Frost on the Pumpkin

Frost on the Pumpkin

First snow of season, Friday October 13, 2017

Triskaidekaphobia!

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BETRAYED

Mom felt well enough to accompany me on a two-week road trip across Nevada to Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon in my first car, a 1954 Ford Victoria. The Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and Sun Valley, Idaho, exceeded our expectations.

Craters of the Moon, Utah

Tetons through lobby window of Jackson Lake Lodge

Mom in Jackson, Wyoming

Yellowstone bear

When we arrived home, Daddy told Mom their friend and his coworker Agatha had filed for divorce.

As Mom’s condition gradually worsened, she consented to use a wheelchair.

I married and moved a 30-minute drive away across the bay to Marin County and continued to visit her once a week. By then she was completely bedridden. During one visit, she told me, “You are the apple of your father’s eye. I want you to know some things because I can get back at him only through you. He spends a lot of time at Agatha’s apartment in between chauffeuring her daughter to and from school events. Agatha wants to take my place. Promise me that when I die, you will take my cup and saucer collection. I do not want Agatha to have it.”

I could not believe what I was hearing, but I agreed to her request.

On my next visit, Mom was very upset. “Your father sold my shotgun. He took it and sold it without asking me. My father gave it to me,” she said as tears welled in her eyes. He taught me to shoot it and to hunt with him. Your father had no right to sell my gun.” And she cried.

Note: Years later I learned he gave it to my younger brother Ransom. It would have given Mom peace of mind to know that her favorite child inherited her .410 shotgun. I’ll never know why Daddy lied to Mom.

Mom hanged herself seven months to the day I married. Within hours Daddy showed me her death certificate signed by the family doctor. I scanned down to read the cause of death: strangulation, self-inflicted.

“This could ruin me,” Daddy said. “Promise me you’ll never tell. Ransom must never know this happened.”

Note: After publication of my memoir, a cousin informed me that all the family in Martinez knew immediately after it happened. If I had known, it might have eased my burden of keeping Mom’s suicide secret for 60 years.  I’ll never know why the father I adored, admired, and believed could do no wrong, lied to me and later disowned me.

Another note: After Daddy died 40 years to the day he married Mom, I obtained a copy of Mom’s death certificate. It was half the size of the original death certificate Daddy showed me the morning Mom hanged herself. No cause of death appeared; only the date and place. Daddy fixed it so Mom’s suicide would never surface.

A month after Mom died, Daddy asked if I would go with him to attend his father Pa’s funeral in Martinez. Pa had never been a grandfather to me or to Ransom. He disliked Mom because he blamed her for his wife Laura’s death. Laura was dying from a kidney disease with no hope of recovery. Mom offered to help care for Laura during her final days at home in addition to working as a registered nurse at the community hospital. When Daddy’s mother died four days later, Pa blamed Mom because she happened to be with Laura when she died. Pa never acknowledged me as his first granddaughter or Ransom as his second grandson. Every holiday season, an envelope addressed to Manfred Richards arrived by mail to our house saying “Merry Christmas, Son.”

Four generations of Richards

Left to right: Great grandmother Ida Roberts Jones, born in a covered wagon on the Oregon Trail, holding baby Lynne Richards; father A.M. “Chick” Richards Jr.; and grandfather Arthur Manfred “Pa” Richards, 1934.

 

~ Fini ~

 

 

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FAMILY MAN

He always knew the correct answers to questions that stumped me. I thought he knew more than my school teachers. I wanted to learn from him and, someday, know as much as he did.

He studied to be a contestant on a San Francisco radio quiz show among local newsmen. The subject was Abraham Lincoln. Daddy knew everything about Lincoln. Daddy was smart; I knew he would win.

At the appointed hour, Mom and I sat by the radio. Men answered the questions, but we didn’t hear Daddy’s voice at all.
“Is Daddy there?” I asked.
“Shh! Listen,” Mom said.
When he came home, Mom said, “I know you were there because the announcer introduced you.”
“Christ, I was so nervous I just froze.”

