Dad, you’re just FABULOUS!

Three minutes. Ralph Kramden knew his mother-in-law would start an argument within three minutes. Sa

Three minutes. Ralph Kramden knew his mother-in-law would start an argument within three minutes.

Sara Huzar and her father, Allen Huzar, knew Ralph was right.

They watched as Kramden, in a classic episode of television’s “The Honeymooners” series, listened to his visiting relative spoil the ending of a Broadway show. “You! Are a blabbermouth!” an agitated and bug-eyed Kramden shouted.

Both Sara and Allen love that story. They used to watch Jackie Gleason’s assorted schemes and situations late at night, when Allen had finished second shift duties at the General Electric Co. Sara, just a kid, would sneak out of her bedroom and share a little time with Dad.

Sara shared the scene with Daily Gazette readers last month. People responded by voting the story, “Honeymoon at Midnight” the top tale in the newspaper’s “My Fabulous Father” contest.

Ten stories about great fathers, some dramatic, some funny, some poignant, appeared in the newspaper on May 13. They also were posted at the Gazette’s online site. Readers were asked to choose one favorite, and vote with either an Internet or newsprint ballot.

A total of 419 votes were counted, 292 tabulated from the Internet and 127 delivered through the mail. “Honeymoon at Midnight” was the clear top choice with 112 votes. Second place went to Lynne Petroski Fuchs of Glenville, who wrote about her father Carl Petroski’s solution to a family pet crisis. Fuchs’ story, “The Parakeet Paradox,” earned 71 votes.

Joan Babcock of Schenectady, whose narrative about a father who hid clever poems for his daughters as they grew up, took third place. “Reading and Romans” received 40 votes.

Each of the three winners will receive a $100 gift card for the Glen Sanders Mansion in Scotia. The 10 contestants’ order of finish, and the reprinted three winning stories, appear in today’s Lifestyles section on page H2.

Night owls

For an 8-year-old Sara Huzar, leaving her bedroom around 11 p.m. was one way to spend more time with her father in the small living room on Jennifer Road in Glenville. “I don’t know why he never sent me back to bed right away,” Niskayuna resident Sara wrote in her story. “Maybe because he knew I wouldn’t go, or because he missed me as much as I missed him during the week.”

Allen, an inspector in General Electric’s rotor machining division, said he didn’t bother telling Sara to go back to her pillows.

“She’s always had her own mind — so it’s tough to tell her what to do. I let her stay up a little bit,” he said. “She always did good in school — so it wasn’t affecting anything.”

Added Sara: “He’s always been a night owl; I’ve always been a night owl. So I was always more awake at night than I was in the morning anyway.”

Younger sister Amy did not tip-toe down the stairs. “She’d be asleep by the time he came home,” Sara said. “We’d just let her sleep because she wouldn’t wake up.” Mother Sherry Trudell Huzar was a sound sleeper who never canceled the nocturnal gatherings.

Sara said the late show also included “Hogan’s Heroes,” the 1960s prisoner of war comedy. Pasta e fagioli and pepperoni sandwiches were on the midnight menu, and dad and daughter occasionally would check out the stars with the family telescope. By 12 or 12:30 a.m., Sara was back in the sack.

Late night television is no longer on the schedule for Sara or Allen. Sara, 23, is under covers early and on the morning move to Kidz Korner in Colonie, where she is an assistant preschool teacher. Allen now works third shift at General Electric, and that means 11 p.m. until 7 a.m.

If other fathers are up late, and soon discover small company in pajamas ready for television, Allen offers some advice.

“Make sure it’s a good show, I guess,” he said.

Giving up birdies for a bird

Carl Petroski knew about birds and birdies — he appreciated animals and golf.

“We were not a family that had pets,” said Lynne Petroski Fuchs, 53. “My mother said, ‘No animals in the house.’ Dad was the one who would take us to the animal shelter to look at the dogs and cats. . . . We’d go every couple weeks to see which ones we liked.”

When Lynne came down with the chicken pox during the late 1950s and insisted only a pet bird would return her to good health, Frankie the parakeet moved into the family home on Horstman Drive in Glenville.

Carl was preparing for golf on the day Frankie pecked his last.

“If the sun was shining, he’d run to the Edison Club,” Fuchs said. “That was his intent that day.”

Petroski decided to give up his game, rather than let Lynne and her brother Doug discover Frankie had given up the ghost. He made the purchase at a pet store, and made the switch. He did not know the kids had already discovered Frankie was now flying in more ethereal surroundings, but had left the house for swimming lessons.

