Monday, March 29, 2010

Happy Birthday

Today is my father's 100th birthday. I hope he is enjoying it in heaven.

My father, Ed Allen Jr., was a creative, entrepreneurial person who was interested in everything, although less so when he was old. He's the man who retired and then went to work every day anyway. He died while getting ready to go to work. He was an enormous influence on my life.

We called him Poppy and then Pop. He loved broadcasting. He built a career in radio in Chicago and was proud to have worked for the NBC network. His Early Bird Show on WMAQ had a great following, and listeners sent him quilt squares which my grandmother assembled. I still have the early bird quilt. He started station WDOR in Sturgeon Bay in 1951. It was an adventure that he loved. He started a radio station in Manitowoc with a radio partner, which they sold.

WDOR was a corporation of local people, and it also was our family enterprise. We did commercials. Mother and I worked in the office. My brothers were regulars on the air as soon as their voices changed. David worked hard on the Saturday morning Countdown program of current popular music. Eddy became an excellent sports announcer. An assortment of local programs were tried, including Santa Claus (local doctor), and Mother's recipe program known for most of the years as Five Minutes With Dolores Allen. I think it is the longest runnning program in Wisconsin radio history. Eddy continues to be the manager.

Pop was the religious leader of the family. We all went to the Episcopal Church, whether we wanted to or not. He grew up going to the Moody Sunday School in Chicago, with perfect attendance. We grew up knowing that we should want to be in church. When he didn't like the sermon, he would ostentatiously clean his fingernails to let the priest know that it was pretty dull. Once he asked the priest how long he prepared for his sermon, and was told it was about ten minutes. He then said that it had sounded like it.

When I was a teenager, he let his opinions about my dates be known. He usually wanted to know who the father of each boy was. He usually read the clock wrong when I returned home from dates. He went to bed early. Once I came in at 10:10 p.m, and he sleepily insisted that it was ten minutes to two a.m. If I lingered in the car in the driveway with a boy at the end of a date, Pop would blink the yard light to let us know that the date was finished. I loved him anyway.

I used to go fishing with him, just to be with him. We would go out in his boat, and he would fish and I would draw pictures of the nearby scenery. When he drafted me to work in the radio station office in summer as a teenager, we would go out in his boat and have lunch.

He was Republican chairman of Door County for several years, member of the Door County Chamber of Commerce, Sturgeon Bay Rotary Club, and occasionally played golf. I remember that he would lie down on the green while the other golfers with him did their putts.

He and Uncle Frank Dorn built the family cottage at Clark's Lake. After that he was always doing some construction on it. He moved the kitchen into a former bedroom. I remember when he put electricity into the cottage. Prior to that we had kerosene lamps and a kerosene stove. Later he and Mother sold that cottage and bought an A-frame at Washington Island.

Life with him was always interesting. He was a great person and a great father. Happy birthday.