Voices from My Past: Heard Through a Blog Post!

It is amazing how small this world has become thanks to technology and the reach of social media and blogs. My posts are viewed more than a thousand times each month including a sizeable percentage of views from outside the United States. Two months ago, a mid-west reader responded to one of my earlier posts with the comment: “I believe we are related!” Inasmuch as I had long ago (1948), at age eight, moved with my family to California from Chicago, Illinois, I was surprised and intrigued.

It so happens that Mary is a “lost” second cousin of mine originally from Chicago whose Grandfather Elmer was my Uncle Elmer – the older brother of my dad. Here is Elmer standing in front of his father’s radio repair shop on Diversey Avenue in Chicago, sometime in the early nineteen fifties. His dad was also named Elmer, and he was my paternal grandfather.

It is my grandfather and his tiny radio repair shop, mentioned in that post of mine, which caught second cousin Mary’s eye. The last portion of the post contains a picture of my grandparents (Mary’s great-grandparents) standing behind the counter of their little shop in Chicago (circa 1947) – the only photo of its kind in the entire family, apparently.

Inasmuch as I grew up only a mile or two from my grandparents and their “mom & pop” store with living quarters in the back, I quite vividly recall that shop and have often wished there were another picture of it and them… somewhere. Mary fortunately was able to provide the first photo, used here, showing the exterior of the shop which no longer exists. I well recall the red/orange neon sign in the window announcing: “Radio Service.” My memory bell “rang” at first glance.

On a 2004 vacation trip to Chicago, my wife and I returned to the scenes of my boyhood. I was amazed to find that most everything was still there, including our old brick apartment building, all looking just as recalled some 56 years later. Sadly, the building which housed the little radio repair shop at 6755 Diversey Ave. had long ago been cleared away for a large banquet hall/restaurant which today covers much of the block. I had really hoped to find that little storefront, the seat of so much of our family’s history…and my boyhood consciousness.

Soon after “finding” second cousin Mary, I met her cousin Linda, via E-mail. We have begun to fill-in a number of blanks in the Kubitz family history by exchanging recollections and pictures. Interestingly, both Mary and Linda were not at all sure about the history/existence of my grandparent’s radio repair shop on Diversey Ave. I, on the other hand had no knowledge at all of their grandfather’s (Elmer, pictured in the first photo) later radio repair shop on Belmont Ave. in Chicago. And so begins an interesting quest to learn more about the family history!

I am glad that second cousin Mary “discovered” me and my blog and took the time to verify the family connection. As so often happens, family history gets lost as time and distance take their inevitable toll. For me, leaving Chicago in 1948 when United Air Lines transferred my father, meant severing close ties with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. There were no overt reasons why that should have happened so completely as it did. Coming from a family of five kids, as in my father’s case, family dynamics are always a part of the equation, but, mainly, the effect of time and distance took their toll. The daily scramble for a better life takes time and attention away from extended family solidarity. That was especially true back then when Chicago seemed so far away from San Francisco, California.

Thank goodness I was old enough to have collected indelible images and impressions of my close relatives before leaving them. I have always remained curious about them and sad that I never really got to know them as well as I would have liked.

For more background on this post and my personal/family history, click on these links to other applicable posts of mine:

https://reasonandreflection.wordpress.com/2015/10/17/vintage-radio-tv-repairing-and-building-things-yourself/

https://reasonandreflection.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/chicago-returning-to-my-boyhood-roots/

https://reasonandreflection.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/the-work-ethic-and-the-dignity-of-excellence/

https://reasonandreflection.wordpress.com/2013/06/09/family-funnies-great-laughs/

https://reasonandreflection.wordpress.com/2014/04/27/a-most-unbelievable-encounter-thanks-to-lawrence-welk/

https://reasonandreflection.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/aviation-scrapbook-a-long-lost-treasure-from-the-attic/

https://reasonandreflection.wordpress.com/2014/04/20/cowboywestern-music-from-chicago/

https://reasonandreflection.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/ruth/

https://reasonandreflection.wordpress.com/2016/08/25/fifty-years-of-marriage-and-five-days-more/

https://reasonandreflection.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/my-wife-related-to-anne-boleyn-and-a-movie-mogul/

Better to Pursue One’s Passion or a Practical Profession?

First Flight_1 Crop

The Wright Brothers from Dayton, Ohio, pursued their passion of manned flight. In 1903, their dedication and efforts created not only a practical profession for themselves, but the entire aviation industry! In case they were not successful, they had an established backup plan: Their profitable bicycle shop back home. They were quintessential examples of successfully pursuing a passion.

The working world offers many career choices. Within any given category lurks the tricky task of choosing “passion” or “practical profession.” The question is: “Shall I pursue my passion, or shall I choose a more predictable profession which will offer financial security?” The expense of a college degree or other training which is required is often a significant factor in the whole equation. Let us look at another, less dramatic example of passion vs. profession involving aviation.

Another Aviation Example: Passion or Profession?

