Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Sunday and the Boston Celtics

I developed a passion for the Boston Celtics in the mid 60's. They got a lot of television exposure in those days. That's how I "found" them. They were a great team. My dad "sort of" liked them, and they played on a cool, parquet floor. To say I loved them is not an understatement. The 1974 team is my all-time favorite.

A year and a half into my career as a professional photojournalist in Macomb, Illinois, the light "went on" in my head, and I decided to try and use my position in an attempt to get photo credentials to shoot a Celtics game. I'd shot a few Cardinal football games in St. Louis, and felt it was time to branch out to another sport. 

A Bulls vs. Celtics game in Chicago was the obvious location choice. Logistics and cost made it a no-brainer. Chicago Stadium was pretty cool too. It was built in 1929. Only Boston Garden, built in 1928, was older, and had more character. 

Using Macomb Daily Journal letterhead, I composed a request to Bulls media man Tim Hallam, to shoot a game when the Celtics would visit. Tim responded with a call. I know it was by phone, because I remember his words. 

"Naw. Unless you have a player of local interest, I can't do it. I'd have to have a good excuse to justify it, if one of the big boys ran over you."

Strike one. 

Four years later,  I worked in the Chicago market. I dealt with Tim for ten years while covering the Bulls. He's a nice man. He was just doing his job. And I never have told him this story. But at the time, I wasn't happy with him. 

Not to give up, I figured "what the hell?" I'll put the same request in to the Celtics. How cool would it be to shoot them in the fabled "garden?" I mailed a nearly identical request to Jeff Twiss, the media man for the Celtics. 

No more than three days later, I got a call on the intercom that connected the darkroom to the newsroom. "Kent, come down here. You have a phone call."

"Hello," I said. A man spoke. "Kent, this is Jeff Twiss." "Who," I asked? He responded. "Jeff Twiss, of the Celtics." "OH!" was my reply. The letter had made it through the mail in record time, and Twiss responded in record time. Also with a call. I wasn't expecting to hear anything that soon. His call caught me off guard. 

"I got your request here," he said. "What game would you like to come out and shoot?" At this point, my jaw was on the ground, and I was dancing around the newsroom, tethered by the phone cord. He gave me my choice of a game with New Jersey, or one with the Knicks. Remembering the rivalries between the Celtics and Knicks in the 60's, I chose the Knicks. 

The game date was Easter Sunday, 1985. Not sure how I'd get there, or pay for the trip, I was going to go. If I had to drive. If I had to hitchhike. 

My annual salary was around $12,000. I had to fly. But it wasn't going to be first class. I looked for a bargain. 

People Express was a no frills, discount airline. Passengers paid their fare by cash or check while in flight. Don't believe me? Look it up. Unbelievable in today's world. I booked a round trip from O'Hare, to Logan International. 

On the flight east, the attendant came around to collect. I got out my checkbook. She was polite, but asked, "Do you have a major credit card?" Having ANY credit card was "major" to me at that age. "Yeah," I told her. "I've got an Amoco card." She laughed and said, "Well, if this check bounces, we''ll just throw you out the door on the flight home."

The money saved flying a discount airline was lost on the choice of lodging. The Logan Airport Hilton. I'm not a Hilton kind of guy. But the flight got in late, and the hotel was right there at the airport. A shuttle, or cab ride away. 

Staying at a Hilton had perks. It was the first time I'd ever seen a stocked mini fridge. I thought, "Ahhh, this is awfully nice of them." I helped myself to a Hershey's bar and Heineken. The next morning at checkout, I found out I had to pay for that stuff. 

I woke early on Easter morning. I had packed light for a one night stay. One bag of clothes, and my camera gear. I'd be heading back to the airport immediately after the game, and had to drag everything along that morning. Taking the metro train, I wound up downtown.

With time to kill, I caught a few sights. North Church. The U.S.S. Constitution. It was a warm, sunny morning. People were out, and they were friendly. "Happy Eas-tah to ya," they greeted me in their Boston accents. 

Finding my way to North Station and Boston Garden, it was difficult to get an good exterior shot of the building. It wasn't as open and free standing as Chicago Stadium, or The Arena in St. Louis. There were other structures around it. 

I presented my credential and was through the turnstiles. Walking into the home of a sports dynasty. Bill Russell played here. Dave Cowens played here. Larry Bird was playing here. 

My photo credential
Right there along the baseline of that famous parquet floor, a spot had been reserved for me. "Kent Kriegshauser/Macomb Daily Journal." I looked around the place in awe, and with reverence. I wished dad could have seen this. 

A game is a game, is a game. This one was just another game during regular season. Of no real importance to anyone other than me. I made pictures on the 4-5 rolls of slide film, and no more than 2 rolls of black and white film, I'd brought along. At the other end of the court, I spotted legendary Celtics photographer Dick Raphael. A big man, he was shooting too. Not from the floor, but sitting on a milk crate. 

Just before halftime, I left my spot and climbed the steps to the upper section. There, I photographed down on the floor below, and all those championship banners above. 

The game passed way too quickly. I hoped for overtime, but it didn't happen. The Celtics won. 

I packed up, took a cab to the airport, and was on my way back to Chicago. Halfway through a whirlwind trip. 

The earlier check hadn't bounced. I was not thrown off the plane on the way home. 

It was late when the plane landed in Chicago on Sunday night. I had to be back at work early the next morning. I wanted to be at work the next morning. I wanted my photo credit under a Boston Celtics photograph that day in the Macomb Daily Journal. Who needs the Associated Press? I'd just been to Boston!

