When I was about 8 or 9, my dad -- a professor of American history who passed away last week -- played for me a 1937 recording of reporter Herbert Morrison’s response to the Hindenburg zeppelin bursting into flames. Morrison’s description of flaming bodies and debris falling from the sky was gruesome and his response was highly emotional. I will never forget hearing this recording, although, as an adult and a parent, I often found it humorous that my dad thought this was an important -- and an appropriate -- sound recording to share with a kid. But really, I am so glad that he did.
My dad loved this recording because it was a dramatic piece of American history, but also because it was a moment of raw emotion and truth. For my dad -- a guy that was named "Most Sincere" by his high school class -- this kind of very-human reporting really meant something. And it did, later in life, for me, too.
Sincerity in writing is something I hold near and dear to my heart, but that’s not the only passion I inherited from my dad. I also got his deep love for Milwaukee.
My dad was born in Louisville, Ky., but he moved to Milwaukee in 1968 to attend graduate school at UWM. Within a few months, he declared Milwaukee his favorite city in the country and for the next 40-some years spent all of his free time attending local events and destinations like Summerfest (he went every year from the year it started in 1968), the Holiday Folk Fair and concerts of all kinds. He made frequent trips to libraries and museums -- often by bus -- and was a season ticket holder for the Milwaukee Brewers.
My dad told me that when I was born, he was extremely proud to have a child that was born in Milwaukee. During my entire childhood, he reinforced his Brew City adoration by reminding me of our strong public school system, reliable public transportation system, proximity to the greatest of the Great Lakes, the city's Socialist roots and the beauty of never-ending outdoor summertime activity. (Sadly, he never found love for Milwaukee winters and yet, refused to wear a hat or a weather-appropriate coat.)
My dad was a diehard East Sider who ate thousands of meals at Ma Fischer’s, Real Chili (they knew his order), Benji’s and the now-defunct Oriental Pharmacy and Brady Street Pharmacy. He loved to smoke and read newspapers and listen to his dining companion.
My dad was such a great listener.
About a decade ago, when my dad started to dye his graying hair jet black, I told him he was becoming one of those wacky-and-notable East Side icons that people see everywhere. Dad laughed and said after a long drag on his cigarette, "I’m honored."
This is a great piece Molly. Milwaukee and your Dad rocks.
Wonderful tribute to a wonderful man, Molly! I'm sure you've made him very proud!
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