Thursday, June 27, 2019

"A Mother's Love ..... or Something Else" by Peter E. Small: Epilogue

Genea-Musings reader Peter E. Small solved a family genealogical mystery and wrote a report about it, and I offered to publish his work on my blog.

This will be a multi-part series posted over several weeks - probably on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Earlier parts were published in:

*  Prologue:
*  Part I:
*  Part II:
*  Part III:
*  Part IV:
*  Part V:
*  Part VI:

*  Part VII:

*  Part VIII:


A Mother’s Love…..or something else?
 A True Genealogical Mystery Solved

 Copyright © 2019 Peter E. Small, All Rights Reserved


“… I am become a name; For always roaming with a hungry heart Much have I seen and known; cities of men And manners, climates, councils, governments, Myself not least, but honour'd of them all; And drunk delight of battle with my peers, Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy. I am a part of all that I have met; ...” - Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

The sections of Paul Clifford Dormitzer/Smith’s autobiography that address his boyhood and teenage
years are quite mind-boggling, when taken at face value. But the exploits and academic achievements he describes are not as dramatic when you factor in his actual date of birth.

He writes how he was sick of school and ran away to ride the rails by selling peanuts at the age of eleven.  In reality he was fourteen going on fifteen. Many children of that period, including my father, attended school until the eighth grade and then were required to find a job. High school was not compulsory.  

He did eventually return to school and graduated from high school at the age of fourteen. This was quite early even by today’s standards and very impressive. But he was not fourteen. He was seventeen, going on eighteen which, to this day, is still the prevailing age for high school graduates.

The 1940 Census has a column heading which reads “Highest grade of school completed”. During my own family research I noted a high preponderance of “8” entries, as opposed to “H-4” entries.
For this reason, I suppose, Paul C. Smith’s “H-4” entry in that census should be considered another
accomplishment when one takes into account the time period.

The variable age difference did not appreciably affect the sections of his book dealing with the majority of his later years.

He was still the youngest editor and general manager of The San Francisco Chronicle. Whether he was twenty six or thirty does not alter that fact.

One exception might be when he went off to Marine “Boot Camp.” He assumed he was thirty-four. In
reality he was closer to thirty-seven. He had held office type positions for the fifteen years preceding his enlistment. Completing Boot Camp at thirty-four is very impressive, even for a physically fit man.
Accomplishing that same feat as a thirty-seven year old man, who “hadn’t walked more than two blocks at a time for several years” put him in a different category completely.

Would Paul Clifford Smith have written a different autobiography if he had gone through life as Paul
Clifford Dormitzer? Maybe he wouldn’t have written an autobiography at all.

For all his daring exploits and meteoric rise in society his eventual downfall was truly a tragedy.  A tragedy because he squandered the fortune he had made and in the end relied on the Veteran’s
Administration for medical care and the generosity of friends who gave him a place to stay.

There was a brief period when he claims to have supported both his mother and sick brother. Other than that he never had anyone, other than himself, to support. He never mentions faith or religion. You do not have to read closely to find any lasting romantic involvements, he had none. In the first few pages of his book he claims he was not interested in his family, never mind family history.

It is hard to make a determination if Mr. Smith knew his true identity. The case can be argued either way.  But we do know it was his mother who cobbled together a story which served him well for his entire life. Was it out of a mother’s love for her son?

She knew life would be easier for him as Smith. He would not have to be involved with or have any
interactions with the crooked Dormitzer, Sr. If his true identity ever needed to be unlocked she held the only key.

One last thing to consider is the funeral and burial arrangements for his mother. Aside from his covering the costs he also directed the burial to be in the same plot, in a Canadian cemetery, with her first husband Wallace Burdick Smith. If he knew they had been divorced would he have made those same arrangements?

Anything, we have learned, was possible with the youngest Editor and General Manager of The San
Francisco Chronicle, Paul Clifford Dormitzer.



Randy's NOTE:  Stay tuned for the next installment of this multi-chapter report.  I will add all of the chapters to this post, and the other chapter posts, as they are published. The chapters to date are:

My thanks to Peter for sharing this mystery and its' solution with me and the Genea-Musings readers.

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Copyright (c) 2019, Peter E. Small

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