DARK THEORIES ARISE
I confess, as much as I tried to keep an open mind about what might be the answers to these questions, I had a few dark assumptions lingering in the back of my mind. First was my suspicion that my grandfather might have been an alcoholic, and as such would have made the lives of other family members uncomfortable at best and perhaps even physically threatening to his wife and my father. Part of my thinking in this scenario grew from the fact that my father strictly banned the use of alcohol in our home. My father was a declared teetotaler. He abstained from alcohol completely. There was no alcohol served in our home. There was no alcohol stored in our home save for some cooking wine my mother kept in the pantry. As a child when I inquired about this strict prohibition in our house I was told that my parents, specifically my father, "just didn't like the way people acted when they drank." I guess I've always thought that my father's aversion to alcohol originated from his career as a clergyman observing and dealing with families in his church struggling with alcohol problems. Add to that the fact that my father was reared a Southern Baptist, where alcohol in the home was forbidden, and I had a pretty logical theory drawn up in my mind as to why my father was such a strong advocate against alcohol use. So when the puzzle of our father leaving home at around the age of 15 coupled with the discovery that his father died when his son was 18 years old, not 12, an unexplained gap of our father's history, my suspicions grew that perhaps George Johnson King was an alcoholic and Charles George King relocated 80 miles away to a sibling's home simply to escape from a family made dysfunctional by alcohol abuse. And at the same time I thought, who knows, maybe that was why our father reversed his first and middle names...to disassociate himself from sharing the same name as an alcoholic father?
DARK THEORIES SHOT DOWN
There is evidence suggesting that alcohol was not an issue for George Johnson King. His death certificate lists the cause of death as "acute enteritis." Although alcohol might aggravate enteritis it is unlikely to have been the cause of my grandfather's acquiring the affliction. Enteritis is an inflammation of the small intestine. Its cause is normally eating or drinking substances that are contaminated with bacteria or viruses.
WHAT'S IN A NAME
As for our father's name change wherein he reversed the order of his first and middle names to create Charles George King as his official name instead of George Charles King, I still don't know if any steps were taken to legally change his name. If so I would guess it might have been coordinated by his oldest sister, Carol, who worked in a law office in Orlando for many years. It could just as easily have been the case that there were no official steps taken and he just started considering himself a Charles rather than a George. His parents obviously named him George Charles King. He was recorded on the 1910 and 1920 Federal Census records in Yalaha as "Geo C. (King)." Since George Johnson King was the census enumerator for both of those years I have always assumed he thought of his son as George. But that doesn't mean he called his son George. I suspect from the time he was a boy, my father was tagged by family members and friends as "Charles." Every photograph taken of my father in Florida from 1905 to 1928 and when someone was kind enough to identify the subjects (I believe his sister, Nellie, was the identifier on most) refers to him as Charles. And the final proof that everyone called my father Charles comes from his cousin, Elgie, who was a bit of a historian about Yalaha wherein she cited an article in The Leesburg Commercial dated 1927 where my father's participation in a flag raising program at his school recorded him as "Charles King." He was twelve years old at the time.
|Elgie's research - Nov 1953|
SOLVING THE PUZZLE (Sort Of)
The only question still up in the air is when did my father leave Yalaha? My guess is that it was in 1920. I base that first on the Orlando 1920 Federal Census that listed him residing with his oldest sister, Carol, and her husband, Stephen White. And second, I have Lakeland High School yearbook evidence that he attended school there for his sophomore through senior year and graduated in 1924. I'm missing documentation of where he might have attended school for his high school freshman year, school year 1920 - 1921 but I don't think he stayed in Yalaha. If he had remained there and attended high school he would have gone to Leesburg High School. Thinking it more likely he went to Lakeland High I sent a request to Polk County School Records with a formal request for Charles King's student records, including a copy of my birth certificate per their instructions. But recently the county called me to advise they also need my father's death certificate before they can release any info. So that inquiry is still in the works. If I can verify his whereabouts for his freshman year of high school in either Orlando or Lakeland I think I can pin down his departure from Yalaha. If Orlando, he would have been living in the home of his sister Carol. If Lakeland, he would have been living with his other sister, Nellie. Until further evidence comes in, I'm guessing Lakeland. Thanks to Elgie's research contributing the fact that the Yalaha school house only taught students through the 8th grade, we can be pretty sure he would have moved on to a high school somewhere.Regardless of when our father left Yalaha, it probably doesn't contribute in any significant way as to why. And in a word, I think the answer to our father's departure from Yalaha was...
Upon his death in 1923, George Johnson King, "General Dealer" of the SWEET KING "THREE PINES' GROVE left his heirs a bank account with a balance of $14.27. I'm not qualified to judge the competency of my grandfather's business acumen. But for whatever reasons, I don't think the citrus grove with his name and his wife's maiden name on it was a very prosperous enterprise. Not in the last few years of his life, anyway. He and his wife could read and write according to the census records but I don't know the extent of their educations. Regardless, their family appears to have had a vested interest in their children's educations with Carol becoming a stenographer in a law office and Nellie attending business college in Jacksonville and working as a secretary for various firms in Lakeland. Eventually the sisters' young brother Charles graduated from high school and college in Lakeland and continued his studies at the graduate level at Yale Divinity. It appears to me there was a healthy desire for education in George Johnson King's home. But I don't believe his father could have funded Charles' education from citrus grove earnings. I do think he was assisted, if not fully supported in his education expenses by his sister Nellie's husband. In 1915 Nellie had married Alonzo "Lonnie" Wright who had started a career at 16 years of age as a bicycle delivery boy for a Lakeland grocery store. In 1913 when he was 22 years old Lonnie was made manager of the grocery store and in 1920 he took over ownership. I think Charles King must have shown some promise as a student early on in his life and recognizing this, his family encouraged his moving to his sister's home where the economic situation made pursuing his education a whole lot more doable. I know he was not idle in Lakeland for he was expected to contribute to Nellie's family by baby sitting her three children as well as working in Lonnie's store. Charles King always spoke highly of our "Uncle Lonnie" and I'm sure his admiration of his brother in law was not only respect for his business success but also gratitude for his generosity.
|Charles King (in center, wearing glasses) in Lonnie's grocery store|
NO SECRET AFTER ALL
My conclusion is that George Johnson King's (Sort Of) secret past was really no secret at all. My curiosity and suspicions were probably just my imagination trying to fill the informational blank spaces that are unavoidable when researching events that took place a hundred years ago. Assuming he was like the rest of us, stumbling along as best we can in this world, he very well may have had a secret or two that he chose not to share. Or if he did share secrets with someone, he chose that someone wisely because it appears any secrets he may have had have remained under wraps for posterity. I've uncovered some interesting information on George Johnson King (interesting to me, anyway) in my search of his sort of secret past and if I came up short on finding anything scandalous or intriguing then so be it. I've enjoyed looking back on small bits and pieces of his life and my father's life. My research has made it obvious to me that despite any secrets or shortcomings of any kind that George Johnson King may have had, he did one thing right...he raised three industrious and compassionate children including one heck of a great son. That's something anyone should be proud of and I just hope in the short span of his 59 years of life he understood what a good job he had done.