Me in the Middle of a Pretty Big Deal

 

Bank Robbery

A Pretty Big Deal

It seemed surreal to be sitting there as I had on any weekday after work surrounded by family in our living room in front of the TV.  It was hard to pay attention to the show that they’d all decided to watch that night.  I kept having flashbacks to the frightening event that took place at the bank today.  It was just reported on the evening news and I saw some of my co-workers being interviewed.  Luis Ortega turned out to be the hero of the day, and Gus Gonzalez was another teller who agreed to be interviewed.

And here I was, surrounded by family, sitting silently and unable to talk that much about it.  It seemed that this was what I was supposed to do.  Not talk about it.  Minimize it. “Yeah, there’s Luis and Gus who I work with.”  Don’t dwell on it. Don’t make others uncomfortable with my emotions.  It’s best to be strong and to let it go.  Move on!  It’s no big deal!  So, we didn’t talk about it that night and we all sat staring at the television screen.  “This was a big deal for me!” I wanted to shout.  “Today something shifted inside of my universe and I need to talk about it!”

The day started out like all the workdays before; riding the bus from home into the Port Authority in New York City and hurrying along with all the other commuters heading down the stairs to the subway train.  I had a secretarial position with the New Accounts Manager, Paul Lang, who sat in the desk behind me along the wall at Broadway Savings Bank.  I typed letters for him and typed up new accounts documents for customers.  I was nineteen, just out of secretarial school and excited about working in the Big Apple.

An older woman, who was an assistant to the manager, sat in the desk in front of me.  It was Louise who had helped me settle into my new position there and introduced me to the other employees.

The other desks that were lined along the wall belonged to other managers and their secretaries.  On the other side of the room were the bank tellers, about seven in all, and directly across from me was Luis Ortega.  Luis was a nice-looking guy, newly married and a new father.

Luis was the one who appeared on the evening news.  He was the one who set off the alarm to the police while he was putting the money in the bag they gave him.  It was an armed robbery by two men who came into the bank and stood in the middle of the floor shouting at us to stay still and do as they told us.  One went to the tellers and got the money.  The other stood watching all of us and swinging his shotgun in an intimidating way.

One customer got confused and seemed to be in a daze.  She started to walk towards my desk as if she were going to ask me something . I looked away from her frightened face … afraid that if she kept coming it would draw attention to me.  The one holding the gun swung around and screamed at her “Stop moving!!” and she froze.  I sat there saying the “Hail Mary” to myself while thinking about whether I should try to duck underneath my desk.

“Holy Mary … Mother of God … pray for us sinners … now and at the hour of our death.”

Louise sat motionless, with her back to me, at her desk in front of me.

I could sense my manager, Paul’s, presence behind me and that comforted me.  He had a strong, confident way about him and it helped knowing he was there.  Two desks further down from him was another bank manager, Walter, a quiet man who I didn’t know that well.  He had a slight build, curly dark hair and dark framed glasses.  He always dressed neatly in a suit and tie.  Amidst all the daily activity on the bank floor you could forget that he was there on most days.

It seemed like an eternity that we sat there while the two men gathered up the money and nervously paced around the center of the floor.  Then, slowly, they began backing up towards the exit, signaling that they were leaving.  One of them tossed an object that slid down the whole distance of the floor to the back of the room.  The canister exploded into a cloud of smoke and people began to scream.  The two of them swiftly moved toward the door as the room filled with smoke. 

Behind me, I heard Paul’s booming voice shout out ….“Walt, don’t do it!” …. And then I saw Walter sprinting across the room, pursuing them out the door. Just as he reached the door, the gunman turned around and shot at him through the glass door.  He was hit in the legs.  I learned later that Walter had served as a marine and, unknown to all of us, kept a weapon in his desk.

We heard that the police had shot and killed one of the men a few blocks away.  The other was still on the loose at the time that the news reported it that evening.  When they did apprehend him, it was reported that he told them he desperately needed money for his family.  Walter didn’t return to work, and we were told he would need a lot of rehabilitation before he would be able to walk again.

