Umlauf completes memoir called ‘By Way of Canarsie’Published 7:53pm Monday, August 20, 2012
August “Gus” Umlauf of Columbus has just completed the first of a two part memoir entitled “By Way of Canarsie (a winding route from there to here”) to be self-published by Foothills, Ent. Gloria Underwood, PhD, of Tryon was the editor.
The author was born, and lived the first years of his life, in Brooklyn, N.Y., not far from Canarsie, where his father once worked. That location gave rise to the book title, “By Way of Canarsie.” Because Canarsie was so far out of the way, one would often hear questions such as: “How coulda cab cost ya 20 bucks? Whadya do, come by waya Canarsie?”
This first memoir traces the history of the author’s father, August John Umlauf, from his Brooklyn birth in 1889 as the youngest among ten first-generation Americans born to German immigrants. (Only four of those children survived their first year of life.)
When his father died, August – at 13 – worked as an indentured bookbinder and bartender to help at home. Later he married a German émigrée, struggled through the Alien and Sedition Acts, Prohibition, a failed business, the Great Depression and, eventually, the dissolution of his marriage.
Shortly after, his Canarsie place of employment burned to the ground. All of that occurred before the author was born.
Divorced, broke and unemployed in an economy suffering a 25-percent unemployment rate, August found a bright light when he met his wife, the author’s mother.
The light shone brightly but briefly. Gus was not yet five years of age, the oldest of three children, when his mother died in childbirth. His two younger sisters and the newborn brother were immediately placed under permanent foster care. Gus followed four years later. That fateful morning in 1939 began a cumulated 59 years in and out of 26 foster homes and institutions for those children.
Gus lived four years with his father and became, by his own admission, a troubled “street kid” on a fast track to an uncertain future. Three days before his ninth birthday he followed his siblings into permanent foster care. This first memoir concludes when, at age 11, Gus is being shipped off to his fifth foster home in two years.
In 2010, the author saw a photograph of his mother for the first time and something within him came alive. He spent weeks researching his family: online, through institutional records and with a lone scrapbook. After years of gentle nudging by his wife, Shelia, he finally began the task of writing about his discoveries and recording his personal stories.
The book is scheduled for release later this month. Anyone interested in having Unlauf discuss the book or the process of getting “from here to there” can contact him at 828-894-8777 or email@example.com.
- article submitted
by Gloria Underwood