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Grandaddy was a widower from about the age of 30. His wife died in premature childbirth. He felt he had killed her because of that. He never married again. He remained in love with her the rest of his life.

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He raised his daughter, my mom, alone the best he was able. Mom inherited some sense of guilt for her own mom dying in childbirth. That wasn't grandadday's wish; it's just the way things worked out. They lived through the Great Depression together, probably both the national one & the more personal ones.

Sometime shortly after mom turned 17, grandaddy heard the sound of fighting coming from my her room. He called out, but she didn't answer. He knocked loudly, but got no response. The door was locked, & so he had to break it in.

He found his 17 year-old daughter laying unconscious on the floor in a bloody mess.

My then 17 year-old mom had suffered the bloody consequence of aborting her own child.

Grandaddy was a soft-spoken man who never raised his voice, but must've screamed when he saw his own daughter apparently dead on the floor. It must have been a horrible flashback to the death in childbirth of his own wife 17 years earlier.

When mom awoke some many hours later she was lying in her own bed. Her dad was wiping her forehead with a wet & cool rag. He was telling her that everything was going to be okay. He was saying it over & over again. She'd never seen him crying, but she heard the cries muffled in his broken voice as he tried his best to reassure both her & himself.

Her bedroom was now spotless. No physical sign remained of the bloody abortion. The only change in the room was a refitted lock on the bedroom door.

Grandaddy never quizzed her who the father had been. He never castigated her. He never brought the subject up, ever.

It was going to be okay. They were going to survive.

-----------------------------------------------

Life continued, but not uneventfully. The first labor strike mom appears to have particpated in was the Disney strike of 1941.

      "Taint cricket to pass a picket!"
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My teenaged mom had not only become a strong unionist & a premature anti-fascist, but also a card-carrying member of the Communist Party. She threw herself into the cause whole-heartedly. Unfortunately, too whole-heartedly. She began to write notes and outlines of various scenarios for affecting change & growing membership. She wrote down the views of others in her group using some type of code to refer to other members without using their names. She amassed a miniature library of all things relating to the group & her potential plans for it. She was prodigious. That was a big mistake.

Impressed with her own work, she showed it to a fellow-party member. They talked a bit about the feasibility of implementing some of her ideas. That was an even bigger mistake.

When my mom came back from a demostration the next day, she found every single hand-written thing (both political & personal diaries/letters) gone from her own bedroom. Nothing remained. The door had been broken into again, but not by grandaddy this time. She was terrified. She feared the FBI had raided her room & would soon be after the rest of the group. She called a fellow Communist to warn the group.

She never got the chance. As soon as the person who answered the phone heard my mom saying, "this is...." He interupted with, "Never call me or anyone in the group again. We've got your files. You #%^$* Fascist spy!" Then he hung up.

In my mom's world where it was impossible to be "prematurely" anti-Fascist, that was the worst thing you could say to anyone.

No one in the group would every talk to my mom again. When they'd see her anywhere, they'd avoid her like the plague. They'd all been not only political allies, but friends. Deeply loved friends. On a dime they turned on her as one, & that was that. Stalinism at its finest.

A week later the FBI showed up at my grandaddy's house to arrest my mom as a Nazi spy. FBI-ism at its finest.

It is impossible to say if the two events were entirely coincidental or not.

The FBI had just arrested an old German man who ran a bookshop in downtown LA. They found my mom's phone number tacked to a newsclipping of General Rommel. It was in a secret shrine to Nazi Germany that the old man kept in a back room of his bookshop.

Mom's thrist for knowledge was limitless, & she scoured bookshops from a young age for information about the world. That was a trait she also inherited from grandaddy. Prematurely loquacious & inherently romantic to the point of near absurdity, she'd struck up some kind of friendship with the old man that revolved around his supposed personal connection to Erwin Rommel's family. That was about the time that Rommel was being lionized in even the U.S. presss as "The Desert Fox" before we later entered the war.

She somehow came to the conclusion that Rommel could be enlisted in a Communist inspired coup to overthrow Hitler. For whatever reason, she failed to grasp that the old man was a dedicated Nazi himself. My mom never saw the Hitler portrait the FBI told her the man had had over his bed.

