Father’s Day: A 1974 Plumbing Disaster

Editor’s note: A version of this column was last published in 2016.


Subscribers Only Content

High resolution image downloads are available to subscribers only.

Not a subscriber? Try one of the following options:



Get A Free 30 Day Trial.

No Obligation. No Automatic Rebilling. No Risk.

In 1974, when I was 11, I flushed an apple core down the toilet.

You see, my father had remodeled our basement into a family room with a powder room.

Always looking to save a buck — he had six kids to feed on one income — he bought the cheapest toilet he could find.

It never did work right, and since we couldn’t afford a plumber, my father spent much of his spare time unclogging it.

Armed with this knowledge, then, it’s remarkable I did what I did.

One Sunday morning, after chomping on a large Washington apple, I lay on the family room couch, too lazy to get up and properly dispose of it.

I noticed, some 12 feet away, that the toilet lid was up.

In a moment of insanity, I aimed the core at the toilet and flicked my wrist. The core floated majestically in the air, a perfect trajectory, then landed in the center of the bowl with a satisfying “kir-plunk!”

I later flushed it and never gave it another thought — until a few months later when another clogging was reported.

As fate would have it, this happened on a Sunday morning, as I lay on the couch, holding another Washington apple core. I watched television, while my father fought to free the clog.

But nothing would free it. The plunger failed, but not before he was soaking wet. Two jars of Drano had no effect. Even the plumber’s snake, which my father borrowed from our neighbors when all other measures failed, would not dislodge the mother of all clogs.

In a fit of rage, my father unbolted the toilet from the floor. In one mighty heave, he lifted it off its mount and set it in front of the television.

He knelt before the black hole in the floor. He reached his mighty paw inside, then his forearm, then his biceps.

His head was pressed hard against the cold, wet linoleum, sweat dripping off his nose, the veins in his temples about to explode.

His eyes lit up.

He had something.

He carefully removed his biceps, his forearm and then his paw.

He was on his knees now staring at his clenched fist.

He slowly unpeeled his large, grimy fingers.

In the center of his palm, there it was: A black, rotten apple core.

I could go into detail about his incredible reaction — how he ran through the house shouting, “Who the hell flushed an apple core down the toilet?”

I could describe the shock and horror he felt when he discovered that his only son and only hope in carrying on the family name was the idiot who did it.

But I won’t. I will tell you I was paralyzed with fear, a fear born out of respect.

My father loved me and wanted the best for me. He wanted me to master basic virtues — at the very least to master common sense — and I failed spectacularly.

It would have been easy had he been like the weak, hapless fathers portrayed on television these days.

But he was the opposite of weak. He was not afraid to discipline me and strengthen me to prepare me for the difficult challenges all of us must face in life.

My heart aches for so many children who are without direction, because they lack guidance from a cantankerous, masculine father who dresses them down, so he can build them back better — into polite, sensible, responsible human beings.

The way my father did when I flushed an apple core down the toilet in 1974!

Copyright 2024 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

See Tom Purcell’s syndicated column, humor books and funny videos featuring his dog, Thurber, at TomPurcell.com. Email him at [email protected].

Find Tom Purcell’s syndicated column, humor books and funny videos of his dog, Thurber, at TomPurcell.com. Email him at [email protected].