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Mack Williams column: Father’s Day 1951-1966

It’s been literally half a century since I celebrated Father’s Day. The last time I celebrated was in June of 1966, since on Nov. 5 of that year, my father, Bernard R. Williams, passed away.

From March 5, 1951 (my birthday) to Nov. 5, 1966 represents my time with him.

Despite those first years being “infant” and “toddling” years, it can “technically” be said that I celebrated Father’s Day 16 times.

My daughter Rachel (38) and son Jeremy (31) have already observed Father’s Day twice as many times as I did (and hopefully, they will continue in this for a goodly time yet ).

I’ve written many times about my father during the course of this column, so I will touch on just a few things not mentioned before:

My father rarely turned down my request for books about stars (not Hollywood), dinosaurs or earth science. Actually, I don’t remember him turning them down at all. (Brother Joe would sometimes buy me a book too.) This usually occurred at Bunker’s Bunk Shop and the rotating book stands at the drug store across from Rowan Memorial. (I was already in the area regularly due to my regimen of bee sting desensitization shots from Dr. Frank B. Marsh.)

One time, my mother and father were both with me at that drug store and my father bought me the “How and Why Book of Dinosaurs.” I remember my mother saying: “Your father bought that because he loves you.”

I would sometimes pick out an astronomy book which was over my head, but he bought it anyway, figuring my brain might grow into it.

I have one “front porch” memory of me telling my father about some theory of the origin of the universe which I had just read, and his saying: “But don’t let them lead you to believe there’s no God!”

I have talked about my father smoking cigarettes, pipes and cigars, but neglected to mention that his “smoking habit” was invariably accompanied by his “reading habit.”

I accompanied my father to many different places, including A&P, Roseman’s Grocery, William L. Broadway Insurance, etc., where  he always enjoyed talking and joking with people. I remember him sometimes stringing together letters which stood for a phrase, usually comical in nature.

One time, my father was at Rowan Memorial (some years before his final trip there) for some problems with stomach ulcers. He had been put on a special diet, and an insect (species name beginning with “r”) arrived on the plate with his dinner. He summoned the nurse; and while pointing to the offending insect (the insect, itself unaware of such “offense”) calmly informed the nurse of the doctor’s restriction of protein in his diet.

In similar vein, one time when my father’s ulcers were especially troublesome, the doctor “prescribed” the additional grinding of his food before eating. To me, the hand-powered grinder reminded me of a visible, working extension of my father’s stomach.

Just the other day, the driver in front of me looked like he didn’t know what he was doing, and I said: “Make up your feeble mind!” (lowly, and not from my window, as I didn’t wish to start an altercation). That phrase was like a trip back in time, as those were the exact words my father used in such situations! He might use the “little d,” or when occasion warranted, the “Great D,” but he never cursed “filthily.”

Two years ago, my son Jeremy, myself, Jeremy’s friend Curtis, and my brother Joe met up at the “Streamliners at Spencer” event, in which a number of streamlined diesels from the “old days” were featured at the N.C. Transportation Museum.

This was long after my personal time period of fatherly memories used in the title of today’s column; but during this visit my brother Joe provided me with an additional memory of our father from the Spencer Yard.

While we were riding in an old coach being pulled by one of the “Southern Crescent” diesels, Joe told me that when he was older, he sometimes accompanied our father to work.

When we rode by one further distant section of the old rail yard, Joe pointed out where, on some nights, he had walked with our father as he tagged boxcars, tankers, etc.

As Joe pointed out and spoke, it wasn’t technically the same as if our father were right there with us, but it was pretty damn close!

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