END  DIETRICH   FARR   CHILDREN   TRAVEL   GALLERY

Who is Richard Farr Dietrich?

    Or, Whatever Happened to That Cute Kid and Handsome Dog?

 

rfd-1939rfd21

               1939?                                  1957 (at 21)                                                    Now!

 

                                                

Well, I dunno, I've checked with the usual suspects--nature and nurture, heredity and environment--who are supposed to be the responsible parties in these matters of identity, but it's hard to credit the story they've come up with.  And it all seems so superficial.  Anyway, here it is, and never mind that it reveals a certain addiction to slinging the bull on the narrator's part:

YOUR HUMBLE NARRATOR

(In a bullring in Ronde, Spain)

rfd-bull-2000

First of all, no bull about it, I am a late edition of a certain gene pool.  Does that matter?   Maybe, maybe not.  Many Americans are on a genealogical quest for ancestors these days because they feel that they'll answer the question of who they are by finding out who their ancestors were.  There may be something to that, although not in the way most think.  Finding "blue blood" in the gene pool, for example, probably tells you nothing about who you are, but finding Tourette's Syndrome might.   Take, for example, the evidence of the following photo, suggesting that I was destined for a throne.  Alas, it never panned out, depending upon what "throne" you're talking about.  

 

QUEEN DOLLY & Richard II & THEIR COURT

(Latin Club, PCHS.  Circa 1950)

kingdick-1950

 

Whatever, I have found investigating my family tree most worthwhile (and this tells you something about who I am) because it fulfills the hope that I am at least descended from interesting people, some of whom are interesting because of the way they tried to avoid being interesting.  Like my boringly virtuous parents.  I found in the family tree the outlaws and victims of catastrophe I was hoping to find, for such notoriety is crucial to a narrative such as this, but the boringly "straight" relatives were just as fascinating because their virtue seems to have been hiding something.

So let's begin this autobiography by climbing around that family tree and checking out the monkeys, starting with me and working our way down and back in time limb by limb.

I was born, not quite ready for the New Age, on the cusp of Aquarius, January 16, 1936, in a Sandusky, Ohio hospital, there being no hospital at the time in Port Clinton, the town to the northwest across Sandusky Bay where my parents were living.  I may not have been quite ready for the Age of Aquarius, but I was born ready to roll:

rfd-stroller

It took me a while to get out of Port Clinton, however, which wasn't all bad because there was lots to see and do there and most kids would be lucky to have such a place to grow up in.  Port Clinton was then a town of about 3,000 souls between Toledo and Cleveland on Lake Erie and known as the "Gateway to the Islands," referring to Put-in-Bay (also called "South Bass") and about a dozen other islands reachable by ferry or other boats from Port Clinton.

Yesterday’s Port Clinton looks like this from the air:

The “PCHS” refers to my high school, now demolished!

pc-overview-1

 

 pc-overview

 And above is what my neck of the woods, essentially a peninsula, looked like in the old days.

 

Below is the bridge that sang with traffic (calling it “Whistling Bridge” doesn’t quite get it)

 and was always a sight to see when it went up to let some tall yacht or sail boat go through.

The Bridge Tender was my buddy, as I walked over it every day to and from school.

portage-bridge

 

Below is what the downtown looked like, south from the river, in the 1950s, my heyday.

Look for a '49 black Pontiac, or a '53 green Pontiac, or an orange and white '56 Hudson Wasp,

the cars I drove in that decade of miraculous but clueless youth.

pc-downtown-3

 

Was it always summer in Port Clinton?  Only when I want to remember the place fondly.  All too often it froze my bones.  To make the picture a little more complete, then, the following photos (scenes around our house) remind me of one of the principal reasons I left Beautiful Ohio and settled in Florida:

    Below, the front of our house & our neighbors to the right.     The sidewalk from our back porch to our dock & boat                        

                                                                                                          house, with the garage and Dad’s shop to the right.pc-winter

     Above, the view from Mrs. Kelly’s house,                       A view of the Log Cabins across the street and on Lake Erie.

        to the east and next to the Yacht Club.      

                          

        But let's remember it as summertime, shall we?  

In addition to all its natural attractions, with water water everywhere, Port Clinton and its environs has a bit of national history (and national typology) behind it, at least one item of which has something to say about who I am.  First, let's review the items that didn't directly touch me but mattered in the sense that they helped define the community I grew up in.

 

Port Clinton was named after that far-seeing master of city and country planning, New York Governor DeWitt Clinton (1769-1828), who, after seeing (politically) to the gridding of Manhattan and the building of the Erie Canal, had plans to build a canal, connecting several rivers, from Port Clinton to the Ohio River, which he thought would open up the interior of the country to boat trade (But the railroads eventually took care of the trade, Clinton not being quite far-seeing enough).  Perhaps in anticipation of becoming a canal gateway, Port Clinton began as a major boat-building center.  [One of my best friends as a kid, by the way, was Scot Reynolds, the son of the manager of Matthews' Boat Works, and he never ceased trashing Chris Crafts, their major rival in yachts.  Scot is the one on the left below (1948), getting the credit from the mayor, but I'm the one on the right who actually sold the cat-tails (a claim Scot can't defend himself against, having passed on to that great scout camp in the sky).  I'm not quite sure of the logic of this cat-tail drive, but apparently it was my maiden voyage as an environmentalist.  Those lake front cat-tails have since mostly been bulldozed or buried under “land reclamation”]:

rfd-scout-c1948

 

Among other items of national interest, just east of Port Clinton, there was a Confederate cemetery (formerly a prison) on Johnson's Island, in Sandusky Bay just off and south of the Marblehead Peninsula, and Lakeside, on the north side of the Marblehead Peninsula, a major Chautauqua center for many years visited by the rich and famous and pious. And, closer to Port Clinton and to the northeast, was Catawba Island (not really an island but a peninsula after fill connected it to the mainland) which had some renown for its vacation motels and trailer parks on the thin beaches on its west side and its vineyards and orchards, now mostly vanished, in the center.  In my teen years I spent many a cold Saturday in the winter trimming the apple trees of great old guy and state representative Bill Rofkar, the uncle of my good buddy Bart Drickhamer, who, along with Bill's son John, later a school principal, made up the work crew.  From this crew I must have learned some storytelling and how to tell bawdy jokes.  Laughing hard enough to fall out of trees is how we kept warm and interested (so to speak).

These orchards were part of a rich farming community around Port Clinton on all sides in my youth that made Sunday drives enjoyable episodes of fruit-picking, corn-harvesting, and the like, and fun drives with girls as well. The cider available in the fall was real cider, that after a week or two of sitting on the back porch took on the kick of a mule. I would kill for such cider today.

However, from my perspective as a teenager, Catawba Island’s most important feature was a Drive-In Movie Theater, known as “the passion pit” by guys and gals alike.   That was, alas, just before “the sexual revolution” of the 60s, but, with Elvis Presley as our King, we tried to lead the way. 

