Today Is Dad’s 100th birthday

My Dad was born on March 24th, 1914 in Buffalo, New York.  His father was an interior decorator in Buffalo, using fine drapery, antiques and oriental carpet.  He had a fairly wealthy clientele and after my Dad’s oldest sister was born, he and Aunt Elizabeth – Grandmother’s sister – bought a farm out in Orchard Park without telling my grandmother until it was a done deal.  She was not happy  moving out to a place with no electricity and running water while my grandfather went into the city every day.  She had a lovely apartment in Buffalo and a new baby; not the best time to go to a farm with no mod cons.

However, she moved and  eventually they finally had running water and electricity, but I don’t think it was easy for her.  She had another daughter, then three miscarriages before my father made his appearance.  From the stories I have heard over the years, Dad was Grandmother’s favorite and Emmie was Grandfather’s favorite – didn’t leave anyone to favor Ibbie, the oldest.  They always said she was everyone’s favorite – didn’t quite compute for her.

Around 1926 my grandmother went to Southern California to visit her brother Frank.  He was living in Palos Verdes, a very wealthy community, building houses.  She loved it out there – who wouldn’t with Buffalo weather – and  wired Grandfather to come out to visit.  Unfortunately he arrived on a very rainy day; when it rains, it pours and doesn’t kid around about it.  Not an auspicious start but he began to like it, so they decided to move there – Uncle Frank would build the houses and Grandfather would furnish them.

They went back to Orchard Park, packed up the kids and Gertie who helped with the kids and set out in two cars to drive across the country.  I wish I could remember the stories Dad told about that – he was about 12 or 13 – especially the one when Emmie almost drown.  However, everyone made it to Palos Verdes and settled in.  My Grandfather thought he was an investor, so he bought some houses on spec which also didn’t sit well with Grandmother.   (He had some quirks – that’s a whole other story!).

1929 was not a good year for them, Grandfather lost the houses and the one where the family lived.  It was an old Spanish style with creamy stucco and Spanish blue trim.  She was upset about losing the house and moving to a much smaller house.  Dad always said he would have survived the Depression better if he had been in Pasadena, a more established place.  By then the older girls had gone to college and were about to be married.  Dad didn’t go to college, he loved working with his hands and worked for a boat builder who was also a former (I think former) rum runner.  He worked in aircraft at Douglas, North American, Lockheed – I didn’t realize they hire for a contract and then workers had to find another job.

Dad enjoyed going out with his friend Jim Reed, plus he had a few somewhat disreputable ones.  Dad always know what he wanted, knew right from wrong, so he was never influenced to get into trouble.  I remember him telling about the time he and Jim rolled the car over on the sand and Jim hurt his arm.  They hoped baking it in the sun would help, but it didn’t.  They did get the car back right side up, but they were found out because Jim had to have his arm fixed.  He did a lot of stuff with cars, he has always loved them and felt if he had been able to keep all the cars he had, he would have quite a collection.  He never bought them new and fixed them himself.

In his high school yearbook, the girls all wrote “To the Dancing Sheik” because they loved dancing with him.  He said he had an easy style, not sure what that meant, but it worked well for him.  From what he said, I don’t think he dated a lot – then again, does a father tell his daughter about romantic adventures?  I think he went to dances a lot and spent time with girls there.  He drove his Mom crazy because when he was on the way out the door, she would ask “Where are you going?” and his answer was “Out”.  When she asked when he would be home, he said “About that time or a little after”.  Funny, his sister Ibbie always said she knew everything he did, but said she didn’t know much.

In 1941, he went back to Connecticut to visit an uncle, stayed in Glastonbury and rented a room in a house near my Mom’s grandmother. He worked at Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford, so it wasn’t a long commute for him.  At the time, I’m not sure if he was engaged or engaged to engaged and drove quite a way to visit her.  His landlady and Mom’s grandmother arranged a blind date for the two of them – Mom had spent a lot of time checking her grandmother’s flower garden so she knew what he looked like.   No doubt it is obvious he was no longer interested in the other girl after meeting Mom.  They dated and they always said neither asked the other to marry, it was understood.

They went to Mom’s dad and said they wanted to get married.  He told Dad, “Go back to California and establish yourself.  Then, if in 3 moths you still feel the same, then it’s okay with me”.  So Dad went back to California to establish himself and in December was Pearl Harbor.  Mom’s family thought she was crazy to go there – the Japanese would invade and it was dangerous.  Her Aunt Marian was the only one who encouraged her, so in early January, she flew from Connecticut to California to marry Dad.

To be continued.

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