(Editor’s Note: I have selected some embeddable photos from Getty Photos and other sources that help illustrate scenes in the story, and may or may not be exact representations of the people and places mentioned. For example, the above photo is that of a young man upholding tradition by carrying his new bride over the threshold of their house, circa 1940.)
This article is one of an 8-part series about Charlotte Fairbairn, and was written by our patron, John Fairbairn. To read the intro by the editor and see links to the other 7 parts of the story, refer to the Table of Contents page. On to the story—
In her late teens, the Judd family moved to Downers Grove IL. At the age of about 20, Charlotte met, and on 08 October 1934 in the deepest dark days of the Great Depression, married her only true sweetheart, Edward Hoernlé Wood Fairbairn, a young man from Elgin IL. Edward was the son of James Fairbairn, a Scottish immigrant joiner, offspring of the Fairbairns of The Cove, Cockburnspath Scotland. His mother was Christina Murray Wood of St. George District in Edinburgh. Born in Edinburgh in December of 1908, at the age of five Edward came to America in July of 1914 with his family. They made the trip on the last commercial voyage of the Anchor Line S.S. Caledonia. Edward was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in May of 1918, as the Great War ended.
Edward also finished through high school, and after a time of designing street-level window displays for Marshall Fields, he eventually became an advertising designer for the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times newspapers. In addition, he possessed a considerable talent for both artistic and portrait photography, as well as for display window and print advertising design. With the combination of these skills, he was able to make a comfortable living for himself and his new wife. However, Edward was a young man on the rise. In the midst of the depression, he was hired as the advertising manager of the Cairo IL Evening Citizen newspaper, and the couple moved to Cairo.
Edward would come home with a knotty problem and spill it to Charlotte. She would start popping ideas for possible solutions.
During this time, Charlotte and her beloved ‘Scottie’ began a partnership that lasted for the rest of their marriage. Edward would come home with a knotty problem and spill it to Charlotte. She would start popping ideas for possible solutions. Edward would tuck these ideas carefully into his mind, and a few days later would come up with a solution which far more often than not combined the best of Charlotte’s suggestions. To say the least, for its time this was an unusual arrangement. Most men never discussed their ‘business affairs’ with their wives, considering them to be too feeble-minded.
Three and a half years after their marriage, Charlotte gave birth to a son, Thomas Edward Wood Fairbairn, on 06 March 1938. At that time, the world was racing into the conflict that soon would be known as World War II. Three quiet years followed, with Charlotte being a devoted, model wife and an excellent mother to a highly energetic toddler.
“We shall regret sending all this to Japan. That steel will be made into guns and planes and ships, the lead and tin into bullets, and the copper into wire for electrical circuits … Those are men’s lives being sent away…”
Charlotte and Edward used to sit on the concrete levies in Cairo Illinois and watch the barge traffic as it went down the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, which joined there. As barge after barge went by loaded with scrap steel, copper, lead, zinc, chrome, tin, and other materials vital to a war-time production, Edward would shake his head sadly.
“We shall regret sending all this to Japan. That steel will be made into guns and planes and ships, the lead and tin into bullets, and the copper into wire for electrical circuits. It all will come back at us. Those are men’s lives being sent away, Charlotte, mark my words.”
Charlotte would nod quiet agreement, and they would take baby Tommy home for tea.
It was to be seven years of excruciating, painful lessons in what we must not do in the international arena before the United States was able to emerge from under the pall of the correctness of his precognitive understanding.
Mother and Daddy had bought an Irish Setter for Tommy when he was a couple years old, after an interesting escapade in Cairo. One day when Tommy was supposed to be napping, at the age of two he decided that he was going for a stroll instead. He climbed out of his crib, and somehow got out of the apartment without alerting Mother. Clad only in his underpants, he crossed two major two-lane streets, and walked to the swimming pool on the other side of town. Squatting on the nearby lawn there, he became an interested spectator of the swimmers until he was located by police, neighbors, the Boy Scouts, and his frantic parents. When snatched up by his relieved mother, he said simply, “Hi, Mommy. I took a nice little walk.” His sunny smile completely disarmed her ability to punish him. Instead, she hugged him enough to make him squeak and took him home.
Hence they acquired Coppy, an Irish Setter nursemaid for Tommy who was ‘company’ for the little scamp. She would ‘copy’ him, going wherever he did. Her dark coppery-red coat made her easy to spot, and that allowed the folks to keep better track of him. She also would not allow anyone except other children and Mother or Daddy to touch him, unless they introduced her to the person. She would fuss franticly whenever Tommy put himself in danger, which Mother reported was all too frequently. She said his shenanigans were of “hair-raising effect” and were “too numerous to mention”.
Hence they acquired Coppy, an Irish Setter nursemaid for Tommy who was ‘company’ for the little scamp.
Edward’s fortunes continued to rise. By early 1941, he had acquired a reputation for being a “can do” executive in the fickle advertising world. He was offered a position as Advertising Manager with a new enterprise, Tide Magazine, an in-house journal for the nationwide restaurant trade. This was the first trade publication designed for a specific type of business. He was very successful in helping design the layout of the magazine, and advertising revenues soared. The little family returned to Chicago. Coppy went with them, and continued her nursemaiding duties.
Meanwhile, Charlotte continued to be an attentive mother to her rambunctious little toddler. She took him on numerous trips to Chicago’s Field Museum and the Aquarium, and trips through the huge Marshal Field’s department store, where he aroused comment and considerable amusement by riding about inside the store and its elevators on his tricycle. However, his favorite pastime was prowling through the caverns of the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, where his curiosity proved insatiable.
Next week, Edward’s “prophecy” will come true, and the nation goes to war. Charlotte contributes to the War Effort by supporting her husband, and running a peaceful home with thrift and ingenuity. Edward also did his part by using his diplomatic skills on super secret supply missions abroad.
Link to “World War II, and a Change in Occupation” to be published September 26, 2017