Thursday, September 30, 2010

Forty year old letters and an update on a Father long gone


A mystery was solved last week. My bride had finally attacked the attic, something she has wanted to do for a long time. She found an old suitcase that had not been opened in _? years. Maybe as much as 38. There is nothing in there younger than 40 years. The big find, so far, are the missing letters from my Father that I have been looking for for years. My Dad was on the road a lot and as a result, we not that close. That is until I went into the service. That is something he could identify with and I think was proud that I had done this. After boot camp and when I was stationed at the light house, we started writing personal letter back ad forth. It was the closest we ever got. Then he died. The letters have been missing ever since. I had the letters I wrote him for he had saved them and my mother gave them to me. It was the ones he wrote me that were missing.
Last week I started reading them through the eyes and and mind of a 63 year old. I was enlightened with the wisdom, the transparency and humor that was brought forth from these letters. I would like to post these letters and my comments in this blog. The car in the background was my first car. A Rambler American. $550. It is a whole nother blog topic.


DAD’S LETTERS

Oct. 1, 1969

letter written to me while in boot camp. Boot camp was no fun for me. Not only physically but mentally they like to break you. You were not even allowed to smile. Dad could relate to that. I thought his comments about making the best of it and it being a positive experience for him. Most of you are not aware that on his way back to the mainland from his station on the Aleutian islands, his ship broke in half in a storm. One half sunk and one half stayed afloat. Im living proof he was in the half that stayed afloat.

Dear Gary R.,
Enclosed are some cards I meant to send to you while I was out East. My salesman kept me so busy I just didn’t have time to get them in the mail to you. You will note however that I did at least write on one of them. I thought you would especially appreciate the ones I picked up when going thru New London. Should you be assigned in the East, I know you will enjoy the atmosphere, scenery, etc. is quite different and actually a little foreign even tho I can only make comparisons from pictures. My Eastern salesman was a former Navy pilot in WW II and presently has a son at Pensacola training as a Navy helicopter pilot. He said he had some very good friends as officers in the Coast Guard and he spoke very highly of the Coast Guard. He did insinuate that most officers in the Coast Guard were very dedicated career man!! Said it was hard to be an officer in he Coast Guard unless that person indicated it was to be a career!! I am just repeating conversation for what it’s worth!
It was good to talk to you last week-end and to receive your letter today. I still can look back to my service basic training and the other three years and nine months as an experience that I am glad I had. Many times I of course was quite discouraged, lonely, despondent, and many more adjectives but all-in-all it all helped me be what I am today! (which may be good or bad!!)
Retain a sense of humor, tell yourself in the morning that this is a new day in your life’s experience and-- enjoy and make the most of it!! The old man has spoken for today!
We miss you-- are always glad to hear from -- and hope that's soon!!
Love, Dad

11-14-1969
This letter was written about 1 month after I arrived in Cape Vincent to start my assignment at Tibbetts Point light house. I appreciated the note of encouragement at end of the letter. They gave me a self winding watch for college graduation. The “enclosed” was an article about a Swedish model how Americans were less sophisticated about sex than Swedish 6 year olds”.


Dear Gary,
Well, I am back from the deep south and looking out of the office window now at a snow storm. You know me and snow storms so nuff said! Dr. Maser gave me the ole pitch last Wed. eve, (Tom Cats) about your mother and I taking up skiing. If it could be +70 degrees out and I could still ski, I am sure I would try the sport tomorrow! Have you found out yet just how far or how close the nearest ski hill is? You shouldn’t be too far from real good ski resorts.
I asked Paul for Bruce’s address and it is as follows: Lt. Bruce LA. Larson, CMR Box 4566, Webb AFB, Texas 79720
I don’t remember if I mentioned I got in several rounds of golf while in the south. From the way I played it was obvious I hadn’t played for awhile. It was different tho and fun. The grass in the fairways is alot different from ours. its course and ground is sandier.
Your graduation hasn't’ been forgotten, Gary. In fact I am getting caught up a little on my debts. I have a suggestion for what its worth altho you may feel it’s too practical. In as much as your income is rather limited now and you could use a few things, would you consider $100 cash as a graduation gift? If you would prefer a surprise or we pick out a real good watch or something, we can still do this. Let me know
I thought the last few hours of today would be rather dead but have been interrupted by phone at least a dozen times. Several were orders so that’s what counts. We have had to take another price increase which may make it pretty tough to maintain our sales volume. We have given labor at least a dozen increases in the last year with numerous fringe benefits- however nothing for management! The original purpose of unions was fine- to protect labor from unfair management but now they have gained too much power and make business management today very difficult to show a profit. Not only small companies like this but like General electric. You can read all about this in today's paper.
I received the enclosed in the mail today. probably from Charlie or juanita. Its now 5 min before 5 pm so I had better open a drawer and clean off my desk.
Keep up the good spirit you show. I am sure you will meet many interesting people and make a number of friends of the 776 (population) at Cape Vincent

Love, Dad

The enclosed is to have a couple of beers on me.



11-29-1969

Dad must have been talking about Thanksgiving meal and football. I must have asked about the coloring of the truck bodies because he goes into great detail. He obviously loved to talk about it. He was V.P. in charge of sales so that is why discussion of price and advertising. He served in the Army in W.W.II so we had military in common. I think he was proud of me for that.


Dear Gary,
Mother and I have been watching the army-Navy game. She took Navy and I took army. In case you didn’t watch , army shut out Navy by 27. the Vikings are going great guns and you’ll probably watch them play (TV) either colts or Rams. Good old football. Here I am nice and toasty watching football and Jeff is out in the woods getting cold and lost in the woods somewhere.
Missed you Thursday and everyone thought of you I know. Mother did her things, excellent as always. We didn’t work at the office Friday so it ss been a long weekend for me. I am driving to Chicago Monday to review advertising budget and new advertising ideas with agency. We are going to offer a free vacation in Hawaii for 2 and $500 cash spending money. all you have to do is find a better plastic body then “Johnson's”! How about that? I had to take another 8% price increase on price of bodies so I’ll need all the good promotional ideas I can get. Incidentally, we have a number of bodies in you area. Buffalo-Sarotoga Springs, Utica, Watertown, Syracuse, Rochester, Albany etc. Keep looking and describe bodies you see that are Johnson's. The permanent color is a Gel-coat finish. In other words, the color pigment is in a plastic resin with a thinner viscosity so it can be sprayed easily. It is then sprayed over the mold and allowed to “set up”. The polyester resin is then applied and then the glass fivers until panel is built up to desired thickness and desired strength. Clear??
I hope you have had a no trouble with your car and that you still feel it a good car. I suppose you will be moving next week. That’s a shame!
You know now that your basic training is over with you very little exposure to constant military life. I would rather doubt that life at the lighthouse was very formal or military. when are expected to wear your dress uniform? What uniform do you wear at work, the fatigues? or whatever the Coast Guard calls them.
I put the outside Xmas tree lights up today. Seems easily but I am glad it ‘s done before snow gets too deep. Rita said Hardscrabble opens tomorrow ----------------Jeff and Charlie just came in - no deer -- just hungry and tired!!

Take it easy son. We miss you.

Dad PS Guess who stopped in to say Hi- Bet the envelope really shook you up!!

address on envelope was in Dinah’s penmanship



Dec. 12th, 1969

Brochure sent to me, no note. title was: Cold Spots. A newsletter on the latest developments of the Johnson Truck Body.

Jan 13, 1970
This letter was typed and I still have the typewriter that it was typed on. I had gotten snowed in Chicago and Uncle Jack came and got me and I stayed over night. He challenged me on my future. I remember that time as a benchmark in my life but I must have wrote Dad and complained about it. I also must have been doubting myself and solicited info on my past. Looking back at what he wrote, it was wonderful. Being brought up in the depression; hard work was the answer for everything for those folks. I never remembered that he actually tried skiing

I received your letter and thought I would have a chance to answer last weekend. We were invited over to Stohls to watch the Super Bowl and stay for supper I had a board meeting last night. How about that Super Bowl? at first I wanted to see the Vikes win and keep the title in the NFL and Central division but now I’m glad K.C. won. We can at least say the Packers were only NFL team to ever win the Super Bowl and 2 years in a row at that!
I was sorry to hear that Jack got you all “shook up”! I am sure this was not his intention but only to try to pass on some valuable advise that he had learned the hard way. I have told you before that I never did find myself when in the 20’s. I went from selling and school to the service, to clerical work, to resort business and back to selling. Fortunately, I ended up doing something I really enjoy but actually never having a goal other than trying to exist and be happy. l Not that I should be an example but don’t worry about the future or the past. Everyone would be better off if they worried more about the present and then let the future happen or take care of itself. If you manage to provide for yourself and Diane and both are happy, what else is there? If you both want to better your living standards, than all you have to do is work harder and it will come.
I agree with you that success is only what it means to the one working toward his or her goal. So- your goal is to be married and be happy! Nothing wrong with that. Be concerned with the goal but stop worrying about it.
Now that I said that---why are you worrying about your past and what kind of kid you were? That’s what you are doing, you know. What do you care what kind of kid you were? It’s what you want yourself to be as a man!! Perhaps, I sound too much like a preacher but your letter sure left me with a feeling that you are over concerned with yourself. I think you were & are self conscious of Gary. I am afraid you got this from me as this has always been one of my hang ups. Just be yourself as you are friendly, honest, and have a personality to easily make friends. Just continue to like people, want friends and the rest will happen.
Your only hang-up when you were young was a stubbornness to reject or to accept any instructions from without an argument. This was my fault somewhere along the line. Remember when I used to kid you and tell you that you'd be a lawyer? - Did you mentally resist Uncle Jack’s conversation or did you weigh and accept it for what it was meant for? Do you keep telling yourself that so & so doesn’t understand you and your outlook on life is different? Everybody's outlook is different and everybody's advise or opinion can be of some value to someone else. Am I getting thru?
Page 2 (My God, a novel ! )
My own observation, Gary is ---- you have no problems--- that you can’t easily handle! I don’t think Uncle Jack meant you should shoot for a goal or career as a Doctor, lawyer, etc. now but just to ask yourself what you want to of life now, to be happy and to work toward that goal. (This isn't’ hard to do) Than ask yourself with you mate what will make us both happy 5 years, 10 years, etc... form now and work toward it! This should also be easy!
The only thing to beware of is to expect things to happen with out your effort to achieve happening. Not you, but too many young people expect life to hand them whatever they want with little or no effort on their part. What a letdown they are in for when they get older.
Okay, end of sermon for 1970!! Jeff got me on skis weekend before last and it felt quite good. Course I knew I was a born natural from the start!! that's the reason my two boys are so good Mother, Rita & I & Jeff if he comes home may go up to Spooner next weekend & try skiing. Mother says its about half the cost of Hardscrabble. I now have a snow blower so have tow reasons to think snow. Motor runs fine, all I need is some fresh snow to throw around.
Gave any more problems? Just write Reverend Osborn for sermon #2 ---- or just write to- Dad

