When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

20 June 2010

Building forts with Bob

Bob Campbell, my father, was an engineer by trade. 

bob den

Bob Campbell at home, early 1980s

He trained as an electrical engineer in the late 1950s and then went to work for IBM. That was pretty much getting into the (digital) computer industry on the ground floor, and back then it was reasonable and even honorable to work for the same company for your entire career.

"Playing" with Bob was always a mind-expanding experience. Flying kites would turn into an impromptu lesson on aerodynamics, which I drank up every word of and retained basically nothing from.  Still, I thought my dad was the smartest guy in the world.  (At least until I became a teenager.)

flying a kite

Bob and Barry, flying kites at Holden Beach, circa 1972

My Father's Day memory of Bob: 

My friends and I, around age six or seven, were building forts in the back yard, down by the creek (a common play area in our neighborhood), wherever there was room.  I was having some difficulties with structural integrity, and I asked Dad for advice.

"Hang on a second, I'll be right back," he said, and wheeled into the house. I imagined that he was going to get some tools out of his workbench, but I wasn't all that surprised when he returned with a clipboard, some graph paper and an ink pen.

Dad drew out plan and elevation views of a structurally sound fort, along with notes on where to excavate in our fortifications for best results.  He then gave me written permission to use one of Mama's garden trowels out of the shed for these efforts, but only if I brought it back (1) promptly and (2) clean.  (Yes, he numbered the requirements.)

(It's no wonder that I turned out to be a tech writer.)

Dad, it's been five years since we lost you.  You were a good father when you were raising me, and later you were a good friend, too.

I'll drink a toast in your memory today.  Since you're not here to drink it with me, I'm going to make it a double Scotch on the rocks.

dad in van ibm brochure
This is a scanned sidebar from a print article on hiring the handicapped that ran in some official IBM publication in 1984.


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