18th Amendment failure, Sisters of St. Joseph, a Sacristy marriage with a vow to raise children Catholic;
the 18th Amendment was a failure for the nation and for our family
Copyright 2013 Franklyn E. Dailey Jr.
Prelude to Grade School
Introibo ad altare Dei.
Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam.
I will go into the altar of God,
To God who gives joy to my youth.
My first awareness of the Sisters occurred in late 1925 or early 1926, the year before I started first grade. The first time I can recall being in their presence took place in the original Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) located at the southeast corner of Utica and Erie streets in Brockport, New York.
I was "going-on" five years old. The Sisters were already seated together for Sunday Mass when Dad brought me into the church for the first time. After attending a few Sunday Masses with my Dad, I knew where to look for the Sisters because they always occupied the same pews. Mother did not go to Mass with us. She had been brought up a Lutheran but joined St. Luke's, the Episcopal Church in Brockport. Mom liked Father Veazey and his wife, Carol. Mother also played piano and organ and they had a need for that over at St. Luke's. My sister Alma 'Sis' Dailey joined Dad and me at Sunday Mass about one year after I first began going to Mass with Dad.
Before I get too far into a story about the Sisters, I'd better tell you a little about my mother and father. I owe much to the six years God gave me with a small group of remarkable, loving, teaching Sisters of St. Joseph who took on the burden of second parents. I do not want the reader to conclude that I think any the less of my parents because of the recognition I give to the enormous part the Sisters played in my life.
Dad was the ninth and last child and eighth son of William Dailey and Jessie McGarry Dailey, if you leave out Henry who died young. William had been the sixth of nine in the family of John and Mary Dailey who migrated with their first three children from Ireland in 1836. Family, do not hold me responsible for the spelling of Jessie's maiden name. It appears as McGarry from Patrick McGarry, her grandfather, in a printed genealogy found in my Dad's Gladstone bag. It appears as McGearry on the gravestones in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Rochester, NY. McGearry is found on Jessie's gravestone and on her maiden sister's (Anna's) stone. Brockport historian Charlotte Martin, after her discussions with my father, recorded it as McGary. I do not know if it was a specialty of the Irish, but their name spellings in my family reveal some tinkering throughout the 1850-2000 period that I have examined. Family speculation centers on County Mayo in Ireland as our family origin and my father told me that O'Dalaigh was the Gaelic spelling of our name. More recent probing points to County Westmeath.
Since Dad's brothers Jim and George died in the flu epidemic of 1918 and his sister Bertha died giving birth to her second child, all these events occurring before my birth, I really knew in the course of my younger life only five of Dad's brothers. In order of their age, they were John F. Dailey who was the first born child in that family, and William G. Dailey, Vincent Dailey, Donald A. Dailey and Jesse Oswald "Oz" Dailey, the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th children respectively. My Dad was 9th. Local trips west would bring a visit to John F. in Buffalo and William in Albion, New York. Trips east would take me to Rochester to see Uncle Don who lived on Canterbury Road and Uncle Vincent who lived on Grand Avenue. I was in Uncle Oz' home in Rochester a few times and much more frequently in his home in Brockport when he moved back there. I had just one sibling, my sister Alma "Sis" Dailey. Most of my in-family play-time occurred with Tom, Uncle Oz' second son and occasionally with his brother Oz who was older.
As noted earlier, Dad was born Franklin but died Franklyn. I was baptized Francis but have known only the name Franklyn Jr. Mother was the third child of Harry Lasher and Alma Valentin Lasher. Alma Valentin came from Denmark. Harry's way back ancestor was Conrad Lasher, who was born in 1749 and died in 1824. He was a 2nd Lt., 1st Reg. Dutchess County, New York. I found this out from Mother's application, discovered in the suitcase she left me, to join the DAR. She had established that her eligibility was defined by descent from "a man or woman who, with unfailing loyalty to the cause of American Independence, served as a sailor, or as a soldier or civil officer in one of the several Colonies or States...." Apparently, Mom wearied of the application procedure. Having completed and put in writing her lineage investigation on a form supplied by the DAR, reaching back to Conrad in Germantown, NY in 1749, she failed to finish the last couple of lines of the required application.
Mom and Dad were married in late April of 1920 in the sacristy of the original Church of the Nativity of the BVM, in Brockport, New York. Mother confided to me more than once that she had to "sign a paper." In that paper, she had agreed to raise her children in the Catholic faith. Mother carried out her part of the bargain, making many sacrifices to do so. Though never a Roman Catholic, Mother later became a devout Anglican Catholic with a zealot's interest in "high" church and the "old" rite, to the dismay of some of her fellow Episcopalians. For the last 40 years of her 93-year life, Mother was all but a Roman Catholic. It has occurred to me that only the cold tones of her marriage ceremony in that sacristy in 1920 kept her from going all the way. There is no picture that I can find of that wedding. Judging from the wealth of photo albums left behind, both Mother and Dad took a lot of pictures with George Eastman's relatively new sensation, the box camera and the folding box camera. I have one camera of each model dating from 1921 along with albums and loose prints in great quantity. But, I cannot find a wedding picture. Forbidden, perhaps, for a mixed marriage in those days? Or the sacristy in the old church was simply too dark on that April Saturday night. I have the certificate signed by the Reverend Michael J. Krieg that he performed the nuptials for Franklyn E. Dailey and Isabel Lasher. Dad's older brother Oz signed as one witness and Mother's older sister, Martha, signed as the other witness.
