Chap. III-1 Sonderman
The Sonderman Constellation
…What glory be there
For many to pick on one, and grown up men
deceive a little boy?
To resume the story at the beginning.
After the battering of the previous twelve years the move to Caterina was a tremendous psychological lift for me. The move from the orphanage to the converted garage behind a real house had been a move from total inferiority to mere inferiority. All the other kids at school who mattered and even those who didn’t lived in real houses while I lived in a garage. I found the taunts hard to take; I can only be thankful that we didn’t live in the projects.
I was overjoyed to move into a real house thereby becoming a bona fide member of society even though I did have to share a room with my brother. We moved into a decent but unpretentious neighborhood. The blocks had been developed in the twenties to accommodate the employees of the burgeoning auto industry which formed the backbone of the town’s industrial base. The houses were the kind that auto workers could be expected to afford.
New they cost probably a thousand to fifteen hundred dollars. Right after the war about three thousand. Ours cost Tuistad and my mother six thousand in 1950. They sold it for thirteen thousand eight years later. Today you couldn’t give it away.
At that time banks were more worried about the principal than interest so Tuistad and my mother had to pay half down with five years rather than thirty to pay the rest. The way bankers look at it now they were gyped out of twelve thousand in interest. Bankers quickly saw their error and shifted the emphasis from principal to interest.
Having never mixed with regular people in the orphanage my skills and social understanding were limited although I wasn’t necessarily aware of this. I knew none of the gossip about other people. I thought eveyone was as isolated from each other as I was from them. It never occurrred to me that the lives of the older generation had been intermingled for decades in the past.
It never occurred to me for one minute that Tuistad and my mother had known Mr. Sonderman from high school. They not only grudges against him but real hatred. They never once mentioned these things to me. I have since discovered this was so but such considerations had no influence on my actions back then. They never entered my thinking.
In my naivete the thing that always amazed me was that none of the neighbors said anything to each other, seldom even a hello. They always seemed angry and unhappy to me. Given what seemed to be pleasant living conditions their visages always seemed dark and ominous. Maybe that’s what Tim Leary meant; maybe a sort of depression is normal to the human mind.
As I look back I think Sonderman was working out of a deep depression. Working out of his box I think Sonderman had been able to impose this kind of inertia on the neighborhood kids so that they too stayed in their yards. As Sonderman looked out on his world he wanted to see everyone trapped in their boxes just as he was. We all want the world to resemble out state of mind.
When I moved in with my urgent need for acceptance and fraternity I inadvertently destroyed Sonderman’s scheme by attempting to establish community. I was only successful in getting about four households together with any consistence and then only for that one summer. All the kids lived on the intersection of Caterina. We didn’t even know the names of kids three houses away.
We lived on a corner which was supposed to be more prestigious than a house in mid-block. Across the street from us on the north-east corner was a little corner grocery store; super markets were not yet so common as to have run corner grocery stores out of business. There were several within a six block radius of us.
The one across the street was run by recent Polish immigrants. I never knew the reason but everyone was forbidden to shop there even for candy. If I had to go for a loaf of bread I was made to go six blocks away to a store owned by some guy who had somehow terrorized people into shopping there. His was the ‘official’ store. You were literally placed under sanctions if you didn’t patronize this guy. Like all terrorists who had terrorized people into compliance he actually believed people shopped there because they loved him. He used to stand around looking bewildered by the show of ‘affection.’
To tell the truth I only went there once. I had to get only a loaf of bread so I was already angry because I couldn’t go across the street to the Polish immigrants. My mother was Polish; what was her problem with them?
A bunch of thug kids hung around the front door of the ‘official’ store. As I was new to the neighborhood I didn’t know any passwords or handshakes so I had to fight my way in and out. With any breeding I could have muttered passwords, like Sonderman did when he showed me how a real guy did it., establishing that he was OK as they were and friends. I didn’t have the breeding so I returned their hostility. That’s the way things were done in the orphanage.
Tuistad and my mother might think they had to put up with that stuff but as an orphan I was outside those laws and conventions. I was used to being a free agent. Those rules didn’t apply to me, I stepped to the beat of my own drum. I went back in, demanded my money back, told the old jerk, who seemed genuinely bewildered, off and went and got bread from the Polacks.
Tuistad and my mother were horrified at what I’d done but I told them I would never, never shop at that guy’s store; I had bought and paid for my independence and saw no reason to surrender it. They still said I couldn’t buy from across the street but I could go elsewhere. I used a couple of the other stores. Shopping at those stores was a trial because very few of them thought service was essential. At least the Poles were friendly.
Next to the Polish grocery were the Simpsons. Talk about dark! Jesus Christ! Jack was my and Sonderman’s age but he had some kind of emotional problem I could never understand. I tried to include him whenever I could but it wasn’t easy. They had an old ramshackle house with uneven floors but Jack had a terrific collection of old baseball cards. Amazing stuff, duplicates of Babe Ruth and everyone.
Kitty corner from us, Northwest, and across from the grocery store was where the Sondermans lived. They probably had the biggest house on the block. Next to our house and that of the Costellos next door to them it was the soundest.
Their house really reflected old Mr. Sonderman’s temperament. He must have had an untidy but orderly mind. The house was two story plus attic and basement, rectangular box structure characteristic of a whole lot of the houses on our side of town. There was more variety of architecture on our street but I could show you whole blocks of houses just like theirs. The front porch was always stuck on them like an afterthought or addition. This always struck me as kind of weird like the builder hadn’t figured out a way to get up to the front door then said: ‘Oh, I’ve got it, a front porch.’ Mr. Sonderman had the house painted a dull blue grey with darker blue accents which perfectly reflected the Sonderman mentality.
Mr. Sonderman’s long suit as a homeowner was not maintenance. Neither the house or the lot was ever maintained. Our street was lined with fine old trees. The Sondermans had two in front of their house. That’s right, two. Count ’em, two. How many did we have? One, right? Little details like that make superiority in some people’s minds. Another argument of Sonderman’s was that our front steps were kind of weird; even I had to admit that. There were seven concrete steps descending in ever larger semi-circles. I’m sure they looked good on paper to whoever added them on but they were sure ugly looking. That was one of Sonderman’s criticisms that I was never able to explain away and can’t get around now. Suffice it to say that the front steps were weird but neither I nor my parents had anything to do with it.
But our grass was cut. Sonderman’s front yard was bare dirt with weeds butted up against the lattice work of the porch. They never plucked them once. The backyard appeared to have been designed as an English garden, perhaps it had at one time been but they allowed it to become terrifically wild and overgrown.
The free standing garage, which was the norm, was at the back of the lot. Two ruts of bare earth led to where the doors hung off their hinges.
Wink Costello lived next door to the Sondermans. Wink’s father was the Principal of Jesse Loomis grade school over on the East Side. Mrs. Costello kept the best house of anyone I ever knew. Their yard was neatly maintained and the exterior of the house was immaculate.
The only other kid that joined us regularly was Rose Craddock. She lived across the street from the Costellos in a crazy house quite similar to the Simpsons. There was a lot of dry rot in the beams that supported the house so the floors sagged kind of crazily and creaked when you walked on them. Now, I liked Rose, although she developed a dislike to me, but her psychology sagged a lot like her floors. When I moved into the neighborhood her mother and father were getting an acrimonious divorce and I think her hatred of her father kind of slopped over on me. She was really a nice person but deeply distraught. Hard to like disturbed people who think you’re the one who’s disturbed though. As it turned out she wasn’t such a nice person.
The strange thing was they all thought I was weird. I maybe wasn’t ‘normal’ but I was squared away. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who wasn’t walking on a heaving deck. I could have given them a pert little psychanalysis but they would have denied it. Ergo, I guess we were all ‘normal’ for whatever that’s worth.
Those were the only people in the neighborhood I ever knew. In six years I never met the people behind us or even the people next door. The house next door was a rental and all the guy ever did was stand in his windows looking into ours. The guy behind never did anything but snarl at me through his door. I thought the situation strange but experience has shown that it was not.
Anything beyond the houses I mention was terra incognita. I don’t think Tuistad or my mother ever spoke to a single neighbor nor they to them. Everyone kept a sullen distance from each other. This always amazed me.
Sonderman and I first met under the streetlight in the intersection. In our town streetlights were suspended from cables over the middle of the intersection. I guess he must have thought it was the halfway point between his house and mine. He never came any further. I was the one who always called on him.
