Happy Birthday El Cheapo! I Remember Papa!

Yesterday was my dad’s birthday. The One! The Only! The Ever-memorable Tommy Wynne—the man we lovingly referred to as…………….drumroll please………”El-Cheapo”!

El Cheapo 1

Actually, my dad was quite proud of this nickname!

He was great—and he is surely missed not only by my family, but by all those who knew and loved him. He was a good kind of special.

He passed away when he was 64 because his heart simply stopped beating.

A New Yawk Cop with a heart of gold and a great sense of humor who never had to pull out his gun!

Dad and mommy

..and you wonder where I get my “spectacular” looks from!!! Seriously–weren’t my parents adorable?  My dad was so handsome AND proud of his NYPD uniform!

But instead of waxing all sorts of sentimental and being all weepy, I’m just going to honor him with a listing of cool and fun stuff I remember about my dad.   So here goes….

He really was “el cheapo” and we used to kid him about it all the time. He honestly didn’t give two shits what anyone thought of his cheapness either. After my dad retired from the NYPD, he and my mom moved to the West Coast of Florida; the Tampa area.

Anyway,  on one of my visits, we all decided to make a day trip at Disney World. Granted, my dad would only go to Disney when they were having the “Florida Resident” fee, but what he pulled that day was classic “El Cheapo”.  Lunch. We all sat down at a table waiting to be served and we couldn’t find my dad. He ended up at a hot dog stand because he refused to spend “idiotic” amounts of money for lunch! He just wasn’t a Disney fan either.  All he could say whenever he reached the entrance was  this:

“Oh for crissakes–to think a MOUSE started all this garbage”…and he would shake his head. We just eye rolled and laughed at his remarks! It was funny–and he had a point!

He's smiling because he didn't pay for lunch

Nothing bothered my dad–not even the whinging and whining of his grandchildren.  I look like Hell. Pregnant with Oona, Roman not happy–but my dad–he seems to be enjoying this scene!

Never a slave to fashion.

Oh..did I mention?  My dad was NEVER a slave to fashion.  My mother would be mortified at his “going out in public” with a sleeveless t. shirt. He would laugh and tell her that the money saved was for her wardrobe!  Here he is, once again, with a smile on his face because he saved money at Disney by eating a cheap lunch!

When I worked in the World Trade Center, he met me for lunch one day. My Aunt Terry also worked in the WTC and joined us. Now—this was back in the 1970’s, and when he saw the menu he refused to pay $6.00 for a sandwich. He sat there while my aunt and I ate—he refused to order—and we offered to pay but he wouldn’t have it. It was the “principal”.

As kids we were often times invited to the local Country Club as guests of our friends. One of the members had approached my dad and suggested our family become members—there would be no problem being accepted. My dad’s answer was “Why should I pay when my kids can go as guests!”.

Ho logo

My dad’s motto was “Southward Ho No–I’m not paying!”

True dat—and I laugh as I write this.

His favorite snack in the entire world was “Mallomars”—this confection being only sold during certain months of the year. Made of a graham cracker bottom layer and a fluffy rounded dome of marshmallow, topped with a chocolate shell, these tasty bits were his nirvana. We literally had to ask his permission if we wanted one. He kept them in the freezer and took to counting how many were in the box.


If he ever came home to an empty box of these, we would be answering to a much higher power than my dad!  He LIVED for these things!

Luckily, none of us kids were crazy about Mallomars—if we were, I have no idea of what would have transpired.

He also had words and sayings that we referred to as “Tommyisms”

If we screwed up he would call us (and be patient because I’m spelling this phonetically—I don’t know Gaelic) “Omadons“. This is basically a Gaelic word for “moronic dopey person who made a huge mistake”.

If something didn’t make sense—like when he got a bad hand playing cards, he would announce it’s Asshole to Breakfast time.” Years later I still cannot process the true meaning.


I’m guessing this is “asshole to breakfast time”! What a quote!

Speak to me again, sweet lips, so I know where to find youuuuu was another of his favored sayings. This announcement always followed his passing of gas. Usually in the family room while we were all gathered around watching TV. My mother would always get really disgusted and leave the room, while we kids howled laughing! What kid doesn’t enjoy a dad who farts with glee?????


I know. I know. I know full well that my dad’s sense of humor could be crude. But it was funny as hell. Especially for kids–and he aimed to make us laugh! At EVERYTHING!

He always said “zed” instead of the letter “z”. I think that was the influence of my Irish grandparents. The nuns had quite the job explaining to me that “zed” just wasn’t used in the USA!

Naught” for “zero” or “nothing”.

We all had nicknames. I swear to you, if anyone heard him call us, you would think we were a pack of wild wolves—Catherine, Theresa, Tommy, Germaine, and Peter were replaced with “Katie”, “Sissy”, “Skithers”, “Mainzie” and “Munzie”. That’s right. My dad never called me by my given name. It was always “Katie”—I’m guessing he liked me best because I had the most normal nickname!

