Friday, October 07, 2011

I Am Very Well Occupied - History and a Haircut.

America - "the image of democracy itself, with its inclinations, its character, its prejudices, and its passions." -Alexis de Tocqueville

I had a wonderful day yesterday. My prospect and grant research was interrupted by Leo Principal Phil Mesina.

Yesterday, Leo President Dan McGrath had arranged for a great photographer by the name of John Konstantaras was drop by at 10:30 A.M. and take some photos of Leo Men that will be used in our marketing and recruitment materials and for an Ad that will ride on the back of CTA buses.

One of the gents who volunteered for the photo shoot is a freshman from Canaryville's St. Gabriel's Parish - who had been sporting a modest Clay Matthews head of hair in homage to the great Green Bay Packer linebacker. Our young Matthewsis doing very well in the classroom and sports # 16 on the freshman roster -a linebacker and place kicker. The day before, Principal Mesina admonished our gentlemen to shave and get their hair trimmed. They are to be the collective face of Leo High School.

Uh, huh, As parents of teenage sons will attest.

At 8 AM in the midst of sealing the envelop destined for Chelmsford, MS and the Blanche Walsh Charitable Trust, Mr. Mesina asked if I would squire Leo's Fun Size Matthews to a master barber. John ( Giovani's in Mt. Greenwood)Cutrone's Barber Shop!

Off we went on a 19th Ward adventure. The lad, like most inner city youngsters, had never journeyed outside of his neighborhood or the Leo High School grounds.

'Whoa! This is a nice town!' young Clay exclaimed. This is Chicago, Bub, 19th Ward.

'For Real?'

Indeed. We turned off Western Ave. and headed west on 111th Street and talked about Chicago history.

'I like to study history, Civil War stuff is interesting.'

I explained that his neighborhood played a significant role in War for America's Soul. Camp Douglas was a prison for Confederate soldiers and it was over on Cottage Grove at 35th Street. The Illinois 23rd was comprised of mostly Irish from Bridgeport and the Illinois 24th was made up of German and Hungarian immigrants.

We passed Mount Olivet Cemetary and explained the historical importance of its being - Al Capone for a few decades, Father Maurice Dorney - who commanded the stockyards for 35 years, the respect of Samuel Gompers, Eugene Debs, Big Jim O'Leary the Gambler, President Teddy Roosevelt, and thousands of working men and woman now eased from history by lesser souls like Jane Addams, Michael Cassius McDonald -the original Godfather of crime and Democratic Machine Politics, the brothers of Gangster Spike O'Donnell, the victims of the Great Chicago Fire and the Stockyards Fire, soldiers from every American war and conflict from the Civil War to Afghanistan, Clan Na Gael's Monument to the Chicago Irish Civil War veterans who invaded Niagra, Canada in 1867 and were called by to Buffalo by General Grant.

John's was not yet open so I headed to the White Hen at Kedzie and bought the soon- to-be-sheared historian tough guy some grub and coffee'd up my own bad self and headed back to Mount Olivet.

For a half-hour the two of us strolled among the Mausoleums, Monuments and grave markers identifying the bones of Chicagoans who occupied their moments in history.

My charge ran ahead of me and picked up empty cans of Bud Light and tossed them into the green garbage cans only three feet from where they had been tossed by neighborhood goofs who no doubt had relatives resting near their beer party.

'My Mom taught me to respect the dead.'

Your Mom did a great job.

The tossed beer cans lay in front of the Mausoleum of Francis O'Neil - the County Cork born immigrant who worked as sailor, cowboy, lumberman and police man. Francis O'Neill became the Chief of Chicago Police during the violent labor battles in the Pullman and the Stockyard strikes of 1904. O'Neill, in his spare time, preserved Irish Music. The music of the Ireland remains because of Chief O'Neill who had every dirge, jig, reel, hornpipe, and polka transcribed by a musician from Lyon & Healy by hand, turned to print, bound and published out of his own pay as a policemen.

I told the Young Lion that 1904 on Mausoleum notes the time that O'Neill had the marker built in order to house his children, especially his beloved musician son. The Old Chief died in 1935, himself.

Some goofs tossed their empties at his family tomb. Thoughtless. A metaphor of this age. History is tossed away.

John Cutrone's shop ws open and we both got trimmed. We returned to Leo for the photos and it was obvious that Clay Matthews Lite had changed. He was no longer the Green Bay Packer - his classmates yowled 'Yo! Jutsin Bieber!'

My tough guy from the one hundred year old frame houses between Halsted and Stewart and 39th and 47th Street grinned at his antagonists and then back to me.

'Hey, I like it looks good.'

It will look better on the back of CTA buses.


In April of 1866, a group of Fenians gathered at Campobello Island, New Brunswick, but withdrew in the face of the Canadian Militia, British warships, and American authorities. A month later, about 800 Fenians crossed the Niagara River into Canada, occupying Fort Erie and cutting telegraph lines. The Buffalo and Lake Huron railroads were also severed before the Fenians proceeded inland. Again, the Canadian Militia countered the attack.

In June, the Fenians drove the Canadians back at Ridgeway, Ontario, and suffered many casualties. At Fort Erie, they took on another Canadian Militia and forced them back. The main Canadian forces entered Fort Erie, but the Fenians had already escaped back across the border to the U.S., where they were given a hero's welcome. Later that same month, about 1000 Fenians crossed the Canadian border and occupied Pigeon Hill in Missisquoi County, Quebec. They plundered St. Armand and Frelighsburg, but retreated to the U.S. when the American authorities seized their supplies at St. Alban's.

Thus ended the Fenian invasion of Canada.

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