After spending two days traveling from Terre Haute, Ind. to Cedar Bayou, Texas, the three of us were ready for some loosening up time. The kid got to sit on a makeshift arm rest between mom and dad in the front seat of a ‘49 Packard.
It was February 1952, and a newly discharged Army veteran, his wife and son made their way to Texas. Korea was behind him and nothing but the future lay ahead. The hope was that Texas would bring work and new opportunities.
As I look back to that Texas beginning, many things aren’t clear since I was only 2. I do know that the man driving that Packard was my dad and we were buddies for sure.
I can remember the garage apartment, above a firehouse, right next to the train tracks was our first home. For a young boy, this was like being in heaven.
My dad’s work was constantly changing each week; day shift, evening shift, and then the graveyard shift. Each month he would have a couple days off in a row. I looked forward to those times we got to spend together.
Too many fires and trains encouraged a move to the country, so off we went to a garage apartment above Mr. and Mrs. DeFreese. What a fun place this was. We were close to animals and tractors. There was a long set of stairs to climb.
My dad was a hard worker and never took much time off. Occasionally we would go to the Tastee Freeze and get an ice cream cone, then off to watch the Lynchburg Ferry go back and forth across the Houston Ship Channel.
There were those special days you remember all your life. One of those for me was April 4, 1954. If I remember correctly, it was Palm Sunday. My dad and I got baptized that day!
When I was 6, and getting ready to start school, they bought our first home. It was in a brand new neighborhood. I was lucky because we got to make new friends as the houses were built and sold.
I learned that moving was a difficult chore. It was during this move I learned some of those colorful words that were alright for him to say, but not me.
We had a drainage ditch behind our house that became the perfect place to play. We would catch crawdads all day. Since he wasn’t much on anything that crawled and lived in the mud, we usually just let them return to nature from whence they came!
Our weekends were spent working around the house, and Sundays we went to church. I do recollect there were times we played hooky from Sunday school.
We would go to Cedar Bayou and skip rocks. Since we “skipped” Sunday school, he would always make me sing Jesus Loves Me with him. Made him feel less guilty, I suppose. I still hear him singing that song today.
It was early fall of 1961. School had already begun and hurricane season was winding down. Since Sept. 7, the news had been following Hurricane Carla. I remember that storm like it was yesterday.
He spent most of those days “living” at the chemical plant, where he worked in Deer Park.
Our house was a gathering place for all the neighborhood kids. We played basketball or wiffle ball, or our infamous “Two below” football games. He was always there playing right along with us.
It was during my college years, at the University of Houston, that we started playing handball and racquet ball. There were hours of beating each other up on the court!
He was a proud member of a church slow pitch softball team. They were invited to play a game in the Astrodome because of their stellar record. What a moment when he touched the plate, after hitting a home run!
I have hundreds of memories of my hero, my friend, my companion, my teacher. He worked hard and was a wonderful provider for our family of five. His family was his pride and joy!
Thank you, dads. You are important, you are loved by many special people, and you do make a difference. Enjoy your special day this Sunday!
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After working in the Comal ISD school system for 16 years, Brockman continued to serve the community as vice president of economic development for the Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce for 17 years before retiring in 2018. Currently, he works in community relations for CEMEX. Brockman’s column will be published weekly on Thursdays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.