I had a great environment to grow up in a home, for me my learning was simply enhanced curiosity and my parents let me ask questions and always encouraged me to expand my knowledge.
My mother is retired Chicago Public School (CPS) teacher and my late father was a Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) diesel bus mechanic and our little house in West Pullman virtually had bookcases for walls. There were books, magazines and the Sun Times newspaper were all easily accessible.
My father was a reader, he had mechanics books, woodworking literature, any hobby he got into (and he had a few from plants to photography to woodworking), he read up on it. We used the Woodson South Regional library at 95th & Halsted regularly, that was great place to just gain additional fuel for knowledge. Our other resource was the long gone Kroc & Brentano’s book store In Evergreen Plaza on 95th & Western, my parents always had book money and there was always a new subject to explore and find out more about.
My mother being an educator was usually challenging me to take on something new that was learning based but not always school related. And of course I wrote as well, I started making folding books out of copy paper and construction paper when I was eight, just telling stories and expressing myself on paper. As you can see, I never stopped.
The other big factor in our house on 123rd street was visiting museums. At one point my mother had a membership to every major museum in Chicago. And my father would go too, his favorite (and mine too), was the Museum of Science & Industry in Hyde Park. That museum always had a Navy themed exhibit or two (of course the U-505 Submarine), and my father the proud Navy veteran was interested. He didn’t miss anything related to his favorite armed service.
I even took classes at each of the museums including the Museum of Industry’s week long science and space camps. The knowledge was always secondary to making new friends from classmates from suburban areas and even a few international buddies. So the learning wasn’t just limited to books but people and relationships.
That was the other thing my parents did not shy away from being proud of wanting to gain more knowledge and where they came from. They constantly talked about how education was the vehicle to success and how they came from lower income families but studied and worked hard to be professionals.
Their books were a testament to that success and diplomas on the walls (especially my dad’s honorable Navy discharge) were proof of the hard work they put in.
Also my parents were fans of Public television (and later educational shows on cable), and all it had to offer, we started with the basic kid shows but then came up to the science shows and history shows. Of course for my father it was “Victory at Sea” and other seafaring entertainment but he never shied away from wanting to know more or sharing the history of his favorite subject.
To this day, I share all of these passions and still strive to learn more about what I love.
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Filed under: Chicago