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TV Dads Are Far From Real

My father passed away 30 years ago when he was just 68 years old. He was two years older than I am today. He lived enough years to see most of his children leave the nest and to celebrate about one-third of his grandchildren’s births.

He was a proud, patriotic man who served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He survived the Battle of the Bulge despite being wounded. He came back to his Wheeling hometown to enjoy a 50-year career with this newspaper.

However he could not undo the damage caused by smoking cigarettes from a young age, which led to his early demise.

Growing up in the baby boomer generation, I would watch the growing number of family sitcoms on the television that held our attention each evening. I often laughed at the silly antics of TV fathers on those shows. Sometimes I wondered what it would have been like to have a dad like Ozzie Nelson from the “Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.” But there were only two sons on that show, and they rarely ever engaged in brother-on-brother fistfights.

On “Make Room for Daddy,” Danny Thomas was funny but yelled a lot. I could relate somewhat to his antics. I even met him in person at a party given by my late godmother in her Wheeling home when I was a kid.

When the show “Eight Is Enough” came along, I thought this was more like it. The dad, played by Dick Van Patten, was in the newspaper business and often blew his stack when something went awry with his eight kids. It was more realistic than other shows as the family was not perfect.

The soft-spoken Fred McMurray as the father on “My Three Sons” was just too passive. He rarely got mad despite his sons causing chaos at various times.

Andy Griffith, the famed father of only-child Opie on the “Andy Griffith Show,” was probably one of the most recognized dads on TV. He was tough but fair with little Opie, and they always seemed to end a show with a lesson in father-son relations.

Robert Young on “Father Knows Best” was always trying to teach his three children life lessons, sometimes taking things to extremes with his demands. He was always having family meetings. We were lucky to get my family together once a year for a Christmas photo session, let alone a meeting.

And what about dad John Walton on “The Waltons” TV show? He was a hard worker who put his family before all else in his life. I could relate to their no-frills life and to the sibling rivalry displayed on this show.

If I had to categorize my own father, I would say he was a cross between Archie Bunker and Howard Cunningham. He had strong opinions.

He was a good storyteller. And he enjoyed performing a little backyard magic for us every Fourth of July. It was better than anything we ever saw on TV.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via email at hziegler@theintelligencer.net.


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