We were midway through seventh grade when we met but I had noticed him in metal class during the first semester. He was solitary even then though the remarkable thing is that while the Hirshes harassed everyone else they left him alone. Even so the Hirshes monitored my movements carefully and had notified Mr. Sonderman of my coming so the reception was strained.
As I said, I had little social sense; I had no idea of anyone’s pasts so I knew little of what was going on or what had gone on. In the orphanage I was completely excluded from the community. I was not allowed to be a citizen. I was a dog who lived in the orphan’s kennel. You must understand a community’s attitude toward its orphans. Since then, either because I was preoccupied with myself, an orphan is always described as self-centered because they have always been denied and have to push themselves to get what is rightfully theirs, or because I was excluded from all gossip I had learned nothing of who was what to whom
I have since learned that Hirsh and Mr. Sonderman were pretty tight high school chums. I can only speculate that Mrs. Sonderman was related to Beverly Webster, perhaps information was passed at one of the meeting of the Daughters Of The American Revolution to which they both belonged.
I don’t know specifically how or where they communicated but judging from appearances they acted in close concert. Old S was an odd old duck. He always acted like a fugitive to my eyes, it always seemed like he was looking over his shoulder to see if anyone was catching up. Old S was a complete failure. His so-called chemical plant didn’t even have any employees. He must have made his saltlicks with his own hands.
For myself my past was an aborted mess, now I wanted a future to be in the mold of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer or like that of the now neglected Penrod Schofield of Booth Tarkington. I consciously tried to form those precious years around those images. I couldn’t do it alone so I viewed it as though fate had provided Sonderman. But as Sonderman accepted the Hirsh position that I was lower than the lowest our two aims came into conflict. Thus as Sonderman put me off he frustrated a deeply felt need while his own unfounded pretensions to supreriority infuriated me.
The Sondermans always acted like they thought they were important substantial people, superior to myself, even though there was no evidence of it in their car, house, family life or psychology.
Once I gave vent to my anger as Old S was carefully manipulating his garage doors on their hanging hinges to close them. I asked him, perhaps subconsciously in mocking tones, why his driveway was two muddy ruts and his garage doors hung off their hinges while we had a concrete driveway with a garage in good repair. I don’t think he understood my reason for putting it to him. He said something gruff and raised the back of his hand to me. I noted the back of his hand and deeply resented it. Still, I ran off laughing.
Sometime later however he laid concrete tracks and repaired his door carefully pointing out the repairs to me.
He was always as dark and brooding as Sonderman. Why not, he made Sonderman in his own image. He and Mrs. Sonderman had a very disturbed relationship. I mean, you know, like we’re talking psychotic. The psychology was reflected in every aspect of their lives. Perhaps that is why, even though I knew pretending to be my cousin was borderline insanity, I didn’t think I was abnormal.
Mrs. Sonderman especially was sitting on the edge of a tilted table. Because my relationship with my Anima is especially good I have always had excellent relationships with women. I find little to dislike in any woman unless she has an aversion to me in which case I have no use for them. Mrs. Sonderman was no exception. She showed some of her early girlishness to me. I thought she was a lovely, if peculiar, woman.
As I mentioned earlier Mrs. Sonderman had very unrealistic expectations from life as well as marriage. Her mother had taught her that her husband as her Prince Charming could or should be able to satisfy her every whim. When it came time to propagate the species Mrs. Sonderman had wanted daughters. When Old S disappointed her with sons she vowed eternal revenge. She did everything she could to make the life of her husband and sons a hell on earth. Which is to say, she did nothing.
She left home shortly after he did every morning not returning until in the evening after he did.
I hesitate to put this next bit in but since it affected my mind in relation to Mrs. Sonderman I will, altough it does not refer directly to the woman but demonstrates why the ancient maxism: Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, is true. Had Mrs. Sonderman been better balanced and not sought vengeance on Old S and his sons on the basis of her flimsy excuse she would have led a much happier life. But then, who knows what the ultimate source of her action was. Women invariably blame their husbands for matters that occurred in their childhood. She may very well have been acting out some childhood fixation given her in the distant past.
When I caddied in the summer between ninth and tenth the other caddies had a never ending font of dirty jokes. These guys told ten or fifteen dirty jokes every day all summer long. For decades I could remember a couple hunddred but they have left my conscious memory now. One which I always associated with Mrs. Sonderman I have never forgotten.
There was this guy who had a wife who cut him off for some reason a long time previously. But she still had a longing for the weeny but didn’t want to be unfaithful. Every day when the old boy left for work this woman would get a banana and place it in a hole in her bedroom floor and then hunker down on it for sexual satisfaction.
As often happens she was careless about closing the shades. Her next door neighbor chanced one day to look through his window where he saw the woman perform her act with the banana. He watched this for several days then he examined the foundation of her house and discovered he could slide under the house. Thus the next day when she put the banana in the hole and turned around he pulled the banana through and stuck his own up through the hole.
This worked very well for about three days. On the fourth day the woman had put the banana in the hole when she heard her husband who had forgotten his lunch coming up the steps to get it.
Her neighbor who didn’t note the husband’s return had already put his weeny up through the hole. When the woman heard her husband coming she turned quickly around kicking the banana under the bed.
Whether this had to do with any longings I had for Mrs. Sonderman I can’t honestly say although from the moment I heard the story I associated Mrs. Sonderman with it. I still ache when I think of the woman of the joke kicking the ‘banana’ under the bed.
The mind is a funny thing.
Anyway she made her and their life miserable. She did absolutely no housekeeping. Mr. Sonderman didn’t either; nor did their two sons. When I wasn’t over there Sonderman and Little sat quietly on their porch watching the silent empty street daring something to move.
So far as I know the house had never been cleaned since the birth of the two boys had disappointed their mother. They had hardwood floors. In the living room an old threadbare oriental rug of ‘great intrinsic value’ had been thrown over it. When I say threadbare, I mean threadbare. There were huge areas where the pattern was missing, just the warp and woof visible. Over the years the dirt on the floor had congealed into a fine grit, actual fine gravel that crunched beneath your feet. The only dust free places were places where shirtsleeves had wiped it away.
Old S. and his boys must have been having a duel with Mrs. Sonderman to see who would crack up first and clean it up. I even offered to help the sons give the place a good sweeping and dusting and it was refused.
Mrs. Sonderman never cooked. Hadn’t so much as boiled water since the boys were born. The centerpiece of the dining room table was symbolic; she had placed old transmission parts on a silver tray. I suppose that they represented the ‘snails and nails and puppy dog tails’ that boys were made of. They were a grim reminder of the failing of Old S in not giving her girls. The really nice sideboard they owned was covered in like trash. It was really quite eerie; would have been great in a spooky movie if handled right.
As Mrs. Sonderman would not cook for her husband and his boys it was Mr. Sonderman’s duty to whip something up for them when he came home. It never occurred to Sonderman of Little to chip in and help. They had this little tiny kitchen adjoining the dining room where the side entry came in with a little tiny table where three people couldn’t even sit. Mr. Sonderman and the boys ate there out of tin cans standing up every night all the time, forever. They had to do their own dishes- once every so often- too. Of course when you’re eating straight out of the can that obviates doing a lot of dishes. You just throw the can away. Might have to rinse a fork or two.
I always marveled at these signs of superiority although I have to confess that subconsciously I absorbed their style for today as for all my life I prefer to eat out of cans standing up in front of the stove. Minds are tricky things. What goes in will come out in one form or another.
As indicated earlier I do have some understanding of the cause of Mrs. Sonderman’s behavior. It revolves around the fact that Mr. Sonderman gave her sons instead of daughters. My mother had somewhat the same problem with my brother and me although she expressed her resentment differently.
I’m sure that there was a complex of reasons for denouncing my father but her subsequent actions toward me indicate her disappointment at having girls was the significant factor in her rejection of my father.
After divorcing she put us away from her in foster homes and ultimately the orphanage. In my mother’s family primogeniture went to the eldest female in reversal of the normal male. This is not as unusual as you may think. This is an area of female psychology that has been completely ignored. She herself was the second eldest of four sisters, no brothers. She had a great envy of her oldest sister who my grandmother trained to leadership.
