Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The LuLac Edition #2978, July 1st, 2015

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Fifty years ago tomorrow my mom's oldest sibling Andrew Pribula passed away. His death was a seminal event in my life. I just knew my uncle from a distance. I'd remember him sitting on the back porch with his wife Stella and watching the Yankees on TV. Even though "A Radio Story" was and is fiction, there were some events of my life that came into the book.
The summer of 1965 was very quiet for 11 year old Jake Yanick until the phone rang on that hot July day. Jake's mother put the phone down and began to cry. Her oldest brother Drew had died. Jake was informed that he had to attend the wake and funeral. It would be three days out of his summer schedule of ball playing, bike riding, baseball card collecting and acquiring girlie magazines. Other  than the assassination of President John Kennedy, this was the young boy's first encounter with death.
Entering the funeral home, Jake followed his parents paying respect to his uncle. His mother's side of the family spanned nearly half the century with Uncle Drew being born in 1900 and Uncle Larry arriving in 1932. There were 14 brothers and sisters. Family gatherings were like block parties. Unlike the joyful Christmas season, gatherings with food and football, this was a more subdued occasion. Working class aunts and uncles he was accustomed to seeing in worn work clothes now wore their Sunday best. The women in simple black mourning dresses and the men in starched white shirts received the legion of friends to say goodbye. As was the custom, the wake went on for three days.
Jake positioned himself on one of the couches by the door. He missed his Toni who was away at school.Jake gazed at the body and the immediate family. Two sons survived Uncle Drew. One named Bobby looked just like the dad man. The other was familiar to Jake only from the 11 by 14 black and white glossy that sat on his aunt's TV set in the family homestead. The photo came to life in the person of Ed Prince. Leaving home at the age of 18, cousin Ed was a big time radio announcer in Cleveland. Jake wondered what that was like, to be noticed, sought after and admired.
As he sat, his Uncle Jim joined him. After a quick pat on the boy's buzzed head, the man said, "You know who's in that box don't you? That's my brother in tat box. He's no moving. Wednesday they are going to put him a hole and then that's it. This is life, this i death. This is serious stuff." intoned his uncle.
Jake was momentarily stunned. Looking at his uncle, he said, "What should I do? Should I pray" His uncle answered him, "Yeah if you want, but more importantly, live every day like it's the day before you wind up in one of those boxes."
No on had ever spoken to Jake like that in his young life. Jake pondered its meaning until e was interrupted by another Uncle. Andy Zack had married into the family. He was congenial man with a booming voice who had an animated way of expressing his numerous opinions. Since he was on of Jake's favorite relatives, the young boy decided to get Uncle Andy's explanation of what Uncle Jim just told him.
When Jake asked the question, Andy roared back in laughter and said, "It means, kid, hit the ground running. There's not much time period. Play hard and work hard. But when you work, find something you want to do, like me and your dad there breaking our backs on the railroad. Find a job where you bones won't ache, where you won't work in he cold or the heat.Be lie Bobby an Eddie-work inside. And when you get married, marry a girl who has two things, common sense an money. Your chances of landing a job you like are way better than landing that combo!". His uncle, getting louder with each pronouncement was hushed by his wife Sue. Jake and his uncle quietly resumed speaking but this time about the sorry stat of their team the Philadelphia Phillies.
After the funeral Jake met briefly with Eddie who gave him the inside dope on what radio broadcasting was all about. His tales of the industry only heightened the young boy's interest. When Ed began to tell Jake of the sports and movie celebrities he met, Jake could not contain his glee. Ed recounted the time he appeared on The Ted Mack Amateur Hour and how he introduced dancer Gen Kelly at a live show. After that, Jake was hooked.


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