THE MEMORABLE CHRISTMAS I ALMOST REMEMBER

BACKGROUND ON MY DAD

 

 

My dad was born on July 7, 1909. He was one of four children. I never met my grandpa Whitworth because he had died before I was born. When my dad turned 18 he joined the Eagle’s Club. He was working full time as a butcher, but his Eagle’s Club membership enabled him to earn a little extra income. He became acquainted with a man named Bill Lias who was a bootlegger (associate of the Capone mob) during prohibition. Dad helped Mr. Lias by supplying all of West Virginia Eagle’s Clubs with booze during prohibition.

 

Sometime in the 1930’s my dad and grandpa Whitworth became partners in a family grocery store. They both made a good living in their grocery business. In 1939 grandpa Whitworth had his first heart attack, but he took some time off work and seemed to make a good recovery.

 

After December 7, 1941 my dad decided he was going to join the Navy to fight the Japanese. He tried to get grandpa Whitworth to shut the store down while he was gone, but grandpa Whitworth was having none of that. He told dad to “Go do what you have to do. The store will still be here when you come back.” At this time dad was 32. My brother was 7 and my sister was 3.  In 1944 grandpa Whitworth had a fatal heart attack at the store. Dad always blamed himself for the death of his father.

CHRISTMAS OF 1950

In 1949 my dad became partners in another small grocery store with a man named Bill Alverez. Bill was a first generation natural born American. His parents had emigrated to Moundsville from Mexico in the 1930’s. Dad and Bill never had a written contract. They sealed their deal with a handshake. The B & K Market was only closed three days a year, which were Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. Since the Alverez family tradition was to have their Christmas celebration dinner on Christmas Eve dad always worked on Christmas Eve. Dad had his own Christmas Eve tradition. He took lots of Christmas cheer to the store to share with his Christmas Eve regulars. All had a cheery time.

As soon as I woke up on Christmas morning of 1950 I knew something was different. My brother and sister came to me and told me not to mention that dad wasn’t home yet. I looked a little peek at my mother, and I could see steam coming out of her ears. I quietly tip toed down the stairs to see what Santa had brought to me. I had been reveling in my bounty for about 15 minutes when I heard a car pull to a stop outside our house. I eagerly ran to the window to see what I was sure was my dad pulling up to the house. My initial reaction turned to disappointment and right back to surprise. I didn’t recognize the brand new Studebaker, but to my surprise dad got out of the unrecognized car. Mom immediately told all of us children to go back upstairs. We all tried to hear what was going on, but in less than a minute we were called to come back down. I was thinking to myself that was a short battle, but imagine my surprise when I got to the living room and saw a HUGE pile of cash on the floor. Dad still had bills sticking out of every pocket. No explanation was offered and at that time I didn’t ask.

 

CHRISTMAS OF 1964

Here we are and it’s 14 years later and I still had never asked about the mystery of the Christmas of 1950. I was home from WVU on Christmas break, and the plan was for me to be the designated driver for dad on Christmas Eve. We got to the store at 6:00 PM, and we weren’t busy so I finally popped the question. Dad laughed like Santa he couldn’t believe I hadn’t already heard the story. It seems the Christmas Eve of 1950 one of his old acquaintances Bill Lias had paid dad a visit at the store on that Christmas Eve of long ago. At that time Mr. Lias owned Wheeling Downs racetrack and Billy’s Bar in south Wheeling (which had a small casino inside). After closing the store dad rode with Mr. Lias up to Billy’s bar. Dad liked to gamble and he got the urge to try his luck. He got into a heated game of barbooth. He told me after about two hours he could just feel a lucky streak coming on. It turned out he was right the HUGE pile of cash that I had seen 14 years ago had been the result of 23 passes in a row. He won over $18,000 and the new Studebaker that I had seen on that Christmas morning.

I realize this is not exactly the traditional story told at Christmas. It’s not like a movie you would expect to see with Bing Crosby playing his noted roles, but to me it is the most memorable childhood Christmas I almost remember.

 

Comments 25 comments

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States

This is a great story Tom. Thanks for sharing. Have a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year,


Jjustice profile image

Jjustice 6 years ago

Made me think of my dad's escapades when I was a kid! I'm still waiting for my once in a lifetime lucky streak! Nice story!


vrajavala profile image

vrajavala 6 years ago from Port St. Lucie

I think my uncle had a Studebaker. Kind of a small car with sharp lines, right? Merry christmas Tom.


