Bazsika & Kocun – Tragedy on Iron Ore Road

[Previously I posted a poem by Jenne M. that related her mother’s line through poetry. Here is the same story in prose.  I think it is one of the best examples I’ve ever seen that tells the same family history using two very different mechanism. After you read this version, go back and read (or reread) the poem.  You will gain new insight into her family’s story. Hopefully, you will also consider a new way to tell your own stories.  Poetry can be an incredibly  powerful tool.  – Don Taylor]

Bazsika and Kocun

by Jenne M. (guest blogger)

I first knew I had to embark upon ancestry work years ago – back in 2001, after my maternal grandmother died of colon cancer. “The house of your ancestors is falling into ruin,” the dreams whispered, showing me visions of a ramshackle Cape Cod, with the stars and space lurking behind the rotted floorboards.

Frank Bazsika and Marie Kocun on
their wedding day,
with Victoria Kocun at left.

With a broad face and a ready laugh, Marie Kocun Bazsika seemed to defy the circumstances life brought her. Born Mary but baptized as Marie, she had a twin brother, Stephen, who was a talented musician that died relatively early. A car accident, my grandmother told me once; illness due to a weakened constitution from drinking, my mother countered. He died at the age of 46, four years before my birth.

Marie, called Mae by her friends, was a small, merry woman, the daughter of Slovak immigrants. Swept up by the times, at the age of 16, she married a handsome Hungarian soldier: Frank Bazsika, one of many to bear that name in his family. Once, she told me that she and her husband were advised not to have children – ostensibly because Usher’s Syndrome, a form of deaf-blindness, ran in their lines. I haven’t been able to ascertain whether that was the truth, but half of her children ended up having the disorder.

But that was the least of Mae’s trials. Behind that long, handsome face of her tall, burly husband lurked the Fomhoire.

The beloved first son of his daughter-heavy family, Frank was heavily spoiled by his shopkeeper parents, who pampered him in every way, and looked aside when he beat his sisters with the fire poker. Violent and charming by turns, he dressed impeccably as a young man and, like so many of his generation, ended up drafted during World War II.

He served in Edinburgh in Scotland for at least some of the war, as a mechanic. At some point during his service, he fell in love with a Frenchwoman – named Marie, like my grandmother – whom he had to leave behind. Perhaps this ideal paramour made his own Marie seem so small and provincial, unwanted and vulgar. Perhaps this other Marie existed only in his mind, which danced on a narrow floor of sanity, dipping into periodic chasms of violence and despair.

When he returned, the darkness – the one that had always been with him, according to his sisters’ testimony – rose up and swallowed him, coloring his fantasies with rage. Gone were the smart suits and the smile, eradicated by a love of vulgarity and sadism. Continuing his work as a mechanic, he also dabbled in get-rich-quick schemes, running the gamut from gas stations to chicken farms, none of which he ever put his hands to; rather, his wife and children were the laborers. Parasites who didn’t earn their keep, he thought and had his wife shovel chicken shit the morning after giving birth. His family lived in squalor and fear, while he spent their meager earnings on himself and his pleasures: cars, sweets he wouldn’t share and, finally, the rifle that would prove his undoing.

He confessed to the priest and nuns that he had long smelled his flesh burning in the fires of hell, and gleefully shared fantasies of beating his wife and torturing his children – which he enacted daily, with creative flair.

Frank was, in short, a born psychopath.

Marie fled often, but to her husband’s family and not her beloved twin and parents, fearing that he would exact his vengeance on them. She left her children behind to fend for themselves. Following the advice of the nuns and priests, she always returned, until the cycle became unbearable once more. Frank and Marie existed in a strange dance of hatred and need, circling one another, lunging in for blows and pain.

Frank Andrew Bazsika
served in World War II

The blast of a shotgun ended the dance.

Frank’s eldest son and namesake took his father’s gun and waited with a sniper’s patience for his father to return home from work. A flash of light, a blast, and the red blossomed from his chest, mingling with the mud. Marie ran to him, frantic. My mother – then 16, a year younger than the namesake – watched. Her elder brother fled, but was caught later by police, tried and sentenced for homicide and spent many years in prison. In those days, no one cared about child abuse and its impact on the generations beyond.

Marie never remarried, and sold off the chicken farm piece by piece. Eventually, she left the house on Iron Ore Road, living on the hillside behind it – and then, Iron Ore Road entirely.

