Over the Hill

A dollar sure doesn’t go far these days. Here’s where it got me back in 1935

Phil Dirkx is retiring after 25 years as a columnist for The Tribune.
Phil Dirkx is retiring after 25 years as a columnist for The Tribune. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

The official date for this column is Sept. 4, 2018. I only mention that because I was born on Sept. 4 in 1930.

According to the Wikipedia website, there’s been only one other noteworthy occurrence on any Sept. 4 in history. That was back in 1957 when the Ford Motor Co. introduced a new line of automobiles, the Edsel line. That may have been the biggest flop in automotive history.

But I’m not criticizing Ford. I’ve also done plenty of dumb things. Take what I did in December of 1935.

The date was a “Friday the 13th,” for what that’s worth. I attended a one-room country school with about a dozen other kids. I was 5 years old and walking slowly to school. Snow was falling.

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Then the school bell started ringing. I thoughtlessly ran across the main road in the snowstorm. An approaching driver couldn’t stop his car in time. I’m not sure if I revived that evening or the next day.

But I know why I woke up: A doctor was stitching my cheek. I had broken a headlight with my head.

I also had two skull fractures, and my right thigh bone was completely broken, but not through the skin.

I still frequently mention my skull fractures. They make good excuses for my many mistakes.

I spent a couple of months in the hospital and ran up several hundred dollars in bills, which my father couldn’t pay, of course. That was 1935, in the Great Depression. Steady work was scarce. So he sued the driver of the car. I’d been in a school zone after all. And maybe he was driving too fast with snow falling.

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And besides I was a cute kid who wore shorts pants to court every day of the trial. The jurors couldn’t help noticing the long red ladder-like scar where the surgeon had grafted my thighbone back together.

The driver’s insurance company settled for $2,200.

About a third of it went to the lawyer, a third to Pop for the medical bills and $828 went into the bank for me. Shortly after my 21st birthday, I used it to buy a used car. Maybe that showed poor judgment, but remember, I have an excuse: skull fractures.

But my main message in this column is that prices have inflated stupendously in only one lifetime. Just guess how much more my father and I would have been awarded today and how much higher the lawyer and medical bills would have been. Today’s dollar is much more disabled than I was in 1935.

By the way, did you notice I referred to my father as “Pop?” Let me explain. In my early years, I called my father “Daddy.” Many little kids do. But as my early years passed, my father felt “Daddy” was insufficiently masculine. I personally didn’t care one way or the other.

Back then, I read the Sunday colored comics (“funny papers”) every week. One of my favorites was titled, “That’s My Pop,” about a wacky, over-the-top, father. My father was nothing like him, but he liked “Pop” better than “Daddy.” And he really liked it when his grandchildren later also called him “Pop.”

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to the Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades and his column appears every other week. Reach Dirkx at 805-238-2372 or pmdirkx@sbcglobal.net.