Rev. Michael Patrick Kinkead, a priest with a broad Irish brogue. The school was under the supervision of the Dominican Sisters. Sister M. Alexus taught the lower grades and Sister M. Phillips, a freckle faced bull of the woods type, the upper grades. Then there was Sister Mary Thomas (my favorite) a music teacher from who I took piano lessons. I was not a brilliant scholar, but I managed to get passable grades. Strange to say my best grades were in grammar, fair in arithmetic, poor in spelling, and as I mention spelling I am reminded of the time when I, the poorest speller in the class, won the spelling match.
Here is how it happened. Sister would select two captains, a boy and a girl. The boy going on one side of the room and the girl on the other. Then these captains would choose from the class talking alternate turns. Of course they would pick the best spellers first, and as usual a boy named Anthony Applethorn and I were the last to be chosen. Now while we had a Catholic speller, Sister would choose some words from the public school speller. On this occasion she was choosing words from the public speller. Sometimes Anticipating this I had prepared a list of words that I would submit. I copied them from a public school speller that I obtained from a neighbor girl, but on this day Sister chose to give out the words. When you missed a word you went to your seat. After several rounds the captains missed as did the entire class save me. The odd numbers left me the only one standing. “Well, John,” said Sister and repeated the missed word and to the amazement of Sister and the class I spelled it. The word was DAGUERREOTYPE. I had won the contest. Sister had given a word that I had chosen from the public school speller. So with lips compressed and a stony- eyed glare the mystified Sister gave me the usual prize – a lace-embroidered holy picture of the crown of thorns.
Although it has no connection with the above incident, it fits into the picture for want of a better palace. So I relate the following episode. Sister Superior Phillips called me to her desk and handed me an envelope and told me to take it over to Father. So i did. Father read the message, then in a stern voice and Irish brogue said “Knale dune.” I knelt. He put his foot on the nape of my neck, forced my head down and my bottom up. Then gave me a resounding whack on my rear cheeks. I yelped, scrambled to my feet and ran out of the house. He didn’t try to stop me. I dried my tears and returned to my classroom trying to act as though nothing had happened. And I never did know what I was paddled for.
One of the important events of the school year was the preparation of the First Communion class. Father Kinkead made an extra special occasion of it. He would prepare a banquet in the school hall to which the parents of the class were invited. The year 1896 was no exception and it was my year. I was probably the best dressed boy in the class as my First Communion pictures will testify. There were about fifteen boys in the class and about the same number of girls. In those days you had to be twelve years old before receiving. Our Communion hymn impressed me and it became a part of my prayers and since I have heard nothing to compare with it. I think it is worthy of note. So here it is.
I am ym loves and He is mine.
O earth attend. Ye heavens hear.
Your mighty Lord, Your King divine,
Is now my bosom’s guest most dear.
Behold the vast Creator makes
His home within His creature’s breast.
His realms of glory He forsakes
Tis in my heart He longs to rest.
My dearest Lord, my God, I’m Thine
And Thou, my Jesus, art all mine.
My heart forever Thine shall be.
Oh keep it, Jesus, all for Thee.
Another event that had affected the course of my life and which occurred on my First Communion day was my induction into the Father Mattew Society – a total abstinence society originating in Ireland – of which our pastor. Father Michael Kinkead, was an advocate. He explained its purpose and asked for volunteers from the boys to take the pledge till age twenty-one. Two booys stood up, Joseph Wahl and me. Father administered the oath and I became a member of the Father Matthew Society – total abstinence from intoxicating liquor till age twenty-one.
So as I entered my teenage years I was active in a number of pastime activities – fishing, swimming, baseball, football, and marbles. In the winter months it was skating, sledding and ice hockey on the ice-covered river.
Then came adversity. First, my youngest brother, Leonard, died of brain fever and was brought to Dayton for burial. Then the carriage factory where my father was superintendent got into financial difficulties due to the race horse activities of the owner and the plant was closed down. He got the job of watchman during legal proceedings.
My parents had made no financial provision for the future, so when the crash came they were unprepared. So we moved from our home on Dietrick Street to cheaper quarters nearby. Our new home was one of a group of houses all built alike with a single community well-water pump on the sidewalk. I never knew how much my father’s income was, but I do know that it was not enough to meet expenses and that they ran up a sizeable grocery bill at Minnich’s grocery store and that they were paying on it long after we had left Defiance, Ohio.