Posts Tagged ‘brothers’

Liam and Joseph sat on the stoop, smoking. Smoking and talking. About work (while there were plenty of it needing to be done, nobody could pay a living wage), and about how lucky they were, anyway, to be in America.

The men found each other at sea, while coming from Europe to America. The two bonded quickly, and before disembarking at Ellis Island, decided to stick together. Neither had family here, and so became brothers. On paper. The Island, the people were practically on top of one another, as everyone scrambled to be processed. To etch a few changes to their papers was easy, and those who were in-checking the new arrivals, harried. They boarded the ship of hope as strangers, and arrived in Philadelphia after a brief go at it in New York City, as brothers.

They were close. They loved each other. And by posing as brothers, nobody would suspect their intimacy as anything but that of close brothers. Just easier that way.

This photo was taken by the mild-mannered, quiet & unassuming photographer, Mr. John Frank Keith, whose collections of work may be seen at the Library Company of Philadelphia.


“Charles, a moderately successful vaudeville ventriloquist, was fortunate, yet miserable.
Fortunate, because he was handsome, witty, clever, and moderately successful.
Miserable, because, well, his dummy was with him, 24/7. Had been, since birth, too.

His dummy, Waldo (“Wally”)– the grotesque thing upon his lap in the photograph, was not at all, an ordinary prop-side-kick. Wally was Charles’ twin. Partially absorbed twin.

Charles was born a “freak”…the term now is frowned upon, but back in his day, it wasn’t always used to injure or put-down another. Charles and Wally came into the world as one, not unlike Eng and Chang Bunker, perhaps the most famous of all Siamese Twins. But Charles and Wally were not like the Bunker brothers. Wally was a hideous protrusion with a head, one full arm and hand, and a single, deformed right-leg, jutting out from the otherwise perfectly formed Charles. Wally, unlike Eng or Chang Bunker, did not have mostly independent body parts. Charles and Wally shared everything. Way-too much of everything.

Charles’ parents, aristocrats not given to shrinking from challenges, educated Charles with creative ideas to ‘deal with’ Wally, his kinda-sorta-there brother. Everything was about Charles. Wally was merely something that had to be dealt with. From an early age, it was determined that Wally would make Charles as normal as possible.

A stroke of genius turned Wally into a stage-prop, as if Wally were only that.
Since Wally didn’t have much say in the matter, he went along with it.

But a man can only take so much.
If Charles thought he was miserable and unfortunate because of Wally, it would have done him well to consider Wally’s position in all of this.

Imagine the shock, the headlines, when Charles was found dead–and Wally, too!

Wally swallowed a bottle of pills Charles’ lady ‘acquaintance’ left on the nightstand. He did not want to exist any longer.

Of course, since Wally died, so too, did Charles.

Fate can be cruel.

THE STORY: “Under pretense of giving thanks…for the automobile, the family, Pop was accompanied only by Laddie, who knelt beside his dad. Little did Laddie know, that like Hansel and Gretel, he and his brother were to be dropped-off at a farm, far, far away from home. Pops just couldn’t afford to have a vehicle AND keep them, too. They had to go.” 🙂