The Irish: He was crazy, but they were hilarious together.
A story about my great grandfather Jack Barrett. Narrated by his grandson David Spitznagel and his granddaughter Christy McCollom.
Scroll down to the bottom to play the audio clip while reading along.
[Christy McCollom] Grandpa wanted so bad to enlist because his brothers were. He couldn’t bear the thought that his brothers were going off to war and he wasn’t. He had to have Grandma’s permission, and so she signed some papers saying that she agreed that he could go in. He enlisted as a Seabee during World War II. He was the guy to get cigs from. He was in the black market out there. He acquired things. The skipper would come to him and say I need sheets. Grandpa and his friend would come up with sheets. Or jeeps. Or ships. And he had a monkey. Grandma never believed him, so twenty years later they went out to California to visit his best friend in the Navy. Grandma said to Grandpa, “You be quite, and I want him to tell all these stories.” He had the exact same stories Grandpa was telling - so they were true. That’s where he got his name - The Irish - in the Navy. The Seabees used to build things. He said on a couple occasions the Japanese snipers would shoot at them while they were building.
[Dave Spitznagel] He got in a lot of bar fights in the Navy. He was a little guy. He wasn’t very big. He was about 5’9”. He would make money by betting people at a bar that he could out drink them. He would drink a glass of olive oil. It would coat his stomach, and he would make money that way.
He was crazy. I’d go driving with him, and he was like a little kid half the time - a little shit disturber. He’d roll down the window at a stop light, and he’d hawk a loogie right on the hood of a car next to us and then speed off. I’m like, “That is cool grandpa!” I thought he was so cool because he did stuff like that. Then I thought about it, and I’m like, “What a jerk!”
[Christy McCollom] When Connie was born, Grandma and Grandpa came down to help me because Mom only came for a couple of days and Kyle was out of town all the time. I was a wreck. “How am I going to take care of two kids?” So they came down, and one day Grandpa is in the backyard with KJ. I go back there and they are gone. I look through the entire house and can’t find them. I am that OCD, compulsive, obsessive mom. My baby boy is gone, and I can’t find my Grandpa. I said to Grandma, “Where’s Grandpa and where’s KJ?” And she said, “You can’t find them? He probably took him to McDonald’s.” I said, “Grandma, the carseat is still here! He took him without a carseat!”
So KJ comes back. He’s 28 months old when Connie is born. And I said, “Grandpa where were you?!” He said, “I took him to McDonald’s.” “Without a carseat?!” “Oh ya, without a carseat. KJ, show your mom what I taught you how to do.” [KJ hawks a loogie as a 28-month-old]
[Dave Spitznagel] He told me a story. This was when he was older. He was probably in his 60s by this time. Some long-haired hippie cut him off and Grandpa got all upset. Grandpa was all about respect, and if you didn’t he’d take off after ya. Grandpa was driving slow, and this guy cut him off and flips Grandpa off. Grandpa pulls up behind him at the next stoplight. Grandpa gets out of his car, goes over, grabs the guy by the hair and starts pounding him through the window. Boom, boom, boom. And the guy is going, “What the hell?” And this is when he is 60-something years old. And this guy is probably 20-something, and Grandpa is beating the crap out of him. The cops pull up, and they pull Grandpa off the guy. All the cops know Grandpa because he’s like Senator Barrett. Even though he is retired, everybody always knew Grandpa. All the cops knew him. They loved him. He was the jury commissioner when he was 62, but they still called him senator. There were two or three cops there at the time. This guy is going, “I want that guy arrested!” And the cops are just like, “Jack, go get in your car and drive away right now.” So he went and got in his car and drove away. And the guy is going, “What did you let him go for?” “Don’t worry about it.” He just beat the pulp out of the guy. He’s bleeding.
[Tommy Spitznagel] Was he really strict with you guys? If you guys did something wrong would he hit you at all?
[David Spitznagel] No. He was the sweetest man. The best grandpa anybody could ever have. He was wonderful. Affectionate.
[Christy McCollom] He taught us how to steal cookies out of the cookie jar. Then he got that cow thing. When you opened it, it moo’ed and we got caught.
[David Spitznagel] And you’d always hear Grandma, “Goddamnit, Jack!” They were hilarious together.