Harry Bayard Nobles
(1883 - 1948)
Harry B. Nolan
The song in this page is My Daddy by Bob Nolan.
Harry Bayard Nobles was born on November 28 1883 in Hatfield Point, New Brunswick, Canada. He was the second of nine children and the second son of Charles and Ella Jane Nobles. By the time he was 18, he was already earning his living as a tailor while still living at home. In 1901 he made a grand total of $365.
Although Harry was forced by circumstance to be a tailor, in his heart he was a traveler, a vagabond, an adventurer. He did everything in his power to be all of that but he was always prevented by something - poverty, a wife and family, ill health.
The family he was born into had been farmers in New Brunswick for generations. In fact, Harry's mother was a direct descendent of Capt. Thomas Spragg, a United Empire Loyalist who was driven out of New York after the Revolutionary War and had settled in Hatfield (then Spragg's) Point in 1783 when New Brunswick was still part of Nova Scotia. Ella Jane's father was a "roaming adventurer", as Bob Nolan wrote into one of his songs, who traveled and lived all over the United States. Harry grew up on these stories of searching for gold in Nevada, fighting in the War of Independence, traveling, excitement, traveling, adventure, traveling.
Rural life was definitely constricting so he left Hatfield Point and went west, west to fast-growing Winnipeg, Manitoba. Winnipeg had a population of over 100,000 already and a reputation for being a wild, wide open town. He found a partner, set up his little tailor business and looked around for excitement. He was a small man, cheerful and enthusiastic. He was described as having dark brown hair, brown eyes, a ruddy complexion and a height of 5 feet 5 3/4 inches. Because he had a powerful physique, he gave the impression of being much taller than he was and those who knew him described him as being "very strong".
On January 1, 1906, he married Flora Hussey, a beautiful Irish girl three years his senior. He was 23, she was 26. She was the first obstacle to his passion for roaming and in five years he had two more - his sons, Clarence and Earle. He was hard pressed to feed his growing family on what he could make as a tailor so he decided they should all go west where opportunity knocked and fortunes were to be made. By 1912, he was in Vancouver, all right, but the only job he could find was as a tailor in a dry cleaning business. To make matters worse, his wife was fretting for her family in Winnipeg and finally the strain became unbearable. They headed back east to Winnipeg in 1915 and went their separate ways. He left his sons in his wife's care and he headed south. He was already so deeply in debt that the only solution seemed to be to change his name and start over in the United States. He chose "Nolan" for his new identity, dropped a year or two from his age on documents and conveniently left out the fact that he had children.
From 1915 to 1917 he was a free man again. According to what he told his sons later, he piloted a riverboat, chased Pancho Villa with Pershing, won a featherweight boxing title under the name of "Kid Nolan", joined an Arctic expedition, got into World War I by enlisting in the U. S. Army, where he joined a group of Americans as part of a maintenance squad assigned to the R. A. F. He said he later transferred over to the U. S. Air Force and was finally gassed in Belleau Wood. This is what he told his children and they in turn told their children.
How much of all this is true is a matter of conjecture. Certainly, the desire was there. The only documentation available referring to his time in the Army is on his military discharge paper which states that he joined the US Army in Phoenix, Arizona, on December 15 1917 as a single man and he was honorably discharged as a Corporal on December 20 1918. It stated that Harry had no prior service, no battles, skirmishes, expeditions, received no wounds, his physical condition the day he was discharged was "Good" and his character was "Excellent".
All the adventures but those that pertain to the War are possible. He was already in Arizona when he joined the Army - he could have been part of "Black Jack" Pershing's fruitless pursuit of Pancho Villa after the 1916 raid and massacre on Columbus, New Mexico. He could easily have packed a lot of traveling into those two full years before the war, after having been restricted for so long.
When he was discharged from the Army in 1918, he was free to resume the carefree life but once again his plans were blocked, this time permanently. He came down with the the Spanish Flu which killed between 20 and 40 million people in one short year, more than were killed in the Great War. Fortunately, he survived. Unfortunately, his lungs were permanently damaged and he had to seek the dry country of Arizona to recover.
