THE IRISH IN ME (part 4)

Alberta L Bob

Alberta LeGendre and Robert Dempsey Jr. 1961: She sewed her own clothes and his shirts. And, yes, that’s a 2-tone green 1957 Chevy station wagon in the background.

During our childhood, my mother, Alberta LeGendre, spent a lot of time keeping her 2 daughters far away from the Irish part of our heritage (with the exception of Aunt Mary). 

And with good reason.

Mom’s family might’ve been a bit dysfunctional, but compared to my dad’s side of the family they were veritable angels.

Since it’s nearing St. Patrick’s Day, I’ll write a bit about the history of a side of the family known for it’s boxers (and I’m not talking about the shorts) and it’s drinkers; specifically, my dad’s 2 brothers (Jack and Edward).  Products of a father I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, the 2 oldest (Bob and Mary) were decent human beings (Feel free to fill in the blanks about the 2 youngest).

What I write below is almost word-for-word from my mother’s memoirs, written on November 10, 1989.

If you’re interested in parts 1 and 2,, you can find them at:


Housing was scarce.  Bob found a one room, upstairs, apartment a block from the Police Station.  Mrs Sutter promised Bob, when he rented the apartment that he could have it for $35.00 a month if we painted it.  We painted all of the inside of the apartment and the next month she raised the monthly rent to $50.00 a month.  Unfortunately, we were stuck there for two years.

A few days after I arrived in South Florida, Jack began talking about Bob, George Blough, and himself going into partnership and forming a cab company.  (Cabs were in demand and they all would get “rich” quick???)   Each was to furnish a car and share the expenses.  Bob and I knew nothing about the cab business, and never gave the idea any serious thought.  We did the listening and just drifted along; because the others were so eager to invest their money.

About December 1, 1946:  Jack informed us that he had rented a vacant store, to use as an office, for $50.00 a month; and had made arrangements to have a cab stand in front of the Seminole Bar on Hialeah Drive.  Although, he did ask Bob for $10.00 for the city cab permit, we assumed that he was taking care of his share of the financial responsibilities.

A car was needed to pick up fares until Jack and George could get their cars; and they were going to have to use my car as a starter.  The taxi permit was in Jack and Bob’s names.  Therefore, I had to deed my car over to Bob and Jack so they could use it on the line (which I resented because inwardly I didn’t trust Jack).

Bob had the car painted black.  (Jack wanted it painted with zebra stripes.)  A driver was hired and Courtesy Cab Company was ready to go in business.

Strangely, there was more talk than action from the other two partners.  Not knowing how long the Buick would last, Bob decided that it would be wise for us to go ahead and get another car.

Bob asked Jack for information regarding the most reliable car lots  (only used cars were on the market at that time).

Jack called a “friend” of his down on NW 56th Street.  The salesman showed us a DeSota, which looked nice, and appeared to be in good condition, with approximately 40,000 miles on the odometer.  He gave us a good sales pitch, which we swallowed.  Paying him $1,000.00 cash for the car.

The car’s upkeep cost more than the price for several new cars.  Later, we learned that the car had previously been used as a cab in Hollywood, Fl. and had been driven more than 100,000 plus miles before we got it.

Jack and Mabel were in the process of a divorce and fighting over their three boys – ages 5, 3, and 18 months.  (Actually neither one wanted the children, and they didn’t want the other one to have them either.)

Jack was trying to get the boys away from Mabel.  He had made arrangements to rent a house in Deer Park, with the idea in mind that Bob and I would share it with him.  Bob balked when he learned that Jack’s intentions were for Bob and I to take care of his children and pay the rent.

1947 January 16:  The Hialeah Race Track opened for the season.  The drivers were doing well.  Bob was one of the policemen directing traffic at the track.

About a week later, the loan department of the Miami Springs Bank called and asked Bob if he knew that Jack had signed a note to borrod $2,000.00 on the cars, and if Bob approved?  That was the first Bob had heard about it.  He was floored and refused the idea.

The next morning, about 10am, Bob was getting ready to go to work, at the race track.  Jack appeared at the door.  Bob walked out on the step landing.  They talked a copule of minutes and Jack left.  Jack had come to deliver the message that Bob had been fired and didn’t need to go to work.

Bob was deeply hurt.  Jack also knew that Bob liked the police work.  Therefore Bob came to the conclusion that Jack – a bosom friend and assistant to the chief of police – had manipulated the firing in order to get even with him (Bob) regarding the bank deal.

Bob had Jack to sign his power of attorney over to him (Bob).  Then Bob deleted Jack’s name from all matters regarding the Courtesy Cab Company, including the cars.

1947 February:  All kinds of unpaid bills started floating in.  Thanks to Jack.  Rent, water, lights, and others – all three months overdue—and which we thought Jack had paid; since we had assumed all of the other financial responsibilities.  George Blough got cold feet and dropped out.  Never contributing anything but talk.

Suddenly it was obvious:  Jack had assumed the position of “Mr. Big Cheese” and we were paying the bills.  We had a little money in the bank, but it was certainly vanishing fast.

About a month later, David, Jack’s middle son, ran in front of a car and was hit by Doc Baker, Hialeah Pharmacy owner.  Doc Baker took care of all the hospital and medical expenses and wanted to set up a college fund for David.  Jack didn’t like the idea:  Jack wanted the money, and sued instead.  The court approved $2,000.00 for David’s medical expenses.  David never saw a penny of the money.  Jack and his girl friend, Marylin, splurged it within two months on good times.

We had to cut all unnecessary expenses; getting rid of the office and all of its expenses; and moving the phones and office equipment to our one room apartment.

We had two – rotating—business phones, for incoming calls and another phone use as a direct line between the apartment and the cab stand on Hialeah Drive – which rang automatically at the other end of the line when the receiver was removed from the hook.

1947 June:  Edward Dempsey, Bob’s brother, was in Miami with his wife Ruby and Shirley – daughter by first wife Violet – for a visit.  Mary Ziegler brought them over to our apartment and we enjoyed a pleasant but short visit with them.  Although Ruby and I corresponded for several years, we never saw them again.  Edward passed away about 1963.

1947 August 27:  Bobby Le Dempsey was born.


NOTE:  What mom told  her children about the cab company that she didn’t write here was that a woman couldn’t own a business in Florida at that time.  It was her car, the one thing that was truly hers.  She always resented (1) the fact that her own husband wouldn’t listen to her concerns about Jack’s reliability destruction, and (2) The destruction that Andrew Jackson Dempsey left in his wake

NEXT:  Going into the trucking business, more family nightmares, and Jack screws over his brother…again.