Chapter 11

After High School

   Sometime in March, I was expelled from school, and it came about in this way.  I was taking my favorite subject, Ancient History, from Mr. Robert Getman, and I was called upon to read a paragraph from the book.  Unfortunately the paragraph began with a “p”.  Since my stammering prevented me from starting, and remembering the laughter a similar situation had caused in grammar school, I elected to remain silent rather than confess to the whole class that I had this problem.  As punishment for my lack of cooperation, Mr. Getman ordered me to write a sentence a number of times, and return it immediately after lunch.

To compound this comedy of errors, after I had rapidly eaten my lunch and hurried back to my homeroom to complete my assignment, some clown in the homeroom had played with the door and locked it.  As the janitors took their lunch at the same time my homeroom did, it was not until almost class time that the door was finally unlocked.  Since I had not done this assignment when I came back to Mr. Getman’s class, he brought me outside into he hall, and to the office of Mr. Ralph Wiber, who was then the principal.

After they had conferred in low voices for a while, Mr. Wiber approached me and told me to gather up my books and go home, and not to come back.  I could have explained the situation, but after I told them about the homeroom door, and I was called a liar, I was too proud to do so.  At any rate, I was not too unhappy about my expulsion, since I assumed that I would now be able to join the C.C.C.’s.

The difficulty I have in dating these events was the fact that my family told me, and I believed, that I was a year older than I actually was.  Therefore, when I was expelled in March of my sophomore year, I was only fifteen, not sixteen.  I did not know this until some (NOTE:Dad’s report card shows he was expelled in March of 1936, when he was 16 years old.) years later.  but I can state with certainty that the year was 1935.

 Expelled From Home

My mother was naturally angry that I had not completed high school, since none of my older brothers or sisters did, and she had held high hopes for me.  Back then graduating from high school was almost equivalent to graduating from college today.  Since I was out of school, a great deal of pressure was put on me to find a job.  This was, of course, out of the question since many willing adults could not find work.  My older brother Pete was the sole breadwinner at the time, since my sister Margaret was married.  Since I was unable to find a job, Pete turned me out of the house.

I told my cousin George Recore Jr. that I had nowhere to go.  Since he, too, had been turned out, we decided to go on the bum, or become hoboes.  I made the mistake of stopping at my sister Margaret’s house on the Canton road.  After explaining the situation to her, and bidding her good-bye forever, she talked a great deal about the pain and anguish I would cause my mother if I did as I planned to do.  Although my mother had stood by wordless as my brother put me out, the thought of causing her any anxiety or pain, caused me to revise my plans, much to the anger of my cousin.

We both moved in with our Uncle Alex, who rented a small brick building on Lake Street which was formerly the office of the tannery located there.  Although he was not particularly versed in science, he knew enough to tap onto an electric line of a nearby building owned by J.F. Sharpe, and received free power for his lights.

 Back Home

After several weeks with Uncle Alex, I unobtrusively moved back with my family.  When my brother noticed my subservience, he deigned to allow me to remain. 

The Move to Brown Street

I arrived back just in time to help the family move to another house on Brown Street.  It was just across the block from our place on Jackson, so we carried everything by hand.  The new house was somewhat more than three times the size of the old one, so we were hard pressed to fill the rooms with furniture.  The ample space enabled those who desired to have a room of their own, to do so.  I selected a very small room, with barely enough room for a cot.  Some of my sisters had a windowless room without lights, making it necessary to bring an oil lamp into it to clean and make the beds.  The only drawback to this place was the fact that for years it had been a whorehouse, and my mother was constantly pestered by men who had just hit town, and were looking for a girl to spend the night with.

My First Job - Dishwasher at McConville’s Hotel

My cousin Royal Recore worked as a dishwasher at McConville’s Hotel.  Having found a better job on the W.P.A., he spoke to the management and I finally had a job.  the chef was named Oley LeJuick, and the second cook was Clarence Reid.  I was required to report for work at six in the morning and worked until about 2:00 PM.  I reported back at 4:00 PM and worked until about 11:00.  This was seven days a week.  I had one night off a week, if you could call it that.  My night off consisted of  leaving at 9:00 PM on Friday night.

I put in 103 hours for the princely sum of less than $4.00 per week.  Dan McConville owned the hotel.  Being somewhat of a miser, he paid off on the 15th and the last day of the month, so he could screw us out of a few days of work.  On the 15th I got $8.00, and on the last day of the month I got another $8.00.  This works out to three and a half cents an hour.  Since each day consisted of working and sleeping, I had little time for anything else. 

Shortly after I started to work there, Oley and Clarence were accused of stealing dressed chickens out of the cooler and were fired.  A new chef, Mrs. Ball, was hired, along with a new second cook, Henry Kelly, a neighbor of ours when we lived on Covington Street.  Henry immediately attempted to make life miserable for me since he was a second cook and I was a lowly dishwasher.  He constantly humiliated me in front of the girls who waited on tables.  At one time he even yanked me out of the cooler to make an impression on the girls.  As it happened, the girls all liked me and this act put him in a bad light since I had entered the cooler to get the waitresses some cream for their coffee.

The chef had a day off one day a week, and a fireman from No. 1 Engine House, Eldric Boismenu, who had been a chef at the city orphanage, took her place.  Eldric was interested in boxing.  One day when I came back to work early, he put on the boxing gloves with Hank Kelly.  I had put in a lot of time boxing with my friends, and as I studied Kelly, it occurred to me that I could give him a run for his money.  Bear in mind that I was only fifteen years old, and Hank was in his twenties and half again as big.

