The big plan had failed but the boys compounded their guilt; they couldn’t even admit that I was good enough to win a fair fight. Law said that I hadn’t pinned Cahallan. I countered that he was immobilized and couldn’t wrestle. Law replied that didn’t count. I countered that then I would just stand there holding Cahallan’s knees until gym was over. Cahallan was nearly in tears.
At that the other boys turned and said to put Cahallan down; my hold wasn’t legal. Well, I had won, and said so. I refused to go on. Pennydreamer was called again. Well, I could beat Cahallan at will, although in fairness to him his guilty conscience interfered with his will. My victory was not going to be allowed so we rolled and tumbled endlessly until somehow I got on my back with Cahallan astride my middle. I could have bucked him off but I knew that if I did my shoulders might touch the mat and Cahallan would immediately be declared the victor. But guilt had taken possession of Cahallan’s mind; he was nearly paralyzed. I could see the anguish on his face as he was near tears with his mouth already distorted into a sob. I could see that he would never be able to force my shoulders to the mat. I determined to wait it out in that position.
The other boys were now cheering Cahallan on but to no avail. Finally Law just said: ‘Okay, Cahallan wins. You lose, Gresham, you puke.’
‘No, Law,’ I snapped back, ‘I win, you cheated. But the only way you guys can win is by cheating or going six on one.’
Law and the rest were stung. They had merely redoubled their guilt but, dishonest to the core, they tried to deny it to themselves. Thus they redoubled their hatred to me foolishly thinking that they would be able to expiate their guilt by humiliating me. As Puck said: ‘Ah, what fools ye mortals be.’
Cahallan knew better. He tried to apologize to me but my contempt was so strong I wouldn’t allow it. For the next two weeks he walked around with his head hung in shame and guilt in real mental distress. Then he couldn’t take it any more. He had his parents transfer him to the Catholic school: Lacramae Sacrae. I never saw him again.
But during this gym hour, having failed to reduce me, my enemies went into a quick conference as to what to do next. They made an immediate decision. Having failed with both the boxing and wrestling matches they thought they could hammer me into submission in the showers, thus proving my inferiority and expiating their guilt.
The locker room and shower was a long narrow room placed beneath the bleachers. The room was fifteen feet wide. The lockers jutted out twelve feet, leaving about three feet between the locker ends and the wall. The shower was in the middle of this long room. The more ‘in’ you were the further down the room you could select your locker. The smaller or less popular boys naturally had to give way to the bigger boys in the narrow passages between locker ends and walls. The room had been subconsciously designed to give maximum play for manhood tests.
I wasn’t big and I wasn’t ‘in’. I always found a locker in the first bay where I would only have to shove my way past one locker end. Many boys were passing through puberty this early. I did not enter puberty until the end of the seventh grade. Thus incipient homosexuality was rearing it ugly head. Boner Law and some few others were homosexuals, along with, I might add, Pennydreamer.
In those days there were many forbidden topics. There were still some few girls who modestly admitted to lower limbs rather than legs. It was still considered improper to use the world sweat in proper company. Perspire was the accepted word. Thus homosexuality was not discussed as a topic either in the home or in magazines and newspapers. Furthermore I never heard the word homosexual used; it was always ‘queer.’
There was no one who was blatantly queer. There were very few effeminate men. Just like in the armed forces the toughest acting guys were usually queer. Homosexuality had to be carefully concealed. Thus it is quite possible that in the seventh grade Law and his friends didn’t even know their horseplay was homosexual stirring.
I never liked horseplay. I had no inclination to wrestle nude in the showers. If one failed the horseplay test, of course, the torment of the shower was exquisite. I could hear them calling me to come take a shower. I was not aware of it but they planned to haze me unmercifully until I submitted, but Green Gage who was lockered next to me said: ‘Don’t do it.’
I understood him. I didn’t know the tricks or ropes yet but I intuited them. I knew that the game was still: I lose, they win. I could hear the towels snapping. If I went in and broke down I would be completely humiliated and totally defeated. I would either have to submit as having defamed myself or be an object of contempt. I wasn’t aware that Louis Schriver, who had been present at my rape had told that story so I would probably have been a dead duck.
