My Father’s FBI File (Another Installment of “Kids Make the Best Bookies: A Mafia Memoir”)


It’s taken more than 6 months, but finally my request for a copy of my father’s FBI file has been approved.  And though duplication costs may break the bank, the Feds claim to have nearly 1700 pages on my dad, 1687 to be exact.  (I exaggerate only a little about the cost.)

Letter received last week–

I have no idea what I might find there, but, minimally, I hope to learn what the FBI had against my father—because, clearly, my childhood was, at least by one measure, a history of his being pursued by them.

I hope to understand, in legal terms, why events like this took place in the late 1970s.

In that instance, my family was headed to Sweet Williams for two scoops on a sugar cone, when the raid occurred.  It happened on a frigid February evening as we descended the steep steps from our house above to the street below.  At fifteen, I was wearing a navy pea coat with the collar turned up—bundled against the chill.

It was dark outside, except for a single street light that brightened the cement steps, when a brown, unmarked sedan pulled up and federal agents jumped out, one slipping on the icy street and nearly falling, another grabbing Daddy and shoving him against the wall that separated our stairs from the road below.

As it became clear a raid was underway, my mother, two sisters, brother and I raced back toward the house. The first inside the front door, my mom covered Daddy’s incriminating book-making papers with her purse, as we rushed in behind her, over-coated FBI agents on our heels.

My mother had reminded Daddy to hide them before we left the house—the sheets on which he recorded, in careful columns, the bets his clients called in—who placed how much on which games. We had a door whose top was hollowed out and lined with tin—the same size needed to hold the folded papers. Daddy should have hidden the evidence there, as he usually did.

“Oh, Judy, don’t get your underwear in a bundle!” Daddy had dismissed my mother’s suggestion, and added, clapping his hands to hurry us along, “Let’s get this show on the road.”

With that he’d snatched his keys from the landing table, set his papers on the carpeted steps just inside the front door, and we were on our way, Daddy in the lead, my mother bringing up the rear.

I don’t recall exactly what the agent said who saw my mother’s futile effort to literally conceal evidence beneath a burgundy Gucci bag. I suppose the charge could have been cover-up by pocketbook or some other crime of the coutured-handbag kind.

“Don’t you dare try to take my mother,” I heard someone screaming—recognizing, in insanely surreal, five-second-delay, that the screamer had been me.

Now–decades later, my mind goes blank.  I remember nothing more, except that it had been my sister Susan’s thirteenth birthday.  (Revised excerpt from my memoir’s first chapter)

You see, when we were growing up, Daddy, though Irish and not officially a “made” member of the mob himself, was very much a member in the unofficial sense, since, for many years, he was the right hand man of the person who is now the underboss of the Pittsburgh crime family.   That gentleman, known to us as Uncle Bobby, was even in my parents’ wedding.

wedding 1961

“Uncle Bobby” is fifth from the right– (June 1961)

The stories are endless.

The FBI raided our house a number of times while we were kids.   Daddy was indicted by several grand juries.  He was convicted of conspiracy shortly before he died in 1981.

So stay tuned.  I don’t know how long the duplication process will take, but I hope, in the coming months, to understand more.  And I hope to understand in very concrete and specific terms.

How might you feel if potential family and legal secrets were about to be revealed?  Is there anything that happened in your past, you’d like to have documented in clear and explicit terms?

Note:  If you haven’t already, please read my first publication as an official Huffington Post blogger.  It’s called “Celebrating Thanksgiving from Haiti:  A Comedy of American Error.”  I’d love you to leave a comment on the Huffington Post site and “fan,” if you can.

Also–Sara and I invite you to do your CyberMonday/Christmas shopping at idiomART, our Etsy site.

idiomART

104 thoughts on “My Father’s FBI File (Another Installment of “Kids Make the Best Bookies: A Mafia Memoir”)

  1. Glad you’ve been able to get your hands on those papers. I’m sure so much of your childhood was trying to interpret what was going. I can’t imagine trying to understand such a big and serious relationship from dad to mafia to those suited FBI strangers taking your mother. As an adult, I hope the FBI papers can clarify things, at least give you some facts that you couldn’t have known as a child.

