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“A house without books is like … “

Posted by Big John on January 28, 2008

Neither of my parents had much of an education, both having left school at an early age.

My father started work when he was thirteen, taking over a milk delivery round from a man who had gone off to fight in World War I in 1914. My dad always joked that the horse that pulled the cart was smarter than he was.

My mother left school at a similar age and had just started work in a draper’s shop when that war ended in 1918.

Although lacking in formal education they were both literate and far from stupid, in fact my mother, who worked in a laundry for most of her life (it paid a shilling a week more than the drapers) ended up running the place, after she undertook to do the ‘book-keeping’ and other clerical work, even though she had never been trained to do so.

Now I have to say that although my formal education lasted until I was sixteen (and a half) I was not the greatest of scholars and my school reports always had lots of .. “must try harder” .. or .. “needs to pay more attention” .. comments when it came to such subjects as maths, science or Latin. However, I wasn’t too bad at ‘English Language’ and always enjoyed the ‘English Literature’ lessons: but how I hated that homework! … I would sit at the kitchen table struggling with logarithms and bloody theorems or trying to memorize “amo, amas, amat” and wondering why plurals didn’t end in ‘s’, and verbs had to go at the end of sentences.

My parents couldn’t help me with my homework, but they did more to educate me than they ever knew, when they forked out some of their hard earned cash for me to join a book club.  

Although I used to borrow books from the public library, the ones I got in the mail every few weeks were mine to treasure until this day. Reading them and re-reading them stimulated my interest in literature, and led to the eclectic collection of books which now weigh down my bookshelves.

The actor Michael Caine is famous for his … “Not a lot of people know that” … when divulging some little known fact, and when I sometimes do the same, and am asked … “How did you know that ?”… I simply reply …

…   “I must have read it in a book sometime.”   😉


4 Responses to ““A house without books is like … “”

  1. My Dad was pulled out of school to work in the coal mines in 1912 and then went off to war as a “boy” soldier in 1914. When the second world war came along my Dad was a commissioned officer training officer cadets, while he was doing that he managed to get a BA. Dad was a voracious reader as was my Mom and we read together with our Dad and Mom just before we went to bed.

    I too managed to get a BA as a mature student
    not that it made much difference, ha ha


  2. Betty said

    Your schooling may not have lasted past sisxteen and a half years, but your education has obviously lasted many more years than that, judging by your past blog posts. Your life experiences have given you a better education than sitting in a school room could ever have done.

  3. Ginnie said

    This brings back fond memories of my Dad, John. He was not a college graduate but he read extensively and had a love of words. He taught me the same and I will always be grateful for that. His father (my Grandfather) was a published author and it’s strange that college never materialized for Dad…but those were different times and money was very scarce then.

  4. Terri said

    I really enjoyed this post, John. Your parents were brilliant with their vision. Give a boy a book and he’ll always quest for knowledge.
    My dad had to quit high school in his senior year when his father died, but he was quite intelligent in so many other ways. And he was an avid reader.

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