It was a long drive home. Highway time from O'Hare to Macomb, took longer than air time from Boston to O'Hare. I was really tired by this point. There were a few tedious moments when the eyes closed, the head bobbed forward, and the wheels found the shoulder of the road. 

Rolling in around dawn, I'm not sure I even went home and slept. It was all adrenaline. Film was processed, prints were made. Photos I'd made of the Boston Celtics less than 24 hours before, were published in the Macomb paper. Sports editor Joe Stevenson joked and said the readers "Would probably think the photo credit was a mistake."

 I came to appreciate that Tim Hallam turned my request down. And Jeff Twiss did not.

The Boston experience remains a highlight of my photography career. And one of the biggest thrills of my life.

Thanks, Jeff. And happy Easter to you. 

Celtics Vs. Knicks. Easter Sunday, 1985.




Friday, March 29, 2013

Schwinn Bikes and Good Friday, 1972

NOTE: THIS BLOG IS NOT RELATED TO THE STORY OF DAD AND HIS CANCER...

Schwinn bicycles were THE bike to have at one time. The Cadillac of bicycles. Built like tanks. Always stylish, innovative in design, and built right here in the good ol' USA, in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. They were a top shelf product.

Pittsfield Hardware, the store my grandpa and dad owned and operated for years, had been affiliated with at least a couple of hardware wholesalers. Witte, in St. Louis, was one. Later, Hardware Wholesalers Incorporated (HWI), in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

But, the store was able to choose outside vendors. Selling Schwinns was one such arrangement. The relationship between Pittsfield Hardware and Schwinn had been ongoing for several years.

The store moved a lot of bikes. We usually had six to eight models sitting on the floor. More in the warehouse. Those on the floor sat right under the front windows of the north room of the store. High visibility for those walking past on the sidewalk.

When I was little, I'd grab a "Pixie" model, (one with training wheels), and race it up and down the aisles of the store. If the hardwood floors had been oiled, I could spin the rear wheel moving forward, or skid for a few feet if I locked the rear brake. No customers were harmed during these exercises.

Donald "Peachy" Foreman was dad's right hand man. He could fix anything, assemble anything, and even engineer things. He was the "bike man," no doubt. Kids needing their bikes fixed came looking for Peachy.

The bikes arrived in cardboard boxes. I can still smell the combination of metal and cardboard. I'd be anxious to see what Peachy and dad had ordered. What model, what color? Assembly generally meant attaching seats, handlebars, pedals, and a few more accessories. The five and ten speed models required a bit of "gear tweaking." and setting the alignment of the brake pads.

In the 1960's, "sissy bars" were popular. They were seat post extensions, rising three feet or so above the normal seat post. "Banana" seats, "Rams Horn" handlebars... Peachy gave some items his own stamp. He called handlebar tape, "ape tape." and toe clips for pedals, "rat traps."

Schwinn used to put out high quality catalogs. Lots of the bike photography was done at Knotts Berry Farm. There were descriptions, color options, and costs listed.

In the late 60's, 1969 I think, Schwinn hit a grand slam with the introduction of a model called the "Orange Krate." A slick rear wheel, small front wheel with a drum brake. A shifter on the center post. Banana seat. Made to look like a top fuel dragster. It was a revolutionary bike, listing for the huge sum at that time of $100.

The store got one. The bike was so exotic, so special, I was told up front, there'd be no "test riding" this one. It sold to a classmate of mine. He was the envy of the town.

Dad had a special deal with paper boys. The guys who delivered the Quincy and Jacksonville papers  could buy bikes on credit. Make payments just like people do with cars. They could put $5 down, and make payments of $1 a week. Dad wanted to sell bikes. He also wanted to teach kids responsibility.

The Schwinn and Pittsfield Hardware relationship went on for years. A win-win situation for both parties.

In the spring of 1972, the success of the Schwinn brand apparently gave the company a big head. They were huge, they were the best. They decided to change the rules of the game with whom they dealt with. Out of nowhere, with no warning, dad got a call from them, telling him that, in order to keep his Schwinn franchise, the store would have to meet at least two conditions. 1. Be able to sell something like 200 bikes a year. 2. Build a free standing, independent bike shop, separate from the hardware store.

Pittsfield's population is around 4,000 people. There was no way we could sell that many bikes. And, even if we could, there was no way dad would, or could, invest the kind of money it would take to build the separate shop.

The marriage between bike company and hardware store fell apart quickly. Dad was going to lose his long standing Schwinn franchise. All because of Schwinn's greed and arrogance. Dad was genuinely hurt. He was a little bit angry, and mostly bitter.

The final conversation he had with the company, was a phone call on Good Friday of that year. The store phone was mounted on a post near the back of the store. Right by the steps that led up to his little loft office, and near the catalog area.

Mom and Aunt Betty happened to be at the store that day. They were standing around, listening to the conversation. The exchange grew heated. Dad's anger and frustration were obvious to the two women.

Finally, it was over. Schwinn hung up first. But mom and Aunt Betty didn't know this. This is when dad's sense of humor kicked in. Mom and Aunt Betty still stood listening, thinking the conversation was still ongoing.

Dad offered one final comment to "Schwinn" ( a dead line at this point).

"There's just one more thing I want to tell you." Dad paused for the affect.

"I hope every one of you sons of bitches drops dead on Easter Sunday," he said in a calm voice.

The women were horrified. "Oh, Virg," they said in unison.

