Keith Veizer is proof you can take the man out of Granite City, as well as Kompolt, Hungary, but you can’t take them out of the man.
Veizer’s parents raised their family on Poplar Street in the area of Granite City called Lincoln Place or Hungary Hollow, where Hungarians, Bulgarians, Armenians, Mexicans and Macedonians all lived together. Veizer, a 1961 Granite City High School graduate and English teacher for more than 40 years, recounts his experiences in his new book, “VeizerVizerWeizerWieser.”
The title stems from a nickname he earned in school, where coach and PE teacher Arnold Sullivan reached the end of class roll and called out “VEIZERVIZERWEIZERWIESER, or however you pronounce it.”
His father, John, was a master storyteller and a large influence on his son’s endeavors later in life. His favorite teacher, Helen Kuenstler, taught him English and the joy of reading and writing.
“I just know I was a favorite pupil and writing protégé of this great lady,” he said.
During his decades of teaching in his current home of New Orleans, he saw his stories published, but the history of his family and their Hungarian roots persistently simmered and boiled over every time he would relate stories of his childhood and tales his father told him.
Finally deciding it was now or never, it was time to put the jigsaw puzzle of Granite City and Kompolt in the form of a book. As he started his journey, he remembered what his father had said about storytelling — “He never met a story that he could not improve upon.” There were always a few listeners who would tell him he should write a book about Granite City, Lincoln Place and Hungary. Research for this type of book required multiple trips to Hungary.
The author’s first trip to Kompolt was in 2003 and there were three more over the years while putting the book together. During the second trip, the author spent a lot of time searching birth and death records and getting fresh air in long walks through cemeteries while getting more names to track down more relatives.
At one such cemetery visit, Veizer saw an old woman crying, cleaning a stone and laying flowers on it. While comforting her, he told her he was from Illinois. “You don’t mean Granite City?” she asked. As it turned out, her people were some of the Kompolt villagers who went to Granite City. Through visits like these, Veizer was able to make connections with other villagers who had long-lost relatives who went to Granite City from the home country. Each trip offered more and more insight into his research about the Kompolt-Granite City connection.
“VeizerVizerWeizerWieser” is a reminder that at one time or another, we all have immigrant roots tied to other places of the world. The tale of surviving and persevering is available at BSR Books, 1400 Niedringhaus Ave., or at www.amazon.com.