Striking a Chord

Posted by Frank on

After working in the construction business for a while, my Grandfather caught a bug of entrepreneurship and decided to strike out on his own. Though he didn’t have many skills, drywall was one that he knew inside out, and he wasn’t afraid to learn any of the other skills he needed along the way. So in his twenties, along with his brother, they dubbed their drywall company after our family name, and began offering his services. It started out slowly, but this was also the post-war economic boom, so there was a lot of families building houses and getting work done, so more work quickly came.

Being the hard working immigrant that he was, this translated into long hours, lots of travel and essentially working every moment he spent awake. There was hardly a drywall company with so few employees yet so much experience time between them as our families. It was during one of the trips to a surrounding city, that my Grandfather met a woman at a hotel. They were in the lounge, and my Grandfather was listening to the music playing on the radio when this young woman came by, my Grandfather being the brash and bold man he was, asked her to dance. For some reason she accepted, and there’s not a whole lot to say about what transgressed, suffice to say that a year later they were married.

My Grandfather knew that his small apartment wasn’t enough space to have a wife and eventual family, so through his earnings, he bought a small patch of land and a permit to build. He and my Great-Uncle proceeded to build their home from the ground up. Learning every aspect of construction along the way either on their own, or through the help of business friends he had made along the way. From digging the foundation to putting up the frame, roofing, drywall, electricity, you name it he did it on his own, or with a little help from other people he knew. The house is still standing today, and as solid as ever, as a testament to what he could accomplish when he put his mind to it. house

If Grandfather had been born today he could perhaps have built a prosperous business with that work ethic and passion.  But it seems the skills stayed in the family genes because my half-brother, who now lives in England with his lovely wife, runs a very successful building company to this day www.worthingbuilder.com and his children have followed in his footsteps.

But I digress, back to the story.

There was a sad note in the building phase, as Grandfather’s brother, who battled depression for many years, committed suicide part way into the construction, which caused a lot of grief for my Grandfather, that he channelled into building the house. From all accounts that I heard it took just under a year and a half for my Grandfather to build the home, and essentially the moment they moved from his small apartment into the house proper, they got to work on filling it with children. Resulting in two aunts, two uncles, and my mother over the course of about six years. At this point you may be wondering where the music comes in, and I assure you that it plays a significant role in the story, but not till my generation came along to pick it up.

First Flight

Posted by Frank on

violinistIt’s hard at times I’m sure to see the juxtaposition of a man who spends his days wielding a hammer and shingles, to the music of Tchaikovsky emanating from a handcrafted violin at the end of the day, and maybe in those regards, I am an entirely different kind of person. But to really get into the heart of the matter, we should probably start at the start, and end up at the intro line to provide a little more context. Perhaps there are those out there who have the same kind of story as I did, or perhaps I am alone in my world, but no matter how it turns out, I feel that it’s a story that deserves to be shared after all it had to endure to survive.

This tale begins long before I was born, in Riga, Latvia. My grandfather was a scared 13 year old boy living in the beginning stages of what would be the Nazi occupation, but one more in a long line of takeovers in the region dating back to my ancestors. I didn’t get to learn much about life in that time, or glean too many details about what the country was like at the start of the war, mostly because my Grandfather refused to talk about it, right up until his death about half a decade back. But eventually I heard stories of escaping on boats across the Baltic as planes were steadily trying to bomb them out of the water, so I guess I can see why he decided not to get too much into it.

My Grandfather and Great-Grandparents, like many immigrants at the time, wound up landing on Ellis island, and going through the process of trying to get into the US to start a new life. My Great-Grandfather came from some form of police service, and my Great-Grandmother was a seamstress. Somehow, they got fairly quick passage into the country, and quickly took to starting a new life in this new land. My Great-Grandfather wound up working in some position in the NYPD, and my Great-Grandmother worked in a shop making uniforms for soldiers overseas.

My Grandfather though, took a different route. After being sponsored by a family deeper in the country, he settled in Oklahoma and proceeded to go to school with his brother. That venture didn’t last long, and with having no schooling, barely speaking English, and no discernable skills, he wound up needing to look for work in what he could do. At this time, it meant mostly general labour, and he got his first job working for a construction company sanding gyprock. It wasn’t a glorious living, but he made enough money to get by, and learned some skills along the way, one of them being how to speak proper English. Though he still got ribbed by co-workers for his Latvian accent, his sense of humor quickly won him over with some friends, and he was a hard worker, which mattered most.

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