Thursday, August 16, 2012

Happy Birthday, Pops !

So the old man was born eighty-nine years ago today.

I don't think I've spent much time on here mentioning the parents, except to note that anything about me that's fucked up is directly traceable to them, not me.

But I should probably mention a few things about the old man, because

I want to and it's my blog and England can kiss my ass!

Anyway, the pops was born in a little town in the middle of nowhere.

When he was really little, about five, his old man --who came from little or nothing-- made a bundle of money somewhere.  He bought my dad had a little electric car [yeah, I know; who'd believe it?] that he drove around in the front yard of their not-palatial manse; I've got a photo somewhere.
Within a year, the Great Depression had begun, and they had nothing.


Despite the poverty, he was a really smart guy in really tough times.  He was also an amazing volleyball player, with his eyes on the 1940 Olympics (so he didn't miss much when his life took a different turn; the 1940 Olympics were held over London) (England took Gold, but mainly because Hitler was a cunt).  While in high school, his acting talents took him far away to St. Louis, where he appeared in  high-school One-Act Play competition involving students from all 'round.  Clark Gable's first wife, Josephine Dillon, was the "celebrity" judge.  She molded Gable's career; some say she created it.  She also fostered and molded other actors who went on to fame and fortune.  My father was voted the best actor of the competition, and Dillon encouraged him to move to California to work with her as an actor after he graduated from high school.

But my old man had been orphaned at the beginning of high school, and he and his three sistershad been  taken in by an "uncle" [actually, a cousin of his father's]. Taken in by somebody who--around the time my father had dreams of glory as an athlete and actor--had no job and kids of his own. It being the Depression and all.

So my pops graduated as the valedictorian of his high school at age sixteen.  He shelved any plans to act, or to smash volleyballs over thin nets.  He also turned his back on a full scholarship to a local private college.  It's a name not known by many outside the surrounding four or five states, but for a hick coming outta nowhere, that must have seemed like an invitation to Oxford, the Sorbonne, and Kitty Carlisle's Finishing School all wrapped up in one.  Like I said, he was smart.

No, he went to pick cotton for $0.50 a day.  Housed in "quarters" and fed by his employers (a famous family of brewers), my pops sent all of his income back to his sisters to pay their way and keep them together in his uncle's house. And everyone of his generation marvels that he got such a great gig.

He moved on to get work as a carpenter.  I don't know if he was any good, but he was getting work at the end of the Depression.  And I still carry microphones and a Rat in one of the wooden cases he built in 1940.  So he knew how to pick wood and set a hinge, by golly.

World War II intervened.  He was an enlisted man in the Army, moving to sergeant.  But he was kinda smart, and the Army actually noticed, so he was sent to one of the first "radar schools" established by the Army Air Corps.  He became a radar specialist, also one of the first, and was shipped out to the Pacific theater. Notwithstanding his radar training, he spent a shitload of time sitting on his ass on Guam, acting as an assistant to some officer.  My father described his wartime experience as "a hundred hours of boredom followed by an hour of terror.  Over and over. . . ."

He was assigned to the Marines (lucky him!) as a radar and "friend-or-foe" specialist (who could implant gear and then detect "friendly" signals from U.S. aircraft, allowing Marines to evade hostile fire and not try to shoot down the good guys).  This gave him the pleasure of landing with the Marines at Iwo Jima.

That's almost all I know about that, because he couldn't talk about it.  Except to say that burying people was duty shared by everyone who made it, regardless of "specialty."

Well, since Harry Truman dropped the big one on the Nips, my old man wasn't killed trying to invade the home islands.  So he came back to the U.S.

He worked as a seismographer, and as a carpenter, and as a radio repairman.  I hope that he slept with a lotta broads whilst doing so.  Eventually, he enrolled in a state college.  But the commies came pouring over the 38th parallel.

But he was gently urged to join the newly established Air Force -- they sent him a letter recalling him from the reserves and ordering him to report. Shortly thereafter, they indicated that he would ship out in six weeks to his new duty station.  So he traveled to the "big city" near his old hometown to visit family, and one night went to "the Square." You know, downtown, where young people would cruise around and look at each other.

He saw a lady he dug a lot.  He asked her out.
She wasn't my mother.

But she was my mother's roommate.  And my dad dug the roommate more, married her (both of them at an advanced age for that time), and immediately got shipped out to Bakersfield CA and nearby airplane design works, where he designed in-plane radar gear.  Then Ike strong-armed a ceasefire. Then the parents moved around a bit throughout the midwest/plains states.

I was born ten years later.  He got a couple of degrees.  He moved us overseas.  He went to other countries where people dropped bombs on him and other Americans.  Some say he was a spy.

I just know he was kind of quiet, and we didn't play a lot of catch.

But we talked about cool things.

But I ignored him to play music and chase skirts, and he died.

And so all of the shit that he could have taught me about being a man went unlearned.

Did you see how the narrative, which was nearly incomprehensible up 'til then, was utterly derailed when I got tired and when the story got to any time where I was alive?  Freud told me that's not accidental.

And I don't write essays; I don't even like them.

Blather is more my style.

By the way, it's an intentional affectation to use So and But all of the time.

I'm lazy, and I figure that sounds like a kid's storytelling.

I always pull back the curtain, don't I?

Happy Birthday, Pops.


Mister Parker said...

You know, I think that's pretty much the story of that entire generation. I know my dad got a contract offer to play baseball in the minor leagues -- pitching in, I want to say, the Cleveland Indians organization -- and wound up volunteering for World War II instead.

Probably worked out better for him the long run, but still.

Little Johnny Jewel said...

this was brilliant

Lupner said...

Thank you for sharing this Mister Muleboy. Being one in daily process of recognizing ways I wished I'd appreciated and/or discussed my own father's personal history with him more, find I can't comment much beyond that. But sure did enjoy reading about your dad. Heart is full and broken at the same time.

And thank you to Mister Parker for link to the fine Randy Newman song.

Who Am Us Anyway? said...

Yah, it's incredible, isn't it? Just Like Your Dad