The Bookworm Sez: When Father really did know best

The Bookworm Sez: When Father really did know best

“Just wait ‘til your father gets home!”

Once upon a time, those words struck fear into every child’s heart. When your father got home, punishment might commence. Heads could roll. Your bedroom might’ve been the center of your life for awhile. Or, as in “Mean Dads for a Better America ” by Tom Shillue (c.2017, Dey St., $26.99, 273 pages), Dad may’ve understood kids better than you think he did.

Old TV shows were wrong.

“Duh,” you’re probably saying to yourself. Nobody in your neighborhood was like the Bradys or the Partridge Family. Few kids actually wore love beads and fringed vests. And yet, says Tom Shillue, despite stereotypes, dumb TV, and goofy fads, the late 1960s and early 1970s were the best time to be a kid, ever, hands-down.

That generation, he says, “might have grown up in the ‘70s, but” it was raised by an older mindset. That meant having a stay-at-home mom, at least most of the time. It meant being a kid without a care. And it meant having a dad that ruled the roost.

Shillue’s dad, for instance, got Shillue and his brother up every Saturday morning for a little trip/history lesson that involved the Revolutionary War. The hour was always early, the lesson was often Bicentennial-based, and the ride was rough because Shillue was prone to motion-sickness. Still, nobody questioned the need to obey when Dad said “’GET IN THE CAH.’” Like “Darth Vader with a Boston Accent,” Shillue’s dad’s word was final.

Because he only really wanted to raise good citizens, Shillue’s dad wasn’t exactly mean but he did mean business. So did Shillue’s mother, who taught Shillue to “be practical” and to fight back when confronted by a bully. Both parents taught him gratefulness, and to love.

A profitable lemonade stand taught Shillue to “be thrifty.” His mother’s abundant (and unfinished) “projects” showed him creativity. The Church taught him reverence and how to attract girls (or not). Bravery and audacity showed him that he could speak up for his own benefit, however badly it might turn out. And, he says, the “love of a great woman … changed everything for me.”

To say “I laughed, I cried …” seems clichéd, doesn’t it? But I did – I laughed at author Tom Shillue, I got teary, and I loved “Mean Dads for a Better America.”

There’s a narrow audience for this book, but it’s a big one: anybody born between, say, 1956 and about 1971 will recognize nearly everything Shillue recalls – the fads, feelings, awkwardness, first dates, and social faux pas – and you’ll remember them wistfully, even warmly. As a comedian, Shillue also knows how to give the most embarrassing things a humorous spin and his memories are so universal that you’ll wonder if he didn’t go to your school once. Wasn’t he that nerdy kid who …?

Nah, probably not. Here, look over your memories; Shillue helps uncover them with a smile. “Mean Dads for a Better America” is a memoir like that, so just wait ‘til your father gets home. He’ll want to read this book, too.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Email her at bookwormsez@yahoo.com.

More in Life

This photo of Frenchy with a freshly killed black bear was taken on the Kenai Peninsula in the early 1900s. (Photo courtesy of the Viani Family Collection)
Unraveling the story of Frenchy, Part 1

The stories were full of high adventure — whaling, mining, polar bear hunting, extensive travel, and the accumulation of wealth

File
Seeing God’s hand in this grand and glorious creation

The same God of creation is the God that made me and you with the same thoughtfulness of design, purpose and intention

Chewy and sweet the macaroons are done in 30 minutes flat. (Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Sophisticated, simplified

When macarons are too complicated, make these delicious, simple macaroons

Michael S. Lockett / capital city weekly
Gigi Monroe welcomes guests to Glitz at Centennial Hall, a major annual drag event celebrated every Pride Month, on June 18.
Packed houses, back to back: GLITZ a roaring success

Sold-out sets and heavy-hitting headliners

Michael Armstrong / Homer News 
Music lovers dance to Nervis Rex at the KBBI Concert on the Lawn on July 28, 2012, at Karen Hornaday Park in Homer.
Concert on the Lawn returns

COTL line up includes The English Bay Band, a group that played in 1980

Marcia and Mary Alice Grainge pose in 1980 with a pair of caribou antlers they found in 1972. The sisters dug the antlers from deep snow and detached them from a dead caribou. (Photo provided by Marcia Grainge King)
Fortune and misfortune on the Kenai — Part 2

In Kasilof, and on Kachemak Bay, in Seldovia and later in Unga, Petersen worked various jobs before being appointed deputy marshal in 1934

“Glimmer of Hope: How Tragedy Sparked a Movement” was published in 2018 by Razorbill and Dutton, imprints of Penguin Random House LLC. (Image via amazon.com)
Off the Shelf: The power of personal voice

“A Glimmer of Hope: How Tragedy Sparked a Movement” provides first-person accounts of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida

Most Read