Conversations with Al Capone

The 1929 Model A Ford gleamed. The vinyl flat roof top had been oiled. The old fabric red seats were perfect to cosset Al Capone.

The Mafia has always been idolised, during the Prohibition for saving the masses from alcoholic starvation and then after The Godfather Movies. The Italians seem to have a love-hate relationship with the Mafia, perhaps worshipping their freedom of spirit and strength of family ties.

That year in the seventies the committee at the Alberton Hellenic Community cemented the freedom of their spirit and strong family ties at the annual masked fund raising ball. They attended to ticket sales and seating at the door, some handled the bar while others kept a close eye over the caterers, who were wives of the committee members. My father always gave a speech in three languages; respecting the Greek roots, acknowledging the Afrikaans power base and explaining it all in English. The committee members were dressed in non-descript suits until the gathering had settled and then they all rushed off to our house which was close by.

They changed their white shirts to black, and knotted white ties. They tilted Fedora hats on their heads, and some wore sunglasses even though it was dark. They had shoulder holsters with realistic toy revolvers and two of the body guards had Tommy machine guns. Al Capone, played by Peter Kalivitis, sat in the back of the car that had and would serve many brides in delivering them to church on time. I cannot remember but I guess my father drove, as the Ford was difficult to drive. There were no hydraulics, no power steering, a gravity fuel tank that leaked petrol in the car and you had to double declutch to change gears. Not everyone could manage that. The bodyguards rode on the large side runners, elbow hooked through the window pillar and one leg on the spare wheel lodged just behind the winged front fender. There was a spare wheel on each side, so the whole affair was balanced. Except for the old fashioned horn mounted on a bar across the chrome grill. It had a distinct sound with much more character than modern car synthetic horns. This was a real animal call!

The horn was blaring as they careered down the road into the open reception parking area. The body guards dismounted professionally and cleared the area, firing a few too many realistic shots. Al Capone descended regally and took pride of place at a table, and the group must have proceeded to extract protection money from all gathered as part of the fund raising.

I cannot remember much but it must have been a fun evening for them. The committee worked hard under my father to build the hall and church, to staff the Greek school and hold concerts and fetes and other fund raisers. This chance to escape on an old car into an American dream predated modern motivational and reward techniques.

And it was fun!

One thought on “Conversations with Al Capone

  1. This scene is so vividly described, I feel I was there and part of it! Just love the bit about the protection money – an excellent fund-raising proposition.

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