hicagoans had a strong sense of the future, partly because their past had been nasty, brutish and short. The earliest European types had been massacred by Indians, who themselves had been bought off and sent packing with some trinkets that they mostly exchanged for whiskey. The next generation suffered a fire that burned down most of the City. The next generation saw an immigration the likes of which the world has never seen. And in the next generation, the Babe was born.
From what amounted to the cast of a low-budget Western movie, the population grew to four millions, counting its suburbs, by the time the Babe advanced to Third Grade; it was producing more hard goods than any city in the world, had more hotel rooms than any other city, boasted of the most corruption and crime, and was lambasted by one and all who wished to exercise themselves with superlatives, such as "Queen and guttersnipe of cities, cynosure and cesspool of the world." And, "widely and generously planned with streets of twenty miles, where it is not safe to walk at night." And, "the most American of American cities and yet the most mongrel; the second American city..., the fifth German city, the third Swedish, the second Polish, the first and only veritable Babel of the world."
A long-term Mayor, before he was killed by a man he failed to appoint to office, remarked "Genius is but audacity, and the audacity of the `wild and wooly West' and of Chicago has chosen a star, and has looked upward to it, and knows nothing that it cannot accomplish."
And all of this went on long beyond the time of the Babe; Chicago's "chief characteristic," wrote Sun-Times Editor Emmett Dedmon, a friend of mine, was its "air of continued striving and aggressiveness."
The Babe noticed things happening as he grew up. He saw Seward Park across the street refashioned but, after much discussion following upon fascinated gazing, he and the family decided that very little had been improved in exchange for the loss of foliage and broadened concrete. He noticed that the alleys were being paved, again a mixed blessing. He noted that new apartment houses and bungalows were being built over large stretches of the North Side (he had never been to the Far South Side where the same was occurring.)
He noticed the great increase in traffic and congestion, and the year by year change in automobile models -- so heavily advertised on the basis of little change that he postponed learning about cars because he thought erroneously they were changing mechanically too rapidly for him to build up a store of knowledge. He saw new trolley- cars and buses, too, just as sick-making as the old. He noticed the increase in airplanes in the sky. He passed through the vast new subdivisions that sanguine promoters were selling all around the city, and noticed that they remained unbuilt during the long Depression. He heard that there was a new City Junior College and saw his brother enter it; and gathered that it did not amount to much.
He was familiar with many incremental changes, but there was not a single new marvel among them, it would appear. Thus lighting systems improved a little -- the bulbs, the wiring, perhaps. The phones were getting dials to replace talking to the operator. Toast was made in electric toasters, not on the stove top anymore. His Mother got a grandiose electric coffee percolator for her kaffeeklatsch; it gave off a good aroma. The old Singer sewing machine had been replaced by a fancier one with little gadgets to do special jobs; it was electric. The radio was now full of tubes, more powerful, larger and more ornate, with an effective loudspeaker. You can see how appropriate it was that he would have his picture taken looking at a picture of Thomas E. Edison, courtesy of the Chicago Daily News, on Edison's birthday, October 21, 1931.
Spring mattresses were new. The plumbing system was more nicely set up. The ice-box became a refrigerator -- there's a big change: the iceman cometh not. Pressing irons were less weighty. The phonograph needles were improved and the machine became electrically powered. Washing machines made an appearance. So too the diesel-engine train, ugly, thought the Babe.
He noticed little else. He was, after all, not a sociologist who was equipped to find trends by indirect and statistical methods. Nor was the adult world or the press cognizant of the new means of determining the state of the population, though, as his childhood ended, there had actually been formed and put to work a Commission on Economic Trends by "The Great Engineer," Herbert Hoover, at the time of his election to the Presidency. Here, too, was an innovation in scientific method, an important one, but few people, certainly not he, had this called to their attention.
Indeed, what he did not observe or have impressed upon him was a lot. The same Lynds who were mentioned earlier described the changes that they had found in Middletown between the Twenties and the Thirties, the very years under discussion here. Theirs was a town growing from 15,000 to 40,000; in every instance the change noted could be applied to Chicago: the working class was being subjected to more and more machine controls and regimentation; the number of people exercising control over the population did not increase in proportion to the total increase; groups were larger and the proportion of participants lower; there was more propaganda and manipulation of the mass of people; conspicuous consumerism was becoming more common as people sought to maintain social status; the upper classes were travelling more and becoming more world- minded.
