Sacco and Vanzetti...

...the World is a small place... I've been reminded of that from time to time... but, one particular instance stands out in my mind... at lunch today, someone said… “WOW, it’s such a small world”… meaning that she knew someone from the next damn county… that someone ELSE at the table knew… sheesh… small world my ass…. Here is MY “small world” story…

...Once upon a LOOONG time ago, I was a barely 18 year old Jarhead... stranded on a barren, moss covered rock in the middle of the Bering Sea..... nearer to Siberia than Anchorage by a LONG shot... and, as you do, I was boozing it up with some friends of mine late one evening.... or, early one morning... I can't remember which.... and one of the guys was from Boston... and, he was of Italian extraction... now, being a Hillbilly from Southeast Tennessee, we didn't have a lot of Italians down our way... so, I was genuinely interested in hearing his story.. I thought he might have a good Ellis Island tale to tell or something...

..well, it turns out like this... his Grandfather had indeed come over from Italy to Ellis Island... and ended up settling in Boston... he set himself up as a mortician... he minded his own business, and was quite happy working with stiffs.. until, one day... Sacco and Vanzetti, two Italian immigrants were wrongfully accused of murdering two guards during a robbery... anyway, the locals wanted to string'em up... and, after a quick kangaroo court, they fried'em in Boston's brand spankin' new electric chair.... needless to say, the Italian immigrant community was up in arms... and, my friend's Grandfather was chosen to get the bodies in shape for the funeral... he did so, and his Son, in front of the gathered funeral mob, spoke publicly about the travesty of justice... and, it launched his political career in Boston...

...now... think for a moment... here was a 18 year old, half-drunk Marine.. listening to this history lesson... hell, I didn't know who Sacco and Vanzetti were, and I could give a shit less... but, to him, they were big potatoes.... so, I knowingly shook my head... said "wow" a few times, and enjoyed his story...

..ok... now... fast forward to Scotland... three years later... I am meeting my Soon-To-Be-Wife's Grandparents for the first time... they had a beautiful house in Perth... anyway, her Grandpa comes out... can tell, obviously, that I'm a Yank, and begins to tell me about his travels to the USA back in the mid 20s... see, he was an Electrical Engineer... and a Freemason... so, he got on a boat in Glasgow one day, and sailed to Boston... hooked up with the local Freemasons, and they landed him a job... he told me of his re-wiring of various American auto plants from Direct Current... over to Alternating Current... etc... hell, he even helped to re-wire the Ford plant... and then, he stalls in his conversation... his tumbler of Glenmorangie in one hand... and he says...

..."one of the strangest things I did while I was in the US.... was to wire up the Electric Chair for the State of Massachusetts... yeah.... they had themselves these two gentlemen named Sacco and Vanzetti... they'd done killed somebody, and the State wanted to fry them... so, I helped them to create their new chair... it used Alternating Current... and, being from Scotland, I knew more about that technology than any of the local Electrical Engineers..."

...well... ladies and gentlemen... I sat there with my chin on the floor... here were two historically significant people... who, three years before, I was blissfully ignorant... and now, I had not only met the person that was directly responsible for them getting cooked... but ALSO the person's son who was responsible for planting them....

..one was met on an island off Siberia.... and, the other, just off the South Inch Park in downtown Perth, Scotland... the World is indeed a LOT smaller than we think...

..oh, and by the way, Sacco and Vanzetti’s innocence was proven in the 1970’s… but, due to my Wife's Grandpa... and his Electrical expertise, it didn't matter a whole helluva lot...

by Eric on March 08, 2004 | Comments(6) | SWG Stories

Comments so far:

Sacco and Vanzetti were indeed a big deal... and it's worth recalling them just to remember there was a time in this country when an Irishman, or an Italian, or a Jew got the same raw deal as a black or a Chinese.

posted by: Velociman on March 8, 2004 07:27 PM

I was given a book for Christmas last year... humbly entitled "100 Things American's Should Know About US History"... and, yes, Sacco and Vanzetti are in it... 1927, I believe... I didn't know of them before, but I know them now.. "The Man" who puts you down has been a lot of colors over the years..

posted by: Eric on March 8, 2004 07:37 PM

Well said...the both of you!!

posted by: Sam on March 8, 2004 09:40 PM

A most interesting post. Thanks. And yes, I do remember hearing of the S & V case. I never understood why they were railroaded tho. The best I could figure it, there were different regional "raw deals."

posted by: Indigo on March 8, 2004 10:20 PM

Indigo, I'm no expert, but I think that their political beliefs... combined with their ethnic status... could have been what cooked their goose... but, like you said, a raw deal is a raw deal... no matter where it happens..

posted by: Eric on March 9, 2004 06:53 AM

S & V were Anarcho-syndicalists, at the extreme Left of the labor movement at the time. They were considered martyrs by most of the American Old Left (such as my parents) even tho their particular position was ideologically considered wrong by most of it. During the Spanish Civil War they would have been almost as likely to be shot by the Stalinist majority on the Republican side as by Franco's forces.

posted by: triticale on March 9, 2004 05:31 PM