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A Tribute to My Parents

Updated on July 13, 2014

This hub is dedicated to my father, Ralph, who passed away in 1993 at the age of 69.  He is sorely missed!!

My father and mother before they married in 1950
My father and mother before they married in 1950

The Two Most Important People in my Life!

After reading several hubs by another hubber that I already deeply respect and admire (Peggy W.), it got me thinking about my own parents. Sadly, during my growing up years, I did not show my appreciation and admiration to the two most important people in my life. I am sure many of us are guilty of this.

In the Bible, one of the Ten Commandments clearly states that we are to honor our father and mother. I confess, I have not done this, but even have hurt and disappointed my parents over the years. But one thing I know, is that no matter what, they were always there to support me and help me whenever I needed it. Many times, I feel that they did too much, but that is how my parents were! I can't even count all the things they sacrificed for my brother and myself throughout our lives.

I would like to share a little of my growing up years with you, mostly when my brother and I were younger than 10. I hope you enjoy a glimpse of my past.

Dad in the army.
Dad in the army.
My dad and his army buddy, Charlie.  Dad is on the right.
My dad and his army buddy, Charlie. Dad is on the right.
G.I. Dad
G.I. Dad
Dad and his Nash automobile
Dad and his Nash automobile
My brother Rich and myself ..age 2 1/2 and 1 1/2.
My brother Rich and myself ..age 2 1/2 and 1 1/2.
Christmas 1957
Christmas 1957
Our friend Sparky.  I am on the left.
Our friend Sparky. I am on the left.
Rich, me, and Grandma Z.
Rich, me, and Grandma Z.

The Early Years

My father and mother grew up in the city of St. Louis. There weren't any suburbs at that time, so they were raised in what we call the 'Old City'. My father was born in 1924 in South St. Louis, and my mother in 1926, in North St. Louis. If any of you are familiar with the city of St. Louis, that is a fair distance. My dad and his best friend, Charles, took the streetcar to North St. Louis, since Charlie's future wife lived near my mother. That was long distance dating back then. It was a long trip, and by the time the 'boys' got home, it was very late, or should I say early in the morning. My parents loved to dance and they frequently went to the Casaloma Ballroom. I believe that place is still there, deep in the heart of the city, not a good neighborhood anymore. I went there once around 2001 and it was still a nice dance hall, though we had guards patrolling the parking lot to keep our vehicles from being stolen or vandalized. It sure wasn't like that in the late 1940s! My dad had to work after a date, so only had a few hours of sleep before he put in a 10 + hour day in a factory. But true love bloomed over the years. Dad must have traveled thousands of miles on that streetcar during the time my parents dated. I wonder if he had weekly passes?

My parents were raised during the Great Depression. As most of you know, our country was enduring a financial meltdown that lasted for almost a decade. Not until World War II began, did our country really begin to recover. My parents were not married until 1950, but they knew each other when the war started, but really didn't date then. Of course, my father was drafted and joined the army. He was only 18 years old. He never finished high school, but went into a trade. Back then, that was a common practice since he could earn a living in tough times. He helped support his parents and younger brother until Uncle Sam called. He was a machinist and could fix almost anything. Dad knew his way around engines like the back of his hand! He did this his entire life, mainly working on train diesel engines and sugarcane processing machines.

The army needed skilled laborers to keep the U.S. war machine going. He was assigned to an armored division and served by helping America's tank corp keep on the roll. My father never really talked about those years much, but I know some of the tank battles between the German and American forces during WWII across N. Africa and Europe. Right in the middle of the 'race to Germany', many of the tanks broke down and needed to be repaired quickly. They were in some very fierce battles, and Dad recalls being in some seemingly impossible situations. The German Panzers were much more powerful than the U.S. Sherman tanks, but somehow, by God's Grace the American and Allied forces drove back the Germans after heavy losses on both sides.

