Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Significance of May 7th

Today would have been my father's 95th birthday. Instead, he died just before his 76th.

Dad was born in New Martinsville, WV, May 7, 1922. His father, Emzley Martin Ruble (spelling of that first name varies considerably in official documents), died in 1929, when my Dad was 7. Within a few short years, my grandmother Delphia Delia had lost the money the insurance had provided, due to bad investments, and was forced to place my Dad with relatives, along with all but the youngest two children. Later, when the eldest two were grown and married, he lived with them.

His stories about his time on his grandfather Edgell's farm were few - he merely said that he did NOT like the farmer's life. One time, he mentioned that his grandfather was quite stern, even harsh, in his treatment of him and his grandmother. But, he mentioned it only that once. His other grandfather, Taylor Ruble, was a very kindly man, and he had good memories of him.

Grandma Ruble was a very quiet and sweet woman. She never married after her husband's death, but worked in the Viking Glass Factory for many years, until her early 80's. Each year, during the holidays and her summer vacation, she visited her two children in Cleveland, my father and Aunt Gladys.

My Dad was eager to leave New Martinsville, at the time, a poky little mill town. He quit school early (likely due to not fitting in - he had one dress pair of pants, and often had holes in his shoes, which he covered with cardboard). His teachers tried to talk him out of it, as he was considered quite a bright young man, but his mind was set on making some money. I expect that a desire to impress young women might have been at the bottom of that. He was always scrawny, and not very tall (5' 6"). He would not have been a standout in sports - I don't know that he ever played ball.

So, getting a hot girlfriend, a natural goal for most 15 year-olds, was just not gonna happen.

He was a crack shot, in part due to having a brother, Everett, who worked for an ammunitions manufacturer, and brought home boxes of it. I don't know why he didn't try out for a rifle team, as those were common at the time. It may have been due to the need to get back up the mountain for chores on the farm. Uncle Everett kept cows and chickens even into the 1960s, when he was well past middle age.

After kicking around town for a while, and seeing the bright lights of Steubenville, OH, Dad left WV for Cleveland, where there were more opportunities. From what he said during one trip together, he may have been leaving a dicey situation just a few steps ahead of the law. He was an ace at fast driving in the mountains (although a pokey driver in the city, he would whip through winding roads at 70 mph or more without a qualm). For a time, he drove untaxed alcohol to its destination for a sideline. The payoff was great, but seeing some of his buddies end up in jail literally scared him straight.

In Cleveland, energy and dogged determination to succeed landed my Dad a job quickly. He lived with his sister, and - knowing his penchant for free spending - he had himself a real good time. He did end up in court, having been picked up for public intoxication and tossed in the slammer for the weekend. The judge gained his respect by reading him the riot act, pointing out that, in the freezing conditions at the time of his arrest, he could have died of the cold. My Dad apologized, and afterwards, was much more circumspect about his drinking. He still enjoyed good times, but he did cut it back considerably.

In early 1941, Dad was drafted. He credited his survival during WWII to the extra time he had to train, as, during the war, inexperienced soldiers were much likelier to be killed. He served in the artillery, and as a consequence, his hearing was much damaged. He had probably lost more than 1/2 his hearing by middle age. He used to buy those amplifiers for the TV, which drove everyone else in the house crazy with the sound. He never spent the money for a real hearing aid, which was a shame. If he had, he would have been able to take advantage of those Seniors at College programs. He would have enjoyed the mental stimulation.

Dad never talked that much about his war years, except for the funny stories. He never joined the VFW, or American Legion. He just wasn't a joiner.

After the war, Dad returned to WV for a short time. He knocked around town, spending his accumulated money, and enjoying female companionship - he even dated his former 3rd grade teacher, who had married and left teaching, and was then divorced. His brother, Harold, had plans for the two of them to open a restaurant, and tried to get permits, but to no avail. Without other ties to WV, Dad once again went north to Cleveland.

Dad got hired by Ohio Bell (later, his younger brother, Earl, worked for Bell Labs after his return from Korea). He worked there until his retirement, after 35 years of employment, starting as a janitor, transferring to a skilled craftsman job, and eventually ending up in Engineering as an Audit Specialist. He enjoyed his time there, and had many friends, although, for him, work was work, and home was home. He seldom socialized with work buddies, except for the bowling league. He came home on time every day, and spent his evenings quietly with his family.

The major exception to that homey existence was poker. He played several times a week when I was young, tapering off to a weekly game by my teen years. As time went on, the frequency of the games diminished, and eventually stopped.

The only other time he left after dinner was for his bowling league. Like his brother, Harold, he was a good bowler - Harold was MUCH better, and had several 300 games over the years. Harold supplemented his salary at Viking Glass, where he was a floor manager, with evenings spent managing a bowling alley. I've no doubt that Harold and Dad would have had a successful restaurant, had the plans worked out, as Harold was as outgoing as Dad was introverted, and with tremendous people skills, as well.

When I was in high school, a UHF TV channel, 43, started up. They showed old classic movies at 11:30 on Fridays. Dad got into the habit of taking a nap after dinner, then rising to watch the Late Show. Sometimes, I joined him. I quickly got hooked on the old films - Cagney, Bogart, Robinson, et al. It was our major connection at a time when I was not meshing with the family.
Dad wasn't always easy to live with. He was probably what we would now call chronically depressed. He was generally an introvert, but one that had developed some social skills. Many people knew him as a genial companion at lunch and on the job.
At home, he would often withdraw for hours at a time, busying himself with electronics projects, reading, or other solitary pursuits. Most of his children favored his temperament - we are all introverted, and crave solitary time after prolonged periods of social activity. Most of us have reasonable social skills - both my sister and myself married people more outgoing than we are.
His influence extends beyond his lifetime - good math/analytical skills, tendency to nerdiness, lousy hearing, and a preference for alone time - all of these were likely passed onto his children, and their descendants. Genetics is funny - you see it crop up, again and again, for generations.



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