My Grandpa is Cooler than Your Grandpa

Clearly, coolness runs in the family.

My Grandpa, Fred V. Pankow, likes to write.  I remember many letters that he would send me when I was young.  Often including a misspelled word here or there, offering me a dime for every one I found. 

Later in life, he wrote a regular newsletter for his community as well as stories that he would send to his great grandkids.  Desmond has taken some of these into school and the teacher has read them to the class. 

Here is a new short story, by my Grandpa Pankow.  I like it.  I think you will, too.

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I Remember: The Swing and Our Town. by Fred Pankow

Bill and Mary were newlyweds when they hung the wooden swing on which they now sat
each evening. It is fastened, by chains, to the ceiling of their porch. A porch that crossed
the entire front of the house as many porches did then. This house was their first major
purchase at a price of $4,000. Four thousand dollars was a big chunk considering Bill’s
salary was $3,000 a year. But that’s the way it was 67 years ago.

Bill and Mary often talked about how things had changed during their marriage. He fretted
about what he considered his lack of accomplishment. A doctor could cure illnesses, a
policeman could solve crimes, a fireman could save lives. It seemed he failed to do
anything truly noteworthy. He spent most of his working life in a factory, in Detroit,
where he helped produce small parts for automobiles.

Mary reminded him that the new automobiles couldn’t move without the parts he made.
He agreed but felt he contributed little; such as would a teacher, airline pilot, or scientist.
“Even politicians did important things, they build buildings and pass important laws.”

Bill and Mary continued to swing and talk about the many changes they had witnessed.
They saw many good things happen and some happenings weren’t so good. A swing
tended to make one relax and Mary got to thinking about regular people such as
themselves. Those who raised families and did the things that good people do without
fanfare.

“Bill, we often overlook what’s right in front of our faces.”

“How so?” he asked wondering if he had missed something.

It appeared she had given this subject considerable study.

“There was our work on the fund raising at the elementary school even though we had no
children attending,” Mary explained. “Then there was your work with your union that
resulted in new safety measures for the workers, and how about the recycling committee
on which we both served for years, and there are the taxes we pay. We paid our fair share
toward the building and operation of the schools, the Art Center, the Zoo, the County Park,
not to mention the roads and we don’t even drive anymore.”

Mary was on a roll. “You and I have done many worthwhile things during our lives here.
We have helped build a community. We don’t have a building with our names on it but
perhaps the town square should have a plaque honoring all the people just like you and me.
It could say, ‘In recognition of the common people. This is their town. The seeds they
planted will bear fruit forever.’”

Bill agreed that he had overlooked the contributions regular folks, like Mary and he, have
made.

“You’re right Mary this is our town. Folks like us built it.”

Then he thought. It wouldn’t have to be a big or fancy plaque. Put it in the park. What
would it cost? We could place a jar near the cash register in the Food Mart and ask people
to drop their loose change. Just some simple words like...

“WITHOUT THOUGHT OF GLORY
THEY BUILT THIS COUNTRY ONE TOWN AT A TIME,
WE CALL THEM CITIZENS.
NO NAMES APPEAR HERE, THERE ARE SO MANY,
TO KNOW THEM YOU HAVE ONLY TO LOOK AROUND,
THEY ARE YOUR NEIGHBORS.


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TO THOSE WHO GO UNRECOGNIZED: To each of you in recognition of your life long
contributions to the towns in which you have lived and the seeds you have planted for
that’s the way it is.


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