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For this McCarthy family, the American dream came true . . . eventually
Patrick McCarthy of Solvay, and his brothers — John, James and Thomas — attracted a lot of negative attention in the first half of the 20th century for the way they built and maintained apartments and mult-family homes.

According to a 1941 Syracuse Herald-Journal obituary for James McCarthy, the four brothers— plus sibling Michael, who settled in Yonkers — were born in Ireland, sons of Mr. and Mrs. Jerome D. McCarthy of County Cork. I have a feeling other relatives — cousins, perhaps — also emigrated to the United States, but from what I have discovered so far, the five brothers were the only children of Jerome McCarthy who crossed the ocean.

When I read of the business practices of the McCarthys as builders and landlords, I couldn't help but think of the infamous travelers, those Irish gypsies whose favorite trick — at least when they visited our neighborhood in the 1940s — was to offer to pave your driveway. I understand it was a common ploy, the quoted cost low enough to tempt even suspicious minds. Trouble was, one heavy rain was all it took to wash away most of their work.

THE McCARTHYS had nothing else in common with the travelers. The brothers obviously wanted better lives for their families. Just look at Patrick, the McCarthy brother who most frustrated Solvay and Syracuse officials who tried so hard to demolish the hazardous eyesores that dotted Milton Avenue and the west side of the city.

Patrick McCarthy had three children — Helen, who became a lawyer; Marguerite, who became a highly respected doctor who was president of the Women's Medical Society of New York State and assistant professor of clinical medicine at Syracuse University; and son Dennis, who, unfortunately, started off in the wrong direction, perhaps because of the times. He came of age during Prohibition and apparently delivered and dispensed forbidden brew. At least, police thought Dennis McCarthy was involved.

Later Dennis McCarthy opened a used car lot on West Genesee Street in Syracuse. His two sons, Patrick and Dennis, would expand it, then launch their own new car dealership in Oneida, New York.

But in the 1920s, Dennis McCarthy of Solvay was an adult Dennis the Menace. Confusing matters was the fact there were two young men — first cousins — who had the same name and, as far as I know, lived at the same address for awhile during their early childhood. Dennis M. McCarthy was the son of Patrick and was four years older than Dennis O. McCarthy, son of John D. McCarthy. (Middle initials in newspaper accounts are seldom consistent; the ones I'm using for the two Dennis McCarthys come from the most recent articles about them.)

THE YEAR 1926 was especially rough for Dennis McCarthy, as the following stories demonstrate, though sometimes I can't be sure which Dennis McCarthy is which. That year Dennis M. McCarthy was 23, his cousin was 19. My guide in identifying the correct Dennis is the age and address given in each newspaper story. When both details are absent, as is the case with the first item below, the culprit could be either cousin.

 

Syracuse Journal, September 9, 1926
Dennis McCarthy of Solvay, arrested several days ago on a charge of burglary, third degree, for entering a West End garage, was released Wednesday after the case had been dismissed in Court of Special Sessions.

 

Next, a very strange story, though perhaps it didn't seem so strange at the time, which would be an indication of how different life was in the 1926. However, I've got to believe that even then, the sight of a man on horseback riding along Milton Avenue in the darkness was unusual.

 

Syracuse Journal, October 2, 1926
Hurled over his horse’s head when the animal was killed by an automobile in Milton Avenue, near Avery Avenue, early Friday evening, Dennis McCarthy, 23, of 213 Lamont Avenue, Solvay, who was riding the horse, fell against the front part of the sedan and landed in the street.

McCarthy is in Syracuse Memorial Hospital. Internal injuries are feared as the man landed heavily on his abdomen.

Detective Handwright and Patrolman Johnson, called to investigate, had difficulty around the scene. The automobile driven by Michael McMannon, 229 Worth Avenue, Solvay, struck the animal head-on.

McMannon told police he did not see the animal or rider until the horse appeared in front of his car. McCarthy claims he was on the right side of the street, and that McMannon’s machine struck him as McMannon turned out to pass another car.

The horse became frightened and reared, McCarthy was thrown forward as it dropped dead.

