We’ll it’s finally here… Father’s Day Weekend. A weekend I look forward to all year. Not just because as the Father of six daughters, I’m hoping for a ton of really good gifts (hint, hint if you’re reading this girls!). But because it means the whole family will be getting together for dinner and I get to pick the menu! Are the grandkids going to be thrilled about Salmon kebobs and Fat-Free Hot Dogs? Probably not. But hey… it’s my day! And of course Father’s Day makes me think about my own Dad…
He died about three and a half years ago after living to the ripe old age of 96. And he was just as spry the day he died as he’d been all the days leading up to it. He suffered a heart attack after driving he and his wife Chris to Ted’s Hot Dog Stand for lunch.
My dad was quite a character. He loved to tell stories. He claimed they were all true… although my mother would say, “Paul… stop telling the kids these stories. You know you’re making them up!” What follows are a few examples of the things he told me over the years… and I think my mom was right! (Most of the time).
- He was once on a Delta flight from Cincinnati to Detroit and the turbulence was so bad, the plane actually flew upside down for half an hour.
- He came face to face with a Tarantula while lying on his back following a tunnel cave-in in South America.
- After surviving the Tarantula episode, he managed to narrowly escape when he found himself knee-deep in some quicksand - and sinking fast!
- He played cards with Clark Gable.
- When he was young, he and his brother John drove from Cleveland to Detroit to catch the Gold Cup boat races on the Detroit River. According to my dad they had 17 flat tires on the way to Detroit, and 18 on the way back. They fixed the flats by weaving tall blades of grass they found along the side of the roads into the intertubes. (Tires were a lot different in those days).
- He claimed he won the Indy 500. Not once. Not twice. But three times, as the “in-car” mechanic for Maury Rose. When I emceed the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame Dinner in the 1970’s, Mr. Rose (who did indeed win the race 3 times) was the featured speaker. I took the occassion to ask him if he knew Joe or Paul Purtan (for unknown reasons my dad went by both names) and Maury said, “Never heard of him.”
Here are a few things about my Dad that I know to be true:
- He came to this country as an infant on the ship “Carpathia” - the same ship that had rescued the survivors of “The Titanic”.
- He liked to thump watermelons to make sure they were ripe.
- In lieu of deodorant, he used to splash “Old Spice” under his arms.
- His favorite Buffalo musical act, that he and my step-mother danced to was “Toots Dentino and His Three Man Band”
- He liked to barbeque steaks, turning them with the same gloves he used to work on stuff in the garage. Said the motor oil “added to the flavor”.
- After my mother died, he briefly dated a barmaid who wore a mini-skirt, white go-go boots, and had a beehive hairdo.
- He wore his trousers above his belly button.
- He always carried mints and crackers in his pants and jacket pockets lifted from the restaurants he frequented.
- He was a salesman, and his business attire was a business suit with a bow tie and a short sleeve white shirt, both summer and winter.
- He had a bookie “friend” in downtown Buffalo named “Breezy Persant”.
- He once worked as a telephone lineman. (Here’s the questionable part: He said the spikes he used to climb the pole fell out one time, causing him to slide down the pole, suffering over 200 slivers in his chest. I never saw a scar).
- He loved to send me articles and clippings from “The Reader’s Digest” in the hope that I could use them on the air.
- At my wife’s Aunt Ethel’s funeral, (she died at age 90) during an emotional lull in the service, he said rather loudly: “That Ethel was a real looker… and I’ll tell you, she really got around!” (Which she did!)
To be honest, this is the first time I’ve ever actually sat down and listed these things - and believe me, this is just a partial list! As I went back and re-read it, it made me realize even more what a character my Dad was!
To all you Dad’s out there… Have a great Father’s Day and I’ll see you back here on Monday!