Jack lost his mother from cancer when he was 10 and was rejected by a vain divorced father who'd remarried without clarifying to his young bride that, besides the baby girl in his arms, he had three other children – all boys.
Jack was my dad, turned street urchin during the Great Depression, who lived with two older brothers in boys homes. This made Dad a little boy survivor, who sometimes camped out at houses of those feeling sorry for this blue-eyed, blond and scruffy ruffian. He boxed as a hobby, receiving what was called the 'flea-weight' title: 'Dynamite Jack' along with his middle brother: 'Smiling Bob' - and the papers called their act in the ring 'a knock-out'.
While still primary school age, Dad delivered papers by day to theatre moguls such as Mr Mayer of MGM Studios. Remember the lion? [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nq2BTuSOq4]. And he and his brothers had little time for self-pity. In those days, the days of California's part played in the Great Depression with its mass influx of migrants fleeing the Dust-bowl of the Midwest and mountain states, no one pitied these three little ragamuffin boys.
Some other things my youthful dad and his resourceful brothers did then were to eat well-balanced meals via boxed lunches as payment for being extras on film sets. Dad was also a busker with the Farmers Market band, being reimbursed for his time and trouble in fruit and veg, that is, till the band leader caught wind of him being tone deaf and unable to play a single note on key.
And that's just a bit about the younger years of my colourful father, Dynamite Jack!
In his late teens, Dad entered the Army Air Corps, but he was only 17.5 years old. He had crop dusted in his youth and knew how to fly but lied on an intake form. The draft age began at 18, but at the tail-end of WWII the US military was desperate for flyers and didn't check authentications too thoroughly. Soon this flying ace found himself commissioned to fly round-trip from Newport to Cairo, transporting goods to servicemen overseas. One harrowing adventure I was told as a child was when Dad ended up abandoned with his men on a small raft at sea after their DC-3 went down with double engine failure. He and his small crew, consisting of navigator, co-pilot and extra crewman, became newsworthy survivors when found three days later--all feeling that they were goners and would most certainly be adrift on the Pacific until dying of dehydration and starvation. But mayday logistics Dad had called in just before going down had been miraculously heard and recorded.
No, Jack did not go gently into that good night and was a difficult man in many ways, especially for children to know and understand as he hadn't had much patience with them. Nor did he understand their often demanding, short-sighted and silly ways. Regardless, he was one who was true to his word and ever the maverick for a good cause. You would not want this man for an enemy. Yet if he met you and liked the ‘cut of your jib’, as he'd often say, you would be his friend for life.
Jack was a man of his own time and caused me a lot of pain growing up in mine. Yet, if truth be told, I loved him just the same. I only wish he could have remained on this planet a little while longer -- waiting for his daughter to grow older and wiser -- then we could have toasted and celebrated life together on his November birthday and Veterans Day.
Cheers, Dad and Proost!