Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Berton “Pate” Conrad: Who Says Chickens Don’t Have Teeth?

by David Parmer

He was six feet five inches tall, slender, handsome, jovial, and had a great smile. He was a bachelor during his youth, was very comfortable with women, and they likewise very comfortable with him. He was among other things an assistant undertaker to Mike Moran (see Feb '07 entry Michael Vincent Moran – Gentleman Undertaker) and looked suave and debonair in his dark funeral suits. And, being an assistant undertaker, he had developed a courtly manner, which came in handy when he was courting the young ladies. He was dubbed a “ladies man,” a “Don Juan,” and was Orlando ’s answer to the great Valentino. And, the ladies were crazy about him. He was Berton “Pate” Conrad. But, this story isn’t about his suave and courtly manner or his courtship of the ladies, but rather about a chicken that had a tooth.

Uncle Zeke was a great admirer of Pate Conrad, a man of extraordinary height, and frequently wrote about the young ladies of Orlando who were much interested in Pate’s comings and goings. But, Uncle Zeke would much rather write about a chicken than about a Romeo.

In a 1931 column, Uncle Zeke reported that Pate Conrad had gone to Weston to see a dentist and to have a couple of teeth extracted. After having the teeth extracted, Pate thought that the liberated teeth would make a good conversation topic as he was glad-handing people attending wakes and funerals, and any one else he might meet on the streets of Orlando. So, Pate carefully pocketed the two teeth and took them home. A few days later, Pate delivered a bag of flour to Mrs. A. G. Mitchell1. Thinking she might be interested in his teeth, Pate pulled the teeth from his pocket to show them to Mrs. Mitchell. Uncle Zeke, in his amusing style, picked up the story and said “Lo, [Pate] dropped one of the teeth and old domineck being present and mistaking the tooth for a grain of corn, gobbled it in her beak, whereupon Pate set up a ‘Shoo-shoo, you old scamp,’ and took off after her, making at least twenty miles per. But, biddy gulped it down and it is now an evident fact she has one tooth, at least.”

Uncle Zeke did not report whether Pate was distraught about losing one of his teeth to a chicken, and maybe Pate was proud of the fact that one of his very own teeth had made that chicken famous. And, besides, Pate still had one tooth left to show the visitors to Moran’s Funeral Parlor, or to the customers at Dick Skinner’s Restaurant.

1. Samantha Jane (Riffle) Mitchell, widow of Alonzo G. Mitchell. Samantha died at age 80 in 1934. She was the mother of Homer Mitchell. She was the daughter of Jacob Riffle and his second wife, Elizabeth Ann Heater.

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