Thursday, April 12, 2012

A young man's tale: part one?

Libby's boss Greg and I share a certain nostalgia for fine old cars. Today he showed me a magazine-- Classic Auto I think---- and a picture of a thirties vintage Cadillac V16 roadster brought back a tale from my father's youth...

A young man, the son of immigrants, was an artist of real talent and an honor student at a high school of high academic repute. He won a scholarship to the Museum School of Fine Arts, and started dating a pretty girl from a "good" family. The legend is that they met at the traveling Tutankhamen exhibit.

Pearl Harbor came, and the young man joined the Army Air Corps (there was no Air Force), and became a lieutenant. He went to Roswell New Mexico, and trained to fly B17's (a prenatal connection to my Querencia), thence to England, East Anglia, where as a bombardier and navigator he flew in 34 missions over Germany.You can look it all up.

He still did art.

After the war, with ambitions burning and a new a sense of himself honed in part by being treated like a gentleman in England (I know he shot in Scotland, at an estate still known for it, though he dismissed it as mere gamekeeper- style rough shooting), he arrived at his father's doorstep in Roxbury with an already- antique V16 Caddy ragtop and a pointer off a ranch in Roswell he had named "Joe" after himself. I remember Joe the dog, who looked a bit like Daniel's pup, and the car was of this vintage.

...And my grandfather, a hard man from his decades in the stone quarries, took one look and said "get that rich man's car and that rich man's dog and get the hell out of here."

I will doubtless pick this up again. But for now:

I only heard this story at 34, coaxed from a successful (he owned an engineering company for a time), but melancholy Joe by the interrogatory skills of Betsy Huntington, who had asked him why he had not continued with his art. He actually did for a while, and that may be my next tale.

His taste for fine things he could ill afford remained, and was obviously passed to his oldest son, things like his Hemingwayesque gun collection-- the 21 below, Model 12's, a Browning Sweet 16; good books, fine fishing tackle, a team of winning racing pigeons he and a banker friend imported from Belgium and France, and other ornaments. I think he remained wistful about art, sport, travel, and (next time) New and OLD Mexico...

One more... on the cover:

1 comment:

John Olsen said...

I'm glad that one magazine photo prompted you to write about your father. He sounds like he had quite a life. I'm looking forward to reading part 2 - thanks.