Mother expressed to me many times her complete approval of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Praise did not come easily from Mother. Following her father's second marriage, my mother and her two sisters and brother were eased out of the second wife's new household. This experience led Mother to cast the female in the role of adversary in any situation where it was not crystal clear in whose body the villain resided. Again, the Sisters were always absolved even when remotely connected with one of Mother's prejudices.
As I grew and learned to know my mother, I realized that the Sisters, in our town, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet, held special respect from my mother. While Mother was always reserved in praise or in criticism, I could tell that the Sisters were something special in her view of life. Mother favored discipline and the Sisters had discipline. For many years, Mother viewed the Sisters as something the Roman Catholic Church had that her Episcopalians did not have. Her priest, in those days Father Veazey of St. Luke's, was easily the equal of Father Krieg at the Roman Catholic church. Mother regarded Episcopal Church parishioners as more than the equal of those attending the Church of The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mother was afflicted with her 'proper bringing up' form of bigotry. Most non-Catholic Christians have had a problem with the Real Presence, but only a few dwell on it and my Mother did not. We Roman Catholics had the Sisters and that made a difference in her mind. As Mom grew in life and in understanding, more and more she referred to her church as Anglican Catholic. Then, at a crucial time later in her life, she made a retreat. And on that retreat, Mother made the discovery that the Anglicans had Sisters. Mother Virginia and my mother corresponded until my Mother died. I really believe that at the time of her discovery of an order of Anglican Sisters, Mom's religious life became filled out, complete. She would need no more on the road to meet her Maker. She never retreated from her respect for the Sisters of St. Joseph, but she took much solace that her church also had a place for Sisters.
I mentioned bigotry. It was not blatant in my mother. But it did creep out once in awhile. When I visited her many years after World War II, then having a growing family of my own, I was witness to a dialogue between Mother and some of her friends from Brighton, a suburb of Rochester, and one of the first places of urban flight from that city. Brighton High School was singled out, just as many are today, for its exceptional students. Brighton was the place where Kodak managers on the rise settled, and as with those exposed to educated adults, the children simply absorbed knowledge faster. Another facet of urban living was that most of the students at Brighton High were bused to school. Just at the time of this visit with my mother, the Diocese of Rochester was involved in a school building program that included a new Parochial school connected with St. Thomas More Church, a relatively new Catholic parish in Brighton. Mother's friends expressed their fear that the Catholic kids who would be bused to the new school would be throwing papers and other trash out the window of the bus on its way to the new school. Mother appeared to agree. I interjected and pointed out to my Mother that the Brighton public school kids were just as likely as the Catholic kids to be throwing stuff out the bus windows and I opined that the likelihood was low in both cases. Mother got pretty upset with me for pointing that out in front of her friends. It turned out to be a conversation closer.
Although Mother had been warned by her father that there was "alcohol" in my Dad's family, Mother married him anyway. Perhaps, almost because of her criticism of her father for marrying the Canadian lady we came to know as "Aunt Elsa", my mother may have become all the more determined to marry Dad. In later years, Aunt Elsa became my friend and my mother relented somewhat so as not to spoil my relationship with Elsa.
I was not present for the courtship of course, but Grandfather Harry Lasher, Mother's Dad, was correct. There was alcohol in the Dailey family. Some of the Dailey family's flu related deaths in the death period of 1918-1919 were undoubtedly hastened by alcohol. Though my Dad lived until age 79 in 1975, the first part of his adult life encased the living hell of alcohol, leading to the failure of his marriage.
Alcoholics Anonymous extended Dad's life by at least 30 years. He had been in and out of the Monroe County Hospital and the New York State Hospital, both located in Rochester New York, many times, when "Bill" of AA came to Rochester in 1941 and helped Dad begin the first Rochester, New York chapter of the remarkable AA movement.
