Friday, September 29, 2017

Counterfeit Money and the Cost of No Deodorant

"It is awfully hard to teach children when they only understand
about a third of what you are saying to them,"
my father wrote in a letter from Lansdowne House in early 1961.

"I nearly drove myself up the wall today trying to teach one of my beginners
to recognize the largest of a series of numbers and to mark it.
I just couldn’t get it across to her what I meant by big and small..."

Typing a Letter Home 
Donald MacBeath, Lansdowne House
Northern Ontario, Canada, 1961
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue

As a teacher in a one-room Indian day school,
my father frequently faced challenges like this.
He was referring to a kindergartner and math in this instance,
but the complexities of concepts and of  academic English
increased at every grade level and occurred in all subjects.
Consequently he dealt with such difficulties frequently.

My father never considered these stumbling blocks
a question of the intelligence or capability of his Ojibwa students.
He placed the solution squarely on the shoulders of the teacher:
"The success or failure of the teacher's efforts depends upon his ability or inability
to adapt the textbooks and curriculum to the pupils and the situation." 

I vividly remember my father handling the challenges
of teaching his students to identify money
and to understand transactions
like paying for an item and counting change.

These concepts were part of the math curriculum
for each of his six grades in April, 1961:
from me, the only student in grade five,
to my sister Barbie, the youngest kindergartner,
to all the Ojibwa students and two of my siblings in between.

Canadian Change
Flickr ~ Roadsidepictures   License

How do you teach young students the concept of money
when they understand only the rudiments of your language
and have little or no experience with money?

My brother and I could certainly identify Canadian coins and bills,
and we had already had small jobs and had done things
like pay to go a movie or buy ice cream at a store.

The Ojibwa students knew only the Hudson's Bay Company post
and a couple of tiny indigenous stores,
one on the island and one on the mainland.
The Bay's system of trading debt for furs their fathers trapped in the bush
was unlike anything depicted in their textbooks. 

While my sisters Donnie and Barbie might not grasp
adding amounts over a dollar or making change,
they had watched my father counting money many times.

Many evenings he would empty his wallet, change purse, and pockets
and lay out his money on the kitchen table.
Then he would sort the coins into meticulously-formed dollar stacks,
tunelessly whistling as he did so.

We kids used to joke among ourselves as we watched this daily routine,
"The king is in his counting house counting all his money."

Unlike us, a number of the younger Ojibwa students
had likely never touched money,
nor seen it sorted out into stacks of coins and bills.

When my father tackled money and its use with his students,
he quickly realized that textbooks, paper, and blackboards were not working,
especially for his kindergarteners and younger students.
He also recognized that everyone needed more practice handling money
and a greater understanding of how money worked in Canadian society.

So one memorable afternoon, my father scrapped the regular curriculum
and announced, "This afternoon we're going to be counterfeiters!"

Familiar Bills from My Childhood

After explaining what he wanted us to do,
and the fact that we were not going to be real counterfeiters,
my father had us push back all the desks and chairs,
cover patches of the floor with old newspapers,
and get out paper, pencils, scissors, and paint.

At first it was quiet and calm,
as students began drawing coins and bills,
using templates my father had made over the lunch break.

However, as they became more absorbed
in adding denominations to the larger-than-life coins
and sketching pictures on the bills, chatter broke out.
Soon scissors were snipping, paint was slapping,
and the laughter and voices of excited children filled the room.


Some children took particular delight
in drawing the beaver
on their counterfeit nickels,
because the animal was more familiar
to them than the nickel.

Others had fun drawing their "counterfeit" bills,
especially the forest and river scene on the back of the five dollar bill,
the most similar landscape to theirs.

The Back of the Five Dollar Bill
The 1954 Canadian Landscape Series

As we finished our coins or bills,
we laid them out on desks pushed near the windows.
It was bright and sunny outside,
and sunlight poured into the classroom,
quickly drying the damp papers scattered about.

After the activity was done and the classroom restored to order,
my father announced that when we returned to school the next day
things were going to be very different.

We all scattered to our homes filled with laughter and energy,
after an unexpected afternoon as counterfeiters.

