Sunday, October 7, 2012

On This Day – Tom Johnston Jr (1912-1973)

My grandfather, Tom J. Johnston Jr was born one hundred years ago on 7 October 1912 in Gustine, a town in Comanche County, Texas.[1]  His parents were Thomas Newton Johnston and Nell L. Hutson.  He was the third child of five, having two older sisters, Beryl and Mildred, and two younger brothers, Hal and Luther.  His mother, Nell died 14 Jul 1919 at the young age of 31.  Tom was only six and half years old and his youngest brother, Luther, was only eighteen months old.  It must have been very hard on his father to raise five children without a mother.

He married my grandmother, Pansy Louise Lancaster, on 15 December 1933 by the Justice of the Peace in Gustine, Comanche County, Texas.[2]  They had one child, Lela Nell Johnston.

He served a short time in the United States Navy, leaving after four months with a medical discharge due to an ulcer.[3]  The family was living in Idaho at the US Naval Training Center, Farragut, Idaho.  They spent the rest of the war in construction work on other military bases.
Tom with daughter, Lela Nell

After the war, they moved to California, living in Walnut Creek out in “the country” at Mr. Ford’s property.  I don’t know who this Mr. Ford is (time to do some research).  Tom had a business in town with his brother, Hal.  They owned a pool hall and taxi service.[4]
Tom manning the Billiards Hall

Tom loved working with his hands and with wood.  He worked as a carpenter for many businesses, his last job as carpenter for the Contra Costa Community College District at Diablo Valley College.  He liked to build furniture and some of his pieces are now cared for by his grandchildren.
Tables & lamp made by Tom

Tom died 11 July 1973 in Pleasant Hill, Contra Costa County and was buried at the Oakmont Park Cemetery in Lafayette.[5]  I was only 18 years old when he died and his was the first funeral I had been to.  Tom was a quiet man, never one of those fun grandpas.  When we were small, we called him Tom-Tom, instead of Grandpa.  When we got older, it was much easier talking to him, I think, because we were not so rambunctious and loud.  Tom gave me my first tennis racket, a wooden one with a wooden press.  I used it all though college.

Happy 100th Birthday, Tom-Tom!

[1] Bureau of Vital Statistics, Comanche County, Birth Record of Tom J Johnston Jr, Vol 8 (or 80--the eight is dark, the zero is very light), pg 553, 1941, affidavit signed by J.P. Brown, MD.
[2] State of Texas, County of Hood, Marriage Record of Tom Johnston and Pansy Louise Lancaster (certificate copy), recorded in Vol I, p 161 Marriage License Records.
[3] Naval Record for Tom Johnston Jr, 938 69 00, United States Navy, National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, Missouri.
[4] Business Card for Johnston Bros Taxi, Photo with caption on back stating “Johnston Brothers Billiards,” author’s personal collection.
[5] State of California, Dept of Health Services, Death Certificate of Tom J. Johnston Jr (73-087531).

Copyright © 2012 by Lisa Suzanne Gorrell, Mam-ma's Southern Family