Dalmas and Associated Family Genealogy

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Haines Dalmas

A Short Biography

Haines Dalmas in 1944

Walter Haines Dalmas and his twin sister Gladys were born on November 19, 1904 in Linden, Virginia to Henry Alfred Dalmas and his wife Maude Walter Dalmas, their sixth and seventh children.  Called Haines (or Hainie) by his family he spent his early years on a farm in Linden.  When he was five years old the family moved to Butler street in Manassas, Virginia in Prince William county where his father was now a salesman for a mining supply firm. While living in Manassas Haines and his brother Parke collected artifacts from the civil war battle fields. Not long after moving to Manassas, Haines' father was separated from his mother.  Needing a source of income for her large family, Maude moved the family to Front Royal, Virginia where she operated a boarding house. It was at this boarding house in June 1912 where Maude took in a boarder who was to become her second husband; Frederic T. Hall a supply priest at the nearby Calvary Episcopal Church.


In 1913 Fred Hall lived temporarily in Mesa, Arizona for health reasons and Haines wrote to him while he lived there as did a number of the younger siblings.  Obviously Maude was maintaining contact with Fred if not herself at least through her children. In 1914, Maude divorced Henry Dalmas according to a decree in the Warren County court house, lending further credence to her developing relationship with Fred Hall.


In April 1916 Maude with her younger children, including Haines, and Fred Hall moved by train to Roanoke, Virginia where they were married on June 7th.  After living a short while at 502 Church Ave, the family moved to 814 S. Jefferson Street. In July of 1916, the family (Maude, Fred, Gladys, Haines and Phyllis), went on their first vacation to Virginia beach. (Sounds like a Honeymoon with the kids!)  In September Fred Hall and Haines took their bicycles on the train to Natural Bridge station.  After riding from the station to the Bridge they discovered the admission price was more than the money they had with them so they did not gain entry on this trip.  However they did ride their bicycles over the bridge.


In January 1917 Haines and his family moved into a bungalow style house, with a one acre lot, on Lafayette Blvd. in Villa Heights. Haines and his siblings enjoyed the winter weather at their new home and would regularly sled on a nearby farm using a sled given to Haines by his older brother Parke.  In the spring of 1917 Haines helped his stepfather plant a garden and seed the yard.  It was apparently a learning experience for the both of them, and their efforts were not a rousing success.  Haines and his siblings had to walk a mile to the elementary school, and years later he would comment about how he had to sit at the double desk with his twin sister Gladys.  He was not pleased with the arrangement and no doubt received negative comments from the other boys!


Because of many problems that were experienced with the house on Lafayette, mainly a lack of adequate heat, the family next moved to Campbell Ave in July  of 1918. Again Haines' brother Parke provided a gift for Haines, this time a bicycle.  A neighbor gave Haines a dog but unfortunately he was hit by a car and killed.  He was buried in the back yard with full honors.


In the September 1919 the family moved into their “permanent” home at 329 Wellington Ave. in South Roanoke.  In March 1920, Haines got his first job working as a temporary clerk for the N&W Railway making the princely sum of $40 per month. (about 25 cents per hour)  Later he was able to get a permanent job with the railroad but then gave up that job to study sculpture in Philadelphia.


In 1925, Haines was enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia where he studied sculpture.  While attending the academy he lived with his uncle Louis Dalmas in Glenolden, Pa, a suburb of Philadelphia.  Haines’ cousin Felix, who also lived with uncle Louis was dating a Philadelphia girl, Thelma Bailey, who had a girl friend named Ann Diemer.  Ann, also an art student at another Philadelphia art school, was introduced to Haines and they were a regular pair during Haines' remaining time in Philadelphia.  In 1926, Haines lived for a while with his brother Parke while working in Ashland, Kentucky as a structural steel salesman.  He wrote regularly to Ann in Philadelphia.  He returned to Roanoke in 1927 and got a job with the N&W RWY as an auditor of freight receipts. He proposed to Ann, and on September 3, 1927 they were married at the Allegheny Ave. Methodist Church in Philadelphia.  Haines and Ann had jointly designed a house, so instead of having a lavish wedding reception, Ann’s father Dr. L. M. Diemer and wife Bessie gave them a wedding gift adequate to make the down payment on a house to be built in Roanoke, Va. (Ann Diemer was named “Anna” and was known by this name in Philadelphia but became “Ann” when she moved to Roanoke.)


