Father’s Day Remembered

Written by John Paul Carter on June 21, 2012

After all the wonderful Memory of Dad stories that we published last week in honor of Father’s Day, I couldn’t resist one last one. It’s courtesy of one of our frequent guest columnists, John Paul Carter, an ordained minister who pens a column entitled, “Notes From the Journey,” for the Weatherford Democrat newspaper near Fort Worth, Texas. Thanks, as always, John Paul!

From the time I was 14, my parents insisted that I find a summer job. By the time I entered Baylor in 1956, I had labored as a grocery-sacker, soda-jerk, shipping clerk, and metal worker. At the time, although I did my work well, I saw little connection between it and my future vocation as a minister.

As my sophomore year at Baylor drew to a close, having failed again to find a summer church position, I hired on as a counselor at the Dallas Big Brothers’ Camp Tammi Babi. The wilderness campsite was located in the rugged cedar-brakes near Cedar Hill (later the home of Northwood Institute).

It consisted of a base camp (dining hall and swimming pool) and several outlying campsites, each housing 8 boys and 2 counselors who lived in tents, cooked most of their meals over a wood fire, and “roughed it” for a month at a time.

I had lived in the city all my life, never been a Boy Scout, and only been camping once or twice. Looking back, I’m not sure who was more desperate, me for a job or the camp director for counselors.

Before the boys arrived for camp, we were required to complete a grueling, two week orientation during which we prepared the campsites and ourselves. There was a thick counselor’s manual to be mastered, new outdoor skills to be learned, and lots of back-breaking labor – all in 100 degree weather.

What had I gotten myself into?

The first Sunday at camp was Father’s Day and we were allowed to go home to do our laundry and enjoy a few hours in air-conditioning with our families before taking up our cross again. None of us lingered at the front gate that morning and some of us doubted we would return!

As soon as I got home, I began to describe my ordeal to my father – sleeping on a cot in a hot tent, digging latrines and fire-pits out of solid rock, exhausting heat, snakes, spiders, horseflies, and very little pay.

I painted a miserable picture and asked his permission to quit and search for another job.

Daddy listened patiently and was sympathetic to my plight. After a brief silence, he said, “I want you to go back out there and give it your best for one more week. Then, if you still feel the same way, come home and I’ll help you find another job.”

Reluctantly, I agreed.

To my amazement, after another week of hard work with the other counselors, I wanted to stay and spend the next two months in the cedars as “Chief Paul” with a bunch of eight-year-old boys I’d never met before.

Although I couldn’t imagine it at the time, that summer turned out to be one of the best times of my life. I learned more about life, survival, grown-ups, children, myself, and nature than I ever would have learned in a church – lessons that have lasted a lifetime.

Surely God was where I didn’t expect him and I almost missed it!

That summer might not ever have been, had it not been for my dad.

As he often did, Daddy listened, understood, encouraged, gently guided, and then let me make my own decision.

That’s why, on Father’s Day, over fifty years later, I still give thanks for my dad!


Memory of Dad: Prince Albert in a Can

Written by Jean Hartley on June 17, 2012

Military-officer Daddy and toddler Jean holding hands


Part 1

Recently I spied a red Prince Albert tobacco can in a cigar showcase and my throat tightened.

Suddenly I was back in high school doing dumb telephone pranks.

“Do you have Prince Albert in cans? You better let him out before he suffocates.”

Fifty years later that red can evoked powerful memories of, “. . .if only.”

In the 1940s we lived in a big house in Indianapolis, Indiana. I remember sitting on my Daddy’s lap in the worn winged-back chair listening to the Motorola radio sputtering out news from the front. We heard Churchill exhorting Londoners to keep up their courage during the Blitz.

Relaxing in the fading light of day, Daddy stirred the ice cubes in his evening bourbon and water with his finger. When my mother wasn’t looking, he let me chew the melting ice with its sharp alcohol bite.

The bourbon’s companion was either a cigar or pipe. When he smoked his Roi Tan cigar, he would ask me,”You like music?”

I knew what came next but could not resist the game. “Well, here’s a band,” he’d say as he slipped a paper cigar ring onto my finger.

I can still smell the Prince Albert crimp-cut tobacco as Daddy packed the loose shreds into his pipe bowl.

When we walked together I always hung on to his little finger. From my ground view I saw the highly polished leather riding boots, dove-grey jodhpurs, and a Sam Brown belt with holstered pistol, usual attire for Army officers in pre -World War II days.

The eagle insignia for the rank of Colonel sat on his shoulder epaulets, replaced later with the single silver star for Brigadier General.

Long after his polo and riding days were over, Daddy still carried a riding crop and wore jodhpurs.

