Category Archives: historical nonfiction

COME HITHER, DEAR READER…

Excerpt from — Bosses and Blackjacks: A Tale of the Bloody Fifth in Philadelphia:

Smith pulled a large white monogrammed square from his breast pocket and dabbed his broad face. “This damn August heat! How about a drink, Dave?”                                                                                Sure, why not.”                                                                            Lemonade, or something stronger, perhaps?”                                   As strong as you’ve got, sounds good.”                                            Tom Smith stood at the golden oak credenza across the room from his desk where several bottles of liquor, a silver ice bucket, and crystal glasses sat at the ready.                                                  Scotch?”                                                                                                 Fine.”                                                                                                  Dave leaned back and closed his eyes as he listened to ice clinking into glasses and the splashing of the Scotch as it hit the cubes. He’d been drinking one thing or another every day for the past couple of months, and today would be no different. Direct from the bottle or in crystal, made no difference. Blurring his senses was all that mattered.

If you’d like to read more . . . https://www.amazon.com/Bosses-Blackjacks-Bloody-Fifth-Philadelphia/dp/1523349093

NOT SO LONG AGO . . .

Little Rock Voters Vote to Close Public Schools

Moments In Civil Rights History

On September 27th, 1958, a vote was held, with an overwhelming outcome, to keep the schools of Little Rock, Arkansas closed rather than integrate them. In September 1957, nine Black students known as the Little Rock Nine entered Central High School and were met by angry Protesters. Known as The Lost Year, high schools in the city remained closed for the entire 1958-59 academic term.

It is hard for me to comprehend that this happened less than sixty years ago.

There is an election coming up where one of the candidates wants to “Make America Great Again.”

The, “Again” part is what upsets me. Is this what he means? I remember the fire hoses and the dogs, and the people dragged beaten and bloody through the streets. Those images flashed across our TV screens almost every night when I was young. 

It’s disturbing to see and hear white supremacist groups brazenly supporting a presidential candidate “again” in this country. Many of us thought their time had passed—and we were all the better for it.

BELOW “THE NECK”

Boss cartoonExcerpt from my book, “Bosses and Blackjacks: A Tale of the Bloody Fifth in Philadelphia.”  http://tinyurl.com/zbtz6an

1907—A glimpse at some of the bosses…

 

The Vare brothers—George, Edwin, and William—were dominant figures in the city of Philadelphia. With their start as sons of a South Philadelphia pig farmer, they all got involved in contracting with the city and had their hands in local politics from a young age. George, a produce huckster, drew his brothers into rubbish, garbage, and street-cleaning contracts. Called “slopcart salesmen,” they dumped the collected garbage along the Delaware River.

George Vare got elected to the State Senate, where he played a considerable role in making Boise Penrose (“the big grizzly” as he was known by his admirers) an important figure by the time Thomas Smith arrived in Harrisburg.

William S. Vare was the current recorder of deeds, having been re-elected in 1904 and now again in 1907. In this position, he had influence in the surety business of the city. It was Bill who arranged this meeting for brother Ed with Tom Smith.

All strong Republicans, they had deep roots in the densely populated area of Philadelphia below South Street and all the way down to “the neck”—home of the Philadelphia Naval Yard.

 

The more things change…the more they stay the same. Sad, but true.

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TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME!

Baseball season is upon us!

To celebrate this “National Pastime” I’ve decided to share an excerpt from my book—

“Bosses and Blackjacks: A Tale of the ‘Bloody Fifth’ in Philadelphia.” http://tinyurl.com/j4qbpsz

(From Chapter Twenty – 1916)

Out in the crisp air of the sixteenth of April, after leaving the station early that afternoon, Dave forgot the morning’s row and felt a bit like his old self. He began to whistle “It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary” as he waited for Howard and Johnny on the corner outside of Baker Bowl, the ballpark on Huntingdon Avenue.

“How’re ya doin’ Davey,” Johnny greeted him with his usual enthusiasm. “Damn, look at this crowd. They’re even up on the roofs! Lucky for us you got them tickets. Where’s Howard? Not here yet?”

“No, but I hope he gets here soon. The owners are going to give presents to the players for winning the pennant last year, and I don’t want to miss it,” Dave said.

He spotted Howard trying his best to rush through the crowd.

“Here he comes, Johnny. Over here, Howard!”

