“Eve has another brother, Robert, a metalsmith, 2/c, who has been in the Navy for two years, and is now on the East Coast. He’s 6 feet, 3 1/2 inches in height, weighs 194, is 20 years old, and he, too, is single, gals.” Robert Frederic Palmer was born on January 6, 1924 at Maternity Hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Frederic Dudley Palmer and Bessie Jane Taylor. On February 27, 1942, Robert enlisted in the United States Navy in Los Angeles, California; he served as a merchant marine on the USS Bogue for the duration of the war and was honorably discharged on December 8, 1947 in Norfolk, Virginia.
I featured this photograph of Robert on a road trip in 1945 as a part of my Wordless Wednesday series, and it’s one of my most popular posts yet. Amanda Knapper, the brilliant writer and storyteller behind Silly Mummy Family Tree, said she loves Wordless Wednesday “but wants to know the story too.” Gael Gilliland, the creative force behind The Legacy Recorder and #LegacyChat, agreed. “I can totally hear the story behind it in my head. For me that is the best kind of photo.” I’ve decided to start a new weekly series, Behind the Photo, that features the stories, histories and ancestors from your favorite Wordless Wednesday posts.
I believe this photogaph was taken at the end of World War II on Robert’s road trip back home to meet his family; Robert and a friend took turns posing in front of the car with the motel in the distance for a quick snapshot before starting again on the road for the day. A few years earlier, a local newspaper reported on a letter Robert’s brother, Winston, wrote home after coming across a Cannon plug that reminded him of his sister (a Cannon employee). The writer emphasized how handsome–and how single–Robert and Winston Palmer were, but by the time the war ended in 1945, Robert was actually married.
Robert married Gloria Mae Nelson, the daughter of Owen Raymond Nelson and Sanna Mary Sippola, on July 6, 1944 in Camden Co., North Carolina while he was temporarily on leave. Robert’s younger sister, Joanne (Palmer) Rieff, shared a number of stories of Robert’s and Gloria’s married life: “I remember the player piano very well at Bob’s and Gloria’s home by Country Club Centre (in Sacramento). Bob took it all apart and took over their family room laying all the parts over the floor so he could easily identify which part went where as he fixed things. And then it played beautifully. I truly don’t remember anyone else working on it with him. Their neighbor lady had a piano just like it that hadn’t played at all for a long time so he did the same thing for her. It played beautifully too and she was just thrilled!
He was very mechanical. I remember him as a kid loving to take old clocks apart and putting them back together–other things as well. In my story, I mentioned how he loved to make those model airplanes with tissue paper and balsa wood. Hard to do! I’m not sure if they’re even around anymore. Just plastic. He also did beautiful cabinet work. I asked him one time why he didn’t do some of these things as a vocation instead of plumbing and he said doing that as a hobby was a fun thing!
Also meant to mention about Bob’s and Gloria’s love of music, they loved to have 1920s parties–dressing the part and all. They loved to dance and especially Gloria was so darn good! She was so great with the Charleston and they both loved to boogie-woogie. I miss them both! This was at their home by Country Club Centre, I think on Lynwood…Bob also played trumpet a little as a kid and because I always wanted to copy him, I guess, I got to take trumpet lessons too, which never paid off for me!”
And that’s the story behind July’s Wordless Wednesday photograph. Robert–handsome, dashing and confident–always described the moment he met Gloria Nelson as the moment she “bowled” him over, saying, “I knew she was the one.” After he was discharged from the U.S. Navy in 1947 with a travel allowance of $144.67, Robert and Gloria made their home in Sacramento and raised two children there. I’ve always thought the newspaper clipping from the war captures the photograph best, though: “Eve has another brother, Robert, a metalsmith, 2/c, who has been in the Navy for two years, and is now on the East Coast. He’s 6 feet, 3 1/2 inches in height, weighs 194, is 20 years old, and he, too, is single, gals.”