What Texas Did!

I know a man who owns five houses. He thinks he worked hard and as result of that hard work he is now rich. Truth is he just worked a steady and regular forty hour week, never risked anything ever and was fortunate to be born in the right era for prospering, the late 1940s. He took his allocated five weeks holiday plus bank holidays days each year until he retired. The period on into the 1970s and 80s had nothing to do with hard work. Baby boomers were mostly handed life on a plate. There was no shortage of work for those who wanted it, you bought a four-bedroomed house one year for £3,500 and sold it three years late for six times what you paid for it, bought another and it tripled in price over four years. With one house already paid for you borrowed for a second then a third, a fourth and a fifth. So it was when there was a shortage of homes and a wealth following a second world war – the birth of the so-called successful self-made man was little more than just being fortunately placed. Such was it in my UK life in and around the 60’s and 70’s. Of course it was not the same for everyone, but for many that was how it was indeed how it was.

There was of course the classic British class system. This was based on a wide range of things: where you were born, wealth or lack of it, where you lived, which school you went to, what you did, who you knew and much more beyond. Inverted snobbery caused people to exalt themselves for no good reason and in my case, raised in social housing, a youngster who became evermore class conscious as life unfolded in a ridiculous class system. On my part I did know to work diligently and work hard. I hear the more smart-alecky contributions from those like the industrial engineer who coined the term “work smarter not harder” back in the 1930’s. But for some the work was always high demand and often lowly pay for the majority. The intent of course, as an industry leader/advisor, was to increase production levels through the same number of available people using less effort. His gain was hard workers at the lowest cost which of course led to higher personal gain for the individual company owner. Nothing wrong with that except, well, it’s on the backs of minions you ultimately own.

The issue for me was working 60 to 80 hours a week to buy my first house. I of course worked smart as did most everyone I ever knew. The danger I learned as a boy in my apprenticeship was being placed with someone who always felt sorry for themselves. Inevitably this led to a self pitying dynamic that was always counterproductive and indeed dare I say spiritually demanding in the most negative way. I was glad for George who mentored me through my formative years to emerge as a craftsman with positive attitude. Even so, the negative effects of working through the stupidity of a British class system can be a battle. When you are young you don’t altogether know it exists until it affects you adversely. There were of course the have’s and the have-nots.

If you were a manual worker there seemed to be social barriers that interrupted you periodically and there still are various barriers and of course I acknowledge that we can even be our own worst enemy in this. What seems ever strange to me is the way people think higher education is the answer to equality and the equalisation leading to acceptance. The way we speak, eat, act, work, our body language, what we wear, decorate ourselves with, what we drive, where we live and all these things put their stamp on whether or to what level we ultimately feel accepted. I experienced rejection at different points in my life as I developed my knowledge and skills. It was viscerally discernible and not unreal at all. I have written of this before but one of the most powerful tools used throughout education and industry is the power to accept or reject and then too the fear of not being accepted or being rejected. It seems that peer pressure still permeates educational institutions and then translates on through the industries we end up working in. I think perhaps it is more important to work with diligence and integrity. Scrooge McDuck told his three nephews, Hewey, Dewey, and Louis, “Work smarter than the smarties and tougher than the toughies.

What Texas really meant to me

My moving to Texas in 1986 impacted me more than anything beyond my being mentored through my apprenticeship with George. Whereas George instilled in me a good work ethic, building on that already instilled in me by my father, I still had to fight the residue self doubts wrought in my life as a former council house (social housing) tenant. Self deprecation can be from genuine humility but it can also be inverted to a point where you feel a sense of inadequacy when in reality you are more than able and thereby at the very least adequate. Instead of always trying to prove your self you relax into being yourself wholly. In Texas, over the opening months of my new life there, I found people seemed to come into my workshop and see me differently than they had ever seen me in my British culture. It was the first time I ever felt accepted. I realise now that influences from my childhood had affected me. School had always rejected me but there in the mix was a metal work teacher who saw something in me and invested in me. So too my woodwork teacher who, to a lesser degree, watched and saw something he could affirm me in. These two men did more than any of the other teachers who used the cane when I couldn’t learn like the other kids seemed aptly able to do. I say couldn’t because I could not learn in the same way and they offered no alternative in those days. I doubt that any headmaster or school superintendent would tell the parents of a child in front of the child that he could never be educated because he was ineducable these days.

