If You Don't Laugh, You'll Cry - Laughing's Better!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Memorable Facts About My Dad

1. He had big feet  --- size 13 – D  and  long arms - dress shirt sleeve length 35-36 inches. He was a well proportioned, big man, 6ft 4 inches.

2. Obviously, he preferred his clothes to be tailor made. A wonderful tailor, Edgar Gay, had a shop near 10th, on Peachtree St., where he made some of Dad’s nice clothes. My Aunt Georgia made some of Dad’s khaki pants.

3. He liked stewed okra, especially when simmered with fresh homegrown tomatoes and corn cut from the cob. Just add butter or bacon fat, salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar.

4. He liked big horses and always named every horse he had Dan.

5. In later years, he played lots of golf. He played the Augusta National a few times, thanks to a friend of my husband, Tony.

6. At Atlanta’s First Baptist Church, he was a once a month usher for over twenty years.

7. On Sunday evenings, he liked to go to First Methodist to hear his old baseball playing friend, Dr. Pearce Harris, preach.

8. His two favorite songs were, Danny Boy , and I'd Rather Have Jesus. I sang both for him many times. He also really liked, I'll Be With You in Apple Blossom Time.

9. He did not swear, smoke, or drink alcohol. He really enjoyed sweet iced tea with lots of fruit juice. Mother sweetened the tea with saccharin, a sugar substitute, that sometimes had a bitter taste but hers did not. He finally started drinking coffee in about his fifties, I think.

10. Dad was kicked out of the little Baptist church, up in Cherokee County, Ga. because he went to a dance one Sat. night. I don’t know how he felt at the time but in later years, he thought it was funny.

11. Connie Mack had Dad take dance lessons and boxing lessons the entire five years he was in Philadelphia. Tap dancing was his favorite.

12. He enjoyed working with his hands, especially with beautiful wood. He built our entire pine dining room set: table to seat 12, big china cabinet, serving table, small corner hanging cabinet. And 2 long benches. They purchased 2 large chairs with cane seats for the ends.

13. He and my brother, Bob, cut down a big cherry tree from our back yard. They had it finished into boards and built a lovely cherry bed.

14. Dad enjoyed reading children’s books to us, at night. Swiss Family Robinson was one he especially liked.

15. At baseball games when he was pitching, we were never allowed to sit where he would look right at us when he started to throw. He said he simply could not throw a ball at us.

16. Recently, my brother Don reminded  me that if one really needed to talk with Dad, the trick was to help him clean up the kitchen after dinner. He washed and we dried … and talked. My parents never owned a dishwasher.

17. Dad said that when Mother cooked a big meal she dirtied  every  pot and pan in the kitchen.  So he tried to keep ahead of her plus he did all the heavy lifting.

18. When I was about ten or twelve, I was as tall as I am now. One day, Dad walked into my room and laid his big 45 pistol on my bedside table. He said "This pistol is loaded. If anybody bothers you, shoot them." No one bothered  me …. I was home alone a lot because my mother worked.

19. He was not a good swimmer. The only place he and his siblings had to swim was in the river which could contain anything from tree limbs to water moccasins. He did a sort of large dog paddle but he swam well enough to be safe in the water. He was pleased that his children were good swimmers.

20. My  dad gave my small mother a little shot gun and made sure she knew how to use it. She was an excellent shot. I kept the same size shotgun in my kitchen pantry for years, loaded of course. He firmly believed in women being taught to take care of themselves. 

21.Bing Crosby’s relaxed manner of singing absolutely delighted him. He and I always watched White Christmas on Christmas Eve.

22. My parents always spent Christmas Eve with us. For dessert each year I served vanilla ice cream with green Crème de Menthe poured on top. Dad loved that sauce and often told me to give the recipe to folks. We never told him it was alcoholic.

23.Dad was a great fan of the Atlanta Zoo. He started taking my kids there when they were quite small. He said they always went to the monkey house first. That way, if the kids got tired, he still got to visit the monkeys.

24. Dad went to Berry College, in Rome,Ga. but did not graduate. He’d always wanted to be a medical doctor but his dad thought he should just stay home and farm. He’d have been a fine doctor, highly intelligent and compassionate.

25. For a couple of winters when he was home from playing ball, he taught school in a one room schoolhouse, out in the country. He thoroughly enjoyed teaching , especially the overgrown boys who thought they were too big for school. He was proud of the fact that he was able to make learning interesting for them. He taught me all the math I know.

26. Dad worked two years past his retirement, at Lockheed. It took two years for him to teach two Ga.Tech grads how to do his very tedious job of planning the wires and other things that went into the nose of the planes. The only full day of work he ever missed was my UGA graduation because it was in the daytime, in Athens.

On the few occasions in my life when I have needed reminding how much JESUS loved me,  I thought of how much my dad loved me and our heavenly FATHER’S  perfect love became clear once again.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Remembering Uncle Jake