In the fall of 1927 construction started at their new home at 1204 Northumberland Avenue, just outside the city limits of Roanoke in Virginia Heights Extended.  This unique design was like no other home in Roanoke and received many favorable comments from the various people who happened by.


Haines' and Ann’s first child, Robert was born on April 2, 1930. The attending physician was John O. Boyd.  Soon thereafter he was baptized at Christ Episcopal Church by The Rev. Harry Meade, the family being members of this church.


The financial depression hit the country hard in the early 1930s but fortunately Haines was able to keep his job working for the N&W RWY.  He would have preferred to have worked in the shops of the railroad but circumstances, and his mother’s encouragement to keep his desk job, convinced him to stay in his freight department job. Also, a job working his true love, sculpting, was not in the cards in depression era Roanoke, Va.  There is no doubt that many young men in their prime in the early 1930s were adversely affected for life by the circumstances of the depression.  Fortunately Haines and Ann managed to refinance their home and they survived the depression without further problem.


Even though Haines was unable to work at sculpting as a vocation, he did enjoy sculpting busts and plaques of various family subjects.  He also enjoyed casting items such as bird-baths, benches, sundials, etc in concrete.  He was also a good chess player and was a member of the Roanoke Chess Club for many years.  He also had assumed the title of Secretary/Treasurer of the Chess Club early in his membership. He would play in regional tournaments over the next few years, once winning a bronze. One of the men with whom he played was Robert Loebl, the son of Austrian/German immigrants who had arrived early in the 1900's.  It was Robert's mother who tutored Haines in German so that he could sing Lieder with wife Ann at the piano.


Haines had a number of interesting friendships that began in the early 1930s.  Among these friends were Leigh Hanes, an attorney and poet, Nelson Bond, an author and play writer, Madame Henriette Fallwell and her sister Andree Messager, French émigrés, Meade and Marlene Harris who were in the garden insecticide business, and Curtis Merkle who was a student at Roanoke college and president of the chess club.  Also on the scene in those days was Judson Fickling, the dashing horseman, and his brother Allison as well as the madcap airman and barnstormer, Walter Rudd who would buzz our house on occasion.


Sometime in the 1930s Haines and his brother-in-law Miller Bradley bought a 1920s era Stutz automobile (Not a Bearcat).  The legend is that they had to push it home as it did not run.  Apparently they could never get the car to provide reliable transportation so Haines dismantled the car in the back yard.  Parts of this car were used in a number of projects over the years.


In May 1934 , John Stuart Hunter, Haines' nephew came to Roanoke to live with Haines and Ann and Bob (also known as Robin in those days.)  Stuart’s mother Anne had died tragically.  Stuart (or Stu as he was called) lived with Haines’ family until he was an adult and was considered just another member of the family.


Another son, James Edward Dalmas was born on January 14, 1937.  Stella Watts was employed on a part time basis to clean and cook.  This relationship lasted for decades.    Once, as a toddler, Jim wandered off following  Haines’ German shepherd, Jan, through the nearby woods  and Stella found him near the railroad.  This became a heroic legend with Stella, the heroine, snatching the oblivious child from the onrushing locomotive.  


In the early 1940s, Haines sister Phyllis and her husband Miller built a house next door where they lived until about 1948.  Haines had envisioned a compound at the end of Northumberland where all of his family would settle and he worked toward this end but alas it was not to be.


In July 1940 Haines and family vacationed at Virginia Beach in a rented cottage. Haines’ stepfather F. T. Hall also joined the family for a few days.


Haines was eligible for an annual pass from the N&W that allowed for travel anywhere on the system.  There was also a once a year pass using other railroads so each year Ann would travel via the N&W and Pennsylvania Railroads to her parent’s home in Philadelphia.  Haines would usually stay in Roanoke to hold down the fort.


On June 18, 1941, Haines' and Ann’s last child, a son John Hall Dalmas, was born in Roanoke.  "Miss Effie" employed temporarily to help Stella get things done. Haines took Stu, Bob and Jim on the night train to Philadelphia for a visit later in the week


In the early 1940s Haines purchased a large radio console with short-wave and a record changer that was placed in the living room.  Haines brought home from work the first classical album seen in the house.  A co-worker had received this album for Christmas and did not like it so he gave it to Haines.  It was Mozart's Symphony #40 recorded on 78rpm.  Haines loved classical music and the exposure was also a plus for his children.  While Bob and John developed a knowledge of classical music, Jim was more inclined to go for Gene Autry and had a number of his records that he wore out.


