Cathy’ s Dad, George F. Young was one of the most remarkable men I have ever known. When Cathy and I first met and began dating in 1964 while I was an intern at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta I had never met anyone from Fort Lauderdale. I met her mom, Virginia in Atlanta after we had been dating for several months because as President of the Florida School Board she was in town for a meeting. Cathy’s Dad and Granddad George W. Young were well-known building contractors in Fort Lauderdale in a business which her Granddad founded with his brother Will in the early 1900’s. The two of them were master cabinet makers from England. When I met Cathy her Dad’s construction business was the oldest one of its’ type in the city of Fort Lauderdale, and they had built such landmarks as the Riverside Hotel and the exclusive shopping area known as Las Olas.
When I finally met her Dad during the Easter weekend in 1965 I had heard many stories about him from Cathy and what a brilliant man he was with outstanding character. I had a bit of anxiety prior to our meeting, because I wanted to make a good first impression. I was planning to ask for his blessing for our marriage the following August. The first thing I discovered he was a man of few words. At our initial meeting and seemingly for several years afterward I don’t recall him initiating a conversation with me. He was not impolite or rude, but I was never quite certain in those early years whether he liked me or approved of me as Cathy’s husband. Her Mom, on the other hand was open and verbal, and I was confident of her approval, so that was sufficient. I believed if Virginia (Mom) approved then George (Dad) approved also.
I always loved sitting with my own Dad (Pop) and listening to his stories relating to his life and the many people he had met and with whom he had interacted. I wanted to have the same type of relationship with Dad Young, but it was not possible because of his basic quiet and private nature. Mom Young however was a story-teller like Pop, and she loved telling stories almost as much as I loved hearing them. One of the stories I have repeated often best characterizes Dad Young’s character and the reputation he had in the city of Fort Lauderdale.
A wealthy man and his wife contracted with Dad to do a remodel on their beautiful and expensive home in Fort Lauderdale. Normally Dad’s fee to a customer was on a cost-plus basis, but in this instance he had agreed to a contract price. Throughout the remodel the wife made numerous changes to the agreed upon project, and Dad made those changes knowing the final price would be higher than the contract price. He assumed the husband would honor the added expenses and pay for them accordingly. When the work was completed and was inspected and approved by the owner Dad presented the final bill which was considerably higher than the contract price. The customer told Dad he was only going to pay the contract price despite Dad’s explanation for the added amount. Dad went home telling Mom they were just going to have to absorb the loss since the homeowner was adamant in his refusal. Mom said, “George, this is just not right and we are not going to stand for this. We are being forced to take legal action.” In all of their previous dealing with customers they had never filed a suit in small claims court.
An attorney was engaged and on the appointed court date both Mom and Dad appeared with the necessary documentation of the work which had been done and presented the detailed accounting to the judge. The judge very carefully examined the documents, looked at Dad and asked, “George, did you do this work?” Dad said, “Yes Judge, and that is my bill for the work.” The judge looked at the defendant while striking his gavel on the stand and said, “The court orders the defendant to pay George Young the full amount of this bill.” The defense lawyer said, “Judge, we have not presented our defense.” The judge quickly said, “There is no need for you to speak. Everyone who has lived in this community for any period of time knows the integrity and honesty of George Young. If he says he did the work and this is his bill, then you must pay it because it is fair and reasonable. Case dismissed.”
Our children were fortunate to have known their Granddaddy Young before he departed this life. They were also blessed to have seen a more talkative and open man than he was at an earlier age. He told us he enjoyed coming on visits with Grammy to Arkansas even though he didn’t like the colder weather they occasionally encountered. All of their visits were filled with surprise gifts from Florida, lots of conversation with jokes and laughter, and plenty of good stories which have made many wonderful memories in our hearts. In remembering him it has been the prayer of Cathy and me for our children and grandchildren and especially the men, will have the character and reputation similar to their Granddaddy Young.
This is WONDERFUL!!! Write more stories! I am loving remembering Grammy and Grandaddy! To this day, I NEVER let a door slam behind me–ALL BECAUSE of Grandaddy Young. I ALWAYS wait to catch a door before it slams shut, and carefully close it softly–all because of ONE TIME when I let our front screen door slam behind me, with Grandaddy sitting nearby. Grandaddy very quietly, but very seriously, told me that someone had worked hard to build such a nice wooden screen door, and I should never let a door slam carelessly–because it weakened the door’s integrity (or something like that.)
When Grandaddy spoke, people listened. I sure listened that day!! And to this day, his words of wisdom still affect my behavior. I CRINGE when I see other people letting doors slam behind them.
It’s a good lesson for me to remember that the things that I say, whether good or even bad, are sometimes remembered and applied for years. I sure don’t want to be remembered by someone saying, “That ole’ grouch —–!” I’d rather it be said, “That dude could really do the hambone.” 🙂
Thanks, John for this recollection. Daddy was not so quiet when it was just us kids at home! He used to crawl into Cathy’s and my bedroom, growling like a bear, to scare us! He took me to a gun range to learn to shoot, even though he never hunted. Daddy built us kids wonderful ways to enjoy the outdoors, including a chicken coop to raise chickens, a big real cave, and a catwalk through the swamp behind our house. He also helped us build a drawbridge over the creek, and turned the playhouse he built for Cathy and me into a clubhouse as we got older, by hoisting it up to a platform between two pine trees. He was always ready with a joke, and he had a twinkle in his eyes even when berating us for bad behavior! We could talk for hours with him in the evenings when he wasn’t working at his drawing board. He encouraged us all to get an education, equally, and we did, because we strove to meet his expectations. He was a wonderful man whom I loved dearly, even when he told me that I had played a wrong note in a piano piece!
I came to really love seeing that twinkle in his eye and that quiet chuckle when he said something funny. We could always get him to laugh out loud by playing Jerry Clower tapes which he loved. We made sure we had the most recent tapes when they would visit. All of our kids have real happy memories of those visits. Thanks for your comments Nancy.
I didn’t know this story. Thanks so much for sharing it!
Your Dad just sent me an email saying that the judge on the case was Otis Farrington, a high school classmate of Granddaddy, and he made the defendant write a check for the entire bill right there in the courtroom. I wish I could have been there!
It is so much fun reading these stories and remembering faces, laughs, voices, and sweet hugs. The thing I remember most about Grandaddy were his hands. I can still see them in my mind. I knew from stories how hard those hands had worked, but to me they were the “tickle bug!” I guess I remember them so well because I was always keeping an eye on that tickle bug. You never knew when it would strike, so you had to be ready! I was really too young to have deep conversations with him, but his lap was always available and I knew that he loved me!
Granddaddy had the original “Ticklebug,” and he left the legacy and the “bug” to me to generously apply to our grandchildren. I may pass it on to Nathan. I think you enjoyed the benefit of Granddaddy’s lap more than any other grandchild! It is fun to remember.
Not sure why I don’t remember this story but I love it. Many great memories of Grandaddy and I too loved listening to Jerry Clower with him. It made me feel good to watch him laugh.
Uncle George sent an email saying the judge on the case was Otis Farrington who was a high school classmate of Granddaddy, and he not only didn’t hear the opposing counsel, he ordered the defendant to write a check for the bill right then in the courtroom. I’ve got a couple of more stories to post about him and also about some of their visits to El Dorado.