I met a 92 year old man today. He was having a moving sale. His daughters and their friends were actually running the sale and he was overseeing the operation. His family had lived in the house for 60 years and he bought a house in another neighborhood.
The house sale was in Bucktown, one of the hottest neighborhoods in Chicago. Once a working class area, it was suddenly hip. Developers are tearing down working class cottages and building mini mansions all around there.
The house was very clean and neat, but they had a lot of old junk. A lot of Christmas decorations and toys. Somebody found a set of playing cards that were study aids for learning fractions. One of the daughters said they don’t teach that anymore. They have new ways of teaching. They also don’t teach cursive writing, another said. I could relate to that, I have terrible handwriting.
But my father had beautiful handwriting. When he was a boy, they taught something called the Palmer Method of cursive writing. The letters were large and flowing and perfect and perfectly readable. The homeowner reacted to the mention of Palmer. He remembers the nuns trying to teach him to write like that. But he never got to practice because his father pulled him out of school in 3rd grade to help on the farm in Louisiana.
He picked cotton and drove the tractor and worked hard. But he liked life on the farm and missed it. He moved away in 1941. After WWII, he learned the carpenter trade on the GI Bill. He got to be so good at it, he said, that he could build circular staircases. Very few other carpenters of his era could do that.
We didn’t get into all the details of when and where, but he ended up with not one but two pieces of property in one of the most currently in-demand neighborhoods. He paid $15,000 for one and $13,000 for the other. The house we were in was nice enough, but it was old and the floors were wobbly, and it probably wasn’t all that good the best day it ever had. But the land under it was red hot.
I asked him if he was going to sell it. He’s going to rent it out. I said it must be worth half a million dollars. He recently got an offer of $730,000 and he told the guy that in another year, it’ll be worth $100,000 more. (And he’s right.) The would-be buyer then asked the homeowner if he would give his number to his daughter, so that when the homeowner died, the real estate guy could deal with her.
The 92 year old carpenter hung up on him.
For somebody who got pulled out of the 3rd grade, he is pretty smart.