Jan 20, 1970

I still have that Deutche Grammaphone record. One of my favorite of Beethoven’s symphonies. the 1965 Star Chief was a Pontiac and had a passing gear that kicked out at a 105 mph. It was an incredible car. The Oz-mobile was a car I bought out in Cape vincent for $700. A 1962 Chev Impala that really did us well. I put two seat belts in it but when we were first married, we both fit in mine alone. :-) Dad did buy a bigger snow blower and my mother gave it or sold it to me when we moved to Amery. I thought his comments on true friends was insightful and what he said about mother was so true too. He sounds almost protective of my self esteem when answering my question about why I did not have more friends or get invited to parties. I did not remember that about him and has made him more endearing to me now.


Dear Son,
Don’t always expect such a prompt replys from me but am just about caught up with today's work and your letter received this morning is still fresh in my my mind.
Before I forget, have you got my German record Erotica or something like that? I recall when it was brought out at Xmas time that I remembered I didn’t care fore it as it was “too heavy”. Perhaps you heard that. However, when I listened to it completely this Xmas, I was very fond of it. I was looking for it last weekend to listen to and couldn’t find it. If I was under the influence of too much alcohol or xmas spirit, I take it all back as I still want this record. If you pack this up good with lots of cardboard, layer then the record, I’ll be glad to send you postage.
We did not go skiing last Sunday as it was 20 some below 0 and that too cold for me. It has been below for about a week now dipping down to -46 out by Campia. We drove up to Coudaray Sunday to look at a cottage next to Dr. Elbert. It wasn’t too bad but I am not too keen on it as I would want more privacy.
As to further comments on you last letter, I have very few. I really know why you wanted to be told more about young Gary but you actually can remember you as as Mother & I. as to why you didn’t receive more invitations from friends, I have wondered this myself and blamed it on the thoughtlessness on their part.
I’ve always felt that good - true friends are very hard to find or come by - and not everyone has them. This type of friend thinks enough of your friendship to be completely loyal and always thoughtful. Like I say, they are hard to find. l Mother is a good example of type of person it takes. Anybody that she calls a friend would get 100% of her effort to always prove her friendship. --I think you had more girl friends than boy friends when in school so something can be said for that.
My snow blower is only a 3.5 h.p. and I believe too small for our driveway. I may trade it in on a 7 h.p. 2 stage blower. I am going to have to fork over considerable to Uncle Sam shortly so will (have) to wait and see.
Am glad to hear “Oz-mobile” is working out okay for you. If you can find an old canvas blanket or anything to break the wind it will really help. The Star Chief even tho in garage would not start tow days now.
Nothing new son, I suppose time will be dragging for you for a few months now. Always glad to receive your letters.
Love, Dad

Jan 24, 1970



New issue of Cold Spots.

Feb. 4, 1970 Happy Valentines Day

Our family had very little contact with my Father’s family. I have no personal memories of his parents. I know his father came up to the resort once but only because I have seen pictures. Unlike the memories I have with my mother’s parents, which are many. I don’t remember how much money I inherited either. The Huxtables were a couple from California that would drive up to the resort every year with their two Collie dogs. (Imagine that trip in the 50’s) They talked my parents into getting a Collie and “Bing” was a dog that Jeff and I grew up with. He was a great dog and Jeff will tell you one of the most difficult things he ever had to do was to take Bing, who he had known all his life, to the vet to be put to sleep. My parents went to Puerto Rico at least once on a pleasure/business trip. Again, I have pictures of their trip.

Dear Son,
A Happy Valentines Day to you and a thank you for your very nice card. Its a very cold Fri. 14th, 20 below this morning and about minus 13 now (noon). Mother and I are invited over to the Larsons & Secores for cocktails and supper. Oh yes, we received a very nice Valentines Card from Diana too!
You asked about my aunt Emma Lou that left you children some money. Its hard to describe her to you as I don’t think you ever did meet her. She was the youngest girl in my mother’s family and my mother was next to the oldest girl. There were four girls and one boy The boy who carried the family name was Dr. Russell Goebel who was Erna’s husband before he passed away. Emmy Lou was a very sweet person and always one of my favorite Aunts. She was married to a very wealthy man that died some fifteen, twenty years ago. They lived in Providence Rhode Island and he owned several clothing mills. I remember when I was in high school Uncle Huber Milo was part owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs (hockey team). In 1941a very close friend of mine from high school and myself drove to the east Coast for a three week vacation. When we stopped in Providence my buddy came down with a really high fever and was real sick from food poisoning or something. Emmy Lou took real good care of him for several days and my Uncle gave me a first class tour of the town, his mills etc. They never did have any children of their own so they of course did every thing they could for the brother and sister’s children. - Now, aren’t you sorry you asked more about this Aunt? She had originally had her will made out to her nieces and nephews but Uncle Jack talked her into changing it to the children of the nieces and nephews as it would mean so much more to them. I agree with Jack as I am sure does my sister and cousins.
I’ll have to admit, I still haven't got out on skis. the week ends have either been too cold or too warm. I might make ti yet before the season ends.
I am going to be on “the road” next week. I don’t think I’ve been out for several months now. I will just be in wisconsin as there is a number of calls to clean up.. I am waiting to here from Uncle Jack as to clearing up the estate so he and I can take off and inspect operation in Puerto Rico. this should be a simple estate to settle, providing everyone returns the proper information right away. I hope you will receive money by spring but I should warn you not to plan on it as it took mother & I over a year to get our 1/25 from Huxtable estate.
Take care- keep busy - and June will be here before you know it !!

Love, Dad


Feb. 10, 1970

Several things to mention here with this short letter. The stereo headphones were Koss Pro V. They were the ultimate in their day. I still have them and they did not work until Dan Cernia, Katie’s boyfriend was willing to fix them. He spent several hours but got them working for which I am most grateful. The record is Beethoven’s Eroica. Symphony no. 3. (I have the actual record playing as I type.) It is also one of my favorites. Listening to his whole collection (less than 20 records) through his new headphones is something I would do. My Dad had gone out and purchased a Telefunken stereo. This unit was made in Germany. Japanese products at this time were cheap and poor quality. German was top of the line. It was one of those cabinet stereos you see at garage sales. Dad’s actually had speakers separated from the main console that one could put in corners. I loved sitting in front of it, turning up the volume, (when the folks were not home) and listen to classical music.The pictures he speaks of were engagement pictures he took of Diane and I in our living room. Pictures of an engaged couple was not done in that day; bride to be only.

Dear Gary,
Just a short note tonight as I am “beat”. The record came today and I just finished listening to it with my headphones. I’ve gotten about half way thru our records. Its like hearing them all again for the first time. I hear so many different instruments and sounds. Your mother can’t stand them but I’ll bet you and Jeff will really enjoy the “stereophones”.
Am enclosing a couple of dollars for the postage & trouble. The box was pretty beat up but the record was okay.
I didn’t get much sleep last nite & the V.I.P. ‘s from H. P. Hood, Boston visited us all day today. I am going to take a hot shower when I finish this and hit the rack.
I received roll of film that had pictures of you & Diane. Just looking at them with out enlarging, they looked very good. I ordered prints today & they should be ready in two weeks according to Byng. As soon as they are ready, I’ll either give them to Diane or you to decide from.
I always look forward to hearing from you.

Love, Dad

Thanks again for returning the record. I’ll will it to you if it isn’t worn out??

