Tag Archives: roadtrip

When Carl Met Mary

April 1959

     Mary Agnes Lydon was a registered nurse living in Miami and working at Cedars of Lebanon hospital. She had come from New York that same year to escape the cold winter. She worked the swing shift. Mary preferred this shift so she could go to the beach with her friends before duty, as well as hang out in the clubs and dance after her shift. This was a far cry from Beach 115th street in Far Rockaway, where Mary grew up. It was comically referred to as ‘The Irish Riviera’ by the locals. Mary had shared a one-room bungalow with her two sisters three brothers and her mother and father.

     Around the same time in 1959, Carl Marcus had just arrived in Miami. He had just been released from Elmira State Prison in February 1959. Carl came up hard in the Bronx. He was raised in a sixth-floor walk-up with his 2 brothers and 3 sisters. At 16 he was convicted. Now he had completed a 6-year bid for a stack of charges including theft, breaking and entering and grand larceny. while he was in prison Carl Had learned from another inmate that you could open vending machines with a simple pair of vice grips. Upon his release, Carl and his friend Hal hit the road. Hal had just done a three-year bid for passing bad money, specifically washers and slugs rolled as coins, real coins on the end of each roll, with slugs and washers throughout the rest of the roll.

     Off they went roaring down the eastern seaboard Route 95 south in a 1959 black Cadillac convertible, hot-wired and stolen by Hal Blake from a Jack Bernstein’s Used Car Autorama (a car dealership in Flushing, Queens). They’d hit rest stops, laundromats, gas stations, hotels, automats (fast food restaurants where simple foods and drinks are served by vending machines), anywhere and everywhere that coin operated machines existed. Carl went into these establishments armed with Vice Grips while Hal stood guard. Carl would pry open the machines with the tools just enough to access the container that housed the coins and he’d empty them quickly and methodically into a pillowcase which then went into a briefcase.

Nickles, dimes, and quarters, bags and bags of coins. In the wee hours, they’d roll the coins in the car, Hal, dosing each roll with the proper amount of slugs and washers. Minutes after the banks opened Hal and Carl would separately hit as many banks and grocery stores as possible trading the coins for cash. They’d quickly move on to the next town repeating the process over and over again. Carl Marcus told me that they cleared about $17,000. Give or take a couple of hundred in loose change.

     In April 1959 mary and her friends were hanging out at the Boom-Boom room in the Fontainebleau hotel. A couple of different guys were hitting on Mary. She was quite the looker, black Irish, brown eyes, long brown hair and dressed impeccably. Carl barreled his way through the crowd. At six feet four inches, sporting a shark skin suit, a gold-tone watch, and alligator shoes. He approached her and gave his spiel said he was looking at real estate ventures in south beach, where he was from, and what his intentions were. They made a date for dinner the dinner.

     The following night Carl picked Mary up and they swapped New York stories, Carl telling Mary how the Irish Catholic kids called him Kike and Christ killer and beat him up on the beaches of Rockaway. He stopped the car and asked Mary if that was what her brothers or cousins did. Mary laughed and said, “yep!” after a walk on the beach he took her home.

     He picked her up two nights later at the end of her shift at the hospital telling her they must go quickly that he had a surprise for her. They pulled up to an exclusive club where Frank Sinatra was about to perform. It was sold out. Carl offered the Maitre’ d $50.00 and they sat at the edge of the stage. Mary was totally in shock, and Carl beaming with satisfaction. After that night they spent almost every day together between Mary’s shifts. One night when they were all hanging out in Hal’s hotel room the cops barged into the room and apprehended Hal for alleged having sex with an underage girl. The police took Carl mary and Hal down to the station. Mary was swept up in the excitement, she had never been in trouble with the law. After a lot of manipulation and lies, Hal, Carl, and mary left the station.

     That night all drove off, back up Route 95 north. Now they were back in  New york at the Plaza Hotel. Carl had a fake line of credit and used that phony line of credit to throw an engagement party for his sister Susan. The next morning the jig was up. The front desk called the room and questioned Carl about the alleged line of credit and the bank in Miami that it was drawn from. He said he would call and straighten it out. He hung up and he and Mary quickly packed and ran down 15 flights of stairs and roared off. They were married and settled in Freeport Long Island where they had two children, Lorraine, born June 1961 and Michael (me) born in 1964.