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A Memoriam to a Toaster Man
By Jim Barns, Charlottesville, Virginia

One of the great characters I've known in my 52 years died this fall (2000) - William "Red" Kruck, 87.

Son of Hungarian immigrants, Red grew up in Chicago. He had an exceptional aptitude for mechanics. After attending trade school (there is a great class photo -- Red with a round, beaming face surrounded by the angular faces of Swedes) he excelled as a tool and die maker and designer. He also had an aptitude for politics. He and his wife were ardent unionists. Along the way they became friends with Studs Terkel, Pete Seger and Nelson Algren. My wife and I met at their annual Labor Day party.

Toasters played a role during Red's retirement years in Arizona. He started picking up the old "Airstream" looking models at yard sales and, then, rehabilitating them. On my visit with him and his son, Red offered a toaster as a wedding present. He swung open a closet door and there were dozens of gleaming classic toasters, all fixed up and outfitted with an industrial strength cord. I tucked one under my arm and took it back on the plane. Twelve years and 1,000 hits later, it's still going strong.

Some years later, there was a whimsical feature in a local Charlottesville paper, "Ode to a Toaster" complimented with a photo. I sent a copy to Red and put one on display near the toaster Red gave me. A few years ago, Red sent me a great postcard of a worker testing toasters - a long row of them with toasted bread apoppin'. That, too, is on display.

Toaster Tester





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