Sunday, April 30, 2017

It's a Boy! Will and Sarah Welcome Their First-Born

Robert King Salyers, the first-born child of William Levi and Sarah Eva Howe Salyers, came into the world on March 22, 1907, increasing by one the population of Carrollton, Carroll County, Kentucky.

Robert K. Salyers, circa 1910 (age 3)
Bobby, as he became known, became the center of the family's attention. While I don't have the scrapbooks Sarah made especially for him, other scrapbooks mention him often. One reference answers a long-standing question. In a box of family photos is the image of a little boy in a baseball uniform. I've never been sure if it was a picture of Bobby or his younger brother David. In a scrapbook is Sarah's transcription of a letter from an aunt, who wrote ". . . tell Bobby I was delighted with his baseball poses." Mystery solved!

As Bobby got a bit older – say around 5 – references to him become "Bob." Apparently he was always asking questions and wanting to learn, because the scrapbooks have several stories about his inquisitive nature. Here is one of my favorites, from a letter Sarah wrote to her mother and sister:
Bob is having a spell of popular songs that have to be explained to him word for word. He happened to hear me singing "Bill Bailey" and for nearly a half-hour I explained what Bill's domestic troubles were, what the weather reports said when he was turned out of doors, also what use he could make of the "fine tooth comb" (which you will remember was B.B's only piece of baggage). That is the way Bob always does –– he goes to the root of every matter, he understands a song first, and then settles down to solid enjoyment of it. It was therefore "Bill Bailey" for a week until now Mary Alice knows it too and can supply the last word of every line with startling fluency." [Mary Alice, Bob's little sister, was scarcely a year old at the time.]
Robert K. Salyers, age 12
(If you want to refresh your memory, the lyrics of "Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home" are available online.)

By the time Bob was 12, he was a handsome young man with three younger siblings following him about. By all accounts, he was a patient and helpful big brother. I wonder if he may also have been helping at his grandfather Charles D. Salyers's tin/stove/hardware store – or helping his father Will Salyers, who sold stoves first at the store and later for Warm Morning Stoves and other companies. I think it's likely because, by the time he was in his mid-20s, Bob was advertising manager of the Moore Stove Company of Illinois.

From the scrapbooks and newspaper articles found online, I compiled this timeline of milestones in Bob's life:
• 1929 – graduated from Eastern Kentucky State College. Bob later served as secretary and then vice president of the UK Alumni Association. (He was a student at UK in his freshman and sophomore years and also worked for a while in the office of the university president.)

• 1935 – research assistant to University of Kentucky President Frank McVey

• 1937 – served as Kentucky director of the National Youth Administration; became a popular speaker on NYA programs

• 1936-1941 – president of the Kentucky Conference of Social Work and the state director of the National Youth Administration

• 1941 – married Loretta Smith in Louisville, Kentucky

• 1940s – served in the U.S. Navy, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Commander; after the war, served in the Navy Reserves

• c1947 – bought a house in the new Glen Carlyn subdivision of Arlington, Virginia, near Washington, D.C.; began working for the U.S. Department of Labor; organized the Bureau of Veterans Reemployment Rights

• 1951 --  Director of the Labor Department's Veterans Re-employment Rights division

• 1967 – retired from the Labor Department after 20 years of service, culminating at the position of deputy assistant secretary for labor management relations

• 1977 –  collapsed while walking across the lobby of the University Club in Washington, DC.; died instantly of an apparent heart attack. 

As I said in my previous post, I saw Bob only a few times. All I know about him is what I've gathered from his mother's scrapbooks, a few newspaper clippings, and family stories. The timeline certainly doesn't cover the depth and breadth of his life, but it hits some of his major accomplishments. He seemed to be a popular, well-respected man, successful in his public-service career, often called upon as a public speaker, and elected to leadership roles in several organizations. In those ways, he is a lot like his Howe and Salyers ancestors – especially the Howes.

I was better acquainted with Bob's wife, Loretta, and his son, Robert K. Salyers, Jr., because they lived in my home town of Louisville for a while. I saw his daughters, Abigail and Martha, less often.

The photo on the right shows Loretta and the family's first two children: Abigail (1942-2013) and Bob. I believe it was taken circa 1945.

Maybe the best way to close this vignette about Robert K. Salyers (named for his father's brother) is with the obituary published on page C-5 of the Washington Star on September 10, 1977:
Robert K. Salyers, 70, director of the retired members program for the American Federation of Government Employees, died Tuesday of an apparent heart attack at the University Club, where he kept a room, according to a spokesman for AFGE. Salyers lived on South 5th Road in Arlington.

Salyers, who retired in the early 1970s as deputy assistant secretary for labor management relations at the Labor Department, had worked for AFGE since 1974.

Robert King Salyers, 1940s
A Kentucky native, Salyers was director of the National Youth Administration there from 1936 to 1942. During World War II, he was stationed in Iceland with the Navy and after the war was assistant to the director of demobilization for the Navy here. He later served with the Selective Service System and, before joining the Labor Department, was director of the Bureau of Veterans Re-employment Rights.

He was a past president of the Kentucky Society of Washington. He leaves his wife, the former Loretta Smith; two daughters, Abigail and Martha, and a son, Robert K. Jr.

In the next post, I'll introduce Sarah's twins James Robert and Mary Alice.

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