“I knew Charlie Beam, Jim Beam’s father. He was a courageous man.”
Mervin Taylor, 91, wrote that note on a newspaper subscription slip recently and the business office passed it along. Taylor said he can’t read any more and didn’t want to renew his subscription.
It’s been amazing over the years how many times people have said something like that about my dad. Polio at age 6 left him with only one good leg, and he walked with a crutch all his life. However, we never considered him to be handicapped. My dad could do anything anyone’s else’s father could do, and he did it well.
Another reminder of my dad came Friday morning as I listened to Al Caldwell talk about his father during his talk show on Beaumont radio. Caldwell said his dad loved to fish and he gave him a “Cadillac” fishing reel for Father’s Day. His dad was so proud, Caldwell said, and he used that reel until he died three years later.
Tears welled up in my eyes as I listened because my dad loved to fish, too. In fact, the few times I went with him he burned me out. We would stay on the water all day, and I would get home hungry, sunburned and worn out. Fishing wasn’t my thing, I suppose, and that’s a shame. My son would probably have loved to fish.
We grew up in the Depression years, and life could be tough at times. I’m not sure why, but my dad worked at a number of different jobs, and we moved around a lot. However, we eventually settled down in High Mount on what is now 16th Street. My dad had been to bookkeeping school, and he was doing that when he retired.
The people of Cameron knew him well. He had a bread route there, and my wife occasionally runs into an old-timer who tells her they still don’t know how Charlie Beam could carry that armload of bread into the stores.
I’m not sure how he was able to drive a car. I can remember him picking up his bum leg and moving it around where it could be useful when shifting gears. One day he came home with a used Oldsmobile that had automatic drive. We were fascinated, and it must have made my dad’s life so much easier.
Charlie could be tough, and he didn’t think his four boys could do anything well. I can’t count the number of times he said, “Just get out of the way and let me do it.” I hope he knows now how much we learned from the master.
We got used to his impatience, but it could be exasperating at times. Bryan, our son, found out when my dad wanted something done, he wanted it done on his time. I got a call once when Bryan was late going over to cut my dad’s grass.
“Tell Bryan I don’t have any headlights on my lawnmower,” he said.
My dad and I enjoyed some good times in his later years. Watching the Dallas Cowboys play on Sundays was one of the highlights of the week. We both became fans because it was the only team carried on area television stations at the time. There was little talking allowed during those games, and he didn’t tolerate anyone pulling for the other team.
I did the grocery shopping for my dad after my mother died, and he always wanted some new product he had seen on television. Most of the time it hadn’t hit the stores shelves yet. One of his favorites was hogshead cheese, something I found hard to look at, much less eat. But I did my best to keep him happy.
You don’t forget the little things people do for others. The late Bruce Doga, our barber, went to my dad’s house to cut his hair when Charlie couldn’t get around any longer, and he never charged him extra. Dr. Ben Guilbeau was his doctor, and he always gave my dad special treatment. Guilbeau talks about his admiration for my dad whenever I run into him anywhere.
I wasn’t the only one who got emotional listening to Caldwell talk about his dad last week. Jo Ann must have been thinking about her dad as well. I could sense the story brought back some fond memories for her as well.
William Drachenberg was her dad’s name. I was fortunate to have a father-in-law who was about as nice a fellow as you could find. He never spoke an unkind word about anyone, and I never heard anyone say anything about him that wasn’t complimentary. I called him Pop, and we got along extremely well.
Nobody’s perfect, of course, and I know my dad had his faults. I’m not so sure Jo Ann’s dad did, but I never saw them if there were any.
We grew up in some difficult times, but I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything in the world. The examples my father set — work hard, try to excel at whatever you do and carry your own weight despite any obstacles — have served me well for nearly 79 years.
I hope memories of your dad today will also be pleasant ones. Happy Father’s Day!
Jim Beam, the retired editor of the Lake Charles American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or [email protected].