The LuLac Edition #2094, June 17th, 2012
FATHER’S DAYEvery year on this day, I endeavor to do something different to highlight the importance of this day. As the years pass between the time my dad died, (now going on 33 years) I can’t help but wish I could have him for thirty seconds and simply say, “You were right…..about everything”. But since I can’t, the next best things are memories. The past few years I shared my memories, and we also had sons of political fathers share their own thoughts. (The most genuine came from former Senator Ray Musto on the career of his father James Musto). When I was preparing this year’s edition, I decided to call on my friend and broadcast icon Shadoe Steele, aka Rusty Fender, aka Dale Mikolaczyk. Shadoe always told the story of how he convinced his father to bid on an artifact that was being sold at auction at Rocky Glenn Park. Shadoe was working in New York and could not attend. He’ll tell the story in the body of this interview. But when I first heard it, I envisioned my friend’s father as a combination of TV dads. I thought of the fiscal responsibility and stability of Ward Cleaver. Throw in a little Jim Anderson who always wasn’t sure of the logistics of what Bud was doing with that engine but trusted in his ability. And then add the sense of adventure and reckless abandon of an adventure with his son and you get a little Phil Dunphy. In my conversation with Ed Rendell at his book signing the other night, he touched upon how the death of his father when he (Rendell) was 14 and how his dad's values impacted him on so many levels that even today they are vivid reminders. I think that is not unusual with surviving sons of fathers. We all wish we had them longer (Shadoe’s dad actually died on Father’s Day) we’re still trying to figure them out and we are praying that we honor them with our lives. There are many Father’s Day stories in LuLac land, this is just one of them.
On Father's Day, when other people are taking their dad out to eat or buying them something, does the loss of your father hurt more?
As my life usually runs in high melodrama, nothing hurts more than not having John around on Fathers' Day as it was on Father's Day June 17th 2001 that he passed! Both the day and date match up with Father's Day this year, but that is one of those times that sticks in my mind forever! How long has your father been gone? 11 years to the day TODAY!
Your father was part of that WWII era. I found that with most dads of that era, there was no in between. you either had the character type of the strong silent type. Which was your dad?
John was the strong, silent type, I never saw him cry! Unlike me who is always at a pedal-to-the-metal race with life, John was smooth and unflinching, nothing bothered him, EVER... except for the time I broke an upstairs window at our house on Main Street Duryea playing baseball in the schoolyard which is now behind the borough building in town! That line drive cost me my bicycle privileges for 2-weeks, but what a hit that was!
How did your father's work influence you in your chosen career. My dad was on the railroad and never took me to see the trains because I think he wanted me to do better in a life's career than he did. You know, not to be outside every day in heat, cold and rain. How about your dad?
The only thing that influenced me was my father's incredible work ethic, much like mine. He never took a sick day in his life and neither did I, he worked 7-days a week and never took a vacation much like myself. His entire career was as District Supervisor with A&P Supermarkets for 46-years, his only job in life! On the other hand in broadcasting I had to leave the area, working in New York City for 20-years, something I look back on now as a great break in the aerospace/satellite engineering business as there would have been no chance for me to be employed in that field unless I wanted to teach it, and I do that now and for the last 7-years at Wilkes University. My father started with A&P as a bag boy in the 1940s after serving with General George Patton in WWII and was in both the Battle of the Bulge and at Normandy.
When did you feel you and he had an adult, equal footing understanding, if ever?
Never, LOL! I found only during the final years that he had a great and deep respect for me and the things I accomplished in a rare field of high-tech engineering. He never understood what controlling the telemetry of C- and Ku Band communications satellites in geosynchronous orbit entailed and he didn't really care. John knew I did something that was out of the ordinary and that I made an incredible salary doing it, but through life if I said black, John said white!
Did it help or hinder you as being an only child?
Being an only child was the greatest part of life - I know this is very different than what most only-siblings would probably say. My parents were my friends! My mother, an English teacher, educated me years beyond what I would learn through formal education and it is because of her I've been so lucky in my career fields!
What are the best strengths you think you inherited from your father?
A work ethic second to none, people will stop me on the street at least once a week and ask me if I EVER take a day off to which I reply NO! Coincidentally I have just returned from my 4-days off per year at Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks Wyoming and Montana and Sun Valley Idaho until next June's vacation! I do get 5-weeks vacation and 10-personal holidays per year but take only the 4-days as it's easier for me to keep things in order this way.