Feb. 24, 1970

This whole letter has to do with a stupid thing I had done. Watertown was the nearest place where one could go to hear bands and dance. I had gone in one night and met a gal, danced and had kissed her. That was wrong but then I went and told my fiance’ what I had done and she got quite upset. Understandable. I wrote my Dad about the situation and the letter below is his response. He gets quite transparent about his own relationship with his wife (Mom). His advise is quite interesting. He mentions that my big mistake was telling Diane what I had done instead of what I had done in the first place. There are some cute statements too. Please don’t be too critical of his advise, it was a different era than now.
Dear Son,
If anything else, I learned at an early age that there could just possibly be something I did or said that would be better not explained to others. Its fine to be truthful but then you really didn’t have to say anything in the first place about the gal you met. You met her- you did what comes naturally - to you so why not leave it at that? I understand everything Gary, except your telling Diane!! This was a very foolish mistake and if you think about it long enough, I think you will agree. I you don’t agree , then you are in for alot of trouble in your married life. You said you letter was to be just between the two us!
You are mad or were mad at Diane’s reception to your unfaithfulness - the latter being her language. I can only say I can’t blame her for it actually was a mean thing to do by telling her! Being a male, I of course am very much against the female trying to control the life of the male. If the man doesn’t want to be hen-pecked all his life, he must let it be known at the first that he is the leader. I did not play t his part enough and it has left me with many regrets and unhappiness. Your mother & I had the strongest argument we ever had just a couple weeks ago. The reason? - It narrows down to my not wanting to bend to her demands and being tired of always being told I am wrong. The only reason I am telling you this is because I don’t believe it would have happened if I had been “stronger willed” during the early part of our marriage.
Getting back to you. As I see it, you should admit to Diane you did wrong, it won’t happen again - and you are sorry - however - you should let it be known that you are an individual and with an individual mind and therefore should be allowed to think and act as you saw fit. The only catch here Gary, is you should have known your girl wouldn’t be please to hear about another girl you were with and you were a damm fool to expose yourself to the potential female wrath!! I hope you at least learned a lesson from all this. The only thing that bothers me now is the present feeling between you two. June is getting closer and its no time for you two to be having the feelings you have. I can’t tell you what to do next but don’t wait too long to do it.
I wish I could stop and spend some time with you as I would very much to do that and also discuss all this rather than write it.
I am leaving with Jack this Fri. a.m. for Puerto Rico and will be back the middle of next week. Syracuse is way out of the way and would be like making a separate trip there & back. If I can swing it later, I will. I plan on leaving for Florida (with mother, I think) 2nd of april. Perhaps I can work it in before.
Now whatever you - don’t quote me to Diana or your mother or anyone. Your letter wasn’t actually asking me to advise you on anything but I am going to anyway, ---Learn to keep your mouth shot unless what you want to say accomplishes something. I should say - what did you expect Diana to do- jump for joy when you told her you met another girl & danced with her, etc. Again I say “shut up” you big dope!! I am not saying you should or shouldn’t have kissed her - but kiss & tell - never! You are a dumb, dumb dope!! Do you get the message. Don’t give me all the “bull” about a new partnership should be based on honesty 7 truthfulness. The words common sense & diplomacy come on mighty strong too. I remember in the past you confided or to too much to Diana on several occasions. I don’t remember what they were about but at the time I thought you were a dub nut for talking so much. Okay - you still love your Dad for telling you off??
In making peace with your girl, if this is what you want - remember you started the trouble by telling her - so don’t get so mad at her for being disgusted with you. If I was in her shoes, I probably would be too.
What ever you admit to her - let it be over with. Don’t let anything be carried over you head to be dropped or brought up at a later date. I really can’t advise you much more - as you got yourself into this. Let me know how you make out. You probably didn’t want me to tell you off this much.

Love, Dad

p.s. you are not really a dumb dumb dope - just a dope!


March 5, 1970
Uncle Jack, Dad’s older brother, was an investor in a small business that Dad had set up in Puerto Rico. The factory made moveble, insulated bulkheads (dividers) that could be put in to the refrigerated truck bodies that he sold on behalf of Johnson's. He and Mom modeled a very well what a loving relationship should look like. In Mom’s behalf, she really did have to run the family early on because Dad was on the road during the week, almost every week.

Dear Gary,
Like you, I prefer to write while thoughts are fresh. I just got back from Puerto Rico today and am all relaxed, etc. Its great to go but greater to get home.
In regards to my last letter to you; I certainly didn’t want to give you any bad advise - nor say anything against your beliefs! I agree that a one sided truthfulness, as you put it, is no good. I disagree on your interpretation of diplomacy. I used it only in your case to say the right thing at the right time. If you know a remark would hurt someone, would you still intentionally say it? If - than we do have a generation gap.
I believe I understand you perfectly well from your letters and I agree that you will be the boss in the family and I am very glad and happy for this. Don’t let anything change this!
Thanks you very much for the birthday card - I smiled! then grinned - then laughed! I played black jack in a casino on my birthday nite and won ten bucks! Jack took me out to a nice supper first and we toured the “strip” on Condado Beach area. Everything from filthy hippies to $1000 and up formal gowns. We ate at Japanese restaurant where they cooked our meal right in front of us & served us a very oriental meal. Very good! Also had two very Spanish meals with all the spices, etc. It finally caught up with me one nite. We swam in the ocean, sun bathed, toured historical areas & even managed to squeeze some business into the time. Its now snowing in Rice Lake on my first nite back! It ain’t fair.
Don’t get me wrong, Gary. Keep stressing communication. I am not a very good one to pass on this advise anyway as I sure did not bo a very good job.
Incidentally, when you write me at the office, mark PERSONAL on the front of envelope.
Gotta unpack now & a million other things. Yes, you got your talking too much from me!

Love, Dad


March 29, 1970 Easter Weekend

This must have been written right before he and Mom went to florida and came up to Cape Vincent. He gives some practical advise in life insurance and taxes. He took a policy out on me when I was 16. It has tripled in value. When we started having children, I continued to go to the same agent and company (NML) as Dad and added more policies and now they have grown to to about 30% of our worth. He set a great precident for me.

Dear Dum, Dum,
Just tried to phone you- no answer - will try later I am sure. He we(?) get by on less than half an hour ! :-)
Now, looking at your last letter. You are claiming yoursself for your own income, thus you get refund back as you did ot make enuf to satisfy Uncle Sam. I claimned you as providing 50% of your support in 1969.. & therefore getting an additional deduction from my income. okay?? From now on you will fill your own tax as head of your own family on a joint return if Diana works. You won’t get off so easy from now on. How does the Coast Guard pay you? Cash, check or what? If no with holding has been made you should budget yourself for sufficient amount to pay ttaxes due come next april. At your icome you will owe the Federal govt. approx. 20% of what you earn.
When do know if you made Seaman? Does this come out in Special orders as it used in the Air Force?
I havely looked for you insurance policy yet but this isn’t that serious as we can get another issued. The worth of $855 is what policy will be worth in July from payments I have made plus interest or dividends. Are you sure you have $10,000 G.I. insurance and its only costing you $2.00 a month? I suggest you check this out again as it doesn’t sound like enuff for $10,000.
Jeff and I have had some real hot ping - pong games since he came home. Will have some more when I finish this letter. He has improved alot, especially his defense. He returns shots I already mentally made the point.
Am almost packed for the trip and am really anxious to hit the warm weather again. I hate this 15-30 degrree weather we are having now.
It still looks like the 19th or 20th that we will make Cape Vincent. Is your schedule the same for Sunday as Monday? What do we do first when we get to Cape Vincent?

Happy Easter, son,
Love, Ding - a - ling Dad






April 29, 1970


This letter was written after they returned from their visit to the Cape on their way home from Florida.Highdale was the old original golf course in rice Lake that our family played on. It also shows his integrity with doing his best in his job. The 6th paragraph really hit me because, for almost 40 years I have been thinking that he NEVER told me those things, but there is was, in front of me, in this letter, expressing his heart to a son who he loved and was proud of. Our apartment in Cape Vincent was on the 3rd floor, with outside steps leading up to a large porch. He also has shown his appreciation for things that I had done for them, always thanking and not taking those things for granted. My Mother was the same way. The end of the letter about his conversation with Dinah is cute too. I loved the:” I enjoyed our visit and then guess who took over!”

Dear Son,
It sure was good to see you, visit with you and actually see where you will be living the next few months or years. I really enjoyed every minute we spent there (except climbing your stairs) and I would really have liked to have stayed several days longer.
Mother & I enjoyed trip back thru Canada altho it was further than I had thought. She probably wrote you it was close to 1,100 miles which is what you first told me what you had figured.
We really brought the warm weather with us all the way. It’s been in the 80’s the past four days now and of course we both love it. I shot a 43 at Highdale Sunday and in as much as greens were like pavement not bad!
Work is another story. All I can say is the way things are, its a hell-of-thing to come back to from a vacation. No matter how well you feel you have been doing your job, they are those times where you recognize you could have been doing it better being more concerned with its progress, etc. So far, I have been lucky and have recognized this in times. I would hate to have some one tell me that I am “slipping” and not “doing my share” or carrying my load as it is commonly thoiught of.
All businesses are suffering today but it is the smaller ones such as Johnsons that are struggling to keep alive. Its a challenge & I only hope I can meet it.
Gar, I hate to think of you located so far away where we can’t see you more often. I feel & I hope you feel the same, that you have reached an age where we can now appreciate each other as two adult males who happen to be father and son. I might also add a father who is quite proud of his son.
I thank you son, for the concern you showed for your mother & I while in the Cape. Also for your hospitality.
Had a nice visit with Diana over the phone the other nite. Kidded her a little about getting her legs in condition for the stairs but otherwise built up eveything which she could soon experience for herself. Hope she didn’t feel I was giving her a bad time. I enjoyed our visit --- and than guess who took over?

Nite Dum Dum,
Dad




May 11, 1970

This note is not about much but I like to think that he just wanted to touch base with his son. I have not mentioned it before but I have tried to copy his writings exactly like he wrote. He refers to Diane or Dinah as Diana and I’m not sure why. Maybe he did not know how to spell Dinah. The article he sent is called “The Joys of Fatherhood cost $17.43 a minute”. It is a little long to include here but not a long read if you want me to send it to you. It is quite humorous, sarcastic written in March of 1970 which you need to take into account when reading.

Dear Gary,
Mother has probably told you “ole ding - ling” has been home sick for( too long) with a crazy virus?? I hope to return to work tomorrow as my fever should leave today??- Thinking positive!
I was in Milwaukee last week and interviewed young fellows 26-31 in age and found most of them quite refreshing. all had B.S. degrees. All had been exposed to some type of selling and felt this is what they now wanted to do. I will be hiring two direct sales men to work direct for us. One to handle Minnesota and one Wisconsin. I am also hiring two men formerly form Bostonia Body Co. to handle Iowa and Ill. for me. I think our volume should be coming up shortly but regardless, I’ve got my work cut out for me for this summer as rest of 1970
I should save the enclosed article for “later” to send you - but you will still get a few laughs out of it. I think P. ( positive ? ) So, am enclosing it now. I am being distracted by television & too lazy to get up & turn it off. Mother is up town taking Rita to Doctors as she has had an ear ache.
Your card for Mother was very nice Gary and she was very touched and appreciative for your comment.
Weather here has been in the 40’s and 50’s over weekend and some today with cloudy skys. We are approaching count down for you & Diana so hope all the bad weather gets it out of it system tomorrow. Mother no doubt wrote that she took Diana & Jeff out to supper last nite. With all your gal has on her mind & things to do she will need a good rest and some one to see she takes time to eat 3 squares a day.
Can’t think of anything else Gary. Take care of yourself See ya, Dad



DAD’S LETTERS

11-14-1969
This letter was written about 1 month after I arrived in Cape Vincent to start my assignment at Tibbetts Point light house. I appreciated the note of encouragement at end of the letter. They gave me a self winding watch for college graduation. The “enclosed” was an article about a Swedish model how Americans were less sophisticated about sex than Swedish 6 year olds”.


