Dad was always about 47, give or take a decade. It’s like Willie Mays was always 30 to me. When I see those pictures or that string bean of a young man, that wasn’t my father (and he was not yet my father, for most of that time). And in the early days, I don’t recall that much.
Les Green had a lot of different jobs, including floral arranger, sign painter, and singer/guitarist. But for six years or so, he worked at IBM, driving these electric trucks around, moving material from place to place. It was at night, so we seldom saw Dad, except on weekends. This was the period our mom would take us to W.T. Grant’s almost every Friday night to have the all-you-can-eat fish.
Still, we did see him on weekends, when he’d make spaghetti sauce that would cook on the stove for hours. Or he’d make waffles in a waffle iron with a certain panache, and tell stories about him making breakfast for General Washington, which I believe to be untrue.
But you can never tell. Since his early days were such a mystery – and still are – maybe he WAS a time traveler, There’s a song he used to perform called Passing Through, written by a guy named Dick Blakeslee in the 1940s, and popularized by Pete Seeger.
The lyrics were about the narrator seeing Jesus on the cross, and Adam leaving the garden, Washington shivering at Valley Forge, and this one:
I was with Franklin Roosevelt’s side on the night before he died.
He said, “One world must come out of World War Two”
“Yankee, Russian, white or tan,” he said, “A man is still a man.
We’re all brothers now, and we’re only passing through.”
Dad always did a spot-on impression of FDR when he sang “one world must come”. He started being a ‘singer of folk songs” back in the late 1950s around our hometown of Binghamton and would sing for Leslie’s and my elementary school classes each semester for three or four years, which was a treat, in part because he wrecked his sleep schedule to do this.
I’ve noted that when my father quit IBM in 1968 to work in a federal Office of Economic Opportunities program called Opportunities For Broome (our county), my homeroom teacher, Mr. Joseph told me straight out that my father was “crazy” to leave IBM. And maybe he was.
Or maybe being away from his family, and working at night in a job that did not challenge him intellectually or artistically, was making him crazy. His decision always made sense to me.
My father, sister Leslie, and I singing together started just before he left IBM, but thrived when he got to work in the daytime.
I went away to college at New Paltz in 1971, and he, my mother, and my sister Marcia moved to Charlotte, NC in 1974, and, of course, I’d see him far less frequently. But, for most of his time, he looked the same. He looked like Dad.
His 90th birthday would have been September 26.