Ambassador Andrew Armsworth
Some boys named Andrew fit Pe name’s meaning of "warrior," but not Andy Armsworth. Rather than a "fearless fighter," a cuddly "arm’s worth" of fun better described him. From birth, he stole everyone’s heart. All the relatives loved to dandle him on their laps just to hear him giggle.
His favorite stunt was to tip his highchair backwards and giggle loudly when he hit the floor. Concerned over his injuring himself, the Armsworths put him in a ground level teeter-totter for his meals. Andy loved that arrangement because when any food gagged him, he giggled and gave it to the castle dog beneath the table. As a toddler he loved ice cream and pillow fights. He lined up his stuffed animals and spooned ice cream to them, of course making their fake fur very sticky. When their stitched mouths did not open, he knocked them over with a pillow, grabbed them, and wrestled them to the floor.
Although he grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southern Virginia, he neither toted a gun nor went hunting with the males of his family. No one could change his mind. With a head harder than a rock, he felt destined to play sports. Team captains usually chose him first for any event, whether debate or soccer. When he joined competitive activities, his parents finally sensed that his name fit. He was a definitely a "warrior" in fun and recreation.
Smart and popular, he graduated with top honors from George Mason University outside Washington D.C. In no time he went to work in the government, first as an aide to a Virginia senator and then as an up-and-comer in the State Department. There he fell in love with the art of diplomacy instead of the pretty girls that dashed around the office, flashing their eyes at him. As a young man in meetings, he always played the peacemaker while slyly getting what he wanted all along. Andrew followed Theodore Roosevelt’s old adage, "Speak softly and carry a big 4stick," an adage Teddy learned in his travels to West Africa. However, as a basic foreign policy, he preferred the rephrased version: "Walk softly and carry a big stick."
Even as a young assistant to the deputy secretary in President Truman’s administration, no one could resist Andy’s winsome style. His ability to cut through red tape became legend. Despite his outward fun-loving manner, he always had method in his madness. No one could force him to reveal his whole plan or intention. Even when it looked as if he robbed Peter to pay Paul, his bosses trusted him, figuring he had some shrewd plot in mind. No one could match Andy’s patience and aplomb in international dealings. No one could corrupt his principles nor dissuade him from his original opinion. He never announced a solution to a problem until all pieces slipped into their exact places. For that reason, while some government officials loathed the man, most loved working with him.
In the early 1960s, Andrew disagreed with the government’s Indo-China policy that soon developed into the Vietnam War. He believed no army could fight and win if political policies interfered with military action. That backward thinking made our allies hate us instead of the enemy. When he said so, his critique went unappreciated, no matter how gently he had presented it or how correct it might prove out.
In fact, his ethics caused him to lock horns with a key member of LBJ’s cabinet. Suddenly, he felt the full weight of the government coming against him for expressing individual thought. Certain officials wanted to teach him a lesson and to groom him to follow directions better, if possible. Thus, the State Department sent Armsworth to Estonia as ambassador. Although meant as discipline to make him more humble and less opinionated, this undesirable diplomatic stint in a communist country actually backfired on that intention.
Andrew absolutely loved his new assignment and hoped to finish his career in the quaint Baltic State. Although he had been too busy to get married and have a family, he still possessed a grandfatherly manner. His staff adored him even when he seemed rather absentminded. They never suspected he feigned that behavior. Acting forgetful and innocent gave him a needed cover under which he could collect facts. That obtuse technique served him well in Estonia because the local authorities often challenged his position at the American Embassy. When necessary, he would first act the bumbling buffoon to entertain his enemy; but then, in an instant, he would change to an astute negotiator on a serious matter and thus gain respect and control.
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Audrey Larson, R.N.
Upon returning to Newfoundland with her new husband Raymond, Audrey discovered she had distant relatives who already lived on The Rock. Being able to touch people from her own family and country kept her from being homesick as was the behavior of so many English brides. She helped at Raymond’s office and at a rehabilitation hospital for injured soldiers returning from the war. From then on, her biography intertwined with Raymond’s.
They wanted to start a family as soon as possible. Much to their disappointment, Audrey had several miscarriages. As a doctor, Raymond knew that Blood Type AB babies often failed to make full term. From his native North Americans roots, Raymond had that same blood type. So they decided to stop trying. Without children, they built lives around their careers and community service. While he taught at the medical school in St. John’s, she supervised several nursing homes. In their private moments, they were an enclave that needed no one but each other; in their public moments, they had open arms for everyone.
Their work kept them busy, blest, and prosperous but left little time to travel. That dream of adventure would remain unfulfilled for awhile. Believing their talents belong to the world, they decided at retirement to seek a place that needed their specific skills. That way they could serve like unofficial missionaries. They trusted God to lead them to the right location. Whether to Central America or Africa or even India, they trusted it would suit them fine.
The Larsons finally did retire in early 1969. Both appeared very healthy, so it was now or never to execute their dream plan. Remaining secretive, they rented out their house, got their cholera shots, and began their next project in life. They intended to spend their twenty-fifth year of marriage traveling. But, so no one would worry, they would send postcards from all over the world.
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Bart and Smart O’Toole
Since acorns never fall far from the tree, the two O’Toole brothers continued in the ways of their father Tom. However, his sneaky fish operation was too much a catch as catch can deal. And, it didn’t pay enough to satisfy them. So, they looked for more lucrative crimes that required less physical work. Bart and Smart began smuggling cigarettes from St. Pierre, the last French colony in North America. Even though it only sat 35 miles off the boot of Burin peninsula, very dangerous waters lay between the two places. Once a week, in spite of hardships, bad men dared risk the short crossing to sell European black market tobacco items.
The Brothers O’Toole liked this business. They did not even mind the cold conditions of trolling the waters in unpopulated coves or of waiting all night in their little skiff. Bart and Smart kept eyes peeled in the direction of St. Pierre and hoped no police eyes surveyed their activity from a bluff high above the cove. Occasionally, Bart would flash a beacon into the night and wait for the first response. Then, he would give five short flashes to say "En-tire-ly O-kay?" That equaled the number of syllables in the words. The Frenchmen would answer Oui with three flashes to say O-U-I or Y-E-S, which equaled the same number of letters in either word. Smart thought both systems very complicated.
After paying the smugglers, Bart and Smart go into nearby fishing villages to resell tobacco to smokers. Their little ruse worked as easy as skimming cream from cows’ milk, and it brought instant income. Best kind! After a year, they sensed their luck running out and figured the RCMP would soon bust the operation.
Next, the O’Tooles switched to highway robbery. They held up gas stations along the new TCH by using a tire iron to threaten store clerks. They even ran drivers off the road, stole their money, and stripped their cars for parts to sell. These stealing sprees turned into joy rides like those of Bonnie and Clyde. Even if all their heroes were dead or in jail, Bart and Smart still sought that same sort of fame. They wondered which crime would land them on the TV news.
They even dreamt of copycatting Jesse James’ bank heists; but at least Bart realized that bank security had grown tighter than it was in the old west. Someone told them about the Last Stage Robbery that had occurred in Jarbidge, Nevada in 1916. Even if the O’Tooles’ ambition reached in that direction, they would soon learn that neither the American nor Canadian governments used stages to deliver payrolls or mail. All of that now came by truck, air, or rail.
Hmmm, thought Smart...rail!! Many famous robberies had occurred onboard trains. So Smart, unlike his name, decided the O’Tooles’ should switch their crime careers to robbing trains. Bart, the smarter elder brother, made fun of Smart. He reminded his brother that airplanes and trucks carried most all freight nowadays, and nothing much of portable value went by rail anymore. They continued to consider their choices, but Smart still liked his idea of robbing train best.
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(Belforte Background) William Belforte settled in South Carolina during the 1880s along with other poor Scottish immigrants. They came to America and brought only their strong arms and saws. William went to work lumbering raw wood and making planks that people bought to build houses and to mould ship hulls. In one generation of hard work, he owned several saw mills and lumber yards. He was a stern but fair man. When a disgruntled worker burned down one mill, William rebuilt it but found it hard to forgive what had happened until he felt a desire for revenge growing inside. William hated that feeling and decided to give the arsonist a second chance. When other troubles came, William tested this policy and bred this concept into his family’s outlook. Someone had to fight hate. William II grew up learning the ins-and-outs of the lumber industry. When he married Laura Cornflower, her father asked his new son-in-law to help start the Cornflower Construction Company. Together the Belforte’s and Cornflowers began to build small wooden houses that most everyone could afford.
Beau was born with business in his blood. William II cultivated that trait in his son by having him learned from the ground floor up about lumber and construction. When the Great Depression came, no one had money to buy houses. Beau’s father had to let his workers go. For the occasional job that came, he hired a few day laborers but did most of the work himself. He saved a nest-egg to send his son off to college. At school, Beau met and married MaryLinda Chasen whose family estate Chasenton and warehouse business had fallen on desperate times. Beau went to Atlanta to help manage her financial affairs, much to William’s disappointment.
Although Beau’s experience in Charleston had been in construction, he now tackled the Chasen’s cotton warehouses. It took years to restore them and Chasenton to their former glory. Even so, Beau interrupted the process to join the service. After World War II, he saw Atlanta as a potentially exciting city just waiting to begin its new era. Along with local contractors he built some of its first new skyscrapers.
Having parlayed his investments into a sizeable fortune, Beau became one of the wealthiest men in the South, with money coming in hand over fist. He now had the time and finances to follow his father’s first love of building inexpensive housing. Learning that the Congress had passed the G.I. Bill which offered low rate mortgages to returning veterans, Beau saw a built-in market comprised of former soldiers with young new wives and babies. These needed houses sooner than later. The idea perfectly matched Beau Belforte’s entrepreneurial bent.
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In the Roaring 20s Benito Pollibo, a prosperous shopkeeper in Genoa, Italy, decided to immigrate to America for a new start. He, his wife Veronica, his baby girl Maria, and his younger brother Dominic all prepared for this big adventure. Everyone had high hopes. The Pollibos brought with them many fine antiques and settled in a rare, free standing home of Little Italy in Lower Manhattan. Even so, they struggled with the language and made many sacrifices. Before he got his import business established, Benito still had to feed his family. Sadly, he sold off the furniture, piece by piece. Though he kept a roof over his wife and children, they ended up sleeping and eating on the floor.
Still, never giving up hope that America would answer his dreams, Benito kept plugging. He worked as a stevedore down at the docks and learned what happened when an improperly packed box traveled across the ocean. Things fell out or got destroyed. What remained salvageable but unclaimed, Benito simply took home. When he saved enough money to buy a warehouse close to the docks, he stored these goods. He also began making regular trips back to Europe to buy antiques for his intended business.
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Brody and Bertie Bee had a beautiful girl whom they named Bermuda. But, when the little heiress MaryLinda came along, Bertie lavished more attention on her baby mistress than on her own daughter almost the same age. Since her mother died almost at once, MaryLinda depended on Bertie for everything. She gradually stole Bertie’s affection away from Bermuda.
As the little me-too of the house, Bermuda tagged along. She would skip behind when her mother carried a basket full of wet clothes out to hang on the line. When Bertie pushed the little mistress on the giant oak swing, Bermuda patiently waited for her turn, which often never came. Ignored, filled with jealousy, and often mistreated by MaryLinda, Bermuda retreated to the kitchen to study Gran Bella’s cooking secrets. However, when it came time for Bertie to take over the kitchen, Bermuda knew her mother would have no time to give her attention.
So, at twenty, Bermuda got fed up, ran away, but returned in a year with a baby boy in her arms, a baby who still had a delivery tag on his wrist. Soon everyone simply called the child Boy Baby. Brody gave his grandson the name of Brady. No one ever asked questions because the household mostly preoccupied itself with the baby MaryLinda would soon have. Then when baby girl Vanna was born, the situation flipped. The staff now had a boy and a girl to fuss over; so both babies got equal love and attention.
In the 1960s, when Bertie grew too old to be on her feet all day, history repeated itself. She had promised that if the tides of fortune continued for the Chasen household, Bermuda would be the next generational head of the kitchen. Even so, while Bermuda did the heavy cooking, Bertie sat doing the prep work, making all menu decision, and essentially retaining all kitchen authority.
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Until Bella caved under the burdens of running an enormous household, the young Bertie was charged with many other duties. She became nursemaid, surrogate mother, and later confidante to MaryLinda Chasen, whose mother died at birth. Except for blindness toward her young mistress, Bertie had wisdom beyond her education.
When Bertie took over the kitchen, she proved her talents as a natural cook who understood food the same way a doctor does medicine. At the drop of a hat, she could organize parties for 20 or 200. She had enough skill to be a chef at a fancy restaurant or to execute White House state dinners with one hand tied behind her back. MaryLinda’s friends all tried to hire her away, but better offers never tempted Bertie. Chasenton was her home; the Chasens, her family. When her mistress MaryLinda married Beau Belforte, Chasenton remained her home, and all the Belfortes remained her extended family.
Bertie ran the kitchen like a ship’s galley. Her main rule: no one came into her kitchen uninvited unless he wanted his head to be chunked into the soup. She had rules about food too. Carrots had to be julienne or sliced on a slant. Potatoes had to be cut in exact ¾ inch cubes for salad. Peas had to be shelled and soaked. Kentucky Wonders had strings removed. Bush beans got washed before they got snapped
The staff rallied around Bertie, not her butler husband Brody who should have properly directed the household. Since he was Irish, she let him control two things – the guests’ drink orders and whether Ireland should good on its threats to revolt against England as America had done. Everything else stayed in her domain.
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Brady nicknamed Boy Baby was a most beautiful child. His handsome caramel face had perfect features except for a distinctive dark birthmark that looked like a bruise on his cheek. His Gran Bertie had an identical one. As a little boy, he followed his grandpa Brody around like a faithful puppy. Although totally accepted as part of Chasenton, Boy Baby (as he was known) had difficulty accepting himself, perplexed by the fact that he was black but his Grandpa Brody was white. He would stand in front of a mirror and look at his dark birthmark, wishing he had that color all over and figuring then he would then fit in somewhere. As the child grew older, Brody gave his grandson jobs to fit his size. Brady helped the gardener in the yard, weeded flowerbeds, swept the verandas, trimmed the sidewalks, and drained the swimming pool to scrub the sides.
Beau Belforte, owner of Chasenton loved Brady and wanted him to grow up to be a fine Black southern gentleman. One year, Beau gave him a bee-bee gun for Christmas and took him hunting in the autumn woods. Later on, he trusted the teenage boy enough to give him a .22 handgun to protect the estate at night.
Because Brady loved both his Grandpa Brody, the man of his family, and Mr. Beau, the owner of his home, he wanted to be successful for both their sakes. But somehow he felt if he favored one over the other, he’d cause jealousy. So, he would say he planned to aim half way between them both. Given his mixed racial background, that decision essentially placed him nowhere.
Brady had a strong but strange singing voice. It blended rich mellow tones of the Bee Family and the high tenor notes from his Irish Grandpa Brody. He sang constantly while he did his chores or biked to school. When Brady sang in church, the congregation told the boy he had a blessing from above.
Although attending a segregated school, Brady grew up playing with Vanna and other children in the neighborhood. As long as they stayed inside Chasenton’s gates, no one else could see they broke unspoken social rules: the taboo for white and colored kids to mix together. A neighbor boy named Petey Hartman came over most afternoons to run races against Vanna and Brady. Though Brady always won the races, Petey won the game of teasing Brady for his pet name Boy Baby which Vanna still called him!
In junior high, Brady blossomed into a full athlete. The students had never seen anyone run as fast as Brady. He also had an even greater talent. As a left-hander, he made the best quarterback his school had ever had. He threw the football in a cock-eyed reverse spin. With practice, his teammates learned how to catch it, just as Vanna had as a kid. However, the other teams in town found his passes impossible to intercept.
Brody and Mr. Beau always attended the games to watch Brady play. They both beamed equally because they wanted to champion everything good in the boy. As outstanding as Brady was in some ways, he often listened to the wrong people, especially to Petey Hartman who became his nemesis. The neighbor had a strange hold on the boy.
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Brody, the Butler (took the Bee name)
By the end of World War I, Colonel Chasen’s cotton warehouse business began to flourish again. He decided to import an English butler to add prestige. When the fellow arrived, the whole staff laughed to find the agency had sent an Irishman instead. His name was Brody, a very glib fellow and a bit of a drinker.
Brody’s parents had served in noble homes, so he knew the proper routines to lend an air of refinement not seen for decades at Chasenton. Out of the blue, Brody and Bertie fell in love and married, much to the colonel’s chagrin. Though Bertie painted him as irresponsible, Brody had a deep, peaceful side to his personality which gave the house a calm atmosphere. Everyone found him a great listener and the very best repository of secrets.
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(Dominic’s son) Since the apple never falls far from the tree and often grows rotten lying on the ground, Cal at age sixteen rode along on smuggling trips from Canada. He also helped strong-armed people during strikes his own father caused. Then he learned money could be gained by fomenting trouble on both sides. Getting paid off to stop a strike proved as much fun and lucrative as causing one. Cal worked for the highest payer.
By his twenties he had taken over the liquor operation. He smuggled hundreds of cases every month. He knew which customs officer to strong arm and which ones to pay off. He dealt only with suppliers and clubs that accepted his terms or gave kickbacks for favors done. Cal made sure to charge a bit less than local liquor distributors. A few dirty police officers went on the take to keep the illegal operation hush-hush.
Then in his thirties, Cal got fascinated by the best paying work of all. He could earn thousands of dollars by knocking off people. After each killing, he would disappear up north and mingle with the native Innu and Inuit people in Canada. That schedule kept him in money until Dominic got older and wanted Cal back to help with union jobs. Cal specialized in making people evaporate. He had ways to make a local union boss, a top auto executive, or even a regular working stiff simply vanished. Such assassinations or disappearances paid well...and the threat of terror, even better.
When the Civil Rights Movement began, the Pollibos had a new angle. They grew expert at clouding the picture and pitting black and white men against each other. Even so, both of these only wanted a good job to support their families and would join the UAW if required.
At that same time, agitators started a rumor that Blacks should join new black-only unions which supposedly could negotiate better deals with Ford and GM than could the UAW. Dom and Cal’s crews worked both sides of the controversy. After coaxing and threatening Blacks to join those black unions, they would then double-cross that group by mobilizing the white bigots with lies that all their jobs would be given to Blacks.
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Captain Artie Cornflower
When Arthur Cornflower turned thirteen, his parents brought him down from Canada to a huge family reunion. He met a cousin named Beauregard Belforte who had Cornflower ancestors on his maternal side. Although about the same age, these two had never known of each other’s existence before the reunion. They became inseparable during each subsequent gathering.
With similar genes that gave them fiery auburn hair and ruddy skin, they looked like two peas in a pod and were often mistaken for twin brothers. One night in a ceremony around a beach campfire, they pricked their fingers and vowed to be blood brothers forever. Then to seal their pledge, they threw popcorn into the fire to hear it pop. The grown-ups got a bang out of the ritual because most of them had done something similar in their own childhoods.
For several years, the boys corresponded and eagerly awaited the family get-together each summer. One year an uncle took them sailing off the coast of Maine. That voyage whetted their appetites to become sailors like many of their kinfolk.
When World War II broke out, both young men joined their own country’s navy and went off to war. Their lives went in separate directions, and they lost contact. Neither ever knew if the other survived the battlefields.
After the war, Artie went to work for Marine Atlantic and soon qualified for his Master Pilot’s License. Due to his leadership qualities, he was the top candidate from his class. He moved to Port aux Basques to be on one of the company’s central ferry routes. In his mid twenties, he met and married a beautiful Basque girl named Maria Goichichea. He loved his work, and he loved his wife. No couple had ever seemed happier or luckier than this one.
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Carl Kanadu, the Conductor
Born in Gander, Newfoundland, Carl Kanadu came into a very conscientious railroading family. This bunch had careers that followed the same track...railroad tracks that is. His grandfather and father had both been engineers. His brothers were brakeman or flagmen, and his sisters married brakemen or flagmen. The wives planned meals around the men’s schedules. All lived and breathed the railroad business and treated the trains like personal property.
Carl was the only one not quite sure if railroading fit him as his life’s work. Trains had to run on time; but, he had constantly been late for classes during his school years. He left decisions to the last minute, failing to enter university because he forgot to apply before the deadline. He considered serving in the military but failed to return the recruiter’s phone call. He also thought about joining the RCMP, but no one personally invited him. So many opportunities dropped by the wayside. The only thing he seemed to excel in was procrastination. He was a living oxymoron.
When he finally decided to get married, Carl knew he needed a real occupation, so he joined the family trade of railroading. For a decade, he felt he had a dream job. But when the government planned to close the passenger service, his heart broke.
Since he had taken so long to decide on a career, he wondered what kind of work would suit a middle-aged ex-conductor. Freight trains did not interest him, so he wondered if he had the nerve to take his family off the island to a province that still had passenger trains and needed conductors. After all, he enjoyed being in charge.
Preoccupied with these worries, Carl began to slack on his job. He felt uneasy. He made mistakes. He forgot his duties – small and large ones – and could not seem to stop this spiral? Afraid to venture out, he felt so mediocre. His small successes did not turn into stepping stones to greater things. He doubted whether he had "hero" written anywhere in his life; so he figured to live out a prognosis of failure.
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Cash Underground/Caleb Underwood
Among New York City’s earliest civil engineers, the Underwoods started the Underground Construction Company at the turn into the twentieth century. The city streets already bulged with people, horse carriages, and garbage. The fallout of such profuse refuse became enormous. Whoever solved the city’s huge dilemmas would need to work quickly and economically. The Underwood brothers saw the issues of transportation and sanitation as similar challenges and opportunities. They hoped to improve city services, to create employment for many, and to prosper their own business.
Since many companies vied to build the city’s subway train system, the Underwood family sought the less glamorous underground project: the sewers. Heavy rains caused floods in the city. Muddy streets made it not only impossible for trolleys and horse carriages to move about but also difficult for common folk to walk to work.
