Friday, June 13, 2008

The Boy in Trees

A new T.V. show began a couple of years ago called "Men in Trees". I watched it and discovered that they literally meant the men were in the trees. You know, lumberjack types were overhead trimming the branches from the fir trees.

Sunday is Father's Day and I want to tell you about my Dad and the unusual life he led. The first thing that popped into my head was the tree thing, so.....

Dad was born December 3rd, 1897 in Jonesboro, Arkansas somewhere in the middle of eleven children. Being a very bright little boy, he finished elementary school at twelve and then quit. Quit? He left home and joined his father in the logging camps of Arkansas to help support the family. He was "A Boy in Trees" for four years, until the thirst for knowledge overcame him and he left for the big city. He stuck out his thumb and hitch hiked to Toledo, Ohio where he had cousins, who would allow him to live with them.

This is a picture of the youngest nine children (the two oldest girls were already married and gone). Notice the children are nicely dressed, but barefooted and dusty. Dad was the second boy from the top on the right side with suspenders. It must have been taken about nineteen ten, before he hitch hiked to Ohio.
Between sixteen and nineteen, he attended high school, played football and supported himself in assorted jobs. That was just the first step toward an education. After high school, he began college at the local university and worked for a small newspaper as a reporter, doing a little bit of everything. Also, he worked at the original Jeep production plant. After getting a degree in education and he started law courses by mail from the University of Chicago and night classes at The University of Toledo. He met my mom and they married somewhere in the middle of law school. The five children arrived starting in 1928, ending in 1936. Great timing--have a whole brood of children during the "Great Depression"! I suppose they had it much better than most people, because as a public employee --- he was paid in script. He had started teaching high school classes in English, Economics, Sociology, Auto Mechanics and World History the day the doors opened to a brand new school and he was coaching football at another high school for free. Because of the children, his law degree was delayed to the point that he could not afford to open an office and give up the safety of the teaching job. I know he had become a flaming liberal during his college years and yearned for a world where there was no poverty or inequality. He loved to teach about the problems of the world ... we were served history and English with every meal. It was a mistake to ask a question ... that led to a half hour of explaining the hows and whys of the subject. He was active in the union fight at the Autolite Company in Toledo during the depression. This fight made national news for it's bitter physical battles between union loyalists (imported thugs) and the company hierarchy (more hired thugs). About a year after I was born, his picture was all over the local papers and he was temporarily suspended from teaching for reported un-American activities. The problem was that he was now legally an attorney and was busily forming The Federation of Teachers locally. That was the first teacher's union to hit the scene. The fact that he was a card carrying Socialist didn't help a bit. I get the picture of a bunch of young men sitting about and dreaming of how they could make a Utopian society where all would have equal status. I wonder how they could have desired to elevate people who did little to help themselves to the level of those who had worked so hard to educate and sustain themselves? He was reinstated to his teaching job after a few months, but still believed that somehow life should be made easier for the downtrodden. Dad had his office at home and after dinner at night, there was a steady procession of people needing basic legal advice or just wanting to sit at the feet of the master of dreams. People came and went, but if they didn't ask how much for a legal service---- they never got a bill.I watched as he built our home with his own two hands, because he couldn't find anyone who would rent to a family with five kids after WWII. He cut down trees and put through two roads nearby for a share in selling the property. Funny, that sounds amazingly like capitalism at it's best --- diametrically opposed to his share and share alike philosophy. When he died at seventy-eight, this little Ozark boy held a Degree in Education and a Doctorate of Jurisprudence. He was a wonderful and caring man, who built a great life and a terrific family. His name was Clyde and he was "A Boy in Trees". For many years, students from the high school would stop and visit long after he retired. Students either loved or hated his teaching methods, but he did make them think.
It didn't matter to me that he was controversial, because he accomplished so much and I loved him so much.

15 comments:

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

that was beautiful. you are lucky you had him...

smiles, bee
xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

lesleyjack said...

I always liked it when he called you "Punkahead". Am I remembering correctly?

Cathy said...

What a nice tribute to your Dad. He certainly worked and made something of himself. I'm sure he would be very proud of this post, Kacey.

