Memoir Writing Contest Winner: Driving with Dad by Nancy Julien Kopp

by Matilda Butler on June 19, 2011

catnav-scrapmoir-active-3Post #103 – Women’s Memoir Writing, ScrapMoir – Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

Women’s Memoirs is pleased to present the second of two award-winning stories today. Nancy Julien Kopp is the First Place winner in our FATHER’S DAY category. This morning we published Cathie Borrie’s First Place winning story in our memoir contest — IT’S JUNE category.


by Nancy Julien Kopp

memoir-contest-winner, memoir, memoir writing, journaling, autobiographyDuring my growing-up years, my dad drove a 1936 Plymouth, moved on to a 40’s model Buick and then a 50’s era Chrysler that was his pride and joy. Every one of those vehicles was a used car, but Dad burst with pride over each one.  He kept them washed and waxed, made sure the engine hummed, and brushed and vacuumed the upholstered seats regularly.
I learned many life lessons during conversations in those cars, usually when Dad and I drove somewhere without my mother and brothers. Confined in the front seat of the car, we bumped along the brick street in front of our apartment building, our words quaking as we passed over each new brick the tires hit. Finally, we’d come to a paved street, and our voices sounded normal again. An innocent remark from me as we rode along brought forth long orations from Dad on more than one occasion. My dad was a short, skinny guy, but his inner strength and street smarts created a powerful person. He steered with one hand and gestured to me with the other, citing one example after another to prove a point.
In my childhood years, I considered his words as nothing but lectures. Never content to say a little about a subject, he’d begin with the important part of the lecture and continue on and on until I effectively tuned him out. My own silent rebellion. I must have had a mental file folder in which I saved those little lectures, for bits and pieces float through my mind even now, over sixty years later. They’ve helped to make me the strong person I am today.
Dad grew up in the Depression years. He lost his father at the age of fourteen and dropped out of high school to search for work. He supported his mother and himself with one scrounged-up job after another, finally settling in permanently at International Harvester Company when he turned eighteen. They hired him as a truck driver, and Dad moved on through the ranks of the parts department in a distribution center and finally to the General Office in downtown Chicago where he worked with men who, unlike himself, held college degrees. He supervised a department of men and women until his retirement, and never was a man more loyal to an employer than he.
As an adult, my dad’s words revisited me when I attended college, taught school, married, and became a mother. One of the things we often talked about in those old cars was loyalty.

“Loyalty,” Dad said, “will reap benefits beyond your wildest dreams.” 

He repeatedly instructed me and my brothers to be loyal to our family, to our employer, and to our friends. Mixed in with the admonition to show loyalty were words about respect and integrity as well as fidelity, subheadings for his favorite topic.
As a child and especially in my teen years, I resented Dad’s lectures and did my best to ignore them. In my young adult years, Dad often grasped an opportunity to repeat those lectures. The same stories, the same words, the same lesson, and I’d think: “Oh no, not again.” How many times could I listen to what International Harvester Company did for him? That his loyalty to them was returned a thousand-fold over the years. And didn’t I already know that his loyalty to his best friend resulted in a lifelong friendship?
Dad died over sixteen years ago, but the lessons he taught through words and example live on not just on Father’s Day but all year long. The words I naively thought I had tuned out so long ago come back to me at the strangest moments. When I see examples of others’ loyalty, Dad’s words drift through my mind, and I wish I might thank him now for what he taught me all those years. I tried to be loyal to my employer, my family, and my friends exactly as he’d said while we drove all around Chicago in his treasured cars. And he was so right. I’ve reaped the benefits in the form of good working relationships, a wonderful family life, and the joy of many warm friendships.
He didn’t have a college degree, but he knew the values to instill in his children, and he worked hard all his adult life to ensure we learned the meaning of loyalty. The little lectures in the car and sometimes at the dining room table were re-enforced by the way he led his own life. I listened and observed, quite often subconsciously, and applied what I learned throughout my own life.

Thanks a million, Dad.


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Nancy Julien Kopp June 19, 2011 at

I hope my story will help others realize how important all those “lectures” by parents were in the way our personalities were formed. Shame we don’t realize it until many years later.

Nancy Hardin June 19, 2011 at

Wonderful story Nancy! I really enjoyed reading it and it’s such an appropriate story for Father’s Day. Thanks for sharing.

Maria Harden June 19, 2011 at

What a great memoir for Father’s Day, Nancy. Lots to be learned from this one. Dads are special! (And Moms, too.)

Matilda Butler June 19, 2011 at

Nancy: Thanks for sharing your story with our readers. It is helpful for parents to know that although our children don’t seem to be listening, our lessons may still get across.

Linda June 20, 2011 at

Nancy, you’ve written a treasure, full of wisdom for all of us who read it, especially your kids and grandkids.

Congratulations on winning this contest, too!


Kelly Ann Wright June 26, 2011 at

It’s a wonderful piece. Hope to read more


Leave a Comment

Interviews Category Interviews Category Interviews Category Interviews Category Interviews Category Interviews Category Writing Prompts Category Writing Prompts Category Writing Prompts Category Writing Prompts Category Writing Prompts Category Writing Prompts Category StoryMap Category StoryMap Category StoryMap Category Writing and Healing Category Writing and Healing Category Writing and Healing Category Scrapmoir Category Scrapmoir Category Scrapmoir Category Book Business Category Book Business Category Book Business Category Memoir Journal Writing Category Memoir Journal Writing Category Memoir Journal Writing Category News Category News Category News Category