Dreams do come true. Just ask Roger Creet, an 85-year-old librarian living in the San Francisco Bay area. In the mid-1980’s, Roger was working on his Ph.D. thesis at Great Britain’s University of Lancaster. His particular field of study was very specific: pawnbroking in Victorian London.
“Pawnbrokers were the sole source of credit for working-class Londoners of the time. It was an integral part of society,” says Roger. He, along with his wife Adelaide’s support, worked on his thesis for over three years conducting painstaking, tedious research, often spending months at a time in London. They reviewed old maps, directories, trade journals, even newspaper accounts. When the thesis was done, Roger had documented over 390 pages of material entitled “Pawnbroking and the Working Class in Victorian London (1850-1914)”.
Unfortunately, Roger’s thesis did not pass the university’s panel (even though his professor/advisor had assured him it would), thus keeping him from getting his doctoral degree. The denial was extremely disappointing to him and he still considers it one of his life’s greatest regrets.
After Adelaide passed away in 1999, Roger (who still tears up when talking about her) was physically incapacitated due to an accident. He has spent the last 15 years living in nursing homes. It was in one of the nursing homes that Roger met Susan Strouse, a pastor at San Francisco’s First United Lutheran Church. When Pastor Strouse and others heard his story, they made it their mission to help him get his thesis published. Although they couldn’t get Roger his Ph.D., they did have his research. They retyped the now-faded manuscript and raised over $1000 to have his book published. Their mission was accomplished in November 2013.
NPA’s Executive Director, Dana Meinecke, and her son, Matthew Griewe, visited with Roger this past February. During their discussion with the sharp-minded Roger, they learned the pawn industry has changed very little in the last century. The types of items pawned are still relatively the same – tools, jewelry, and clothing, and the problem of illegal pawn stores (known in the 1800’s as dolly shops) still exists. Dana said, “It was extremely touching and quite an honor to meet Roger. As extraordinary as his life’s story is, the authenticity, passion, and love for his research and dearest Adelaide, are clearly evident to this very day. Roger serves well as an ambassador for our industry and as an inspiration to those who love unequivocally.”
Roger’s book will be available for purchase at Pawn Expo 2015 and also on Amazon.com. If you’re in the San Francisco area, and would like to visit with Roger to learn more about the history of pawnbroking in Victorian London, email [email protected].