Dear Gary,
Well, I am back from the deep south and looking out of the office window now at a snow storm. You know me and snow storms so nuff said! Dr. Maser gave me the ole pitch last Wed. eve, (Tom Cats) about your mother and I taking up skiing. If it could be +70 degrees out and I could still ski, I am sure I would try the sport tomorrow! Have you found out yet just how far or how close the nearest ski hill is? You shouldn’t be too far from real good ski resorts.
I asked Paul for Bruce’s address and it is as follows: Lt. Bruce LA. Larson, CMR Box 4566, Webb AFB, Texas 79720
I don’t remember if I mentioned I got in several rounds of golf while in the south. From the way I played it was obvious I hadn’t played for awhile. It was different tho and fun. The grass in the fairways is alot different from ours. its course and ground is sandier.
Your graduation hasn't’ been forgotten, Gary. In fact I am getting caught up a little on my debts. I have a suggestion for what its worth altho you may feel it’s too practical. In as much as your income is rather limited now and you could use a few things, would you consider $100 cash as a graduation gift? If you would prefer a surprise or we pick out a real good watch or something, we can still do this. Let me know
I thought the last few hours of today would be rather dead but have been interrupted by phone at least a dozen times. Several were orders so that’s what counts. We have had to take another price increase which may make it pretty tough to maintain our sales volume. We have given labor at least a dozen increases in the last year with numerous fringe benefits- however nothing for management! The original purpose of unions was fine- to protect labor from unfair management but now they have gained too much power and make business management today very difficult to show a profit. Not only small companies like this but like General electric. You can read all about this in today's paper.
I received the enclosed in the mail today. probably from Charlie or juanita. Its now 5 min before 5 pm so I had better open a drawer and clean off my desk.
Keep up the good spirit you show. I am sure you will meet many interesting people and make a number of friends of the 776 (population) at Cape Vincent

Love, Dad

The enclosed is to have a couple of beers on me.



11-29-1969

Dad must have been talking about Thanksgiving meal and football. I must have asked about the coloring of the truck bodies because he goes into great detail. He obviously loved to talk about it. He was V.P. in charge of sales so that is why discussion of price and advertising. He served in the Army in W.W.II so we had military in common. I think he was proud of me for that.


Dear Gary,
Mother and I have been watching the army-Navy game. She took Navy and I took army. In case you didn’t watch , army shut out Navy by 27. the Vikings are going great guns and you’ll probably watch them play (TV) either colts or Rams. Good old football. Here I am nice and toasty watching football and Jeff is out in the woods getting cold and lost in the woods somewhere.
Missed you Thursday and everyone thought of you I know. Mother did her things, excellent as always. We didn’t work at the office Friday so it ss been a long weekend for me. I am driving to Chicago Monday to review advertising budget and new advertising ideas with agency. We are going to offer a free vacation in Hawaii for 2 and $500 cash spending money. all you have to do is find a better plastic body then “Johnson's”! How about that? I had to take another 8% price increase on price of bodies so I’ll need all the good promotional ideas I can get. Incidentally, we have a number of bodies in you area. Buffalo-Sarotoga Springs, Utica, Watertown, Syracuse, Rochester, Albany etc. Keep looking and describe bodies you see that are Johnson's. The permanent color is a Gel-coat finish. In other words, the color pigment is in a plastic resin with a thinner viscosity so it can be sprayed easily. It is then sprayed over the mold and allowed to “set up”. The polyester resin is then applied and then the glass fivers until panel is built up to desired thickness and desired strength. Clear??
I hope you have had a no trouble with your car and that you still feel it a good car. I suppose you will be moving next week. That’s a shame!
You know now that your basic training is over with you very little exposure to constant military life. I would rather doubt that life at the lighthouse was very formal or military. when are expected to wear your dress uniform? What uniform do you wear at work, the fatigues? or whatever the Coast Guard calls them.
I put the outside Xmas tree lights up today. Seems easily but I am glad it ‘s done before snow gets too deep. Rita said Hardscrabble opens tomorrow ----------------Jeff and Charlie just came in - no deer -- just hungry and tired!!

Take it easy son. We miss you.

Dad PS Guess who stopped in to say Hi- Bet the envelope really shook you up!!

address on envelope was in Dinah’s penmanship



Dec. 12th, 1969

Brochure sent to me, no note. title was: Cold Spots. A newsletter on the latest developments of the Johnson Truck Body.

Jan 13, 1970
This letter was typed and I still have the typewriter that it was typed on. I had gotten snowed in Chicago and Uncle Jack came and got me and I stayed over night. He challenged me on my future. I remember that time as a benchmark in my life but I must have wrote Dad and complained about it. I also must have been doubting myself and solicited info on my past. Looking back at what he wrote, it was wonderful. Being brought up in the depression; hard work was the answer for everything for those folks. I never remembered that he actually tried skiing

I received your letter and thought I would have a chance to answer last weekend. We were invited over to Stohls to watch the Super Bowl and stay for supper I had a board meeting last night. How about that Super Bowl? at first I wanted to see the Vikes win and keep the title in the NFL and Central division but now I’m glad K.C. won. We can at least say the Packers were only NFL team to ever win the Super Bowl and 2 years in a row at that!
I was sorry to hear that Jack got you all “shook up”! I am sure this was not his intention but only to try to pass on some valuable advise that he had learned the hard way. I have told you before that I never did find myself when in the 20’s. I went from selling and school to the service, to clerical work, to resort business and back to selling. Fortunately, I ended up doing something I really enjoy but actually never having a goal other than trying to exist and be happy. l Not that I should be an example but don’t worry about the future or the past. Everyone would be better off if they worried more about the present and then let the future happen or take care of itself. If you manage to provide for yourself and Diane and both are happy, what else is there? If you both want to better your living standards, than all you have to do is work harder and it will come.
I agree with you that success is only what it means to the one working toward his or her goal. So- your goal is to be married and be happy! Nothing wrong with that. Be concerned with the goal but stop worrying about it.
Now that I said that---why are you worrying about your past and what kind of kid you were? That’s what you are doing, you know. What do you care what kind of kid you were? It’s what you want yourself to be as a man!! Perhaps, I sound too much like a preacher but your letter sure left me with a feeling that you are over concerned with yourself. I think you were & are self conscious of Gary. I am afraid you got this from me as this has always been one of my hang ups. Just be yourself as you are friendly, honest, and have a personality to easily make friends. Just continue to like people, want friends and the rest will happen.
Your only hang-up when you were young was a stubbornness to reject or to accept any instructions from without an argument. This was my fault somewhere along the line. Remember when I used to kid you and tell you that you'd be a lawyer? - Did you mentally resist Uncle Jack’s conversation or did you weigh and accept it for what it was meant for? Do you keep telling yourself that so & so doesn’t understand you and your outlook on life is different? Everybody's outlook is different and everybody's advise or opinion can be of some value to someone else. Am I getting thru?
Page 2 (My God, a novel ! )
My own observation, Gary is ---- you have no problems--- that you can’t easily handle! I don’t think Uncle Jack meant you should shoot for a goal or career as a Doctor, lawyer, etc. now but just to ask yourself what you want to of life now, to be happy and to work toward that goal. (This isn't’ hard to do) Than ask yourself with you mate what will make us both happy 5 years, 10 years, etc... form now and work toward it! This should also be easy!
The only thing to beware of is to expect things to happen with out your effort to achieve happening. Not you, but too many young people expect life to hand them whatever they want with little or no effort on their part. What a letdown they are in for when they get older.
Okay, end of sermon for 1970!! Jeff got me on skis weekend before last and it felt quite good. Course I knew I was a born natural from the start!! that's the reason my two boys are so good Mother, Rita & I & Jeff if he comes home may go up to Spooner next weekend & try skiing. Mother says its about half the cost of Hardscrabble. I now have a snow blower so have tow reasons to think snow. Motor runs fine, all I need is some fresh snow to throw around.
Gave any more problems? Just write Reverend Osborn for sermon #2 ---- or just write to- Dad

Jan 20, 1970

I still have that Deutche Grammaphone record. One of my favorite of Beethoven’s symphonies. the 1965 Star Chief was a Pontiac and had a passing gear that kicked out at a 105 mph. It was an incredible car. The Oz-mobile was a car I bought out in Cape vincent for $700. A 1962 Chev Impala that really did us well. I put two seat belts in it but when we were first married, we both fit in mine alone. :-) Dad did buy a bigger snow blower and my mother gave it or sold it to me when we moved to Amery. I thought his comments on true friends was insightful and what he said about mother was so true too. He sounds almost protective of my self esteem when answering my question about why I did not have more friends or get invited to parties. I did not remember that about him and has made him more endearing to me now.


Dear Son,
Don’t always expect such a prompt replies from me but am just about caught up with today's work and your letter received this morning is still fresh in my my mind.
Before I forget, have you got my German record Erotica or something like that? I recall when it was brought out at Xmas time that I remembered I didn’t care fore it as it was “too heavy”. Perhaps you heard that. However, when I listened to it completely this Xmas, I was very fond of it. I was looking for it last weekend to listen to and couldn’t find it. If I was under the influence of too much alcohol or xmas spirit, I take it all back as I still want this record. If you pack this up good with lots of cardboard, layer then the record, I’ll be glad to send you postage.
We did not go skiing last Sunday as it was 20 some below 0 and that too cold for me. It has been below for about a week now dipping down to -46 out by Campia. We drove up to Coudaray Sunday to look at a cottage next to Dr. Elbert. It wasn’t too bad but I am not too keen on it as I would want more privacy.
As to further comments on you last letter, I have very few. I really know why you wanted to be told more about young Gary but you actually can remember you as as Mother & I. as to why you didn’t receive more invitations from friends, I have wondered this myself and blamed it on the thoughtlessness on their part.
I’ve always felt that good - true friends are very hard to find or come by - and not everyone has them. This type of friend thinks enough of your friendship to be completely loyal and always thoughtful. Like I say, they are hard to find. l Mother is a good example of type of person it takes. Anybody that she calls a friend would get 100% of her effort to always prove her friendship. --I think you had more girl friends than boy friends when in school so something can be said for that.
My snow blower is only a 3.5 h.p. and I believe too small for our driveway. I may trade it in on a 7 h.p. 2 stage blower. I am going to have to fork over considerable to Uncle Sam shortly so will (have) to wait and see.
Am glad to hear “Oz-mobile” is working out okay for you. If you can find an old canvas blanket or anything to break the wind it will really help. The Star Chief even tho in garage would not start tow days now.
Nothing new son, I suppose time will be dragging for you for a few months now. Always glad to receive your letters.
Love, Dad

Jan 24, 1970



New issue of Cold Spots.

