This question taxes me more than some of the others. Francis Leo Knott, my Father reenlisted in the US Navy in 1953 when I hadn’t yet reached my sixth birthday.
My parents never divulged the reason for settling in Beverly Manor, Illinois. We moved to a little house in 1953, the same year my Dad took his first sea assignment after the reenlistment. Once settled, I didn’t live anywhere else until I left home the year I graduated high school—1965.
Dad in the Navy
My Dad had several sea tours but always from two coastal cities. His ship homeported in either Norfolk, Virginia or San Diego, California. During the sea tours, my Dad had thirty-day leave periods that he spent with us in Illinois. Well, almost the thirty days since he had to travel to and from the base. Even with air travel, he could only manage twenty-eight days at most.
The Navy assigned him twice to Great Lakes Naval Base near Waukegan, Illinois. The first time he was a Recruit Company Commander. He was responsible for taking groups of recruits and shepherding them through basic training.
Dad was an instructor in the Electrician Mate’s course of study the second time stationed at Great Lakes. It was as described—he trained sailors in the skills needed to be an Electrician Mate. My Dad retired from the Navy with the second-highest enlisted rank, an Electrician Mate Senior Chief.
The tours at Great Lakes allowed my Dad to spend his thirty-day annual leave with us, plus many weekends. There were many of these weekends, but never enough.
So the answer to what Dad was like when I was young is mostly—gone.
With that said, let me speak to the times he was home. The way I would describe him at home was quiet but in charge of the house. He was the disciplinarian with a firm hand, very firm, but he was quick to hug and rarely to slap.
I wish I had detailed memories of him before he retired, but I don’t. My memories are after he retired, and I was the one coming home on leave from the Navy.
Dad was an excellent cook. His holiday meals were the greatest with turkey or ham, often both, his home-grown vegetables—green beans, potatoes, peas— jello fruit salad, pies, cake, and more. No one ever left the table hungry.
Several times over the years, Dad took me with him to run errands. The errands often ended with us sharing beers or sodas at a Sunnyand tavern. They were the most personal moments I had with him. We would have a beer and exchange stories about our work, argue over the Dodgers and Cubs, discuss current news, and more. I miss those one-on-one.
Mostly, I miss Dad.
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