Norm: My thirtysomething dad #AtoZChallenge

N is for Norm: My thirtysomething dad. Fourteenth of twenty-six posts in the April 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Endwell: My Elementary Years”— where my genealogy journey germinated. Wish me luck!

During my elementary years in Endwell, N.Y. my dad Norm was in his thirties. A Navy veteran of WW II and an electrical engineering graduate of Clarkson University, Dad was also a father of three and just starting out in his career.

So his job loomed rather large in the late 1950s to early 1960s — and that job was in Quality Control at General Electric in nearby Westover, a short drive from our house.

General Electric in Westover, N.Y. (1993). My dad worked in Quality Control at this GE plant from 1957-1969. Sadly, the building succumbed to flooding in 2011 and has since been torn down. Photo: Molly Charboneau

On weekdays I remember Dad donning his pressed shirts, skinny ties and suits — the ubiquitous corporate uniform — and heading out to the job, often after he and I had breakfast in the kitchen since I had to be in school early, too.

Enter the Fiat

When we first moved to Endwell, we had one family car — and Dad either drove that to work or had Mom drop him off. But soon enough it became clear that a second car would be needed. So Dad, who stood 6 foot 2, went to a new dealership in town and bought himself a little navy-blue Fiat 500.

My dad’s first Fiat 500. Deciding a second car was needed for his commute to work, Dad — who stood 6 foot 2 — went to a new dealership in town and bought himself a little navy-blue Fiat 500. Photo: Peg (Laurence) Charboneau

The other dads on our block were big on joking with each other — and as soon as they saw Dad’s tiny car they started in. Before long it became known as “Norm’s can of worms” — much to Dad’s chagrin.

Fiat 500 in profile. As a young father with a growing family, Dad believed in living on a budget — so every morning he folded himself up into the two-cylinder Fiat and off he drove. Photo: Norman J. Charboneau

But as a young father with a growing family, Dad believed in living on a budget — so every morning, despite the ribbing, he folded himself up into the two-cylinder Fiat and off he drove.

Mentoring and civic involvement

Dad was always one for getting involved in community projects, too. He had been on the school board in my early childhood, when I went to Altamont Elementary near Albany, N.Y.

Once we moved to Endwell, Dad was more focused on career networking,  joining the Endwell Rotary Club and becoming active in the American Society for Quality Control — known around our house as QC.

Dad and his mentee in a photo for the GE newsletter. Dad was matched up with a younger engineer at GE to serve as his mentor — and they developed a friendship that lasted for the rest of his life. Photo scan: Molly Charboneau

He was also matched up with a younger engineer at GE to serve as his mentor — and they developed a friendship that lasted for the rest of his life.

Weekend Dad: hobbies galore

Weekday Dad was a suit-and-tie guy — but Weekend Dad engaged in umpteen interests and hobbies. He raised tropical fish and (a camera buff since high school) built a small darkroom in the basement.

Of course he did the usual household tasks — painting, repairs and killing dandelions to achieve a perfect suburban lawn. But he did fun stuff, too — like hooking up a DIY coffee-can speaker under the outdoor eaves of our house to broadcast holiday tunes at Christmas.

https://pixabay.com/photos/irises-flowers-violet-blue-spring-4247197/
Blue irises were my dad’s favorite flower and still remind me of him. Photo: Pixabay

On summer weekends, Dad drove our family to our camp on Page Lake so we could learn to swim . And ever the ice cream lover, he even found a country ice cream stand with what seemed like hundreds of flavors for us to stop at en route.

Dad also loved to garden. Under his tutelage, I planted my first potatoes in a small plot behind our house and learned how to separate the roots (corms) of our beautiful blue irises — his favorite flowers, which still remind me of him each spring.

Up next, O is for Overtown: An Endicott escape. Please stop back! 

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Similar Posts:

Please like and share:

14 thoughts on “Norm: My thirtysomething dad #AtoZChallenge”

  1. Love to hear about the early days. Your Dad used to take me down the hotel hill on his long sled. I can just see him trying to get into his little car!!

  2. What a beautiful tribute to your father 🙂 I enjoyed reading it! It sure was a wonderful time period to grow up in 🙂

  3. Not only were our childhoods similar, but our Dads were similar. My dad was also 6’2”, the shortest in his family. He didn’t have a tiny car but he was always getting a better 2nd or 3rd hand car and fixing them in the driveway. It was a regular occurrence when I was young that Dad would get home and say “Come on kids! Let’s go for a spin in our new car!”
    My dad was always building something, many DIYs, including Noels out a speaker to outside! He loved to garden and when he was young his neighbour taught him to grow orchids.

    1. Great memories of your father — and so similar to my own! And this is the first time I have heard of another dad putting up an outdoor speaker — it’s almost as if there was a how-to handbook for fathers from that era (kind of like the Dr. Spock book our moms used to raise children).

      1. Exactly!
        My dad made a life size cut-out with plywood of three carolers and stood it up outside our house, and the music came from behind them! If someone did that here and now I’d find it annoying hahaha!

        1. Wow, I think we had a similar plywood angel in the front yard. Even in later years, when he abandoned his youthful DIY decorations, my dad always had some special lighting or gadget illuminating the house — whatever was au courant that year.

  4. I love the picture of your Dad with the Fiat. It reminds me of when my husband and I were first married. One of our cars died unexpectedly and we needed to get a new one but money was tight. We ended up buying a second had little red Honda Civic that had no features – not even air conditioning. My husband used that to get back and forth from work. It was rough on those humid summer days. Weekends In Maine

    1. Great story! Spoiler alert: my dad’s second commuter car was a red Fiat (after the blue one wore out) — and that’s the car I learned to drive on. Same situation as you — no a/c, no horsepower, but good enough to toodle around town with my hight school friends 🙂

  5. I enjoyed the journey of your dad and his new car. It was so cute!!!

    I felt as though I was right there with you as you told the story…glad you were able to end the weekend swimming lessons with ice cream!

    1. Yes, that ice cream stand was fun — out in the Pennsylvania countryside where you wouldn’t imagine there would be many customers. But they had all those flavors, which was great.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.