Sunday, August 19, 2007

The First of Ralph

Like Mimi and her papa, I had an affinity for the man, and he was much larger than life. He was as unique a person as I have known. He fixed police and fire department radios around Steubenville from the thirties until 1978. In a steel mill and coal-mining region, most people did that for income, but grandpa was such an iconoclast - he could not work for a boss. He wanted to work for himself, and he finally received his radio license in 1934. In this picture, he is showing his radio license and car license plate. The license, it was personalized auto 1937. It is common these days; I do not know how he got these in 1937. Now maybe he needed attention...He owned Post Office Box No. 1 in Steubenville until he passed away in 1981. The big frog in the little 

pond, I guess.

I have a few anecdotes regarding him. He told me a story when I was small, maybe 8 or 9. He mentioned that someone asked him to setup a radio connection from the local horseracing track but he would be wearing cement shoes. This is the first time I heard this term. As a grownup, it made much more sense to me: local Mob interests asked him for this radio link to the betting parlors downtown, probably for more money than he'd ever seen. Of course, if he had done the work, he really would be sleeping in the Ohio River wearing cement shoes. In the Depression, most people would have taken the money, but he knew not to. Not for his personal safety, but because it was wrong. Honor matters.

When I was little and my family would visit the 'Ville (as we called it in college), he would take me along with him on his runs to replace radios at firehouses. He would always introduce me to firemen as his grandson. When he went downtown to the bank, he would always get twenty crisp new $1 bills. That was him. Finally, I remember how his driving cap always smelled like Vitalis (with V7, as the label said). I really liked that smell when I was little. I believe that he is wearing it in this 1957 picture (great suit, very stylish).

This picture on the top was taken in the mid-seventies, probably around the time he sold off the last part of his business in 1978. Obviously, the old radios that used vacuum tubes were to be replaced with solid-state equipment. What grandpa really sold was not just his list of customers, but his reputation. His honesty and dependability. His Integrity. I am very proud to have been named for him.


AndreAnna said...

What a nice tribute. I'm sure he'd be proud.

Lynn said...

Thank you so much for sharing more information about your grandfather. Honesty, integrity, important and such an integral part of life in those days...unfortunately not so much in the masses, these days.

Patti said...

I wish I could have met him. What a guy.

Odat said...

What a nice memory!!!
Thanks for sharing.

Linda said...

These are such great memories of a man you obviously looked up to and admired. I don't know what it is about grandfather's but mine on my mother's side was and still is the greatest man I've ever known. Not to take anything away from my own father who was a great man in his own right but my grandfather still holds a very special place in my heart that will always miss him and remember him with great love. I don't think I said that right but I hope you know what I mean!

Joan said...

What a heartwarming way to pay tribute to such an honest, hardworking and loving grandpa. You are a very lucky man to have grown up in such wonderful company.

Mimi Lenox said...

Oh my gosh, the mob story is priceless. Cement shoes....shudder. He does sound much like my Papa. The integrity and "realness" shines through - and he was obviously very proud of you. Those are great memories, Ralph. I'm sure he would be honored today that you chose to recognize his character in this way. Our Papas were special men who left a mark. They are watching over....yes, indeed.
Thanks for sharing him with us.