On the steps of the porch, dislodging a pair of glasses ends granddad's reading period.
Caption from LIFE. On the steps of the porch, dislodging a pair of glasses ends granddad's reading period.Leonard McCombe—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
On the steps of the porch, dislodging a pair of glasses ends granddad's reading period.
In a shop, choice between glove or ball.
On a walk, an impatient tug toward a treat.
At the ice cream stand, something for both of them.
Six-year-old Billy Conner taking a wobbly first ride on a big bicycle as his grandfather William Conner gives him a steadying hand on the back of his seat, at home.
Six-year-old Billy Conner crying as he hugs his grandfather William Conner who pats his shoulder reassuringly in backyard at home.
An uneasy approach to the operation.
Trophy on a string.
One puff spoils a pleasant illusion: A big act with a prop.
After an experimental puff, a disenchantment with an adult pleasure.
Billy Conner and his grandfather William climbing a tree.
An early-morning start on a catfish expedition in a car named Old Dilsie.
Billy Conner and his grandfather William going fishing.
Billy Conner watching his grandfather William carry a puppy.
Billy Conner talking to his grandfather William near a train.
One hand free, waving at an engineer friend, the other hand holding tight.
Caption from LIFE. On the steps of the porch, dislodging a pair of glasses ends granddad's reading period.
Leonard McCombe—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
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This May Be the Sweetest Grandfather-Grandson Relationship Ever

Sep 11, 2015

For just one day every September, the spoilers become the spoiled. National Grandparents Day has been observed in the U.S. on the first Sunday after Labor Day since President Jimmy Carter signed the proclamation in 1979. But for one 6-year-old boy, long before that day was made official, every day was grandparents day.

On Aug. 29, 1955, the face of a red-haired, freckle-nosed boy named Billy Conner graced the cover of LIFE Magazine under the headline, “The Fun of Being a Grandson.” Billy lived four blocks away from his grandfather William James Conner, 63, a section foreman on the Missouri Pacific Railroad in Batesville, Ark. The photo essay by Leonard McCombe documented their afternoons reading the newspaper, eating ice cream, fishing for catfish and dealing with wiggly teeth.

Though Billy’s love for his grandfather is unmistakably genuine, his desire to spend time together stemmed, at least in part, from William’s willingness to indulge his grandson’s boyish behavior: Billy “revels in the company of granddad because he is no disciplinarian at all.”

August 29, 1955 cover of LIFE magazine. Leonard McCombe—LIFE Magazine 

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.

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