The World According to Keitho

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Posts Tagged ‘Dad’

Happy Birthday, Dad

Posted by keithosaunders on January 15, 2017

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Dad

Today my father would have turned 90.  He died just 14th months ago at the age of 88.  He was born in 1927 in Brooklyn, New York.  He grew up during the depression, served in the army as a private first class at the end of World War 2, and went to college at a small school in upstate Plattsburgh near the Canadian border called Champlain College.

He was a huge Brooklyn Dodgers fan.  He endured the terrible teams of the 30s only to see them emerge as the dominant National League club of the 40s and 50s.  He suffered through the the ignominy of Bobby Thompson’s home run and five World Series losses to the Yankees, but experienced the exultation of Brooklyn’s first ever World Championship (against the Yankees) in 1955.

He married my mother two months later after a whirlwind three month courtship and they stayed together for 45 years until my mother’s death.

Dad was as liberal as they come. He opposed nuclear weapons, working in the 50s to have them abolished.  He was against the McCarthy hearings and he helped form a local political group called AQI – Associated Queens Independents.  I am glad that he will not have to experience the Trump years.

My Dad hated pomposity.  He couldn’t stand John Robinson when he was coaching the Rams.  He called him ‘The Blowhard.’ He also loathed the Dallas Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones, who he referred to as ‘The Pipsqueak.’   (Nobody knows why he called him that. Jones isn’t that small)

My Dad’s favorite Brooklyn Dodger was Jackie Robinson.  When I was growing up he used to tell my brother and I how Jackie Robinson was the most exciting ball player he had ever seen.  His favorite move was The Bridge Over the River Kwai.  He had a top ten movie list.  Some of the other movies on the list were, The Lady Vanishes, The Best Years of Our Lives, and Fiddler on the Roof.  It used to confound me that Fiddler made the list.

My Dad was one of the funniest and personable people I have ever met.  When he was in a good mood there was nobody else you would rather spend time with.  He was smart, witty, passionate, liberal, and self effacing.

He was a self made man.  He moved his family to California – my brother and I were toddlers then – with no savings and no job.  He found work, an apartment, and sent for us.  He struggled for many years before finding great success as an independent rep for juvenile furniture lines.  He and my mother were able to travel all around the world once my brother and I were older and on our own.

Dad, we miss you!

 

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Martin Saunders Jan 15th, 1927-November 18th 2015

Posted by keithosaunders on November 23, 2015

My earliest memory is of my father encasing my brother and I in his arms and rolling us down a hillside in a park in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania.  That’s all you need to know about him.  He was there for us.  He took us to ballgames, to the beach, Disneyland, played catch with us in the summer, and shot hoops with us in the winter.  Even though he didn’t make any real money until well into his middle age, he rented a piano and gave me piano lessons from the time I was 8 until I turned I8.  When I decided to make music my life’s work, rather than discourage me by suggesting I find something to fall back on he encouraged me to keep playing and to follow my dream of moving to New York City.

He was born in Brooklyn in 1927.  My grandfather Leo was a rabid Dodgers fan and he passed this on to my Dad who would pass it on to me, although unlike him I would become a traitor , turning to the New York Mets in 1984.

Dad grew up with those bad Dodgers teams of the ’30s but would see them develop into a juggernaut in the 40s and 50s. He used to tell me about those bad Dodgers teams — how Leo would take him to Ebbets field and insist on staying to the end of the game no matter how far the Dodgers were behind. “You never know!”  One day Leo wanted to take my Dad to a Dodgers game but the skies looked threatening.  He decided to phone the stadium.  My Dad tells the story that all of a sudden Leo burst out of the phone booth with a huge smile, shouting, “GAME TODAY!”

He had this uncle Bill who somehow knew Babe Ruth. One day Uncle Bill took my Dad, who would have been 4 or 5, to Manhattan to the hotel Ruth was staying in. Somehow Dad ended up in Ruth’s lap and the Bambino asked him, “Are you a Yankees fan, son?” My Dad scowled and shot back, “I root for the Dodgers!!” The Babe smiled, laughed, and answered, “You stick with them, son. One day they’ll be good!”

Shortly before coming out of the army in 1946 Dad was quarantined and finding himself bored with nothing to do he invented a card football game.  At some point it was actually published in Esquire magazine.  He also invented card baseball and basketball games but the game that my brother and I loved the most was card boxing.  Not because it was a good game — it wasn’t.  You assigned  the two boxers a color – red or black. If two cards of the same color turned over that was a knockdown – if three in a row came up it was a knockout.  What we loved about it was that Dad would announce the fight, often making it an imaginary fight between a pair of friends or our neighbors. His announcing was so funny that he would have us in hysterics.

He could name every World Series and how many games it went going back to 1940.  Through him I learned that Stan Musial was a Dodger-killer, the most rabid Dodger fans lived in Bay Ridge, and that Jackie Robinson was the most exciting player he ever saw.

When I was 19 I had my first gig away from home playing in a cruise ship lounge band.  Dad drove me to the harbor in San Pedro to board the ship.  We pulled up to find the ship 30 yards from the dock and moving in the wrong direction!  (I had been given an erroneous arrival time and would have to fly to San Francisco the next day to catch up with the ship)  It just so happened that the Dodgers were home playing a day game and on the spur of the moment my Dad suggested we go.  I’ll never forget that game.  The Reds got off to a 4-0 lead in the 1st inning and just when I was wondering if the day could get any worse the Dodgers answered with a 10 run bottom of the 1st and coasted to an easy victory.  But what has stuck with me all of these years is that stolen time that I had with my Dad at a weekday baseball game.  He took time off from work to cheer me up and ended up giving me a memory that lasted a lifetime.

Thank you, Dad.  Thank you for your wit, your humor, and your love.  You’re physical presence is gone but I’ll carry you with me forever.

 

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