Although for decades the city’s underground infrastructure had existed in some areas, it was composed of inferior concrete. Much of it had begun to crumble into disrepair. Also the sewer system needed expansion to reach to each end of the island and then onto the other boroughs.
With a high work ethic and willingness to get their hands dirty, the Underwoods unknowingly made the lowest bids to rebuild the city sewers and won the project. Year in and year out, New York City awarded them more and more sewer contracts. Before long the sewers gained the name of the Underwood Undergrounds.
Into this very successful family, Caleb was born. As a boy, he grew up, down in the dank sewer passages. He considered them his own special kingdom. After a big rain, he’d bring down his fishing pole and hope for a fish to swim by. Running between parts of the underground job to deliver messages, he saw how hard the men had to work and how risky the projects were.
One time, when a tunnel caved in, a man died. Caleb’s father never recovered emotionally from that loss. From then on Mr. Underwood did everything in his power to make it safe for his workers. He knew that without them, he could neither build nor maintain the catacombs of tunneling beneath Manhattan.
As Caleb’s body grew stronger, he worked for his father in the summers and enjoyed going down below to cool off. Now older, he began to appreciate his father’s engineering knowledge. However, that side of the business did not fascinate him because his talents lay elsewhere.
Caleb went off to university to study economics and accounting, instead of engineering. He thought it more important to determine why his family made money hand over fist because so far, no one seemed clear on which projects proved the most lucrative. While at school, Caleb invested his allowance in stocks and picked up the nickname of Cash. Thrifty to a fault, he rarely spent a dime. His friends spread a rumor that he buried the Underwood money underground. Hence his moniker grew into Cash Underground.
By the time he graduated, he had saved a lot of money. Some advised him to start a new business, but Cash did not have the entrepreneur spirit. He preferred to manage the finances of the Underwoods’ business interests. That way he could conserve the fortune his father and uncle had struggled to create. He began tracking each expense spent on every tunnel constructed by his family’s company.
Cash brought to his father’s attention the duplicated or wasteful expenditures on certain projects. His insights helped save on production costs. That, in turn, increased their profits. With revenues up, they could afford to continue making low bids and often hit right close to a city’s project budget. That accuracy in turn brought them more projects, and more projects made the company more money. He kept that cycle going for many decades, and the company grew even more prosperous.
Although Cash never married nor had a family, he bought a huge condominium apartment on Central Park East for a place to entertain customers. Upon retiring, he knew he did not need so much space but liked that address for a different reason. Every day he toured the Park and handed out money to the vagrants.
When he realized many of them bought liquor instead of food with his handouts, he asked a nearby delicatessen to deliver hero sandwiches at noon. Soon, a booming picnic went on daily. Believing his appearance in expensive suits had looked off-putting to his new buddies, Cash began to buy his clothes at thrift stores. He never looked down on anyone who was down on his luck. He simply became one of the fellows.
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Born in Port aux Basques to Alice Chilton and Saco Zaragoza, Chilton had a strong mother who raised him alone. His father went off to sea and never came back. All of his school classmates teased him that his parents had never married. At about age ten, he learned what that meant and felt ashamed, but his wise mother told him to be proud of his Basque heritage. His forefathers had sailed the seas for centuries. One even captained a ship. Knowing that pleased the boy so much he decided to aim for that high position also!
When old enough to go to college, he left The Rock to study at one the marine institutes in Nova Scotia. He spent his summers at sailing camps to learn everything possible about ships. Upon graduation, he returned home and did odd jobs around the docks. After a while, he worked up the nerve to ask out Maria Goichichea, the prettiest girl from his high school. After several dates, Chilton totally surprised her by proposing.
Although showing a genuine liking for the young man, Maria only remembered him as a shy boy from her class. She had heard rumors about his mother’s reputation but never believed such gossip about anyone. Even so, she did not love Chilton and so refused his proposal. Besides, she had a dream of her own. After finishing her education, she planned to work with Innu children on a Labrador reserve. Marriage did not fit into that goal right now.
Hurt by Maria’s rejection, Chilton immediately joined Marine Atlantic Company and started on a career path to get a master pilot’s license. He proved an able student and hard worker. His superior mechanical expertise surfaced quickly. Crewmembers respected his knowledge but hated when he took charge of the upper deck. Although very smart, Chilton had a moody, rigid personality that got him in trouble. The company decided he lacked the charisma and leadership qualities needed to be a captain. It found other uses for him, down in the engine room where he had limited contact with the public or other crewmen.
Often transferred from ferry to ferry as a troubleshooter, Chilton easily corrected the technical difficulties. When at the helm of the ship’s bowels, he kept the fuel well regulated and the engines humming perfectly. On a risky route, no one could squeeze more miles out of an engine than Chilton. So at least, he had an excellent reputation as a taskmaster with machines, if not people...more like a dog trainer than a lion tamer.
Over many years of service, he basically sat quietly watching gauges alone in the hold with his crewmen working at distant ends of the hull. With no outside stimulation except an occasional intercom message from the bridge or an engine room report, Chilton became hopelessly reclusive. So mistrusting of others and unsure of himself, he acted sneaky when anyone came around.
His only outlet was to fantasize about Maria, his lost love. She had given him the little happiness he had ever known. He had a bulletin board full of old pictures of her and news articles. It served as a shrine that he carried from one ship assignment to the next. Although she looked beautiful in her engagement announcement, he still felt angry whenever he reread the part that said she would marry Artie Cornflower.
He and Artie had been neck and neck in the master pilot’s class. Early on, Chilton felt superior. He even had to bail Artie out of a few jams when his navigation calculations proved wrong. Chilton could not understand how Artie simply laughed off his occasional screw-ups. It made Chilton furious when his rival admitted to keeping only the best men around...to make himself look good.
As a war-hero, Artie had flare. He expected always to win and demanded perfection from everyone except himself. Most mariners liked him and wanted to crew for him. Chilton did give Artie credit for being a natural leader, good in emergencies and decisive with no hesitation. Those very qualities made Artie so likeable and Chilton so jealous.
Chilton had gotten neither the girl nor the career of his dreams. The only thing left for him was work, work, and more work; but in his work he found the only satisfactions in life. He took many double-shifts because no one waited at home for him.
When off duty, he had trouble sleeping without the motion of the sea. When onboard, he feared someone might catch him snoozing. His world shrunk to zero, and he grew miserable. He alternated OTC sleeping pills and wake-up remedies. He learned to disguise this habit by smashing the tablets with a mortar and pestle and pouring the powder into little squares of thin paper. Although pretending these were headache powders, he knew better.
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Mr. Henri Gagnon, Claude’s father, had worked as an expert cloth-cutter at a Montreal garment factory in Quebec. However, when he invented a new conveyor belt system with top and bottom rollers to keep fabric smooth between cuts, the Biddeford Mills heard about his approach. They hired him to adapt his idea to their assembly lines so that fabric could move without wrinkles from the loom until evenly wrapped around huge cylinders. His innovation reduced product damage and proved safer for workers no longer smoothing the fabric by hand. Although Mr. Gagnon knew few English words, his boss respected the immigrant’s obvious skill and knowledge.
The Gagnons settled into the French community already established on the west side of Biddeford. Soon they had connected with the local church and fraternal organizations where they rarely had to speak English. As happy and adjusted as his parents were, Claude felt miserable. Dragged kicking and screaming to Maine, he did not want to leave his home and friends. Having gone only to parochial academies in Quebec, he had to attend a Biddeford public school, the worst change of all.
Now at age twelve, he entered seventh grade. He fared fairly well in math classes and sports because he could show his prowess. But when a class required him to speak and write in proficient English, he failed. The kids unmercifully ridiculed his Quebecois style of speaking. Although he learned slang quickly, proper grammar and pronunciation made English difficult to learn. He misunderstood homework assignments if given orally instead of written on the board. If the teacher asked another student to help Claude do his work, he blushed in ten shades of red.
As much trouble as he had in school, outside of class he had all the girlfriends a boy could want. They liked his good looks and funny French accent. Also, being tall, he excelled at basketball and easily got on the school team. Even so, he soon got into a fight with some players. One called him a liar for saying that a Canadian had invented basketball. While Claude knew the truth, the others clung to a myth that Americans originated the game. To keep the peace, the coach suspended him from practice for a few weeks.
Disappointed, he began to skip school and hung out with other truants at the Mini-Mart at the end of Pool Street. One day, a gangster named Rough Rod, pretended to be a cop. He called the kids loiterers and forced them into his pretend paddy wagon. Then he drove to the outskirts of town and dumped the boys. They had to walk all the way back home by themselves. Rod repeated this ruse for three days.
Finally, on the last day of Claude’s suspension, he went to meet his buddies; but no one else came. Whereas the others had tired of the silly game, he actually enjoyed it. He wanted to gain the same power over people that this gangster seemed to have. When the wagon came and Claude climbed in, Rod pulled a gun and rammed a paper bag in the boy’s hand. "Here, Claudey Boy, deliver the contents to the address written on the bag, or else I’ll shoot you," he said, smiling through clenched teeth.
Terrified, Claude jumped from the vehicle, looked at the address, and ran there as fast as he could. After knocking on the door, he heard a woman’s voice say, "Come on in, Sonny." Claude opened the door and saw an old lady lying on the couch, watching TV.
"Who are you?" she said. Claude handed her the bag. "Oh, goodie, my licorice loops. Roddy never forgets they’re my favorite."
Claude opened the bag and sure enough, it held ropes of licorice candy. Not understanding what all this meant, he dropped the candy in the old lady’s lap and bounded home. He felt bitter and disappointed. The gangster had used him. Because Rod had drawn a gun, Claude felt scared but also admitted to being a bit excited. It appeared his errand had involved him in a crime...not a charity!
Although he hated to be the butt of a joke, this one had made Claude wise up to a new important fact. Teasing could make some people follow stupid orders, just as he had. So he would learn to dish it out instead of always taking it. One day there would be time for payback, and Claude would do it right. He would plan bad things to get even with Rod.
Somehow Claude got through high school and even got a scholarship to play basketball back in Quebec. However, college proved harder than expected. Even before basketball season began, he was failing all his classes except physical education.
Ashamed and embarrassed, he started missing practices. He figured getting drunk and smoking pot would improve his outlook. The coach did not agree with that remedy and cut him from the team. Totally humiliated, the ex-basketball player wandered around Quebec and finally drifted back over into Maine in time to go home for Thanksgiving.
Not good at academics, Claude wanted to work with his hands. For two years, he lived in a commune near Poland Springs. Working hard provided him with meals and a bunk. He gradually became friends with a young idealist named Darwinia who had studied biology in college. She knew about plant hybrids and composting soil to grow organic vegetables.
Claude decided to start his own commune. He figured with a square of land,a tractor, some free workers, and Darwinia’s knowledge, they could start a truck farm to grow produce to sell in local markets. He had heard this was the wave of the future.
Claude learned that many old family farms in central Maine had gone into foreclosure. He went up to the Oxford County courthouse but saw no such listings posted. But when he searched a local newspaper’s classified ads, he read about old Moe James’ farm. The poor man had spent a lifetime working his land. Since he never married and had no heirs, no one stepped forward to pay the property taxes when he got sick and died.
Old MJ’s farm had a full square with some woody acreage not plowable. Otherwise, it looked perfect for a truck farm. Unfortunately, Claude had worked two years for free at the other commune and had no money to make a deal. He went back home to Biddeford to ask his father for a loan. Sadly, the mill had temporarily shut down and laid off all employees, including Mr. Gagnon.
Then Claude reminded himself about Rough Rod, the gangster who teased him constantly as a boy. He found Rod at Judges, a hangout close to the Biddeford courthouse and police station. His gangster acquaintance looked a little older but still slick as ever. Claude heard Rod had moved from teasing juveniles to loaning quick money to suckers in need.
Figuring Rod might help him, Claude laid out a simple idea. If Rod would mortgage old MJ’s farm, he could form a new commune to raise organic vegetables. He watched Rod who obviously listened to the proposal just for a lark until suddenly lighting up with an idea that Claude should also raise cannabis. Having heard rumors that Rod and his goons sold weed to kids in nearby schoolyards, Claude disliked that angle and didn’t want to get involved as a supplier. So he asked Rod for a loan without any strings attached. Reluctantly, Rod agreed but set a stiff repayment term of five years! Claude promised to make regular installments. They shook on the deal.
For a few years, Claude and his friends worked hard to make a go of his truck farm; but finally he sent away everyone except Darwinia. To make enough money to pay the loan back to Rod, Claude decided he had to grow cannabis. The legal type was hemp which customers used to make rope and burlap. The other type was marijuana which customers bought to distribute to smokers who like to get high. The latter group proved quite profitable.
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Born to a wealthy Cape Cod family, Glen Carrolton was destined to be a playboy. A bit of a snob with no ambitions, Glen acted gaggy sweet on occasions, an attitude he used to disguise his true feelings. Some friends gave him the nickname of Caramel Kid, a name he grew to hate. He also hated arguments and pretended to give in quickly, preferring polite conversation to heated discussions. Those qualities irritated others because they knew he picked his battles more adroitly, on the tennis court and polo field where he always excelled.
Although designed for a life of ease, he suddenly found purpose when midway through college he discovered his talent for foreign languages. The young Carrolton finally buckled down to his studies and set his aim for the UN. Once hired there, he distinguished himself as one of the best at translating both the words and cultural nuances of Spanish and French speakers.
Then the U.S. State Department handpicked him to study Russian. He adapted quickly to that language, as well as mastering several Eastern European sub-group languages: Slavic like Czech and Polish; Finno-Ugric like Estonian and Hungarian. His career naturally progressed to the diplomatic corps.
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The Cornflower Clan settled in New England early in the 1700s. During the Revolutionary War, some were Loyalists who favored King George IIIand fought with the British soldiers. When the Americans won their war for independence, the Loyalist Cornflowers decided to move up to Nova Scotia. The remaining branch split itself between Boston, Massachusetts and Charleston, South Carolina. No matter what their political differences, they all still had one desire in common: to live and work close to the sea. Some fished; some sailed; some built or repaired ships.
During the Civil War in the 1860s, Union General George Sherman scorched the Confederate land. Slave-owners and slaves both became instant paupers. As in other wars, cousins fought against cousins. However, when southern Cornflowers ended up on the losing side, northern Cornflowers did not gloat. Instead they came to help restore their relatives’ dignity.
Both sides of the Cornflowers believed the natural harbor of Charleston held great promise for shipping. Rallying together, they built a new dry dock facility par excellence. Merchant and military ships from over the world heard about it and flocked to the Eastern Seaboard for repairs. The business flourished, restoring Cornflower fortunes more quickly than most. They took the profits from their ship repair business and began to buy up cheap land that had once been part of productive plantations in the Carolinas and Georgia.
During the 1920s, the ladies of the Cornflower clan decided to have a large reunion. For decades they had lost contact with relatives. Babies had grown-up, had married, and now had babies of their own. No more did anyone know all the names on the family tree. Therefore, the Nova Scotia branch of the family and the Carolina branch met midway on a farm owned by one of the Massachusetts’ branch. For days they feasted, frolicked, and discussed family roots.
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(Background) The Duzmans lived in Lansing, Michigan. During WWII, the government needed most all available metal to build tanks and weapons. Without spare resources, the auto industry converted its machines and labor to the war effort. After America won the war, Detroit began to make cars again. Manufacturers increased the type models, designed sleeker styles, and provided more frills. By the 1950s, automatic transmissions, electric windows, power brakes, turn signals, and air conditioning came available for customers. Although very smart, Old Man Duzman, a mechanical genius, admitted he did not understand all the newfangled car accessories. They simply had too many parts on which to focus.
Fortunately, living in the car capital of America, most Michiganders owned two cars: a newish family sedan and an old rusted-out clunker that fathers used to commute over heavily salted, icy roads. These old gems provided ample business for a tinkerer like Mr. Duzman. Having enough daytime work to support his family, he had free nights to pursue his own inventions. For years he worked on a new rocker arm to give cars more miles per gallon. Sadly, the U.S. Patent Office did not approve his application.
As expected, the acorn fell close to the oak tree. Dan the Duz-It-Man grew up watching and listening to his father whom the local neighborhood called a shade-tree mechanic or a broken car evangelist. Curiously, Dan Senior would quote Bible verses over a sick car before kicking it, as if pronouncing a death sentence. It reminded the boy of a Sunday School lesson about Moses who angered God by striking the rock twice to force out water for the Israelites. The boy wondered if his father’s kicking cars might make God mad as well.
Mr. Duzman never answered idle questions but told his son to use his eyes to observe instead of his mouth to comment. Dan would see his father take a tool like pliers and bang rather than bend with them. Then again, the old man might take a bent fender and straighten it with a crowbar, often hitting his own foot in the process. Dan thought this very funny but had learned to stifle his laughter. Even so, Dan would run home from school each day in time to watch his father resurrect a rattletrap.
Although he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, his parents insisted he get an education first. A good student, Dan soared through high school; but as a restless youth, he kept changing majors and never finished college. He taught himself engineering and decided automobiles should take lessons from airplanes. Heavy cars used too much gasoline and wore out tires faster. Dan borrowed ideas from aeronautics and designed a lighter prototype with the under and outer frames made mostly of aluminum instead of steel. Even though the auto industry acclaimed his concepts, it thought them too experimental for mass production.
Dan found the pressures of big business not fitted to his nature. So next, he opened a little appliance repair shop but closed it after a couple of years because cheap, foreign, post-war products began to flood America. Customers chose to buy new flimsy appliances instead of having older, sturdy ones fixed.
For a while Dan worked at a dental lab making false teeth. Then, because many veterans had lost limbs frozen in the Korean War, he settled into making prosthetic hands, arms, and legs at a medical supply company. Like his father, Dan tinkered in the garage at night and improved every machine he encountered. However, he found the human body the most fascinating machine of all. Since the normal knee seemed to wear out too fast in older folks, he worked tirelessly trying to develop a flexible replacement knee. In fact, he often said when he got to heaven, he planned to talk to God about the knee and to ask if a needed part got taken out of the final design.
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Darwinia Darla Daly
Coming from the old money of a well-to-do Cape Cod family, Darla Daly had a well-known legacy. Petite and figureless, she had an odd-pixie-like face surrounded by storm clouds of straggly, prematurely pepper-gray, hair. Her teeth had stains from drinking too much tea and smoking anything that burned except her bras. Those she ceremoniously burned in protest of being born a woman. She decked herself out like a hippy, in dirndl peasant dresses and leather sandals. As fate would have it, only these sandals could hold her enormous floppy toes, an anomaly of the Daly family.
A budding flower child, Darla vowed to renounce the Daly money and commit herself to a life of poverty. Those outside her group thought she planned to become a nun, an idea she kept alive for a while. Finally, she dropped out of college to find a more worthwhile thing to do with her life. With sophomoric zeal, she wandered around the campus proclaiming her still-forming, social platform to transform the world. She joined a forum of like-minded youths who met twice a week to discuss philosophies with a part-time professor. For months, they discussed what the future should look like. A banquet of ideas fed their idealism: world peace, civil rights, revolution, no rules; free love. Bored with such endless rhetoric, a few girls became groupies to the next band that had a concert on campus. Would-be musicians also tagged along, hoping to become an opening act for the band.
After those desertions, the remaining minions grew more serious and decided their goal should be to fix society’s ills. After considering the amount of organization and work such a gargantuan task would require, Darla assumed leadership and changed the focus. She proposed they start with a smaller, more wholesome project. Her motto both inspired and challenged her peers: Work to feed all the starving people of the world!
Feeding millions meant the group needed land on which to grow food. Darla found a farm in Poland Springs but never disclosed how money to rent it had mysteriously appeared. She turned the farm into a commune where everyone could work in harmony and live peaceably yet practically for free.
Darla renamed herself Darwinia because of her love of biology. Over her cot she hung a childhood mobile of dinosaurs. To decorate her small bed area, she placed pictures of ape-men she claimed as true ancestors. Beside them was a signed copy of a Charles Darwin tintype which she had purchased at a flea market. Next to this prized possession hung a framed affidavit claiming the great evolutionist’s signature as authentic.
As confused as Darwinia remained about her family’s origins, she was even more confused about what life meant. She kept changing the vision for the farm, and her role moved from leader to guru. Despite her unkempt looks, she projected an ethereal quality, a quiet charm that at first attracted converts to her and the project. She imaged herself as a voice of the divine as she floated in and around the group. Ideas split over who Darwinia really was. Her vacillating decisions made her wobbly character appear up for grabs. She had qualities that reflected both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
While at first some imagined her to be an angel, others pegged her, a gypsy queen. In the flicker of an evening’s campfire, she often pretended to read palms. As she changed, opinions changed. She began to act more like a shaman with magical cures for catarrh and warts. But try as she might, her bunion and corn remedies did not improve her ugly toes. When a few stray members seem to be under her spell, consensus of the rest marked her as a witch.
Gradually, she grew vile and tyrannical, controlling her converts with her glaring eyes. She demanded constant labor and absolute obedience. Her followers grew frustrated with Darwinia and saw her goals as unreachable at best or only an excuse for her to stay high on drugs at worst. She swore that only when she flew high as a kite could she see sky visions on how to proceed toward her goals. The mere size of her project and her unrelenting orders frightened away all but a few dedicated couples whom she continued to push.
Caught in her own web, she escaped into heavier drugs that falsely promised her freedom, inner beauty, and power to work the miracle of feeding the world. Her looks and behavior advertised the lies of drugs. She even dipped into self-denied family money to support her habit. Still, the costly toll on her trust fund proved less than the effect on her face. Though only 24 in age, she looked 50.
Without her knowledge, the remaining commune members held a big meeting to elect a new leader. They wanted to shrink the project to a manageable size. They would grow organic vegetables: first, enough to feed themselves and secondly, enough to sell to other people interested in healthier foods.