One winter weekend at Twain Harte, Daddy drove us above the snow line until he saw a “nice little slope” as he called it. He parked the car off the road and lifted the rental toboggan from the car.
“Let me try it first,” he said, “to make sure it’s safe.”
He pushed off down the slope and disappeared over a rise at the bottom. We waited for him to reappear. And waited. And waited.
I ran down the hill and over the rise. There he was, sitting on the toboggan in the middle of a shallow, icy stream.

Daddy planned more than one vacation a year: summer at the Russian River or southern California beaches, and the Tournament of Roses Parade and Rose Bowl game New Year’s Day.

Mom & Lynne – Dad & Ransom, La Jolla Caves, 1948.

Dad and Mom, Stanley Park, Vancouver, B.C., 1948

Dad and Mom, Stanley Park, Vancouver, B.C., 1948

 

Mom, Dad, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, 1949

Mom & Dad on Ensenada beach, Baja California, Mexico.

I thought we enjoyed our times together.We never missed an episode of Hopalong Cassidy after Daddy bought our first black and white television set. For Christmas in1950, Daddy’s coworkers presented him with a Hopalong Cassidy doll.

Dad in office with Hopalong Cassidy doll presented by co-workers

Dad in office with Hopalong Cassidy doll presented by co-workers.

Daddy looks happy in all my album photos. Decades later, however, I heard that “his life was filled with unhappiness and frustration.”
He sure fooled us.

 

Additional excerpts from my memoir, His Daughter’s Remembrance, to follow . . .

 

 

 

 

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BASEBALL WITH FATHER, Part 3

Mom experienced increasing difficulty walking and felt too unsteady to travel east again with my father for his annual visit to the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) convention in Washington, D.C. so he invited me to accompany him. It was my first trip east of the Rockies, and a grand one at that, but I never imagined it would be our final vacation together.

First stop was New York City where he showed me the historical spots, tourist attractions, restaurants and Broadway shows he had shown Mom.

MLB Programs

MLB programs, left to right: 1950 Brooklyn Dodgers, 1950 New , 1950 New York Giants, 1948 Cleveland World Series, 1950 New York Yankees-Phillies World Series, and 1947 New York Yankees-Brooklyn Dodgers World Series

It could happen only in Brooklyn. At Ebbets Field to be exact. We were among the more than 25,000 in the stands for the opening game of the 1956 National League season. Drill teams, bands, marching units, and hundreds of youngsters paraded past home plate to congregate in center field. Dodgers and Philadelphia players stood at attention along the foul lines, and the crowd rose for the national anthem. The band began to play and then paused. Instead of singing “The Star-Spangled Banner”, a voice over the loudspeaker asked, “Who’s going to raise the flag?”

Embarrassed officials had no one to raise the first ever World Champions flag to fly over Ebbets Field. A Marine Corps color guard rescued the ceremony.

After a thirty-six minute delayed start, the Phillies outscored the World Champion Dodgers 8-6.

When Ebbets Field opened in 1913, Brooklyn officials had not only forgotten the stars and stripes flag but also the key to open the ballpark. Only in Brooklyn.

MLB autographed team balls, left to right: 1950 New York Yankees, 1950 Brooklyn Dodgers, 1950 New York Giants, Boston Red Sox, and 1948 Cleveland Indians, center front.

MLB autographed team balls, left to right: 1950 New York Yankees, 1950 Brooklyn Dodgers, 1950 New York Giants, Boston Red Sox, and 1948 Cleveland Indians, center front.

 

Additional excerpts from my memoir, His Daughter’s Remembrance, to follow . . .

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BASEBALL WITH FATHER, PART 2

Continuing with excerpts from my memoir, His Daughter’s Remembrance, our family followed the Seals away games to Oakland and Sacramento and planned vacations around games in distant cities.

