Sunday, February 07, 2016

“The Liberty Club”

Marianne Aleck, born and raised in Oroville and now living in Rio Vista, realized that recordings of her parents made in the 1980s could form the basis of an extraordinary story. Coupled with diligent research and a long delayed desire to write, Aleck has produced a family history in which the central characters come alive.

“The Liberty Club” ($25 in paperback, self-published; also for Amazon Kindle; spans a century. “Much of it,” she writes, “takes place in Oroville … with the immigration of my Greek ancestors, while I weave throughout my French ancestors still living in France during the same era.  I cover the true life stories of my family during WWI, The Great Depression” and WWII.

Marianne’s grandfather, Konstantinos Alexiou, came to the U.S. and changed his name to Gus Aleck. Arriving in Oroville in 1906, he found a bustling town and, with a business partner, eventually bought a bar on Montgomery Street.

“My grandpa named their new venture, ‘The Liberty Club’ which provided an escape from the woes of the Depression. … It was a time to hoist your pints and cheer to the smallest of good fortunes.”

Johnny, Marianne’s father, was born to Gus and his wife Angelica in 1924. He became a paratrooper in World War II and met his future wife, Monique, in France. Love blossomed; as Monique tells it, “he wanted to kiss me. And naturally, being raised the way I was Catholic, I thought I’d go to hell if I kissed a soldier or anyone else. You don’t kiss a boy unless you are going to get married. So, I told him. I’m sure he thought I was nuts. But he said, ‘Oh, okay then we’ll get married.’ And he kissed me. And that’s the way we were engaged.”

There were incredible strains to the marriage, yet life continued when the couple settled in Oroville. Later a great tragedy would befall the family, one covered by the Oroville Mercury.

As a tribute to her mother, in 2012 Marianne “became a card carrying French citizen” and now holds dual citizenship. Rich in detail, the book reveals historic Oroville and revels in the imperfect lives that energized it.

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