Robert Ebert: My old man

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9 great movies

Until the day he died, I always called him “Daddy.” He was Walter Harry Ebert, born in Urbana in 1902 of parents who had emmigrated from Germany. His father, Joseph, was a machinist working for the Peoria & Eastern Railway, known as the Big Four. Daddy would take me out to the Roundhouse on the north side of town to watch the big turntables turning steam engines around. In our kitchen, he always used a knife “your grandfather made from a single piece of steel.”

I never met my grandparents, and that knife is the only thing of theirs I own. Once when I was visiting my parents’ graves, I wandered over to my grandparents’ graves, where we’d often left flowers on Memorial Day. I realized consciously for the first time, although I must have been told, that my grandfather was named Joseph. My middle name.

What have I inherited from those Germans who came to the new land? A group of sayings, often repeated by my father: If the job is worth doing, it’s worth doing right. A good woodsman respects his tools. They spoke German at home until the United States entered World War One. Then they never spoke it again. Earlier than that, he was taken out of the Lutheran school and sent to public school, “to learn to speak American.” He spoke no German, apart from a few words.

[Click to continue reading My old man – Roger Ebert’s Journal]

Parenthetical note/confession, I never watched the Ebert and Siskel television show on a regular basis. When I lived at home in the early 1980s, I was always too busy doing whatever, and when I moved out, I didn’t own a television set. I actually got my first television when I was 30, and DVDs were the rage. I always watched a gazillion movies, but didn’t see a need for a television of my own until watching a film at home was comparable to watching a film on a big screen. Also, at least when I was in college in Austin, there were several films a night to choose from, ranging from art-house fare to blockbusters, for a nominal fee. I always watched dozens of films a week up until I moved to Chicago.

All that said, Roger Ebert’s film reviews are a guide to my Netflix viewing habits, especially his Great Movies archive.

This is all hijacking the thread, by the way, and can be safely ignored. Go read Mr. Ebert’s essay about his dad now.

1 thought on “Robert Ebert: My old man

  1. Kenny Jones says:

    Hi im looking for my friend Mr.Robert Ebert,who went to Pallmetto Jr.High, Miami,Fl. Between 1969-1971
    I have a Gutt feeling; That someone my know him.

    Thank You ,
    Ken Jones

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