(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser. If you are seeing this post through an e-mail, please visit the blog by clicking on the title above to see all of the photos and so the narrative is not clipped or shortened.)
Besides reviews of bars and breweries, each quarter I select an individual or group as my Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter. This “honoree” may or may not have anything to do with bars or beer, but have an interesting story. Past designees have included war heroes, academicians, athletes, lawyers, musicians, media personalities and two Catholic priests. My Dad, F. Duane Williams, is my latest Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter.
For a complete list from the ten years of this blog see: https://thebeerchaser.com/2020/12/13/beerchasers-of-the-quarter-who-what-why/
In the first post about my dad, Duane Williams (FDW) and his wife Frannie, I related how they met while working for American Airlines in New York City, got married, lived in Merrick, Long Island, New York and welcomed their first two children – Lynne and Don (now known as Thebeerchaser) before moving to a suburb of Philadelphia where their third child, Garry, was born.
On my forth birthday, we moved to Madeira, Ohio – a suburb of Cincinnati – where two years later, the fourth child, Rick, was born. Thus began the ten-year Ohio chronicle of an active, middle-class family with the dad working as a salesman for Bigelow Carpets and the mom, working at home to raise four active kids.
A Strong Foundation
While we were young, our parents strived and sacrificed to both ground us and educate us to the world around us. Tommy, a beautiful collie was our first dog, who eventually went to a farm – a real one not the proverbial one in the sky – because he chased cars down Miami Ave on which we lived.
We went to church at the Madeira First Presbyterian Church – only about five blocks away where I also went to kindergarten. (The Church still sponsors a Cub Scout Pack and Boy Scout Troop). All of us attended Miami Hills Grade School. The first memory from that period is when I received a misguided accolade from my kindergarten teacher. The conversation at home went like this:
Frannie: Donald, we’re proud of you. Your teacher, Mrs. Colter, told us how polite you are because you always remove your hat before you come into the room with the other children. She said that you are the only boy that does that.
Don: Mom, I hate that dumb hat. The only reason I take it off is because I don’t want anyone else to make fun of me because of the way it looks.
A key influence in all four kids’ lives was Scouts – Brownies for Lynne and Cub Scouts for the three boys. And my parents were active participants – most notably, Frannie, who was the epitome of a Cub Scout Den Mother, not one who just babysat while the young kids played games, but a teacher and mentor.
The two photos below from the Oregon City Enterprise Courier were not from Madeira, but after we moved to Oregon and Mom continued her Den Mother tradition – this time with Rick. It shows her taking the den on a tour of the historic McLoughlin House.
America the Beautiful
One strong memory is from one of the quarterly Pack meetings – an evening affair where all the Dens in the Pack – kids and their parents – attended about a ninety minute celebration of Scouting and current activities. At the beginning of each meeting one Den would be responsible for the opening ceremony and they were usually pretty perfunctory.
However, Frannie, going back to her American Airline days, resurrected some large photographic posters from an ad campaign highlighting the beauty of America. As “O Beautiful for Spacious Skies” was played, the Cubs from our Den walked out one-by-one in sync with the lyrics, each carrying one of the posters as a large spotlight shined on the expansive sky, the amber grain field, the purple mountains and the alabaster cities, etc.
Even as a seven-year old, I still have a vivid memory of the crowd of about seventy-five sitting in stunned silence until the end of the patriotic song —– then a spontaneous standing ovation broke out and lasted for over a minute!
The Kite Contest
Dad was a very successful sales representative and enjoyed interacting with the people he met. That said, he could have been an outstanding engineer, teacher, lawyer or newspaper reporter given his intellect, creativity and enthusiasm.
The first encounter I had with his engineering prowess was at the Annual Cub Scout Kite Contest. This traditional event was a big deal and a lot of cubs and their dads built home-made kites which were entered in a fly-off at the football field of Madeira High School.
Dad got the butcher paper, string, thin wooden dowels, balsa wood and then we cut a bunch of old sheets for the tail. We were concerned because the day of the contest, there was a pretty strong wind.
No frill – homemade design *5
A whistle started and kites went up (not all of them….) and flew for fifteen minutes to see which one could fly the highest – they marked the string at the end whistle and measured once they were back in.
Well, my kite took off like a bat from hell (even though I didn’t know what that expression meant at that age.) It quickly soared yards ahead of any of the others and a small crowd gathered around to watch. Dad stood beside me with a big smile on his face!
The fruits of my first victory in life.
In light of what they saw, the leaders decided that they did not need to measure – the winner was obvious and at the next Pack meeting I was presented with a baseball bat – the first place prize.
Thrilled with the result of the first contest, Dad decided that we would go bigger the next year and we built a “super-kite” in the garage that was at least four times bigger than the kite shown in the picture above. The wooden cross-bracings on the back of the kite were elaborate and probably stuck out two-feet from the horizonal and vertical axis of the kite.
We did not have the chance for a test flight and the kite was so big, we could not transport it in the car, so on the day of the contest, so we walked it about a mile down Miami Avenue to the football field. It caused some major gawking along the way.
