“The neighbors thought I ought to be disciplined and made an example of. My mortified parents consented and I was publicly whipped in the village square. I suppose it was a good lesson to me and made the neighbors feel easier. But I think seeing that barn burning down made me feel worse than the whipping,—though I felt I deserved that, too.’
“The Edisons moved to Port Huron, Michigan, and lived a little way out of the town on the St. Clair river, where it flows out of Lake Huron. The house was in an orchard, but within easy walking distance of the town. There was no compulsory school law in those days and young Edison did not attend school, but his mother taught him all she could. She was a good teacher—she had taught school before she was married—but even she could not be answering questions all the time. There was a public library in town, so the boy spent a good deal of his time there. He would have liked to read all the books in the library—but he started in on a cyclopedia. He thought because there was ’something about everything’ in that, he’d know all there was to know if he read it through. But he soon found question after question to ask that the cyclopedia did not answer. Some of the books he took home to read.
“Mr. Edison, the boy’s father, had built a wooden tower that permitted a beautiful view of the town, River St. Clair and Lake Huron; one could see miles around in Michigan and over into Canada. Mr. Edison charged ten cents a head to go up and get the view on top of this tower. Very few people came, so the tower was not a great success. But the boy went up there to read, not caring so much for the view as to be alone.
“Young Edison read all he could find about electricity. That always fascinated him. But the father seemed to have a hard time making a living and Al, as they called the boy, went to work. He began selling newspapers in Port Huron, but there was not much in that, so he got a chance to sell on the seven o’clock train for Detroit. He applied at the Grand Trunk offices for the job and made his arrangements before he told any one. He had to be at the station at 6:30 A.M. and have his stock all ready before the train started, which compelled him to leave home at six. The train was a local with only three cars—baggage, smoking and passenger. The baggage car was partitioned off into three compartments. One of these was never used, so Al was allowed to take that for his papers to which he added fruits, candies and other wares.
“The run down to Detroit took over three hours. His train did not start back till 4:30 in the afternoon, so the lad had about six hours in the big city. He took all the time he needed to buy stock to sell on the train and to eat his lunch. This left him several hours for reading in the Detroit public library, where he found more books on the subjects he liked, more answers to appease his never abating curiosity.”