A Father and Son and Tools


by John C. Westervelt


A month before getting married in Oklahoma in 1954, I built a redwood car top carrier for the move to New Jersey for my job with Bell Telephone Laboratories in New York. Back in Tulsa a year and a half later, I set the four by six foot car top carrier on 8-inch concrete blocks, added two shelves and a drop down worktop, and I nailed it to the garage wall.

        It was fifty years ago. Nelda, Paul, Mary Kim and I lived on 23rd street in Tulsa near Hoover school. Paul was seven-years-old. Anytime I was at my workbench, Paul was close by watching me work and handing me tools. When Paul was eight, we moved to our new house on 53rd street near Salk school. The fold down workbench was installed on the wall opposite the garage door. A seven-foot deep raised workspace meant I did not need to move the car to use the workbench. Paul continued to watch me work and hand me tools. By the time Paul was a young teenager, he was doing projects on his own.

        When I left my home of 48 years to move to Crestwood at Oklahoma Methodist Manor, I filled a small toolbox with several kinds of screwdrivers, several types of pliers, wire cutters, a hammer, a tape measure, a scout knife, putty knives, and a 9-inch level. I filled a large toolbox with an electric drill, a set of drills, an electric screwdriver, tin snips, a small socket set, and a micrometer.

        Paul and his wife Sandy live in Katy near Houston. Over a year ago, Sandy’s mom, Nancy Parks, who had lived all her life in Tulsa, died. Paul and Sandy have worked in Tulsa several weekends over the past year getting Nancy’s house ready to sell.

        In early November 2013, Paul arrived in Tulsa on a Saturday morning flight at ten. Sandy stayed home to administer a women’s conference on Friday night and Saturday. Paul went by the carpet store and picked up carpet samples. I had met the carpet salesman at Nancy’s house during the week to measure the floor space. When I arrived at the empty house with two toolboxes and a card table to set them on, Paul was taking down ceiling fans and light fixtures in two bedrooms.

        Paul checked the carpet samples in each bedroom against the freshly painted walls. We returned to the carpet store to buy carpet for all bedrooms and linoleum for the walk-in pantry.

        At Home Depot on 41st, Paul picked out two ceiling light fixtures. He looked over several dozen bins of kitchen knobs to find the one that matched the one that Sandy had selected in Katy. We needed 35 knobs. The bin held 24. We drove south to the 71st street Home Depot and bought ten more knobs.

        As Paul stood on a ladder installing ceiling light fixtures, I handed him a hand screwdriver to start the long screws into the ceiling electric box. Next I handed him the electric screwdriver to drive the long screws until tight.

        In the kitchen I held the wastebasket next to Paul while he used the electric screwdriver to remove kitchen cabinet knobs. We both installed knobs. I asked Paul to tighten the screws on the knobs I put in place.

        A hummingbird stained-glass window I made and installed in Nancy’s bathroom window twenty years ago was secured for a lifetime of use. The electric screwdriver and several hand screwdrivers were needed to remove ten brass screws. Caulking was cut. For the final step, Paul emptied a small board that held a half dozen screwdriver inserts and used the board with a hammer to drive the frame out of the window opening.

        This story began with Paul at age seven watching me work and handing me tools. On this Saturday, I watched Paul work and handed him tools. I hope he enjoyed watching his daddy work and handing him tools when he was seven as much as I enjoyed watching Paul work and handing him tools when I was eighty-five.


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