Other features on Catawba Island, with national resonances, were a golf course where I caddied and learned to play golf, an area just above that and around the northwestern bend known as “The Cliffs,” where the 1% lived in very nice houses, rock houses being the most spectacular, from which they had a very close view of Put-in-Bay, quickly reached by ferry at the tip of Catawba, and around and below the northeastern bend was “Gem Beach,” containing a roller skating rink, a penny arcade full of the sort of games that preceded Pac Man and other eGames, and, the real gem, a dance hall and bar, about half of which had clear, starlit sky above, made for romantic dancing.  This was one of those places where rock ‘n roll was invented, though I preferred slow dancing cheek to cheek. 

One update interjected here, to prepare for some irony to follow.   I don’t know exactly when this happened, but these days you can see clearly, from almost everywhere on the Port Clinton and Catawba Island lake front, a profane nuclear reactor looming menacingly a few miles west.  And a study of a detailed map shows a huge NASA plant just below Sandusky and about the same size as Sandusky, something I didn’t know existed until quite recently.  So the PC area is ready for the future, so to speak, as explosive as it may be.  Now let’s go back to the features of the area that pertain to my time there and that are of national interest or typology, to draw a contrast between past and present that speaks to how fast the world changes.

Just a few miles off the northern top of Catawba Island, on the first island north of PC, there is a monument to a national celebrity who affected me personally, Commodore Perry, who of course in the War of 1812 defeated the British in the Battle of Lake Erie and whose heroics--"We have met the enemy and they are ours"--called for the later construction of Perry's Monument on Put-in-Bay. The inviting presence of this memorial occasioned many thrilling trips in my youth over the water on ferry boats or my Dad’s boat to climb our country's second tallest monument and to experience defining moments.  That island was often visible from the lake front just across from our house.

put-in-bay

 

A "defining moment" certainly arrived the first time I climbed Perry's Monument. Unfortunately, these "climbs" (i.e. elevator rides to the top of Perry's Monument) revealed that I suffered from somewhat less-than-heroic vertigo the minute I moved from the elevator to the observation platform at the top. This vertigo constituted one of my principal introductions to the discrepancy between the world as I wished it to be (something I could comfortably look down upon from angelic heights) and the world as it was (dizzying whenever one tried to elevate).  And since no one else in my family seemed to suffer from vertigo, it brought home the fact that one can be peculiar even among one's near clones.  Gene pools are as likely to spawn difference as similarity.

Had I been able to stand up on Perry's Monument (I usually fell to my trembling knees soon after getting off the elevator at the top or plastered myself against the wall furthest from the edge), I might have seen the ghosts of speed boats past darting here and there among the islands and, on a clear day, sensible Canada lining the northern horizon. For those islands in mid-lake also served as transfer stations for bootleggers from Port Clinton and Sandusky meeting entrepreneurs from Canada during the madness that was Prohibition. I like to imagine that my evening bourbon is somehow spiritually connected to this derring do. [Update: Cancel the bourbon, as Peripheral Neuropathy in legs and feet has recently reduced my alcohol intake to moderate amounts of wine and beer.  How did this happen?  I was counting on being an old drunk and now I find myself “a moderate drinker.” Oh, Pshaw! sad-face-psd78749[1]]

Exciting stuff, that bootlegging, but my boringly virtuous parents had little to do with that beyond perhaps purchasing an illicit fifth of bathtub gin from time to time and, after Prohibition was repealed, sharing the ownership of one of those used, varnished speed boats for a while.  Gas-guzzlers at top speed!!

It took some digging and some serendipity to get to the reasons for my parents' virtuous but boring lives.  Here are my virtuous parents, Marion and Dick Sr., and their virtuous son and daughter, Dick Jr. and Marilyn.  I am now taller than my very tall sister was then:                                                                                  TOP

                                                       The Dietrichs of Port Clinton, Ohio

rfd-family-1948

 

My parents were Marion Margaret Farr Dietrich (raised as a farm girl in Danbury, Ohio) and Richard Franklin Dietrich (born in Milan, Ohio, south of Sandusky, but raised mostly in Gypsum, Ohio, on Sandusky Bay, site of large gypsum mines and factories where plaster and wall board were made, the Celotex loading docks providing my summer paycheck to help pay for 5 years of college).  Danbury and Gypsum are just to the east of Port Clinton and divided by Route 2, the road that leads on a bridge over Sandusky Bay to Sandusky and Cleveland.  That two-laned bridge, on the way to movie dates in Sandusky, was the scene of many suicidal moves in my early driving days, which I’ve lived to tell.   My date often said she was gonna kill me if I kept up those brushes with death, so how could I not lose.  Scare the girls was always the point.

 

                                         Map of the Port Clinton area,

                                 with the Bridge of Terror in the middle:

Port Clinton-Sandusky

                                              Zoomed in and including Cedar Point:

Zooming Out:

See http://www.distancebetweencities.net/sandusky_oh_and_port-clinton_oh/route

 

The fact that my father was born in Milan, Ohio (below Sandusky), the same town Thomas Alva Edison was, illustrates how lightning can strike the gene pool right next to yours, so to speak, leaving you to wonder why yours missed all the excitement.   My father, whenever he fooled with the electrical stuff around the house, was teased as “Edison.”  But he was actually very good at it, as at everything “handy.”

Perhaps the location in this area that is most famous, as far as general recognition is concerned, is Cedar Point, where fun-seekers went for the thrill rides on the infamous roller coasters, and still do. 

Well, never mind geographical location, where had boring Richard and Marion come from, gene-pool-wise?

From not-so-boring ancestors, it turns out.


First, Dad’s family--the Dietrichs and the Fabians.

My father's great-grandparents, John & Minnie Dietrich, apparently emigrated from Lower Saxony in northern Germany, in the area of Mecklenburg County and the resort city of Schwerin, in the 1850s.  In America, one of their sons, Frederick Joseph Dietrich, married Hannah Roose in 1869, the Rooses being huge landholders in the Oak Harbor and Port Clinton area, once owning, so I was told, the land on which the Yacht Club, the Log Cabins, and our house stood (about which more anon). They had 12 children, one of whom was to become (ta da):

The notorious Ernest Dietrich, my grandfather.

See below a portrait of the reprobate as a young man:

Fred-Hannah-1894

Frederick & Hannah with family, circa 1894

 

It was marriage that made Ernest Dietrich notorious, thanks partly perhaps to the woman he married, my grandmother Emma Amanda Fabian, in 1895.