Despite the fact that McCarthy tried to break the fall with his hands, his abdomen struck against the rim of the top of the car above the windshield. He dropped to the pavement in a semi-conscious condition.

Physicians at the hospital said McCarthy suffered from shock, a cut right hand and wrist and possible internal injuries. His condition is regarded as serious.

Police said that the dark street near Avery Avenue was largely responsible for the accident.

 

McCarthy apparently made a fast recovery, but soon ran into another problem. Granted, the police and/or the newspaper may have confused the two Dennis McCarthys — notice the address is slightly different this time — but I believe the McCarthy family owned at least three adjacent properties on Lamont Avenue, one or more of which included apartments for rent. (Indeed, 213 Lamont Avenue at one time was the home of a local celebrity.)

 

Syracuse Journal, October 11, 1926
Charged with being the driver who fled a booze-laden truck September 2 after customs officers had chased him for several miles, near Mapleview, and then riddled his gasoline tank with bullets, Dennis McCarthy, 23, of 211 Lamont Avenue, Solvay, was taken into custody here Monday.

McCarthy was arrested on a “John Doe” warrant by Customs Officer William E. Allen and Detective John Corcoran who found him in a downtown street. He was locked up at headquarters on an open charge.

Allen told police here he followed the booze car for several miles after becoming suspicious of the machine as it passed him near Mapleview. He claimed that in the chase his car was forced into the ditch twice.

The customs officers finally resorted to their revolvers, firing at the gasoline tank and forcing the other machine to stop.

The driver escaped, but John Meyers, 410 Graves Street, was arrested on a charge of violating the Volstead Act. Authorities claim to have found $3,000 worth of Canadian ale in the car.

 

Syracuse Journal, October 13, 1926
Dennis McCarthy, Solvay, will be given a hearing October 29 before Lewis C. Ryan, United States commissioner, on a charge of rum running. McCarthy was arrested Monday on a “John Doe” warrant issued by Judge C. M. Bulger, Oswego, after William E. Allen, customs agent working on the border patrol, testified McCarthy was the driver of a truck which forced Allen’s machine into a ditch near Mapleview September 2 after a pistol battle.

McCarthy before Commissioner Ryan Tuesday said he could prove he was not the driver of the truck nor did he have anything to do with the machine which was found abandoned containing 25 bags of Canadian ale.

 

(According to what I found online, a bag of Canadian ale contained 24 bottles' worth of beverage.)

The story fades away at that point. My guess is either the charge was dropped or that McCarthy was found not guilty. This was often the case with violations of the Volstead Act, a law that was unpopular from the get-go not only with most people, but police departments, particularly in urban areas.

Dennis McCarthy of 213 Lamont Avenue was back in the news on January 4, 1932. He was either extremely unlucky, extremely lucky, or a weird combination of both. First he gets thrown from a horse ... and now this:

 

Syracuse Journal, January 4, 1932
His skull fractured when he plunged headlong from a truck to the pavement at Walton and South Franklin Streets Monday noon, Dennis McCarthy, 213 Lamont Avenue, Solvay, was critically injured.

Police who investigated the mishap learned that McCarthy had been standing on the running board of the truck as it turned from Walton into South Franklin Street, according to their reports. As the machine swerved around the turn, it threw McCarthy off balance and he was flung heavily to the pavement.

 

ONE YEAR LATER both Dennis McCarthys of Solvay were back in the news. Prohibition was on its last legs, but on January 4, 1933, Syracuse Police Chief Martin L. Cadin felt it necessary to declare war on beer runners and the vandalism of rival gangs who supplied various speakeasies. (It seemed from reading Chief Cadin's declaration of war that he was more concerned with the damage caused at several speakeasies than he was the speakeasies themselves.)

