Sunday, May 2, 2010

In Memory Of My Father, On What Would Have Been His 88th Birthday

In memory of my dad William W. Dunwell on what would have been his 88th Birthday...

Our Dad was an inventor, and entrepreneur. My nephew Walter/Buddy Jr. put it perfectly. He said, "Grand Pop, created the businesses, and then he got Grammy to run them."

In 1958, he created Bud's Snack Bar that sat on the corner of Rt. 22 and St. James Avenue in Pohatcong Township, which is where the Pohatcong Mall sits now. In fact the snack bar was a little toward Rt 22 from Ruby Tuesdays. He and his brother Dick built it, next to Budd Burgstresser's gas station. Dad would also take weekly trips to the now defunct Nazareth Auction to purchase potatoes, and other produce that he sold in front of the snack bar.

When we lived on Williams Street in Alpha, he made apple cider, wreaths, grave blankets, and along with produce sold them from the back of his 1959 Ford pick up truck. I can remember going along with him through Delaware Heights, and running up to the doors of the houses exchanging the wreaths for money.

In 1963 we moved to the corner of E. Central Avenue and Third Ave/Rt. 519 in Alpha, and he opened up the Alpha Luncheonette. It was a grocery store, complete with a penny candy case and fresh sliced luncheon meat, as well as a luncheonette with a jukebox, booths, and cheese steaks. We sold ice cream, milk shakes, soda, and out front produce.

Then about a year later he and our brother Buddy started Dunwell Tool and Machine in the garage. By then we had three businesses going all at once.

I had mentioned earlier that Dad was an inventor. If you are a lady and wear a bra, then you have touched a mechanism that my Dad invented. He worked for Sobel Metal Products in Easton, PA at the time, and Dad came up with an idea for a sliding device to shorten or lengthen a bra strap. Dad created the Die piece and Bestform Bras bought the idea. For all of his ingenuity he received his regular weekly paycheck.

All of Dad's co-workers said that he was the best tool and die maker/machinist that they had ever met. He even took a Metallurgy class at Lafayette College. He was a union organizer, and I can remember once he went out of the house wearing a nice white shirt and tie, and came home covered in blood as union busters beat him up.

When I was around two or three he built us one of those merry go rounds that you push off with one foot, and climb aboard as it twirls around. Every kid in the neighborhood hung in our back yard, and all of us had one worn out sole on our shoes. Later when we lived on Seventh Avenue in Alpha, he and our brother Buddy built an in the ground swimming pool using roofing paper. They dug the hole, layered the paper criss-cross, sealing the edges together, built a pump, and we had a real swimming pool, that doubled as an ice skating rink in the winter.

In 1975 Dad, Buddy, and Uncle Dick built a ranch home from a Miles Home Kit, over the hole where we once had fun swimming and skating. By Christmas 1976 the house was finished, the old house that sat in front of it facing Seventh Avenue was torn down. All of this was accomplished by our entire family while all three men held down full time jobs.

Our dad grew up in a father-less home, with an extremely stern mother. His dad abandoned the family of five during the depression. He entered the Civilian Conservation Corp to help his mother feed the family. He can remember eating lard on bread for dinner. His favorite Christmas memory as a child was when the Mogavero family who had a store in Phillipsburg at the time brought Dad's family a box of food, that had the best tasting figs he had ever eaten.

I can remember Mom telling us that she was set up on a blind date with our dad, for a double date with friends. He dated her for several months before he even kissed her. When we were kids and playing in the attic we stumbled upon a box that held love letters that he had written to our mom while he was away in the Navy. They were sweet, and he kept mentioning how much he missed her and our older brother Buddy who was just a baby. We saw a side of him we rarely saw.

As he grew older he was quiet, and he was extremely mannerly.He became quite a gardener in the late seventies, and even built a portable green house that could be wheeled like a wheel barrel into the garage at will. It was large enough to walk into, and was about eight feet long and four feet wide. He later gave it to an Indian man that worked with him at Lehigh Tool.

During the eighties he started making homemade candy, pickles, sauerkraut, and baking bread, cream puffs, and danish. He actually sold them to a restaurant on Center Square in Easton, PA.

My dad was often accused of having his head in the clouds, dreaming of the next great idea or invention. His successes in life were never measured by money.

One might think that the money value of an invention constitutes its reward to the man who loves his work. But... I continue to find my greatest pleasure, and so my reward, in the work that precedes what the world calls success." Thomas A. Edison

Our dad really made life interesting for us. He was the best dad he could be, especially since he had no dad while growing up during the depression. He was intelligent, honest, and loved animals, especially his cats.