IBID, page 8
Such was the climate of the times.
16. Jonathan struck up several friendships “over there.” Some friendships endured for many years after the war. Others did not. Among the latter was his relationship with Arliss McKeon, whose incredible talent at least deserves brief mention here. Skilled at word-perfect textual recall, McKeon delighted and amazed his fellow doughboys before going on to enjoy several successful years on the Orpheum vaudeville circuit, declaiming as “Mr. Mnemonic” Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Bryan’s “Cross of Gold” speech, and hundreds of other orations he had committed to memory with apparently very little effort. Although he spent most of his later years as a rouged salon palaverer and social sycophant, McKeon continued to perorate from his repertoire right up to the moment of his death in 1972 at the age of 76. Awaiting the arrival of the ambulance following an ultimately fatal coronary arrest, McKeon is purported to have mumbled his way through a good portion of the notoriously lengthy thank-you speech given by Greer Garson at the 1943 Academy Awards banquet, as well as random sections of Richard Nixon’s televised “Checkers” speech, his final breaths expelling the haunting words “respectable Republican cloth coat.” Lynette Klein, He Remembered it All (San Francisco: Puppage and Sons Publishers, 1982) 378-80.
17. Jonathan saw serious fighting in the last weeks of the war. Jonathan Blashette to Addicus and Emmaline Blashette, JBP. The full text of Jonathan’s letter home follows.
Dear Mother and Father,
I am writing you from the front. I’m not sure when this letter will reach you. We have had a time of it.
I miss you both. I miss dry socks. I miss clean drawers. I miss good eats. (We did finally get some chocolate bars yesterday courtesy of the Y.M.C.A. after a full week of rock-hard French bread, salmon and water). They also sent along some cigarettes. Yes, Mother, I have begun to smoke. We all smoke. It is what you do here in the trenches. My buddy Max is the exception. Max lost his face yesterday. He offered me his fags as they were rolling him onto the stretcher. “I can’t smoke these any more,” he said, “because I have lost my mouth.” Or maybe I imagined this is what he said. I imagine things a lot. I have not slept in days. The shelling doesn’t stop. Whizz-bangs, 77’s. The Whizz-bangs come in low. You can’t get out of the way. The shrapnel can take an arm off. I can’t even describe the concussion.
I am no coward, but this war is hard stuff. I try to think of things that will keep me sane. I try to think of the two of you, of sweet Lucile and funny, funny Beryl who wants me in the worst way! And I try to think how much I want to help win this thing and come home and never have to think of it again. A good buddy of mine was killed yesterday. A Heine sniper picked him off for doing nothing but taking himself a Goddamned stretch. (Mother, pardon moi my “parlez vous.”) He wasn’t thinking. You don’t always think. Sometimes it can get you killed. Sometimes you get killed anyway. Every bullet has a name on it. Some of the bullets find their marks. I don’t know if I’ve dodged mine yet or not.
I want to come back from this war. And all in one piece if that isn’t asking for too much. (Unlike these other fellows, I could lose a leg and not be put out too much.) See, I want to start a business. You will laugh. This is the rankest- smelling place on the face of the earth. The stench of death gags you. The waft of mustard gas (even though we haven’t faced a frontal assault of the damned stuff yet) makes you want to wretch. Unwashed humanity. B.O. with a capital B. The ladies have their perfumes and their rose water and their Mum-cream. I’m going to make something for the fellows. A deodorizer for the male underarm. That would be a good start, right? I told this to my chum Luddy. He says it’s a dandy idea. I say that sounds like a swell name. Dandy. Dandy-de-odor-o.
Sarge says we’ll be going over the top soon. There will be an end to this. One way or another.
Your loving son,
18. “Seein’s how they got all us doughboys to wearing those sissy wrist watches, maybe Jonny won’t have such a tough time of it convincing us all to perfume our armpits.” Luddy Greco’s Diary, 17 November1918, private collection of the Sherman Greco family.