As mentioned elsewhere on this website, they don't make nicknames like they used to. Main target in Chief Cadin's crusade was Merrick Emery, also known as "Bullet Proof Kelly," the first man arrested in connection with the beer war. He was charged with attempting to start a brawl at a South Clinton Street speakeasy,

Eight others were picked up on unspecified charges. Among them were Dennis McCarthy, 25, and Francis McCarthy, 23, brothers, of 102 Caroline Avenue, Solvay. (According to the U. S. Census, the brother who was a few years younger than Dennis O. McCarthy was named John F. McCarthy. Perhaps the F. stood for Francis.)

Again, as with most of the Prohibition-related arrests, this one amounted to nothing.

MEANWHILE, back at the South Clinton Street speakeasy, a bartender was arrested on two counts of violating the Volstead Act. His attorney was Helen McCarthy Rivette. The bartender then claimed he had been hit in the head with a blackjack by an acting Syracuse detective. This case apparently provided some courtroom comedy before it evaporated, but along the way it was mentioned by the prosecutor that the speakeasy in question was owned by Mrs. Rivette's brother, Dennis McCarthy.

In the meantime, Dennis M. McCarthy also was doing some business with automobiles:

 

Syracuse Sunday American, March 5, 1933
An expensive sedan seized September 13 near Manlius was sold at auction yesterday morning by Deputy United States Marshal Adam C. Listman. Dennis McCarthy of Solvay was the high bidder, paying $51 for the car. Original cost of the machine was more than $3,000.

 

In July, 1933, the younger Dennis McCarthy of 102 Caroline Avenue, was involved in a two-car crash which, according to the Syracuse Journal report, injured four children and their mother, who were passengers in the other car.

Because of what happened seven months later, I can't help but think that McCarthy must have been injured, too. On February 8, 1934, in Syracuse's University Hospital, Dennis O. McCarthy, 26, died. The newspaper did not provide details or any explanation why a man so young was dead.

He was survived by his father, John D. McCarthy; three sisters, Mrs. Helen (Francis) Tone, Miss Mary E. McCarthy and Miss Virginia McCarthy; two brothers, John F. and Patrick McCarthy, and Dennis McCarthy's fiance, Agnes Foley.

Five months later Patrick McCarthy, 17, of 102 Caroline Avenue, was involved in an automobile accident on the Onondaga Lake Parkway. His jaw was fractured and he was taken to St. Joseph Hospital. Riding with him was a friend, John Armani, also of Lamont Avenue

Although McCarthy's car crashed into the one ahead of it, the newspaper account points the finger of blame at the driver of the other car, who told police he stopped his vehicle when something blew out of the window of his car. He didn't pull off the road to stop; he stopped on the highway, and was exiting his car when it was hit.

In December, 1937, John D. McCarthy became the first of the notorious McCarthy brothers to pass away. He was about 72 years of age, marrying relatively late in life to a woman named Delia, who was 19 years his junior. She died in 1920 at the age of 36 after giving him six children.

DENNIS M. McCARTHY was back in the news on October 11, 1943. He had a used car lot and one of his automobiles was stolen by a young Syracuse man who had just led police in several states on a merry chase that sounded like something from a Coen brothers movie:

 

Syracuse Herald-Journal, October 11, 1943
Arthur Sloane, 19, of 117 Gordon Avenue, held by Syracuse police on warrants charging grand larceny, second degree, and petty larceny, has had a busy time since leaving Fort Bliss, Texas, where he was given a medical discharge from the Army, according to police reports.

He left a bus at Little Rock, Arkansas, and there stole a car which he drove to Syracuse, according to police. Here he put on plates which belonged to a car which he owned before entering the service and which he had sold.

Later, having trouble with the stolen car, he placed it in a garage and took another car from a used car lot at 437 West Genesee Street operated by Dennis McCarthy. The police say he found dealers’ plates under the seat which he used interchangeably with his own.

Patrick McCarthy, 17, son of Dennis McCarthy, recognized this car in Erie Boulevard, notified his father, who stopped Sloane and called police.

Police investigation showed Sloane sold two stolen tires to Barko Dumanian, who operates a riding stable at McDonald and Velasko Roads. Later he stole the tires back and resold them to Bernard Ritter of 507 Rowland Street. He then stole the tires from Ritter and gave them back to Dumanian. He made no profit on the last deal, police say.

