Whole Number 21
(This brief is submitted to the members of The Sparks Family Association, at the request of Editor Bidlack. While I concede 'PRIDE' in my ANCESTRY and the LEGACIES left me, I lay no claim to having equaled their prestige or accomplishments, nor have I transgressed their 'LIMELIGHT'. To LIVE IN REFLECTION is to CROSS THE GREAT DIVIDE IN THE DARK. Please exonerate me of ego. For some twenty years, I kept under the glass on my office desk a card reading: 'Of all humanity since time began, only about five thousand amounted to anything.' The longer providence extends my years, the more am I impressed with the inferiority of superiority.)
My mother was 25.2.5 SARAH JANE SPARKS, who, according to the family Bible, was 'born 13th Augt., 1848, 8 o'clock P.M. Sunday,' on the Cedar Valley Plantation, Polk County, Georgia. She was the second child and eldest daughter of 25.2 Thomas Hunter Sparks - (Planter) - and his second wife, Ann Linton. A family Bible entry reads: 'Sara Jane Sparks to H. M. Smith on May 17th, 1871, Athens, Georgia, at home - by Rev. F. H. Ivey.' Contrast this with an item in the Southern Watchman, of Athens, Georgia, on May 24, 1871, reading: 'Married: in Athens, on the 17th inst. by Rev. H. F. Ivey, Mr. Hines M. Smith, of Rome, Ga., to Miss Sallie T. Sparks.'
My father, Hines Maguire Smith (eldest son of Major Charles Henry Smith - 'Bill Arp', C.S.A. - and Mary Octavia Hutchins, both born in Lawrenceville, Georgia) was born in Lawrenceville on January 19, 1859, in connection with which he claimed that 'Two great men were born that date- himself and General Robert E. Lee.' My name was fixed by 'automation.' It happened that I arrived at the home of my Grandmother Sparks in Athens, Georgia, on June 15, 1872 - the 46th birthday of my Grandfather Smith. Of such is 'automation.' In due time, I was taken to Rome, Georgia, the home of my father's people, where Grandmother Sparks acquired a cottage next door, into which my parents moved, assuming a just share of the expenses. When seven years of age, I entered 'MRS. WRIGHT'S PRIVATE SCHOOL' (there was no public school for several years), where my home teaching enabled me to 'carry on' with some degree of success. Mrs. Wright was a little lady of the gentility and taught practical formality. On entering the school room in the morning we were required to remove our hats at the door, make a bow, and say 'Bonjour, Madam;' on leaving, to face about at the door and bow with a 'Bon soir', Madam' - the only French I ever learned except 'A la carte' and 'A la mode.' The school was in the same block, but across the street from the home of the Rev. S. E. Axson, father of Ellen Louise ('Miss Ellie Lou'), first wife of Woodrow Wilson. It was at Mrs. Wright's school that Tom Jeffries drew ELEPHANTS, which I envied; and Will Tuggs gyrated his ears 'with the greatest of ease.' Charlie Seay sold and bought advertising cards for pins. His sister Susie, a brunette, was my nemesis in spelling bouts, while pretty blonde Annie from across the street was known as 'Cottonhead' on account of her golden hair - by no means chivalrous. 'Bah-who' was the 'co-educational' recess game. Children took pride in their dress, and parents took pride in their children. The girls were pretty and decorous, and the boys correspondingly polite. Soon my younger brother, LINTON, and I completed the curriculum at Mrs. Wright's, and we entered the 'PRIMARY DEPARTMENT' at Shorter College, in Rome - a Baptist School for Girls where, 'through special dispensation,' 'little boys' were accepted at a price (there being no other school for them). From 'Shorter' we transferred to Prof. Bothwell Graham's boys' school of more advanced teaching. This recalls that 'HUCK' (Charlie) Patton, a red-headed, freckled-faced, older boy ('Huck') because of having been Huckleberry Finn in a Tom Sawyer play, condensed by 'Bill Amp' from Mark Twain's story. It drew packed houses. The character of 'Tom' was played by Cothran Smith, now known as the evangelist, Wade C. Smith). 'Huck' was the school's professional marble'shooter for either 'FUN' or 'KEEPS'. To pocket a dozen 'Peewees' during one game was commonplace - only one of his many accomplishments, pro and con. It was on the Graham playground that a 'flying ginny,' motivated by a spotless white horse of rare beauty, 'parked' for a time. To decoy riders, a onelegged follower made balloon flights, hanging to a trapeeze, performing accrobatics. It was my first sight of a balloon larger than a circus vender's model at ten cents each. It time, Rome decided to build a public school on 'Water Tower Hill.' It required much supplication to induce Mr. Landrum, the painter, to permit me to apply some of his green paint to the inner sides of the louver boards in the belfry. When the school opened, I entered the Fourth Grade. Prof. Graham became principal, the most lucid mathematics teacher I ever had. He had the talent of claffifying (sic) arithmetic, geometry, and algebra. I was suspended for receiving help during a verbal Latin quiz. So was my cousin, Will Norton, for helping me. We were sent home for one hour. I never accepted help again. It was a lasting lesson. The fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades followed, the preparatory and High School grades being integrated (not the races).
