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

By Ralph Chaplin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 12. THE BATTLE THICKENS AND
THE LINES EXTEND. LAWRENCE, PATERSON,
McKEES ROCKS, WHEATLAND

MILE after mile, hour after hour, the train traveled at snail's pace through flooded fields that encroached dangerously on the railroad right of way. By the time we reached Cleveland, I was dead for sleep. A room still had to be found. I trudged down Superior Avenue, looking at every window. Not until I reached Twenty-first Street were my efforts rewarded with a "For Rent" sign. It was a tidy light-housekeeping room on the second floor. The bed was clean and comfortable, but I could not sleep. My thoughts kept going back to West Virginia. Under fire in the strike zone or during the worst period of the flood, I had not known fear, but fear caught up with me that first night alone in a strange city. Perhaps it was uneasiness about Edith and Vonnie more than fear, but it was nightmarish.

In the morning I took a bath, walked down to the public square, had a bite of breakfast, and started to look for a job. I had to work fast, having spent almost my last dime for room rent. Before the day was over I found employment in a small studio operated by a local artist, Jack Shirk. From my first week's pay I sent train fare to my wife and boy in Huntington, but it took two weeks before the storage van could get into Westmoreland, so deep was the mud. Before they reached Cleveland, I had already rejoined the I.W.W., written my first article for Solidarity, and made my maiden speech from an I.W.W. soapbox in the public square—all this in addition to putting in full time at the studio.

Solidarity was the official eastern publication of the I.W.W. It had a limited circulation and was printed on an obsolescent flatbed press. Folding, addressing, and mailing were done by a

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