While abuse shaped her life, Marie was more than the blow she received. During World War II, she worked at General Cable, testing field wiring for Army telephone lines, and later worked at her husband’s tire store. After selling the business, she then worked as a waitress, the first on the New Jersey Turnpike. She converted to the Jehovah’s Witness faith, enjoying mission trips and camaraderie. She greeted death – and the union with her God – as a friend.

[Jenne M. is a Guest Blogger.  If you wish to contact her, please use the comments form below and I will forward your request to her. – Don Taylor]

A poem by a friend regarding her mother’s line

[Each of us who love genealogy have our own reasons for researching. I have been working with a young woman whose reasons for becoming involved with genealogy include really getting to know her ancestors and their stories. In knowing where she comes from, she can better know herself.  But also, by knowing her ancestors, they become the inspiration, the imbus, for creative work. Jenne is also an excellent poet. Her genealogical research inspired this poem of family tragedy. Next week I’ll post her background story, the story that inspired this work. I look forward to more of Jenne’s amazing work.  – Don Taylor]

My Mother’s Line

by Jenne M. (guest blogger)

Hell
is a pale house
on
Iron Ore Road.
The
fan belt hung on
the
hook, awaiting
him.
Can you hear it?
Rumbling,
sputtering
up
the pitted drive.
His
hard hand waiting
and
Ree’s run off again.
On
Iron Ore Road
chickens
wait in their
mansion.
And see Ree
with
her kerchief, her
shovel,
hip-deep in
their
shit. Her baby
day-old
and still she
shovels.
Can you hear?
Hell
is a pale house –
and
he tells the nun
At
night, I can smell
my
flesh, burnt, charring.”
He
tells his sister
I’ll
make them beat
each
other!” The words
a
wonder in him.
On
Iron Ore road
a
wonder in him –
to
see them, one pressed
against
the pale wall –
the
other, beating with
the
belt. Like this, see?
Harder.
Can you hear
the
wet sound of flesh?
The
smack of the word
on
Iron Ore Road.
Silent,
they shadow –
stevedores,
small hands
carry
his candy,
forbidden
a piece.
Carry
his majesty’s
burdens
from the car.
Chickens
and cars call
from
Iron Ore Road.
Deaf
children grunting
but
never a laugh
and
never a doll
but
the scrape of the
shovel,
the hiss of
the
belt through the air.
Hell
is a pale house
and
Ree has run off.
A
boy lies waiting –
a
thin girl, watching.
Can
you hear, can you?
Rumbling,
sputtering
up
the pitted drive.
His
boots on the ground.
He
draws to his height
on
Iron Ore Road.
Backlit
shotgun blast –
the
blood from his mouth –
the
waiting boy runs.
The
monolith falls.
Ree,
suddenly there,
screams
but not with fear.
Freedom
is new paint
on
Iron Ore Road,
and
Ree is back now,
the
waiting boy chained.
Laughter
echoes in
the
parlor. “I don’t
have
time to tell it”
she
chirps to the cop, then

turns
back to her brush

[Jenne M. is a Guest Blogger.  If you wish to contact her, please use the comments form below and I will forward your request to her. – Don Taylor]

McAllister Murder – Expect Arrest Soon – Jan 19, 1925

EXPECT ARREST IN MURDER CASE SOON

The county police continued to work on the McAllister murder case today. An arrest is expected soon.

Relatives Here.
Joseph McAllister, brother of the dead than, and H. Lane, a brother-in-law, are in Savannah from Pittsburgh. They attended Mr. McAllister’s funeral yesterday.

Mr. Mcallister said he did not that his brother had been murdered until he arrived here on Saturday afternoon. Messages sent him had simply stated his brother had been found dead In his rooms. Edward L. McAllister was found murdered with a hatchet on last Tuesday.

Heard from Him.
Mr. McAllister had been away from Pittsburgh about two and one-half years, his brother, and he had been hearing from him in Savannah since last summer. His letters indicated that everything was “lovely” in Savannah, he stated when asked if hls brother had ever indicated he had enemies here.

County Administrable Wade is looking after the estate of the late Mr. McAllister.

McAllister Murder – Who Owns This Hatchet – Jan 16, 1925

The Savannah Press – January 16, 1925

Who Owns This Hatchet With Which McAllister was Killed?

This is a picture of the hatchet with which Edward L. McAllister, who was discovered murdered in his home on Tuesday, was killed. The weapon, stained with blood, was found on a table within a few feet of the body In McAllister’s kitchen. It is one of the most interesting pieces of evidence in the case, the question of its ownership being important. Whether It belonged to the dead man is not definitely known, but the county police believe it was used by McAllister for cutting kindling wood in his kitchen.

