From the Relief Society Magazine, June 1936 –
Father Has His Day
By E. Cannon Porter
Peter Clark tossed restlessly in his bed. He had lain awake all night. Nor did he feel inclined to turn on his bedside light and read as he did on other sleepless occasions. He had lost his job. He had held it all through the depression but was dismissed when things began to pick up.
As one of the oldest salesmen in the Travers furniture store he had been kept on, not only on account of seniority, but because he knew personally most of the old customers, who liked him.
Then old man Travers was found dead in his bed one morning and his sons proceeded to “modernize” the business. Not only did they do over the building, and augment the stock, but they installed whipper-snapper young salesmen and let the old hands go.
Peter was still dazed by the unbelievable experience of being thrown out of work when past sixty years of age.
Toward morning he thought of the woman in the Bible who complained of her poverty.
“What hast thou in the house?” the widow was asked.
“Only a jar of oil,” she replied.
“Go, and it shall be sufficient for thy needs.” and it was.
So Peter wondered what he had. There were those few shares of stock that he had bought from a fellow employee who was in trouble. He had taken them to help Jenks out. Since then they had lain in his bank box. He had thought idly that they might pay for his funeral. Possibly they might bring a few hundred dollars – enough to barely keep them for a few months.
Oh, yes, he had his home; paid for, luckily. Now he thanked his stars that his family had stayed in their substantial cottage in the mid-section of town and not been stampeded into a new house, far out in a more fashionable section, with its attendant debt.
In his wife Maggie he had a true friend, a loyal helpmate – that alone made him rich. Their daughter Daisy was engaged to a young sheepman; they were waiting for business to pick up so they could be married. Stanley, his older boy, with a wife and two small children, eked out an existence as an electrician in a small town. Young Richard was still in high school; he had hoped to send him to college; the boy had a real bent for science.
Well, he would sell the stock. With this thought he fell into a troubled sleep just as a sickly gray filtered through the east windows.
When he arose he cleaned out his desk because he had nothing else to do. A folder caught his eye. It was from a firm that manufactured store fixtures and office equipment. With it was a letter saying that with the awakening in business, assisted by the government’s financing, many firms took advantage of the conditions to improve their places. They offered him a position as salesman, partly on a commission basis. They added that he had been recommended to them as of a pleasant personality, with genuine integrity.
He had pigeonholed the communication, without thought that he would ever lose the work that he had. Now he wrote out a careful acceptance, with a request for further information.
He felt better already.
When he went down to the bank to get his stock certificate he met a wealthy acquaintance in the vault. This man counted out a stack of gilt-edge securities. He looked worried and even regarded poor Peter with suspicion. Clark, who had helped this financier secure a political office, thought ruefully, “I wouldn’t change places with him today, as bad off as I am!”
After he had converted his stock into cash – it was a little more than he expected; the market had recovered – he decided to invest it at once. He had such a small amount that he might as well give it away. So he sent his car to be overhauled by a capable young mechanic who was out of work. Clark felt repaid already by the boy’s bright look.
He dispatched a cashier’s check for fifty dollars to his son in Elton. With it was a brief note: “You say that if you had the money for some baby chicks, your wife Maud could attend to them at home, and this would eventually increase your income. Tell her that I stake her to a few hundred and I wish her success. – Father.”
When he returned home for dinner, a fragrant aroma wafted from the kitchen. The dining table was an ensemble in color: orange flowers, green salad, pink dessert. His faithful wife had taken special pains “to cheer Father up.”
“Come here, girls. I want to talk to you,” he called.
“Well, make it brief – the roast is almost done,” admonished his wife.
“Daisy,” he began, “how long would it take you to get ready for your wedding?”
“Why, I don’t know, father.”
“Well, it has just occurred to me that Rulon needs you now – worse than he will when his business picks up. You could help him. Anyway, you would be as well off as here – with me out of a job. Consult with him and see what you want to do.”
A happy flush overspread his daughter’s face. She knew with what impetuous joy her young fiance would greet the prospect.
Her father pulled out a roll of bills.
“Here is a hundred dollars to buy you some cloth. Consult with your mother and maybe she will help you sew it up.”
“Oh, Father!” His happy daughter threw her arms around his neck; then rushed to the telephone to get her prospective groom over long distance.
“Maggie,” he continued, “you remember when we were married thirty-five years ago we were too poor to go on a honeymoon? Well, we always meant to take a trip when we could afford it. I can’t offer much now that I’ve lost my position, but I want you to get some new clothes and come with me while I try to sell refrigerator cases to butcher shops. Will you?”
“I’ve got good clothes, Father. I don’t have to dress up to do that, but I’d love to go with you.” So Maggie went along.
The elderly pair traveled through the blossoming valleys of Utah, from the gorgeous-colored canyons of the south to the granary of Cache County in the north and over into the green sugar beet fields of Idaho.
While Peter talked renovation to the storekeepers of small towns, Maggie discussed Relief Society questions with their comfortable wives, and made many friends. Because he believed in his wares, Mr. Clark made his customers see the need of improvement if they were to successfully keep up with the times. The orders rolled in.
After a time they went home to celebrate Daisy’s wedding. She made a radiant and lovely bride in her simple, summery dress; and there was a great deal of happiness and laughter – all except for the ache in the hearts of parents when they part with adored children.
Young Rulon was jubilant that he did not have to wait for “prosperity to turn the corner” to claim his wife.
Two years later Peter held his grandson and namesake on his lap. His family had come to greet him on Father’s Day – beautiful with June sunshine. The chicken business had flourished and his daughter-in-law had brought “burnt offerings” in the form of spring fryers for the feast. The sheep industry was represented by a luscious leg of lamb.
“Do you remember, Father, two or three years ago, when you lost your job, and you took your funeral money and distributed it among us and we all thought that you had gone crazy?” asked Daisy.
“Maybe I – I – couldn’t afford a funeral!” said Father with a twinkle in his eye.
“No, I’ve often thought of what Judge Lane remarked: “When one door closes, two open.”
“Father cast a sop to fortune,” averred his daughter-in-law. “You remember that figure in the Japanese garden that all the people threw their coins to – quarters, dimes, coppers – till they covered the base of the statue? An Oriental explained to me that to gain you must first give – to start the law of supply to working.”
“It sounds to me more like bread cast upon the waters which has returned after many days,” claimed sensible Mother. “Like ships of grain sent to foreign ports, which return laden with silk, ivory, amber and spices.”
Later that evening, when the others had gone, and Mr. and Mrs. Clark sat alone upon the porch, he took her hand.
“Business is better than we anticipated. If it keeps up, after a while you can have a little new convenient house, Maggie. This place is rather large to keep up just for you and Richard and me.”
“Oh, no,” exclaimed Maggie hastily. “I couldn’t think of living anywhere else. I’ve been so happy here. And Mother planted the garden, she loved to work with the flowers. Strangers wouldn’t take care of her plants.”
“But I tell you what we could do, Peter. We might remodel it; throw the front and back parlors into one long living room. The dining room, with its paneled walls you could have for an office, which you need. The little porch, glassed in, would make a lovely breakfast room. When the children and grandchildren come to town, there would always be room for them to stay here. I couldn’t bear to have them go anywhere else.”
“You win,” murmured Father.