Thy Father’s Commandment

“My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother.” Proverbs 6:20

March 21, 1954

I’m sure everyone remembers phrases their parents “always said”. Later in life, we can “hear” them in our minds, and often we hear our own voices saying the exact same things, to our children or grandchildren, or even to ourselves. As a tribute to my parents on what would have been their 68th wedding anniversary, I’ve decided to share some of the words of wisdom they instilled in us as we were growing up. But first let me give you some background information.

David Johnson was born in Houston, Texas, on October 19, 1932. Joan Anderson was born in Crookston, Minnesota on August 1, 1933. Through a series of life events they both ended up in Bakersfield, California. They met when my Grandma Anderson joined the Lutheran church where my Grandpa Johnson was the pastor. Although they didn’t attend the same school, it’s safe to say they soon became “high school sweethearts”.

Together they taught us, not only by their words but by example. Let’s take a look at some of the things we learned. Perhaps your own parents had similar sayings as well.

Concerning Germs

One of our mom’s life-long philosphies was “The bad germs don’t live that long.” Hence, our being allowed to play outside in the sandbox. Nowadays sandboxes have covers on them to keep cats or other four-footed visitors from, well, visiting. I guess the bad germs live longer now than they used to. “It’ll just add a little protein,” was Daddy’s response if we ever found a bug in our food. It was always a consolation, if we ever ate something of questionable quality or freshness, when Mama would say, “If you were going to get sick, you’d be sick by now”.

“Those People”

“You’ll never see those people again.” This is what Mama said if we were ever embarrassed in public. That may be true when you’re in a foreign country (as they were in this photo), or at the very least, out of town. But we grew up in a small town where you most likely would see “those people” again. Still, I have found myself saying the same thing, both to myself and others. We’ll talk more about driving later, but since she would never see those people again, she would say “I gave them a dirty look” when she told us about other drivers who had done something she didn’t like.

“Don’t Throw That Away!”

“Always save your original”, or if that’s not possible, “Make a copy before you mail it” were two pieces of advice we got from both parents. Apparently saving the original runs in the family, because these were my Grandpa Johnson’s grades from the seminary in 1919. Yes, he saved the original, my parents saved it, and now I have it. It’s doubtful that it will get thrown away any time soon.

“Save your receipt.” Not to be outdone by the Johnsons, my maternal grandfather, George Anderson, bought a car in 1924 and saved the receipt. I’ve become the custodian of many such receipts, as well as canceled checks from as far back as 1926. By now they’re historical documents; how am I supposed to throw something like that away?

“Save that, it could come in handy.” You never knew what could come in handy. Our parents were small children during the Great Depression, and their parents had experienced WW1 and WW2 first hand. Frugality was in their genes. Even now it’s hard for me to throw away some items because, well, you know.

At the Dinner Table

“Watch out for buckshot” was an admonition we heard from Daddy several times every year. During hunting season, we often enjoyed having pheasant, quail, dove, and chukar for dinner.

You always had to watch out for buckshot, because you would break your teeth if you bit down on one. Our mom worked at the dentist’s office for many years, so this advice was seconded by her and heeded by all.

More About Food

Although I don’t think any of us ever did, our mom reminded us frequently that if we didn’t eat, we would “faint from hunger.” In elementary school we always had our lunch boxes, or 50 cents for our cafeteria lunch. Then either 10 or 15 cents to get an ice cream afterward. If you (or the decor in your childhood home) qualify as “mid-century modern”, you can probably find your old lunchbox on Pinterest, too.

About Your Car

When it came to cars and driving, Daddy had endless wisdom and advice. “Keep an eye on your gauges.” “Watch out for the other guy.” You were always to wash your windshield before you went on a trip, and if you didn’t, he would do it for you. “Check your oil.” “Wear your seat belt.”

I remember him telling me that if the sun isn’t in your eyes, it’s likely in the eyes of the driver coming toward you. Also, you should always have over half a tank of gas because you never know if you might come upon a detour or some other reason why you may have to drive farther than you had planned. And (Junior, this means you) “don’t go over the speed limit”.


“It’ll pass.” “Tomorrow is another day.” “I’ll think about that tomorrow.” “Everything will look better in the morning.” I needed a photo to go here, and the calendar page from my second month of life seemed to fit. (See “Don’t Throw That Away”, above.) Notice I slept through the night on October 12, which I guess wasn’t bad considering I’d just been born on September 16. Our mom used to tell us we’d always been good kids.

Our father passed away on October 4, 2012, and our mother on January 19, 2020. Along with their many words of wisdom, they will always be remembered and missed.

18 thoughts on “Thy Father’s Commandment

  1. This is a lovely post, Debra! We had the ‘extra protein’ saying about bugs, long will it continue. ‘You’ll never see them again’ was another family favourite. ‘Might come in handy’ was a saying belonging to my father-in-law, which has been honourably maintained by my husband (you don’t even want to peep in the shed because of that). Both us still have our old school reports.
    Such sweet photos. What a handsome couple your parents were! 🙂

    1. Aww thanks, Chris! Funny that parents’ wisdom is universal. I’m pretty sure my dad’s garage would have made your husband’s shed look neat and tidy. But in another 20 years he might catch up!😂😂

    1. I was surprised at how many “80”s he actually got! I guess I always figured he would have gotten straight “A”s. But for Elementary Hebrew I’m going to say that’s pretty good. I’m glad you liked the post. I enjoyed putting it together. Lots of memories!

  2. John

    I truly truly loved your parents… their love for each other leaps off the page. And her mother was simply lovely. You look just like her.

  3. Anonymous

    Loved Avenal and the greatest Generation wisdom.Thanks for the memories and Thanks God for giving us the greatest parents and country ever. Loved your Mom and Dad So!

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