    Like

    • Sorry for the confusion. They didn’t take/arrest my mom. I should have been clear about that. Will go back and make that clearer. At any rate, you’re right. Gonna be SOOOOOOO weird to see what they have to say. Happy Monday, my friend.

      Like

  2. I think its going to be a fascinating journey into family history. From one perspective, its kind of cool that you have an opportunity to understand your dad even after he’s gone. (Sorry, I’m watching my Dad disappear so feeling very sad about what I don’t know).

    Like

    • Great to hear from you, Joss. Love the notion that I would just be able to shake my head about it all. To understand but remain grounded. That’s something I need to aim for. Hope you have a wonderful week, my friend.

      Like

      • and remember that everything you read will be their interpretation, summations, bias etc. Hoping they haven’t blacked out a lot of it as that would be supremely frustrating. You’re up to the task and you will stay grounded!

        Like

      • I, too, am worried about the black out. That would be maddening. Good point about it being their bias, interpretation, etc. Thanks for that reminder! Thank so, so much for this supportive comment!

        Like

  3. I actually have been thinking a lot lately about family secrets and whether they should be uncovered, this bothers me most when I want to write about the family history. My own life on the other hand I consider an open book..hmm I wonder? Great brave post!

    Like

    • Yes, I think I understand the distinction you are making here–being wiling to share you own life–but questioning whether you should publicly share the “secrets” of others. What is the distinction between keeping secrets and respecting privacy? I don’t know the answer.

      Like

  4. How exciting and frightening all at the same time! On one hand, to have answers has to be amazingly satisfying. On the other, the unknown is always frightening, y’know? I’m sure it’s going to be another governmental hurry-up-and-wait kind of deal so try not to wear your nails down to nubs! BTW, geez! 1687 pages! How much evidence do you need, FBI people? Over. Kill.

    Like

    • I know, Sista, crazy number of pages, isn’t it? I think the sheer volume is part of what makes me a little anxious. Is it over kill or is there more to this than I realize? I felt pretty okay with it until I saw that, then I was like–Geez! I will definitely need a manicure before it’s all over. LOL

      Like

      • I’m sure it’s over kill because, as you know, it’s the government we’re talking about. Useless paperwork is what they’re all about. Even if it is more than you realize, it will at least give you more fodder for the memoir, right? Regardless, what you find in all those pages doesn’t change the fact that he was your dad, an obviously loving father who adored you and gave YOU the best he had to give. What he did otherwise can never alter that, and it’s no small thing, Sista. So many in this world can’t say with any degree of certainty that they were loved. How fortunate you are to have that certainty to wrap your heart in while you read that file.

        Like

      • GREAT point! You’re right, nothing can change that. He did love us. And, yes, good poing about the government–document crazy, aren’t they?! It’s bound to give me info I can use. I really can’t imagaine that it won’t. Another good point! Thanks, my friend.

        Like

  5. Congratulations on at least getting the FBI to acknowledge your request. It’s got to be exciting and scary at the same time. I hope that what they send at least answers your questions about what they were hoping to find and why your family seemed to be a target.

    Like

    • As I said to Miranda, I think it’s the volume of material they have that makes me a bit anxious. I thought I knew what he had done. But does this mean there’s more to the story than I realized. SO weird.

      Great to hear from you, Lisa. Happy Monday to you!

      Like

      • i posted under my twitter acount, and it hiccupped then vanished. there was no sign of it (i have commmented there before).. so i followed with a ‘.’ to see what happened, and it went through instantly. i had copied the text and sent it again, and it said that i had already posted that… i looked back, and nothing, so i did the final comment which says it is is moderation and shows in my screen. the original comment is not anywhere, and i suspect i will reconstruct it later! of course the right click/copy is now gone from the computer’s memory!

        i’ll check back in a fw hours and see if it appeared on twitter or on huff post. i think the cyber demons ate it!

        z

        Like

    • Thanks, Frank. It’s taking a long time to tell this story, as doing the research to augment my memory has been tedious. But—-I think it’s gonna be a great read in the end. I’m just afraid it may take another 6 months to get the stuff. Grrrrrrrrrrrrr

      Like

  6. 1,687 typed pages – hula burgers!

