Tuesday, December 20, 2016

On This Day in History

Betts Hospital, Easton PA; birthplace of TOF
In the 241st year of the independency of the Republic, and of the Years of the the Incarnation of the Lord the one thousand nine hundred and forty-seventh, during the 9th year of the pontificate of the ven. Pius XII and the 3rd year of the presidency of Harry S Truman, while James H. Duff was the 34th Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Dr. Ulysses Grant Palmer III in the first year of his ownership of the hospital founded by Dr. James Alfred Betts in the City of Easton did delivered to Rita Marie Singley Flynn, a boy and they named him Michael. And there great was the weeping in the land.

"Never fear," he said. "This is almost the shortest day of the year, so you won't have to endure it long."

:Horse feathers," said Mut in that Germanic way she had. "Horse feathers and donkey turds." German idioms tend toward the colorfully scatalogical. "I'm just glad he's out of there." She referred of course to the Weight of TOF, which tipped the scales at around 10 pounds.

"That's my boy," said Pere, who was not yet Pere, handing out cigars to everyone who would hold still and chasing down and tackling those who would not and stuffing Phillies Blunts in their mouths. "Pay him no mind," said Big Mom to the Mut (who, however, was not yet the Mut), "he's Irish." Since everyone was living at her house -- technically, by modern definitions, TOF's family was homeless -- what she said went. Guv had some say, too. He had been in the trenches in France and knew how to go over the top.
l. to r.: cousins Paul and Mariellen and the TOFling,
living at their grandmother's house. TOF and Mariellen were

TOF, The Early Years

TOF has very little memory of his early years, although he is certain he had some. Come to think of it, having just commenced his 70th year, he has very little memory of yesterday. What was I saying?

Oh, yes. The Mut once told TOF that he might have been named Michael Hinkle because there was a guy who was sweet on her whose name was Hinkle and wanted to marry her. This would have been Seriously Weird because in High School, TOF's girl friend was named Hinkle, no relation afaik.
Sweet Sharon and TOF
What if they had both been Hinkles?
The other thing TOF remembers from the Infancy Narratives is that he was related to everyone. The neighborhood was called Shwartown and/or German Hill. The Schwar family was rather numerous and even families that were not Schwar were related to Schwars. Mut's mother, Big Mom, was a Schwar. (Which, btw, rhymes with 'swear'. The a once had an umlaut, Schwär.) Just about every family had come from the Gemeinden of Oberhausen and Niederhausen in the Grand Principality of Baden.

When Mut brought TOF to the church to be baptized, Pastor Fries said, "Flynn is Irish. Take him to St. Bernards. That's the Irish parish." Fr. Fries, like all pastors of St. Josephs before him had been born in Germany or in German-speaking regions of Switzerland, Bohemia, etc. or were German-speaking sons of immigrants. No Irish need apply.

So the Mut says, "My uncles built this church, stone by stone. They can take it down the same way. Either you baptize him, or I take him home and baptize him myself under the kitchen sink."
Schwars building the church, stone by stone.
Scaffold: Uncle Leo, who also build the House
of TOF, Uncle George assisting. In foreground,
Big Mom, not yet Big Mom, mother-to-be of Mut.
The Schwars had been stone masons since
the middle of the 1600s.

The Irresistible Object is as nothing next to a German Mother. So Fr. Fries caved. TOF was baptized in the regular fashion. But it was years before the family received regular donation envelopes.
Irony alert: The last pastor of St. Joseph before it was folded into two other parishes to create Our Lady of Mercy, was a native of Tanzania and a member of the Hiya tribe. He spoke fluent Swahili, as well as English, Spanish, and of course Hiya.
Michael Francis Paul Flynn

How can you not pinch his cheeks?
is the son of Joseph Francis Flynn
Personally won the Pacific war.
There is a story about a foxhole on the beach on Iwo
who is the son of Francis Thomas Flynn
One-time assistant manager of the Hotel Easton.
There is a story about when he didn't get the top job.
who was the son of Daniel Joseph Flynn
A blacksmith and volunteer firefighter
Once chopped a hole in the roof of the Presbyterian Church
who was the son of John Thomas Flynn
Left Ireland and was crushed between coal cars
in New Jersey. His brother was run over by a box car.
who was the son of Martin Flynn of Loughrea, County Galway, Ireland
Was brought over by his sons John and Patrick
but died two years later.
who was descended of the Flynns of the Sil Maelruain, dispossessed according to local lore by Cromwell of their quondam lands in the County Roscommon in the 17th century.

