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August 11, 2020

Photo: fancycrave1, Pixabay, License

Dear Editor,

There’s hardly a day goes by I don’t think of my late “uneducated but learned” father; who gave me a wonderful education – along with that provided by my tech school surrounded by Melbourne’s then-inner-city, industrial-area slums. Some ten years back I was a “Principal for a Day” at a humble yet proud northern suburbs, working-class-area secondary school. I informed the young folks that even though I was in leading edge computerised digital technology: “If all you can do is point and click, when it comes to people and the real world, you end up disjointed and thick!”  Sadly, two classes of year 7 and 8 students and a couple of teachers went, “Doh?!”

Today, I see a parallel of the over-provision of information on the Internet with the Encyclopaedia Britannica salesman of the 1950s. My Dad and Mum lived in a little worker’s cottage in the Collingwood suburb of Clifton Hill (now “Yuppieville”!). The Encyclopaedia Britannica man came knocking and said (words to the effect), “Mr and Mrs Working Class Man, with Encyclopaedia Britannica, your children will become professional or business people!” My wise Dad and Mum (who always said, “Listen to your father!”) invited the young sales bloke in; we soon had Encyclopaedia Britannica spread all around our little lounge room in front of our open fire. Dad turned the radio off. We went backwards and forwards to the salesman’s car to get extra copies of Encyclopaedia Britannica on various subjects. And of course, we three kids were agog. Suddenly, my father said to the young man, “How will it teach my children to think?” The young bloke’s mouth opened and closed several times – he was gob-smacked. With that Dad said, “Help the young gentleman, please, kids.” And of course, we all protested (but only briefly!) with Mum saying, “Do as your father says!”

We three kids helped get all the Encyclopaedias Britannica out to the young bloke’s car and, with great dignity, on the front doorstep my diamond-sleeved cardy and bib-and-braces-overalled Dad said, “Young man, will you please come back when you can advise me how a sale to you would teach my children how to think?”

Sadly, for that young man, he never came back to make a sale, nor to ever get the chance to further know our wonderful Dad!


Howard Hutchins
Victoria, Australia

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