Remembering Dad

Dad and I shared the same birthday. I have to admit it: when I was a kid, it was tough, sharing my birthday with someone else. (Thank goodness it was not also Christmas!)

I've been continuing my series of colorized B&W photos (see my older post, below), usually picking military subjects or historical subjects that interest me. It finally dawned on me that I could be looking in the family archives for subjects, too!

I chose this photo of Dad from sometime in the 1960's. He is standing on the front porch of our house, not too many years after his big project to turn the facade from a mid-19th century farmhouse to a colonnaded Southern mansion. He is posing with a plaque he made, depicting his succession of occupations. 

The symbols on the plaque are cast in lead. He had helped me try casting lead soldiers in molds he had bought me for Christmas, and I guess foundry-type work had always interested him. As a separate project, he carved these symbols from hard paraffin wax, then made molds by the lost-wax process. Finally, he used lead we had scrounged to cast these symbols. (As an aside, I'll mention that when he took up silversmithing as a hobby in the 70's, he also did lost-wax castings, this time in silver.)

The book and slide-rule represented his college days at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, where he graduated with a degree in chemical engineering.

The anchor in the upper right represents his wartime service as a midshipman in the Merchant Marine. His detachment manned guns for self-defense on freighters convoying supplies to troops overseas.

In the lower left, the buffalo represents his first post-war job, which was with the Federal Bureau of Mines, part of the Department of the Interior. I believe he worked on mining technology for titanium.

In the lower right is the castle edifice that symbolizes Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, where he was employed as a civilian engineer working for the Army Engineering Research & Development Laboratories. Interestingly, because of his excellent handiness with tools and machines, he was listed as a mechanical engineer, and because of that, I never actually knew of his ChE college background until I had chosen that field myself! Dad worked at Ft. Belvoir, just outside Washington, DC, for most of his working career.

In the middle is a plowshare and at the bottom the word "FAIRFIELD" represents the farming he did in his spare time. He purchased the 275-acre farm I grew up on from his parents. He never intended to make his living farming; he was content to raise enough livestock and crops to pay the mortgage and the taxes so that he could raise his family in the Virginia countryside. Back when I was young, addressing a letter "Fairfield Farm" and our town and state was enough to get mail properly delivered to us.

I took the original photo, and I made a print of it when I learned how to make enlargements in a darkroom. The print shows signs of my imperfect technique - dust specks aplenty! The emulsion in places has also degraded and flaked over the decades. I scanned the photo about six years ago and then disposed of it. I believe that the overall smudging and the dark streak in the lower right corner were due to insufficient fixing with the hypo solution. No matter. The power of PhotoShop allowed me to restore most of the original quality.

So here's my Dad, standing with a family escutcheon of his own design and manufacture, as I remember him on this, our shared birthday.

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