It's true. A legendary Virg Kriegshauser story.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March 26th

March 26th, 1973: Dad started his second series of cobalt today. He says this series tires him out awful bad. But outside of that, he feels just fair. We are concerned now, with a growing lump in his neck, which worries us.

March 26th, 2013: The 26th was a Monday. We'd been home from Tacoma for five days. Dad got a little chance to rest up and rebound from the trip, before this second series of cobalt treatments. The first round involved seven or so, if I remember correctly. I'm not sure of the number they were targeting in this second, and what would be the last series. If there were plans for a third series, they were never needed.

The original diary entry notes that dad commented how the treatments wore on him. But, this was his first treatment. He was either jumping to conclusions, based on the first series. Or, he made the comment the same evening, having returned from another ride to Quincy and back. My diary entry must have been made late in the evening. I almost always wrote my diary from my "office" in the basement. I was out of sight, out of mind, down there. Mom and dad probably thought I was racing my h.o. cars.

His strength and stamina were fading anyway. He didn't have the strength to remain "up" for the treatments. I have no way of knowing where his will to live was. I am of the belief that a person's will accounts for a lot of the battle. In the beginning, the dog was wagging its tail. Dad was in control. Lately, the tail was wagging the dog. Cancer was taking control.

Now the neck issue, noted in that days entry. I wonder if it was on the same side of his body as the shoulder issue? I don't remember. A lump had popped up, catching his, or the doctor's attention. I wonder how this was received? How it was diagnosed?

I know where this story goes. How it ends. With the benefit of hindsight, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that the cancer was spreading. Spreading upwards in his body. Making its way to his brain.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

March 24th

March 24th, 1973: I don't think dad feels good at all today. But the doctors predicted this, because the cobalt is starting to wear off. He goes back for more treatment Monday. I also found out that Art Cookie died of cancer (dad told me this). Then he threw some gum wrappers toward the ash tray, and threw them completely off the table. I don't think he had his mind in the right place.

March 24th, 2013: I'd skipped four days of making entries in my original diary. The last one being March 20th. The day we returned from the trip to see Lynn and her family. I'm not sure why I had done so. Maybe I was busy, trying to get caught up with school, and everything else, after being gone for a week.

The original diary entries are beginning to reveal the fact that dad was feeling worse. Even my optimism was waning. Dad's too. Much of the time before, he'd always say he felt "good," or "strong." He wasn't saying things like this so much anymore.

In hindsight. He definitely was getting worse. His condition was deteriorating. There's been no mention of any hospital stays yet. There had been only one, early on, during testing. That was for a night or two. Nothing recent, however.

The trip to the northwest had been put together in a pretty quick fashion. Supporting the theory of urgency.

He was gearing up for another round of treatments. I wonder if he knew it was futile by this point? That he had to go along with them, just in case they may prolong his life? He had a lot to live for. Mom and me. The store. Mainly himself, I'd like to think.

Tacoma may have been a turning point. Lynn had Roger to lean on. Mom and I were a little more on our own. Not that it would make it one bit easier for Lynn. It was hard on everyone. But, he was getting worse. The trip to Tacoma was accomplished. I am second guessing him, but I wonder if his will was beginning to falter? Dad was no quitter. But cancer is ruthless.

Art Cookie was a Pittsfield man. If I recall, he was a general contractor. A carpenter. He was a good customer at the store. His son's name was Jimmy. His wife Ruth may have been a cook at Higbee Junior High School. I don't know the exact date Art died. Or, what type of cancer he had. But dad noted it out loud at the table one evening, just before supper. I'm not sure if mom was in the room or not.

Dad hardly ever chewed gum. The only thing I can think that was about, is that he wasn't smoking, and the gum was a substitute. He gave those gum wrappers a flick after telling me about Mr. Cookie, and was a mile off target.

Spring was near, but the mood was getting darker. Harder for dad to hide his worsening condition, and to appear strong. The shit was beating him.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

March 20th

March 20th, 1973: We got back from Tacoma tonight. Mom didn't mind the flight after all. Everybody got a little emotional at the airport, before takeoff. But, we all enjoyed our stay. Lynn and Rog are coming back in June. Dad hasn't felt good today or yesterday.

March 20th, 2013: The trip home from Tacoma was on a Tuesday. I don't remember who all was along, to take us to the airport and see us off. Likely, just Lynn. Roger would have remained home with Rodney and Julie.

We had spent exactly a week there. Rodney was school aged. I was in eighth grade. I'm sure Rod took the week off from school while we were there. Both of us had some making up to do. Julie was younger, and missing so much school wouldn't impact her as much.

West to east flights are available at almost anytime. But the majority of them originate late in the afternoon to early evening. It's roughly a four hour flight. And, you jump two time zones coming home.

Aunt Betty was there to meet us in St. Louis. I recall that it was dark when we got in. I think she may have been driving a Buick LeSabre, a big car with lots of room. The luggage was piled into the trunk, dad likely rode shotgun, mom and I rode in the backseat. It was a quiet ride home. Some chit-chat about the trip. I may have snoozed some. Dad didn't feel well anyway. We were all worn out in general.

Based on my original diary entry, and the fact that dad wasn't feeling well, I doubt he opened the store the next day. He may have gone up eventually, though.

Mom was surely happy to have survived flying, a week away from home, and glad to be back to her own space.

For me, it would be get home, go to bed, and back to school the next morning. I was anxious to get those new blacklight posters up, and did so as soon as I got home from school the next day.

