Saturday, June 17, 2006

My Dad

I've always associated my dad with airplanes.

My earliest memories are living right across the highway from the airport in Coffeyville, Ks. That's where the Continental Can Company, where my dad worked, was located. He was a sheet metal worker and he made parts for airplanes.

When I was seven years old, we moved from Coffeyville to Mulvane, KS. Right out side Wichita. He got a job at the Boeing Overhaul base working on sheet metal parts for B-52s. We were only there for about a year, and during that year he got laid-off from Boeing and went to work for Beechcraft doing the same sort of sheet metal work.

That year cemented my love of airplanes. Wichita was the home of Boeing, Beechcraft and Cessna. It had McConnel AFB which was the home of the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, flying F-105s, mainly to protect the horseshoe shaped ring of Titan II Missle silos around Wichita.

Every day in Mulvane was like being at an airshow. The sky was filled with low flying B-52 Strato-Fortresses and F-105 Thunderchiefs, on maneuvers. Sonic booms were commonplace. The ground shook and your bones rattled every day. The B-52s flew so low and were so loud, that you couldn't hear a person shouting at you from 2 feet away. If you stood out in your yard and waved at the airplanes, they would "tip their wings" to say "Hi" back to you. When we drove by the Boeing plant in Wichita, the first thing you saw were the 3-story high tails of the B-52s towering above the hangers. The only thing taller was the red and white checkered water tower.

I knew that My Dad was a part of that. Pretty heady stuff for a seven year old.

After dad got laid-off from Beechcraft, him and a buddy got jobs at the TWA Overhaul Base in Kansas City. The two of them temporarily left their families and moved into an apartment above a liquor store in Weston, MO. They found houses for their families in Excelsior Springs and then moved us all up.

I remember him studying to get his Airframe and Powerplant certification so he could get out of the sheet metal work and get a better job. I remember him not being around as much because he worked the Twilight Shift (3pm - Midnight) because it paid more. Even after his seniority qualified him for a "better" shift. With a wife and 4 kids to support, he needed the money.

Dad worked for TWA for the rest of his life. I remember when TWA moved to an "all jet fleet", phasing out the last of the "Connies". I remember touring the plant and seeing their very first 747.

So I've always closely associated my dad with my love of all things air and space. My love of airplanes led to my fascination with the space program. I closely followed the X-15 flights, the Mercury and Gemini programs, and of course, Apollo. I can recite from memory every flight, every crew member and their major accomplishments. To this day, my daughter believes that I know everything there is to know about "space".

My "high-tech fetish" led to a career with computers. For the past 20 years or so, I've made my living as a Systems Analyst. I owe this to the legacy that my father gave me.

So it really surprised me several years ago when my dad confessed that he really hated all of those jobs. He never had a job he really liked. Every job he had was a means to meet an end...to provide for his family. Know what he really wanted to be? A Forrest Ranger.

So this is a hats off to all of those hard-working fathers everywhere who toil and struggle through a lifetime of jobs they hate because they love their families and want to give them something that they themselves never had.

I love you dad. Happy Father's Day.

4 comments:

Dan said...

Beautiful.

emawkc said...

XO, you big softie you, great post. (What? I'm not crying. There's just something in my eye.)

Carol said...

Nice post. I've been reading your blog for awhile, but this is my first comment. You're pretty deep!LOL..Like you,, my dad had a number of jobs he hated. But this is what moms and dads do - sacrifice their dreams for their childrens'. I think it shows what great dads we have (had - mine's deceased).

Carol

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