My brother Larry was a colorful chap, who led a relatively short but
adventurous life. He died in 1971 at
the very young age of 58, primarily as a result of his lifestyle.
Larry's early years were typical of the Theobald boys. He
contributed his share of problems to Lil and Cookie, but
for the most part they were routine in our household. However
he was held with a tighter rein than that felt by his brothers and sisters, and
received more punishment as well.
Let me digress for a moment, to talk about discipline in the
Theobald family. As I mentioned before, Cookie had short powerful
arms, and he was well aware of his strength. Although he would
occasionally don the boxing gloves to perform a minor
"attitude adjustment" on a cocky young adult male family
member, he absolutely never struck any of his children
outside of one of these brief contests. That duty was relegated
to Lil, and mum was no slouch in that department.
Cookie's methods although more gentle, were nevertheless
more effective over all. His stearn and lengthy lectures
about one's contribution to the family and to society in
general, would make you wilt with humiliation. Add to that
the skillful use of his right index finger to poke emphasis
into the hollow of your shoulder, the point was never lost.
In fact, a lingering ache and blue spot assured a weeklong
Lil on the other hand, took a more traditional approach
for that day and age. A few swats with any weapon nearby,
made her point quickly and painfully. I remember so well
when I would run from her anger, she would count very
loudly. The number of swats equated to the number of steps I had taken.
In more controlled situations when old enough, we had to
cut a "switch" from our cherry tree, skin off the bark and bring
it to mum for our punishment. If the switch wasn't an
acceptable size and rigidity, another had to prepared. Mum
would often cry in private, after such an episode. Despite their
different approaches to the necessary discipline, we all
loved both our parents equally.
When he was 15, Larry began to feel the growing unrest
which would stay with him his whole life. One day he left a note
and ran away from home. Hitch-hiking and freight trains
took him all the way to Oklahoma, where he was befriended
by a boy near his own age and taken in by the boy's father,
a wealthy oil man. Some in our family
tried to convince Cookie to let Larry grow up for awhile
with his new friends, but Lil obtained a free pass from
dad's railroad employer, and retrieved him by train in about
When I was exactly 4 months old on May 5, 1932. Larry then 19 was arrested
in our house by the notorious Pittsburgh Police. They
accused him of a gas station robbery, which took place
while he was at work far from the station. It was mistaken
identity, but the cops dragged him to the paddy wagon
and beat him severely before things got straightened out
at the precinct. The times were much different in 1932, and
there was no disciplinary action or compensation.
Ironically, not long after that incident one of the offending
policemen died suddenly as a result of a heart attack.
Larry Is Exonerated!
Hilltop Record Courtesy Rich Cummings
Before his 20th birthday, Larry joined the CCC (Civilian
Conservation Corps) instituted by President Roosevelt
to provide employment after the depression. Among other
things, the CCC planted many millions of acres in trees,
and built highways and bridges. They also fought forest fires
and provided valuable assistance in major floods.
My brother matured a great deal with this experience,
and the CCC time was added to his service career toward retirement.
In 1936, Larry enlisted in the U.S. Army Cavalry, and was
stationed at Indiantown Gap near Pittsburgh.
I was so proud of my brother, handsome in his jodhpurs,
high boots and cavalry hat, with all the shiny brass and leather.
I'm sorry I don't have a picture of him in his "Class A" uniform.
My brother Larry, Center
Somewhere at camp
He was always pleasant and respectful, but one lingering
memory I have of him would play a significant part in predicting
his future. During his frequent weekend passes, it would
not be unusual for me to wake up in the morning with Larry
and one of his buddies in my bed. Often while I was still in
the room, he would open his overnight bag and remove
one of the two fifths of P.M. whiskey he had in there along
with his one clean shirt. He would break the seal, and in
several swallows drink about half the bottle. This was
his breakfast. Mum did make sure that he had a good
dinner every day but beer, whiskey and ladies filled most
of his days and nights, and emptied his bank account
in Pittsburgh. He never really appeared drunk to me,
but his liver was paying the price.
Larry spent the bulk of WW2 in the South Pacific, and said
little about what occurred there. He rose and fell through
the ranks on several occasions, but managed to hold on to his
career until 1964.
The Army provided some stability and meaning to his
life. When he lost that, everything went steadily downhill
and he inevitably died of liver failure and other complications.
Despite being an alcoholic, Larry was a good and honest man
to a fault. Following his death, his notebook revealed
meticulous records of every cent he ever borrowed, and when
it was repaid. His many friends including Andy the local
barber, would carry him to his next retirement check.
My memories of this brother are mostly pleasant, and it's sad
that we lost him so soon.
Return To Cookie Thumbs