Father’s Day: Reflections and Connections


Jim Branch Schemm

Where’s the place for me to start thinking about father’s day? Somebody else’s family.

Our house was built by Dr. George C. Schemm, who had, about the time he had it built, taken over the family’s brewery. The brewery was at the corner of Hamilton and Brewster (now W. Holland). The building took up the whole block now occupied by Habitat for Humanity and Saginaw Machine Systems; the safe is still in the Habitat office. In 1897, he purchased this property, just a few blocks away, built the house, settled in with his wife Maude Ripley Schemm, and had three boys. George died in 1904, at the age of 42, leaving Maude with sons aged 5, 4 and 2 years.

She stayed in the house until all three boys had graduated from high school, then moved to Ann Arbor.  She had remained active in the business of the brewery until she moved, and the J.G. Schemm Brewing Company survived at least into the 1930s — Detroit’s Purple Gang tried to buy it at one point.

Somewhere along the line, my paternal grandfather, James Samuel Branch, had a job driving for them. That’s him, second from left in the top photo, which I’m guessing is from the early ’30s, probably right around the time my father was born. Jim was drafted — at the age of 37! — in 1944. He died in Germany on Flag Day, June 14, 1945 while serving with the 789th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion. It was about five weeks after V-E Day; land mines don’t know when the war is over.

He left two children, my dad and my Aunt Jean.

Ferdinand, the oldest of the Schemm boys, only had his father for five years. My dad only had his father for 12 years. I had mine for 54. So, this is a good reminder of how lucky I am to have had that privilege; not everyone gets it. I have 54 years’ worth of memories to draw from to make me smile (or, if I really want to, curse) at Bob. But on Father’s Day, it’s 54 years’ worth of missing him.

Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers and grandfathers I know, to the ones I didn’t get to know, and to the father I knew and loved.

My dad, me and my mom on the day I was baptized.

My dad, me and my mom on the day I was baptized.