Celebrating Father’s Day with a story for my dad about our 1950’s bomb shelter.   MUSICA?  But of course.

This is my dad. Lots of you know him because he reads this blog all the time and leaves wonderfully helpful and instructional comments we all enjoy reading.  My dad, as I’ve often told him, is the smartest person I’ve ever known (but don’t tell Joe).  He has the perfect common-sense advice for every problem.  He was my daily “fix” the whole time I was writing our book this last winter; he kept me going with the most positive encouraging words.   His interests range far and wide, from the garden to the kitchen.  He has the happy gene and life holds unending interest for him.  In this photo above he’s in the kitchen of my first little house on the island, demonstrating how to keep from crying while cutting up onions.

I thought I would tell a family story to celebrate Father’s Day.  It’s kind of long, and no one was taking pictures during it, but I dipped into my mom’s photo albums to give you a general idea of the times.  Other members of my family might remember this story differently ~ it comes from my ten-year-old point of view, but I did my best to tell it like it was. 

So here we go . . . step into the way-way back machine with me while I set the scene: the year is 1957, I’m ten, the oldest of six children (two more are still to come).  My mom is twenty-seven and my dad is thirty-two.  At this time in our history, in case you are too blissfully young to remember, there was an arms race going on between the United States and Russia. There was much anxiety around the country concerning the threat of nuclear war. Little baby boomers were getting under their desks at school to practice for the emergency.  In 1957, President Eisenhower’s administration had begun promoting the building of home bomb shelters. My dad along with millions of others, took up the challenge.

My dad was always making something for our geranium-colored house in the San Fernando Valley in Southern California. As more children arrived, he would add on bedrooms, enlarge the kitchen, plant fruit trees, put in brick flowerbeds, pour cement for walkways and patios.  He built a brick barbecue with a fireplace in it where we could toast marshmallows and grill hamburgers.  He made me a dressing table for my room.  Extremely self-sufficient, he could make or fix anything and because of him, my four brothers can too.

Like everything he did, the bomb shelter he designed was truly a masterpiece of planning and organization.  We gathered around the table one night in our jammies while he spread out his drawings to show us how our cots would fold out from the walls, who would sleep where, including Nipper our dog; how we would cook, where we would keep the peanut butter, the drawer for our games, Candy Land, and Parcheesi; a place for the yo-yos, jacks, slinkies, and coloring books.  We could keep our jammies under our pillows.  It was very exciting, the Coleman lantern we used for camping would be there, we thought it looked fun, that it would be like camping.

Every day my dad came home from his job at the telephone company and while his children watched the Mickey Mouse Club and our Mom made red Jell-O and tuna casserole with crushed potato-chip topping while feeding strained peaches to the baby, my dad went out back, behind the barbecue, and in the fading evening light, under the plum tree he began to dig the hole for the bomb shelter.

The dirt pile on our driveway grew and grew and was getting to be a problem.  Dad spread as much dirt around to the flowerbeds as he could, but the pile had grown so high on the driveway, he had to get a run at it with the wheelbarrow in order to dump the dirt over the top.  As you can see, my dad would go to any lengths to protect his family, but as he stood in the hole shoveling deeper and deeper he had begun to question this solution to the nuclear threat. All this digging was giving him plenty of time for contemplation.  Sometimes we would hear him singing out there, On the Wings of a Snow White Dove or The Tennessee Waltz.

I think this is my dad’s 30th birthday.

There was no way to hide this project from the neighbors, not that we tried, because of the pile of dirt.  Most of the houses on our street had as many children in them as ours did.  It was a neighborhood full of big families which made our summer night games of hide-and-go-seek pure bliss.  Our childhood circuses and plays had many actors with many talents; our sleep-overs took place in the backyard in flannel-lined sleeping bags, seven or eight kids on the back lawn looking up at the stars.  We had someone in our house the age of every kid on the street. Their parents had all been by to look at the hole, staring down into it thoughtfully.  The popular, oft-repeated joke was that Dad would be reaching China soon.

“Dad?” I said, one night at the dinner table, “If the bomb drops (so nonchalant and matter of fact), I told Karen she can come into the shelter with us, OK?”  I was sure that of course my best friend, who lived only two doors over and spent half her life at our house, would be welcomed with open arms.  I was just running it by him.

“Yeah,” chimed my nine-year-old brother Jim, “I told Kevin he could come too.”

“I don’t think so,” my dad said, buttering a piece of cornbread, “there’s not going to be room.”

We looked up at him in surprise.

“Have you two seen the hole?  We all have to fit in there.  There won’t be room for anyone besides our family.”

This was the first time it occurred to me how small that hole actually was.  Six feet by ten, and twelve feet deep.  At that time we were a family with six children, one dog and two adults.

“But, Jack,” my mother said thoughtfully from the other end of the table, “what if Karen or Kevin are here when it happens, won’t we just take them with us?”

I’m nodding, that makes sense.  I turn my eyes back to the other end of the table.

“I’ve been thinking about that,” my dad said, “what about Karen’s sisters?”  Karen had four sisters.  “What if they want to come in? What about the Burrough’s and the Pfennings?  Are we supposed to let them in too?  Shall we build a guest-room hole to go with it?  What do we do if the whole neighborhood comes down here and tries to get in with us?  It could be a riot,” he went on, “we might have to shoot them.”

WHAT?  The people at the table old enough to get the meaning of this gasped in alarm and beginning recognition of some sort of weird truth.  Jim stopped feeding Nipper under the table, Stephen quit gnawing on his spare rib; almost on cue, Paula started crying in her high chair, took her fat arm and shoved her bowl off onto the linoleum; we all looked at Dad.

Our dad went deer hunting every year; we saw him clean the gun; we knew he had a gun.  Was he kidding?  He was always kidding.

SHOOT  Karen and the Burroughs?  My head whipped to the other end of the table to my mother who was scooping scalloped potatoes onto Brad’s yellow Melmac plate.  She glanced up and her gaze landed on my dad with an audible thunk.  Shaking her head, she said what she always said, “Jaaa-aaack!”  When she was making a point, my mom would draw out his name meaningfully like smoke from a skywriting airplane.

In Arf and Arfy, the language she’d learned from the Little Orphan Annie comics when she was a kid and taught my dad so they could talk in front of us, she said, “Darfont tarfalk arfabarfout tharfis arfin fraffont arfov tharfa karfids.” (Trans: “Don’t talk about this in front of the kids.”)

I spoke arf and arfy, and this didn’t help.

My dad shook his head in an It’s not my fault way and used the salad servers to get some roughage for his plate.  “Pat,” he said, “it’s reality.  Do you think we are putting the entire neighborhood in there?  Has anyone here looked at that hole?”

Chastising him with a glance that bounced off the corner of his head like a frisbee, my mom looked around the table at the questioning children who were experiencing a slow intense dawning as we realized, that even though our mom was now fake-laughing at what she was assuring us was our dad’s “joke,” there was a possibility that we would be shooting the neighbors to protect the hole in which we would be living because the air outside was supposedly poison and the house was going to be gone.  This wasn’t at all like camping.

My face must have been reflecting the worry I was feeling.  Up until that time, my biggest fear was that I might accidentally take the powdery stuff off butterfly wings, or step on a bee, or that a dragon fly would zip my mouth closed as I believed they could do.

“Are there going to be dead people all over the ground when we come out?” I asked, having experienced the ultimate appetite suppressant.

“No, of course not.  Don’t think about it,” my mother said firmly, “This isn’t dinnertime conversation.” Her eyes bopped my dad again.  “No one is shooting anyone around here.  Your father is just joking.” She turned to me, “Eat your dinner honey, use your napkin, you haven’t had your starch.”

Like a balloon whizzing around the room, loosing air with that motor-boat noise it makes until it falls flat on the floor with a thwap, that’s the way our family enthusiasm went out of the bomb shelter project.  No words were needed, no family meeting was required, we were suddenly all on the same page.   It was fun while it lasted, but the project was over.  We were throwing our fate to the wind.

My dad would no longer dig the hole for the bomb shelter.  He  seemed good with it.  Now he was free to go dig the hole for the swimming pool, another story and a much more positive project for the whole neighborhood as it turned out.   He went into the living room to eat his ice cream on the floor in front of the TV, watching the Red Skelton Show; rolling with laughter at Clem Kadiddlehopper until tears streamed from his eyes.  This made us all feel much better.  When our dad laughed like that, which he did all the time; everything was right with the world.

Me and my daddio.

Happy Father’s Day Dearest Dad (Arfy Larfov Yarfou ) . . . and to all you Daddies out there and to all you children who have loved them.  xoxo

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340 Responses to THE BOMB SHELTER

  1. Gail says:

    Hi Susan,
    Love the photos and love the story too 🙂 They are bringing back memories.
    I am about your age and do remember those strange times in our country and the talk of “shelter” from the threat of nuclear attack. Thinking about it now it all seems so ridiculous. But back then it was very real indeed.
    Wishing a Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads in our lives. They make us all feel safe and secure by their strong presence. Have a great weekend everyone. xo

  2. deezie says:

    Hi Susan
    I just love that story, your Dad is Precious!!! I love how he loves life so much and enjoys it. What fun he must have been when you were little. My Dad is in heaven now, this is the first Fathers day without him. But what fun to remember when we were kids. Have a great Fathers day weekend Susan

  3. Samantha says:

    Oh Susan, what a story, filled with highs and lows. Your Daddio is one special man, and you are one special lady to find yourself in his heart and world. I can always count on shedding a tear or two. ( again) x

  4. Kimberly says:

    Thank you for that story!

