No, I'm not writing a post on antique books. Rather, I would like to introduce you to the Gilbreth family, if you have not already had the pleasure of meeting them elsewhere!
Frank and Ernestine were numbers 5 and 3 (respectively) of twelve children who were raised by the most remarkable Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, founders of motion study.
Motion study, is quite simply, the method of eliminating unneeded motions to make any job more effecient. Mr. Gilbreth, besides being a sucessful building contractor, was also a consultant to factories and other operations to assist them in speeding up their production rate.
But the hilarity of the books comes when Mr. Gilbreth brings his motion study techniques to his home and tries them out on his children...and the books are full of delightful stories of this family's madcap escapades and surprisingly efficient (no pun intended) way of managing twelve children.
We made quite a sight rolling along in the car, with the top down. As we passed through cities and villages, we caused a stir equaled only by a circus parade.
This was the part that Dad liked best of all. He'd slow down to five miles an hour and he'd blow the horns away at imaginary obstacles and cars two blocks away. The horns were Dad's calliope.
"I seen eleven of them, not counting the man and the woman," someone would shout from the sidewalk.
"You missed the second baby up front here, Mister," Dad would call over his shoulder.
Mother would make believe she hadn't heard anything, and look straight ahead.
Pedestrians would come scrambling from side streets and children would ask their parents to lift them onto their shoulders.
"How do you grow them carrot tops, Brother?"
"These?" Dad would bellow. "These aren't so much, Friend. You ought to see the ones I left at home."
Whenever the crowds gathered at some intersection where we were stopped by traffic, the inevitable question came sooner or later.
"How do you feed all those kids, Mister?"
Dad would ponder for a minute. Then, rearing back so those on the outskirts could hear, he'd say as it he had just thought it up:
"Well, they come cheaper by the dozen, you know!"
Cheaper by the Dozen, pages 21-21
But what I really love are Mr. Gilbreths innovative ways of teaching his children everything from typing on a keyboard to sailing a catboat. He instinctively knows how to make his children want to learn, without forcing them. For an instance...to teach them Morse code on their summer vacation...
After lunch he got a small paint bruch and a can of black enamel, and locked himself in the lavatory, where he painted the alphabet in code on the wall.
For the next three days Dad was busy with his paint bruch, writing code over the whitewash in every room in The Shoe. On the ceilinb in the dormitory bedrooms, he wrote the alphabet together with key words, whose accents were a reminder of the code for the various letters. It went like this: A dot-dash, a-BOUT; B, dash-dot-dot-dot, BOIS-ter-ous-ly; C, dash-dot-dash-dot, CARE-less CHILD-ren; D, dash-dot-dot, DAN-ger-ous, etc.
When you lay on your back, dozing, the words kept going through your head, and you'd find yourself saying, "DAN-gerous, dash-dot-dot, DAN-gerous."
He painted secret messages in code on the walls of the front porch and dining room.
"What do they say, Daddy?" we asked him.
"Many things," he replied mysterious. "Many secret things and many things of great humor."
We went into the bedrooms and copied the code alphabet on pieces of paper. Then, referring to the paper, we started translating Dad's messages. He went right on painting, as if he were paying no attention to us, but he didn't miss a word.
"Lord, what awful puns," said Anne. "And this, I presume, is meant to fit into the category of 'things of great humor.' Listen to this one; 'Bee it ever so bumble there's no place like comb.' "
"And we're stung," Ern moaned. "We're not going to be satisfied until we translate them all. I see dash-dot-dash-dot and I hear myself repeating CARE-less CHILD-ren. "
Cheaper by the Dozen, pages 122-123
And so on, and so forth. The second book, "Belles on Their Toes" is the story of Mrs. Gilbreth and how she held her family together after the death of her husband. However, I won't quote more here in fear of boring you all excessively. I will say, however, that the books are a thousand times better than the new Steve Martin movies that have recently come out, and other than the title and the fact that both families have twelve children, there is virtually no resemblance between them.