The instrument is a sharp, narrow, thln-bladed hatchet. It was sunk into McAllister’s skull up to the hilt of the weapon three times. This type of hatchet is commonly known as a lather’s ax.

The blade of the weapon is about four inches long. It is narrow, thin and is composed of steel tempered for intensive sharpening. The hatchet of this kind is used by carpenters for the breaking of laths.

It has a cleverly made handle, but unmistakably hand-made and not machine-made. The machine-made handle is smoothly beveled, whereas there are imperfections in the handle of the hatchet found blood-spattered on the McAllister table. It was evidently made by a mechanic, carpenter or someone well versed in woodcraft.

The following was found on page 28 of the paper.

Work on M’Allister Murder Progressing

The county police today continued their investigation into the death of Edward L. McAllister, who was found on Tuesday murdered. It is understood the police are well satisfied with the progress of the case and an arrest is not improbable.

McAllister was MURDERED – January 15, 1925


The Savannah Press – January 15, 1925

M’Allister was MURDERED,
     says Coroner’s Jury

—–

Inquest was held today; Witnesses tell of Discovery

—-

Brother of dead man on way to Savannah

—-

Arrest Probable in M’Allister Case

It is understood that investigations of the county police into the McAllister murder are coming to a focus, and an arrest may be made before midnight. There is no official announcement of this, but it is gathered the police believe the evidence in their possession may lead to the issuance of a warrant. The county police, under the direction of Chief Chapman, have worked night and day on the case. tracing every clue to its ultimate conclusion.

After hearing all the testimony submitted to it, the jury in the coroner’s inquest, at Sipple Brothers’ held over the body of Edward L. McAllister at noon today, found the following verdict:

“We the jury find that Edward L McAllister came to his death from wounds inflicted with a sharp instrument. In the hands of an unknown party or parties. and we consider it murder, the wounds being on the top of his head.”
The members of the coroner’s jury were Frank W. Williams, foreman; Dave L. Christian, Robert Beytagh, C. P. Abrams, Joseph Alexander, and Pratt Wright.

Besides Dr. George H. Johnson, the coroner, who, as a physician and witness, gave his testimony, there – were five Witnesses heard by the jury.

First Witness
The first Witness was H. B. Brown, Bee road and Victory drive.

Mr. Brown said: “Monday, Mr. Smith, the man that worked with Mr. McAllister, asked me to go and see what was the matter with him, as he had not come to work.

“Mr.Smith told me Tuesday morning that be had looked through the window and saw the bed torn up, as if he (Mr. McAllister) had gotten up and gone out.

“He suggested that I go over and see what I could find out. I went over and looked through the bedroom window and saw the bed torn up.  I, with another man, Tom Carr, looked around and saw that his car was in the garage.

“I looked .through the kitchen window and saw Mr. McAllister’s feet. I then got a chair and looked down through the window and said: ‘Tom, look there, McAllister is dead.’

“I then called 88 and reported the case to the officers. The officers came and raised the window.

“I don’t remember whether I last saw Mr. McAllister last Thursday or Friday. I did not work on the same shift as Mr. McAllister. We worked at different hours.

“Mr. McAllister was a man who had very little company.

Was Well Liked.
The only time I went there was when his wife died. He was well liked and as good-hearted a man as ever saw In my life. He was a ‘lead man’ for a while and we worked together. It seems all the men thought the world and all of him. A negro woman worked for him a few days after his wife died. He was a man. that never did visit much. He had some good neighbors. He came around to see me once in a while, sometimes once a week.”

Mrs. H. B. Brown, the next witness, said: “My husband came in that morning and said to me, ‘I want you and me to take a walk over to the old place.  I asked why he wanted to go over. He said, ‘Mack hasn’t been to work in several days and we ought to go, and see about him.  We went over and looked around. We saw his chickens and his car in the garage. W e looked through the bedroom window and saw the clock had stopped, I saw his cap hanging on the back of a chair. My husband stepped over to the kitchen window and looked in.  Mr. Carr was there, and my husband said, ‘My God, Tom, the man is dead!’ One at a time, my husband, Mr. Carr and I looked in and saw him, with the upper part of his body leaning against the kitchen partition.

Saw Him Christmas Eve.

“The last time I saw Mr. McAllister was Christmas Eve. Mr. Carr saw us at Mr: McAllister’s house and came over and joined us.”