    Have you decided yet how you’re going to “pull” information to use in your manuscript? Are you actually going to mark the document, or are you going to keep track in a separate document you write/type as you go?

    This inquiring Libra mind wants to know!

    Like

    • I know the letter was hard to read. I should have scanned as a document rather than a photo. But if you had the vision of the 6 Million Dollar man, you could have seen that they offer a CD version. SO I’m going to get it in what will amount to 4 of them. To be honest, I don’t know. I have no idea. Hadn’t even thought that far ahead. Our phones were tapped for years, so I’m interested in reading the transcripts of that stuff. Should be fascinating. If you have any ideas or tips, please share. Great to hear from you!

      Like

    • I’ll tell you what was crazy–I don’t have memory of feeling terror at all. Instead, I now have breakthrough, free-floating terror that seems to come out of no where. Now that you mention this, I suppose it could be related to this–the feeling dissociated from my memory of the experience. So great to hear from you, Trinity!

      Like

      • That is PTSD, Sista. I get that kind of terror that comes out of nowhere because of not dealing with it when it was happening–dissociation being a defense mechanism at the time. Very heavily medicated on my end because of the PTSD beastie.

        Like

  7. I can’t imagine your anticipation waiting for the copy of the file, Kathy. Looking forward to the next “chapter.” Also, love your Etsy site and re-purposed art! I can’t figure out how you make all of the pins invisible! It’s Christmas Lite this year, thanks to unemployment, but I will be back to visit and shop! Heading over to the Huffington Post now. Wishing you and Sara all the best this holiday season.

    Like

    • I suspect you probably weren’t around yet, but I have a tutorial posted under the “Art” tab at the top of the page. It should only be a few posts back. Did you see it. If you have time on your hands, I would make my gifts, as well. I know how you feel about a light Christmas. We’re pretty broke here, as well. So happy to hear from you this morning. Hope you’re feeling okay.

      Like

  8. Hey Kathryn — congrats on the HuffPo status .. yipppeee! And as usual, I’m amazed and flabbergasted by your family history. It’s kind of incredible that from what I can glean, your family was very closely-knit and “normal” but on the other hand, your dad was so deeply embedded in criminal activity … and your mom and all of you knew it. And yet … the going-out for ice cream events and obvious love between you all transcended everything. That’s what I love so much about this story — it’s SO complex & fascinating!!!
    Glad to hear from you! xooxox b

    Like

    • Oh, Betty, I swear, that’s what was so strange about it all. We were close-knit, and I was extremely “protected” and insulated in other ways. My father kept us very close. I don’t know if he was trying to protect us or what. I’ve begun to reconnect with folks we knew when I was a kid, and I’ll be curious to interview anyone who’s willing to talk, so I can learn what we looked like from the outside. It’s impossible for me to have an objective perspective.

      And thanks for sharing my Huff Post excitement. Kind of hard to believe it’s really happened. Feels like a real breakthrough in my writing life–at least, in terms of gaining a larger reading audience.

      Great to hear from you!

      Like

  9. Mmm…my grandfather used to tell us that my great grandfather buried some diamonds somewhere in the Northern Transvaal (now Limpopo province) in South Africa. Trues Bob, he was a diamond dealer but who knows whether the diamond story was true.
    My great grandfather on my dad’s side was apparently in love with the daughter of the then president of the Transvaal (a province of South Africa), Paul Kruger. He was told off and forbidden to see the daughter (or so the story goes), being an Welsh citizen and all. Paul Kruger was exiled after the Anglo Boere war and died in Switzerland. That’s my only claim to fame…:)

    Like

  10. So very happy for you, Kathy. After this long, it’s good to be able to –perhaps–find answers to some of the questions that might still be haunting you. Good luck with the duplication process. And your pocketbook…

    Like

  11. Wow, that will be a very interesting 1,687 page slog. I would be shocked if you didn’t find anything of major mind-blowing significance. Unlike your family, mine is comprised of pretty benign characters that come close to crossing the threshold into bland. If any member of my kin had reason to be investigated, I’d be quite surprised since we can barely walk and chew gum simultaneously. That said, if I could go back in time, I’d like to know the details of what really happened back in 1943 when my Uncle Tony’s head was accidentally blown off in a car during an alleged hunting accident. My brother and I have always wondered if there was more to that considering that we’re Italian and his brothers, my great uncles, were involved in some shady deals.