Dethroned, Darwinia sought solace in the waiting arms of a faithful disciple, Claude Gagnon. Although he had believed in her project, he had a more practical mind. She felt betrayed when he suggested the need to shelve her "feed the world" idea and to help those closer to home. If, by using her knowledge about soil, water, and natural fertilizers, she could teach other Mainers to be good farmers now, then she could tackle the world later.
When Claude got his own farm, he invited a few others and Darwinia to follow. However after years of working and fogging her brain with drugs, she grew meaner, uglier and more useless. She could barely boil an egg without burning it. Her lifestyle had killed so many brain cells that her reality now entwined with ongoing fantasy. Her dreamlike quality that once attracted disciples, now caused her to walk into walls and stump her enormous toes.
The farm struggled to make a profit. Darwinia begged Claude to grow cannabis as a cash cow, but he refused. Fed up that no one listened to her anymore, she skipped off to Cape Cod to be alone in a seaside cabin her parents owned. While there, she fried her skin in the sun and meditated with the moon. In odd moments, she would start whirling madly like a dervish. Occasionally she would meet someone on the beach and would assert that one day she would find a cure for starvation. She would jabber about a fast-growing food like the beans in "Jack and the Beanstalk" or like mushrooms that appeared over night in the yard. She would explain that since most mushrooms were poisonous, her experimentation had slowed down. Amazingly, she still had wits enough to know poisonous mushrooms would help starving people no better than salt water would quench thirsty sailors, stranded at sea.
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(Dominic’s grandson and Calverti’s don) Del grew up having the run of a mansion in Grosse Pointe, a fashionable suburb of Detroit. A bit more artistic and reflective than either his father or grandfather, he began to get into drugs. The Pollibos hated drugs. They forbid him to continue down that path on threat of being disowned or drowned. To keep the boy busy, they brought Del into the family business early.
Before long, the boy took over the transport of contraband liquor across the Ambassador International Bridge between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan. He made regular deliveries to Detroit restaurants and clubs. Although this business operated on clandestine payments in cash, Del thought of himself as a big time corporate executive handling high finance. He decided to name his enterprise Bridge Beverages and even drew up a logo for the business: two Bs intertwining two bottles. On special holidays, he gave out key chains and coffee mugs as a marketing gift to his customers. Cal and Dom thought it a harmless show of initiative and a cheap way to ingratiate their customers.
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While growing up, Devre loved to accompany his dad to the coast during shrimp season. He wanted nothing more than to fish and follow in PawPaw’s steps. Devre fell in love with a school friend named Yvonne Bovis. On graduation night, they eloped, and within a year their son Richard was born.
Shortly thereafter, World War II began. Devre enlisted and went off to Europe. Meanwhile the whole nation decided to focus on a War Economy. America needed to rally its citizenry and maximize its resources to support the brave soldiers. It had to defeat Hitler’s regime in Europe, destroy Emperor Hirohito’s empire in the Pacific, and get the boys back home safely. Men worked 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, making artillery and munitions. Women worked in factories, sewed uniforms, folded bandages, and riveted hulls of airplanes.
When Devre returned, he had shrapnel in his back. His diminished stamina prevented him from joining his father in the fishing trade which required heavy physical work day in and day out. Then, the government decided to thank veterans for their valor and service by paying their way through college, Devre knew he could do the mental work of studying, so he enrolled in Tulane University. He majored in business economics and marveled how America had stopped all consumer product development during the war. Now that the country moved toward to a Post War Economy, he wanted to be a part of that as much as he had in the war effort.
Upon graduation from college, Devre could hardly wait to dive in and practice his new knowledge. He took his small family to the Atlanta where he worked for a car dealership, learning how to promote various models and how to keep the business side afloat so as to make a profit. Then he took a huge chance and borrowed enough money to start his own Ford Dealership.
Although very successful, the Louisiana transplants could not break into Atlanta society. No matter how much money Devre made, the upper echelon still treated him like a used car salesman. For many years, no one would sponsor him and Yvonne to join the country club. To the members, he lacked pedigree, an essential ingredient for proper social standing.
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(Head of a Detroit Mob Family) Benito’s younger brother Dominic came with the family from Italy. He picked up English quickly but hated New York. Soon, he hopped a freight train to Detroit where he heard lots of manufacturing jobs awaited immigrants. Dom went to work for the Ford Motor Company and during the 1920s became a hotshot in the autoworkers labor movement. He got fired for causing a riot during a local strike. Even though he kept his fingers in the union pie, he joined the mob and married Gloria Rosellini, a local mobster’s daughter. He and Gloria had a son named Calverti. As a sideline, Dom got involved with his in-laws’ bootlegging and smuggling operations. They happily supplied liquor to businesses willing to break the law. When the government repealed Prohibition, folks who had obeyed the law grew thirsty for cheap and plentiful liquor. Dom happily continued to smuggle cheap liquor over the bridge from Windsor, Ontario in Canada and bypassed the U.S. taxing laws.
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As a long line of Estonian Lutheran ministers, the Rannet family for generations owned a house on Lai Street in Tallin, not far from the local church where someone in the family had always led the local flock. Not only a deeply spiritual clan, the Rannets also had keen intellects. Since the pastor often remained the most educated person of any village, he had a responsibility to store up knowledge on many subjects from literature to herbal remedies.
Eerik, born in 1913, spent most of his youth in the first free republic of Estonia...still free to choose his career...and free to choose his mate. He married Hille, the organist from his church. Although trained to be a minister, Eerik only served officially for a few years before the Soviets came in 1940.
Meanwhile, his younger sister Marianna fell in love with and married a young Jewish man named Kuld Finantsid. When rumors arose that Germans were sending Jews to labor camps, the young couple decided to leave for North America. Eerik’s heart broke because he knew they had only a slim chance to escape the Germans who were invading or the Russians who were encroaching.
Once the Russian Soviets took over the small Baltic State of Estonia, Eerik could only hold clandestine religious services. At first, the officials allowed the family members to stay in the old residence on Lai Street. But later, they banished the Rannets to the attic and converted the house into apartments for faithful communist party members. These communists served as bureaucrats who helped to enforce Soviet regulations onto Estonians. Also soldiers sent from Russia to protect Russian speakers, lived in rooms on the first floor. Since to quarter soldiers was a typical tactic expected by foreign occupiers who conquered a land, most Estonians in Tallin had suffered similar divisions of their homes. Ergo, they learned how to live quiet, uncomplaining lives and to accommodate their enemies.
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Emo de Velasco
Emo de Velasco grew up in Bayonne, Spain. At twelve, he and Pedro Zaragoza ran off to sea. The boys worked hard and learned how to be fishermen. The older men bragged about lifting cows, a method Basques supposedly used to build strength. They challenged the boys to a lifting contest the next time they saw a cow jump over the moon or out of the sea. The sailors often teased the boys but meant no harm. With such awkward affection, they hoped to turn the boys into men.
On one voyage, Pedro slid off the deck. Emo gave no thought to the danger but quickly dove into the cold water to save his friend. From then on, Emo seemed a bit taller than his short, squatty, five feet three inches. Emo and Pedro crewed mostly on the San Sebastian. This tall ship sailed from Bilbao to fish off the Grand Banks and over to the Cabot Strait, a well-known breeding area for cod fish. Because of warm waters from the gulf streams, the strait did not freeze entirely or at least not until late winter. Such conditions made the waters ideal for many species to increase their population between fishing seasons. Although Emo quit school very young, he had learned to read and write. So he kept record of typical days in a fishing expedition and shared thoughts many like him might have had also:
Emo noticed the endless wind-bent evergreen trees lining the Newfoundland southwstern coast. The same type of conifer planks had formed the hull of the San Sebastian, the fishing vessel on which he now worked. He figured the world’s greatest ship builders in his hometown of Bayonne, Spain surely assembled this ship. That thought made him feel safe out on deck.
He wished the Spanish king would allow Basque subjects to settle this incredible tierra nueva. Emo wondered why the king doubted that his subjects would remain loyal and productive. Settlers could fish and cut timber to ship back to Spain. Emo vowed that when his ship returned to Spain, he would ask the king why he had forbidden colonies. That rule forced sailors to make arduous trips to and from Port aux Basques. He would describe how tierra nueva invited men to stay rather than merely visit.
As evening drew nigh, the sky reddened, announcing fair weather and more placid waters for good fishing. The seaman in the crow’s nest signaled that he saw shoals up ahead. The helmsman steered carefully. At a safe distance from these shallow rocky area, the captain ordered the anchor dropped. Emo put away his lofty thoughts of speaking to the king. The time had come to switch from sailing to fishing duties. So, he began to prepare the nets.
From the crow’s nest came another signal: that the water below bubbled with codfish. The men dared not shout but instead quietly began to cast their nets. As they carefully dragged them along the sides of the boat, the fish seemed to jump in straight from the sea. All crewmen had a job, either to fish or cut bait and attached it to the nets. Everyone worked through the night and into the next day to fill the cargo holds. The icy October waters surrounding the hull helped to refrigerate the catch until processing time.
Sadly, the next evening Emo could see no red skies appear. He had heard that in the Cabot Strait, squalls often arose without warning. All the seaman sensed the wind picking up; the weather grew impossible for further fishing. Waves crashed against the ship’s hull and cliffs high above the distant shore. The seamen battened down the hatches. The captain saw no cove with his spyglass or on his nautical charts. Knowing the ship would fare better on open seas, he ordered the anchor pulled rather than risk being dashed against unseen rocks in shallow waters. The San Sebastian set sail for the Grand Banks.
Once out of danger and en route to Bilbao, the fishermen resumed their work. This time they prepared their ample catch for markets. Most men gutted the fish and threw the entrails into the sea. Some put the gutted catch onto fish flakes to dry and prayed for sunshine during the home voyage. Others salted the gutted fish and packed them into large barrels that deckhands tied down. With strong nets, Emo decided to capture large chunks of ice that had fallen off late summer icebergs. He hoped these could keep a few fish fresh for the King. If the ice lasted, maybe this surprise gift would soften a royal heart to allow settlers in Newfoundland.
Once back in Spain, Emo would advocate for sailors longing to build huts and to bring their families from the Old World! He would assure the king that they would still prepare fish for merchant ships to carry back to Spain but with a new twist. Emo would suggest the merchant ships could be built of wood the new settlers would harvest. Then the king could order Bayonne shipbuilders to construct new galleons and whalers for the royal fleet. Or even better, he could send the very best ship carpenters to teach the settlers in the new land how to build ships.
He would build a logical argument for his case by reporting that sea-faring people from Scandinavia and England have already built communities in Labrador and on the eastern side of The Rock. Then to goad the king into national rivalry, Emo would ask, "If other men have settled in Newfoundland, why can the Basques not? Are we not tough enough to do likewise?" Emo intended to tell the king of the customs of the native Beothuk and Innu who have fished the coastline waters for millennia and who would help new settlers to survive the raw climate,
To persuade the king further, Emo would show his own willingness to venture into this new-found-land. He would plant a family and watch it grow. Although he would admit that it had harsh winters, he would remind the king that its latitudes approximated those of Europe. He would suggest that adjusting to its climate would be easier than to the tropics where the king’s ships had sunk and left his majesty’s sailors stranded as involuntary settlers with the French or English.
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Ímagine (pronounced Eye-Ma-Jean) was born in a theatre trunk on New Years’ Eve 1939. She had two remarkable parents. Her English father, Lionel Longwind, was a famous actor; her mother was an American teacher named Imagine (known as Madge). They reused the mother’s first name but added an accent, in hopes to give their little girl license to stretch her imagination to the nth degree.
When her PapaLi went on tour, Little Ima spent many hours backstage. All the performers playacted with her. Before turning five, Ima had mastered the art of pretending and daydreaming, which in no way wasted her time. She made up stories in her head, insisting she would put them on paper as soon as she could hold onto a pencil and draw her words.
Learning to read opened whole new worlds to Ima, worlds that fascinated her as much as the theatre did her folks. Best of all she liked mysteries and consumed them faster than most people could digest a Thanksgiving Dinner. She read and reread story series such as the Bobbsey Twins, the Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew.
Before reaching the end of each mystery, Ima would take clues from the story, shake them, turn them upside down, pull them inside out, throw them against a wall, and let them fall onto the floor. Then she would stomp on them mercilessly until they squirted out their secrets. Usually amidst this process, she would crave a Fig Newton which assured her of being on the right track. Her method did not suit anyone wanting scientific explanations or quick conclusions. In fact, her method drove most people mad.
She used the same technique in her own life mysteries but never shared her plan to solve them. She waited for a difficult idea to turn simple...a cloudy fact to become clear...or an intrigue to begin its unwind. When again she craved a Fig Newton, she knew something important was about to dawn on her. That consistent signal became her most invaluable investigation tool.
The following private diary covers my dreams and daydreams which are none of anyone’s business but mine. So, heed my warning or suffer the penalty of bubble gum in your hair. This is no idle threat. Do not read! Do not read! Do not read!
26 May 1952 - Help! I’m being kidnapped from New York and forced to leave Riina, my very best and forever friend. It is soooo unfair that we both may simply roll over and die of loneliness.
28 May 1952 - Learning about our move is like watching a faucet drip. I only get a few facts each day. The mystery unfolds before my eyes. Pay attention, Diary. I’ll have other clues to tell you later.
30 May 1952 - Diary, I now know the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God. We have to move to Port Huron, Michigan, wherever that is. My father, the great Lionel Longwind, will spend this summer acting at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, Canada, wherever that is. Ugh! I’m so mad at him that I’m not even sorry he has to live in a tent like all the other theatre people. Until an actor is a star over there, his pay is soooo low.
31 May 1952 - Today is Memorial Day, and all my friends are going to the beach, unlike me… poor me. I’m so mad. I’m so sad. I may stay in bed and read all day. I just learned some more bad news about our move. PapaLi plans to take our only car with him to Canada. That leaves us no way to go to the grocery, much less to visit him. So, we will have to walk to the store; and the only way we’ll ever see him in a play over there is...if some kind person drives us across the border. Of course, there are no kind people in Michigan. Besides, we will be strangers there. No one will know us, and no one will like us. Oh, woe is me. I’m only 12 years old, and my life is a Shakespearean tragedy already.
11 June 1952 - Oh Diary, I don’t mean to ruin your day; but here goes more bad news. In the fall, PapaLi will go north to teach theatre at the Interlochen School. He tells me the students there are all great musicians or actors or artists. They come from all over the U.S. to study there with professionals. I bet MaMadge and I will never, ever see Lionel again...except on holidays. His being an actor used to be fun for me; but now that he is getting old and tired, I think he doesn’t love us anymore. If only I could go to Interlochen with him. But, I guess I’m not that smart...or that talented...or that special. I’m just plain ole...mystery me! Instead I have to go to a stupid junior high school and meet lots of silly girls...whose daddies build cars in a big factory and who never read anything but...the love-line on their palms! Who will I read mysteries with? Oh, Diary, I feel so confused. I wish instead of moving to Michigan, I could go live with my Aunt Lottie in England. I would study to be a super sleuth. Maybe my next door neighbor would be Agatha Christie. Well at least I can daydream.
14 June 1952 -Well, we’re here in Michigan, and it’s freezing outside. I predict that summer will come next Tuesday and last 24 hours. PapaLi has gone to play in Macbeth over at Stratford. Mamadge wants to plant some tomato plants. I just hope by the 4th of July Michigan warms up enough so I can go swimming. If we’re surrounded by the Great Lakes, surely kids have a beach to go to somewhere. But I don’t know any kids to go with...anyway. I only have my imaginary friend, Agatha Christie. As usual, she and I spent this afternoon studying Sherlock Holmes. We always sit side by side to read the stories like a play. Actually I pretend she is here but end up playing both parts. She always gets to be Sherlock; I have to play Dr. Watson. Before a story ends, we try to figure out "Who done it." If today’s story had had a butler in it, we might have blamed him, but alas, no butler!
8 July l952 - Today, my Agatha friend made me soooo mad! She said her solution to the mystery was much better than Sherlock Holme’s...and more logical than mine. She thought my answers full of whimsy. Well, we will simply have to disagree. Sir Conan Doyle has Holmes begin with a theory before he knows anything. I hate that. It turns Sherlock into a soothsayer, not a detective. It makes him appear in cahoots with wizards and genies. The real Agatha Christie usually chooses the opposite route. She has her detectives gather and try to make sense of lots of loose ends. My method is far less mystical and messy than theirs. It’s forthright. I look for a few minor details no one else noticed. These details can be physical facts (like a broken glass) or verbal description (like a witness saying he broke a glass or heard a glass break). I’ve heard that details come in different types even if they belong to the same class. I’ve learned how details forms clues and how clues can bring lots of theories. But, I do not invite confusion! So fie, foe, fum and woe to anyone who tries to rush me through my theories to get a quick, cheap conclusion!
15 August 1952 - I think I’ve made a great discovery. Agatha will laugh at this idea or say it’s all wrong. Or maybe she already knows about it and refuses to share information with me. She’s a hoary hoarder. Well, dearest Diary, you know I am not a stingy gut like her, but I also refuse to throw away my gems like "pearls before swine." So, you must keep this little secret...just between us. Lean in so I can whisper it. Did you know that the first person to suspect in a crime? It’s easy. Whoever first offers to help solve a mystery is most likely the guilty culprit. Even if he gives what looks like good information, don’t trust him. Keep investigating. Often I find Mr. Helpful’s information only a distraction, a red herring to get me off track, off the scent of the crime. For instance, if he brings me a geography book with one page dog-eared at a certain map and says Miss So-in-So is planning a trip. My first thought is, yes possibly. But, when I see the book is entitled Sixth Grade Geography, I revamp my idea rather than jumping to a conclusion. Maybe a student is dreaming about visiting this foreign place in the future when he grows up. I don’t yet know which idea is closest to truth, so I must think like the criminal. Maybe Mr. Helpful has disguised his own escape destination by making me think only children use this map. In that case, the detail remains the same; but the reasons differ.
30 September 1952 - I think Agatha hates me because she has totally "clammed up" lately. Hate is a strong feeling. I don’t think I’ve ever hated anyone or anything except maybe my new school. All the kids ignore me and maybe hate me too. But why would they unless it’s my carrot-colored hair.
1 March 1953 - I thought the cliques in my New York girls’ school were snobbish, but nothing beats these Port Huron skirts. They giggle and whisper about everything and yet...are curious about nothing! There are so many clues and suspicious characters contributing to our school’s mysterious problems, but no one wants to help investigate my clues. The only mysteries these twitty girls want to solve are as follows: what size bra to buy; when will their periods start; when will hair grow in their armpits; and when will their mothers let them shave their legs. In gym class, I have to listen to the teacher discuss such disgusting ideas. Then at lunch, the twits compare notes. Yuk! Maybe I’ll join the girls softball team and try to make some friends there
16 September 1953 - I’m back at school and like it much more this year because Paul is in some of my classes. He is very smart. In math we are reviewing how to reduce to the lowest denominator. I’m not sure what that means, but I remember it has something to do with fractions. Paul said he’d come over and help me with my homework. I’ll get back to you on this development.
30 September 1953 - Today, my home economics teacher said we were going to learn how to reduce. I raised my hand and said we had already learned how to do that in fractions. She smiled and said, "In cooking, chefs use the term reduce differently." So, I told her I was plenty thin and didn’t need to reduce at all. She laughed at me and said, "We are going to reduce our gravy. I said, reduce it? No, eliminate it entirely! I told her gravy is very fattening, and I had cut it out of my diet a long time ago. She laughed again and said "Reduce means to simmer a gravy until it grows smaller and thicker...the better to tell that it is gravy and not broth...or that it is stew not soup!" Hmmm, I thought. Dear Diary, that must be what I do with details of a clue, try to decide what is and is not important. I must be reducing it when I intensify my scrutiny like turning up the heat. A clue doesn’t like heat! In fact, it can’t stand pressure and must hide in the darkness, away from the light. Nevertheless, in the end, its true nature bubbles up! Then I know where it fits!!
15 October 1953 - Paul is a smart aleck. When the teacher turned her back, he aimed two spit balls at me and then passed me a stick of gum. On the inside of the wrapper he had written a note asking me to go to the movies on Saturday. Dear Diary, should I go or throw my eraser at him tomorrow?
16 December 1954 - Should I get Paul a Christmas gift? Please Diary, let me know soon so I can figure out what to give a smart aleck.
29 January 1954 - I forgot to tell you that something wonderful happened to me last week. Even though I am now in high eighth grade, the principal bumped me up to the ninth grade math for the new term. Now, my favorite new class is algebra. It is so different from arithmetic. It has lots of puzzles to figure out, like mysteries. And you know how I love mysteries!
19 February 1954 - I am losing my mind in algebra but loving every minute and finding out things I didn’t even know I cared about. But today, I got a clue-of-clues on how to "find the square root" of things, at least the square root...of a number. I think it is the opposite of multiplying a numberby itself!! OK, Diary, I’ll go slower. Remember in the third grade when we learned 3 x 3 = 9. Then in the fourth grade we reversed it and found out that 9 ÷ 3 = 3. Well, it’s simple. That 3 just happens to be called the "square root" of 9, and it means 3 "squared" or times itself. I’m telling you this so you can learn this new language of math. It’s easier than French, but it’s harder than geography. I wonder how knowing the root of something could help me solve a mystery.
16 May 1955 - Stupid Paulie has acted soooo stupid toward me lately. I simply want to step on his stupid blue suede shoes. He is not cool like Elvis Presley and is too short to wear such cool shoes. They look like canoes instead of shoes. I would have been soooo embarrassed if he had worn them to the Freshman Formal, but he broke our date so it doesn’t matter anyhow. He’s been my boyfriend since I moved here from New York; but now, he blames me for growing taller than he is. I told him that that’s what teenagers do! We grow. I’ll finish later. I have to go somewhere with a bunch of girls in my parents car, Ugh! I can’t wait until I can drive.
28 November 1955 - Junior High was like kindergarten. High school is much better. I’m already in love with one of the football players. He is medium height and stocky build with a huge open face. His name is Sammy Purple. But Diary, I will put you in the fireplace if you dare tell anyone that I love, love, love him. I want to marry, marry, marry him.