In Texas I could stand behind my bench working ordinary stuff and people would stand and watch me for an hour without speaking. I’d make a dovetail, press the parts together and they’d quietly enjoy watching. That never happened in the UK. I don’t know why accept to say I think it was to show those from one level class couldn’t ever admire someone who who was from an inappropriate class. That seemed not to exist in Texas. Living and working there I always felt totally accepted. There I was for the first time in a classless society. Associations, guilds and such, where men got together over woodworking, comprised millionaires in a beat up 20 year old truck alongside Houston businessmen and fork-lift operators. It seemed, to me at least, that there was no disparity. Being accepted warts and all seemed very much a part of the social economy. I loved it. I loved it because it set me free from assumptions. I fit.

Of course perhaps a danger to overcoming self effacement is the certainty of confidence, the other extreme of what I speak of. Experience has shown me how we can suffer from self effacement on the one hand, where we ultimately withdraw into ourselves too much in lost confidence being with others, and an assumption that everyone likes us because we are altogether so likeable and a good being in your own right and of course in your own eyes. Where one stops and the other begins is often blurred because of course pride comes before a fall. It’s an important saying in my view, “Before honour, humility.”

49 Comments

  1. Don Robinson on 2 May 2019 at 4:50 pm

    very good, I am waiting for your book about your life with George.
    Blessings from Texas

    • Pete Smith on 21 May 2019 at 2:37 pm

      Paul,

      Stems from our desire 243 years ago to shake our fist at King George and said no more bowing to you Sir! Surprised you moved back to the UK after such a great experience in America.

  2. Phill on 2 May 2019 at 5:02 pm

    In Jamaica, I learned as a boy, the benefit of the English class system that gave people of African ancestry a role in society without robbing them of their dignity. I brought it home with me for the rest of my life. I wonder if you will do the same with what you learned in Texas. Hard to put into words, but you know what I mean. I hope the good rubs off and the bad wears away.

  3. Wayne bower on 2 May 2019 at 5:08 pm

    And I always assumed you came to Texas because you heard the bar-b-q was better here. Maybe Texas brings out the best in the Brits who have moved here, but I have found them to be a likable bunch.

  4. Gregory Miller on 2 May 2019 at 5:26 pm

    Having met you a couple of times here in our great state, I’m sure glad we had that positive effect on you! I hope people look at you a lot differently where you live now. I see you as a teacher of rare skills more than anything else, at least as your abilities go. As a person, you are much more than the sum of your skills. But oh, those abilities you have! I want to thank you for teaching people all these years. If I could have apprenticed under you instead of the person I ended up doing so with, I might have followed in your footsteps. Thanks, Paul, for all you’ve done!

  5. Johnny Pantages on 2 May 2019 at 5:31 pm

    As a Texan now living in the North East you describe an environment I remember as Texas. A place where even Brits can sit on the porch and be at home.

  6. Mario Fusaro on 2 May 2019 at 5:56 pm

    Hi Paul,

    Here in the United States, we do not have a class system per our Constitution and Declaration of Independence. We as a people did not buy into the class system because it was the “lower class” of the world that founded our government. Even though today’s Liberal government tries to tell us who we are and what class we belong to (rich, middle or poor), we as a people don’t have to accept that. All that aside, I laugh when I read stories such as yours that depict the “upper class” looking down on the lower. If it weren’t for the lower class of workers and manufacturers, the upper class would have nothing because they may know how to run the business but they can’t make the product! We each have something to give and something to learn in life. The college graduate with the degree in business may be great in New York City, but in the fields of Iowa, he’s a dope! You are only as smart as where you are standing at the time!
    Cheers!

    • David Bentz on 3 May 2019 at 3:43 am

      Right on! Except legal and political documents like the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution don’t create or destroy class systems. Social attitudes do. They can even (eventually) result in sufferage for black people! BTW, only an american could think their government is “liberal”.

