Norm: My post-war dad. Fourteenth of twenty-six posts in the April 2017 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood” — where my genealogy journey began. Wish me luck — I’m more than halfway there!
A Navy veteran of WW II, he was also an electrical engineering graduate of Clarkson College in Potsdam, N.Y — which is where he met my mom.
Our maternal grandparents lived on the farm with us — and the original plan was for all the adults to “go into business together.”
A job at GE
And my dad? He became the sole family member with an outside job.
He went to work as an engineer at the General Electric company in Schenectady, N.Y. — a giant multi-factory complex left me awestruck whenever we drove by it.
Yet my early memories of Dad are from when he was home — puttering around doing household repairs, trying to eke a garden out of impossible soil, or getting behind the wheel of our maroon Dodge for family outings.
After he retired, Dad wrote an essay about his youthful aspirations for the farm and how they fell short. So I’ll let him tell part of the story. (It’s written in third person, with “they” referring to our family.)
They could have beautiful gardens of flowers and vegetables, living off the land like the pioneers. They had a farmer plow up an acre to grow the tomatoes, carrots, beets, peas, lettuce, and beans.
Then they discovered the soil was clay, rain turning it to mud, which built up on the shoes an inch thick. Then the sun baked it to brick hardness with big cracks running through the rows of plants.
The poor carrots and beets could not penetrate more than two inches. The tomatoes did well but became the home of the green tomato worms, munching so loudly they could be located by sound.
Giving chickens a go
Dad gave gardening one last shot — planting strawberries in a far field above a creek behind our house — then abandoned the idea and moved on to a new plan.
Next project was raising chickens for eggs and meat. The barns provided a convenient location even having mangers for nests. The family kept business records, tabulating the cost of chicks, feed, and floor shavings.
They counted the eggs produced and realized that they could buy eggs for the same money at the local market. They did have the chickens to eat, but this meant the revolting task of killing the birds, plucking the feathers and eviscerating. Ugh!
Ugh is right. Well into my adult life, I could not eat chicken skin because it brought back memories of plucking wet feathers off freshly-killed chickens when I was little.
Life lesson: Try new things
Thus, project by project, Dad gradually moved away from the hope of small farming and embraced his new engineering career.
He also became active in the local community — even serving on the School Board. I was pleased to discover this tidbit in the April 12, 1957 issue of the Schenectady Gazette.
And Dad continued to embark on new projects throughout his life. He even self-published a mystery novel and started a blog when he was an octogenarian — which I wrote about in Norm’s eightieth birthday.
Dad’s can-do willingness to try new things has inspired me since I was little. He died five years ago today and I still miss him.
Up next – Out on the porch: Destination or state of mind? Please stop back!
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