June 19th…“DID YOUR FATHER HAVE A MISCHIEVOUS SENSE OF HUMOR? DID HE USE THAT STINKERISM TO HELP TEACH YOU SOMETHING ABOUT CUSTODIAN WORK?”
Our family’s new life in Washington State was a lot like the title of a popular television show from the 1960’s called, “A Family Affair”. In 1967, since we knew very few people in our new surroundings, we did almost everything together…….Dad, Mom, sister Candi and myself. When Dad became Head Custodian at Glenwood Heights Elementary School (as it was known then), we, as a family, would come down to help Dad complete his cleaning chores quite often after finishing our schooling for the day. On Friday afternoons, especially, Mom would load sister and myself into the car and away we’d drive down to Dad’s school to help clean the old-fashioned slate chalkboards in all the classrooms. Afterwards, Sis and I would then have the fun task of running those “dirty” chalk erasers over the spinning brush vacuum machine to clean the chalk erasers for the same procedure on the coming Friday evening. Our “payment” for helping Dad was usually some delicious Double Delight Fudge ice cream bars and be allowed to play basketball in the school gym till it was time to drive home.
I’m not sure if it was part of Daddy’s Norwegian bloodline, or just the proclivity of his own gene pool, but that father of ours LOVED to have fun…….whether that was a sly word used, a sneaky toy to embarrass you when you weren’t expecting it, or just his playful attitude of GOTCHA!!! He seemed to get the biggest giggles when the joke or trick played was at the expense of someone else and I was about to find THAT out, first hand!!!
During his first nine months, as Head Custodian of that school, Dad had to learn a trade that was completely opposite of what he had done in farming all those decades in his past. By the time Summer rolled around in 1968, our father had mastered many of the procedures that he’d need to clean and repair Glenwood Hts. Elementary for the coming school year of 1968-69. One of those new, learned skills was how to operate what’s called an electric, rotary-powered floor scrubber/polisher. At the squeeze of that T-shaped handle on the buffer, the big electric motor would spin the round, clutch plate at about 175 revolutions per minute (or RPM). A circular black scrub pad could be used for stripping wax off the floor, but, in the case of today’s story, a circular, horsehair bristle brush was to be used to polish the newly waxed hall floors.
Being now a young buck of 14 years of age, I was informed that it was to be a family expectation to help Dad with the daily Summer cleaning of the school building at his new job. Every Summer’s morning, father and I would shake ourselves outta bed, fix us a lunch and then jump into his 1967, new white Chevy II Nova for the trip down to his school. After the general school cleaning had been accomplished that Summer, Dad applied a number of layers (called “coats”) of wax on the very long hallway floors. In those days, the floor wax was more of a natural carnauba and softer than today’s varieties. As a result of that soft wax on the floor, a horsehair polishing brush on the old 1956 Clarke Floor Scrubber/Buffer would shine it nicely.
“Elliott”, said Dad, “It’s time to give me a hand here so I can get this floor polished. Come over here and start buffing that hall floor.” With a smirk and a grin, Dad stood back a safe distance, as I, with complete ignorance, grabbed hold of that T-handle on the buffer and squeezed the handle trigger to click the motor to the ON position. You’d think I just came out of the chutes at a rodeo on an insane bucking bronco horse as that floor machine came to life!!! My teenage arms wrestled that monster like it was a live creature “on the loose”. Sure enough, that crazy machine acted just like a runaway horse as it went KAHBLAM against the hall wall!!!! My eyes were as big as saucers at what had just happened in an instant and Dad was rolling with laughter to the point of almost “melting” down the wall, where he leaned, from his hysterics. I pulled the trigger handle and KAHPOW, it flew against the OTHER wall!
Our funny father was busting a gut laughing at his bewildered young son, and rightly so, since I had been given NO IDEA of how this machine was SUPPOSED to be run. When Dad’s laugh quota had been reached and when he saw that this teen-aged body of mine was completely exhausted from machine wrestling……then, and only then, did he begin to teach me how to properly run that rotary floor scrubber/buffer. In a small amount of time, I became proficient enough to be able to run the floor machine with just one hand. The hall floors were now shiny and so was my forehead from major sweating. But, even though I was the “victim” of Daddy’s teasing ways, it was, overall, GREAT FUN for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!