1923 reunion: well-to-do white people in front of what looks like a large Eastern house.
Fall 1961. La Mesa, California
"Jeez, Pop, did you get fired or something?"
The speaker is 17-year-old Patrick Daugherty. He's six feet four inches tall, lanky, slouching, already a chainsmoker, with thin, delicate hands, thick black hair, and large blue eyes. He is standing in the driveway of his parents' home on Panchoy Drive, midway down the Eastern slope of Mt. Helix, having just returned home from Grossmont High School, where he is a solid D- student.
It was an enormous family that Patrick was born into.
This was one of many houses Patrick would live in with his parents. Some he remembered vividly, this one he would: the scores of rose bushes his mother had planted in the back yard; playing blind man's bluff in the swimming pool; the odd halfstep down into the family room; the summertime adobe sunsets glowing inside the seldom-used living room. Other homes were already memory bits — the creek and grass alongside a two-story ranch house in Sandy Springs, Georgia; a family bulletin board by the doorway of a small yellow kitchen in Dallas; the cool, sensual feel of bare feet on elementary school linoleum floor in West University, Texas, where, when the weather turned hot, authorities permitted everyone to go to school barefoot.
Aunt Betty (on right) and his mom used to walk to the movie theater every Saturday; admission a dime.
Opposite him here on this San Diego day is his father, a 53-year-old, balding, fair-skinned, red-haired, six-foot man, who, for the first time Patrick can recall, is home before 5:30 p.m. on a workday. And equally rare, Patrick had asked a spontaneous question. "Jesus, are you fired?"
Aunt Betty's house
His father quietly replied, "No, everything is fine," turned and walked into the garage that was his workroom, filled with tiny drawers, home to tiny screws, electric parts, and then three large, black filing cabinets, carpenter's work bench, more tools. Soon was huffing and puffing from one tiny drawer to the next.
First cousin Tom Flannery and wife
He was, among many things, an engineer, had worked the aerospace circuit like a piano bar musician: Lockheed (Georgia, Burbank, Sunnyvale), Hughes, McDonald Douglas, General Dynamics, and on this occasion was working for the Cubic Corporation. At 17, Patrick had already lived in more than 17 houses.
Flannery children — Betty, Adelaide, Rogers
The boy, left in the driveway, considered for a second, but just a second, the familiar incompleteness of any interchange with his dad. He wasn't a bad father. He didn't drink at home and didn't come home with drink, no one was ever beaten. He never screamed at his children with any kind of desire to hurt or humiliate, there were no stories of other women. Although he had many jobs, he always had a job.
Patrick's life, with some bumps, was middle class to upper middle class. Food and clothing — and later, cars — were provided as a matter of course. Medical, dental bills taken care of, and college was assumed.
1991 Flannery reunion
It was just that, with his father, for Patrick anyway, there was no one home. Maybe it was because his father was older, he was born in 1908, was almost old enough to be Patrick's grandfather. Later, as Patrick aged, he would never be able to recall an intimate moment the two had shared. There was never a conversation, never a trip together, never a ride down to the hardware store as co-conspirators, never any of the spontaneous, random intimacy that sons seemed to have with fathers. His father was a mystery to Patrick. What he thought about, what his life was like, what he wanted, what he feared, where he came from, where he was going, what he did at work, all was wrapped tight and stowed deep. And long, long ago his son had decided to leave it there.
His mother was different. There was a bond between the two. Maybe because he was the youngest child, maybe it was personality, but Patrick always felt especially loved and looked after by his mother. From what his mother told him, his father was an only child of an only child. The son of a lawyer who died young, leaving a wife who returned to the countryside, Waynesburg, PA, and passed away years later. Patrick's parents were the only relatives at her funeral.
There were other meager droppings about his father over the years, something about his dad attending Rutgers and Carnegie Tech, something about a trip to L.A. in the 1920s, about being the life of the party, about a short prior marriage, playing the piano by ear, being an airplane pilot in the 1930s, then an airplane wreck and a year in the hospital — was it Florida? — that the insurance wouldn't pay, being told he would die, then when he lived being told he would be crippled for life, then playing tennis.
But it was all known in the manner of having an acquaintance relay the plot of this week's Cisco Kid serial playing at the neighborhood movie house. No detail, no action, no popcorn or Milk Duds, no air conditioning set too cold, no squirming in the seats, and not even, in the actual hearing of it, that interesting.
His mom though had often told Patrick about her childhood, a story that seemed more real to him. She was a rich man's daughter. Her dad, John Rogers Flannery, was a millionaire before the Great Depression. He was an industrialist, owned manufacturing companies, was a very active Catholic, a buddy of President Herbert Hoover, who, according to family lore, asked him to become a member of his cabinet. J. Rogers married Adelaide Friday of the Pittsburgh Fridays, a tight Irish clan and owners of the sixth largest brewery in America. And in due time the pair had two daughters and one son. Their youngest daughter was Patrick's mom.
Patrick liked to hear stories of his mother's childhood. He particularly liked the stories featuring maids and chauffeurs and big, gruff men doing important business. And then Patrick's mother, as a young girl, 20 years old, eloped with a divorced man, a Protestant, 9 years older. A man, even in those far gone days, of frequent employment. Scandal. Her family turned her out until the first, then second, then third, then fourth child arrived, by which time an accommodation of some sort was made. But made at a distance. Although not. planned that way, Patrick's parents stayed 1000 miles away from Pittsburgh.
December 24, 1980. Prudhoe Bay, Alaska
"Son of a bitch! Goddamn jackhammers!"
Thirty-six-year-old Patrick Daugherty is losing control of an 80-pound jackhammer at the base of GCl, a gathering center, one of nine that separate oil from gas and water in preparation for the pumping of two million gallons of black gunk, every day, 798 miles down the Alaskan Pipeline.
