February 2007

It Could Be Worse - St. Valentine's Day Massacre

Author: Craig Hysell

Valentine’s Day can be rough. What to get the wife? What to get the hubby? What if you’re only dating? Doesn’t the number of months spent in a relationship produce some mathematically-acceptable gift/price logarithm? Are roses and chocolates enough these days, or are they predictably lame? And what if you’re single or forget the holiday altogether? Does heartache and pain come in a presentable bouquet?

On a day that requires a rule book and some kind of referee system to conduct the fine points of its celebration, just remember one thing. It could be worse; you could have had this job.

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
Everybody knows that competing against your rival neighborhood thugs can be tough. They’re always cutting into your action or trying to one-up your gangsmanship. It can get pretty stressful, as it was in 1929, Chicago.

During Prohibition Al “Scarface” Capone and George “Bugs” Moran had been competing for the Windy City’s prime bootleg contracts and arguing over who had the best nickname for years. Capone governed the Italians on the South side of town, George was chancellor of the Irish/German North. Playful banter soon gave way to a decrease in profit margins and the occasional whacking. The situation was tense.

In an effort to tilt the field in his favor, Scarface decided to take a vacation in Florida, but not before plotting a hit with his favorite mass murderer and best mate, Jack “Machine Gun” McGurn. (Whose name doesn’t sound very Italian, yet indicates Capone was probably talking to the right man for the job.) It seems McGurn was still a bit upset at Moran’s boys for trying to kill him in a telephone booth a month earlier. The murder business can get so personal at times.

Machine Gun picked five men and arranged for a fake telephone call to Bugs. It went something like this: “The name’s Maverick. My buddy Goose and I have hijacked a shipment of whiskey. We’ll sell it to your gang for a discount. The meet is on February 14 at The S-M-C Cartage Company. 10:30 a.m. Be there.” Bugs took the bait. Seven of Moran’s men arrived early in the old, brick warehouse and waited for their boss, as well as their payday, to arrive.

As Bugs drove up late to the meeting, he noticed a police car with five men inside near the Cartage Company. Fearing that it was a setup, Bugs ordered his driver to get him away from the scene as quickly as possible. But it wasn’t jail time that Moran narrowly missed.

Two policemen (or three, depending on accounts) and three civilians exited the police car. They walked into the warehouse, proclaiming a bust, and lined all seven men up against the back wall of the building. Then a Thompson machine gun was unloaded on them. All seven men were killed. In an effort to show possible witnesses they had things under control, the two “policemen” then ushered the three “civilians” outside with their hands high, the disguised gangsters got back into the police car and were never seen again.

The only survivor was a terrified, howling dog who eventually led real police to the scene. Upon entry, police noticed a ridiculous amount of bullet casings and blood along with Frank “Tight Lips” Gusenberg near death on the floor. When asked who shot him, the always tight-lipped Tight Lips replied, “Nobody shot me.” Then died. He wasn’t much of a conversationalist.

The massacre brought an end to Moran’s power and drew the vast ire of the federal government. Capone was imprisoned two years later. In 1967 the S-M-C Cartage Company was demolished, but not before a Canadian businessman bought 417 of the bullet-riddled bricks. He promptly recreated the macabre scene in his nightclub. The new wall was built in the men’s bathroom. Your guess why is as good as anybody’s.

When the club closed, the “businessman” began selling the bricks for a $1000 each. Most of them were eventually returned, however, citing irregular instances of bad luck by those who purchased them, including divorces, illnesses, financial ruin and even death.

It appears roses and chocolates are still far better gifts than mementos of mass murder. Ah, romance…

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