The following biography was written by Lyle L Rathbun about his Father Ozro Guay Rathbun. It was written late in life and transcribed and edited for this site.
Ozro Guay Rathbun was born in Salimon, Jay County, Indiana on February 6th,1870. His father, Alfred Rathbun was born in Athens County, Ohio on April 14, 1841. His mother, Sara Elizabeth Allen was born April 12, 1840 was a daughter of Trowbridge and Charlotte Allen. When Ozro was three years old, his father, Alfred R Rathbun died at the age of thirty two leaving his mother with 4 boys, Ulysses, Clark, Ozro and Alfie and one girl Lydia.
Ozro’s mother, Sarah raised the boys on her own and earned a living being a midwife in the area. In time, it is said that she she delivered over 500 babies. Sarah Elizabeth ran her small farm and as the boys grew, they worked as hired hands to the neighbor farmers.
Ozro Guay worked around the various farms in Ohio, taking care of work horses, ploughing, harrowing and hoeing and was a farm hand until the age of fourteen. Soon after, he apprenticed to a glass factory in Dunkirk, Indiana. In time he became a glass blower blowing mostly lantern and lamp mantles. At the age of eighteen he left home for Colorado.
In Colorado, he was first employed by the Denver and Cripple Creek Toll as a horse handler and manning scoop shovels.
After the toll road was finished, he worked as a gang foreman for the Denver and Rio Grande railroad. He learned to fight in self-defense, because the Mexican hands needed to be persuaded by force to work. While working for the railroad he cut lumber for ties and bridges. Finally, he built himself a two room cabin some miles east of Cripple Creek.
During this time he became a friend of “Buckskin Charlie” who became head chief of the Navahoe’s. [Ute] Buckskin Charlie was one quarter Mexican Indian. He told dad a great deal of Indian lore and philosophy.
During this period his reputation as a fighter proceeding him, he was introduced in boxing by the Original Kid McCoy, who was the national champion at that weight. Dad eventually won a number of fights as was eventually matched as the contender for the state championship of Colorado. This championship fight was at the opera house in Cripple Creek Colorado in 1898.
Ozro Guay was an individualist. He never drank, used tobacco or profanity. Nor did he join a church.
In 1898, he returned to Redkey Indiana with some funds. He started The Marino Sheep business in that area, leasing pastures and forests and running herds of sheep as the provinder would carry.
He also worked in the grocery store owned by his brother Ulysses. From pictures O.G. as he was called, owned good horses. The was the founder of the 20th Century Bicycle Club. Members were required to ride 100 miles a week, mostly on Sunday to retain membership.
During this time, he met Bessie Pearl Engle, who was just out of Redkey High School and was working in the a Dry Goods store owned by her brother in law Martin Luther Mills. M. L. Mills moved his store to Winchester, Indiana some twenty miles from Redkey. There Bessie Pearl was employed by her uncle Silas County, Treasurer of Randolph County.
The court house was called the Engle Homestead. Five of the county’s elected officers were Engle brothers the Uncle Jim was the Superior Court Judge. The father was a farmer, ex-teacher and Superintendent of school trustees.
Ozro and Pearl were married on December 6th 1900, by the Quaker Minister in her sister Susan’s home in Winchester, Randolph County, Indiana.
In 1901 they rented a store building in Eaton, Indiana and started The Rathbun Racket store, a junior department store, a predecessor of the 5 and 10 cent store of later time. They were moderately successful, being handicapped by the smallness or the town and by horse and buggy transportation. Also, by the nearness of Muncie Indiana, a big town by comparison.
On February 20th, 1902, I made myself known by crying lustily. So, Papa took out a full page ad in the local paper with my picture (diaper clad), almost life size in the upper half with the title “A New Racket”.
Some five years later, Papa, feeling the limitations of the size of the town ( 200 population ), sold the store and bought another in a larger town, Geneva, Adam Co Indiana. Geneva was a gas and oil boom town of 1000 population.
My attention until now had been focused on my mama, but I grew my admiration of my papa increased. Geneva was two miles from the Limberlost swamp that was not logged or drained until 1918. We had an abundance of insect and mosquitos and almost everyone suffered from Rheumatism, coiture and malaise. Papa discovered a patent medicine called Scott Emulsion and bought 6 cases at a time and the family had two each two apples, and two tablespoons of this sapony lard before retiring. Some ten years later the prudent was a saponfied cod liver oil and replaced by vitamin. Papa made me a sled and put a wooden grocery box on it and skating himself. We explored the mystical Limberlust swamp. There was quick sand that swallowed up boys, men and horses.