There was a decrease in the number of small businesses and an increase in the proportion of the population occupied in the service industries. The proportion of skilled workers and middle-level clerks had also diminished. Despite the Depression, the economy had developed even more towards money-exchange, had become more specialized. Installment buying had increased. A juvenile Court had been instituted. The role of the Federal Government had greatly increased and it was supporting financially many city operations. There were more home conveniences. More students were going beyond High School into higher education.
All of these changes in Middletown had also occurred in Chicago. Almost all had happened without the conscious awareness of the Babe. He knew about the Federal Government becoming active in the City in regard to City finances and welfare. If someone had pointed out other matters to him he would have immediately perceived them: he had a lot of subliminal awareness. Even though he was far from Middletown and from many Chicagoans in his attitudes, some changes went against his grain, as it had been striated by his monumental reading and learning in the American ideology.
His belief in Progress remained largely unaffected; like most Americans he believed that the Depression was a puzzlingly long pause. He had been one with Mayor Thompson, "Big Bill the Booster." He believed in individual skill and hard work as the way to success; and, although he had little idea of what he wanted in the way of success, he believed he would achieve it. Between 1925 and 1935 there had been no fear of war in America; the Japanese invasion of China and various military outbreaks in Latin America had been duly noted but had no alarming effect. He knew that highly questionable regimes had possessed Italy and Germany, and would say nothing favorable about them, but was un-aroused. I'll say more of these matters later.
Mainly, though, the school system that should be counted upon to provide indications of where a society was going, did nothing of the kind. The teachers had no idea of social trends except material progress and this was only a slogan. They paid no attention in class to the lives and fortunes of the people of Chicago, one fourth of whom had lost their jobs. The High School course in economics, that he had elected to take, spoke mostly about what money was and what corporations were. Its teacher, Miss Fallon, pointed graphically out of her classroom window to where two large factories could be seen, and, conveniently overlooking the one that made brassieres, alluded to the other as a manufacturing corporation with a board of directors, etc., whose stock could be purchased by you and me on the stock market. The Babe and his friends tried to figure out questions that would necessarily invoke the brassiere factory.
Property relations in his family are of some interest. They were not like those of the real world. Nor did they undergo the great pressure to conform to business relations which was typical of American families. He had what was termed his own property, partly what he wanted and was able to obtain, partly what was thrust upon him, as things he was told that he "needed." But if the essence of property is to dispose of it, he could boast ownership of only a few voluntarily acquired items, such as balls and marbles. It was even improper to dispose of one's property, say a cap, if another family member could claim a need for it, prospectively or retroactively.
A second type was property that might be possessed by himself and his brother, a certain bat for instance, or a certain sled. These resembled partnership property, use and disposal being dependent upon mutual agreement, but also often upon parental consent, for this kind of fraternal property too was in part of voluntary acquisition and partly foisted upon them as a "need" as would be a set of books or a bedspread. An important class of such fraternal property would be "blended" or "processed." For instance one would own an electric engine for a toy train system that belonged part to both of them and part to them as individuals. or one might lend a personal tool to make a wooden fort or vehicle and the finished product would belong to both of them if the other processed the construction.
Lending was common, often at a price and under limitations; thus a jacket or cap might be lent in return for a use of a book or for running an errand for the other party, but this could be recalled after one or several uses, or when the owner felt cold. Notably, the property of the boys could often be used directly by, and therefore was coveted by, the other, whereas the parents' personal belongings were distinct, not the subject of desire on the part of the other.
A third class was collective property, dishes, towels, bed covers, tools, food, furniture, whose use would be free to all most of the time except that such use could be vetoed by the Dad or the Mom. Musical instruments and sheet music were involved in a complicated system of holdings; the Dad's principal saxophones could be used only by himself, but an inferior instrument might be available to whoever wanted to practice on it. Sheet music could be drawn from the Dad's collection almost like a lending library, while other music lay about for whoever might want to delve into it.
In sum, property in the family was a bundle of rights, variously distributed; he would have been pleased to hear that this very idea was coming into vogue among anthropologists, and then would be "discovered" in the Western juridical corpus, whereupon, emplaced in sociology and politics, it would dispossess the idea of property as an absolute right, with which the economists had plagued the world since the Eighteenth Century.
