When I was a kid, I once pulled down from a shelf in the den a curious book about a large and sprawling family in the suburbs of New Jersey. "Cheaper by the Dozen" was a funny look at life in a shockingly large tribe, the Gilbreth family, of Montclair, New Jersey. I remember being tickled by it, and fascinated. There were only two kids in my family – which was shocking for Catholics in the 1960s, when some of my classmates at St. Peter's School in Olney, Maryland had six or seven siblings. What was it like to grow up with such a large mob? I could only imagine. "Cheaper by the Dozen" helped crack open a window on a wider, weirder world. It became a popular movie with Clifton Webb in the 1950s, and an even more popular one with Steve Martin 50 years later (though the latter bore little resemblance to the original book.)
Well, the reason I'm rambling on about all this is that today came news that one of the authors of that book – one of the legendary dozen – has died. Ernestine Gilbreth Carey passed away this weekend in California at the ripe old age of 98.
If you have a chance, pick up the book she wrote all those years ago about life in that enormous family. It's an interesting snapshot from a gentler time, when attitudes about family and child-rearing were far different than they are today.
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