restricted access 2 “For Better or for Worse”
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2 “For Better or for Worse” ThecircumstancesunderwhichImetGusWinkelershouldhavewarned me that any association with him would never be sound and normal. With the aid of my sister I operated a rooming house near the downtown district in St. Louis. We had many friends in the vicinity and were members of a card club that held meetings each month. It was customary for the girls entertaining the club to have something to drink, so when they met at my house it was not unusual that I had a quart of whiskey in my ice box. Before there was any demand for highballs there was a knock at the door and I admitted Gus, a stranger to me then, who was calling on Isadore Londe, a roomer at our house. I showed him to Londe’s room. AboutanhourlateroneofmyguestsdiscoveredGussoundasleepin the tub in the bathroom. We all rushed to the room when she screamed thattherewasadeadmaninthehouse.NotonlydidwefindGus“passed out cold,” but Londe as well, stretched across the foot of his bed. Our emptied whiskey bottle was on the table in his room. We hauled Gus out of the tub and placed him beside Londe. Apparently ashamed, he slipped out of the house after recovering, but came back the next day and apologized to me for drinking the whisky and for the scene he had created. He called frequently after that, but it was weeks later before he revealed that he was coming to see me instead of his friend. I will never forget the first time Gus invited me to what he called “a party.” 13 14 al capone and his american boys “I’ll take you to the swellest cabaret in St. Louis County,” he said by way of persuasion. I consented to go and he called for me in a car. We went to “Jerry’s Place” which any amusement seeking St. Louisan will remember. The decrepit old building gave me the shivers, and when I entered I was really frightened. The plain walls and ceiling were perforated with bullet holes, which Gus said was a result of “target practice.” The place was crowded with all types, from the rich seeking relaxation or a new thrill, to the fledglings and full-fledged members of the underworld. The place fairly swayed with people. Bowery dances, the bunny hug, Negro hip swinging and other dances moved on to the accompaniment of “lowdown” music, yells from the men and shrieks from the women. Smoke from cigarettes, pipes and cigars filled the room, and the atmosphere became heavier and heavier. Money flowed freely and I could readily understand very little of it was earned by hard work. My disgust was so evident that Gus and some of his friends decided to leave. We drove away at top speed, with the men occasionally firing a revolver in sheer recklessness. I was afraid not only of an accident, but of arrest, and decided before we got home that I would never go out with Gus Winkeler again. The next day my sister was angered at my story of the previous eveningandthreatened tothrowGusout if he ever cameto thehouseagain. But he did come again, talked to my sister and won her over, and not many days later we were married, “for better or for worse.” At my pleading Gus promised to give up his old habits and companionsand attempt to findhonest employment.But a short time later while I was in Michigan attending to some business a telegram informed me Gus was in the St. Louis County hospital with a bullet wound in his arm. I rushed home in a panic and found Gus still in the hospital recovering from blood poisoning. I insisted on knowing how he had been wounded and he explained he was shot in a quarrel with a taxi driver over the amount of fare. But before leaving the hospital he confessed to me that during my absencehehadmetsomeofhisoldcompanionswhoprevailedonhimto aid in the holdup of a dice game in a roadhouse outside St. Louis. “For Better or for Worse” 15 Insteadofgettingsilvertheygotahailofbullets,oneofwhichlodged in Gus’ arm. Fred Burke, a St. Louis hoodlum, later to be known as “Killer,” was a member of the holdup party. Since it would have been courting arrest to go to a doctor, Gus said Burke removed the bullet from his arm with a safety razor blade. “The wound refused to heal and hurt like the very devil,” Gus said. “The boys were afraid to take me to a doctor and also afraid I’d die, so finallytheyfoundaquackwhoagreedtocareformyarmandkeepmum...


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Subject Headings

  • Crime -- Illinois -- Chicago -- History -- 20th century.
  • Murder -- Illinois -- Chicago -- History -- 20th century.
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