Looking back, the photos made from that trip, and the one I posted two days ago, were the last photos of dad ever made. We didn't make anymore. And I don't recall anyone else doing so either. The only other time we may have had a camera along, would have been a visit to Macomb, to see the Polers. With Uncle Ray having been diagnosed with cancer too, I think "fun times and picture days" were over.

Lynn was able to walk to the gate with us, and wait for our boarding call. What I can describe next surely had to have been one of the most difficult moments in my father and half-sister's lives.

When the boarding call came, I was naive' enough to think the three of us would say good-bye to Lynn, and that would be it. Some kind of understanding had been discussed or worked out, though.

Mom and I said our thank yous and good-byes. Then, mom took her cue. Dad lagged behind while we went ahead and boarded ahead of him.

What happened next, would have taken place in no more than 3-5 minutes.

Mom and I sat on the plane, waiting for dad. She looked worried and anxious. I picked up on it, and became real still and quiet. There had already been tears. But this was a real intense moment. I was too young, and too much the optimist, to realize the significance of what was going on between dad and Lynn.

I have never pried Lynn for details, but I did ask her, some years back, in general terms, what was said in those few minutes. Lynn told me it was one of the few, if not only time, that dad actually spoke the words, "I love you," to her.  Just like with mom and me, it wasn't his style. My dad certainly was not the romantic type. I've stated that before. He didn't have to tell us he loved us. We knew it and felt it.

Lynn was 33 or 34 then. She knew, and dad knew, that this might be it. Corys had made plans to come back to the midwest in June, assuming dad would be alive.

Dad eventually boarded, and was remarkably composed. We got in the air, and were on our way home.

I'm sitting in a coffee shop as I type this. So, I really can't cry. But, those last minutes dad had with Lynn had to have been brutal for both of them.

Absolutely brutal.

I feel sorry for Lynn.












Monday, March 18, 2013

March 18th

March 18th, 1973 & 2013: We were in Lakewood, Washington, to visit dads daughter Lynn, and her family, from the 14th through the 20th. The time spent in the northwest, and with the Corys, was winding down on this date.

It is difficult to recall specifics and details from the trip. But in general terms, I remember it going well. A positive experience for everyone. It needed to happen.

Most of the time, we all just hung around Lynn and Roger's home. They had a ranch style house. I think it had three bedrooms. Rodney, my nephew, had his room, and twin beds. I slept in his room. Mom and dad probably slept in Julie's, my niece, room. Or maybe Lynn and Roger's room, with Lynn and Roger taking Julie's room. Room was sparse. It was cozy for a week.

While the grown ups did their thing during the day, talking or whatever. Rod, Julie and I would occasionally join in whatever they were doing and "bug" them for awhile.

Cory's had a collie. A good sized one. The three of us would run from the dining room, into the living room, take a leap onto, and off the sofa, and back out to the dining room. The dog followed every step. Including the sofa leap. We riled the dog up, our actions riled the adults up.

There is a state run game farm a short bicycle ride from the house. Rod and I, maybe Julie too, would ride down to the property and look through the high, wire fence at deer, pheasants, peacocks, or whatever else we could see, including some big trout hatcheries.

We also took two major side trips. One to Olympia, the state capitol. Not to see history, and how the government works. But to tour the Olympia beer brewery. The parents sampled the goods. I may have bought a souvenir. Olympia was a big sponsor of the Vels-Parnelli Jones, Indycar team back then.

We also piled into a car and drove a bit of a distance up to Mt. Rainier. Far enough up, to a tourist shelter and information station, that there was still plenty of snow. Rod and I inner tubed down the hills on the snow.

While it was fun and games for us kids, I'm sure there were plenty of serious conversations going on with the adults. I recall none of them. I didn't catch a word. I'm betting most serious talk went on at night, after the younger set had been sent to bed. Those conversations had to have been "heavy." I've never asked Lynn, or discussed with her or Roger, what went on, or what the tone was during those talks, assuming there were some.

Corys had a pachinko machine. Pachinko machines come from Japan, are a bit like pinball without the flippers. A small steel ball is launched into the playing area, and filters down through a series of hundreds of little wire pins. They're part amusement, part gambling. I had never seen one before, and was fascinated. Any free time I had was spent in front of the pachinko machine. Eventually, a machine was shipped to Pittsfield. But it arrived so badly damaged from shipping abuse, that it was thrown in the trash.

And Rod, four years younger than me, had his bedroom all done up in the blacklight motif. Posters, a couple of mobiles... He would have been 10 years old, I think, at the time. Maybe nine. He's not a hippie now, sure wasn't then. But his room was decorated like a hippie's room. Rod rubbed off on me. At some point, we went shopping. I came home with 4-5 posters and a mobile of my own. I transformed my own room into an opium den, minus the opium.

I don't remember doing a lot of homework out there. I surely took some books. A week away from school was a lot to miss. It would have been hard to catch up one week, in all my classes. And though I don't believe any of my teachers would have given me a free pass. I am sure that they might have been easier on me in some ways, due to the circumstances of the visit.

I can't stress enough, how much support we got from friends of mom and dad, my classmates. Anyone who knew us.

There were some photos made during that trip. Not many, but a few. And I find this very interesting.
Mom was still the chief "photo taker" in those days. She used a little Kodak Instamatic, 110 format camera. The flash was a four sided cube that would rotate. Four flashes to each cube.

Flash cubes were either not packed, did not go off, or were deemed unnecessary at the time the photos were taken. I don't think there were more than a half dozen photos taken on that trip. That's all I have.

