In 1964 when I entered high school, one of the requirements for graduation was to take a foreign language. A discussion ensued within the family as to what my language selection should be. Should it be German because of my German “mother,” should it be French, because somewhere in the back of my mind there was something French I thought I was remembering, or should it be Latin. We decided upon Latin because of my interest in the sciences. It was felt with my interest in the sciences, Latin would be the better choice. In hindsight, my parents should have encouraged me to take French—I would have had better use of the French language than the Latin I never used after high school. Unfortunately, I didn’t know about my French heritage at the time.
As part of my studies, I decided to join Jr. ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps.) This was during the Vietnam era and students in ROTC were looked down upon. During that time, students in ROTC belonged to “Royal Order of Tricycle Cops” or “Rotten Old Tin Cans” as some students liked to call us. In 10th grade, I was on the drill team. In 11th grade I was on the color guard—we lost in the citywide competition by 1/10th of a point. In 12th grade, I was on the ROTC rifle team. We had an armory and a rifle range in the school and during lunch and after school, I was usually at the rifle range practicing for competition. Of course, there would be no facilities like this in today’s school. It was a different time when nobody thought of going into a school to shoot up the place.
Being in ROTC, we would have our annual ball at one of the local high-end centers such as the International Room of the El Cortez Hotel. In 1965 this would have been my first formal outing. Afterward, I wrote to my grandmother, Addie Mae, the following letter:
14 March 1965
Thank you so much for the two books on the history of the world. I sure could use them.
Right now we are studying about the religious reformation and the intellectual revolution.
Last Saturday, March 6, we had our annual R.O.T.C. Ball I really had a swinging time. Thank you again for the wonderful books.
I later learned that several of the books I had been receiving were from my family in France. I wish I still had them, but they are long gone.
As I mentioned earlier, I rode my 10-speed bike to school every day, come rain or shine. One day as I was locking up my bike at the bike rack, a police officer came up to me asking to see ID. I was shocked, and at the time I was 16 years of age and too young to have an ID, so I showed him my name in one of my textbooks. As he looked at my name and pulled out his ticket book, he said ”You know you ran the stop sign at the bottom of the hill.” “I did?” was my reply. I then stopped short of saying, “I always run that stop sign.” It was such a thrill to come speeding down that hill and look up the street to make sure there were no cars in sight, and whip around the corner as fast as I could. Obviously, I didn’t see the cop parked up the street. I was given the ticket and had to take one of my parents with me to see the traffic judge. My mother went to traffic court with me. I will never forget what the judge said to me, “Do you know why you stop at a stop sign?” As I pondered the question and what my response should be, I thought better than to give a smart-aleck remark, because in my mind, the judge might make me write some sort of 500 word essay. When I didn’t answer right away, he said ”Because it’s the law.” I have never forgotten that. He told me not to do it again and to this day, 50 years later, I have never been stopped for a moving violation. This is not to say I am that good of a driver, but only to say that whatever moving violation I may have done in the past, has never been observed by the police.
Although my father was a very loving, intelligent, family-oriented man, he could be, at times, very domineering and controlling. I distinctly recall telling my “mother” that I never wanted to be a domineering/controlling person like my dad could be. However, he instilled honesty and integrity into my life, and I loved him dearly. And yes, I had chores around the house: wash and dry the dishes after meals, clean my bathroom, put out the trash and take it to the curb, and make up my bed every single day. But the one thing I hated more than anything else was having to be my father’s “go for.” You know, go for this, go for that, go for anything he needed. He would do plumbing repairs and it would be:
“Daniel get me my 1/4” wrench.” I’d run downstairs to the garage and bring him his 1/4 inch wrench. No sooner would I return with his wrench, then it was:
“Daniel, get me my monkey wrench.”
“Daniel get me my Phillips’ screwdriver.” Back to the garage I’d go and return with the Phillips’ screwdriver.
“Can I leave now?”
“No, stick around, I may need you.”
In the end, I got so tired of running up and down the stairs between the garage and house, that I brought up the entire tool case.
I think you get my drift. This is how I spent some of my Saturday mornings; helping my father with his projects around the house. In retrospect, I now know he was preparing me for adulthood. Because of his insistence, I learned to become quite the handyman around my own home: built my own three-car garage, laid a 1000 sqft foundation (with help of another person) for an addition to my home, a majority of my car repairs and additions, etc. But the one thing I hated more than anything else about working around the home today is, minor plumbing such as replacing a water line, or a faucet—yet I do it because it saves money.
— The Good Men Project (@GoodMenProject) March 10, 2019
It’s never too early to start talking about Father’s Day on The Good Men Project. We’re looking for sponsors and contributors for our #ModernDayDad campaign. https://t.co/WJvKqq2kTe pic.twitter.com/j66LNCY0VG
— The Good Men Project (@GoodMenProject) March 11, 2019
We celebrate Gay Pride all year long. But this year, we’re doing some special programing for a large-scale campaign #LoveEqually. We’re looking for both sponsors and contributors. Check it out! https://t.co/tkraXFPxLL pic.twitter.com/X2FlBEZb8Y
— The Good Men Project (@GoodMenProject) March 11, 2019
Photo courtesy of the author.