One week from today is Father’s Day. Traditionally, dads are considered the head of the household. They are referred to as the bread winner, the provider, the protector and the repairman. Moms, also honored for their roll, traditionally stayed home, cared for the children, kept house and cooked the meals. They made a good team but each had different roles and responsibilities. That is the way it was in the 1950s.
I feel fortunate to have grown up in the era when family life was as described above. It was structured, predictable and secure. Moms taught daughters the skills needed to be good homemakers and mothers. Dads taught sons how to catch fish, fix a flat tire, mow the grass and repair a broken window. Each parent set an example and taught their children how to become good and responsible parents. The family unit was strong and divorce was less common, frowned upon by both church and society.
My father was a good man and I loved him. He worked hard and provided for our family. We were far from wealthy but always had a roof over our head, food to eat and clothes to wear. In 1946, Dad started his own company, a refrigeration business. He began as a one-man operation and eventually grew the business, providing employment for dozens of other men who were also fathers supporting their families. Dad was an entrepreneur in the truest sense of the word.
Like many of our neighbors, we were a one-car family. During the day, the driveway was empty because Dad drove the family auto to work. My mother never learned how to drive because she had no need to. If she needed groceries, she drafted me and my Radio Flyer red wagon and we walked three blocks to the local Piggly Wiggly. This was not an oddity back in the ‘50s. In our neighborhood, there was only one family with two automobiles and they were considered to be rich.
Around 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, Dad rolled into the driveway after a long day of work. During the summer months, he would grab the newspaper and a cold beer and head for the glider on the front porch. It was his “unwind time” while waiting for dinner to be served at six o’clock. After a few sips of a cold Schlitz, he reached into his shirt pocket for a pack of Chesterfield cigarettes and lit one up while reading the news. I would sit with Dad on the porch, waiting for Mom’s call to come to the table.
On weekends, Dad did chores around the house. Although very busy, he never forgot me and took me fishing or hunting when he could. Sometimes we went to the park and flew a box kite or drove to the river for a hike in the woods.
When I was 10, we went to a country blacktop road. I sat on his lap and “drove” the family car while he operated the pedals. After working hard all week, he got up before daylight on Sunday to help me deliver papers on my newspaper route. When the job was done, we went to a local diner for breakfast. It was just Dad and me.
I grew up far too fast. High school was a blur and at 18 I was a freshman in college.
One morning at two o’clock the phone rang. It was my sister calling to tell me that Dad had died of a heart attack. Needless to say, I was stunned. He was only 51 years old. Dads were supposed to live forever.
It’s hard to believe that sad phone call was 50 years ago. I remember it as though it were yesterday.
Next Sunday is Father’s Day. If your dad is living, make it a special day for both of you. If your dad has passed on, remember him. Remember the things he taught you and the love he showed you. Fathers and mothers are very special people in our lives and should be honored every day.
Ed Hungness and his wife became full-time residents of Fife Lake in 2005 after Ed’s retirement. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at P.O. Box 57, Fife Lake, MI 49633.