Ray Bopp 1925 - 2013

 relating to his tribute website.

ca. 1938 - The Clock

A relative named Fernald was cleaning out his basement and getting rid of stuff; my dad and grandfather (Ray Sr.) were visiting and my dad remembered being allowed to rummage through the pile of discards where he found an old pith helmet and a rusted old rifle, and some other bits. Fernald said "they're yours." Dad remembered selling the rifle to some kid for fifty cents. Anyway, as the story goes, Fernald picked up an old clock and was poised to throw it into the trash heap saying "this thing never worked." My grandfather held Fernald's arm and said "I think Irene [Dad's mother] might be able to fix that" - so Fernald gave him the clock. My grandmother did indeed get the clock working, and they were all amused that at 1 o'clock it would strike thirteen. Years later, after my grandfather died, Grandma gave the clock to my dad who, as a project for a clock-repair class, cleaned and repaired the clock and got it to strike 1 at the appropriate time. As it turns out, it is a crystal-regulator clock made in France, probably in the early 1900s and is not very valuable or rare, but it has a good story attached to it and my dad cherished it as a memory he shared with his dad.

ca. 1940 - The Tree

Behind the house on Burnham avenue was a tall tree; the base was surrounded with some kind of bush that sported huge sharp thorns the length of your finger. Dad somehow figured out how to get into the tree from an adjacent building, and would climb to the topmost boughs (60 feet or more) and recline casually on his back. It was while in this position that one day he heard his mother call him from the back porch. "I'm up here," he called, and was gratified to see his mother shrink back in horror. To enhance the effect, Dad, having had some practice by this time, rolled sideways off of the bough and caught the next branch down with his hand, and proceeded to swing, Tarzan-style, down to the ground. Duly impressed, his mom took a picture of him in his high perch. The tree was still there when we visited together in 1981, and Dad brought home one of the thorns.

1943 - The Pure Oil Building Adventure
Employment: Seagram's Distillers; stockboy. This was in what was then called the Pure Oil Building at 35 East Wacker Drive in Chicago; it was one of his favorite buildings. I grew up hearing him tell of how he'd race up a particular set of stairs that, unlike the normal stairs from the lobby, would take him to a higher floor in the building that gave him access to the dome elevator and on up to the deserted Stratosphere Lounge (Dad remembered it as the "Stratoliner Lounge" - but other histories differ; it is said to have been a hangout for Al Capone) where he could see dusty abandoned tables, glasses, cocktail shakers and the like. From there he would enter through a door to the center of the cylindrical structure where a ladder took him up into the top dome of the building, and another rickety ladder led up to the ceiling of the dome itself. Dad said there was a little trap door where he could stick out his head for the best view from what was then (as he remembered it) the highest building in Chicago.

Tom in Dome Elevator, 1981
In 1981 my dad and I visited the building together. We took the main elevator up from the lobby to the top, got out, and discovered to our delight the Dome Elevator, wonderfully restored. We took it to the top and found ourselves in a law office, apparently deserted as it was lunch time. We decided to wander into the space, through the desks and cubicles of the office that inhabited the former speakeasy; at the back of one of the cubicles I noticed a door leading into the central hub of the room. We looked around, looked at each other, shrugged and went through the cubicle and through the door. There was the ladder - up we went, into the dome! It was dusty; in the darkness we could see the brick & mortar ribs and central pillar that supported the dome...and a metal ladder leaning against the pillar leading to a small opening at the peak of the dome through which sunlight streamed. I went up first and tried to open the wooden trapdoor, but it wouldn't budge, and I didn't want to break anything or send any rubble down the outside of the dome, so we didn't get to see the fabled view. Dad went up second; I took some out of focus pictures, and we headed back down.
By this time the people in the law office knew something was up and had called security. My dad did some fast talking to the receptionist and she finally said "Well you'd better get going before security gets up the elevator!" We headed down the Dome Elevator, and as we were entering the main elevator we brushed by two security guys exiting the elevator on their way up to the law office. We were as casual as we could be as we sauntered out of the lobby and then lost ourselves in sidewalk traffic.
Dad, dome, ladder, trapdoor at top - 1981


Dad remembered, working for Seagram's, being invited to a posh office party there. He remembered vividly his discomfort and embarrassment; he was only 18 years old and having grown up poor in South Chicago, unused to such company. His boss did what he could to make him feel comfortable, and gave him permission to pour himself a glass of whiskey. Dad, not knowing anything about whiskey, poured himself a full iced-tea glass of Seagram's VO and tried to look nonchalant. I never heard the rest of the story...

