Friday, March 17, 2006

Luck o' the Irish

When you can trace your lineage back to Pilgrims and Conquistadors, the Irish can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. So today I'll tell you about the Irish part of my family.

One day around the turn of the last century, Mayflower descendent Lillian Carver had the audacity to go out for a buggy ride with upstart Irish immigrant Frank McPeake. Lillian's father locked every door in the house and she was forced to spend the night with the Irishman's family. In those days, if a young lady didn't come home and spent the night with her beau, she had no choice but to marry him or lose her reputation. And so she married him, and family lore has it that she never really got over it.

But to a casual observer, it seemed a lucky break for Lillian. Through luck and acumen, Frank became quite wealthy in the hotel and tavern business. They sent their eight children to school in chauffeured limousines. They hosted Teddy Roosevelt, Admiral Byrd and Babe Ruth. They sent their children, even the girls, to college.

But Lillian made a bad investment in the Florida land boom of the 1920s and the family hadn't sufficiently recovered to weather the 1929 stock market crash. They lost everything, even their house.

Their daughter Lillian, who became my grandmother, always had more boyfriends than she could keep up with. She wasn't a great beauty, but she was pretty and had a charming way about her that kept men interested. One man, George, was the son of Irish immigrants. After the stock market crash he seemed to have no prospects. He went to work for a federal relief program where one of his jobs was to shovel dead rats out of warehouses after they had been exterminated with poison. It was a lousy way to earn a buck, but what could one do?

Then one day George won big in an illegal lottery. He bought a golf course in Boston. And he bought young Lillian's destitute parents a house. The young lady who had already been engaged three times and had turned down so many other men, became his wife.

No one was playing golf during the Depression and they soon lost the golf course, but young Lillian's brother Frank had gotten a job as a mechanic for American Airlines. George knew nothing about airplane mechanics, but he had a natural aptitude for machinery and there was no such thing as electronic reference checking in those days. Frank vouched for George's skills and he was in.

To the best of the family's knowledge, no plane ever crashed because of my grandfather. And he must've done something right because when he retired in the 1960s, he had oversight of all American Airlines maintenance at one of their important hubs. The job had enabled them to send their youngest son on trips to Europe and allowed George and Lillian to spend the early years of their retirement flying all over the world. They bought a house on Cape Cod, as did Lillian's sisters and brothers. They settled in to many happy years of visits, bridge games, and of course free airline travel, which they used to bring their only granddaughter to the Cape for long summer visits where she developed a passion for the New England coast that persists to this day.

Thanks, Grandpa and Grandma.

And a hearty Irish Blessing to you all!

Recent Workouts
Today: 500 meter swim


nancytoby said...

What a great story!! Thanks for telling us about it!

But where does the bunny come in? ;-)

Jill said...

Loved the story!!

goldenlucyd said...

BG Dear,
This post is wonderful In addition to your stellar comment at Ronni's today. You done sooo good, dear girl!

Kyle said...

Your story telling leaves the taste of corn beef and cabbage on the tip of my tongue. True to tradition I wore green yesterday, didnt get pinched once.

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