Mom and Dad Memories

Daddy John Stories

My father would tell us stories every night.  Lucky us!   He wrote many of them down, and let me “practice my typing” by putting them in final form.  Lucky us!

I have put many of them into three little books so others can enjoy them.

He was also a skilled carpenter making these cabinets with pegs, not nails.

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Mom and Dad Memories

Our father, John William Fussner, told us bedtime stories every night, and it was our favorite part of the bedtime ritual.  These were stories just for us (and often about us), drawn from our father’s imagination and the many stories he had heard and lived in his life.  He had grown up on a farm in Illinois and moved to the St. Louis area because there weren’t enough opportunities for work.

Some of the best stories about my father came from his older sisters and his mother, proving you are never safe if you come from a family of storytellers.  Fortunately for us, he wrote down many of his stories, and I encourage everyone to make a similar record of family stories.  Magic was important!  When we were little, our Christmas tree and presents were nowhere to be seen until Christmas morning, letting us know that Santa had been busy at our house.

Both our parents made us children the focus of their lives.  Dad worked hard at McDonnell Douglas to support his family, but the rest of his time was devoted to home.  He and his brothers built the house we lived in, and Dad built much of the furniture, including beds, closets, kitchen cabinets that I believe will last forever, and a table made from a door, large enough for all of us to eat together.   Family dinners were important, every day at five, and we were to compliment the cook and ask to be excused before leaving the table.

When I came home from kindergarten and said I wanted to be a teacher, Dad said I’d have to do well in school to get a scholarship, since “Daddy is a working man.”  I worked hard, and he encouraged me all the way!

*****

My dad, John William Fussner, was a mischievous boy.  He taught his little brother Don not to bite by grabbing him as he ran across the room to bite, pulling his arm in front  of his already-wide-open mouth, and allowing him to bite himself.  Of course, when Don started hollering and Grandma came running, Daddy’s innocent, “He just bit himself,” didn’t keep him out of trouble.  He also liked to slam the doors when his sisters were baking, causing their cakes to fall, but he didn’t get in trouble for that because his father liked fallen cakes better anyway.

He always felt sorry for one of his school friends, who had a very long name, because when they were punished and had to write their names on the blackboard, Daddy would always be finished much sooner.  (His lack of enthusiasm for school surfaced again after his stroke, when he disliked therapy and got out of it by deciding to tell the speech therapist all the wrong answers until she gave up).  He always encouraged us to do well in school, and told me early on that I would need good grades for a scholarship if I wanted to be a teacher.

He grew up on a farm in Illinois, and said that Grandma could bake better on her old wood stove than any modern housewife with a gas oven.  As a young man he worked 40 head of mules for a man who rented the mules out, and he often spoke of the superiority of mules, in intelligence, ability to work,  and lack of fussiness about diet.  He did say sometimes that it “took a two-by-four to get their attention.”

He had picked out my name when he was still a young boy, Mary for Jesus’ mother, and Frances for his own mother, and his relatives always referred to me by both names.  He named my brother William John because he didn’t want to stick a “junior” on his son.

In his youth Dad worked for the Civilian Conservation Corp, and he once took us to a park to see paths and buildings the CCC had built.  He figured it was a good program since it gave them work and a bit of pocket money and sent income home to help their families.  He told of one man who kept reaching across the table for things rather than asking to have them passed; one day someone hit him on the head with a heavy metal mug, and he never did it again.

During WWII he worked as a bus driver, and buses were crowded because of gas and tire rationing.  One very big man would grab both sides of the door and squeeze the passengers inside.  Dad said passengers used to go to the Forest Park Highlands and then ride his bus home for a real thrill, and if he saw a woman putting on lipstick, he would swerve the bus on purpose to smear lipstick all over her face.  Once a passenger called the bus station to complain about Daddy, and he happened to answer the phone.  He assured the caller that he would personally deal with that driver.  He also once bet a passenger that he could get a date with a pretty girl who was getting on the bus, not telling the passenger that she was his cousin, who readily agreed to meet him for dinner.

My mother met my father in his mother’s kitchen (Grandma lived next door to Mom’s older sister Dot).  She asked who the “cute bus driver” was, and they began dating.  Mom always said that the best way to avoid mother-in-law problems was to pick the mother-in -law first.

Dad tried to enlist in the Army at the beginning of the war but was refused because of his heart murmur.  To do his part, he went off to Alaska and then Hawaii to help in the construction of airports.  He loved Alaska the best and always wanted to go back.   Meanwhile, Mom sent him a Christmas card (she got his address from Grandma, of course), and after the war, they married. With his brothers’ help, Dad built the little house we grew up in.  Mom stayed home with us children because Dad said, “If I wanted some other woman raising my kids, I would have married her.”

Dad delivered soda for a time and then found work with McDonnell Aircraft, where he stayed the remainder of his working years as a sheet metal assembler and riveter.  He kept such good “spec. books” that even the foremen came  to him for advice, but he never wanted to be any sort of management himself.  His favorite assignment  was working on the Mercury and Gemini space capsules.   When he was retired on disability, he really missed the place, even though he had often complained about it while he worked there.

Both parents made us children the focus of their lives; if an invitation didn’t include the children, it wasn’t for them.   Mom was always there to hear about our school days, Dad told stories, and they formed a formidable united front on discipline.  A stern look was all that was usually needed to remind us of our responsibilities, but sterner measures could be counted on if we were stubborn.  Mom told me of Dad picking me up when I was just a little thing and making me put clean clothes back in the laundry basket after I had taken them out.

When we went somewhere, they were always counting to five, to be sure they had all of us.  At the zoo, Dad used to give us time to run and roll down grassy hills, to “use up some energy.”  We thought it was great fun, and it was only when I became an adult that I realized that it also gave him and Mom time to sit on a bench and rest.   Dad said his goal was to get us all raised, without serious injury or serious trouble; he succeeded and said later, after he became ill, that he was content because he had accomplished that.

John Fussner’s stories  Presented by daughter Mary Garrett

(copyright reserved for family)

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