Postcard – Kansas City MO from YMCA Building 1917

GRAY Alex GRAY Lula Front

GRAY Alex GRAY Lula Back

Postmarked: 16 March 1917 from Kansas City MO
Addressed to: Mrs. Alex Gray (Lula’s mother), Craig, Mo.

Kansas City, MO
Dear folks:
Got the box
all OK and I am
feeling real well
don’t know when I
can come home. Erma
will be there to-

With Love

Postcard – Thornton & Minor Sanitarium, Kansas City MO 1926

GRAY Erma From GRAY Lula Front


GRAY Erma From GRAY Lula Back

Postmarked: 6 July 1926, Kansas City MO
To: Miss Erma Gray (Lula’s sister), Craig, Mo.

Kansas City Mo.
July 6, 1926
Dear Folks:
Well just about
the same heat is just
about to get to me. The nurse said
this morning I might get
away the last of this week
but I am not counting on
getting away that soon. Dr.
Maris left yesterday.

With love Lula

Dr. A. J. Maris sent the family a postcard from the Chicago World’s Fair.
Someone in Lula’s household received a birthday card from the clinic.

Postcard – Sky Ride at Chicago’s World Fair 1933

GRAY Alex from MARIS Doctor Front

GRAY Alex from MARIS Doctor Back

Postmarked: 18 August 1933, Chicago IL
To: Mr. Alex Gray, Craig, MO

The thrill of this
“Sky Ride” trip above
the greatest fair the
world has ever known
reminds me of the
joy experienced in
hearing from my grateful
Thornton and Minor
Clinic friends.

Dr. A. J. Maris

The Thornton and Minor Clinic was in Kansas City, Missouri.

The postcard is printed with this description:
Sky Ride
One of the most interesting features of Chicago’s World’s Fair is the “Sky Ride.” The towers are 600 feet high and 1,850 feet apart. Double decked rocket cars will run suspended from 4 cabled tracks between and around the two towers. The estimated cost of construction of the “Sky Ride” is $1,000,000.00.
1833 Century of Progress Chicago World’s Fair 1933

Someone in Alex Gray’s household received a birthday card from Thornton and Minor Clinic. Lula Gray, as a patient at the Clinic, sent a postcard home to her sister Erma Gray.

Postcard – Public Bath House, Paseo, Kansas City, MO

BROWNING Rose GRAY Lula Bathhouse Postcard front

BROWNING Rose GRAY Lula Bathhouse Postcard Back

Postmarked: February 9, 1916, Kansas City MO
Addressed to: Mrs. Rose Gray, Craig, MO

Kansas City, Mo. Feb. 9, 1916

Dear Sister:
Just got your letter &
will write to tell you to bring
Pa’s over-coat also his razor
& shaving brush. Don’t know
if you will get this if
you don’t we will have
to send them to him
later. Guess he is a little
better this morning but it
is a very little. I can’t get
down to where your train
comes in so you just come
up with the crowd & I will
be there some place close
to where you come in.
I will stay till Friday.
Ma can get some one to stay
with her to-morrow night.

(Along the side: “Bring the little razor strap with the string to it.”)

Lula Gray (1881-1973) is writing to her mother Rose Althea Browning Gray (1854-1938) and her sister Bernice Erma Gray (1888-1981) who lived at the family home. Pa is Alexander Gray (1856-1940.)

A history of this bath house can be found here:

Marshall Auto Store – 1940s and 1950s, Kansas City, Missouri

My grandfather Wallace Paul Cowan (1903-1988) loved cars. He had a long career as a salesperson and manager of Marshall Auto Store in Kansas City, Missouri.

I remember riding with Grandma to pick up Grandpa from work at Marshall Auto Store in the 1970s, and I think it was this Truman Road location. They had a Coke machine, and sometimes I’d be given a dime to get myself a soda. I’d grab the cold glass bottle with the sharply crimped metal cap and pull really hard. Once I’d wrestled the bottle from the machine, I’d use the opener attached to the side of the machine to pry the cap off. I’d savor that bottle of Coke the whole drive home.

I have wonderful photos from inside and outside of the stores, so I wanted to share them.

Marshall Auto Store – 1933 – 3914 Main Street, Kansas City, Missouri

My beautiful picture

My beautiful picture

In 1933 when these photos were taken, my grandfather had been married three years and had a 2 year old.  They were living 7 miles away with my grandmother’s family, because it was the Great Depression and the families needed to share expenses. They lived that way for over a decade.

It looks like Marshall Auto Store moved to a much bigger location. At least by 1944 they are located at an address 3 miles away.

Marshall Auto Store – 2300 E Truman Road, Kansas City, Missouri

My mom Carol Cowan Hopper (1937-2010) told me that the family lived above the store from the time she was a child through her teens, in a big apartment with spacious rooms.

