My Grandmother, (Mrs. Harry R.) Erma Pricilla (Carpenter) Kiner was an amazing woman. She fed and clothed five children through the darkest days of the Great Depression on the $11.00 a week my grandfather, Harry Kiner, earned as a fireman on the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Admirable, of course. But one of the things I most admired about her was her mastery of arithmetic. She could do mental calculations much faster than I can do them with the most sophisticated calculator today.

While most farm kids of Grandma’s rural Pennsylvania elementary school years never got past the eighth grade, check out just one test given students of that era:

The next time you hear of someone in those days who only got an eighth grade education, don’t feel sorry for them. You can be sure they had acquired more scholastic skills in elementary school than a lot of today’s students have after four years of college.

Nineteenth century arithmetic was a tough test. History was hard, too, although there was a lot less history way back then than there is now. Not to take anything away from Grandma for that.

The “Good Old Days” were tougher than we think.

It was kind of comical to watch Grandma doing the numbers in her head. She would close her eyes and flutter her eyelashes, bob her head around, mutter the calculations process as she went along, and then rattle off the answer. All this at warp speed.

As I said, she was an amazing woman.

She made a great rhubarb pie, too.


Books by Steve Liddick:

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”


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