The nature of the trip may have also factored in as to how many shots were made. This was no vacation. Not a joyous occasion.

All of the photos are very dark and murky. Every single one. The non believers would simply chalk this up as a technical error. Either the camera, or mom, didn't do their job. The flash failed, or mom misjudged the lighting conditions.

I find it ironic that the the photos match the overall mood of that trip. For several months a year, the northwest can be a bit gray and gloomy anyway. It was a great visit. yes. But the underlying tone was very serious. Also gray and gloomy.

It's almost as if an outside source made sure those photos were void of detail. That they were purposely made to be dark, to mask any sadness that may have been otherwise visible.

Dad plays cards with his granddaughter, Julie. Dad didn't smile a lot for photos. Check out his smile!







Thursday, March 14, 2013

March 14th

March 14th, 1973 & 2013: Today's blog is all from memory. 40 year old memory. A little speculation. A few details as razor sharp now as they were then. Dad, mom, and I, flew to Lakewood, Washington to visit Lynn and her family. Lynn is dad's daughter from his first marriage.

Dad's sister, my Aunt Betty, drove us from Pittsfield to Lambert Field, the St. Louis airport. We flew into Sea-Tac, the airport that sits approximately halfway between Seattle and Tacoma, Washington.

Dad was showing what the disease was doing to him. I know this from the benefit of photos that were taken on this trip. Weight loss was the most obvious. His skin was turning an odd color, too. No one had any idea of how much time he had left. Everyone hoped for the best. But, just in case... And, we'd never visited Lynn and Roger as a family anyway.

The drive from Pittsfield to St. Louis was always a beautiful one. And it usually meant a special occasion. Once across the Mississippi River at Louisiana, Missouri, the trip down Route 79 was fantastic. Rolling hills, the bluffs to the right, the river to the left. Little towns. Clarksville, Annada, Elsberry, Foley, and finally, O'Fallon, where 79 met Interstate 70. From there, it was 70 East to the airport, or on into St. Louis.

Forrest Keeling had a good-sized nursery along the route. We'd made stops there in years past. Usually on Mother's Day. Mom would shop for flowers and plants while dad walked with her and waited patiently. I'd be bored to death and pouting. There's a house in Clarksville that sits on the east side of Route 79. For as long as I can remember, even now, that house is painted a bright purple. Clarksville also had a small ski lift that went up the bluff to a lookout point and souvenir shop. South of Clarksville,  dad once pointed out an old box car. It sits off the road a ways. Been sitting there since it derailed in a train wreck years and years ago. It's still there today, weathering away.

Annada was known as a speed trap. Somewhere in this area, is a big farming operation. For years, a ribbon of white, wooden fencing, carved the property into pastures. I believe it's wire fencing now. In other changes, much of Route 79 bypasses a few of those little towns now. But then, it was pure Americana.

Trips to St. Louis meant something special. Far and above rides to Quincy, Jacksonville, Springfield, or Hannibal, Missouri.

The Beatles concert in 1966. Visits to the St. Louis Zoo. Christmas shopping with mom, Aunt Betty, and Aunt Erma at Famous Barr and Stix, Baer & Fuller. Route 79 was the road that led to those events. Another such trip was a Cardinals Vs. Packers football game that dad and I attended in December of 1970. It ended in a 10-10 tie. That trip with dad was one of only two, real, "father and son" type things that we were able to do. The other being the Indianapolis 500 earlier that year.

There's  lot of history along that highway. As a kid, as a teenager going to concerts, and as an adult on a motorcycle ride. It all floods back to me when I ride up or down that route these days. Usually 2-3 times a summer. Tears have been shed under the visor of my helmet. Happy tears. Good memory tears.

It was good that Aunt Betty drove us to the airport. For two reasons. One, the traveler that she was, she knew that airport forwards and backwards. I remember mom and I picking her up from one of her travels abroad. I'd taken a wooden dowel and a clothes pin. I used the clothes pin to attach a home made sign to the dowel. "Welcome home Ant Betty," was the message. My spelling is fair now. It was worse when I was 7-8 years old.

Secondly, Aunt Betty was also good at keeping the mood as light as it could be. She could steer the conversation in positive directions. It's about 90 miles from home to St. Louis. The airport would be slightly less. There was plenty of time for lost thought.

We parked, got our luggage checked in, and went to our gate. Of course, in those days, Aunt Betty would have been allowed to go to the gate with us, and see us board.

The covered passenger walkways that lead from terminals to planes were not common in 1973. Sea-Tac had them, due to all the rain they get out there. Not in St. Louis. As I recall, we walked down a couple of flights of steps and out the door to walk across the tarmac to the plane, and up steps to board it.

This was a big moment for me. I was the kid. But I was doing something for the second time in my life, that dad and mom and never experienced. Flying. In my mind, I was "supervising" my parents.

And I remember this next moment like it just happened a few minutes ago. As we were making that walk from the terminal to the plane, I was off to dad's right, just a couple of paces behind. I could see excitement in his expression as he was about to experience something for the first time.

"It's a Whisperjet," he grinned, noting the model of the plane, painted across the tail wing of the Eastern Airlines jet.

Mom wasn't as thrilled. She was tense. She looked tense.

Once in the air, I think everyone relaxed a bit. Smoking was routine in those days. Mom probably consumed a half pack. Other passengers too. Four hours in smoke filled, aluminum tube. Ah, those were the days.

I can't remember if the trip was full of talk, or quiet. I might have played my supervisor and experienced one role, and explained to my parents, what to expect in Washington.