If I had survived the towel snapping and taken it in good form, I would have come back the next day and begun snapping them. At that point they would have derided me for childish behavior and called Pennydreamer to reprimand me as a troublemaker. Pennydreamer had short eyes. I didn’t want to stand there in the buff before him.
The same would have happened if I tried to defend myself and maybe defeated them. There was no way to win.
‘You get in here too Gage.’ Came a voice.
‘Idon’t have to.’ He shouted back, adding as a reason, ‘I don’thave to, I’m too young to smell bad and I can take a bath at home tonight.’
Good enough excuse for me too. As I was leaving I heard: ‘Yeah, well it won’t be that way in high school. We’ll be waiting for you.’
A major change happened between grade school and junior high. People began to be forced out. Not only was a social caste definitely taking shape but there appeared to be targets against whom a great deal of pressure was being brought to force out of school. What the enmities were, whether between students or between parents with the students as agents I have never been able to determine. Some few kids never made it from grade school to junior high. Some few were so hopelessly behind, either from neglect or lack of aptitude or application that there was no reason to go on unless they had been tutored to bring them up to par. I know that in Mrs. Murphy’s class there were a couple of kids way in the back of the class who merely sat there without instruction of any kind all year.
I was one of the targets but a life saving neurotic distortion of reality prevented me from seeing things in their true light. I thought there were just some people who didn’t like me. Actually I didn’t really feel the hatred of my enemies so much as in gym or the shop classes, or at the very least I sublimated it into something else. Aw shucks, there were people who liked me, I had friends, but in my memories their value is far outweighed by my enemies. Whatever advantages they afforded were by far offset by the depredations of my enemies.
Henry Ford had made a tremendous impression on Michigan. Not only had he revolutionized industrial capitalism but he had a significant effect on education. Whatever he was personally, the effect on education was anti-intellectual. People believed that he had never read a book. People believed that he despised the liberal arts. He actually built a school which was a sort of trade school, a tinkerer’s heaven where tools were more important than ideas. He built an entire museum village dedicated to tools. His lead was followed by General Motors which develped the GM Institute to train atuomobile engineers, or at least, mechanics. Ford took students who were still of high school age whereas GM took only high school graduates. Ford was in Detroit. The Valley was a GM town. GM was God. To go to college was the apex of Valley aspirations but to get into the GM Institute was considered a plus for a ‘working class’ boy. The favored class almost respected the achievement.
Consequently the school board in the Valley recognized that not all boys would be going on to college. To prepare the failures for a useful life making things for the successes we were all required to take a series of shop classes in the seventh and eighth grades. Metal and woodworking shops in the seventh grade and printing and mechanical drawing in the eighth. When the Angels get through with Ford may they send him to hell for a while for having made me go through the purgatory of shops. A man should be more careful with his reputation and not endorse every silly idea that comes into his head. Soybeans were bad enough.
In the academic classes we were insulated by having our own seats. In shop we had to commingle nearly as much as in gym. Every effort was made to discredit those of us who were targets. We were hampered in the use of tools and materials, our work was interfered with or defaced or mutilated when possible and we were made to appear as incompetent as possible. Metal shop was taken the first semester. I had no aptitude for it nor did I wish to acquire any. My work was perfunctory to say the least. Still I smuggled a B out somehow.
I quickly learned to work with an eye over my shoulder to minimize sabotage of my work. I also realized that the teachers knew what boys were and made allowances for the harassed. This must have been true or I couldn’t have gotten a B. My stuff made even me laugh.
One of the targets was driven out of school during metal shop. I was unaware of the deeper implications of the behavior of the elite groups, ignorant of the layers of animosity. I don’t know what Dubscek may have done; probably nothing, in the sense that I had done nothing. I was aware that Jerry Dubscek was harassed as much as I was. In metal class the school had to provide the tools. The tools were kept in a wire cage to the side of the instructor’s office. The job of toolkeeper was passed around to different students on a weekly basis. The Eloy wanted to establish the notion that they were better of more competent than the ‘lower classes.’ Thus when they were in charge of the cage they all cooperated to make sure it was run properly. The rest of us were thankful that there was peace. When one of their favorites was in charge they didn’t harass him.