  7. Pat Hambly on 2 May 2019 at 8:06 pm

    Isn’t the irony rich that you possess skills that can’t be bought, but only earned the hard way? And that’s why wealthy people are among your students…

    Not bad for a guy from “the projects”, as we say here in the States

    • richard misdom on 6 May 2019 at 4:06 pm

      Bravo Paul. “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as soon as I could.” Arriving in 1976 Dallas, I also found a wealth of opportunity and acceptance. We may have one of the few remaining territories of independent freedoms left to enjoy.

  8. Tom Bittner on 2 May 2019 at 8:27 pm

    A lot of wisdom in this piece, things I have observed during my lifetime.
    I have had similar experiences in my life…..right down to teachers screaming at me. ( beatings weren’t allowed so humiliation was the thing).
    I didn’t know “ work smarter not harder” was from the thirties though. I heard that repeatedly in the mid eighties from a not very likable or respected supervisor.

  9. Tom Angle on 2 May 2019 at 9:08 pm

    I understand what you are saying completely. My family (on my dad’s side) had a name. I did not notice until high school. The school system did not expect much from me. When I signed up for Algebra they told I was not smart enough. When we took the tests that told you what your skill where they said a factory worker at best. I never liked school and to be honest, much rather of worked.

    The area I grew up in was on the outside edge of Appalachia (poor and under paid), so there was not much opportunities ( 65% of the population in the county was Amish/Mennonite). Looking back, I really I could have apprenticed with you then and learned how wonderful working with hand tools is.

    You are right it does effect a person. For me, as I get older, it made me not judge anyone by “who they where”. It was how they lived their life and treated other. A good person is blessing to come across. I know you are a good person Paul. I am glad to have met you and to have taken a class. The people that have treated you wrongly do not know what they have missed in interacting with a good man.

  10. vgw on 2 May 2019 at 9:24 pm

    Bravo -you have a very interesting uplifting view of life in the Americas – there are advantages that we enjoy here but it’s also true that Europe has an advanced infra-structure that provides for efficient, safe public transportation. We have a long way to go as a Nation and Culture to reach the same level.

    Best to you and your family, from California, border of Baja Califonia.

  11. David on 3 May 2019 at 2:46 am

    The baby boomers in the 1970s and 1980s were in their 20s and 30s and didn’t own five houses. I have no idea where this fantasy comes from, but it is simply not true. I, like you, am a baby boomer, and most of us found our way into a better life by hard work, thrift, and sacrifice. I deeply resent the implication that we were handed everything on a silver platter.

    You are a fine woodworker and a superb teacher. Don’t ruin it all by pontificating a philosophy based on myth and cliche. If I were you I’d stick to woodworking.

    • David Bentz on 3 May 2019 at 3:18 am

      Did you miss the meaning of what Paul wrote? He never accused you of being born on third base. He didn’t say no prosperous people work hard and sacrifice. He did say that all prosperous people should be humble about their good fortune no matter how many triples they hit.

      • David on 3 May 2019 at 3:44 am

        Oh? Perhaps you missed this paragraph (It was the first paragraph):

        “The period on into the 1970s and 80s had nothing to do with hard work. Baby boomers were mostly handed life on a plate. There was no shortage of work for those who wanted it, you bought a four-bedroomed house one year for £3,500 and sold it three years late for six times what you paid for it, bought another and it tripled in price over four years. With one house already paid for you borrowed for a second then a third, a fourth and a fifth. So it was when there was a shortage of homes and a wealth following a second world war – the birth of the so-called successful self-made man was little more than just being fortunately placed”

        • David Bentz on 3 May 2019 at 3:54 am

          I can see how “had nothing to do with hard work” could be taken to mean that people didn’t work hard, but I take it to mean that the context of their hard work had more to do with the good fortune of historical circumstances than the hard work itself. Many of us who think the middle class is under threat think that its post WWII prosperity was a historical exception rather than the rule and that no matter how hard we may have worked, we were extremely lucky to benefit from it.

    • David Hickman on 7 May 2019 at 6:38 pm

      Agree, Drafted at 18, Worked hard 50 plus years. 10-12 hours a day 6-7 days a week for a little retirement I paid for, no big union or generous government retirement. Must be that boomer privilege.

