“These Hands” – from Illinois

My dad didn’t begin living his dream until he was 55 years old, when most people are planning retirement.  He was the oldest of five children, and never finished high school because he had to go to work to support the family after his father died.  Speed forward to the height of the Depression when he married my mother in 1936, resulting a 62-year marriage where neither of them ever strayed, but remained true to each other.

Edwin Kowalski

My father was fortunate that he always remained employed, but he went to night school early on to enhance his skills and knowledge.  He loved to draw, and if encouraged, I believe could have made a wonderful artist, but it wasn’t meant to be.  Instead he chose the manufacturing field, and after much discussion with my mother, they decided to take the plunge.  Dad began his company with a chair, desk and file cabinet in the corner of an office where he rented space, with a small manufacturing facility in the “plant” area.

He manufactured rubber components for the telecomm industry, and then spread to other industries as well.  In the early years of his business, after spending the entire day at the office and out in the field selling his products, after dinner, he and I would go to his office in our home’s basement.  The office was the dining table and chairs, where he would sit with pencil and paper, costing out materials, labor, shipping cartons, etc. while I typed out the quotations on the old Smith-Corona.   Other times, dad would bring home work from the plant area, where we sat until early hours of the morning trimming the “flash” off the components.  Next morning, he would drive his station-wagon making deliveries to save shipping costs.

When Dad was building his business, how I remember the number of times when Dad was suffering so much from arthritis and back pain that he could barely move, but yet he went to work every day, because not only his family, but the people who worked for him and their families depended on him for a paycheck.  And yes, it’s true that he paid his people first, then his suppliers, before paying himself.

Fast forward twenty years, and the one chair, one desk, one file cabinet turned into a multi-thousand sq.ft. factory and office employing many people.  My dad achieved his dream, and later sold part of his business to a Fortune 100 firm.   Years ago, when I did some contract work for ATT’s construction dept., I came across in their literature the pictures and descriptions of the rubber components dad’s company had manufactured.  He left a legacy for his family.  He helped countless other people who worked for him support their families, giving many of them a second chance at life.

President Obama, this is for you:

November 6, 2012. The day we take America back.

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