Happy Fathers Day to all you dads out there!
In honor of my dad this Father’s Day I want to tell you a bit about Dad’s and my special relationship and an unforgettable trip we took together when I was nine years old. I include a link to a sneak audiobook preview of Chapter 21 of Redlined, “Travels with Dad.”
In June 1949, Dad and Mom, along with my three-year-old brother, my mentally unstable grandmother, and three-month old me, moved into the greystone two-flat at 4222 W. Washington Boulevard, which they had purchased a few months earlier. They had wonderful plans for bringing this fifty-year-old home up-to-date and had already invested money in a new furnace when a bombshell hit them: Dad lost his job!
With a mortgage, two little children, and in debt to his parents (not the kind to forgive a loan to their son), their hearts were undoubtedly shaken with anxiety. Would they lose their home and be put out on the street, as Mom’s parents had experienced during the Depression?
Dad spent the whole summer looking for a job. Finally in fall 1949 he got an offer from the National Board of Fire Underwriters (NBFU), a company that sent out their men (of course, they were only men) to states across the country.
Work with the NBFU
Dad was assigned the states in a swath stretching from America’s South, Texas to Louisiana, and northward from there through the middle states up to Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, etc. The engineers’ jobs were to ensure that each city was prepared (and their fire hydrants had enough pressure) to fight multiple fires, should many rage at the same time across the city. They also had to “walk blocks” to map the density of neighborhoods. They worked with the fire chiefs, mayors, and other city notables to get the job done.
Gone six months of the year!
Dad was gone about six months of the year, always to warm states in winter, where fire hydrants could spout water so the NBFU men could test their pressure. Dad’s trips left Mom alone for up to seven weeks in the worst part of winter, to deal with our rooming house tenants, snow and coal shoveling, all the finances, of which she was in charge, and a baby and three-year-old. Her mentally ill mother, Grandma K, lived with us too.
Dad takes me along to Enid, Oklahoma, 1958
Being away for so many months, Dad regretted the limited time he had with his children, so when we were older, he started taking Paul or me on trips with him. The most memorable for me was the trip we took in the summer of 1958 to Enid, Oklahoma.
When I was poring through the family archives, I came across the letters Dad and Mom had written to each other while he and I were 800 miles away. (Letters were the only way to communicate. A phone call was outrageously expensive.)
The letters he wrote from Enid were very sweet, about “getting to know” his daughter better with one-on-one time. He also had preserved several photos of the trip on which I worked along with him during the day, and he taught me to swim in the Trail Motel pool at night.
You can get a sneak preview of this chapter from the audio book if you just click on the link below.
Happy Father’s Day to my special Dad (and all Dads out there). I’ve posted in the past about the “Father of the Year” essay contest, in which my 8th grade essay was one of the Chicago area finalists. Read the essay and see photos about our celebration with other finalists at the Palmer House here. It was in honor of all fathers!
Soon to be an audiobook! Stay tuned!Check here for more than 200 great reviews on Amazon.
Redlined tells a first-hand story about a West Side Chicago family’s personal struggles and dreams intersecting with the racial upheavals of the 1960s.