Vigilantes

It’s 1943. The late night air is cool and damp. Under the yellow glow of the streetlamp, 17 year-old Tom steps into the phone booth and yanks the door shut. The light extinguishes and he’s shrouded by the darkness. Sweat beads on his brow despite the chill air. He grips the dime in his clammy hand, ready to drop it when signaled.

He watches his brother, Dick, tug open the door of the saloon across the deserted street and step inside. The seconds tick by. Frank, the eldest, peers through the pub’s grimy window for a sign from Dick. 

Tom’s stomach turns over as he blesses himself hoping the plan works. Hephone booth waits. There. Frank waved to him. Tom drops the dime into phone slot and dials. Frank is on tiptoe eyeing the scene inside the barroom. Tom hears, “Police department.”

Tom’s shaky voice croaks out, “People are being served drinks after hours at Ryan’s Pub on Salina St. Hurry, if you want to catch them!” He releases the receiver into its cradle as though it were burning in his hand. He races out of the booth, careful to shut the door behind him, and hot foots it across the street to catch the next move.

Dick has placed himself at the noisy bar, right next to the phone. Before the phone finishes its first ring, he grabs it off the hook and answers, “Ryan’s.”

He smiles with satisfaction when he hears the voice on the other end, “Hey, Mick, got a call about after hours drinking. Get rid of it quick. Chief says we have to raid your place.” Click.

Mick hollers, “Hey, kid. Who was that?”

Dick answers, “Aw, just Reggie’s wife checking up on him again. I told her he wasn’t here.”

Mick laughs, “Good for you, Dickie!”

Dick finishes his drink and Salina St, Syracuse, NYsaunters out the door. His brothers are glued to the  window. He lights a cigarette, leans against a streetlamp and waits for the sirens’ wail.

Inside, ladies sip their whiskeys and men down their beers. Mick entertains the crowd with his raunchy jokes. The piano player pounds out a favorite Irish tune. A tipsy woman hangs on his neck crooning as he plays.

As the black and whites race to the curb in front of the saloon, Dick grabs his brothers by their shirt collars and tugs at them to come away from the window, “Time to go, boys.”

 The officers barge into the barroom and yell to Mick, “I gotta shut you down, Mick, for servin’ after hours. Everybody, out! And put down those drinks!”

1941 BuickThe brothers hightail it down the street to their dad’s ’41 Buick, hop in and drive away, laughing. In the driver’s seat, Frank echoes aloud what’s on all their minds, “Sweet revenge.”

I hope you enjoyed this true story. My dad was Dick Sardino, a young man at the time. He, his elder brother, Frank and his youngest brother Tom became know in our hometown as The Crusading Sardino Brothers.

Though Prohibition had long before been repealed, some regulations on alcohol consumption remained in effect. The law against serving alcohol ‘after hours’ was one of them, and it remains in effect today. My grandfather was a powerful local businessman in the 1930s and 40s. He owned the majority of the theaters in town as well as a popular nightclub where nationally known entertainers performed.

He  was a  target for the corrupt police department and for a New York City crime syndicate that wormed its way in our city. He refused to pay for the ‘services’ they offered. The police had trumped up a bogus charge to shut his nightclub, Club Candee, down.

The Sardino brothers got angry…and then they got even. They set up sting operations on most of the truly illegal operations in town. The press, a friend to the police department, couldn’t ignore it for long. Stories ran daily in the newspaper chastising the police for allowing the ignorance of laws to continue and heralding the Sardino Boys for bringing justice where it was needed.

World War II came. My Dad enlisted in the Marines, my uncle Tom in the Army, my uncle Frank stayed on the homefront running the new business, a string of pizza shops. After the war ended, my dad went to college on the G.I. bill and became a lawyer, graduating near the top of his class. My uncle Tom joined the police force hoping to bring honor back to that profession. By 1970, Uncle Tom was Chief of Police and the President of the International Chief’s of Police Organization. My Dad had become a Judge in our City Court system. Uncle Frank was head of their very successful pizza business.

They’re all gone now, but they remain a part of local history as leaders and men who made a difference.

Do you have relatives  who had a positive effect on their community, were honored as leaders or set an example of community service? Maybe you have a quirky relative who makes for good storytelling.

I’d love to hear your stories. You’re welcome to post them here, or share them in the comments.

You know I love hearing from you and anxiously await your comments!

Don’t forget that this Friday is another installment of The Life List Club. Are you having any trouble with your goals? We can be your ‘sounding board’. Share with us!

Is there any topic you’d like to read about on this blog? I welcome all of your ideas and suggestions. Come on, I know you have at least one. 🙂

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7 thoughts on “Vigilantes

  1. Pingback: Your Health! « Kate Wood's Blog

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