Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

My “Bill & Ellen & Bob & Larry & Hugh & Jan & Brian” Story…by Robert M. Katzman

By Robert M. Katzman  ©  Halloween 2011

What follows is the quintessential Chicago story of hardship and friendship. It all happened on the South Side, and my story covers decades. Why not dive in and get lost for a while? Every so often, as present civilization seems to be crashing down around us, and civility with it, good happens.

Why this is always a surprise mystifies me, but just as there’s more darkness in the Universe than light, perhaps that out-of-whack ratio is mirrored here on Earth with evil overwhelming good.  I don’t want to believe that is true.  I have evidence to the contrary that spontaneous good both exists in the most modest of people, and that it is either an inherited trait, or a mutation.  

Though my story was written on Halloween, it is more goodhearted than all the witches and goblins who surface that day, and is much more of a Thanksgiving Day story, at least to me.  Let me introduce the cast of this absolutely true little drama, which begins in frigid winter, 1967 and ends in sunny June 2011, forty-four years later.

Bill Reynolds, Ellen Teplitz, Larry Mallette, III (who was not yet born when this story begins), Bob Katzman, Hugh Iglarsh, Jan Muzzarelli, and Brian Hieggelke.   I just noticed that there are eight sets of double letters scattered among the seven of us, and four of the uncommon letter “Z”.  But that has nothing to do with my story, or does it?

Come back in time with me and see how all these seven strangers gradually met, and then what happened.

In December 1967, in Hyde Park, a neighborhood about six miles south of Downtown Chicago, I was seventeen and operating a wooden newsstand on the corner of 51st Street and Lake Park.  That distinctive community was also home to the University of Chicago, and I was in my last year as a senior in the University’s high school, known embarrassingly as The Laboratory School, but mostly called Lab School or U-High.  I was a writer on the school newspaper. 

It was expensive and the only way I could keep going there was paying the tuition by running the primitive and so-very-cold-in-wintertime newsstand, seven days a week.   No parties, no dances, no irresponsible adolescence. It was a glamorous school with many pampered children of famous people, wealthy people.  As you might imagine, while standing on a corner in sleet and enduring icy winds blowing off Lake Michigan, I did not see myself as one of them. The small school population was an impenetrable clique. A sexy new girl student always found a way in. A guy hawking newspapers with black headlines screaming about Viet Nam?  Sorry.  Full up.    

There was a kerosene heater inside my shack, and it kept the dark and worn wooden interior reasonably warm.  The problem was my endless running back and forth between cars lined up impatiently waiting for their Chicago Daily News Final Markets Red Streak, prevented me from being able to sit down long enough to thaw the chill in my teenaged bones.  The shack had a double window on a track so I could open it by sliding it back and forth.  When it wasn’t rush hour, I stayed inside and stared at the empty street, thinking about my chances.

Movies frequently made a corner newsstand look like a colorful or romantic sort of place with the old guy working there dispensing ancient wisdom, smiling and beaming at the passing parade.  Norman Rockwell.

I was failing algebra and mastering curb service. I resented the impatient customers who never tipped and rarely said “thank you”, and wasn’t able to find some nice warm girl, a pretty girl, to be my girlfriend.  Real life.

So, on one of those grim winter days, this short girl wanders down to me from the corner. She was older than me, a little chubby, wearing big fluffy ear muffs and a warm black winter coat with a furry hood.  She wore practical glasses, had a shy smile and mittens on her hands. She was wearing warm-looking boots.  She looked to be about five feet tall. An escaped Santa’s elf.

I was standing there on a rectangular piece of construction-quality plywood to keep a barrier between the cold cement sidewalk and my frozen feet.  Huddling behind a two foot wide vertical wall attached to the newsstand that served, badly, as a wind screen, I waited for her to tell me what newspaper she wanted.  And I waited some more.

The girl looked at me for another moment; she seemed to be struggling to get up the nerve to speak. Shy?

She said,”I’ve been watching you sell papers out here for a while.  This is where my bus lets me off when I come home from work.  I don’t buy newspapers very often, but when I see your newsstand from my window on the bus–when I can get a seat, that is–I know my stop is coming up.  So, you’re my landmark.

She laughed a little.  It reminded me of the actress Judy Holiday’s nervous laugh in Born Yesterday. A tremulous laugh, like it wants to stay inside where it was safe.  I kept listening.  And shivering.