Feb. 4, 1970 Happy Valentines Day

Our family had very little contact with my Father’s family. I have no personal memories of his parents. I know his father came up to the resort once but only because I have seen pictures. Unlike the memories I have with my mother’s parents, which are many. I don’t remember how much money I inherited either. The Huxtables were a couple from California that would drive up to the resort every year with their two Collie dogs. (Imagine that trip in the 50’s) They talked my parents into getting a Collie and “Bing” was a dog that Jeff and I grew up with. He was a great dog and Jeff will tell you one of the most difficult things he ever had to do was to take Bing, who he had known all his life, to the vet to be put to sleep. My parents went to Puerto Rico at least once on a pleasure/business trip. Again, I have pictures of their trip.

Dear Son,
A Happy Valentines Day to you and a thank you for your very nice card. Its a very cold Fri. 14th, 20 below this morning and about minus 13 now (noon). Mother and I are invited over to the Larsons & Secores for cocktails and supper. Oh yes, we received a very nice Valentines Card from Diana too!
You asked about my aunt Emma Lou that left you children some money. Its hard to describe her to you as I don’t think you ever did meet her. She was the youngest girl in my mother’s family and my mother was next to the oldest girl. There were four girls and one boy The boy who carried the family name was Dr. Russell Goebel who was Erna’s husband before he passed away. Emmy Lou was a very sweet person and always one of my favorite Aunts. She was married to a very wealthy man that died some fifteen, twenty years ago. They lived in Providence Rhode Island and he owned several clothing mills. I remember when I was in high school Uncle Huber Milo was part owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs (hockey team). In 1941a very close friend of mine from high school and myself drove to the east Coast for a three week vacation. When we stopped in Providence my buddy came down with a really high fever and was real sick from food poisoning or something. Emmy Lou took real good care of him for several days and my Uncle gave me a first class tour of the town, his mills etc. They never did have any children of their own so they of course did every thing they could for the brother and sister’s children. - Now, aren’t you sorry you asked more about this Aunt? She had originally had her will made out to her nieces and nephews but Uncle Jack talked her into changing it to the children of the nieces and nephews as it would mean so much more to them. I agree with Jack as I am sure does my sister and cousins.
I’ll have to admit, I still haven't got out on skis. the week ends have either been too cold or too warm. I might make ti yet before the season ends.
I am going to be on “the road” next week. I don’t think I’ve been out for several months now. I will just be in wisconsin as there is a number of calls to clean up. I am waiting to here from Uncle Jack as to clearing up the estate so he and I can take off and inspect operation in Puerto Rico. this should be a simple estate to settle, providing everyone returns the proper information right away. I hope you will receive money by spring but I should warn you not to plan on it as it took mother & I over a year to get our 1/25 from Huxtable estate.
Take care- keep busy - and June will be here before you know it !!

Love, Dad


Feb. 10, 1970

Several things to mention here with this short letter. The stereo headphones were Koss Pro V. They were the ultimate in their day. I still have them and they did not work until Dan Cernia, Katie’s boyfriend was willing to fix them. He spent several hours but got them working for which I am most grateful. The record is Beethoven’s Eroica. Symphony no. 3. (I have the actual record playing as I type.) It is also one of my favorites. Listening to his whole collection (less than 20 records) through his new headphones is something I would do. My Dad had gone out and purchased a Telefunken stereo. This unit was made in Germany. Japanese products at this time were cheap and poor quality. German was top of the line. It was one of those cabinet stereos you see at garage sales. Dad’s actually had speakers separated from the main console that one could put in corners. I loved sitting in front of it, turning up the volume, (when the folks were not home) and listen to classical music.The pictures he speaks of were engagement pictures he took of Diane and I in our living room. Pictures of an engaged couple was not done in that day; bride to be only.

Dear Gary,
Just a short note tonight as I am “beat”. The record came today and I just finished listening to it with my headphones. I’ve gotten about half way thru our records. Its like hearing them all again for the first time. I hear so many different instruments and sounds. Your mother can’t stand them but I’ll bet you and Jeff will really enjoy the “stereophones”.
Am enclosing a couple of dollars for the postage & trouble. The box was pretty beat up but the record was okay.
I didn’t get much sleep last nite & the V.I.P. ‘s from H. P. Hood, Boston visited us all day today. I am going to take a hot shower when I finish this and hit the rack.
I received roll of film that had pictures of you & Diane. Just looking at them with out enlarging, they looked very good. I ordered prints today & they should be ready in two weeks according to Byng. As soon as they are ready, I’ll either give them to Diane or you to decide from.
I always look forward to hearing from you.

Love, Dad

Thanks again for returning the record. I’ll will it to you if it isn’t worn out??

Feb. 24, 1970

This whole letter has to do with a stupid thing I had done. Watertown was the nearest place where one could go to hear bands and dance. I had gone in one night and met a gal, danced and had kissed her. That was wrong but then I went and told my fiancĂ©’ what I had done and she got quite upset. Understandable. I wrote my Dad about the situation and the letter below is his response. He gets quite transparent about his own relationship with his wife (Mom). His advise is quite interesting. He mentions that my big mistake was telling Diane what I had done instead of what I had done in the first place. There are some cute statements too. Please don’t be too critical of his advise, it was a different era than now.
Dear Son,
If anything else, I learned at an early age that there could just possibly be something I did or said that would be better not explained to others. Its fine to be truthful but then you really didn’t have to say anything in the first place about the gal you met. You met her- you did what comes naturally - to you so why not leave it at that? I understand everything Gary, except your telling Diane!! This was a very foolish mistake and if you think about it long enough, I think you will agree. I you don’t agree , then you are in for alot of trouble in your married life. You said you letter was to be just between the two us!
You are mad or were mad at Diane’s reception to your unfaithfulness - the latter being her language. I can only say I can’t blame her for it actually was a mean thing to do by telling her! Being a male, I of course am very much against the female trying to control the life of the male. If the man doesn’t want to be hen-pecked all his life, he must let it be known at the first that he is the leader. I did not play t his part enough and it has left me with many regrets and unhappiness. Your mother & I had the strongest argument we ever had just a couple weeks ago. The reason? - It narrows down to my not wanting to bend to her demands and being tired of always being told I am wrong. The only reason I am telling you this is because I don’t believe it would have happened if I had been “stronger willed” during the early part of our marriage.
Getting back to you. As I see it, you should admit to Diane you did wrong, it won’t happen again - and you are sorry - however - you should let it be known that you are an individual and with an individual mind and therefore should be allowed to think and act as you saw fit. The only catch here Gary, is you should have known your girl wouldn’t be please to hear about another girl you were with and you were a damm fool to expose yourself to the potential female wrath!! I hope you at least learned a lesson from all this. The only thing that bothers me now is the present feeling between you two. June is getting closer and its no time for you two to be having the feelings you have. I can’t tell you what to do next but don’t wait too long to do it.
I wish I could stop and spend some time with you as I would very much to do that and also discuss all this rather than write it.
I am leaving with Jack this Fri. a.m. for Puerto Rico and will be back the middle of next week. Syracuse is way out of the way and would be like making a separate trip there & back. If I can swing it later, I will. I plan on leaving for Florida (with mother, I think) 2nd of april. Perhaps I can work it in before.
Now whatever you - don’t quote me to Diana or your mother or anyone. Your letter wasn’t actually asking me to advise you on anything but I am going to anyway, ---Learn to keep your mouth shot unless what you want to say accomplishes something. I should say - what did you expect Diana to do- jump for joy when you told her you met another girl & danced with her, etc. Again I say “shut up” you big dope!! I am not saying you should or shouldn’t have kissed her - but kiss & tell - never! You are a dumb, dumb dope!! Do you get the message. Don’t give me all the “bull” about a new partnership should be based on honesty 7 truthfulness. The words common sense & diplomacy come on mighty strong too. I remember in the past you confided or to too much to Diana on several occasions. I don’t remember what they were about but at the time I thought you were a dub nut for talking so much. Okay - you still love your Dad for telling you off??
In making peace with your girl, if this is what you want - remember you started the trouble by telling her - so don’t get so mad at her for being disgusted with you. If I was in her shoes, I probably would be too.
What ever you admit to her - let it be over with. Don’t let anything be carried over you head to be dropped or brought up at a later date. I really can’t advise you much more - as you got yourself into this. Let me know how you make out. You probably didn’t want me to tell you off this much.

Love, Dad

p.s. you are not really a dumb dumb dope - just a dope!


March 5, 1970
Uncle Jack, Dad’s older brother, was an investor in a small business that Dad had set up in Puerto Rico. The factory made moveable, insulated bulkheads (dividers) that could be put in to the refrigerated truck bodies that he sold on behalf of Johnson's. He and Mom modeled a very well what a loving relationship should look like. In Mom’s behalf, she really did have to run the family early on because Dad was on the road during the week, almost every week.

