Regret to inform our readers that a close friend of my family lost his father this past week. Miles Allison was 77; he died of natural causes. His son George asked me to write a little something about his dad in the column this week. I protested, saying my writing wouldn’t do Miles justice, but George wouldn’t hear of it. He said, “Sure, you’re a terrible writer, but you’re the only one in town with a column.” Checkmate. Here goes:
For those who live in Green Lake, hearing the name Miles Allison brings up lots of memories and warm feelings, followed by an upset stomach. He was a town institution. He was born in rural Indiana, but his family moved here when he was very small. He excelled in school, worked at Hanson’s grocery on weekends to make a little extra money for the family. He found love, too; his sweetheart, Marion, was a clever Green Laker who caught his eye at the annual “Let’s Stand in Line for Nine Hours” festival. They were headed to the altar six months later, but the wedding was not to be; Marion refused to be married by any minister from this planet, and they grew apart. (In her later years, Marion made local news in Florida when she tied herself to the Apollo 11 rocket just before launch.) Two years later, Miles courted and married Jenna Wilson, a plain, affable local whose main talent was being able to use her feet to hit the shift key while typing.
Miles quickly set up shop as Green Lake’s resident ventriloquist. He had an odd twist to his act: instead of drinking milk while the dummy sang, he would have the dummy (known as Lulabob) drink the milk while he sang. And not only milk, either. Sandwiches, pizza, even leftover casseroles from home found their way down Lulabob’s throat. Unfortunately, the second part of the act involved Lulabob spitting the food back up all over an unsuspecting kid, as I found out firsthand at my eighth birthday party. Miles enjoyed this part so much he actually named his short-lived network radio program Miles Allison and Lulabob’s ‘Spitting Up on Kids’ Hour.
Miles and Jenna had three kids; George was the middle child and we became fast friends in grade school. Miles would tell us stories about things that had never happened, like the time he supposedly launched a lime to Russia to injure the famous chess player Boris Spassky. (Actually he mailed the lime to a pen pal in Russia and asked him to throw it at Spassky, but I digress) He made us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and then gave them to the dog when we didn’t eat them fast enough. He even predicted I would work in a field I was grossly unqualified for! Miles enraged and infuriated, but he always enlivened the town.
In later years Miles made peace with his dad, which was tough because Lawrence Allison didn’t speak English, and wouldn’t teach his son the language he spoke. He thought that a father speaking the same language as his son was a sin, and so he had an interpreter with him at all times. Lawrence began learning English at last, but suffered a stroke not three weeks after. His last words were “Fifty words I know and now this.”
Miles kept busy even after retiring. He volunteered his time as a Dungeon Master in the 80’s and served as Substitute Fire Dog for the Green Lake Fire Department for a year. Up until his death he was known to walk up to City Hall in the morning, yell obscenities and walk back home, only to return that afternoon and apologize. He did this every day for nearly ten years. Green Lake’s esteemed former mayor, Robert “The Rocket” Putnam, told me “Thanks to Miles, every time I hear the words ‘you little @&@!’ I smile. Good thing, too, when you’re a mayor.”
In the wake of bad news, it’s often hard to find wisdom. Miles Allison knew this, and made sure to leave us a message in his will: “If you smell the roses too long, you’ll probably look like an idiot. Don’t bother. Roses smell like #!@@ anyway.”
Provocative, clever, unpredictable, maybe even loopy, Miles Allison won’t be forgotten.