In Memory of Harry (Dad) Latherow
The average home in America cost between ten and twenty thousand dollars, a car around two thousand, and the average household income somewhere between two and five thousand dollars a year. A ten-pound sack of potatoes cost fifty cents, gas twenty two cents, and a postage stamp three cents. Dwight D. Eisenhower was President and it was 1955, a time when society valued the family unit, the vessel by which our morals and values are passed down to the next generation. My husband was turning two years old, the youngest of three siblings. Thankfully, the three cents for a stamp never deterred his father from writing home whenever he had to travel.
His father was an ironworker by trade and his mother a homemaker at the time. While material wealth came much later in life, it was those earlier years as a growing family that were their richest. Abundant in health, happiness, and optimism over the future, they worked long and hard hours to build a good life together. Block by block, they built their home on inner strength. Child by child, they built their family unit on unconditional love. It was the presence and power of that love that kept his mother, older sister and brother, and him healthy and happy whenever his father was away from home.
As an ironworker in the 1950s, Dad would at times have to travel to wherever the jobs were, be it somewhere close to home or several states away. In February of 1955, he was working on the Walt Whitman Bridge, spanning Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Working on steel hundreds of feet in the air was hard and dangerous, long before such safety measures as harnesses and lanyards. Days turned into weeks and weeks into months and the time away from his family grew lonesome. His only joy found in the letters he received from home, news from his wife of home and their children. His youngest son was beginning to talk, older son learning to write, and daughter soon driving, oh my! How could a father so far from home be the parent he hoped to be? How could he show them his love and concern? He needed to know of their daily activities and interests, and somehow connect as often as possible, be it by letter or even phone. It was 1955 and telephone calls would cost much more than letters. Remember Bell Telephone was still advertising how housewives could save time and money by using the telephone. At the time, letter writing would have to suffice.
With pencil to paper, Dad wrote each morning and each night to the love of his life, “Dear Darling, how are you and the children? I will wire you my paycheck today. I am wearing the flannel shirt you made me. How is the car running?” These were the lines within the letters that connected him to his family and home. He often wondered how his oldest son was doing in school and of his daughter in band, the both of them admittedly “wild as March hares.” How would he be able to enforce house rules so far away from home? What of his youngest, the little one just now talking, would a letter make him smile? Would a letter let him know that his Daddy was thinking of him? Yes, a picture letter would do, be it a drawing of some fishing scene, animal in the forest, or funny activity, and story to go along with it. That would be how he could connect with his children while away from home.
Over the years, Dad had written many a letter and drawn a hundred or more pictures of fish and birds, of animals both scary and cute, of funny little characters doing a variety of things, and of each of the children doing what they loved doing, be it fishing or learning to drive a car. They were pencil sketches at the end of his love letters to his wife and colorful crayon drawings for his youngest son. They were sent with love from a father trying to connect with his children across the many miles that so often separated them. Fanciful scenes of a tortoise and hare, fox in the woods, or boat on a river. Whatever story he could create that might bring a smile or cause them to ask, “What happened next, Daddy?”
Through all of his letters both long and brief and the countless drawings of fish and fowl, man and beast, another type of bridge was being built, a bridge of love and concern, spanning father and child. No matter the miles between them, each knew the love of a father who was more a part of their lives than some who were fortunate enough to work near their home. For love knows no boundaries, no miles, and no physical restraints. Connecting with our children is easy whenever love is present, be it in person, by telephone, or even by letter. Children, may you know the love of a parent, grandparent, guardian, or caregiver. Parents, may you know of their love in return, for love is that which bridges the two.
Letters from Dad
Author’s Unconditional Gift
Letters from Dad joyfully illustrates that the bond of love between a father and child cannot be broken by distance alone. Letters from Dad is a book for fathers and all those who want to make a real and lasting connection with children by discovering how one father working far from home was able to touch the heart and mind of his beloved children, even the littlest one who was just two years old. Letters from Dad is especially for those who travel or live apart from their children and want them to know that neither time nor distance is a barrier between them. Take a few precious moments to read Letters from Dad to your child, for it will surely form a more loving and lasting bond. For more on Letters from Dad, click here.
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