Most of us were in shop because we had to be, not because we liked it. We did what we had to do and left. We had no interest in disturbing tranquility.
For some reason my name never came up as toolkeeper. But when Jerry Dubscek put in his week, his tenantcy was used against him so successfully that he was suspended from school. The toolkeeper dispensed the tools, kept track of them and made sure they were returned at class end. If tools were missing, the toolkeeper hadn’t done his job. Most of us minded our business but members of the Eloy marched into Dubscek’s cage to remove tools rather than checking them out through Dubscek. Dubscek was zealous, besides he knew the Eloy didn’t like him and reciprocated.
The Eloy, like all elites, acted like the rules didn’t apply to them. Dubscek defended his turf. He could expect little or no help from us. He was harassed for two or three days before he, quite justifiably but unadvisedly, lost his temper. An Eloy burst into the cage in the officious manner of a nerd, seized a hacksaw, which he had no intention of returning, and turned to leave. Decker grabbed his arm, the Eloy tore loose and left the cage, barking an insult at Dubscek in the process. Dubscek grabbed a wrench and menaced the Eloy. the hackswas was quickly taken by another Eloy while the first threw up his hands in supplication shouting: ‘Help, help. I’m being attacked by a madman.’
By the time the teacher came out of his office the hacksaw was back on the hook while Decker was still standing with the wrench raised. This was a very serious looking menace which couldn’t escape a severe reprimand. Some of us offered an explanation. The Eloy naturally called us liars. We reciprocated. The evidence of Dubscek’s hostility remained a fact. How can any judge possibly understand the circumstances when he wasn’t there. They must make their decisions on appearances. They must make their decisions upon characters as they appear to them. The Eloy all came from ‘good families.’ Jerry Dubscek didn’t. He was expelled for a week and never came back. The Eloy all patted themselves on the back for a job well done. The lesson sank into my wondering mind.
The Eloy had not counted on the fact that they were establishing a reputation among us. We began to become wary of them. Thus no matter how wealthy their fathers were they became a mere clique, to be avoided but worthy of no serious respect. They failed as leaders if that had been their intent.
The Eloy were elated by their success in having embarrassed Jerry Dubscek in metal class and having actually driven him from school. this success convinced them both of their ability and their virtue. In their eyes Dubscek had been dumb enough to fall for an old trick and he had admitted his inferiority by not coming back to school. they now concentrated their thoughts once again on me. I had neither submitted to them nor had they been able to prove my inferiority. They knew they had cheated in the wrestling match.
The fall had been metal shop, the spring semester was devoted to wood shop. Wood shop was taught by Mr. Murphy, the husband of Mrs. Murphy of the sixth grade at Robinson. He had much experience with boys. He divided his classroom into quadrants with his desk occupying the pivotal position in the center so that he could keep track of everyone at once. Each quadrant was occupied by cliques or groups of friends to old down quarreling. Michael Hirsh, Boner Law, Lous Shriver and the Eloy occupied the left front quadrant. The back wall was occupied by two other groups, while I was in the right front corner with boys who were unafilliated. Ward Sonderman was in my group.
As we filed into class Boner Law hissed to watch out because I was next after Decker. The Eloy clique sat giving me many malevolent looks. It was as though I dominated their entire attention. Word was spread that I was a target. As all the groups were subordinate to the Eloy they looked on with excited anticipation to see what would happen.
Mr. Murphy explained his procedure. We were each to select a project on which we would work all semester long. Our entire grade would depend on the project. He also explained that no one would fail, a D would be the lowest grade. I heaved a sigh of relief because I hated woodworking. I had done no work at home, my hands had never even held tools before metal shop. Many of the boys were already fairly capable craftsmen.
My natural disposition would have been enough of a handicap if it had not been reinforced when Boner Law informed me that even if they couldn’t hinder me while I was working, which they couldn’t because of the way Mr. Murphy arranged the room, they would damage my project before it was presented for a grade.
There was no use arguing with them. They were going to try to make me conform to their low opinion of me. If I got a D that would demonstrate my innate inferiority, thus proving their thesis. My dilemma overwhelmed me. Even if I did excellent work, for which I had neither inclination or training, it would be destroyed. I was in a veritable quandary.
