Saturday, June 14, 2014

SNGF--What did your father love to do?

Tonight's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge from Randy Seaver is as follows:

1) It's Father's Day in the USA on Sunday, so let's talk about our fathers.
2) What did your father really like to do in his work or spare time? Did he have hobbies, or a workshop, or did he like sports, or reading, or watching TV?
3) Tell us about it in your own blog post, in a comment on this post, or in a Facebook or Google+ post.

My father, Alva Curtis Sharp (1917-1978) was one of those people who was good at everything he did. I'm guessing that if he tried something and wasn't any good at it, he didn't do it again. He spent 20 years in the U.S. Army and told stories about hustling bowling back in Texas when he first enlisted. He'd hang out at the base bowling alley, rolling right-handed. When some poor unsuspecting GI would come by and challenge him to a game, he'd switch to bowling left-handed and crush him. I remember him telling me about being a "semi-pro bowler" at some point, but have no idea exactly what that meant or how old he was then. When Dick Weber came to State College on some sort of PBA tour, my Dad was greeted as an old friend. He helped establish the bowling leagues at the bowling alley in State College and volunteered to start a junior league (which I participated in). At one point, he bowled in 4 different leagues, including a traveling league that bowled all over central Pennsylvania. He entered many state and regional tournaments. He had an impressive collection of trophies, one of them almost three feet tall. Mine were neither as numerous nor as impressive.

Dad was also a baseball player in his youth. Unfortunately, neither of his sons had any interest in sports. But I did. He would play catch with me for hours and tried to sneak me onto a Little League team. Unfortunately, girls were not allowed on Little League teams in those days (late 50s/early 60s), so I was relegated to beating the boys on the playground. And going to Pittsburgh Pirate games with him. Forbes Field was a good three hour drive from State College, but we would drive down there at least once each summer and take in a game, always stopping at a little diner for pie and coffee/pop both directions.

He also liked to watch the Friday night fights on TV. I never appreciated his interest in boxing and wished we could watch just about anything else.

And after us kids were out of the house, he took up golf. Actually, he had played golf when we lived in Japan (1950-52) and he was stationed in Korea. The only present I remember him picking out for me was a starter set of golf clubs when I took golf as a phys ed elective in college. I still have them. When I returned to State College for grad school, he and Mom had moved out to a townhome on a golf course. We would walk out their front door in the early evening and play four holes. Mom's rule was that if you swung three times and didn't hit the ball, you could pick it up and throw it. Obviously she was not the athlete in the family!

Dad was always into woodworking. While he was still in the Army, he would use the Base shop. Once he built a "hi-fi cabinet" with inlaid top. I have no idea what happened to that cabinet. When we bought our house in State College, he set up a shop in the basement and built my Mother a complete dining room set--sideboard, table, chairs. Later he added a tall china hutch with glass shelves and lighting so that she could display her pressed glass collection. He also built a set of end tables. For some reason, everything he built was made of cherry wood, apparently one of the more difficult woods to work with. I inherited the end tables and china hutch and hope to pass them down to our kids.

Another of Dad's early hobbies was photography. He apparently had a full portrait photography set up when we were in Japan. I'm not sure what happened to all the photos; I only have a few of them. But I do have a box of glass slides of photos he took in Korea. All are carefully labeled in his tiny handwriting.

Dad also worked with my older brother to build an amazing HO gauge model railroad layout. Charles was written up in Model Railroader for both his layout and some of his scratch-build structures. I know Dad built the supporting structure and I think he also painted the backdrop. I know he had a brass locomotive that he had purchased in Japan, so model railroading must have been an interest of his long before we moved to Metz Avenue in 1958.

Some of Dad's hobbies came out of necessity. After he took up golf, Arrow quit making the two-pocket shirts Dad preferred. Since he was a lefty, he needed a pocket on the right for his cigarettes. So he taught himself to sew and made his own shirts. One of his projects at work required highly precise glass lenses. He wasn't satisfied with what the techs at work made, so he did his own glass grinding. He also bought a lathe and made some sort of supports for another work-related project. Since most of his work was top secret, we rarely knew what he was working on.

After his first heart attack, Dad decided that he needed some more passive hobbies. That was about the time Rosie Greer's book Rosie Greer's Needlepoint for Men was published. He talked Mom into signing up for a needlepoint class and went with her. Of course, his sampler was perfect; Mom's was more normal. He also took up weaving. Of course he couldn't just buy a simple table loom. He built his own. He built 3 floor looms (one never actually finished) and a tapestry loom and wove some very nice pieces.

But Dad wasn't all work. He loved to tease kids. I remember a family we knew through his work. They had two boys (the older one was the same age as my younger brother) and then a little girl. Dad teased her mercilessly, trying to convince her that she was a little boy. I'm sure he would have done the same with our kids, but he didn't live long enough to meet them.