Friday, May 3, 2013

Friday's Faces From the Past-John Henry Norman II

John Henry Norman II

My husband's grandfather, John Henry Norman II, was born in South Pittsburg, Marion, Tennessee, September 23, 1876 to John Henry and Mary Ann Parsons Norman. The family moved to Birmingham, Alabama in 1888.

John Henry married Martha Allie Walker October 20, 1897 in Birmingham, Alabama. They had 9 children. 

John Henry seems to have been quite a character. He held various jobs including butcher, grocer, steel worker, and a tire repair shop. My husband's Aunt Martha told us of a scheme to deliver ice by boat. The boat ended up sinking. 
Another family story is John Henry helped to build the Vulcan statue in Birmingham.  
During the 20’s there is an alleged bootlegging activity by the Norman family. No stills have been found with Norman fingerprints on them. A cousin said that he could take you to the place in Leeds out by Lake Purdy where the moonshine was made. 

John Henry's son Paul Norman, (center) with Slim & Cliff in front of Norman Grocery
(I have no idea who Slim and Cliff are)

John Henry had a grocery store in Birmingham. During the depression John was too kind-hearted to let anyone go hungry and sold his groceries on credit until he didn't have anything left to sell.  He looked around for something else to do and noticed that all those who owed him money were driving cars.  So we went down to a tire re-capping business and hired himself out at no pay for a week so he could learn the tire re-capping business, then opened his own store.

During WWII, tires were in short supply. John and his sons used a process called regrooving. The basic process is this: You take a bald tire and use a heated iron to cut into the remaining rubber to make a new tread. There were different blades that screwed on to the iron to make different tread designs. Sounds a bit dangerous, ESPECIALLY TO THE DRIVER!

Norman Tire Shop, Birmingham, Alabama. John Henry on the right.

Another family story, still unproven, is that John Henry once killed a man, but "got away with it". Some say it was over a woman. Some say it was the lynching of a black man. I am still searching for proof of this crime. From the rumors, it would have been about 1915.

On front is written Norman and his famous Retriever.  JH must have thought a lot of his hunting dogs.  He had one that got rabies and bit him.  He had to travel to Montgomery, Alabama and stay for a month to get shots.  I wonder if this is the dog that is so "famous".

Norman--John Henry Norman, age 63, 6831 Georgia Road, passed away at the residence Monday p.m. Survived by the widow, Mrs. Martha A. Norman; 2 daughters, Miss Martha Norman and Mrs. Alfred Meyer; 6 sons, Henry, Joe, Tom, Paul, Raymond and John Norman; 2 sisters, Miss Louise B. Norman, Mrs. E. E. Matthews. Funeral services from the Brown-Service, Norwood Chapel Tuesday, 3:30 p.m. Rev. Fred Sparks officiating. Interment Forest Hill Cemetery, Brown-Service, Norwood directing. Active pallbearers will be the 6 sons.
Published in the Birmingham News/Age Herald, Tuesday Oct 25, 1938, Deaths, pg. 15

My father in law repeatedly said "Poppa died with a gallon of wine under his bed". I'm guessing this referred to his alcoholism, as he died of cirrhosis of the liver.

Comments and cousins always welcome!