I went to the phone booth in the bank lobby afterwards so I could call my family and connect with them privately.  When I heard my mother’s calming voice answer the phone, my voice began to tremble and shake as I spoke into the phone about what had just happened.  “Are they letting you come home? She asked.  “Maybe it’s best you come home.” I wondered to myself how she could possibly remain so calm, in control and detached while hearing about all this.

We were all dismissed early as the police began to arrive and the bank was closed for the day.  I set out for the subway hurrying down the stairs in the middle of the crowds of people, all going about their day and all heading in different directions.  I wanted to shout at them “Look at me! Today was a very big deal!!

©Mary Lou

**Note**  This is a true event that took place in 1961.  Back 57 years ago (the 50’s and early 60’s) feelings/emotions weren’t talked about that much. PTSD was first recognized in the early 80’s. Before that it was mainly attributed to war combat. Shell shock one of the symptoms. Most likely I was dealing with some shock after that experience. Now it’s recognized that there are degrees of PTSD due to trauma that stay with you and you learn how to cope.

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Me in the Middle of Reading a Memoir (Prohibition)

Today is my Uncle Jack’s Birthday!

My Uncle Jack, who is my father’s youngest brother, came to visit me over the holidays (in spirit).  My oldest son shares the same birthday with him ~ January 22nd.  I received a gift in the mail from my brother that transported me back to Uncle Jack’s childhood in the early 1900s.  In 1979, in the years before he died, he had penned a memoir ~ I Too Remember ~ covering 1918 through 1928 when he was four years old through fourteen years old.  There might be more memories put to writing about other years of his life that his children and grandchildren may have.  We don’t know because we lost track of them over the years.  This particular manuscript was sent to my mother and father’s home, our homestead where we grew up and my father grew up, and covered a lot of memories of when my grandfather and grandmother moved into the newly built home when Uncle Jack was only seven years old.  His creative writing is very good and his memory is priceless.  

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One account of life during his childhood was of the Prohibition Years (See Wikipedia).  The account was so well written that I decided to do a post about it here on my blog in his honor.  

RIP Uncle Jack and thank you for being the beautiful soul that you are! 

Happy Birthday!

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I Too Remember

by John H. Quinn

Poor Dad!  From 1919 until 1933, we had what was called Prohibition.  All the Breweries had to shut down.  If someone happened to have some beer, and you bought it and got caught, you could have to pay $1,000 fine or 6 months in jail.  Soon the gangsters started making beer and whiskey even though it was illegal.  Soon the old saloons opened (illegally).  They were called Speakeasies.  As time went by, most of the time no one bothered them.  Dad didn’t like what they made and did without beer until we moved to our new home.  (I could write a book about the days during Prohibition, but I don’t feel that it is associated directly with my childhood.  If any of you would like to know about those days, I’m sure there are hundreds of books you can read).

After we got settled in our new home, Dad bought all the things that were needed to make beer.  It was called “Home Brew”.  Some of the things he bought, that I remember, were:

  1.  A thick earthenware pot.  It was called a crock.
  2.  Bottles and metal caps to put on top of the bottles.
  3.  Some kind of a gadget that you would put a bottle cap in, then put the filled bottle underneath, pull down the lever and it would put the cap on real tight.  You had to wait a few weeks before you could drink the beer.
  4.  Malt, hops and yeast.  He used water and that’s all I can remember.

Dad and Mother would also make Root Beer (for us kids) and would use the same gadget to put on the caps.

Later, he made Grape Wine and Whiskey.  I’ll tell you just a little about him making Whiskey.  Not about what he used to make it with, but about other things.

My Dad was mainly a beer drinker.  However, occasionally he would have a little whiskey.  He didn’t make the whiskey for that reason.  Here are a few reasons that I know of that he did:

Both of his brothers (Henry and Tom) enjoyed whiskey mixed with seltzer water ~ to be used for medicinal purposes:  My two grand-aunts used to make cough medicine and it worked.  Here is what they used when they made cough medicine:

Honey, lemon, whiskey and rock candy (the rock candy was crystallized sugar).