“I saw you running around and I don’t think you’re dressed warm enough. How do you keep warm?

She was from the government.  They finally caught up with me.  A little chit-chat and then the handcuffs.

I said, “Can I help you, lady?  Standing still makes me colder.”  

I wasn’t looking for someone to mother me. A failed previous effort of someone to mother me had put me square on this isolated corner.  I wanted her to just buy a damn newspaper and scoot.

She looked pained, her little mouth turning down on both corners. Her dark hair hanging limply on either side of her round face, sometimes blowing across her glasses.  She didn’t push her hair out of the way.  I would’ve.

She said, “What’sa matter?  You won’t let people help you?  Why?  I only live a couple a blocks away from here, east of the viaduct.  Lemme help you.  What’s your name?  I’m Ellen.” 

Pushy little elf, I thought.

have to do this.  I wasn’t expecting any volunteers.  My brain was freezing.  She had me at a disadvantage.


“Help me how?” I asked, suspicious. There’s crazy people all over Hyde Park.  Was she one of them?

She smiled happily like I’d just handed her a new puppy.  A conquest for the do-gooder.

“I bet you’ve got some heat in there, in your newsstand.  What if I sold some newspapers for you and you warmed up inside?  I won’t steal your change, Bob.  I already gotta job.

Ellen smiled at me, a silly smile, her little eyes twinkling. Didn’t I get the joke?  Steal from me?  Steal what?

Now what?  Freeze to death or accept a little break from Shorty here.  An executive decision.  I went for living.

“Ellen, you’re nuts, you know that, right?  Okay, but just for a few minutes.  I don’t want you to screw up anything here, got it?  Customers can be a pain and I don’t want to lose any.

Papers are a dime.  I’ll put some change on the window ledge here.  I’ll assume you can make change for a quarter, right?  If someone gives you a dollar, just throw it inside the window.  I’ll keep it open in case you want to ask me something.  If you run low on change, I’ll put some more on the ledge.  What’s your last name?

Ellen was beaming. She was my new recruit, at least in her mind.  I waited for her answer.

“Teplitz. Ellen Gail Teplitz.” she replied.

I stared at her, relaxing a bit, reassessing the risk of her.

“Teplitz?  Jewish, right?”  I asked her.  I had Semitic radar.

She nodded, wordlessly.

“Mine’s Katzman.  Okay, so you’re a member of the tribe. I’ll go inside for a bit a see how this goes.  Still think you’re nuts, Ellen“.

In my very tribal world, heavily influenced by my four immigrant grandparents, and then reinforced by both of my Yiddish-speaking parents, being “a member of the tribe”, or MOT for verbal shorthand, wasn’t simply “one more thing about a person whom I didn’t know.”  It was everything and I was taught that Jews should look out for each other in a dangerous world.  Not a choice, but a commandment.  

To my four children, and four grandchildren, this Old World thinking is impossible for them to process, or to comprehend what it meant to be a Jew twenty-two years after the end of World War II when I was a very uncool teenager.  But less then seventy years after my family arrived in America from Lithuania, Poland and Belorussia, I was very sure who I was.  All of my family in Europe who didn’t make it to America, Canada or Israel were killed by either the Russian Czar’s Cossacks in World War I, or the Nazis after that.  I am named after two of them.

 So, in the rusting steel center of America’s farm country, in the middle of Chicago–one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities–in the middle of one of the countries largest black ghettos, Hyde Park was an island of upper-middle class academics in a neighborhood filled with prosperous professors, politicians, real estate developers, playwrights, artists, actors, entrepreneurs, stockbrokers, biologists, architects and Nobel prize winners at the University of Chicago. And in the center of this island, standing in front of my hand-built wooden shack , I was making a decision to trust Ellen Teplitz because even though she was a complete stranger, and even though I was not comfortable speaking to girls as individuals, she was Jewish and that gave her the essential edge to allow her into my life, however slightly.

So what happened next, after that?

Ellen ran back and forth to the cars. She made change without thinking about it. I showed her how to fold a newspaper and tuck it under a customer’s arm with a swift motion while making change at the same time.  

I told her to always say thank you to every person, because people liked to be thanked, even if they were rude themselves.  I showed her how to make little piles of various combinations of coins so she could make change super fast during rush hour when people came at us from all sides.  