But, back in New Brunswick, his little family was demanding his attention again. He was still angry and bitter toward his wife and he was determined to keep their sons out of her reach so, when his parents wrote in 1919 to tell him that Flora was preparing to collect the two little boys, he in turn wrote his favorite sister, Fannie, and begged her to go immediately to Hatfield Point, get the boys and take them home with her to Boston. The Nobles' neighbours remember Fannie appearing suddenly and leaving again almost immediately with eleven-year-old Clarence and Earle, 8. When Fannie crossed the US border, she changed their surname to "Nolan", as their father had instructed, and they disappeared from their mother's view for years.
Harry was legally well within his rights under Manitoba law at this time. Custody of the children was always given to the husband. The wife had no rights and, indeed, was not even legally considered a "person".
Two more years were to pass before Harry was well enough to send for his eldest son, Clarence. He was moving from place to place in Tucson, one step ahead of his creditors, trying to keep his head above water. The long list of his places of residences show the downward spiral of Harry's life.
Harry may have married again but perhaps not. In any case, in 1921 a woman named Jessie was living with him when Bob arrived at 51 Driscoll and Harry was working once more as a tailor for American Cleaning Works at 164 S. Main Street, Tucson, Arizona. During 1922-3 they had moved to 1405 East 6th and Jessie was still with them. He managed to have a telephone installed in this home in 1923, the first of two times, in all the years they lived in Tucson. In 1924 Earle joined them while the Nolans were living (without Jessie) at 218 North 3rd Avenue. By 1925 they had moved to 735 East 10th Street. In 1926 Harry married 27-year-old Bertha Foster and the four of them were living at 638 South 5th Avenue. In 1927 They had moved again, this time to 1234 North 5th Avenue and Harry was working as a cutter for George K. Smith and Clarence was in the 12th grade. In 1928 Clarence moved out and married, leaving the three Nolans at 126 North Bean Avenue where they remained through 1929. Harry reclaimed his job at American Cleaning Works. 1930 found them living at 538 East 9th Street (rear), while Harry worked at 38 South Stone. 1931 seems to have marked a temporary upswing of fortune. Harry took out a large ad in the city directory for his own business at 22 South Stone Ave. He even had a telephone installed. They remained there through 1932 when he and Bertha had a son, Michael Foster Nolan, and Earle graduated from High School. (Bertha and Harry later had a baby girl, Mary Nolan Petty.) By 1933, Earle had moved out and Harry, Bertha and baby Mike had moved again, this time to Tanque Verde Rd. Harry was working as a tailor at 4 Central Building. In 1934, they moved to 824 East 8th Street and Harry had gone into partnership, "Harper and Nolan". He was, however, getting deeper into debt and a collection agency was called upon to take action. In 1935, they lived in the same house but his place of employment as a tailor was now 254 East Congress. In 1936, the address of his place of employment remained the same but they had moved to 53 North Melwood Avenue.
In 1937, the Nolan family moved to California but by 1941 Bertha and Harry had separated, divorcing soon afterward. Seven years later, Harry Bayard Nolan died - two weeks short of his 65th birthday - on November 13, 1948, of circulatory failure due to coronary sclerosis. His son, Earle, buried him in Woodlawn Cemetery, Santa Monica, California. He was survived by his three sons, Robert Clarence "Bob" Nolan, Michael Earle "King Kong" Nolan, Michael Foster "Mike" Nolan and his daughter, Mary Nolan Petty.
Thanks to Jean Nolan Krygelski, Elsie Boyd and the government archivists / librarians in British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Arizona for filling in the details of the life of Harry Bayard Nolan, Bob Nolan's father.
Bob Nolan's Family
Flora Nobles Hayes (mother)
Earl Nolan (brother)
Mike Nolan (half brother)
Mary Nolan Petty (half sister)
Roberta Nolan Mileusnich (daughter)
Calin Coburn (grandson)