Well, at least it has not aged badly. The thing is that my father and I differ greatly in a few of the key details of the story and in an attempt at fairness; I am going to present the story in the way that both of us remember it. In deference to my father, I am starting with his version. It is only right, given the day and all…
As you will recall from yesterday’s post, it is 1966 and my Mom, siblings, and pet daschund have all left for Minnesota and Dad and I are following a week later.
Dad had arranged, somehow, to return a rental car to Chicago that had been rented, driven to Miami, and left. We left early in the morning and started heading north up US Highway 27 through the sugar cane fields and beyond out of Florida. The trip was uneventful and we made good time; by pushing it our first night’s stop was in southern Kentucky.
Due to the fact that we had arrived so late, the restaurant in the Motor Lodge would not allow us to eat in the restaurant as I was a minor and after 07:00 it served liquor. No children were allowed in establishments where liquor was being served. As the motel would neither accommodate room service nor allow dad to carry meals to the room, we had two choices: Go hungry or think of something else. In this benighted burg nothing was open except bars and the mote restaurant.
Dad slipped a few bucks to the guy behind the desk and the finally agreed to set-up a table in the lobby and feed us leftovers from the dinner menu: Cold chicken and biscuits and cokes. At least we got dinner. We then retired to our room and got ready for bed.
In the early morning hours we were suddenly awakened by the thunderclap! Dad and I looked out and noticed that the top was down on the car. Dad slipped on his coat and grabbed the keys only to find me blocking his egress. “Let me do it, daddy!” I was adamant!
Rather than let the rain damage the interior (and is it was only one button) he relented. I went out to seal the car. Dad made some coffee – it was going to be a long, hard drive in this rain! Twenty minutes later, when I had yet to return, he looked out. The rain was torrential and the roof on the car was up… and then it was open… and then it was up… and then it was open. I was playing with the damn convertible in the rain!
He slogged out in the rain, sealed-up the car, dragged me inside and gave me a good talking to! We had a lot of ground to cover. We had to be in Chicago that afternoon and as long as we were up we might as well be burning the miles.
We made it to Chicago, returned the car at the airport and made our way to the Northwest Orient Airlines desk to book tickets to Minneapolis so that we could meet-up with our family.
We stayed the night in the Departure lounge waiting for the flight and were disheartened to hear that the talks between the pilots and the airline were not going well and that a strike was not probable – it was imminent. We HAD to make our flight and we had just learned the flight was overbooked.
The fact that a bored, troublesome four-year-old sitting in an airport is not naturally a pleasant thing was compounded by the fact that the four-year-old in question was ME! Dad was drawing the stares of the passengers. And when the woman called him up to the desk we knew the news was no going to be good.
“I’m sorry, sir. But, no, your son cannot sit on your lap.” The tickets we had were insufficient – the flight was overbooked and with the impending flight, they were going to bump us.
They were boarding. Dad had to do some badgering and he finally hit on the way to get us to Minnesota. He wrote his sister’s address in Minneapolis on a piece of paper, handed me one of the tickets, caught the eye of one of the stewardesses (it would be years until political correctness changed the job title to ‘flight attendant’), and made his play.
Call my sister, Elaine, when you get to Minnesota, she will come get him. I will return my airline ticket and make my own way to Minnesota.”
Now Dad had watched for the opportunity and picked a stewardess who had gotten an eyeful of exactly what a handful I was. “But Sir…” she tried as Dad made to leave. Somehow they found seats for both of us.
The fact that I wandered off in Minneapolis only compounded the problem. Dad eventually found me in a soda fountain on the concourse sitting at the counter with two empty chocolate malt glasses in front of me. “He ordered you one and said you would pay for them when you arrived. I guess he got tired of waiting for you.” The woman behind the counter said. Dad glowered at her, paid, grabbed my hand and off we went to join the taxi ranks.
We made it to the bus depot and Dad was in line for tickets when he noticed I had wandered off again. I was watching some hooligans playing pin ball and making trouble. He went to retrieve me and lost his place in line. When the exact same thing happened again a few minutes later, he retrieved me and gave me a strong talking to…
…this had absolutely no affect as I did exactly the same thing a few minutes later. Once again he retrieved me, returned to the back of the line and gave me a talking to. This time, though, to drive the point home, he gave me a swat.
“Some people can control their children without hitting them.” Said an old busybody joining the queue behind us.
“Some people can mind their own damn business!” my dad replied finally allowing all his frustration with the day to escape.
Wherever you are today I hope that you remember to wish your dad a happy Fathers’ Day.