Having dad here in McPherson his last few years was a real blessing. I quit playing golf while he was here (hard to take the game seriously, after all it was invented by the same people who think music comes out of a bagpipe) and devoted my time to being with him when I was not on the road. One of the topics I most wanted to learn about was his family and the Depression back in the 1930's. It was not a pretty story. My dad's family was far from wealthy, in fact they would probably be considered as living in poverty today. I know dad told me that one year he got an orange for Christmas. Another year, he got one small toy. Hearing this from him and knowing how much he gave us (my brother and I) every year for Christmas made me feel very funny about how unappreciative I must have been. I do know that if I expressed an interest in anything, dad and mom provided me with the tools I needed to explore that interest. I got excited about chemistry one year and for Christmas I got a huge Chemistry set with all sorts of experiments that could be run. What did I do with it? First thing I did was combine Potassium Nitrate with sulphur and charcoal and made gunpowder. Yep, I blew some stuff up! I know that is hard to believe about me but I did it. I also combined Potassium Nitrate with sugar, melted it down and cast some rocket fuel pellets which we used to fire off a few home grown missiles. I wanted to work on an old lawnmower engine and for Christmas I got a big set of Craftsman tools. I learned to weld from my uncle and for my birthday got an AC welder. For Christmas that same year I got a huge load of metal, angle iron, sheet, plate steel, etc. that I could use to practice welding and build numerous crazy things.
It seemed my parents paid close attention to whatever I was showing an interest in and then provided me with the tools to explore that area. I know I must have driven them crazy with all the things I was constantly building, modifying and then moving on to new, unexplored territories. Our garage was turned into so many things when I was a kid. I know I had built a radio in there, turned down the flywheel on a lawnmower engine, ported and polished the heads on that thing, calculated and built "tuned" exhaust and in general learned a lot about cars, engines. I even painted our 1953 Chevy after stripping off all the chrome and leading in the holes. If I wanted to learn about something, dad was there to help and to either teach me or learn with me.
The discussions with dad about his childhood makes mine sound idyllic. At age 9 he was driving a team of horses pulling a wagon load of cotton to the gin in New Mexico, at 9 he was plowing behind a team of horses for 12 hours at a time. At 9 he was hoeing cotton for days on end, picking cotton and dragging a huge cotton sack down the row. I can't even begin to relate to his childhood if you want to call it that. I really think dad was an "adult" by the time he was 9. He had adult responsibilities by then. Me? At 9 I was busy building a centrifuge with an Erector Set I got for Christmas. I am not sure how many G's a frog can take but I put one poor frog I caught thru pure hell when I was 9.