Sunday, June 21, 2020

My Dad Could Do Anything

My dad was a hero.  I'm not making this up; he'd tell anyone that he was a hero.  

Oh, not a war hero, although he served in the Navy during the Second World War. He worked in the ships metal shop, making what he told people was a Blip. They wondered what he was doing, but perhaps thought it was a special assignment so never asked what it actually was, this Blip. One day his commanding officer insisted he show him this Blip. So, Dad took it to the side of the ship and suspended it over the water.  They all watched in anticipation. Then he dropped it.... It went "blip" and sank to the bottom of the sea.

Well, that's the story we heard.

His ship only left the dock once during his tour of duty. It went out to sea and then turned around to returned to the dock. On his service record, it states he went to sea; therefore, his severance pay reflected this fact. 

He wanted to continue working in a machine shop but realized it would not pay the same as some other profession. His first daughter was born in 1948 and he needed to support his family. Instead he became an electrician. 

He worked for Waltersheid Electric in San Dimas, California and became an asked-for electrician for repairs and builds. He spent enough time at LeRoy's Boy's Home in LaVerne to get to know some of the kids.  It was the same at the David and Margaret Children's Home, also in LaVerne.  His longest gig was serving Vita Pakt Citrus Company. He liked working there for Waltersheid because it meant no traveling around and it was close. Plus he could stop and see his mom on his way home. He told us he knew how to stay looking busy so they would keep him on: when a boss came near, he always pulled out his little notebook, looking through it as if he was looking at his list of chores and problem spots. I've tried this but I always goof-up and give the boss eye contact...blows my cover.

Boating became a great family outing.  Salton Sea was one spot we visited.  It wasn't far, so an overnight weekend trip was the destination. The Colorado River was the best. Hotter than hell but the water cooled us down. 

Every summer as teens, we would vacation for two weeks on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. New Hope Landing was our base and every day Mom would pack a lunch, water, and cookies and we would take the boat out on a river beach for the day. Swimming. Skiing. Cruising the waters. We went with other families who were members of the Mt. Baldy Boat Club. All day, boats towing skiers came in and out from the beach.

The Hero Was Born
New Hope Landing--our vacation paradise
It was there on the beach of the San Joaquin River that Dad's hero cry, "I'll save you!" began and Dad became The Hero. If a boat was coming in, he would jump splash into the water and get the kids out of the way. If some of the women were splashing around, whether or not a boat was incoming, he'd jump in with The Hero's cry!  I'll Save You! splash splash

Dad had a favorite skiing event. He would ride, not every day of the vacation, but enough to keep it exciting... With his zinc-oxide-white nose, he would grab his home-made ski disc and his wooden chair and get out on the water.  As the boat towed him, he would, chair slung over his arm, stand up, set down on the chair.  Sometimes he would stay there for most the ride. But the real excitement was when he stood up on the chair, stretching out one arm, and yelling that he was The Hero. And then he would turn circles on the chair on the disc.

My dad built the house where we grew up. He could fix cars. He could fix toys. He could make electrical things work. He could blow air in your bike tires with his air compressor.  He could find a bargain at the Scrap Meet--and his back yard showed this feat. He built a screened fence around his goodies so we couldn't call it a junk yard. And then, if you needed anything fixed, he could fix it! His love for metal shop work never left and he built a good sized metal shop in the back of the garage. That's where he would be after dinner. 

Neighboring kids would come over and watch him work, whether they wanted him to fix something or not. I had a few high school friends who knew him better than they knew me. He and my sister fought the city of Montclair in order to remain county.  They won the first fight.

My dad was a clever funny smart man who was similar to Will Rogers in that he never met a man he didn't like. And people loved him. He enjoyed playing with his little grandkids (he called it "hop on pop" time) and loved his older grandsons. My kids and I last saw him when he insisted he come to Oregon to see my younger son's 1990 high school graduation, even though he wasn't feeling well enough to drive. He died a month and days later.

My dad was truly a hero.

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