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ANNIE THE COP FIGHTER
thirty-five years she fought God, man, and the
police force to keep on being what she wanted to
drunk. But a telephone call from a gin mill
where she was celebrating Mother's Day brought in
the nosey A.A.'s to change her life.
STARTED to drink in 1913, when the women sat in the
back rooms. We had a good time in those back rooms.
I had two little boys at the time, but my family didn't
worry me, because one drunk always led to another. Of
course there were days in between when I was sober because
I was broke. But mostly I was drunk. So my husband left
me and took the two boys; one was six and one was nine.
They were going off to school in those days, and it
didn't worry me a bit. I loved the liquor and I loved
the crowd that I hung out with. As far as my family
was concerned, I lost everything of love and respect
and everything else.
Believe me, this
is no made up story. This is a true story from my own
life. When my husband left me, I had to be on my own.
I never worked before, but I had to get out and get
a job if I wanted to drink. So I got a pretty tough
job. I wasn't any chicken, I was a woman of thirty-one
when I had my first drink. I got a job as cleaner after
mechanics in buildings. I would have done anything to
get the money for drink. Any place I threw my hat was
home-sweet-home to me. It
THE COP FIGHTER
be a basement or a cellar or a back yard. I fell plenty
low, but if I tell it maybe it will help some gal or
some guy so they don't have to get down that low.
Finally one day,
as usual, drunk, I was standing on a corner waiting
for a streetcar, and a guy comes over to me and he says,
"Lady, you're on the wrong side." And I says,
"Mind your own business!" And as I looked
up, it was a feller in uniform! So we had a few words,
and he pushed me, and I wasn't going to let anybody
get the best of me, and I shoved him back, and we had
a little tussle there, and finally I had two buttons
off his overcoat, and he says, "I'm takin' you
in!" And I says, "Do as you damn please!"
I was a tough piece of furniture in those days; if the
Almighty God had come down I'd have done the same thing
to Him. So I landed in the 67th Street station house
on the east side, and I stayed there all night long.
The next day I had to appear, and I was finger printed
for molesting a policeman's uniform. So I got five days
in the House of Detention. It didn't bother me whatsoever.
The only thing I was worrying about was how was the
gang making out without me. I thought I was missed all
over! But they made out all right.
So I got out, and
then I had to grab myself another job again, so what
did I get into but hotel work! That was during the Prohibition
days, and the bottles were flying all over the place.
When I went to work on the floor, my first idea was
to look in the guests' closets where the bottles were.
I was all right going in, but I was cockeyed drunk coming
out. And I'd have the help drunk with me. One time I
got so drunk I blacked out and fell asleep in the guest's
bed. I had the nerve to go back on the job the next
know what happened the day before—and the housekeeper
was right there with her little note and my check. "Your
service no longer required." And I had the nerve
to ask, "Why?" I was told, all right. Well,
in those days you could get jobs any time. It wasn't
like today. If they had ever looked for references from
me I think I'd never have got a job, because I never
stayed in one.
I never hit hospitals,
and I don't know why because I was fit for hospitals
many a time. All the time I saw queer things crawling
up the wall in my bedroom. In 1918, I got pinched again
for the same thing. I turned out to be a cop fighter;
I thought I could beat the whole force. I landed in
the same court, had the same judge, and he asked me
was I ever arrested before. I says, "No, your Honor!"
Just as brazen as can be. And all he done was give me
that sneering look, and he says, "For lying in
court," he says, "you're not getting away
with five days this trip!" I had gone under an
assumed name, and I had forgot that I was finger printed,
and I thought, being away for two years, he wouldn't
know who I was! Playing so innocent! But I got thirty
days then, five days off for good behavior, over on
Another time I
was in court on the same old charge of Drunk and Disorderly.
