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As many of you know, Cinco de Mayo marks the victory of a rag-tag bunch of Mexicans over the most formidable army in the world. The Frogs hadn't lost a battle in a half century.
However, the Mexican victory on Cinco de Mayo of 1862 was short lived and Benito Juárez set up a resistance movement in northern Mexico. At a cost of $57.00 per rifle (including 500 rounds per weapon), paid for in silver coin, Juarez purchased 1,000 Winchester Model 1866 carbines in .44 caliber. The rifles were stamped *R.M.*, for *Republic of Mexico* and marked with a sunburst. Today, these rifles are worth upwards of $8,000.00. About ten times their 1866 value after adjusting for inflation.
Years before TWC's vagrant yoot, when he was but a wee lad, we had family friends that were turkey ranchers. The Patriarch
spoke with a heavy Irish brogue that may as well have been a foreign language
as it was entirely unintelligible to me.
McCourt's book a few years ago, I was reminded that Old Man Porter once told me that, after the Big War, a prosperous Irish family owned two bicycles. That pearl was entirely lost on me at the time.
I loved his 1959 Cadillac with the
bullet taillights, the 1959 El Camino with the 348, and the turkey egg
that invariably found its way home with me after every visit. For the
uninitiated, turkey eggs are pretty much chicken eggs on a Barry Bonds diet. Nothing
exotic, they're just big. Fry them over-medium with a little butter, salt and pepper and serve with bacon, toast, and cold milk.
American St Patrick’s Day celebrations date back at least three hundred years and like so much else that makes this America, we have embraced this Irish festivity in a style that is uniquely ours. Shamrocks, leprechauns, green beer, green hair, a green river, and a lot of racket, which is old-country Irish slang for
an old fashioned welcome-to-the-neighborhood party.
But in Ireland today it’s a softer and more subdued festival that often begins with a morning church service. Despite Ireland’s hard drinking reputation, as recently as thirty years ago most pubs were closed on St Paddy's Day in honor of this religious holiday. Even today the pubs are open mainly to serve the tourist trade arriving to celebrate a real Irish St Patrick’s Day.
We’re all Irish today—or maybe just a secular Americanized version of
what we imagine being Irish to be.
The Wine O’Commonsewer
Full Disclosure: TWC has a fair amount of Irish blood but
it's the Dutch that makes him hard headed. My kids are from a mongrel heritage that includes Irish from all four sides as well as Dutch, Indian (feather not dot), Black German, English, Scottish, and Welsh.
Walter Wellman was the Smiling Irishman who offered the World's Greatest Car Bargains. Walter was The Workingman's Friend and he'll give you a Square Deal. Can't get much squarer than a fifty dollar car ($425.00 in 2012). Beats a fifty dollar Pepsi, hands down.
Taken from a 35mm Kodachrome transparency, the photo dates to 1952 and the Smiling Irishman's used car lot was located in the 2400 block of Pico Boulevard near South Vermont in Los Angeles.
The pre-war era mechanical Acme (yes, Acme) stop signal is intriguing. Hard to find it, but it
sits just to the right of the fire plug. Here's what it looked like and how it worked:
Once the Big War was over, they kicked my old buddy loose from Heart Mountain internment camp in Wyoming. His wallet was fat and once he reached Chicago, he bought hisself a brand new 1946 Ford with the cash he'd stockpiled from his pool table and cigarette concession.
Mike, you know how much Japanese love to smoke and cigarettes were hard to come by in camp.
Akira (I called him Ike or Aki) volunteered for several work details, the fruits of which were a pilfered pool table and a pickup loaded down with stolen cartons of smokes. Both came from a lodge near Jellystone that was shuttered for the duration of the war. No gas, no meat, no tires, no customers. Think about that the next time somebody tells you that the war ended the depression.
Ike was pretty good with a wrench and he found gainful employment at S-M-G Garage, 2122 Clark Street, where the back wall was still riddled with bullet holes on account of Moran's Boys being mowed down by gangsters in police uniforms back in 1929. He loved telling that story.
The building met up with the wrecking ball in 1967, but the brick wall was taken apart and stored for a number of years, eventually forming the wall of a men's restroom in George Patey's Roaring Twenties themed nighclub. The club wasn't profitable and when it closed, Mr Patey sold the salvaged bricks for a grand apiece. Legend has it that those pockmarked bricks have brought nothing but heartbreak, financial ruin, death, and all kinda misfortune to those who bought them.
Hope your St Valentine's Day is better than Moran's boys was.
During the course of research for this piece I found Ike's records in the National Archives database. It was a stunning find for me, bringing forth a flood of memories and a profound sense of loss.
everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink and swore his last
oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days
from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting
our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever.