To me it means hard work. It means pride in what you do.
My Grandad immigrated from The Netherlands, via Canada, married an Indian (First Nations Ojibwa) woman in Minnesota/Canada, and eventually made it to Chicago.
He worked his life as an apartment complex janitor. 7 days a week, anytime of the day. I helped him shovel coal into the HUGE coal-fired steam boilers, to heat the apartments. He pretended there was a black cat living in the coal bin, that I could not see but could hear (he made the sounds, obviously). He carried trash cans up and down the 4 level outdoor metal walk-up steps, regardless of the weather. He had his last heart attack doing that on a winter day at age 75.
In between his janitor duties, he made home brew beer in the basement, threw perfect horseshoes with other people who didn’t speak english down at the park, and rode 100 mile bicycle races every weekend. Many times he would do that during the day, then ride “Pursuit” races (behind a motorcycle) at the outdoor wood velodrome in a Chicago suburb evenings. He was unbeatable. The stuff he won was sold to buy groceries. In between all that, he taught me how to ride his track bike: shining silver-chrome with no brakes, and only one gear. You wore gloves and grabbed the tires to stop the monster. Yes, I did the velodrome thing too. I wanted to be like my Grandpa whom everyone called “Bop”. Life was tough, life was good.
Grandpa was the number one bicycle racer in the USA. I have the articles from the Chicago Papers. He couldn’t turn pro. Not enough money, and he had two kids to support. His Indian wife died having my father, and Bop married a Rom Gypsy women to take care of the kids.
He worked, all the time. He was tough as nails. He was Blue Collar, responsible, always making things, doing things, fixing things. Every day. Even the day he died. He had a heart attack in the driveway, carried cans to the 4th floor in sub-zero weather, made it back to his apartment and collapsed on the couch. But not before he fixed the toilet for Grandma. Then he told her what happened, and died.
Damn he was a proud Blue Collar man. And I am proud of him.
Rafael Artur Schepens.
Love ya Bop.