    Like

    • Wow! Now THAT really sounds suspicious! Wanting to know more about that would kill me–no pun intended. I always forget that you’re Italian.

      I have to agree with you. To be honest, I can’t imagine there not being something significant in all of those pages. Imagine how weird it would be if there wasn’t something. I think your guarantee has got to be right on.

      Hope you had a great Thanksgiving with Martini Max and family! How’s the project going?

      Like

      • Considering that accident happened nearly 70 years ago and all the witnesses are dead, we’ll never know what really happened that day. My grandfather was in the car when the gun went off. Ugh.
        In nearly 1,700 pages of documents, I’m sure you’ll discover all kinds of details and possibly details that will stir suppressed memories. Getting your mitts on those files is a huge deal.
        The Manhattan Project is going slower than I’d like, but it’s progressing.

        Like

      • Unless you’re able t channel the dead, I guess that could be an issue. Oh, well. The curiosity would kill me–again no pun intended.

        I agree that there’s bound to important details in that file. I think/hope it will amount to story-telling gold.

        Glad The Manhattan Project is proceeding. Love that we have a name for it! I miss your posts, however! I need my LA fix.

        Like

      • I know. I have had LA’s that I haven’t written. Just now at my desk I nearly coughed out a lung that completely freaked out my colleague, (not) Under Ling (anymore). She thought the noise I made was so horrifying she was under the impression that is was a death rattle. I said, “It didn’t feel so good, either. Nice to know we’re on the same page.”

        Like

      • Why does that not surprise me? If you were not to have LAs–then that would evoke a death rattle from me. Hate to laugh at your near-death experience. Hope you’re not too sick–merely practicing your LA craft–living lame–if not actually writing it.

        Like

  12. Many congratulations on your HuffPo post! I’ll be popping over next.
    As I begin writing my memoir I too have been thinking about the distinction between keeping secrets and respecting privacy. Every Memoir book reading I’ve gone to the author usually admits that after the book was published at least one sibling doesn’t talk to him/her…

    Like

    • Yes, I’ve read that sort of thing, as well. I’ve also noticed that most writers acknowledge the faulty nature of memory. And I’ve noticed this in my writing. I wrote something to post today, and then my mom told me she didn’t see how it could possibly have happened the way I remembered. Therefore, I decided not to share. However, it might be an interesting thing to include in a post about memory itself. Hope you’re writing is going well!

      Like

      • Perhaps I didn’t think of writing my memoir while my Mother was alive because I didn’t want to upset her, or have what my mother famously called “family distension” because of something I wrote.

        I had to drop out of the writing challenge and stop blogging, because I’ve been ill.

        I loved your HuffPo article. I wrote a comment, but for some unknown reason it’s still waiting to be approved.

        Like

      • So sorry to hear you’ve been ill, Rosie. Hope you’re feeling better soon and that it’s not too serious.

        On the the other hand, I had to laugh about your mother’s use of the word “distension.” How funny! However, I understand not wanting to write a memoir until after your mother’s death. I considered the same. However, at 74, my mom is so healthy and fit, she could live anoher two decades. I have some posts under the “Chapters 1-3 heading above that address that issue. SOme are protected, but the password is “mother.” I think those two are at the bottom of the list.

        Great to hear from you today. And get well soon!

        Like

  13. What a great read! How exciting to have access to this file. All of my family drama was back a generation or two, so I view it only as interesting history, and am not emotionally invested in it. That’s easier. My mother’s uncle was imprisoned in one of the southern states for a few years, and his parents spent their sizable worth to get him released, leaving my maternal grandmother poor and always bitter about it. This was all we knew. In the last year of my mother’s life, my daughter, Kate, started researching her ancestry. She found a distant relative in Canada, and started conversing on line with him. When she brought up this mystery, he said casually, “Oh, him. He robbed the First State Bank in Frankenmuth.” He then proceeded to give her details of a break-out while en route to the federal prison down south, during which a sheriff was murdered. The armed man, who did the shooting, was killed, but because my great-uncle was on the run with him, he and another accomplice were both charged with murder. We were able to put all the old articles together for my Mom before she passed away. Very exciting, in my family.

