Treasuring the gift of Dad's stories

Susan Manzke
Dad holding baby Susan as Mom watches.

I used to love listening to my father tell stories from his youth. They were funny and the way he told them made them extra special. They were my bedtime stories.

The first one I’m sharing today took place in the 1930s. Older brother (my dad) had the responsibility of taking care of his little sister, Leona.

Little sister Lee

When Lee was a baby, I had to take her out in a baby buggy.

How I hated to push that buggy around and I had my own way of giving Lee a buggy ride.

I got about six pairs of my mom’s old silk stockings and tied them all together – that gave me a line about thirty feet long. I would tie one end to the buggy handle and hold on to the other end. In that way, I could sit on the porch steps with the guys and talk and give Lee her buggy ride.

With a good push, she would sail out to the end of the line, and then I would slowly pull her back.

It worked fine, until one day one of the stockings broke and poor Lee sailed out about half a block away. It still would have been okay if the buggy only would have stayed on the sidewalk.

She rolled into the ditch alongside the sidewalk. She had six blankets and heavy clothes on her body and so no way did she get hurt.

I dumped her back in the buggy. She was giggling and goo-gooing. Lee enjoyed that ride the best of all.

Well, I would have got away with it if it were not for an old busybody neighbor. The cat was out of the bag. No more stocking rides, Mom said. So I went looking for a strong piece of rope.

Dad gives me, far left, my sister, second from right, and our two girlfriends a ride back in 1959. Donna and Marilyn called dad, Uncle Chuck.

This next story is one of my favorites.

Broken cookies

When I was young, I mean very young, I don’t think I ever tasted fresh bread or fresh cakes. It was always day-old this and day-old that, and hand-me-down clothes. We ran barefoot most of the summer; shoes were for school and church.

Patsy Ann Cookies advertised their cookies with a big sign on their store, which read: Big bag of broken cookies 25 cents.

One day I started out to buy a bag of cookies for my family. It was a long walk from Calumet Park to Blue Island, but I wanted cookies. We all did.

I walked into the store. A little bell above the door tinkled. A young lady came out of the backroom. “Can I help you, sonny?”

“Yes, I would like a quarter's worth of broken cookies.”

“I’m sorry. We’re all out of broken cookies.”

She must have seen the tears start down my face. She said, “Just a minute. Let me check again.”

After she left the room, I heard what sounded like somebody smashing cookies in the backroom. The lady came out with a bag filled with cookies. “Here you are. I found a bag for you.”

Talk about a happy kid, I skipped and danced all the way home. And I’ll tell you something, those cookies were fresh and crisp and delicious!

God bless that lady wherever she is.

My dad and mom, Chuck and Isabelle Paska pose with their grandchildren Rachel and Russell in 1985.

A few years back, I took some of my dad’s stories and stretched them into a novel. The story about the broken cookies made it into a novel called Chicken Charlie’s Year. Some of that book comes from my imagination, like the chapter centering on seeing the stripper, Sally Rand. All that is true about that chapter is that my father did go to the Chicago World’s Fair.

As a gift, I have set up my novel, Chicken Charlie’s Year to be FREE on Kindle from Dec. 10 through Dec. 14. Anyone can download the book during those five days. Maybe you’ll like it so much that you might want to buy a copy of the paperback book, which comes in large print, too. Or give it as a gift. Happy Reading!

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;;;