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MORE NUTS ON THE FAMILY TREE
7 January 2006
That's my grandfather's brother. I never met him. In fact, the only one of my grandfather's (4?) brothers that I met was my godfather, Fred West, who had his own claim to fame that I'll talk about later.
My grandfather's scrapbooks are filled with boxing articles because Uncle Tommy was, as you can see, a champion prize fighter.
I was actually surprised to discover this picture because I was under the impression he had just missed being Champion, but as I look at the caption I see that it says he was "champion of the Pacific Coast." It must have been the next level that he missed by being injured in a fight just before the big championship fight.
I actually looked Tommy West up on the internet and did find one reference, that must have been written in the waning days of his career. It was in an article about a boxer named "Kid McCoy" and said, Cantwell (1971, p 42) reported that after fighting McCoy, Jack Wilkes face "resembled a raw beefsteak." He added, against Tommy West, McCoy cut loose and had West bleeding and groggy as he floored him six times.
I never did understand/like boxing, though my father had a passion for it. He preferred the heavyweights and the harder they hit the more excited he got. I can't understand how "bleeding and groggy and being floored six times" can possibly be an enjoyable thing!
And then there was Uncle Fred (who was also my godfather). In addition to my grandfather's scrapbooks, I also inherited Fred's, and they are filled with articles about his exploits on the race track.
My grandmother also made fun of Fred whenever he brought up being a six day bicycle racer, but he really was hot stuff, according to all these articles. Quite a ladies' man too, my mother tells me. He married one of his "groupies," who left him within weeks of the wedding and he never married again, being a good, devout catholic boy.
One snippet I read said, Fred West is preparing to leave for a European trip. West is one of the fastest six day bicycle men in the country and when he goes to Europe he intends to show the people across the big pond some of the speediest riding they have ever seen. He will exhibit in all the big cities of Great Britain and the Continent.
Apparently he also tried his hand at motorcycles as well. In one article I read, it said:
FREDDIE WEST AND STEIN WILL RIDE AT THE MOTORDROME.
Freddy West and Charley Stein have deserted the bicycle game for motorcycle racing and will compete in the opening meet at the new Motordrome adjoining Electric Park on Fourth of July. West, who is regarded as one of the best sprint riders in the country.....
Hey! Not bad. A champion boxer and "one of the best sprint riders in the country"!
Perhaps my grandmother's disdain of her husband's family grew out of their successes. In all these scrapbooks, I also found a June 25, 1920 San Francisco Bulletin article about her brother...
Leo L. Legler, bank clerk, whose wife recently appealed to the police for protection, charging that he attempted to kidnap their seven-year-old daughter, filed in the Superior Court yesterday his answer and a cross-complaint to her suit against him for divorce. In the cross-complaint, filed by Attorneys H.M. Anthony and August L. Fourtner (Fourtner was my grandmother's cousin and my godmother's husband), Legler opens a legal battle for the custody of his daughter, charging that his wife is not a proper custodian for the child. In support of his charge, he names Richard von der Mehden, Joe Rinaldo and H.L. Whitehead as men with whom Mrs. Legler has been guilty of misconduct.
The San Francisco Chronicle, on the same day, put it this way:
In an answer to the suit of Mrs. Alta Legler, 793 Haight St. for a divorce, Leo L. Legler today accuses her of misconduct with three men.
Mrs. Legler, in her suit, charges that Legler procured the confession from her at the point of a pistol. This charge Legler denies in his answer and alleges that she "brazenly" confessed her misconduct.
So I guess compared to Grandpa and his successful brothers, Nannie's family falls far short--no wonder she didn't ever want to discuss their glory days.
She was that way.
Where did they end up? Well, I don't know about Tommy, but Uncle Fred, the Lance Armstrong of his day, sold ElectroLux vacuum cleaners door to door and lived in one room in a boarding house in San Rafael until he died and his goddaughter (me) never knew that he did anything but "ride bikes" and that my grandmother thought he was one of the most annoying people she ever met. Oh yeah--and he brought us a box of Sees candy each holiday.
My grandfather, after turning down an opportunity to go to New York and sign a recording contract (because my grandmother wouldn't leave San Francisco) worked the rest of his working life parking cars in a garage in downtown San Francisco. When the guy who owned the garage (Larry Barrett, a name of some renown in auto supplies in San Francisco) offered him the opportunity to become a partner, my grandmother was afraid to invest the money, fearing they would lose it all (and then, years later, she would visit Larry and his wife in their mansion, bought with the money from the garage she wouldn't let Grandpa invest in). Grandpa continued just parking cars while she constantly ridiculed him for being a loser. He and my grandmother lived in a 2-room apartment in San Francisco, with Murphy beds that pulled out from the wall because they had no bedroom, until he moved to a nursing home.
He died in my mother's arms, while his son was out getting a haircut because that was more important than being there for his father's last minutes.
And my grandmother? She, who was so vain all of her life, such a controlling force in everyone's life, developed a brain tumor that paralyzed half of her face. She briefly lived in a convalescent home until she begged to be taken out. She moved in with my parents, where my father decided that he would tell her every bad thing she had ever done to him throughout his life. He sat the old woman down and yelled at her while my mother begged him to stop. The next day, my grandmother was taken to a hospital, where she died. My mother thinks she died of a broken heart.
I didn't much like my grandmother, but even she didn't deserve that.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
My great grandparents (who came from Ireland)