Money was scarce with the boys; the Mom asked for what she needed; she also had a bank account into which the Dad paid. He set up savings accounts for the two boys, but they never could draw from them or thought to do so until it was too late, for, when hard times came, he had drawn out all the money to pay for household necessities. The Dad had to submit to reproaches from the Babe for not having let the Babe be generous in releasing "his" money for household use. When Bro Bus began to earn money from his music jobs, he kept it to buy and operate his car and dress stylishly and pay for his personal spending outside the house. The Dad never asked for it, whatever the pinch. Nor did the Babe ask for or get any of it. Bro Bus operated on the "trickle-down" theory: indirectly, the others would gain.
Considering all of his activity, and having early in childhood his substantial wardrobe, and hearty cuisine, and ample outings, the costs of raising the Babe might have been high. Let us investigate the matter.
How much did it cost to bring up the Babe from March 29, 1919, when he was most probably conceived, to October 15, 1935, when he disappears from our scopes?
I divide the total spending on his behalf into Direct Costs, payable by his parents, Social Costs, advanced by the Society through its governments and financed by taxes (some pro rata share of which the Dad had to pay, of course); and Independent Sector Costs (the contributions of voluntary welfare groups).
We obtain the following figures:
|Purpose||Cost in $|
|I. Directly payable by Parents|
|Health Costs: Birth||80|
|Rent and Furnishings||250|
|Toys and Sporting||240|
|Books,Magazines,Library fines,Newspapers,School Supplies||110|
|Total Direct Costs To Parents:||$3,690.00|
|II. Social Costs (paid by Governments)|
|(for police, fire protection,roads, transit subsidies, schools, general government, per capita in City of Chicago)||710|
|State Government (all functions)||105|
|Federal Government (all functions)||1300|
|Total Social (Government) Costs:||$2,115.00|
|III. Independent Sector Costs|
|Boy Scouts (Camp Orinoko supplement and infrastructure)and Camp Olivet||50|
|Total Independent Sector Costs:||$50.00|
|All-Inclusive Costs of Raising The Babe (aver. 1919-1935 dollars allowing for inflation and deflation)||$5,855.00|
|Less deductions for non-applicable government expenditures (almost all were for past military events)||-1000|
|Deductions for Graft and Waste in Government||- 200|
|Total Costs less deductions as noted above||$4,655.00|
All-inclusive, regardless of graft and waste, the Babe's costs, if set in 1988 dollars, would be about $25,000.00, somewhat more today. The direct costs of the Babe to the family turned out to be $19 per month. The direct cost of the Babe to his family and the City of Chicago came to $23 per month. In 1986 dollars, these $23 would be about $115 per month. In 1986 the median family income was about $2300 per month.
The Babe's cost would then be 1/20 of the U.S. median family's income over his 15.8 years of life. (The median family, we stress, is the statistical family that falls plumb in the middle of all U.S. families.)
The Table above makes it plain that the Babe did not cost anybody much money to bear and raise, about twenty dollars per month in old dollars, about a hundred dollars per month in today's dollars, including public school and other social costs, some of which might have been chargeable more to others than himself. Thus, money charged to his account was actually money being paid for past wars and a powerful navy, all of which he approved of as a retrospective patriot.
However, I have not assigned a dollar equivalent to the labor of his parents in producing, protecting, sustaining, and educating him. If, for instance, I were to have paid them as teachers, as he progressed through the years, at the average hourly rate earned by teachers in Chicago, about $1.20 per hour, on an average of 20 hours per week of both parents together, not counting the time in embryo, I should arrive at a figure of $16,328.00 which is about three times what was paid out in actual dollars.
Even so, the calculation evades the issue of the quality of care, and if, for some reason, we were to vote a premium for "good parents," as opposed to "bad parents," and the Dad and Mom were given the bonus, which would double their rate of pay, then we should be paying them $32,656.00, six times all other costs.
If it occurs to allow something to Bro Bus for his loving care, we might avoid the issue by claiming that the Babe somehow returned his affection and education in kind. But then we should subtract from the parents' contributions whatever the Babe provided them in "Making their lives continuously more meaningful and enjoyable," shall we say? My intention is not to be playful, if I appear so here; these are arguments that ordinarily are confused and vague, yet acted on in the end.
