My sister found and posted a bunch of old family pictures this week on her Facebook page. Most of these pictures she shared were of my father, David Kern Ballou.
My father was born in Manhatten on October 2, 1931. He was raised by his mother, Vera Kern Edwardsen, a suffragette and editor for Harper’s Bazaar, and her husband, author, editor and publisher, Robert Oleson Ballou. My grandparents were on the cutting edge of society for the time, believing in equal rights for women and blacks, but more about them in another post.
They wanted the best for their only son, Davy, or “Day,” as my grandmother called him. They sent Davy to Cheshire Academy, a private college-prep boarding school in Connecticut, and he spent his summers at the family’s summer home on the shores of the Hudson River in Cold Spring, NY. His parents tried their best to instill their values in him: of seeing the good in people of all walks of life, not to discriminate, to love nature and animals, and to work hard. His mother never raised her voice. His parents tried reasoning with him instead of scolding him when he misbehaved. I’m sure they dreamed of this son of theirs making a name for himself. They probably pictured him marching, locked arm-in-arm with someone like Martin Luther King, Jr., and fighting for equal rights for all!
After high school was finished, Dad enlisted in the Air Force. He went to Korea and drove a truck. Planes, trains and automobiles were in his blood. After his discharge from the Air Force, he went home and got a job. A regular job.
He refused offers from his father to send him to college or even trade school. He refused job offers that meant wearing a suit. So, he got a job working for Flight Refueling, Inc. in Danbury, CT. He could be around airplanes! Eventually, the company opened another facility at Friendship Airport (now BWI) near Baltimore, and Dad jumped at the chance to transfer, to get away from home. While living there, he met my mother and they married in 1958. I came along a year later.
Dad had several jobs after he left Flight Refueling, even once driving a taxi in Baltimore. He never went back to school. He drank a lot of beer…I mean, a lot! He smoked up to 3 packs of cigarettes a day. He tried smoking pot. He was hot headed and impulsive, yet had a great sense of humor…he would laugh so hard he would start to squeal and cough. He liked fast cars, had a bunch of different cars over the years and was pretty much an expert in antique ones. He even named his cars…we had the Green Hornet and the Blue Meanie, amongst others. He had recordings of trains and would put the stereo speakers out in the front windows of the house so the neighborhood kids could hear them. He listened to all kinds of music and had all kinds of records, everything from beautiful classical pieces to Big Bands, from Willie Nelson to Pink Floyd, and he liked to play them loud. He even bought a motorcycle when he was nearly 50 years old and drove it around for a couple of years. He liked to raise hell and have a good time. One of his favorite words was, “Whoopie,” and he said it loud and with gusto! His friends were his “rummies.” I thought of him as Archie Bunker with some Jack Nicholson thrown in.
But despite all of his carryings on, his well-respected and reserved parents continued to smile at him, adoringly. He could do no wrong. And, in my eyes, I felt the same.