Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Recently, I played organ for a funeral for Virgil Shipman, a man who passed away at the age of 101. One Hundred and One years old.......a century! Think of all the changes he witnessed over those years. I once saw an e-mail that talked about everything that had been invented since 1944, the year I was born. It was totally awesome and I can only imagine how much more changed in the 45 years Mr. Shipman was alive BEFORE 1944. It just blows my mind. Mr. Shipman lost sight in one eye when he was in 7th grade and lost sight in his other eye due to an infection when he was 30 years old. Despite his blindness, he and his wife raised 5 children - including two sets of twins - how cool is that?! He had several vocations during his lifetime, including working on the P51 Mustang airplane, in a mop and broom factory, and in door-to-door sales. At his funeral, his oldest son gave the eulogy and spoke for 20 minutes about the memories of his father. In his eulogy, he mentioned that he hoped all families would write down their memories of their parents to pass on to the younger generations of the family. It got me to thinking about my dad. I don't know if my siblings know that much about him, but I can share what I know, at least as much as I can remember hearing from him and my mom.
Dad was born in Oklahoma, but moved to Ohio at a young age and graduated high school there. He moved to Kansas at the suggestion of a friend of his who was from there and searched for work there. He did some farm work and met my mother there. He entered the Army shortly after that...I don't know if he was drafted, or enlisted. They were married and moved to Salt Lake City, Utah where he was stationed. He was a mechanic in the Army Air Force (they were apparently one and the same at that time). He was sent to different posts while in the service and Mom stayed in Salt Lake while he was gone. I was born there and when I was about 6 weeks old, he was discharged and they came back to Alton, KS, my mother's hometown. I'm not sure what he did for a living at that time, but I assume he was a mechanic there. I remember he played on the town baseball team and loved to listen to baseball games on the radio. He loved to play guitar and sing and had a really good voice. He sang a lot of old country songs and I always cried when he sang "The Letter Edged in Black" and "Prisoner At The Bar". They were sad story-type songs. I recently looked up the words to "Prisoner..." and it is a very long song. Sure wouldn't make the playlists on radio today. He played in a country band with his brother for awhile and when I was somewhere around 9 or 10, I played piano in the band. Trouble was, most places they played didn't have a piano, so the guys would load up our piano in the back of a truck and take it with us. I'm not talking a small piano here; I'm talking a big, heavy upright piano. For a time, he ran a pool hall in Alton. I don't recall being inside there except for maybe one time. Mom said it wasn't a place for girls to be hanging around. My younger brothers got to go because there was a bowling alley (maybe 1 lane, maybe 2) and they had to set the pins by hand. He apparently went back to being a mechanic at some point because I remember he worked in Woodston, about 7 miles away, as a mechanic. When I was in high school, he got a job working construction on the Kirwin Dam in Kansas. When that job was finished, he was transferred to Nebraska to work on the Sherman County Dam. That's when the whole family moved to Loup City, Nebraska. When the dam was finished, he went back to work as a mechanic for the rest of his working life.......except when he retired from doing that and worked for an armored car company as a guard. He had to ride around in the back of that armored car all the time and that got old pretty fast. So cramped and hot - no windows. I'm surprised he lasted as long as he did at that job.
Dad loved to cook...he cooked a lot of different things, but I think he liked baking the most. He made my birthday cake for my 6th birthday and it was 6 layers and each layer was a different color. When we were young, he made homemade fudge every Christmas (always with nuts). This was the beat with a spoon kind of fudge that was entirely from scratch. When my brothers were in Vietnam, he made german chocolate cakes in a hog feeder (a really large round pan) and sent them to Vietnam to the boys. I have no idea what kind of shape those cakes were in by the time they got there, but I do know one brother said by the time his got to him, most of it had been eaten by his buddies! One of his specialties was making creme puffs and my mouth is watering just thinking about them. Chocolate pudding and vanilla pudding for the centers. He did make a bad batch of them once....I never quite knew just what was wrong with them. I understand the squirrels liked them, tho, which some of his kids never let him forget. His most famous baked item was a Chocolate Pecan Praline cake that won first prize in a baking contest. I think the biggest family favorite, tho, is his Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie.
Mom and Dad had 10 kids, of which I am the oldest. There were 13 years between the first one and the last one. As is the case, even in smaller families, spilling accidents were frequent at the dinner table. There was a spell there when it seemed someone spilled their Kool-Aid during the meal every night. Dad finally decided to lower the boom and informed us that the next person who spilled their drink had to immediately get up and leave the table and forget about eating the rest of their meal. Well.......guess who was the next to spill? Dad! He immediately got up and left the table and all the begging and pleading (and, yes, crying) fell on deaf ears. He made the rule...and he had to follow the rule. Not even 10 crying kids could get him back to the table. I don't remember what Mom did or said, but as I write this, I can imagine her probably vacillating between crying and laughing.
Dad never attended church that I remember, but one Sunday after I was grown and gone, he apparently decided he was going to church. No one believed him, so no one got ready to go. We lived just a few blocks from the church and one of my sisters watched as he actually drove to the church, got out and went in. She hurriedly got ready to go and joined him. And....the roof of the church didn't fall in as we always were told it would. LOL
I'm sure he never thought in a million years he would have 10 children, but he worked hard and there was always food on the table. What more could you ask for in the era of the 40's and 50's? We weren't rich by any means, and were probably considered poor, but we had each other and we never felt we were poor.
Happy Father's Day, Dad! We miss you!

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