As a young man, he moved into town where he became a businessman selling Chevrolet cars and offering a repair site. When he married Mary Gladys Altenburg, they lived in an apartment on the second floor of the business. That was my first home, too, and I am told a cousin who was working on building the cement road through our town often rocked me while my Mom prepared dinner.
Soon, Dad bought a house that was on a foundation out in the country and had it moved onto a basement on Main Street in town. That was our family home all my growing up years and beyond.
As a small child, I idolized my Dad...the big man who came home for meals and worked very long hours to support his family. In the winter of 1929, a huge fire wiped out the main buildings in the middle of our town...including Dad's garage. With help from his brother-in-law, Ernest Prather, he rebuilt the garage over half of the old basement. He dropped the Chevrolet sales business and concentrated on repairing cars. Uncle Harold Altenburg joined in as chief mechanic. Dad proclaimed that he was not a fixer-upper...but he always seemed to be able to diagnose an auto's problems.
I started spending every spare minute I could find with him at the garage as soon as I could push a broom. I just wanted to be his right hand man, so to speak. As years went by, I assumed entering the charges in his account books, waiting on customers who came to buy parts, candy, and tobacco products. My Dad depended on me and trusted me.
The winter I was fourteen, he left me to run the Garage by myself overnight at the beginning of deer season. He went off to a cabin in the mountains to hunt with relatives who owned The Jolly Six. He trusted me to take care of the business...and I did. It helped that two of my friends were keeping another garage open just down the street and we kept in touch by phone all night. Dad came home two days later with a deer tied to his truck. He applauded me for being able to keep things going... along with Dick, the auto repairman who came in during the daytime. I remember the good feelings I had because Dad praised me.
Dad was involved in politics somewhat and served as a Justice of the Peace for a while. He would not marry couples...they had to go to the other JP who lived up the street. I know he could disappear if someone was involved in a great controversy. Just washed his hands of the whole thing.
The only time I ever saw my Dad cry flowing tears was the day he brought a telegram down to the house and read that I had received a scholarship to attend one of three impressive Pennsylvania universities. As it turned out, all of them were way too expensive for my family and I had always intended to go to Edinboro State College just as my Mom had done. For three years, Dad scraped money together for my tuition and board and room...I worked to help. I graduated in 1942, when teachers were needed everywhere. Summer and winter I had stayed at school so that I would graduate in three years.
Dad let me borrow his car to drive to Lottsville every week...my first teaching position was High School History and Science. On Friday afternoon, I drove back to Townville so Dad could run errands for the garage on the weekend. He trusted me to take care of the car, and I did. We were in the middle of World War II, so everyone did what they could with what they had.
The next year, I married Arthur Nicklas and assumed a position teaching English at Guys Mills High School, just six miles from Townville. At the end of my second year there, I had an appendicitis attack and Dad came to take me to City Hospital in Meadville. If we needed him, Dad was always there. All my life, I knew he would support me when I asked. When Arthur beat me, Dad came and took care of the situation. He steered me through a divorce and allowed me to live my life afterword.
Dad's philosophy with all three of his children was "be there if and when needed, but do not interfere with their decisions... let them deal with life on their own terms, but know he believed they would choose wisely."
So Dad planted his gardens of vegies and beautiful flowers, sold the garage, and bought the hardware store across the street while I went many ways with my life. My brother spent World War II in the Seebees then came home to work with Dad. My sister married right out of high school to a man with the same last name and the potential of becoming the Manager of ever-increasingly large J.C.Penny Stores. Each of us, near or far, cared deeply for our Dad.
I am the maverick...with much of my Dad in me... and I wouldn't have it any other way. In his last years, Dad created walking canes out of tree branches he found on his walks in the woods. I carry one every step I take...I believe he puts his hand over mine just keeping me safe. Thanks, DAD.