Recalling the image of my father, the wizard of whimsy, master of the pose


  • Friday, June 13, 2008 6:30pm
  • Opinion


For the Auburn Reporter

Father’s Day is tomorrow, and so is my dad’s 85th birthday. I sure wish he were going to be here to celebrate both occasions, but he’s been gone for 20 years.

Digging through a bunch of old photos of him the other day, I came across one from Father’s Day 1964. I was startled. It was a photo of our entire family – me, my four brothers and mom dutifully facing the camera, posing the way conventional people do. Except for dad. He is facing backward. Why was he facing backward? Simply because it looked funny, I guess. Or maybe he was showing off a new haircut. There was no other reason.

The photo startled me because I hadn’t ever remembered seeing it before – and because for all these years, I thought that I had been the one in our family who invented posing in weird ways for photos.

But as I looked through other old photos, I realized that shticky poses were a regular part of my dad’s style. I found a picture of him from a charity golf tournament standing with three other guys in his foursome. As is the custom, the other three players are holding golf clubs. But my dad? He’s holding a rake.

In another, he’s clutching one of those gadgets for retrieving golf balls from water hazards. In yet another, he’s positioned himself in such a way that his face is blocked by an overhanging tree limb.

Frame job a tall order

The more I looked at the old snapshots, the more I got a real glimpse of the man who was my father. He was a big guy – 6-foot-6 in his stocking feet, unless he was wearing stocking lifts and I didn’t know it. So he often encouraged photo-takers to purposely frame their shots of him so his head partially was cropped out. As a result, I have lots of pictures of him from the neck down.

Leafing through dad’s old school yearbooks, I discovered his penchant for photographic mischief started long ago. Since he was so tall, he’s always seen in the back row of group scenes, sometimes showing his side profile while everyone else is facing the camera. Or occasionally, he can be seen purposely closing one eye or looking skyward. In one, he is leaning to one side, as if gravity affected him differently than for others.

An older cousin of mine reminded that my dad didn’t just restrict his whimsy to photo ops. One time, some schoolboys were walking by dad’s clothing store. Suddenly, he came bolting out the door and handed them a toaster.

“The bank closes in five minutes,” he said to them. “Get this down there as fast as you can! Tell them they can keep it if they’ll open an account for you.”

The boys, never asking a question, grabbed the toaster and ran off to the bank in a sprint.

It would be incorrect to say that my dad was never serious, because he was. He was a smart and respected businessman, and active in community organizationsand charities. But he also seemed to have an instinct for whimsy – and making people happy.

I remember strolling around our small town with him and watching the smiles spread across the faces of people as he’d approach. He always had a ready grin, a new joke or a funny observation: “Maybe I’m seeing things, but wasn’t that traffic light red just a moment ago?”

I noticed that he mostly focused on people who were elderly or infirm or just lonely. They needed a laugh, and he would give them one. As I think about it, that’s not a bad example for a father to set.

On vacation a couple of years ago, my wife and I saw a small sign along a hiking trail that read, “Area closed behind this sign.” So naturally I had her take a photo of me carefully trying to get a look at the backside of the sign.

I thought that was pretty good until I found I was trumped yet again by another snapshot of my dad. This one was labeled on the back, “County fair, 1967.” It shows dad from the waist up, standing alongside one of those measurement signs at the entrance of an amusement ride: “You must be at least this (4-foot-8) tall to ride.” He, of course, must have squatted carefully from the waist down so he could appear to be just a half-inch too short to qualify. His face showed a look of crushing disappointment.

It was the master at work.

Pat Cashman is a writer, actor and public speaker. He can be reached at

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Opinion

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact
King County primary election candidates to watch | Roegner

With the Aug. 3 primary election, the public will narrow the field… Continue reading

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at
Massive reforestation effort needed in Washington and beyond | Brunell

Massive forest fires in the western parts of our country are not… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact
Why wouldn’t you vaccinate to save loved ones? | Roegner

Many Americans continue to be hesitant to get the COVID vaccine, even… Continue reading

Robert Whale can be reached at
Consorting with people from Auburn’s past

Introducing a new column with an eye on local history.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact
Cities can help solve the homelessness challenge | Roegner

Each one of the cities outside Seattle faces the same problems Seattle… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact
Politics of homelessness have taken a nasty turn | Roegner

A common stereotype is that homeless people are all hooked on drugs… Continue reading

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Editorial: Lifting restrictions doen’t mean pandemic is over

We have work to do to increase the number of vaccinations.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact
Races for Congress will include a few twists | Roegner

A few weeks ago, we looked at local races for King County… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact
Thoughts and prayers just aren’t enough | Roegner

The violence must stop. And our elected officials have the ability to stop it.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact
City and school board races highlight local elections | Roegner

A record 646 candidates in King County cities have filed for local offices.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact
King County Council elections could be more exciting this fall | Roegner

In most King County election races, the incumbent has all of the… Continue reading