In the early 1940 era, Haines built an all concrete garage in the back yard.  All the concrete was hand mixed (mostly by Bob and Stuart) and a slip form technique was used to build the walls about a foot at a time.  The flat roof was also constructed of poured concrete.  The original plan was to add a second story with a dormitory but that phase was never carried out.  This building primarily became a shop and for a while son Jim housed his ham radio station there. Son John also had a chemistry lab in one end of the building.


Because of the rationing of many food items during WW II Haines decided to lease some nearby farm land from Blutcher Cormell and raise farm animals.  Because of this the family was well fed for the duration of the war.  Mother, a city girl, learned to make butter and cottage cheese and got a large crock to preserve eggs.  When we would butcher a cow, the various cuts were stored in a rented frozen food locker in downtown Roanoke.  Haines also had a victory garden on the property across the street that belonged to his mother Maude.  There were also peach and apple trees on the small plot.  He had a walk-behind garden tractor that he used to till the land.  During this time Haines rigged up his small garden tractor to look like a train engine which could pull all the kids' wagons at one time. This creation, and the wagons, was referred to as The Baby Train.  There was a great sled riding hill on the Cormell farm and Haines would take the kids there whenever the snow was adequate.  The family referred to it as Cormell Hill and it was the delight of all the cousins and the neighborhood kids even though one might tangle with a barbed wire fence when approaching the bottom. (or  might end up in the creek)  The family also obtained many a Charlie Brown Christmas tree on the Cormell farm.  


Just before the beginning of WW II Haines bought a well worn 1933 Oldsmobile sedan.  It was not very reliable and usually would not start.  Many times he had to drift it down a hill to get it to start.  Then with gasoline rationing during the war he decided to convert it to a farm truck so that he could get gasoline and parts under the farm classification.  His 1933 Olds stake truck was a sight to behold but he actually used it to haul cows to and from the live-stock-market near Schaeffer’s Crossing.


In May 1946, Haines’ mother Maude died.  He was very devoted to his mother and had been greatly influenced by her so the loss was great.  Her funeral was held at Calvary Episcopal Church in Front Royal and she was buried at Linden Hill Church Cemetery in Linden, Va.


In 1947 Haines step-father gave him his 1934 Cadillac sedan.  In July he was rear-ended by another car while turning left from Franklin Road to Brandon Ave. The Cadillac, built like a tank, was not damaged.  Haines sold the car to a a black undertaker and part time preacher in 1948 as it was not very economical to maintain or operate.


Russ Chauvenet, a young man in his 20s, was the reigning chess champion of Virginia in the mid 1940s and he was invited to Roanoke to play a simultaneous match with all of the members of the chess club at one time. Russ stayed at Haines’ home during his visit. Son Bob was the only person out of 20 or so who won against him. Nelson Bond drew and everyone else lost including Haines This match took place at the old Elk's Club on Jefferson Street (across from People's Drug) where the club routinely met. In the 1950s the club moved to the St. John's Episcopal Church parish hall. Chess remained an important part of Haines' life until he died. He enjoyed playing the game with his grandchildren in his later years. He was an excellent player.


In 1948 Bob graduated from Jefferson High School and enrolled at Roanoke College.  He graduated with a degree in Biology in 1951 after which he entered the masters program at Virginia Tech.


In April 1949, Haines left the Freight Department of the N&W (Where the Virginia Museum of Transportation is located today) and became the factory manager for the J. M. Harris Co. an insecticide manufacturer in Roanoke owned by his friend Meade Harris and Meade’s brother Eugene.  


Soon after going to work for Harris, Haines began work on an automated bag closer for the insecticide bags.  (These bags are similar to coffee bean bags that roll down and have sealer tabs that fold in)  He would work on this project on the weekends and many times on Saturday afternoons he would listen to the Metropolitan Opera (sponsored by Texaco) while working on his bag machine.  While he got the machine to work, it never was reliable enough to go into a production environment.  Haines was good at working with his hands and was a good household handyman.  He could do almost anything and always had a project or two underway.  He even tried to rewind an electric motor one time but discovered that the techniques for doing this were beyond the capabilities of the happy home owner.  He was probably the foremost expert on the repair and operation of the Eden washing machine and may have been the last person in Roanoke to even have one. (His friends would needle him that this machine must have come from the Garden of Eden!)


