Paul William Liles, My Father (Page Two)
(November 1970) and to this day I miss him especially around the holidays. Dad was some kind of guy, a mix between John Wayne and Ward Cleaver. One must remember that Mom and Dad were married almost twenty years before I became a gleam in their eyes or a tarnish on their plans.
Its my understanding that Dad enjoyed the drink and played poker on a fairly regular basis until I came upon the scene at which time he imbibed twice a year, July 4th and Christmas Eve. Other that those two days, it was rare to see him ever take a drink. If it was, it was a highball at Knute's house while playing poker and that was Saturday afternoons only.
Dad came into a poor family relatively speaking in 1906 in McRae, Arkansas. He had rubella as a child leaving him with one leg shorter than the other. He went on through the 7th grade at which time he went to work full time to assist the family.
He left home at 16 to see the world and ended up in Oklahoma were he met Mom. The ran a diner in Oklahoma for a while, then went off the California in 1933 because conditions were do bad in the South.
Dad did odd jobs for a while and ended up taking on a job at dressing windows for a nice Jewish man named Ralph David Lebowitz who has two dime stores, one in downtown LA and one in Long Beach. Dad stayed with Ralphs until his retirement in 1968.
This chapter deals with specific memories about Dad and you may read into it the strength in character he had.
Dad Was Born And Raised In Arkansas
Arkansas is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Arkansas shares a border with six states, with its eastern border largely defined by the Mississippi River. Its diverse geography ranges from the mountainous regions of the Ozarks and the Ouachita Mountains to the eastern lowlands along the Mississippi River. The capital and most populous city is Little Rock.
It was a poor part of the US
The name Arkansas is a French pronunciation of a Quapaw word meaning "land of downriver people". The pronunciation "Arkansas" was made official by an act of the state legislature in 1881.
He was born in 1906 to Grover Clifton Liles and Susie Kathryn Cook (Liles) of McRae Arkansas. In the heart of White County.
Dad had two older sisters; Opal, Alma, and Edith and one younger sister, Edith!
His father (Grover Clifton Liles) died in 1911, five years after he was born. Susie married Charles Essig in 1914. Charles (Charlie) was only 19 and Susie was 28! Charlie and Susie had two additional children, Clarence Earl and Helen.
"Rumor" has it that Charlie was the town drunk and if Mary would straighten him out, he would not go to jail. She did and he was a super grandfather who I didn't know we was a step grandfather until the 1960's.
All of Dad's brothers and sistems are gone today. Clarence Earl, Alma, Opal, Edith, and recently Helen are all gone today. I was closest to Aunt Opal and Aunt Edith as there were close by. I got to know Alma when she moved in with Aunt Edith in the 1960's. Clarent Earl I only knew as a visiting uncle and Aunt Helen I never knew very well as she stayed in Arkansas until passing a few years back.
Some things to remember, when Dad was born:
- The average life expectancy in the US was 47 years.
- Only 14% of the homes in the US had a bathtub.
- Only 8%of the homes had a telephone.
- A three-minute call from Denver to New York City cost $11.00
- There were only 8,000 cars in the US, and only 144 miles of paved roads.
- The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.
- Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, and Tennessee were each more heavily populated than California. With a mere 1.4 million residents, California was only the 21st most populous state in the Union.
- The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.
- The average wage in the US was 22 cents an hour.
- The average US worker made between $200 and $400 per year.
- A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year, a dentist $2,500 per year
- A veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year.
- A mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.
- More than 95 percent of all births in the US took place at home.
- Ninety % of all US physicians had no college education. Instead, they attended medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press and by the government as "substandard."
- Sugar cost four cents a pound. Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen.
- Coffee was fifteen cents a pound.
- Most women only washed their hair once a month, and used borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
- Canada passed a law prohibiting poor people from entering the country for any reason.
- The five leading causes of death in the US were:
- Pneumonia and influenza
- Heart disease
- The American flag had 45 stars. Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Alaska hadn't been admitted to the Union yet.
- The population of Las Vegas, Nevada, was 30!
- Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn't been invented.
- There was no Mother's Day or Father's Day.
- Two of 10 US adults couldn't read or write. Only 6 % of all Americans had graduated high school.
- Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at corner drugstores. According to one pharmacist, "Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health." (Shocking!)
- Eighteen percent of households in the US had at least one full-time servant or domestic.