I taught her everything necessary to know to be able to effectively help me without antagonizing my customers, just as I had been taught by the tough old man who had owned a newsstand on this exact same corner in 1912.  He was Bill Reynolds, sixteen years old when he operated the newsstand when Woodrow Wilson was America’s president, and he was now seventy-one. 

In 1916 he was trying to jump a speeding westbound freight train to California, lost his grip on the ladder bolted to the boxcar he was going to hide in, and Bill fell off the train and under the tracks, losing part of an arm and leg.  He was twenty at the time, and in his curious logic and way of looking at life in a “glass half-full” kind of perspective, he felt himself fortunate, because he wasn’t able to be drafted for World War I where he might have, in his words: “really been hurt”.  

When I was fifteen years old, Bill became my employee and mentor. He opened up a tiny world to me and showed me all its dusty corners.  Born in 1896, he was an encyclopedia on the life of the average man, and how to survive.  His street wisdom and hobo tenacity have influenced my entire life.  I have always had the eerie feeling our unlikely meeting was not chance.  Bill needed a receptive young person to enable him to pass on his worldly hard-knocks street knowledge.  I needed to learn how to take care of myself, and how to become a man.  Bill was still working at my newsstand when I first met Ellen. 

Ellen was a whiz, learned all the bits and pieces she needed to know to help me like it was as easy as breathing.  She refused to take any money and helped me for years on a periodic basis. We became warm friends, but not romantically.    

Time passed.

The newsstand, increasingly known as Bob’s Newsstand to an ever widening percentage of Chicago as THE place to get international magazines and newspapers, steadily grew in size and success.  I graduated high school, learned a little about girls, then a lot about girls and married one of them.  I hired more and more people who replaced me as the person freezing while working outside, but for shorter periods and under better conditions.  The kerosene heater remained.  Not everything changes. 

 But Ellen?

Ellen had been out of sight for a while as her own situation evolved.

Despite her forthrightness with me when I was a teenager, she was not confident around men in general and actually shy in that area. When a girl isn’t the prom queen or doesn’t look like one, life can be lonely and sometimes unfair. In an effort to do even more good, but also to meet someone, she volunteered at the local USO to keep company with American soldiers in transit to Viet Nam and other places, cheer them up and deal with her own loneliness. In mid-1971, she met a U. S. Army soldier at the Chicago USO who was from New York City named Laurence Mallette, 2nd.  Both of them were about 24 years old.

One sunny day in June, 1972, Ellen came by my newsstand pushing a baby buggy, with a child in it so instantly lovable, it had to be hers.

I came out of my newsstand to embrace Ellen, whom I hadn’t seen in quite a while.  She smiled her still shy and lopsided smile.  She was a little rounder, too.  

In the manner of being respectful of other people’s lives and privacy– which Bill Reynolds had patiently taught me, and which he had learned the hard way in his years traveling across America during the Great Depression from 1929 to 1939–I had learned not to ask a lot of questions.  If Ellen wanted to say something, I’d listen. 

As Bill carefully explained to me, he was constantly running into groups of strangers at hobo camps that appeared and disappeared, depending on the generosity of the local cops, or lack of it.  His disability didn’t buy him any favors. Everybody was desperate.  Keep your mouth shut and people might share their food with you.  Start asking questions and you’d be on the road alone, maybe after being roughed up some first.  These haphazard assemblies of random strangers included blacks, whites, Indians, single women, children and all levels of classes of education before everything fell apart in the country’s social and economic structure.

Bill made it clear to me in his rough cracked voice that an awareness of “civil rights” started decades before the Sixties in terms of respecting people of all stripes and looking out for each other when traveling together.  Another person’s color or religion wasn’t as important as sticking together in avoiding an inhospitable small town’s angry cop’s long hard wooden nightstick.  Two people traveling together meant one could sleep while the other kept watch.  Put another way, racial prejudice was subordinate to mutual survival in 1930’s America.

Ellen was a classic beaming mom and I bent down to look at the little guy in the stroller.  I was momentarily surprised to see an almost exact copy of Ellen’s face on the child.  Like a clone.  I smiled at him, and told Ellen what a great-looking kid he was.  Her smile got wider.

So, we got to talking, or she got to talking, and I listened.

The baby’s name was Laurence Mallette III, or Larry.  He was born on June 11, 1972 at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas.  They were on their own.

