Edwin Bandurski

by Ellen C.Warren, photograph by Melody R. Carranza

Some people just like it where they are.

“I was born October 14, 1921 downstairs, in the bedroom,” Edwin Bandurski reports with a little chuckle. This month he will celebrate his 85th birthday upstairs from the Polish flat where he first entered this life in the house built by his maternal grandfather, Vincent Lassa, in 1907. “It will be one hundred years old next year!” he proudly notes.

It’s not only the house he feels so at home in, it’s the area his family emigrated to near the end of the 19th century. They all came from Poland, established themselves in the area of Riverwest that was then referred to as Polish Town, and blended fully and happily into the community.

Edwin hasn’t always lived in the home in the 3100 block of Bremen Street he’s owned since 1959, but nearly always within a few blocks. There were some years, when he was between the ages of 6 and11, when the family left the Polish flat and crossed the river to Kane Place. His mother opened a grocery store and they attended St. Hedwig’s Church. Edwin received his first communion there. But the church where he’d been baptized and returned to at 11, St. Mary Czestochowa, is where he declares he’s been “a continual parishioner.” It’s been a cornerstone in his life.

Edwin’s family moved back to the partially below-ground apartment of his earliest years in 1932, when his parents purchased the house from his uncle. The school at St Mary Czest., a block from his home, was where he attended fifth, sixth and seventh grades. His education took a turn toward the technical fields when his parents next sent him to the Kilbourn Junior Trade School. A large school, it filled the area between Humboldt Boulevard and Dousman Street on the south side of Auer Avenue. Interspersed with the usual academic studies were shop classes in printing, woodworking and metalworking as well as art. Edwin’s lifelong interest in mechanical things led him to finish off his formal education in a one-day per week program at a vocational school on 11th and Highland.

During his last couple years of school from 1940 to 1942, he worked at a Phillips 66 filling station on Holton and Concordia. On Oct. 7, 1942, a week short of twenty-one years old, Edwin enlisted in the Army Air Force. The US was fully engaged in WWII, and Edwin used his mechanical skills as an airplane mechanic. “We serviced bombers,” he says, maintaining them and performing repairs as needed. He remained on American turf for the entirety of his enlistment and was honorably discharged in early ’46.

Back home on Bremen Street he was rehired by the gas station owner, Lawrence Cookson, who had moved his establishment to Holton and Burleigh in the same building we see at that corner today. Soon he was engaged to his sister’s friend, Dorothy Platt, who worked at Globe Union on Holton St. (Globe Union would later become Johnson Controls.) They were married four days after his birthday that year.

Dorothy had been living with her two married sisters, one of whom had a young child. The other was her fraternal twin. After Edwin and Dorothy tied the knot he moved into their house on Townsend and Weil. In those days this sort of arrangement was not uncommon. “It was a three bedroom house,” Edwin explains. “We each had a bedroom.”

1949 was an eventful year. Edwin took over the Phillips 66 station and became a father to their first child, Jane. There would be two more to follow, Diane in 1953 and David in 1955.

Edwin had to give up his business in 1970 when the Phillips 66 Company decided to close the location due to low sales. Edwin remembers, “I never made a lot of money, but a lot of people used to think…you know. At that time we used to make 3 cents on a gallon. When I was in the business, gasoline was 38 cents for regular and 40 cents for ethyl, the premium gasoline. The profit was on the oil and doing the mechanical work.”

A fellow St. Mary Czestochowa parishioner came to Edwin’s aid after his station closed. A machinist for Reliable Knitting in the Third Ward, he helped Edwin secure employment in the maintenance and repair of the many knitting machines used by the company. Edwin retired in 1985 after 14 years in their service.

He had 15 more years with his beloved Dorothy in the house on Bremen before her death in 2000. After his parents’ deaths they’d bought out his brothers’ and sister’s interest in the home where he still resides.

These days the cozy, well-kept dwelling is entirely inhabited by family members. Edwin’s on the first floor. His daughter, Diane, lives in the attic apartment, available to help her dad who’s been wheelchair-bound since 1999. The Polish flat, downstairs, is home to Jane’s son, David.

The warm, lively lavender kitchen and corral-colored dining room demonstrate Edwin’s philosophy regarding why he’s still pleased to live in his Riverwest home. “I’m attached to it here. Everybody says, ‘Go buy a new house.’ But I just paint!”

Some people just like it where they are.


Riverwest Currents online edition – October, 2006