Discover the love of a stepfamily and the sheer joy of riding on the steering wheel of a 1938 Packard.
Charles William Bedal was my stepfather. Let it be said, however, that he was my real father. I call him “Dad.”
He started off in life at the age of 14 learning the carpenter trade. His formal education went up to and included some of the seventh grade. His teacher thought that he was stupid. When he got tired his right eye would go up and to the right. When this happened he said, “The pages in my reader blurred to a gray color and I couldn’t read.” He showed us one time where he lived when he was going to school. It was somewhere above Watsonville, California in the coastal mountains. He said that his older brother, Richard, would drive him to school each day in a buggy. Dad had to sit on the back of the buggy so Richard could have his girl friend up front with him. He liked to smooch with her on the way.
I can’t remember when I first saw him. I do remember that Russell and I enjoyed using the cigarette machine to make his cigarettes. We licked the edge of a thin paper and put it in one end of a mechanically operated machine. We put a measured amount of tobacco on the paper and moved the lever from left to right. We were pleased when the cigarette came out looking like a store-bought one.
Dad’s lack of formal education hindered him to some degree. Writing was a chore for him, but he did math in his head. Those years of carpenter work taught him math. His skills with people were very good. He loved to talk. I sometimes think that somehow there was an unusual genetic transfer of this skill from him to me. His smile and gentle laughter punctuated his speech.
When asked how many children he had, Russell and I were always included in the number. He didn’t say, “Two stepchildren and four of my own.” He said, “I’ve got six kids.” He was patient as he taught us the skills of his trade. “Let the saw do the work, Paul,” he said time and time again. I tried to hurry and wound up binding the saw in the curf. “Remember to grab the hammer close to the end,” he said. I eventually learned all of his lessons to become a skillful craftsman.
I watched him as he put in the vent to our indoor bathroom. It was on the outside wall of the house. He kept telling me to not get too close as he filled the seams of the cast-iron pipe with Oakum and sealed them with molten lead. He was careful to keep me out of harms way. I can feel the admiration I had for him as I thought of the things he knew how to do.
He was playful. One time he put me seated in the steering wheel of our 1938 Packard. He steered a crooked course for my sake and I laughed and laughed. It was OK until he had to make a right turn at a corner. I fell out of the steering wheel, but he caught me and put me on the seat close to him. My little heart burned with love for him.
He had a “junk yard” on our property where he “wrecked” cars for extra money. With the rationing that went on at that time used parts were like finding gold. He had an old Model “T” flat-bed truck in the junk yard with the intent of dismantling it. I decided to help him wreck it. I turned the steering wheel to the left with my puny little four year old arms. When it stopped turning I gave it my all to tear it off. That didn’t work so I turned it to the extreme right and did my all to tear it off. Later when he had decided to keep the truck and use it he told someone that it was the best steering truck that he had ever had. I was so proud that I had made it that way!
Dad loved us and showed it. He didn’t do it deliberately, it just happened. His dad was a steam roller man on a highway construction crew. Grampa Bedal was gone most of the time and when he was home he didn’t have much to do with his kids. When Dad was home I remember soon being in his arms. In later years when I was a grown man and had a family of my own he and Mom came to visit. As I went to embrace him he gently pushed me away. In his family grown men just didn’t hug. Years later, when we went to visit him in his old age, he put his arms around me and pressed me to him. He loved us all. At that time he finally gave me a talk about the birds and the bees. That was after I had eight children! Well, I didn’t learn. We had nine children.
I am so glad that he chose us to be his family.
Paul Yadon knows that everyone has a story or two in them. Most of what you will see in his stories will be glimpses into his life with Patricia and their nine children (he says he would do it all over again!) and his travels to 15 countries other than the USA. His former boss calls him honest and dependable.