Working Dads Had Varying Degrees Of Cool

A common scene in movies and TV shows is when a parent — usually a dad — gets up in front of his kid’s classmates and explains what he does for a living. It’s usually handled as a comedy scene, and if he does something that’s perceived as cool, the kid basks in reflected glory. If not — well, you know the rest.

I’m not commenting on the right or wrong of it, or even whether it really happens that often in real life, but I’m pretty sure that we never did anything like that when I was growing up. However, I can remember the occupation of a lot of my friends’ dads, which would seem to indicate that it was something we did notice in those days.

My own dad spent most of his working life sorting mail on trains as they moved across the countryside. While on duty he wore a US Post Office badge and a gun — a remnant of earlier years when train robberies were still common — and I can still remember how I’d fudge a little when telling new kids about him. I’d just say that he worked for the government and carried a badge and a gun, then let them fill in the blanks.

My friends’ dads included one who managed one of the first supermarkets in our city, another who was a chemist, and one who was the owner of a moving and storage company. The most interesting dad (job-wise) was probably the guy who sold sewing machines at a department store, although watching him do a demonstration wasn’t the fun part.

He worked next to the shoe department, where they had one of those x-ray machines that you could stick your feet into and see your toe-bones. That was an irresistible attraction for kids. Of course, the machines were later banned due to safety concerns, but I just want to state that my toes have never fallen off in all these years.

Sarah Vaughan – “Nice Work If You Can Get It”

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