One thing I’ve always noted is how well-dressed my father is in photos from his youth. Among my favorites are these photos shot outside the Ortman Hotel in Canistota, South Dakota. The Hanneman family vacationed in the Dakotas several times. Another visit was detailed in this post about cowboy Hiram Greene.
These photos are likely from 1946 or 1947. The Ortman Hotel is right next to the famous Ortman chiropractic clinic. The hotel is still there today. The interior has been remodeled, but the exterior looks remarkably the same.
My Dad’s family made several trips out West, to Arizona and the Dakotas. Sorting out and matching photos with cities has been a constant challenge. A couple of intriguing photos show Dad with a cowboy identified as Hiram Greene. I wondered, was Hiram Greene a famous rodeo rider, a film star or some other celebrity?
My first source of information was the caption on the back of one photo, written by my grandmother, Ruby V. Hanneman. It listed the name “Hiram Greene” and said he was from Billings, Montana. The photo, according to the caption, was taken at Canistota, Minnesota. As it turned out, that caption was problematic in several respects.
I took a chance by doing a generic search engine query and came up empty. I quickly ruled out the idea that Mr. Greene was a major celebrity. Using databases at Ancestry.com, I was unable to find anyone by that name near Billings, Montana. But I did find what appeared to be a good match right in South Dakota, where the Hanneman family vacationed several times in the 1940s.
Hiram Hoyt Greene was a farmer who lived much of his life around Mitchell, S.D. I ran a quick search and discovered the major tourist attraction in Mitchell is the Mitchell Corn Palace, home to world-famous murals made from corn. That quickly rang a bell with me. I had numerous photos of the Hannemans outside the Corn Palace. This led me to conclude that it was possible that Dad met Hiram Greene on the streets of Mitchell. Especially since there is no Canistota, Minnesota. There is a Canistota, S.D., another city the Hanneman family visited on vacation. Canistota is home to the famous Ortman Chiropractic Clinic. I could find no link between Hiram and Canistota, although it is only 40 miles from Mitchell. I took yet another look through the photo library and found an image of the Ortman Clinic. The building next to it appears to match the brick building that Dad and Mr. Greene are standing near. So it was Canistota after all.
According to the 1940 U.S. Census, Hiram Hoyt Greene was a livestock and grain producer. This made sense. A cattle rancher would certainly dress like a cowboy. Perhaps Dad saw Mr. Greene on the street and wanted to have his photo taken with a real cowboy. I wonder if that had happened to Mr. Greene before? I started out looking for a celebrity, but found a regular, hard-working cattle rancher. It was an even better story, in my opinion.
Hiram Hoyt Greene was born in May 1898. At the time of the World War I draft, he was a farmer in Mitchell, S.D. In May 1920, he married May Luella Moe. The couple had nine children. At various times in his working life, Greene farmed and lived in Mitchell, the Town of Beulah and Mount Vernon, South Dakota. He was hospitalized in November 1958, just a day after celebrating the wedding of one of his sons. He died on November 28, 1958 at age 60.
I learned several key lessons from this photo detective assignment. First, it is always a good idea to write down information on the back of photographs. Or in the case of modern digital images, to embed a caption and keywords in the photo files. But you can’t always trust the information on old photo prints. Sometimes captions are written long after the events shown in the photo. Memories can be jumbled, so it is good to check the information and correct it if necessary.
— This post has been updated with more information.
It was a tiny photograph, not much larger than an oversized postage stamp. It showed two boys, identified on the back as Bob Firlus and Sam Kaufman. Of course I was very familiar with Bob, my Dad’s lifelong friend from Mauston, Wisconsin. But Sam did not ring a bell. However, his presence in my Dad’s photo collection meant that he was a friend and likely a frequent guest at the home of my grandparents on Morris Street in Mauston. I wondered, what became of Sam?
The photo detective in me kicked into high gear. My first check was with Mr. Firlus, who had some distinct and humorous early memories of Sam:
They had a nice house on Tremont Street. One day Sammy and I walked out to Coon Rock Bluff a few miles west of Mauston. We were near the bluff and Sammy said that he had to take a pee but he asked me not to tell his dad because his dad told him he should not pee outdoors.
Ah, the troubles of youth! What a great story! Bob said he believed Sam had moved to Pennsylvania after leaving Mauston. I next dug out some of my Dad’s yearbooks and found Sam pictured with my Dad’s Mauston Grade School class in the late 1930s and early 1940s. He was one of the tallest boys in class, so was usually found in the back row. In the 1939 class photo, he was standing directly to my Dad’s right.
I checked the U.S. Census and military records on Ancestry.com and found Sam’s father, Albert Ross Kaufman, a doctor at Mauston’s Hess Memorial Clinic. The elder Kaufman’s 1942 draft card showed he was 46 and living with his family at 214 Tremont Street in Mauston. That was fairly close to the Hess clinic, but not so close to the Hanneman house. So what was his connection to that photo taken on Morris Street? I looked up Sam’s mother, Ardis, and discovered her maiden name was Hess. OK, now we’re making progress. Hess was a very prominent name in Mauston, largely due to Dr. James Samuel Hess Sr., a pioneer doctor and founder of the hospital and clinic. Interestingly, Bob Firlus said he had recently thought about Sam and the name Ardis came to mind, although Bob hadn’t recalled that was Sam’s mother’s name.
Turns out that Dr. Ardis (Hess) Kaufman (also a physician) was the daughter of Dr. J.S. Hess Sr. and Maude (Robinson) Hess. She was the sister of Dr. J.S. Hess Jr., who lived directly across the street from the Hannemans. Dr. Sam, as the junior Hess was known, took over for his father at the hospital and clinic. That explained why Sammy was a frequent neighborhood visitor. My grandfather, Carl F. Hanneman, worked for Dr. Sam running the pharmacy attached to the Hess clinic. So it made sense that Bob Firlus and my Dad were buddies of Sam Kaufman. I dug into my photo archives and found another shot that appears to show Sam outside the Hess home around 1942.
Now that I had a good sense of Sam’s history in Mauston, I wanted to figure out where he went and what happened in his life. Again, Ancestry.com was a crucial source. I found listings for Dr. Albert R. Kaufman under city directories in New Kensington, Pennsylvania. Based on that, I ran search engine queries and located an obituary for Sam Kaufman. I reacted with sadness, since I always hope in doing this work to find a living person to track down. Sam died in October 2008 of lung cancer. Same cause as my Dad, and about 18 months later. From the obituary, it was clear Sam had lived an exemplary life.
The obituary described Sam’s college education, his longtime service in the U.S. Army, his 1957 marriage to Margaret “Meg” Floyd, and his career switch from salesman to high school teacher. He had a long teaching career at Baldwin High School in suburban Pittsburgh. The couple had two sons, James and Steve. From checking those names with search engines, it appears Steve has had a long career as an assistant U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh.
Even after I finished most of my research, Sam’s name stuck in my head. There was some other clue I was missing. Dad, could you give me some help here? Then it hit me. I vaguely recalled that Sammy accompanied my Dad’s family on one of their vacation trips to the Dakotas. But how to find the photo amidst the thousands in the archive? On this day, I had some help from above. The first archive box I opened had the photo for which I searched. The caption read: “Sammy Kaufman on right, David Hanneman on left.” It was in my Grandma Ruby’s handwriting.
It took a few days of work, but with a little effort I went from a tiny photo print with lots of questions to a decent understanding of Sam Kaufman and his life in and beyond Mauston. Well done, Sam, and thank you.