On Jan. 23, 1943, my uncle, Frank Ebner Gartz, (photo in uniform, above) reported to the draft board in Chicago to start his training for WWII. So began the correspondence between him and family & friends, comprising almost 300 letters going both ways. I’m posting many of these World War II letters, each on or near the 70th anniversary of its writing. To start with his induction, click HERE.

This blog began in Nov., 2010, when I posted a century-old love note from Josef Gärtz, my paternal grandfather, to Lisi (Elisabetha) Ebner, my paternal grandmother, and follows their bold decision to strike out for America.

My mom and dad were writers too, recording their lives in diaries and letters from the 1920s-the 1990s. Historical, sweet, joyful, and sad, all that life promises-- and takes away--are recorded here as it happened. It's an ongoing saga of the 20th century. To start at the very beginning, please click HERE.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father of the Year

Dad and I at the Palmer House "Father of the Year"
banquet, June 12, 1962
When I was in eighth grade, our English teacher, Mrs. Hall, asked all the students in class to write an essay on why we thought our dads should be "Father of the Year." I guess I wasn't paying close attention and didn't realize it was a writing contest. Mrs. Hall picked several essays that she thought were good and sent them to the Chicago Area Father's Day Council. 

One night after dinner, we received a phone call. My mom picked up the phone, and soon was making the kinds of exclamations that we all knew indicated a happy event.

"Well, really!"
"Isn't that wonderful!"
"The Palmer House?"
"What's the date?"
"Oh, you'll send a telegram to confirm it all? That's just great."
"I'll be sure to tell her. Yes. Of course, we'll tell her teacher too."
"Thank you, and goodbye."

By this time in the conversation we had all gathered around the only phone in the house. "Linda," Mom said, "that was...I think it was the Chicago Sun Times." (She misheard the organization's name.) "It seems that your essay has been chosen as a district winner in the Chicago area search for Father of the Year!"
Telegram from the Chicago Area Father's Day Council, 6/9/1962

I was dumbfounded. I liked the idea of prizes, but it hadn't even registered that my essay had been in contention. I can still see Mrs. Hall, the next day, directing kids to their seats. She was a bit frazzled as I shyly interrupted to tell her the news. I was astounded by her wide-eyed reaction. She called the students to attention, simultaneously grabbing both my shoulders, and turned me to face my classmates. 

"I have wonderful news!" She announced. "Linda's essay has just been named a finalist in the Father of the Year contest!" I felt both proud and a little embarrassed. I wasn't used to getting so much attention at school. The glow I felt was not just from the honor of having my essay chosen, but also from knowing my dad would get the recognition he deserved!

A few days later, as promised, a telegram arrived. We were invited to the Chicago Palmer House for an honorary dinner. This elegant hotel, (now the Palmer House Hilton) named after one of Chicago's most prestigious families, where the elite stayed overnight and were wined and dined in its elegant restaurants, was out of our family's economic league. We felt very special, indeed, to be invited to celebrate in this iconic Chicago edifice.

Fifty years ago this past week, Mom, Dad, and I dressed in our best, traveled to downtown Chicago, and joined other district area winners to eat a sumptuous meal in the Palmer House's Grand Ballroom. After dinner, excerpts from each essay were read, and contestants were asked to stand for applause.

I didn't win the big award. A girl who had used metaphor to describe her father as "king of the household on his easy chair throne" won. It was a good essay-- expressing a view of dads in keeping with the the era in which Madmen takes place.

Mine has all the trappings of an eighth grade essay, with its cautious transitions and clunky prose. Despite those failings I see today, we all knew at the time just which lines had reeled in the judges. This little piece I wrote when I was thirteen is as true to my Dad's memory as anything I could write today, though I hope I could express myself more elegantly now. 

I'm sure many of you are remembering your dads fondly and all they taught you about life and love this Father's Day. I hope that this essay, written half a century ago (gulp), triggers unique  memories of your own dad.


Syd Lieberman said...

I thought the picture was great, and then I read the entry. What a beautiful story and a great essay. He must have been so proud.

Carol said...

Terrific memory. Love this post!

Anonymous said...

I didn't realize you have been a writer for so many years! What a heartfelt tribute to your Dad! Katy

Adrienne said...

I know how much you loved your dad. It was lovely to see this award-winning tribute to him and the historic picture of you both enjoying the prize.

Linda Gartz said...

Thank you, Syd, Carol, Katy, and Adrienne! I realized just this morning that this Father's Day was a special anniversary of that event and wanted to share. I'm so glad you all enjoyed it.

ine said...

what a lovely picture and a touching story.no wonder you becamea writer...

Marian Kurz said...

Besides the kind and wonderful words about your dad, I am very impressed that an 8th grade student used the word, 'tangible'. What a thrill is must have been for everyone. If you had a good dad, it's very special; today's Tribune has some wonderful stories about women and their dads, along with Mary Schmich's column on the 4 letters she wrote to her dad. As with your piece, they have great meaning to those who had special fathers.

Jacqi Stevens said...

Linda, what a wonderful tribute to your dad--and to your life-long admiration of him! What a special honor that must have been to know that it was on account of his daughter's view of the relationship that he was nominated for this award.

Candace said...

Linda, thank you for sharing this intimate essay with us. I'm sure your parents were very proud of their budding writer.

linda Gartz said...

Thanks, Candace. It was a lot of fun for all of us.

Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

What a great story! I especially love the reference to taking notice of the mountains and the small flowers.

Paul E. Gartz said...

Sis, We were very lucky to have the dad we did. He was not usual; in fact, it was later reported from work colleagues, "We all love Mr. Gartz. He is so eccentric". He taught us so much…directly and indirectly. I remember your award well. You were a sensitive teenager to write those words. I know dad was especially touched by this. One couldn’t tell by what he said but by small indications. I even thought this then. Dad was also very lucky to have you as the 1st and only daughter in the Gartz's chain. He so adored you. He would do and did do anything for you. Looking back after having been a father to a daughter as well, I find there is always a special relationship between a good parent and the opposite sex child (father-daughter; mother-son) and a different type to same sex child. Thanks to you, dad got something few did and got to feel valued for what later considered his main contribution to life…being a dad. Paul

Linda Gartz said...

A sensitive comment and so true in every respect.
Love, Your Sis

Shirley Showalter, memoir writer said...

Linda, this lovely story brought tears to my eyes. I hope you get many views from the link I invited you to make on my post about mentors.

An event like this marks us for life.

And, of course, the last paragraph is so true of your own work today!

Linda Gartz said...

Your mentoring post triggered so many fond memories from your readers -- and your continuous support of all of us marks you as a truly great mentor to all aspiring memoirists! Thanks for dropping by.