Dad's Memories

- 07 April 99 - 07 April 99

Changing Times

Today I recieved an e-mail with some "Blonde" jokes. I'd commented to this friend - Clara - that many jokes that came along in e-mail were not the kind you could repeat in polite company. Since then Clara has kept me supplied with "clean" jokes, many about "Dumb Blondes" humorous actions. I've set up a special 'Puter folder for keepers, as I cant just remember jokes very well.

My response today was to the effect that before Affirmative Action, Discrimination, Ethnic Sensitivity, etc. many of the jokes now attributed to "Dumb Blonde's" would have been aimed at -- some of my very good friends in Connecticut -- (can I use the word today?) -- Polacks.

It started me to thinking about how different things are today from when we worked together thru the 40's and 50's.

At Pratt&Whitney Aircraft in East Hartford, I was a Group Leader in Industrial Engineering, a dept with around 180 people. Several other Group Leaders and I decided it would be nice to have a Round Robin get together once a month for dinner, followed by an evening of Poker & or Set Back. The object being to get to know one another better in an environment outside of the office, as we had a mix of different backgrounds and lived in towns spread over a 50 mile area - to enjoy a relaxed evening, and to afford an opportunity to sample the favorite meals of the various origin countries.

First we agreed we should maybe 'feel out' the ladies to get their reaction to putting on a special feed for 6 or 8 strangers. And the response was good, they looked forward to meeting "these men you talk about so much", and I think, an opportunity to showcase their culinary expertise on their own National Cookery.

Our varied group included -- Frank, Htfd Italian -- Alden, English, out of Dartmouth Ski team -- Bob, Pa. Dutch, out of Villanova football -- Big John, a wild Irish footballer out of Boston College -- and three "Poles" to me, tho they claimed different backgrounds -- Mike, Czech -- and Leo & Mit who said they were from different areas over in (?) Poland -- and finally "mixed breed" me - English, Irish, Scotch, German - with that nice Irish gal wife.

We lived E_W_N_& S of the plant so would carpool when possible, going right from work, leaving cars in the Company lot. The food was out of this world, I particularly remember the Galumpka (?), Stuffed Peppers & other 'Pole' meals at Frank D'Esopo's, the Spaghetti was a side dish to all kinds of "not-on-your-diet" goodies, Chicken & Dumplings, Corned Beef & Cabbage. (Should have happened more often than once a month.)

The card games fostered plenty of good natured "ethnic" ribbing, with the "Thick" Irishmen, "Dumb" Polack's, "no fun" Englisher, and "wierd" Dutchman, exchanging insults. And, for me, they had a choice - it might be a "Damm Scotchman" if I did not stay in a pot where somebody had a good hand, a "Stubborn Kraut" if I stayed on a third rate loser, or "just like an Englishman" if I was slow catching on to the last wisecrack.

We did set reasonable limits to bets and no one ever "lost their shirt" or "won a bundle "at the card games. Couple of bucks here and there normally.

The bureaucrats had not yet invented Affirmative Action, or Discrimination, or Ethnic Sensitivity and we were able to exchange all that good natured banter without concern for hurt feelings or reprisal. We met for a lot of years, exchanged usefull job information, had a lot of fun, made lasting friendships, and both Grace and I missed the Food Fest / Card Sessions when we transferred to Florida.

And, thinking about good Polish friends reminds me of Bill & Helen Sladyk. Bill was a leadman in the shop when I first started at P&WA. He went out of his way to explain to me how his line of machines worked and we developed a nice friendship. After I was promoted "upstairs" I'd make it a point to stop by his Dept and say hello if in Bill's shop area. The Sladyk's lived in E.Hampton, about 10 miles from our house in Haddam Neck, and we eventually visited back and forth, Grace and Helen became good friends.

We'd spend Fourth of July celebrations together - you could legally buy fireworks then - and we'd lay in a supply of ground fireworks, not so much aerial stuff but things you could set off in the back yard - day or nite - and that the kids could enjoy. You know - noisy stuff. One ground set that the kids got a big kick out of was supposed to zig-zag along the ground and make a lot of noise. I remember a problem one time tho - one did not go in the intended direction, instead headed right for me and chased me all around the back yard and finally exploded under my feet when I jumped - to the wild glee of all the kids. Embarrassing to me - but no harm done.

Bill was a Shop Leadman in '41 when I started, and still a Leadman in '61 when we transferred to Fla. A good mechanic, stayed on the job thru the D-day layoff when just about the entire shop was laid off overnite.

And -- Polacks -- Bill's father was actually one who distrusted banks so much that he really buried cash in coffee cans about their family farm. Kept a journal detailing where each was located, and how much each contained. When his father died, Bill and his brothers used the journal to dig up and split the hoard. Bill said he used his share to buy their house - free and clear. So the myth about burying money does have credibility.

I found the stereotype's to be a misnomer. I'd label those friends as smart, clever, unassuming, thrifty yet generous, very nice people -- "Polacks".

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