You don’t have to be a Picasso, or Brahms or Mozart, or even Martin Scorsese to be a creative genius in my book. Lots of my friends are really creative and can look at an opportunity, or a problem, or a riddle and figure out how to best create a solution. Perhaps the best creative genius that I knew, who was able to solve most problems and riddles, was my father. A Carnegie Tech mechanical engineering graduate, Dick McCloskey saw most things as a fun challenge. His engineering mind was always at work and he relished the opportunities to create solutions that would last. He could plumb, do electrical work, solder, and artistically create things like the treasure chest that he made me as a kid. I still have it some 55 years later and store my mountain bike maps there. My dad made us an ice skating rink in the backyard by using 2X4s as rink perimeters and a large roll of Visqueen plastic as the liner to the rink. He would fill it with water every winter and we were not allowed on it until it was completely frozen for fear the skates would cut the plastic. Many nights were spent on that rink on the back patio and it was the centerpiece for the neighborhood kids for winter entertainment.
When I first started to go to Tuckerman Ravine in the spring for the ritual of spring skiing, I needed a way to lash my skis to the external pack that I owned. My dad rigged up some aluminum tubing with some hasps and wing nuts and presto, I had a frame that allowed me to attach my skis with the boots in the bindings to the outside of the pack. Skis pointed to the sky on either side of the pack.
Interestingly, my friend Eric who lived in Vermont at the time, was faced with the same challenge and he made his supports from wood. We have laughed about that in later years as the boy from Steeltown had metal supports and the boy from Vermont had supports made exactly the same from wood. Creative genius from two different perspectives.
But the masterpiece which was created around the same time by my dad, was the ski bench that he made me and I still use some 42 years later and is featured in my blog photo here. I remember going to my dad and saying to him that I needed to have a bench now that I knew how to tune my own skis. Thanks again to my creative genius friend Eric Durfee ,who taught me everything I needed to know about tuning skis. He was also perhaps the best ski instructor I ever had but that is another story. I told my dad that I needed to have a bench using the vices that Eric had given to me and he looked those over with great thought. What popped up in his creative mind was something I would never have imagined. A door from the hardware store complete with hinges. He knew that I needed to have a place for my bindings to fit and he cut the door to the specifications of my skis allowing the bindings to rest in a cut out hole in the door between the two vice pieces. He then mounted the door on the wall of my townhouse in the garage with supports underneath either side of the horizontal door. When I was finished tuning my skis. I flipped the door up to be secured by a hasp on the wall and pushed the supports up against the wall and the whole bench was out of the way until the next time I needed to use it.
The interesting thing is I still use the bench today and as an aside, it also serves as a refrigerator in our garage for items that my wife wants to keep cold. My dad never saw that coming, but the creative genius of my wife allowed her to think about a place to keep things cold in the winter and as long as I did not get metal filings or wax in the food, she was open to storing things on my ski bench when it was not in use for it’s original intent.
I could go on and on about my dad’s creative genius. There were so many things that he made for me that we enjoyed together when I was a kid. Today people just buy things. My dad made them, and his love for creating solutions is something I will never forget. Perhaps the biggest benefit about my dad’s creativity was the chance for me to spend time with him. I cherished those moments and I think about him every time I open up that bench, heat up the iron to wax the boards, and get the file ready for the side edge tunes. My dad never skied, but he and my mother made sure my sister and I did and I am in their debt so many years later. Creative genius is more than just the solution. It is the catalyst to education and a chance for guys like me to appreciate and look back so many years later with thankfulness and love for my dad and mom. Although my creativity is on the other side of the brain, I still look back with respect and love for those who educated me with their ability to see the solution. Thanks for reading.
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A lot of his creativity rubbed off on you. I remember you telling me how to mix concrete at 3:00am in a lean to at Tuckerman’s Ravine and how to shore up the ridge beam in that same lean to!
Those creative genes from your Dad & Mom are in you too😘
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As you know dear- probably more from my mom.
Well Pat I have to say , that’s a great tribute to your Dads Mechanical approach to his life . But, what he left you with is so much more . There is no price tag for the knowledge he passed on to you. He was a engineer, a creator that taught you how to be passionate about life, people ,family and using your God given talents . I had a very similar experience with my Dad , he didn’t have a engineering degree from a college. He was a Navy veteran , a 2nd generation Steamfitter and was passionate about both. When I look back at all the times he taught me how to work and be creative with my hands It made me fell close to him again. Oh we battled but , to this day I won’t walk away from one of my projects until its up to his specifications which are now mine ! Your story reminded me of just how blessed I was to have such a great mentor. Thank you for such a heart warming story , Rick
Rick- thank you for reading. It sounds like your dad and my dad were kindred spirits. I wish I had taken on more of his skills. It sounds like you did and you are blessed to have those skills today as a result of your hard work and your dad’s influence We miss our dads. That is for sure. Be well my friend.
Your post brought tears to my eyes remembering the warm and wonderful times
I spent with you and your family at the Siebert
Home. Your Mom and Dad always made this
Shy and awkward kid feel welcome.
Thanks for the trip down memory lane.
I always look forward to your posts.
Thanks for reading Don. We always enjoyed your company as well. Hope you are still skiing?
Enjoyed the post, Pat. Your dad and my dad were cut from the same cloth. I did inherit a lot from dad and appreciate all he did for me and my sisters. I can fix just about anything with the skills I learned.
Patrick, Happy New Year! This was the Dick McCloskey we knew. The impression this creative problem solving created was of a character with impeccable independence. I always thought of your dad as stalwart— a person who could always be depended on in any crisis. Certainly he was that for our family. Love, Gwynne
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Thanks Gwynne. Hope all is well with you guys and thanks for reading. Appreciate the kind words about my dad.