On this day, the day before Christmas, the sun has not been seen in 34 days. It would be 33 more before it rose again. Today was cold, not bitter cold (it rarely gets under 30 below in Prudhoe Bay), and today it was a normal -32, but the west wind was up, blowing 40, 45 mph all the way from Siberia without even a ten-foot obstruction to stop it, sending the wind chill factor down to -110 degrees.
At that temperature the world implodes and there is existence without any light or heat or god whatsoever. Even though Patrick had been working out of the Fairbanks laborers' union for ten years, had been in Alaska now for 15, he had always managed to avoid jackhammer work. But today there was simply no escape. All but two of his eight-man crew were on holiday R and R; Patrick volunteered to stay over because he hated being around people during holidays. Also, if he stayed there would be two double-time days in one week. But the real enticement, the real bonus, was that since most people were gone, everything would calm down, no one would try to get any real work done, the prospect of hiding out, sleeping in warm-up shacks, reading all day, was guaranteed.
But this morning his supervisor, 60-year-old Rod Vernon, came in, face flushed, adrenalin pumping — his boss must have just been on his ass — and sweating through his bulbous red nose like the full-blown alky he was, talking about some goddamn emergency. Had to get to this electric line, which was thought to be buried underneath one of the four pillars holding up the west end of the
GCl 100-ton modular. "You boys grab some gear and get on over there. Stay with it till it's done."
So Patrick and his partner Frank had gone outside, when no one in his right mind would go outside — certainly not a goddamn electrician or pipefitter, not to mention worthless Teamsters — rooted around, found the jackhammer, air compressor, four space heaters, some plastic tarp to build a tent, something to keep out the wind so space heaters could heat an enclosure, so men and machines could function, and drove through a near white-out to GCl on A MISSION. And there is nothing worse than working A MISSION. Every lard-ass boss that can command a pickup truck waddles his fat butt out to it and then drives over to look at "The Job." All you have to do is outrage one of them — and they are very sensitive, delicate creatures — and this sweet little $1800-a-week gig is threatened.
Frank's voice sounds over the jackhammer, "Hey, mellow down, it's Christmas."
Next voice is supervisor Rod Vernon, wearing cowboy boots and a light winter puff blue jacket. Patrick dreamed of ripping that shopping mall puff jacket off his back, primarily because it never left a heated, red, plush pickup truck for more than 30 seconds. Vernon, the rheumy bastard, had been up here seven years, has never set foot outside in winter, which is ten months a year, for more than 30 seconds at a time. His supervisor's voice whines, "Okay, shut her down, they figured another way, they don't need it," and then actually hops all the way back to the red velvet whorehouse truck. (Sue months from now Patrick, around midnight, would steal that velvet truck and purposefully drive it into the main channel of the Kaparuk River, causing Vernon to proceed to the arctic penalty box and spend many days in Prudhoe Bay Hell, a castoff child, a supervisor without a pickup truck.)
The compressor wheezes to a stop, Patrick's head is dizzy from the noise, ice on his long brown beard now a half-inch thick, nostril hairs ache from the weight of frozen vapor. Patrick declaims to the wind, "God, I hate this place and I hate oil companies."
Frank grunts, "What you say?"
"Never mind. Did you get the beer chilled?"
Even though Prudhoe Bay was all leased land, owned primarily by Sohio and ARCO, which banned drugs, booze, and sex, there was, during the course of any given year, one to eight thousand construction workers in residence, which meant there was plenty of drugs and booze and a tragic lack of sex. Alcohol came up by the ton as private baggage in the cargo holds of Wein Air Alaska or Alaska Airlines. The joke was that if you lived in Fairbanks or Anchorage and wanted some decent coke, it was easier to fly up to Prudhoe than to root around for it locally.
Frank and Patrick pack up their gear, hitch the compressor. Patrick bellows into the wind, "Fuck the plastic, let it blow."
The two men slide into a Chevy Crew Cab, turn the arctic heater on full, place their gloves on the dash, feel the ice melt from their beards and mustaches, rub their eyes, and wait for the heat to come home. Then a short drive down the Spine Road — slowly, this is company time - pull into Sohio's mechanics shop. The men hop out and unload equipment. Patrick looks at his watch, "Okay, it's quitting time, we'll have a cup of coffee here, nail them for a half hour of overtime, then trot on home."
Home was CC2 (Construction Camp 2), the best of the three residential camps built on the Sohio side. CC1 was too close to bosses, built next to the Sohio Hilton, the living quarters, with swimming pool, basketball court, single rooms, telephones in rooms, that were reserved for oil company engineers and office workers. CC3 was next to CC1, built last and had the smallest two-man rooms the law allowed, 124 square feet. CC2 was five miles down the road in Prudhoe Bay suburbia.
The routine is to return home, enter one's cubicle, pour a generous shot of Jim Beam, crank on the tape deck, loud, then louder, shower, pop a beer, draw out a line of coke, look at the wall. Soon, all too soon, there would be a tap on the door and one, two, three men would enter, pull a beer from an enormous, thick plastic cooler, begin to discuss the day. This was an activity that Patrick discouraged but could never quite squelch. He hated job talk. If there was any purity to him, it was that he had vowed from the beginning that he would not allow Prudhoe Bay to take away his life.
Men who worked up here worked at least ten hours a day, seven days a week, were provided with free room and board and air fare, and were making unbelievable money, $1800 to $2500 a week. The land, the buildings, the camps were all oil company, a kingdom unto itself, and oil companies had their rules. You were not allowed to drive a truck after working hours; you were not allowed to go anywhere or do anything. Get caught and you'd be terminated.
You could, if one didn't require more than five hours' sleep a night, carve out a pretty decent time. Prudhoe Bay was filled with trucks, crew cabs, suburbans, mechanic rigs, water trucks, hundreds of them, what it took to keep $30 billion worth of infrastructure running. From the first of September until the last day of May, every one of those trucks was kept running 24 hours a day. It was far easier to have a fueler come around once every shift and fill idling trucks than to try and start them all one by one at 30 below. So in the evenings Patrick would walk outside, survey the parking lot like a Kansas City cattle buyer, say to himself, "Well, what shall we drive tonight," and cull out an idling Suburban, hopefully one with a good radio, and one that had just been washed.
