We moved to Florida when IBM started a facility there. Dad’s career needed a rotation through a “development lab” where he would understand what is involved in designing computers. It also brought some hands-on experience from customers and the “field” that ensured their products would solve a real problem. Other IBMers also transferred in, and Ken was Dad’s partner who came from North Dakota, complete with a box full of parts that used to be a 1952 MG. It was now in our garage, and I had hands small enough to be able to thread parts critical to the engine… and was laying upside down and backwards….
… and loving it. It was one of the many times that being small was actually an advantage. Most of my family are all accustomed to being different, and actually fitting in was frowned upon. You were expected to be your own person, make your own way, and most of all, be able to build things… together. My Dad’s father ensured his family made it through the depression in Wichita Falls by raising rabbits and tending a massive garden. His wife could whip up food that most restaurants couldn’t touch, to say nothing of her candy. My Mom’s folks similarly made it across the plains to settle in Lubbock to raise their family while farming and teaching at Texas Tech.
And buying things, while interesting, was less satisfying than getting your hands dirty repurposing/fixing/tweaking something to make it better than new. And while my attention to detail still could use improvement, there is something satisfying about saying “I did that”. We worked on cars, built rooms, did plumbing (badly), sifted rocks for a gravel drive. There was nothing more fun (and daunting) when I would call home and hear: “We got steak for the weekend…” which meant something big was happening, and you would be scraping paint, dirt, or blood off your hands by Sunday night.
You met David a bit earlier this week shocked to see his Step-mother show up as his show Mother. The program was supposed to be all lip-synced, and as a budding 20-year-old, handsome guy whose parents were all singers, there was no way he was going to pass up this chance. He auditioned and convinced the management he could actually sing, and along with Shirley, theirs are the only voices of the actors you hear. His talent was real, and as the frontman for the band, he did most of the lead singing. With teens a new target demographic, the marketing muscle of the industry went into full swing…
He was on the cover of all of the Teen ___ magazines, and soon his wish to be a star had started to turn into a nightmare. He was chased by girls everywhere he went, and to try and get his image to change, he posed nude on the new publication that was just starting out, Rolling Stone. But even that did very little to dent the dramatic growth of his popularity. The 10 Partridge Family records, along with his own 5 solo efforts each sold well over a million copies. In 1974, one of his concerts had a gate stampede where over 800 people were injured with a young girl killed, which hastened his exit from touring and acting to focus on being “a musician”.
We had been working for months on rebuilding the MG bit by bit, with one last detail – what order do the cylinders of the engine fire in? We didn’t have a manual, and the internet at this point literally had 10 nodes total, and we weren’t one 😉 Dad was trying to figure it out by turning the engine over with his hands while looking as the pistons would rise and fall. His friend was mostly lost, but in my position, I noticed 4 numbers on the side of the engine block…. 1, 4, 2, 3. “Hey Dad, what are these numbers?”
There is nothing more satisfying than actually seeing something you have put together run. We put the distributor in, now oriented to fire in that order, and … she fired right up. A little rough, having not run in now 10 years, but nothing a run on the freeway wouldn’t Heal. With the critical breakthrough, we called it a night… with a Dr. Pepper, and big smiles all around. Looking back now, so much of my youth was spent in these exercises of studying, building, fixing, re-fixing things… applied wonder with my Dad, Grandfathers, Uncles, and eventually as I got older, my friends.
So much of our society is now disposable – why fix it, just buy a new one. And it can be delivered to you in 4 hours or less… and, I wonder about what that will do to our ability to wonder. As I am now a grandfather, I am already starting to contemplate things I can “do” with that next generation, to get their hands dirty, to tear something apart, to paint something – including their shoes by accident. Cardboard boxes have gone from trash to Castles, and toilet paper tubes into binoculars for Bear Hunt, and rock ledge a Stage to sing from.
As I was researching David, I found his parents had been gone more most of his youth. It was also clear that when he had the chance to get his “hands” into the business with his step-Mom, it was a different form of what I had experienced. Shirley stepped in to assist him in the studio, and likely they built their life long bonds side by side in the studio, finding their own “firing order”. And we are the beneficiaries of some great music and memories we have, but also woven through them I suspect is Healing for them both that you see as real smiles in their music video’s…
This last year, I have rediscovered the Healing power of building things – even if I am not great at it. The journey reminds me of those times, and those people who took time to instill wonder in me. Who took the time to wonder what would help you grow, develop, and be the person you now are? Where do you need to get your hands dirty in this new year full of different opportunities? And what Healing can that provide for you… and others? One of their biggest hits is a sequence of numbers also – and anybody from this era can tell you what it means… and probably their first home phone number which will also sound odd. Mine was ADams 5 4673. David Partridge/Cassidy’s home number – Echo Valley 2 6809.