To understand me, one must understand my father. He was born the eldest of nine children, on January 1st,1920, in the area known as, Washington D.C.. Not the outlying area, but downtown ‘proper’, in the home of his parents. His father, Lloyd Van Kirk, immigrated to the United States and felt the Capitol was the best place to live ( Yeah, Right! ). It might have been OK in the early twenties, but a ‘little event’ called the Depression, was to change all that. I can’t imagine a family of eleven, living in a harder place to make ends meet during those times, than downtown D.C..
Because my grandparents were Dutch and came from the old country, to say that my father grew up a ‘tad bit’ conservative, would be a huge understatement. His family heritage and growing up during hard times, made him ‘über’ conservative. He would have been a member of the “John Birch Society”, but he found them a bit too ‘Liberal’ for his taste. He did vote for Barry Goldwater, but only because there wasn’t a more ‘Right Wing’ Republican running at the time. Yup!, my dad was a ‘pistol’.
My name is Donald Dean Van Kirk Jr., ( I’ll bet you can’t guess my dad’s name ). After having three daughters, he decided to give his only son, a proper name…, his. The name has served me well over the years, especially when it came to getting out of traffic tickets ( it seems all 18 of mine went onto my dad’s record ). My dad was stopped for a minor infraction and the judge let him have it. I was overseas at the time this happened and my mother said It was lucky for me that I was. I hear his screaming could be heard county-wide.
The two of us started out as ‘Big Don & Little Donny’. Some of my neighbors, in the ‘old hood’, still call me ‘Little Donny’ ( I’m 6ft 5in & 260lbs ). The last time I sat on my mother’s knee, was just after I got out of the service at age 22. She was showing me off at her new job ( I was her little boy ). She walked with a limp for a week. I wasn’t always such a monster. Way back, when I was a kid, I looked pretty normal. Around the age of five, I was so normal, ( and well-adjusted, I might add ), my dad figured that it was time for me to get a job, and so he got me one.
Usually, a young man’s first job is a paper route. Lots of fresh air and exercise, but very little money. Well, of course, that’s what I got. I didn’t have a bicycle at the time, so my dad got me a wagon. Not a cool ‘Radio Flyer’, but a huge, tall sided, heavy, paper wagon. It even said ‘Daily Examiner’ on the side. I probably ended up paying for it out of my paper money ( no wonder I didn’t make much ). Because my dad always had my best interest at heart, he realized I wasn’t happy about the poor wages of throwing papers. He solved the problem by getting me a second job.
Having been a kid once yourself, I’m sure you’ve guessed that my second job was to water lawns for people on vacation. Well, you would be right. Because papers only took up the mornings, the rest of the my day was available. I mean, what kid wants to ‘run and play’ with his friends, when he could be out making a buck…, right? My father felt my time would be better spent waiting for a water timer to ring, while running from one yard to another ( Seems everybody goes on vacation at the same time. It’s called Summer ).
One day, I had a few moments between throwing papers and watering lawns, so I was bouncing a ball in the driveway. My father must have noticed ( Rats! ). The next day he came home with a couple of boxes. They contained two gross of ball point pens ( That’s 144 pens per box, 288 total ). Always thinking, my dad figured I already had a wagon that was only being used in the morning…, so…, let’s get that ‘baby’ back on the road. In my free time, I was to sell ball point pens up and down the neighborhood. My first reaction to this new, ‘third job’, was to say the following: “But dad!, I’m only five years old. I don’t want to be a door-to-door salesman. Not yet, anyway”.
My dad was a; “His way or the highway”, type of fellow. He usually told you something once, you nodded your head yes and then you did what he asked. No questions, no ‘funny looks’, no; “But Dad!“, basically you just did it. Such was the case regarding my new sales position. You see, my dad was in sales and could literally sell ice to someone at the North Pole or sand to a desert dweller. He thought going door-to-door would build character in me. What it did was scare the ‘crap’ out of me ( hey!, I was five remember ). Knocking on total strangers doors with a ‘cute kid’ smile and telling people I was working my way through college, or in this case the First Grade, didn’t seem all that wonderful. Of course I did it, but I didn’t like it.
Years later, and yes, I still had the wagon, Pop decided to give me a bigger door-to-door challenge. I was going to sell cartons of eggs. This would never have occurred to me as an actual job opportunity, as it sounded…, well…, ‘stupid’. Not one to say NO! to my father, I found myself with an ‘egg route’ ( yes, all my friends found it funny, Ha-Ha ). It turned out that selling eggs was just as un-profitable as a paper route. Not to mention all the left-over eggs we had around the house. It was omelets for breakfast, lunch and dinner that year.
Eventually, I became a man…, well…, I was 14, and I got my own job washing dishes in a local diner. I worked six nights during the summer and four nights during the school year. By the time I was sixteen and old enough to drive a car, I had a cool $1000 smackers saved up. The new Ford Mustang had just come out and I wanted one. Pop brought home a 1955 Ford F-100 pick-up truck instead. I thanked him the best I could and he replied; “Don’t thank me, you owe me $350 bucks you knucklehead!” You have probably guessed by now, that with a truck, I could chop & haul wood in my ‘spare time’…, yeah right…, just what I was thinking.
My Pop, was always looking out for me. I wish he was still around so I could call him up and hear his favorite saying; “How much dough do you need this time?” Well…, Goodnight Pop. I really miss you. Your ‘number-one-son’, Little Donny.
“As long as help’s not vacuuming the place up, I’ll keep playing”, by Norm the musician