(See about Grandpa Malloy after I tell you what happened to my Uncle Henry one day.)

One day we were all in the kitchen and Dad had just brought up two bottles of whiskey that he had made.  When it is first made it is 200 Proof (very, very strong).  He first had to cut it (I’m not sure how he did this.) so that it would be around 100 Proof (OK for drinking) and he had to color it (brown, like you see in the stores).  He hadn’t started to do this yet when Uncle Henry came in.  He asked my Dad if he could try some of the whiskey.  Dad told him that he hadn’t cut it yet.  My uncle said that he didn’t care and poured himself a big drink.  He then walked over to the sink where he could get a glass of water to drink after he drank the whiskey.  Well, he drank all the Whiskey that he had in the glass and before he could reach the cold water faucet, he seemed to float down onto the floor where he passed out.  We were all scared!  Dad put cold, wet towels to his head and he came around.  He was OK.  He said to my Dad, “Wow, that sure packs dynamite!”  He always enjoyed Dad’s whiskey after that but he would wait for Dad to cut it.

While we were moving to our new home, my grandparents bought a tiny farm in Meadowbrook., New York, not far from Newburgh.  One winter my grandfather got awful sick.  My parents received word that they had better come up to the farm as Grandpa was very, very sick.  My parents went right up!  When they arrived, my grandmother told them that he had received the last rites of the church and there was very little hope that he would live.  My mother and father then went in to see Grandpa.  They only stayed a few minutes and as they were leaving, my grandfather called to my Dad.  My Dad went over … and Grandpa asked him if he brought any of the whiskey he made.  My Dad said that he didn’t.  My grandfather then asked him if he could bring some up … He felt that it was the kind of medicine that he needed to get well.  My father told him that he would go right back home and return as quickly as possible.  My Dad went right home, picked up a pint of his whiskey and headed back.  (It took awhile, as you might realize.)  He  brought it in to my grandfather who asked him to pour him a big shot.  He drank it right down.  He then told my Dad to leave the bottle on the table by his bed.  My parents told my grandmother they had to leave and asked her to let them know immediately if anything should happen.

A couple of days later my parents received word that my Grandpa was up and walking around.  (Come Spring, he was out in the fields working!)

The doctor said it was a miracle!  But … Grandpa (and my Dad) knew it was my Dad’s whiskey that saved him.  Believe it or not, it happened again, (over a number of years since that time) in the same way – Three Times!!

The Rise of Speakeasies

 

 

Me in the Middle of an Ordinary Day (Critiqued and Revised)

This Fall I’ve been taking another OLLI  (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UVA) class ~ Creative Writing for Dabblers.  There are twelve of us and we read our work to each other and offer critique.  This is the first time I’ve done this and I’m getting a lot of value out of it.

On November 10th I posted what I wrote for reading to the class and this week I’m posting the changes I’ve made based on what the other writers in the group suggested.  This is the link to the original post ~ An Ordinary Day ~ JFK

John Kennedy Family, Jacqueline

The new post, with the changes I made since last Friday, is below:

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~ An Ordinary Day ~

It was November and an ordinary week day with not much planned except for household chores and getting ready for the upcoming holidays.  Nora’s husband had left for work leaving her with a pile of ironing to do.  She liked to set up the ironing board in the living room, facing the large bay window, so she could look out on the neighborhood.  It had been a quiet morning where she took things easy considering her pregnancy was drawing to an end and she was slowed down quite a bit.

Waiting wasn’t easy!  Over the past year she had had two miscarriages and this was her 3rd pregnancy.  All seemed to be progressing well and 22-year-old Nora could feel the lively kicks and bumps in this last stage before birth.  Her doctor wasn’t sure of an exact delivery date.  He told her to have her bag packed and ready for a trip to the hospital sometime during the holidays.