      • David Bentz on 9 May 2019 at 6:25 am

        It also doesn’t mean we were all lucky. After all, most people most of history, have had nothing to show for hard work except disability and an early death.

  12. David Bentz on 3 May 2019 at 3:03 am

    Finally, a good word about Texas! Living in the pacific northwest/Alaska region, I don’t hear too much good about that alien Texas country (even though my brother lives there). Were it not for my contempt of parasites, the thought of upper class britishers blind to the skill of an accomplished craftsman would anger me. Reminds me of attitudes more often encountered in the eastern regions of the US. But before getting too smug, don’t forget our american fondness of substituting race, for class, identity: “I may be poor, but at least I’m white!”

  13. David on 3 May 2019 at 3:16 am

    So now the woodworking blog is a political battlefield. Great.

    • Henry on 6 May 2019 at 2:20 pm

      You’re the one bringing politics into it. Get a grip.

    • Peter Baillie on 7 May 2019 at 1:39 am

      Just ready the woodworking articles then, David.

      Instead of complaining… again!

  14. David Bentz on 3 May 2019 at 3:46 am

    Point taken.

  15. Paul on 3 May 2019 at 6:55 am

    Wow I love hearing these musings on living in Texas. I have recently moved back to the UK from a periods living in South Africa and Australia over the last 12 years. There are many things I love about the UK but I suddenly have a yearning to move to Texas!

    I would love to hear the story of what made you move to America, and your initial experiences when you got off the plane!

  16. sla on 3 May 2019 at 8:17 am

    I look at continental Europe and I don’t see this classes, we are more equal here. I followed brexit debates in UK and I was surprised to discover what I’ve read in books actually still exists there, I still can’t understand if it is real or peoples are just joking. The first time I was asked about my color and race is during my first travel to USA, we had fun with friends and family discussing this approach.

    • Paul Sellers on 3 May 2019 at 9:37 am

      Europe of course has its own peculiar issues as mainland Euros may or may not admit, that’s the very essence and nature of culture, which is indeed all about accepting the reality that it is ever changing. Unfortunately we all want others to be like us so that we can all be in the same club or society. Equalising never resolves the core issues of self pity, poor me and so on which has become more pandemic today than ever. We should always remember the famed words that ‘Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what they should eat for lunch.’ . Making everyone the same does not make everyone better, just the same boring same. I am so thankful for skin colour, face shapes, fingerprints, ear lobes and eye retinas. I’m thankful that our minds can be changed by the experience of the life we live in. I came back to the UK as a changed and dare I say a better man from my living in the cultures of the US and my Texan experience.

    • David on 22 May 2019 at 7:36 pm

      I do some woodworking with a fellow here in the states. He’s a retired mechanical engineer now – his dad was a joiner (in the house sense, he did mostly carpentry type work). Of course, what I’m saying is that he was born in England and that’s where his dad worked. His dad’s view was that they were in a class where he needed to pretty much stay hidden, do his work, and avoid trouble.

      He went to college and said that he’d have difficulty getting a job in England and may have to fight much harder just to get any position because of his dad’s status. So, he moved to South Africa out of college and worked for a mining company. In his words, he could’ve stayed in England and struggled to get any engineering job, or he could move to South Africa, get a job easily, a free Mercedes with the job and live well. Things went south there (no pun intended) and he came to the US because of specialty knowledge for a certain mining machine. He got married and managed to stay here.

      He says the same thing as Paul says here, and it’s obvious that it affects him both that he was starting off with a huge handicap, and that his father had no encouragement other than to keep his mouth shut and not rock the boat.

      He often says to me, “You have no idea how lucky you are to live here, to have been born here. No idea!”. And, I think he’s probably right. My ancestors were farmers – I’d have been dead in the water in England.

      I’m surprised how many people here (and now this post is floating around forums) are offended by Paul’s talk when most here seem to have no clue just how accurate it is. His story isn’t the only one that reads the same way.

      I was born on second base, so to speak. My parents were teachers, and they paid for my bachelors degree. Their parents were farmers, and didn’t go to school past 8th grade. Nowhere else in the world with a stable economy would’ve allowed that quick of a transition. I hope to pass it on to my children, and hope they’ll pass it on to theirs, but without any sense of entitlement.

