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My Dad

My Dad

On Monday, I received the news from my brother that our Dad had passed away. This was not unexpected; his health had been declining the past few months, and doctors had recently advised us that there was nothing more they could do medically for him. I am sad that he is no longer with us, but glad that he no longer is suffering.

I have had a lot of thoughts running through my head about my Dad, and wanted to share some of my memories of him.

My Mom may have taught me how to read, but my Dad taught me to love reading

I remember Mom working with me on learning to read when I was young.  I started reading before I was in Kindergarten.  However, when I think of who inspired me to read, it was my Dad.

Other than magazines, I don’t ever recall in my younger days my Mom reading much of anything. Dad, on the other hand, was always reading.  He loved science fiction in particular, and loved Star Trek books.  E. E. “Doc” Smith was a favorite author of his, and he, like me, would read favorite books over and over.

One of the things I remember most though was that Dad was the one to read me bedtime stories.  He had a book called “The Little Lame Prince” that had other stories in it as well.

The book was given to my Dad as a Christmas present by his Aunt Jeanette.

The book was given to my Dad as a Christmas present by his Aunt Jeanette.


I was enchanted when I was little about the stories of the Brownie, and all of the mischief he would get into. Dad made reading come alive for me.

An illustration from the story "Brownie and the Cherry Tree"

An illustration from the story “Brownie and the Cherry Tree”

Thanks to my Dad, I grew up on Star Trek and Godzilla movies

Dad’s love of science fiction extended beyond the page, and I grew up watching a lot of sci-fi with my Dad.  Most of the shows we watched were broadcast by the Detroit TV stations.  WXYZ (channel 7) showed a lot of monster movies, and Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and Gamera made regular appearances on our set.  WKBD (channel 50) was the channel to watch for Star Trek, and Dad made sure we were tuned in almost every week.

Dad had a lot of other shows he watched regularly.  Again, most of the shows I can remember watching with him had a sci-fi slant.

  • Twilight Zone
  • The Outer Limits
  • Lost in Space
  • Space 1999
  • Battlestar Galactica

Dad almost wore out our video tape of Top Gun watching one scene over and over

He would start at about 2:48 and watch the multiple plane shots over and over. It amounted to less than a minute of film, but he would watch it for several minutes at a time. I don’t know what he was trying to see, but it was something on which he would really focus .

Dad loved cartoons, especially Yosemite Sam

Dad would watch cartoons with us sometimes. He liked Loony Toons in general, and his favorite was Yosemite Sam.  His all time favorite cartoon was High Diving Hare. He would get a chuckle out of watching Sam fall for every trick Bugs Bunny would play on him.

Dad could do a pretty decent Yosemite Sam impersonation, too.

Dad liked to play games

Times spent with family usually meant some type of game.  When we would go to my Aunt Marion and Uncle Howard’s, Pinochle or Euchre of some other card game was normal.  When we would go to Grandma and Grandpa Newell’s house, the adults would usually play Aggravation. They would play teams with my Mom and Dad against her sisters and their husbands. When we were at Aunt Georgia and Uncle Neil’s, it was usually Tonk.

Dad made this Aggravation board on his Shop Smith Mark V. That shows you how much he liked to play the game.

Dad made this Aggravation board on his Shop Smith Mark V. That shows you how much he liked to play the game.

Games didn’t have to just be indoors. The male pastime in the summer was typically horseshoes. When we were younger (and they were still legal) we used to play Lawn Darts at our house. I can remember playing both football and baseball in our front yard, as well as badminton and volleyball.

Dad waiting his turn at the horseshoe pit.

Dad waiting his turn at the horseshoe pit.

Dad was competitive

Dad I think would have played sports more in high school if not for two things:

  1. He twisted his knee in high school, an injury that gave him trouble on and off throughout his life.
  2. He had Polio in high school, and missed time because of it.

I think part of his liking to play games was part of his competitive nature. There were other competitions as well. When we would go to my Aunt Georgia’s house, he would sometimes get together with my Uncle Neil (and if he was there, his brother, Howard) and do some type of shooting competition.  They would set up a target and take turns at it.

