Super Sleuth

Super Sleuth
Digging Up The Past One Relative At A Time

Monday, May 2, 2016


Today, while I was talking to my sixth graders about vaccinations, I brought up a story my maternal grandfather told me about something that happened to him when he was a young man.  Actually, I believe that my grandfather must have had some sort of superpower or may have been part feline, because he definitely had nine lives.  

When my maternal grandfather was a teenager, he contracted Diphtheria.  Back in the early 1920s, there wasn't a vaccination for that, or other dangerous diseases for that matter.  Apparently, my grandfather died on the table and as they were wheeling him to the morgue, he began gasping for air in the elevator.  Realizing that he was in fact alive, the orderlies rushed him back to the emergency room.  Since there was no time to put him under, the doctors had to operate on his throat without ether.  They had to cut out a part of his voice box to save him.  From that day on, my grandfather's voice was very gruff.  When Sesame Street premiered, the character 'Cookie Monster' sounded very similar to Grandpa.  He was always known as 'Cookie Monster Grandpa'.  As far as I know, my grandfather was the first person in America to be cured of Diphtheria and his case is written in medical books.

Grandpa had a nickname on the docks when he was a longshoreman.  He was known as, "Jerry 9 1/2".  Hmmmm...why, you ask?  When Grandpa was a young man working in a butcher shop, he was cleaning the blades on the slicer.  By accident, the machine was turned on while my grandfather's hand was still in the machine.  He ended up losing his right pointer finger.  Later on in life, this injury prevented him from being accepted into the United States Army during World War II.  Interesting turn of events for him.
Another story from family lore is that while Grandpa was returning home from work on a payday, he was mugged for his cash.  As far as the story goes, on the next payday, Grandpa took a lead pipe with him and was never mugged again.  That's all I know...

Still, another story from family lore is that while my grandfather was climbing over a wrought-iron fence, he slipped and impaled himself on a metal spike.  Holy terror, Batman!

Was this man made from human parts or super-human parts??

Despite a rough and rocky start in his early years, Grandpa managed to thwart all other villain forces and lived a very long and happy life, passing away at the age of 87 on July 11, 1998.  

I use quite a few of my grandfather's stories while I am teaching my sixth, seventh, and eighth graders.  After all, my grandfather remembered Armistice Day after World War I ended.  He recalled seeing hundreds of people leaning out of their windows in Brooklyn banging pots and pans and celebrating the end of the War.  Grandpa lived through two world wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the assassinations of JFK, RFK, and Martin Luther King, Jr.  He remembered trying to survive during the Great Depression and where he was when Franklin D. Roosevelt died.  He lived through countless other 20th century events that we now read in history books.  My advice to young people today is to cherish your grandparents and the stories they tell.  Their years of experience in this world cannot be surpassed.  

Thank you for reading and happy hunting!


  1. Your grandpa sounds like quite a character. He's the kind of guy I would like to have known. Using him as a teaching tool is likely to inspire a new class of future genealogists.

  2. Thank you for your comment! Yes, my grandfather was a character, but he was also a very hard-working and determined man. I guess he had to be.

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you! One of the benefits of being an American History teacher is the fact that I can pull in family stories. Have a nice weekend!