On June 21 of this year, Americans will celebrate Father’s Day. It is a time to honor our fathers and thank them for being a vital part of our lives.
Perhaps you remember the famous and prosperous TV dads such as Robert Reed, an architect on “The Brady Bunch;” Robert Young, an insurance salesman on “Father Knows Best;” Fred McMurray an aeronautical engineer on “My Three Sons” and Bill Cosby, a doctor on “The Cosby Show.” If you like westerns, you remember Lorene Green, a rancher on “Bonanza.”
While my father was not famous or rich, his role in my life exceeds that of celebrity and enormous wealth. His name is Charlie Baskerville. He was born on Feb. 14, 1907. He was a farmer and operated a country store for more than 40 years. I observed so many great things about my father, some of them include:
• Working from sun-up to sundown on the farm and in his country store.
• Providing food and shelter for his disabled sister until her death and to her daughter until his death. She remained a part of our household until her death in 2012.
• Giving food from his smokehouse, freezer and potato shed to those in our community who ran into financial difficulties during the winter months.
• Giving financial support to area churches and social organizations and allowing a local church to use his pond for baptismal services for many years.
• Kneeling along with mother in prayer every night.
I witnessed my father suffer indignities and racism from some vendors who supplied goods to his store by refusing to sell him enough goods to last him until their next visit. I observed my father insulted by various inspectors who always seem to find something wrong with the way that he was operating his store. I observed white people come into my father’s store and upon seeing me and my father, they would rush out without purchasing anything. When I asked him about their reaction, it pained him to try to explain to a 12- year-old what was happening. He would say “that’s OK son, some of them will spend money with us.” I know now that those acts of humiliation hindered my father from expanding his business. It also had a harmful effect on his health.
I knew early in my life that my father was special because I always wanted to be with him. I remember as a kid wanting to be with him so much that I would run behind his truck when he went to town for business or to the tobacco market. He would eventually have to stop and let me go with him.
I learned so much working in my father’s store. I learned how to meet, greet and treat customers from him. I learned how to count money and make change. I learned how to set prices for each item in the store making sure that there was a profit margin for the store. My father taught me so well that as a teenager, he often left me to run the entire store alone.
He taught me how to plow with a mule, how to drive a tractor and how to use it to turn over the land before planting season. He taught me how to plant a garden with many different vegetables. These may be trivial and mundane tasks to many people; however, to me they were a time of bonding and having fun with my father. Cutting his hair with the old fashioned manual Bressant clippers was also fun.
When my father passed away, I was at a crossroads in my life. I had completed the first year of law school. Because of the difficulties I encountered that year, I thought about quitting. I quickly abandoned that notion and used my father’s death as motivation to press on through law school. I got married to a wonderful woman and began to think seriously about my life and my future. His death was a wakeup call for me to dedicate my life to be the best man I could be. Further, I did not want to tarnish or stain my father’s legacy.
Having reflected on my career and life juxtapose to my father’s life, I do not measure up to him. He was able to accomplish so much with so little. He was able to survive during the Great Depression, the Jim Crow era with its violence and intimidation toward black people and the civil rights era. Yet with less than a fifth-grade education and without inherited wealth, he and my devoted mother were able to send all five of their children to college. Even though my father did not have a formal education, his common sense and wisdom allowed him to survive.
I wonder what he would think about what I have done with my life. I wonder if he would think that I have honored his legacy. I wonder if he would be satisfied with the man that he left on Earth in 1974.
I regret that I did not adequately tell my father how much I honored, appreciated and loved him.
Randolph Baskerville is a Henderson resident and retired judge.