For a youngster looking to the future who loves airplanes, the prospect of flying them might entail both a passion and the most enviable of professions – at least until a reality check makes it clear that a smooth path to a steady, well-paying flying career in the airlines is a thing of the past. Many career airline captains in past decades received their flight training and flying experience while in the military, a point of entry which is, today, almost non-existent compared with years past – especially the World War II and Korean War eras.

Private aviation flight schools are no less expensive than most colleges and universities; a degree/certificate from one of these comes complete with very tenuous employment opportunities with the major airlines. Flying for a small feeder line guarantees very poor pay, long hours, and no job security – if one should be so lucky to even find such a position. For some, their innate talent and the dedication to pursue their passion will overcome any practical considerations…and Godspeed to them!

A more practical alternative for the aviation buff might be to enroll in a college or university which offers a degree in mechanical or aeronautical engineering. With such credentials, the chances of a stable and rewarding career in aviation are significantly improved – compared to flying. My father had such a career.

My Father and the Perfect Solution

My Father had a lifelong passion for airplanes and aviation along with virtually no initial chance, whatsoever, to embrace his passion or even to experience a rewarding career in the field. He had but one year of high school before coming face-to-face with the necessity of going to work to help support his family during the Depression. He went from the bicycle assembly shop at Arnold Schwinn in Chicago in 1940  (the year I was born)  to senior mechanical design engineer/engineering manager at United Air Lines many years prior to his retiring (comfortably) in 1981 from United. He accomplished this very difficult feat through dedication, study, and hard work over many years.

dc4ual3[1]

My father was a most uncommon man: You may read my prior posts on him for the details. Click here for: Aviation Scrapbook: A Long-Lost Treasure From the Attic (3-16-14); The Work Ethic and the Dignity of Excellence  (9-15-13); Family Funnies / Great Laughs! (6-9-13).

The point, here, is that he was able to do important work in aviation and to be around airplanes for the better portion of his career by making judicious choices along the way. Ultimately, he made his youthful dream come true by earning his private pilot’s license and flying single engine airplanes under the auspices of United’s employee flying club. Although he would have loved to fly for United as a career, he forged an alternate pathway to get up-close-and-personal to his great passion – airplanes and aviation. His career with United spanned thirty-seven years, capped by a comfortable retirement of eleven years before he passed away. He had aspects of both passion and stable profession over all those years.

Is the Passion vs. Profession Quandary Always Easy to Resolve?

Not really. For would-be artists, dancers, musicians, and athletes whose passion is  to reach the upper echelons, there is no compromise with the all-out dedication and effort those fields require. Although there is inevitably a fallback position available to those who fall short of reaching the top in those fields, the long-term prospects and the financial security of those alternate livelihoods are typically problematic.

It would seem that only those imbued with extreme confidence in their innate talent (and dedication) – Charles Lindbergh, for example – should “risk all” by entering a potentially dead-end, one-way alley. The rest would be well-advised to hedge their bets and plot an alternate path – just in case! Even Lindbergh, with his warranted, great self-confidence and his passion to make aviation history, had a fallback position: As an experienced air-mail pilot. He did not need it.

lindbergh-14a[1]

The Work Ethic and the Dignity of Excellence

There are some things we “just feel in our bones.” I suppose such feelings are nurtured by demonstrated example, perhaps even from something in our genes; such embedded attitudes seem implanted quite early in life. One example of this that intrigues me is the inherent belief that anything worth doing is worth doing well. Some people live their lives framed in that philosophy, while others are consistently content to do enough to “get by” – to just get the job done.

                                 Notable Disciples of Excellence: Steve Jobs                                of Apple Computer and My Father

Steve Jobs_1

Two people come to mind as the ultimate practitioners of “excellence,” Steve Jobs of Apple Computer… and my father! Jobs was a visionary, but one who had the drive and discipline to turn visions into reality – real products that everyone wanted. Why did products such as the Apple II computer, the McIntosh computer, the iPod/iTunes tandem, the iPad, and the iPhone succeed so brilliantly? Because they each served a market looking for a solution….and they worked extremely well at a user/technical level.  Steve Jobs was obsessed with the desire to design truly excellent products. His successes were characterized by ease of use (and usefulness), superb reliability, and, equally important, appealing aesthetics – product “sizzle,” if you will. His favorite phrase about these milestone products echoes still: “Insanely great!” He clearly drove his design teams at Apple to constantly strive for product excellence across the board.

Jobs did not – could not – do it by himself, of course. Anyone hired under his tenure at Apple had to run a possibly unprecedented interview gauntlet before being asked to join the company. Jobs suffered no fools in the process. When I was an active design engineer here in Silicon Valley, stories circulated throughout high-tech of Jobs’ sometimes brutal and blunt interviewing process for prospective high-level Apple employees. He was looking for the spirit of excellence in the people who would be Apple Computer. If you were not on board in that regard, you did not belong. Certainly, “Bozos” need not bother to even apply!

