I am late with this post but last Tuesday, Feb. 16th, would have been my paternal Grandfather's 112th birthday. I don't feel too badly about being late with this one since Granddad was, as they say, "a wicked old screw" and not much of a family man.
Frank Foster Bowman, Jr. died on 5 September 1978. I remember because my immediate family was a mess at that time and I had been yanked out of college the Fall of 1977 right before the play I was starring in was to be presented because my mother had attempted suicide and was in the hospital and they didn't know if she'd live. It was deja vue for me the next Fall of 1978 as I had just gone back for my sophomore year of college, only to have my mother call and say my grandfather had died and they were pulling me out of school for a couple of days and my brother was driving to Maryland to pick me up the next day.
We went to Fairfax,Virginia where my grandfather lived and stayed at a motel with my parents for the night. I didn't go to the viewing/wake as I had childhood trauma from attending 3 of those affairs as a young child. My aunt and some of her kids came to the funeral from Massachusetts but her mother, my grandmother Catherine, Frank's first wife, did NOT attend for reasons that will become obvious later on in this post.
What shall I say about Frank in remembrance? He was born in Bridgeport Connecticut in 1909, the oldest of 6 siblings that survived childhood. His family moved to New Windsor, New York sometime after 1920 as the family is still in CT in that census year and his third sister, Eleanor, was born in New Windsor in 1922.
At age 16 Frank ran away from home(this would just be the first time he ran away from family)and joined the U.S. Marines in July of 1925, lying about his age obviously. He was stationed at the St. Helena Training Barracks in Berkley, VA(now part of Norfolk, VA).
This photo is of Frank in his dress blues in 1926 at the St. Helena Barracks.
I suppose when he went to re-up after his 2 year hitch they discovered he had lied about his age in 1925 so he was mustered out of the Marines in 1927.
Frank made his way up to the Boston area afterwards where he met my grandmother, Catherine McCarthy. They married in 1928 in Cambridge Massachusetts, probably after a brief courtship, and the story is Catherine didn't invite her own father, Dennis McCarthy, to the wedding.
Frank and Catherine lived in Manhattan, NYC and Frank worked as a salesman in a department store there. Between the 1930 census and the birth of my father in Nov. 1931 the family had moved to Brooklyn, NY.
I connected briefly awhile back with a 1st cousin 1 x removed(my grandfather and her mother were siblings)and she emailed me these photos she had....
My dad is about a year old in these photos which would make them from late 1932 or early 1933. I believe they were taken in Upstate NY where my great Grandparents lived in Orange County.
The written caption says "Catherine, Frank and Sonny". They use to call my father Little Sonny.
My grandfather Frank's youngest sibling, Bill Bowman was nicknamed Sonny. Frank was the oldest child that lived(a son Richard died shortly after birth in 1908) so there was a 20 year span between him and Bill. Bill was born in 1928 and my father in 1931 so my father and his Uncle were practically the same age. 8-)
This photo is on my father and his mom, Catherine and a big dog. My Grandmother Catherine is 23 in these photos. Love that fur trimmed 1930's coat and that short flapper hairstyle!
In the 1940 census the family was still living in Brooklyn and Frank was employed as an Electrician Foreman for a construction firm.
Frank enlisted in the NY National Guard in 1932 after my father was born and in 1935 won a recruitment medal/award from the National Guard.
Here is Frank in his National Guard uniform sometime in the mid 1930's.....
By 1934 my grandparents had another child, my Aunt Marilyn.
Here's where his story runs off the rails.....
In 1941, after Pearl Harbor Frank left his family, the old "he went out for a pack of cigarettes and never came back". He enlisted in the US Army on 31 Dec. 1941 and listed himself as single.
I also found a WWII draft card where Frank stated his next of kin was, Albert Martin, a friend he was living with at 121 Madison Ave. NYC. Here's a photo of that apartment building today located at the corner of 30th St.
Frank lists his employer as Gilliam and McVay which turns out was a real estate broker in NY at that time. So at this point he had left his wife and kids without a howdy dee do and was living in Manhattan.
At some point after January 1st, 1942 he was shipped out to England. He served in both the European and the Pacific theaters during the war.
While in Europe he married 2 British women, yes, he was married to both at the same time. He was a bigamist, thus I refer to him as a wicked old screw. Frank told my mother in the 1960's that he was married to two women in England during WWII and my aunt confirmed that he had married in England during the war too.
A few years ago my aunt Marilyn also mentioned that Frank had told her he was "involved" with a WAC also during the war. She didn't have a name or know if he had married her or what. This just added to his lovely image of being a womanizer. But he was an old school, good Catholic and he seemed to always marry them before bedding them(even if he already had a wife back in NY).
Once the war was over in Europe(VE Day)he was shipped out to the Pacific and served there until VJ Day before returning to the US.
When Frank left Europe he never told either wife in England he was leaving and of course neither wife knew about the other. Since he "disappeared" during the war it was presumed by these wives that he had died in the war. The other shoe dropped the day the second Mrs. Frank Bowman applied for her widow's pension with the British government and was told they were sorry but Mrs. Frank Bowman had already applied for that pension.
Another 1st cousin 1 x removed Shirley, the daughter of my grandfather's younger brother John "Jack" Bowman told me about 10 years ago that at least one of Frank's English wives had a daughter and she had immigrated to Canada but I've been unable to ascertain where or her name(or the name of her mother).
But I digress....
During the war Frank was not in touch with his family, neither my grandmother and their 2 children nor his parents and his siblings. Frank's mother, Kitty O'Brien Bowman died in 1945, before the war ended not knowing whether her son Frank was alive or dead.
Here's a photo of Frank's parents, Frank Sr. and Catherine "Kitty". I don't know what year this photo was taken other than before 1945.
So Frank shipped off to the Pacific Theater after VE Day. He was a member of the Corp of Engineers at this point.....
He was a Master Sargent and leader of his unit.......
Frank is center front row in this group shot of his battalion.
I found a book written after the war, "The Corps of Engineers: The War Against Japan: written by Carl C. Dod, with this foreword by Brigadier General Hal Pattison in 1965......
Contributions of the Corps of Engineers to victory in war, and to our
country's peacetime history, are well known and appreciated. The skill
and versatility of this talented body of soldiers met a supreme test in operations against the Japanese, many of which were conducted in the most primitive and undeveloped regions of the world. Engineers built the Alaska
Highway, Canol, and the Ledo Road in Burma. They cleared the jungles
to build airfields for heavy bombers and supervised the work of Filipinos,
Chinese, and Melanesians as they built runways by hand. They built
ports, roads, and docks where none had existed. Indeed, one of the most
familiar recollections of the U.S. veteran of the war against Japan is the
ubiquitous engineer operating a bulldozer....."
In that context this next photo cousin Shirley sent me makes sense....
My grandfather Frank somewhere in Asia in a loincloth posing with a machete for the camera. lolz
So after the war what did Frank do? Where did Frank go?
This has gotten quite long so I'll continue this story in a Part Two about my black sheep, mysterious paternal Grandfather.