Browsing articles in "All in the Family"
Mar 9, 2012

The Day My Dad Became a Democrat

My Dad; My Hero

Walter Herbert Etzbach, or Etzy as he was known to his friends, worked his ass off to prove that he was a true blue American. A first generation American, he spoke German and English but stopped speaking German when he was beaten up in school for being German. Growing up in Winnetka, Illinois he went to New Trier and the University of Illinois where he was a champion swimmer.  He was a handsome lifeguard on the shores of Lake Michigan.

He served his country during World War II on an aircraft carrier. Henry Fonda was his bunkmate. He worked for the American Can Company for more than forty years, moving our family from Chicago to Denver then Baltimore and finally Riverside, Connecticut.

He was also a champion sailor, winning the Cuba/Baccardi Cup three years in a row as crew for his best friend Harry Nye. He was the first foreign winner to give an acceptance speech in Spanish. After the third win, they sailed out of Cuba under the cover of darkness. The war had started.

As a salesman for American Can. he kept every known brand of cigarettes in our freezer for guests, even though he deplored smoking, My mother. a wild child from a wealthy Chicago family, held a party for his boss and mistakenly bought all Continental Can products. At the same party, the boss blabbed on and on and my mother looked at his wife and said “How can you stand him.” My straight backed father was long suffering; he had his biggest challenge in my mother, who he loved with his heart and soul.

In our house, everything American was right. The President was always right. Miss America was always beautiful. Teachers were always smart. His rebellious daughter, taking after her mother, did not always agree. We did not discuss politics at the dinner table. We may have been the first American family to adopt TV dinners on TV trays in the TV room.

When my brother and I went to Yale and Smith, we came home with liberal views. My Dad did not understand how this happened.

He was a life long Republican who paid for everything with cash — even paying his American Express card in advance when we took a family vacation. He spent his retirement years yelling at Darryl Strawberry and controlled us by changing the channel any time another person in the room got interested.

I am pretty sure my Dad, super Republican that he was, would be horrified by today’s Republican party. He has been dead more than fifteen years.

If the Mormons can do it, so can I. Today, I baptize my father a Democrat, from now until the end of time.

Dec 3, 2005

Look How Far We’ve Come

Update:  I  wrote this when Barack Obama wasn’t even a Senator, when “only” 2500 of our men and women had been killed in Iraq.  Never mind Afghanistan, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria and on and on. Plus ca change, plus ca reste la meme.


Sixteen years ago, editor Anne Harpham sent reporter Vickie Ong to interview me about my 11 year old son being stuck in Saudi Arabia because Iraq had invaded Kuwait. He was visiting his father who was working at ARAMCO in Dhahran, and initially, they were oblivious about Kuwait. I was terrified. CNN was just ten years old and was still a legitimate 24 hour news network. I knew plenty about the invasion of Kuwait, and the U.S. drumbeats for war in the Gulf. My son and his father knew nothing.

When he arrived in Saudi Arabia, “the Saudis” had taken Ian’s passport (for safe keeping?) as they had taken his father’s, and when Iraq invaded Kuwait they weren’t giving them back. Because his Dad was a physician, they would not be among the first to leave the country. Continue reading »

Gloria. Circa 1955.

Gloria. Circa 2012.

Other than working for the American Red Cross in Korea for two years, Gloria Garvey has lived in Hawai`i since 1971. Her opinion and other writing has appeared in: The American Philatelist. Honolulu Weekly, The Honolulu Advertiser, The Honolulu Star Bulletin, The Star Advertiser, Hawai`i Reporter, Pacific Business News, Island Scene, The Design Management Journal.

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