      To the folks who want to read Paul’s post and complain about it, when he’s celebrating the settled life he’s had here without the class ridicule he had to endure as a child – give it a rest. He could’ve stayed in England and lived with the stink eye from more than half of the population and struggled to advance slowly. But he found a better way here, just as my friend did. I couldn’t imagine saying something to my English friend like “oh, you’re just making up class-related BS”. It sounded odd to me that he’d look for a job and anyone would even know what his dad does, but I guess that stuff follows you in a class system.

      • Paul Sellers on 23 May 2019 at 8:12 am

        There’s no doubt that things have changed, but snobbism still thrives. The way you speak, dress. your work type and so on, but it is in many cases a reverse snobbery where one class below another won’t let you in if you speak differently, have a degree, dress out of your peer group and so on. Just my observation. It’s not as pandemic as it was after the war but in my view every teenager should read the Irish writer Robert Tressell’s Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists to fully understand the idiosyncrasies of the British working classes of the past and those above.

  17. Graham on 3 May 2019 at 9:57 am

    Paul I to am a baby boomer (how I hate that term) I too was shouted at by the teachers, but not the woodwork teacher. I left this common secondary school at Christmas 1960 and started my work on the 2nd January 61 as apprentice Joiner, if you live south of say Stafford then you are a Carpenter, I am a Cheshire boy.

    Any way enough of me, you have a lot of good words for Texas! but you live here in England!! seems a contradiction in terms to me. Best wishes with your new house.

  18. Jonathan Arklay on 3 May 2019 at 12:20 pm

    Hi Paul, I love your teaching, your generosity and enjoy your desire to communicate your philosophe. I hope that your experience in work and life can be used to effect change, not just in he UK but globally. In my experience the issues that you so correctly identify are not limited or exclusive to the UK, nor are they the limit of the issues facing the generations to come. As a teacher, guru, and talented craftsman you have a rare opportunity to impact the future. Greta Thunberg needs to be heard, she so succinctly communicates the future class system, those who have an inhabitable planet and those who don’t. I’m not sure Texas or the UK are doing so well in this class system.

  19. Ed Minch on 6 May 2019 at 11:55 am

    As Dilbert said “If I am capable of working smarter, why am I working for you?”

  20. Mandy on 6 May 2019 at 12:07 pm

    Hello Paul. What a very interesting read. I come from a similar (British) background to you and your comments about self deprecation/inadequacy are still resonating. I had not looked at it that way before and think you may have something here. I am so glad that you took advantage of the Texas opportunity and that it let you blossom. Since ‘discovering’ woodwork (largely thanks to you, by the way) I am much more at ease with myself and have found great peace. It feels like a deeply spiritual experience. Thank you for making me think.

  21. Chris Stasny on 6 May 2019 at 2:02 pm

    I too am a Texas native and have lived all over the south. At the age of 16, I was evicted from my home because my father didn’t like the fact that my hair touched the top of my ears. I finished the 11th grade living in a tent in the woods so no one can say I am privileged. That was my last year of school. I DID work hard. For several years I had two full time jobs. When I started my own business, I starved for a few years before I started making a living wage. I do feel that I earned what I have and I have enjoyed a very comfortable retirement since my early 50’s. But I have come to resent our new “upper class” that believe they are special because they have a degree that makes them somehow better. If you want to get ahead in life learn to be a dedicated worker and learn to enjoy what you do and the company of those you work with.

    Thanks for your thoughts in this blog.

  22. Joseph Sullivan on 6 May 2019 at 4:13 pm

    Paul:

    At age 65 I am an independent consultant in Texas. Like you, I was judged ineducable (dyslectic in 1st grade), but my mother wasn’t buying it. I came from the Midwest to Texas in the early 1970s. Even between one part of America to another there was a difference. I have never wanted to leave.

    I know plenty of people, rich and poor. As long as people behave well and are honorable, I have never seen money-based prejudice here, and of course, we do not have a class system. Generally, if you are good at something worthwhile, people will admire that and want to get to know you.

