Well it was again time for a Daddy Job Change and he began selling insurance. He obviously was searching for his niche in life or perhaps simply unable to provide as he desired and looking to improve our conditions. After all my mother was afforded the luxury of staying home. Few women worked outside the home but shortly after our move Mom also became employed. How sad Daddy must have felt knowing we had come to rely on handouts from my mama's family.
Mama and Daddy in 1953 when she was 27 and he 33We didn't know as youngsters why our grandfather only came to see us every few years. Or why he always came unannounced and usually in the company of one or two other friends. Friends who favored the Foxhole people. Smelling funny. And it just simply didn't connect as being strange or abnormal that they would leave after he got out and go on about their way. It was just a happy event that Grand pappy was visiting and not unusual that while there he got a new wardrobe made up of my own daddy's things. When he got ready to leave he was taken to the bus station to go back home. Home. Where was his home? I don't remember ever asking. I only remember that when he came he always cooked something good, spicy and greasy like the chili he made and how he and Mama would stay up really late talking. Quietly.
One time Freddie and I got home from school and we saw pulled up to the curb an old banged up blue car with three or four men it it. The driver appeared to be sleeping with his right leg sticking out the car window. That was funny to see. Getting closer to the car we saw that Grand pappy was one of the men in the back seat taking a nap. They all woke up and so happy to see his grandchildren Grand pappy got out and opened the trunk which was filled with stuffed Teddy Bears, Penguins and Clowns filled with air tied onto sticks. Tacky and cheaply elegant Carnival Dolls for me. Great God Almighty did any other kid ever have it as good!
It would be many years before we could know and understand that Grand pappy was a hopeless alcoholic who had no home. He rode the rails, traveling from carnival to carnival hawking stuffed animals at Pitch and Win shows in addition to other skills such as announcing the freak shows and cooking greasy burgers on the midway. Today when I smell onions frying and just before they burn I invariably think of and see Grand pappy.
Folks said "What a waste....why he was always so good with figures and had such a mathematical mind. What a waste. What a shame." Was it a waste? A shame? Did he spill it as you waste something or did he fritter it away? Who was shamed. Certainly not the kids at the Carnivals. Perhaps there was already enough accountants and mathematicians but not enough Teddy Bear guys when he entered his profession. Again Grand pappy wasted his mind and Miz Closs lost hers. I on the other hand didn't even know I had one until I was grown, because I was never taught to USE it. But those were the fifties. Good years. Easy years. And I guess they were. They were good to us as children and they were certainly easy.
I've wondered if my daddy felt stifled and somewhat misplaced, being the baby of seven kids from upstate New York and now a southern boy totally out of his element. He had been a gifted musician and could play all the brass instruments. In fact as a trumpeter in the U.S. Army when he and my mom met. She and a girlfriend had gone to a weekend dance and she and Daddy danced the night away and fell in love. Shortly afterwards they married and when the war ended and his enlistment was up they settled in the south to be near her family. Regrets. I'm sure he had them by not pursuing his love of music while young, hence the many job changes. Of course I was grown before I realized that Mama was pregnant with me before they married and Daddy may have felt railroaded into marriage before he was ready. The formula was very different then as an unplanned pregnancy led to a quick marriage and to a lifetime commitment to make it work and stay married! However, later in his life he got a second chance in the music business in sales and remained happy and fulfilled until his retirement.
Our family made annual treks back east and I think they were Daddy's way of staying connected to his roots and the familiar. In looking back I think he sacrificed much for us and there were resentments simmering but never quite boiling. Nonetheless vacation time was our salvation. Those drives consisted of a 2,000 plus mile journey in a nine day period with a family of four. Enough food to last along with clothing and bedding stuffed in an old two door Nash Rambler. An undesirable feat today but for then it was pure adventure. My Daddy was on a mission and he was going home!