Dad, mom me sissy

The beginning of the pack of dogs nicknames.  My and Sissy. My mom was pregnant with my brother Tommy, aka “Skithers” in this pic! ( I am NOT even going to go about explaining how THAT nickname was acquired!).

All kidding aside, he was the most incredibly doting dad!

Dad Mom and me 1955

Look at how my dad is so happy to see me! Probably because I couldn’t talk back!

His grandkids were everything to him!

Dad with the kids

My dad with Jake, Oona and Roman right before his heart stopped beating!

Dad with Oona

He’s the reason Oona took Irish Dance lessons–I only wish he had lived to see her dance and compete. He would have been so proud! But–he would have gone ballistic at the price I paid for her dresses. El Cheapo would resurface!

His voice was loud. He spoke with the “tickest” of Brooklyn accents.

On his “off” tours from work, he would come down to the schoolyard at St. Patrick’s and organize ball games for the boys. In fact, when we had a bomb scare at school (yes, lunatics were around in the mid-1960’s as well as now—only now there are more), my dad was the first one on the scene!

My brothers were excellent baseball players (both received baseball scholarships to college). Because my dad was such a baseball helicopter dad, there were times when his enthusiasm and criticism of the coaches became too much. As such my brother Pete’s coach had to place a tarp over the fence at home place so that my dad couldn’t see what was going on.

My mother came from an incredibly large family. Some of her brothers and brothers-in-law liked to partake of certain beverages. There were quite a few late weekend phone calls in which my dad would have to drive to various police stations throughout Long Island to ensure that my uncles got home safe. He never minded those calls.

Mom and Dad's wedding.

I don’t think my dad knew what he was in for when he married into such a large family!

Family. My parents wedding picture

Who also knew this well-dressed groom would end up with a penchant for sleeveless t-shirts and (ugh) polyester baseball caps!!!

In fact, he always reminded us that if we were at a party and felt uncomfortable to CALL him at home. No matter what time and he would come and pick us up without any questions. He was true to his word.

After his first heart attack, he was told to quit smoking (he had a two-pack-a-day habit). He did, and replaced cigarettes with toothpicks. He always had a toothpick in his mouth!

He played poker every Friday night that he wasn’t working. We always knew when he won because the next day my mother would take a trip to the beauty parlor. When he lost, we would find him sleeping on the sofa in the family room the following morning.

Classic Tommy Poker had and toothpick

This portrait pretty much sums it up–his love for poker and toothpicks! Oh..and note another clue to his el-cheapo-ness.  Sunglass clip-on lenses in the wrong size. I’m sure he paid less than a buck for those beauties! I miss those nuances of his!

Being the only son in his family, he was treated like royalty. So much so, that when we went to visit my grandparents, we kids were NOT allowed to be served tea and biscuits or pound cake until my father was served first.

Grandma with milk

My grandmother, Margaret.  Nobody got served before my dad!

Dad at his best. With food

Mmmmm. Mmmmmm!  Leave some for us Da!!!

On any given Sunday during those cold winter months, when my dad was also in between police tours, you could find him seated in the living room. Not watching football, but waiting for us to come to him and recite whatever memorization homework we were given.

God forbid we missed a word—he would make us march back into our rooms to keep studying…and memorizing.

Actually, one Christmas we surprised him with a Baltimore Catechism—we were all laughing so hard at the sight of my dad being excited over this dogmatic gift that we were almost choking. My dad called us over and started asking us questions from that old-school book. I’ll be a sonovabitch if we all weren’t able to answer every question just as perfectly as we did many years ago! He beamed!

Baltimore Catechism

You have NO idea how many times we were quizzed on everything from why God made us to the Apostle’s Creed.  At that time the only creed I wanted was Creedence Clearwater!

My mother, who despised Western movies, refused to accompany him to his favorite cinematic genre. Instead, I was the chosen one who got to sit next to him watching the iconic films like “Sons of Katie Elder” and “A Man Called Horse”.


Luckily for me, having a dad who was a cop meant that I could accompany him to the movies on a school night if he had weekend duty!


I had no words to even come close to describing THIS movie–but even as a young teenager, I still managed to see movies with my dad!

I was the winner in this because he would always get me the oversized box of malted milk balls.


..and the BEST part was coming home with an almost empty box and finishing it in front of my younger brothers and sisters. Yeah–I was THAT sister!

When I attended a school reunion about twenty years ago, many of the guys I went to school approached me and asked how my dad was.   What about me????? He had passed away but it was so touching that these guys all remembered my dad so fondly.

