My very best wishes to you and your family.
Thanksgiving always reminds me of the obstacles our forefathers confronted, and the courage that has prevailed to make California, and America a great place.
On this particular Thanksgiving Day, there are many people who are disconnected from their families. Maybe they don’t even have families anymore. Some of them may no longer even have a home, or will soon be losing their homes. Many of them will simply not be able to join their families or friends for a traditional holiday Thanksgiving.
In these times, wherein most of our political candidates dare not speak, for fear they will lose their election funds, of the tyranny that the financial enterprise and other international corporate cartels are wreaking upon the world, I hope we can all take, as I do, some solace, comfort and encouragement from our achievements in overcoming hardships of the past. In that regard I’d like to say something about my Pop’s side of the family, and his father, “the Old Centerfielder.”
His father, my great grandfather, Patrick O’Flaherty was born in 1824. He came to America to escape the genocide in Ireland. He worked as a laborer until he had enough money to buy a horse and wagon, and become a Teamster. He married a lady named Bridget Murphy.
My grandfather Michael Joseph, on the left, “The Old Centerfielder”, was the youngest of his siblings. Patrick Henry, on top and James Leo on the right were also early baseball players. They found careers in law enforcement. John Patrick on the bottom, was known for a while as Riverfront Jack because he shot a bunch of bad guys on the St. Louis waterfront.
I tried to find out more about Jack some years back. But the bureau of statistics at the Saint Louis Police Department said they didn’t have any info on him at all. However, not long ago they put his name up on the fallen officer page, and created a new page about him, and would you believe it, the story said that his name wasn’t Riverfront Jack after all…
He had a different nickname, they said, because he boarded a steamboat one day, and while he “was otherwise occupied,” the boat left the dock. He remained aboard all day, as the story goes, unable to communicate with headquarters. Thinking he had met with foul play the Department ordered a city wide search, and upon his return to the levee, he was from then on affectionately known as “Steamboat Jack…”
All of which hardly makes sense to me, seeing as how he could have easily had the captain let him ashore at any one of the many landings along the river, including the little dock less than 100 feet in front of his father Patrick’s house at 1217 Palm.
At any rate, not long after the above photo was taken, his brothers Jim, and my grandfather Mike, moved to Washington D.C. where Thomas O. Flaherty, of Oxen Hill, Maryland, had arranged jobs for them with the government. Jim worked for the Secret Service, and Mike worked as a printer for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, until his retirement. He liked to say he made more money than Rockefeller but he just couldn’t keep it.
The truth though, was that his salary was barely enough to raise his family, and provided scant savings to send any of them on to college.
When he was very old and living alone, he was the last white person in his neighborhood, as the central District of Columbia, the area all around the White House and the Capitol, had become a run-down ghetto, inhabited in large part by poor blacks, former slaves and the children of slaves.
Some in our family were worried about him living there all alone. They tried to get him to move, but he wouldn’t hear of it. He and his wife had raised four fine sons, and a fine daughter, all in that home, and in that home he was going to stay he said. Regarding the Negroes, as they were called then, he maintained that he got along fine with his neighbors, and he reminded his proud sons and daughter that some of their O’Flaherty cousins had lived and died in slavery themselves, well into the 19th century, on the British plantations in the Bahamas.
Nevertheless, one evening when he was about 96 years old, the family got him out to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at old Tom O’Donnell’s Restaurant, and while he was otherwise occupied there, everything he owned was moved into a new place nearer to them in Maryland.