Join our mailing list!

PayPal Payments

Store Hours (EST):
Mon - Sat 9:30am - 6:00pm
Sunday 11:00am - 3:00pm

  Home > Books, Calendars, Maps, Movies, Music And More > Books > History > Polish American History >

Life And Times - Growing Up In Detroit's "Little Poland"
Rodney Bork belongs to a relatively small circle of Polish Americans who have written a book about their Polonian childhood. The book’s subtitle “Growing up on the east side of Detroit in the 1930s, 40s and 50s” tends to conceal its ethnic content, but th

Alternative Views:

Earn 10 Points for every dollar you spend!
Our Price: $20.00
Internet Special $14.95
ISBN: 9780615217130

Availability:: Usually Ships in 24 to 48 Hours
Product Code:

Rodney Bork belongs to a relatively small circle of Polish Americans who have written a book about their Polonian childhood. The book’s subtitle “Growing up on the east side of Detroit in the 1930s, 40s and 50s” tends to conceal its ethnic content, but the book’s focus is Metropolitan Detroit’s Chene Street area. Together with the neighboring suburb of Hamtramck, this reporter’s home town, it once constituted Michigan’s largest single, contiguous Polish community.

Rodney, the grandson of Polish immigrants, was the ninth child born to Agnes (née Szczepaniak) and Ben Bork in East Side Detroit’s main Polish area. A talented writer, he has deftly captured the flavor of growing up in an ethnic neighborhood in the 1930s through ‘50s. “Horton Street was, when it existed, a blue collar neighborhood. The original settlers were hard workers, supporting large families. I was the ‘baby’ of nine. A family across the street was raising sixteen. Family values up and down the street were built around Polish culture that believed in God and promoted respect for parents and each other,” Bork explains.

The author takes us on a tour of the neighborhood which included the elegant Dom Polski, the venue of many an upscale banquet and wedding. There was Witkowski’s Men’s Clothes, Otto’s Barber shop, Gianini’s Pool Hall, many Polish meat markets and bakeries, bridal shops and florists as well as bars with such names as Warsaw, Mazurka and Jak Tam? (How Ya Doin’?). He invites us aboard the old Baker Street trolley which rolled down the middle of Chene Street on into Hamtramck’s Joseph Campau Avenue near the Dodge Main auto plant, the area’s main employer.

Bork describes Joseph Campau as a street alive with stores and shoppers, lined with Polish meat markets and bakeries, Federal’s Department Store, dime stores, clothing shops, banks and movie theaters. “The whole area around that strip of Joseph Campau was a Polish enclave. The beautiful classic Saint Florian Catholic Church and Saint Ladislaus Parish served the Polish population. Although these churches still exist, they struggle much like the rest of the community to stay alive and are little more than a shadow of the past,” the author writes.

During his lifetime Bork has chalked up a variety of successive experiences, each of which has helped expand his horizons. He played in the streets and back alleys of the old Chene Street neighborhood, was a paperboy and altarboy, attended St. Stanislaus High School and began studying for the priesthood at Sacred Heart seminary. His brothers had served in World War II, and he followed in their footsteps by answering the call of duty during the Korean War. He studied at Wayne State University, got married and began working as a teacher.

Rod was also a musician and set up his own trio called the Music Makers. That meant that he got to attend more than his share of Polish weddings. He described one such nuptial of his friends Sharon and Russell Bushor (originally Busior): “As with most Polish weddings, musicians appeared on Sharon’s porch. They were there to serenade the bride. Rod Bork’s Music Makers played the Polish Wedding March as the excited bride appeared with her entourage.”

While the bride and groom were saying their “I do’s” in church, the musicians were busy setting up their equipment at the reception site. “Members of the kitchen staff met Sharon and Russell at the hall entrance, giving each a bite of bread with a bit of salt, a symbolic expression that the couple will always have food on the table,” Bork explained. “The entire bridal party then entered the hall to the lively beat of the Polish Wedding March. (…) The breakfast was punctuated with the sound of metal spoons and forks striking china plates, an insistence that the bride and groom kiss.”

But that was only the wedding breakfast attended by a “mere” 200 or so relatives and close friends. The main reception started at 6 p.m. with anywhere from 400 to 500 in attendance. A four-course family style dinner was served including home-made chicken soup, baked kielbasa, roast chicken, meatballs in mushroom gravy, golabki, and city chicken. Cream pies and chursciki were for dessert, and the bar was open the whole time.

Bork recalled the grand march that brought everybody onto the dance floor, the “oczepiny” (unveiling ceremony) performed to the tune of “Dwanaœcie aniolów” (“Twelve Angels”) and the bride’s dance with her father which eventually came to be known as the “Tatusiu Waltz”.

“Life and Times” will ring a bell not only to those of his generation familiar with the Polish community of old Chene Street and Hamtramck. The names of the Polish parishes, halls, bakeries and sausage shops may vary from place to place, but with only minor modifications, it reflects many of the typical features of traditional Polish neighborhoods all over the Midwest and East Coast. Above all, Rod’s autobiography can serve as an inspiration to other Polish Americans, many of whom wouldn’t think of writing about their own lives.

This book shows how even ordinary occurrences, spot impressions and reminiscences of times gone by can be woven into a highly readable true story. Those who really don’t know how to put their thoughts down on paper are often good talkers. They can sit back, switch on a tape recorder and ramble on about anything that comes to mind. Once those recollections have been recorded, the raw materials will be there for some future descendant to edit and turn into a family saga. That’s surely better than taking it all to the grave!
Review written by Mr Robert Strybel - Polish/Polonian Affairs Writer

Customer reviews:

I really enjoyed your book, Life and Times.  It brought back some Wonderful memories.  I received your book as a gift.  Let me know if you have any more books.  I think your book can be expanded; it is so good.
Don Galamaga,  Navy Captain Retired

I am ordering three copies of Life and Times.  I am sure I will enjoy reading it.  Your book had a very nice write up in the Am Pol - Eagle out of Buffalo.  I'm sure that the book will remind me of growing up in Akron, a city of ethnic neighboroods, fooods and churches.
Fr. David Misbrener

Last Monday I received your book Life and Times.  I read it twice and I am still on a high because of it.  It is one supreme delight. Your book is one entire trip down memory land.
August Lang, musician

Mr. Bork, Please forward to me another copy of your book Life and Times.  I lived on Chene Street across from  Perrien Park.  Everything you mentioned I remember.  What sweet memories!  This book relives my childhood.  Thank you.
Mrs. Krupinski
Rodney Bork's Band - Music And Slide Show
  • Softcover
  • Autographed By The Author
  • 172 pages
  • Size 5.75" x 8.75" - 14.5cm x 22cm

Browse for more products in the same category as this item:

Books, Calendars, Maps, Movies, Music And More > Books > History > Polish American History
Books, Calendars, Maps, Movies, Music And More > View All Books, Music and more
Books, Calendars, Maps, Movies, Music And More > Books > View All Books
Books, Calendars, Maps, Movies, Music And More > Books > History > View All History
9539 Jos. Campau
Hamtramck, MI 48212
(313) 874-2242