MY MEMORIES OF CARL A. OSLER
BY DONALD FISCHER
This is not meant to take the form of a biography or of an obituary of the man Carl A. (“Red”) Osler. My name is Don Fischer. I was Carl’s son-in-law for 26 years. What I know of this man is not of a historical nature. What I shall write is from association through the years.
Some limited information of historical value did surface around the dinner table and in backyard conversations. Carl was born in Carson, Iowa on November 12, 1898. His father’s name was Fred, a farmer by occupation. His mother died at an early age. Carl had a brother of whom he often spoke endearingly. The brother died before reaching manhood. There was a sister whom I never met.
Carl left the farm as soon as possible. I believe he then settled in Avoca, where he worked as a salesman. This would explain how he met his wife, Ruth Sandiland, an Avoca girl. Records indicate that he opened his Chevrolet dealership in Walnut in the year 1927. He maintained his home in Avoca until the beginning of the next school year, when his daughter, Sharlene, was enrolled in the Walnut school. They came as a family of four: Carl, Ruth, Sharlene and Jack, an all-American family. The business prospered from 1927 until 1972, the year of Carl’s demise.
Carl and I never had a formal introduction. It is most likely that we became acquainted through events, which could have been either good or bad. I am sure that he saw me on many occasions at the well and pump on the sidewalk next door to his business, or maybe under the shade tree behind his building, or when using the basement of his dealership for rubber gun wars. I probably became known to him as nothing more than “that Fischer kid.” Such an observation may not be unfounded. His daughter was very dear to him, yet he did not attend our wedding. But that would all change. Carl was not one to hold a grudge. He would be heard, and then it was over.
During the winter following our April wedding, Ruth and Carl paid us a visit. We had made our home in Inglewood, California. Carl was driving a brand new Cadillac. His farm and dealership were rewarding him handsomely. The visit healed any hardship that may have existed. I knew my way around Southern California, so we were able to visit all the visitor spots and more. We had a glorious time. There is a verse of Scripture, “Almost Persuaded.” It was my impression at that time that Carl was taken by the weather and the beauty to the point of almost migrating west.
Sharlene had a very warm heart for her Dad. She often spoke of her childhood memories. Carl was the kind of guy of whom you have heard it said, “meets no strangers.” She would tell that as kids, she and Jack would love to take rides in the summertime. With the windows down they would urge their Dad to sing. His favorite refrain was always the same. It was sort of western in style. The words went something like this: “Oh, when I was just a little shaver back in Brooklyn, I always thought I would like to be a cowboy.” Well, you get the idea. Actually, Carl was a talented guy. He could serve as master of ceremonies at any event. Shar would also talk of how her dad would come home with his pockets full of candy bars, empty them out on the kitchen table, and leave them for the family to enjoy.
Carl was a good business man, perhaps even shrewd. He was very aware of trade values in making car deals. I was always amazed at how, in business deals, he was dedicated to getting the last nickel. Yet, socially he was very liberal. Unless Sharlene and I demanded that a dinner out was on us, he was always the one to pay the bill.
“Red,” as he was called, loved visiting the pool hall almost every day, where the same group played “pitch”. He loved the fun and companionship. His humor was infectious. During the years we were living in Southern California, our two weeks of vacation were always with the Oslers in Walnut. Our two minor children just loved the small town and being in the grandparents’ home. They loved the good food, freedom to roam and the sleeping porch. The highlight of each day was to get everyone settled in the living room and tune in to the Johnny Carson late-night show. Carl had his chair. It was never questioned. The rest of us would lounge on the floor or on the couch. Johnny and Ed McMahon were always the stars of “The Tonight Show.” But Carl had the last laugh. He would become so tickled that his face would redden and tears would come into his eyes.
My father-in-law was definitely a “people person.” During the heydays of movies, Walnut had a theater. Even so, the big draw for most of us was to travel to Harlan, Atlantic or Avoca, in that order. The bigger towns had better facilities and features. Ruth loved movies. Carl had other interests. On Sunday night, he would drive Ruth and the children to Avoca. He, in turn, would head down to the hotel where Doc Wolf resided. Several of the old cronies would sit in the lobby and visit while the movie was in process. This manner of spending an evening was much more to the liking of Carl. I would classify him as definitely one of the “good old boys”. He was a “man’s man” for certain.
Carl was a man of some order. He was an early riser, always up by 6 a.m. His pickup truck was his usual mode of transportation. It would be parked on the front street. Mr. Henry Lensch lived directly across the street, a retired farmer and an early riser also. Henry was usually outside when Carl would get into his truck. Both men had booming voices. The conversation went something like this: “Good morning, Henry.” “Good morning, Carl.” And then, a discussion about the weather followed. The conversation was short, but long enough to wake up the neighborhood.
Carl didn’t require much sleep, but loved a nap, albeit short. 15 or 20 minutes was the limit. He also required his noon meal be ready when he came in the door. Without fail, he would tune into the Omaha Stock Yards for hog and cattle quotes. He occasionally had livestock on the market. A down market seemed to be his lot and he would upset our otherwise nutritious meal with his rants. Ruth was a very good cook. No one could fry a spring chicken like my mother-in-law.
Mr. Osler loved showing his horses. He had a good stable of horses and equipment to show them. He had a salaried trainer. His reputation was widespread. The trophy room in the barn was overflowing with trophies. Carl rode his gaited horses and showed his harnessed horses as well. He rode in formal attire and was quite handsome. The steeds were big, excitable creatures, but Carl was always in control. He rode his horses until he was in his sixties and his health began to wane.
Just one final thought. On one of our trips back to Walnut I accompanied Carl to a horse show. As he was a Chevrolet dealer, he always drove a new car. I do not remember the town where he had shown his horses. It was some distance east of Walnut. The routing required us to travel I-80. I was at the wheel on the return trip. The hour was late, after midnight. There was no traffic. We were totally absorbed in conversation. Near the Atlantic turnoff, there were some strange, blinking lights in my rear-view mirror. The man who pulled me over was very friendly. He was just curious as to where we were going in such a hurry. For some reason, he thought 90 miles an hour was excessive. I had won the raffle. Upon the nice man’s departure, Carl suggested I give him the ticket. It would be no problem, because the justice of peace was a friend, a Walnut boy, a lifelong friend of mine also. I never heard about the final outcome.
Well, those are some of the highlights that brought me close to Carl A. (“Red”) Osler. He died a sudden death. He was always combating high blood pressure and other heart problems. One evening he was not feeling well. It was nearing suppertime. He called upon his good friend Bill Sievers to drive him down to the Atlantic Hospital. He died while being examined.