Remembering dad’s good deeds

Sunday is Father’s Day. Stories about our dads, whether they are living or have passed away, can be great and memorable, especially when – filtered through the sieve of time – they take on the rich patina of slightly faded ones.

The Christmas of 1913 was a very tough but memorable one for my dad. He had just turned nine and his dad had died earlier in the year. He was the youngest of 10 children, and his family was in dire straits. He had gotten the usual Christmas orange, but the local charity agency also provided him with a little glass toy locomotive filled with candy beads. He cherished that little glass toy.

Fast forward a quarter of a century to just before the Christmas of 1940. There were some strange goings-on in the basement of our new home. As a five-year-old I was not permitted to go down to see what was happening.

Christmas day explained it all. My dad had built a beautiful Lionel train layout on our ping-pong table for me. He loved demonstrating it. I had a little trouble getting at the transformer control so I could run the train myself.

My mom would chide Dad about not letting his son play with the train. But there was the man – turned boy for just a few precious moments – running that train around that ping-pong table platform. Perhaps this was a fulfillment of a dream he had on that Christmas day so long before.

Dad always looked out for those who were in need – from down payments on a home, to helping out with the rent, buying a refrigerator or stove, providing Christmas turkeys, or finding and helping to pay for a decent old car for someone to get back and forth to work – he saw that need and was Johnny-on-the spot in helping out.

Right after World War II, when new cars were extremely hard to come by, he knew of a family a little down on their luck who wanted to visit their son who was on active duty in Florida. They owned a clapped-out 1929 Oakland. They had been on the waiting list for a new car for months, but there had been little hope of them either getting or affording a new car any time soon. Dad swapped his position on the waiting list with theirs. He could wait a while longer for a new car, and he could help the family with a little money. He had them over for dinner, and then opened the garage door to show them their brand new Chevrolet.

A group called the All Male Chorus made up of World War II veterans came to Warren to perform at Konold auditorium at Harding. Their budget was on a shoestring and their tour bus was ancient, worn out and rusty. When Dad saw it, he enlisted the help of members of the community, fellow Rotarians and volunteer employees to swarm over that old bus and clean, refurbish, tune up and paint it so that it looked nearly new. The chorus members sang beautifully while they pitched in and helped. That little good deed was featured in the Tribune.

He was always aware of women’s rights, and the bus company he ran was one of the first to hire women bus drivers. His company sponsored a program called “The Shadow” on WRRN radio, but the announcer who read the prepared commercials was very lackluster to Dad’s ears. A secretary working in Dad’s office had a pleasant voice, so he told her to drop everything and accompany him to the WRRN radio station. She tried out and was hired on the spot. Her name was Betty Jane Brown, and she was known later on for “Aunt Betty Jane Reads the Funnies” on WRRN.

After his retirement, he was trustee emeritus at Warren General Hospital. There, he spent countless hours working as a volunteer in hospital maintenance.

Dad had his faults, but I can’t hold a candle to the many things he did for others. He just didn’t make a big deal about it.

Happy Father’s Day!

Write Don Mumford at columns@tribtoday.com.