    Made giggle and tear up!

    Happy father’s day!

  5. Shannon (Pennsylvania) says:

    Oh my, Sue. I am seven months older than you, and I remember those “duck and cover” days so well. My dad didn’t attempt to dig a bomb shelter because he was in the Air Force, stationed at the Pentagon, and we were living in the suburbs of Arlington VA in a big rented house. I remember practicing that duck and cover, hide under your desk and cover your head with a book routine at school. It never seemed that scarey, and the kids always giggled and wiggled and were glad that the drill shaved a few minutes off math class or geography class. What was scary was hearing my parents talk in snippets about it….they never talked about it when they thought my younger brother or I were within ear shot, but we heard it, anyway. I guess that was the first time I realized that there are some things that even our moms and dads are afraid of, and for me, that was terrifying.
    Happy Fathers Day sweet Jack. Thank you for being a wonderful, protective daddy, and thank you for helping make Susan the extraordinary woman that she is today! XOXOXO

    • sbranch says:

      We weren’t scared either, it seemed natural until this talk of what we do in the neighborhood. I was so glad we stopped digging that hole and got onto the business of living – we were so good at it!

  6. Donna Ray from Hamlin, NY says:

    Good Morning Susan,
    I just loved this story! The whole scene came alive with your hilarious, detailed descriptions. The photographs are just wonderful. I love your Daddy’s sense of humor, with his hands on the kids, cake on head, etc. But my very favorite is you saying “when Dad laughed like that, which he often did, everything was right with the world”…. I know that wonderful, secure, happy feeling! I had a fantastic Daddio, too, and was rich beyond measure…..still am because of his love, even though he died in 1980. You are a gem, Susan! Your brain and heart have stored every little detail of a time that was so significant for so many of us and you are able to remind us of those wonderful times by your story telling and your art. Thank you for “warehousing” all that great stuff for us. You are a hoarder in the finest sense of the word!! : ) I’m crazy about you! As always, DonnaRay

  7. Cathy from Golden Co says:

    I love your story, your pictures & your dad. Took me down memory lane. My dad will be 91 this year & he would roll with laughter too watching Red Skelton. I didn’t know who was funnier so I would roll with laughter watching my dad. He’s still a stitch – always disguising his voice when he calls me. HAPPY Father’s Day Jack!

  8. Judy from Maine says:

    Morning Susan,
    My dad’s sharing space with the big guy and while I’m sure he is happy I sure miss him. It’s been two years and the hurt seems stronger right around Dad’s Day, but your story has made me smile and remember our own families talk of a shelter. My Dad never went as far as digging a hole, but he did give us kiddies the following instruction…”if the bomb drops while your walking home or to school, just run into the first house you see. Don’t worry about Mom and I, I will find you and bring you home to us no matter what.” I can remember being a little confused and very proud at the same time. Confused because we were always instructed to never go with or to a stranger…and proud because my Dad was a super Dad that would find me NO MATTER WHAT!
    Thanks so much Susan for sharing your wonderful story, that triggered happy memories of my Dad.

    • sbranch says:

      Great advice though — those words, we will find you, were so powerful. That and “everything’s going to be just fine.”

  9. Sharon Corey says:

    Although I was born in 1960, as I read this I felt as if I was sitting right there with the Stewart family at their dinner table in 1957. I had forgotten that your mother could speak arf and arfy. What a beautiful tribute to Jack for Father’s Day. I loved all the family photographs, especially the one of Jack cutting onions in your first little house on the island. I hope you have a very pleasant Father’s Day Jack!

  10. Ann Y. Adamstown, PA says:

    Oh my, Susan – what a wonderful story and what adorable photos ! And you describe it so perfectly ( MELMAC !) that it brings back such memories. I can feel your horror at not having your friends in the shelter – I remember my mom putting canned goods and water in our cellar during the missle crisis…and the famous “cover your head and get under your desk in school”. It really scared you when, like you, you finally realized that bad stuff could happen. You said your father has ” the happy gene” and you don’t need any genetic testing to know that he passed that on to you – what a gift. My day, like yours, could make or fix anything. We lived in a “coal company house” in a little mining patch and did not have a indoor bathroom – and my dad would not put one in until he could purchase the house – because if he was hurt or killed in the mines all that work would be gone as all of us would have to leave. When I was 5 years old in 1960 the coal company sold the houses to the miners, my dad bought our side ( and the other side of the double block, so he could rent it out to pay the mortgage) and started to turn the back porch into a bathroom. Like your dad I can remember him digging ( after working in the mines all day) to get a foundation and make a path to the town sewer lines. I was SO excited. If you go to that little house now ( now sold to someone else) and rip off the tile you will see – written in carpenter pencil , those funny square pencils – that I was the first one to use the toilet, take a bubble bath, and brush my teeth in the new sink. BLISS ! He continued to improve that little house….putting a patio over the ditch in the back that an engineer could not have done better. He never made it to 8th grade, had to work in the mines, but he was SO smart and could DO and MAKE anything. He died when I was 15 at 59…and at that time he seemed so old. At 58 now, I realize how young he was. So, thanks for the memories….Happy Father’s Day to your wonderful dad and to mine in heaven….would love to have a chat with him now that I am an adult…give him a hug, and say “hey Daddy, can you fix this…..???”

  11. Tracy Jones says:

    Dear Sue,
    What a wonderful story…thank you for sharing it with us! Your father is a very special man indeed!

  12. Julia says:

    Oh Susan! Love the story and want to wish your precious dad a
    Happy Father’s Day. I also remember the hide under your desk
    stuff as we are the same age. A friend of mine had an opportunity
    to go to Russia with here husband on a business trip and she
    refused. She said, “all I can think about are those days under my
    desk.” Also, Happy Father’s Day, Joe! HEE HEE HEE!

  13. Sandy says:

    The last picture of your father hugging you brought tears and more tears to my eyes. Your father’s strong arms reminded me so much of my own dear father’s strong arms hugging me. It has been six years since he has been gone, and I would give anything to have one of his hugs right now. Thank you for posting that beautiful picture.

    • sbranch says:

      I have no doubt you can still feel your dad’s hugs. xoxo

    • Julie Marie says:

      Oooh Sandy, it has been 6 years since my daddy went to Heaven as well, and I miss him so… please know our daddys are always with us, close by and in our hearts… I can just feel his hug right now and I hope you feel your daddy’s hug too… xoxo Julie Marie

      • Julie Marie says:

        I meant to say to ALL the girlfriends whose daddys are in Heaven, I think all of our daddys are having a special party, looking down and saying “that’s my little girl” and reminiscing as well… love them all… xoxo… Julie Marie

  14. Sandy Richmond says:

    Susan, This was a great story! I felt like I was sitting at the table with all of you. One thing that struck me is how much our lives were all the same in the 50’s, you in CA and me in MN, right down to the outfits we wore. That potato chip topping on the tuna casserole was extra special, wasn’t it? 🙂 I remember the “drills” at school. We had to go into the hallways, kneel down and cover our heads under the coat racks! I don’t remember any neighbors building shelters, tho.
    You are so fortunate to still have your Dad, and we are all so fortunate that you share him with us. My Dad has been gone a while now, he lived 82 years, but he was like your Daddio. My Dad could build, paint, rewire, design, grow things, fix things, bait our hooks, you name it. He always had music going, and laughed at The Red Skelton show too. I miss him, but am so glad I had him for as long as I did.. Happy Father’s Day Jack!

  15. I’m still smiling–the fallout (pardon the pun) from the laughter your story evoked….”we might have to shoot them”!!! If this story is representative of your childhood, you could probably write a whole book about it like “Cheaper by the Dozen”. 🙂 I remember the drills in school, but beyond that I have no story to tell. The house we live in now, however, does have a bomb shelter, of sorts. The man who built the house in 1952 was a biologist who was at Bikini Island when the bomb was tested (he died of cancer in 1969). We live 50 miles from Washington, DC. The shelter is under the cement-floored front porch, built to withstand a blast–but not particularly sealed very well, so not quite sure what he intended. I personally would want to go out in the blast!

    • sbranch says:

      Me too, quick and as terror free as possible!

      • Janet [in Rochester] says:

        I completely agree with you girls! In my early 20s I said to my mom something like “well if I ever see the bomb coming, I’m going to stand right underneath it…” And she was completely shocked. But I know I’d rather go out in the blast too!

  16. Maryellen says:

    My friend, another Susan, family had a bomb shelter – a small room off the main area of their basement – built when the house was built in the late 50’s. What I remember is that she when she didn’t get her way when we were playing, Susan would spout – “You can’t come to my bomb shelter when the Russians come”. And whoever she directed the comment to would run home crying. Her bomb shelter room was outfitted a lot like your own dad’s plans – I remember games on shelves and lots of canned goods. Strange times.

  17. A wonderful insight to your childhood and the bomb! I wish more people had the presence to record their memories. Today’s memories are tomorrow’s history. I wish my forebears had recorded their lives, or that I’d thought to ask more questions as a small child (but what small child does?) for all I have now are tiny glimpses into fascinating lives. ooops, I think I just used two wishes 😉

    I do not have many vivid memories of the bomb, but it was lurking in the hushed tones of grown ups whispering in the shadows. They tried to hide their fears, but fear carries on the air, and children are sensitive creatures. I knew something sinister was afoot.