I would see them off and on for a few years before Ellen moved away from Hyde Park, and I watched Larry grow up, but not too far up, because he truly was his mother’s child.  I last saw him when he was maybe five, in 1977, about ten years after I first met his mom.  Now Ellen was thirty and I was twenty-seven.

I’m about to jump ahead in time, so this is where I tell you what all the characters were doing in 1967, when I first met Ellen, before all of us became intertwined because of little Larry, who would grow into an absolutely loveable man, when next I saw him, many years later.

Ellen was a student at Wilson Community College in Chicago, working toward an associate degree in child care. Born January 27, 1947, she was 20 in 1967.

Me? You already know enough about me. I was born April 30, 1950, in Chicago.

Hugh Iglarsh, in his own words: “Well, I was in nursery school in 1967.  I was five years old, and living in Skokie, Illinois in the same house I live in now, in 2011.  What was I doing?  Learning to ride a bicycle and trying desperately  to understand the conformist logic of school, which has never come easily.  I remember watching details of the Six-Day War (in Israel) on TV at Hillel Torah, and having a sense that something enormous was happening, although of course it was beyond my comprehension.

Jan Muzzarelli, in her own words: “In 1967, I was living in Joliet, Illinois, actually Shorewood, which is a “suburb” of Joliet. I was a very shy six-year-old with long black hair down to my waist that my mother would put back into a tight ponytail.

Brian Hieggelke, in his own (very few) words: “I was in kindergarten in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1967“.

In the years that passed, when I did see Ellen, when that happened, it was on a commuter train from her job working for the State of Illinois, where she began working on March 1, 1976.  We’d talk about what had happened since we last saw each other, and how Larry was doing.  I told her about my own three children and how my wife Joy was doing.  Then either Ellen’s stop or my stop would come up and Time would swallow up both of us again. 

My newsstand grew and grew, the wooden shack becoming a 112 foot-long brick building. Then the business expanded to five newsstand/stores spread across Chicago, grew even more–employing fifty-five employees– until the enterprise imploded after twenty years because of changing demographics, unstoppable theft and hard economic times, just like now.  

My last and original store closed in 1985, when I was thirty-five. Three long numbing years of unemployment followed until a former employee connected me with the owners of a foreign language bookstore called Europa, located on the north side of Chicago in a largely gay area called “Boy’s Town”, or, more properly, Lakeview.  

In 1988 the store’s owners were looking for an imaginative manager to turn around their failing store; but as things evolved in a circuitous way, I eventually bought their store, changed it into a world travel bookstore called “Grand Tour”, began manufacturing products with ethnic themes to sell there and tripled the sales by 1992.

However, the odd arc of my life inexplicably drags a Black Cloud with it wherever I go, and the three major national book chains moved into Lakeview and killed all six little independent bookstores that I happily coexisted with for six years.  I closed Grand Tour in 1994.

Having become older and wiser, I decided not to risk possible unemployment again, even while I owned the bookstore.  In 1990 I also opened a back-issue periodical store in Morton Grove, Illinois, north of Chicago and just west of Skokie, a much bigger town–a store which eventually grew to 100,000 magazines going back to 1576.  If one store failed, I’d still have the other one.  My father Irving, then seventy-eight, ran it when both stores were operating at the same time.  

Retreating to my back-issue store, named Magazine Memories, I worked there seven days a week. I was then forty-four.  I added thousands of posters from all over the world, and the store received newspaper and television coverage and grew steadily over the next ten years. In 2004, I published my first book about Chicago and my unusual life and have since completed nine more, with five of them having been published, so far. To date, over 5,000 have been sold.

Beginning with the 9/11 attack on New York City and the subsequent onset of the Recession in America, the average person looking for work and concerned about losing his house, or being unable to pay his tuition or even to buy gas that surged from $2.00 to $4.00 a gallon in a remarkably short period of time that person wasn’t interested in buying an old magazine for their collection or a poster for his wall.  So following the relentless pattern I’d come to know and expect, Magazine Memories closed in 2009, after twenty years.  My second twenty-year business, but there are no awards given for that; and I was again out of work, this time at fifty-nine.  

That fifteen million others were also out of work was no comfort to my wife Joy who now had MS and was no longer able to work since 2002.  Our house was next to go.  The sense of despair was inevitable.  Now what? 