A majority of the spectators gathered around our end of the contestants to see if this contraption would even get off the ground. Well, it did and gained altitude very quickly. Like the Wright Brothers’ flight at Kitty Hawk, however, it was short-lived, although lasting about ten times longer than the 3.5 first flight of the Wright Flyer at Kitty Hawk. Our kite had a catastrophic end.
When it was about fifty yards up, a large wind gust blew in and the kite with a loud and sudden snap -clearly audible on the ground – folded in two (vertically) and nose dived into the end-zone of the Madeira Mustangs.
I looked over at FDW and he had the same smile as he did the year before when we won first place.
The VW Microbus
In subsequent posts, I will relate what an integral part the Volkswagen Micro-bus was to FDW’s work and recreation, but the story started in about 1953. As related in History.com:
“In the 1950s, the Volkswagen arrived in the U.S., where the initial reception was tepid, due in part to the car’s historic Nazi connection…The micro-bus, with its boxy, utilitarian shape and rear engine, went into production. .”
Dad saw how the new vehicle could accommodate his carpet samples, his four kids, save a lot of money on gas and he loved the design including the engine in the rear. It was only 36 horsepower and had no gas gauge. (You flipped a lever to access a one-gallon reserve tank). I remember discussing the VW with him years later and the conversation went like this:
FDW: VW busses are so much safer with the rear engine. If you get hit head on, you don’t have your engine pushing through into the passenger compartment.
Don: “Yeah right, Dad. If you get hit head on, it’s the other vehicle’s engine that’s going to be in your lap.”
Our red VW bus was one of the initial five in Cincinnati, Ohio and definitely the first one to have passenger seat belts. American automakers didn’t begin including seat belts in their cars until 1960 and in 1968 the federal government mandated that all new cars include seat belts at all seating positions. (https://itstillruns.com/history-seat-belts-5110697.html).
But as an example of Dad’s creativity and concern for the safety of his family, he contacted one of his former colleagues at American Airlines, purchased eight seat belts and installed the airplane restraints on our VW bus!
Activities as a Kid
Although I now realize the benefit, I sometimes would get mad about some of the efforts to expose us to culture. For example, the three oldest all went to tap dance lessons which unfortunately had an annual recital. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but they made us put on lipstick to look better in the bright lights. I revolted in third grade and my dance career ended.
Garry looks a lot happier in the photo below at this recital where they danced to “Me and My Teddy Bear.”
Party Wagon (what a dumb title!) was much better, but still very mundane. Fifth and sixth graders could sign up for this weekend class where we were taught how to dance, the waltz, fox-trot, cha-cha-cha and jitterbug. We would line up across from the girls and walk across the room and inquire “May I have this dance?”
I do have to admit that some of that stuck with me and made my two daughters a lot less embarrassed than they otherwise would have been at the traditional Father/Bride dance at their weddings.
Another example was art school at the Cincinnati Art Museum. Mom or Dad would drive us the 45-minutes into Cincinnati for this three-hour Saturday morning event. Half of it would be painting or doing elementary art work and the other half would be watching movies about famous art notables.
I hated the art part because my artistic talent is about as good as my current skill on home improvement projects. While the six months of this enlightening activity did not improve my ability to draw, it did teach me to be innovative (and possibly deceptive…).
They divided each class in half and the first group would go to the basement auditorium to see the movies while the second group undertook the creative pursuits. I would leave my group after we saw the movie and hit the restroom. As the other group walked to the auditorium I joined the tail end of that group and saw the movies again – thus avoiding watercolors and chalk.
I guess I also learned a lot (and retained more than the other kids) about Rembrandt, Michelangelo and Picasso…..At the end of the six-month classes, I felt a little guilty and told Dad what I had done. I can still remember the smile on his face as he asked me if I thought that was the right thing to do.
Perhaps we don’t fully realize the time and effort our parents spent on our behalf until we have our own kids. Shuffling them to church choir practice, soccer games, scout meetings and engaging them about their experiences in these activities to see how things are going. Even with four kids, my parents were always fully engaged in this regard.
I’ll cover some of the highlights and why FDR and Frannie were such a great duo in future posts.
External Photo Attribution
*1 Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_view_of_plane_propeller_and_clouds_from_window.jpg). Llicensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
*2 Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Grain-field.jpg) L Author: Go2anna.
**3 Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rocky_Mountains.jpg Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Author: T Voelker – Winter 1994.
*4 Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SanFrancisco_from_TwinPeaks_dusk_MC.jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license. Author: Christian Mehlführer, User:Chmehl – 27 October , 2006.
*5 Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons: (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Origami_kite_base.svg) Author: Ftiercel.
*6 Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fier_Drake_(1634_kite_woodcut).png
* 7 *6 Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kombi_(4300860191).jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Author: Diogo Rodrigues Gonçalves from São Bernardo do Campo, Brasil – 24 January, 2010.
*8 Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Airplane_seat_belt_2.jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Author: Daniel Schwen – 2 August, 2007.
*9 Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Phenakistoscope_3g07690d.gif) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license. Eadweard Muybridge’s Phenakistoscope: Urheber: Eadweard Muybridge, 1830-1904
*10 Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cincinnati_Art_Museum,_Eden_Park.jpg) Llicensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Author: Greg Hume (Greg5030) – 21 January, 2008
Facebook Page – Madeira Silverwood Church (https://www.madeirachurch.org/community)