About one week before Christmas, 1956, I rode the train to Augusta, Georgia  in order to meet the rest of the Thompson family. Tony and I had planned our wedding for Feb.8, 1957, so he wanted me to meet his family and close friends. I had met his parents when they were visiting his aunt, in Atlanta.
I stayed with brother Bob and his wife Diddy, at their home in North Augusta. Their tiny daughter, Frann, was 2 or 3 yrs old and another babe was due in the spring, Terri.
Tony’s mom, Cordelia, had prepared a wonderful dinner for her family. We sat around the big round dining table. Tony sat on my right and an older man, Uncle Jake, Cordelia’s brother, sat on my left.  Jake appeared interested in the conversations going on around the table, lots of kidding among the three brothers etc. But Jake was mostly quiet as was I, in the company of this rowdy bunch. Then I noticed Jake kind of wilt and possibly faint. When I poked Tony, he said, “Someone give Jake his nitro pill.” Well, that was my introduction to Uncle Jake and he was part of my life for the next 15 years.
Along with my dad and father in law, Jake had been in WW1. He had some injuries, in France, and I think, was gassed. His health was poor for the rest of his life. In more recent years, Jake had been in charge of fresh produce as a buyer for the family-owned Brighams’ grocery stories.
One time after we had been married about a month, Tony called and said he was bringing Uncle Jake home for lunch. There was no way I was going to serve a bologna sandwich so I fixed one of the few other dishes I could cook. We had tuna-noodle casserole, canned Leseur peas and congealed fruit salad. Bless his heart, Jake raved about that food over and over. I’m guessing that Jake’s ability to chew the soft food with his ill fitting false teeth surely contributed to his enjoyment.
For about the next fourteen years, Jake stayed with us often. Cordelia was the sister he was closest to and he adored her. We sort of inherited him after she died in 1959. By that time, I had stopped teaching because we were expecting Bruce. We’d built our first house, in a new subdivision, and had no neighbors at first. Jake came and kept me company when Tony had to be out of town

When Jake found out I knew almost nothing about produce, cooking, or making the little skillet cornbread cakes he loved, he set about teaching me. I was told that he had been married when he was young, but later he divorced. Jake dearly loved collards so he often arrived with a huge bunch plus a package of steaks, as a bribe Tony teasingly said.
As far as I know, Jake had only one problem but it was a lulu! As the saying goes, Jake “was bad to drink.” He would stay sober for two or three months but then start drinking and not stop til some friend of his called Tony to come pick him up. Unless it was below freezing, Tony would strip him down in the back yard; hose him off; and throw his clothes in the washer. Then he was given a hot shower and clean underwear of Tony’s; put to bed; and given one tablespoon of whiskey about every hour.  He usually stayed at least a week, often longer or until Tony gave him back his car keys.
When sober, Jake was good company and often held and fed babies…..  and supervised my cooking of the foods he liked. At one point just after Bruce was born, Jake brought us a big platform rocker that we rocked babies in for several years. I loved that chair.
Jake had another sister [Ceph] living in the area but they were not fond of each other. The only time she allowed Jake to be brought to her house, she scolded and screamed at him to the extent that he never went back. When Jake died, she informed Tony that since she was Jake’s closest of kin she was sure she should inherit all his money. She was never told that Jake had left a legal will with everything going to Tony. In the cigar box containing some military papers, discharge etc and his false teeth, was about thirty-five dollars. We added enough money to make one hundred dollars. That was a good bit of money to us at that time but Tony hoped that would satisfy his aunt. It did not. She accused Tony of stealing all [?]  of Jake’s money. She did not need the money. Her husband had a good job and her two sons were grown. She drove a big, new car every two years, had her hair done every week, and wore lovely fashionable clothes.
I think I still have Jake’s cigar box and teeth.

Finally, other young families built homes and moved into our neighborhood. They met Jake and of course would see his car parked there. One Saturday night, we grilled steaks and invited three couples for dinner. Everyone was seated but me as I’d gone back for rolls or something. Oh, Nooo -- in walked Jake, wearing Tony’s undies, barefooted, and being perfectly charming. Thank goodness, he was nearly sober so sat down in my place and enjoyed my dinner. I squeezed in with Tony and shared his dinner. I’d only planned one steak and one potato per person before he arrived. I never left him alone in the house as he was so trembly, and subject to the heart problems, etc.
Jake admired my father the baseball player very much. They were all in the same age group. Jake always liked to come see my dad when he was in Augusta visiting.
One summer, my parents suggested that they would not sit with their usual crowd [the 700 Club, in the glassed in party room at the top of the stadium] they would buy tickets to a Braves game for everyone. We thought Jake would enjoy talking to my dad during the game.
So we made the drive to Augusta (several hours in those days) and got to my mother’s house in time for an early lunch, and she had been so careful to prepare food she thought Jake could chew digest easily. Everything was soft.
We all went to the game, and enjoyed it.

Tony and I giggled most of the way through because every time the hot dog man walked past, Jake bought himself another hot dog. My mother was horrified. “He’s gonna be sick!” she scolded, horrified.
Late that same afternoon when we started home, Dee was upset because she had thought we were going to spend the night and she wanted to stay with her grandparents. She started crying at the top of her voice. Jake said “Dee, I’ll give you five dollars to HUSH.”
She hushed.
Bruce immediately started crying.

Jake was out $10 but the kids did behave in the car going home.

Over the years Jake’s health required stays at the V.A. hospitals, one in Augusta and one in Dublin. Eventually, he moved into the VA Domicilary, in Augusta. His drinking days were over. For awhile I picked him up on Fridays and he spent the weekends with us. We had lots of collards and his other favorite, oyster stew. We always put up the Christmas tree while he was there so he could sort out the lights which, strangely enough, he enjoyed doing. Finally, as he became weaker, he decided to just have us pick him up for Saturday lunches. We always ate at Brown’s Bar-b-q so he could get his favorite, barbequed chicken. On the way back, we always stopped at Dairy Queen so Jake could buy a milkshake to take his roommate.
Uncle Jake died the summer of 1970. It was not a good summer at all. Augusta was the scene of awful race riots and I was in the hospital with blood clots in my leg.
I’ve often wished Jake could have lived longer, to move to Tennessee with us the next January.  He’d have loved our house on the lake, and fishing off our dock.

NOTE FROM DEE: I have no memories of seeing Jake drunk. Dad always kept him away from us unless he was sober. I recall him as a sweet old man who was always very kind to me. I loved him, and I miss him. I wish I could find a good photo of him...