As soon as I saw this week’s prompt for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors Challenge, I thought of my first cousin twice removed Ary Joseph Johansen. I recalled that Ary worked for the electric company in Texas. I was soon reminded that he was not the only member of his family to choose a career in the utility business.
Ary was born in Pensacola Escambia County, Florida on December 18th, 1907. His parents were Charles Johansen and Hattie Hahn. He appears to be named after his grandmother, Ary Hahn.
The 1910 Census records Ary living with his parents and brothers Charles and Edward on South C Street near West Pine Street. His father, it says, ran a store.
When the U.S. joined the Great War, Herman Edward Johansen registered, listing his occupation as oiler at the Pensacola Electric Company. Charles’ registration gives his occupation as Chief Clerk at Pensacola Electric.
In 1920, the family had moved to South E Street, still near Pine Street. (I went back and looked again at the handwriting on the previous census, to make sure I hadn’t misread an E there, but it still looked like a C.) Charles and Hattie are both listed as running a grocery store. Brother Herman Edward was listed as an operator at the electric plant. Ary would still have been in school. I haven’t found Charles the younger on the 1920 Census.
I do have a hint of where Charles may have been in 1920. His obituary published in the Tampa Times on May 1st, 1947, said that in 1925 Charles left Tampa, where he was assistant treasurer of the Tampa Electric Company, to become treasurer of the Houston, Texas, Power and Light Company. When he died, he was treasurer of the Atlanta Gas Light Company.
In 1930, Herman Edward is listed as working as a stationary engineer at the power plant in Escambia County. Ary, it seems, has followed his oldest brother to Texas; he’s listed as a lodger in Beaumont, Jefferson County, Texas, working as a bookkeeper at the electric plant.
The 1940 Census, lists Edward Johansen as an operator for Gulf Power. Charles, as mentioned in the aforementioned obituary, was working as a treasurer for the Gas and Light Company. Ary is back in Jefferson County, Texas, after some time in Grimes County, Texas, around 1935, and he is listed as working as a cashier at a utility company.
Electricity came to Pensacola in 1888; the first power company served just 20 customers. The Johansen family would have seen the use of electricity – and the need for employees – increase exponentially as the children grew up. Charles and Ary may have gotten some of their bookkeeping skills while helping out in the family store. Sadly, Charles and Ary’s died young, but Herman Edward lived to 76 years old, and according to his obituary, he was a retired civil service worker.
I never heard anything about our Johansen relatives until I started researching the family history. I was delighted to hear from one of Ary’s grandchildren, who found me through WikiTree. It’s strange how, in just a couple of generations, families can lose track of each other. The power of online trees, DNA, and other 21st century tools are helping to bring us back together.