    Some things I like to do, such as wood-working, hunting, fishing and horses tend to throw people of diverse backgrounds together. In my experience, when you have truck drivers, carpenters, business owners and yes, consultants all together to do things, two things happen: 1) everybody finds it very interesting to get a peek into other’s very different lives; and 2) status tends to shake in in terms of skills at the particular thing being done.

    Of course, most people in America know very well that while they may be well off and perhaps their parents and grandparents, the farm or factory or blacksmith shop is not too far in the background.

    When you came to Texas you found the right place.

  23. Paul on 6 May 2019 at 6:21 pm

    I agree with David. Stick to woodworking Paul. I was born in 1948. Your idea of the real estate market if fancy .

    • Paul Sellers on 6 May 2019 at 6:59 pm

      I will not comply. If I did I would be a clone of you and just like you and “David”. I should just hate that. I really love being the me that I have developed to be. I don’t ask you or him to be like me. I leave you alone – happily! You may be older than me, but were you born in the same country, in the same town and did you buy your first house for £3,500 and sell it for six times the price as i did? Just asking because I wonder about how your perspective of relevant age enters the discussion?

      • Matt S on 8 May 2019 at 7:02 pm

        I like to read your stories. Even the ones that are not 100% about woodworking.

        It appears to me that our society has been fractured into countless disparate groups that are too easily offended. They become outraged by the words, thoughts and actions of others who do not share their views. Almost anything that you can say or do will offend someone. It’s one of the reasons that we have so many problems getting along in this world. Heaven forbid if one expresses a personal values statement, or makes a generalization….
        If people have a reasonable amount of intelligence, confidence and self worth, they should be able to digest comments or opinions that they do not agree with without instantly resorting to complaints, anger and other negative reactions.

        In other words: lighten up a bit! Have a sense of humor, and if you feel the need for conflict, pit your anger against the really bad things. There’s no shortage of them out there.

  24. Terrence OBrien on 6 May 2019 at 11:09 pm

    I loved it because it set me free from assumptions. I fit.

    Fit? Hell they looked up to you.

  25. Terrence OBrien on 6 May 2019 at 11:26 pm

    I deeply resent the implication that we were handed everything on a silver platter.

    I don’t, and I’m a Boomer. I was handed one opportunity after another. All over the place. Want a silver platter in Texas today? Throw a backpack in the back of the car and head for the Permian Basin. Don’t live in Texas? OK. Drive a bit further to get there. Alternatively, stay home and find something to deeply resent.

  26. Reagan Herman on 7 May 2019 at 12:06 am

    Texas is my home and always will be. I’m blessed to live, work and raise my family here.
    I have poor friends and rich friends. And friends of every color.

  27. RODNEY MAGEE on 7 May 2019 at 1:00 pm

    as one who lives in the NorthEast I can say there is a class system, subtle but there. The good thing, it can be crossed. There is opportunity here and people move in and out of wealth toward middle class or poverty and people move the other way. Even here people of skill are highly regarded as are those who are good in business or medicine , chemistry, physics, music and so on. the only thing stopping you from moving around within the system is you yourself. I was a delivery person, welding supplies, and do to hard work and honesty was highly regarded, even by company owners. We are who we are, we can change but the one thing only we can do is accept one another.

    • Paul Sellers on 7 May 2019 at 3:57 pm

      The only downside I really saw perhaps more of in the USA than elsewhere was the measuring of success by how much money you earned or had and how evident it was when people described someone they knew. I have seen how people measure success by worth, job type, degree type and such. In my case it was when I made furniture for this or that person or organisation. The finest pieces I ever made were a walking cane for woman with MS, a cello with my son, two cabinets for the White House are in the top ten and one of my rocking chairs. The most rewarding was the cello.

  28. Sidney on 7 May 2019 at 2:27 pm

    God bless Texas. I am happy you were able to share in and enjoy the hospitality of the greatest state in the nation. Please come back again soon.