You could even, if you stayed long enough and kept at it, find a girlfriend. One had to be prepared to give it everything, because the typical Prudhoe Bay experience was going over to a woman's room and finding five guys already there, each offering helicopter rides, a better job, more drugs; each willing to wait you out no matter what it took. The competition was brutal.
But Patrick was not without his own gifts. Once, he had found an unused room in CC2 and set about preparing the first Prudhoe Bay Art Opening. For three days after work, he'd stolen a truck, driven out to Santa Fe pad, and collected, then dragged up to room B-12, a variety of construction artifacts. He mounted oil-stained overalls on the wall and tacked a hard hat over them, then placed a 3x5 card with the artist's name and the work's title. He'd found gas masks, insulated gloves, Bunny Boots, burnt-up Dozer parts, drill bits, mounted each one on the wall, beside each, a 3x5 card, a name, and title.
Then he'd gone to the cook and had him prepare a massive snack tray: assorted crackers, bits of filet mignon, salmon, fruits, celery sticks with warmed cheddar cheese, and had three bottles of Dorn Perignon and two champagne glasses sent up from Fairbanks. And on the big day he'd arrived at quitting time and asked the fair Peggy Anderson, a tall, blond-haired, big-busted, funny, wonderful lady who worked in the office of CC2, if she would like to drop by, after work, to an art opening, that it was a very private affair, but she would be most welcome as his guest.
A wide, heartbreakingly beautiful smile. "An art opening, in Prudhoe Bay?"
"Certainly. It happens all the time."
And she had come and Patrick opened the door. Early Bob Dylan was playing on his tape deck, he poured champagne, turned to the first piece, the oil-stained overalls with the title Pants With Some Stain, and said, "Now this is a young artist, still struggling in his representational phase, but you can see his promise. Note the lines by the frayed kneecap." And he had won her that night and as they made love Patrick thought, "God, I am so lucky to be here and to be alive."
And in the summer, on that one glorious day of summer, that one day when it hits 68 degrees, Patrick would steal a truck, drive way down the Spine Road, and pick wildflowers in a gully only he knew, take a lady 30 miles over back roads to West Dock, which is used once a year in August for the annual sea lift. For 11 other months, 20, 30 tugboats wait. Out on the water a breeze kept the mosquitoes down, and the pair would pick out the largest tugboat, break in and picnic on the bridge, spend that night in the captain's room bobbing up and down on the Arctic Ocean looking out tugboat windows over West Dock, over the tundra, 80 miles to the Brooks Range.
It was those moments. That was what Patrick lived for, that was everything. The rest, for him, was just feeding the hogs.
But on this 1980 winter night he was tired due to the unknown experience of jackhammer, so this was going to be an at-home night. After a couple hours of whiskey and beer and relentless job talk, two of the men drift off to the dining hall. Patrick looks over, realizes that Frank is drunk, which is unusual; Frank was normally a case of genetic moderation. Patrick calls out, "Hey, big guy. Take it home. We must be about our duties on the first tide."
Frank struggles to his feet, lurches for the door, turns back, fishes another beer, leaves.
Patrick pours a last shot of Beam, strips naked, sits on the bed, lights a Winston. Christmas Eve. Not a bad place to spend it. Much better than some of the ones he'd endured. Holidays were always evil for him, even on those occasions when he was living with a woman — in Northern California or Nevada or central Alaska — and Patrick always picked nice women, good women. And there would be a big Christmas tree and carols and Christmas cards on the mantle. Often, the woman's family would be in and out and he'd just barely endure it. It was just suffocating, overwhelming claustrophobia. It was all he could do, consciously fighting it one second at a time, to stop himself from jumping in his truck and driving a thousand miles.
He'd never trusted holidays or liked them as a kid. Around his house they seemed forced, as if everybody was acting, no one really wanted to be there. Maybe it was his father, and then, what the hell, maybe it wasn't. You could never tell with him. He had always been invisible. His father had died seven years ago. He'd been there at his deathbed and kept thinking, "Why don't I feel anything more?" Then the trip to Pittsburgh with his mom, brother, and sister. He was wearing patched jeans and leather mountain boots, wavy black hair down to his waist, and feeling absolutely enraged. "Why are we burying him with a bunch of strangers? They didn't know him, they didn't like him. What in the hell are we here for?" And then that awful lunch at the Pittsburgh Athletic Club, waiters in full tails, gold-encrusted place settings, a table full of relatives he'd never seen or couldn't remember, then the funeral service and then he split. He was gone and he didn't come back. Since then he had been out in the void, no communications with his mother, brothers, or sister.
But that was another day. '"Might," he thought, "I'm warm, safe, and making money. Tomorrow is a double-time day and they will leave me alone." Most of all, that is what Patrick wished for.
It was an enormous family that Patrick was born into. One reckoning began with Pittsburgher John Henry Friday, born 1850, died 1932. He was a tall man with an extraordinarily sensitive face and titanic white whiskers and mustache. He'd started as a grocer, then founded and owned Duquesne beer. He and his wife Franciska bore eight children: Harry, John, Hilda, Adelaide, Ralph, Paul, Marie, and Walter. Those children produced 18 children, and in the course of time, by the summer of 1991, the count had totaled 298 descendants. One great-grandson often worked in the oilfields of Prudhoe Bay.
John Henry Friday's daughter Adelaide met and was wooed by a 200-pound, six-foot, barrel-chested Irishman by the name of John Rogers Flannery. They became Patrick's maternal grandparents.
September 18, 1933. From the Pittsburgh Press
- Life of J. Rogers Flannery. One thrill after Another.
