Part 5: Summertime

Continued from part 4.

The relatives from my mother’s side of the family came mostly from Eastern Ohio and West Virginia in the area near the Ohio River.  My father’s mother came from the same place, but my paternal grandfather grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania.  It is said that my great grandfather who lived to be over 100 could hear the battle at Gettysburg while he was out plowing his fields.   My great grandfather on my mother’s side of the family was a choir director.  He earned his living some other way. One way or the other most of that side of the family played instruments and participated in some musical activity.  A few of them even had country and western groups.  One of my great uncles was quite talented, but eventually decided it wasn’t a life for someone with a family.

The most interesting family story revolves around my mother’s father.  My maternal grandmother was quite a character in her youth.  She was a rebellious sort.  I don’t know how the other children were, but she seems to have been in and out of trouble on a regular basis.  Her mother died when she was young and she was raised by a step-mother who gave her a couple cracks with a cat-of-nine-tails if she became a problem.  Grandmother knew how to speak her mind.  Anyhow, she hit maturity.  She had red hair, was quite attractive and very popular with the boys.

One day she started to get a little fat and then it became obvious it was for some other reason than overeating.  It was my mother.  At one point she got on a trolley car and jumped off when it got to something of a good speed hoping to abort.  It didn’t work.  Mom hung in there.  So she delivered.  A generous aunt and maiden cousin who lived in town agreed to raise mother.  But there was still a problem: who was the father?   Grandmother didn’t say and skipped town to get away from the gossip.  She found work and sent money to help out when she could.  She gave my mother the name of the first guy she got married to.  Growing up that was mother’s official name.

Eventually grandmother had enough money to retire.  She met a sailor who had just been discharged from the navy who was in his twenties.  She must have been in her late forties.  Anyhow, she wanted us move down to Florida to join them.  We did. Mother more or less accepted the story of her origins, but could find little out about the person.  Grandmother smirked and remained vague.

Everybody got old and grandmother passed on to her greater reward.  I wonder what that might have been.  She had started to go to church again at the end of it all.  One wonders how many demerits St. Peter gave her for all the lies she told.  It was the same story right up to the end.

Retired, my father got interested in family origins and history.  He spent a lot of time at the library and progressed quite well.  One year he and my mother went back up to old home town for a high school reunion.   He decided that while he was there he would verify his research with others in the family and examine court documents.  Eureka, he wasn’t even looking for it, but he found another name.

So my mother had a father and my sister and I a grandfather.  Was he still alive? No!  He was dead.  Here is the story:  His family had something of a hotel and/ or bar-restaurant.  He worked there, but he also ran or participated in an illegal off-track betting operation.  Eventually, either his operation got to the point that he was cutting into somebody else’s territory or they simply wanted his.  He received threats, but continued.

The operation worked in the following manner:  the winning number would be the same as the horse that won a specified race in Cuba.  That information would be published in the papers the following day and those who had chosen that number would be paid.  All went well, but one day somebody placed a big bet and when the results came in they earned a fair amount of money.  They had a stroke of good luck.  Maybe?  Then the same thing happened again.  He paid once more.  When it happened the third time, he suspected that they were getting advanced knowledge somehow and placed the bet knowing who would win.  He refused to pay.  The group that was placing the bets had a guy with a wireless in Havana and when the winning horse came in the results were wired to the interested parties and they placed the bets. My grandfather, a young man at the time, refused to pay them.  That was an act that could be interpreted as cheating someone out of their just reward.

One night he was coming back to the family hotel-bar from somewhere.  There we two guys waiting on the roof with shotguns.  When he was in a good range, he was chewed up with what must have been buckshot.  So much for my grandfather on that side.  Since my grandmother had a thing about handsome guys with money, he must have fit that description.  Other than that, we don’t know.

Continue to part six.

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