So, why didn’t Bob just go back to being a corporation lawyer? It’s 1953, business is booming. We won the war. Eight years into the new Utopia of America and everything was sweet and soft. Even the sun seemed to smile in silent approval on a perfect world.
Eisenhower had warned us that the “military industrial complex” was poised to take over the world. My father made a philosophical choice not to be a part of it. He always wanted to be a writer anyway. His father had kind of coaxed him into the legal profession. So, he was happy to work nights at the ‘Drake’ and spend the days writing short stories. Not only that but as a single parent he shouldered the duty of molding two wild Indians into proper productive kind citizens. That was of course, bobby and me.
Now, I would say that he was recovering his confidence in himself after losing Kingswood Films and his wife. And bit by bit, he would find a new path in life. He always liked to say that he was for the ‘little man’ and described his practice as an attorney for corporations as an unfair advantage. He could spin circles around any of the lawyers the small business owners could afford. Corporations always win.
Within a year, bob was working at Allstate Insurance as an insurance adjuster. They gave him a car and a not too shabby salary. We moved to Barrington. Chicago suburb. We rented a nice house with a piano. That Christmas a fine Springer spaniel sprang from its shimmering box to my extreme delight. Santa Claus brought new bikes, sleds, ice skates and a puppy? Bob was doing all right. We agreed on the name “Frisky”.
Bev Pattishall, Bob’s old Partner in Law had a nice estate within walking distance. They had a few kids. One was our age. We called him Wicki, short for Wycliff. There was a girl eight and a girl 13 who seemed grown-up; beyond our ability to relate to anyway. We were much more interested in the lake on the property which they stocked with nice big Bass.
Bob almost married our piano teacher, Mrs. Moore, a widow. We vetoed that idea unanimously and vehemently. I guess he thought we needed a mother. We liked things just the way they were. Bobby and I both used to get up at the crack of dawn to deliver the morning paper all over town. And in the summer we had free rein to do whatever we pleased for the rest of the day. And those days were pretty much “Tom Sawyer” days with adventures. In the city, we used to go to the junk yard with a hack saw and chop of the roof of junked cars, float them in the river delicately because these rafts had a shallow tolerance for flooding. In Barrington we had a small boat we used to take down the river on a hot summer day. We were happy.
Bob was not happy. He had a sizable collection of rejection slips from magazines, which published fiction. I think the reason why we pulled up stakes from this rural paradise to move to New York City had to do with this career of writing. He wanted to be in ‘the belly of the beast’, for atmosphere and for connections. Many of his classmates from Northwestern were climbing the corporate ladders in Manhattan.
Anyway, we were suddenly very poor again. That five-story walk up at 19-Park Ave., in Mount Vernon, was not only a tinderbox but a dirty and decrepit one.
(i was a budding cartoonist in those days)
We had one bedroom and a kitchen, with the bathroom down the hall. This place was to us the ‘black hole of Calcutta’. And the high school, Davis, was a nightmare. It was populated with what I call ‘greasy meaneys’ in black leather jackets with silver studs. But I digress. This is supposed to be about my father. My story will continue when I finish this portrait of the somewhat fated life of my father. For about six months Bob put food on the table and paid $21.00 a week for the apartment. Every Friday we had steak and baked potato and went to the movies together. He did this by being a Typist. He was fast; European fast, like 120 words a minute without errors.
This is where my talent as an artist got its start. I loved to do little watercolors of my favorite Disney characters. That would be Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and of course all of the Uncle Remus characters. These colorful little watercolor paintings and a few still life’s and sketches were all framed by my father and peopled the wall of that dingy bedroom and kitchen.
Once, Bob spent months doing a pencil portrait from a “how-to-do-pencil-portraits” book. He had no talent as an artist. When he tried to draw a dog, it looked more like a bug. But he hacked away at that portrait of a lady until he got it right. (Though most of it was furry from all the erasing.) But that was what he was like. He did this, and the framing, just to encourage me. And, of course it did.
my drawing of bob.