"Thirty days," says the Judge. And I was that
mad and disgusting that I reared right up and spit clean
in the judge's eye. It was a distance of at least five
feet, too! You should have seen him leap. "Another
thirty days," he says, "for spittin' in the
eye of the Court." "Nuts to you," says
I, but I had to serve the whole sixty days just the
I was worrying about my liquor and I was worrying about
the crowd I hung out with. As far as my family was concerned,
they never entered my mind. So I did my twenty-five
days on the Island, and all I could do was look through
the bars across the East River and see First Avenue
and the joints that I hung out in.
When I got out
of the workhouse that time I got a domestic job, and
it was right up my alley because I got paid every day,
and paid by the hour. In my day the women only got twenty-five
cents an hour, but the liquor was cheap, and that would
be all there was to it—maybe. I had blackouts, and many
a night I don't know how I ever got home. I always did
say, well, thank God I'm in one piece. But where I had
been I would never know.
I had been away
from home for fifteen years, and one day I was walking
up First Avenue and I met my beloved husband. He called
to me and he said, "Where are you going?"
I was running like blue blazes to a speakeasy to get
a drink, and I didn't know what to say, so I said, "I'm
goin' up to the Five and Ten to get hairnets."
I wanted to beat it, but he says, "Wait a minute."
So I did, and we had a few words, and he looked me over,
and he says, "You smoke, too, don't you?"
He didn't know what all I was into; he should have known
the rest! I said, "Listen here, you! This is my
body and soul, and I can do as I please about it! I
have been on my own for all these years, and I can still
do as I please!" He didn't get angry over it, and
then finally he popped the question to me; "Would
you like a drink?" Whooh! There's what I was running
for! And I says, "Sure, I would." So we went
into a speakeasy up along the line and we had
a few drinks, and we talked things over and I went back
home to him.
But believe me,
when I went back home it was too much of a decent life
for me to lead. I didn't want the decent, clean life.
I wanted to be what I was, a drunk. So I spent more
time over on First Avenue than I did at home. Of course
when I went back home, my two boys were raised, which
I will give my husband the credit for. He raised them
as gentlemen. The oldest boy was married, and the youngest
boy was going to Delehanty's—to become a policeman!
Brother! Well, it was all right. I had to take it and
accept it. But every time I thought of that uniform,
it killed me! After he had been in the force one year
he got married. I was invited to that wedding with his
father. But I invited myself to the old gin mill over
on First Avenue again, and celebrated his wedding with
my crowd that I hung out with. That's the kind of mother
I went back home
again anyway. I was always forgiven, somehow or other.
But I wasn't back home very long before it was the same
old round-about—back again to the friends and the blazes
with the family. When the doors opened up for the women
to sit at the bars, I thought that was the terriblest
thing—for a woman to sit at the bar! Well, it didn't
take me a long while until I got myself initiated to
the bar. I was thrown off those stools so often that,
believe me, it wasn't funny.
I had everybody's answers. I butted in to everybody's
conversation. If a guy would fall asleep and leave his
change on the bar, I was handy to help myself. He couldn't
sleep and spend his money, so what
I waiting for? And I'd hang around like an old jackass
until I got loaded. Brother, was I black and blue! I
was kicked and I was banged and pulled by the hair.
I'm surprised today that I'm not lame or something like
that, the way I was knocked and kicked.
Then I got so low
that I hung out with the guys and galls that were on
the Bowery. I was loused up too. My whole clothes on
my body were full of lice. How low can a woman get!
I got in tow with
a gal named Irene, and we used to drink. When we had
good money, we'd drink the best, but when we had only
a little bit, beer was good enough. So one day in 1946,
I happened to go into our hangout again as usual, and
I asked Irene what she was drinking. She says, "Anna,
to tell you the truth, I can't take the first drink.
I'm havin' coke." (She nearly knocked me dead!)
I says, "Saints above! What happened to you?"
She says, "I can't take the first drink."
"Well," I says, "nuts to you. I'm havin'
mine!" "But," she says, "I'm gonna
get you yet!" I says, "Over me dead body!"
