I was raised listening to classical music and 60s folk rock, but the music my father loved was the rock-and-roll of the late 50s and early 60s. Dad graduated from high school in 1963; the music from 1959-1963 was his favorite.

Why didn’t he listen to this music?

Dad played guitar in high school. At least one yearbook has pictures of him playing and singing on stage. He played at talent shows, and possibly at other occasions. When I was young he played at family gatherings, singing those old songs that he loved.

(The song I most clearly remember him playing is “Running Bear”, an old Johnny Preston tune. I can remember a Thanksgiving at Uncle Norman’s house in Monitor, Dad seated in the living room bellering “Running Bear”, and a young Tony running naked through the house.)

Why didn’t he listen to this music?

At home we listened to Simon and Garfunkel, Peter Paul and Mary, Neil Diamond, and similar musicians. Sure, Dad liked their music, but he loved Buddy Holly. He never listened to Buddy Holly. He never played the Del Vikings. He didn’t listen to the radio stations that played their songs and he didn’t ever buy any of their records or tapes.

Why didn’t he listen to this music?

The film Stand By Me was released in 1986. When Dad first heard the sountrack he was giddy, his face glowed. He beamed. He told me a story about every song. (His favorite was “Come Go With Me” by the Del Vikings.)

It was obvious that he loved this music, so why didn’t he ever listen to it?

This is a photo of Dad singing for Norman’s family in the living room of the trailer house in which I was raised. My cousin Bob is the blond kid sitting on the arm of the couch. My cousin Nick is sitting to Dad’s right, and next to him sits Dad’s brother, Norman. Nick and I can’t figure out who the kid sitting behind Bob is.

The trailer house now serves as the office for Custom Box Service. The living room is now the “employee lounge” (such as it is). My office, where I sit now and type this, is in Mom and Dad’s old bedroom. Custom Box is nothing if not frugal.

Note the lovely goldenrod curtains and the stylish wood paneling. The entire trailer house, including my office, has this same wood paneling. I’ve lived with it my entire life. I’m sick of it. Above Norman’s head you can see that the ceiling is already water-stained, though the trailer house can be no more than five years old when this picture was taken. The trailer is thirty years old now and the ceiling has too many water stains to count.

Here are two of the songs that I remember my father singing (the latter of which, “The Prisoner’s Song”, is similar to the music featured on the popular O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack):

Running Bear
(J.P. Richardson)

Johnny Preston (Mercury 71474, 1959)

On the banks of the river
Stood Runnin’ Bear, young Indian brave
On the other side of the river
Stood his lovely Indian maid
Little White Dove was-a her name
Such a lovely sight to see
But their tribes fought with each other

So their love could never be

Runnin’ Bear loved Little White Dove
With a love big as the sky
Runnin’ Bear loved Little White Dove
With a love that couldn’t die

He couldn’t swim the raging river
‘Cause the river was too wide
He couldn’t reach Little White Dove

Waiting on the other side
In the moonlight he could see her
Throwing kisses ‘cross the waves
Her little heart was beating faster
Waiting there for her brave

Runnin’ Bear loved Little White Dove
With a love big as the sky
Runnin’ Bear loved Little White Dove

With a love that couldn’t die

Runnin’ Bear dove in the water
Little White Dove did the same
And they swam out to each other
Through the swirling stream they came
As their hands touched and their lips met
The ragin’ river pulled them down
Now they’ll always be together

In that happy hunting ground

Runnin’ Bear loved Little White Dove
With a love big as the sky
Runnin’ Bear loved Little White Dove
With a love that couldn’t die

  The Prisoner’s Song
(Guy Massey)
Vernon Dalhart (1925)

Oh! I wish I had someone to love me
Someone to call me their own
Oh! I wish I had someone to live with
‘Cause I’m tired of livin’ alone

Please meet me tonight in the moonlight
Please meet me tonight all alone
For I have a sad story to tell you
It’s a story that’s never been told

I’ll be carried to the new jail tomorrow
Leaving my poor darling alone
With the cold prison bars all around me
And my head on a pillow of stone

Now I have a grand ship on the ocean
All mounted with silver and gold
And before my poor darlin’ would suffer
Oh! that ship would be anchored and sold

Now if I had wings like an angel
Over these prison bars I would fly
And I’d fly to the arms of my poor darlin’
And there I’d be willing to die.


On 08 March 2002 (09:39 PM),
Dane said:

In the same vein, why doesn’t my dad like anything?

My dad can be a voluminous reader. He reads quickly and has good retention. He does read for pleasure. But he doesn’t buy anything to read for pleasure. He reads the paper and magazines. Very occasionally (I can remember ONCE — the Joy Luck Club) he will get a book for a plane trip.

When you ask him what he likes to read, he answers, “Anything.”

I have finally managed to find stuff he actively dislikes. I gave him copies of Copeland’s Microserfs and also Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49. He didn’t finish either and described them as “weird.”

So I know he has limits.

I don’t understand why he doesn’t actually buy books for himself to read when he clearly enjoys reading. I don’t understand why he won’t admit to liking any particular genre or style of book. It’s a mystery.

On 08 March 2002 (09:41 PM),
J.D. said:

I agree that this is strange. What is it that caused our fathers to behave like this? Is it something generational?

On 08 March 2002 (09:46 PM),
Dane said:

I dunno. It may have something to do with their ages. I think your dad was (technically) a boomer, too, but at the same time I get the impression he didn’t “partake” of the boomer culture in general, and neither have my parents. They were far too “straight laced” — they graduated from college around 1967, but it was a Lutheran college and women weren’t allowed to wear pants. Stuff like that.

On 18 April 2002 (09:27 PM),
Nota Dad said:

Mr. Dane,

Don’t know what is meant by “(technically) a boomer, too”, but if da doofy dad did da grad in 1963, he was likely born during that wwII thing and no way a boomer, and, I can tell you, spent his formative years experiencing things in a different way than the multitudes who followed did. Herein is probably also a clue to why he likes to experience the music and books the way he does.
Now I go try out Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49.

On 01 December 2002 (11:14 PM),
Ron said:


The other person in the picture is Steve Grover, the first foster child my parents had. This picture would have been taken in 1974.

On 03 March 2003 (10:56 AM),
Sandi said:

1963 was a great year to graduate, and I am sure that somewhere, his high school, like ours, is planning a 40th reunion……who remembers the songs from 1959-1963??? Unfortunately, our committee to find these songs, is brain dead! Help!

On 28 March 2003 (04:58 PM),
Teresa said:

i would greatly appreciate any pictures on Running Bear either on his own or with White Dove, I’m really desperate, please help

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