Friday, March 13, 2009


Crescp was completely run by the Protestant majority. The school question stirred up resentment, which united the Protestant churches against us.
(Naturally parents supporting the 2 Catholic schools would vote against more money for the public school.) Until 5 years old, I thought the quarrel was between
Catholics and Publics.

Once a Catholic ran for the school board. My aunt was a telephone operator, a ‘Central’—she overheard frantic warnings by the preachers and the Masons.
Little old ladies, it was said, were brought out to vote in stretchers.

In the 1930s some Democrats infiltrated the court-house.
My grandfather, I believe, was the first Irish Catholic ever elected to the
State Senate. My father was County Recorder. He never counted on Irish votes; they hated to see another Irishman get ahead; he won by Bohemian votes.

(Later Dad was a traveling salesman.Once he complained to a hotel owner:
“I can’t use that outhouse; it’s too full of flies!”/”Wait till lunch; they’ll all move to the dining-room.”)

The main Irish/German tensions were over their attitudes toward money.
The Germans were frugal but stolid. Dad would sometimes indulge in racial
Self-hatred, sourly praising the Germans for holding on to their land.
But the Irish love of talk suited them well as salesmen after 1945;
The Irish ended up richer than the Germans. We snickered over the Germans’ pathetic attempt to match our glorious, lent-breaking St.Patrick’s Day with their drab St.Joseph’s Day. An aunt in Dubuque said the town was fine until THEY showed up; the blacks? No, the Germans.

The German Church continued to hear confessions in German all thru WW I,
When saurkraut was renamed Freedom Cabbage. But in WWII they gave up
And switched to English.

Both of my grandfathers were big land speculators in the 20’s. Each owned a small percentage of a lot of land; both were paper millionaires. Both were wiped out by the Depression—and my father, afflicted with 9 children, turned to alcohol.
We were quite poor. Dad had a steady income—steadily inadequate for his big family. (We were prolific; it is said that my great-grandfather, Jeremias Lyons,
Now has 1000 descendants.) We had a 3-lot garden. Other families raised pigs/cows right in town.

Poor as we were, we had a maid; farm girls would work for board/room (sharing a bed with my 2 sisters) and the clothes mother sewed for them, in order to go to high-school in town.
This was lucky, because my mother had to hold down a 2d job while my father drank.

One nice legend about the local farmers was this: when Roosevelt directed them to kill the baby pigs (to raise the price of pork) they feared God’s punishment for such waste. Secretly they brought the dead piglets to town for the poor families like ours.
We had canned pork for several years. We also had lots of room to run.
Rural poverty, cold/rats/missed meals and all, is not as bad as tenement poverty.

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