In 1888, I became MESSENGER BOY, at $10 per month, for Colonel Charles I. Graves, Freight Agent for the E.T.V. & G. Railroad (now part of the Southern). The Colonel had previously trained the Egyptian Army for a period of five years. In the summer of 1889, out of a clear sky and entirely unexpected, my brother Linton and I were instructed to prepare to enter Auburn that fall, September, 1889. After hurdling the entrance examination, we lived in uniforms for four years, graduating on June 14, 1893, I 'with distinction,' as Second-ranking Cadet Captain, and a member of the first class in Electrical Engineering to graduate from Auburn. It was taught by the late Prof. Anthony Foster MeKissick, E.E., a man of superior mind and understanding. The day following graduation, June 15th, I joined my parents, brothers, and sister in Cartersville, Georgia, and celebrated my twenty-first birthday with my grandfather, 'Bill Amp,' who on that date attained his sixty-seventh year.
For some unaccountable reason, the faculty at Auburn recommended me for an inspection position covering eight south-eastern states with The Fire Insurance Association. As a consequence of technicalities, I was employed - later being informed that I had thirty-five competitors. At the end of eight months, having completed the scheduled work, I was no longer needed. The minutes of the meeting of the Executive Board record that my work was 'entirely satisfactory.'
Following a period of applying and waiting (graduates were not handed jobs on silverplatters in those days), Professor McKissick, still at Auburn, influenced Mr. D. A, Tompkins, Westinghouse agent in Charlotte, North Carolina, to approach Vice President Bannister of Westinghouse in my behalf. I subsequently received a letter suggesting that I report at Pittsburgh, 'Salary to be arranged later.' (I had been paid $100 and expenses by the Insurance Association.) On arrival, I was bluntly informed that my 'SALARY' would be twelve cents per hour, apprentice rate, fifty-four hours per week. Although surprised and disappointed, I had 'BOASTED' of going to work for Westinghouse, so I took my medicine. (by working overtime three nights a week and walking a mile each way, to and from work, and gormandizing on ten-cent lunches, I managed to survive on my $26 income.) After three months, 'my salary' was increased to sixteen cents per hour (the greatest percentage increase I ever received at any time). by continuing the three nights overtime, at straight time, I finally accumulated an eight-dollar surplus and bought a needed pair of dress trousers, my income being forty-two dollars per month. It was at this time that the Company was moving from Pittsburgh to East Pittsburgh. I wound armatures, maintained incandescent and arc lights, became an inspector of coils, and finally apprentice helper to a selfmade construction engineer named William Bauder. To him I owe much. He was capable, dependable, and a perfectionist. He taught me that superior workmanship not only became a habit, but also reduced costs. That the 'extra touch' - too often neglected - pays off. My first outside job completed and my ability thought increased, I requested an increase from 16 cents to 25 cents an hour. This was refused. It happened that the Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta needed electrical help. I became Chief Electrical Inspector, at seventy-five dollars per month. The work included locating all decorative lights and the calculation of circuits. The overall engineering authority was Charles F. Foster, of national distinction as head of the Mechanical Department of the Chicago World's Fair, in 1893; a good man to know and remember. We met again at the St. Louis Exposition, approximately a decade later. In this connection, Luther Steringer, who designed the electric fountains for the Chicago Fair (a personal friend of Edison's) was employed to design the fountain for the Atlanta Exposition. He too was able and likeable.
