Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Mother, the School Nurse

I've often wondered how much Mary Lynch, my mother, knew about the people she associated with on her job as a school nurse in Chicago. She often said she was interested only in the children, not their parents and family friends.
It was the early 1920s and Prohibition had created gang wars and organized crime throughout the country. Nowhere did the wars rage more fiercely than in Chicago. The south side was controlled by Al Capone and Johnny Torrio, the west side by the Terrible Genna Brothers. On the north side was the gang of Irishmen, Jews and Italians led by Dion O'Banion.
Mary, a registered nurse, was assigned to the school at the Holy Name Cathedral in an area known as Little Hell on the near north side of the city. Having been raised in a Catholic family, she worked comfortably with the nuns and priests.
When her brother Joe, a law student at Northwestern, heard where it was she was working he telegraphed their father, "You have to get Mary out of there." She paid no heed to either of them.
One of her duties was making house calls at the homes of sick children. These were all at block-long row houses, each connected with its neighbors. At one she was examined through a peephole before being admitted by a man who led her down a long hallway to a solid steel door with another peephole. Beyond that was a room with several tables where men in shirtsleeves were seated playing cards. As the men saw her, each rose to his feet and put on his suitcoat the way men did when a woman entered a room. Not, however, before she noticed guns protruding from the shoulder holsters worn by every man. They were exceedingly polite and quite concerned about the condition of the sick child.
She found two or three other house just like it, but Mary always claimed she didn't pay any attention. Nowhere, she said, did she ever meet more polite, friendly men. The guns? Men sitting around playing cards during working hours? "Oh, I never thought a thing of it. All of them, not just the fathers, were worried about the children."
Did she never hear the nicknames of some of those men - "Schemer" Drucci, "Three-Gun" Alterie, "Nails" Morton, "Handsome Dan" McCarthy and O'Banion's chief lieutenants, "Bugs" Moran and Hymie "The Polack" Weiss? It was Weiss who coined a phrase that became part of the American vernacular: We'll take him for a ride. A one-way ride.
Mary was an intelligent woman, a reader of newspapers. She had to have been aware of what was going on. She was stubborn and just wouldn't admit it.
One day she was walking along the sidewalk across from Holy Name Cathedral when a man lounging in the doorway of Schofield's Flower Shop said, "Nursie, wait a minute." He went inside and quickly returned to pin a gardenia on her uniform. "I hear you're good with the children."
And so she met Dion O'Banion, the leader of the gang, the lover of flowers, the man who reportedly killed or ordered the killing of 25 men.
Mary loved her job but hated the Chicago winters so she was working as a school nurse in New Orleans when she read of O'Banion being gunned down in his flower shop. The funeral was attended by 15,000 people and the procession to the cemetery was a mile long. His casket cost $10,000 in 1924 dollars.
They were exciting times, the Roaring Twenties. Mary never liked to talk about them except to say the men she knew loved the children.


Blogger STAG said...

Its all about family.....

7:46 PM  

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