Old Photos: Bruck Plastics
Copyright © Erik Pennebaker, All rights reserved

I don't remember many particular stories, but after the war my grampa worked all kinds of jobs. Scrappy, starting in coal bin room, black nosed and tattered clothes, working his way up to the mail room - at least that's how I remember him telling it. By the time the 70s came around he had his own company. Bruck Plastics had a few dozen employees I think. I recall visiting there at times and him proudly showing me off. We would make intricate paper airplanes and fly them across the office, over the heads of his employees.

He did well. He finally sold the place and retired. He wasn't buying yachts, but he had a big house in Oak Brook and another in Palm Springs. I think he was a little restless. Rich folks weren't exactly his kind of folks, but at the same time he wasn't the type to live modestly in stealth. He was proud of what he'd accomplished. I don't know if he would have conceded there was a component of luck to it or not. Anyway, different people, finding themselves with a lot of money, do different things. Some people buy a Cadillac. Some people buy a cabin. Some people eat the best food, others travel around the world. Some people might pay off their mortgage, save the rest, and spend their days painting watercolors of birds. The patterns in their brains that led them to choose that were probably laid down a lot earlier in their life.

Grampa got big houses and golfed a lot, which I suspect to him was the obvious thing to do, but maybe he positioned himself outside of the kinds of people he was likely to be friends with. But that is stretching my knowledge pretty thin; I was just a kid, so it's all conjecture.

[ tags: archive background bruck grampa notmine oldtimes people photos plastics ]

Old Photos: Bruck Plastics
Copyright © Erik Pennebaker, All rights reserved

I just love these photos. The vests. The fat ties. It was a time when all you needed to be a cop was a gun, since you already had a big mustache.

So that's Mary on my grampa's right, his second wife. She was kind, but I don't think I ever really liked her. I have early memories of her freaking out when my brother and I would go to their houses for holidays. There were rooms we couldn't go in. We were not to touch the walls. I mean we were hellions to be sure - I guess just even at six years old it seemed a bit absurd to me to live in such a synthetic way. She was Canadian and said "potatoes" funny. I can't quite reproduce it, it rolled off her tongue in a beautiful spanish flurish. I always had to try the potatoes. I don't like potatoes. I mean they aren't bad, I just have never been interested in filling my stomach with them when there is bread and meat and other things around. People still want me to try the potatoes, as if something will click. I've been trying the (roll tongue) potatoes for a long time. I guess as I grew up knowing I was a pretty different kind of person than her.

She died of cancer. She had been the structure holding up my grandfather. Sometimes when people lose something or someone, they get goofy for a while, if they are old or young. With my grandfather, her passing exposed the beginnings of his Alzheimer's. He had a harder time doing basic tasks. The big house didn't make sense for him, so he was moved to a seniors community. I think all the change came at the worst time, just as his brain was losing the ability to assimilate things.

[ tags: archive background bruck grampa notmine oldtimes people photos plastics ]

Old Photos: Grampa and Mary and Holly
Copyright © Erik Pennebaker, All rights reserved

Holly was a yippy dog.

Golfing through the 70s and 80s had forever destroyed their ability to dress normally.

Grampa always smiled easily, his signature grin. He handed it out for free to anyone who would smile back.

[ tags: archive background bruck grampa mary notmine oldtimes people photos ]

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