And Ellen?  And Larry?

Ellen, Larry and I were soon to cross paths again, after years apart.

With the help of many friends–more than I knew I had–three thousand boxes of magazines and fifty thousand posters were packed up and loaded into six storage units awaiting an unknown future, just like me.  Six months after shutting down, I was able to reopen a much smaller store about two miles away in central Skokie, a town of some sixty-five thousand people, and from about thirty different countries. 

Choosing to reopen a collectible magazine and poster store during a severe recession was not exactly an Einstein-like sort of decision, but there was nothing else for me.  With my extraordinarily eccentric career, I was radioactive to any possible conventional employer and too old to start over in some new field anyway.

The store reopened with no money, banks no longer loan money, they just lose it, and I used the original 1990 wooden shelves to create a new business.  It felt like I was building another corner newspaper stand, except the hammer was strangely heavier.  It took me seven weeks to build all seven hundred running feet of shelving so I could unload and organize all the thousands of magazines. 

I renamed the new store The Magazine Museum.  There were no bar codes, no product scanner, no computerized inventory, no advertising, no employees and little hope.  Pushing sixty, I felt like I, too, was one of the Museum’s out-of-print exhibits.

I was not unaware of the irony of all this. My landlord was the ultra high tech Illinois Science &Technology Park.  I was on a street hopefully referred to as Downtown Skokie, but the recession had killed so many of its original stores that it looked more like a giant’s mouth with every other tooth knocked out.

I was selling the exact same magazines and newspapers as when I first met Ellen in 1967, like I was in a time warp. But the now old magazines and newspapers were more valuable now; yet, though also older, I wasn’t  Why was that?

Then in February 2010, I turned on the “open” sign and waited.

And waited. 

And waited.

Slowly my old customers discovered that I reopened not too far away from where I used to be.  I kept my old website address so people in other states could still find me.  I also kept the old phone number which forwarded to the new store.  Gradually people started coming in, discovering a business that is almost gone in America, with just a handful of stores like mine left sprinkled around the USA.

But there is no state of federal subsidy for “heirloom stores” in the sense that there’s an urgency to preserve them, like “heirloom seeds” or rare sorts of sheep, pigs or cattle.  Seven days a week were not enough days to make the new store pay its way, or me, either.  I felt that relentless Black Cloud creeping up on me, impatient to do its work.

Then Ellen wandered in one day.

She lived in Skokie, not far away, recognized the store, or perhaps my face when she passed my window, and decided to say hello to me.  She was rounder still, but no less huggable to me.  Her dark hair was now grey, the lenses on her practical glasses, thicker.  We talked about old things and new things and I tried to see the bright side of my current situation. And here I was again with Ellen, surrounded by stacks of newspapers and magazines, except I was sixty-one and she was sixty-four.  Would someone please press the rewind button?

Soon Larry followed, looking more like his mother than his mother did.  He was now thirty-nine and sometimes needed a shave which was jarring to me at first, having not seen him since he was five years old.  He worked for the Jewish Vocational Service as a mail clerk and lived with his mom.  Like her, he was soft-spoken, shy and easy to be around.  He rarely spoke.

 Both mother and son would come by and say hello, usually independently, and I was always happy to see them.

One day, while I was talking to Larry in May 2011 in my store that was otherwise empty, I saw some movement outside my window.  The window is blocked somewhat with magazine and poster displays and a big poster advertising four of my books.  I could see people’s legs but not their faces.  I saw two people outside my window, moving back and forth looking at everything but not coming in.  One wore a dress. Both seemed to be tall.  I was waiting to see if they’d come in, when Larry quietly told me he had to go.  I said good bye and watched him open the door to leave when he stopped, turned toward the two people and said, in an uncharacteristically loud voice:

“Hey, you two people oughta go in there and look around.  It”s a really cool store!” 

I looked at him through the glass, stunned.  Who snatched Larry’s body?  Where did all that come from?

Then Larry disappeared from my view and to my utter surprise, the two tall people opened the door and came in the store.  One was an older man, the other a young girl.  They looked all around.  I said hello.    

While several things were initially said, here’s what matters. As I described the store, the man’s gaze fell on my five books lined up on the counter and he asked about them.  I replied that I’d written them, that they weren’t fiction and that reviewers had compared my writing style favorably to Studs Terkel, James T. Farrell, Charles Bukowski and Nelson Algren.  The tall man’s eyes seemed to light up at the last name.