Howard spotted Dave, and waved back with both arms.

“Shit…I forgot how bad that limp of his is,” Johnny said. “Come to think of it, I don’t remember the last time I saw him.”

Howard’s broad face shone with anticipation and perspiration when he met up with them.

“Hello, Johnny! How’re you doing, Dave?”

They joined the large throng entering the ball field.

As they took their seats, the announcer on the field started naming the players as they entered, each one to louder and louder cheers. Grover Cleveland Alexander, the Phillies’ star pitcher, appeared last. Dave and his two friends joined the other rooters as they stood to give the pitcher his well-deserved ovation.

Everyone sat down again, anticipating the start of the formal ceremony. The owners presented each of the Pennant-winning players of 1915 with a monogrammed gold watch. At the end, the crowd stood again and cheered.

To start the opening game of the season, Mayor Thomas B. Smith threw out the first ball, which got picked up by the catcher who tossed it to Alexander. The Phillies’ twenty-nine-year-old right-handed pitcher’s uniform hung like a potato sack on his slim six-foot-one-inch frame and his cap looked like it belonged to a child, but he didn’t take notice. He curled into his windup and let fly.

“Can’t they afford to get their players uniforms that fit?” asked Howard. “He looks like hell!”

Grover_Cleveland_Alexander

Grover Cleveland Alexander, Phillies star pitcher, 1916 “Old Low and Away”

“Who gives a shit how he looks as long as he beats the Giants?” Johnny replied.

About that time, a beer hawker came through the bleachers to where the friends were seated.

“Over here—three!” Dave called.

As he passed the beers to the other two, he said, “Beating these bums’ll be no problem—they were dead last, last season.”

In the first inning, however, the “bums” made a game of it thanks to a wild throw by the normally steady shortstop, Dave “Beauty” Bancroft, which allowed two Giants to score.

“Son of a bitch! What the hell are ya doin’?” Johnny yelled.

“Take it easy. Here, have some peanuts.”

“I’d like some more.” Howard reached into the sack Dave held, and grabbed a handful. He brushed peanut shell fibers from the front of his shirt. “Wish this damn wind would settle down. I think it’s throwing their game off.”

“It ain’t the wind—they just stink,” Johnny replied.

The Phillies answered with one run in the first, and two in the second. Johnny calmed down.

The Giants managed another run in the third inning. Johnny and Howard both cursed.

In the fifth inning, Dave worried Johnny would have a heart attack. Alexander tossed a rare hanging curve to Fred “Bonehead” Merkle, who smashed it 272 feet over the right field wall.

Johnny’s face turned purple. Howard held his head between his hands and moaned. Dave ordered three more beers and some more peanuts from the hawkers.

The sixth inning saw both teams score, bringing them to a tie at four each.

By the ninth inning, the tension became so great the three friends were not talking. They were leaning forward on their elbows with their beers gripped tight.

Then it happened. Ninth inning, Phillies up, with two outs. Stock, the third sacker, grabbed a free pass, stole second, and scored after a passed ball and a wild pitch. Final score: Phillies—5–4.

It all happened in a flash. Johnny and Howard and Dave stood in place in shock, along with about 21,000 other rooters. Then, as if on cue, they all began to cheer and laugh and hug and spill beer over each other.

“Damn, Davey…that was the best baseball game I ever seen!” Johnny said. “Thanks a lot for bringin’ me along.”

“Yeah, Dave. That was great!”

“Nothing like a ballgame with your buddies,” Dave said. “Let’s get the hell outta here. I’m starved.”

 

WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME…AND YOUR FATHER’S NAME…AND YOUR GRANDFATHER’S NAME…AND…

The following is a quote from my book, “Bosses and Blackjacks: A Tale of the ‘Bloody Fifth’ in Philadelphia”— Chapter Ten, 1907: Follies

          “Damn, Davey. Haven’t heard anything that funny in a long time!” Johnny took another swig of beer and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Smith’s got some sense of humor for such a big shot.”
          “Yeah, he does. Thanks for meeting me here at McGillin’s. I tell ya, after the day I’ve had, I needed a drink. Want another beer?
          “Nah. I’m finished. Think I’ll head home before the sky opens up.”
Dave patted Johnny’s back. “Yeah, you’re right, guess I should get going too. Next time, we’ll meet closer to home.”
          As they emerged from the cool darkness of the saloon, Dave blinked a few times to clear his vision, then looked up at the sky and announced, “Those storm clouds are lookin’ mighty serious. Take care, old friend.”