Her mind was preoccupied with these thoughts when her attention was abruptly drawn to the TV in the corner of the room.  The monotonous conversations of the scheduled show were suddenly interrupted by a brief, alarming announcement. 

“Here is a bulletin from CBS News.  In Dallas, Texas three shots were fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade in downtown Dallas.  The first reports say that President Kennedy has been seriously wounded by this shooting.”

The announcement came and went so quickly that it almost seemed inconceivable that what Nora heard really happened.  She continued with the ironing and reflected on the memories she had of JFK over the past three years.  Her first stirrings of political awareness showed up when she went to a campaign rally at the Teaneck Armory in NJ for John F. Kennedy, who was running for President against Richard M. Nixon.  Standing outside in the massive crowd waiting for him to arrive, she and her sister came up with a chant; “Jack be nimble. Jack be quick.  Jack’s the one who’s gonna beat Dick.”  Her family was proud of the Democratic Party that was working towards electing the first Catholic President.

Both JFK and his wife, Jackie, were an inspiration for her and both gave her hope.  She felt like she knew Jackie Kennedy personally when they each went through the heartaches of miscarriages and loss.   Jackie gave her hope that one day she too would become a mother, just as her husband gave her hope that we as a country could overcome our divisions and adversities, and become greater still.

Did she really hear what she thought she heard?  The report said ‘seriously wounded’.  A feeling of dread washed over her as she thought of the possibility that the president would die.  And then it came up on the screen:

“From Dallas, Texas ~ The flash apparently official ~ President Kennedy died at 1 pm Central Standard Time (2 o’clock Eastern Standard Time), some 28 minutes ago.”

There it was!  There was no denying the finality of those words.  She felt a bolt of shock pulse through her as the seriousness of what it meant sunk in.  Suddenly she felt very fearful and very much alone.  She needed to reach out to someone and dropped everything she was doing.  Nora hurried down the stairs of their 2nd floor apartment to the landlady’s apartment below.  She was relieved that she found her at home and, as soon as the door opened, she began to tremble and cry.  For the first time she said the words that she couldn’t believe:

“President Kennedy’s dead!  He was shot!”

Her landlady, who was expecting her third child, was a veteran mom who always had everything under control.  She tried to calm Nora down.  “You’ve got to think of your baby right now.  It’s important that you stay calm.”  She counseled her.  They both stood there silently and continued to watch the startling news reports as more information trickled in.

It was two days later that she watched a live report of the Dallas Police bringing Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of President John F. Kennedy, through the garage of the police station on the way to a more secure county facility.  There was a lot of confusion and shouting as they walked through the crowd of reporters.  She saw a man quickly approach Oswald and immediately saw a pained expression appear on Oswald’s face.  It happened so quickly there was no way to prevent it.  Nora was watching real life unfold, realizing that it was the first time she was witnessing a man being murdered.   Another urgent announcement followed that Oswald had been shot and killed by a local business man in Texas, Jack Ruby. 

Life changed for America on November 22nd, 1963 and when she stood in stunned silence watching more news unfold over the following days, Nora saw images of Jackie Kennedy, her daughter Caroline and her small son, John-John, standing by the roadside as the fallen president’s casket passed by.  An ordinary day became a tragedy and the whole world mourned the death of our president.

The weeks passed by and the country began to take steps to bring order and safety as more information was released.  The grieving and healing would begin across the country and the world. 

So too, the weeks passed by for Nora with no sign of the beginnings of labor indicating the arrival of their first born.  Christmas 1963 and New Year’s Day 1964 came and went.  The doctor reassured her that all was well and not to worry.  The previous miscarriage had made it impossible to pinpoint a due date, and the baby’s weight and progress were on target for an imminent birth.  They continued to wait ~ one day at a time ~ and then on January 22nd, 1964, exactly two months to the day of JFK’s assassination, a baby boy arrived healthy and welcomed into the family.  An ordinary day in the lives of so many others yet a cherished one for Nora.