I was the first of the grandchildren. If I had been a girl my mother’s status would have catapulted her to the top from which she could never be dislodged. She would have been chief sister and I, as a girl, would have been chief grandchild. Instead, four years later the oldest sister had the first girl remaining chief sister while her daughter displaced me as chief grandchild. Thus I was dispaced from my proper role and recast as a subordinate cousin. Coming on top of the foster homes and orphanage I found it impossible to be treated as an inferior to this cousin who was actually stupid. That is another part of the story but I have never forgiven my mother for demoting me to inferior status. I would dance on her grave but for the fact I would honor her too much. Besides she was cremated and her ashes scattered over farmland. Let her try to do a better job of raising something.
Having established a principle there is a denouement to Mrs. Sonderman’s story. During the time she lived on our street Mrs. Sonderman dressed like a slob. She wore dowdy old black clothes. Believe it or not she rolled her nylons down to her ankles and actually went out in society in that guise.
Now, when Mr. Sonderman’s two boys were about to graduate and leave home she didn’t want an empty nest so Mr. Sonderman climbed up on the Mound of Venus for the first time in fifteen years and gave her two more children. These were both girls. Mrs. Sonderman’s life was completely changed.
Midway during our Senior year she made Old Sonderman sell their house and they moved over to the North Side of town. I was forbidden by Sonderman to call on them there but after I went into the Navy I called on the house while on leave. I was startled at the remarkable changes. The house was a very attractive bungalow. Somebody even mowed the lawn occasionally and made a stab at keeping up the yard. I was really astonished. I knocked at the door with some trepidation unsure that I wouldn’t be turned away which would have crushed me.
Mrs. Sonderman was an entirely different woman. She very graciously invited me in. The house was immaculate. Everything was brand new and expensive. She had really deep pile wall to wall carpeting, drapes on the windows, flowers in vases, the transmission gears were gone from the dining room table. Instead of the old frumpy Mrs. Sonderman she seemed to be professionally groomed with contemporary chic clothing of her social caste. Did I say I was astonished? Words fail me.
Remember when Mrs. Sonderman told me as though it was an actual fact that boys were made of nails and snails and puppy dog tails while girls were made of sugar and spice and everything nice? I remember having laughed at her sincerity but she insisted it was literally true and furthermore acted on the assumption. Talk about ephemera making a deep impression.
Thus when she had two boys Mrs. Sonderman in some demented fashion, poor thing, created what she considered the proper environment for ‘snails and nails and puppy dog tails’ but when she had two daughters she created an environment that was ‘sugar and spice and everything nice.’ What do you think of that?
She remained quite dotty however. I could see that she was still sitting on the edge of the tilted table.
My main reason for visiting her, I knew Sonderman had already left for West Point, was to check on her little library. On Caternia the only thing she took care of was this little black enameled bookcase that stood right by the front door. It housed her collection of Folio Society books from England. Folio Books was started in 1947. In 1951 Mrs. Sonderman had a complete collection. She tried to interest me in them but I refused my attention. She treated me distantly after that.
As I was curious I asked her about them. I guess the change of persona was so complete she didn’t have any idea what I was talking about. Now, just as I eat standing up by the stove today I have an almost complete collection of Folio Society books. The mind! Who knows what goes in where or when or how it will come out.
At any rate she did not lift a finger around the house on Caterina. Neither Sonderman nor his clonelike brother were ever expected to do anything. They never did. They just tolerated the filth; heck, they acted like it was sacred. the funny thing was, the Costellos next door, who were immaculate, looked up to and respected Mr. Sonderman.
My mother who worked forty hours a waeek kept very respectable house and had dinner on the table every night no matter how unpleasant our dining experience was. Thus, when the Sondermans claimed superiority I was both amazed and incredulous not to mention, indignant.
When I met Sonderman in the middle of the seventh grade we were both undersized for our ages. I was only four-ten, somewhere around ninety pounds. I always remember Sonderman as being five- three to five-five, his ultimate height. But he was probably shorter then although he was always a head taller than me until after the ninth grade.
I was only five feet tall at a hundred pounds on leaving the ninth grade. At that time I had accepted the fact that I was destined to be short. I already had a short man’s complex. It is very distressing to a man to see all his fellows towering over him. The boxing terms Heavyweight and Lightweight have definite positive and negative connotations; it didn’t look like I would ever be anything but a flyweight. I had the list of Flyweight boxing champions memorized.
Fortunately for myself I grew six inches in the summer between the ninth and tenth grades. As our relationship had been ruptured after the Y incident and the State game we didn’t associate that summer so that Sonderman was surprised that fall to find me taller than he. I think that affected our relationship backward in changing his memories and forward where he would always be shorter than me.
Fate plays some mean tricks. So long as I was shorter than he this allowed him to be taller in relation to others. In other words there was someone shorter than he was. Being now shorter than me he had to alter his perceptions to being shorter than me as well as eveyone else. Now he was just short, the shortest.
I know I had developed a very unfair onesided rivalry with Darly Machotte who had been as short as me in the ninth. I crowed over my increase of height until he justly put me in my place. However I always disregarded him thereafter because he was so short.
Sonderman developed a short man’s complex on the day he saw me taller than him. My growth as seen by myself and others was little short of miraculous. I’m sure Sonderman saw my growth as a betrayal of his god. Considering himself innately superior to me I had somehow unjustly made him inferior in height. How does one handle such a fact? I hope I messed up his life good.
In addition to being short Sonderman had a dwarfish cast to him. I never did and I never would mention it to him for fear of the consequences yet I always felt he was troubled by it.
He gave the impression of stockiness yet he was quite thin. He had a large squarish torso set on slim hips and short but not out of proportion legs. His head was too small for his body having a resemblance to Alfred E. Neuman of Mad Comics fame.
Little, his brother by contrast, grew straight as an arrow. Like myself he was admirably proportioned. We both reached six feet although where I was skinny and emaciated he was imperially slim. His fine form was marred by the same too small head and the silly expression of A.E. Neuman just like his brother.
I suppose our personalities clashed under the streetlight. That light seemed to symbolize our differences. Sonderman always had a knack for drawing me into situations where I would be the fall guy. I should have known better than to go along with him in anything. In my more positive moments I think of myself as having been trusting at other times I think I was just simple.
Sonderman devised this game where we were to try to hit the streetlight by kicking a football at it. This proved to be beyond the ability of Sonderman, Little or myself. Next he came up with the idea of throwing stones at it.
While stones were well within the range of our capabilities I failed to notice that Sonderman and Little weren’t trying as hard as I was. I also failed to consider that stones break glass. I won that contest and the shards came cascading down.
Naturally I had a hard time explaining to the police after Sonderman turned me in. The cost of replacing the light wasn’t shared; my family had to pay the whole thing because Sonderman denied involvement and I had already admitted to throwing the actual stone that broke the lamp. He always made a big point about how we should never fink on each other but, as usual, he did.
When the summer between the seventh and eighth grades came I disturbed the equilibrium of inactivity by trying to organize neighborhood activities. This created a competitive tension in Sonderman.
There had just been a terrific issue of Donald Duck comics in which the Duckburg Olympics had been held. My imagination had been captured by the fantastic names of the competitors. Like, one of the sprinters was named Ramjet Rocketflash. the other sprinter had a terrific name too. I always swore I would remember them both but Ramjet is the only one I can recall now. My imagination was fired so I organized the Caterina St. Olympics.
I had to overcome the passive resistance of Sonderman but I was young and enthusiastic so I prevailed. The Caterina St. Olympics were a success. But as was to be the pattern, a pattern I failed to recognize, whenever I initiated something Sonderman planned a vengeance for destroying his system of intertia. Sonderman liked to sit in his box and look out on a quiet, inactive street. His box was too small for any activity.
We bicycled everywhere. Shortly after the Olympics Sonderman wanted to bicycle over to an area opposite Pfeffercorn Island where the municipal swimming pool and tennis courts were located. There was a slough that ran from the River to behind Reuclin Park. A dam had been built at the River’s edge to regulate the level of the slough. It was just a small thing maybe fifteen feet across. A narrow ledge was built about three feet out from the dam with a drop into the dirty chemical laden water of the river. I’m sure that very few people knew the dam was there. I didn’t and I explored everywhere. I’m surprised that someone who sat on his porch all day like Sonderman did know of it.
