The McKinnon children, Helen Kathleen (1909-1990), Herbert James (1913-1996) and my father, Neil John (1910-2000) Not pictured, William Sylvester(1913-1996)
Revere, Massachusett 1913
On the stoop of their grandmother’s home,
Katherine O’Brien nee Lanigan
Doesn’t the above picture remind you of the Little Rascals TV series? Not the full colored movie that was released in 1994 but the black and white TV series that was started in 1955 and had morphed out of the short ‘Our Gang’ comedies from the 1920’s. I grew up with those rascals and all their escapades. If you haven’t seen this series, you must. It takes one back to a time that was innocent and fun for children, when kids could run the streets with their friends, be relatively safe instead of consumed by technology. It was a time when adventurous and sometimes naughty children were call ‘rascals’.
Here are some of the Rascals’ characters, Alfafa, Buckwheat, Darla and Spanky (courtesy of Photo Bucket). See the resemblance with the McKinnons? William (Bill) looks like Alfafa, Helen (Nell) looks like Darla and my father Neil looks just like Spanky. The other character pictured above is Buckwheat whose name would surely be politically incorrect today but was a fan favorite and introduced many young viewers to another ethnic group that they were probably separated from in their daily lives.
Unfortunately for the McKinnon rascals, their young lives would be met with many challenges as they grew up in a household with an alcoholic father, William Peter McKinnon ((1884-1951) and a fiery-tempered, Irish-descent mother, Mary Ellen O’Brien (1889-1960). My father shared the story of the numerous arguments between his parents which ended in dishes that flew across the room and smashed against the walls. This always was the result of his inebriated father returning home after a night out spending what little money he had made. William Peter McKinnon finally left his home for good in 1918 when my father was only 8 and he never saw him again. The youngest three children, Helen, Neil and Bert eventually ended up in a Home for the children of single parents and the oldest, Bill stayed with grandma Kate O’Brien since he was 15 and too old for the home. Their mother couldn’t afford to support them and couldn’t find their father but one might ask where their mother ended up. Well that is a story for another time. Yet, through all the McKinnon Children’s challenges, as you can see, the Little Rascals turned out all right and for the most part, happy and somewhat successful in each of their own ways.
L-R: Herbert James, Neil John, Helen Kathleen, William Sylvester 1937