    Thankfully, I have bushels full of happy, happy memories of my lovely Dad, so maybe I should practice what I preach and start writing those memories? Hmmm . . my work is cut out with my new gardening blog! {which, by the way, I am really enjoying and am thinking of ‘branching’ out (double pun there) and maybe even daring to draw something for it!!!}

    Right now, my Facebook profile picture is one of me, my Dad, and our dog {Skip} sitting on the cabin of our boat “Sea Crest” I love to share it, for although it was taken {cough} over 40 years ago, I remember that day so well. It is my favourite photograph of all. It was my favourite summer too. Happy Days!

    Dads are precious, my dear cousin celebrates his first this year as brand new Daddy to sweet baby Poppy Denise . . Happy Father’s Day to All Dads.

    Love from Across the Pond
    Deb xoxo

    p.s. aren’t you the little lady, with your white gloves and bag? Too cute! I still have my first handbag!

    • sbranch says:

      I have only one little letter in my Great-Grandmother’s handwriting. But one is better than none. And it has no real memories written in it. I think everyone does their family a big favor by leaving a bit of themselves behind in some sort of writing — just straightforward about who they are and what life has meant to them. Tuck it in somewhere and then it’s there for the future to find.

      • Carol Maurer from Eureka, CA says:

        Susan and Girlfriends ~~~ I have to agree. I love genealogy! I’m very fortunate to have ancestors that left writings, etc. It took several several years, but I have researched all my ancestors on my dad’s side of the family. My mom’s side was done by her sister and I now have that in my possession. Many stories and newspaper clippings of the early times (1661) when my family came over from England and started a new life here in the great USA. I am transported back in time when I re read it all.

        • sbranch says:

          We’re probably related because our family was here then too. How many were living in America in 1661? Can’t be that many!

          • Susan from the Cape Fear Coast of NC says:

            My family was living here then too, in Virginia. We were southern right from the start. I love genealogy and I’ve found it so interesting to find out where my ancestors were living and what they were doing in those long ago times.

          • sbranch says:

            Where did your family come from?

          • Wowser! That is amazing! I would be so honoured to be able to trace my ancestry that far back! Sadly, because most records were kept in churches and other public record offices, many certificates of B,D,&M were destroyed in WWII and the Blitz.
            It wasn’t until my Daddy passed (nearly 4 years ago) that I realised how little I know about my family (on either side). Too late for me, but a warning to others to ask those questions and write things down . . and back it up!

          • sbranch says:

            I traced mine back to at least one little house in Yorkshire.

          • Carol Maurer from Eureka, CA says:

            My relative came over from England on the Annabell, I believe and landed close to Jamestown. Don’t know just how many people were living here way back in 1661, but, right, not many. My relatives started a town close to Boston by the name of Worster something. Can’t recall the whole name right now. I’ve been back and have seen the plaque of where the house and mill used to be. There’s a bridge that was built and still used today with the family name on it. They then, went and started a town by the name of Woburn, subburb of Boston. The original cemetary has lots of my relatives in it from the wars.

          • sbranch says:

            That makes it so interesting, when you can find physical proof — the old graveyards here are wonderful.

          • Carol Maurer from Eureka, CA says:

            Deborah, I know what you mean…. Its be hard for me to trace my family in England at times. They require things be written down and proven, as we don’t require that. There is one line of cousins that believe we came from the Converse family in England and France, but all the others believe our name was changed when coming to England with William the Conqueror from France. Then name changed once again coming to the US. When there isn’t a birth certificate it’s hard.

      • Karen C says:

        What a great idea! Maybe leave something in a small journal for all to see someday and remind them how much that they were all loved. Wish my Mom and Dad had done that.

        • Susan from the Cape Fear Coast of NC says:

          Carol, my family came over from England to Jamestown also. (I believe they came from Kent) Maybe we’re related. I’m always amazed at how if you go back far enough, you are related to an incredible number of people! So fun to investigate.

  18. Connie Rose Woehler says:

    What a handsome Dad! Loved your story! My dad was such a handsome guy too! He loved, loved, loved to sing. Us kids (there are 6 of us) still break out in song…”Que Sera Sera, Whatever Will Be Will Be”…and Dad is back with us singing along. He reminded me of Dean Martin with his black hair and the way he swayed as he sang. Your stories are amazing. I always look forward to hearing from you. Happy Fathers Day, Jack! And to Norm too…who I’m sure is singing his heart out in Heaven.

  19. Chris Wells in Knickerbocker, W TX says:

    What a lovely tribute to your dad. Happy Father’s Day, Jack! You sure will be busy taking phone calls on Sunday. 🙂
    My dad like yours, could build or fix anything. So I grew up thinking all men could!
    My “All’s right with the world” feeling came in the evening and I would hear my dad tap his pipe out in the big glass ashtray that stood next to his chair, and then I would hear his footsteps on the stairs.
    Love the glimpses into your childhood, which seemed so much like mine, minus about 5 kids!

    Thanks again Jack for giving us this talented daughter, who has enriched the lives of so many with her art, her writing and her genuine kindness. I hope you have the most wonderful weekend!
    Love from Knickerbocker, TX!

    • sbranch says:

      I grew up thinking all men could too Chris, but it took me a while to find one who did! 🙂 Thank you!

  20. Jack says:

    Those were the days my friend — We thought they’d never end ….. Some time you can tell about the Totem Pole with wings too.
    You wouldn’t know this but at times your Mom and I would be at Ralph’s Market down on Ventura Blvd ~ in separate cars and after check-out without discussion it was a car race to see which one of us could get back up the hill into Topanga Canyon where we lived and home first!

    Thank you for the fantastic Father’s Day memorial — we did have some fun, remember the kidnap breakfasts when we would round up all our friends while they were still in bed ….. and bring them over in their jambes and robes?

  21. Joan Lesmeister says:

    Flashback! I too remember diving under the desks, & wondering what was going to happen to the rest of me that didn’t fit, even though I was scrunched into a ball? The drill times when I happen to be at a table were a great relief, as I fit better! Great blog my dear, love the family pics, and your delightful story telling! Bomb shelter to swimmin’ hole! I’m always tempted to print all these blogs, they’re fantastic! Maybe you could get Kellee on that & we could have another book? Golly, my Dad strolled around singing Tennessee Waltz too, among other great Hit Parade songs! Happy Father’s Day Wonderful, Clever, Brilliant Blog Daddy & all the other Dad’s! XOXO

  22. Julie Marie says:

    Oooh Susan… some say you can’t go home again, but I am one who believes you can… if only in your heart… and your post today took me there again… my childhood was much like yours… my daddy didn’t dig a hole in the ground, but we had a “shelter” in our basement and practiced drills… even as a little girl, I took this very seriously… but I knew no matter what, my daddy would protect us, just like your daddy always did and still does… my mama and daddy are both gone now… and I miss them… can I say Happy Birthday to my mama in Heaven today?… the DO get internet there, right?… love that your doggie was named “Nipper” just like the RCA Victor doggie!… your old photos are precious, thanks so much for always sharing your special childhood memories… I love your sweet Daddy Jack and always look for his comments… Happy Father’s Day Susan’s daddy!!!… and to Joe too (Jack and Girl Kitty’s daddy!)… love you Susan… wishing you a happy weekend too, xoxoxoxo Julie Marie

    • sbranch says:

      Thank you Julie Marie! Yes, Internet is in heaven now. Happy Birthday to your dear MOM!

      • Janet [in Rochester] says:

        The Internet is in heaven, which means [gasp] that our parents and grandparents are blogging stories – ABOUT US!!! :>)

  23. Marie (Williamsburg, Virginia) says:

    What a great story, indeed! Miss my wonderful Dad sooo much. He, like Jack, was all about family coming first. I had a belly-laugh over the “hole to China” comment. My Dad was working on a yard project behind our small Cape Cod on Long Island back in the 50’s. When we asked my Mom, “where’s Dad? ” she would reply, “still digging that hole to China.” Life snippets are the best!

    Susan, your story reminded me of stories being told around the “Father Knows Best” table. Sweet memory! Oh yes, how I remember those school drills. I went to Catholic school and wore a uniform. When we had our “drills,” we dashed under our desks, with one of our books, and sat quietly like a church mouse. We weren’t scared, and yes, as others said, it was a break from the school day. But what I do remember, is examining my white-pattern-knee-socks with great intensity in those quiet motionless moments. I remember that, but don’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday. Go figure!

    Although, I don’t have my Dad on this earth any longer, I will share Father’s Day with my husband (who is a spectacular Dad) and our son and daughter-in-law, and other family members.

    Susan, and Girlfriends, enjoy tomorrow…with that special Dad in your lives.

    Marie xo

    • sbranch says:

      I remember thinking there was a bit too much dust on the floor! Funny, all that serious stuff, and we’re thinking about socks and dust!

  24. Brenda says:

    Susan, thank you so much for telling this story! It made me giggle out loud and then cry, missing my Dad. I love your caption, “We’re the normal ones.” Isn’t it true we all have these weird family stories that make us question that from time to time — haha!

  25. Jackie P says:

    Loved your tribute to your Dad. Only a three years younger than you, I can relate 100% to the times; the music, toys, TV programs, food, and yes, the bomb shelters. What a revelation for your family — sitting at the dinner table, innocently wondering who else could fit into the shelter! (A by-product of being in a large family I think). I love the way you capture the mood and spirit in your writing. You are the real thing!
    Happy Father’s Day to Jack and to all the Dads in our lives. ❤

  26. Laura Ann in Vermont says:

    That was so beautiful! Thank you so much for the gift of your blog.

