Tales From The Blue Line 7

alChristmas time has always meant more action on the family trouble home front. Of course, it doesn’t end there; the anticipation of happiness and celebration during the season can provoke the unhappiness, and downright depression, of those who have problems in their lives. Calls for police intervention in domestic disturbances, and trouble elsewhere, have always seen an increase; both in the number of calls, and the strangeness of calls. The word about this specific time for fights among family members has been known about by society at large for many generations.
The usual suspect of increased motivation for bad behavior has been the extra imbibing of alcohol because of more partying and increased drinking of said booze. Like stocking up the home for the extra visiting that will happen, and then the sampling of the extra stock of booze during the weeks leading up to the Big Day (December 25th.) Which means more people being overly drunk, more often than usual.
And, of course, the nightclubs and neighborhood taverns make more money during this particular holiday season – with all the pre-Christmas imbibing by customers as they stop in for the parties. Or after they’ve spent the day and/or night shopping for gifts.
I could analyze it deeper – so-called social scientists have done quite enough of that – but everyone knows that along with the increase in happiness and celebrations, there is also an increase in trouble on the home-front.
The booze drinking and the attendant tension that increases for about a month preceding Christmas Day multiplies from Thanksgiving Day. Every now and then, there is a combination of Christmas trouble from both the families and other places in the streets. Ultimately, the behavior of the perpetrators of Christmas time trouble is nothing more than drunken, stupid nonsense. Sometimes the drunken nonsense gets violent. It can be dangerous and in the worst cases, deadly. And when the clashes occur between crazy drunk strangers, it takes on a somehow different, often bizarre quality.
One Christmas season about fifty years ago there was a legendary Christmas crisis on the south side of Milwaukee,Wisconsin. That area of the world was pretty tame, pretty quiet, a good place to raise children and get them reasonably well-educated. And a good place to stay safe from crime and violence. One Christmas Eve broke all imaginable boundaries the of normal heated, drunken condition. The Dark Side of Christmas, if you will.
A family trouble fight and a shopping store, uh, how shall we say, “disturbance,” came together. A group of officers were blessed with the task of handling the situation. And as the old saying goes, it wasn’t pretty.
First off, stores closed early on Christmas Eve in those days. Some of the larger ones in more heavily populated areas stayed open late: Until eight o’clock! And one of those stores on a South Side main street and shopping area was one of those places. In the doorway leading into the store stood a man wearing a – ta da! – Santa Claus suit. He was ringing a hand held bell loudly and shouting “Ho ho ho!” to all who passed by, and or entered the store. He cheerfully encouraged passersby to place money into the bucket that stood nearby. Many passersby by did, and some did not.
Now, the Santa Claus man knew he’d be there, outdoors, for hours. But he was smart. He knew his extra heavy Santa Claus clothing would not be enough to keep him warm. So he rigged up a rubber tube that he connected to a bottle of whiskey in his pocket, and merrily sucked on the end of the tube, which he’d cleverly hidden in his big, fake white beard.
Guess what?
drunk-santa He got drunk. Slowly at first, when he was jolly and fun loving and a classic hail-fellows-well-met character. Ringing his big bell, collecting money, joking with the folks. But then he decided that not enough folks were putting enough money into the bucket. Who wouldn’t be annoyed about that in the ultimate, charitable time of year.? Right?
But the more whiskey he sucked through his rubber tube, the less jolly he became. He became irritable with folks who didn’t give money.
“Too cheap to help the needy?” he said to one man and his family who failed to contribute anything.
They were shocked, but proceeded into the store to make a complaint.
Sarcastic remarks followed every non-contributor. Quietly spoken at first, then loud sarcastic remarks. Really loud and really insulting ones. Oh, it didn’t last that long. Before the store management could react, another man who’d been cruisin’ and boozin’ on the streets confronted Mr. Santa Claus. Name calling began. Fists flew. The police were called. Santa Claus was hauled off kicking and screaming to a prisoner conveyance wagon.
The other guy went to jail, too.
Santa and the other guy were hauled to the 6th Precinct, and placed in holding cells. They could hear each other, so they continued screaming and yelling mindless insults. Officers on desk duty at the station house separated them to different rooms, leaving Santa in the cell block.

