Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Spike O'Donnell in The Chorito Hog-Leg: A Novel of Guam in Time of War

25. A Homily on Targets

On March 15, 1943, just before Tim Cullen, Dick Prendergast and Jimmy Arneberg left for the Marines after early graduation, Spike O’Donnell walked south on Loomis and turned west on 83rd Street and right off the alley, between Loomis and Ada Streets, a guy creep-ed up and pumped a shot into Spike’s back. The louse tried to put one in Spike’s ear but the goof’s beezer misfired and the skunk jumped into a car and Spike crawled home to his wife Elizabeth and daughter Rita.

All this had to do with Spike’s ‘consulting work’ in the asphalt business. From the time that Spike quit the beer rackets, he had used his political clout to help asphalt paving contractors meet the right guy in Washington, when FDR started bringing the country back from the Depression with jobs. Mike Carrozza who ran the Laborers Union in Chicago was tapped as the paving czar for the PWA and he and Spike trusted and respected one another from the old days. One bright boy, a real clean good-government type, asked Spike’s help in securing the low bid for a three million dollar paving job for which Spike’s fee was agreed to be $ 70,000 the Cook County States Attorney and the Chicago Street Commissioner were already in the pocket of another bidder and tried to freeze Spike’s guy out; so the do-gooder reneges on his fee to get back in the good graces of the other pigs; so Spike gives the lying bastard a slap-around in front of his employees and the States Attorney has Spike pinched. Reason prevailed and the do-gooder louse woke up to the fact that Spike saved his hard-earned cash and thousands of dollars for Father Steve McMahon and Little Flower Parish by walking into the failing bank on Ashland Ave. in October 1929 with a violin case and telling the Bank’s President ‘I want to make a withdrawal – all accounts for Mr. Edward J. O’Donnell and all accounts for Father Steve McMahon and any and all for Little Flower Parish, please And I don’t want to make two trips, see?’ Neither Mr. O’Donnell nor Little Flower Parish lost a nickel in the great crash.

The reneging Asphalt mogul did not press a charge of assault and battery against Spike O’Donnell. But neither did he pay the tough-guy consultant the fee suggested. Mr. O’Donnell made it known that the Streets Commissioner of the City of Chicago was a crook and so was the States Attorney. From September 1942 to March 1943, while Marines fought to keep a foot - hold on Guadalcanal, while Ike landed American forces in North Africa, while millions of American boys were training to fight and die all over the globe, Edward J. Spike O’Donnell of 8234 S. Loomis in Chicago, Illinois fought a jungle war against the craven interests of crooked politicians (those not in Spike’s vest pocket) and two-faced louses who vote Republican - good government phonies.

On the same day that Brutus stuck a shiv in Caesar’s kidneys, 1900 years later; some louse popped a lead capsule just to the left of 53 year old Spike’s spine that lodged in his chest. Fortunately, Spike’s assassin was paid and not honorable and took to his heels when his beezer gave out. Spike laid up in Little Company of Mary Hospital for months with Capt. Dan’ Tubbo’ Gilbert and his boys keeping visitors out on orders from the States Attorney. The Papers screamed bloody murder as most Chicagoans got a kick out of Spike who publicly gave politicians the miseries with his circular narratives, punctuated by jabs to the ribs, and always delivered out of the side of his mouth. Spike O’Donnell was a tough-guy who got tough with louses and crumbs that had it coming, or so the common man held.

When visitors were allowed, Joanie Cullen brought her Mom’s homemade Chili sauce that was sweet and cinnamon zested and went great with pot roast and beef shoulder, a Mass Card from all the Cullens and a big box of candy from Steinberg’s drugstore – now called Steinway Pharmacy. Tim dropped by to tell Spike that he had joined the Marines and Spike wanted to kiss and also clout the kid. ‘Are you soft upstairs? You should be working on airplanes or in the Navy like your brother who wouldn’t know a pipe wrench from a Mary Jane. You clowns are all gonna kill Tojo. Well, pal, let me tell you this. I been shot at – and hit because my back was turned – and it’s no roller skate date at Foster Park. You make damn sure that you know how to operate what you're shooting and you had better keep it oiled and chambered. Now listen – when you shoot at a mug you are shooting at a target and that is all. If you get all Shirley Temple and human he’ll kill you – end of story. When you take off?’
‘The end of April Mr. O’Donnell.’ Tim was impressed by his friend’s frank and forthright – though – unwitnessed, tutorial on weapons and their uses.

‘Ten years ago, when Danny McGeoghan was trying to kill me everyday of the week – over beer sales – he had a nut-job Polack tough-guy jump ship to me. The guy killed about three guys, or so he said, and he wants to get close to me. One night, the guy comes into my house for the pad to old Capt. Somerville, and one of the kids, I forget who it was, comes out in diapers crying about the loud man. Anyway I picked her up and patted her back to sleep and put her to bed. The Polack is staring green at the baby the whole time. I’m not thinking clear, see, so I leave the him in the living – this was in my nice house over at 81st and Wolcott the one the G snatched from me for taxes last year –room and I go down to the basement for some money. I go round the front of the house for some reason and while I’m in the gangway I see him in my baby’s bed room giving the baby a crack. She’s bawling and by the time I come up the front porch he’s back on the sofa - as nice as pie. “Hey Spike that Baby is really giving out since . . .” I hold up my hand and wave it off ‘No sweat Pal.!’
Two weeks later we go down to Momence for some target practice. This guy Meehan has a shit farm south of the Kankakee River, see. We set up targets but the Polack sees these goats having lunch and decides to kill the poor things for no reason. “I tell him nice shooting and ask him to set up a target for me a couple hundred feet from where the dead goats are toes-up. Before he went two feet, four slugs ran into the back of the Polack’s head – nice target. Get me?’

Tim nodded with deep appreciation and conviction as he fully understood the entire tone and temper of the parable, which Mr. O’Donnell offered without homily – take care of your weapons and hit what you aim at. The targets put themselves there.


NOC said...

Where are you finding this information on Spike? He is my great grandfather and I would like to find out more.

pathickey said...

Nicole, Pleased to meet you! I have dug into old newspaper accounts of Mr. O'Donnelll and quite frankly, I find him to be the most interesting man of his era - and occupations.

I give a fictional treatment of Mr. O'Donnell in my novel that some folks have objected to as 'flattering.'

My impression of the man himself is of a very tough - brutally honest - intensely loyal ( personnally and professionally) - direct man of vision.

He was not - as is popularly believed - 'run-out' of the beer rackets - he gave them up as 'stupid.'

I genuinely like the guy.
I hope that I do Spike some small justice.

Racing International said...

My mother was an O'Neill from Canaryville (third or fourth generation).
In defending Chicago abroad (live in London) and trying to explain a Blago, I have been searching my memory of connections.
My father was with the Chicago Crime Commission and later associated with State's Attorney Bob Crowe so 'Spike' O'Donnell was often discussed.
Doing research on the old neighborhood is how I found this site.
I met Spike more than a couple of times as a child as he lived near my aunt (who was ten feet behind him when he was shot) and regularly held court in the lobby of City Hall.
He was a polished, elegant gentleman who looked after the Irish community and workers.
He was tough--not a mug or a casual killer.
The man I met did not talk the way you portray.
He was smart enough to go legit when the Capones took over.
His brothers got out earlier.
Despite his criminal connections, people respected him.
I and my family liked him though we were on the law side.
Your instincts about him were right.