- There were only about 230 reported murders in the entire US
Going To California
Getting To California - Mom and Dad were married but the economy was pretty bad in the South. I have a letter Dad wrote his sister opal in 1936 asking if she would let him come out and look for a job in California.
Mom and Dad came to Downey, California where Aunt Opal had a large lot! They stayed with Opal and Jimmy for a few weeks until they found an apartment around the corner and upstairs from a store. Dad looked for work all over and finally located a job in Long Beach, a few miles from Downey but in those days there was open country between Long Beach and Downey!
Dad went to work for Ralph David Leibowitz... a relationship went on until Dad's death in 1970. Ralph had a dime store... and although he really didn't need any help, he allowed Dad to dress the windows part time and then finally hired him full time.
By 1940, Ralph had three stores and Dad moved to West Los Angeles.. a few doors from Venice and La Ceinega (Spanish for "Swamp"). They moved to the corner of La Cienaga and Venice right by the red-car line.
This won't mean a lot unless you knew it was only a few blocks from MGM, two miles to Rodeo Drive, on the Red-Line, etc.
Wilshire Blvd when Mom and Dad came to Los Angeles
The war came along and Ralph went into the Army serving in Northern California. Dad, because of the childhood polio could not get in the military... he ended up running the dime stores while Ralph was gone!
Ralph's Five, Ten and Twenty-Five Cent Stores
Staying With It! - Dad stayed with Ralph's 5, 10 and 25 Cent stores until his retirement in 1970. The chain grew to about 15 stores which were located all over the LA area... even one in Big Bear, California.
The "dime store" was a fun environment for me. Every summer starting when I was in junior high school I would work in the warehouse which was on Pico Blvd. When orders from the stores would come in, I would find an appropriate box and "fill the order".
Lunch time was always fun as Ralph would take us out somehere usually along La Cienaga and often to a delicatessen for pastrami or tongue,,, We got to ride in his new Cadillac... Ralph always had a new company car and it was always a Cadillac convertible!
I hearned the secret code. We put the actual cost we paid for the item on the outside of the bix using the "Charleston" code... Any word with ten letters all different would work. "C" was one, "H" was 2 and so on. So a box labeled CAR meant the item costs $1.34. Below the Charleston code was the retail price so seeing CAR with $1.75 beneath it meant we made $0.41 on each item. Neat, huh?
The Pico store (#3) building still stands today and it was adjacent to a market. We actually had an extrance form the market into the dime store with a fireproof wall. Right inside the market was a magazine stand (they do not exist today) and it had many magazines and more importantly a comic book section! I would get notified by the owner of the stand anytime a new ocmic book would come in... I loved Uncle Schrooge! The stand also had a huge Coca-Cola ice chest filled with ice cold soda which would be wet when you got it form the container.
Pico store had an upstairs and a basement which was the waregouse for the chain for many years. When I went to high school, Ralph finally leased a real warehouse about two blocks form where we lived and we had room to expand.
I have fond memories of helping Dad on the holidays especially Christmas when Dad would be working seven days a week. We would go to out ot the valley stores to make sure all was going well and many times we would drive the step-van so we oculd deliver needed items! Remember we are talking 1950's and early 60's, Sepulveda was a four lane road and sometimes we would take Laurel Canyon which was very twisty!
When we opened new stores that was exciting. New counters, new glass, new signage. I got to help layout the counters... Dad was amazing he knew exactly where everything went and knew the prices on every item. Each sotre had a small storage room and Dad loved building things. He could put together 1000 square feel of storage made from 2x4's and 1x12's in a single day. I learned how to use a skill saw quite well and because proficient at making notches in the 1x12's.
Helping the store during Easter by making the Easter Baskets... and getting so sick on jelly beans I though I was going to die! In the dime store business, we made our own baskets for the customers... I would often assist in making them and sometimes I would hide a whole lot of candy UNDER the grass... just to surprise the kids!
Going "downtown" to see new merchandise was always fun... we got to see the new things before they hit the market! You will read about the tou warehouse a little later one!
Ralph and Dad has a large shrinkage problem in two of the stores (shrinkage means people were stealing things). They determined it was the monthly floor cleaning and polishing people. My cousing Tom suggested that he and I take on the task... Just pay us what you paid them. We got the job and for several years, once a month we would show up Saturday night at closing (9:30 PM) and do the floors!
