I called the number listed in the white pages. I left a message on Drew's answering machine. I made sure I included the name "Sullivan" and Drew's old address on Staten Island. It was a holiday weekend but I couldn't wait to talk to him. I called again. Our phone call lasted over an hour. Drew was warm, receptive, and full of answers to my questions. He told me stories about his Grandmother Helena's siblings.
He started with old Uncle George. George was also born in Ireland during the family's ten year return. He is two years older than Helena. In one census, I found him living with Helena's family listed as a boarder. George was once engaged to a woman. He broke it off when he saw her drunk on the elevated train track. Heartbroken, he ran off and joined the circus. Literally. George was with the Barnum and Bailey Circus for twenty-three years. He traveled with them at the turn of the twentieth century on their European tour. I found documents backing this up: ship records and a passport application from the American Embassy in London listing Barnum and Bailey as his employer. It turned out everything that Drew told me I found in official documents.
He told me about his Uncle Joseph H. Lyons whom the pool is named after. Drew tired to get a lifeguard job at that pool one summer. They said no; if you want to work as a lifeguard you have to go to South Beach on Staten Island. Drew protested saying the pool was named after his uncle and he should get to work there. Sorry, positions at the pool are filled. It is South Beach if you want to work as a lifeguard. Drew spent that summer lifeguarding at the beach. So much for posthumous nepotism.
He told me the story of his beloved Nana, Helena Sullivan Lyons. Drew's mother, Agnes, worked so Helena was his primary caregiver. When I asked about her being born in Ireland, he said she would answer by saying," I do not speak with a brogue." He and his sister Helene, would continue to tease her saying, "Come on Nana, we know you were born in Ireland." She would never admit it but would reference Ballydehob, a small town in Ireland. Pretty specific for someone who had never been to Ireland. Being foreign born was frowned upon during the turn of the twentieth century. Even her brother George lied about it on his passport application. He stated he was American born despite having paperwork for becoming a naturalized citizen. I guess you didn't want to be in the American Embassy in London and admit you were born in Ireland in front of the whole circus. Besides, George and Helena could get away with it probably because their older siblings were born in New York. Helena also assumed her husband's citizenship because he was American born. Drew asked me about ancestors beyond Charles and Helena's parents. I answered that was why I called him. I hoped he knew who they were. His grandmother didn't talk about that probably because she would have had to admit to being born in Ireland. No progress was made at that time on finding more ancestors but I had a lot of leads to research thanks to Drew.
Drew filled me in on Charles and Helena's other sister, Elizabeth Sullivan Rogers and her descendants. Any living relatives from this branch of the family? More leads to research. I had hours of happiness in front of me. We discussed present day family members, jobs and how we each came to live in California. Unprompted, he then says, "You know, we are related to that photographer, Timothy O'Sullivan." Stunned silence on my end of the phone.