Union Made

Growing up with Schlitz-drinking, Lazy @#$%, Trailer Trash, Redneck Communists

Ken Szymanski, illustrated by Garrett Brunker

After reading an article online about the hullabaloo in Madison, I made a mistake. I clicked the “Read Comments” button. Armed with the courage of anonymity, hundreds blasted union members – teachers in particular – who they viewed as taxpayer parasites. This brief comment stuck out: “Union = Communism, Trailer trash, Lazy @#$%, Schlitz-drinking rednecks, Obama sheep herders.”

Growing up in Eau Claire, I knew a union guy: my dad. He put in over 20 years at Uniroyal as a member of United Rubber Workers of America, Local 19. Thing was, he drank Grain Belt, not Schlitz. He didn’t live long enough to see Obama elected. Lazy trailer trash redneck? Hardly. And as far as being a communist, he fought against communism in the Korean War.

As for those unionized teachers, I’ve met plenty while climbing from kindergarten to a master’s degree – all without leaving Eau Claire. Consider this a slideshow of some of my run-ins with our local unionized, lazy, Schlitz-drinking, redneck, trailer trash communists.

Sam Davey Elementary

Ms. Krause – My kindergarten teacher … my first classroom teacher. She was savvy enough to not be fooled – or amused – by my attempt to skip hand-washing after using finger paste, yet supportive enough to agree to host my pet turtle in class for a day. Back in the days of field trips, she took us to the apple orchard, hospital, and fire department. Over two decades later, in a chance encounter, she amazingly remembered me. With ease, she even inquired about my brother and nephew. Communist.
Mrs. Wallace – My third grade teacher, who made her classroom feel welcoming, modern, and innovative with a Star Wars bulletin board, complete with rare trading cards from her son’s collection. Lazy @#$%.
Mr. Newman – My hard-knocks, gruff, mustached, fifth grade teacher who stayed after school for weeks and months to referee flag football and intramural basketball. He pulled my mom aside at parent-teacher conferences, a year after I had his class, to tell her that I had “really come a long way” in basketball. Trailer Trash.

Delong Junior High

Mr. Killoren – My Science 7 teacher who made it through the entire sex education unit without making eye contact with the class, or ever saying the word “sex”… instead repeatedly using the phrase, “this particular subject.” Schlitz-Drinking Redneck.
Mr. Matter – My cross-country coach who, on the side, taught me advanced chess strategies. Instead of crushing me, he let me take back bad moves to re-examine my choices and learn from my mistakes. Communist.
Mrs. Bejin – My English 8 teacher. She read my story of a soldier who, after fighting in the key historical battles of WWII, also fought in Vietnam … and then turned out to be a charter member of The A-Team. Instead of pointing out the story’s absurdities, she praised the “fun twist at the end.” I couldn’t wait to write the next paper, simply because I had an enthusiastic audience of one. Trailer Trash.
Ms. Backus – My algebra teacher who used a simple equation: two missing assignments = one detention. After my first detention, I decided to just do the work and avoid the hassle. To this day, I can tutor kids in algebra. Lazy @#$%.

This was made by

Ken Szymanski  author

Ken Szymanski lives in Eau Claire’s Third Ward neighborhood, with his wife and two sons. He attempts to live in the present, but the 1980s have always exerted a strong gravitational pull on his writing. He tries to fight it, but it’s no use sometimes.

View more of Ken Szymanski's work »