A Normal Childhood

"You’re sent from heaven and I know your worth,

For you made a heaven for me right here on earth."

-- Sonny Boy


Charles Dion O’Banion was born on July 8, 1892 in a Roman Catholic section of Aurora, Illinois, about 30 miles west of Chicago. The street on which he was born by lantern light and the family into which he was born prenoticed no life of crime. His father, Charles, was a hard-working part-time plasterer, part-time barber who toiled late hours without complaint to keep the family fed. While, according to Robert J. Schoenberg’s Mr. Capone, Charles and his wife Emma were not devoutly religious, their strict and law-abiding attitude led them to teach their two boys, Floyd and Dion, the Ten Commandments at a young age; the same for their third child, Ruth, who would arrive in 1910.

Seeking better job opportunities, the family moved to the town of Maroa in Southern Illinois when Deanie (as he became known) was four years old. Throughout his life, Deanie remembered this tree-lined little hamlet with fondness and, after he had acquired his wealth, would always give money to or find jobs for any of its inhabitants who happened upon ill fortune. Writes Schoenberg, "In his prosperity, he urged a local banker to let him know whenever folks from the village were in a Chicago hospital. He wanted to send daily flowers. He would have picked up the bill if anyone asked."

His days there were happy; his pals called him "Brinnigan," probably because it sounded like O’Banion. He wasn’t a teacher’s pet nor was he the worst in his class. Practical jokes were Deanie’s greatest joy and he pulled them with regularity on his friends, sometimes angering those who didn’t understand his sometimes off-sided brand of humor. Simply, he loved to have fun. At times, his quests surpassed common sense, as when he broke an arm proving he could walk on the tallest pair of stilts. And that is probably the worst thing to say about the early O’Banion years.

Emma died when Deanie turned six. Over the next few years, life for the boy passed uneventfully. His father, however, seemed unable to continue living in a house with too many memories. Heartbroken, Charles relocated again in 1901, this time opting to ply his various trades in a big city. Floyd O’Banion, much older than his siblings, had joined the Navy, but Deanie and little Ruth followed their father to Chicago.

1. Leprechaun

2. A Normal Childhood

3. Lads of Kilgubbin

4. Volstead's Law

5. Them Damn Sicilians

6. The Flower Shop

7. Crazy Deanie

8. Cicero

9. An Impractical Joke

10. 'Night, Swell Fellow

11. Hello, Mt. Carmel

12. Bibliography

13. The Author
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