Many of the boys selected very complex projects. Some bit off more than they could chew, but the level of achievement was astonishingly high. I chose the simplest project there was. A mere silhouette of a cat cut from plywood with a triangle of wood at the back to make it a doorstop.
I foolishly didn’t try to excel. I should have realized that if I had shown a superior piece of workmanship that had been deliberately disfigured that the onus probably would not have been on me. Besides I was to set my own grade.
My mind was not so unclouded. I wasted the entire semester dinking around or inspecting everyone elses work. Everyone ribbed me for not minding my own business, several chid me in kindly fashion to get to work. the specter of the Eloy was always at my back but that was no real excuse.
Now the moment of truth had arrived. The semester was over. We all sat with our projects in our hands waiting to be graded. All of a sudden the folly of my behavior hit me. I sat in my chair looking down at my pitiful effort. Ward Sonderman had made a magnificent box. He had constructed it with wooden pegs instead of nails. It was sanded smooth, stained impeccably and shellaced and polished ot perfection. I glanced around at the the work of the other boys. My project wasn’t even worthy of presentation for a grade. I realized shame but now I was beyond hope.
My cutting was sloppy, the wood was very nearly unsanded, the stain was uneven and the finsh was virtually nonexistent. I hadn’t thought to sand and shellac the little triangle of wood nailed to the back. I looked out the window, trembled and began to curse myself. I knew Murphy wouldn’t give me an F, he had already said he wouldn’at flunk anyone, but Hirsh, Law, Shriver and the rest would have a field day at my expense. I didn’t see how I could escape a D.
I tucked my hands up under my armpits, knitted my brow, stretched out my legs to await the inevitable, when what did my wondering ears hear. It was Mr. Murphy. He was saying that he was going to award self drading. He was going to give us whatever grade we thought our time had been worth. I had actually forgotten that he had told us this at the beginning but then he hadn’t said ‘what we thought our time was worth. That was a different story. Wasn’t God good to me!
I looked down at my project. My project was only worth throwing in the trash. I didn’t try to fool myslef. But I also thought of the pain and suffering of enduring shop. Murphy hadn’t said the grade our project merited, he had said what out time was worth.
I looked at Sonderman’s magnificent creation which he was turning over and over in ;his hands, studying it as though he were trying to find a way out. I looked at Ward and wondered. He considered himself elite and yet he, like me, was an unafilliated loner. What might have happened to him to put him in that box. I asked him what grade he was going to ask. I was incredulous when he said a C. ‘Oh no, Sonderman, oh no. That box is terrific. That’s beautiful, don’t ask for anything less than an A.’
He gave me a contemptuous look which told me that my opinion meant nothing to him and to mind my own business. Incredibly Sonderman asked for a C and got it. Now, I really thought everyone but me had done terrific work. I was pretty impressed, but student after student asked for no more than a B, most settled for a C. Some were even so stupid that asked for and got a D. Mr. Murphy raised some but lowered none.
Law had taken a C, Shriver the same while Michael Hirsh asked only for a B. I was last to be called up. I had been wrestling with the problem of the proper grade to ask for while the others presented teir great projects for As Bs and Cs. I looked closely at my miserable production Unsympathetic and gloating eyes were fixed on me as I rose to present my thing to Mr. Murphey when my name was called. It was eithr an A or a B. I had thought hard about it. He hadn’t lowered anyboyd so I though I could definitely get away with a B. Then I though about how the creeps had damaged my project in metal meaing I had wasted valuable time there. My time was worth a lot. More than any stupid A. I thought he might stick at the A but when you ain’t got nothin’ you got nothin’ to lose. If he gave me the A I knew the Eloy would be after me. They were already after me.
‘Well, Greham, what grade was your time worth?’ Murphy asked turning my wretched project over and around with disdain evident on his face.
‘An A.’ I shot back firmly and without hesitation.
Mr. Murphy gasped, while an audible hum of dismay arose around me.
Mr. Murphy scrutinized me closely. ‘An A?’ He said.
‘Yes sir, it’s an A.’ I replied firmly.
For some reason Murphy held the cat up to show the Eloy clique.
