November 20, 2000
This story comes to us from Crystal Beach, Ontario. The author, John Putman, is 64 years old. He is a student rep for Ontario, and he attends conferences, student workshops and does talks on public speaking. John is extremely active in advocating for literacy. He puts all of his energy into everything and wants to help others.
My name is John Putman and my age is 62. I came into the Adult Literacy Council at the age of 59. I was born in Fort Erie, Ont. I went to Ridgeway Public School. In school I had trouble reading and writing. The teacher put me in the back of the room for two years then, put me in a new room. When I was 14 years old, I was told to go to work because they could not teach me. So, I went to work in Crystal Beach Park. Then I went sailing on the Great Lakes for seven years. No one knew that I couldn't read or write.
I began to drink a lot of beer. It made me feel like all the people that I associated with. I got married and went to live in Buffalo, N.Y. I worked as a tow truck driver on the New York State Thruway. I also worked in a tire repair shop. No one knew that I couldn't read or write. I lived in Buffalo for 13 years. Then I came back to Crystal Beach, Ont. to live and work.
I worked at many jobs and conned my way through. I was a part time ambulance driver and attendant for 10 years. I also worked at Uni Rig for 13 years as an hydraulic man. When it closed, I got a job as a Security Guard. No one knew that I didn't know how to read or write.
During this time, I was in a 12 step group and I wanted to do things in the group but I couldn't read or write. So, I looked for someone to teach me to read and write. I went to the Library and they told me to go to the Adult Literacy Council in Fort Erie. The Council called me to meet a tutor, Marie, at the Library. We got along well. She began to tutor me. One year later I became General Service Rep in my 12 step group. Also, I became the student representative for the Adult Literacy Council of Fort Erie.
One night when I was going to a meeting for the Adult Literacy Council, I stopped for coffee and ran into my old partner from the ambulance service. When I told him where I was going, he asked why. I said, "I am learning to read and write." He said, "I worked side by side with you for 10 years and didn't know you couldn't read or write!"
My security job became full time and I became a supervisor. Also, I started to go to a student group in St. Catharines for the Literacy Link Niagara. The group wanted me to run for Student Rep for Laubach Literacy Ontario (LLO). I did and I got on the Board of LLO. I am looking forward to serving on the Board. When I was in Brantford at the Annual General Meeting of LLO I was put into office as the Student Rep. I was introduced to Dr. Robert Laubach of Laubach Literacy International. We had our pictures taken for several newsletters.
As of January 1, 1999 my job becomes a management position. I am looking forward to my new position at work.
My biggest regret is not learning to read and write when I was younger. I wonder what I could have become? But, I am very happy with my life NOW!
I hope I can help someone else.