After WWII ended, mom and dad started to date regularly, and finally married in August of 1950. Their marriage had a rough beginning, since in 1951, my father was called to go to Korea...another major war only 6 years after WWII. That war my father NEVER talked about, but my mom told me that he changed a lot when he came back. We don't know what happened over there, but it must have been awful. Again, Dad was assigned to a tank division as a machinist/mechanic. I guess seeing the horrors of 2 major wars in a decade would get to anyone. My Dad was always a strong man, so mom was really upset when Dad came back from war like this. My mom is no wimp either! LOL

I was born first.<bow>, in the winter of 1953. I do recall mom telling me that in St. Louis. that following summer and the summer of 1954 were unbelievably hot. Temperatures well over a hundred for days at a time. Most people didn't have air conditioning like we do today, so can't imagine what that was like. As a newborn, mom said I was absolutely miserable that first summer and so were my parents. They bought our first air conditioner, a GE window unit, and put it in my bedroom. My mom and dad slept on the floor to keep cool. Of course, I don't remember that but I did appreciate it!

A year and a half later, I got a present...a new brother. It was late winter 1955. His name is RIch, but we called him Dick. Who was this stranger and where did he come from? Mom has pictures of me just sitting there staring at my baby brother. Who knows what I was thinking! (LOL) As we grew up those first few years, we became very close. As 'big brother', I was the boss, so I asserted my authority right off the bat! I wasn't going to waste time in a power struggle. I was bigger, knew the world, so I got to run the show! We shared a room and of course, got into everything, but my mom and dad took very good care of us. My brother and I did everything together! We didn't have much money, but dad always provided for us. My parents had endured the depression and that was far worse than what was happening at this point in time. But it wasn't easy with two young kids to care for too. Mom was a stay at home mom...very few women worked then and I remember spending time with mom..nothing specific since I was so young, but mom took pictures of my brother and me playing in the empty laundry basket when she hung the clothes out to dry and of course, us kids playing with our Radio Flyer wagons and push toys! We had no TV that I can remember, so entertained ourselves, sometimes to mom's horror! This was the beginning of my fascination with dirt and creepy crawlers. Little did mom know at that time that she was in for a continual battle with my brother and me over dirt for many, many years to come. Mom developed a real attitude about it and she still has that attitude...some things never change! My mom can find dirt in a germ free environment! All her life she seemed to clean the house constantly and today, still does it. It drives me crazy! I suppose she is getting back at me for all the dirty escapades I pulled on her when I was an innocent child! I learned quickly what could be done with dirt and mom still recalls some of our inventive uses! Dirt had a purpose for everything and I made sure to test it often for any missed uses!

We lived in the 'new suburbs' when I was born. I don't recall my first house, but my parents told me about it. It was tiny and with all the construction going on, it was always dirty. No wonder I was fascinated with mud and dirt! We lived on a street called Winkler in what is present day Ferguson. Our next door neighbor was a trucker and mom said I just loved to play on the truck and even took a ride with my neighbor a few times. Dirt wasn't my only world was expanding! He had a son named Stevie and he would come too on some of our 'over the road' adventures. I just loved the air horn, but for some reason, the neighbors didn't share my enthusiasm! Stevie was my first friend besides my brother. My brother and I played outside ALL the time, even when very small. But one day, I decided I was going to explore some and see the bigger world. This began many of my so called 'adventures' that drove mom and dad nuts! I didn't tell mom this first time...didn't want her tagging along...this was a man's job! So, I just took off one day the only way I knew how ..waddling up the street to bigger and better things!

I was only 3 or 4, we don't remember exactly since my mom's memories are fading due to age, but I walked out of the neighborhood. This wasn't a little stroll across the street, this was a good 2 blocks to a main street. I have gone back to this area as an adult and can't believe I survived that journey, especially being so little! Back then, there was a lot of construction going on very close by...people and vehicles were everywhere during the post-war building boom. I managed to get by all of that without incident. Bulldozers, cement mixers, road graders, and all kinds of stuff. Not one worker stopped a little stinker taking a nice stroll through the neighborhood. I guess those workers knew who was boss around there and that they best leave me alone. Our street ended at a busy 2 lane major road at that time..Chambers Road. Now it is 4 lanes, but back then, it was only 2, but still a busy road. I crossed that street somehow without getting nailed by the heavy cars of the 40's and 50's. and walked to the firehouse across the street. I am glad I didn't meet a DeSoto face to face and become a hood ornament. The street had no stop signs at that time, so just hiked across the street oblivious to everything. Thinking back, I could have easily been turned into a pancake or road kill. My poor mom!!!

