Memories of my Father, Rees Dubois Gorton

by Patricia Gorton Black

Dad as I remember him during my teenage years.
Cesare Pavese once said, “WE DO NOT REMEMBER DAYS, WE REMEMBER MOMENTS,” and such it is with memories I have of my father. Of the comfort I received from him by just sitting on his lap, my head against his chest, trying to dull the pain of ear aches time after time and by being distracted from that pain by listening to him wheeze when he breathed. He did not fuss over me or stroke my hair as he was a very undemonstrative person, but I felt safe.

I have heard that Dad played the piano for the silent movies held in the old Idanha Theatre, of course that was before my time, I do remember him belting out the tune “Turkey In The Straw” on the piano in the living room and I tried to tap dance to the music as it became faster and faster. Dad had beautiful hands much suited to piano playing. His hands were always soft and he kept his nails clean and clipped even though he did a lot of yard work and took care of the animals we had at one time. I remember we had a cow and pigs and chickens for him to look after. In Grandmother Gorton’s home that later became our home after Grandmother died, we had a small cellar and in that cellar Dad and mother salted down the port with the most interesting salt, then mother fried the rind to make krinkles which were very tasty even if they were not good for us. Dad and mother had a garden and I have a picture of him standing amidst the big plants.

We had a small radio in the living room and Dad would sit in his arm chair and listen to the broadcast of baseball games some Saturday afternoons. He was a big baseball fan. Mother and Dad went to Ohio to see about an operation for an aneurysm for Dad that Clay explains in his paper. On the way home they stopped in Kansas City to see us. Dad wanted to see the New York Yankees ball team play Kansas City. Dick was unable to get off work to take them and I couldn’t find a baby sitter, se we put them in a cab and sent them on their way alone to see the game. I think he really enjoyed it. I also have a picture of Dad and Mother in our apartment in Kansas City holding their two grandchildren, Mike and Kim. That is the last time I saw my father and am grateful for this particular picture remembrance of him.

Mother and Dad with Kim and Mike in Kansas City, 1955
When Mike was a toddler we spent a summer with Mother and Dad during Dental School break. Dad was especially fond of Mike and was so gentle and good to him. He would put him in the car and take him down to watch the trains go by. Mike in turn would take some pots and pans and bang them behind the chair where Dad was dozing and kind of startle him awake. Dad usually was a last minute Christmas shopper but the year he died his only Christmas purchase was a little white kitten toy for Kim.

He liked the same things to eat day after day. For breakfast he had bacon and fried eggs and toast and coffee. Peanut butter on crackers with a slice of cheese and a glass of milk for lunch. Dinner was meat of some sort with accompaniment. He did not like or eat lettuce or green vegetables. The Doctor said the lack of vegetables, especially green ones, contributed to his illness. So from that time on he changed his diet to a more varied one that included eating lettuce. I didn’t hear him complain if he did since we were in Kansas City. The doctors told Dad in Ohio that blood had congealed around the aneurysm and if he didn’t lift heavy things etc. he would be okay for a time. Dad however, if I remember what I was told, took to running up the court house steps which was not a good thing to do.

I remember when mother went to California to visit her parents when I was about nine, Dad did the cooking for us kids. He fixed hamburgers several nights in a row. I remember he browned the buns on the coal stove top and cooked the hamburgers to perfection. I thought they were the most wonderful things in the world.

Dad always had a package of “Nibs” in his pocket, you know, small pieces of licorice in a little flat box, and because he smoked all his life practically, he relied on “Sen Sens” to make his breath a little better. I would pester him for a treat and usually got it. You might say I grew up loving “Nibs” and “Sen Sens”. At one point in time we three children had mumps at the same time. They were painful. Dad brought us strawberry pop from town as a surprise. If you have ever had the mumps I would not recommend drinking strawberry pop!! It is just too much of a surprise for the salivary glands.

Funny what “moments” one remembers, isn’t it?

One Christmas we three children had some childhood disease, measles or chickenpox where we were quarantined. Uncle George, who did not have a job at the time, was quarantined in and Dad was quarantined out. Dad stayed with his oldest brother, Henry. I remember on Christmas Eve Dad came to see us but he had to stand on the porch and look through the window, so there we were, looking through the window at each other. It was rather sad. Henry came along also dressed as Santa Claus, though I think we all knew better.

Dad may have disciplined Clay but he rarely did Gayla or me. He left that up to mother. I have never heard my father raise his voice to any of his children or to my mother. Mother spanked us when we needed it but not Dad. If his voice became “stern” we knew we had better make ourselves scarce. Dad worked nights at the Pool Hall during the depression years and we didn’t see him much.

