My friend Mack Samples posted a picture of an old Buick on Facebook recently and this message to go with it:
“I drove this car to school a couple of days a week during my junior and senior high school years. My dad was not a part of the one percent. He was a working man who worked 42 years of shift work for Hope Gas, raised three big gardens, kept a milk cow, killed hogs in the fall, raised eight kids and kept a couple of fox hounds. Had his house paid for by the time he was 28 and constantly improved it with his own hands. He was a firm believer in the Free Enterprise System and the Market Economy. Buicks were his passion, he owned nine of them. He was also a pretty good banjo player.”
I met Mack’s dad once and played a little music for him and Mack’s mother.
I don’t know what possessed Mack to post this message but I’m glad he did.
It reminded me that Mack’s dad’s generation, the same generation of my dad’s, was the greatest, whether or not they served in World War II.
What made this generation full of “tough old birds”? Was it the fact that they faced a horrendous depression? Was it the two world wars that kept their lives upset?
I’m not sure. All I know is that they were special people who were driven to succeed in spite of everything.
The successes of my own dad would fill a book. He lived in Logan County until he was 14 when my grandfather threw him out of the house because he wouldn’t work as a trapper in the mines. (He had claustrophobia.)
He came to Huntington to live with his grandmother, married and eventually got a job at the “Nickel Plant.” He became a bricklayer then a foreman in the yard department.
His hobby was woodworking, and I have dozens of lamps, bowls and more that he made.
When we moved to Peyton Place in 1950, he upgraded the house and property. He raised a garden, kept chickens and built a bridge out of a scrapped crane he bought from the Nickel Plant.
The concrete deck he poured on the bridge deck more than 50 years ago remains intact without a crack.
In his 50s, his body was broken by rheumatoid arthritis. He walked with crutches until his death. Did that stop him? No. Stricken with arthritis, he built a china cabinet that sits in our dining room.
He purchased a Cub Cadet tractor and widened the rows in his garden so he could sit on the tractor and tend his crops. He raised a big garden that way and we canned corn, beans and tomatoes.
He was a tough old bird until the morning he ate breakfast, lay down on the day bed and died. He went first class.
Some of you doubtlessly had moms and dads similar to Mack’s dad and mine. They were seasoned by the times in which they lived and weathered storms with grace and dignity.
The greatest generation? Without a doubt.