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Russell Brice (Circa 1975)

As many know, I was adopted by my grandparents. Russell and Grace Brice provided for me and loved me. As a child growing up, I never saw Nan or Pop as anything more or less than loving parents. There were never any  physical fights (A few verbal differences of course but all families have those) between them but when I was 18 years old I was in my bedroom and heard Nan and Pop having a bit of a verbal fight out in the living room. I didn’t hear much of what was being said but the one thing that stood out the most was what my grandmother said. She said: “Cut it out Russell, or I’ll feed you bread and water like you use to have…”  Well, you can imagine what was going through my mind. I heard Pop leave the apartment and I went out to confront my grandmother about what she said. She told me some about Pop’s “dark past” but most was lost to the mystery of it all. I wouldn’t find out a lot more about Pop’s past until the early 90′s- after they had both passed from this world.

While researching newspaper articles in a library and after taking a bicycle trip to New York City, I found out  the truth about my Pop. After I found out did I love him less? No. I loved him more because of what he had to overcome to turn his life around. He was a very loving and beloved man who loved animals and kids as much or more than anyone I know.

I decided a long time ago that I wanted to tell his story as a tribute to him. I also want others to know that a person can change their ways and lead a very productive and respectful life even if it comes late in life.  As a disclaimer this excerpt and the book which will follow has truths in it but it also has embellishments since there are huge pieces of Pop’s life that only he knew about. He didn’t talk much about his past or his childhood and he certainly never talked about his “dark past”. He went to his grave believing that I never knew about those years. My grandmother told me that if he ever found out that I knew…”It would kill him…”   I have done extensive research on what I did know about his past and the times that he lived in. I also knew his personality and the kind of man or person that he was. Of course the news articles are not embellished and the prison that he lived in for close to 30 years of his life is as real as can be.  I hope you will enjoy the story …..

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Russ sat with his back against the cold hard wall of the box car and listened to the freight train as it rumbled and squeaked along miles and miles of tracks.  The  sound of the engine’s steam whistle was both pleasant and eerie and it served as a catalyst  to the memories of his past and to the hopes and dreams of his future. 

It was quite an exciting but scary adventure for Russ to venture out and leave his boyhood and family behind. He had just turned eighteen on October 25th, 1911 and he was eager and ready to go when Spring of 1912 arrived; the warmer weather finally chasing away another brutal winter in Menominee, Michigan.

Times were busy growing up at the turn of the century. Motor cars were the talk of the town and a man by the name of Henry Ford was just a few short years shy of mass producing them in the form of the Model T or also known as the Tin Lizzy.  The lumber and paper industries were flourishing in the upper Midwest and it seemed that everyone was excited about life. Roads, trolley cars and train tracks were also expanding at a very fast and furious rate. Russ’s nearby birth place and home until he was five, the city of Green Bay, Wisconsin, had just expanded by uniting with Fort Howard in 1895. Although only two years old at the time, Russ later remembers playing with a Kazoo when he was four and being told the story of what a great celebration there was when both cities united to become a larger Green Bay. Cannon fire, whistles and kazoos could be heard all around the city as people marched in the street with joy in their hearts. Not one arrest was made during the celebration and all was well with the people of the new Green Bay. It was undoubtedly a good place to grow up as a boy and even though there were some tough times, his parents did the best they could with him and his sister Sylvia. In 1898, Russ’s father Albert moved the family to Menominee, Michigan to take a job with the fire department at the paper mill. In 1906 Russ’s mom, Julette  found a job as a forelady with a shoe factory.  The family was doing so well that they even hired a servant. Ella helped with the chores and cleaned the house while Albert and Julette were working.

 Just two years after the move to Menominee Russ  would face a very difficult year. It was 1900  and while some of the homes in Menominee were equipped with in door plumbing, including his parents house, Russ’s friend John lived in a house that still dumped their chamber pots out in back of their house. Russ would be out playing with John during the hot summer months and when they needed a drink they would go to the well which had recently been drilled about fifty yards from where the human waste was being dumped. Unfortunately the sewage finally seeped into the well system and on a bright summer day in July of 1900 Russ began to develop a fever and a cough with rose spots appearing on his stomach and chest. A week later his fever spiked to 104 and he was admitted to the hospital where he soon went into a coma. Russ had typhoid fever. He would never forget what it was like when he woke from a two-week coma. His sister Sylvia was by his bedside when his eyes finally opened.  She was so excited that she ran out of the hospital room yelling to their parents, “He’s awake! He’s awake!” Russ felt something in his mouth and reached in with his finger and pulled out a bunch of peanut butter like crud that had built up on the roof of his mouth over the two weeks he was in the coma.  Finally, with a lot of rest and doctoring he finally recovered but the typhoid had damaged some of the circulation in his left leg. This condition would worsen as he got older and it would plague him later in life but it never held him back from living his life. 

