RE: Thanks for the memories: A tribute to Dad
Okay, I guess I have to add some things you people left out from this tribute to dad and his store. I remember that I was 7 when they first taught me how to face shelves. I knew back then that it was odd for a 7-year-old to do store work, so I purposefully told myself that I was going to remember that I started working in the store when I was 7. And that's why I remember it distinctly.
I remember husking lots of corn on the back stoop. I remember Annabelle working in the produce a lot, and everywhere else. John swatting flies for hours outside the front door. And John's "lunch" next door each day at Art's Tavern. The smell that would fill the store early in the morning when John would grind the coffee for the day, making up little one pound bags. Whenever I make coffee nowadays, I always take a deep whiff of the dry coffee, and I'm 8 years old again, I swear! It's almost eery
Cathy cracked her head on one of those cider barrels while playing acrobat one day. The hoops would come off the barrels some times and you could play with those hoops. I remember the lumps of brown sugar in the big bulk 100# bags - those were good. And for a while, we used to get big sheets of chocolate and have to break up the big sheet and package it in cellophane wrap.
Candling eggs was interesting, especially the few times I found a rotten egg and it was solid black under the light. Careful not to break that one!
Back in the I.G.A. days, going with dad on Wednesday to the little warehouse in Grand Rapids and getting half cases of most things. I remember they would once in a while have salesmen at the front door giving out samples - I distinctly remember sampling my first taste of Cap'n Crunch there. So guess what? . . . whenever I taste Cap'n Crunch nowadays, I remember that first taste with dad at the warehouse.
I remember going to the chicken factory, and while dad would pick up a couple cases of whole chickens, I would stand there (pre-OSHA, you know) watching the guys slitting chicken throats and putting them up on the hanging conveyor line.
I remember the "big bump" (where 18th Street went over some big drain pipe or something) when mom used to take us with her to make the daily deposit at the Byron Center bank in the old panel truck. Because she had almost lost control a couple times flying over the "big bump", dad told us to remind mom not to go too fast over the big bump. I did the same memory trick as the one where I remember facing shelves at age 7; - I told myself that I would always remember to remind mom about the "big bump". So I remembered even after the truck was gone and the bump was gone.
I remember dad stoking the old coal furnace that was downstairs under the steps. Old John did it on the weekdays, but dad had to do it nights and weekends. I don't ever remember getting to shovel coal myself, so they must have got the new oil furnace before I was very old.
When dad first ran for township clerk, he ran as a write-in, so he had me type out his name a couple hundred times and then cut them out, so he could hand them out to supporters who needed to know how to spell his name properly for the ballot. My first experience with a typewriter - the big clunky old-fashioned kind.
I remember dad teaching me flag etiquette so Larry and I could raise and lower the flag at the town hall - how to fold it properly, and when "half-mast" was called for you had to run the flag all the way up and then back down to halfway. Yes, and lots of snow shoveling at the town hall/fire barn as well - sometimes it was hip deep.
I remember other township business, like dad's election day and voter registration paper work, and going along to a few different township graveyards to put new flags on the veterans' tombstones every Memorial Day weekend.
I remember during the summer, on Sundays after dad did his order, he would fumigate the entire store with Raid. I remember the first time he let me do it for him. I remember the first time I stabbed myself in the stomach, slightly, with a box opener, and I didn't tell anyone. I remember doing "the upstairs" storeroom, and lolly-gagging, so it took me forever. That was one of dad's good words for me, "lolly gagging".
I remember the polkas on Dad's little radio, and dad would crank it up after closing time. After dad's car accident, and he quit cigarettes, he would smoke cigars after closing time. Speaking of cigarettes, I remember working the till when cigarettes went up from 30? a pack to 33? - people were all irate about the price increase.
I remember dad being the very first layman commentator at church when St. Stan's first started doing that.
I remember when dad would get a quarter of beef in and have to wrestle that thing onto the hook of the meat scale that hung on a pole in the back room. Speaking of wrestling, I remember the weekend that we got the piano up the stairs - they actually went next door to Art's Tavern to get more guys to help. They had to remove some of the step-boards in the stairs to get past the I-beam.
I remember grabbing and swinging from that I-beam that was half way down the stairs, whenever I walked down those stairs.
I remember long hours of sitting on the store floor (before linoleum tiles? I think it was bare cement?) reading comic books on Sunday after church. Sometimes we snitched penny candy. Okay, not just sometimes.
On a more personal note, I remember how hard mom and dad tried to accommodate my desire to attend the Franciscan seminary in Perrysburg, Ohio, but they just couldn't afford it - so I ended up at G.R. Saint Joe's. I give them credit for trying.
I remember when I separated from Sherry and moved into the Hopkins house with Steve. Dad sent a note home with Steve, it was written on butcher paper with a marker. He said I should give it another chance, for the sake of the children. He said that my ruined marriage was "the worst thing that's ever happened" to him. I give him credit for trying to reason with me when he thought it was important.
And I remember when I would stop and talk religion with mom quite often, in my mid-20's, with all my questions about the Christian faith. Dad came up to go to the bathroom one time while this religious exploration was going on with mom and I. He came out of the bathroom and said, "so you're not a Catholic any more?". I said, "I'm not really sure". He raised his voice, "do you go to Mass on Sunday"? I mumbled, "not always, ... sometimes". His voice raised even more, "Well, Then you're Out of the Church"! Again, I give him credit for making a stand for what he strongly believed in, no matter how much I didn't need or want to hear his opinion.
I remember Steve and Tammy's wedding, where Krys first met dad and he took to her right away, even though dad had such strong feelings about my divorce. Krys danced her first polka with him, and dad asked her, "are you sure you're not Polish"? Krys said, "not at all". (After Krystal's maternal grandparents had passed away, an examination of their old papers revealed the secret that their name "Shelby" was originally "Shebilski" - no one knew they were Polish. It's funny that dad asked Krys about that the first time they ever met.)
The best thing that dad ever taught me were the political "facts of life". Things like "government money always comes with strings attached". "Republicans borrow and spend, Democrats tax and spend". - He instilled in me a basic distrust of big government.
That's all for now. He was an exemplary dad.
Love to you all,