19. “Now that the war is over, I have big plans.” Jonathan Blashette to Andrew Bloor, 19 November 1918, private collection of Bloor’s grand-nephew Christopher Paton (hereafter referred to as AnB).
20. Each took a different path. Though the three trenchmates swore lifelong allegiance to one another, they would ultimately drift into orbits that rarely intersected. Reunited years later at the Bonus March on Washington D.C. in 1932 (q.v.), the three men came to realize how far they had grown apart, and beyond memory of their crowded hour at Château-Thierry, how little they had in common. Luddy Greco heartily embraced socialism and, later, communism. Fate sent Darrell Delehanty to the opposite political extreme. Both of these men found easy reason to exercise strong suspicion and mistrust of one another, and of Jonathan as well. In Greco’s mind, Jonathan had become capitalistic and bourgeois. Delehanty, who would become a rising star in the reinvigorated Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s, found Jonathan, conversely, far too progressive and much too embracing of the “intolerables” for his taste.
Incidentally, I discovered a document that sheds a bright light on Jonathan’s strong distaste for the Klan: it is a transcript of an exchange between Jonathan and Imperial Kleagle Edward Y. Clarke, recorded from just outside the door to Clarke’s office by Jonathan’s friend and corporate lieutenant Harlan Davison. Jonathan had been directed to Clarke for purposes of making a sizeable contribution to the Roosevelt Memorial Association (for which Clarke served as officer) and quickly found himself the target of a high-pressure sales pitch for membership in the KKK. True to form, Jonathan quickly shored up his composure, then proceeded to have great fun at Clarke’s expense. Davison allegedly shared the transcript with Governor Al Smith during his 1928 run for the White House. Smith confessed to never having been so thoroughly entertained. Harlan Davison’s Diary, Harlan Davison Papers (hereafter referred to as HD).
CLARKE: The structural organization is very simple if you’ll follow along.
JONATHAN: Where are we going?
CLARKE: I’m going to explain how the Klan is organized so that you may have a better idea as to whether you may wish to become a member.
JONATHAN: I can be a member of both the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Association and the Ku Klux Klan?
CLARKE: My dear sir, you may be a member of however many organizations you wish. That is entirely up to you.
JONATHAN: Including “Catholics and Jews for Miscegenation”?
CLARKE: I beg your pardon.
JONATHAN: How about “The N.A.A.W.S.”?
CLARKE: “The N—Double A what?
JONATHAN: “The National Association for the Advocacy of White Slavery.” I would prefer to serve on the Committee overseeing the surreptitious monitoring of the opium dens.
CLARK: Ho, ho, Mr. Blashette, you are pulling my leg.
JONATHAN: You can pull my legs too, but it might keep you busy for a while.
CLARKE: Ho, ho. Now if you’ll follow this colorful chart I’ve set up.
JONATHAN: Did you say “colored” chart?
CLARKE: No, Mr. Blashette, I most certainly did not. Now, here at the bottom we have the Kleagles. The Kleagles are the rank and file of the organization. The foot soldiers, if you will.
JONATHAN: Yes, I see.
CLARKE: We have divided the country into “realms.” And each realm is headed by a King Kleagle. And several realms constitute a “domain.” The head of a domain is called a Grand Goblin.
JONATHAN: Sounds a little scary.
CLARKE: For a man with Negro blood, I would think so, ho ho.
JONATHAN: Who’s this man standing all alone at the top of the pyramid?
CLARKE: That would be me, the Imperial Kleagle.
JONATHAN: You’ve been drawn to look like Teddy Roosevelt.
CLARKE: Have I now? Well, I must confess a certain fondness for Presi
JONATHAN: So you asked your illustrator to make you look like him?
CLARKE: It’s only a slight resemblance. I didn’t think anyone would mind.
JONATHAN: I don’t recall that President Teddy Roosevelt ever endorsed your organization, Mr. Clarke. What’s more, I recall that he invited Booker T. Washington, a man of African descent, to have dinner with him at the White House.
