Thoughts about My Dad (Arthur T. Booth) 1906-1993

Dad and me

Dad and me

January 5th is a day that I never forget. It is my Dad’s birthday. Twenty years ago, I was leaving with my family to return to Portugal. Dad and Mom were at the door of their house waving goodbye. Little did we know that this would be the last time, we would see Dad.  He would die later that year at eighty-seven years of age.

We don’t choose our Dad, but I am thankful for the Dad that God gave to me, because Dad was a very unique person. His uniqueness was seen in many different ways.  Those who knew my Dad would say something to the effect: “There is only one Art Booth.”

Dad worked two jobs for most of his life and he didn’t really retire until he was eighty-four years old (three years before his death.)  He made sure that we as a family had everything we needed including a mother who could stay at home with the children. Through all those years, I never heard Dad complain about working and taking care of us.

Dad may have been busy with work, but he had time to take me to all of my Highland Park Chargers Little League Football games. He also would take me to Ford Field and hit baseballs to me.  I can never forget the many times we went to see the Detroit Tigers play.  He especially liked to take us to the giveaway days, like Free Bat Day or Free Ball Day.

Dad also was never too busy to make us his “famous” pancakes on Sunday morning. I still  remember the taste of his pancakes with Log Cabin syrup poured over them. Dad also on occasion would make popcorn. He didn’t believe in Jiffy Pop or a popcorn popper.  He made his popcorn in a saucepan. After finishing one batch, he would pour the contents on the kitchen table and we would fill our bowls. This was a real treat.

Dad specialized in doing the little things that made others happy. One year for Christmas, Dad looked all over Detroit for a football game that I wanted. Later in life, when Sharon and I would come to the house, he always made sure there was Dr. Pepper in the fridge for Sharon. Our daughter loved strawberries. Dad made sure that there were fresh strawberries in the fridge. He showed his love with deeds of kindness.

When I was studying in Seminary, Dad went to the trouble of buying me a 1970 Plymouth Fury III.  He drove it all the way down to Chattanooga, TN and then flew back to Detroit.   When the car was totaled (no fault of my own), he once again came down to Chattanooga with another big car. This time it was a baby blue 1972 Chrysler Newport with a white vinyl top. As you can tell, Dad loved big cars.

Our yearly family vacation with Dad was a great adventure. Dad treated our vacations like “The Amazing Race.” Dad would choose a destination and we would drive long distances each day to get to our destination. After seeing what we came to see, Dad would say “It’s time to go.” I think we might have spent two hours at the Grand Canyon. For Dad, it wasn’t the destination, it was the driving to get there. Dad loved to drive. Because of all those trips, Dad gave Wayne (my brother) and me a love for travel to this day.

Dad never was one to talk a lot about himself. He was a man of action who kept moving and kept busy. If he wasn’t busy, he was napping or watching Big Time Wrestling. I did learn a few things about him. He ran track in high school, and he almost made the 1924 Olympic track team.  He managed an A&P for awhile. He also knew and worked for Garwood of the racing boat fame. However, I never really knew my Dad. I should have asked questions about his life, instead of living in my own world. I missed out in learning some important family history as well as the history of the early days of Highland Park.  Dad spent about sixty years in Highland Park (1916?-1977), but I wasn’t interested to hear about this history until recently. Now, it is too late.

Dad never sat me down and had a deep conversation, but I did learn a lot of lessons by watching him. He taught me the importance of never getting into debt, as well as the need to work hard. I also learned generosity towards others.  He also taught me that if something needs to be fixed, duct tape is the answer.

Was my Dad a perfect dad? Of course not, but he loved his family. He provided everything
we needed. He also would go out of his way to meet many of our wants. He also encouraged me to go out and fulfill my goals. The Bible says: “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” (Psalm 139:14)  God’s plan for my life was to make Arthur Booth my father. I thank God for the Dad that he gave me. Dad is greatly by all those who knew him.  He was one of kind!

Dad and Mom
Dad and Mom
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The Alley: My Favorite Playground

The alley between Candler and Ferris (West of Oakland Ave.)

The alley between Candler and Ferris (West of Oakland Ave.)

When I would visit relatives in the suburbs of Detroit, I couldn’t figure out why they didn’t have an alley behind their homes.  “Where do they play?” I would ask myself.  When I was a child, the alley behind our house on Candler Avenue was my favorite place to play.

The alleys in Highland Park were used by the residents to park their cars in their garages or in a lot behind their house.  The alley was also used by the sanitation workers to pick up the garbage.  Early in my life, Dad would put the garbage in a large oil drum that most people used for their garbage.  I always had sympathy for the sanitation workers who had to lift those heavy drums and empty its contents into the truck. Later, the city passed a law against using those large oil drums.  I am sure this was a relief to the sanitation workers in Highland Park, but my Dad wasn’t happy because he would complain about the smaller trash cans getting damaged.

A sample of the large oil drums that we used for garbage.

A sample of the large oil drums that we used for garbage.

For me, however, the alley was my playground while I grew up.  It was a handy meeting place for all the children to meet, but more importantly it was a great place to play until the lights in the alley would come on at night and we would all have to go home.

We would play a variety of games in the alley.  We would play softball in spite of the fact that a couple of garage windows fell victim to an errant softball.   Of course, hitting the ball in a backyard was an automatic out.  We discovered that kickball would be a safer choice.

Some other games that we played was touch football.  I don’t know how we were able to play this in our narrow alley, but we did.  In the winter, we also would play hockey on the iced over alley.  We would use tennis shoes, but we felt like we were Gordie Howe with a hockey stick.

One of the most problematic games in the alley was basketball.  One of the kids in the neighborhood had a backboard connected to their garage.  This was great except the lady behind this house worked on the night shift.  She would always complain about the noise though we were playing during the day.  If we continued to play after her complaint, she would call the police.  We didn’t scatter when the police would come down the alley.  They understood our predicament; however we would be back playing basketball a few days later.

There were other games that we would play including hide n seek.  This would be played in the alley as well as several yards where the owners surprisingly didn’t mind having a bunch of children running through their yards, as well as hiding in them.  I wonder if this behavior would be acceptable today.

Another game that we would play in the alley was strikeout.  This game was played by making strike zone on the garage across from my house.  We had didn’t have a garage, so  our parking lot would be the pitcher’s mound.  This game would work out well until the owner of the garage would check out the damage on his garage from the rubber baseball constantly hitting his garage.  The amazing thing is that he never really kept us from using his garage as a strike zone.  If the batter hit the ball in my backyard, it would be a double.  If he hit the house, it would be a triple.  Over the house would be a home run.  There were a few broken windows, but we still enjoyed playing like the Detroit Tigers.

One of the most terrifying times in my life came when I was about seven years old.  I was at a friend’s house.  A storm was coming so I started to go home through the alley on my little sixteen inch bicycle.  The thunder, lightning and rain surrounded me.  The alley had never seemed so dark to me as I sped home. I cried all the way.  I still remember my Mom trying to stop all of my tears because I was much afraid.

As time went by, the alley would become silent.  Many of my friends would move away.  Those of us who were left would go in different directions.  I soon found myself spending less and less time in my favorite playground. I had found other interests including playing tennis at Ford Park.

After all of these years,  I still haven’t forgotten all the great times and all the friendships that I made in that little stretch of concrete that we called our alley.

P.S. Please visit my other blog: http://www.markjemilbooth.com.  I have articles such as “God’s Waiting Room” and “Moving Beyond Fear to Courage”.