My Grandfather: A Family Legend

While I have more than enough already to do, this week I decided to dust off the old and jump into this summer’s version of DS106, Camp Magic Macguffin. Since I have been doing a lot of research and putting together a Digital Storytelling course of my own for high school students, I wanted to try a bunch of things out as I am constructing it. I have been following DS106 really since Jim Groom got started but never have actually participated, until now. Here is the Week 1 assignment. I kind of combined The Daily Create 135 and 136.

Originally, I intended to tell the story of my great-grandparents meeting, which is steeped in my family’s lore, but i wanted to use some photographs, and I couldn’t find any of my great-grandfather. It was kind of wonderful accident, really. Instead I putting together this quick video got on my grandfather. It got me thinking a lot about him. So I wrote a little more about him too.

Photo: My Grandfather in his Navy Undress Whites

My grandfather his Navy Undress Whites before leaving for the Pacific Fleet in 1943.

This might be my favorite picture of my grandfather. It must have been taken shortly  before he was deployed on a destroyer in the Pacific Fleet for Word War II.

Photo: My Grandfather as a Boy on the Beach

My grandfather, as a boy, poses on the beach in the 1930s.

The son of German immigrants, he was born in Chicago, Illinois, but couldn’t speak a lick of English until he began kindergarten in public school. I can almost hear  his father calling, “Lächeln,” as he tried to capture this picture. Sadly, he couldn’t speak much German by the time he died.

He designed and built buses for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), working there for nearly 40 years, eventually becoming superintendent of one of the Southside shops. I remember that former Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne even attended his retirement party.

While working for the CTA, he took a trip to the family homeland as part of a group that purchased the first “Big Bend Buses” to be put into service in Chicago. The 55 foot articulated buses, with the acordian-style midsection, hit the streets of the Loop in 1979. They were the first white CTA buses I remember. They were not green like all the others. I remember him being really proud of those buses.

Photo: My Grandfather in the 1960s

My Grandfather at the beach again, this time in the 1960s.

My grandfather was a kind and gentle man, who used to tell me he had the “patience of a saint,” as he taught me how to draw, use a camera, and work with all kinds of tools. He even taught me how to smoke a cigar when I was boy. I think it was meant to deter me. However, he seemed pretty amused that I didn’t turn green or get sick and bit surprised  that I kind of liked it.

More than anything, he was a tinkerer and made all kind of things, from wooden models to stained glass windows and much more. He was an avid photographer and even had a dark room in the house when I was a boy.

In writing this I stumbled across his obituary in the Chicago Tribune. It called him as an “inventive man.” I think he would have liked that description. It certainly seemed fitting.

In the Throes of Summer’s Heat

It is hard to believe that the summer is nearly half over already. It seems like only yesterday I was wrapping up the school year. In some ways it was not very long ago at all. That teachers only work nine months of the year bit is not only tired and old, but woefully inaccurate, at least for me. The academic year is already about ten months. I didn’t wrap up until the last week of June.

Hadley also wrapped up her first year of preschool the same day and was decidedly happy about it, as the photo demonstrates. It was a far cry from the timid first day that she strapped on that backpack and just hoped beyond hope that it would be a lady who fetched her from the car and ushered her in the door of her new school.

The first weekend of the summer I was off to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to wrap up a project I spent the last year working on with the National Writing Project. It was grueling at times but ultimately enormously rewarding. Nevertheless, that accounted for nearly a work week of time spent away from the family.

Upon returning, we were off again, this time as a family, and not to quite as far a distance. We headed west to the Terwedow family getaway in the Berkshires for the Independence Day weekend. The girls and I (Ali, Keri, and Hadley) paid tribute at the other Fourth of July New England tradition, seeing James Taylor at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. It was lovely summer night, in an outdoor arena, with good food and music. There was even fireworks after the show. Hadley has turned into quite a James Taylor fan and was positively delighted to attend. She was rather awesome the whole show and even made it through the fireworks extravaganza, which ended up being a bit later than we expected. Still, she oohed-and-ahhed with the best of them and then promptly fell asleep the minute we entered the car for the ride home.