  27. Jack says:

    PS — I love your white gloves ….and it looked like you baked a smaller birthday cake in that picture too. I remember I gave haircuts to the entire neighborhood, all the way up to the Power’s house, out on the front drive!

  28. Lisa R (northern Az) says:

    That’s a wonderful, fun story Susan! Love that even though it was a “serious” subject, you were all having a great time! Bravo for Dad for giving you all the best in life. Lots of laughter! Truly is so good for the soul.~

  29. Susan from the Cape Fear Coast of NC says:

    Your story about your father brought back such sweet memories to me. My daddy died 30 years ago and I still miss him terribly. He always made me feel so safe and loved and secure. Those of us who grew up in the fifties and had loving parents were so very very blessed. Your dad has obviously been a good father and I think we all enjoy reading his comments here on the blog. His humor and common sense always give us a good laugh. Happy Father’s Day Jack!!

  30. Hello, I already wrote my Happy Father’s Day message on the previous post…..but, just wanted to say how wonderful all the memories we all have who were lucky enough to have a strong, caring, and loving Dad are worth especially this time of the year. We sent Dad a gift this year vs money which we felt at almost 93 yrs. of age just wasn’t personal enough and last night when I called to say hello my Mother said “your Dad is so very happy today and just loves your gift.” Dad can no longer express his feelings verbally to the fullest extent and then I heard him say to me…”If I could I would give you a big hug and kiss….thank you.” Susan, the tears welled up and my heart just reached all the way to FL just hearing his sweet voice. When I saw him in February his hugs were still so strong just like the photo of your Dad above. Memories make smiles and connect us to our pasts, present, and will remain with us into the future. I agree that our childhoods when influenced by loving parents builds the groundwork for the rest of our lives….parents are the foundation and it is up to us to complete the framework with our lessons and experiences taught to us by them. If we share the history of family with our children then it is up to them to put the roof on and store the Memories inside the “Family Home” completing the life cycle of Family. Thank you for sharing your special memories of your Dad and family that we all can relate to. I’m sure Blog Daddy will have a big weekend with all his children showing him their love and gratitude. Enjoy!!

  31. Janet [in Rochester] says:

    Great story well-told! And an excellent flashback to the really cold days of the Cold War. There wasn’t enough room in the front yard, and our back yard consisted of about 15 ft of land [enough for our swing set], a concrete breakwater and then Lake Ontario – so we never had a bomb shelter. And when I was old enough to understand what the bomb could really do, I wondered WHO would want to survive it only to “live” in the nightmare of a post-bomb world. Horrible. So your dad was really smart to set the shelter plans aside and build your family a swimming pool instead. I know you had many many fun Girls Days and Boys Days in your pool [your mom was also brilliant]. Love all the B&W photos of you and your brush-cut brothers. All 3 of my little brothers looked exactly the same. I liked to rub my knuckles on their bristly little heads [something they detested so of course as Oldest I had to do it]. And the “Frank Sinatra” shot of your dad nestled in with all the Beatrix Potter figurines. Is that a bomber jacket you’re wearing, Jack? Love the rakish upturned collar! Here’s to a wonderful weekend for all Dads and GFs! :>)

  32. Marie (Long Beach, California) says:

    Good Morning! You can’t believe how much I love, love, love your family stories!!! This one made me get that lump in my throat when you asked your mom and dad “Are there going to be dead people all over the ground when we come out?” Glad you asked that question because then as you said your dad decided he would no longer dig the hole for the bomb shelter and you got to throw your fate to the wind. Can’t wait to hear your story about the hole turning into a swimming pool! 🙂 I totally get how much you love your dad, because I have a wonderful relationship with my dad too. He was 81 this year and he is going strong. I love him with all my heart. Thank you Susan for sharing your beautiful and intimate family stories with us girlfriends. You are an amazing woman and I am so glad and blessed you are a part of my little piece of the world. ♥

  33. Christine says:

    I can relate to your story… down to the names of your parents. My mom’s name is Pat and my dad is Jack! I remember bomb shelters. Our neighbors had one and we played in it!
    I lost my dad 7 years ago and miss him everyday.

    Thanks for the memories!

  34. carmel says:

    Whether it’s in your books or on this most blog, I just love hearing about your family – it fills my soul. I know these are tributes to your mom and dad, but really they are an endearing window into the love and goodness that you grew up with all those years (and still do). I had an extraordinary mom too. My parents divorced when I was 3 years old ( a brave and good thing on my mom’s part especially in the 50’s) and my father was not in my life, but I turned out just fine. I have enjoyed being part of my friends’ extended family and having their dads in my life. Which brings me to thank you for sharing your dad and making him a part of my extended family (I’ve always considered you family) and enriching my life. I hope you and your dad don’t mind. You’ll probably want to shoot (speaking of shooting people 🙂 ) me for this suggestion after you spent so much time on your book on England, but I hope you write a book about your childhood/family someday. Otherwise, please keep writing these stories which are not only loving, but lighten my days with laughter.
    Happy Father’s Day, Jack. You truly are a joy!

  35. Christy says:

    Oh, Susan, this brought back such memories of our actual bomb shelter!!!! 🙂 Yes, indeed, we had one in Seattle! My dad, who passed away at 93 six years ago, was the neighborhood fix-it, build-it, plant-it, organize-it, cook-it guy, and of COURSE he had to build a bomb shelter to protect my mom and sister and I! There was a neighborhood party or two during the process, at the big brick barbecue (built by my dad!) area in the backyard. The few times I went down the cement stairs into the cement room, I remember thinking it was kind of like an underground playhouse (which we also had in the backyard, that he built next to the lighted waterfall/fish pond, also his handiwork! ). Fold-down bunk beds, check. Shelves of canned food, check. Privacy screen for the porta-potty which had some sort of plumbing system, check. Water, check. Lights, check. (I hope the electricity stayed on above ground!) He was thorough and we were prepared for the future! Thank God we never had to actually stay in it….:) I wish we had pictures of it now. But, here’s to myDad, for taking such good care of his family – Boeing worker by day, creative, caring, force the rest of the time! P.S. When we sold the house, it was decided the bomb shelter could be a wine cellar! Thanks, Susan, – fun memories!

    • sbranch says:

      Wine cellar/bomb shelter, ready for all occasions! You would want the wine in the bomb shelter anyway, its a win win!

  36. Lorilu says:

    What a wonderful story Susan
    I could identify with so many parts of it, thanks for going into such detail, it was so charming and funny.
    My dad, too, was a great guy, full of energy, jokes and dreams. He’s been gone for 3 years this month and I think of him every day, especially when I read about a special dad, hear a funny joke or think of something silly he used to say. We ‘kids’ (all in our 50’s now) repeat his corny jokes and phrases without realizing it, fortunately, his ‘silly’ gene was passed on to us. There are few things as precious as a father’s love. Thank you for sharing, can’t wait to hear the swimming pool story!

  37. Debbie says:

    What a lovely tribute to your Dad! I was only 3 in 1957, but I have memories from that time. We lived in a split level house and we had a play room off the cellar. In the play room was a little door that led under the house and it was in there that my Dad began digging our bomb shelter. I have vague memories of him working on it. After a time, he realized the futility of it and gave it up and prayed for peace. I also remember the “duck & cover drills” in school. One time, a couple of boys “blew up” like and atom bomb during a drill and we were treated to a lecture by the air raid warden about how the children in Russia wore potato sacks and ate turnips and beets and how would we like that? I also remember being send home from school during the Cuban Missile Crisis and I was so frightened that I hid under the cellar stairs. My Dad came home and comforted me. This is the fifth Father’s Day since my Dad passed away; I miss him and cherish all of the memories! Happy Father’s Day to your Dad!

  38. Michelle says:

    Oh my… You have captured the fifties with your words, and brought back memories for all of us that grew up then. I pictured myself playing statue and hide and go seek right along with you. My Dad didn’t dig a hole, but I remember hiding under my desk at school. Happy Fathers Day to one and all!

  39. Shannon (Pennsylvania) says:

    This post brought to mind one of my favorite comedy’s of all time, “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming”. Alan Arkin, Carl Reiner, and Eva Marie Saint we all in it. It came out in the mid 60’s when the Cold War was raging…the location was supposed to be a sleepy little island near MA. Possibly Martha’s Vineyard 🙂 It is truly one of the funniest, sweetest movies I’ve ever seen. I highly recommend it, girlfriends! You will absolutely laugh till you cry.

    • sbranch says:

      Me too, hilarious. My favorite scene is when that poor man is tied to the telephone (I think) lady and they fall down the stairs together, so so so funny! 🙂

  40. Sharon of Morro Bay, CA says:

    WOW…your dad is soooo good looking. I LOVE your story. I recall when I was 6 years old going to the neighbor’s house to take a tour of the bomb shelter. It never occurred to me where I would go when “the Bomb” dropped!! Just thought it was so neat inside and just like camping. Wishing your dad a Happy Fathers Day.

  41. Barbara T, Wolverine Lake MI says:

    This has brought back memories. we had a basement, so no one needed to build a fallout shelter but a corner of the basement away from the windows was stocked with that transistor radio/batteries, canned food, flashlights….and I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis and being sick to my stomach that the world was ending that night and listening to the radio as we ate dinner being scared to death. A similar story that brought it all home was that we probably couldn’t bring our dog, Jody, with us because there wasn’t enough food for all of us….what?????? same sick horrid reality. yes, it was terribly scary for us baby-boomers! — my dad always sang or hummed I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles, and Good Night Ladies. My parents entertained a lot, threw big parties, all the women in their 50’s dresses, lots of laughter, my mom would let me pick what she was going to wear (including the jewelry)… the end to get the guests to leave I would hear (from upstairs in my bed) Dad singing loudly – Good Night Ladies….as a sign it was time to leave 🙂

  42. Karen Saunders says:

    Happy Fathers day Jack. Since my Dad just died the 28th, I’m going to adopt you as my Father. (lucky you!) From Susan’s comments, it sounds like you are a number 1 contender for ‘Father of the Century’. Have the greatest Father’s day ever…

  43. Rosemary says:

    Susan I LOVED your story and photos. Treasure your Daddy, I miss mine soooo much.

  44. Kerrie Foley says:

    I remember getting under the desk for bomb drills as well but even at that young age I questioned the protection that those desks were supposedly going to give us!??! How funny and yet how sad. My Dad died 35 years ago from Leukemia just a couple of weeks after my first daughter was born. He was my entire life and I still cry thinking of the loss. I was 25 years old and I miss him like it was yesterday. He also worked for the telephone company all his life. He called it “Ma Bell” and he was greatly loved by everyone he met. My daughter, Katie, was definitely privileged to have a few visits from him when she was about 3. She talked about him playing in the toy room with her and she claimed she saw him quite often when outside playing. The final time she talked about him she said “I just saw Grampa Bob…he lives in a big field with daisys and a log cabin with no front door.” I asked if he was happy and she said “oh yes! Very happy!” (3 year olds don’t know how to fib yet…do they?)His spirit is with me all the time. I have no doubt of that. Your Dad sounds wonderful, Susan. I’m happy for you that you can still celebrate with him. I do have two other children and unfortunately they didn’t have the luxury of a good dad and I had to do my best as a single mom helping them to grow into good people. My son, Kyle, has two little girls…Maggie is 3 and Mollie is 22months and I am happy to say that he is the best Father I have ever known and I am very proud of him! And just so I don’t leave her out my youngest girl is Kellie. I can’t imagine how wonderfully blessed their lives would have been if my Dad had been alive for them. Happy Father’s Day to ALL the Dads out there and Susan…you can give yours a squinch from me and thank him for bringing such an inspiring beautiful soul into the world. You are helping me more than you will ever know to believe in myself and my talents and hopefully start my own little business someday.

    • sbranch says:

      I got chills with your three year old. I loved the log cabin with no front door! Something so real and true about that. I also love to hear you are believing in yourself. That’s really the most important part of the battle, after you win that one, the sky can be the limit. xoxo

  45. Candice says:

    What a lovely tribute to your Daddio. Now I know where Jack the kitty got his name. My dad (he used to refer to himself as Daddio too) has been in heaven for 27 years so I am a bit envious of you.

    On a side note, my sister and I are still laughing over your recent post about Jack and his rubber band -ponytail band obsession. Our two girl kitties Lily and Violet keep us amused with their antics too. Lily plays fetch with crumpled up cash register receipts. Violet has vicious fights with my bath rug and kicks with her back legs. The rug is in a sorry state.

    I can’t wait to read your book!

  46. Ann says:

    Oh my, you brought me right back to kindergarten and our dinner table and playing outside afterwards with all the neighborhood kids. I remember all that bomb shelter business too. You and are blessed to have some wonderful fathers. Lucky you to still have yours around. My Dad was 45 when I was born and would be 105 today; but I had him for 49 wonderful years. Happy Father’s Day Jack!

  47. Judy F. - Orange County, CA says:

    Oh Susan, I loved your story about the bomb shelter! It brought back memories to me of those times. Having to “duck and cover” under our desks at school! Growing up during the 50’s was a special time and it always brings a smile to my face when remembering all the fun times with the neighborhood kids. I’m a little older than you but our memories are about the same. Did your Dad have one of those denim jackets with the matching pants?…I still remember seeing my Dad in that outfit, especially at the big family picnics at a park, he would arrive early in the morning to pick the perfect spot for our clan. My Dad has been gone since 1968 but a day doesn’t go by that I don’t remember all the wonderful things he did with my sister and I. Happy Father’s Day to all the Dad’s whether here or in Heaven. 🙂

  48. Sherry Palla says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your family story! It brought back sooooo many good memories! [Hey I remember those Melmac dishes….you are only 4 yrs. older than me!] We called the bomb shelters: “Fallout Shelters” and my mom didn’t have one, but talked about them lots in the l950’s. Who knew? Anyway, life was much more simple and whole I think in those days. Nowadays, just living a quiet/simple life is getting more attractive….but gotta have the T.V. for Midwives and Downton Abby!
    Have a great weekend Susan & Joe! God bless you real good!

  49. Betsy says:

    Well Susan, I guess I don’t have to tell you what a handsome man your Dad is. All those looks and talent galore!!!! Your story reminded me of having to hide under my desk in grade school when the whistle blew. We were young and has no idea how scarey things were in our country then. We would giggle and hope we could stay under the desk longer so we could skip math and go right to reading time. They just closed my old grade school along with so many in the Philadelphia area. Your blog today is bringing so many memories back. Where do the years go. Have a wonderful weekend. xoxo

  50. Pat Mofjeld from St. Paul, Minnesota says:

    Sue–you are such a good story-teller!!! Straight out of the ’50’s and my childhood, too. Any of those photos could have been of my family, though a few less children. 🙂 And the memories this brought back–but especially of the “Pig Latin”. My mother and her sisters used to love to talk “over our heads” in “Pig Latin”…at least that is what they called it. Thanks for the memories… 🙂
    And Happy Father’s Day to your Dad, too. The photos of you and he brought back fond memories of my Dad. He died in 2000 and I miss him now as much as I did then…but I have good memories of a lot of fun times with him…

    • Jack says:

      They probably were speaking Igpay Attinlay–but to say Pig Latin in Arf & Arffy it would quite different — like …. “Parfig Larftarfin” …….”

      • sbranch says:

        LOL! I never heard that done before! Only it would be Arfig Parfy Arfattarfin Larfat. I think.

        • Jack says:

          I thought the rule waste simply insert. “Arf” in any word preceding a vowel ?

          • sbranch says:

            If the word is “pig”
            in pig latin, it would be ig-pay.
            in arf and arfy it would be parfig.
            If you said it first in pig latin and then turned the p.l. into arf and arfy, it would be arfig parfay.

            I think we have invented a new language!

          • Hah! I am so glad you explained that because I wasn’t getting it. I didn’t want to ask because I was sure I was the only one! I have never heard of arf and arffy before…

          • sbranch says:

            Hardly anyone has, but almost all my best friends in life speak it. I started teaching them in high school so we could “talk” whenever we wanted!

          • Pat Mofjeld from St. Paul, Minnesota says:

            Oh gosh, I’m sitting here “larfing”!!! 🙂

          • sbranch says:

            lar-faf-ar-fing. Laughing. xoxo Or, perhaps, aughing-lay.

    • Chris Wells in Knickerbocker, W TX says:

      Hi Pat,
      Isn’t it funny how all the pictures DO look alike? Right down to the white gloves and patten leather shoes!
      And my mom called it pig Latin, which was slightly different, but accomplished the same affect. Susan mentioned the 50’s as the building of the Middle Class. When I said something to my mom once about being middle class, she laughed and said we were poor! I didn’t know it! We were always well fed, my mom made a lot of my clothes, and I had a stable home where we lived for 16 years. My dad was a photographer and my mom stayed home, plus my Paternal grandmother lived with us! Almost Walton-like!
      I lost my dad in 1998 and I still miss him. I know he is with me, I just want to give him a big hug. I miss that!

      • sbranch says:

        In pig Latin you would say the word pig, “igpay.” But in arf and arfy it’s “parfig.” I kind of wished my mom’s second language would have been French.

        • Chris Wells in Knickerbocker, W TX says:

          Hahaha 🙂

        • Lynn McMahon says:

          I’m onfusedcay!!

          • sbranch says:

            So you wrote confused in pig latin. Now I will take the pig latin and put it in arf and arfy: arf-fun-far-fused-car-fay. But if I just said confused in arf and arfy, it would be car-fon-far-fused. 🙂 get it?

          • Lynn McMahon says:

            ~Wow~ this may take a little while for me!~I’ll write back when I get it~ don’t hold your breath!!!~LOL!

        • I could never get the hang of pig latin when I was a kid, but at least could understand it. Arf and arfy would have totally floored me. You can probably read Beatrix Potter’s diary’s secret code perfectly!

          • sbranch says:

            I also kept a diary in secret code when I was little — had to with all those little kids in the house! Although my secrets were probably not so much!

  51. Lori from Maine says:

    Oh what I wouldn’t give to be able to give my Daddy a big hug. He’s been gone for 26 years – he died much too young. He was (and is) my hero. <3 Happy Father's Day to all the wonderful guys out there!
    xoxo from SW Hbr.

  52. Barbara (WA) says:

    I have no words at what an awesome story this is!! Happy Father’s Day, Jack! I know where Susan got her imagination and creativity!

    PS: I remember getting old enough to wonder how “safe” it would be under a school desk if a bomb was dropped, ack!

  53. Maria M. says:

    Gosh, I love your way of recounting your childhood and all those things of the past. Such simpler times, weren’t they (except for the bomb shelters and frightful school drills)? Love your Dad and the many ways he cared for all of you!
    My Dad had the happy gene too and God do I miss him these last 12 years.
    Please wish your Dad a very Happy Father’s Day, Susan, and thank you for sharing all this with the rest of us. xoxo

  54. Elaine in Toronto says:

    We didn’t have a bomb shelter but we had gas masks. They were big and heavy and smelled awful and made us look like monster grasshoppers. I have a picture of me wearing it when I was about ten. It makes us laugh now but it was pretty serious business back then. Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful dads past and present who loved us unconditionally and to all the future dads who will be raising our hope for the future.

    • sbranch says:

      My brothers would have LOVED gas masks — simply for the “monster grasshopper” look! 🙂

  55. Barbara (WA) says:

    A couple more PS’s 🙂 My dad loved Red Skelton! And I grew up in a teeny, tiny WWII surplus house. If you could take down the wall between my bedroom and my parents bedroom I probably could’ve almost touched their bed. But despite sleeping with my big sister, I would get scared in the night. “Daaaaadd” – and there he’d come. I always knew he would come! He would sing to me and make me laugh about my fears. Sweet memories.

  56. Carol Maurer from Eureka, CA says:

    Good morning, Susan ~~~ I loved the bomb shelter story! I could just see all you kids scared to death of shooting your friends and neighbors. It started with a simple plan and ended up being so scary for you guys.

    Your dad does have the ‘happy gene’ doesn’t he? I always enjoy reading his entries to your blog! Very down to earth with his comments. You are very lucky to have such as upbeat dad as him. I can see where you get all your creativity and your ‘happy’ gene as well. Do your other brothers and sisters have that ‘happy gene’? Most people that I know with large families are happy. They learn to get along with others, patience and a good outlook on life. You need that.

    Happy Father’s Day, Jack.
    Happy Father’s Day to you, too Joe…. dad to Girl Kitty and Jack
    Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there.

    Carol M

  57. Jack says:

    I decided to put a “Palapa roof”, like an umbrella, over the used brick BBQ and patio, but it needed a strong center post to support the rafters, so I went out in that station wagon looking — and there in the tall grass along side of the road in Canoga Park was a 20 foot hunk of telephone pole — with a head carved on the top — I stuffed about ten feet of it into the wagon and still had 10 feet sticking out the back –had no red flag so I had to get over to Reseda and not meet any Cops on the way. Got it home and into the back yard and painted that Totem head red and yellow and made yellow wings for it …….Mom and I got to laughing when we were trying to stand it up vertically, it was so heavy, but we got it and even though the patio had a slope to it — the pole stood there, on it’s own — no hands. So that’s how that rounded cover for the BBQ came to be ….

  58. Lynn McMahon says:

    ~ Good Afternoon~
    I loved your story about your family and your Dad~ I miss all my Dads and Grandpas so much!
    ~ I guess ~now that I think back~ the world has always been a kinda a scary place to live in~ That’s why I try to live my life to the fullest everyday~ Happy Father’s Day!

  59. Sheryl from Chico says:

    Happy Father’s Day to Jack, your great, handsome daddio. He sounds like an amazing person, Father and husband. No one can ever replace our own Dads. God bless them all.

  60. sondra fox says:

    Dear, dear Susan, You are so lucky to be born into your wonderful family. Sometimes, at night, when I look up into the black sky with stars all over the place, I wish upon a star that all children (& animals), could have a wonderful, happy, secure life. You had that Susan when you were a child. Just when I think one of your blogs is the very best I’ve read, you come along with another spectacular story & pictures. “THIS” blog has to be my favorite of all your blogs! The happy faces attest to the wonderful childhood you had. I never had a father, but an uncle did the job for me. When I saw the picture of you hugging your father, I sat here and cried. What a wonderful man, what a wonderful family. I think there should be a movie made about you & your family, for all to see how a family “could be.” The movie could be introduced in Jr. High school, as an educational movie on how to raise children. What a story on the bomb shelter! The dinner meeting was terrific, in that the entire family thought about what could happen with the bomb shelter. Everyone had their say, everyone came to a conclusion. A true family problem. A true family decision. Just love it. Your dad deserves to be loved, & he is. My very, very favorite blog of yours Susan. Seeing all of your smiling faces makes me so very happy. I too used to get dressed as you were on (I’m assuming) Easter Sun. I always wore those little white gloves, & always had a new Easter hat on. Thank you for sharing your dear, sweet family with us. You are truly blessed Susan. Children raised like you were, don’t go to jail, aren’t outcasts, don’t make bombs, don’t organize negative protests, in other words, usually become people who give back “good things” just as you do Susan. I have a feeling your siblings are great people as well. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads who deserve to be loved. To the other dad’s who don’t deserve to be loved, mend your ways you naughty guys, think of what you’re missing. Love you Susan.
    (Sandy from Chihuahua Flats)

  61. Rita Baker says:

    Susan, I loved your story about Father’s Day. It brought tears to my eyes. I grew up the same time you did (the 50’s) and those memories stay with you forever. My Dad was an immigrant from Austria who spoke with an accent all his life and played his concertina and sang songs to us in the evenings. He was a quiet, honest gentle man and taught his 4 daughters to be honest, loving hardworking women, to love God and country, and mostly to be kind to each other. He’s been gone 34 years but I still miss his gentle presence. So happy for you that you still have your Dad – cherish each day you have him.


  62. Sherry Svoboda from Maryland says:

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful Fathers Day story with us. I lost my
    wonderful father at age 15 and its been 48 years but my precious time with
    him still is as vivid as it was back then and my heart still swells with abundant
    father-daughter love and emotion each “Fathers Day”. Your photo of you and
    your father in a big bear hug is priceless. I hope everyone knows how lucky they are to have their father here to celebrate this honored day. “Happy Fathers Day and beautiful memories to all those great Dads young and old
    out there.

  63. Debby Mc says:

    My dad just skipped over the sheter and right to the pool, but he explained the bomb shelter and letting the whole neighborhood into it problem in very much the same way. There were a couple shelters in the area and we kids were so fascinated by them. I was always glad daddy had opted for the pool! And the neighborhood kids showed up for that, too! =-) How I wish my dad was still here, I’d give a lot to sit and chat and, how I’d love one of those scratchy weekend-beard hugs. Thanks for this wonderful memory trip!

  64. lani nelson says:

    So much fun reading this post. You get it!!! I was in first grade in Eureka, California in the mid 50’s. We practiced the bomb drill so much that when a large earthquake hit our town as I playing house with my dolls on the front porch of our victorian home- I looked across the street and saw the 2 story chimney falling to the ground – I thought it was THE BOMB! So I went to the sidewalk and got down into the bomb position. My mother came running out and upon seeing her child under the swinging telephone wires- yelled at me to come to her-oh- good friend- we were a bit dramatized by that whole time. Your Dad is truly a dear. Thank you for sharing.

    • sbranch says:

      I thought the earthquake in LA when I was around 21 was a nuclear bomb — it came at 6 am and I just laid there waiting for the giant wind that I thought would come and sweep us away.

      • That must have been the Sylmar earthquake. My mom was pregnant with me at the time. I have heard stories about that one since I can remember!

        • sbranch says:

          It was … very scary! The whole far side of the Valley had to move over to our side (near Ventura Blvd) because there was a dam up there that was possibly going to break! It didn’t, thank goodness — but my girlfriend lived there — can you imagine a huge earthquake waking you up then police coming through at 6 am with loudspeakers saying “leave your homes immediately?” She had three children. Very scary. You were lucky to be safe inside. 🙂

  65. Anne says:

    Awwww…what a nice tribute to your Daddio 🙂 I love reading your Dad’s posts – he reminds me a bit of my Daddio – similar sense of humor. Like other girlfriends here – my sweet Daddy is gone now too. I love reading about how “hands-on” your Dad is. My Dad was like that too – everything made from scratch (he was a farmer :-)). Thanks for the wonderful post and I LOVE your frilly white gloves and purse – you are adorable – did your Mom make the dress? Happy Day Susan 🙂

    • sbranch says:

      My mom made my clothes until her third child was born and then she gave up. After that she made doll clothes!

  66. Cheryl says:

    Love Love Love your story – made me laugh out loud!

  67. Cindy Maulin says:

    hi susan…that is just the sweetest most loving tribute to your wonderful dad..isn’t it amazing how we all thought that our dads could mend, fix, repair, replace, create, or make anything? well..that’s because they could!! My dad came from the same era yours did..only we were in the sunny happy suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. He could do it all… build the house, tend the garden, catch the walleye, cook the walleye, make the Homecoming float in our backyard, carve the pumpkins and create the most outlandish scary funny faces ever, fix the flat tire, make me a desk out of an old door, build the redwood deck, and sell insurance on the side……he could do it all…until that one time he decided to flock our Christmas tree white..( all the rage sometime in the 60’s)…and wound up flocking the entire garage, our car, his tools, our dog, the side of the neighbors house and trashing mom’s Electrolux vacuum cleaner in the process…. it happens to the best of them!!! Were we not the luckiest people to have such dads??? I am forever grateful and can tell you feel them same. A beautiful post today Susan..drumming up the best memories….. absolutely loved your wonderful pictures and the story was the “Bomb”… 🙂 I can see you carry an abundance of “Jack” within you….. have a GREAT Daddio Day..all the best!! love, cindy
    p.s. ….and when the toilet runs amuck….or the gutters need cleaning..I am your gal !!…….xoxox

  68. Susan – I LOVED the story!!! When I read about the “arfy” talk I laughed out loud for quite some time. Oh the sweet 1950’s. My grandparents had a fruit cellar that was the “bomb shelter” when I was a kid. No place to sleep but there was plenty of home canned food down there and that’s all I need to feel secure. How blessed you are to still have your father with you. Give him a hug for me. Don’t know what I’d do without the smiles I get from your blog.

  69. Patsy in Nixa says:

    Imagine having a father who can fix anything and is also a hunk. Those dimples!

    And Happy Father’s Day, Joe. Even though you deny them, we know you’re Jack and Girl-Kitty’s father.

  70. Patsy in Nixa says:

    P.S. We think Joe is also a hunk AND it seems that he can fix anything as well.

  71. Rosanne (Oregon) says:

    Laughing out loud at your story, but a big fat lump in my throat by the end for those long ago days, your wonderful Dad and family, and my wonderful Dad who could do anything and whom I adored. I can hardly believe that he’s been gone for 9 years, because he is with me always. In Bakersfield we had a big earthquake in the 1950’s. It happened in the wee hours of the morning and my Dad later said that until he was fully awake, he thought it was The Bomb. He “rescued” my sister and me from our bedroom and carried us outside to the car. Our mother was calm, as always, and all the neighbors were out in the street in their pj’s and robes. At 7 years old, I thought it was the most exciting and fun thing that had ever happened! Happy Father’s Day to your adorable Dad, those of the Girlfriends, and to the memory of my own beloved Daddy who will always be my hero.

  72. Fabienne in CA says:

    Susan – loved today’s blog so much. I remember my parents telling us if we were home alone to pull a mattress off our bed and sit in the bathtub with the mattress on top of us. Like this would save us from a nuclear blast! It was about 1959. Hey, they tried to protect us. Loved your tribute to your sweet Dad and all great dads out there. Yes, write a book of your childhood. It would be a best seller just from the baby boomer generation. Your words would touch so many hearts and bring back “the good old days”. We need that in our world now. Thank you for the fabulous musica – love it all.

  73. Teresa G., Lafayette, CA. says:

    Of all your WONDERFUL posts, this has got to be my favorite! The gift of a good childhood is priceless. What a fun (and funny) story to read! Your dad is as handsome as ever. That last picture of him, surrounded by the Beatrix Potter army of protectors made me swoon! Happy Father’s Day to all the “Daddios” out there, and those with a Father’s heart, too!

  74. Kathryn Rehrig says:

    Oh my gosh, now that I’ve stopped laughing, I want to thank you for transporting those of us who grew up in that era, back to a time that’s hard to believe existed…a very, very funny story! It reminded me of my Daddy (long gone, sadly) and some of the stories from my childhood. I believe your Dad and mine would have gotten along beautifully. Happy Father’s Day to him from one of your ardent fans!

  75. Jane F. says:

    Dear Susan: What a special tribute to your very special Dad! It brought back so many memories tumbling all over each other of my special Dad, too. My Dad was so very similar to yours! He could do anything — so many Dad’s could in those days. He made us furniture: first pink wooden twin beds for my sister and me in the same room! He got them from an Army surplus store and padded the headboards with pink vinyl and painted the wood pink to match. You could still see the US stamped in the wood on the end! We loved those beds!! Then when we were older, he painstakingly made sewing cabinets with drawers for thread and a big bin for fabric and projects and a hole in one end for our portable sewing machines. He finished them like fine furniture. My sister and I both still have them!! And he laughed at Red SKelton, too! And so many other things! I can remember him laughing at Walt Disney cartoons — especially Goofy — until tears ran down his face. We ate on melmac dishes and watched the Mickey Mouse Club, too. My family looked like yours , too! I looked like your 1957 photo in 1952!! We ate tuna casserole with crushed potato chips and red Jello, and my Dad built us a brick fireplace in the back yard for grilling hamburgers, too!! We sang Tennessee Waltz with my neighborhood friend, Libby, when her brother died too young in an accident. We loaded all our stuff in the car like your illustration and went on vacations, and spent weekends and evenings after my Dad got off work at the beach in the summertime. We were just 10 miles from Gloucester and Rockport; Wingaersheek and Good Harbor Beach. We ate egg salad sandwiches there (with sand in them sometimes!), and drank Pepsi from glass bottles!! Dad was there with big black inner tubes (those things that came in tires if you are old enough to remember!!), for us to ride the waves in, and it was there he taught us how to swim!! And not too many years ago, we walked the pier at Flagler Beach and watched the pelicans fly low overhead and perch on the railings, when my parents retired and moved to the north Atlantic coast of Florida (near St. Augustine). It’s where I saw my first palm trees ever!! And was enthralled. And it was there Dad continued to build and fix things for their new house! Dad always believed in me and gave me big hugs which I gave back whenever we saw each other. I lived on the west coast and now in the middle of the country, but it didn’t matter. We always got together either out there or here or back in New England or in Florida. And we always laughed and talked about the old days. Hang onto your Dad tight! These are precious moments!! My Dad went to heaven 3 years ago and I can’t hug him anymore in this world. I still hug him in my heart, and I still feel him cheering me on in whatever I do. He believed in me like no one else (except Gene, my husband), and I am forever grateful to him for it. Someday we’ll get to hug again and then we will be together forever. I thank God all the time for giving me the Dad I had. Thank you so much for this opportunity to pay tribute to him.

    • sbranch says:

      My pleasure! Thank you so much Jane. xoxo

      • sondra fox says:

        I’m sure your father is getting a swelled head at all the comments about how handsome he is, but here’s yet another compliment. I just love the picture of him beside your Beatrix Potter figurines. I think he got better looking as he got older.
        (Sandy from Chihuahua Flats)

  76. Pam G says:

    what a fabulous post! My next door neighbor built a bomb shelter in 1957 or so and was extremely secretive about it. I can remember the school drills, etc. What a neat story about your dad-he sounds almost as wonderful as my dad! My mom is gone now but hubby and I will be lucky enough to be spending F. Day with my daddy tomorrow. He was always my heo and still is (don’t tell my hubby that)
    Love to you and your dad-God Bless him!

  77. Patty Lucas says:

    I started reading your Blog several months ago and I love it. Yesterday I was lucky enough to find two of your books – one signed – Girlfriends Forever and Vineyard Seasons. Truthfully I don’t know whether to use them or rip the pages out and frame them. Each page is so beautiful that I hate to just store them with my cookbooks. I am going to make the chicken in puff pastry on Monday and I can’t wait. I am a couple of years “younger” and I just retired so I am cooking up a storm. Thank you for all the beautiful pictures.

  78. Linda Hurst says:

    Susan, my father passed away 40 years ago. Still seems like yesterday. I just learned in the 6/15 blog that your Dad worked for the phone company. Me, too! I retired 23 years ago. My dad was the one who insisted that I work for Ma Bell! He said I’d have a good job for as long as I wanted one. He was right. Great Father’s Day story about your Dad, Thank You!

  79. Ozark Mountain Mama says:

    What a precious gift a good dad is!

  80. I was 3 in 1957 but remember in 1960 during 1st grade in Alaska walking as a class to the Civil defense shelter in a basement of a house on the Air Force Base we lived on. Then when we had moved toCalifornia in1961/62 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I remember something scary was going on as I sat spool knitting in the early evening. The same sort of non awareness of the gravity of the situation and time came back to me in your story.

    I was a wonderful thing you have shared with all of us. Your dad, and mom too, provided a good life lesson for all of you in so many ways. I love that the bomb shelter became a pool that brought all of your neighbors under the family umbrella. There was nothing wrong in the least with working on a shelter, but when the gravity of the unthinkable became too real, a “different” love of family and neighbor came to the rescue. I don’t have your writing ability to describe it well, but you do. THANK YOU for this life lesson reminder.

    I’m glad to “meet” your dad–a very special man!

    • sbranch says:

      It was a different love — if we couldn’t take them with us, we would just be with them. xoxo

  81. Cheyenne Renard says:

    Hello beautiful lady, your daddy is so handsome i just love the current pic of the two of you. Tell both your daddy and Joe Happy Fathers day from Me in Henderson Nevada. I hope ur having a great summer. I also got a new cat looks a little like your boy. She is sweet about 7 mo old a cat some one left out to die, i already have two so this makes three. She is so funny like ur boy.Same black n White cat with white on her face , we named her babette since she is like a paris girl very sleek n sexy. Love to you all , Miss u Blessings to you all also Love Cheyenne cant wait for you new book to come out XXX OOO

  82. ginger says:

    Thanks for the story. I’ve seen some completed bomb shelters from that era. It seems many of the children from that time grew up to be my teachers. One especially liked to tell us there was no point in education, since we would be crispy, little critters before we turned 18. I believed him and quit studying for college/medical school. Although I sometimes wonder what life would have been like if I had become a brain surgeon, I’m happy my career was homemaker/homeschool teacher. But all that dooms day stuff sure did warp some people. Me, I plan for the future but live for today.