A Child Paints
Flickr:  AndrĂ© Hofmeister   License  

The next day we all showed up eager to find out what Mr. MacBeath was up to.
We four MacBeath kids didn't know any more than our curious Ojibwa classmates.
Despite all our questioning, pleading, and needling,
Dad had revealed nothing over the supper table the previous night.

He didn't keep his pupils waiting for long.
After roll call, my father said:  "For the next few weeks
we're operating strictly on a cash basis at school.
I will pay each of you a salary,
using the money we made yesterday.
A salary is money you earn by working at a job,
and your job is coming to school to learn."

He went on to explain in simple terms
how we would have to pay rent for our houses
(our desks and chairs) and buy food (our milk and biscuits)
out of the salaries we earned each week.

We could earn extra money by doing chores in the classroom,
and we could earn prizes by scoring 100% on a test
or improving at something we were learning.

Then he hooked us with a big juicy worm:
"Whoever has the most money at the end of each week
will earn a real one dollar bill!"

That was serious money!
It took me four weeks of multiple chores a day,
like hauling water, dumping the chemical toilet,
and fetching groceries from the mail plane, to earn a dollar.

Roy and I locked eyes immediately,
each signaling to the other that he or she was going to win.
Of course, all around the classroom kids were thinking
that they would be the one to win a real dollar.

Rivals from the Beginning
(This Time Blowing Bubbles)
Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue

My father tacked a list of favorite activities on the wall up front
and told us we would have to pay for certain school activities,
like swinging on the swings at recess (15 cents)
or playing a game of war when our work was done (25 cents).

He added a list of chores that we could do to earn money,
such as erasing the blackboards (10 cents per front or side board)
or knocking chalk dust out of the erasers (15 cents). 

Then he pulled out his personal cashbox
which he had stocked with bills from our Monopoly game at home.
He explained that this was the bank and a bank needed lots of money,
so he was adding Monopoly money to our stash of "counterfeit" bills.

He started each of us off with twenty dollars,
the younger children with a combination of ones and fives,
and the older kids with a green $20.00 Monopoly bill.
This represented money we had saved, he told us,
and would tide us over to our paycheck on Friday
at the end of the following week.

Monopoly Money
Flickr:  Melanie Hayes   License  

We would each earn $20.00 a week,
and our rent of $6.00 and our food bill of $4.00
would be due each Friday,
leaving us $10.00 to spend as we pleased.

He appointed one of the elder kids Banker for the Day,
and any time we needed to pay for something
we had to go to the bank to do so,
counting out the money involved in the transaction. 
The challenge was on!

We began with my father matching us up in pairs
to practice identifying and counting coins and bills 
appropriate to our grade level and skills.
My father ensured that at least one of each pair
had the knowledge to help the other with the task.
Day by day, we spent time practicing,
as my father adjusted the pairs and tasks according to need.

As the simulation unfolded, so did the strategies.
Some pupils were savers and others were spenders.
Some were entrepreneurs who went into business
by suggesting to my father that they could grade papers
or do other things not on the chore list he had tacked up.

My father generously passed out pennies and nickels
for desired behavior and good work
and collected fines for infractions of the classroom rules.

On Friday afternoon it cost us twenty-five cents
to buy a bingo card and participate in the weekly games.
We could buy a second card for twenty cents,
a very attractive offer since the winner of each game
won a chocolate bar which my father had bought at the Bay.

Classic Bingo

For my brother Roy and I, there was an extra twist
to the quest to win a dollar the first full week.
Dad had overheard us one evening betting on the outcome.
Roy bet that he'd beat me, and I bet that I'd beat him.

"Are you going to back your bets with real money?" Dad asked.
He often said that when he caught us betting.

We each bet twenty-five cents, a week's allowance.
Dad marked the bet in his notebook,
and Roy and I eye-battled with each other,
each confident in our ability to beat the other
and reap the riches.

It was a close battle among the school kids as the days sped by,
and a tighter battle between Roy and me with our side bet.

I was holding my own, until one ghastly moment
when my father stopped by me and leaned in to check my work.

"Damn-it-all, Louise, you stink!
How many times do I have to tell you
you are older now and have to wear deodorant!
You owe me five dollars right now
for stinking up the classroom!"

I forked over the demanded five, chagrined.

"Now go home and don't come back,
until you've washed and put on deodorant."
I slunk out the school door.