    Like

    • Wow! What a great story! It’s so strange to write about this and discover how many people actually have some significant drama in their past. That’s surprised me, even in the comments today. But really, THAT’S a great story! I know what you mean when you say you aren’t emotionally invested in that stuff.

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. Great to hear from you!

      Like

  14. Glad Kathy you managing to get your hands on those papers! Even if it breaks the bank I am sure you think its worth it. For some of us , me included, childhood memories are like jig saw puzzles. These papers seem to be an important piece of yours! in retrospect, I like to think of it as a blessing – the adventurous childhood we had! 🙂 looking forward to more bits of the story

    Like

    • I feel like my childhood was a bit of a puzzle, as well. I’m hoping these papers will help me solve it–unravel the riddle, however you want to put it. I understand. Even though it wasn’t easy at the time, I can see the good parts in retrospect. I feel especially blessed to have access to this material no matter the cost. Glad the story interests you! Thanks so much!

      Like

    • Great comparison, Jackie. I can’t wait either. In fact, the wait may kill me. Okay, maybe not kill me, but, at the very least, I’m anxious to get the stuff. Glad you think this story is worth telling. Thanks, my friend!

      Like

  15. Holy H*ll!

    I can’t tell you the pinch I felt when I read these words, ” I was wearing a navy pea coat with the collar turned up.”

    Spoken from the soul of a child, of course you remember what you were wearing … but that just stands out to me, the poignancy cutting against the winds that day. Heartbreaking.

    On a uber-cool positive note? 1) They responded and 2) you have an Etsy site 🙂 Whee!

    xo
    MJ

    Like

    • Glad you could appreciate this post. To be completely honest, I don’tknow for sure that I was wearing that coat that night. It was just a guess on my part. I had one. It was very cold. I used to turn my collar up. I just tried to reconstruct the scene as best I could. I don’t recall all of the details, but I’ve been advised by other writers to reconstruct scenes as they likely were. The story happened exactly like that. However, I got different details from my siblings. It seems we all remembered different parts/details. Thank God there’s four of us.

      Glad to have the opportunity clarify that. I have this thing about complete honesty, and having to write a narrative when I don’t recall all of the necessary details bothers me. Hope this makes sense.

      Thanks for reading, MJ!

      Like

  16. Kathy, you are on the precipice of something very exciting–to finally learn the truth. You’re like Nancy Drew about to uncover some great mystery, and Sara is George. Can I be Bess? I wish I could sit with you and pour over the documents. What stories they will tell! Can’t wait to read more about your discoveries. I hope, too, that it brings you some closure and peace.

    Like

    • Love the comparison to Nancy Drew. You can certainly be Bess! Gosh, it will be fascinating to pour over those documents. Hopefully the blog will be a forum for that “pouring.” But, heck, we’d love you to come do it in person, too. We have two guest rooms. Thanks, Monica. I hope it brings some peace of mind, as well!

      Like

  17. I can think of a lot of things I wouldn’t like brought up again but I don’t think anyone cares enough to look into it. I google myself once every couple of months and delete anything I don’t like.

    Will you be doing posts about what you find in this file?

    Like

    • Yes, I’ll definitely be blogging about it! And I think it will make for some fun reading–both in terms of watching a writer in the process of discovery and in terms of the story itself.

      I suppose I need to google myself. Never think to do it. Great to hear from you, Megan!

      Like

  18. I absolutely love your writing – the brevity and such close attention to detail that makes me feel like I was there that fateful night. I hope you share what you find, even if you only let us “glimpse” what’s in the file, as I’m sure it’s very personal.

    Like

    • Yes, it will be personal, but I’m writing a memoir, so it will be public pretty quickly. I definitely plan to share via the blog. As I just said to someone else–I think it will make for some interesting reading once I do begin blogging about what I find there–as it will be a window into my own discovery-writing process—and the story itself should be pretty dramatic, as well.

      SO happy you dropped by and left a comment. Great to hear from you! Please come back!