My Father

My father was the perfect example of the attitude that the world needs. He was a gentleman perfectionist in all aspects of his life, with only one year of high school (of economic family necessity) who worked his way up the ladder, the hard way, to become a mechanical design engineer at United Air Lines, responsible for much of their ground-equipment in the nineteen-fifties and sixties. Although he gravitated to the more cerebral occupation of engineering, he was also the finest hands-on craftsman I ever knew – extremely skilled at both the design and execution of any project.

RC Dad_1

Dad's Work  Station_1

Everything he designed, made, or repaired, was a work of art including his many RC (radio-controlled) model airplanes and his paintings of early aviation. Even his RC work -station which he took when he went flying was designed by him and hand-built – truly a work of art.

Dad's Dogfight_1

See my blog archives for the post of June 9, 2013, Family Funnies / Great Laughs for more insight on my father and his RC flying.

As a youngster growing up, I admired his talent and ability. Most importantly, I took away from his personal history and example a distinct appreciation for work well done, whether a product of the mind or the hand. That appreciation has never left me; I will add that he has been a tough act to follow!

Most importantly, Dad respected ANY man or woman of good character who always tried their best and, at least some of the time, produced good results in their chosen endeavor – no matter what their “station” in life. I learned that from him and his example.

The Work Ethic, Excellence, and Personal Dignity

What do we gain personally by putting out the extra effort required by a task well-done as opposed to “good enough to get by?” Here is my take: Individually, we can feel proud of our efforts while hopefully earning the respect of our peers. In most cases, one’s good efforts will be noticed by friends, family, and colleagues, and they should be noticed and appreciated. Incorporating a spirit of striving and excellence into our daily activities infuses us with an innate personal dignity that money and “station” in life cannot procure – a dignity that no one can minimize; call it “feeling good about ourselves.”

What does society gain when its members strive for excellence in each and every daily endeavor? First, a more efficient and pleasant existence for all; second, an elevated esprit-de-corps which serves to intensify even further the drive for excellence while promoting the idea that “we must all pull our own weight, for we are in ‘this’ together.” People with a solid work ethic are the folks who make the world go ‘round – no matter what their occupation or their so-called “level” in society.

             The Dignity of Work Well-Done: Equally Applicable to Steelworkers,      Janitors, Fast-food Cooks, Doctors, and Engineers

My father was able to overcome great obstacles early in life and enter the engineering profession. Not everyone can do what he did. He truly believed that each and every one of us should be judged more by the attitude and effectiveness we bring to whatever activities and profession we embrace than by our ultimate “station in life.” The true dignity of a person and their profession is far better reflected by one’s character and efforts to excel at their work than by the perceived “status” of the profession itself.

A janitor who can add value by demonstrating an ability to repair things on the job and make constructive suggestions while efficiently and effectively fulfilling the typical job description is someone to be admired as opposed to one who knows and cares only how to empty trash cans and vacuum floors.

My wife is a retired schoolteacher from the Catholic schools. During her years on her school faculty, she came to know one or two of the custodians very well, men who always went the extra mile, were always there to help, and were willing and able to make helpful suggestions to the teachers. “That’s not in my job description” was an attitude never heard. These men earned and received great respect from the faculty and were treated as important members of the staff.

Speaking of janitors and the work they do, it saddens me to go into a McDonalds or a Starbucks and observe over-filled trash bins and restrooms with papers strewn all over the floor. I hasten to point out that this problem is not unique to these two businesses; rather it is becoming more the rule than the exception out there. My immediate reaction is two-fold: Why is the public so careless, and why doesn’t the staff take more pride in their premises? Frankly, of the two parties involved, I come down harder on the public at large which seems to have less and less respect for property and for those who operate it.

If all patrons would do their part and pick up after themselves, the world would be a better place – not just cleaner, but more civil. How many times have you seen take-out food and beverage containers sitting forlornly in the middle of a parking lot, the consumer too lazy and uncaring to take their trash with them? Respect is a two way street. I respect those who make an honest effort to do their part and shoulder their responsibilities every day no matter what their “station” in life. As for those who just do not care: Grow up and earn some respect!

                                             Recognize a Good  Attitude                                               and a Job Well Done

I make it a point to single-out and praise anyone who is providing special service or delivering a job well done. Tipping at restaurants is the usual way to cast your vote on the service, but why not tell an outstanding server verbally how you appreciated their attitude and service as well?

Years ago, we had some very stubborn wallpaper removed at a fixed price determined ahead of time. The company sent out one of their workers (not the one who bid the job!) who soon discovered that removing this wallpaper was not at all a typical effort. The guy worked like a beaver the entire day, sweating heavily the whole time – always cheerful. I was so impressed with his energy and positive attitude throughout that I tipped him $100 for his efforts. I suspect he was paid not much more than that by his employer. He was surprised and pleased that I validated the dignity and worth of his efforts in such a way. I was pleased to observe that the work-ethic was alive and well and was pleased to reward it.