After Russ recovered from typhoid he continued to do what a lot of boys back then did. He played, got into fist fights, went to school, chopped wood and helped  with his chores.  He took trips to the paper mill with his father and at the age of twelve he was taught by a few older boys how to log roll on the river.  It was a very busy place to grow up as Menominee was noted for having the most produced lumber in the United States.  When Russ was thirteen, a boarder who lived in the house next to him would sit and talk to Russ for hours. Mack Winnifred was also one of Russ’s teachers at school. Mr. Winnifred would tell Russ stories of New York City, where he grew up. Russ was fascinated with the big city and would day dream of living there. Living in Green Bay and Menominee were nice but Russ wanted to explore the world more and New York City seemed to be the place that others were moving to.  As 1910 approached, Russ was eager to make money and to plan for his future. He saw very little of his parents as they were always working so he began to visit his grandmother quite often back in Green Bay. In fact Sylvia moved back to Green Bay and moved in with her grandmother when she was 16.  Russ missed his sister and loved his grandmother very much and he and his grandmother became very close during the years that Russ began to grow up into a young man.  His parents never seemed to have the time for him but he would remain in Menominee until he made his move to the East Coast. In 1909 at the age of just fifteen he took a job as a drug store delivery boy. He would make most of his deliveries on foot but he also had a horse that the store let him use when the weather wasn’t so good for walking. During his deliveries he often visited the Dudley Tool Company where they were working on building a new motor car to compete with Henry Ford. When Russ asked what they would name it they told him with pride: “The Dudley Bug” This got Russ laughing and very quickly Russ became fascinated with what was happening behind the doors of the tool company. He was also very fascinated with tool making and soon he landed a job there after he quit school in the 8th grade. It came at the right time for Russ as his mother passed away in 1911 after coming down with pneumonia. He needed a distraction and he needed to keep busy.

Aside from keeping busy with his chores and work Russ liked to read the newspapers and he was especially interested in stories about a famous magician who had lived only eighty three miles from him in Appleton, Wisconsin.  His name was Harry Houdini. In 1907, right after Russ’s fourteenth birthday, Harry Houdini came to Menominee and performed a straight jacket and handcuff escape. Russ was hooked on Harry Houdini and followed the magician through his stories in the newspaper. He was especially amused and excited when Houdini would actually escape from jails while nude. Russ read everything he could get his hands on in regards to the magician and escape artist. In fact one of several reasons why Russ was leaving home was to one day live in New York City. This is where Houdini moved to with his father and family in 1887, just six years before Russell was born. Russ was hoping to meet Houdini one day and his wish would come true; only it would be in a place that Russ never intended to be.

It was an ad that ran in the paper in 1912 that perked Russ’s attention. Remington Arms Company had just expanded it’s plant in Bridgeport Connecticut and they were looking for a machinist. Russ had the experience and now he had the reasons to move closer to New York City.

Russ finally told his father, grandmother and sister about his plans to move to Bridgeport. His father told him he’d miss him and wished him well.  Both his sister and grandmother shook their heads at him, not wanting him to leave because of the opportunities that existed in Green Bay and Menominee but they knew how stubborn and determined Russ was and they knew that nothing or nobody would stop him.  Russ explained that once he started work he would send back money to help them with living expenses. It was the least he could do after all they had done for him. Sylvia had spoken up before his grandmother had the chance and voiced her opinion . “Russell, this hurts me to see you go but you have to do what you feel you must do. I know you can look after yourself. You’re a strong man now with hands that work with steel. Careful with those hands. You know the trouble you’ve been in before with the fights you’ve had? Well, just be careful. I love you.” Russ hugged his sister and immediately hugged his grandmother who already had tears welling up in her eyes. “Like your sister said, you be careful and please write when you can…” “I will grandma, promise.” Russ grabbed his sack of belongings and left through a weathered screen door and he never saw his grandmother or sister again…

Published NY TIMES: Feb 21, 1921 (Click to read larger view)

 

 

 

(Continued….)

