Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Family Pictures Taken by the Police

Here's a picture of my grandfather, Tom Pryor, taken by those "dirty, rotten screws."

It's his NYC Police Department issued 1934-35 Hack license. Pop bore no love for authority. My grandmother told me, "he could hear somebody give him the finger from a block away. The cops were number one on his list." Nan said, "when he wasn't a bastard, he was charming, artistic and left handed."

He spent most of of his youth in an orphanage called: Father Drumgoole's Home for Homeless Newsboys - later known as Mt. Loretto. The largest orphanage in the U.S. at the turn of the century. A 500 acre working farm facing Raritan Bay at the southern tip of Staten Island. The picture to the right, is Tom in the orphanage in 1914. He's thirteen years old ~ he entered the home at eight years old and stayed till he was sixteen. I found this letter in my grandmother's strong box. It was written by Tom, the day before he died, February 20, 1941. It's addressed to his first great-grandchild, my daughter, Alison. He wrote:
Dear Alison,
My name is Thomas Edward Pryor. I am your great-grandfather. I was born on December 16, 1900 to James and Mary Pryor. Dad was a hostler, and Mom was a housekeeper. I was baptized in the new Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on December 23, 1900. My brother, Eddie was four years older than me. Everyone called him Buster.

We lived on 50th Street and our apartment over looked the Third Avenue El. The trains had steam engines until I was four years old. In 1905 they electrified the rails, the year after they opened the first New York City subway. My Mom and Dad died in 1909 from influenza. Aunt Mary put us in an orphanage in Staten Island. I got out seven years later. I met Anna Cuccia in 1921. We married in 1923. Thomas was born in 1925. Robert came along in 1929. We lived in several Yorkville apartments.
My Mom had a little Irish gypsy in her, and gave me the gift to see into the future. Here's what I see: Tom joins the Army at 18, marries Rose at 21 in Garguilo's in Coney Island, and Bobby's born in 1949. Robert joins the Navy on his 17th birthday. He tried to get in a year earlier but gets caught. Robert meets Patty Ryan at the East Side Settlement House in 1945. They win the Settlement House's 1949 Lindy Dance Contest and start keeping company. They marry in 1952. Tommy flies through the window in 1954. Rory falls from a plane in 1956. That’s all I’m telling you, right now. If we meet, I’m sure you’ll like me, because boy, do I love you.
All My Love, Great Grandpa Tom

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