Tag Archives: Aline (Des Jardin) Charboneau

Before WWII: Uncle Fred’s first uniform (1935-1939)

Sepia Saturday 685. Sixth in a new series about letters written by my dad’s brother Frederic Mason Charboneau while in the US Army during WWII.

The last post explored the school days of my paternal uncle Frederic Mason Charboneau — who was six years older than my dad (Norman James Charboneau).

In 1935, Uncle Fred, 17, graduated from Forestport High School near his Otter Lake, N.Y., hometown after a successful school career in which he learned some business skills.

My uncle Frederic Mason Charboneau (c. 1939). Uncle Fred, 21, poses in his waiter uniform outside the Otter Lake Hotel. The Adirondack vacation spot was owned and operated by his parents (my grandparents) W. Ray and Mary (Owen) Charboneau from 1929-1947. Scan by Molly Charboneau

An unhappy waiter?

Where would Uncle Fred apply his education? Apparently at the Otter Lake Hotel, which was owned and operated by his parents (and my grandparents) W. Ray and Mary (Owen) Charboneau from 1929-1947.

That’s where he ended up wearing his first uniform, shown above. He almost appears to be standing at attention in the spiffy white jacket with dark piping and black slacks of a hotel waiter.

Yet in this photo, Uncle Fred has the same serious expression as in his 1932 school photo. Which made me wonder: Had he been pressed into working as a waiter by the needs of the family business? Was he unhappy with the assignment? Maybe so, since he brought significant office skills to his work at the hotel.

Uncle Fred’s business school training

Uncle Fred’s 1952 obituary says, “He was graduated from Forestport High School in 1935 and from the Excelsior School of Business in Utica in 1936.”1Rome, N.Y., Daily Sentinal, 13 Dec. 1952, Frederick Charbonneau (sic) obituary, p. 8

So in addition to learning bookkeeping and shorthand in high school, Fred went on to learn typing and other business skills after graduation — which would have made him invaluable in the hotel trade.

Of course, this information sent me looking for the school — and happily, in a 1935 business directory of Utica, N.Y., I found the above display ad for the Excelsior School of Business.2Utica, New York, 1935, U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line], Ancestry.com (http://ancestry.com : accessed 9 Aug. 2023), p. 350.

Fred’s oldest brother Owen Charboneau and his wife Aline (Des Jardins) Charboneau lived in Whitesboro, near Utica, at the time — so maybe he stayed with them while attending the school.

Since the ad gave the school’s address, I wondered whether the building where it was located still exists and was pleased to find a recent photograph, shown below. Although it no longer houses a school, the impressive brick edifice remains.

2022: The building at 1008 Cornelia St., Utica, N.Y., where the Excelsior School for Business was located in 1935. Source: Google maps

To me, the massive structure is a monument to a time when office skills were in high demand in the widespread manufacturing industries that were once the economic engine of upstate New York. What better alma mater for Uncle Fred in the years before WWII?

Up next: Uncle Fred registers for the WWII draft. Please stop back! Meanwhile, please visit the other intrepid bloggers over at Sepia Saturday.

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