FULL TEXT: Life has ended at 40 for for Arthur Key, Jr., alimony jail alumnus, who yesterday offered himself as a guinea pig to medical science – without any strings.
Penniless and dependent for support on his 76-year-old mother. Key, a strapping chap, blond and well set up, frankly said that only two courses were left to him – to return to alimony jail or to give up his life to science.
“The latter is far preferable,” he announced grimly.
Key sat in the cozy parlor of his mother’s home at 602 Central Ave., Cedarhurst, a large old-fashioned white frame house, and calmly discussed life and death, manners and morals, love and hatred.
~ Licked by Jail, He Says
“Mentally, I’m licked,” he frankly admitted. “The doctors say physically there isn’t a thing wrong with me; but I haven’t the desire to get back into the world and lick this thing. Three months in the alimony jail kills your soul. The cards are stacked against me.”
Key confessed he has had the best medical. Psychiatric, spiritual and legal advice that is possible to obtain. Friends have been more than kind in trying to help him re-establish himself, but he has cut himself off from all friends.
“I doubt if I’ve been out of the house three times this year,” he said.
There is nothing dramatic in his manner. He acts like a man who is beaten and long ago gave up caring. Everything that meant anything to him has been taken away he feels that if any good can come from his last beau geste, he will be serving a larger purpose.
“My little girl will suffer from this I know,” Key went on, “so will my mother. I have taken that all into consideration. But it won’t hurt them any more than having me this way, will it? What good am I now?”
Key shrugged a pair of athletic shoulders. He brought out a leather-bound book of pictures, photographs of his daughter, whom he is devoted. Every Saturday afternoon he would take her to Prospect Park, before the trouble. He made the float in which she rode in the Anniversary Day parade, from the Baptist Church of the Redeemer. He mended her toys.
~ Idolized Child, He Says
“I idolized the child,” he said simply. “What good is all this going to be for her? Will she grow up thinking her daddy was all bad?”
The Keys were married in Baptist Temple, in August, 1925, and lived happily until 1925, when his wife brought suit for separation. At the time he was employed at $70 a week with the real estate division of a reputable automobile company.
“I was hounded to death at my job by the court procedure,” Key said. “My health broke down and I was forced to go to a sanitarium. I was out just two weeks, when the contempt order sent me to Alimony Jail in Mineola.”
~ Spent Three Months in Pen
Actually, there was no alimony jail in Mineola, but persons held for alimony arrears are detained in a detention pen. Records show Key was cited for contempt for failing to pay back alimony of $183.50 on Feb. 10, last, and sentenced to the county jail detention pen and released May 10.
Three months in a room 15 feet square broke Key’s spirit. But he he has no complaint of the treatment he received there. The meals were good and Sheriff Hendrickson, he said, was “a square fellow.”
“What’s wrong with the place?” he repeated. “I saw men’s souls crumble before my eyes. I saw men break mentally. I sat up ten nights with one chap, until he got hold of himself. You can’t imagine the horror.
~ ‘Something Happens Inside’
“It’s not anything you can put your finger on. It’s something that happens to you inside. If I should go out and get a job now, the probably will hound me again to pay alimony, and I’d be clamped back there in a jiffy. But they’ll never take me alive again. I’ll see to that.”
Born in Brooklyn of cultured English parents, Key went to P. S. 11 and old Commercial High School. He worked 27 years in Brooklyn for reputable companies, he said. He is man of refinement and sensitivity. Two of his sisters married physicians. His mother, a gentle little woman whose lavender shawl well becomes her silvery hair, still speaks with a marked British accent.
“I can’t go on having a burden to my mother,” Key announced. “Something must be done to end this. The only ax I have to grind is to do something to amend our marriage laws. They have legally murdered me. Science may just as well claim my body. I want nothing for it.”
While in alimony jail. Key wrote a poem, which he dedicated to his wife. Ava Jane Key, and her lawyer, Frederick N. Van allndt of Garden City. It is written in the Robert Service vein. Key stating that he had always admired the Canadian poet.
[Alice Cogan, “Alimony Jail Killed His Soul, Key Asserts,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle (N.Y.), Feb. 14, 1937, p. 1]
For more revelations of this suppressed history, see The Alimony Racket: Checklist of Posts