Source: Grapes of Wrath
Silent Movies didn’t start talking until 1927 when Warner Bros. released “The Jazz Singer.” The film ran 89 minutes and grossed almost four million in the U.S. and another three million worldwide.
Radio, on the other hand, had been going strong for years. By 1923, some three million Americans owned radios, although most of them were crystal sets with earphones. Programming was mostly: baseball, news, music, and advertising.
[If you don’t have time to listen now, Bookmark this page on your Browser, and revisit sometime when you have fifteen minutes and a cup of coffee.]
In 1922, President Harding became the first President to be heard on radio. It was not a political message but a dedication to the composer of the “Star Spangled Banner” Francis Scot Key. The first political message came three years later from President Coolidge.
In 1927 radios started appearing in cars
The Marconi Transmitting Station, Marin County California
In 1914, the stations in Bolinas (transmitting) and Marshall (receiving) could receive messages from New Jersey and retransmit them to Hawaii.
The novel Midnight Run 1932 fictitiously uses this facility in its bootlegging activities.
And last but not least,
Al Capone’s 1928 Cadillac was equipped with a police band receiver.
The Metropolitan Police of St. Louis drove 1928 Packards with shiny bells on the front.
The Chicago Police, on the other hand, drove Fords and some green 1928 Cadillacs with black fenders. Behind the front grill, the Caddies were equipped with flashing red lights and a siren.
So, you may ask, what did Al Capone drive?
Al Capone also had a green 1928 Caddy with black fenders, a siren, flashing red lights, and a police band receiver. It was the twin of the police issue. In addition, it had 3,000 pounds of lead and one inch bulletproof glass all around. Capone’s 1928 Cadillac was so well fortified that for his own protection President Roosevelt used it after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.
The first prisoners held on Alcatraz Island were not bank robbers or thugs; they were Confederate sympathizers, disobedient soldiers, and Native Americans. From 1861 to 1933, Alcatraz Island was a military prison. In 1934, it became a federal prison.
Born of necessity, perhaps even political expediency, the prison at Alcatraz represents the federal government’s response to post-Prohibition, post-Depression America. Both the institution and the men confined within its walls are a part of this era. Prisons are a reflection of society.
Alcatraz prisoner number 238 was loosely associated with John Dillinger and closely associated with “Baby Face” Nelson. He was with Nelson in the shootout where “Baby Face” was mortally wounded with 17 rounds in him (238 was captured a month later). Number 238 was a California native whose association with Nelson began on a small dairy ranch in Santa Venetia, just north of San Rafael, California.
Two Stories BOTH TRUE – and worth reading
STORY NUMBER ONE
Many years ago, Al Capone virtually owned Chicago enmeshing the windy city in everything from bootlegged booze and prostitution to murder.
Capone had a lawyer nicknamed “Easy Eddie.” He was Capone’s lawyer for a good reason. Eddie was very good! In fact, Eddie’s skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time. To show his appreciation, Capone paid him very well. Not only was the money big, but Eddie got special dividends, as well. For instance, he and his family occupied a fenced-in mansion with live-in help and all of the conveniences of the day. The estate was so large that it filled an entire Chicago City block. Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the atrocity that went on around him.
Eddie did have one soft spot, however. He had a son that he loved dearly. Eddie saw to it that his young son had clothes, cars, and a good education. Nothing was withheld. Price was no object. And, despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie even tried to teach him right from wrong. Eddie wanted his son to be a better man than he was.
Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things he couldn’t give his son; he couldn’t pass on a good name or a good example. One day, Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. Easy Eddie wanted to rectify wrongs he had done.
He decided he would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Al “Scarface” Capone, clean up his tarnished name, and offer his son some semblance of integrity. To do this, he would have to testify against The Mob, and he knew that the cost would be great. So, he testified.
Within the year, Easy Eddie’s life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago street. But in his eyes, he had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer; at the greatest price he could ever pay. Police removed from his pockets a rosary, a crucifix, a religious medallion, and a poem clipped from a magazine.
The poem read:
“The clock of life is wound but once,
And no man has the power
To tell just when the hands will stop,
At late or early hour.
Now is the only time you own.
Live, love, toil with a will.
Place no faith in time.
For the clock may soon be still.”
STORY NUMBER TWO
World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O’Hare. He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific. One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission. After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank. He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship. His flight leader told him to return to the carrier. Reluctantly, he dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet. As he was returning to the mother ship, he saw something that turned his blood cold; a squadron of Japanese aircraft was speeding its way toward the American fleet.
The American fighters were gone on a sortie, and the fleet was all but defenseless. He couldn’t reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet. Nor could he warn the fleet of the approaching danger. There was only one thing to do. He must somehow divert them from the fleet.
Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes. Wing-mounted 50 caliber’s blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another. Butch wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was finally spent. Undaunted, he continued the assault. He dove at the planes, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible, rendering them unfit to fly. Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron took off in another direction.
Deeply relieved, Butch O’Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier. Upon arrival, he reported in and related the event surrounding his return. The film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch’s daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had, in fact, destroyed five enemy aircraft. This took place on February 20, 1942, and for that action Butch became the Navy’s first Ace of WW II, and the first Naval Aviator to win the Medal of Honor.
A year later Butch was killed in aerial combat at the age of 29. His hometown would not allow the memory of this WW II hero to fade, and today, O’Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this great man. So, the next time you find yourself at O’Hare International, give some thought to visiting Butch’s memorial displaying his statue and his Medal of Honor. It’s located between Terminals 1 and 2.
SO WHAT DO THESE TWO STORIES HAVE TO DO WITH EACH OTHER?
Butch O’Hare was “Easy Eddie’s” son.
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“Baby Face” Nelson was one of the killers in the bootlegging and prohibition era. At age twelve, he was arrested for shooting another child in the jaw. That act earned him a year in jail. At age thirteen, he was again incarcerated. This time he got eighteen months for car theft and joyriding.
Nelson quickly graduated to armed home invasions. His next progression was a combination of home invasions and bank robberies sometimes with only a few days in between. During the commission of his first botched robbery, the five foot four inch Nelson killed three people and wounded three more. Days later he killed again.
Nelson was apprehended, sent to prison, escaped, and headed west. He ended up in Marin County and spent some time cooling off as a milker on one of the small dairy ranches in Santa Venetia. Here he became involved in bootlegging in Marin and formed a lifelong friendship with a local Marin County boy named John Paul Chase (aka: Earl Butler).
At age twenty-five, Baby Face Nelson was mortally wounded from seventeen FBI bullets. Chase was with Nelson when he died.