Meet the Humans of the Keys

Meet the Humans of the Keys

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Charles (Uncle Charlie) Reisinger



"I am a story teller. In 1928 I was 11 years old and I joined the Minstrels. Do you know what the Vaudeville days were? Well, the Minstrels were another side like Charlie Chaplin. We had a Minstrel show that consisted of about 35 people. The Pennsylvania Railroad would transport us throughout the north in the winter months when it was slow, and we did this for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Farmers.

At 11 years old, my father was the 3rd Minstrel man and my job was........ there was no popcorn machines, no food, no inside bathrooms, so people would stay in their seats; it was cold outside. When the curtain came down for a change of scenery, we always sent out a story teller. He would tell junky stories and silly jokes like 'Why do farmers wear suspenders? To keep their pants up!'. In those days we didn't have the finesse we do nowadays. My father was usually the story teller. He could tell true stories and fables. I cannot tell fables, I can only tell true stories. My mother would sew saltines onto his jacket and while he was telling his stories, I would pull the saltines off his jacket and pretend like I was eating them. Usually at the end of the story his jacket would fall off and he would be standing in the old time red and black spotted underwear with the flaps on the back! It was a crowd pleaser.

It was 1929, I was 12 years old and my father bought me a saxophone. The biggest parade in the country then was in Philadelphia on New Year's Day. I would carry a 5 ft plume and play the saxophone in the parade. I didn't really play well.

Now I am 14 years old and we had left Cincinnati Ohio in a blizzard and pulled into Pittsburg PN, the first of January. I am still in the Minstrels. The Master of Ceremonies asked my father if I was ready to go on by myself. 350 people there. I told my father only if he would be in the wing and bail me out if I get in trouble. He said he would. We had the big, wide microphones back then. I went on stage, the auditorium was dark and they put that big white light on me, I couldn't see anything. I did my 14 minutes, at 14 years old, and I haven't stopped since.

I leave the Keys usually in April and I crisscross all the States east of the Mississippi and I tell stories. When I get to a large town, I always go in and am the story teller at the Shiner's Children's Hospitals. I go to the Temple and they always have requests for speakers. I can talk to any group, it doesn't matter who they are or what they do. I keep all my stories at about 14 minutes.

My favorite story is the one I tell kids. It is about me really. I tell a story about a boy growing up in the days without electricity, without inside plumbing, no bath facilities, and a family of 11, 9 kids! I like telling the story of my childhood. When I talk to the kids, I emphasize they should use their heads. Know their math and how to spell in their head, even though they can do it on their computer. Don't stop using your computer, but use your brain. This kid in my story used his talents and his brain.

I only got through the 7th grade. Of course I finished my high school; the old way. I didn't just take an exam. I went to Bel Air High School night school. I was stationed in Edgewood, MD and I hitch hiked 26 miles 3 nights a week and sometimes I walked it. I was 19 years old. I earned my diploma and I got college credits now; I taught the Meat Inspection Division at the University of Miami for 15 years.

I joined the Army when I was 18 and left when I was 19. I went into Veterinary Service. I was there before there were tanks and jeeps; we had horses and mules. It was the Calvary. I located myself on the operating floor for about 7 years treating horses, about 90 a day. The officers, that were the veterinarians, never did the actual treatments, but that was ok, it was my job and I learned a lot!

After the 7 years, I started traveling and teaching. I went to Chicago, to Quartermaster School and I taught at the school in Washington. I taught food inspection. Veterinary Service does all the food inspection division because they are the only ones that know the diseases of the animals. We determine if the animal is edible or not. I stayed in the Army 20 years. I put 2 tours in Korea, food inspection of goods coming off the ships.

When I got out of the service, I was in the flooring and Formica business for a year.

There were 13 States in the Union that did not have meat inspections, and the government passed a law that they had to have the meat inspections or the government would take it over. Doyle Connor, the youngest Florida commissioner we have ever had, promised the packers that if they backed him up and got him in, he would get them a State meat inspection program.

I left flooring and Formica and I ended up on that inspection team. I was on the team that downsized the regulations to meet requirements and still keep the farmers in business. My team set up the school to teach the meat inspection regulations and train inspectors. Every time there was trouble with food, anywhere in the world, I was one of the few men they could call and could fix it.

During my Army time, I became a Mason, a Shriner, a York Rite, a Jester, all of the bodies of the Masonic Group. I now teach. I am the Past District Deputy Grand Master of the State of Florida; I am the Representative of the Masons in Florida to the Grand Arch of Brazil, like an ambassadorship. That is my life now. It has guided me through a marriage and raising children, and 24 years as a Boy Scout Master.

I have 2 boys that are Eagles and 4 grandchildren that are Eagles. I am a Life Scout.

My greatest accomplishment is raising 2 boys and 4 grandchildren. They are all professionals. I guided them. They always looked to me and my wife for guidance.

I went with my wife for 2 years before we were married and were married for 50 years and 1 month when she passed. We never had an argument. If I could be a marriage counselor, if people would listen to me, I would tell them to sit on the edge of the bed just before they go to bed at night, look each other in the eyes, tell the truth and ask each other what they did that day to make the other happy or unhappy. Be honest and listen, really listen. We shared everything. It isn't hard to be married if you know how to do it and are with the right person.

"Oh, and I ballroom dance. 3 years ago I flew from here to Sydney Australia and I won the World Championship Ballroom Dance Competition.

I have a couple of dance partners here. I dance at the Crib, or at the Moose, any place in Key Largo that plays music. I dance with Nan, what a dancer; then there is Tina, I started her when she was 19 years old, what a broad she was, I was taking her to all the big ballrooms, and there is also Sally. Great dancing partners!

I am already qualified, I have 7 qualifications, I just finished them (at 97 years old) 5 in Philadelphia and 2 in Richmond VA and I am qualified for the next World Competition that is in Johannesburg."

HOK - "Are you going?"

"I don't think so; they are shooting people over there."