Dear Gary,
Like you, I prefer to write while thoughts are fresh. I just got back from Puerto Rico today and am all relaxed, etc. Its great to go but greater to get home.
In regards to my last letter to you; I certainly didn’t want to give you any bad advise - nor say anything against your beliefs! I agree that a one sided truthfulness, as you put it, is no good. I disagree on your interpretation of diplomacy. I used it only in your case to say the right thing at the right time. If you know a remark would hurt someone, would you still intentionally say it? If - than we do have a generation gap.
I believe I understand you perfectly well from your letters and I agree that you will be the boss in the family and I am very glad and happy for this. Don’t let anything change this!
Thanks you very much for the birthday card - I smiled! then grinned - then laughed! I played black jack in a casino on my birthday nite and won ten bucks! Jack took me out to a nice supper first and we toured the “strip” on Condado Beach area. Everything from filthy hippies to $1000 and up formal gowns. We ate at Japanese restaurant where they cooked our meal right in front of us & served us a very oriental meal. Very good! Also had two very Spanish meals with all the spices, etc. It finally caught up with me one nite. We swam in the ocean, sun bathed, toured historical areas & even managed to squeeze some business into the time. Its now snowing in Rice Lake on my first nite back! It ain’t fair.
Don’t get me wrong, Gary. Keep stressing communication. I am not a very good one to pass on this advise anyway as I sure did not bo a very good job.
Incidentally, when you write me at the office, mark PERSONAL on the front of envelope.
Gotta unpack now & a million other things. Yes, you got your talking too much from me!

Love, Dad


March 29, 1970 Easter Weekend

This must have been written right before he and Mom went to florida and came up to Cape Vincent. He gives some practical advise in life insurance and taxes. He took a policy out on me when I was 16. It has tripled in value. When we started having children, I continued to go to the same agent and company (NML) as Dad and added more policies and now they have grown to to about 30% of our worth. He set a great precedent for me.

Dear Dum, Dum,
Just tried to phone you- no answer - will try later I am sure. He we(?) get by on less than half an hour ! :-)
Now, looking at your last letter. You are claiming yourself for your own income, thus you get refund back as you did ot make enuf to satisfy Uncle Sam. I claimed you as providing 50% of your support in 1969.. & therefore getting an additional deduction from my income. okay?? From now on you will fill your own tax as head of your own family on a joint return if Diana works. You won’t get off so easy from now on. How does the Coast Guard pay you? Cash, check or what? If no with holding has been made you should budget yourself for sufficient amount to pay taxes due come next april. At your income you will owe the Federal govt. approx. 20% of what you earn.
When do know if you made Seaman? Does this come out in Special orders as it used in the Air Force?
I have looked for you insurance policy yet but this isn’t that serious as we can get another issued. The worth of $855 is what policy will be worth in July from payments I have made plus interest or dividends. Are you sure you have $10,000 G.I. insurance and its only costing you $2.00 a month? I suggest you check this out again as it doesn’t sound like enuff for $10,000.
Jeff and I have had some real hot ping - pong games since he came home. Will have some more when I finish this letter. He has improved alot, especially his defense. He returns shots I already mentally made the point.
Am almost packed for the trip and am really anxious to hit the warm weather again. I hate this 15-30 degrees weather we are having now.
It still looks like the 19th or 20th that we will make Cape Vincent. Is your schedule the same for Sunday as Monday? What do we do first when we get to Cape Vincent?

Happy Easter, son,
Love, Ding - a - ling Dad



April 29, 1970


This letter was written after they returned from their visit to the Cape on their way home from Florida. Highdale was the old original golf course in rice Lake that our family played on. It also shows his integrity with doing his best in his job. The 6th paragraph really hit me because, for almost 40 years I have been thinking that he NEVER told me those things, but there is was, in front of me, in this letter, expressing his heart to a son who he loved and was proud of. Our apartment in Cape Vincent was on the 3rd floor, with outside steps leading up to a large porch. He also has shown his appreciation for things that I had done for them, always thanking and not taking those things for granted. My Mother was the same way. The end of the letter about his conversation with Dinah is cute too. I loved the:” I enjoyed our visit and then guess who took over!”

Dear Son,
It sure was good to see you, visit with you and actually see where you will be living the next few months or years. I really enjoyed every minute we spent there (except climbing your stairs) and I would really have liked to have stayed several days longer.
Mother & I enjoyed trip back thru Canada altho it was further than I had thought. She probably wrote you it was close to 1,100 miles which is what you first told me what you had figured.
We really brought the warm weather with us all the way. It’s been in the 80’s the past four days now and of course we both love it. I shot a 43 at High dale Sunday and in as much as greens were like pavement not bad!
Work is another story. All I can say is the way things are, its a hell-of-thing to come back to from a vacation. No matter how well you feel you have been doing your job, they are those times where you recognize you could have been doing it better being more concerned with its progress, etc. So far, I have been lucky and have recognized this in times. I would hate to have some one tell me that I am “slipping” and not “doing my share” or carrying my load as it is commonly thought of.
All businesses are suffering today but it is the smaller ones such as Johnson's that are struggling to keep alive. Its a challenge & I only hope I can meet it.
Gar, I hate to think of you located so far away where we can’t see you more often. I feel & I hope you feel the same, that you have reached an age where we can now appreciate each other as two adult males who happen to be father and son. I might also add a father who is quite proud of his son.
I thank you son, for the concern you showed for your mother & I while in the Cape. Also for your hospitality.
Had a nice visit with Diana over the phone the other nite. Kidded her a little about getting her legs in condition for the stairs but otherwise built up everything which she could soon experience for herself. Hope she didn’t feel I was giving her a bad time. I enjoyed our visit --- and than guess who took over?

Nite Dum Dum,
Dad



May 11, 1970

This note is not about much but I like to think that he just wanted to touch base with his son. I have not mentioned it before but I have tried to copy his writings exactly like he wrote. He refers to Diane or Dinah as Diana and I’m not sure why. Maybe he did not know how to spell Dinah. The article he sent is called “The Joys of Fatherhood cost $17.43 a minute”. It is a little long to include here but not a long read if you want me to send it to you. It is quite humorous, sarcastic written in March of 1970 which you need to take into account when reading.

Dear Gary,
Mother has probably told you “ole ding - ling” has been home sick for( too long) with a crazy virus?? I hope to return to work tomorrow as my fever should leave today??- Thinking positive!
I was in Milwaukee last week and interviewed young fellows 26-31 in age and found most of them quite refreshing. all had B.S. degrees. All had been exposed to some type of selling and felt this is what they now wanted to do. I will be hiring two direct sales men to work direct for us. One to handle Minnesota and one Wisconsin. I am also hiring two men formerly form Bostonia Body Co. to handle Iowa and Ill. for me. I think our volume should be coming up shortly but regardless, I’ve got my work cut out for me for this summer as rest of 1970
I should save the enclosed article for “later” to send you - but you will still get a few laughs out of it. I think P. ( positive ? ) So, am enclosing it now. I am being distracted by television & too lazy to get up & turn it off. Mother is up town taking Rita to Doctors as she has had an ear ache.
Your card for Mother was very nice Gary and she was very touched and appreciative for your comment.
Weather here has been in the 40’s and 50’s over weekend and some today with cloudy skys. We are approaching count down for you & Diana so hope all the bad weather gets it out of it system tomorrow. Mother no doubt wrote that she took Diana & Jeff out to supper last nite. With all your gal has on her mind & things to do she will need a good rest and some one to see she takes time to eat 3 squares a day.
Can’t think of anything else Gary. Take care of yourself See ya, Dad

May 16th, 1970

This is the last letter before I flew home for our wedding. At least, I have not found another so far, My Dad, Charlie Peterson, Paul Larson, (Bruce’s Dad) Ed Ricci, and two major owners, Morris and Henry Johnson were the owners of Johnson Truck Bodies. Dad was VP in charge of sales. I never knew that about Charlie. Charlie and his wife Juanita were two of my folks best friends. We used to vacation and go on picnics all the time, though they were may 10 years younger with two younger children. Elen King was another good friend of my folks. Her husband was Louis and Supt. of Schools. Couldn’t figure out why I could not get a job there. I’m guessing the “B & G present” was Diane’s birthday and graduation present. Jeff did his fair share of partying, but I did too back then. I was a better letter writer than he was. I think he really took advantage of getting out from under our mother’s “rule”. I think Dad got a little mixed up on the honeymoon. Our time limit would prevent us from going up to Montreal. However, Ottawa was just north of us a few hours, across the river so that is what we did.



I wrote you a note the other day and then I got another letter from dum- dum!
Everything is shaping up here pretty good now. - except the weather. Paul Larson went with me to Milwaukee the last two days. I met with new distributor in our lawyers office to get final sales contract agreed upon. This is reason Paul went along. He was feeling pretty bum and didn’t realize till he got home to the doctor that he had an acute bladder infection. I now feel back to normal and after the way I was feeling it makes the whole world seem brighter. I am going to Chicago Monday to meet with Chgo representatives to see if I can work it out with him to have a new sales rerpre come into Illinois & call on accounts. This could become sticky. Charlie has been playing it real cool since I left for Florida. He has been trying to play sales manager and big boss of everything. If I sound resentful, I am - because it has been everything except a team effort to make the business progress. He has been resisting all my decisions since I came back as if I am intruding. I am thankful that Paul & Morris have been behind me.
Okay, nuff of that! Your Mother & sister are going to shower and (at) Elen King’s this aft. They are about to leave & both look very nice. Just took a picture of them. Guess mother is bringing Diana back here after shower so we can give her B & G present.
Your brother has both your mother & I ticked off with him. He just hasn’t been in touch with home at all and it is now obvious he has had no one to tell him he shouldn't or should be doing this or that so has been doing what ever Jeff wants to do. I know there are many things we & you would not approve of. Rita was hoping we could have gotten in touch with him so he would come home for her confirmation but we have been trying since Fir. Aft. Looks as if has skipped some classes and took off somewhere for the weekend. You gave us more respect than this - kept in touch etc. - Little ole Jeff is going to have taken down a couple of notches! I wish he had waited until a Soph. to pledge.
Your honeymoon to Montreal sounds great. I would think a boat trip thru the islands would be on your schedule. Time is flying & it won’t long now. Will you still find time for the letters after you’re married? Hope so-
Take it easy, Gar - & keep yourself healthy!

