Chapter 24

Raising a Family

And now, back to my family.

Dick was a very beautiful baby and each time we would go downtown people would stop and coo at him in the carriage. Frem Martin was hurt in an auto accident before he met Fannie, and while I was in the service the claim was finally settled. With part of the settlement money they bought the house next to Betty's. They had a son, Bobby, who was older and bigger than Dick. Whenever he would come over to Betty's he was always knocking Dick down or abusing him in one way or another. Knowing they were both babies, I tried to ignore this, although I did not like it. 

This all led to an incident which you might find amusing. As it happened, Fannie and Frem got into an argument. While she was still mad at him, she told me that he had said something to the effect that “The Martins were beating up the Comos already.” This suddenly became a point of honor with me. While no one was looking, I would playfully fight with Dick and put a large ash tray in his hand and encourage him to belt me with it. After a while he reacted automatically. The next time Bobby came over, I was there to watch the fun. The very first time Bobby hit Dick, Dick ran over and grabbed the ashtray and belted Bobby over the head with it. It raised somewhat of a lump on Bobby's head, and he bawled for a while, and he never again attempted to abuse Dick. 

Shortly after this we finally found a place of our own. It was a small house owned by, and next to, Augustus Ashley. Chris and Katie were both born in this house, or rather while we were living there. The last Christmas in this house I whittled a manger which we used each Christmas thereafter. I also made some wooden toys for the kids, since metal was diverted to the war effort. I made a hobby horse which lasted many years. Maybe some of the older kids remember it. The war ended while we were at this house.

Whereas Dick had been fairly quiet, Chris was just the opposite. He was the most active kid we had, always into something and pulling knickknacks, lamps and everything else onto the floor. After a while this was no problem since there was nothing left to break. Due to my ignorance of children, I put this down to sheer cussedness, but as I learned more, I admired this trait in later children. After we learned to put things where the little ones could not reach them, it ceased to be a problem. 

 Euphoria at War's End

It would be hard for anyone to imagine the almost total hysteria that gripped the city when the news of the end of the war was announced. On the evening of the announcement, the city began one long drunken celebration. There were congo lines up and down Ford and State streets, the streets were filled with people and traffic was brought to a virtual standstill.

Practically everyone had a bottle in their hands. After a wild night, the celebration was still going on the next day. Taverns had cases of beer out on the sidewalk where most was given away. Strangers were hugging and kissing one another. I went down to the American Legion where Henry Kelley and myself brought cases of beer downstairs to the sidewalk and gave it away to fellow legion people and anyone else who wanted it. The legion was then upstairs on the block that contains the city hall. Though I was a member, I seldom attended meetings since all the members then were old enough to be my father, and since I disliked ritual. Around noon, I went home and watched the kids so Betty could go downtown with her mother and join the celebration.  If they were kissed even half as much as I was, then they must have had a bang-up time.

As I remember, we got the news about 10 in the morning. Within half an hour all those employees who were on war work were laid off. That amounted to about two thirds of the production workers. All the skilled help was kept, which included me. All the overtime went down drastically to a forty hour week, which left me in somewhat of a financial bind. Since we were not paid that well, it became necessary for me to find an additional source of income. 

 The Band Plays On

I had played a few jobs as a guitar player, but I soon joined a group consisting of Jock Larue who played drums, Ray "Professor" Wilcox, who played piano and violin, and myself on guitar. We played what was called pop in those days as well as square dances with Jock calling.

We played at all the best places in town, including the country club, Elks, Masons, Knights of Columbus, Moose and the State Hospital. We also played minstrel shows, with Jock Larue and Harry Seguin as end men. The minstrel shows also had Bob “Bobolink” Lincoln, who played tunes on wine bottles which had varying degrees of water inside of them to tune them, Jonny Drew, Ray Wilcox, Joe Montana, Eddie Seguin, a brother of Harry, Hank Woods, a noted fiddle player, Ford Wing, a fantastic guitar player and singer, on the humorous side, and Sub Sweeny. In this year of 1984 as I write this, all of those men are now dead, with the possible exception of Bob Lincoln, whom I have lost track of.

In the minstrel shows, Harry Seguin and Jock Larue did a soft shoe dance.  Harry had a limp, which he took advantage of, and the soft shoe routine was hilarious. Harry had a large bald head, and though he was only about five feet four and weighed about three hundred pounds, he was incredibly agile on his feet. He, Jock, and Ford Wing took care of all the comedy routines. The rest of us played music or soloed.  I played a couple of tenor banjo pieces. I was not that good on the instrument, but there were two pieces I played very well. As near as I can remember, one of them was "Swanee River” and the other was not. The minstrels were benefits, so we were paid nothing, but we enjoyed doing them.

My first experience with pure alcohol came at one of these shows in the Madrid town hall. In those days I did not drink. Just before the show I was standing outside with Jock Larue. He had a glass jug filled with a slightly greenish fluid and coaxed me to have a drink of it. When I told him I did not drink, he said the stuff was very mild with no taste or smell, and such proved to be the case when he handed me a glass of it. When, after ten minutes or so when we got up to do the show, I found that though I was cold sober, I had some difficulty moving my legs. Two of the fellows tried, as best they could, to lead me to my seat on stage without attracting undue notice. 

 Father, Daughter Reunite

I should mention here that Betty and her father finally made up. After four years of not speaking, Eddie fortified himself into a state of inebriation and appeared at our door. He asked to come in, and since this difference with her father had always distressed me, I was very happy to see him.

I called Betty, and when he saw her he started to cry and hugged her. I made myself scarce so they could talk in privacy. It is unfortunate that we never attempted to know each other, since it later turned out that Eddie Cayen was the best friend that I ever had. Stubbornness approaching stupidity on all our parts deprived us of a friendship that could have existed four years earlier. I found in Eddie all those qualities that I admired in a person. We were staunch friends for the rest of his life, and whenever we were troubled in any way, he was always there to help.