Do the floors meant one complete pass through with a wet mop and cleaning fluid scrubbing the entire store down... I generally had that job. About 20 minutes later Tom would wet mop the floor with clean water to assure the cleaning fluid was removed form the floor. By the time I got to the end of my first pass, I would cleanup and then begin and third pass with the polish which fortunately only needed a slight buffing. As the polish dried, Tom would follow up with the buffer. We worked hard as it would take us about three hours.
Not bad except, we would be done at midnight and then go up the street on Pico about six blocks and do the #11 store which took us from midnight to 3:00 am. We got paid cash in the same amount Ralph and Dad were paying the people who stole only we didn't steal (except for an occasional package of M&M's). We made a hundred and fifty dollars each which was like $30/hour... It was hard honest work which did cut into our social life but money talked!
Oh... when the stores were finally sold off after Ralph had passed, they became The 99 Cent Stores!!
Drinking Became A Problem Before I Was Born
Dad was know to drink a little in his early days of his marriage. Remember, Mom and Dad were married almost twenty years before I can upon the scene.
My relatives told me that after I was born, Dad ceased drinking and became the consummate family man.
However, as I was growing up, Dad did occasionally drink.
It was ONLY on July the 4th and Christmas Eve. He always had a designated driver and it was always Mom!
She was a jewel and always took care of Dad.
These were controlled drinking events as he:
a) never drove and
b) always had a designated driver, even before it was popular.
Now his drinking was NOT excessive... but he did get funny!
He passed that trait to me. Three drinks and I am the life of the party!
We were both happy drinkers.
I lost my Dad when I was 23 so we never got a chance to go out on the town together and I often wonder if the "town" would have been ready for us!
Dad Was Ahead Of His Time
Dad Loved His First Granddaughter
There are some things I am NOT proud of and not making sure my father got to spend a lot of time with Jeanette is one of those. My first wife, Jan, was NOT a family person and wanted things her way. Several times when Dad would stop by, he did not get to see Jeanette because "she was sleeping" or some other lame excuse than Jan would invent.
I remember one time Ralph and Dad stopped by, unannounced, and Jan was so angry she sat in the back of the house and would not even come out and say hello or being the baby to see these two gentlemen.
I was weak and did not force the issue and then in a period of several weeks, Dad was gone... never to see his beloved granddaughter again! Jeanette as almost two when Dad passed. I wish I could get a "re-do" on those days as I now know how much that hurt him.
I waited until the kids were in High School and got out of the mess I was in... Just in time to be able to spend quality time with my family (Mom and my remaining Aunts)
The kids remember to this day the man y many times I would wake the kids up on a Saturday or Sunday morning and take them to see their Grandmother in Santa Monica before my ex find out we were gone.
He Caught A Thief
Dad was always an active person as he was constantly making up for having polio (mild case) as a child. He was a strong man in character as well as physical strength.
I will always remember him going into one of the dime stores which he managed and not like today when the "big wigs" pretty much ignore the customers, Dad would go wait on people, if some looked like they needed help, he would help them.
One day I was with him and I saw Dad acting strange. He got quiet, moved slowly around the counter and was starring off. I asked him "What is going on" and I promptly got a "Shuuussss!" in reply.
Next thing I knew, Dad was off like a flash and this kid started running out the door. Dad got himself a thief. Seems the kids was acting suspicious and was pocketing items (I don't even remember what). The kid was fast but Dad was also and Dad had to be in his late 40's or early 50's.
Dad caught him, drug him back into the store and would not turn loose of him until his mother arrived. Dad did not call the police but made the kid give up his phone number.
Mom got a piece of him and all I vaguely remember is the kid screaming at the top of his lungs with him mother beating the crap out of him!
Bet he never stole anything again!
Off To Alaska
Europe Via A Ship
The Crazy Step Brother
Dynamiting The Fish
New Car Every Two Years
The Car Dealer Pissed Him Off
Taco's Ten For A Dollar
The Little Red Car
Dad Travels To Hawaii On The SS Hawaiian Pilot
It is now 1952 and Dad gets wanderlust trying every trick he knew to get Mom to go on a boat. Water and Mother did NOT mix. in fact, Mom finally went on a boat across the English channel in 1975 and that also was a disaster, but that is another story.
Dad always wanted to be on the go and see things. I guess growing up in Arkansas and seeing little for most of his live left him curious. Dad was a travel log addict as these shows were extremely popular in the 1950s.
