My Father was a Bootleggerby William A. Kelly
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This story is my story of growing up in those hard times of the great depression and WW2. I was taught right from wrong early and for the most part was left alone. There was no involvment with parents like Little League baseball or tackle football or neighborhood clubs. We were expected to pass in school, and be home for dinner and on time.I guess it could be called a period of benign neglect. If you were a poor player in any sport you didn't play until you got better. Mom and Dad never even knew that you were no good. If you were really upset about not playing your father might play with you and give you some tips to make you better. In no case would he talk to any of your playmates to allow you to play.
If you got lousey marks and your parents were called to school, it was your fault, not the teachers nor the politicians or anybody else.Your fault and you better improve or else. This system seemed to work. Certainly better than the current one.
Books are now being written about how great my generation was. I never thought about it. All I know is we handled all the crap that was thrown at us and for the most part we were on our own. Nobody used drugs.We were afraid of them and rightly so.
When I started writing, my experiences were remembered strongly in large bursts, so much so that it has taken over four hundred pages just to get me through college.The most surprising element of remembering was how strongly the girls in my life came back. I really liked the women I got to know and they made life more than tolerable for me.
I was in heavy air combat in WW2 and yet to this day when the war is mentioned my first thought is about my English girl friend, a beautiful female British soldier that I didn't spend three days in London with, because I was shipped home early.
Life at Princeton was difficult because the learning was hard, basketball took big hunks of time and girls were very scarce. I used the language of my day so the sexual encounters may sound dirty. I never thought of them that way.I was discriminating in my choices and I like to think my girls were just as choosey when they selected me.
I was an only child to very young parents. My father was a local bootlegger in Atlantic City. He had worked for the political boss of the area and was protected from being arrested for his illigal activity. I was always scared that he would be arrested anyway. Neither my mother nor my father were well educated. My mother made it through first year of high school. My father made it through 8th grade. I always thought both were very smart. Their friends seemed to think they were smart also.
My father always seemed to have several millionairs as friends. He dressed neat even in the heart of the depression. My mother dressed very smartly and her picture made the newspapers on several occasions during celebration of the Easter parade. Both my parents had good personalities and after I got over my shy period I became known as the personality kid in local sports circles. I guess there was some rub off.
Both my father and my mother learned about the stock market by reading the newspaper and as soon as money accumlated from the business each invested. They both did very well. My father worked by evaluating several stocks while my mother folllowed tips from friends. I guess my father shared some of the business income because mother always had plenty of cash to spend. One thing I remember is that on major expenditures like a new car or a house my parents always had serious discussions to help make the decision.
The thing about my father that always surprised me was on special occassions he might buy mother a mink coat or a diamond ring or necklace. This was always a big surprise to everyone. Then they would go to dinner at some fancy restaurant to celebrate. This was after they had made some money of course.
When I had acknowledged to myself that I was smart I sometimes used to try to figure where my brain power came from. For some reason I always attributed most to my father's side of the family. Maybe that was because I didn't know much about mother's side.
After the Civil War my great grandfather came over from Germany and built The Battlefield Hotel. It burned to the ground under mysterious circumstances. My great Grandmother rebuilt it and ran it successfully for 26 years. These great grandparents had four daughters. All had husband trouble. My grandmother Lizzie married the heir to the Grantz piano family, but for some reason I never learned, the marriage was annulled. She next married William Kelly who owned nine salons in Baltimore.They had two sons my father, Mahlon, and Will. William my grandfather died at the age of 29.My understanding of the Kelly's was they were wealthy. There were several brewerys , salons and even a fishing fleet that was confiscated by the north without payment during the Civil War. My grandmother next married her dead husband's brother Mahlon.He apparently was the rotten egg amongst the Kellys. He helped my grandmother loose all her inherintance. She became head chambermaid of the Ritz and ran a rooming house on Pacific Ave. in Atlantic City. Kelly diserted.
Two of the sisters stayed in Gettysburg providing a place for me to go in the summer. Hettie moved back there after my grandmother died.. So I had two unique places to talk about and lots of experiences in each to flood my memory.
My experiences in high school are probably not so different from many boys in the United States at that time except Atlantic City might be more glamorous than many towns. We were part of the war before many cities and there were no lights.
The start of training in the Air Force was probably no different than the start in any of the services. I however felt more comfortable. My concept was in air war fare you either made it back or you were killed when your plane was shot down.
I had seen some WW1 movies like "All Quiet On The Western Front." ,"Seargent York" and others and the idea of fighting some German or Jap with a bayonet scared the shit out of me. I knew I would loose.
My chasing of women was the most exciting thing that I did from the start of High School until the end of the book. I always felt I had a chance to win just like in basketball. Every once in a while a big game would arise and out of the blue I would win. This was fantastic for all of me.
I strongly believe that any one over the age 18 should read this book. Our times were different but the product of this time is being applauded like that of no other time. I was recently asked how anyone raised during the depression with flappers for parents and fighting in WW2 could ever have become a Vice President of a Major Corporation. My immediate reaction was "Why is this Jerk asking such a question?" We all knew we had a shot at a better life and we had confidence in our abilities without even thinking about it. Just like we had when we were growing up.
Our government even appreciated what we had done in WW2 and put together a fantastic plan called the GI Bill OF Rights. We got money to get started again and full college costs.Why wouldn't we succeed.
If we hadn't succeded America would not be the greatest country ever and my generation would be the laughing stock of the universe. NO WAY COULD THAT HAPPEN.
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