John was born the third child of six, to Ada and Leon Humbert, in the East Bay city of Oakland in northern California. He spent his early years there in uptown west Oakland while the family was living at the Humbert Building, a 2-story flat they owned on the corner of Grove St. at 655 27th St., until the family left for Iowa in 1911 when John was six.
John attended Hell's Halfacre School there at Nodaway in Adams County. Shortly after the move, in 1912 young John was run down by a spooked team of horses pulling a hay wagon, and was comatose for several days and not expected to live. Within the next six months, John's father Leon died in early 1913 when John was only seven. But the family survived there on the farms for the next several years along with the families of John's maternal aunts, Effie Nelson and Lucy Chute. As a youth John helped feed the family by hunting rabbits and trapping skunks. He sold the pelts at the rate of about four for a dollar.
After 1920 the remaining family came back to live in the Melrose District of east Oakland, while John was still a teenager. He immediately went to work to support the family, as an apprentice coppersmith at D. D. Moore Co. in Oakland. John was in charge of Moore Dry-Dock's sheet metal shops by 1940 and stayed with that company until after World War II.
By 1924 the family moved eight miles southeast to briefly settle on Kelly Hill in east Hayward. As a young adult John stayed with the family while a few years later they moved back again to Melrose.
In Oakland John met his wife Mildred Effie Taber, and they were married on November 16, 1931 at the Elmhurst Christian Church, 8800 E. 14th St., with the ceremony performed by Mildred's father, Rev. C. Walter Taber.
The young Humbert family then settled nearby at 8221 Ney Ave., in the Eastmont District.
They had three children, and the family moved around quite a bit in the early years, north to Berkeley, then back to Oakland at 2527 83rd Ave., west of Hopkins St. (now MacArthur Blvd.) in the Eastmont District, northwest to Alameda, and then in 1937 to a big house at Oakland Auto Camp, 8603 Hillside St. That year John bought the Auto Camp from his mother's new husband, Henry Munsterman.
In 1939 John renamed the business as the Oakland Auto Court, when he rebuilt the Court from the ground up.
John had also briefly worked a gold mine in California with his step-father, Henry C. Munsterman, near a place called Yankee Jim's, near Auburn.
In early 1942 John enlisted in the US Navy shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was about to go on active duty as a Chief Petty Officer when his enlistment was refused because his civilian shipyard job was determined to be crucial to the war effort. By the end of the War, John was in charge of more than 1,500 men building ships.
In 1945 right after the War the family moved 1/2 mile up from the Hillside property, to a two-bedroom house at number 3319 at the top of 82nd Ave. They were still living there by the time John's mother Ada died in 1947.
In 1948 John finished building a new house on six acres, at 7382 Ewing Rd. (now 4682), off of Proctor Rd. and Redwood Rd., in Castro Valley, five miles to the southeast. There the family lived for the next couple decades as the children grew up. The family attended the local First Baptist Church on Redwood Rd.
In that period John owned Chabot Hardware, at 7437 Castro Valley Blvd., among a group of stores, on Highway 50 (now Castro Valley Blvd) in downtown Castro Valley.
One of his other businesses was a donut shop on E. 14th St. in the nearby unincorporated Ashland District of San Leandro, a mile to the west.
John also started a choose-and-cut christmas tree lot on the 6-acre Castro Valley farm. He also became a volunteer with the local fire department, and went into the real estate business.
John then sold the stores to a family friend, A. B. Morris and his wife, and expanded the christmas tree farm business to 200 acres in the Livermore area of Alameda Co., 10 miles over the hill to the east.
By 1973, in retirement, John sold the Castro Valley house, and moved 90 miles east to the foothills above the Mokelumne River, where he built a new house on Shake Ridge Rd. above the village of Volcano in Amador County.
John and Mildred were living there in 1980 when John died in nearby Jackson, just shy of his 75th birthday. His death ended several years of poor health, due to a hepatitis-contaminated blood transfusion during routine surgery at Eden Hospital in Castro Valley in the late 1960s.
John was brought back here to east Hayward for burial in the Lone Tree family plot on Davis St., where he rests along with his mother Ada and sister Effie and her husband Hokan, and with his older sister Lucy also nearby over the hilltop.
Source: Oakland City Directories
Source: family notes and letters
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