What I Learned from My Dad
Remembering Dad’s Sacrifices for Me
My Dad, Herbert Holland, went to work at the Viscose in Parkersburg, West Virginia in February of 1942. The company manufactured rayon and employed about three-thousand people during World War II. I was very happy Dad got the job. He had been working for the WPA building roads.
WPA was an acronym for the Works Progress Administration which was renamed in 1939 as the Work Projects Administration. The WPA provided employment for millions of unemployed people to carry out public works projects including the construction of public buildings and roads.
Building roads in those days was hard work. We didn’t have a car, and Dad got up very early and walked cross country several miles to the job site. Trucks dumped large rocks on the dirt road, and my Dad and the other workers used sledge hammers to break the rock into small pieces to cover the dirt roads.
Dad worked all day breaking up rock and then walked several miles home that evening. I remember how tired he was when he came home. In recent years, I have thought about how hard my Dad and other men worked in those days on farms, building roads, cutting timber, and mining coal to provide for their families.
Seldom if ever did dads say, “I love you.” They didn’t have to; the sacrifices they made for their families were a demonstration of their love. I wish now I would have told my Dad how much I appreciated the sacrifices he made for our family. It was only after he died in 1984 at the age of seventy that I began thinking about the sacrifices he had made for our family.
Remembering Dad’s Absence
With all the new employees at the Viscose and other factories in the Parkersburg area during World War II, there was a shortage of housing. Dad was able to rent a room with meals provided by the owner while he looked for a place to rent. I was eight in April of 1942 and finishing the second grade at the end of the school year.
Since Dad couldn’t find housing, the decision was made for me, my mother, and sister to move in temporarily with my mother’s parents. They had room in the two story farm house, and Mom helped on the farm. Dad gave my grandparents money each week to help with our keep.
I was happy Dad got the job at the Viscose. It meant a better way of living for our family. Dad would have a weekly pay check and more income than he did working for the WPA. That was the good part; the bad part was that he would be gone for several weeks at a time.
Remembering Dad and My First Carnival
On the fourth of July that year, Dad had the day off, and he came to visit us. He called a cab to come from Spencer to Flat Run and take my mother, sister, and me to the Carnival in Spencer. That was my first Carnival. I remember the rides especially the Merry-go-round. I loved the music and riding on the ponies going up and down and around.
The second big treat was my first cone of ice cream. I had never tasted anything as delicious as that ice cream cone. As we were returning to my grandparent’s home that evening, my mind was filled with good thought of the afternoon and evening at my first Carnival. Those thoughts have become memories that have lasted me a lifetime.
Remembering Dad’s Example
Dad found an apartment in July, and we moved the first week of August in 1942. We were moving from the country to the city. I was going from a one room school with eight grades and one teacher to a school with six grades and a teacher for each grade.
Going to a new school was a challenge, but I had learned from my Dad to face the challenges of life regardless of the sacrifices.
Excerpted from Return to Flat Run by Robert P. Holland
To find out more about Robert P. Holland and his insightful books, visit
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