Probably the furthest idea in your head is that your child would quit school at the age of maturity, 16. I imagine it was also far from my grandparents’ minds, too, so I can almost imagine how they felt about Lloyd’s decision to quit school at the then permitted age of only 14. Of course a youngster of that age could not possibly project the consequences of such a choice; he would probably have to live them to understand the lifetime weight of such a decision. So Uncle Lloyd faltered and jumped blindly into the abyss!
My grandfather, Henry Hummel, was a proud man, the son of German immigrants. When he heard Lloyd’s decision, he asked Lloyd if he would like to be his driver. It seemed to Henry a perfect solution for both since having a driver would contribute to Henry’s need for importance and it would be a job Lloyd and probably every other 14-year-old boy of his time would love. But it was not an idea that my grandmother liked at all. However, by the time Uncle Lloyd told her what he did the deed was completed and he was well on his way to becoming a chauffeur for his father! My grandmother sighed, relinquished her position, and ultimately accepted Lloyd’s fate for at least the time being.
And so for several months life went on for Lloyd and his father. Uncle Lloyd was happy driving Henry around town and was eager to be of service to his father at any moment. But one day something happened that changed all that. Henry got very ill and, within a matter of a few weeks, died. Not only was this a family tragedy, Henry leaving his wife alone to care for their young family of five children ages 14, 12, 9, 7, and 4, but it was a personal crisis for Lloyd who now had no means of employment. Life was transformed immediately for all of them. Minnie, Uncle Lloyd’s mother, took on Henry’s job as superintendent of the Lancaster, Ohio Old Folks Home. But with so many small children to raise she was unable to properly assume that job which had included a residence for the Hummel family as well. Now she was out a job and out a place for her and the children to live. Fortunately, Henry’s older sister, Rosie, was sympathetic to Minnie’s situation and she was also financially able to help Minnie. Rosie provided Minnie and the children with a duplex in which to live which would also produce an income from the rental of the other half of the building. Minnie and the children left Lancaster and moved to Columbus, Ohio. Before leaving, Minnie sold Henry’s car.
Uncle Lloyd arrived in the city thinking he could find work easily. But because he was not skilled or educated, there were few jobs for which he could qualify. He spent several days looking for work without finding anything. Finally, he got a job at the corner grocery store bagging groceries and then delivering them to the customers’ homes. Now Uncle Lloyd was a healthy and strong young man, but he was worn out every day after work from walking as he delivered groceries to so many houses. He longed for the times he was in his father’s car, driving him all over Lancaster, feeling like an important person.
I would like to be able to tell you that by looking ahead at Uncle Lloyd’s life one could see a successful grown man. But alas, I cannot. This one decision to quit school could never be undone and its effects plagued Uncle Lloyd throughout his adult lifetime. Now I am sure that there are people who have made poor decisions as youngsters who managed to recover from them and to create successful lives nonetheless, but this was not the case for Uncle Lloyd; he was never able to turn his life around. The only redeeming part of this story is that if one listens and thinks about Uncle Lloyd, it is possible to learn from his mistakes without suffering the way he did! It’s called learning by proxy and it’s available to all of us, including our children!
Director/Elementary 1 Teacher