― Umberto Eco, Foucault's Pendulum
I like the idea that we learn by experiencing, watching, and listening. When Father's Day approaches, my thoughts always turn to my father, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers. They are gone, so I can't call them or spend time with them. This year, I'm celebrating Father's Day by remembering them and their stories. I have photos of five of the seven: Dad, Grandpa Busch, Grandpa Katilius and my dad's grandfathers.
The only one of his grandfathers that my father knew was his mother's father, John Edwards (1848-1920). Of the seven fathers, John was the only failure. When his wife died, John, a drunken blacksmith from North Wales, abandoned his two younger children to a Pittsburgh orphanage. When they became adults, he moved to Homestead and became a big family embarrassment. My dad remembers the occasional call from saloons in Homestead, asking Grandpa Busch to come down and remove his blotto father-in-law from his perch on the bar, singing hymns in Welsh. Dad also remembered him pie-eyed, singing "Oh How I love Jesus" as they rode on the streetcar--a custom passed down to Dad, who did not need to be drunk to sing in public. "Oh, How I Love Jesus" by Alan Jackson "Oh, How I love Jesus" by Alan Jackson (sorry, no Welsh accent).
|The only known photo of John Edwards, taken in Richmond, VA.|
|The original photo, taken in the 1880s, from which the chalk-tinted portrait of him that used to hang in my grandparents' house, was made. It now hangs in my back parlor. In the tinted one, his suit is black and the tie has no stripes.|
I have not found photos of either of my mother's grandfathers, Joseph Katilius (d. 1885) and Charles Shefsky (1855-1926). Joseph was killed by Cossacks in Lithuania. My mother had vague memories of Charles, who died when she was 10. Charles left Lithuania with his wife and three children in 1897.
My mother's father, Anthony Katilius (1879-1958), left Lithuania in 1908, escaping the violence and turmoil that took place between warring factions during the rise of the Bolsheviks. He was a man of few words, speaking English with an accent. He was calm and even-tempered, patient and detail-oriented, traits that made him a good watch- and violin-maker. He had his own ethnic dance orchestra during the 'Thirties, which he led with the violin. I remember him playing the piano and violin in the living room of the hilltop house on his beloved retirement hobby farm. After the war he brought over a number of Lithuanian DPs, who lived in the old farmhouse on the property until they found work. Grandpa offered me $15--an enormous sum-- if I learned to play "Repasz Band March" on the piano. He died before I could take up the bribe, but I'm sure he'd be happy to know I eventually learned to play both piano and (church) organ. "Repasz Band March" played on a theater organ Repasz Band March played on a theater organ. (*Note: I found that "Repasz Band March" for piano is available on free download. I've printed out a copy and I'm working on it. I won't get the $15, but will still have the satisfaction that (60 years later) I'll have learned to play it.)
|My favorite snapshot of Grandpa Katilius.|
|Grandpa (r) and a guy named George in front of the Katilius jewelry, music, and appliance store, 505 E. 8th Avenue, Homestead, where you could buy Vega-Martin guitars and handmade violins, c. 1940.|
|Grandpap and his dog Lucky on the Farm, with the McGeevers' Studebaker in the background. My main memory of that doghouse is getting stung by a wasp while I was climbing on it.|
My dad's father, George Washington Busch (1874-1959)--also a character in Darkness Visible--was a second-generation American, an avid baseball fan who went to every single Pirate opener until the year before he died. He was fond of folksy sayings like "How's your liver?" and "See you on the pickle wagon." George played football and baseball; he was a great promoter of local baseball teams from the Homestead Grays to the mill teams. His job, superintendent of the machine shop in the USS Homestead Works, required grace under pressure and skill in making and repairing mill machinery. In retirement, he chose to spend most of his time in the summer months working in his backyard flower garden or in the large plot of vegetables around the corner. He didn't play an instrument, but loved to sing. In his younger days he sang second tenor in a barbershop quartet. He, Dad, Uncle Jack Breakwell (the Three Tenors) and I (the one alto) would sometimes sing around the piano for hours after Sunday dinner.
|Grandpa Busch with Ernie Stevens (left) in the machine shop office. This photo hung in my grandparents' bedroom for as far back as I can remember.|
|Grandpa sitting by the piano in the Breakwells' house in Squirrel Hill.|
|Grandpa at work in the 1920s. There was nothing small about the mill machine shop.|
Both my grandfathers outlived their wives. I think Grandpa Busch had the harder time of it afterwards, alone in the house on 21st Street. Even though he was the eldest, he outlived all his brothers and sisters. After Grandma Katilius died, Helen and her family moved in with Grandpa on the Farm, where many friends and family members came to visit.
If George Busch was macro, Anthony Katilius was micro. George worked on gigantic machines in huge mill buildings; Anthony worked on watches and violins. George worked for a big corporation, while Anthony worked for himself. George had a dozen siblings; Anthony left most of his family behind in Lithuania. But they both loved working outdoors, one in his garden, the other in his vineyard, and they both loved music.
|Dad, me, and Anthony on the Farm, 1945.|
He played high school football and baseball, and tennis at Pitt, but he would much rather be acting or directing. He played summer stock in Connecticut, worked at the Pittsburgh Playhouse and for Grace Price Productions, and eventually organized his own children's theater company. Occasionally, I performed in his productions. Like George he loved to sing--in choirs and solo. He often embarrassed me by singing as he walked down the street or through a store (the Edwards gene coming out).
|This photo of the 1919 Mechanics team from the Homestead Works has appeared all over the Homestead area. My father, the bat boy, shows by his downcast expression how miserable he was at being pressed into service. Grandpa is fourth from left.|
|From the 1925 Munhisko year book.|
But Dad's true life's work was teaching. He was a born teacher and really enjoyed working with kids. He took his love of theater and science to the classroom, and also directed school plays. During his teaching years, he would come home before my mother (who worked in the Katilius store) and make dinner, a task he preferred to cleaning up--which she did.
|In the Munhall H.S. chemistry lab. Dad won the Bausch and Lomb and Keivin Burns awards for excellence in science teaching.|
But I remember him most for his stories. I got him a mug that read "Keeper of the Family Tales", for that's what he was. He told stories about his family, his school days, his teaching, his numerous travels all over the globe--so many stories I couldn't begin to write them all down. In fact, without his stories, this blog post would be a lot shorter. and Darkness Visible never would have been written.
So here's to you, Dad--and Grandpas Busch and Katilius. Thanks so much for the wonderful memories.
|Dad getting his car ready for their honeymoon trip a day before his wedding.|