I usually channel surf when a TV program breaks for ads. However, I paused to watch one this week that showed two dads taking their young daughters to baseball games — one Yankees, one Mets.
While I can’t tell you what the ad was selling, I do know the images took me back to the summer of 1968 when my dad took me to a baseball game at Houston’s Astrodome.
It was home to the Houston Astros from April 1962 to October 1999. The Houston Oilers and University of Houston football teams also played there.
Our family vacation had started at San Antonio’s HemisFair, the 1968 world’s fair that also celebrated the city’s 250th anniversary. Other trip stops were in Houston, a Gulf of Mexico beach to collect shells, and Shreveport, La., and the Joplin, Mo., area to visit Mom’s relatives.
Dad and I went to the baseball game. Dad, Mom, my twin sister, Lisa, and I took a guided tour of the Astrodome the next morning.
The first-of-its-kind dome stadium was billed as one of the eight wonders of the world when it was built in the early 1960s. It had six levels of multi-colored seats, 53 luxury suites, five restaurants and a 474-foot-long electronic scoreboard that displayed amazing graphics to celebrate home runs.
Astroturf was developed after the dome’s skylights — designed to allow grass to grow inside — were found to be incompatible with outfielders trying to track down fly balls on sunny afternoons.
Houston had less than half of its current population, but still was a huge city in 1968. I’m amazed that my small town farmer dad successfully navigated through all the cities on our vacation route.
I now appreciate his willingness to take me from our motel to the Astrodome for a night game. He wasn’t a huge sports fan, except for Husker and some NFL football, so I think he mostly wanted to see the stadium in use. He also knew I liked watching many kinds of sports on TV.
Neither of us were fans of the Astros or Dodgers, but the Astrodome truly was a wonder. The baseball game was nothing special. No one hit a homer to trigger the scoreboard display.
Knowing much more now than I did then about a Nebraska farmer’s summer workload, I realize our summer vacations were special, especially the longer trips that included Texas and Yellowstone National Park. Shorter trips to Colorado and South Dakota were planned quickly when it rained enough to allow irrigation wells to be shut down for a few days.
Summer vacation for some of our friends was going to the Nebraska State Fair every year. A few didn’t step foot out of the state until after high school.
My dad, Dean Potter, died shortly after Father’s Day in June 1996. I didn’t appreciate all the special things he did for us until he was gone.
Dad took Lisa and me ice skating on our pasture pond most winters and drove us the 11 miles to Wilcox nearly every Saturday night when the town hall was open for roller skating. He and Mom attended all of our sports events, plays, music programs or other school events, and I’m sure did the same for our older brothers.
They paid for our college educations.
Dad was quiet and thoughtful. He got upset at times, but rarely raised his voice.
He enjoyed visiting with neighbors and friends from the Pleasant View Church and Wilcox communities, but was uncomfortable at open houses and other events requiring small talk. I’m the same way.
He believed it was no big deal to do your best in school or at work, show up on time every day, help out and do what’s right because that’s the least you should do.
He showed love and respect for his family and others with actions more than words. I’m sure he was proud that he and Mom raised four good kids — historian, farmer-dad, teacher-mom, journalist.
My respect for him has grown the past 23 years as I have grown older, wiser and more aware of what a blessing it is to have a great dad. I wish I had told him so more directly and more often.
Lori Potter is a Hub staff writer.