I didn't have any identification...forgot my wallet! Couldn't go back for it...didn't want to because I became fascinated with the fire truck! Another truck to play with!! Oh joy!!! I just loved big trucks and things. But when the firemen saw some crazy lady shouting and running all over the place with my brother in her arms, the firemen figured she belonged to me and brought her over to the station. She must have been out of her mind with worry! Naturally, I couldn't figure out what the fuss was about. Goodness, I just took a little walk to get some air and a change of scenery. Can't a guy even do that without causing a ruckus? I decided to take mom back and we went home. I am glad I was too young to know what happened after I got home! :)

I have many fond memories of mom and dad when growing up and could write many hubs about my youthful escapades! But one memory I will never forget is when my dad became the.....<drum roll please>. BOOGEYMAN! You talk about dropping a load in one's pants and I wasn't in diapers anymore!!!!!

Our modest 2 bedroom home in Hanley Hills...the first house I remember and our 1965 Rambler Classic!
Our modest 2 bedroom home in Hanley Hills...the first house I remember and our 1965 Rambler Classic!
Side of house looking towards the Hill and Tracks!
Side of house looking towards the Hill and Tracks!
My neighborhood growing up.
My neighborhood growing up.
The gang in front of our new car, 1956 Mercury Monclair
The gang in front of our new car, 1956 Mercury Monclair
Dad relaxing in the living room.
Dad relaxing in the living room.
These were the tracks.  This used to be more wooded and hilly.  They ruined our playground to put in a new 4 lane road.
These were the tracks. This used to be more wooded and hilly. They ruined our playground to put in a new 4 lane road.

The Boogeyman Visits Hanley Hills!

No childhood would be complete without at least one of our childhood monsters making an appearance. We moved to Hanley Hills, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, since now my parents needed a larger home for our family. I think we moved in when I was about 4 and spent my entire childhood in that house. I moved out in 1976, so was 23 at that time.

I have a lot of great memories growing up there! Some tragic, but mostly wonderful! In those days, a kid could play outside all day without worrying about some pervert grabbing you and so forth. We rode our bikes or walked everywhere! Behind our house was the 'Hill" and the 'Tracks'...great places for a bunch of boys, which there were plenty of close to our house. It was lightly wooded and had abandoned streetcar tracks there and we had a blast playing army, building treehouses, digging pits and granite out of the ground, climbing every tree we could find, and in general just getting in all kinds of trouble. We even found half bottles full of booze that the whinos would stash in the underbrush. We naturally put those to better use, by placing them on a post and throwing rocks at them. Talk about a mess! And of course, dirt, dirt, dirt!! To throw, to dig in, to fight with, bury each other with, to terrorize the girls with, you name it. A mother's nightmare and we got our rear cheeks tanned often for the dirt getting in our hair and everywhere else! Mom hated dirt...hmmm...think I said that already..but she did!!

Well, I recall my brother and I were playing on the hill, running and messing around like always. There was this huge, old oak tree back there and it must have been over 100 years old. It was getting dark and mom and dad kept calling us to come in. Well, being 6 years old, I convinced my brother to stay out with me to keep playing. Mom and dad called over and over but I just ignored them dragging my brother into deep trouble with me...well, at least I wasn't going to get it alone and I could always say it was his idea not to come. Blaming my brother was usually affective since he was so cute and could get away with more than I could, but not this time.

It was almost dark and dad decided he would get us in. He wasn't really mad, but he wasn't a happy camper either! Now my dad, though not tall, was pretty darn strong. When he used a certain tone, I knew I better do EXACTLY what he said. But again, wisdom left me and I ignored him...big mistake! He had the strangest sense of humor, and he always had his friends laughing at his practical jokes and such. I remember this perfectly like it happened yesterday, and this was over 50 years ago! Dad got a brown paper grocery bag, (didn't have plastic bags then), and went down the street. Mom really didn't want him to do this because she thought it might scare my brother and me too badly. But Dad assured her he would be very careful....right! At the bottom of our street was a crosswalk, at least that is what we called it, leading between the homes up to the abandoned streetcar tracks, where you could cross and get to another subdivision behind our home.

As I said, the area was lightly wooded, so with the encroaching dark, dad was able to sneak right up to us. He had cut holes in the bag so he could see, put the bag over his head and snuck up behind that big oak tree. We never saw nor heard him. Now my dad has the patience of a big cat and didn't make a sound. He waited for just the perfect moment when both of us got close to that tree and...

