This week’s prompt is to write about a black sheep in the family. Boe Heiser was the first name that came to mind.
William Stewart “Boe” HEISER was born 26 Oct 1900 in Frederick, Frederick County, Maryland. He was the youngest of the seven children born to Joseph Henry “Toby” HEISER, Sr. (1861-1945) and Martha ROGERS HEISER (1860-1947). Boe’s oldest brother was my grandfather, Dan HEISER (1882-1974).
In 1910, Boe and his parents lived in Urbana, Frederick County, Maryland. In 1915, though, they were living in York, Pennsylvania. Boe broke his arm while cranking a car, and there was a newspaper article about it.
In 1919, Boe began serving in the U. S. Army in the Philippines. That didn’t last long, though. In the 1920 census, he is living in York with his parents and sister, Maud. Toby was an elevator operator. Martha was a tobacco striper at a cigar factory. Maud was a seamstress at a petticoat factory, and Boe was a repairman at a garage.
Boe and his family lived at 521 S. Court Avenue in York. Here’s a link to the neighborhood. I expect they are the same houses as when Boe lived there. The Heiser family’s residence on S. Court Avenue is now a parking lot, so I can’t show you that.
Boe marries, but it doesn’t last long
In 1924, Boe married Mary KLEPPER (1903-1990). They married in Frederick, and Mary moved into the house on S. Court Ave with Boe and his family. City directories in 1925 and 1928 show all 5 of this family still living together in the same house, but there was a change in 1930.
In 1930, Mary was living in a boarding house away from Boe and his family who continued living in the same house. 30-year old Boe was driving a truck now. Mary and Boe eventually divorced, and they had no children.
The Great (and ugly) Depression
The Depression was an ugly time. Boe probably worked off and on, and his parents and sister probably did, too. People got depressed and desperate, and they did things they might not have otherwise. It seems that in the mid-1930’s, Boe began losing control.
Boe came from a family of drinkers, some of which did some crazy things when they drank. As my cousin, Elaine, pointed out…people didn’t see alcoholism as a disease then. Drinking was something people did. Some people could hold it, and some people couldn’t. Starting in 1934, The Gazette and Daily newspaper in York, Pennsylvania ran plenty of stories about Boe and his antics when he drank.
In 1934 and 1935, Boe was arrested for drunk driving several times and assault and battery once. Once he was so drunk he could hardly stand. He served at least 90 days in jail, too.
In 1936 and 1937 it was drunk and disorderly several times.
1938 was the year of the wheelbarrow story. Read about it below.
The drinking continues into the 1940’s
In 1940, 40-year old Boe still lived with his parents and sister, Maud. Toby and Martha hadn’t worked all year. Boe had worked for 10 weeks as a truck driver, Maud for 6 as a cigar filter maker. No doubt they were receiving some kind of public assistance, but I expect it was barely enough to survive. I can see why Boe drank.
The beginning of the 1940’s brought more arrests for Boe: drunk and disorderly, hopelessly drunk, disposal of stolen property, breaking and entering, and attacking a man. He was also fished out of the creek. Here’s that story.
In 1942, Boe registered for the draft. He was 5’11” tall, and 165 lbs. He had gray eyes and gray hair, and a common characteristic of this line of Heiser men… a ruddy complexion. He was working at McGann Manufacturing Company. Was he gray-haired already from the stress in his life and the damage the drinking was doing to him? Maybe.
The drinking appears to stop
After 1943, there are no more arrests for Boe. Did he quit drinking? I’d like to think he did. I know a doctor told my grandfather, Dan, that if Dan didn’t quit drinking he was going to die. Dan did quit drinking and lived into his 90’s. Perhaps a doctor told Boe the same thing, and Boe listened. Maybe he has steady work now and didn’t have so much time or need for drinking. We’ll never know.
A sad and mysterious ending for Boe
The next newspaper article about Boe was when he died 8 April 1958. Fifty-eight year old Boe was found on Sterling HOFFMAN’s farm in West Manchester in York County. It was determined he had been dead for about 20 hours when he was found. He died of a coronary thrombosis, pneumonia, and exposure. Early April in Pennsylvania could easily have below freezing temps at night.
Boe is buried at Christ United Methodist Church Cemetery in Jacobus, York County, Pennsylvania along with his parents; siblings Maud and Dan; and Dan’s son, Ralph.
I know what you’re thinking. Why was Boe there? Why wasn’t he found sooner? Was he drinking again. I don’t know. There was nothing that said Mr. Hoffman knew Boe or why Boe he was there. It’s a sad way for his life to end.
Copyright © 2018 Nancy H. Vest All Rights Reserved
Teresa Costa Fraser says
Enjoyed reading your post. Great examples of how one can write stories about their ancestors. Easy to read. Humorous.
Regards, Teresa Costa Fraser
Nancy H. Vest says
Thanks, Teresa. I appreciate your encouraging comments. 🙂