My father was always very conservative in his appearance, except for one morning one day each year.
That was when he helped out at the annual brunch put on by the St. Dominic’s Knights of Columbus in Lakeview. The event was always on a Sunday before Christmas. Organized by a Knight with relentless energy and even more personality, Peter Company, the event’s purpose was to raise money to provide Christmas dinner for the homeless at Ozanam Inn.
Compagno would get area restaurants to donate brunch-type food – egg dishes, hams and pastries. Tickets were a very reasonable $5 and they went fast, particularly when the crowd from the 11 a.m. Mass entered the building. Knights and their wives worked as servers stationed at long tables in the KC hall.
My father dealt with the booze. His job was to serve the champagne and at that he was relentless – walking among those who were dining, eyeing their plastic cups for a shortage of bubbles. If he spotted an insufficiently filled vessel he would strike, quickly topping it off with champagne, stopping only to let the bubbles fizz and than adding more. It was a bountiful chaser to the sip of altar wine served at Communion.
His prized accouterment for the occasion was what made him so different on that one morning. Someone had given him a battery-operated bow tie that blinked He reveled with that tie as though he was Las Vegas showman. A person just doesn’t turn down champagne from a man with a blinking bow tie.
There was always enough money raised to help feed the homeless, and there were always enough hands to help. Each Christmas morning my father would start out by going to Ozanam Inn to help serve. He was raised poor and had spent a couple of Christmases in battlefields dodging Nazi bullets, so he knew what it was like to be wanting on Christmas morning.
He was always home in time to carve the turkey and to celebrate what he always said we his favorite day of the year.
Home was always the best dinner location of all.