William T. Carr, 1415 East Thirty-eighth street, said: “The first I knew of it was when Mr. Smith and Mr. Anderson came out Monday afternoon and said they were looking for Mr. McAllister

“They said, ‘come on and go with us. I went with them to the corner of Ash and Thirty-ninth street.
We went up on the piazza, looked through the window and saw the bed. It looked, as if a man had
gotten up after having slept in it.

Monday Evening
“I saw his car in the garage. Mr. Smith went to the hack of the house and looked through the kitchen window. We couldn’t have seen Mr. McAllister at the point where we found him later.  It was about 6 o’clock and too dark to see very much in the kitchen. I went back to my house and lit my light. The thing kept me worried.

“Tuesday morning I was out in my yard when I saw Mr. and Mrs. Brown over at Mr. McAllister’s. I whistled and asked what they were looking for and told them Mr. Anderson and Mr. Smith were there Monday afternoon looking for Mr. McAllister.

Looked in Window.
“I went over and we went on,  the stoop.  Mr. Brown looked in the kitchen window and said: ‘he’s in there. ‘

He then got a chair and looked in again. Mrs. Brown looked in and said, ‘he is down on the door.’ I then looked in and said, ‘My *God: the man is dead.’ Mr. Brown wanted to go in the house but I said ‘let’s get an officer, don’t go in that house.  Mr. Brown then said ‘lets get a phone,’ and we went over 

to a house and waited, until Mr. Brown telephoned the barracks. I didn’t want to wait as I had left my house open. I was standing at 40th street when Lieutenant Hallford came. I directed him to McAllister’s house. It seems to me the gentleman with Lieutenant Hanford opened the door with a skeleton key. The last time I saw Mr. McAllister was Saturday night.

“On Tuesday morning I saw the hatchet, there was also a dish of rice on the table. I am not a married man.”

Sketch of Room

The witness showed the Jury a sketch or diagram showing the location of the dead body and the outline of the kitchen. “I looked through the southeast window,” The witness said.  “A’ man standing by the stove could have struck Mr. McAllister from that point.” 

When asked by the coroner if he could recognize the hatchet used by the murderer, he hesitated and said there were so many hatchets that he did not like to say. When shown the bloody weapon, however, he promptly identified it.

H. B. Brown, recalled, said in answer to questions of the coroner, that Foreman Carter at the Atlantic Coast Line did not ask him to look for Mr. McAllister. “It did not see Mr. Carter,” he said.

Shown the hatchet found on the table at the McAllister residence, Mr. Brown said it was the kind used sometimes, by carpenters—it was called a chop hatchet, he said.

Saw Him Monday. 
C. F. Smith, carpenter, 308 West State street, said he caught a car at Broughton and Habersham streets Monday morning. “When I got out to the canal, near Thirty-ninth street and Waters road, Mr. McAllister came along, going west toward town. He had on a khaki suit, raincoat and gloves. He had been passing along nearly every day and I knew him in that way.  He talked to Mr. Coleman usually when coming by every day.

Ask for Cigarette

R. L. Coleman, basement, 222 East Taylor street, said: “I saw Mr. McAllister, Monday morning. He was going west on Thirty-ninth street. He asked me for a cigarette.  He looked as well as usual. 
He said the street is too muddy, ‘I won’t come cross the street.’ I did not work that day. I stayed
around until akoue 8:30 and went home.”

The coroner showed the watch found on the dead man’s person and said it wasrunning at 1:30 P. M. Tuesday night. The watch ran until 8:45 Tuesday night. “I timed the watch and found it runs about 36 hours, he said. The coroner said he found the dead man with his head against the kitchen partition.  There were four wounds on his head. There was a lathing hatchet laying on the table. There was $1.50 in small change and a Waltham watch on his person. 

Sipple Brothers, morticians, received a telegram yesterday afternoon from Joseph McAllister a brother of the dead man, asking that the body he held until his arrival in Savannah, He is coming from Pittsburg.

Man Investigated 

The county police yesterday afternoon temporarily detained a man for the purpose of clearing up what was believed to be a clue, but the man was released when it was found that he was in no way connected  with the affair.

Important Fact.
That McAllister’s watch was running at the time when the murder occurred and that it continued to run until 9 o’clock on the night when the man was found murdered at his home is an important factor in determining the time of the murder.  The watch, when fully wound and allowed to run its full time, was found have stopped about 36 hours after it was wound. This experiment was performed by Dr. Johnson, the coroner, yesterday. McAllister must have wound his watch according to this reasoning about 9 o’clock Monday morning.

Another important find at the house was that the back door key I was wrung off in the lock.

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