      Like

  19. I guess there are things ‘now’ that I would like chronicled, but not for the same reasons.

    Things from the past….I am constantly asking questions about the past. And usually in regards to my father. I want to know more about him and his life. But his wasn’t as colorful as your dad’s!

    Of course I “see” your father first, as your father. And what I read about him from that perspective-I adore about him. The bookie stuff always seems to play second fiddle in my head to the man you knew as your dad.

    Like

    • You have said this so well, Colleen. My dad was a lovable character to everyone who knew him. Sara and I were visiting my cousin in Nashville this spring and my cousin was trying to describe Daddy to Sara and he my dad was the kind of guy it was impossible not to like. That’s the greatest gift he gave me. He was lots of fun. Everything else was and is secondary. I’m so, so thrilled I’ve succeeded in communicating that part of him. Thanks for sharing that. I bet you DO want to know more about your father. I think we’re all that way. And, yes, it would be hard to compete with my dad in the “colorful” department. LOL

      Like

  20. Fascinating stuff, as always! I’m sure you’re a little bit curious, and probably a little frightened, too, to read what is in those files. But if I were you, I’d be dying to know, too!

    Ice cream on a frigid February day? I suppose there’s a certain logic to that – if your tongue is cold, maybe the rest of your body won’t feel quite so chilled? I dunno.

    Like

    • I have NO idea why we were going out for icecream! It makes no sense. My sister Lynn remembers that part. I know we were going out to eat, but Lynn insists that was our intended destination. Glad you enjoyed reading Mark. Hope your week is going well.

      Like

  21. I met my father in my twenties. He was an interesting guy with interesting friends and interesting business associates. He did federal time on a RICO charge after I met him, I am the only one of his many children that suspect the charge was true. I liked my Dad, he was an interesting guy. I only had about 18 years to get to know him, much of that either he was away or I was overseas. Perhaps one day I will do what you are doing.

    I think it is remarkable what you are doing. I understand it I think. That you are sharing, I am fascinated and thank you.

    Like

  22. If I can figure the math correctly, those fees seem like a pretty good deal. I had to pay several hundred dollars to get my medical records from two hospitals. Getting the info on disk would have been such a better option.
    Anyway, I can’t wait to hear more.

    Like

    • I am getting the CD. And I suppose it is a good deal, if you’re not using loose change to buy dog food, which is what I had to do last week. We’re frighteningly broke. I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective/context. I suspect you’ve been there.

      Like

  23. In the paragraph above the photo of the wedding, the word “since” should be changed to “because.” Sorry, Kath. Bad habit. …fascinating story. I will follow it.

    Like

  24. Excellent revision! I loved that story the first time but it’s so smooth and seamless now. I think you should call this chapter, Two Scoops on a Sugar Cone! Can’t wait to hear what mysteries your father’s file holds.

    Like

    • I can’t wait either! Glad you like this telling. Hope the stuff comes soon. I’m so afraid it’s going to take months.

      By the way, I’m so behind on my reading, it’s criminal. I think I’m gonna give up and try to start over.

      Like

  25. I don’t know how I’d feel Kathy! What a crazy story. I wonder what you will find in the files. I’m sure it isn’t easy looking back but it probably is quite therapeutic in a sense to get some closure and answers.

    Like

  26. Man, reading this was like watching a movie.
    Instead of answering your question, I wanna ask you one:

    When you find out all the details of the report, will it have any affect on the memories of your relationship with your father? Or your perception of him?

    Trying to put myself in this situation. I’m a *need to know the details* kind of guy.

    Like

    • I can’t imagine it changing my memories of my dad–or my feelings about him. However, I can’t write a memoir about my childhood without knowing the objective facts. I want to understand WHY the FBI was so intent on raiding our house. I want to see if there’s another side to the story that I’m not aware of–if that makes any sense.

      Like

  27. Wow, that sure took a while to hear back! I’m sure that seeing the FBI file on your father will both answer some of your questions and invite new ones, too. It’s certainly one way to get another perspective on your own experiences. Most people don’t have that sort of source when writing a memoir… for better or for worse!

    Like

  28. So glad you’ve finally been able to get approval on that request. Seems to me like it took forever, so I imagine it’s been a long wait for you. I hope what is revealed will help you to better understand everything.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s