Happy Father’s Day
Since today is Father’s Day, I wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate my dad. As I did with Mother’s Day, I thought it would be fun to interview him.
My dad, Tom (also known as T.C., Thomas, Tommy and Mr. Davis), is a fun guy that everyone loves. He is a cheerful and patient person. He is also a former Marine, retired Meatcutter and diehard movie fan.
He’s been a great dad and wonderful cheerleader to me.
Here’s the interview!
What was your first thought when you found out you were going to be a dad?
I was scared because I wanted to be a good dad. My father was a tyrant and abusive, so I knew what not to be. We waited almost 10 years to have you so we were ready. We wanted to prepared and to have support.
There were a lot of things happening all at once at that time in our lives. I was doing my apprenticeship to become a meatcutter and taking weekly night classes for that. Your mom was also preparing to start teaching at a new school. All of that also made things a little scary.
I was really relieved, though, when we found out you were a girl because I felt like your mom could provide you with direction. I knew I could be a provider. She could set the tone and I would be there to support her.
What has surprised you the most about being a father?
The overall excitement and joy you brought into our lives. I couldn’t wait to come home at night to feed you and just be with you. I loved just being together and being silly and I was always so proud taking you out. Everyone would coo over you.
While I was your dad, I also felt like your friend. I wanted you to always feel like you belonged.
Tell me about food in your house growing up.
It was all about my mom. She grew up in the south and believed that “no men should be in the kitchen”. She made everything from scratch and held her recipes close to her chest. Other than family members, she didn’t like to share her recipes.
I don’t know how my mom did it. We never wanted for food, we always had plenty to eat. She worked for the owner of a bakery for a long time as the family’s housekeeper. She didn’t make much money and my father didn’t share much of the money he made, but she managed to successfully raise 4 kids.
We’d go down south every once in awhile to visit family and they would butcher a whole pig. They’d made sausage and all kinds of things with it.
What made you decide to join the Marines?
The draft was in session and I wanted to feel like I had a choice when I joined. After high school my older sister, Estelle, convinced me to start taking courses at the local community college. I was taking a Business and a Textile course and I just wasn’t interested in them. I kept thinking that it was going nowhere. I asked myself “what’s the next best option?”. I went out with a good friend of mine that was already in the service. I saw how people gave him such respect when we went out and he was in his uniform, it made me start thinking about joining. Growing up in the city, I’d never been on the water or on a ship so I knew the Navy was out. I saw an ad for the Marines and decided that was my choice.
I was in the Marines 1968-1972. I didn’t even think about the Vietnam War when I joined. I just wanted guidance, something that would lead to a career.
The first time I ever rode a plane was when I flew from New Jersey to South Carolina for boot camp. I had a physical job as a stockboy at a beauty supplies warehouse back in New York, which I was thankful for when I got to boot camp. We would go on 40-mile marches carrying our backpacks and rifles. It was tough!
What made you decide to be a cook in the Marines?
That’s where I was placed. After 3 months in boot camp, they trained us in a specific skill. They started me in the motor pool but I didn’t drive. Then they moved me to train to become a cook. You are what they need.
I started as a cook and then became a baker. After awhile, I was the head baker and had a baker’s assistant. At that point, I realized I really enjoying cooking and baking. We would start at 4 in the morning and bake for 2000 people.
It turned out to be incredibly lucky that I was a baker. We were assigned a Military Occupational Status number when we joined. They used those numbers to assign people to different locations, ensuring they had the right skill mix. When people in my squad were being sent to Okinawa Japan they got within 4 or 5 from my number. I was lucky I never had to go to Vietnam.
Tell me about growing up in the Bronx
At first we lived in the tenements. When I was 4, there was a fire. My younger brother died and we had to move. The Projects were new at that time and we qualified, so we moved there. They were new with fresh grass and all of the apartments had the same look- gray walls with black trim. Everything was actually kept in good condition. We were able to live in a 3 bedroom apartment in the projects, which we wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise. My dad insisted on having his own room, so my mother had to share a room with my two sisters. My younger brother and I shared the other room.
Since we didn’t have a lot of money, we had to be creative. In the summer someone would open up the “jonnny pump” (fire hydrant) and we’d all play in it to stay cool. When my mom wanted us to stay inside, my brother and I would play “cars”. We’d each have a different model and count them as they went by. When one of us got to 10, he was the winner.
We were poor, but everyone else was in the same boat. There was always someone to play with in our building.
Who taught you the most about being a good parent?
My oldest sister Betty’s first husband, Syllvester. Even though he was like a brother to me, I also could see that was the kind of father I wanted to be. My own father also taught me something because I knew that I absolutely did not want to like him.
I am grateful that I took this time to interview my dad. There was so much I learned and it was a great chance for us to sit down and chat. It was fun and even a little emotional. I am thankful to have such a wonderful father.
Happy Father’s Day Daddy!