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

 

 

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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.

Me in the Middle Traveling with My Baggalini 4th Week

This past Wednesday was the fourth and last class of the Memories to Memoirs  writing course that I’m taking with OLLI ~ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute @ UVA.   The assignment was to write about ‘an item in my closet that I still use and that holds lots of memories for me’.  Here’s the link to the third class ….. (Me in the Middle of Memories of Opening the Door)

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My Travel Companion

DSCN3582 (2)

 In 1995, two flight attendants looking for a travel companion that would be stylish with many pockets, founded Baggalini.  Baggalini Crossbody Travel Bags make it easier to move from place to place with a sense of safety and security while keeping everything you need at your fingertips and in its place.  Just what I was looking for when I set out on my first foreign trip to England in 2001.

This bag, tucked away on the top shelf in my closet, has since been my travel companion on many exciting and happy memories.  It seemed to be the perfect choice for this week’s writing assignment ~ ‘Write about an item in your closet that you still use and holds many memories.’  Foreign travel to the Middle East and Ireland were trips of a lifetime.  Air travel to see family in Arizona, Ohio and Vermont were made easier with this little bag, especially when I had mobility issues with the onset of age-related medical problems. 

There was a time when I thought the opportunity to travel by air would never happen for me and my Baggalini reminds me that dreams do come true no matter how old you are.  It will remain on the top shelf of my closet, within my reach, for those spontaneous moments when the chance to travel becomes a reality once again.  Life is a Journey! 

Baggalini Co-Founder

 

Ready to Go! Get Organized!