The Jerrit clan resided two doors down from us on Mayo Street in Compton, California, across from Roosevelt Junior high. The Jerrit's were notorious, having migrated from Oklahoma a few years back and proved themselves thieves, bullies, petty cons, etc. We co-existed with them. One of them, Jimmy, who was my age, shot his bb gun across our neighbor's yard to hit the side of our house. Dad warned them, 5 boys and a girl, ranging from 6 to 16, David and Johnny already having been to reform school and back. Norman, 6, had spat on my sister on the sidewalk in front of our house.
They were all smoking by 10 and drinking sooner after. Compton was a rowdy blue collar working-class town, but the Jerrit's were the exception to the norm.
Dad returned from a 10 hour work day shortly and when told of what had occurred, he said to me, “That's it. We'll settle this right now, Dell, the only way you can settle things with trash like the Jerrit's.”
We walked over. They were all out in the yard, awaiting dinner, a couple beat up cars parked out front. Dd walked up the porch and knocked on the screen door. The mother came to the door.
“What do you want, Franklin?” she snorted.
Blackie, a reputed tough guy, worked the oil wells at Signal Hill in Long Beach. He was stocky and strong. Dad said, “Get him or I'm coming in after him.”
At this point Blackie came to the door, and before he could react, my dad, ex boxer and big league shortstop with incredibly quick hands, ripped open the screen door and snatched Blackie by the neck and hurled him off the porch onto the lawn, and before he could rise Dad hit him with a solid left that could be heard a block away and knocked him half unconscious and then grabbed him by the neck and shoved his face into the weedy front yard.
“Pray for your life you sonofabitch!” he bellowed.
I looked around. Nobody was moving. Susie and mother watched from our porch. Neighbors several houses down the block were out on their lawns to watch.
“I'm praying,” Blackie grunted.
Dad swiveled his head toward the Jerrit clan. “Any of you little bastards even look at my daughter or my wife again, I'll beat this sonofabitch to death,” he growled. “And you little bastards'll starve to death.”
And that was the end of that. They cleared a path for my sister after that.
Dad grew up in a part of Chicago that was predominately Polish and German and virulently anti-Semitic. He had two sisters, and when they walked to school, they were called “Jew bitches,” “Kike witches,” and spat upon as if they were subhumans. It was another time in our history, the 1920s. Dad fought just about every day, and soon he was throttling those offenders of his sisters with a viciousness and physical battering meant to remind them for the rest of their lives that they'd better not insult or abuse girls.
“A bully's one thing, but a man or boy who abuses a woman or a girl, that's the worst kind of cowardice, the lowest form of life, and they deserve a beating they'll never forget.”
Years later, my mother's younger sister, Bonnie, was severely beaten by her husband, dad's brother in law, a Russian immigrant who'd lost most of his family during World War II. The man had demons, a streak of sadism and possessiveness and Bonnie had scars. A registered nurse like my mother, and a meek and tender soul, as a 22 year old she found herself in an army field hospital in France immediately after D Day and throughout the march across France, and she never got over the horror of witnessing the carnage 18 year old boys torn to shreds and holding their hands as they cried out for their mothers and died.
She spent a year in France, from field hospital to field hospital.
When my mother received the phone call from Bonnie, Dad immediately got in his car, drove down to their house, crashed through the front door and, in front of Bonnie and their son, beat uncle Jake into a bloody pulp, nearly hospitalizing him, and threatening to kill him if he touched Bonnie again.
“We've got to protect our women, Dell.” he told me. “At all costs. Your aunt Bonnie, she is submissive and soft, she would never harm a flea, and when you saw what Jake did to her it made a grown man like me cry, and tell you the truth, I wanted to kill him.”
My mother told me that in 1940, when she and my dad were first married, and dad was playing professional baseball for Beaumont in the Texas League, the doctor who attended to the team gave my mother a physical examination. He did not know she was an RN, and within minutes she stopped him from taking sexual liberties no true doctor would attempt, gave him a piece of her mind, and left.
“You didn't tell dad, did you?” I said.
“No. he would have beaten him half to death and gone to jail.”
Today, if my did to Blackie Jerrit and Uncle Jake what he did to them back in the 1950s, he'd be in jail. Too bad.