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Moreover, those howling “sports” — the cigar-chomping, derby-clad gamblers who attended these de facto prizefights — could be rough characters, and brawls and even riots broke out after some events.

Kennedy, had moved his brood out to another frontier: Port Chester, a tiny but bustling factory town in New York’s Westchester County. J.” plied his trade as a bricklayer and eventually became a moderately successful contractor, overseeing the construction and enlargement of factories, schools, hospitals and libraries across the region. Bill took up the trowel and went to work as an apprentice at age thirteen.

Wearing a cloth cap on his head and a button-down shirt and tie under his work overalls, he would stoop over to pick up a brick from its pile, place it on the mortar bed, and tap it into place, then stoop to pick up a new brick, over and over, hundreds of times a day.

The young Kennedy learned how to build walls, staircases, chimneys and walkways. At age fourteen, Kennedy began moonlighting as a prizefighter.

But in time, he would take up that pursuit again, with a passion. For the next couple years, the widower and his oldest son would struggle along, living and working together, bereft of the tempering influence of the woman they’d loved.

Bill and his brother Joe increasingly enraged their father with their late-night carousing. One moment, the bricklayer was applying some finishing touches to the Des Moines Coliseum.


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