First, a bit about the Fabians (no relation to The Fabian Society in England, alas).  I vaguely remember a story that the Fabians had emigrated from a part of East Prussia given to Poland after WWI (thus the presence of Polish names, Wargowski and Sperlinksi, in our family tree) in order to assist a certain "Uncle Otto" to escape military service during the Franco-Prussian War.  I enjoy the possibility of being related to such a sensible person, and I thank all my relatives for getting the hell out of militaristic Germany.  The only males in my family who ever served in the military came in by marriage, and there weren't many of those.  My Uncle Elmer was in the Battle of the Bulge, and that was about it.   Here's our draft-dodging model, Uncle Otto Fabian:

otto-fabian

 

Whether the story about the draft-dodging "Uncle Otto" is true or not, Otto's sister, Emma, certainly earns her stripes in this story by showing us the importance of being Ernest.   Ernest and Emma Dietrich, apparently living in first Milan, then Enterprise, and then Gypsum, Ohio, had five children, known to me as Uncles Rollie and Fred, Aunts Minn and Jo, and my father Dick Sr. (born in 1908), the baby of the lot. Now in the (circa 1910) picture below, things don't look so bad.  If nobody's smiling here, it's because no photographer ever said "cheese" in those days.  They thought a sober face revealed the soul, whereas smiles are false.   Little did they know.

 

Below is my Dad’s family before he was born (1906?), so only 4 kids to this point, my uncles and aunts.

The house looks like the house in Gypsum across from the railroad station from which local fruit was shipped:

Dietrichs-1907

 

And then, below, the full family (except for an esoteric branch,

perhaps not known to anyone but Ernest at this time):

emma-ernest-family

 

Quite a brood.  But the problem was that the Fab Five depicted above weren't all the children ol' Ernest had.  It seems Ernest had a second family in Sandusky, and he may have attempted a third in Toledo!!  When Emma found out about this (1922?), all hell broke loose, and ol' Ernest went to jail for bigamy and forgery (apparently more than once, after she bailed him out the first time and he failed to follow through on his repentance). This taking on of two families is the only instance of heroic behavior in the Dietrich side of the family known to me!

What must Emma have been like to drive Ernest to such importance?  Or was he the "cur" and "base coward" the newspapers said he was?  One wonders what the happy family below knew about Ernest in 1912, just before he went bananas and married the second woman (giving me unknown relatives!):

FamilyReunion1912

Dietrich Family Reunion, 1912

Well, I'm real sorry I missed that party, aren't you?  Imagine how much more sour the expressions on the faces would have been, especially Emma's, if they had known that just a few months hence Ernest would run off to Detroit to marry the woman from Sandusky, two days after promising a judge he would do better to support his and Emma's five kids!!  Although he and Emma were still officially married, apparently she had to haul him into court to support the family.  Sounds like an absentee father.  What's missing here is any mention of the possibility that Ernest had for some time devoutly wished for divorce but was prevented from it by circumstances.  Divorces were not as easy to come by in those days.  Could it be that he lived on and off with two families for nine years because he couldn't figure a way out of that?

Whatever, let's at least consider the possibility that Emma was not blameless.  A clue to Emma's character may arise from the way Emma treated at least one of her children.  Because during the nine years between 1913 and the 1922 (?) divorce, when Ernest seems to have been absent much of the time, and three of the children were still young (Dick was 5 in 1913), justifying Emma's staying home, her two older sons were forced to support their mother and the family.  Here's Uncle Fred, for example, working his milk route in Port Clinton over brick-paved streets:

fred-dairy

But the older Rollie and Fred were able to at least complete high school, whereas Dick, despite being a very promising student, was forced to quit school after the ninth grade (when he was 16) and go to work. Dick was not grateful to his mother for this. The (circa 1920) picture below suggests a boy wanly enjoying what little is left of his boyhood:

dad-on-boat

Did Dick know that his days as Tom Sawyer were numbered?

 

Dick Sr., as I came to know my father, all too soon after this picture was taken, at the age of 16 (1924) became the manager of Kroger grocery stores in Oak Harbor (upriver to the west of Port Clinton) and Perrysburg (near Toledo), but most of his long career of managing Kroger stores occurred in Port Clinton.  In those days you were considered manager material if you could read and write and do arithmetic, and of course do them well.  Here's Dad, on the right in both pictures, first as the manager of the Perrysburg store and then of the Oak Harbor store.

 

Kroger-Perrysburg-1928 kroger-oakharbor-1931

 

After quitting Kroger's in the early 1950s when his lack of formal education blocked him from being promoted and he found running the town's new Kroger supermarket too aggravating, he managed Sorenson's old-fashioned Grocery Store for a few years (where I worked summers and Saturdays as a teen-ager), and he had brief stints as an all-purpose construction worker and a salesman of Pontiacs and Cadillacs.  Eventually he settled into his final job of credit manager at Magruder Hospital.  He was offered the job of the hospital's director when he decided to retire instead (1970), after a lifetime of being one of Port Clinton's most respectable and respected family men and a pillar of the community.  Unlike Ernest, his apparently ne'er-do-well father, Dick Sr. spent a long lifetime working to support a family. You could say he spent his life trying to live down his father's ill repute.  And that's why my parents were so boringly virtuous, and Dick Jr. was expected to be so too.  And that's undoubtedly why, while my parents went fishing on Sunday mornings, I was sent to represent them at church, where I racked up 10 years of perfect Sunday School attendance!!  That devil Ernest forced us to be angels!   Ironically, I can't stand piety or its pretense anymore, but here I am being confirmed in it:

 

rfd-confirmed-1948-9

 

It's significant that I knew almost nothing of this dark side of the family history growing up, although I always wondered why there seemed to be resentment about the monthly check my father sent to contribute to my grandmother's nursing home upkeep.  The much-abused Emma lived to be 99, by the way, which gave that resentment ample time to build up and occasionally boil over.  Although longevity must have been in the genes, because Emma's brother and a first cousin topped 100, there were grumblings among her children that it was mainly bile against her bigamist but long dead ex-husband that kept her alive.

What I mostly remember about my grandmother is not that she was "a woman wronged" (that I didn’t understand until much later) but that she provided the fantastically delicious home-grown tomatoes, home-baked bread, and home-churned butter I was treated to on visits to her Gypsum home when I was quite young.  Also where I was introduced to an actual “outhouse,” the only one I’ve ever used.  Here's the grandma I remember, feeding her chickens after feeding me scrumptious tomato sandwiches lathered with mayonnaise:

emma-chickens-1920

 

Later, on her obligatory Christmas or Thanksgiving visits to our house on River Front in Port Clinton, I recall her as a rather shapeless, burping old lady, always complaining.  But it appears she had a talent for writing, maybe even bore a life-long frustration at being unable to fulfill it, and so it's fair to consider the possibility that being saddled with five kids while Ernest cavorted about might have done this potential New Woman in.