‘He thinks this is worth an A.’ He said disparagingly.
The Eloy were on their feet leaning toward Murphy’s chair in the center of the room with his back toward them. There was dead silence as all the boys held their breath in anticiaption of Murphy’s rejecting my absurd claim.
Murphy gave me a wondering look and siad: ‘Alright then, I diad I’d give you the grade you asked for; an A it is.’
Well, alright them. I got out of that hole with an A. Boner Law nearly lost it while the other Eloy stood up denouncing me, gesticulating wildly. Others stared at me in disbelief, the quality of my project was no secret.
‘You’ve got a lot of nerve, Gresham.’ Sonderman said as I sat back down. ‘That cat isn’t worth an A. How could you get two grades better than me when my work is so much better? He snarled contemptuously.
‘Sonderman,’ I said patiently, ‘your box was worth an A. I told you so. Murphy said he would give us any grade we asked for. If you undervalued your work don’t blame me. I know my project wasn’t A quality but the time I had to waste in this class was worth an A. The way I see it an A was the best I could get.’
Sonderman met my explanation with rage, pushig me away from him. Others who had heard me set up howls of derision.
‘You all know what you’re worth too.’ I turned and said to them.
I made similar answers to others while out of the corner of my eye I saw the Eloy fuming. Their disappointment was boundless. They thought that my humiliation would be complete and total. I had denied them their vindication. they would have to continue to walk in shame.
They were waiting for me to leave. I didn’t know what they wanted but I didn’t want to find out either. I had to dodge around a couple of guys ahead of me when I heard Law sulpurously say: ‘Hey. Hey, just hold on for one second, Gresham. We want to talk to you.’
‘Yeah, well I don’t anything to say to you , Law.’ I replied. I made the mistake of turning around to say it.
Law and Eloy rushed up against me, slamming me with a loud bang into the lockers.
Law was livid. He was really disappointed. He had taken a C but he had anticipated me getting an F. He had counted on it even though Murphy had said that he wouldn’t give less than a D. His day, his whole semester had been predicated on my failing. He hadn’t liked the way I had talked to him when he had refereed my wrestling match. He had planned a whole string of insults for me, now. His disappointment was deep and bitter. The way he saw it, I had cheated him of just retribution.
He was raging both internally to himself and externally through posture and gestures to his clique of Eloy. Yet my offence, apart from thwarting his expectations was unclear to him. He had no convenient handle to seize.
‘Hey, Gresham, you didn’t get what you deserved in there. You cheat.; He deplored.
He and the other Eloy crowded around me pressing me up against the lockers. Michael Hirsh hung sullenly back, his head held down. Many of the other boys stood around to watch what was happening. I was indignant. These guys had said that no matter what they were going to disfigure my project so that I wouldn’t be able to get a good grade, now they had just retribution in my eyes. My indignation weakened by a certain petulance which had been bred in my by denial.
”Yeah, I know.’ I asserted. ‘I deserven an A just for being in the same class with you jerks. You got what you deserved and you asked for it.’
My answer flabbergasted not only Law but everyone standing around who all thought they had been short changed since I got an A.
‘Ha…you…an A!’ Law practically screamed. ‘You and your cat are a joke.’
‘It wasn’t meant as a joke,’ I said apologetically. ‘But Murphy didn’t say what our work was worth, he said what our time and effort was worth. My time and effort were worth an A an I got it. My craftmanship in my project didn’t deserve a grade, but that isn’t what he said. You got the grade you asked for your time, you know what time is worth and I agree with you. Personally I think you got more than you deserved.’ I thought this was a very accurage explanation if an explanation was called for.
‘Yeah, well, I’m telling, you cheated, Gresham…’
‘Watch who you’re calling a cheat Law. You guys’ , meaning the Eloy, ‘said you were going to damage my project so I couldn’t get a good grade and you got Dubscek thrown out of school last semester just because you’re jerks. You cheated me when I was wrestling with Cahallan. So think twice before you guys call anyone esle a cheat.’
An emphatic cry of ‘That’s right.’ came from the crowd behind the Eloy followed by a couple of ‘Yeahs.’
