Pat Cady was the reason Mary and her Aunt Winnie were coming to America – his Brooklyn home was a safe haven from the guns and bombs, with an inspiring view of the 1916 Manhattan skyline, such as it was, the highest structure being the spire of Trinity Church followed closely by the superstructure of the Brooklyn Bridge. Pat Cady spent much of his idle time with a friendly group of middle-aged, like-minded, able-bodied workers, at a smoky corner table of the Bier Und Bratwurst (the B & B) saloon on Brooklyn’s Flatbush Avenue. Otto Frederick, Ted’s and Ed’s father, was a prominent member of the group, possibly the leader. Discussion at the corner table, rising above the ongoing poker game, was always brisk, covering Baseball, Politics, the War, and the never-ending fight between labor and management.
Timeout for Max history. It is no accident that Max writes about poker games in smoke-filled rooms. In the mid 1930s, Max and his brother Jaybird, often found themselves on Saturday afternoons in the basement of Portman’s Sporting Goods store in downtown Peoria, breathing the smoke clouding the air over the poker table where their Dad was agonizing over the choice of calling a bet with his pair of queens, or folding. Max and Jaybird’s dad was a handsome galoot who judged it a father’s responsibility to instruct his sons about the difference between a five-card straight, and a five-card flush. He was not unaware how the enticing smell of neat’s-foot oil smeared on baseball gloves would forever touch his sons’ lives. We do miss you, Grandpa John.
It is also no accident that Max fondly recollects the little old low ceilinged rooms that appear in his novels from time to time. It may have begun in a Hong Kong bar when Max and some of his USS John R. Craig buddies tried to harmonize with Ltjg Spade Cooley, standing on a table in the middle of the room as he began to sing SALOON, causing the gin-happy British proprietor to lock all doors so there would be no interruptions as the serious singing began.
I been looking through the dictionary,
For a word that’s always running through my mind.
Though I love the name of brother, I was thinking of another,
But it seems that word I cannot find.
Can it be that all its glories are forgotten?
That it’s buried with the language of the Greeks?
Well if it is ’twill always linger in my memory,
As the first word that I heard my Daddy speak . . .
Saloon, Saloon, Saloon,
Runs through my mind like a tune.
I don’t like Café, can’t stand Caberet,
but just mention saloon and my cares all fade away;
for it brings back a fond recollection
of a little old low-ceilinged room,
of a bar and a rail, of a dime and a pail,
Saloon, Saloon . . . Sa ah loo who hoon.
No more joys to your life,
no more lies to your wife,
Saloon, saloon, saloon.
I look forward to the day when the Internet will allow me to share the lovely tune that goes with this gem. Liberty in foreign ports had a way of teaching some long night watch mind-relieving drinking songs – I Belong to Glasgow comes to mind. Oh my.