I’ve danced all over this goddamned planet!

My favorite thing about my grandfather, and the thing I have carried with me throughout my entire life, is that he had been around the world five times before his 22nd birthday.

Before that, he came from humble beginnings in West Virginia, in Marshall County, to be exact. He was born in the Moundsville hospital on January 29th, 1924, and grew up around the town of Cameron. His father, John Dishman, worked in the Moundsville Brickworks, during the Roosevelt area. He was the first child in a family of ten. Pap worked odd jobs around the area and played football, until someone kicked him in the ribs, and he quit. I remember him telling me stories about working for an oilman, but “they run me off when they found out I was 14”. After he quit high school, he worked with the Civilian Conservation Corps.

West Virginia was a tough place in the 30 and 40’s, and it is still is today. In search of something, Pap enlisted in the United States Navy in February of 1941 at the age of 17. I believe that Pap started his naval career on the USS Gamble, a destroyer that was converted into a minelayer. He told me stories about brewing up a batch of torpedo juice, a liquor made out of stuff from the galley and I believe potatoes, and getting a rather large group of sailors so drunk that they had to be towed behind the ship on a barge. I’m not entirely sure which ship that was, but I think it was Gamble, because he wasn’t on it for very long.

By December 6th, 1941, Pap was on the Republic, a troop transport, two days out of Pearl Harbor headed for the Philippines. When the bombs finished dropping, the Republic was rerouted to Brisbane, Australia, and the world went to war. Pap had already been around the world twice, and would go around the world three more times before the Second World War was over.

In the Navy Jim served aboard three ships, the Gamble, the Republic, and the Remey, as a water-tender, working below deck in the engine room. He refused 1st class rank as a water tender, because he, in his own words “Wouldn’t kiss ass for rank.“ He never spoke much of his time in the Navy, but there were stories. They would come out over beers, and they were entertaining. Stories about having issues with authority, about a fight with a Frenchman in a nightclub in Australia, “It wasn’t my fault, I was just defending myself!” about getting thrown off the Gamble, “They asked me to leave…”

After that it was to the Remey, and engineer training. He was maybe twenty years old. He would sleep above deck, in a hammock, and one night while he was sleeping in his hammock, the captain sailed them right into Halsey’s Typhoon. The waves knocked him to out of his slumber and on to the deck. He said he watched two ships go over the giant waves and never come back up. 790 American lives were lost in Halsey’s Typhoon, but Pap wasn’t one of them.

He never said much else about the Remey, not to me, but if you want an idea of what was happening, google it. I won’t get into it here, as he would never really get into what he experienced during the war in the South Pacific. One thing I will tell you, is that when my dad thought about going to Vietnam, and I thought about joining the Navy myself, he would adamantly state, “I have served enough for all of us”, and he meant it.

My grandfather was honorably discharged on October 11, 1945. He said “When the war was over, they just dropped me off in San Francisco”. He spent some time in an empty barracks and wandered around Frisco (That’s how he always referred to San Francisco). I know Pap really liked it there, as do I. Anytime I was taking him from the VFW to the Moose, Instead of taking the back way, which is North Mercer Street, I would take Eagle Street, that cobblestone road. Every time he would tell me how much that street reminded him of Nob Hill in San Francisco. He didn’t stay in SF, and hence, I, and my family exist. Pap headed back to West Virginia.

After the war Pap worked as a machinist back in Cameron and met my grandmother. They had one child that was stillborn and then they had my dad. He started taking welding classes in Marietta, OH, and after that he went to work and joined the Ironworkers Union. He helped to build the bridge at Niagara Falls, and was notorious for testing the safety nets under the bridges, by jumping off the bridge and into the net, sometimes hundreds of feet above the ground, something Gramma Bib never did much like hearing about.

Somewhere in there, Paula Dishman was born and it became too difficult to continue living on the road with a family of four, so Gramma and my dad and his sister went back to live in Cameron. They lived in West Virginia until my dad was in 6th grade, when they moved up here, to Reynolds. Sometime around then Pap went to NYC to work on the Metropolitan Opera House, and he took my dad with him. This is a funny story because he gave my dad twenty bucks and got a laborer to give him a lift, and let him loose for the day at the World’s Fair, in Queens, New York. This was 1965, in pre cellular phone New York City. Needless to say, Bibby was not amused.

They lived in the Reynolds Trailer Park, across the street from the gas station, where the Reynolds Industrial Park is now, and in 1970, pap bought his property on Goetch Road, a small lot with a burned out foundation on it. He built the foundation the same way you would build a foundation for a skyscraper, with structural steel and blocks and cement. Anyone who has been in the basement of his home knows what I am talking about. Then he borrowed a crane and lifted their trailer on top of it. Pap retired from the Ironworkers Local 207 in Boardman Ohio around 1990.

This is where pap lived up until about 8:25 PM, last Thursday. He had no desire to leave and I am very thankful that his wish was honored.
I have a lot of memories from that house, but for the sake of brevity, I am not going to get into those. I want to talk about the last ten years or so. I was able to spend a lot of time with my Grandfather. My dad would see him just about everyday and take him through the social clubs. He was a lifetime member of VFW and also a member of the Moose and the Italian Home Club, and he liked to sign the book and have a drink at everyone, everyday. If you were near him, very rarely were you able to buy your own drink. I went along any time I was in the area. I really got to know Jim not as my grandfather, but as one of my closest friends. Everyone always says my grandfather “Knew how to have a good time”, and they are right. I try to follow his lead, to just relax, enjoy myself, enjoy the music, and to enjoy a drink and some good company.

I feel honored to have been able to spend the amount of time with him that I did. He really was one of my two most favorite people. It’s between him and my dad and I’m not telling who’s number one. It’s a lot to live up to. One of my favorite things I have ever heard him say is: “I’ve danced all over this goddamned planet”. And that is something I look to accomplish in my own life. As a kid I didn’t really know or appreciate my Pap as much as I do now. Our true friendship really developed over the last ten years or so, when I had the opportunity to enjoy his company over many beers and spend time talking with just him, learning by his example, and enjoy hearing the stories and amazing qoutes he had to tell me. He was one of the good ones, and he will be missed.

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About The Author

Just a place for me to talk shit and post music, hope you enjoy.