About two years ago, on April 18, 2010, my dad died. In those two years, some memories about him have faded and others have become sharper.
It is impossible to even come close to adequately describing a life in a blog entry, but I plan to try. As I assume most of the folks reading this blog know me at least somewhat, I’m hoping that I can give you some sense of who my dad was by telling you about him in terms of some of our similarities and how he influenced my life. Maybe you'll be able to see a bit of him when you see me. The picture below would have been from late 1959 when I was almost 2 years old on my first cycle. He would have been 30.
While I don’t think he looks much like me, we shared a number of physical characteristics. We were about the same size—six feet tall and on the wrong side of 200 pounds. All my memories of him were with lots of gray hair, like mine, but slightly curly.
We shared a name. He was William Baird Catchings, Jr. He hated the junior. His dad was called Bill and he was called Billy. So, of course, I was called Barry. No, I don't know exactly why. Suffice to say, only my mom and brother still call me Barry.
My dad was born in Raleigh, on Halloween 1929, just a few days after the stock market crash that began the Great Depression. As a young boy, he lived downtown on W. Johnson Street near Saint Mary's. His dad, my grandfather was an engineer. They lived well. My dad likes to tell me that when the season's new clothes would come out, Belk's would come to the house to show them to his mom. But, like many others, they lost everything in the Depression. They had to move to Cary. It is pretty funny that about 50 years later I moved to Cary, one block from where he lived in the mid-1930s.
My grandfather worked on building airports, and especially in the late-1930s and 1940s, that meant moving a lot. Even though my dad was born in Raleigh, he lived many different places and did not really have a place with strong roots growing up. He eventually ended up in NJ where he met and married my mom. They lived there for over 25 years before moving to Manning, SC where they lived for almost 30 years.
My dad was careful with money. He often lectured me about the dangers of credit cards. He claimed they were the reason he and his parents had to move to Cary. I’m sure that his views on money had some influence on my cautious attitude toward investing and saving.
Even though he was very careful with money, my dad became an entrepreneur. He worked for many years as an accountant, but his passion was antiques. When he was laid off as an accountant in the 1970s, he chose to make antiques his business. The name of the business was The Silver Porringer. He and my mom traveled up and down the East Coast to antique shows selling the silver and other antiques they bought at garage sales, auctions, and from other antique dealers. Looking back, I respect the courage it took to start a business with two kids approaching college age.
To this day, I prefer eating food off of silverware and even have some in my drawer at work for eating lunch. (Only silver plate in case anyone was wondering...) I still can recognize some silver patterns when I see them.
My dad loved to travel and I do as well. He took us to Europe when I was in seventh grade. As kids, we drove over much of the eastern US on vacations. Of course, he was always looking for antique shops. Jamey and I would try to see signs for them well in advance and then point out cows or something interesting on the other side of the road so he would not see the signs.
As some of you may have noticed, I am prone to kidding people. So was my dad. When my kids were young, they went to spend a week with my parents. My parents wanted to know what foods they like to eat. We said that for vegetables, the only one we knew they all liked was corn. So, my dad made sure they had corn at pretty much every meal. He would gleefully sing to them, “Corn, corn, corn, corn!” For years afterwards, every Christmas each of them would receive a wrapped can of corn from my dad. He did have a little trouble knowing when to stop kidding!
My dad was a man of his generation. He tended to be reserved and not show much affection (at least until he got older). He said, and at least partially believed, “Children should be seen and not heard.” But, whatever his faults, he was a good father. Much of who I am today is due to my dad.
I am proud to be William Baird Catchings, III.