CLARKE: It was no dinner, sir. I believe that Teddy and Mr. Washington merely had a hasty sandwich in the scullery.
JONATHAN: That isn’t what I heard. Furthermore, I understand that the two men shared a fruit cup following a confusion of spoons that very well could have resulted in the bringing to the president’s lips of a utensil that had been thoroughly licked by a blatantly colored tongue.
CLARKE: That is preposterous.
JONATHAN: (interrupting) And at one point…
(The voices now begin to break and grow in volume as Jonathan is clearly being led to the door to be expelled.)
CLARKE: I will hear no more of this.
JONATHAN: Alice, the president’s mischievous daughter, climbed into Mr. Washington’s Negro lap and pretended to be a ventriloquist’s dummy.
CLARKE: THAT, SIR, IS AN OUTRAGEOUS MENDACITY!
HOW YOU GONNA KEEP HIM DOWN ON THE FARM?
1. “Even a week in this ridiculous quarantine was too long.” Jonathan’s Diary, JBP. Although Jonathan spent only eight days in the cave, a number of other Pettivillians passed a good part of the autumn and winter of 1918-19 there. True, none of these apocalypse-minded Arkansans caught the dreaded Spanish flu, a pandemic that was hitting this part of the state just as brutally as it was the rest of the world, but many of those who retreated into the cave did endure nasty bouts of scabies as well as the tyranny of Rance Chesler who installed himself as “Cavern King” and issued edicts from his stalagmite throne.
The bizarre tale of this fascinating chapter in Arkansas history is documented in Donna Krell’s self-published, yet finely written Dwellers of the Night: the Story of the Flu Dodgers of 1918-1919 (1993). Curiously, though, Krell chose to engage her daughter Jacinth as illustrator. The stick figures offered by the seven-year-old do not enhance the text, and in some ways detract from it. By way of example, in Chapter 7, as Krell explores the regrets of some of the cavern-dwelling expatriates who articulate their longing for the salubrious light and warmth of the sun, Jacinth offers a group of stick men and women wearing large and irrelevant orange fright wigs, eating multicolored peas.
2. Lucile took the pledge. Lucile Moritz like many members of her generation took “the pledge” when she was very young. It went something like this:
“I pledge that I may give my best to home and country. I promise, God help me, not to buy, drink, sell, or give alcoholic liquor while I live. From all tobacco and other harmful things I’ll abstain and never take God’s name in vain.”
Maura Hester, Love Interminable or Till Death We Shall Not Part: Fifty Great Enduring Love Affairs (Savannah: Bookmirth Publications, 1975), 47-52.
Her sister Beryl took the pledge as well, but broke nearly every clause on the same day, December 5, 1933—the day Prohibition ended—declaring at a St. Louis speakeasy turned “speakfreely”:
“Make mine a double, wouldja, barkeep? Hoo! Hoo! Drought’s over, boys! Hey, handsome, gimme a Goddamned light.”
Bowie French, How Dry I Am: an Oral History of Prohibition (Cicero, Illinois: Luck Be a Lady Press, 1947), Preface.
3. “Will You Marry Me?” Jonathan Blashette to Lucile Moritz, 24 December 1918, carbon copy, JBP.
4. “Yes, oh yes, I will be your wife, my Christmas angel!” Lucile Moritz to JB, 26 December 1918, JBP.
5. When Lucile did not show up, Aunt Evelyn became worried. Evelyn Waldron was very close to the “good niece,” having served as surrogate mother to both Lucile and her scheming sister Beryl. According to Evelyn’s account of the harrowing week that followed, when Lucile failed to arrive at her “Gloucester, Massachusetts retreat” to receive pre-nuptial pampering and trousseau selection assistance from Evelyn, Jonathan was notified and put directly on the case. He immediately alerted law enforcement authorities all the way from New York City to Gloucester of Lucile’s disappearance. In the meantime, Evelyn fell into a morass of fear and agitation and eventually had to be sedated. The initial anodyne was administered by a Madame Lourdes, a French holistic whose herbs did little more than make Evelyn “feel a little droopy.” A second physician was brought in and Evelyn was successfully tranquilized and received the horrendous news in a dull stupor. Interview with Paulette Poole (great niece of Lucile and Beryl Moritz), November 22, 2001.