Law heard and looking over his shoulder thought he had a better reply: ‘Decker was crazy. You saw how he went after Sid with that wrench.’ A groan from behind.
‘I saw how you guys violated his duty and forced him to defend it. I saw how you put the hacksaw back and made it look like he was attacking Cohen for no reason. Lie all you want Law, but tell it to someone who doesn’t know. Tell it to the judge.
The same voice which now took on a threatening tone said ‘Yeah, that’s right Law.’ Followed by another couple of ‘Yeahs.’
I was bounced off the lockers again but Law’s attention was behind him, it was a though his eyes were trying to look around his head without turning it. Perhaps Law and the others really didn’t think they had set Dubscek up; maybe they justified themselves in the manner that Dubscek just kidn’t know how to play the game. But, in the manner of a judge that weighs the appearance of the parties before him rather than the evidence, Law weighed the antipathy against him because of the Eloy’s treatment of Dubscek against his antagonism toward me. In like manner he refused to answer me in the spirit but switched to the letter: ‘Your project was a piece of trash and didn’t deserve an A.’
This was greeted by a universal ‘Hear, hear.’ A lone voice straggled in comically; ‘Shoot, if I had known it was that easy I’d a got an A.’
Everybody looked around to see who spoke. As they did so I pushed through the Eloy to escape.
‘You should have. ‘ I said making the mistake of insulting everyone instead of just Law and the Eloy. ‘If you guys were too stupid to ask for better grades, which Murphy told you he was going to give, you’ve got nobody to blame but yourselves. You’re all stupid.’
I turned to walk off as boys who might have been my allies but for my imprudence said: ‘Hey, did you hear what he just said. He thinks we’re all stupid.’
As I increased the distance a ‘You stik, Gresham.’ flowed around me, probably from Law, maybe even Hirsh, or another of the Eloy. It was a barb that stuck in my back. I shot another ‘Oh hea, Well, I’m not stupid.’ over my shoulder which stuck in their breasts and which they would never forgive nor forget.
It had been a painful experience, another that I suppressed immediately. I was developing the habit of suppressing whatever was painful to me. I not only suppressed incidents but the memory of all the people involved. As I walked away I forgot everyting. When I next saw Law I wouldn’t know him. I would know that he was a bad guy, or in other words, that I didn’t like him, but I wouldn’t recognize him as Boner Law, nor would I speak to him. As Law and the Eloy believed themselves better than me, they wouldn’t speak first, thus I ignored them and they viewed me with contempt.
What they considered my effrontery of getting an A became a topic of converstaion among them all summer long. They had only a vague notion of why they hated me before, but wood shop gave them a fresh cause. this incident had the effect of unifying the Longfellow, Robinson and Cub Scout elements. Life would be tougher next year.
Wising Up The Guys- Crime In America
I have a difficult time reconciling the commonly held belief that the fifties were a placid boring time with my own experiences of living through the period. There was so much happening, so fast, it was incredible. Change was then and everywhere. American has never been static, never been placid. the developments of technology have always gone on at a dizzying pace. Combined with the introduction of the immigrants into Anglo-American society, the two by the fifties had completely unsettled the Old Guard. America had moved and changed so fast that the Old Guard was forced to become reactionary. We youth emerging into the new conditions adoped, assimilated and homogenized all the technological and ethnic influence that we were subject to into something which the Old Guard had never seen; a people blended from the all the strains of immigration. The America they had known slipped right out from beneath their feet.
Unable to assert themselves against the immigrant natinalities and the rebelling Negroe they would turn their wrath against we youth and the American culture the Old Guard had created but couldn’t understand.
The decade in the minds of most people is represented by a strict conformity. the buttoned down, grey flannel mind. Diversity was not encouraged. On the surface there may be some truth to this; nevertheless it is also true that that is what we wanted but couldn’t have. We all wanted to balance differences with the need to be alike. But those who wanted to be different feared the reaction, so they accommodated themselves to the prejudices of the time. So what’s different? Those prejudices were much less severe than those associated with the current form of conformity or orthodoxy called Political Correctness. We had much greater freedom of conscience. Censorship was much less employed than it is currently.
