Sunday, February 24, 2008

Chapter One: Made in the 80s (part a)

I wear this shirt that I bought in Bloomington (I told you, the world revolves around this place!) in October of 2005 (the 9th to be precise) that says “MADE IN THE 80S”; [To be fair, I should note that there are two Bloomingtons that I am familiar with – one in Indiana, home of the Hoosiers and John Mellencamp, and the other in central-Illinois, hereafter referred to as Bloomington-West, B-town-West, Bloomington-Normal, or simply B-N; birthplace of legendary Zen-Photographer Ralph Eugene Meatyard. Any other mention of Bloomington will always refer to the former home of Bobby Knight and Big Red]. Tim Hoiland (hereafter referred to as Mr. H, TJH, or Timmy J) calls me a liar when I wear this shirt. He is right. I was born in 1980 (June) thereby placing my conception at sometime around late August or early September of 1979, clearly the 70s, but this reasoning can be taken much, much further.

1980 is technically the last year of the Seventies. Before you fight me on this let me explain. Remember in 1999 when everyone (it seemed) was questioning whether it was 2000 or 2001 that began the new Millennium? Well, most decided that since counting numbers begin with one and end with zero that it was 2001 that was the official beginning of the 21st Century. So, if we are to follow this logic then we must accept 1980 as the last year of the 70s, 70 of the 60s, 60 of the 50s and by now you clearly get the point: I should probably stop wearing that shirt.

1979 was a great year for Pittsburgh sports and as western Pennsylvanians we take great pride in our Steelers and (sometimes) our Pirates - but not since at least 1992 (and yes, Steroid-Freak Barry Bonds is to blame for not throwing out Sid Bream at home). To know that I was floating around in my mother’s womb while the “We Are A Fam-I-Leee” Pirates were popping the champagne on their second World Series of the decade and the Steelers were pummeling the American Football Conference on their way to a 14-2 mark and a then-record fourth Super Bowl victory makes me giggle with glee. Honestly, who could ask for more? Well, other than to actually witness these events, I can’t think of anyone born into a more royal heritage, unless you could perhaps claim to be a direct descendant of William the Conqueror, something else I can lay claim to (at least according to the sketchy research of a White-Supremacist-Now-Deceased-Uncle).

Schrott, as I found out during my Senior year in high school, is German meaning ‘scrap metal’. Do a google image search and you’ll find countless images of all sorts of different metal items from various junkyards and a few images of the most famous Schrott, Erwin. I really have not been able to pin-point the exact origin of our last name (though I’ve never really looked) but a friend of mine in college told me that it probably meant we were blacksmiths that made armor and swords (furthering the William the Conqueror legend, at least in my own mind) and so for now, we’ll leave it at that. There’s also a bit of legend floating around (that I am guilty of starting) that we are of some Jewish descent (I really want to tap into this idea of Royal Lineage).

I’ve lost the emails by now, but sometime in late 2006 or early 2007 I received an email from a man by the name of Ivan Roth. Ivan lives in Los Angeles, but grew up in Philadelphia and his grandfather emigrated through Ellis Island and to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Well so what?, You might be asking. Well, Ivan’s grandfather’s original last name was Schrott and for some reason was changed when he emigrated into the States. They were of eastern European descent (I want to say Russia, but I don’t have the email to verify) and were Jewish potato farmers. I/we think there’s a loose connection to his family and mine, and though I/we cannot verify it, I still tell people we have some blood of Father Abraham in us.

On Good Friday of 2007, two of my sisters and I paid a visit to our grandfather-Schrott and for the first time in my almost twenty-seven years I got a bit of a family history lesson. Sometime around 1890 Frank Schrott came to the United States from Austria and settled in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He married Bertha Heinrich (also of Austrian descent) and in 1906, they had a son named Francis Ernest Schrott who married the German-American Catherine Almelda Bettes (b. 1909) who to-gether produced my grandfather, Francis Karl Schrott, on December 1, 1928. My grandfather married Anna Ramach, a Czechoslovakian through and through (she literally came over on a boat as a child), thereby making my four siblings and me twenty-five-percent Czech. We talk this up like it’s a big deal (at least I do). We’re/I’m not sure why – perhaps I am prone to making bold statements about nothing.

My parents have quite interesting stories themselves (probably much more so than the two paragraphs you just read) and I wonder about the worth of even including stories of car-chases, gun-fights, and six-foot marijuana plants that grew in our backyard. For now I’ll leave those very stories to rest, you wouldn’t believe them anyways. And if you are really that curious and want further details I’ll leave you to contacting my father (and you’re very much on your own in finding his contact info).