Angling for Conservation

Week 25: #52 Ancestors – Groups

By Eilene Lyon

You could say that The Putterer’s great-uncle, Aubrey Ralph Lyon, was more than a joiner. He served as group leader and even activist. He was the third of five children, born in 1892, to Arlon F. and Emma (Pierson) Lyon in La Moille, Illinois.1

When he filed his draft registration for World War I in early 1917, he claimed deferral based on having a wife to support.2 However, he did enlist in September and served in the U.S. Army overseas for two years.3 He said his greatest challenge as a Sergeant Major occurred after the war ended and he was returning home on the USS Winchester.

The USS Winchester in World War I. (Wikimedia Commons)

A labor battalion began a mutiny aboard the ship over canteen rights. “His own battalion composed mostly of disabled men, he nevertheless posted sentries with orders to shoot the first man crossing a deadline…The mutiny was quelled, a court-martial was held on the ship, and 60 men received sentences ranging from 10 to 25 years in Leavenworth.”4

After the war, Aubrey and his wife—known in the Lyon family as “Babe,” real name Eleanor—returned to living in Chicago for a few years where Aubrey worked as a broker in the banking industry.5 In 1922, along with all Aubrey’s siblings, with spouses and children, and parents, they decided to leave Illinois and settle in the Los Angeles area. Arlon and Emma retained ownership of their adjacent 160-acre farms in La Moille.

In Pasadena, Aubrey worked as a telephone and telegraph operator and served as Third Vice President in the Western Broker Division of the Commercial Telegraphers’ Union of America.6 He joined the American Legion and in 1930 he served as the Second Vice Commander of the local post. He also served on the post’s conservation committee, which assisted both state and federal wildlife departments.7

Photo of Aubrey R. Lyon from an article about the American Legion in The Pasadena Post. (Newspapers.com)

The conservation movement gained ground in the early 20th century, partly thanks to John Muir’s founding of the Sierra Club the year Aubrey was born. A group of anglers in Chicago started the Izaak Walton League in 1922—named for the 17th-century author of The Compleat Angler—to protect fishing streams. Aubrey, an avid fly fisherman, served as president of the California branch in Pasadena in 1927.8 Given his connection to Chicago, it seems likely he established this West Coast offshoot.

Aubrey became office manager for the Russell, Miller & Co. stockbrokers in Hollywood in 1931.9 This may seem like an odd career move after the Crash of 1929, but the effects of the Great Depression came slower to California than other parts of the country. It wasn’t until the mid-1930s that Aubrey and his older brother, Park, lost their jobs and returned to La Moille to work their parents’ farms.10 Aubrey returned to California in 1938, but Park Lyon and his family (including The Putterer’s father and Aunt Betty) stayed in Illinois.

Los Angeles Evening Citizen News (Newspapers.com)

Aubrey and Babe settled in Bishop, in the Owens Valley, and owned the Rock Creek Lake Store until 1950. Babe was an ardent golfer and they both enjoyed being active in the outdoors.11 They had no children, but rescued an English bulldog named “Queenie.”12

Aubrey continued his environmental activism into the 1960s and 70s. As secretary for the Izaak Walton League, he sent a letter to the California Assembly Interim Committee on Fish and Wildlife in support of proposed legislation in 1961. “We would like to be assured of some planning and financing, to implement the preservation and enhancement of habitat for fish and wildlife and for recreational development for public use,” he wrote.13 He sent a letter to Washington in support of the Wilderness Act that same year.14

Also in the 60s, Aubrey served on both the Bishop city planning commission and the Inyo County planning commission.15

Another group benefited from Aubrey’s leadership skills: the Concerned Citizens of Owens Valley Organization. The sordid history of Los Angeles’s water grab, dramatized in the movie “Chinatown,” is well-known. The Inyo County Water Department offers a succinct timeline. An article written by Aubrey is inserted into the U.S. Congressional Record for May 12, 1971.16 In it, he details the devastating consequences of the de-watering of the Owens Valley.

