Miss George’s Binghamton childhood

Sepia Saturday 443: Second in a series about my fourth grade teacher Miss Helen George — one of those friends, acquaintances and neighbors (FANs) who can make such a difference in a person’s life.

When I was a grade schooler, I didn’t think about my teachers having an outside life — or any life at all apart from our classroom, where they lived up front by the blackboard.

Whether my teachers had parents or siblings or were once young themselves were questions that never entered my head.

Miss George’s childhood home: 22 Ogden Street, Binghamton, N.Y. Before she became my fourth grade teacher, Miss George lived here for most of her childhood and young adult years with her parents and younger brother. Photo: Google Maps

So it was not until this month — while visiting my hometown for a 50th high school reunion — that I learned about my fourth grade teacher Helen George’s family.

Miss George’s father Thomas George (1882-1954), mother Anna O’Dea George (1888-1955) and younger bother Thomas M. George (1920-1997) are buried beside her in Vestal Hills Memorial Park, Vestal, N.Y., as discussed in the last post,

Miss George’s family history

Finding her family led me to wonder about her younger years — before she began teaching — and what her childhood may have been like. Where did she live? What did her parents do? What records might help me discover some of her family history?

Turning to U.S. Census records, I easily located her family living in Binghamton, N.Y., in the 1920, 1930 and 1940 federal population censuses as summarized in the table below.

Helen George and family in the U.S. Census (1920-1940) Binghamton, Broome, N.Y. – Source: Family Search[1]FamilySearch requires free login to view records.
Year Address Thomas Anna Helen Thomas Jr.
1920[2]1920 U.S. census: FamilySearch requires free login to view records. 44 Dennison St. (Rent) 37, Head, Trainman 31, Wife, born in PA 2.5 yrs., Dau., born in NY
1930[3]1930 U.S. census: FamilySearch requires free login to view records. 22 Ogden St. (Own) 48, Head, Steam RR Conductor 42, Wife 12, Dau. 9, Son
1940[4]1940 U.S. census: FamilySearch requires free login to view records. 22 Ogden St. (Own) 57, Head, Steam RR Conductor 52, Wife, Housework 22, Dau., Attended School/College 19, Son, Attended School/College

The census entries show that Miss George’s father worked on the steam railroad — as opposed to the local electric railroad and streetcars that also operated in Binghamton, N.Y. at the time.

Her dad was a railroad man

Researching Thomas George’s occupation, I discovered the fascinating railroad map below, which shows the various lines — including steam train lines — traversing the Triple Cities, as the area was known when I lived there.

Miss George and her family lived just south of the Fair Grounds and Ball Park, which is grayed out on this map.

Railway map of Binghamton, N.Y. and Vicinity (1913). [Click map to enlarge.] The father of my fourth grade teacher, Miss Helen George, was a conductor on a steam railroad that carried passengers to and from Binghamton, N.Y. — like the train I took as a child to visit my grandparents during the summer. Image: McGraw Electric Railway Manual maps/U. of Texas Libraries (Austin)
My childhood overlapped the last years of these passenger railroads — one of which ran right behind Hooper School where I had Miss George for fourth grade in 1960.

I remember summers as a youngster taking the Delaware and Hudson railroad north from Binghamton, with my younger brother Mark, to visit our grandparents near Albany, N.Y. — a train line that appears on the above map.

What a surprise to learn that Miss George’s dad was a railroad conductor who worked on a steam train line — maybe even the same railroad I later traveled on as a child!

Please stop back as this series continues. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs  of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here

© 2018 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1 FamilySearch requires free login to view records.
2 1920 U.S. census: FamilySearch requires free login to view records.
3 1930 U.S. census: FamilySearch requires free login to view records.
4 1940 U.S. census: FamilySearch requires free login to view records.

8 thoughts on “Miss George’s Binghamton childhood”

  1. Interesting and fun to find out – even belatedly – that your paths as a youngster may have crossed with Miss George’s father when you took the steam train here or there. And who knows, you might have seen her mother shopping in a store somewhere but didn’t realize it. Shopping in a store reminds me with a smile about teachers and their students. When I was teaching elementary school music in the small town where we lived, I’d inevitably run into one of my music students in the local market and they were always so excited to see me outside of the classroom. Rather a heady feeling as I remembered how I used to feel if I saw one of my teachers outside the classroom. 🙂

    1. Great story! When I was in junior high, our principal lived in my neighborhood. It was a big deal to go trick-or-treating to his house on Halloween — we thought it looked like a huge mansion, with tall pillars on the front porch. On this trip, I realized it was about the same size as everyone else’s house — but when we’re young teachers and school administrators loom large and so do their homes.

  2. It’s a lovely idea to explore a teacher’s upbringing. Railroad families were once pretty common. My grandfather was a yardmaster at Union Station in Wash DC, but before that he was a brakeman. My mother recalled recently how hard it was for him to pick up work when she was little. The train assignments were irregular and you had to go down daily to the union hall to get your name in. And then when he was on work he might be out very late for several days before returning home. I imagine it was similar for conductors.

    I noticed two doors on their house. Was that an original division of two apartments? I’d bet many of their neighbors worked on the railroad too.

    1. Great observations, Mike. I went back to the census reports and sure enough, the original house was a two-family — with a second family (different surname) enumerated at the same address. I also checked occupations, and the next door neighbor along with others on Ogden Street, worked for the railroad. In last week’s post I mentioned that Miss George reminded me of my maternal grandmother, and here’s another commonality: My grandmother’s dad (my great grandfather) also worked for the railroad in Gloversville, N.Y.

  3. How interesting, to delve into a teacher’s life and find out about her father’s work! Now I can think about some of the people who influenced me, and maybe do some fishing into their pasts.

    1. I’ve been wanting to write about her for awhile and my recent trip prompted me finally to make a start. In truth, spend as much time at school or jobs as we do with family, so I believe it’s important to honor those who positively influenced our lives.

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