- J. Rogers joined the staff of the old Pittsburgh Leader as a reporter. Behind him were four easygoing years at St. Mary's College in Maryland, where he performed valiantly on the gridiron if not quite so valiantly in classrooms.
- He began his course in law at Pittsburgh Law School... then came a stranger babbling of Nicaraguan gold.
- Young Flannery was off for Central America with a Nicaraguan classmate as his companion. The chap was related to President Zelia, the Nicaraguan Machado of those days — a ruthless, iron-fisted man who slapped down revolutions as fast as they reared their head.
- A big man was young Flannery, and down there, the men are small. His size and his grin impressed President Zelia.
- "Never mind the gold," he said. "But there's a fortune in rubber here. You raise $50,000 and I'll give you acres of rubber trees. There's millions in it for you — and I'll make Congress give you the concession."
- At that time young Flannery didn't know whether rubber grew on trees or bushes or whether you dug it out of the ground like potatoes. The rubber territory was far into the jungle. With two Indians and another American, young Flannery set forth.
- Through rivers boiling with rapids their canoe raced crazily. And when the streams were not navigable they mounted mules, trekked over mountains.
- The other white man sickened and quit the party. And there was J. Rogers in the heart of the jungle with two natives. They couldn't understand him nor he them. Conversation was limited to grunts and finger pointings. J. Rogers had nobody to talk to but his monkey and his parrot and the multi-hued tropic birds screaming overhead - and his mules, of course.
- So from the South to the Northern tip of Nicaragua, the white man and the two Indians hauled and dragged their tiny caravan. J. Rogers saw the rubber paradise finally and envisioned enormous profits. Then J. Rogers, in rags and tatters but happy, arrived with his two henchmen at Cape Gracias a Dios.
- Yellow Fever Peril
- An appalling sight met their eyes: the dead almost outnumbered the living, for the yellow fever had swept out of the jungles like an avenging plague of the Middle Ages.
- He stood at the shoreline with the waves lapping his bare feet and saw ship after ship sail by, for the port was under quarantine and not a vessel dared cast anchor there.
- A native had a small sailboat about as seaworthy as a washtub, but it was something. Mr. Flannery bought it and with his two natives, his monkey, his parrot, and a grin put to sea.
- For seven days and nights they sailed, buffeted by coastal storms. Their food and their water vanished. He made landfall and was picked up by a schooner that brought them to Bluefields on the Southeast Coast of Nicaragua.
- But Mr. Flannery had no money, having given the shirt off his back and his few coins to his native fellow sailors.
- A steamship company was troubled. It wanted to move some tugboats and sell them to another concern. But the revolutionaries, it was certain, would sink these tugboats.
- Sails Home
- So Mr. Flannery got a huge piece of parchment and scribbled on it a pronuncimento warning all revolutionists to lay nary a finger on those tugboats under pain of official U.S. disapproval.
- It looked like the real McCoy, and the steamship officials were so grateful that they arranged for Mr. Flannery's passage home.
- Years went on with no outstanding turning points.
- The Flannerys had started the bolt company that bore their name. Then two Spanish gentlemen appeared with a proposition about some vanadium properties in South America. They wanted a tremendous price. And the Flannerys wanted the vanadium.
- Down in Oklahoma was a fellow, McTiff, or something like that. McTiff was uncouth. He also had five or six squaws, and he'd killed five or six men. And McTiff, through his alliances with squaws, had come into considerable vanadium holdings.
- J. Rogers wanted an option - but McTiff had a habit of pointing a shotgun at strangers and pulling the trigger.
- J. Rogers managed somehow to get to MdM's door without any gunplay. J. Rogers asked for a meal. Even the uncouth McTiff couldn't flaunt Western hospitality ethics, so he fed them, glaring at them with each bite.
- Is Soon Won Over
- But J. Rogers had arranged a little stage play with his companion beforehand. And between them they managed to impress McTiff and arouse his cupidity.
- In no time Mr. McTiff was arguing with J. Rogers to buy some of his vanadium holdings.
- Wartime Service
- He was a dollar-a-year man in wartime, being in charge of the railroad division of the war industries board. Before that he had, on Herbert Hoover's approval, gone to Belgium in 1914 to survey the steel business after the German invasion.
- And one night Lieutenant Colonel J. Rogers Flannery stood on the deck of a boat docked at Hoboken - a boat bound for France. Then he came off the boat and clutched his orders in anger. For once his grin deserted him. For a thing called the Armistice was signed, that very day.
- Today he sits in his office in the Flannery Building on Forbes Street, busy and happy, guiding his manifold interests.
- Not all of these interests are for material gain.
- He's president of Mercy Hospital. A devout Catholic, he engages in many church activities.
- For five years he was president of the National Traveler's Aid Society and for ten years president to the local branch. He is a leader in the work of the National Catholic Charities. In virtually every movement here for the benefit of unfortunates he takes a part.
From the National Cyclopedia of America Biography
- Flannery, J[ohn] Rogers. Born in Pittsburgh, Pa., received his preparatory education at St. Mary's school for boys, and was graduated A.B. at Mt. St. Mary's college in 1899. Subsequently he worked as a reporter for the Pittsburgh Leader and at the
- same time attended the law school of the University of Pittsburgh, where he was graduated L.L.B. in 1902. He then went to Nicaragua to investigate rubber and mining concessions. On his return he joined his father and uncle in the management of the Flannery Bolt Co., which they organized in 1903 to manufacture bolts for locomotive fireboxes, and became president of the company in 1917. In 1920 he succeeded his father as president of the American Vanadium Co. Besides being president of these two companies, he is president of the Flannery Manufacturing Co., the Vanadium Metals Co., and J. Rogers Flannery and Co., and vice president of the Montour and Lake Erie Coal Co. When the first World War broke out in 1914 he went to Europe as chairman of the Pittsburgh foreign trade commission to secure business from foreign governments for Pittsburgh manufacturers. While abroad he met Herbert Hoover and served as a volunteer with the Belgian relief
- commission for which he was later decorated by the Belgian government. On Feb. 1, 1917, before the United States entered the war, he helped to organize the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Red Cross on a war basis and two months later founded the American Junior Red Cross in the United States. Called to Washington by Henry P. Davison....
