Today is the birthday of Frank O’Hanlon, the grandfather of my husband Gene and his brothers, Don and Bob Ford. Gene and I always harbored the belief that his grandfather relentlessly haunted and guided him all his life.
Here, he’s pictured with his daughter Mabel Ford, and the three grandsons.
Frank was born in Erie, Pennsylvania on February 13, 1858. He had two brothers, James and Thomas. He moved to Iowa City, Iowa when he was 21 years old.
Frank was in the cigar business for many years and was the owner and operator of the Parlor City Sample Room, which offered a fine line of wines and liquors, imported and domestic cigars, and was located at 125 North Second Street in Cedar Rapids.
By 1911, Frank also operated the saloon in the Cedar Rapids House, a hotel that his wife Rose Kozlovsky’s family owned. That same saloon was the scene of the stabbing of John Kozlovsky. See blog entry for Murder She Wrote.
His last business was operating a small cigar store from which he retired in 1930.
My brother-in-law Bob remembers Frank as a big Irishman – tall, well-built and well-dressed. When he was little, Bob said that he remembers sitting at the bar eating pretzels from a fish bowl glass that was used to hold draft beer.
During the early years of their marriage, my in-laws Mabel and Pat Ford lived with Frank and Rose. Rose died in 1923, a year after Don was born. Gene, Don and Bob spent the earliest years of their childhood in this house at 407 F Avenue West in Cedar Rapids.
It appears that the house is still there. Zillow is listing it at $88,000. Says it was built in 1900. It has 5 rooms, 1272 square feet, including 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom.
The house was probably very crowded with a grandfather and a family of five, but eventually, in 1929, they all moved to a bigger house at 1726 Maple Drive and spent the Depression years there. Later they moved to an acreage on First Avenue West Road. It was there that Frank died on April 13, 1937 at the age of 79. My husband Gene was 10 years old at the time and that must have been when Frank chose him for the mission that was to haunt him for the rest of his life.
Frank’s Requiem High Mass at St. Patrick’s was celebrated by Father Donald Peters and Father Leo Derga, the same priests who baptized, married and buried many of us on my side of the family, too. Same with the family of Lorraine Wilson Ford (Don’s wife). We share many roots. I notice that at Frank’s funeral, several Spaights were in attendance: Harold, J.L., Leonard, Donald, and Joseph. My niece-in-law, Carrie Spaight Fitzpatrick hails from that clan.
The music at Frank’s funeral was by the Girl’s Choir from St. Patrick’s High School. I was only in first grade at the time, but my piano teacher, Sister Mary Madelene would have been the director of that choir. It’s a small world.
The only record of semi-notoriety I could find about Frank was a clipping in the then Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette. It seems that Rose and Frank were going on the train to Walker to visit relatives. Suddenly, Frank noticed a pickpocket get away with Rose’s purse. Frank let out an alarm and gave chase. The culprit was finally apprehended and arrested. The affair warranted a two column spread in the Gazette. (Cedar Rapids was never known as a hotbed of crime – this was the best they could muster for hot news.) Anyway, Rose got her purse back, and they proceeded on their trip.
Now to explain about the “haunting” of my husband Gene. His grandfather Frank was a hard-working businessman who had the bad fortune to choose the pre-Prohibition years to go into the saloon business. One can only imagine the vilification of such saloon-keepers by what was to become the all-powerful Women’s Temperance Society. The prohibitionists finally managed to shut Frank down. But not completely “out”. Enter his grandson Gene.
When Gene was 62 years old, he commenced his full-time writing career and his main subject was focused on the period now often referred to as Neo-Prohibition. And he never let up. In his articles, books, speeches, he constantly referred to the suppression of information about the healthful benefits of moderate drinking, and he never failed to mention his grandfather.
For the first three years, Gene was like an embarrassing voice in the wilderness. Even the folks in the industry were afraid to support his editorials. But physicians, who all along kept quietly encouraging him, began writing articles under their own byline for his small magazine. Then in 1991, came the 60 Minutes show which triggered the revolution about the French Paradox.
The French Paradox is in reference to the reports of the much lower rate of heart disease among the French people in spite of the fact that they smoke too much, drink too much, and eat too much fat. Wine, especially red wine, was reportedly a major influence.
Since that show, of which Gene is often mentioned as a prominent influence, all wines, brews, and spirits have gained or re-gained the respect that Frank O’Hanlon probably only dreamed of. He, and his haunted grandson, successfully made their case for moderation, respectability, and health.
“To your health!”