Crazy Runs in the Family

If you have read the “Quick History” page of my blog, you already know that my great grandfather was the man who started the family business. He got a lucky break with the influenza pandemic of 1918 and business took off. But according to my dad, this guy had a typical Irish temper that led him to do some crazy stuff.

Crazy starts here!

My great grandfather, John Patrick Donohue, and his wife Bridget, had six kids, all boys (I think), and they were headed down the shore for a family vacation. They brought the family dog with them on the trip, which was a big mistake. Remember when you would be on a long drive with your family and would get into a fight with one of your siblings,  someone would scream, and the next thing you knew, Dad’s arm was flying into the back seat trying to hit whoever he could reach? Well, apparently on this family trip, the kids and the dog were making too much noise, which clearly aggravated my great grandfather, so much so, that he reached into the back seat, grabbed the dog, and threw it out the window!

Michael Vick is that you? Hello?

I remember my dad telling us that story and thinking he was joking, but he wasn’t. My great grandfather was a real nut job. One time he bought his wife a fur coat for Christmas and she said, “We can’t afford this.” He grabbed the coat from her, rolled it up, put it back in the box, returned it to the store and it was never talked about again. I bet she was sorry she opened her big mouth, but what a prick!

This is my great-grandfather’s hearse:  It was motorized, which was a big deal, because before he got it, he used to hire a horse and carriage to pick up the bodies. Back then, the burials were almost immediate because the technique of preserving bodies had a long way to go, so they would usually just keep them on a slab of ice. He knew where every stable was in the city and would send one of his sons ahead in the horse and carriage. He would then take the trolley to the person’s house and bring his equipment. I have no idea what kind of “equipment” was used back then, but everything was done in the person’s house. After putting the body into a casket, the hearse/carriage would transport it to the church or cemetery.

During the influenza pandemic, people were dying so fast that there were caskets stacked up in the streets, and people would steal them and bury their family members on their own. Even though my great grandfather didn’t touch alcohol, which is very odd for an Irish funeral director, he made all of his workers take a shot of whiskey before going out on a job, and not one of his employees died from influenza. He believed it was preventative. I believe it’s medicinal. 

My great grandfather, like my dad, was also a PR junkie. He belonged to 33 different organizations in Philadelphia. Back then, there was no real advertising, so he had to get to know people personally to grow the business. It’s ironic, isn’t it? You get to know people just so that when they die, they decide you are the best person to handle their dead body :).

So I guess between running around the city like a mad man, picking up dead bodies, being involved in all those organizations, and having 6 boys made him quite a psycho. How else do you justify throwing a dog out of the window of a moving car for Christ sake? My dad wasn’t that crazy. Granted, he did want to run a guy over with a casket in the middle of the church, but he didn’t go through with it. Don’t you think that business would make you a little bit crazy though? Look what it did to my family :). Maybe if we had a house away from the business, we would’ve turned out more “normal” (whatever that is). But we probably wouldn’t have all been so loud and talk so much.

I actually caught myself talking too much in a job interview once, and then made it worse by asking about it . The interviewer asked me one question about my work experience, and I just took off and gave him a heaping helping of DOM (diarrhea of the mouth). Then I stopped myself and said, “Am I talking too much?” He just looked at me, smiled awkwardly and said, “No.”

Yeah, right. I guess I don’t have to tell you that I didn’t get the job. Who does that? I mean, it’s one thing to talk too much, but to ask them if you’re talking too much is just like asking, “Am I annoying?” People who talk too much are annoying. Maybe I had too much coffee that day. I talk more after I get all hopped up on caffeine…that’s when I like to call customer service people.  My sister Kris, cried at her job interview and got the job. Maybe next time I’ll cry instead of talk. (By the way, she wasn’t crying because she was desperate to get the job or anything like that. The guy interviewing her asked her something personal that made her choke up or something like that. If I were in the interview, he probably would have been the one crying)

So, there it is…it all started with my great-grandfather. For some reason whenever I watch the movie “Young Frankenstein” I always think of my great-grandfather because Gene Wilder says in the beginning of the movie that his grandfather was “cuckoo,” only to find out later that he was brilliant. Plus the part where they dig up the dead body and carry it away in the horse and carriage always makes me think of him. I love that movie. I hope you’ve seen it because if you haven’t you’re missing out on one of my all time favorite comedies. And if you’ve seen it, watch it again, and maybe you’ll think about my nutty great-grandfather…

Have a beautiful day…I have to go flip my breakfast meat.

About Death To Hollywood

My name is Celeste Donohue and I am a writer/comedian who started this blog to tell stories about my life growing up in a funeral home and my adult life which I have spent in Hollywood, California – hence the name, “Death To Hollywood”. Hopefully, you like to read those kinds of stories. If not, go read something serious and boring.....
This entry was posted in death, family, funeral home, funerals, weird and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Crazy Runs in the Family

  1. The elder sister says:

    Well clearly our great- grandfather was an ambitious, hard working man, albeit stories seem to show he was a bit short tempered! Funny how most people are remembered for their odd traits! I wonder how many mothers he offered comfort to who lost their little children during that pandemic? I wonder how he felt when his own son Nicholas fell victim to that flu when he was serving in the U.S. Navy in Europe?

  2. Bef says:

    Young Frankenstein! It’s on at the house every so often. Wouldyoulikesome… Ovaltine perhaps??

  3. mdonohue says:

    Celeste,There was one girl in the family,named Mary.Anyway,what a difference a generation makes.Love,mom

  4. Kris says:

    Funny Story, Cee……I can see where dad got a bit of his craziness from:)…..all of us for that matter!

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