Saturday, February 24, 2007

Wednesday Feb 27

When I went up with Philip
to the School to pay for him
$2.00 the owner called him
out of the class and told me
and him that we would have
to pay the balance of 50 dollars
at once and when I told him
that I cannot do it besides
we have last week made up
for $2.00 a week, he sent
Philip and myself home,
saying 'you can go home
Good night, good night'

I think it is an outrage
the way that school man
acted, I intend to take
action I will consult Sat.
Counsellor Levine about it,

Spent rest of the Evening
at hom adjusting my correspondence


Matt's Notes

This is a continuation of a saga involving Phil, who was Papa's brother-in-law, the Success School, where Phil took English lessons, and Papa, who was paying for Phil's lessons on an installment plan he'd arranged with the school's headmaster. As I noted earlier, I think the headmaster wanted to kick Phil out in favor of a student who could pay in full. I don't know why he needed the $50 so badly, but since he gave Papa so much grief I'll take license to say he was an opium addict who'd promised Phil's seat to one of the many prostitutes he owed money to. Poor guy. It's hard to think straight when your brain is scrambled by syphilis and you've sold all your children to cover your gambling debts.

"Counsellor Levine" was, I expect, on retainer with one of the immigrant-oriented mutual aid societies Papa belonged to, most likely the Order Sons of Zion or the Sniatyn landsmanshaft. This would be a perfect example of why the services provided by landsmanshaftn were so important to people like Papa. He never could have afforded representation on his own, but for a few dollars a year in club dues he knew he could talk to a lawyer when jerks like the Success School's headmaster tried to shit on his family.


Additional Notes

Sometimes little details in Papa's entries really do a lot to illustrate the texture of his life in the 20's. In this case, the headmaster's bullying phrase "you can go home, good night, good night" (I can't help but think of how Gene Wilder dismisses Charlie and Grandpa with a tight "I said good day sir...I said good day!" in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) and Papa's mention of "adjusting my correspondence" feel especially Edwardian to me. We shouldn't forget, either, that Papa wrote this entry in a clothbound journal by gaslight, probably just before bed and just after using the communal toilet down the hall. The concerns of his life -- political work, romantic adventures, sick parents, nasty school masters -- were timeless, but his day-to-day experiences were, of course, strictly 1924.

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