After 1953, short hair, the Crew Cut, was de riguer. If you had hair long enough to comb it took real courage, even obtuseness, to wear it that way. Most didn’t have that kind of courage or obtuseness. A compromise called the Duck-tail was worked out where the top was cut flat while the sides were very long, combed back and parted down the middle of the back of the head. This style was worn by rebels, or generally considered of the hoodlum class.
The urge to conformity was partly due to the Communist menace. No one wanted to be suspected of being disloyal. Mainly though, conformity was the result of immigration. No one wanted to display national differences. No one wanted to be identified as an immigrant’s son. Poles, Italians, Jews, Germans, Eastern Europeans, those from Dixie, all looked, dressed, talked, thought and acted alike. On the surface of course.
Beneath the surface the old differences were forcing their way to the top. Cultural influences were varied and strong but at this time all differences were submerged beneath a surface conformity. Several kid I knew with long or hard to pronounce names had them shortened to avoid national identification.
We youths were the wave of a possible future; our fathers and grandfathers were still fighting the immigrant wars.
Of the immigrants, anyone born in 1890 to 1900 was still a man of only fifty or sixty; a whole immigrant generation familiar with and constantly reliving their European heritage and immigrant experience. They fought to impose themselves and their beliefs on their new environment. Some promoted the view that immigrants built America; a great many were trying to impose themselves in other more irregular ways.
During the winter of 1950 and the spring and summer of 1951 Senator Estes Kefauver conducted his sensational senate hearing on crime in America. He and his committee went from city to city putting the leading criminals on the stand for examination. The startling thing was that these men were not just being accused of being criminals; they were prominent, known criminals operating openly as criminals. None tried to deny it. These hearings were broadcast in their entirety into our homes for us to witness.
The Warden’s hadn’t been the first on their block to put one of those funny antennas on their roof. The block was already adopting that appearance so characteristic of the fifties when every house sported a ten foot multi-pronged aluminum mast on its roof. Christmas 1950 a TV set appeared in the house. The Wardens had entered the space age.
The hearings were in every way sensational. Skippy had always been interested in crime and criminals, so that, through him I was probably more aware of the existence of an organized crime syndicate than some others, like the FBI. Yet even at the Children’s Home I had been made aware of the influence of crime. Many of the fence perverts were criminals recruiting both for their sexual pleasures and for criminal accomplices. Boys who were small enough to get through tight places.
I once boldly asked some question about thow things were done. The man began to explain the techniques when he suddenly realized he might be instructing the wrong person. He turned to a couple thers and asked: “Hey, is this guy wise?’ The others looked at me expectantly; the choice was mine. I said that no, I wasn’t wise and didn’t want to be. I was therefore not inducted into the criminal point of view. The perverts thenceforth distrusted me. Still, I was around when they regaled the others with stories of Murder, Inc.
Thus, if the Syndicate was common knowledge along the fence it must have been common knlwledge to the authorities. It is alleged that they were given reasons to avert their eyes. It must have been true. The power of the Syndicate was such that it was not officially acknowledged. the confirmation of its existence, since it was not offically ackenowledged even after the hearings, burst like an atom bomb over America.
Anyone with an eye could have seen crime developing in America over the previous five decades. Certainly criminals had not cared to conceal their intentions under Prohibition and through the thirties. They had even left the bodies lying in the street for all to see. The movies portrayed gangster activities and methods with a realizm that indicated intimate knowledge. Why couldn’t the authorities with their massive spy systems know the same things? It is the oddest thing in the world that a labor organizer couldn’t conceal his activities for a moment, but the Communists and criminals went about undetected forever.
Now as gangster after gangster paraded to the stand to defy, to literally give the finger to, the Committee of the Senate of the United States of America, the country seemed to be aghast at the revelation.
Skippy and Cappy and I rushed home after school to sit spellbound before the TV. Skippy was already familiar with a lot of the names and the gangs they represented. He kept up a running commentary. It seemed like all the gangsters had been operating for thirty years or more; they all appeared to be wealthy, some even fabulously wealthy. The Committee knew them to be criminals, they didn’t deny it. Kefauver even knew of their crimes and their methods. Thus, the lesson was that the law had known and had done nothing or, worse yet, been unable to do anything about them. The criminals seemed to have been protected by prominent citizens. The criminals seemed to us to be more powerful than the law.