Remember in 1952, just after the war, there were no cruise liners like today. Dad settled for a freighter. It was not a tramp steamer - a commercial steamer for hire; one having no regular schedule. The Hawaiian Pilot was a Los Angeles to Honolulu scheduled freighter.
The Hawaiian Pilot was one of the Matson Line freighters. Matson Line was formed in 1882 by Captain William Matson to operate the Hawaiian trade. In 1926 the Oceanic Steamship Co. was purchased and became a Matson subsidiary. The company thus extended its sphere to Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands and the Far East.
Dad begged Mom. Nope! Mom says "If God wanted me on the water, I'd been born a duck".
So in 1952, Dad sets off to Hawaii on the freighter Hawaiian Pilot. (ex- White Squall. 1947 purchased by Oceanic renamed Sonoma, 1961 traded to Matson renamed Hawaiian Pilot, 1962 sold renamed Smith Pilot.) The Pilot was an 8,200 ton freighter, pretty small by today's standards.
Mom, Claudia (my cousin) and I saw Dad off that afternoon. I remember going on the vessel and seeing the cabin and walking around the deck. Dad enjoyed the trip as there were only eleven other passengers, in those days that meant they did not have to carry a doctor. Plenty of food and the frig was open to the passengers 24x7.
The Revell Model Company even made a plastic model of her which I wished I had bought when it cam out.
On July 14, 1953 the freighter Jacob Luckenbach from SF rammed the Matson freighter Hawaiian Pilot near Point Montara, 17 miles from the Golden Gate. The Luckenbach sank while the Hawaiian Pilot limped to SF. Oil leaked from the Luckenbach later killed numerous birds. Dad joked about this... saying "the Captain of the Luckenbach was looking back".
Dad brought back a lot of pictures, most of them lost to the ravages of time and a 1944 P-51 Mustang that took out our home. I remember pictures of Dad in a bathing suit at the blank sand beaches.
Dad had pictures, black and white of course, of the black sand beaches. In Hawaii the term black sand beach has been used only for beaches dominated by grains of black volcanic glass. Lava flows entering the ocean chill and their glassy rinds shatter. Waves and currents may build a beach from the black grains of glass. There is no black sand beach on Oahu. There aren't even many light-gray beaches on Oahu. Black sand is only present as distinct beaches on Hawaii (Big Island), at Punaluu (Kau district), at the west and east edges of the new lava delta from the current flank eruption (Puna), and in front of the recent flow that covered most of Kalapana and the famous former black-sand beach at Kaimu (Puna).
He also talked of Diamond Head and I never knew what it was until I went to Hawaii with Riley a few years later. The most famous volcanic crater in the world is Diamond Head, located on the South-east Coast of O'ahu at the end of Waikiki overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was originally named Laeahi by the ancient Hawaiians. The name meant "brow of the tuna" and looking at the silhouette of the crater from Waikiki, you can see the resemblance. The current name came was given to the crater by British sailors in the 1800's. When they first saw the crater at a great distance, the calcite crystals in the lava rock appeared to glimmer in the sunlight. The sailors mistakenly thought there must be diamonds in the soil. Diamond Head is a crater that has been extinct for 150,000 years. The crater is 3,520 feet in diameter with a 760-foot summit.
We were sure happy to get him home but that set Dad on his other dreams of Europe and Alaska.
Dad Had Polio As A Child
Dad had a form of polio and was often pulled around in a small wooden wagon because he had problems walking.
He soon outgrew that and began his lifelong friendship with Otis Tucker. The Tuckers moved into McRae when Dad was about five so that would take it 1911.
Dad and Otis left Arkansas together in their early teens.
As Otis tells it, they jumped a freight train and several hours out of McRae, the railroad police found them in a box car. They jumped out opposite sides of the car. Otis headed south and Dad went north.
Dad ended up on Oklahoma where he met Mom and started a life-long career in the dime store business, .around 1924.
Otis did not return into Dad's life until about 1936 when everybody was heading toward California!
Dad Was Handy, Instant Serious Patio
My father was simply amazing. He could make, fix, and improve anything! Nothing seemed to be a challenge and in fact in his later years he even started fixing radios and clocks!
One thing that will remain in my memories forever is the time he began the back yard patio! Not just a little patio but a 20x20 screened in room and a 20x20 open area complete with a built-in grill.
