Happy Fathers’ Day to my dad, Ignatius J Hoffman. Iggy was born in the US to Austria parents who owned property in Austria and who made the voyage by ship back to their home country several times while Iggy was young. Iggy never spoke of those times. As a young boy his memory of those trips was dim – and unhappy.
I never knew my father’s dad. And I don’t know what impression he made on my father. Much of my ancestry seems to be mixed up in the economic and political upheaval of post WWI (http://www.authentichistory.com/1930-1939/4-roadtowar/1-germany/) and perhaps hampered by language barriers or fear. What I know is that my dad could be a tough German but an equally sensitive, fair and balanced human being. I remember him working with men of all nationalities in a literal melting pot at the Bethlehem Steel and that he never thought any one person was better or worse than the rest. It is thru his eyes that I see the differences in others and embrace those differences.
My dad was about 13 years old when he first went in search of work to support his family. He worked in Silk Mills and on the road doing anything he could. This was 1932. And the world was still recovering from the Great Depression. He was resourceful and creative with his mind and his hands. He built furniture as a hobby, and studied how to build a home – a dream he eventually fulfilled. His attention to details was keen. As a craftsman, he was in demand around town. People knew me by my father.
In his youth, he made friends with another German/Austrian immigrant – Julius Meyer – a man smaller in frame than he and with a golden voice that he lent to the Sängerbund in Coplay, PA. Together Iggy and Julius would find work when it was available. My dad had nicknames for everyone. Julius was dubbed “Schmick.” I do not know why, but the name stuck well into their grown, married, mature lives.
Iggy met and married my mother Anna Elizabeth Liposhitz in August of 1944 and together they had five children – of whom I was the youngest. Separately, Julius met and married Louise (aka “Lois”) (Weisgerber) Zoeller. And they, too, had five children.
Having come of age during The Great Depression, Iggy was thrifty and cautious with his money. He would never get rich. But he would never leave his family wanting for anything. We didn’t do great vacations. We didn’t have steak for dinner – ever. And I never saw seafood until I was a teenager and then I saw it in a restaurant.
Iggy landed a job in the Bethlehem Steel mills and it was there that he would make a living that could send 5 children to college – when he and my mother had been unable to finish high school. Work at the Steel was back breaking and, at times, dangerous. He was burned more than once, lost two fingers in another accident, and basically worked every single day in conditions we would find deplorable. He had no “paid sick time” so he went to work whether healthy or sick. And he hid his injuries and exhaustion from my mother and his children.
Well – that is – he TRIED to hide. The truth is that swing shifts took a toll on him and long hours left little time for relaxation. He often had little patience for the demands of 5 rambunctious precocious kids spread across ages one to seventeen. No country club for my dad, no golf outings, no movies or other extracurricular activities. What I remember is that mom and dad bowled in a league together one night a week and I would go with them to watch. What I remember is that weall always sat down together for dinner. What I remember is Sundays were for smiles and visiting family and having a beef pot roast for dinner. I remember barbecues with the extended family (Mom was one of five remaining siblings whom she had raised after her mother’s death) and the utter rapture of having my one big surprise birthday party at age 7. Both of my parents were so proud to give me whatever they had.
Iggy and “Schmick” remained friends – although life often got in the way of regular interchanges. The two families shared the same church, St Lawrence Roman Catholic Church in North Catasauqua, Pennsylvania – and it is here that Iggy’s daughter (yours truly here) met and eventually married Schmick’s second youngest son, Robert J (“Bob”) Meyer.
And , so, from two remarkable fathers who started their lives dirt poor, earned their way to home ownership and retirement, came a union that created my daughters, Chelsea Lyn Meyer and Kayla Elizabeth Meyer.
If their grandfathers were here today, they would be so proud of the creativity and kindness that embodies their granddaughters. They would hear echoes of Julius’ voice in Chelsea. They would find their own strength and resilience in Kayla. I don’t think they’d find their thriftiness in any of us. But they would certainly find kindness, acceptance, humor and creativity, and a relentless, (frustrating) drive for our own perfection in all of us.
These are the forces that shaped my own “high heeled standards”. I hope that Iggy looks down and knows what a wealth he left this earth.