I had some intimate insights into Dad's hospital experiences. The wards housing the unruly stimulated a young boy's imagination. I made my own way around at a young age because there was most often no one to escort me. Entrance to these hospital wards generally took one to a heavy oak door that had a tiny wire-screened window at eye level. Through this window, an attendant would first look to see if you should be granted admission. Once inside, the patients, all in identical seersucker bathrobes, each provided me with furious mind-speculation as to what their problem was. Some men were pretty banged up and that made those visits even more fascinating. Dad related to me some details on the application of processes known as insulin shock therapy and electrotherapy that he had witnessed while incarcerated for alcohol abuse. He also told me some of the effects. Since Dad stayed in those hospitals with some frequency, I surmised later that Dad might have felt he was being evaluated as a potential candidate for one of those treatments. Anyone who has seen the play or movie of "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" pretty much has the picture that I have carried with me for seventy years.
Dad and Mom separated just as he was getting straightened out and Dad then went to live with a lady he met in AA. Mrs. "Kitty" Kelly had two small daughters. As a recovering alcoholic, Dad fulfilled with the Kelly family the duties of fatherhood that he frequently had skipped with our family.
We will see something of Dad in the first part of my 1926-1932 Parochial School period, much less in the second part because of alcohol. After about 1930, my parents were involved in my life and my sister's life, at best serially, and at worst not at all. My times with the Sisters covers my age from five to nearly twelve, but the times when just one or even no parents were aboard at 52 South Avenue covers our ages from about eight to about 14. One day my Sis answered the front door bell at our 52 South Avenue, Brockport, New York home. In the vestibule was my Mother returning after two years in New York City where she worked in Stern's Department store on 34th Street and lived at a YWCA house called Tatham House in Manhattan. Sis looked through the glass in the inner vestibule door, and would not let Mom in. Sis did not recognize who was at the door.
Near the end of his life, when Dad had been diagnosed with cancer that had spread to the spine, I went back to Rochester to help find a nursing home for his final months of life. One of Mrs. Kelly's daughters, who was then about thirty years old, accompanied me on a one-day tour of several prospective nursing homes in Rochester, New York. It was 1975, and a bad period for those establishments. The smell of urine pervaded the halls of every institution we visited. This young lady was moved to tears, saying repeatedly, "Daddy can't live in a place like this." More than once on that day, I was on the verge of saying, "Whose Daddy is this, anyway?" The Sisters must have dispatched the guardian angel that kept those words from crossing my lips. My pop was the only Daddy this girl knew.
Dad was the youngest of nine and his mother's favorite. He always spoke of her in saintly terms. He was a Catholic, he told me, simply because of his mother's deep faith. He told me of trips he took with his mother on the New York Central Railroad from Brockport through Rochester to Canandaigua, New York, where there was a connection to the Pennsylvania Railroad south to Harrisburg, Baltimore and Washington. His mother frequently needed to go to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore for radium treatments that kept her alive until she died from cancer late in 1921. Grandfather William Dailey was the founder of the family coal and produce businesses. He persuaded National Biscuit Company to build a shredded wheat cereal plant in Niagara Falls to which he could supply the hard wheat needed. He passed on in 1919 so my Dad became his mother's companion for her late-life cancer therapy trips.
I made weekend trips to the nursing home we selected for Dad in Rochester on Winton Road South from Decoration Day in 1975 until he died in early November that year. One weekend in September, Dad informed me that his nephew, Murray, eldest son of Dad's oldest brother John F. Dailey, but in age Dad's contemporary, made the suggestion that since Dad's cancer was inoperable, perhaps he would like a drink. Dad obviously took this very seriously and did not act on the suggestion before he passed it by me, putting it in the form of the question, "Should he or shouldn't he?". The contrasts of Dad's life with alcohol and later as a recovering, non-drinking alcoholic, flashed before my mind. This was Saturday morning so I asked Dad if I could reflect on it over night and let him know when I came back on Sunday morning. The sweats visited me all that night at a local motel. The next morning, I said to him, "Dad, that drink is not going to be as good as the prospect might appear to be. I recommend you put the thought aside." I am quite sure he did not break the string of thirty years of sobriety . We never discussed it again. He was gone in just a few weeks. It may seem farfetched but I believe that the reasoning infused with Grace that the sisters taught helped me handle a hard question. Inwardly, I was quite upset with Murray for coming up with that idea.
It is a dignifying experience to have your Dad ask you a serious question. He had certainly answered some of mine. In late December 1945, Peggy, my wife, our first born, Franklyn III, an infant of two months, and I were proceeding north from Pensacola Florida where I had just received my Navy wings. It was three days before Christmas and we were traveling to Peggy's family home at Willoughby Spit near to Norfolk Virginia. After a day of ice bound North Carolina roads in which our '35 Hudson Terraplane labored under the strain of everything we owned piled on its roof, and on a day when the Greyhound bus drivers told me they were not running, we arrived at South Boston Virginia. We put up at the town's only hotel, being given a dark mahogany room out of the Victorian age. I went to the lobby to the pay phone and put in a progress call to Peggy's home. Her mother answered and, forbidding me to tell Peggy, told me that Peg's father had died that morning from a sudden heart attack. I tried to console Mrs. "May" Parker but I was dumbstruck from the gravest personal news of my life. Before going back to the room, I called my Dad and asked him what I should do. He came right back, "You've got to tell her." I did, and we cried together all night with an infant between us. Dad had the right advice. I knew this for certain when we rolled up the Parker driveway the next day and saw the casket in the living room window.
