Pete Beers on his blog posted a great entry on his thoughts of his early mentor in cycle repair and asked everyone to post up a response. Mine was my dad I have to say.
My dad went to work for the airline a week before I was born in the summer of 74. For years before that after being in Vietnam my dad had been a construction worker, but with his new family coming he wanted a better life for us and after getting his GED he finally got a job with a real future.
My dad dropped out of high school in the 50's at 15 to help support his family and due to having un-diagnosed learning disabilities, reading and comprehension were never easy for him at the time. He worked with horses, cars and later construction before being drafted into Vietnam in the mid 60's. He spent 3 years in the service and did 2 years in Nam. Mainly driving tanks and bulldozers as party of Engineering battalions or such. Pops first day in country set the tone for his time. The base they were at had a fire set by the VC that they were using to attack the compound. Pops jumps on a dozer and goes out and pushes out the fire using the blade as cover, while taking fire. Earns a silver star eventually for doing something stupid and heroic.
Came back from Nam and then spent time doing mechanical and construction jobs before meeting my mom then he went fully into construction as Northern VA was having it's 2nd big boom in the late 60's/early 70's. Entire neighborhoods in NVA have roads he cut and neighborhoods where he dug basements for houses. People I know live in some of the houses. Weird.
Eventual I came along and he went to work for the airline. Worked there for 37.5 years till he retired about 2 years ago. Nearly un-heard of in this day and age. I've been with my company now for 8.5 years and that's also unusual in the tech industry, thats one of those things I got from my dad was the desire to stick it through. I see myself sort of as a classic "company man".
My dad got the moving but and working for the airlines had us move a few times (85, 87, 88 and 91 - 88 was a town move, not a real change of location). ( It was good for me, got me out of where I grew up and really expanded my awareness of the country and how area's were VERY different. I grew up on Furnace Mountain north of Leesburg, VA till we moved in 85. From there we hit Phoenix, and Orlanda with a return to Northern VA in between. We also looked at moving at other times at Raleigh-Durham area, San Diego, and a few other places. Thats another thing I guess I got from my dad. The desire to see other places. Since then I've lived in Providence RI, Tallahassee FL, San Fran Area, and now I'm back in DC. Future places I might live include Charlotte SC, Asheville, NC and maybe Portland in the PacNW.
As a kid I watched my dad work on stuff all the time. He built his own log splitters, wagons for around the house yard stuff, solar water heating setup (in the 80's), and tons of stuff around the house including a huge deck and my tree house of awesomeness. I watched relentlessly. Then I grew bold and started using tools myself. At first I was quite limited. I favored using a hammer to drive my dads tools into the ground behind the house. BOY did he love that, especially when he hit them with the mower.
That led to my first tool set for christmas when i was 6 or 7. Painted fire engine red. My own tools. I played with bolts, screws, etc. I was shown lefty loosey, righty tighty. And off I went to his own misery. My favorite target....the push lawn mower. :) It was at my working height when sitting on the garage floor. Or out back where it was stored. My first bike also came around that time. Damn blue banana seated monstrosity. I hated the seat. It was scary and I never felt in control. I did take the stupid flag off the back though. It wasn't till a year or more later I found my first BMX in the trash that the biking bug caught for me. With my dad we reabilitated that junker with new tubes, tires, and grease in the hubs and off I went. First just riding up and down my driveway and front lawn, eventually after riding a mile around my house loop I was cleared to ride ot the general store a mile or so away at 8 and change. Freedom.
Mechanical work continued, helping dad with log splitters, chainsaws, trucks and going to work and watching him work on ground equipment. Tinkering on my bike (my first speedometer). Making up fake weapons for my tree house out of spare parts/pipe/etc. My dad was always a hard working guy, often cutting firewood in the fall to sell during the fall winter, working OT for extra money to help the family have the things he never had. I always understood it took hard work to get ahead.
I started getting payed to feed/manage a neighbors dogs at 7. At 11 I got my first tax paying job as a paperboy and did that till I was 14 and change when I went to work as a buffet stocker on the weekend at Bob's Big Boy. Then I was a dishwasher and eventually a buffet cook, and started training as a regular line cook by when I left at 17. All my money in the teens went to my computer hobby. Bikes fell by the wayside by 15 as only transportation. By 17 when all my friends drove the dropped away completely for surfing and roller blading and computers.
For my dad at least at home it's always been more about getting it done, than necessarily doing it "right" when we first started working on my camero in my late teens this became one of our bigger fighting points. When we started on the 2nd camero which was a full restoration from parts (not 1 single part was assembled, the car was in basket case condition). We began to really butt heads, he wanted to take short cuts where I wanted to make everything perfect. Natural part of the teen versus parent world. But it was eventually finished and a hell of a car to drive. He drove it for several years before selling it at a tidy profit to get into his current toy. A 78 Nova drag car. Currently on it's 3rd engine evolution, now running in the low 8's easily. It's a beast. And he loves it even when he blows up the motor as he did a few weeks ago. I always enjoy going out to the track to work and tinker and watch it race. He doesn't drive it anymore, mostly. My brother drove for a while but they were a bit more into it and butted heads way more.
These days when I visit my folks, my dad and I putter around in the 2nd garage with the Nova for a bit in the mornings, typically working on projects till lunch then I hang out with my mom in the afternoons, usually going shopping and stuff. I was always closer to my mom in many ways (Yah I consider myself a Momma's Boy, and my brother would agree), but my understanding of life and how to deal with stuff always came from my dad I think. In the way to work through, work hard, and then play hard when free.
Pete mentions that he stayed clean and grease free. I think thats anathema. You can't be clean in my family and have done real work. I look at a bike and I can find grease on fingers or smudge on my face. My hands and arms have scars from working on computer cases. I have a scar on my right hand from when my best friend in 7th grade got mad that I let his rear wheel spin while holding up his bike, he threw a crescent wrench at me! It's probably the prefectionism of europe/italy versus the rough/tumble/git-r-done way of america I suppose. :P Till then I'll wear either tee-shirts I don't care about or dark color workshirts when working on stuff. My dad still has a supply of old work shirts he uses from the airlines for when doing dirty work.
These days most bike repairs I do on my own except for my hydro disc brakes and replacing spokes on wheels. When i can get a full set of wheel tools I will go back to doing that. The hydro is just too small for me to work on :P.