Peoria Pair

Week 4: #52 Ancestors – Favorite Photo

By Eilene Lyon

This is a snazzy portrait of The Putterer’s parents, Cliff and Fran, taken in the early 1940s. I love many things about it: their clothes, the car, the expressions on their faces. I also like how they had it framed:

Clifford Park Lyon, Jr. (Cliff) was born in the small, northern Illinois town of LaMoille on August 25, 1918.1 Both his parents were born in the same place. Cliff spent part of his childhood in Los Angeles, where his father, Clifford Park Lyon, Sr. (Park) worked as a bank manager.2

After the Lyons returned to their hometown in Illinois about 1935, Cliff finished school and headed for Peoria, where he got a job working for Caterpillar.3 By April 1940, he found lodging at the home of Carl and Cleo Struss, along with another young man, Gene Campbell.4 Gene worked at a nearby service station.5 The Strusses had an 18-year-old daughter, Frances.

This Google Maps Street View image shows the Struss home in Peoria (right) and the Methodist Church (left) that probably both Frances and Cliff attended on Sundays.

Apparently Cliff’s charms won out over Gene’s, or maybe Gene already had a girlfriend. The two young men filled out their draft cards in August 1940. Cliff’s stats: 5’ 11”, 155 lbs., gray eyes, brown hair, light complexion. Gene’s stats: 6 ft., 146 lbs., blue eyes, black hair, dark complexion. Both soon joined the U.S. Navy.

Cliff’s term of service probably began in early 1941. He became a welder and at some point the Navy sent him to work at the Norfolk, Virginia, shipyard. Either prior to going to Virginia or by obtaining a leave, he married Frances Struss in Peoria on November 15, 1941.6

Cliff Lyon’s Navy welding operator’s card.

The couple spent the remainder of Cliff’s service years in Virginia, but Fran may have returned to Peoria for the birth of their daughter in 1944.7 Before that, they visited Illinois in July 1942.8 Thus it’s difficult to be sure exactly when and where this photograph was taken. It looks more like Peoria to me. If you look across the street in the Google image, the houses in the background seem to match this photo. And it seems that Fran may have a ring on her finger, but it’s difficult to tell.

  1. Clifford Park Lyon, Jr. The National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; WWII Draft Registration Cards for Illinois, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 1098 – via 
  2. Clifford P. Lyon. Year: 1930; Census Place: Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 0537; FHL microfilm: 2339887 – via 
  3. See note 1. 
  4. Carl Struss. Year: 1940; Census Place: Berlin, Bureau, Illinois; Roll: m-t0627-00762; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 6-5 – via 
  5. Eugene Campbell. The National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; WWII Draft Registration Cards for Illinois, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 250 – via 
  6. Per The Putterer or not. Okay, I have no idea where I got this date! 
  7. Bureau County Tribune (Princeton, IL) 9 Jun 1944 p. 5 – via 
  8. Bureau County Tribune 3 Jul 1942 p. 5 – via 

29 thoughts on “Peoria Pair

Add yours

  1. You’re right. That is one snazzy couple. It’s a perfect photograph for the times. I also think the orange daylilies currently in front of the Struss home are pretty darned snazzy, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fantastic photo, Eilene, and I liked your sleuthing too. My sister and her husband work at the Caterpillar in Peoria; it still exists today. I like this photo for the verve it shows of this Peoria pair. Wonderful post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful photograph! Such a slice of life of those times. I don’t see the match to the houses on the Google shot, but maybe it’s just the different angle.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This reminds me of the series I am watching – exact same styles – Check this out, Eilene – you might like it : the Durrells in Corfu – it’s amazing prime – interesting how people acted and dressed classy with self respect

    Liked by 1 person

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