Jo Cooper - 1936
by Ralph Cooper
The Early Years
      Jo was born in Detroit, Michigan on March 7, 1929 to Loa Catherine and Walter Edwin Lees. She had three sisters, Loa Betty Woodbridge, Ariel Burt Watson, (deceased), and Charlotte Jane (Billie) Hicks, (deceased).
     My knowledge of Jo's early life is only fragmentary. We married on December 28, 1963, so all I know of her childhood and early adult life is what she told me. I know that she had a traumatic experience while living in Detroit, when she was about four years old. According to her story, the family was living in a two-story house, her bedroom being on the second floor. In the cold of winter, her grandfather had to heat the engine of their automobile with a kerosene fire before it would start. By accident, the car and the garage caught fire, which quickly spread to the main house. Jo recalls that the staircase was full of fire and she only barely escaped by a back route. Because of that experience, she was always deathly afraid of fire.
  Darl Lloyd  
"Darl" Lloyd & Jo - 1929
       Her grandfather, "Darl Lloyd", was her hero, her confidant and her protector, for all of those early years. She never forgot his kindness and his love. As she was the yougest of the four girls, by about ten years, she was the baby of the family and didn't have a close relationship with her much older sisters. She also didn't have a satisfying relationship with her father, Walter. He was often away from the family for extended periods and rather ignored her during his occasional periods at home. Also, she felt that he was always disappointed that she hadn't been the boy he had always wanted.  
  Jo Jo  
Detroit, MI - April, 1929
Pleasant Ridge, MI - 1930

At the Beach - 1930
1 1/2 Years Old
       Jo later became deathly afraid of the water. She explained to me that when she was ten years old, wading in Lake Michigan, she came across a dead body in the water. Scared her to death. In later years she conquered her fear of the water when we were in to boating, but she never really enjoyed it. As far as swimming, she never learned to close her mouth when she went under the water, so she usually choked. The effects of that childhood traumatic experience lasted all of her life.  

Lees Family
Left to Right, Burt, Walter, Billie, Jo, Loa and Betty
       When Walter Lees reached the Detroit City Airport Friday and was welcomed as co-holder of the world's non-refueling endurance record, made last month in Florida, in a Bellanca Packard-Diesel motored monoplane, he was greeted by his wife and four daughters to whom his return was just part of the day's work.
     Walter Lees has been flying since 1911 and is one of the oldest pilots, in point of service, who is making similar flights. Only Mrs. Lees, of the Lloyd family, has known a time when he was not a flier, when his daily life was not of the utmost hazard and his return home each day problematical.
     To Loa Betty, 15; Burt, 13; Billie, 12; and Jo, 2, he has always been a flier, but one of such skill and care that his work, to them, is just a job, no matter how thrilling it may seem to others. Lees taught himself to fly, for when he started, there were no instructors. One of his most noted students was Brig-Gen. William Mitchell, former assistant chief of the Army Air Service.

Grandparents Ain't What They Used to Be
An Autobiography
Jo Cooper
       Today's grandparents are trim, seldom gray-haired, sometimes younger looking than the harried parents, and usually called by their first names instead of anything so old-sounding as Grandma or Grandpa. Oh sure, they still shower gifts on their grandchildren, but seldom give of themselves like mine did.
     I was born ten years after the youngest of three sisters. My mother almost allowed a rich Aunt adopt me, but changed her mind. I'm glad she did, because the little boy they did adopt became a drug addict and died at an early age. This all happened in 1929 when my father was struggling in the early aviation business and trying to support a family of four girls plus live-in grandparents.
     My grandparents raised me. I never knew or felt any rejection, because they were always there to hold me and guide me.
For the rest of the story, click on:

Drayton side facing front of house
My Life at 2505 Pinecrest Drive.
from a letter to "Margaret" by Jo, 10-4-04
     I lived at 2505 from when I was 4 until 16. That was 1933 to 1945. And my grandparents, who owned the house, lived there intil 1946.
     It's an interesting story how we happened to get the house in 1933. Our house at 50 Ridge Rd. had a terrible fire. We lost everything and times were hard and they had let their insurance lapse. There were 4 girls plus grandparents and we had no place to go. the real estate lady who was trying to sell 2505 talked the owner into letting us rent it if we could pay the large oil bill to heat it. Was wonderful for us and later my grandfather, Converse Lloyd bought it.
     To read the rest of the story, and to see the photographs, click on the title

  Jo Jo  
Ferndale, MI - 1937
"Jean Cole & I playing Dressup."
Apr 1938

  Jo Jo  
6th Grade Class
11 yrs. - 1940
Ferndale, MI - 1941

Corpus Christi, TX - 1942
April 1941 to July, 1943
     Jo recalled very little of her time in Corpus Christi. However she did remember the Hurricane of 1942. The family lived part of the time in quarters on the Naval Air station and part of the time in a house in the town. She recalled that the kitchen and the streets were flooded for days by the hurricane. She said, "Saw waves and storms on the day before also. Scary! Enjoy Texas. I never did."

Interview with Loa Lees, 1976
     Pops was recalled to the Navy and went first to Pensacola, FL. I went later, along with Betty and Billie. Next he was sent to Corpus Christi, TX, where there was a brand new naval base. We lived first at the Seacrest Motel, along with lots of people who worked out at the station. I didn't know much about the navy in those days. One morning, I rinsed out a few undies and hung them out on the line. My next door neighbor, a navy wife, came in and said, "Oh Mrs. Lees, you mustn't do that. You must wait until your maid comes and let her do that. Navy officer's wives don't do that." We had a maid who came in and made the beds etc., and so I learned slowly how to behave."
     From there we moved to a rental house on Austin St. (3030??) and we lived there when we had warnings of a hurricane. I didn't know much about hurricanes so I called the office of our landlord to see what I was supposed to do, if we were supposed to board up the windows or what. A girl answered the phone and said, "Oh, he isn't here. He's gone to San Antonio with his family to be in the hotel where they'll be safe."
     After Austin Street, we moved to quarters QQ which were very nice. We had three nice bedrooms and two baths and we had a maid full time. We had maid's quarters (one room) out in back and we had colored help most of the time.
     While we lived in QQ, Billie was engaged to George Hicks and we had a real nice engagement party. George's friends were certainly surprised because he was a confirmed bachelor.
     That wedding was really something at Corpus. The service was in a dear little chapel on the station and they had a guard of honor. It was really very impressive and very, very lovely.

Brief note found in her files
     "As a child I resented this stranger, ("Pops," her father), who passed in occasionally to wrestle playfully with my sister Burt, argue loudly with my sister Billie, and speak quietly with my sister Betty.
     I didn't realize until much later that this hard-working man was the sole provider for the eight of us. He kept food in our mouths and oil in the furnace for years.
     Darl Lloyd did the gardening, maintained the big house and helped my mother with the cooking and the washing, not to mention baby-sitting me full time. He didn't go into the real estate business until much later."

Found on her computer
Emmett Kelly Museum
204 E Main St.
Sedan, Kansas 6736-11629
To whom it may concern:

     I've loved Emmett Kelly since 1934. I was 5 years old when my grandfather took me to the Ringling Brothers Circus in Detroit Michigan. Emmett came up the stands and talked to me personally. I was very impressed. Many, many years later I spent my last $20 at an outdoor food market-type display at La Jolla beach on a beautiful portrait of Emmett. Now that I am 77, it still hangs on my office wall and has given me pleasure all these years. If you could pass this on to Emmett's decendents or those of his dearest friends I would greatly appreciate it.

Sincerely, Jo Cooper

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