Sunday, September 4, 2011

Christmas in Alimony Debtor's Prison: Fathers Grieve - 1930

FULL TEXT: Chicago — Alimony row in Cook county’s Bridewell, the meticulously guarded gathering place for matrimony’s bad boys, faces a bleak Christmas. In addition, its president, the small, dark, neat Jimmy Kalcerzzity, was checking out. However, Jimmie had a substitute.

Today’s arrival was Daniel S. Beebe, former president of the Vitrolite company, in for the usual six months because he was $24,800 in arrears in alimony payments. Despite his plea for holiday clemency Mrs. Etta Marker Beebe, his divorced wife, insisted that he be locked up because he had given her but $300 in the last three years.

As a president, Jimmie Kalcerzzity has no place in jail. His environment prohibited his acts from having much effect. For Mr. Kalcerzzity’s administrative duties have to do with the incorporated alimony club, an organization interested in reforming the state laws on that subject.

President Jimmie didn’t have much time to outline the progress of the club today.

“But you might stick around a while,” he said. “My wife could have me sent back right away while I’ve been penned up, my alimony kept climbing. That makes me eligible for another six months.’


Christmas in the county hoosegow is a bleak prospect for all of President Jimmie’s clubmates. Made half-bitter, half-careless by their imprisonment, they shake their heads sadly, not because of themselves, they say, but because of their children. The 40 fathers counted 100 children among them.

“I’m an engineer on the B & O,” explained Steven Wasilewski. “I’ve got two children by my first wife, and two by my second. The four live with my second wife, and my first wife had me thrown in here because I owed her $600. I can’t pay her off when I’m not earning anything — and here I got four kids and a second wife starving.”

Julius Turowetzky, auto tire dealer, is just starting his six months. “And my wife,” said he, “never did love my three children by my first wife. She has none of her own. And because she wouldn’t care for mine like she promised, I don’t speak to her two years; and even I gave her deeds to my property. But what difference? Rosey had me locked up. Can you imagine it?”


Sign painters, carpenters, clerks, and chefs scrub floors daily, make beds and serve food. During the last year there were 525 additions to the Alimony club. Sometimes they serve out all six months, sometimes less.

Christmas in jail? Yes, and there’ll be the ordinary prison fare — and no visitors.

The prospect is almost too much for Wallie Hendricks, who is very black and also $400 behind on his ex-wife’s upkeep.

“Christmas in jail?” he murmurs gently. “Oh, I guess I might as well get used to it. I tell you what’s wrong with this alimony business — we shouldn’t ‘a’ got married in the first place.”

[“Bleak Holiday For Bad Boys In Alimony Row - Members of Club in Cook County’s Bridewell Shake Heads Sadly Because of Hundred Children, syndicated (AP), The Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wi.), Dec. 20, 1930, p. 17]


For more revelations of this suppressed history, see The Alimony Racket: Checklist of Posts


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