My father often admonished me for not making straight A’s in school. Don’t get me wrong; I was a pretty good student. Some subjects just didn’t get me excited. I was always more interested in English, history, and geography than I was in mathematics and the sciences. My father was a math genius, I always thought. He was an industrial engineer, and he had the ability to add long columns of figures in his head. It was unnerving to me. Whenever he needed a tool to assist his calculations, he relied on his pocket slide rule. In his office, though, a massive comptometer sat on the corner of his desk, complete with the largest moving carriage I’ve ever seen on any business machine. He eschewed electronic calculators that were just coming into their own by the time he died in 1980. My father swore that the comptometer was faster than a calculator, and his assessment is still correct.
It was not until after his death that I began my research into many details of his life. One path I followed was that of his education. After all, he used his elementary school records as a proof of age when he applied for Social Security benefits. My experiences led me to discover the range of information that can be found in school records.
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