Let’s face it, if you’re a retired Aramco annuitant like me, you’re not getting any younger. But the good news is, we have many wonderful memories to be thankful for and time left to make still more. And for those of you reading these words who are younger or even much younger than your typical Aramco retiree, it’s always a good idea to remind yourself that it’s never too early to start accumulating memories, for someday you may well discover like I have done that they comprise a treasure trove more valuable than all the money in your retirement account. And the best place to accumulate those memories is at home with your family.
Baby boomers amongst you no doubt remember like I do the month of October 1962. That was the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis when, for a nerve-wracking stretch of days, the world teetered on the brink of nuclear war. All those warnings we American children had heard growing up about the Soviet nuclear threat seemed on the verge of coming true. With my father and mother and two brothers, I shared a common feeling of uncertainty bordering on dread. It seemed impossible that such a thing could be happening, but it was. Yet, in the midst of it all, my dad was the voice of calm in a time of crisis which was so typical of him. He turned it into a history lesson. We had a blackboard, and he took some white chalk and drew on it a map of Russia. I remember he also drew pictures of U.S. spy planes, I think they were called U-2s, flying over the Soviet Union. His lecture helped calm my nerves and gave me a better picture of the world at large.
The Donna Reed Show
The Donna Reed Show with cast; 1958
Another escape for us from that distress was television, where wholesome family sitcoms like “The Donna Reed Show” projected a warm and happy image of family life in the U.S.A. The approach of another Father’s Day makes me think of that comforting TV show and JFK’s dramatic confrontation with Nikita Khruschev.
The eponymous show, broadcast on ABC, starred Donna Reed as Donna Stone, a housewife, and Carl Betz as her husband, Dr. Alex Stone, a pediatrician. Their two children, Mary and Jeff, were played by Shelley Fabares and Paul Petersen, both of whom enjoyed modest success with their singing careers in the early ‘60s. In 1962, Fabares scored a number one Billboard hit with “Johnny Angel” and followed it up later that year with two lesser hits, “Johnny Loves Me” and “The Things We Did Last Summer” while Peterson hit the charts that same year with “She Can’t Find Her Keys” and, specifically germane to this article, “My Dad.”
On October 25, 1962, “The Donna Reed Show” featured an episode in which Jeff/Paul sings the latter song. A cynic might find its lyrics maudlin; I find them heart-warming and true in spirit. They certainly reflect how I felt about my dad, albeit from an adoring daughter’s perspective, not from that of an admiring son:
He isn’t much in the eyes of the world;
He’ll never make history.
No, he isn’t much in the eyes of the world,
But he is the world to me.
My dad, now here is a man.
To me he is ev’rything strong;
no he can’t do wrong, my dad.
My dad, now he understands
when I bring him troubles to share;
Oh, he’s always there, my dad.
When I was small I felt ten feet tall.
When I walked by his side
And ev’ry one would say, “that’s his son,“
and my heart would burst with pride.
My dad, oh, I love him so,
And I only hope that some day
my own son will say,
"My dad, now here is a man.
To me he is ev’rything strong;
no he can’t do wrong, my dad."
Television news programs that week were consumed with coverage of the latest developments surrounding the threat of Soviet nuclear warheads raining down on America from soon-to-be-activated missile sites in Cuba. The day before Peterson sang “My Dad” the crisis de-escalated as Soviet ships carrying missiles bound for Cuba turned around and pointed their bows back toward Europe. Upon learning of this, Secretary of State Dean Rusk issued one of the most famous quotes of the crisis: “We’re eyeball to eyeball…and I think the other fellow just blinked.”
It was therefore with a lessened sense of dread that I heard “My Dad” for the first time that evening of October 25th. Listening to that song helped take my mind even further off the glum thoughts that had been weighing down so heavily on me and my family and all Americans over the previous week. Even now, the memory lingers of the relief I felt.
Father’s Day will be celebrated in America this coming Sunday. This is a day when we recognize and give thanks to the men who helped give us life and provided us with so much guidance and love and support. My father is gone, but I honor his memory every year at this time. And giving this special day added meaning, I have two wonderful sons who have become caring fathers worthy in their own right of the praises to fathers sung 55 years ago by Paul Peterson.
If you go to the following YouTube link, you can listen to Petersen sing this song and form your own opinion of its merits:
There are many other songs, some perhaps more noteworthy than “My Dad”, celebrating fathers. Here is an eclectic list of 10 other songs suitable for listening to on Fathers Day, with links to YouTube videos. Enjoy!:
Photos courtesy of - https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20879166