From the Pittsburgh Press, March 21, 1935
- The Flannery Bolt Co. has never changed hands. When James and Joseph (Flannery) died three weeks apart in 1920, James's son J. Rogers Flannery became its owner. He still owns it — but in name only. For within the past two years an amazing financial cabal has stripped him of all executive power, ousted him as president and director, to top it off, last week he was sued by his company for an accounting of $600,000 advanced him, "without corporate acts” (signed resolutions by a company board) from 1926-1933.
- J. Rogers Flannery is a good Catholic and a leading charitarian. More to the point, he is a big-fisted, massive Irishman with a prodigious talent for cussing. His hurly-burly career has been filled with scrapes and tight squeezes, but last week's fight looked like the toughest thing he ever doubled a fist at. Fighting mad clean through, J. Rogers Flannery stomped back to his office last week, bellowed between mighty oaths that there was going to be a "damned good fight now."
J. Rogers Flannery's daughter Adelaide, mother of four, sits in a dark restaurant booth in White Plains, New York, with her youngest son, three-year-old Patrick, draped against one knee. Adelaide is a tall woman, fully six feet, with curly black hair, a wondering oval face, and intense enthusiasm. Adelaide is furious.
Here too are Adelaide's mother and Aunt. It's the first time they've visited since Adelaide eloped nine years ago.
That afternoon she'd had a running argument with her husband, Bill Daugherty, who was still wearing a back brace from an airplane wreck the preceding fall. Bill had insisted on flying today. It had been a terrific argument, but he'd gone flying anyway, promising to meet them at the restaurant.
And now she was having dinner with her mom and aunt and four squirming kids and her husband had not arrived.
Dinner dragged, the group returned home, Adelaide went upstairs to put her children to sleep. When she returned to the living room, she was met by a policeman. Her husband had been in a terrible airplane wreck, it was a godawful mess, he was not expected to live.
It was a statement of cold fact. There never had been a drive as long as the one she took to the hospital that night. She could not stop thinking, could not stop seeing. Snap. Snap. Snap. Pictures flash and burn against her mind.
"I met Bill early in 1937. I had a date with one of the teachers in the art department at Mount Mercy and heard there was this terrific party, so I told my date I had to go home at 12:30 and once home went out the back door and went to the party and there was Bill playing the piano. The four of us, John and Betty, Bill and I, spent the weekend together. We went to Sunday morning Mass and were driving past my house and I said, 'Oh, that's where I live,' and it turned out Bill and a friend had stolen mother's Packard when he was 16. One of his friends had given him an old Packard. They had everything except the battery. So they set out one night to find a Packard battery, and there was Mother's car parked out front of our house. They got in, let the brake out, and it rolled down, way down Beachwood Boulevard, and they took the battery. My parents couldn't understand it: the car was found several blocks away and the only thing gone was the battery.
"We went together for almost a year, then Bill went to work up in upstate New York, so then I went out with Dicki Bruno and then Bill came back. By that time my sister had already squealed to mother that Bill Daugherty had been married before. So I used to go out with Hank. The family thought I was very serious about Hank. He was a boy Bill let come and pick me up and bring me home. Sometimes I'd go out with somebody else, come home, sneak out the back stairs and down the driveway and Bill would pick me up.
"We had a curfew but what it was was we had to wake Mother up when we came in. She had a big clock right there by her bed. We weren't to be too late; she wasn't too strict about time as long as we woke her up. So I could go out with somebody else, go up and wake Mother, say, 'Here I am,' and then I'd go down the back staircase, out the driveway. You know, you can't stop it.
"Bill used to go with a girl who went to Mount Mercy College. We were in the same circle. Apparently he had been married when he went with her or had been married and divorced. But her family made a big deal about it, called them both in, had a priest there. Later this girl used to brag about it, how the priest had broken up her romance. So people knew about 'Wild Bill Daugherty.'
"He was supposed to be a very wild man. So I passed him off as just 'Bill Daugherty, a fine Catholic boy,' passed him off for a long time until my sister found out and told mother so... I rented a post office box.
"I was supposed to go on vacation on a cruise to Bermuda with Betty Marvard, and it was all planned, we had the tickets. Two days before the cruise she got sick and couldn't go, so I was crushed, I was all set for a vacation. So Bill was working out of town, called up, said, 'Why don't you get on the train and I'll meet you and we'll go away.' So I told the family I was visiting a friend of mine who lived in New York, so they took me down to the station — oh, it was terrible — to go to New York, and I got off in Harrisburg and met Bill and we went down and got married.
"I was living from one minute to the next. The whole time I was doing it I kept thinking, 'God, I can't do this.' All I can think of is, 'Dad will kill me, Dad will kill me, Dad will kill me.' And I kept saying, 'Now really, Bill, if you don't want to do it, it's okay by me.' He'd say, 'Oh, no, no, I want to. But if you don't want to, it's all right. You can go back.' I'd say, 'No.' So we went down to Harrisburg and got married.
"I wasn't worried about what I'd done. I was very happy, I was crazy about Bill. I just figured I'd go home and I'll just never tell anybody and they'll think I'm an old maid for the rest of my life.
"We went home and I didn't say anything for two weeks, but the trouble was Bill was telling everybody that we were married. And so I met him after work, and we went to dinner and then drove up to the house. It was a summer evening and we walked up to the front porch, and there's the family sitting on the porch. When we got there, my brother told his wife to take their baby inside. It was 'lo Bill.' My dad knew who he was. So I guess I said, 'I'm afraid that we're married,' or something like that. Then as I recall, Mother took me upstairs to talk to me. Then Dad and Rogers took Bill in the living room. Dad was going to have it annulled. They did much talking downstairs. Dad was always, 'I'm going to check, check this out.' And Mother said, 'Would you like Sara to explain to you about married life?'
