Manly Men Buy Girls’ Underwear – a Father’s Day post

I was 14 when I walked into the Mode o’ Day boutique and heard my Dad ask the sales clerk for girls’ underwear.

There weren’t many places to shop for clothes in our little town. The Mode o’ Day was about it unless you wanted to drive clear to the other end of town. Of course you could always drive into the big city, or as we say it The City. That’s what people where I grew up call San Francisco – The City. But driving into The City to buy clothes meant paying for parking and we didn’t have much money just then.

My Mom had died earlier that year and my Dad was taking care of us kids. I was the youngest. That meant I got taken along on a lot of errands. Grocery shopping, taking the car in for a tune up, picking up my brother from the airport when he came home on leave from the Coast Guard. Whatever it was, I went along with Dad.

That’s why I was there when he asked for girls’ underwear at the Mode o’ Day.

Christmas was coming up and Dad was trying to find stocking stuffers. Our stockings always had some treats and some practical things. My sisters were apparently going to find underwear in their stockings on Christmas morning.

Ranch Hand to City Life

Dad grew up on a ranch outside Yakima, Washington. He worked cattle from the time he could ride, and kept working cattle through high school. He and another rancher competed in local rodeos, entering the team roping events.

Then bombs fell on Pearl Harbor and America went to war. He put in for early graduation from high school and joined the Army Air Force when he turned 18 just six days after Pearl Harbor. He served with the Flying Tigers in the interior of China, and that’s a far ways from Yakima. He rose through the ranks of the enlisted men and wound up with stripes on his sleeve, being assigned as Sergeant Major of his base by the time he was 21.

Dad came home after serving his final duty in the Aleutians immediately following the signing of the peace treaty. He once told me he did it to find out what it was like. He said he found out it was cold.

He settled in San Francisco – The City. He spent his bachelor days there for the next seven years, taking a job with an airline in their mechanics shop and then finding his talents needed in the office monitoring material specifications.

Then he married. My Dad and Mom met in a boarding house. Lots of boarding houses sprung up in San Francisco following the war, and some of the best were in the up-scale neighborhood of Pacific Heights.

Mom said she first became aware of Dad because his room was above hers and she heard him drop three shoes on their floor every night. Clunk! – one shoe. Clunk! – another shoe. But it didn’t stop there because she said there was always one more Clunk! She’d go to sleep wondering who it was up there who had three feet.

They finally met face to face and she saw she had two feet. He was also three inches shorter than Mom. She wasn’t extraordinarily tall. It’s just that he stood 5 foot 3 inches on his best day. They fell in love and got married, height differential notwithstanding.

Four kids came along, me last. Then Mom got sick. It started with headaches that wouldn’t go away. Eventually the symptoms were so bad they did x-rays. There was a tumor on her brain. After 18 months of surgeries and chemo-therapy and radiation therapy and long recoveries at the convalescent hospital and home, all of which repeated themselves without a break, she died. It was Easter Sunday.

So later that year Dad went Christmas shopping. He took me along. We walked into the Mode o’ Day and he asked for girls’ underwear. I wanted to hide behind a nearby clothes rack. I’m glad I didn’t.

This ranch hand, rodeo rider, airplane mechanic and war veteran showed me what it takes to be a manly man.

Manly men buy girls’ underwear.


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19 Responses to Manly Men Buy Girls’ Underwear – a Father’s Day post

  1. What a beautiful tribute. I really did laugh out loud when I read ‘She’d go to sleep wondering who it was up there who had three feet.’ 🙂

  2. JJ says:

    This really touched me. Thanks for telling this story!

  3. patbadstibner says:

    Yes, they do! One of my fondest memories is being the makeup dummy for my daughter and her friends at my daughters ninth birthday. Wore, pink toe nail polish for two weeks, till my girls told me to take it off, personally I think it looked quite pretty still and Tim you know my background.

    Thanks, you made me laugh and brought back a fond memory.

  4. Tuija says:

    A lovely tribute. Have a great Father’s Day, Tim!

    Around here, Father’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in November. Probably because this weekend is the traditional Midsummer holiday (summer solstice / St John the Baptist’s day), which is a really big thing in Scandinavia & the Baltic countries – Father’s Day would get a lot less attention if it was at the same time.

    ps. Did your Mom ever find out what the third ‘clunk’ was?

  5. Laura Droege says:

    What a wonderful Father’s Day post, Tim. I’m sure the sales clerk was quite surprised at the request of girl underwear; then again, maybe not. This reminded me of when I was pregnant with my first child. My mother-in-law, in her late70s at the time, bought me a maternity outfit; she said the clerk looked startled, possibly wondering if the shirt was for her! But I digress. Your dad sounds like a great guy!

  6. Wow. That’s beautiful 🙂 I really want to know – what was the third clunk your mother would hear at night?

  7. Dee Parsons says:

    What a beautiful post. I, too, want to know what the third clunk was!

  8. Greg Hahn says:

    Wow Bro. Loved that. But you’d better tell us about the third clunk!

  9. Jeannie says:

    This is such a nice tribute, Tim – thanks for sharing it with us. I hope that you have a happy Father’s Day and that your dad does, too.

  10. Dee Parsons says:

    I wish my son had your reticence. I needed to pick up some socks and I had my 6 year old son and 3 of his friends with me. As I was paying, I heard them giggling. They were hiding in a bra display and almost tipped it over.

  11. Rev. Carlene Appel, MDiv. says:

    What a beautiful story Tim. I read it to my husband and he is going to share it with the guys in his Men’s Bible Study Group. Happy Father’s Day to you and your Dad if he’s still alive.

    • Tim says:

      He’s 91 and going strong, Carlene. We drove down to the Bay Area and had lunch with him yesterday for an early Father’s Day celebration.

  12. Kathi says:

    What a great tribute to your dad! Happy Father’s Day to you too.

  13. Debra R says:

    Lovely, TimLee. That was a great group of men–my dad was one, too–who went off to save the world, then came back to build birdhouses and buy underwear. And I remember Mode O Day! There was a branch in Ontario, CA, where I grew up. I don’t think Mom ever bought anything there; it was pricey and we were more on the JC Penney’s level, but I can remember the racks of bras. “I dreamed I was a Pirate in my Maidenform Bra!”

  14. Anonymous says:

    This post is worth everyone’s attention. When can I find out more?

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