I fumed all the way home through the bush.
I knew my father had been reminding me for days
to use deodorant ~ a new development in my life.
I knew his socks were lined up like soldiers on parade in his drawer.
I knew that he spit-shined his shoes every Sunday
and wore a suit and tie to school every day.
I knew that he said you couldn't let yourself go in the bush.
I knew that he always wore deodorant.
I knew that I had forgotten deodorant ~ again.

Was I fuming because he had humiliated me in front of the class?

I was furious about the knowing smirk Roy flashed me on my way out.
I was going to have to pay up a real quarter to him.

My father arrived home not long after,
having unexpectedly dismissed everyone for lunch early.
He took me quietly aside and returned my five dollars.
He told me that he felt terrible about what he had done,
and that he never should have said what he said
in front of all my classmates.

It was one of the rare times in his life
that he apologized to me for something,
and I never forgot it.

I can't remember who won the coveted dollar each week.
Guaranteed it wasn't one of us MacBeath kids,
because my father felt we had more than enough,
and rightly or wrongly, he would have found a way
to ensure that an Ojibwa pupil won each time.

I don't remember who had to pay the humiliating bet,
Roy to me, or me to Roy.
It wasn't the only time one or the other had to pony up,
as we grew up rashly making bets.
Whenever my father caught us,
he would make sure the loser paid,
invariably reminding us that we could never welch on a bet.

Everyone learned lots about money and something about hygiene.
As for me, I've rarely forgotten my deodorant since!

Dad's Pupils Dunking for Apples
and practicing their English
Photo by Don MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Crossing Petite Passage
Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia
Photo Copy by Roy MacBeath 
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved


1.  Letter:  January 18, 1961
2.  Unpublished Handbook:
     Recorded in Dad's unpublished The Northern School Teacher:  A Hand Book To Be Issued To All
     New Entrants To The Teaching Profession In The Indian Schools In The Sioux Lookout Indian
     Agency, 1966, page 14.

3.  The king is in his counting house:
     This is from a line from a nursery rhyme we all knew called "Sing a Song of Sixpence."

4.  Milk and Biscuit:
     Twice a day every student had a snack of powdered milk and vitamin biscuits provided by a
     government nutrition program.

5.  Game of War:
     This is a card game that my father taught his students to play.  The objective was to win the entire
      deck of cards.  It involved students being able to recognize larger, smaller, and equal numbers,
      and they had to practice English while playing.  How to play War
     As a teacher, my father tried to make learning fun and to add incentives for his Ojibwa students
     to practice speaking English.

6.  Bingo:
     On Friday afternoons my father set aside some time to do activities like singing songs and
     playing bingo.  The purpose was to encourage his Ojibwa students to overcome their shyness,
     to speak in English, and to have fun while learning.

     When I became an elementary teacher myself, I drew a lot on what I had learned from my father
     so memorably during grade five and later in grade eleven.  I used many of his ideas and techniques
     with my own students.

For Map Lovers Like Me:

Location of Lansdowne House
Known Today as Neskantaga

Location of Lansdowne House
Wikimedia   edited

Full context of the quote from my father's January 18, 1961 letter:
"It is awfully hard to teach children when they only understand
about a third of what you are saying to them.
I nearly drove myself up the wall today trying to teach one
of my beginners to recognize the largest of a series of numbers and to mark it.

"I just couldn’t get it across to her what I meant by big and small.
I finally got it across by using about three sheets of foolscap
and putting down about twenty-five series of numbers.  

"Alongside each number, I would put a group of dots corresponding to the number.
After I finished each series, I would count the dots after each number
and cross out the number having the largest group of dots.

"After each series, I’d draw another series and see if she could do it;
and if she couldn’t do it, I’d repeat the whole process.
She finally caught on to it at the twenty-third series of numbers.
By this time I was really seeing dots before my eyes.  

"I wonder how many series I’ll have to draw next week when I
attempt to teach her to recognize and mark the smallest number."


  1. This was wonderful reading, and I will read it all over again tomorrow morning. Innovative, educational, personal, challenging, and your Dad was so clever to think of that way for you all to participate. I think today's post was one that I have enjoyed the most!!! Wish I could tell your dad that. But then I wish I could also tell my Dad a lot as well.

