My father, Roy Allen Marshall, was born in 1906. He had me when he was 51 years old. My dad was over 20 years older than my mother. I think the only time his age ever bothered me was during junior high, which was a time in my life that everything bothered me. And worse than his age was the hideous 4 door, puke green Dodge pickup truck he drove. Normally a Chevy man, my only guess as to how he ended up with a Dodge was he must have gotten a heckuva deal on it.
Dad worked down the street from our house at a factory know as Corn Products. They made Skippy Peanut Butter and lots of smoke and smells and sounds. My father was a millwright for 35 years at Corn Products, retiring at age 62. My dad loved to hunt, especially big game like elk. He also loved to fish and he was a prolific reader of Zane Grey western novels. And like all of us, Roy Boy had his quirks:
• Credit cards are Satan’s tools! My dad never wrote a check. He paid cash for everything, driving around town each week to pay the electric bill, gas, and going to the bank to get a money order if cash didn’t work.
• Lights and water off! My dad was a miser. He had a big heart but he hated to spend money. My brother and I slept upstairs and in the summer, we would sweat ourselves to sleep. At night, my dad turned on a window fan and reversed it so it would blow air outside, which served as a type of vacuum in an effort to get some air coming in from the outside. He would then crack open the bedroom windows 2” and occasionally a small breeze would make its way through. We had an air conditioner but that was only used for company. And at least a dozen times a day he would march around the house saying “lights and water off!”
• Where’s my queen? My dad’s voice was very gruff and deep. When he would come home from work he would bellow “where’s my queen?” and when he found my mom he would often twirl her around the kitchen…and then tell us kids to make sure the water was off.
•Greggy boy wake up calls. Dad would use this same gruff voice to wake me up. I never liked getting up very early and it always took my dad several times to get me to come downstairs. But he never got mad…he just got a little louder each time, singing my name. “Greg….oh Greeeeeg…..oh Greggggy Boy!” Finally I would shout “What!!!” To which he would reply, ”Come a runnin’!” Oh, I used to get so mad at him.
•Variety is over rated. My brother and I ate Wheaties, toast and milk every morning for the first 18 years of my life. I am not kidding. My sister was able to get him to buy an occasional box of Corn Flakes (she was his favorite) but it was Wheaties for us….every day!
•Deacon / elder at our church. my dad was a pretty rough cob. He wore bib overalls (Osh Kosh b’gosh) most days. He seemed more at home in the woods than indoors. He loved stopping off at The Fraternal Order of Eagles bar every day to have a few Pabst Blue Ribbons before heading home. But he had an amazing soft side to him. He never really went to church until he had kids. Then he and my mom decided that they would never just drop us off but they would take us to church. My dad served for many years as both an elder and a deacon at Normandale Reformed Church.
And while he never lectured us very often, unless it was with his belt which he could whip out faster and more effectively than Zorro, I did learn a lot from the old man. Like how to clean a gun. How to hammer a nail. How to change the oil. How to bait a hook and drive a car and tie a tie and how to shave. And tons more. But here are a few things I remember most about my dad.
•Hard work. My dad knew the value of hard work. He would work 8 hours then come home and fix the dryer or mend the fence…he never sat around. And every Saturday me and my brother were cutting the grass, trimming the hedge, raking leaves.
•Reputation. My dad was very proud of the Marshall family name. He wanted the name to continue, although he died a few years before he got to see some grandkids. Having a reputation of being honest was very important to him.
• Stay busy. When my dad retired from the Corn Products at age 62, he started a roofing business. He thought that if you retired and just sat around you would be dead in a few years. He never really slowed down until the Lord took him home.
• Help others. My dad had every tool known to man and loved helping the neighbors, widows and orphans.
• Honor your parents. My dad sent money to his mom, who lived to be 93, every week of her life. We didn’t live very close to Grandma Marshall so I never got to know her very well. My dad looked out for her and really for everyone in his family.
• A little beer never hurt anyone The story goes that my dad never drank until he was about 45 years old. The family doctor was a funny little man named Doc Crawford. My dad wasn’t feeling well at the time and Doc Crawford told him that his health would improve if he would drink a little beer every day. My dad told me it was all he could do to force down a half a glass at first. But he certainly mastered the art, however! I never saw him drunk; he had some kind of unique DNA. But he drank a lot of beer! My mother would always shake her head when she would hear the Doc Crawford story. Mom was a teetotaler and begrudgingly put up with my father’s imbibing.
• Naps are good. Old Roy Boy was also famous for excusing himself from family parties to go take a nap on a random bed in whoever’s house we happened to be. My dad woke every morning around 5 a.m. and went to bed at 10 p.m. or sooner, so he had a right to be tired. He would just stretch out on a couch, conk out and the party would just continue around him. Hah!
They don’t make ‘em like my pops anymore! I love you, dad!