She remembered her address was 2304 1/2 E Truman Road. Some of the photos are marked with the address “2300 E 15th Street” which is confusing. From Google Maps, I see that 2300 E 15th Street meets with Truman Road. But from “street view” I can see the building pictured below at 2300(ish) E Truman Road, about a mile away.

My beautiful picture

Frank Arnone, Red Myers, Dick Stintzi and Wallace Paul Cowan at Marshall Auto Store – undated

My mom remembered that Frank Arnone and his wife Angie owned a grocery store on the corner, where they did most of their shopping. They would run up a ticket and pay it weekly or monthly.

My beautiful picture


My beautiful picture


My beautiful picture


My mom remembered that during her high school years, her mother Ellen Barber Cowan (1908-1990) did the bookkeeping for the store.

My beautiful picture

From what I can remember, my grandfather left Marshall Auto in the late 1970s. He wasn’t happy about it, even though he was of retirement age, and I think it was due to the store closing.

Do you have a connection to Marshall Auto Store?  Do you have Frank Arnone, Red Myers, or Dick Stintzi in your family tree?

Albert Gibson Cowan (1884-1963)

I grew up, from age 5, living with my grandfather Wallace Paul Cowan (1903-1988). He went by the name Paul, and was a quiet man. He didn’t share a lot, but it was clear he was bitter about his father. Until I found Paul’s photos and letters after my Mom’s death and started researching, all I knew was that Paul’s dad abandoned him and his mother, which meant that Paul had to go to work at a very young age to help support the family.

I found a piece of paper written in my grandfather’s hand:

Pauls Father

And I found one photo of Albert Gibson Cowan:

My beautiful picture

Front Left is Albert Gibson Cowan

and written on the back:


Pratt Photo – Paris Texas
AG Cowan, First Row Left
age: 28
Supt. of Telephone Co Lines & Switch Board Crew
& his 7 man crew. Names?

Here is a closeup from the photo of Albert next to a photo of Paul as a boy:


From letters between my grandfather and his mother (Myrtle Bertie Hinson, 1879-1971) I thought I’d found valuable information:

Bertie to Paul Letter October 28 1964SHORTENED






Dated October 28, 1964:
Now Paul we have real Beautiful weather. Now all I no about AG, he died at Neoshea MO at Hospital with cancer of stomac he was at Springfield Springfield Hospital for month so his girl and …

It seems my grandfather asked for more information because the topic is addressed again:

Bertie to Paul Letter March 23 1965  Bertie to Paul Letter Part 2 March 1964

Dated March 23, 1965:
Now about your Dad being dead he had a cancer of stomach. he was at the Neosho MO Hospital is all I no for Willie Pond told me and as for no I sent you his girl and husband name after I heard it so that I no.

I found this in with Paul’s letters, and I think this is Bertie’s writing, so perhaps this is what she’s referring to:

Albert's supposed daughter

Bertie was 85 when she wrote these letters. The person she was getting information from, Willie Reed Pond (1891-1987) was Albert’s cousin, daughter of Martha Anna Cowan.

I wanted to know what happened to Albert after he left the family. I pieced together quite a bit of the family tree using Paul’s photos with names and dates recorded on them, and other written records he left. Those were very helpful when combined with census information and other records I found online at or

The first census Albert would have been recorded on isn’t available – most of the 1890 census was destroyed by fire. He is found in the 1900 census living in Springdale, Arkansas with his parents Thomas and Mary Cowan, and his sister Mary M. His age is recorded as 18, but I believe it was actually 16. (I know that he had an older brother, too, who was already out of the house.)

The next record I have of Albert is his marriage to Bertie. They were married on March 16, 1902 in Washington County, Arkansas, and the license says they were both 21. Actually Bertie was 22, and I believe Albert was was 11 days shy of 18.


My grandfather was born January 25, 1903, and I believe Albert left before he was a year old. I haven’t found record of a divorce.

By the 1910 census, Bertie and Paul are living with her parents and a sister and brother in Springdale (and is marked as married) and Albert is boarding in a house in Comanche County, Oklahoma working as a telephone lineman.

In 1912 he married Izora Beatrice Shirley (1892-1943) in Custer, Oklahoma, and he is recorded as being 28, which agrees with the 1884 birth year.


His World War I draft card shows him living in Roger Mills, Oklahoma and married to Izora. He is of medium height and medium build with blue eyes and dark hair. He works as a lineman for the telephone company.

US World War I Draft Registration Cards AlbertGibsonCOWAN

In 1920 Albert and Izora are living in Roger Mills, Oklahoma and have 2 children. Albert is listed as a manager in the telephone industry. In 1930 they’ve moved to Chilhowee, Missouri and have 3 children. Albert is listed as a lineman in the telephone industry and Izora is a dressmaker at home. He probably doesn’t know that his son Paul has moved to Kansas City, Missouri, just 70 miles away.