When I was a little older Dad would after dinner walk down town to the Pool Hall and play pinochle with the boys quite often. Mother read to us a lot during that time. It must have been hard on her not to have his companionship and help with the family during those years.

Dad would walk to work in the mornings to the Court House where he was Assistant County Clerk and Auditor for Caribou County, Idaho. Then he would walk home for lunch, eat and take a nap before walking back to work, and then he walked home after work. Then after dinner and a short nap he would walk back to town to the pool hall and then home again. Everyone walked in those days and some more than others. Dad wore false teeth and when he napped he removed them, and also snored. When he expelled his breath his lips would bubble sort of, and it made the funniest noise. W always laughed at the napping music he made.

When I was in the 7th or 8th grade, old enough to have friends over, I discovered they were afraid of Dad, at least not comfortable around him. Though he was the kindest man in the world he just didn’t communicate very well. A lot of the time he didn’t communicate at all. This would have been known as a generation gap.

Dad had a wonderful dry wit and I loved it. We used to sit around the dinner table and discuss “whatever.” That was when Dad communicated well. He would tell us tall tales and not crack a smile, we always believed him. We had some great discussions as well. One “Moment” I remember was when he talked about moving to Alaska. I have no idea what he planned on our doing there, but I thought it would be a great adventure. I could even go to college in Nome, probably the coldest place on earth!

Mother and Dad
He and mother made a great team. Mother was so outgoing and a people person, Dad was so quiet and basically shy. I think he depended on mother to do all the talking in a social setting and hen he wouldn’t have to. Even so Dad was very intelligent and he and his twin brother Ralph attended college at Logan and he once told us they had been kicked out of a lot of colleges, which I think is another tall tale. Dad was not a very tall man. He was listed as 5' 6" on his discharge papers from the 176 Infantry, Idaho National Guard, July 8, 1922. His father, George Washington Gorton, was also listed as 5' 6" on his discharge papers from the Pennsylvania Militia on the 17th of June 1863. Dad and his twin brother Ralph were definitely not identical twins. Ralph was at least half a head taller than Dad. Ralph was Deputy Treasurer for Caribou County and Dad and Ralph worked in the same office at the court house.

I remember Dad bringing home statistic that would appear in the daily newspaper once a quarter or so. He and mother proof read the material. Mother would read the amount to him and he would check it off to make sure it was correct.

I attended Business School in Salt Lake after a year at BYU and was totally out of it when it came time to balance books. On one trip from Salt Lake I asked Dad to explain it to me, which he did again and again, and I still didn’t understand it. In exasperation he said, “Pat, I don’t understand why you can’t understand bookkeeping. He was so knowledgeable about it that it was really easy for him but not for me. It was years after that I learned bookkeeping and how to set up our own business bookkeeping accounts. On another occasion while attending business school I had returned home for the week and very homesick, Dad was sitting on the couch and I went over and sat by him and then put my head on his lap and he stroked by hair. That was a very special thing and the closest I had been to my father. That was a nice memory.

Fishing the Snake River
Dad loved to fish and was a great fly fisherman. The only vacations I can remember taking as a child were to Snake River where the old saw mill used to be. We would spend the weekend and camp out in a tent. I would play on the river bank collecting river rocks while Dad and probably Mother would fish. After I married Dick and he was working for Monsanto Chemical Company for the summer, Dad set Dick up with fishing gear and Dick would go fishing. Dad made a lot of fun of him because his catch was not “the big ones.” When he did catch a fish of good size Dad asked him how much the river went down when he pulled it out. Such was his dry humor!

When Dick proposed marriage to me I told him he would have to ask my father for my hand. He reluctantly did and said he didn’t know who was the most embarrassed, him or my father. I thought it was great fun.

Another “moment” of remembrance was when Dick and I were living in Provo and I was pregnant with Mike. I had gained about 19 lbs total in my pregnancy. I was eight months along when I went from Provo to Soda Springs to stay with Mother and Dad as Dick was due to go back to Kansas City to school shortly after Mike was to be born. Well, the point (moment) I am leading up to was when Dad saw me eight months pregnant his remark was “Pat, you are so thin!” I thought that was a good joke and more of his dry humor, except I saw concern on his face and knew it was for real.

Well, these are my personal memories of my father, and if he were to read this he would be very embarrassed.

Pat

Our Wedding Reception:
L to R: Dick's Mother Lottie, Dick and myself, Dad and Mother, September 1950