Pop was 42 when he got out of the Seabees. He heard on the way back to the states from the islands that my mother had become widowed a few years earlier. His own marriage had failed—that is one reason he went into the service as an older man. He knew and liked Mother in school so he decided to call on her after his discharge.
I was six and I remember the first time he came to the door. Mother recognized him and reminisced fondly with him for a while, thinking he must be some kind of door-to-door salesman. There were a bunch of those after the war. He related a lot about his life, including the dark episode of his failed marriage and Mother told about the untimely death of my father. When an hour or so had elapsed—it seemed longer to me—Mother finally thought it was time for him to get to his sales pitch, so she said, “What are you doing for a living now?” His response was classic. He said, “I drive nails.” All at once the scales fell from Mother’s eyes and she realized that this carpenter had come courting.
And court he did—not just mother but my brother and me as well. He sent ice cream from the drug store, brought us a football, some boxing gloves and other items boys like. He took Mother places almost every evening, leaving my brother and me with our faithful housekeeper and sitter. My brother was five years older than I so he would often wait up for their return. One night it was after midnight when they came home. My brother was pacing the front porch and he scolded Pop strongly with, “Well, it’s about time!”
It was a short courtship. I remember some things about the wedding. It was at a justice of the peace’s home. Just before they repeated their vows, the JP’s grandfather clock sounded eight o’clock. I said, “Listen, wedding bells.” That was one of the first times I remember being gratified by the laughter of others. The witticism was feeble but the response warmed my heart.
I told my brother I was going to call the man “Daddy,” not remembering my real father, since he died before my birth. My brother advised against that designation since he did remember our father. He said to call him Pop, which we did. Pop later told us they used to call him Pop in the Seabees, so he did not enjoy his new step-children calling him that. We had two more siblings, both adults at the time. They simply called him by his first name.
Pop had a super work ethic and he tried to instill one in my brother and me. One time when I was 12, he had me go with him to a job where he was remodeling an office and needed a hole knocked through a concrete wall. He blue-lined the place for the door, handed me a chisel, a regular hammer and a sledge hammer. “Knock me a door in there boy,” he ordered. I did so more quickly than he anticipated. That night, Mother asked him how I had done. “That boy will work,” he replied. That was the greatest compliment Pop could give.