Dadden Stories — Introduction

To You, My Dear Gentle Readers

I recorded on July 7th, 1985 that my wife and I were in Allegany State Park in our VW Vanagon Camper. The back seat folded out to make a bed, but when it was up it enclosed a makeshift crib area for my oldest child, Stewart. He was happy and full as we were doing our cooking and dishes. I remember his sheer joy at doing a job well, in this case learning to stand, with the seat back acting as an aid to hold him up. During this good time he started calling me “Dadden”. The joy was shared when I heard that, and the name has stuck.

A few short years later, now with another son, Matthew, I was doing what I loved, reading stories to them before bed time. Some of our favorite stories were My Daddy An Me; The Ghost-Eye Tree; In the Night Kitchen; The Wreck of the Zephyr; Moo, Baa, Lalala; and of course Hot Air Henry. One of these times I asked if they wanted to hear stories of my growing up and they were enthusiastic so we started.

This grew into a common occurrence for a few short years. Favorites emerged, and eventually I recorded some of them onto tape. They became known as Daddy or Dadden Stories. I encourage all parents to offer this treasure to their children. This is a world that often seems disjointed and disconnected. Our children crave to know how they are connected to the past—how they have become. It is a small elixir and helps them become more resilient to life’s many many slings and arrows.

Years passed and children grow away from stories and into games, and hanging out with friends. For a time what came before is gladly disconnected from what they are trying to become. And yet something still remains, a seed. More years have passed and now they are in busy making their adult lives, dealing with jobs, loves, and other adventures. But last yule time Matthew’s request was for me to write down the Dadden stories he knew he had heard, but had mostly forgotten. Perhaps ten pages. It became a 30 page gift with the original recordings, for Stewart and Matthew. Shortly afterwards I began blogging and put out Hastings Nostalgia #1-My Bedroom. Getting many positive responses I’ve started posting more.

I wish I could claim some large purpose to this. A moral to the story. I can not. I have read about ants, and have become a beekeeper and from this have come to understand that these small creatures have a few simple behaviors to react with their environment and their family (in an ant nest or a beehive there is one mom and then only brothers and sisters). Indeed if you add up all the little bee brains in a hive they weigh about the same as a human brain. From each of these small interaction comes “emergent behavior” that is likely overlooked by each individual.

I remind myself of this as I write these stories. Life is mostly known by its small interactions. I appreciate “History”: dates, causes and effects, etc. But here I wish to write about a living, breathing, smelly, visual, tasty history. A poetic history. A heroic history such as all families experience. With such story there are good times, comfortable times, and difficult dangerous times. I believe if we leave out parts of the story we leave out parts of experience that may be so vital to what is to emerge. From all of it I hope something good will emerge, even if we are unaware of what that something is.

To You, My Precious Sons

I wish to declare here, to you and to the whole world, that there has been no experience of joy and of love that’s ever been better than what I’ve had with you. You have made life worth living. Someday I hope you will tell your Dadden stories to your children. Perhaps they will be of riding on my shoulders, or sitting on them in a chair while making out your Christmas wish lists from the Sear’s catalog (including item name and page number, you know, to help Santa). Perhaps of your first backpacking experiences and reading Scary Tales while skunks probed the perimeter of light around our campfire. Or so many other things.

For letting me experience this wonder and joy I thank you and love you.

All Saints Day, 2012

Other Dadden Stories


Islands Cafe

When I think of smoking in Hastings I think of three things. The first involves my father. He owned an auto shop at 3rd & Lexington and owning a business means you have long hours so he’d often go in early and once in a great while I would come along. I learned then that he didn’t always go right to the work but occasionally went to The Islands Cafe.

When I think of the Islands Cafe an image like a modern commercial comes to mind. It’s a monochromatic blue with the only other color being golden brown pancakes. The air is filled with blueish cigarette smoke, the walls seem blue, enhanced by the fluorescent lights. The many shirts on the men are blue with white ovals over the pockets that say “Ed”, “Wayne”, “Roger”, “Lloyd”, and the like, while the middle-aged waitresses move around in blue uniforms with blue pads, and say things like, “How are you doing honey!”, and “What can I get for you today!” It smells in a cacophony of hot griddle grease, butter, engine oils, coffee, pancakes, toast, sausage, hair oils, and tobacco smoke.

This was the world of men. Men who, when barely older than I was, carried guns into war against the “Japs” and “Krauts”. Most of them had seen the hardest days of the depression and dust bowl. These experiences didn’t harden them but quite the contrary, they had easy smiles and a gentleness. They welcomed me with a smile and seemed interested in what I was doing which was confusing to me at that time in my life when I still felt awkward even about shaving.

They would chat about the important things in life. Who was having babies, what the children were doing or not doing, and who might be getting a divorce. Cars were important too with new features like automatic transmissions, air conditioning, and power brakes beginning to appear and compared. Weather too would come to mind and how it might affect the crops. And what was I going to do today and with my life? At the end of the food was just enough time for a cigarette, then plans for a coffee (and cigarette) break at the lounge at 10:00. Sustained now, off we’d go.

One of the more startling things to me now is to watch old movies, and TV shows and seeing all the smoking. Yet at the time this was a normal and casual part of life. Continue reading