top of page

A tribute to my Daddy

Hill Family Archives Ralph Hill serving in the United States Navy.


Happy Father’s Day to all the dear old dads in our audience. To all the sons and daughters blessed with their parents in their lives, remember to cherish them every day. Take it from me you will carry the hole their passing leaves in your heart for the rest of your life.

My dad was really somethin’ else! In 1958, he and Mom bought a house on five acres on Martin Street. At the time, it seemed as if we lived way out in the boondocks. Today Nishimoto and Desmond schools are across the street and Torres high school up the road is under construction.

We moved to Martin Street from 206 South J Street. Living close to the high school, we had visitors on a regular basis. At our new house, it felt like no one ever visited. I have a memory of a lonely little girl waiting by the mailbox with a glass of iced tea for the postman. I can’t tell if I actually remember doing this or if I just remember hearing the stories of doing it. Most of my childhood memories are that way.

Daddy always said he wanted to move us out-of-town so his kids wouldn’t be running the streets. That always painted a picture of my brothers and me literally running through Madera. At the time I didn’t understand why that was a bad thing. I filed the information away in my memory banks knowing someday I would be old enough to understand. I did a lot of that after listening to adult conversations I didn’t quite understand.

Daddy loved living in the country and keeping animals. Our property was mostly hardpan. In spite of that, he had a huge garden every year. It was his vegetables I learned to hate. The only stuff from his gardens I liked was the corn-on-the-cob. Discussing vegetables with a friend my comment was that the only vegetable I actually liked was corn. Her response was “You’re a fat girl and all fat girls like corn.” Truer words were never spoken.

When it came to eating my dad’s vegetables, it was a case of the irresistible force meets the immovable object. Daddy grew them and we were expected to eat them.

There is a great scene in the movie “Mommy Dearest,” where Joan Crawford and her daughter had a standoff over eating a rare cooked steak. I could have given little Christina Crawford lessons in being obstinate. Sit there until you eat that squash, eggplant, okra, whatever.

As the youngest child and the only girl, I labored under quite a few misconceptions. Such as, I thought I had to be twice as bad as my brothers to be half as good. I was also a know-it-all. I can hear my aunt Clara, my mother’s only sister, saying, “Tamara Jo Hill, did it ever occur to you that you’re not always right?” It really never did.

My father was so proud when my brothers played ball. They started in Little League baseball and went on to play Babe Ruth. Brian loved the game, Rocky not as much.

While I felt in the shade of my brothers, Brian lived in Rocky’s shadow. He cast a very long shadow. A great deal of my childhood was spent sitting in the bleachers while the boys played ball.

My dad had a troubled childhood. Born in 1926 when the depression hit, his father ran off and his mother remarried a man Daddy detested.

He left their home for a boarding school run by the state called the Tennessee Industrial School. The stories I heard about the place had it as a cross between an orphanage and a kiddie prison. His younger sister has fond memories of the place because it was a chance for poor kids to get an education.

He once opined in front of my aunts in Nashville that he was considering sending me to school there. My aunts Helen and Betty asked me to leave the room and then chewed him out about how awful it was for them as young girls. That was the last I heard of that particular plan.

Some of my fondest childhood memories of my dad were of him playing the piano and the two of us singing together. Our favorite song was Al Jolson and “Rock-a-bye your baby with a Dixie melody.”

I owned his piano for a while in spite of never having learned to play. I was at work the day we sold it. A family with a bunch of kids came and picked it up. The father told my husband they had one piano but with eight kids, they would use the second one. A piano makes a very cumbersome memento. It was great to know it would go to a home where it would be loved and played.

Fred told me that as they drove away, two of the kids were playing a duet as they went through Parkwood. I wish I had been there to see it.

Happy Father’s Day.

• • •

Readers, may contact Tami Jo Nix by emailing or following @TamiJoNix on Twitter.


bottom of page