Inspired by your comments on last Saturday's post about walking the streets of the past, here are a couple of old family stories.
My grandfathers were from very large families, a dozen or more siblings. My paternal grandfather had a couple of colorful siblings. Notable was Herman, who was known as Dutch. I have two stories about Dutch.
During prohibition Dutch was hosting a large drinking party and poker game, in other words he was running an illegal speakeasy and gambling hall in the apartment he shared with his pious brother Ben. Someone alerted the police, who raided the wrong house. The police broke down the door on the house next door, a house of prostitution. The working girls fled up stairs, it was summer and the windows were open. The ladies got Dutch's attention and he laid a door from window to window - the houses were only about 4 feet apart, and the ladies next door fled across into his apartment. He promptly roused his pious brother Ben, who convened an instant prayer group. The police took one look, apologized for interrupting, and left.
Dutch died the year after my Grandfathers. My last fall in Michigan. His wife called my grandmother to let her know, and I drove my grandmother to the funeral. From the 1930's into the 1950's my grandparents had hosted huge family dinners at least once a month and my grandmother knew all of my grandfather's family. I had met Dutch and his wife Ruth a couple of times. Ruth was in the front row, animated as always. A woman of about the same age approached her and introduced herself as Dutch's wife. It took a couple of minutes of sorting it out, but apparently when Dutch married Ruth in the 1950's, he failed to divorce his first wife. His first wife knew he was living with Ruth, that he seemed happy and more settled than ever. She never made an issue of it. The two of them sat there sharing stories about the man they loved, and how being married to two women at the same time, for decades was the essence of who he was. A wild free spirit.
My grandmother was born near London, and came to the United States when she was a young girl. Her father was a tunnel digger, and there was work in the USA, and World War 1 was looming in Europe. He did a couple of jobs in New York, they lived in Queens and Brooklyn. She had vivid memories of living in Brooklyn before prohibition, the bars would have a shutter opening onto the sidewalk. Women were not allowed in the bar, but they could knock on the shutter or ring a bell and get "a bucket of beer" to take home. My grandmother and her playmates, discovered that if they knocked on the shutter the barkeep would almost alway open the shutter. One bar in particular caught the attention of the naughty children, including my grandmother, the shutter opened right over the end of a long bar top. They would knock and when the shutter opened toss horse manure down the bartop and run and hide. The winner was the kid who could make it slide the farthest down the bartop without getting caught. She got caught and was carried home to her mother by the barkeep, she was scholded until he left, then she and her mother laughed until they cried. Her mother saying, "I always wanted to do that. Now don't do that again." Her mother, my great grandmother was amazing, she died the same fall that Dutch did.
As we would say, Dutch was a 'colourful local racing identity', even if he nothing to do with horses. They are a couple of great stories, especially saving the brothel ladies. I wonder if they rewarded Dutch in some very special way.ReplyDelete
The family was to propper to talk about some things.Delete
I must say, Dutch's second wife took the news well!ReplyDelete
Yes, it could have been a very interesting funeralDelete
I bet there are some stories from your familyDelete
Love those stories.ReplyDelete
That first Dutch story sounds like something out of a screwball comedy of the 30s and 40s.
He lived itDelete
Those are priceless stories!ReplyDelete
I was lucky to have so much time with such interesting peopleDelete
I have Uncle Dutch, his real name is Tad. He is 91 years old.ReplyDelete
Coffee is on and stay safe.
I hope your family has some fun storiesDelete