22 January 1956 - I haven’t had time to write you in so long. You’ve probably guessed it. It is dead week. I’m cramming for finals, my first in high school. Whenever I have to stay up late doing research papers, I get very hungry, especially for oranges. I’ve been known to eat a whole bag all at once, just to keep me awake and from getting a nasty cold.
22 January 1957 - Again, I’m soooo sorry for not having written for soooo long. What with studying during the week and trying to see Sammy on weekends whenever he comes home from college, I hardly have time to brush my teeth. So I have a yellow smile and a rotten taste in my mouth. Yuk.
8 March 1960 - I lost you when I went off to college and just happened to find you in the back of my closet when I came home this weekend. I find college double fun, double hard, and double confusing. It took me a while to decide on my major. Since MaMadge is an English teacher and PapaLi is an Englishman, I wanted to run in a different direction. However, I discovered that I love Shakespeare and Wordsworth and Shelly and Keats more than rocky road ice cream. So now, all I have time to do is write, write, write research papers or read, read, read textbooks. I created a system to stay on schedule. I stacked this semester’s books, then measured them, and discovered I must read ¾ of an inch before each class. More later, I must get some shut-eye.
30 April 1961 - Finals again. So, last night, I needed a bag of oranges to keep me going. I went to the grocery store. While standing at the end of a long checkout line, I almost fell asleep leaning on my shopping cart. Catching a few "soldier winks," I suddenly heard loud scuffling. A man with a nylon stocking over his face pulled a gun on the cashier. Instantly, I ducked down, left my cart, and disappeared into the baking aisle. I grabbed a bag of flour, a can of cayenne pepper and some cinnamon. Amidst the noise, I crawled under the chain of the check out station next to my cashier. I opened the flour, poured in the spices, filled each hand with the dusty mixture, and waited for my chance. As the cashier started pulling cash out from under the drawer, I jumped up behind her and threw my right handful directly into the thief’s face. When the cayenne pepper hit his eye, he yelped and turned his head. Then I let go my left handful which hit him on the other side. Since he fell off-guard for a moment, another man in line seized the masked man’s arm and knocked the gun to the floor. A fight began. I grabbed the clerk’s coke can, shook it and spewed the culprit’s face again. The assault calmed the crook enough so the other store employees and customers could capture him.
7 August 1961 - I’m getting married day. Lt. Sammy Purple is the most wonderful person on earth. We are both happy, but I’m the happiest because now we have the same name. I’m no longer a Longwind. I’m a Purple.
30 September 1961 - Oh, Diary, can you believe it. I am a teacher! The kids are great. My classroom has shaped up. I love my job, and I get paid to do it! But even so, we still have a tight family budget until Sammy goes to flight school and gets a pay increase.
14 January 1962 - Since Sammy is still away at flight school, I’m a bit sad. I miss him...terribly! The holidays were lonely, but now I’m back in the classroom again.
23 October 1962 - The principal looked in the glass window of my classroom door today and summoned me to the office. He had seen me bow my head that morning in front of the class. I told him how upset my students were with their daddies on alert for the Cuban Crisis. They expected the President might send them to fly over Cuba at any moment. Then the principal reprimanded me and told me never again to pray with my class because praying in school was against the law. I felt ashamed and confused. If Sammy were home, he would have explained it better. Instead, I don’t understand what all the fuss is about. My parents weren’t super religious; but still, while growing up, I always said the pledge of allegiance and Lord’s Prayer before starting school. It was like a kick-off at a football game...or like giving a toast to the day, "Here’s to Tuesday, make it count!" It seemed to get the school day started in the right direction, so I don’t grasp what harm there is in it? The world confuses me lately...no...truthfully almost since the moment I became an adult.
23 November, 1963 - Dearest Diary, if you don’t know about this yet, I hate to be the bearer of bad news. Someone shot President Kennedy yesterday! Although we’re stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany, we still heard about it, Now the whole base is upset from talking and wondering about it. I will always think of this assassin as an evil person. He must be found, or else we shall all die of unsatisfied sadness. This is the crime of the century. I’ve only come close to one real crime before but it could not compare to murder. It was only a grocery hold-up. Remember, Diary, when I told you about that day? I’m not sure if that thief was evil, but he was most certainly guilty. Now I want to get inside the heads of criminals, not to copy their deeds but to see how their brains work, especially the brain of this assassin. My dream job would be to go to the archives of Scotland Yard, study criminal files, and analyze how the inspectors solved difficult crimes!
25 November 1964 - Hi, Stranger. It’s been almost a year since my last entry. Thanksgiving holidays have come again. And this year I do have so much to be grateful for, especially since Sammy is home, safe and sound. But the world around us is neither safe nor sound. War rumbles and people in charge seem to have their brains locked. A kind of evil stirs, which I struggle to describe.
19 March 1965 - But Diary, what I’m about to tell you is Top Secret. Do Not Tell Anyone! Sammy just got assigned to NATO with orders to go to Turkey. I think it has to do with Russia being on the other side of the Black Sea. We need to keep an eye on the Soviets because they slowly encroach on weaker countries and finally take them over. But, no one would call Turkey weak. I cannot imagine anyone even trying to take over the Turks. Why, in the Middle Ages, they were very fierce warriors who came all the way from Mongolia and conquered the part of Asia Minor now called Turkey. This country intrigues me. I expect to have many strange adventures there.
2 January 1966 - Dear Diary, I have really big news. On New Year’s Eve something happened to me...bigger than the Beatles…bigger than the H-bomb. Yes, it was my birthday. Yes, there were ice cream, cake and presents. But, Diary, what I now tell you in secret...is much bigger and much better than anything you can imagine. While in the shower, I heard a man’s voice say, "Let’s chat." Somehow, and I don’t know why, but as the voice continued talking to me, I suspected it was Jesus. Okay Diary, don’t laugh. This is serious. Don’t ask if I saw lightning or heard thunder because I didn’t. I only heard a quiet voice that spoke as if it knew me. It said something very unusual. "Today is the last day of the old year and of the old you." I did not feel scared like if the Angel of Death had knocked at my bathroom door and told me to get out of the shower and put on some clothes so I wouldn’t be naked when the police found my dead body. No, it was completely different. I felt very calm as this voice described curious things in my future. "I designed you for a completely unique life – abundant, risky but very satisfying. If you will listen and obey, I will stay right beside you and teach you what you need to know to lead this unique life." Okay, Diary, does that scare you or make you curious?
2 February 1966 - Before coming to Turkey, I told you I expected to have adventures. I meant adventures like in Hollywood movies or The Arabian Knights or Murder on the Orient Express. But never did I expect the adventure awaiting me. First, I met Jesus here, which doesn’t really surprise me since I hear that seven early churches were established here in the geographical area? But, what surprises me now is I can’t find any of those churches. Where are they? That’s a real mystery.
15 November 1966 - Here it is Thanksgiving time again. I feel strangely distant from all my old ideas about being thankful. Now, Diary, please stay calm. Don’t get alarmed. I haven’t turned into a religious fanatic; but lately, I’ve started to read my Bible...more often than just on Sunday. I always thought it had lots of "don’ts" and had impossible rules that only sissies and do-gooders followed. But, that’s not true. I was wrong. I’m here to tell you that the scriptures tell about amazing people who did remarkable things. For instance, did you know believers are supposed to be wise as serpents and to know the wiles of the devil so we’ll know what he is up to? At first, as a little kid, I either hated the devil or prayed somehow he would turn good. As a teenager I refused to believe he even existed. But, then as an English major in college, I studied lots of literature and saw why the devil played a regular, even popular part in stories and poems. Now as a grown up and an English teacher, I may never have to write another essay about him. But, if I did, I guarantee I would use the word relentless. That is the perfect descriptor for the devil because he never stops thwarting innocent and honest people. What surprises me is I never understood all this before now. Did you, Diary?
26 November 1966 - Back again sooner than usual! I’ve done some research. So, here’s the problem as I see it. Knowing the wiles of the devil reminds me of thinking like a crook...or understanding how evil works and how to pick it out in a crowd. From my reading, I have learned that Jesus’ warned his followers to judge a thing properly and to discern the background of events. When a fig tree did not bear any fruit, He caused it to wither. It had not fulfilled its purpose. With this sign, He was telling people not to avoid God’s purposes for them. I hope I find my purpose soon. As much as I love figs and hate to see a tree die, I must read more about such signs. This peculiar assignment I gave to myself will help me avoid errors in the future. As a teacher and an amateur detective, I want to see life’s events clearly and with the proper perspective. To get that may take at least 10 years...maybe more?
27 November 1966 - Dear Diary, Remember the day I mentioned writing an essay about the devil? I’m not ready for the full task, but I love doing research. I made some notes for your eyes only. Here goes!
If you scan world history, you will find diverse stories about the names for the devil and hell. Logic tells me they can’t all be true. The Greeks worshipped the devil as represented by the pagan god Pan, but they did not think of Hades as the devil’s home but as a place of the dead, far away from the land of the living Yet, they did imagine Gehenna as a place where evil people received due punishment. In contrast, the Hebrews knew the devil as Lucifer, an angel of light who rebelled against God and fell from Heaven. He became known as Satan, the god of this world. Hebrew rabbis taught that the devil was not sent to Sheol (their name for the place of the dead) nor to Gehinon (their name for a place of punishment). They envisioned a type of 12 month limbo where people lost their evilness or paid for it by being punished.
Obviously the Greeks did not understand Satan nor his aim to steal men’s souls. The Hebrews believed the true scenario that Satan remains free to roam to and fro and to search for whom he may devour until the end of times and Messiah comes to rule. But they did not know or grasp that Jesus was that Messiah who came to earth to destroy the works of the devil. Only by living as a sinless man, overcoming every temptation, and ultimately dying on a cruel cross, could Jesus end the tempter’s cruel rule over humans. Only then could He keep sinners from stumbling into Hell, a place God reserved for Satan and his demons, not for men. Jesus warned sinners to choose Him and His righteousness, or they would learn first hand the parable of the rich man and the leper Lazarus: that an impenetrable gulf does exist between Heaven and Hell. In describing this hard truth, Jesus refuted their misguided belief that after 12-months of punishment in Hell, a sinner would go to Heaven.
Literature echoes the same dilemmas. Two 17th century Englishmen dealt with the wiles of the devil. John Milton, in his epic poem Paradise Lost, told how God threw Satan and his angels out of Heaven into the pit of Hell. Whereas Satan believed he had only lost a battle, Beelzebub, another fallen angel, argued that they are now just pawns in God’s hands. To prove that untrue, Satan interfered with God’s perfect plan by causing the Fall of Man reported in Genesis. But, John Bunyan let Christian (the main character in his allegory Pilgrim’s Progress) take a long trip to the Celestial City. Along the way in his search of salvation, Christian meets a devil-type serpent named Apollyon who tries to kill him. Even with good companions like Faithful and Hopeful, Christian confronted trials in sinful places like Vanity, Doubtful Castle, and the plain of Ease.
Johann von Goethe formalized the German myth about Faust, a wizard who wrote about black magic and sold his soul to Mephistopheles in Hades. The best-known versions of this myth are the English play Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe and the opera Faust by Charles Gounod. The Devil and Daniel Webster showed how a poor farmer grew weak in the face of trouble and sold his soul in exchange for seven years of good crops. When the foolish man changed his mind and wanted his soul back, it took a great lawyer with pure logic and very wise arguments to get the farmer released from his hellish contract with Old Scratch.
I now see why it was absolutely imperative to have a God-man Savior and why Christ had to die on the Cross of Calvary to win the final battle of good over evil. Without that divine plan to save men from the wages of sin, we would still have no one to stop Satan’s relentless plan to destroy us.
15 June 1966 - It’s been months, dear Diary. I don’t know how to say this, but I may not need you as much or at least not in the same way. The Lord promised to stick "closer than a brother" and to advise me which way to go by being "a lamp unto my feet." That sounds like a pretty good friend to me. As much as I like to do research, I haven’t
really given the Bible much of a chance. Maybe I need to read it more. So Diary, thank you for all the years we’ve shared. For now, I bid you adieu.
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Born on the border of Russia in 1920, Jaak grew up in a time when Estonia was learning how to be a free republic. Local peasants lived much the same as their parents had. They were either owners or employees of small shops in town and farms encircling the village. Most worked six days a week and went to church on Sundays. They ate simple, nourishing foods and slept soundly under soft duvets. Since country folk left windows open at night for fresh air, Jaak often woke up to find a coating of snow that had blown over his covers, adding another thermal layer.
Ancient Kapards had Romany blood; but Jaak’s branch of the family had long ago intermarried with Estonians and now finally owned its own private farm. When the four Kapard sons grew old enough to draw water from the well or gather eggs without breaking them, their parents gave each child a daily task. When the boys became big strapping fellows in their teens, they pitched hay and hoed fields all day, making it unnecessary to hire outside help.
With the name Kapard meaning "tinker," all the boys eagerly learned to fix things that broke, a constant event on a farm. Jaak earned a reputation as the master repairman. In fact, his tinkering talent became his saving grace when he contracted rheumatic fever, a dangerous disease that weakened his constitution. His parents had expected their eldest son Jaak to assume management of the farm one day; but his illness left him with barely half the strength of his baby brother.
Still desiring to help bring income to the family, Jaak started tinkering with broken equipment from other family farms. Villagers also brought him clocks and radios to fix. His busy fingers kept his brain from being idle or planning mischief. For his own amusement at night, he sat by the fire and whittled soft mänd into the shape of railroad cars. Common folks often made simple woodcarvings to sit as decorations on their mantles.
Jaak had an idea that went beyond immobile knick-knacks. He wanted his trains to move. So, he carved a loop on the front and an open hook on the rear which let each car attached to the next. Then he drilled a hole through both ends of the car and stuck in a nail to form a simple axle. He carved tiny wheels and attached them. His wooden train could roll or be pulled. Amazed by his ingenuity, the townsfolk began to order his toy trains for Christmas gifts.
When Jaak finished school at about fifteen, he ventured into Tallinn to seek his fortune. He did mechanical work on the trolleys, but that job paid him only enough for bread and a bed. Soon he fell in with some disgruntled workers who had come to the city looking for jobs, just as he had. They discussed their desire not to spend their lives working for other men who owned the mines and factories and farms. They wanted things to change but didn’t know where or how to start. Jaak thought them full of talk, liking to complain about the system more than to achieve their own goals. When he said he only wanted to find a place that needed a good fixer of machines, he became as unpopular as a persona non grata.
Then he began going to cafes and fell in with university students about his age. They gathered every night to discuss Estonia’s future. Disenchanted with the fledgling republic and its feeble ways of running a country, they teased themselves with thoughts of following Russia’s example. But they needed a leader to organize such a revolution. All this heady type talk upset Jaak. It seemed the workers and students only wanted to sit around, drink mead, and criticize national leaders. He called it motion without action.
Jaack understood that Estonia had never been totally free, and the leaders of the new government had little skill or practice in governing. But, unlike the young malcontents he had recently met, he knew enough history to appreciate how the officials struggled to bring the new republic into the 20th century. Jack believed that stumbling along in freedom would prove a better option than becoming a vassal to a stronger country like Germany or Russia.
Unfortunately, the 20-year freedom experiment stopped when the Russians came and took over Estonia in 1940. Jaak’s new acquaintances encouraged him to join the communist party to make Estonia the greatest nation on the Baltic Sea. Before long the Soviet authorities assigned him to fix farm machinery at a state collective in Rapla. There he met and married Vailke. They had a few happy years before Vailke died giving birth to Mari.
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Just before the Russians came, Eerik and Hille had a son named Kristjan. They decided to hide their baby from the authorities because they suspected that once the Soviets took over, Estonia would follow the path of Russia. Their children would be trained in school, taught to think like communists, and turned against their parents and traditions.
Hoping to avoid that fate for their son and to protect him from being indoctrinated into false beliefs, the Rannets kept the boy inside for over a decade. Fortunately, the neighbors assumed the infant had died. However, it proved difficult to keep the boy secret and healthy at the same time.
Once the Russians moved the Rannet family to the attic, Kristjan, spent many hours on the steep slate roof to get enough sunlight. Like a little monkey, he became quite adept playing atop the dormers. Whenever a toy slid from his grip and came falling from the front steep gables, Hille would gasp, afraid that someone might realize that an undocumented child lived in the house. They all took care so no one would suspect or report an infraction of the rules. Eerik would wait for the hallways to clear before going outside to look for the boy’s lost toy.
When Kristjan became school age, his parents taught him at home. Since his mother Hille had worked as a professional musician, she taught the boy musical technique and appreciation. Eerik, being a scholar, gave Kristjan his daily lessons in reading and math. Unfortunately, because the boy primarily stayed inside, he looked pale. He received only the sunlight that slipped through the attic windows or that shone while he stayed on the roof.
Yet, the Rannets had method in this approach. When Kristjan reached twelve, his parents risked sending him to a nearby school. After all by that age, the boy’s character had formed. They felt sure their son understood the right way to think and live.
Normally any child who showed up without records was suspected as an escapee from an orphanage or labor camp. The headmaster put Kristjan on probation for several years and gave him no privileges and no hope for a future in the Soviet system. When the Rannet boy made top grades for two years, it became evident the school had a prize pupil.
Kristjan volunteered to accompany the choir for its end of year performance. The young accomplished pianist impressed everyone. The principal knew this brilliant addition to the school music program would enhance the school’s chances to win city competitions. So, he cancelled all penalties for Kristjan’s lack of official records and decided this boy would bring glory to the Soviet Union.
The Rannets saw the cancellation as an unexpected "grace" like Joseph’s release from prison in Egypt. They held their breaths for a few months. To their surprise, no State Police came to ask questions. The whole matter seemed swept under the rug, mercifully.
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Leo and Marianna Feingold
Kuld Finantsid (who changed his name to Leo Feingold) and Marianna Rannet married just as World War II spread throughout Europe. Rumors of hatred toward Jews emitted from everywhere with its fullest expression in Hitler’s Nazi Germany. As a young married couple, Kuld and Mariana feared getting caught in the growing sentiment of anti-Semitism. When Marianna became pregnant, they decided the need to escape had grown urgent because Hitler’s capture of their homeland in Estonia appeared imminent.
Risking all in the spring of 1940, they said goodbye to his family with whom the young couple had been living and started out on an arduous 60-kilometer trip to Tallin. Winter snow had thawed into spring slush making travel very slow. They rode in farmers’ carts under hay to stay warm and walked on foot until their heels bled. Finally reaching Tallin, they learned of a ship leaving Copenhagen for Canada at the end of March. The war had interrupted major communications so they had no way of confirming whether or not the German army had yet marched on Denmark. However, they did know the Danes had only about 15,000 soldiers who would have little chance to resist an enemy. If Nazis succeeded in taking Copenhagen, all municipal business and harbor traffic would soon fall under German authority.
Kuld and Marianna had already traded their gold jewelry and silverware to build a nest egg for traveling to the unknown. Marianna’s brother Eerik in Tallin gave them dried fruit and all the money he could spare. Then purchasing passage on a freighter to Copenhagen via Stockholm, the Finantsids arrived one week before the German army did. They had only enough money left to buy tickets to Canada and hardtack rolls to eat on the voyage. Unexpectedly, their trip across the Atlantic produced even greater hardships. The worse happened when the Canadian government refused docking privileges to the ship full of refugees and Jews.
Perhaps Canada’s refusal showed neutrality or avoided international scorn; but by this point, most of the sick, starving voyagers had little strength to protest. Their only choice was to plead with the captain to seek another port. Therefore, he sailed to the New York harbor, released its rejected passengers onto Ellis Island, N.J. and hoped the U.S. government would allow these refugees to stay. Though detained for a while, the Finantsids finally got their proper immigration papers.
As did many immigrants, Kuld changed his name to sound more American. Having worked primarily in fine gold, he decided to call himself Leo Feingold. He had been a talented jeweler in Estonia, but finding work in his field proved a daunting task because he knew just a few words in English. Finally, a jewelry shop in lower Manhattan took a chance and gave him a small cubby where he could practice his trade. After work, he learned English in night school.
Within six months of the Feingolds’ arrival and despite Mariana’s difficult experiences during pregnancy, baby Riina came into the world like a spotlight hitting a stage. She was healthy as a horse and doubled the family’s happiness. Within a couple of years, all three Feingolds had adapted to their new homeland. Leo forged ahead in business, making exquisite designs previously known only in Estonia. With the war on, many soldiers and sailors wanted to get married before pushing off to overseas. Feingold engagement rings and wedding bands flew from the display cases like freshly baked donuts. The shop boss called this talented Estonian, Leo, the king of wedding jewelers. With hard work, frugality, and several salary increases, Leo saved enough to open his own shop. Although locating his business in lower Manhattan, he could now afford to move the family uptown.
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Mid 19th century, the Lings and other Chinese families immigrated to British Columbia to help build the Canadian Intercontinental Railroad. When it was finished, the Ling family spawned generations of fishermen. They harvested Pacific salmon and processed them right onboard the vessel, the Chinese way. Finding safety in numbers, they chose to live close to other families for mutual protection and support. While many Lings continued to fish, others became merchants on land. They opened fish shops or made goods to sell.
In the 20th century, Lim Ling, Sr. and his young wife had their first child; and so he took a less dangerous land job. With his fish-processing expertise and daily hard work, he soon became an assembly line supervisor in one of leading fish plants of Vancouver. He faithfully saved his money for the future.
As his family grew, Lim wanted them to feel free as the wind. He decided to move to the British dominion nation called Newfoundland, just east of Canada. There he hoped to find his own niche and to raise his family in a more wholesome rural environment. With his savings, he bought an old wharf warehouse, converted it to a small fish plant, and hired people around the boot of Burin Peninsula. By 1949 when Newfoundland became part of Canada, Ling had grown a very successful business by using techniques he had learned in Vancouver.
