Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Dad's Careers

Father's Day and our thoughts turn to the patriarchs in our lives.

And I'm thinking about what I wrote last week regarding my own career aspirations over time.  

Today I wonder.  What were my dad's?

There's a great scene in Woody Allen's phenomenal retrospective of his childhood, "Radio Days."  For years, Woody as a child keeps asking his dad what he did for a living.  The father never gives him a straight answer.  Then, one afternoon, the kid has to hail a taxicab and he sees his driver.


Dad was a cab driver.

My revelation was not as astounding.  I always knew what my dad did for a job.  He worked nights at the Mount Vernon Die Casting Company which was really in Stamford, Connecticut.  I suppose that, at one point, it was really in Mount Vernon.  

Yet, I knew where he worked but never really had a fix on what went on there.  Until I got a summer job there before my senior year in college.  I was stuck for money and Dad told me they needed somebody to sit in the shipping department at night.  This was sweet.  Very little to do and I got to sit in a corner and write one script after another for the college radio station sitcom that I created and would be starting its second season in September.

But this cool deal also allowed me to see what my father did.  He worked on a machine that sanded metal.  Parts for cars or appliances or whatever.  There would be a big crate of them next to Dad's machine.  He'd take one, sand it on the machine belt, and then put it in a finished crate.

Sand and crate.

Sand and crate.

Sand and crate.

I was incredibly humbled when I first saw this.  This was how my father earned a living.  This routine was one he followed 40 hours a week and fifty weeks a year for 35 or so years.


But that was the generation that came out of the Great Depression and they followed a very basic tenet of life.

You graduated.  You got married.  You got a job.  You stayed in it as long as possible.  You provided for your family.  You retired.  You died.

Wow again.

For several years when I was about seven or eight, I remember my father having a second job.  He used to leave for Stamford around 3PM.  But, in those times, he'd wake up around 6AM to work for five or six hours at his cousin's oil burner company.  Dad would drive an oil truck and deliver fuel for peoples' houses in the Bronx.  I asked once why he did this.  The answer I got back was short and sweet.

"You want to go to college, don't you?"


When I was off from school, I sometimes accompanied Dad on his oil runs.  Opening the cap on the sidewalk.  Sticking the hose into it.  Listening to the oil run its way into a furnace.  It wasn't particularly challenging.  But, again, Dad was doing what he needed to do.  He worked two jobs.  Essentially...for me.

When I was a kid, I got peppered with the question I discussed last week.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

I wanted to know the same about my father.  And, as happened in most homes at that time, you got information about one parent by asking the other one.

Mom told me about some of my father's early career aspirations.  

In the Army, Dad saw no action.  But, apparently, he could change a typewriter ribbon with the best of them.  He worked in an office and could type 65 words a minute.  He was so adept at it that a post-military career was suggested to him.

"You should be a court stenographer."

That guy who lightly taps on that do-hickey that is usually in front of the judge's bench.

Per my mother, he even pursued my classes on this prior to actually getting a court stenographer position.

So why didn't he?

The info flow got murky.

"Well, you know....."

No, I don't.

Later on, my father chased down another career.  As television was coming into its own, there was a distinct lack of repairmen for this burgeoning new appliance.

Dad went to television repair school.

So why didn't he open his own shop?

"Well, you know....."

Um, no, I don't.

The closest Dad got to that career was trying to fix our TV set.  And, most of the time, he had to call in the specialist anyway.

I wonder to this day what happened with these dreams.

Sand and crate.

Sand and crate.

Sand and crate.

But, as I think about Dad today, I see something else alongside the picture on the wall that adorns today's blog.

My college diploma.

Dinner last night:  Sausage and peppers at Carlo's.



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's amazing what crappy jobs our Dads worked at for years, if not decades, in order to support us.

My old man drove an ice cream truck, a job he basically hated for a boss he couldn't stand.

And, of course, he almost never talked about his job even though he often worked six days a week.

And this was after surviving World War II and the Depression.

Thanks, Dad.