Albert R. Koch spent more than 40 years teaching in public schools in Illinois and Indiana. On the side, he wrote short essays that appeared in local publications. He has compiled more than 100 of these pieces in Koch’s Choice.
In this collection, Koch remembers his youth in Whiting, Indiana, ruminates on a variety of grown-up topics (intolerance, violence, instilling character in our children, forgiveness, etc.), and aims to impart some of the lessons he learned both in school and in the real world over nearly 80 years.
Permeating the book is the author’s pride in his hometown, an “industrial Mayberry” as he calls it, where oil refineries and steel companies reigned. Little League teams, life in small-town 1940s and ’50s America, drive-ins and classmates and coworkers are all fondly remembered. Even the fearsome nuns who taught him get a nod: Calling one nun “The Good Sister,” he likens her to a “monarch” whose desk was an “oaken throne.” In addition to teacher, she was “policeman, judge, jury, and executioner. When she vented her anger with full wrath, the Good Sister gushed with all the kindness of Attila the Hun.”
Koch’s writing is clear and flows nicely, but the pieces aren’t especially gripping. They come across as exactly what they are intended to be — gentle ruminations to pick up from time to time, rather than read all in one sitting.
The content of Koch’s Choice is frequently repetitive. For example, his childhood work history – collecting old bottles for two-cent deposits, delivering newspapers, shoveling snow and doing yard work – is recounted on a half-dozen occasions. But given the book’s nature—reprinting essays written over 30-plus years—some overlap is likely unavoidable.
Reading Koch’s Choice is much like listening to a grandfather or elderly neighbor who’s more than happy to share his memories and opinions born of nearly eight decades of life experience. That imparts a certain charm to this volume of thoughts and commentary.
Also available as an ebook.