It was a Saturday morning, perhaps 1953, and all of a sudden... we were mixing cement and pouring a slab! No cement mixer, just Dad, Mom and I. hat was completed on Sunday and all during the week we worked late into the evening building a six-foot block wall. On top of the wall went three-foot framing for windows... which Dad installed himself. On went the roof the next weekend and I thought to myself, "This is good, we are done".
Not so fast, we needed a fireplace and grill so off we go to the lumberyard and collect a bazillion bricks. I didn't know Dad knew how to lay bricks and build a fireplace but he did. Almost around the clock for two weeks and volia... when done... we had a huge patio, built-in oven, pit, and a building!
The next weekend we screened it in and we became the hit of the neighborhood! All that summer, we have the neighbors over and cooked outdoors! Almost every evening we had friends over and cooked happy away into the sunset.
The amazing thing... No plans, it was in his head. That was the original DIY!
Dad's Watch And The Lemon Tree Switch
Respect was always taught in my household. But Junior High School arrived into my life and I was "All Knowing" and becoming a bit of a smart-ass. Once and only once, I talked back to my mother.
Dad calmly walked over to the lemon tree, picked up a branch, and whacked my butt into next Tuesday.
But as he swung, his "25 Year With The Company Watch" slipped off is wrist and whet bouncing down the sidewalk.
Dad was always in-control but he was so mad, he walked away.
To this day I believe he feared for my life!
Oh Yes! When Dad passed-on, I have his cherished watch! Every time I look at it, I remember the day I learned that sassing my other was NOT something I would ever do again nor never did again!
Deep Sea Fishing
Off to Mexico for 2-3 day trips
Dad liked fishing and used to go on deep sea fishing trips, mainly in Mexico. These would be two and three day trips... sometimes longer. I can remember one trip where he was gone for several days and did get a message back to us that things were going well.
Remember we are talking early 1950's and radios and telephone in Mexico were non-existent.
Dad had the fish he caught shipped to us and we had swordfish for several months... lead free in those days!
I went with dad on the one-day boats ought of San Pedro and Long Beach. The only time Dad got seasick was the first time I went. He was probably nervous about me being there I guess/
Generosity Must Have Been His Middle Name
Dad was not man who spends money foolishly, a lesson he learned while growing up. To my amazement over the years, dad had apparently helped many people out but I never heard a thing about it until years after he passed on and then I only know because I ran across old papers.
Opal and Jimmy lived in the little house in Paramount and oh so wanted a bigger place since they had an adult child living with them. In 1954 dad loaned them several thousands of dollars so they could get a new house on their property. The promissory note simply said "We, Georgia and Paul Liles, hereby load Jimmy and Opal Robinson the sum of $x000 to be paid back as they are able". Thousands of dollars in 1954 was a pile of money.
I found out dad in 1962 loaned his neighbor several thousand dollars to assist in setting up a garage so he could go into business for himself instead of working for the man at the Ford dealer.
In the lat 1950s, he gave a bag of money to another relative who was about to loose their home because of going into to business for themselves at the business floundering.
Mom and Dad sent money to their parents for years and years up until the time my grandparents died to assist them in making ends meet.
I know for a fact that Dad assisted his employees at the dime store through their hard times. This included sales people as well as some of the managers and warehouse workers.
But the amazing thing, given today's times, is that never a word was spoken of these things. He had a big heart.
He Fixed Cars Too
Dad "field stripped" the engine... I never thought we would ever get it back together! We did. Dad was amazing
Worked better than ever when he was done!
I was in high school and had a new 62' Chevy... in three years it had 150,000 miles on it and the little 283 engine and it began to burn oil!
I never knew dad knew much about cars until one Saturday morning at 7:00 am he said... "drop the pan" and pull the heads. We have to replace the rings.
Heck, I didn't know what a pan was! And a ring, I was getting suspicious.
Within a few hours the engine was field stripped, pistons/parts all over the place!
I was terrified the car would never move again! Parts everywhere!
We finished the job by late evening and at 8 PM I was on my way to my date.
This was amazing.. the car worked, no oil burning, and it felt like new!!!
I swear to this day, he did it with an Arkansas tool kit because we never had any automobile tools around the house. The only thing he had t get, and he borrowed it from across the street, was a torque wrench for the head bolts. How dad knew the torque order was still to this day a mystery.