In the most recent census available to us, 1940, Albert and Izora and their 3 children are living in Los Angeles, California. Izora’s brother also lives in the house. Albert’s occupation is troubleshooter for telephone company and he worked 12 hours the previous week and only 4 weeks in 1939. Izora is a Forewoman and worked 40 hours the previous week and 43 weeks of 1939. The Great Depression was just about over. This is the first census where Albert’s birth year is listed correctly.

It’s interesting to note that on the 1940 census, their oldest child, Albert Gibson Cowan Jr, age 24, has completed his 2nd year of college but isn’t currently attending school, and is working as a service station attendant. Their daughter Sonora, age 19, is said to be a senior in high school. Their daughter Marjorie is 17 and is said to be in 4th grade.

His 1942 World War II draft card solved a mystery for me.

US World War II Draft Registration CardsAlbertGibsonCOWAN

I had a lovely photo that was marked in my Grandfather’s handwriting as “Aunt May Cowan & daughter” but I couldn’t figure out who Aunt May was. His father had one sister, noted as Mary M in the 1900 census.

My beautiful picture

“Aunt May Cowan” – Charlotte May Cowan

Backof AuntMay photo

On the draft card, it asks him for “Name and address of person who will always know your address.” He answered “Mrs. R. J. Cambron (sister) Route 2 McAlester.” He also notes that his place of residence is 4492 W 16th Street in Los Angeles California, but that his mailing address was Route 2 North McAlester. I researched Mrs. R. J. Cambron in McAlester and found a marriage license for Mr. Ruby James Cambron and Miss May Cowan from May 1912. She was 26. “Mary M,” Albert’s sister from the 1900 census, would have been 26. Tracking her through 1940 on the census, she went by May but her tombstone says Charlotte May.

Izora died in Los Angeles in 1943. It appears that their children stayed in the area. It’s hard to track people without the census but I know that Albert Gibson Cowan Jr died in 2002 in California, Sonora died in 1973 in Washington, and Marjorie died in 1997 in California.

Despite the age inconsistencies, I think I have the right man. However, the information from the letters between Bertie and Paul don’t mesh with what I found regarding Albert’s death. Plus, he didn’t have a daughter who became Mrs. Clifford Johnson in Sparta, Missouri. In fact, I find that Clifford Johnson’s wife was Mable Alice Dobbs.

Missouri  puts death certificates online:(
and I found a death certificate for Albert G. Cowan:

Albert Cowan Death Certificate

This shows that he died December 17, 1963 at the Missouri State Hospital in Nevada, Missouri, which was sometimes referred to as the Lunatic Asylum. He had been there for a year and half, and the cause of death is coronary occlusion. His occupation is listed as “retired telephone man” and his usual residence is in Springfield, Missouri. His parents are unknown, and his wife is Izora Beatrice Shirley (Dec.) He is buried in Ozark Cemetary, and Funeral Director was Adams-Monger.

I requested records from Adams Funeral Home in Ozark. I received a form filled out containing information for death certificate and obituary, which doesn’t indicate who provided the information. Listed are his 3 children, all in California. It’s noted that the funeral was a Masonic service. There’s also a letter from his niece, Virginia Saunders, in Oklahoma, who wants to put a stone on the grave. Virginia Cambron Saunders (1921-2006) is the baby in the picture above with her mother, Aunt May.

An obituary can be found at the Christian County Missouri Genealogy website:
“Cowan, Albert G. 27 Mar 1884 – 10 Dec 1963  CCR 19 Dec 1963
Albert G. Cowan, 80, of Ozark, died at 10:40 a.m. Tuesday in the state hospital at Nevada. He had lived in Ozark since 1937 and was a retired lineman. Survivors are two daughters, Mrs. Sonora Christman, Orange Calif., and Miss Margie Cowan, of Norco, Calif.; a son, Albert Cowan, Jr., North Hollywood, Calif.; and four grandchildren. Funeral services were at the Adams-Monger Chapel here at 2 p.m. today (Thursday), with Masonic rites at the graveside in Ozark Cemetery.”

There’s some misinformation there. He hadn’t lived in Ozark since 1937. He was in California on the 1940 census, on his 1942 World War II Draft Card, and his wife died there in 1943. Sonora Christman was actually Sonora Chrisman. Finally, his date of death was reported incorrectly.

I have theories about the discrepancies between what Bertie said in the letters to Paul and the records I have found. The birth and death years my grandfather wrote for his father don’t match with what I found. The birth year of 1881 is from the marriage certificate, which Paul had. I don’t know where the 1965 death year came from – the letters mentioning his death were written in 1964. Regarding the cause and place of death, I wonder if relatives shared a false story since he was in a mental hospital. The note regarding his daughter really threw me, but I have a theory that Mrs. Clifford Johnson was a caregiver for Albert. Maybe someone referred to her as “Albert’s girl” and Bertie thought they meant his daughter. Just a theory.

If you have any information about Albert Gibson Cowan, I’d love to talk to you.

September 2015: Check out the update here.