The plane came down over the firs and pines that border the airport property, and we were there. Lynn and company were there to meet us, and drive us to their home. Maybe a 45 minute trip.

We'd be in Lakewood, at the Cory's for the next week.






Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March 12th

March 12th, 1973: We are flying to Tacoma to see Lynn on Wednesday. and mom is scared to death that dad will get sick out there. But, Dr. Bunting said, "O.K." Dad also says he feels fine. Mom said we were coming back on Monday, and dad was thinking more on Wednesday. So, dad said, "O.K, Dorothy. I don't care anymore."

We saw a movie today in school, and 19-20 people die of cancer. Mom is also scared of flying. But hell, we'll make it.

March 12th, 2013: I'd taken a week off from making entries in my original diary. Either from laziness. Or from not wanting to put pen to paper, and acknowledge how things were going, and where they were headed. It honestly could have been laziness. The last entry was March 5th.

Now, after a week off from this blog, and revisiting the original diary, I can clearly see what a difference a week makes. And not for the better.

It's weird. Things had apparently digressed to the point that a trip to the northwest was scheduled.  Sort of a turning point. Maybe a sign of resignation at the time. And it screams the same, now, 40 years later.

It basically boiled down for time for dad to say good-bye to his daughter. Dad was sick. No one knew how long he'd live. But he was deteriorating quickly. I understand this now, better than I did then.

It's kind of funny, in a not funny way. Mom was scared dad would get "sick" out there. Obviously, she meant his condition could worsen, and we'd be far from home. If you know me, and my warped sense of humor, I'd ask now, what would be the worst that could happen? He was dying anyway!

And heck. By this time he was taking better care of himself too. I think he'd stopped smoking during this stage. (More dark humor intended).

Mom was afraid of flying, yes. But I just don't believe she wanted to travel to Tacoma in the first place. I have mentioned tension, on mom's part, towards Lynn. There was really no reason for it. It was minor and unnecessary. But it was there. Mom was really about to be tossed from her comfort zone of home.

The 12th was a Monday. We'd fly out on Wednesday the 14th from St. Louis. I was looking forward to  the trip. Excited by it. For me, it meant a week off from school and a ride on an airplane. Aunt Betty and I had been out there in the summer of 1969. I liked the northwest. The smell of the pines and firs, and the view of Mt. Rainier from Lynn's house.

Judging by my original notes, there must have been a film during health class, or some other class, about cancer. I failed to note the time frame in which those 19-20 people die. Minutes, hours, a day? Whatever the time frame, I'd bet I watched that film with the thought of,  that stuff happened to other people. Not my dad.

The exchange between my parents was one of only two times in my life that I witnessed actual tension between mom and dad. When dad responded to mom about the length of our stay out there, it was with real... well, not anger. But he was not happy mom was making a fuss.

The only other incident I can remember, when I saw dad sort of snap at mom like that, had me in the middle of the situation. I was wanting a new, upgraded, mini-bike. Mom was sort of taking my side. Dad wasn't convinced I needed one. It was the one and only time I ever heard my dad use the "f-bomb." Not aimed at mom, mind you. But the mini bike. "All right, Dorothy. Let him get the......"

So. At some point during this recent, "missing week," Things had gotten to the point where plans were made for the visit. As I recall, it was sprung on me. I wasn't involved in the discussions that led to it. I would imagine that my parents were concerned about missing that much school. But, not taking me was out of the question for the most part. I'd stayed with aunts and friends before, when mom and dad went to hardware shows. This was entirely different. Mom and dad must have discussed it with Lynn and Roger. Apparently, it made more sense for us to go to them. Not them to us. At least this time.

For this trip, the store would be left to Peachy and Pat. Arrangements were made for me to keep up with my homework. And someone helped out by feeding the two dogs and two cats while we'd be gone.

Aunt Betty would drive us to St. Louis, and pick us up when we returned.

It would be impossible for me to make diary entries in Tacoma. Or nearly impossible, without drawing attention to myself. This made for another gap in my original diary entries. But, even without the benefit of original notes, there are enough memories to write about from the trip. I just don't know the exact dates they would have occurred on.

My original diary picks back up on March 20th, when we returned home. We were gone a week. From the 14th to the 20th. Mom lost, dad won, on the decision to stay a week. Dad usually won.

This blog will be sporadic until the 20th. There will a few posts as I recall a few memories from that trip.

I'll skip tomorrow and come back Thursday. The day we flew out.

Dad and Aunt Betty in a very early photo of the two. I'd sure like to have that tin crafted race car!







Tuesday, March 5, 2013

March 5th, 1973: Dad had his last cobalt treatment for three weeks. Now, he says the one he had today makes his chest tight. But his arm is feeling better. I helped out at the store today. Since it is three weeks before dad goes back, I will not be making daily entries in the diary. But I will write if anything comes up.

March 5th, 2013: Yesterday's entry stated dad planned to open the hardware store on this day. What would have been a Monday. He was probably there to turn the key at the front door at 7 a.m. He worked the morning, or half a day, before being driven to Quincy for this last treatment in the series.

I think, by this time, he was beginning to show the effects of the disease, the treatments, and the running back and fourth to Quincy. I can also remember how the cobalt treatments left purple spots on the area where he received them. They sort of looked like bruises. A purple hue to them.

The reference to his arm feeling better, was in relation to the situation that had been discovered in his shoulder. The bone cancer. He had been complaining of his arm and shoulder being sore.