SF Seals pocket schedule

In August 1948 when we visited the Oregon Caves and Crater Lake on our way to Canada, we cheered for the Seals in a Pacific Coast League game against the Portland Beavers at Vaughn Street Park. We rooted for the Seals’ Yakima Washington farm team in Vancouver’s Capilano Stadium and watched another PCL game at Sick Stadium, home of the Seattle Rainiers.

The following summer, we drove south to see the Seals play the San Diego Padres at Lane Field, the Los Angeles Angels at Wrigley Field, and the Hollywood Stars at Gilmore Field, where Mom was hit by a line-drive foul ball. Despite a severe headache, she insisted we stay in our seats above the third-base dugout until the end of the game.

PCL Ballparks

PCL Ballparks: top left to right, Portland, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Diego, Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco and Hollywood.

SF Seals lineup cards

SF Seals lineup cards signed by manager O’Doul for three games in May 1949 at Sacramento.

Every spring, Daddy assigned a photographer to Seals Stadium to shoot pictures of each player for publication during the season. In 1949, the photographer printed an extra set of 8×10 black-and-white glossies for me. Before each game, I stood with youngsters by the third-base dugout and asked each player to personalize his picture by signing “To Lynne”. Some of the players asked, “Where did you get these?”

When I explained that I wanted to hang them in our rumpus room, they eagerly obliged, most adding “Best Wishes” or “Good Luck”. I framed and hung the twenty pictures on the blank wall above the studio couch.

The following January, Daddy hosted a Hot Stove night in our rumpus room. Two of Daddy’s sports reporters swapped baseball anecdotes with chief Seals scout and former PCL umpire Al Fioresi, Joe Orengo, manager of the Seals’ Yakima, Washington farm club, pitcher Dick Larner, outfielder Brooks Holder, infielder Jim Moran, and Seals’ vice president Charlie Graham.

SF Seals Hot Stove Night

SF Seals Hot Stove Night

When they entered the room, someone said, “Oh, so it’s this rumpus room!”

Team members thought their autographed pictures were to hang in a popular bar they frequented on the Peninsula named The Rumpus Room.

Autographed PCL Baseballs

Autographed baseballs: Seals 1932 and 1947, Oaks 1949, and Hollywood Stars.

To be continued . . .

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BASEBALL WITH FATHER

The best times with my father were during baseball games at Seals Stadium in San Francisco in the late 1940s and early 1950s. We had great seats at ground level between home plate and the Seals’ third-base dugout.

Ransom’s interest in baseball consisted of staring through the bottom of an empty Coke bottle at fans in the stands. Mom feared he might receive another concussion.

“Keep your eyes on the ball,’ she said.

He turned around and focused his Coke bottle on the field.

Daddy’s strange pencil marks in the little squares in the program intrigued me. “What do those mean?”

“That’s how I keep score,” he said.

During the season, he taught me how to keep score and make those strange squiggles in the little squares. “Anyone can follow a football game,” he said. “Baseball is a thinking man’s game.”

Dad, Mom & Ransom in box seats

Dad, Mom & Ransom in box seats

Our box seats at Seals Stadium were near those of the club’s vice president, young Charlie Graham. One night, he said that because I attended every game, I might as well work there. Would I like to be an usherette? Well, who wouldn’t? But when Mr. Graham learned I was much younger than I looked, I had to wait another year to obtain a work permit before he hired me.

Seals Stadium was the first baseball park in the country to hire female ushers. We wore a gray blouse under a couturier-designed apple-green gabardine suit with a matching beret. For San Francisco’s fog-chilled night games, we added a brown topcoat with red epaulets, a red silk scarf and red kid gloves. I earned $1.25 an hour.

To be continued . . .

 

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FATHER’S DAY

Another Father’s Day has come and gone, but memories linger of a father I thought I knew well.

For two decades we were a happy family with Mom and my younger brother, Ransom, until the onset of Mom’s mysterious paralysis a few months after her hysterectomy performed by the family doctor. She believed his lack of skill during that specialized procedure caused her eventual debility.

As the family of a newspaper editor in the San Francisco Bay Area during World War II and the following decade, we lived a privileged life.

To be continued . . .

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