"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Menace of Magenta Street

Via Newspapers.com

Insulting, foul-mouthed parrots are always welcome at this blog, and the following example is a real pip. Our saga begins with this story from the "Brooklyn Eagle," June 17, 1913:
It is circus day every day at 108 Magenta street, and today a regular performance was held at the New Jersey avenue court for the benefit of Magistrate Alexander H. Geismar, who was repeatedly told in the plainest words possible to seek an even hotter climate than this by a parrot that was accused of being one of the noisiest performers in an East New York back yard.

"This parrot wakes up at the first peep of dawn," testified Mrs. Ormsby Jandro, of 110 Magenta street, who had summoned Mrs. Johanna Vogt, owner of the animals, to the magistrate's court, to explain.

"And as soon as the parrot gets one eye open she begins with 'Polly wants a cracker,' 'Go to_____, go to_____,' 'Polly wants a cracker,' 'Go to_____,' until the young roosters in rear yards begin to crow and the cat to meow, and the dog to bark, and the canary bird to sing. Now my husband works late and wants to sleep in the morning, and that is impossible as long as Mrs. Vogt keeps all those animals next door."

"Are you sure the parrot says 'Go to _____," asked Magistrate Gelsmar with austere dignity.

"Go to____," screamed the parrot, from Mrs. Vogt's seat in the rear of the courtroom, and the decorum of the court was lost so irretrievably that the presiding magistrate could not restore it even with the aid of his gavel and the new robes that have recently been introduced in the police courts of Brooklyn.

The parrot repeated the instructions to the court a number of times, and it was impossible for Mrs. Jandro to continue her testimony.

Mrs. Vogt, the owner of the parrot and the dog and the cat and the chickens and the canary bird, that were accused of having disturbed the occupants of the apartment house next door, was then called to the stand.

"The court is shocked at the language of your parrot, Madam," said Magistrate Gelsmar, sternly. "How do you account for him learning such expressions."

"Your Honor, I live in a small wooden house at 108 Magenta street," said Mrs. Vogt. "I make my living from the chickens and the rest of the animals are my pets. Now my parrot was very refined in its language, but this Mrs. Jandro, who has made a complaint against me, lives in an apartment house next door, and the janitor of that house has a parrot, and from that bird my parrot has learned all its bad words. I suppose the janitor's parrot has learned to swear from the tenants of that apartment house."

At this turn of the case Mrs. Jandro, who was accompanied by several of her co-tenants in the apartment house at 110 Magenta street, took the stand to deny Mrs. Vogt's testimony. She said that she had never noticed the janitor had a parrot, at any rate, she had never heard the bird swear aloud.

"But you ought to hear it when it is left out on the fire escape opposite my windows." broke in Mrs. Vogt. "This is how my polly learned all its bad language."

"In view of the conflict in the testimony," said Magistrate Gelsmar gravely, "the court will be unable to reach a decision in this case today. I, therefore, will adjourn the case until next week, and in the meantime Probation Officer Frank Cooley will make an investigation of the real facts in the case for the benefit of the court. At present I'm inclined to place Mrs. Vogt's parrot on probation for contempt of court, and using profane language in the courtroom."
So. Further gory details appeared in the "Camden Courier-Post" the following day:
Brooklyn, N.Y., June 18. When Armando, the parrot of Mrs. Johanna Vogt of 108 Magenta street, became a witness in his own behalf yesterday before Magistrate Geismar, in the New Jersey Avenue Court, when an effort was made to prove that he was an upright bird of decent speech, Armando certainly spilled the beans.

"Why, Judge," said Mrs. Ormsby Jandro, of 110 Magenta street, "this parrot is a loafer and a rowdy. There's no living in the same block with him. Just the first minute it gets to be morning he begins to scream and chatter, and such language." Mrs. Jandro clucked her tongue several times to indicate the unspeakable character of Armando's soliloquies.

"That's bad enough, but his yelling starts all Mrs. Vogt's menagerie," she went on. "The cat begins to meow to be let in, the dog begins to howl, the roosters crow, her canary sings and oh, dear me!" Mrs. Jandro stuck her fingers in her ears, wagged her head and rolled her eyes to indicate that a boiler factory would be a rest cure compared with the Vogts' neighborhood.

Armando had been placed on the Magistrate's desk in a cage. He winked at Mrs. Jandro with cynical, sneering eyes as she talked.

"And you say he used bad language?"

"He started right in the first thing. 'Go to hell! Go to hell Brrrrrrrrripp! Hell!'"

"And he keeps it up?"

"If you shout 'Shut up!' he answers right back, 'Go to hell! Go to hell! Brrripp! To hell!' "

"Are you sure he says 'Go to hell'?"' asked the Court.