    1. Thanks, Jean! I'm so glad that you enjoyed this. My father was born to teach, and he took great delight in connecting with his students and watching them learn. Rarely a day goes by that I don't wish I could tell or ask my parents something. I also wish that they could see how everything has unfolded since they died. I think they would be amazed, proud, and filled with happiness. But then, I guess we all think these things as we get older. Feel better every day, my friend. I hope Hugh doesn't overdo it when he tackles that huge pile of wood! Hugs to you both.

    2. We are both being very cautious with anything!!! Yes, my Mum would marvel at the sewing machines and fabrics today, and Dad would be overjoyed at the woodworking machinery, timber available, and Hugh's huge shed. Maybe they can look down and see it all from above. Ditto to your reply. When my Dad was about 11 or 12, he could not leave primary school, so I think his "job" was to teach the new entrants, Primer 1, as they were called then. And my Mum had taught me to print the alphabet before I started school at 5.

    3. Glad to hear that you both are being cautious, Jean! How fortunate you were to enter school knowing how to print the alphabet. That started you off on a good foot. At my school we sometimes had kindies coming in who didn't know the names of primary colors or any numbers or letters. It was sad. A surprising number didn't have a typical vocabulary, because their parents hadn't talked to them that much. It's very difficult to close that gap. Have a great weekend!

  2. A well written piece that I enjoyed reading. It sounds like it was a real struggle at times for your father, but he persevered. I liked the way he taught you about money, making it an enjoyable task! Sorry you didn't get to win a dollar! Sounds like you had fun with your siblings!

    Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

    1. Thanks, Andrew! I'm glad that you enjoyed this. My siblings and I were very close growing up and have been so throughout our adult lives. Not that we didn't have epic battles at times. Even now, we can have our squabbles. My brother and sisters are a huge block of unfractured granite under my feet. We have always been there for each other. Have a great weekend!

  3. That was a clever way to teach the kids about money. Dangle a carrot and they will learn. And that was nice he apologized to you.

    1. Happy Friday, Alex! I used Dad's money teaching ideas in some form throughout my career. I look back and I see so much of my father in my teaching. My mother, too, who began teaching when I was in grade nine ~ and guess who was my homeroom teacher! My father was so upset that he dismissed his pupils for lunch early and came home to apologize to me. That was highly unusual, and it erased the sting of his frustrated comment. Have a great weekend, my friend!

  4. I remember some of my teachers badly explaining things as well. I had to self-teach myself mostly when it came to proper grammar through trial-and-error and looking up things on my own.

    1. Kudos to you, Adam, for having the desire to learn and the drive to teach yourself what you had missed and needed!

  5. That is a great way to teach, as I bet they learned far more through being counterfeiters and actually banking than they ever would have just sitting and listening. haha stinky as can be wasn't the way to be? I was always made to pay if we got caught making bets too, grew older I learned not to make them willy nilly. But bets did make for some fun competition, even if I wasn't above going underhanded at times lol

    1. Bets can definitely add fun to my life, but I rarely make them. I learned early on not to make a bet if I couldn't afford it. And the sting of having to pay my brother!!! I think a lot of us have gone underhanded some of the time. LOL Have a good one, my friend!

  6. Having been a teacher I particularly enjoyed today's post. Your dad was a true teacher who realized how to relate the curriculum to his students. He was so creative in his lessons and this post exemplifies how he could adapt to teach those Indian students who had no experience with money. I always enjoy the antics of your brother and you. These essays are masterpieces of your life.

    1. Happy Friday, Peggy! I'm glad that you related to my latest post! We never stop being teachers, do we? Or siblings! LOL To this day, I love to get in a fierce card game with my brother. He's a wonderful friend, as are each of my sisters. Have a great weekend with Don and little Sadie!

  7. Your Dad was a clever, creative and innovative teacher!

    1. He was, Debra! I'm glad that I had my father as my teacher, even in high school. I learned a lot about teaching strategies; but even more importantly, I learned about connecting with students and about the inherent value each student has. I was not a perfect teacher by any means, but I was a better one because of my father.

