Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Lone Wolf

In 1920 the United States tried a "grand experiment". For the next 13 years the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages was illegal in the United States.
Of course it was still fairly easy to get a drink, often in little out of the way places called "speakeasies".
My father's older sister, Margie moved from small town Idaho to Salt Lake City, the nearest big city, in the 1920s. Margie worked a number of jobs including modeling for department stores and local fashion photographers. I've seen pictures from that time, she was a very attractive woman.
I never heard the details but by 1930 Margie had opened a high class speakeasy and brothel in the "Avenue" neighborhood of Salt Lake City. At 18 my mother, Dorothy, was living with and working for Margie as her bookkeeper ("I wasn't pretty enough to be one of the girls." she once told me.)
Margie's youngest brother, Jack, was born with a club foot. Jimmy, my father, their oldest brother brought him down from Idaho to The Children's Hospital in Salt Lake for treatment. They all stayed together for a few days until Jack went in the hospital and Jimmy moved on to work in the shipyards in Oakland, California.
Dorothy met and fell in love with Bill, the bar's driver and delivery man. Nine months to the day after they were married my sister Billie Dean was born. Their marriage broke up when Bill brought his girlfriend home to meet his wife. I'm sure he was surprised at her reaction, it seems she threatened to kill him with a butcher knife or a cast iron frying pan...I've heard both stories. When Margie found out, she called a local judge, one of her better customers, who handled Dorothy's divorce privately in his chambers.
At 21 with a baby, no husband and no child support Dorothy had no choice but to move back home with her parents, Dora Mae and Ben, my grandparents. Dorothy found legitimate work in downtown Salt Lake and grandma raised Billie Dean. Life with Dora Mae was pretty difficult for both Dorothy and Ben. Their close father-daughter friendship stemmed from those days.
Dorothy once told me that she despaired of ever finding someone who loved her and would want to marry her. She dated, but few men wanted to marry a woman with a child. She and Margie even travelled to California on a vacation and looking for work. They stayed with Jimmy in Oakland, but they weren't close. It was the height of The Depression and Jimmy was sending money home to Idaho to help his mother and his younger brothers and sister. He had made up his mind to never marry and have a family until times got better.
In 1942 The Depression ended with America's entry into World War II. Jimmy was drafted and went off to war. It was at Margy's suggestion that Dorothy started writing to Jimmy. The wrote each other often and fell madly in love. In June, 1945, while he was home on leave Dorothy and Jimmy were married in Dora Mae and Ben's living room.
And that's how my parents met. So why the picture of Alfred von Kowalski-Wierusz' painting The Lone Wolf ? As long as I can remember a small, framed copy of this picture has hung in my bedroom. It came from a calendar that hung in Margie's bar. It's a wonderful reminder of how my parents met.

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