When Lim Ling, Jr. reached a certain age, his father insisted that the boy learn the fish business from the ground up, not as the boss’s son but as a fisherman’s helper and then as a lineman on the assembly. That idea worked. When Lim Sr. grew old, he did the company’s bookkeeping and let the younger Lim take over the plant.
About that same time, a notorious gang called the O’Tooles began a strategy to get rich. They stole fish and sold the ill-gotten catch back to its rightful owners. When Lim noticed fish disappearing from his outside fish bins, he hired a night watchman and reported the incident to the local RCMP. He asked for frequent patrols which paid off soon after. One night a constable cruised by Lim’s warehouse and saw a flashlight blinking.
The policeman pulled down the pier to check it out. The sound of the squad car woke up the sleeping night watchman. Together, he and the constable caught Tom O’Toole red-handed...or in this case, caught him cold-handed! After all, Tom had just shoved his arm deep into a bin of freshly iced fish to get his daily catch which he intended to sell back to Lim the next day.
Bart and Smart O’Toole waited beside their Papa’s rusty pickup truck, ready to load the batch of stolen fish. When the constable arrived, they feared he would apprehend them also. The two young men scuttled to a private fish stage, and finally slinked away from the crime scene on foot.
After that incident, Lim Ling realized he needed a way to identify which fish belonged to him. As it stood, he bought fish off the boats at his dock and had the catch dumped into his collecting bins outside. Mingled together, one man’s catch looked the same as another. Lim pondered how to recognize and protect all his purchased stock of fish so if anyone tried to steal a batch and returned to resell it as a fresh catch, he would recognize it as fraud. He needed a strategy to prevent going broke. So, he devised a system of ink-stamping all fish that entered his bins.
Lim’s innovation, though very clever, slowed down the overall process. It proved costly because he had to hire stampers and more security guards. Not all plant owners adopted the idea.
Although the fish unions normally cooperated with the plants, some owners suspected they had set up these thefts as a strong incentive for owners to hire more people. If such a cryptic plan existed, the owners did not want to bite on that bait. Most folks in Newfoundland knew the fish industry made only a small profit. Any new financial stresses could force more plants into closing or more workers into layoffs, the opposite of what unions usually desired.
In the end, after considering their options, most owners preferred to suffer stolen fish from their bins than to spend money hiring more workers to ink-stamp and protect their stock.
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Born in London and orphaned by the age of ten, Lionel went to live with his Aunt Lottie, a young, vivacious lady who had loved him from birth and took him in gladly. A handsome boy with an incredible singing voice, Lionel had "star" written all over him. Lottie hoped to nurture that hope by insisting Lionel take voice lessons once his adolescent voice deepened.
Lionel’s aunt had an enormous influence in his life. Since she was an inveterate hostess and now had built-in entertainment, the talented nephew soon found an adoring entourage among her guests. To keep the boy balanced, she showed him off to a wide circle of friends from both ends of London’s social spectrum. Some came from the House of Lords; others, from a local public house (a pub).
With Lottie’s connections, Lionel got into the best schools and finally into Eton College. There he rubbed elbows with the old and new rich of England. Wherever he went, Lionel joined the boys’ choir. He developed an interest for all kinds of music but especially loved operettas by Sigmund Romberg and Rudolf Frimml. He knew all the words to every song of these composers.
Lottie designed elaborate theme parties based on whatever songs her nephew could sing. When he starred in a school production of the Student Prince, she brought the whole cast to her home for a private audience to hear her young songbird. Lionel enthralled her guests with his brilliant renditions. Lottie always joked that he had to sing for his supper to pay for his keep, a phrase which Lionel wondered might be true.
In reality, his Aunt Lottie wanted to groom Lionel for a concert career. However, his teachers recognized his baritone voice would better suit musical revues than opera. Once, when he performed at Covent Garden, a visiting American director hired him on the spot for a new show presently in rehearsal in New York. With the promise of stardom on the Great White Way, Lionel took a ship to America to seek his fortune.
Although very scared and lonely upon arrival, he was soon the Toast of the Town. Rich women and Broadway producers flung party invitations, marriage proposals, and singing contracts at the handsome young Englishman. Lionel soon found his renown brought a life far too busy for casual chitchat or a showbiz social life.
He had several women friends but had no serious intentions of looking for a mate. That option remained in his distant future. He first wanted to enjoy success in his chosen career. Besides, the demands of the theatre taxed him far more than outsiders realized. If he overtired himself, his voice faded. So, he protected the tool of his trade, a tool which had brought him great fame for one only in his late teens.
Lionel easily adapted his style to the American musical theatre. He went from operettas to Ziegfeld type revues to stories like Roberta with musical scores. Although he landed a few singing roles in Busby Berkeley type movie musicals and had to move to Hollywood, his first love remained the live stage. Finally in the late 1930s, in order to get back to Broadway, he tried out for an experimental mystery musical. The show had many troubles. The script stunk, the cast kept changing, and the scenery wobbled. Not wanting a flop, the producer dared not open the show in New Haven, much less New York.
Instead, the producer shipped the entire production as far north as he could imagine, all the way to Newfoundland. The theatre company ventured to the Rock to practice far away from the critics’ ears. There the play went through heavy-duty rewrites and rehearsals. The night of dress rehearsal, Madge, a schoolteacher on vacation, just happened to attend the performance. She fell head over heels for Lionel. It proved love at first sight for him as well. By the end of the play, he summoned her on stage and proposed. Very romantic, indeed!
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Little Lottie Longwind served as the apple of her daddy’s eye but her mother’s cross to bear. She had a much older brother who went to boarding school far away so he rarely came home and barely knew his kid sister.
Always a charmer, Lottie twisted everyone around her little finger. No one could say "no" to her. She not only acted like royalty but also proclaimed herself Princess of Chelsea, a stylish borough in London.
With a maid making her bed and a cook fixing her meals, she turned her attention to counting her treasures. She had a chest that looked something like one pirates might drag off a ship. Inside it, she stored her treasures from her old Grandmum, mostly jewelry she could not wear until age sixteen. Often she took out a few pieces, tried them on, and paraded about her room as if wearing the crown jewels at a royal ball. Inside the chest also lay a bag of coins she insisted were solid gold pieces.
When the bag grew empty, she dreamed up schemes to fill it again. Sometimes she dressed like an urchin and went several blocks over from Tite Street to sell biscuits. Each biscuit cost two-pence because according to Cook who made them, these were the best biscuits in London.
Other times, she sat under an umbrella on her front stoop. Whenever someone walked by, she would begin to cry, most pitiably.
The stroller-by might ask,"How can a pretty little girl in this fashionable neighborhood be so unhappy?"
"Oh, it would burden you to hear my troubles," she would say, with a forlorn face. Then her story would flow. "When my mother died, Father remarried but soon after that, he died as well. Now, my wicked stepmother locks me out from sunrise to sunset, forcing me to earn my keep."
"Aren’t you confusing yourself with Cinderella," a stroller might say.
"No, it’s the undeniable truth," she would reply before starting to let real tears roll down her rosy cheeks. "Whether in rain or sleet, I must beg enough money to pay for the porridge my stepmother lets Cook feed me. Also I must eat in the kitchen with the servants. I never get any presents on holidays nor meet our company in the drawing room. I live in a garret in the attic where there is no heat, and mice nibble at my toes. They keep me awake all night, and now all my stockings have holes." When the stroller needed to move on, he would give her a farthing for the fun she had provided.
Lottie moved onto her next stage of growth, that of becoming low-society-minded. Her mother often spoke of how the poor ate too little fruit. Without enough Vitamin C, they could get scurvy like the English seamen once did before carrying limes aboard their ships. Therefore, Lottie set up a stand at the bottom of the front steps and sold lime juice to passers-by. She posted a sign that said "Avoid Scurvy. Get your lime juice here!"
To make the sour drink palatable, she put in more sugar than it took to make a cake. Cook scolded her for wasting ingredients. So, this venture of helping the unfortunate, proved unsuccessful and made her realize that selling juice would never help those most in need.
Next, Lottie became high-society-minded. A few neighborhood girls agreed to alternate homes, having regular tea parties every day after school. They quickly tired of that sedate activity, deciding to take their tea parties to the street. Wanting to be paragons of charity, the girls put tea biscuits and cakes in their pockets and went out to find poor people with whom they might share their ample repast. But alas, rarely did anyone accept the generous donations from their sticky hands. With few takers, they decided to wait until they were old enough to go to charity balls. Perhaps then, they would better understand what charity meant.
Since Lottie had full-run of the house, her favorite place was the dining room dumbwaiter. When young and small, she often doubled herself up in it to ride from the dining hallway to the kitchen and back up again. If the butler forgot they were playing a game, he would leave her there for an hour or so. Even if she banged on the lift door, no one answered.
When she got too big to get in the dumbwaiter, she would go to the attic to watch the motorized wheel wind the cable through the pulley. When the winch hoisted the little elevator box all the way up, its motor would stop, a mechanical fact that fascinated Lottie. Other times, she would borrow the butler’s torch and go to the guest bathroom under the staircase. She would enter the winter coat closet, creep into the pitch-black passage to the elevator shaft, and just watch the dumbwaiter move up and down. One time she climb on top and rode the lift box between the first floor dining room and the kitchen and then all the way up to the attic. However, she got so much grease on her good dress, her mother forbade her to pull that trick again.
When Lottie turned ten, her mother died. It upset her to see her mother’s casket going into the ground on a pulley like the dumbwaiter lift. Although attending church every Sunday, she did not quite understand how a body died but the soul somehow got out of that deep hole. It worried her so much that she began to go stand in front of the dark chasm of the dumbwaiter shaft and shine her torch down in it. It was the deepest hole she knew about. She wished to be Alice in Wonderland, thinking that if she jumped into the shaft, she would come out on the other side where her mother was, just like Alice had by following the rabbit down the hole.
When Lottie reached fourteen, she had two important things happen. First, she confirmed her faith as an Anglican. Secondly, her brother had a baby boy, named Lionel. She felt so proud to be an aunt. Then at his baptism, the family made Lottie the baby’s godmother. The priest explained this awesome responsibility of taking charge of the care and nurture of the baby’s soul in spiritual matters. Lottie took this lifelong task very seriously.
Having just finished memorizing the catechism for her confirmation, she thought she had most of the answers. Whenever the baby came to visit, Lottie would rock him and explain the deep mysteries of God. In total wonder, the baby stared back at Lottie! Although he had no questions yet about such matters, he surely guessed his aunt thought keenly of him.
When he grew old enough to understand, she promised to introduce little Lionel to the Lord Jesus in heaven who did not resemble those House of Lords in Parliament. She admitted that much of that still confused her even after studying it at school.
The birth of Lionel not only made her family bigger but also made her life more important. She doted on her brand new nephew, pushing him in a perambulator up and down Tite Street to show him off. Secretly, she hoped one day to get married and have a baby as cute as Lionel. Then at age sixteen that dream looked possible.
One night when she wore her grandmother’s pearls, she met and fell in love with a boy named Neville Spencer. His parents attended the same annual dances her parents had before Mrs. Longwind passed on. Lottie and Spencer’s love sprung up fast. Almost never without a chaperon, they broke away one night to be alone. At that interlude, they made a secret vow to marry when they got old enough.
Meanwhile, World War I started. Neville felt obliged to leave his college and fight for England. Unfortunately, he died from mustard gas in the trenches. So many died to keep Germans from invading England that it became necessary to bury the bodies quickly. Therefore those soldiers’ graves became hallowed ground in France.
Neville’s death devastated Lottie. Many of her young friends also lost their fiancés and never fell in love again. Some became nurses to help wounded soldiers returning from the dreadful war. To show her appreciation for the sacrifice of young lives, Lottie wrote letters to the parents of dead soldiers. She also held parties at her father’s mansion for entire battalions. Soldiers would cram in on the first floor, eating, drinking, spilling food, and knocking over everything in sight. The cook kept the kitchen going day and night while Lottie practiced becoming a premier hostess. She became well-known for her penchant to do good and her flare to cater large events.
A few years after the war, Lottie’s father and Lionel’s parents decided to take a holiday to Paris. They left her in charge of Lionel, then ten-years old. Sadly, on the trip back across the English Channel, their ferry capsized. Newspaper reports said a bad squall blew up quickly. The captain, the crew, and all passengers went down to Davy Jones’ Locker.
In one fell swoop, Lottie lost her whole family except for her precious nephew. She clung to him with all her might, wondering if she could survive another catastrophe, much less explain this to the boy. Having been taught to keep a stiff upper lip, she took over child-rearing duties, adding her own twists. After all, an aunt and godmother could never be like the natural mother. She would be his social taskmaster, teaching him to love life and his fellowman, things not always taught in classrooms.
Knowing Lionel had sung in a boys’ choir in the past, Lottie took him to her church. The choirmaster immediately knew the boy had a special voice but too deep to sing the castrato part in classical music, often sung by boys’ choirs. Since many pubescent voices in the choir had already begun to change, Lionel’s quality helped fill in and gave the choir a richer sound. It also helped cover squeaky notes that spoiled a good song.
In no time Lottie planned parties to present her nephew’s talent. She also snuck him into public houses so he could learn the peasants’ music: funeral dirges, drinking songs, sailor laments, and the folk tunes that stood the test of time. In no time, he had memorized every verse to "Barbara Allen" which in itself was quite a feat for a young boy. Lottie loved Lionel more like a son. He was her charge and her ward. She intended to help him become all God had designed him to be, with a little bit of her bravado thrown in for good measure.
When Lionel received an offer from a New York producer, Lottie let him go to America, feeling she had completed her job.
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(Ima’s mother-in-law) Lydia Morrow grew up next door to Wally Purple. Both were short, stocky, and good-natured. As the best of chums and then sweethearts, they went steady throughout high school and married a year after graduation. Wally went to work for GM in Flint, and Lydia attended beauty school. However, after a few months she dropped out because she felt nauseated every morning and believed the problem came from breathing fumes from giving permanents and bleaching hair. But very soon, the real reason surfaced: Lydia expected their first baby.
Lydia knew her name came from a gracious lady in the Bible who sold expensive purple dye and who always opened her home for meetings held by the Apostle Paul. So, when Lydia Morrow married Wally Purple, her name drew a double meaning to represent the same gift of hospitality as her namesake. Although a bit demanding, Lydia had a great sense of humor, treated people like priceless treasures, and loved to have a house full of company whether friends and strangers.
Lydia kept busy baking brownies and knitting purple sweaters for everyone, including the family pets. She adroitly kicked her brood out of bed on weekdays, let them sleep in on Saturdays, but insisted the whole family arise quickly on Sunday. She and Wally had the same rule: kids went to church or risked the wrath of the Brownie Queen!
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In the summer of 1937, an English teacher named Imágine (Madge) Lovelace vacationed to Newfoundland. It just so happened she stayed at a hotel where rehearsals for a new play were being held in the ballroom. She met Lionel Longwind and fell in love at first glance. Lionel had the male lead in the play and saw Madge in the audience. At the final curtain, he brought her up on stage and proposed. Given such an unforgettable gesture, she could not resist accepting!
Madge had Ímagine (Ima) on the last day of 1939 but still managed to keep up with Lionel who had to continue on a tour. Finally, they settled into an apartment in Manhattan. The whole family loved living in New York. Ima went to a girls’ school. Madge taught at a boys’ school, and Lionel continued acting in Broadway plays.
A woman with great wisdom and humor, Madge took in stride the life of being married to an actor. She gracefully juggled the two worlds: the practical and the theatrical. She managed Lionel’s finances because money burned a hole in his pocket. Although dying in her late 40s, she left an indelible mark on her husband’s heart and her daughter’s personality.
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As a baby, little Mari spent every day in a state nursery with all the other farm workers’ children. She only saw her father at night. By that time, he seemed too tired to talk or play with his little girl, much less to listen to her dreams. Without having a mother to explain things to her, she lived in constant fear and doubt. Sometimes her whole body shook violently. That condition scared the other children and made it impossible for her to have regular playmates or to develop friendships.
When starting school, Mari tried to win friends by taking classmates’ pencils but returning them well-sharpened. That strategy did not work in her favor. Next, she decided instead of trying to become well-liked, she’d become the top student in her class. That required her to study constantly. No one liked her any more as a bookworm than as a shaky leaf.
In the afternoons waiting for Jaak to come home, Mari chased butterflies and moths for fun. Then she began to catch them in a net and watched their wings flutter like her shaky hands. After finding different types of the four-winged insects, she pinned them to a board, titled her collection lepidoptera, and submitted it as a school project. Her teacher said Mari had a future in science and gave the girl her first accolade. That attention made the other children despise her. Believing a scientific destiny would take her farther than her classmates, she saw their rejection more as jealousy.
In order to get high enough grades to quality for university, Mari started cheating on tests. The first time she copied another person’s answers, she felt a little guilty. Gradually, that feeling grew duller and duller. After all, she planned to become a great biologist one day and to make a great discovery that would save lots of lives. So, she saw no harm in borrowing answers. Once facts got locked into her head, she never forgot them. She figured no matter how knowledge came, its use served her ultimate goal. Studying the theories of Marx and Lenin, she learned that the end justified the means. Agreeing with those great men spurred her on in scientific pursuits.
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Maria liked living in New York more than Italy. English came easily to her. It made her angry when her parents only talked Italian with their neighbors. Drawing pictures of houses and buildings became her favorite pastime. She fancied herself a budding girl Leonardo da Vinci. However, when her mother Veronica died giving birth to twin boys, young Maria had to give up her dreams and became an instant junior mom.
While Papa stayed at work for long hours, Maria did her best to keep house, cook meals, do laundry, and tend to the twins. By the time she was fifteen, Benito’s business flourished. Once her father could afford a nanny, Maria went off to finishing school. He hoped that advantage would help her rise to a higher social class than first generation immigrants usually held.
Maria met and married a rich playboy named David Mobley. Benito did not bless the marriage and almost disowned her for mixing with non-Italians. Gradually David settled down, became a stockbroker, and made his own fortune. Maria admitted to herself that her husband’s money meant nothing to her. But the Mobley family name brought her the prestige and social status she craved.
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MaryLinda Chasen Belforte
(Chasen Background) Granted land by King George I, the Chasen Family came to Georgia from England long before the Revolutionary War. Because many criminals also ended up in Georgia, families immigrating there had to work hard to distinguish themselves and gain respectability. Gradually through more honorable transactions than it had reputedly made in the past, the Chasens became very successful. They named their first few male generations, George, in the king’s honor. Then the family switched names to Charles from 1700 to1860 because the French over in Louisiana had become good customers of Georgian services.
MaryLinda’s mother Suzanne died in childbirth. Her father Colonel Chasen ran a very successful cotton warehouse operation across the South and often traveled between Atlanta, Mobile, and New Orleans to arrange passage for his cotton cargoes. Having no mother, the girl clung to her nursemaid Bertie Bee who loved her but struggled with the willful nature of her little mistress. Even when disciplined, MaryLinda would weasel the staff into giving her whatever she desired.
When the Great Depressionhit in 1929, the colonel lost almost everything except his estate. He reduced the Chasenton staff to just the Bee Family and tried to groom MaryLinda to run his business. She showed no interest in focusing on his lessons. With no son to take over his warehouses, he died a brokenhearted man. Chasenton fell into disrepair; and the young heiress became distraught.
Prideful, vain, and manipulative, she set her designs on finding a savior. Upon meeting Beauregard Belforte, she had found her target. He was a promising young man whose father made money in construction and whose mother came from the prosperous South Carolina Cornflower clan. MaryLinda needed the rescue of money, more than love. When they graduated college and married, she insisted her new husband Beau come live at her family’s estate. He not only underwrote the colonel’s failing finances with his own private fortune but restored Chasenton to be a southern gem again.
Within two years, the Belfortes had Baby Vanna; and for a short time, Bertie became nursemaid again because MaryLinda did not want to deal with child-rearing troubles. Beau’s business ventures succeeded wildly so he felt safe in going off to the military. He left his managers in charge of his business, and MaryLinda took over entertaining to keep his customers happy. Beau insisted that the company continue to hold all parties at Chasenton, giving the sense that Beau still ran the operation.
So, with a husband off at war, MaryLinda reluctantly acted like the capable woman her father dreamt she would become. With the pressure of the new party schedule, the reduced household staff foundered and sagged. Taking the bull by the horns, MaryLinda reassigned Bertie to take over the kitchen because Bella was too old to do it all.
To climb back up the social ladder as well as to continue the façade of Beau’s business, MaryLinda spent her days courting contacts at the downtown offices and at the country club. When not tending to official business, she played cards at the club, went to fashion shows at Rich’s Department Store, planned elaborate parties at home, and hounded auctions for antiques to transform Chasenton into a magazine image. Her talents made the newspapers acclaim MaryLinda Belforte as one of Atlanta’s top hostesses. As much as she cared for the look of her house, she cared little about staying around it to be a mother.
Without love, discipline, or instruction, Little Vanna began to act out and get in trouble around the neighborhood. To remedy that, MaryLin hired an English nanny to watch the child. But, Nanny did not resemble a refined governess as the household had expected. Instead, she was as coarse and useless as a rusty plow without a horse. She sat and read dime novels all day and let Vanna run wild. Not believing the staff’s warnings, MaryLin continued to pay a wastrel to watch a waif until Beau returned from war.
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Mike was born on Burin Peninsula, grew up playing soccer in the summer and hockey in the winter. He studied journalism at Memorial University and stood out like a sparkler in everything he tried, until he married. Whereas his young wife loved the big city life of St. John’s, Mike loved children and wanted to return to Burin peninsula to raise a houseful of them. Her sudden request for a divorce stopped his dream of having a family. So he moved and became a roaming reporter for the Burin Bulletin. As an up-and-comer and with little personal life, Mike buried himself in work, always pushing to get the best possible scoop.
One day while researching a story on the animal shelter in Marystown, he saw first hand how cruelly some people treated their pets, keeping them outside without proper provisions even during brutal winter nights. The attendant told him about a big dog that had wrapped his chain around a tree and could not reach his doghouse. His food and water had iced over, and his paws had frostbite. Serendipitously, Mike stopped in front of that very dog’s kennel. He fell instantly in love and adopted this large sand-colored Labrador which he named Sandifur. This new furry friend saved him from a life of all work and no play.
