It started with Fred & Grace. A genetic collision of handsome young descendants of Germanic origin. Little Freddy, the fifth Frederick in a row, was born in late January at the beginning of the baby boom era. Fred & Grace were older parents in that they were born early in the 20th century before the Roaring Twenties, enduring the Great Depression, and surviving the Second World War. I was conceived and welcomed into the industrial environment of bessemer and cold rolled steel where the patriarchs of the family worked. My grandmother and mother were homemakers who lovingly raised my sister, cousins and myself, but they were incorrigible in their own right. Nanny, my maternal grandmother, had a small speakeasy bar in her basement. The parish catholic priests and monsignor would come over and play cards and have drinks. There was a dirt wine cellar with “daygo” red wine. Nanny let my sister pick the numbers for the “numbers game” lottery she ran. Mom and Nanny were irreverent yet devout catholics and they found salvation for their lives by going to mass and confession, and entertaining the priests at home.
Grace was middle aged when I was born and my energy proved to be challenging for her. She forged my baptismal record to get me into catholic grade school a year early, and presumably to get me out of her hair. There I was a year younger and less mature than my classmates. Pity for them and the Sisters of Notre Dame who even with their disciplinary tendencies had a hard time making me learn, let alone sit still for all of the classes. On Thursday morning, as in many catholic schools then, we had to go to mass before school. If you did not attend mass, a note was required from your parents. Well, one morning in the sixth grade I said to Grace at 7am, “I am not going to mass this morning, can I have a note?” “Sure”, Grace responded, and sat down and wrote a note, folded it up and sealed it in an envelope. Grace had already started drinking at that time. When I arrived in class that morning, the nun said “Freddy, where is your excuse for not being in mass?” I handed the nun the envelope Grace had given me. The nun opened it, read the note, folded it back up and put it back in the envelope, came over to me and grabbed me by the hair and the back of the shirt and dragged me out of the class room down the hallway to the principals office. The nun and the principal called my mother and told her to come and get her son that he was expelled. Hurray! No more catholic school. The note read, “Dear Sister, Freddy didn’t go to mass. If you don’t like it, you can kiss my ass.” signed – Grace Hahne.