While looking for something else I found this portrait of Dutch Schultz. When I took it in 1985 he was 75 – my age now. He died in 2006 and was working in his sculpture studio until shortly before that.
I met Dutch (actually Elias) Schultz in the late 70s and we somehow hit it off and were immediately friends. He was a cantankerous, opinionated, outspoken, perceptive, very smart, vigorous, talented guy. We didn’t see each other very often but when we did we pretty much took up where we had left off the previous time. There were a lot of people that had that relationship with Dutch.
He was born in
Harlem – son of Austrian Jews. As an adult he worked as a longshoreman on
the NYC waterfront where he picked up the nickname “Dutch”. It was a tough job in a tough world,
especially for a Jew. Dutch was a rabid
anti-fascist so when the Spanish civil war began he joined the Abraham Lincoln
Brigade and fought there until the fascists, with the help of the German nazis,
won. He came back to the waterfront
until the U.S. entered World War II then he enlisted and served as a
ski-trooper with the mountain infantry.
He fought in Italy
and then in the Aleutians.
After WWII ended Dutch used his GI bill benefits to study woodcarving in
Italy and finally with a
master woodcarver in
who was working on restoring bomb damage to the houses of parliament. When Dutch was ready to come back to the London his master
was ready to retire and sold Dutch his vintage tools. Most of the handles were walnut and the steel
was legendary U.S. Sheffield.
Back on the waterfront, Dutch found himself blacklisted by the unions because of his service with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade – the McCarthy-era zealots had declared it a communist organization. (It was still on that list when I filled out my first security clearance application in 1961.) After a couple of years doing the longshoreman jobs that nobody else would do – like unloading wet animal hides from reeking ship holds – Dutch moved to the west coast and wound up in Seattle where he continued to work on the waterfront until 1973. After retiring Dutch spent full time and extra on his sculpture, mostly wood carving but he later also took up metal. Many of the pieces had a strong social or political flavor and many had a touch of humor. My favorite is a carving perhaps two feet wide and three feet high. It shows heads and shoulders of three men (his in profile and two longshoreman friends almost full face) one friend has a fist prominently stuck under the other’s nose. It is titled “Three Longshoremen Discussing.”
To his great pleasure he was asked to do a major piece for the Abraham Lincoln Brigade’s memorial museum. He also did a lot of commissioned pieces for government buildings and many liturgical carvings for major churches around
Puget Sound. While doing an altar piece, one of the
church’s staff came in to watch and imprudently started making some
suggestions. Dutch said that it was
about time for him to come down for lunch so he scrambled down off of the
scaffolding, handed his mallet and chisel to his critic, said “Here – you do
it.”, and stamped off to have lunch.
When he returned from lunch a new sign on the sanctuary door stated “Do
not disturb the artist. He is very temperamental.”
My favorite “Dutch” anecdote, however, dates from when he was about 85. The preceding time we had met he complained that he might have to give up carving because the thumb joint in his right hand was worn out from decades of pushing on a chisel handle. He was going to have a joint replacement (who knew that you could have a thumb joint replaced) but he was anxious about the success of doing so. When we met this time I asked Dutch how his new thumb joint worked and he waggled it at me cheerily. In his still-strong NYC accent he said: “Yaaaah, they put in a teflon ball and socket and it woiks as good as new. Told the surgeon that if he’d installed a teflon dick while he was at it I’d be good for 30 more years!”
One of Dutch’s long-time pals and Abraham Lincoln Brigade comrades, Abe Osheroff, wrote in a tribute to Dutch: “Above all, Dutch was a mensch, an authentic human being, whose thoughts, words and deeds were cut from the same cloth.”
I miss him and will not meet his like again.