Haines built a small house for his step-father on the lot across the street from 1204 Northumberland (since 1947 now 2606 Westover Ave).  After it was completed  in September 1951 Fred Hall moved in and then sold the family home on S. Jefferson Street (formerly Wellington)


In 1951, Haines bought his first brand new car, a 1951 Pontiac Catalina hard top.  This was a very sporty car in its day. He was probably influenced by son Bob who was scheduled to graduate from Roanoke College in that year. When he upgraded to a 1956 Oldsmobile hard top he couldn’t part with Ponty so he kept it as his farm hunting car.  Haines enjoyed driving the back roads, especially in Warren County searching for his dream farm.  (In 1988-1992 son Jim restored the ‘51 Pontiac to its original appearance.)


Since the original concrete garage was full of shop equipment and radio equipment, Haines had to build another garage for Ponty.  This single car stucco garage was completed in 1952,  Son Jim helped with the construction.


In 1952 Haines becomes a serious investor in the Stock Market.  He studied the Wall Street Journal and Barron’s religiously and makes his own buy and sell decisions.  He does well in this endeavor and sets an example for his sons to be wise investors.  He also instills in his sons an expectation to obtain a college degree and a sense of the necessity for a good work ethic.  


In June 1955 son Jim graduates from Jefferson High school and in September enrolls at Roanoke College in the pre-engineering curriculum. During his senior year in high school Jim had quit his newspaper route and obtained a job on the technical staff at radio station WRIS.  He purchased a 1951 Chevrolet (with a loan from Fred Hall) to travel to and from work and school. While in college he got a better job in the technical department at WDBJ AM, FM and TV; Jim transfers to Virginia Tech in 1957 and obtained a BSEE in 1960.


Son John graduates from Jefferson High School in 1958 and enrolls at Virginia Tech.  He graduates with a degree in Metallurgical Engineering in 1963.


In the fall of 1959, Haines' beloved step-father died and was buried alongside Maude in the Linden Hill Church Cemetery.  Miller Bradley served as the executor of his estate and sold his property on Westover Ave (across the street from Haines' home).  Unfortunately the buyer was able to develop the property with apartments which significantly reduced the quality-of-life for Haines’ and Ann’s property across the street.


In 1961, Haines and Ann traveled to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to visit with his uncle Felix Dalmas.  Since Haines had had little contact with his father Henry this was an opportunity to learn more about his Dalmas roots.  Felix provided a number of family related items including a portrait of Joseph Charles Dalmas, Haines' great grandfather.


After his retirement from J. M. Harris Company in 1963, Haines took up photography (encouraged by sister Sophie) as a hobby and renewed his interest in sculpting and other artistic endeavors.  He sculpted a number of busts of children during the 1960s including grandsons Glenn (b1955) and Randy (b 1966) and granddaughter Robin (b 1960). He also did a bust of daughter in-law Thelma. He also sculpted plaques of various subjects including brother Parke (who died in 1970) and friend Leigh Hanes.  He even sculpted a life size burro and her baby that he envisioned being part of a display at Mrs. Puckett’s cabin near the Blue Ridge Parkway in Carroll County, Virginia.  Haines' nephew Peter Wreden, a talented artist with a studio in Roanoke, was very interested in the work that Haines was doing at that time and encouraged him to do commission work for some of his clients.  However, Haines was only interested in his work as a hobby and declined to do paid projects.


In September 1977 the Dalmas Family reunion was held in Roanoke. Planning was done by niece Phyllis Harholdt and a pamphlet on the family was prepared by nephew Victor Dalmas.  The final banquet was also the occasion for the 50th anniversary of the wedding of Haines and Ann.  Haines thoroughly enjoyed the reunion and wrote to many of the participants over the next year or so.


On August 29, 1979, Haines died of a heart attack at his home on Westover Ave.  His well attended funeral was held at Christ Episcopal Church.  He is buried in the Linden Hill Church Cemetery in the plot originally purchased by his grandfather James E. Walter in 1892.  His wife Ann survived for another 16 years and she died on April 9, 1995 at Westminster Canterbury Assisted Living Facility in Lynchburg, VA. She is buried next to Haines.


James Dalmas

May 2004

Last Revision 2/22/2012