Stories from Denver: the adventures of "hi pockets"

I emailed my parents once we got to Denver this weekend and asked my father for some details on when he had lived there. All I know is that Daddy moved to Denver with his brother's family shortly after high school and eventually moved back to Norfolk in his early 20s. That period of my father's life seems a million miles away to me - a time when he wore jeans and white t-shirts instead of plaid button down shirts and flat-front khakis. These bits and pieces of my parents' lives come out over time. When I was in college and went skiing in West Virginia, I called to lament about how much I suck at skiing. My father mentioned that in Denver he had skied some black diamond slopes but never got much better than that. Here I was getting my ass kicked on the bunny slopes. It was my first memorable experience of realizing my parents have lives before I was born.

As an adult, I relish learning about my family's exploits from long ago. It brings to light so much of how the more things change the more things stay the same. Six months or so ago, Rich's parents came to visit us and we showed them the Wii. Over the course of that afternoon, we learned that Rich's father knows a hell of a lot more about bowling than we ever knew and that Uncle Tommy once managed a bowling alley. It was like a window into their youth. They're also much better bowlers than I am.

While waiting for the plane to take me home, I checked the weather and was shocked to learn it was 18 degrees F outside. I'm always cold and when I walked from the cab to ticketing I didn't even need my hat or gloves. As I sat at the gate, I sent a short email to my parents telling them I was coming home, it was snowing hard in Denver and amazingly I wasn't cold, even without gloves.

By the time I landed in Baltimore, my father had sent me an email with several memories of his time in Denver. By the time I landed in Norfolk, I had received a second email that answered all my questions from when I first got to Denver. For my posterity and your entertainment, I'll provide some snippets of that below. My editorial notes for context are in brackets.

Email #1

While in Denver, in a cold spell my car was being hard to start, so I changed spark plugs (after dark) - soon after I got back in the house, the TV weather said it was 20 below - and I wasn't wearing gloves.

But then, I was not liking to gloves. One of my jobs was at Union Pacific RR, on the loading docks where it got pretty brisk - and foreman kept insisting I get some gloves, but I was adverse to buying gloves - so they called me "pockets" because I kept my hands in my pockets when not using them.

Another young guy hired on - and he wouldn't buy gloves - so they called him "low pockets" and I became "hi pockets." One Monday they called on loading docks loud speaker "Hi Pockets, report to personnel." There was a misunderstanding about working previous Saturday - next thing I knew, I didn't work there any more (that changed my destiny).

On one of the construction jobs, I was called "little George" - our off-job friends were taken aback that I was "little George" - but a new hire named George was about 6' 6" [my father is 6'3" or so, shrinking in his old age]

One morning it was 8 degrees and we began setting rafter trusses on second story - that was quite cold in the wind. We had built a fire but had to get to working - I remember walking the top plate (second story wall) and just seeing the fire was a big consolation (knowing 'twas there if needed)

One of the coldest experiences in my life was minus 10 on the windy ski slopes - before I knew the value of (afforded) liners for my mittens. When I got back inside the ski lodge, it was all I could do to keep from crying, my hands hurt so bad.

Email #2

Just didn't get around to answer this - you know how my e-mails aren't simple - and got busy with Curt & Frankie [his brother and sister-in-law] coming. On top of time getting ready, Curt suggested I meet him at Red Cross to donate platelets. I've been thinking I should donate. They say 90 percent of local platelets go to CHKD [Childrens Hospital of Kings Daughters].

I had heard that Stapleton Airport had move way out - think they renamed it.

Seeing that big sky going from dirt to dirt is beyond words - like seeing ocean for first time (seeing ocean made my stomach giddy - like as a kid going high on a big swing)

I went to Denver with Bill & Flossie [his half brother and sister-in-law] in June '61. It snowed that Memorial day - and also around Labor day. When I got back East I then realized how short the summer is out there - at same time, came to appreciated that song line "...and the skies are not cloudy all day" (unlike the East)

I was there 2 yrs - lived with Bill and Flossie for about 16 months - finally got a room own my own at a divorced guy's house. He took me on his boat water skiing for first and only time.

From Denver, I came back to the farm - razed or renovated out buildings, built a new shelter 22 x 60 and made more improvements to farm house.

Ran low on patience and money, so got a carpenter job in Rocky Mount. Got laid off for few weeks in late winter - built room addition for Uncle Bee (Eva's house) - charged him $70 (to make him feel right)

Got called back to Rocky Mount job, but soon got uncomfortable with the way the whippersnapper "super" praised me and treated labors (Blacks) like dirt.

One morning I went to work in haste and left my prepared lunch on the table - Dad took it to the job site and found the "super" and asked if he had a "labored" named George Powell - the impetuous "super" scolded, "Don't you call him no laborer --- he's the best carpenter I got!"

Mom loved to tell story, but Dad didn't appreciate it (to him any worker was a labored - was unfamiliar with trades designations vs. unskilled "laborer")

I finally got a belly full of the super's disrespect for Blacks and his hurry, flurry mode. I had come across a 5x7 sign "The hurrier I go the behinder I get." I went in at daybreak and taped the sign over the super's desk (doors weren't locked back then) then went home. I went back on payday and got my check - somebody indicated that the super figured where sign came from (torn, it had been ripped down - and somebody had taped it back up).

With a little more than $100, I packed all my stuff in a cardboard box (just a little bigger than a file box) and told the folks I was going North to find work, but wasn't sure how far - told myself, to find a new life (where squeaky sounding small roosters don't crow).

I saw sign on Military Hwy saying ocean front - got a motel room at VB and a job that night - then a room at 24th St and Baltic for $10/wk.

After Pembroke and Malibu, the contractor started Colony Pt. apartments around Wards Corner, so I found furnished apartment at Daniels for $65/mo. [The Daniels owned the house across the street from my mother's house and that's how my parents met.]

When my orthodontics (Pearlman) were finished, I notified the draft board like a good citizen.

I really need to make my father his own blog.