It’s a new year for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Amy Johnson Crow’s weekly challenge to write and share family history information and discoveries. When I saw the prompt for week one, my first thought was construction, and that reminded me of my maternal grandfather, Hoyt Cook, and his work at Naval Air Station Pensacola.
According to my mom, Hoyt – later known as Pap-pa – worked as a contractor for DuPont and helped build Sherman Field, home of the U.S. Navy’s renowned flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels.
I believe it was at the same time that Pap-pa got a contract to haul off food waste from the base’s mess halls. He used the thrown-away food to feed his hogs, most of which were sold for extra income.
A major foundation of genealogical research is finding documentary evidence to support family stories. Somewhere there must be a list of construction workers authorized to enter the base during construction. If Pap-pa had a contract for the removal of the food waste, and it seems like there must have been one, surely there’s a record of it.
Today, I emailed the historian at the National Naval Aviation Museum, located right next to Sherman Field, to see if he has any suggestions about where to look for relevant records.
Next, I searched for information about government contracts. I was delighted to learn that digitization of the Federal Register going back to 1936 began in 2015. Another search turned up a web page containing links to those archives from 1936 to the present. Sadly, though, the earlier records are PDFs. As in, scanned images of the original documents. As in, not searchable or indexed. The Federal Register is published daily. That’s a lot of pages to look through manually.
I used my subscription at newspapers.com and found an article that told me construction of Sherman Field began in July 1951. Searching in 1951, I found an article referencing the request for bids. This narrows it down, but it’s still going to take some time to go through the Register.
Construction of the new facilities was completed in 1954. I’ll have to ask my mom if she knows any more about the time frame when her dad picked up the dining hall garbage.
I wondered if DuPont maintained any records that might list employees. I found an archive that included photographs and prints from 1885 to 1952. The records do not appear to be digitized, but there is a searchable index online. I see nothing related to NAS Pensacola or Sherman Field.
If you have any other ideas of where I could look for information about contracts with Naval Air Station Pensacola, please let me know in the comments.
UPDATE: After I wrote this post, I talked to my mom, and now we have some questions. She’s sure her dad worked for DuPont, but that company many not have been associated with construction of Sherman Field. He worked for DuPont during construction of the Chemstrand plant in Escambia County. He *may* have worked for DuPont around 1942-1943, when the family moved to Alabama and Oklahoma for jobs. My mom’s brother was a baby, and the rules meant she had to leave teaching that school year.
My mom is sure her dad always talked about helping to build Sherman Field, but my mom was in high school in the early ’50s, and she thinks his work at the Navy base was earlier than that, in the final years of World War II.
More research ahead!