He was a giant. Figuratively, if not literally. My old man probably stood about 5'9" in his stocking feet. But even when he was dying of cancer, when his voice boomed — you listened.
I don’t know how he did it, managing to keep a roof over the heads of his wife and seven active and hungry kids (born in the span of 12 years). He was a maintenance worker at Alcoa in Bettendorf, Iowa when I first recall knowing him. He also worked a couple overnights a week at the Sweetheart Bakery in Clinton, where we lived, the benefit from that being there would usually be a bag of donuts and sweet rolls on the kitchen table when we got up on Saturday morning.
He was a tough guy. He was from the wrong side of the tracks. My mother’s parents were horrified when this hoodlum with the t-shirt with the pack of Chesterfields rolled up in the sleeves and his tight, hip-hugger jeans with the cuffs rolled up came down to the nice part of town to ask their daughter out. He spoke not a word, except to ask, “Marl here?” My grandfather and uncle Herb once decided not to answer him until he spoke a complete sentence to them. I’m not sure if he ever did.
They met in 1949. It was love at first sight that Dad almost ruined by his location for a first date. He took her to the Lyons Theater to watch a Three Stooges festival. Okay, even by today’s standards, that’s pretty dumb. Nobody likes the Stooges more than I do — but a first date? With a girl? Girls hate the Stooges!
But, surprisingly, there was a second date, then a third, and so on. And on June 17, 1950, John Schmalfeldt and Marilynn Hanger became man and wife.
Oddly enough, the first kid didn’t come along until 1952. That was my sister, Cindi. Then in 1953, Jack popped in. In early 1955, it was me and Bob — two for the price of one. Joe joined us in 1957, Becki in 1962, and I think I have a sister who was born in 1964, but she wants nothing to do with this family anymore so to hell with her.