Showman (1937)

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SHOWMAN As times got worse and worse with father, my assign- ment got tougher. Plenty of times I sat hungry and shivering in an unheated room, waiting for father to come home with bad news and crying myself to sleep when he didn't. Going to school daytimes didn't help the empty place in your stomach much, but at least the school-room was heated. Of course, I sold newspapers. I can't remember ever having a new suit during this period, so I must have been ragged and skimpy enough to play the newsboy to perfection. I shined shoes over week-ends. Everybody on the East Side had his weekly shine on Saturday. Saturday was the big day for fire-building too—a job peculiar to the East Side. We lived right in the Jewish district, full of Orthodox Jewish immigrants whose religion prohibited them from doing any work at all on Saturday—their Shabus—not even putting a stick of wood on the fire. So the Irish kids in the neighbor- hood, who had no such disabilities, cashed in with a stoking-service at ten cents per fire per day. I can still hear the old ladies with shawls over their heads squall- ing out of the windows: ''Where's that Batzuma boy Brady? Tell him to come up and put some wood on the fire." And, when things were lowest, I could raise a few cents by selling old newspaper to a ragman. Old news- paper was the only thing we ever had plenty of. Father had to see out-of-town newspapers for his work, so almost daily I went and stole as many Cincinnati En- quirers and New Orleans Picayunes and Baltimore 15