Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The popcorn king was a grandpa, too

Many of us remember the TV commercials starring Orville Redenbacher. He was always seen in his striped shirt and bowtie. 
Hi, I’m Orville Redebacher from Valparaiso, Indiana,” he would say. 
That line rankled some folks who knew he was born in Brazil, Indiana, a town that had a Popcorn Festival dedicated to his memory each fall. 
For the past several months I have been corresponding with one of his grandsons, Kevin R. Fish, an author who contributed to “Indiana’s 200,” to be published by the Indiana Historical Society in November. 
In one of our exchanges, Kevin wrote the following and gave me permission to make liberal use of it in this column:
There are some facts that reveal Redenbacher’s personal character.  He always remained the same kind of person even though he became a public figure.  Fame never went to “his head.”  For example, beginning in high school in the 1920’s, he always wore a bow tie, though this piece of clothing had been traditional since the late nineteenth century, but was not very popular by the time of his death in 1995.  At his house in Valparaiso, Indiana, both he and Grandma Corinne accommodated their grandchildren.  There was a plastic log cabin in the basement, in which there was room for some of the children to sit.  There was also a billiard table in the basement.  On one occasion, he and I played a game of billiards, but he did not beat me right away, waiting until only the eight ball was left, then he won by sending it into one of the table’s pockets.  
One other matter about Grandpa involves our family reunions.  Our first reunion was in 1991 in  Scottsdale, Arizona, near where Cousin Lori lived.  The second one was in 1993 in Santa Cruz, California, near my brother Gary’s house in nearby Scotts Valley.  After staying in Santa Cruz, we went to Gary’s house.  The last reunion was at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  It was at this last reunion that there were many board and domino games, and Grandpa played one in which he was an expert.  The whole purpose of these reunions was to demonstrate Grandpa’s lifelong belief in a family staying together.
I told Kevin that his memories of Orville struck a chord with me because of my own grandfathers.
I never knew my Grandmother Zellers and Grandma Phillips passed away when I was 3.
Grandpa Zellers stayed with us through the winter on several years and my Grandpa Phillips was not an outgoing man. I don’t remember him every playing with my cousins or myself, though we knew he loved us very much.
Grandpa Zellers loved playing checkers with me. On one occasion, Mom left me in his care while she went grocery shopping. When she got home, she laid a 3 Musketeers bar on the table in front of me.
The only regret I have of those years was the time when I was 11 and Grandpa wanted me to play a game of checkers. I turned him down, thinking I was too busy.
When he was past 80, he played Whiffle ball with me. He was never too busy or too tired.
Grandpa Phillips retired from the railroad when I was, perhaps, in my teenage years. He had Dad, my cousin, Rick, and me ride in the cab with him on his last run from Chicago. At the end of his trip, a photographer was waiting to take his photo in front of the train engine.
For many years after he said he wished he had Rick and I in the photo with him.  
I often think of those things when I talk to my grandchildren on the phone or when I can be with them.
It was especially poignant to me when I was visiting with the kids in Missouri and John wanted 
“ to do something”  but didnt know what.
So, we built a fort out of couch cushions and whatever we could find.
For months after, whenever we were together, John said, 
Grandpa, lets build a port.” I guess, maybe, he confused a fort to guard against Indians with a place where ships dock. (Yes, I know the fort” scenario is politically incorrect, but we had fun.)
On another occasion, all the grandkids were in the recliner with me and we would rock up and down, like we were in a boat on the ocean. When one got down, I told them to hurry back into the boat because 
Bruce” the shark would eat them.
A few months later, Rose and I were reading a Golden Book about 
Nemo,” the little clown fish in the Disney movie. The shark in that book had a different name but Rose insisted it was “Bruce.
Guess Disney will have to revise that book.
Thanks, for sharing, Kevin, on behalf of all of us grandparents.    

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I have a new book out! It is titled, "Being Frank About Family and Friends," and is available on Kindle and Kindle apps. amazon.com/author/frankphillips