108 years ago — birth date of Jabez Hanford O’Kelly. A great father, husband, and craftsman of his trade.
He didn’t like anything to do with theater. Never attended or credited any of my performances. Never went to movies.
When Mom wanted to go see Gone With The Wind — it was she and I who went. Jabez had no interest. Can’t recall, in my days at home, his ever going near a theater. He wasn’t interested in church or music, either. Performances of theater, dance, movies, speakers — almost anything that had to do with university graduates. When I told him I was going to go to college — he loudly proclaimed NO YOU ARE NOT. YOU’RE STAYING HOME TO WORK WITH ME AND LEARN A CRAFT. It was our first almost fight–and only one. Yes, I had to stand my ground and tell him YOU’RE WRONG, DAD. I’M GOING. SOMEHOW, I’M GOING TO COLLEGE. His response, with fist in the air — YOU’LL GET NO HELP FROM ME. SO GET OUT!!! — Alas, he toned-down a bit once I was definitely out, in college, and doing it entirely on my own. So far as I can remember, he never in his life changed these views on theater, performance, and university graduates. He grew-up in the WVUniversity town of Morgantown. Seems two of his brothers had some involvement with theater–movie-house-
management and vaudeville. But something turned him-off to college types — and exchanges with such in both Oklahoma City’s Douglas Aircraft and later, back in WV, with Dunbar Glass Corp — where he’d finally had it with University types and quit to form his own sign-painting business. In my last two years of High School, I worked with him to get the business started….for no pay. Fortunately, I had other paying jobs — from which I had saved $125. With those funds, I left home for college.
Some years later, I wrote a poem– DADS ARE NOT PERFECT BUT, which is on page 58 of ALTARPIECES. I framed it and gave it to him for his birthday — think it was his 75th. It had lines such as — “…you were shown how not to fall, To rhyme fight and right and might, And standing tall give your all. — Oh, how through the years of growing tall, One Father’s bell towered above them all,
To sound a name and signature the way. . . .Painting with a full brush to ‘self,’ as he, Life’s pealing, resplendent, and plumb-bobbed sea.” Ahhh, I still have the “plumb-bob” we used to “plumb” many a sign. —
When sister. Sharon, who came into the picture 11 years after me—and about same after I had graduated from WVU—decided to use the Jabez Hanford O’Kelly’s name to name a WVU Theater-Performance endowment fund( from her monies and WVU theater degree, of course ), I was suddenly awake in this era of “fake news.” She says Dad would be proud. I think he’d have a good laugh.
Happy Birthday Dad