Physically, papa was not big, probably 5 feet 8.5 inches tall and seldom weighed over 150 pounds. I insulted him when I gave him a 36 inch belt, and I had to return it for a 32. In his youth, he must have been a well-coordinated man. He was always active and rigorous. He never saw a stranger, man woman or child without greeting them. He gave undivided attention to all ages and was a good listener as a four year old in school. He wrote with a good hand and could add, multiply and divide faster in his head than most people using a pencil and paper.
He loved loud noises. In Geneva he awakened the entire town every Fourth of July at day break with bombs at all sides of the town. The bombs were black powder, and the nitro glycerin was added by Shooter Kelly, the local oil and gas well shooter. He always was present when and wall was shot or brought in. With his Indian lore, he taught me how to tie shoe laces, walk and run. Always he knew my goals, the stove, home and adventure.
The town school had no original physical activities, so he started the kids running and to play baseball. This, in time, led to a town baseball team. The adolescents and young men would work 12 – 16 hours per day on the farm or oil fields. The best time was Sunday for games or practice, which led to a feud with the local Methodist minister. That ended in an impasse with dad and his store being boycotted by the church.
He was criticized for calling the author of the town “bib overalls”, these she wore while researching and photographing birds for her book, the Bird Bible, the title of which was censored locally. This boycott made dad more aggressive, so he expanded his clientele by buying boxcar quantities of sugar and flower and covered the county with ads. There being no local newspaper, dad had shoe sized flyers, which were delivered by myself. He discovered that if the flyer was folded and had a wooden clothes pin to clamp it, the frugal woman followed us for blocks for another clothes pin.
Famers would drive for miles for bargains on sugar, flower and muslin. He was an expediter.
We had the first and online bath tub in town. The first gas lights, the first gas station and the first automobile. He initiated a prize winner at his store, where customers would fill in the time that a clock would stop.
He expanded his attraction in baseball to include “The House of David” team, all full of bearded and colored team and “The Bloomer Girls” womans team. This last booking caused a coonler attack by the choral ladies. A committee called formally at him on mother.
They first asked that I, at eight years of age, be sent away. Mother said that anything they could say to her could be heard by me. The chairman said she thought mother should know that they suspected dad of carnal relations. This amused mother and she escorted them out of the house laughing uproariously. In the Bible Belt, almost all ofher woman were suspect, especially Milliners, telephone operators and any girl that worked alone in a store, office alone with a male. It took me years to find out what they were suspicious of….
Dad was a believer as he never lied himself. So, he naturally had heroes who could do no wrong. These included Theodore Roosevelt, Ty Cobb, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Bob Fitsibbons, Jack Dempse, Jim Thorpe, bob Lafollette. This abiding faith in people left him vulnerable to exploit. He always made good money, but he was conned repeatedly in buying “Blue Sky Stock”. So, he assembled a portfolio of worthless stocks, none of which he ever received a dividend or could sell. He would say the salesman believed, so he attached no blame, but said “I should have known better.”
So, he sold his store to Bon Carter and cousin and invested all the cash in the Lucy Grey Gold mine.
Financially apart, he could sell Dry goods. To the stores he carried three trunks and six large carrying cases of samples. In this venture, he was not very successful. The intricacies of rebates, bonuses and other business chicanery, he could not cope with it.
So the family moved to Winchel, Indiana, a county seat of Randolph county of some 5000 population and for the first time lived in rented houses.
Dad procured a second hand store, expanded it to a piano and singer sewing machine store. Here he was financially successful, but when opportunity occurred sold the three store fronts and became Manager of the Mills Department store, furnature, rugs and linoleum department.
All of this time, I had been growing and arrived at my Junior year of high school. A family conference headed by my mother was held and the decision was made to move west. A job offer was received from a dad’s nephew in Cualinga, California, and oil town. Dad was enthusiastic, he loved all western states. But when my mother saw the deserts of Arizona and California, she said she would never move there and college opportunities were better in the Los Angeles Area.