There are certain fathers that stay aloof from their kid's hobbies. At least one time your father was not. Can you tell us the famous caper of the item you bought at Rocky Glenn Park's auction?
On August 24th 1988, Norton's of Michigan (long before there was an eBay) were and are the world renowned auctioneers of the famed Rock Glen Park, an institution in this region for a century. I could not get the day off from the NBC Television Network at 30 Rockefeller Plaza New York City where I was working so special arrangements had to made between my father, Penn Security Bank and Norton, weeks before the auction. As I had already pre-arranged to be there myself and had spent about $150.00 for registration (just for the privilege of bidding) my bank had to provide a statement of funds contained in a savings or checking account so if a bid were made for an item that day, they knew there was sufficient funding via the bank to accept the bid, it still works this way today. This was a very complicated process especially in 1988. I told my father I wanted 4-items I thought may still be available for auction and were still in use in the arcade up to the early 1980s, the first being a Dodgem from the bumper car ride, the 2nd: the "Williams" mechanical bulldozer arcade game. For a nickel the player had to push as many 'dried lentils' into a chute which led to a scale, pushed by a player-controlled bulldozer at a work site mock-up, after which the high score (for the total amount of beans moved) would get another free game, the 3rd - the Mike Munves Corporation 'Grandma' paraffin wax, motorized fortune teller in an oak and glass 'phone booth' sized cabinet, which for a dime, the figurine dressed in 1920s clothing would move her hand over a tarot card deck and illuminated crystal ball and a fortune would drop out of a wooden slot beneath the coin slot, the 4th was an oak 23' SkeeBall alley. It turned out there were many amusement park 'operators' there, the carousel horses from the Merry-Go-Round, all Skee-Ball alleys and all Dodgem cars went to massively high bidders from other parks around the country and are still in use (the Merry-Go-Round is now in Central Florida.) The Williams "Construction Site" bulldozer was probably scooped up my Marvin Roth of the Roth Novelty Company on Pennsylvania Avenue Wilkes-Barre (before the auction) as many of his collection items were displayed at his "Station Complex" property at Market Street Square in the early 80s. The 'Grandma' was available but my father knew there were going to be some high stakes involved with this, as the bidding "started" out at $5 thousand! I had told John to go just a little higher than $10 thousand for any item if it was available, "regardless of condition" and although he thought I was out of my mind, he complied. The bidding slowed around $9 thousand and it was just my father and the bidder from the South in it. The auctioneer asked for $9500 and the floor was silent - my father threw in the final $10 thousand (although he later told me he would have gone to $11 firm) and the bidding ended! Although refurbishing the cabinet and mechanical elements "detracted" a bit from its worth (even with kid's initials, cigarette burns and chips in the oak cabinet, it would have been worth a bit more if I left it as is) Weller Woodworking from Hamlin was the ONLY place I would even dream of allowing to redo the piece! Chris Weller was so taken by the 'Grandma' he asked permission from me to allow video-taping of the restoration process to be used in their demonstration video for prospective clients, "still in use today!" The total restoration cost an addition $10 thousand including precise detailing of every screw, bolt and nut of the machine during dismantling as the entire 1200 pound cabinet had to be immersed in the wood-stripping solution tank. Today, 3 'Grandmas' exist in the world, two are in Germany, owned by US citizens, and mine - last appraised in 2000 (for insurance purposes) at over $77 thousand, and restored to pristine '1st State' museum condition.
Okay, going to put you on the spot. What was your favorite place to go in the summer with your dad. Rocky Glen Park or the Mr. Peanut Store at the Gateway Shopping Center in Edwardsville?
Great question David, how did you know?
I remember everything people tell me. It’s a blessing and a curse. So which is it?
My father would stop at Mr. Peanut almost every Sunday in the Gateway Shopping Center Edwardsville for fresh-made peanut brittle. Although John and I hiked past Rocky Glen Park starting at River Street Scranton, walking south along the adjacent Erie-Lackawanna Railroad track (which still exists) during the winter of 1968, we were NEVER both at Rocky Glen Park together.
I always have this small wish that if I could get my father back for one minute in this lifetime, I'd be happy. I figure I'd tell him something or ask him something. If you had that opportunity what would you say to your father?
I'd be happy just to see him again. We were like the 1974 Harry Chapin song "Cat's In The Cradle", we never had time for each other - either he was working or I was working out-of-town in New York City all my life, and when we finally had a few minutes, he was gone. Thank you for letting me share these personal moments with you and the BlogSpot readers, David!
My pleasure. Wish I had met him.