"I wasn't allowed back in the house for months. I mean, I was considered persona non grata. I was allowed to come back the next day for my clothes and that was it. It was Christmas, my sister stayed in touch, she didn't approve, but she stayed in touch.
"Actually it wasn't until they found out I was pregnant. I went up to tell Mother. Her sister Hilda had called, 'Guess what, Adelaide's going to have a baby.' And my mother had said, 'Oh, Hilda, they've been married over a year.' Then Mother and Aunt Hilda started inviting us over for dinner and stuff. We were sort of accepted. It took about a year, year and a half.
"The funny part was, they all liked Bill, and it was awfully hard because they shouldn't like him. He was that 'Daugherty with the bad reputation.'
"But I never felt like a full member of the family after that. I felt, let's say eight tenths. Like, when my sister got married, I wasn't allowed to be in the wedding party. Little things like that. They would have a priest tell them that I couldn't come home because I had married out of the church."
May 25, 1991
Patrick Daugherty, to his profound astonishment, enjoys growing older. Now 47 years old, it stuns him: he'd never imagined he'd make 30 and now 47. For 40 years his life had been a blur of travel, women, bars, and now with age, the dings of 15 years of heavy construction, his body had slowed, leaving a residue of relief. Lately there'd been a new spectrum of color to see and sound to hear. The books were better, the coffee better, for the first time in his life he took time to taste food.
This morning he is looking at a flyer his mother had sent him from her home in Georgia. He'd gotten back with his mom a decade ago. He had been a lousy child. He was grateful for another try.
The flyer before him was entitled "Last Call to The 1991 Friday Family Reunion." There is a big black-and-white photo of the first reunion in 1923: 34 well-to-do white people in front of what looks to be a very large Eastern house, something you see in history textbooks. In the center is John Henry Friday and his wife Franciska, Patrick's great-grandparents. Patrick squints at the figures, recognizes one person, his grandfather, J. Rogers Flannery, a barrel-chested, balding, wide-shouldered broth of a man, standing in the back row. The children sit up front; he can recognize none. His mother had written names, with arrows from each name to each of the 34 people. Patrick seeks out his mother sitting in the first row with ten other kids. He follows the arrow from the gracefully printed "Me" to an oval, intense, self-contained image. He would not have recognized her.
Underneath the photo the caption proclaims, "Sunday, June 16, 1991. 2:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Squaw Valley Park. Fox Chapel Road. O'Hara Township. Games, prizes, Song, Beer, Favors, Poems, Speeches, Food. 6:30 p.m., family history.”
A family. He had not thought about his extended family. Actually, considering it now, realizes he may never have thought about his extended family before. He places a call to his mom.
Patrick, holding a copy of a photo taken 68 years ago, asks, "What did all these male offspring of John Henry — Harry, John, Ralph, Paul — what did they do for money?"
The husky, straight-ahead voice of his mother comes home clearly. "Well, Ralph, he lost his hearing, I think that's what made him kind of grouchy, but Ralph had a hard time during the depression. Then beer came back, he worked for the brewery, but he had a real rough time. I know the family was always trying to help Ralph make money because he had a big family. The youngest, Walter, he got a beer distributorship down in the steel mills, he made good money, and then Dick took it over when his father died."
"Who owned the Duquesne beer? Was that John Henry?"
"Yes, he was the one."
"So did he set his children up in the brewery?"
"Well, Uncle Harry was a distributor of hops and grains. 'Course, he sold to many breweries, but he had big bucks too. John, he was a stockbroker for a long time, made big bucks there, and then when Grandpa died, he took over as president of the brewery. Paul was an attorney for the brewery. Ralph went to work for the brewery, in charge of advertising."
"Okay," Patrick sighs, looks down at the photo, follows an arrow to second row, "Hilda Friday ..."
"The only one you haven't asked me about is Harry Friday."
"I'm still working on the first generation." The phone warms with laughter.
Patrick tilts the picture, asks, "Okay, Harry is one of the sons?”
"Oh yes, he's one of the older sons.”
"Okay, we have Ralph Friday, Marge, Buck, and Jana. Your notes say, 'Marge, tall, very beautiful golden red hair, very bright and shy.' "
"That's right, you'll enjoy Buck.”
Patrick, sinking quick. "Okay, Buck is your generation, his children would be my generation?" "Yes."
More matching names and photos. "Jana Friday Tittle. Husband, son of a man that has string of shoe stores. Let's see, Tom Welsh, attorney. Tom Welsh is Aunt Hilda's son?"
"No. Aunt Hilda doesn't have any children. Aunt Bee."
"Got it. Aunt Bee's son. They have five or six children, so I ought to have five or she cousins there, and they would be my," sigh, "Good Lord ... " "Second cousins."
"Right. Okay, Tom is the son of Aunt Bee, and you guys played a lot when you were kids." "Yes."
"Okay, Walter. Father of Dick and J.R. Walter had a son."
"He had two sons.”
"Had two sons and this is one of the sons of the original Walter. There's John Henry. One of his sons was Walter Duck."
"Yes, he's the youngest child of John Henry.”
"Okay, is this Walter Friday that Walter Friday? Or is he this guy's son?"
"No, that's the Walter Friday."
"The son of John?"
"Yes. Mother's brother."
June 16, 1991. Squaw Valley Park, Fox Chapel Road, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
He'd come but he wasn't dumb. He'd expected to walk around his gene pool and find strangers. Patrick had spent his life as a lone wolf; lately he liked to lie in the snow banks outside the village, leave the forest to the young wolves. He took comfort lying there, watching the warm yellow Halloween lights glow behind cabin windows and seeing chimney smoke rise against a full moon. But there was still no way he could ever be a house dog and he knew it. So there was no expectation of anything coming from this, of open arms and 'Come into the living room.' He wouldn't know what to do if invited, he'd be embarrassed and scared, and if he ever were foolish enough to pad himself into a stranger's house, he would be overwhelmed by the stuffiness of it, the suffocating heat of it.
