John Brackenridge & Azile Townson

John and Azile Honeymoon Arbroath 1925

John Brackenridge and Azile Townson first met at a dance hall, one of the favorite gathering places for Lanarkshire young people. Both John and Azile had taken professional dancing lessons as did many of their peers so that they could perform well at such functions. John came with one of his chums, “Baldy’ (Archibald) Cook. Mother also came with a close friend. After a few partner changes, they matched up with John and Baldy. My mother told her friend that she wanted “the tall dark one” (John) and they enjoyed a number of dances together. At the conclusion of the evening, John asked Azile for permission to walk her home and she agreed. He was a good dancer and a pleasant conversationalist so she agreed to continue the relationship. They soon fell in love and began to talk about marriage.

By the early 1920s, Britain was experiencing an extended economic depression that eventually engulfed the United States in the 1930s. When work opportunities deteriorated early in 1922, John decided to seek employment in the United States just as many of his contemporaries were doing. Before departing, however, he promised both his mother and Azile that he would return when he had tested the quality of job opportunities in the States. Then he intended to marry Azile and return to the United States. In August of 1922, he sailed aboard the Carmania and entered the United States via the famous immigration center, Ellis Island.

After moving from place to place, John shortly found work in various steel mills in Youngstown, Ohio. He saved enough money to return home as promised in December 1924 to visit his family and to renew his relationship with Azile Townson. Never idle, he worked as a bricklayer in Colvilles Mill in Motherwell while he continued his courtship and supported his family in Bellshill. The marriage of John Brackenridge and Azile Townson took place on 7 April 1925 at Holy Trinity Church in Motherwell with the Reverend Joseph Bullough conducting the service. Only a few friends and family members were present. Five days after the wedding following a brief honeymoon in Arbroath, John sailed for New York leaving his new bride in Motherwell.

Calculating that he had saved sufficient money to warrant sending for his wife, late in 1925 John asked Azile to come to the United States as soon as possible. Because he had already applied for citizenship papers, Azile did not require clearance through Ellis Island, a matter of pride with her when relating her entry into the United States. John met her at the pier when she arrived in New York on 26 January 1926. The couple moved to Youngstown, Ohio where John had secured work as a bricklayer. Initially enjoying favorable economic conditions, the couple adapted well to their new envirnoment. Their first child, John Bruce, was born in 1927. After living in rented quarters for a few years, they moved into their own home at 338 E. Indianola Avenue. Then the stock market crashed in 1929 and their lives were impacted by the Great Depression of the 1930s. Unable to maintain mortgage payments on the home, they lived in several different rental locations including 339 E. Indianola Avenue where their second child, Robert Douglas was born in 1932. Because times were so hard and they had no extended family on which to rely, Azile, Bruce and infant Douglas sailed to Scotland in December 1932, the passage having been paid for by grandfather and grandmother Townson. In the meantime, John worked sporadically in New York City, laying brick when possible but also serving as a custodian in an apartment house, a job obtained through the help of his brother-in-law John Mathie. Azile, Bruce, and Douglas returned to the United States in May, 1933 and the family again resided in Youngstown.  A third child, daughter Ida Mae, was born in 1934. John worked briefly at Republic Steel and joined the mason department of the Sheet and Tube in 1934. He worked the rest of his life at the Sheet and Tube becoming foreman in the Coke Plant about 1948. A Coke Plant fixture, he was known to everyone simply as “Scotty Brackenridge,” a well-liked and highly respected craftsman and supervisor.

John Brackenridge died in 1962 and Azile Townson Brackenridge died in 1972. Bruce (died 2003), Ida Mae (died 2006), and Douglas all had children and family members presently residing in Ohio, Texas, Wisconsin, Virginia, California, Colorado, and Oregon. A more detailed family history will be added to this narrative in the near future.

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