My father was a serious whistler. He could whistle whole symphonies. You always knew he was coming because you would hear his whistling first. I used to think it was a jolly quirk.
Another thing bob did well was reading to us at bedtime. He read Edgar Rice Burroughs, the Tarzan Adventures, the Hardy boys and later, Sherlock Holmes. But the Arabian Nights was a favorite request of mine.
Bedtime was a ritual, with stories ending in a Bear hug. We loved him so much we wouldn’t release him. He had to tickle us to loosen our grip. Dinnertime was for grown-up conversations. We could ask any question and he usually treated the subject thoroughly. Soon he had the nickname “Doctor Science”.
But just to show that he wasn’t perfect, I will describe a periodic occurrence. Usually, we would hear his whistle around dusk but if he didn’t come home then, it would be late at night and sometimes even drunk. We still wanted to see him. I remember begging him to wake me up when he got home, but he never did.
So we would set up a booby trap over the front door. A pot full of silverware and tin cans which was rigged to fall onto a larger pot when the door was opened. This would wake us up. Sometimes we didn’t do this exactly right and all the stuff fell on his head.
In Mount Vernon, the time of rejection slips and typing jobs, there would sometimes be no food at all and bob would cheerfully offer up a dinner of lettuce leaves with sugar on them. It was a time of feast or famine for about a year.
pardon the flash "davis high school" it's the only photo i have of that painting.
I was in the eighth grade but hardly ever went to school. I had learned to play ‘hooky’ in Barrington. I was dedicated to books and often read under the covers until late at night. I simply wanted to go on reading what I was reading and would stop on the way to school at a large grassy crater in the woods. Then it would be too late to go.
Bob became great friends with the truant officer in Mount Vernon. The poor guy had to climb five flights of stairs. Bob would pour him a cup of coffee and they would chat for a while.
When the time for teacher’s conferences came Bob would always go. One teacher my father quoted as saying, “Scott? He seems like a nice boy, but we hardly ever see him.”
These were hard times for us. Bobby and I both used to hitchhike to the Saxon Woods Country Club and caddy for the golfers on Saturdays and Sundays. It was a lot of money if you did the course twice with a bag of clubs on each shoulder. You’d be dog tired by the time you got home and ‘hit the hay’ early.
One of the earliest shocks to my conscience happened at this time. I thought of my earnings as mine and bought expensive shirts and squandered the rest. I don’t even think I knew that bobby was turning his dough over to Bob. And one day I got a well-deserved comeuppance from my father. I can’t forget how ashamed I felt. I had probably complained about a ‘lettuce night’, and he came down hard on me. “Your brother, you know, helps out while you buy black silk shirts with golden threads….”
One day my Bobby ran all the way home and ate both cans of chili…. Now, please just go here for yet another digression.
And then we can talk about Bob’s new job at Stanley Neal Productions where he had the specious honor of writing that Dial soap commercial that went like this…. “Aren’t you glad you use Dial? Don’t you wish everybody did?”
It was a winner.
by the way, here is something special: