The Don Dwyer Life Story project began in the Spring of 1994 soon after my Dad had celebrated his 84th birthday. We got talking one day about his life story and I volunteered to write some letters to him asking some questions about his parents, his friends, his schools, his work, etc. A few days later he wrote his first letter, answering my initial list of questions. He wrote seven more letters in the next few months but by the end of September he tired of the project and decided to write no more.
Early in the project I came up with a list of 50 questions to ask Dad. We didn’t get all of those questions answered but he did handle most of them as he poured his heart out in these eight letters. And here’s his first letter, from April 27, 1994: Most of the questions / answers deal with his father, Ignatius D. Dwyer (1876-1952).
Notes on Dad’s Letter # 01
1. Barney Greenbaum was a boyhood friend who had called me up one day out of the blue – I hadn’t seen him in more than 30 years! The Greenbaums lived at 98 Westwood Drive, kitty corner to my Pendergast cousins’ home at 101 Westwood. Dad is referring to an incident that occurred on July 5, 1951 on the lawn of 101 Westwood. Barney, Jack and I were eleven years old and Tom was not quite 10. We did a couple of dumb things that day but luckily we all survived! Someday I will write a post with the full story of what happened on that day.
2. Barry Bonds must have been in a slight slump at the time of my letter to Dad. He ended up hitting .312 that year and had 37 home runs and 74 walks. This was the year of the Players Strike and the season ended on August 11th and there was no World Series. My Dad became a diehard Giants fan the day in 1957 when they left New York and came to San Francisco.
3. Joe Montana and Jerry Rice – the two big football stars of the SF 49er Glory Years in the 1980s.
4. Before Audley and With Audley: My Mom died on September 20, 1995 but Dad had began his mourning for her three years previously when she left the family home on Upland Drive to live in what was the first of four nursing homes for Alzheimer’s patients.
5. Q # 1: Dad’s grandmother Margaret McAuliffe Dwyer died in 1927 when Dad was 17.
6. Q # 9: Tom Howard was the host of the radio (1942-51) and TV (1949-51) show It Pays to be Ignorant. It was a spoof of serious quiz shows and consisted of simple questions such as “For what meal do we wear a dinner jacket.” Of course, no one on the three-person panel would get the correct answer but their answers would be outrageous (and hilarious).
7. Q # 11: They usually drove to Spokane to visit Alice and Dick’s son Fran who settled there in the 1940s. Francis James O’Connor (1918-1981) was their second child and my grandfather’s godson.
8. Re Questions # 12 – 15 : I guess I was looking for details but didn’t word my questions properly.
9. My Dad’s hair didn’t turn gray until he was well into his 80s. I guess I inherited this gene. The hair on top of my head is still pretty dark but my beard started to turn gray when I was in my late 50s.
My next post will cover Dad’s Letter # 02 which he wrote on May 10, 1994. Most of the questions / answers focus on what he thought of our 37th President of the United States, Richard Milhaus Nixon. Stay tuned.