If the incident on the trestle didn’t convince you that Sonderman had a vicious turn of mind quite independent of Hirsh this should. As a serious even criminal revenge Sonderman and Little had tampered with my bicycle chain before setting out. I have never been mechanically inclined so I wasn’t aware of this fact nor did I ever check the mechanical elements of my bike. The pins that connect the links on the chain can be removed to shorten or lengthen the chain. Sonderman took out one half of a pin so that the chain was only connected on one side. A strain would pull it apart breaking the chain.
The way to the dam lay over the Court St. Bridge. We had two bridges in town constructed in an unusual way. They were both high arches built along the lines of the arched bridges in Japanese gardens. Of the two, the Main Street Bridge was actually dangerous for cars. Another bridge had been built adjacent to it which people in the know used. The arch of the Court St. Bridge was lower than that of Main Street. You could bike over the Court St. Bridge but not the Main. Even then it was a test of strength and skill. A lot of kids had to walk their bikes over.
If my chain had given out while I pulled mightily on the upgrade I might not be here. I would have seriously crippled myself on the crossbar or possibly fallen into traffic. As it was Hirsh and his son Michael drove past me as I crested the top taunting me as they went. They probably wanted to run over me if I fell. I was so proud of having pedaled over I was oblivious to anything else. Fortunately my chain held.
The Sondermans brought Rose Craddock along to see me hurt or humiliated. Bloody minded Rose. I have no idea what I ever did to her to want to see me crippled or dead. Sonderman led us up to the dam then insisted we run back and forth across the narrow ledge. When I say narrow I mean narrow for a twelve year old. Rose and Little both refused. Girls didn’t count but Little lost caste by refusing. Of course he wouldn’t ever admit it.
Sonderman ran across and back then badgered me to do it or lose caste. I was reluctant to undertake the feat myself but I successfully negotiated the ledge. My success only threw Sonderman into one of his foaming rages. He ran back and forth insisting I follow. We did this several times he screaming at me in hatred. In a frenzy to knock me off he grabbed a stick and ran it between my legs so I stumbled. Fortunately I fell toward the dam against which I could brace myself with my hands and edge sideways without falling in.
Stumbling on the stick satisfied Sonderman that he was my superior but he was still half out of his mind because I hadn’t fallen into the chemical and sewage laden water and swallowed some. It didn’t help when I ridiculed Rose and Little as chickens to prove my superiority over them. The deck was stacked against me.
Sonderman kept plotting. Rather than go back over the Court St. Bridge which my chain had withstood Sonderman insisted we go back by way of the steeper Main St. Bridge. This was really the long way home all the way down Corbenic on the East Side of the River and back.
I demurred but Sonderman insisted or, rather, bullied me into it. They arranged things so that we caught all the lights. On the pull to get started I could see them looking at my chain and I think I gleaned the meaning. If my chain broke on Corbenic it would be a long, long way to walk my bike so I began not to pull so hard on the starts.
My chain was still OK when we got to the Main St. Bridge. Really you would have to see the Bridge to appreciate it., The rise was so sharp and steep that cars had to enter it at two or three miles an hour so as not to crash. Pedestrians very nearly had to pull themselves up using the rail. You’ve never seen anything like it; it was steep.
Sonderman proposed we attempt to peddle over. I laughed derisively. If I had to point out one single incident that predicted Sonderman’s failure in the Army this would be it. Sonderman was smart. He knew enough physics then to know how impossible it was but he insisted on attempting it. I sat laughing silently to myself as like a fool he could barely get both wheels on the grade without falling over. I never stopped wanting to be his friend but I could never view him as superior after stupidity like that.
On the West Side of the Main St. Bridge is the Big Intersection. To turn left on Melmoth you had to get into the left turn lane of traffic. When the light turned you gave it everything so as not to hold up car traffic. This was when the chain broke as I was heaving my ho. Luckily I am still able to walk after caroming off the crossbar. Sonderman, Little and Rose rode off laughing leaving me to walk my bike home alone. Like Dr. Petiot I picked up a little baggage from that one.
A small mean and vicious vengeance seemed to be characteristic of the Sondermans. That same summer Sonderman, Little and I were riding down Melmoth Avenue discussing what little we knew about sex. The conversation was actually between Little and me. How I resented his butting in and tagging along. I really resented his attitude of superiority especially since he had refused to cross the dam. He had no class.
I find it inconceivable that Sonderman had any friends on the basis of his shadow, Little, alone. Not only was Little a year younger but he considered himself a universal genius. There wasn’t anything Little didn’t know or know better. He was always ready to contradict you and never apologized when he was wrong.
We were discussing where babies came from. To be asolutely on the level I had only abandoned Little’s position a couple weeks before at Sonderman’s own prodding. Little now contradicted the truth insisting that women became pregnant solely because they had lived with a man in marriage for a while. Well, I hooted him down as derisively as they did to me. He appealed to Sonderman to affirm his position. Sonderman underwent a terrific struggle as he tried to find a way to justify his brother but I wouldn’t let him. I knew he knew. He gave me a vile look conceding the point to me. Little turned it around somehow saying that he had been arguing my point and he had just proved it. I started to argue back but gave it up as a futile effort. We rode on in silence.
That there should have been a sequel to this trivial incident is I think extraordinary. But my offence was much more serious than I imagined. The Sonderman’s must have gone crying to their daddy who must have taken the matter up with Hirsh. At any rate they decided I must be humiliated to compensate them for losing the argument.
A week later we were riding down the street with Rose Craddock, what she had to do with this I have no idea, when we rode through an intersection. A cop car forced me over. The cop got out to inform me tht it was against the law for ME to ride my bike through an intersection. I would have to get off and walk MY bike through intersections.
I told him you couldn’t pass laws against individuals besides why had he stopped only me. I pointed out the Sondermans and Rose who were gleefully riding in a square around all four corners of the intersection jeering at me as the cop ingnored them.
He continued to ignore them telling me that what they were doing didn’t matter; it was what I did. I was to walk my bike through all the intersections. The Sondermans and Rose rode off laughing leaving me with the cop.
He said he wasn’t going to give me a ticket this time. I suppose not; but I’m sure that if I had lost my temper he would have escalated the matter until he could have taken me in. Then I would have the beginnings of a police record as a troublemaker. Clever people, Hirsh and the Sondermans. That’s one thing about being an Outlaw, you have to learn to take abuse without a show of temper. Anyway my enemies had the satisfaction of watching me get off and walk my bike through every intersection for about a week until I figured out I had been had.
More baggage. The incident was central to the formation about my ideas of the police. Justice is not their concern either. Nor do they have any integrity. They’re just ordinary grunts with a job just like any factory worker and with the same level of morality. They do not nor will they ever obey the laws. Ask any Black person. Friends of the cops can do anything they want. All others had better watch their step. It’s called Law and Order. Some are in a position to use the Law for the their own Order, some aren’t.
I think Sonderman’s reaction to such a minor ‘infringement’ of his ‘position’ was extraordinary. But perhaps the very idea of an ‘inferior’ asserting himself before a ‘superior’ was such a violation of the ‘natural order’ that it couldn’t go unpunished. After all since my original offence involved Negroes my station in society had been pegged far below that of the Negroes. In White lore the Negro was always subhuman, a butt of ridicule. So long as he participated in his own ridicule good naturedly laughing and shouting ‘Yassuh, Mas’r Son’man’ he was a ‘good nigger.’
If the ‘nigger’ showed spirit and stood up for his rights he had to be brutally knocked down, or, even, in the South, strung up from a tall oak tree. I never saw it myself but it is rumored that dead ‘niggers’ were hanging from every tree. If Sonderman was an example of whiteness I am sure it was true.
Thus, a superior in relation to an inferior has no moral obligations. The superior can lie, cheat and steal and it is the inferior’s role to politely accept his treatment. I didn’t see why I should. I aggresively asserted my self worth. To the Sondermans and Hirshes this was an unforgivable sin. Having Law and Order on their side they could make me sting. It should be borne in mind that Law and Order bears no relation to morality, truth or justice. It is merely a tool to be untilized by those so placed to use it. I don’t mean to overstress it but they’re sort of like a socially acceptable Ku Klux Klan.
