Pal of Prohibition Prince lost property playing poker
(Due to her father’s military service, Kathy Spotts of Hughesville is an Auxiliary member of Glenn Sharrow American Legion Post #35. The veteran’s daughter shared his story).
CEDAR RUN – The percentage of chances of returning home unscathed from World War I was not a sure bet. However, Private Alvin A. Card saw plenty of action and beat the odds.
A native of Cedar Run, Tioga County, Card was inducted into the Army on May 28, 1918. It was the thirteenth month of the nineteen-month long war of which he would serve past Arminstance until Jan. 17, 1919.
The private was assigned to the 52nd Railroad Artillery. The outfit, serving in France, was charged with repairing railroads after demolished by the enemy. Wanting to keep railroads from being used to advance troops and weapons, adversaries shelled the workers thus hampering progress.
It was late summer when Card arrived in France, just in time to be part of the last and largest surge against Germany and the Central Powers. Fighting became increasing fierce into the fall and up to the end on Nov 11, 1918.
Enumerating post war occurrences in her father’s life, Kathy Spotts said her father dealt with periods of alcoholism. It is not known if whether witnessing war’s death and destruction caused the self-medicating or not. It is known that in such a manner, many veterans tried to forget those horrific images.
After returning home, Card sought employment. At Mercer, he was a line man. In Williamsport, he injured his hand when working at a silk mill.
Card wed Larene Pears, several years his junior. Their children were Alvin Sanford “Sam,” Joyce Hughes, Joseph, Doris Mae Berg and Kathryn Spotts. The family resided in several places including Pine, Lycoming County; Keating, Potter County; Cedar Run and Blackwell in Tioga County.
Colorful recollections paint a picture of the family’s life. “When bar hopping, my father took my 13-year-old brother along to drive home.” She also told stories of his entertaining bar room antics, such as reciting poems. They were the lengthy “Dangerous Dan McGrew,” and “The Face on the Bar room floor.” These were spoken while inebriated and often from the position of lying on the floor.
At one time, the veteran owned the Blackwell Hotel and later the Bush House Hotel in the town of Tioga. The first hotel was lost in a poker game. “If that wasn’t enough, he went to court and lost again,” Spotts said.
Operating the hotel was the wife’s duty; the cooking, serving, cleaning and raising the family. Spotts recalled that as the hotel was next to railroad tracks along Pine Creek, hobos often came begging for food. “My mother always fed them, she was a wonderful Christian woman. Raised by her Simpson grandparents, she had a Methodist background. Work didn’t allow her time for church, but I’d see her reading her Bible in the living room. She saw that I got to services though,” Kathy Spotts said.
Being employed by the New York Central Railroad, Card was often absent from home. The veteran was assigned to various locations – specifically one was as night watchman in the rail yard at Painted Post. “Once he took my nephew and me along with him during the 11 to 7 a.m. shift. We looked at one idling train which my nephew wanted to board, but not me. It was dark and noisy,” Spotts said.
The family was aware of their father’s acquaintance with Prince Farrington. The infamous maker and peddler of moonshine was better known as the Prohibition Prince. Kathy has no knowledge of her father being personally involved in the substance’s shipping, however, circumstances were ripe for the possibility. Taking into consideration the bar hopping, hotel ownerships and night time duties with the railroad, one could be suspicious.
During a time when Kathy was the youngest at home, she wanted to go in the car with her father. Her mother persuaded her to stay, thus saving her daughter’s life. As Kathy played with a friend, her fathered careened down the road. “He liked to drive fast. Hearing an ambulance, I knew dad was in an accident. He hit a pole, gashed his skull and popped a hip out of joint. He was taken to the hospital at Blossburg,” she said.
After a few days, Card had had it. Surmising correctly that his wife planned to have him committed, he escaped in his hospital gown, went to the highway and hitch-hiked home. “I can only imagine that whoever brought him home must have known him,” Spotts said.
After more than three decades, the Card’s divorced. Now single, Card would travel to visit his son in California. “The railroad treated him splendidly, or to be more specific, I believe the employees did, as he had free fare. He knew how to work the system. Everyone called him Cardie and he lived up to that name,” the daughter said.
Alvin A. Card was born Feb 18, 1897 at Cedar Run, PA, son of John Sanford Card, born in Canada, and Ida May Speicher of PA.
The veteran died on Aug 26, 1978. He and Larene are interred in Evergreen Cemetery, Tioga, PA.