The Other Side of Life

“Had it not been for this gentleman here, I would have much easier graduated from reform school than high school.”

Produced by Rich Elliott with interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives:

Transcript for The Other Side of Life

Had it not been for this gentleman here today with me, I would have much easier graduated from reform school than high school, and that is the total truth. I was a poor kid, and I can’t tell you what year it was, but I can tell you what he offered me an opportunity to do. Where did you take me to show me the other side of life?

Well, the way it developed, it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and I was working in my classroom, and in walks Joe, and on my phonograph, I had a Broadway musical playing. And he says, “You like that kind of music?” And I said, “Well, I enjoy just about any kind of music, but, yeah, I do enjoy Broadway musicals.” And I asked him if he’d ever been to a Broadway musical, and of course he said, “No.” And I said, “Would you like to go?” “Yes.” So we made arrangements to go in to see The Sound of Music at the Shubert Theater in Chicago in the middle of the winter. And I think between, well, this is how long ago it was, we parked our car under the toll road in Gary and never worried about it. Between Gary and Chicago we stopped three times for them to knock the ice off the rods that go up to the lines. But we got in there, and we were in the very top balcony, and Joe heard this guitar, and he leaned over, and he saw the guitarist down in the orchestra pit, and he said, “Mr. Rommelmann, that’s a $400 guitar, and it’s not even electric!”

And I don’t know if that was the original cast of The Sound of Music, but to me, coming from the country, that was totally, totally majestic to be a part of that and to watch these professional actors and singers progress from the stage to wherever, we were way up there. These were the people that done this all over the world, and they just done a wonderful job. We left there, and we walked somewhere to a place called Ronnie’s Steakhouse. Which I don’t know if it’s in Chicago today, but I do know what we had. We had a potato half the size of a football and a steak the size of a BIG steak. I’d never had anything like that. I was just in awe the entire day and the entire night, and I thank you. Thank you so much because, again, it shows the other side of life that I’d never, would never have seen, you know.

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