Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Aunt Clara, Part Eight

    Jack's half brother, Don, was handsome, but not as handsome as Great
Uncle Jack. Don was tall, over six feet, and a good deal rounder than
Jack.They both wore mustaches, Don's being longer and wilder while Jack's
lay shorter and neatly trimmed.  True, Uncle Don's mustache was wilder, but
Jack was the wilder man.
    It was okay with Don to just be more or less "normal". He liked
spending much of his time being a conductor on the train, supporting his
wife and children, going to the little Baptist church on Sunday mornings,
and dabbling on Wallstreet. He didn't call it gambling. Few did. He called
it investing.
    Nineteen-seventeen was a big year. America entered the "war to end all
wars" and, in nineteen-eighteen, the Kaiser gave up and the whole thing was
over. My grandpa came home and married my grandmother. Uncle Don got a job
on the B&O Railroad along with his younger half brother, Jack.
    No one hired "handicaps" back then, but Aunt Clara got a job, too. As
a telephone operator. They put a switchboad in her house and there it
stayed for the next forty-five years. I told you this before and I repeat
myself now, but only to refresh your memory. And mine. Remember there was
alot of striking going on in America at the time. That's how Aunt Clara got
the job. The phone company, later to become Bell Systems, put that
switchboard in her living-room, swiftly and surreptitiously, in the middle
of the night. Our hometown banker, Mr. Murray Thompson, was going to have a
telephone, strike or no strike, so Miss Clara went to work and no one, not
the banker, not the doctor or the lawyer, or the folks who just liked to
gossip, was the worse for wear. Just a few years later, when Prohibition
kicked in, Jack's speakeasy would also need a telephone.
    So World War 1 ended, Prohibition began, and the Roaring Twenties
roared. While much of Europe staggered and squirmed in its poverty, trying
to awaken from a nightmare, America staggered for a different reason. It dreamed
happier dreams of wealth and kicked up its heels and danced to the rhythm of
that new musical sensation called "Jazz".