Looking at the old drafting table got me thinking of my Dad again.

I found this table among the piles of stuff in our family home basement in Baltimore. Since leaving for college, I had asked Dad for it, and have taken it everywhere I have gone. I drove it across the US in my 1973 Ford Maverick- you can actually see it poking out of the back seat of the car in this photo along with my dog Dominoe:

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

A few years ago, I refinished the drafting table (ironically, or amazingly, this photo was used as part of a photoshop tutorial)

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

What I knew of this table was that my Dad used it when he took a correspondence course to get a certification in construction cost analysis, a job he did many years for a private contractor in Baltimore and then for a long time with the US Government- Housing and Urban Development. I recall that he had attended University of Maryland for 3 years, but struggled in college (with sufficient pressure from his parents), and ended up leaving college to work a

Dad laying brick for patio at our old house, ~1960?

while as a brick layer, and then a short stint trying to run a gas station.

I was wondering about this period in his life, and realizing that he had actually done distance learning in the 1950s. So I decided to call my Mom to ask her for some details. I recorded our conversation (not the best quality, I had my iPhone on speaker).

Dad shows me how to barbecue

She was fuzzy on the details too, when it happened, but she promises to check through her file of 50 years of tax returns to sort out what kind of work he was doing at the time. But the bottom line is that my Dad was working a full time job, supporting a wife and 3 kids, and decided at the same time to take on going to school, and did so in his night hours.

So here’s to you Dad, doing distance learning in the 1950s!

UPDATE: Mom just called after researching her tax records. Dad was working as a bricklayer from 1950 (when they were married) to 1953 (FWIW, in 1951, his annual salary was $4000!), and then operated a gas station from 1953-1956. She thinks he did his correspondence coursework in this window, likely 1950-1953. By 1956, he was working for Baltimore Contractors as a cost analyst, so he would have gotten his certificate prior.

Featured Image:

Dad's Table
Dad’s Table flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Alan,

    This post is lovely. The texture of the post and the story itself are both captivating and heartwarming. Thank you for sharing your family story.


  2. There is little new under the sun.

    Awesome story. Awesome sentiment. Binds us together with our humanity even in the wild face of toaster ovens, the internet, and muscle cars.

    Inspired in California? Great stuff man.

  3. Skillful blend of personal history, professional relevance, and mass appeal. Entertaining and inspiring…
    Also: mom should have known this would end up on the internet (and I kinda’ think she did).

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