He asked me if I had anything written by Nelson Algren. I replied, not that I was aware of.  He eyes seemed to dim, so I said I’d be willing to look and call him if anything turned up, if he’d like that.  His smile returned.

He introduced himself as Hugh Iglarsh, a free-lance writer and a founding member of the Nelson Algren Society which was dedicated to the resurrection of the long dead Chicago writer’s reputation and to make certain that Algren’s work remained in print. He mentioned a very specific back issue of Chicago Magazine that he was seeking in particular.  I hadn’t expected to meet a true fellow eccentric just like that, but I guess we’re everywhere, disguised as regular people.  I knew instantly that I had the magazine he wanted, but no clue as to where it might be. 

 He introduced his lovely young daughter as Rosa, then twelve I believe. I told Hugh that I would see what I could find and let him know fairly soon.  We talked a little more and then they both left.

Three days later I called Hugh and told him after checking on the internet and going through hundreds of periodicals, I managed to assemble twenty different Algren-related periodicals, either by him or about him. And  that I had in fact located the one magazine he wanted.  He seemed very pleased.  Well, he sure ought to have been!  My entire goal at that point was to at least sell something to him; but that was the extent of my ambitions.  The new section of Nelson Algren’s work sat next to my F. Scott Fitzgerald section and my much larger Ernest Hemingway section.

Life twists and turns.

After another visit by Hugh, and a longer conversation, and then some e-mails back and forth, and another conversation, he told me he’d like to interview me for an article he’d like to sell to the alternative Chicago arts weekly, NewCity.  He felt, given my one-of-a-kind antique emporium of print buried away in lonely Skokie, that no one knew about me and he’d be the first to have the story about a dying American institution–back-issue magazine stores–and the strange man who ran one of them.  Okay, Hugh never said that last part; but I sensed it was part of my appeal as a subject to interview.

As it happens, I had long wished to be in the NewCity Weekly paper which was mainly distributed along Chicago’s lakefront, in all the universities and the hipper neighborhoods.  I felt they were the ideal market for my antique periodicals and zillion wall posters.  But there was no contact for me to call and in twenty years, it never happened.  NewCity began publishing in 1986, four years before my first old magazine store opened.  We both always existed in the parallel universe of Chicago, yet never intersected.  Now, because of Larry Mallette’s completely out-of-character outburst extolling my sorry silent store’s virtues, I had a chance, and a champion, too.   

Hugh mentioned Brian Hieggelke, in passing, as the publisher of the newspaper. He said Brian was very busy and that it wasn’t easy to get his attention, but he’d interview me and give it a shot.  I never heard of the name Hieggelke, and still have to look at it to spell it properly, months later.  Hugh and I agreed to meet at a former Goth all night restaurant that had just drastically cut its hours and lost all of the tattooed night owls as well.  I was there once.  The women customers there were scary and completely enveloped in cigarette smoke, like Wraiths from Hell.  I’m sure they’re nice people, but with all the body piercings they’d never get through airport security.

We spoke for about two hours in June 2011.  The interview seemed different than others I’d had and somehow more ethereal.  Hugh seemed more interested in the cosmic exotic-ness of the store, more than dull facts and figures from me. He told me he’d work on it, and give me a call if Brian the publisher gave it a green light.  He also told me after the interview that he felt it was a cover story and he’d pursue that aspect of it, too.  I decided not to mention my Black Cloud.  I didn’t want to jinx anything. 

Months went by.

Then, just like that, a photographer showed up and took my picture.  I kept a clean red shirt around for interviews so I wouldn’t blend in with all my magazines in my normally muted clothing colors of gray, dark blue and black.  The newspaper came out Thursday, September 22, 2011, and I was on the cover in my bright red shirt. It was the day after what would have been my very close friend and father Israel’s 99th birthday, but he had died in May of 2000 at 88. I wished he could have seen it, because he was happy to see me succeed.

The article was titled:

The Infinite Library of Bob Katzman. Browsing Skokie’s Magazine Museum

It was 2,000 words long, absolutely poetic and the most literate and appreciative story ever written about me and my doomed stores.  It was like the sun rising, evaporating my persistent Black Cloud.  The Weekly has a circulation of 25,000 copies.  The interview remains on the internet under www.NewCity.com  and if a person scrolled down on the menu on the right side of the screen under NewCity Lit, they’d find me there after a bit of searching.

