Life in a Coffee Cup Post

When I began this post it seemed to grow until it was actually two stories in one. Had I kept going, I would have wound up with a book, not a post.

For some time now I've been wanting to record stories of the lives of my parents and growing up with them. So periodically I'll post a tale of a time gone by, hoping to save it from the dust bunnies of lost dreams and memories.

Most people seem to have special stories of their family, both happy and sad, but few ever get recorded and as time passes, poignant memories fade. Details vanish. Names of images in old photos are lost and as a result, a lot of our own history is lost.

My mom always thought she'd have time to write the names on the back of those pictured in old photos. It never happened. Like every other wish and good intention, it was lost in the milieux of living. So without further ado, I give you a little story of my father.

Mornings with George and the Gang

My dad had owned his own company for many years. The kind of work his company performed was major rebuilding of printing presses. As a result he spent many days traveling across the states, usually by car to look at possible jobs so he could estimate crew size and costs. He loved to drive and I inherited this love.

When feeling stressed or crazy, one of the best remedies is getting in the car and just driving. In the past, nowhere in particular, just getting out of one's head and looking at new scenery was the goal.

In recent years, the cost of gas has made it more imperative to at least have a destination or purpose for the journey. The only requirement still was that it had to be at least an good 50 miles one way and not all be freeway or highway driving. But I digress, as always.

Retiring, was the worst thing my father could have done, like many men his age, it was all he'd ever known and as a group they went into the labor force early due to the Great Depression (the first one). As a result, he was often bored with facing long days of doing nothing and as a result had to find several new "habits" to replace the ones he had when he was working.

He had informed my mother that he would not be doing housework upon retirement. He did enjoy washing up the dinner dishes though for some reason. After about a year of this and with her health declining, mom hired someone to come in to clean every month.

The other problem with retirement for self-made men of his era is that they'd never had time when working to develop friendships with men the way women usually do, so in retirement he had no one to hang out with. Well, other than my mother, and despite his undying love for her, he could only take the 24/7 with her for so long.

One new habit was to get up early as he always had and go over to the local George Webb's for coffee and sometimes breakfast. Now mind you, mom would have happily gotten up and cooked a lovely breakfast and dad had proven a very capable cook himself over the years.

If my little brother or I were home, he'd trade off with mom and cook us breakfast. One had a choice of sunny-side-up, over-easy or scrambled. His sunny-side-up eggs were to die for so we always chose those! Nice runny yolk, not wiggly whites. Perfectly done. Yum! But back to my story.

The customers at Webb's in the early morning hours were men much like my father, with no place to go socially. They had been foisted into the labor pool very young because of the depression. There was no time to think of anything but putting food on the table and keeping a roof over your head and your family.

So gradually a group of disparate buddies developed. They were alike but each had such a different story. The common bond was that of an unidentified (to them) feeling of suddenly being left without a purpose. Their whole life had been work and family. That bond was sharing a cup of coffee in the morning with other men and debating the state of the world.

It's important to mention here that, these quasi-friendships went no further. Men of my dad's era weren't taught such social skills. Friendships that developed through sports like golf didn't take root until the next generation came along.

When dad came home afterwards and you could see he felt worthwhile, like he had solved the problems of the world. He'd retire to the den, his recliner, open whatever current book on history or politics he was reading and most likely drift off into a peaceful slumber. So went his retirement.

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