Later he carried a cane, not for a physical need but for the Field Marshall Montgomery image.

Clinking ice, pungent pipe tobacco, and polished leather are vivid Daddy sounds and smells.

Part 2

In 1943 Daddy returned to our small French-speaking Louisiana town as a decorated war hero after 25 years of Army service. A parade honored the Cajun country boy who became a general.

I adored my Daddy but there were a few things I had trouble forgiving. He told me stories at bedtime about when he was a little girl, which I believed.

I don’t remember when I discovered the truth, but I always wanted to know “why” the little-girl charade? I remember his answer, “Cher, meant no harm. Thought you would like a girl story better. Forgive me?”

I always forgave him, but wondered about the other tales of stolen watermelons floating down the bayou.

Those romantic stories sounded like Huckleberry-Finn adventures. Were those fibs too?

“I knew our Division would soon leave for North Africa. Just wanted to comfort you, hold you before the good-night time.”

What about the promise to build a two-story dollhouse with electric lights, miniature furniture, and little family dolls with movable arms and legs?

The memory of his voice is still clear.

“Don’t know why I promised you things I knew I couldn’t deliver. Maybe I wanted to create reasons to come home to.”

Years later when I was all grown up and didn’t cry over lost doll houses, I saw rows of colorful campaign ribbons pinned above his left pocket representing medals awarded for gallantry in World War II. Among them were the highly valued Croix de Guerre and the French Legion of Honor.

Although I did not grasp the significance of these honors, I loved to trace my fingers over the campaign ribbons as Daddy told war stories.

Soon the V-mails and Stars and Stripes newspapers were packed away to yellow with time. After graduate school, I fled to the West Coast with others searching for the coffee houses of the Beat Generation.

My phone conversations home were brief – our family did not believe in extravagant long-distance calls. I assumed we would have time for more chats and visits but death took Daddy too soon at only 68 years.

I lost my precious last five minutes.

Part 3

During late-night hours I often replay old memory tapes.

I curl up in Daddy’s lap in the wing-back chair and ask again about the watermelons . . . and the dollhouse.

I know we will sit together by the Motorola for eternity, smell the aromatic Prince Albert, and clink ice cubes laced with bourbon.

Editor’s Note: This beautifully written story was submitted by Jean Hartley, a polio survivor who serves as coordinator for Disabled Adventures Hawaii, a nonprofit organization that “connects people with limited mobility on-line to accessible activities on the Kona coast of the Big Island of Hawaii.” Jean also blogs at Stories About Disability. Thank you so much, Jean! 

More stories from: Featured Story,With My Dad

Memory of Dad Poem: My Daddy–You Endeared Yourself to Me

Written by Betty Kreisel Shubert on June 15, 2012


When I was just a little girl,

You endeared yourself to me –

By playing games of funny names

In ceilings and things we’d see.

You bought me a trike and a teddy bear –

The fact that you were always there –

Endeared you to me.


We ice skated down to Robertson –

When everyone else just walked.

We were better friends than anyone –

Often we just talked.

We gazed at stars – looked at Mars – studied astronomy.

The earth was an orange,

The sun, a lamp, as you explained the world to me.


As a rule, I’d be late for school (still am to be perfectly true).

I doubt if I’d ever have gotten there –

If it hadn’t been for you.

There were pony rides on Sunday morn.

You held me tight the night Brother was born

You knew I felt so alone and forlorn.

You endeared yourself to me.


If it rained a day that I was at school,

I knew that I could count on you to pick me up at three.

You would often leave an important case –

To endear yourself to me.

You always attended our May Day Fete –

And always you made me proud –

Because you were so handsome and your voice as a Barker, so loud.


As I grew up, you (and Mother, too),

Encouraged me in my field,

Gave me the prize of self,

Confidence to enfold me like a shield.

You rubbed sleep from your eyes –

To see a new sketch and approvingly exclaim.

How can I ever hope to explain –

How you endeared yourself to me.

You stepped over pins and mannequins –

For years you stayed in your room.

Tho’ I wonder now, how you stood for it,

You endeared yourself to me.


I’m grateful, too, for the way that you

Get along with my chosen mate.

Maintaining a bond of friendship,

I really think is great.


I mustn’t forget the Skippy stories –

Or the way you patted me to sleep.

The love and understanding –

That you rooted so very deep.

You handed down this patience, whimsy, and fun –

To your grandchildren – my daughter and my son.

I really am a lucky girl to have this wealthy store –

Of integrity, this legacy of imagination and lore.


Some give their children everything –

That money alone can buy –

But I am so much richer –

‘cause what I have you can’t buy.

