Growing Up (Signet)
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This Pulitzer Prize-winner is "the saddest, funniest, most tragical yet comical picture of coming of age in the U.S.A. in the Depresson years and World War II that has ever been written."—Harrison Salisbury.
He owned two suits, which was a sign of great wealth in my eyes, and pressed them on an ironing board in the basement every Sunday, with a gallon jug of benzine and a white cloth at hand to remove spots encountered along the way. Like my mother, Uncle Allen believed that with hard work, good character, and an honest nature a man could make something of himself in spite of bad times, and he worked at the salesman’s trade with total dedication. He had sold wholesale groceries in Brooklyn and
not prepossessing, certainly not strong, she was wedded to the old saw “Spare the rod and spoil the child” and feared that unless my misbehaviors were corrected with corporal punishment my character would become soft and corrupt. Before declaring me “the man of the family” she had never spanked me, and by that time, when I was eight, I was too large for spanking. It was her notion, picked up I know not where, that boys my age needed “a good thrashing” when they misbehaved. These she
not much to look forward to but a career of farm labor. Maybe in the Marines he even became a hero. He did fight in France and afterwards stayed on in the Marines, shipping around the Caribbean under General Smedley Butler to keep Central America subdued while Yankee corporations pumped out its wealth. For a man with negligible expectations, he had not done badly by 1937 standards. Full-time cemetery labor; a one-bedroom apartment so close to a famous writer. My first awe of him had softened
missing human head, I was in no mood to grope around on dark staircases. If I’d touched something human in there, which was possible since every once in a while I stumbled across drunks sleeping it off in unlit hallways, I might have died of fright. So I left the papers in downstairs hallways, deciding to let the customers howl next payday when most of them weren’t going to pay anyhow. When I went back to the drop point for the third bundle I was tired, and I sat down for a break to treat
Doolittle came on me like a fever. I lectured her all the way to Washington about our colonial beginnings, the Puritan tradition, the Mayflower Compact, and the ancient origins of slavery. We disembarked at Union Station, and I walked her through its spacious grandeur and lectured her on the great age of the railroads and the land swindles of Reconstruction on which they were built. I walked her up Capitol Hill and lectured her on the great Americans whose statues stood in the Capitol Rotunda.