She got into A.A.
in March of 1946, and in May of that year, Mother's
Day was on the 12th. The day before that I was having
a good time in a gin mill again, and I don't know whatever
come over me, but I asked some of the younger folks
that could dial the phone to call Irene. I don't remember
doing it. This was all told to me after. The next day
was Mother's Day, and like everyone else I wanted to
be such a wonderful mother that I had to buy a gardenia
for my coat. I went up to this same gin mill to celebrate
Day. I sat on the stool drinking and pretty soon in
comes my friend.
I says, "Hello, Irene!" She says, "Hello
my eye! You got me lookin' all over the town for you!
You made a date with me yesterday!" I says, "I?"
She says, "Not you, but the crowd in here had the
ears rung off me with the telephone. They said that
you wanted to meet me tonight and you wanted me to take
you where I go on Sunday nights." "Hmmmm,"
I says, "That's news to me. Have a drink!"
"No," she says, "I can't take the first
drink. There's a cab there waitin' for me to take you
down to A.A."
So down to the
old 41st Street Club House I landed. In those days they
used to have three meetings a week—Sunday, Tuesday,
and Thursday. So I went down to that A.A. meeting that
night. They took me to the beginners' meeting. I don't
know what was said, but I do remember that when the
meeting was over, when the door of the 41st Street Club
House opened, I sobered up that very night after thirty-two
years of knocking liquor around. I drank coke there
that night, and I went back and forth to the meetings
for eight months.
I was sober for
eight months, physically, but not mentally. I never
mingled with a soul in the meetings. I never shook hands
or said hello to my neighbor sitting alongside of me.
I never stopped for coffee. I just ran in and ran out.
In the meanwhile I got married the second time. I picked
a swell partner, another drunk like myself. I would
come home from the meetings and tell him all about these
stories, about these women hitting all the jails so
often and all the hospitals so often, and he says, "You
old so-and-so, you
been there yourself!" That's what I got for an
answer. But it didn't bother me.
Then one night
a little argument started. I think I was waiting to
start something. It was a foolish thing, over pig's
knuckles, believe it or not. I was waiting for that
pig's knuckles argument. He told me he was gonna have
the gang up to eat up my sauerkraut and pig's knuckles
for Saturday night, and I said, "You will in
a pig's eye!" And I went out and got a fine load
on. I only drank for two days, but I carried enough
for a year in those two days.
I got off that
two-day drunk through the A.A.'s. The nosey A.A.'s
caught up with me somehow or other. They went to the
place where I worked. The woman there was very interested
in alcoholics. She said to me, "You're drinking."
I says, "How do you know?" She said, "Come
on in—sit down a while and rest yourself." She
says, "Charlie called up." I says, "That
son-of-a-gun! He's got me so advertised that this
damn organization knows my whole business! Nobody
stepped over my territory before in my life! Now I
gotta get into a thing like this and they know it
all!" "Don't get excited," she says.
"They're comin' up to see you tonight."
I nearly dropped dead.
They came up
all right. And I humbled myself. I felt so guilty.
I don't know what A.A. does to you, but you never
can drink the same again. So they suggested to me
to go up to a farm in Connecticut, nothing but wide
open spaces in the Berkshire Hills. It was a beautiful
place. I stayed up there two days, and I came back
a new woman.
Today I have
a lot to be thankful for. A.A. has taught me the way
of life. It has given me back my
It has given me back the love of everybody I know. It
has taught me to show gratitude, which I never did before.
It has taught me to be humble when I have to be humble.
I am what you call
a lucky woman. I live alone now. I have a television
which my boys have treated me to, and now I have a telephone
too! I do love to go to A.A. meetings, and I meet with
everybody, the old and the new. I'm a twenty-four hour
person. I live on that twenty-four hour plan. I am five
years and seven months without a drink, but I could
go out tonight, but for the grace of God, and get drunk.
There's another thing I must remember, that once an
alcoholic always an alcoholic. I don't mind the name
of alcoholic, because I was called a son-of-a-this and
a son-of-a-that, and alcoholic is a good enough name
for me. So I'm very, very happy. To newcomers I say,
go to meetings, and God take care of each and every
one of you!
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