The "Real" Robert F. Schulkers
Was born on the night of July 21, 1890, in his Mother's house at 120 East 13th Street in Covington, Kentucky, in a section then known as "Hellentown". It was a hot night about 9:00PM according to his Mom and her good friend, Mrs. Schildmoeller, the midwife who delivered Robert into the world. The house numbers have since been changed to 220. The small house was a two-story frame affair with modest porch on the front and no attic. RFS writes, "The house was on the North side of the street, and was just east of the alley midway between Greenup Street and Garrard Street (some say it was "Garrett" Street in old days). This was just 2 1/2 blocks west of the Licking River. The river was to play a continuous part in the development and the future reference for the Seckatary stories." Young RFS played mostly between Covington and Latonia because the river nearest his house had dangerous towboat moorings and the site was forbidden by his father.
Never fat in his youth, he was 5 feet 10" tall with brown hair and tender, but piercing
mid-summer-sky-blue eyes. We all remember him in his later years - slightly balding in
front, with pleasingly pure-white hair, and a potbelly. His earlier photos showed the
slightly mischievous sparkle in those eyes too. His voice was tenor with a slightly nasal
and raspy pitch. It got more nasal and high pitched with age. A 5/25/1949-radio
interview done by Kay Hamilton of WSAI in Cincinnati is a prime example of a young boy's
voice in a grown man of 59 years.
RFS attended St. Joseph's parochial grade school in the Hellentown section of Covington, KY.
He was a favorite altar boy these years. Pastor was Father Constantine Liber O.S.B., who later transferred to Saint Vincent Arch abbey in Beatty, PA.
St Joseph's was also his high school (Now it is called Covington Catholic High School).
He sold his first short stories to the old Commercial Tribune as early as 1904 while still in high school. A stellar student, he graduated 6/20/1906.
His teacher in the Seck stories was "Brother James", but we know he was really "Brother Jim"----- who he admired enough to include in the Seckatary books. This was a Benedictine Catholic order, ergo the "Brother" tag.
He later studied architectural draftsmanship.
Everyone would look forward to any time we could have with Grandpa-Seckatary. He brightened up the room with his jolly presence and gave his 100% undivided attention to whomsoever he would talk to, regardless of age. He would look straight into your eyes, everyone else seemed excluded, and you could feel the kinship and bond - what a polite and complimentary way to communicate with another human.
He always received the respect of everyone he interacted with, but without seeming to ask for it. He didn't have a way of demanding it like some bombastic Army general; but just seemed to deserve it - and get it. To everyone he ever met, he was a righteous champion of justice for any that might be slighted, maligned or misunderstood. You would have liked him.
As an autobiographical portrait for his own descendants, RFS wrote in 1921, "'Henry Herman was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, July 4, 1850. ...He was more familiarly known as 'Henry', although he signed himself always 'HH'. Both his mother and father had come from Germany... Moved to Covington before he was one year old. His boyhood was spent within a stone's throw from the edge of the Licking River on 13th Street. He lost his father at the age of 13 and did millwork in rope factories with the Teamsters because he had to support his mother, 3 brothers (twins Bill and Herman; and Frank) and 3 sisters (Lena, Mary, and Mollie).
At 16 or 17, he became a capable handler of horses, and was given charge of a 4-horse team of his own. Hauling stone and timber and heavy loads of all kinds, he went through winters and summers of hard work and many privations, so that he knew the true philosophies of life without reading books. Later he became superintendent of teams, and acquired a knowledge of horses, so that in Covington he was acknowledged an authority, and was consulted in the purchase of horses for the large mills in which he labored. Even in his later days---the days that are most vivid in my recollection---his fondest love was for horses, and the animals seemed to know him on first sight, and loved him. His was a way of kindness---gentleness that not only the horses loved, but which endeared him to the hearts of every living being who felt the touch of his hand. Stern and strict in his ways, he had a loving kindness about him that could not be denied. He was one of God's noblemen in the simplest form.
In his thirties, my father attracted the attention of those whose politics included the welfare of the community, and they chose him as an officer of the law. Within a short time he was made Lieutenant of Police, and in that capacity he spent his lifetime. As 'Lieutenant Schulkers' he grew to fame; and to this day, there are those who speak of him as the most honest, God-fearing and conscientious officer that ever donned a uniform. A fine-looking up standing man of nearly six feet, rather portly and very dignified and serious, he made a picture in uniform that struck awe into the minds of the criminals of that day. He disdained, however, to appear in his regalia. There was only one occasion, and that upon our earnest solicitation and pleading, that he consented to return home in full uniform. What a picture that remains to me even to this day! We children had been allowed to remain awake until 9:00 in the night to await his coming. It was his custom to go on duty a 6, home at 9 for lunch, and return for the remainder of the dark hours on duty. And when 9:00 struck, and there were footsteps in the yard---our hearts began a quicker beat---the door opened, and in he came, quietly, in full uniform, in the cap with the gilded wreath in front, the long blue coat, the shining leather strap--- the jeweled badge of lieutenant that his officers had given him as a token of esteem---my father! That was the only time we were to see him so bedecked. Never again did he allow us to see him in full uniform except on those rare occasions when he could not help himself, when he was on parade with the force that called him chief.