When offered a free ride on the Newfie Bullet’s last run, Mike grabbed the chance. He decided to act like a tourist and to keep his occupation a secret. That way he figured people might open up more easily and tell him stories about what this historical adventure meant to them. Used to winning prizes for his outstanding work, he hoped his report about the Bullet would get him promoted…or land him a job at the St. John’s Telegram. In the big city, he might find a new love besides Sandifur.
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(Ima’s sister-in-law) Molly should have given the middle name of "Eventful." As the baby of the family and only girl, Molly presented a paradox to her parents. She simultaneously proved a joyful delight but a difficult cross to bear. As soon as she could sit in a sandbox, she tried to make things grow. She would pull up weeds from the ditch, stick them in the sand, and water them. Then for hours, she would sit staring to see what might happen. Often she’d pull up the transplanted weeds to check if any roots had sprouted, of course, disrupting any process which might have begun.
Realizing her efforts with weeds never produced any flowers, she began to pull up her mother’s geraniums from the flowerbeds. Molly stuck them in the sand as well, but still nothing ever took root. No one could answer her questions of why the flowers looked fresh longer than had the weeds.
One day she poured her goldfish bowl water onto the transplants thinking the fish poop could fertilize the plants. The poor fish fell out on the sand and flipped around helplessly. When she tried to pick them up, they disliked her rough, sandy fingers so much they wiggled loose and plopped back onto the sand. That evening all the fish had to have a funeral and proper burial.
Molly loved animals and brought home many stray cats and dogs. However, one time when the family went camping, she found a baby wolverine, brought it to the campsite, and hid it under a bushel basket. She named it Beaverwolf because that’s what it looked like to her.
That night when Wally built a campfire, the flames terrified the little animal which Molly held secreted under her jacket. Soon Beaverwolf scratched and bit her, trying to get free. When her parents saw the creature dash off, they worried it might have rabies and so, rushed her to the emergency room. The doctors insisted Molly get painful shots in her stomach, just in case the baby wolverine had the disease.
Her penchant for trouble continued throughout childhood. Once in a school Christmas program, she had the role of an elf who supposedly had to sprinkle fake snow like fairy dust. Molly glued sparkle onto her cheeks to look more elf-like but then forgot to wash her hands. When she went on stage for her sprinkling task, the snow mostly stuck to her hands, making them look like huge snow mittens. The audience laughed, thinking her mistake belonged to the story.
Another time, Molly played the Guiding Star in the church Christmas play. After leading the Three Wise Men down the aisle and onto the alter area, she climbed up a ladder behind the makeshift stable. The teacher had purposely assigned the accident prone girl a rather passive job of simply shining over the baby Jesus. But when Molly spread her arms like the points of the star, she slipped and fell off backwards. That thrust made the ladder fall forward and collapse the stable. Instantly the nativity re-enactment stopped. After another visit to the emergency room, Molly considered the plaster cast on her leg the best Christmas gift ever! Now her friends could practice using their newly acquire cursive handwriting to put get-well messages onto the new surface.
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Paavo Pall, KGB
Not only was Paavo the last of ten children of the Pall family, but he actually looked like the runt of the litter. His parents gave him the name Paul which meant "small," a name that confirmed its meaning in their son. Though positioned as the baby of the family, no one spoiled him. By the time he came along, the thrill of new babies had disappeared. Raising children simply meant another mouth to feed, body to clothe, and mind to train.
Paavo had to fend for himself. In school, the other kids teased and bullied him because of his size. As recourse, he became a mix between a sly sneak and a favorite pet. He ran errands for adults, spied on other kids, and snitched when anyone got into mischief. His favorite hero was Napoleon who, though also small of stature, conquered most of Europe. That image inspired little Paavo.
He failed at every sport and game until discovering the art of chess. That success prompted him to apply to the Estonian Army, but his slight height almost disqualified him. However, his understanding of chess strategy showed him how to overcome other shortcomings. Soon Paavo distinguished himself as a soldier. He took orders blindly, rose quickly in rank, and eventually became the one who gave orders.
When Russia conquered Estonia in 1940, he quickly joined the communist party hoping to have his talents recognized. Since he excelled in bossiness if not leadership, his superiors placed him in the Committee for State Security KGB. Again, he rose quickly in its ranks there as well.
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Mr. Kamiski ran the East Flint assembly plant, and Mrs. Kamiski taught classes at Wayne State University in Detroit. Because their family enjoyed water sports, they settled in Port Huron, halfway between their two jobs. The Kaminski family believed in education and wanted their son Paul to succeed in a profession instead of just getting a job at a car parts factory like other Michiganders.
In junior high school, Paul Kaminski had a terrible crush on Ímagine Longwind who had moved to the Port Huron area from New York City. They were each other’s first date and first love. On the weekends, his father drove them to the movies where they held hands and looked goo-goo eyed at each other. He kissed her under some mistletoe at a Christmas party. That move pronounced them as "going steady." As crazy about Ima as he was, Paul felt too embarrassed to ask her to go the 9th grade formal because, during the school year, she had grown two inches taller than he was.
Although a year apart, Paul Kamiski and Sammy Purple went to different schools but attended the same parish church. Joining the same scout troop, they soon became best friends. When Sammy transferred from parochial to public high school, Paul made the mistake of introducing his scouting friend to Ima. From then on, the writing was on the wall. He had lost in the game of love because Sammy and Ima hit it off famously.
Paul proved a brilliant student, destined for college. He influenced his best buddy Sammy to go to Michigan State where he intended to go himself. While Paul majored in pre-med and had to study all the time, Sammy played football and worked on a degree in aeronautical engineering. When the two did not have to study or work, they played tennis, the only sport at which Paul could beat his very athletic friend.
As best man in Sammy and Ima’s wedding, Paul joked that he, like her father, had also given Ima away but in a different sense. She would never be his bride. That made him sad. He dated a few medical students, but work bogged down most of his chances for a personal or social life. After medical school, he decided to become a researcher instead of practicing medicine. With several fellowships, he ended up back at his alma mater.
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Born in Estonia to a premier theatrical family, Peeter could not remember when he had not helped backstage or been thrown into an acting role if the play called for a child. By age eight, he knew how to dim the lights, pull the curtain, and make sounds of rain or thunder.
His distant relative Julian Smuul was a famous Estonian playwright who often got in trouble because his themes did not always favor political communism. Julian’s plays demonstrated more his perception of social and economic communism as a class struggle. His stories pitted the rich against the poor and those with land or factories against those without.
When Peeter went off to university, he joined the young communists on purpose. Had he remained independent, his chances to act, direct, or write for the Estonian theatre would have been nil. Fortunately, after years of internship, he finally assumed the directorship of Tallinn’s Municpal Theatre and led it into a renaissance. He purposely mixed early communist plays by Semper and Jakobson with a few approved Russian classics by Chekhov.
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Petey Hartman was the only child of Harry and Buffy Hartman who had a smaller but still prominent estate next door to Chasenton in Atlanta. They doted on their son and gave him whatever he desired. He grew up thinking he could boss everyone around: his family, the yardmen, the maids, and the neighbors. He believed his word was law.
He wanted to control everyone and every situation. When he tried to do that, the neighbor kids ignored him. Rejection only made him dig in his heels. Once, wanting to be the center of attention, he painted his body and ran about like a wild man, calling himself Atlanta’s North Highlands Chieftain. The kids only laughed which made him mad as rooster. After cooling off from such humiliation, he would switch tactics.
Whenever Petey played in Vanna’s backyard, he would battle to take over her territory. If he ever pulled her hair or spat at her, she would wrestle him to the ground and rubbed his face in the dirt to prove she was boss of her yard. One time she pulled up an onion from Bertie’s garden, busted it on a tree, stuck inside Petey’s mouth and tied her kerchief around his chin to hold it there. That set him running straight home, full of tears and humiliation.
To retaliate to the onion incident, Petey took his bee-bee gun and shot Vanna’s kitty named Rabbit. His excuse was, "That stupid cony had eaten carrots in his father’s garden and needed to be punished." The vet removed the poor animal’s hind leg. For one year from that date, Brody forbade Petey to approach Chaseton grounds.
Unfortunately, Petey found one person he could control: Boy Baby Brady who believed that he and Peter were really friends. Although the boys stood the same height, Brady was muscular and handsome while Petey was stocky and puffy faced. Vanna and her friend Patsy Lou called him Blowfish, a name he detested.
When Petey turned fourteen years old, his already bent personality took a turn for the worse, from mischievous to mean. With a penchant for changing innocent fun into malice, Petey teased the neighborhood kids unmercifully. Brady took the teases seriously. Petey goaded Boy Baby to run and tackle Vanna, knowing if the boy obeyed, he would get reprimanded for touching a white girl.
One summer, he spoiled one of Vanna’s favorite things to do. When the grapevines on the backyard arbor trellises grew profusely, they would attach to nearby hedges, forming giant mounds of vines. Vanna would lean a ladder against this vine mountain, spread a blanket on top, and climb up to announce herself Atlanta’s Grape Queen. One day she invited Patsy Lou up to her realm to bounce on the vines. Petey came over and asked to come up. When Vanna refused, he removed the ladder leaving the girls stuck up there. They hollered for someone to help. Finally, they had to slide down to the ground, getting cuts and scratches on their faces from the broken stalks.
On a very hot day, Petey stole cold beer from his parents bar and dared Brady, Vanna, and Patsy Lou to drink some. Patsy Lou said she might until Brady begged her not to. They all knew blistered bottoms lay in their futures if they got caught. Therefore, they refused.
Then Petey suggested they should at least learn to smoke to look hip. First, he offered them hemp rope to smoke, but they ignored that disgusting idea. He became more subtle and told them that everyone at school would worship them if they smoked grapevines. This time they did what he said and had sore throats for a week.
Later on, when they all grew older, Petey ordered Boy Baby to hold the girls down while he forced cigarette smoke down their throats. The boys laughed wildly at the girls who coughed and choked and gagged and rolled on the lawn in agony. Vanna stuck a water hose in her mouth to get rid of the wretched taste and telltale odor. After her throat stopped burning, she passed the hose to Patsy Lou who had vomited from inhaling the smoke.
While the girls both lay vulnerable on the grass, Petey got nasty and unzipped his pants. The girls jumped up and ran off to Vanna’s house, screaming, "We hate you Petey Hartman. We hate you Boy Baby, and we hate all boys...and will for the rest of our lives." Right then, they made a solemn pact to keep away from boys until they were old enough to get married.
Brody overheard the girls screaming and ran out in time to see Petey zipping up his pants. Being a man, he surmised exactly what had upset the girls. This was no mere case of boys being boys with heavy roughhousing or teasing the girls to make them mad. What he saw was not like bloodying a nose or gaffing a frog in front of them. This time the boys had gone too far, using their greater strength to hold down the girls in an insulting, disrespectful way.
Again, Brody banished Petey Hartman from Chasenton, then whipped Brady’s fair colored bottom till it shone red, and finally forbade him and the girls to have anything to do with Petey. Brody knew the bullying neighbor boy was fast becoming a juvenile delinquent who didn’t care what he did or whom he hurt.
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Pierre Paw-Paw DuPlantis
For decades, the DuPlantis family fished from the bayous near New Iberia and down to the sloughs off the Gulf. Relatives helped each other build houses next door to family or down the block. All the couples loved each other without excuse and had lots of babies who grew up playing with their cousins next door or down the block. Pierre grew up in a family that did the same and married a Denise LeBlanc who grew up in a family that also did the same. They enjoyed the abundant food God provided for them and the special, peaceful freedom He gave those who chose this simple life.
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Pollibo Family Background
Benito married Veronica in Italy and immigrated to the U.S.
Maria, eldest child born in Italy, married David Mobley in NY
Valentino, one of twins born in NY
Salvatore, one of twins born in NY
Dominic, Benito’s brother moved to Detroit and married Gloria Rossellini
Calverti, an only child
Delgado, the only grandchild
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Raymond Larson, M.D.
(Background) The Larson roots reach back to the 14th century when Lars, a Norseman first sailed into the harbor that later became the harbor of St. John’s. Lars made many trips to the northern peninsula of the island and to the big land called Labrador where early Vikings had gone. There he met and fell in love with a gentle and kind native Innu girl. They had a son whom they named Olaf, which means olive branch. Olaf, Lars’ son, became a symbol of peace between Norsemen and the Innu nation. Soon huts blossomed around the Northern inlets. Olaf and others like him continued their seafaring way of fishing, but stopped the Viking customs of raping and pillaging villages.
From that history emerged the story of Raymond much later. With an almost a photographic memory, he earned several degrees from Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland. He then studied medicine at Oxford University and received accolades for outstanding research in toxicology. While in England, Raymond met and married his landlady’s daughter, Audrey, a lovely brunette nurse.
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Rein was born to a typical, urban Estonian family. His father practiced law in Tallinn, and his mother served as a nurse at Central Hospital. Both had joined the communist party as soon as the Soviets took over Estonia. As most professionals discovered, their success depended on party membership. Anyone refusing to join received instant demotion to a menial job. Doctors became orderlies; nurses became laundry workers; professors became janitors; teachers became scullery maids.
By the time Rein went to school, the authorities no longer let students choose their own careers. Teachers watched closely for children to show natural talents. When they excelled in academic fields especially needed in the Soviet Union, the teachers assigned them to a particular track of study. At first, Rein, the reindeer, as the kids called him, appeared average and without particular sparkle. But by age twelve his mathematical ability shone through, placing him in line to study physics or engineering. Then in his university days, he began to show aptitude for the biological sciences as well. Gradually his interests merged into the field of bio-medical equipment in which he could use all thrusts of his education. After receiving his Sc. D. degree, the faculty recommended him to the Academy of Science where he studied the effects of space travel on cosmonauts’ hearts. Gradually, he moved up to head of the bio-engineering department.
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By the time Devre excelled as Atlanta’s most prosperous post-war Ford Dealer, his son Rich became the most popular boy in his elementary school. He had dark eyes that held a French glint. His body matured early which helped him succeed in any sport he attempted. All the girls thought of him as a dreamboat; but he only had eyes for Vanna Belforte, the prettiest one of all.
Rich’s folks had grown up Catholic but stopped going when they moved to Georgia. One summer, their neighbors invited his family to attend a tent revival. Impressed by the people’s sincerity, the Duplantises soon joined that church. Rich didn’t understand what difference it made to God, which church they all attended. As his parents became more active in their new expression of faith, they started sending Rich off to summer church camp every year.
He enjoyed the camp sports activities, Bible lessons, and all the pretty girls flirting with him. But the evening campfire time confused him. He had never seen anything like it. The preachers told the teenagers to talk to Jesus and ask Him to lead their lives. Then when boys and girls started crying and running up front to a makeshift altar made of logs, Rich thought they had gotten sick or lost their minds. Then more kids rushed up and hugged the ones crying. The whole hubbub scared Rich. He had only felt his conscience tweak a few times and believed he otherwise lived a good life. But, he had to admit he never talked to God, figuring only preachers supposedly did that.
After high school, Rich attended Georgia Tech in town. The next year Vanna graduated and went off to a girls’ school in Louisiana. Before parting, they pledged to stay pure for each other. Rich expected them to marry the following summer because his folks had married young. In the fall of Vanna’s first year, Vanna’s best friend Patsy Lou got shot. He sadly watched when Vanna quit college, ran off to Ft. Myers, and went berserk. When she returned after several months, he got up the nerve to ask for her hand in marriage. The Belfortes refused his request.
Distraught and heart-broken, Rich wanted to go far away from his home. Learning that army helicopters were already dropping soldiers into jungles of French-Indo China, he decided to join the military. He thought by going to Vietnam, he would help the villagers and farmers resist the Chinese communists trying to take over their land.
After basic training, Rich himself got dropped by helicopter into Florida’s swamp terrain around Lake Okeechobee for his final solo survival experience. He landed in a sinkhole made from a rotting tree. A root punctured his leg and he could barely move. In great pain, he thought of his love for Vanna, which kept him half-awake and half-alert.
Afraid of slipping unconscious or into deliriums, he found himself reciting old Bible verses he learned at church camp and weekly Sword Practice. As those burbled up to his mind, he received great comfort and peace. In these desperate straits, Rich met God for the first time. He promised if he pulled through, he would become a spiritual soldier for Christ.
For two days, he grew exhausted trying to extricate himself from the hole. Once out, he wondered which way to take back to his military base. His paper map had faded in the mud; the mental map had, in his mind. Then infection set into his leg wound. Growing weak and disoriented, he fell into a ravine, bashed his head, and lay unconscious in extreme heat until two men found him. By then, he was half-dead and half-crazy in the head, not knowing who or where he was.
From Rich’s babbling, the rescuers could not tell if he was a soldier or just someone dressed in fatigues. Considering the extent of the injuries, the young man’s wound needed attention first; so they carried him to the nearest doctor and decided to deal with other matters later. The doctor cleaned the gash in Rich’s head, took stitches in his leg, and prescribed a quiet place for the patient to recuperate. The hunters bought staples and drove to a cabin deep in the woods.
Rich stayed safe at the cabin for many months. His hair and beard grew wooly. Gradually a few memories returned; but even so, he felt unsure of what had happened. He figured even if the army found him, he would be of no use to them with his bum leg and bashed-in head.
Finally growing strong enough, he hitchhiked back to Atlanta but never contacted his family. He neither wished to dishonor them by his curious disappearance nor to scare them by his sudden reappearance. Instead, he went past Decatur to Randy’s stables and hid in the barn. Next morning, he approached the owner and asked if he could work for room and board until he could get back on his feet.
Rich found his niche. Being around animals and living a simple life contented him greatly. So, he remained for years, sweeping the barn, raking the trails, and grooming the horses. When his head got better, he started special riding classes for other people who had bashed their heads in accidents. Then one day Vanna came to ride horses! His heart, not his head, felt bashed in.
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(Ima’s pal) By the time Riina grew old enough to go to nursery school, her father had prospered enough to move the family to an apartment near Central Park on East 65th Street and Madison. On her first day of school, she met Ímagine Purple. They soon became constant playmates and forever friends.
Then in grammar school, they gave each other silly names. Riina called Ima Longwind, Ima Longnose. Ima accepted that moniker as long as Riina didn’t call her Ima Pickanose or Ima Picklenose. If Riina did that, then Ima got to call her friend, Reena Finklegel because she ate a lot of jello or Ringa Fingergold because her daddy made gold rings.
Riina took tap and ballet and became the star of the school’s talent shows. Her wiry hair formed a curly cloud encircling her head like a swarm of bees. Whereas Riina was more the performer, her pal Ímagine Purple took a quieter role. Learning to play piano, Ima liked to accompany while Riina sang and acted out Hit Parade songs. Their favorites were "Mares eat oats and does eat oats, but little lambs eat ivy" or "A you’re adorable, B you’re so beautiful, C you’re a cutie full of charm." The constant repetition of their repertoire almost drove their parents insane or as the girls called it, going Bonkers in Yonkers.
Both only children, Riina and Ima pricked their fingers with a pin to make themselves blood sisters. They wore each other’s clothes much to the chagrin of their mothers and practically moved into each other’s apartments on weekends. It broke Riina’s heart when Ima moved away to Michigan. Burying herself in her studies, she decided to become the next Greta Garbo. Sarah Bernhardt, or Fanny Bryce, depending on how her face looked when it matured.
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Born to Oren Oregano and Priscilla Persnickety, Roderico became the spoiled baby of the family of five children. His brothers and sisters did everything for him so he did not have to speak or walk or reach out for anything till past toddlerhood. The whole family anticipated his every whim. That all changed when Priscilla fell down the stairs and became an invalid. Her maiden sister Prudence had to come down from Auburn to help serve as nursemaid and surrogate mother to the children.
Prudence ran the house like a Marine boot camp. Each morning the kids lined up for inspections of teeth, fingernails, and polished shoes. She demanded her wards stay outside until supper. Every night after the meal, she ordered them to clear away dishes, to sit erect at the table like dutiful soldiers, and to do their homework.
Even little Roddy had to sit there with his siblings and do a puzzle. On the surface, everything ran smoothly; but underneath their exterior, the children felt abandoned. The older ones seethed and counted the days before they would leave home.
The house had five rooms so each child was responsible for cleaning one room per week. One week, the chore would be the kitchen; the next week, the living room. They actually liked having definite duties because seeing them busy made their mother Priscilla smile. But try as they might, they got nothing but a scowl from Aunt Prudence. She constantly scooted behind each one, criticizing a job if not done to her standards.
Meanwhile, Oren Oregano, the father, moved into the aunt’s house up in Auburn, an hour north to be close to the gas station he owned. Switching homes saved his having to travel back and forth to Biddeford every night, especially during the snowy months. Although Oren made only a few cents on each gallon of gas, his business always seemed to produce enough money.
At first the children did not know that he bought stolen cars cheap and had his mechanic break them down for parts to sell. Even with their basic needs adequately met, the children grew very unhappy. They had a disabled mother, an absent father, and a tyrannical aunt who had taken charge of their home and their lives. When the two oldest children finished high school, one went to college; the other joined the military. The next two quit school at fifteen and disappeared without saying a word.
When left by himself, Rod started skipping school in the 8th grade and stayed out all night just for spite to worry his aunt. When the police caught him hanging around City Hall, they picked him up for truancy and pegged him as a blossoming juvenile delinquent. Upon returning home from the station, he always brought a bag of licorice ropes to please his mother. She would tell Aunt Prudence not to punish the boy.
Finally at age sixteen, he ran off to Boston and got mixed up with some rather tough hoodlums who nicknamed him Rough Rod. They taught him the dope ropes. In no time, he was a full-fledged mobster and returned to Biddeford to develop his drug distribution outfit and a loan shark business on the side.
