A Lily in a Big Pond: 1919

Caroline Crank, guest writer

Nineteen nineteen, a story about a year in the life of Lillian Rose Hudson. A year full of surprising events for me and the entire population. Each and every one of the 279 million citizens were introduced to something new. We encountered racial issues, society issues, and disaster issues. For myself, I faced new relationships, a personal revolution, and the start of my life in this big world. Each month was filled with new adventures, all part of the fulfillment of my being. First, let me make you aware of my history so you can join me while I tell you about a year in my life.

            I was born in January of 1898. My exact birthday is unknown because I was left in a grocery store at the age of 9 months. Fortunately for me, a Catholic man was determined to help me. After notices were put out that I was found and no one cared, he delivered me to the Angel Guardian Orphanage (a German Catholic Organization) and made a generous donation for their hospitality in taking me in. I am forever thankful to him for my life and all that I am. He would come back occasionally and visit me. Although my childhood was not good, I was grateful just to be alive and to have nourishment. Over the years, the orphanage provided for me and made most of my decisions. However, around the age of 16, I decided I needed to create a plan for my life beyond the orphanage. I chose to join the army as a cook. Because I was so determined, I made it into the war effort of 1814. I was underage and so were more than 250,000 people in the war. I was actually skilled in the kitchen because I learned all about it in the orphanage. From the years 1814-1818, I would be involved in the Civil War.

            During those four years with the army, I met many new people and heard even more stories. I became exposed to more of the real world and its problems. One afternoon, I had just finished cleaning up the kitchen when a young man, about age 18, came into the cafeteria. He asked me if there was any food left because he had missed lunch due to his other responsibilities. I felt compelled to assist him so I quickly fixed him something to eat. I sat with him because I too had not eaten yet. Immediately, Henry and I developed a friendship. Each day, we would routinely talk to each other. I recall one day he said to me, “You are the most beautiful Lily in the pond.” Those four years of talking to him were the best ones I had ever had, and ironically during the worst time in the world. At that time, I realized joining the war was the best decision I had made so far.

            In 1818, the war finally ended. Me and Henry, my fiancé, moved back to Chicago. It was time for us to figure our lives out because we were now ages 20 and 22. We got married in the city hall, just the 2 of us, because that is all we had. However, neither of us cared because we were so much in love and we knew as long as we had each other we would survive. That December, we began renting our first apartment together as newlyweds. We both were able to adjust well back to life, after the war. I think it was because we had each other. Henry quickly got a job as a traveling salesman selling modern products to ambitious people. His job was enough for us to be stable and comfortable. Financially, I did not have to work so I took life by storm. Young and in love, I knew 1919 would be a perfect year, little did I know the future.

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            Now that you are up to speed, I will tell my story. In January of the new year, the first disaster happened. On January 15, a holding tank of 2.3 million gallons of molasses flooded the city of Boston. The wave of molasses hurt and destroyed the city. I heard about this in the papers and by word of mouth. Suddenly, since I had so much free time, I decided to volunteer my time to The Great Molasses Flood. I took a train ride up north and took care of the people effected. On that trip, I heard a lady next to me say, “Can you believe that congress is ratifying the 18th Amendment?” That was the first I had ever heard of the prohibition of the sale and consumption of alcohol. Personally, I totally supported this because the amount of mistakes due to alcohol were outrageous and drastic for many consumers. Since my life was so good, I did not dare reach for something that could mess it all up. However, many Americans were outraged with this and that resulted in its failure.

            During February through May, after I returned from my trip to Boston, I decided to find out who my parents were. It took me almost three rigorous months to successfully find any news of my parents. It turns out they had both lived in Chicago and both attended the same school. My mother had just years before died in a gang shootout that she was involved in. My mom had not been any part of my life and neither would she be. Learning that I had come from a selfish young woman who partook in sinful ways took a toll on myself. After a few counseling sessions with my Catholic priest, I learned to not let my past define me and to rise above my anger towards her. After this debacle, I continued the search for my dad. He however was alive and residing in Chicago. With more information about him, I was eager to talk to him. I discovered his name was Eddie Cicotte and he played baseball for the Chicago White Sox. He had made a career of baseball and The Sporting News said, “He throws with effect practically every kind of ball known to pitching science.” It puzzled me that if his life was together, why would he abandon me? Did he do it selfishly like my mom or for fame? In the late days of April, I was able to meet with him. To his astonishment, he had no idea who I was or even that I existed. I explained my past and all I had recovered. He then became aware that my mother must not have told him that she was pregnant. To my surprise, he wanted to get to know me and do what he could to establish a relationship with me. Over the next several weeks, we had some time to connect.