For chief he was indeed, as the titular chief of the force was one Joe Pugh, a likeable old Kentuckian, who yearned toward racehorses and the sort, and rarely paid much attention to his office. 'Henry will take care of the office', was Joe's remark when he sallied forth to the race tracks to see his thoroughbreds win laurels on the turf. And Henry did. Henry was an especial friend of Joe's, and to his dying day, Henry never failed to say a good word for Joe. Those two understood each other. And in the Valhalla where all souls shall meet, they probably have discussed these things over and over again, many times.
My father was a handsome man. When I first saw him, he wore, according to the times, a full beard and moustache. His beard was glossy black, as was his hair. His eyes were of a blue that reminded me of the tropic sky, and his cheeks glowed with the ruddiness of health. My father did not smoke. He took a drink of whiskey now and then, but never in his lifetime did he take more than one. He enjoyed a glass of beer in the mid-afternoon, with a light sandwich or perhaps a cracker... He always kept liquor in the house for emergency in case of a sickness. He was never under the influence of liquor at any time in my lifetime. He had mastered that art of self-mastery, not to take more of any one thing than was good. His watchword was "Moderation in all things". And though, perhaps, he had partaken of all that a man might partake, as would be inferred from his last statement to me, he knew that too much of anything was not good.
The last interview I had with him (Although I did not expect it to be the last) was on the Sunday before Wednesday on which he suddenly died. "Robert", he said, 'my time might come at any time. And yet I am not afraid---nor sorry. I have lived 75 years---a long time---I have seen much---one can see all there is to see in three-score and ten--- am past my time. I have lived and loved and thank God for the children who have solaced my last years---my cup is full to the brim, and I have enjoyed life. When God speaks, I shall be ready!' He was ready. But we children were not! At least I was not---I wanted him for many more years---even if it were just to worry about him---to coddle him and try in many futile ways---for every way was futile when a son tries to repay a father for everything he has done for him---and God knows how I loved him! More, my whole heart was wrapped up in the man who had done for me many things he had done for me---you will never know how I felt, when I thought back upon those earliest years of my recollection, when I was a wee bit of a kid, hardly able to talk, and he had sung to me, before I went to sleep, all those old time songs, of Nellie Gray and Old Black Joe, of old Uncle Ned and of Abraham Lincoln's soul stirring pathetic yearning to set free those of God's children who were not free --and of My Old Kentucky Hoe--the home he loved so well-- the home to which he had been transplanted when he was yet an inarticulate infant--but which in his boyhood, passed during the soul-searing throes of the Civil War, he had grown to cherish the most beloved thing in life! 'Way down Fort Sumter---' I can hear him singing yet-- 'Way down Fort Sumter; Where de war first begun; Way down in Dixie; Wid major Anderson--.' How splendid his voice always sounded to me! I would rise from the cot upon which he had been trying to make me nap, and stare up at his very handsome face, to look at my wonderful daddy! 'There, now', he would whisper, gently, as he tucked the covers about my shoulders. 'Daddy's boy must take a nap to make him grow. Fall back, sonny, and listen while I sing.' And I would fall back, watching him closely however, while he would rear himself in that rocking chair, back and forth, and sing in his soothing voice: 'Way down in Dixie, wid Major Anderson; Who stood by de flag, wide heart brave and true; and fought like a brave man for the red, white and blue.' And so I would drift off into beautiful slumbers illustrated by dreams that only my father could paint for me. His voice--- and the clear ring of his melody--- the words that were so inspiring---fading off into a dream of my own, in which my childish imagination wove fancies that were later to produce pictures for other boys, in later generations, yet unborn--to be known, as it later developed, as the Adventures of Seckatary Hawkins--."' RFS had intended to write more, but if he did before his death, we don't have the records.
Paternal Grandfather - Herman Henry Schulkers, 1816 - 1863, in Germany.
Paternal grandmother - Anna Marie "Bessie" Albers, 1826 - 1892, in Germany.
Maria Elizabeth Wueller, born in Osnabrueck, Germany 1/16/1850; died 10/26/42. Came to America 1866. A rather short little lady. Always wore a black dress and her hair up in a tight bun.
Seck always believed in firm family values, and the mother of the family was the true arbiter of what was to be done and when.
Maternal grandfather - John Heinrich Wueller of Hanover, Germany, died 1864. Maternal grandmother - Maria Elizabeth Tecklenburg who had 5 children.
Brother Ed was a paper hanger
Brother Leo was a carpenter.
Sister Wilhelmina, "Minnie", married Arthur Fromeyer.
Sister Maria, "Lizzie", married Theodore Olbert.
John was a Catholic priest, Father Giles, O.S.B., at St. Bernard College.
Brother Joe ran away from home-was never seen again - "Rolling Stone"?
Brother Henry H. was killed by a train at 16 years.
Sister Mayme lived with Seck's family on Erie Avenue. McAlpin's salesgirl.
His younger sibling was Brother Franc - a Kentucky Pharmacist.