My next employment was that of Electrical Engineer for a Coal Company in Alabama among the first to electrically equip their mines. After recovering their motordriven cutters from the junk pile, rebuilding an electric locomotive, and bringing order out of chaos - THERE BEING NO FUTURE - I resigned. Odd jobs followed, which included a wooden lattice bridge of 120 ft. span and 16 ft. width, supported by stone abutments on both sides of the creek. It should prove of interest to note that the lattice timbers were two inches by twelve inches, by thirty-six feet, free of knots, sun cracks, and sap, cut from trees selected by me, and delivered at the bridge site for $7.50 per thousand, a total of 36,000 feet being required. The contract price was $1,623. The bridge was finished, including the painting of its shingled top and sides, in less than three months, at a net profit of something less than $250. I cite this item to accentuate what has happened to our forests and what inflation has done to our economy. Completing the bridge, and, being interested in mining, I engaged in prospecting for ferrous ores in Georgia. This was stopped by the Spanish American War. When the call for engineers was made, I applied for a Captaincy in the THIRD REGIMENT, U.S. VOLUNTEER ENGINEERS, being recruited by the late Colonel David Dubose Gaillard, subsequently of the Panama Canal Commission and worthy of every distinction, a credit to the army and to the nation. In time I was ordered to Atlanta for examination. Asked if I would accept a SECOND LIEUTENANCY, I replied 'NO'. Then - 'Will you accept a First?' Rather than be thought arbitrary, I agreed to consider it. When officially offered that rank, I accepted it, as of July 13, 1898. After a brief recruiting period, I was ordered to Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis, Missouri, being immediately assigned to 'E' Company as 'Company Commander' (but 'NOT AS CAPTAIN'). Following the organizing and 'mustering in' of the regiment, and preliminary training, the command was transferred to Lexington, Kentucky, then to Macon, Georgia. (At Lexington, on October 20, 1898, I was promoted to Captain - my first Captain Shoulder Straps being presented to me by Evangelist Samuel W. Small, Chaplain of the Regiment.) On completing the scheduled training at Macon, my Battalion, the second, was shipped to Charleston, South Carolina, for embarkation on the 1900-ton transport Saratoga, to Cienfuegos, Cuba, for duty. The war being over, there were no eventualities. However, assignments were interesting. In my case, (1) the rehabilitation of the old Spanish Barracks in Cienfuegos for use by our troops - (2) reporting on the waterfall at San-Bias and the large one, known as 'SALTOS del HANNABANILLA' - (3) member of a group headed by Col. Gaillard, to select a site and lay out the camp opposite the 'CASTILLO de JAGUA' (built to protect the entrance to the harbor) for occupational troops.
(NOTE: It seems timely to include that 126.96.36.199 Henry W. Sparks, youngest son of 25.2.4 Linton Sparks, Sr., enlisted in Rome, Georgia, as a second-class private, and was mustered out as First Sergeant of 'E' Co., on May 17, 1899; also that my brother, H. Hunter Smith, enlisted at Rome, Ga., on July 25, 1898; became First Sergeant of 'E' Company and was mustered out as Sergeant Major of the Second Battalion. He later became a Captain of Engineers in World War I. Both have answered their last roll calls.)
In April 1899, the three battalions, having been stationed at different locations, were reunited at Fort McPherson, Georgia, where the regiment was mustered out on May 17, approximately fifty-nine years ago.
A few months later, I returned to the Westinghouse Company; first as a 'Construction Engineer'; then as District Engineer in the Syracuse, New York district; next, as Assistant to the Director of Westinghouse Exhibits at the St. Louis Exposition, (1904-1905); then District Engineer in the St. Louis area, and later transferred to New York City, as District Engineer in 1906. In 1907 I became Engineer of the Executive Department, with headquarters in East Pittsburgh and the nation as my field of operation. This work I continued until World War I, when I requested 'time out' to join the forces of the U.S. Army Engineers. Although admittedly qualified, my commission as Major was delayed until January 28, 1918, (Recorded February 7, 1918) seven months after I reached the required age of 45 for that grade. Confirming, 'believe it or not,' a prophetic dream of two months earlier, I was ordered to report at Camp Lee, Virginia, as of May 5, 1918, for training, and later to Camp Humphrey (Fort Belvoir, Virginia), where I was responsible for training troops and controlling the movements of Casuals. In time I was assigned to the prospective 320th Regiment of Engineers, a skeleton outfit, and soon ordered to Camp Fremont, California, to select a camp for a shipment of 170 officers and men to arrive by special train in five days, at which time quarters were to be available and breakfast ready. This contingent was to muster in and train three new Engineering Regiments, the 320th, 321st, and 322nd. When they arrived two days ahead of schedule, they found quarters and breakfast awaiting them. However, the armistice, on November 11th, stopped recruiting, and preliminaries for mustering-out followed, during which period I was appointed Camp Inspector for the 40,000 troop area - delegated to transform the interior of certain Post buildings, in order to expedite the discharging of the men - at first inexcusably slow, and finally appointed Director of a Board to reconcile claims made locally against the Government for property usage and damage. This final duty was not fulfilled for the reason that a 'SMITH' error in Washington resulted in my premature discharge, as of December 31, 1918; although I served and was paid to January 6, 1919. My official discharge gives the date of discharge as December 31, 1919. Confusion was confounded.
