Saturday, June 20, 2015

Father's Day

                               Chapter Twenty-four

                           A    GIFT   TO   DAD

My father died in 1975.  I think of him not only on Father’s Day.  He has stayed in my special memories for forty years. His gifts to me shaped my life, and too often I regret my failure to acknowledge those gifts while he lived.  Now I realize that I gave him something that made his last years the happiest of his lifetime.

Dad was born in 1900.  William Arthur Lobitz, Jr. was an outstanding athlete early on, so he dropped out of school and played semi-professional football and baseball, ending that career with a semi-pro team in Marshalltown, Iowa.  A few scouts watched him pitch two no-hitters and though he never got a call to the big leagues, his looks and personality paid off and in the Roaring Twenties he sold radios and cars.  After he married my Mom in 1923 he was riding high.  My sister Betty was born in 1924 and for five years our family’s fortunes soared, but then came the Great Depression. 

Because the Lobitz clan had discovered Kinniconick in the early twenties, Dad was a fishing enthusiast.  A tradition among members of the angling fraternity back then was to gather at the old Bolles, Brendamour Sporting Goods Company in downtown Cincinnati.  Every Saturday afternoon a crowd gathered at the tackle counter in the impressive store, a place not unlike the original Abercrombie and Fitch in New York, festooned with art and mounted specimens of deer and moose heads and fish. 

The Great Depression put Dad out of work because people no longer could afford radios and cars, but fate intervened one Saturday when he met Wid Daniel of the Early and Daniel Company at the tackle counter conclave.  Wid liked to fish but he also took a liking to Dad and hired him on the spot.  It was this good fortune, a good job with a good company, that enabled Dad to provide for our family, especially since another mouth had to be fed when I was born in 1930. 

Dad’s gifts to me …….
I was included in all of his recreational pursuits, taught to fish when I was a baby, taught to cast lures and flies as a boy, taken on four-day trips to lakes in Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina, brought up with a love of Kinniconick.  Every summer our family vacationed, first on a lake in northern Indiana, then in Michigan and Canada.  He always had time for me, he always included me in his life.  Most of all, he was the best judge of character of any man I’ve ever known.  His friends were legion and those friends became my heroes, too.

Early in the 1930’s a group of angling enthusiasts, including Dad, organized the Cincinnati Angling and Casting Club.  A benefactor provided his thirty acre property and four acre pond on the outskirts of the city, along with a small clubhouse, and this became the home of a wonderful group of people for over 25 years.  The Club prospered at Woods Lake and was central to my family’s social life, the place we spent our Sunday afternoons, participating in tournaments and picnicking with friends. This photo, dating to about 1937 or 1938, was taken at the Club and includes most of the original Board of Directors.

                                  The Cincinnati Casting Club / circa 1937
                                         (click on photo to enlarge)            

Back row, left to right:  Phil Auel, Irv Macke, Dad, Ed Kreibel
Front row, left to right:  Larry Sullivan, Ed Brendamour, Lee Clayton, Charlie Niehaus, Bert Milner, Marvin Hedges.  Hedges was the National Distance Fly Casting Champion at the time.

When he was about sixty years of age Dad developed serious bronchial symptoms and this led to emphysema, a lung condition that is life threatening.  He retired, quit smoking the cigarettes that had caused the disease, and began a medical regimen that gave him another fifteen years of life.  Until the last year or two, and despite some breathing difficulties, Dad had a wonderful time.  He fell in love with the cabin at Kinniconick.

My gift to Dad…..
I was the son who came to love Kinniconick as much as he loved it, and I was the son who was inspired to build a cabin on its banks, a cabin like Bathiany’s, not far from our favorite fishing hole, Pine Eddy.  Dad was instrumental in completing all of the finish work that went into the cabin.  He was retired and had a lot more time to spend at Shabo Mekaw, so Mom and Dad spent many weeks up there, sometimes with relatives and friends.  It became their second home.  Dad was a perfectionist and every project was a masterwork that gave him immense satisfaction.    

A week or two before Dad went off to the hospital for the last time, he wanted to talk.  Our conversation that evening was an emotional experience that I will never forget.  He wanted me to know how much the cabin had meant to him.  He felt enormous pride in the fact that his son had realized a dream that he had always had deep in his own heart.  Our mutual love for that place brought us closer as his life came to an end. 

                               Dad fishing for muskies on Pine Eddy, circa 1935
                                                  (click on photo to enlarge)

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