Roger Grows Up

As dyed-in-the-wool members of the old Valley Gang, the older Touhy boys learned the dark arts of burglary, daylight holdups and labor extortion, at which they excelled. There is a story that became underworld legend, how one stormy night in 1909, Patrolman James Touhy was walking his beat when he confronted his eldest son, Jimmy leaving Paddy the Bear's saloon with a burglar's bag over his shoulder. The normally quick-tempered Touhy remained uncharacteristically calm.
   "Open the bag," his father said.
   When the young man did as he was told, out rolled burglary tools and a bottle of nitroglycerin- an explosive used on difficult safes around the turn of the century. The elder Touhy cuffed his son and then called a paddy wagon to have the boy taken to the station to be booked.
   "You book him,"he told the cop behind the desk. "It's bad enough to arrest my own son without going to court to testify against him."
   Nothing good came from the Touhy boys. In 1917 Jimmy Touhy was killed in a botched robbery attempt. His brother, Joe Touhy was killed in a freak shooting ten years later. Brother John tracked down Joe's killer and murdered him, only to die of consumption in the state prison several years later. Tommy Touhy, the second eldest and most fearless and feared of the lot, grew to be a ruthless outlaw who well deserved his nickname 'Terrible Touhy." By 1919, Tommy was one of Chicago's leading hoods.
   With poverty and crime on the rise in the Valley, James Touhy gave up on his elder sons, and, early in the summer of 1908, he moved his daughters, Eleanor and Eileen, and ten-year old son Roger to the tiny village of Downer's Grove. The village had been created only seventy-five years earlier, taking its name from a New Englander, Pierce Downer, who settled on what had been the crossing of two ancient Indian trails.
   In Downer's Grove, Roger became a better-than- average baseball player and an above-average student. In general it was a pleasant time in his life. "It was a good enough boyhood," he remembered. "I played baseball and raised the usual amount of the devil and got teased because my hair was curley. [sic] If I had anything to gripe about, I didn't realize it, because the other boys didn't have any more than I did, generally speaking."
   He took up ham operations as a hobby and built his own set at home and learned the international code. He attended St. Joseph's Roman Catholic church and school while the parish was still being run out of a hall over the top of the Des Plains hardware shop.

   Since the family was strapped for cash, Roger worked around the parish as a handyman and assistant to the parish priest and its first pastor, Father Eneas Goodwin. Roger's duties included serving mass as an altar boy and accompanying the priest as his driver in a rented horse buggy on his twice weekly rounds. "At whatever house we stopped there would be refreshments-apple pies, lemonade, thick sandwiches, salads, pickles, ice cream. Father waved the food away, but I ate fit to bust a gut....In the church there was a big oil painting of the Last Supper. Father Goodwin explained it to me, saying that a man called Judas had betrayed Jesus Christ for thirty pieces of silver. A thing like that can have a remarkable influence on a kid. I began thinking of Judas as a stool pigeon, a word I knew as did all youngsters. While sweeping up the church and dusting the pews I would stop and look for a long time at the painting. I picked out the face of a man I figured was Judas, and I would stand there hating him."