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Don’t Let The Bastards Getcha Down

Chapter One (02)

Life Before West Point

Less than half a year
later I emerged from my mother’s womb as the “three months
premature baby” rather than the bastard conceived out of
wedlock. But 1950 was a different time when sexual shame and
scandal were to be avoided at all cost by parents raised by
the Victorian generation. So I grew up innocently buying the
lie in our family closet that I was premature despite
having a full head of hair, fully developed fingernails and
eyebrows and weighing in at a healthy seven pounds four
ounces at birth. I never gave it a second thought to do the
math or question my “premie” story. But when I was in my
mid-thirties and learned from a brother-in-law the real
truth, I felt betrayed by my otherwise very honest parents
who I had always believed told the truth in life no matter
what. It was an initial anger that quickly subsided out of
love, forgiveness and understanding, along with a little
maturity. Subsequently I never felt the need to confront my
parents deciding to spare them from feeling bad.
As a family man, he wanted to be able to spend more
time with his wife and now seven kids. After he left the
Navy, he worked in various jobs requiring his mechanical
aptitude skills in Sacramento. But he missed his home state
of Massachusetts where he was raised and where all his
brothers and sisters and their families resided. By the mid-
1950’s his oldest brother was the owner of a tool and die
shop that was flourishing making mostly parts for the
Springfield Arsenal and the burgeoning military industrial
complex. Uncle Avedes, or Mr. Moneybags as my dad
nefariously called him, had been badgering my father for
awhile to come work for him. So in the dead of winter my two
parents packed up us seven kids and our Cocker Spaniel Daffy
in our Ford Station wagon and traveled across country Back
East. After sliding off the road during a Wyoming blizzard
and delayed a couple extra days, we thankfully arrived fully
intact initially in New Hampshire where we rented a home for
six months near Lake Winnipesaukee. Eventually Av pressured
my father to come to Massachusetts, so my parents bought a
home in East Longmeadow. My dad joined his other brother Nap
working at their successful oldest brother’s shop in
Springfield. And those years to come became the worst years
of our collective lives.
Avedes was a dozen years older than his little brother
Jake. Avedes and Jake were both very much alike, spirited,
hot-tempered, passionate men. But their age difference
clearly put Avedes in charge. As the firstborn son he was
always his mother’s favorite, the golden boy of the family.
Born in Springfield, my father quickly learned English as
well as speaking strictly Armenian in the family home. Since
all his older siblings were quite young when they came to
America, they too rapidly learned English while retaining
their Armenian language and culture, simultaneously easily
assimilating into the larger American culture around them.
Of course their parents were less adaptable and tended to
cling more to their old country customs. The father did
manage to secure employment at Indian Motor Cycles plant in
Springfield before he eventually was laid off. He also did a
stint working for the famous Zildjian Cymbals company that
began in the seventeenth century. But after his wife died,
as a middle-aged immigrant unable to either speak English or
keep a job as the family provider, over time he grew
increasingly depressed and more withdrawn. In contrast, the
patriarchal role in the family was usurped by his energetic
upstart of a son Avedes, a bright, ambitious, enterprising
go-getter who was making the most of his opportunity to
assimilate and subsequently thrive in America.
Avedes proved a pioneer in the tool and die industry.
He had a genius for machinery and inventions. Utilizing
proceeds from the sale of a couple of his early inventions,
in 1941 Avedes opened his own business in the garage behind
his family home naming his company after his nickname in
youth Hoppe, Hoppe Tool Works.

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