mad in pursuit memoir notebook


Curly Price with Susan and Tom, early 1952Wednesday, 10.12.05:  More About My Dad - 1950s

[cont'd from here] Remembering. Trying to think of genuine images -- not legends. My mother dominates early childhood memories, so I have to really think.

This exercise is like fishing. Here's what I pulled out of the backwaters of my mind yesterday:

1. My dad did a brief stint as a meat cutter in my uncle's grocery store. Cold meat locker. White aprons. Meat wrapped in white paper with grease pencil prices scribbled on. Sawdust on the wood floor. I remember running in one day to visit him. He leaned over to kiss me -- I must have been very small -- and the sharpened pencil in his pocket poked me in the eye. No injury but an occasion for tears (mine) and hugs (his). I wonder how old I was.

2. Work bench in the basement on Penrose. The vise and an assortment of brown and yellow oils in slender glass bottles -- umber, sienna... Something was painted fire engine red -- was it the work bench or the vise? I was fascinated by the vise. I can see him standing at the bench -- me by his side, looking up. But did he ever really use the workbench? Someone cut wooden valences for the windows upstairs. They had a fancy scrolled edge. Did he do those or did his father (who was a bona fide carpenter)? My dad really wasn't the work bench type. Later in life he collected antique tools, but he liked polishing them up for display, not for use.

3. I was also fascinated by watching him shave. He finally gave me an empty safety razor and some lather so I could shave my face too.

4. I think he was happier abandoning his working class trappings for a white-collar job. He became some kind of office manager for National Lead. There was a secretary named Enid and a boss named Bodine. Every once in awhile Dad would bring me in on a Saturday. I got to sit at a desk and pretend to fill out forms. I was thrilled -- a little bureaucrat in the making.

5. Herman's was the local bar, run by a guy named Earl. It was a long dark place with delicious smells. It was where we got our first pizza -- another thrill and a tradition born. Ordering a pizza from Earl's was a very special treat. A more routine treat (but no less popular) was Dad's Sunday night run to the confectionary for candy bars. Baby Ruths. Butter Fingers. If we were out late, the treat would be a stop for hot glazed donuts, a thousand times more delicious than Krispy Kremes.

6. On summer weekends we'd be out at my grandparents' clubhouse in Castlewood. The place was built on a hill and there was a never-ending process of building concrete steps. Over a case of beer, my grandfather Ewald and my dad would do some designing, build a wooden form and pour the concrete made in Ewald's mixer. Every step was a different shape and height, depending on how lazy or ambitious they happened to be. The steps were full of our handprints and footprints and an occasional notation of the date and how damn hot it was.

7. During one or two summers -- I suppose when our legs were longer -- my dad led exploratory hikes through the woods and backroads. The preferred destination was Lincoln Lodge, a bar and restaurant along the Meramec River that had seen better days, when there were active beaches along the river. Dad and Ewald would call my mother to pick us up and have a beer while us kids -- usually me, brother Tom and cousin Tom -- drank soda.

8. My dad was a worrier. Where my mother grew up as a bit of a wild-child out at Castlewood, Dad was cautious. Fireworks were always plentiful over the July Fourth holiday. Maybe it was the summer my sister Ellen bit down on a firecracker and it blasted out of her mouth... my dad had enough and made us stay indoors while my cousins got to light Roman candles and other dazzling displays. My mother though he was a terrible fuddy-duddy, but he insisted.