The idea for My Record Now was born in a discussion with a restorative justice professional. I have four reasons for creating this directory.
The restorative justice professional told me that ex-offenders can have trouble getting jobs because their old mug shots still live on the Internet. I immediately felt connected to their troubles. I have lived with a variety of negative stereotypes since the day I was born, and those stereotypes hindered my success. Think about examples from your own life when other people stopped you from succeeding. They stereotyped you and the stereotypes hindered your success.
My husband spent 10 months in county jail as a teenager. He did commit a crime, but he served his time and stayed away from the criminal justice system after that. However, the violence he experienced in the county jail left him emotionally scarred.
In the first 20 years of my life, six people gave me positive identities. Those positive identities gave me the resilience I needed to walk away from the lures of the Chicago mob.
1st Positive Identity
When I was very little, my mother tried to kill me twice. She was raised to believe that she could prove herself to be a good woman only as the mother of a son. I was her second daughter instead of her first son. She saw me as a threat and tried to get rid of me. To protect herself from what I might eventually say about her, she taught everyone to ignore what I said and discount what I did. She gave me a negative identity and reinforced it daily. Everyone in my family except my father gave me a negative identity. My father gave me my first positive identity by letting me know he loved me.
Even though I knew my father loved me, I was terrified of his occasional rages. My mother ignored the emotional needs of all of her children and my father. Over the years my mother verbally and emotionally abused my father more and more. He became an alcoholic to cope with the abuse. He was a quiet alcoholic who went about his life, trying to satisfy my mother’s desire for more and more money. He would come home and drink quart after quart of beer to bury his feelings. Because feelings can’t stay buried forever, my father’s feelings would occasionally erupt into rages that lasted for hours. I knew my father loved me, but his rages terrified me.
2nd Positive Identity
My 2nd grade, Miss Fleming, was the first adult in my life to make me feel safe. I don’t remember what Miss Fleming did to make me feel safe, but I knew I was safe. I still think about Miss Fleming frequently.
3rd Positive Identity
During 3rd and 4th grades, I was a favorite of principal Sister Scholastica. I don’t remember exactly what she did, but I felt accepted for who I was.
4th Positive Identity
From 5th through 8th grades, Sister Vianney was principal. I was far and away Sister Vianney’s favorite student. I don’t know why, but I delighted in it. Sister Vianney would often have me come to her office. How many children do you suppose look forward to going to the principal’s office? I jumped at the chance to go. Sister Vianney and I would sit across the desk from each other and have wonderful conversations.
5th Positive Identity
In high school, English teacher Jill Robinson told me I was a good writer. She encouraged me to keep writing and helped me become a better writer.
6th Positive Identity
I did not go to college after high school. My mother would have decided where I went and what I took and I needed to get away from her control. I took low paying office jobs instead. My second job after high school was with a small company that had only four to six employees for the year I worked there. Francine Fetyko was my supervisor. Francine told me what tasks I was good at and showed me how to be good at other tasks. The job lasted only a year because the owner decided to move the company to Kansas City. He invited me to go with, but I decided to stay in Chicago. Francine moved to Kansas City, but we stayed friends until her death 46 years later.
Saying No To The Lures Of The Chicago Mob
For the record, the Chicago mob called itself ‘The Outfit’.
That company left Chicago for Kansas City in the spring. I did some temporary office work and waitressing. That autumn, when I was 21, I got a job waitressing at a fancy restaurant. Waitresses wore a uniform that was short and revealed a little cleavage. I worked the lunch shift. After I’d been working there about a month, the restaurant scheduled a Friday the 13th cocktail party. Decorations included a real black cat and a ladder to walk under. The manager scheduled me to be the only waitress at the party. Guests included prominent Chicago businessmen, local politicians, local media celebrities, Chicago Bears players, and movie star Cesar Romero (The Joker in the original Batman series). I had more fun at that party than any other party in my entire life.
The following week, I went back to working my lunch shift. The manager came into the restaurant that week, sat at the bar, and asked me to serve him. He wrote his phone number on a napkin, gave me the napkin, and told me to call him. I didn’t make the call. After a few days the manager came in and repeated that routine, this time giving me a dime as well as a napkin with his phone number. I didn’t make the call.
I knew that calling the dime manager meant having sex with him. I knew that having sex with the dime manager would mean rewards of some kind. I didn’t need those rewards because I had my six positive identities:
- My father gave me a positive identity by making me feel loved.
- Miss Fleming gave me a positive identity by making me feel safe.
- Sister Scholastica gave me a positive identity by making me feel accepted.
- Sister Vianney gave me a positive identity making me feel equal.
(Those conversations across the desk.)