I must have gone up to the store after school. It wasn't far from Higbee Jr. High School to the store. Six or seven blocks. If there was snow, I walked. If there wasn't, I was on my green Schwinn Collegiate. I'd work until closing time, 5 p.m. With dad in Quincy that afternoon, I would have then ridden home. More of a distance than from school. A bit more than a mile or so.

I'd sure like to be able to go back, and be inside the heads of all the grown ups during that time. The bad news about Uncle Ray... Dad's health showing little sign of improving... I'll bet they thought the world was falling apart on them. So much going on. Almost none of it good.

Maybe I'd had enough too? Tired of writing of bad news, I decided to give the diary a break. That would be the most "scripted" scenario. But maybe I was just growing lazy and bored of writing everyday? Could have been that, too.

The next original diary entry is dated March 12th. If you're following along, you get a week off.

Back again on March 12th.

Monday, March 4, 2013

March 4th

March 4th, 1973: We did go to Macomb today. Aunt Betty went too. And when it isn't one thing, it's another. Uncle Ray has a malignant growth too. I don't know any other details. We took two cars because Aunt Betty had to come back to bowl. 

I don't know what was said in our car, but I guess dad got a little emotional. But dad and Uncle Ray both said they'd fight the hell out of cancer. 

We came back home and dad rested. Because dad is going to open the store tomorrow. 

March 4th, 2013: Wow! One the more lengthy entries in the original diary. And a lot to digest. 

More bad news! This time, for Uncle Ray. Ray was technically my "great uncle," or something like that. His wife Erma, was my dad's aunt. Erma was a sister to dad's mother, Frieda. Erma and Frieda looked a little alike, based on photos I've seen. 

I only knew one of my grandparents. Dad's father, Charles Kriegshauser. And though I have a few memories of him, he died when I was four. My mom's parents were long gone. My mom lost her mother to breast cancer when mom was only six years old. Her dad was gone before I was born. On dad's side, his mother, Frieda, died of diabetes. Grandpa Charlie of a heart attack in the hardware store. 

As the story goes. Dad and his friend, Bob Groom, were standing and talking near the front of the store when they heard a crash of broken glass. "Well, we better go back and see what Charlie has broken now," Groom said to dad. Grandpa had collapsed just inside the warehouse. Dad said he thinks Grandpa was dead before he hit the ground. 

So. Dad was tight with Ray and Erma Poler. All of us were. They were the last link to dad's immediate family, other than Aunt Betty, dad's sister, and two aunts in Quincy. We all loved the Polers. They had two sons. Jay and Jon. Those boys were a few years older than me. Twelve years or so. They had Triumph Bonneville motorcycles in the 60's, and were instrumental in turning me onto the love of riding on two wheels. When we visited, if they were around, I'd beg for a ride. I usually got one, while my mom held her breath. 

Uncle Ray was born in 1896. He would have been 76 at this time. A World War I veteran. Very slender, and a pipe smoker. He had that demeanor that is stereotypical of pipe smokers. Calm, cool, quiet, and collected. Uncle Ray was a guy who could look at you with more of a "gaze" than the "glare" my dad exhibited, if I was misbehaving. In a way, the "gaze" was more frightening than the "glare." He too, had been a hardware man in Macomb. Later on, he sold cars for Wayne Woodrum's dealership.

Aunt Erma was really sweet. Dark, curly hair. Always bit of a curious look on her face. I have told Jay and Jon she reminded me of Edith Bunker. Not a "dingbat." Just very naive' for an adult. A very innocent lady. She had been a secretary/receptionist for a Macomb doctor. 

We took at least two vacations to Colorado with Ray and Erma. Each time was a blast. Those two, and mom and dad, got along so well. And, even as a kid with different interests, they were fun to be around.

Dad, Aunt Erma, Uncle Ray. Estes Park, CO. 1972
So now, out of nowhere. Uncle Ray had apparently been ailing, went to the doctor, and got bad news. I do not know whether this information came out during the visit to Macomb that day. Or if we'd already been informed, and drove up to see them. If we had known earlier, I think it would have been entered in my diary. 

They lived at 1350 Parkview Drive. One of only two families on the street not involved with the university. Jay and Jon were old enough to be out on their own by 1973. And they were. Usually, the adults played a card game called "Crazy 8's" and drank beer. Uncle Ray liked his bourbon. When I was younger, I'd ride my bicycle all over the WIU campus. Later, I was old enough to be invited to join them in the card game. Pennies and nickels were at stake. I was warned that the game was real. Money could be lost. I won the first hand I played!

I can't imagine them not playing cards that day. Carrying on the way they normally did. 

Judging by my original diary entry, I must have ridden to Macomb with Aunt Betty, and home with mom and dad. Aunt Betty liked adventure. She was always coming up with cool ideas for road trips when I was younger. We were good together. Her driving, me, riding shotgun, barely tall enough to see over the dash. Apparently, I overheard a conversation in Macomb, or learned from Aunt Betty later on, that dad  had some "moments" during the drive up. Aunt Betty was always direct. Just like dad. 

Dad took me to my first Indianapolis 500 in 1970. We skipped two years, then had tickets for the 1973 race. When dad died, Aunt Betty stepped up and took me. She wanted to, enjoyed it. That year, and that race, is a whole other story to write about. 

I've rambled long enough. Dad was sick. Uncle Ray was sick. There were bound to have been some laughs that day. But now we had two people to worry about, and pray for. 











