About Ed Frye and the New Edition of Fools and Children
My wife of forty-five years, Doris, also known as “The Duck”, and I reside in Mechanicsburg, PA. Our two grown daughters and three grandchildren live nearby. We are a tightly-knit family. Some of the reason for that has to do with luck and the personalities involved. Some of it is due to family travails that almost cost one of our daughters her life and/or limb. Once a family endures, and triumphs over a child with cancer, the outlook the members take differs from many average homes.
A pre-boomer by one or two years, I started life in State College, PA, but spent most of my childhood in Millheim, the setting for Fools and Children.
As the book makes clear, I have always sought out adventure and the slightly dangerous. I like things that go fast. As a young adult I learned to fly airplanes and have visited airports across the eastern seaboard. While I have abandoned that hobby, I flirted with race cars for a while, So, of course, I am a NASCAR fan. And, an NFL fan: Go Steelers! Presently, I run a jet-ski and a large houseboat at a lake where we own a summer home.
My passion, however, is racquetball, a sport I have played (and have the scars to prove it) since 1970. “Passion” is used here to mean more than four times a week – far too often for my old joints, ligaments and tendons. In any event, there is no golf or tourism for me; just too slow.
As with Herb Bierly – and most Boomers, I suppose – I have mellowed over the years. My approach to, and acceptance of, life’s challenges are more circumspect. I no longer expect everyone to see or value what has always been to me an appropriate response to both large and small issues. I find myself, in these later years, attempting more and more to utilize my mother’s down-home wisdom and my father’s strong personal resolution to problem-solving. I am a work in progress.
I am a semi-retired national educational consultant and writer with 32 years of experience in public school districts and a regional service agency. Since beginning my full-time consulting and speaking business in 1999, I have provided professional services to well over 75,000 attendees. Prior to this work I was the executive director of The Capital Area Intermediate Unit, Summerdale, PA, following stints as a teacher, wrestling coach, and school district administrative positions at virtually all levels of public education. I have served as a member or officer on several state and national boards and associations. I currently teach, on a part-time basis, educational administration in the graduate school of Penn State-Harrisburg.
My specialties have become leadership develop programs, the leadership of educational change initiatives, how educational service agencies can thrive in a market-driven world, how to build client delight through a focus on high quality service, and effective sales techniques and styles to get clients to “Yes.”
In addition to Fools and Children I have authored more than a dozen published articles and three trade books, and have contributed material to several books and agency-related documents. I serve on the editorial board of a national journal,
My work quickly expanded to private enterprise. Requests from business leaders resulted in presentations to sales and service providers in various enterprises, most often regarding leadership and client satisfaction activities.
In the late 1970s, in partnership with a former Penn State professor, we formed Learning and Evaluation Associates, providing consulting and program evaluation services to schools across the nation. That business ended with my colleague’s retirement.
In the 1990s I co-founded, with a locally-prominent businessman, a new, private enterprise -- StreetSmart. Together, we trained new and experienced salespeople in the elements of effective, client-focused sales styles. No longer associated with that company, I retain the rights for the material and approaches used in that training.
I hold degrees from Lock Haven University and Temple University, with a doctorate from The Pennsylvania State University.
About Fools and Children
Fools and Children is a book of tales about myself, Herb Bierly and other young boys who experience life in the last era of innocence – the 1950s. Reporting on only a six-year span, It is chock-full of adventure and danger, ignorance, and insight of youngsters who ran freely in a small town, with little adult supervision.
In the 50s children in towns like ours, all across America, enjoyed freedoms that are now lost to most kids today. We could leave home in the morning and not return until dinner. We could roam all through the small town and the hills and valleys around the burg. We could play in the streams; we could organize our own ball games; we could learn life's lessons without adults guarding our every move. We could get ourselves hopelessly immersed in misfortune and then find a way to untangle ourselves. I hope the book captures that.
Herb and I are 1950 renditions of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Our escapades offer a realistic and unblinking view of the times where there are no real heroes or villains. We, and all the fine folk of Millheim, are what we are.
I think – I hope – that Baby Boomers seeking nostalgic reviews of their own childhoods years will find Fools and Children to be insightful, personally engaging, and similar to some of their own lives.
We were lucky to be alive during these years. Life was simpler. Children didn't require chaperones everywhere they went, and people shared a
sense of community. I believe our generation was raised during the zenith of this more laid back time. All these things were magnified in small towns such as Millheim. And I trust Boomers will enjoy that look backward.
The title comes courtesy of my mother. Her country sayings, saws, and axioms were the sources of wisdom in the hills of central Pennsylvania in the early part of the century. She imparted this wisdom and these old sayings to my sister and me all the time, hoping we would recognize and live by the truths so evident in them.
One of her favorites was "God takes care of fools and children." I have come to believe that is true. When one looks back on our adventures, one must believe that only divine intervention allowed Bierly and me to survive.
The book is a “constructed autobiography,” That is, it is as factual and real as I could make it. Yet I do not call it a memoir – a genre requiring total veracity. As I wrote in The Author’s Note, there is just enough vermouth in this vodka that I must call it a martini. Just a splash. So, it is all true, except for just a little bit.
The largest single fiction involves the names of the characters; virtually all have been changed. I kept only those folks to whom we have ascribed such obvious identification as to make a change appear silly to long-time residents of the town. I certainly did not change Herb Bierly’s name, and he agrees to that.
I have also melded two or more characters into one, or deleted someone on certain occasions. I allowed myself this prerogative to tie things together or retain a crispness, seamlessness, or clarity to a venture. Some, but very slight, fictionalization was necessary for this. The line between veracity and story-telling can be a thin and gray one Yet, these
stories are real, and most people in them are real. The reader may accept the actuality of the events themselves.
Fools and Children, whatever it is, relates childhood experiences that kept rattling about in my head for years, told often to friends and colleagues. Across those tellings and years I realized that many of the experiences I have enjoyed were not as common among my contemporaries as I had assumed. Certainly the book has released in readers some commonalities of memories, but, it seems, I have lived a life that has been much closer “the edge” than most.
This 2011 edition of Fools and Children (green field, not red) is an updated version of the earlier (2001) edition. When my publishers suggested we re-release the book, I agreed with the proviso that I could make several changes. Here they are:
1. All those name changes, made mostly to protect the innocent.
2. The addition of new tales. Once one writes such a book, folks start talking about it – and they ask questions. The most prevalent one was, “Why didn’t you write about the time…” Well, I had forgotten about that. The 2011 edition solves that. There are several new stories. I like them all.
3. I got over the notion that veracity was more important than reader enjoyment.. I came to realize that these stories and characters were so compelling that real names and very small fictions of dialog and order didn’t matter. I also decided that the difference between fiction and non-fiction is only a theoretical construct, allowing for convenient classification. But the choice it presents writers is almost untenable, as several memoir writers have found, to their chagrin.
4. I learned so much from the first edition. I have written a lot of stuff. I have three trade books (education) in print and about fifteen articles in professional journals. I have contributed to other people’s work, and I have prepared hundreds of documents for public use. I thought I was a pretty good writer. It turns out that I am now underwhelmed with my first effort. I realized that I could tell more robust stories. I needed more clarifying dialog, and I knew it. I needed to editorialize less, and I knew it. I could be better, and I knew it. So, we end up with this effort.