Dad jumped out from behind the tree and just growled with his arm extended in front of him to grab us! Rich and I practically had a heart attack, well at least I did! We had no clue who or what it was...all we knew was that some hideous, big thing just jumped out from behind our tree! A new land speed record was in jeopardy, because I took off like rocket. I never ran so fast in my life. I left Rich to fend for himself, but when I did glance back, he was right behind me! One look on his face told me to keep running!!! Our house didn't have a fence, so I headed right for the back door to get my mom and dad to protect me from the raging monster! I ran in, slammed the door and locked it, ran to the front door and locked it, then ran to my bedroom to see what was happening outside, the whole time yelling my head off for mom and dad to help me! My brother, the bravest of us, at least he thinks so, decided to defend the homestead from the backyard, right next to the back of the house. I have to admit, the little kid had guts! He had a big stick and started beating the heck out of the metal trashcans, making a racket that would wake the dead! While my brother fought off the monster, I continued yelling for my parents. What was going on? Where was my dad? Of course mom knew what was going on, but she knew I was terrified and about to go ballistic! She tried to calm me down, but nothing worked. In the meantime, dad had come down the little hill towards the house, which just encouraged my brother to beat the cans harder...though I don't know he could do that. He was destroying the trashcans with each whack. Dad finally stopped and took the bag off his head. The trashcan was pulverized and I was almost hoarse from screaming. I didn't know what to think. I just stood there, practically cutting off my mom's circulation from the death grip I had on her arms. My brother stopped and he just stared too...not sure what to do either. Finally, we realized it was dad and we eventually calmed down. Mom wasn't happy at all. Rich and I were terrified and almost lost bladder control...well, maybe we did and don't remember it! After we went to bed, mom told us that dad got a tongue lashing and knowing her, glad I was asleep!

To this day, my brother and I tease each other about this incident. He said he was the bravest, standing out there trying to drive off the Boogeyman. I say I was the smartest, since I ran inside, locked the doors to keep the monster out and was getting reinforcements to take care of monster!

Okay...I am going to get this issue settled for all time! Rich and I cannot agree and of course, mom stays out of it. So, you decide.....please participate in the poll below!

Okay folks, we are going to decide once and for all who was the best defender!

Which of us was the wisest in defending his family from the Boogeyman?

See results
Knightheart in 1st grade, 1961.  Now be honest, aren't I a handsome stud muffin???   :)
Knightheart in 1st grade, 1961. Now be honest, aren't I a handsome stud muffin??? :)

As far back as I can remember, my parents were always there to pick up the pieces from the messes and bad choices I made. Although I always had a good relationship with my parents and never did some of the things I hear children today do, like beating, stealing, and hurting their parents, it wasn't always smooth sailing. But, one thing I did learn is respect and to listen to your elders! I didn't always do that, but looking back, I see the times that I did NOT listen to my parents or take their advice, I ended up in a big mess of some kind. I am grateful that they just didn't turn their backs on me when I did these things! Patience was definitely something they both learned and lived!

My father is no longer with me. He passed away in 1993 suddenly from a heart problem shortly (1 week) after I got married. I was totally devastated over this sudden loss and since I was living over 2000 miles away at that time, Olympia, Washington, I was worried about my mother being alone now. My parents were approaching their 50th wedding anniversary, so I knew my mom was going to just fall apart!  I moved back to St. Louis a few months later.  Both mom and dad lived through the Depression, 2 major wars, and know they were stronger for living through those times. But the loss of a spouse after 40+ years was the worst!   Although my father is gone, he left me with so much...his strange humor, funny sarcastic remarks, his jokes, but also his wisdom and love.  I will treasure the memories and will keep them in my heart forever! Thanks Dad!!!!

I just pray that all of you think about your parents! If they are still alive, I pray you will treasure them for the rest of their lives! If your relationship isn't good, contact them and ask for their forgiveness before it is too late. Once they are gone from your life, you will regret not re-establishing your relationship. No need to point fingers, just show them the love and affection they deserve and gave to you!  Believe me, all of us were no angels!!!   It is never too late!

So, my friends, honor and show your love to your parents every single day. Your mother brought you into this world and raised you with or without a father. It doesn't matter, honor and treasure which ever parent you have! You won't be sorry!

Knightheart's Korner


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