Friday, November 20, 2009

The Mothers

Twenty years ago when I made my run for city council my mother (the short lady on the right) and my opponent's mother were out there at their neighborhood polling places weilding campaign signs for their sons. They both lived in the same precinct.

My mom, Ruth B. Solomon, had never professed much interest in politics, yet some of my earliest memories include walking with either her or my grandmother the five or six blocks to the Betsy B. Winslow Elementary School on Eection Day where we'd go down the half fight of stairs to the basement where the voting took place.

Even at the ager of two or three I got the lecture on how we lived in a democracy and it was our solemn duty to vote to preserve our freedoms. I was told that in places like Nazi Germany, Russia, Poland, and a bunch of other countries people didn't get the chance to vote for their leaders.

In a way we really didn't either. Voting was often along religious or ethnic lines. Adult conversation in the weeks leading up to an election was often filled with "We should vote for so-and-so because he's Jewish, and since Hymie Rosen retired we haven't had a Jew on the City Council!" But other times it was "Vote for Manny Goulart's cousin because Manny is Grandpa's business partner. They own the Dean Bldg. in the North End and the Olympia Bldg. in the middle of downtown New Bedford. They're old friends!" and it didn't matter that Manny was Catholic and proud of his Portuguese heritage.

I'm not really sure how these two guys became such good friends but I have my suspicion that it had to do with smuggling. My grandfather had been in the wholesale liquor business both before and after prohibition. Manny owned a small fleet of commercial fishing boats that fished for cod and haddock of the coast of Newfoundland in Canada. Booze stayed legal there. I suspect that all of those boatloads of fish had a layer of fish covering bottles of whiskey and kegs of beer mixed with the ice.

We lived way too well to be doing it on half of the profits from a small strip of retail shops and a four story office building, both of which were half vacant most of the time.

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