Tuesday, June 23, 2020

SOL #52Stories 24/52: A Hammer Triggers Memories of a Dad and His Creations

Father's Day 2020 marks the 40th Father's Day we've celebrated without Dad. Our dad, Ellis Scifres, died on June 6, 1980. We gathered to remember him and share stories this Father's Day using Zoom technology to come together. It's sad that it has taken COVID-19 for all of us to master the use of Zoom. I invited my siblings to bring an item or story to share to remember Dad. 

My brother, Karl, shared the WWII Blue Star Mother's Service Flag picture that had hung in our grandparent's home during WWII. The three blue stars represented the three sons of Andrew T. Scifres and Martha Ada Young who served during the war. Uncle Lee served in the US Navy, and Uncle Elbert and my father, Ellis, served in the US Army. This artifact from our grandparent's home was something our father displayed with pride. It now hangs in my brother Karl's home, a visible reminder of the three sons of our paternal grandparents who served in the Armed Forces during WWII.  

I shared the nut bowl that was filled (after Christmas morning) and in a prominent spot during the holidays in our home. Our Christmas stockings always included fruit and nuts. Once we emptied our stockings of nuts, they made their way to the nut bowl. I  can recall sitting side by side with my father as he taught me how to crack nuts and carefully coax them out of their shells so they would be unbroken. I still look heavenward and celebrate with Dad when I'm able to crack and retrieve an unbroken, entire Brazil nut from its hard shell. As we talked about this item, my sister Kay (nine years older than me) recalled that this nut bowl was a gift given to our parents from Aunt Ruth and Uncle Elbert when they visited them in New Mexico for Christmas of 1953 (which was before I was born). Each time we visit in a Zoom gathering, I learn new things about our family history. There's something about all of us being present that triggers our memories and helps us recall more than any of us would remember alone. 

The star of our gathering was the hammer my sister Kay displayed that had belonged to Dad. We were fortunate to have a dad who learned the skill of building and carpentry from his father, Andrew T. Dad built the first home (probably in 1946) that my parents and two sisters lived in after the war at McNally flat, an area in rural Oklahoma where my maternal grandparents lived. 

They moved to Savanna, Oklahoma when Dad started working at the Naval Ammunition Depot. Kay remembers how Daddy built a living room, kitchen and bedroom onto the old house they purchased. It was a three room house when they moved there in 1950. Daddy would come home from his day job and work into the evening during the summer of 1952. He finished the addition before my brother Karl's birth in December of 1952. It was to be their home for another three years until 1955 when we moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma when I was five months old.

Once we started talking about things Daddy built, our conversation snowballed. We all had memories of Daddy's shed that he built near the garden at our house in McAlester. He spent many happy hours there working on projects. 

We all recalled how he used to bring home surplus ammunition boxes that he purchased from work. He would painstakingly take them apart and salvage the lumber to use for his dream room. In early 1970, Dad built a room onto our home, fulfilling his long held dream for a family room addition to our house on Tyler Street. 

As we talked about his skills as a carpenter, each of us was able to recall something in our homes that Dad had built.
Kay remembered the table Daddy made for her son Michael and brought to California on his last visit to see them in the spring of 1980. 

Karl told the story of our picnic box, a fruit box that Daddy outfitted with a shelf. The shelf made it possible to safely transport Mom's baked goods to our yearly family reunions in Sulphur, Oklahoma. A cousin bought it at the garage sale after Mama's death, but eventually saw that it made its way back into my brother's hands.

I ran upstairs to show my siblings the bookcase that Dad built for me when I was in college. And we all felt satisfied that we had something Dad built in each of our homes.

It was a wonderful evening of sharing stories and memories of our daddy who physically left us far too soon, but who left behind a lifetime of working and loving and building the family who meant the world to him.


  1. Such beautiful memories. I can feel the love nestled between the lines of your post. There is a sadness to it, but also a joy in the love you all share. The photographs of things made with loving hands are treasures.
    "Each time we visit in a Zoom gathering, I learn new things about our family history. There's something about all of us being present that triggers our memories and helps us recall more than any of us would remember alone." What an amazing experience to have, helping each other remember. Thank you for sharing your loving memories. -Marina

  2. I love this...for so many reasons.