Opportunities are funny things, they don’t usually come to me trumpets heralding and banners flying, “Pay attention, this is it, what you have wanted, act now!” No, opportunities often come in hushed tones as if someone’s lips are resting lightly, intimately upon my ear uttering, “press forward” or body nudges, a tingling on my scalp. As time has marched forward my hearing has amplified and my vision has become plenary when possibility calls me, much of the time. Oh course my hindsight is still 20/20. This good fortune, the chance to gain new insight into my Dad and myself while traveling together, came through the back door.
Our leisure tour via car from San Luis Obispo to Truckee California, 390 miles, took nine hours on scenic route Highway 101, also known as El Camino Real, the Kings Highway. As we rambled northward my Dad pointed out Camp Roberts
, a 42,784-acre military training facility, “boy that place was filled with service men during World War II.” His declaration surprised me, how did he know this, he was only 10 years old when Camp Roberts opened for business in 1941?
His answer astonished me even more. Then and there I made up my mind that this physical ride on asphalt roads could simultaneously weave us back 65 years down Dads memory lane. Nine hours of just us, my recorder charged, paper and pencil in hand I was ready to prompt him with query and listen. At 70 miles an hour we morphed into a Hollywood movie of an 82 year old man recounting his lifelong career with his oldest daughter. The scene doubled over to before his daughter was born and Dad wasn’t Dad, yet, he was Lew.
Lew grew up in the Hollywood California of the 1930’s and 40’s; his home just off Sunset Boulevard and attended Hollywood High School. At the age of 13 his buddy’s Dad, a roofer, gave them jobs loading material on to roofs and so the story begins with Lew keeping a sharp eye on the roofers, as he does his job. An observant foreman detecting Lew’s keen watchfulness and gives him a hand full of nails, instructions on how to “finger nails” and directs him to practice this at home.
Over and over a teenage Lew flips one nail head up from the twenty or so nails in his left hand, slipping it between his fingers, setting it for striking with his axe hammer held in his right hand. As the scene shifts to present day the old man wiggles his fingers with imaginary nails flipping pronouncing, “this guy Tom would bet me lunch that he could put four nails in a shingle faster than I could. He never beat me, he got close with three, but he never beat me and I never did get lunch.”
Fast forward a twenty something Lew returns from the service to resume roofing. Nail guns have become popular, but Lew continued to hand nail. It’s a hot afternoon on the roof as the foreman approaches Lew with a little competition, who can finish a row of shingles fastest, the nail gunner or the hand nailer. Lew clinches it by a half a shingle, but what stuns the foreman as he looks down the two lines is not how fast Lew is, it’s how much straighter Lew’s line is from using his axe head as a gauge for true.
Seeking advancement meant joining the roofers union. Lew was met at the door by a burly gent growling at him, “we don’t need anybody here.” Lew left, waited a few days, went back and signed up. While there, a call comes in with work; shoveling rock into a hopper, some of the hardest work a man can do. Nobody wants it; Lew steps up to take the job. “I would take anything, whatever it was to show the company what I could do, just get into a company and get the experience.”
Time gives way to Lew becoming Dad and co-owning the third largest roofing company in Southern California in 1965, employing 65 men to put roofs on the endless supply of track homes being built at that time. The movie lapses to the present as the old man’s daughter studies her Dad as if seeing him for the first time, asking, “That restaurant in West Covina with the colored rock roof, what kind of roof was that?” The old man replies “a butterfly roof.” Daughter, “yeah, I would tell my friends with pride, my Dad put that roof on.” The old man smiles. The movie fades out as the old man and his daughter pull up to Casa de Fruita for a bite to eat.
In my forever and ever my Dad has been a roofer and he still is at 82, but somewhere along our road my back door opportunities opened my eyes, wider beyond my Dad’s stories of his career. As his stories illuminated the traits I have long admired in him, his determination, his persistence, do your best at what you do, love what you do and his work hard ethics I saw those traits in me and not only me but my brother and sisters, too! Thank you Dad. As we parted company my Dad turned and said “thank you for asking me about my life.” Wow, your welcome Dad!
Blessings to All, In Joy Candace
© 2013 Candace Cable
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