The can ran another 100,000 miles before it was ready to be traded and that was because it was just old.
Dad Made A Kite From Newspapers And Flew It Miles
Dad loved to fly kites. I always wondered why until Mom finally told me. Growing up in Arkansas, they did not have toys and things we have today. Dad and his friends made kites out of twigs, wood, newspapers, whatever they could find.
Dad could do the most amazing tings with nothing! Guess the depression taught him a lot!
Dad could fly darned near anything.
I remember on windy day after a storm, Dad told me to go to the garage and get some dowels. He got sting and some newspapers and in 30 minutes he constructed the ugliest box kite you could imagine. Looked like it was going to fall out of the sky when sitting on the ground.
He told me to take it across the street on Comey avenue. I remember being embarrassed because other kids had these beauties from the dome store. Dad yells "Let go!". I think to myself, "Thanks".
Then like magic, it rises and rises, and rises and goes straight up. Ten minutes later we run out of string so Dad gives it to me and he takes off for the garage himself. One minute later, he ties his deep sea fishing rig to the end of the string and we have another 2000 feet played out. The kite is nearly invisible now and everybody else it just pointing up at this contraption which is flying all over the sky.
Wow! My chest swollen up and with pride I said "See what my Dad made?"
Dad was something else. I guess I now understand more about my Dad than I did when he was alive.
Our Tool Set
So I was getting up in years and it was time for a real set of tools. Dad went out at Christmas and bought a fantastic set of tools... Tool that we no longer even see like a brace and bit!
The Buick And The Sand Storm
Lying in the Coachella Valley, Desert Hot Palm Springs is a mix of dirt too dry and devoid of nutrients to be thought of as soil, but too rough to qualify as sand; tumbleweeds; rattlesnakes; an occasional sandstorm whipped by late afternoon winds; and periodic flash floods. Except for mighty, jaw-dropping 10,000 foot mountains (that look eerily similar to Mt. Sinai in Egypt) surrounding its edges, the desert floor might be considered ugly.
Desert Hot Springs is in the desert area of Southern California, about 112 miles from Los Angeles. It is about 12 miles to the Palm Springs International Airport
Jack Riley is reported to have been the first white man to set foot in what is now Desert Hot Springs somewhere around 1908. Apparently it all started with the Desert Lands Act an Act that allowed Homesteading. And according to Information the first person to actually live here was Hilda M. Gray a woman described as a diminutive, feminine, hard working and rugged pioneer. Her homestead was just south of what is known today as Two Bunch Palms. She was here when Cabot Yerxa arrived in 1913. She homesteaded for 4 years and then moved to Arcadia to resume her career as a legal secretary. The incorporation date of Desert Hot Springs: September 17, 1963.
Otis Tucker owned a home in Desert Hot Springs (an unincorporated city in the 1950-1960 period) and Mom, Dad and I used to love to go down there and sit in the hot springs. Life was quiet there, hot but dry, and I could even drive my red hotrod in the streets.
We actually had a hotel room that we used on the weekends we would go to the desert! One Sunday, on our way home we hit a sand storm and 50% of the paint of our new 1955 Buick was removed. All the glass had to be replaced and we never did get all of the sand out of the interior of the car. I can remember to this day Mom yelling at Dad "Turn this ^%#$%$ car around Paul" and Dad just kept going. We could not see in front of us and Dad was afraid to stop for fear of getting an 18 wheeler as a bumper decoration. Quite a memory.
Dad And I Did A Skylight
The house was little; the house was old; the house was dark! But Dad decided one morning that a skylight was the answer. He jumped out of is chair at the breakfast table and said "David, get a brace and bit and a saw".
Most people do not know about "brace and bits". This is a picture on one!
Dad took the time to teach me about tools and how to use them! He was an amazing man!
I got the tools and met Dad on the roof. How he knew exactly where to drill through the roof was amazing to me but Dad had a God given knack for these things.
Within an hour we had a 2x4 foot hold in the roof and ceiling. Mom finally got nerve enough to ask, "What now, Paul". I remember his saying, "I'm going to the hardware store Satchel". Satchel was Dads term of endearment for Mom.
Sure enough, by the end of the Dad we had a skylight... A thing unheard of in our neighborhood, we were becoming "uppity".
