Happy Father’s Day! Here are some things I love about Ken Anderson.
First and foremost, I credit my Dad for always putting his family first. To his parents, to my mother, to me and my sister, to his son-in-law and daughter-in-law, to his four grandchildren, he’s always shown us unconditional love. I don’t think there’s anything we could do to make him stop loving us, and I think he’d do anything in his power to protect us, too.
Dad is a hard worker and great provider.
When I was a young child, my Dad and his father (my “Papa”) had a car stereo business called Anderson Audio on SW 59th in Oklahoma City. I used to enjoy sitting in the front showroom. Dad was a talented salesman and he also worked his tail off to install stereos and other car equipment. In the old days, stereos didn’t necessarily come pre-installed on a new car, so the secondary market for audio equipment was pretty big. But eventually, cassette decks and then CD players came standard, and most people were satisfied with the sound they got from the start. So Dad and Papa left the business, and for several years they leased out their building. At last check, that location is a tire shop.
By the time I was 7, Dad was back selling cars, which he had done before I was born. He became the used car manager at Hudiburg Chevrolet, and again, it was always a good day when I could go to work with him. I remember one day he let me take my Nintendo to the showroom to keep me occupied while he worked. Some of the younger salesmen would come by when they weren’t busy and play Mario with me. One of the lot porters took me to McDonald’s for cheeseburgers.
The thing that was not so great about that job was that Dad was putting in crazy hours six days a week, but also going on the road many weeks to buy cars at auto auctions. When I was about 10, he had the brilliant idea that he would focus on the auctions only, and the dealership would pay him a fee for each car he bought for them. That meant he didn’t have to come back off the road and work long hours at the dealership. So he was out of town every week for a few days to buy cars, but home by Friday to enjoy the weekend with us. I still think it was the boldest and smartest move he ever made. He knew the car business so well that he could study and anticipate what vehicles the dealership would need, and keep them well-stocked.
When Dad went on the road to buy cars, some of his regular destinations happened to have Major League Baseball teams, so of course I had to go with him. We caught a few games in Kansas City and St. Louis after the auctions and it was always a good time. Other times, we would combine a family vacation with one of dad’s auctions.
When I traveled with Dad, he would wake me up super early at the hotel so we could start our day. “This is work, not a vacation!” We headed to the auction and walked up and down aisles in a sea of vehicles. Dad always had a list of what was available and he had already highlighted the vehicles he was interested in. He would look the cars up and down, side to side. And this may have been his greatest gift. “Look at this,” he’d say. “This car has been in an accident. Look at how this panel is a shade different that this panel.” “Um, sure Dad. Whatever you say.” I’d head inside to the restaurant, because every auto auction had one. I’d pile up biscuits and gravy, and let him continue to be the Sherlock Holmes of late-model GM vehicles.
The auctions started at 10 a.m., and hoo boy, those things were nuts. Sometimes there were multiple lanes of cars running with auctioneers talking a mile a minute. To be honest, I couldn’t understand but maybe 20 percent of what they were saying, but Dad was on top of it all. He would run back and forth between the lanes, tracking the cars with his detailed notes. It wasn’t hard to tell that he was really damn good at what he did.
All the cars he bought had to be transported back to Oklahoma. The trucks could carry nine vehicles, so he had to be cognizant of how many he was buying. If he bought one more than the trucks could hold (say 10 or 19), we would pick one out to drive home.
My summer between high school and college was the best time I ever had with my dad. Traveling with him became my summer job. Because he was limited in how many dealers he could buy cars for, he used me to expand his options. I wore bid numbers for extra dealers, and Dad gave me a cut every time we bought a car with my number. It was quite the straw operation, because again, I could barely understand what the auctioneers were saying. Dad would buy the cars and then just point to my number to register the transaction. On top of that, any time I drove a car back to Oklahoma, I got the delivery fee. I should also mention that Dad flew to these sales so much on Southwest Airlines, that he qualified for a “Companion Pass.” He made me his “companion” and I didn’t have to pay a dime to fly with him. We caught a few more MLB games while we were at it. It was a pretty sweet gig for an 18-year-old. I miss those days all the time.
Dad took care of his stuff.
Dad always bought and sold a lot of cars. Not just for dealers, but his own personal vehicles. He was able to sell his cars easily because they always looked as good or better as the day he bought them. This may be the best lesson he has ever passed on to me, to take care of my stuff and keep it clean and organized. I know that he picked this up from Papa because he was the same way. I have not always lived up to their ideal, but I always do my best. Just recently, I copied some of Dad’s organizational techniques for my garage and came out much better for it. My goal is to instill in my daughters the same pride in ownership.
Dad always made sure we had awesome vacations.
As I mentioned before, many of our vacations when I was young centered around baseball games. Some cool vacations I will never forget include:
- Los Angeles in ’85. We drove all the way there from Oklahoma City. We saw the Dodgers play the Reds. Pete Rose was a player/manager at the time, but the day we saw him, he was just a manager. Sometimes I wonder if he bet on that game.
- Kansas City in ’86 and ’87. The Royals were coming off their first title, and it was a fun time to be there. I’ll never forget that 17-inning game in ’86, and thankful my parents are the type to stay for the whole game, no matter how long it lasts.
- St. Louis and Memphis in ’88. Ozzie Smith hit a rare home run (he only had 28 homers in a 19-year Hall of Fame career). We cruised around in sweet van with a TV/VCR that Dad got from the dealership.
- San Antonio in ’89 (I think). This was a spring break trip. We went to the Alamo. On the sidewalk next to the Alamo, there was freshly poured concrete. Ten-year-old me failed to notice this and walked right through it, leaving Nike footprints along the way. It’s what I think of first when I hear “Remember the Alamo.”
