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

By Ralph Chaplin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 20. COOK COUNTY JAIL. "MOURN
NOT THE DEAD"

THERE was an outburst of impatient clanging from the paddy wagon as we drew up in the alley back of the Cook County Jail. It had not been a pleasant ride. Handcuffs cut into our wrists with every bump in the pavement. Somebody started to sing, "Hold the Fort," but it was drowned out by the more insistent clamor of the bell. Evidently the driver was getting mad. Let him get mad then. We were willing to call it a day anytime we reached our destination. A jumble of voices outside. We heard iron doors creaking open. The car started up again, then stopped. The doors creaked shut. They unloaded us in the walled courtyard of the "old" jail. A spotlight beam stabbed through the drizzle. It wavered here and there, exploring wet stone walls and tall barred windows, and was finally focused upon a solid iron door that was even then swinging open to receive us.

We were assigned to temporary quarters in a tier of cells on the second gallery and told to shove our clothing through the bars for "delousing." Most of us feared it would be the other way around. I have never forgotten the sound of barred doors slamming shut, and the jailhouse odor of blended filth and creosote, as we walked up the iron stairway that evening. We were dog-tired, all of us, and wanted to turn in. Andreytchine and I were directed into one of the dingy cells. I took possession of the top bunk. The key grated in the lock. George continued to stand at the bars trying to peer through the bull-pen windows. Faint strains of jazz music came from a cheap dance hall across the Clark Street alley. "Ah, a musical accompaniment with all this, and quite fittingly, lascivious American jazz," he commented with a smile. I was too sleepy to argue with George this time. . .

I awoke with a start. The night guard was shaking my shoulder

-229-

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