The phone rang, new faces came in and a month later, Channel 7 ABC news did a two minute feature on my store at 5 P.M. prime time on a Tuesday night, October 25, 2011.  There may be no connection, but who knows?

The interview’s online link is: http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/local/mathie&id=8405419

Right after the article came out, I called NewCity’s office and spoke to Jan Hieggelke (yes, the former Jan Muzzarelli from Joliet, Illinois) to see if I could get some extra copies to selectively give out where it might make a difference.  Jan is Brian’s wife, the newspaper’s general manager and undoubtedly essential to him in every way. 

We met in Downtown Chicago where they live, sat in a cafe and talked a while. Brian and Jan helped carry the newspapers to my van a block away after hearing I’d just had foot surgery.  Not your average publishers or average people in any way.  They both know how marginal what I do is.  They had a chance to both publish a wonderfully written story but also to possibly help me make it this time, and they took that chance.  Bless them.

In the end, this story is not about my success or the lack of it.  There’s more to it.

Ellen Mallette will retire from her job as a caseworker with the State of Illinois in February 2012, after thirty-six years.  She will be sixty-five then.  Four months later, that adorable baby I met in summer 1972, Larry Mallette III will turn forty years old.  His spontaneous warm gesture for me set all that I just described above, followed into action. 

What amazes me after writing almost 6,000 words is simply this:

That goodness, kindness, friendship and generosity flowed unchanged from generation to generation.  

That Larry Mallette is Ellen Mallette’s son in every way a mother can be proud.

They will read my story right after Halloween 2011, and when they do, they’ll see these words last:

I love you both, very much. 


Publishing News! 

Bob Katzman’s two new true Chicago books are now for sale, from him!
Vol. One: A Savage Heart  and Vol. Two: Fighting Words

Gritty, violent, friendship, classic American entrepreneurship love, death, heartbreak and the real dirt about surviving in a completely corrupt major city under the Chicago Machine. More history and about one man’s life than a person may imagine.

Please visit my new website: https://www.dontgoquietlypress.com
If a person doesn’t want to use PayPaI, I also have a PO Box & I ship anywhere in America.

Send me a money order with your return and contact info.
I will get your books to you within ten days.
Here’s complete information on how to buy my books:

Vol 1: A Savage Heart and Vol. 2: Fighting Words
My books weigh almost 2 pounds each, with about 525 pages each and there are a total together of 79 stories and story/poems.

Robert M. Katzman
Don’t Go Quietly Press
PO Box 44287
Racine, Wis. 53404-9998                                                                                                                    (262)752-3333, 8AM–7PM

Books cost $29.95 each, plus shipping

For: (1)$3.95; (2)$5.95; (3)$7.95; (4)$8.95 (5)$9.95;(6) $10.95

(7) $11.95; (8) $12.95; (9)$13.95 (10)$15.95 (15)$19.95

I am also for hire if anyone wants me to read my work and answer questions in the Chicago/Milwaukee area. Schools should call me for quantity discounts for 30 or more books. Also: businesses, bookstores, private organizations or churches and so on.

My Fighting Words Publishing Co. four original books, published between 2004 and 2007 are now out-of-print. I still have some left and will periodically offer them for sale on my new website.


Comment by Brad Dechter

December 13, 2019 @ 6:23 am

I was glad to see that inspite of the challenges you have faced over the years, your heart still recognizes- and you communicate -about those special moments and relationships that have touched you in a positive way. It is good of you, and good for us all, to be in touch with our inner self and recognize what’s good and has been good for us- event and peoplewise- at some point.
A good tale. Thanks for sharing!!

Comment by Jim Payne

December 14, 2019 @ 4:56 pm

Another charming chapter in your autobiography sprinkled with bits of other people’s biography as they crossed your path. I enjoyed reading every sentence, highlighted by your lively style, drawn from your living memory, and backdropped by your life long struggle to survive in monster Chicago and its predatory suburbs. I’m sure your gravestone will be a newsstand but our memory will be of your feel for people.

Comment by Brad Dechter

November 24, 2021 @ 9:17 am

Still a great read- even the second time around!
Thanks for sharing!

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