Sunday, April 24, 2011

Grandpa Ericke

My maternal grandfather, Carl, was born in Chicago on May 16, 1894. He grew up in Chicago, and as I mentioned before, was the closest grandparent I had. His wife, my grandmother, died in 1965 when I was only 7, at age 64, quite suddenly while in the hospital awaiting surgery on her gallbladder. I am named after her: Sarah Louise. After my grandmother died, my grandfather moved with our family as his daughter, my mother, Nancy, was his oldest child. My grandfather's name was Carl, but he went by Carl O. Ericke. Grandpa Ericke died on February 12, 1982 when I was in college. Before he died, he promised my brother Bob that he would document some of his life stories on a cassette recorder that Bob gave him. I have listened to these stories often, but have just now started to transcribe them for posterity.

So in his eighties, he spoke into the recorder with some difficulty, remembering all those life events that made an impression on him. One wonders what stories will we all be telling when we're at the end of our life? What will we remember that will be worth retelling?

In January 1913 there were fraternities in high school, as there were in college at the time. There was an attempt by the superintendent of schools in Chicago to dismantle the high school fraternities. My grandfather didn't like that much and remembered the story of how he tried to change that.  I'm also including an article I found from the Chicago Tribune which he refers to in his story. I am emboldened by this story, and I can see where my mother got her democratic fervor. I hope you enjoy it!

I’ll tell you about my being pledged to Delta Sigma Epsilon fraternity, national. I was finally elected secretary of the Beta chapter. We had a little altercation with the Superintendent of schools. She was trying to throw fraternities out of the high school and we were determined to stay in. As a result of this I called a meeting and wrote letters to all the fraternities and sororities in the Chicago area and went down to the Sherman house.

They gave me a room free of charge to hold the meeting. Quite a few turned out. I’m not very good as a speaker in public and have to admit I got weak in the knees to address this big group. So what I did was call the meeting to order. The ballroom was filled with boys and girls and newspaper reporters, and as soon as I did, I turned the meeting over the secretary of our chapter. I knew he could speak well, and wouldn’t be afraid, so I got out from under that one anyway.

Nothing much happened except the paper wrote it up and I went home and I was surprised to see newspaper reporters on my front stairs waiting for me to come in and take my picture. It made the front page of the Chicago Tribune. Scared me to death.

(The Chicago Tribune was very nice about it, but they wanted to charge me $1200 for six months to post one article on my grandfather. me if you're interested in seeing them. The two articles I found are from January, 1913 titled: "'HIGH FRATS DEFY EDUCATION BOARD: 'Tired of Mrs. Youngs' Continuous Denunciation,' Asserts Society Officer. SAYS BEST PUPILS BELONG, 'Let Them Expel Most Efficient Boys and Girls' Is His Challenge; and 'FRAT TO SUE FOR PLACE IN SCHOOLS: Members, Ignored by Mrs. Young, Want Court to Reinstate Suspended Pupils. PLEAD FOR SOCIETIES. Say Many of Best Students Belong and That They Help Young Men.)

Reporters, as usual, followed me up to my job at the steel company and as it happened I was in the tempering plant, where we tempered free of charge any tools made out of high speed steel. Of course I had on overalls. So the next day the paper came out and said all fraternity boys were not of the elite class, because when they interviewed me they found me in overalls. It didn’t bother me much, but I thought, you get in the limelight and you sure get in a lot of difficulties.

Nuff said. Good job, Grandpa.

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