My memories are YOUR TREASURY –

Better than money in the bank –

For this life time annuity, my Daddy, I must thank.

You endeared yourself to me.


Love always,


Editor’s Note: This poem was submitted by Betty Kreisel Shubert, a renowned theatrical costume designer with credits for stage, screen, television specials, ready-to-wear, Las Vegas musicals, and Disneyland.

Betty is also a fashion historian and author-illustrator of the upcoming book, “Out of Style: How, Why and When Vintage Fashions Evolved.” Congratulations on your book, Betty, and thank you for sharing this wonderful poetic tribute to your father. He sounds like a wonderful man. You are so lucky!


Memory of Dad: Dads Always Find Out

Written by Randi Levin on June 14, 2012

I have many memories of my Dad.

My story begins on my very first night of grad school, once class was let out.

My class was on a military base. The front license plate on my car was missing, so MP’s pulled me over.

Long story short they arrested me and kept me for many hours in a cell being told, “No phone call, no this or that–just sit there!”

All I could think about was, “There goes my graduate degree, and OMG how am I am going to explain this to my Dad?”

At the end of their shift,  I was driven back to my car. Nothing happened and nothing was ever said to my parents.

And yes, I could still go to graduate school. Thank goodness!


Just about 30 years later, Dad was ill and slowly dying, Mom was battling cancer, and I had several careers.

Needless to say, I was visiting my parents quite often, primarily to spend precious time with Dad.

One night there was some movie on the TV, I sat on the couch reading and watching and he did the same from his chair.

All of a sudden, some innocent people were swept away and locked in a military jail.

And then, out of nowhere. my dad looked right into my eyes and said, “It doesn’t feel so good to be locked up in a military jail does it, Babe?”

I mumbled some answer, yet at that moment I knew that he knew what had happened so many years back.

I didn’t say anything related and he went back to his book and movie.

How he knew I didn’t know. But trust that Dads always find out and know much more about us than we could ever imagine!

To this day I still miss him. . .

Editor’s Note: Randi Levin is a cookbook author/publisher in Colorado who specializes in high-altitude cooking and baking. 

More stories from: Featured Story,With My Dad

Memory of Dad: I’m Sorry I Didn’t Listen

Written by Kevin Huhn on June 13, 2012

The first thing I would do is hug him and tell him how sorry I was for not listening to his wisdom.

I was 26 when my Dad passed away from a sudden heart attack. He was 52 and was so well respected in Montreal, Québec, in the travel industry.

He did so much making sure that I was given all that he didn’t have, while, at the same, making sure I learned great lessons of how to treat people, how to be in certain environments, and what to do with my life as I got older.

By no means was he rich financially, but he was wealthy with relationships, especially with my mom.

He adored her and taught me how to be a good husband and father. . .problem was, it took me years to learn about how to do it.

Today I am 48. And, in my dreams, I talk to him about the things I have done/not done.

I did not get to say goodbye when he died. I was in another city at a sales meeting and got a call that he had passed away a few hours earlier.

I can remember walking into my Mom’s house, and just breaking down there, and then again at the cemetary.

For anyone who has a relationship with a parent (that they feel is a good one). . .I urge them to hug them, listen to them, and really feel the presence of them.

I sometimes wonder what would I have been like had he still been around.

Then again, his passing is what maybe helped me grow up.

Editor’s Note: This Memory of Dad (MoD) was written by Kevin Huhn, an author based in Ontario, Canada.

More stories from: Featured Story,With My Dad

Memory of Dad: Your Real and Personal Prison

Written by Debbie Frye on June 12, 2012


I always wondered why you made a joke about everything. Yes, I laughed even when it wasn’t funny; mostly, because I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.

But, I wished we could have held more meaningful and serious conversations together.

Maybe you were afraid to speak from your heart. I think that I know you better now, after your death.

I feel that I really missed knowing you while I had the opportunity.

After researching your life story, I understand you much better. I never knew you were abandoned by Grandma when you were a toddler.

For much of my youth, you were serving time in a penitentiary. I feel that the rest of your life, you were living in your own personal prison.

You were always guarded with your thoughts and feelings. When you told me, “I could tell you stories that could sell a book,” I regret not asking you what you meant.

It could have saved many years of research!

Mom used to say that you were a character. How ironic that you ARE a character in a book!

I still love you and miss you!

Editor’s Note: Debbie Frye and her sister co-authored a book about their father and his life of crime entitled, “Our Father Who Aren’t In Heaven: A True Story of a Career Criminal.” The book (and e-book) is available on the sisters’ website and also from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


More stories from: Featured Story,With My Dad