by Max Brantley
Father's and Mother's Day invariably send me to the spotty family archives that survived a fire in my parents' home in 1995. Oh, were they still here to answer the questions the photos and documents invariably raise.
Just as when I was child, I'm drawn most to the military papers. There's the document attesting to my mother's fitness to serve in the Asiatic theater despite her dreadful eyesight — how well, really, did an Army dietitian need to be able to see? I enjoyed seeing the statement she swore before shipment home after the war that there was no live ammunition in her baggage. My mother saved an Army newspaper published in New Delhi noting the unit citation my dad's airway communications unit had received.
The "Mad Men" creators could have gone to my files for some styling tips — clothes, office furniture, cars, advertising. I particularly like the 1960s era photo above of my parents (at left) at the New Orleans Playboy Club (a Playboy key was, briefly, a very big deal) along with another couple. This would have been on one of dad's frequent business trips to the New Orleans home office. Martinis? Check. Cigarette? Check. Bunny? Check. Skinny ties? Check. There's more roving photographer stuff where this came from — at Pat O'Brien's with Hurricanes at the ready and at Your Father's Mustache with beer mugs and a Dixieland band. The ephemera includes an expense reimbursement request for dad's room at the Sheraton Charles Hotel — $10 a night — and a note saying he had spent almost $30 at Commander's Palace at a family celebratory dinner for a 1963 promotion, but, of course, he wouldn't expect the company to pay for that.
Memories. The good ones always win.