Sunday, March 3, 2013

March 3rd

March 3rd, 1973: Dad had a day off today, and he worked up at the store. And, we all ate at home tonight. I think we are going to Macomb tomorrow.

March 3rd, 2013: Dad's "day off" was from the cobalt treatments in Quincy. The 3rd was a Saturday. He was finally back in his own element, the place he loved. The hardware store. Apparently feeling strong enough, and well enough, to be there.

He'd been through, what? Four consecutive days of treatments at Blessing Hospital in Quincy. He had to have happy to be at the store, not the hospital.

No mention in my original diary entry as to whether I was there too. Or, home with mom.

As I get further into this blog, I'm finding it more difficult to fill in some blanks with details. I can speculate, but I don't want to make things up. There are plenty of vivid memories that are ahead. Just not from everyday.

Everyone knew he was sick. I knew he was sick. But unlike 99.9% of everyone else, I was the one holdout who just couldn't, or wouldn't imagine him dying.

I wonder, if on a day like that Saturday, he'd begun teaching and grooming Peachy and Pat more about how to manage the store. They already knew a lot. But maybe there was more to learn? Stuff that only dad had handled before. The same with mom. She'd been all but "hands off." Peachy and Pat knew a lot more than her, about day to day operations.

He'd train them for the obvious reason. Dad was no naive' man. Time was a wastin'.

Judging by my original entry, we must have been "catching as catch can", with the evening meals that week, during his treatments. Under normal circumstances, supper together for the three of us, was a constant. There were always exceptions. But not a many. I have no idea how irregular the meal arrangements were that week. But if I'd eaten a friends house, an aunts house, or somewhere different. I think I would have noted it.

It also looked like we'd be heading to Macomb the next day, a Sunday. This would be to visit Ray and Erma Poler. Erma was dad's aunt. A sister to my dad's mom. Ray and Erma were great people. More on them as the story progresses.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

March 2nd

March 2nd, 1973: Dad went back for more cobalt today. But he says he feels better. He thinks maybe the stuff is doing some good. I hope he's right.

March 2nd, 2013: Another short entry. The fourth treatment in four days. Quincy and back. Like the three days before.

No mention of any "special" driver on this day. Mom was likely back in this role again, after one of his buddies drove him the day before.

There would have been a lot of time for mom and dad to talk while on the road. Or, there could have been an hour of silence each way. That would be possible, but not likely.

I never knew dad to be overly reflective or sentimental. He didn't verbalize it anyway. Didn't reminisce a lot, unless asked. But I wonder if that drive brought some memories back to the surface of his mind?

It's pure speculation on my part. I love to be on the road. Especially on my motorcycle. It's as much mental therapy as it is enjoyment and transportation. I do a lot of thinking, get ideas, look back, look forward. Without knowing it, maybe I got that gene from dad. The fact that he was born and raised in Quincy, then moved to Pittsfield. He could probably drive that route blindfolded. I wonder if he held memories, and memories of incidents, along the route like I do?

There was so much going on. Yet so much not going on. A lot of time waiting around. A lot of time running around. Routines he'd had for years and years at the store and home, replaced by new routines of doctors and treatments. Everyday thoughts of running the store, being a husband and father, to the unthinkable thoughts of dying, and leaving his wife and kid behind.

All in less than a month's time. Everything was beginning to become "the same," but completely different.


Friday, March 1, 2013

March 1st

March 1st, 1973: Dad went back to Quincy again today. Paul Beckenholt took him up. The treatments tire dad out pretty well, and he just rested tonight, listening to a basketball game.

March 1st, 2013: This marked the third day, and third consecutive cobalt treatment for dad. 90 miles, round trip, to Quincy and back. Plus the time at Blessing Hospital. It appears it was easier to make the trips than to keep him in the hospital. Given the choice, dad wouldn't have wanted to stay in the hospital anyway.

As I remember it, all the treatments were cobalt. I don't know if chemotherapy existed then. Or if it did, cobalt was deemed the best of two methods of treatment in dad's case. Cobalt treatment used gamma rays from cobalt 60, based on what I later learned. It was an expensive treatment. That brings up another interesting question. Dad was self-employed. I have no idea how our insurance worked back then. But I don't remember any talk of an extra financial burden from all of this. That was one less thing to worry about.

I have stated before. I don't know how long the treatments lasted. Being in school, I never went along. I remember him always being home by the time I got home from school. I'd ask general questions about his day, and he'd give me general answers. If I asked, he told me. He may have "sugar coated" some of it. But he wouldn't have lied. He hated liars.

I didn't note this in my original diary. But if he was going to Quincy everyday, and the treatments were tiring him. It's pretty safe to say he was not spending any time at the hardware store during this period of time. Very little, if any.

The fact that he listened to a basketball game that evening, indicates he must have been bored and looking for something to occupy his time. It was not like him to listen to sports on the radio. And this had to have been a high school game. A level of play far removed from his interest. Dad liked NFL football. And he had some interest in NBA basketball.

When I was really young, I detected a soft spot in his heart for the Boston Celtics. Not much, but a little. As boys do, they emulate their father. I jumped on the Celtics bandwagon around 1966, and rode it through the late 90's. Not a casual fan, I bled green for many years. Rabid. All thanks to some offhand comment dad made when I was six or seven years old.

It should be noted that today's "2013 recollection" is fresh. The notes I'd made in 1993, when I attempted this project once before, ended yesterday. From today on, it's all in my original diary entries, and in my head.

Not that it makes that much difference. What I remember from 1973 is just as fresh in my mind 40 years later as it was 20 years ago.