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.