The Walk-On a true Chicago Story
In The Walk-On, Mike “the Steelman” Stalowski is a blue-collar kid who grew up in the shadows of the Chicago steel mills, where hard-working immigrants poured molten steel 24/7 while smokestacks belched black smoke until they were shuttered in the mid-70s. The word steel in Polish is “stal” which is the root of the Steelman’s surname. Technically, my interpretation means he’s made of steel.
Chicago, one of the most diverse cities in the world, has many nicknames including Chi-town, City of Big Shoulders, Windy City, Second City, and oddly for most, the Third Coast. Although if you’ve ever been on the lakefront, you understand.
Many people have heard of the South, North and West Sides. No East Side as you’d be in Lake Michigan. The city has over 200 distinct neighborhoods. You’ll find the Steelman in Hegewisch, Lincoln Park, Little Italy, Wrigleyville and the Gold Coast. The long-standing North Side / South Side rivalry is real. One of my characters from the South Side mocks a friend from the North Side for not venturing farther south than Roosevelt Road. Technically, the dividing line is Madison Street. Ironically, both live in the western suburbs, which is another rivalry.
The South Side is known for being more blue-collar, and it definitely has some of the city’s most poverty-stricken neighborhoods. Conversely, the white-collar North Side includes the bustling downtown area, with its well-known skyscrapers, lakefront recreation and residential high-rises, mansions, upscale eateries and shopping options, and numerous cultural destinations.
I am proud to have grown up on the South Side. We were certainly blue-collar, poor actually, and I lived in a tiny cottage bungalow. Like Stalowski, my parents were Polish immigrants who came to Chicago seeking a better life. My dad toiled in the South Side stockyards until he became a printer. My mother worked on a Westinghouse Corporation factory assembly line, alongside other Polish and Hispanic women. She didn’t speak good English, and she didn’t speak bad Spanish. They got along just fine.
I didn’t visit downtown until I was in 1st or 2nd grade and never dreamed I would one day attend Loyola University on the North Side lakefront. In all fairness, I confess that after becoming empty-nesters, my wife and I lived in East Lakeview and loved it. We walked everywhere: grocery store, gym, church, Wrigley Field, live theater, restaurants, Lincoln Park and even to the glitzy Magnificent Mile on North Michigan Avenue. Can’t do that in the towns of area codes 708, 630, or 847.
The baseball rivalry is real too. The Cubs are the North Side heroes. The White Sox are their South Side rivals. Fortunately, the whole city roots for the Bulls, Blackhawks and Chicago Bears. In The Walk-On, the city cheers for the fictional NFL Chicago Storm. As the book begins, Mike “the Steelman” Stalowski, notorious hometown hero hailing from the South Side, has been a fan favorite for years.
I hope you’ll enjoy Mike’s escapades around Chicago — my beloved hometown.
You may purchase The Walk-On at Amazon.
About the Author
Richard Podkowski, a native of Chicago’s South Side, began writing fiction while studying criminal justice at Loyola University Chicago.
As a United States Secret Service special agent, Richard protected U.S. presidents and foreign dignitaries and investigated major domestic and international financial crimes until he retired in 2003.
Richard’s projects include a Christmas romantic comedy screenplay and a crime story, both
currently in the works. In his free time, Richard enjoys riding his road bike, working out, and
making Christmas ornaments. He currently resides with his wife in Los Angeles.
© 2014-2023- Ronovan Hester Copyright reserved. The author asserts his moral and legal rights over this work.