A Chat with your Papaw: Eddie Nikazy
Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,
This the 200th letter that I’ve written to you here. So I thought I would do something special.
Your papaw, my dad, is a man of few words. But I got him to share some of his thoughts and memories with me, so that one day you can look back on this and know where you came from.
Tell me about your life. Where did you live? How did you live?
During my early years the country was coming out of the second world war. Things were not readily available and money was in short supply. My mother and dad were struggling financially and were trying to raise four kids. My first recollection was of my mother and dad trying the restaurant business. Next my dad worked in a bakery. Then he worked as a construction laborer. Finally he became a construction electrician. I think that paints the picture. We moved frequently from one rental house to the next. I was in high school before we owned a home. My family probably moved as many times within a 20 mile radius in east Tennessee, as our family moved while the Army relocated us from one place to the next during my 25 year military career. Although money was short we were not hungry, cold or ragged.
My memories of Mamaw and Papaw are special to me, but they aren’t well formed. Especially Papaw who passed away while I was still young. Tell me about him as a man and father.
Papaw was a hard worker and a good honest man. He was honorable and always paid his bills and was concerned about maintaining a good reputation. Working on construction jobs, during my teen-age years, he traveled from one job to the next, usually in the northeast. During those times no one had a lot of money, but for the time he was a good provider. He was also stern. My siblings and I didn’t get out of line or we faced consequences. Also, I assume, like a lot of kids of the 50’s and early 60’s, we were more or less expected to make it on our own after we were old enough to contribute to our support. During the later years, after I had achieved some noteworthy accomplishment, I could sense that he was proud of me, although he never told me. In his sixties and early seventies, he was accepted into the Masons and Shriners. He became a 32nd degree Mason which is a big deal in Masonic circles. He was very proud of this.
Mamaw was a proud woman who did everything she could to take care of her children and make a good home. She was a good Christian woman. She taught us kids right from wrong. My mother was a good woman.
What is your favorite memory of your parents?
They were there for childhood activities, graduations, and weddings.
What was your first job? How much did you make?
My first job was a paper route. I didn’t make much. Newspapers were about 35 cents a week at that time. My next job was at a full service gas station. I worked part time and made 50 cents an hour.
What was your dream for life as a young man?
I remember dreaming of becoming an Army officer or maybe an engineer after getting into college.
When did you meet Mom?
I remember seeing her when we were in high school. We didn’t date until we were in college though. We actually were brought together by my employer, Sonny Mottern and his wife, Sweety. Your mother was my employer’s first cousin.
You spent two tours in Vietnam. When were you there and in what units did you serve.
I arrived in Vietnam in mid January 1968. prior to Tet of ’68. I was assigned to the 148th Ordnance Battalion (Ammo) as the Battalion ammunition officer. We were located about 12 miles out of Qui Nhon toward Pleiku in the central highlands of Vietnam.
My second tour commenced in May of 1972 and ended in March of 1973. I was assigned as the logistics officer in the Strategic Technical Directorate Assistance Team 158 (STDAT-158) . STDAT-158 was the successor to MACV-SOG. We were a special operations force made up of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. I was in an Airborne Special Forces assignment. The STDAT-158 headquarters and my section called House-50 was in Saigon.
Your military career took you all over the world. What was the most beautiful place you ever visited?
I spent time in several countries in southeast Asia, Europe, as well as North America (Alaska, Canada, Mexico and the United States). I was in awe at some of the sites in each place that I visited, but if I have to narrow it down to one place, that would have to be the San Francisco area.
The places of extreme poverty in Vietnam and Mexico
How did your perspective on life change when my sister Lisa was born (Lisa was the first of 4 children)?
I think that my resolve to be successful may have strengthened once I had two people depending on me.
What is the key to a happy marriage?
I believe it is dependent on doing what is right for your partner. Granted some of the things I did were not right for Peggy, eg. leaving her and the children for months at a time, but she understood that following the demands of the country and particularly the army were out of my control. Everything else followed just being thoughtful and treating her with respect.
How have grandchildren changed your life?
They make me proud. They help me recapture some of the things I missed as a youth and some of the things I missed while my children were growing up and I was away in the military. I love it when Izzy, Max and Kate want me to get on the floor and play with them or Izzy wants me to build something out of wood with her. With my grandchildren, I can be exactly who I am. I look forward to their visits and am looking forward to being able to share vacations with them.
The most important thing that I can think of would be the relationship with Christ. The Heavenly Father. The faith in salvation would be of paramount importance. Then I would have to agree with Peggy that family is the most important thing in one’s life.
I hope you kids cherish Papaw’s words as much as I do. Your papaw and your nana are special people. You are all fortunate to have them so involved in your lives. Your two sets of grandparents are really the only thing that keeps us in TN. It’s certainly worth it though.
I love you,