My dad really was a great guy. Of course, growing up, especially in my teens and twenties, I didn’t always appreciate him, to say the least, but the older I get the more I learn. I think the times he lived in and grew up on the farm in were a lot different from the times I grew up in and which were probably perplexing to him. The Sixties and Seventies were not all, “peace and free love, and everything is beautiful, Kumbayah.” But now, looking back, I think he tried his best to shelter us from a lot of stuff. I know some stuff about his growing up and his time in the Army and I know about how he was when I was growing up. I saw the difference between how he was before and after he received the baptism of the Holy Ghost as well.
But there is a time in his life that I don’t know very much about at all and that’s the time between when he got out of the Army and when he met my mom. I did get to meet some of his friends when I was a kid, however. One of the most notable in my mind was Ray Schwartz. The only time I ever saw them disagree was one time when my dad had told me to call him Uncle Ray, which, of course, I did. “Oh, you can just call me Ray.” “No, I don’t want him to do that.” “But I’m not the boy’s uncle.” “Then he can call you Mr. Schwartz.” “That won’t do. Why can’t he just call me Ray? That’s my name.” “He can call you Mister Ray from now on. How’s that?” “Okay.” We never, ever called adults by their first name. Mister Ray was a confirmed bachelor who lived with an elderly relative. An aunt, I think. I don’t remember too much about her except she had a little cocker spaniel and I was warned that I would get bit. So, there wasn’t much for a little boy to do and back then children were supposed to be seen and not heard. I did get to look at a photo album and I saw a black and white picture of two men that I thought looked familiar. Could it be? “Those two young guys are your dad and me when we went to see Lookout Mountain in Tennessee.”
When we got home my dad showed me the same picture and told me how he and his best friend, his buddy, Ray Schwartz, went to visit Lookout Mountain in Tennessee. He didn’t have a lot of things, but he had this souvenir of the trip. An Indian Head “penny bank” that says “Umbrella Rock, Lookout Mt.” on the front and pat. pend. on the back. I believe it to be bronze, but I don’t know. It weighs a little over two pounds.
The trip almost certainly had to have happened in the Fifties although I really don’t know. During the Forties, my dad was in the Army and any kind of metal was precious in WW2 so two pounds of metal, especially if it really is bronze, would have been donated to the War Effort. He married my mom in 1959, so that’s how I figure when the trip was. I tried to find the same bank online and I found some that were similar but not this same one. To me, it looks realistic, as though the sculptor had taken special care to capture his model’s face. The eyes always seem to be looking into the distance and the thing has captured my imagination every time I’ve ever looked at it. I tried a lot of different searches and the Bing Image search came up with some very close matches, but not the exact same one. The Google image match search was way off.
Parked right in the center of everything on the top of my desk is also this flag. It was draped over my dad’s coffin. My friend, Carter, who is a very active member of several veteran’s groups, put together a nice graveside ceremonial honor guard in which he also participated. The flag is draped over the coffin. Taps is played and 7 guys fire 3 rounds into the air for a 21 gun salute. Lastly, the flag is folded in a precise and proper manner, 3 of the spent cartridges are tucked into the fold of the flag, and the flag is handed to the next of kin. I purchased the wood and glass frame for it and it has been on display ever since.
On the far right is a “Beanie Baby” bald eagle that has lost its tag. Back in the Beanie Baby hey-day, it was a tragedy if one lost its tag. Now it does have a “TY” brand tag sown on but if I remember the craze correctly you had to have the name tag for it to be worth anything. There isn’t really a story behind it except that I thought it was cool when I bought it and I still think it’s cool and it just kind of fits.