Father’s Day and the Gift of Time

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(Host) With Father’s Day approaching, commentator Edith Hunter has been thinking about her own father – and the gift of time.

(Hunter) My Dad grew up in the country, but because mother had inherited property in Roxbury, we grew up there. As long as we could afford it, summers we rented a small camp on Cape Cod. The rest of the year, Dad tried to give us three children some of the country experiences that had meant so much to him.

He never learned to drive but depended on, and loved, public transportation – trolley cars, the elevated railway, and subways. Every spring we rode to "the end of the line" to the old Readville racetrack to find the first pussywillows to take home to Mother. We rode the same line to hike up Blue Hill to find trailing arbutus. In the winter, with our Flexible Flyers, we boarded the trolley car for Franklin Park. We coasted on Schoolmasters Hill, and Dad told us that Ralph Waldo Emerson was that schoolmaster.

When he read to us, it was not Dickens and Kipling, mother’s choices, but the work of two Vermonters, Dorothy Canfield (Fisher’s) Made-To-Order Stories, or Rose Lucia’s Peter and Polly books. In the four books, one for each season, he shared vicariously with us the country experiences of Vermont children.

For junior high and high school I attended a small private school in Boston. Whenever the weather was good, to save the trolley fare, Dad and I walked the three miles through the South End to the Back Bay. All the way he talked politics – especially about Jim Curley and his Democratic machine. Dad worked in vain to elect a reform Republican.

He was the kind of person who liked to read the same books over and over. Two of his favorites were Frank Kent’s The Great Game of Politics, and Theodore Roosevelt’s Letters to His Children. Dad was a Teddy Roosevelt "Bull Moose Republican."

As the Depression deepened, he switched loyalties and was a strong supporter of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In 1936 when FDR ran against Alf Landon, as we walked to school, Dad helped me on the speech I gave favoring FDR. I was his only supporter at school.

On many Sunday mornings the whole family went to Community Church at Symphony Hall in Boston. We heard John Haynes Holmes from New York City, Socialist Norman Thomas, liberal Jewish leader Rabbi Wise, and labor leaders from all over the world. Dad once told me: "The best part is the question period."

He was ahead of his times when it came to men cooking. Sunday mornings he made us a hearty breakfast; Sunday nights we enjoyed his Welsh rarebit in front of the fireplace; Saturday night, baked beans; and in the summer, his specialty, quahog chowder.

As Walt Whitman wrote: "His own parents, he that had father’d him and she that had conceived him in her womb and birth’d him, They gave this child more of themselves than that, They gave him afterwards every day, they became part of him."

This is Edith Hunter on the Center Road.

Writer and historian Edith Hunter lives in Weathersfield Center, Vermont.

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