And so it was ordained that for three days of the year, to wit: from 17 to 19 December, his brother Dennis could brag on being "the same age" as his big brother, until, lo!, the birthday rolled round again and Michael once more pulled ahead. Mwahaha.

Perceptive Reader will notice that with birthdays on the 17th and 20th of December, the Flynn boys could get mighty confused when presents re-appeared once again on the 25th. Hey, what's going on here? Another birthday? When Reader is further informed that a third brother celebrates his annual superannuation on the 27th, said Reader may make a cogent guess as to when their father's own birthday falls and what pleasant gift he oft received.

Between two (and later three) birthdays and Christmas, parental spending could be spread mighty thin. Since Dennis and I were nearly of an age and had similar interests, the usual solution was that they got us two of everything.
Note the two of everything strategy, vis a vis Superman suits.
The urchin on the left is Bro Kevin, now a City Councilman
in Denver CO. In rear is a Xmas Tree with "Rain" and on right
an HO gauge train layout with miniature village. TOF remembers
his parents as incredibly old, but somehow they do not appear so.
 However, we further note that great-uncle Dan also had a birthday on 16 Dec., as does son Dennis (as mentioned betimes), and great-aunt Kathryn had a birthday on 20 Dec. as does cousin Mark Flynn, so one expects some deep December harmonic convergence. Furthermore, TOF's two besties in highschool, Red and Sterling, had birthdays on 23 and 24 Dec., resp. When we went out to celebrate our 21st birthday at a bar to have a legal drink it was on the 23rd and the drinks were bought by Bill, who was Red's older brother. You will notice that this made Sterling one day short of legal. However, we were all carded none the less, except for Sterling, who was of the Very Large persuasion. He had always had to pay the older prices at the amusement park and the movie theaters, but for once he was glad to be taken as older. TOF had a rum-and-coke.

Well, enough of that. Happy birthday to me. Woo-hoo.


  1. That 10 pounds was only a start. History will record that TOF went on to many greater heights.

    Happy Birthday!

  2. Happy Birthday!

    Theorizing, here: Sometime round April each year, the Irish and Germans of Eastern Pennsylvania begin their annual short migration to their Eastern Pennsylvanian mating grounds - I'm picturing colorful, majestic herds. Lederhosen. Shillelaghs. That sort of thing - thus accounting for the cluster of birthdays near the winter solstice.

    Of course, more than one theory can cover any given set of facts, so the possibility I might be wrong, however slight, must be acknowledged. But if theories got cool points, I think mine's a winner.

  3. Ha, my son was an ounce shy of eleven pounds. But still from a Mom of German extraction.
    Sorry to read of your family's dispossession by the notorious Cromwell. If you find yourself in Lansing, MI next April 25, ring me up and I'll bake us a mince pie to celebrate his birthday.

  4. I hope you won't mind a belated Happy Birthday! I hope, at least, that it was happy yesterday. (And that was an interesting family history, btw.)

  5. I think Mr. Moore may be on to something.

    My family is of Irish and German extraction and today is my birthday.

    Like Our Acerbic Yet Genial Host, my cousin LJ was born on 17 December, 361 days younger, when she would "catch up" for four days.

    We raised our boys (3 months apart) together, pretty much as brothers, as LJ seemed more like my slightly younger sister.

    For the past 30-plus years, until this December, LJ and I would dine out together as an annual observation of our birthdays.




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