  29. Christopher J. Thomas on 7 May 2019 at 7:26 pm

    I’m from California, a “Boomer”.
    I would not go back for I’ve found a home in Wisconsin. I think the Midwest is so overlooked and under rated as “fly over country”.
    Milwaukee is a big-little city, just right; of course with the problems of many cities.
    I’m free to do my woodworking in an historic 1885 tannery building.
    My operating cost is more than reasonable, and I’ve other woodworking friends right here. Always engaged with enjoyable work, furniture repairs, patternmaking and other specialty woodwork.
    Our winters are long but I’ll take it over the heat of Texas. I miss the west and have considered Albuquerque, warm and sunny, high and not beastly hot!
    Great South West cuisine too…
    Paul, your observations are “Bang on”…Christopher
    P.S……Love shaves!

  30. Don Hummer on 8 May 2019 at 3:26 am

    One sentence rang so true to me! Your metal working teacher saw something in you!!! My father died of cancer when I was seven, my mother left and became a lesbian when I was eight. I remember in high school I was smart enough to test in with the smarter kids, but socially I did not fit in. I hated school except for shop classes. However, my wood shop teacher asked me not to sign up for wood working II. He said I didn’t build challenging things, truth was we didn’t have the money for a shop card to buy the wood to make larger projects.
    But enter my metal shop teacher! He took me under his wing and nurtured my abilities. I sought the validation from men not having a father. I went to college for two years all the while of dreaming of my summer carpentry job!
    42 years later I still beat nails, drive screws, and design and I love it!!!
    I am thankful to Mr. Strectch for instilling confidence in me. I have learned one thing in life as an overseer of workers. Workers will gravitate to the level that you esteem them. I have had a few ex addicts work for me and they have done well, Why, because I show that I have confidence in them, and I praise them for their efforts. Attitude and effort in the long run will outdistance talent and ability.
    P. S. I would love to meet that old wood shop teacher in my house someday and show him the level of tradesman I have become. The stone which some builders reject can eventually become a cornerstone.

  31. Paul Mayer on 8 May 2019 at 5:48 pm

    Paul, there are, unfortunately, locales in the U.S. that very much do exhibit class consciousness. I was raised in such an area.
    There are, fortunately, large swaths of the country that have no use for such silliness. Apparently, for you, Texas was one such place. Another such place is Iowa. There is a sense of welcoming acceptance that is best described as being neighborly…and where I am, neighbors often live half a mile away — or more. If you are ever in the neighborhood, or even the state, let me know: I’d be glad to show you some Iowa hospitality.

  32. Mark on 10 May 2019 at 3:26 pm

    It seems to me that the more affluent the culture, the more arrogant the people. I don’t limit that to a country as a whole, although it could be, but it could apply to a specific state or even city. Even in the USA where acceptance of people as they are and not their status is common, it seems to be fairly consistent that the more rural area the more people are taken at face value. The idea of “classes” heards back to the days of Kings, Queens, and Knights and is totally out of touch with an open and progressive society. I am sure England has a lot going for it but I wouldn’t put up with a class based society after experiencing the freedom here in the USA. It is not perfect, but I think it is the best place to live as with my values.

  33. Allen on 13 May 2019 at 6:06 am

    It’s a topic that makes it’s way into my mind often. I appreciate your perspective, and I also understand that generalizations must be made sometimes to make a point, especially in a medium like a blog (short reads).

    I’m 37, and I’m from what would be described as a “conservative” or working class part of the U.S. About 8 years ago, through a bit of hard work, timely judgement calls, and lady luck smiling upon me (or was she ensnaring me!) I came into an opportunity that moved me to a very “progressive” and wealthy part of the country. After living out here for a while and juxtaposing it with my home town, I became more perplexed than ever. I found myself getting annoyed at what I thought were “rich people problems”, and then I would eventually get annoyed when I thought about people back home complaining about “poor people problems.” I now believe the problems across socioeconomic lines are real having experienced them both. They are people problems, and no excess or shortage of material comfort is going to solve all your problems. I believe no matter how privileged, lucky, or unlucky you think you are, there is the straight and narrow to pursue. That straight and narrow seems to be universal to all of us if you ask me. In my experience, that straight and narrow is quite paradoxical and indeed is what brings joy. For instance, I believe we should “be ourselves” and at the same time we should not think we can define ourselves. In other words, there seems to be an odd marriage between what we feel in our bones and how we are perceived by our community through our actions. If we let one side get too dominant, things get out of whack. I’m going on a tangent here, but these are just some of my thoughts.

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