He may have been a disciplinarian, but he was also our great defender. I remember once I was slapped clear across the face by Sr. Mary Josephita—the mere mention of her name gives me Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This nun, who was most likely the most satanic sister in the history of St. Patrick’s grammar school, thought I gave her cheeky answer to a question. I was both humiliated and in extreme pain, but I would not give her the satisfaction of shedding one tear.

Anyway, when I arrived home, my dad noticed the welts in the shape of fingers. I told him what happened.

He took me in the car and we drove to the convent. Now—remember, my dad was very good friends with the nuns—he organized games and would buy beer for the nuns’ beer and pretzel parties. He spoke to the principal, Sr. Mary Isabel, and told her that if anything like this ever happened again, all of his kids (four at the time) would be taken out of the school and placed into PUBLIC SCHOOL!   Mention something like that to a nun and boy—things turn around quickly!!

I was so proud and happy of my dad that day! I knew from then on, he would always have my back!

Christmas when they were dating

I’m sure that when this picture was taken during my parent’s dating time, my dad NEVER imagined he would threaten a nun with sending his children to public school!

Not a day goes by that I don’t think of you dad.  Some days I cry when things suck and I can’t have you here to talk me through it. Some days I laugh just thinking about the fun we had! I miss you and love you!

dad and me on my birthday

I just miss hanging out with him.  And I KNOW he and Bonaparte would have spent hours upon hours discussing WWII–one of his favorite subjects!

Tom’s heart may have stopped beating, but we all hold his memories close to our own hearts.

One of the sibs' weddings!

My parents were reunited three years ago.  I’m sure they are having a grand time dancing and laughing together and swinging on stars…..

..speaking of swinging on stars….I’m posting one of my dad’s favorite songs. He sang it to us when we were younger–“Swinging on a Star!” Bing Crosby sings!

About Catherine

Far from perfect, but enjoying life as a non-perfect and flawed individual at 60 years young. I'm still wondering what I'll be when I grow up! The characters in my life's screenplay include my better half. He is a refined Frenchman who grew up in Paris and summered in St. Tropez. I grew up in Long Island and summered in Long Island. I am not refined. My three grown children are also a big part of my life. For their sake, they happily live where their careers have taken them! But I can still mother them from a distance! I write about the mundane. I write about deeply shallow issues. But whatever I write or muse about--it'll always be a bit on the humorous and positive side! It's all good!
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34 Responses to Happy Birthday El Cheapo! I Remember Papa!

  1. Vibrant says:


    It’s such a beautiful post. Now I know where you got your killer looks from!!
    Your parents were really adorable.
    I love Westerns too and I would have been a great company to him. 🙂

    I learnt Omadino ( wast it?) –I might be one?

    It’s a great post. You had a wonderful upbringing I feel. Thanks for sharing it.

    Happy belated birthday to your dada!

    Best Wishes,
    Anand <3

  2. calensariel says:

    Catherine, this is my favorite kind of post. I could relieve so much of my own childhood through it. Your dad and I would have had the same taste in cowboy movies! The Sons of Katie Elder is one of my favorites. I bet he like Unforgiven with Burt Lancaster and Audrey Hepburn. Have you ever thought of writing your family’s story? You’re a natural for a book like that. Or have you already?

    • Catherine says:

      Oh boy. I’ve thought so much about writing my family’s story. It would be a sort of David Sedaris kind of thing–and I love his books! Bonaparte is ALWAYS telling me that he would have loved to see Westerns with my dad as well. Thanks for the book reminder! And I’m soooooooooooooooooo glad you liked my post! XOXOXO!!!

      • calensariel says:

        Lord Drollery loves David Sedaris. He’s still laughing over something about a squirrel and nuts from the last book he read. I meant to say i love “Swinging on a Star,” too. That’s the kind of music I grew up with. Do think about a book. You would do an amazing job. Your writing is very flamboyant and fun.

      • Catherine says:

        Ohhh…My favorite Sedaris moment is from “Me Talk Pretty One Day”–his brother whom the called “Rooster”. I almost wet my pants laughing. Sedaris is a nice guy though. He used to live in Paris, and me, being the stalker that I am, sent him a note inviting him and his partner to Bonaparte’s aunt’s apartment for dinner and drinks. He wrote back–declining, only because he moved! I LOVE HIM!!! Oh…I grew up with that music too–and the other song he used to sing was “High Hopes”. In fact, I used to sing High Hopes to my own kids when they were younger. Memories-so glad we have them! XOXXOXOXO!!

  3. BunKaryudo says:

    Wow! That was great! I really feel like I know him. What a wonderful portrait of your father!

    Incidentally, I think I might know why you feel “A Man Called Horse” is indescribable. That scene with the Ceremony of the Sun is making me feel queasy even now.

