StoryCorps
1:26 am
Fri June 27, 2014

'Don't Sneak': Dad's Unexpected Advice To His Gay Son In The '50s

Originally published on Wed July 23, 2014 1:49 pm

StoryCorps is marking the anniversary of a pivotal moment for gay rights, the 1969 Stonewall riots. Forty-five years ago, on June 28, gay protesters clashed with police in New York. Now, StoryCorps is launching an initiative to preserve the stories of LGBT people called "OutLoud."

In the 1950s in rural Washington, a teenage boy learned an important lesson about self-acceptance. Patrick Haggerty, now 70, didn't know he was gay at the time, but says his father knew what direction he was headed.

The conversation started because as a teenager Haggerty decided to perform in a school assembly. On their way there, he started covering his face with glitter — to his brother's horror. Haggerty says his brother dropped him off at school and then called their father.

"Dad, I think you better get up there," his brother said. "This is not going to look good."

Their father did come. Charles Edward Haggerty, a dairy farmer, showed up at the school in dirty farming jeans and boots. When Haggerty saw his dad in the halls, he hid.

"It wasn't because of what I was wearing," Haggerty says. "It was because of what he was wearing."

After the assembly, in the car ride home, Haggerty's father called him out on his attempt to hide.

"My father says to me, 'I was walking down the hall this morning, and I saw a kid that looked a lot like you ducking around the hall to avoid his dad. But I know it wasn't you, 'cause you would never do that to your dad,' " Haggerty recalls.

Haggerty squirmed in his seat and finally exclaimed, "Well, Dad, did you have to wear your cow-crap jeans to my assembly?"

"Look, everybody knows I'm a dairy farmer," his father replied. "This is who I am. Now, how 'bout you? When you're an adult, who are you gonna go out with at night?"

Then, he gave his son some advice:

"Now, I'm gonna tell you something today, and you might not know what to think of it now, but you're gonna remember when you're a full-grown man: Don't sneak. Because if you sneak, like you did today, it means you think you're doing the wrong thing. And if you run around spending your whole life thinking that you're doing the wrong thing, then you'll ruin your immortal soul."

"And out of all the things a father in 1959 could have told his gay son, my father tells me to be proud of myself and not sneak," Haggerty says.

"He knew where I was headed. And he knew that making me feel bad about it in any way was the wrong thing to do," he adds. "I had the patron saint of dads for sissies, and no, I didn't know at the time, but I know it now."

To hear Haggerty tell this story to his daughter, Robin Boland, click the audio link above. Audio produced for Morning Edition by Nadia Reiman.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's Friday morning, which is when we hear from StoryCorp, which is marking the anniversary of a pivotal moment for gay rights - the 1969 Stonewall riots. 45 years ago tomorrow, gay protesters clashed with police in New York. Now StoryCorp is launching an initiative to preserve the stories of LGBT people, which is called OutLoud. Today, we hear a story about growing up gay in the 1950s. Seventy-year-old Patrick Haggerty was raised in a small farming town in Washington state. And he told his daughter, Robin, about a day when he performed in a high school assembly.

PATRICK HAGGERTY: I'm riding to school with my oldest brother. And on the way to school, I'm putting glitter all over my face. And my brother said, what in the hell are you doing? I said, I'm putting on my costume. He said, well, I wouldn't be caught dead wearing that. So he dropped me off at the school and he called my dad up. And he said, Dad, I think you better get up there. This is not going to look good. So my dad drove up to the high school and he had his farmer jeans on and they had cow crap on them and he had his Claude Hopper boots on. And when I saw him coming, I ducked around the hall and hid from him. And it wasn't because of what I was wearing, it was because of what he was wearing. So the assembly goes well and I climb in the car and I'm riding home with my father. And my father says to me, I was walking down the hall this morning and I saw a kid that looked a lot like you ducking around the hall to avoid his dad. But I know it wasn't you because you would never do that to your dad. And I squirmed in my seat and I finally busted out and I said, well, Dad, did you have to wear your cow crap jeans to my assembly? And he said, look, everybody knows I'm a dirty farmer. This is who I am. And he looked me square in the eye and then he said, now how about you? When you're a full grown man, who are you going to go out with at night? And I said, I don't know. And he said, I think you do know and it's not going to be that McLaughlin girl that's been making goo-goo eyes at you but you won't even pick up the damn telephone. Now I'm going to tell you something today and you might not know what to think of it now, but you're going to remember when you're an adult - don't sneak. Because if you sneak, like you did today, it means you think you're doing the wrong thing. And if you run around spending your whole life thinking that you're doing the wrong thing then you'll ruin your immortal soul. And out of all the things a father in 1959 could've told his gay son, my father tells me to be proud of myself and not sneak. My reaction at the time was to get out in a hay field and pretend like I was as much of a man as I could be. And I remember flipping 50 pound bales three feet up into the air going, I'm not a queer. What's he talking about? But he knew where I was headed. And he knew that making me feel bad about it in any way was the wrong things to do. I had the patron saint of dads for sissies. And no, I didn't know it at the time but I know it now.

INSKEEP: Patrick Haggerty remembering his father, Charles Edward Haggerty. The interview is recorded in Seattle for OutLoud. That's StoryCorp initiative to collect LGBT stories. It will be archived at the Library of Congress and you can hear more about Stonewall on the podcast. Get it on iTunes and at npr.org

INSKEEP: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.