Monday, December 8, 2014


I don’t remember ever calling my father any title but “Daddy.” I felt close to him as a child growing up in the western part of the capital city. He is in all my early photos, Mother being the one behind the  bulky, black Kodak box. I recall it was Daddy who taught me how to ride a bike, Daddy who gave me driving lessons at age seventeen, Daddy who handed me money for a new vinyl record, or a Hit Parade song magazine. Daddy who took me to his work when he was on duty as a telegrapher nights. 

He and Mother were disciplinarians. He wielded the switch, which I had to bring in from the yard. His voice was as firm as the lashings on my legs. Not powerful for welts to rise; enough pressure to remember my misbehavior. A switch sat on top of the fridge through my teen years, though never used. A reminder I wasn’t too old.

 I recall Daddy’s fun times when I began to date. He inspected every guy who came for me, insisting on making “small talk” while I delayed leaving the bedroom. He checked out the young men’s handshake, hair and shoes. When a handshake was limp, the date got a minute of instruction plus a reminder that a firm handshake gives a good impression.  He didn’t embarrass the kid about his dusty shoes, or his unkempt hair,  but he let me know his preference. Daddy’s shoes sparkled as new. He never had much hair, but in those days a teen’s hair wasn’t to fall the face, but smoothed back with Brylcream. 

He loved to tell jokes he’d read or heard in Sunday School. They were corny to me. My problem was I was too serious, like Mother, to enjoy the fun he shared with us. His humor heightened when he beat me to the ringing telephone in the evenings. In a serious voice he said, “Hello, State Prison, Warden speaking.” I writhed with embarrassment, jerking the receiver before a hang-up. No pleading stopped his fun. I miss that now

Daddy kept himself in good form by exercising daily with bars and weights he bought back in the 1940s. A slim man standing no more than 5 feet 7 inches, the bit of hair he had in his youth disappeared by age 40. An industrious worker, he repainted the family dwelling every four years, maintained a neat lawn with a garden blooming with irises, and the car washed and waxed for his and Mother’s Sunday-go-to-church ride.  He cleaned the house interior religiously, leaving the kitchen and laundry duties to Mother. Our floors and furniture shined. He took pride in what he and Mother had acquired by steady work.  They married in 1931 during hard times. We were a family of four.  Daddy never got a son, but that didn’t seem to bother him. His four grandsons made up for that earlier loss.

Daddy loved to dress up for church. At work he wore grubby but clean clothes so his good clothes wouldn't be ruined.  However, at home he wore a dark green apron over a red plaid flannel shirt in winter, and a cotton short-sleeved shirt in summer. I recall he loved the 1950 leisure suits. He had several in several colors. When he dressed in one he was our Dandy Daddy. His younger sister, Carolyn, reminded me that her brother always loved dressing well and that attracted the women. Daddy in his pre-marriage days was quite a ladies' man.

He was a tinkerer. After retirement he taught himself to work on antique clocks. Just as he was cited a top telegrapher during WWII, he was known in the Jackson area as the best repairer of clocks. He knew their souls. He heard their hearts beat.

 One of our house rules was to leave a note on the living room carpet, so upon entering, whoever was home first could see it. Daddy’s notes were usually in rhyme and often in rural dialect. What few foreign words  he knew, he’d throw in here and there. An example of his humor was at the end of a note Mother wrote me: Vivian, change the sheets and wash the dishes. Get a quart of milk and a loaf of bread at the store before 5:00. Attached to the note were these words:

                                    And milk the cow while you’re at it. Pa

 That made me smile.  


The Dean of studies of my high school walked into typing class while we students were clacking away. Our fingers halted. “May I have your attention,” he hesitated and looked at our upturned faces.  In a commanding voice he announced ” Miss Chambers will no longer be your instructor. She has resigned her position.” He gave us time to soak in the news, then added, “Continue your assignments as usual,” and left.  That was spring, 1951. I was a senior.

When had Miss Chambers last been in class?  We girls chatted all the while, remembering how plain she appeared. Her red curly hair and freckled face was a lasting memory.  Later in the day the rumor spread: she had married Mr. Edwards, the barbering teacher. We marveled that our Miss “Missing”Chambers, had caught herself a husband!  

No one suspected anything. Each week the new assignments appeared on a side chalkboard. Typing was an independent study. Once we’d learned the keyboard (I still hear the cadence of “a s d f space j k l semi-colon) we completed assignments and handed them in. No speed test, as I recall. 

Mother urged my sister and me to be independent from early age. She often told us,“ When you get to high school, take typing. It’s the best course you’ll ever take and use forever.” That was one of the directions she gave us along with “Get a pilot’s license so you can travel the world” and “Don’t get married until you’ve traveled.”

Manual upright typewriters  - - usually Underwood or Royal - - came equipped with black cotton ribbon. We groaned when an error was made. That meant rubbing out the error with an eraser with as few smudges as possible.  Making copies in those days? A nightmare.  Between two sheets of white paper you placed a piece of thin carbon paper with the shiny side facing the second page. When an error occurred, groans were louder:  one to three erasures, depending on the number of carbons used. Each page corrected at one time. We were unaware at the time someone was busy inventing a correction fluid that would ease our woes.
That inventor was a single mother in 1951 who had typing erasure problems with her electric typewriter at her job. Tired of the smudges she made using the carbon ribbon, she became inspired after watching window painters eliminate flaws in their work. She devised a method and two years later with tempera paint she bottled Mistake Out, which with improvements was renamed in 1958 Liquid Paper.
Today in our using computers, all we have to do is “delete” and rewrite. However easy this is, I’m glad to have learned on a now-outdated typewriter.