“…if eyes were made for seeing,
then beauty is its own excuse for being…”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Rhodora
“…if eyes were made for seeing,
then beauty is its own excuse for being…”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Rhodora
I don’t smell turkey today; aromas of onion, garlic, and pumpkin are faint. I no longer see the 13 individuals, those I call my tribe. The wine glasses are washed and back in the cupboard; the linens have been gathered. The eight-year-old’s energy has skittered away; the driveway is void of cars. The bustle and excitement, the race to prepare, have waned. My heart is full and I’m smiling.
I hear them.
The grind, the dogged determination, the hunt flew under my childhood radar. There were meetings and trips and cameras everywhere, dad was often gone. I recall the exhaustion at day’s end, his need to wind down. He had the “all or nothing” attitude, and with him, it was all of everything. He worked best under pressure, fitting for a journalist.
Sadly, I didn’t understand or appreciate dad’s personal sacrifices, what that meant to our family, until after he died. His passion was beyond my scope of understanding. What gives me pause is the blood, sweat and tears dad put into his work, his belief in personal involvement and commitment to his endeavors. The evidence surrounds me and it abounds.
Dad was passionate about education, not only his and ours, but for all the children in our district, at all levels.
Clackamas Community College
Dad was involved when the planning of the area’s first community college was in its infancy. He was passionate the school be located where it now sits. Dad was concerned about location, traffic flow, generating business in that immediate area (he worked tirelessly on the Oregon City Bypass, an effort to reroute traffic in Oregon City). Eventually, a college was born. At one time or another, three of his grandchildren–my three children–attended that college. One of his daughters–this one–volunteered there as a tutor. He never knew.
Gladstone High School
He became involved not only with curriculum planning, but the high school itself in the 60s. He was on the school board for several years, serving as chairman part of the time.
Dad wore many hats, and I am proud of his involvement and accomplishments. Something I never realized, though, was the role our mother played. They were a team in many ways. Who knew, for example, about mom’s contribution the day she helped dad piece together one of the most significant news events in U.S. history?
It was November 22, 1963, and dad worked at The Dalles Chronicle, a small town newspaper. If you are old enough, that date rings a bittersweet bell.
The dak-dakka-dakka-dak was ubiquitous to every newsroom, the machine state-of-the-art. Dad’s reliance on the teletype machine was not new; that it was too slow for dad was the beginning of an unlikely but pretty darned cool sequence of events.
Kennedy had been shot, and dad could not get the news out fast enough.
His idea was brilliant: he called mom, asked her to turn on the television and report back to him events as they occurred live. Between her news and dakka dak dak, he pieced together the events at Dealey Plaza.
“I figured television would communicate faster than the teletype and called Maude at the apartment, told her the president was shot and to turn on the TV and relay to me events as they occurred in Dallas,” dad wrote.
“Rod called me to tell me the news,” mom says. “It was coming in, but too slow to meet the deadline for the paper.”
While others had to “phone their reports to the UPI Dallas office for follow-up transmissions by the slower teletype around the country,” dad wrote, he relied on live coverage from Dallas to piece together his story. That, and mom.
“Maude telephoned several times,” and “That was most significant,” according to dad.
“We decided that it would be faster if I left our TV on and our phone off the hook,” recounts mom.
“Actually, she helped me put together the Pres. John Kennedy assassination story that morning. Talk about a team effort, that was it. Between the time I originally phoned her and the next forty minutes or so, I had one-paragraph dispatches from Dallas spread all over my desk and was pasting them together in sequential form as Maude telephoned them to me,” dad wrote.
They developed a system. Mom remembers that she “signaled Rod by tapping on the phone” to “relay the information to him.” She tapped the phone or called his name loudly so he could hear her on the other end while he continued to work, the backside of a story.
“The dispatches confirmed what Maude telephoned to me, so I had the story going together from two sources. What she told me on the telephone was confirmed by Cassels and UPI over the wire.” (Louis Cassels was a “United Press International news writer assigned to cover the president while Kennedy was in Dallas.”)
“I don’t remember how long it took, but, together we were able to meet the deadline, and the paper went to press on time,” says mom.
“It was the best of both worlds,” dad wrote. For sure.
I’ve read many of dad’s articles and short stories. The man could write, but on this most significant November occasion, he didn’t do it alone. He had help, and mom must be acknowledged. Her efforts were key to his timely production of a major news event. Appreciation of my father’s accomplishments has grown through the years; understanding and appreciating mom’s have given me new perspective. A seemingly insignificant detail can mean the world.
This, a byline to mom, is long overdue.
In the very early 60s, dad was sports editor at the Enterprise Courier in Oregon City. We lived on Yale Street in Gladstone. Note 1961 above, the date on dad’s debut column The Catalyst.
We later moved to The Dalles where dad worked at The Chronicle from 1963 to 1964. Mom, Lynne and I sit outside the “apartment” dad mentions, in 1963.
When Pete King, the then publisher of the Enterprise Courier called and asked dad to return to Oregon City, he jumped, and we returned to Gladstone in the spring of 1964.
I find irony in the title of dad’s column, The Catalyst. One definition “any entity that produces an effect or is responsible for events or results” reminds me of one very helpful lady.
Below, dad converses with local school children in The Dalles in the very room where he and mom pieced together the assassination story*. It was 1963, the very same year.
*Sadly, after weeks of trying unsuccessfully, I was unable to locate dad and mom’s article. The Chronicle itself does not archive papers prior to 2005, those they do keep are from the late 1800s. The U of Oregon library keeps The Chronicle from the 60s on microfilm but they do not provide a courtesy search. They happily take payments, however, of $60 per hour for a private search.