In this context my rebuke of Little was not an affront or even an insult but an injury. I was not to be allowed then or ever any dignity, honor or self-respect in order for them to maintain their opinion of me. I must not be allowed any symbols of worth. For, any dignity or honor by raising me lowered them. A success on my part caused a tremendous conflict in them because it contradicted their opinion of me. Even my growing in that summer had been an insult to them because as a tall man I couldn’t be looked down upon. That is no joke but a psychological fact.
As I was only one against the many the odds of success were with them. In combination they could use their influence with any authorities to prevent my achieving any success, which they did.
I was alone.
Tuistad and my mother were useless to me. They neither could nor would do anything to help me. I never asked. Unlike crybaby Sonderman who went moaning to his father over nothing I had no one to turn to for help or protection.
That was the summer Sonderman went to visit his relatives, when I sent him the letter about the mansion I lived in to which he replied about the hole he lived in. I do thing I got the hint that Sonderman didn’t want to include me in his life but my dilemma was I couldn’t be Tom Sawyer or Penrod without him. After the horrors of the orphanage I had to legitimize my childhood. Sonderman was an essential part of my fantasy but he wasn’t living in my dream.
As exemplified by the golf hole joke there was something about Sonderman that showed a self-loathing or self-hatred. He didn’t have any friends that I know of, no one ever visited him, certainly not any of the Hirshes, and he never visited anyone else. He and Little just sat on the front porch guarding their empty, dirty house.
Sonderman always put me off as I wouldn’t play Robin to his Batman so that I always remember myself as forcing myself on him. During these eighteen months in Junior High I always had to go over to his house because he never once in all the time I knew him ever called on me. Even when I wrote to him after the reunion he refused to answer. Well, he closed that book. I don’t owe him anything.
Having driven me off he yet refused to leave me alone. When he sought my company there always seemed to be something symbolical going on which nearly always escaped me. When he wanted me to come over he would come out to the middle of the intersection under the streetlight Tuistad and my mother paid for and yell for me.
By late summer the inertia he loved so well had been restored so I would be doing nothing but sitting on my porch watching the Sondermans sitting on their porch. Must be what he meant when he said I copied everything he did. He was probably wondering how he was going to avenge himself for my taking him to Deindorfer Woods.
He beckoned me over. This time he wanted to show me some Mercury he had obtained from his father. Mercury is really neat stuff but I was sullen and not willing to show any interest. He was very mysterious as he led up to the climax rolling the mercury around in a bottle top combining the globules and separating them again. All the time he was explaining that although mercury looked just like a fluid it was really a metal just like iron. But mercury is dangerous if absorbed through the skin.
Then in a startling move to show his astonishing courage- he was descended from General U.S. Grant on his mother’s side- he poured the mercury into the palm of his hand all the time explaining to me how deadly dangerous the metal was. Little stood there apparently awestruck at this brother’s courage in handling this dangerous metal. Real science here. Sonderman let Little handle it but when I asked for my turn he refused because I didn’t have the courage. I scoffed at him and walked out.
In addition to sabotaging my efforts as a Patrol Boy Sonderman continued to stooge for the Hirshes while his father plotted to establish his superiority over me. I would have thought, I would have demanded of him that he have more pride than to do the Hirshes’ dirty work.
The problem with a Field in human psychology is that nearly all of what is caused is beyond our perception. It’s kind of like a bank has no idea that someone is going to rob it until they do. As it was I was even unable to accurately gauge the machinations of Sonderman even though I could see what he was doing. I was only able to witness the result of whatever deliberations went into his actions. As a stooge for the Hirshes I saw only what he did and not what the Hirses were doing beyond my ken.
Thus, who influenced Sonderman or how is really beyond me. I can only deal with probable causes of actual manifestations. As we all know, anonymity is the chief asset of the sneak and thief. A liar merely takes advantage of your good will.
As that summer waned Mr. Sondeman initiated three avenues to establish his son’s superiority over me. He had Sonderman read the Iliad by Homer and then insist that I read it, which I did. Beyond the surface meaning the Iliad is very difficult to understand. I have read the book seven times since then and am only beginning to feel that I have a grasp of Homer’s intentions. Old S had only read it once, also when he was in Junior High, and certainly did not understand it well enough to explain it to his son. Nevertheless Sonderman insisted that he understood it and I didn’t.
There was no question I could answer questions that would convince him that I understood it as well as he. As he would do in stamp collecting when he appropriated the British Empire as his own province he took the part of the Greeks insisting I take the part of the Trojans. As you will know the Greeks won and the Trojans lost.
He cast himself as Achilles and me as Hector then gloated because Hector ran before Achilles three times around Troy. Well, OK, but that didn’t make him Achilles and me Hector. I never knew how that one came out of his mind.
At the same time Old S began Sonderman on stamp collecting and making HO gauge railroad models. Sonderman then insisted that I follow him in both hobbies. I didn’t have any money although I could come up with enough for stamp collecting but I couldn’t afford to follow him in HO models although he insisted I go with him to buy his kits.
There was a hobby store down on Melmoth in the Court St. shopping area. The intent now as when the cop demanded I walk my bike through intersections was to discredit me. When Sonderman and I entered the store a couple of the Hirshes scurried up to the proprietor and told him to watch out for me because I was a shoplifter.
The Hirshes came from well known families so the owner didn’t even question it but came over and told me to leave. I wasn’t going before Sonderman did so I refused. He didn’t dare accuse me of being a thief to my face so he just groaned and kept both his eyes fixed on me while the Hirshes walked out with his goods.
Sonderman bought his models sneering at the way I was treated as though it established his superiority.
Even with money I had no interest in HO gauge models but Sonderman showed the same expertise in making models as he had in making that box in woodworking. Beautiful craftsmanship.
As eighth grade began the Hirsh group never ceased attacking at any time or any opportunity. Enraged by my attempt at respectability by being a Patrol Boy and while they were devising the plan of enstooging Sonderman to get me removed they were wild to discredit or hurt me in any possible way. They threw caution to the winds.
Earlier in the summer I had taken Sonderman to Deindorfer Woods. I really believe that Hirsh had intended to strap me to the railroad tracks. He and his cousin had that unsettled score to settle.
As part of my Tom Sawyer image I liked to swipe an apple from the trees. I was always looking for different varieties. I just love Hirsh’s creativity. He either knew or was related to this old type guy who had an apple tree in his backyard behind which railroad tracks ran. There was more than one set so they may have been coming out of a railroad yard but I was there only once so the details escape me.
The more I think about this the less I can forgive Sonderman. Hirsh got Sonderman to bring me over to old type guy’s house to swipe an apple from his tree. It was a long way to go just to get an apple that turned out to be an ordinary variety but I went along.
So we approach this house from back across what looked like pretty close to a switchyard. The old guy’s backyard was a three foot cut above the tracks. This was really well thought out. Hirsh must have had time on his hands. We climb into this old guy’s yard and rather than grabbing an apple and running Sonderman stands around looking first at the apples then up the tracks. Now, I can see the old guy standing behind his screen door but I can’t see the shotgun in his hands.
Well, I’ve been holding onto my apple for quite some time now when I hear this great roar approaching. I couldn’t figure out what it was because I didn’t check to see whether the rails were rusty or shiny so I forgot about trains.
When this old guy sees the train a-coming he rushes out waving this shotgun around yelling he hears apple rustlers in his orchard. This one tree constitutes his orchard and Sonderman and I are apple rustlers whatever they are. Some people make you wonder.
Sonderman shouts out real panicky that we should run. Well, I’ve got my eye on this shotgun so I don’t need a lot of encouragement to pick ’em up and put ’em down.
Now, one daren’t pause to scramble down an embankment when a guy’s behind you with a shotgun in his hands. About the time I launch a prodigious leap off the embankment toward the tracks I realize what this tremendous noise is because I am high enough in the air to look Hirsh’s cousin in the eye through his little window in the Diesel.
My eyes went very, very wide as I realized that I might slam under the big steel wheels of this Diesel monster. Perhaps the Diesel wasn’t the biggest one in the yard but how big does a Diesel have to be to seem like a monster in this particular precarious situation?
Man, I did everything I could to make myself heavy and subject myself to the pull of gravity. I don’t know whether it worked but I hit the gravel with my feet jammed against the end of the ties putting everything I had into falling backward.
Once on my behind I breathlessly crawled back under the cut while Old Guy marches back and forth shouting where are they. Well, this is a pretty long train of maybe twenty cars and a caboose so I quickly get the idea that Old Guy doesn’t want to see us apple rustlers and shoot. So at this time I look to my left to see Sonderman crouched up against the embankment staring at me with guilt, fear and loathing in his eyes.