Police also discovered, they say, that Sloane broke into Ritter’s home and said they found in Sloane’s possession an expensive camera, top coat and other articles taken from the Ritter home.

Police discovered Sloane had obtained the two stolen tires by jacking up a car owned by Joseph Honacki of 118-1/2 Magnolia Street, employed at the Sanderson Steel Company plant. Sloane removed both tires and wheels. The car was in the parking lot at the plant.

 

Patrick McCarthy, son of Dennis, became quite a story. He grew up in Solvay, but left the village many years ago and lives in Oneida, New York. In 2011 he was inducted into the William Nottingham High School Alumni Wall of Fame. It was unusual, to say the least, for a boy who lived in Solvay, which he did at the time, to attend Nottingham High School, located on the east side of Syracuse. The usual destination for Solvay boys who didn't attend the village high school was either Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) or another area Catholic school or a distant prep school . . . or military academy.

McCarthy explained what happened when he was interviewed two years ago by R. Patrick Corbett of the Syracuse Post-Standard:

"In 1941, I was supposed to go to CBA," he said. So Dennis McCarthy drove his son to the school for a look-see, but they never got there.

"My father stopped the car in Clinton Square," Patrick McCarthy recalled. "Then he lit up a cigar and said, 'You're going to Nottingham. It's an elite school and the graduates have become very successful. Maybe some of that will rub off on you.' "

Patrick's younger brother, Dennis M. McCarthy II, did attend CBA, and the brothers, both fine athletes, played against each other in football at least once.

PATRICK McCARTHY went on to graduate from Syrcause University and then he and Dennis ran the family's used car dealership in Syracuse before opening McCarthy Chevrolet in Oneida in 1966. Patrick's wife is the former Patricia Donegan, a speed skater in her youth and a member of the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame. She and her husband remain active and between them they have more than 150 medals from the Senior Games, mostly for doubles tennis and badminton events.

Dennis M. McCarthy II died in 2011 at the age of 82. He was inducted into the CBA Lasallian Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002. He also attended Manlius Military Academy and Boston College and served in the U S. Army in the 1950s.

Patrick and Dennis McCarthy had a sister, Genevieve, who died in 2007. She was the widow of Arthur Corbett, who passed away in 1985. Like her brothers, she went to high school in Syracuse, at Central High, though I believe her parents were still living in Solvay at the time.

Their mother, Sophie, died in 1985, but I can't say for certain when the curtain came down on Dennis M. McCarthy, who was like a cat with nine lives, what with those near-fatal accidents back in the 1920s.

Given the confusion between Dennis and his cousin Dennis in those newspaper articles during the '20s and '30s, I was not surprised to find two listings for Dennis McCarthy of Onondaga County born December 3, 1902. Each had a different Social Security number and a different date of death — one in June, 1978, the other in August, 1980. Yet I suspect the two men were one and the same. Well, that's Dennis McCarthy for you.

Dennis McCarthy's sister, Helen, was the second wife of George F. Rivette, who at the time was a widower with a son, also named George. George and Helen Rivette had three more children, Francis, Gerard and Helen.

Francis P. Rivette and his sister Helen became lawyers. In 1951 Francis Rivette married Barbara F. Smith of Catskill, New York. Both were graduates of Syracuse University. She worked for the Watertown Daily Times and the Utica Observer Dispatch before moving to New York City where she was a member of the radio staff of the Voice of America. When she became Mrs. Rivette she moved to Solvay. Later she worked for weekly newspapers in Central New York and for awhile was executive editor of the Skaneateles Press and Marcellus Observer.

She moved to Manlius and is the historian of the town, but maintains an interest in Solvay, writing two books about the history of my favorite village. Barbara S. Rivette also is the mother of Francis R. Rivette, who married Solvay native Judith A. LaManna, a lawyer who through her company, Oh, How Upstate Enterprises, published three books of Solvay stories and photos.

 
For more on Solvay way back when, check ou
the Solvay-Geddes Historical Society
 
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