Becoming a citizen, I returned to Westinghouse, resuming my work as Engineer of the Executive Department, which position I held until retired on September 1, 1938 after forty years of service. During that period, in addition to my prescribed work, I served, by appointment of President Herr, as a Director of the Westinghouse Club for some twenty years, being four times elected President of the Club by its members, increasing the membership, during my administration, from 850 to 1900. The Club was responsible for both technical and social activities. It has since been merged with the Westinghouse Educational Center, primarily concerned with advanced technical education and student training.
When World War II became an eventuality, I became a member of the staff of the Wilbur Watson & Associates Engineering group, serving as Supervising Inspector of Equipment Installation during construction of the Ravenna Ordnance Plant, April 7, 1941, to 1 April 1942, (a story in itself). On completion of that project, I became Construction Superintendent of all electrical and piping work at the Lake Ontario Ordnance Plant, Lewiston, New York, reporting to Chief Engineer Bruce Buchamon of the J. G. White Engineering organization - a very interesting experience. My connection with the project began on May 4, 1942, and ended with the completion of the work on March 13, 1943.
In July, 1943, I was recalled by the Westinghouse Electric Corporation and served as an Assistant to the Manager of the District Engineering and Service Department for a period of four years. My duties had to do primarily with salvaging needed technical talent from the draft and, finally, collecting data for a history of the work of the department during the War.
Since the termination of the above employment, the vicious, inane, and illogical practice of arbitrary retirement has precluded my further employment. Just as arbitrarily, it has not provided for equalizing the ever-cheapening of the inflated dollar as reflected in pensions, dividends, or proceeds from securities invested in, years ago, for retired years. The retired man is the forgotten man. Only organized minorities, including self-raising political pirates, have the influence to 'BALANCE' inflation's burden. It is long past time for the native-born to recover their freedom and become men again - time to build a wall as high as Sputnik around the U.S.A. and close for all time its gates to foreign-born before it becomes over-populated and deluged with premature wars for more space for its people. It is time to consider the future plight of our legatees, as a consequence of alien infiltration as a result of political corruption and un-Americanism.
My immediate family unit will be introduced in a future issue, to include the descendents of 25.2 Thomas Hunter Sparks, to date, in family units. To this end, it is requested that any members of our Association having knowledge of the Thomas H. Sparks lineage, or the forebears of his father, 25. Martin Peeples Sparks, or mother, Elizabeth Whatley, send it to the Editor, Dr. Russell E. Bidlack, 1131 Granger Avenue, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
DOMESTIC AND CIVIL
Charles Henry Smith intermarried with Miss Caryl Mabel Ervin on his fiftieth birthday, June 15, 1922. See 'Family Unit' in future issue.
Church affiliation: Presbyterian. Political: Independent.
Charter Member: The Society of American Military Engineers, having served as President of the Pittsburgh Post, as National Director, and been awarded the Gold Medal of the Society in 1926, for constructive effort.
Charter Member of Edgewood Country Club, resigned.
Past Member of the University Club of Pittsburgh.
Past Member, Southern Society of New York.
Past Member, Georgia Society of New York.
Past President, Third U.S.V. Engineers Association (War with Spain).
Member, and Past President, LaFayette Chapter, S.A.R. of Pennsylvania.
Past President and Director, Westinghouse Club - Educational and Social.
Past President, Men's Association of Edgewood, Pennsylvania.
Past Member, Spanish War Veterans and American Legion.