Wednesday, July 27, 2016

He Survived thru a Twist of fate: An Update......

I was recently contacted by one of my followers who had detailed knowledge about the recent post I made on Leo Mongoven.  Many thanks to Kimberly Watley for her kind permission to use her story here on my site.

It was February 14, 1929, Irish gangster George “Bugs” Moran was the target. It is believed, Al Capone ordered the hit. He didn’t contract Cupid, however.

Chicago wasn’t big enough for Irish and Italian mobsters to play well together. North and South side rivalries began with hijacking alcohol trucks during prohibition. (I was shocked to learn it had nothing to do with the Cubs and Sox too.)

Each gang sought control of an enormous underground network of bootlegging, prostitution and gambling markets. (Booze, sex, money and power, I guess somethings never change.)

To be number one in the nation, prohibition-era gangsters fought to eliminate their rivals. Bugs and his gang are credited with the first drive-by shootings, while Capone sought to gain control methodically.

The bloody climax between them resulted in seven of Bugs’ men being ambushed by gangsters dressed as police officers, in a North side Chicago garage.

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, went down in history, even though its intended target was missed.

Bugs had a bodyguard, Leo Vincent Mongoven, known on the street as Leo The Ghost. He earned his moniker because when the law came to call, he vanished.

The Ghost was never credited with saving Bugs because he was an amazing bodyguard. In fact, that story never made it to the public. Bugs didn’t make it to the garage on time because Leo was late picking him up.

A couple of years ago, long after I moved out of Chicago’s North side, I learned the other part of that story.

I was in my 160 year old house, out in the country, two hours from the big city. There was a knock at the door, a man and woman I’d never met stood on my porch. He was holding a camera, and she was wearing a floppy sun hat and had a nervous grin. They were in their 70's… I opened the door, smiled and asked if I could help them.

They started speaking over one another, excitedly. I stepped out onto the porch. She grabbed my arm, and apologized for barging in, but was hoping I wouldn’t mind her and her cousin taking photos of my house.

With a shrug, I said, sure. A house this old holds a lot of history for a lot of families.

As he fidgeted with his camera, she began to tell me about her great-grandfather who lived here in the 20's. With a twinkle in her eyes and child-like excitement in her voice, her memories flowed.

“When I was a kid, we played in that barn back there. All of us kids used to go in there, sit on the old tractor, pretend we were driving and plowing the fields. Grandmother worked her garden right over here, and she could grow anything. There were two big oak trees over there. Guess they are long gone now…”

I listened intently as she strolled down memory lane and he snapped pictures. I noticed her hand involuntarily drawn to her chest, as those memories she shared were deep in her heart. She was adorable.

He too had a lot of fond memories to share. He mentioned their great-aunt (Lauretta) whose bedroom is now mine, that was when I learned some behind the scenes elements of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre story.

When their aunt’s beau would come to town from Chicago, she would sneak him in through her bedroom window. But when the law came looking for him, the girl and her mother hid him in the floorboards of the attic.

“No, Leo isn’t here,” they would say.

Her boyfriend, Leo “The Ghost,” was visiting his sweetheart for Valentine’s Day, and was running late getting Bugs to that garage.

He was here, in my house, smooching on their aunt, thus saving Bugs' life.

To say I was fascinated is an understatement.

Not too long ago, I was in a nearby cemetery taking pictures of a Veteran’s grave who is the only local man I know of who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

While walking through, I found, The Ghost. 

P.S. In the blog post, it was written that he was late because he was picking up a pack of cigarettes. I'm a romantic and like the story I heard better.

So there you have it. Again many thanks to Kimberly for sharing her story with me and She's promised to pass along even more interesting places to visit and document that are just Off the Beaten Path.

                                           (Mongoven is the man standing at the far left).

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