Monday, December 08, 2008

A Story of Hard Times

Gather 'round, chilin. With all this "recession this" and "recession that," it's fun to hear stories about what it was like to be a kid during the Great Depression, as told by papa Bukowski (from Ham on Rye):

Mrs. Fretag was our English teacher. The first day in class she asked us each our names.

"I want to get to know all of you," she said. She smiled.

"Now, each of you has a father, I'm sure. I think it would be interesting if we found out what each of your fathers does for a living.

We'll start with seat number one and we will go around the class. Now, Marie, what does your father do for a living?"

"He's a gardener."

"Ah, that's nice! Seat number two . . . Andrew, what does your father

It was terrible. All the fathers in my immediate neighborhood had lost their jobs. My father had lost his job. Gene's father sat on his front porch all day. All the fathers were without jobs except Chuck's who worked in a meat plant. He drove a red car with the meat company's name on the side.

"My father is a fireman," said seat number two.

"Ah, that's interesting," said Mrs. Fretag. "Seat number three."

"My father is a lawyer."

"Seat number four."

"My father is a . . . policeman . . ."

What was I going to say? Maybe only the fathers in my neighborhood were without jobs. I'd heard of the stock market crash. It meant something bad. Maybe the stock market had only crashed in our neighborhood.

"Seat number eighteen."

"My father is a movie actor . . ."


"My father is a concert violinist . . ."

"Twenty . . ."

"My father works in the circus . . ."

"Twenty-one.. ."

"My father is a bus driver . . ."


"My father sings in the opera . . ."

"Twenty-three.. ."

Twenty-three. That was me.

"My father is a dentist," I said.

Mrs. Fretag went right on through the class until she reached number

"My father doesn't have a job," said number thirty-three.

Shit, I thought, I wish I had thought of that.

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