My father was born 100 years ago today, August 2, 2017.
This is one of the earliest photographs of me, my brother and my father. I’m on the right.
I’m not sure I actually have any memories of those days. I must have been only about two years old, so that was around 65 years ago. Is that a lens cap I’m holding?
My father spent a few of his years as a young adult in Europe, where he met a few of the natives. That’s him on the left.
Although the houses might be from a lot of different places in Europe or even Britain, this is almost certainly Belgium, since my father’s division was the first to travel directly from the US to the mainland of Europe. Some Belgians still remember his division, 104th Infantry Division (the Timberwolf Division), with affection and respect for their role in liberating them from the Nazis.
He did some preparation for his trip to Europe in the American West.
This could be Arizona or possibly Colorado. It might also be somewhere in Oregon, although I haven’t seen enough of Oregon to be sure there is anywhere there that looks like this.
He was not a desert rat, but he looked like one.
It’s the goggles. He’s still wearing the crossed cannons of the artillery rather than the muskets of the infantry.
It might not be immediately obvious, but even typewriters played a part in winning the war.
When my father returned from Europe after World War II, he and my mother lived in Akron, Ohio, for a few years. That was where my brother was born. They moved back to Rome, Ga., in time for me to be born in 1950, and they spent the rest of their lives there.
By the late 1960’s they had sold my old home place on Redmond Road to a medical clinic and had built a house on the other side of town. That’s where this photo was taken.
This is me, my mother, her mother, and my father. You can get an idea of the date from the pants I was wearing: purple, button-fly bellbottoms. My lack of facial hair dates it to around 1973 or 1974, when I was working for the Augusta (Ga) Chronicle. I had a beard when I interviewed in 1973, but the managing editor wanted me to shave. So I did, until he died a year or so later. Then I grew it back.
My parents retired but kept busy. This must have been when they were about to leave to attend some sort of fairly formal event, possibly when they were singing in the community chorus in Rome.
This, like the previous image, is a scan of a Polaroid print.
Time passes while you’re busy doing things, which is a good recipe for missing a lot of other things. I was lucky enough to have quit my full-time job and gone back to work as a part-time consultant in the late 1990’s, which allowed me the freedom to accompany my parents on a few of their long RV trips.
This is a picture of my father at Craters of the Moon National Park in Idaho.
He has a kokopelli on his hat and he’s wearing a sweat shirt with a timber wolf on the front. His Nikon F2AS is hanging around his neck. This photo was taken probably around 1997, twenty years after he bought the camera. I remember because he ordered it but had to leave with my mother on one of their months-long RV trips before it arrived. My father arranged to have his brother mail it to me at Lake Tahoe where I was living at the time. My parents stopped there for a couple of weeks. They left from there for Yosemite. I rode my motorcycle down from Lake Tahoe to see Yosemite with them.
They say that the sense of smell is directly wired into the brain in a more visceral way than the other senses. That may be true. To this day I can still recall the smell of their Airstream trailer, a distinctive smell I associate with traveling, the West and my parents.
This Craters of the Moon photo was taken before my father started showing obvious symptoms of the pulmonary fibrosis that would eventually cause his death. That death came in 2000, seventeen and a half years ago, when my father was 82 and I was approaching 50.
So 100 years. A century. One tenth of a millennium. In other words, a long time ago. There is almost no one alive today who was alive when my father was born. There is almost no one alive today who has first-hand knowledge of the world my father grew up in. I’m fortunate that my father told us a lot about his life when he was growing up. In fact, I think he did a lot to make the experiences of my brother and me like his own. We grew up a mile from where he grew up and spent a lot of time walking along the same railroad tracks and throwing rocks into the river at the same places he did. In some ways I think he relived his own boyhood with my brother and me.
I wish he had told us more. I wish he had been able to stay around a little longer.