One of the earliest memories I have is the old vacuum driven windshield wiper on our old Model “A” Ford family car back when I was four or five. Placed over the top of the windshield glass in front of the driver, we called it a “dee-daw” because of the sound it made as the vacuum from the engine swiped the blade back and forth across the glass. That “deed-daw” sound was important because it was the percussion section for the songs my father often whistled as he drove.
Now, my Dad couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, but he could whistle up a storm. He could whistle all the tunes of his time. Somehow the speed of the windshield wiper would always be in synch with the tune he was enjoying. Growing up in Florida, we had many an opportunity to listen to Dad and his windshield wiper during the late Sunday afternoon drives back from the weekly trip to the beach or the lake. It helped the discomfort because we were all sticky from the salt water that dried on our skins and from a little sand that stuck to us under our bathing suites.
In the late ‘40s and the early that old Model “A” that was the first car in our family, gave way to newer “used” cars, none of which had radios. In 1955, he bought our first “New” car, a black and white four door Chevy Bel-Air, complete with a nice new car radio. There it was, right in the middle of the dashboard in all its radiant glory with the speaker on the passenger side right next to it, filling the car with music, news and weather from his favorite stations; WMBR and WJAX. For a few years, I listened along with him to some of his favorite artists; Enrico Caruso ("Santa Lucia" and "O Sole Mio"), Patti Page ( "Tennessee Waltz"), Frankie Laine (“High Noon” and “Moonlight Gambler”), Perry Como ("Far Away Places" and "Some Enchanted Evening"), Eddie Fisher ("Oh! My Pa-Pa"), and Eddie’s wife, Debbie Reynolds (“Tammy”)! I will never forget falling a little in love with Debbie watching “Tammy and the Bachelor” from the back seat of that Chevy in the Lowe’s Normandy Drive in Theater. Both of us were upset with Eddie Fisher when he left Debbie for Elizabeth Taylor and he quickly fell out of our favorites.
Around this time, I was discovering a new kind of music; Rock and Roll! A lot of my friends’ parents thought rock and roll was the devil’s music and forbade them from listening. But my parents had a more tolerant point of view even to the point of giving my brother and me our own record player and three rock and roll 45s; Elvis’ “Teddy Bear”, The Everly Brothers "Wake Up Little Susie" and Buddy Knox’s “Party Doll”. I was so naïve that I had no idea what a “Party Doll” was, and looking back, I’m pretty sure that neither did they.
This divergence in musical tastes between my father, my brother and me inaugurated the “battle of the push buttons” over the choice of stations playing in the car. His vs. mine – WPDQ and WAPE! The chaos ended when Dad came up with the fifteen minute rule. Each of us; Dad, my brother and I, would have 15 minutes to listen to their station of choice. Lest you think that wound up two to one in the favor of the younger set, my brother and I often differed on which of “our” two stations we would choose.
There were a few songs that were hits to both generations; “Cool Water” by Marty Robbins, “Calcutta” by Lawrence Welk and the Orchestra and "So Rare" by Jimmy Dorsey. It didn’t matter which station was playing it, it was good times in the car with the radio turned up and Dad whistling along with the melody.
So, today, when we are all remembering growing up with our Dads, visions of driving back to town on Atlantic Boulevard back from the beach drift to and fro in the mists of my memories. Sometimes it was just Dad as front man whistling with his “de-daw” percussion section, and others it was the glorious sound of that speaker in the dash of that 55 Chevy. Whatever your memories of your Dad are, I hope you are enjoying them on this Father’s day. Oh MY!