My grandfather, Clarence Littleton, was a man of diminutive physical stature, often buying his clothes in the boys department at J.C. Penney. He quit school following the fifth grade to help support his struggling family. Marrying young, he and my grandmother had one child, my mother, and Grandpap took a job at Imperial Glass in Bellaire, Ohio, as a glassblower. Difficult times dictated a move to Akron where he worked at Akron Standard Mold, producing molds for the tire industry. They purchased a small home at 91 Dellenberger Avenue, onto which he built an addition. Not being able to afford vacations, he fabricated and built a small travel trailer. He was a creative, self taught man of many talents. He loved electronics, built his own radios, and was an avid cb radio guy, I still remember his call letters: KLN7621. He played keyboards, trumpet in the Salvation Army Band, and . . the guitar.
I have three brothers. All of us play the guitar. We learned our first chords under his tutelage on his old Harmony Stella guitar. That guitar disappeared somewhere over the years since 1978, when he died at the age of 67. I wish I had it. But I don’t.
Unlike my grandfather, I am a “big burly man,” as the German newspaperman put it after interviewing me for an article a few years ago. I have undergraduate and graduate degrees. I’ve had opportunities he never could have imagined and, although not wealthy by any means, I’ve led a comfortable life. But this is what we have in common. This is the connection – the love of building things.
Over the last couple of years I’ve built fourteen guitars; cigar box, acoustic, electric, and lap steel. I’ve sold a few, given a few away, and kept a couple for myself. There’s not a time when I’m in my shop that I don’t at least think once of my grandfather, imagining what we could have built together. I miss him!
The name his buddies and coworkers called him? Short Pants