Today I'm featuring a true treasure. But it's not my treasure nor anyone in my family's. And I'd love more than anything to find the descendents of this treasure so that I can pass it along.
Almost 20 years ago, I worked at an apartment complex in Palo Alto, CA. Our clubhouse had a back storage room that I decided to clean out one weekend and I found a really, really old lost and found box. By "old", I mean from the 1960s. In this box were funky sweaters (think flow-y sleeves with lots of color and flowers) and flip flops. But under those items, I found a book (after I stopped laughing and moved on). The book is a blank book with pictures and writing all through it. The cover has been decorated in pencil with "Cain-USNR PERSONAL and I ain't kidding! 1944".
Inside cover says Donated to Edwin Harmon Cain by Fred Merrion Cain Junior.
Title page says Logbook Jan 2, 1943 in pen and then printed it says Manufactured by US Government Printing Office.
There are pictures and names and dates all throughout. When I found it, I went through the old files to find any names of people who rented there and didn’t find any. And one year (before the internet) I did try to find them by calling all the Cains in the phone book in Oakland. I gave up, though, as people weren’t as nice as you would think they should be. I tried again after the internet one year again posting queries all over the place. Then I stashed it and this morning at 4am I decided that today is the day to try again, in honor of Veterans' Day.
I have to admit that while I long to give this to the people who will love it most, it will be tough competition, as I love these people.
I love Edwin Harmon Cain, shown as little Eddie in a few pictures. Edwin later (in 1953) drove a taxi for Yellow Cab in Oakland. While all pictures of Edwin are in black and white, I know he had blue eyes and brown hair, as that is what his license states. In 1953, he lived at 2425 Grove Street in Oakland, CA. But when he was a boy, I believe he lived on Adams Street. Since Fred (the book writer) donated this to Edwin, I worry what happened to Edwin to have the book show up at Oak Creek Apartments in Palo Alto, California.
I love Fred Merrion Cain Junior. There aren’t many pictures of Fred in his own book, but the pictures he treasured show a lot about him. He found humor in the same things as I did and beauty in his wife, Ilene, that is unsurpassed. Many of the pictures are almost tossed into the book with some corner holders. But those of Ilene are placed beautifully and thoughtfully. Fred was known as “Killer Cain” but it seems almost in jest and love by his fellow sailors. Some have left their pictures with their addresses, clearly hopeful that the relationship will continue after the war.
And I can’t help but love Ilene Ritz who married her sweetheart, Fred, on her 17th birthday in 1944. She is so beautiful and sweet looking, especially since you see her through Fred’s eyes.
The picture with “Ma and Frank” fills me with love, as I see a strong young boy in his sailor uniform looking down as his mother. His look is that of a young boy, thinking the sailor suit is what makes him a man now. His mother looks back at him with pride, but also fear. Or maybe all of this is me imagining “Ma and William,” my own son, in these circumstances. For all I know, Frank isn’t even “Ma’s” son. But I’m betting on it.
I love the Bob and Bud who are featured in several spots. “Bud” is James Cain from the USS Chester and “Bob” is Robert Cain from the USS Goodhue. Both are in sailor uniforms and featured. I am not sure if they are also brothers to Fred, but if they are, then Ma had four boys go off to war. It’s the mother in me that is now sitting here hoping and praying they all made it home. Did Eddie get his brothers back? Did Ma get all her sons home safely?
I’ve never done military research before, but today I will begin there in my search for the Cain Family of Oakland, CA.