My mother and father were organizing in Nebraska in 1935 when I was born. They had had a ‘red wedding,’ standing up before their friends but without sanction of church or state, since they felt they owed allegiance to neither. Here is my mother’s account of that time:
We were getting up an American League for Peace and Freedom meeting in Grand Island, Nebraska, and all the leaders were arrested, on various pretexts or none, for the purpose of blocking the meeting. Mother Bloor* was to be the main speaker, and she was arrested, too. Nothing fazed Ella Bloor Reeve. In jail she simply got caught up on her extensive...correspondence, embroidered pillow tops, and made friends with everybody in the jail-house.
While Bud and I were in the Grand Island jail, kept separately of course, we were being questioned by the police so they could find some excuse for booking us. Bud had bought our car from his brother in Detroit and didn’t have the pink slip yetit came in the mail finally. I was pregnant, and they questioned us in a routine way about date and place of marriage; we had stories that were consistent enough with each other to make it. Anyway, we looked respectable. Bud told us later that they had pulled one of the old gags on him, “Your wife has confessed to everything. We just want you to confirm her story.”
“My wife is an honorable women,” he said. “You can believe anything she says.”
It was worth a laugh all around at the questioning; they knew he had them....
I remember another occasion when I was trying to get bail for Bud on an arrest somewhere in Nebraska after a demonstration of the unemployed. A businessman, sympathetic to the movement, offered to go bail for him. It was the weekend, so we had to go to the judge’s house to post the bail. The judge knew our friend, and tried to dissuade him from going bail for these radicals.
The judge was Irish, a tall, thin, sharp-faced, gray-haired man. While they were arguing, I was looking around and saw a framed medieval manuscript on the wall.
“Gaelic, isn’t it? I said, and I pronounced it Gallic.
“How did you know that?” he said.
“That’s my business, I’m a linguist.”
The judge accepted the bail. “You’re a nice girl,” he said to me. “You’re just in the wrong company.”
In Grand Island, most of the time I was the only woman in the small jail. The sheriff brought me two sandwiches and a cup of coffee for every meal—a bologna sandwich and an egg sandwich.
One day I said, “Take it away. I’m not going to eat such stuff. I’m pregnant, and I need proper food for my baby.”
“What kind of food?”
“I need milk and meat and vegetables and fruit.”
So the sheriff’s wife sent me down a tray with milk, meat, salad and fruit.
I didn’t stay in very long. They found nothing to book us on, and as soon as the time for the scheduled mass meeting passed they let us all out. But all the time I was in, I got proper meals.
When we got back to California, Bud and I got officially married. We didn’t want to be traveling and getting jailed on a bum rap like the Mann Act. Billy McGee, the great Unitarian minister in Santa Cruz, said the words with little Nancy running about.
“It isn’t often that you get to see the fruits of the union before the marriage,” Bud said.
“I don’t marry you,” said Billy. “I just witness the marriage you make yourself.”
________________________________________________________________* Ella Reeve Bloor (1862–1951) was a radical labor organizer and a founding member, with Eugene Debs, of the Socialist Party of America. Bloor, a member of the left-wing faction, was expelled from the party in 1919. Bloor joined with others ousted from the SPA to form the Communist Party USA.  (Wikipedia) My parents were acquainted with Mother Bloor and somewhere I have a newspaper photo of her with me as a baby.
©2009 by Nancy Schimmel
At one of the demonstrations against the weapons research at Livermore Lab back in the eighties, a guy was passing out “Get Out of Jail Free” cards.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009