I should have given him reason for fear and loathing but after the train passed and the old fud went back in I accused Sonderman of knowing before hand that the train was coming. He lied about it, what else could he do? Then adding insult to injury he refused to walk this great long way home with me.
I didn’t say anything as I watched him walk off. But then my anger rose up and I winged my apple after him. Caught him between the blades too, heart high. The apple split in two. He looked back sullenly. I’m sure he never forgave or forgot that either.
The Hirshes had already intimidated everyone in the seventh grade so that everyone else respected the order and gave the Hirshes supremacy. I certainly wasn’t about to take the place assigned me. I was somebody and I wasn’t going to accept less.
Infuriated by my place on the Patrol Boys and not yet having devised their plan to get me off the Hirshes attacked me furiously in every class. I simply could not understand all that hostility.
In the first semester of eighth, the most abandoned of the Hirshes, Louis Schriver, sitting behind me, interrupted history class so much by continually punching me, pulling my hair or stabbing me in the back with a freshly sharpened pencil that he earned a reprimand from the teacher. I was moved to the other side of the room to stop the disruption.
I didn’t recognize Schriver then but he used his pencil routine on me when we were in third grade. Then he had stabbed me on my right index finger breaking off the lead. If you know where to look you still can see the discoloration to this day.
The only empty seat available was behind Sonderman.
The Hirshes took the reprimand very, very personally. The teacher’s act struck them all as an injustice. They were supposed to be always in the right. It was as though I had achieved a victory. As with all unbalanced people in their situation they took the view that they could only remedy the situation by reversing roles to my discredit. Their man would be exonerated if I were condemned for the same thing. The only obvious connection between the two incidents would exist solely in their minds but they were oblivious to eighter reason or intelligence.
Left to chance, of course, the opportunity would never come or if it did, being unprepared, they wouldn’t be able to take advantage of it. It had to be set up, all the variables had to be controlled. Such a phony triumph may gratify vanity but it can never be satisfying.
The stage was set in second semester in Miss Ryman’s math class. Miss Ryman was a typical old spinster school marm. It was easy for the Hirshes to tickle her vanity. She was invited to the country club for dinner by Beverly Webster Hirsh. There Beverly expounded their version of my nefarious personal history. Flattered by the attention of one of the first families of the Valley as well as her surroundings Miss Ryman was easily won over. Country clubs are great bastions of the Law and Order crowd.
My habit on the first day of class was to crowd up front so when the door was opened I could get my preferred seat. For the Hirsh plan to succeed this had to be prevented. Under some pretext including physical bumping but short of holding, to use a football term, the Hirsh gang held me up from entering until the last. When I got in all the desks were taken. There were no desks left but an incongruous table for two had been placed at the back of the room. I had no choice but to sit at this table. Different from all the rest you see.
That’s where ‘niggers’ are supposed to sit. the other chair at the table was unoccupied. I was not happy sitting at a table while all the rest of the kids had a desk for I would have to stay there for the rest of the year.
I couldn’t understand why I but I had been maneuvered out of my wonted desk. I thought it was just because they were being jerks as usual. There I was, practically in my own separate area with all the Hirshes glaring back at me. I was quite pleased, overjoyed when Sonderman got up from his desk to come back and sit with me. I was flattered, I thought that finally my Tom Sawyer fantasy was a possibility. I should have read his face better then got up to take the desk he vacated.
Now, the desk he vacated was exactly in the same location where my desk was behind him in history class. He was sure a stooge. All the world’s a stage and we are bit players although that thought didn’t occur to me at the time.
Sonderman, fresh from disrgarding my authority as a Patrol Boy now began to pick little fights with me emulating Louis Schriver in history class. It took a lot to get me vexed. I always respected the rules besides, as everywhere I turned someone was trying to pick a fight with me, I had to learn to be patient. If you respond to provocation from various quarters it is quite easy to get you to defame yourself as a troublemaker which is exactly what Law and Order types want. The upper class kids were learning all the tricks from their fathers. I knew that Law and Order would be used against me. Hadn’t the cop told me that I, and only I, had to walk my bike through the intersections?
Finally, completely disregarding decorum, as with the Patrol Boys and Door Monitors, Sonderman jumped up screaming and yelling at me.
Miss Ryman, following Law and Order codes, then condemned me out of all proportion to my own actions while transferring the aggressor, Sonderman, to the seat he had vacated to get him away from me. Thus the Hirshes reversed the incident in history class discrediting me. Somehow they felt Louis Schriver had been exculpated.
Even though the scene had been rigged, which was even apparent to me at the time, an effect was committed to my psyche as well as my reputation. This was a goodly sized load of baggage that had profound effects. It was perhaps at this time I adopted my alternate persona.
Miss Ryman not only assigned Sonderman his new seat but also made some gratuitous remarks that Sonderman was a real asset to the class which was more than could be said for another as she fixed her gaze on me. I took that real hard; the injustice of it rankled on me then while I have never gotten over it to this day. But then, right and wrong has nothing to do with Law and Order.
At the time I didn’t realize the criminality of Miss Ryman but I do now. At the time, not realizing that he had been enstooged I wondered how Sonderman could be such a fool.
It is axiomatic that we can never learn what we don’t already know. I knew this at the time but I hadn’t learned it. That would take decades of puzzling over it, as well as integrating my personality. Jung spoke quite truly when he said that integrating the personality would mean infinite memory. Dr. Petiot had he been able to integrate his personality and been able to tell it might have had a very interesting story.
I know that my alternatives were clear to me then and that I dealt with them in the only way available to me at the time. How many alternatives does a man in prison have? The very formidable array of power used against me in Miss Ryman’s class demonstrted the feebleness of any power I had. All I had was my Henley like indominatable will to resist. I might bend but I would not be broken. If the authorities could be mustered against me in the form of the police and teachers I not only could not win but I could not even participate. I was severed from humanity.
It may seem strange when I say that the betrayal by Sonderman was a stunning blow just after the apple incident especially. I was dimly aware that I was projecting my needs on him; that I wanted him to be my friend more than he wanted me for a friend. Still, it was clearly in his power to repudiate me and renounce any association with me. He wouldn’t just go. This would have been difficult for me but I could have turned elsewhere. However, in the depths of my being I also knew that wherever I turnd the Hirshes would show up to poison the relationship. Thus I was really ensnared. I know I recognized these considerations but as there were no viable alternatives I had to ignore the true situation and pretend it didn’t exist. I was actually being denied the right to live by overwhelming force. What could I do but grit my teeth and try to survive until I could get away.
Of course, the psychological toll was very high. After abandoning my role as my cousin from Alabama many other undesirable psychological characteristics developed although, thank God, I never became perverted; a little on the unusual side perhaps, but not perverted, I left that condition to my enemies.
In a whole bunch of ways this sequence of events foreshadowed the remarkable sequence of events that took place in the summer and fall between the eighth and ninth grades. This is a real story, folks.
Miss Ryman’s class coming after my expulsion from the Patrol Boys should have been enough to break me down. The Hirshes thought I would then submit to their supremacy but I didn’t. As I couldn’t be brought under they had no choice but to exterminate me. I’m sure that they began planning my elimination seriously at this time.
Actually Sonderman’s collaboration with the Hirshes was much more extensive than I could ever have imagined until the revelation of the Sonderman Constellation was given me. He and they had been devising ways to discredit me all year. Apropos of Sonderman’s contention that I always copied his doings, going back to the summer before the eighth grade Sonderman at his father’s insistence began to collect stamps. As I said he demanded I do so also which I was very reluctant to do.
Stamp collecting didn’t much appeal to me. I would never have gotten involved except Sonderman bullied me into it. I really despise the hobby. To me stamp collecting is just a scam, a con job.
So while as I say I have always thought of myself as having forced myself on Sonderman, on reflection it was as much that he sought me. After all, stamp collecting forced a lot of contact.
Mr. Sonderman, Old S- S for Sod- was a great fan of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Don’t ask me why. I thought there was very little of the democrat about Old S, he was a born Republican if I ever saw one. As you may know, Frank Roosevelt was a philatelist of some distinction. There are a couple famous photos where, with magnifying glass in hand, he pores over his stamp album in deep and satisfying reflection. He was reputed to have on extraordinary collection of stamps; he was one of the world’s great hingers,
That’s it; that’s why I didn’t want to collect stamps. If FDR did it I abhored it. I abhored Franklin D. Roosevelt.
