ORIGINS: LACKAWANNA, NEW YORK

Fifty-four years of life can do much to flavor your muse. So it is for this poet from Lackawanna, New York. Lackawanna was the home for what was at the time the fourth largest steel plant in the world, a division of Bethlehem Steel, nestled on the shores of Lake Erie. I grew up to the site of heavy steel barges trudging the waters on their way to other destinations.

But as the steel industry changed, the viability of the plant became less obvious and the closing of the Lackawanna operation, changed the city forever. My Dad, a Roll Shop Clerk at BSC, “retired” to his woodworking and remodeling the home for Mom and my siblings (we number six, seven when you include Joseph, a brother who never made it past the first hours of life).

All thrown together in our modest “two bedroom” house, the conditions warranted reorganizing of situations at home. With four boys sharing one room, on bunk beds (two up, two down, and all the privacy you could fit in the pocket of your pajama top), I was afforded the opportunity to “live” with my grandfather who at the time occupied the two rooms (a bedroom and a parlor)at the rear of the dwelling. I learned much, along with my Polish pride from that gentle man with the broken English accent. But even with that, he possessed an expressive soul and had fascinating stories to tell.

I was the middle child in our gang of seven, the linchpin in the hub of our existence. Blessed with parents who were creative in their own right, I knew the support for the artistic endeavors I attempted. Through their eyes, my paintings bore more beauty, my music touched souls, my stories held their rapt attention and my poems took on a life of their own.

Now residing in Sloan (another suburb of Buffalo), I find the time to give life to my muse, never straying too far from the place that molded me. I have taken on the task as the family historian and have come away feeling blessed “knowing” my progenitors and their influence on my life.

Just in passing: Lackawanna has had her share of famed names.

Father Nelson H. Baker, Servant of God, is on a course for canonization. Through his pious life and charitable works he had developed under the patronage of Our Lady of Victory, a minor basilica, an infant home, a home for unwed mothers, a boy’s orphanage, a boy’s protectory, a hospital and nurses home and a grade and high school (which I had attended.)

Dick Schuelfant (Dick Shawn) was a comedian/comedic actor who starred as the actor playing Hitler in “Springtime For Hitler” in the original motion picture, “The Producers”.

Ron Jaworski, NFL quarterback with the Eagles, Rams, Dolphins and Chiefs and is currently an analyst for ESPN during their football broadcasts.

Anthony Yerkovich Jr. – a writer who was the creator of Miami Vice in the 1980’s, and Private Eye.  He was a writer for Hill Street Blues, Hart to Hart, and wrote the made-for-TV film Hollywood Confidential.

Reuben Santiago-Hudson – A classmate of mine from the Lackawanna High School Class of ’74, is an actor/playwright who appeared in among other things The West Wing, as well as in Lackawanna Blues which was based on the play of the same name. Reuben had written Lackawanna Blues based on his life growing up in Lackawanna.

Walt

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