Etched in my memory

Did you know? Family ties run deep.
By Paul Viau | Aug 17, 2012
Photo by: Paul Viau A TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW — My "carving" doesn't quite measure up to Dad's, but I'm using the tools he gave me.

I hate Styrofoam cups.

At Maggie Valley Club, we go through several hundred every week. And it is my responsibility to see that: (1) we never run out, and (2) the water cooler station by the cart-staging area is always well supplied.

The only direct benefit to me with all these cups (that I can think of) is a simple one — When on duty, I can always put my hands on a cup of cold water.

The problem I have (as an adult afflicted with chronic senior moment syndrome) is trying to find my cup … and then identify it.

All Styrofoam cups look alike, so it has become my habit to mark my cup, (or cups) with a simple initial “V.”

All us “bag boys” do it — with the indispensable golf tool — the Sharpie.

Only lately, I developed the strange habit of carving my initial boldly and deeply into the Styrofoam, with my thumbnail.

I never gave it much thought until the other night when I reached into our bar (at home) for a glass suitable for a nightcap of tawny port. There in my hand was a rare link to my youth — a hand-etched, monogrammed glass with my three initials — JPV. It brought a tear to my eye, and here’s why.

Both my father and I share the same initials. I’m John Paul Viau. My dad was born Jean-Pierre Viau — later Americanized to John Peter Viau.

He was a simple, hard-working man with (1) a great civil service job with the U.S. Department of Air Force, and a (2) a second, home-based business that he “worked” well into the wee hours of the night  — Johnny’s Personalized Glassware.

My father, Johnny, engraved glasses the old-fashioned way — pressing the glass carefully against a rapidly rotating carborundum wheel.  It took painstaking concentration, perfect eye-hand coordination, precise control as each glass was tilted to just the right angle, then moved just the right distance so the etched line joined the rest of the initial.

As a young boy, I used to watch him intently. After the family (mostly Dad and I)  remodeled the basement together, all of us could hear him grinding away as we watched TV  — Sea Hunt, Gunsmoke, and Sing along with Mitch.

Behind the bubbling, gunfire, the dreadful music and that infernal bouncing ball, was the comforting noise of a man grinding away for his family, in the most artful way.

I never knew how or when Dad learned to engrave glassware, or how long he had been doing it. But I knew that his extra effort and long hours provided my mother, brother, and I with the extra things we needed for a good life.

And we had that … in spades.

Johnny engraved glassware for the local Denver area department stores and select gift stores for more than 20 years, until suffering a heart attack and dying in 1970. Johnny was a true craftsman, and has been an inspiration to our family all our lives. He would have turned 100 last month.

You know, the more I think about it, the more I like Styrofoam. Like my father’s memory, it will last forever.

Oh yes, an Editors Note from my wife. Even though monogrammed and/or personalized items are not quite as popular as they were in the last Millennium, for births, weddings, anniversaries, etc., they make great gift, with a capital “G.G.”

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