Love, Dad


Oct. 1 ,1970

I got interested in photography, partly because my folks took pictures and then being at the lighthouse and nothing to do all night, I began reading magazines getting educated and “shopping” for cameras. I knew Dad had equipment, so I wrote him with some questions. The Bolex movie camera is what he used to produce the movies I have of our family that I put on video tape. The camera “mysteriously disappeared” along with my binoculars on our move back home after my enlistment was over. I’m guessing someone helped them selves to these two pieces. What they didn’t take any other of my equipment is also a mystery.
Thermo King was the refrigerate units that would be put on the truck bodies he sold. He would earn points from the company for every unit that he sold and he could trade those points in on nice stuff. The Nikkormat that he speaks of it the model camera I ended up buying and still have.
The hurricane he speaks of was Celia. It killed 20 people and did 2.6 billion $ damage.
The Argus C-3 camera he gave me was a great little camera. When I bought my Nikormat, I sold the Argus to my officer in charge for $20 and then regretted it. I tried to buy it back from him but he would not do it. The Ikoflex was a German camera and in its day, a dandy. I still have it too but have not used it in years.

Dear Gary and Diana,
Hi you two beautiful people! Enjoyed the last two letters from you - but feel I’ve. been “duped”? into answering with all that camera jargon that makes mother look up and say, “Dad, this part is for you to answer”! What the heck do you think I got an instamatic for - and gave you all the good stuff? I am too lazy to absorb all that stuff you’ve been reading and trying to tell us about. You & my father would have had a lot to “chat” about as the carried this bug for many years and if he had had the money would have had the finest of equipment. Did you know I have a Bolex movie camera? This is one of the finest. You are right, my instamatic lens is only an f. 2.8. I have looked high - low - and in between and can’t find the so - &* so filters that I know are around somewhere. I am sending some stuff I did find and there are a couple small booklets that I got from Dad that you can possibly use. Also timer, another light meter and something for the female at your house so she knows I still think of her - and she now has the same initials as mine and it’s a golf score keeper key chain. - & Hi Diana?
If I may make a suggestions Gar, I suggest you wait a few years before getting a good camera. You are not yet at the peak of your picture taking career. There are so many improvements being made today in cameras that when you have a family, more money and personal desire & need for better pictures than you should get a better camera. Actually, you now have two cameras that you know will provide you with very good pictures. -- Now that I said it, I could easily be wrong as I admit, I have never had the same bug like you have!
Enuff, camera chit-chat- I am all over exposed. We’ve had a couple of beautiful days this week. The kind I would like to be out on the golf course - or on the lake - and yet know I must be in the office “cave”! Hope its a nice weekend as I can wind up summer with a little “outdoors” activity.
Remember I said I had hopes of getting out your way shortly. Well, I figured on calling on H.P. Hood Dairy in Boston with my eastern sales rep. & making additional sales calls in upstate New York with him. Anyway, we lost the order for 15 bodies with 15 big thermo Kings because a competition in North Carolina “bought” the order. That means his bid was so low he can’t possibly make money but has hopes he can keep the account and eventually make out on it. This was quite a blow as we have had their business for about 6 or 7 years. They have new management and that had alot to do with it. I still plan on going out to meet them but now don’t know how soon.
Our big convention is in Houston Nov. 1-5th and I will leave by car, the 27th Oct. I hope Mother plans to fly down on the 5th so we can drive back together. I would like to go down to Corpus Christie & check out the damage the hurricane did. I also have a meat account there. We could then take 4-5 days to return home. I have an interview for add’’l sales help in Austin, Tex. which I will be making in next two weeks. Also a trip to New Orleans to interview men or applicants furnished by local employment agency. I look forward to this as I have been in the office too long. I still hope I can work out something in the east as I sure would like to see you two again.
Back to cameras - I just found instruction book for the Argus C-3. Incidentally, I just ordered an Instamatic M80 movie projector Through Thermo King. This is for regular or super 8 mm movies with a F/ 1.5 zoom lens. I am going to start taking movies again - and if I get this so called bug, I may get a new Instamatic movie camera and give you the Bolex. I have a telephoto & wide angle lens for the movie camera - also for my 35 mm. The best camera Thermo King lists is a Nikkormat FTN with what they call an Auto - Nikkor F/2 lens with self compensating thru - the - lens meter system, I have the flash gun for the Iko-flex however something is wrong as it doesn't work. I don’t know if its in the flash or camera. I’ve put it in a box on your dresser for forwarding later. Should be sent in tho before trying to use. Mother just found the Iko-Flex guide book in the hall closet. Am sending this also.
Pretty long letter for me when I am not even on watch! Stay healthy, you two - See ya.
Love Dad



Nov. 1st, 1970

Note, this is the first time that he correctly spelled my bride’s name. Later in the letter, he reverts back to old spelling.
Dad mentions his stroke. He passed out down town, getting into his car. He was put in the hospital and treated for such. Unfortunately, he was misdiagnosed for he had a cerebral aneurism that had started to leak. If I remember right, he developed tunnel vision and was not able to drive for awhile or again. He did not pass away until Feb. 28, 1972 , 15 months later. They did come out again to Cape Vincent, summer of 1971.
This is the last letter I have found, so far. I may find more because we still have much to go through.


Dear Gary & Diane,
This is my very first letter (since he had been in the hospital) so it may end up as a book or just a note. I am watching college football from the family room couch - what a life!
First, many thanks for your letters & thoughts. they especially helped while I was in the hospital. About the only good thing I will remember from my stay was my 9:30 pm back rubs. I even cheated alit as Mother would sometimes give me one about 8 or 8:30 and then I’d let the regular nite nurse give me another one at 9:30 or 10 pm. I could have a solid hour of back rubbing & still enjoy it.
Felt alit stronger today and hope this continues eery day which I am sure it will.
jack & Mary stopped yesterday & was here for supper and breakfast this a.m. They are on their way to Moose Lake, Minn. to inspect some property they bought. I told Jack to hurry up & get a cabin built on his property so I could have some p[lace to go! They told us about their stop at Cape Vincent & am sure they enjoyed it. Gary, I don’t have the prize points now for the camera. If you are in no hurry, perhaps I can have enough by early 1971. I believe it takes about 70,000 points. I do know there is a fairly good sized mark-up on camera equipment and too, maybe you can make a contact before too long where you could get a some to get your camera direct from Japan. Jeff came home today & put my boat & motors away plus a number of other jobs that got way overdue. He looks pretty good and for a change doesn’t have a cold.
Mother doesn't know I am wiring so I imagine you will get double information from us.
I thoroughly enjoyed your description of the Halloween sings Diana put up in her school room. l Really sounds as if you two are making the very best of circumstance out there & that’s the way to do it.
I’ll probably try a few hours a day at the office next week but of course ill “play it by ear” as I have no intention of having a set back. Your Mother was a tremendous help to me from the very beginning of my 1st stroke to present. When I think back, I wonder how I could have made it by myself.
Well kids, again thanks for your thoughts & letters & hope you continue to find time to keep in touch with us.

Love, Dad





Dec. 16th, 1970

This is the last letter I have found, so far. I had completely forgotten about going to RB school. I still don’t remember it. Dental tech school rejected me because they said that the money that would go into educating me would be wasted if I just served out my 4 years. When Diane got the teaching job, I decided to just stay put because of her income and our lifestyle we had at the Cape. I had to smile with his comment about being in the “computer age”. We’re talking 1070 here. His comments on smoking are interesting too. I was proud of him quitting, yet even in his autopsy, they still found emphysema cells. We did not come home that Christmas but did the following Christmas Dec. 71. He died two months later. In reading his thoughts on Christmas to come 1970, I laughed out loud about Diane and I necking and was in tears the next when he mentions the lump in his throat. I know where I get me “sapiness”. I also liked his statment about refering to Diane as his daughter and being called Dad by her.


Dear Gary & Diane,
I know I should be writing a letter to you but I also know your mother has givenyou all the news - sooo what is there for me to say?
I can say I cerainly appreciate both of your thoughts & c omments on my health. Actually, things look pretty good now. No temperature and I am starting to feel stronger each day.
Read your letter to day Gary, telling us about your potential of going to Houghton, Mich for Radio Beacon School. This is an old mining town - even has a university. I have been there several times on business (in summer tho) There is much skiing done in that vacinity and is well known for the large amount of natural snow they receive yearly. You will probably go there as I would doubyt if your other forms for dental tech would be processed before Jan 17th. Maybe so - I keep forgetting we, or services are now in the computer age.
By the time you receive this letter you should have received another very pleasant bit of nnews. If not, you will shortly. Ho- Ho- Ho- Ho- Ho!
Glad to hear you are both concentrating on exercise and improving your health. I could lecture for hours (or pages) on what a wise decision this is and only wish I had found some brains some where along my life. I think Jeff is smoking again and I am sure sorry he can’t really kick the habit. They say there is nothing worse than a convert & that fits me as I can’t stand the smell or anything about smoking anymore.
Christmas won’t seem the same here without you two. I’ll probably look over to the fireplace ledge several times expecting to see yo two necking - or having that special look for each other- Regardless you may be assured we all will be thinkging about you all day. -- and old Dad will get a specail lump in his throat when thinking how wonderful it would be if you were here. i probably won’t be writing you again before Christmas so wish you both a very specail Christmas and know you both will have few thoughts for your families.

Love ya both,

Dad and daughter, I like being called Dad by you?


