Hump Day Report: Gangster Grandfather?
Rants and raves about burning topics that have caught my attention midweek, be it greedy corporate shenanigans, frustration or joy in regards to the Philly sports teams, a movie, show or DVD that has fired up my imagination, an intriguing personality, or what’s happening in the region. — Lori Hoffman, Associate Editor, Atlantic City Weekly.
Last week I posted a blog about the recently obtained information that the grandfather I never knew, Frank Hoffman, worked for Nucky Johnson. In fact, it was his illegal activities involving Nucky that made my grandmother Anna, walk away from Frank Hoffman and take my father, Harry, with her.
This personal anecdote caught the attention of Asher Sarnoff, who works for the Museum of the American Gangster in New York City. It seems there was a gangster named Frank Hoffmann who was a successful bootlegger in New York who owned a speakeasy at the same location that now houses the museum and the Theatre 80 St. Marks Place.
Today, I received a call from Lorcan Otway, who owns the museum and is working on a book about this period in American history. He is doing research and wanted to follow-up with me about the possibility that the Frank Hoffmann who owned the speakeasy was my grandfather.
It was a fascinating possibility, although we both agreed that Frank Hoffman was a common name. He told me he believes Frank Hoffmann was murdered in1945 and that he was born in Bavaria.
I made a quick call to my mother and she shot down the possibility that my grandfather was this millionaire bootlegger.
As I noted in an e-mail to Asher Sarnoff, “My mom is pretty sure my grandfather, Frank Hoffman, was born in Camden, NJ. And she knows for sure that he died in Camden in the 1950s or 1960s, because my grandmother had a life insurance policy on her husband and it was honored. Besides that there is the difference in spelling of the last name. Your Frank Hoffmann is the German spelling and what paperwork we have on my grandfather Frank Hoffman is with one n.”
At the very least all this excitement has got my mom talking. She was very pregnant when she went to court with my dad and my grandmother Anna in Camden sometime in the 1950s, either pregnant with my older brother (1950-51) or me (1953), when Frank Hoffman was still alive but homeless.
The court was looking for someone to pay his debts and be responsible for him. My dad was willing as long as he didn’t have another family, but my grandmother Anna, was adamant that they owed him nothing and would not let my father do it.
Now I’m back to the premise that my grandfather was a minor player in the bootlegging business in Atlantic City, but it was cool for 15 minutes to think he was a bigshot bootlegger in the Big Apple.
Tags: Nucky Johnson