Disneyland Before It Opened
Opening A New Store
The Apartment House
Dad Was Ready To Throttle Me
Dad shared the buying taks with his partner and boss, Ralph Lebowitz. I do not remember what Ralph did but Dad did sundries, hardware, housewars, and toys.
Part of the buying experience was to go to the toy warehouses and make buys for the dime store.
Dad has a knack for knowing was would sell and what would not. One day, he brought me to the places he went.
I remember this huge warehouse stuffed to the ceiling with boxes and crates of toys.
There was a long table with the displays of toys to buys and Dad walked up and down the table placing orders for hundred of toys, some for the Christmas season.
At the end of this one visit, the salesman said to dad "Have Paul David pick out anything he wants, it's on us!" (Dad's name was Paul so I went by "David" or "Paul David" around the dime store.
Dad looked at me and said "It's OK, go ahead"
So what did I do? I had my eyes on a big rope over the the corner of the warehouse used for hoisting crates to the celing or tieing them onto the trucks.
I said "I'll take the rope, please"
Surrounding me were brand new radio flyer wagons, bicycles, erector sets, etc. All I wanted was the rope!
I ended up with the rope and the saleman got a good laugh out of it... Dad, not so much! He didn't yell or get mad but I could tell he was upset. I passed up at $50 wagon (probably worth $350 today) for a pile of rope!
You now, I remember the rope well and played with it for years and years!
A Funny Kind Of Proud
Step Vans Are NOT Tractors As We Learned One Sunday Morning
In the 50's, Chevy had a product called a "Step Van". As I remember, Dad drove two of them in the years 1956 and 1958. It was a company car which Dad drove back and forth to work. Dad thought that 'old truck could do anything!
Dad pulled the bumper right off this truck and the tree stood still
Meanwhile in front of our house we had the ugliest tree you could imagine. It had bark like paper and leaves like needles. It drew bees in the summer and was the pride of the city. Leave it to the government to plant such a crappy tree.
So, Dad wakes up one Sunday morning and pronounces "The tree must go!". We dug and dug and dug and soaked the ground and dug and dug. Finally it begins to move a little. Now visualize this: the tree was 30+ feet tall!
Dad has had enough of the digging and says I'm getting the chains! That meant we has going to my stockpile of ropes and chains which I always loved. Dad fastens one end to the tree and one end to the bumper of the almighty Step Van. I remember Dad pulling away very slowly and attempting to just pull it out. But no, the tree is as steady as it was ugly!
Not to be outdone by a silly tree and surely not wanting to be embarrassed that .... da da da da.. da da.... the mighty Step Van was not up to the job, Dad backs up close to the tree and nudges it with the back bumper.
The engine roars and Dad puts the pedal to the metal. Excitement begins! In rapid succession, the following events occur:
a) The Step Van lurches forward accelerating quickly
b) The chain get taunt
c) The bumper comes off the mighty Step Van
d) Dad is thrown forward; Dad is thrown back
e) The brakes are slammed on to keep the mighty Step Van from plowing into the neighbors tree
f) Mom and I fall down laughing
g) Dad invents some new words for the tree never heard of before
And now it is late Sunday night and we are digging digging digging.
The Sun Burnt Arm
When I was growing up, every summer was "go back home" which meant getting in the car and driving 12-14-16 hours a day to get to Arkansas.
I still remember having the back seat of the old 49 Chevy all to myself. We also made it back in a 51 Chevy, 53 Pontiac, 55 Buick, 56 Chevy wagon, 58 Chevy, 61 Chevy and 64 Chevy. About that time, I grew up and stopped going.
On our way to Arkansas, circa 1946-1960, I remember the wide open spaces and road-work. We got to know all the flagmen and their signals.
Dad would see this and all of a suddent the car would slow down!
Do you remember, the days without air conditioning? Do you remember the blank spaces in Texas where all you could get on the radio was lousy distorted Mexican music or the avengrlist selling "genuine plastic Jesus'" for your dashboard? Do you remember looking at the Burma Shave Signs? Do you remember going into a motel to check the room first before signing in? How about this, do you remember stopping for gas and going immediately to the Coca-Cola ice chest and getting a glass bottle of Coke for five cents!
I remember getting into Arkansas after three had days on the road and dad's arm being do sore he could not hardly touch it. Dad always drove with the window open and his arm resting on the top of the door! We had a red station wagon once and after a year, the red pain on the drivers side window had wore off and the underneath was white.