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Born into a Newfoundland family that never took risks, Roger grew up sitting on the bench at hockey and as fallback player in soccer. He slid through school, content with Cs on his tests. Although a good-looking young man, he never dated anyone for fear of the end result: marriage.
He remained a lonely bachelor who spent his life watching TV and reading encyclopedias. He followed his father into a safe career by working for an insurance company. His job required him to decide who got money to rebuild boats wrecked by accident or storms. He learned all about small fishing craft, medium sized yachts, giant motor vessels (MV), and steam ships (SS).
While his friends lived on the edge of danger as fishermen or mariners, Roger sat safely behind a desk. His scariest task was to figure out how often and at what age people usually died if they worked dangerous jobs. Gradually a strange behavior began to develop. He began to tell lies about everything. The more people talked about his expertise, the more lies he told. When he felt sure he would work for his company forever, he dreamt up imaginary tales to tell.
Somehow telling lies brought a weird excitement into his life, but they also got him into trouble on his job. He faked maintenance documents to suggest a boat owner had been negligent. That way his company did not have to pay out money for damage. One time, an insured boat owner had records to show his expert mechanic had kept the engine whirring like a top. That owner took the insurance company to court and won the case. Roger got fired.
Next, the Canadian Marine Safety Board hired Roger to inspect ships. He already believed the sea to be the world’s most dangerous place. Now in great fear, he had to spend many days on it just because he needed the job. After a few years, he discovered he did not mind being on big ships as much as he had on small fishing boats,.
His boss gave him many charts and books of regulations to understand how everything on a ship had to work properly to be safe. He discovered that many ship parts lasted short lives and had to be replaced constantly. He learned how crewmen had to train hard and to prepare for all types of emergencies. Since Roger had the job of inspecting vessels, he had to see those potential emergencies before they occurred, a daunting task at which he often failed!
Roger made several major goofs. A few days after his inspection of the SS Burgeo, its engine had stopped half way across Cabot Straits. A tug from N. Sydney had to tow it into port. This cost Marine Atlantic a ton of money. On another occasion, Roger failed to report three broken gauges in the boiler room where his childhood pal worked. Not wanting to get his friend in trouble had gotten Roger into trouble. Roger got called on the carpet for three things.
- lying about knowing someone who worked onboard
- neglecting proper procedures
- endangering the ferry’s crew and passengers.
His supervisor said his last inspection of the Englehart had only sketchy details about safety violations. The captain also caught him chatting with passengers instead of performing his duties. Roger claimed he spent that time listening to passenger complaints. His boss replied, "A real reason sounds like a sound reason, but a lie catches the liar."
Now, Roger had one last chance to redeem himself. This time he would not try to be a nice guy and risked being fired. Instead, he promised himself and his boss to write a proper inspection report - the best of his career.
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Sal and Val Pollibo
Salvatore and Valentino came as a surprise and a sadness to the Pollibo family because their mother died giving them birth. That death added a burden to their teenage sister who had to help rear them before she left home to marry. When the twins got old enough to go on the subway alone, they would visit their sister in her big fine home on East 55th Street. Always delighted to see them, Maria took them to the theatre for a bit of culture and refinement. Afterwards, she always let them have an Italian ice. They loved the treat but only feigned interest in the plays. Strangely though, they did enjoy going to operas, especially those sung in Italian. Such familiar sounds reminded them of when the whole family still lived together.
Back in the neighborhood, the Pollibo twins turned into rascals and bullies. They broke into candy stores, beat up non-Italian kids, and hogged the ball when playing street ball. At fifteen, they dropped out of school and lied about their ages to join the army. They tried their shenanigans in the military. Whereas at first, they only pulled pranks like short sheeting their buddies’ cots, later on they began to pocket ammunition when they went for target practice at the rifle range. When their sergeant discovered the theft, both Pollibos received dishonorable discharges.
Upon returning to Little Italy, they fell in with a local gang of hoodlums. Sal started selling protection to small businesses. If any shop refused to pay, he would break their display window into a hundred shards. While Sal ripped off small businessmen, Val worked the numbers racket with the tenants in the neighborhood.
Knowing every poor man dreamed that one day his number would come up or he’d win the Irish Sweepstakes, Val pandered gullible folks with that dream. Occasionally, a neighbor would announce winning twenty or thirty bucks. Such small wins would excite everyone. For a few days afterwards, Val’s business boomed. People would buy more numbers, hoping their ship would come in also.
As children, Sal and Val could not stand the idea of anyone who was not Italian. But, as they approached their thirties, they began to have irrational hatred for all non-Italians, especially if someone in the neighborhood married outside the ethnic group. Just as Papa Benito had expressed sadness and anger because Maria married someone from midtown, other families felt the same way. Having trained as a sniper in the military, Sal hired himself out to get rid of non-Italian family members.
He even decided on a very daring deed: to knock off his own brother-in-law David Mobley right in the middle of Grand Central Station with crowds of people walking around. Using a silencer on his gun, Sal shot David with impunity. No one noticed anything until the body dropped to the floor. While everyone fussed over the dying man, Sal dashed away, scot-free. That success moved Sal up to the big time as a hired killer.
With her husband gone, Maria felt bereft and needed company. She invited her twin brothers to come live with her in her huge mansion. Now living in a swanky area, Val distinguished himself by progressing from selling chances at the numbers game to upscale bookmaking. He made bets on anything: baseball, football, horses, and even the space race success.
When people welched on bets, he used his brawny body to convince them not to risk that again. If so, he’d threaten to sic his brother Sal on them. For a while, both Pollibo brothers made money by breaking the law.
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(Ima’s husband) As the oldest of the Purple kids, Sammy had to do lots of duties for the family. So, his happiest time each year came when he got his dad all to himself. Kids’ day at the Flint Parts Plant where his dad worked, proved his favorite outing. His next favorite was the annual air show at Selfridge Field. Real live fighter jets beat any airplane model he built and suspended from his bedroom ceiling.
Being the family daredevil, Sammy took lots of chances and got bunged up regularly, much to his mother’s chagrin. He played Little League for a while and loved to go to baseball games at Tiger Stadium. But growing stockier as a teenager, he figured a contact sport like wrestling or footfall better fit his body frame.
At fifteen, he switched from his parish’s parochial high school to a public one, hoping to play football and earning a scholarship to college. In his junior year, he began to date a cute, perky sophomore named Ímagine who had carrot-colored hair. When he went off to Michigan State in Lansing, it was impossible for him to come home as often as he wanted. In addition to his studies, he had football practices, out-of town games, and a grocery store job to pay living expenses.
Therefore, Sammy wrote Ima almost every day to keep her from being lonely. She also wrote him back every day to remind him not to miss her but not to forget her either. They remained sweethearts until they both graduated university and could marry at last. While Sammy set the tone for their marriage, Ima sprinkled their lives with spice. When he went away for pilot’s training, he told her when people in love must stay apart, their next meeting is even sweeter.
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Shakes was born William Perry, the youngest son of a clergyman. Like most English families, his parents wished to cultivate clever repartee in their children. Sitting for three hours at the Sunday dinner table was nothing unusual. Each child recited the gospel and epistle verses for that particular day of the Church calendar.
If they forgot, The Very Reverend Perry never got riled but with remarkable patience, gently reminded them of the scriptures on which he had preached. He believed children did not learn instantaneously but that they needed their whole childhood to grasp life’s meanings. To test if his sons understood his sermon or even listened to it, he asked poignant questions. First he would mention a key point and then ask if any child remembered the example he had given to prove his point. Then he would reverse the process. He would give a scripture and ask what sermon point explained it?
Whoever best summarized the whole sermon, he would take to town the coming week. On rare occasions, the winner might even get an apple. Rev. Perry used the techniques of repetition to develop in his children strong memories, a tool he knew would help them succeed in school and careers. So even on a non-school day, their brains got a workout.
Young Will had lived the shortest time but had the longest memory. Very precocious indeed, he read the newspaper by age three and presented his original poems at the dinner table by five. All agreed his destined career lay in either performing or writing. However, during World War I, childhoods got cut short. Whereas his parents sent Will to Wales for safety and to continue his schooling, the other boys had reached the age to be soldiers. They returned from war about the time Will prepared for university. All quite smart, the boys applied to Cambridge.
Often in a family of boys, the oldest might study medicine, the next might become a barrister, the next youngest might go into the military as an officer. That left the youngest who might become a priest or professor. Even so, Will quickly distinguished himself as a man of letters and received academic awards for writing excellence. As impressive as the accolades were, Shakes felt his writing lacked verve.
He went to live in Stratford, hoping Shakespeare’s birthplace might extrude through his own tender soul, a great sonnet or play. After that, he served as book-holder for the Old Vic Players in Bristol, England. There he gained an understanding of how theatre works and plays are assembled. Then moving to London to complete his worldly education, he attended many plays produced in the area. For several years, he lived the starving artist’s life, bouncing around with little direct ambition and less income.
To get experience, most actors and writers had to work for free. The worldwide depression hit the arts harder than the banks. Few folks had money to buy paintings or tickets for a show. So, he became a schoolmaster until the economy looked better. Just about the time he felt again ready to put pen to paper and write a serious play, World War II broke out. A bit old to join the military, he became a free-lance war correspondent.
He did a weekly radio show to report what went on in the war across the channel. From almost illegible notes, he often announced the wrong place of a battle. His handwriting was so shaky, he earned the name Shakes. Finally, he bought a typewriter to prepare more professional looking articles which he sold to the London Times, the Gazette, the Paris edition of the New York Herald, and other newspapers on the allies’ side. His writing brought much recognition and a little remuneration.
During the war, Shakes heard about Lottie Longwind’s work with soldiers and went to interview the renown hostess. Shakes witnessed her actions in her own element. She threw elegant parties for young soldiers injured or full-bodied. He started listening to soldiers’ stories and gathered enough background to write novels based on their lives.
In no time, he served as a regular guest at Lottie’s battalion banquets. She took note of the writer’s mastery of words, enjoyed his company, and tried to match his light repartee. She decided, with Lionel successfully launched into New York’s theatre scene, she would start to promote literary works by William Shakes Perry. She even offered him her attic garret to live for free so he would get his first novel written.
Gradually, most of his creative friends started working in television. A few stragglers remained idealists, preferring to sit around cafes and discussing art. They condemned others for selling out to commercialism by taking jobs. As a youth, Shakes spent nearly a decade sharing that opinion; but now, he felt wise enough to ignore such bad logic.
Why should a creative person not work and pull a paycheck? He had seen too many so-called "geniuses" become mediocre artists or depressed drinkers, destroying their brains and bodies. They did not sound even smart, much less rank as geniuses. He remembered the text to one of his father’s sermons. "False teachers bring their own destruction." So Shakes decided no longer to follow these "artists" whom he now tagged properly as wastrels.
Before Shakes knew it, the entertainment world needed his talents as well. Shakes saw a different route for getting what he wanted. He postponed getting married, hired into the new medium of television, and saved a nest egg. In his spare time, he still worked on his own stories. He hoped to make enough money and meet enough important contacts to quit his day job and write full time. Then he would concentrate on the higher arts. Whereas, the idealists could stay in their cafes and ivory towers, Shakes wanted to breathe the same air as all the realists struggling for and finally winning true success.
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Shelton (Vino) Grape
Born with the last name of Vino, Shelton never fit in with the other kids on his block of Little Italy. A rather bookish boy, he was tall, skinny, and almost frail-looking. The tough Pollibo twins teased him unmercifully and even beat him up to get his allegiance. Although dominated by these bullies, he rarely went along with their pranks.
As Shelton matured, his face filled out and his voice deepened. The drama teacher cast him in the senior play which made him more popular at school. From then on, the lure of the stage hooked Shelton.
He took acting lessons and soon got bit parts in off Broadway plays. Although handsome enough, he lacked the edginess that great actors like Orson Wells or John Barrymore had. His voice seemed too big for the stage and too loud for films but better suited for radio. Therefore, Shelton attended disk jockey school and found his professional niche as a broadcast announcer. Even so, that did not satisfy his ego to perform in front of a live audience. To keep his theatre dream alive, he took lessons with a vocal coach. After toning down his booming voice, he won a few minor roles on Broadway.
During a tour of one play, he met and married Dee Ann Jones of Tulsa, Oklahoma. It upset her family that she had married an Italian, so he changed his name from Vino to Grape, figuring at least his name still meant fruit of the vine. One evening the bad-news Pollibo twins from the old neighborhood attended a performance in which Shelton had a part. They recognized him but not the name listed on the program. When they came backstage to congratulate him, Sal asked, "What’s with the name Grape? Are you ashamed of being Italian?
"Of course not. It’s a stage name," Shelton said, lying about the true reason. "I’ll tell you about it sometime."
Shelton had mixed feelings about reconnecting with the old gang. He enjoyed the camaraderie but not the memory of their cruel teasing. One afternoon, he visited the old neighborhood and learned that the Pollibo twins had moved to a posh midtown brownstone. Old friends told how their sister Maria needed their comfort since someone had murdered her husband.
On another occasion, Shelton bumped into the Pollibos having drinks at P.J. Clarke’s, a local show-biz haunt. Watching Val exchange money with several patrons, he surmised that this hangout served as a place to collect and pay off bets. After a couple of drinks, all their tongues loosened. By evening’s end, they had exhausted the subject of old times and had drunk themselves into a stupor. Shelton learned about Val’s becoming the local bookie and about Sal’s running a "missing persons" business.
"Isn’t it hard to find missing people," Shelton said naïvely.
"Precisely, and I make sure they stay missing," Sal explained.
"Oh," Shelton said, not understanding at first. "Do you work for the Police or the FBI?"
"No, I work solo," said Sal.
Finally feeling comfortable enough to share his own history, Shelton admitted having to change his name to pacify his in-laws. "They objected to Vino sounding too Italian."
Val jumped up and flexed his muscles. "Well, how about Pollibo? I object to anyone objecting to names that sound too Italian."
"Yeah, that someone may find his name missing from the phone directory," said Sal.
Suddenly Shelton realized what Sal meant about "missing persons" and "working alone." When he got home that night, he told his wife about his old bullying neighbors now had illegal jobs as a bookie and a hit man.
"Do you think my folks might end up on a hit list," she asked anxiously.
Shelton shook his head, deciding not to worry about Sal’s idle threat but to keep Pollibos’ chosen careers tucked away for future use. Maybe, after all these years, he’d find a way to bully the bullies. Better yet, maybe he’d hold this secret over their heads to get their help to advance his own career.
Although achieving modest success in New York, Shelton grew bitter about Dee Ann wanting to climb the social ladder. She insisted they rent an expensive loft in the Village. He reminded her that after paying the current rent each month, they had little left for entertainment, much less for a bigger apartment. She grew very dissatisfied. Hoping to keep her happy and to boost his income, he began to bet on the horses and arrange card games with high stakes. Once he lost too much money, Shelton lost his wife as well.
Dee Ann disappeared without a trace, leaving him lonely and heartbroken. He suspected her parents had influenced her to divorce him, anything to extricate her from this marriage, even going against his church rules.
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Stuart, the Steward
Stuart MacVie grew up an only child on Cape Breton, NS. His father, a coal miner in Sydney, contracted Black Lung and worked himself into an early grave. His mother returned to her native Newfoundland and waited tables at a local Corner Brook restaurant. On Saturday nights, she played accordion and little Stuey fiddled for the customers. He loved seeing the folks jig to his music. Every week resembled a Christmas kitchen party.
Disliking the idea of working below ground as his father had, Stuart decided not to be a miner. He believed the action was above ground, where he could travel and meet exciting people. At first he studied to become a chef at the brand new Holland College on Prince Edward Island. But unable to keep a soufflé from falling in the oven, Stuart figured his talents lay elsewhere. So, next, he trained to be a steward with Air Canada.
Although he liked flying, he had crazy schedules which left him no time to meet the right girl to marry. So after a few years, Stuart decided he preferred to be on the ground, instead in the air. Having heard that trainmen worked until they dropped dead, he took a job on the Newfie Bullet. Unfortunately, shortly after that, the Bullet was pronounced dead as well.
Canada’s government had decided that the ribbons of roads on the new TCH could replace the passenger rails. Stuart’s life felt like fifty two card pick-up. Being forced to change jobs sooner than expected, he felt grateful and relieved he had not settled down with a house and family. Once again, he began to look for a new career and applied to Marine Atlantic for a ferry job.
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Swoopy grew up in the Missouri heartland in a middle class neighborhood. Though his long German face resembled a sad basset hound, he played the role of a happy clown. He loved to perform daring tricks and always got lots of laughs and applause.
One trick involved climbing a tree in his front yard and crawling out on a high limb. After he made a speech about being the famous German pilot called Red Baron, he would spread a sheet like a parachute and jump down. Even if his tricks hurt him, he would not let on. Instead he would roll on the ground and giggle so as to fool everyone and make them laugh.
At age 10, he got bit by the daredevil bug. On his bike, he would grab a truck’s rear bumper and hitch a ride. Neighbors discussed Swoopy’s shenanigans and told his mother these stunts modeled a danger other kids might copy. When she could not stop Swoopy, they finally refused to let their children play with him. Still, Swoopy craved attention. At school, kids mixed scraps of food with pencil shavings into a glass and paid him to eat the concoction. Determined not to spit it out, he gagged until swallowing it all.
Most teenagers in this small Midwestern town were normal, likeable kids. They spent free hours talking to friends on the phone or hanging around the Dairy Queen, but not Swoopy. He stepped up his escapades and flirted with bigger tricks and trouble. He would pedal through the DQ parking lot and throw stink bombs to draw attention to himself. As his antics grew more risky, some classmates thought them no longer funny; others egged him on.
A smart but undisciplined kid, Swoopy started cutting classes in the 7th grade. He’d be gone for a week; but upon returning, he easily caught up on whatever studies he missed. Although his mother loved him dearly, she indulged him too much. She left discipline to the father who often worked out of town for weeks, even months at a time. If the school complained about Swoopy’s behavior, she often took her son’s side.
When Swoopy’s father died in a car accident, his mom lost complete control of the boy. In desperation over what to do, she started dragging Swoopy to church. She figured that at least once a week, the preacher could drill a hole into her brilliant but blockheaded son and pour in some common sense. Calling him "Blockhead," her pet name for him, only made him do crazier things to make her laugh.
Always the joker, each week after church, he put a cardboard box over his head and pretended to be a robot named Blockhead. In a mechanical voice, he would preach a sermon to himself, saying "You must change and round out your blockhead into a ballhead." She would giggle a little.
Knowing his chances of changing were slim, she simply ignored his growing delinquency. She loved him enough to forgive whatever bad thing he did, but not enough to discipline him correctly. Predictably, he grew more belligerent and obnoxious.
By the 10th grade, he proudly belonged to a group of ne’er-do-wells who got into constant mischief. On top of no discipline at home Swoopy’s uncle, his mother’s brother, encouraged such rebellion. He would buy beer for the boys and hide it in a garbage can in the alley between the pool hall and the pawnshop, a special meeting place for kids. Supplied well, they spent their afternoons getting drunk and drawing younger kids into their den of iniquity. Although they thought they were hot-stuff, the cops tagged them, the local lowlifes.
In the 11th grade Swoopy finally quit school, lied about his age, and joined the Air Force. As uneven as his school career had been, he still impressed everyone with his entrance test scores. His commander insisted he finish the GED to qualify to become a non-commissioned officer.
When helicopter pilots began dropping like flies in Indo-China, Swoopy rose quickly in the ranks as an aircraft mechanic. He knew the engines better than anyone in his outfit and could out-maneuver the young lieutenants practicing with their flight simulators.He wanted to go to flight school but was told he needed a college degree to apply. Finally, the military gave him basic flight training to understand the pilot’s problems and how a craft functioned in the air. But still, he had no authorization to fly except in emergencies.
In an early Vietnam skirmish, he had been allowed to go on a routine sortie. When both the pilot and co-pilot were shot, Swoopy saw a chance to show his stuff. He stepped into the cockpit and with the navigator’s help, safely landed the helicopter. Tagged the hero of the day, Swoopy hungered for that to happen every day.
Before he finished his service, the military assigned him to Dow AFB in Bangor, Maine. When his tour of duty finished, he tried to get a job at one of the small airports in Maine. Although his military superiors gave him good recommendations, his public school records marked him as a troublemaker.
Not able to get hired doing legitimate work, Swoopy lost his sense of humor which had always gotten him out of tight spots. He bummed around Bar Harbor and then Portland before ending up in Biddeford where he got a job fixing machinery at a cloth mill. In the evenings he hung out at Judges Bar to play pool and drink.
That’s where Swoopy met Rough Rod and teamed up with Claude Gagnon who needed a pilot for a business venture. At last, Swoopy had the chance to fly regularly even though he was unlicensed and the product he delivered was illegal.
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Teresa Latimer Longwind
Teresa Gutierrez came from a family of five and grew up in Harlem’s Puerto Rican neighborhood. Her Latin eyes, blue-black hair, and shy nature made her an adored child at home and at school. Her folks recognized her intelligence, wanted the best for her, but had no idea how to steer her into her destiny.
Teachers praised her bright mind and early one directed her into having a serious academic career. Teresa adapted well to individual attention and strove to please everyone around her, as well as herself. She won the school’s spelling bee in the sixth grade and became the champion of all Manhattan.
While attending high school, she had a major setback. Her father became seriously ill. Her mother took a job in the garment district to support their family. At first, Teresa and her two brothers alternated staying home to take care of the father. Finally, it fell to her to drop out of school entirely. But inside, she refused to give up her dream to know more about life. Once a week, she ran to the library to check out new books.
When Mr. Gutierrez grew strong enough to be left at home alone, Teresa went back to school. Having missed more than two years, she found that most of her classmates had graduated. Others had quit to join the army at the tail end of WWII. Very motivated, Teresa studied hard, went to summer school, and finished within a year.
More than anything else in life, Teresa wanted to go to college. Her folks had no money for such a venture. They told her that people had to accept whatever lot life offered. Teresa refused that idea. Discouraging words did not squelch her desire to know more. So, in the mornings, she helped her mom sew uniforms for soldiers. In the evenings, she took a few business courses at City College.
