Father and Son Life Lessons: New book and local signing event highlight Polish family life with a father's strict guidance

2014-06-15T00:00:00Z Father and Son Life Lessons: New book and local signing event highlight Polish family life with a father's strict guidanceBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Early on, in his new 176-page paperback book of his childhood stories, author Richard Post, who was raised in the Polish neighborhood of Chicago known as "Goose Island" during the 1940s and 1950s, shares a vivid story about the importance his father placed on discipline:

My father was on the other side of the school, where he had dropped me off in the morning, patiently waiting for me. When I didn't show up, he went inside and talked to the nuns about where I was. They tracked down Sister Mary Michael, who told them I said I lived on California Street and that she put me in that exit line.

The principal, Sister Mary Michael, and my father all walked from the school to the back gate.

"Why did you tell me you lived on California?" Sr. Mary Michael demanded, grabbing at me.

"I thought you asked if I had ever been to California," I said, twisting away from her grasp.

My father grabbed her arm. "Don't do that!" he said.

The principal, moving between them, said softly, "I think everyone needs to calm down."

"If he does something wrong, I'll take care of it at home. You nuns will not touch him; I'll do it."

"Now just a minute," the principal began.

"No, if he does wrong, send a note, call me; it's my job, not yours, to lay a hand on him."

This story on page 21, and so many others, share the memories, photos and life lessons Post, father of three and now grandfather to 10, treasures as collected in his new self-published book "West of Goose Island: A Chicago Story" (2013 Post & Post LLC $12.95).

With details of bringing "liver sausage and ketchup sandwiches" to school for lunch, the Christmas decorations at Marshall Field's, Polish Easter food basket blessings, attending Mass, playing games in the alley and Howdy Doody on TV, Post says he still smiles as he re-reads his own storytelling.

But there are also serious and sentimental stories of painful family trying times, from his own parent's arguments about finances to the array of "interesting" aunts and uncles who were part of everyday life.

And at the center of it all, is his father Stanley and the small Chicago grocery store business he worked so hard to build to support his family.

Post, 73, who now lives in Arizona with his wife Penny, is coming to Northwest Indiana this month to talk about his book and sign copies at a free public event hosted by the Polish-American Cultural Society of Northwest Indiana in conjunction with the Portage Public Library at 5:30 p.m. June 25 at the Portage Public Library, 2665 Irving St., in Portage, Ind.

Copies of the book will be available for $12.95 each (cash or check accepted). Seating is limited; reservations are recommended by calling Theresa Child at (219) 464-1369 or email to polamnwi@yahoo.com.

Prior to the book project, Post, who retired three years ago from his duties with Global Brand Integrity Management, wrote 16 textbooks with his wife.

"I was a member of a writer's group and I kept hearing that the key is always to: 'Write about something you know about,' " said Post, talking by telephone last week from his home.

"After writing 16 textbooks, I knew I was ready to try something else. That's when I started writing stories about father and my youth in Chicago."

The area referenced in his book title as "Goose Island" comprises the section of the Chicago neighborhoods based around the intersections of Division, Milwaukee and Ashland.

"It took me about a year to compile all of the stories together and the result is this book," Post said.

"It tells about a time when you did what your parents told you and learned from mistakes. Yes, my father was strict. But I wouldn't change anything that I learned from my experiences growing up in a Polish family in the neighborhoods of Chicago."

One of the stories he tells of his father's discipline shares what happened after he stole a few coins from his sister's coin collection.

"I didn't like what we were going to have for supper that night so I wanted to buy something else to eat," he explained.

"After my father punished me, he told me that if I didn't like what was cooked in our house, then I could learn to do the cooking."

He said his book spans the years 1948 to 1956 and includes plenty of references his generation will enjoy revisiting.

"As kids, we'd buy what were called 'Frozen Lindys,' which were just paper cups filled with frozen Kool-Aid that you could buy for a penny during the summer months," he said.

"I can still taste them in my mind. My book also mentions the movies of the day, like the religious film 'The Robe' and also the popular radio shows kids loved, including 'The Cinnamon Bear,' which was always played on the radio during the weeks around Christmas."

Post said he recalled his father and mother's techniques for discipline and raising children while raising his own family with his wife.

"Some of my approaches might have been different, but the life lessons were still there," he said.

As for the possibility of another book in the future which would continue his life story into his teens and early adulthood to married life, he said he's always open to the consideration.

"Those young years provide some of the best memories and stories with my father and family," he said.

"But you never know what might be next in life."

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