TechnoBabe said...

I feel blessed to have read this post from your heart. I can "hear" all the strong attributes you learned from your father. You were fortunate to be one of his children and benefit from his example as well as his personal attention. Thanks for sharing this.

Kacey said...

Bee, Cathy and Technobabe, Thanks for reading this post and thinking about my Dad with me. I'm certain you are thinking of your Fathers this weekend.
Ljack, You have a great memory! I was Punkahead to your Grandpa. I think it was a contraction of Pumpkin Head....makes me feel a little like Charlie Brown with his big head. You were "Susie"...(named by Uncle Russ) and Matt was "Fat Matt" (because he was so big at one year) and Stacey was "Stacey Baby". The two little ones got their names from Elsae next door.

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

to answer your question, it is a sirloin roast, 12 pounds, and covered in bacon skin. but i don't have to cook, daughter is doing that! yay!!! we have a really good butcher here.

smiles, bee
xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

Big Dave T said...

Wonder what your father would have thought of Obama. Some think he has socialist leanings.

Very nice post for Father's Day. Friday the thirteenth is fine too, I guess.

Isn't it funny how we take shoes for granted these days. I've seen school class portraits back from the old days where kids had no shoes to wear.

Molly said...

What an idealist and a realist,both at the same time. Loved reading about your dad. I think our kids today could benefit from a little of that hardship. We value things and opportunities more when they are not too easily come by..............

Carine said...

wonderful post Kacey-your dad sounds like a wonderful man-I agree w/ Dave, perfect post for Father's Day.

Matty said...

As soon as I looked at the photo..I picked your dad out right away...because I find you look like him a lot.
What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man and good father. I can see why you loved him so much.

Betty said...

Wow- what an incredible man. I can't even imagine what it was like to grow up in a family headed by such a man, but I can certainly see where your sharp intellect comes from.

Thank you for sharing his story.

Hugs,
Betty

Sambo217 said...

Hi my name is Sam Hendon, I am Ina Smith's great grandson. Ina Smith (N.E.E.Ina Kiker) is Clyde Kiker's sister. Our family happend to be looking at this exact picture of the family, on Thanksgiving 2009. When we came across this picture I did a search on google which brought up the picture and your story. We enjoyed reading it and would love to hear more.
Sincerely Sam Hendon,
Clyde's great grandson

My mothers email is hendonmw@aol.com if you would like to respond. We are looking forward to your response.

Tari Stoeckelmann said...

What an amazing Dad you had! What a wonderful tribute you honored him with. Some people were born with incredible fortitude, regardless of their situation.

I truly enjoyed reading it!

James Dunn said...

I graduated DHS in 1963 and made several trips to Secor Rd to visit Mr. Kiker at his home with Bill Siegel (also a DHS legend in his own right.). Of all the memorable teachers at DHS Clyde Kiser was certainly the most memorable.

I will never forget his example and analysis of Top Value stamps and Green Stamps. He was brilliant and taught at a whole different level challenging us to think deeper and see the world around us. It was at the later part of his career and he was a legend among the student body.

Thanks for more of his story. He seldom talked about himself but more about current events and the world we lived in.

Truly a great man.

Anonymous said...

HELLO-I'M JIM BALDWIN-MACOMBER 1959--I MARRIED CINDY BAER- DEVILBUS 1960-I WORKED 1/2 MY SENIOR YEAR AT CLIF CLARKS APPLIANCE @ 4108 MONROE ST. THE BENCH MAN THERE ( THE FELLOW WHO FIXES ALL THE USED TV'S WAS DICK BALDWIN--( NO RELATION )-I FORGET THE FIRST NAME OF THE OFFICE GIRL -THINK IT WAS HELEN--BUT SHE WAS A KIKER- SHE LIVED WITH HER FAMILY ON SECOE RD JUST SOUTH OF LASKEY RD.WHICH WAS ONLY 2 DOORS AWAY FROM WHERE CLIF CLARK LIVED-MY WIFE CINDY HAD YOUR DAD FOR SEVERAL CLASSES -- SMALL WORLD !!!!