Thomas Henry Clarke

Picture of Tom Clarke Born September 12, 1905, at Carn Grey, St. Austell, Cornwall, England.

Died August 23, 2000, at Glendale, California.

Father: John Clarke (April 21, 1863-April 15, 1939)

Mother: Alice Sarah Jane (March 4, 1869-July 21, 1943)

Thomas Henry Clarke was born in Cornwall, England. Up until World War I, there was only four weeks vacation from school; then it was increased to five so the boys could help with the harvest. During the four week summer holidays, their mother would take Tom and his brothers and sisters to the beach, about three times. They would walk three miles each way. The only transportation to town in those days was a horse and carriage, which would come on Fridays early in the afternoon, and return in the evening.

Most people in that area thought the Clarkes were rich, since they had lived in America for a few years. They weren't rich, but they weren't poor. They had the rent from the two houses, and some money in the bank earning interest. They always milked at least one cow, and sold milk, cream, and butter. They also killed pigs fairly often and sold half to the butcher, keeping the other half for the family. A large portion of the family's food came from the farm and garden.

World War I was a depressing time for the family. Many from the area were called into the army. The older men and women had to take over all the work. They had to keep all the windows dark, because the house faced the sea. Nearly all food was rationed.

The family had no electricity or plumbing. They had kerosene lamps for light and a well for drinking water. They caught rain water for washing. Most of the winter evenings were spent in the kitchen where it was warm with a coal fire.

The age to attend school was from four to fourteen (ten grades). The day you were fourteen you could leave school, but you could leave a year or two earlier if you passed the labor exam. It wasn't too hard to pass. John insisted that all his children should take it. Bertha took it and failed. Will passed. Alf passed. Tom made two grades in one year, so he was in the same grade as Fred, so the year Fred was to take it, John said, "Harry, you had better take it at the same time." Tom (who was called Harry then) passed and Fred failed. Tom was twelve years old. He wasn't anxious to leave school. The family could well afford to keep him in school longer, but John thought they should get out and go to work. He felt when they were older to go to another country would be the answer, but more education would have helped. The last two years Tom was in school,he went to a St. Austell school for woodworking. Then he would walk back to his Aunt Selina's for lunch.

Tom then went to work in the clay pits, initially working as sort of an errand boy. Part of the job was to keep a fire in a stove, which was used to warm the water for tea and the lunches of the miners. After Alf and Fred left for New Zealand in 1921, Tom was the only one home with his parents for two years, so he didn't want to leave. In July, 1923, his brother Will came home for a three months vacation. Tom thought how great to be able to take a holiday like that with money to spend and nice clothes. That made him anxious to go back with Will, but the quota had been put on and he would have to wait nine months, and Will didn't want to stay home that long. After Will had been home a month, he said to Tom, "Why don't you go to New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada? The climate is good and winters are not too cold. You know the Rowse family there, and later if you don't like it there you can come down to the states with me." Tom thought, "This is my chance. I can leave while Will is home with my parents." So only two days later he went to Herbert Rowse at St. Austell, who had sent thousands of people to other countries. He said "I have booked three young men from Foxhole to sail on the Empress of Scotland for Canada in ten days; perhaps they would be company for you." Tom booked his passage right away. He finished the week out at work, and bought a suitcase and steamer trunk and a few things to travel. He spent eight days on the ship and 5 days on a train getting to British Columbia. At the time Tom left, he had never lived in a house with inside plumbing or electricity, and he had never used a telephone.

When Tom arrived in British Columbia, he was offered the use of a telephone to call for a wagon to move his trunk from the railroad station to where he was to live. He couldn't figure out how to use the telephone, so someone else had to place the call for him. He was hired right away to work with carpenters building roads in a lumber yard. He lived there for two years, then moved to the United States in 1925, at Bellingham, Washington, for another two years, because wages and working conditions were better there. He left for home in June, 1927, by train to New York City and the liner Majestic to England.

He returned to North America in April, 1928, and stopped in Detroit to visit friends. While there, he heard that Ford was hiring 200 men a day, so he went to work for Ford. He was laid off from Ford in July 1930. Since they couldn't find work, Tom and Jim Andrew opened a Standard Oil service station.

November 2, 1929, Tom met Isabel Lorna Hansford at her brother Ralph Hansford's home in Windsor, Ontario. They were married on his 26th birthday, September 12, 1931, in Coaticooke, Quebec, where she had lived for several years with her aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Hambly, and her brother Frank Hansford.

The family moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 1945, and lived there for 25 years. Tom worked first for a manufacturing firm, and then for Lorig's Clothing Store. After retirement, Tom and Isabel did a lot of traveling. They went to England six times, and to New Zealand, Australia, Alaska, several other European countries, and Mexico. They then lived in Burbank, California, near their daughter Janet and her family. He later moved to Glendale and lived with Janet.


  1. F Janet Anne Clarke (November 15, 1932-)
  2. F Margaret Jane Clarke (July 2, 1935-)

Return to Clarke Index Page.

Revised 24 April 2002