My Dad’s Landlady

Those who know me may see the seeds of some of my own background in this….

Very young man in old portrait.
My father back in the day. The flip side of this photo says it was published in the Glendale News-Press, but not what the occasion was. I’d say high school graduation, but I don’t think he graduated in Glendale. (Family photo)

When my dad got out of the service after World War II, he ended up in Glendale, Calif., where he worked at the Glendale News-Press newspaper.

I believe he was sort of an all-around jack of all trades: I think he worked in composing, advertising, the press room, etc., as well as sometimes writing stories.

A 1945 News-Press banner.

He rented a room from a woman — a war widow, as I recall. She liked having a man around the house, and he liked the cheap digs.

One day he came out to find her ironing shirts. But she was unhappy: “This iron gets too hot!” she complained. She looked at my dad for help.

There isn’t much you can do if the iron gets too hot, but he didn’t want to leave her without hope. “Try tying some knots in the cord,” he advised her. “That will slow down the electricity.”

Declaration honoring my dad for "enrollment with the armed forces of the United States of America" for World War II.
This certificate from the family archives is undated, but Archie Walters was Glendale’s mayor from early 1941 to early 1943.

That seemed like a good plan to her. Sure enough, when he came back later there were knots in the cord.

Another time she complained that her tea got cold too fast. “That’s because you heat up the water so fast. Heat it up more slowly, and it will cool down more slowly,” he advised. I think she found that advice useful too.

I’m not sure if dad just moved on after that, or if she caught on and threw him out. But now you know where I learned to be absurd and keep a straight face.

My dad would have turned 103 today. He died 23 December 2007, the day after his 89th birthday.

[Originally published 23 March 2007 in the True Story section of my now defunct Jumbo Joke site.]

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11 Comments on “My Dad’s Landlady

  1. These are exactly the sorts of anecdote that keep important memories alive. Thanks for sharing yours. My dad died at 91, two years ago. I have a few of my own stories of him and our time together, but it’s too early to verbalize them.

    Happy Winter Solstice!

  2. I’m wondering if the landlady had a daughter who was a nurse. When I was a kid I was hospitalized for a week or so in the mid to late ’50s. Another kid in the room used to play with the call button, needlessly bothering the nurse. She finally got fed up with it and tied and knotted the cord around the something (don’t recall just what) so it wouldn’t work. He believed her, later needed a bedpan and wanted me to call her. I thought his button would work, and told him to try it, said I would use mine if his didn’t do it (there was a button that popped up and the nurse would reset it when she came in). Needless to say, when he finally tried it, it worked.

  3. He reminds me of my father. Pop was a civilian at Pearl Harbor in early ’42 working on pulling the Oklahoma upright. He eventually ended up in the AAF (with a genuinely bizarre service history). He got out to go to school, but went back in during Korea as part of the 101st Airborne. (For those who say there was no 101 AB during Korea, there was: it was used as a training unit, but was made up of NCO’s and officers (known as the “cadre”) pulled from the 11th AB for the express purpose of reactivating the 101st. Their orders carried them as assigned to the 101 AB. The war then ended and the 101st’s reactivation was cancelled. I had a copy of his deactivation orders reflecting his assignment to the 101st AB. He was glider qualified…already obsolete by Korea.)

    It was while he was an officer in the 101st that he told his new wife, my mother, about his time in Hawaii during WW2. He told her he was there collecting crabs for the hair in their ears. As it turns out, crabs’ ear hair is extremely fine, readily visible, and surprisingly long, making it perfect for use as the crosshairs in precision bombsights. My mother very proudly told the other officers’ wives about his WW2 experience at one of the luncheons given by the Colonel’s wife. The wives were fascinated. A couple days later, though, the Colonel, and I suspect a number of the other officers, asked my father about his fascinating assignment in Hawaii. If it was my father who’d told me this story, I’d know it was more of his blarney, but it wasn’t: it was my mother! She bore him a (minor) grudge about the ribbing she took from the other wives (who’d believed it too) for the rest of her life.

  4. Your Dad continues serving his country in the form of his son who fights the good fight against ignorance, assumption, and many other things.

    Very kind words, Andy. Thanks. -rc

  5. I am certain that your father would have appreciated Freds Aerospace. Not that any Fred would EVER do anything like suggesting tying a knot in an electric cord? I do know that you, Jawn and I all smiled at Freds. Thank you for continuing to help keep a smile on my face, Arcie!

    “Freds Aerospace” was a loose group of NASA folks who mostly communicated by email. Many of them are now reaching for the stars. -rc

  6. Your dad and mine would have gotten along quite well. He was a traveling camera salesman for much of his later life. Used to call the 12 month/12,000 mile warranty most cars came with his 90 day warranty as he regularly put 50,000 miles a year on his. He had standard routes and so ate in the same places often enough for the waitresses to know his name and that he was a traveling salesman. One particular waitress though couldn’t seem to learn that he was NOT a coffee drinker. So he began to reply to her constant “Would you like more coffee, Bill?” With this reply, “No, it keeps me awake on the road.” He delivered this deadpan. She never reacted. He found this hilarious.

  7. That poor woman!

    BWahahahaha….. “…it’ll slow the electricity down”.

    I wonder how long those placebos worked for her?

  8. I’m laughing through my tears. His sense of humor sounds a lot like my dad’s, which my sister and I inherited. My mom said she didn’t understand any of us. LOL

    My dad died at 82, in July of 2004.


  9. Thanks for the Parent Template story. My dad died in 1983 but his humour and hope live on in each of his five offspring ~ we keep each other on keel!

  10. I like his (and your) since of humor…I have left people with advice like that and walked away never to see them again…but of course being Catholic I went to confession afterwards…glad my confessor was a good friend and he would laugh while he gave me my penance…then we would go get highballs.

    My kind of priest! -rc


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