As there is no rest for the wicked, the next weekend marked the first weekend Ali and I have ever had away from the kids, as we headed up to Boothbay Harbor, Maine, for a pre-anniversary get away. For those not counting, it has been five years since we tied the knot amidst showers in my parents backyard. So a little child-free respite for Ali was certainly due.

Boothbay Harbor is a lovely little seashore town. It is definitely more of a weekender locale, unless you own a place on one of the islands and believe that summer is a verb. There are a host of touristy trappings that seem to be enduring despite some slower times. It also turns out to have been where part of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel (1956) was filmed. In fact it was the setting for one of the headline numbers, “June is Bustin’ Out All Over.” It is the backdrop for this number below (first shot with CinemaScope 55), “June is Bustin’ Out All Over,” and while there are a few more buildings, as well as a lot more boats and lobster traps visible in the harbor now, it doesn’t look radically different today. In fact, they named one of their local theaters after the film.

Still, it was rather lovely to check out the local offerings and just have some downtime together, where there was no rush to do anything or be anywhere for a couple of days. There were some kitschy sights to be seen, for sure. And, of course, we ate lobster. Even had some crab cakes that beat Bobby Flay on Throwdown.

[slickr-flickr tag=”BoothbayHarbor”]

Regardless, summer is definitely upon us and the kids are already enjoying some trips to the beach, in order to beat the heat.

Next, Fritz’s Second Birthday Bash.

The Big Fall Wrap-up

Fred has set another personal record! His last Fritzwinkle posting was almost three months ago. The man has been busy. But when he’s not busy, or avoiding other work, he’s unwinding with some Playstation soccer. Our daughter knows the sight so well that she tells me, “Daddy watching soccer game.” She’s kind of a narc about Fred slacking.

Snowman Hat
Little toy

Lovin' the Leaves

A lot has happened since the end of September. For one thing our son is now five months old! He’s rolling over, eating rice cereal and jars of vegetables. Squash and green beans seem to be his favorites so far. He’s a big chunk of a boy, weighing over 18 pounds. He’s pretty solidly wearing nine-month sized clothes. It’s fun to remember what our girl was like at this age…and size, which are very different.

Checking the Candy

Our daughter has really been getting into the Christmas season. She is starting to enjoy all of the holidays, like her mother. Hmmmm…is there a connection? She started off by dressing up as the cutest witch in the world for Halloween. She walked from house to house trick-or-treating on our cul du sac. Then she really enjoyed getting to eat the candy she was given in her plastic pumpkin. As soon as she learned how to say, “Happy Halloween,” it was time to learn how to say “Happy Thanksgiving.” She picked this up much quicker. In the blink of an eye, we were packing up all signs of the fall holidays in order to make room for Christmas.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Letter to Santa

First Snowman

Our little girl got to mail a letter to Santa this year. She had watched some Christmas specials on TV, so she understood the concept. So after I went to vote in the primaries for our new Senator, we walked across to the big red mailbox that had the word “Santa” painted on the side. She posed for a few photos, and then gleefully dropped her letter into the box. Yesterday we actually got a letter back! She loves the Christmas tree, but has a really hard time not touching the ornaments. That’s understandable since she’s two years old. She’s enjoying eggnog – “This is really, really good!” – and opening a door on her Advent calendar every day after lunch. Her absolute favorite thing about Christmas so far is the music. She wants to listen to Christmas music all the time. Then she walks around singing Deck the Halls, Jingle Bells, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and Up on the Rooftop. We have several books with the words, so I can sing along correctly. I don’t know what she’s going to do in a few weeks. I’ll probably be listening to Christmas music for months.

All Dressed Up

I will take this opportunity to wish you all Happy Holidays. Check back in early 2010 to see if Fred has made a New Year’s resolution to keep up with his fritzwinkle posts.