      My mother, too; but she didn't begin teaching until I was in grade nine and landed in her home room. Poor Mom ~ LOL My mother was an excellent and creative teacher in her own right. I had the privilege and fun of volunteering in her classroom the year that I lived in Westport, White Bay, Newfoundland.
      Have a great weekend with your Rare One, my friend!

  8. Such a great post, dear Louise, as always! And all the photos you are sharing brings back many childhood memories for me, including the old Canadian currency! Your dad was an amazing man, intelligent, inventive and never boring!

    1. Thanks, Linda! I think the landscape series of Canadian bills is the loveliest series I've ever seen, and it brings back so many memories for me too. My father was definitely never boring! I miss him every day. I hope that you are enjoying a great weekend! Sending you love and hugs!

  9. When you are having fun, it hardly seems like learning. Your dad was an amazing teacher who understood what it took to break through the barriers to get the students to learn. I am sure they never forgot counting out their money each week. It's teachers and lessons like that that always stick with us.

    1. Hi, Theresa! Fun is important to learning, and the more you can engage all the senses and movement, the more learning is enhanced. I consider myself fortunate to have had my parents as parents and teachers, and that I can remember outstanding experiences provided by them at home and in school. Enjoy your weekend!

  10. Teaching to the needs/abilities of your students. Your father was ahead of his time for sure. What a role model for you, Louise!
    and how kind of him to apologize to you as well. A remarkable man indeed. But you know that already.
    Have a wonderful weekend.

    1. I hope that you and Ron are enjoying a wonderful weekend too. I just got back from the Royal BC Museum. It has a powerful Terry Fox exhibit that closes tomorrow. I've been through it several times now. What a remarkable person Fox was! A true hero. We need more people like him today. Take care, my friend!

  11. You stink! LOL! I love your dad! What a brilliant man! I love the entire story about making the money, doing chores, winning a dollar! Excellent! It was sure special for him to apologize to you as well! Boy, has our money changed! Big Hugs!

    1. Big hugs to you, too, Stacy! I'm glad that you enjoyed my post. It was fun to write. I was thinking of you late this afternoon as I was trying to get a picture of a crow braving the crowd on the wharf at Red Fish Blue Fish. He was right in there with the seagulls and s few sparrows trying to snatch a tidbit.

  12. Your Dad! He would be on the news for making counterfeit money and some parent would sue him for his "bad" influence on children...that is, if this would have happened today!
    I really do love this story, he put so much thought into this scheme at school. The BEST teachers are those who respond directly to the students' needs.
    And Louise, make SURE you don't forget that deodorant!! LOL.

    1. Hi, Kay! You had me smiling till the end when you had me laughing! Sending you big hugs!

  13. Another great story! Your father was creative and made learning money fun and educational. I could picture the students creating their money. It made me smile. I did feel for you about the deodorant, but your father apologized which shows character.

    I remember the first time I went to Canada, the money was so strange. lol...I still have some around here in case I hop the border.

    Have a great week and remember deodorant comes in travel size now...smiling....

    Thank you for sharing these great stories...

    Remember, if you make a bet be prepared to pay the the price.

    1. Hi, Truedessa! I'm glad that you enjoyed my post. I remember how strange US money seemed when I came first came to the US ~ It was all the same color! I had to be careful not to think that everything was a $1.00 bill. I always carry a large deodorant when I travel. I never want to run out ~ LOL Have a great week, Truedessa!

  14. Thanks for sharing this interesting story. Your father seemed to be a creative person making it all easy to learn.

    1. Thank you, Nas! I was fortunate to have him as my teacher. Have a good one!

  15. What a fun and unique way to learn about money. I guess you never really stop to think about how obvious monetary systems are to us, but to someone else, it might be very confusing. Weird, even.

    Also, that was very big of your dad to apologize to you like that. How very sweet.

    1. Hi, BFS! My father apologizing to me is a special memory. He certainly knew how to make learning fun and memorable. Have a good one!

  16. Oh, Louise, I just love this post! What a creative teacher your dad was; so dedicated to teaching his students well. It sounds like it was so much fun in his classroom. I really like that your father apologized to you. That didn't come easy back then!

  17. This was fascinating. I'll have to read more of these fascinating posts about your family's journey.

    Thanks for stopping by and visiting my blog recently. I really appreciate it!

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