% % % % % % % % % % % % % % % % % % % % %

(The following information is excerpted from McGillin’s own website:)

McGillin’s Olde Ale House threw open its doors the year Lincoln was elected president. That’s shortly after the Liberty Bell cracked and long before ground was broken for Philadelphia City Hall. The beer taps have been flowing since 1860 — making it the oldest continuously operating tavern in Philadelphia and one of the oldest taverns in the country.

1860
Catherine & William McGillin opened the Bell in Hand Tavern.The Irish immigrants, who raised their 13 children upstairs, soon become known as “Ma” and “Pa” and the laborers who frequented the bar called it “McGillin’s.” The nicknames eventually stuck. The tavern grew to include the oyster house next door, the back alley/washroom and the house upstairs.

McGillinFamily1

Abe Lincoln elected president. Although Lincoln visits Philadelphia, we have no proof that he visits McGillin’s. Of course, we have no proof that he doesn’t either.

Abe-Lincoln-President

1880
McGillin’s customer, W.C. Fields, born. “Philadelphia is a wonderful place; I spent a week there one night.”

quote-once-during-prohibition-i-was-forced-to-live-for-days-on-nothing-but-food-and-water-w-c-fields-61767

1901
Pa McGillin dies & Ma McGillin takes over bar. No pushover, Ma has a list of troublemakers who weren’t allowed in. The list reads like the social registry, including some of Philadelphia’s most prominent citizens.

1910
McGillin’s celebrates 50th anniversary with a new façade. Name officially changes to McGillin’s Olde Ale House.

1920
Prohibition enacted. During Prohibition, Ma McGillin hires a chef. Serves food and ice cream and perhaps, a few tea cups were tipped on the second floor.

1930
Philadelphia cheesesteak invented. A top-seller at McGillin’s.

1933
Prohibition ends! Ma McGillin takes the key from her breast pocket and reopens the pub’s front door.

prohibition-ends

McGillin’s Olde Ale House
215-735-5562
1310 DRURY STREET, PHILADELPHIA, PA 19107
Open daily 11 a.m. – 2 a.m.(Kitchen open until 1 a.m.)

IF YOU’VE EVER BEEN THERE, LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS!

NAME THAT TUNE!

 

My book, “Bosses and Blackjacks: A Tale of the ‘Bloody Fifth’ in Philadelphia” takes place at the beginning of the last century, and includes references to and the whistling of, tunes from that era.

FC
http://tinyurl.com/gmbg3hx

Would you like to spend a little time in the misty nostalgia of the early nineteen hundreds?—No problem! I’ve created a playlist for you of the following songs mentioned in the book:

1. Meet Me In St. Louis — 1904, Singer: Billy Murray

2. School Days (When We Were a Couple of Kids) — 1907, Singer: Bryan G. Harlan (Recorded in Philadelphia.)

3. I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside — 1909, Singer, Mark Sheridan

4. Give My Regards to Broadway — 1905, Singer, George M. Cohan

5. Rigoletto — 1908, Singer: Enrico Caruso

6. Hark The Herald Angels Sing — Sung by Children’s Choir

7. Let Me Call You Sweetheart — 1910-1911, Sung by: The Peerless Quartet

8. I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now — 1909, Singer: Manuel Romain

9. It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary — 1914, Singer: John McCormick

10. Danny Boy — 1913, Singer, 1917 Ernestine Schumann-Heink

11. For Me and My Gal — 1917, Singer: M.J. O’Connell

12. The Star-Spangled Banner — 1814, Written by Francis Scott Key (GVES News Broadcast)

13. Jingle Bells —1857, Singer: Tom Roush

14. I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles —1919, Sung by: Irving Barr and Albert Campbell

15. Over There — 1917, First recorded by: Nora Bayes, Pictured on the sheet music.

16. K-K-K-Katy —1917, Singer: Billy Murray in 1918

17. Hail! Hail! The Gang’s All Here — 1917, Sung by Shannon Quartet
Feel free to sing or whistle along! And then, return here and tell us in COMMENTS —Which tune is your favorite?

Here’s the link: