So after Wladyslava and Konstanty lost their first born in the flu epidemic, they had a girl, Irene, in 1922. Wlady and Kon were very Old World about it, and they really wanted a son. Badly. And my dad still believes that hurt his sister very deeply. My Dad was born just before midnight on May 13, 1923. It could have been on the 14th, it was that close. But JWs don’t do birthdays anyway. 😉
They don’t smile for pictures either. Well, at least Wlady’s brood doesn’t. She insisted. If you find a Kaminski photo with grins, it must have been a candid! So here is this very serious-looking family in 1932 at Belle Isle.
Dad’s birth was a traumatic one. He was breech, and they had to use forceps which hurt Dad’s right arm permanently. So he had to learn to be left-handed. But . . . that loss of dexterity kept him out of battle in WW2 because he couldn’t hold up a rifle while lying on the ground. So he was part of the home front. He did go to Basic Training, however (that’s how they discovered that he couldn’t prop up the gun correctly). He remembers traveling on the train on the way to Basic “with all manner of filth being discussed around me, and I sat there with my New Testament and my copy of The Merchant of Venice and immersed myself in those.”
Dad’s hard to describe. He’s bigger than life. One of those personalities that demands superlative descriptions. Smartest man I know. A complete extrovert. He was the tallest in his family — 6’3″ — and he grew that tall in 7th grade. We still frequently trip over those size thirteens too.
He spoke no English when he started Kindergarten in Detroit. He and his sister would do their homework listening to Tom Mix et al every night while Dad finished the whole apple pie that his mom made him every day. He always told me, “Camillia, the secret to doing well in school is sitting right up front next to the teacher. Don’t get distracted.”
He went to Cass Tech (college prep), U of Michigan (B.S. in Mechanical Engineering), and Michigan State (M.B.A.). He also completed one year of law school and was a professional actor back in the day. Not bad for the son of 3rd-grade-graduates!
He brought home every paycheck to his mom. In college, he did splurge every Friday night and buy himself one stick of gum and a Life magazine. He’d chew half the stick on Friday night and save the other half for Saturday. . . . We Kaminskis really know how to party, don’t we?
Dad always says, “If you don’t know how to do something, go to the library and get a book.” That’s how he and his mom learned lots of things and probably why I can’t resist leaving the library without a big stack of inspiration.
He built two houses for his parents — one right next to the other — on a farm out in the country at the intersection of 13-mile and Hoover. Grandma designed that little brick house herself (all that library reading paid off!). Grandma’s cow always got loose and wandered down to 14-mile and Hayes. Look at that street today compared to back then!!
When he and my mom first moved down here to Greenville, Dad went to the Polish church, the Spanish church, the French church, and, of course, regular church (all Baptist). If he could find German and Russian service, he’d go there to! He’s the kind of person who can talk to anyone and genuinely thinks the best of every person he meets. To Dad there are no strangers, and he’ll accost you with a deliberate and formal “Good Morning!” whether you’re ready for it or not! And flash you a big smile too (Wlady’s not around with a camera now)!!
That’s my dad!