Whenever I think about Valentine’s Day I think of two things, my Dad‘s birthday and the men who were lined up against the inside wall of a garage and machine-gunned to death by a rival gang dressed up as cops.
There is no connection between the two events, Dad’s celebration of being born and the infamous mass murder; it’s just that I always think of the two things in that order. And as today is Valentine’s Day aka Happy Heart day that is what I am thinking of at this particular moment.
St Valentine’s Day massacre took place in 1929. It was a violent act set up by Al Capone against a rival booze running gang headed up by Bugs Moran. The shooting of seven unarmed men shocked and outraged the nation. No more so than in Chicago where the slaughter took place. It marked the beginning of the end for Capone in that area.
This horrible event has been chronicled repeatedly in literature, films and television. Although the exact details of what when on that day back in 1929 died with the men who carried out the crime. Much was learned from other members of the two warring factions.
But regardless of the facts, what everyone does know is that seven men died on a holiday set aside for lovers and the wooing of sweethearts. Such bitter irony has never been topped. With the often dichotomous lives led by mob members it is not hard to picture the shooters giving their girls/wives/fiancée’s candy, (illegal) champagne, or flowers before setting off to kill the men in the garage.
Or conversely, stopping off and buying their tokens of affection on the way home. Well, at least most of them as two were arrested immediately after wearing police officer uniforms.
I suppose it says something about me when on the most “romantic” day of the year I am thinking of death and birth almost simultaneously. One of the two events is very important to me and that is my father’s birthday. Without his birth, I would not have existed and never had the pleasure of growing up in the special family I had.
I never would have realised that my father was like a John Wayne character in a film. Hard, tough as nails, stubborn, fair, hard-working and devoted to providing for his family; nothing stopped him or slowed him down. It was only in his later years that a “bout of tick fever” that should have killed him (the doctor said if it had been anyone else they would have died) finally slowed him down.
He also was one of the few men that, in modern times, was respected enough that a hand-shake was a good as a written contract. A pretty remarkable man and one who is still going on although in a diminished fashion these days; I owe him a lot, as I said.
As I said if he had not come into the world neither would I and I never would have read about the St Valentine’s day massacre and wondered at the savageness and violence that men were capable of. I also never would have made the decision to move away from the state of my birth to get out from under his shadow.
While growing up, I soon found that if I wanted to spend any time with my Dad at all, it had to be through work. I started cleaning out houses for him at the ripe old age of 5 or 6 for a quarter. Time sped by, as it does, and I was working for him full-time by the time I left high school. But the comparisons were being made already.
“You sound just like your Dad.”
“I thought you were your Dad.”
“Wow, you walk just like your Dad.”
The comparisons went on and on. Don’t get me wrong. I was thrilled to be compared to the man I admired and respected above anyone else. But as I got older I realised that I did not want to be a “watered down” version of my Dad. I wanted to go out into the world and make my own way. I wanted to forge my own identity.
So I left. It was hard but I lived my life, made my own mistakes and I also knew that if I needed any guidance or help, Dad (and Mom) was only a phone call away. Throughout my life they have both helped me a lot; times when I was so down that there seemed to be no way out. They were there.
I guess it is odd that I think of these two unrelated events on Saint Valentine’s Day, but that’s how it is. One event because it so personally affected me and my life; the second because it caught my childhood imagination in a way that very few other things could have; it set up a lifelong fascination about the Mafia and its inhabitants.
So I raise my glass to those lovers out there that are buying their tokens of affection for their loved ones. I’ll be thinking of birth and death and not buying any tokens at all.
- The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (carolinewilde.com)
- February 14th…. a long time ago, The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (palookavillepost.com)
- And that’s the way it was: February 14, 1929 (cjr.org)
- Things to avoid on Valentine’s Day (outsideperception.wordpress.com)
- Happy Valentine’s Day! Seven Things You Didn’t Know About Romantics Most Loved – And Cynics Most Hated – Holiday! (radaronline.com)