Saturday, November 15, 2014

Alba W. Hibsch, Printer's Devil at the Covina Argus (52 Ancestors #41)

This is another article for the series "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks", a challenge by Amy Johnson Crow on No Story Too Small.

I remember sitting across from him at the dinette table in the kitchen.  We had creamed tuna on toast for lunch that day.  I’m sure I scrunched up my face at it then as I would today.

He gave me blue and pink blank note pads.  Those were cool.

I remember sitting on his lap in his huge upholstered rocking chair.  We were in the den.  We talked about the potatoes growing out of his ears.  Actually, it was hair but calling them potatoes was more fun. 

Alba W. Hibsch
{Click images to enlarge)
I called him ‘Pop’.   He was my grandfather, Alba William Hibsch.  These are the few memories I have of him before he died when I just turned eight years old.  But there’s more to tell about him.

Alba William Hibsch was the first son of W.C. Hibsch and Martha Bashor Hibsch Collette.  He was born at home on 24 May 1896[1],[2] in Covina, California.  The house was located on the site of the current parking lot at Inter-Community Hospital in Covina.  He had one brother, Cecil, born in 1902.  Except for a brief stay in Yuma, Arizona and overseas during WWI, he lived his entire life in the California San Gabriel Valley towns of Alhambra, Baldwin Park and Covina.

Life changed drastically in 1907 for 11 year old Alba and 5 year old Cecil. Their father died unexpectedly while working as a blacksmith for the McCabe Mining Company near Prescott, Arizona.  His mother had taken in boarders over the years for extra money but now, a single mother, she needed more income. Shortly after W.C.'s death, Alba's mother became the first female mail carrier in Covina.  While she was driving her route, Alba and Cecil stayed at their Aunt Becky’s house, had dinner and played with their cousins.  Becky was Rebecca Bashor Bonham, Martha’s sister. (Full disclosure - Martha's other sister Cordelia Bashor was married to James Lewis Matthews, the Postmaster of Covina and editor of the Covina Argus newspaper.) 

At age 14, Alba quit high school and went to work for the Covina Argus newspaper as a "printer’s devil", one who cleans ink off printers, commonly referred to as “grunt work”.

1917 Draft Registration for Alba W. Hibsch
In August 1917, he left for Army training.  His WWI draft registration record[3] said he was 21 years old and employed as a printer at the Covina Argus.  He was medium height and build with brown eyes and dark hair.  Unfortunately I was told by the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs that his official military record was burned along with others with surnames beginning with ‘H’.

1917 Jul 27
Covina Argus Newspaper

1919 Apr 4
Covina Argus Newspaper
At this point, I only have newspaper articles that offer clues about his military service:
  • Served with the 55th Coastal Artillery Company, 24th company
  • Departed on the ammunition train
  • Stationed in France
  • Rank of Corporal
  • Departure and return dates
He may have been in the Army Reserves before WWI but more specifics are needed to conduct further research.

After his discharge from the Army, Alba worked for a newspaper in Alhambra, Los Angeles County, California.  He wanted to be on his own rather than working for his Uncle Louie.  However, he eventually returned to the Covina Argus.

On 4 Jun 1922, he married Ethel May Kendall in Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara County, California. He was 26, she was 23.

1922 Jun 9 Marriage Announcement
Covina Argus Newspaper
As I understand it, they worked in the same building, he at the newspaper, she at an office where she was a bookkeeper.  Maybe they eyed each other coming into the building day after day and one thing led to another.  They had two children, Robert M. Hibsch and my most favorite Uncle and Godfather (MFUG) in the whole wide world.[4]

In all, Alba worked for the Covina Argus for 40 years.  He literally worked his way up the line.  From his early days as a printer's devil, he transitioned to linotype operator and make-up man for the front page and eventually became part owner and Mechanical Superintendent.[5]  One of his early assignments was printing materials for the Covina Women’s Club. He also bound old editions of the paper after attending night school to learn book binding.  My MFUG remembers the kitchen table being covered with old editions being prepared for binding.  He read the sports pages, his dad read the whole paper before binding it.  The bound volumes were donated to the Covina Historical Society.  Alba never wanted his sons to be printers – “he said it didn't pay well”!  They took his advice.

Alba also worked part-time at a newspaper the Argus managed in South Gate, Los Angeles County, California.  The paper may have been a weekly at the time.  Chronicling America[6] lists a few titles to help determine which newspaper it was.

Source: Chronicling America

In 1937, Alba and Ethel took in Ethel’s teenage niece Gloria and helped her through high school, become a member of Job’s Daughters and plan her wedding.  I think having a young lady in the house was a pleasant experience for them.

Alba was a member of the American Legion Baldwin Park post and the Masons.  He liked the Los Angeles Angels and the Hollywood Stars, both Pacific Coast League baseball teams in his day.  He and Ethel traveled throughout California and other places in the U.S..  My cousin Linda and I still have the music box they brought us from one of their trips.

Not unlike many in his generation and the one to follow, he smoked.  No, he was a chain smoker, a habit that probably contributed to his two heart attacks.  The first attack happened at age 58.  He and Ethel were preparing to move into a newly built home in Covina.  She quickly finished the move before his release from the hospital.  Sadly, the second heart attack in 1959 was fatal.  He died on 29 May 1959 at age 63 and was buried at Oakdale Memorial Park in Glendora, Los Angeles County, California.

From all that I've heard about him, my grandfather was a well-liked and respected man.  I just wish I could have learned this first hand.

Future Research
  • WWI and National Guard service information
  • 55th Coastal Artillery Company history
  • Membership in the Masons
  • Name of South Gate newspaper he published


[1] 1900 US Census, Yuma, Yuma, AZ Territory, “Hipak”, Line 80, screen 11 of 51; Roll: T623 48; Page 5B, Enumeration District 74.
[2] WWI draft registration record.
[3] Ibid
[4] My MFUG was the source for much of Alba’s profile.
[5] Covina Argus newspaper, 26 Jan 1934, Page 2, third column.  Mr. Matthews  acknowledging the staff at the newspaper in an article about being awarded the best front page for 1933 by the Los Angeles Times and California Newspaper Publishers association.
[6] Chronicling America, a service of the Library of Congress providing free access to America's historic newspapers, some digitized.

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