Outside of Christmases and birthdays, some of my best memories where my high school days in the late 1970s. On Friday nights, my dad and I would take his 1967 Chevrolet S-10 to the Chuckwagon drive in on north Sheridan in Tulsa and order wheel burgers, as they were called, and French fries for the family supper.
We’d all sit around the kitchen table eating, visiting and watching Dukes of Hazard and Dallas on television.
We always ate and prayed together at the kitchen table.
My mom was a great cook. I enjoyed lots of fried chicken meals, fish fries and home raised fresh foods from the garden at the kitchen table.
During the summer months, I sat on a chair at the kitchen table and helped my mom snap and can green beans and use a tomato spaghetti strainer to smash tomatoes for canning.
My folks weren’t too tough on me, but they expected me to follow the rules and to behave. When I was in fourth grade and said a cuss word at school, my mom somehow found out. We all gathered in the kitchen and my folks made me say the cuss word, spell the word then I got a spanking. Anytime I got into a scuffle or trouble at school and got swats, I got a double dose at home. I’m thankful for all of it.
I’ve always been a talker and friendly sort of person.
My mom once told me that the dean of boys at Will Rogers High School in Tulsa called her because I was talking too much in class. It upset my mom and she let him have it.
“You have all those students standing outside smoking cigarettes instead of going class and you’re worried about my son talking too much,” she told the dean.
I don’t know what came from all that, but I appreciate my mom standing up for me like that.
I don’t know what made me think about my family and growing up days and the kitchen table.
Maybe it’s because I miss my mom and dad.
They were good people who grew up with nothing and took what they had, worked hard, saved and enjoyed a wonderful life together.
I remember my mom telling me the story of when she first came to Tulsa in the 1950s after high school in Van Buren, Mo.
She had to catch a bus to work and the bus stop was by a local ice cream dairy.
“I was so poor that I didn’t have a nickel for an ice cream cone,” she said.
My dad, who grew up east of Tulsa in the Verdigris River bottoms, dug ditches and chased golf balls in the drink at one of Tulsa’s country clubs before getting a job in the early 1950s at Gaso Pumps. The company specialized in building oil pumps used to move crude oil across the ground after it was drilled. My dad was in charge of building the pumps.
I always enjoyed stopping to visit with my dad at the factory on his lunch hour and he’d show me around and introduce me to his co-workers. He spent nearly 40-years at the company before retiring in March 1993.
Dad loved the old way of life and no one was a stranger. One of his favorite pastimes was being outside working in the yard pulling weeds and later at the family farm where he raised cattle and tended to a garden with Mom. When people would ask him how many cattle he had, my dad would always tell them, “Under 100.”
He always enjoyed spending an afternoon visiting with the many characters and folks who he grew up around in the river bottoms. When I was a kid, those trips didn’t have the same meaning as they did when I got older. Some of these folks had the most comfy chairs and when we’d visit it didn’t take me long to fall asleep until it was time to go.
In the 1970s, my mom and I threw the Tulsa World newspapers together for five years and four of those years we threw the Tulsa Tribune evening newspaper. We delivered more than 400 papers on Sunday mornings. Often times, my dad and brother helped on Sunday mornings.
I’ve spent most of my life in the newspaper business from being a carrier to working in circulation and then returning to school and becoming an editor, reporter and photographer. I wouldn’t trade the experiences and the people I have met along the way for anything in the world.
I learned a lot about the value of hard work, giving my best, doing good to others, trusting God, following my dreams and doing the right thing in life. I’m so thankful that many of those life lessons and good memories happened around the kitchen table in my boyhood home.
Have a great week and always remember that “Good Things are Happening,” every day.