The Queen of the Silver Dollar, Chapter 2: My Barhopping Grandparents

My Barhopping Grandparents

On the day my mother tried to place my sister and me into Juvenile Hall, then had to settle for taking us to my grandparents, she’d already found homes for my other three siblings.

My oldest sister, Marina Slip Gnu, was 17 at the time. She was sent to a friend’s house. I suspect that after she got out of jail, my mother worked as a prostitute for awhile. And I think she moved Marina back in with her, and pimped her out.

A few years ago, Marina tearfully told me about this. I thought she was crazy at the time, as Marina has had a history of serious mental illness, all her adult life. But after much reflection, I’ve put two-and-two together. It now makes sense.

It became too much for Marina, and she ran away from home and disappeared. For months, nobody knew if she was dead or alive. Then my father hired a private detective, who tracked her down in Texas.

There, she’d met an Army sergeant, and they’d married. They would stay married for more than 20 years, have four children, and become very wealthy. But not happy. Mental illness and spousal abuse led to a divorce. Money doesn’t buy happiness, and my oldest sister is proof of this.

My 12-year-old brother, and 14-year-old sister, were shipped off to an uncle’s house. He was my favorite uncle and kind of wealthy. Well, he had a swimming pool, so he seemed wealthy. I felt envious of my brother and sister’s good fortune. My uncle’s wife couldn’t have children, so he felt thrilled to take in my brother and sister. And my mother would have a hard time getting them back from him.

My 15-year-old sister, River, and 9-year-old me, were driven by my mom to Los Angeles the morning after our family’s big split. There we stayed for the next four months, living with my grandparents, before my mother could afford to take us back.

My grandparents began barhopping during the Great Depression, at taverns that probably looked similar to this.

My grandfather was a hell of a nice guy, but also an alcoholic. He was a functioning alcoholic, though. He made good money as a machinist, then would blow it all at the bar, partying and whooping it up.

My grandmother was also an alcoholic. And she was a party animal, having been introduced to the bar scene during the Great Depression, by my grandpa. She could be harsh, but overall was very kind to my sister and me. She loved us but didn’t have much time for us, what with all the partying she wanted to do with her husband, down at the bar.

So my sister and I were usually left alone to raise ourselves. But we were accustomed to this. All of my siblings and I had learned to take care of ourselves from a young age. We became very independent, as children, and have remained so as adults.

Although I was usually neglected, my grandmother did hold a very nice birthday party for me, when I turned 10-years-old. Well, she was a party animal, so she was an expert at throwing a good party. It’s the only time in my life I’ve ever had a birthday party, so this is one of my favorite childhood memories of her.

If my grandparents had not taken us in, I’m sure my sister and I would have been left to the mercy of the foster care system, and its unpredictable lottery of caring and abusive foster parents. So I feel grateful they opened up their home to us.

And it wouldn’t be the first time. My grandfather died at age 68, from too many years of hard partying. I was 21, and soon after his death I found myself unemployed and needing a place to stay. My widowed Grandma allowed me to move in with her for six months, until I got back on my feet. And thus, she saved me from homelessness.

Later, I was able to return the favor. My wife eventually became her caretaker. And when she became too old to live alone, we invited her into our house. She lived with us for more than three years, and during that time she took us on a wild ride. I did mention that she liked to party, didn’t I?

Fasten your seat belt, we’re in for a bumpy journey. The remaining posts in this series are about our adventures with my wild, eccentric, barhopping Grandma, during the final years of her life.

This is the latest installation of my nine-part series, The Queen of the Silver Dollar. Come on back in a few days for the next installation, entitled, Chapter 3: The Queen of the Silver Dollar. Click here to read Chapter 1.

34 replies »

  1. My heart goes out to your sister!!
    Glad that at least you and your sister got to stay together and your other brother and sister too.
    Your grandparents sound like they were quite the characters! Very glad that they were kind to you and your sister. Everyone deserves to have a special birthday party memory as a child, glad you got it! I am sure it will be a fun ride! I see that I am going to have to wait longer to find out why your Grandmother was called “The Queen of the Silver Dollar!’

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was nice that we weren’t completely split up, and had a sibling to live with. They were good grandparents in their own way, but also not the best examples to follow. In the next episode I hope I’ll make it clear how my granny got her nickname.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. it’s nice to see how you were able to repay your grandparents’ kindness later in life by taking in your grandmother. they sound like quite the characters, and I can see why you are not a fan of alcohol…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh my…the saga continues. I like to imagine that as people age, they get wiser and grow beyond/learn from their…ahem…youthful indiscretions but time and again I see that most people that just get older, and not one iota smarter. This was certainly true in my family. Sigh! Sounds like your grandmother stayed a party animal to the bitter end, and I am looking forward to reading more.


    Liked by 1 person

  4. The Japanese have a drinking culture. Just my own opinion, but by American standards, probably half of the Japanese adult population could be considered alcoholics. I think there are some pragmatic social (and business-management) reasons, and the Japanese aren’t a violent society. Regardless, there’s definitely a social and health cost to having intoxication woven into the social fabric.

    I’ve just decided that I don’t want to be dependent upon external forms of finding peace, relaxation, or moments of happiness. And I don’t especially enjoy being around other who aren’t in control of their own behaviors. Still, I enjoy a glass of wine or an occasional beer… just not enough to really feel anything. Curious why you group coffee in with them?

    Liked by 2 people

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