At any rate, once, near the end of her life, she sent me perhaps the only letter she ever wrote to me, which did indeed reveal both her talent and her frustration, but which principally revealed her life-long grievance, for it came with 1922 (?) newspaper clippings denouncing Ernest Dietrich as a cad for practicing bigamy and forgery and pronouncing him well deserving of jail.  I knew why she had written.  She wanted vindication from me, that's what. She had heard that I was a writer of sorts, and she hoped I would someday tell her story.  Here it is, grandma, though I'm sorry I never met my grandfather Ernest or got to hear his side of it.  Although he probably would have just told a tall tale similar to the ones he is reported telling various women and various judges.  Speaking of those judges who sentenced Ernest, the one in Sandusky was also named "Dietrich!"  Hmmm, this plot might be thicker than even I am capable of imagining.

A side note: About a year or more before the Berlin Wall came down, Lori and I decided to take a trip into East Germany to see if any remains of the Dietrichs could be found, in records or on tombstones, since my Uncle Rollie told me that the few remaining had been wiped out by the Russians.   With a special visa for a 24 hour stay, we crossed the border and drove through picturesque country (harvesters with scythes to be seen, like an old painting) and eventually Schwerin, an attractive if old and crumbling resort town on a lake.  The town cemetery’s tombstones had so worn down that they were unreadable, and a stop at a tourist bureau, where almost no English was spoken, discouraged us from further research.   Then the sun went down and things got increasingly scary, as we found ourselves the only ones walking about after dinner, except for Russian troops.  The next morning we got out of there as fast as we could, finding ourselves and our car a subject of considerable interest and investigation by the Russians at the border, one of whom screamed at Lori for our passports and visas.  All in all, a very unpleasant stay and a foolish experiment, except for the accidental meeting with a traveling businessman at the check-in at the Stadt Hotel who was quite friendly, offered his help, and informed us that the name “Dietrich” means “keeper of the keys” or something similar.  I later found that to have some validity.  But the only keys we were interested in were the ones to our rental car that got us out of there the next morning!  Since then, I’ve wondered what keys the original Dietrich had in order to earn that name.   Not to the pearly gates, I’m quite sure.  

 

Please note: You're about half way through.  

TOP

Now the Farrs, my mother's family. 

Will they prove as interesting?  It's almost too much to hope for.  But wait and see.

The Farr family can be traced further back, although the origins are murky indeed. Coming to this country in the 1870s, later than the Dietrichs did, my great-grandparents John and Margaret Farr emigrated from Longtown, England, on the Welsh border, an old Roman fort town (the ruins still there).  Down the hill from this tiny village stands the ancient church of Cloddock, surrounded by tombstones, some of which carry the name of Farr (and the names of those families they married into--the Pritchards, Parrys, Joneses, and Thomases).

RFD-farrtombs

 

The tombstones go back at least five generations, to a William Farr born in 1724.  Apparently the Farrs were mostly "yeomen," meaning small farmers.  They owned land but were lower in rank than the gentry. Middle Management types even then.  If the older tombstones had not had their inscriptions worn off, I might have discovered Farrs going back to at least the early 17th Century, for a family story has it that the Farrs of Longtown were all descended from Farrs who had migrated there from Scotland at that time.

Three dark-eyed Farr brothers, the story goes, fleeing from the law, early in the 17th C., eventually made their way from the far north of Scotland, via the Isle of Skye for a bit, to settle in Longtown, Herefordshire.   They fled the law, opposing legends have it, either for stealing sheep or for political reasons, possibilities that can be reconciled by the fact that in those days a certain political motive was sometimes disguised as something else.  Those were the days in Scotland and England of the "land clearances," when absentee landlords (aristocrats) evicted people from their homes and destroyed the homes to make room for more sheep, who were more profitable.  What the law called a "sheep stealer" may simply have been someone who fought the eviction, although I wouldn't rule out a vindictive theft or two. Whatever, I'm encouraged to see that there are outlaws on this side of the family too. In a world in which wickedness owns almost everything, you especially can't have enough thieves in the family.  Speaks well for family spirit.

To check out this Farr legend, received in correspondence from a distant relative in Longtown, my wife and I one summer visited a small hamlet called "Farr," situated along "Farr Bay," in the middle of coastal northern Scotland, just east of Tongue and near Bettyhill.

RFD-farrbeach

Standing where his ancestors once stood,

Dick looks positively mythological.

 

The splendid but chilly beach along this northern coast of Scotland is nowadays called "the Viking Riviera" because so many Vikings strayed south off their usual course between Norway and Iceland and landed there, many settling and becoming Scottish clans.  We learned this when, to our amazement, we discovered a small museum in the bleak, empty land between Farr and Bettyhill. The curator explained that we would find no Farrs in Farr, nor would we find any on the region's various registers going back to the beginning of the 17th C., and the reason was not that the Farrs had all left but that most likely there never had been any!  Known as such there and then, that is.

According to the curator, in the 17th C. all of the families in this part of Scotland were descended from an original Viking chieftain named Kai, whose sons where all "MacKai," meaning "son of Kai" (and thus the origin of the McKays and Mackeys), and since everybody had the same last name, so to speak, they distinguished themselves from others who had the same first name by taking a place or a job name as their last name. A John MacKai who lived in Farr, for example, might call himself "John Farr" to distinguish himself from other John MacKais who lived in the area but not in Farr.  But "farr" can have many other derivations. People who know Norwegian tell me that it could be related to the Norwegian word for “father,” which is “far,” or to another Norwegian word that denotes a "shepherd" or "land of shepherds," and so "John Farr" perhaps simply equated to “John the father” or "John the shepherd."   Other derivations relate it to a Norman name, “Farrar” (the Normans were also Vikings before they became Normans or “Northmen”), although some trace “Farrar” back to the Latin “ferrum,” but in either case this denotes someone who worked in iron, such as a blacksmith.  Another derivation for Farr is of Anglo-Saxon origin and originated either as a nickname for a powerfully built or strong man, or a lusty man, or as a metonymic occupational name for an oxherd, from the Olde English pre-7th Century "fearr", Middle English "farre", meaning bull.  Since my Farrs can be traced back to the northern tip of Scotland and “the Viking Riviera,” I’m inclined to go with the Norwegian roots.  Whether the "Farr" last name was taken by the three Farr brothers who fled south because "Farr" was where they were from or it was what they were, they may also have used it to disguise who they were, if indeed they were hunted for political or legal reasons. Once settled in Longtown, the Farrs appear to have become model citizens, but perhaps this is another instance of living down a disreputable past.  Sometimes boring is good.