When the FBI scooped up the old man, they also scooped up my mom as well. The old man was never heard from again. My mom was held for some short period of time. Several visits to grandaddy's house & examination of his voluminous correspondence & other writings apparently convinced them that my mom was no Nazi sympathizer, let alone a spy.

You might think that mom's expulsion from the Communist Party & subsequent arrest as a supposed Nazi spy would've derailed her enthusiasm for progressive politics, but you'd be wrong. This "girl", still in her teens, was made of sterner stuff.

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A few years later, grandaddy got this photo in the mail from his brother. The caption below mom's photo reads, "If looks could kill, the steel helmeted officer at the right would have keeled over when this photograph was taken. An unidentified picket stands and glares at the officer as police and sheriff's officers clear a passageway for workers to enter Warner Brothers Studio, Hollywood."

Mom's uncle wrote in response at the top, "Methinks I have seen this unidentified expression before."
 

The date of the above photo was October 5, 1945 - known as "Bloody Friday." Tear gas or water cannons are the cause for the hazy background.

"October 5, 1945, 3,000, strikers attack a studio policeman’s car trying to break through the picket line at Warner Brothers Studio."
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Above photo from Animation Guild I.A.T.S.E. local 839.

The conflict between the IATSE and the CSU resulted in a series of strikes in the mid-1940s that captured the attention of the American public. Initially 7,000 film workers went on strike.  The 1945 strikes culminated in “Bloody Friday” or “The Battle of Warner Brothers” on October 5. From inside Warner Brothers’ studio, from the top of the five-story-high sound stages, people started dropping six-inch bolts on the strikers.  Then the Warner Brothers private fire department turned fire hoses full force on the strikers, and Warner’s private police threw gas grenades into the crowd.  Cars were overturned, and goons paid $50 each by the IATSE attacked the strikers with monkey wrenches leaving many injured and nine people hospitalized (Nielsen Mailes 1995).

From "Bloody Friday"

A lot had gone on in the time since my mom's self-induced abortion that grandaddy didn't know about, & maybe never learned. Even single-parents are spared some things.

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     Other undated photo of mom arguing with a police detective shortly before her third arrest - possibly from      Feb 1945 (& still during the war) when the walk-out was called.

As our involvement as a country in the war mushroomed after Dec '41, so too did mom's support for FDR's government mushroom. She began with the USO, and then ended up doing some type of defense-related work. She saw FDR as not only the one person who could keep Fascism from swalllowing up the USSR, but also the USA from powerful domestic fascists. We had them as well.

Somewhere in a two-year period she married two men. She quickly divorced the first, & the second one equally as quickly abandoned her in pursuit of some overseas scheme. The first had been an Arab man from Morocco or Lebanon, whose skin appeared as black as my mom's was pale white. When I attempted to pry from her details on the racial aspect in early 1940s American society of such a marriage, she was customarily sketchy. She only volunteered that she divorced him quickly because he proved to be "too touchy feely" & "too clingly." Then when mom's second husband left her, he left her with a soon to be born child. That was my eldest brother.

It was 1945. Those that had survived the intervening years since 1939 had, perforce, grown a lot. Dying on April 12, 1945, FDR did not survive. My mom was heart-broken at news of his death. I don't know how much consolation was provided by the birth of my oldest brother in the month following FDR's death. Shortly thereafter, my mom turned 20. Still young by anyone's account, except hers.

She lit a cigarette and penned a few words in recognition of the event.

      UNTITLED POEM
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She still had a long life in front of her & several more children yet to birth. She still had to face the unanticipated approaching McCarthyism. She'd already had a tiny personal fore-taste of it coming from one group on the Left, but that was absolutely nothing compared to the long national nightmare upcoming from the Right.

She was anonymous in the "If looks could kill" photo of Black Friday. She wanted it that way. She did her best to stay anonymous during the witch trials of the 1950s. She changed her name & flew under HUAC's radar. She would've died before snitching on anyone, & in fact she did over a decade ago. Yet as an "anonymous" ghost, I assure you she's at Wall Street right now doing her best to shield protestors from the police.

Originally posted to MBismo Vencerá on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 09:46 PM PDT.

Also republished by Abortion and Personal Storytellers.

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