 

 

By Dawn Kopman Whidden

Stolen  was written by Dawn Kopman Whidden and published by Amazon Digital Services, Inc.in 2014. You may purchase it at Amazon.com/Kindle. Visit the author on Facebook.

 

Another homicide has rocked the small town of Fallsburg, NY. In a cabin nestled deep in the woods two male victims are discovered,both gun shot victims. One is deceased the other one is barely alive. But it is not the murder itself that has detectives Jean Whitley and her new partner Marty Keal frantic to find out the answers of what occurred in that cabin, but it is the identities of the two small children also found at the scene. One child is quickly identified but the other a young boy remains a mystery. The only one with possible answers lies with the man who lay critically wounded and unconscious in the hospital because the unidentified boy either can not or will not speak to tell the investigators who he is and what happened in that cabin that left one man dead and another barely hanging on …

 

The author has written three books in this series: A Child Is Torn, Faceless: A Mystery and Stolen. I have read and reviewed all three. I loved the first one, liked the second one and was anticipating the third one to be another good interesting read. Stolen wasn’t good. It was as far above good as you can get- it easily exceeded all of my expectations.

The author brings back all of the main characters that we came to know in the first two books. All of the characters are so rich with personality that you can’t help but like them and it’s easy to relate to their struggles. The ingredient that makes  the chemistry of the story so strong is the ability of the author to mix fear and compassion into the character of a child. These are such competing emotions to have when trying to help a child but as a caring adult you feel strongly compelled to help in some way.  In Stolen
, for example, you will be introduced to Tristan. His behavior can be described as part wolf and part human. But, he is just a strange and troubled little boy who desperately needs help.

Aside from having very interesting characters, this story also has a few twists and turns in it that will awe you and keep your eyes glued to the page. I could not put this one down. The story flows easily.  
It’s very rare for me to finish a book in one day. With this one, I couldn’t call it a day until I finished it. It goes to the very top of my book shelf for this year.

I give Stolen 5 stars.

Please visit the author of this post: Tom Riddell: http://www.tomriddell.com/

Dawn Kopman Whidden will be our guest on The Writers Lounge Blog Talk Radio Show on Monday April 13, 2015 at 7 PM Central Time- USA.

 

By Dee Dee M. Scott

Sent From Heaven was written by Dee Dee Scott and published by Ahsyad Publication in 2014. You may purchase it at Amazon.com/Kindle. Visit the author on Facebook.


Best-selling romance author Maya Smith’s life is far different from the characters she creates in her novels. Left to raise a baby without the assistance of the married father, she has given up on finding a prince on a white horse to rescue her.
Enter Cardiologist and single father, Ford Tucker. Dr. Tucker is all work and no play. He has dedicated his life to work and raising his daughter. When Ford becomes Maya’s Cardiologist, he is instantly smitten with her.
Sparks fly and the passion’s hot as ever between the two. But just when Ford thinks he has finally found Ms. Right, and Maya thinks she’s found her prince, a devastating secret is revealed that will rock the core of their relationship. Will their bond survive the terrible secret? Or will Ford end up alone and Maya prince less?

When Maya meets her cardiologist her heart beats like never before.  The same is true for Dr. Tucker. Despite other obligations, both Maya and Ford find that their paths keep on crossing and a passion begins to burn. Soon they are deep in a very loving relationship and thinking about building a life together- but then something is revealed that is so troubling that it threatens to rip their relationship completely apart. Can they hold on?

While reading this love story  I kept thinking: There’s really nothing that stands out from this one and all of the other romance novels that are out there. 
Then out jumps a few quick interesting plot twists that absorbed me into the story and I found myself reading the whole book in just two sittings.

Dee Dee Scott is an author with many books to her credit. 
I look forward to reading more of her work.

I give Sent From Heaven 4 stars.

 Dee Dee M. Scott will be our guest on The Writers Lounge Blog Talk Radio Show on Monday March 23, 2015 at 7 PM Central Time- USA.