So dad got a job in groceries, furniture stores and real estate. One of the stores was a grocery store near the colored area of south Los Angeles. He was told to divide the receipts and hide them around the store because they had been 2 – 3 times per month and had to give what remained in the case drawer.
The robber soon appeared with a revolver and red bandana and said, “This is a hold up!”
Dad’s answer was to jump over the counters and grab a huge cheese cleaver. The would be robber ran and called back “Wrong man, Wrong store Boss!” No other attempt was ever made to hold up the store.
By this time, I was a sophomore in U.S.C. Dental College and a much admired and sophisticated, Walter Reeves gave a lecture in which he told of the number of births out of wedlock. The number of abortions, the number of children accidentally conceived. I usually entertained the family with my new found knowledge at the dinner table. Suddenly, Dad said, “Come out into the backyard”. There I was ordered to get the boxing gloves out of the basement and put them on.
Then he said, “Defend yourself”
We started boxing. I had had instructions from Eddie Mathis and was number 2 at my weight preparing for a meet with U.C. Berkely.
Suddenly, I saw an opening and upper cut dad in the solar plexus. He looked startled, but not angry.
From then on I was hit from all angles, not ever seriously, but I was tought a lesson in the art of boxing by master. When I thought I was whipped and knew it, dad said “You have enough?” So, I gladly took off the gloves.
Then Dad says, “You insulted women and you insulted your mother!”
I went upstairs and apologized, mother was understanding, I was repeating statistics and nothing personal.
I now resigned from my #2 spot and watched my better skilled teammate take a beating like I had never seen from the Junior of Cal, a featherweight you later became National Champion. Dad never wanted me to fight; he said it was a dirty sport.
Soon after, I had graduated and had my state license and my Doctor of Dental Surgery. Dad showed at my office. X-ray showed he needed all his upper teeth extracted. So, I set him down to give him a local and started after his teeth with my largest forceps.
Suddenly, dad held up his hand and said, “Remember son, I am your father.”
The surgery proceeded unerufly. Later, I made him an upper denture. After filling, Dad went back to Los Angeles. Two weeks later, I went home over the weekend. Dad met me at the door and said come with me.
In the basement dad said, “I have got it”.
I said “What?”
He said, “Cancer”.
He had a distant relative that had cancer of the face, the the early surgeon wound not operate on and had died a lingering death.
I looked into his mouth and discovered a flange of the denture had cut his cheek and because I had made them and had told him to persevere, he had kept the ill fitting denture in for two weeks (other than cleaning)
I said, “Give me a rasp, sandpaper and pumice”
So, the cancer was cured, and I became a gifted doctor in m fathers opinion.
Dad was getting along in age. Jobs were hard to find, but he had a sinecor in a warehouse that had limited sales. So, he thought that he was not earning his salary.
This was during the start of World War II, so he got a job as a shipping clerk / packer in a rubber factory. All of the rubber items were sifted with a powder to keep the newly molded parts from adhering to each other. Dad was happy because he felt he was earning his wages and making a contribution to the war.
I got him to a Medical doctor friend. His lungs were one mass of peculiar outlined tissue. So, he went home and developed pneumonia from the asbestos particles. He sent for me and said, “I knew you would come son.”
Do this for me, there is a clean out of the chimney and I have hidden something there. Get it and give it to your mother.
There was hundreds of dollars, enough for medical bills,
mortician and burial. I found a Quaker
minister. They interviewed his two sons
and preached a eulogy on honesty, faithfulness, love of live and sports that I
Other Memories of my Papa
Pay showed up at home on evening leading a grey peaceful guilder haired trotting horse. In close inspection it snorted occasionally and was seen to have at 2 ½ silver ring in the horses lower neck. The previous owner was ready to shoot the animal. A growth in the trachea had stopped the horse from breathing. A tracheotomy had saved the horse, the ring had grown more prominent. The gauze had to be replaced twice daily. So Papa bought the horse to save its life. The purchase did not pay off. The race horse had one speed, full speed ahead. So the town was treated to a run away crew. Papa start for a drive. We cared for the horse until papa gave him to a side show exhibit at the carnival. But dad said we had the companionship. Several months after that, the horse was a gentleman.
Papa was the organizer of many Independence day programs including the daylight of Walkenin of the Town by Bonms.
