We, all, have those days that we mark on our calendars to reflect on something or someone. Whether we do so to honor or simply remember is usually up to each individual to decide upon. As a Nation, even Congress, for their lacking in getting most of what really needs to get done accomplished… they do manage to get a lot of endless resolutions passed like “National Take Your French Poodle To Lunch Day” (OK, probably not a real resolution but I’ve seen the lists and this one is close.)
Today is a day that has always been a special one in my life and I wanted to share it with you. First by telling you a few interesting things that happened in 1930…
# The first literary character licensing agreement is signed by A.A. Milne, granting Stephen Slesinger U.S. and Canadian merchandising rights to the Winnie-the-Pooh works. ( over 80 years later he’s still a “Tubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff.” )
# The first frozen foods of Clarence Birdseye go on sale in Springfield, Massachusetts. ( A good raw steak was replaced by a frozen bag of peas for a black eye)
# Mahatma Gandhi set off on his 200 mile protest “Salt March” to the sea.(Truth be known he did a lot more than march in 1930)
# Hostess Twinkies are invented. ( But it will take many years before the pot smoking craze in the 60’s will place them on the lists of harmful addictions)
#The first Soccer World Cup starts. ( Willing to bet that the spectators weren’t as over-zealous back than as they are now)
#Warner Bros. release their first cartoon series called ‘Loony Tunes’ ( They would survive into this century only fall under the Right Wing’s censorship eye.)
#The first night game in organized baseball history takes place in Independence, Kansas. (Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues, carried portable lights around on their team bus.)
#The dedication of George Washington’s head is held at Mount Rushmore. ( The dedication of former President G.W. Bush’s head done in butter will have to wait due to global warming.)
#Judge Joseph Force Crater steps into a taxi in New York and disappears.( the taxi part turned out to be a myth probably brought on by disgruntled bus drivers or subway conductors trying to stifle the taxi industry)
#Betty Boop premiers in the animated film “Dizzy Dishes”. ( Today, I fear she would be banned by the social right as sexist)
#Cecil George Paine, a pathologist in England, achieves the first recorded cure using penicillin. ( Who would of thought how important moldy bread would become.)
#U.S. President Herbert Hoover goes before Congress and asks for a US $150 million public works program to help generate jobs and stimulate the economy. ( There are those who think only President Obama has asked Congress for job money)
#W9XAP in Chicago, Illinois, broadcasts the U.S. senatorial election returns, which is the first time a senatorial race, with non-stop vote tallies, is ever televised. ( And look at what it started)
#The chocolate chip cookie is invented by Ruth Wakefield. (Waistlines were never the same.)
Another less documented but in my eyes equally important event on a day in 1930, a child was born…a male child to a house painter and a church school teacher in Chicago,Illinois.
Right from the start he stood out with a head full of curly almost white hair which would bring him a fifteen minutes of fame moment early in his life. In the first week of April, 1932…this 18 month old boy and his mother were taken from a park and detained by the Chicago police for hours until the boy’s father could be found and even then there was panic until he could produce proof of the child’s identity.
A month before in New Jersey, 20-month old Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr., was abducted by an intruder from his crib and this child in Chicago very closely resembled the picture on the poster the officers kept waving in the poor woman’s face and the multitudes of dark suits men around her shouting increased the fear and confusion within her.
The woman…my grandmother.The young child…my father. The story of that day would always eventually be told at every family reunion I attended but it was only at the top of a very long list as my father’s life was a fascinating mixture of this country’s history as well as the ups and downs of everyday life. Though not a rich or famous person, his experiences and life events were woven into a timeline of major conflicts and changes in this country.
In a lot of ways he was a rebel…in as much transition as the nation surrounding him. Restless and wanting, he left school and home at 14. Hitch hiking and rail riding all over the states though he would later complain that the only two states he never managed to make it to Alaska or Hawaii. He would later describe it to us as his “seemingly endless class trip”.
He enlisted in the Army (took him three tries as he was underage at the time). Luck was on his side because at the time we were engaged in the Korean War and a lot of young men’s true ages were overlooked. He began to grow in the service…getting his much needed schooling and rising in the ranks to Drill Sargent. He admitted that being a short skinny guy made him a bit tougher on those recruits taller and more buff than him but in all honesty he was also taught that being hard on them would make them strong for their roads ahead.
While on leave from Fort Benning,Georgia, He traveled to Atlantic City,NJ where he and a friend were almost run over by a 1951 Chevy fleet line. He fell to the ground …giving the car’s bumper a smack on the way down, giving the illusion that they had hit him. He pretended to be hurt all because they had noticed that the car was being driven by a young girl and her friend.
The courtship was whirlwind to say the least and juicy material for another sharing. For now I will tease you with the fact that they only knew each other for three weeks before they were married.
The war was in full throttle as he tried to do his best with his duties as a drill Sargent but the responsibility of preparing young men for war is not an easy one and news of how many of his trainees were being wounded or killed overseas weighed heavy on him.
He tried to get deployed with one unit that he had become very attached to but a back injury could not be as easily disguised as his early age was. Many years later I got to meet some of the men that my father had trained and they overwhelming said that it was the skills that he had taught them that pulled them through.
He was stationed in Panama for awhile but my mother wanted more than the Army was giving them and with many regrets he left the service.
Stock car racing…cross-country trucking…even dabbled at honky-tonkin’ down south where he met some interesting fellas just starting out (again tales for another time). He came to settle on being an ace car mechanic, who could listen to an engine for less than a minute and tell you what was wrong with it.He was a king of barters finding ways to provide for his family by loaning out his skills to all that had something to trade. He would work many jobs at one time to keep his growing family taken care of.
Our home was an open door to any one who needed a place to go. My early memories start in Chicago. My father was a Scout leader. A member of more than one community help group. On occasion a police officer might drop by our house with a homeless or runaway teen who they didn’t want to take to jail but needed some guidance that they thought my father could provide and he usually did. A time when there was a much greater sense of caring in our country.
His life stories would be the foundation of his skills as a mentor and father. He was by many standards a quiet man so that when he sat down with a multitude of young eyes and ears surrounding him there was always a tale…always a shared memory that would have a lesson learned or simply evoked a room full of laughter. I was the most fortunate of all his children to be the closest to him.
Starting in grade school when I would be called to the office because my father was there to take me to a doctor’s appointment. There was no appointment. He would take me to the ball park for a Cubs game or other special places that would later shape me into the person I became. He had a great love of history,music and passing down of family stories.Some of them I found entertaining but hard to believe until later years when much to my amazement I learned that they were for the most part all true. I grew up watching him keep rooms full of people enthralled with his wisdom and charm.
He never called me his favorite instead telling me that he wanted some company and I was the only one that wouldn’t tell on him to Mom.
My sons never got to meet their grandfather as my father died at the young age of 53. He had led an adventure filled life and I receive so much joy in making sure his grandsons know who he was. Sharing him here with you also give me pause to smile and reflect on how truly special this man was.
Today is his birthday and as it has been for the last 33 years since his passing…I keep a bottle of Crown Royal ( his favorite brand) on my desk. It is only opened once a year on this day…in honor and remembrance of a man who did so much for so many…
A man who taught me that life was seldom easy but always interesting…A man who taught me that giving a hand to help another was the greatest feeling on earth…I fear that it is also the most lost lesson in our nation right now.
But that too is for another time…for now, won’t you lift a glass ( with whatever beverage pleases you) and give a small wink skyward in celebration of a very special man…named Owen. Happy Birthday, Dad.