The criminals were not intimidated by Kefauver and his investigators. They gave defiant answers in contemptuous tones They got up and walked out when they became displeased with the proceedings. No one tried to stop them. We expected the police to grab them at the door and bring them back, but they didn’t; they stepped aside and let them walk out. The three of us sat and gaped in wonder. These were not the criminals of the comic books and movies who qualied before the G-men. these guys had never been touched by the police and seemed to have no fear of being so. Compared to the Senate Committee they appeared as Olympic champions to Caspar Milquetoasts.
Further there was a racial confrontation going on. The Committee was Anglo-Saxon natives while the criminals were all Italian and Jewish immigrants. The immigrants showed up pretty well against the WASPs.
It also became apparent to me that these criminals were not good men turned bad guys because they’d gotten a few bad breaks. These guys had a criminal philosophy; they had a criminal point of view. They thought that we were saps and they were wise guys. They thought that the difference between us and them was that they were in the know and we were stupid.
Americans were incapable of understanding the noiton of crime as a way of life. They couldn’t understand it as alternate view of reality. They really believed that criminals could be rehabilitated. They were blissfully unaware of the battle between legitimate and criminal ideals that was going on. they had no idea that their refusal to recognize the problem allowed criminal ideals to corrode legitimate ideals further every day.
Furthermore it was and is a criminal philosophy that could be and was justified from the pages of that most Holy Bible. The Myth of Adam and Eve could be interpreted rom more than one point of view. The world of light and dark, good and evil, God and the Devil exist side by side in the Good Book. The French Revolution is the crucial event through which previous history passed as though sand through the narrow part of the hour glass to be transformed into modern history.
The French Revolution was the focal point of the great change from Medieval to modern times. The French Revolution was the opening European volley of a much more comprehensive event known as the World Revolution.
The World Revolution was anti-Monarchical, anti-Catholic in the narrow sense and anti-Religious in the larger sense, and anti-Social in character. The Revolution projected a complete reorganization of society along political, religious, propery and sexual lines. Those goals were to be undertaken irrespective of any minority wishes. It was and is a totalitarian movement. If and when complete the Revolution will have eliminated all distinctions of religion, rank, race, nationality, education, or, very importantly, morality. The pre-Revolution slogan of Do What Thous Wilt, oras more recently expressed: If It Feels Good, Do It. shall be the whole of morality and the law under Revolutionary government.
The Revolution through 1945 was composed of many strands all leading in the same direction but with different goals. The participants were obscurantists who sought to disguise their motives and means. They functioned below the level of open politics hence they were secret and secretive societies. A phase of the history of the Revolution ended with the final rounds of the European War.
The anti-Monarchical side was successful by 1917-18 when the Czar, Kaiser and the Central European monarchies were terminated.
The anti-Religious and anti-Social sides continue. Catholicicm, a major target, is to a large extent neutralized. The Protestant sects are demoralized or infiltrated. The Stalin era of the Bolshevik Revolution demoted or attempted to demote the Jews from an exalted opinion of themselves to merely another nationality among nationalities. thus the trend of the Revolution is to reduce all religions to inconsequence. Neither the World Revolution nor History can tolerate the concept of Semitism or anti-Semitism. The aim of the Revolution is the ‘brotherhood’ of men, the elimination of all distinctions into what they consider the ‘natural’ state of mankind as it existed before the first step toward civilization.
While it will be and has been necessary for me to comment extensively on the Jews, one should not consture any comments as ‘anti-Semitism.’ As the drunken poet said: The moving writes, and having writ moves on; nor all your piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all they tears wash out a word of it.
What has been done, has been done. Absolutely nothing can change it. Sorry doesn’t count, no explanations can change the facts. We must all stand by our actions. I make no judgments, I take no sides. Man is man. It would make no matter where I to view with revulsion, it would be of no consequence to chide a lack of morality when all the participants are equally guilty. Given the chance they will all commit the same follies again, as you will yours. My only intent is to understand and explain how and why I am what I am and we are what we are. As the estimable Harry Truman once repeated: If you can’t take the heat stay out of the kitchen. Close the book and walk away.