Wobbly, the Rough-And-Tumble Story of an American Radical

By Ralph Chaplin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5. PROPHECY FROM THE ALLEY

MOTHER and Ida kept the house immaculate. The stiff lace curtains were always spotlessly white. The parlor was reserved for the organ, Ida's pictures, a few stiff chairs, and a marble clock that struck rather melodious chimes. The rug was ornamented with roses, as was the shade for the Welsbach gas lamp above the marble-topped center table. We ate all our meals in the kitchen.

I had a small front bedroom. The staircase leading to the flat above cut a triangle out of one corner, leaving barely room enough for a window, a small dresser, an iron cot, and a spindlelegged Colonial table. A Welsbach burner was mounted on a projecting gas pipe near the door. I moved into that tiny room a bewildered schoolboy; I left it, not many years later, a young man, still bewildered perhaps but with both feet firmly planted on the highway of revolutionary dogma.

Tacked up over the table was my maiden cartoon. It depicted a heroic wage slave arising from a dark mass of factories, gazing into a sunburst of gardens and pleasure domes labeled

"Co‐ operative Commonwealth."
My original personal library consisted of The Martyrdom of Man, now badly dog-eared, Hill's Manual, Wonders of the World, Tramp Poems of the West, Lord Byron's poems, the big family Bible, an assortment of the "Pocket Library of Socialism" in red transparent covers, and Les Misérables, the book which was my first great emotional experience in the world of literature.

Regularly once a week I attended meetings of the Thirty-first Ward branch of the Socialist party. I helped to distribute literature and was even permitted to peddle the Appeal to Reason. In warm weather we met in the dancing pavilion back of a near-by German Weinstube. White latticework and artificial leaves and flowers camouflaged the bare brick walls of adjoining buildings.

-53-

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