It was on the basis of Roosevelt’s having been a collector that Sonderman and I were supposed to become ones. Roosevelt’s having been a philatelist was no recommendation of the hobby to me. I hated Frank with the rabidity of any Wall Streeter. There was something about the guy. He had the air that he knew better than you and me and anybody else. The guy used a long cigarette holder and then cocked it nearly straight up.
Since then I have learned enough to confirm my intuitive dislike. The guy was a Red. In 1936 he believed that only three governments threatened world peace. Germany, Italy and Japan. You’ll notice that he didn’t include the USSR as most others would have done. If he didn’t consider Communism a threat, why not? Obviously he was in sympathy with the Reds.
Roosevelt had been part of the Wilson administration and he embraced its ideals. Wilson favored Reds although as he considered himself the messiah of the New World Order rather than Lenin he rejected the trappings of Boshevistic Communism in favor of a socialism of his own concoction. Frank accepted Stalin as the leader of the New World Order. He called him his Uncle Joe. As the USSR was the homeland of socialism he was quite content to subordinate the USA to the USSR.
Thus when Hitler appeared as the only threat to what appeared to be the inevitable triumph of socialism Roosevelt aligned himself with Stalin. He recognized Hitler as the common enemy rather than an ally against Communism. When Fascism emerged as the avowed enemy of Communism Stalin directed the Comintern, or Communist International, to form Popular Front governments in the nations of the world.
If you just look at it Roosevelt fell into line making his government a Popular Front in sympathy with Stalin. Any competitive form of government had to be stopped. As early as 1937 Roosevelt was waging political, social and economic war against Germany. He was never neutral as international and domestic law required him to be.
He used the resources of the USA as the weapons of his own personal fiefdom.
To what extent Roosevelt caused Japan to attack the United States is arguable. Suffice it to say that years before Pearl Harbor he had been aiding the Chinese in their war with Japan which began in 1931. At the same time he refused to allow US companies to sell supplies to Japan in violation of neutrality.
In our minds the Axis powers were evil and that Roosevelt was morally justified in doing so. However, he violated all the international rules in violation of neutrality. Legally he was in the wrong. For years before the outbreak of hostilities Roosevelt had in reality been waging war against the Axis. He did this not for the benefit of the United States but for the benefit of worldwide Communist Revolution.
If you don’t believe that ask yourself who benefited from his actions. There was no threat to the United States from the Axis, then or in the future. Assuming that Roosevelt’s aid to China and intransigence toward Japan drove the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor in a desperate attempt to seal off the Pacific then, barring that, the US had no fear of attack from any of the Axis powers.
Planners in the War College must have seen the futility of Germany’s assault on Russia as well as the absurdity of the small resourceless Japan’s attack on China let alone the rest of the ‘Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere.’ There was no need for Roosevelt’s frantic response.
Roosevelt and Roosevelt alone demanded the plundering of America’s resources to be distributed with a prodigal hand from England to the USSR and China and the rest of the world as Lend-Lease. Whether you realize it or not, at the end of the War America had impoverished itself.
Further, in China, he and George Marshall demanded that the Chinese Nationalists include Communists in their government in order to receive aid. This fact alone insured that China would go Communist when the Japanese were expelled as they inevitably would have been with or without US resources.
Now, the Rosenberg’s have been much maligned for giving Atomic secrets to Stalin which they surely did, however the biggest culprit of all went free. Roosevelt sent Atomic supplies and literature to Stalin all during the war. The materiel was flown out of Montana across Siberia to Russian scientists.
The fact is the Goldbergs were fried for their aid while Roosevelt died peacefully in bed tended by his mistress. Today the Red media in the United States is organized so that not one word of criticism is directed toward their ‘great’ president.
The irony of it is that if Roosevelt hadn’t given aid to Stalin, the whole of post-war Europe would have been occupied by Russia. It was only the intervention of the United States that saved Western Europe for the ‘freedom loving peoples of democracy.’ The victory of the USSR over Germany was inevitable. After all, as Stalin said quite confidently: God is on the side of the big battalions. The Soviets had the big battalions.
Roosevelt’s Red policies were repudiated after his death as the great American reaction to Communist infiltration began. As I and Sonderman began collecting stamps the great but disastrous defense of Americanism by Joseph McCarthy was reaching flood tide.
Opinion on Frank Roosevelt was very strong in the wake of the War. I know he aroused the same instinctual hatred in many others too. I’m sure they were right whatever their reasons.
After Frank died propped up comfortably by his mistress on his pillows they printed a picture of his dressing table in the papers. I forget the exact name of the after shave he used, The King’s Men, King’s Arms, King’s something or other, it gave away Roosevelt’s not so secret ambitions, after the picture was published the sale of this stuff skyrocketed for a couple years. Eight years later Old S was still dousing himself with the stuff. How’s that for identifying with your hero?
They coerced me into becoming a hinger. I don’t really regret becoming one, not in the very fiber of my existence. I learned an awful lot about geography- I know where Karelia is, do you? ever heard of the White Sea? history, flowers, plants, ethnography, you name it. I mean the connection of the Communist Revolutionaries to the French Revolution is clearly depicted on Russian stamps, can you find it? I mean that’s a conspiracy thing they still argue about. It’s all on postage stamps. Stamps are kind of like the subconscious expression of a nation’s mind. They show what we would never tell. Watch ’em. In these latter days Micky Mouse has appeared on a stamp. Think about it. And Goofy. Think twice. The knowledge I gained has stood me in good stead too. I learned as much or more collecting stamps as I did in school.
Yeah, but I couldn’t afford stamp collecting, you see. I didn’t have any money. Tuistad and my mother never gave me an allowance so that the first time I ever had any money was when I caddied between the ninth and tenth grades. You can be sure I didn’t spend any of my earnings on stamps. But then, perhaps that was the idea or part of it. I would be made to feel inferior because I couldn’t keep up with Sonderman. He could outspend me. Part of my conditioning to inferiority. Didn’t work.
The basis of stamp collecting, at least at that time, was the approval system. A selection of stamps was sent to you by these companies that were expert at extracting pennies from little boys. They would send you three or four dollars worth of stamps on approval. That meant that you would select what you wanted, send them the thirty-seven cents cash or whatever you kept and returned the rest to await the next selection. The system always amazed me and I marvel at it now.
I mean, that’s not all. Now, dig this. Places like Gershon Stamps out West had secretaries in offices tear off stamps for Gershon which they then sold as grab bags. They would advertise a burlap bag (tremendous boy appeal) of a thousand stamps of mixed quality, no guarantee. About 997 of these stamps were ordinary three centers with maybe three commemoratives and possibly a foreign stamp. They charged you fifty cents for the crap not including postage. Think about it. Would you buy used newspapers from anybody at any price? I mean, Gershon mailed trash from one end of the country to the other, charged exorbitantly for it, and the customer threw West Coast garbage into a Midwest waste basket. Ha! Talk about being enterprising. That was Gershon.
Takes your breath away. Those guys were marketing geniuses even though they were preying on nitwit kids in the name of high culture.
Sonderman started a competition as to who would buy the most and return the least but I wouldn’t fall for it. I was a conscript not a volunteer.
The company Mr. Sonderman selected for us was H.E. Harris and Co. The old Sod supposedly knew someone there so I’m sure some trick was involved. Harris advertised in all the comic books, right up there with the body building kings, Charles Atlas and Joe Weider, the Rosicrucians of AMORC in San Jose and the seed companies recruiting little boys to take advantage of friends and relatives for prizes that Carnys would have laughed at. Well, maybe they wouldn’t have laughed but they would have smiled knowingly.
The only people with real chutzpah were Charles Atlas and Joe Weider who were after fairly big bucks from little boys. As I remember their first offer for their body building kits was for like, sixty-nine dollars. Their best offer after you had ignored all the other solicitations was for four ninety-five. Things were cheap in those day; they could afford to send literature five or six times and still make money at four ninety-five.
I sent in for it all though; pretty exciting stuff for an emerging adolescent. I still get disgusted when I think of how I fell for it but it was high excitement. The seeds were the worst.
