My mother’s family is full of Rascals. The earliest one we know of is her great-grandfather, an Irish sea-captain. His daughter, my mother’s grandmother, was a famous painter of her day, in a time when women were expected to keep house and care for their families, and not carry out anything beyond that. But it was her grandson, my mother’s own father, who stands out head and shoulders above the crowd in his Rascalinity among them. His Rascalinity is so legendary, Hollywood even made a movie about it!
He was born in New England, to an Irish-descended family that had emigrated sometime before from Canada. He had hazel green eyes, rose-gold hair and fair skin, and my mother’s family says I am the only one of my siblings to carry resemblance to him in my eyes and my coloring.
He was intelligent, and clever. He did well in school, and was well-known in the area for his pranks both in and out of it. Nothing he did ever had evil purpose, so far as anyone could tell. He just showed a strong contrary streak and mischievousness early and often.
However, somehow he managed to graduate high school, at or nearly at the top of his class. Entry into VMI, the Virginia Military Institute, a prestigious college, followed. It was
there his high spirits, Rascalinity and mischievous pranks reached their full flower and legendary greatness.
My grandfather managed to graduate VMI with what stands even today as the highest combination of grade point average and demerits for behavior possible.He was constantly running afoul of the established hierarchy there, whether through deliberate pranks or
unthinking transgressions of the strict disciplinary code.
The movie they made of him was due to his career at VMI. It was made in 1938, and his name was changed in it to protect his reputation, as he matured from there to become an entrepreneur in Upstate New York. It starred Wayne Morris, Eddie Albert, Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman (it was the movie that introduced them to each other). Eddie Albert played “‘Bing Edwards,'” the character on whom my grandfather was based; the title character of “Brother Rat“, and the child who was to be secretly soon to be born was my mother. It was so popular, Hollywood also made a sequel, that was not at all based on his life, “Brother Rat and Baby“. His real name was Augustus Lambe, and I am proud to call this famously legendary Rascal my grandfather.