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Papa Aaron, Chicago, 1930
2004-04-01 14:30
by Jon Weisman

You won't find my Grandma Sue watching The Sopranos or reading the latest post-Puzo installment of The Godfather, though she did make an exception for Road to Perdition a couple of years ago because she loves Paul Newman.

"You know when I saw that movie, I wanted to break the screen. The people mentioned they had a crooked accountant!" she told me. "They were all such a bunch of ignoramuses."

They, meaning The Mob. The Al Capone one. My Papa Aaron was the Outfit's accountant from around the time he and Grandma married (January 26, 1930) until Repeal.

And Joe Batters (AKA Tony Accardo) almost threw my grandfather out an upper-storey window.

"It was just before Repeal, and they called him downtown. They had an office in one of the fancy buildings on Michigan Avenue. He was still doing their books, but I think at that point he was ready to leave," Grandma told me.

"They called him into the office. They thought he was cheating them. Can you imagine Aaron cheating those hoodlums?"

Papa Aaron is Aaron Weisman, my grandfather. He died in 1994, without ever discussing this history with me. He was the man who taught me poker and someone I could always talk sports with, but this stuff was off limits. My grandmother, Sue - still very much alive and in her fifth decade of volunteering at the museum where I now happen to work, even as she turns 94 next Thursday - is only slightly more willing to talk about it. (She'd much rather ask me how Shawn Green is going to fare this year - she's very concerned.)

Nevertheless, over the past month, my sister, Robyn, has begun drawing out some details and compiling some of the family history - colorful to our generation, deadly serious to that of my grandparents.

It's not baseball, but you might find it interesting.

March 7: "Such a bunch of ignoramuses . . ."
March 8: Addendum
March 8: Filthy People . . .
March 18: She'll Never Forget His Twisted Arm . . .
March 18: One of the Nobodies . . .
March 23: Repeal
March 23: Some Other Comments From My Dinner with Grandma
March 29: Sine Die!
March 29: Very Interesting . . .

Legend has it that Grandma Sue's father was a bootlegger who would dress his daughters up in church clothes on Sunday mornings and use them as his cover while transporting alcohol during Prohibition. I'll be waiting for Robyn to get confirmation and/or elaboration on that.

Me, I grew up in the Kevin Arnold-like suburbs. How things change.

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