Even in regard to school and other social costs, isn't there an obscure presumption that a "well-raised child" is the quid pro quo that the society seeks and for which it extends itself by means of its agencies and policies to obtain? And isn't there a general feeling of frustration and indignation felt throughout the socially responsible element of society when children who reach the age of fifteen are unable to read, write, figure, or exercise a skill -- "after all that Society had done for them"? And then, if, on top of this, they are delinquent or sick, their costs will multiply.
When the Babe's grandfather arrived in New Orleans, the cost of living index for the U.S.A. was one-third less than it was in 1913, when the Dad was strutting before the windows of Katie on Milton Avenue. But by the time that the Babe was born, seven years later, the cost of living had doubled, owing to the First World War in large part. Despite the Roaring Twenties soi-disant "boom" that elevated Coolidge and Hoover to high office, the cost of living was unchanged in 1928. Then it actually began to slide back and was 20% less in the year 1935 when the Babe graduated from High School. Actually conditions were much worse, for the cost of living index treacherously measures what people pay who have money to pay with; for half the population of America it was a delusion: they had cut back their purchases of what had even deemed earlier to be the necessities of life.
At the risk of making out the Babe to be an optimistic boob, after having praised him for his intelligence and command of information, I must set the record straight on what, actually, conditions were like in the United States, not only in the Depression years, but in the decade before.
We find a striking disparity between the productivity of the country and the state of its population. Although the first serious study of air pollution in Chicago was done in 1912, it was probably in the nineteen-twenties that the American people achieved the peak rate of destruction of their natural resources and habitat while producing goods and services beyond all historical parallel. By 1925 Americans employed four times more horse-power per capita than the British. In 1927, the U.S.A. was producing two-fifths of the world's coal, one-half of the world's output of iron and steel, seven- tenths of its petroleum, all of its natural gas, one-third of its water- power, and one-half of the world's total electric light and power capacity. Chicago was, of course, in the lead; for instance, in 1930 the new State Line Power House of the Chicago Edison Company generated one million kilowatts, one-thirtieth of all of the capacity of the country. Several million new cars and trucks were being produced annually.
Yet during the twenties the farmers of the country were in a continuous depression; the rural folk were emigrating to the cities in large numbers. There they joined the pre-existing half-immigrant population from the farms of Europe and all together they encountered the machine age whose motto for industry was "standardization, simplification, and interchangeability." And the new and old workers themselves became like the machine system: standardized, simplified, and interchangeable.
Their average wage per hour was forty-three cents. Except in a few occupations, they could be hired and fired at will.
Their diets were poor and worsening, even when increasing in quantity. Forty per cent of the calories that they ingested were composed of refined flour, refined sugar and lard. A large proportion of what remained came out of tin cans, as soups, beans, creamed corn, peas, and the like. They ate several ounces of meat a day, which saved the dietary process as a whole from catastrophe.
They were moving farther and farther from their work, believing this to be in their best interests, and thereby incurring increasing costs of living without compensation (since everybody did it and they lost in various ways by the process).
The automobile rose to its gruesome summit, with a million accidents yearly, its abetting of crime, its pushing people outward from their kin and friends, and taking up an enormous slice of the energy and resources of the nation.
People were getting less exercise.
About a third of the people lacked fixed bath-tubs and kitchen sinks, flush toilets, electricity and telephones, this in 1925, and the Depression brought the increase of the next several years back to this level, giving rise to the famous Franklin Roosevelt declaration of war against poverty on behalf of the one-third of the nation that was ill- housed, ill-clothed, and ill-fed.
For every dirty, noisy, costly, dangerous gasoline vehicle that was on the Chicago streets upon the birth of the Babe, there was another one for each and every year of his life.
As jobs in larger factories and offices increased, as more farmers left the land, the work of the population became more uniform; so did their mode of life and the very food they ate. The Babe lived, without realizing so, amidst a whirlwind of changes. Between his birth and his fifteenth year, finance concentrated capital and control of industries; advertising created brand names that concentrated markets, all the way from chickens to movies; the control of distribution outlets became the determining lever for what was produced and processed, how, and at what price.
