Oswald Nelson, at age 13, was the youngest person ever to become an Eagle Scout. Oswald went on to become Ozzie Nelson, the father in Ozzie and Harriet. Though the show aired years before the advent of reality television, Harriet was indeed Ozzie’s real wife, Ricky and David were his real sons, and eventually Ricky and David’s wives were played by their actual spouses. I remember watching the show and wondering if any father interacted with their family like Ozzie did. Perhaps being an Eagle Scout helped prepared him for fatherhood.
The current requirements for Eagle Scout make it impossible for anyone to ever beat Ozzie’s record.
My father was never a scout of any kind. He grew up in foster homes. Most of his foster parents took him in because of money they received from the state. Only one foster parent professed to loving him, but by that time he was in his teens and the damage was irreparable. He never knew how to be a father.
‘Father Knows Best’
In 1954 Robert Young starred in the television series “Father Knows Best.” Young played Jim Anderson, an average father in an average family. I always wanted to be “Kitten” the part that Lauren Chapin played. I wanted to be called Kitten and I wanted a father like Jim Anderson. My family had no similarities to the television family of “Father Knows Best.”
I don’t remember bonding with my own father, although we did go to the beach a few times. We played together in the waters of Lake Michigan, me sitting on his broad shoulders while he waded in deeper. I also remember going to RiverviewPark with him during my younger years. He enjoyed riding the rollercoasters as much as I did and he would scream as we headed downhill. Those screams didn’t scare me. It was the screams that were to come later in life when he would be chasing me as if he was the hunter and I was the hunted.
After the female Japanese carp gives birth to hundreds of tiny babies, the father carp remains nearby. When he senses approaching danger he will suck the helpless babies into his mouth, and hold them safely there until the coast is clear. My father was not like this.
As a teen, whenever I disobeyed him I’d hear his mantra, “I’d rather you died than grow up to be a whore.” I never understood that statement until I was well into my 30s and a childhood friend of my father’s told me his mother, my grandmother, was a prostitute. And no, I wasn’t a whore, but I admit I didn’t always adhere to his curfews or his rules. He was strict—an attorney and a colonel in the Air Force reserves.
He would yell as the chase began. His face would become as red as a beet and I watched his neck pulsating and his Adam’s apple enlarge. I always knew what was to come, but I put up a good fight. There was no such thing as “child abuse” back then.
The actor who portrayed the benevolent father on the popular TV show “Leave it to Beaver” was a Methodist minister. Tony Dow, who played older brother Wally, reports that Beaumont didn’t care much for television and actually hated kids. I don’t believe my father hated children, however, I think he disliked women because of his early childhood relationship with his mother.
Hugh Brannum, not to be mistaken with Hugh Beaumont, played Mr. Green Jeans on “Captain Kangaroo” and I remember him as kind, funny and extremely reliable.
My other hobby as a child, besides watching families on television, was having an aquarium. I loved watching as my tropical fish drifted aimlessly through life, and I loved watching guppy mothers give birth. Unfortunately, guppy fathers, if not moved to a separate tank, will often come along and eat their young.
Once a male emperor penguin has completed the act of mating, he remains by the female’s side for the next month to determine if he is indeed about to become a father. When he sees a single greenish white egg emerge from his mate’s egg pouch, he begins to sing.
Scientists have characterized his song as “ecstatic.”
Who would you rather have as your father: Hugh Beaumont, Hugh Brannum, or an emperor penguin?