And now, years have passed by filled with historic moments that have impacted the people of America in so many ways.  That one ordinary day, 54 years ago, continues to haunt Nora  as a reminder of  vulnerability that always lies beneath the surface.  Just as 9/11 sliced into the heart and soul of the country, so to 11/22/63 will remain a reminder that the perfect idealism of ‘Camelot’ can be shattered within one ordinary day.

11-22-63 

Sketch and writing © Mary Lou

Photo image from Pixabay.com

 

 

 

Me in the Middle of An Ordinary Day ~ JFK

An Ordinary Day ~ JFK

~ Creative Writing 3rd Person ~

It was November and an ordinary week day with not much planned except for household chores and planning for the upcoming holidays.  Nora’s husband had left for work leaving her with a pile of ironing to do.  She liked to set up the ironing board in the living room, facing the large bay window, so she could look out on the neighborhood.  It had been a quiet morning where she took things easy considering her pregnancy was drawing to an end and she was slowed down quite a bit.

Waiting wasn’t easy!  Over the past year she had had two miscarriages and this was her 3rd pregnancy.  All seemed to be progressing well and 22-year-old Nora could feel the lively kicks and bumps in this last stage before birth.  Her doctor wasn’t sure of an exact delivery date.  He told her to have her bag packed and ready for a trip to the hospital sometime during the holidays.

Her mind was preoccupied with these thoughts when her attention was abruptly drawn to the TV in the corner of the room.  The monotonous conversations of the scheduled show were suddenly interrupted by a brief, alarming announcement. 

“Here is a bulletin from CBS News.  In Dallas, Texas three shots were fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade in downtown Dallas.  The first reports say that President Kennedy has been seriously wounded by this shooting.”

The announcement came and went so quickly that it almost seemed inconceivable that what Nora heard really happened.  She continued with the ironing and reflected on the memories she had of JFK over the past three years.  Her first stirrings of political awareness showed up when she went to a campaign rally at the Teaneck Armory in NJ for John F. Kennedy, who was running for President against Richard M. Nixon.  Standing outside in the massive crowd waiting for him to arrive, she and her sister came up with a chant:   “Jack be nimble. Jack be quick.  Jack’s the one who’s gonna beat Dick.”  Her family was proud of the Democratic Party that was going to work towards electing the first Catholic President.

She felt like she knew Jackie Kennedy personally when they both went through the heartaches of miscarriages and loss.  Jackie was her inspiration and JFK gave her hope.  Jackie gave her hope that one day she too would become a mother, just as her husband gave her hope that we as a country could overcome our divisions and adversities, and become greater still.

Did she really hear what she thought she heard?  The report said seriously wounded’ A feeling of dread washed over her as she thought of the possibility that the president would die.  And then it came up on the screen:

“From Dallas, Texas ~ The flash apparently official ~ President Kennedy died at 1 pm Central Standard Time (2 o’clock Eastern Standard Time), some 28 minutes ago.”

Suddenly she felt very much alone and needed to reach out to someone.  Nora hurried down the stairs of their 2nd floor apartment to the landlady’s apartment below.  Relieved that she found her at home, she began to cry and, for the first time, said the words she couldn’t believe. ~

“President Kennedy’s dead!  He was shot!”

Her landlady, who was expecting her third child, tried to calm her down.  “You’ve got to think of your baby right now.  It’s important that you stay calm.”  She counseled her.  This brought Nora’s thoughts back to where she was in this moment and what she had to do next.

Two days later, she watched a live report of the Dallas Police bringing Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of President John F. Kennedy, through the garage of the police station on the way to a more secure county facility.  There was a lot of confusion and shouting as they walked through the crowd of reporters.  Suddenly she saw a man quickly approach Oswald and immediately saw a pained expression appear on Oswald’s face.  It happened so quickly there was no way to prevent it.  Nora was watching real life unfold realizing that she was watching the murder of a man for the first time.  Another urgent announcement followed that Oswald had been shot and killed by a local business man in Texas, Jack Ruby. 