At any rate, Hank was tired of being belted around by Eldric, who was much too good for him.  When I asked Hank to try a few rounds with me, he was only too glad to accept.  As soon as our gloves were on, I sailed into him.  Finding him as inept as I had judged, my only thought was of revenge.  Wide open as he was, I hit him as fast and viciously as I could.  the firemen, realizing that there was something wrong, grabbed me.  Although I begged them to let go, they stopped the fight.  Hank was white as a sheet.  He probably thought I was out to kill him, and maybe I would have.  From then on, Hank was extremely courteous to me.

One of the odd things about the hotel was the elevator.  It was run by hydraulic pressure.  I was not familiar with engineering then, but I remember the large valve in the cellar hooked to the city water supply, which someone was always fiddling with whenever the elevator refused to function.  A bar and grill had been built in the cellar after prohibition, and the men’s and ladies wash rooms had been added and extended into the storeroom below.

It was apparent to all that Hank spent an inordinate amount of time in the cellar, so a delegation was sent down to see what he was doing.  They caught him in the act of peeking through a hole he had bored into the ladies room from the storeroom.  He was fired, and a new second cook was hired within a few days. 

This guy was a tall, muscular, blonde, handsome, typical hero-type.  He aroused my instant dislike.  In all the movies then, the heroine was at some point completely at the mercy of the villain, and just as he was about to have his way with her and the tension was mounting fast, some disgusting hero would always intervene at the last moment.  Instead of some action, we were forced to watch some mushy love scenes.  This had the effect of  inspiring my admiration for the villains, and my absolute loathing for heroes.  Although we fervently hoped that just once the hero would arrive too late, these disgusting meddlers always arrived just in time to spoil the picture.

 Fired

After a short time, Mrs. Ball was offered a better job, and another chef was hired.  then, as now, the chef was the absolute master in the kitchen, similar to the exalted position a second lieutenant holds in the Army, a Caesar in the Roman Empire, or perhaps the bingo champion in the local Moose Club.  Our new chef was a short, stocky man with a sour disposition.  I cannot recall his name, since I did not remain there long after he came.  I was unfortunate enough to remark in his presence that I had survived three generations of chefs and second cooks in this particular kitchen.  He, not relishing any holdovers from former administrations, fired me forthwith, on the grounds that I had no working papers, and thus I had been hired illegally.

I was faced with the unpleasant prospect of confessing to my mother that I had been fired, with the even more agonizing, to me, necessity of making the proper obeisance to my brother so that he would allow me to remain in the house.  Since Fall was coming on, it occurred to me that it was better to sacrifice a small part of my honor, than to glory in it while shivering on some street corner.  This unaccustomed humbleness was not lost on my brother, and he proceeded to make life as miserable for me as possible, no doubt to show me his love.  It became an obsession with me to long for a few years and the necessary weight so that I could return his love.

 Joining the C.C.C.’s

My position at home became intolerable, and my mother prevailed upon her old friend, Margaret Westbrook, for advice.  Miss Westbrook suggested that I wait until my birthday in December, then add a year to my age and join the C.C.C.’s.  Bear in mind that a year had already been added to my age, therefore when I joined the C.C.C.’s in December, supposedly at the age of eighteen, I would in reality be only sixteen.  Needless to say, I looked forward to my entrance into this organization since I have always loved the woods and could connive of no greater joy than spending my time in this sort of work.

I sent in my application, and it was accepted with the understanding that I would report at the camp in Pierpoint, New York, on the day after my birthday.  As bad luck would have it, my tonsils again became infected and our doctor, Mr. Tullock, decided that they must come out.

I was admitted into the hospital and Dr. Tullock offered me my choice of freezing them and removing them, or else taking ether.  Since the thought of remaining awake while some butcher cut out half my throat under my very eyes was more than my courage could stand, I opted for the ether.  I was subsequently taken to the operating room, where a sheet was wrapped tightly around my arms and an ether mask placed over my face.  Since I had a cold, which I had denied to the doctor, I soon began to strangle.  At that point I panicked and managed to work my arms loose and tear the mask off my face.  Two nurses immediately wrapped my arms under the sheet again and held them until I was out.  I was not allowed to leave the hospital until the day after my birthday.

As the camp had sent a truck for me and I was not there to meet it, there nothing to do but hitch-hike to Pierpoint, a distance of about 27 miles.  I was considerably ruin-down from my infection.  The morning I started out, December 10, 1935, was cold and drizzle started soon after I reached the Canton Road.  It was such a raw day there was little traffic.  Rather than stay in one spot, I kept walking to keep warm.  I finally got a ride to Woodbridge Hill, but walked the rest of the way to Canton.  By this time I was soaked to the skin.  Noticing an Army truck parked in front of a tavern, I assumed it was from the camp, and waited for the driver.  When he finally appeared I had a tough time talking him into giving me a ride to Pierpoint, since his orders did not include picking up hitch-hikers.  But seeing my condition, he finally relented.

Upon reaching camp, I reported to the First Sergeant.  He was reluctant to admit me since the whole camp was down with the flu.  But since I was shivering uncontrollably, and had an obvious long walk ahead of me in the dark, he finally relented.  The supply sergeant issued me blankets and sheets and I was brought over to one of the barracks where I immediately dropped my bedding on the floor and embraced a very hot round oak stove until my shivering stopped.  Although everyone else was sick, I did not come down with the flu.