He was one of the last children to witness rabbits moving from hutch to pot, chickens from squawk to oven roasts. Fowl, fish, beef, lamb, pork; bread, vegetables, fruit, flour, cereals, eggs; practically every other consumer good as well: all lost something of their life history, natural habitat, texture, color, flavor, appearance; whatever was their original and individual character surrendered some part of itself to the new work processes, to food and clothing chemistry, inventory and shipping methods, and marketing practices. All seemed to be progressive, though every step "forward" brought a loss -- partial, equal, net -- whatever the case might be with radios, sliced bread, and innerspring mattresses and a thousand other things. It will take another century of scientific studies to provide the full range of data needed to cast the balance.
And to think that the Babe, the young fool, was going about at the age of thirteen contemplating the gloomy prospect that all major problems would be solved, all major inventions made, all important places filled, before he could have a crack at them!
If I were to place the blame for this fog of ignorance that enveloped him (as well as the vast majority of the population, it is only fair to add), I should say that it all went back to a plutocracy: 10% of the income earners took up one-third of all income in the mid-twenties and the concentration of wealth was much greater than this, perhaps one percent (1%) owing one-third of the wealth. These few commanded all the institutions and industries of the country, practically the totality of media, ruled the school books and teachers, cared almost nothing about a higher culture, and was blessed with one of the hardest-working, most docile populations in the history of the world, a people that believed itself to be tough, self-reliant, independent, progressing like mad, and even educated. And, of the whole country, the Chicago population may have had as high a morale rating as existed anywhere.
The Babe saw far more of adult men than most children did. The pages of his abundant reading were almost devoid of fathers: cowboys and boys in boarding school did not apparently have fathers; the athletes of the press did not have fathers; Tom Sawyer was an orphan; Huck' Finn's father was a villainous drunk.
The Babe had the impression, too, that the fathers of his playmates and schoolmates, except for Uncle Bill, were vague and absent characters. The occupations of most fathers were little known to their children. Almost all worked in factories, distribution systems and large offices. A "good" job paid a reliable wage and carried on all the year, without a lay-off; job satisfaction was uncommon luck.
Their families saw the fathers hurrying to work in the morning, tired from work at night. A forty-four hour week was ordinary, with half-time on Saturday, and commuting had begun to bite nastily into a man's spare time. Vacations were short. Although most of their mothers were homemakers, the girls were encouraged in the schools to prepare for office work and industry.
Rarely might a child see his parents during the day unless he were truant, or the father and mother were unemployed. But to leave behind an unemployed father on the way to school was a mixed blessing. You saw your father more, but realized that he was, in a way, sick and you felt a little sick yourself.
This is the way things began to look in America for a third of the population, forty million people. The ideology of the country exhausted vilification and contempt upon poverty arising from lack of work. It was in full voice in the press and out of the chambers of commerce and the taxpayers' associations and authorities of education and the "higher" protestant sects. The sickness of fathers and sons that goes with unemployment became a veritable plague, the worst plague in the country's history.
It was not the hunger, the poor housing, and the lack of clothing, nor the lack of jobs, that crippled multitudinous spirits of two generations over a decade of time; it was the attitude that the afflicted person and those associated with him should feel personally guilty about lacking work and the means of subsistence.
Only several episodes and aspects of American history since the founding of the Nation could be argued to have been more shameful than this -- slavery, certainly, first among all wrongs; the dispossession and near extermination of a million American Indians, a close second; the injustices to Mexico and the Mexicans; the abandonment to ruin of the metropolitan centers; the refusal to oppose the march of Fascism and Nazism until too late to prevent worldwide destruction and holocaust; the fire bombing of German cities and the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and there may be a few more; and a couple of these may be disputable; but the social humiliation of a third of the population who were victims of the Great Depression should find a place here, no matter that the hurt is partly forgotten; the record should be read straight.
But more on Chicago and more on the ideas of the population later -- I have yet to zoom in on the changing fortunes of the De Grazia family during the Babe's lifetime.
The Dad could easily afford to have children in the good times. The Babe was raised and educated two-thirds during the addle-pated Roaring Twenties and one-third during the fearful Great Depression of the Thirties. The Dad experienced the good and the bad of it all. More than the usual bad, one might add, because he went through three sharp depressions, not just the big one alone; he did so along with other musicians, which affected the cultural as well as economic life of America.
The coming of the motion picture destroyed a large section of American entertainment after World War I. Vaudeville, stage shows, dramatic performances that were assisted by and included musicians, together with public concerts by orchestras and bands, watched their audiences dwindle and disappear. Their costs at the box-office, too, were much higher than the cost of movies per capita customer.
