Yesterday's Magazette

14 – The Begorrah Menorah

The Begorrah Menorah

By Mike Holahan

In 1918, my grandfather sent a man from his staff in Chicago to Russia during the revolution to look after the interests and assets of the International Harvester Co. The man was chosen for his managerial and diplomatic experience and also because he was second-generation American- Russian, grew up in a Russian neighborhood of Chicago, and it was really a toss-up whether Russian or English was his first language.

The man did his job well and since agriculture in Russia is second only to military interests, he got cooperation from all sides. He also had friends on both sides. . . and relations.


One evening, he went celebrating with some Communist cousins, got thoroughly commode-hugging drunk and passed out. He awoke the day after with three items of interest: A monumental headache which was actually audible, a strange woman, and a big brass candelabra. He gave the lady a handful of rubles and she left in good humor. So much for international relations for International Harvester. The headache subsided by dinnertime, but he still had the candelabra, or menorah, or whatever, because he had no more memory of acquiring it than the woman. And the “White” Russians were back in town shooting looters.

Examining the artifact, he found it was easily disassembled, which he did and spirited the parts to the I.H.C. offices, where he had it shipped to my granddaddy Holahan, marked “defective farm implement parts.” It arrived at Granddad’s house with an enormous cartage charge due, plus duties.

M.F. Holahan, Sr. paid all the charges, uncrated the thing, had it put together and cleaned up, and placed it on the living room fireplace mantel. It looked magnificent. But Granddad was still pretty peeved about the whole affair.

A year later, the new Russian government seemed stable enough so the company “emissary” came back to Chicago. He immediately went to see Granddaddy and asked for his trophy, without any mention at all about making good the shipping costs. My grandfather looked the man in the eye and said, “I don’t know what you are talking about.” The thing was in plain sight, but the fellow knew my granddad. He knew if he pressed the matter he would end up as a branch manager in Minot, N.D.

And that is how the little bit of Russia our family calls the Begorrah Menorah came to be a Holahan heirloom. My relatives in Indiana have it and it looks as magnificent as it did on Granddaddy Holahan’s mantel.

Mike Holahan is a retired classroom teacher living in Sarasota, Florida. He was born in Monticello, Indiana, in 1937, of parents unknown, and adopted by Maury and Mildred Holahan. He enjoys sailing, and he writes “bad poetry.” He was recently published in the anthology Toys Remembered.

Vol. 38 No. 1 – Yesterday’s Magazette – Spring- 2011


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