Bill Moeller Commentary: Some Father’s Day Reflections About Dad

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I’d be surprised if our memories of our fathers would be much alike.

Take mine, for example. 

In his youth, my father lived a life of near wealth, and life may have been one large party. I’ve mentioned how he was thrown out of a Lutheran Seminary in St. Louis for hosting a poker party in his room. 

His father’s early death while building what would have been the largest lumber mill in Tacoma changed all that. As a result, the bankers who funded the project wanted either all their money back or the title to the three apartment houses my grandfather had given as collateral on their loan. 

My dad, at the age of 23, was able to salvage enough out of the situation to buy a house for his mother and build a nest egg large enough to support her — for a while.

He married the sister of his older brother’s wife and begat yours truly in 1928. 

His life as a playboy faded away.

The stock market crashed just after he passed the tests to become a letter carrier and, since he was now a federal employee, we at least had food on our table through the Great Depression. 

We lived in the house he had saved for his mother, and that was the start of his battle, for the rest of this life, with alcoholism. 

His mother and my mother didn’t see eye to eye on many things. For one thing, “Ma” did not like the fact that my mother had broken her engagement to a newly established Lutheran minister to marry my dad. 

The two would argue on practically any subject and then wait until dad got home from work so that he could declare who was right. 

Dad got into the habit of stopping for a beer before he had to act as an arbitrator between the two ladies he loved. One beer eventually turned into two, and I don’t need to go any further. 

He was proud of the fact that he never drank on the job and used that as proof that he was not an alcoholic. And I will add that — regardless of the amount he’d consumed — he was never angry.

And he was talented in so many ways.

I still have a picture of him and his brother, each holding a horn, so he probably had lessons for learning that, but he taught himself how to play the piano and later taught me how to play the full-sized xylophone he built for me. He directed the church choir.

When still a bachelor, he enlisted in the National Guard so he could play the trumpet in the band for one summer. He told me what a pleasure it was to sit on the ground with his back to a tree on the edges of American Lake and listen to the echoes from across the water as he practiced. 

American Lake was also where he would rent a boat for the two of us to spend the day fishing, trolling as we (or, mostly, me) rowed to a favorite spot to drop an anchor and spend a few hours.

The tackle we used while we went from point A to point B has long since been declared illegal, but it worked. 

He was a better than average golfer, but not in the championship category. Mother would sometimes play a round with him, but she didn’t like it. She would much rather have spent the time dancing to the tunes played by some local orchestra — a sport that dad did not in the least enjoy. 

That always seemed strange because music was such a large part of his life. I remember one summer when he rented an accordion just so he could teach himself how to play it.

I could go on with my Father’s Day reflections, and likely one day will, but space is running out.  Happy Father’s Day!

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Bill Moeller is a former entertainer, mayor, bookstore owner, city council member, paratrooper and pilot living in Centralia. He can be reached at bookmaven321@comcast.net.

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