Book Review: Immigrants’ Son

Immigrants’ Son — Their Stories & Mine

Book Review by Barbara Laine

A great story-teller with a crisp, journalistic style, RMOWP member and past president John Catsis has written the story of his life, in which he looks back at his Greek heritage, the numerous places he’s lived and left, and his varied career in broadcast journalism, primarily television news.

The memoir, just now arriving on bookshelves, opens with John falling down a flight of stairs when he was just a year old (an occurrence on which he blames his attention deficit disorder), and tells of his high school dream of becoming a play-by-play sports announcer. At age 17, he landed a job at a local Chicago radio station – as a custodian! That, however, lead to engineering remote broadcasts, and then he convinced the station’s owner to let him do his own 15-minute program on high school basketball.

Throughout Immigrants’ Son – Their Stories and Mine, Catsis cleverly mixes personal details with major national events – race riots, Vietnam War resistance, political assassinations, Watergate – all of which he was reporting. His career took him all over the country, from Chicago to Mason City, Iowa; Mankato, Minnesota; Portland, Maine; Philadelphia; and Farmington, New Mexico. During a stint at a TV station in Houston, Texas in the early 1960s Catsis covered President John F. Kennedy’s visit to that city. That was the day before Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas.

We also learn about John’s father, a sailor in the Greek navy who jumped ship in New York harbor, beginning his life in America as an illegal immigrant; and John’s mother, who had a habit of – shall we say, not always paying for the items she acquired at local stores. John met his wife Connie during his time in Houston, marrying her just two weeks after they met.

In the summer of 1990 he turned to academia, settling in Stillwater, Oklahoma as a journalism professor at Oklahoma State University. By mid-2001, John was contemplating retirement and Connie was completing her Ph.D in interior design and creativity. Then Connie got a job teaching at Arizona State University, John left teaching, and they moved to the Phoenix area.

There John took up knitting – wait, no, that’s not right – he started writing his novel Fulltimers, played golf, and taught a night class. Then, in a return to his first love he worked as sports announcer for a local high school and community college. Today John and Connie live in Silver City, New Mexico, happily ensconced in their creatively eclectic home, amid trees and shrubs, where deer wander the grounds in search of tasty tender greenery.

This book – what we might call the life and times of John Catsis – is especially intriguing because of its universality. Here’s a working class kid – the son of immigrants – who works his way up the ladder of life. John gives us the bad as well as the good, written as a true journalist would. His inclusion of  historical events such as the JFK assassination are of special interest to those of us who are old enough to remember exactly where we were when we heard that shocking news.

John’s book is an enjoyable and easy read. I highly recommend it.