Dad knew best

Wisdom from the Past

Dad Knew Best

His Words Still Hold True Today!

I miss my MOM and DAD, and sometimes it just hurts so bad. I cry like a little boy, and the son that I am … YES grown men do cry, at least I do … I’m older now and understand what they tried to teach me then, and yes … I miss my MOM and Dad. – Tommy

Born in 1915 my dad lived through the “Great Depression” of 1929 and the years prior to the United States of America being dragged into World War 2 by the unprovoked bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by Japan on December 7, 1941, leaving 3581 military personal and civilians dead or wounded.*

My dad worked most of his life for one company and he worked in several states and several divisions of that company starting on the assembly line in Highland Park, Michigan and working his way up to general plant manager and head of the experimental department of the computer division at one point, long before there was an internet, desktops, laptops and even before there were hard drives smaller than five feet in diameter.

My dad started me early on important things on Christmas Day 1949 I found a model train running around the Christmas tree and in 1950 there was new bike under the Christmas tree; it was brown and tan with 26 inch wheels (a big deal back then). About Christmas of 1951 my dad bought our second model railroad train and over the next several years he bought more trains and set up a “train board”, in the basement of our home in Detroit, Michigan. The “train board” had a town – mountains – a river and drawbridge that my dad made – 3 steam locomotives and one A/B/A diesel locomotive – freight cars and even passenger cars – It was a complete layout with a big transformer and a control panel for the rail siding switches, trains, and the drawbridge. Dad and I worked and play on it from 1951 to 1957 when we had to move to Ohio for the company he worked for; at that time we oiled everything up and stored it all wrapped up in newspaper and then put in wooden milk cases, where they remain to this day. The layout was built on 3 full 4X8 sheets of plywood and totally self-contained, a big achievement back in the 1950’s.

Over the years my dad taught me a lot about honesty, hard work and life, he taught me how to pitch, catch and hit a baseball, how to pitch a tent in the wilderness, how to make and cook on a campfire, how to fish, hunt, row a boat, and some basic survival techniques, like using trees as a compass or the sun and stars to find your way out of the woods or how to use a map to get out of town for that matter. My dad also took the special training and became the Boy Scout, Scout Master of troop 127 in Detroit, because there was no Scout Master at the time to take leadership of the troop so my dad did take the leadership role and he was great with 30 boys and 3 other men and we all learned a lot together and we did a lot of things as a Boy Scout Troop and also as a father with his son (me).

After my dad taught me to safely handle firearms and got me my first real gun a Remington model 17, 22 caliber rifle, at the age of 13, my dad taught me how to drive a car and I got my first driver’s license at 14, but my dad told me before I could drive the car alone I had to know auto mechanics, “just in case you ever brake down”, so he bought a used 1952 Henry J that needed a lot of work, off the back of a used car lot in the summer of 1955. Together we took that car home and took it apart from front bumper to rear bumper and all that time my dad made me read the Motors’ Mechanics’ manual and then he would watch me do what I had just read to be sure I understood what I read and when I a made a mistake he would make me re-read that part of the manual then he would show me how to do it and after all that he had me do it the right way, just like he showed me. It took almost 4 months to rebuild the engine, clutch, transmission and drive shaft, and some of the electrical plus installing a radio that sat on the “hump” of the floor, he taught me well about reading instructions, mechanics’ tools, auto mechanics, electrical circuits comprehension and working with my hands. We drove that car all over for years him to work, me to school, the Boy Scouts and their weekend outings and camping trips as well as the two of us on two week camp out vacations up in Northern Michigan and Northern Ontario, Canada when he could get away from work, together we put over 65,000 miles on that car and that’s not bad when you consider he bought it for $65 and sold it 5 years later for $60.

Over the years from 1939 when they were married until my dad’s death in 1988 my mom and dad worked hard, never complained and were always helping in church, in school, in Cub Scouts, in Boy Scouts and so much more, besides they are the two people in my life that are most responsible for me being able to read and write, do arithmetic, and so much more today, even after the Detroit school board said I would never learn to read or write. You can read about some of that on my webpage titled “A Mother’s Love” because my dad and mom were a big part of each other and are still very big part of me today.

Every so often I will look in a mirror and just for a split second get a glimpse of my dad in the reflection of my face and while I am not prefect by any means, I hope my dad is pleased with the way I turned out and the things that he taught me that I have tried to invest in others.

In Loving Memory of my dad John R. Wills 1915-1988

J. T. (Tom) Wills

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