Once upon a time, there was a thing called Prohibition and many people could not get enough of it. They made it last about ten years during which time many American citizens drank to excess and in the process, spawned an industry known as bootlegging which made scads of money for racketeers. My father got a piece of the action, as he ran what was known as a speakeasy, a gin mill where only certain members of an elite society could come and drink alcohol, illegally. He set high standards. He only served patrons who could pay the tab.
In truth, most of his clientele were working stiffs, primarily railroad and dock workers. His place of business, known familiarly as “The Hole,” was located at the foot of
near the train station, the ferry building and the big waterfront piers, in the basement of a tenement building one block away from City Hall and the Police Department, staunch supporters of places like my dad’s. Hoboken
Some of his hooch came through a distribution channel controlled by a well-respected man born with the name of Arthur Flegenheimer, a product of German-Jewish parents. After spending a year in jail at age 17, he returned to society demanding to be known thereafter by the moniker, Dutch Schultz, the nickname of a notorious gangster from the 1880’s. He got his wish.
His name surfaced recently when my sister, Helen, went to
, touring that city’s landmarks with a group of senior citizens. The tour guide pointed out the place where syndicate mobsters gunned down Dutch Schultz in 1935. Helen thought this helped personalize the tour, knowing of our dad’s business dealings with this hoodlum. Newark, New Jersey
Many people do not realize what role his death played in the political world. You see, Thomas Dewey, the famed New York Attorney General, had twice helped bring Shultz to the court house. The first trial was held in
where the defense readily admitted Schultz made all his money illegally. Since the charge was tax evasion, they claimed such earnings were not subject to the tax law, and the jury decision came out “hung,” seven to five. Syracuse
The next trial was moved to Malone, a small burg in upstate
. Dutch arrived a month ahead of time, and then spent money lavishly entertaining every possible resident and potential jurist he could find. The jury acquitted him, stunning both the judge and Dewey. New York
Winning these legal tiffs did not soften Dutch’s attitude toward lawyers. He hated his tormentor and began casing Dewey’s residence, intent on “doing Dewey in,” you might say. When Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky, top bosses of the fledgling Mafia syndicate, got wind of Schultz’ plan, they got nervous. They thought it would be bad for business. Their solution: Kill Schultz and lots of his pals. And they followed through.
Think of the ramifications had Dutch bumped Dewey off before Murder, Inc., removed him from the business. What other candidate might the Republicans have nominated to oppose Truman in 1948? Not MacArthur, as he was busy running
at the time. Not Ike, as he was still undecided about politics. George Marshall? George Patton? Robert Taft? Japan
I deliberated this issue while consuming very expensive legal alcohol (you cannot get good old-fashioned home brew anymore), when the name, Joe McCarthy, hit me. Yes! Consider his credentials: War hero, no mustache, looks good on film. I dreamed of his landslide victory, after which the
would have annihilated United States and Russia , taken over the China Middle East oil regimes, driven the Mexicans back to , and ensured peace and prosperity to our world for generations. Panama
Dutch, you blew your chance to change history. I’ll drink to that.