Thursday, August 7, 2014

Dad's Very Important 5th Birthday

Dad, on his 5th Birthday, 1930
Photo by Dad's Mother
Dad's 5th birthday was a life-changing event. His family had moved from the country to the big city, they were sharing a house with friends, and public school would soon claim his childish freedom.

Stock Market Crash of 1929

It was August 11, 1930. One year before, the stock market had hit a peak high of 381.17 on the Dow Jones. But by late October, Black Tuesday stunned the world with the greatest crash the market had ever known. Ripples of the stock market crash reached everywhere. In Oklahoma, where Dad's family lived, drought had struck and the cotton crop failed. Towns and farming communities suffered greatly and many people migrated elsewhere, leaving ghost towns and small cemeteries behind.

My father's parents had been working on dairy farms and did some time as share-croppers. Grandpa was mechanically inclined and also took on odd jobs, which may be how he met Mr. Colson, the owner of the general store. When the store had gone under due to lack of funds, the Colsons moved to Ft. Worth, Texas and started life over. They got established in a two-story building which had the store on the street level and living quarters upstairs. Mr. Colson wrote to Grandpa and said he should come on down to Texas and find work in the city, where more opportunities were to be had.

The Big Move

My father's parents piled their household belongings on a Model T Ford, tied a side of ham in butcher paper, loaded their two young sons in the back seat, and drove perhaps 5 hours in the heat on two-lane blacktop into a new life and a new world. When they arrived in Ft. Worth, they went right to the Colson's place, presented the ham, and moved in upstairs alongside their friends. Grandpa helped out around the store at first, Grannie looked for a job.

So it was in Ft. Worth, Texas on August 11, 1930 that my father - the shorter boy in the photo above - turned 5 years old. His mother baked a cake and put it on a glass cake stand that she may have borrowed from Mrs. Colson. Shirley Colson, the granddaughter of my Dad's benefactors, was present to help with the festivities. No doubt Dad's older brother had his share of cake too! Grannie got out their Brownie box camera - you can see her shadow partly cast over Dad's feet - and took this photo on the great day!

A Shift in Family Fortunes

From this point in our family history, so many new things happened. The boys got a good public school education in the city. Grandpa worked many jobs, but wound up as head mechanic of the City of Ft. Worth Garage. Grannie worked her way up from a seamstress to a floor supervisor with Williamson Dickies, making uniforms and jeans during World War 2. Dad signed up for the Navy from a recruiting office in Dallas, and when he came home from the  South Pacific, went to college on the G.I. Bill. His brother worked on aircraft at Convair, where many bombers and fighter jets were made and sent into the battle. Both boys had professional careers after the War and were able to provide their children with a very different life than the one that they themselves were born into.

On that hot day in August of 1930, a boy cut into his birthday cake and started changing his own path in life. He's done so much since then. Built houses, had a long marriage, raised two daughters, worked 25 years at one job and retired. He will soon turn 89! You can bet that he'll be having cake on that day too, because he still has so much to celebrate.