He was, finally, curious, to be this old and meet his family for the first time.
He'd arrived three days early and spent it with his Aunt Betty and her son Larkin. They'd driven around Pittsburgh to his grandparents' house, to the college campus his father went to, the theater Aunt Betty and his mom used to walk to every Saturday; admission a dime, candy bar five cents. The three had spent the best part of two days together. "They give you the first break," he thought.
He'd gone out to Fox Chapel to have dinner with his first cousin Sara and her family and gone for a long walk with another first cousin, Tom Flannery, over the grounds of a private school that Tom's father had gone to, he'd gone to, and his son would go to. He liked them both, but then, he would have liked them if they'd met on a job. And he'd interviewed J.R. Friday, 72 years old, who grew up in Patrick's great-grandfather's house.
What was it like? Well, it was like being with acquaintances who are polite to you, who go a little bit out of their way for you. Patrick appreciated that.
On the day of the family picnic, Patrick, as usual, arrived an hour early, always wanting to know the turf and secure a clean, quick way out.
Squaw Valley is a public park, 12 miles N.E. of Pittsburgh, now lush in deep summer: green maple trees, hardwoods, thick, tall verdant grass. Two signs direct attendees to the Friday Family reunion. Patrick parks his rented Plymouth in the gravel parking lot. A hundred yards ahead are two what look to be circus tents. Hung outside the first tent are blowup photos of his great-grandfather and great-grandmother. Inside, 20 middle-aged white people are at work setting up food, kegs of beer, unpacking boxes of thick blue family directories. Patrick walks to the nearest table, signs the registry, takes a decal with his name and the number 1434 on it. 1434 means that he is the fourth child of the third child of the fourth child of John Henry Friday.
On each side are people wearing Bermuda shorts. It's an upper-middle class, white, Nordstrom's crowd.
The picnic area fills up, Patrick counts over 100 people. Staggering. Inside the first tent a P.A. system has been erected. A male voice announces something about 50 cents apiece, $12.95 for handling, cash only, followed by another male voice: ''Mine was the greatest boyhood that anybody could have, a wonderful childhood. I've enjoyed every minute with the Friday family." First voice returns, "The senior generation. Uncle Jim, do you have anything to play for us?" On the opposite side of the tent is an organ, and sitting before it is 74-year-old Jim Friday. He shouts, "The John Henry Friday March and I want everybody to sing." Announcer's voice, "The John Henry Friday March. If you open up your books you'll see it in there near the back page." The organ pumps up, 40 sing, John Henry Friday, family tree, he and Franciska nurtured it for you and me. Through rainstorms....
Patrick sits with his first cousin Sara Hardon. They watch movies from the 1961 family reunion. Sara: "Now that's Rupert Friday, Uncle Rupert."
Patrick says, "Great, hat."
Sara: "That's Aunt Hilda," flicker, "and Aunt Bee. That's Mother." The organ plays, If you knew Susie, like I knew Susie; Oh! Oh! what a girl! People arrive, much milling about, "Hi, Jana. Hi, John."
Female voice followed by an older female head pops in front of Patrick's. "Are you Adelaide's son?"
"Yeah, I'm the youngest son."
"I knew you when you were a little kid." Woman turns to her companion, "Uncle Grant. Grant, this is Adelaide's son."
Patrick asks the woman, "Did you know my dad?"
Assured female voice, "Sure."
"What was he like?"
"A nice guy, smart as a whip, he had a degree in about three different things. I guess he had a law degree. He was crazy about certain things; I mean, he didn't act like he was crazy. Like flying the plane and going down and looking at road markers to find out where he was. He cracked up in Indiana."
"What kind of things did he used to do?"
"Oh, he was always working, he always had a job. He decided he wanted a job and he'd go research the job in the library for two or three days and apply. Of course, he'd get it. I know that's what he did when he went up for the Jeep company in Butler. He was working for a company that made airplanes. I can still see him sitting down in your grandmother's living room playing that grand piano, happy as a bug. He was a real nice guy."
Patrick asks quietly, "I heard stories about when they got married, what a big deal it was."
"That's because they got married out of the church. He'd been married before."
"Was that shocking to you? How did people in your generation accept it?"
"We didn't accept divorce at that point at all. We didn't associate with people who were divorced. It was a Catholic family. Adelaide and Bill, there were lots of parties they weren't invited to because he was divorced. That was so uncommon, like having AIDS."
"Did that kind of wear off? Were they sort of accepted back in?"
The woman steps back, "Excuse me. Did you meet Joe, he's my 51-year-old. Mary Lee Friday is married to Rupert Friday, Grant's brother. The boy coming across with the can is Johnny Friday. He is the oldest of John and Lynn Friday. This is my grandchild Zackary."
"Pleased to meet you all."
Patrick had talked to J.R. Friday, the retired doctor. He'd asked him, "So what did you think of my dad? Do you remember him?"
"I sure do, I certainly do."
"Was that in the late '30s, early '40s?"
"Oh, that was in the '40s, the '50s."
"What was he like then?"
"Your dad was a nice guy, but he was very carefree, as you probably know. His life was very unstructured — you live today and whatever comes tomorrow comes. You know, when they were practically living out of suitcases and didn't have more than a couple of sou to rub together, he still had an airplane, and I can recall the automobile they had. The coat hanger held the door closed. I think that sort of described him as I've known him. And of course, he had two, two awful plane accidents. But he was always able to find a job too.
"It seems like an odd match for my mom."
