Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Black Sheep

We all have one, maybe even two…or three. You know, the person in the family that no one wants to talk about. The rule breaker, the rebel. The one that lives outside of “polite society” or just doesn’t “fit in” with the rest of the family.

Meet O.P. (the “O” stands for Oscar, the “P” for Percival—I can’t imagine a better British name!) O.P. was my grandfather’s uncle. He was born to my great-great grandparents, who were English immigrants, on January 22, 1873, the fifth of eight children.

The Black Sheep

The Black Sheep

Now, O.P., like many sons in those days, followed his father’s footsteps into the family business. In the case of the Holloways, it was the rolling mill. If you were a male and born into this family, you were destined to work in the hot blast furnaces that were rolling out steel and sheet metal for the booming global economy. O.P.’s father, Jeremiah, was the chief roller at the local mill and his sons worked alongside him.

O.P. met a girl, Anastasia Gray, got married, had a couple of kids and decided that the rolling mill and the small town of Piqua, Ohio, was not for him. The family packed it up and moved to the bustling city of Dayton, Ohio. O.P. got a job at National Cash Register and worked there for a while, but it was in Dayton that everything began to unravel for O.P. and his family. He’d leave for days, often weeks at a time, forcing his wife, Anastasia to find work while raising their three children. He became a drifter, a wanderer who could not (or would not) hold a job. Family legend says O.P. tried to heartlessly gamble away his daughter Mildred in return for a horse. You can imagine how that was received by the wife. From that point forward, O.P was on his own. Anastasia kicked him out and told him to never return. O.P. jumped from one relative’s house to the next, living with various family members in Detroit, Michigan; Piqua, Ohio; Erlanger, Kentucky, and finally, he moved to Jacksonville, Florida, in the early 1930s.

O.P. did not have a job at the time, like thousands of other men. Jacksonville was home to a work camp for homeless men who needed work, food and shelter. Men flocked by the hundreds to this Camp Foster because for most, there was no place else to go. (Camp Foster later become the massive Naval Air Station at Jacksonville.) O.P. died penniless and alone at this work camp on May 21, 1935, at the age of 62.

O.P. was to be buried in Piqua, but his family, especially his daughter Mildred, did not want to pay for his body to be brought back to Ohio. In the end, he was their father and they brought him home. O.P. rests alongside his siblings and his mother and father at Forest Hill Cemetery in Piqua.

Who’s your family’s “black sheep?”


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The 1918 Flu Pandemic

People with and without the flu virus were instructed to wear masks to prevent the disease from spreading. Credit: Office of the Public Health Service Historian

People with and without the flu wore masks to prevent the disease from spreading.
Credit: Office of the Public Health Service Historian

The current flu epidemic has brought the 1918 Spanish Flu back into the spotlight. The 1918 influenza pandemic killed more people than World War I. It is one of the largest, deadliest disasters in world history. In one year alone the life-expectancy in the United States dropped twelve years! The virus killed 50 million people world-wide and about 625,000 in America.

Health agencies tried to prevent the spread of the disease by urging people to wear masks and stay away from densely packed places such as movie theaters, malls and public transportation, such as trolleys and railroads. These precautions did not stop the virus from spreading. Sadly, the flu afflicted twenty-five percent of the U.S. population.

Doctors and nurses were helpless to stop the suffering. They were at a loss when it came to treating their patients. There were no vaccines at the time. World War I only helped to spread the disease with close troop quarters and troop movements all over the globe. Doctors, nurses and public health resources were stretched  thin attending to injured soldiers returning home from the European front and the millions of flu victims.

As with all epidemics and pandemics, the 1918 flu virus eventually ran out of victims. Boosted immune systems along with the safeguards and precautions taken against the disease, helped it run its course, but not before it claimed millions of lives.


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