Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father's Day Memories - Vic Wagner

Most of us have friends we've had since childhood . . . best friends, the ones we can connect with almost telepathically. If we are separated by time and miles, when we get back together, it's like no time of absence has passed. In my life, that was (and is) Judy Wagner. Although we grew up less than a half a block apart, attendance at different schools and churches, plus parents with different connections, meant we didn't really form our friendship until about Jr. High (for me) and High School (for her - she is 2 years my senior). But from then on, we practically lived in each other's homes. I felt just as comfortable asking her parents for advice as I did asking mine (as teenagers, that was not necessarily a total comfort experience) - her dad and mine both played organ, but different styles (I liked her dad's style better, at times). So when I think of father's day, I not only think of my own father and grandfather, but of the many surrogate fathers I've had over time, and Vic Wagner was definitely one of those. I asked Judy to send some memories she has of her father and here is her input:

My father, Victor Wagner died when I was 26, and I am 68, so these memories are from a long time ago. 

The earliest memory I have may not necessarily be a memory, but a story that was told to me so many times that I 'remember' it.  We were babysitting a little girl who was my age.  I don't know how long she was at our house.  One night, when my dad got home from work, she called "Daddy!" and ran over to him.  Well, I was not going to allow that as he was MY Daddy, and got up and walked for the first time on my own.  I was 20 months old.

I remember once when I measured myself against my dad and found I came up to his belly button.

Dad would draw a circle with a dot on one of my hands and a circle with an X on the other hand.  When pressed, one would go 'Ding-ding' and the other would go 'Buzz.'

Dad took the shell of an old radio and somehow put 4 Christmas lights in it with a switch that would turn each light on individually.  This was my TV and I would entertain myself sitting and either making up stories for each show, or repeating ones I had watched.  The blue light was 'The Lone Ranger' and the green was 'Gene Autry.'  The other colors were yellow and red, but I don't remember what shows they were.  I'm sure one was 'The Cisco Kid.'

Dad would tell us made up bedtime stories about the exciting adventures of a dog named Dinky-doo.  I wish we had written them down.

When there were just four kids, we would go for bicycle rides.  (Actually, I have heard that this was done when there were fewer kids too.)  My older brother and sister would ride their own bikes.  I sat side-saddle on a rug on the cross-bar on Dad's bike and my younger brother sat on a blanket in the wire basket on Mom's bike.  No helmets, no safety seats and we survived!

1974 - Wagner Family, Wilmette, Illinois
Back: Dan, Chris, Jim, Vic Jr, Judy
Front: Tom, Bonnie, Gerry (Mom), Vic Sr. (Dad) holding Susan, Bonnie's daughter

Dad liked astronomy and shared that with us:
·         Our family went camping for vacations, frequently to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and several times near Mackinac Bridge.  We were there before, during and after the building of the bridge.  After dinner we would sit on the beach looking at the stars and the occasional meteor.  Dad would show us some of the constellations and stars, such as the Big Dipper, (and show us how to find the North Star), the teapot (Sagittarius), and most important, Cassiopeia, the 'W' (for Wagner).  Once, my little brother asked "Where is the 'M' in the sky?"  Dad responded with "Are you a Wagner?"
·         When the satellite 'Echo' was orbiting overhead, Dad would take us outside to see it.
·         One night we were able to see the northern lights from our house.

While traveling, we would always stop at the historical markers.  One time, Dad got an idea that he thought would save time.  When we got to the sign, each person had a specific line to memorize – Dad the first, Mom the second, etc.  Then, as we drove away, each person, in order, recited what they memorized.  It didn't work, because we were so concerned with remembering our line that we weren't listening to the other lines, and not all of us were able to remember our lines.

Dad was a Cubs fan.  When working around the house when a game was on, he had the TV on with the sound off and listened to a portable radio he had with him.  If something exciting was happening, he would go into the living room and watch on the TV.  That way he could still get his work done around the house and listen to the game.

When I was in high school, we got rid of our piano and got an electric organ.  Dad got the free lessons that came with it, and learned to play pretty well.  He was able to play a large variety of songs.  His song for me was 'Daddy's Little Girl'.  Sometimes when Jean came over he would play 'I Dream of Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair.'

My high school graduation was at 4pm on a Thursday, and Dad wasn't sure he was going to be able to get off of work to be there.  From my position on the stage, I was unable to see most of the audience.  As I was walking off the stage, I could see him in the audience.

After my first niece was born, I was the first one to see her in person.  When I got back home, I showed Dad a photo of her.  I said "Isn't she the cutest little girl you have ever seen?"  He pulled a picture out of his wallet and showed it to me and said "Cuter than her?"  It was a baby picture of me.  A year later, he and Mom went to visit her.  When they returned, I asked him again "Isn't she the cutest little girl you have ever seen?" and he said "Yes".  I guess I set myself up for that one.  What just occurred to me is that he was carrying around a baby picture of me in his wallet!

Dad had an interesting sense of humor. 
·         When my brother went into the Air Force, he had a growth spurt, growing 4 inches in his first 4 months.  Dad said that at that rate, he would qualify for a control tower when he got out. 
·         There was a street near us named Noyes.  Dad said it couldn't make up its mind (No-Yes). 
·          Cashews were the allergic nut (ca-shew – bless you). 
·         One night we had beef tongue for dinner.  He said "Taste it quick before it tastes you." 
·         Once we were camping at Interstate State Park which crosses the Wisconsin/Minnesota state line.  He thought it should be called either Wisci-Sota or Minne-Sin, combining the names of the two states. 
·         He told us a story about an Indian brave named Falling Rock who went out hunting and never returned.  Subsequently, the tribe put up signs all around the country saying "Watch for Falling Rock."

When I was in college, I frequently took the train to/from school.  Dad would get me to the train just in time.  One night, I could see the train leaving the previous station and Dad was still in the house.  We made it, but after the train arrived in our station.  To this day, I still get stressed when traveling by plane or train, and have to plan to get there with plenty of time to spare.

When I registered for college, Mom and Dad went with and got an orientation of the school.  On the way home, we stopped at Starved Rock State Park for dinner.  When I graduated, we stopped there again.  I was told that during the first trip, I said that I wanted to stop there when I graduated.  I felt that Dad was really proud of me.  I was the first child to graduate from college.

After I graduated from college, I moved away.  A few times, Dad made cassette tapes for me to communicate some adventure he and Mom had.  Once, on one side of the tape, he recorded their visit to a train museum - he read the signs to me.  On the other side he recorded himself playing the organ.
Gerry & Vic Wagner, Wilmette, Illinois

Dad was very patriotic, and would put up the flag every Memorial Day, Flag Day and July 4.  It was tied on a rope that stretched between the house and the oak tree in the front yard.  One year, Mom found out that she could get a flag that had flown over the Capitol in Washington D.C.  We gave it to him for Christmas.  His response was "A used flag from my family for Christmas."  He put that flag up on the 200th anniversary of Paul Revere's ride and it was to remain up 24/7 until the Bicentennial – 7/4/1976.  Unfortunately, he passed away in November 1975, and the flag was destroyed a few months later in an ice storm.

One year, for Father's Day, I asked Mom if she could put some flowers on Dad's grave for me.   She told me that she couldn't do it.  Since Dad used to have hay fever, the thought of flowers was unthinkable.  I changed my mind and decided on a flag instead.

I still get very emotional when thinking about Dad even though it has been more than 40 years since his passing.  I look at my family now, my Mom and (6) siblings, and feel really blessed.  We are all still talking to each other and are close, even though we are separated by miles.  Mom and Dad did a good job!

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