Our daughter reminded me that my nearly 500 posts over these past 10 years have failed to describe our family’s men’s occupations. Our men first migrated from Europe to America, many of them among the first voyagers to Virginia or on the Mayflower that landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts. They were well-educated and used their intellectual and people skills to establish and guide the people in our first colonial settlements.
Specifically, our men and their families after the colonial days, were fighters in the Revolutionary, Civil, 1812, and yes, even the Indian Wars between 1850-1890). They dedicated their lives to growing tobacco on plantations or cotton on smaller farms along America’s eastern seaboard.
Like other white southerners, our men during the Reconstruction Era (1861-1877), ventured into manufacturing, transportation, land ownership, and education. The Gilded Age (1870-1900), brought about more prosperity and unprecedented growth in industry and technology. But during this post-Civil War era, sharecropping and tenant farming took the place of slavery and the plantation system in the South. Sharecropping and tenant farming were systems in which white landlords (often former plantation slave owners) entered into contracts with impoverished farm laborers to work their lands.
My maternal great-grandfather, John Carpenter Ford, was born January 15, 1864, (a Capricorn like myself), in Wake County, North Carolina (a Confederate state) in the midst of the American Civil War. According to his military records, he served in Company D of the Army’s 17th Infantry Regiment. Reviewing the timeline of Indian Wars and the involvements of the 17th Infantry, his enlistment would have placed him in 1890 in the midst of the Apache Indian War in Arizona and New Mexico, and at the Sioux Indian disturbances in Wounded Knee, South Dakota, November 1890 – January 1891.
Next came World War I, the great depression which I’ve written about in earlier posts and World War II where some of our family members fought, were injured or killed while fighting for their country. By the end of the war, shell shock had entered the mainstream vocabulary, covering myriad symptoms including paralysis, blindness, tremors, nightmares and anxiety. Many service members who were said to be suffering shell shock probably had what we would today identify as post-traumatic stress disorder. Looking back at my great-grandfather’s demeanor, I would say he suffered from PTSD. He was seldom very happy, and often demanded quiet or total silence, especially from young children. In fact, he moved out of his home and into the “Old Soldier’s Home,” in Washington, DC, leaving his wife to live with my grandfather Robert Gideon Ford and his family. Grandpop, as we called him, visited on weekends only until his death in 1961 at age 97. He was the next to last survivor of those men who fought in the Indian Wars.
The Invasion of Italy was fought September 3-16, 1943, during World War II (1939-1945). My maternal Uncle John Austin Ford was there having enlisted in the U.S. Army immediately following high school graduation. He was only 19. During the course of the invasion, Allied forces sustained 2,009 killed, 7,050 wounded, and 3,501 missing while German casualties numbered around 3,500. My uncle John was one of those wounded. Unfortunately, he lost his left eye. Following his injuries, he was awarded the Bronze Star, and Purple Heart Medals for his valor during the battle.
My paternal great-uncle Seaman First Class Frank Embrey Boling gave his life fighting in the Pacific theater aboard the USS Johnston Destroyer. His ship was overcome by Japanese destroyers and sunk on October 25, 1944. He was posthumously awarded the exceedingly rare Purple Heart Medal.
Many of the men who fought in the wars I’ve mentioned here went on to be employed as craft- and tradesmen. My paternal and maternal grandfathers and uncle were carpenters, cabinet makers and “steamfitters.” They worked in union shops as journeymen, apprentices and helpers in the Heating, Air Conditioning, Refrigeration and Process Piping shops, known today as HVAC shops.
I grew up in the post-World War II era that would be called a “traditional family.” a family support system that involves two married individuals providing care and stability for their biological offspring. This traditional family has long been under attack. Fathers’ roles have been minimized and God’s handiwork ignored or even rejected. This blog is intended to celebrate our men, past and present, equitably the way our mothers have been revered.
My father, husband, one of my brothers, two of our sons, and our son-in-law, after high school or the military entered the printing industry. This industry is almost defunct today due to the invention of computers and printers. My youngest brother was the last to leave the trade due to medical issues. All but one of these men’s careers was either supervising men, running the printing presses, tending the rolls of paper and ink, or in their early days jogging the books that came off the presses. It was feast or famine at these companies. Long hours when the work was coming in, to lay-offs for days or weeks at a time when it wasn’t. Our eldest son still works at a printing firm, but he got a degree as an engineer. He’s rare in his field, because he can analyze the issues with presses and/or the crews running them, and apply fixes to keep the work moving. If the printing company closes, he’s created a new career for himself as an engineer in most any industry.
One of our sons is naturally generous and gifted. From auto mechanic, to plumbing, wood craftsman, and farmer, there is no task too big or too small when it comes to helping and supporting his family members. He’s also among one of the best outdoorsmen and food grillers I know.
And today, I also reflect back on all those talented men in our family who have given us music and song as a profession or vocation: my son-in-law Brian who started his successful entertainment business upon leaving printing. Crow Entertainment is rated one of the best DJ and photo booth services around. Blessed be my singer/drummer brother Frank, his eldest son and his wife, Brandon (singer/songwriter, guitarist and banjo player) and Mary (singer), my eldest son Bobby and his music ministry at church, and his son Joey who also is a drummer and on active duty in the military.
So on this Father’s Day, let’s honor those who have worked so hard and diligently to provide for their loved ones and maintain close family ties while pursuing their dreams. I love you all!