I flunked Latin (and they made me take woodworking)

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Blog entry by GuildWoodworker posted 10-31-2011 05:59 PM 4844 reads 1 time favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

When I was a sophomore in high school, I had a pretty serious challenge with Latin. Although our teacher said I had ‘Caesar’s diction’ I couldn’t quite get through the verbs (and I wondered WHY does anybody torture himself thusly?). At the end of the first semester, I wasn’t doing well enough to progress on so they moved me into a woodworking class.

And I became a dedicated woodworker. Long story short, I managed to work my way through the classes in woodworking and wound up spending every afternoon of my senior year ‘assisting’ Mr. Tennant (the shop teacher) as one of his trusted seniors.

I did go on to college, majoring in journalism with an English minor. How I wound up working at the Pentagon is another story in itself. Throughout my career there was always a deep desire to get back into woodworking. And, 9/11 (they missed me by 150 feet) was enough to make my wife ‘decide’ for me that we would be better off hiding in the woods…in a woodshop.

On an almost whim, I thought I might like to try to jury for the Southern Highland Craft Guild. (My wife and I are both members…she does the money and some of the finishing). We were invited to join on our first try (almost unheard of), and now have an extended Guild Family stretching over the entire Southern Appalachian region.

At our first show in Asheville, NC, I met James McPhail. (I had studied this guy years ago when I learned how to turn…he’s in the text books). It was kind of like a guitar player meeting Eric Clapton. Better yet, the mentor loved my work!

As many know, woodworking is not necessarily the ticket to financial reward—so a ‘real’ job was necessary. And now, that will take me to Southern California before winter’s end.

I’m wondering if there’s a golden state guild or something like that found in Asheville?

-- Art is long, life short ...

7 comments so far

View poopiekat's profile


4188 posts in 3153 days

#1 posted 10-31-2011 06:50 PM

Having had 4 years of Latin in school, the only highlight worth mentioning was in Latin II when translating “Caesar’s Commentary on the Gallic Wars”....the Latin word for the sheath of a soldier’s sword… priceless. Back in the 60’s it was drilled into me to achieve academically lest I end up being on of those ‘idiot losers’ in Practical arts: metalworking, auto shop, and woodworking. So, I bid adieu to my friends who were on the vocational track, and begrudgingly followed the Post-Secondary curricula. I hated it! After high school, I latched onto industrial jobs, mostly production woodworking jobs, eventually locking into a apprenticeship program with an architectural interiors shop in Tarboro, NC. and thereafter with a bunch of benchman positions here and there. I finally did commence going for my degree at age 27. Ah, misspent youth! I was well aware of the abundant opportunities in the western part of the state, and wanted badly to migrate there, but it was so hard to escape the gravitational pull of Edgecombe county, heh.
Best of luck finding a guild in SoCal! I’m sure you’ll find several. Good Luck!

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View ellen35's profile


2719 posts in 2851 days

#2 posted 10-31-2011 09:14 PM

If I thought it was that easy to get into woodworking class… I’d have flunked Latin too!!
Only kidding… we didn’t have woodworking class at my all girl’s high school back in the “dark ages”.
However, I am a fan of Latin as the root of most words… if you know Latin, you can figure out the meaning of most words.

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

View GuildWoodworker's profile


12 posts in 1818 days

#3 posted 10-31-2011 10:22 PM

The funny thing is, I did get a degree in journalism (news-editorial) with an English minor. As I’ve grown older, I’ve found of course I understand the language…and its roots in Latin. I think I’ve probably retained more from one semester than most who’ve gone through several years (and then never actually ‘used’ it as part of their day-to-day ‘life tools.’) And yes, we can even find it in woodworking…

-- Art is long, life short ...

View a1Jim's profile


115171 posts in 2996 days

#4 posted 10-31-2011 10:46 PM

Interesting story and career changes. Good luck In California. It has great weather but I didn’t care for the rat race in southern California.

-- Custom furniture

View peteg's profile


3806 posts in 2242 days

#5 posted 11-01-2011 11:31 PM

It’s interesting, even way down here in the Sth Pacific I too was herded into learning Latin for 3 years back in the mid to late 50’s when all I realy wanted to do was the woodwork stream like my mates,
My Father, a Scottish coal miner, Struggled with my learning this strange “lingo” & would have been more comfortable had I learnt the writings of one Rb’t Burns, my Dad could recite Burns for hours, said it was all he was taught as a kid, Burns & the Bible. alas I was deemed to be “of promise academically” so it was Latin, others about me have been the judge of that as time has gone by.
Pleased to hear you managed thru 9/11 and have chosen to “kick back” & enjoy your passion with timber.

-- Pete G: If you always do what you always did you'll always get what you always got

View Richard Dunlap's profile

Richard Dunlap

65 posts in 2284 days

#6 posted 11-02-2011 12:08 PM

My father once told me that Latin was a required subject when he was in school . When got his text book, he saw an inscription written inside the cover. It said: Latin is a dead language, dead as it can be. First it killed the Romans and now it is killing me!

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 3718 days

#7 posted 11-02-2011 01:42 PM

When I started reading this thread, I thought you were the one that wrote home, & asked his Dad for $100. He needed it for tuition for his Latin class. He received a check for $200, with a note saying, “Here’s some extra, so you can also take up Plastering. <(:O}$

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

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