This week on 52 Ancestors is all about Father’s Day and I would like to share some of my favorite old photos and a bit of a story of my dad, LaFon Camlyn Lyons. He was born the 30th of August in 1917 in Lynchburg, Virginia, the third son of Clarence Edward Lyons and Cammie Lyster Swanson. He was really named Camlyn LaFon Lyons but always used LaFon as his first name. Now “LaFon” is not an ordinary name! I was told that he was named after a neighbor who was a relative and in my research, I found that to probably be true. His family had lived in Sugar Grove, Virginia near the Blue Ridge Mountains in 1916, the year before they moved to Lynchburg and my dad was born. A cousin of the family, through marriage, also lived in Sugar Grove and their son, born in 1916, was Randolph Lafon Huff. This is likely the neighbor that my dad was named after! Only, my dad’s name had a capital ” F” in the middle of LaFon.
I don’t know a lot about my dad growing up, just bits and pieces. He had 2 older brothers, Bill (William Lilburn Lyons) and Eddy (Edward McWayne Lyons) and 2 younger sisters, Dreama June Lyons Cranston Schultz, and Coralie Jean Lyons Hearn. He also had a sister named Rosemary who died at birth. The family lived and worked on a large tobacco and sugar cane farm at one time, possibly his grandparents farm. When they moved to Lynchburg, his dad Clarence was a carpenter at Jno. P Pettyjohn & Co.
Big changes for the family happened in 1923. When my dad was only 5, his family, his uncle’s family, his aunt’s family and some of the cousins all packed up and left Virginia to move to Detroit, Michigan. Here, most found work in the Auto industry and his dad worked first at the Packard Motor Company and later at Aeroplane Manufacturing as a mechanic. I have an old letter to my dad from his first cousin, Roland Gilley where Roland talks about growing up in Detroit near my dad. In the letter, he said, “Remember the time you got hit with a brick at school and broke your arm?” There must have been a good story behind that one!
Then, of course, times got hard during the Great Depression. In 1930, the family owned a home at 357 St. Aubins Street in the 9th Ward of Detroit. His dad was working part time because of ill health due to tuberculosis. My dad did tell me once that when he was 14, he had a job driving a bakery truck in Detroit and that would have been in 1931. Later, I know he drove Semi Tractors. My dad and brother Eddy quit high school to work and help support the family when their dad was ill. Dad was a truck driver and Eddy worked as a paint sprayer in an auto factory. When Dad was 22 in 1939, his father Clarence passed away at age 48 from Pulmonary Tuberculosis and heart disease. Cammie was a widow at age 46 and went to work and the boys helped support the family. My dad did work in the CCC’s (Civilian Conservation Corps) before the war in Paradise, Michigan.
When World War II started my dad was drafted into the army and met my mom, Elma Knihtila, while he was stationed in Fort Sheridan, Illinois. He served in the Aleutian Islands at Attu and Kiska while my mom waited for him and lived in Seattle, Washington. They were married May 16, 1944 in Bessemer, Michigan. This part of their story is one I am still working on and piecing together. But I have many memories of this handsome, caring man who was my father and want to share some of my favorite old pictures of him. All the pictures were rescued from a decrepit family album!
There is so much more that I could write about this wonderful man – he was my hero as I grew up. He was a hard worker, loving and devoted to his family. But more of his story will wait for another day. I hope you enjoy the pictures!