6. “Yes, we have a sticky Jane Doe.” It was Jonathan who correctly identified the molasses-covered body. No one can say why Lucile ventured to Commercial Street in Boston’s North End while awaiting her train connection to Gloucester on that deadly day in January. But there she was, just as the Purity Distilling Company’s huge cast-iron tank burst open and the great swell of raw molasses—more than 2.5 million gallons of it—gushed forth, drowning twenty-one and turning the city of Boston into sickeningly sweet-smelling flypaper for weeks. Patrick Oldeman, Tears for the Shawmut (Boston: Old Corner Book Printer, 1995), 223-228.
7. There was a lacuna in the Luna. I discovered the full text of the expurgated material from the January 16, 1919, edition of the Boston Luna in the paper’s morgue.
As Promised: Our Annual Boston Beans Recipe
Nobody knows beans like Boston knows beans.
Soak 1 1/2 cups dried beans
Cover the beans with water. Bring them to a boil. Simmer them slowly for thirty minutes or more, until tender.
Prepare your oven.
Drain the beans, setting aside the cooking water.
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons or more of dark molasses (author’s emphasis)
1 tablespoon dry mustard
2 or 3 tablespoons of catsup
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup boiling bean water
Place the ingredients in a greased baker. Attend them with:
1/2 lb. sliced salt pork
and bake them at low heat for 6 to 9 hours. If they become dry, add a little
set aside bean water.
Uncover the beans for the last hour of baking.
Mention of the molasses might have been withdrawn but the recipe would certainly have suffered.
8. Jonathan failed to see the black humor of it. Nor would he permit anyone to speak of the freak accident that took his precious Lucile from him. It was not until Jonathan had reached his seventy-second year that he finally allowed himself to appreciate the cruel yet cosmically humorous irony of it all. Lucile had fought hard for prohibition. Within a year of her death, rum would become illegal. The Purity Distilling Company would no longer be allowed to turn its vats of molasses into the demon potable. And yet, it was a well-recognized ingredient of rum itself that had taken a deadly-aimed preemptive shot at Lucile and her temperance crusade. As he approached the end of his own life Jonathan finally allowed himself a good laugh and a good cry and then drank a toast with his manservant Uriah to the memory of his beautiful Lucile. Appropriately, they drank rum. Maura Hester, Love Interminable, 55-58.
Postcript: I have no record that Beryl renewed her efforts to win Jonathan’s heart, damaged as it was by the loss of Lucile. I note that shortly before Lucile’s death Beryl had begun to see a man named Runstein who manufactured anatomically correct articulated mannequins and wooden darning eggs, and was apparently quite devoted to her.
9. “Our broadcloth patterned dress shirts are over here and thank you for the compliment and no I do not have plans for lunch.” So smitten was Jonathan with the perky little sales clerk in Men’s Furnishings at Rosenwasserberg’s—downtown Pettiville’s very first “full service department store”—that he made daily trips to the store to purchase all manner of men’s clothi
10. “The bad news of the week is that Tulip and I will no longer be dating.” Ibid., December 10, 1919. The good news was that Ford had just coming out with automatic starters for its model T’s.
11. “She left me something to remember her by.” When Jonathan made his permanent move to New York City in early 1920, he carried the poem with him. As it disintegrated with time and wear, he admitted that simply touching the paper-dust remnant at the bottom of his pocket would conjure up memory of “that pretty little pixie” Tulip McTigue. The text of the poem follows.
Yet Roses Bloom Still in Fields of Woe
Even in fields of woe,
Bloom roses still!
Joyful scent revive in me
Some soft rememb’r’d thing.
Fragrant days of youth —
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