Family Connections

Adam grew up in Kansas. In his late twenties, he married a young Frenchwoman named Mary. During the earliest years of their marriage, they lived in the rural village of Somerville, Kansas, where they had five children—two boys and three girls—Byron Albert, Burt, Alice, Myrtle and Gertrude. Around the turn of the century, Adam and Mary Mayo and all five children joined the flow heading further West, looking for greater opportunity. They, too, settled in the Oregon City area, on the Willamette river some twelve miles south of Portland.
Grandfather Adam Mayo died before I was born. Grandmother Mary Mayo died when I was an infant. While I have a photograph of a stern-looking Mary Mayo holding me as a baby in her arms, plus a picture of Aunts Myrtle and Gertrude, I really don’t remember them.

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Throughout most of his life, my dad worked as a machinist; or in the building trades as a carpenter, roofer, bricklayer, timekeeper or construction foreman. At the time he met my mother, he was a young carpenter working in the paper mills.

They came together
on a rainy night in October, 1912, at another one of those popular Oregon City dances. She always said he was a good dancer. And she was a party girl. She loved to dance. Six months later, Della Martell Dewey and Byron Albert Mayo were formally married. It was April 1913. I still have a small wedding photo in which they both look very serious, very proud, and perhaps a little scared. He was 23. She was 17.

Dad was a small, tough, wiry man with gray eyes and dark, unruly hair. With the outbreak of World War I, he enlisted in the US Army and served in France as a corporal in the 309th Trench Mortar Battery Division. They called it “the war to end all wars.” It ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918. My dad returned home to my mother in January 1919, unscathed.

He always remembered his homecoming for another reason, too. January 1919 was the month in which the 18th amendment to the US Constitution was ratified, blanketing the nation with prohibition—outlawing all alcoholic beverages. This was something my dad and George Littreal and thousands of other returning soldiers found hard to take.

Welcome home,  Yanks.

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