Owens Valley and the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada, seen from space. (Wikimedia Commons)

Aubrey R. Lyon clearly led an active and purposeful life: joining, leading, and supporting numerous groups, from the Army, to a union, to various conservation organizations. Babe Lyon passed away in 1980 and Aubrey in 1985. Both are buried in Bishop, California.17

Feature image: Rock Creek Lake, Mono County, CA, September 2016 (Wikimedia Commons)

Aubrey Ralph Lyon on Ancestry.com


  1. Aubrey Ralph Lyon. Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005. 
  2. Ibid. 
  3. Aubrey R. Lyon. Ancestry.com. U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. 
  4. “Legion Personalities” The Pasadena Post, February 19, 1930 p. 9 – via Newspapers.com. 
  5. A R Lyon. Year: 1920; Census Place: Chicago Ward 3, Cook (Chicago), Illinois; Roll: T625_313; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 153 – via Ancestry.com. 
  6. Commercial Telegraphers’ Journal (Commercial Telegraphers’ Union of America, 1922), 45. https://books.google.com
  7. “Year’s Goal is Outlined” The Pasadena Post, October 2, 1930 p. 9; “Legion Joins State in Conservation of Bird and Wild Life” Contra Costa Gazzette (Martinez, California), February 21, 1930 p. 3. Both via Newspapers.com. 
  8. Merritt, Dawn. “The Roaring 20s: Call to Action” The Izaak Walton League of America. Outdoor America (Winter 2012) p. 25, https://www.iwla.org; “Walton League Outing Sunday” The Pasadena Post, September 23, 1927 p. 12 – via Newspapers.com. 
  9. Russell, Miller & Co. ad, Los Angeles Evening Citizen News (Hollywood), March 16, 1931 p. 13 – via Newspapers.com. 
  10. Dremann, Avis Elizabeth. 1995. “This is My Life” pp. 18–22.a 
  11. Obituary for Eleanor E. Lyon. The Inyo Register (Bishop, CA), May 15, 1980 p. B-4, transcribed by Laura M. Bybee for the Inyo County GenWeb, November 14, 2005, item 237. https://authorzilla.com/L16nM/early-inyo-deaths-obituaries-the-cagenweb-project.html 
  12. Dremann p. 55. 
  13. California Legislature Assembly, Journal of the Assembly, Legislature of the State of California, 1961, 22. https://books.google.com
  14. United States Congress House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs Subcommittee on Public Lands, Wilderness Preservation System: Hearings Before the United States House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, Subcommittee on Public Lands, Eighty-Seventh Congress, First Session, Eighty-Seventh Congress, Second Session (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1961), 974. https://books.google.com
  15. “Owens Valley—A New Land Plan?” The Los Angeles Times, October 4, 1970 p. 43 – via Newspapers.com. 
  16. Congressional Record, 92nd Congress, 1st session, May 12, 1971 pp. 14802-3. https://www.congress.gov/bound-congressional-record/1971/05/12 
  17. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/15297870/ly 

33 thoughts on “Angling for Conservation

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  1. That use of the word deadline…is that where that comes from? Evidently now we use a watered down version.
    Very interesting piece of history Eilene. I see where you get your roots in conservation.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I just did. “First recorded in 1864, the word ‘deadline’ has its origins in the American Civil War. During time of conflict, a ‘do not cross’ line was circled around prisons. Guards were told to shoot and kill any prisoner who might touch, fall upon, pass over, under or across the said ‘dead line’
        Looks like he was up on the current lingo.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What a fascinating man—way ahead of his time. I was interested in knowing what the soldiers did on the ship and why they did it. That’s a lot of men in Leavenworth for a really long time.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. How wonderful to have root connections to Aubrey Lyon, Eilene. He led a full and active life, and did great things. I consider all the early conservationists true heroes. I enjoyed this well-written essay, Eilene, complete with great research and fantastic photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been in some hotels that have a section with a variety of businesses in one hallway. Not sure if it was like that or not, but it could be. Sometimes the businesses open directly to the street, too. It’s more of a city thing.

      Liked by 1 person

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