In the newspaper, she read that Columbia University gave scholarships to a few deserving students every year. Her application essay showed the school that her early sacrifices had matured her into a truly remarkable girl. The entrance exam proved quite difficult, but she passed. Soon Teresa entered the famous school and carried no other thought with her than to study hard to pass every course in her degree plan. She graduated with honors and soon got a job at Chase Manhattan Bank.
Then, for the first time in her life, Teresa relaxed and thought about dating. At work, she met Terence Latimer, a young man destined to be a vice president before he reached thirty. Of course, with identical nicknames, their colleagues teased them about being Terry2 and figured they were also destined for each other. They fell in love and married the summer of 1948.
Because Terence just missed the World War II draft, he felt pressed to serve his country when the Korean Conflict started. He went to OCS to become an army lieutenant and planned for Teresa to join him if he got stationed in the States. But once he completed the training, his whole outfit deployed to the Korean front.
In the dead of winter, Terence and his men got cut off from the rest of the company. His radioman worked furiously to get through to HQ. Munitions ran low. Food grew scarce. He and many other soldiers developed frozen feet. When rescuers finally arrived, they whisked Terry’s unit off to a hospital in Tokyo. Because of delayed treatment, an infection had set into his legs and spread throughout his body. He died before coming home.
Devastated, Teresa took a leave of absence from her job and moved back with her family for a few months. She needed time to recover such a loss so early in her marriage. Upon returning to her job, she made work her chief desire and outlet. In the ensuing years, she distinguished herself in the banking world by writing articles about how customers could save for retirement.
For her achievements, she received the top employee award many years in a row and advanced to higher positions than usually offered to women. However, no one could deny her abilities. Building upon her success, Teresa left banking and went to work on Wall Street to sell stocks. She continued to develop her idea for how regular folk could retire with more savings.
Although a beautiful young widow who often attracted men’s eyes, Teresa stayed single. However, when she met Lionel Longwind, lights turned on in a room that had been dark for almost twenty years. At first glance, she could not resist the matinee idol.
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Twisted like the roots of a tree, the O’Toole family tried to hang onto the rocky soil and shores of Newfoundland. Mother Mae O’Toole hailed from the St. John’s area and only finished the 3rd grade. Although known to be sweet as cream, she had pudding for a brain. Foolishly and shamefully, she married a crook and got suckered into illegal capers. With no other skill than gutting seafood, she worked every season in a fish plant. Her meager wages at least kept the family fed and clothed. Unfortunately, dampness in her workplace and stress from a guilty conscience brought her to an early death.
Tom O’Toole dropped out of grammar school early. He had a strong brain but a closed mind, good ideas but bad morals, street smarts but almost no education, lots of common sense but no sense of consequences, survival instincts but no social graces. Still, the world changed too quickly for him so he had to prove himself other ways. As an able liar who claimed to be a great fisherman, he often slept all day and bragged all night about the size of his catches. Actually, his skiff was a dangerous wreck and could not pass muster when time came for safety certificates. Since he had never learned the most basic emergency signals of the Morse Code, the Coast Guard only allowed him to fish close to shore.
When Mae died, Papa Tom figured his sons had twice the education as he and Mae had. He forced them to quit school to help him fish! Bart and Smart gladly dropped out of school at 6th grade and followed in their father’s footsteps, dark and muddy as these were.
Once the boys grew big and strong, Tom devised a better way to make money with less work. Rather than to eek out a living as shoreline fishermen, he suggested they become pirates on the sea and buccaneers on the shore. This required he use his only real talent: observation.
Tom observed how fishing crews grew very lax about locking their boat hatches. He also noticed that tired fisherman often let their bellies rule after a hard trip out to sea. Instead of waiting for the fish inspectors to come check their daily catch, the hungry men would head down the wharf for a bowl of chowder at some greasy dive. While the crews’ devil may care attitude made them poorer, it made the O’Tooles prosperous.
Tom and his sons happily filched fish from unmanned boats idling at the wharf. They even siphoned gas from the boat motors. When boat owners hired guards to protect their catches, the O’Tooles simply moved to another cove. Soon they were known as the notorious O’Toole Gang. Over the next few years, they stole fish up and down the coast of the Avalon and Bonavista peninsulas of eastern Newfoundland. And, when the fishermen wised up to such shenanigans, the O’Tooles simply moved onto the Burin peninsula. There they expanded their bag of tricks.
In the wee morning hours, they pilfered fish from outside dumping bins at various fish plants. When the next evening came, Tom and his sons would return to the same plant to sell back the stolen fish they pretended to have caught during a hard day’s work. Tom had such a wide-open, innocent-looking face he could have convinced the most skeptical priest.
Gradually, most Burin plant owners tagged the O’Tooles as the culprits stealing their fish. They agreed the gang had to be stopped! But how? The RCMP had more important crimes to solve than petty theft of fish. But Lim Ling had a plan that would either stop the theft or catch the rascals. Finally Papa Tom got caught red-handed at Lim’s fish plant and sent to prison.
When he left prison, his sons could not be found. Feeling too old to run the fish game by himself, he took a menial job at the Long Pier Pub, a rowdy sailors’ place on Placentia Bay. For sweeping up and washing dishes, he got a few dollars and three meals a day.
One night his two sons just happened to amble into the pub. The family had a big reunion. The boys told Papa Tom about their recent jobs and their idea about copying great crimes. Tom thought it would be a brilliant idea for the family to pull its last caper on the last trip of the Newfie Bullet. A last for a last! The gang would go out with a bang. Smart looked at Bart, "See, I told you trains was a good idea. Who’s the smart one now?"
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(Ima’s nemesis) Spoiled by her real estate tycoon father Beau Belforte and ignored by her socialite mother MaryLinda Chasen Belforte, Miss Vanna essentially reared herself. Her blasé English nanny proved as useless as a tree stump, reading more books to herself than to the little girl in her charge. Neglected and without a role model, Vanna started acting out to get attention and affection.
Her parents threw swim parties, lawn parties, BBQ parties, card parties, Christmas parties, in fact, all kinds...except slumber parties. Since they never invited over anyone Vanna’s age, the girl learned to charm older people at the adult parties. One moment she was a perfect fairy princess doll; and the next, she was Hazel the witch. She performed magic tricks with disappearing cards and coins. The entertainment delighted the guests and embarrassed MaryLinda.
To add to Vanna’s misery and loneliness, she grew more lovely each year. Her beauty made the other girls at school and the country club very jealous. They stayed away from her and made up nasty gossip about the unhappy rich girl. The coup de grace for her young life happened when guests caught her lifting watches at a country club cotillion. Though victims of her crime did not press charges, they denied Vanna her own coming out party.
The only true friend Vanna found was Patsy Lou, a scrappy little girl with matted hair who lived in a cottage at the edge of the highfalutin Lullwater section of Atlanta. This little square structure had once served as the guardhouse to the then much larger Chasen Plantation estate. In fact at one time, Vanna’s maternal ancestors owned thousands of acres of prime real estate between Atlanta and Decatur. When hard times hit during the bad depression of 1893, they sold off parcels of land, bit by bit. Gradually, other mansions and even an entire golf course appeared. Now, only the small stone cottage remained to remind passers-by of the Grand Old South.
Whereas most of the Belforte’s neighbors sent their daughters to finishing school to smooth off their rough edges, Vanna experienced a reverse process with her friend Patsy Lou. She admired and studied Patsy’s skill to pickpocket wallets and to confuse cashiers. A curious pair indeed, they took regular bus trips downtown to Rich’s Department Store where they shopped and shoplifted.
While Vanna paid for some items, Patsy Lou grabbed nearby things which fancied her. She felt she deserved these rewards to make up for the short end of the stick life had handed her. Vanna also learned how to confuse the salesgirls, by asking to see something from the display cases at the far end. While the clerk went to get the item, Vanna would sneak into her purse anything loose lying on the front counter. She would pay for what she had requested but not for what she had shoplifted. Hence, for the price of one, she got two items: one for her and one for Patsy.
On Vanna’s sixteenth birthday, she got a Mercedes 280 convertible. Now with a car, the two girls whizzed out to suburban malls to practice their warped talent. They became masters of the uneven exchange, switching price tags on items they wanted to buy or walking out in shoes taken off the display tables. Their tricks included trying on lingerie and throwing their own in the trash. They would stash gloves, sunglasses, bracelets, and panties into their purses but never got caught.
Because Vanna was pretty and very articulate, she would distract the floorwalker by asking him questions. Sometimes she slipped on the floor on purpose. While other customers rallied around her, Patsy Lou would lift their wallets or take items from the counters. Then the two devious girls would switch roles. Patsy would play the poor runaway teenager looking for spare change to buy food, and Vanna would slip her hand in and out of bystander pockets.
This teen team in crime became best buddies. They shared everything and swore to keep secret their shoplifting capers. As unredeemable as they seemed, Patsy and Vanna promised each other to remain virgins and to stay away from drugs forever. They sealed their vow with a blood-sister oath and agreed to call anyone who messed around with boys or drugs, a dope! Indeed a paradox!
Although growing up with no other girlfriends except Patsy Lou, Vanna had boys standing in line. Right after graduation, she took a few summer classes at Emory University. In the afternoons, she invited some college boys over to swim at her family’s estate. As she walked around the pool, the flowing manner of her tall, slim, athletic body tantalized their eyes; but her sharp banter cut them down to chewable size.
Even with all the attention she got from boys, none met her fancy except Rich DuPlantis. Ever since elementary school, Vanna had liked Rich because he seemed to accept her just as she was. Then in high school, she like his rugged good looks. He never bored her and even made her laugh. Just before she was due to leave for Sophie Newcomb College, Rich gave her a friendship ring. That meant they were engaged-to-be-engaged. They vowed not to tell anyone. Vows meant a lot to Vanna.
With Vanna way off at school way in New Orleans, Patsy Lou despaired. She had no other friends either. She ran away from the cottage and landed in the lower Ponce area of Atlanta where the derelicts and prostitutes had begun to hang out. She grew mean and weathered-looking from living on the streets. One day Patsy Lou got shot in the crossfire of a drug deal gone bad. The newspapers barely covered the story, nor did the Belfortes write Vanna about it. Her mother actually celebrated that the scrappy girl was finally out of the picture.
When Vanna came home for the holidays, she tried to find out what had happened to her only friend. The news of Patsy’s death sent Vanna off the deep end. She quit college and left town, without telling Rich. He understood how upset she was and put his plans for them on hold. He loved Vanna and intended to wait for her to calm down.
That winter, Vanna roamed around Florida resorts and went on a rampage. She picked up some beach bums who had nothing worthwhile she could steal. After a few months of sunning on the beach, Vanna grew bored and wanted some action. When Spring Break came, she got ready to perform. Lots of rich college kids would come to Ft. Myers, driving Jaguars and Corvettes and sporting gold pendants from sororities and fraternities.
Vanna taught her temporary friends how to think like a crook. First off, they took a dune buggy for a joy ride but returned it before getting caught. Then, they ransacked glove compartments of convertibles lined in front of big hotels and easily made off with sparkling diamond watches of naïve car owners swimming nearby in sparkling waters.
Again Vanna grew bored and restless. Wanting some new action, she considered the fun she might have conning the gullible marks on a college campus, all those softies just waiting to be ripped off. But instead, she committed herself to a wanton life of crime, to strike like a snake before anyone could get to her first.
She returned to Atlanta, packed her bags for the French Rivera, but was unprepared for Rich’s forgiving arms. Melting into his embrace, she forgot her evil goals. However, as he tried to get their romance back on track, Vanna had not expected her parents’ reaction. The Belfortes began to put up barriers against Rich and to find other beaus to compete with him for Vanna. They invited over Emory fraternity boys and sons of club members, all with upper class breeding. To Vanna’s mind, her parents’ choices were all misfits that belonged in three categories:
1. frightened puppets who followed orders without question
2. worthless playboys/playgirls who planned to squander their inheritances
3. rebellious ingrates who carved out dangerous paths
Vanna admitted all three tendencies herself. Like a puppet, she sometimes played along with her parents’ ridiculous schemes, pretending to have no original thoughts. She would act very malleable, like putty in their hands to be molded into their object of art. That behavior became a game to her, one to win later. And, spending her inheritance presented no challenge. She had been reckless with money since childhood. While her mother dressed the girl to fit a socially acceptable image, her father let her do and have anything she desired. Secretly, Vanna didn’t want their money but believed her penchant for theft and sleight-of-hand could provide anything she needed as an adult. Yet of these three categories, rebellion held the strongest identification for her
Stealing seemed a less hurtful way to rebel against her parents than getting in trouble with a boyfriend. Vanna prided herself in her vow to Patsy and secretly laughed at the silly girls whose parents whisked them off to a place called Villa Magdalena. The country clubbers all acted as if it were to a Caribbean Island for a vacation instead to a home for unwed mothers.
Figuring marriage would bring stability to Vanna, the Belfortes stepped up their campaign for potential suitors. Meanwhile, figuring marriage would bring less embarrassment for her parents, Vanna called Rich to ask if they could elope. But he did not want to hide his love for her.
Taking the bull by the horns, Rich asked Mr. Belforte for Vanna’s hand in marriage but was refused. Although the DuPlantis family had money, Rich was not rich enough to impress the Belfortes. Besides, Vanna would have to be supported in the style she had been reared. Setting their minds against such a union, they told him never to broach the subject again. Stunned and rejected, Rich immediately joined the military. While in survival training, he went missing and was presumed dead. Vanna became inconsolable. Nothing brought her any comfort.
Hoping to restore her to some measure of happiness, Tall Daddy thought it best for Vanna to meet someone new and marry quickly. Therefore, with a season of mixers, the Belfortes threw all the upper crust kids together to let nature take its course.
As chance would have it, Chance Smythe, a distant heir to the Coca Cola fortune, rose to the top of the list. He seemed like the dream design for a son-in-law. Vanna fell slightly in love with him, but he was not Rich.
As soon as the Belfortes announced the engagement, plans for a huge wedding began. Vanna’s mother MaryLinda finally showed excitement over something besides her own interests. Then, mere weeks before the wedding and with invitations in the mail, Chance changed his mind. He decided not to take a chance on Vanna and broke the engagement...and Mrs. Belforte’s heart.
Mr. Belforte saw his daughter’s despair and made another quick decision. He shipped Vanna off on a Grand Tour of Europe to help her grieve another loss in her young life. This type of trip served as the usual reward or punishment for a broken engagement. So Vanna found herself thrown with a group of silly girls with nothing in common except their fiancés had jilted them.
To soothe their damaged egos, these forlorn females flirted shamelessly with fancy gigolos traveling on the Continent. And, like raw flesh thrown into fresh water, their lonely eyes easily attracted the eager piranhas around Europe. Vanna had read how these unscrupulous men lurked in all the glamorous tourist points: Trafalgar Square in London, Eiffel Tower in Paris, Spanish Steps in Rome, Ringstrasse in Vienna, and Parthenon in Athens.
The gigolos considered the silly girls easy pickings because their daddies were not close-by to protect them. Even the tour guides started to flirt with them. Vanna grew stiff and impervious to any of this attention. Soon no one made advances, much less touched her.
Finally Vanna broke from the pack of marriage-rejects. First, she flopped at a hostel full of young Americans students. Then, she hitchhiked with a few of them and took rides with local families on holiday. Just for fun, she rented a sports car and followed a military convoy. She flirted mercilessly with many soldiers who waved to her from the truck cab and from under the canvas canopy. Vanna felt safe being friendly from a distance. That required no relationship...no commitment...just fantasy.
For a couple of months, Vanna hitched a ride on a Moped behind a young priest named Antonio. Each night he deposited her at a local nunnery. The next morning, they would be on their way across Europe again.
In the Alps they attended a reunion of Antonio’s red-headed family. The family hailed mostly from the Swiss city of Lugano but chattered endlessly in Italian. Pointing to and soon fanning their hands over Vanna’s auburn hair, they took her in as part of their family. For the first time in recent memory, she let down her guard. Impressed with Vanna’s beauty, Antonio’s mother said, "Too bad for you Tony is a priest. Otherwise, what beautiful grandbabies I would have. But, my baby son Guido could marry you after university?"
Everyone laughed at her instant match making. Vanna wondered about this loving group and its unassuming nature. Even so, just like her parents, marriage and family seemed to be their answer to everything...not the nightmare she imagined.
Vanna never rejoined the Miss Broken-Hearts tour. Instead, she began hobnobbing with the idle rich on the Continent. She looked like part of their group. Each night she went to parties or the casinos, dressed fit to kill. Necklaces and earrings and bracelets simply flew into her hands. That proved that her good looks, nimble fingers, and feminine wiles had given her favor. With great success, she set her course: to live a life of high-class theft and to defraud any unsuspecting victims she met. That policy worked fine…until Newfoundland.
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(Ima’s father-in-law) A rather jovial fellow, Wally earned a good living as an autoworker. He served as a foreman on the factory floor and steward for his local union. Although generous in helping anyone who really needed it, he otherwise believed in saving every other penny he made. When he married Lydia, the girl next door, they lived in a tiny garage apartment until they could afford to make a down payment on a house in Memphis, Michigan outside of Port Huron.
The Purples resembled the typical middle-class family of post World War II. They had four boys and one girl: Sammy, the oldest, and Molly, the youngest. Their philosophy of child rearing expressed a healthy outlook on life: provide kids with wholesome fun, inoculate them with respect of others; expose them to faith, teach them useful skills, and expect them to learn from life’s lessons. Since that system worked with all five, they never modified it. In fact, their house became the one where every kid in the neighborhood wanted to live.
Having played football in high school, he had hoped to have enough boys to form his own team. Alas, he had to settle for only five kids, at least enough to play basketball. Wally intended his boys to become men sooner than later. While wanting them to know how to shovel snow, mow lawns, and fix cars, he also used domestic situations to help them grow in wisdom and stature. If they broke anything, they had to clean up the mess and earn money to replace the damaged item.
Instead of having long vacations or expensive entertainments, the Purples visited industrial sites. They toured Kellogg’s Cereal Factory, Gerber’s Apple Orchards, Ford’s Assembly Plant, and Grand Rapids’ furniture plants. Twice a year each kid got to take one excursion all alone with Wally. Then in autumn, the whole family piled in the car to go hunting; and in winter, they went ice fishing.
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Burt Westerly was born to be an entertainer. His parents owned one of New York’s first moving picture theatres in the East Village, so he grew up watching the silent movies and then the talkies. With no need to buy a ticket, he would see them over and over until he could dance every step, sing every song, and tell every joke. Burt planned to make movies or be in them when he grew up.
Just as he prepared to go university, the Great Depression hit. Although many families pulled their children out of college to save money for more important things like food and shelter, his folks insisted Burt go on with his education. They had observed a strange fact: people, poor or not, kept going to see movies. In the face of lost jobs and lost homes, movies served as an escape from their misery. So, the Westerly Picture Show not only stayed open but prospered.
By the time Burt finished his degree, the movie production business had mostly moved to Hollywood. With no interest in going west and knowing only big names could find enough work in movies to stay in New York, he decided to make his fame and fortune in broadcasting. The Big Apple still reigned as king of radio, and most American families at least owned one of those. Radio tagged Burt as Wes Westerly, the novelty actor. He excelled in doing character voices and dialects and even did cartoon characters for Saturday morning kid shows. Although not a household face or name like a movie star, he became one of radio’s most famous and familiar voices.
Preferring to work every day, he played many different roles, ages, and nationalities from afternoon soap opera villains to evening detectives. Soon he became the highest paid and most sought after radio actor in America. Since radio shows were live broadcasts, Wes would finish one program at CBS studios, go down the elevator to a waiting taxi, and be zoomed over to the NBC network housed in Rockefeller Center.
Most radio actors could stand in front of a microphone and sight-read a script with no mistakes. Producers often handed them local commercials to read at the first, middle, and last of a show. This saved the station money for not having to hire a separate spot announcer. In the early 1950s, television became the chief form of home entertainment. Things began to change rapidly.
This new medium proved expensive to produce. TV shows had only 22 minutes to tell a story that sponsors would buy and audiences would watch. Producers hired Wes to help design commercials. He also taught writers how to time their story scripts to fit exactly the timeslots for commercials. Although his radio experience made his advice invaluable to this growing industry, Wes craved a more active role.
Big companies like Ivory Soap, Kellogg Cereals, Texaco Gas, and Lucky Strike Cigarettes clamored to sponsor TV shows. But having their names splashed over the new small screen meant going through advertising agencies. Television spots required more sophisticated ad specialists. Wes sensed TV ads needed better actors and announcers to bring them alive. Agencies knew how to write and produce radio and print ads. But they had not polished their skills at making TV commercials. These short ads required hiring both visual and vocal talents. Seeing a unique opportunity, Wes called together all his old radio cronies.
At their first gathering, they reminisced about the radio heyday. No one disagreed that their faces did not looked young or handsome enough for the new visual medium of television. So, the next step proved easy. Wes proposed a new concept by which he would represent his radio buddies as their agent and explained how it would work. TV needed these accomplished voice-over announcers to talk behind the new commercials. He convinced them that they would make more money behind the scenes than they ever had in front of a microphone. Even if individual commercials did not pay very much, he foresaw actors could have steady voice-over work.
So, Wes left the advertising business and set up the Westerly Talent Agency. He helped to expand AFTRA to protect television as well as radio performers from unscrupulous producers. From his new vantage point, he provided a great service to professional actors and ad agencies casting departments alike. He had a master’s touch for matching the perfect voice to a particular commercial. His taste, reputation, and integrity attracted the best ad agencies for contracts and the best actors for clients.
One of his prize clients was Lionel Longwind, the longtime Broadway singing star transplanted from England. Wes also represented well-known local announcers like Shelton Grape, several jingle-writing musicians, a couple of documentary producers, as well as a few budding actresses and fashion models. Amateurs beat down his door to get on his list, but he kept his stable of clients to a size he could represent properly and handle with care.
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