Sunday, March 05, 2006

More about Dad...



Dad was born on Feb. 13, 1927 at Thackerville, Oklahoma. His first name was Kenneth, same as mine; his middle name was Ray, I have no idea where it came from, but he hated it. I've already written about Grandpa and Grandma going to New Mexico for mission work in the late 20's and moving back to Oklahoma toward the end of the 30's so the 4 brothers would have a better education.

They moved back to Marietta, Oklahoma and when Dad was 11 or 12 he traded his bicycle and a few dollars to a farmer for a broken down '27 Ford Model "T" touring car. He later said he wished he'd kept the bicycle because pushing the "T" up the southern Oklahoma hills when it was broken down was no fun. As he was dying in the hospital, his next older and younger brothers were telling stories about him and they told of him parking that same "T" sideways on the front steps of the Marietta school at 13 or 14 so his teacher would have to accept a date with him to get out and go home...

At 15 and 16 he was driving a gasoline tanker truck for Phillips Petroleum; it wasn't a semi, but a Ford straight truck, early 30's vintage, with a tank on the frame, mechanical brakes (before hydraulics, cable operated and since the cables stretched they weren't much good at all). He told me that more than once he had to back it off the one lane bridge over the Red River into Texas because the cars coming the other way after he was already on it wouldn't back up...

Dad dropped out of high school his junior year and enlisted in the Navy, February of 1944 at 17. He had ridden the train to Kansas City to enlist in the Merchant Marine (the pay was a lot better!) but they wouldn't take him because he wasn't 18. I never got him to talk a lot about his time in the service, he just wouldn't for some reason. I know he was on troop ship that took some of the Marines to the Pacific island invasions the last year of the war; when I spoke of Subic Bay in the Phillipines he talked of being there in '44 when there were so many sunken ships in the bay that most ships couldn't get in and he worked on a water tanker ferrying water out to them. He talked about how thick the sharks were because the food was so plentiful. I know he was in the Marshalls, the Gilberts and the Marianas, some of the same ground his future father-in-law covered in the Seabees. Dad was working as a mechanic in temporary assignments. He told me of working on some of the earliest diesel Caterpillar tractors and of a jeep with an Alison P-38 engine in it...

He came home from the Navy in 1946 and worked in the Packard garage in Ponca City, Oklahoma while he finished high school. He put together a '36 Ford roadster with '40 brakes to get the hydraulics, and when the Mercury ambulance in town blew it's motor on a run, pulled his flathead to send in as the core for it, and kept the ambulance engine (they were a lot bigger displacement). He (and his brothers agreed) said it was good for 105 in 2nd, and 115 in 3rd flat-out on flat ground. He used Lincoln 2nd gears because they had a bronze bushing in the center, and wouldn't "gall" the shaft and seize, where the Ford ones were steel on steel.

He also had quite a "racket" going on the side, flipping the linkages over on "3 on the tree" manuals, so the shift was on the left side and your right arm was free "for other things" (lots of cutting and welding involved on the other side of the firewall). He left Ponca after he graduated and came to Kansas City to use his G.I. Bill to go to a watchmaker's and jeweler's school, graduating about the same time Timex hit the market and put most of the watchmakers out of work. (He kept his tools and his love for clocks, and would stop in antique and junk shops all through the 60's and 70's buying them for 2 or 3 dollars and repairing and refinishing them. At some points there were 30 or so of them sitting all around the rec room in our basement, and a few made it upstairs into the main house. If anybody had a watch that needed adjustment or repair, or a family heirloom clock, it came home with him and went back "right", often for no charge...)

He worked for a bit as a hospital orderly, and took a part time job as an apprentice meatcutter for a budding grocery chain owned by Nat Milgram. By 1949 he was full time, and by '53 was "running his own counter" at Milgram's #5 on Minnesota Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas. It was just a couple of doors down the street from Kelly-Williams Ford dealership, and the two businesses shared the alley; everyday he saw new ones come and go. The '36 had long since gone and when he and Mom started dating he was driving a '47 Chevy convertible; after they married he bought a new '50 Ford, then a '53.

For '55 Ford did a radical redesign of their body styles, and Dad was much in love with them. He was seriously considering buying the first of the Thunderbirds, but when he finally decided to do it, he knew somehow he should buy something with a back seat, and so he spent $200 less and bought a '55 Fairlane Club Sedan. It was top of the line, with factory two tone paint, electric wipers instead of vacuum, a push button radio, whitewall tires, dual exhaust and a 4 barrel 272 V-8. The sticker on it was $2500, they gave him $1500 trade in on his '53, and before they made the first payment they found out Mom was pregnant with me...

The photo is Dad in the driveway of this house I live in now, with that '55...

More of the Fairlane later, with a color pic if I can find it...

Happy Photo Sunday!

alan

12 comments:

Barbara said...

Alan, I liked hearing about your dad. I want to hear about the Fairlaine too.

boo said...

thanks for sharing. u always tell such great stories about your family {{alan}}

Jen said...

What a great story, I love that you live in the house now...so many memories!

Lori said...

How wonderful to have these reflections of your dad. Writings like these are priceless and beautiful legacy for your children and grandchildren.

sttropezbutler said...

What a delight.

You know, my Dad wouldn't discuss his war years either!

STB

TDharma said...

how did you manage to hang on to all that detailed car info? Is it a guy thing?

boy, your dad sure had a lot of 'balls' at an early age! And a lot of variety and interests in his life. I enjoy reading about him immensly. thanks again!

Blogzie said...

Cool.

My grandpa had a two-tone Ford Fairlane. Not sure of the year.

I can still remember riding in backseat going down Hawthorne Blvd. in Southern Califirnia.

Thanks for the memories.

You're a sweetie!

xx00xx

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Love the photo. What an intersting family history you have.

sjobs said...

Alan, I am sorry to be so late. Life has gotten away from me in the last week.

I love hearing about your family and its cool that you live in the house. I could never live in my dad's. Even my townhouse is bigger and I find it to small for the two of us. I cannot imagine the 6 of us living here.....

Take care and hopefully things will slow down on my end soon.....

Mary

Godknows said...

Thanks for sharing Alan.

No_Newz said...

What a great tribute! I am looking forward to the color photo.
Amazing how much he told you about the vehicles he drove. Amazing how much you remember too. So many men who served don't like talking about wartime. Thanks for sharing him with us readers.
Lois Lane

cherish said...

Fantastic Post Alan!! It is very interesting hearing about your family, thank you for sharing!