At any rate, breaking the chain of respectable yeomanry that five or more generations of Farrs had established in Longtown, my great-grandparents John and Margaret came over to America in the 1870s, bringing my grandfather William Farr when he was a small child.  Sometime around 1891 Bill Farr married Margaret Wahlers, who may have been from Schlieswig-Holstein, once Danish but perhaps German at the time.  Don't know anything heroic about the Wahlers, except that a cousin named Bill Wahlers who played third base for PCHS was signed by the Cleveland Indians, and I guess that will have to do.

bill-margaret-farr

Bill and Margaret's Wedding Picture, 1891

Bill Farr started as a farmer in Danbury but eventually worked for the railroad as a telegraph operator when he moved into Port Clinton.  I curse myself for giving away his teletype in my parents’ estate sale.   That's Bill on the right: 

billfarr-rr

 

Bill Farr also seems to have had some amazing interest in a young game his grandson would one day play for keeps and for many years.  In the photo below Bill Farr, with the bow tie, is the coach of what I was told was one of the country's first semi-professional basketball teams (1904), although it’s hard to believe that little Gypsum would have such a team (the population was never more than in the hundreds):  

billfarr-bb-1904 

 

While on their farm in Danbury, Ohio, William and Margaret Farr had two children, my mother Marion Margaret Farr (1908-1987) and my Uncle Jim (1907-1926). The (circa 1912) picture below shows this charming couple:

marion-jim-farrjamesfarr-1927

                                     Mom and Uncle Jim,                                 Uncle Jim just before his drowning,           

                                           Circa 1912?                                                 with perhaps a girl friend?

 

At the age of 19, Uncle Jim unknowingly added plot interest to this story by spookily drowning in the Portage River across from the Yacht Club and just a few hundred yards from where I spent most of my youth.  That coincidence ought to be dramatic enough for me, but sometimes I let my imagination run wild when I contemplate the fact that Uncle Jim's drowning took place just before my parents' wedding in 1926.  I ask you, how many incest-romances have a sibling committing suicide just before the other sibling's marriage?  Of course no one has ever suggested the drowning was anything more than an accident, and that does look like a girlfriend on Jim’s arm above, but why did my parents go ahead with the wedding so soon after?  Tempus fugit?   Consider further that at that 1926 wedding, which must have had a pall over it with Marion's brother barely cold in the grave (Wait! Did they even find his body?), Marion Farr and Richard Dietrich made such a handsome couple they were dubbed "The Hollywood Duo."  Mom was a bombshell!  Dad was a Bogart!  And Uncle Jim was drownded.....

dick-marion-1927

Mom and Dad in 1926

Well, you know, add catastrophe to outlawry, mix in a vague hint of brother-sister incestual feelings, and you're beginning to have a very interesting family indeed!   Even the boring ones have interesting reasons for being boring!    Or so says the narrator who’s unscrupulously trying to maintain plot interest.

 

At any rate, I think you're beginning to get some idea of who I am from my tastes in family history and storytelling.   I agree with G. B. Shaw, "If you can't get rid of the family skeletons, you might as well make them dance."  It helps of course that the ones I've made to dance are beyond caring whether they're made to dance or not.

 

Even so, I'm now going to make an effort to get back to reality here.  Just the facts, ma'am.

 

After a brief tour of duty managing a Kroger store in Perrysburg, Ohio (near Toledo) and in Oak Harbor, my father was assigned to the Port Clinton store, and so my parents lived there from then until they retired to Melbourne, Florida in the 1980s.  My sister Marilyn (1929—2010?) and I (b. 1936) were born when our parents lived in a small house on 5th St. in Port Clinton.   Shortly after my birth, they moved to a larger house on 4th St. (a few blocks west of the house on 4th St. where the grandparent Farrs had moved from the country, Bill Farr now being a telegraph operator for the railroad).

rfd-sis-c1939

Dick Jr. and sister Marilyn, my babysitter, circa 1939, 4th St.

 

sis-bro-c1944

Sis & Bro after move to “River Front,” circa 1944?

 

My sister Marilyn Green (after marrying Jim Green of Fremont), by the way, now deceased, lived with most of her large brood in Fremont, Ohio, just southwest of Port Clinton, although these days Griffith, Indiana holds another branch, and combined they have made me a great-Uncle and great-great Uncle many times over.  The story of the Greens and the Sewells is another whole epic or two, which I will mostly leave to them, but here, on the left, is a shot (circa late 1950s) of nephews Mike (b.1953) and Jim (b.1952) and nieces Cathy (b.1955) and Mary (b.1954), before they started making such a "great" uncle out of me, and, on the right a shot of me and Marilyn's firstborn, Jim (1954?), in front of the old boathouse, now torn down, along with the great Chinese Elm in the background my swing was attached to. :

 

nephews-nieces-1960s

rfd-jim-1955

 

In 1941 my parents moved across the river from the town, and I spent the rest of my boyhood living in a two-story red brick house on "River Front," later inappropriately renamed "Brooklyn St," which was situated on the Portage River just west of the Port Clinton Yacht Club where the river bent north to follow its rerouting through dumped-in rock walls to Lake Erie.  The front of the house looked out toward Lake Erie through "The Log Cabins," but the property, with a dock and boathouse behind the house, was on the river and its back looked out over the river toward the town.  The ferryboat to the islands used to park just across from us, as did the fishing fleet.  “The Whistling Bridge” was to the right. 

river-front-1950s

The way the front of the house looked then, with the great Chinese elm in the back.

Dad landscaped this lot to the teeth.

Our house had a twin next door, occupied by the people (the Hecklers) who owned "The Log Cabins," a resort of about a dozen cabins which was just across the street and between us and Lake Erie.  There was a period there when I grumblingly mowed the lawns of the Log Cabins, the Hecklers, our lawn, and the lawn of Mrs. Kelly, a ship captain's widow who had the only house on the river between us and the Yacht Club.  The Log Cabins were eventually demolished and replaced by condos.  The Yacht Club later bought both Mrs. Kelley's house, which they tore down and replaced with a swimming pool, and our house, where the keeper now lives on a property denuded of all the wonderful landscaping my father so lovingly worked on.

See the evidence of the crime below, from the 1990s:

river-front-1990s

To continue with the theme of the despoliation of a beautiful past (or the polluting of the environmental gene pool, so to speak), Port Clinton today is mostly condos and marinas and fast food joints from end to end, as its summertime population at times doubles & triples its wintertime population of around 7,000. During the new-fangled annual summer "Walleye Festival," I'm told, visitors are thicker than June bugs (also called “Canadian soldiers” to identify their origin).  And they now have an annual "Walleye Drop" in the winter, during which a huge papier-mâché fish is dropped into the river right across from my old home. I'm told that David Letterman split his 1999 New Year's Eve show between the ball-drop in Time's Square and the Walleye Drop in Port Clinton, Ohoho.

pc-newyear'seve

Incidentally, we didn't call them "walleyes" when I was a boy, we called them "pickerel." And nobody seems to remember how to cook them.  Squirt a whole pickerel with lemon juice, wrap it in bacon and an oiled cooking bag, and bake at 350 degrees for at least an hour.  It is to die for.  This recipe was my father's, I am amazed to realize. My housewife mother did all the cooking, except for the pickerel.  An inveterate fisherman on weekends, my father always had a boat in his boathouse, a 32 foot sea-going Maine fisher being the most fondly remembered.

boat-fish-1950s

The great boat, just off our dock (with the ferryboat to Put-in-Bay in the background)

 and samples of the fish Mom & Dad caught on Sunday mornings,

while I was at Sunday School and church representing them.