The hunt continues.
Kennedy was someone I would have supported had I been older, and I am saddened each year remembering how he died. The following link details JFKs campaign trail up to and after that fatal day.
“I never realized” is a phrase I’ve noticed lately tangled up in my fog. Brain fog, specifically. It catches because it’s meant to give me pause. Either that, or I have really dense fog. But, we won’t dally THERE (thank you, kindly). Moving along… What started out yesterday as this….. ended with this… and this…
You think you know your parents?
What’s it like to read words written by your father when he was in his early 20s, before you were born, before he was married to your mother, but words you read years after he died, words read some 60 years after they were written?
It’s eerily creepy.
It’s also fascinating.
The year was 1952, the day January 8. Dad had been in the navy for about a year when he and his mother had a conversation about “the spoils of divorce.” I’d read in some of dad’s other writings his thoughts on growing up fatherless. Dad’s parents split when he was three, something he felt for the rest of his life. He thought their divorce had been very detrimental to his formative years; he felt incomplete due to his father’s absence, and disadvantaged. I recall him mentioning embarrassment.
“…they will have a good education from home as well as from school. I didn’t have that opportunity.”
That’s me! And my sister!
He was only 22, but he’d made decisions about his future children’s education. That brings tears. And one hell of a smile.
Dad hadn’t been careless in relationships. My grandmother, however, was overly worried, her next move a reflection of that, not dad. She was concerned with the possibility her future grandchildren might be born out of wedlock. She mentioned this to dad in her previous letter. He was furious.
“If you would have talked to me ten years ago as you did in the letter or if my father were around at that time probably nothing like this would ever have happened (this conversation),” dad wrote.
Dad followed that with, “These are the spoils of divorce.”
He continues, “A mother can’t be both parents. She can do the job as far as a mother goes but the father has his responcabilitys (sp) also. My father’s weren’t carried out.”
He wrote “good education from home as well as from school.” From home, but I’ll get back to that.
Dad was educated. Soon after high school he started a business, and ran the business until he joined the navy. After four years serving his country, he attended St. Martin’s College in Tacoma, graduating with a degree in journalism. It was May of 1959, the year and month I was born.
But dad had written, “from home.“
What he really meant was his father, the lack of direction and instruction and advice a father can provide. He missed the father/son fishing trips. He missed the wrestling on the floor. He missed the late night conversations. He missed a father’s harsh advice when you wreck the car or get in a fight. He missed time spent together, simply learning about each other. He missed the jabs, the jokes, the teasing, even the arguments. He missed waking up Christmas morning to having Christmas breakfast with both parents, and Christmas Eve decorating the tree as a family. He missed singing silly songs together when you think no one is listening. He missed conversations about his future, his past. He missed that shoulder to lean on, the listening ear, when the hard questions need to be asked.
He missed his father. He missed the instruction a father can provide. This is what he meant.
Dad used to frown upon those who have divorced. He spoke negatively about divorce in general. I never understood why this was an issue, why he was adamant people not divorce.
I thought it was generational; after all, my maternal grandmother once said to her divorced daughter, “We don’t divorce in this family.” Never mind that this particular divorce was necessary and long overdue by the time the marriage had ended. Similar to seeking psychiatric help, divorce carried a heavy stigma and wasn’t acceptable. Something was wrong with you if you divorced.
It never occurred to me this was a child’s perspective, a child of divorce; it was not a reflection or admission of events in a given, failed marriage. No. This was pure pain from a child’s point of view.
Dad used to say things like, “Don’t fall in love with the first guy who puts his hands on you,” and “Play the field.” Now I get it. He wanted us to choose wisely. He didn’t want his grandchildren to experience the pain of growing up in a single parent household. He knew what it lacked. He lived it.
That was dad’s experience.
Here’s mine: I won’t pretend to say “Never divorce!” Oh, no. That’s not realistic. There are too, too many cases where this is absolutely necessary (domestic abuse, lying or cheating, and any other, very good reason when trust is broken). Having said that, I also think that in some cases people give up too easily; this post, however, is not about reasons for divorce; this is about my father’s experience and wisdom gained.
Here’s another thought: Before I was married, I was never comfortable with the idea of parenting as a single. As of this writing, my children are ages 29, 26, and 25. Given what I know now and what I’ve experienced, I WOULD NEVER CHOOSE TO BECOME A SINGLE PARENT. Not ever.
At the risk of sounding sexist, there are things my husband gives the kids that I cannot. The opposite is also true; there are things I give my children that he cannot. These might be knowledge in a certain area, or how to do something. We are from different backgrounds, different experiences, therefore our perspectives and abilities are different. This is a good thing, as it adds richness to our children’s upbringing.
When it came time to teach the kids how to drive, I gladly gave that to my husband. All three kids as well as the husband agreed. He was calm through it all while I was a wreck. The children will verify.
Dad was right. Parenthood comes with responsibility. Parenting does not stop because a marriage fails. In fairness to my grandpa Carl, he did express a desire to be part of dad’s life, but his efforts were thwarted by my grandma and her mother. Grandma had her reasons and that has to be respected (and from the little we do know, I’ll side with grandma).
In this case, dad missed out, but, he later righted a wrong. For his children, he gave himself. He was more than present.
He became the listening ear.
I am saddened by the recent passing of my college roommate. Last I heard she was in remission. I thought we had time. Remission is scary, misleading. She passed away in July, and I attended a family memorial two weeks ago. Nasty, damn cancer. ******************** When she told me last year of her diagnosis, I…