My Uncle Benny: Tough Fighter, Bigger Eater

My grandfather had four brothers, of which he was the youngest. The brother who is the center of most family tales is not the oldest; but is definitely the most feared. His name was Blaze…or Benny for short.

People in the family love to tell “Uncle Benny” stories. Like the time he was out of town to Chicago and forgot to bring his razor, so he went a few days without shaving. He decided to take a walk at nighttime, and (Chicago being the center of crime that it was – we’re talking the times of Al Capone), the cops arrested him for “looking suspicious”. That’s my Uncle Benny.

Though I’ve never met the man, (he died before I was even born), I idolize him. He never backed down from anyone, and he always protected the family. One time in particular, my grandfather (who was a pretty lanky kid) was being picked on and stood up for himself. The bully just laughed at him, but, a few moments later, turned pale-white and then backed off. My grandfather felt a great sense of accomplishment, but then he turned to see his brother Benny in the bushes, shaking his fists at the bully.

Another time, Benny was walking down the street, across from some bars. Someone from one of the bars yelled “Dago”, and Benny immediately crossed the street and entered the bar. Moments later, the guy who yelled the slur was thrown out of the door, followed by Benny.

If it was one thing Benny was known for (besides being big and tough), it was eating. His tales of ingestion are legendary. It is said that he would sit down at the table and prepare his plate while everyone chatted and eat without saying a word. Apparently he wouldn’t talk to anyone, because that way he could eat more.

My favorite story is one that involves his incredible appetite. During depression times, the oldest of the brothers, Sam, took up a job as a baker. Practicing for his job, Sam baked his first two apple pies (ever). Proud of himself, he told his brothers to not-even-think-about touching the pies. He left them on the windowsill to cool.

Now, as my grandfather emphasizes; these were depression times- pies were an extreme delicacy.

Wouldn’t you know it? Uncle Benny ate them both. And then he disappeared for three days. Now Sam wasn’t bigger or tougher than him…but he was still his older brother. Oh, and I think I should mention that he sat by the front door to the house for those three days, wearing brass knuckles. Nobody knows for sure where Benny went (it’s believed he slept in a friend’s basement), but it’s hilarious to think he ate both pies due to hunger and spite, and then beat feet.