Just as Mrs. Jandro was about to answer, Armando ruffled his feathers, cocked his head to one side, blinked at the Magistrate and said shrilly and clearly: "Go to hell! Go to hell! Brrrrrrrrripp! Hell!"

"That's all," cried counsel for Mrs. Jandro, triumphantly. Mrs. Vogt burst into tears. Armando fluffed his feathers defiantly and began anew: "Go to..."

"Officer, take that bird out of here!" broke in His Honor. The door of the corridor closed on a smothered "Hell!"

"Oh, Your Honor," wailed the hopeless Mrs. Vogt, "it isn't that my bird is bad. As for the other noises, I make my living raising chickens and I like pets. And Armando was just as refined as could be till he got to know the parrot of the janitor in the house where Mrs. Jandro lives. I'm sure if that other parrot could be put away somewhere Armando..."

"The janitor's parrot is a dear." Mrs. Jandro broke in. "I never heard him say anything worse than 'Oh crumpets!'"

The Magistrate thought long and deeply. Then he said, "Armando shall not be convicted to death or exile until a full investigation of the case has been made. Since you, Mrs. Vogt, declare him to be the victim of an evil association the matter clearly rests with Probation Officer Cooley. Mr. Cooley will talk with both parrots and see which is the leader and instigator of these profanity debauches. Meanwhile Armando shall remain in custody with a towel wrapped around his cell to keep him from corrupting other prisoners."

Faintly from the hallway the voice of Armando arose. He was still intent on bidding everybody to go to the place he seemed sure he could recommend.

Still more on Armando's evil doings came from the "Brooklyn Chat" on June 21. The parrot was apparently not only fond of impure language, he was the neighborhood gossip.
When Mrs. Ormsby Grambo [sic], of 110 Magenta street, summoned her neighbor, Johanna Vogt of 108 Magenta street, to the New Jersey avenue police court Tuesday morning, charging her with maintaining a nuisance, there came the story of a big green parrot which has the whole City Line section a tumult of excitement.

"Such language as that bird has--you never heard the like of it outside of a saloon or aboard a tugboat," said Mrs. Grambo to Magistrate Gelsmar.

"He's the most knowing bird you ever saw and if he has the gift of seeing things and folks as they really are and isn't afraid to hand 'em the truth about themselves, why blame him?" said Mrs. Vogt.

According to Mrs. Grambo, the parrot is only one of an interesting collection which makes up Mrs. Vogt's menagerie at 108 Magenta street. Mrs. Vogt is proud of the collection, but Mrs. Grambo said that the menagerie in concert at 5 am with dogs barking, roosters crowing, hens cackling, pigeons cooing and meowing, is something fierce. She asked Magistrate Gelsmar to put a stop to it. At that Mrs. Grambo would be content to put up with the rest of the collection if only Magistrate Gelsmar would choke off the parrot.

His honor ordered the parrot to court for examination. Mrs. Grambo doesn't know where the parrot came from or who owned it before fell into the hands of Mrs. Vogt, but suspects its history is a cagey one. The parrot hangs outside the window in a big brass cage and every morning sunrise hears him shouting, "Get up, get up, go to ____" . After cocking his head one side and waiting a few minutes results and getting none, the parrot again arouses the neighborhood with, 'Turn out, and up with your hammocks; what the 'ell. Bill; goin' to sleep all day?"

There is then no further use in trying to get sleep, says Mrs. Grambo; Morpheus refuses to be wooed under any such circumstances, especially with the parrot screaming, "Time to scrub yer decks, my covies; get up and do it and be ______ to the lot of you!"

As Mrs. Vogt is always up at this hour "scrubbing her decks," naturally she has no sympathy with those who have to be admonished. She says her parrot is a wise bird. Few persons in Magenta street agree with her. Even the Liberty avenue cop who stands on the corner is shocked at Mrs. Vogt's parrot. Sometimes he is a fat cop and sometimes a lean one; sometimes a married cop and sometime single. Last week it was a married cop, but even a seasoned cop, when he is married, will feel painful blushes rising when within the hearing of a whole street he is greeted with, "Well. Bill, how're the chickens, any new ones lately?" And even a bachelor cop may not relish having, "In My Harem'" shrilled at top note whenever he puts in an appearance.

Just why Mrs. Vogt's parrot should make him the object of all its confidences, the cop on the corner does not know. It is most embarrassing, says he, when a skirt of latest fashion goes by to have Mrs. Vogt's parrot yell, "Hi, Bill, get next, get next." or "Hi, Bill, pike it off, pike it off." While Bill may be a willing spirit in private, he does not relish these things in public, and so Magenta street fears it will lose its police protection unless someone puts a quietus on Mrs. Vogt's parrot.