His sister, my aunt "Peachy," told me that Dad kept the family well supplied with meat during his employment there - he would come home with complimentary bottles of Seagram's whiskey (or were they filched?), which his mother would use for barter with the Irish butcher.

You can read Dad's comment on a website about the Pure Oil Building here.


Sent: Friday, February 15, 2013 9:57 AM
To: Tom Bopp 
Subject: RE: My Brother Raymundo

Outside the fact that there was no TV in our house in the forties, Ray would in the late evening after supper always go into his room and lay down on the floor, prop his head up with a rolled up blanket next to the radio and listen to music in a darkened room. The only light on in the room was from the dial on the four foot console radio that would illuminate a very faint outline of him. I would find him in the room with the door closed where he seemed alone with his thoughts and more probably away from all the noise of the rest of the house. I remember tripping over him as I would enter the room unannounced, hurrying to see what he was doing; he would grab me tickle me then turn me loose, never having a harsh word for having disturbed him.

My earliest memory of my brother Ray is when I was four years old, it could even have been as early as 3 years old. It was in Chicago IL. – the year was 1948 or 49; Ray would have been 23 or 24 by this time. I remember that Mom keep me in a crib till I was three. It was through the wood slats of the crib that I would stare out my open bedroom window into the clear sky above. A morning that Ray had come into the room and I can remember that part vividly – big smile and he was about to pick me up out of that crib which was always a BIG moment in my day because every time I would try to climb out I would hurt myself… I remember those time vividly also. I must have heard a loud sound overhead because I remember pointing up to a airplane in the sky that was passing by. I said, "airpaint", that's right, airpaint. Because I couldn't say airplane I say airpaint. My brother Ray must have spent some time with me that morning trying to help me say the word airplane. “Ronnie look,” he would say to me as he would form the word airplane with his mouth and say the word airplane, “now you try it" he would say to me.

That time in my past has stuck with me to this day. He made everything fun for me in my young year all the way down to his last days, and even then I always enjoyed the times I would plan to visit him in California or just talking to him on the phone; it was always a good time. I had always associated him and that smile with just that, a good time. I don't want him to be gone, and I miss him terribly, he is and will always be more than a brother too me, his help in matters both personal and other in my life are invaluable to me. It will be a good time again when I will see him again in Paradise; only hope I'll be there too.

Lisa [Ron’s wife] says, “I will always remember that smile; when he smiled, his whole body smiled too. I wish I could have known him so much longer.”

Love you Raymundo,


1952 - Repo Man

Sometime (I forget the year/s) Dad worked for Hans Lichtenfeld repossessing cars; as of this writing the dealership is still there at 8424 South Halstead in Chicago (Hans Motor Sales). Dad had stories about his and his partner's (I forget his name) exploits in this dangerous business, but one sticks out. They'd gone out in the middle of the night ('cause that's when repo men do their work) to a house to repo a car; they quietly, gently lifted the garage door, only to be confronted by a wall of chicken cages, stacked up and filled live, slightly fidgety chickens. They were about to close the door when my dad noticed that the cages were only one-deep, and lurking behind them was the target car. The job was clear - slowly, patiently, careful not to rile the already nervous chickens and wake up the owner who was asleep inside the house, they removed the cages from top to bottom, quietly rolled the car out of the garage (I seem to remember there was a ditch or a moat over which they had to extend boards to get the car out to the street), and in a fine stroke of bravado, they gingerly replaced the entire wall of chicken cages to their original positions and closed the door without a sound.

The next morning Dad had the pleasure of seeing the owner show up and make his payment and looking around the office with a half-smile of appreciative defeat.

2013 - Burial

Yesterday (March 25, 2013) we buried Dad's remains with Mom's at Pacific Crest Cemetery in Redondo Beach, CA. My wife, Diane, and our dear friends Bud Friedman & his daughter Sharon Levine were there to witness and participate in the burial. I don't remember all the little bit that I said, but it included that Dad had loved and was loved, and as the song goes, "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return." We stood and reminisced a bit, observing Dad's success in overcoming so many obstacles to secure a steady, safe, and loving home for his family, and for going to his grave with the secrets of his career in national security still intact. We then took up shovels and finished the burial and set the memorial stone, then headed off to lunch at Mimi's Cafe in Torrance where we were joined by Diane's brother Dean..