Dad was so busy arranging the details that he did not have time to prepare the stroe front for the parade Thirty minutes before the parade was to start, Papa arrived with a team of mules and a hay wagon. We carried a 9 X 12 foot Axminisler rugs, some poles and made a tent. Dad hung portiers front and back and had a friend drive the wagon. He got inside to change wild colorful socks and to wave his legs at the curbside matches. Dad had slim borers legs but with pink bloomers on he made quite the show. The Methodist minister was indignant and said dad had hired a proffium dancer, none other that little Eygpt of world fair fame.
Dad did not deny the story, he merely said that professional dancers were expensive. He soon arranged for the bloomer girls professional baseball team to play an exhibition game against the local mens, who were shut out. The woman’s team displayed 4 inches of ankle between bloomers and the baseball shoes. But this was a break up from formal decorum. Again, dad was accused of being a libertine.
Dad believed in the right to bear arms. We always had two shotguns and two rifles hidden in a closet with the ammunition hidden elsewhere. The only time he had guns hunting for big game was in Colorado. He walked five miles up a draw where deer had been seen. He slept well and at day break he got up and startled a large buck that had been sleeping some five yards from his sleeping bad. The buck startled, jumping from rock to rock. Papa said he was the most beatufiul sight he had ever seen. The balance, form, grace and beauty was magnificent. I asked dad if he shot at it. He said ‘I forgot I had a gun. I was happy with one of nature’s beautiful creatures’.
Every fall, we had a black bird migration that almost seemed to have the maple trees on Meridan St as their mighty birdcage. There numbers were is the tens of thousands. Their weight broke branches and their
Additional Memories of My Papa
Looking back, I can see my papa was unhappy of our lack of athletic ability. We lacked aptitude, physical coordination, good eyes and desire. But ee were never censured for our failures. When I lost a 100 yard dash by falling in the last 10 feet, Papa said lift your legs higher. When I lost my grip and permileh the piano to fall on him. I got the neighbor to lift it off of him. He said, if I could have got my legs under me, I would have lifted the piano. When I happened on dad unconscious in a room he was fumigating for bed bugs he said, “I knew you would come Lyle”.
My brother and I fought with the intent to mame one another. If was decided that my brother was the aggressor and I was sent to find a limb for dad to whip him. When I returned with a bludgeon that would have felles on it. Papa said you would treat your brother in such a manner? Go get the whip…
Out of a sound sleep dad got me up to see the comet (Halley’s Comet). It was an awesome sight for an eight year old that had never seen fireworks. The comet and the tial covered most of the Eastern sky. I was scared and cried.
Dad took me in his arms and said, “Shucks, its nothing but a shooting star. We are safe and were looking at its tail. Its’ already passed up”
Then he explained everyone has an individual star located inside our head and admonished me to believe in my star and to obey what that star told me to do. For the messages and answers were from mankind particularly from my ancestors, who wanted to help me. He said some of the answers were better than you knew by rememberance ut was the wisdom of the ages. The earth sorrided, but I looked forward to its return in 1988 to thank papa for giving me life and a star to guide me.
Dad was a joy to have as a house guest. He suncroziz <changed> his habits to those of the household. He would first make a tour, admire improvements, perchance and clothes but he was casing the house to see what he could do that needed attention. Then he would start in, repairing doors, screens, appliance, walks, mowing the grass.
He always cleaned everything off his plate. He ate all leftovers to small to be saved. He never weighed over 155 pounds, never formally exercised but was so busy he did not need to. I bought im a rowing machine. He did not tell me, but in his mind that present was totally inane.
I had papa out to repair a mountain cabin I had purchased. We would drive up and have dinner with him. After the third day, Dad said “When are we brining mother? I have never been away from her for three days since we were married.
I never saw papa play ball, but his brother in law said papa was the wildest and best base runner he had ever seen. As a manager, he was a good judge of ability.
I recall a game between our all amateur team and a semi-pro club…
In our store in South Los Angeles, we had a customer that insisted on looking over the bulk egg box for black hens eggs. Her purpose was to steal 2 – 3 eggs which see then put in her dress pocket. Papa saw her and walked by her and accidently smashed the eggs in her pocket. He apologized for his clumsiness and the lady paid for her groceries. I found dad to convulse with laughter. He said, “I did not want to lose her as a customer, but I had to cure her of steeling eggs.” The lady continued to trade with dad.