My grandmother Edna, the hard-drinking, pipe-smoking and headstrong Irishwoman in the white dress above, always told me I was her favorite little boy, because she knew we were exactly alike. In the early 1900s she gave up her vaudeville singing & dancing career and got married in Ohio to one Frank Joyce, whose ancestors lived in a small village in the Maum Valley, to the west of Lough Mask in the northern part of County Galway, Ireland.
Edna was always drawn to outcasts, rogues and misfits. And liked to hear stories about her husband Frank’s great grandfather, Jack. During The Famine he was convicted of sheep stealing and subsequently transported to a penal colony in New South Wales, Australia. Jack eventually ended up in America, got a job on the railroad.
Edna may have left vaudeville, but she never gave up singing, dancing, smoking, and drinking. She did what she pleased. Always. Frank thought that once his wild wife gave birth to baby Jack, and then Betty, she'd settle down. Not a chance.
The picture below is of Edna and her daughter Betty—my mother!—at the Avalon Ballroom in Youngstown, having a good time. Frank is at home, with the dog, listening to the radio play-by-play of the Cleveland Indians game.
I enjoy being a direct descendant of an Irish sheep stealer and a vaudeville trooper, and a distant relation to the famous writer, James. Such a history provides me all the excuses I ever need for my own wild and outrageous behavior.