Sunday, May 31, 2009

Happy Birthday Daddy!

Today, May 31, would have been my Dad's 111th birthday!{My, how old ARE you Judy??]
No, really, I have told you before that I was the 'unexpected' child. My Mom was 39, and my Dad was 46 when I was born.
Daddy, Isreal Raymon Coen, was the only boy in his family. He had 3 older sisters and 2 younger sisters. He was the only one with 2 names[first and middle] to survive childhood. an older sister, Lena Maude, and a younger sister, Electra Grace both died in toddlerhood. His 2 older sisters were Anna and Mae and his younger sister was Ruth. Daddy's parents built and ran a boarding hotel, across from a railroad station in the town where he grew up. Grandma served family style meals and made lunches for the workers who were building US 36 highway. She never wrote anything down [I'm not sure how far she went in school] but she could 'keep the books' in her head. When it was payday, she would stand at the door and when the men came by her she would recite to them how many meals they had taken at the hotel and how many lunches she had packed for them and they would 'pay-up' before they left the dining room. My Dad and his Dad installed the first electrical system in the town. It only ran for certain hours of the day and was turned off every night. Fifteen minutes [or so] before it was time to shut down, they would 'flash' the lights to let everyone know so they could light lamps, etc.
This early introduction to electricity affected the remainder of his life. He was a Navy 'ship electrician' on a troop ship during WWI. There is an interesting side tale here: Daddy could NOT swim. The captain found out and had him thrown overboard thinking he would 'learn' quickly. He just had to have him rescued. When they docked in New York City he sent Daddy to the YMCA for swimming lessons. Dadddy did everything he was instructed to do, but he still couldn't swim. His feet sank just like they were rocks! The instructor sent word to the captain that Daddy had really tried to learn, but it was just IMPOSSIBLE! Luckily the war was almost over so he didn't have much longer to serve.
At some point, Daddy went to work for the Kansas City Power and light Company. First as a lineman, and eventually as a 'trouble shooter', a job he held until his retirement. I remember seeing him 'at work' several times during my life and it was always a thrill. Usually I was with one of my older sisters, going shopping or something, and we would come to an intersection or something and see his car and look around and see him up on a pole working to fix some problem. One time I was staying overnight at a friends and a big storm came up. The electricity was interrupted all over her neighborhood. Pretty soon we heard voices coming from her alley and saw big flaslights shining. "Hey!, I said, that is my Dad's voice!' Sure enough, he was one of the workers out trying to repair the 'outage'!
Since Daddy's birthday was so close to the 'traditional' Memorial Day holiday, a tradition was begun to have a Family Reunion each year at that time. Daddy's favorite 'cake' was strawberry shortcake, so that was the dessert of the day. After we had our BIG Dinner at noon, while some were cleaning up the dishes,etc. others would begin putting together a huge 'dishpan' full of strawberries while still others began making the homemade ice cream. The first few years there were 2 or 3 hand cranked makers, in later years we had a couple of bigger electric makers, but there was usually at least one hand craked one, too. How else would all of the grandkids learn about 'taking turns' at helping to make the ice cream??
There were always 'ball games' going on out in the field, card games and other table games at tables in the yard, and two other events always happened: One of the grandsons would get grandpa to do his 'pole trick'. He could balance himself on the side of the pole with his arms in such a way so that his body was at a right angle to the pole. Many tried, but few were successful at figuring out how to do that. The other event was getting Grandma and Uncle Ron taking turns at the piano for a singfest!
Great memories!
Daddy died in August of 1977 at the age of 79 after being diagnosed with lung cancer earlier that year. We didn't keep up the tradition of the Family Reunion, but I wish we would have. We did have one in 1989 to celebrate his 100th birthday. Everyone that was able to come had a great time!


Mandy said...

I hope Karen or the boys are recording these stories to share with their kiddo's! :-)

Abby said...

I love hearing memories like this!

Ron said...

I have such wonderful memories of your dad...early in our lives together, I was a little afraid of him because he was so gruff, but I grew to love him a lot and had so much respect for him because I knew no one who could do all of the things he could do. I miss him a lot!

Karen said...

I LOVE these stories! Give me more! I remember Grandma's last Christmas with us at my house and she told me lots of stories from her childhood. My favorite story about Grandpa would have to be about me walking in to see him in the hospital. Great post mom! Thanks for sharing!

Nana-Judy said...

OOPS! I transposed 2 numbers toward the end of my post. The 100th birthday was in 1998!!Thanks for the good comments. When I go started... I couldn't type fast enough to get it all down. There are lots more things to remember!

Kris said...

Thanks for this, Mom. I remember the reunions, of course, but some of the other stuff I'd never heard before. You're right, tho, there's still lots to tell. like the greenhouse (both in Independence and at the farm), for instance. Hopefully you'll get to some of this stuff in other blog posts [hint, hint]

Kris said...

By the way, my favorite memories of Grandpa are mostly sensory - the smell of his Camels and his lighter, for instance. Whenever someone's smoking that brand, I always remember Grandpa.