Thursday, June 13, 2013

Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

Happy Father’s Day (Dads’ Week)

Happy Father’s Day to all you great dads out there!  To my father I say, ¡Feliz Día del Padre! Thanks for teaching me the thrill of travel, the love of mariachi music, and fish tacos.

Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth, Jr and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey is a memoir about an eccentric but loving father in the early 1900s.  Unlike the 2003 movie starring Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt, the father is not a football coach, but an efficiency expert.  His official title was “industrial engineer “ in the field of motion study and scientific management.  His job was to examine factories and devise ways to increase production, to make things run smoother and faster.  But it wasn't just a career; he did the same thing at home.  His home ran like a well-oiled machine.  Each child in the large brood of a dozen kids was held to a high standard. From brushing teeth at night to homework and chores, there was a system in place. He taught his kids to multiply large numbers in their heads. He quizzed them in spelling and geography, math, and languages.  He loved his kids and made learning fun, or at least memorable. The kids were assigned to “family purchasing” committees or “utilities committees” who could impose fines on water and electricity wasters in the family.  The kids were allowed to bid on jobs offered at home to earn extra income.  The lowest bids usually won.  Rewards were as frequent as reprimands. He was constantly blowing his whistle and the kids were expected to quickly assemble in a line.  They never knew what the family meetings would bring.  Many times it was to implement new systems, but other times he would surprise them with gifts.  When he thought they should learn a second language, he bought two victrolas, one for the girls’ bathroom and one for the boys’ bathroom.  In the mornings when they were getting ready, the victrolas recited French and German lessons.  He rewarded kids who were efficient enough in school to skip a grade.  If they were promoted to the next grade, the typical reward was a new bicycle. I loved this book. It was fun to read about this unusually close knit family and the dad who held them all together. I chuckled all the way through it and could read this book over and over again. If you're looking for an amusing read, you may want to consider this one.

“Well, they come cheaper by the dozen, you know.” (When someone asked why he had so many kids)
Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, Cheaper by the Dozen (1948; reprint, Boston, Massachusetts, G. K. Hall & Co., 1984), 28.

“Usually he stuck to such phrases as “by jingo” and “holy Moses.” (Frank Gilbreth)
Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, Cheaper by the Dozen (1948; reprint, Boston, Massachusetts, G. K. Hall & Co., 1984), 17.

“Grandma’s bosom offered ample hiding space not only for the camphor, but for her eyeglasses, her handkerchief, and, if need be, for the bed spread she was crocheting.” 
Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, Cheaper by the Dozen (1948; reprint, Boston, Massachusetts, G. K. Hall & Co., 1984), 129.

Click for more books reviewed with loving fathers:  Silas Marner by George Eliot, Tea and Green Ribbons by Evelyn Doyle, Life with Father by Clarence Day.

As a side note, the mother, Lillian Moller Gilbreth was an extremely accomplished woman in her own right. She was one of the first female engineers holding a Ph.D. An inventor, author, industrial engineer and psychologist, she wasn't your ordinary housewife. While raising a dozen kids and handling an eccentric husband, she found time to patent a few useful kitchen items like the electric mixer, refrigerator shelves in the doors, and a trash can with a foot pedal. As if that wasn't enough, she also became the first woman elected to the National Academy of Engineering.
Belles on Their Toes is the follow up book to Cheaper by the Dozen where Frank and Ernestine continue writing about their family, focusing on their mother after their father passed away.    

Happy Reading,

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