In July 1941 when I was three years old, our family—five kids at the time; —moved from a very small, rented house on Roycroft Ave. in Lakewood to a very large house on Belle Ave. in Lakewood. The house had four second floor bedrooms, two third floor bedrooms, and large enclosed sun porches on the first and second floors. There was only one bathroom. There was a sink in the front bedroom on the third floor, which doubled as a urinal at times for my brother Dave and I. My dad had bought this huge house for $9,000. Rather big money in those days. Our neighbors on either side were older, childless couples. The Johnson’s and Brookes. For many years, my dad insisted that I handle their snow shoveling and grass mowing. All told, most of the people on the street seemed old. There were not a lot of kids. Things changed dramatically on a year after we moved in. We were going to have a birthday party for my sister Ann on Dec. 7, 1941. I do remember that my mom and dad were not in a party mood.
Christmas was by far my favorite. Always celebrated in traditional way… with family, tree, gifts exchanged. Spent one Christmas in Korea. That was a bummer. Mom and I spent one Christmas in Georgia when I was still in the Army. I don’t think any other holidays actually come close but they each offer something nice.
My first pet was a turtle that did not hang around too long. It escaped to the wilds of our back yard. My only other pet was Patches a mixed breed Collie/Husky. I found Patches as a puppy wandering around a baseball field. A few days later the family who owned her mother and siblings claimed her but then returned her a few days later because the family that was going to take her changed their mind. (Interestingly, we got Killian the same way). I was in the seventh grade at the time. After I left home, Patches enjoyed many happy years with my parents. When Doug was, I believe, about two, I got a call from my Dad the Patches couldn’t make it up the basement stairs. My dad, Doug and I took her to the APL. That’s when my mom gave me that poem, “never give your heart to a dog.”
My dad could not express his feelings well but he showed them in subtle and not so subtle ways. He would get emotional and cry when told another grandchild was coming along. When he came to pick up Doug and take him to aunt Peggy’s because I was taking mom to the hospital to greet you, my dad was a wreck. He would cry at baptisms, first communions, and weddings. He tried to hide his emotions. I know he bragged to others about our accomplishments but seldom congratulated us directly. My mom was more demonstrative but not overly. But thanks to her novenas we all made it through. You must understand that parents who came through the depression and the war years struggled and had to devote so much effort and expend so munch energy to just provide for their families. Love was largely unspoken but was there nonetheless.
My dad taught me kindness toward people that are handicapped in any way. Again, he showed kindness and caring in his actions. It was always unspoken. My mom taught me about self-sacrifice although I haven’t always practiced the lesson learned. I know that she gave up much to make sure we were well cared for.
I am sure there were rules but they were implied more than anything else. I guess the one rule that stands out is behave at school. In my era of Catholic education, boys getting smacked around by nuns went with the territory (might have been something Freudian). If I complain about it at home, I would get smacked again for making the holy lady mad. That drove me crazy and a little punch drunk. Today, I could hall my parents and that holy lady into court.
Anything I did outside the house, stayed outside the house. There was that saying during the war: “Loose lips sink ships.” I was always very careful not to endanger my ship.
Early, in my pre-school years, I was afflicted with wanderlust. Went to explore everything, and visit everyone. Some things I remember. Most things I have been told. For example, when Richard and Jean came home from school, their first choir was usually to “go find John.” I do remember visiting the fire department many times and many blocks away. In downtown Lakewood there was a three-story department store named Bailey’s. I enjoyed riding the elevators… hours on end. Then I got busted. The employees called the police and I was escorted home. For some time after that, my mom tied me to a clothesline like a dog on a lead. In those days, I don’t think kids pictures ended up on milk cartons. I didn’t remember a lot of interaction with my siblings. Richard was nine years older; Jean, seven years older; Ann, four years ahead of me, and Mary and Dave to young to hang out with. I was the independent middle child. At ten, I went to work delivering the Cleveland News, giving me still greater independence.
I believe that both my mom and dad, mom especially was very pragmatic. They looked at things for what they were and not what they might seem to be or what you wished them to be. Simply put, what you see is what you get. I do think that this trait was a generational thing, aka, the greatest generation. I believe this trait emerge in me later, after my wanderlust period. I and my sister Ann resemble my dad, fair, blue-eyed, while the others are darker, black hair.
Obviously, when I was very young I want to be a fireman or an elevator operator and when the war started, a soldier. As a teenager, I thought maybe baseball was in my future until I realized I couldn’t hit. But girls took my might off of that pricked balloon. I did have fleeting thoughts of making a career out of the Army, but two years active and three years reserve and a raging Vietnam made a career as a Mad Man look pretty good.
Mike O’Neil, Dave Flynn, Ken Stewart. We were all in grade school and high school together. Ken died of cancer about 20 years ago. I am still in regular contact with Mike and Dave. There were a number of other friends who I have seen occasionally over the years. We preceded political correctness so I had friends named Porky, Ears, Spider, B.O. and a few other affectionate names. We all played CYO football, basketball and baseball. I played baseball from sun up to sun down. Amazes me why I did not make it to the majors.
