1928—Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, Henri Matisse painted “Seated Odalisque,” Jack Sharkey became world heavyweight boxing champion, Herbert Hoover was elected president of the United States in a landslide victory over Al Smith, George Gershwin wrote “An American in Paris,” Sonja Henie won her first Olympic ice-skating gold medal, the country’s Number One pop song was “Makin’ Whoopee,” the Jazz Age was drawing to a close—and my parents were divorced, after 15 years of marriage.
I was six years old. At the time, I was devastated.
I loved both my mother and my dad very much.
I remember my dad, Byron Albert Mayo, as a fun-loving man of integrity and good common sense – with a joyful Irish sense of humor.
When my mother left him and filed for divorce in the summer of 1928, he was head timekeeper for a Portland, Oregon, construction company.
At that time, my mother, Dellavina—everyone called her Della—was a vivacious, ambitious young woman. She wanted more. Much more. With the divorce, she soon discovered she had settled for less.
I idolize my father. It was inevitable.
I suspect every kid given half a chance will put his dad on a pedestal. I know many kids never got that chance and I feel all the more fortunate for having the relationship I did with him. He wasn’t perfect by any means, but his flaws were too few to keep me from making him my hero. I feel like he opened the doors to the world for me and invited me to do anything and be anyone I wanted. Most of my own memories start about age 5 when he started teaching me to play chess and buying me science kits monthly, both things that opened doors and started journeys that became my life for which I forever thank him. Everyone who knew him thought him utterly charming. But he was a very quiet, very private man and as we grew older I realized just how little I really knew of him.
Dad’s memoires were begun in his retirement at the age of 74 in 1996 and arrived in the mail chapter by chapter as a serial novel over several years. Dad’s creative energy was boundless and he very generously took up this project at my urging so I could know him better. It should be noted that at the same time, Dad was writing and editing the VOMPC Petanque Times for the Sonoma club and game that became his second family and passion in retirement. What started out as an intended 6 chapter life story became 17 chapters that cover the period from 1922 to 1943. And between talking and writing and playing Petanque with Dad during this period of his life many of the layers he opened up helped bring us much closer together. It also turned out to be quite a tale!
Dad loved writing, he majored in Journalism at the University of Oregon and learned to turn a phrase and express himself in very engaging prose. Thus his memoires turned out to be not just his story – they are a story of the Roaring Twenties, The Great Depression, Prohibition, the tide of War… a story of a life reflected in the prominent people and events of his time and his personal place woven into that time. It’s a story he tells with love and candor, with energy, humor and thoughtfulness, and in the end, it’s a story worth reading whether you knew Byron Willard Mayo or not.
For the few of us who have read this, it was surprising, revealing and entertaining. And I greatly wish he would have written more. The understanding of the influences that shaped and in some ways flawed my father make me love and appreciate him so much more. This is not an ordinary life. Dad was not an ordinary man.
I am proud to present the gift of my father’s memoires to his friends, relatives and anyone who enjoys a great tale. This is it.