  83. Martha Ellen of VA says:

    Such a sweet story about your family and your Dad. Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful dads! It’s the glue that makes our world wonderful–Hope for the future! My own sweet Daddy is in heaven like many of the girlfriends. I miss him so much. He was a very hard worker–worked two and sometimes three jobs to take care of his family. I remember those bomb shelter days also. I don’t know why I wasn’t afraid–we would go on bomb shelter drills at my elementary school to the shelter at a nearby church. Thanks for all the wonderful memories you share–even the times that weren’t our finest hours in history! xoxo ♥

  84. Sarah Maldonado says:

    Awww. Patti Page singing one of my favorites (she’s from my neck of the woods), wonderful vintage photos and a great story! I so remember my dad bringing home a bomb shelter brochure and the conversations. Like you, sounded exciting at first and then the reality set in of what would be left “out there”. We never got any further past the brochure but it is a serious memory of those times. How wonderful to read your dad’s fun postings here! He’s such a character and I’m sure he was a neighborhood favorite then and now. :-). Thanks for the memories, as the song goes. I miss my dad and step-dad but sweet memories remain. Thanks, Susan, for sharing yours!

  85. Susan, we’re of a similar age and I well remember drills where we had to huddle under our desks or in the hall; it all seems so silly now. Is my memory misfiring or did everyone have a Daddy who could fix or do anything and a Mom who could put up food, bake, keep house, etc.? Thankfully, I’m still able to make memories with my folks; glad you’re celebrating Father’s Day by speaking with your Dad.

  86. Dee Van Ingen says:

    From one CA gal to another……….this was THE best!!!!!!!!! Remember those days of hiding underneath the desk at school, hearing of people building the bomb shelter……such memories. THANKS for sharing this special one! And Happy Father’s Day to your Dad for having you to share these memories with us!

  87. Winnie Nielsen says:

    What a story about your Dad! So touching and sweet. I too was living during the bomb shelter days but we just sort of fortified the basement where the furnace was since it had no windows and let it go at that. The whole idea of a bombing was so scary to me and I remember wondering what the world would be like with no trees and houses and terrible air and water left over. I had to laugh at the photo of you and your family in front of the family stain wagon. We too had a family of 7 and had a car with the wooden panels along the side. I have so many memories of us all piled in the seats with me( the littlest one) stuffed completely in the back between the picnic basket and other stuff. Actually, it was the best seat in the car because I had the extra pillows not in use to lay on! You are so lucky that you still have your Dad with you! Such a treasure!!

  88. sandy says:

    Hi Susan! this story makes me smile so big. It has such a good feel to it, or should I say, it makes me feel so good. I wasn’t in that kind of family but I can share in the dream of yours. I’m so happy you had the wonderful parents you did. Blessings to your daddy-o (the way I thot it was spelled) for Father’s Day,
    xox sandy 🙂

  89. Julie says:

    That was the best! Please consider writing a memoir, I will be first in line. It so reminded me of my own neighborhood in S CA, where every childhood game imaginable was played. When dinner time rolled around, my little brother and I rushed home to spaghetti or meatloaf or chicken served piping hot on those fabulous melmac plates at five on the dot. Time to talk about our day. Life was good. Thank you once again for reminding me how very lucky I was to have a mother whose laugher made our little hearts fill with happiness, and a brilliant inventive artistic father who, still to this day, makes me laugh like no other.

  90. Laurie - from San Luis Obispo says:

    Hi Susan – I remember the “bomb drills” too. We actually had a raised brick planter just at the end of our cement patio that had a door on the end. I was told that it was the “bomb shelter”, but I think my dad kept his garden tools in it. Reading your family story just makes me smile as I have a very special relationship with my dad too. About 5 years ago when his hearing started deteriating, it was a sad time because even with his hearing aids he wasn’t “part of the conversation” anymore. Shortly thereafter he got a cochlear implant – it’s not perfect, but I felt that “he was back” as now he can hear (he still reads lips a little). He will be 80 this year and I’m so blessed to have him in my life.

  91. Lina says:

    What an amazing memory, thank you for sharing this story with us. Your dad, how precious is he? You are so blessed (and I see, you KNOW it!) to still have your dad, Susan. Mine died when he was only 60 years old and I was 35. My dad was a musician, artist, writer, deep thinker…an unconventional dad. He rode a chopper motorcycle when I was a kid (I was sooooo embarrassed by this!) and let all four of us and all the neighborhood kids too, paint our old station wagon (again, embarrassed!). He bought my mom red velvet hot pants and boots for their anniversary. My parents were young parents, like yours. My mom also died young, age 62, when I was 44. So thank you for generously sharing your stories and tell your Dad Happy Father’s Day from me!

  92. Sylvia in Seattle says:

    Loved this tribute to your Dad and all the comments. Brought back lovely memories of my own Dad who has been gone a long time now. He was a guy who could build and fix things too. Today I’m remembering the stilts he made for me and what fun it was to be taller, having never grown taller than 5 feet. Mostly I remember how people liked him and what fun family get togethers were when he played the piano. I think I’m probably going to have to watch a double feature from my movie collection tonight. For nostalgia — Hope and Glory — charming and funny film about an English family from the point of view of the kid (who wrote it) during WWII where among other things, the Dad makes a bomb shelter in the back yard – and/or The Russians are Coming for some much needed belly laughs after reading comments from others who miss their Dads like me. Thanks again for the memories Sue AND Jack!

  93. Melody says:

    Hi Susan. What a great story. You captured the Fifties so well in your story. I was born in ’57, so I was too little to pay attention the bomb shelters, etc. Your Dad sounds like such a great guy. Mine was too, aren’t we lucky?
    Happy Father’s Day to your Dad.

  94. Jack says:

    Lessee parfig larfatarfitarfin,….you might have to call mom!

    • sbranch says:

      What you did is arf and arfy ~ what I was attempting was arf and arfy for the pig latin version of the words. But I don’t think we really want to go there. 🙂

  95. Rachel says:

    Susan, what a great story 🙂 I agree with the other ladies- you should definitely make your next book a childhood memoir! Think of all the lovely stuff you could include- nursery rhyme inspired illustrations and family photos to start with!

    Jack- Happy Father’s Day! Thank you for raising such a talented daughter- I know I am not along in my enjoyment of her storytelling abilities as well as her art 😉 You should definitely tell us some more stories!

    ~Rachel~ in central Virginia.

  96. Ginny Sargent - New England says:

    Oh Susan, what a wonderful tribute to dad’s everywhere! You have been so blessed. =-)

    Times like these I miss my dad terribly, I was 17 when he passed and I still miss him. He had a special name for me, which makes me smile…. Gennamia.

    Dads are special and thank you for sharing your dad with all of us.

  97. I was born in 1960 and I too remember practicing in elementary school climbing under our desks after watching films of atomic bombs. Lol I have to admit that little desk did make me feel safe , but what were the teachers thinking? I recently visited the Truman Library and thought even though times are tough now ,we have made it through worse times.
    Happy Fathers Day to all the dads out there !

    • sbranch says:

      I think no one really knew what to do — but showing those pictures probably didn’t “help” little kids to feel safe!

  98. Chris and Glenn Perica says:

    Dear Susan, Once again you touch our hearts and make us laugh out loud with the similarity of our lives! Just two days ago I was explaining to my hair cutter what a bomb drill was and had to demonstrate kneeling under my desk at Van Alden Elementary in Reseda, CA. She is 43 and really had no idea what the Cuban Missile Crisis was. My parents, I and my three sisters had that same discussion about a bomb shelter around our dinner table (but we were eating creamed chip beef over toast) because our friends had just installed one for their family. In fact there was just an article about it in a UK publication! The tears flowed throughout the reading of this blog because my Dad, Bryce, just passed away eight weeks ago and he and Jack would have been best buddies. (They probably shopped at the same Ralphs on Ventura Blvd. and pushed the carts past each other filled with children). The final photo showing your Father’s hands as he hugs you brought tears to both my and my husband’s eyes…they look like my Dad’s. Please, please put together a book that includes all your memories of growing up in the San Fernando Valley in the fifties, then I will have a beautiful rendition of my memories! Thank you so much once again!

    • Jack says:

      Chris, our kids went to Shirley Avenue … same neck of the woods as you. I remember when our boy Jim was around six, he was sent home from that school and Mom Pat had to go over and talk to the principal. In his class the kids were supposed to recite a poem as a class project. When it was Jim’s turn, he stood up and said,

      “Mommy and Daddy were laying in bed,
      Mommy rolled over and Daddy was dead!”

      “A tempest in a tea cup,” we thought, but the teacher was very upset!! We couldn’t stop laughing.

  99. Bee Stevens says:

    Loved your story – Happy Father’s Day Jack – I love your comments.
    Yes Sue, a book of family stories would be a best seller. You have
    such a way with words. I am trying to do a book on my dear Grandmother,
    Nonnie. It’s much harder than you would think. I’m doing lots of pictures
    and family history.

    • sbranch says:

      I agree, it’s hard! But just say what you feel and live by the code, “good enough.”

  100. Joy Pence from Ohio says:

    Great story,I read it aloud to my husband, we both laughed out loud how you described the mood at the kitchen table….shoot our neighbors?

    You certainly are blessed, Susan, with a precious daddy. I can’t help myself with what I am about to say….will Girl kitty and Jack get Joe anything for “Fathers Day”? Sorry Joe. 🙂

    • sbranch says:

      LOL. They will make him breakfast and play rubber band on him when he’s waking up!

      • Joy Pence from Ohio says:

        They are such good children!

        • Pat Mofjeld from St. Paul, Minnesota says:

          Yes, they are! Fanny and Betti gave me a NOOK e-reader for Mother’s Day a year ago but this year they didn’t give either Norm or I anything at all…will have to casually tell them about the kitties giving Joe breakfast!!! 🙂

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