Business at Johnsons has been good. Hope they continure with theri patience as I haven’t returned to work yet. F?G (his other little business he started with Charlie Peterson) is exceptionally good.) If I remember, I’ll devote a special leter on prgress here. Puerto Ricl is going pretty slow.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Uncle Floyd


Uncle Floyd is one of only two uncles left. He was married to one of my mother's younger sisters, Henrietta, otherwise known as Aunt Hank. My childhood memories of Uncle Floyd are very spotty. I can recall only visiting his family twice: once when I was about in 8th grade and the other time at his oldest daughter Patti Jo's wedding almost 46 years ago. When I heard Uncle Floyd's name, I immediately thought of CF. Consolidated Freight. They were a trucking company and every time I would see a red and green lettered CF truck, I would think of my Uncle Floyd. I found out last weekend that he never drove truck for them. He worked in the office of the company.
This brings up my visit last weekend to the eastern part of this great state. My bride was out of town and I thought this would be a good time to connect with these long lost Thibodeau cousins. Uncle Floyd and Aunt Hank had 4 children: Patti Jo, David, Trudy and Joe. It was my hope to meet these four, again, and Uncle Floyd. 60% of the family was what I was able to be with.
This blog is more about my Uncle Floyd, so apologies to the rest of the family. I really love to visit with older people because it is like visiting with a living history book. It is even more "swell" ( using a term of their day) if that old person is family. I asked him how he met Aunt Hank. He said he was brought up on a farm and one thing he learned on the farm was he did not want to farm. His folks arranged to send him to Chicago to trucking school, I think. While there, a buddy was dating a nurse and the nurse had a friend. A double date was arranged and Floyd became smitten. They dated until Floyd was sent overseas during the war. They wrote letters for awhile but then Hank took up with another man. That did not last long and then she started writing Floyd again. It got serious in the mail and plans were made to be married.
Grandpa Duell, Hank's father, picked up Floyd at the airport upon his return. Hank sat between her Dad and her fiance' in the front seat. Floyd told me that Hank kept on poking him in the ribs to tell her father that they wanted to be married. He finally asked Grandpa Duell for his daughter's hand. Floyd said that Grandpa reached his hand across his daughter lap and took hold of Floyd's arm and offered his congratulations. Uncle Floyd never forgot that.
Breaking the news to Grandma Duell was another whole thing. "I don't even know you!" were her first words when approached with the idea of the up-coming nuptials. She was always against the wedding and him until an event occurred. Hank had ulcers and was never to drink. There was a party and Hank had not been drinking but then got goaded into it and had a drink. She disappeared shortly after into the bathroom. Floyd missed her and had someone go and check up on her. Upon entering the bathroom, there was blood all over from her throwing up and bleeding from her ulcers. She was taken to the hospital for recovery. Uncle Floyd "nursed" the nurse back to health. He said the Grandma Duell never forgot that and he was OK in her book after that.
Years after Hank's death, he was at a grieving support group and met a nun. She invited him for a meal, if I remember right. This started a romance and Uncle Floyd ended up marrying a 70 year old virgin. His family has stated that she has been such a blessing for him; given him a reason to go on living. Now her health is not the best and he is being a caregiver again.
It was so interesting to hear him speak of my own parents. Aunt Hank was a nurse with my mother in Chicago. They lived together but did not get along very well. No surprise there. Aunt Hank, I was told was very easy going, laid back. Quite the contrast to my mother. Floyd said he liked my mom all right and was quite fond of my Dad.
He told a "Dad story" to me. l My Dad was a salesman for part of his career, selling refrigerated truck bodies made in Rice Lake. While on the road, he stopped in Manitowoc one time for a quick visit . He called Uncle Floyd over to the trunk of Dad's car and for a look inside. There were cases of beer and liquor. Dad told him this is how he would impress his clients. Floyd was impressed enough to never forget that.
I said to him that I don't ever remember him coming to the resort. He corrected me and that he had been there once. I don't ever remember him coming over. I must have been 2-3 years old and just did not remember.
He has a great sense of humor and I so enjoyed my time with him. I was told by David, his son, that if I behaved myself while on my visit there, that I might, just might, be invited to Uncle Floyd's 90th birthday party on or around Oct. 31st. OOOOh, spookey!
Now for the bad news. It was just too short of a visit. Thanks, Uncle floyd for sharing part of your life with me and putting up with all my questions. You are a ten in my book!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fifty years of skiing





This past Thursday I was skiing at Afton Alps. Unlike the previous two times, this time I was alone. Meaning, I had a lot of alone time on the lifts. You always spend more time riding up the hill than skiing down. I started to reminisce about my skiing history.
I think I was about 12 when I started. My most memorable Christmas had to do with my first skis. There were few presents under the tree for me and I was a sad, sad boy. Then there was the treasure hunt and the skis wrapped up in the basement. They were so much nicer that what I had even expected. They had ebonite bottoms instead of just painted. There was ski free binding that allowed the toe to swivel for safety reasons. They had steel interlocking edges. There was a cable that went around the heel and then a lever that was in front of the toe piece to hold the boot onto the ski. Ah yes the boot. They were leather, laced boots. My first boots had an inner boot. So you had to lace up two boots, one inside of the other. They came up less than 3 inches above the ankle bone. These skis were a huge step up from the 8 footers with one strap that I used to wear at the resort when I was 6 or 7 years old. I would be at the top of a wooded hill and pick a route, straight through the trees, theoretically avoiding them all. From my mother's view from the side, looking through our picture window, she feared for my life, so she told me.
Hardscrabble ski area is no longer being operated but I have such a soft spot in my heart for that area. The cost was about $1.50 per day, I believe. My Mom or Dad would take me out or a friend's parents. The lodge you see above no longer exists. It burned down years ago. It was a classic building. It had three, large fireplaces in the largest room. You could sit all around each of them. Not sure if the lodge burned down from a fire place or not. A cafeteria off to one side of the room with a ski shop off to the other side. We would just find a bench to put our lunch and winter boots under to change into our ski boots. I never heard of anyone stealing anything back then. You could roast hot dogs over the fire if you wanted. The lodge was rebuilt and our high school class had a reunion there. My friend Bruce Larson, who I used to ski with all the time and I made plans to go the following winter to ski for old times sake. We did. It was cold but our hearts were warmed with nostalgia. Scant snow falls brought my beloved hill to another closing. I fantasize about opening it up self. On second thought, ah nope.
All they had were rope tows. They were something to master in of themselves. You would be at the bottom of the slope. When it was your turn you would slide up to the moving rope and let it slide through your choppers and gradually tighten your grip until you started to move and then you would hold on tight to stop the slippage and up you would go. Sounds easy, right? No so fast. If your grabbed on too soon or too suddenly, you would go flying forward and to a face plant. If you did fall or someone in front of you would so, then the rope would be running over your boots, legs or wearing the paint off your wooden skis as you watched and struggled to get out from under the rope. At the end of the day, your arms would be killing you from holding on to the rope all day. There were gimmicks invented to hold on to the rope. One was a clamp attached to your pole that allowed you to hold the rope with your pole. Much easier. The other was a pliers-like tool that would clamp onto the rope.
My friends and I used to do a lot of jumping. We would build a 3 ft. jump and see how high we could get. This is how I broke so many skis. When you would land, your tips would smack down and off would go the tips. Man, I think I broke 5 skis this way.
When I got into high school, I purchased a pair of skis from Arnies Ski Shop in Eau Claire. They were wooden but the had plastic tops, hidden edges, p-tex bottoms, ( the latest surface) and the first step in bindings called Cubco. I also had newer boots now; still leather, still double boots, still lace but higher, more supportive. About my first time on them had me at Indianhead ski hill in upper Michigan with my best friend. He had an uncle that lived up near there and we were staying with them. Almost the first time down the newly covered with powder hill, I fell forward and snapped of the tip of one my skis. I was devastated. I had saved up and picked these skis out on my own. I had to use rented skis for the rest of that day and next. I did replace the broken ski and it was a slightly different color from the other.
I think I was in college when I moved up to the next high tech ski equipment. Metal skis and buckle boots. The skis were Hart Cameros with Nevada bindings. The Cubco bindings turned out to a disaster. They would come off while you were skiing. The worst was when I had just gone off a large jump; 4-5 ft. and the one binding released. Talk about a fall. I will never forget my first run down the hill at Hardscrabble with this new equipment. I had more edges than I knew what to do with. I had to learn to ski all over again. No more sliding all over the hill.
Games on the hill. I had a bunch of buddies that I would ski with and there were some girls from our class that we needed to impress too. Tag was one that we would play. Jumping was always a hit. We would link our poles together by slipping handle through the basket of another guy and then we turn circles around each other as we skied down the hill. Doing tricks like tip rolls; skiing toward the edge of the run, placing poles down hill near tips and then jumping, keeping tips on ground and bringing the heels up to your back as you pivoted around to face the opposite direction. My brother Jeff was very good at it, me, not so much. Jumping by doing spread eagles and bringing our legs up in a crouch were a couple other moves we would do.
Embarrassing moment on the hill; skiing up to the most popular girl in the school, shortly after getting my braces off my teeth, smiling widely and asking her if she noticed anything different. Panicking she says, "You are not wearing your glasses". Sheeeesh, I had never worn glasses. Shot down again.
When I got to college, skiing was still my favorite winter sport. My last year in college, my fraternity buddies and I went on several trips. One was to northern Michigan and Indianhead. We also skied Telemark near Hayward and Mt. Ashwabay near Ashland and of course Hardscrabble. Those were good, crazy, alcohol induced times. I think I got out 20 some days. that last year.
Even when I got into the Coast Guard, Mom and I would go to Lake Placid and ski on White face mountain. I had a tough time there. There was more powder and the runs were narrow instead of wide open like I was used to. I just couldn't make turns when I wanted but when I needed to. The powder added to my demise and the result was blue stained long underwear. You see, I was wearing my Coastie dungarees and I spent so much time on my butt that the wet dungarees bled blue die right through to my white thermal underwear. My confidence took a big hit skiing there. While there I bought new skis at a season ending sale in Lake Placid. Roussignal strato 102's. One of the best selling skis of all time. I skied on them up until 3 years ago when I bought a pair of parabolic skis on E-Bay second hand. Last spring I bought new, expensive boots at a store in Chaska where my son-in-law, Matt worked. I was able to use them three times this year and they are nice. Comfort and support.
So, there is my 50 year ski experience. You would think I would be pretty good by now. Actually, I'm still a work in progress. I'm still trying to get better. As I look at the window today, I think this year's experience might be over. I still hope to ski out west some day. That experience has not happened.....yet. As sore as I get after going, I am so grateful that I still can to it.