A couple of miles away a Christmas party began after dinner in a residence packed with visitors. Young children were there. Many adults were there. Lots and lots of booze, in every mixed and swirled way you can think of, was there. Came time to open presents. Grandpa dressed as Santa Clause sat in front of the brightly lighted Christmas tree. The ultimate, classic scene. (Later, after everything was over, a woman said that he’d been smoked full of liquor and “you know what” other stuff.)
That’s right – “other stuff” was available and used fifty years ago, before the so-called hippie out break of the 1960s
One by one the kids came up to sit on his lap. He instantly got fed up with it. He started calling the kids little brats who deserved spankings, not presents. The “little brats” parents didn’t take it so well. One of the fathers – who had also been smoked to the high heavens with inebriates – approached the surprisingly spry Santa and pushed him off his chair. A fight among those two and a few others in the room broke out. The tree was toppled and the lights were smashed.
The police were called and while being arrested Santa Claus delivered a groin disintegrating kick to one of the officers. He fought and he fought and he fought. He was dragged kicking and screaming to a prison conveyance wagon waiting outside, and then to the 6th Precinct station.
The officers who dragged him in to the building took him straight to the holding cell. Normal procedure. But on this occasion: Different. The first drunken Santa Claus sitting in his cell saw the second drunken Santa Claus being dragged past. The first Santa still had enough energy left to jump up and spit a large amount of phlegm onto the second Santa Claus. Onto the officers, too.
The second Santa Claus managed to slip the grasp of the officer who were holding him and charged toward the closed and locked – thank the heavens! – cell door, grabbed the bars and smashed his own forehead against them. That’s right; his own forehead. The Santa inside the cell grabbed the bars from his side, and attempted to smash his head into that of the first Santa.
They called each other names like “phony!” and “faker!” and worse. They both declared how each had made a better Santa Claus than the other.
(Well, more than one police officer on the scene said that’s what happened, and I believe it’s absolutely true. At least the stupid, ear-splitting screaming that went on. That is something no one could deny.)
Other officers in the precinct, including the shift commander, came into the cell block to help the arresting officer remove the second drunker-than-a-skunk Santa they had brought in. They wanted to separate them, but more prisoners had been brought in during the meantime, and all other make-shift rooms were rapidly being filled. For a short while both Santas were held in the same cell block room, while adjustments to the station house were being made.
It was not a Merry Christmas.
Soon, both of the hyper but-stinking-screaming-drunk Santas began to run out of gas. Literally, as the room had quickly become in drastic need of deodorizing. But that’s what always goes on in relatively small rooms filled with screaming drunks. In a short while, the Santas, and a few other drunks who’d been hauled in and joined the laughter and name-calling, grew quiet.
Both of the exhausted, mind obliterated Santas lay down on their benches behind the bars, closed their eyes, and went fast asleep.

Parts of that tale from the blue line may seem unbelievable. Trust me. After thirty years of being in the middle of my share of equally crazy scenes, I know that it happened, very closely to the way it was told. Too many cops were there, and they all said similar things. And there’s a long blue column of people with police experience, past and present, who will silently nod their heads, with thoughtful expressions on their faces, and maybe a slight smile, and know that this was just another day in the park, as it were, for these poor Christmas coppers on that Christmas Eve in Milwaukee,
Fifty years ago.


ROb2This is the 7th in an ongoing series from Rob.

He spent thirty-two years as a Milwaukee police officer: seven years doing undercover narcotics investigations and twenty-two years as a major crimes detective. Writing and reading have been lifelong passions, and he began by writing short stories more than thirty years ago.

Rob is published by Orange Hat Press

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