 

With a dock on the Portage River about 75 feet off our back porch and a beach on Lake Erie about 100 yards off our front porch through the Log Cabins, much of my youth was spent on or in water and boats.  Home or away, you'll often still find me around water. 

pc-river-entrance

Around the bend from the Yacht Club is Lake Erie.

To the left of those rocks is my old swimming hole, so to speak.

 

However. However.  Seldom were there other children to play with in that neighborhood, which was mostly inhabited, and then only in summers, by tourists and yacht club members, and so I grew up lonely but imaginative, a tad bookish, and self-sufficient. Outdoorsy despite the bookishness, I spent many wonderful hours engrossed in heroic pretense traversing the mystical trails of the fantasy kingdom of the marshes around the western perimeter of the Yacht Club (now filled in and occupied by tennis courts!) and the small fill-dirt hills around the outside rim of the Yacht Club's lagoon.  Grandpa Farr, who lived with us at the end of his life, added immeasurably to that pretend kingdom by teaching me to read and write well before other kids my age, a head start I never outgrew, as wonderful book followed wonderful book, until I now live in a house of books, the kingdom of the wise. That childhood was a foolproof recipe for becoming a devoted reader and writer.

 

But then there are the ways we try to contradict our upraising.  And find that it gets us in the end, anyway.

Because my parents had a tendency to keep their old homes rather than sell them, to which they added a few other small homes later on, including the Farr homestead on 4th St. when my elderly grandparents moved in with us, they supplemented their income by renting houses.  My dad could do almost anything in the way of plumbing, carpentry, electrical work, etc., and so they did all their own remodeling and maintenance.  There was always a project going somewhere.  I did not participate much as a youth, being above all that mere practicality (it's a wonder the vertigo didn't strike!), but strangely in my adulthood I find myself with the same tendency to have a construction or remodeling or landscaping project going somewhere, somehow.  As a kid, I mostly ignored my father's attempts to teach me plumbing, carpentry, etc., and thus I have had to learn all that the hard way. To that end I still use some of my father's old tools.  At last I must admit that, despite my best efforts to avoid such a fate, I am my father's tool.

Another example of the rebellion that turns on you is in the attitudes toward work I've had through my life. Today I share my father's workaholic nature, loathing time wasted on the unproductive, but it was not so in my Port Clinton days. I lived to play and hated every minute of the many hours I was forced to work, mostly at hard jobs, as my parents insisted that childhood be a time for growing up and preparing for adulthood. Where did that idea go?  My own son has never had it occur to him!

I can't remember at what age I began work, but it was quite young. I think I began at about eight or nine with selling on downtown street corners "The Port Clinton Herald and Republican."  Dad had me bicycling around town with grocery store flyers soon after, and I recall some bitter moments hopelessly pushing a broom over a grocery store parking lot.  One exceptional, shining moment in my work life occurred when I won a prize for selling the most light bulbs of anyone in the Cub Scouts, as I left no door unknocked upon and a glorious career in sales seemed to beckon.  But mostly it was drudgery.  I sacked a million potatoes in the back of my father's Kroger store, and then when he moved across the street to Sorenson's Grocery I followed him into my first serious, full-time jobs, working all summer six days a week and then on Saturdays during the school year.  Fridays and Saturdays were from 8:00 to 8:00.  I did every job there was to do, being especially responsible for stacking shelves and setting up and striking the produce stand outside each day, and I even clerked.  This was back in the pre-self-serve days when customers sidled up to a counter with a grocery list and the white-aproned clerk got everything for you.  In this I learned to be polite to people and to banter with them, lessons seemingly unavailable to today's youth.

My hardest but most educational jobs came with physical maturity.  In the summers of my 18th and 19th years I worked at the canning factory at the eastern end of 4th St., sometimes working double shifts when the trucks of tomatoes lined up outside. Many 16 hour days were spent, say, pushing empty catsup bottles onto a revolving disk that sent them onto the bottling line, while other times I might be outside pouring tomatoes or other farm products onto the conveyor belt that took the fruit past a row of frowsy ladies peeling and inspecting before it was elevated to the cooking vats. On double-shift days I would fall into bed at midnight and refuse to credit the alarm going off at 6:00 AM the next morning. I wanted to die, after a bit.  And I can still smell that sweet tomatoey aroma that hung over the whole town during the height of the tomato canning.  

But there were compensations. For one thing, I encountered strange, exotic people. The Mexicans living out back in shacks, who did most of the grunt work, gave me my first cross-cultural experience with a minority group. PCHS did not have a single African-American in its 1954 graduating class of 96 students, let alone a Mexican, so it came as quite a shock to find myself in daily contact with people of such dark complexion who barely spoke English. But I became friends with a couple of them, learned much from them, and curse myself to this day that I did not follow up that friendship outside the factory.

The canning factory was very hard, exhausting work, but little did I know that it was just tuning me up for worse to come.  For the next five summers, when home from college, I worked at Celotex, one of those gypsum plants outside the village of Gypsum, not far from the old Dietrich homestead.  Called a "roustabout," I again did every job imaginable, but mostly I worked on the loading docks with the old pros, either slinging wallboard and lath into box cars or trucking 100 lb. bags of plaster onto trucks.  It was piece work, and the old pro you were teamed up with took delight in making the college kid keep up.  It was backbreaking, but teaming up with the likes of "Pappy," a gnarled man in his 60s who looked exactly like "Popeye," complete with pipe, or with mustachioed Wes, the only black man I've ever gotten to know with any intimacy, was an education in itself. I learned all about "the proletariat" there, which made me impervious to theoretical arguments about them later on.  "The proletariat" just wanted to get the hell out of that factory, but stuck it out so that their children could get out.  Meanwhile they had as much fun on the job as they could by telling bawdy jokes and good-naturedly hazing the college kids, then drinking and carousing after work.  The sudden advent of TV got some of them home a little earlier, I guess.

Another thing I got from those work experiences was the relatively muscular and supple body of an athlete.  I haven't always trained and sometimes weigh too much, but I've kept on with the games, despite some killer injuries and knee operations.  All of the games, with touch football and basketball being favored.  Below I'm doing my Babe Ruth warm-up routine at an annual faculty-staff softball picnic, about 25 years ago.

rfd-slugger

Big Stick

 

But back to the future.  It was Port Clinton that made me into the bookish jock I am today.  The great joys of my teen years were books, girls, and sports.  The reading was indiscriminate and, clueless about the classics, I didn't read anything really worthwhile, outside of possibly a few classic Science Fiction and Fantasy novels, but at least I came out of this with the habit of reading and the need for it (which culminated in a Ph.D. in English!).   I was clueless about girls, too, but dated the hell out of them and learned what joys they could bring to alleviate the frustrations they imposed, we having arrived on the scene too early for "the sexual revolution."  And I was especially clueless about sports, though I played them all with great zest and some skill and lettered in varsity basketball.  I always had a ball in my hands, it seems.  But why am I out of uniform on the top right?  Didn’t get the memo, I guess.