Dad taught my brother and I to fish

Fletcher’s Pond is the name of the place where I remember going one of the first times fishing.  However, it was not the last.  We fished at Crystal Lake on my Uncle Tom’s boat and caught salmon in the Betsie River.  We fished at the pond at Aunt Georgia’s farm.  We fished from our own boat on Mott Lake and Lake Nepessing.

1992 - I still had fun fishing even when I got older.  I never cleaned a fish, but I did bait my own hook and I did take the fish off the hook.

1992 – Using the skills my Dad taught me.

Dad made sure I knew how to cast a line and reel in my catch, and he made me bait the hook as well.

One movie scared my Dad so much as a child, he would not watch it as an adult

While this seems rather tame by movie standards today, this movie scared the heck out of my Dad when it first came out in 1946. To a six-year old child, a murderous disembodied hand was probably extremely scary. As a teenager, I was up watching it one night (a late night movie in the dark), and my Dad came in, took one look at the screen, and retreated without a word. Perhaps a scene like this one brought up those frightening childhood memories:

Dad taught me girls can do the same things boys can

Dad didn’t keep me from doing things just because I was a girl.  I never had any interest in shooting a gun, so he never taught me to shoot, but he did teach me to fish.  I learned to leg wrestle, as did my brother.  I was included when there was a game of football, or baseball.  We played Horse together.  When I first started driving, Dad showed me how to check and maintain my oil and tire pressure, basics that he said any driver should know. I never felt that I couldn’t do something just because I was a girl.

Car trips with Dad were fun

Dad was always doing something to keep a car ride entertaining, especially if it were a long ride.  I am not sure if he was the one that came up with the ABC game, but he was always a participant when one started.  My brother and I, if tied and waiting for the last letter, would be waiting for the chance to spot the Zephyr station at Carpenter Road and Saginaw Street.

He had a few standards that he would pull out.  He did a parody of the old Ajax commercial that went like this:

Use Ajax (bom bom)/The foaming beer (ba baba ba ba bom bom)/Floats your guts/Right out your rear (baba baba baba bom)

And, at some point, he would usually sing the last verse of this song, beeping the horn at the last part:

There was also a word game that I believe my cousin Danny introduced to us one Christmas that came up from time to time.  The idea was to start with the first line and have everyone say that line, then continue adding lines.  If you made a mistake, you were out.

  • A big fat hen.
  • A couple of ducks.
  • Three brown bear.
  • Four running hare.
  • Five fat females sitting on a fence.
  • Six Simple Simons sitting on a stump.
  • Seven Sicilian sailors sailing the seven seas.
  • Eight egotistical egoists echoing egotistical ecstasies.
  • Nine Nubian nymphs nimbly nibbling on gnats knuckles and nicotine.

My brother and I added a few more:

  • Ten treacherous tarantulas torturing Turkish troops.
  • Eleven Lebanese lions lurching on luminous llamas.

At one point, I had it up to twenty, but never played that far most of the time, so they are forgotten.

You have to remember, this was before the time of hand-held devices and video players in cars.  We were having fun, and scenes like this rarely, if ever happened:

Dad could sing and play the piano, but he wouldn’t always play/sing the whole song

Growing up, we had an old upright piano.  Dad would often go in and play.  He would never use sheet music, so he would play from memory.  I think though that is why he would only play up to a point.

One of my favorite pieces is this one, which he learned to play in high school:

Dad also played The Moonlight Sonata, The Lord’s Prayer, Cool Clear Water, Yellow Bird, Young Love, and Jailhouse Rock.  I learned the first part of The Moonlight Sonata because it was another favorites piece of mine, and, even though I do not have a piano now, I still have much of my Dad’s sheet music.

Dad was a good dancer

While I am not that great, Dad was a good lead, and though we didn’t have a lot of dances together, this one is the one I will always remember.

1999 - Dad and I dancing at my wedding

1999 – Dad and I dancing at my wedding

I love you Dad!