Stan Slocum, my Dad, had many interests and enthusiasms, but I’m going to talk about two of his greatest passions: the wide world, and the people who live in it.
Having grown up during the frugal era of the Depression and the gas rationing of World War II, Dad had to indulge his fascination with travel in unusual ways at first. In his mid-teens, he travelled alone by bicycle from his home in Rockaway Beach, New York, to visit his relatives in eastern Massachusetts. (His father allowed him to do this only after he had shown he could take the bicycle completely apart and put it back together again, which was a real accomplishment for a boy who grew up in the shadow of a very handy father but had inherited his mother’s affinity for people rather than machines).
When it came time to go to college, he set his sights beyond New York City, drawing a circle on the map at a distance that he thought could be a long day’s journey from New York, and looking at where that might take him. Deciding on Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, he developed his skills as a hitchhiker in order to save money making the trips back and forth. On one of these trips, a truck driver picked him up and admitted that he was unfamiliar with New York City, never having driven there, and since Dad was a native, would he mind driving once they got there. Dad happily obliged, omitting to mention that, although he had lived New York for the better part of two decades, he had never driven there either.
At Antioch Dad met my Mom, and they were married in their final year, knowing that, with the Korean War on, Dad would be entering the military upon graduation. Spared overseas service, Dad was able to take Mom with him to his duty stations in Baltimore and Alabama. Hearing Dad’s stories about the service, it sounds to me like it was a grand adventure in living in new places and meeting wonderful people who became lifelong friends. I met many of these people because travelling to visit them continued to be a passion for my Dad, along with trips to enticing destinations here and abroad.
He treasured the souvenirs of these travels. In his frugal bicycling and hitchhiking days, he would buy a newspaper in each new city so that he could cut out its nameplate and add it to his pinned up collection on his bedroom wall. After taking a photography course in the army, he took pictures, organizing them into narrated slide shows that have entertained audiences from our neighbors in Dansville, New York in the 60’s, to the Robin Run Community in the past few years. When he discovered the National Parks Passport program, he developed a new passion for visiting any national park he came near, so that he could add its stamp to his passport and move ahead in a competition with an army friend who had developed the same passion.
While he never was a serious gambler, he was fascinated by state lotteries, so if we passed through a state that had one, he would buy a ticket and find a way to hear if he had won. (I believe he convinced the clerk in one of the stores to call him with the winning number.) Once Indiana had begun its state lottery, Dad would scour the ground for lost change and, when he had saved up a dollar, he would use it to buy a lottery ticket, which never paid off.
He visited six continents in all, and made new friends even in these far-flung places. In Japan, Dad handed out copies of their photo Christmas card to anyone they met, and they formed a close friendship with the young woman who showed them around the Noritake factory, inviting her to visit them when she came to the United States, and cementing the friendship when her husband was posted in Chicago. After she had moved back to Japan, she timed a visit to Chicago to allow her to come to their 50th wedding anniversary in 2001.
It was at that celebration that I realized how all the visits to friends (always made with return invitations to visit Indianapolis, especially at the time of the 500 mile race), and all the photo Christmas cards sent faithfully each year, could pay off, as friends from high school, college, the army, his various jobs, the Clover Drive neighborhood, the newcomers club that they had joined when we moved here in 1968, and the church, all joined us here for the celebration.
His manner was warm, but could also be very straightforward. In college he was known as “Honest Stan”, partly because of his fulfillment of Antioch’s value of personal integrity, but also because he could be quite outspoken about what he thought was right regardless of whom it might offend or inconvenience. This could be helpful, as when he once had to fire an employee and made sure to tell the man just how he had failed to meet the job requirements, only to hear the man say how helpful it was to finally hear someone tell him these things. This trait could be frustrating as well, when in meetings he could be the sole thorn in the side who would speak up against something that everyone clearly wanted to pass.
We know that he would love to be here for this gathering of his friends. When we were in school he made a special effort to see us perform in any way, telling us that he was our “number one fan”. When I gave a speech at my graduation from sixth grade (a big deal in Dansville, New York), he always regretted that he couldn’t be there because he had to be working in Pennsylvania that day. And it saddens me now that he can’t hear me, Rick, and Ben give these talks today. But I know that, wherever he is, he’s proud of us.