    • Catherine says:

      Thanks–I’m telling you, anybody who met him for the first time, felt they knew him a lifetime. I was a bit upset because I can’t find his funeral pics. (yes. We took tons of pictures of him dead–he just looked so healthy in that coffin!–and the poses we made. Indescribable. Bonaparte may have “misplaced” them because when I showed him the pics he was astounded–and not in a good way.LOL). Glad you liked the post.
      Oh…that movie was NOT my favorite western by any means! XOXOXO!!!

  4. Your blessed with beautiful memories Catherine! And Calen is right…sounds like a book in the making!

  5. spearfruit says:

    I loved this post, your telling of your dad is wonderful and heartfelt. Your dad was a great man. Thanks so much for sharing, I really enjoyed reading this. 🙂

  6. Leslie Preston says:

    Great post! I think your daughter resembles your dad, too!

  7. Diane says:

    What a great post to honor your dad. Well done.

  8. Anand says:

    What a wonderful dad to have! My dad is the stark opposite of your dad. He’s El Cheapo in private. Only mom, sis, and I have seen that side of his. I think there’s wide gap between being cheap and being thrifty. From what I gather, your dad never allowed his thrift to impact your lives; he just didn’t like to spend on himself. I think he was awesome (and I know that you think the same :D)
    BTW, Indians say “zed” not “zee” and “zero” not “O” – The British left us with The Queen’s English spoken in a thousand different Indian dialects.

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Anand! First off, you are a brilliant artist! And I thank you for thinking awesomeness about my dad–he certainly was that! Yeah..that “zed” thing–Bonaparte says that too. He’s French. I’m now wondering just why, we in the States, don’t follow suit. I’m gonna start using zed anyway! XOXOXOXO!!!

  9. whereshappy says:

    This is one of the most beautiful and funny things I have ever read. Made me think of my dad when he wore shorts and tube socks pulled to his knees for my high school graduation. Aww. Thanks for sharing.

  10. You were so lucky to have such a great dad and you post is a lovely tribute to him. Your mum was beautiful too. It reminded me some of my own parents -my Mum was quite straigt-laced, a bit of a snob and would “Oh George” my dad on a regular basis. Also I have heard that “asshole to breakfast time” expression many a time from my ex and am also at a loss to interpret it ….

    • Catherine says:

      OMG–my mother WAS just as straight-laced as yours. And she had strict fashion rules. I won’t be able to wear white after this weekend because it’s Labor Day here in the States. (shhh. I’ll wear white jeans anyway). We could only wear velvet from September through February. Never purchase pearls for yourself because it is bad luck…I could go on and on. It was so funny! OK!! I’m so glad you heard the expression “Asshole to breakfast time”..Just WHAT does that mean? Maybe it’s a UK/Ireland thing????? XOXOXOXO!!!

      • No my ex Aussie with Scottish forebears I might investigate this lol!!!

      • Here you go Catherine…Urban Dictionary..A less polite way of saying 24/7 used by NCO’s in the British Army when informing squaddies that their standards weren’t quite up to the mark and that they would receive the NCO’s undivided attention from now on. Could also mean “everywhere”.
        If I don’t see an improvement I shall kick you from arsehole to breakfast-time!
        Yes, my ex’s dad was a fighter pilot in UK so it figures…

      • Catherine says:

        Aha!!!! My grandfather (from Roscommon) fought in the Great War–as did one of my uncles from Cork. Hmmmmmm..I’m wondering if my dad got that expression from my Grandfather! Thanks so much for that info!! I cannot wait to tell that to my family! Thanks again!! XOXOXOXO!!!

      • OMG my great grandfather came from Roscommon too & my Grandfather fought at Ypers and Etaples in France and also Salonica, not sure if that is in Greece or Turkey. That is insane.

      • I never heard him say such a thing though lol…

  11. Tejaswi says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us.
    The same thing happened to my daughter a few weeks ago too and I had to talk to the nuns about it, in a similar way, like your dad did. I guess the nuns sort of despise me a little now for going “overboard” as they said.. but I can’t bear the thought of anyone striking my child. So I am sure your dad was furious too.

    Beautiful memories. Thank you so much 🙂 And I would have loved talking WWII with him too 🙂

    • Catherine says:

      Glad you enjoyed reading about my dad! Oh…he was absolutely furious that anyone would strike me or any of the kids!!!! XOXOXO!!!

      • Tejaswi says:

        I know the feeling.. I saw red the first time and wrote a really scathing letter warning them off.. but I guess that was too mild for the likes of those nuns. The next time I went right up to them and spoke my mind 😀 That did the trick I guess.
        Yes, I enjoyed reading about your dad. I wish I could have met him 🙂 I used to love ww2 stories too and I must have read a ton of them and probably a lot more about the reich and the master… and in some ways, sadly, I see similar signs of that ugly history repeating itself in my own country.. sad, but quite possible now..

        xxxx 😀

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