The Old Left Was Interesting

Summertime and the living was not easy.  Because salaries were so low (mine was $3,000 per year in those early days), teachers, particularly if they were men with families, had to work after school ended each day teaching adult night school or supervising children in after-school programs.  You could also work at a summer camp, and at one time or another, I did all three.  The summer camp work was the most interesting.

If Republican think they have problems with unions today. . .

Linda, my wife, was a Red Diaper Baby.  What this meant is that she had grown up in a left-wing atmosphere in which many people were dedicated Communists.  Although the government tried to demonize them, most of them were idealists who, faced by the ravages of the Great Depression, felt that there just had to be a better way than Capitalism, and that government ownership of the means of production was the best way of insuring a just society.  The Mecca for this vision was Moscow and the Soviets.  Lincoln Steffens, the mot popular journalist of his generation (and whose autobiography I had read in high school), had gone to the USSR and announced, “I have seen the future, and it works!” John Reed, another popular newspaperman (you may have seen Warren Beatty playing him in “Reds”), was an American supporter of the Soviets, who to this day, is a tourist attraction, entombed as he is in the wall of the Kremlin.  So, by-the-way, is Big Bill Heywood, a leader of the I.W.W.

Big Bill

By the time I met Linda and her family, as well as their friends, in the early ‘60’s, although they still believed in the virtues of physical labor, their faith had dimmed, many of them disillusioned by rumors of the Stalin-induced famine in the Ukraine in 1933 and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939.  This however, did not excuse them from the bullying of the great government witch hunts of the 1950’s or the ravages this caused to their lives.  One couple called to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee (better known as HUAC in those days) were Grace and Manny Granich.  For those interested in cultural connections, Manny was the brother of Michael Gold, author of one of the more popular novels of the 30’s, “Jews Without Money.”  Grace and Manny had committed the sin of publishing an English language magazine supporting the Chinese Communists behind Communist lines during their revolution against Chiang Kai-Shek.  When I met them, they were good friends of my in-laws, Ida and Sol Lieber, possibly the best in-laws anyone ever had.  Grace and Manny also ran a summer camp, Higley Hill, up in Vermont, on what had been their farm.  The camp evolved out of their friends sending them their children during summers.  As more children arrived, more formal arrangements had to be made for them, and as more buildings were needed for this greater number of  kids, Manny could indulge his passion for building construction, although he had lost a  finger in the process.  There is no space here to go into Grace and Manny’s virtues, but they were remarkable people I was proud of knowing.  At the time, however, they were getting old and looking about for replacements as camp directors, and their gaze fixed on my sister-in-law, Paula, and her husband, Bill Gerson.  But more about Higley Hill later.


About AlexLevy

Dr. Alex Levy is a retired English teacher who survived World War II and the "Final Solution" by hiding in a Catholic orphanage for girls in Belgium for several years.
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