How does it happen that an individual becomes a psychologist -- rather than an engineer or an artist? Can the precursor events and choices be identified? And what is the role of chance, or of social or economic pressures and opportunities? Can, perhaps, some glimpses of a long career and the self-selection of autobiographies shed some light on this?
I was born in 1910 in Lorain, Ohio. It was then a modest Lake Erie port town in the Western Reserve. This was an area where New England families who lost property through fire or battle during the Revolution had been resettled. The peaceful fishing and ship-building community changed abruptly at the beginning of the 1900s, when coal from West Virginia and iron ore from Minnesota met in the newly established steel mills. To supply the muscle and run the machines that converted the raw material to shiny rolls of steel, men from central, eastern, and southern Europe came to the promised land. Few spoke English; most were accustomed to minimal housing. Ethnic and religious customs encouraged enclaves with familiar sounds, smells, and foods, which eased homesickness. The "old Americans" entrenched in "the North End" viewed the newcomers in "South Lorain" with mistrust. For some fifty years, the only high school was in the North End. Many South Lorain teenagers had an hour ride each way on the streetcar to make the 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. class schedule. It was only after the 1920s and 1930s that the Polish, Hungarian, and Italian surnamed athletes were welcomed. To this day there is no high school in South Lorain, even though the power of the community is no longer vested in the North End.
It was to this community that my parents came from Hungary. Both were educated as teachers and came from the petit bourgeois level of society. Relatives included small landholders, small shopkeepers, mid- and lower level administrators, and noncommissioned officers in the military. A number of the more ambitious entered religious orders, which offered a chance for advancement to leadership positions.