Can you tell us a little bit about your own history?
I grew up in Chicago on the far, far south side. Today it is known as the Calumet Harbor area. Then it was known as Roseland Pullman, and I grew up literally across the street from George M. Pullman Manufacturing of the Pullman dining cars and sleeping cars. I saw many of those train cars being built, and another one I can remember is the snowmobile that Admiral Byrd used back in the 30’s. I can remember seeing that actually being built and out in the yards. I think it was an articulated bus-type facility, but I can remember seeing that particular unit for Admiral Byrd out in the yards at the Pullman Company.
Going back, I can remember the Green Diamond, which is one of the first modern streamlined locomotive trains for the Illinois Central going past our apartment back in the 30’s about 4:00 in the afternoon because I knew I had to be back in the house by 4:00. That was by the big Pullman clock that we could see with the hands on the 12 and the 4. I believe, to the best of my knowledge, that it is still in existence and on the national historic register.
I had one brother, John, three years older. He passed away a couple of years ago in Houston, Texas. We are both graduates of the public school system of Chicago, but our formal education...our college degrees...are from The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. My brother graduated in 1952, and I’m the class of 1954.
In my case, I did not want to go to The Citadel. I was enrolled in Blackburn College in Collinville, Illinois to study horticulture. I was apprentice to a German horticulturist from the south side of Chicago for a good number of years, and I loved the field. In 1950, I graduated from high school. In June, the Korean war broke out, and having done some soul searching on my part, I felt that I would be better off going to The Citadel and choosing my second profession that I would go into, and that would be teaching.
So I asked my parents if I could go to The Citadel, and I can remember my father saying, “We don’t know if we can get you in or not. It’s pretty late.” About two weeks later, he said, “You’re enrolled at The Citadel.” After I graduated and a good number of years out, and having been one of the founders of the Florida Central Academy, a private boarding school here in Lake County, Florida at the Sorrento/Mt. Plymouth area, my father and I were reminiscing about the story. He wondered if I remembered the time we were talking about it, and I said, “Yes, I remember.”
He said, “You were already enrolled at The Citadel. We were just hoping that you would go there. Do you have any regrets?”
I said, “I have no regrets whatsoever about matriculating at the military college and getting my degrees from there.”
For the past eleven years prior to coming back here to the Florida area, where I’ve retired, I’ve lived in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. My roommate from The Citadel was from Myrtle Beach, and his father was assistant postmaster so I was familiar with the Myrtle Beach area. Just prior to my retirement, for over five years I was supervisor of security for the largest mall in the state of South Carolina, Coastal Grand Mall. I had 11 officers under me, and then I retired March 18, 2011.
I am loving retirement here in Florida. It is more home to me than anywhere else. I’ve lived here for so many years with a lot of wonderful friends, classmates and students that I’ve taught here in the state. I’m just thrilled to be back in Lake County and enjoying retirement.
Besides displaying the stories with tattoos, have you written any of your history?
With Florida Central Academy, since I’m the last of the original administration from the founding of the school in 1959-1960, one of our students in Central Florida by the name of Kent Griffith and I have been collaborating, and he has done a lot of research on Florida Central Academy. That is a totally different story and highly fascinating that the hotel itself that we took over, the old Mount Plymouth Hotel and Country Club, was founded in 1925 and 1926 and built by the mob money out of Chicago--literally. It has been traced, and this is gospel, going back to the south side of Chicago where I grew up with the Al Capone era, prohibition, and the hotel with that type of mob money. The hotel was also the Central Florida headquarters for quite some time for the illustrious Al Capone of the city of Chicago. In fact, my apartment in the building, until I built my own home out in Mount Plymouth, was the apartment of Al Capone. That was the big tower of the hotel. That has all been documented through the newspapers that Kent Griffith has been researching that I have collaborated with him. I assume that eventually we’ll put this into a story. I’m not sure which way we’ll go with it yet.
I’ve seen through motorcycling and everything else, different sports I’ve been involved with, a lot of people get a tattoo and they might later on regret that they’ve gotten one. I’ve always looked at it that it is lifetime. It’s more painful to have it removed, or more expensive than it is to get one. There has to be a lot of deep thought about putting ink on your body. I chose it and I have no regrets. To me, I look at it on a daily basis and it’s just part of my family history that I grew up with, and I’m so proud of the fact that the ancestral side on both my paternal, as well as my maternal side of the family, have such a unique history. And I thoroughly enjoy it. It’s wonderful, and it has carried me and sustained me more than once.
Note from Mary Anne:
A very special thank you to Bob Soukup for spending time chatting with me by telephone about his history and life experiences. Now for the promised photos of his family history tattoos:
We have to admit that this is one innovative way to carry family stories with you! Our thanks again to Bob for sharing his most unusual story.
Learning how to share your story is easy! Check out 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time!
Visit http://www.awriterspresence.com for links to all formats.
Special prayers and thoughts to victims of Hurricane Sandy, as rescues take place and damage is assessed today.