Tom Whitworth profile image

Tom Whitworth 6 years ago from Moundsville, WV Author

Pamela,

My dad was a great father and a great man. He was also quite a character.

Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year.


Tom Whitworth profile image

Tom Whitworth 6 years ago from Moundsville, WV Author

Jjustice,

That's just half of the story. Dad told me if he had totally followed through on his lucky hunch he could have kept doubling down and won over $100,000.

Merry Christmas to you too.


Tom Whitworth profile image

Tom Whitworth 6 years ago from Moundsville, WV Author

vrajavala,

That describes a Steudebaker prety well. It also had a pointy nose like protuberance in the front of the grill.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


ehern33 profile image

ehern33 6 years ago

Wow, that is a different Christmas story! I just can't beleive you waited 14 years. Knowing myself, I would have driven them crazy until I heard the story. This is though a great memory, especially when you finally learned of the truth.


Tom Whitworth profile image

Tom Whitworth 6 years ago from Moundsville, WV Author

ehern,

My parents came from the old school of children are meant to be seen not heard. That's why it took me so long to ask my Dad.

Dad told me another story about himself. It seems one night when he was about 22, he was out drinking with his buddies. He got a toothache at 1:00AM. He went pounding on Doc Campbell's door. When Doc answerered and asked, "Kenny what can you possibly want at this hour of the night?" Dad answered he wanted all of his teeth pulled out, and that's exactly what he got.


readytoescape profile image

readytoescape 6 years ago from Central Florida

Tom,

Cool story. Ain’t it great what you find out later, Parents do some of the funniest things. Personally I believe a little Christmas luck is a good thing.

Let’s Bottle it up and sell a few. I could use it.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

Amazing story, Tom. Your Dad was a winner. And that was a ton of dough in those days. You're a good writer, too. Well done.


Tom Whitworth profile image

Tom Whitworth 6 years ago from Moundsville, WV Author

@readytoescape,

I believe luck is always a good thing, but I'm not quite sure how to bottle it.


Tom Whitworth profile image

Tom Whitworth 6 years ago from Moundsville, WV Author

@James,

I alway loved my father, but I wish I could have met Grandpa Whitworth. He was visited by an IRS agent in 1939 since grandpa had never paid income tax or signed up for Social Secirity. The agent was trying to tell grandpa to sign up for both when grandpa pulled the double barreled darringer he carried and fired a shot over the head of the IRS agent who promptly scooted and never returned.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

Sounds like Copperhead Road


Tom Whitworth profile image

Tom Whitworth 6 years ago from Moundsville, WV Author

James,

Dad never actually ran the booze. He did take the orders over the phone. He then relayed them to BIG Bill.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

Wow! That was a very merry Christmas! Great story, Tom.


Tom Whitworth profile image

Tom Whitworth 6 years ago from Moundsville, WV Author

habee,

It was indeed a very Merry Christmas. Dad paid off the mortgage and banked a lot of money. He sold the new Studebaker becaues he already had a new Dodge. Thanks for your visit and your comment.


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 6 years ago

Dear Tom,

I love this story. It may not be a traditional Christmas story, but it has the ring of truth and I love it.


Tom Whitworth profile image

Tom Whitworth 6 years ago from Moundsville, WV Author

Pop,

It not only has the "ring" of truth, it is totally true. I was just a little afraid to finally ask what had actually happened. I didn't want to get a "smack down"!!!!!


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 6 years ago

Dear Tom,

I knew it was true and I must say you are a very patient guy!


Tom Whitworth profile image

Tom Whitworth 6 years ago from Moundsville, WV Author

Pop,

I try my best not to be naughty!!


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 6 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

Studebakers were my late husband's collector's obsession. He had 15 of the darn things and he gave me a 57 Packard to drive, which had a Studebaker engine in it! Well, aside from that, what a great Christmas story! I found a new hubber to follow!


Tom Whitworth profile image

Tom Whitworth 6 years ago from Moundsville, WV Author

Austinstar,

Studebaker made Packards and Hudson Hornets V-16, which could really fly and get about 8 mpg. Thank you for your complimentary comment.


frogyfish profile image

frogyfish 6 years ago from Central United States of America

Fun-nee, and don't we all wish we could win that moola too! Glad your Christmases were family happy, and thanks for sharing.


Tom Whitworth profile image

Tom Whitworth 6 years ago from Moundsville, WV Author

frogyfish,

Thank you for your visit and your comment.


simonsez profile image

simonsez 4 years ago from Missouri

I think you should put stories of your grandfather and dad into a book! It would be an interesting and great read!

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