Sun, 19 Jun 2005

Father's Day, 2005

My father, Russell Edward Nelson died ten years ago last January. I feel like I should write something about him on Father's day. I'm not sure what to say, so I'll just ramble. My father worked for New York Telephone for most of his career. He was a kind and gentle man. I never saw him raise a hand in anger. Fear ... maybe ... particularly the one time when he spanked me because I crossed the road by myself. Apart from that, I was never struck by either parent. Dad wasn't the tallest of fellows. I remember growing taller than him with the pride of having surpassed my father at something.

My father knew how to build a building. I don't know where he learned. He built the extension to my family's summer home in Shohola, PA. Hired out the foundation, but he built the rest himself, during weekends and vacations. I think that he always wanted me to teach me how to build, but I was never interested.

Dad was "handy", in the sense that he had a decent collection of tools and knew how to use them. I was so used to having tools, and having been taught to use them, that I was surprised to realize one day that my Uncle Paul wasn't handy. He had a screwdriver or two, and a cheap adjustable wrench, but I'm sure he had no idea how to change the oil on his car.

He worked initially for the telephone company -- probably 15 years -- as an installer. He was affable and made a good representative for the telephone company. He got a BA in Business at Hofstra going to night school. He started in Physics, but couldn't handle the math. For some reason, they sent him off to train for a management position, and during that time, reorganized his department out of existance. They offered him a position in Traffic Engineering. That position entailed writing reports about the amount of facilities that would be needed based on residential and commercial growth. He didn't like doing that, because it wasn't concrete enough for him. Too much guesswork. Anyway, it paid well -- very well -- and he wanted his family to be well off.

My father was a racist. It was popular at the time. I remember him being somewhat disturbed that a black professional had moved into the house kitty-corner behind us. My parents were worried that Baldwin was going to become like Rockville Center and Freeport (the towns on both side of its) and become majority black towns, with an accompanying decrease in real estate values. No concern as far as that fellow went.

I remember him being disgusted by the new laws that required Bell Telephone to hire unqualified candidates simply because of their color. He told a story:

"I remember walking through the CO (Central Office) and hearing a newly hired black employee being trained. He was told "Now, you take your screwdriver" and he interrupted the trainer saying "What's a screwdriver".
This confirmed his racism, I'm sure.

He was a Reagan Republican. Had an autographed picture of old Ronnie on the wall. On the other hand, (or maybe it's the same hand) my parents were sponsors of a child in some third world nation. My father was always disgusted by the editorial decisions of the Long Island Newsday. They were the only Long Island paper, though, and he wanted the local news, so he put up with them.

My father fought in the war, but he hated war. He didn't like the fact that the USA was the only nation that had ever exploded a nuclear bomb, but he also knew that he would have been a part of the invasion force had it been necessary to invade Japan. He flew a C-47 in the Pacific Theater, part of the 63rd Troop Carrier Squadron. Basically, a glorified bus driver in the air. But still, a necessary service for the war effort. Sometimes they would do cargo drops to troops on isolated islands without a runway.

My father was of the opinion that provision of services by private parties was always better than government provision. He worked for the telephone company, so he knew how badly private parties could be. Still, he didn't like it when the government did something that could be done peacefully instead. I had a brief unthinking flirtation with socialism for about five years, and had some arguments with him over it. But I came to my senses well before he died, so we made our peace.

I love my dad, and I miss him.

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