Jimmy McGinty, Councilman and Manager of the Ginney Block


Jimmy McGinty was a self-made man, one who really had pulled himself up by his bootstraps. It was said that he had educated himself by reading his way through the bookshelves of the Public Library.

We the tenants of the Ginney Block got to know him when he became Manager of the block. Jimmy McGinty moved into the first ground floor flat at the far east end of the building, and set it up as his office. Within days he had not only sumptuously furnished the office, but also had hired a young and very pretty secretary to help him. Her name was Helen Malinski.

Jimmy and Helen made a good pair. He turned out to be a good manager and she a good right hand for him. I can still see them both in my mind's eye. He was short, about five feet four inches tall, wiry and well built. I would say that he was in his early fifties at the time. He had a full head of hair that had turned grey at the temples. He had a pug nose and a ruddy complexion. He was always immaculately dressed and well groomed, given to wearing three piece suits. He seemed to favor plaids and stripes, and all white suits and straw hats in the summertime.

Helen was a tall, willowy, natural blond beauty. She was very thin and her figure today would be compared to that of Twiggy.




She had a clear complexion, without a blemish. All in all she was blessed with the good, wholesome looks so often associated with many young Polish women. She was also very smart and ran an efficient office for Jimmy, not only managing to collect the rents on time but also following through on the maintenance and repair needs of the tenants. The fact that she was so pretty and so amiable and pleasantly efficient, made Jimmy's job of managing the building so easy as to make it possible for him to devote most of his time to his full time career.

We soon learned that in addition to being our building manager, Jimmy was also our councilman! Up until that time the residents of the Ginney Block had not paid too much attention to local politics or even state or federal politics for that matter. They were too busy trying to make a living, raise their children, and to adjust to the new way of life in their adopted land.

Jimmy changed all that in a hurry. He soon got all the men who had become naturalized citizens to become active in his campaigns not only by getting them to vote, but also working them into his political machine. He got all the non-citizens to become active, to apply for their citizenship papers; helped them to get instruction so they could pass their tests and to get their citizenship papers. Having been a self-educated man himself, he worked tirelessly to help his tenants to do the same. As a result, he built a sizable following among the Ginney Block tenants, a number of whom eventually secured city jobs with his help, and so were able to pull themselves out of their laboring jobs.




I can recall several of Jimmy's campaigns for reelection. While I did not learn about the phrase "Bread and Circuses" until I got to High School, I can now see how Jimmy McGinty's "bread and circuses" helped him get elected every time. Although he had built a formidable political machine over the years, I had the feeling then that he really believed that the only way he could insure his reelection each time was by wining, dining, and entertaining his constituents in the biggest "bash" possible. Each time at the close of his campaign on the eve of the election, he would take over a large area located south of the Ginney Block, immediately behind the old Bailey Department Store Warehouse, the area once known as the Hay Market, the place where years before the farmers brought their large hay wagons, loaded with hay for sale. The old Hay Market site was rented from the City by Jimmy and converted on the eve of election day into the biggest party place that I had ever seen. Several days before, workmen would come in, erect temporary poles for stringing colorful Japanese lanterns; caterers would bring in serving tables, outdoor kitchen equipment, hundreds of wooden carpenter's horses over which hundreds of pieces of plywood were placed to form tables for the hundreds of guests expected. A temporary band shell was erected for bands he hired to entertain the crowd; and last but not least a speakers' platform from which he and his staff of political orators always made their final speeches of exhortation on behalf of his candidacy.




Election eves for me in those days were exciting nights. They were nights when all kinds of food, Italian, Irish, Polish, German and soul food for the colored folk of the community abounded. Wine, beer and hard liquor flowed freely for the adults who wanted it; soda pop of various kinds, cakes, cookies, pies, and candy for the children were also there in abundance. Those were nights that I now remember as Jimmy McGinty's night for "bread and circuses," which he had been known to say, "cinched" the elections for him!