I discovered graphic evidence of Grandmother Dailey's favoritism. In the Gladstone bag that Dad gave me before he died, I found a handsome 5x7 framed picture of him. I kept it on my dresser. That frame always seemed slightly heavy though it appeared to have a light graceful construction. One day, when I held the frame up, two other pictures behind Dad's picture slipped out. These proved to be photos of two of Dad's older brothers neatly stored under Dad's photo. This thrifty Irish lady, Jessie McGarry Dailey, had found a way to get her youngest son's picture into a standing frame for display on her dresser without going out and buying yet another frame. And without throwing away the older brother's photos.
My mother learned from Jessie too. Mom told me that Jessie Dailey, her mother-in-law, had come to see me in Rochester a few months after my birth in February 1921. The scene was a Harvard flat (two up and two down) on Farrington Place next to the original Rochester Tennis Club. Mother had prepared a nice dinner to impress Dad's mother. There was unease at the table because I was crying in my crib. Mother and Dad told Jessie to please ignore this distraction, that the "new" method was to "let them cry it out." According to my mother's retelling of this event, Grandmother immediately went to the bedroom and rocked me to sleep. The small group then had a comfortable dinner. In passing on this story to me, my mother was honestly, if reluctantly, disclosing that the episode had made an impression on her. I suspect the new method was junked that evening.
Later that year 1921, my Dad accompanied his mother on railroad trips, New York Central to Canandaigura, thence via Pennsylvania RR to Harrisburg, Philadelphia ,and Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital for radium treatments for cancer. Jessie passed in December of that year. Her 'baby' Frank, my Dad, had stood by his Mom.
Recall that I had been born in early February 1921. You can work out the math. In 1999, I attended my World War II destroyer's reunion at Atlantic City. Walking the boardwalk, I discovered the aging Claridge Hotel, the place Dad and Mom told me was the hotel where they had their honeymoon in April of 1920. My sister was born in February 1922, almost exactly one year after me. That was it for our family.
My times with the Sisters will cover the years 1926-1932. The recollections of the first part are pretty upbeat, but the mire of drinking, the consequent poverty, and depression in and outside of the family, may color the last part. The Sisters helped keep my little ship on course despite some severe buffeting.
The Sisters provided order and structure and love. My mother was an order and structure person and that was the attraction the sisters had for her. But at home, Mom mostly got chaos. Don't get me wrong. She liked a little fling herself once in awhile. Those Brockport parties were something to behold, as Sis and I did through the registers (adjustable grates) that brought heat from the first to the second floor of our home. Mother's wedding present was a baby grand Chickering piano. There were candles on the piano. I could tell when they had been used because I found the melted wax beneath them the next morning. For the first couple of party hours, Mother played jazz age music. I have a three-foot stack of worn sheet music from those times. Dr. Hazen played the ukulele and Bud Bruce played the saxophone. The sliding double doors to the patio would be opened up for dancing. Between dances, Mother played songs like "Kitten on the Keys," Wedding of the Painted Doll," and "Nola." Her audience loved it. Some years later, Mother brought the sheet music for Peter deRose's "Deep Purple." While she kept limber with piano exercises by Grieg, Chopin, and others, she confessed to me that Deep Purple was not easy to play. I recall that she worked hard at it and finally felt satisfied that she was doing it justice.
Whatever its goals , the 18th Amendment, banning booze, did not work.
We will get into this subject more fully in other pages in this folder.
Eventually, at those parties in my growing up home in Brockport, New York, the booze took hold and interesting things happened. Some of the booze was medicinal, that is legitimate stuff, that was almost legal. Remember that Doctors were in the crowd. They could prescribe it, and Pharmacists could fill the prescription, tho drugstore supplied 'spirits' were by no means the main source.
Next day, looking over one bare basement room in our home where the stuff was kept, I could also find empty bottles that had been legitimately tax stamped at one time but had been recycled with "whatever" a number of times. It was in that room during my fourth grade year that I tried to make root beer with Hires Root Beer Mix and Fleischmann's Yeast. I did not have a vat big enough for the whole formula so I had to proportion the mix. I did not get it quite right and I had no capping tool so used corks. For weeks afterward, a sound like a gun going off was a regular occurrence as the "strong" side of the batch blew their corks into the basement ceiling. At least I was able to give those retired bottles one last whirl. They may have survived only because I had to use corks.
My Times With the Sisters and Other Events, 134 pages, ISBN 0966625110; can be ordered through your local bookstore. Cover Price is $9.50.