But, I digress. Sonderman belittled everything I did. If I collected French colonials he collected British, or as he put it, if he collected British, I couldn’t. If I collected what he didn’t then my choice was worthless compared to his. He made stamp collecting a very unpleasant experience.
Whether the whole thing was in collaboration with the Hirshes or whether they found out about it they turned it to their use. I don’t know but late in the fall of the eighth Sonderman invited me to join his stamp collecting club. God, they even had clubs for this stuff. I should have been wary enough to know that since Sonderman never included me in his doings outside the neighborhood something was up. But, anxious to live up to my Tom Sawyer image of boyhood, rather than being leery of his invitation I agreed to go.
What a dreary affair. Boy, that middle class knows how to have fun. About ten of us were supposed to meet every month to discuss such sizzling topics as the proper hinging of stamps. Not all hingers are equal; nor all hinges. You had to the One and have the right stuff. It is true that not all hinges are equal.
Hinges are used to affix the stamp to the proper place in the stamp album. You can’t collect stamps without buying an album. I have actually known people who committed the major blunder of gluing their stamps to the album pages. Heck, I was way ahead of that. Now, watch this. Stamp sales are directed by which stamps are illustrated among the blank spaces in your album. The collector feels obligated to get the pictured stamps first. H.E. Harris printed the album I bought. The firms like H.E. Harris exercise great control over which stamps will have the greatest demand by those they picture.
The inferior old fashioned hinges, which Frank Roosevelt undoubtedly used, were too adhesive. You couldn’t remove the hinge without tearing the stamp. Progress will not be stopped. The new improved version was only mildly adhesive and popped right off even when affixed to a stamp with unlicked glue. They do leave a little mark but that’s OK. The club even had a contest for the best hinger. The prize was a package of hinges, new style, of course. That was where I peeled off.
I foolishly trusted Sonderman. I had no idea what was going on, that the Hirshes were involved, but everybody either studiously ignored me or were outrightly rude. Sonderman acted like I wasn’t there. Even the stampmaster treated me rude. then they all left for a break and never came back.
Even though we walked home together on this occasion Sonderman was give a ride home and I was left. Even though we lived kitty corner his friends said they weren’t going my way.
I was dumb enough to be hurt. They must have been watching me because just when I was about home they came driving past me laughing and screaming as though in high spirits to drop Sonderman off at his door. If you ever saw dark Sonderman pretending to laugh and have a good time you would think it hilarious.
That was enough for me. I never went back even though I considered myself the equal of any hinger alive. In fact, I surpassed them all. Soon after these easily detached hinges came on the market an even more advanced product appeared. These were plastic sleeves into which the stamp was inserted without the need to hinge it at all.
When I showed them to Sonderman, stealing the march on him, he objected that the stamps would probably become damp enclosed like that and self-destruct. However he was soon using the sleeves.
By shunning me at the stamp club my enemies wanted me to feel bad. If you want to make someone do that you can’t be so open; you’ve got to be more mysterious. They came close to this at the stamp convention. Even then they were so obvious they failed.
The convention was held on the mezzanine of the Corbenic Hotel. The Corbenic was the height of luxury in the Valley. I hadn’t been to a quality place like that ever before. The idea of ‘mezzanine’ was new to me too. Tuistad and my mother didn’t move in very elevated circles. If fact they didn’t move in any circles at all. When we went out which was fairly often the places we visited were, if not dives, at least very colorful. Maybe they were dives. Some folks like pork chops, some folks like ham hocks and some folks will take anything at all. The places we went to were in the ‘anything at all’ category. You ever been to the Royal Palms? Don’t look for it , it’s not there anymore. They must have passed a city ordinance against it. Some of the most amusing moments of my life were spent in the Royal Palms watching low lifes put on high airs.
No, I hadn’t been too many places where the elite met to do anything. The Corbenic is where that class went. What I discovered right away is that as much as I liked color I liked the style of the Corbenic a whole lot better. In fact the Corbenic made me forget whatever I knew about color.
It wasn’t that they had better morals at the Corbenic, those remained as low, but they had better style. Well, they dressed better and they didn’t spit on the carpets. The Royal Palms couldn’t have carpets; imagine what they would have looked like after a Friday night. Heck, the floors of the Royal Palms weren’t even hardwood, just wood.
I knew what was up as soon as Sonderman and I entered. I had it figured out in more ways than one. The Hirsh crowd was everywhere. They were practically the only ones there. Sonderman had led the lamb to the slaughter.
I didn’t have any money so I couldn’t buy anything. I’m not sure I would have anyway. There was just such an air of the con about stamp collecting. The sight of all those grown men sitting behind tables waiting to fleece little boys made me sick to my stomach.
The Hirshes were really obvious running around telling all the dealers to watch out for me because I was a thief just like at the hobby shop. Yeh, that’s the way they operated. Some dealers tried to cover their stamps leaning over them; others just ordered me away.
If the intent of the Hirshes was to make me feel inferior they failed. However they effectively slandered me in the stamp collecting world.
I still had a very eye opening experience. I was fixated. But not the way my enemies hoped. I thought the Corbenic Hotel was snappy. I now had some idea what the mansion in my mind should look like. The Corbenic was the high point of my stamp collecting career. The day the Sondermans moved across town was the day I put my collection away for keeps.
After the incident with the mercury and just as the summer between eighth and ninth began Mr. Sonderman bought his elder son a pinball machine. You will remember that Sonderman made a trick box for his father in woodworking class. His father now reciprocated. A pinball machine is little more than a glass covered trick box on legs. Was there a psychological connection between the two boxes or was it just a coincidence? I can give no authoritative answer but there is a school of thought which claims there is no such thing as a coincidence.
As Sonderman had given his father a box the year before so now the father gave his son one; and what a great one. The mechanism of the pinball is visible through the glass unlike the psyche hidden in its box of dense bone. By propelling a steel ball into the mechanism bells flash, lights ring, wheels go round, scores bark away on the score board like machine guns; a furious but satisfying din. It must have been just like Sonderman’s psyche, all the action took place within the box. In Sonderman’s mind the pinball machine probably represented the box he was in; so he wanted to destroy it.
The symbolism for Sonderman must have been terrific. He wanted me to witness what he was going to do. He very excitedly came out to the streetlight to invite me over to see it. I have no idea how our relationship conflicted in Sonderman’s mind. For him to sit and tell me he had never liked me because I copied everything he did was absurd. I don’t know what I actually meant to him but it was very important to him that I see this pinball machine being destroyed.
He said there was something he wanted to demonstrate to me. I no longer trusted Sonderman. I was becoming wary of him. I was reluctant to go over to his house but it was better than sitting alone on my front porch.
I had guessed the meaning of the box he had made for his father. He had confessed to living in a box. As he subsequently reversed our roles as initiator and follower I can only guess that he secretly admired the activity of my imagination, my freedom of action, as it were. While these things may only have registered subconsciously with him I think that he invited me over to watch him demolish the symbolical box his father had placed him in. He wanted to be as free as I appeared to be.
He and Little the Inseparable led me through the side door down into the basement where I had never been before. The basement was just as unkempt as the house. But it was almost an artistic construction. It too seemed to have been organized to represent the interior of the Sondermans’ psyche. Once again a room is merely a box big enough to move around in. The smaller box of the pinball machine had been placed in the bigger box of the basement.
Things of no value were distributed in the age old grit with quaint precision. The basement had artistic merit but the objects were just meaningless junk; they bore no obvious relation to each other. Coupled with the drive way ruts and the hanging garage doors it became apparent that Old S was crippled in a broken down psyche.
Of the things that were there, what wasn’t there was even more remarkable. There was no washing machine. Mr. Sonderman must have taken the laundry out. Of course, from the look of Sonderman’s clothes they wouldn’t have used a washing machine anyway.
He showed me the pinball machine but wouldn’t let me touch it. He let me walk around it but I had to keep back. He shot a couple balls up the chute to demonstrate. Finally he began to play; as he did he entered into a trance like state breaking out into a cold sweat. He turned ordering me back several more feet. He wanted more elbow room I guess. He began to play furiously looking back at me from time to time in a peculiar bug eyed manner I can’t describe. Rather than being out of his mind he was lost within.
Chapter III is broken into two parts to facilitate scrolling. Go to Chap. III-2 for the second half.