Hearing About Death For The First Time
It was 1953 and my uncle Jimmy Robinson was dying of cancer. We didn't use those words out loud in those days so I really never knew until years later. I never heard of death before and anything in the movies was not death, it was a temporary loss of life!
Mom and Dad spend all the time they could helping take care of Jimmy providing support to Aunt Opal who lived into the mid-1990's. Aunt Edith and Uncle Claude lived next door and provided total support.
Jimmy was a chain smoking' Pall Mall guy and I am sure that is what killed him as he did die of lung cancer. Feeling the pain that was shared amongst the adults was difficult.
As I progressed through life I saw my family melt away little by little. Grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts all left the family circle. I was fortunate in the latter years of my life to sit and take in what they had to share and hopefully pass some of that on to my grandkids before it is too late.
I remember Mom talking about the "death rattle". A death rattle is a gurgling or rattle-like noise produced shortly before or after death by the accumulation of excessive respiratory secretions in the throat. Those who are dying may lose their ability to swallow, resulting in such an accumulation. swallow, resulting in such an accumulation.
This event got Dad thinking about stopping his smoking. It took abouteight years but Dad gave up smoking on our trip to Europe in 1961.
His Friend Otis
Otis Tucker was Dad's best friend growing up in Arkansas. Otis and his family moved into McRae around 1911 and Dad met Otis and they became life long friends. Dad succummed to polio, forunantly is was a mild case but for a time his legs would not work very well. Dad told me of the times Otis would pull Dad around in a old wagon.
When Otis and Dad were in the late teens, it was time to leave MrRae and strike out on their own. They did, catching an outbound train headed for Olkahoma theey were on their way!
While riding along just entering Oklahoma the "train deck" (police) fouind them inside a box car and before they could be arrested, they jumped out of the car. Dad went soulth and Otis went north.
Dad ended up in Louisana geeting a job in a dime store and Otis went north ending upin California and opening a brake shop
It was 1931 when Mom and Dad finally made it to California and to their surprise, Otis Tucker and his wife were waiting for them at Dad's sister's home in Paramouint.
The reunion started a "life-time" friendship between the tewo couples. Otis and Irene never had kids, I do not know why. Even after I was born, we saw Otis and Irene all the time. We went on joint vacations together and saw each other almost every weekend even though they were in South GAte and we were in West LA. In those days it was quite a distance
Just before Dad passed, he asked Otis to take car of Mom. From Dad's death in 1970 to Mom's death in 1990, Otis was with Mom all the time taking her to the doctors, shopping, just visiting and being with her. It was something out of a story book. Otis was quite a man.
Otis, Sue, Paul, and Mom at our wedding in our home 1988
After marrying Sue, I got to revisit my family and of course getting to know Otis again was wonderful. (Remember, my ex-wife would have nothing to do with my family and especially those who were not related like Otis and Irene. Sue on the other hand welcomed Otis into our relationship and understood how much he meant to me. Otis and Sue were great friends!) He had stories to tell and we now have stories to tell about him!
Dad Passed November 11th 1970
Dad, in my mind and view, was always strong but as I grew up I realized that the childhood polio bout left Dad with long term health problems.
I always wondered about the "lifts" he had put into his shoes and that was because one leg was shorter than the other. That was the reason we was unsuccessful in joining the military in WWII.
Dad and I circa 1964 at Comey Avenue
We always had a project going on around the house or Dad was bust with work but I was always there until I went to college and began my family. I did not see him very often between 1964 and 1970 as I was staring my career in Aerospace plus my ex-wife annimosity toward my family made any visits awkward.
It was almost Thanksgiving and I called Mom and she said Dad had a bad cold, really bad. I dodn't think too much about that but a few days later, Mom called me at work and said he was in the hospital.
I knew this was NOT good. I rushed over to visit with him and he was breathing hard and was "out of it" meaning medicated. He was in the hospital for six weeks and I would call or visit every day. The longer he stayed in the hospital, the worst it seemed to be. Pneunomia began and with the many years of smoking, this was not good. Dad proceeded to get weaker and finally the doctor said his heart was "giving out". Dad passed on the 11th, right before Thanksgiving. It was not a great holiday season. Even with the ex being so anti-family, I still enjoyed the short visits I had with Dad expecially during the holidays... Except for the red suit, he could have been Santa!
I missed him then and I miss him now.