Basking in the glow of my recent victory in the Montgomery beard contest, (finally I impressed my family) I received a bunch of boxed detritus from the old man. Amongst all the crap was a letter penned by my father Dick- a 24 year old sailor stationed in Korea, to his father Wray a struggling store owner back in Montgomery. The date at the top was July 15, 1953- a little over a month before my first birthday. It was sent in the wake of my grandfather's five year absence from running his butcher shop because of ill health. Here's a slightly edited version. I think you'll agree it kinda puts things in perspective.
Going to have "Dad's" letter take the place of the folksies letter this time, cause I think it's about time I dropped just Dad a letter for a change don't you? Things haven't been too bad out here with me as of late, getting a bit more anxious though as the days go by to get the hell away from this war and get back to good ole Montgomery. May seem like there is nothing there but just wait until you're away from it for a while and that little place seems like Heaven. Funny isn't it, an awful lot goes into making up Montgomery. The good the bad alike, but it's hometown to me.
Boy there's a million things I'd have given my left hand to be able to just sit down and talk with you, about all sorts of things. Save up lots of spare time to shoot the breeze when I get back cause we gotta make up for the BS we're missing now. As for me I am fine and dandy both physically and mentally. Get lots of sleep and plenty to eat (even if it's Navy chow).
Are things in the store still pretty slow??? I imagine they are seeing how you were away for over five years and only back for a couple of months. Dad, I sure hope you're not letting it get you down to any extent. It's just not worth it at all. Stop to realize the facts and I'm sure you'll realize it too. The main thing being five years away from contact, business wise with folks and five years of Charlie, the A&P, The Grand Union and all the other stores seeing those people every day. I know it must hurt to see people you have known all your life walk past the store and go to the stores downtown. It must be darn bitter medicine to take. But Dad you have to realize that memories are short. Look at the new faces around that you've never seen and by the same token a lot of old faces are gone. Hell, you can't expect miracles to happen over night. Five years away is a long time Dad. It's going to take more than two months to build back the business. Maybe I look at things with a different perspective than you. If I were home I'd have a different slant on it. But in a way I'm glad I'm out here to look at it strictly from an unbiased viewpoint and not swayed by emotion. I'd be willing to bet Mike's new shoes against any steak in your place that within the next six months you'll be having a lot more business and yet you'll be crying the blues - that is unless you take stock of things as they are and not that the store is the most important thing in the world. IT DEFINITELY ISN'T!
I remember you telling me "when a kid is 18 he thinks he's a man and the world owes him something. When he is 22 he realizes he's wrong and he has to earn what he gets. When he is 27 he thinks he knows everything and when he is 30 he begins to get a general idea of what goes on in the world and from then on he buckles down and sees things as they are." I have a lot to learn but still think I have a general idea of what goes on. (Thanks to you for both.) By the same token I feel I'm talking to a man of many thirties- a man who has the idea of what goes on and how to handle it....
Money is important, I'll grant you. I think I have a fairly good idea of it's importance in the life of Dick, Bobbie and Michael. Look at your financial sheet. You have a beautiful home completely paid for. A car. Wolf Lake. A very comfortable portfolio of securities, a few dollars in the bank, the store, plus the fact you can damn near name your price if you want to borrow. OK for money......As a citizen and socially you have the complete respect of the entire community bar none. You are looked up to by both young and old alike as a man whose creed is based on fairness, trustworthiness, honesty and moral righteousness. When people talk of Mr. Osterhout, Wray, Curly, Pop, Dad, or that old bald headed so and so they all do so with a smile a lot deeper than the face and they are proud to look to you as a friend, helper and most of all the one they turn to when they ask "What would you do?"
Try it Dad. See and really see all you have in life other than the store and i bet it helps. Sure I know you need money to live but how much??? Why not be satisfied to coast along and not knock yourself out both physically and mentally? From a selfish viewpoint i want to be able to run in early in the afternoon and say "lets you and Mike and I go fishing?" and have you ready and waiting when we get there with the store closed up and not a care in the world. We're going to have the time of our lives with that little feller of mine and Bobbie's and I don't want his grandpa tied to any store and not be able to teach Mike how to bait a hook. There is so much more in life than the Market Dad..... Take good care of yourself Dad and don't worry about me or anything at all. I'll be home to help you out in another few months.
Give Bobbie a special little kiss for me when she comes in the store and hug the daylights out of Michael and throw him in the air once for his Daddy, sure do miss those two....
Your son and Mom's,
As it turned out Gramp did close the store, the old man came back from Korea and I did have the time of my life with him and that bald headed SOB. Hopefully in the many beard contests to
come (win or lose) I'll be able to remember my father's words of wisdom.