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No memory of having starred
atones for later disregard
nor keeps the end from being hard. *
by: Louis S. Jablonski
* Mom writes, “The Frost lines were on a scrap of paper with his story, so there was meaning for him there.”
Editor’s note: It was important to me that my children have access to my father’s autobiography. Of course, this is difficult with his challenging penmanship. I imagined others may have this difficulty as well, so here is a print version.
I’ve edited as little as possible for readability, as little was needed. I’ve made my best attempt at spelling names; however, you may want to have your copy in Dad’s own script nearby as you read this. Please let me know of any errors herein, and I will correct them.
Thank you to Elaine Tveit for her many hours of typing.
I’ve chosen the apple tree motif (in Polish, Jablonski means “of the apples”) for the cover; it is the same one carved on Dad’s gravestone and inside his coffin lid.
Lou/Bill Host-Jablonski , Spring 1998
31 March 1978
One of my many office mates at MU [Marquette University] was an 80 yr. old prof., Don Lescoheir. He said he had signed the doctoral papers for Dr. Scrimshaw, another ancient, who in turn had signed my father’s apprenticeship papers. Don had heart trouble and told me that if one day he failed to appear, whatever books of his were in the office became mine. One book I failed to find when he did not appear was an autobiography he had written to satisfy his family. Just today I read in the ND [Notre Dame] Magazine that it was an interesting and useful activity for the aging. This writing by an old timer of whatever vocation could be a life history for his family to read and appreciate and a mechanism for narrating phases of life, reconciling contradictions, and examine goals and achievements that otherwise “pass in the night” as just living. And of course other things such as searching out and reveling motives and dreams came true as aborted or dying in youth. So I believe I will try to do something akin to Don’s effort, not in an attempt to justify or glorify but to tell a story of who I am, how I got to be that someone and whether it mattered. I leave it to a reader, if there is one, to decide its worth or significance. So on to the beginning--my parents.
Ma, born Mary Teresa Karolczak of John and Mary (Kazmierczak) in Posen, then Germany, June 26, 1884 arrived as a child of eight in the U.S. I believe through of Port of New York. She told me of a very long journey on a combination sail and steam ship which was blown by storms so far off course that some thought they might head for Brazil instead of the U.S. Who besides her parents came along I’m not sure, but my uncle Joe was born at sea. Ma was the oldest, then Joe, and later in Milwaukee Andrew, John, Roman, Charlie (Casimir), Stanley and Alvina. I’m not sure of the order. I think three others died in infancy. Grandma died about July 4 in 1923. I barely remember her and then only as a smallish woman over an ironing board set on the backs of two chairs. She was ironing in the kitchen of the front house on a lot on Weil Street between Chambers and Locust Streets, about mid-block. The house was of stucco with a full front porch. There is a picture somewhere of me, Stanley, Bernice and a big black dog on that porch. We lived in the rear cottage on that lot. It was a wooden house and I remember only that it butted on an alley and the railroad tracks to the east. The lot ran E-W. That picture was taken about 1918 because we didn’t move out to N. Pierce Street until 1918.
To the north next door lived the Holz’s. I remember little except Mr. Holz played a bass drum in some band and wore a uniform while beating that drum. His daughter Elsie I also remember but only slightly. I had her son in class many years later at MU, but don’t recall his name. To the south lived another family with a Polish name. Across the street lived Uncle Peter Sznkowiak, and wife Stella. They had three kids, Stella, Walter and Chester. Stella was a school teacher, married an engineer Joe Gorski, and moved to Bakersfield CA. She is widowed now. Walter still lives in the homestead and Chester died some years ago. There is a death notice in the black bound Bible under Szmko. As kids we always called them Uncle and Aunt. “Uncle Shimkowiak and Auntie Shimkowoczka.
Next door (north) Aunt “Swolinska” (Stella) lived in Uncle’s house. He lived in the rear house, a smallish place of wood with no basement. She had a passle of kids: Julia, Josephine, Antoinette, Harriet, Sophie, Mary, Casey (Casimir) and Frank. Aunt was a widow. Uncle Joe, her husband drowned in Lake Pewaukee while fishing. I never saw the man nor do I remember him. The front house was a dark gloomy thing but big.
Down the block (North) lived “Gypsy” (Crazy) Kåzir (Casmir), a mason and further down another cretin “Crazy John”. Both were much hassled by the “normal” kids and were simply lost when their mothers died.
On the NW corner of Weil and Locust (S) was a bakery called “Szmikocy”. The rest of the neighborhood is still much the same today but of that early day I remember little as to who lived, where.
Grandpa and Grandma Karolzak are a bit hazy to me. Grandma died in 1923 after an illness. I remember Ma all broken up at her death. We lived at 1438 (now 3330) N. Pierce then.
Grandpa was a tall 5’11” and sported a broad mustache and a full head of hair. Ma always said he was a bit of a Prussian at home. He walked with a purposeful stride that had a little hitch in his right leg. Herb walks this way. Grandpa worked at the Municipal Garbage Plane on Erie St. Just what he did I don’t know. One day on his way home from work he was run over by a truck of the Hansen Storage Co. He had remarried a widow, Nikko, by name. I never really knew either him or her. She was a strange woman, heavy of feature and one who rarely spoke to us kids and then in Polish which we hardly knew. Grandpa, Grandma, Uncle Joe, Uncle Roman Liss (Lisecki) are all buried in Holy Cross Cemetery under the red granite stone inscribed J. Karolczok. Grandpa on the west and north, Grandma to his left and an empty spot and to the east on the north is Roman Lisa then an empty grave filled (now by Aunt Alvina, the last of my Aunts and Uncles), then Uncle Joe on the SE corner of the six grave plot. No dates or names grace the stone except that of Grandpa John.
Pa was born Jacob on July 4,1886 in the small town of Chody in present day Poland. It is about 50 miles SE of where Ma was born. He had three sisters I believe. Pa never really ever talked about his old country life. Even when questioned directly he’d never really tell. Why, I don’t know. His father was named Anthony and his mother Josephine (I think). Pa was a kind of mill wright as nearly as I can say from his conversations. He told of his family living on an estate governed by a landlord. From my studies and reading I surmise he lived on one of those estates ruled over by the “schlochta” or the “starostas” of that time. The territory was Russian when he was a boy and had an affection for the Russian soldiers who patrolled the borders and a kind of distant affection for the Czar. The “lord” of his father’s farm or whatever it was evidently a “good guy” because Pa never, to my recollection, ever felt oppressed. Nevertheless Pa decided to immigrate.