 

rfd-bb-1950

rfd-boathouse-1949

baseballteam-1953

 

 

Clueless about religion as well, despite or because of my 10 years of perfect Sunday School attendance, I tried to play sports like a good Christian should.  Which, for example, lost me quite a few rebounds I should have had on the varsity basketball team. When I got to college, all this changed, as I started playing with guys who never worried about being "nice."  Once I stopped worrying about being "nice" (and who are the "Jocks for Christ" kidding?), I became quite a decent athlete, in lots of different sports, and I went on to play intramural, city or county league ball until I was near fifty.  Then I passed on to tennis, racquetball, bicycling, and exercise machines, although "The Grumps," the final name for my group of bookish jocks (“philosopher kings,” we called ourselves), still occasionally skip off to an over-60 basketball tournament, when injuries allow.  Originally, in graduate school, our teams were called "The El Rancho Chargers," after the street we lived on in Tallahassee while attending Florida State U.   At a recent volleyball party in our back yard, we had a reunion of the old "Chargers" (when life was starting to get as blurry as this photo!):

charger-reunion-2000

 

And then came what I refer to as "The Uncoachables,"

masquerading as the Faculty Football Team (circa 1975).

I am the glue-fingered tight end in the middle of the back row.

 

uncoachables-1970s

 

And the beat goes on, with new "ringers" all the time

(players become “ringers” when they’re a tad off of “legal”):

grumpsbboutside

 

"The Grumps," as they were at last called, couldn’t stop!

So volleyball was added late in their careers.

 grumps-break

A selection of "Uncoachables" or "Grumps" (take your pick),

take a break from backyard volleyball.

 

But they're always # 1:

grumpsbbinside

 

I observe now that this story has changed from emphasis on family to emphasis on extra-family matters, as I follow the thread of my life into my teens, twenties, and beyond, but an underlying note through it all is the effect Port Clinton had on me.  This has turned out to be more a paean to Port Clinton than it started out to be, or at least the Port Clinton of my youth.  I realize now how much that town contributed to the building of my identity, and I'm probably also trying to make up for the warped perception I had of it at the time I lived there, forty years ago.  Port Clinton was a wonderful place to grow up, but I didn't know that at the time.  I just knew that I was lonely and frustrated in my ambitions there, and the town seemed backward and provincial.  When I left for college, I went to Miami U. in Oxford, Ohio, down near Cincinnati, partly because it was about as far away as I could get and still be going to a state university.  I considered it a reversal of sorts when, upon graduating from Miami with a degree in Psychology in '58, I was forced to attend nearby Bowling Green State University for my M.A. in English because I could save money by commuting from home.  But then, after turning down a teaching assistantship at Ohio State U., it was on to an exotic Tallahassee and Florida State University for my Ph.D., the University of Delaware for my first full-time teaching position (5 years), and then, after not being able to snag the job I wanted in California, back to Florida at the University of South Florida in Tampa in 1968, where I continued until retiring in 2004.

Living northwest of Tampa in Odessa, I’ve enjoyed a quiet life in the country with my wife Lori that afforded me time to do the writing and reading I so enjoy, with lots of tennis and country walks or bicycling worked in.  Here we are on our neighborhood courts, no doubt on a Saturday morning:

tennis1

                   

But this all changed in 2004 when I persuaded a group of other people interested in the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw to form a not-for-profit corporation called the International Shaw Society (the ISS), of which I became founding President, and much of my life since then has been devoted to running this corporation and arranging conferences and symposiums, which has involved us in a great deal of international travel.  And that’s another story (hinted at below), perhaps for another time.

 

To return to the present narrative, the country quiet in Odessa has been and still is occasionally interrupted by welcome visits or phone calls from friends and our three children.

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Rick, from my first marriage, after growing up in Tampa and graduating from Tampa Prep, attended his father's alma mater, Miami U. of Ohio, and now lives in Cincinnati doing Zot knows what but undoubtedly spending lots of time on the computer.

rick-swimmer

The essential Rick would probably not be just getting out of a high school swim meet, as he is above, he'd probably be seated at a computer eating a hot dog, but his father has taken liberties with his image here, its being the essence of his father to do so. Following are images he'd perhaps rather see, Rick as Peter Pan (1986?) and Rick as computer whiz (2000):

Rick-Pan-1986

rickatcomputer-2000

 

Today is a different and sadder story for Rick, which will mostly have to wait for another time.  For now, it’s enough to know that the mother (my ex) he grew dependent upon has died and left him bewildered and floundering, an unemployed man-child in an adult world he was never prepared for.

 

But back to the narration from the past (with an occasional darkening of the tone to fit present circumstance):

From Lori's first marriage, we are blessed with Travis and Lynn Marie Ruse.  Well, to bring this up to date, WERE blessed.   Lynn Marie died on Aug. 31, 2013, at the age of 48, of a lung cancer that went undiagnosed way too long and past the time when she could be saved from it.  She went through about 8 months of chemo hell.   The rest of her story here, written before she died, speaks of her in the present tense, as indeed she is in the mind and heart of her mother, Lori, my second wife, and me, and her many friends and relatives.  Her memorial in New York was spectacular for the size and scope of it, as hundreds crowded into the Judson Memorial Church on Washington Square, known for its honoring of artists. 

 

Lynn Marie is (all present tenses are symbolic of the way we still feel about her) a dancer and teacher of dance who operates her own dance troupe in New York—Freefall LTD.   But she makes most of her living by teaching Yoga, having made several trips to India for special instruction.

The Essential Lynn Marie & Her Dance Company--"Freefall"

LynnmarieEssential

Requiescat in Pace

 

Travis is a photographer and Photo Manager for INC Magazine in New York, who won photo blogger of the year for his wonderful visualizations of New York’s F train from Brooklyn to Manhattan.  In 2000 he teamed up with sculptress/ physical therapist Cynthia Halpern to produce our only grandchildren, Hope and Eva Ruse.  

 

Travis-1

The Essential Travis, lacking only

a fishing pole or surfer suit

to make it more authentic.

travis-cynthia-1999

The Travis & Cynthia Dance Co.,

so to speak.

 (Alas, divorce broke up this pair;

to be updated)

 

 

 

With the sweet addition of Hope Charlotte Ruse, born miraculously on 1/1/ 2000:

Hope-2000

 

hope'shood-2000

The Hopester shows grandpa around the hood.

hope-grandparents-2000

The Hopester is the one who should be wearing the

01-01-00 cap.

hope-grandma-2000

The Hopester gratifies grandma.

 

And then came Eva Winifred Ruse in October of 2002.   