Then came the phonograph and the radio, each bringing a variety of musical performances incomparably greater than live music could offer under any existing cultural demand or cultural policy.
There came jazz, too, which called for a style, a mood, and a setting that classical musicians were incapable of adjusting to. One might as well ask locomotive engineers to become airplane pilots. And jazz musicians, coming out of invidious racial and economic discrimination, would work for the lowest wages.
Classical musicians suffered a disaster in morale and economics. Only one professional musician in ten survived the several depressions. A new breed of jazz musicians rose up, black and white, who, although hit hard by the technological revolutions, could, at least, practice in a relatively growing area of the art. They survived in brothels, speakeasies, dance halls, and on the street, and never saw the inside of a concert hall. The Buster and the Babe tried for this. The Dad watched, concerned, and helped as much as he could. His old friend, Carl Bauman, gave him sample copies of almost every jazz and popular tune that was published and the Dad turned them over to the boys, to the Bus primarily, who had the most immediate use for them.
A couple of thousand performers found employment in the remaining concert halls, in the major recording studios, in radio networks, and in major hotels and dance halls. A few earned a small income by tutoring youngsters. But the people who most wanted their children to learn music, the immigrant generation, were the hardest hit by unemployment, after the blacks, and could not afford lessons. The same people, who brought a tradition of orchestras and bands at parties, weddings, funerals, gave up music on these occasions in America. The Polish laborer of the stockyards made the same choice that Princes and the United States Government have always made: when income is reduced, cut back first in the arts; and actually he was less prone to do so than the masters of culture.
Carnivals, circuses, and county fairs went broke, stopped functioning, or got by without the traditional bands. Cities and towns, their tax revenues dropping and in arrears, cut musical programs from their recreational budgets (where the arts were found if anywhere at all).
Two forces moved against the tide of Depression in the field of music. Owing much to the seeding of America with musical performances by men such as the Dad, and to the rise of central European groups to larger social power, the education system of the country began to introduce music into the schools. Bands were a favorite medium for this. Singing classes and orchestras started up, too. Jazz was discriminated against, but, just as the new musical formations induced more parents to seek private instruction for their children, the new meeting places of the formations, their rehearsal rooms, provided physical situations where jazz enthusiasts could conspire to organize, find musical instruments to use, and even rehearse, often against the ground rules. In the end, thousands of classical musicians, though largely of the new classroom-trained generation and not of the personally tutored type, founded amateur groups and produced the world's largest corps of non-professional instrumentalists.
The Dad, equipped for the public schools in which he believed, could not be employed in the school system without a degree from the Normal College for Teachers, and found in the parochial schools a home for his talents as trainer of instrumentalists and bandmaster. In a family where religion was little discussed, the St. Mary's Training School for Boys and St. George Academy became household words. And the Dad found himself a week here and a day there. There were priests and nuns to deal with, but above all, lads at St. Mary's in Desplaines, the more inspiring locale, who were orphans and to whom playing music was a solace and a privilege, who became devoted to him for life, who progressed well, who, if they were of Irish origin, discovered that you didn't have to be Italian or German to become good musicians, or even to have parents, and all seventy of them could join in playing nicely "A Medley of Irish Airs," like a graceful, tuneful elephant.
But the Dad's financial situation had become difficult. He was a born saver, Katie a born bargain hunter. The two spent conservatively. He refused ever to buy a car, purchase a house or even a country cottage, or to rent a more expensive apartment. His income exceeded in the latter Twenties $5000 per annum, which placed him in the upper five per cent of American family incomes. Half of his earnings were deposited in several Chicago banks, mostly in the First National Bank and the Foreman Trust and Savings Bank.
He bought only a few shares of stock, these from a friend who was starting up a can company. In fact, he distrusted the stock market even in the best of times, as a form of gambling; he would play cards with friends for small stakes and win or lose, mostly win, a few dollars at pinochle.
He rode cabs and tipped liberally to get people to do small jobs; typically, when he called a fireman from the corner firehouse to descend from the roof by the fire escape to open a window because he couldn't find his key and was locked out, he gave the man five dollars for the few minutes it took. He got "the best doctors" promptly for his sick ones. He set up savings accounts at the bank for Bro Bus and the Babe. His life was insured by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. He regarded himself as financially secure. He had achieved the American dream, although he hardly waxed sentimental about such things.
