As I was making drinks for my wife and mother last night in our home tiki room that I named after my grandfather Bill Prettyman (“Prettyman’s Atoll”), my mother reminded me that the previous day (March 1) was Bill’s birthday. I’ve never been good with birthdays, but I can remember years, and so when she said that, I realized that March 1 was the 100th anniversary of Bill’s birthday on March 1, 1919. Had he lived, he would have turned 100 years old on Friday.
I feel like the 100th anniversary of his birth calls for a post, but as these posts usually take days to write and I only have a few hours before I return to the workaday world, I’ll see what I can do. I’d love to write a full biography of him, but given the short time I have, I will instead present a short sketch of the first twenty-five or so years of my grandfather’s life.
2016 was a rough year, but with the new year it’s time to try to get back into the family history groove. It’s been so long it’s hard to know where to start, so I’ll start with some small, fun discoveries. Rather than documenting my exploration of multiple related research avenues in these first posts, I’ll just focus on the discovery itself, and I’ll include just a small amount of related research.
One of these small, fun discoveries was finding my great-grandfather Charles Austin Prettyman (or C.A. Prettyman to his friends) mentioned in a nationally syndicated humor column.
A Cincinnati humor columnist apparently found C.A. Prettyman’s name amusing and mentioned C. A. in his column in the Wednesday, May 16, 1917, edition of The Enquirer. The column was called Bits of Byplay and it was written by James S. Hastings, using the nom de plume of “Luke McLuke”.
Today’s mystery photo is only partly a mystery. Well, mostly a mystery, really. But I do know some things about the photo.
In this photo, a dashing gent in a flat cap, knickerbockers, a leather car coat and argyle socks is showing off a pan of something while posing between two women. The hats and clothing of all three is evocative of the fashions of the Roaring Twenties (roughly 1925–1932), and the little bit of the automobile that we can see also looks like a 1920s-to-earliest-1930s model.
One of the pleasant fringe benefits of writing this blog is hearing from distant relatives (nearly all of whom I’ve never before met) who are also interested in family history. Almost without exception, both I and the newly met relatives come away from these correspondences having learned something new about our shared history.
My second cousin twice removed, Lorraine, first commented on my blog two months ago, and since then we’ve exchanged dozens of emails. She’s the one who made me realize that I must have made a mistake in my Horan pedigree, as her grandfather (Arthur Horan) was the brother of my great-great-grandmother, Mary Ann Horan. The Horan family I had pieced together didn’t have an Arthur Horan, which made me dig deeper and ultimately uncover a case of mistaken identity (my second case of two people with the same name, born at nearly the same time in the same geographic area, with a parent of the same name).
One of the things that Lorraine shared with me is this wonderful school photograph of her grandfather Arthur Horan and three of his nephews—Roy Alfred Prettyman, George Irvin Prettyman, and Charles Austin Prettyman.
When I was in my early teens and starting to get interested in family history (thanks, Roots!), my grandfather Bill Prettyman told me what he knew about his ancestors. He told me that his grandfather was Alfred Minus Prettyman and that his grandmother was Mary Ann Horan. With those words, I learned of my great-great-grandparents for the first time.
Mary Ann Horan and her ancestry have proven quite a bit more difficult. I could find information about Mary once she had married Alfred Prettyman (for instance, the 1885 census—see image below—that was taken almost 6 months after their December 1, 1884, wedding), but information about her before she was married proved very difficult to come by.
In my first post on this topic, I wrote that my uncle Dan told me about two songs that he thought my great-grandfather, Charles Austin (C.A.) Prettyman, had written. Yesterday, after a little more digging, Dan learned that while his father (C.A.’s son) referred to these songs as “Charlie’s songs,” it was apparently because he (C.A.) sang them so much, not because he had written the songs.
Dan did a little research and discovered that “Saloon, Saloon, Saloon” was written in 1919, and that “Say Cuspidor was a barbershop take on another song called ‘Say au revoir but not good-bye‘”.
While that’s a bit disappointing, knowing the actual historical facts is ultimately more satisfying than believing in a history that never happened. So for today’s post, I’ll pass along what my uncle learned of these songs as well as some other bits I dug up.
I found a couple of clues today that indicate that my great-grandfather, Charles Austin Prettyman—in addition to being a barber, real estate appraiser, mortgage banker, insurance agent and real estate developer—was also a dairy farmer for a time.
My uncle Dan surprised me with a wonderful historical tidbit about my great-grandfather, Charles Austin (C.A.) Prettyman. In addition to being a barber as a young man (read more here), he was apparently also a talented singer and a songwriter. And what’s more, at least two of the songs he wrote survive today in the memory of my uncle.
My uncle is a talented musician with a great voice, and his father before him was also musically gifted, having sung throughout his life including, my uncle tells me, being part of a barbershop quartet. It makes me wonder if C.A. was also in a barbershop quartet, and just how far back this Prettyman musical talent extends. Did it start with C.A., or was C.A. continuing a tradition that his father, Alfred Minus Prettyman, passed to him?
My uncle is planning to record these two songs for me, and he’s just sent me the words to Charlie’s two songs. I’d like to share those with you.
I introduced the Prettyman barbershop in yesterday’s last post. The four Prettyman brothers—Roy, Irvin, Charles, and Clarence—appear to have worked in and managed a barbershop in Wadena, Minnesota, from the 1910s through at least the early 1920s. Yesterday I presented what I thought were the only two photos I had of the barbershop, asking my readers to help me identify the men in the photographs and to discover what other details could be learned about the barbershop, including its location.
Since that post, I’ve discovered that I actually have a scan of another photo of the barbershop, plus scans of the back of these photos, which contain helpful information recorded by the Wadena Area Historical Society. As a result, I now know where the barbershop was located—110 Jefferson Street South in Wadena.
My great-grandfather, Charles Austin Prettyman, and his three brothers ran a barbershop in Wadena, Minnesota in the 1910s through at least the early 1920s. All four Prettyman boys were involved with the barbershop—Roy, Irvin, Charles, and Clarence. In fact, when my grandfather, William Prettyman, was born in 1919, his father’s profession was listed on the birth certificate as “barber.”
I’ve found two photos of the barbershop, but because I don’t know who is who in these photos, I’m hoping my Prettyman relations out there can help me sort that out.