“Imagine our surprise when we returned and found that Frankie had come back to life!” Fuchs wrote in her story. “Dad had to confess and we were once again thrilled to have a pet and to realize what our Dad had done for us.”

Petroski had made his name on newspaper sports pages years before. He was born in Schenectady and grew up in the city’s Bellevue section. He graduated from Mont Pleasant High School in 1939, where his basketball skills earned him a scholarship to Michigan State. The basketball star was a chemistry major.

Petroski was drafted into the Army during World War II, and spent four years in the Philippines. Back in Schenectady, he began working for the General Electric Co. as a sales manager; he married Dorothy Kursa of Rotterdam on Sept. 19, 1948, at the Church of St. Adalbert.

Fuchs remembers her father as a man who entertained his children, changed diapers and made up baby bottles.

“Being a chemist, he loved mixing formula,” Fuchs said.

Petroski later secured employment with the Sterling Varnish Co. of Pittsburgh. Petroski eventually got a job with Frank Murken Products, retiring in 1985.

The family still talks about Dad’s golf skills. Petroski won a golfing contest at the New York State Fair in 1968 and took home a brand new Ford Mustang. Dorothy got the car; Carl preferred his bigger Buicks.

And whenever birds are the topic, Frankie and Carl get an encore. “That’s the family story that always comes up again,” said Fuchs, a reading teacher at Sacandaga Elementary School.

Petroski died Feb. 19, 2004.

Silly and serious poems

Joan Lundie Babcock, 70, keeps her treasures in a small box that once contained 10-cent Christmas cards.

Fifty notes in pencil, on faded paper from the 1940s, are one way James Lundie remains in the life of his daughter.

Here’s one of them:

“The day was nice and warm;

we played and romped all day;

we’ll all be very happy;

if winter stays away.

So get out the trike and roll;

up and down the streets;

we’ll get relief for our feet;

but my, what a pain in the seat.”

Lundie was born in New York City. He was small and thin growing up, and secured part-time employment cleaning locomotive engines at the American Locomotive Co. in New York City. He also drove a fruit wagon — extra money helped pay for singing lessons.

“He was just creative,” Babcock said. “He did crossword puzzles for one of the New York City papers when we were down in Jersey City.”

Lundie kept busy. He sang in barbershop quartets and was the choir leader at Lafayette Methodist Episcopal Church in Jersey City.

The music lover married Audrey Davison. The couple began raising daughters Joan and Carole, and Lundie always found time to entertain his family. He was just funny.

“My mother used to laugh so much, she had to sit in a chair and wipe her eyes,” Babcock said.

Every Friday, Lundie would arrive home from work with books for budding young readers.

“After we both learned to read, he would leave us each a poem, based on the previous day’s activities,” Babcock wrote in her story about Mr. Lundie. “He dashed them off and tucked them into a mitten, our boot or shoe, someplace we would be sure to find them before school.”

The rhymes often were topical. The poem about Roman numerals was written to Joan the day after she began learning about the numbers in school. “O those Roman numerals; surely get me down; I think they are the hardest; of anything in town . . .” Lundie wrote.

The family moved to Schenectady during the early 1940s. The locomotive man, who had worked his way into Alco’s estimating department as an adult employee, was not excited about the trip north.

“He loved New York and he thought we were in the sticks when he got transferred up here,” Babcock said. “It was, ‘How can I exist? It’s not New York.’”

Lundie found a way to cope. He helped Joan and Carole, students at Elmer Avenue Elementary School, with their homework. Babcock remembers scolding her father for occasionally dropping ash from his cigars into her papers.

Maybe writing the poems helped:

“A girl I know around this town;

has black hair and eyes of brown;

she’s always into mischief;

doing this and that.

We hope to tame her down some day;

just you wait and see;

then she’ll be sweet and pretty;

with no scratches on her knees.”

“I was always scratching up my knees with my roller skates,” Babcock said. “We had a bumpy street.”

Lundie died of a heart attack in 1960.

Babcock, who works part time demonstrating products at the Hannaford supermarket in Niskayuna, keeps the silly and serious body of work on her bureau. The poems are never far away.

She hopes her grandchildren, Tennison and Virginia Tower of Duanesburg, will someday “meet” James Lundie through his short stories from long ago.

“It brings up all sorts of memories just holding them,” Babcock said.

Categories: Life and Arts

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