            In early June, the 19th Amendment was passed by Congress that women could vote. I personally did not care if we could vote or not. I mean, in my family the men did all the work and I was fine with that. I was young and just trying to enjoy life because I had done my part already in the war. However, all these new amendments just added stress to the society. Our nation was already struggling with the scare of the rise of communism, anarchism, and radical leftism. This was all over my head, but my husband never failed to try and explain it to me. Caught up in what I thought was really important, I dismissed most all political news. In later June, the Treaty of Versailles was signed and World War 1 was officially over. That was good news to every citizen’s ears.     

            In more intense matters, July got a little more hectic. First, The Wingfoot Express crashed into a bank in Illinois. 11 people were killed in this tragedy and many more were injured. The bank burned and the city witnessed it. I sent my prayers with the families and did what I could to raise money for those who lost loved ones. Immediately after, Janet Wilkinson, a child, was murdered; and soon after, the murderer came forward. Shortly after that incident, a swimmer was also murdered. In the next week, the Chicago Race Riots started. White and black gangs began madly fighting. More than 1,000 families were effected from the racial tension and displaced. This month was full of heart-break for our nation as a whole.

            In September, another natural disaster effected America. The Florida Keys Hurricane lasted for 5 days. It was said to be a category 4 hurricane and devastated the Atlantic Coast. Few people heeded the warnings and the states were ill-prepared. This was the second largest hurricane America had ever experienced. Around 1,000 people and 3 states were effected. I volunteered to help with this disaster and took a train down south. I stayed there for about 2 weeks with a team of people. This reminded me of all I had to be thankful for because I had lately become distracted with the world. Since my life has been strongly influenced and changed by a compassionate stranger, I made it a goal to be one whenever I could.

            I had been hoping the year would only become easier because so much tragedy had already happened, but the world let me down again. In October, the only family I had known had disappointed me. The Black Sox Scandal took over my life and consumed me. My dad, who was the pitcher for the White Sox was revealed as a criminal. In the world series, the Cincinnati Reds beat the Chicago White Sox in a doubtful win. It turned out, gamblers had payed some White Sox players to lose the games on purpose. Eight people, including my dad, were trialed for this felony. They were forbid to play baseball ever again. It was complete astonishment for the nation because never had we imagined the World Series being rigged. Many players of the team played badly, which was very unlikely of them. They lost their first game of nine games, and then continually kept losing. Sources said that they got about 100,000 dollars for throwing their games. This gave baseball a bad name, as well as my dad. This man I had known for only half a year had already influenced me so much. Finding out that he was a felon and that his future was to be determined in a series of courts depressed me. I had learned to forgive him for never caring for me and to forget my anger. Now, he knew about me, and still chose money and greed over me. I already thought I was worthless as a kid because I was unwanted and I had worked so hard with myself and God to become the good person I was. After months of processing the scandal and my life, I realized I would not be any happier holding a grudge. With serious thought and time, I forgave my dad and I was still thankful to have even found him. At this time of the year, I really learned to appreciate those around me.

            Closer to the end of the year, the effects of the Red Scare influenced me more. Some of my friends I had made in the year were being deported, some were being laid off of their jobs, and others were being treated unfairly. I seriously developed a care for my country. Even though the year of 1919 took me for a loop, I would have to say it was one of most memorable and life-changing years. I began to focus on the important matters and not waste time on the least important, selfish matters. This year was not what I was expecting, but my story has finally come to an end.

Works Cited

Andrews, Evan. “The Great Molasses Flood of 1919.” History.com, A&E Television Networks,                            13 Jan. 2017, Web. 5 Jan. 2017.

Courts. “The Red Scare of 1919-1920.” Court System, 6 Dec. 2013, www.mass.gov Web. 5 Jan.                            2017.

“The Black Sox Baseball Scandal, 95 Years Ago.” history.com. n.d. Web. 5 Jan. 2017.


Legends of America. “1919 – United States Year in Review.” www.legendsofamerica.com n.d.                                Web. 5 Jan. 2017.

Whalan, Mark. American Culture in the 1910s. Edinburgh University Press, 2012. Print.