- Anaheim in ’89. We first flew to Phoenix for a family reunion. That’s where I got sick. We rented a car drove to California with me needing frequent stops in the desert. I’ll spare you the details. From there, every family member caught the bug. Kendra was sick in the hotel room, Mom was sick at the baseball game and Dad had it bad at Disneyland. The Angels game was still amazing, with a walk-off homer and Fourth of July fireworks. That was the first time I ever heard of a Subway restaurant. We bought sandwiches and carried them into the game.
- San Diego in ’91. It was unseasonably cool for June, but we still had fun seeing the Padres, the zoo, and Sea World.
- San Francisco & Oakland in ’93. We saw games in both parks. Bonds went 0/4 at Candlestick. In Oakland, a man jumped from the center field fence, ran, and slid into second base wearing only a baseball jersey. Ouchie!
- Florida in ’96. Lots of amazing things happened on this trip but none can top the fact that we met Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio in the Tampa airport as all both waited for Southwest flights. I was way too nervous to approach him, but Dad helped me do it, and we both shook the hand of an all-time great. Joe’s autograph hangs in my home office today.
- Washington, D.C. and New York City in 2000. The time in D.C. inspired me to return a year later as a U.S. Senate intern. My first trip to NYC really ignited a lifelong love for America’s greatest city. I’m glad I got to experience it the first time with my family.
I knew it was not cheap to go to all these places. For me, the memories are priceless.
Dad supported me in sports.
My parents were always in the stands when I played ball. Papa was usually there, too. Dad coached me one year when I was 10 or so, but mostly he was just the type to be there and be supportive, never obnoxious. One time he got into it with one of my coaches, and for good reason, because that guy was a total dick. I appreciate Dad for standing up for his boy that day.
It’s good to have a Dad in the car business when you turn 16.
Dad was the best used car man in Oklahoma, and that was good asset when I was ready to drive. Dad bought me a 1988 Chevy Blazer when I was still 15 1/2, helped me clean it up to Anderson standards, and taught me how to drive it. And let’s just be honest, this wasn’t the only vehicle Dad procured for me. He had a wholesale dealer license so he was able to get the best deals possible. It happened a few times until I bought my own car with my own loan at age 30. I plan to buy a car in the next year and I will still rely on his advice.
Dad fully supported my educational endeavors.
I was lucky that my parents supported me financially 100 percent for my undergraduate degree, aside from the scholarships I earned. For law school, I took on loans, but my parents still found ways to help me get to the finish line, and it felt pretty amazing to shake my Dad’s hand when I received my juris doctorate in 2004.
Dad didn’t stop being a Dad when I grew up.
I just want to share a big appreciation, because Dad has been there for me immediately when I needed him the most as an adult. I can recall one instance in my 20s and one in my 30s when I was in pretty dire straits. Dad didn’t hesitate to do whatever it took to get me out of my self-inflicted jams. He provided a blueprint that I plan to follow if and when my children need my help when they are grown. Parents should never stop being parents just because their kids turn 18. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without my Dad.
Dad is passionate about his sports.
Dad is the biggest NASCAR fan I know. It’s not unusual that he watches practices, qualifying, the Xfinity race on Saturday, and the Cup series on Sunday. He and Mom are also diehard fans of the Oklahoma City Thunder. I don’t think they have missed watching a game in many years. Some good memories for us in the last decade include going to Thunder games – especially when the team was competing for a championship. There is a level of pride in OKC having a major team that is still indescribable after all this time.
“Dad” becomes “Pop”
“Pop” is his grandpa name. He became a Pop when my nephew Callen was born in 2015. Eight months later, my daughter Everly was born. I remember Mom telling me that Dad wanted to make sure the bags were packed, because Everly could come any time. Sure enough, she arrived early, and my parents made the haul to Kansas City immediately (driving into the night) to be there for us. It was the same story in 2018 when Ophelia was born. With the arrival of my nephew Clayton, there are now four grandchildren. My children are truly blessed, because they have four amazing grandparents. Thank you Pop for showing my kids so much love.
Some other fun Dad memories.
- I’ve already established how particular Dad is about his vehicles. Once we were going to eat at Johnnie’s Charcoal Broiler. Dad noticed some workers spray painting the building next door. Suddenly he exclaimed, “I’m out!” and we ended up eating elsewhere. “I’m out!” became a family catchphrase for all time.
- One time while riding in the car with Dad, we pulled up to a red light at I-240 & Penn. They were doing construction and shutting down the intersection in the evenings. It just so happened that the closure was happening right when we pulled up. The construction guy put the “road closed” sign directly in front of Dad’s vehicle. It really was comical. What were we supposed to do, start going in reverse back up Penn? Dad rolled down the window and told him to move the sign so we could proceed. He didn’t. Dad got out of the car and told him to move it. He didn’t. Dad then told him in no uncertain terms to move it, or he would stick it where the sun don’t shine. He chose to move it. Wow, I thought, my dad is a badass.
- Dad was a very early adopter of the cell phone. Soon after, Papa had one and he wore it on his belt. But not many other people had them. One time when we all met up, Dad told him, “You can turn that thing off now. I’m here now.” I don’t know why, but that still cracks me up today.
Earlier this year, we took Dad and Mom to Hawaii. It was really an unforgettable trip. We spent some amazing time on the beach and enjoyed delicious meals. One of my favorite parts of the trip, though, was in the mornings, just letting my girls run wild while we relaxed with coffee and watched the waves roll in. I really couldn’t have asked for better parents and I’m glad they could join us for a week in paradise before a world pandemic set in. Love you, Dad, and thanks for always being there for me. Happy Father’s Day!