Saturday, June 14, 2014

On Father's Day, For My Dad

This is a reprint of the Father's Day remembrance which ran here last year. Every word is still true. Miss you Pop.

He was a handsome man.  Hollywood good looks, really.  Frank Albany Morvan was born on September 26, 1910, in the small town of Manchaug, Massachusetts.

As a young man, he was forced to seek work instead of advanced education in order to help his family through difficult economic times.  Fortunately, the Manchuag Mills in Sutton, MA (where the phrase "Fruit Of The Loom" originated) was hiring unskilled labor, and Dad was one of the lucky chosen.  He met my mother during this period.  She had also been forced to help at home as my maternal grandparents struggled to clothe and feed a family of five girls and four boys.  Mom was able to find work in a mill not far from her home, and felt blessed to get the job.  Frank married Claudia Veronica Rainville on June 9, 1934. In this wedding photo, his sister Rose is Maid of Honor and Mom's brother Arthur is Dad's Best Man.

(L to R) Claudia, Frank, Rose, Arthur

The thriving New England textile industry created a network of baseball teams which played on weekends throughout the region.  My dad was a highly skilled short stop with a physique similar to Red Sox great Dustin Pedroia.  My Mother said the photo below shows Dad hitting the crucial winning drive which won the game that day in 1937.


It isn't the prettiest swing I've ever seen, but he usually got the job done when it was his turn at bat. My mother told me the sizeable crowd assembled on the hillside contained hundreds of his loyal and vocal fan club. During this era, I attended games lying in a handsome pram which was parked under shady trees and draped in protective mosquito netting. In baby bliss, I snoozed through every inning. Eventually, he adopted the soubriquet "Bridget" for me. When I asked him why that particular name, he said it described the strong-willed, determined personality he felt I'd become. I loved the name. He knew me so well.

He was denied the opportunity to play Triple A ball which might have led to his dream of playing in the Majors, more specifically for the Red Sox. Scouts believed he couldn't put on the weight they felt was necessary for him to be "hit consistent", and I believe he carried this disapppointment stayed buried within him every day of his life. But he remained faithful to the Red Sox, and would have rejoiced loudest of us all when they achieved the World Series title in 2004.

As a family, we listened to radio broadcasts of the games on summer nights, sitting on the screen porch with the lights out so that we could watch the
fire flies display.  Somehow, Dad managed to get hold of (or was given) truly precious tickets to a Red Sox/Yankees game to be played at Fenway Park.  I remember the journey to Boston on that stiflingly hot day, seated in a Commuter Rail car with no air conditioning and windows tightly shut and sealed.  However, I know the glorious thrill of seeing Fenway Park for the first time. This would have been in the early 1950's because I also remember with crystal clarity how thrilled we were to see Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams on the same field. 


We never owned a new car, but Dad did find a used one in excellent condition.  The only trouble with it, as far as my sister and I were concerned, was that it came in a ghastly shade of green which we one day decided was not only horrid but embarrassing to be seen in.  So, while our parents were out, attending an important  function, we seized the chance to remedy the situation.  We found some high-gloss black enamel paint in the shed along with two brushes and hurriedly began our chore, hoping to proudly display the finished work: a gleaming, very elegant black car. 

This is the car before our cosmetic tampering: 

It wasn't until we were half way through and realized we weren't tall enough to reach the roof, that we also realized our parents might not view the gesture as the cosmetic improvement we intended.  With genuine dread, we almost simultaneously spoke the prophetic words: "Oh God! They're going to kill us."  When they returned, they took one look at our handiwork and were stunned into stony silence for a few moments.  Then, a miracle: Dad doubled over in near hysterical laughter.  This reaction was infectious: my mother began to giggle and then she too nearly choked with glee.  They changed their clothes, took up two more brushes and helped us paint the rest of the car.  To be sure, there were a few unsightly brush bristles  imbedded here and there, but we drove around town in our shiny, slightly hairy black car with Morvan pride for several years. 

Dad loved animals, the Friday Night Fights, Narragansett Beer, Jack Benny and Duffy's Tavern, Bing Crosby (whose clear, light baritone his own voice resembled), Fred Waring And His Pennsylvanians, The Mills Brothers and The Sons Of The Pioneers, a singing group which often backed Gene Autry's nasal twang.  He loved his wife, but more often than not acquiesced to her strong character. One of her annual demands was that he risk life and limb in the early summer to install the crisp green and white awnings she hoped would provide much needed shade and a degree of coolness indoors.  You can see the pay-off below, and that is Herself seated in the lawn chair.  You can also see the screened porch just behind her.

 Dad died peacefully on June 5, 1993.  As I lay in the darkness that night, I thought of him and his life with us, his kind and gentle nature, and his passion for his favorite sport.  Then, in a clear and upbeat sounding voice, I heard him say: "Don't worry about me, Bridget. I'm playing ball."

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