A Conversation With My Dad, Part 1

This weekend I had a conversation with my dad, Perry Ankerson, about the civil unions and marriage ban. He loves to talk politics and current events, so the two of us have discussed the topic a lot, but most of our conversations have been about how it relates to my work life, not my personal one. Following Josh & Justin’s conversations with members of their family, I thought this would be a good opportunity to ask a few things I’ve been wondering.

Recently his job as the president of a manufacturing company took him to Lamar, Missouri, but my dad is without doubt, a true Wisconsinite. Every Friday until he moved (and I really do mean
every Friday) he and my mom went to the Allenton Inn for their fish fry. His drink of choice is a brandy manhattan. He inherited season tickets to the Green Bay Packers, and flies up from Missouri to catch as many games as he can. He is one of the few people I know who actually likes the smell of a field freshly fertilized with manure.

I asked him to start by providing some background on his life. Here’s what he had to say:

I was born in 1943 and grew up on a small farm near Suring, WI. The town I grew up in is called Hickory Corners which is made up of a little one-room schoolhouse, a Methodist church, and a gas station. I went to grade school—there was no kindergarten at the time—in the one-room schoolhouse in a class with three other people. The whole school had about 35 students. After graduating from 8th grade, I went to Oconto Falls High School.

I graduated from high school in 1961. I tried college—UW Oshkosh—for one semester. In those days, the draft was on, and typically young men either went to college or went into the service. So when I decided I was too young—and I say young, but really I mean I was too immature for college—I joined the Air Force.

In the Air Force I was fortunate enough to be chosen to learn, speak, read, and write Russian. They sent me to the University of Syracuse to learn the language in a 10-month intensive training. After that I went to Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas for another three months of training, and ultimately ended up receiving a top-secret crypto clearance, which is the highest security clearance you can get. I served in Berlin, Germany for about a year and a half and finished my service in Shimya, Alaska. Then I came back and started college at the University of Wisconsin.

Initially I was thinking of majoring in Russian, but I ended up majoring in economics. I decided as I was getting closer to graduation that there wasn’t much I could do with a Russian degree unless I wanted to teach or go back into the service. I’d left the service because I didn’t like to be in a situation where other people could control my life by sending me orders.

After finishing school in Madison, I ever so briefly looked for a job, but went out and bought a motorcycle. I was going to drive through Central and South America, but for various reasons I only got to the southern part of Mexico. I came back and got up to Canada, trying to get to Alaska, but we got snowed out.

Then I went back to college and was on a track to get a masters degree, when I met your mother at our 10-year class reunion. After that, we started dating. Then we broke up, but decided it was a lot more fun going together than it was breaking up, so we got back together and got married. We got married in the fall of 1972, and had you in the fall of 1973.

My dad was incredibly active in my life and in the community where I grew up. He served on the Kewaskum School Board for several years, helped me learn long division when I was in grade school, took me and my brothers to lots of Brewers' games, and attended just about every school function I was part of. He has been an enormous inspiration to me on many levels, and I have a great deal of respect for him. Tomorrow, I will post the first half of our conversation.


Read part 2 and part 3 of my conversation.

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At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He sounds like a great person, but I am more interested in hearing about what great brothers you have and how it was growing up on a sheep farm. Good God Gerty


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