My Proud Penguin Papa

They say the male Emperor Penguin plays a very important role in child rearing.  It’s been about 26 years ago to the day that my dad lent me the money to start my very own all-penguin business.  At the time he was recovering from his third heart attack.  He was a self-employed wallpaper hanger and let me tell you having a trio of heart attacks in a ten year period is not exactly ideal for anyone,  and all the more if you’re working for yourself at a physical job.   So when I told him I wanted to open an all-penguin themed pushcart at South St. Seaport he was a little more than taken aback, especially when I mentioned how much it would cost and then without taking a breath proceeded to ask him if he could lend me the four thousand dollars I estimated it would take to start my crazy penguin enterprise. It was no surprise that there were a more than a few skeptics, including my college night school professor whose class How To Start and Maintain Your Own Small Business I enrolled in a few months before I opened my penguin cart.  Most thought I was crazy, foolhardy or worse.  My girlfriend threatened to break up with me if I quit my  “real job” to open a “silly” all Penguin Store. “This cannot be your f*&king career choice, can it?!” She shouted at me one night.  My grandparents would tell their friends that I was going to sell real penguins from a moving pushcart like the pots and pans / dry goods cart that once roamed the streets of their Bronx neighborhood.  But, after the initial shock wore off it took little convincing.  As my dad, who with no strings attached, lent me the money he could so ill afford to part with.  At the time he could barely handle the rigors of his job and had virtually no income ( self-employment meant no unemployment benefits), my mom worked part-time, and I also had two younger sisters at home.  We drove a beat up gas guzzler, and lived in a cramped 2 bedroom, 800 square foot walk-up in Queens.  But, he believed in his son, and the rest as they say is penguin history.

This past Monday, my father, Bernie Bennett, passed away at the age of 79.  Yes, I paid him back, and no, he never grew tired of explaining to people (with a huge smile on his face) what his son did for a living.  Thanks dad. For everything.

Me and my dad at Citi Field last Summer.


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11 Responses to “My Proud Penguin Papa”

  1. Mari Bochenek Says:

    I am thankful to you and your dad for making me smile every time I go to your store. Sending warm thoughts to you as you celebrate all your dad did for you, and us.

  2. marg vidak Says:

    Eric you are such a gifted writer and story teller. What a wonderful tribute to your father.The best thing in life is when a parent believes in you.:)

  3. Janice Easton-Epner Says:

    Eric, this brings tears to my eyes. Would that every dad could be like yours–trusting, loving, and generous. He was a true believer in you, and you could never let him down.

    • Eric Bennett Says:

      Thanks Janice. You know I never asked him for more than $20 in my life before that, so it’s not like I had a history of failed schemes. He always liked a good gamble and I sold him on it. Good thing too.

  4. Bernice Craft Says:

    He was a good guy. That kind of sums it up doesn’t it.

  5. Sheldon and Harriet Guralnick Says:

    Will miss the times we socially spent with Bernie. Always enjoyed his sense of humor. He was a man who always spoke of his family with such pride. Bernie shared his many aliments with us. He made his phsycial problems sound like they were not as serious as he really knew they were. He main concern was with Ruby not himself.
    May Bernie RIP
    We are blessed to have been his friend

  6. Jan Says:

    What a beautiful tribute! So sorry to hear about your Pops. I will call you later.

  7. Dina Says:

    Eric – I have not seen you in ages, but had the pleasure to see your parents a few years ago at my parents’ home and they kept me smiling all night. I am sure your dad’s sense of humor and light-heartedness was a major factor that kept him going for so long. I am so sorry to hear of his passing and yours and your sisters’ and mom’s loss. May his memory always bring a smile to all of your faces. I hope to see you one day again! Dina (Guralnick) Monte (who had the pleasure to help you sell penguins at the Seaport many moons ago). Love & peace.

  8. Cynthia Schoonover Says:

    Erik, I am sorry to hear about your father’s passing. What a generous and supportive dad! If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have my wonderful penguin things. Your tribute to him was touching. You and your family are in my thoughts, as I know what is like to lose your dad.

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