However, after the earlier decline that had affected most professional musicians, his income plummeted in 1930, for the additional reasons I have given. He earned only about fifteen hundred dollars, and the next years were worse. All of this he recorded studiously in his diaries that each year the Musician's Union provided its members to give them no excuse for forgetting an engagement. When panic and misery were still spreading around the country, in 1931, in a rare moment of confidentiality, which was therefore a measure of his growing anxiety, he apprised the Babe of the situation. Possibly the Babe was inquiring about the state of the nation and the disquietude all about.
You see, he explained, exhibiting to him his savings books, there is no work, but we have enough to carry us through, "It can't last much longer." He was what every nation would wish to have, patriots who believed deeply in the system, no matter what happens, and stick it out to the end. He was then forty-seven years old. The accounts had gone down by several thousand dollars, but contained together still a little more than $10,000 in deposits.
The savings did in fact last until 1934, supplemented by a few hundred dollars in annual earnings, supporting the two parents and four boys, although there was a moment, soon after showing his books, when the Foreman Bank suffered a great run of depositors, when the Dad came home saying that it was useless to stand in the interminable lines, but wonderfully the next day a merger of the Bank with the First National Bank was announced and the terrified depositors were appeased. This was a time when, outside of the handful of non-defunct studios and symphonic centers that could pay the pay scale set by the Musicians' Union, excellent musicians could be hired for an evening's performance at $3.00, regardless of Union rules. The very species was threatened.
The Babe was spared most of the troubles of his poor acquaintances, if not the anxieties and the stench of universal failure that filled the air (otherwise made purer by the stilling of smoke stacks and truck motors.) The Dad maintained his equanimity throughout the tough years. The family never went hungry. It was touch and go with the rent. The Mom did not go out seeking work, nor did the Babe.
A decade after the music and farm depression began, four years after the general depression set in and sixteen months after it had come to power in Washington, the "New Deal" came to the rescue of America's artists, scholars, writers and musicians. A substantial employment program for musicians was set up. The Dad was appointed leader of the Illinois Emergency Relief Concert Band in Chicago. He wrote of it in a letter to I.A. Coleman who had been designated the State Supervisor of the Federal Music Project.
On July 16, 1934, Dr. S. Wall appointed me as leader of the I.E.R.C. Concert Band, which was composed of men who were receiving government relief. Although handicapped by relief restrictions, and a limited number of musicians from which to choose, we had a wonderful band, and played several hundred concerts all over the County... Incidentally, I wish to state that all the music played was from my own Library, and not a cent was paid by anybody for its use. I wish to enclose a few programs for your perusal.
The Dad was playing a game that would appear strange to non- Americans or to Americans of today; it was one that the Babe agreed with and was urging: he was trying to convince the newly organized Federal Music Project that was replacing his own project that they should appoint him as Conductor, not because he could not otherwise feed his family, but solely on his merits as the best conductor among the many that were seeking the position. In other words, he did not want the world to believe that he was broke and was accepting charity. The administrators of Federal projects, on the other hand, were under great pressure to hire only people who were otherwise to be found on the relief rolls.
So we find contradictory statements like this gobbledygook in the Dad's letter, that made perfect sense to Coleman and Wall and to
the censoring Babe.
Prior to the appointment I secured from Dr. S. Wall, I had applied and was found qualified for relief. However, I never accepted the relief, as I secured the appointment of I.E.R.C. Band Leader soon afterwards. I am now eligible for relief, being the sole support of a family from six, with no income whatever. I have not yet applied for relief, as I am hoping to be re-instated as Leader of the Relief Band.
In the end it worked. The Dad was appointed to conduct the Chicago Federal Concert Band, without being forced to accept what he regarded as humiliating conditions. He could do what he most wanted to do, rehearse properly and conduct a full concert band of well-trained musicians, who, incidentally, were unemployed and indigent. The Babe no longer felt that he had to find some kind of a job to help support the family.
The seeds, too, of a new generation of American musicians were sprouting. When the Dad was delegated to Joliet to form and direct a second band, he believed that he would not find anyone to play the French Horn, this being generally the weak but vital point of concert bands. He was faced in the try-outs by four players, all young, all trained by the same old man, it turned out, who had immigrated to Joliet from Poland many years before, all broke, all eager to play Richard Strauss's Till Eulenspiegel better than ever for $25.00 a week.