Mrs. Grambo, for Magenta street, says it is impossible to go to the store for milk any more. As soon as he sees the pitcher, Mrs. Vogt's parrot greets it with, "There goes the duck; we haven't got the rent, but the duck is rushing." A small paper parcel carried tightly under the arm causes the parrot to scream, "What'll ye take for a chaser?" Magenta street, made up mostly of church goers, resents the insinuation.

"That bird is an instrument of the evil one," says the street.

"That bird ain't no fool," says Mrs. Vogt.

If there is any one day in the week when Mrs. Vogt's parrot comes out strong, that day is Sunday. "Then his talk is something frightful," says Mrs. Grambo.

A neighboring deacon on his way piously to church goes down the block to the tune of "All night long he calls her snookey ookums," while a belated husband, wending homeward unsteadily, is encouraged with "Soak her if she says a word." Invitations to "Have one on me," "a four-hand game at cents a corner," or "Lets go down the line and look the chickens over," may not be all right at times, but bawled out on Sunday morning when a fellow is leading his wife to church, they are pernicious, say masculine Magenta street. They have been known to cause heated family discussions. You can't convince certain Magenta street women that Mrs. Vogt's parrot doesn't know more than it will tell.

Mrs. Vogt told Magistrate Gelsmar that her parrot had learned all of its bad language from the parrot belonging to the janitor of the house in which Mrs. Grambo lives.

"I live in a small frame house next to the flat building, and I make my living on the chickens," said she; "the bird and dogs are pets. I used to hang my parrot out on the fire escape, and there it struck up a friendship with the parrot belonging to the janitor next door. You can't blame the janitor's parrot if it knew a thing or two. Such tenants in that house, and the talk they used! Maybe my parrot does talk about 'chasing the duck,' and tight skirts, and no rent, but remember, Judge, he got it all from the janitor's parrot and the janitor's parrot got it all first hand from the fellow that knew about it, the janitor himself."

Magistrate Gelsmar turned the case over to Probation Officer Frank Cooley, instructing him to find out what he could in the matter. Cooley will have to see the janitor and the cop on the corner, also, Cooley will have to see masculine Magenta street and the ladies who affect the latest fashions. And Mrs. Vogt will have to bring the parrot to court. She says she is not afraid to do so; "he a nice polite bird if he's among the right people," says she.

Tuesday night when Mrs. Vogt gave the parrot an extra cracker and told him he would have to go to court Magenta street heard him bawling, "I should worry and get wrinkles. Me go to court? Go to ____! Go to ____!"

Sadly, the police investigation did not go well for Armando. On June 20, the "Brooklyn Times Union" reported on his sentencing:
The twenty-three tenants of the apartment home at 110 Magenta street, East New York, are rejoicing today because Mrs. Johanna Vogt, the next door neighbor, has been compelled to get rid of her parrot.

Witnesses told Magistrate Gelsmar in the New Jersey Avenue Police Court on Tuesday that the parrot had scandalized the neighborhood for a year. On that day Mrs Vogt was summoned to court on complaint of Mrs. Ormsby Jambro, who headed a delegation of tenants. They declared the bird called them vile names constantly.

Magistrate Gelsmar ordered Probation Officer Cooley to investigate if vile names were used by the parrot. Tooley reported to the Magistrate this morning that the bird told him to "Go to hell." At this, he said, he made Mrs. Vogt get rid of the parrot.
Mrs. Vogt established that she had sold her offending bird, and Armando faded from history. Personally, I would have enjoyed living next door to him; he was clearly a parrot who had a way with words and a gift for dissecting human nature. He would have been splendid company.

I hope both he and Mrs. Vogt went on to have good lives. And Mrs. Ormsby Jandro can go visit Armando's favorite destination.


  1. I noticed that the Brooklyn newspaper 'dashed' the offending word the parrot used, while the New Jersey journal did not hide it at all. Who would have guessed that Brooklynites were so delicate?

  2. My grandmother had a parrot that could talk quite a bit although usually not as colorfully as the parrot in the article. It did once tell my father to drop dead and it called the cat an SOB. No one knew how old it was and it would say things once and then never again. My father became a veterinarian and once had care of a parrot in his clinic that would begin to swear loudly whenever the phone rang. I don't know what it said, being then very young and forbidden to go near the bird. I can easily believe the story of this parrot's habits and vocabulary!

  3. Thanks for picking this up-- this story has been passed down for generations. Mrs Johanna Vogt is actually my 2nd great grandmother

    1. It's nice to know Armando is still remembered.


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