"There was a considerable age difference. Your dad and mother eloped. And that was probably a sacrilegious sin. He was divorced, he was considerably older, Adelaide was still in high school. I think maybe, temporarily, she was disowned. You have to remember that we are a Catholic family; not only were we to be married by a priest but to marry a divorced non-Catholic, that hurt. Didn't hurt me, I didn't care one way or the other, but I know that it hurt her mom and dad."
Under the big tent a male voice is awarding prizes. Patrick wins for coming the farthest to the picnic: a mug, a knife key ring, and a golf tee. He has manufactured a class A headache, throbbing tension from being on best behavior for five hours. The back of his neck is howling.
Patrick walks the perimeter of the picnic, wonders what the old crew would have done at a family picnic. The first generation, they seemed to eat life. He guesses there would be more belly laughs, much more drinking, much more grab-ass. The 70-year-olds are the only ones drinking today, getting a little tipsy and a little loud.
People are called to an open area for a group photo. A hundred sixty-eight people. "Smile." "Cheeese." "Larkin's hiding back there." "Everybody wave." "Down in front." "Hey, J.R., down in front."
Patrick slowly walks off the field back to the tent, grabs a plastic cup, and squirts his first and last beer of the day. Next to him he recognizes a name tag, Uncle Buck, with the number 154. "My mom said to be sure and say hi to you."
"Surprised she isn't here."
An older woman joins them. "Hi, I'm Aunt Peggy, Pat. I met you. Good to see you again. I can't remember where I met you, but it was somewhere along the line. I knew Bill and Adelaide."
Uncle Buck steps a little closer. "Wild Bill, Wild Bill Daugherty. The last time I saw Bill they lived up in Butler. That house isn't there anymore. He burnt it down when he threw the Christmas tree in the fireplace."
"He burned the house down?"
"Oh yes, down to the ground. Up around the Butler airport, and he had the plane up there at the time. He had more air crashes than any guy alive. I don't know how he managed to survive it. He ran into some high extension wires out in the Midwest somewhere. God, he was banged up, he was in terrible shape, broke every bone in his body. Evil Knievel."
Patrick asks another, "How did you first meet my dad?"
"Well, ah, I guess it was after your mother and father was married. No, I never met him, I'd just heard about him."
Asked to another, "Did you know my dad?"
"Oh yes. He was a goofy guy."
Bingo. Time to stop, take a picnic break, go lean on a tree and watch. "Patrick, it's good to see you."
It's the strong voice of Keith Mahaffy. She must be in her '70s, looks 15 years younger, frizzy gray hair cut short, athlete's shoulders, legs, all of five foot eight, a square face that has undeniably lived a life. Patrick didn't recognize her but understood instantly that it was a friend speaking.
"Tell me about your mother, how is she." This was an order rather than a question.
The two walk away from the tents, find a large rock, sit. Patrick asks, "What were they like? Did you know them when they were dating?"
"No. I only knew them after they ran away and got married, and of course, the family was just in an uproar, everybody went to pieces over the whole thing. Divorced, Protestant, ten years older. Your mother really was a beautiful woman, and she was just crazy about him, absolutely crazy about Bill to the day he died, there was never any doubt about that. Thick and thin she was really in love with him."
"What happened after my parents were married?"
"As I heard they were rather ostracized from the family. They must have had a small apartment somewhere, and I think Adelaide went to work. She was doing keypunch work during the war."
"Were they around Pittsburgh?"
"Yes, oh yes. During the war when my husband was gone in the service, Adelaide and Bill were living up on Dunham Road. They had Bill and Mike and Sheila, they hadn't had you yet. Bill was working up in Butler, Dick was in the service, and I had a car, so I used to take Adelaide and the three of hers and mine" (male announcer introduces Grant Friday Senior) "and we'd drive” (organ plays) "to Butler to see Bill and he was so busy he didn't have time for two women and four kids, but we went anyhow, and we'd have a picnic, we'd always take a picnic along. So Adelaide and I spent a lot of time together, and any time Bill came home from Butler, like a weekend, they always took me out with them. When they went out on a Saturday night to have dinner or something, they always took me along."
"Did my mom ever speak about the family rupture?"
"No, that gradually wore off. It just went away; in time they finally just accepted her. Your grandmother was crazy about Adelaide, and she wasn't going to allow it to be. So they turned around. I won't say they liked Bill, but they tolerated him. And he definitely did not like them, never. But he tolerated them too, he behaved himself, and when there was a family reunion or anything like that, he just didn't come. Adelaide sort of the same. They were very independent."
"What was my dad like?”
"Wonderful fella, wonderful fella. Nice laugh, lots of fun. One time we went to Hershey. We drove up and Bill flew up because he couldn't get there when we did. We picked him up at the little airport, and we stayed in the Hershey Hotel — which was sort of a treat — for two nights and we played golf, nine holes, not good golf but fiddled around. We played a lot of bridge together, the four of us, that was sort of our thing that held us together as friends. And of course Adelaide, when I had a baby she'd take my other two. When you were born I had her three. We shared a lot of those things together. Adelaide and I were close."
Above them clouds darken, breeze picks up. Over in the tents people are eating on paper plates, children run back and forth from one table to the next, to the next.
"What kind of a marriage did they seem to have?"
"A good marriage. It was a good marriage. He was very faithful to her, she was very faithful to him. I won't say that it was easy. Bill was up and down with finances. During the war he made pretty much, but I think he spent every cent, and then after the war he didn't do as well, and he had the awful airplane accident. Of course, he was laid up for a long time.
"They were different people, unusual people. They didn't do this kind of thing. They didn't care much about other people; they cared about their children and about each other. That was their life. They didn't give a darn what anybody thought about them or said about them. They didn't keep up with anybody, they didn't buy clothes to look good, they just led a life.
"Your mother was independent. She never conformed. And of course, your father was a nonconformist too, so together they were fine. They would have hated this," clear blue eyes sweep bustling picnic grounds.