- Miss Robinson gave me a positive identity by making me feel talented.
- Francine Fetyko gave me a positive identity by making me feel competent.
The following week, I went in to work as usual. The maître d’ told me to serve a table of ‘top managers’. I had never heard of any other manger besides the dime manager before. They were all older, expensively dressed white men. Four men at a square table. I served them the way I always served customers. Right after lunch, the maître d’ fired me for “not smiling at the managers”.
It took a while, but I finally figured out that the restaurant had Chicago mob connections and the “top managers” were top mobsters. The Friday the 13th party was a kind of audition to see how well I did in a room full of men. The mob must have been pleased. Not only was I smiling and laughing a lot, I walked right up to Cesar Romero to shake his hand and say, “Hello!” The dime manager’s order for me to call him was a second audition. The mob wanted to know if I would be comfortable having sex with any man who wanted me. Had I called the dime manager, my rewards could have included money, jewelry, cars, furs, and more parties with celebrities and Hollywood stars. None of it would have been worth the negative identity from having sex with any man who wanted me.
The top managers came to the restaurant that day to decide how severely they should punish me for refusing to call the dime manager. Everyone else on the staff knew I had refused to call the dime manager. The top managers needed to make an example of me for the rest of the staff. The dime manager had given me the privileged opportunity of being the only waitress at the Friday the 13th cocktail party. He — and the top managers — expected me to demonstrate my gratitude for that privileged opportunity. They took my refusal to call the dime manager as an unacceptable insult known to everyone else on the staff. I faced down top Chicago mobsters without knowing it. I got off easy. Instead of firing me, they could have made me disappear.
Although I did not recognize the four men at the square table as top mobsters, I knew they were top managers. I knew they were powerful men. I also knew I was their equal as human beings. Sister Vianney spent the last four years of my elementary school education teaching me that I was equal to powerful people. She was the school principal so she was the most powerful person in our school. She treated me as her equal. Since my days sitting across the desk from Sister Vianney, I have known with certainty that I am equal to any powerful person anywhere in the world. I would not curtsy to any royalty anywhere in the world because I do not curtsy to my equals as human beings.
I treat everyone as my equals in humanity, including people others consider beneath them. I know the power of equality. I will follow Sister Vianney’s example in treating all people as equal in humanity for the rest of my life.
Chicago Mob Influence On My Childhood
Other people might have recognized the Chicago mob’s participation in the restaurant right away. My own childhood should have given me clues. Most people had no idea who Tony Accardo was when I was a child. My family did. Think St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Al Capone gave Accardo his ‘Joe Batters’ nickname. Seeing how Capone’s flamboyance got him too much attention from law enforcement, Accardo chose to stay in the background. My father had many high level connections around the northern suburbs of Chicago. They explained the who’s who of the mob and mob activities to him because for eight years we lived near Milwaukee Avenue. Our house was about a mile from a night club briefly owned by Sam Giancana, Villa Venice (accent on ‘ice’).
My parents were always unhappy about living close to Chicago mob activity. Villa Venice was at one end of a country road and to the side because it fronted on Milwaukee Avenue. Our house was at the other end of the road. I loved riding my bicycle up and down that road, but always felt nervous at the Villa Venice end. I usually didn’t ride far enough to see the building.
When we left that house and moved to a different house closer to the center of Northbrook, I felt relief. I didn’t care that I was nowhere near Villa Venice for the performances of Frank Sinatra and pals. I was certain the Chicago mob days of my life were over. I remember shocked conversations among adults when Villa Venice mysteriously burned down years after we moved. The story on the Paula & The Chicago Mob page of my website reveals that the Chicago mob followed my family, though unintentionally. Read the section about my connections to the son of the real Godfather and the FBI.
My childhood experiences with the mob were frightening. My experiences at the fancy restaurant and the best party of my life were not.
One of the positive strategies I developed as a child was to stand up for myself. I stood up for myself whenever I felt safe from my mother. I developed positive relationships with people I could trust to stand up for me when I didn’t feel safe. I felt safe enough in the equal positive identity Sister Vianney gave me to stand up for myself when the dime manager told me to call him. I have always been grateful to the adults who gave me the positive identities I needed to be resilient.
I learned very young the connection between other people’s success and my own success. My mother tried to kill me twice because she saw me as a threat to her success. If my grandmother had supported success for my mother, my mother would have been able to support success for me. Since my grandmother forced failure on my mother, my mother forced failure on me. Success for ex-offenders sparks success for the communities they live in. See Success & Failure Choices for examples of how creating success for others sparks more success for you.
Everyone benefits from each ripple of success.
© Paula M. Kramer, 2017 to the present.
All rights reserved.
Updated January 27, 2021.