Rock n’ Roll came on the scene in the 50s but I wasn’t a huge fan. I liked groups like the Four Freshmen and Four Aces (most of these groups were the “four” something). I liked big bands though they were pretty much on the way out. However, they were still making appearances at OU in mid to late 50s. Remember Count Base and Stan Kenton coming to campus. As you know, was and still am a fan of Sinatra, Bennett, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and others.
Recess and gym. Fortunately, you kids did not have to rely on me for you academic prowess. Mom passed you those genes. But I guess I would have to say English was my favorite subject. I liked the literature part. Hated diagramming sentences in grade school. History and Geography rounded out my top three subjects.
None really stand out. In grade school, I liked the nuns who did not go in for corporal punishment. In high school, I liked most of the teachers but difficult to single out any one as THE favorite.
Played all the sports in grade school -- CYO football, basketball and baseball. The only sport I stayed with and had the physical make up and reasonable amount of skill for was baseball. Played through high school. Life long fan. Prefer it over any other sport.
My uncle, Boots McAlister taught me in an old, beat up Ford model A truck when I was 13 or 14. Lessons were conducted in a bumpy horse pasture which made it all the more difficult to coordinate the clutch and gas pedal and stick shift. There was a lot of jerking and stalling. Tony was locked in his stall for his safekeeping during drivers training. With Boots along, I later moved on to country roads to hone my driving skills. I flunked my first driving test at 16 for failing to make a complete stop at a stop sign. But there after, driving served me well in two jobs making deliveries for a drug store and a florist. First car was a new 1961 VW sunroof, which I bought just before marrying mom.
There were several professional awards in advertising. However, I think the award that I received as one of five outstanding young American men in Korea in 1962 was pretty special. I was recognized for the work I was doing with the rural civilian population, particularly teaching English in a middle school near our headquarters. I went to a reception at Korean white house and it was one of the few times I had the opportunity to wear my dress blues.
Just call me lucky, but I can’t remember getting into trouble… or should I say getting caught. I did most of the stupid things growing up, but somehow but my guardian angel always seemed to have my back.
First job at 10-years-old was delivering the Cleveland News. One of two afternoon papers in Cleveland back in 1948. I had 50+ customers in Lakewood’s affluent neighborhood. At about 13, went to work in a drug store working behind soda fountain and doing housekeeping chores. At 16, added deliveries to my job description. Moved across the street to a florist and delivered flowers. The owner was a great guy. Worked there through high school.
I would have to say not taking full advantage of college. As I mentioned, I was not a scholar, but I think I squandered the opportunity to maximize what brain capacity I had. But this relates to favorite quote later in this treatise.
Returned home from ROTC summer camp in 1959. Went to party at friend’s house… without a date. Mom was with one of my friends. We, mom and I, engaged in some pleasant chit chat. The following weekend, I ask her out and the rest is history. She came to OU for a couple of events and I visited her in Dayton where my roommate lived.
We socialized with friend… the ones mentioned earlier and others. Played golf. Went to movies.
Doug was born at St. John’s in Cleveland. I think I had some kind of out-of-body experience and was trying to be cool about was going on. When it became your time to make an entrance, I was cool as was mom. On the way to Fairview Park hospital, we stopped at Manners Big Boy for, what else, Big Boys. Mom, of course, lied when the nurse asked if she had anything to eat in the last several hours. And, little princess, you were born on my mom’s birthday. Brian had a full head of black hair and a coy smile (likely gas) that he’s retained. John was born the morning after a 4th of July tornado in our area. I think it had some impact on his personality. Pat had to wait a little longer to visit the planet. I do remember the young fathers-to-be looking at the old guy walking in, putting on the gown, going right into the delivery room and walking out about 15 minutes later. Their looks said “how did you do that?” Practice, my boys. Practice.
Awesome. Awesome pride. Awesome joy. Awesome responsibility. Awesome love.
There are too many to put in these pages. But I think our gathering on the Outer Banks brought the realization that it could not get better than those moments with beautiful children and their spouses and children and that I had a role in creating this.
The one mentioned above. Also our vacations to Florida and other points north, east and west. The Bahamas vacation was especially memorable. I also loved attending your sporting events and fathers’ weekends at OU.
Seeing you children succeed in all aspects of life. Worrying about your children’s safety, health and well-being.
Just remember that there is a beginning but there is no end. Being a dad is forever.
Graduating from college. Marrying mom. Having five beautiful children. Having 11 beautiful grandchildren.
Mark Twain. Twain knew how to put down the hypocrites; the pompous, arrogant and pretentious. Mark, where are you when we need you.
”For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: It might have been!” Quotation of John Whittier a writer. Read it some time ago. This relates to that tough lesson questions earlier
Several places in Ireland. A beautiful, serene resort neat Mt. Fuji in Japan. Number one has to be the Grand Canyon as viewed on the mule trip down and up the Canyon.
Science and technology has brought more advancement in my 70+ years than in all the years before since the beginning in time. Most of it is good but to some extent we’ve become too reliant on gadgets to think and act for us. Interpersonal relationships are being supplanted by tweets and iPods. It may be a tired phrase, but time were simpler in the 50s. We were more self-reliant. And actually did slow down to smell the roses more often. And in many respects, we did just get along together.
Waking up, getting a cup of coffee then reading the paper and not seeing my name among the death notices.
I’m still working on my bucket list.
He was a good guy but his children were better.
He was a good guy but his children were better.