DSCN0146

05First day of school

Eva’s First Day at School

EVA -2012-08-15

Eva in 2012

 

                                And now we have a dynamic duo for granddaughters:

04First day of school1

First Day of School

photo21

   Eva & Hope hiding among the monkeys

Hope&Eva-Yankees 9-2015

At a Yankees game, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                       Travis, Hope, Lynn Marie, Eva

photo192

 

All of which added up about 20 years ago to a portrait of a late 20th Century family,

one of the characteristics of such a family being that the portrait had to be constantly revised.

Here’s the way it began, in about 1984:

A Very Post-Modern Family: The Ruse-Dietrichs

dietrich-ruse-family-1980s

Above, Travis--Lynn Marie—Lori--Rick—Dick

Below, Lynn Marie—Travis—Rick—Lori--Dick

2 Rowers, 3 Riders

Below, A Revision Thereof, as Cynthia Joins In:

tom'swedding-1998

Cynthia—Travis--Lori--Lynn Marie in Washington, D.C.

 

And there are more changes to come, for even this is not up to date, as, for example:

The wedding of Travis and second wife Susan Glass in Islamorada in the Keys, July, 2014.

Trav and Susan-Wedding

Travis escorted to the beach altar by Eva and Hope

Giving dad away

 

Lynn Marie's being a devoted denizen of the East Village in New York and Travis & family being Brooklynites gives us an excuse to visit one of our favorite dens of iniquity--NYC.  Not that my wife needs an excuse.  Lori loves to travel even more than I do and will pack her bags at a moment's notice.                                                  TOP

lori-athens

Here's Lori in Athens

 

lori-venice-1998

Here's Lori in Venice

 

This could go on and on, but suffice it to say:

Here's Lori ready for anywhere!!

 

lori-dick-suitcases

 

 

Although strangely she claims that her favorite restaurant 

is our back porch, at sunset.  Go figure!

lori-porch-2000

 

Anyway, we've toured much of Europe and the British Isles on an annual basis and make annual trips to the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, a sample of which appears below:

Dick contemplates Lake Ontario from the back yard

 of what used to be our favorite Niagara-on-the-Lake B&B,

The Silvermist.  Since torn down and replaced by an ugly ultr-modern building.  It’s been a while since we’ve stayed in any B&B.

After marathon bike rides along the Niagara Parkway, we usually ended up on Queenston Heights, half way to Niagara Falls, where Lori typically refreshes herself with a tall beer.  Update: we’re too old and have too many joint replacements to allow biking anymore, alas.  But we still drive up there.  Just to the right of this Bistro is where Niagara Falls began, about a million or so years ago.  It’s cutting back so many inches every year and will eventually end up in Lake Erie!

dick-nol-2000

lori-nol-2000

 

But our travel dreams and longings take us most often back to our favorite haunt, the Greek Isles, especially the mystical Santorini, an island that plays a crucial part in my apocalyptic novel, The Final Solution, now available at  http://www.iuniverse.com/marketplace/bookstore/book_detail.asp?isbn=0595132731 and soon, hopefully, available at www. barnesandnoble.com.   A later novel, Earth Angel, is also available at amazon.com.  

Although I've now gone on to the writing of fiction and plays in which I can indulge such dreaming and longing, I can't leave this account of my life without at least mentioning the many very undreamlike years of work at and for the University of South Florida.  While Lori thrived there as the gatekeeper to seven presidents (four temporary), before retiring in 2002,  I've ground out a relatively rewarding and fulfilling academic career there as well, some of the aspects of which--publications, courses, editorial work, curriculum vitae--can be viewed by clicking on other links on the Ozymandias Home Page. You'll also find there some hints as to how reading has shaped my perspective on the world.  Update:  Little did I know when I wrote the original of this auotbio that soon after finishing it I would become in 2004 the elected Founding President of the International Shaw Society, Inc., all of the founding documents having my name on them, and after six years of that I would become the elected Treasurer and appointed Webmaster of the Society, responsible for the ISS website to be found at www.shawsociety.org and the hundreds of online pages linked to that, and so responsible for keeping the ISS membership of all the Society’s doings and meetings.  This has become a full time job for the last 12 years.  One of the pages I’ve uploaded is the story of the ISS, at http://www.shawsociety.org/ISS-History-Mission.htm .

 

So enough for now, until time allows for so much-needed updating.   Sum it up, narrator.  Who is Richard Farr Dietrich?

 

It seems R. F. D. is where he was raised, especially, but also the families that begat him and he begat, the woman he loves, the friends enjoyed along the way, the things he does, and the way he does them.  Applies to everybody, of course, but the narrator takes a narrow view.  If this ends not with an essence of personality established, it's at least a hint at a work in progress.  Or, at current age, regress.   Other than that I can't say here, for only fiction can do justice to the inner life.  Watch out for the Great American Novels to follow.   I'll conclude now with a gallery of guises that the old shape-shifter has assumed over the years, just to remind me of who I've been:

 

Spent many hours with old "Butch,"

 my brindle bull terrier,

who didn't mind jumping into that river.

Here I am, on the right, tossing Queenie's puppies around at the Heckler's next door, with some relative of theirs and Judy, my first girl friend, a daredevil.  We played tackle football, one on one, and she left me prostrate in the dust.

 

rfd+dog.jpf

rfd-judy-1943

 

rfd-cousins-1942

rfd-swing-1948

Above my sister has her hands on cousin Kenny Dietrich, whilst I look small beside my cousin Jim Dietrich.  Uncle Fred's  & Aunt Inzie's kids.  Notice how that bike made it into every picture in those days (1942?).

 

Many hours were spent flying high in this swing, but here I'm keeping scaredy cat Maryann Riggalls from Utica, NY, close to the ground.

rfd-baritone-1949

rfd-intellectual-1960s

 

Seven years in the high school band playing baritone is the only thing that kept me from playing football and out of traction, which, later, just playing

touch football sent me into.

The guy above I don't know at all.   He went to college and got some knowledge and lost his hair, poor schlump.

rfd-cat-1970s

rfd-babyrick-1975

 

This guy got married in 1968 (to first wife Linn)

and had his hands full.

This guy wore Speedos and made a swimmer out of Rick (years later on the Tampa Prep swim team).  The swimming pool was courtesy of Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, whose royalties from several textbooks

 built it.  Not long after this, the pool and everything else belonged

 to ex-wife.

 

I’ve left the story above mostly as it was constructed many years ago, but there have been many changes since, some very sad and even gruesome, so if a major update ever takes place, it will be in a tone less frisky and optimistic, accounted for by the fact that it’s being written by a man who will soon turn 80 (January 16, 2016) and who has seen life take a few turns into darker realms.  And this doesn’t even mention the world, which is more dark than light.

MORE TO COME?

rfd-Travphoto

----------------------------------------------------

Originated in 2000?

Updated in 2001 and 20 June 2004

Last updated 1 December 2015

R. F. Dietrich (Ozymandias Home Page)

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