Dad didn’t talk a lot about his younger years. He had a strange experience as a small boy. He and his father left the house for an errand. Grandfather had forgotten something and needed to return to the house for a moment. He told Dad to sit still under a tree and not get up until he returned. Well Dad started wiggling around as small boys do and all of a sudden he was rolling downhill into a small lake. When his father returned he had gotten out somehow, and believed to his dying day that an angel had saved him.
This story was really more about Grandfather. He and Dad (a baby) had gone over to the church early to prepare for the Sunday service. Grandmother and baby Nellie were to come later. Well, Dad needed a diaper change so grandfather laid him in a pew and changed him. Time was getting short so Grandpa stuck the diaper in a pocket and forgot about it. Later during the sermon, he reached into his pocket for a handkerchief to blow his nose on, and pulled out the diaper in front of the whole congregation.
There were no autos or planes in those days so people never traveled very far. Usually they either walked or went by horse drawn sled or buggy. This was quite cold in winter with snow too. Jim and I and our children visited the town of Volga, Iowa, where Grandfather had been pastor. The manse still stood there where Aunt Marguerite had been born. Across the dirt road there was a picturesque stream winding through trees. The nearest town was Strawberry Point, yet they didn’t get there very often.
When Dad was a teenager he was very ill. Dad said he didn’t have TB, but his sister said he did and that was why they moved to Arizona. The doctor said he had to get to a dry climate. So Grandfather took Dean and went immediately to Arizona to find a church he could serve there. Grandmother and the girls came later.
While in high school, Dad worked in a grocery store in Peoria, Arizona. He really liked that job. He liked the family he worked for. He stocked shelves, and delivered groceries. And he learned how to wrap packages for mailing. In those days there was no tape. Packages were wrapped in brown paper and tied with strong string. He taught me to do that too. When the package was ready for the final knot, someone had to put a finger on it to hold the string in place for a good strong knot. I have had to do this many times in my younger life.
Dad attended the University of Arizona for three years. Then he went to the University of Kentucky for his last year and graduated from there. He said he had wanted to become a minister but felt he needed to finish his education so he could work to help his sisters get an education too.
One thing Dad remembered was that he took ROTC at the University of Kentucky and how sore he got learning to ride horses in the cavalry.
Dad taught English at Superior High School, where he met Mom.
Shortly before he was married he set out across the desert in his old car with a plan to visit a friend in San Diego and then go up the coast to San Francisco to apply for a job since he had friends there too. Well, he got to San Diego and his friend talked him into meeting with the school superintendent. He did and they talked for awhile. Then he asked Dad if he would consider a job there. He said he might. The superintendent asked if he was married. He said, “no, but if I get this job I will be”. The superintendent said you have got this job.
Dad went back to Superior and they set their wedding date for June 10, which was Mom’s and Grandfather Dugger’s birthday. However they decided not to wait and got married on June 6, 1930.
Another memory that was rather eerie, was that Dad had to cross the desert for some reason and he was going to take a bus. Mom packed his clothes and we said goodbye. On the way to the bus station in downtown San Diego, he had the feeling he didn’t want to go on that bus. The feeling got stronger and stronger. Finally he turned around and went home and took all of us in the car. As we crossed the desert toward Arizona, we passed the bus he would have been on. It had turned over and caught on fire. It makes me wonder about his guardian angel again.
As I mentioned earlier the car he owned was a Graham. Like all cars in those days, before you could start the engine you had to crank the engine in front, a few good strong turns, and then jump in the car and turn the starter, using the clutch too.
While Dad was going to Stanford University in the summers he wrote a book organizing articles and sources that were about education. The book was published and he was proud of it. He loved to write as I do. Anyway, he was pleased to learn that many years later when it might well be out of date there was still demand for it. There was no payment connected with it.
San Diego was not so very large in the 30’s. People knew each other, and often visited together. One of Dad’s friends was the Superintendent of schools who owned a Yacht. (This man was the grandfather of the man (Conner) who won the America’s Cup for yacht racing many years later) To sail a yacht several hands were needed so he often made trips to Catalina Island up the coast toward Los Angeles and took along some friends which included Dad. He loved it. Also they sometimes just went fishing.
Another story was the time, Dad, Dwight Ball, our minister, and Dr. Nicholson an older MD went deep sea fishing in Ensenada on the Baja Peninsula (Mexico). They checked in the hotel and had to list their occupations. The man in charge got so excited that he had American professionals there that he started ordering the workers to clean the place up. So when they got off the boat the place was immaculate. Now for the rest of the story, the men came home with many large fish. Dad had Swordtail, Barracuda, Tuna, and others. Well the minister was going on vacation and put his in the refrigerator. When he and his family returned home there was an awful smell. It seems his refrigerator had broken and all the fish had spoiled.
Dad and Uncle Roy built a twelve foot rowboat in our sand floored garage. Dad put a small motor on it and we had some fun fishing trips in it in Mission Bay.
Some years later Dad built Ellis a small sail boat called a Sabot. It only held three people in it. One time Dad and Ellis and I were sailing along and a larger pleasure craft motor boat came roaring by and kicked up waves which were hard for our small craft to handle, especially since they came too close and circled so we couldn’t turn into the waves fast enough. Our boat turned over and we were dumped out. Dad screamed for us to hold onto the boat but I had a new red sweater and didn’t want to loose it. I was a good swimmer but Dad was afraid of an undertow. The sweater was only about eight feet away so I grabbed it and swam back. The people who had caused the problem were very apologetic. They took us on board their vessel and towed the Sabot and us to the shore. We got it righted and tried to sail back to where the car was. But with the wet sail and almost no wind we gave up. We pulled up on the beach and Dad walked almost the length of Mission Beach to the car and drove back to pick us and the boat up.
Dad was always there for us as children. Anything we wanted to talk to him about, he was there to listen.
When Dad was 86 he had a serious heart attack. Three fourths of his heart had been destroyed. He was in intensive care for most of the week. Then they moved him to a moderately intensive care room. I stayed with him most of the days for as long as I could. The doctor had told Ellis and me that if he did get to go home, he doubted he could livemore than six months. The following Sunday he seemed a little more chipper. They let him stand up and walk a short distance. He got phone calls from distant grandchildren. When I came back from the cafeteria where I’d had supper, Erin’s husband, Bert, and his brother were just leaving. Bert had planned to visit him on Monday, but suddenly felt he should go that afternoon. I went back to the room and sat with Dad. About 7:30 pm he grabbed his chest in pain. I called the nurse who began fooling with the blood pressure cuff. All of a sudden Dad let his hand drop away from the pain, and looked up over his head and said “Oh!” as if answering someone that was speaking to him. I said to the nurse he’s not breathing. They rang their “code Blue”, and I got on the phone. I called Mom but just told her to have the neighbor bring her in. Then I called a family friend and asked her to try and find the minister. Then I began calling local family. I was shaking so hard a nurse had to help me dial some of the numbers. I’d like to know who he saw when he spoke his last word. I like to think he saw his family or heaven, He definitely saw something and the pain was gone.
[Next I will write about growing up with my Brother Ellis.]