It’s the American Dream

“We were good workers, and we did our job well, but we didn’t have a passion. You have to have a passion in life.”

Transcript for It’s the American Dream

You come here for work, and you work in the steel mills, and it’s simple as that. I mean, my grandpa worked in the steel mills, worked for the city. My uncle worked at U.S. Steel. My dad worked at U.S. Steel and then Bethlehem Steel. My mom worked at Bethlehem Steel for awhile. My brother did. I mean, it’s a steel mill existence. Thank God I don’t work in the steel mills. I was at the Port of Indiana right across from ArcelorMittal, which is the old Bethlehem Steel, and I took a tour of it for a magazine story I’m writing, and I go, “Man, these people work hard. I don’t work at all every day.” I don’t. That’s work. This is not work.

Yeah, my dad always had a dream of owning his own food business because he didn’t want to work for The Man. He wanted to be his own boss. It’s the American dream. Who doesn’t want the American dream? You own your own business, call your own shots, you don’t have a boss. All that kind of stuff. So, he was crafting a restaurant, I think, probably since I was born, and he would draw out what he wanted, what the menu would be like, what our business would look like, how much it would cost. He always wanted that. He always wanted that. It was a—that was a big thing to him. So, he wanted to break away from working in the mills and all that kind of existence, and he had to talk my mom into quitting her job, and starting this business, and she didn’t want to do it. She’s like a—she’s Swedish, and conservative, and quiet, and there’s no way she wanted to break apart from this security blanket that she had of working—both working in the mill. They had good jobs. Really good jobs. Good existence. And he talked her into it, just like he probably talked her into marrying him, and everything else he talked her into. He must’ve had a real gift of gab.

Millworkers was our bread and butter—pun intended—for the business. They came to our business a lot; we came to them in the mills. They always had—they made good money, so they didn’t mind spending good money. Every time the steel mills felt any kind of economic pressures, or challenges, or downfalls, it trickled down to us because they had less money to spend for us. Or if people were working less overtime—the workers—they would not—because generally, when millworkers go to work, they have a lunch, they bring a lunch pail or some money for lunch, but when they work a double, or longer, or overtime, that’s when they needed to eat extra, and that’s when they came to us. So we loved the overtime, we loved when the—when the mill was doing great, we were doing great.

We had the family business from 1978 on, and then my dad died, I believe in 1987, and after he died, the family business kind of started dying a slow death because we all looked around—my brother, my sister, my mom, and our workers—and we thought, “I don’t want to do this. Do you want to do this? This is hard. And where’s our leader, you know, who really wanted it?” He wanted—he drove a passion. He had a passion for that. None of us had a passion. We were good workers, and we did our job quite well, but we didn’t have a passion. You have to have a passion in life. That was his passion, not ours.

And I was working—at that point, I was working two jobs, then. I was working at The Times newspapers as a reporter that I got full-time. I started, I think, in ’97 working as—and working for the family business. So, I’d wear this pseudo-looking decent outfit like I’m wearing today to work for the newspaper; then I’d put on my rags, and shorts, and a sweatshirt and work for the food business at night, and I did that for several years. And then, eventually, I said, “We got to just forget this. I’m going to go with writing.” My sister went into real estate, my mom wanted kind of to retire. We were done with it. So we sold the business.

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