Thursday, July 2, 2009

I'm Not a Gun Moll - BUT - - -

Hey there, this is Lena coming to you from the Land of Nothingness. I currently have nothing going on in my life. Nothing went on yesterday or the day before, and I don’t expect anything to happen tomorrow either. So when you have nothing going on in your life you have to look to the past for something to write about. Oh, well ~ ~ ~

So I guess I’ll fess up to the fact that I have a past connected to the FBI and Al Capone. Yup – that’s me – but I wasn’t one of those gun molls or anything quite that interesting.

When Ole was in the Navy and going to school at Great Lakes, Illinois Naval Station, we lived in an apartment about two blocks from the main gate. Now anybody who’s ever spent any time around a large military base knows that the neighborhoods around the gates are not known to be the nicest areas. They can be pretty rough and tumble and scary.

We had quite a “classy” apartment (snicker) – it was an efficiency above an abandoned laundromat. The kitchen was behind a folding door and the bathroom consisted of a stool and sink in our apartment, with the bathtub located “down the hall” and shared by two other apartments. Believe me, I NEVER took a bath unless Ole was home and sitting in our apartment with the door open and watching the tub room door. It was kind of a scary situation. The only thing this apartment DIDN’T have was cockroaches!

Downstairs and next door was a little local tavern owned by a Greek and a Pollack. Very nice people who kind of adopted us and watched over me when Ole had duty on base. I had to park across the street and down a hill, so about the time I was due home from work either Gus, the Greek, or Bill, the Pollack, would be looking out the window to make sure I made it safely from my car to my apartment door. They also helped me get my car started several mornings when it was bitter cold and Ole had already left for school.

Just to give you an idea of what the neighborhood was like; the first weekend that I arrived in North Chicago and moved into the apartment Ole had duty, which meant he had to stay on base for the entire weekend. There I was in this dirty apartment, didn’t know a soul nor did I know my way around. So I spent the weekend cleaning the place up, scrubbing an inch of grease off the stove, a layer of crud off the sinks, etc. It was Saturday morning and I needed to shake rugs, so I found my way down the long dark hallway to the back of the building where I had to go down a long flight of stairs to get outside to the alley. I shook the rugs but noted that there were a lot of tipped over trash cans and some blood spattered around. I found out later that two sailors had been knifed the previous night after some kind of a barroom brawl – right on my back step. Needless to say I spent the remainder of the weekend in the apartment with the door locked.

Now our apartment rent was $90 a month, my car payment was $70, and Ole’s military pay at that time was $32.64 every two weeks, leaving us with quite a deficit. This meant I had to find a job. I had quite a bit of experience in the hospitality industry, (hotels/motels) so happened to come across an ad for an assistant sales manager (which I had done before) at a place called the Hotel Moraine on the Lake. It was located several miles down the shore of Lake Michigan in a Jewish suburb of Chicago called Highland Park, IL. I applied, was interviewed by the general manager, a Mr. Mueller, and was hired on the spot. I would be working with all the people who were booking events into the hotel, which included a lot of bar mitzvahs and bas mitzvahs, along with making calls on businesses selling the facility for their meetings and conventions. It was a fun job in that respect.

Now this hotel was built in 1892, had numerous huge ballrooms/convention rooms, 200 guest rooms, a pool, tennis courts, and a beautiful stone bridge that crossed a ravine with a path down to the shores of Lake Michigan. It had been quite a resort in its day, and it was rumored that Al Capone had used it as a second headquarters during his heyday. When I began going through the stacks of file cabinets that lined the walls in my office I found several pieces of evidence that this was indeed so. At times he would rent the entire facility for his gang, allowing no one else in during his stay. I found old newspaper clippings referencing gun battles between Capone and other gangs that had taken place on the site, as well as connections with FBI raids during that period of time.

Now being a naïve little girl from Minnesota, I didn’t think twice about the fact that when Mr. Mueller gave me a tour of the facility that there were certain sections that I was told were OFF LIMITS to me. He told me that these areas were never used, were always kept locked and I had no need to be there.

About nine months later on a Sunday morning the headlines of the Chicago Tribune read “Hotel Moraine on the Lake raided by FBI for Interstate Gambling and Prostitution.” Once again, being a naïve young woman, I headed back to the hotel on Monday morning and as I approached the door I was met by two FBI agents informing me that the hotel was closed. I told them who I was and that I had come to collect my pay check. Of course they were very interested in the fact that I was the assistant sales manager and I was taken in immediately for further questioning. I gave them what information I had, which was nothing, and because of my pure, sweet, innocent face, they must have believed me because they let me go.

Apparently Mr. Mueller had a “thing” going on the side that was mob affiliated. The last I heard both he and the bookkeeper were doing hard time in prison. And I honestly knew NOTHING about any of this during the time I worked there. Honest. You DO believe me, don't you?

Love Lena


Carolyn said...

I actually do believe you. I can see myself doing the same thing. Bill says I go through life with blinders on. I only see what is right in front of me. It makes life so much more pleasant. ;o)

StitchinByTheLake said...

I agree with Carolyn - I would probably have done the same thing at that age. I was so naive when we got married - and for years afterward - that looking back I have to laugh at myself! blessings, marlene

Meggie said...

Is that hotel still standing? How impressive! and what a history. Yeah, I'll bet the place is plenty haunted. Can you imagine!? -Megan-

Marge said...

We must be related! I have a connection to Al Capone too. You see, son Chris, the one we're headed to Alaska to see, worked summers at a resort in Northern Minnesota when he was in college. In the middle of the huge lake was an island with the remains of several buildings, where they say Al Capone hid out during the summers. So, we both have an Al Capone connection.

Lena . . . said...

Yes, and I know exactly where that island is, too. It's in the middle of a lake named Dead Lake. Been there many times and it's not more than 50 miles from where I live. According to the history buffs in the area (and the oldtimers that are still alive) Capone would come spend time on the island when things got "hot" in Chicago - temperature-wise or law-wise!!

Grandma Elsie said...

My My , you have had an very interesting life there , Lena.
I have no reason to doubt you but I still say, you are one great story teller.
Now I grew up in the country in the mountains of Virginia and still live about 5 miles from where I grew up,
I was and still am Naive. My husband used to say,"God gave me to him to watch over for I never seen bad in anyone. LOL