Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Working on Wednesday: Harold Delbert Currey (1902 - 1981), Electrician

Nicknamed "Shorty" for obvious reasons, the father who raised me was born in Bend, Oregon, on the last day of 1902. Shortly thereafter the Currey family settled in South Marshfield (now Coos Bay) on the south Oregon coast where his father, Delbert Artemus, opened a barber shop and later became a chiropodist.

Family circumstances forced Harold to leave school after the sixth grade and he got a job in the power house of the C.A. Smith Lumber Company's state-of-the-art sawing mill located at the mouth of Isthmus Slough on Coos Bay, reputed to be the largest of its kind in the world at the time.

It's there that Harold became an apprentice electrician and a life-long member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
[Union dinner, probably taken in Oregon, HDC second on left. Personal collection from Currey family photograph album]

I don't know what caused the Curreys to move to San Diego* sometime before 1920 based on city directories. In the 1920 directory shown below, Delbert is a "Licensed Chiropodist" and Harold is an apprentice at Hartwell Electric Company.

[ U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. 
Original data: Original sources vary according to directory.]

Domestic electricity was a new thing then: Dad used to reminisce about little old ladies insisting on having an electrician come to the house to change a light bulb. After he became a journeyman**, he and his helper would hop on the streetcar to get to the jobsite, reaching through the windows to hold the ladder against the outside of the car.

During the Great Depression jobs were scarce but Harold was fortunate enough to find work at a plating shop from February 1933 through July of 1935 when he found work at the California Pacific International Exposition in Balboa Park.

[Harold on the left]

[Harold on the left]

[Harold pretty much in the middle of this photo]
[From Currey photograph album in my private collection.]

The album page above not only has Harold's pass to the Fair, but also photos from his next job--wiring the small dome and the scientists' cottages on Mount Palomar by which time I believe that he had become an employee of California Electric Works (CALEWO). One of the other jobs he did was wiring the old Fox Theater in downtown San Diego for sound.

[From my private collection]

During World War II, CALEWO was a civilian contractor for the U.S. Navy and Harold not only worked on base but also on ships. On one occasion when he was working below deck on a destroyer, he recognized the sound of the anchor chains being hauled up and found himself faced with the real possibility of going to sea in wartime as the ship had been ordered to leave port immediately and no one was allowed to leave the ship or contact family members ashore. The submarine nets protecting the harbor had to be opened so the destroyer could pass through. Fortunately after spending several hours patrolling off the coast the ship was ordered back to San Diego later that night.

[Xmas party sometime during WWII, Harold third man standing on left; from Currey photo album in my private collection]

The disappearance of his only son, Harold D. Jr., during a bombing mission over Tokyo, Japan, in 1945 and the years it took to confirm his death caused Harold to suffer a nervous breakdown. Except for a job installing lead cable for one of the Los Angeles movie studios in the early 1950s, he never worked at his trade again.

*I do know they made the trip by boat.
**He was a journeyman electrician by the time he married in 1922.

© 2015 Copyright, Christine Manczuk, All Rights Reserved.

1 comment:

  1. That's great stuff! I didn't know any of that about your sort of father. I also didn't realize you had all those photos.