Life changed for many in America on November 22nd, 1963 and when she stood in stunned silence watching the news unfold over the following days, Nora saw images of Jackie Kennedy, her daughter Caroline and her small son, John-John, standing by the roadside as the fallen president’s casket passed by.  An ordinary day became a tragedy.  The whole world mourned the death of our president.

The weeks passed by and the country began to take steps to bring order and safety as more information was released.  The grieving and healing would begin across the country and the world. 

So too, the weeks passed by with no sign of the beginnings of labor indicating the arrival of their first born.  Christmas 1963 and New Year’s Day 1964 came and went.  The doctor reassured her that all was well and not to worry.  The previous miscarriage had made it impossible to pinpoint a due date, and the baby’s weight and progress were on target for an eminent birth.  They continued to wait ~ one day at a time ~.  And then on January 22nd, 1964, exactly two months to the day of JFK’s assassination, a baby boy arrived healthy and welcomed into the family.  An ordinary day in the lives of so many others yet a cherished one for Nora.

And now, years have passed by filled with historic moments that have impacted the people of America in many ways.  That one ordinary day, 54 years ago, continues to haunt us as a reminder of our vulnerability.  Just as 9/11 sliced into the heart and soul of the country, so to 11/22/63 will remain a reminder that the perfect idealism of ‘Camelot’ can be shattered within one ordinary day.  

11-22-63 (4)

Creative writing and art image © Mary Lou

Me in the Middle of Creative Writing ~ 3rd Person (Critique and Revise)

This Fall I’m taking another OLLI  (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UVA) class ~ Creative Writing for Dabblers.  There are twelve of us and we read our work to each other and offer critique.  This is the first time I’ve done this and I’m getting a lot of value out of it.

Last Friday I posted what I wrote for reading to the class and this week I’m posting the changes I’ve made based on what the other writers in the group suggested.  This is the link to the original post ~ The Ocean ~ Creative Writing Class

The new post, with the changes I made since last Friday, is below:

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              Undertow       

The surf pounded with a roaring intensity and the huge waves rolled in one after another. 

They all stood together, four-year-old Nora, her father and her two older brothers.  Standing there, with the water waist high, she could feel the sand travel through her toes as it ebbed and flowed with the undertow.  Her brothers were leaping over each wave and fearlessly plunging into the larger ones that rolled towards them.  They were having fun … and she was frightened!  She struggled to maintain her balance and held tightly to her father’s hand

I want to go back to the beach!”  she yelled over the roaring surf.

No! Stay here!” he shouted back.  “You’ll be fine!”  

Nora hesitantly pulled her hand out of his and let go.  As she started heading back to the beach where her mother was, she heard her father call to her.  “Go ahead then!  You’ll have to make it back on your own.”

The waves and the undercurrent were stronger than she anticipated and she found herself being knocked off balance.  It was too late to turn back and she was determined to get back to the safety of the beach.

Suddenly she plunged into a deep hole that had been created by the undertow.  Instantly, she lost her footing and couldn’t find the ocean floor to stand back up again.  She thrashed about, feeling a sense of panic.  It was hard for her to tell where the top of the water was.  When she opened her eyes all that she could see was the murky salt water and the long pieces of her hair floating around her.  It seemed like she floated there for a while and she didn’t fight it.  A strange sense of calm came over her.

Then, in an instant, she was scooped out of the water by strong arms.  It was her father and he took her by the hand to lead her over to the blanket on the beach.  He seemed upset with her as she gasped and cried.  

Shaking and shivering as her mother put a towel around her, Nora was relieved that she was safe again.  Once she had dried her off, her mother gave her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and lead her over to a towel that was laid out on the sand.  There she sat eating and thinking about what had just happened to her in the ocean.  

As she gazed out at the vastness of the sea and the power that she had just experienced, Nora felt the warmth of the sun and listened to the sounds of the people enjoying the ocean.   Little did she understand that the ocean had taught her an important lesson that day.

Today, Nora has come to love the ocean and is humbled by the power and force behind it.  The ocean taught her about the ebb and flow of life and finding her balance in the middle ground.